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

Posts tagged ‘authentic’

Suicide Affects Us All

Suicide Strikes

At some point in our lives, given the constantly increasing numbers, we will all experience suicide. It might be a friend, or an acquaintance, but chances are, at some point, it will be someone we know well, and perhaps love. Some of us might even be the ones considering or even attempting suicide.

Admittedly, I’m more aware of it having lost both parents to suicide. I’ve learned to recognize people who are hiding behind self-made walls and masks; who show little or no value for the life they’ve been given. Sometimes I can reach out to them, but more often than not, they’ve created safeguards preventing people like me who see and feel too much from getting too close. They want neither to be pitied nor judged and are unable to see some of us might just want to help them feel wanted and loved.

Freedom to Be Ourselves

Life these days is hard. There’s no pretty way to say it. For some, the daily challenges are overwhelming, and the stories they tell themselves about not being missed become a reality to be escaped at all costs. Many even become the person they believe themselves to be; withdrawn, angry, unpleasant to be around. They use their behavior to discourage others from reaching out or trying to help change their reality.

Others wrap themselves in false gaiety, often with the assistance of alcohol or drugs. They’re the life of the party on the outside, surrounded by smiling faces who are completely clueless about the turmoil the false front hides. Even those closest to them are oblivious to the cost of keeping the mask in place; of the loneliness they’re unable to break free from.

I talk to friends who’ve at one point in their lives contemplated suicide and understand. There were times I, too felt alone and unnecessary. Times when the only reason I’m still alive was my refusal to put my daughters through the pain and trauma I’ve had to live through twice. I remember being angry all the time, stewing over the slightest thing, and feeling abused and put down by everyone around me. Of course, a lot of it was their reaction to my prickliness and unfriendly demeanor.

Recognizing Our Value to Others

Fortunately, both my writing and the dancing were my saving grace. When I was at my angriest and most withdrawn, I had put the dancing on the back burner to involve myself in the girls’ high school activities. Perhaps not my best choice, but it was the right choice for them, if not for me. Shortly after those responsibilities ended, I got my butt back out on a dance floor. After awhile, the fog began to clear and I found my happy; bigger and brighter than it had been before.

Unfortunately, what may work for some of us, doesn’t help for others. There are plenty of writers and people who dance regularly who aren’t able to escape their pain or realize there are many people who want them around, and who would miss them if they were gone. It puts a lot of responsibility on the rest of us to pay attention to the ones who always seem happy, or who drink to excess and have a long drive home, or simply who share the barest snippets of themselves.

They’ll never say, nor admit to needing help, but they’re the ones we need to do our best to include and reassure we love them as they really are, and that they needn’t pretend for us.

Loving Each Other for Who We Are

I recently saw this graphic on Facebook of Eeyore (my favorite of the Winnie the Pooh https://www.facebook.com/cmhagbcharacters, coincidentally). I think this really says it all, and was published on the Canadian Mental Health Group Facebook page.

It speaks directly to what I’m saying. We all have friends who are depressed, and they need to be included anyway, and not expected to pretend everything is fine. They need to know it’s OK to be who they are without need for masks and walls, and that they’ll be accepted as they are all the time.

The biggest problem our society faces right now, and probably why suicide rates are climbing at such a frightening pace, is people think they need to pretend to be someone they’re not in order to be accepted or even liked.

I’ve learned people like, and even love you more if you’re yourself and nothing else. Those who don’t, quite frankly, don’t matter. We all have quirks, idiosyncrasies, broken parts, and imperfections. Rather than believing they make us wrong in some way, we need to realize they’re what make us unique, and even in tune with others. If we aren’t worrying about fitting in and matching some arbitrarily prescribed description of normal, we’ll find others are able to let down their guard and be themselves too. Not only that, the relief we get from not pretending might even lift some of the sadness and depression!

Dropping Our Disguises Ain’t Easy, But it’s Worth the Trouble

Learning to open up to my friends was, in all honesty, one of the toughest things I ever did. It went against everything I’d been taught from birth, and left me exposed to the ridicule and abuse I’d experienced most of my life, at least from my distorted recollection. I only saw people teasing and making fun of me, but never noticed when it went in the other direction, or when I was one of the perpetrators. Funny how our memories leave out the important parts, right?

Once I got to the other side, however, it became one of the most rewarding, kindest things I’ve ever done for myself. I have friends who are as imperfect as I am, but who accept themselves as they are. They have challenges with family, jobs, and a million other facets of a life well lived. We all know we have someone to talk to if we need to vent, but also to share successes and joys with. We gather in small groups and large, discussing everything from world events to personal frustrations.

When all is said and done, we feel better for the company and the opportunity to release some of the weight we carry around. What’s good for us is clearly good for those we might tend to overlook. They may not open up the first time or even the tenth, but after awhile, we can show them by our actions and our own sharing that they have a safe place to drop the pretenses and be themselves.

If we have the chance to keep suicide off the table for even one person, shouldn’t we take it?

Gratitude Helps Keep the Gloomies Away

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life the last few years who’ve made me feel accepted and loved for myself.
  2. I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the acceptance I gained while writing my memoir.
  3. I am grateful to my daughter, Heather, and my oldest friend, Candy who kept me moving forward with the memoir, even when I needed a few long breaks to get further along in my healing process.
  4. I am grateful for the dance community that lets me see we are all broken in some way, but that it isn’t a flaw, but a badge of honor.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, support, butt-kickings, ideas, dreams, goals, baby steps, philanthropy, peace, harmony, health, 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

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss Was a Major Force in My Earliest Forays into Literature

Thanks to my mom, I’ve been an avid reader since I was about 4. She took my sister and me on regular forays to Lewis for Books, a small, independent book store owned by a husband and wife who, to my young eyes, seemed as old as the dinosaurs. I suspect they were much younger than they seemed to me, but still, the store is long gone, which is sad for future readers. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis introduced me to books I added to my growing list of favorites, and later to those of my daughters.

I learned a lot from every book I read, whether it was horses, foreign countries, or, in the case of Dr. Seuss, how to be a good person.

The Man Behind the Moniker

https://twitter.com/drseuss20144783Theodore Seuss Geisel, known to the world as Dr. Seuss was a man of many talents. Author, poet, illustrator, cartoonist—he had all the bases covered. Though never a parent himself, he knew how to entertain children and give them a reason to want to read. His stories have a rhythm and tone that’s irresistible to children of all generations, and many have been turned into films and plays.

Though much of his work took him into the political arena, especially in the years which encompassed WWII, he had, in my opinion, a remarkable insight into social issues and a knack for simplifying them so they were both entertaining and enlightening for young readers.

Whether it was seeing the difference between right and wrong in the disobedient and often destructive Cat in the Hat, the inclusiveness and recognition that different doesn’t mean wrong in Horton Hears a Who, or our responsibility for the damage we do to our environment in The Lorax, it’s impossible not to consider the consequences of our behavior while reading the works of Dr. Seuss.

Inspired to Write Because of What I Read

Although the Dick and Jane books were still the staple when I was in elementary school (and prompted my infamous declaration: “This book is boring! I’m going to be a writer when I grow up!”) Dr. Seuss wrote in a way which not only used words at the right level for early readers (Cat in the Hat used only 236 common words), but injected lessons in a way which taught without pressure.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dogfog/5204935882/in/photolist-8VWE6Q-6FR4PG-DEEKw-bsF6i-cpi3Wd-dk9u1v-8BntLm-UGRZCH-fQcPnR-dhnn9s-fQcPgM-fQupxU-bKacYT-UGRZtV-iLNUA-kX4rWL-a3Sspv-61cUZi-AvxRBm-a3VVrF-i9PxxA-qHWpW2-AvxoHG-bz1N74-a3RRKM-fHdw26-BqLtuU-BqLFA7-B1WeW9-buhdFm-UGRZiK-UGRZpX-UQTX4N-EkYNF6-UQTX7U-UGRZsn-TC1PJN-fQuqyd-Unj5Bd-a3Spzc-rrT2hS-a3VxnA-BivGa1-UGRZma-UQTWLd-Bt5PfM-a3VvMo-61cUX8-z6xzb6-Avxt6EEven today, when I watch or read The Lorax I see how both collective and individual greed and lack of consideration for limited resources hurt us all, and think twice about making choices which exacerbate our already suffering Earth and society.

I’ve also learned a lot in recent years about how isolating ourselves in the mistaken belief we have every single resource we need to thrive and succeed within ourselves is hurtful and harmful, not only to ourselves but to everyone we deprive of our own gifts. Dr. Seuss was all about working together, even if, at first what you created was mischief.

He also taught me some things are worth the risk, whether that risk be physical, or emotional. Following the common school of thought may be safer, but there’s no room for growth, and what’s common isn’t always what’s right.

Above All, We Must Be True to Ourselves

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my 6 decades and counting. But I’ve also learned a lot of wonderful lessons. Some have been painful, usually because they were thrust upon me when I was most resistant. Others have been life-changing, like learning that my mother’s ability to express her vulnerability (willingly or not ) made her a stronger person than my dad who lived his entire life encased in an unyielding suit of armor.

In fact, it was by taking up the pen just as Dr. Seuss did that I learned the most about myself and the lessons which had created the person I looked at in the mirror every morning and night. My work may not waft through the brain with the flow of music; the point and counterpoint of poetry, but it reflects my own, true voice, just as his did. In fact, it’s because of Dr. Seuss that I do allow my own personal voice to shine brightly. He taught me I needn’t pretend to be or believe anything that isn’t genuine. He made me realize (though it took a number of years for it to truly sink in) that I am perfect the way I am.

But most of all, he taught me that being my unique, quirky, authentic self is exactly what I’m supposed to be, and that I needn’t make apologies to those who don’t understand. They have their path, and I have mine. Neither one is more right than the other. We’re all exactly where we’re supposed to be, and have our own set of lessons to learn. Just because I’m not as far ahead as some people with some courses of study doesn’t mean I can’t be further along in others, and in fact, in all likelihood, I am. As a result, we all have things we can teach others, and things we can (and should) learn from them too.

Using My Early Exposure to Dr. Seuss as a Compass for Life

Because he opened my mind to the possibilities, I continue to grow, even decades after I read his work on a regular basis. Because his messages were so powerful and applicable, I revisit them almost daily. But the one which resonates most strongly these days is one of social consciousness. I know it’s an area where I’m still lacking and put my daughter (a person half my age) up as an example of following a path towards a more conscious, aware, compassionate way of life.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/4860839266/in/photolist-n8CFnR-o5uD96-22RQjNp-eCZ3Kq-WYUGZj-DLmHDZ-KKjkM7-8px5ay

In fact, she has been motivated by her own early exposure to the good Doctor. She used one of his quotes in her wedding, engraving it on a piece of tree trunk for her ring bearer to carry in lieu of the standard satin cushion.Created in Canva

She had one of her favorites tattooed on her leg along with a truffula tree to remind her every day that success is simply putting one foot in front of the other.

So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.

If you ask me, that’s about the best life-lesson we can have, and pass on to our children and grandchildren.

Gratitude, Too, Is Seussical

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful to my mom and Mr. and Mrs. Lewis who introduced me, not only to Dr. Seuss, but to literature as a whole. I’ve taken many a journey around the world and back (and even to the stars) between the covers of a book.
  2. I’m grateful for Linda Clay who has inspired me to get on with my writing and stop wasting precious time.
  3. I’m grateful for Trello which helps me keep on track with my writing, just as MyFitnessPal helps me keep on track with my diet and exercise routines. Tools are good things, especially when memory isn’t enough.
  4. I’m grateful for balance in my life. I switch easily between creative and analytical, self-care and work, recognizing it’s all necessary to make me a well-rounded and contributing member of society.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; inspiration, motivation, challenges, my disappearing comfort zone, confidence, baby steps, successes both small and grand, friendship, joy, love, happiness, opportunities to help others, early mornings and late nights, peace, health, prosperity, and philanthropy.

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.

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