Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Posts tagged ‘acceptance’

Christmas: Healing and Moving Forward

Healing: My Greatest Miracle

Christmas this year brings up a lot of emotions. I can’t help thinking back to last year when my entire community and family were reeling, not only from the murder of 12 amazing members of our dance family, but the brutal wild fires that ripped through our area the next day, leaving many temporarily displaced or homeless.

If that wasn’t enough, I lost my sweet Munchkin; another victim to feline lymphoma. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a Christmas around here. I didn’t even go to my daughter’s as I usually do.

But it’s another year. A lot of healing has occurred; a lot of joy has been found in connections, new dance venues, and shifting priorities. New friendships have formed, and old ones have strengthened. Many of my friends are now couples as they’ve let go of old beliefs and embraced love and connection. Before you ask, I’m still flying solo, at least for the moment.

Embracing Change

This has been a year for making changes, most of them internally. I’ve focused on writing more, and putting my work out into a wider arena. I’ve gone out into the world to dance in venues new to me, though apparently, old news to many of my dance family. In the process, I’ve even reconnected with old friends.

So often, tragedy brings people together, though in my experience, it’s often temporary. Though it’s flung my dance family far and wide, in the general scheme of things, I believe it’s brought us closer together too. We saw how quickly things could change, realized how important we are to each other, and how much joy we share. We learned how much we’d taken things for granted, despite losing several of our clan in the last few years to cancer, suicide, and more.

Every day; every hour; every minute is truly a gift, whether it’s spent alone, with our pets, or with a person or people we love. The hugs I’ve always loved giving and receiving take on a whole new level of importance now; a new sweetness in the exchange. The person I’m hugging may need the hug more than I know. Life might be kicking their butt while they show the world a smiling face.

Allowing Myself to Need Other People

healing with hugsOr I might be the one needing that hug while wearing a smile. It doesn’t really matter. The hugs are heartfelt and filled with love no matter what, and the exchange makes the worlds of all participants brighter. In a lot of ways, it makes the whole world brighter as we add another injection of love and joy to help push back the darkness.

Light and dark can’t inhabit the same space any more than two physical objects or beings can. The more light we create through our actions and thoughts, the less room we leave for the darkness which creeps insidiously into any crack or crevice it can find.

Being a Light in the Darkness

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t spent time in a dark place thinking they were all https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/66519749/in/photolist-6SW1e-VTKUdm-M1eYnL-242z7nc-oqkg1j-proThx-fsTWuh-6k2FkX-o4wR24-y6Zwr-KfMCGq-SFv9cS-8hfbmZ-bfs4it-SkpXJ5-fTkgBF-SRG43L-oaSpyU-6LELFf-8sY2Wq-65Q84A-4uhkK6-4CwKmQ-21jdqXp-ry5GpM-RHagrR-s7emTJ-b8moxH-pgqTW-GmKEPY-7h7g9p-6tuV9R-r3UHnJ-9kePpX-b1DnC2-9Gv9Kj-RFjn7k-6tuPQR-2b4oHPW-nxaMN8-Kez8E-6tuN7i-dUaLfP-6nXEKq-TiiQCx-nXxmkn-hCDNRa-CFeyn-2YRhRS-9BUEValone in their sadness; their misery. Many come out of it on their own, but the process of emerging back into a place of light and joy is expedited by the love and care of others. I read stories all the time of people who emerged on their own, and I’m one of them.

Am I proud I managed to emerge on my own without help? Not really. I’m grateful, but not really proud of eschewing all help and keeping other people out for as many years as I did. Granted, I didn’t know any better. It’s how I was raised. How my parents, and probably their parents before them were raised too. Perhaps there was a time when keeping struggles within was necessary for survival, but that time is long gone. Yet I had to figure that out for myself.

What I can say is I’ve made a lot more progress not only leaving my own darkness behind, but finding and exuding joy since I began allowing others to help, even if it was something as simple as a heartfelt hug. Then again, is a heartfelt hug that simple?

A Hug is Powerful Medicine

I still have friends who struggle with giving heart and soul to a hug. They’ll give a little scratch on the back, or a quick squeeze. I get it. It’s an intimate act when you put everything into it. Some aren’t ready to open themselves up that way. Others do it selectively. I’m selective about it myself, only going all in when I feel safe with someone.

Nonetheless, the mere act of hugging, whether full on, or with reservations is an act of love and trust. Like love and trust, we all give it when and where we feel comfortable doing it. I certainly don’t open my heart to everyone (except maybe on these pages where I’m safe behind my screen), and don’t expect others to either.

Sharing those intimate pieces of ourselves takes courage. I certainly have my share of trust issues after getting burned many times before I shut down completely. But like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, I’ve slowly learned to attract people I can trust enough to allow them to see my pure, unadulterated self.

Sure, it’s been a rocky road where I trusted a few I shouldn’t have, but each time I’ve retreated, it hasn’t been as far, nor for as long as it used to be. The value of evolution is learning when and where to trust, but also how to heal more quickly when I misplace that trust.

The Mating Game Goes On Around Me

It also means I can feel joy for friends who’ve found a mate without feeling envy https://www.flickr.com/photos/34167287@N05/23787059822/in/photolist-CeYUa5-f3skzG-26xyyFN-8Uqt6v-7RUJnT-5631Bv-9KzjET-otM3UU-9KC7p3-6EcqkE-rtobLr-5xx9XP-7Bj5nM-4JDZ1E-21oAHiQ-7Csyge-7YZVSv-7Z4a4L-7Z4a5b-4Btbxi-5m1iya-i54aYC-4BxARm-i54aXq-YA2ERd-4kmex7-WgVGRw-8GceK9-i548Lu-6m1sit-ospDf4-58cZtS-i54b7d-ggwmL-cKWfHj-bg5Uu-bsSgAg-8GcvXA-q68RzV-4fFkFc-e3cS7q-aQ7Ph-bg8hZ-q6pHnG-4VXWUt-dYksek-277AbZE-4VWArR-4VXUXR-2b2aNGJas well. There was a time I’d tell myself I was meant to be alone, and that I was OK with the idea. I’m starting to release that notion, though it’s happening in small steps.

First, I can see myself in a committed relationship, but still maintaining separate households and a fair amount of time alone. I recognize I need the space not only to recharge, but to create. I can start a draft of something in a crowd, but to truly get into the writing zone, I need ample time in my own company when I don’t feel obliged to give someone else my attention.

Whoever is meant to come into my life in that capacity will need to understand and accept that aspect of me. More, he’ll need the same kind of space. Hopefully, the timing of those needs will coincide at least part of the time.

Second, I realize I could go further, faster with regular encouragement, and even a kick in the butt or two. I’d love to have someone in my life who recognized that and was there to drag me out of those periods of sloth I sometimes fall into—far more often than I care to admit.

And third, I no longer see myself as an island who stands free and strong alone. I know I need people; not to make me whole, but to round out my life and world. I don’t feel envy for my coupled up friends because the person each of them is with is perfect for them, not me. I do feel a certain amount of wistfulness if only because I still have trouble picturing myself in the arms of someone who loves and cherishes me the way I want and need to be loved and cherished.

Learning to Love and Be Loved

I guess in some ways I am caught up in old patterns when I turned myself inside out to keep a dysfunctional relationship going longer than necessary. I’m a little afraid I’ll do that again, though I like to think I know better now.

Once again, I’ve talked myself around in a weird kind of circle. What I’ve learned in the last year is how much we all deserve to be loved and cherished, and how much better alone is than being in a one-sided relationship. In the last year, I’ve had the privilege of seeing a lot of beautiful relationships grow and thrive, as well as getting a closer look at those which have lasted decades.

The examples of the last year are slowly pushing the old, broken ones I learned from my birth family away; replacing dysfunctional with warm, loving, and beautiful. I’m honored to have the opportunity to see so much love first-hand, though somewhat saddened it took a series of tragedies to open my eyes and heart enough to see and appreciate what’s been there all along.

With Heartfelt Gratitude for All I Know and Love

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for friendships which have deepened and grown.
  2. I’m grateful for life’s earthquakes which shake old, broken parts loose for good.
  3. I’m grateful for hugs.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve found people to accept and love me as I am, broken, clumsy, and awkward as I might be at times. Who know I’m still learning how to be human, and don’t hold it against me.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, hugs, acceptance, compassion, understanding, giving, receiving, dancing, new beginnings and endings in their time, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Musical Memories: Joyfully Off-Key

Joyful Memories Blurred by Time

As a teenager growing up in a newly established suburb of Los Angeles, one of my favorite pastimes was sitting on someone’s front lawn singing songs from the last decade or so in loud and joyful abandon. It didn’t really matter whether we got all the words right, or sang on-key. We were an accepting bunch who valued passion over accuracy anyway.

Hearing some of those songs today when I have my Pandora station set to music of that era brings back memories of friendship and an easy, carefree life without the teenage angst I know existed. In short, the joy remains, and the pain fades into a distant past which no longer has the power to elicit emotion, much less what surely felt like the end of the world at the time.

My friends and I grew and thrived in a world which we’d soon discover was far less critical than the one we’d move into when we left our idyllic nest for college, the military, or the work force. I’d like to think the people we came to believe held our fate in their hands were at one time as accepting as we were. But I know that’s naive.

A Suburban Bubble of Naivete

We were in a sheltered nook away from harsh realities like poverty and blatant prejudice. I’m not saying such things didn’t exist around us. I will say a large portion of my high school’s population would be considered privileged, both by standards then and now. We were predominantly white middle class with a large enough Jewish population to make us one of the few Southern California school districts at the time to close on major Jewish holidays.

With such a rarefied upbringing, I look back and wonder how I allowed others to take qualities of inclusion and acceptance from me for decades. When I look beneath the surface of those carefree days, I find answers I kept buried as deeply as the feelings I’ve only recently learned to share.

Despite the inclusiveness I remember now, I put a great deal of effort into fitting in where I was never meant to. I tried to fit in with the actors and actresses when my passion for theater leaned more towards the technical aspects. I was happiest building sets and exchanging insults with my mostly male classmates, or learning how to texture a stage from professional associates of the drama teacher’s husband. I wish I still remembered some of the makeup techniques I learned which led to wearing a beard I’d created around campus for a day.

Setting Low Expectations

Created with CanvaThen again, my expectations were set low by a woman who’d navigated the perils of the UCLA theater department, yet saw fit to only give positions like stage manager, lighting and sound heads, and prop master to boys. Girls were relegated to make-up and costumes. Heaven knows several of us girls climbed ladders to hang lights, spent countless hours building and painting sets, and many late nights ensuring the shows came off without a hitch.

Though I doubt it was her intention, she helped me set my expectations lower than I deserved from the start. When I got to UCLA myself as a theater major, I lasted barely a year. I couldn’t handle the rejection at all and was ill-prepared to play the political games my high school teacher had learned to navigate in her time there. Perhaps her own biases were the only way she thought she could prepare her female students for what existed in the outside world.

I ultimately left my love of theater behind to knock my head against the wall of another male-dominated profession; accounting. I’ll never really know why I chose the harder road nearly every time, but it continued to be my pattern until I learned to accept myself as I am, and stopped trying to fit in. Perhaps that was the lesson all along.

Fruitlessly Trying to Fit In

I watched my mother try to fit in frantically, desperately, and all too often, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ionics/6338284584/in/photolist-aE6nbG-49a2Xa-TLgW2Q-5wAD6N-HGKPP-8UV6CB-6Sg7YA-9QycpZ-6u4T3X-4sC9aH-5nXKzn-5grmh3-ane6BH-W9uq65-62rxQ-Kud31E-XtaBzZ-LdJuy-LdJvu-ePGUFv-aE6qsQ-LdYkF-8Kvnyj-RdeDP4-6Btbw-ekUyG-eSNDQT-ESpkfb-5U4HwZ-66XHwe-a9LTFX-bWTW3k-4YhDF-2qGQSu-5LpPj-4jpvK-vjdRaC-8L6p5A-6HFRB-5r1qA-4jpvJ-4joXu-5QDfE-7qEysG-4jpS4-24RfjoL-bEFCy1-4joXx-43zSs-2e9RpMMfruitlessly. She worked harder than anyone to keep a beautiful home, support charities, stage elaborate parties with incredible food, and clean up her own mess to do it all again. In her mind and heart, she failed until she gave up in the most indelible way possible. In a way, perhaps that’s what finally convinced me to stop trying to be what I’m not.

One of my greatest qualities or flaws, depending who you talk to, is stubbornness. I’ve held onto ideas, things, and people far longer than necessary because I didn’t want to feel like I’d given up. No one ever taught me it isn’t necessary to hang onto something which no longer serves you, or that letting go isn’t the same as failing. I realize now my early influencers didn’t know the difference either. You can’t teach what you don’t know yourself.

It didn’t matter if it was a mismatch of a career path, an ill-conceived marriage, a job with no future, or an idea which had long since been proven faulty. I hung onto them all with dogged determination of a person facing a life or death decision.

Learning to Roll with the Punches

https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/66519749/in/photolist-6SW1e-VTKUdm-M1eYnL-242z7nc-oqkg1j-proThx-fsTWuh-6k2FkX-o4wR24-y6Zwr-KfMCGq-SFv9cS-8hfbmZ-bfs4it-SkpXJ5-fTkgBF-SRG43L-oaSpyU-6LELFf-8sY2Wq-65Q84A-4uhkK6-4CwKmQ-21jdqXp-ry5GpM-RHagrR-s7emTJ-b8moxH-pgqTW-GmKEPY-7h7g9p-6tuV9R-r3UHnJ-9kePpX-b1DnC2-9Gv9Kj-RFjn7k-6tuPQR-2b4oHPW-nxaMN8-Kez8E-6tuN7i-dUaLfP-6nXEKq-TiiQCx-nXxmkn-hCDNRa-CFeyn-2YRhRS-9BUEVNeedless to say, changes were more often than not forced upon me as the Universe knew I wouldn’t release my death grip unless I had whatever it was ripped from my desperately clutching arms with the crushing finality of a tsunami. I suffered for it each time, all the while assuring myself it was for the best.

The funny thing is, I started believing the losses and changes which happened to me instead of being my choices meant there was something better coming, and I needed to clear space. It wasn’t long before those expectations began to be met. Slowly, and with baby steps I moved away from the place where I’d reconciled myself to be underutilized and unnoticed to where I could shine my own light in a way I was meant to in the first place!

I’m still learning to believe I deserve far more than I can see right now, but I am no longer fighting the idea. Somehow, in the process, I’ve moved full-circle back to the carefree, inclusive, accepting girl I once was, and who laid dormant inside me until I was ready to be my true self, and not aspire only to fit in.

Finding the Perfectly Imperfect Me Who Got Buried Under Life

It’s taken most of a lifetime to discover who I was again, and to see I was and am perfect. I don’t need to be anyone but who I am for my friends to love and accept me. It doesn’t matter if someone can’t relate to me and keeps their distance. In fact, I’ve come to love the fact that I truly am an acquired taste.

None of us is meant to gel with everyone. Some do it better than others, either because their corners are less sharp and they can ease into situations more smoothly, or because they have yet to learn, like I did they don’t have to fit in everywhere. Those may still be learning to accept themselves as they are, but though I hurt a bit when I see one of them struggling, I know it’s not my lesson to teach, but theirs to learn.

I had to experience a lot of bumps in the road before I figured it out. If I hadn’t felt the pain of rejection and the frustration of never pleasing anyone, I wouldn’t have come to appreciate my own unique self. I’d never have shed the masks, torn down the walls, and stepped out in all my own bright, gaudy plumage, with a voice that might at times break glass.

I’ll never fit anyone’s idea of normal and that’s perfectly all right with me. I’m a happy little weirdo who attracts a lot of wonderful, quirky, unique people. Life among the people who are their own unapologetic selves is never, ever dull.

Grateful for Every Bump in the Road, Every Universal Head Slap

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the bumps in my road that taught me being my unique self was perfect.
  2. I’m grateful for friends who don’t expect conformity.
  3. I’m grateful for the people who held me back, and ultimately propelled me forward.
  4. I’m grateful for all the times the Universe has drop-kicked me out of a stale situation.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, uniqueness, imperfection, challenges, lessons, rewards, new roads, old memories, friends, family, peace, harmony, health, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

A Sad Anniversary Brings Perspective

Another Anniversary of Dad’s Death

When one of my posting days falls on September 11th, I’m sorely tempted to skip it, or at least move it to another day. But my innate sense of consistency won’t allow either, so at least it’s easier from a distance of 3 weeks or so which is when I’m pre-scheduling these days.

I don’t need to reiterate the significance of September 11th to anyone who is even remotely aware. Not only was it a horrific day in U.S. history, but reminders start showing up a few days before the anniversary.

There’s a small handful of us who are reminded of another anniversary which occurred 2 years after the WTC bombing, but which is much closer to home. In fact, my daughter and I typically disconnect from the internet on this day to do our remembering in private. As I’ve become more efficient about pre-scheduling posts, it’s become a lot easier to do so.

Moving On vs. Getting Over

Anyone who has lost a family member to suicide knows you don’t get over the loss. Like any other death, the impact eases somewhat as years go by, but it’s always there. Little things remind me how fragile life is, and how important it is to stay connected with the ones we love. It might not prevent the inevitable, especially when a loved one is faced with a terminal illness which will be long and painful if death is allowed to come naturally.

My dad made his choice, and for the most part I respect it. Still, I look back at how I distanced myself in his final couple of years when he became difficult to be around. He never shared the worst of his health issues with me or my sister. That was typical. He didn’t want anyone worrying about him or smothering him with attention. In a lot of ways, he was a very private manfar more private than I ever realized.

Even so, I could have made more of an effort to spend more time with him, despite the turmoil my own life was in. I could have brought his granddaughters to see him more often, or made a point of seeing him every week. There are a lot of things I could have done, but being patient with his grumpiness instead of distancing myself is at the top of the list. My only excuse is I didn’t know how bad things were. It serves as a harsh reminder of how little my dad trusted me with what really mattered.

Reflection Evolves Over Time

In past years, the anniversary of dad’s death was a time for reflection and remembering good times, most of which occurred years before he died. Too many things broke what I now understand was a tenuous relationship, often held together by other people rather than our own efforts.

At one time it was my mother. Even when she and I were estranged, it was her influence which kept my dad and me in touch. Sometimes it was the dysfunctional influence of my alcoholic husband who worked for my dad for a couple of years. Whether he felt a desire to stay connected for his own sake is something I’ll never really know. I have to believe he saw someone worth knowing in his eldest child.

An Unfortunate Accident of Birth

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gastaum/14490581818/in/photolist-o5u28y-YfsirJ-k8x7MM-bxbe69-W1rTYx-arWoEp-9hSaAd-ahFY4U-dUPFnv-cbTML-9dRrhQ-nNcDz4-W1scJn-6Q5kQB-aPHuVt-dF2PfA-qsan3a-9Q3GD-7puXf-ca3kUb-8Qnh5S-7EPcJ1-9RZQ7L-2jv27s-3ytNAS-4Ax3Vm-7P6ms6-fLeJCZ-9eA4z4-dUzmHi-dJ2ajE-4s4eeJ-9ZWATV-4Ax3K3-6459Qr-r7YPq9-7ZBske-3ypqPa-7yi435-9uRzwZ-kdLtng-2c5brCn-HLfJSP-qTk7jd-oSdAwv-pNeYXi-3fqAZV-5btNtn-72Kth6-V4V7jqRevelations in the last year make me feel I was more of a disappointment, and mostly due to an accident of birth. The cards were stacked against me having a real connection with the man who helped give me life because I had the misfortune of being a girl.

I doubt he ever actually said the words out loud. Growing up, I didn’t notice his lack of interest in the things I enjoyed. Then again, I saw him through rose-colored glasses. He was the parent who loved me best, or so I thought. In truth, he was the one who minimized my accomplishments because most of the time, he didn’t understand them.

It wasn’t that I was overly feminine. I just wasn’t athletic or even coordinated except when I was dancing. In short, there was nothing he could relate to or share with me. Meanwhile, my mom fretted over all my injuries, allergies, and inherited health challenges. But I was so busy trying to please my dad, I didn’t notice how hard she tried to connect with me. At some point, we both gave it up as a lost cause.

Putting Things in Perspective

This is starting to sound like a long, self-pitying whine, but that’s not really where I want to go. I can’t honestly say I miss my dad, 16 years after he opted out of a long, painful death. I’ve simply come to terms with his choice, and don’t begrudge him for it.

But the years since have given me a chance to really look at our relationship, or if I’m honest, lack thereof. He was the first in a long line of people I tried to please by forcing myself into behaviors which weren’t me. I followed my mother’s example and tried to win his love. I’ve finally learned to accept there was nothing I could have done to change the fact he loved me as best he could, or that approval and love are two entirely different things.

I can, however look back and be grateful for what he taught me, even if the greatest lesson didn’t come through until long after he was gone. It was never my purpose to fit into someone else’s mold or vision. People will love me or not, regardless of any effort I might make to gain their approval. More importantly, I’ve learned to let my own daughters spread their wings and fly in the direction they choose.

Loving and Accepting My Daughters as They Are

They don’t need my approval, though one, at least seemed to want it a great deal more than was probably healthy. The difference between my relationship with her and the one I had with my dad is she always had my approval not matter what. I might not have liked some of the choices she made, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I love and approve of her and whatever paths she chooses.

The other rejected me as I did my mom, but I didn’t have her father around to help mend fences. In her case, I had to learn to let go and withhold judgement. Her choices are her choices, even if some of them shut me out of her life. In many ways, the distance works best for me too.

Looking Back So I Can Move Forward

Today is a day of reflection, but it’s no longer a day I mourn my dad. He’s gone, Created in Canvaand everything is as it’s supposed to be. I’m more aware of changes in mood in the people who are close to me now, and more likely to reach out. I don’t look at my dad’s death and my lack of knowledge with regret. It was put into my life to teach me a very important lessonone I would take with me into the next chapter in my life.

I’ve gone through a lot of withheld anger towards my dad in the last year, but I’ve purged a lot of misconceptions which negatively impacted my own sense of self-worth. In the end, no one else’s opinion affects my destiny unless I allow it. I’ve finally learned to stop allowing it.

Finding Many Opportunities for Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve faced and the lessons I’ve learned.
  2. I’m grateful for parents who forced me to learn to love myself without reservation or qualification because they truly didn’t know how.
  3. I’m grateful for friendships which have formed since I learned to love myself because of my imperfections instead of in spite of them.
  4. I’m grateful for a self-love that keeps me moving forward even when the tunnel ahead looks awfully dark and forbidding.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, joy, dancing, kitties, compassion, kindness, inspiration, motivation, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Family Are the People Who Accept Us As-Is

Looking Back At Where I’ve Been

Lately I’m getting more and more comments about what I’m putting on this page. For the most part, they’re positive, especially the ones I get face to face. I started this journey in early 2009; a time when I was lonely, angry, and crouching miserably behind walls of my own making. As far as I knew, the last person who cared whether I lived, got up in the morning, or died was getting ready to move out, though as it happens, her actual departure occurred a couple of years later. Still, the rift between us was growing.

Yet in spite of our arguments and an inability to see eye to eye on many things, my daughter Heather encouraged me to do something she knew gave me pleasure, but was a gift I seldom gave myself.

If Not For Heather, You Wouldn’t Be Reading This

It was Heather who not only convinced me to start a blog but helped me set it up. Heather nagged and prodded until I agreed to spend a long Mother’s Day weekend in Sedona. And Heather helped launch a memoir which would take me on a journey of brutal honesty, but more importantly, a healing I wasn’t aware I needed.

There have been stumbles along the way, like having her find out about my mom’s and dad’s suicides from my blog (I truly thought by then she knew), or months on end when posts were sporadic at best. But overall, I know without her help and encouragement, I’d never have started writing again; started breaking down the walls; learning how valuable and uplifting vulnerability can be.

Healing My Wounds A Thousand Words At A Time

https://www.flickr.com/photos/34167287@N05/23787059822/in/photolist-CeYUa5-f3skzG-26xyyFN-8Uqt6v-7RUJnT-5631Bv-9KzjET-otM3UU-9KC7p3-6EcqkE-rtobLr-5xx9XP-7Bj5nM-4JDZ1E-21oAHiQ-7Csyge-7YZVSv-7Z4a4L-7Z4a5b-4Btbxi-5m1iya-i54aYC-4BxARm-i54aXq-YA2ERd-4kmex7-WgVGRw-8GceK9-i548Lu-6m1sit-ospDf4-58cZtS-i54b7d-ggwmL-cKWfHj-bg5Uu-bsSgAg-8GcvXA-q68RzV-4fFkFc-e3cS7q-aQ7Ph-bg8hZ-q6pHnG-4VXWUt-dYksek-277AbZE-4VWArR-4VXUXR-2b2aNGJEach post I write these days is a testament to the progress I’ve made and the wounds I’ve healed thanks to a daughter who knew instinctively what I needed when I myself was oblivious (a state I’ve found myself in at many critical junctions). Without realizing it, she taught me the value in reaching out to others, not necessarily intending to help them. Instead, she taught me to let people know I was far from perfect and that my life had taken a few dramatic, traumatic twists and turns. In other words, there were times I was the one who needed help, even if I couldn’t or wouldn’t ask.

I won’t say I wasn’t terrified at first. But it was also getting harder to hide the cracks in my masks, so ripping the band aid off didn’t seem so bad once I was a few years into digging up the old feelings and memories. The responses I got have been unexpected to say the least.

When I first started talking openly about my parents’ suicides, I admit I was prepared to shut down again quickly if the responses were the expected horror and shock. Instead, I heard from friends and acquaintances who’d also lost someone to suicide. It seemed I’d opened a door we all needed opened, but hadn’t the courage, or perhaps the foolhardiness to open it ourselves. Knowing people were out there who understood what we’d been through and how hard it was to find anyone to listen while we talked felt like a huge boulder being removed from our shoulders.

Attracted By Common Wounds, Connected With Our Hearts

Making that tiny chink in my facade caused a ripple effect, changing the tone of my blog posts, opening my eyes to possibilities about my parents’ deaths, but best of all, allowing me to start releasing the guilt I’d been carrying for nearly 2 decades and beginning to heal. Until that point, I think I was simply rehashing the past. Discarding the first chapter of my memoir and doing a complete re-write is evidence that what I was feeling and believing when I first started writing has undergone a massive restructuring in recent years.

I know I still have a long way to go but being open and honest, allowing people to see my wounds and scars has brought an entirely new family into my life. I now have people who grieve with me when I lose a cherished pet, check on me regularly, encourage me with my writing, and are simply there for me, no questions asked. I’ve never had that before. Not because these people weren’t there, but because I wasn’t letting anyone in.

Alone But Never Lonely Any More

For years I watched friends connect, getting together outside of dancing to engage in other social activities. My social life was dancing. I showed up alone and went home alone. I sat in front of the TV on nights I wasn’t dancing, or played games on the computer. Occasionally, I read something from my extensive and ever-growing library, but mostly, I was a lump.

I got no exercise outside of my regular dance nights. I ate whatever sounded good, or what was easy to grab. I was angry at the world except when I was dancing.

In a way, that life is a good thing as it reminds of how much I never want to go back there. And I look at my sister. We haven’t spoken in several years now, and the occasional overture she makes to reopen a conversation meets with firm rebuttal. It’s not that I don’t love her. But I’ve learned I can’t allow someone who finds joy in misery back in my life. She’s living a life I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but frankly, she was embittered long before she became ill.

Learning It’s OK To Walk Away From Toxic Relationships

I know she’s in contact with the rest of my estranged family, so I know she’s not alone, and find some comfort in knowing someone will be there when her needs become critical. Even my youngest daughter seems to have found a common ally, so I hope she offers a little of her time too.

This sounds like a ramble, but there truly is a point. There are members of my blood family from whom I’ve had to disconnect for my own sake. The disconnections seem to follow the same timeline as the one which connected me to a large family who isn’t related by blood, but which cares about the members as if we were. It appears that when I started realizing it was OK to be me and stop worrying about whether or not people would like that person, I started shedding those who expected things from me I wasn’t really prepared to give, and gained those who expected nothing, and gave because they cared.

It took me far too long to learn to be myself; damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead. But since I’ve found the way, I have a lot to look back on to remind me I never need to hide my beautiful, imperfect, lumpy, unique self again.

Grateful for Every Single Minute

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the friends who are family and show me their love in so many ways.
  2. I am grateful I finally learned vulnerability is a good thing.
  3. I am grateful for the love and compassion I see every day in friends, in strangers, and in me.
  4. I am grateful for all the healing I’ve done so far, and the healing yet to come.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, support, encouragement, opportunities, new horizons, dancing, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Viewing Change as Opportunity

Fighting Change is a Losing Battle

Change is inevitable. The only way to avoid it is to sit in one place your whole life with your hands folded in your lap, enjoying the excitement of a catatonic state. Even then, changes will happen in spite of you. Days pass, seasons change, dust gathers, people move through or around you. Viewing change as a threat hobbles and restrains you as no shackles or chains could ever do.

Many people see change as threatening, even risky. They close their minds to the possibilities of stepping out in the world and trying something new. They work their steady, boring job day after day, eat the same foods in front of the same TV shows, lamenting every cancellation or summer hiatus.

Here’s to Those Who Take Leaps of Faith

Then there are the adventurers; the ones who climb the mountains, challenge the jungles, toss away what no longer excites them to try something completely new and unproven. When they succeed, they do so on a global scale. When they fail, they do so with no less fanfare, then pick themselves up and face the next challenge.

Most of us fall somewhere between the two, maybe plodding through that boring job while we set up something better in the background. One day, we get fed up with the rat race and make a grand if poorly thought out exit. What keeps us going is the years we spent making what  the adventurers might consider piddly changes and minor challenges. For us, though, they were a giant leap outside our comfort zone and no less risky in our world view than the scaling of Everest or the Himalayas, or jumping from a helicopter onto a mountain covered in freshly fallen snow.

We All Face Fear. It’s What You Do With it That Matters.

To say any of us who takes a chance on ourselves never experiences fear or panic is ludicrous. It’s not that we don’t experience it. We simply move through it until we get to more stable ground before launching ourselves into space again.

I used to think I wanted a completely peaceful, stress-free life; a life where all my needs were met and I felt safe and secure all the time. But a life like that gives you no reason to try; no reason to get out of bed in the morning. Those challenges, set-backs and downright scary times are what keeps our blood flowing, our adrenaline rushing, and our hearts crying out for yet another E-ticket ride.

Change is in our blood, whether we realize it or not. We do ourselves a huge disservice by settling for life in a rut of sameness. We slowly die inside when we don’t allow our inner adventurer to take a few chances, experience new things, discover new places.

Conforming Sucks Your Soul Dry

CGI did a short film called “Alike” featuring a young boy and his dad. Daniel Martinez Lara and Rafa Cano Mendez did an extraordinary job of demonstrating how we need the curiosity and nonconforming characteristics we took for granted as children. Losing them turns us into a grey shadow of ourselves who simply plods through our days with no inspiration or motivation.

Change is the color in our palette, the rainbow in our sky. It’s walking into a cloud of bright orange butterflies and delighting in millions of tickles as they brush across our skin. Without change, we’re incomplete. We ignore the most amazing, creative, ecstatic part of ourselves.

I encourage you to ask yourself this: Is being accepted worth losing your humanity? Will people like you less if you’re true to yourself?

If you ask me, losing yourself to be accepted means you’re making an effort to be accepted by the wrong people. The right people will flock to you like those butterflies I mentioned as soon as you stop trying to be someone you’re not, and worse, someone you don’t even particularly like. In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss:

I Am Grateful for My Adventurous Spirit and So Much More

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the courage to take the leap of faith that brought me to where I am today.
  2. I am grateful for the changes I’m making to allow people to help me as I’ve been blessed to be able to help others.
  3. I am grateful for the opportunities that arise when I get out of my own way.
  4. I am grateful for finding my tribe; people who accept me for who I am, not for who I try to be.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, opportunities, courage, fear, challenges, lessons, risks, rewards, blessings, gifts, joy, adventurers, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Read Miss Pelican’s Perch’s version of today’s writing prompt.

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. She specializes in finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook here Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author.

Sometimes You Just Have to Be Sad

Sadness Unexplained

There isn’t anything wrong. There isn’t even anything particularly not right. Yet sometimes, the sadness hits for no particular reason. Most of the time, you get busy working or cleaning or something that doesn’t require much thinking. Or you watch a funny movie. Or you make a list of gratitudes. But sometimes, you really need to let the sadness run it’s course.

Life is a balance. We have to be sad to appreciate happy, low to appreciate high, sick to appreciate healthy, and so on. If we stifle one, we diminish the other. As an artist, some of my most productive times are the sad ones. They’re the ones which let me spill raw emotions onto the page or craft a character who makes the reader ache for them. A song writer might write an achingly sweet ballad, a painter, a painting which rips deep into your soul. Where would art be if the artist didn’t allow herself to experience these inexplicable periods of sadness?

Fighting the Sadness is a Losing Battle

When I was younger, I did everything in my power to talk myself out of being sad, even to the point of getting angry with myself. Unfortunately, it often left me angry and feeling unfulfilled for a long time afterwards. Yet the reasons I shoved it aside were valid. I had a job to perform so I could earn my paycheck and support my two daughters. I had a household to maintain, chores to do, groceries to buy, and all of the things that go into surviving as a single mother. Heaven knows, I didn’t always get it right and I came into a lot of criticism from well-meaning friends who disagreed with my priorities.

In years when my life was slightly slower, I’d sometimes allow the sadness to overtake me, obliterating all memories of happier things. I’d spend too many hours in my sweats, curled up in bed sleeping. In hindsight, I’d probably internalized things like my divorce, my parents deaths and a thousand other things for so long, I’d fallen into a depression I didn’t even recognize as such. I know those times were hardest of all on my daughters. But as bad as it got, I’m one of the lucky ones because I didn’t stay there.

Finding My Way into the Darkness and Out Again

Eventually, I found my happy place again. I also found a way to stop walling myself in behind a wall of misery. At first, I wrote only for myself. I created Word documents meant only for my eyes, though many of them remain in my archives. I wrote about my unhappiness, but more, I wrote about the things I could not change; my parents’ suicides, my guilt over feeling I didn’t do enough or care enough. In a nutshell, my past.

Only when the Notes function on Facebook proved insufficient to hold all of the thoughts, questions, Tarot readings, and random thoughts I’d begun to share did I move to a more public arena with my first blog. Little did I know where it would take me. What started as a way to talk about family suicide and maybe reach a couple of people who, like me had bottled up their feelings has become so much more.

Giving Society’s Misguided Standards the Finger

Just as our society isn’t very understanding about just needing to be sad, it lacks compassion for people who have lost someone to suicide. The things we are taught in order to function in that society also teach us some incredibly unhealthy things. Funny little catch phrases like “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” or “Suck it up, Buttercup” may sound cute and funny…if you’re not the one being told to box up your feelings and just deal with it.

Yet, we’re only human. We have feelings and if we don’t get to express them when they’re small and manageable, we will eventually break under the pressure of everything we’re stifling, and something small will make us crumble into a million pieces. By then, we’ve been so outwardly strong that nobody understands why we could possibly get upset over something which, on the outside, appears quite small.

In sharing my own ups and downs, struggles and successes, I’ve learned a lot of lessons, but the greatest lesson of all is that I am not alone. Others have been where I am. They may have dealt with it differently, but they can relate. Sometimes, what I write about comes at just the right time for someone who is having a tough time. More than once, I’ve heard from someone that just reading that someone else shares what they’re going through takes their pain down a notch.

Sharing Our Struggles Can Be Someone Else’s Gift

We can’t take away someone else’s pain. We can’t cure their ailing parent, or make the loss of a child, a parent, a dear friend, or a beloved pet less sad and painful for them. And feeding them platitudes like “it’s going to be OK” or “time will heal this” or my personal least favorite, “it’s God’s will” don’t help. All you’re doing with those little catch phrases is invalidating someone’s feelings. You’re telling them they don’t “need” to be sad.

Feelings have nothing to do with need. They just are. We can’t turn them on and off like a faucet. Yes, we can shove them into a box in our heart for a little while, but the box is not infinite. Eventually it will burst. Which is why I encourage you to feel your feelings. After awhile, you can step back and simply observe them, but can you really observe something you don’t understand? That you haven’t allowed yourself or been allowed to feel? Sure, time does heal in its own way. Even that is different for each of us. But when the pain of loss is fresh, when whatever made us feel lonely, or ostracized, or ashamed, or hurt is still new, it’s important that we accept the feelings without judgment.

We’ll have the rest of our lives, if we choose, to rehash the feelings. We may even discover, in some cases, that we’ve misunderstood or overreacted. But in the moment, the feelings are as real as we are, and deserve to be acknowledged and felt.

Following My Inner Compass

I started writing this a good 12 hours ago, and have kept myself moving and interacting while the sadness ran its course. I kept a commitment to myself to go to the gym. It wasn’t my best workout, but it wasn’t my worst either. I felt a lot better for having done it, and removed the possibility of feeling guilty for having dishonored a commitment to myself. I was lazy and picked up dinner after my workout. It could have been better, but it could also have been far worse. Again, no guilt. I watched a movie and cuddled with my cats who have been extremely attentive the last few days. Finally, I sat down to finish this post. Still a little sad, but less so than this morning.

The sadness is passing because I didn’t make a big deal of it. I didn’t try to whitewash it or bury it under a load of platitudes. It’s taken a long time, and I still have a lot to learn, but accepting myself, my moods, my screw-ups, and my successes gets easier every day. I realize I am the sum of all of the things which make me the person I am; some good, some not so much. But if those parts were different, I wouldn’t be me.

In Sadness or in Joy, I Can Still Find Something to Be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my imperfections.
  2. I am grateful I’ve learned to let things out instead of holding them in.
  3. I am grateful I’ve learned to accept myself, imperfections and all.
  4. I am grateful I have friends who sometimes need to see those imperfections.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, acceptance, friendship, lessons, challenges, imperfections, joy, sorrow, dreams, failures, successes, and words. Lots and lots of words!

Love and Light

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Alone for a Reason

Alone Again, Naturally

I woke today after an exceptionally good night of dancing feeling strangely…icky. The lingering joy which usually greets me when I wake was replaced by a dark, writhing pit in my stomach. Thankfully, I have my normal morning routine of writing three pages of thoughts longhand. I don’t think I’ve ever needed it more than I did today.

It took me two pages to come to the realization that everyone I know has some sort of support group close by. It might be a loving and devoted spouse, or kids, or a close circle of friends; often it’s a combination of things. Meanwhile, I’m alone. If something happened to sideline me for a while, I really don’t know where I’d turn.

Life’s Challenges Come at Just the Right Time

But before you start thinking “Oh, poor Sheri”, let me get to the second part of my realization. Those people are all going through some kind of trauma or difficulty in their lives right now. It might be an aging parent, a death, the spectrum of an empty nest, issues with a child, injury, or some other disaster. But having that support group means they aren’t facing the roller coaster of emotions alone.

I, on the other hand, got my traumas and disasters over with early, while I still had at least a couple of people around to help me get through them. One child did her middle-of-the-night disappearing act over 10 years ago, setting off a chain of events which would ultimately have us leading completely separate lives. The other lived with me until shortly before her marriage. Even so, she stayed in the area another year or two. When she moved away, I may not have had a support group, but I had a life which kept me busy, and that’s nearly as good.

My parents both passed when I had work, the girls, their activities and a dozen other things to keep my mind occupied. Eventually, I even went back to my long-neglected writing. In their own way, they even inspired, and continue to inspire my writing in ways they never were able to do while alive.

Turning Bitter Fruit into a Tasty Treat

Instead of crawling into a hole and feeling sorry for what I don’t have, I see an opportunity to be more. My performance on the compassion spectrum can still use a lot of work. I still see people as strangers and tend to be territorial when it’s not necessary or even kind. I still take small snubs personally without taking into consideration the challenges my friends and acquaintances are doing their best to navigate. I see the support group and ignore the obstacles which need extra hands to clear away.

I’m reminded of the story of the coffee, the carrot, and the egg. The carrot when boiled becomes soft and flexible. The egg becomes hard and unyielding, and the coffee makes the water better. I find I want to be the coffee but am struggling in my efforts, often making the water bitter instead.

Yet it’s mornings like this when I experience my greatest revelations; my purest insight into my purpose for being in this particular lifetime. It’s the things I struggle most to learn; love, compassion, patience, supportiveness, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, I’m here to not only exhibit, but encourage in others. I may be a long way from learning what I need to know and embrace, but I’m a lot closer than I give myself credit for, especially given what I started with.

Being the Grown-up in My Relationship With Myself

My inner child continues to fight to be the center of attention. My biggest challenge is in teaching her she needs to give first. It’s her selfishness which leaves her out in the cold while others enjoy the warmth of hearth and home. It’s her unwillingness to recognize others are struggling with their own demons which has left her teased, shamed, and ostracized over and over again. And it’s the fragility she has covered over with a seemingly impermeable shell which makes it difficult for people to get to know her soft side and see how much she really has to give.

I was originally going to post a piece about fears which I wrote between dance classes yesterday, but when I woke this morning, this topic seemed to be the more important of the two. The fear piece will be waiting for the right moment, but today, compassion seemed to be more timely.

It might be in part my monthly response to the Full Moon. I do tend to react more physically and emotionally these days than I recall doing in the past. Maybe it’s because I’m post-menopausal, but I think that’s coincidental more than causal. (as I write this, I realize I started it at 11:11 on 6/11. The coincidences in my life keep pointing in the same direction. I also finished it at 1:11!). Or maybe it’s that I have time for introspection and self-reflection and am not exactly satisfied with what I see.

Where I Am and Where I Am Not

Putting aside where I am on my career path. Ignoring for a moment the many things I can point to that I don’t have. My personal development has a long way to go, which is pretty daunting when I admit how many decades I’ve had to work on it.

Even after writing several pages of self-revelation this morning, I still have the knot in the pit of my stomach. Though some of the darkness has lifted, I’m clearly not where I need to be right now. I’ve shown a marked lack of compassion in the last week or so, and I’m ashamed of myself. My inner child really needs a good shaking right now to stop feeling sorry for herself and focus on being a better person.

Thankfully, today is a new day and a new start. It’s up to me to make the most of it.

And finding a Reason to be Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I have a new day to make positive changes.
  2. I am grateful for the mistakes which make me see what I still need to learn.
  3. I am grateful for the friends I do have who accept my flaws even when I, myself don’t.
  4. I am grateful for the energy to dance for hours and sleep the sleep of the innocent, even if I wake feeling not-so-innocent.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: lessons, friends, energy, health, happiness, inspiration, motivation, Universal head slaps, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

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