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

Posts tagged ‘community’

Kindness is Not Overrated

Learning Kindness While Isolated

Sometimes you get so caught up in all your duties, responsibilities, and self-imposed challenges you forget to be kind; to your family, your friends, people you encounter at work or while running errands, and most of all, to yourself. In the limitless agenda you set for yourself, you barely leave room to breathe much less, for taking time to be kind.

You don’t mean to be short with the cashier, or snappy with your child but you set expectations so high that even at your most superhuman, you can’t possible accomplish them all, much less, do them well. So you get frustrated; angry, and in the process, you forget how to simply Be. You lose sight of the fact that you could actually accomplish more, and even do a better job of it if you stopped rushing around like a headless chicken.

COVID has, in some ways, done us all a favor. It’s forced us to stop the crazy, pointless rushing around, and spend more time with the people we love, be it physically or virtually. Social lives are conducted in living rooms, on patios, in garages, and dens instead of in restaurants, clubs, and bars. Families are being forced to get to know each other, perhaps for some, more deeply than ever before.

Taking the Opportunity to Evict Your Demons

Some are struggling worse than ever because isolation is forcing them to face their demons https://www.flickr.com/photos/jslee/420574961/in/photolist-Dayhr-DaxXz-PH2XRJ-DaxBQ-6wyJCM-Q7Qs-Q7Q7-DaxQs-DaxK6-M5tZS-2etGoi-DaxLj-DayoW-cdfuY-DaxYZ-GRrsjX-Day3S-DZPnx-M5tYf-DaxuR-DaxHd-DaxAv-oPay9M-4VPXSt-56635o-DaxYn-DaxCk-Day1i-71dpo5-Day2u-Y62h-57R1nL-Day9y-6MtkU6-pHSVQ1-DaxqA-Days4-72V4qY-4P9zGm-Dayoh-7M8fgp-ptyCqq-Day4P-DaxRF-oP7HE7-DaxSB-DaxUT-Dayj8-5HDdsX-pttx4xhead on without the masks they’re used to wearing in public; without the shielding of other people that takes them, albeit temporarily, outside themselves. Those demons have been waiting a long time to be acknowledged, and will do their best to consume if they’re not faced head-on, acknowledged, and defused.

As someone who stuffed and avoided her demons for decades, I can assure you, this is the worst possible scenario, though if approached with the right attitude, it can also be the best. I used the distractions of work, social gatherings, and an endless list of responsibilities to hide from mine. Even so, I was isolated in all the ways that counted; my only real community was my daughters. I neither asked for nor was I offered support from the people I saw while dancing, my fellow band moms, or the parents of the girls’ teammates when they played soccer or ran track.

Thankfully, something woke me, not only to what I was avoiding, but to what I was missing as well. It didn’t happen overnight, and it was, at times, a pretty painful process, but I’ve learned, little by little, to start being kind to myself by allowing my demons to have their say, to acknowledge them, then let them go. I’ve learned what they have to say isn’t really true, but the result of people and situations as I stumbled through life which made me doubt myself.

I’d created a system of false beliefs I had to face down. Above all, I needed to learn to form relationships with people who could help me recognize the lies those demons told. In the process, I learned to recognize when others were struggling with their own demons.

Kindness Begins With You

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/26362491806/in/photolist-857d63-7jecuc-4EKXjp-d1fXnd-dGxXva-CWZ3qm-pEtDtE-3LiJjP-UaGqaP-U4nkQR-pRhHt6-bGpmxT-cYxRaG-9o9aCf-ebCGqX-5i8fuy-84yuGJ-etwRi8-FFKb5u-4G5gCd-awsadF-9pfapc-hsE8Ey-qQun96-5JpNWp-HP9Nyr-BGZwA9-6Ls9DX-TsKYM9-hxME-SsNQJ8-6tki6x-xyvfhG-GayEmN-ytRii1-s5DRhg-ndkt2wLike forgiveness, kindness has to start with yourself. Until you can be kind to yourself; quell the anger and hurt you’ve carried inside for years; maybe even decades, you can’t be truly kind to others. In the first place, kindness has to come without reservations or expectations of something in return. In the second, it has to come from a heart that’s truly open. As long as you’re beating yourself up over imagined past transgressions, you’re locking the door on the part of your heart that knows how to give unconditionally.

I grew up believing love was expressed by teasing someone unmercifully. Until I became a parent myself, I was usually the target of the teasing, and my family was expert at going for the jugular. I grew up believing I was fat, wasting my talents (whatever they were), and a disappointment to everyone. I carried that burden long into my adulthood, and unknowingly practiced the same behavior with my children.

Not all the time of course. I vacillated between the cruelty I’d learned from the cradle, and being overprotective. Neither extreme was healthy for me or my daughters. Once I started facing my own demons, and treating myself with more kindness and respect, I recognized the way I’d been mistreating  my own children, and was horrified.

A Second Chance to Be Kinder

I could claim I didn’t know any better, and in some ways that’s true but it’s no excuse. I see the times I sent my daughter Heather off in tears, or worse, gave her the silent treatment when she displeased me, and I cringe in horror. I hope and pray she learned from my mistakes, and will see that horrific family pattern end with her generation. I would rather her children grow up knowing only kindness, compassion, and even a little patience (something both Heather and I struggle with).

The Universe has blessed me with what I consider a second chance. The community which now embraces me has yielded many wonderful examples of loving kindness, compassion, and a level of love and caring I never saw growing up, nor in my ill-fated, and short-lived marriage. In fact, if I’m honest, leaving my ex was the first kind thing I did for myself. It was the first step in learning to face my demons, even if it took nearly a decade to take the next, and frankly more cataclysmic steps. In deciding to end the marriage, my primary thought was: “Life is too short to be this unhappy”. And yet, I’d lived in a state of unhappiness and even misery most of my life without even realizing it. From the examples I’d been set, it was not only normal, but the best I could expect.

Everything comes to you in right timing, or so I’ve come to believe. I try not to look back at all the years I struggled before I awoke, and at all the people now who are suffering and struggling through pain and misery. That they express their pain in the form of hate and cruelty is part of their own path, and not mine to change or judge.

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

COVID is giving so many a chance to be kinder and more compassionate. For many. this could be the cataclysmic event that gives them a chance to turn around, face their demons, and tell them to get lost. But so many others will get stuck and succumb to the lies. If you’ve learned to face your own, you can’t help but recognize the signs and symptoms. Exercising the kindness you learned when your own feet were to the fire is essential now. It truly is your responsibility to help those who struggle, and above all, to avoid responding to the outward cruelty and hate with unkindness of your own, unless your goal is to add fuel to the fire. If so, you’ll only become part of the inevitable forest fire, consuming everything and everyone in your path who doesn’t wield the sword of kindness and the shield of compassion.

Everyone has a choice. Love or hate. Kindness or cruelty. Abuse or compassion. Look carefully at what you’re giving yourself, and take this time of forced isolation to make a few course corrections. Look into the mirror and see where, and how you can treat yourself better. From there, it’s but a baby step to treating those around you with equal kindness and respect. Call me an idealist, but I believe all humanity has a stronger propensity to kindness than cruelty. It’s about breaking old, outworn patterns and replacing them with those capable of withstanding time’s ultimate tests.

Using Gratitude to Fuel Kindness

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the people and circumstances that have taught me kindness is a simple thing.
  2. I’m grateful for all the good, hard looks I’ve been allowed, or forced to take at myself. May I continue to look closely and make more changes for the better.
  3. I’m grateful for friendships closer than I ever thought I deserved, much less would see in my lifetime.
  4. I’m grateful for laughter, for tears, for honest, unfettered emotion.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, community, heartbreak, connection, kindness, compassion, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, dedication, peace, balance, 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

Families are Messy Business

Choices Made Within My Families

Families are messy. Some are close, some, not so much. Mine is mostly in the latter category, both extended, and even my immediate family. Yes, I’ve formed a family of close friends to fill the gap, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes feel a little lonely and forgotten by the people with whom I share blood.

I bear my share of responsibility in the distance that’s grown between me and my birth family over the last couple of decades. For reasons of my own, both realized and not, I didn’t reach out to my parents’ families during the dark years following their deaths. My cousins and I were busy raising families, growing careers, and coping with the twists and turns life continued to throw us. Their parents were doting on grandchildren, helping their children through divorce, disease, and even a death. Their own parents aged, then passed, until finally, even some of them started reaching life’s end too.

I missed births, birthdays, marriages, and deaths; not only the events, but the celebrations of life each event brought. Since my dad’s passing, they didn’t share in my own family’s graduations, birthdays, births, or marriages either. As time went on, we shared those events with my adopted family—at least some of them.

The Most Painful Choice: Giving Up on a Child and Grandchildren

One of the toughest rifts I’m learning to accept is the one with my youngest daughter. It’s hard https://www.flickr.com/photos/jslee/420574961/in/photolist-Dayhr-DaxXz-PH2XRJ-DaxBQ-6wyJCM-Q7Qs-Q7Q7-DaxQs-DaxK6-M5tZS-2etGoi-DaxLj-DayoW-cdfuY-DaxYZ-GRrsjX-Day3S-DZPnx-M5tYf-DaxuR-DaxHd-DaxAv-oPay9M-4VPXSt-56635o-DaxYn-DaxCk-Day1i-71dpo5-Day2u-Y62h-57R1nL-Day9y-6MtkU6-pHSVQ1-DaxqA-Days4-72V4qY-4P9zGm-Dayoh-7M8fgp-ptyCqq-Day4P-DaxRF-oP7HE7-DaxSB-DaxUT-Dayj8-5HDdsX-pttx4xto have a relationship when communication is limited to occasional text messages. I didn’t even know she’d moved out of state until I learned through her sister after the birth of her twin boys. In fact, the text I received announcing their birth the day before, when I learned their grandfather had been present was the final straw. But I mistakenly assumed he’d driven from Arizona to California to be there. Inasmuch as she’d lived a mile or so away from me for several years, I had no reason to believe anything had changed. Yet it seems things had changed…significantly.

I know she harbors a lot of anger towards me. I wasn’t the perfect parent, but then, she wasn’t the perfect child either. Even so, I’m grateful she and her sister are talking again after years of strained silence. Perhaps stepping away was what I was supposed to do so the sisters could get closer. Heaven knows they’ll both be around long after I’m gone.

It does sadden me I barely know my 10-year-old granddaughter, and will probably never meet my newborn grandsons. I have to believe it’s best for us all that I remain out of the picture. I don’t know what she tells her kids about her mother, and frankly, I’d rather not know. My own relationship with my mother was strained, and more so because she insisted on my presence on holidays, if nothing else, whether I wanted to go or not. I carried a lot of resentment inside me until years (and hundreds of thousands of words) later. Perhaps, Jenni, too will find some compassion for me when I’m gone. I hope it doesn’t take her as long as it did me to see how much I hurt myself by harboring the resentment and negative feelings towards the woman who gave me life.

Building a Family, Flaws and All

dance familiesMy circle of friends isn’t immune to the challenges of maintaining relationships within their own blood families. Some have strained or non-existent relationships with children, siblings, and even parents just as I have.

One of the greatest gifts I gave myself was to stop believing I had to pretend my life was perfect and without challenges, and things which, at times made me crazy. Even so, when asked, I insist I’m all right with distancing myself from my youngest daughter and her family. In truth, I’m not, but at this point, I see it as the only way to protect my own sometimes fragile grip on sanity and equilibrium. Waiting until she’s good and ready to share a piece of her life with me, and having to walk on eggshells so I won’t piss her off is not only one-sided, but toxic.

Choosing a Non-Toxic Life

I’ve chosen to release toxicity from my life, be it my daughter, my sister, my extended family, or Created with Canvaeven myself. In the case of the latter, I’m learning the best options are to write or talk about it, as holding it in and pretending things are fine means letting it fester and grow. I’m still working on cleaning up the toxic dump I created by holding everything in for years.

Sure, it’s what I was taught, probably even born with. The energetic signature for self-sufficiency and stoicism has probably been in my DNA for generations. Parents don’t need to teach their kids so much as reward behavior which follows the genetic cycle. My parents did exactly what they were taught to do. But clearly, there was a part in each of them that wanted to break free of the cycle, but couldn’t.

In their minds, cutting off a friend for a perceived infraction was one thing, but disconnecting from family, no matter how badly they treated you simply wasn’t done. Since I never fit in with most of my family, I learned from a fairly early age to give it up as a lost cause, which likely made me fit in even less. At some point, a small seed took root inside me that said: I won’t go where I feel unwelcome.

Being Alone With Myself

Unfortunately, it meant a lot of isolation until I learned to release my strangle hold on walls and masks, because until I did, I didn’t feel welcome anywhere. It wasn’t until I felt like I was losing the only person in the world who cared whether I lived or died that I realized I had to make some changes; I was meant to make some changes. I had come here to break family patterns, and though I’d already unconsciously broken some, the important ones, and also the most painful were yet to be broken.

Today, I look back on the woman I was, tolerating neglect and even abuse, and see her as the springboard to who I am today. I had to reach the point where I loved myself enough to stop tolerating being treated like I was second-rate, or an afterthought. I had to stop believing I wasn’t good enough. I had to set boundaries, and when those boundaries were disrespected, I had to cut some cords.

Going Where I’m Truly Wanted and Appreciated

It makes me sad that I can’t be there for my sister who is dealing with disabling illnesses, or for my daughter who might benefit from my experience with twins. In the case of my daughter, I know she has people around her who are helping her manage. She’s chosen her own family, just as I’ve chosen mine. I respect her wishes and choices but there are still times I have to have a good wallow over it. I truly wish things could be different, but after waiting almost 15 years, I’m done waiting for Godot. She is who she is. I am who I am. We’re both stubborn, but she’s a “my way or the highway” kind of woman. I have to choose the highway on this one.

I pity my sister, but cannot and will not allow myself to get sucked into the bitterness and misery with which she surrounds herself. Like Jenni, she blames her mother—our mother, for all the bumpy roads in her life. The difference is, our mother died more than 25 years ago. I hope Jenni will let go of her own need to blame me before I’m gone that long. In the meantime, I’m still around if she actually wanted to try to mend our relationship. I’m no longer holding my breath as I doubt she does.

I’ve made a lot of painful choices; many of them in the last 10 years. Despite appearances, none of those choices were easy, and in most cases, I put them off as long as possible, hoping, wishing I wouldn’t have to make them. Each will always leave a hole in my life. Building a family; a community around myself doesn’t fill those holes. It simply turns my attention to more positive, uplifting people.

When I lose one of my fur babies, the others don’t replace them in my heart. They take a piece with them, and leave a piece of theirs with me. So it is with family members I had to let go, either willingly or by choice. They’ll always be in my heart even if they can’t be in my life.

Living a Life of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the memories, both good and bad.
  2. I’m grateful there are people who merely passed through my life, even if they were, once upon a time, family.
  3. I’m grateful for the friends who have become closer than family, and who know me better than any of my blood family (save Heather) ever did, or even wanted to.
  4. I’m grateful for my writing which will always be the best therapist of all, and has taught me I don’t need to hide my flaws.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, new family, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, strength, vulnerability, kitty love, peace, balance, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

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

Change Your Mindset, Change How the Year Ends

Mindset Matters, Especially as We Leave an Old Year Behind

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-9BUEVAs we leave not only another year, but another decade behind us, I see people posting how grateful they are to put 2019 behind them. A year ago, many of us were grateful to put the horrors and tragedies of 2018 behind us. Is this how we look at our years, marching one behind the other in perfect rhythm? 365 (and sometimes 366) days we trudge through thinking: “If I can just get through this year, next year will be better”? If so, it’s a truly sad state of affairs.

Why, when a year is winding down do we focus on the times we fell instead of the times we got back up and kept going? When did our failures become more important; more memorable than our triumphs?

I have friends on social media who have beautiful families, rewarding jobs, incredible talents and gifts. Yet I’ve had to hide their posts because invariably, they focus on the days they have a headache, or their back hurts, or they had to spend the day in meetings instead of doing what they love. I have to tell you, though I have my bad days too, I don’t typically feel obliged to drag everyone who reads my page down with me. Trust me. Misery does not love company. It’s an excuse to wallow longer instead of getting up and doing something productive, fun, or both.

Looking for Glimmers of Hope

I’d rather look back on a year (even some of my most horrid) and find at least a tiny glimmer of Consciousness On the Risehope; a small kernel of joy mixed in with all the crap I may have had to shovel. I’ve learned I’ll always find what I’m looking for.

In what I mockingly refer to as “the divorce years”, finding joy and hope wasn’t always an easy task. But I didn’t really have to look far to find it. It was in the faces of my daughters; in the laughter we shared; the hugs, the silliness, the togetherness. I might not have conquered the world during those years, or left any noticeable mark, but I found a way to laugh once in awhile, and more importantly, put one foot in front of the other even on days when I wanted to pull the covers over my head and disappear.

Having my mother end her life as Divorce Year 2 was winding to a close could have been a huge setback. Instead, even then I found a way to be grateful. Her demise was one less pressure I had to field in a world where I walked a very fine line between sanity and my final breaking point on the best of days. It left me with one less ball to juggle, and bit of much-needed breathing room.

Allowing Myself to Feel But Not To Wallow

That’s not to say all the emotions I unconsciously packed away and ignored for several years were going to stay buried, but by the time they came bursting forth in all their technicolor glory, I was in a better place to deal with them, and to finally feel those feelings. I won’t lie to you and say it was a pleasurable experience, but it was both necessary and cathartic. Once the worst of it was over, I felt like a new woman, even knowing I’d spend the rest of my life revisiting feelings, though from a stronger stance from then on.

Perhaps that’s why I take issue with people thinking they’ve left the worst behind. The events we experience in any given year of our lives remain with us on an emotional level. Some are a heavy, wet blanket, while others are a mere glimmer which occasionally grows brighter when the memory is triggered. Some changed our lives forever.

When something does change the trajectory of our lives, I’ve learned there is a reason, even if what changed it is as horrible as losing a child, a home, or several members of a close-knit community. I’ve watched it happen in the last year or so, as people have used their grief to raise awareness of mental health, suicide, depression, and compassion. Granted, they were subjects many of us were already talking about, but the causes were greatly elevated by the tragedies.

Helping Other Trauma Survivors

Many of the people who are speaking out and bringing causes like Give An Hour into our lives in a huge way could easily have crawled into that dark hole I mentioned, coming out only to complain about how awful their life is, and how glad they are to see another miserable year pass into the history books. The fact is, they didn’t. They used their own grief to help make the world better for someone else; someone they’ll probably never meet or even know exists. They’ve also been honest enough to admit sometimes they’re not OK, and need to withdraw and be not OK for a little while before getting up and carrying on.

Unlike so many, I look at 2019, and the entire decade as a period when I triumphed over adversity time and time again. I grew as a person, and opened up about my own horrible experiences, not by asking people to help me feel sorry for myself, but by trying to understand the lessons in the experiences and share them with others who might find them useful.

A side effect to my choices came unexpectedly. I discovered that sharing my experiences actually made me more approachable, so the years between 2010 and 2019 have broadened my circle of friends, and expanded my chosen family. My daughter, son-in-law, and I initiated the Conaway-Hewes After Thanksgiving Feast which just passed it’s 5th year.

Using My Pain for the Greater Good

The way I see it, you can take the body slams life gives you as an excuse to crawl into your turtle shell and stay there. If so, you’ll always bemoan the small things each new year brings and miss out on all the joyful ones. Or you can be a Phoenix rising from each pile of ashes, knowing what was burnt down had run it’s course, or needed to give you a reason to do something on a grander level.

As the tragedies and traumas in my life have broken me loose from patterns which needed to be changed, I’ve learned to take the lesson and do my best to leave the pain behind me. Rather than risk being accused of sounding cavalier, I’ll admit I didn’t leave the pain behind right away, and some of it still comes back to haunt me from time to time. What I have done, and what others are doing even better than I is to use that pain to propel me forward.

Pain can make you more compassionate, or it can harden you to the consistency of bedrock. Though the choice might seem out-of-reach at first, the choice truly is yours. Wallow in misery if you must. I choose compassion every time, after having spent too many years being miserable, angry, sad, and alone.

The Healing Powers of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve been given.
  2. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met who show me the good that can come from tragedy.
  3. I’m grateful for the people who show me what I could have been had I failed to make the choices I did when my life was in turmoil.
  4. I’m grateful for my friends, my community, and my adopted family. I know what love isn’t.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, compassion, support, community, celebration, life, giving, cherishing, belonging, 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

Triggered by Suicide…Again

Triggers Bring Memories and Healing

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-9BUEVLosing someone to suicide means spending the rest of your life remembering. Though the daily reminders might fade as the years go by, you never know when someone or something will bring the memories flooding back; memories of what was, but also memories of what could have been.

At the end of this month, it will be 26 years since my mom ended her life. Unlike many who lose someone to suicide, my mom and I weren’t close. In fact, I’d say we had more of a love-hate relationship. The one thing the years have done is to soften the hard edges of our conflicted love and allow me to see past her hard shell to the woman she hid from the world. Sometimes though, my new-found compassion and gentler love for the woman who gave me life, and ultimately took her own means a trigger hits me harder for the years it’s lain dormant. It’s a harsh reminder I have feelings yet to unpack, address, and release.

This time, it happened while driving past the town where I grew up. So much has changed. Even new freeway off ramps have been added in the decades since we first moved there. Miles of previously empty land is now filled with car dealerships and office buildings. Still, memories of a childhood spent running, hiking, and biking through land where deer and rabbits ran freely,  over faint paths few feet had yet to traverse erase signs of progress, After spending my first 12 years in an area surrounded by buildings and concrete sidewalks, I can still see the verdant green hills I mostly took for granted as a teenager. 

Time Blurs the Edges of My Memories

My mind didn’t only see the land for what it once was, but my life as well. It stripped away all https://www.flickr.com/photos/augustbrill/5025448773/in/photolist-8E5JQv-bj2Q3-buZES-NosS3S-bE9C2-8NP6x3-oKBJYc-7yxvUJ-4eRexw-28mE1ch-5tW6Kf-f2JEoo-acCwSd-eajL56-paxFhz-4cv8b7-7yxvw5-7D7azC-ofd2U1-4jX86v-cLpNW-7yxvPb-7yxvS7-6hKsj7-7ytH5n-6ZkEpv-nxKqWs-pz4SNk-8HDCce-gT2U3W-7AkeTX-5hzA7T-5hDXEh-fjpMeq-ceoQ2-5hzAiF-51qGYK-ceoza-51qFRM-9vkmV9-5v6EqD-ceoGA-51uTs5-51uSJo-8NP6zA-51qEZx-7zy4Hg-ceoKc-ceorH-w9TTqthe ugliness; the fights, the angry words, the years I barely spoke to my mom, leaving a bone-deep sadness. She only stayed around for 6 years of her granddaughters’ lives, though I know she absolutely adored them, and loved being a grandmother.

Forgetting for a moment how much she drove me crazy when it came to my daughters, I wondered how different things might be. Those thoughts pause with my youngest. We’ve been estranged for years, and I don’t really know her 10-year-old daughter. Would Mom’s presence have made a difference when I struggled with 2 headstrong teenagers pushing hard for the freedom of adulthood far too soon?

I spent 16 years denying any feelings for my mom’s passing other than guilt. Guilt over not feeling sad; for fighting too much and listening too little; for what I could have or would have done differently had I known how much she was struggling. For 16 years I avoided the need inside myself to acknowledge the deeper feelings of loss, abandonment, and grief.

Letting Go to Let People Help

In the last 10 years, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into unpacking those feelings; acknowledging some, denying others. I’ve shared many of them, and learned there are many others who need a non-judgemental ear, but didn’t know where to look. Breaking the seal on my own belief system concerning suicide and mental health has benefited me more than anyone, and not just by releasing pent-up feelings. I get to hear other peoples’ stories and struggles too. They’ve been a tremendous help in teaching me how to accept my own feelings without beating myself up, or hearing my dad’s voice saying; “You shouldn’t feel like that.” Words I tried hard to live up to in my false belief it would make him love me, and actually show it with kindness instead of ridicule.

In the process, I’ve had to recognize and accept the wagon load of anger I’ve been carrying towards my dad for failing to fill the void of love I believed I lost from my mom when my sister was born. I had to learn he loved me the best he could, and showed it as he’d been taught to show love. That the criticism and ridicule he’d been taught by his own parents tore away at my fragile self-esteem escaped his notice. He didn’t know how to see it. Nor did he see how hard I tried to live up to his impossible standards which, in hindsight, I don’t think he managed either. We both learned to hide it well. The tragedy is, he never learned he could stop hiding.

I’ve gained a lot while unpacking and sharing my feelings over the least decade. The greatest gift has been loving and supportive friends. Being able to accept and embrace my Empathic abilities has been a huge part of the process. More and more, I get to see the people around me opening up to theirs as well, and it strengthens our connection in ways which often surprise me.

A Time To Isolate and Process

There are still times I need to withdraw; to go inside and process my latest revelation or trigger. I’ll find myself alone in a crowd as I did the night this trigger hit—drifting from one group to the next, isolating for a few minutes, getting lost in a line dance; one only with the music and the floor beneath my feet. For the most part, each trigger reminds me of the need to keep working through feelings as they arise no matter when, where, or how. There’s no longer an option to put it off until it’s convenient. I’ve learned feelings are never convenient, and the more I stuffed them down, the less convenient they became. I have my share of meltdowns to prove that one!

Though it took awhile, I’ve learned to see the blessings more than the traumas, and that some of those traumas were necessary. I’m not the woman I was 26 years ago when mom let her demons win. Nor am I the woman I was when dad did the same 10 years later. Growth has come in stages. First I had to learn to love myself. It was probably my biggest hurdle given the number of years I’d failed to measure up to my parents’ expectations.

I spent decades telling myself I didn’t care, but the only person I might have deceived was myself, and in hindsight, that’s unlikely. Deep down inside where I stuffed all my feelings, fooling myself into believing they’d stay put, was someone who saw through all the subterfuge and attempts at self-preservation. After all, my very sanity was at stake.

Finding the Validation I Needed From Within

The voices in my head, not unlike the ones I’m sure my parents fought, never let me forget how close I came to losing it on many occasions. But do you know what? They’ve grown softer since I started acknowledging the buried feelings; not only the ones since my parents’ suicides, but the ones I tried to ignore from childhood all the way into my 40’s. Like the child I was; desperate for a demonstrative love my parents were incapable of giving, the child inside me wanted nothing more or less than to have her feelings acknowledged and validated. Only in recent years have I discovered, thanks to a lot of soul-searching and a seemingly endless flow of triggers, that all the validation I need—that I’ve ever needed is, and always will be inside myself.

This may sound weird, but in a lot of ways, I’m grateful for my parents’ suicides. They cut me loose from a lot of unrealistic expectations and allowed me to eventually start finding my own way. It gave me a chance to love and accept myself for who I am and realize I didn’t need to perpetuate old familial patterns.

They also cut me loose from a family which knew no better than my parents. Being abandoned by the rest of my family for decades turned out to be the most valuable gift I received. It gave me time, space, and new examples of the woman I wanted to be when the dust cleared and the walls crumbled. It allowed me to become part of a healthier, happier family of friends who are helping me find the person I’m meant to be without judgement or expectations.

Building a Life of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for triggers that help me learn, acknowledge, release, and move on.
  2. I’m grateful for supportive friends who’ve been through their own hell to learn to accept their feelings as valid and valuable.
  3. I’m grateful for a daughter with whom I can speak openly and honestly, even when we’re polar opposites in our beliefs.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve learned to accept the times I need to go inside and muddle through the latest batch of feelings without letting the process overwhelm me.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, triggers, lessons, challenges, opportunities, growth, empathy, compassion, 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

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.

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

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

Humanity’s Rhythm and Flow

Rhythm and Balance

https://www.flickr.com/photos/138134374@N06/23979398110/in/photolist-CwYFCs-qePxQJ-aqu7dd-fDSbmd-8oH2Nf-q64rjS-8pmGef-fmqseQ-8pmDTq-28YtzLw-8zk2dH-ULAaGG-2463xZK-8pmGv5-8oDTTF-25A4Ah3-eKwPVh-6inoK7-pHVYoZ-23ANptE-6bbyw2-f2TZHs-2aF9XE6-2fMSGAf-eRG4JE-pQwfiv-iguBq-68Q9rM-27WwJfA-c8hGoY-2ffDCSK-2cih976-phQd9-fmqrFo-dbEE5S-8oGGsG-SXZnHA-rkfsAw-KCMEw2-9PywEd-6bbxF4-gtGuHx-8oGXgd-WKFd94-ibiGRK-cJojSC-S57JBE-zTeuN-qy8nVU-6k7f1rMore and more, I’m becoming aware that everyone has a rhythm. Every social group, family, and community is comprised of a broad range of rhythms which combined, serve to give the social unit balance. People within those groups are drawn together by those rhythms; some because they’re similar and go through life at a compatible pace, and others as opposites, or at least vastly different because as individuals we need to find our own balance at an interpersonal level.

In my own social circle, I’m seeing people who are extremely high energy; always on. They’re like hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower never settling long. Only those in similar rhythm actually stay with them for the whole ride. For the rest, their pace can be exhausting. Others plod along unhurried, enjoying the sights along the way. Often, their company serves as a resting place from the people who are always “on”; a place to catch your breath before diving into the next adventure.

The rhythms interact together, separately, and in concert with other rhythms within the group to form an ebb and flow that’s the heartbeat of the community. The energy is in constant flux as people move from one level to another according to their needs and circumstances.

Finding My Own Level Moment by Moment

Some rhythms (like mine for instance) wink in and out as the need for stimulation https://www.flickr.com/photos/philipglevy/9462509263/in/photolist-fqaQkr-6B62hk-9jZwX5-4FH1En-54uCWa-a3Ns41-6BanmN-6DM4U9-5u49NP-6v9Puu-6DGTwD-4FMcCG-doJVpC-3ervgn-4FMcmC-pb1bmR-6v9McG-6DM5Wm-a71Zuu-5i6sb2-6B9Lkj-4FH1v4-gQpcex-jZKZ5o-6v9NNf-6B5zw6-89YYg5-6v9Xbb-6MPVRc-6v9Wow-6v5Gyk-aPQjfH-6v9QjU-6v5PF8-6v9VcG-cu2a4-DUvgxx-6v9YGJ-5oAaDQ-8ipJ7z-5VgzB9-6B9AVJ-5KTyGH-5Vce46-Uwsk9p-6vNzky-6v5FCV-6B5rgp-6v9UFb-6v9Ljqvs. separation ebbs and flows. Others seem to be the spark that keeps everything lit, like the pilot light on your stove or water heater. Many, in fact, engage and disengage in a dance known only to the dancer, and even then, often at a subconscious level.

Still, there’s an element of frenzy attached to the ones who are always on. I watched one recently who was running on minimal sleep, yet believing she had to keep moving or burn out. For some reason, the idea of burning out, or not shining brightly was unacceptable to her, whereas I find those moments of quiet a welcome respite. In fact, I took a few minutes to sit alone in my beach chair with music and voices swirling around me to disappear into my own personal space. I’ve learned it’s actually a gift to be able to do that.

Disconnection is Part of the Flow

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-jk3BYpRecently, a discussion ensued about feeling alone in a crowd; disconnected from the energy flow. There was a time I’d have felt uncomfortable when that feeling of disconnection came on. One night, I decided to ride it out instead of fighting it, or looking for the source of my disconnection (me, someone else, something else). I discovered experiencing moments of disconnection weren’t really a bad thing. Instead, they give me a different, and often clearer perspective.

Sometimes, I need to step back into myself to simply feel the music, the energy, and the rhythm. Other times, I need to step out of the scene so I can see something or someone more clearly. No matter why the feeling suddenly comes on, I’ve learned to honor it because it’s there for a reason. There’s something I’m supposed to notice.

Maybe it’s discord in my own thinking, or a need to retreat and steer clear of impending drama. Perhaps someone needs me to be aware they’re not OK even if there’s nothing I can say or do for the moment. Sometimes things are simply shifting, and I need to stand back and let the shift happen.

The Dynamics of Community

In every community and social circle, the dynamics are constantly in motion. They Created with Canvadrive some closer together while others move further apart, or into other circles as their own rhythm shifts and changes. I picture a kaleidoscope where all of the participants are pieces of colored glass. With each turn, the pieces shift and reassemble into different patterns, never returning to the same one twice.

I realize my view may be overly complicated. People don’t shift as quickly as the pieces in a kaleidoscope, though sometimes, watching a room from the sidelines, I feel as if it does. In truth, I’m seeing certain pieces moving faster than others, and some simply standing in place allowing the others to drift around them in groups and individually. (often, the stationary piece is me)

The view changes dramatically when I’m in the middle of things instead of on the sidelines. Sometimes, I’ll even get a kind of bird’s-eye view of myself drifting from circle to circle. In the process, I leave bits of energy behind with each group and individual I touch.

Sharing or Not. Which Do You Choose?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/augustbrill/5025448773/in/photolist-8E5JQv-bj2Q3-buZES-NosS3S-bE9C2-8NP6x3-oKBJYc-7yxvUJ-4eRexw-28mE1ch-5tW6Kf-f2JEoo-acCwSd-eajL56-paxFhz-4cv8b7-7yxvw5-7D7azC-ofd2U1-4jX86v-cLpNW-7yxvPb-7yxvS7-6hKsj7-7ytH5n-6ZkEpv-nxKqWs-pz4SNk-8HDCce-gT2U3W-7AkeTX-5hzA7T-5hDXEh-fjpMeq-ceoQ2-5hzAiF-51qGYK-ceoza-51qFRM-9vkmV9-5v6EqD-ceoGA-51uTs5-51uSJo-8NP6zA-51qEZx-7zy4Hg-ceoKc-ceorH-w9TTqIt occurs to me that the ones vibrating the fastest leave the smallest pieces of themselves behind; perhaps only the tiniest spark. Is it by accident, or design? In a way, I accomplished the same thing when I kept myself tightly encased in a kind of energy damping cotton wool. My touch was feather-light and few if any even felt me pass. Though the swift movers can definitely be felt, they’re gone before a piece of themselves escape their own version of protection.

I guess in a way each person fears losing a part of themselves. They perform their own complicated maneuvers to prevent it from happening, though, like me, they’re often unaware they’re doing it. Coming to terms with my own unfounded fears made me realize something important.

Learning the Rules of Connection

Connecting deeply with other people doesn’t mean giving up a part of myself. Instead, it allows me to open up and build on what I have with input from others. It creates a synergy where the whole is more dynamic; more evolved than it could possibly have been left to its own devices.

Opening up to the infinite number of rhythmic levels in my communities is teaching me how limitless I can be, but only if I let others in. The lessons I’m learning aren’t always easy or comfortable as they’re completely at odds with what I was taught to believe, and saw fit to hold onto for far too long. Which serves to remind me, growth, discovery, and learning always occur outside the comfort zone. Thank goodness I learned to chuck mine aside, realizing it was about as useful as an empty banana peel.

Finding Gratitude in the Little Things

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for friends old and new who are teaching me what it truly means to live a full and fulfilling life.
  2. I’m grateful for opportunities to experience different rhythms.
  3. I’m grateful for the communities which allow me to learn, grow, and experience a life I never before knew existed.
  4. I’m grateful for the quiet times which allow me to reflect on the new things I’ve been learning.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, growth, experiences, life, energy, rhythm, friendship, shifts, change, peace, health, harmony, joy, 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

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

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