Breathe! It will be okay.

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Horses hold heart space like no other creature I have ever encountered.  For anyone they will hold space in a profound way, and especially for one who have they have decided is worthy of their trust and their attention and their hearts.    Tonight, I was radically reminded of the powerful way a horse can hold quiet, solid space even as deep emotions swirl around them.  Tonight, I allowed myself to let go, trust and collapse into the heart space of a horse.  I am in awe of the gift I was given.

A year ago, we could barely get near Penny, the sweet, little lesson pony who came to Avalon with clear evidence of some significant trauma having happened to her at some point in her life.  She desperately wanted to connect with people.  She desperately wanted to believe that the gestures of patience, love and healing were real.  But it took her months and months of quietness before she stopped flinching every time someone came near her, especially around her head.  It’s only been in the past three months or so that she gives into the bliss of being rubbed on her head and her ears.  Now, she calls to everyone who comes near and is often the first to say hello.    Her fear has turned into a trusting choice to believe that people really do want the very best for and will only shower her with love here.

Well tonight, this sweet, little thing stood with all the confidence of 100 horses as I stood with my head buried in her neck sobbing my heart out.  Not only did she stand there with her heart wide open to me, she made it very clear to the other two horses in the field to back the hell off as she became my shield.   They weren’t doing anything except being curious and wanting to love on me too, but for that time, I was 100% hers to breathe with and they weren’t allowed in.  Considering she is one of the most gentle, forgiving, laid back ponies I’ve ever seen in a herd this was quite stunning.  She quietly made it crystal clear that she was creating the heart bubble space for me to just let go and cry.   That is what horses do when they show up to hold heart space for a person.  Penny stood there with me hanging all over her, sobbing, and all she did was breathe.  She did this even to the point of taking a huge inhalation and letting it audibly go as if to say “Lara, I have got you!!  Until you can breathe deeply again, I will do it for you. Just let go as much as you need to. You are safe. You are loved.  You are not alone. I am HERE!”

With all of the amazing blessings that are present in my life right now and I am deeply grateful for, emotionally I am in a very dark season of my life.  The number of unresolved things from the past several years that I am becoming aware of how deep some of the hurts run is kind of stunning.  One after the other they are bubbling up and out.    I’ve been trying to just keep moving, not write or speak about it, and just stay focused on all of the positives.  Well now, I am planning to keep moving and to stay focused on the positives, and I am also going to start writing and speaking again about what is REALLY going on for me.

I am at my very best when I am writing my truth.  I am at my very worst when I am not giving myself permission to write and speak my truth but rather I allow some random (sometimes imagined) others to dictate what I should write and share.    I am at my very best when I am being honest about my struggles and my pain.  I am at my very worst when I try to just put on a happy face and act as if everything is ok.  I am at my very best when I name my fears out loud, then breathe right through them as I bravely take my next best step.  I am at my very worst when I try to act as if there is nothing to be afraid of and I just need to focus on something else.  I am at my very best when I find joy in the simplest of things and share that with the world as if I have found the most amazing treasure. I am at my worst when I think the lens through which I view the world is silly or unnecessary.  I am at my very, very, very best when I stay in this time and this moment and live out loud whatever is showing up for me RIGHT NOW.

Horses mirror back to us what is really and truly going on inside of us.  And they bring hearts of love energy that is bigger than anything we can really imagine.  Tonight, in this time and in this moment I am deeply grateful for a sweet little pony who held my heart with fierce, unwavering love.  I am breathing deeper. I am opening my heart up to my most authentic journey. And I know I will not only be okay, I AM OKAY!

 

Cuckoo Luckoo Land – I’ve Walked Here Before

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I am not stronger than you. I am not living with some magical power special only to me.  I am not doing “okay” because I live in a fantasy world.  I am not better than anyone else out there trying to make sense out of what is happening in our world right now.  I am no less afraid than others who are doing all they can to keep the demons at bay.  I feel no less in control or less helpless than many of us are feeling.  I feel no less confused and spun around like a top out of control than anyone else.

I am feeling hopeful because I have walked this road before.   We are all, as an entire world, in the middle of Cuckoo Luckoo Land, in the most radical experience of collective shock, loss and grieving the world has probably ever witnessed.     We are all in the place I described so long ago when I first stepped into the rabbit hole with Russell that dropped me into a dark world.  It’s like Alice’s Wonderland only wayyy darker and more confusing.   What I wrote 5 years ago of my experience of this place after Russell got sick and died is eerily true of what our world finds itself collectively living in today.

In Cuckoo Luckoo Land, not only are things bizarre and weird, but even the most joyous of events like birthdays and holidays are twined up with pain, confusion, and grief.  It is such a bizarro place.  What’s up is down. What’s in is over. What’s under is out. What’s out is in between.  There are no clear opposites.  There is no straight forward path to get from here to there.  There is a little of everything in life – light, darkness, pain, joy, hope, despair, love, loss – and you never know which  you will find as wander the dark, twisty paths of this place. It’s simply Cuckoo Luckoo!

Walking along through life, in this new reality, we don’t know where the next rabbit hole might be.  Just when we think we have a “new normal” figured out, the world spins and down the hole we go again.  These are the hidden places that we drop into, often sliding as fast as lightning down into a warren of twisted up paths.  The trip down into a hole feels like someone suddenly and without warning has pushed us down a really steep slide greased with oil.  It is almost impossible to do anything on this slide but breathe.  In this space we can feel like we must be on hallucinogenic drugs, as everything is very, very twisted up and confusing in this space.  Following one path that seems to be going forward can lead to a multitude of paths going in every direction.

Am I less afraid and more awake because I am stronger than you?   NO.  I feel less afraid and feel more awake because this Land is soooo familiar to me.  I know that those dark corners just around the bend don’t necessarily hold more things to fear, but might actually hold the answers we just can’t see yet.  The whispers in the dark aren’t always the demons of our fear and our nightmares.  Some of those whispers in the dark, are the wisdom and warrior parts of ourselves seeking to remind us that we are far stronger than we’ve ever imagined.

I walk this time with confidence because I know, I mean REALLY KNOW, that I can survive walking through this place and even find ways to thrive.  I believe I walk with less fear strangling me each day because I was offered the gift of grieving within a community and surrounded with abundant love for so long that my heart felt like it was that love acting as a light to lead my way through the dark paths of Cuckoo Luckoo Land.  I have walked this place before and survived what once seemed unimaginable to survive.

Am I afraid? Oh yes, I am.   The thoughts of fear about $, getting sick, others getting sick, when will the answers come,  how long will this last, etc., etc. niggle at my mind and my heart.  When those fears take hold of me I escape to Netflix or scrolling Facebook and Pinterest, or eating too much.   But, do I know I can survive my fear?   OH HELL YES!  I stand in this knowing I am a Warrior for love and hope BECAUSE I have walked in Cuckoo Luckoo Land before and I have come out the other side.

I didn’t survive because I was stronger than anyone else.  I survived because I have gathered tools and wisdom along my life journey that could help me navigate through the darkest of paths.  I have learned to feel my feelings and focus just on my breath alone until I have the strength to move forward to the next place.  I know the power of being willing to give and receive love and help from others along the way.  I know how to listen to what feels okay for ME and tap into what is good and tap out of what isn’t without feeling the need to explain why to anyone.

The journey we are on is not a straight forward one.   It will twist and turn and flip us all around as we learn to navigate this new reality.  We will move through shock and fear and anger and helplessness and joy and determination sadness and hope and loss and defeat and gratitude and grief and love, over and over and over and over again.   Slowly but surely we will learn how to survive in this cuckoo luckoo space of time. We will figure out how much we need each other and how strong we really can be.  We will walk this road together.

Though radically different circumstances, I have walked this road in Cuckoo Luckoo Land before and I have come out the other side.   The path ahead of us maybe a very long, twisty, dark one but I am ready to walk with you every step of the way, sharing my tools with any who want them.  I believe in our strength and our resilience and can see the glimmers of light on the other side.  I believe we are not alone and that we will one day walk out of this place.   I believe because I stand here having survived this place before.

A Little Secret

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I’m going to let you all in on a little secret, a secret that keeps me stuck in more ways than I can decipher even for myself somedays. I experience massive anxiety most days. I’ve always leaned towards being an introvert, but the anxiety I’ve experienced in varying ways since Russell died leaves me wishing desperately somedays I could be a hermit, on a beach, talking to no one for days on end.

When I’m with people I love being with them, especially if it’s my kids. When I talk to people on the phone I love the conversations. But, I’m not going to lie, I could seriously be alone in my house for a VERY long time before feeling any desire to talk to anyone. And it can take A LOT of psyching myself up for even one interaction.

I don’t feel the anxiety until I know I’m about to leave the house or make the phone call. And the anxiety eases fairly quickly once I’m actually engaged in conversation with someone. When I’m experiencing it, it’s like trying to walk through quicksand with wader boots filled with concrete. Some periods of time are worse than others but it can shift randomly. But always it’s there waiting to invite me deeper into silent aloneness.

Most of the quotes and memes I share each day are what I NEED to read just to keep myself moving. I WILL create my best life and my biggest obstacle is myself.

I’ve got this and so do you!

Time Outs

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Sometimes there can be no words. Or at least no adequate words to say to someone when a curve ball of life has been thrown at them.  Especially if it is someone who’s black and blue already from trying to dodge a lot. In those times when yet one more thing has happened all we can do is be there, give them a hug, and walk alongside them.

I’m also learning that during these times of dodging and weaving I need to step away for a while to regroup and re-center myself before I try to engage too much with people around.  Take a quick time out isn’t just for little kids who’ve done something they weren’t supposed to do.  Time outs give us a chance to say to the world “I just can’t right now. Give me a few minutes to reset my brain, my heart, and my body.”

As adults we often think we need to just suck it up and keep moving.  Allowing ourselves to take a time out can leave some of us (me for sure sometimes) feeling weak and ineffective.  However I’m coming to realize that time outs are one of the easiest, best ways for us to put our self-care and our health first.  It is 100% okay to say we need to focus on our own needs first.  If we don’t do it, no one else will for us.

I’m doing a bit of dodging and weaving this weekend as is Kateri and a few others within our Avalon community. I’m betting there are a lot of folks out there dodging and weaving things being thrown at them quickly and out of nowhere.  I am encouraging us all to take time outs when we feel our inner stress level rising.  Stop, go to a quiet place, take some deep cleansing breaths, and let go.  As we allow ourselves to just settle into the moment, not trying to figure out the future in any way shape or form, perhaps we can settle into a calmer, more grounded space,  At least that is my hope my myself and all of us.

All will be well and all is well!

It is time

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This morning I opened a door, a very thick steel, doubly locked door that I’ve kept locked up inside of myself ever since Russell was in the hospital.   As that door unlocked and then flew open a flood as fierce as a tsunami wave crashed over me.  I was left sputtering as I felt battered about by waves of grief, guilt, and questions flooding over and over me.  All I could do was sit and cry as memories of the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life flashed back into my heart and mind.

I dropped temporarily (okay for most of the day) back into Cuckoo Luckoo Land – the place in which up is down, in is out, black is purple, and absolutely everything is turned inside out.  It’s been months since I traveled even a little in that land.  As my healing has continued I’ve been walking new paths of joy, staying in the moment, gratitude and celebrating what is right in my world rather than focusing on what no longer is.   But today my breath caught in my chest as I tried to not panic with the waves inside tossing me around.  I actually almost thought of running out of the house at one point before I just sat down, dove into the dark places and allowed myself to remember and feel it all.

Behind that steel door that I’ve kept carefully locked was the memory of having to make the decision to let Russell go.     But today there was nothing that was going to keep that door from opening.    As it opened I pictured it all: the rooms I sat in, the people there, the feelings of being both hot and cold at the same time, the mri scans, the papers explaining the process, and finally the paperwork that I had to sign.   While I had several people who were part of all the conversations and second opinions and asking questions and more conversations,  it was I who had to be the one to say the words and sign my name stating “It is time.”    There has never been anything harder that I have had to do.   And I pray that I never, ever have to be the one who has to make such a decision again in my life.

Tonight I sat with a dear friend as she sought guidance and information about making the decision to let go of her horse who has gone blind and we believe has tumors that are causing a steady decline in his overall health.  Thinking this morning about how I could best walk with her during this difficult time was the key that I somehow placed into that carefully locked steel door allowing the door to a secret, dark place in my heart to come into the light.

It is not the first time since Russell died that I’ve walked with others as a loved one was dying, but it is the first time since he died that I’ve chosen to walk the whole way there from the decision “It is time” until the end which will happen in a few weeks.   It is the first time that I’ve realized I still have guilt and worries around the decisions that were made 16 months ago.  I realize now there is a new area ready for my focused attention and healing.

I also realized throughout the course of my day riding the waves and trying to not drown in them, that while I still am not sure I will ever feel competent as a manager of a horse farm again (or at least not anytime soon), I do feel a very deep calling to walk with people as they seek to understand their own lives.  As I held space for my friend, talking with her about what she most needed on this final journey with her horse, I knew to the depths of my being that this is part of what I am meant to do, walk along with people through their joys, their sorrows and their own explorations of the dark places inside themselves.    Somehow in those moments I am able to let go of my own ego, my own baggage, my own fears and simply breathe with love as I hold sacred space for their journey.    This grieving, healing, loving work is what I seek to create as we build a sanctuary room at Avalon.   I think I am meant to find more ways to help people walk with both the light and the dark.

I didn’t really even know I had such a strong door locked away inside of me, but I think it was time to be opened so that I can heal and clear the next layer that needs healing.   I’m going to keep walking my path, living it out loud, and hope that I do more good than harm to those I meet along the way.  As always – in this time, this moment I try to just breathe and love.