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

Posts tagged ‘healing’

Insecurity May Lie Dormant But Never Dies

The Scared Little Girl Who Lurks Inside

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-8w9YqrAfter having a disturbing and bizarre dream, I remembered someone saying that the really bizarre and disturbing ones carry a message, but not what we’d think. The more disturbing and bizarre they are, the more they’re simply trying to get our attention. After spending 30 or 40 minutes writing out what I remembered of the dream, I found the underlying message. The message itself was uncomfortable and disturbing.

For all the work I’ve done on myself, the scared, insecure little girl is still alive and well. I still believe people don’t notice when I’m not around, and that I have no one to turn to if I’m feeling really disturbed or distressed.

Talking to a couple of girlfriends later that night, I realized I’m not alone on many levels. First, because I have people who understand and are there for me, but second, because they too feel insecure and alone a lot of the time.

Self-Protection on Overdrive

This feeling of alone-ness wasn’t the biggest revelation, however. As I looked at myself, my friends, and what we have and haven’t shared, I realized there are still large parts of me I share with no one. Whether it’s fear of being judged (something I learned I share with my friends), fear of letting more of my broken parts see the light of day, or fear of losing my ability to, at least occasionally wear a strong facade, I’m stuck in some of the same old patterns.

On a conscious level, I know until I’m willing to accept and acknowledge those parts I continue to keep hidden, I am, in some ways no closer to healing than I was 10 years ago. Sure, I’ve made progress, but there are parts of me still unwilling to let go. There are pieces of my heart still encased in bubble wrap to hold all the broken parts together.

The Long, Winding Healing Journey

Created with CanvaHealing means carefully unwrapping those parts, laying them out so I can see where the broken edges fit together, then fitting the pieces back together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. Once the edges are matched, I need to glue them back together, not with adhesive or even gold like the Japanese kintsugi, but with love and understanding. I have to share my brokenness with the people who love me so they can help me put the broken parts back together stronger and more resilient.

I realize now I’ve opened up about some things, but most are experiences I’ve had, not my deepest, darkest feelings. Those continue to hide in the depths of my mind and heart, mired in darkness, afraid of coming into the light. They blink and squint if I so much as allow a single beam into their sacred space.

Overcoming My Own Resistance

Like my mind resisting change, those broken bits and pieces resist being put back together. 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-V4V7jqThey know the process will mean they have to grow and adapt because the reassembly won’t be the same as their original construction. In fact, I may find a way to put them together into a different structure entirely; one which utilizes parts from all.

Isn’t that really what our lives entail? We break apart and put ourselves back together, but never in the same way. New experiences become part of our new structure making it stronger, but also changing it forever. Once reassembled, there’s no going back to the old ways, because who we were no longer exists. We’ve taken life’s experiences and woven them into the fabric of our lives indelibly.

By hiding all the times I shattered into a million pieces inside myself I don’t allow the rebuilding. I don’t allow myself to be stronger for my experiences. I fail to grow and evolve.

A Reminder I Still Need to Get Out of My Own Way

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nhoulihan/4038592452/in/photolist-79SQQm-TfUffd-pgu9hJ-qfYXYE-pDVWDB-6UQgZM-KFog6C-TFYhqd-29TMHM-fP6i28-j73ZT5-atsnGd-C4HxXs-5eRdT5-YoKVff-24PBcMS-28G1ckh-AqrzL-haocsM-o1RCfj-4iigfF-6hbQxG-TCfZem-qVx4n8-U63bC7-dCTxQg-amkKyF-eiY1qF-Ct5hqm-hSGXpV-BcaCh-8c2bVB-27RWaS2-eQjYy1-cJWTgw-ehKQWJ-AJSt63-ay4RXc-cxa1zW-UFe9Vq-aC3EP1-pkL1fr-ehKSrs-qxMMJj-bvMGyV-VG1fkR-ay4Sgv-aDNaMx-aE1tNY-h7171rI might believe I’ve come a long way, and in fact, I have. But I’ve put giant boulders in the way to prevent progress in certain directions. Thus, I’m rebuilding on shaky ground once again, because I’m leaving too many crumbling parts in my foundation.

My disturbing and bizarre dream was a pointed reminder I can’t ignore all those piles of broken pieces. I need to incorporate them into the newest version of me I’m building. Leaving them out means returning to ground zero again and again until I figure out how to weave them into the fabric of my life, not as failures, but as lessons.

The voice of the frightened little girl inside me is growing louder and more insistent. Opportunities to open up, bring those pieces into the light, and join them to the pieces I’ve acquired through life lessons are here. They become more obvious and accessible every day. But until I bring those broken pieces into the light, I can’t fully avail myself of those opportunities. I can’t complete the assembly without those pieces as well.

Creating a Mosaic of My Life

Like you, I’m a mosaic; a combination of pieces accumulated over the years from each time I created with Canvabroke, but also, each time something or someone came along and offered me some of the missing pieces to help strengthen my structure. How many times did I turn away and fold further into myself, refusing the help, ignoring someone else’s need to help me grow? How many times did I fail to see my broken parts fit exactly into someone else’s?

Talking to my friends, we admit to holding back parts of ourselves we’re not ready to share. Yet do I; do they really know what those parts are any more? They’ve been buried so long, I suspect were we to pull out all of our parts and lay them on the table, we’d find we could put them together in just about any manner, taking pieces from each other and fitting them into our own mosaic. The result would not only be stronger, but more beautiful for all the different shades and facets we bring together.

Creating a Safe Space Together

https://www.flickr.com/photos/philleara/7246573430/in/photolist-c3mzPd-djJiUe-oajKtQ-djJjmv-djJjLR-oapGkZ-djJjb9-djJj5F-cntb2u-7Y2xWm-cntayf-c3mLB3-n329S-7XYhYD-cntbhs-TCrSUz-gg7DZE-gg7XMV-6Ak5ks-9a2C7g-djJjz6-cntb85-rCKS6-cntag1-azBhou-3oXQYc-cnta8q-cntaL7-ocbPjv-oa7hn8-fJm576-baRPgp-7Y2xp7-8ommnm-bA1QHR-cnt9j1-dmywKj-7Y2x7b-4vwAew-aAPJwq-oa7iJB-cnt9xu-2FtNgi-gunWiW-hLgWLK-e4kv6P-2FtPvB-9GPQLh-4vsuDF-baRMyvPerhaps that’s the answer. Instead of trying to force ourselves to open the box where we store all our missteps, our broken dreams, our losses, and our fears, we need to open them in the safety and comfort of friendship where everyone shares pieces, and we create one giant piece of art which is better able to withstand life’s earthquakes and mudslides.

We learn different lessons as we travel through life. What I know well, someone else needs support and guidance. Where I feel weak and unable to withstand the gentlest breeze, someone else has mastered and can help me become stronger.

Years of trying to manage everything alone has certainly left its mark on me. It’s left a similar mark on many of my friends. We’ve all learned we’re stronger together, but are still learning how to maneuver the “together” part without needing to pull back into our shells, afraid of being let down or broken once again. Until I do; until we do, we’ll continue fumbling in the dark in some areas, never quite seeing that the path in front of us is smoother than we believe.

Need Help Putting it All Together?

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Grateful for Who I Was, Who I Am, and Who I Can Become

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for friends who understand I’m still struggling in some ways.
  2. I am grateful for disturbing and bizarre dreams which make me take a good hard look at what I’m doing with my life.
  3. I am grateful for friends who aren’t afraid to share some of their broken parts with me.
  4. I am grateful for days alone when I can sink into introspection. They make me face the world outside with more confidence, not so much in my abilities alone, but in the knowledge that I’m not alone at all.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, imperfections, community, joy, dancing kitty love, 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

Happy Dates When Our Hearts Lead the Way

Switching My Attention to Happy Dates

It’s a funny thing about January 25th. It’s my ex-husband’s birthday, and also the day I found out I was having twins—31 years ago <gasp!>.

In previous posts I’ve written about how dates bring back memories, but most of the time, I write about the sad ones. In truth, if we put our minds to it, we have far more dates we associate with happy memories than sad ones. The sad ones just have a tendency to leap into our brains faster, maybe because the feelings they elicit are somehow more intense.

It could also mean we aren’t done healing from the trauma, tragedy, or letdown seeing the date on the calendar each year elicits. Like the lessons we need to learn (like patience for me), things we need to heal come back to haunt us over and over until we do the work we need to and release ourselves from pain.

Telling Our Brain to Back Off And Let Our Heart Lead

Admittedly, our brains like pain because it means we stagnate, avoiding change and crawling https://www.flickr.com/photos/jobber1/36197048070/in/photolist-X9BkiG-6zNVTx-9WcJ3G-dSakbx-dSammr-9TBa8u-6ezpVp-4BqdWY-VXtGBZ-rmenXX-qCVBCH-ebSPFY-on6uCz-7jht6-n98ro-VTXW6M-a1XWoX-aEZ3ZC-GAd7om-aETqXe-5YRvvk-dSfWbY-KEWxyD-7N2mv7-s8WVRA-97x2ND-9FZG7n-kv3uih-7dAKBM-Usjf3C-emcpAz-3EXMtA-U3SSPP-gQb96B-6QtXTY-o36uJj-iwvCcv-54dBjc-opbQb3-7NxyBo-7G7U6q-cS6eML-9FXQcH-ojrwjj-SUbPcQ-7MNAUc-Ee2qD-jZRnbY-a355px-cS691Nback into our status quo cave. But when we listen to our ‘fraidy cat brain, I think our gentle heart breaks a little more each time we deny ourselves the pleasure of a little adventure; a little change. Sure, our hearts break when we try new things that don’t work out, but it’s a resilient sort, and knits itself back together each time, especially if we give it something new to focus on.

I’m not making this stuff up. Believe me, I’ve lived both ways, and I much prefer the bumps and bruises I’ve gathered on my adventures to the sad, lonely years I spent huddled in my hidy hole, afraid to venture out for fear of pain, ridicule, or humiliation. In fact, I’ve learned that being my own weird self is actually something people want to see!

Perfection is a Poor Disguise

Nobody out there is perfect, so seeing perfection in others is intimidating and off-putting. I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to relate to someone who appears to have no flaws or weaknesses. The woman who shows up at the office immaculately groomed every day, and wouldn’t even flinch if you squirted ketchup all over her pristine, white blouse is probably a tumultuous mess inside.

That guy who always has the right answer and is organized to a fault probably has panic attacks when something is even a teensy bit out of place. He searches for controllable structure in a world which is unwilling to cooperate, so he spends his life waiting to pounce on the next nonconformity. He hides himself away, studying every possibility so he’ll be ready with an answer before the question is asked while life passes him by.

Taking the Lessons and Leaving the Pain Behind

Many people focus on the unhappy times, revisiting them over and over trying to figure out how they could have changed the outcome. It’s over folks. It happened, and you can’t change the past. Dwelling on it only screws up your future. Letting it go allows you to move forward with a clean slate, perhaps a little the worse for wear, but you’ve learned where some of the perils and pitfalls lurk in the process.

Bruises heal, clothes and bodies wash. So what if we end up rolling in the mud once in awhile. Who knows? You might just like it!

Go Ahead, Live the Adventure

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gcaspers/3674508861/in/photolist-6AGPt4-9XPdGp-9AfZYv-asnfWg-2j1go4-7UukPU-a2XVdU-NqoUQ-dbkFUe-a2XRDb-6nnHrK-9EBf9b-9xemFj-cucYQS-cud1JC-cucV5Q-cucW5f-9GVbUK-9XS6cJ-53kCM9-8dXRc-ctMcPj-crXsXw-cutJfu-a3bJ56-9XS6GA-aspUtj-a3bRmp-rjDGsd-cudgUJ-9xeGYS-ctNGF1-cutroo-crYSB9-a2UPPe-crYbPw-6ZUrTn-cutJYm-jCRHS-cutQqA-csxxsh-sabp4u-aspXws-a3fFX5-cutPDh-dmd5Ze-asnkuX-cykHmj-9xAUFm-cutrGUTo be honest, I’m probably one of the least adventurous of my friends. One man in his 70’s still takes off on his motorcycle every week just for fun. He plans trips to Europe with friends where they ride all over the countryside, and he’s not looking to stop his adventures any time soon.

Another friend moved to North Dakota after her divorce and lived in a trailer without power for a couple of months, alone in the middle of nowhere. She followed Cavalia to Arizona when it’s California run ended. These days, she divides her time between cleaning pools and working with horses, with a little dancing thrown in for good measure. Unlike me, she dates now and then, not afraid to give someone a chance. In contrast, I either go on the defensive or am utterly oblivious; mostly the latter.

What these two have in common is they follow their hearts and don’t think about potential consequences or pitfalls. They’ve fallen and picked themselves up enough times, they don’t worry about it. They take one day at a time, and when life gives them rocks and mudslides, they find their footing and chuck the rocks back. They pile up the happy memories so those come to the forefront rather than the sad ones.

My Pushme-Pullyou Lifestyle

I’ve embraced adventure and taken some leaps of faith in the last few years, though I’m still retreating too often. It takes me a little longer to get up when I fall, yet I always do.

It’s funny, because as I look back on my life, I realize I’ve always lived it believing when things go wrong, it leaves me free for something better. Yet a lot of the wrongness in my life has been because I let someone else dictate the direction. So when they dumped me on my butt, it was a blessing in disguise to stop having to follow their lead. Even so, for years, I continued to put my fate in other peoples’ hands, never leaving until I was shoved, never learning to trust myself instead—until about 5 years ago.

I won’t say my road has been smooth, and I’ve given up a lot of things in the process. But nothing I’ve given up really matters in the general scheme of things, and some needed to go. But until now, I didn’t know how to do without them; didn’t believe I could. Now, I have trouble remembering why some of them were important in the first place except they supported an image that was never really me in the first place, or brought some relief from the stress and strain of turning myself into a pretzel so people would like and accept me.

Fitting In By Being You

You could say the leap of faith that left me intentionally jobless has taught me a lot of the things I did to fit in were never necessary, and were in fact, a waste of my time and effort. The real me, t-shirt and shorts, messy bun, bare feet, natural nails, and no makeup is a happier, healthier version of the woman who turned herself inside out to please the unplease-able, fit in with those who had no intention of accepting her, and worked overtime for those who were never grateful and only expected more.

Sometimes the adventure of a lifetime is getting up the nerve to be yourself and damn the consequences. For me, that happened on December 6, 2013 when I left the Corporate world forever. Suddenly, I fit just fine! Is it any wonder I look back less and less every day? What masks and ill-fitting characters have you shed lately? Is it time to do some more house cleaning?

Grateful Every Single Day For Things Large and Small

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I’ve learned to listen more to my heart than my head.
  2. I am grateful for new adventures awaiting me around the next bend.
  3. I am grateful for the people in my life who love me as I am, messy, chaotic, clumsy, or brilliant. It’s all part of the unique individual I’m finally allowing myself to let show.
  4. I am grateful for rainy days and Mondays when I leave the house only to go to the gym, then come home to work with the sound of the rain spattering my window, and the cats going nuts because that’s what they do on those rare occasions when we get real rain around here.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; inspiration, motivation, butt-kickers, cheerleaders, friends, love, joy, compassion, support, wisdom, non-conformity, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

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

Family Are the People Who Accept Us As-Is

Looking Back At Where I’ve Been

Lately I’m getting more and more comments about what I’m putting on this page. For the most part, they’re positive, especially the ones I get face to face. I started this journey in early 2009; a time when I was lonely, angry, and crouching miserably behind walls of my own making. As far as I knew, the last person who cared whether I lived, got up in the morning, or died was getting ready to move out, though as it happens, her actual departure occurred a couple of years later. Still, the rift between us was growing.

Yet in spite of our arguments and an inability to see eye to eye on many things, my daughter Heather encouraged me to do something she knew gave me pleasure, but was a gift I seldom gave myself.

If Not For Heather, You Wouldn’t Be Reading This

It was Heather who not only convinced me to start a blog but helped me set it up. Heather nagged and prodded until I agreed to spend a long Mother’s Day weekend in Sedona. And Heather helped launch a memoir which would take me on a journey of brutal honesty, but more importantly, a healing I wasn’t aware I needed.

There have been stumbles along the way, like having her find out about my mom’s and dad’s suicides from my blog (I truly thought by then she knew), or months on end when posts were sporadic at best. But overall, I know without her help and encouragement, I’d never have started writing again; started breaking down the walls; learning how valuable and uplifting vulnerability can be.

Healing My Wounds A Thousand Words At A Time

https://www.flickr.com/photos/34167287@N05/23787059822/in/photolist-CeYUa5-f3skzG-26xyyFN-8Uqt6v-7RUJnT-5631Bv-9KzjET-otM3UU-9KC7p3-6EcqkE-rtobLr-5xx9XP-7Bj5nM-4JDZ1E-21oAHiQ-7Csyge-7YZVSv-7Z4a4L-7Z4a5b-4Btbxi-5m1iya-i54aYC-4BxARm-i54aXq-YA2ERd-4kmex7-WgVGRw-8GceK9-i548Lu-6m1sit-ospDf4-58cZtS-i54b7d-ggwmL-cKWfHj-bg5Uu-bsSgAg-8GcvXA-q68RzV-4fFkFc-e3cS7q-aQ7Ph-bg8hZ-q6pHnG-4VXWUt-dYksek-277AbZE-4VWArR-4VXUXR-2b2aNGJEach post I write these days is a testament to the progress I’ve made and the wounds I’ve healed thanks to a daughter who knew instinctively what I needed when I myself was oblivious (a state I’ve found myself in at many critical junctions). Without realizing it, she taught me the value in reaching out to others, not necessarily intending to help them. Instead, she taught me to let people know I was far from perfect and that my life had taken a few dramatic, traumatic twists and turns. In other words, there were times I was the one who needed help, even if I couldn’t or wouldn’t ask.

I won’t say I wasn’t terrified at first. But it was also getting harder to hide the cracks in my masks, so ripping the band aid off didn’t seem so bad once I was a few years into digging up the old feelings and memories. The responses I got have been unexpected to say the least.

When I first started talking openly about my parents’ suicides, I admit I was prepared to shut down again quickly if the responses were the expected horror and shock. Instead, I heard from friends and acquaintances who’d also lost someone to suicide. It seemed I’d opened a door we all needed opened, but hadn’t the courage, or perhaps the foolhardiness to open it ourselves. Knowing people were out there who understood what we’d been through and how hard it was to find anyone to listen while we talked felt like a huge boulder being removed from our shoulders.

Attracted By Common Wounds, Connected With Our Hearts

Making that tiny chink in my facade caused a ripple effect, changing the tone of my blog posts, opening my eyes to possibilities about my parents’ deaths, but best of all, allowing me to start releasing the guilt I’d been carrying for nearly 2 decades and beginning to heal. Until that point, I think I was simply rehashing the past. Discarding the first chapter of my memoir and doing a complete re-write is evidence that what I was feeling and believing when I first started writing has undergone a massive restructuring in recent years.

I know I still have a long way to go but being open and honest, allowing people to see my wounds and scars has brought an entirely new family into my life. I now have people who grieve with me when I lose a cherished pet, check on me regularly, encourage me with my writing, and are simply there for me, no questions asked. I’ve never had that before. Not because these people weren’t there, but because I wasn’t letting anyone in.

Alone But Never Lonely Any More

For years I watched friends connect, getting together outside of dancing to engage in other social activities. My social life was dancing. I showed up alone and went home alone. I sat in front of the TV on nights I wasn’t dancing, or played games on the computer. Occasionally, I read something from my extensive and ever-growing library, but mostly, I was a lump.

I got no exercise outside of my regular dance nights. I ate whatever sounded good, or what was easy to grab. I was angry at the world except when I was dancing.

In a way, that life is a good thing as it reminds of how much I never want to go back there. And I look at my sister. We haven’t spoken in several years now, and the occasional overture she makes to reopen a conversation meets with firm rebuttal. It’s not that I don’t love her. But I’ve learned I can’t allow someone who finds joy in misery back in my life. She’s living a life I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but frankly, she was embittered long before she became ill.

Learning It’s OK To Walk Away From Toxic Relationships

I know she’s in contact with the rest of my estranged family, so I know she’s not alone, and find some comfort in knowing someone will be there when her needs become critical. Even my youngest daughter seems to have found a common ally, so I hope she offers a little of her time too.

This sounds like a ramble, but there truly is a point. There are members of my blood family from whom I’ve had to disconnect for my own sake. The disconnections seem to follow the same timeline as the one which connected me to a large family who isn’t related by blood, but which cares about the members as if we were. It appears that when I started realizing it was OK to be me and stop worrying about whether or not people would like that person, I started shedding those who expected things from me I wasn’t really prepared to give, and gained those who expected nothing, and gave because they cared.

It took me far too long to learn to be myself; damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead. But since I’ve found the way, I have a lot to look back on to remind me I never need to hide my beautiful, imperfect, lumpy, unique self again.

Grateful for Every Single Minute

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the friends who are family and show me their love in so many ways.
  2. I am grateful I finally learned vulnerability is a good thing.
  3. I am grateful for the love and compassion I see every day in friends, in strangers, and in me.
  4. I am grateful for all the healing I’ve done so far, and the healing yet to come.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, support, encouragement, opportunities, new horizons, dancing, 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

Is Old Baggage Weighing You Down?

Baggage From Our Past Can Haunt Us For Years

https://www.flickr.com/photos/58972357@N05/5680789916/in/photolist-9DZwVJ-fgdGm6-a7SYcH-j5jSC4-bGN8dZ-aJn5JF-bExNVg-mSGMdi-ZHWqmm-7LMiyj-9TwjCJ-5AtELB-og1PZ9-4tVBpH-WTy2SC-EYkqoA-9Whomq-qMuq1D-GKUFur-aGDwDa-baLAor-cigULC-dD9LSa-7LFh2P-4LQn4r-fSLy1g-28pzedw-auCkkH-RfUzXE-ap1CA8-4wLABT-9GLXQH-dSP1Wa-7SfMF9-4eBRX6-MUhNVs-7MbCEk-obXLkM-9aGddR-Ns2VHy-jrsEXB-b1D8J-gch9Kk-ouhpzq-e2HHU1-9W9F11-xGa8K-23rp1Yb-am4k5G-ahouP7By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve experienced a lot of things which can and do weigh us down and hold us back—if we allow them to. We don’t always realize we’re hanging on to the old crap until we find ourselves triggered by past events and wallowing over something old, moldy, and no longer useful.

Sometimes we’re aware enough to recognize it ourselves. More often we rely on real friends who aren’t afraid to tell us as gently as possible it’s time to stop letting old news drag us down into the dumps where we wallow over things we can no longer change.

Think about it. It happened in the past, whether that past can be counted in months, years, or decades. Even if it happened yesterday, we can’t change it now. Maybe yesterday is too fresh to let go of, but what about the things we’ve carried around for decades? Sure, some of them might have been horribly traumatic, but is it really helping to hold on to how awful we felt at the time? How embarrassed, or humiliated, or devastated? Wouldn’t it be better to use that space for new and happier memories?

Past Traumas Can Drive an Empath Crazy

I’m learning it’s even more important as an Empath to let go of past traumas and depressing events. In some ways, holding on to our own pain makes us more sensitive to deep-seated trauma in other people. That’s a double-edged sword. Sure, we understand why they’re holding on, but frankly, it’s hard enough feeling recent pain from other people. Old, settled in pain is a world in and of itself. It’s a close cousin to ancestral pain which has grown deeper and darker with each generation. When we’ve held onto something for years, we tend to magnify it, making the cause and result larger and more unpleasant than the original event.

As a visual Empath, I not only feel the pain, but can often see and experience the original event which embedded the pain into a person’s psyche, whether the event happened in the current lifetime or a prior one. For a few moments, I’ll share an experience complete with the misery, helplessness, and frustration that went with it. Unpleasant, at best, but sometimes, painful enough to hurl me out of the experience before I get drawn down too far, especially when the traumatic event was an untimely death.

For example, while studying healing a few years ago, one of the class members had issues with her knee. As I worked with her, I was taken back to a time in her distant past where she was forced to carry a heavy load for a long distance while her husband walked alongside carrying a lesser load. At one point, she fell on the dirt road and landed on a rock, damaging her knee and causing a great deal of pain. Her husband showed no sympathy. Intead, he forced her to get back up without his help, and without dropping her load, and continue the long trek to market. The combination of both emotional and physical trauma followed her into future incarnations as she had yet to resolve it. The class worked together to help her release the pain and the experience. She said the knee felt better afterwards, though I don’t know if the entire issue was resolved that day. It’s likely it took her some time working through the rest of it on her own.

One thing I’ve learned is healers don’t actually provide the cure, whether they’re working with energetic, emotional, or physical dis-ease (and often, a combination of the three). They merely serve to facilitate the healing which we have within ourselves to exact.

Reaching Out For Help

Which brings me back to releasing baggage. There are times we need some outside assistance to recognize when we’re shlepping around an old suitcase full of pain, anger, and hurt that should have gone in the dumpster long ago. If you’re fortunate, or have learned to drop your walls enough to let people in, your circle of friends acts as an extra set of eyes, pointing out to you when you’ve let something drag you down long enough.

I spent the first few decades of this lifetime adding to the suitcase of negativity. In those years, I didn’t let anyone get close (least of all the man I married) and never asked for help. Not only had I been taught you don’t share what’s inside or ask for help, but the help my mother gave without asking, or what she offered always came with strings attached. As I got older, I became less inclined to accede to those conditions, and as a consequence, less likely to ask for help from anyone. Her example set in my mind that all help came with strings. We all know what a crock that is!

By the time I was 40 and, as an added bonus, was six months into dealing with my mother’s suicide, those traumas and baggage had become a lifeline; my only connection to sanity and solid ground. Little did I know my “solid ground” was as riddled with holes as a good Swiss cheese, and equally stable.

Turning Curses Into Blessings

What seems like a curse in one moment, can turn into a blessing in another. So it was with a lot of what I carried for years. The sensitivity and easiness with which I could be brought to tears was the bane of my existence for a long time. I learned to cover it with aggression, or simply retreat deep within myself until it passed. The latter earned me a reputation for being incredibly scary when I was angry enough to go silent, and caused many a strong man to give me a wide berth until it passed.

I won’t say I don’t retreat when especially angry these days, but in the first place, it happens rarely, and in the second, I’m not carrying around a lot of old garbage so minor events become the straw that broke the camel’s back. Learning to talk things out with my friends and get a different point of view has given me much better insight, and a lot more compassion towards people when they do something thoughtless or even mean.

Understanding Anger at its Source

I’ve learned to use my Empathy to take a step back and look beneath their surface for pain that has nothing to do with me. Quite often, I reach the conclusion rather quickly that what was said or done isn’t personal. It’s simply them lashing out at the first available opportunity because of their own pain; their own inner turmoil.

These days, when I see someone who acts like they’re angry with the world, I’m not as likely to dismiss them as a crabby person. I’m more likely to send them a ball of healing energy, neither knowing or caring whether they use it or not. That will always be their choice. I’ve learned to recognize the anger as an expression of pain, or, as it was in me, an inability to reach out in a healthier manner. Like I used to, they put up a big, prickly wall so people will leave them alone and not try to interfere or touch them while they’re vulnerable. I’d like to tell them allowing that vulnerability to show is their strength, but know it’s their journey. They’ll listen when they’re ready, just as I did.

We go through our own challenges so we’re more understanding of the challenges which face others, but also so we can make a difference, even if it’s only for one person. I feel incredibly blessed to have experienced the pain, the trauma, and the decades of loneliness. Those experiences enable me to understand what others are feeling, and, if nothing else, refrain from adding to their load of misery by treating them unkindly, or worse, ignoring them.

When you learn to let go of the old baggage, when you learn to allow others to help you, and when you accept your vulnerability as an asset instead of a liability, you become part of the solution. Think about it.

Finding Gratitude at Every Turn

My gratitudes today are:

  1.  I am grateful for the challenges I’ve been given, the lessons I’ve learned, and the compassion I’ve gained in the process.
  2. I am grateful for the time I’ve spent emerging from my personal chrysalis. The process may have been painful, but in hindsight, was worth every second.
  3. I am grateful for the people in my life who show me new roads, or widen my old ones. Many have no idea how much difference they’ve made in my life, and I don’t think I could show them my gratitude if I had another 3 lifetimes in which to do it.
  4. I am grateful for getting ahead. I lost some ground on my plan to be a month ahead on blog posts, but am quickly bridging the gap as ideas have filled my Morning Pages, and I’m quickly working my way through them.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; life lessons, challenges, inspiration, motivation, friendship, opportunities, new horizons, giant leaps and baby steps, love, insight, guidance, encouragement, 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.

Emotions Disconnected

Feeling Disconnected Again

Tonight in the middle of a line dance, I suddenly felt what has become a frequent and familiar sensation. There, in the middle of a crowd, voices clashing with the music, a cacophony of sounds fighting for recognition, I was suddenly alone. The ties to people, to sounds, even to the steps I was executing were suddenly severed. I continued to go through the motions, but no longer felt like I was connected mentally, physically, or emotionally to the experience.

I’ve been here before. Suddenly a piece of jetsam floating rudderless above the sights and sounds. So often, I even have a standard behavior which executes on its own when the feeling of disconnection pervades my being.

Going Off of Auto-Pilot

But this time was different. For some reason I recognized I was about to launch the escape sequence and stopped for a split second. In that frozen moment in time, instead of allowing the self-executing program to engage, I stopped. I asked myself why I didn’t just allow myself to feel that disconnectedness instead of masking it like I usually do. I asked why I didn’t allow myself to feel the feelings which pervaded my being at moments like this. Why did I instead allow myself to be encased in a bubble of energy which gave me false stimulation I was unable to reach from the people around me?

And the self-executing program stopped, unsure whether to go forward or address this new set of queries because I couldn’t think of a single valid reason why those feelings should not be felt.

Of course the next thing I did was to start writing about it, allowing the feelings to flow onto the screen unedited. Much like a brain dump but one I knew I’d publish one place or another. The questions poured out of me like the Oroville Dam through its emergency spillway. Once the flow began, there was no way to stop it.

Questioning Old Habits

Should I do what I’ve become accustomed to doing and enclose myself in a golden egg-shaped ball of light, or instead, allow myself to feel the disconnectedness? Have I grown so accustomed to masking the disconnectedness that it’s more natural to mask my feelings from myself as well as everyone else? Has the defense mechanism I initiated while  learning to handle the feelings of pain, loss, anger, guilt and so forth outlived its usefulness?

And yet, the habit has become so ingrained I normally don’t even think twice about launching the escape sequence if I even launch it consciously any more. It’s pretty much on auto-pilot. I didn’t even recognize I was doing it until tonight. Experiencing this disconnectedness on the dance floor happens often enough I consider it commonplace.

Taking a Turn for the Better

While I stood on the sidelines typing furiously into my phone, someone asked me to dance and afterward,  I joined a conversation with people at the table next to mine. Yet I knew sooner or later I’d have to follow the flow. Something changed tonight. Suddenly, I was, if not giving myself permission, at least exploring the option of allowing my feelings to flow unchecked. Is this the next stage in my healing process? Acknowledging the feelings which have been so bottled up I didn’t even realize I’d been doing the bottling?

Turning the Protective Mechanisms Off

The mind is a very complicated apparatus which is directly responsible for the fight or flight behavior. But it also protects us in times of severe emotional trauma by doling out the experience in more manageable bits and pieces. It does this by blocking the feelings until we’re ready to handle them without imploding. And yet, there are times when our minds go a little overboard. They fail to give us credit for the strength we’ve developed through years of challenges and lessons. Or they simply get stuck in protective mode and forget to dole out a few more feelings for us to process.

In my case, I think I just got to the point where it was easier to deny any connection to those feelings. In true “out of sight, out of mind” fashion, I made no effort to retrieve the things which had been put away until I was stronger. In doing so, I lost part of my humanity. I lost kindness. I lost compassion. Until I found myself wondering at my inability to connect.

That’s when the hard outer shell which had grown around my heart and even the feeling part of my mind started to show signs of strain. It was no longer obvious to me why I should stifle and contain my feelings when I suddenly felt alone in a crowd for no apparent reason. With each new question, the walls cracked a little more. And in cracking, I was able to re-establish part of the connection. By giving myself permission to feel disconnected and alone, I no longer was.

Opening a New Door in the Healing Process

By acknowledging and allowing the feelings, I did something I’d been working towards for a long time. I allowed my vulnerability to show. Granted, it’s unlikely anyone around me even noticed. But I noticed. I felt vulnerable and didn’t do anything to stop the feeling.

This might seem insignificant to most, but to anyone who has guarded their heart with military precision, never allowing themselves to experience uncertainty or weakness, this is a major accomplishment. I learned tonight that until I can truly feel comfortable being vulnerable in my own space, I’ll never open up to others in that manner. But I also had to decide I was ready.

In all honesty, I’m still not completely certain I’m ready. But I am certain I’m ready to try, and that’s a step in the right direction.

For Each Experience, I Am Truly Grateful

Tonight’s gratitudes are:

  1. I am grateful for the cracks in my shell.
  2. I am grateful I could experience the vulnerability without an audience for now.
  3. I am grateful for the unanswered questions.
  4. I am grateful for new experiences. Especially the scarier ones.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, love, vulnerability, courage, connection, peace, harmony, 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!

Losing Someone to Suicide: You Never Forget

The Heart Doesn’t Let Go

Decades after my parent’s suicides, I find I’m still liable to fall down my personal rabbit hole when something happens to trigger the memories. It might be something simple like the feeling of my stomach dropping out from under me during takeoff when I’m flying somewhere. Or it could be more dramatic like a family member of someone close to me taking their life.

This week, though, it was merely a case of similarity. In a series of events which bore a slim resemblance to my dad’s last days, a member of the dance community received a diagnosis of lung cancer. The next day, he passed on, though in his case, the explanation was rapid deterioration rather than death by suicide.

Finding the Positive in a Life Ended Too Soon

In some ways, I envy his family and friends. Their grief isn’t stigmatized by the specter of suicide. His memory won’t be tarnished by what many consider a crime, or at least a sin. Yet, he, too didn’t linger unnecessarily after receiving the worst diagnosis imaginable.

I have to wonder if my dad might have been able to just let go of life when he learned his illness was terminal. Could he have, instead of resorting to a gun, just said “I’m done” and died peacefully in his sleep? Is it even possible to let go of life without trauma or catastrophe?

With Suicide, There Will Always Be Questions

Over the years, I’ve waded through thousands of questions, yet something like this makes me see I still have thousands more; many I’ve yet to even imagine.

It further reinforces my belief that after losing someone to suicide, the healing process never really ends. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’ve forgiven and accepted, something happens in your world to blindside you. You’re reminded in no uncertain terms that you still have a long way to go, another million or so questions to ponder.

It isn’t like lessons which build upon what you’ve learned. It’s more that the healing process occurs in layers. Like a doctor stitches up a wound, you heal the most serious first, trusting that the healing will continue moving inward to mend the layers beneath the surface.

Healing from Suicide is an Imperfect Process

But our subconscious contains so many layers, it’s nearly impossible to ensure that each one is healed in turn. Sometimes, the healing occurs above and below, but leaves a gaping wound in the center just waiting for the trigger which will break it open and send an accumulation of toxins oozing to the surface.

My festering wound is skepticism. I cannot just accept things at face value without wondering if there’s more to the story than meets the eye, or is shared with the general public. I know it’s not really my business, and I have no right to consider besmirching someone’s exit strategy. Yet I can’t stop myself from thinking these thoughts. Losing not one, but both parents to suicide makes me especially conscious of the fact that many find it to be their only viable choice.

In the last few years, I’ve known too many people who lived the horror of a cancer diagnosis. Some of them fought like the demon to eradicate the disease which was intent on decimating their body. Some have been successful while others are still fighting, quite literally for their lives.

Others chose to let nature run it’s course and go out with dignity and grace. When it comes down to living or dying; suffering or relief, the decision must be left in the hands of the one who is impacted most.

Trying to Maintain Perspective

If the death directly impacted someone close to me, I might ask the difficult questions in spite of myself, and against my better judgment. But when it’s just an acquaintance, the words must simmer beneath the surface, unspoken, yet in a way, my own undoing. I’ll never have the answers to my questions so they’ll simmer beneath the surface of my consciousness until I find a way to let them go; to let the deceased rest in peace.

I would never wish upon anyone, even someone I considered to be pure evil, the choice my dad had to make. Though people face the specter of terminal illness in their own intensely personal ways, my heart hurts for those who are forced to make difficult choices as a result of a diagnosis fraught with pain and an imminent expiration date. Yet I hurt even more for those who are left behind.

While my thoughts run rampant and I can’t help but wonder, I know I must make myself believe the story being told. I must do my best to avoid comparisons. My dad’s death was a tragedy, but I understand that as much as he didn’t want to suffer, he truly hated the idea of the people he loved having to watch that suffering. He chose the lesser of two evils and I have nothing but respect for his choice.

I’ll join in honoring a man who touched many lives without reservation. How he passed is irrelevant, just as are the minor misdeeds of which we are all guilty at some point in our lives. He deserves to be remembered and memorialized for all the good he did. What some might consider his mistakes or misdeeds were simply those things which taught him to be the man people will long remember.

Just like my Dad.

With Undying Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who move in and out of my life bringing many questions and sometimes even a few answers.
  2. I am grateful for a modicum of self-restraint, even if I’m compelled to share my wonderings here.
  3. I am grateful for inspiration which is keeping me on track to write 1000 words a day.
  4. I am grateful for changes in my life which I hope will make me a better person in the long run.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, life, friendship, dancing, laughter, joy, companionship, peace, harmony, 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!

Completing the Circle: Suicide’s Forgotten Victims

Remembering the Forgotten

I see a lot of posts lately about how people get depressed and contemplate suicide around the holidays. They’re typically followed by a number for the Suicide Hotline.

What I don’t see is any reference to those of us who may have lost someone to suicide during the holidays. I want to stand up and shout “Hey, we’re still here, and it still hurts, even 10, 20, 30 years later. What about us?”

There’s no hotline for survivors of suicide. No outpouring of love and concern. No admonitions to care more, love more, or give extra attention to suicide survivors. But in my opinion, there should be.

Suicide is Tragic, No Matter Which Side of the Fence You’re On, but it Doesn’t End with a Death

I’m not trying to minimize the fact that suicides and suicide attempts do increase during the holidays. If you’re already sad and depressed, all of the exhortations to be happy and joyful and to buy presents you might not be able to afford are certainly enough to drive one over the edge. What I am trying to do is raise awareness for those of us who didn’t recognize that sadness in someone we loved until it was too late.

What I am trying to say is that we who have lost someone to suicide, especially during the holidays suffer whenever we see one of those community service style posts. We suffer because we didn’t see the signs; because we didn’t call a hotline to help prevent our loved one’s act. But more, because we know first-hand that even if we had, it might not have helped.

Left Behind Should Never Mean Isolated

Someone who commits suicide during the holidays, especially an adult, is probably not new to the idea. The idea of ending it all doesn’t just pop into their head on a whim. Chances are, they’ve been feeling sad and unwanted or unneeded for a long time. The forced jollity of the holidays is simply the final straw, eliminating any second thoughts they might have had that they still have a purpose. It doesn’t matter what the people around them think. They feel extraneous, and they are in charge of the actions they take based on those feelings.

But those who are left behind, whether they found the lifeless body or simply dealt with the feelings of helplessness, guilt, and grief afterwards must revisit the death year after year. The holidays are just another reminder of someone who is no longer around to share the joys, the sorrows, and everything in between. They’re a reminder that we didn’t or couldn’t do enough to make someone feel they needed to hang around a little longer.

Opening Hearts to Suicide’s Forgotten Victims

Please, while you’re offering avenues to prevent suicide, also open your hearts to those who lost someone to suicide during the holidays; the most wonderful time of the year. You might not even know who we are as many won’t talk about it. If they do, they won’t open up unless they know someone who has suffered the same loss.

I suggest we make the holidays a time of more hugs, more compassion, greater understanding. Most of all, make it a time of paying more attention to the people around you. Notice when their smiles don’t reach their eyes. Notice when they seem to move more slowly. Notice when they retreat to a corner during celebrations and don’t seem to be getting into all of the joy and happiness we’re supposed to be feeling.

Give heartfelt hugs whenever you can. Not those almost embarrassed kind of hugs with the back patting you’d give a fussy child. A real hug where you hold someone, heart to heart, giving and receiving warmth. A hug that says “I may not know what you’re going through, but I care and I’m here for you, even if all I can offer is this hug.”

Remembering the Value of Family, Warts and All

I learned a lot this weekend when I saw my family for the first time in 20 years. I learned that even though they know my sister and I no longer have a relationship, they’re not judging, simply trying to understand. I learned that in many ways, my parents’ suicides will always be the elephant in the room, but we can still love each other in spite of it. I learned to appreciate how much my parents spared me as I watched cousins dealing with a mother whose mind is very child-like now, and a father who is crouched and bent and likely in a great deal of pain much of the time. I also learned how much it saddens me that my parents didn’t get to share the girls’ milestones and accomplishments.

The biggest thing I learned, though, was that my family is still there after all these years. For some, being around me might be awkward and uncomfortable but they’re willing to make the effort. For others, I truly believe they don’t hold me responsible for my parents’ actions, nor do those actions make it difficult for them to be near me. I don’t seem to serve as the constant and unwelcome reminder of their own loss I believed I did. And I met extended family who were warm and welcoming without prejudice.

Yet, I still feel sad that my parents aren’t here to share the holidays with us, with their granddaughters. Perhaps I always will. I have learned to fill my heart with love, my home with friends and my time with activity. Most of all, I express my gratitude for all of the blessings in my life right now, and still to come. I am here for a reason. I have a purpose. Most of all, I am worthy of love, success, and fulfillment.

Part of that fulfillment is being a haven for those who’ve lost someone to suicide. Won’t you help me extend that haven this holiday season?

Gratitude, the Greatest Healer

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I am able to help other forgotten victims of suicide and that so many have reached out to me in the last few years.
  2. I am grateful to be able to raise awareness of the struggles suicide survivors endure.
  3. I am grateful to have reconnected with my family. There are some seriously amazing people in my clan!
  4. I am grateful for the ability to express myself in writing and perhaps raise awareness where awareness is lacking.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, family, hugs, compassion, kindness, sharing, caring, peace, harmony, success, 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!

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Moraleida via Flickr

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