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

Posts tagged ‘gratitude’

Epiphany Central

Opening the Epiphany Floodgates

This has been a week of epiphanies. I’ve cleared the cobwebs and the fairy dust from several things, though they all, in their own way boil down to how I’ve mis-perceived my relationship with my dad, both while he was alive, and until recently.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, my relationship with my mom was virtually non-existent unless you count being like two angry bulls spoiling for a fight just for the sake of fighting a relationship. Early on, it was clear I was destined to disappoint her, though I never really figured out why. She had about 2 1/2 years to bond with her first-born before her second came along, and she, like her mother before her, tossed the first one aside to dote on the second. Nowadays, I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that she was young when I was born, and made her mistakes with me. It wasn’t necessarily that my sister was an easier child, but by the time she was born, mom had figured out some of the ins and outs of motherhood, just as she had with cooking.

Searching for a More Hospitable Host in my Dad

Somewhere in my young mind, I must have understood, and given up on trying to please her long before my 4th birthday (and heaven knows, I became an expert at displeasing her!) and turned my attention to my other parental unit, believing I could bond with him while my mother was turning all her attention to the newest addition to the family.

By then, I had become accustomed to being ignored or yelled at, so I figured any attention I got was better than nothing. My dad did what he knew best; he teased and tormented me, and when he had had enough, he yelled at me and sent me to my room. Even as a teenager, my mom would wield the over-used admonition “wait until your father gets home”. When he did, she’d whine and complain about my latest misdeeds until you’d swear I’d committed murder, or at least a federal crime. After a long day, it was the last thing he needed, so of course, he took it out on me.

Thus began another round of trying to win my dad’s approval. A game I’ve recently come to realize was one I could never win no matter how hard I tried. Eventually, I accepted his demanding nature and verbal abuse as approval, or the closest he ever came to giving it. I loved him unconditionally and accepted whatever small crumb of attention and affection he could spare.

Breaking the Rose-Colored Glasses

https://www.flickr.com/photos/derekgavey/5403628476/in/photolist-9ev1ud-9odiqE-99hCeK-28aMBcv-L2NkmJ-L2NjGN-9aaEe6-kvx1iw-rkYv1m-4JnGd-en3MZM-qccpV9-FVyYz-7qbqYL-JvQXse-28aMnuk-25pJMJY-286n5WU-L2Nm3o-275n4TN-25pJMX3-25pJUrq-6xmHDy-275nbsE-21iHwcY-L2N9Pw-286mVTd-C3YxBB-275nbQo-25pJFVo-275ntKf-Ehpm5G-27cSKLm-fpFWJU-275naRu-26NbLs2-286mVgm-L2N1uA-6xhy1c-25pJHDU-JvQCMP-8w3ARY-275naAu-djcYHr-L2N3yA-4jqADJ-r2KRCc-bSaaQx-dy1jLj-275noVqFlash forward to a night when I sat in the ER awaiting test results, and doing writing prompts to keep myself amused. As often happens, the seemingly innocuous prompt became a veritable rant about the times my dad had mistreated me or shown preference to a virtual stranger over me (like the time he let my then sister-in-law drive his RX7 but made some lame-ass excuse for not allowing me the same privilege).

The word storm escalated, and had I been sitting at a table or desk instead of resting the spiral notebook on my knees, I fear I’d have ripped holes in the paper, I was gripping the pen so tightly.

And yet, it was cathartic. It made me realize I’d been dishonest with myself, holding back feelings I actually believed I shouldn’t feel. But the truth about our feelings is they are what they are. If we try to restrain them, they burst forth in other less productive ways. Since my habit was to stuff mine into a bottle and seal them tightly, it was only a matter of time before the seal dried out and cracked, leaking those old, never-dealt-with feelings out in a random moment of inattention. The beeps and buzzes of monitors, crying babies, and cranky, confused old men appears to be the trigger that broke my seal and let all the messy, convoluted, unkempt feelings spill out in an inglorious mess.

Letting the Myriad Feelings Flow

While I sat in my curtained cubicle with my earbuds in my ears, the music only slightly reducing the ambient noise around me, the emotional cacophony poured forth as years of pent up anger demanded release. I cursed and railed against the man to whom I’d given only love and devotion, at least until even his crankiness became exhausting if taken in large doses. Yet I still called, I still checked in, and I still listened to him rail about this person or that, murmuring sympathetic noises while he ranted.

When the dust cleared and I’d had time to sort through my feelings, the anger subsided. Instead, I felt hurt, disillusioned, and disgusted by how much time I’d wasted trying to earn the love of a man who didn’t really know how to give it. He taught me to give my love unconditionally, whether or not it was returned. What neither he nor my mother taught me was how to receive love unconditionally as well.

Seeing What I’d Been Missing All My Life

I’ve lived over 63 years of this lifetime going from one unfulfilling relationship to another until I realized the problem was me, not them. At that point, I did something reasonably sensible. I stopped trying to find someone other than my daughters to give my love to and put my effort into fixing and loving myself.

If I’m honest with myself, I don’t know if I’m capable of allowing someone to love me like that, though it’s also my dearest, most heartfelt wish. I’ve learned to shrug it off saying “I like living by myself”. Those closest to me aren’t buying it, yet until now, I couldn’t understand why.

They’ve seen and experienced my capacity to love and to give, and I wouldn’t be surprised if several hadn’t already discerned my problem was on the receiving side. It explains a lot with regard to my difficulty asking for help. Granted, I learned it from a long line of brutally independent people. But as is my wont, I took it to a whole new level.

We All Deserve to Be Loved

It isn’t that I haven’t told myself over and over I deserve to be loved. I never managed to actually convince myself to believe the words I spoke. I’ve made great inroads into positive affirmations about my outside packaging, and really do love my meat suit, flaws and all. But that inner marshmallow, the young girl whose face peers back at me from an ancient black and white photo above my computer still believes she doesn’t deserve to get as much love back as she gives. Despite all of my exhortations to the contrary, a piece of that little girl is my mom too.

As with anything else, the first step in solving a problem is to recognize the problem. I’m recognizing mine. The question remaining is whether I can fix it and turn things around in whatever time I have left in this Human form? Stick around, if you dare, as I step off onto the next leg of my journey. At least I’ve finally learned I don’t have to do it alone. As the Beatles so aptly sang “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

So Much to Be Grateful For

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful for the friends who are helping me get by these days; who are helping me recognize what I’m missing, and helping me figure out how to fix what I didn’t know until now was broken.
  2. I am grateful for epiphanies. They come when they’re supposed to. It’s never too late, nor the wrong time, but exactly the right time to bring in new data.
  3. I am grateful for loving my dad. I think in his own way he needed someone to love him unquestioningly, even if he didn’t respond in kind.
  4. I am grateful for the swings I’ve taken as I come to understand the parents I chose this time around. I may never have all the answers, but the number of questions dwindles just the same.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, understanding, compassion, kindness, epiphanies, new outlooks, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

Advertisements

Could Our Brains Be Hard-Wired for Suicide?

Suicide from a Different Perspective

Today I gained a new perspective on the mind of a person who chooses suicide. It came from a journalist who was also a friend of Anthony Bourdain’s, and shared a mindset with the chef many of us can’t relate to, but I suspect, far more understand better than they’ll admit. Because, well, suicide is a sin, right? It’s wrong, it’s selfish, it’s a cruel thing to….well, you get the picture. It’s a whole lot of BS that’s been flung around for so long, a large segment of the population believes it without question.

The article was published in the Observer by an essayist who goes by the pseudonym Film Crit Hulk. He writes for a number of well-known publications, though most of his work fits the pseudonym. The piece he wrote for the Observer was a deviation from the norm.

Like me, he is attempting to clear the nonsense and stigma surrounding suicide, but from the perspective of someone who carries the thought with him pretty much constantly. It never occurred to me until I read his article that things like depression, terminal illness, addiction, or mental illness are, for some people secondary if they even exist at all. Instead, he theorizes it is a glitch in our coping mechanism which is “installed” after we suffer a trauma. Some people get the ability to cope interlaced with what I can only guess is a desensitization to the idea of ending their own life.

The Act-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named

Interestingly, he refers to suicide as “that which must not be named”. I often use similar phrasing as my own poke at the masses who judge without any attempt at understanding. He also mentions something else I’ve professed to for a long time, but what most people don’t want to hear. Suicide Hotlines are only good to a point. If the person is unable to find support or to afford long-term treatment to get to the root of the problem, nothing and nobody is going to stop them from taking their life in the fraction of time when it all becomes too much, and suicide is, to them, the better option.

Yes, You Can Help

Once he finishes explaining how people actually fight the urge to take their lives, sometimes for years, sometimes not, we once again agree on the things we can do.

First and foremost is to stop freaking out at the mere mention of the word. I’m not saying desensitize yourself, but for heaven’s sake, don’t get squeamish or try to run away from the word, or brush it off like it was a mistake or something. Acknowledge it. Accept that it’s real. Realize it is often embedded in the coping mechanisms developed after experiencing a trauma.

Even more important is understanding what happens in another person’s life; whether or not they reach a point where they choose suicide, has nothing to do with anyone else. Not you, not their spouse, their parents, their kids, their boss…it’s a choice, as I’ve said a zillion times, they make for themselves and by themselves. If one more person makes the lame ass comment about how they should have thought about how it would affect their family and friends, I swear, I’m going to reach through the computer and backhand them. The only thing they care about when they pull the trigger, swallow the pills, or whatever method they choose is ending their own pain. Period.

Again, Hulk and I agree on the only real solution, understanding it isn’t a guarantee they’ll live out their life until they meet their end through accident or natural causes. And yes, it’s the C word again. We have to be the ones to reach out when we notice someone is spending an excessive amount of time alone, or if they seem even the slightest bit off and show some compassion.

No One Wants to be Told They’re Broken

This is where I am starting to get why my mom went ballistic. My aunt and others believed the way to help her was to tell her she needed therapy. If you ask me, that’s about as sensitive as telling someone who just miscarried that it was “God’s Will”. I don’t think anyone wants to hear someone tell them they think they’re nuts. I may well be a few ticks off of normal, but unless you’re joking, and I know you’re joking, I’d suggest a less offensive approach.

Suggest a lunch date, or coffee, or a walk in the park. Something normal. In short, be a friend. Pay attention to them. Listen when they want to talk, and don’t feel you need to fill the silence when they don’t. Your company means more to them than you realize.

The Sucky Side of Being an Empath

It comes as no surprise to me to learn Anthony Bourdain was an Empath. The subject of depression and suicide comes up in Empath support groups more often than you might imagine. Why? Because in addition to our own demons who conduct regular games of tag in our brains, we get to take on other peoples’ demons too. How’s that for a dubious gift? Being in crowds is tough, but being in crowds where there’s anger, misery, or any mix of confusion and negativity is downright painful for an Empath. I’ve learned to limit my exposure to people who are drinking heavily as the filters on their emotions erode, the more they self-medicate.

Someone in Your Life Considered Suicide

In the many discussions which ensued both from the two high-profile suicides and my outspokenness on the subject, I learned there are people I hold dear who have, at some point in their lives, seriously considered suicide. After reading the Hulk’s article, I can understand how they might have reached that point. Their lives were no bed of roses, and there were traumas along the way. They learned to put on a face for the world that hid their pain. They made it from one day to the next, raising kids, working at jobs, taking care of homes, pets, and even aging parents without a word of complaint. They couldn’t and wouldn’t share the cesspool of emotions boiling underneath their public face.

But I can only relate to a point. Yes, there’s been a time or two when I seriously wondered if anyone would miss me if I ended it. I’ve felt sorry for myself more often than I can actually justify now. But I have never reached the point where all the reasons not to are slipping away, and I’m fighting to push them back. So to say I truly understand where Anthony, Hulk, and others like them have been would be insulting to them.

Being Conscious of People Who Claim They Like Being Alone

I know what it feels like to be alone, but I also realize I put myself there. I’m learning I can reach out just as easily as I can hunker down in my house with the blinds shut and the cats piled on top of me while I watch something mindless on TV. And I’m doing it more and more. But some people can’t reach out. They need us to do it for them.

I can hear the arguments as I’ve used some of them myself. “They’re too busy with their families.” “They have their own group of friends they hang out with. They won’t want to do something with me.” “I don’t make friends easily. I’m off-putting.”. There are more, but I won’t waste your time with whining or words I know aren’t true. We all have our own litany, if we are inclined to spend a lot of time alone, if not physically, in our own minds. Knowing there are people in all of our lives who would benefit from someone making a lunch or coffee date is the real key to slowing down the rising numbers of suicide deaths.

I’m not naive enough to believe it is the only solution, nor that it will end suicide deaths completely, but I’m reminded of the story of the child throwing starfish back into the sea. We can’t save them all, but isn’t it worth our while to save as many as we can? Or at least do what we can to make their lives more pleasant until the time they can’t hold on any longer?

Gratitude: My Regular Fallback

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for all the people who are doing what they can to raise awareness about suicide.
  2. I am grateful for my own hard-wiring which always seems to find a reason to keep going.
  3. I am grateful I’m an Empath, even if the cost is, at times, quite high.
  4. I am grateful for the Conscious ones in my life. Even when they’re sad, lonely, depressed, angry, or otherwise emotional, the emotions they spew forth are always laced with love, acceptance, and Being.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, commonality, movie buddies, extracurricular activities, opportunities, books, dreams, new doors opening, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

When the Light Bulb Comes On, You Find Your Purpose

Finding My Purpose Was the Ultimate Aha Moment

I’ve been searching for my purpose for a very long time. Many times, I thought I had it figured out, only to lose momentum and realize I hadn’t found it at all. This week, a lot of things changed for me. I rode an emotional roller coaster that makes The Demon seem tame. I’ve been up and down the continuum, from happy to miserable, joyous to furious.

The ride was wild and uninhibited, opening up doors I’d sworn I’d nailed shut. But in the end, I realized one vitally important thing: I have to put my efforts into educating people about mental health and depression, de-stigmatizing them so people who need help but can’t ask will find that help in all of us. Even more, I need to keep working to de-stigmatize suicide, not only for those who saw it as their only option and are no longer around to defend their actions, but for the family, friends, and loved ones they leave behind. It’s time those who had no control over another’s actions stopped bearing the overwhelming guilt, blame, anger, and pain of something over which they had absolutely no control, and in fact, probably never saw coming.

Inserting My Purpose Into My Life, or Maybe My Life Into My Purpose

I’m not sure at this point how I’ll work my purpose into my business, or even into my life, but I finally feel

like I have one, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a giant leap in the right direction. At times like this, the words of my healing teacher, Michelle, come back to me. She said, “Paint in broad strokes.” What she meant by that (or perhaps how I interpret it) is to look at the big picture of what you want and don’t get hung up in the details. Or, to put it more simply, figure out what you want and let the Universe figure out the hows.

It’s easy to say, but it doesn’t stop me from fretting over how I’m going to connect with people who can and will benefit from my skills and experiences in a way that helps open up dialogue on such incredibly sensitive subjects. In the last week or so, I’ve seen some brilliant observations, and I’ve seen some which are irresponsibly ignorant; the most notable from a self-professed mental health professional who had the audacity to proudly proclaim he’d never lost a client to suicide. It led me to wonder exactly what kind of clients his practice attracts, and whether he picks and chooses who he’ll serve based on his assessment of their stability and suitability for his own needs.

Levels of Awareness

The truth is, I am still not sure where I’ll fit into the continuum between the masses who are ignorant of the challenges faced by people who suffer depression or other mental health issues and the large portion of our population who are often ignored and forgotten along with family and friends who are also at a loss for how to help. I suspect that now I’ve put my purpose into words; into a short description, those who serve the people I want to help will start appearing in my life. But patience isn’t my strong suit.

If I had my way, I’d already know of 10 people I could talk to about helping raise awareness, not only for those who judge without adequate facts, but for those who huddle in their own darkness, perhaps unaware that help could be found without having to actually step forward and ask. Instead, I remind myself to trust that not only those 10 people, but plenty more will come into my life at exactly the right time.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to hone my message, be clearer about what I want to do to help, and do my research so I better understand the mission I’m undertaking. Part of that I know is understanding even the professionals don’t understand all the ins and outs of the human mind. Often, what they treat are symptoms, because they’re unable to determine the root cause.

Understanding Current Practices and Treatments

Maybe treating the symptoms is necessary to clear some of the defense mechanisms away. The mind is a pretty powerful mechanism. It is hard coded to protect us, even when some of those protections are no longer needed. Sometimes, wires get crossed, but as it’s a brain instead of a computer, the wires aren’t actually visible.

To me it’s a bit like gaining the trust of a cat who was born in the wild. You have to move slowly and allow them to see you mean them no harm. If you don’t, ingrained behaviors take over causing them to flee if they can, fight if they can’t. All of us have that fight or flight mechanism. Many of us have learned to minimize its influence so we can try new things, and explore outside our comfort zone. But what about those who can’t?

Imagine being stuck in your comfort zone forever, unable to step outside. After awhile, it gets cluttered and dusty, but you have no place to move things out to make more room. The lights go out but you can’t get to the light to change the bulb, even if you could find one in the midst of the clutter. So you sit in the dark with nothing to occupy you but your own thoughts. Those thoughts get darker and twistier each time you pull them out to examine them. Your mind creates more and more reasons to stay put and not venture out, more potentially unpleasant or dangerous outcomes to contemplate. You no longer know what’s outside your four walls, and are terrified to find out.

To me, and many others, shaking free of those fears so we can get out and experience life is a no-brainer. Yet even there, we’re on different levels. Some see the idea of jumping out of a plane or bungee jumping as an exhilarating challenge. You’ll never find me doing either due to a combination of fear and lack of desire to feel that kind of adrenaline rush.

Every Comfort Zone Has its Place

I’ve known people who love to dance, but would never be the first one out on the floor for fear people would be watching them. Until someone voiced that fear, it never even crossed my mind. When I realize there are people who succumb to their fears instead of being able to challenge and overcome them, it makes me very sad but also inspires me to look for ways to help.

Sure, I’ve had my own bouts of depression; some lasted years and I didn’t even know I was there. Once I recognized it for what it was, though, I was able to make some changes. It doesn’t mean I don’t spend more than the “normal” amount of time alone, but I’m fortunate in that I rather enjoy my own company, and can keep myself occupied while alone in a multitude of ways, some of them even productive.

For now, I’ll leave myself open for clues and opportunities without worrying the whole thing to death. I know at the right time and in the right place, the people I’m meant to serve will appear in my life.

Experiencing Gratitude is the Ultimate Mood Booster

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful to have finally figured out my purpose.
  2. I am grateful for the people who have come through my life and taught me lessons which brought me to where I am right now, and will take me to the next steps sooner rather than later.
  3. I am grateful for aches and pains as they remind me to take better care of my body through exercise and nutrition.
  4. I am grateful for friends and family who share their struggles with me, and let me share mine with them. I realize I am so much more fortunate than many who lack the ability or the opportunity.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, opportunities, introspection, friendship, support, joy, peace, harmony, kindness, compassion, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

Connected vs. Disconnected

Feeling Connected is Mind Blowing

Many times I’ve written about feeling detached and disconnected when I go dancing, even though I’m in the midst of my friends and dance community. Today, I’m writing, somewhat bemused about being connected.

The last couple of dance nights, I felt like my level of interaction with everyone jumped a few thousand points on the connection scale. Suddenly, I’m in the middle of groups chatting about whatever, or talking to someone and really listening to what they’re saying. Have I suddenly started learning how to engage with people naturally? Without talking to myself about really focusing on them and not going off into the dark, windy roads of my own mind?

What amazes me most is how good it feels to be engaged with the people I already love and respect, yet still felt a bit like a fraud and an outsider. I allow stupid differences to distract me: things like spiritual/religious preferences, political leanings, and even having (or in my case, not having) aging parents to care for.

Overlooking or Overpowering Insecurities

On a conscious level, I know those things are minor differences as far as the big picture goes. My connection with these people isn’t based on those factors at all, but on our mutual love for dancing, keeping healthy, and getting out into the world on a regular basis for something besides a J.O.B.

We all have our insecurities, though some of us have become better at getting past them than others. There will always be that little voice in our heads trying to convince us to pull back into our shell where it’s “safe”. It’s the voice who is perfectly content to remain inside our comfort zone, or what I not-so-fondly refer to as a rut.

In her 2012 TED talk, sociologist Amy Cuddy suggested that striking a power pose (AKA Wonder Woman Pose) could cause others to perceive us as more confident, and that perception could, indeed increase our own confidence. I’ve found it can also help overlook all the differences the voices in our heads are trying to magnify beyond any reasonable level.

Feeling Confident or Being Confident?

I’ve tried this method myself, though often mentally rather than physically when going into a confidence kicking situation like a meeting with a potential client. I’ve found even mentally seeing myself in a power pose is quite effective in raising my confidence. Yet it never occurs to me to use it in a social situation where I’m often more susceptible to feelings of inferiority and ineptitude.

The truth is, when it comes to my work-related skills, especially those I spent over 30 years practicing and honing, I know what I can and cannot do. I know I can figure out a way to make just about anything work. It’s like the numbers on a ledger sheet, black and white with no room for question.

Playing to Our Strengths

My social skills, on the other hand may not be as rusty and underused as they once were, but too often I’ll compare my skills to others and find myself lacking. Doing so creates an almost palpable feeling of wilting. When that happens, I’ll quietly move to the outskirts of the conversation, physically, energetically, or both. Then I’m back to being the disconnected hermit who hides out all day in her dark, quiet room with only her cats and a computer screen for company.

I’ve made a conscious decision to alter my trajectory, both in business and socially. In so choosing, I find myself turning to the power pose more often, at least until my confidence can hold its own without artificial augmentation. I pay attention to the times when I feel connected so I can analyze the situation later and see what I was doing right.

Polishing Up My Social Acuity

Up to now I didn’t see what Landon Porter calls “social acuity” as a necessary business tool, which could explain why building my business has seemed like such an uphill battle. Until you can read a room, as it were, and understand where people are coming from and what they want and need, you can’t really craft an offer that will resonate with them.

Where I got lost in the weeds was in losing sight of the fact it’s not a business I’m trying to appeal to, but the people who make decisions for a business. Whether I like it or not (and my introverted self still quakes at the idea of socially interacting, but less so than it used to) all successful business people are good at building relationships. They find connections between themselves and others that are much deeper than the obvious, superficial preferences.

The funny thing is, I’ve had the tools to get beneath the surface all along, but old habits still linger. I tend to mask or discredit my empathic response to people instead of listening to it, and more importantly, to them. Listening itself is something I’m only beginning to fully understand. The words you hear spoken are really the smallest part of the listening process.

Using the Tools We’ve Always Had at Our Disposal

When I do feel connected and engaged with someone, I feel their emotions rising and falling. I start to connect with what makes them feel passionate, angry, sad, or exuberant. I know when they’re talking about something which gives their life its real meaning. What I’m learning at this point is to avoid shutting myself down or panicking when I feel those waves of emotion flow over me. Instead, I have to learn to use the information to help gain an understanding of the unspoken wants and needs of the person I’m speaking to.

I was talking to someone recently who I’d always seen as strong, confident, well-connected, and socially active. Yet the strongest emotion I felt radiating from her when I left my guard down was loneliness. She’s simply learned to show that confidence and strength to most people, and I’m sure her many life successes have contributed to that confidence and strength. It doesn’t mean she, like the rest of us doesn’t have moments of loneliness or insecurity. She’s just learned to be selective about who sees that very vulnerable side of her. To say I was humbled and honored by the trust she put in me by sharing that side of herself is like saying rain is wet.

Taking Relationship Marketing to a New Level

It also gave me a whole new understanding about the idea of relationship marketing. It’s necessary for both sides to be willing to drop the shields to some degree, and you don’t get to that point without feeling you can trust someone.

Many of us are jaded by the game playing and power struggles in the corporate world. We’ve learned to hold back the most important parts of ourselves and trust no one. Though it may keep you safe in a jungle where it’s everyone for themselves, it’s a liability when the health of your passion project depends on trust and openness.

What it all boils down to is I’m learning to take what I’m discovering as a neophyte social creature and apply it to the rest of my world without qualification. I trust my instincts in most social situations; who to open to and who to shield with all my might. It’s time to practice those lessons in a world where the stakes (at least those which will allow me to continue following my passion) are a great deal higher.

Leading with a Grateful Heart

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people I’m learning to connect with on a deeper level.
  2. I am grateful for a rising awareness of the tools I’ve always had, but was afraid to use.
  3. I am grateful for the support and friendship I’m discovering has been there, in some cases, for a long time, but I wasn’t ready to see it.
  4. I am grateful for a new and improved outlook on the future help of my writing business.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, trust, faith, confidence, inspiration, motivation, tools, friendship, support, mentors, teachers, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

Those Baby Steps Again!

Overcoming Adversity a Pound at a Time

In mid-2015 I started experiencing a lot of pain in my left shoulder. By early 2016 it had gotten so bad, my arm was continually numb and even a bra strap on my shoulder was more pressure than even my extraordinarily high pain tolerance could handle. After x-rays revealed issues in my neck, I consulted with an orthopedist who found a herniated disk along with spinal stenosis.

When I began the prescribed physical therapy, I was barely able to lift 1-pound weights, which was a significant decrease from my previous ability to do chest presses and flys with 15-pound free weights. But between the physical therapy and changing my diet, I slowly regained enough strength to use 5- and eventually, 10-pound weights.

Creating Our Own Brand of Consistency

Over the last couple of years, I was intermittently continuing regular workouts and gaining strength in fits and starts. My progress was directly related to the consistency of my gym visits, or lack thereof. The baby steps were happening, but the irregularity of my commitment was easily apparent in the slow and sometimes nonexistent increase in strength I observed.

That all changed in the last few months. I finally realized the only way to honor my commitment to myself was to keep track of when I went to the gym, and to schedule regular days, not only for workouts, but for specific areas being worked as well. With consistency came greater progress, and I’m now doing flys and presses with 25-pound free weights, and bench pressing 55 pounds. It might not seem like much to those who have achieved consistency over the long term, but for me, it represents more than merely the most weight I’ve ever been able to manage, but the result of finding what worked for me.

I don’t push myself as hard as a lot of the people I see at the gym for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is lack of a spotter. But I’m also at an age where I have to be more careful of the exercises I do and the amount of weight I’m using. I may not look my age on the outside, but on the inside, things are not as flexible or resilient as they once were. I’d rather err on the side of caution and continue to retain my independence.

I have noticed that lifting the 5-gallon water bottles with one hand has become far simpler lately. And clothes I had to weigh less to wear are now fitting though I’m 5 or 6 pounds heavier.

Taking Smaller Steps to Larger Goals

What I’m really trying to demonstrate with my story is that baby steps will always get you where you want to go eventually. It’s not how big the steps you take might be, but the consistency of taking those steps. Face it, a thousand 2 foot steps will get you a whole lot farther than 10 20 foot steps. And in the process, those smaller steps will build up your strength, or teach you new skills, or even gain you some help on your journey. If you want to reach your goals more quickly, you’re often better off taking more small steps instead of a few bigger ones. Each of those small steps is a brick in the foundation you’re building to support the new and improved version of yourself.

When we take a lot of small steps, we’re spending time reinforcing the changes we’re making. We also leave more space to adjust our course if something is taking us away from what we want. Or, as more often happens, our goal changes because we learn new things which open up possibilities we could neither see nor consider when we began. It’s a lot easier to adjust course if we’ve gone a foot or two off track vs. several miles. If nothing else, less distance to backtrack means we start moving forward much sooner.

Lovin’ My Baby Steps

As you may have read in other posts, I’m a big fan of baby steps for a lot of reasons.

  • Less course correction, as previously mentioned
  • More time to learn skills you’ll need as you get closer to your goals
  • Opportunities for collaboration you might miss if you’re moving too fast
  • Creation of healthier habits from commitments you make to yourself
  • A stronger foundation because you’re taking the time and care to expand on what’s working and jettison what’s not

Needless to say, I’m more the tortoise than the hare, plodding along at what might sometimes seem a snail’s pace. But don’t be fooled by my lack of visible progress. I’m likely working on something that isn’t visible to the naked eye, but is critical to the integrity of the structure I’m creating. You don’t see the re-bar in the slab beneath your house or office building, but its presence means you’re standing on much firmer ground.

Finding Our Own Ways and Means

Some people learn life skills like fixing things around the house, balancing a check book, and creating a budget. They know how to read a contract and how to ask questions to be sure they’re getting exactly what they want and need. They’re also less likely to be taken in by a salesperson with questionable ethics (though not immune, to be sure!), and more likely to call someone on “facts” that don’t add up.

Others really struggle with what some of us consider elementary concepts. They’re easy targets for people who care only for the money they make from people whose welfare they believe is not their concern.

The same is true of the steps we take to reach our goals and the commitments we make to the steps required to achieve them. For some, the steps are obvious and the commitments necessary are easy. Others are faced with dilemmas with each new phase. Those dilemmas might be physical, mental, or emotional restrictions. They might also be purely moral.

Nobody Knows You Like You Do

Whatever drives you to choose one path or another is unique to you, and has very valid reasons for being necessary. It doesn’t matter if your choices make no sense to anyone else. For you, they represent steps you have to take to get to the next level. By the same token, steps someone else takes might seem obvious or elementary to you because you’re coming to the table with a different set of skills.

To move forward, it’s necessary to step outside our comfort zone, but how fast we take those steps is unique to us, and necessary. If we step too quickly for our own abilities and discomfort, we’re more likely to dive back into our shell of comfort and security than move forward. We all need to find our own “sweet spot” of discomfort where we can tolerate risk for the promise of a reward.

Several wise people have pointed out we are all at different stages in our life plan. You can’t measure yourself against someone else because you’ll be ahead of them in some areas, behind them in others, and on the same level in still others. What’s more important is to realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be right here and right now.

Grateful Every Day

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my increasing physical strength.
  2. I am grateful for the lessons I’m learning which help me push further out of my comfort zone.
  3. I am grateful for slow, steady progress and the help I find along the way.
  4. I am grateful for momentum. The further I go, the more I achieve in less time.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; strength, health, flexibility, knowledge, help, connections, inspiration, motivation, detours, delays, aha moments, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

“As Within, So Without”

Where Did “As Within, So Without” Come From?

The phrase “as within, so without” is found in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus which put forth the concept “as above, so below” as well. “As above, so below” theorizes that everything from the simplest cell, to man and animals, to God, to the Universe is all the same. We are part of the same body, the same reality, the same truth. Above, God is man’s counterpart while below, man is God’s counterpart, and we are equally important, indelibly connected.

“As within, so without” takes the theory a step further, hypothesizing that a person (or as in the tablet, a Magician) can effect a change simply by willing it to happen and believing it has happened, much like healing techniques being used in China and India. In other words, whatever we believe to the core of our being will ultimately manifest itself in the physical world.

We often see this happen in the form of unpleasant or even disastrous self-fulfilling prophecies as it works whether we believe in the worst that can happen or the best. These days, the theory is being mass-marketed by everyone from Gay and Jerry Hendricks (“Laws of Attraction”), to Rhonda Byrne (“The Secret”), to Eckhart Tolle (“The Power of Now”) and others too numerous to name. Yet they all say pretty much the same thing. The reality you believe with passion will be the reality you see.

Thought Trains

The inspiration for this train of thought came from a seemingly unlikely source. Someone asked a question about the messy bun hairstyle many writers and others who work from home embrace to remove at least one distraction, low hanging hair. I commented that mine is especially messy since I’m trying to cram curls with a mind of their own into a confined space against their will.

It occurred to me that their wild unwieldiness is a reflection of the way my mind works. I can no more tame the monkey mind which insists on rushing in a dozen directions at once than I can, at least without extreme effort, tame the curls which do the same on top of my head. It’s not for lack of trying, both on my part, and in my early years, my mother’s. I think she bought stock in Dippity Doo in hopes she’d get my recalcitrant curls to lay flat the way hers and my sister’s did. But as my curly locks came from my dad’s genes, she was spitting in the wind.

At any rate, I’ve learned to accept and even embrace those curls, giving them permission and even encouragement to twist, turn, and even somersault if they’re so inclined. In so doing, I’ve let my mind know its gymnastics are also accepted and embraced.

What to Keep and What to Toss

In the last few years, I’ve done a lot of decluttering; my house, my life, my wardrobe…you name it, I’ve decluttered it. I realize what people say is true. When you organize your environment, you give your mental and emotional self some breathing room too. But in my case at least, that doesn’t mean compartmentalizing everything. Instead, it allows my creativity room to spread its wings and fly, unencumbered by all of the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” I’d allowed to camp in my head rent-free.

The physical act of cleaning has always been a great way to both burn off angry energy and do something mindless so my mind can come out and play. In the process, I get the added bonus of a cleaner and more organized environment.

That’s not to say my home will ever make it onto an episode of “House Beautiful” or what issues from my mind will inspire billions (I’ll be happy with thousands). I’m OK with that. My aspirations, at least while I’m the housekeeper, go as far as livable and reasonably clutter free. And if I only touch a few souls in the time I’m given, I consider my life a success.

Accepting Ourselves and What Makes Us Unique

We can spend our lives fighting with things we can’t control like our hair, the set of our cheekbones, our height, and even our weight. In the end, we accomplish more by accepting ourselves as we are. What people see on the outside is a perfect reflection of who we are on the inside, if they only took the time to look at us without judging or assessing our flaws. That, too starts with us.

As long as we make disparaging comments about one feature or another, we call attention to it, creating a flaw where, in all likelihood, there’s merely a reflection of our character. For heaven’s sake! There was a time when excess weight was a symbol of affluence. We can thank people like Twiggy for changing public perception of the perfect woman into an emaciated creature with all the feminine mystique of a teenage boy with twice the awkwardness.

It All Comes Down to Self-Love

What it all comes down to is this: when we learn to love ourselves on the inside, deeply, completely, and without reservation, that self-love is reflected, not only in how we look, but in everything we do. The simplest tasks are performed with as much love and care as we’d give to our first child or grandchild. We cherish each day and all it promises. We cherish the people we encounter and the experiences we have. We find beauty in the simplest things, and in their very simplicity, we rejoice.

None of us is perfect, and never will be, no matter how hard we try, or how much we stuff those perfectly natural imperfections into a box. Not only is perfection highly overrated, but “imperfect” and “flawed” are used to try to stifle our uniqueness and make it a bad thing. In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were meant to stand out?”

There’s nothing wrong with casting out what no longer serves you, be it clothing, personal items, a car, or even a relationship. But while you’re clearing things out of your life, it’s important to hold onto those things, those qualities that make you special, make you unique. If you lose those crazy, funky, different things from your outsides, they’ll wither and die on the inside too. Everything we do has consequences. Some are good, some, not so much. Change is inevitable, and keeps us from moldering in a rut of our own making, but we are in charge of deciding what changes to make, and whether or not they’re for the better. Choose wisely or you’ll lose something within because you did away with it’s counterpart without.

May We Always Find Something To Be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the ability to recognize my differences aren’t flaws, but reflections of my uniqueness.
  2. I am grateful for people who read and take my messages to heart.
  3. I am grateful for encouragement from so many unexpected directions.
  4. I am grateful to be living this human existence and connecting with so many wonderful, unique, amazing people.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, innovation, inspiration, support, lessons, challenges, frustrations, motivation, dancing, energy, health, harmony, peace, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write your expert book with you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Not Another Suicide!

The Dance Community is Loving and Giving, Yet We’re Not Immune to Suicide

The word came out yesterday that another member of our dance community took his life. Of course those closest to him are devastated, and many who knew him are baffled. This was another guy with a ready smile and so much to live for, or at least so it appeared to the world outside his own head.

I find it especially disheartening in a community where, at least to the naked eye there is so much love and affection. Many of us share our humanity, our broken pieces as well as our shiny, sparkly ones. Perhaps we need to be more conscious and aware of those who share only the sparkly ones and not the ones in desperate need of a polish.

I didn’t know the most recent casualty, and even the one before him, I knew only on a superficial level. Did either of them share their troublesome thoughts, their feelings of unworthiness, or the belief that everyone would be better off without them? Did anyone notice when their ever-present smiles didn’t reach their eyes? Or did we all accept the image they portrayed of a happy guy with a perfect life?

Learning to Look for Signs

I know from experience that constantly showing the world a cheerful, unblemished exterior takes its toll.https://www.flickr.com/photos/swampa/8512656992/in/photolist-dYeAm9-5MBAS5-4wH48T-5M2k2z-9j9QT2-8RVu1X-6juK2V-a18M9W-5taS34-fMS1SQ-cDQLUb-6GZmA2-oUv5Wv-5AvF8V-paqKFx-4LicMW-s48LVr-57gaP7-39DFEc-nu6Svm-bCRkBB-21uvr7L-7H9fXU-h4hoeh-8kP7PC-3F7yE-AXQ82E-RCHfaj-ftXr8F-6agM2v-pCAFRA-57uGKU-5qGnVx-gYU9Q-6aCF6B-7SC734-5hDawR-6pT1cL-58x9Gg-7tPaUX-pfNVHB-7BnSAE-a56YeV-83T4NJ-6wgZex-e58EmP-9tnDYY-gmjSdW-55pwGE-4CCrfb I’ve traveled down that road where I began to believe the world would chug merrily along whether or not I was there to provide some momentum. In fact, there were times when the only thing that kept me getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other was the two little girls who depended on me.

As the latest victim had a child, is it only mothers who feel that responsibility to their children? I don’t think so, given the number of mothers who either suicide or simply leave their families.

For those who do find a reason to stay and protect their young despite the miserable world their mind has drawn for them, what happens when the responsibility is gone? Children grow up and move away. They start craving their independence from a fairly young age, at least in my experience, long before they understand the responsibilities which accompany their independence.

I was one of the lucky ones. I found my way out of the depths of unworthiness before I got sucked completely under. Through a fortuitous combination of luck, kicks in the butt from my daughter, friends who were willing to pull aside the curtains and see the sometimes ugly mass of protoplasm I tried to keep hidden, and most of all, my writing, I was able to escape from my wallow and learn some painful but healing lessons. Too many lack the right combination of factors with which I was blessed to help them climb out of the hole they’ve fallen into.

Helping Each Other Dispose of the Masks

https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvThe question is, if we noticed, if we looked into their eyes and really searched for the person behind the mask, would we be able to help them before it’s too late? Would we, could we be the lifeline they grabbed to haul themselves out of their personal pit of despair? Could we or anyone convince them it’s all right to let the smile slip sometimes and show what they, what we believe is the ugly underbelly where life isn’t perfect? Would we be able to make them believe people want to see their soft, imperfect side? Could we convince them people need to be needed and that by only helping and not allowing themselves to be helped, they’re denying others the opportunity to give?

Too many of us have been raised with a hearty dose of independence. We believe we are only valuable and worthy if we stand on our own two feet. We are taught to look down upon those who are so weak they must seek help outside their own insular world, and in the worst cases, even scorn those who, in reality are strong enough to let others see their imperfections.

Finding Engagement in Our Communities

Yet we all seek some kind of community, even if we fail to share the most integral part of our being. Whether it’s church or, like me, the dance community, or one of the other interest groups I see my friends involved with; jeeps, dune buggies, horses, charitable groups… we all need to be near those exuding human kindness even if we haven’t figured out how to allow it into our own lives.

These days, we’re even more detached as we build communities virtually. We come to the dinner table with our cell phones, and play games or text friends rather than talking to the people in front of us. If we do share, it’s either a rant about someone or something far removed from our own inner demons, or superficialities meant to keep the conversation light and falsely cheerful. In some ways, I believe this is the single biggest factor contributing to the increasing suicide numbers.

Detachment is More Deadly than Disease

According to the World Health Organization, 9 of the top 10 causes of death worldwide in 2015 were related to some kind of organ failure (heart, lungs, brain, etc.). The 10th was road injury. If you ask me, the largest cause of death has nothing to do with our physical body, except as it’s affected by our mindset. The question is, how do we measure the deterioration our minds are doing to our bodies? How do you quantify how detachment sends us into a downward spiral which all too often ends in suicide?

Save.org offers a chilling menu of statistics on suicides globally:

  • 10th leading cause of death in the US
  • 2nd leading cause of death worldwide for 15-24 year olds
  • 4th leading cause of death for ages 18-65
  • 1 death by suicide every 40 seconds

On a lighter note, 80-90% of those seeking treatment for depression find success with the prescribed medication and/or therapy. But how many don’t seek therapy because they either don’t see they need help, or have been conditioned to avoid asking for fear of being perceived as weak?

Again, neither of these sources is able to measure or quantify how our mental state can cause deterioration which leads, if not to suicide, to death by mindset-induced disease.

Doing Our Part to Help Humanity, One Person at a Time

Admittedly, we are not our brother’s keeper, and yet, we are all part of the same pool (some may, at this point call it a cesspool) of humanity. So wouldn’t we be helping all of humanity if we started paying attention to those pasted on smiles? Wouldn’t taking time to look beneath the surface and offer a heartfelt hug to those among us who, for their own reasons aren’t ready to share their pain be an act of kindness the entire world would feel?

I don’t know about you, but if I could prevent a single suicide by looking deeply into a friend’s eyes and letting them know I’ve wallowed in the depths a time or two myself; that asking for help was the strongest thing I ever did, I’d do it every chance I saw. If I could save other families and extended families the pain of losing someone to suicide even once, I’d drag my introverted self out of my self-imposed hermit hole and do everything I could to help educate, to inspire. Kind of like I’m trying to do here, but on a much more personal level.

Yes, I write extensively about suicide and especially how it affects those left behind with a million questions, a grain silo full of blame, guilt, and regret, and a gut-wrenching sorrow that seems to have no end. But I know the real solution lies in connection and community. Without them, we will all find too much time to wallow in our own misery and believe the voices in our heads telling us we are unworthy, unloved, and undeserving.

Think about it, and spread the love.

Gratitude Helps Me Find My Way Out of the Downward Spirals
  1. I am grateful for my friends who have learned to see past the masks I still try to wear.
  2. I am grateful for my daughter who continues to encourage me.
  3. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life to teach me asking for help is not a weakness.
  4. I am grateful for the people who make me think really hard about who I am and what I want to be when I grow up, and who give heartfelt advice even when they know it isn’t what I want to hear.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, joy, sorrow, dancing, love, humor, laughter, community, challenges, lessons, opportunities, new directions, stretched limits, peace, harmony, health, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write your expert book with you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: