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

Posts tagged ‘darkness’

Christmas: Healing and Moving Forward

Healing: My Greatest Miracle

Christmas this year brings up a lot of emotions. I can’t help thinking back to last year when my entire community and family were reeling, not only from the murder of 12 amazing members of our dance family, but the brutal wild fires that ripped through our area the next day, leaving many temporarily displaced or homeless.

If that wasn’t enough, I lost my sweet Munchkin; another victim to feline lymphoma. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a Christmas around here. I didn’t even go to my daughter’s as I usually do.

But it’s another year. A lot of healing has occurred; a lot of joy has been found in connections, new dance venues, and shifting priorities. New friendships have formed, and old ones have strengthened. Many of my friends are now couples as they’ve let go of old beliefs and embraced love and connection. Before you ask, I’m still flying solo, at least for the moment.

Embracing Change

This has been a year for making changes, most of them internally. I’ve focused on writing more, and putting my work out into a wider arena. I’ve gone out into the world to dance in venues new to me, though apparently, old news to many of my dance family. In the process, I’ve even reconnected with old friends.

So often, tragedy brings people together, though in my experience, it’s often temporary. Though it’s flung my dance family far and wide, in the general scheme of things, I believe it’s brought us closer together too. We saw how quickly things could change, realized how important we are to each other, and how much joy we share. We learned how much we’d taken things for granted, despite losing several of our clan in the last few years to cancer, suicide, and more.

Every day; every hour; every minute is truly a gift, whether it’s spent alone, with our pets, or with a person or people we love. The hugs I’ve always loved giving and receiving take on a whole new level of importance now; a new sweetness in the exchange. The person I’m hugging may need the hug more than I know. Life might be kicking their butt while they show the world a smiling face.

Allowing Myself to Need Other People

healing with hugsOr I might be the one needing that hug while wearing a smile. It doesn’t really matter. The hugs are heartfelt and filled with love no matter what, and the exchange makes the worlds of all participants brighter. In a lot of ways, it makes the whole world brighter as we add another injection of love and joy to help push back the darkness.

Light and dark can’t inhabit the same space any more than two physical objects or beings can. The more light we create through our actions and thoughts, the less room we leave for the darkness which creeps insidiously into any crack or crevice it can find.

Being a Light in the Darkness

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t spent time in a dark place thinking they were all 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-9BUEValone in their sadness; their misery. Many come out of it on their own, but the process of emerging back into a place of light and joy is expedited by the love and care of others. I read stories all the time of people who emerged on their own, and I’m one of them.

Am I proud I managed to emerge on my own without help? Not really. I’m grateful, but not really proud of eschewing all help and keeping other people out for as many years as I did. Granted, I didn’t know any better. It’s how I was raised. How my parents, and probably their parents before them were raised too. Perhaps there was a time when keeping struggles within was necessary for survival, but that time is long gone. Yet I had to figure that out for myself.

What I can say is I’ve made a lot more progress not only leaving my own darkness behind, but finding and exuding joy since I began allowing others to help, even if it was something as simple as a heartfelt hug. Then again, is a heartfelt hug that simple?

A Hug is Powerful Medicine

I still have friends who struggle with giving heart and soul to a hug. They’ll give a little scratch on the back, or a quick squeeze. I get it. It’s an intimate act when you put everything into it. Some aren’t ready to open themselves up that way. Others do it selectively. I’m selective about it myself, only going all in when I feel safe with someone.

Nonetheless, the mere act of hugging, whether full on, or with reservations is an act of love and trust. Like love and trust, we all give it when and where we feel comfortable doing it. I certainly don’t open my heart to everyone (except maybe on these pages where I’m safe behind my screen), and don’t expect others to either.

Sharing those intimate pieces of ourselves takes courage. I certainly have my share of trust issues after getting burned many times before I shut down completely. But like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, I’ve slowly learned to attract people I can trust enough to allow them to see my pure, unadulterated self.

Sure, it’s been a rocky road where I trusted a few I shouldn’t have, but each time I’ve retreated, it hasn’t been as far, nor for as long as it used to be. The value of evolution is learning when and where to trust, but also how to heal more quickly when I misplace that trust.

The Mating Game Goes On Around Me

It also means I can feel joy for friends who’ve found a mate without feeling envy https://www.flickr.com/photos/34167287@N05/23787059822/in/photolist-CeYUa5-f3skzG-26xyyFN-8Uqt6v-7RUJnT-5631Bv-9KzjET-otM3UU-9KC7p3-6EcqkE-rtobLr-5xx9XP-7Bj5nM-4JDZ1E-21oAHiQ-7Csyge-7YZVSv-7Z4a4L-7Z4a5b-4Btbxi-5m1iya-i54aYC-4BxARm-i54aXq-YA2ERd-4kmex7-WgVGRw-8GceK9-i548Lu-6m1sit-ospDf4-58cZtS-i54b7d-ggwmL-cKWfHj-bg5Uu-bsSgAg-8GcvXA-q68RzV-4fFkFc-e3cS7q-aQ7Ph-bg8hZ-q6pHnG-4VXWUt-dYksek-277AbZE-4VWArR-4VXUXR-2b2aNGJas well. There was a time I’d tell myself I was meant to be alone, and that I was OK with the idea. I’m starting to release that notion, though it’s happening in small steps.

First, I can see myself in a committed relationship, but still maintaining separate households and a fair amount of time alone. I recognize I need the space not only to recharge, but to create. I can start a draft of something in a crowd, but to truly get into the writing zone, I need ample time in my own company when I don’t feel obliged to give someone else my attention.

Whoever is meant to come into my life in that capacity will need to understand and accept that aspect of me. More, he’ll need the same kind of space. Hopefully, the timing of those needs will coincide at least part of the time.

Second, I realize I could go further, faster with regular encouragement, and even a kick in the butt or two. I’d love to have someone in my life who recognized that and was there to drag me out of those periods of sloth I sometimes fall into—far more often than I care to admit.

And third, I no longer see myself as an island who stands free and strong alone. I know I need people; not to make me whole, but to round out my life and world. I don’t feel envy for my coupled up friends because the person each of them is with is perfect for them, not me. I do feel a certain amount of wistfulness if only because I still have trouble picturing myself in the arms of someone who loves and cherishes me the way I want and need to be loved and cherished.

Learning to Love and Be Loved

I guess in some ways I am caught up in old patterns when I turned myself inside out to keep a dysfunctional relationship going longer than necessary. I’m a little afraid I’ll do that again, though I like to think I know better now.

Once again, I’ve talked myself around in a weird kind of circle. What I’ve learned in the last year is how much we all deserve to be loved and cherished, and how much better alone is than being in a one-sided relationship. In the last year, I’ve had the privilege of seeing a lot of beautiful relationships grow and thrive, as well as getting a closer look at those which have lasted decades.

The examples of the last year are slowly pushing the old, broken ones I learned from my birth family away; replacing dysfunctional with warm, loving, and beautiful. I’m honored to have the opportunity to see so much love first-hand, though somewhat saddened it took a series of tragedies to open my eyes and heart enough to see and appreciate what’s been there all along.

With Heartfelt Gratitude for All I Know and Love

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for friendships which have deepened and grown.
  2. I’m grateful for life’s earthquakes which shake old, broken parts loose for good.
  3. I’m grateful for hugs.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve found people to accept and love me as I am, broken, clumsy, and awkward as I might be at times. Who know I’m still learning how to be human, and don’t hold it against me.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, hugs, acceptance, compassion, understanding, giving, receiving, dancing, new beginnings and endings in their time, peace, 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

Mired in Negative Energy, Looking For Solutions

Recognizing Energy Drains

As more time passes and the dancers are scattering further across the available venues within 100 miles of #Borderline I’m seeing a palpable difference in our habitual positive energy. Many of us are quick to find reasons why an alternative location won’t work instead of looking for ways to be happy and engaged no matter what.

I’ve fallen victim to the malaise myself, discounting an old club where I used to dance for any and all reasons, good or terrible. Sure, I’ve found places I like to be even if they’re not optimal. But no one place makes our entire group happy any more. What some of us find enjoyable, others find reasons to dislike, often sight unseen. Again, I’m as guilty as the next person.

One thing is certain. It’s making me sad to see my family fragmented in this way; unhappy with no good solution in our foreseeable future. It’s not that people aren’t trying to find solutions which work for everyone. But really, how is that possible short of turning back time and making it so the shooting never happened? We’re all carrying around feelings we don’t express, often because we’re still confused and trying to come to terms with our own loss; our own grief.

Replacing the Irreplaceable

I know a huge part is the uniqueness of Borderline. Windows all around so we could see when the sun set, the moon rose, the weather outside, even traffic on the freeway. Missing too is our twice-weekly dose of youthful energy. As much as so many of the younger crowd ignored dance floor etiquette in their youthful exuberance, they could be forgiven because of the joy and carefree-ness the injected into our home; the place we all came to dance.

By contrast, our temporary home, while welcome, is dark and cave-like. The black-painted walls and ceilings disappearing into the darkness, the tables so spread out and separated by space that the closeness, the intimacy we took for granted is elusive at best. I no longer wander the room connecting with my friends. Everyone has formed groups which are no longer as open and welcoming. It feels instead like we’re all holding on for dear life and frankly, slipping deeper into the abyss for all our efforts. It scares me to see us falling into such disarray so quickly.

Finding an Island in Our Sea of Darkness

Created with CanvaThe one place I believe the feelings are still holding is the paltry, one-night-a-month gathering we’re allowed at the winery which so graciously hosted us in November and December. Though they’ve expressed a willingness to host us more often, out of respect for Borderline’s owner, we’re only taking advantage of the offer once a month.

But Thursday nights at the venue he’s secured don’t work for a lot of the older crowd because it’s at least an hour away for those of us either close to, or West of our dance home. I’m not alone in my unwillingness to spend an hour or more in rush hour traffic to dance on a sticky floor when I could have been dancing on the winery’s more knee-friendly one. I feel bad not supporting the staff during the shut-down, but as a better alternative is available closer to home, I’m doing what most of us do and looking out for myself (and my poor, abused knees) first.

Weakening Old Familiar Bonds

In the process of figuring out and meeting my own needs, the part which saddens me most is it https://www.flickr.com/photos/genomegov/27861478565/in/photolist-36R456-TVEoV3-7Wybvd-4WUnY9-5fFekL-UxPtrE-JXsDow-JXsDFW-5xxC-i6g81S-pj2KGy-RqtEwb-3bW8wG-aiBE4-21HP7o-7WuXxi-a87gs-v23FG1-e5Ta5U-8hAaU2-7CJgqt-4RTmW-6VGoa4-21HP7G-bKycpP-bwDtbf-rBr5w5-Js2mU6-4RTmT-bKycvn-6nNpdg-dtid4-5hSULN-8qeqEZ-vi6Sx1-vi6iuY-v2adQn-vi6nRJ-vi5UuQ-v23BpL-umARN9-v23yrQ-umAZaJ-wkdd7E-daLc3v-bwDtvf-aLErhv-a3Giyp-9oXUVB-7S9ue4seems I’m leaving some of my old friends behind. As we split apart based on our dancing preferences (predominantly couples dancing with some line dancing mixed in vs. predominantly line dancing with some couples dancing) we spend less time together. Our regular dance nights of Thursday and Saturday are difficult to maintain, especially Saturdays. Thursdays, though they’re mid-week seem to be easier to fill for some reason, so we’re challenged to find places for Saturdays which suit more of us, or doing something else entirely.

Lest you think I’m giving up, willingly allowing it all to slip away, let me assure you, nothing is further from the truth. I’ve seen some excessively late nights when I joined a group traveling to a club over an hour away which has an amazing dance floor. The patrons and staff has opened their arms to us homeless ones. I’ve stayed out far later than I’m used to as part of a carpool which likes to stay well past midnight as opposed to my usual 10 or 10:30.

Creating Our Own Alternatives

I visit the club created for us as a temporary home and on a night which had typically been “College Night”, dancing selectively to spare my knees and doing my best to stay connected with those I see less often now. Granted, I don’t go every week, but at least once or twice a month; sometimes more.

And I either hold or participate in gatherings at peoples’ houses where we talk, laugh, eat, and maybe play board games. I’m also there when one of the dance instructors graciously opens their home to the dancers. In fact, those are often my favorites, second to the dances at the winery. It’s a time when we can all connect and try to make up for the times in between when we’re so far apart, and not just physically.

We’re all adjusting, while we continue to hope police reports, insurance claims, and lawsuits are resolved sooner than later so our home, or a reasonable facsimile can once again host us on Thursdays and Saturdays. So our lives can, with dancing at least, return to some kind of normal. The dancing we do now is healing. But I believe the healing process will be greatly enhanced when we can at least get back to our regular nights, in a regular place with the staff we’re used to seeing every week. At least those who remain.

Always Finding Reasons to be Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the strength and resilience of the dance community.
  2. I am grateful for the efforts of all concerned to get things back to normal.
  3. I am grateful for my friends, the circle that was, and the circle that is now.
  4. I am grateful for routines I’ve set for myself; gym, writing, working, meditation. They all serve to keep me grounded when my world is tilted off-kilter.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, dancing, inspiration, hope, confidence, dreams, visions, opportunities, 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

What Do You Do When Your Happy Is Gone?

Author’s Note: I wrote this in that often dark time between Christmas and New Year’s when so many people suffer from depression, and feel lost and alone. I wrote it for myself to help me start climbing out of my funk, but also for anyone who also experiences sadness and loneliness, not only at this time of year, but any other time too. We all have someone who cares, even if we don’t think we do, and we need to reach out to them when we’re feeling down. They want to help, but don’t always know we need it, or will even accept it. I urge you to let your friends and family see when you’re hurting instead of feeling like you have to hide it. You’ll be glad you did.

Nothing to Be Happy About

I’ve lost my happy. As I mope around the house, sometimes for days on end, I’m disinclined to even change out of my pajamas unless I’m going to the gym or to a relocated dance night. Even then, I often have to argue with myself before I get dressed and moving. I haven’t used the word “fantastic” or even “great” when someone asked me how I am in what seems like ages. The best people get out of me these days is “OK”, and it’s because I’m anything but. I see no reason to drag anyone down by telling them the truth. For those who know me, “OK” says it all anyway, as they keep checking in on me.

I know it started the night we lost 12 beautiful souls at the hands of a troubled young man; the night we lost more than just 12 innocents who were known for making this world better for many. We lost the place where we gather, where we unwind, where we de-stress, and where we knew we’d give and receive many warm, heartfelt hugs twice a week without fail. We lost our home.

The owner of the club is still talking about re-opening, some way, some how. But when, or even where is still a huge question; our own elephant in the room.

Insidious, Unseen Happiness Thieves

If this single event was the thief of my happiness, I might have found it by now; in the strengthening bonds, the shared hope, the resilience of our family, and the extraordinary heart and spirit of the families who lost children, brothers, husbands, sons, daughters. But it goes so much deeper for me right now.

My world is turned upside down by many things. I lost my sweet girl, Munchkin in December. I increased my debt significantly, but my income is still falling far behind. The 25th anniversary of the day my mom’s unhappiness got the best of her; the day she got tired enough of being unhappy and left us forever, came and went without a single thought until days later. A quarter of a century without my mom. Most of the dissension we shared is long forgotten, or at least the reasons we were so at odds. I don’t exactly miss her. I miss having a mom though. The mom I didn’t really have.

Empathic Cats Offer Comfort Wherever They Can

Even seemingly stupid stuff is getting to me now. I curled up on the guest room bed because I felt lousy and didn’t feel like doing any of my usual things. I didn’t have the energy to clean or the focus to read or even watch TV.

Pyewacket and Tiana

As I pulled the soft blanket Heather got me for Christmas up over my shoulders, I felt tears prickling the back of my eyes. The last time I did that, Munchkin came bounding in, her little bell jingling, knowing there was snuggling ahead. A little over a year ago, she’d have been joined by Toby stomping all over me until he found a good position laying across my body, and Dylan who’d walk across my pillow and lick my cheek. Now, only Dylan is left of the older cats, and he’s doing his best to comfort me when I’m not really ready to let go and be comforted.

Mulan and Dylan

Fortunately, the cats understand better than I realize. Pyewacket joined us, crawling under the blanket and snuggling for a little while. Mulan came in too and even refrained from stomping all over me, demanding attention. She simply curled up beside me, offering comfort. Even shy, skittish Tiana who I often mistook for Munchkin until I got a closer look has found a jingle ball and plays with it in the middle of the night, as if to remind me Munchkin’s love lives on in my heart and home. I love and appreciate those who are still here, but I miss the two who brought so much love into my life, and died way too soon. I can’t help missing them, any more than I can stop the tears from flowing whenever something reminds me of all they gave, and all I’ve lost.

I know Dylan feels the losses as much as I do. He hardly leaves my side any more, and seems distressed when I leave the house, even for an hour or two. We spend a lot of time sitting together, comforting each other, and grieving.

Healthy Routines Aren’t Always Enough

If that wasn’t enough to make me struggle to regain my former happy, cheerful self, I learned my blood pressure is now in the unhealthy range. I informed my doctor’s PA I would, under no circumstances take medication to reduce it, so I’ve had to make some significant changes to my eating habits instead. The hardest has been giving up my morning coffee. I’m hoping it’s only temporary. Green tea is OK, but it doesn’t have the strength of a good cup of coffee.

Scrappy Doo

Scrappy Doo

More exercise would help too, but getting myself out of the house for anything but my pre-set routines is nearly impossible. Lately, my laundry consists of workout clothes, pajamas, and the shorts I wore on the few nights I did dance. And cat purrs. Lots and lots of cat purrs.

Dimming My Light

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQMy bright colored blouses hang on the rack collecting dust. When I do go out, I’m either wearing a black t-shirt commemorating the fateful night, or something else that lets me blend into the crowd. Wearing bright colors doesn’t feel good right now.

When I do go dancing and talk turns to next year’s line dance cruise, I feel even more alone and left out. My current finances won’t allow an expenditure like that, or another much-needed writer’s conference, for that matter.

That’s not to say things aren’t improving a bit, but it seems like for every windfall, I’ve had extra expenses as well. And when I have a large expenditure like Munchkin’s vet bills, there’s no offsetting gain.

I know a lot of it is my mindset. Although I’m starting to attract more notice and more interest from my target audience (read, people who could use my particular type of writing skills and can afford to pay for them), the process is slow since I am still learning the marketing ropes. Again, I know I’m improving with a lot of help from my coach. But the holidays and Munchkin created a hiatus of nearly a month so I’m going to have to recapture some of the momentum. Still, the negative voices, imposter syndrome, and sheer ennui keep getting in the way. I stumble over my own feet too often.

Temporary Down Turns and Lights in the Darkness

I’m grateful I recognize this unhappiness as not only temporary, but uncharacteristic. I know I can fix it, and that I don’t have to fix it alone. Right now, I feel adrift, alone in a storm mostly of my own making, But I also know I won’t remain here, if for no other reason than I won’t allow it.

I see the lack of appetite as an asset as it’s helping me lose some of the weight I’ve put on because I’m not dancing as much. The high blood pressure keeps me from eating the salty snacks I was eating while mindlessly glued to the television. Without them, I rarely eat after dinner even if my stomach starts to growl. I’ve had to find a recipe for the amazing lentil soup I was buying from Trader Joe’s, but which has too much sodium for my new lifestyle. I’m looking forward to adding to my freezer stock soon. In spite of myself, I’m developing healthier habits again, and I know I can re-balance my system without artificial and potentially harmful means.

Being Sad Without Guilt

Right now, I’m allowing myself to be sad. I’m establishing new relationships with the younger cats as they do their best to fill the enormous holes Munchkin and Toby left. I also realize the best way to help myself is to help others, and am looking for ways to do that.

I know the pain, the hurt, and the loneliness I’m feeling right now will ultimately fade and I’ll find my happy again. I’ve learned it might take time, and it can’t be rushed. Times of pain and sadness are part of our process; part of our evolution. We have to walk through the storm in order to find and appreciate the sunshine. I guess I’ve yet to tire of the storm enough to move towards the sunshine. But I will. I always do.

Gratitude: One of the Best Healers

  1. I am grateful for friends who understand that “OK” isn’t a good place for me.
  2. I am grateful for my cats who demand little and give so much.
  3. I am grateful for my writing as it gives me an outlet for my deepest, darkest places so they don’t fester and become toxic.
  4. I am grateful for all of the people who are finding ways to keep us together and dancing.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, laughter, friendship, vulnerability, caring, sharing, giving, receiving, introspection, opportunities, challenges, inspiration, 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

When Life Gives You Manure, Grow Vegetables and Share Them

Using the Manure That’s Been Slung to Good Purpose

The last year has seen a dramatic increase in hate-filled exhibitions and exhortations, all to support someone else’s agenda than the perpetrators (with a notable exception or two). Much of it has been stirred up for a purpose which, even now, I don’t think most people can see. The biggest casualty has been to the belief we are all part of the same community called Humanity. Hasn’t enough manure been slung already? If you ask me, there’s enough to grow vegetables for the entire world!

I’ve seen this happen on a small scale such as a woman’s response to one of my Next Door posts in which she called me an outsider because I don’t live in her artificially elevated housing development located less than 2 miles from my own humble tract. I’ve seen it on a larger scale in the increase in hate crimes at our colleges and universities, and in elementary school children spouting sexist propaganda. Someone even tried to tell me they get it from their teachers!

But I’ve also seen an increase in posts and articles about love and hope. We are all in this together, like it or not, so why not make it easier on ourselves by choosing to help rather than hinder, or worse, tear each other down?

We Have a Choice to Spread Love and Positivity or Hate and Negativity. Which Will You Choose?

This quote appeared on my Facebook news feed yesterday, and I believe it sums up where we are quite succinctly.

-When great evil occurs, great good follows -Nichiren Daishonin

Think about it. In recent years, when terrorists took over airplanes and flew them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, what happened?

In my neighborhood alone, neighbors who’d never even talked before came together. And it was true in communities all over the country. People came together with compassion and love. They offered encouragement, support and a sense of unity for the people in our country. The cooperative zeal lasted for a while, but without adequate fuel, people soon returned to their predominantly self-involved lives. The truth is, as a group, we humans lack the internal motivation to help other people just because we can.

Unfortunately, to inspire such cooperation typically requires a traumatic event and a major upheaval. What we’re facing now is considerably well thought out and insipid as hell. I’m not alone in feeling frightened by its very insidiousness.

Fear and hatred are what feed this beast. Divisiveness is its ultimate goal. As long as we’re afraid…yes, afraid to help our neighbors, the beast will win. The next Holocaust will be upon us before we even realize it, and we’ll be sucked into its gaping maw with little or no resistance.

We All Have Gifts. It’s Our Choice to Use Them, Abuse Them or Ignore Them.

Fortunately, there are many who are not letting fear paralyze them. Who are not willing to watch their neighbors face unchecked abuse while mistakenly thinking Thank goodness it’s not me. It will never happen to me. I, for one, applaud those who aren’t afraid or unwilling to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of someone they don’t even know. I’m not that brave.

But I won’t be an ostrich either, burying my head in the sand, never realizing how easy I’m making it for someone to come by and sever my head from my body. We each have our gifts, our tools with which we can spread a different message; a message of hope, love and global community. My gift is words, and I would be dishonoring that gift if I remained silent right now. I would be tossing that gift back in the Universe’s face if I chose not to use it to do good. In so doing, I would truly become unworthy of achieving my dream of becoming both a published author and a motivational speaker. I can’t, nay, I won’t take that risk.

I raised my children to appreciate any and all gifts and compliments, no matter how small. How can I not do the same? This gift of mine is huge, though it took me years to acknowledge both its existence and its purpose. With it, I add my voice to those who may be braver than I. I lend my support in a manner I know well, despite the fact, or maybe because it pushes me out of my own comfort zone. And I’ll use it to urge others to do the same.

Whether it’s wearing a safety pin on your shirt to show you’re a safe place for the oppressed (and thanks to my friend Lorna, I’ll be carrying several with me to share with other like-minded people), stepping in when you see someone being abused or taken advantage of, or simply sharing words of hope and encouragement. Please believe it all helps.

Random Acts of Kindness help. Paying it Forward helps. Sharing articles written both by supporters and groups being targeted helps. Be the one small drop in the sea of humanity which causes the ripple of love and healing. And if the messages I’m sharing here resonate, please share my posts as well.

Sometimes, the Answer You Seek Can Be Found in the Words of Others. The Answer Guides You to Be Part of the Change.

My friend Peter has been sharing a lot of very interesting and thought provoking work lately. I shared one of them in my last post, and share another today. This one really gave me a clearer perspective of the ramifications of the events of the last year or so which culminated last Tuesday. I encourage you to read it and to do so with an open mind and a receptive heart. Seven Thoughts on Waking up in Our America

I have my prejudices. We all do. That doesn’t mean we have to listen to them. To let them guide our actions. Before you generalize an ethnic or religious group; a gender or lifestyle; or anything different from yourself, take a moment to stop and breathe. Take a moment to look past the outer covering; the clothing, the flesh. You’ll likely find a heart which is either filled with love, or longing to be loved. Just like you and me. Even those spouting hurtful and hateful things have a heart capable of loving, and likely do love, if selectively right now.

At any time, we are being called to both the darkness and the light. The darkness is a tricky bastard though, and adept at masking its true purpose. Sometimes, it takes a light shined by someone else to pierce its veil. Some of us need to be that light in the darkness. Some of us need to put aside our own feelings and just shine with no agenda and no force behind our light except love. If we shine brightly enough, consistently enough, those who have been misled will find their way back. It’s not for us to push them. It’s only for us to light the path so they can find their way to it on their own.

Above All, Express Your Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the wonderful gift I’ve been given, and for the courage to use it.
  2. I am grateful for all of the people who have the courage to speak even when faced with darkness or a blank wall of hate.
  3. I am grateful for the people who are reading my words, and hope they will share the ones they think will help others.
  4. I am grateful for my own ever-expanding circle of friends who have learned to give and receive love, and from whom I learn something new each and every day.
  5. I am grateful for hope. It truly is an eternal flame.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Image courtesy of Don McCullough via Flickr

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