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

Posts tagged ‘support’

Change and Its Impact on Mental Health

Taking Responsibility for Overall Mental Health

Staying healthy means more than eating right, taking your vitamins and supplements, drinking plenty of water and getting exercise. Your mental health has a greater impact on your physical health than you might imagine. Stress can, and often does kill; sometimes directly through heart attacks, strokes, and other organ failures. Too often, it brings about death or disability through efforts to stop the pain with drugs or alcohol, or in extreme cases, suicide.

Until this year, suicide numbers, awareness, and education were improving greatly. There were less completed suicides, and as a result, less people coping with suicide loss. But increased confinement, financial concerns, and a country in shambles because of self-serving, incompetent leadership have sent the numbers soaring again. It broke my heart to read about a mother who took her own life because she couldn’t afford to buy milk for her children. I know it wasn’t the single event, but a culmination of months worth of challenges and failures that made her feel so hopeless and unsupported.

Organizations like NAMI and Give An Hour are working overtime to reach out to people and make sure they know they’re not fighting this battle alone, but their resources and reach are limited. I truly believe if each one of us reached out to one person a week, offering, if nothing else, a listening ear, we could reverse the trend. If we used the internet to help locate resources in our area for a mother who needed food for her child, or to help others overcome unexpected challenges we could stem the tide of suicide and mental breakdown.

Finding Resources When Your Own Aren’t Enough

It isn’t difficult to Google something like “Food Banks Near Me”, or “Health and Family Services Near Me” to locate resources for someone in need, assuming you can’t help them yourself. It takes so little to simply reach out and listen, or share a meal, or even help parents who’ve been confined for too long with small children by offering a diversion, even if it has to be outside with social distancing and masks.

You’re all creative in your own way. Use that creativity to lighten someone’s load. Pick up the phone and call someone you know who has been unnaturally quiet, or who you know is facing more challenges than normal. Everyone needs to be heard so they don’t start embellishing on their problems. When they do, it’s never in a good way. A hill of beans can turn into Mount Everest in short order when someone is left to their own devices and struggles for too long.

I firmly believe reaching out and helping someone else is salvation in itself, but not in the religious sense. Everyone struggles with changes, especially when they’re thrust upon them. The struggle gets harder when the changes are precariously balanced on instability, and the world keeps shifting like the aftershocks from an 8.7 earthquake. Sometimes you have to make your own stability by being the rock someone else clings to until the tide ebbs, and the ground gets a chance to dry out a bit. A structure is stronger when it has many points of contact with the ground.

Making the Most of Technology

Technology has been critical to keeping kids in school, doctors treating patients, families keeping in touch, and many of us staying physically active. Why not make a date with yourself to use that technology to reach out to a friend or family member? You could simply listen, or set up a game night, or entertain their kids. There are plenty of affordable, or even free resources to help.

One of my favorites is Jackbox TV where you can find inexpensive packs of games for multiple players. The ones I’ve played get everyone laughing, and that’s one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself right now when meeting at your favorite restaurant, dance hall, or bar can be hazardous to your health, and where those wonderful, healing hugs create too much risk of passing on a potentially deadly virus you might not even know you have.

Sure, it isn’t optimal, and you are going to miss what you considered normal. It isn’t forever, even if it seems like it as we go into our 8th month. Many are still insisting the precautions don’t help, yet we have seen huge upsurges after mass gatherings over and over again. Then again, there are still people who worship the work of Adolf Hitler. Such disbelief, and refusal to see cause and effect makes it that much more important for those of us who do see positive results from our efforts to continue doing our part to ensure the overall health of our communities.

Helping from the Heart Needs No Reward

You may never see direct results from your effort, but unless you’re looking for physical rewards and for being a kind, compassionate, contributing human, you don’t need it. The satisfaction of helping another human in need out of the goodness of your heart will be enough. Knowing you did everything in your power to help someone else stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit is satisfaction enough.

Perhaps this sounds overly idealistic, but I continue to believe in the overall kindness of humans. Current circumstances might seem to indicate the quality is at an all-time low, but remember it’s the ugliness that gets magnified; that needs to see obvious results when pain is inflicted, and that feeds off pain, misery, and hate. Kindness and compassion need no outward reward, nor do they need to broadcast their acts to the world.

Think about all the times you’ve sat in companionable silence with family or friends. You felt peaceful and loved without a word being spoken. My daughters and I used to curl up in the living room, or my bedroom, each with a book of our own. We might stay that way for hours, breaking the silence only to share a particularly interesting excerpt, or when one of us got up to use the bathroom. There was no drama, no stress, and no one clamoring for attention (except maybe the cats), yet we were all happy. We were all at peace.

I believe that quiet, undemanding support is a healthy component in lives thrown into chaos in many ways. What many people need right now isn’t a marching band or a cheerleading squad. They need a safe harbor; a strong shoulder to lean on until the boat stops rocking; a warm blanket of love to ward off fear’s chills.

Gratitude is its Own Reward

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for my community which continues to provide loving, compassionate support without asking, and which needs no acknowledgement other than that we all continue to stay healthy and strong.
  2. I’m grateful for long talks with my daughter.
  3. I’m grateful for the many loving, compassionate, giving people who are working silently behind the scenes, and who need no recognition for doing the right thing.
  4. I’m grateful for new opportunities which allow me to give more to my community.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, compassion, joy, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, dancing, community, peace, health, balance, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.



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

Living My Truth and Accepting the Rifts

Rifts for a Reason

solitudeMy family has always been a hornet’s nest of rifts, and landmines of drama. From my grandmother’s stories of the people who’d wronged her, and were expunged from her life forever, to the ones I’ve had with my mother, sister, and daughter, I’ve managed to keep the tradition going, but for vastly different reasons. In truth, I’ve had little contact with my mother’s side of the family in more than 20 years, and mention it on occasion. I say that with no little irony.

If I’m being honest, I’ve had even less contact with my dad’s side, though in their case, I think it was circumstance more than anything else. Mom was the driving force over which side of the family we saw more of, so dad’s got short shrift. When my grandfather died in 1987, I lost contact with that side of the family aside from brief interchanges through my dad. I remember them, for the most part as a fun-loving, driven bunch; a family who emigrated from Russia in the late 1800’s and went on to yield business owners, and educated, successful progeny, but put little time or effort into emotional ties.

Things were always more volatile in mom’s family, and often, not in a good way. The infighting I didn’t understand as a child became more noticeable, and uncomfortable as I grew older. With mom gone, I guess I saw no reason to keep trying, and neither did any of the cousins. We went our separate ways without so much as a backward glance. 20 years later, a few reconnected, but when it became abundantly clear I’d grown away from the family’s prescribed modes of behavior, I’m convinced both sides of the equation agreed we’d made the right decision when we first became estranged. At the risk of sounding cliche, the sleeping dogs were better off being allowed to lie.

Remembering the Old, Honoring the New

A lot of people have come and gone through my life these 60-odd years. Looking back, I’m surprised to see how many considering the number of years I lived an almost hermit-like existence. It seems I emerged often enough to touch and be touched by more lives than I realized. A few have remained for decades, but other than immediate family, most came and went within a single decade—the majority of them, far less.

Looking back, as I do with decreasing frequency, I recognize the ones who hung around longer, but more, those who’ve done so by choice rather than family obligation. I also admit the rifts, whether initiated by me, someone else, or both of us were necessary, and aren’t meant to be reversed. On more than one occasion, I’ve tried to re-engage. It never ended well. In hindsight, I’d have been better served leaving the past in the past, but those attempts gave me the information I needed to learn the lesson well enough to recognize it wasn’t worth repeating in most cases.

As with anything, there are a couple of exceptions which brought people back into my life in a completely different capacity. I treasure those friendships for the rule breakers they are, and the gifts they brought into my life the second time around. I’m also grateful my rules hadn’t become hard and fast before they returned, or I might have rejected their overtures to my own detriment.

Looking Back and Letting Go family, on the other hand, are strangers now. I don’t know their kids, or relate to any of the journeys they’ve taken in their lives. There’s no common ground with which to even start a conversation. Though it’s sad, I don’t believe any of us are really lacking for each others’ absence. It’s simply become what is, and ultimately, what it was meant to be.

I look at it now and think if the rifts were meant to be mended, we’d have found a way to do so before they became the uncrossable chasms they are now. Any bridges we might have had, or common ground we might have shared have been lost to the years in-between; my own personal Dark Ages, to no one’s disappointment. I doubt there’s a single person willing to put forth the effort to rebuild a single bridge or reconnect a broken tie. If there’s anything to gain by making the effort, I can no longer see it.

I know this sounds abominably sad, but the truth is, we all filled the space the others left in our lives with new family members via marriages and births, and an extended family of friends who share our values and beliefs. I choose to believe it was meant to be this way, and my mom’s untimely death launched a chain of events leading to now that was anything but arbitrary.

A Launching Pad and Nothing More

I never felt I fit in with my family in the first place, nor did my mom. At this stage in my life, I realize they were simply the vehicle through which I came back into the world, and were never meant to partner me through the entire journey. I was meant to break away and find my own path—a path far different than what they knew or understood. Perhaps I even saw it coming as a teenager, but wasn’t yet ready to set off on my own without the safety net of family, even if mine was fraught with holes and strife.

In a lot of ways, I can see now the rift was built into my life from birth, but widened as I grew older, and chafed under the unspoken set of rules I was expected to follow (and rarely understood). A part of me knew I had to find a way to break away from those constricting, yet familiar rules and mores. Fear of being alone was probably the single biggest factor in making me hold on for longer than I should have. Mom’s suicide was definitely the kick in the pants I needed to finally let go of what no longer worked—what in all honesty never worked, nor was it meant to.

I understand now I had to leave the nest, the known, in order to find my authentic self, and learn to be true to her. Nothing and no one was, or ever will be more important than living for myself first and foremost.

Gratitude is My Comfort and My Friend

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I’m on a journey to find and embrace my authentic self.
  2. I’m grateful for all the friends and family, both present and past who have helped my on my journey.
  3. I’m grateful for all the kicks in the pants, and Universal head slaps that have knocked me clean out of my comfort zone.
  4. I’m grateful for the family that brought me into this world, then launched me out on my own.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, authenticity, vulnerability, joy, sorry, challenges, frustrations, lessons, character, independence, support, community, peace, harmony, 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

Get Out of the Weeds and Dance

Sometimes the Best Option is to Dance

One of my favorite songs of all time is “Life’s a Dance”, performed by John Michael Montgomery, followed closely by “The Bug” by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Both songs talk about how there are always choices in life, as well as times when you have to experience the ups as well as the downs, and never give up.

Looking back (for only a minute) I can see plenty of times when I was ready to crawl into a hole, pull it in after me, and give it all up because, in those weak moments, life was just too hard. Yet somehow, I always found a reason to emerge, else I wouldn’t be here to write this. There were a lot of years I believed I’d never win the game, so why bother putting forth the effort. When I fell into those spells of negative self-talk, I slogged through life, never giving anything my full attention. I kept the best part of me buried under a massive dung heap.

Somehow, songs like those mentioned above managed to find their way into my consciousness, giving me hope. They reminded me nothing is written in stone, and if I cared enough to push my way out of the muck, I could change my own path. If I told you it was one, massive epiphany that brought me from deep, dark depression and ennui to a woman who speaks out about self-love and believing in herself, I’d be lying, and doing everyone a disservice as well.

With a Little Help From My Friends

By the same token, if I said I did it all alone, I’d be telling an even bigger lie. But as Ms. so aptly puts it:

Well it’s a strange old game – you learn it slow
One step forward and it’s back to go
You’re standing on the throttle
You’re standing on the brakes
In the groove ’til you make a mistake
The beauty of life is you have the opportunity to continue learning well into your dotage—if you want to. And boy, do I want to! Learning keeps the brain young, the body limber, and the outlook sunny most of the time. It makes it easier to weather the inevitable storms, as the lessons you’ve learned ensure you, in today’s vernacular “have an app for that”.
I’ve been fortunate in that life has given me some very able cheerleaders to urge me on, and kick my butt when necessary. Between them and my innate stubbornness, I’ve pulled myself out of many a pit of despair, and risen higher than I ever thought possible. I’ve learned to see possibilities instead of insurmountable obstacles; to take a step back and review my options rather than giving up when it felt like my world was dissolving into a pool of raw sewage.

When Life Stagnates, Physical Movement is the Ultimate Unblocker

Recent months have taught me to dance wherever I can, be it my living room or patio, a park, a parking lot, or inside my head. I’m learning to treat my life in all its iterations as the game it was meant to be. In some ways, it’s a game of chutes and ladders where a few steps forward might take me sliding back down to where I started, or up several levels effortlessly. Sometimes, it’s a throw of the dice as to which way I’ll go.
Instead of seeing the returns to “start” as setbacks, I’ve learned they’re often an opportunity to revisit something to catch what I missed the first time around. Like learning a new line dance, the first few times through, it’s about remembering the patterns, and the order in which they fall. Once they’re committed to muscle memory, I can listen to the music, feel how it fits to the steps, and put my own twist on it. In some cases, a part I was struggling to master falls into place, leaving me to wonder why I struggled so much instead of allowing myself to succumb to the flow of music and dance.
Revisiting those places shows me where I might have unconsciously undermined myself, or made things harder than they needed to be. It also allows me to clear out some of the clutter I left while trying to muddle through as best I could. On the plus side, I’m not much of a perfectionist. I’m more the type who gets the words down, then goes back over them later. There isn’t anything in life you can’t revisit and upgrade after the fact, as far as I’m concerned.

Learning to See Past the Packaging

You need only look at my house which, for several years has been in a state of semi-demolition thanks to a horrific experience with a contractor. The interior walls of my living room and hall are bare plaster or wall board. A layer of bricks collects dust at the base of the walls, and the flooring is early-60’s asbestos tile interspersed with bare black spots where the tile gave way to adhesive-covered concrete. Circumstances and choices have kept me from seeking a more reputable source to complete the project, or at least knock out a couple of walls and install the cabinets that have taken up semi-permanent residence in the shed behind my house.
It hasn’t stopped me from inviting friends in for the annual Conaway-Hewes After Thanksgiving Feast (the arrival of twin grandchildren around the end of November combined with current challenges from  COVID will cancel the event this year), though it took me a bit to get over my less-than-perfect house. I eventually learned it’s less about my lack of decorating skills and motivation to complete the job, and more about a gathering of my community.
In truth, I’m still confident I’ll get the necessary repairs done at some point, and have a beautiful, expanded kitchen for my efforts and patience. The floors will be covered with the ceramic tile that shares space with the cabinets. I’ve long since stopped using “if” and replaced it with “when”. The whole thing was a huge setback, but meant learning or remembering a lot of lessons I misplaced when I set the whole thing up. I know it sounds crazy right now, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to learn the lesson, and that it didn’t cost me a whole lot more than it did. I’ve heard much worse horror stories from friends.
All in all, life is much more interesting when things don’t always go as planned. Most of the time, what happens when you remember to dance; remember to be grateful for both successes and apparent failures is truly magical.
Finding a Reason for Gratitude With Every Sunrise; Every Sunset
My gratitudes today are:
  1. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to revisit an old road and glean more knowledge from it.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who cheer me on, and kick my butt when I need it.
  3. I’m grateful for my lack of perfectionism.
  4. I’m grateful for the constant flow of new ideas.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, acceptance, forgiveness, opportunities, motivation, inspiration, 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

Power of Community for Mental Health

A Community Monitors the Group Mental Health

CommunityEven in the best of times, your mental health and well-being are best supported within a community; people who consider it part of their normal routine to include each other, check on those who are ill or too quiet, and offer help where needed. A strong community is comprised of people who give of themselves without expecting accolades or compensation because they know in their own time of need, there will be someone there to help lift them up or support them until they’re once again able to stand on their own.

In times of quarantine, tragedy, or both, communities are truly tested, and I’m happy to say, after decades of solitude, I am now a member of a community which embodies all the best qualities the word brings to mind, though often finds lacking. Whether it’s moral support, help staying active, something tangible like toilet paper, sundries, or cable, someone is ready to step up and lend a hand. In truth, I’ve never experienced such a giving, caring, supportive mindset before. Not even in my own blood family (except my daughter Heather of course, who has always been generous to a fault).

Within this community are people each of us can share the best and the worst with, and who can be counted on for honesty, not platitudes. There are examples of generosity and compassion that make me want to be a better person; to willingly toss aside the ingrained selfishness that kept me isolated for so many years. Although it sometimes feels foreign to share a closeness like this, it also feels like I’ve finally come home to the place; the people to whom I belong.

When You Find Your Tribe, You’ll Know It

Over the years, I’ve listened to others speak what I carried in my heart; the alone-ness, the feeling of never fitting in, always being on the outside looking in. Like many, I drifted from place to place, social group to social group looking for somewhere I felt comfortable enough to let down my guard. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my deepest desire was to find a place where I could take off the masks my birth family taught me were prescribed attire, no less essential than shirt or shoes. Somewhere deep inside, I knew much of what I’d been taught were lies designed to protect what no longer needed protecting to the degree they believed necessary.

You hear a lot about finding your humanity so you can strive further for a Divinity that’s only truly reached on Earth by a select few. Until I figured out what that actually meant, I was one of the oblivious masses who doesn’t even realize they’re drifting through life without connection; without a true understanding of the components which make a meaningful human life.

Too many grow up believing it’s them against the world, trusting no one, and nearly killing themselves living a life of false perfection. I’m wondering now, what happens to the disconnected masses during a time of crisis?

A Community in Crisis Growing Stronger Every Day

Borderline CommunitySince November 7, 2018, my community has faced crisis after crisis, and though some faced unimaginable losses, the support of the community remained strong. One crisis might leave some members lost and drifting, but often, those were the ones who rose up and shouldered more of the burden when the next crisis hit. Most of all, no one is keeping score. If someone is in need and you have what they need, you offer it without question. In most cases, the offers exceed the need.

Right now, our gathering places are closed. The hugs that are so much a part of our community’s culture are forbidden, and even dangerous. Still, we find ways to help each other from a distance, whether it’s dancing together remotely, talking about life and challenges, checking in on the ones who aren’t as comfortable reaching out, or busy trying to keep it together on their own.

Every day, I see more of what community truly means in the words, actions, and spirit of the people who’ve accepted me as I am. I value it all the more for the years I spent believing I didn’t deserve anything I hadn’t worked hard for, and achieved completely on my own. Little did I know we all go farther when we ask for help, and allow others to give it. The concept runs contrary to everything my family taught me was true.

Choosing Community Over Solitude

In choosing Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” over John Donne’s “No man is an island”, I solitudeinadvertently denied myself the joy I know now can only be found by connecting with others, both by virtue of common interests, and an even stronger bond; the one I never suspected; shared trauma.  As my community grows ever stronger with each storm we weather together, I’m happy to admit the humanness and imperfections are the stronger glue that binds us all together.

I know there are those in my community who struggle more than others right now. They’re impacted more severely by solitude and lack of human contact. Many are like me and live alone, or have to maintain space because of the work they do. In our own way, we all safeguard our loved ones by social distancing, but for some, the need is more critical than others. In some ways, I think the emotional toll it takes makes doing an already difficult job that much harder,

Though I spend a lot of time reminding myself to avoid comparisons, this is one area where I’ll berate myself if I’m falling into self-pity. I know I’m safe in my own home, interacting directly with no one, but also putting no one else in danger. I don’t have to go to extremes to protect my loved ones from the place I work. I can’t imagine the toll it’s taking on their mental health to have to come home from a long, stressful day, and go through a ritual of sanitizing before they can even be in the same room with their family; assuming they haven’t already had to send them away, or move out themselves.

Overall, the latest in a long chain of crises affecting my community gives me an even greater appreciation both of the group as a whole, and of the people I’ve grown closer to through similar traumas we’ve learned to navigate past. In all fairness, it’s not only the traumas. With some, it’s cultural similarities or upbringings which give us stronger connections too. Regardless of what connects us (and I’m learning not to analyze it too much), the connections formed through sharing imperfections will always prove stronger and more resilient than faking perfection to fit in ever did.

Gratitude Strengthens Mental Health

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for a community of people who share their human-ness.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who check on me, and those who allow me to check in on them.
  3. I’m grateful for the amusement my dance nights are giving to my resident felines.
  4. I’m grateful for the lessons I learn every day. They move me closer to being Human than I ever thought I’d be.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; connection, love, compassion, joy, sharing, caring, motivation, inspiration, 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

When Life Gets Harder, Try a Little Kindness

Recognizing Selfishness; Replacing it with Kindess after day, I see people making disparaging remarks about other people’s behavior. They make the remarks from their omniscient positions. with complete information as to the other person’s motives, challenges, and choices. Or so they believe. At a time when we need as much compassion and kindness as we can muster, making snap judgements and decisions about someone else’s lack of consideration is becoming a sport of Olympic proportions.

I don’t claim to be innocent, but I do try to catch myself, and succeed a large portion of the time. I realize the person doing the judging may have family members on the front lines as medical personnel, truck drivers, grocery clerks, and such who are putting themselves at risk to keep the rest of us fed and healthy. They may have a loved one who is immunocompromised, making them especially sensitive to those who are out and about for no reason they can see, and worse, without wearing what they consider mandatory protective gear.

What most of us won’t see is the father who’s putting himself at risk seemingly unnecessarily because his job is unavailable and his kids are hungry, or at risk of losing the roof over their heads. We don’t see the person who is grocery shopping for aging parents, and may have to drive 50 miles one way to ensure their parents are taken care of because moving them into their own home isn’t an option.

Everyone Struggles in Some Way

There are so many scenarios which explain why people are on the streets or highways during a when we’re supposed to be staying home for the sake of everyone’s health and safety. The choices many have to make are difficult, yet often obvious too. As one of the lucky ones with a full freezer, a roof over my head, and an internet connection, I try really hard to put myself in the shoes of those who, to my untrained eyes, seem to be putting the rest of us in danger of a longer quarantine period. I don’t always succeed, but at least I’m learning not to jump to conclusions often enough to meet my daily exercise requirements.

I read somewhere recently that when someone does something unkind or hurtful, it’s because they’re experiencing their own pain or fear, and are mired within it. I’m sure that’s true of those who are quick to judge as well. They have their own fears and pains which they can’t get past in order to look at others kindly. Instead, they focus outward to someone who, in their minds deserves some of that fear and pain.

Put Aside Fear for Your Own Health’m not going to say it’s easy to put aside our own pain and fear, much less the frustrations many are beginning to experience as the quarantine period drags on, and the number of people infected rises. I will say some of the most rewarding experiences of my life have been those which required me to raise the bar a little higher, and more importantly, to be a better person than I was used to being.

Things will be challenging for everyone for awhile. You’ll continue to have your freedom limited, and do without many things you thought you couldn’t live without. If you haven’t already, you’ll ultimately know someone who gets sick—maybe even someone who dies from COVID-19 or complications thereof. Acting as some omnipotent judge and jury over other peoples’ behavior isn’t going to change the ultimate outcome.

Call me idealistic, but I believe showing each other love, compassion, and understanding will; if only to bring our hearts together instead of pitting them against each other. Let’s look for a minute at what compassion is not. I choose to believe everyone means well, but sometimes taking care of yourself and your family blinds you to the plight of others.

Making a Case for Compassion

I believe Compassion is not:

  • Selective
  • Judgemental
  • Only for those each individual might deem “deserving”
  • Cultural
  • Religious

I believe Compassion is:

  • Sometimes challenging when our family and friends are at risk
  • Backed by love and hope
  • Equal opportunity
  • Something we have to work at applying liberally and non-selectively
  • Available to everyone

I have to stop myself time after time, whether it’s because someone is acting in a way I think is irresponsible, inconsiderate, or reckless, or someone else is speaking judgmentally about another’s behavior. It’s probably easier for me to jump on my soapbox when I think someone is being unkind, yet I know intrinsically they are speaking out because they believe they have to for the sake of someone they love.

To Fight, To Defend, or To Support

Heaven knows I’ve defended my children unnecessarily over the years. I’ve gone to bat for them on many occasions, only to find it was unwarranted for one reason or another, and often unwelcome by the recipient. In the end, the only behavior you can control is your own. The only consequences you suffer are the ones attached to your own actions.

One of the best images I’ve seen is THINK:

  • Is it True?
  • Is it Helpful?
  • Is it Inspiring?
  • Is it Necessary?
  • Is it Kind?

If everyone stopped to ask themselves these questions before speaking (or posting on Social Media), it would go a long way towards ensuring each person speaks from a kinder, more loving place. It would give people better things to do than bash political candidates, hate on a group that’s different from their own, or blame others for their current situation. You’d find more people reaching out in understanding, recognizing when someone was struggling, yet doing the very best they could, and would open up all sorts of opportunities to give back, or better still, pay it forward.

In the process, I honestly believe we’d continue healing our poor, mistreated planet. Getting into the habit of being kinder and more sensitive to each other has a snowball effect. Soon, you’re noticing the flock of butterflies I saw today, or hearing the birds singing, or even seeing rainbows. Best of all, you realize how beautiful the world really is when things and people are allowed to bloom and grow without expectations or restrictions. Can’t we give it a try?

When All Else Fails, Try Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the little things; sunny days, butterflies, birds singing, and children laughing.
  2. I’m grateful for opportunities to get outside and play in the dirt.
  3. I’m grateful for a slower pace, even if it’s only temporary.
  4. I’m grateful for connections that are challenged to get more creative, and more consistent.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, compassion, kindness, understanding, sensitivity, acceptance, forgiveness, joy, health, peace, 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

Reading Between the Herd of Turtles’ Lines

Messages from Turtles

baby turtlesI’m one of those who, I learned as a teenager, are the rare few who dream in color, and remember their dreams, often in vivid, kaleidoscopic detail. I’ve learned when a vivid dream fails to politely remove itself from my memory like most dreams do shortly after I’ve woken, there’s a message I need to take away from it. Sometimes, it also means I need to take some kind of action. On rare occasions, it’s a warning as well.

My latest sticky dream involved having a whole bunch of tiny turtles in my house. The first one came strolling in my front door when I opened it for a visitor who’d come over to talk about a recent break in where nothing was taken. Although I tried to politely escort it back outside, it thwarted all my efforts and made its way into the kitchen. Another came in through the garage door, and before I knew it, there was a small herd in front of my stove, and the cats were going nuts. What were these tiny armored creatures who’d invaded their home? Some tried to bat at a turtle, then scurried away when the turtle moved.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the small pile of baby turtles milling around in front of my stove, though doing them harm was definitely not an option. The dream ended before I figured out how to make them comfortable until I could find a place with the appropriate habitat for them to thrive.

Searching for the Symbolism

Hours later, I looked up the meaning of turtles in dreams, and specifically, lots of the little soldiers. I learned it means a couple of things, but mostly good fortune, prosperity, fertility, and that I’m loved and protected by my friends and family in all my endeavors. Also patience. Slow and steady wins the race, as it were. An alternate meaning is something is going to happen that will cause me great pleasure. My material situation will improve and I’ll have great success with my work.

It all does make sense at this stage of the game. I’ve been concerned about increasing my clientele, especially in light of the new law in California, and a pending one at the Federal level which seriously curtail efforts of Independent Contractors and freelancers in a wide range of careers, including mine. To get a sign like this that the eventual outcome of it all will be positive goes a long way to bring my stress level down, and keep me focused on meeting or beating my production schedules.

As I browsed through images I’d collected during my 10 years of blog writing, I noticed there were a lot of turtles. In reflecting on the times I’d used those images, I realized it was typically when I’d felt the need to shut down and retreat into my turtle shell for awhile. Somehow, none of those images portrayed the feeling I got from a pile of tiny turtles in the middle of my kitchen. Isolating and shutting down didn’t even enter the equation this time.

Seeing Signs is a Personal Preference

I realize some see dreams, signs, and the like as a bunch of garbage, so this post isn’t meant for those self-proclaimed realists. I’m not here to convince anyone to change their views on anything, except maybe mental health and suicide. But that’s an entirely different conversation.

At any rate, I’ve had far too many instances when a dream alerted me to unexpected events; a tragedy in someone’s life with whom I’d lost contact, or changes in my own life, to ignore one like this that nagged at me until I followed the dots and looked up the various meanings for the most insistent part of my dream; the herd of turtles.

Not Necessarily a Herd Mentality

message in a bottleI find it interesting there was an interpretation for a large number of the creatures as opposed to just individuals of various breeds. Frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference between a box, snapping, or red eared slider turtle when a bunch of tiny ones were playing tag around my feet. In hindsight, they also moved more quickly than I’d imagine a tiny turtle could move, but no one ever said dreams had to be completely accurate. The turtles came to me to make a point, not to exhibit perfect turtle behavior.

The fact that the interpretations fit quite well into my life at the moment only underscores the likelihood the message was intended. I’ve also learned how painful it can be to ignore those messages that come to me clearly and vividly. This time, it came gently, and left me with a feeling of calm and hope. I always have the option to ignore or dismiss the message, but the Universal head slap I know will follow makes paying attention the first time my wiser choice.

Embracing My Uniqueness

What I’ll do with this information remains to be seen. For now, I’ll spend less time worrying about attracting clients and “doing the do”, and more time showing up, writing, posting, commenting, reading, and re-sharing. Although I’ve been told by several professional copywriters that what I’m sharing, where I’m sharing it, and how I’m sharing it is ineffective, I believe it’s a matter of interpretation.

They are, for the most part, people who write sales copy. They’re good at what they do, and have built successful, lucrative careers. I’m more of a “let’s get to know each other” kind of writer. I talk about the more touchy-feely, or woo topics not everyone is comfortable touching. I reach deep inside people and find their heart; the one that’s been beaten up, broken, and put back together with spit and bailing wire over and over. I get cozy with their vulnerability, and help them use it to find their own tribe; the people who will love working with someone who gets them.

Calls to action have to be introduced more subtly (at least in my opinion). I don’t think opening your soul should be followed by a big red button proclaiming “schedule a call. I can help you do XYZ”. I’m more of a “if you like what you see, maybe we should connect and get to know each other better” kind of gal. I suspect many see that as naive, but for me, helping people is certainly what I want to do for a living, but it isn’t the entire reason I do what I do, or connect with people on a deeper, more personal level. In all honesty, I’m relatively new to that particular level, and am enjoying the process too much to want to rush through it.

Taking the Long Road meet too many people, especially from my generation who spent decades closed up and afraid to show any sign of imperfection because that’s the way we were raised. I truly believed there wasn’t another human alive who cared about my feelings, or who wouldn’t take advantage of me if I stumbled. For years, my experiences supported this belief, not because that’s how everyone was, but because I attracted what and who I expected to see.

I’ve learned it’s not only OK, but preferable to show my soft, mushy side. In doing so, I’m allowed to see the softer, more vulnerable side in others, and I cherish the experience as one of life’s greatest gifts. I won’t say I didn’t get clobbered a few times when I started admitting I wasn’t perfect. I had to shed a lot of people I’d acquired while I still believed in shielding myself from everyone. Not all those relationships died peacefully.

But as my personal landscape changed, it became less dangerous to be me, and in time, I learned to see the red flags early enough to dodge the worst of the fallout. It’s dreams like the herd of turtles which remind me I’m still on the right track even when things look like they’re falling apart, or are already in complete disarray. There are times all I need is a gentle reminder to proceed cautiously, but hold my course. It may be a dream, or an unexpected delay, but I’ve learned to read the subtler signs.

While my life will never be a smooth, straight road (and frankly, that would be insufferably boring), it will always be interesting, and I get to learn new things all the time. I’ve learned my job is to show up no matter what, instead of letting my frustration over a perceived lack of progress lead me to give up on my dreams. That would be the true tragedy.

Finding Infinite Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I’ve learned to take my dreams seriously when the memory stays with me long after I’ve started my day.
  2. I’m grateful I see life as a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, and a bit of an evolving road map.
  3. I’m grateful for a mind that doesn’t always require solid evidences in order to believe.
  4. I’m grateful for my imagination.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; signs, symbolism, dreams, imagination, joy, love, persistence, friendship, community, connections, inspiration, 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

Recognizing Stress for the Fears it Masks

Self-Imposed Stress Inducers stress. It affects each person in different ways, and for different reasons. For me, like most people, it’s a combination of things, but not what you might expect.

Cleaning stresses me out. My house is never pristine, and though I keep up with things like the kitchen and cat boxes, I am lucky to vacuum and mop once a week, much less, the two or three times my house needs because of my messy little fur balls. I’m not as bothered during the normal course of the year, but while getting ready for my annual Thanksgiving Feast, I pushed myself pretty hard to get floors and bathrooms scrubbed. As a result, my weekly cleanings suffered for a little while after as I recuperated from the frenzy; more mentally than physically.

Maintaining my writing schedule, while a labor of love can make me a little crazy during the holidays too. After Thanksgiving, it took me a couple of weeks to get back to my schedule of three weeks ahead. By then, Christmas week was looming, I had wrapping to do, and plans to make for the trip to my kids’ house. Still and all, I managed to get the wrapping done and all the paraphernalia stowed away for another year with about four days to spare; a new record!

Recognizing My Worth Via Someone Else’s Eyes

Leaving home for a few days stresses me out too. I know my home and cats are Created in Canvain good hands while I’m gone, but I do miss waking up to my own furries, especially Dylan and Pyewacket who love to sleep on my head, and wake me with kisses.

My biggest stresser, 6 years and a month into my self-employment journey is still marketing. Both my daughter and I have a hard time talking about ourselves, our strengths, and our accomplishments. She’s figured it out a little better than me, though. She roughed out what she needed for her grad school application, then sent it to me to, in her words, “fluff it out”.

What it really meant was I took what she wrote and added in some more of her relevant experience and accomplishments which triggered her to expand on them herself. It made me realize maybe I need to draft something to promote myself and give it to her to “fluff out”. She certainly sees me through more generous eyes than I do.

Learning to Focus on My Qualities

The question is, what might that be? I’ve put my second pass through LeadsLab on hold for the moment, while working on getting back on schedule with my writing projects. Maybe when I get back to it, I should write something up, then pass it on to her to inject some of the me she sees?

I admit I’m my own worst critic, and am least able to recognize the things I do well. I annoy the crap out of my daughter when I dismiss her assertions about what she thinks I’m good at. In the first place, I do her a huge disservice by dismissing her perfectly valid and objective opinions. In the second, I short-change myself. I’m not sure which hurts her more, to be honest.

Letting Go to Move Forward

The Tower from the Spiral TarotIn the weeks leading up to the New Year, I wrote a lot about changes I want to make for the new decade, and goals I want to accomplish. I think it’s also important to focus on what needs to be released. Here are a few of mine which really need to go:

  • False modesty
  • Disrespecting people by dismissing their positive opinions regarding my work and talents
  • Fear of disappointing anyone, including myself
  • Procrastination
  • Quitting before I give it a genuine, heartfelt effort
  • Letting one person’s opinion stop me in my tracks
  • Submitting to the distractions of Social Media and email

This list might be short, but each item is holding me back in many ways, and it’s time I stopped allowing excuses, fears, and outdated beliefs to stand between me and the greatness of which I’m capable.


Some say you have to either get angry enough or desperate enough before you’ll fight for what you truly want. I can see the truth in someone like J.K. Rowling who was in dire straits when she fought to get her first “Harry Potter” book published. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for an external reason to get my butt in gear. It motivates some, but it doesn’t mean everyone needs an external force.

I look back over my life and see how many things I’ve accomplished on my own. I also see I could have done so much more if I’d learned to ask for help a whole lot sooner than I did. I was taught not to by a long line of ancestors. It’s been my daughter who’s helped me see what I was taught was probably my biggest self-limiting belief.

Old habits are hard, but not impossible to break. I’m still learning who and what to ask when I need help. I don’t always recognize I’m doing something which could be greatly simplified if I ask for help from the right people. I’ve also asked for help from the wrong people at times, which made me a little gun shy. Not to mention the many times I asked for help in the wrong way. Small wonder I didn’t get the results I’d hoped for, and I’ve no one to blame but myself.

Using Other People as a Mirror is one long learning curve with switchbacks, dead ends, and the occasional sharp, steep drop that lands you on your ass in a pile of rubble. I’ve learned the hardest part of those falls isn’t getting up afterwards. It’s finding the lesson and not giving up. It’s far too easy to say: Doing that made me crash and burn. I guess it means I’m not meant to succeed. I used that worn out excuse too often myself, and have likely missed a few amazing opportunities.

Yet I’ve learned by watching my daughter that sometimes we’re supposed to miss a few opportunities so we have time to build our confidence and get ready, not for an amazing opportunity, but for the amazing opportunity.

In spite of it all, I’ve always told my girls that when things seem to be falling apart the worst, be it a lost job, lack of opportunities, a few harsh realities smacking you in the face; if you hang in there, things always turn out better than they would have been had you not been booted out of a comfortable, if uninspiring place. My words have not proven false yet.

Timing Isn’t Everything. Starting Is.

It’s taking me a little longer to find my footing this time, but until lately, I really wasn’t putting forth a lot of effort. I wasn’t expecting much of myself. That all changed a couple of months ago, though it’s taking me a little while to hit my stride. Perhaps making major changes just before the holidays wasn’t my best choice of timing. I do, however, work best under pressure. I had to learn how to do it when the only real pressure came from inside myself.

I’d say it’s working if my jumpy stomach and anxiety over catching up on missed deadlines is any indication. At the moment, there’s absolutely no one breathing down my neck or having expectations of me. I have no one to satisfy; no external deadlines to meet.

What I do have is a Trello board full of deadlines for my own work:

  • Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday blog posts
  • Edits and postings of chapters of “Sasha’s Journey”
  • Re-writes of all but 4 chapters of “Rebuilding After Suicide”
  • Research into publishing options
  • Learning to write an effective query letter
  • Learning to create a synopsis for non-fiction
  • Publishing both books

Recognizing and Acknowledging My Support Team have at least two people who’ve been kicking my butt to get these things done. One has even implied I’m depriving a lot of people of my work by failing to complete the re-write and get the darn thing published. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. I may have had a few experiences with people benefiting a little from the words I wrote, but not enough to make me believe my words and experiences could actually help a lot of people.

Looking back at that last paragraph, I realize it’s partly a lie I keep telling myself. I wouldn’t be driven to keep writing and sharing my own struggles if I didn’t truly believe they might help someone else who’s having a tough time. If I’m lying to myself to hold back from rushing headlong for some of the goals I set 6 years ago, it’s because I’m allowing fear to take the wheel. I talk a good story about letting fear have a voice but no voting rights and no driver’s license, but my words have no meaning if I don’t live them myself.

I think the theme for 2020 and beyond is not so much facing my fears, as living my truth.

Gratitude to Chase Away the Fears

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the reminders to put fear back in the corner.
  2. I’m grateful for the people in my life who push me to be my best, and remind me of my worth.
  3. I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve set for myself, and how I’ve been able to rise to and even above them.
  4. I’m grateful for the physical reminders that I’m on the right path, even though it’s often scary as hell.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; supportive friends and family, topics to write about, motivation, inspiration, love, joy, productivity, health, peace, prosperity, harmony, balance, and philanthropy.

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

Embracing My Flaws

My Flaws Hold My Uniqueness

I get inspiration from many things. Today, it’s a post from a friend who shared a picture of a gorgeous heart-shaped necklace she got in Greece. Like me, she sees the beauty in a flawed stone.

It reminded me I am drawn more to imperfect or “flawed” stones when I choose my crystals, just as I’ve learned, albeit late in life to appreciate imperfections not only in myself, but in the people with whom I surround myself. Putting on a perfect face isn’t a sign of strength at all, and in the long run, it isn’t sustainable.

No one is without flaws, and in fact, they make each person unique, interesting, and approachable. The masks people affect to hide those flaws in the mistaken belief they’re ugly and offensive are worn at a cost no one would willingly assume, were that cost clearly marked on the masks and walls.

Releasing Outdated Beliefs

For decades, I believed what I was “supposed to”; flaws were ugly, and showing my flaws or struggles, much less a tear or honest emotion meant I was weak. It meant I was often fair game as a target for others who were also trying to hide flaws and weaknesses from the world.

Like a well-trained monkey, I hid my own fears and kept my tears deep inside, little realizing each time I did, a small piece of myself broke off and crumbled into the dust which formed my foundation; a dust even a light tremor stirred up by the time I was 40. By then, my entire foundation was unstable layers; the dust of broken and unfulfilled dreams, friendships based on false faces hiding massive insecurities, and a disappointing life where only the love of my children was certain. Even that was, in one case, only temporary. Once she reached the edge of adulthood and began making her own mistakes and choices, that love, too was conditional, until I was no longer willing to meet the conditions.

It took a few more years, but when I began sweeping away all the accumulated dust, I discovered there was still a firm base to build on. For awhile, I narrowed my focus; self-love, smaller successes, and returning to my first love, writing. Hundreds of thousands of words later, I learned my flawed self wasn’t ugly at all. But I had a lot of fears to exhume and revisit before sharing those flaws finally led to real friendships with others who’d learned to find their true beauty in flaws instead of an unachievable perfection.

A Beautiful Mosaic Created from the Rubble

created with CanvaI see life now as a mosaic. I’ve built my life on false beliefs only to see the entire structure crumble before my eyes. I thought when things crumbled I had nothing left; no solid ground to stand on, and no more strength to rebuild. I was wrong.

Having everything crumble around me turned out to be the best experience of my life (once I got past the excruciating pain, of course!). Not everything dissolved into tiny motes of dust. Some simply broke into pieces. In their previous configurations, they’d already proven unstable, but what if I put them back together in a different order, using the love, connection, and compassion I’d gained as the grout which held those pieces together? What if some of the pieces I stuck together came from outside of me? In other words, what if I finally learned to ask for help?

I learned when I stand alone, depending only on myself to manage whatever life throws me, I do without a lot of things because I have no idea how to make them work. Just as I don’t know how to re-wire my house and need to depend on others, there are important aspects of my growth for which I have no experience, or even knowledge they exist, much less how important they might be to my overall construction. Until I interact with others, sharing both strengths and perceived weaknesses, I don’t know what I’m missing, or why my structure remains unstable.

One Woman’s Junk…

Many of my own broken pieces are of no further use to me, but to someone else, might be the piece they’ve been needing to give their own structure and foundation the stability they need to withstand life’s 7.5 earthquakes. In the process of sorting through my own rubble as well as that of others, I’ve not only cleared away what no longer serves me, but found everyone gets to find what’s needed to be strong, stable, and connected.

While I’ve learned we’re already connected energetically to everyone and everything on the planet (and perhaps beyond), the bond is further strengthened when I’ve incorporated pieces of others into my own foundation. My own strength and resilience may be lacking in some areas, whether it’s confidence, flexibility, or something else. My experiences make me stronger in some areas and weaker in others, as do those of every person I encounter.

Creating a mosaic with features from different people allows those missing strengths and resiliencies to permeate both structures; both foundations. What might have felled either person before might still put us under stress, but will no longer bring us down like a stack of cards. We reinforce each other more than emotionally.

Finding the Support I Need

Even when I need to fall back a few steps, I only go far enough to reach the support of those I’ve not only learned to trust with my naked, unadorned face but who know where my wings aren’t yet ready for a solo flight. Sometimes, I fall back with others who are being buffeted by their own storm. Together, we create a shelter where we’ll wait out the current storm and regain our individual strengths before setting out again, together, or apart, as needs dictate.

I know now, each time I fall back a few steps, I’m not losing ground. Instead, I’m gaining experience I’ll need in order to conquer the next challenge on my path. Sometimes I gain it by letting someone guide me, sometimes, when they allow me to do the guiding; proving to myself I’m stronger and wiser than I believe. 

My greatest weakness throughout my entire life was, and may always be my inability to entirely trust my own skills, talents, and abilities. I know where it began, but assess no blame. I needed to see where I gave myself too little credit before I could learn to trust. When the time has been right, a teacher always appeared.

The Teacher Appears When the Student I Ready

Whether it was learning to trust the visualizations I received concerning peoples’ auras, or what I was seeing when my healing talents began to emerge, people came into my life who could confirm what I was seeing or feeling. Ultimately, the gifts they gave me of trusting myself opened up my mind when meditating, getting a massage, and most of all, writing.

I stopped writing for years because I didn’t trust the stories in my head. I didn’t think I had the talent to make them interesting or even cohesive. I’d spent so much time telling myself what was coming out of my fingers was garbage, I didn’t allow what was inside begging for release to reach my fingers. Like so many creatives, I mistakenly believed it had to come out perfect the first time and tried to control every word.

What comes out of my fingers initially these days isn’t perfect, or anywhere close, nor is it as flawed as I once believed. bit it’s always from my heart. The real epiphany came when I realized that’s true of every one of us. No one is perfect. Perfection might be something to aspire to, but it is not the real destination. The real destination is learning to embrace what I perceive as flaws in myself and others, and to share pieces of myself to create a unique, powerful, radiant mosaic of people, experiences, compassion, and love.

Gratitude is my Strongest Feature

My gratitudes are:

  1. I’m grateful for the teachers who have come into my life when I needed them, and continue to arrive at the exact moment I need help learning a new lesson.
  2. I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned, and those still to come.
  3. I’m grateful for the flaws which I’ve learned are not flaws at all, but beauty marks.
  4. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve formed since I learned to remove the masks of perfection and be my real self.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; creativity, love, inspiration, motivation, friendship, joy, beautiful mosaics, community, peace, 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

Why Women Blog

I Blog to Heal—Myself and Those Who Share My Travails

It’s hard to believe I created this blog more than 9 years ago at my daughter’s urging. To be honest, I don’t even remember the original reason I created it, except as an exercise to broaden the scope of a healing journey that began 16 years later than it should have, yet at exactly the right time.

Over the last 9 plus years, I’ve used this forum for a number of things including conversations about family suicide, it’s original premise (the name I gave it then, “Surviving and Beyond”, lives on only in the URL these days). It’s evolved into so much more, for me, and hopefully for at least a few others as well.

Use Your Comments Wisely

Recently, a young woman who is going through her own challenges mentioned that a woman “over 50” gave her crap for sharing her journey via her blog. My first reaction was to want to smack that woman and tell her to shut her pie hole. As I don’t know who she is, nor does it really matter, I’m going to address the message and not the poster, as we used to say.

In the first place, a blog is someone’s own personal space. You can choose to read it or not, but be advised, if you disagree with what they post and attack them, your comment can and will be deleted. If you attack someone who is particularly outspoken and honest (like me for example), you’re liable to see your cruelty discussed at length. Believe me, you’ll recognize yourself though no names or distinguishing features will be mentioned. Unlike you, most of us write about our hardest times so others who are in similar circumstances will feel they’re not alone, or going bat shit crazy.

That’s not to say a dissenting opinion is unwelcome. There’s simply an enormous difference between voicing an opinion and attacking someone. I suspect I’m not alone in blocking a few URL’s for vitriolic comments.

Building a Bridge Instead of a Wall for me has always been a way to hash out things I didn’t feel comfortable talking about. Until 9 years ago, most of what I wrote never saw the light of day. When I started allowing small things to slip and learned others could relate, I gained courage, opening up more and more as time went on. When people who’d clearly been holding onto a lot of crap for years began sharing pieces with me, I knew I was opening up a side of myself that needed to be cracked open for more than my own sake.

I learned what many bloggers before me had; by opening up about our own struggles, we allow others to do so as well. For some of us, our blogs become a safe place, much like a trauma support group where people who share a common trauma can talk about what they’ve experienced without fear of rebuke, attack, or shame.

These days, you can find people blogging about any number of painful subjects for which they might have been shamed or abused in the past. Some write about suicide and mental health like I do. Others write about child abuse, or rape (or both). More and more are opening up about miscarriages too. Like the young woman in my story, I’ve seen several talking about a sudden, unexpected, and decidedly unpleasant change in their marital status.

To all of them, I say “Good for you!! Keep up the good work!”

Holding Onto Our Pain Affects Everyone Near and Far

We need this openness. We need to allow people to talk about the things which Created with Canvamay have caused them to retreat into themselves, bearing a shame that’s not deserved. I know from my own experience, every time someone comments or sends me a message saying they get what I’m talking about, and that they’re glad I brought the subject up, I’m reminded of the value of my words, but more, I heal a little more myself.

I applaud everyone who has been courageous enough to admit their life isn’t perfect in a forum that’s accessible to a world of both strangers and friends. I’m incredibly grateful for those who use their experiences to help make the world a better, place. I’m humbled to be a member of their vulnerable, courageous ranks.

Not everything I share is intense or life-changing. Often I talk about minor struggles; patience, relationships, and such. Sometimes I go off on a rant, or tickle the edges of a political issue. But mostly, I write whatever comes into my head as I traipse through this world with less grace than most, yet more than some. Often, what I write is prompted by something I read or hear from someone else who’s also doing their best to navigate this unpredictable path we call Life.

Honored to Share the Blogosphere With Courageous Women

Created with CanvaThe young woman who prompted this post is going through a divorce she didn’t see coming. She’s not sharing gory details, nor is she bashing her soon-to-be ex. Instead, she’s showing an inordinate amount of class while still sharing the pain, the disillusionment, and the topsy-turvy mess she feels like her life is right now. Unlike me and many from my generation, she’s opening up from the start, asking for help from her friends, sharing her journey, and doing her best to ease her kids into what will be their new version of normal.

I know she’ll be better for her honesty and for refusal to hide her face in shame over something she didn’t cause. As I said, it took me 16 years to start dealing with my mom’s suicide, by then, my dad had been gone 6 years, also by his own hand. My path would have been smoother had I allowed people to see my cracks. Unfortunately, I had to overcome a lifetime of training.

I don’t want to see anyone else suck it up and fumble along alone as I did. If it means talking about the unmentionable stuff, I’ll do it (and have). If it means supporting someone else while they share their own struggles, I’m there, and woe be to anyone who tries to tell them to suffer in silence.

If You Don’t Like What We Write, Don’t Read it!

What it all comes down to is this, what someone writes on their own blog is their If you don’t like it, don’t visit. What they write on Social Media is a little more controlled, but if they’re speaking their truth in a respectful manner, again, shut up and walk away if you can’t comment politely. You have no idea what they’re going through, so your judgement is neither wanted nor needed. In it’s worst form, it will do a lot more harm than good.

You and me, we’re in this together. We were put on this Earth to help each other; to uplift and support each other in times of trouble, and to celebrate our victories; our achievements. Life ain’t a competition. There’s enough love, light, and joy to go around. You just have to stop looking for the ugliness. You will always find what you’re looking for, so choose wisely.

Sharing Includes Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful the young women today are less inclined to hold their feelings in, at least for the most part.
  2. I’m grateful people are becoming more sensitive to each other, and more willing to stand and support, instead of bash and tear down.
  3. I’m grateful for opportunities to support others and help them along their path. So many have done it for me, once I finally learned to let them.
  4. I’m grateful for the people who love and support me in my journey. I couldn’t have gotten this far without them, and going it alone is a hollow victory anyway.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; community, love, friendship, caring, sharing, blessings, friendship, peace, harmony, health, 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

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