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

Posts tagged ‘compassion’

Nostalgia in the Air

Drifting on a Wave of Nostalgia

Birthdays make me nostalgic. When another draws near, I seem to spend time revisiting memories, holding some close, releasing others. I listen to music from my younger days—songs that bring back simpler times.

I’ve created a couple of stations on Pandora which let me travel back in time, and let go of the things that stress me out;  things that bring on migraines when I forget to let go. I use the more upbeat “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” station when I’m active; cooking, working out at the gym, walking. But when I want to float on those waves of nostalgia, or find inspiration for my writing, I always turn to my “Simon and Garfunkel” station.

Whether it’s Peter Paul and Mary’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” or something more upbeat, I sing along, or simply drift on the waves of music as familiar as my breath. Though I may not have a voice that will move masses, I find joy in singing along to the tunes that defined my youth.

Music for the Ages

If you ask me, the music of the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s is timeless, both for the words and the melodies. Even my daughters’ generation embraced the music of the Eagles, and Santana, as well as Queen, making it their own. The lyrics  from those years still have meaning—still move me and made me feel. I think they always will.

What they can’t do is bring back a time when my mom and I weren’t at odds over something. They can’t help me remember a time when we weren’t fighting, and when I ever felt good enough. It makes me sad those years didn’t come until after she was gone; that I didn’t learn to appreciate her or feel compassion until long after she’d left me. Or that I didn’t learn to accept and appreciate myself.

Remembering Old Feelings So I Can Let Them Go of abandonment began long ago, when my sister was born. Maybe she truly was an easier child, or maybe my mom had just learned a few things about being a wife and mother. Either way, I became secondary. Though I’ve come a long way in the last few years, the songs make me remember the hurts still haven’t completely healed.

Songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon” still make me want to cry. Somehow, I feel the things I’ve lost more strongly when I hear it, probably because my first memories are listening to it when I was young enough to feel less abandoned and more loved. Before I believed I’d never be good enough; at least for my parents. Even so, the song made me cry from the first time I heard it. The reasons may have changed since then, but the tears still fall.

Opening My Heart and Mind and Recognizing My True Value

I listen to the songs from a different perspective now. I’ve lived through a lot— and sorrows, wins and losses. I’ve torn down walls I spent nearly a lifetime building, reinventing myself without masks or pretenses. Another birthday reminds me how far I’ve come. And I’m not done yet; not by a long shot.

I was never my mother’s child. By the time I was 10 or 11, I’d stopped trying. I spent years trying to be my father’s child, but failed there too, though I didn’t really accept my failure until recently. That’s when I realized the failure wasn’t really mine.

My dad wanted a son, but my mom didn’t give him one. Instead, his first born was clumsy, awkward, and unable to conform with any of his expectations. I wasn’t good at sports, nor particularly interested in working with my hands except to build sets for theater productions.

I loved to read and write, neither of which were of interest to him. I got my love of reading from my mom. The only thing I shared with my dad was a fierce independence. Right or wrong, I had to do things myself and spent a lot of years feeling like a failure.

Taking the Painful Lessons and Leaving the Pain

Now I can appreciate how much I learned, not only from my failures, but from my inability to fit in, even with my own family. Watching my mother struggle for acceptance from her own family, I didn’t realize I was, in my own way following her example. I tried to be what my dad expected, never realizing it was a lost cause. Worse, I never noticed how often he ridiculed and shamed me; how often he dismissed my efforts.

Somehow, it made me stronger, though it also made me shut down to love and affection. Unconsciously I realized I’d never really get the love and attention I craved from my family, and for years, believed it meant I wouldn’t get it from anyone. But times change. I learned some life lessons, and the biggest was I didn’t need to make anyone happy but me.

Breaking Free of Family Patterns and Finding Happiness

My family didn’t understand me because I was different from the start. But I finally learned I didn’t have to gauge my success or my worthiness by their expectations, or their inability to love me the way I deserve to be loved. The lack wasn’t in me at all. They did the best they could with what they, themselves had been taught. It wasn’t their fault I knew deep down I wanted and needed more.

My family holds on to old pain, to grudges, to anger. I never understood it, and never shared their need to, in essence, allow others to live rent-free in my head for years; even generations. Where they held onto pain, I learned to forgive. Where they had expectations, I learned to accept. Where their idea of love was criticism and abuse, I’ve learned love is building up and supporting the people you care about.

The songs might me sad. They might make me nostalgic. But they don’t make me wish I could go back and do things differently. They remind me of how far I’ve come.

Old Patterns May be Standing in the Way of Your Success

Are old memories and patterns weighing you down? Do you feel like you have to do it all instead of asking for help? You’re not less worthy because you recognize you can’t do it all. In fact, you’re more, because you realize you need to free yourself to do the things you’re best at. 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!

Something to Be Grateful for Every Day

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for memories, both pleasant and not.
  2. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, even if I had to learn a lot of them painfully.
  3. I’m grateful for the gifts my parents gave me. In the beginning, it was strength, but in time, I’ve learned compassion too.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve finally learned I don’t need to be something I’m not in order to fit in. I’m perfect just the way I am. I needed to be me before I’d find those who accepted the real, honest me and not some fruitless attempt to be anything else.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, acceptance, friendship, inspiration, motivation, words that flow as freely as a waterfall after a storm, feelings I can now allow to come forth without judgement or shame, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Embracing Our Inner Bitch

You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

Sometimes, there’s no other choice but to stand our ground and not worry about what others think. After all, if we’re so busy pleasing everyone else, we’re neglecting the most important person in our own lives.

Recently, I had a conversation with a young woman about being called “bitch” both to my face and behind my back. She said for her, it was usually behind her back (which smacks of cowardice on the part of the name flingers, if you ask me). I said a had a few decades on her and a lot more practice at being firm, and even unpleasant if need be, so there were plenty who’d used the term to my face over the years, with less than the desired results.

Doing What’s Right

The funny thing is, most who use it intend it as an insult, but to me, it usually means I haven’t given them what they wanted, and above all, I have not been someone’s doormat. To me, being called a bitch affirms I’m not afraid to stand up for myself, my family, and my friends regardless of what others think.

Are there times I regret being forceful and immovable? Sure. Every once in awhile I discover I was in the wrong, and, if possible, do my best to apologize and own up to my mistake. Still, sometimes the best fix is to simply walk away. Engaging further when someone is already angry is guaranteed to escalate the situation rather than soothe it, mainly because everything you say from that point on is going to be wrong. As humans, once we’re angry, we tend to close down the listening side of our brain, replacing it with the reactive part.

Bitch is Often Another Word for Strong

There are many misconceptions about women who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves, or just say no. We are not militant or frigid (as has often been appended to the “b” word for me). We simply believe in our own right to choose, and to defend those close to us from bullies and those who believe they have the right to shove their opinions down the throats of others.

We don’t hate men. Often, quite the contrary. We have many in our close social circle and, in many cases, a warm loving relationship too. (OK, so I’ve yet to figure that one out, but as I’m not dead yet, there’s still hope. And even some of my non-Jewish friends seem to have inherited the yenta gene of late!) I personally have a great deal of respect for the men I’ve come to know and love. But that love and respect goes both ways too.

All through history, strong, forceful women have gotten a bad rap. In the Corporate world what would be called “assertive” in a man would be “aggressive” in a woman. A man with strong leadership skills is respected and revered. A woman is “pushy”, or a “control freak”, or even a “ball buster”. The sad part is, some of the loudest complainers aren’t men, but other women. I think most of it is their own insecurities and even jealousy speaking. When they can’t be strong and assertive themselves, they’ve learned playing the weakling and tearing other women down can work to their advantage with the big, strong, menfolk.

Increasing Strength in Our Younger Generation found myself at odds with women of my generation and even many younger than myself all too often while working for corporations both large and small. I haven’t worked as much with Millennials, but what I’ve seen socially is both inspiring and comforting. More and more of the young women I meet are strong, independent types who don’t allow people to push them around.

Many are entrepreneurs who are doing far better than I am at the moment, and from whom I’m learning a few new tricks. Their confidence and lack of concern over looking or acting perfect warms my heart, especially in light of all the reports of body shaming and other heinous acts meant to objectify and embarrass young women. The ones I know and see are happier in their skin than most of my generation learned to be. And they own it! Boy, do they own it!

What Others Think of Me Is None of My Business

The one thing we share is our amusement when someone sees fit to label us a bitch for being strong and self-assured. Many have already learned what took me decades:

What other people think of me is none of my business.

I actually had a former employee challenge me on this one time. In her opinion, I should care what others think of me. My question to her was Why? She didn’t have an answer which satisfied me, and frankly, I didn’t care. It was still someone else’s opinion, and was outside my own desire to understand.

Life is About Kindness and Compassion, Not Popularity

What truly matters isn’t what people think of us. It’s that we are kind and compassionate while upholding our values and beliefs. Because someone doesn’t agree with my values and beliefs doesn’t make them wrong. It simply makes my standards wrong for them, and that’s OK. I never asked anyone to live by mine, nor am I willing to turn myself inside out to fit theirs just so they’ll like me.

Life ain’t a popularity contest. I couldn’t care less if I’m part of the “in” crowd. To be honest, it’s a lot more fun being a rebel. What matters is I’ve found the people who love and respect me for who I am without pretenses. They know what to expect, not because I’m conforming, but because I’m honest, transparent, and vulnerable. The people I’m drawn to these days value those qualities far more than a bunch of cookie cutter friends who try to look, act, and think alike.

Making Myself a Priority

I stifled my own entrepreneurial spirit for decades, and only made myself miserable in the process. I was stressed out, angry, irritable, and cranky most of the time—except when I was on a dance floor.

It’s no coincidence I learned to drop the pretenses when my life included regular dancing and a lot of internal work to heal the old wounds and self-limiting beliefs. It’s also when I learned to live a full, complete life, and to embrace my inner bitch.

A Daily Practice of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the example so many young women are setting today.
  2. I am grateful I learned to stop caring what others think of me.
  3. I am grateful to friends who’ve helped me own my honest, transparent, vulnerable self.
  4. I am grateful for my circle of friends which includes strong, straightforward women and men who appreciate us as we are.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; opportunities, inspiration, vulnerability, transparency, strength, self-confidence, love, joy, friendship, community, health, harmony, peace, 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

Acknowledging the Right to Grieve

Telling Ourselves We Have No Right to Grieve

I’m no stranger to grief. I’ve had enough opportunities in my life where it was not only appropriate but necessary. But I’m no stranger to suppressing or denying my grief either. When each of my parents died, I made thousands of excuses to keep going on, business as usual while I broke into a million little pieces inside. I convinced myself the grief wasn’t necessary and got in the way of doing the things I was supposed to. In a lot of ways, both my family and Society had trained me well—too well.

I mistakenly believed, especially in my mother’s case I didn’t really deserve to grieve since she and I had such a contentious relationship. Feeling relief for one less stressful component in my life when she died made it easier to believe I had no right to grieve because it wasn’t a loss at all. Or so I believed.

Grief Has No Comparison

In the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit grief, and my ability to justify denying my right to grieve. I watched while people lost their homes, their lives, their pets. I sat glued to the television in horror while a dozen people I knew mostly in passing were gunned down by a man who ultimately took his own life.

I’ve watched as parents buried their children, families buried their fathers, husbands, sons, and daughters. I ache for them all, yet the voices inside me tell me I have no right to grieve because the pain I feel from losing the place I dance and gather with friends, albeit temporarily, is nothing compared to what they’ve lost.

When Our Hearts Connect

Yet it’s more than the loss of a place because Borderline Bar and Grill has always been more than merely a place to dance. As stories are shared of celebrations, of countless marriages which came about because of meetings at that particular place, of families sharing, of connections that last for years, even when people move away; I realize not only for me, but for thousands of others, it became a home. We came together, some as friends, others as strangers, and became a family connected at the heart.

Even as so many communicate only by text message or social media, it’s been a place where cell phones are put down, if only for a few minutes, and connections are made on the dance floor, doing something that brings joy not only to the dancers, but to those on the sidelines watching.

Hitting Close to Home

We didn’t just lose people on November 7th. Even those we didn’t know well were familiar, comforting faces we saw every week. Some helped maintain order and kept the place friendly and the dance floor safe. Others were a smiling face that greeted us or served us food and drinks, raising our spirits no matter how the day had gone. No matter what role they played, they were familiar faces; people we’d come to know by sight, and who, in their own way, brought joy into the place by their very presence. But more, they were part of a family which shared in each others’ successes, commiserated when jobs or family were lost, celebrated birthdays, weddings, births, anniversaries…

Right now, the whole family is grieving. Maybe not in the same way as parents who are burying children way too soon, or fathers who had only just begun to realize dreams, or brothers who were always there to lend a hand when the road got rough. But we grieve for the huge gashes in the fabric of our family and for the pain those close to them are suffering right now. It might not be our own pain, but the pain is soul deep anyway because our family has been violated.

A Need to Justify the Unjustifiable

Still, I fight the feeling that my loss is comparatively small when I look at the people who lost a father, a child, a best friend. As part of the extended family, though, I feel the pain of unshed tears, of unanswered questions, of grief that like mine can find no outlet. I feel even more strongly the connection between me and my fellow human beings.

There is also the unpopular and often sidestepped grief for the shooter and his family as he is repeatedly denounced and excluded from the memorials as being unworthy of mention or inclusion in a group of people who, in many cases were heroes trying to make the world better, or sacrificing themselves so others would be safe, or simply a smiling face lifting the spirits of everyone around them. But I believe we as a society failed him as we fail others who feel detached and disconnected.

Digging Deep to Find Our Compassion

Admittedly, it isn’t easy to reach out to people who are continually angry or depressed. They’re harder to be around, more difficult to love, and sometimes impossible to understand. Some isolate themselves, then blame their isolation on society, and rightfully so. Even in a family, you often have to fit in first before you can start showing your broken parts. Some people are so broken, they believe the only way they can hide those uncomfortable parts is by staying within their own four walls.

I’ve been that person, though never with murderous intent. I’ve been alone and angry with the entire world, yet desperate to belong somewhere, in need of comfort that wasn’t forthcoming. But I was fortunate. I learned to find and be my happy self until I found acceptance and windows of opportunity to allow the chinks in my armor to widen and eventually break off in chunks. I’ve opened up too much to the wrong people to be sent scuttling back into my shell to lick my wounds and regroup. But thankfully, I’ve never spent so much time inside my own head where those wounds fester and infect my entire being. Too many aren’t as lucky as I’ve been.

Helping Each Other Unlock Our Self-Imposed Prison Doors

Still, the grief continues to be locked inside me. I still feel I need justification to share my grief with those Created with Canvawho’ve lost so much more. Even in the privacy of my own home, I’ve yet to shed more than a few tears, though many more are dammed up inside me waiting for an opportunity to flow.

The walls I reinforced after my mom swallowed too many sleeping pills, and again after my dad put a gun to his head to end his pain are no longer the insurmountable edifices they once were. Some came crashing down with the violence of a 7.0 earthquake. Others have slowly dissolved into dust. Clearly, some still remain if I believe I need justification to grieve this latest loss. As I look around, I see others who struggle to grieve, to understand, and who continue to wrangle with the right to be compassionate with themselves.

I realize we all have a right to grieve, but in some ways, it’s also a responsibility. We have to release the pain, the anger, the confusion so we can begin to heal. Without healing ourselves, we can’t help others begin the long journey from a place of immeasurable pain to where they can start to feel those angels on their shoulder who are never truly gone.

Finding the Gratitude in the Grief

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my writing which is a constant source of comfort and release during a time when the news and faces around me are a long chain of tragedy and loss.
  2. I am grateful for my friends who are connecting more strongly and deeply than ever, though I wish it didn’t have to involve so much loss.
  3. I am grateful for all the people who have come forward to support others, even mainly strangers in time of need. It gives me hope for the overall human condition.
  4. I am grateful for compassion. We need more of it. We need to recognize how much more valuable it is than power or control.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; compassion, love, connection, support, family, opportunities, soul searching, recognizing each others’ hearts, peace, hope, 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.

Time to Re-set Our Triggers

Recognizing Reactions Are Our Triggers morning, I got a wake up call in the form of a kick in the pants, virtually. Upon reading a friend’s post which started “after my morning bible study” I caught myself thinking disdainful, unkind, and utterly unwarranted thoughts. Catching myself in those thoughts, I pulled up short and asked: how is morning bible study any different from my own practice of writing morning pages? I had to answer honestly that it’s no different, any more than praying is different from my practice of meditating.

How we do what we do isn’t nearly as important as the fact we take time to listen and learn every day. What does it matter that some people use a book or listen to someone they respect, or call the source of their guidance by a name I don’t choose to recognize? They’re doing something which ultimately makes them treat others with more compassion, and treat themselves respectfully too.

The thought stream continued as I chopped vegetables for the large bowl of salad I like to keep in my refrigerator to ensure at least part of what I eat is healthy. I started thinking about the friends who are on the opposite side of the ring in today’s political arena. All too often, I’ll find myself thinking How can they possibly believe that way given everything that’s being said and done these days?

We’re the Same When You Peel Away the Layers

Suddenly, I wanted to laugh like a loon. I realized from their point of view, my beliefs are equally Nevertheless, we’re friends and don’t see a need to argue our points. In fact, most of the time, when a hot issue is raised by someone who sees things opposite from the way I do, I’ll either make an innocuous comment before going silent, or, if the conversation continues with others who agree with them, I’ll find the opportunity to slip away.

I’ve learned, often the hard way that when our belief in something or someone has any kind of emotional trigger, it’s unlikely either side will be able to look at things through the eyes of the other. Even now as many people are claiming the economy is in better shape than ever, I look at the latest drop in stock values, or I want to ask what the current poverty level sits at. What are the major indicators which point to a healthy or weak economy, and do they consider factors for all economic levels, or just the ones deemed worthy of measurement? I know my disbelief has a strong basis in my emotional reactions to factors indirectly related to the economy. As such, I need a whole lot more than someone telling me things are better. And, I’m embarrassed to admit, it would have to come from a source I feel (not believe as it’s a purely emotional response) is reputable, preferably with facts and figures I can verify myself.

We all have our biases, no matter how hard we try not to. Even as many are trying to present both sides, their sources are typically ones they trust, and rarely a source they don’t. As such, they too are biased in what they choose to share. I’ve learned there’s no such thing as a completely unbiased opinion or report when it comes to the media, or humans for that matter. I’ve tried to counteract the bias somewhat by looking at the same story as told by a source with whom I have faith, as well as a source I have mentally deemed the bearer of fake news. When both sides agree (which actually does happen) on the recounting of a fact, I tend to conclude there’s more of a likelihood the information is valid than if each side told a completely different story.

Pause to Respond Instead of React

It isn’t always easy to step back and not try to argue a point, or question words used, or have a knee-jerk reaction to something I oppose on a visceral level. I’m learning it’s often a matter of pausing for a few seconds to allow my brain to engage, allowing me to respond rather than react. In that brief span of time, I can not only consider the words, but the speaker, and formulate a response which won’t incite an unnecessary argument.

It’s often impossible to tell why someone poses a question on a topic they know is highly emotional. Sometimes, they honestly want to understand how others feel. Others, they want to start a debate. There might also be a need on their part to see how many people are on the same page they are, and with whom they can openly “discuss” a subject they already agree on. My goal right now is to avoid getting sucked in if their purpose is anything other than the first one. To ensure my success, a pause is crucial because if I allow the first thing I think of to come out of my mouth, I’ve already undermined any opportunity I might have had to understand another point of view.

Creating Safe Zones With Our Experiences

I talk about a lot of sensitive subjects these days and endeavor to be a safe zone where those topics can be discussed by others who have been through similar challenges without fear of judgement or worse, the listener trying to fix something that isn’t broken in the traditional sense of the word. Quite often, a discussion ensues for the sole purpose of feeling support from our community.

We open up to people about our lives to enable connection. Sharing what isn’t perfect in our lives lets others know we have parts of ourselves we’re working on, just like they do. Sharing is like a door into our world. The door is an empathic connection between hearts. When one heart is closed, the door won’t open because the connection is missing and the corresponding door may not even exist.

Walls That Isolate Us

When we’ve been hurt or traumatized, we build walls to protect ourselves. In the moment, we don’t think about creating a way for people to come in and out. We’re simply trying to block out the pain and discomfort. We build walls without gates; houses without doors and windows. Only when we’ve built up some scar tissue do we realize we omitted something important. Then we have to decide whether a bit of demolition to correct the oversight is worth the pain we know we’ll endure by cracking the edifice we constructed so intensely in a moment when we were all feelings and no logic.

Knocking out a hole in the wall to make room for a door means releasing some of the pent-up pain we walled in during construction. With no guarantee that whoever is on the other side will be gentle with the flood of feelings, we huddle behind the wall, often imagining the worst. We believe only what comes to us from people and places we trust implicitly.

Endure Initial Pain to Re-set our Triggers

The trouble is, we huddle behind those pain-induced walls for so many reasons. We isolate ourselves from the mainstream of life without even realizing it. We do it every time we close our minds to how similar we are, despite our disagreement on what we believe are monumental issues. If we stopped to realize how similar we are, we’d never have to withhold our feelings again.

What we believe to the depths of our souls might not be the same, but how we came by those beliefs, if taken down to the basic components is exactly the same. It’s a crazy mix of what we read, what we hear, what we’ve been taught by example, and what triggers are set off inside us which filter how we process stimuli that has our neurons working overtime trying to keep up.

If you ask me, it’s not the beliefs we need to relax our death grip on. Instead, we need to go back and revisit the birth of our triggers and reprogram them. We need to find a compassion for ourselves we walled away during times of stress. When we accept ourselves as works in progress, we’ll find it easier to accept others with their differences of opinion, their areas of strength and weakness, and triggers of their own much more easily. I’ve always believed that if we learn to love ourselves, we extend that love to others effortlessly. Now, more than ever, I believe it’s true, because I see far too much self-loathing, buried deep within every one of us.

Many of us have come a long way on the road to self-acceptance, but have places deep inside that still fight our efforts to love ourselves unconditionally. An organism or being which loves itself unconditionally doesn’t need to react from an emotional place of hurt and insecurity because they’ve loved the hurt and insecurity away.

Start with Gratitude

My gratitudes today are;

  1. I am grateful for virtual but kicks.
  2. I am grateful I can laugh at my own foibles and backwards steps.
  3. I am grateful I’m learning to love myself unconditionally, and give up on the idea of perfection.
  4. I am grateful for the people in my life who love and support me, and know I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything. In fact, I’d prefer they didn’t.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; inspiration, motivation, excitement, anticipation, joy, love, friendship, encouragement, opportunities, new people, harmony, peace, 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.

The Changing Face of Patriotism

Sullying the Name and Meaning of Patriotism

Created with CanvaSeeing USA or an American flag worn proudly emblazoned across someone’s chest, or embroidered on a cap used to make me feel good, and proud to be an American. Today, thanks to the “Make America Great Again” campaign cry, it gives rise to totally different emotions. Fear, disgust, embarrassment, sadness, and sometimes rage.

Like my previously unreconciled, and to some degree unwarranted negative feelings about Christianity, my mind focuses on the many heinous acts being wrought in the name of patriotism and I’m afraid, not just for future generations but those who currently identify with the United States of America. I see a nation dangerously divided by colliding ideologies which threaten to pulverize a foundation which has probably stood on shaky ground longer than I realize. A nation rotting down to its very core. The only glimmer of hope I see are those who are still making an effort to find and disseminate the truth amongst this pack of wolves who are fighting over the same dwindling and disease-ridden piece of meat. They do so at their own personal peril.

Corrupted by Power’s Unholy Grip

History has proven that power drives men mad. The more they have, the more they want, and they Created with Canvareach a point where they’ll stop at nothing to feed their unholy passion. Sadly, the list of casualties is growing, mostly among the innocents. The lust for power is, in my mind, no different than blood magick. It needs to feed on the pain and misery of others to grow stronger.

Personal power builds its foundation out of the bodies of innocents. Some of them, even sacrificing themselves willingly as they’re convinced the cause is right and just. Perhaps those fall harder and lose more in the end.

We have been a proud nation for more than 200 years, and maybe that’s why we’ve been so easy to subvert. After all, pride goes before a fall, right? We’ve seen ourselves as the greatest nation, yet how many of us can actually explain what that means, now, or at any time in the past? Other nations are better educated, have less poverty, better health care, and lower crime rates. Freedoms we consider unique are not only available elsewhere, but are, in all likelihood, better protected than they are here at the moment.

Loving Our Country, Warts and All

I won’t deny we are still a decent place to live, grow, and raise a family, but much of what we take for granted has eroded without our even noticing. In short, we’ve become a nation where passive oblivion is prevalent. Of course, I can’t speak for the circumstances in other countries as I’ve never visited those whose rankings are higher than ours. I know many of the social problems which exist here aren’t unique. How they’re addressed might be, and that’s not necessarily positive.

Created with CanvaThe trouble is, we’re allowing our patriotism to be fouled, and waving our flag is causing laughter and derision rather than respect. Where once we were counted on by those who needed help, I feel like the same ones who once took advantage of our philanthropy have become vultures circling our slowly dying carcass.

What makes a country great, when all is said and done? I think it’s the people working together to build something strong and resilient, but most of all, compassionate. The compassion is the mortar which binds the bricks together. It makes us one with each other rather than a bunch of islands floating on an unforgiving, storm-tossed sea. It helps those who are struggling so they can once again become an active part of the community.

Yes, We’re Broken, But Can We Fix Ourselves Before It’s Too Late?

In that regard, we’re broken, and our patriotic cries are little more than idle chatter mixed with bravado. People are dying every day from neglect, abuse, and downright hate. We live in neighborhoods where we don’t know most of our neighbors, and when new people move in, they are already hard-wired to self-isolate. It takes a major trauma to bring us together and believe me, the last two aren’t something I want to see repeated any time soon. Their positive effects wore off soon enough anyway.

You might think if you’ve read this far that I’ve given up all hope for our nation to come back together; to work as a team; to be a great, productive, compassionate community again. In fact, I believe just the opposite. I see people doing amazing things, and despite the derogatory comments made about this generation or that, those positive, uplifting acts know no age barriers.

Creating Artificial Segregation recently pointed out that the names given to various generations are meaningless anyway, and solely for the purpose of market research (thus the advertising industry and media put us in yet another choke hold). I tend to agree. I’ve been hearing complaints blaming one generation or another most of my life, and I have to cry bullshit.

There’s simply no justification for attributing a particular type of behavior to an entire group of people born within a given span of years. We are unique individuals who’ve grown up with our own cross-section of stimuli. Even two people raised in the same household, heck, even twins will respond to the stimuli differently and grow up with different values and expectations.

My own twin daughters are as different as it’s possible for two people to be. One is socially conscious to a fault, loving, giving, and compassionate. She takes responsibility for her actions, sometimes excessively, and finds pleasure in giving back. The other is, in a word, entitled. She believes the world owes her, that I am responsible for all the trials and tribulations in her life, and uses anger, venom, and manipulation to get what she wants. The first is by far the stronger of the two, though growing up, it seemed like she was the weaker, the more compliant. In truth the deep-seated anger in my youngest daughter hides a very soft, frightened little girl who is, much like I used to be, afraid to let people see she’s not as strong as she wants them to believe.

Disengaging Our Emotions So We Respond Instead of Reacting

My own experiences have taught me to step back as much as possible when confronted by anger, hate, or worse, the deep depressive sadness of those who’ve given up hope. I’m learning to listen carefully, not only to the words, but to the emotions so I can try to understand what has led them to their emotionally charged and often logic-less beliefs in the first place. Why do they distrust a certain cultural or religious group who’s done nothing to deserve that distrust. Why do they, in fact, lump everyone in that group together instead of realizing they’re individuals with their own unique set of beliefs, qualities, and faults?

Where is the truth embedded in a series of emotionally charged lies and half-truths, and why are we being encouraged to jump on one emotional runaway train after another these days? Our reality has gotten so painful, I find I can’t even watch some of the TV shows I used to any more. I recently deleted shows like NCIS and Major Crimes from my DVR after trying to watch one episode, and shutting it off halfway as it made me feel so sick.

Making the Choice to Create a Compassionate World

What kind of world are we creating? What kind of nation are we living in where reality is harder to take than fiction? Where we escape into thrill-based fiction to make our reality seem less ugly. And why do symbols of patriotism; once a source of pride and gratitude now make me feel somehow soiled and embarrassed?

It seems I need to spend more time watching and reading stories about people who are taking steps to make things better instead of accepting the reality or joining marches. If you ask me, all of the “little guys and gals” who are quietly doing things to improve morale or living conditions, or building communities are the ones who will turn the tide and make patriotism meaningful again. They’re the ones who will wash out the stains, mend the tears, and create what we once were and can be again; strong, resilient, and compassionate. “With Liberty and Justice for All” with no exceptions.

Finding Gratitude No Matter What

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I can still speak my mind, even when it’s unpopular. Mine might not bring hate-filled messages like some who are standing up for inequities, but each voice for positive change matters.
  2. I am grateful for the insights I receive from seemingly innocuous stimuli.
  3. I am grateful for quiet days spent writing and thinking.
  4. I am grateful for a career which allows me to decide how I’m going to spend my day, and allows for a few side trips and distractions along the way.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, harmony, compassion, freedom, productivity, opportunities, incentives, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Watch my Facebook Live about Patriotism.

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.

Memories Stored On Calendars

Memories Give Us Pause

Every year at this time, I write a post of remembrance, but this year is a little different. On September 10th, I began thinking about all the dates on the calendar which make me stop for a moment and remember, not necessarily what is good and right in my world, but what I’ve lost, and how it has impacted the woman I am today.

March 12th was my mother’s birthday. She would be 84.

December 27th was the day she took her life. It will be 25 years this December.

September 28th was my father’s birthday. He would have been 87 this year.

And September 11th—for most people, the day we remember when terrorists took down the World Trade Center with a passenger plane full of people, and targeted the Pentagon with another. But for me and my daughters, the memory is quite different, and far more painful because for us, it’s personal.

Our Personal Sadness

On September 11, 2003, my father wrote a note to his girlfriend, smoked one last cigarette, put a gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. His girlfriend and best friend found him a couple of hours later when he missed the daily check-in call from the girlfriend and wasn’t answering her increasingly frantic voice mails.

Some people read my words and assure me the anger will pass, and that diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer he received 2 days before his death meant he wasn’t in his right mind. To them, I can honestly say, my anger over him leaving without saying goodbye to me, my daughters, my sister and my nephew has long passed. I understand why he did it. The only time I ever saw my father cry was after the long ordeal of watching his mother die of the same disease. In his position, I can’t say I’d have made a different choice.

At the time, I was less angry about the act, and more with the fact that it was just under 10 years since my mom had also checked out by her own hand. Her reasons have never really been as clear-cut as dad’s, but I’ve accepted the fact that she, too had her reasons. I’ve had nearly 25 years to learn, and at this point, probably millions of words I’ve penned to facilitate the healing process.

Time Heals, But Brings Clarity With It

My anger with my father takes a different direction now, and yet, it too is tempered with understanding. know he did the best he could with what he had and where he came from. In truth, I’m angrier with myself for playing his warped and twisted game for so long.

For most of my life, I was certain my dad not only loved me, but favored me over my sister. Maybe he did, but if so, it was for all the wrong reasons. My sister was wise to his manipulative games decades before I ever figured it out, and went her own way. She understood him better than I as she’s the one who is more like him. I mistakenly believed she favored mom until recently.

Both she and dad wore their cold, hard exteriors like armor, and used sarcasm as a shield. But there was (and in my sister’s case, probably still is) a level of bitterness beneath the armor which further shields from honest, messy emotions. As I’ve learned, though, it also shields from the good stuff; the love, joy, compassion, and empathy I’ve come to appreciate in myself.

Mom wore her heart on her sleeve, though she tried very hard to cover it up. Her efforts to belong, to fit in, to be accepted were often heartbreaking to watch. I hardened my own heart so I wouldn’t have to watch hers break over and over again. Maybe Dad did too?

A Conglomeration of All Who Came Before

As time goes on and the dates come and go bringing memories and new insights, I realize I’m a little like both of my parents, and a lot like neither. Much of the deviation though, has occurred in the last 10 years. Until then, I held everything in and stumbled through life with my feelings treated as unwelcome guests. That’s the way I was brought up, and the only way I knew.

But when I started writing; when the feelings I’d held in check at great cost came tumbling out onto the computer screen, I found a part of myself that resembled not only neither parent, but none of the family I’d once been close to either. I became an enigma, not because I had always been different, but because I was the first and maybe the only one to break out of the mold into which we’d all been cast.

I let go of the blame, the bitterness, and the need to hold a grudge. I forgave and learned to recognize the need to forgive myself most of all. Even now when I drag out old feelings and find they were buried in lies, I allow them to flow, then forgive all over again.

Letting My Pen Lance the Boils of My Hidden Emotions revelation about my relationship with Dad came during a free-writing session which began with a writing prompt. An otherwise benign prompt became a tear- and anger-filled rant about how badly he’d treated me all my life. It churned and boiled inside me for a little while. Now I realize he not only behaved as he’d been taught, but loved me as best he could. He made me strong and independent, maybe in the extreme. It has been up to me to find the balance. I had no good example to follow.

I’ve hypothesized I come from a long line of Empaths who closed themselves off rather than feel everything that bombarded them. The choice was made more from fear and lack of understanding than a lack of desire or inability to embrace the sensitivity and accept the responsibility this sometimes dubious gift requires.  More and more, I’m convinced that’s true. I’m certain Dad would have been a wreck trying to deal with all the angst I had as a teenager, or the misery I tried to hide during my marriage and divorce. He already knew how to close himself off, and used it to good purpose to protect his own delicate psyche. Mom spent her whole lifetime trying to fit in, yet always sensing negative thoughts and feelings, especially those directed at her personally.

Lack of understanding and an inability to filter out the negativity and even anger emitting from her close family must have been painful in the extreme. The alternate spirituality she tried to turn to and draw my sister into as well makes more sense as I continue clearing the muck from my own mind. In her own way she sought what I found when I learned, first to shield with outward facing mirrors, and later to filter with elemental assistance. My own early extreme shielding gives evidence to my early need to shut the outside voices and emotions off completely until I learned how to be selective about it.

Remembrance and Healing

The dates bring an upsurge of feelings and thoughts. But more than that, they bring opportunities for more healing, more understanding, and more forgiving. My parents weren’t perfect. Nobody’s are. But they weren’t horrific either. In some ways, they might have been ignorant to what they were doing to their offspring, but again, I think most parents are to some degree. They all do the best they can with what they’re given, and both of mine weren’t given a full toolbox in the first place. There were more empty spaces than full ones, and I don’t think they had a clue what was missing or how to find it. You can’t miss what you don’t know exists in the first place, right?

I’ve gone, in the last decade from angry to compassionate, to understanding to resigned, and a bunch of other things in between along the way. My journey won’t be done until I lay my own head down for the final sleep. That, too is as it should be.

We learn, we grow, we become stronger, and we become lighter Beings because of the experiences we have and how we learn to adapt and thrive from each one. When we allow the journey to continue unthwarted and to share what we’ve learned along the way, no matter how painful, we shine a light for others to follow, and perhaps learn and grow themselves. Throwing up walls as I did for so many years put the process on hold, and perhaps even gave me additional barriers to cross and lessons to learn.

I don’t regret any of the challenges life has thrown me. I don’t think I’d have ever come out from behind my walls without the gigantic kick in the pants my parents’ suicides gave me. I was lodged pretty solidly and needed what amounted to a volcanic eruption to get out of my own way. It wasn’t pretty, but then, most eruptions aren’t. It was exactly what I needed to become the person I was meant to be.

No regrets, no anger, no blame, and no illusions.

Infinitely Grateful For What I’ve Been Given; The Good, The Bad, and The Horrific

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve been given; the easy and the painful, they all made me grow.
  2. I am grateful I can take what I’ve learned and share it with others who might need to hear what I have to say.
  3. I am grateful for understanding friends, and even virtual strangers who find value in the sharing of my own life’s convoluted path.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to write at length on things which at one time (and sometimes still do) reduce me to a puddle of tears and misery. Only by continually wading through the emotional swamp can I clear it and make the land clean and ready for fresh growth.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; caring friends, loving children, a life that’s as people-y or non-people-y as I want it to be, days of quiet contemplation, joy, time spent with friends where love flows, and sadness is shared, inspiration, motivation, 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.

Elder Care: Privilege or Obligation?

The Child Becomes the Parent

These days as I watch friends and family addressing the challenges of caring for aging parents and all it entails I find myself listening to their words. The words they speak while caring for their parents become more poignant when the time for care taking ends and the time for grieving begins.

For some, it is truly an honor and a privilege to care for their parents in their final days, months, or years. Others seem to want accolades for being good sons or daughters. They want people to gather around as they expound on all they gave up to care for their parents. Some seek to justify their own self-care as a necessary part of the heavy load they’ve shouldered, as if self-care needs justification at any point in our lives. In fact, I believe it becomes more important when your energy is drained both emotionally and physically with elder care.

The words they use may sound the same, but the difference is in the inflection. For example.

“I gotta take care of them” vs “ I got to take care of them.”

The Holding Pattern of Terminal Illness and Infirmity

I understand in many cases someone has to put their own life on hold to see to the mountain of responsibility an aging and often physically or mentally ill parent requires. Some are able to share the load and are, I’m sure grateful for the help. Others take it all upon themselves, either by choice or financial considerations. Still, for some the choice is thrust upon them.

It’s not that those who need recognition love their parents any less. They simply have a tougher time coping with the loss of freedom.

My parents both spared me the need to make such a choice. As my sister has health issues of her own, it would all have fallen on me, and my life would have been significantly different than it is now. I admit I’d have been resentful of the intrusion and disruption of my life at a time when I was finally free of the responsibilities of raising my children. Having taken care of my mother when she had knee surgery years ago, I know what a pain in the ass she could be when ill. I shudder to think what she’d have been like if dementia was added to her already toxic mix of depression and what we suspect was bi-polar disorder.

A Lifelong Contentious Relationship Makes Resentment the Obvious Choice

I’d have been quite happy to put my mom in a home and visit her as infrequently as possible. At this, I really can’t say how I’d have felt about caring for my dad. His choice when faced with that eventuality makes it clear he’d have liked the arrangement even less than me.

Still, I have a great deal of respect for friends who, in their 50’s and 60’s have been thrust into a position as care taker just when they thought they could relax and enjoy their lives a little more. It has to be heartbreaking to watch once strong, capable people reverting to the helplessness of a child. It makes me especially grateful my parents spared me this life lesson. I’m not sure I’d have been up to the challenge, and the years I’ve spent turning my attitude around would certainly have taken a beating.

I’m also convinced I need to spare my own children the challenges and heartaches of caring for me if and when I go on a long, slow decline health-wise. Granted, I won’t make the rather drastic choice my dad did. I think two suicides are quite enough for this family to recover from. But I hope I’ll make some plans long before they’re necessary to take care of my own needs so my children can continue to live and enjoy their lives, visiting when they can, but not responsible for my health and well-being.

Doing Our Best to Spare Our Kids

I’m sure as parents, many try to plan for this eventuality. Many factors get in the way, most of them involving money. I see how all too often it martyrs one sibling or another. I don’t want that to happen to my daughters who even now don’t have much of a relationship despite being twins. I know which one would end up saddled with my care, and which would wait around for me to die so she could collect the inheritance she thinks she deserves.

It all makes me especially conscious of the ones who are taking the care of their parents seriously, and as a privilege. They willingly give up a lot, but still, I know it takes its toll. Old habits do die hard, and I was trained almost from the womb to never be a burden. Being one for my kids would probably kill me quickly anyway, so there is a bright side. They’d only have to bear the burden for a short time. It makes me see the loss of independence from both sides. I empathize not only with the children who must now care for parents, no longer the strong adults who have supported them all their lives. My heart also goes out to the parents who must depend on their children; must, whether they like it or not, be a burden. I’m sure it weighs on them heavily, and perhaps adversely effects their mood and personality in the process.

Understanding the Role We’re Given is the One We’re Best Equipped to Handle

The cycle of life can be unutterably cruel, even when it’s played out relatively normally. Some have the pleasure and privilege of having warm, supportive parents in their lives for many years. They ultimately have to watch their health decline towards the end with nothing to do but be loving and supportive. Others have parents who, like my mom thought criticism was how you showed you cared. I’ve seen friends trying to cope with old age and crankiness which worsens as mind and body fail. It’s not pretty and is emotionally devastating for the child. The parent will ultimately die. How long does it take for the children who did their best to make those last months or years comfortable to recover from the effects?

Not only do they subjugate their own needs while their parent needs help with practically everything, but the emotional strain of watching someone you’ve loved your entire life fade and suffer before your eyes adds to an already difficult situation. Sure, you could put them in a nursing home where their basic needs are met, but I haven’t talked to a single friend who went that route who didn’t end up spending a lot of time visiting and seeing to needs and wants nursing homes aren’t equipped to address. Some, I hear are worse than others in that respect. Again, money is often the driving force, and the indicator of time required on the part of the family.

Sometimes, There isn’t a Choice

And there are people like me who lose their parents before they’re old enough to need care. It might be disease, or accident. Both leave their own brand of emotional wreckage behind. Then, there are those who left of their own volition like my parents. That wound heals and reopens numerous times. In the end though, I’m filled with gratitude that the only life I’m going to be responsible for from here on out is my own, unless there’s someone in my future I’ve yet to recognize as partner material. In that case though it would be my choice, not an obligation.

Finding Reasons To Be Grateful No Matter What

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the hand I was dealt. I got to spend the last couple of decades learning compassion instead of harboring resentment.
  2. I am grateful for the example set by loving, compassionate friends.
  3. I am grateful for the balance I’ve found in my life. I may not be wildly successful, but I will never be a failure as long as I keep trying.
  4. I am grateful for ideas that flood my morning pages, the Notes app on my phone, and random bits of paper and sticky notes on my desk. I’ll never lack for something to write about.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, joy, compassion, love, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, 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.

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