Warrior Lara Standing Outrageously Open

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The Christmas a few months before Russell died was a low spot in my life.  Honestly, up until Russell’s entry into the hospital which ended in his death a week later it was probably the lowest spot of my life. It was definitely the lowest spot in our relationship.  We were struggling to find any joy in one another and had determined that after the holidays we would have to have some very hard conversations about how to move forward in ways that were healthy for each of us and for our family.  It was a dark time with very little glimmers of hope sustaining us.

That Christmas my mom gave me the book Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver.  In it she inscribed the words pictured here naming me, I think for the first time, Warrior Lara.  I remember how much that naming rang with truth and rightness as I read it.   It felt like a mantle of strength and power was laid upon my shoulders with all the love that a mother can bestow upon her children.  Warrior Lara – yes that is who is needed for the dark journeys into the soul.  A warrior infused with light, love, knowing all she needs to know, a protectress, a woman capable of bending with the winds of chaotic life changes.

Little did we know at that time that in fact my heroine’s journey would indeed call upon me to become a Warrior of light and love for Russell, myself and my family a few short months later as we dropped down into Cuckoo Luckoo Land – the dark, twisty, mysterious path of his sudden illness, death and my healing journey moving forward.  But warrior I became as I somehow found the ability to stand in the shadow lands between life and death; sorrow and joy; despair and hope.  I found the unbelievable gift to breathe through it all, stopping myself from spinning into despair with a quick grab of my tree necklace, closing my eyes and focusing upon my breath.  I look back on that time and still wonder how I did all I did with grace, hope, and a love for those around that seemed to pulse from the center of my being.  I think because I became that Warrior Lara my mom named me.

This naming of me as Warrior Lara and the inhaling way that I read the book Outrageous Openness are two of the things that I credit as key factors for how I made it through Cuckoo Luckoo Land with Russell.  Those and the unbelievable web of love, support and healing that surrounded us then and still does to this day.  But this book impacted me in ways I am just now able to start remembering. (It’s funny to me how much is lost in the first months and years after losing someone.)  I read it at least 3 times between Christmas and the day Russell entered the hospital.  I wrote quote after quote in my journals and I practiced everything, allowing Tosha’s wisdom to sink deep into bones.  Because of that I believe I was able to keep my heart and mind open to the world around me and move through things with deeper ease.

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I wrote the following quote in my journal just days before that first step into the rabbit hole “I’ll move as if there’s a Force of Love waiting to aid me in every area of my life, big or small.”  I not only wrote this down I repeated it to myself every morning and every night.  I allowed the words to burrow into my core, infusing me with hope and light.  As I read them I could feel Warrior Lara stand a little taller and hope a little stronger.  I could believe that Russell and I were on the right path towards healing our relationship and I trusted that all would be well.

It didn’t end how I had hoped, nowhere near that.  And the journey since has been a tumultuous ride through both the dark and light places of myself.  For the past 6 months it’s been a dark, shadowy, confusing journey. I’ve lost a great deal of my ability to trust, love and just breathe.  Fears I never, ever, ever used to experience have crept into my heart and wrapped vines of panic around it.  Guilt about all the things I didn’t do with or say to Russell, as well as guilt that I’m not doing enough for my kids. I have barely felt like I could move or speak much less breathe with trust and love.

But I feel myself moving into a deeper openness again.  I am naming myself Warrior Lara again and approaching life with a renewed determination to allow life to unfold again – breathing; standing tall; trusting that Love surrounds me; not trying to figure everything out all at once but simply staying in the Now;  seeking wisdom sources that speak to me; and finding joy where I can.  I am naming my fears and then letting them go.

I’ve started reading Outrageous Openness again and last night I began looking back through my journals of past 3-4 years.  I’m following the seeds of wisdom I planted there as I seek to open myself back up to living an amazing life again.  I am trying things that terrify me knowing that each little step of bravery builds upon each other to create a brave, magical new world for myself.

I am Warrior Lara standing outrageously open to life!

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!

Attraction – Cracking Open a New Door

door This time, this moment: Living out loud in every moment.  That is my goal, my mission so to speak, for my blog.  From the very beginning of this current life path I am on that started with Russell’s entry into the hospital I have done my best to live this mission everyday.  The path has been raw, vulnerable, and hard to speak at times.  But in walking it I have found a profound new realness to living life.

When I stay committed to this mission of living my life out loud in every moment I find the path before me to be very clear.  As I honestly state what I am feeling, thinking and dreaming it’s as if the fog lifts and the sun brightly shines my way forward.  It’s in the times that I hide away my truth or hold back from speaking the musings that float up inside of me wanting to come out that I feel like the path and my life become foggy again and almost impassable.

Interestingly much of my journey forward through Russell’s sudden illness and death and then the grieving since has been fairly easy to live out loud.  Oh I can’t always speak it but I’ve been able to write it.  My inner muse awoke with passion when I dropped into Cuckoo Luckoo Land 17 months ago.  She remains awake when I slow down my racing mind, take a deep breath and listen from my heart about what she wants to say.  I like it when she is awake as there is such a sense of rightness, of “yes this is what I most want to do,” when I listen and allow myself to drop everything to write.

This past week I’ve had several shout outs from my muse about things to make note of. None of them have been so compelling as what she kept nudging me with this morning.  The entire time I was at the airport dropping my sons off for their flight to camp in Oregon I could hear her whispering to me, inviting me into a new place of pondering.   A story is what she wanted me to tell about the door that was opened just a crack on own flights home from Asheville last weekend.  I kept trying to tell her to hush thinking nope I don’t need to or want to tell that story.  It’s not important.  Blah, blah, blah.

My muse was persistent though as I thought back to last weekend and realized that it is about a significant shift I need to speak and share.  The story isn’t that big of a deal but the door it has cracked open is an important tiny, bitty step in a new direction on my grieving/healing journey.    The story is a bit of a ramble so I hope you bear with me to the end.  Smile!

In a long, way too long to tell the whole thing here, adventure at Chicago O’Hare airport last weekend there were hundreds of people who spent the night in the airport.  Several of us from the same flight temporarily bonded together as we encouraged each other to find new flights or other means of transportation to St. Louis after our flight was cancelled at 11:30 at night.  We rallied together to talk, laugh, hug a few who were crying and basically shake our heads at the surrealness of hours of delays, followed by a late night cancellation and getting stuck in an airport.

One of the people in this little cluster of folks who connected was a man about my age with a great laugh, super positive energy and a willingness to help.  He and I chatted at various stages from the cancelled flight’s gate to the United Airlines service desk to the point of heading to our new goals of getting to St. Louis.  We both offered support to a young woman who came almost completely unglued when the flight was cancelled.  We helped her figure out a new plan before heading in different directions – me to the American airlines area for the night and him towards the rental cars as he tried to get a car to just drive home.  It was a nice reminder that there are others in the world who can find humor and the positive, while also supporting others, in the crazy situations that pop up in life.  No other thought beyond that.

After an exhausting night sleeping on the floor of O’Hare’s airport, I got on my flight back to St. Louis where I promptly fell asleep for the entire way.   After we landed in St. Louis and we were waiting to disembark I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I thought maybe I had dropped something and I looked around. Well, there was the guy from the night before smiling and thanking me for the tip about switching airlines to get home sooner.  It was funny as we chatted like long-lost friends about the goofiness of the night before.  I told him about losing my new boarding pass and trying to find blankets. He told me about trying to rent a car and deciding not to when he found out it would cost $750 for a one way drive to St. Louis.  We laughed and shook our heads.

As we got off we said goodbye and good luck. Again, I didn’t think much beyond that.   Then, we saw each other again at United’s baggage claim as we tried to find our bags.   Several others from our original, cancelled flight were there and we all got talking about our adventures.  This guy and I got laughing about what had happened.  Part of the silliness was being so tired but it was good to be laughing rather than crying.  Others joined in as we all talked in general about where we were from and what we did, desperately all hoping our bags had somehow made it to St. Louis already.  I finally got my bag, said goodbye and good luck, and headed for home.

As I talked and laughed with this guy I had a sense that I was kind looking at myself from the outside in because I knew something felt different. But I was wayyy too tired to figure out what and why it felt different.  I just knew it was and left it at that.

Throughout the past week I’ve had moments of pondering the niggling sense that something had shifted during that 15 hours or so at O’Hare and then finishing up at Lambert.   I now know what it was and my muse insists that I write about it as part of my commitment to living my life out loud.  I had personal interest and an attraction to the guy I kept meeting along my journey home.  There was something about him that piqued my curiosity and my interest beyond just this is a nice guy.  There was something about him, about the energy of who he is that I felt drawn to and that prompted thoughts of “I wonder what his name is? I wonder where he lives? ”  The fact that he shared he with me he had the young woman in distress the night before “Just close your eyes and take a deep breath. Everything will be okay.” was enough for me to think “Hmmm, who is this guy? I’d like to know more.”

For the first time I felt enough of an attraction to a man who I was willing to contemplate, to consider the possibility that someday I might want to date.  Ack, there I said it!  Truly some of the most terrifying words I’ve written on this whole long journey.  Writing about the rawness of my grief has felt far easier than writing that I felt attracted to someone.   If my muse hadn’t been so persistent I am quite confident I would never have written this story.  But if I am truly going to commit to living my life out loud than this is part of my journey right now and I feel compelled to share it all.

There are so many layers to the opening of this door that I am barely aware of them all.   Question after question has arisen for me as my awareness of how this guy opened a door for me has grown.   Questions like…

“How could I be ready for this? I can barely doing anything besides work, be with my kids, watch silly sitcoms and occasionally see friends.”

“What would I have said if this guy had asked me out?”

“How does one date in their late 40s, almost 50?”

“Do I have to start wearing makeup?” Followed by “Why would I think that?”

“Should I take my ring off? But wouldn’t that be disloyal to Russell?”

“When will my kids be ready? and How will I know?”

“How does a widow date?”

“What could I possibly talk about?”

And on, and on, and on the questions go.

I don’t know any of the answers to these or the other questions that pop up around this.  I do know that I am not ready right now for dating nor do I think that I will be anytime soon. There is so much I am still sorting out and that I am trying to put into place for myself and my kids.   I do think I am ready to be curious about the possibility of someday wanting to date again. I am willing to leave the door cracked opened at least a little bit.

Who knew a cancelled flight and a floopy night in an airport could lead to such a long rambling story?   And who knew a nice, friendly guy could open up a new door for me?  I guess, maybe, the story and the telling of it was a big deal.  Most interesting!

Healing and trusting: Re-framing my brokenness and fear

Ah and here is the follow up blog to “Broken and Afraid” I wrote last year. This was right after I learned about the “Dive”, a tool I still use when I feel waves of darkness threatening to crash over me. As I dive into the dark rather than fight against it I am able to listen from my heart to all I need to learn in that time, that moment.

The wisdom I learned in that first Dive Session with my guide, Ayanna, is valuable wisdom still today. Speak what I need. Set aside time for quiet and reflection. I must write everyday. Grieving and other darker, heavier emotions hold powerful wisdom for me if I trust myself to go into it.

Once again filled with gratitude to the depths of my being for this journey I am on and the wisdom I am gaining.

This time, this moment

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Synchronicity is one of my greatest allies right now.  Over and over again, I am surprised by the ways in which things happen in my life at just the right time and moment.  My final dive down into the depths of my darkness yesterday, after a good 10 days or so of swimming deeper and deeper into murky waters, came at just the right moment.  For just a few hours after my dive, I was able to spend time with my life coach/counselor/guide who helped me swim through the deep and start making my way back up and out.  Through some new, very cool guided meditations she helped me start re-framing some of my fears and my brokenness.  And she 100% affirmed that I am exactly where I need to be in this time and in this moment.

Here is some of what I trusted myself (and her) to do…

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Driving – I did it!

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We don’t really know what we are capable of doing until there is no other choice before us.  Well, even as I write that first sentence I realize there is always, ALWAYS  a choice.  But when the choice is between doing it ourselves or not getting to do it at all it is amazing what can happen.

Russell was the one who loved long drives.  I like driving but don’t love it.  I like road trips and loved the trips that we would all take down to Sarasota, FL every year.  Mainly though I liked the driving part because I love napping in cars.  It drops me back into childhood when we would drive to Wisconsin as a family. Those trips were times for reading, playing the alphabet game, and napping.  Our family trips that Russell and I shared for decades were the same with lots of fun music added in – especially Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley.

Last year when we drove to Florida for our beach vacation in July it was a shorter trip – only 12 hours compared to the 16 or 17 it takes to get to Sarasota.  It was a trip broken up by Kateri and Soren both sharing in the driving duties and us making lots of stops to keep me awake enough to keep driving.  When we traveled to Sarasota in December we flew down because the thought of making that very long drive made me want to curl up and hide under my covers, no matter how much the lure of the beach was calling to me. No way could I handle making a drive that is technically 16 hours but would surely take us 20 with all the stops I would need.

Not only have we made it to Orlando with me driving all but 2 of the hours, I actually really enjoyed the driving this time.  We stopped in Atlanta last night which was a good break splitting the drive into a 9 hour day and a 7 hour day (stopping for lunch always adds time).  I’m tired tonight but actually much, much less than I thought I would be. Instead I feel energized and excited for our adventures at Disney to start tomorrow.

My kids slept much of the way, as I always used to do.  I would drive maybe 10% of our trips with Russell driving 90%. I never understood how he would say he actually liked the driving and wanted to do it. I never understood until this trip.

As the kids slept I listened to my favorite songs; started listening to a Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly which I am loving; let my mind wander through the opportunities currently before me for my life; allowed myself to be filled with gratitude for my children, my family and this trip; and smiled as memory after memory flooded through me of the dozens of trips Russell and I took on the very roads I drove mile after mile.  My heart rode wave after wave of memory simultaneously missing Russell and smiling at the joy of remembering.

What I couldn’t fathom ever being able to do a year ago has been a joyful experience in this time, in these moments.   The very thought of being strong enough to handle all that driving last year made me want to throw up.  Instead by saying yes I will and can do this drive has left me with filled with gratitude, renewed confidence in my strength and lots of new ideas.  I have at least 5 blogs posts that started writing themselves as  I drove, this one being just the first. I had some good conversations with my kids and lots of fun, silly moments that I treasure deeply.   And I feel that I am rocking my life right now.

Not too shabby for someone who believes car rides are really just moving nap time.  🙂

 

Get it Going!

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Wow, just WOW! I shared this a year ago with the additional question to myself if I should give myself and the kids a full year to learn how to walk again. Standing where I am today I can easily and confidently say “YES! It took a full year to learn how to walk again.”

We are walking tall and strong most days. Oh we still have moments, and days, that we are knocked back to our knees and find ourselves crawling along. But that is simply life. We are moving forward with new opportunities, new passions, and new hope. And we just keep trying!

In a few hours, Kateri Hannes, Demetri Peterson and I will be leaving to start our vacation. We will stop in Atlanta tonight where we will pick up Soren after his month long adventure in Colorado. My heart is filled with joy at the thought of us being all together again.

As we drive I will think of Russell Peterson often and not just because he was the one who did 90% of the driving on our trips. 🙂 He would have loved the trip we are undertaking – Disney for a week with a bunch of my family then onto Sarasota for a few days to visit with Barbara Peterson. Family, fun, beach, sun – it didn’t get much better for Russell and doesn’t for me either.

Though I will be tapping out of work for 12 days we all know I will be posting tons of pictures because it’s one of the things I love the most!
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