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

Posts tagged ‘love’

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

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Empaths vs. Alcohol

New Insight Into the Drinking Game

I’ve always been uncomfortable around people who overindulge in alcohol. I saw it in my parents often enough, and later, my ex-husband. At times, I simply masked it by over-indulging myself, with obvious unpleasant consequences.

It wasn’t until recently I finally recognized the discomfort lay, not in the inebriated state of others, but in the results of that state and its impact on me.

I discovered what was there all along when I accepted that alcohol releases inhibitions. I used to believe those inhibitions were those which stopped people from making fools of themselves to they could relax and have a little fun. But there’s a somewhat sinister side to the lack of inhibitions.

Releasing the Pain Body With a Little Lubrication

We naturally corral what Eckhart Tolle calls our “pain body” when we’re sober, but the addition of alcohol in increasing quantities removes the filter which we’ve put in place to function within the parameters of society. When we remove those filters, thought it might not be apparent to most, we leak all of the sadness, pain, and misery we’ve kept bottled up until it’s flowing out of us like a veritable river of agony.

The average person won’t even notice, and will, in fact enjoy the crazy, uninhibited-ness of the the outwardly happy drunk. Not so with an empath like me.

Once I made the connection, I realized my real issue with people in an inebriated states wasn’t the alcohol (or drugs for that matter) at all. Instead, it was that they were functioning without the usual filters which protect me and others like me from being flooded with someone else’s emotions. You could say we were being drowned in sorrows of someone else’s making.

Once I realized what was happening, I could start taking the necessary steps to protect myself and above all, refrain from engaging with those who danced gaily around the room with their filters in shreds.

Mixed Reactions

I posed my conjecture to a group of empaths recently. In some cases, I was gratified to find others who recognized themselves in me. In others, I was saddened some took my words to mean it was open season on people who drink to mask their pain. Instead of finding an opportunity for compassion (once they’d protected themselves, of course), they took my words as permission to bash and abuse those who chose the only way they could manage to put aside their pain, if just for a little while.

The truth is alcoholism is a disease, plain and simple, and the people who use any kind of drug to excess do so for many reasons, one of which is a lack of healthy coping mechanisms. To crush them further with our condemnation will only serve to drive them further into they abyss.

Granted, it’s neither our place nor our gift to help them all, or maybe, not any of them. But neither is it our place to push them over the edge on which many totter. I am saddened and even mortified to learn my words caused others to take that path.

Self-Medicating to Mask the Pain

I know a number of people I reach are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics and can only imagine the strength it takes to challenge the addiction every single day. Far too many of them are probably empaths who chose alcohol or drugs to shut out the voices, the emotions which bombard us daily when we don’t know what they are or why we hear them in the first place.

I was one of them once upon a time. Though I didn’t abuse alcohol to excess nor use it to mask my pain on a regular basis as my parents did, I used my own equally ineffective and harmful methods for running away from myself and my true purpose. But I also used some healthy ones like dancing.

Learning to Embrace our Humanity

What it all comes down to is we are born compassionate human beings. Life and circumstances change that in us. Whether it’s family troubles or accepted behaviors, traumas we experience as life moves forward with or without us, or something seemingly innocuous. We learn to protect ourselves from mental, physical, and emotional harm in the best way we know how. All too often, the first step is shutting down our compassion for others.

I learned the hard way that shutting down, be it my compassion, sharing, connecting, or authenticity is equivalent to cutting off a limb which is perfectly fine the way it is. Closing ourselves off means we’re denying the very thing which makes us human. As time goes on, it becomes a lonely existence and one impossible to maintain without some hefty sacrifices.

Yet we’re taught to believe that only by functioning according to society’s rules; being cheerful, being gregarious, getting along, being easy-going; will we be able to get ahead, to make something of ourselves, to be a contributing member of society.

Here’s where I have to cry BULLSHIT! To be a true member of our beautiful, crazy, messy society, we have to be our whole selves. We have to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sure, we don’t want to go around harming others, but would that even be an issue if we were loved and accepted for who we are in the first place? Do serial killers kill because they were loved and cherished, accepted and celebrated? Do bullies tear others down because they feel good about themselves? NO! They do harm because it’s all they know to make themselves feel less ignored, less lonely, less apart.

Loving Each Other Beneath the Pain

We all have grumpy days. It’s a part of life. Those who deny they do are the ones who most need our compassion because they’re forcing themselves into a mold no one can possibly fit. Life is full of challenges. It’s how we learn, like it or not. It’s also an opportunity to reach out and ask for support, for help from other humans. And here’s a news flash. Other humans LIKE being asked for help once in a while. It makes them feel needed as well.

Yes, I learned a lot from putting my thoughts about alcoholics in particular out there for a group of empaths. Not all of it was good, but it was all useful for me. It reminded me to keep looking below the surface. It told me to put the judgment aside and look at the person underneath, the person the alcohol sought to mask. The mask is flimsy at best and the person underneath is crying for understanding and love, or perhaps just someone to say: “You’re OK just the way you are, warts and all. You’re loved.”

These little reminders make me grateful for the community I’m building, the people I reach out to, and those who reach out to me. You won’t see me marching in the streets any time soon. I’m too busy trying to learn my lessons and spread compassion in the world I know I can touch. In my own small way, this is how I believe I can make a difference. Imagine what would happen if we all spread some compassion. It might not solve all the problems of the world, nor stop all the anger, hatred, and evil, but where we start our journey is entirely up to us, and should be celebrated.

When we belittle the efforts of others, we minimize our own. Whatever we choose to do, it all makes a difference. Believe that, if nothing else.

With Love and Gratitude

OK, I’ll step off my soapbox now and give you today’s gratitudes:

  1.  I am grateful for the people who show me both sides of the impact my words make.
  2.  I am grateful for my little forum where I hope to provide dialogue and the exchange of ideas including those which oppose my own. Only then will we all learn a few things we might have missed out on.
  3.  I am grateful for the new people who come into my life, the messages they bring, the help they offer, and the suggestions they make to help spread my own message further.
  4.  I am grateful for acts of compassion and love as they serve as examples of how much more I could be doing.
  5.  I am grateful for abundance; love, peace, compassion, lessons, people, examples, warmth, pleasure, pain, health, 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 is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. 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.

For Pet’s Sake: Making Choices on Their Behalf

Being Our Very Best Selves for Our Pet’s Sake

I’ve had a lot of time to think this week. I’ve spent several hours at the vet. I’ve waited a few days for lab results. I’ve wallowed in self-pity over possibly losing another cat way too young.

When all is said and done, things don’t look as bleak as they could, but then, the results are also inconclusive. The worst didn’t show up, but the vet tells me that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Meanwhile, as I wallowed and cried and moaned, Toby got sadder and lost his will to purr. Only when I kicked myself in the butt and ordered an end to the wallowing did he come out of the closet, climb into my lap and share that purr I’d thought I’d lost for good for nearly an hour. He’s back to climbing on me when I go to bed, and again when I wake in the middle of the night. He no longer feels the need to spend the entire day hiding in the closet, and is instead, hanging out in whichever room I’m in. He’s letting me know when he’s hungry, and consuming 2-3 jars of baby food a day.

I learned some really important lessons over the last week.

Our Mood Affects Theirs

I learned that no matter how lousy our pets might feel, they make our mood a priority. It’s all well and fine to tell ourselves to think about a positive outcome, but unless we actually act like we believe it, our pet will suffer with us. Since we want them to keep their strength up to fight off whatever ails them, we’re not doing them any favors.

Put Their Needs First

The idea of losing a cherished pet is devastating. But going to extremes to keep them alive a little longer has to be done for the right reasons. Our unhappiness is not the right reason. If those extremes can save both their life and their quality of life, it’s worth considering. If they’ll only result in a few more months or even years of pain and discomfort, think really hard. Would you want someone to put you through a long run of pain and life as an invalid simply because they couldn’t handle losing you? Probably not.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Express Your Love

Pet's SakeDo you give your pet attention every day? Do you remind them by word and deed how important they are to you? This might be as simple as cuddles in the morning and before bed, a clean litter box, fresh water and treats now and then. When they give you that look of love and trust, do you acknowledge it? Do you show them your gratitude? Do they know you love them just as wholeheartedly? In my house, we have a regular bed time ritual. Each cat has their own special part in this ritual (although Mulan, the Siamese thinks she has to be part of everyone’s ritual. Such is the belief of the born Princess). Toby’s part has always been to climb on top of me and purr for a few minutes after the girls have had their pets. Other members of the pack take turns guarding my head or just curling up in various places on the bed. And I miss each one if for some reason they fail to make their usual appearance.

Be Sensitive to Their Moods

Animals, and especially cats can’t tell you when something hurts or their tummy is upset. Aside from vomiting, they have no way to communicate with us unless we’re one of the fortunate few who can communicate with animals. I have wished I was on many occasions, if only to spare one of my own the pain they couldn’t express. But they do show us in subtle ways; changes in behavior, disinterest in food, lethargy, hiding. If we’re paying attention to them every day, we have a better chance of noticing when they’re a little off.

Know When Letting Go is What’s Best for Them

Giving up on someone we love is never easy. Whether it’s a child who insists on going down their own destructive path, or a pet whose quality of life is gone forever. It’s just not in our nature to give up on them. I’ve been guilty of dragging things on for too long because I didn’t want an animal to have such a short life. But the truth is, if they could have talked, they’d have told me to please let them go and be out of pain. Going to extremes to keep them alive isn’t doing them any favors, nor is it really helping us. It merely prolongs a decision which will eventually have to be made one way or another.

A few years ago, I had a cat named Loki who developed kidney issues at a fairly young age. We almost lost her on more than one occasion because of it. Eventually, we were giving her sub-cutaneous fluids twice a day, and the doctor had just prescribed an injectable medication that cost over $200 for a couple of doses. The last straw was the vet who suggested a kidney transplant which would have cost a “mere” $50,000 and came with no guarantees. Still, I persisted until the day Loki was in really bad shape. I ran her to the vet, still not ready to give up on her. I held her in my arms, crying and trying to make the best decision for her. Suddenly, she began to convulse. That was her way of telling me it was OK to stop trying so hard to keep her alive. She was done and was telling me so in no uncertain terms. I still question whether I did her any favors keeping her going that long. In all honesty, I kept her going more for my own sake than hers, and that’s a pretty lousy reason. She still lives on in my memories, but she is no longer in pain.

What I learned from the experience is that in a lot of cases, especially chronic illness, more is not necessarily better. When the cat is barely eating and is down to skin and bones, it’s time to consider what’s best for them and put our own feelings aside.

Short Lives Filled With Love

Most of our pets have much shorter lifetimes than humans. We have to accept that whenever we adopt. There have been a lot of beloved cats in my life and losing each and every one took a piece of my heart. Most of those cats shared a deep, abiding love with me that’s hard to find in humans. They don’t care what I look like in the morning or if I don’t shower or dress up nice. They simply want my company, some cuddles and pets, regular feedings, clean litterboxes, and fresh water. Their needs and their expectations are simple. What they give back is immeasurable. That kind of unconditional love deserves no less in return. I know I must not only ensure they live with dignity, but die that way as well. It’s the least I can do for their lifetime of devotion.

Gratitude Reminds Us

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the unconditional love of my animals.
  2. I am grateful for continued improvement in Toby’s health, energy, and appetite.
  3. I am grateful for supportive friends who understand the love and devotion I give my animals.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to spend as much time as necessary with a sick pet.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; work, love, inspiration, motivation, health, harmony, peace, friendship, clients, writing, reading, learning, playing, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information.

Positively Positive: Sharing Inspiration

Why I Promote Positivity

About 20 years ago, I began my personal journey out of the abyss. Like everything else in my life, it hasn’t been a straight path, nor an easy one. There was a lot of backsliding, especially in the early years as my brain fought to keep me in the safe, comfortable, familiar place it loved.

But my desire for happiness has prevailed and I’ve managed to flip the switch which gives me more happy days than sad ones, more positivity and gratitude, and less self-pity and blame. A good part of my success has been the manner in which I’m currently using Social Media.

First let me say that I have to have a really good reason to unfriend someone, and putting up negative or uninspiring posts isn’t one of them. (that’s why we have the option to unfollow friends. That way, we simply don’t have to see their posts on our news feed). I do, however, insist on predominantly uplifting or at least humorous posts on my social media pages.

Over time I’ve subscribed to a number of groups and followed people who regularly share evocative, uplifting, humorous, or inspiring material. Those I particularly enjoy are set up on my Buffer account where I share them on my pages to provide something thought-provoking, humorous, uplifting, or inspiring for the people who follow me.

Hate Begets Hate

While there has always been more than enough negativity and downright hatefulness out in cyberspace, the last year or so has seen a dramatic increase in hateful words and acts, anger directed outward, and a general ugliness permeating the whole of humanity. None of us are immune.

Even the best of us (and trust me, I’m no angel!) don’t completely refrain from venting our anger or frustration from time to time. Everyone has a cause they feel strongly about. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Often, it’s not the message, but how it’s conveyed. I, myself am less than tactful when I’m frustrated. (just ask the rude group who kept assuming any table in the place was for their personal use last night!) I recognize and accept that. There are a number of people who regularly share things that make me smile or think, but have their pet causes. Like most of us, they might get a bit in your face about those causes. If it’s not something I share, I just scroll on by. I know a few posts down will be something I’ll really enjoy.

There is a point to this, I promise. I’m just a bit long-winded getting to it (unusual, I know. 🙂 ).

More Than One Way to Fight for a Cause

More than once, I’ve been called out for not supporting a cause publicly. But I believe there are plenty of people flinging angry words and righteous indignation. It’s not for me to add to that cacophony. Instead, it is for me to try to hold a sort of Switzerland where people can share their viewpoints in a loving way instead of trying to rip out the throats of those who disagree with them.

Do I have things I feel passionate about? Hell yes. But screaming about them from the roof tops isn’t going to change them, in my opinion. Finding ways to love ourselves and the people around us through the chaos and the maelstrom of hate is far more effective in the long run.

Think of it this way. Those who hate and stir it up in others are broken in their own way, but they feed on anger and hate. Those emotions make them stronger and help bury their own pain with things like power and recognition. Though it’s not a perfect substitute, they believe it is what they need.

Hate vs. Love

A few years ago, I attended an event where Marianne Williamson spoke. She said something which has stayed with me ever since. She said that people who act out in anger are doing so because they lack love in their lives. If you think about it, one of the surest ways to still someone’s anger is to wrap them in a warm, sincere hug.

I’ll take this one step further. When you enter a competition, you try to have the best tools and skills so you will prevail. If you went into a competition using only your opponent’s tools against them, you’d always lose. Why? Because they’ve honed those tools to be perfect for themselves and their personal strengths and skill sets. Soldiers have swords weighted for their own physical strength and build. Magicians have wands which complement their skills. If anyone else used their tools of the trade, they’d find the tools wanting when in reality, they’re simply mismatched to the user.

If you’re trying to overcome anger and hate, why would you throw more of the same at it? It’s no different than throwing gasoline on a wild fire. You give it more fuel and it will continue to grow.

I’m trying to do the unexpected in my own small way. I share positive quotes and inspiring stories. I post cute animal videos and tales of triumph over adversity. I’ve even been known to share things slightly political, but only if they’re humorous rather than hateful.

Keeping Dr. King’s Words Alive

I may not agree with a lot that’s going on today, but adding my voice to the already overwhelming complaints isn’t going to change any of it. What will is finding the silver lining or the lesson and sharing that instead. I might still get criticized for having my head in the sand or for not openly taking a stand against any of it. But I’m also not adding to the anger. I’m not fueling the fires of hatred which are burning as brightly as the fires in Montana, and are a million times more virulent. I can’t say it any better than the late Dr. Martin Luther King who said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

What he said then still holds true today. So enjoy the happy quotes I share. Laugh at the cute videos if you can. I want to be that beacon of light when everything seems dark. I believe in love when so many around me disagree. I know I’m imperfect and act unkindly at times, and each time I do, I have a nice self-flagellation session. Then I forgive myself and go back to posting positivity. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. And some, like Dr. King gave it all to bring the light of love into the sometimes overwhelming darkness.

Finding Gratitude in Every Little Thing

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I am grateful for the continued inspiration I get to keep writing.
  2. I am grateful for the lessons I learn every day.
  3. I am grateful for my imperfections as they make me work harder to do better next time.
  4. I am grateful for the improvements I’m making in my physical environment. As it is outside, so will it be inside. My inside is getting clearer with each coat of paint and piece of clutter I clear.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, love, joy, sharing, compassion, lessons, challenges, problems and solutions, opportunities, dreams realized and dreams yet to manifest, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

 

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information.

 

 

 

Blame it on the Moon: Reflections on Mom’s Birthday

Remembering More as the Years Pass and the Clouds Clear

This morning as I realized it would have been Mom’s 82nd birthday today that, aside from the extensive writing I’ve done about her in my yet-to-be-published memoir (or yet-to-be-finished to be more accurate), I’ve written little about my feelings about her or her death.

Today, as I typed my typical “today would have been” post on Facebook, something changed. I first noticed it by the words I chose to use in my post. Then I turned on my Rascal Flatts station on Pandora instead of one I typically listen to. 3 tracks in, “What Hurts the Most” played and I felt tears coming to my eyes. That’s when I knew I needed to write this post.

Full Moons Are a Time to Reflect

Now, maybe it’s the impending full moon which always makes me more emotional anyway, or maybe it’s the chapters I’ve started adding to my memoir lately, but I received one of those infamous Universal head slaps this morning.

It made me realize just how far I’ve come in resolving my hopelessly twisted feelings towards my mother. The short version is I’ve come to realize she was exactly what she needed to be both for herself and to help me become the woman I am today. But as with all things, I’m never happy with the short version. So buckle up for some intensely personal revelations, if you dare.

Finding Appreciation: Too Little, Too Late?

I’ll be the first to admit I never appreciated mom’s many qualities. I was so busy being at odds with her that we pushed each other away when I was quite young. Nurturing my baby sister was far easier for her to cope with than a headstrong 2-year-old. I don’t think I ever quite got over that feeling of abandonment.

It’s not that she turned her back on me, per se. She simply found more joy in doing things with and for my sister as we got older and the paths of our interests took different routes. My sister’s musical prowess and outright tenacity far exceeded my own. Mom could point at her playing first chair clarinet or performing with the prestigious Royal Cavaliers and feel proud of the daughter she’d raised and shlepped to endless music lessons.

Was She Aware of My Love of Writing?

I was a disappointment across the board. I preferred to pursue my passion behind the scenes. Whether it was building a set for the latest drama production, running the light board or applying makeup, I was never front and center to stoke her motherly pride. As for the stories and poems I wrote, regardless of their quality or, in most cases, lack thereof, I can honestly say she never read a word. Of course, I never showed them to her either, so how could she know or even have the opportunity to refuse, or worse, offer a patronizing word of false encouragement?

The real truth is, by the time I was doing any writing to speak of, I’d long since ceased valuing her opinion about anything important. Maybe that’s part of the reason I have trouble accepting my daughter’s encouraging comments about one of the novels she’s reading. I learned not to show anything to my family for fear of the requisite “that’s good, dear” which might or might not have been delivered. I do my daughter a disservice by not valuing her opinion. After all, she’s been reading voraciously most of her life. She knows what she likes to read and what she thinks sucks.

Lessons Offered, Lessons Learned

Again, I digress. Because I started tuning Mom out from an early age; a trait I’m pretty sure I learned from my dad, I missed out on the many things she had to offer. She kept a beautiful house, entertained magnificently, and taught herself to be a gourmet cook. I am decent, but I’ll never have her skill, much less her patience in making every detail perfect. Thankfully, though those skills were lost on me, my daughter inherited them with a vengeance.

I’m reminded of the chicken and egg scenario. Did Mom stop encouraging me in the things which made me shine because I pushed her away; shut her out even? Or did I shut her out because she turned all of her attention to my sister’s pursuits, relegating mine to just sweet little hobbies?

Family Dynamics Are a Balancing Act

I’ll never know the answer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t changed. I realize now it doesn’t really matter which came first. What matters is that despite the gigantic chasm which existed between us, she gave me so many invaluable gifts. She helped me learn to stand strong and fight my own battles. But she also tempered the gifts I got from my Dad.

Where he was stoic, she was sensitive. Though it might have seemed like she was too sensitive at the time, her sensitivity wove itself into my persona despite my best efforts to be as unlike her as I could be. So well in fact that Dad’s stoicism became my protective shell until I learned when and where to let my sensitivity show.

Where Dad was stubborn and dogmatic, Mom was more malleable, often to her own detriment. Again, I used the stubbornness to counteract my tendency to be easily manipulated. All too often, both tendencies have blown up in my face, forcing me to learn to find the balance.

An Introvert in Extrovert’s Clothing. Who Am I Really Fooling?

I think the most valuable lesson she gave me was negotiating an extroverted world while keeping my soft, mushy, introverted self safe and hidden. Yes, I took it to extremes, but so did she. She smiled and entertained and got involved in charitable causes. She even tried her hand at a career in sales. I know now from my own experience that these are all ways introverts learn to cope with the outside world when they’d often rather just hide away with a book and their pets. The difference between us is she needed validation from others to replace the love she didn’t feel from her family. I learned to be loud and entertaining (though some would probably call it obnoxious). I had a wall around my heart acres deep. Very few have ever gotten close enough to be able to hurt me. I can’t say the same for Mom.

In hindsight, I think Mom hurt every day of her life until the day she decided to end it. She suffered emotional rejection from just about everyone in her life, and certainly her entire family. Sorry folks who might be reading this and are part of that group, but I see no exceptions to this observation. Not one of us took the time to try to see behind her extensive collection of masks.

When Someone No Longer Feels They Have Value

Which brings me to my final point. Collectively, we helped mom feel that she wasn’t needed; was not important to anyone. I have to believe that was the final contributing factor. It was what made her decide suicide was her only viable option. I cannot even imagine reaching the point where you believe with all your heart that nobody will miss you when you’re gone, but I think that’s where Mom was when she carefully followed the instructions in the book she’d bought. When she closed the guest room door where her granddaughters slept when they visited, lay down on the bed she’d shared with my dad for 40 years and took the last, fateful step.

As I type this, my eyes are filling with tears, and my faithful cat, Dylan is on the desk giving me head bumps. Mom died on December 27, 1993…and it hurts more now than it did when she died. In the ensuing years, I’ve put aside the relief, the guilt, the blame, and the anger. I’ve replaced them with forgiveness, compassion, and understanding. And finally, the tears of grief and sadness for the daughter I couldn’t be for her are flowing, cleansing my heart and her memory.

I love you and miss you, Mom. Know you were important even if we didn’t show it. Know your granddaughters remember you with fondness and show that love in all the things you taught them to love and do well. Rest well until we meet again. I hope I’ll be kinder next time.

In Loving Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons my mom so patiently taught me, whether or not I was listening.
  2. I am grateful for having finally learned some of those lessons, albeit decades after her death.
  3. I am grateful for the living embodiment of love for my mom in my daughters.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to allow my emotions to flow all the way to the surface instead of keeping them bottled up like I’ve done for so long.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: love, lessons, compassion, understanding, epiphanies, gratitude, releases, friends, 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!

Healing the World One Hug at a Time

It Starts With a Hug. Where it Ends is up to You.

While writing my morning pages today, I reflected on the wounds humanity has inflicted. I thought about the Native Americans who feel the pain of wounds inflicted on Earth. My thoughts then drifted to our current hostilities, the divisiveness that plagues our nation and even the world right now. I thought about the healing properties of a simple hug and thought how cathartic a global group hug would be.

As an introvert, the idea of hugging a stranger or even someone I don’t know well is pretty frightening. But I know I’m also meant to help with the healing process. If I can start hugging people I don’t know, wouldn’t it set an example? Wouldn’t it show those more inclined to hug both strangers and friends how easy it is and how much good it can do?

A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small, Large, Light, Dark, Intelligent…

A hug transcends our differences, be they ethnic, cultural, political or any other artificial belief that all of us are anything other than Divine Beings having a Human experience. Beneath the outside covering, apart from the beliefs we’ve learned or acquired along the path which constitutes our personal journey, our hearts beat in the same manner. Our blood flows through our veins, our muscles respond  to the same stimuli, and we have the same basic needs; food, shelter, love, acceptance. The last two, we can give each other as simply as giving a hug.

Hugs are positive energy all rolled up into a nice, comforting, loving package. But why stop there? Have you ever noticed how a person’s demeanor changes from a simple smile or kind word?

A kind word, a gentle embrace, our world becomes a better place

Lately, I’ve found myself noticing something special about a person and making a point of telling them. I’m overwhelmed by how much people light up from a compliment and how their pleasure washes over me as well.Yet, what really surprises me is how paying a few compliments comes back to me almost immediately. The other night while dancing, I paid compliments to a couple of people, just because I felt compelled to do so. It might be a new hair style, or a color that looks especially good on them, or an outfit. It doesn’t really matter what it is. The wash of pleasure they exude is amazing. What I did not expect was to have people pay me compliments a little while later, thereby causing me to exude that same wash of pleasure. It wasn’t that I had done anything different than I’d been doing lately. I know the joy I’d received from the random compliments I’d paid fed my own inner glow. No amount of makeup, time spent fixing my hair, pounds lost, or new outfits improves our appearance like feeding that inner glow.

Giving to Receive

I’ve read many times that to receive you must first give. But it’s only now becoming clear to me exactly what that means. It has nothing to do with giving money to charity, or even time to a cause you believe in. It has to to with giving a small piece of your heart with love and sincerity. Charitable work certainly does that, but it’s the result, not the action. You can just as easily give because you feel obligated. but the inner glow of giving from a place of love won’t be there.

What I am trying to say in my usual convoluted manner is that we’re living in a time when people are withholding their love, their hearts all too often. We hide behind our electronics. We encase our hearts in concrete. We ignore the world and the people around us for our own personal agendas. We’re becoming little better than a world of robots, interacting with each other superficially, needing a violent encounter to make us actually feel something.

Wake up to the loving Human you were meant to be

But we aren’t dead yet. As long as we’re still essentially upright; as long as we’re still living and breathing in this world, we can reverse this dehumanization. We can counteract the virtual autism that’s swept the world, encasing us in a hard outer shell that’s only breached by outside stimuli of atomic proportions.

Step away from the computers. Put the phones down. See the people around you. Even the non-empathic (and frankly everyone is empathic to some degree) can feel pain or joy from others if they crack their own shell a bit. I read somewhere recently that a crack doesn’t mean you’re broken, it means you’re letting the light in.

Isn’t it time we all let some light in?

Above all, there is gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the lessons I’m learning and the insights I’m gaining.
  2. I’m grateful for the words which come to me, and the ones I know must be shared.
  3. I’m grateful I created a platform long ago which can be used now to encourage cooperation and healing.
  4. I’m grateful for the positive influence of friends and acquaintances.
  5. I’m grateful for hugs.
  6. I’m grateful for smiles.
  7. I’m grateful for abundance in all its forms.
  8. I’m grateful for light at the end of a seemingly long, dark tunnel.

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 credit: Ian Riley via Flickr

March 15, 2015 How movies trigger our own memories

Gave myself “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood as a treat for getting my work done today.

What I got out of the movie, however, was unexpected and a bit brutal. As I watched the story unfold: the crazy mother who hated her daughter, the daughter who lost the man she loved and had trouble coping with her children and her life, and the daughter who internalizes her mother’s lack of coping skills and blames herself.

But before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me assure you that I did not get a pity party out of the movie. Quite the contrary. I found myself wondering if my mother would have had a better shot had she developed lifelong friendships like Vivi did. If she’d had someone there who truly understood her and had her back, no matter how crazy she behaved, would she have been able to overcome the emotional neglect she experienced from her mother, and, as a result, the rest of the family? Would my dad have spent less time just standing back like Shep did and letting her do whatever she felt she needed to do, and been able to share more time giving her the affection and love she actually needed but never learned to accept?

But the biggest question in my mind as I sit and reflect on the movie is “Would she have grown tired of trying to be loved and finally given it up as a bad deal like she did?”

In spite of outward appearances, Life deals us all an imperfect hand.

It is entirely up to us how we play that hand. But having supportive friends and family along the way can sure help in convincing us to keep at least a couple of the cards we were dealt instead of tossing the whole hand away without a second glance. But Mom was dealt an uglier hand than most and maybe, in her case, striking off on her own might have been a better option. She spent years organizing family gatherings and being the one to call and keep in touch with everyone. It pained me when one of my cousins would say something hateful about her, though it wasn’t until years later that I realized they were only parroting their parents. They’d all been taught that my mom wasn’t worth loving when my grandmother cast her teenaged daughter aside in favor of her new husband and daughter. Shuffling a teenager from one aunt to the next where she had to share the leftovers with the cousins who really belonged had to be a really crappy existence. I can see where it would skew a person’s idea of love.

I know she tried her best to show me she loved me in the only way she knew how, or thought she knew how. She was hypercritical, had high expectations, was oblivious to the fact that her expectations and mine were not the same, and had no clue that criticizing a teenage girl in front of her friends was anything BUT an act of love from the girl’s point of view. In short, I believe she took the attention she got from her mother and the rest of the family as expressions of love, rather than the resentment and dislike that much of it was. She was broken, but didn’t realize that what she’d learned had any flaws. It was simply what she knew.

Sadly, while my cousins grew up with sometimes equally dysfunctional mothers but remained close to them, my sister and I allowed our resentment to build, magnifying my mom’s mistakes until there wasn’t even a relationship left to fix.

It also became clear that her relationships with the rest of her family were equally broken because her death put a label on my sister and I. We lost the tenuous relationships we’d had with our cousins, and to my great sadness, never got to see their kids grow up or form relationships with our kids. To them, we’re simply an offhand comment in a Huffington Post article written by a cousin who never even knew us in spite of the fact that our mothers were, at least by birth, sisters, about her crazy aunt who offed herself.

OK, so maybe there’s a touch of pity party here, but it isn’t for myself. I feel so sorry for my mother who never found the one thing she really needed; unconditional love.

It is a mother’s job to love her kids unconditionally, though, heaven knows, many of us really push the envelope, making it a superhuman achievement when our mothers simply continue to love us. Just as I challenged my mother to love me through all of my acting out, one of my daughters has returned the challenge. Do I stop loving her any more than my mom stopped loving me? Heck no! But just as there were times my mom surely did not like me, there are times I surely do not like, at least, the things my daughter does and the way she treats people. But though we do not have a relationship at this moment in time, I feel certain that, like me and my mom, something will bring us back together at some point, because the single tie which binds us together is my unconditional love for her.

In her mind, my mom always forgave me, no matter how horrifically I’d treated her. The trouble was, I hadn’t learned to forgive myself, and tended to blame her for something I didn’t really understand. I can only hope that I learned from the experience and can help my daughter understand when the time comes to re-ignite our relationship.

This is what happens when you bottle things up because you can’t figure out how to express it without sugar coating

I’ve been trying for several years to express some of these feelings, but stopped myself many times because what I was saying sounded too whiny and too much like I was blaming someone. The truth is, the perpetuated behavior goes back farther than I know. I have no real memory of my great-grandparents and certainly don’t know their personal history. Whether my grandmother’s behavior was learned from them, I’ll never know. Whether it began there or started generations back, I’ll never know either. What I do know is that it is up to me to stop the cycle and try to improve things for my own children and grandchildren. As for the rest of the family, it’s out of my control. The sad truth is, I don’t even know them any more.

On the one hand, I found myself, for awhile, resenting them for abandoning my sister and me during a really horrible time in our lives. But on the other, I am grateful that they stayed away because it meant that I could go through the healing process without feeling the need to defend my mom’s memory, especially when I was so conflicted myself. They went on with their lives while I spent a long time just trying to make sense of mine and raise two beautiful little girls. More is the pity that their family didn’t get to see them grow up!

This post got a lot heavier than I’d intended, but the movie allowed me to take the cap off of a bottle which was beginning to fizz so violently, the only remaining options were to release or explode.

I feel that I’ve experienced a catharsis today, and that the Universe chose this particular moment to put that particular movie in front of me. As I said, I’ve been trying for years to figure out how to express what I was feeling without being ugly, resentful and blaming. Today I realized that the words had to come out, naked and unvarnished. Only then would I find my way clear to let go, to forgive and to heal the rest of the way. Losing my mom to suicide was hideous, but letting go of the guilt over the relief I felt has been the hardest part of all. I’m finally learning to accept that she might make me crazy and drive me over the edge, close to cracking myself, but it really was all she knew, and underneath it all, she loved me and I loved her. R.I.P. Mom. I think I finally get it. I hope I haven’t kept you tied to this world too long.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful that I was given a talent for writing. When all is said and done, it is the one thing which has saved me over the years.
2. I am grateful for epiphanies and the triggers which launch them.
3. I am grateful for imperfect hands as they teach us to build a better mousetrap or overcome our challenges.
4. I am grateful for the relationships I have with my daughters, so very different, but so important to my own personal development.
5. I am grateful for abundance: words, thoughts, memories, epiphanies, friendship, love, ideas, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.

Blessed Be

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