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

Posts tagged ‘forgiveness’

Nostalgia in the Air

Drifting on a Wave of Nostalgia

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

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

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

Music for the Ages

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

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

Remembering Old Feelings So I Can Let Them Go

https://www.flickr.com/photos/60740813@N04/34504735502/in/photolist-Uz4MJN-7H8hqz-r2covS-8wbGLH-8wcEVv-8weaum-8wcFMc-r2c6ww-r2iYrg-qmL3eU-8w9Dpr-r2jtjr-riJFWH-8wcT7A-8wcK8r-8wbRuV-8wcj84-8wanQx-8waPPT-8w9c4V-8w97ek-r2j3iV-riCAji-8w8skp-r2cTQq-8wfuwo-8waMUv-8wfDJJ-8wdgXY-qZq9cM-8wd2u3-8wfVzw-8wbq15-8w8bJP-8w9Wdc-8wcQdR-riF3r5-riJvW2-8wbTSq-r2cNH1-8wc6wN-r2d6wG-8wcM6o-r2jiHn-8wdexo-riJBiz-8bQ1eC-8wfeYo-riJJHV-8w9YqrFeelings of abandonment began long ago, when my sister was born. Maybe she truly was an easier child, or maybe my mom had just learned a few things about being a wife and mother. Either way, I became secondary. Though I’ve come a long way in the last few years, the songs make me remember the hurts still haven’t completely healed.

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

Opening My Heart and Mind and Recognizing My True Value

I listen to the songs from a different perspective now. I’ve lived through a lot—https://www.flickr.com/photos/gastaum/14490581818/in/photolist-o5u28y-YfsirJ-k8x7MM-bxbe69-W1rTYx-arWoEp-9hSaAd-ahFY4U-dUPFnv-cbTML-9dRrhQ-nNcDz4-W1scJn-6Q5kQB-aPHuVt-dF2PfA-qsan3a-9Q3GD-7puXf-ca3kUb-8Qnh5S-7EPcJ1-9RZQ7L-2jv27s-3ytNAS-4Ax3Vm-7P6ms6-fLeJCZ-9eA4z4-dUzmHi-dJ2ajE-4s4eeJ-9ZWATV-4Ax3K3-6459Qr-r7YPq9-7ZBske-3ypqPa-7yi435-9uRzwZ-kdLtng-2c5brCn-HLfJSP-qTk7jd-oSdAwv-pNeYXi-3fqAZV-5btNtn-72Kth6-V4V7jqjoys and sorrows, wins and losses. I’ve torn down walls I spent nearly a lifetime building, reinventing myself without masks or pretenses. Another birthday reminds me how far I’ve come. And I’m not done yet; not by a long shot.

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

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

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

Taking the Painful Lessons and Leaving the Pain

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

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

Breaking Free of Family Patterns and Finding Happiness

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

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

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

Old Patterns May be Standing in the Way of Your Success

Are old memories and patterns weighing you down? Do you feel like you have to do it all instead of asking for help? You’re not less worthy because you recognize you can’t do it all. In fact, you’re more, because you realize you need to free yourself to do the things you’re best at. Would you like to take a task or two off your plate? Maybe it’s content creation, or perhaps it’s getting your books in order and creating a budget. If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to streamline your life and give your business space to grow and thrive, CONTACT ME and let’s talk!

Something to Be Grateful for Every Day

My gratitudes today are:

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

Love and Light

 

About the Author

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

Cultural Diversity Has Become Cultural Disparity

Misjudging On What We See

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbh/4549085259/in/photolist-TBE2Nw-p4EDEt-TtPDPz-T6fYRE-WessCa-5aopSw-7VZfyt-ihp3jf-ekkzYU-dmX7yH-9XZhkA-5aooT5-TdHezm-b2Jtm4-ekkCk7-e2akL2-ekeVB6-k52jg-W218xN-5ahpwJ-9WoYHJ-d8ZSaC-9WVckM-dmX7a8-5a2rPt-bAkTRr-5aoogS-eQjvsU-fKHzgW-VeN9y3-5aimQk-5fy8qh-e2aadv-5anCeQ-ekkB5Q-W9ExL4-9mo7Zz-VZfQY7-fKraHx-aFayE2-ekkDFA-Sn7nK9-55Kh4v-ekeSRt-bk1R1Y-9DZ7ZJ-dmX9XU-RZ7W4o-chvcYj-qwtAJXThere have been quite a few conversations about how we judge people by the way they look. It might be a style of dress, hairstyle, tattoos, piercings, or skin color. In the end, it comes down to attributing certain negative characteristics to anyone who looks like someone you’ve decided is mean, scary, or dangerous.

Sometimes, it stems from a bad experience. When I was in elementary school, a neighbor girl who happened to be Hispanic used to knock me down and bash my head on the sidewalk. Had I had different, less accepting parents, I might have developed a hatred and distrust of anyone who looked Hispanic. Thankfully, my parents had a diverse group of friends when we lived in the Valley so I never attributed one person’s behavior to an entire culture.

More often these days, it stems from what we hear, the area we live in, or a combination of factors. Too many people rely on the media to determine how they think and believe these days, causing everyone to hate each other for some unspecified reason, or no reason at all.

Negative Impacts of Forced Diversity Training

Businesses are forced to teach cultural diversity in the workplace. Yet the way https://www.flickr.com/photos/armenws/5837909811/in/photolist-9TSPcr-C3VGX-24FwY6-26x1rb6-5itLut-dhFGeP-pFWFZK-abNp5y-adf5z-hL7FHE-dhFHhY-dhFvph-dauvud-dhFwgW-dhFqWQ-dhFtAn-abeFZP-dhFDeu-dhFuoZ-dhFqbq-adhZR-abKzAD-adf81-abKx9R-bpTzDn-QVxKyY-abKyYK-9gERc8-anUgst-abeFCX-bzS7hf-abeGb2-2cYSbck-8GpCMm-abNm6Y-21Uy4Gb-4NKgmb-abNkTs-begshM-hRcioi-daKq9G-aUymi2-ZRYKoW-9tsYBM-abeFsx-bNLL6K-F2o45H-6MFFvx-9SsLVR-ZAWXwithey go about it often makes things worse instead of better. Someone along the way decided cultural diversity training meant teaching white people to treat everyone else with more sensitivity and respect, instead of making it applicable to all. Rather than bringing everyone closer together, it’s widened the gap into a chasm, and made the disparity even more noticeable and impossible to breach.

In her Red Table Talks, Jada Pinkett Smith talks a lot about the disparities between whites and blacks. But she doesn’t slap the blame on one side of the table. Instead, she admits there are generations-old prejudices on both sides,  and that the solution requires both sides to release those prejudices and come together with open minds.

In one episode in particular (though not her only one on the subject), “The Racial Divide: Women of Color and White Women”, three generations of black women discuss their own ingrained prejudices. Those biases, often instilled since birth stand in the way of meeting white women halfway to try and resolve conflicts which were once based on traumatic experiences, but generalized to include all who looked a certain way. Two white women join the conversation, with an emphasis on “conversation”.

Replacing Conflict With Conversation

In order to truly embrace the diversity of our cultures, we need more conversations. We need more coming together, not because it’s dictated by a government or other entity, but because we truly want to understand each others’ beliefs and pain points. But more, because we want to bridge the gaps those beliefs and pain points have generated through the passing of prejudices from generation to generation.

We need to stop the knee-jerk tendency to blame some artificially designated group for our problems, society’s problems, or anyone else who thinks they need a scapegoat. Assigning scapegoats solves nothing, but it sure does create a lot more hate, anger, and chaos.

The question becomes, do we truly want to solve the problems we see and rant about, or is ranting our real purpose? As human beings, do we simply require something to complain about? Can we not be happy when we work in concert with other humans? With nature? Is drama our state of balance?

Taking the Time to Analyze the Cause in the Conflict

I can’t speak for everyone else. I only know it doesn’t work for me. I’m not at https://www.flickr.com/photos/60740813@N04/34504735502/in/photolist-Uz4MJN-7H8hqz-r2covS-8wbGLH-8wcEVv-8weaum-8wcFMc-r2c6ww-r2iYrg-qmL3eU-8w9Dpr-r2jtjr-riJFWH-8wcT7A-8wcK8r-8wbRuV-8wcj84-8wanQx-8waPPT-8w9c4V-8w97ek-r2j3iV-riCAji-8w8skp-r2cTQq-8wfuwo-8waMUv-8wfDJJ-8wdgXY-qZq9cM-8wd2u3-8wfVzw-8wbq15-8w8bJP-8w9Wdc-8wcQdR-riF3r5-riJvW2-8wbTSq-r2cNH1-8wc6wN-r2d6wG-8wcM6o-r2jiHn-8wdexo-riJBiz-8bQ1eC-8wfeYo-riJJHV-8w9Yqrease when I’m in conflict with others. I experience discomfort when I’m out of sorts with someone in my own social circle, much less a large chunk of society. Yet I haven’t figured out how to get back in balance. There are too many conflicting factions, all demanding I take their side, and speak out in the same manner they do.

Sorry folks. I was given a brain so I could think, reflect, research, and form my own opinions just like everyone else was. I refuse to allow anyone to take that choice; that ability away from me. Those who need blanket agreement from their associates are not going to find me a good fit. I think for myself and act as I see fit.

Learning to Replace Hurt and Anger With Forgiveness

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERADo I make mistakes? Of course I do. And I try to own up to them insofar as the other party or parties is willing to accept my apology and move on. Again, it’s not always the case. Some people hold onto a negative experience and will judge me as lacking forever more. I’ve done the same myself until I find a way to forgive myself and the other party. We’re all human, which means, we aren’t perfect. All we can do is try.

I hurt a friend’s feelings a few days ago. Not intentionally. More out of clumsiness, and forgetting to recognize she’s a bit raw right now. In hindsight, I realize I was heavy-handed with my teasing because I was hurting too. But I told myself I was stupid for feeling hurt instead of honoring my own feelings, and tried to move on. Without thinking, I took it out on her, partly because she was an innocent party to why I was hurt. So I’m worrying that she’ll think less of me for my clumsiness, though I know she’s one of the most forgiving (almost to a fault) people I have the good fortune to call “friend”.

Avoiding the Pitfalls When We Ass-U-me

My point here is we tend to make assumptions, most of them false when we’re not acknowledged or answered. It happens often enough between friends, so take the number of instances and multiply it by 50 billion or so. That will give you a conservative idea of how many misunderstandings and misconceptions happen every day in our nation, much less, our world.

We seem to have lost the ability to create a safe environment where we can say “I’m hurt and upset by…” or “I don’t feel comfortable with…” or simply “Can you help me understand why…”

Until we can feel comfortable being honest about all the ingrained beliefs—all the baggage we’re carrying around, whether experienced or inherited, we’ll continue to see a seemingly insurmountable disparity between cultures; between generations; between genders; between everything else we use to build walls that separate us. We have to start by removing a few of our own bricks first.

Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

Are there more disconnects than connections in your life? Are you overwhelmed just trying to keep up with the day-to-day? Would you like to take a task or two off your plate? Maybe it’s content creation, or perhaps it’s getting your books in order and creating a budget. If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to streamline your life and give your business space to grow and thrive, CONTACT ME and let’s talk!

Remembering How Much We Have to be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the ability to see what needs to change, and that I can only start with myself.
  2. I am grateful for the things I’ve seen, the places I’ve gone, and the people I’ve met along the way.
  3. I am grateful I’m starting to learn to listen more and talk less, though it’s an ongoing process, and I need lots of reminders.
  4. I am grateful for the mistakes I’ve made. They help me learn to do better next time.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, lessons, challenges, vocabulary, mistakes, life, inspiration, motivation, crazy dreams, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

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

Alone for a Reason

Alone Again, Naturally

I woke today after an exceptionally good night of dancing feeling strangely…icky. The lingering joy which usually greets me when I wake was replaced by a dark, writhing pit in my stomach. Thankfully, I have my normal morning routine of writing three pages of thoughts longhand. I don’t think I’ve ever needed it more than I did today.

It took me two pages to come to the realization that everyone I know has some sort of support group close by. It might be a loving and devoted spouse, or kids, or a close circle of friends; often it’s a combination of things. Meanwhile, I’m alone. If something happened to sideline me for a while, I really don’t know where I’d turn.

Life’s Challenges Come at Just the Right Time

But before you start thinking “Oh, poor Sheri”, let me get to the second part of my realization. Those people are all going through some kind of trauma or difficulty in their lives right now. It might be an aging parent, a death, the spectrum of an empty nest, issues with a child, injury, or some other disaster. But having that support group means they aren’t facing the roller coaster of emotions alone.

I, on the other hand, got my traumas and disasters over with early, while I still had at least a couple of people around to help me get through them. One child did her middle-of-the-night disappearing act over 10 years ago, setting off a chain of events which would ultimately have us leading completely separate lives. The other lived with me until shortly before her marriage. Even so, she stayed in the area another year or two. When she moved away, I may not have had a support group, but I had a life which kept me busy, and that’s nearly as good.

My parents both passed when I had work, the girls, their activities and a dozen other things to keep my mind occupied. Eventually, I even went back to my long-neglected writing. In their own way, they even inspired, and continue to inspire my writing in ways they never were able to do while alive.

Turning Bitter Fruit into a Tasty Treat

Instead of crawling into a hole and feeling sorry for what I don’t have, I see an opportunity to be more. My performance on the compassion spectrum can still use a lot of work. I still see people as strangers and tend to be territorial when it’s not necessary or even kind. I still take small snubs personally without taking into consideration the challenges my friends and acquaintances are doing their best to navigate. I see the support group and ignore the obstacles which need extra hands to clear away.

I’m reminded of the story of the coffee, the carrot, and the egg. The carrot when boiled becomes soft and flexible. The egg becomes hard and unyielding, and the coffee makes the water better. I find I want to be the coffee but am struggling in my efforts, often making the water bitter instead.

Yet it’s mornings like this when I experience my greatest revelations; my purest insight into my purpose for being in this particular lifetime. It’s the things I struggle most to learn; love, compassion, patience, supportiveness, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, I’m here to not only exhibit, but encourage in others. I may be a long way from learning what I need to know and embrace, but I’m a lot closer than I give myself credit for, especially given what I started with.

Being the Grown-up in My Relationship With Myself

My inner child continues to fight to be the center of attention. My biggest challenge is in teaching her she needs to give first. It’s her selfishness which leaves her out in the cold while others enjoy the warmth of hearth and home. It’s her unwillingness to recognize others are struggling with their own demons which has left her teased, shamed, and ostracized over and over again. And it’s the fragility she has covered over with a seemingly impermeable shell which makes it difficult for people to get to know her soft side and see how much she really has to give.

I was originally going to post a piece about fears which I wrote between dance classes yesterday, but when I woke this morning, this topic seemed to be the more important of the two. The fear piece will be waiting for the right moment, but today, compassion seemed to be more timely.

It might be in part my monthly response to the Full Moon. I do tend to react more physically and emotionally these days than I recall doing in the past. Maybe it’s because I’m post-menopausal, but I think that’s coincidental more than causal. (as I write this, I realize I started it at 11:11 on 6/11. The coincidences in my life keep pointing in the same direction. I also finished it at 1:11!). Or maybe it’s that I have time for introspection and self-reflection and am not exactly satisfied with what I see.

Where I Am and Where I Am Not

Putting aside where I am on my career path. Ignoring for a moment the many things I can point to that I don’t have. My personal development has a long way to go, which is pretty daunting when I admit how many decades I’ve had to work on it.

Even after writing several pages of self-revelation this morning, I still have the knot in the pit of my stomach. Though some of the darkness has lifted, I’m clearly not where I need to be right now. I’ve shown a marked lack of compassion in the last week or so, and I’m ashamed of myself. My inner child really needs a good shaking right now to stop feeling sorry for herself and focus on being a better person.

Thankfully, today is a new day and a new start. It’s up to me to make the most of it.

And finding a Reason to be Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I have a new day to make positive changes.
  2. I am grateful for the mistakes which make me see what I still need to learn.
  3. I am grateful for the friends I do have who accept my flaws even when I, myself don’t.
  4. I am grateful for the energy to dance for hours and sleep the sleep of the innocent, even if I wake feeling not-so-innocent.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: lessons, friends, energy, health, happiness, inspiration, motivation, Universal head slaps, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

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!

Empaths as Outcasts: Why Misery Loves Company

New Inspiration from an Old Source

You can find the Facebook Live Video which goes with this post here

Today’s blog topic didn’t come, as has been common, from my morning pages, but from my meditation. As I snuggled on the couch with my two furry girls who love the meditative energy, my mind was processing a discussion about the latest suicide of a famous figure.

As my overly active brain processed, connected, and analyzed, it landed on my relationships, or lack thereof with my family over the last couple of decades. From comments and questions I’ve fielded recently, it occurred to me my sister hasn’t been the outcast I’ve been allowed (or perhaps allowed myself) to become. Of course, this raised questions in my mind, despite the fact I’d come to the realization quite some time ago that the distance was for the best on all our parts.

Not only did it allow me to heal without interference and accept my parents’ final acts without condemnation, blame, or lifelong guilt, it let me find peace. Knowing my sister still blames my mom for more than I even know, or want to, and knowing she’s ill and angry, I’m starting to understand why the family dynamics are what they are.

Finding Yet Another Commonality With My Mom

Mom was the family outcast and was often criticized and I suspect, ridiculed behind her back. I’ve certainly had my share of missteps and actions which failed to meet with everyone’s approval. The difference between us is that I don’t really care. Mom needed the family’s approval and love. If I had it, I would be grateful, but I have never really needed it. And I am not going to be part of the blame and rehashing of mom’s failings. She was no more or less human than anyone else and as such, was prone to mistakes, both from her own viewpoint and that of others. That she likely beat herself up over them was part of her personality and more, her desperation.

Taking after my dad has been a double-edged sword. Yes, I tend to isolate myself too much, but as an Empath, sometimes isolation is the lesser of two evils. Yes, I find it hard to ask for help, much to my daughter’s annoyance. But as time goes on, I’m learning to be better about letting others do something for me instead of letting assistance be a one-way street. The best lesson I learned from dad, though, was to accept responsibility for my own actions. From that, I’ve learned to also be more understanding of the actions of others.

Don’t Blame Those Who Need to Blame

I may not agree with, nor buy into the idea of blaming mom for decades old perceived misdeeds. I may not agree with continuing to blame her when she’s not here to defend herself. But I accept the fact that my sister and whoever else she talks to has the right to make their own choices. They’re no longer hurting mom with words or deeds anyway. As I’ve learned in my own healing journey, forgiveness truly only helps the forgiver. The forgiven couldn’t care less whether we forgive them or not.

It does explain a lot about why nobody reached out to me after mom took her life, or why the last of the contacts I shared with my parents disappeared from my life after dad took his. I brought nothing to the conversation they wanted to have.

At least now, things have evolved so there are a few tentative attempts to connect. Yet, the commonalities we had 20 years ago, the roads we had traveled together have been covered over by the dust of time. We’ve raised our families, lost loved ones on all sides, seen children marry and start families of their own, and all the things that happen during a lifetime.

Lifetimes Within Lifetimes

I’ve learned that when it comes to families and connections, 20 years is a lifetime. The elderly aunts I remember have all passed on along with a few from their daughters’ generation. We’ve even lost one from my generation during the years of disconnection, and are likely to lose a couple more in the next few years. Frankly, I’m not expecting to be a part of their grieving process any more than they have been part of mine. It is what it is.

I have been an outcast from my own family for most of my adult life and the truth is, more often than not, I’m relieved. A Jewish family who escaped the persecution in Russia and Poland to emigrate to the United States and Canada carries a lot of angst. In many members of my family, that angst is embedded in their very souls and passed on from generation to generation. The fact that I’ve learned to release much of my share essentially severed my connection. Without intending to, I’ve torn myself loose from the fabric which weaves the family into a single piece of cloth. By necessity, they rewove that fabric to hide the hole I’d left, perhaps using my sister as the thread which would most efficiently cover the gap.

Empaths Create Their Own Rules

I believe the story has unfolded for a reason. I was given the sometimes dubious gift of Empathy for a reason. Despite being born into a family with a long history of trauma and upheaval, I had to learn how to manage my gift or go quietly insane. I chose the former and am learning how to use it to help others. My personal traumas have been the best teachers.

I savor the connections which have been tentatively re-established, but know I will always be one of the family outcasts. That is the role I came here to assume. Sometimes, breaking free is the first step in healing a wound that stretches back many generations. I may not have chosen the easiest path. I may have even chosen the loneliest one. But I believe the path I chose is the most rewarding one of all.

With Love and Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful to my family for giving me the space I needed to find my own way.
  2. I am grateful that I’ve learned to let go of blame, anger, bitterness, and resentment to love and accept the people who gave me life, no matter what direction their lives or actions might have taken them.
  3. I am grateful for the challenges I’ve faced which allow me to be an advocate not only for those who’ve lost someone to suicide, but for those who chose suicide as their exit plan.
  4. I am grateful for the love and support I receive from the family I’ve attracted around me. Though most are not blood, they love and accept me as my blood family aren’t able to because I’m just too different.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; inspiration, love, motivation, support, guidance, allowing, creativity, energy, peace, harmony, health, happiness, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

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!

Gazpacho Therapy

When Life Gets Too Serious, Go Chop Some Vegetables

For the last few days, I’ve been alternating between researching sites to pitch my family suicide stories and revising chapters of Life After Suicide: Healing and Forgiving for the serialization I’ve been doing on my website. To say the least, I’ve found my mood walking the narrow line between melancholy and downright sad.

It doesn’t help that I’ve had music from my high school days playing in the background. For anyone who really listens, the music of the 60’s and early 70’s runs the gamut of angry to joyful to disgusted to downright silly to protesting the world’s wrongs to celebrating the mere fact you’re alive. In short, a manic-depressive’s worst nightmare.

While I have had no indication that I inherited my family’s propensity towards actual mental illness (aka the Kozlowski crazy gene), I have been known to see my moods swing widely from one extreme to another on rare occasions. Granted, those occasions usually involved some sort of trigger which could justify such upheaval, and when they were over, I returned to my own version of normal.

Changing it Up For Mental Health…and a Week’s Worth of Healthy Meals

Fortunately, one of the items on today’s agenda was making another vat of gazpacho. A change of venue (away from the computer), a change of tunes (Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Chicago) and three hours of chopping veggies with a little spontaneous dancing are my cure for almost any ill. Laughing at myself for miscalculating and running out of bowl before I could add the last ingredient also went a long way to breaking me out of my melancholia.

Grief Doesn’t Die, it Simply Evolves

I know it has a lot to do with the amount of time I’ve been spending with the topic of family suicide and my own experiences in particular. Yesterday, I started editing Chapter 6 in preparation for scheduling the chapter for next week. It seemed to be taking a long time, and the words I’d written several years ago were causing memories to well to the surface like my over filled gazpacho bowl when I tried to seal the lid.

I don’t know how much time passed as I worked on the chapter, but I finally looked back at what I’d done and realized it was a lot of pages and I had several more to go before reaching the end of the chapter! After discovering the chapter was well over 7000 words long, I realized it had some natural breaks. Thus, Chapter 6 is now Chapters 6, 7 and 8.

As if reading my own thoughts wasn’t enough of a stroll down memory lane, my coach convinced me to start pitching psychology sites and publications with my story. Heaven knows I can approach it in a zillion different ways! But talking about it, studying it and pitching it takes its toll.

My Turn to Amuse the Universe

Oh, and did I mention there was another suicide in my extended family in the last couple of weeks? It’s been all I could do to not stop and shake my fist at the Universe. That delightful soul has been driving the point home with a sledgehammer for the last couple of weeks. I’m not over my parents’ deaths by suicide, nor will I ever really be. I get it.

I’ve learned a lot, processed more and gained insight, but I certainly don’t have all the answers, nor will I ever have them. There are just some things I’m not meant to know or understand, and that’s OK. There are still pockets of grief inside me. The difference is, they aren’t right on the surface any more, but take a particular trigger to wake them up. Each time they do come around, I’m able to release a little more. I’m able to forgive myself for another guilt capsule I swallowed whole.

Accepting, Forgiving, and Understanding

I believe this is how it is for anyone who loses a loved one. You never really stop missing them or thinking about them. Or grieving. Your grief just takes on different forms as your heart and mind deal with different aspects of the loss.

Will I ever stop regretting the fact that I didn’t see my mom’s pain? Will I forgive myself for not spending as much time with my dad when he became so negative? Will there ever come a day when I only feel love and no longer feel guilt when my parents come to mind? Probably not. But the volume and magnitude of the guilt is waning.

Is There a Gene for Insanity?

I happened upon an article about Mariel Hemingway today and how she’s lost 7 family members to suicide including her famous grandfather, Ernest. As I read the story, I learned her family has a long history of addiction and mental illness which forced her to take on adult responsibilities at a very young age. She, herself has battled depression.

My first thought was how normal my family is by comparison and how lucky I am that I am disinclined towards leaving this mortal coil any time soon. And yet…

The stories my mother would tell about my grandmother would make your hair stand on end. One of my cousins was forced to take responsibility for her siblings at a young age when her mother lost her ability to do so for a time. My parents were heavy drinkers and though it was always treated like a social activity, I can’t recall the passing of a single day when alcohol wasn’t applied liberally after a long day of work.

Granted, my dad’s life ending decision was the result of physical rather than mental issues, but then, his side of the family seemed, at least from my perspective to be better equipped to cope with the world unmedicated. That being said, I wasn’t even aware that my father had serious health problems, so maybe his relatives had just learned to hide things better. Once again, I’ll never really know.

Releasing What I Cannot Control to Protect My Health

At any rate, I know now that I need to make sure I give myself plenty of breaks between activities involving what my coach calls “Raw Sheri”. Whether I work on my fiction, make another mess in the kitchen, go to the gym or dance. I need to allow the breaks to just futz or bury myself in a book just for the pleasure of traveling to another place. Life is about balance, and clearly I’d been listing too far to starboard. I’m just glad I can figure it out and adjust accordingly.

Staying Mentally Healthy with Hefty Doses of Gratitude

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for my personal forms of therapy (which have saved me thousands of dollars, I might add). Most often, I write, but when that isn’t working or I just don’t have the patience, I can get up and move, clean, cook, dance, exercise…whatever I think will work.
2. I am grateful for my cats who are always nearby. Whether I’m cooking and dancing around the kitchen, giving them cause to keep their distance and look at me like I’ve lost a few marbles, or they’re joining me for a meditation, supervising my writing or snuggling at bedtime. Their love washes over me and makes me feel like part of their pride.
3. I am grateful for the huge vat of gazpacho in my refrigerator, even if I have to take it out tomorrow, pour it in a bigger bowl and mix in the broth.
4. I am grateful for friends who get where I’m coming from. I’m slowly getting used to not having them close by to meet for lunch or a movie, but instead, must reach out via phone or computer. But I know they’re there for me and I for them, however we have to make it work.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, clients, inspiration, motivation, support, lessons, challenges, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy and prsoperity.

Blessed Be

December 31, 2014 The one New Year’s resolution we should all make.

As I see it, most New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken.

I am not one for New Year’s resolutions as a rule. After all, aren’t most of them broken within the first month? But this year, I realized that there was one resolution, more a promise to myself, that I wanted to get on record. It is the kind of resolution which is both all encompassing and sufficiently vague as to be break resistant. So, without further ado, here is my single 2015 New Year’s Resolution:

I hereby resolve to be kinder to myself, beginning with 2015.

If I learned nothing else in 2014, it is that kindness, like forgiveness, begins at home. When we are kinder to ourselves, that kindness overflows into the rest of our lives and positively impacts everything we say and do. Sure, I’m still working on the forgiving part, and will, along with kindness, be working on it for the rest of my current human existence…and probably well beyond that! I believe that making a promise to yourself to begin is the first step we need in order to succeed.

So this is me, promising myself kindness, and taking the first step to make it so.

A New Year blessed with kindness, please
To self, to nature, let’s all believe.
It matters not to whom we pray
Take one step forward every day.
Try love and forgiveness with every breath
From now until this body’s death.
A loving gift, our soul will take
Into the next life that we make.
This is the gift I give to thee
As I will, so mote it be.

A blessed and Happy New Year to one and all.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for the people who allowed me to touch their lives this year.
2. I am grateful for my daughter who helps me be a better me.
3. I am grateful for my friends, both old and new, who have, by their wonderful examples, helped me see where I need to make improvements in myself.
4. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned this year. Many are invaluable if I’m going to follow my true path.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, lessons, joy, harmony, understanding, faith, happiness, health, peace and prosperity. May we all find what we need in 2015, and carry our lessons well into the future.

Blessed Be.

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