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

Posts tagged ‘masks’

Overwhelmed by Simple Tasks

When Leaving the House Makes Me Feel Overwhelmed

In all the time I’ve been working from home, life’s been pretty simple. No commute. Dress however I like. Go to the gym when I’ve finished my morning activities. Dance a couple of nights a week. Maybe somewhere in there I meet a friend for coffee or lunch. Errands on the same day every week.

It’s a lot more complicated now, though I spend more time at home, and inside the house. Sure, I can go outside into my yard whenever I like (though when I do, I’m reminded of all the things I need to do there now that I have the tools to do it), but I’ve given up walks because there are simply too many people walking around my neighborhood these days. I put off going grocery shopping as long as I can. The trips are now dictated by when I’m down to my last 5-gallon bottle of water.

When I do go out, it’s an ordeal of mask-wearing, sanitizing, and making sure I don’t directly touch anything I have to. When I get home, I have to sanitize the top of my washing machine so I can put the items I’ve wiped down on top of it, but only after I’ve scrubbed my hands. I don’t want to touch anything after I’ve touched heaven knows how many other peoples’ germs all over the stores. I even leave a clean set of clothes in the garage to change into after I’ve removed the ones I wore in the stores (because heaven knows when I might have walked through a lingering cough or sneeze).

Overly Cautious, or Legitimately Careful?

The rigamarole I go through which may or may not be necessary, but I’m not taking any overwhelmedchances, is worse than when I used to have to get ready to take my twin babies out of the house for any length of time. I can’t even imagine trying to do this with children in tow. They are among the worst at social distancing in the first place, and can’t wear masks if they’re under 2 according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Many believe I’m being overly cautious, especially given the fact I have no health conditions. But I am considered a senior citizen based solely on the years I’ve been in this particular meat suit, and thus considered high risk. If it was just about me, I might relax my process a bit if I saw numbers dropping significantly. The truth is, it isn’t just about me. Anyone I come into contact with, however briefly, or who touches something I touched first could be put at risk if I lower my standards or become careless. That weighs on me heavily.

Because I have a friend staying on my property who works in a hospital, I hear about people, and even several members of the same family who are dealing with a disease that can’t be seen or adequately detected under current circumstances. My conscience dictates that I take what to some might seem unreasonable precautions so I minimize the risk of infecting others. I may not go out much, but when I am out, I don’t want to be putting the people around me at risk.

Making Your Own Educated Choices

Sure, it’s a choice right now, especially in the county I live in, to be more diligent than required. I see how overworked and stressed my friend is, and know only by practicing things like social distancing, mask wearing, and over-the-top personal hygiene can I do my part to help keep the flow of patients down. The part I do might be small; even minuscule, but if each one of us was excessively diligent, it might save a few of the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers from either burnout, or succumbing to the disease themselves.

The problem lies in my own response to the extreme measures I believe I need to take. The very idea of having to go out of the house to run errands would, until recently, elicit a migraine either the day before when I’d stress myself out with anticipation, or the day of, leaving me sitting in the Costco parking lot after loading my groceries into the car, with eyes closed and the seat leaned back until my vision cleared and I was able to ward off the worst of the headache.

It also means I’m less than responsive to any suggestion to add one more step to anything I’m already doing. And it means I have more days than I like when I get absolutely nothing of merit accomplished. Thankfully, I’ve learned not to beat myself up for those days, but they still nag at me in their own way.

Reducing Stress Responses

I’ve come to the conclusion I need to somehow lower my negative response to all the extra I’m taking to simply acquire food, and a few medicines and supplements I can’t easily acquire online. My processes need to change yet again so, if nothing else, a trip to the market doesn’t elicit severe anxiety and resistant behaviors. It’s especially irritating when the activities in question are things I’ve done without a second thought for decades. How has adding a few steps turned them into some of the most stressful parts of my month?

Perhaps I’m overdoing the precautions. Maybe I don’t need to change clothes in the garage for fear of dragging potential virus bits into my house. Maybe I don’t need to wipe all of my groceries down with Clorox wipes. To be honest, I think I’d end up stressing myself out more if I didn’t. If I wore clothes or brought things into the house without sanitizing, I’d be forever wondering if I was putting myself more at risk, and in so doing, put others who I encountered without the six foot spacing or masks on both our faces at risk as well. Frankly, I’m not willing to take the chance.

Using Physical Activity to Mitigate Stress

The solution is to engage in more practices which offset the errand-induced stress before and after I leave the house to make those necessary trips. Instead of focusing on what’s causing my anxiety, I need to turn my attention to those things which have, and always will relieve it.

Sometimes, redirection is the only way around a problem. There’s no pat answer to how much effort needs to be put into cleaning what comes into our homes, including ourselves. but there are numerous methods for relieving the anxiety and stress it causes. Things like yoga, meditation, gardening…even cleaning. Basically, anything that allows me to release the excess energy that’s building up inside me will likely also minimize the amount of anxiety that actually becomes stress. It’s worth a try.

Always Plenty to be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for options.
  2. I’m grateful I can choose how much or how little I’m going to do to help lower the spread of COVID.
  3. I’m grateful for friends who are voluntarily indulging in safe practices, even if it means a lot of extra steps to do normally simple tasks.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve learned not to beat myself up for not accomplishing a huge list of tasks every day.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, joy, support, opportunities, motivation, inspiration, dedication, peace, harmony, health, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Kindness is Not Overrated

Learning Kindness While Isolated

Sometimes you get so caught up in all your duties, responsibilities, and self-imposed challenges you forget to be kind; to your family, your friends, people you encounter at work or while running errands, and most of all, to yourself. In the limitless agenda you set for yourself, you barely leave room to breathe much less, for taking time to be kind.

You don’t mean to be short with the cashier, or snappy with your child but you set expectations so high that even at your most superhuman, you can’t possible accomplish them all, much less, do them well. So you get frustrated; angry, and in the process, you forget how to simply Be. You lose sight of the fact that you could actually accomplish more, and even do a better job of it if you stopped rushing around like a headless chicken.

COVID has, in some ways, done us all a favor. It’s forced us to stop the crazy, pointless rushing around, and spend more time with the people we love, be it physically or virtually. Social lives are conducted in living rooms, on patios, in garages, and dens instead of in restaurants, clubs, and bars. Families are being forced to get to know each other, perhaps for some, more deeply than ever before.

Taking the Opportunity to Evict Your Demons

Some are struggling worse than ever because isolation is forcing them to face their demons on without the masks they’re used to wearing in public; without the shielding of other people that takes them, albeit temporarily, outside themselves. Those demons have been waiting a long time to be acknowledged, and will do their best to consume if they’re not faced head-on, acknowledged, and defused.

As someone who stuffed and avoided her demons for decades, I can assure you, this is the worst possible scenario, though if approached with the right attitude, it can also be the best. I used the distractions of work, social gatherings, and an endless list of responsibilities to hide from mine. Even so, I was isolated in all the ways that counted; my only real community was my daughters. I neither asked for nor was I offered support from the people I saw while dancing, my fellow band moms, or the parents of the girls’ teammates when they played soccer or ran track.

Thankfully, something woke me, not only to what I was avoiding, but to what I was missing as well. It didn’t happen overnight, and it was, at times, a pretty painful process, but I’ve learned, little by little, to start being kind to myself by allowing my demons to have their say, to acknowledge them, then let them go. I’ve learned what they have to say isn’t really true, but the result of people and situations as I stumbled through life which made me doubt myself.

I’d created a system of false beliefs I had to face down. Above all, I needed to learn to form relationships with people who could help me recognize the lies those demons told. In the process, I learned to recognize when others were struggling with their own demons.

Kindness Begins With You forgiveness, kindness has to start with yourself. Until you can be kind to yourself; quell the anger and hurt you’ve carried inside for years; maybe even decades, you can’t be truly kind to others. In the first place, kindness has to come without reservations or expectations of something in return. In the second, it has to come from a heart that’s truly open. As long as you’re beating yourself up over imagined past transgressions, you’re locking the door on the part of your heart that knows how to give unconditionally.

I grew up believing love was expressed by teasing someone unmercifully. Until I became a parent myself, I was usually the target of the teasing, and my family was expert at going for the jugular. I grew up believing I was fat, wasting my talents (whatever they were), and a disappointment to everyone. I carried that burden long into my adulthood, and unknowingly practiced the same behavior with my children.

Not all the time of course. I vacillated between the cruelty I’d learned from the cradle, and being overprotective. Neither extreme was healthy for me or my daughters. Once I started facing my own demons, and treating myself with more kindness and respect, I recognized the way I’d been mistreating  my own children, and was horrified.

A Second Chance to Be Kinder

I could claim I didn’t know any better, and in some ways that’s true but it’s no excuse. I see the times I sent my daughter Heather off in tears, or worse, gave her the silent treatment when she displeased me, and I cringe in horror. I hope and pray she learned from my mistakes, and will see that horrific family pattern end with her generation. I would rather her children grow up knowing only kindness, compassion, and even a little patience (something both Heather and I struggle with).

The Universe has blessed me with what I consider a second chance. The community which now embraces me has yielded many wonderful examples of loving kindness, compassion, and a level of love and caring I never saw growing up, nor in my ill-fated, and short-lived marriage. In fact, if I’m honest, leaving my ex was the first kind thing I did for myself. It was the first step in learning to face my demons, even if it took nearly a decade to take the next, and frankly more cataclysmic steps. In deciding to end the marriage, my primary thought was: “Life is too short to be this unhappy”. And yet, I’d lived in a state of unhappiness and even misery most of my life without even realizing it. From the examples I’d been set, it was not only normal, but the best I could expect.

Everything comes to you in right timing, or so I’ve come to believe. I try not to look back at all the years I struggled before I awoke, and at all the people now who are suffering and struggling through pain and misery. That they express their pain in the form of hate and cruelty is part of their own path, and not mine to change or judge.

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

COVID is giving so many a chance to be kinder and more compassionate. For many. this could be the cataclysmic event that gives them a chance to turn around, face their demons, and tell them to get lost. But so many others will get stuck and succumb to the lies. If you’ve learned to face your own, you can’t help but recognize the signs and symptoms. Exercising the kindness you learned when your own feet were to the fire is essential now. It truly is your responsibility to help those who struggle, and above all, to avoid responding to the outward cruelty and hate with unkindness of your own, unless your goal is to add fuel to the fire. If so, you’ll only become part of the inevitable forest fire, consuming everything and everyone in your path who doesn’t wield the sword of kindness and the shield of compassion.

Everyone has a choice. Love or hate. Kindness or cruelty. Abuse or compassion. Look carefully at what you’re giving yourself, and take this time of forced isolation to make a few course corrections. Look into the mirror and see where, and how you can treat yourself better. From there, it’s but a baby step to treating those around you with equal kindness and respect. Call me an idealist, but I believe all humanity has a stronger propensity to kindness than cruelty. It’s about breaking old, outworn patterns and replacing them with those capable of withstanding time’s ultimate tests.

Using Gratitude to Fuel Kindness

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the people and circumstances that have taught me kindness is a simple thing.
  2. I’m grateful for all the good, hard looks I’ve been allowed, or forced to take at myself. May I continue to look closely and make more changes for the better.
  3. I’m grateful for friendships closer than I ever thought I deserved, much less would see in my lifetime.
  4. I’m grateful for laughter, for tears, for honest, unfettered emotion.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, community, heartbreak, connection, kindness, compassion, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, dedication, peace, balance, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Dressing for Myself Unapologetically

Deciding Who I’m Dressing Up For

While on the annual line dance cruise, I got into a discussion with my cabin mate about who I dress for. It started when I said I didn’t think I’d bother putting on makeup for the evening’s more casual dinner. She was horrified I’d neglect my appearance in such a manner, and I finally agreed to at least put on the small amount I used on dance nights. It was a small concession, and in truth, I probably felt better about myself by making the minimal effort.

Over the course of the weekend, we spoke several times about the things we do to attract the opposite sex. Granted, it’s been years since I was aware of anyone showing any interest in me as anything more than a friend or temporary dance partner, while she’s dated a couple of different guys, but I felt, and still feel if someone is going to be attracted to me, it needs to be something more than my pretty packaging. In fact, as I told her, I have no idea what men find attractive these days, but whatever it is, it’s not something I am or do, given my experiences over the last couple of decades.

We talked about one friend who, until she settled on one guy, had men buzzing around her like bees to honey. Not only is she cute, vivacious, and prone to being the center of attention, she has a way of making whoever she’s talking to feel special. I’ve always envied that quality in people, as far back as I can remember. It truly is a talent in my opinion, and one I never acquired. There will always be people to whom I give my full attention, and those I give none at all. Sure, there are degrees in between, and there are certainly those who prefer my lower-key attentions. But I just don’t enjoy people-ing enough to make everyone I encounter feel special.

Oblivious in So Many Ways

Over the years, I’ve learned, sometimes decades after the fact that someone was attracted to, but I was oblivious to the signs they emitted to test the waters of my own affections. I think my natural oblivion is what makes it difficult for me to know what look or behavior might give someone a clear message I’d be open to exploring the possibilities. It also means I have no idea what a man is looking for either visually or on other levels. When I mentioned my lack of knowledge to my friend, she didn’t have any answers.

I’m wondering if the ability to attract is more of an innate ability. Some women have it, and others don’t. I do know the one who seems to attract them all has had a few get angry when she didn’t choose them. Since she made them all feel special, it probably came as a shock to the ones who hung on, believing they were her “one”. I can see how some might see her natural friendliness as stringing them along. After all, people see what they want to see, and will hang around longer than they should. Heaven knows, I’ve told myself I saw signs where there clearly were none my share of times.

I suspect the conversation will make me more aware of the male-female dynamics around me now. I may or may not learn what the magic ingredients are, but at least observing will give me something to write about in the future.

Visible from the Outside Looking In can look at people and see why someone would be attracted. Whether it’s the woman who’s vivacious and friendly, or my friend who is more beautiful and exotic than she probably realizes. There’s also the tendency for Empaths to attract Narcissists. I shut that door long ago, so for the most part, I repel rather than attract, tending to err on the side of caution these days. Some of my friends are still building up their complement of red flags and warning signs, so a few get past their ever-growing defenses. Frankly, I’d rather be alone than attract a Narcissist. I’ve had my share of pain and self-destruction from that kind of relationship. I don’t need new reminders or lessons.

I did learn how differently we can view the world and our lives from my friend. She feels appearances are important, and, I think, attracting someone to share her life is always in the forefront of her mind despite her strength and independence. In contrast, I’ve grown accustomed to being alone. That’s not to say it’s my condition of choice, but as I haven’t figured out how to change it, I’ve accepted my single state, though that door remains ajar nonetheless.

I dress for myself and for comfort. When I put on makeup, it’s for me, and not to attract attention or compliments (though it’s nice when someone does notice). I go to the gym, dance, and try to eat healthy meals for me; not because it will make me more attractive to someone out there who hasn’t even hit my radar.

Showing My Unvarnished Self to the World

People find it difficult to understand when I say I don’t care what others think. It’s not that I Created with Canvadon’t listen to what some have to say, and mull it over later like I’m doing with this one. It’s that I know what I like, and how much effort I’m willing to invest. I’ve reached the point in my life where people are going to like me for who I am or they’re not. I can’t change their minds, and putting on what I see as a costume for their benefit would be a return to the masks I cast off long ago. The process was painful at times, and freeing at others, but it isn’t a venue I’m anxious to revisit.

After much soul searching and internal work, the only person I can be is my own pure, unadulterated self. The outside now reflects the inside more accurately than it ever did. I worked hard to get here, and see no reason to backslide for the sake of companionship. Anything I’d attract by putting on a mask; a show wouldn’t be someone who would hang around for the long haul anyway, as the person they’d be attracted to wouldn’t be the real me.

I’m not good at pretending for long. Faking it is all well and fine if it is a means to reaching my success (and yes, I do believe in “fakin’ it ’til you make it”), but when it comes to relationship building, whether in business or my personal life, I’ll always err on the side of realism now. The fake me never attracted anything or anyone worth keeping anyway.

Living in a State of Constant Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1.  I’m grateful for the lessons I learned, and the masks I removed permanently.
  2.  I’m grateful for friends who give me something to think about, even if it’s a concept that’s runs contrary to my beliefs.
  3.  I’m grateful for reminders to be alert, and to observe more.
  4.  I’m grateful for the woman I’ve become, and the work I’m still doing to make her even better.
  5.  I’m grateful for abundance; opportunities, friendship, love, joy, transformation, independence, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, balance, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Masking Honest Emotions With Outward Perfection

What Lurks Behind Those Groomed to Perfection?

Groomed to PerfectionI like to see men who aren’t afraid to sweat or get dirty. When I see one at the gym who’s always perfectly coiffed, it makes me suspicious (is it real, or a rug?). Having been one of those whose outward appearance didn’t match my inner turmoil, I know that extreme perfection likely hides a teeming maelstrom of unhandled emotions and trauma.

They show up at the gym nearly every day, neat as the proverbial pin, not a hair out of place, and though they use the equipment, they never seem to break a sweat, nor muss their perfectly pressed gym attire. It makes me wonder what hides behind their need to appear perfect even in gym clothes?

Is controlling their appearance a sign there’s a lack? A world in chaos they’re desperately trying to control? Is their outer perfection a fragile shell containing a swirling mass of broken parts? Are they one trauma way from shattering completely, just as I once did?

Dropping the Well-Groomed Facade

One of the things I gave up when I started letting my authentic self show was the need to be perfectly groomed. Half the time I wouldn’t call myself groomed at all these days. More like “comfortable” if I’m being kind, and sloppy if I’m being honest. But I love my comfortable sloppy self now. To be honest, I was never a fan of the me who got up early to fix my hair, and put on makeup, hose, and heels. It was never truly me, and the shell in which I contained myself chafed and bound my true spirit, even if I didn’t know what that was at the time.

The truth is, all I really did was glue myself back together with the outer trappings so I could somehow make it through another day with parts, if not connected, at least intact. Is that what those perfectly groomed men are doing? Gluing all their broken parts back together so they, like the old me, can make it through just one more day? Going through the motions of doing what’s supposed to be good for them? I’ve seen some of them for years, yet they haven’t changed one iota. How do they do it? (other than the obvious toupee one wears.)

After releasing some of my own baggage and feeling the relief I felt in doing so, I can’t imagine carrying it around like that any more. I’m learning from watching, listening, and talking to others that my family wasn’t alone in training their children to bury their feelings deep inside. There are many who still believe it’s right; who go home every night and have a few drinks to numb the pain they don’t know how to release; who might indulge in a brutal workout of some kind to try to ease the pressure; to keep from actually reaching the point where they can no longer hold it all in. To prevent at all costs having to deal with their own melt down when it all comes pouring out in one ugly, messy explosion.

The Fallacy That Emotions Are Messy

Too many have been brought up to believe feelings and emotions are just that; ugly and messy. After going through my own explosions; my own shattering, and ultimately rebuilding into a better, stronger me, I’ll take the one who can express their emotions honestly over someone who hides them behind masks and walls every day. If nothing else, I know how volatile they are behind the masks and walls, and how close they are to an explosion and melt down of their own. I’d rather not be in the way when their emotional lava begins to flow; covering everything and everyone in range with years of pent-up toxicity.

In hindsight, I see why I struggled so much during my tenure in Corporate America. It was a roiling, seething mass of people struggling to keep it all together, and achieve what they thought was success. They held that beautiful, unique kernel of themselves under tight control so they could be what they thought they had to to climb the corporate ladder. No one seemed to notice it came out in the way they treated their co-workers, and even their families. Compassion was a commodity they believed they couldn’t afford. Relationships were built with those they believed could be helpful or of use to them. But in the end, they stood alone on their own abyss.

Replacing Masks With Compassion

Yet when the ground fell away beneath them, it was always someone else’s fault, and they looked for a scapegoat. All too often, it was someone like me who had no hidden agenda, and saw no reason to use others to improve my position. It took a few times of finding myself at the bottom of someone else’s rubble heap before I finally decided I’d had enough, and realized I had the strength to walk away. By then, I’d already started letting some of those walls down, and in hindsight, I think it made others who hadn’t feel threatened. They needed to lash out, and had a good reason, in their minds, to blame me for their discomfort.

I was angry and hurt at the time, and in fact, still harbor some ill feelings towards one person from my old life which I need to work out and release. For most of them, I can look back now with compassion and realize they acted not out of a need to hurt me personally, but because it was the only way they knew to deal with their uncomfortable and unwelcome feelings. Seeing someone like me shedding the masks and walls reminded them of how much energy they put into maintaining theirs.

I can see why terms like “corporate jungle” came into being. It truly is a place where people bite, claw, and scratch to either hold their position, or move up the food chain. They bury themselves in work, but also in a game whose rules change from minute to minute. Already on unstable ground personally, the ground gets even less stable while they try to keep abreast of the rules, and on constant alert for which asses they need to kiss, and which they need to kick out of their way. It has to be exhausting, and when the dust clears, is it really worth it?

Living a Life Based on Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the work I’ve done to eliminate walls and masks.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who surround me now. They have no need to be anything but themselves.
  3. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the challenges I’ve faced, and for shattering so I could rebuild on more solid ground.
  4. I’m grateful for opportunities that arrive from unexpected sources.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, authenticity, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, persistence, patience, happiness, peace, balance, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Families are Messy Business

Choices Made Within My Families

Families are messy. Some are close, some, not so much. Mine is mostly in the latter category, both extended, and even my immediate family. Yes, I’ve formed a family of close friends to fill the gap, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes feel a little lonely and forgotten by the people with whom I share blood.

I bear my share of responsibility in the distance that’s grown between me and my birth family over the last couple of decades. For reasons of my own, both realized and not, I didn’t reach out to my parents’ families during the dark years following their deaths. My cousins and I were busy raising families, growing careers, and coping with the twists and turns life continued to throw us. Their parents were doting on grandchildren, helping their children through divorce, disease, and even a death. Their own parents aged, then passed, until finally, even some of them started reaching life’s end too.

I missed births, birthdays, marriages, and deaths; not only the events, but the celebrations of life each event brought. Since my dad’s passing, they didn’t share in my own family’s graduations, birthdays, births, or marriages either. As time went on, we shared those events with my adopted family—at least some of them.

The Most Painful Choice: Giving Up on a Child and Grandchildren

One of the toughest rifts I’m learning to accept is the one with my youngest daughter. It’s hard have a relationship when communication is limited to occasional text messages. I didn’t even know she’d moved out of state until I learned through her sister after the birth of her twin boys. In fact, the text I received announcing their birth the day before, when I learned their grandfather had been present was the final straw. But I mistakenly assumed he’d driven from Arizona to California to be there. Inasmuch as she’d lived a mile or so away from me for several years, I had no reason to believe anything had changed. Yet it seems things had changed…significantly.

I know she harbors a lot of anger towards me. I wasn’t the perfect parent, but then, she wasn’t the perfect child either. Even so, I’m grateful she and her sister are talking again after years of strained silence. Perhaps stepping away was what I was supposed to do so the sisters could get closer. Heaven knows they’ll both be around long after I’m gone.

It does sadden me I barely know my 10-year-old granddaughter, and will probably never meet my newborn grandsons. I have to believe it’s best for us all that I remain out of the picture. I don’t know what she tells her kids about her mother, and frankly, I’d rather not know. My own relationship with my mother was strained, and more so because she insisted on my presence on holidays, if nothing else, whether I wanted to go or not. I carried a lot of resentment inside me until years (and hundreds of thousands of words) later. Perhaps, Jenni, too will find some compassion for me when I’m gone. I hope it doesn’t take her as long as it did me to see how much I hurt myself by harboring the resentment and negative feelings towards the woman who gave me life.

Building a Family, Flaws and All

dance familiesMy circle of friends isn’t immune to the challenges of maintaining relationships within their own blood families. Some have strained or non-existent relationships with children, siblings, and even parents just as I have.

One of the greatest gifts I gave myself was to stop believing I had to pretend my life was perfect and without challenges, and things which, at times made me crazy. Even so, when asked, I insist I’m all right with distancing myself from my youngest daughter and her family. In truth, I’m not, but at this point, I see it as the only way to protect my own sometimes fragile grip on sanity and equilibrium. Waiting until she’s good and ready to share a piece of her life with me, and having to walk on eggshells so I won’t piss her off is not only one-sided, but toxic.

Choosing a Non-Toxic Life

I’ve chosen to release toxicity from my life, be it my daughter, my sister, my extended family, or Created with Canvaeven myself. In the case of the latter, I’m learning the best options are to write or talk about it, as holding it in and pretending things are fine means letting it fester and grow. I’m still working on cleaning up the toxic dump I created by holding everything in for years.

Sure, it’s what I was taught, probably even born with. The energetic signature for self-sufficiency and stoicism has probably been in my DNA for generations. Parents don’t need to teach their kids so much as reward behavior which follows the genetic cycle. My parents did exactly what they were taught to do. But clearly, there was a part in each of them that wanted to break free of the cycle, but couldn’t.

In their minds, cutting off a friend for a perceived infraction was one thing, but disconnecting from family, no matter how badly they treated you simply wasn’t done. Since I never fit in with most of my family, I learned from a fairly early age to give it up as a lost cause, which likely made me fit in even less. At some point, a small seed took root inside me that said: I won’t go where I feel unwelcome.

Being Alone With Myself

Unfortunately, it meant a lot of isolation until I learned to release my strangle hold on walls and masks, because until I did, I didn’t feel welcome anywhere. It wasn’t until I felt like I was losing the only person in the world who cared whether I lived or died that I realized I had to make some changes; I was meant to make some changes. I had come here to break family patterns, and though I’d already unconsciously broken some, the important ones, and also the most painful were yet to be broken.

Today, I look back on the woman I was, tolerating neglect and even abuse, and see her as the springboard to who I am today. I had to reach the point where I loved myself enough to stop tolerating being treated like I was second-rate, or an afterthought. I had to stop believing I wasn’t good enough. I had to set boundaries, and when those boundaries were disrespected, I had to cut some cords.

Going Where I’m Truly Wanted and Appreciated

It makes me sad that I can’t be there for my sister who is dealing with disabling illnesses, or for my daughter who might benefit from my experience with twins. In the case of my daughter, I know she has people around her who are helping her manage. She’s chosen her own family, just as I’ve chosen mine. I respect her wishes and choices but there are still times I have to have a good wallow over it. I truly wish things could be different, but after waiting almost 15 years, I’m done waiting for Godot. She is who she is. I am who I am. We’re both stubborn, but she’s a “my way or the highway” kind of woman. I have to choose the highway on this one.

I pity my sister, but cannot and will not allow myself to get sucked into the bitterness and misery with which she surrounds herself. Like Jenni, she blames her mother—our mother, for all the bumpy roads in her life. The difference is, our mother died more than 25 years ago. I hope Jenni will let go of her own need to blame me before I’m gone that long. In the meantime, I’m still around if she actually wanted to try to mend our relationship. I’m no longer holding my breath as I doubt she does.

I’ve made a lot of painful choices; many of them in the last 10 years. Despite appearances, none of those choices were easy, and in most cases, I put them off as long as possible, hoping, wishing I wouldn’t have to make them. Each will always leave a hole in my life. Building a family; a community around myself doesn’t fill those holes. It simply turns my attention to more positive, uplifting people.

When I lose one of my fur babies, the others don’t replace them in my heart. They take a piece with them, and leave a piece of theirs with me. So it is with family members I had to let go, either willingly or by choice. They’ll always be in my heart even if they can’t be in my life.

Living a Life of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the memories, both good and bad.
  2. I’m grateful there are people who merely passed through my life, even if they were, once upon a time, family.
  3. I’m grateful for the friends who have become closer than family, and who know me better than any of my blood family (save Heather) ever did, or even wanted to.
  4. I’m grateful for my writing which will always be the best therapist of all, and has taught me I don’t need to hide my flaws.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, new family, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, strength, vulnerability, kitty love, peace, balance, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

The Invisibility of Emotional Abandonment

Healing Abandonment Issues

Created with CanvaThe last few months have brought a series of epiphanies which, when I finally connected the dots made me realize I had abandonment issues. Yet, a thorough review of my last 60-odd years revealed no particular incident when someone abandoned me—or so I thought.

Further review of my personal time line told another story. Sure, I haven’t been physically abandoned in the literal sense. The abandonment issues in my personal history are something I hadn’t even considered. They all occurred on an emotional level. It could explain why I found them so easy to stuff down inside—to deny their existence.

My mother, who had a history of being emotionally abandoned herself, always told me I was the more difficult child. In retrospect, of course I was. I was the first child who lived (her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage), and I’m not sure she was emotionally prepared to be a mother in the first place. At 21, she’d never lived alone. She went from her mother’s house to her husband’s apartment, but only after the ring was on her finger.

History Repeats Itself if You Let It

Sure, it was a different time, but I know from experience there’s a lot to learn living on your own, and having kids right away doesn’t make it easier. In my mom’s case, she didn’t even know how to cook, and learned on her own rather than asking for her mother’s help. Barely 2 years and one miscarriage later, she had me to deal with as well; a helpless baby who demanded more of her time than she knew how to give.

By the time my sister came along 2 1/2 years later, she’d made her share of mistakes, but learned a lot too. Of course my sister was an easier child! She was born to an experienced mother!

It didn’t help when I contracted Scarlatina which led to a penicillin allergy before I was 5. Add to that, a blindness scare at 10 before they realized I was susceptible to ocular migraines, a legacy from my dad and his mom. So if my mother shut down emotionally to protect her own shaky sanity, I can see now she did it for good reason, if not in my best interests.

Searching for the Love I Needed my mother’s love, I spent years trying to earn the love and affection from a man who, quite frankly, hadn’t been trained to give it. Until my grandmother died when I was 12, she and my grandfather were deeply immersed in each other. Their kids, my dad and his sister, got whatever was left. Affection was typically communicated with sarcasm and ridicule.

As I look back, no matter how hard I tried to measure up to my dad’s expectations so I could earn a love which should have been given simply because I was his child, he’d always set the bar a little higher than I could reach. In the end, he loved me as best he could, but for a shy, introverted, little girl with zero self-confidence, it wasn’t enough.

I grew up imitating my dad. But I wasn’t nearly as good at it as he, and made a lot of poor choices in my desperation to be loved and accepted. I vacillated between hardening my outer shell and playing chameleon for decades until the shell started breaking down and I began making drastic changes.

Learning the Difference Between Seeking and Allowing

The first was to divorce my alcoholic and emotionally abusive husband. Yes, I’m statistic; a woman who marries a man similar to her most damaged parent; in this case, my mom, in hopes of fixing what’s broken and earning the love she was denied. Trust me, it’s a battle that can’t be won.

What followed was a series of fits and starts. I hid inside my self-made cave, pretending I needed no one for several years. I had a couple of emotionally bankrupt relationships before giving up dating for what would ultimately last more than 20 years. Still, I knew I wasn’t meant to live without love. But experience hadn’t taught me what it really looked like, much less, how to go about finding it.

Connecting With My Spirituality and Self-Love

When I was introduced to “The Secret” I felt an almost physical shift. At first, it affected my own self-image and drove me to read more and more about fixing myself. I now have a shelf full of books ranging from “Laws of Attraction” to Kabbalah. Some have helped me more than others, but I’m not done learning.

The walls came down, the shell shattered. I’ve opened up to people and changed my social circle a time or seven. The most significant change I’ve seen is people opening up to me. Therein lies the biggest hole in my earlier years.

Breaking the Legacy and Removing My Masks

My parents, and everyone around me were a series of constantly smiling masks. No one shared their true self, and everyone was damaged in some way; some far more than others. It was a world where you either pretended your world was perfect, or faced ridicule and disgust from those around you. Broken was considered ugly. Vulnerable was weak.

By the time I figured it out, I’d seen first-hand what it cost to keep those masks in place. I’d had a few melt-downs myself, in the privacy of my own home. My mother had had the ultimate meltdown, swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills and laid her masks down for good. A few years later, my dad made a similar choice, using a gun instead of pills. He, too put down the masks and lowered the walls after a lifetime of holding them in place, sometimes out of sheer stubbornness. I have to wonder if there were times when the hold was tenuous, and his mood bordered on desperation.

Building on a Strong, Supportive Foundation At Last

Lest you think this is an excuse for a pity party, let me assure you, it’s quite the opposite. Lacking a strong emotional foundation, I had to figure out how to erect one of my own. I learned in the process it’s not something you do in a vacuum.

I’ve learned to gather around me strong, supportive friends who are able to share their own times of need, and reach out to me. The foundation I’ve built is not just my own strengths shoring up internal weaknesses. It’s built on what I’ve been able to offer my friends, but more important; what they’ve been able to offer me.

We are stronger for the people we’re able to give to and accept from. None of us have everything we need to build our foundation, any more than we have every skill, or all the knowledge we need to live a successful, fulfilled life. My parents never figured that out, nor did theirs. I was given the opportunity to change the pattern. I was also given a daughter who, like me, wanted to see it change.

We’ve each made changes in our own ways, but have also built our own communities, both together and separate. It may have begun with unrecognized emotional abandonment, but if you ask me, what it’s grown into was (almost) worth the tough lessons I had to learn alone.

Making Gratitude a Daily Practice

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the life I was given; all the hills and valleys, smooth roads, and potholes. I’ve learned and I’ve grown from the challenges.
  2. I’m grateful for the friends who even now are patient with me when I knee-jerk and crawl back into my hole. They know when to push and when to let me be to figure it out.
  3. I’m grateful for dancing which, in it’s own way, forces me to get out of my shell and out from behind the walls.
  4. I’m grateful for the writing which has allowed me to safely express things until I was ready to share more openly. And for the people it’s brought to me for the sharing.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, sharing, vulnerability, joy, dancing, motivation, inspiration, support, community, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Pain Won’t Respect Our Walls

Pain and Trauma Make Repeat Performances

At one time or another, we all suffer some kind of pain or trauma. It might be a broken friendship or relationship, the death of a beloved family member. For many, it’s far worse, and to many of us unimaginable. Yet regardless of what caused our suffering, most of us have one thing in common; we try to wall away the pain and get on with our lives.

We might or might know the best thing to do is work through the painful event, but life and society, and a host of other excuses make it easier to shove our feelings into a box, and get on with our lives—or so we’d like to believe.

The trouble with pain is it has a nasty habit of re-introducing itself into our lives at inconvenient moments, and it does it with insidious regularity. It isn’t really coming back at us to punish us though. We are meant to both deal with our painful moments and learn from them. When we wall them away, we guarantee we’ll be revisited; our own personal version of the Ghosts of Traumas Past.

The Masks We Wear are so many people we meet who seem to continuously wear a smile on their faces. Some of them even make us smile just to see them. But what’s really behind those smiles? The positive exterior? What does it cost them to maintain the mask and the ruse that everything in their life is perfect?

I’ve learned so much about that in recent years. We all have our secrets and things we choose to hold in rather than inflict on others. We all smile when we’re hurting inside at one time or another, telling anyone who asks we’re “fine”. The general public accepts our words and looks no further, but what about the people closest to us? Do they listen to the words and ignore what lies closer to the surface than we’d like? Do they look into our eyes, see the pain lurking in their depths and offer comfort though we don’t, and would never ask?

Letting People Down When We Hide From Our Pain

I think about my dad and all the times he ignored my mom’s pain while at the same time, walling away his own. Some, I know was years of habit. I think at one time, he was conscious of her inner turmoil, her need to be loved and accepted without qualification. But when her need wasn’t met by her family, she sank deeper into herself and only in those moments when they were alone together and her defenses dropped, albeit deeply, might he have seen the quagmire of her soul beneath the carefully constructed facade.

Coming from a family where emotions were rarely displayed and where stoicism was highly valued, I don’t think he knew how to deal with raw emotion in himself or anyone else. I suspect it was even terrifying for him when mom’s masks slipped and he saw the raw and bleeding soul beneath. I’m not surprised he developed defense mechanisms and responded with anger or disgust. So much of the way he responded was self-directed too.

The tendency to hide from our emotions and pain is perpetuated into adulthood. I remember a female manager taking me under her wing when I was working in aerospace. One of her most oft-repeated lessons had to do with hiding your emotions. Women had to work harder to be taken seriously in that environment, and showing emotion was the quickest way to kill any upward momentum you might have achieved. I took her message to heart, embracing the lesson with the zealousness of a religious fanatic.

Hiding and Re-living: An Endless Cycle Until We Learn and Accept

Through a divorce, the death of my mother, and the challenges of juggling career, self-care, and two young children, I kept my struggles to myself. The result was what appeared to be a rock-hard exterior and few I could call “friend”. The false front prevented anyone from getting close. No one ever figured out that a slight tap on that exterior would have cracked it into a million pieces. I even convinced myself I preferred the solitude and the isolation.

As the years have passed, the painful moments were triggered over and over. Often they led to periods of even more isolation as I tried vainly to shore up the eroding walls. Ultimately I learned to face the reminders head on and find the lesson in the pain. And I learned to be more understanding and compassionate of others.

We Are Never Truly Alone

Part of learning to manage and accept our own painful past is the realization we’re not alone. Everyone suffered a setback, a loss, or a trauma at some point in their lives. Yet comparing ours to theirs isn’t the answer either. It’s easy to say “I shouldn’t feel so bad. This other person has suffered far more than I.” But we all suffer within our own contract; our own capabilities. We all have challenges which help us learn to become the person we were meant to be.

It’s not a matter of comparing. It’s a matter of empathizing and connecting. Sometimes we connect through our propensity to wall away the pain. Other times, we connect because of similarities in our experiences. The best connections, in my opinion, are those made when we understand it’s not the level of pain or how we’ve worked through it, but that we all have. It’s an unspoken understanding that at one time or another, we all need to straighten our spine and go on, even when we’d rather crawl into a hole.

Yet, it’s also that moment when we truly accept we weren’t meant to soldier through alone. Sometimes, it takes some life-shattering moments, much like the ones I experienced before we accept that we deserve to ask for and receive help. Even there, we find connection with others who believed themselves unworthy. We connect with the isolated, the hermits, the ones who for years believed themselves to be oddballs. We find our community where we least expected it—with the ones who are connected through being different.

Finding Our Community in Our Differences

Perhaps it’s easier to find comfort in a community where everyone thinks like we do, and shares all the same values, beliefs, and visions. It’s harder when your world-view is a unique combination of pieces and parts gleaned from what you’ve read, seen, and experienced as an isolated soul on its own journey. But the very fact we hide our feelings and thoughts away to blend in is what ultimately brings us together. When we have the epiphany and realize we were never meant to blend in and doing so is stifling the unique and beautiful butterfly of our soul, we find ourselves in a garden with thousands of other unique and beautiful souls.

The hardest thing in the world is to come out from behind the walls we spent a lifetime building—the walls which make us appear to belong. Yet there comes a point when we can no longer maintain a construction which was never structurally sound. For some, it comes with the force of an earthquake, stone, mortar, blood, and tears flying everywhere with no hope for containment. Others may voluntarily take down their walls as they allow themselves to see past the smokescreens and preconceived notions.

However it happens, finding the garden beyond where uniqueness is valued instead of squashed is worth the effort and even the pain of the journey.

Do we ever completely release our painful and traumatic moments? Probably not. There will always be some which come back to haunt us in one way or another. But there will also be those which fade into distant memory as we deal with the pain, embrace the lesson, and move onto other things. Some of those become our ability to relate and help others through their own which I believe was the purpose of the experience in the first place. I know my own life is richer for the opportunities I’ve been given to be there for someone with whom an experience we in some way share is still fresh, or returning in full force to bring them to their knees as it once brought me to mine.

Knowing We Always Have Something to Be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the experiences which have made me stronger, but even more for the ones which taught me compassion.
  2. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back now that I’ve learned my walls only kept me from experiencing joy and connection.
  3. I’m grateful for my friends and family who teach me every day to be a kinder, more compassionate Divine Being having a Human experience.
  4. I’m grateful for love. Without it, we’re incomplete.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, life, lessons, compassion, kindness, beauty, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats, suicide survivors, mental health, and depression. 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

Not Another Suicide!

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

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

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

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

Learning to Look for Signs

I know from experience that constantly showing the world a cheerful, unblemished exterior takes its toll. I’ve traveled down that road where I began to believe the world would chug merrily along whether or not I was there to provide some momentum. In fact, there were times when the only thing that kept me getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other was the two little girls who depended on me.

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

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

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

Helping Each Other Dispose of the Masks question is, if we noticed, if we looked into their eyes and really searched for the person behind the mask, would we be able to help them before it’s too late? Would we, could we be the lifeline they grabbed to haul themselves out of their personal pit of despair? Could we or anyone convince them it’s all right to let the smile slip sometimes and show what they, what we believe is the ugly underbelly where life isn’t perfect? Would we be able to make them believe people want to see their soft, imperfect side? Could we convince them people need to be needed and that by only helping and not allowing themselves to be helped, they’re denying others the opportunity to give?

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

Finding Engagement in Our Communities

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

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

Detachment is More Deadly than Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about it, and spread the love.

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

Love and Light

About the Author

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

My Computer, My Mask

Breaking the Mask write a lot about authenticity. I even get up on Facebook Live and talk about it and myself quite openly. But after attending a conference where people got up in front of a live audience and talked about their lives and their struggles, I learned a really difficult lesson about authenticity and openness. Writing in a blog or even doing a live broadcast is just another kind of mask.

Even when I get responses from people, the dialogue is after the fact when I’m safely behind the wall. They can’t touch me or see me falter. They (or perhaps I should say you) don’t see my insecurities and vulnerabilities laid out on the table. Any tears I shed or frustrations I express are hidden from your eyes. In other words, I’m still safe.

A Prison of My Own Making

In some ways, I still believe I need that protection, that safety net, the barrier between me and thou. But in others, it has become my prison, my place of disconnection, my lonely isolation. It is real, but only to a point. When I close my door behind me, there’s no one to hold me when I hurt, celebrate with me when I triumph, or just sit quietly sharing the moment. I am, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Even in a crowd, my invisible barriers soar to the skies. with only a few do I show what’s behind the curtain.

When the Time Comes to Step Outside

Yet lately, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep that curtain in place, to hide the tears, the pain, the sorrow, and the fragility. My emotions are closer to the surface, reflected on my face, in my posture, and in the tears that spill despite my best efforts to contain them.

It seems I’m being kicked out from behind my walls, at least in certain cases and places. Yet I scamper back behind them to write stories like this one, or to talk to my own face while recording a video. The more I fight it, the harder it becomes to feel safe and protected. The more I try to stay behind my walls, the more uncomfortable I become. I’m feeling edgy and discontented. I want more, but it scares the shit out of me. I take baby steps outside which turn into giant steps whether I like it or not.

I’d say mysterious forces are at work to push me into another dimension of my life, but I know better. They’re the same forces which ended jobs, relationships, and other situations for me at just the right time. They are my own internal butt kickers who know when I’ve sat in one place for too long and need to move before I grow roots and try to stay where I no longer belong.

A Move is a Move, No Matter How Small

It isn’t necessarily about moving physically (I’ve lived in the same house for over 30 years). It’s about evolving, growing, expanding who I am into who I’m meant to be. Sometimes, the steps are small and manageable like the initial steps we take while learning to walk. Other times, like now, they’re huge, frightening, and meant to turn my safe, cozy world on its ear. Times like now when I’ve become blase about the little 2- and 3-point earthquakes that rattle my world and the Universe decides it’s time for an 8.7 bone rattler.

I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, and I’ll be honest with you. I’m terrified on several levels. But at the same time, I’m excited about what the latest upheaval will bring with it. I’ve lived through my share of them, and in all honesty, it always turns out better than I expected or imagined. This time will be no different, and will probably be even more amazing because my fear levels are off the Richter scale right now.

Easy Steps are Stepping Stones, Not a Place to Rest

I’ve discovered that opening up to people via Facebook Live is just a walk in the park for me. It was the natural progression from what my friend Lucia calls “raw Sheri” in my writing. I even broke down in front of a stranger yesterday and don’t feel completely humiliated and ashamed today. Granted, I declined when she asked if she could hug me. I wasn’t ready to go into full melt-down in front of her and a room full of strangers. But perhaps that time will come.

In the movie, The Grinch, there’s a scene where tears are falling and he says “I’m leaking.” I feel like I’m leaking too, but the salty tears are the outward manifestation of the leak, not the leak itself. I’m leaking humanity; something I’ve kept bottled up most of my life. Sure, I’ve been letting it out a little at a time for the last couple of decades, but my cracks are widening and I can no longer seal them back up as I used to. I no longer want to be on the outside looking in.

Am I ready to come out from behind the last of my walls, take off the last of my masks? Changing the name of this blog is probably my answer. I changed the name because it felt right. But I think it was that inner voice telling me it’s time to walk the talk instead of just paying it lip service.

Embracing What’s Uncomfortable

I sit here now, typing these words, feeling anxious, afraid, and close to tears (which seems to be my natural state of late). Dylan seems to sense it as he rarely leaves my side when I’m home lately. His comforting presence slows my rapidly beating heart and gives me a place to go when the fear overwhelms.

Still, I look forward to long talks and sharing my red Adirondack chairs. This is not a time for isolation. My new word is “community”. My goal is to recognize the one I already have and to build and expand on it. I’m ready to open myself up to new experiences and people, and new ways to strengthen my wilting finances. My new motto (or one of them) is “Why think outside the box? There is no box!”

“Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.”

I heard something from one of the speakers yesterday which made me stop and think. He said “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” How often have we been told the opposite? Sometimes we really need to get off the hamster wheel and spend time simply being. We need to take time to pause and reflect; to allow all of the experiences and thoughts we’ve been having to swirl around and put themselves together in ways they won’t find if we’re busy pushing the pieces around.

What I’ve been doing lately isn’t working, or at least it isn’t working well. I’ve been pushing the pieces around, but the resulting patterns are simply variations on what I’ve always known. It’s time for me to allow new patterns to emerge, and to not toss them away simply because they’re unfamiliar.

I’m taking time this weekend to simply sit there and allow the ideas to form without my interference. Who knows where I’ll be next week, but life is an adventure, if we’re willing to accept the challenge.

Sitting Quietly in Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for discomfort.
  2. I am grateful for fear.
  3. I am grateful for the bloodletting that comes with lowering walls and removing masks.
  4. I am grateful for the community I’ve failed, to this point to recognize and appreciate.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; challenges, lessons, friendships, dreams, goals, spirit, love, tears, honest emotions, peace, health, harmony, prosperity, and philanthropy.

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. She specializes in 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.

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