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

Posts tagged ‘community’

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

Should We Allow Greatness to Stifle Our Kindness?

One Man’s Greatness…

A question was raised in one of my LinkedIn groups regarding using “Make America Great Again” as a catch phrase for non-political marketing efforts. My response had to do with knee-jerk reactions from people on both sides of the fence. In retrospect, I suppose the people who’ve bought into the phrase and what it’s come to represent would be prime candidates for whatever a company was selling. However, I think it would alienate those who believe the phrase has been nothing more than a diversionary tactic aimed at pitting people against each other and hindering unification and working towards a common good.

Granted, marketing isn’t my strong suit, but over the years I’ve assimilated some of the basics. In my opinion, platforms, campaigns, and slogans with a “Get on the Bandwagon” message are geared towards those whose primary goal is to belong or be accepted by a group they find attractive. People who tend to eschew conformity are likely to look at something like that and walk away in disgust. They’ll look beneath the surface and find it crawling with greed and a self-serving agenda.

Is Belonging Really Worth Fighting For?

Granted, a large slice of the population still believes they need to belong, and to https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctanderson/8730481504/in/photolist-eitZZb-an6tuQ-65kdGP-9SAkve-5VSyDR-kECd9-2bw8Wf-8swqBu-6KHHVp-pCfGS9-pEmg1p-8W5fec-569wMG-2aHujJW-aNt4fP-4qC9CB-9y6Z8V-dR5bin-pEmjvk-TdQPse-pEmeQt-pnUeiY-3QGAD6-8uZRyD-6bK3nQ-8YqGLh-pE7sy8-6mqs4-HKeg7r-6bEWmi-pz6wm1-4qC9CM-2bR8DJY-aNt4Z6-6bEWPi-6bK3dL-4Gpw5H-2crSXde-aEWSPf-24RPwkX-2dt9544-2aHuiAU-VoSUnu-WAfgde-VX4hKu-28mzfq9-27AfH6i-VX3FkS-XDykuG-LWoYM1do so requires behaving as expected. Small wonder, that cross-section is also stressed out, angry, and exhausted. Trying to fit a mold of someone else’s making is a constant battle in which you’re always trying to paddle upstream.

I’m speaking from experience here. I spent far too many of my formative and productive years trying to belong somewhere. In the end, I was a complete failure because I couldn’t keep up an act that never fit my personality or purpose. It was only after I broke my own chains and began to honor my own truth that I found myself belonging exactly where I was supposed to.

My friends these days, and even my business associates are typically off-beat and go against the traditional grain. They’ve learned that in looking out for themselves, they end up making things better for others as well.

Stress Begets Stress

https://www.flickr.com/photos/armenws/5837909811/in/photolist-9TSPcr-C3VGX-24FwY6-26x1rb6-5itLut-dhFGeP-pFWFZK-abNp5y-adf5z-hL7FHE-dhFHhY-dhFvph-dauvud-dhFwgW-dhFqWQ-dhFtAn-abeFZP-dhFDeu-dhFuoZ-dhFqbq-adhZR-abKzAD-adf81-abKx9R-bpTzDn-QVxKyY-abKyYK-9gERc8-anUgst-abeFCX-bzS7hf-abeGb2-2cYSbck-8GpCMm-abNm6Y-21Uy4Gb-4NKgmb-abNkTs-begshM-hRcioi-daKq9G-aUymi2-ZRYKoW-9tsYBM-abeFsx-bNLL6K-F2o45H-6MFFvx-9SsLVR-ZAWXwiWhen I was angry, frustrated, and feeling left out, my negative energy wound itself into everything I did and everyone I touched. In some cases it meant I was further isolated, but in far too many, it meant dragging others down with my crappy attitude. Once I stopped trying to please people, and to find an environment where I thrived, I began to uplift others rather than drag them down.

Even in school, we’re taught to play the game, get along, and do what we’re told even if it makes no sense whatsoever. I’ve heard kids in Middle School can be the cruelest of all to those who fail to conform, but where did they learn it? We’re not born to be exclusionary.

Watch two- or three-year-olds at play sometime. They may fight over a toy, but rarely will they exclude someone for being different. They’re curious, accepting, and learning who they are. It’s not until they’re part of a larger group under the tutelage of a single adult, or an adult with a helper that they start to encounter the concept of conformity.

Teaching Children Being Like Everyone Else is Rewarded

We’ve been taught from early childhood that cookie-cutter behavior is good, and https://www.flickr.com/photos/zstasiuk/5233040968/in/photolist-8YqGLh-pE7sy8-6mqs4-HKeg7r-6bEWmi-pz6wm1-4qC9CM-2bR8DJY-aNt4Z6-6bEWPi-6bK3dL-4Gpw5H-2crSXde-aEWSPf-24RPwkX-2dt9544-2aHuiAU-VoSUnu-WAfgde-VX4hKu-28mzfq9-27AfH6i-VX3FkS-XDykuG-LWoYM1-szBE63-QaiKyY-qaErNr-6bEWEt-9SAaTN-4zwkNy-4zs5WZ-d3ANqf-6bEW3t-4Sz24W-5LWEU-4v2xFd-aNt5QR-pE7nDi-oHvt8G-e245w-9KnAGq-dLiWh-a8NFHo-2G76NQ-VoTXrU-cynSsG-3wD6sf-ESQzmd-v4RcJbeing different is bad. The message comes through loud and clear in expectations that are set when we enter the school system (emphasis on “system”).

  • Sit quietly at your desk and do the tedious, repetitive work
  • Wait your turn to use equipment on the playground
  • Choose sides, and make sure you create the strongest team
  • Do things in the proper order. Don’t jump ahead even if you’ve already figured out the in-between steps.

Sound familiar? I know my precocious young daughters were at odds with the rules they were forced to follow; the slower progress made by some of their classmates when they were ready to move on to the next lesson. One of them began to shut down and go into her own imagination rather than allow boredom to decay her mind. It led to many confrontations with teachers and administrators, some successful, others clearly futile. Teachers, too have been forced into conformity in too many cases.

Marching Beneath a Frayed and False Flag

And now we have thousands sporting MAGA shirts, hats, and other paraphernalia, believing it means more than some political agenda designed to make us not only conform, but ostracize those who don’t.

But it’s up to you. Do you want to let someone else decide what you read, watch, and wear? Will you get on that treadmill in which you spend thousands to have the perfect body; the perpetually youthful face? Are you content to hate those who march to their own drummer, even if you don’t understand why? Is their nonconformity a slap in the face; an act of defiance you desperately wish you were brave enough to take too?

Sure, being unique isn’t always the easy road. In fact, it can be incredibly hard and lonely at times. Far easier to find comfort in a crowd where you blend in and don’t have to make too many decisions. When the piper starts to play, you can follow the crowd over the cliff knowing you always did what you were supposed to; never stood out, never made waves.

A Place for Everyone and Everyone in Their Place

Like anything, there’s a place for everyone. We do need those who follow instructions and don’t try to improvise. There will always be tedious, repetitive jobs that need to be done. Many of those, though have already been mechanized, rendering a lot of humans obsolete. Mere Humans can’t perform those repetitive tasks as efficiently, or as consistently as a robot or machine. They need breaks for meals, rest, and to relieve themselves. And they can be stirred into rebellion over seemingly minor infractions.

There are also those who genuinely don’t want to have to make decisions; don’t want to risk making a mistake. They’d rather have someone guide them and give up a certain amount of freedom in order to avoid failure.

In my mind, that’s it’s own kind of failure. Failure to live up to one’s potential. It’s a choice unto itself. I respect the right of many to make that choice, even as I feel sad for what they might have been were they willing to take a few risks; to fail a few times and pick themselves back up to try again.

We Need More Kindness, Less Greatness

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkfjellestad/17408694382/in/photolist-swm7k9-5RUVz2-mJjTbx-5RZcQG-LaVetu-ehWSkL-mJjNaa-mJncXh-UQc1nx-mJkdTR-mJnhJS-UNopBe-TLtd22-UnTzSt-UKUNfQ-TvXc6r-UWzrjN-g9uykn-H7hkTY-27dmuiJ-dPKPg5-StARkr-H28Np7-TLyHW2-SasSyJ-ovj4Jg-TDQz2w-g9v3mc-H7rXSy-UWEf8E-qxwgcP-X7uFem-TyrPG7-g9uRij-g9vmqr-TLF3sZ-683YTJ-4DjRMh-5R69WX-eiwKNy-873BnY-787D4h-g9vKLK-UWGbnj-TytBPA-p92cJn-Ufcsfy-URnUfu-TrXPo4-UMmQvhWhat I don’t respect is those who take advantage of the ones who are desperate to belong; to fit in. They’re the villains in the piece. They thrive on slogans masking battle cries. It’s in their best interests to gather people behind a cause they don’t truly understand, and which isn’t even in their best interests.

Are we really Making America Great Again? Or are we creating a populous of conformists who’ve convinced themselves someone else is acting in their best interests. Are they ignoring the evidence before their own eyes as they rally to hate who they’re told to hate and revere those who have already sold them down the river?

I’m with those who’ve altered the phrase a bit. Let’s Make America Kind Again.

Grateful for Examples and Lessons

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the choices I’ve made and the bruises I’ve earned along the way. My road may be rockier, but I have the satisfaction of knowing my decisions, successes, and failures are my own.
  2. I’m grateful for diversity. There’s so much we can learn from people with different backgrounds, outlooks, and beliefs if we stop to listen rather than beat into submission.
  3. I’m grateful for learning to belong without losing myself.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve found a group of friends; a community which values uniqueness.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, community, support, individuality, joy, peace, health, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity for all.

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

Could We Survive an Apocolypse?

Could You Survive Without Technology?

Every day, people in “developed” countries become more dependent on technology. Computers replace pen and paper, even in classrooms. Microwaves and fast food replace good old-fashioned cooking. We get the food we eat from packages instead of the ground. Cell phones are replacing landlines.

But what will happen if we get a major sunspot event or geomagnetic storm that knocks out all our electronics? How many will be prepared to manage without the modern conveniences on which we’ve become so dependent?

Making Use of My Resources

I’m fortunate in that I can cook for myself, and still use my manual writing skills frequently. Unlike some of my friends, I don’t have a garden in my backyard where I could be growing a lot of my own fruits and vegetables. Heaven knows I have the space, but the few times I’ve tried growing things, the poor plants ended up dying of neglect. I can’t seem to remember to do things like watering and weeding regularly.

Still, if push came to shove, I’d find a way to use my ample ground space to grow food for me and other people too. And let’s face it, much of what comes out of the ground could be eaten raw if need be.

So many people in our society are ill-prepared for life without technology. They’ve never kept a set of books by hand or cooked a meal from scratch. They don’t know how to sew a button on a shirt, much less mend it. Worse, they’re used to getting instant responses. How would they fare if what we now refer to as “snail mail” was their only means of communication at a distance? The days it would take to send a letter back and forth would have them climbing the walls in frustration.

Learning to be More Self-Sufficient

https://www.flickr.com/photos/timquijano/6179927895/in/photolist-aq6KfX-veVW-2Lg2M7-aMYW9P-8BKnVH-FPZVGT-8nnv7V-4DMyEY-bWhRkq-71jk86-bVRXUM-7CiMkN-ca2vyu-cdhbFo-6Lt2io-QujiYK-njx6fU-8gLyR8-dpryBo-bbP6y6-cifvwf-9oL759-2sSSx-aMYV1X-9ZF8Hi-SLA7ho-5KWLqZ-6cdm59-5DkC58-aMZ1Kx-aMYZHa-afNBbh-bbLNKX-5TkA1a-8tSKgR-ixEkTc-9oGGGj-DDsP2-sasXwh-cGGasS-bfs4it-chgL9o-nqf3gr-9qEoMi-cgRNrL-a7m5wn-s8GWqk-zretW-nEy6rc-6XCCec/I wish I had some of the skills my friends have like remodeling a house with their own hands, or growing a lush garden to share with friends and neighbors. Because I still retain some of the manual skills I learned as a child and young adult, I suspect I’d adapt, but I’d sure as hell want to align myself with those who already have the skills I lack, and who could teach them to me!

I pride myself in keeping fit and active physically, even to the point of doing my own housework, though I hate it. I’m grateful I am still able to do it at all!

I look at people today, glued to their phones, posting selfies and statuses on Facebook wherever they go, constantly in touch with friends via text or Messenger. What would happen if their phones went dark?

Figuring Out How to Stay Connected

For that matter, what would happen to my own group of friends? We’ve become dependent on Social Media and our phones to organize gatherings, reach out to each other when someone has been unusually silent, or missing from events, and to share pieces of our lives. How would we keep everything going; everyone together without technology?

Considering sending fliers through the mail like we used to is an option, but a costly one. The price of a stamp keeps rising, though I haven’t seen an improvement in service. Email, Evites and Ecards has reduced the amount of things we send through the mail. Even a lot of our monthly bills arrive electronically now. Why invest in stamps, paper, and envelopes when you can send the document virtually free through a website or email?

Would we even have electricity, gas, or water without a computer somewhere making sure the distribution system is functioning properly?

Being Prepared in as Many Ways as Possible

https://www.flickr.com/photos/globalx/5532445369/in/photolist-stBjDL-9q2ee2-sascnH-stKKo8-9qTeg8-rrGAf6-davQFU-davQzq-ehE4fp-vZDkk-ehE5gz-sDb51U-sov316-CF2JMR-zeP1JLHere in California, we’re cautioned to have an earthquake kit. I wonder if it would be enough to withstand an extended halt to what we’ve come to consider “necessary services”. In 1994, I was without power, gas, and water for a couple of days. Other areas fared far worse. I managed OK by keeping the refrigerator and freezer closed and using my barbecue to heat food. The local Von’s was gouging people for drinking water though, charging $20 for a single gallon.

These days, I usually have at least 10 gallons of fresh water in the house, and more than 1 tank of propane. I even have some firewood for my portable fire pit, and a good supply of food, assuming the outage doesn’t last long and defrost the contents of my freezer. I have an ample supply of food for my furry roommates, and the ones who keep the rat population in check as well. (Their job might get busier depending on the kind of disaster). I’ve also learned to fill my gas tank before it drops below 1/4 of a tank.

I’m willing to bet I don’t have many of the recommended items for a crisis, and I definitely don’t have everything in one convenient place. Still, I feel like I’m better prepared than most. As long as I have books, writing supplies, flashlights, and batteries, I’ll manage OK even if I have to eat the contents of my freezer defrosted but unheated. Everything in there is fully cooked, so it wouldn’t be a health issue.

Ensuring My Community Will Remain Intact

How can we help each other prepare? How can we ourselves reconfigure our https://www.flickr.com/photos/hanuska/16371662835/in/photolist-qWH3YT-h3KDEM-ewdvhp-e9cCB-6Wf1h7-9iRoH2-89tR5w-89tQSA-7skA4b-7pBtca-49z4DU-6TNaBU-otqsxk-4KAQus-7vuw6o-8afGXv-6hw7Tk-APopNz-AL6QNw-s54FqX-NmuqLf-2ix4T1-pQjPE7-TxLjHh-67Je8b-dDzvwJ-67Jesh-2WQ4zq-8z2ufX-7vuwP9-z1sx5G-oc8Axy-a6br61-hw2FTF-p16gZp-dTB5hW-nZBebF-gmjmkX-pEum5b-pErusD-obWc5n-fcvgnp-pWGBhX-eJNrGA-54tbDb-H8SaT-dRtQeu-qATRHy-hRTeai-2m98eclives to be ready to shift gears should much of what we’ve come to depend on become unavailable for an indeterminate amount of time?

My words might sound alarmist to some, but many a science fiction writer has addressed some form of major crisis on Earth. Most of what was written in the early to mid-1900’s has come to pass in one form or another. Everything from rockets to Mars, to Big Brother observing us in our homes. So why not at least acknowledge our need to be prepared to lose the communication methods we’ve come to depend on?

As for me, I may be dusting off the bicycle that’s been collecting dust and spiderwebs in my shed, make sure the tires are still intact, and that I can still ride the darn thing. It’ll come in handy should I need to find alternate transportation at some point in the not-so-distant future.

Can I Help You Help Yourself?

Life is complicated even without contemplating disaster. Do you need help getting more in alignment with your goals? Would you like to take a task or two off your plate? Maybe it’s content creation, or perhaps it’s getting your books in order and creating a budget. If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to streamline your life and give your business space to grow and thrive, CONTACT ME and let’s talk!

Recognizing All I Have to be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I can still walk a good distance and take care of my own needs.
  2. I’m grateful I’m both able to cook and enjoy the process.
  3. I’m grateful I’ll never be too old to learn new skills.
  4. I’m grateful for my morning walks which not only get my blood moving, but work out any kinks I acquired while lying prone in my bed.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; joy, friendship, energy, inspiration, support, motivation, dedication, peace, health, 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

Peeling Our Emotional and Mental Onion

Going Through My Own Onion-like Layers

Healing after losing a loved one to suicide is a lot like peeling an onion. Some layers are thick and solid. They require time, patience, and some effort to break through. Others are thin to the point of transparency, but sticky and hard to let go of. Some layers will flood your eyes with tears while others break your heart; the memories so sweet you want to keep them with you forever.

When I began my own healing journey I was so naive. I thought all I had to do was learn to forgive my parents’ abrupt departure, accept their choices, release my anger, and get on with my life. I learned instead the process is a tangled web of inaccurate memories, a lifetime of habits and behaviors, often handed down through generations, but most of all, learning to accept myself, imperfections and all. I had to recognize and own my emotional and mental weaknesses. But the most important part of the process is learning to ask for help even if, for a while it feels like giving more than receiving.

Going Beyond Outdated Family Patterns

It’s about seeing family patterns that are long overdue to be jettisoned and recognizing it’s my responsibility to cut those cords. In the process I had to admit I struggle at times, and I had to share those struggles with others because we all need to know we’re not alone.

I’ve reached a point in my journey where I need to expand my reach. I have to become part of a larger group seeking to re-educate people, not only about suicide but our overall mental health, because the two are indelibly intertwined.

People need to be able to say “I’m not OK” without fear of repercussions or judgement. It needs to be as natural and accepted as admitting you have the flu, or gallstones, or cancer.

Tragedy Often Alters Our Trajectory

On November 7, 2018 a mentally disturbed young man took the lives of 12 incredible people at Borderline Bar and Grill before taking his own life. It was a place I called home; a feeling shared by many others.

As we continue to grieve the loss, both of our friends and family, and a place we called home; a place we believed to be a safe haven; a place where troubles and stress were left at the door, we embrace our extended family. Some who lost so much more; a beloved child, a spouse, a lifelong friend are setting examples for the rest of us for what love truly is.

Michael Morrisette lost his cherished youngest daughter, yet continues to encourage love, understanding, and more; social consciousness. He constantly offers opportunities he’s already taking to give back. Recently he introduced ChangeDirection.org (#ChangeDirection) to the Borderline family. They are offering resources to help us help each other and to educate people about the signs which show someone is in distress while doing their best to hide it. Most of all, they’re on a mission to change how our culture views and responds to mental health and mental illness.

People Who are Suicidal Need More than a Band-aid or a Phone Number

I’ve seen a lot of people and places claiming to be committed to helping those who have experienced a suicide as well as those who might be considering it themselves. Too often, I’m frustrated because their primary solution is to give you a number to call. In my opinion, if someone is desolate enough to be seriously considering suicide as an option, giving them a number to call, or posting an impersonal sign on a freeway overpass is confirming their mistaken belief that no one cares. It’s relinquishing responsibility to reach out to them ourselves.

One of the many lessons I learned in the last decade or so is how many times I, myself am not OK. Leaving me alone to figure it out might be what I say I want and need, but in reality, it’s probably the worst place for me to be.

I’m nowhere near the dark, tangled place my mom found herself, nor do I have the dreadful medical report my dad got a couple of days before he took his life. Still, I have been depressed enough to believe no one would notice if I disappeared, and certainly, no one would be the worse for it. Talking to friends who’ve been there as well, and some who’ve slipped into even deeper, darker waters, I’ve learned being alone only gives you more time to convince yourself the world is better off without you.

Giving of Ourselves

ChangeDirection.org recognizes the urgent need to reach out to those who are feeling hopeless and disconnected—before it’s too late. They offer tools, support, and guidance to help recognize when one of your own is tumbling headlong into a pit of despair, and needs help arresting their downward plunge. They recognize a person in that state has already decided they’re not worthy, and the last thing they’ll do is ask for help. Even if help is offered, they’re likely to decline over and over, unable to believe anyone really wants to help them.

June 9-15, 2019 is “A Week to Change Direction” which they describe as:

…a week of action, advocacy, culture change and fundraising for organizations, corporations, universities, communities, and individuals! Our aim is to increase knowledge, raise awareness and increase support for efforts that are working to change the culture of mental health globally so that all in need receive the care and support they deserve.

I hope you’ll join me, Michael, and everyone else who has lost someone as a result of unrecognized and untreated mental illness, or who is suffering themselves, or knows and loves someone who desperately needs to be able to accept the help we can all offer if we start being more aware.

Together We Can Turn the Tide of Suicide and Mental Illness

I didn’t have a village when I started the long, uphill journey out of the abyss not created, but exacerbated by my parents’ suicides. I only had 2 daughters who needed their mother, a stubborn streak that wouldn’t let me give up, and a penchant for writing.

In hindsight, my journey might have been shorter and more pleasant had someone reached out to me, but I might not have realized I needed to learn to both reach out to others and accept help myself. I needed to have the perspective of believing I didn’t deserve help to understand how important it is to keep trying when someone says they’re OK, though it’s clear they’re not.

I may not have had a village before, but I have one now, and being part of that village means taking what I’ve learned and using it to help others. Will you become part of the change too?

Finding a Powerful Tool in Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned the hard way. They didn’t make me harder, they made me more compassionate and socially conscious.
  2. I’m grateful for the examples set by my daughter Heather. She is one of the most giving, socially conscious people I know, and I’m often ashamed I don’t do more when I see how much she gives.
  3. I’m grateful for the people who are my village now. They uplift me, and give me opportunities to practice what I’ve learned when it’s my turn to give back. They help me understand it’s OK to not be OK, and that they’re there for me no matter what.
  4. I’m grateful for people who demonstrate by their own actions how much we all can do to make things better.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, support, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, health, 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

Helping the Traumatized or Depressed

Proactively Helping Our Community

You see it all over social media these days: “If you need help coping with {insert traumatic event here} I’m here for you. Just reach out and I’ll be there.”

While I commend people for wanting to be there for their friends, family, and community, I’ve seen all too often that those who need help the most are the least likely to take the hand reaching out to them. The reasons are endless, but here are just a few of the ones I’ve seen, heard, or even spoken myself:

  • I’m fine. I don’t need help
  • Others have worse troubles than me.
  • Everyone is busy with their own lives and problems. They don’t need to be burdened with mine.
  • They don’t understand what I’m going through, and I don’t feel like explaining it.
  • I just want to be left alone. I’ll figure it out.

Showing Up for Those Who Can’t

The reality is, life is a lot like writing. We have to do more showing and less telling. Instead of posting our offer of an ear, a shoulder, or a sanctuary on social media for everyone to see and scroll right past, we need to be proactive. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.

Is there someone who hasn’t shown up lately? Give them a call. Invite them out for coffee, or a meal, or a walk in the park. Whatever you think might interest them. If they decline, call again in a few days and offer again. Or show up at their place and insist they come out with you or at least let you in for a visit. Even if they’re less than gracious about it, deep down, they’re grateful, believe me.

There is nothing worse for someone who is dealing with deep, emotional pain or trauma than to be left alone for too long. Left to their own devices, they’ll talk themselves out of being valuable to anyone. They’ll wallow in their misery and watch it grow bigger and scarier every day they’re alone.

Better by Degrees

We may not be coping much better than they are, but the fact that we can leave the house and reach out to someone puts us in a much better place from which to heal and move forward. If nothing else, the best way to help ourselves is to reach out and help someone else.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against those who make a public announcement they’re available and ready to help their friends in need. I simply think we need to take it one step further and do something. I’ve seen for myself how much healing happens when a few people get together and share their feelings, or do something they all enjoy to take their mind off reality for a little while. Sitting alone and stewing never did anyone any good.

Knowing they’re hurting, we have to be ready to switch gears if they try to change plans at the last minute. They’re not up to going out for coffee or a meal? Bring the coffee or a meal to them. They just want to sit on the sofa and veg? Bring over a couple of movies or channel surf and find something you can watch together. Or talk to them. Carry the conversation until they’re ready to contribute something of their own.

Being the Friend in Deed

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkfjellestad/17408694382/in/photolist-swm7k9-5RUVz2-mJjTbx-5RZcQG-LaVetu-ehWSkL-mJjNaa-mJncXh-UQc1nx-mJkdTR-mJnhJS-UNopBe-TLtd22-UnTzSt-UKUNfQ-TvXc6r-UWzrjN-g9uykn-H7hkTY-27dmuiJ-dPKPg5-StARkr-H28Np7-TLyHW2-SasSyJ-ovj4Jg-TDQz2w-g9v3mc-H7rXSy-UWEf8E-qxwgcP-X7uFem-TyrPG7-g9uRij-g9vmqr-TLF3sZ-683YTJ-4DjRMh-5R69WX-eiwKNy-873BnY-787D4h-g9vKLK-UWGbnj-TytBPA-p92cJn-Ufcsfy-URnUfu-TrXPo4-UMmQvhIt’s funny. This isn’t a new concept. There’s an old proverb that says “A friend in need is a friend in deed”. By taking action instead of just offering to be there, we’re taking the act of friendship to the next level. We can even let them know that their company is just what we need right now to get past all the tragedy and pain we, too are experiencing. Take the pressure off of them to be helped by turning it around. They are helping us by allowing us to try to take their mind off the voices in their heads.

I spent a lot of years alone, broken, wallowing, and unwilling to ask for help. Granted, I’d done a bang-up job of pushing people away or keeping them out entirely, so there weren’t many to choose from, even if I knew how to ask. It was a dark, lonely place, and I would have been happy if someone took enough of an interest; cared enough to brush off all my excuses and help me get out of the funk I’d sunk into. But no one did. No one offered. No one visited. And I wallowed for years in my own private pity party.

Look for Those Who Need Help Climbing Out of Their Funk

I’m one of the lucky ones. I found a way out of my funk. I took a couple of suggestions when Created with Canvathey were offered. I decided I was tired of being miserable, and set out to address my ghosts and invite them to leave. The recent suicides of one of the Parkland survivors and the father of one of the Sandy Hook victims makes it clear there are many who can’t do it alone. And it’s more than likely they’re also the ones who won’t reach out or even accept an offered hand.

It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to wish things hadn’t happened; that lives hadn’t been lost or homes destroyed. But we can’t change the past or make it better than it was. We can, however, change the future by taking action now.

It’s the Little Things

Gather with friends. Visit memorials. Bring soup to a friend like someone did for me not so long ago. Even let someone help you even if you don’t feel you need it.

I recently called a friend to change some light bulbs for me. I could have climbed on a ladder or chair and done it myself, but he’s tall enough to reach without either. He helped me by preventing a potential fall (I’m a well-known klutz), but I got him out of the house for a little while too. Win-win.

My point is, we could all use help once in awhile, but tend to blunder along on our own rather than ask. If someone shows up on our doorstep it’s harder to make excuses, turn them away, or even do without. Sometimes, we might even enjoy the company or a break from our usual routine. We truly are better together than alone.

Gratitude Attracts More to be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful there were caring people around to help me emerge from a decades-long funk.
  2. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the people who’ve reached out, and those who’ve allowed me to reach out to them. We all heal in the process.
  3. I’m grateful for choices. Sometimes we really do need to be alone, but too much of anything is not a good thing.
  4. I’m grateful for lessons I’ve learned and people who’ve been there when I needed an example or a teacher. I might still have made progress, but it would have taken much longer.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; new clients, new projects, new opportunities, progress, inspiration, motivation, productivity, joy, love, dancing, positive indifference, peace, health, 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

It Takes Strength to be Vulnerable. What???

Shifting the Paradigm for Vulnerable

For many years, no, decades, I thought of my mom as weak and pitiful because, sometimes despite her best efforts, she let her feelings show. She laughed (seldom), cried (often), raged (even more often), and allowed some of the pain she carried inside to show.

Dad on the other hand was my rock, though I’ve since realized my trust was misplaced. He laughed often, many times at my expense. I only remember him crying once in my life before mom’s death, and it scared the crap out of me. When he got angry, it was usually the quiet, simmering kind except for his increasingly frequent yelling matches with my mother. Most of the time, they were about money and mom’s propensity to spend when she was unhappy. After she died, we found clothes with the tags still on she’d never worn, and mountains of sundries like baby powder, toothpaste, mouth wash, and toilet paper.

Because of my misplaced affections, I learned to view vulnerability and emotions as weakness. My dad frowned upon such outward displays. I thought he did it from a place of strength. Therefore, whatever my mom did was weak, right?

The Many Faces of Alcohol Addiction

Both of my parents were very social and their frequent parties were well-attended. Of course, their circles of friends also required excessive amounts of alcohol before they’d let loose and act like fools. At the time I thought that was normal. I’ve since learned better. But it took an 11-year marriage to another alcoholic, and living the dysfunction of having to be the only responsible adult in the household for me to recognize how abnormal my home life was.

Sure, dad was a business owner from the time I was about 12. Mom dabbled in Real Estate, but I think her heart was in the charity work she did. In hindsight, she’d have done well working for a non-profit. In many ways, I suppose they were functioning alcoholics, as were many of their friends who were also business owners. All had achieved at least a reasonable amount of success; enough to move to the newly built suburban area west of the San Fernando Valley in what was, at the time an unincorporated section of Los Angeles County. But years of heavy drinking took its toll on most of them. For some it was health, others, their businesses, and for many, it was both.

Where Do We Draw the Line Between Weakness and Strength?

I’ve learned a lot from my experiences up to the time I moved out of my parents’ home for good. For a while, the lesson was primarily related to alcohol consumption. Never one to feel comfortable being drunk and out of control (though I’ve only recently figured out why), my ventures into that world were relatively mild and short-lived. One particularly nasty hangover in my early 30’s was enough to quench the desire to ever drink excessively again. It also put me off Mexican coffee forever! Essentially being more parent than wife to an alcoholic cured me of any lingering desire to drink to excess, even occasionally.

In a roundabout way, it all leads to the topic of this post. I could oversimplify and say the alcohol abuse was a sign of weakness in everyone concerned. But that would be naive and inaccurate. People drink for their own reasons. Certainly, weakness and inability to deal with their day-to-day problems is one of them, but if you ask me, it’s hardly the most common.

In fact, some of the strongest people I’ve ever known abused alcohol or drugs at some point in their lives, not to run away from their lives, but from something far more insidious; voices in their heads they didn’t realize weren’t their own, but belonged to the people around them.

Finding Our Strength By Being Vulnerable

Which brings me back to vulnerability. Admitting you’re hearing and feeling things that don’t feel like your own, or talking about the abundance of inexplicable feelings you’re experiencing aren’t exactly table talk. Many of us were taught to keep things to ourselves and basically deal with our own shit. It would never occur to us to share something we were struggling with, especially if it reeked of mental imbalance. Yet the strongest among us have figured out the flaw in this line of thinking. We are stronger together, and how better to move closer together than to admit we don’t have all the answers?

People who try to fix everything themselves are like a house that’s been wired for electricity, but doesn’t have any outlets to plug things in. Sure, internally everything needed is there, but there’s no way to access it. Sure, deep down inside ourselves, we have what we need to solve nearly anything that comes our way, but some of it is buried so deep in our memories and history, we couldn’t access it if we tried.

It might be something simple like fixing a toilet or installing a new breaker. We would eventually figure it out, but what would we destroy in the process, and how would our sanity fare? More importantly, what pressing tasks would go undone while we spun our wheels trying to figure it out? It could be a legal issue, or a problem with one of our kids. Why not admit we’re imperfect and open the door for someone with the necessary skills and experience to come in and help us do it right the first time? Or at least avoid some of the pitfalls we’d surely encounter without talking to someone who’d already had to go through them before finding the best answer.

Ask For Help, Be Part of a Community

In opening up and admitting we need help, we learn something from the person or people who come to our aid. We also learn opening ourselves up like that takes a lot more strength and courage than trying to tough it out alone. Needing other people is hard! Especially if you’ve been taken advantage of, or had your heart stomped into a bloody puddle of mush a few times, or worse, humiliated. Being willing to go there again despite what you’ve been through is tantamount to stepping barefoot into a scorpion’s nest. You know the likelihood of a painful outcome will always be there, so you want to at least put on a heavy boot to protect your delicate skin.

If you’ve already done some reaching out and created a community, you no longer expose your imperfectness unprotected. My mom knew that and had friends who saw her at her most exposed. Dad on the other hand didn’t. After mom died, he lived alone with his cat, letting his girlfriend stay on certain nights, but spending the nights alone others; including the night before he took his life. He shared his health issues with a select few. His daughters weren’t among them. Even so, I doubt he shared the severity with anyone. He wasn’t one to handle pity or even concern well. He gathered around him men who supported him by drinking with him; each doing his best to mask his own pain.

And he went out alone. Unwilling, right up to the end to reach out and ask for help navigating the latest in a long series of perils and pitfalls.

Learning to Ask for Help Can Be a Rewarding Experience

I may not have the concept of reaching out for help down yet. I’m definitely in the fledgling stage. But I have come to understand and appreciate the advantages even if I’m reluctant at times to take advantage of them. Perhaps I still spend more time alone than others might deem healthy.

Each of us must find our own balance between going our own way and traveling in company. One of the groups I follow on Facebook has been using the mantra “test, adjust, test. repeat.” I think we can apply this to life in general, though the group refers to business-related activities. It starts when we’re infants, learning to roll over, then crawl, and ultimately walk.

Sometimes, part of the test is tuning into our internal monitor and adjusting our tolerance to things outside our comfort zone. The adjustments push us out of our self-imposed nest and, for some of us, further into a community where we learn there truly can be safety in numbers.

Being Grateful for Everything, Both Large and Small

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the friends who’ve been patient with me as I learn to walk as part of a community instead of as a solo act.
  2. I am grateful for the teachers who have been appearing in my life as the student becomes ready.
  3. I am grateful for some of the less-than-gentle drop kicks I’ve received to leave my nest behind and test my perfectly formed wings out in the real world.
  4. I am grateful for my writing which has played a huge part in changing my hermit-y ways, and for all the people who read and comment. Their inspiration and insight are invaluable to my personal growth.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, love, joy, connections, community, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, earlier mornings, dreams, answers, questions, peace, health, 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.

Pain Won’t Respect Our Walls

Pain and Trauma Make Repeat Performances

At one time or another, we all suffer some kind of pain or trauma. It might be a broken friendship or relationship, the death of a beloved family member. For many, it’s far worse, and to many of us unimaginable. Yet regardless of what caused our suffering, most of us have one thing in common; we try to wall away the pain and get on with our lives.

We might or might know the best thing to do is work through the painful event, but life and society, and a host of other excuses make it easier to shove our feelings into a box, and get on with our lives—or so we’d like to believe.

The trouble with pain is it has a nasty habit of re-introducing itself into our lives at inconvenient moments, and it does it with insidious regularity. It isn’t really coming back at us to punish us though. We are meant to both deal with our painful moments and learn from them. When we wall them away, we guarantee we’ll be revisited; our own personal version of the Ghosts of Traumas Past.

The Masks We Wear

https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvThere are so many people we meet who seem to continuously wear a smile on their faces. Some of them even make us smile just to see them. But what’s really behind those smiles? The positive exterior? What does it cost them to maintain the mask and the ruse that everything in their life is perfect?

I’ve learned so much about that in recent years. We all have our secrets and things we choose to hold in rather than inflict on others. We all smile when we’re hurting inside at one time or another, telling anyone who asks we’re “fine”. The general public accepts our words and looks no further, but what about the people closest to us? Do they listen to the words and ignore what lies closer to the surface than we’d like? Do they look into our eyes, see the pain lurking in their depths and offer comfort though we don’t, and would never ask?

Letting People Down When We Hide From Our Pain

I think about my dad and all the times he ignored my mom’s pain while at the same time, walling away his own. Some, I know was years of habit. I think at one time, he was conscious of her inner turmoil, her need to be loved and accepted without qualification. But when her need wasn’t met by her family, she sank deeper into herself and only in those moments when they were alone together and her defenses dropped, albeit deeply, might he have seen the quagmire of her soul beneath the carefully constructed facade.

Coming from a family where emotions were rarely displayed and where stoicism was highly valued, I don’t think he knew how to deal with raw emotion in himself or anyone else. I suspect it was even terrifying for him when mom’s masks slipped and he saw the raw and bleeding soul beneath. I’m not surprised he developed defense mechanisms and responded with anger or disgust. So much of the way he responded was self-directed too.

The tendency to hide from our emotions and pain is perpetuated into adulthood. I remember a female manager taking me under her wing when I was working in aerospace. One of her most oft-repeated lessons had to do with hiding your emotions. Women had to work harder to be taken seriously in that environment, and showing emotion was the quickest way to kill any upward momentum you might have achieved. I took her message to heart, embracing the lesson with the zealousness of a religious fanatic.

Hiding and Re-living: An Endless Cycle Until We Learn and Accept

Through a divorce, the death of my mother, and the challenges of juggling career, self-care, and two young children, I kept my struggles to myself. The result was what appeared to be a rock-hard exterior and few I could call “friend”. The false front prevented anyone from getting close. No one ever figured out that a slight tap on that exterior would have cracked it into a million pieces. I even convinced myself I preferred the solitude and the isolation.

As the years have passed, the painful moments were triggered over and over. Often they led to periods of even more isolation as I tried vainly to shore up the eroding walls. Ultimately I learned to face the reminders head on and find the lesson in the pain. And I learned to be more understanding and compassionate of others.

We Are Never Truly Alone

Part of learning to manage and accept our own painful past is the realization we’re not alone. Everyone suffered a setback, a loss, or a trauma at some point in their lives. Yet comparing ours to theirs isn’t the answer either. It’s easy to say “I shouldn’t feel so bad. This other person has suffered far more than I.” But we all suffer within our own contract; our own capabilities. We all have challenges which help us learn to become the person we were meant to be.

It’s not a matter of comparing. It’s a matter of empathizing and connecting. Sometimes we connect through our propensity to wall away the pain. Other times, we connect because of similarities in our experiences. The best connections, in my opinion, are those made when we understand it’s not the level of pain or how we’ve worked through it, but that we all have. It’s an unspoken understanding that at one time or another, we all need to straighten our spine and go on, even when we’d rather crawl into a hole.

Yet, it’s also that moment when we truly accept we weren’t meant to soldier through alone. Sometimes, it takes some life-shattering moments, much like the ones I experienced before we accept that we deserve to ask for and receive help. Even there, we find connection with others who believed themselves unworthy. We connect with the isolated, the hermits, the ones who for years believed themselves to be oddballs. We find our community where we least expected it—with the ones who are connected through being different.

Finding Our Community in Our Differences

Perhaps it’s easier to find comfort in a community where everyone thinks like we do, and shares all the same values, beliefs, and visions. It’s harder when your world-view is a unique combination of pieces and parts gleaned from what you’ve read, seen, and experienced as an isolated soul on its own journey. But the very fact we hide our feelings and thoughts away to blend in is what ultimately brings us together. When we have the epiphany and realize we were never meant to blend in and doing so is stifling the unique and beautiful butterfly of our soul, we find ourselves in a garden with thousands of other unique and beautiful souls.

The hardest thing in the world is to come out from behind the walls we spent a lifetime building—the walls which make us appear to belong. Yet there comes a point when we can no longer maintain a construction which was never structurally sound. For some, it comes with the force of an earthquake, stone, mortar, blood, and tears flying everywhere with no hope for containment. Others may voluntarily take down their walls as they allow themselves to see past the smokescreens and preconceived notions.

However it happens, finding the garden beyond where uniqueness is valued instead of squashed is worth the effort and even the pain of the journey.

Do we ever completely release our painful and traumatic moments? Probably not. There will always be some which come back to haunt us in one way or another. But there will also be those which fade into distant memory as we deal with the pain, embrace the lesson, and move onto other things. Some of those become our ability to relate and help others through their own which I believe was the purpose of the experience in the first place. I know my own life is richer for the opportunities I’ve been given to be there for someone with whom an experience we in some way share is still fresh, or returning in full force to bring them to their knees as it once brought me to mine.

Knowing We Always Have Something to Be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the experiences which have made me stronger, but even more for the ones which taught me compassion.
  2. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back now that I’ve learned my walls only kept me from experiencing joy and connection.
  3. I’m grateful for my friends and family who teach me every day to be a kinder, more compassionate Divine Being having a Human experience.
  4. I’m grateful for love. Without it, we’re incomplete.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, life, lessons, compassion, kindness, beauty, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats, suicide survivors, mental health, and depression. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

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