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

Posts tagged ‘#Borderline’

Weathering the Solitude

The Solitude of Social Distancing

https://www.flickr.com/photos/prestonrhea/5236270625/in/photolist-8YHfQ2-4X1dP6-P58XGS-dmtrwi-2pMKC-nC1YD-QxGsf-q4rWqa-8HeDZc-o8pVg-8mXR4g-o7nP7c-8jQqTQ-bPxsQc-dJusGN-78jLU7-98LY1P-dYGYNq-cgtYSu-cgu1F7-7rMJ9R-6z6KQA-6VuMG-6Jfxqk-4bbwMg-dmtxds-9Rf6xQ-v8gDMa-9PqETD-4MsUzv-ptUKap-a2BfLR-4UtU1B-4UtSun-5dBS8k-7eGxtr-7nUbqa-7nUbW8-fBZ3S4-5M1h3P-8DYirc-8E2uBh-6r2V98-7oFgff-7oBon2-7oBpbn-7oBoG6-7oFfRo-vPhUL-jk3BYpI’m thinking about the hours, weeks, and days that stretch ahead, alone in my house with my cats. Don’t get me wrong. I love my furballs, and they’ve always been a great source of comfort. But face it. People need people, and much as I might try to deny it, I’m no exception.

Over the last couple of years, I put a lot of time and energy into creating a new normal which included leaving the house three days a week to go to the gym, and running errands afterwards on Wednesdays. The first week of my self-imposed retreat left me wandering the house, unsure what to do with myself. The first couple of days were actually spent resting though. I’d absorbed a lot of energy from people and places that left me utterly drained.

I got up in the morning, later than I was used to, only to wander from couch to couch, and often ending up on the guest room bed for a couple of hours, yet still sleeping in the next day. I realized I had worked myself up about my final Wednesday shopping trip and 2 doctor’s appointments I had scheduled later in the week, and was driving myself crazy. Lavender candles and essential oil plus what would become a nightly tea habit brought me down a few notches.

Finding My New Normal

I didn’t truly start to settle until after the first of what would be regular Thursday night line dances via Zoom. After that, I went into an almost manic state; cleaning, doing laundry, even vacuuming the garage. In my defense, I’d spilled some cat litter while transferring it from the bags it came in into more easily accessible buckets. Once I revved up the shop vac, it kind of pulled me along, sucking up grit and rubble that had accumulated on the garage floor around my car.

Slowly, the days have started taking on a new kind of normal. I rise earlier every day; getting closer to the time my Fitbit goes off. Morning pages are, of course, still the first thing I do after getting up, followed by making the bed, putting in my contacts, feeding the cats, and then myself. At least some things haven’t had to change.

I’m still playing with the rest of the day, though. Sometimes, I’ll go out on the patio and do some freehand writing. Sometimes I’ll pull up one of my writing projects and start working on it. when I do, the day seems to get away from me, and it’s late in the afternoon before I meditate (another non-negotiable), and eat what often becomes both lunch and dinner. But I also feel like I’ve actually done something productive. In my head, cleaning doesn’t count. And heaven knows I’ve been doing more cleaning than usual too!

Idleness is No Longer a Comfortable Place

Created with CanvaMy cats are becoming more spoiled than ever as they’re getting excessive lap time and tummy skritches with me home 24/7. That will slow down as I am compelled to spend more time at the computer or on the patio writing. I do, however, carry on long, deep conversations with them. If only they could contribute to the conversation instead of it being a long monologue. At some point, I might even run out of things to say.

TV got boring within the first few days. It’s all I can do to sit still and refrain from channel surfing. Nothing holds my attention for more than a few minutes, even if I’m playing games on my phone. And even the games aren’t holding my interest for long any more. Since I’ve moved my computer into the dining room to accommodate the Zoom dancing sessions, the TV may soon become occasional background noise, and nothing more.

Somehow, I’m slowly finding my way. Motivation and inspiration are starting to increase. After sitting at the computer for hours, I’m itching to move, so the house is slowly getting cleaned, and lightbulbs that have been out for weeks are now getting replaced. I do miss my friend Jesse who is so tall he doesn’t need a step ladder. I’d call him when I needed bulbs changed, and he’d have it done quickly and easily without having to drag the ladder all over the house. Guess I need to be more careful about saying I want to be self-sufficient, huh?

Dancing for Sanity and Connection

I know the one thing that will save my sanity is the Zoom-based dance nights being set up by our dance instructors and DJ’s. At this point, there are nights when I’ll even have to choose which event to attend! Even line dance lessons are continuing, which, if you ask me, is nothing short of amazing! The Borderline family and the Country dance community as a whole have been through hell and back the last couple of years, yet, like a phoenix, we keep rising to whatever occasion we have. We’ve danced in malls, barns, and parking lots. We’ve found new places where we were welcomed with open arms. Now, we dance in our own living rooms, garages, dens, and kitchens. But we’re still dancing.

Even the technologically challenged are learning how to use Zoom, Facebook Live, and other tools many of us once used only for marketing or productivity. I’m grateful I was ahead of the curve and already knew how to use them.

I’ve had to temporarily ditch habits like going to the gym and meeting my friends at BL Saloon or Oil Can Harry’s for some dancing. At times, I feel completely disconnected and lost. If the last couple of years have taught me nothing else, it’s how to create habits that make me more efficient, more motivated, and healthier. I’m nothing if not creative, so finding temporary replacements is merely a matter of pointing my nose towards what I need and figuring out new ways to get there.

Finding New Ways to Keep Myself Healthy and Fit

Whether it’s the cup of tea I’ve added to my nightly routine, the new regular dance nights, or finding exercise videos that will keep what I’ve achieved through strength training intact until I have access to heavier weights and machines again, I’ve learned my mind and body are used to a certain level of exercise and stimulation. I might need more rest at times because the energies are heavy right now. Ultimately, I need to move more than I realized, and I will find ways to get what I seem to have lost, albeit only until I figure out a workaround.

I’ve specialized in workarounds ever since my career path started requiring computer proficiency decades ago. What I learned about software and making it produce what I wanted works just as well for exercise and work routines. In all honesty, I’m looking forward to tackling the latest challenge the Universe has added to my life. In hindsight, I was falling into a rut, and though I wouldn’t exactly ask for a pandemic to change that, I did need something to boot me in the butt. As usual, the Universe pushes me out of my comfort zone in ways that guarantee I can’t return to where I’ve been.

The Healing Gift of Gratitude

One of the changes I’ve made during what I’m calling my retreat is to post daily gratitudes on Facebook; a practice I began years ago with my blog posts. Sometimes, expanding on an old habit is the only change needed to make something new and effective.

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful to be part of a community which ensures we all stay connected.
  2. I’m grateful for friends who call to check up on me.
  3. I’m grateful I’ve learned to be kind to myself while settling into a new normal.
  4. I’m grateful for a strong, healthy body that demands I do more than sit on the couch watching TV for hours.
  5. I’m grateful for a large, essentially private yard where I can sit and write, or just hang out with my outside cats Max and Cinders.
  6. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, health, motivation, inspiration, healthy, precooked meals, solitude, peace, balance, hope, 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

Ask an Introvert to Dance

Some Find it Hard to Ask

https://www.flickr.com/photos/basykes/7340397856/in/photolist-cbDsxJ-fzRXJH-fzRU3V-GFFVME-87C3ro-epfT1v-6ixEeJ-HRLxVG-58xPj2-Xp8vtU-pXs6to-QHDGiW-t6dtT-6bsVU6-9SurWh-Wdj1Qd-odAC7i-ubQRAd-apXuRr-nJMGvb-9sCtdA-51wq2C-4KXrym-dJLEXx-dfGd8s-6yz6qi-22c7xXE-4KXt7A-219zYfG-Y6ugwd-aokdtX-WXZF7J-8k4FAh-219zYkm-rqFwgT-2gqYSkX-pKNDEY-fngxkg-2rBixn-cAMBNL-6yEkh5-cAMnRj-9Axjsh-WXZF8W-HU8RCu-E72ZqC-8nkuaw-bDCtyG-22eMwC4-64vyhJI’ve been dancing almost all my life. I started with tap and ballet when I was 5. Since then, it’s been a wild and varied ride; folk, square, round, jazz, modern, ballroom, and my current passion; all things Country. I know most of the line dances done in my area, can two-step, waltz, nightclub two-step, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, and even polka. But mostly I line dance.

It may seem strange given my repertoire but a few bad experiences and my innate shyness mean I simply don’t ask, but instead, wait to be asked which may or may not happen. Years ago I’d ask any available man to dance but after being turned down too many times, often with a lame excuse, or worse; watching him turn away after declining my request to dance with someone else, I gave it up as a bad deal. I decided being a wallflower was better than being turned down. Yes, I dance less than I’d like to. I know it isn’t personal. But a part of me feels it is and crawls further into the shell I’m still not ready to break into a zillion pieces and discard for good.

I’ve often been told I’m intimidating (though not as much lately as before I let some of my walls down). I suspect it has to do with an outward confidence I exude. In truth, it’s only real under certain circumstances. The rest of the time, it’s a carefully constructed and maintained facade originally erected to protect my soft, mushy center. While it’s rarely necessary these days, old habits die hard. The minute I feel even the least bit insecure or uncertain, my outward confidence is elevated to safeguard an ego that’s still easily bruised.

Nip Isolation in the Bud Before it’s Too Late

Even so, I trust too easily these days, letting people I shouldn’t get close. Yet given the choice, I wouldn’t do things differently. I know too well what it feels like to be less trusting; more self-contained. The reality is most introverts do not want to be alone and isolated. It’s a place to recharge, nothing more. Making isolation a permanent residence invites depression. Left with too much alone time to think, I can make a mountain out of a molehill in record time.

In the weeks surrounding the anniversary of the Borderline shooting, I read a lot of posts on Facebook from people who were feeling sad and disconnected, yet felt they didn’t have the right to feel that way since they hadn’t been there that night, nor had they lost a friend or family member. I know a lot of them were feeling the sadness and grief anyway. For many like me, it was a little bit of our own sadness, and a lot coming in from outside. Everywhere were reminders of a night many of us wish we could turn back; bring back the precious lives that were lost, and help a young man who was lost, alone, angry, and struggling.

Our community has it’s heart in the right place. Many people suggest professional help or post and re-post numbers for a suicide hotline. I try to remind people a listening, non-judgemental ear and a shoulder to lean on might be a better solution. It seems too many are still quick to shove the responsibility off on “professionals” who often then shove it off on the latest pharmaceutical wonder. If you ask me, human kindness is a more effective drug with no negative side-effects. I think it should be the first drug of choice before heading to the medical profession in most cases.

People Need to be Included

Sure, there are those who clearly need professional intervention, and I don’t mean to suggest there isn’t a time and a place to consult someone trained to guide people out of dangerous and destructive behavior. I think it might be the last resort instead of the first. But to make it so, more people have to care and be willing to put forth the effort even when it’s not convenient.

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For someone like me, it might mean something as simple as being included, or asked to dance. For others, it might take more effort; ask them out to coffee again and again if necessary. I remember feeling unworthy. I was the one who believed people tolerated my presence, but didn’t care whether I was there or not; who believed I was too much of a burden to befriend. I was lost and alone, never realizing the isolation I felt was a product of my own mind, ultimately manifesting in my behavior until it became reality. No one reached out because they had no idea I needed help. My actions had ensured no one asked or felt the need to offer.

Loneliness becomes insidious. The more a person is alone, the more alone they become. It’s as if the world becomes affected with amnesia, at least in their mind. A few years ago I withdrew for a couple of weeks when the drama became too intense. In my mind, no one would even notice my absence. To my surprise, when I returned, a number of people made it clear I was missed. Yet not one reached out while I was gone to ask if I was OK.

Belonging to a Loving, Caring Community is the First Step

Things are different now. If I miss more than a couple regular events, I get texts and Facebook Messages asking if I’m OK…most of the time. Even the best of us get busy and don’t pick up on the signs our friends might leave indicating they’re in distress. It’s why I emphasize a network approach where no one is left alone and floundering. Maybe 6 friends are entangled in the web of their own lives, but there should always be someone whose life is currently less complicated, and available to check on the quiet ones. 

What I’m trying to say in my usual long-winded and convoluted way is everyone needs to be part of a loving, supportive community. Everyone deserves to be part of a community that reaches out and draws them back into the fold when life knocks them sideways, or when they start feeling disconnected, yet accepts them as they are without judgement or expectations. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a dance community like mine which ensures everyone is included and appreciated, a church group, an extended blood family, or some other community formed around a shared interest.

We need to reach a point where no one feels like they have to act badly in order to get attention; where no one is ever left to feel they’re unloved or don’t matter. Each of us is a drop in the Sea of Souls. What we do, think, and feel causes ripples felt further away than we know. When we stop making ripples too soon, or make a gigantic ripple because we’re feeling too alone it causes enormous repercussions in the entire Sea. Sure, sometimes that Sea needs a bit of a tidal wave, but lets make sure those tidal waves are induced for the right reasons. I may be an idealist, but I believe love does conquer all.

Using Gratitude to Keep My Spirits High

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the friendships I formed once I learned I wasn’t unworthy.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who show me what caring, loving, and community look like.
  3. I’m grateful to be included.
  4. I’m grateful for less walls and more open doors.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, compassion, community, joy, hugs, music, belonging, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, balance, 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

What’s in a Word?

Choosing Each Word With Care

https://www.flickr.com/photos/47662183@N04/4564071101/in/photolist-7Xj4k4-4kvmAM-TMnQcJ-r3GViw-2hfQFC7-beCWYD-CGz9-5JNbw-9YuZj-aP3gAB-bcUdqt-K4CqQ7-25grp2D-AN7TXi-8zDAe2-3X5YC-tUzR-78uEky-bcW75M-78qJkK-4BHp7g-tG35Jq-ebDxNE-2hvX9Eg-6A2jWp-4qDR25-aSaQCF-2dXbteV-6A6td7-uFtH3V-jbntgU-xdtEmw-6A2k3k-YALSe-78qKYZ-24gWEPb-HgyCZB-4w1ReJ-PdAPhu-bzzPff-78uCTm-o1SQsA-9hrRBH-78qFVz-pg3yqE-qKuAde-78qJGt-uF355y-5xBRUT-oinua2Words have power. Which one we choose will often have an emotional effect on the reader. It’s important to consider not only the basic meaning of the word, but the emotional triggers it might set off.

One day I sat down to do one of my guided meditations. Something didn’t feel quite right, but I didn’t figure it out until I was a few minutes in. I realized I’d started listening to the previous week’s audio instead of the one I needed to listen to. After switching to the right one, my mind started playing a semantics game. At first I thought of what I’d done as a mistake, but quickly changed it in my mind to “error”. Somehow, there’s a different energy in the two words. “Mistake” seems to feel negative and harsh while “error” is more of an “oopsie. that wasn’t what I meant to say/do. Let’s back up a bit and get back on track”;  a feeling where there’s no harm, no foul. Just a step back to regroup before moving forward again.

Once I’d clarified semantics in my head, I realized I need to be more aware of how the two words make me feel next time I decide to use one or the other. Words definitely have power, whether I use them inside my head, or vocally. It makes sense since I’ve learned the importance of speaking kindly and lovingly to myself. Not only tone, but the words I choose are so much more important than I’d ever noticed before.

To Err is Human

Everyone errs from time to time. It’s how the human brain learns. Usually, they’re merely missteps; taking off in a direction that’s less likely to allow you to reach your desired destination. It doesn’t mean it’s the wrong direction; merely a more circuitous one that will make the journey longer. It’s not necessarily even a bad thing as the long way around often teaches you lessons, and gives you tools you might otherwise fail to acquire. Those tools and lessons could actually come in handy further down the road, meaning the side trip was actually the right road in the first place despite all the switchbacks and surprises you encountered.

“Mistake” implies you got it all wrong and the direction taken might never get you where you wanted to go. Your goals and dreams would crumble around your feet unless you went all the way back to the beginning, cleared the slate, and started anew. “Mistake” brings with it a feeling of defeat; a feeling of failure. It makes me realize it’s not a word I want to keep in my vocabulary. I don’t want to use it with other people, and I’d classify it as negative self-talk if I used it on myself.

The sometimes subtle but often overt nature inherent in the words I choose serves as a not-so-gentle reminder to me to think before I speak. Often enough I’ll have my words misinterpreted, not intentionally or out of malice, but because the person who hears or reads them comes from a different set of experiences. While I know I’ll never avoid those misinterpretations completely, developing a consciousness not only about the words I choose in a moment, but those I use consistently in certain circumstances is an essential part of developing a life of compassion and love rather then my old, disengaged and lonely one.

Flipping the Script

I’ve learned a lot from my #Borderline family of love, compassion, and most of all, authenticity. The people I interact with every week, both on and off the dance floor helped me break through the hard shell I’d learned from childhood to believe was essential—only to discover it’s a hindrance rather than a help. They’ve shown me through actions more than words that being myself is perfectly OK when I have a group of friends who’ve become closer than family ever was, and who have made it clear I’m loved because of my imperfections; because of my uniqueness. The mistakes my family saw; the flaws they found abhorrent solely because they made me different are the things my family of choice finds attractive in me.

It took me a long time to learn to trust; to believe I could be myself, err at times, and ask forgiveness when I inadvertently hurt someone. I first had to learn conformity and perfection are tools of the insecure. They belong to people who are so uncertain of their own strength that they believe they must control their world with sameness. No wonder I never fit in. I wore myself out trying to belong, when my truth, power, and purpose was in breaking free of the familial bonds to be myself. I had to learn to be wrong before I could figure out where I was not only right, but perfectly imperfect.

Those Who Thought They Knew Me Best Used Words Most Cutting

It wasn’t friends and acquaintances who first taught me words could cut deep. My initial lessons were part of what was considered a normal family upbringing; parents showing me the harshness of the outside world so I’d stay within the safe, albeit constraining family circle. It was hard being a rebel when I was a child and teenager. It seems I was always in trouble or at odds with my parents. I learned I couldn’t do anything right until, in my early 20’s, I stopped trying.

In hindsight, I burned down the barn when I would have been better served bringing in a couple of cats to clear out the rodents. But the only way to break free of expectations I could never hope to meet was by making a clean, if painful break, killing off anything that tried to follow me into my new life. Unfortunately, in the process, I killed my own spirit too. It was another 2 decades before I’d crawled out from under more limitations, both external and internal to finally pull a frightened and shaking little piece of myself out of the rubble to start feeding it kindness instead of abuse.

Pain is Inflicted Because You Allow It; Often Unknowingly

Needless to say, words had a major impact. It made me aware of how much damage words can do, especially to the psyche of a child, or someone who had been broken into as many pieces as I had. Discovering “The Secret” and “Laws of Attraction” became my lifeline because they taught me new, empowering words I could use to not only replace the old vocabulary which left me feeling like an unarmed knight facing an angry horde, but to change my story and make me stronger. I learned, with the help of a friend to delete any thoughts that didn’t communicate positivity, love, and support for myself.

Later, after reading Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now”, I learned to dismiss words from others that cut and bruised. I discovered those words were not really meant to hurt me or anyone else, but to unsuccessfully take the speaker out of his own pain.

When all’s said and done, words never could hurt me. They only hurt when I allowed them to. Still, I take my own lessons and pain and use them to use words less likely to cause pain to others. I know I’ll never be 100% successful, but if I avoid causing pain to a single person through taking care with my vocabulary, I’ll deem the exercise a complete success.

Making My World Better With Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the friend/family bonds which grow ever stronger. It might have taken a tragedy to find some of them, but finding each other is the most important part.
  2. I am grateful for lessons I’ve learned to make me take more care with others who carry their own pain.
  3. I am grateful for my morning pages which are responsible for the first few paragraphs of this post.
  4. I am grateful for Amtrak which brought my daughter safely to me, even if only for a day or so.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, caring, compassion, connection, lessons, challenges, joy, sorrow, healing, peace, health, harmony, 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

A Mother’s Pain: Mental Health Care Isn’t Optional

Prevention Starts With Our Mental Health

A weekend full of memorials; the dedication of the memorial garden, its 12 fountains shooting water high in the air; pavers for the survivors—yet any words spoken for the 13th victim of the Borderline shooting on November 7th 2018 aren’t spoken with remembrance or love—except, perhaps by the woman who called him “Son”.

I suspect the last year has been horrific for the shooter’s mother; seeing stickers, t-shirts, and signs wherever she goes. Newspapers are still writing stories memorializing the 12 victims of her son’s last angry, violent act. I’ve read most of them, and haven’t seen his name mentioned since the early accounts (like the journalists, I’ll honor requests from the victims’ families to refrain from immortalizing his name, though my heart shatters a bit more for his mother). Many hate him for taking their friends and loved ones. It’s a natural response. A few found it in their hearts to feel compassion; to see a young man in so much pain he committed an unthinkable act. I doubt we’ll ever understand why he chose to walk into a crowded bar heavily armed and take lives I think we can all agree he had no right to take.

My thoughts, however, are with his mother. In the aftermath, I heard she was subjected to some pretty awful comments on her Facebook page while I’m sure she was trying to wrap her head around what had happened, and her heart around the fact her son was gone in a final, horrific blaze of glory.

One Suicide Affects Many

As a suicide survivor, I know how hard it is to wrap my head around a loved one taking their 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-9BUEVown life. I know the questions I’ve asked for which there will never be answers. How much worse can it be when first, it’s your child, and second, he killed innocent people before he took his own life, and did so where the repercussions would continue to echo in not only the local community, but a large portion of the Country dance community as well. How many times does a mother’s heart break as memorial after memorial celebrates the lives of the innocent, but not the person who was so broken and alone as to plan and execute a mass murder/suicide?

I have a huge amount of respect for the father of one of the victims who recognized how much our neglect of mental health played into this tragedy. Michael Morrisette lost his youngest daughter, Kristina in the shooting. Rather than screaming uselessly about the need for gun control, he turned his efforts towards helping others heal, but also to understand how many people out there are ticking time bombs. They live inside their heads where the landscape is unwelcoming and cold; their tender hearts shriveling from neglect. They don’t know how to reach out and ask for help. Hell, they’ve been trained since birth that asking for help is a weakness and admitting you’re struggling makes you a target.

Give An Hour and Others Opening the Dialogue

Organizations like Give An Hour  not only help victims of disasters, but with the help of people like Michael, are working hard to change the way we look at mental illness. With suicide rates, especially in young men rising steadily, they have a long row to plow. But if they manage to keep one mother from having to mourn her son’s death as this mom is, I believe they’ll have made a difference. Their campaigns to educate everyone and raise awareness to the signs of mental illness and depression are desperately needed as our society falls apart at the seams.

Whether it’s offering counseling for victims of disasters or educating people about recognizing triggers in themselves, I can’t emphasize enough how much we need the staff and volunteers of organizations like Give An Hour to help bring mental health out into the open; to emphasize how important our mental and emotional health are. Think how much healthier people would be physically if they stopped stuffing their feelings and struggles down instead of dealing with them.

I can only speak with authority on what I’ve seen, but some of the most angry, bitter people I know are suffering from multiple serious physical ailments. The question is, which came first? In my opinion, and from the ones I’ve observed personally, the mental state brought on the physical ailments. Things like carrying a grudge, hating for no concrete reason, feeling isolated, and ensuring by their behavior that the isolation intensified eventually ate away at their physical health. Yes, I can only conjecture, but if you ask me, the evidence is overwhelming.

Once, I was one of those bitter, angry people, and I can assure you, my health, both mental and physical suffered for it. My children and everyone I touched suffered because I was so busy holding my pain close to me like a fragile infant, I failed to recognize it for the vicious parasite it was. I truly believe the only reason my health has returned is because I learned to let go and more, to reach out.

The More We Talk about Mental Health and Suicide, The More Ears and Hearts We’ll Reach

Even Kaiser Permanente has been running an ad campaign for quite awhile which emphasizes the importance of mental and emotional health. 5 years ago, you never even heard it mentioned. Health insurance companies were all about treating the physical body only, and even then, imperfectly. It’s hard to tell right now whether they’re emphasizing it because they think it’s fashionable, or because they truly believe we are a single cohesive being, body, mind, and spirit. Only time will tell.

All I know for sure is I’d love to stop seeing stories about murders and suicides, not because they’re once more shoved under the rug, but because society as a whole is accepting of how mental health affects everything else. My dream is for it to be as common and accepted to see a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Therapist as it is to see your GP, Cardiologist, or Orthopedist. Let it become part of our annual preventative medicine routine so mothers stop losing sons too soon, wives stop losing husbands, children stop losing parents, and we all stop seeing people die unnecessarily.

Most of all, let’s not see another community shattered because someone thought killing other people would assuage the mental anguish they suffered. When there’s a tragedy like Borderline, Route 91, or any of the other mass shootings we’ve seen in the last few years, people think nothing of attending to the mental well-being of the victims’ families and the survivors. It baffles me that so few have recognized the importance of attending to everyone’s mental well-being before something awful happens. Before a mother has to mourn her son amidst voices raised in anger and hate.

Gratitude: A Powerful Tool for Improved Mental Health

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I learned to reach out and ask for help. It’s a learning process I’ve yet to perfect, but it’s allowed me to let go of a lot of pain and misery I’d heaped on my undeserving self.
  2. I’m grateful for people and organizations who are speaking out about mental health. At times, I feel like my voice is no longer needed. Then I realize every voice is needed if we’re to be heard and for action to be taken.
  3. I’m grateful for my friends and family who love and accept my imperfect self just the way I am.
  4. I’m grateful for the dance community which has stood together for a year since our own tragedy, but who stood together long before that, without any other reason than our common joy.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, community, joy, friendship, support, caring, sharing, peace, harmony, balance, 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

A Matter of Perspective

We See Family From Our Own Perspective

I ran into a fellow member of the dance community at our local county fair one night. We were reminiscing about the “good old days”. He told me the thing he misses most is the feeling of family that existed in the early 2000’s when there were parties and gatherings outside of just the dance venue. I listened but didn’t have much to contribute because I wasn’t part of the “family” he remembered during that period of time.

The truth is, I feel more of that family connection now, and have for the last 3 or 4 years, maybe a couple more. Before that, I didn’t have more than a couple of phone numbers, or connections on social media. I didn’t see any of my dance “friends” outside of our regular Thursdays and Saturday nights. I could probably count the people I called “friend” as opposed to “acquaintance” on one hand and have fingers left over.

I used to envy those who clearly had a connection that went beyond dancing. I saw people making plans, or coming in after having dinner together; sharing lives, holidays, vacations, and bonds I didn’t understand. From my perspective at the time, no one wanted to have that kind of connection with me.

I’ve since learned, to quote an old and tired relationship-ending phrase out of context, it wasn’t them, it was me. Many of those people were probably reaching out to me, but my rough, defensive, knee-jerk responses told them I was neither approachable nor amenable to sharing more of my life with them. After awhile, they moved on, leaving me oblivious to their efforts to include me.

You Have to First Open the Door

It wasn’t until I lowered my walls and offered up a bit of myself that things began https://www.flickr.com/photos/64738468@N00/25973076/in/photolist-3i7TE-fyVNaB-9aLW9G-4JgeJF-EUixt-pdT2Ek-63AteW-8vwter-bxo88F-cdcTPS-bVQBQg-5aG3Rc-6ktqzm-bxouRx-9NP8jK-drK3ho-cdcUgU-cdcX7q-cdcVCE-cdZyKj-BJPNDq-bxovfz-6knRQ4-fLRddW-9aHGR4-dKZQqf-bxo2tZ-cPQ6Sh-34jbLJ-pJefAw-6kt26u-8w3FD3-fLRas7-4RuNgv-cfEDAb-6XGTXx-adqDCb-RgBASk-fpsHxH-7eqpS1-ahPuom-269ugzb-cW79tG-6pwS4o-YrjQ9b-bo6Gr6-fq9GQm-fp2skU-6guFM-br7V4kto change. I let people see that much of my unconscious defensiveness was my way of hiding the pain I’d been taught never to let anyone see. The false set of beliefs I’d been given from birth said no one wanted to know I struggled with anything unless they were going to use it to take advantage of me. In short, my early education was as riddled with holes as Swiss cheese.

I developed a version of “normal” which was about as far removed from reality as that of anyone who’s grown up in a dysfunctional family. Granted, we all have at least a bit of dysfunctionality in our lives, but I’m talking about extremes.

For example, I grew up believing that having a few drinks every evening, and drinking to excess at social gatherings was normal. I didn’t share the desire exhibited by my parents and their peers, so I thought there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until decades later I learned I wasn’t the one who had a problem. It was one of many reasons I didn’t fit in with my own family, and I’d learned to accept it as part of my reality.

Making Connections is a Learned Talent

Created with CanvaNot making real, deep connections was another part of my reality I believed was normal. My parents certainly had people I’d call close friends, but in hindsight, I think that closeness was simply a product of similar outlooks, and a common belief in self-medicating to escape a harsh reality. I don’t think they shared their vulnerability with each other, and frankly, they’d have been horrified at the suggestion. They wouldn’t have been comfortable on the giving or receiving end of something so deeply personal and honest. In their minds any raw emotions they shared while under the influence could be explained away by the alcohol.

The point of this post wasn’t to wander down memory lane and wake up the ghosts. It was to recognize how differently two people can see the same time and place. Borderline is probably medium-sized when it comes to bars; not a tiny, dark, hole-in-the-wall, but not a giant venue where thousands can gather on a busy night either. To be honest, for those of us who frequented it regularly, it was just right. (OK, so maybe we’d have liked a bigger dance floor, but for socializing purposes, it was perfect).

How each person views an event or situation is largely dependent on their own history. How you’re raised is, of course, a huge factor. You’re also influenced by painful, if not traumatic events. How you navigated those events, and the person you became once you’d healed (assuming you did), or established coping mechanisms affects not only how you see things, but how you interact with others.

Do You Build Walls or Bridges?

I know I’m not alone in building enormous walls, and creating coping https://www.flickr.com/photos/17367470@N05/34548761725/in/photolist-UCXrcB-ecCNUL-4zfgf6-dAnmf-ngJT8C-azZxsp-nqHgd-b6nZQ8-eM19w4-2cSiqbp-ax5dgA-27J7Psa-6LxpFR-2bRXjnz-pEj693-j4VCQQ-fmd2HZ-svmgQ3-2es7nPR-7AUKsG-GnaSGd-9KvniY-pzqY5Q-VkF76-25utPi9-aLKEgF-qa3JFd-7pVuMa-cMP8xf-K8vLgj-nEqYEz-JW6mY-fB5met-nqHga-aRccva-JWkte-aFcmuG-JW6n9-7Z3cY8-aLKvYc-AM33ua-5Jgt83-9hYUkR-cu1wuJ-9mTEYo-aR8L6v-28j4DAt-PBhbUU-emC61v-9yg7h6mechanisms which shield me, not only from the cruelties of life, but also from the things which bring joy, delight, and pleasure. The trouble is, while living in that seemingly pain-free place, you miss out on how a gathering place can take on the feel of a loving, accepting, non-judgemental family; something many of us weren’t fortunate enough to know.

Granted, I’ve met a few people in the last few years whose early lives make mine look look like summer camp. I’ve also learned it’s not about comparisons, but how you come through your own personal storms. Some learn to live better than they were taught. Others spend their lives huddled in a turtle shell, poking their heads out a little at a time until a painful moment sends them scurrying back inside where it’s safe—albeit desperately lonely.

Reaching Out to Those Who Instinctively Hide

Part of my purpose in writing posts like this is to hopefully reach some of those who believe as I once did that hiding away is the only solution. That avoiding pain at all costs is their only choice. I learned the hard way that you can’t hide from pain. You might avoid a lot of what could be inflicted by others, but you wall yourself away with your own demons. Often, that’s far worse than anything the outside world might inflict.

There’s a level of joy and comfort in human interaction that can’t be felt inside your own walls; inside your turtle shell. Sure, if you’ve never experienced it, you might say you won’t miss it. But I’m here to tell you, you do.

You miss it every time you see other people connecting, and know you’re not part of that connection. Your heart breaks a little more as you watch your friendly acquaintances plan get-togethers without you. The more you’re left out of opportunities to connect and bond, the darker your world behind those walls becomes.

Sometimes the Reward is Worth the Initial Pain

I won’t lie and tell you it was easy to break down those walls, nor that I’m Photo: David Derong/Iowa State Dailyanywhere close to finishing the job. It was, however, the best gift I ever gave myself. Coming out from behind those walls and becoming a true part of my community has brought me immeasurable joy. Just having people like a security guard at the fair remember me for my friendliness, even 2 years and hundreds of thousands of people later makes the pain of demolishing those walls worth it.

In conclusion, you don’t know how many lives you touch when you’re closed off from the world, much less, when you allow yourself to become an active participant. You leave an impression regardless. It’s up to you whether it will be one people remember fondly, and that brings a smile to their face and warmth to their heart, or one they remember as cold and off-putting.

Between you and me, I love knowing an encounter with me was pleasant enough for someone to remember years later, and that the memory brings a smile to their face.

Grateful for Every Little Thing Every Single Day

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I chose a little pain so I could experience a lot of pleasure.
  2. I’m grateful for the positive impressions I’ve left on people in recent years.
  3. I’m grateful for the sense of family I enjoy with my community.
  4. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my own life, in hopes someone will relate and see they have choices.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, joy, community, music, solitude, insight, 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

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