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

Posts tagged ‘family’

Living My Truth and Accepting the Rifts

Rifts for a Reason

solitudeMy family has always been a hornet’s nest of rifts, and landmines of drama. From my grandmother’s stories of the people who’d wronged her, and were expunged from her life forever, to the ones I’ve had with my mother, sister, and daughter, I’ve managed to keep the tradition going, but for vastly different reasons. In truth, I’ve had little contact with my mother’s side of the family in more than 20 years, and mention it on occasion. I say that with no little irony.

If I’m being honest, I’ve had even less contact with my dad’s side, though in their case, I think it was circumstance more than anything else. Mom was the driving force over which side of the family we saw more of, so dad’s got short shrift. When my grandfather died in 1987, I lost contact with that side of the family aside from brief interchanges through my dad. I remember them, for the most part as a fun-loving, driven bunch; a family who emigrated from Russia in the late 1800’s and went on to yield business owners, and educated, successful progeny, but put little time or effort into emotional ties.

Things were always more volatile in mom’s family, and often, not in a good way. The infighting I didn’t understand as a child became more noticeable, and uncomfortable as I grew older. With mom gone, I guess I saw no reason to keep trying, and neither did any of the cousins. We went our separate ways without so much as a backward glance. 20 years later, a few reconnected, but when it became abundantly clear I’d grown away from the family’s prescribed modes of behavior, I’m convinced both sides of the equation agreed we’d made the right decision when we first became estranged. At the risk of sounding cliche, the sleeping dogs were better off being allowed to lie.

Remembering the Old, Honoring the New

A lot of people have come and gone through my life these 60-odd years. Looking back, I’m surprised to see how many considering the number of years I lived an almost hermit-like existence. It seems I emerged often enough to touch and be touched by more lives than I realized. A few have remained for decades, but other than immediate family, most came and went within a single decade—the majority of them, far less.

Looking back, as I do with decreasing frequency, I recognize the ones who hung around longer, but more, those who’ve done so by choice rather than family obligation. I also admit the rifts, whether initiated by me, someone else, or both of us were necessary, and aren’t meant to be reversed. On more than one occasion, I’ve tried to re-engage. It never ended well. In hindsight, I’d have been better served leaving the past in the past, but those attempts gave me the information I needed to learn the lesson well enough to recognize it wasn’t worth repeating in most cases.

As with anything, there are a couple of exceptions which brought people back into my life in a completely different capacity. I treasure those friendships for the rule breakers they are, and the gifts they brought into my life the second time around. I’m also grateful my rules hadn’t become hard and fast before they returned, or I might have rejected their overtures to my own detriment.

Looking Back and Letting Go family, on the other hand, are strangers now. I don’t know their kids, or relate to any of the journeys they’ve taken in their lives. There’s no common ground with which to even start a conversation. Though it’s sad, I don’t believe any of us are really lacking for each others’ absence. It’s simply become what is, and ultimately, what it was meant to be.

I look at it now and think if the rifts were meant to be mended, we’d have found a way to do so before they became the uncrossable chasms they are now. Any bridges we might have had, or common ground we might have shared have been lost to the years in-between; my own personal Dark Ages, to no one’s disappointment. I doubt there’s a single person willing to put forth the effort to rebuild a single bridge or reconnect a broken tie. If there’s anything to gain by making the effort, I can no longer see it.

I know this sounds abominably sad, but the truth is, we all filled the space the others left in our lives with new family members via marriages and births, and an extended family of friends who share our values and beliefs. I choose to believe it was meant to be this way, and my mom’s untimely death launched a chain of events leading to now that was anything but arbitrary.

A Launching Pad and Nothing More

I never felt I fit in with my family in the first place, nor did my mom. At this stage in my life, I realize they were simply the vehicle through which I came back into the world, and were never meant to partner me through the entire journey. I was meant to break away and find my own path—a path far different than what they knew or understood. Perhaps I even saw it coming as a teenager, but wasn’t yet ready to set off on my own without the safety net of family, even if mine was fraught with holes and strife.

In a lot of ways, I can see now the rift was built into my life from birth, but widened as I grew older, and chafed under the unspoken set of rules I was expected to follow (and rarely understood). A part of me knew I had to find a way to break away from those constricting, yet familiar rules and mores. Fear of being alone was probably the single biggest factor in making me hold on for longer than I should have. Mom’s suicide was definitely the kick in the pants I needed to finally let go of what no longer worked—what in all honesty never worked, nor was it meant to.

I understand now I had to leave the nest, the known, in order to find my authentic self, and learn to be true to her. Nothing and no one was, or ever will be more important than living for myself first and foremost.

Gratitude is My Comfort and My Friend

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I’m on a journey to find and embrace my authentic self.
  2. I’m grateful for all the friends and family, both present and past who have helped my on my journey.
  3. I’m grateful for all the kicks in the pants, and Universal head slaps that have knocked me clean out of my comfort zone.
  4. I’m grateful for the family that brought me into this world, then launched me out on my own.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, authenticity, vulnerability, joy, sorry, challenges, frustrations, lessons, character, independence, support, community, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income.

If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Is Being Vulnerable Crazy?

Living Where Vulnerable Was a Bad Thing many from my generation, I wasn’t raised to be open and honest. Instead, I was taught the world was a cruel place, and sharing your feelings was an invitation for abuse. Unfortunately, the Empath in me writhed in pain having to hold my very essence deep inside. I built walls around my heart, and locked my soul in what would ultimately prove to be a Pandora’s box awaiting the right moment to explode into a veritable flood of unprocessed sewage filled with long-suppressed emotions.

For decades, I had no idea why I felt like a square peg in a round hole, not only with my family, but everywhere I went. All I knew was there didn’t seem to be any place I fit, and the faulty belief system I was raised with forced me to believe the problem was with me. Somehow, I was sharing too much, being too honest. Most of the time, I vacillated between feeling like a crumbling wall held together with spit and sealing wax, and a raw, festering wound where my feelings oozed out unprotected, and stinking with infection.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I asked “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I make friends? Why do I always end up alone, or the butt of someone’s cruel joke?”

Fitting In While Honoring Self

Every so often, I’d find someplace I seemed to fit, but it didn’t last. I had a foot in two different, and incompatible worlds, and didn’t know how to break free of the one that was slowly killing the person inside; the person I was meant to be. I remember attending a party with the meditation group I’d joined. One woman said to me: “You’re so buttoned up. I’d just like to pull you apart and break you free.” I found her comment hurtful at the time, and it was probably the reason I later pulled back from people who might truly have helped me pull my foot out of the world where I was born, but didn’t belong.

In those days, I dressed conservatively, typically in oversized shirts and long pants, and wore my hair pulled tightly back from my face. Though I was slowly learning to be whoever I was and not what I thought others expected, I had a long way to go before I left my ill-fitting shell behind. The woman’s assessment was not far off the mark, if delivered rather tactlessly. It did teach me to look beneath the surface, and refrain from judging people by what they allowed the world to see (I later learned she hid her own pain as her marriage was crumbling).

Nowadays, I believe letting people see my true, honest, vulnerable self is not only a right but a responsibility. I’ve learned it’s the only way to form deep, loving, lasting connections. And it led me to follow Brene Brown whose upbringing wasn’t so different from mine when it came to having a healthy emotional life. It’s made me look back at my own life, and estranged family and realize there was never anything wrong with me at all. It was about going out into the world, shedding a lot of preconceived ideas, and finding my own, true tribe.

Validating Feelings

Unfortunately, I had to marry a man who was more like my family than I realized, and who, like them abused alcohol to unsuccessfully hide from the part of himself that was the most honest and real. To my credit, it only took me 10 years to realize I’d made a poor choice, and to take steps to fix it. Learning to open up came several years later, but getting out of a world where suppressing my emotions was considered normal was the first step.

My parents were both long gone before I truly started figuring it out, though my dad was still alive when I first began to emerge. The more comfortable I became with my feelings, the further apart we grew. I realize now I made him uncomfortable. He, too was raised to keep his feelings stuffed inside, and often used a phrase I’d come to hate when my ex used it on our daughters:

“You shouldn’t feel like that.”

I assured my girls their feelings were their own, and didn’t have an on/off switch, but it took a long time for me to recognize it was true for me as well. I’d heard it so many times, and learned to buy into it in exchange for what I mistakenly believed was love and acceptance, that it was hard to shed. Doing so meant, in my confused mind I was no longer lovable or acceptable to my family. Eventually, I had to come to terms with it, since it’s become my reality, and ultimately my salvation.

Shedding an Unwieldy Burden

At times, I stop and think about how much of a burden I dropped when I no longer felt compelled to live by the standards I was raised with, or seek the approval of people who would always find me lacking. Yet since I stopped trying to maintain bonds that were never tight or enduring in the first place, I honestly haven’t noticed a gap in my life where those bonds should have been. Their lives and mine have taken completely different trajectories, and I’m OK with that. They were a part of my life as long as they were supposed to be, and that’s enough.

Today, I’m comfortable being my overly emotional, over-sharing, physically demonstrative self. The burden of trying to fit into skin that would never fit has been lifted, and I’m drawn to people, and they to me who understand how beautiful vulnerability is, and how important it is for bringing hearts together. My birth family might think I’m crazy or odd. Perhaps the ugly duckling of fables.

I’m still evolving, and learning to show more of my heart; more of my essence, but I’ve gone the worst part of the evolution, the part where the caterpillar turns into a puddle of goo before reforming into a butterfly. Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to the bright, happy creatures, and see them everywhere these days. They truly are the embodiment of transformation, and I believe I had to turn myself completely inside out in order to become myself.

Feeling Gloriously Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I had the strength to break away from beliefs that never fit.
  2. I’m grateful for the people I’ve grown close to since allowing myself to be who I am, and not who they expect.
  3. I’m grateful for the freedom I now enjoy, and for opportunities to be vulnerable and stay out of judgement myself.
  4. I’m grateful for a life without clear structure where how I spend each day is an adventure, and often brings lovely surprises.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; freedom, joy, love, vulnerability, inspiration, motivation, acceptance, peace, health, balance, Being, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income.

If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Rewriting the Story of Us: Releasing My Demons

Your Family’s Story May Need a New Plot

A few short years ago, I endured the pain, the upheaval, and the trauma of ripping down a lifetime of walls and facades I’d called home. I came out from behind the protections of a lonely existence raw and exposed but feeling the cool air of freedom. What I didn’t realize at the time was I’d barely begun the process of learning to embrace my vulnerability and connect on the deepest level possible with other humans. I’d exhumed and vanquished my own demons, but I had generations of familial ones left to conquer and banish, not only for my own lifetime, but for my successors.

My own walls had been built on a generations-old framework of familial lies and broken logic. I’d grown up believing it was the only way to be both safe and successful. The beliefs I inherited said vulnerability was a weakness, and strength could only be found by standing alone, and accepting help from no one. It took me a long time to realize my family members spent their lives shoring up crumbling ground, hiding their faces from the world, and stumbling through life sad, lonely, and alone.

In some ways, I think my parents knew they were living lies. My mom tried desperately and unsuccessfully for acceptance from her own family. No matter what she did, it was never enough for those who, by all rights should have loved her for herself, and not for her ability to be who they thought she should be. She even tried to force her fractured logic on my sister and me, trying to mold us into what she mistakenly believed would gain us the acceptance she never found.

Too Stubborn to Fit In

Unfortunately for her, my sister and I were both stubborn, and though it took me a long time to figure out, disinclined to fit anyone’s mold but one of our own design. To be honest, neither of us actually fit a mold at all, as we both at some point realized the landscape is constantly changing, so why settle in to any one way of being?

Over the years, my sister has become more set in her ways, partially because of illness, and partially because of hanging on to old hurts, and perceived misdeeds on the part of our mother. I, on the other hand, have become less rigid; more adaptable. I learned the hard way the only one I hurt or hold back by trying to fit in or settle into some kind of mold was me. The more I learned to roll with the punches, the easier, and more enjoyable life became.

That’s not to say I don’t still have many demons to put to rest, or many old habits which are still keeping me from soaring. I’ve taken the first, imperative step in recognizing those demons exist. In admitting they’re there, I gave myself permission to face them instead of spending the rest of my life in one of my family’s favorite pastimes; ignoring the demons within, in hopes they’d go away. Spoiler alert: not only do they not go away, they dig in deeper, and become more persistent at holding you back.

Making Friends With Your Demons are no different than anyone else. They want to be acknowledged and treated like they’re meaningful. That doesn’t mean they actually want to hang around, making your life miserable. Once you’ve acknowledged their existence, and thanked them for their service, they’re usually more than happy to skip off onto another adventure themselves. Chances are, they long for freedom as much as you do!

I’ve learned to make friends with some of my demons while realizing others need to be banished forever. The ones that want me to stay the same isolated, friendless, unchanging woman I was until my mid-40’s weren’t the first to go, but they were the most welcome. They’ve left a few of their lesser brethren around to remind me of the unworthiness they preached but I am getting better at telling them they’ve overstayed their welcome.

I’m not entirely sure where in my family line the idea we needed to conform, and never stand out came from. Along with the idea that asking for help was a weakness, it’s long overstayed its welcome. Sadly, both are relics in many families, and demons a lot of my peers have had to conquer in order to reach the levels of success and sanity they’ve been able to achieve. My own incentive actually came from my daughter who, though she still exhibits some of the familial traits, recognized early on they were more of a hindrance than a help.

Learning to Accept Help

It’s far easier to see where something isn’t working from the outside looking in, and my inability ask for, and accept help is no exception. My daughter battles the same demon but pointed it out in me (and kicks my butt about it every chance she gets) long before she recognized the same traits in herself and began her own exorcisms. Nowadays, we are happy to point out instances of backsliding in each other; but only in the most loving ways.

I’ve also learned some of the habit changing requires help from the outside. You may not realize something is holding you back until someone points out your self-sabotaging behaviors. Even then, you may need a few more objective observations from people whose opinions you value before you realize it’s time to take action, and initiate more positive habits.

Sometimes those positive habits seem to come out of left field. You add something to your daily routine with one intention in mind, only to find it actually sets off a chain reaction of positive results, often when you’re looking vainly for the results you sought in the first place. It isn’t that the desired results aren’t there. You’ve simply set your initial expectations too high. If you ask me, that’s your brain and those unworthiness demons doing their best to maintain the status quo. Nowadays, I call that a rut, and it ain’t a place where I want to park my butt and hang for awhile. That’s for sure!

I may have a long way to go to alter many of the patterns I fell into out of convenience and deep-seated conditioning, but I no longer fight change the way I used to. Instead, I embrace the opportunity to not only learn, but unearth new ways of Being while releasing the old which held me back.

Starting Each Day With a Grateful Heart

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for change, whether it’s thrust upon me, or I simply float into the next experience.
  2. I’m grateful for my daughter who showed me the old ways are definitely NOT the best ones.
  3. I’m grateful for my family who has shown me over and over how I do not want to live out the rest of my life.
  4. I’m grateful for meditation where I get some of the epiphanies that lead me to a better, more fulfilling life.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, knowledge, change, new experiences, opportunities, motivation, healthy habits, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Who Loved You Into Being?

Being Loved is a Messy Process

self loveBy far the most memorable scene in “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” for me was when Mr. Rogers asked Lloyd to take a minute to think about the people who loved him into being. In that moment of silence, everyone on screen, and I swear, everyone in the theater responded to his request.

That moment stuck with me, even weeks after I saw the movie. It made me think about the convoluted mess of emotions I’ve carried around for decades regarding my parents, the two people who loved me into being, quite literally. While I’ve worked through many of the uglier ones, there’s still a tangled mess I’ve yet to truly accept. It occurs to me now I don’t really need to wade through them any more. I simply need to be grateful for the people who elicited those feelings, and let them go.

They served their purpose. They’ve impacted the many iterations of me over the years. But both of them are long past eliciting new emotions in me. As I re-read those words, I realize they sound as if I’m dismissing my parents who, not unlike me were a convoluted mess of suppressed emotions. Unlike me, they chose to opt out of the mess instead of taking the rather painful, and oft times, messier route of actually dealing with those emotions. In many ways, I believe the choices they made gave me the push I needed to deal with mine.

Impacted by Countless Generations of Conditional Love

I believe Mr. Rogers intended for us to look, not only at our parents, but to the generations them; to the aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who helped shape us into who we are today. Love comes in many forms, or so I’ve discovered. Some of it is unconditional, but frankly, that’s the smallest part of the love we’re given. It is our choice, however, whether to perpetuate that habit, or choose to remove conditions on the love we, ourselves give.

If I’m completely honest, I believe there’s only one person in the world who has ever given me their love unconditionally, and that’s my daughter Heather. Though the circle of friends I attract these days comes close, I know they, too have deep-seated habits and conditions they may not even realize any more than I’m aware of any conditions I put on my love for them.

When I look back at my parents with both judgement and rose-colored glasses removed, (or as much as it’s possible to remove) I see two people who came into the world already laden with a lot of emotional baggage packed for them by previous generations who hadn’t learned how to unpack their own. They were ill-prepared to deal with a child who wore her emotions on her sleeve, cried easily, and when all else failed, erupted into what I can now say were rather impressive displays of anger. Admittedly, my parents were less than impressed, but then, I know now, any display of emotions made them uncomfortable.

Letting Go Is the Sincerest Form of Love I look back at all the people who loved me in their own way, or often, as best they could, I realize they didn’t consciously put conditions and restrictions on their love. It was simply all they knew. Many gave up on me when I failed to live up to their expectations. In a way, that’s love too. It freed me to figure out who I was, and what I needed to shed or adopt in order to become who I am today, rough edges and all.

It doesn’t matter why, but sometimes letting go is the sincerest form of love. It was something neither of my parents ever mastered. Somehow, clinging to me in some way, albeit dysfunctionally may have helped them stay afloat as long as they did. It gave them what I consider a weird kind of purpose, but for them, it worked…until it was no longer enough.

There have been a few times over the last 26 years that I realized how much my mother did for me by letting go; by giving up on her clinging, her mood swings, her drama, and her guilt flinging. She freed me to fight my own dragons without being one of them any longer. Eventually, I learned she also freed me to deal with my tangled emotions and drag them out one by one; something my entire family believed was inappropriate under any circumstances.

Owning My Emotions

Her last, probably unconscious act of love gave me something I wasn’t allowed to own for the first 39 years of my life; my emotions and feelings. Granted, I floundered around for another 16 years before I realized the shackles and expectations had been removed. I remained locked in the emotionless box of familiarity until circumstances and the unconditional love of my daughter forced me to start loving myself because of my mushy, sensitive nature instead of trying to love myself in spite of it.

Mr. Rogers told countless children he loved them the way they were, and he meant every word. I think there were many times the children he spoke to were struggling to love even themselves, and he gave them a golden key. I know I spent a lot of years mired in self-loathing, believing I wasn’t good enough, and couldn’t do anything right. How many children get stuck in that bear trap and never find their way out short of chewing off a limb?

I wish there was a way to tell every single child they’re perfect the way they are. To keep every child from ever having to suffer hunger, abandonment, or abuse. Sure, the experience makes some stronger, but it makes too many harder, or crueler. It leaves too many broken and unable to see a path that leads to wholeness—whatever that is.

If nothing else, I’ve taken Mr. Rogers’ words to heart, and will remind  myself to take a minute to remember the people who loved me into existence, not just at the beginning of my life, but through all the twists and turns, broken roads and smooth ones, switchbacks and dead ends that led me to where I am today.

Gratitude: The Most Powerful Tool in My Arsenal

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for people like Fred Rogers who put things in terms simple enough for a child to understand, and direct enough to get through to adults who’ve allowed life and circumstances to harden their hearts unnecessarily.
  2. I’m grateful for my parents who loved me the best they could, and gave me the tools to find my own way.
  3. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met throughout my life. Some loved me. Some hated me. Some tried to use me. They all taught me more about myself than they’ll ever know.
  4. I’m grateful I learned how to let my feelings and emotions out, and that they aren’t something to be ashamed of at all.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, compassion, acceptance, joy, community, forgiveness, lessons, challenges, peace, freedom, balance, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Learning to Feed the Positive Vibes

Positive Lessons I Learned From “The King and I”

Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune, So no one will suspect I’m afraid.
The result of this deception, Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people I fear I fool myself as well!
And ev’ry single time, The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I’m not afraid.  — I Whistle a Happy Tune

I’m not always positive or upbeat. Life kicks me around my fair share. But I’ve learned to keep a positive attitude even through the wildest storms. Unlike what today seems like another lifetime ago, I don’t mask my feelings. I feel them, acknowledge them, love them, then try to let the bad stuff go. The positive affirmations I share here and on social media aren’t meant to cover anything up, but to remind myself where I might currently be is only temporary. As long as I focus on the lesson rather than wallowing in the pain, I know I’ll navigate the current hazards and reach the other side only slightly the worse for wear.

It wasn’t always this way. The lessons I share today came at great cost. In learning them, I had to let go of the person I thought I was in order to become the one I was meant to be. There were times I was certain it wasn’t worth the pain.

Whether it was by choice or by design, I pushed through anyway, and today, I’m grateful I did. Not only have I gained an amazing group of friends who have essentially replaced the family which was one of the casualties of my emergence, I’ve found the child within, giving her the love and appreciation I withheld for decades. We are both richer for it.

Breaking Old Molds: Painful but Rewarding

I come from a long line of women who nurture their misery like it’s something to be cherished The Tower from the Spiral Tarotand protected. Some even raised it to deity status, so in my defense, I didn’t know better. But as I got older and interacted with people from other families; other backgrounds, I had plenty of opportunity to learn. It was my choice to remain in the dark hole I mistook for the warmth and comfort of the family womb. In truth, it was only a comfort as long as I followed their rules and lived my life within those confines.

Those rules proved to be structured in direct opposition to my own wants, needs, and talents. It was an untenable situation I’d either have to leave, or give up on the person I needed to be and the child who was crying desperately for release. In the end, I gave in to the child and gave up the family into which I’d never fit anyway.

I’d like to say it was a clean break and I’ve never looked back. That’s only partially true. I opened the door 20 years in when they offered me a chance to return to the family fold. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the price was higher than I was willing to pay. Just as I’d outgrown the friends I had 20-30 years ago, I’d outgrown most of my blood relations too. It’s no reflection on any of them. We simply don’t fit any more. We’re pieces of entirely different puzzles now. In many ways, we probably always were.

Accept, Acknowledge, Release days, I acknowledge pieces of my past as they come up for review. I know there are feelings I still need to feel before they can be released and forgiven. There’s only one way through that storm, and it’s straight through. Fortunately, it does get easier, and most of the feelings I’m called upon to feel are less painful; less intense than the ones when I first tore down the walls.

At least they feel that way. Maybe I’ve just learned they can no longer really hurt me, or I’ve gotten stronger. In the process of becoming my true self, I’ve learned a lot of things. One is resilience. What might have broken me before is often no more than a small scratch or surface wound now; easily healed and quickly forgotten. The walls I once thought protected me actually bound me to the pain longer than necessary. Without the walls, what I don’t want or need dissipates more quickly.

Once the positive attitude was entirely an act. A way to convince people to leave me alone so my wounds could heal unimpeded. But like Anna in “The King and I”, after awhile, what I feigned became true, not because the world changed, but because I believed it with all my heart, and made it real.

A lot of folks these days are trying to discredit the “fake it ’til you make it” point of view. For them, I suppose it’s not the right approach, but it worked quite well for me with one qualification. You can only fake it for a short time. Eventually, you have to either have made it so, or revisit your expectations and revised them to fit who and what you truly are deep down inside.

Flipping the Script While Staying True to My Calling

I’ve revised and restructured many things in the last decade or so, but one thing remains constant. I am a writer. It’s what I was meant to be, and what I will ultimately excel at. No matter how many times I’m knocked down, discouraged, or criticized, it remains my singular focus. Even when I go months writing nothing but blog posts and morning pages, I’m still a writer. I’m still writing.

The fact that I’m writing constantly is evidence enough I am living my story; walking my talk. I’ll admit, the last year or so I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut, though the amount of words I’ve pounded out might belie that observation. I’ve neglected my memoir and more, my fiction writing. I think I needed to get some kind of structure with writing of any kind before I could get back on that horse. But with blog posts always 3 weeks or more ahead, Medium posts scheduled a month or better in advance, and chapters of “Sasha’s Journey” going up on ChapterBuzz with some regularity, I’m ready to up my game.

I want to do another NaNoWriMo, but more, I want to finish everything I’ve started, and actually publish something. I know that means focusing on things like building a platform, and learning how to publish and market my work. I feel, after all the roads I’ve traveled; all the words I’ve written, it’s well past time to point my trusty charger in that direction. Just typing those words makes me feel inspired, empowered, and energized, which tells me I’ve finally found the right mental state for my higher aspirations. It’s been a long time coming, and in a lot of ways, I’ve faked myself right into what I always wanted to be when I grew up.

My positive attitude may not be a constant thing, even today (but then, whose is?). It is, however, very real, and comes from the depths of my no longer frozen heart. May it inspire others to let loose the chains of their own checkered past and follow their dreams.

With Gratitude Every Step of the Way

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the family who raised me to recognize I didn’t belong, and to the family who has adopted me because I do.
  2. I’m grateful for the gift of writing. It’s gotten me through some of the worst times in my life, and helps me fully appreciate the best ones.
  3. I’m grateful for friendships that have become family; people who accept the weird, moody, quirky, hermity person I am without reservation.
  4. I’m grateful for dancing. It’s brought me my tribe, given me an outlet, and is a healthy passion.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, cats to love, electricity, running water, ample healthy food, family by choice, music, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Change Your Mindset, Change How the Year Ends

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

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

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

Looking for Glimmers of Hope

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

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

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

Allowing Myself to Feel But Not To Wallow

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

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

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

Helping Other Trauma Survivors

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

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

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

Using My Pain for the Greater Good

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

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

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

The Healing Powers of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

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

Love and Light


About the Author

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

A Phoenix in Cowboy Boots: Borderline Family Thrives

Borderline Strong is More Than a Hashtag

Smiling faces and happy hearts filled the dance floor at what will soon be renovated to become BL Dancehall and Saloon.

Shortly after they got the keys, owners Brian Hynes and Troy Hale brought the Borderline family together in what will be our temporary home for the first time since the November 7, 2018 tragedy that closed the doors and scattered staff, as well as the dance family to the winds for over a year. Though most of us have found places to dance, and been given places with Borderline sponsored nights, it’s not the same as having a place filled with our own family energy; a place where once again we’re the hosts instead of the visitors.

The strength and resiliency of our community shows up in everything we do. Our family have been sorely tested, yet overall, it’s brought us closer together than ever. We see familiar faces at other locations and, though we don’t always know each other by name, hugs are shared because they’re familiar faces and family. We need no other reason.

Showing Our Love in Many Ways

Several people have invested time, money, and creative talents to protect and maintain the memorial which remains in front of our old home where we will one day return, even if it’s a couple of years off. The love and care they give, watering flowers, replacing candles, even cleaning up after vandals is a clear demonstration of a deep, enduring connection neither anger, hate, nor disrespect can weaken.

The waiting will be easier now we have a place which already feels like our old home; the walls resonating with the love and energy unique to Borderline. Like our original home, the new bar is a converted restaurant so instead of dark, blank walls, a row of windows faces the parking lot, giving the place a warm, welcoming feel. A large, glassed in patio gives us a place to cool off a bit after the DJ’s have kept us on the floor for song after song. (Think Garth Brooks’ “Long-necked Bottle) Familiar faces man the bar, the doors, and the DJ booth, playing the music and dances we all know and love.

I’m inspired and overjoyed by the pictures filling the Facebook groups created over the last year; faces aglow with joy and hope; a dance floor once again filled with “the usual suspects”. Photos overflow onto personal pages proving again that there are no strangers when the Borderline family gathers.

No Place Like Home

Brian Hynes

The efforts of Brian, Troy, and the Borderline staff over the last year or so are evident in the plans for a new dance floor and decor, and a feel that up to now, could be found nowhere else but Borderline. The months since the tragedy have to have been especially difficult for the people who have worked so hard to ensure we keep dancing; the owners and management, the instructors, the DJ’s, and the always smiling staff whose faces we saw at the front of the house every week.

Seeing everyone together again, some with small children in tow was, in my opinion, one of the most healing experiences we’ve had so far. Opening the place before renovations began so we could see where we’ll once again meet regularly, and in the very near future was an act which demonstrates how enormous and all-encompassing the heart and soul of Borderline truly is. In the immortal words of Judy Garland:

There’s no place like home!

The Family Who Stays Together Thrives Together

DJ Josh Kelly

So many people have contributed to keeping the family together; our unique connections alive. Instructors who opened their homes or found alternate venues for dancing and workshops, Brian who worked out an arrangement for Borderline nights at the Canyon, DJ Josh who set up his equipment in parking lots, malls, barns, and finally, BL Dancehall and Saloon to keep us dancing while Borderline undergoes major renovations. Not to be overlooked are fellow dancers who opened their homes and barns, or arranged for space, security, and whatever else we needed to both dance and feel safe.

Most of all, we have a family who pulled together, and never gave up hope that our home would be rebuilt. The fundraisers, the Healing Garden built in a ridiculously short amount of time, the lights and orbs on the oak tree in the Borderline parking lot, the beautiful memorial which, though damaged by weather and vandals, continues to be lovingly maintained; all give proof our family can be battered but never broken.

For over a year, the Borderline family has gathered in a multitude of places ranging from malls, to churches, to other clubs, and even private homes. Sometimes, we’ve talked, others, danced, but we’ve always shared hugs, laughter, and tears.

Celebrating Life and Lives with Dance

We marked the week of the one year anniversary with memorials and celebrations, but most notably by ceremonies and dancing in a beautiful garden dedicated, not only to the 12 souls we lost, but to the resiliency and cohesiveness of the country dance community, and specifically, the Borderline family. Supported by the City of Thousand Oaks, the garden was completed in a superhuman amount of time. The magnitude of the project would normally take years, but was completed in months. 

The bonds, the hopes, the continued belief that Borderline would return in physical form at some point remained alive without question. We all simply believed. As we became dancing vagabonds, traveling near and far to keep our love of dancing alive, and to remain connected with the rest of our family, we sometimes grew frustrated with always being the visitors and never the hosts, though many venues welcomed us with open arms.

A Home of Our Own Again

What we’ve most wanted; most needed over the last year was to be back in a home of our own. Brian, Troy, and the Borderline staff, displaced themselves, knew it was the missing piece in everyone’s healing process, and worked tirelessly to resolve what I can only think have been gargantuan issues standing between the dream and the reality. Rumors flew; hopes rose and fell, but we waited for the official word to come from Brian.

Brian along with his partner, Troy did not disappoint. Though it’s a good news-bad news scenario for now, they’ve given us something we never expected while what they’re saying could be a 2-year process to rebuild our home runs its course. They found an existing location which, with a few changes can be our temporary home. Where once again, we have a place we can be the hosts instead of the visitors.

Shortly after they got the keys, the new sign went up and the dance family was able to spend a few hours not only checking out our temporary home, but christening it in the best way we know how. While DJ Josh Kelly kept the music going, we tore up the floor (figuratively, of course) with 5 hours of dancing, re-connecting, hugging, laughter, and maybe a few tears. Knowing we’d have a home in a matter of weeks instead of months or years created a euphoria that continues long after the music stopped, the lights went out, and the doors were locked. 

Healing Hearts and Happy Faces

An undeniable energy permeated the bar; a euphoria arising from the knowledge we’d soon be back in a place of our own where the faces we’d seen nearly every week for years would once again fill every nook and cranny; where the staff we’d come to know and love would be serving drinks and food, keeping the place running smoothly, greeting regulars with hugs and smiles, and best of all, keeping us dancing.

I know I wasn’t alone with a smile that seemed permanently affixed to my face, and an inability to sit for more than a couple of minutes before jumping up to dance or greet another family member.

Our hearts might have been shattered on November 7, 2018, but on December 14, 2019, Brian and his tireless team showed us how hard they’ve been working to help put those collective hearts back together, perhaps broken and bruised, but overall, stronger and more resilient than anyone would have guessed.

A Bright Light Pierces the Darkness

The work on our temporary home has just begun but will soon ring with laughter, music, and stomping feet. Our original home will take awhile longer, but with a place to grow our healing energy in the best way we know how, the wait and sense of loss won’t feel as intense as it has up to now.

We have a place to once again celebrate birthdays, engagements, retirements, anniversaries, and everything else we’ve grown accustomed to sharing with our dance family. Every celebration missed over the last year left a hole in our hearts no amount of pictures from previous celebrations could fill. Thankfully, we don’t have to find alternative places to celebrate in the coming year, though I, for one won’t take having that special place for granted ever again. 

Above all, what Brian, Troy, and their team have done casts a much wider net. Amidst the anger and violence which has cast dark clouds on our society in the last few years, re-opening Borderline, and, in the interim, opening BL Dancehall and Saloon sets a precedent for clubs closed down by violence. As much as people have been forced to endure, love will always win.


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

Progress is Progress, No Matter How Small

Switching Things Up is Progress

September 11th came and went this year as it always does, along with the memories, the feelings, both repressed and expressed, and the knee jerk reactions. But then again, it wasn’t really the same at all.

In years past, when September 11th came along, I disconnected from social media and crawled deep into my self-imposed cave for 24 hours or more. Apparently, this is the year things were meant to change.

In the first place, it fell on a Wednesday which is a day I usually spend going to the gym and running errands. Sure, I could have moved things around, and probably would have in the past. This year, I didn’t feel it was important enough, so I got out of the house, perhaps a little later than planned, and soldiered on.

Losing Myself in a Crowd

I knew I wasn’t up for the more intimate group of dancers who meet at a friend’s house once a week but instead of slothing it in front of the TV, I got up, got dressed, and went to a larger venue where I figured I’d just blend into the scenery. Wearing uncharacteristic all black, I joined my friends on the dance floor, hiding in the middle, only to be called out by the DJ who’s known me for too long, but didn’t read my “I’m hiding” message in my black shirt and shorts.

The one thing I didn’t do was pretend I was fine. I also stopped saying it was the anniversary of my dad’s “death” in the generic sense. Instead, I said “it’s the 16th anniversary of my dad’s suicide”.

What I didn’t expect was so many have become used to me talking openly about suicide, that it didn’t shock so much as let people know I was feeling vulnerable. No one pushed or tried to be overly solicitous, but it was clear they were all there for me if I needed them. What an amazing and unexpected revelation!

Acknowledging and Releasing Old Pain

Slowly but surely, I’m revisiting and releasing old hurts, letting go of old baggage, and learning a lesson I missed growing up: how to be a friend, and attract my true tribe. Despite events of the last few months which are causing my ever-expanding tribe to gather in smaller pieces at a variety of venues, the emotional and energetic bonds we share are growing stronger. It’s clear to me now, time and circumstances don’t weaken bonds if they’re formed on the right foundation.

It’s become especially apparent as I revisit the rift with my blood family. It may be that “blood is thicker than water” but some blood is diluted by unseen factors. My family showed me unequivocably that they aren’t able to be there for me in times of trauma or strife. It isn’t a reflection on them as human beings. It’s simply the way it is. I’ve learned to not only expect but respect the dynamic—or lack thereof.

I was born into a family, but I see now, I was only there temporarily. It was a brief stopping point while I gathered a few of the tools and a lot of the traumas which would help me become the person I was meant to be. It’s been a long, slow process (I had to get past the desperation to be loved and accepted first), but I can see now it was a necessary step in my soul’s evolution.

Lessons Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Sometimes, I learn what to do and how I deserve to be treated from my various experiences. Other times, I learn what not to do and how I do not deserve to be treated. I’ve had many bosses who’ve shown me the wrong way to run a department or treat employees, just as I’ve had a few who showed me the right way.

Interestingly, it’s from a marketing group I’m in that I’m learning everything in life is about relationships. Even as a writer, I can’t operate in a vacuum. Not only do I get a lot of my topics from interacting with other people, I couldn’t grow my business without clients, and clients are always going to be other people.

Each step I take in dealing with my emotional traumas surrounding my parents’ suicides takes me further into the real issues surrounding my inability to form strong, lasting, functional relationships.

Relationship Building for Love or Money

I’m beginning to see my earliest lessons in relationship building came from my parents and blood family. I learned to hide my true self in what was ultimately a fruitless effort to fit in; to belong. It wasn’t until I endured the ultimate rebuff, and recognized it as such that I realized I was going about belonging in the wrong way. I’ve recently discovered positive indifference is an important factor, not only in whether or not I get a contract, but in establishing relationships too.

That doesn’t mean I go into social situations, guns a-blazing, acting like a jerk. Instead, it means spending time watching the interactions, observing the social protocol, and assessing how it makes me feel.

If it’s an environment where I feel comfortable engaging as my true self, I’ll probably stick around. If I feel like I have to stuff myself into an uncomfortable configuration, I’ll likely say a polite goodbye and move on. I don’t need to belong somewhere enough to pretend to be someone I’m not. 

The Epiphany of Authenticity

Learning there were people and places which would accept me as I am, and not Created with Canvaexpect me to be something I’m not shocked the hell out of me. It turned a lifetime of failed relationships upside down. It never occurred to me I was going about it wrong, trying to make people like me by being what I thought they expected. Instead of gaining the acceptance I craved, I came off needy, desperate, phony, and unapproachable.

People typically want to interact with others who are at least somewhat open and honest. Desperation is typically a turnoff, except perhaps to those who thrive on using other people. Thus, opening up, not only about my parents’ suicides, but about my own broken parts has catapulted me into both social and business environments which, at last accept me for who I am, and actually appreciate that crazy, messy person for her honesty.

Still Sharing Selectively But for the Right Reasons doesn’t mean I “bleed” all over everyone. I’m still selective about what and with whom I share, aside from my writing. I’ve recently discovered I can share more here because it’s still safe. I’m not subject to acceptance or rejection. I don’t feel someone’s distaste or disgust. If they don’t like what I’ve written, they typically won’t read any more, and that’s perfectly fine with me. I’m probably not writing for them anyway.

Those who come back; who read my posts regularly, and often tell me so are the ones I write for. They want to see the parts of me I’m still working on fixing; the imperfect parts I’ve come to accept and even appreciate; the successes when I overcome past traumas and conditioning. Why? Because they’ve been through their own share of crap. They deserve applause for their successes too. Most of all, they deserve to keep the messy, gooey parts they want to keep. And so do you!

Happy to Be Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for friends who “get” me, and who love me because of my imperfections.
  2. I’m grateful for the small bits of progress. Put them all together, and I’ve come a lot farther than I realized.
  3. I’m grateful for my current work environment. I work without the need to please anyone but myself and my chosen clients, without distraction other than my own monkey mind, and with the co-workers who suit me best; my furry family.
  4. I’m grateful for the support I’m getting as I learn to be more myself and less a facade.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, support, laughter, dancing, kitty love, perspective, ambition, guidance, peace, harmony, balance, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

A Matter of Perspective

We See Family From Our Own Perspective

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

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

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

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

You Have to First Open the Door

It wasn’t until I lowered my walls and offered up a bit of myself that things began change. I let people see that much of my unconscious defensiveness was my way of hiding the pain I’d been taught never to let anyone see. The false set of beliefs I’d been given from birth said no one wanted to know I struggled with anything unless they were going to use it to take advantage of me. In short, my early education was as riddled with holes as Swiss cheese.

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

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

Making Connections is a Learned Talent

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

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

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

Do You Build Walls or Bridges?

I know I’m not alone in building enormous walls, and creating coping which shield me, not only from the cruelties of life, but also from the things which bring joy, delight, and pleasure. The trouble is, while living in that seemingly pain-free place, you miss out on how a gathering place can take on the feel of a loving, accepting, non-judgemental family; something many of us weren’t fortunate enough to know.

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

Reaching Out to Those Who Instinctively Hide

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

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

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

Sometimes the Reward is Worth the Initial Pain

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

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

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

Grateful for Every Little Thing Every Single Day

My gratitudes today are:

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

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Healing Through Laughter

Finding New Ways to Heal

Created with CanvaAfter spending an evening with friends playing a rather raucous game of Mexican Train, it occurred to me, especially in light of recent events in our neck of the woods, that we all need more laughter. I didn’t even mind being a last-minute addition to the party. The company was warm and loving, and the banter kept us all laughing and playing along. I left feeling warm, loved, and most of all, uplifted.

Of late, I’ve been feeling especially worn out, fatigued, drained, and even short of breath. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with handling the emotional trauma both within and around me. Some gatherings seem to be more of a chore to stay positive and upbeat, and I can see how others around me are forcing more than allowing. I feel it as a drain on my own energy, and haven’t been good about protecting my own space. I want to help those around me, but realize I’ve let my own resources run down.

The answer is more time spent just being, and finding humor in the little things. Laughter, after all is the greatest healer.

Continued Support From Our Community

For my extended family, dancing has been our happy place, with some of us, for decades. We are still dancing and hugging and sharing, but deep down inside, we all feel it; it’s not the same. Our home is unavailable and we’re, as one woman put it, always the visiting team. Some wonderful people have opened doors and arms to us, and we’re extremely grateful to them for their generosity. But as the weeks stretch to months, the feeling is unanimous. We want to go home.

It still remains to be seen, if, when, and even where that might happen. In the meantime, a couple of clubs have been opened up to accommodate two of our regular nights. The Sunland Winery, which welcomed us in December is on our schedule once a month (though many of us wish it were more). Road trips to more distant venues are planned and well-attended. Larger and larger groups are making time to go to a smaller local club to line dance and even get in a little two-stepping and West Coast Swing.

Small, Intimate Gatherings Speed the Healing

But I think the ones which help the most are the smaller, more intimate gatherings which seem to be gaining in popularity. They’re times when we seem to allow ourselves to feel whatever we’re feeling, express our hopes, doubts, and concerns, and care about each other unreservedly.

They’re nights filled with laughter and good humor. With listening to each others’ struggles and offering support. Even a few light-hearted matchmaking attempts are starting to surface. It all expresses the love and caring of a family that’s been torn asunder by tragedy, but refuses to be kept down.

As I type this, I’m thinking about scheduling a night of my own, and of course, my mind flips over to the menu. (I do love to cook for friends). At a recent event, the fare was simple but delicious; a chicken and noodle casserole, garlic bread, salad, and garlic sauteed green beans. I particularly liked the idea of something in a pan, and my mind turned to lasagna.

The recipe I use typically takes a couple of days as the sauce has to be made first, but it’s been a long time since I made it, and wouldn’t typically make a pan just for me. It’s a great excuse to do something I love for the people I love, and to host an evening of laughter and companionship. Thought becomes things, and by the time this publishes, the event will have been scheduled, come, and gone. The details and the laughs will likely prove fodder for another post.

Sometimes, You Just Have to Make the Effort

I’m trying hard to get out more, even if it’s to places I’m not especially fond of. It’s really not about the venue right now, but about the people and of course, the dancing. I’m finding I don’t even mind standing on the sidelines, listening to the music, chatting with the people nearby, and only dancing a couple of dances. I just need to be out being, doing, living.

Still, there are days when I need to stay inside with my cats, away from people and the energy they emit. I’m still tiring easily, and I know part of it is my screwed up dance schedule. But some of it could simply be what we all struggle with: letting go of what no longer serves us.

Sometimes, You Have to Let Go

We had a beautiful lunar eclipse with January’s full moon. It left me thinking about what I need to release (after a night of crazy, disturbing dreams). I guess I should be grateful the night was overcast so the moon didn’t keep me awake half the night. Typically, with the full moon, I have to turn and sleep with my head at the foot of the bed because the brightness shines through my window and makes my eyes pop back open every few minutes.

With regard to current circumstances, here are a few things I can release which are getting in the way of my happiness:

  • Dependence on a specific place to dance to be happy just dancing
  • Unwillingness to go out on nights which weren’t my regular dance nights
  • Excessive concern over inviting people into my less-than-perfect home
  • Resistance to cleaning
  • Laziness in general

It may not seem like a lot to many, but they are things I know stand in my way. There are plenty of other things I need to release regarding my writing and my business, but that’s not the reason for this post, so I’ll leave it for another (and heaven knows, I need ideas for February now that January is “in the can”, to borrow a line from old movie speak).

Making the Most of Our Opportunities

Releasing anything which keeps us from finding joy in laughter, companionship, intimate and not-so-intimate gatherings, and even embracing change are essential when we’re dealing with circumstances beyond our control. We need to accept that we can’t return to what we know, at least for the moment, and do our best to create new spaces, new activities in which to find the joy, laughter, and exercise we currently lack.

I’m grateful for two of the dance instructors who’ve opened their homes to us in the last couple of months. Without them, we’d have had many more dance-less weeks in those immediately following the shooting at Borderline. They’ve kept us together in mind, body, and spirit at a time when we all needed it most.

We’ve celebrated many occasions inside the walls of Borderline; birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births; and those memories won’t fade away. But when we put it all together, we’ve created a family who is strong and resilient, and will find ways to stay together, not only for the short time we’re scattered to the winds, but for the long haul as well. We have so much more laughter, joy, hugs, and dancing to give and do. And maybe we needed to get shaken out of those four walls to discover how much we truly have? (though it sure could have happened in a less horrific way!)

Facing Each Day With Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the family which is finding new and unique ways to stay together.
  2. I am grateful for the friendships I’ve formed which fill me rather than draining me.
  3. I am grateful I’ve learned that being myself is far more attractive than trying to be someone I think people would like.
  4. I am grateful for all the people who are keeping the love, laughter, and dancing going during a truly difficult time.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; joy, laughter, dancing, loving, health, harmony, peace, inspiration, motivation, energy, synergy, 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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