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

Posts tagged ‘trauma’

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

Strength Lies in Accepting You’re Broken

Everyone is Broken in Some Way

brokenEveryone is broken in some way. What matters isn’t how broken a person is, or even what broke them, but how they choose to go on with their lives, and whether they choose to embrace the brokenness, fight it, or allow themselves to be weakened by it.

There’s no way to avoid it. If you’re alive and human, you’re going to suffer trauma at some point in your life. Some, but not many manage to avoid it until they reach adulthood. Most people experience some kind of life-changing event during childhood.

It might be the death of a family member or pet, or something more insidious like emotional or physical abuse. No matter what it is, natural coping mechanisms engage and alter your path in some way. There’s always a lesson, not only in the event, but in how you choose to cope with it. And there are scars.

The Residue of Coping Mechanisms

Depending on the number and degree of traumas, and the methods at your disposal for self lovecoping, you might well reach adulthood with a thick layer of scars around your psyche. In most cases, you’re unaware those scars exist, or how much you’re using them to hide the true, vulnerable, authentic person you were meant to be.

I was one who reached adulthood with a thick wall of scars, little realizing the traumas I’d coped with in my juvenile, naive way. I watched the adults around me, mistook emotional abuse for love, and saw feelings buried because in our family, showing any kind of emotion was highly discouraged. In fact, if I wanted to experience expressions of what passed for love, I kept my feelings deeply hidden.

Unfortunately, I learned much later in life that I’m an Empath, and hiding my feelings is like cutting off a limb. My lack of success as a child and teenager earned me my mother’s expressions of displeasure over everything I said and did, and my dad’s emotional abuse. Yet for years, I believed what he was doing was the normal way to show love.

Cleaning Up the Mess After Coping With Trauma thing I learned was when you use coping mechanisms to deal with trauma; whether recognized or not, you develop an extremely dysfunctional view of the world, and of love in particular. I grew up believing that if someone loved you, they showed it by being abusive. Not physically in my family’s case, but emotionally, which frankly, causes much deeper scars that are harder to exhume and heal. I was in my 60’s with my dad long-dead before I was able to see his teasing and put-downs for the cruelty they were, and to finally express the anger and hurt I’d buried deep beneath my scars.

Needless to say, the men I attracted over the years were broken in their own way, and were abusive in their expressions of love. Like my family, they weren’t typically physically abusive. I never nursed a visible bruise or a broken limb. The damage they did was purely internal, in a place where no one ever visited. The worst part was, I wasn’t able to appreciate a love that wasn’t based on some kind of abuse. As I look back on my college years, I ended things with a couple of really nice, kind men because the kind of love they offered wasn’t something I recognized or responded to.

By my mid-40’s I stopped looking for love in all the wrong places. I recognized I didn’t know how to find it in the right ones, and took what would be the first step towards ending a lifetime of abusive love based on cruelty and undermining my self-esteem. I took a good, hard look at myself, flaws and all, and realized I had a lot of great qualities, but self-confidence wasn’t one of them.

Healing Old Wounds Isn’t For the Weak of Heart

Setting out to rectify the problem, I allowed myself to pick at those old scars, and embark on the incredibly painful process of tearing down decades-old walls to expose the raw, unhealed wounds they’d hidden but not protected. I learned I had to relive the pain before those wounds would heal, and frankly, had I known what I was in for, I might have chosen to leave well enough alone. Not that it would have been the better option, but it would have caused me a lot less pain in the short run.

Layer by layer, I’ve peeled away my barriers; to life, to love, and to connection. I’ve learned when you love someone you show it with kindness; with supportiveness. You build them up rather than tearing them down. You’re a non-judgemental sounding board, but you don’t sugar coat the truth either. Along the way, I’ve learned not to illuminate peoples’ pain points with sarcasm and ill-placed teasing.

Learning to Love the Healthy Way

Years into my tearing down and rebuilding process, I finally realized how badly my dad had treated me, and how eagerly I’d lapped up his distorted form of affection because I was so desperate to be loved. It affected the men I attracted, and the ones I chose to allow into my life for more than a minute. It made me toss away a couple of good ones too, but I know the women they ultimately found treat them better than I was, at the time, able. I’m glad they didn’t wait around to see if I’d figure it out. Without all the trauma I’ve been through, I never would have.

Now, I’ve spent hours venting my spleen about the way my dad treated me, and ultimately realized he acted as he was taught, and in all likelihood, to mask his own pain too. I’ve forgiven him his inability to love me properly, and found compassion for all he was never able to experience himself. Above all, I count myself lucky I was able to figure out how wrong; how destructive my family’s concept of love really was, and make changes in my life.

I’m most grateful I learned to be a more loving, supportive parent and friend for my daughter. When I do tease her now, it’s typically over something that made us laugh, rather than something she’s sensitive about. We have enough inside jokes and clumsiness between us to fill a book or ten, so there’s plenty of material without bringing cruelty into the mix.

In recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion one of my purposes is to break old family patterns. I am glad this is one that will end with me. Future generations won’t have to grow up with a wall of scars and a boat load of unhealed wounds.

Using Gratitude to Heal

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the family who raised me to realize their way wasn’t necessarily the right way.
  2. I’m grateful for the old wounds I’m slowly healing; properly this time.
  3. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve formed since I stopped following the family patterns that made me a broken, unhappy woman.
  4. I’m grateful for the people who’ve shown me kindness instead of cruelty, even when I didn’t think I was worthy.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, joy, kindness, compassion, connection, vulnerability, peace, harmony, balance, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Allowing For “Not OK” Time

Allowing for Feelings

I’m sitting at my desk playing solitaire and listening to old songs after my first tri-fecta of dancing in a long time. Scrappy Doo recently vacated my lap, and Dylan has gone off in search of a late night snack. I should be on top of the world, but strangely, I’m not.

It actually started last night while I was at the newly opened BL Dancehall and Saloon, our temporary dance home until Borderline can be brought up to code and remodeled; a task which we’re told could take 2 years, or maybe more. With the music blasting, and my feet itching to join my friends on the dance floor, I grabbed my water bottle and wandered off to a booth on the patio where I could huddle into a corner, hidden from view and be by myself to work through a wash of overwhelming sadness that came from out of nowhere.

I asked myself several times if the sadness was mine or belonged to someone else, but didn’t get a clear answer. I finally wandered back inside and tried to bury the sadness beneath the joy I find while dancing, but my friend Lisa admitted to feeling sad herself. I tried to convince myself the sadness I was feeling belonged to her, but my gut knew better.

There Isn’t Always a Reason

Perhaps it was overwhelm from being among people 3 nights in a row. Perhaps it was a of an awful helicopter crash the next morning (though I doubt it. I seldom have tragic premonitions, and definitely not about strangers). Eventually, I figured a good night’s sleep would wash the sadness away. It did, but only temporarily.

Strange dreams filled my night. While not unusual, they were vivid enough to remain in my mind, and ended up filling my Morning Pages. That should have been the end of it. But by the time the sun went down, the sadness was back, worse than before, despite spending the day alone, and missing the first dance workshop in our new home. Despite getting 4 loads of laundry done and my bed stripped and remade.

Reading a self-help book didn’t help. Watching a sappy Hallmark movie seemed to make it worse instead of better. Listening to my Simon and Garfunkel Pandora station exacerbated it even more as it perversely played songs that triggered memories or thoughts which were anything but cheerful. I felt like I needed a good cry, but couldn’t think of a single good reason for needing one.

Humans Sometimes Feel Sad

There was a time I’d have berated myself and demanded I find my cheerful, sunny outlook and stop feeling sorry for myself. But what I’m feeling isn’t self-pity. It’s plainly and simply, sadness. My sadness isn’t for anyone. It isn’t because of anything. It just is. I feel stuck, but I’m not sure where or why I’m stuck. Nothing is really wrong, and nothing is not right either. It makes no sense.

I’ve learned there are times I’ll be sad like this for no apparent reason. It is part of being human and having lived a few decades. Few people get through 4 or 5 decades without some kind of loss whether it’s death, breakup, divorce, or some kind of tragedy that shakes you down to the soles of your feet.

I’m halfway through my sixth decade, and I’ve had my share of heartache and trauma. I’ve developed coping skills and mechanisms, and in the last couple of decades, I’ve cracked myself open and released some of the ones which were doing me more harm than good. I suspect there are still a few buried even more deeply which I’ve yet to exhume and exorcise.

Being sad for no apparent reason is part of the process. Sometimes I just have to be sad and not try to analyze it (though for me that’s a tall order). I have to accept the sadness and let it run its course, doing my best to get things done while it makes me shy away from human contact at a time when I probably need it more than ever. Old habits die hard, and I am still reluctant to expose others to me when I’m no fun to be around. I still believe when I’m sad I’m a buzz kill, and make people uncomfortable. So I isolate.

A Time for Mindless Tasks

The day wasn’t a total loss, or to be honest, a loss at all. I got my clothes and bedding washed Created with Canvaand put away, a blog post finished and another written, a few more pages in a new Julia Cameron book read, and I meditated. I even spent some time doing a brain dump in hopes it would help me find causality—to no avail. Perhaps I’m not supposed to know why; I’m just supposed to accept a part of my cycle that isn’t entirely pleasant to experience, but must be lived through anyway.

But songs like “Desperado”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “I Am A Rock”, and even “Country Roads” have me staring t the computer screens with my mind drifting down paths I try really hard to avoid, forgetting my own exhortations about having to feel the feels.

I speak of Universal head slaps on occasion. Those times when I’ve failed to get the message, so to speak, and the Universe gives me a painful nudge. I just wish I knew what I’d missed; what feels I’d failed to feel in my typical oblivious fashion. What clues did I miss that are now coming back to drag me into the pits of despair with no valid reason for going there?

I can only trust the answers will come when I stop poking at the wound I can’t see; stop chasing the dream that, like a butterfly, flits further from my reach the more I pursue it. Sometimes, the best answer is to let go and allow whatever it is to rise to the surface when it’s good and ready. I only wish I was the patient sort.

A Little Gratitude Never Hurts

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned which allow me to let the feelings come, even when it means being patient; another lesson I’m still trying to master.
  2. I am grateful for regular dance nights, and time with friends.
  3. I am grateful for a social life that means I rarely spend more than a day or two alone.
  4. I am grateful for Trello which helps me schedule not only the work I want to do, but the self-care as well.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, motivation, inspiration, self-care, peace, health, 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

Change Your Mindset, Change How the Year Ends

Mindset Matters, Especially as We Leave an Old Year Behind we leave not only another year, but another decade behind us, I see people posting how grateful they are to put 2019 behind them. A year ago, many of us were grateful to put the horrors and tragedies of 2018 behind us. Is this how we look at our years, marching one behind the other in perfect rhythm? 365 (and sometimes 366) days we trudge through thinking: “If I can just get through this year, next year will be better”? If so, it’s a truly sad state of affairs.

Why, when a year is winding down do we focus on the times we fell instead of the times we got back up and kept going? When did our failures become more important; more memorable than our triumphs?

I have friends on social media who have beautiful families, rewarding jobs, incredible talents and gifts. Yet I’ve had to hide their posts because invariably, they focus on the days they have a headache, or their back hurts, or they had to spend the day in meetings instead of doing what they love. I have to tell you, though I have my bad days too, I don’t typically feel obliged to drag everyone who reads my page down with me. Trust me. Misery does not love company. It’s an excuse to wallow longer instead of getting up and doing something productive, fun, or both.

Looking for Glimmers of Hope

I’d rather look back on a year (even some of my most horrid) and find at least a tiny glimmer of Consciousness On the Risehope; a small kernel of joy mixed in with all the crap I may have had to shovel. I’ve learned I’ll always find what I’m looking for.

In what I mockingly refer to as “the divorce years”, finding joy and hope wasn’t always an easy task. But I didn’t really have to look far to find it. It was in the faces of my daughters; in the laughter we shared; the hugs, the silliness, the togetherness. I might not have conquered the world during those years, or left any noticeable mark, but I found a way to laugh once in awhile, and more importantly, put one foot in front of the other even on days when I wanted to pull the covers over my head and disappear.

Having my mother end her life as Divorce Year 2 was winding to a close could have been a huge setback. Instead, even then I found a way to be grateful. Her demise was one less pressure I had to field in a world where I walked a very fine line between sanity and my final breaking point on the best of days. It left me with one less ball to juggle, and bit of much-needed breathing room.

Allowing Myself to Feel But Not To Wallow

That’s not to say all the emotions I unconsciously packed away and ignored for several years were going to stay buried, but by the time they came bursting forth in all their technicolor glory, I was in a better place to deal with them, and to finally feel those feelings. I won’t lie to you and say it was a pleasurable experience, but it was both necessary and cathartic. Once the worst of it was over, I felt like a new woman, even knowing I’d spend the rest of my life revisiting feelings, though from a stronger stance from then on.

Perhaps that’s why I take issue with people thinking they’ve left the worst behind. The events we experience in any given year of our lives remain with us on an emotional level. Some are a heavy, wet blanket, while others are a mere glimmer which occasionally grows brighter when the memory is triggered. Some changed our lives forever.

When something does change the trajectory of our lives, I’ve learned there is a reason, even if what changed it is as horrible as losing a child, a home, or several members of a close-knit community. I’ve watched it happen in the last year or so, as people have used their grief to raise awareness of mental health, suicide, depression, and compassion. Granted, they were subjects many of us were already talking about, but the causes were greatly elevated by the tragedies.

Helping Other Trauma Survivors

Many of the people who are speaking out and bringing causes like Give An Hour into our lives in a huge way could easily have crawled into that dark hole I mentioned, coming out only to complain about how awful their life is, and how glad they are to see another miserable year pass into the history books. The fact is, they didn’t. They used their own grief to help make the world better for someone else; someone they’ll probably never meet or even know exists. They’ve also been honest enough to admit sometimes they’re not OK, and need to withdraw and be not OK for a little while before getting up and carrying on.

Unlike so many, I look at 2019, and the entire decade as a period when I triumphed over adversity time and time again. I grew as a person, and opened up about my own horrible experiences, not by asking people to help me feel sorry for myself, but by trying to understand the lessons in the experiences and share them with others who might find them useful.

A side effect to my choices came unexpectedly. I discovered that sharing my experiences actually made me more approachable, so the years between 2010 and 2019 have broadened my circle of friends, and expanded my chosen family. My daughter, son-in-law, and I initiated the Conaway-Hewes After Thanksgiving Feast which just passed it’s 5th year.

Using My Pain for the Greater Good

The way I see it, you can take the body slams life gives you as an excuse to crawl into your turtle shell and stay there. If so, you’ll always bemoan the small things each new year brings and miss out on all the joyful ones. Or you can be a Phoenix rising from each pile of ashes, knowing what was burnt down had run it’s course, or needed to give you a reason to do something on a grander level.

As the tragedies and traumas in my life have broken me loose from patterns which needed to be changed, I’ve learned to take the lesson and do my best to leave the pain behind me. Rather than risk being accused of sounding cavalier, I’ll admit I didn’t leave the pain behind right away, and some of it still comes back to haunt me from time to time. What I have done, and what others are doing even better than I is to use that pain to propel me forward.

Pain can make you more compassionate, or it can harden you to the consistency of bedrock. Though the choice might seem out-of-reach at first, the choice truly is yours. Wallow in misery if you must. I choose compassion every time, after having spent too many years being miserable, angry, sad, and alone.

The Healing Powers of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve been given.
  2. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met who show me the good that can come from tragedy.
  3. I’m grateful for the people who show me what I could have been had I failed to make the choices I did when my life was in turmoil.
  4. I’m grateful for my friends, my community, and my adopted family. I know what love isn’t.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, compassion, support, community, celebration, life, giving, cherishing, belonging, 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

Crooked Road to a Life Filled with Joy

A Face Filled With Joy to Light Up a Room

There’s a woman I see out dancing quite often who literally exudes waves of joy wherever she goes. Yet when I read the poetry she drops into Facebook, I can also feel the pain she’s experiencing as a physical ache. My first thought in recognizing the dichotomy is she uses joy to hide her broken parts.

Taking a step back, I realize it’s not an accurate portrayal. This lovely, fairy-like woman has certainly had her share of pain. She’s experienced loss, betrayal, and perhaps even abuse at various points in her life. She has chosen not to let those parts define her. Though her wings may have been broken or bent time and time again, she refuses to wallow or even allow the pain to encompass her being and affect others.

Instead, she uses the hardships as the building blocks of the firm foundation she continually creates for herself. The broken bits become pieces that are just the right size to fill in cracks or strengthen gaps with an extra layer of mortar. Perhaps she recycles the broken parts, grinding them into powder, then mixing them with glue or epoxy so it flows easily into the hairline fractures life gives her before they widen into chasms.

I suspect the process itself has come from her experiences. Once, she allowed those cracks to widen until some became seemingly insurmountable chasms. Like many of us, she did her share of wallowing before she found her strength and learned what didn’t break her has made her so much stronger than she ever imagined.

Searching for My Inner Light

I’ve not yet learned to be the ball of light and energy she has, but my own path has allowed me learn the broken pieces have value. I’ve used my own to strengthen a wobbly foundation. I’ve added strength to myself, and been a rock for others at times. I’ve also learned to allow others to be a rock for me when my own strength falters.

I suspect her light, like mine is made up of millions of tiny prism pieces gathered not only from her own broken bits, but from the countless others she’s helped when they needed a light through their own darkness. Those prism pieces shine all the brighter for having been forged of love and tempered by life.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that nobody has to trudge through life alone. It’s OK to ask for help, and in fact, when you ask for help, you’re giving someone else the opportunity to be of service; to give of themselves. You need to break off pieces of yourself to help others get through the tough times. But in so doing, you end up with pieces of them as well.

A Heart Made of Millions of Prism Pieces

I believe by the time you reach adulthood, assuming you weren’t raised with the misconception you were better off standing alone, that your heart is made up of millions of little pieces of the people, places, and animals you touched on your journey. It’s those pieces which truly make you whole, not holding onto your own as if losing a single one will shatter you into a million irreparable pieces.

Yet that’s what I believed for the first 4 or 5 decades of my life. It was what my family taught me, and the times I’d been broken had given me no reason to question those lessons. Each time, I put myself back together as best I could, little realizing I was building on a disintegrating foundation each time, and setting myself up for the next disaster. I built fragile structures on top of each other, unaware that at some point, the whole thing would come crashing down, and I’d be unable to find a single solid piece on which to build.

That day came in my mid-40’s. I was alone, angry, sad, and clueless as to how I could come through the latest series of disasters in anything resembling wholeness. In truth, I’d never been whole, so I didn’t even know what it looked like. Nevertheless, I craved wholeness as most humans do. It wasn’t until a few years later I realized in order to find that wholeness, I had to finish shattering. Most of all, I had to shatter all the false beliefs I’d been given.

No Longer Working From Flawed Beliefs

I think my mom’s suicide was my first indication the belief system I’d been given was flawed. had slowly become a toxic combination of resentment, disrespect, and annoyance was my ineffectual way of disengaging from my family without a safety net, or any idea what to connect to instead. For several years, my only real connections were my two daughters, and by then, they were at an age where they were trying to establish their own boundaries and rules.

Needless to say, I was adrift in unfamiliar waters without the ability to guide my vessel, or any idea where to guide it if I could. It wasn’t long before I lost the ability or even the desire to hide my seemingly unstoppable rush downstream and over the falls. With nothing left to lose, certain I was about to crash and burn in spectacular fashion, I threw caution to the winds. I admitted I didn’t have all the answers, my life was far from perfect, and by god, I was tired of pretending.

I’d like to say it was like finding the drain plug just as the place was about to flood, but it actually took awhile for me to even recognize my life was changing for the better. At first, I simply wrote and shared my thoughts, encouraged by my daughter. Initially, my words were like dipping a toe into a pond, then pulling it back quickly before anyone noticed or commented.

Everyone Struggles Until They Learn to Ask for Help

As comments came and were for the most part positive and encouraging, I became braver, sharing what my parents would have considered intimate details. I learned others simply considered it opening up and allowing myself to not only appear, but be human; to be someone others could actually relate to instead of a barren mask of feigned perfection.

I learned everyone struggles, everyone falls, and everyone hurts at one time or another. While those like me keep breaking, and never really fix themselves, but instead, set one more illusion; one more glamour in place, the ones who truly grow have learned to say: “Yes, I’m broken, but it’s only temporary.” In the immortal words of the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

When I first began to lower my masks, though, I had no real friends. My relationships, such as they were, were as superficial as I was. I was surfaced in glass with no way to lock on. Those first forays made from behind the safety of my computer screen were downright terrifying. Once they started reaching the people I saw regularly, but who’d never really seen me, it got easier. To their credit, they found ways to connect to me until I learned from their example how to do some of the connecting myself.

Learning to Give Without Reservation

Slowly, I allowed the words to come out of my mouth instead of my fingers. I hugged with complete abandon instead of the reserve I’d been taught. I stopped being afraid people would be disgusted by the raw, brokenness of my bare face, and learned true love and acceptance came from the gift I gave them by sharing my imperfections as it allowed them to share their own just as freely.

So when I see someone like this beautiful, fairy-like, joyful creature dancing her way into everyone’s hearts with an ethereal glow on her face, I know it’s the result of many breakings, and an open and willing heart which keeps allowing others to help her fit the pieces back together, better and stronger for the experience. I only hope someday I’ll carry the same glow and light up a room the way she does.

Gratitude is My Strongest Building Block

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for wood nymphs, fairies, and sprites in human form who spread joy liberally and with complete abandon.
  2. I’m grateful for everyone who has been patient with me as I unlearned the things which isolated me to make room for those which allow me to be an active member of a community.
  3. I’m grateful for the free flow of words and ideas which never fails me as long as I put fingers to keys.
  4. I’m grateful for all of my broken pieces which have gone into making other people stronger.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, light, joy, friendship, compassion, kindness, dancing, acceptance, 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

Triggered by Suicide…Again

Triggers Bring Memories and Healing someone to suicide means spending the rest of your life remembering. Though the daily reminders might fade as the years go by, you never know when someone or something will bring the memories flooding back; memories of what was, but also memories of what could have been.

At the end of this month, it will be 26 years since my mom ended her life. Unlike many who lose someone to suicide, my mom and I weren’t close. In fact, I’d say we had more of a love-hate relationship. The one thing the years have done is to soften the hard edges of our conflicted love and allow me to see past her hard shell to the woman she hid from the world. Sometimes though, my new-found compassion and gentler love for the woman who gave me life, and ultimately took her own means a trigger hits me harder for the years it’s lain dormant. It’s a harsh reminder I have feelings yet to unpack, address, and release.

This time, it happened while driving past the town where I grew up. So much has changed. Even new freeway off ramps have been added in the decades since we first moved there. Miles of previously empty land is now filled with car dealerships and office buildings. Still, memories of a childhood spent running, hiking, and biking through land where deer and rabbits ran freely,  over faint paths few feet had yet to traverse erase signs of progress, After spending my first 12 years in an area surrounded by buildings and concrete sidewalks, I can still see the verdant green hills I mostly took for granted as a teenager. 

Time Blurs the Edges of My Memories

My mind didn’t only see the land for what it once was, but my life as well. It stripped away all ugliness; the fights, the angry words, the years I barely spoke to my mom, leaving a bone-deep sadness. She only stayed around for 6 years of her granddaughters’ lives, though I know she absolutely adored them, and loved being a grandmother.

Forgetting for a moment how much she drove me crazy when it came to my daughters, I wondered how different things might be. Those thoughts pause with my youngest. We’ve been estranged for years, and I don’t really know her 10-year-old daughter. Would Mom’s presence have made a difference when I struggled with 2 headstrong teenagers pushing hard for the freedom of adulthood far too soon?

I spent 16 years denying any feelings for my mom’s passing other than guilt. Guilt over not feeling sad; for fighting too much and listening too little; for what I could have or would have done differently had I known how much she was struggling. For 16 years I avoided the need inside myself to acknowledge the deeper feelings of loss, abandonment, and grief.

Letting Go to Let People Help

In the last 10 years, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into unpacking those feelings; acknowledging some, denying others. I’ve shared many of them, and learned there are many others who need a non-judgemental ear, but didn’t know where to look. Breaking the seal on my own belief system concerning suicide and mental health has benefited me more than anyone, and not just by releasing pent-up feelings. I get to hear other peoples’ stories and struggles too. They’ve been a tremendous help in teaching me how to accept my own feelings without beating myself up, or hearing my dad’s voice saying; “You shouldn’t feel like that.” Words I tried hard to live up to in my false belief it would make him love me, and actually show it with kindness instead of ridicule.

In the process, I’ve had to recognize and accept the wagon load of anger I’ve been carrying towards my dad for failing to fill the void of love I believed I lost from my mom when my sister was born. I had to learn he loved me the best he could, and showed it as he’d been taught to show love. That the criticism and ridicule he’d been taught by his own parents tore away at my fragile self-esteem escaped his notice. He didn’t know how to see it. Nor did he see how hard I tried to live up to his impossible standards which, in hindsight, I don’t think he managed either. We both learned to hide it well. The tragedy is, he never learned he could stop hiding.

I’ve gained a lot while unpacking and sharing my feelings over the least decade. The greatest gift has been loving and supportive friends. Being able to accept and embrace my Empathic abilities has been a huge part of the process. More and more, I get to see the people around me opening up to theirs as well, and it strengthens our connection in ways which often surprise me.

A Time To Isolate and Process

There are still times I need to withdraw; to go inside and process my latest revelation or trigger. I’ll find myself alone in a crowd as I did the night this trigger hit—drifting from one group to the next, isolating for a few minutes, getting lost in a line dance; one only with the music and the floor beneath my feet. For the most part, each trigger reminds me of the need to keep working through feelings as they arise no matter when, where, or how. There’s no longer an option to put it off until it’s convenient. I’ve learned feelings are never convenient, and the more I stuffed them down, the less convenient they became. I have my share of meltdowns to prove that one!

Though it took awhile, I’ve learned to see the blessings more than the traumas, and that some of those traumas were necessary. I’m not the woman I was 26 years ago when mom let her demons win. Nor am I the woman I was when dad did the same 10 years later. Growth has come in stages. First I had to learn to love myself. It was probably my biggest hurdle given the number of years I’d failed to measure up to my parents’ expectations.

I spent decades telling myself I didn’t care, but the only person I might have deceived was myself, and in hindsight, that’s unlikely. Deep down inside where I stuffed all my feelings, fooling myself into believing they’d stay put, was someone who saw through all the subterfuge and attempts at self-preservation. After all, my very sanity was at stake.

Finding the Validation I Needed From Within

The voices in my head, not unlike the ones I’m sure my parents fought, never let me forget how close I came to losing it on many occasions. But do you know what? They’ve grown softer since I started acknowledging the buried feelings; not only the ones since my parents’ suicides, but the ones I tried to ignore from childhood all the way into my 40’s. Like the child I was; desperate for a demonstrative love my parents were incapable of giving, the child inside me wanted nothing more or less than to have her feelings acknowledged and validated. Only in recent years have I discovered, thanks to a lot of soul-searching and a seemingly endless flow of triggers, that all the validation I need—that I’ve ever needed is, and always will be inside myself.

This may sound weird, but in a lot of ways, I’m grateful for my parents’ suicides. They cut me loose from a lot of unrealistic expectations and allowed me to eventually start finding my own way. It gave me a chance to love and accept myself for who I am and realize I didn’t need to perpetuate old familial patterns.

They also cut me loose from a family which knew no better than my parents. Being abandoned by the rest of my family for decades turned out to be the most valuable gift I received. It gave me time, space, and new examples of the woman I wanted to be when the dust cleared and the walls crumbled. It allowed me to become part of a healthier, happier family of friends who are helping me find the person I’m meant to be without judgement or expectations.

Building a Life of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for triggers that help me learn, acknowledge, release, and move on.
  2. I’m grateful for supportive friends who’ve been through their own hell to learn to accept their feelings as valid and valuable.
  3. I’m grateful for a daughter with whom I can speak openly and honestly, even when we’re polar opposites in our beliefs.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve learned to accept the times I need to go inside and muddle through the latest batch of feelings without letting the process overwhelm me.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, triggers, lessons, challenges, opportunities, growth, empathy, compassion, 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

A Matter of Perspective

We See Family From Our Own Perspective

I ran into a fellow member of the dance community at our local county fair one night. We were reminiscing about the “good old days”. He told me the thing he misses most is the feeling of family that existed in the early 2000’s when there were parties and gatherings outside of just the dance venue. I listened but didn’t have much to contribute because I wasn’t part of the “family” he remembered during that period of time.

The truth is, I feel more of that family connection now, and have for the last 3 or 4 years, maybe a couple more. Before that, I didn’t have more than a couple of phone numbers, or connections on social media. I didn’t see any of my dance “friends” outside of our regular Thursdays and Saturday nights. I could probably count the people I called “friend” as opposed to “acquaintance” on one hand and have fingers left over.

I used to envy those who clearly had a connection that went beyond dancing. I saw people making plans, or coming in after having dinner together; sharing lives, holidays, vacations, and bonds I didn’t understand. From my perspective at the time, no one wanted to have that kind of connection with me.

I’ve since learned, to quote an old and tired relationship-ending phrase out of context, it wasn’t them, it was me. Many of those people were probably reaching out to me, but my rough, defensive, knee-jerk responses told them I was neither approachable nor amenable to sharing more of my life with them. After awhile, they moved on, leaving me oblivious to their efforts to include me.

You Have to First Open the Door

It wasn’t until I lowered my walls and offered up a bit of myself that things began change. I let people see that much of my unconscious defensiveness was my way of hiding the pain I’d been taught never to let anyone see. The false set of beliefs I’d been given from birth said no one wanted to know I struggled with anything unless they were going to use it to take advantage of me. In short, my early education was as riddled with holes as Swiss cheese.

I developed a version of “normal” which was about as far removed from reality as that of anyone who’s grown up in a dysfunctional family. Granted, we all have at least a bit of dysfunctionality in our lives, but I’m talking about extremes.

For example, I grew up believing that having a few drinks every evening, and drinking to excess at social gatherings was normal. I didn’t share the desire exhibited by my parents and their peers, so I thought there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until decades later I learned I wasn’t the one who had a problem. It was one of many reasons I didn’t fit in with my own family, and I’d learned to accept it as part of my reality.

Making Connections is a Learned Talent

Created with CanvaNot making real, deep connections was another part of my reality I believed was normal. My parents certainly had people I’d call close friends, but in hindsight, I think that closeness was simply a product of similar outlooks, and a common belief in self-medicating to escape a harsh reality. I don’t think they shared their vulnerability with each other, and frankly, they’d have been horrified at the suggestion. They wouldn’t have been comfortable on the giving or receiving end of something so deeply personal and honest. In their minds any raw emotions they shared while under the influence could be explained away by the alcohol.

The point of this post wasn’t to wander down memory lane and wake up the ghosts. It was to recognize how differently two people can see the same time and place. Borderline is probably medium-sized when it comes to bars; not a tiny, dark, hole-in-the-wall, but not a giant venue where thousands can gather on a busy night either. To be honest, for those of us who frequented it regularly, it was just right. (OK, so maybe we’d have liked a bigger dance floor, but for socializing purposes, it was perfect).

How each person views an event or situation is largely dependent on their own history. How you’re raised is, of course, a huge factor. You’re also influenced by painful, if not traumatic events. How you navigated those events, and the person you became once you’d healed (assuming you did), or established coping mechanisms affects not only how you see things, but how you interact with others.

Do You Build Walls or Bridges?

I know I’m not alone in building enormous walls, and creating coping which shield me, not only from the cruelties of life, but also from the things which bring joy, delight, and pleasure. The trouble is, while living in that seemingly pain-free place, you miss out on how a gathering place can take on the feel of a loving, accepting, non-judgemental family; something many of us weren’t fortunate enough to know.

Granted, I’ve met a few people in the last few years whose early lives make mine look look like summer camp. I’ve also learned it’s not about comparisons, but how you come through your own personal storms. Some learn to live better than they were taught. Others spend their lives huddled in a turtle shell, poking their heads out a little at a time until a painful moment sends them scurrying back inside where it’s safe—albeit desperately lonely.

Reaching Out to Those Who Instinctively Hide

Part of my purpose in writing posts like this is to hopefully reach some of those who believe as I once did that hiding away is the only solution. That avoiding pain at all costs is their only choice. I learned the hard way that you can’t hide from pain. You might avoid a lot of what could be inflicted by others, but you wall yourself away with your own demons. Often, that’s far worse than anything the outside world might inflict.

There’s a level of joy and comfort in human interaction that can’t be felt inside your own walls; inside your turtle shell. Sure, if you’ve never experienced it, you might say you won’t miss it. But I’m here to tell you, you do.

You miss it every time you see other people connecting, and know you’re not part of that connection. Your heart breaks a little more as you watch your friendly acquaintances plan get-togethers without you. The more you’re left out of opportunities to connect and bond, the darker your world behind those walls becomes.

Sometimes the Reward is Worth the Initial Pain

I won’t lie and tell you it was easy to break down those walls, nor that I’m Photo: David Derong/Iowa State Dailyanywhere close to finishing the job. It was, however, the best gift I ever gave myself. Coming out from behind those walls and becoming a true part of my community has brought me immeasurable joy. Just having people like a security guard at the fair remember me for my friendliness, even 2 years and hundreds of thousands of people later makes the pain of demolishing those walls worth it.

In conclusion, you don’t know how many lives you touch when you’re closed off from the world, much less, when you allow yourself to become an active participant. You leave an impression regardless. It’s up to you whether it will be one people remember fondly, and that brings a smile to their face and warmth to their heart, or one they remember as cold and off-putting.

Between you and me, I love knowing an encounter with me was pleasant enough for someone to remember years later, and that the memory brings a smile to their face.

Grateful for Every Little Thing Every Single Day

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I chose a little pain so I could experience a lot of pleasure.
  2. I’m grateful for the positive impressions I’ve left on people in recent years.
  3. I’m grateful for the sense of family I enjoy with my community.
  4. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my own life, in hopes someone will relate and see they have choices.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, joy, community, music, solitude, insight, inspiration, motivation, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Happy Dates When Our Hearts Lead the Way

Switching My Attention to Happy Dates

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

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

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

Telling Our Brain to Back Off And Let Our Heart Lead

Admittedly, our brains like pain because it means we stagnate, avoiding change and crawling into our status quo cave. But when we listen to our ‘fraidy cat brain, I think our gentle heart breaks a little more each time we deny ourselves the pleasure of a little adventure; a little change. Sure, our hearts break when we try new things that don’t work out, but it’s a resilient sort, and knits itself back together each time, especially if we give it something new to focus on.

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

Perfection is a Poor Disguise

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

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

Taking the Lessons and Leaving the Pain Behind

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

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

Go Ahead, Live the Adventure be honest, I’m probably one of the least adventurous of my friends. One man in his 70’s still takes off on his motorcycle every week just for fun. He plans trips to Europe with friends where they ride all over the countryside, and he’s not looking to stop his adventures any time soon.

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

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

My Pushme-Pullyou Lifestyle

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

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

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

Fitting In By Being You

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

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

Grateful Every Single Day For Things Large and Small

My gratitudes today are:

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

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Is Old Baggage Weighing You Down?

Baggage From Our Past Can Haunt Us For Years the time we reach adulthood, we’ve experienced a lot of things which can and do weigh us down and hold us back—if we allow them to. We don’t always realize we’re hanging on to the old crap until we find ourselves triggered by past events and wallowing over something old, moldy, and no longer useful.

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

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

Past Traumas Can Drive an Empath Crazy

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

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

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

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

Reaching Out For Help

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

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

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

Turning Curses Into Blessings

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

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

Understanding Anger at its Source

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

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

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

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

Finding Gratitude at Every Turn

My gratitudes today are:

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

Love and Light


About the Author

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

Pain Won’t Respect Our Walls

Pain and Trauma Make Repeat Performances

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

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

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

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

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

Letting People Down When We Hide From Our Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Are Never Truly Alone

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

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

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

Finding Our Community in Our Differences

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

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

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

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

Knowing We Always Have Something to Be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

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

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats, suicide survivors, mental health, and depression. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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