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

Posts tagged ‘people’

Christmas: Healing and Moving Forward

Healing: My Greatest Miracle

Christmas this year brings up a lot of emotions. I can’t help thinking back to last year when my entire community and family were reeling, not only from the murder of 12 amazing members of our dance family, but the brutal wild fires that ripped through our area the next day, leaving many temporarily displaced or homeless.

If that wasn’t enough, I lost my sweet Munchkin; another victim to feline lymphoma. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a Christmas around here. I didn’t even go to my daughter’s as I usually do.

But it’s another year. A lot of healing has occurred; a lot of joy has been found in connections, new dance venues, and shifting priorities. New friendships have formed, and old ones have strengthened. Many of my friends are now couples as they’ve let go of old beliefs and embraced love and connection. Before you ask, I’m still flying solo, at least for the moment.

Embracing Change

This has been a year for making changes, most of them internally. I’ve focused on writing more, and putting my work out into a wider arena. I’ve gone out into the world to dance in venues new to me, though apparently, old news to many of my dance family. In the process, I’ve even reconnected with old friends.

So often, tragedy brings people together, though in my experience, it’s often temporary. Though it’s flung my dance family far and wide, in the general scheme of things, I believe it’s brought us closer together too. We saw how quickly things could change, realized how important we are to each other, and how much joy we share. We learned how much we’d taken things for granted, despite losing several of our clan in the last few years to cancer, suicide, and more.

Every day; every hour; every minute is truly a gift, whether it’s spent alone, with our pets, or with a person or people we love. The hugs I’ve always loved giving and receiving take on a whole new level of importance now; a new sweetness in the exchange. The person I’m hugging may need the hug more than I know. Life might be kicking their butt while they show the world a smiling face.

Allowing Myself to Need Other People

healing with hugsOr I might be the one needing that hug while wearing a smile. It doesn’t really matter. The hugs are heartfelt and filled with love no matter what, and the exchange makes the worlds of all participants brighter. In a lot of ways, it makes the whole world brighter as we add another injection of love and joy to help push back the darkness.

Light and dark can’t inhabit the same space any more than two physical objects or beings can. The more light we create through our actions and thoughts, the less room we leave for the darkness which creeps insidiously into any crack or crevice it can find.

Being a Light in the Darkness

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t spent time in a dark place thinking they were all https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/66519749/in/photolist-6SW1e-VTKUdm-M1eYnL-242z7nc-oqkg1j-proThx-fsTWuh-6k2FkX-o4wR24-y6Zwr-KfMCGq-SFv9cS-8hfbmZ-bfs4it-SkpXJ5-fTkgBF-SRG43L-oaSpyU-6LELFf-8sY2Wq-65Q84A-4uhkK6-4CwKmQ-21jdqXp-ry5GpM-RHagrR-s7emTJ-b8moxH-pgqTW-GmKEPY-7h7g9p-6tuV9R-r3UHnJ-9kePpX-b1DnC2-9Gv9Kj-RFjn7k-6tuPQR-2b4oHPW-nxaMN8-Kez8E-6tuN7i-dUaLfP-6nXEKq-TiiQCx-nXxmkn-hCDNRa-CFeyn-2YRhRS-9BUEValone in their sadness; their misery. Many come out of it on their own, but the process of emerging back into a place of light and joy is expedited by the love and care of others. I read stories all the time of people who emerged on their own, and I’m one of them.

Am I proud I managed to emerge on my own without help? Not really. I’m grateful, but not really proud of eschewing all help and keeping other people out for as many years as I did. Granted, I didn’t know any better. It’s how I was raised. How my parents, and probably their parents before them were raised too. Perhaps there was a time when keeping struggles within was necessary for survival, but that time is long gone. Yet I had to figure that out for myself.

What I can say is I’ve made a lot more progress not only leaving my own darkness behind, but finding and exuding joy since I began allowing others to help, even if it was something as simple as a heartfelt hug. Then again, is a heartfelt hug that simple?

A Hug is Powerful Medicine

I still have friends who struggle with giving heart and soul to a hug. They’ll give a little scratch on the back, or a quick squeeze. I get it. It’s an intimate act when you put everything into it. Some aren’t ready to open themselves up that way. Others do it selectively. I’m selective about it myself, only going all in when I feel safe with someone.

Nonetheless, the mere act of hugging, whether full on, or with reservations is an act of love and trust. Like love and trust, we all give it when and where we feel comfortable doing it. I certainly don’t open my heart to everyone (except maybe on these pages where I’m safe behind my screen), and don’t expect others to either.

Sharing those intimate pieces of ourselves takes courage. I certainly have my share of trust issues after getting burned many times before I shut down completely. But like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, I’ve slowly learned to attract people I can trust enough to allow them to see my pure, unadulterated self.

Sure, it’s been a rocky road where I trusted a few I shouldn’t have, but each time I’ve retreated, it hasn’t been as far, nor for as long as it used to be. The value of evolution is learning when and where to trust, but also how to heal more quickly when I misplace that trust.

The Mating Game Goes On Around Me

It also means I can feel joy for friends who’ve found a mate without feeling envy https://www.flickr.com/photos/34167287@N05/23787059822/in/photolist-CeYUa5-f3skzG-26xyyFN-8Uqt6v-7RUJnT-5631Bv-9KzjET-otM3UU-9KC7p3-6EcqkE-rtobLr-5xx9XP-7Bj5nM-4JDZ1E-21oAHiQ-7Csyge-7YZVSv-7Z4a4L-7Z4a5b-4Btbxi-5m1iya-i54aYC-4BxARm-i54aXq-YA2ERd-4kmex7-WgVGRw-8GceK9-i548Lu-6m1sit-ospDf4-58cZtS-i54b7d-ggwmL-cKWfHj-bg5Uu-bsSgAg-8GcvXA-q68RzV-4fFkFc-e3cS7q-aQ7Ph-bg8hZ-q6pHnG-4VXWUt-dYksek-277AbZE-4VWArR-4VXUXR-2b2aNGJas well. There was a time I’d tell myself I was meant to be alone, and that I was OK with the idea. I’m starting to release that notion, though it’s happening in small steps.

First, I can see myself in a committed relationship, but still maintaining separate households and a fair amount of time alone. I recognize I need the space not only to recharge, but to create. I can start a draft of something in a crowd, but to truly get into the writing zone, I need ample time in my own company when I don’t feel obliged to give someone else my attention.

Whoever is meant to come into my life in that capacity will need to understand and accept that aspect of me. More, he’ll need the same kind of space. Hopefully, the timing of those needs will coincide at least part of the time.

Second, I realize I could go further, faster with regular encouragement, and even a kick in the butt or two. I’d love to have someone in my life who recognized that and was there to drag me out of those periods of sloth I sometimes fall into—far more often than I care to admit.

And third, I no longer see myself as an island who stands free and strong alone. I know I need people; not to make me whole, but to round out my life and world. I don’t feel envy for my coupled up friends because the person each of them is with is perfect for them, not me. I do feel a certain amount of wistfulness if only because I still have trouble picturing myself in the arms of someone who loves and cherishes me the way I want and need to be loved and cherished.

Learning to Love and Be Loved

I guess in some ways I am caught up in old patterns when I turned myself inside out to keep a dysfunctional relationship going longer than necessary. I’m a little afraid I’ll do that again, though I like to think I know better now.

Once again, I’ve talked myself around in a weird kind of circle. What I’ve learned in the last year is how much we all deserve to be loved and cherished, and how much better alone is than being in a one-sided relationship. In the last year, I’ve had the privilege of seeing a lot of beautiful relationships grow and thrive, as well as getting a closer look at those which have lasted decades.

The examples of the last year are slowly pushing the old, broken ones I learned from my birth family away; replacing dysfunctional with warm, loving, and beautiful. I’m honored to have the opportunity to see so much love first-hand, though somewhat saddened it took a series of tragedies to open my eyes and heart enough to see and appreciate what’s been there all along.

With Heartfelt Gratitude for All I Know and Love

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for friendships which have deepened and grown.
  2. I’m grateful for life’s earthquakes which shake old, broken parts loose for good.
  3. I’m grateful for hugs.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve found people to accept and love me as I am, broken, clumsy, and awkward as I might be at times. Who know I’m still learning how to be human, and don’t hold it against me.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, hugs, acceptance, compassion, understanding, giving, receiving, dancing, new beginnings and endings in their time, peace, 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

Comparison is For Major Purchases, Not People

Acceptance Instead of Comparison

At the gym as in life, we are all at different places on our journey. Comparison is both meaningless and self-defeating. And yet, while working out around people at different levels, it’s all too easy to find ourselves making comparisons; some even favorable to ourselves.

There’s no way for us to know where anyone started except ourselves. The only valid comparison is where we are now vs. where we were at some specified point in the past, and then, only to show ourselves how far we’ve come.

Each of us progresses in our own unique way. A heavier person might have 4 or 5 times the strength of a wispy woman. Then again, she might not. Outside appearance is the least accurate barometer for forward progress.

Looking at the Outside Misses Where Our Real Changes Occur

Sure, you can look at someone who’s dropped 50 or 100 pounds and see progress. But what you see is superficial compared to the internal changes they made in order to release the weight. Those outward changes couldn’t have happened without a lot of internal redirection, a huge shift in mindset and values, and a decision to make those changes plus the will to make new habits. How can someone on the outside looking in possibly know the mountains we move to make those changes?

By the same token, we don’t have any way of knowing how far another person has come, so how on earth can we possibly compare ourselves and our journey to theirs?

Comparison is a momentum killer.

Comparison is a short road to discouragement. It allows us to fall back into “you’re not good enough” mode where we ignore all the progress we’ve made, looking instead at how far we have to go. But our progress wasn’t made in a series of giant leaps. Chances are, we took a lot of baby steps and maybe, just maybe, the occasional giant leap. The mountain we set off to climb must be scaled one step at a time.

Focusing on Our Own Progress

That doesn’t mean the steps don’t get easier as we gain skill and strength. Nor will those baby steps remain the same minuscule size as we learn and grow. But as we progress our perspective changes too. What was once a major accomplishment is barely a blip on our personal radar. We reset not only our goals but our expectations as we go. That too is progress.

Expecting more of ourselves when we’re ready, or almost ready is what makes us reach for loftier and loftier goals. If we set our bar at a level too far beyond our current capabilities, we’d get discouraged and give up before we made what we’d consider significant progress. But if we set smaller, reachable goals, we’ll experience a feeling of accomplishment that will motivate us to keep trying.

My biggest challenge is to release the excess weight I’ve accumulated over the years. Though it’s been rough going the last few months, I can stop myself and remember that there are about 20 pounds I’ve released and not allowed to creep back. Yes, there are also 5 or 10 which have, but the ones that haven’t motivate me to keep trying because I have some success to look at.

Meanwhile, I’ve gone from barely being able to lift a pound with my left arm, courtesy of a herniated disc in my neck to getting comments from men at the gym about how much weight I’m lifting now. It didn’t happen over night, and it’s not helping me take off as much weight as I’d like, but it is progress. In fact, when I pull up MyFitnessPal to see what weight I’m using on various machines or free weights each week, I’m often surprised to see the numbers have climbed as high as they have.

Figuring Out What Motivates Us

Most of my progress has occurred in the last year, when I finally found a schedule I’d follow consistently, and created what I hope will be a lifelong habit. It might have taken me a few extra decades to get there, but that’s how my journey is unfolding. I’m OK with that.

Comparison has another ugly side. When we see ourselves as less, or not as good as, we tend to treat ourselves unkindly. We give up on ourselves. We feel unworthy. None of that crap is true. We slip back into old habits, but we don’t have to stay there. We need to remind ourselves it’s OK to make mistakes or fall off track as long as we treat ourselves kindly and get back on that track before we do ourselves too much damage.

The trouble is, we tend to be quicker to beat ourselves up than forgive our own transgressions. And boy are we stingy with praise for the person who deserves our praise the most!

Focus on Now and the Rest Will Follow

One way I’ve found to get off the comparison merry-go-round is to focus on what we are doing, thinking, and feeling in the current moment—in the Now. Feel how our bodies and minds are responding to the new tasks we’ve set, and don’t worry about what happened 5 minutes ago. If we ate a cookie, or skipped a set, it’s done and can’t be re-done. So let it go and embrace this moment, making it the best we can.

I also like to make lists. At the end of the day, I make a list of at least 10 things I accomplished. They don’t have to be big things, and often, I give myself a couple of “gimme’s”. They’re things I do every day without thinking about it like writing my Morning Pages, and making the bed (another habit I had to work to achieve). To the outside world, they might seem insignificant.

To many of my friends, making the bed has been a lifelong habit. For me, as the Queen of Clutter for so many years, it was one more thing I had to learn to find important. But forming and keeping the habit taught me that climbing back into bed during the day was no longer an option. Ask anyone who has fought depression at any point in their life, and you’ll understand why such a small, seemingly ordinary task can make a huge difference in how a day unfolds. Learning to make my bed every morning turned days on end of laziness, lack of motivation or inspiration, and long-term failure into the desire to finish what I started and form more healthy habits.

What I’m saying in my usual long, roundabout way is, if you must compare, look at who you are today, what you have accomplished, and how far you’ve come. The only person we have to be better than is ourselves. The only improvements that matter in our lives are the ones we make to the person we are now, and the person we want to become. Look objectively. Look without judging. See yourself without unrealistic expectations. I promise you’ll see someone marvelous, accomplished and amazing who’s conquered a lot of odds and challenges to become the ever-evolving person they are today.

Remember to Be Grateful for Accomplishments Both Large and Small

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my evolving perspective.
  2. I am grateful for the many accomplishments which continue to help me evolve.
  3. I am grateful for reminders that I’m perfect the way I am, but can always make myself a better me.
  4. I am grateful for people who can be examples for me rather than comparisons where I find myself lacking.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; self-love, joy, health, new habits, friendship, dancing, inspiration, motivation, prosperity, peace, harmony, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

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

Faulty Self-Perception

Insides Show Outside

In recent years, I’ve been accused of being “buttoned up” or “uptight”; even “conservative”. All adjectives I’d never have attributed to my tendency to live by my own rules. Sure, I typically wore my hair pulled back from my face and favored loose, baggy clothes to hide (or at least try to) my corpulent self. But that wasn’t being conservative. It was being comfortable, right?

Hair dangling in my face while I work is annoying, and dangling in wet, drippy strands in my face while I dance is disgusting. It never occurred to me that there might be an alternative. Besides, when I was younger, I’d told myself I was using my hair to hide in uncomfortable situations like crowds and places full of strangers.

Small Changes Yield Unexpected Results

In the last couple of weeks, I decided to launch an experiment. I started wearing my hair down, either a just-washed mass of curls or flat-ironed to eliminate the resulting frizz caused by pulling a brush through said curls. For some reason, I also started wearing lipstick regularly, usually a dark burgundy or brown, depending on my clothing.

What I expected was either nothing or maybe a passing comment or two about looking different. What I got was something else entirely; something unexpected and a little overwhelming. If you’d asked me before I began my experiment what I thought the results would be, what I’m seeing now wouldn’t have even made the top 100.

People I barely know are stopping to pay me compliments! People I know are using adjectives I’d never attribute to myself in a million years. The weight I’ve lost so far which, for the most part has gone unnoticed is suddenly visible and being remarked upon regularly. The change I’d made last summer to my hair color is suddenly new. What the heck? Just because I took the clips out of my hair and let it hang loose around my face or curl wildly, untethered and free?

What Does It All Mean?

My analytical side could no longer be contained. It had to step in and try to figure out what caused such an overwhelming flood of positive feedback. And I came to the conclusion that those earlier remarks had merit. Pulling my hair back was simply an outward expression of my need to be in control at all times. It told people I wasn’t allowing myself to just be in the moment, allowing myself to, as we used to say, “go with the flow”.

It seems I’m also more approachable. People strike up conversations with me out of nowhere. They introduce themselves to me and invite me to join in their wild, abandoned fun. I think I’ve shared more hugs in the last couple of weeks than I did in the previous year.

Who knew that letting down my hair literally would unleash so much more beneath the surface?

One Successful Experiment Leads to Another…and Another…and Another

The results of my experiment have raised a lot more questions. What else am I communicating by my actions and appearance? How else am I inhibiting myself and my progress, not only on a personal level but on a creative, professional one?

At one time or another, we all struggle with things like self-sabotage, negative self-talk and so many things which keep us from living life to the fullest. We might not be able to figure out what we’re doing wrong, and yet, I’m finding we need only look to our own outward behavior to find clues. How we present ourselves to the world is simply an expression of how we feel about ourselves inside.

I’ve learned there are many ways of hiding in a crowd. Certainly, letting a curtain of hair shield us from others is one way, but avoiding participating in conversations, sticking an electronic device in our face (all too common these days), or shielding so thoroughly that we are essentially invisible are all effective. Despite my propensity for relative minimalism (body type considered) in my dance attire, I’m finding it’s still possible to be relatively unnoticed in the crowd. Wrap that personal bubble of energy around yourself, and the illusion of anonymity is complete.

Clearing our Reality of Misconceptions

Funny, this all started with conversations about how I only got asked to dance by the men who already know me. Other women I spoke with who experience the same thing agreed that we just didn’t fit the “type” men who relied entirely on visuals were looking for, even as a dance partner.

Yet since I’ve let my hair down, the invitations have increased. Not an onslaught, certainly, but one here, and one there. So I’ve concluded that it isn’t as much about whether you’re tall or short, fat or thin, blonde, brunette, or redhead, or any other exterior factor. It has more to do with whether you’re approachable. Which leads me to conclude that men aren’t as simple as women want to believe (not all of them anyway). It isn’t just about what you look like. It’s also about how you make them feel about walking up and asking you to dance or just saying hello.

Learning a Lesson Gives Us Tools for the Next One

What I haven’t gotten down yet is being able to strike up a conversation after that initial dance, and unfortunately, that’s what leads to more invitations.

My natural tendency would be to retreat again and beat myself up for not being able to accomplish the whole package in one fell swoop, but I’ve learned in the last few years that most things are accomplished with baby steps. So the hair will stay down, the lipstick will stick and I’ll watch some of my friends and acquaintances who are good at striking up conversations. I’m good at watching people. It’s time to put that skill to use as a learning tool instead of just a place to find characters for my stories.

With Each Lesson Comes Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for experiments which yield unexpected but highly motivating results.
  2. I am grateful I’m learning how to accept compliments instead of just giving them.
  3. I am grateful for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast, even if the guest list is a bit larger than we’d planned. Feeding people is always such a joyous thing, and overflowing my house will put lots of love in my walls for awhile.
  4. I am grateful for reconnecting with my family and the members who’ve been added in the 20 years I’ve been away.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friends, family, health, harmony, peace, connections, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, joy, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo courtesy of Mitya Ku via Flickr

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