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.

Don’t quit!

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Smacks upside the head are happening again this morning. Loving smacks but smacks none the less. I’m in awe of the ways that life drops just what I need to hear or see into my lap at times. Mind is being blown and inspired daily right now.

“Sometimes trauma happens, and if we’re being honest, a part of us rejoices, thinking (I am being honest this is true for me) ‘Well, now nobody can expect anything else from me because it’s a miracle enough that I’m upright.’ You are nobly doing your best to battle your way through it. You are a warrior because of the trials you are going through, but don’t you dare squander the strengths you have earned just because the acquisition of it was painful (or still is). Those are the most important stories to share. You can use the strength to pave a path for others to follow along behind. You do not have permission to quit!” Girl Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis

There is so much YES in this for me. So many hidden, secret truths to some of my personal blocks and excuses right now I can’t even articulate them coherently. Yes, there has been a lot of trauma in my life over the past several years. And there are pieces of that which still play a part in life journey now and forever. But it is time for me to let go of a thread of belief that I am somehow still living that trauma today.

All I know is that I will shush that part of my brain that wants to hide my story or hide my joy for the new amazing opportunities before me. I will not quit at any of the things that are giving me hope and energy to go after my dreams, not just talk about them as if they are fantasy of someday. Writing, coaching, facilitating retreats, creating – these are my joys.

No, I want to make my dreams a reality now. I want to wake up each morning and go after what I want not just grumble about all of the things that I don’t want. I want to use my story, my pain, my joy as the fuel to create a life so glorious and so full of love, health and positivity that I never need to escape from it. I want to turn every single excuse I into the reasons why I keep trying. I want to stop using my moments of sadness, pain and hurt as ways to stay complacent.

I want to see what my life could truly become if I stopped quitting. Seriously, it is time already!

Promises, promises

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“Promises, promises – How I’ve done what I’ve done.”

Ask my kids and those who know me best; they will tell you that I rarely make promises. Even when I agree to do or not do something, it is the very rare occasion that I will make a promise. Folks have tried for years to get me to make promises and I just won’t do it. When I do make a promise you can be sure that I will do anything within my power to fulfill it. That includes to myself.

Rachel Hollis writes in “Girl, Wash Your Face”, “I’ll start tomorrow… as many women do. We talk about the things we’d like to do, be, try and accomplish, but once we get to the moment of actually DOING it, we fold faster than a card table after bunco night….If you constantly make and break promises to yourself, you’re not making promises at all. You’re talking.”

Smack upside the head happened again as I read this chapter. I think I need to get really REAL and start making more promises to myself because those I won’t back out of. Anything less than that is all talk and excuses for me. And the big dreams I have for my life and my family right now are very worthy of me making some promises.
I made a promise to myself 13 months ago that I would get healthy no matter what I had to do, no matter what I had to change, no matter what I had to let go of, no matter what I had do to cover any costs, no matter what I would get healthy for myself and for my kids. I couldn’t take the risk and refused to continue to put myself at risk of serious health issues that could leave my kids completely alone. I promised I would stop risking my life for the sake of eating all of the incredible junk I was eating just because I gave into my cravings. I promised myself I WOULD follow my plan, listen to my coach and community and do the work. No more just talking a very good game but a promise to myself to live my best life no matter what I had to do. I am worth having a healthy body, mind and finances.

There are still a bazillion areas of my life that I am more talk than daily action. Believe me I mess up and fail in so many ways everyday. But my health – oh that is still the area that at least 80% of the time I am making good choices. Because I made a promise to myself that 2017 would be the last year I would feel miserable in my own skin. It was and will always be the last year that I walk around with 60 extra pounds on me leaving me hunched and hurting. Never, ever again I promised this body I am remembering to love.

If you are ready to promise to choose your health and loving your body and mind at least as much as you love the others around you, I am ready to lock arms with you and be a companion on your journey. I so much want everyone to feel the incredible joy I feel to have a body that is free and full of energy.
I promise you can do it too!!!!!

My Deepest Why

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(This photo is from Soulard, one of our favorite places, a few months before we got engaged.)

Well, the horses will have to wait a little longer this morning to eat because my Muse has awoken with a loud, very clear “Now, it is time now to write this!”  When she so strongly speaks to me that I can hear nothing else but her voice starting to write the words, I drop everything and start to write.  For she is the link to my deepest, truest, more powerful self and honoring what is ready to come forth into the world is essential to my journey.

I knew yesterday morning when I was with my mom, celebrating her amazing health transformation, that my Muse was awakening and formulating the words to write about “My Deepest Why”.  Because you see, my mom getting healthier, my dad now getting healthier, my sister-in-laws getting healthier, my brother exploring getting healthier, my friends getting healthier, my kids getting healthier, and my growing passion for encouraging everyone I know to get healthier in whatever way works best for them – all of this is twined around My Deepest Why.

My Deepest Why is the reason that I truly feel like a Phoenix bird rising up out of the issues as if on fire herself.   The ashes of my life created by the sudden burning up of the life I knew over 3 1/2 years ago,  have been the bed I needed to heal, to explore, and to sort through what must I let go of and what will go with me as I rise into a new life, a new me.   I love and honor those ashes for every bit of comfort and every bit of wisdom they have given me.   And now, I am rising from them to further live a life of passion and purpose and meaning – one of the greatest truths that Russell and I tried to bring to our lives in all we did.  As individuals and as a couple, we believed ourselves to be seekers and dream weavers, helping to create a world filled with love, peace, and hope.

I distract myself even as I write.  My Deepest Why, at this time this moment in my life, is to encourage everyone and anyone I can to create a life for themselves that is as healthy and as happy as they possibly can.  Actually wait, that’s more my purpose than my why.  Writing my WHY, my Deepest one, is scary I think because there is so much emotion in it and around it that saying out loud is feeling a little huge.  But my Muse says keep going, you can do this, say it, own it, feel it.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.   My Deepest Why for all that I do in my life and most specifically for my new found passion for helping people transform their lives  as a health coach, is that I never, ever, ever want to again watch someone that I love die who might not have if they had been healthier in body, mind and spirit.   I can wish all of the time that we had found this before Russell died.  But wishing won’t change the fact that we didn’t.  I want to have the people I love be able to be with me for as long as they possibly can!

Daily, I am grateful that I have transformed my own health so that, hopefully, I will live a very long life with and for my children.   Being here for them as the best mom I can be is so much easier now that I am not consumed with physical pain everyday.   I am bound and determined to do all that I can do to live my most healthy life so that I can stay with them.

Now, I do more than wish and dream.  I am acting and deciding to live my life with no excuses of being too scared, too busy, too unsure, too whatever gets in the way.  There are people I love and care about who need what programs, what wisdom, and what purpose I have found or created.   I don’t want to live my life “wishing” I had told them of another way, after they are gone.

I lost Russell and the dreams of us living our best life together for a very long time.   I lost myself for a long time in the ashes created when my life burned up in a moment.  I am now rediscovering the wonder woman I want to be for myself and the world.  I don’t ever want to lose myself so radically again.  I don’t ever want to lose anyone else I love because their weight and the unhealthy habits of their life led to a sudden and way too early death.   I want to impact live and constantly expand my heart work to love this world and all of the people in mine with all that I am.   I want to know that what I have gone through and my sharing it with others might just help even one person feel like they aren’t alone.  I want all of us to get healthy so that we truly can create the lives that we only dream of right now.

In this time, this moment, I choose health, hope, love, and living my life as bravely as I can.    It’s all I want for all of us!

Thank you my Muse! I stand in awe of my rising from the ashes.

On The Other Side of Fear

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Fear and the recognition of the things that I am afraid of has become quite a lively interaction within myself these past few weeks. I’ve never really thought of myself as a fearful person and have always worked hard to act from a place of thoughtful calmness rather than from an anxious, reactive place. Heck, all that I have gone through in the past 3 1/2 years with my commitment to living my life out loud has been about acting towards my dreams rather than reacting from my fears. While that hasn’t really changed some new awarenesses of myself are arising with the entry of Phoenix into my life.

Rising from the ashes indeed with new intentions of living my bravest, most daring life is what I am being called to do. This photo of me with my two horsey loves right now is such a perfect depiction of what they signify for me. And it speaks to the part of my journey right now of moving past comfort, even if that feels shaky and crazy scary sometimes. I will continue to speak my journey out loud as I move through my fears one by one because I must if I am to release the stranglehold they can have over me.

Karoly is all about comfort for me. Just riding him is like riding the comfiest couch – it’s 100 %safe, it’s cozy, it’s like being permanently wrapped in a perfectly heated blanket, it’s about bringing light into my dark days. There is never any fear in riding Karoly. In fact, he can dispel the dark threads of anxiety from me quicker than just about anything. Just grooming him warms my heart and eases my breathing into a gloriously balanced space. This photo of me with him is from a mere 3 weeks after Russell died and it was a day of laughing and joy in the midst of one of the heaviest periods of my entire life.

Phoenix, I am discovering, is all about tapping ever deeper into my inner warrior. I fell in love with him immediately and was drawn to the fact that he is the image of what I have wanted since I was a young girl. A black pony with a desire to explore and connect with everyone and everything around him. He comes when I call. He loves to be groomed. He wants to trust. He’s the perfect riding size for me. And he also has pulled back the curtain of comfortable contentment I’ve had with Karoly to reveal some real fears lurking in the shadows. Fears that I must face if I am ever to be free of them. Fears I must move beyond if I am every to completely become the empowering warrior woman I dream of being. In many ways, Phoenix is symbolizing the dark threads within the light. Fascinating.

Phoenix wants to go and be in charge at all times. He’s super willing to try and listen to me, but definitely has a lot of anxiety hidden behind a mask of confidence. (Hmmm, sounding like me). He is so forward and so quick to react I can too easily see falling if I can’t learn to stay calm and balanced on him. Staying balanced on Karoly is as easy as breathing. Staying balanced on a much smaller and narrower pony is not quite so easy. I often hold my breath as I ride, forgetting that the very act of breathing deeply will help me stay grounded and balanced. So many life lessons being opened up before me to embrace or to ignore. With every moment I feel scared of what might happen if he spooks or bolts and I fall, and then I keep going anyway, I add a small bravery thread to my inner warrior and I’m a little less afraid.

People often comment on how many white animals I surround myself with – my dogs and 4 of my horses have all been white. While I think it’s circumstance, there is also the reality that in all things I try to focus on choosing the light paths of life – hope, love, possibility, joy, positive spins on things. Intentionally buying a black pony speaks to my belief that the dark side of life – pain, despair, grief, fear – all of these hold just as much value and wisdom for me. Walking the place between light and dark is a lifelong commitment of mine to live all of life to the fullest I can.

I am committing to exploring my fears as they pop up then gently yet firmly calling myself to step forward through and past them. I imagine I will be sharing lots about this in the comings days, weeks and months as I seek to lie a brave, transformative, hopeful life. I am so grateful to have 2 horses who are facilitating such a radical part of my rising and transformation. What an amazing, absolutely precious gift that is.

In Love

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I’m in love!  No, no, no before anyone gets too excited, it’s not a new relationship.  They very thought of dating, honestly, still leads me to throw up a little.  Okay maybe a lot.  LOL. I’m so not there yet.

I am in love, even giddily so at times, with aspects of myself and my journey right now.  I guess it is kind of like developing a new relationship with myself and with my life.  More and more each day, I am embracing the things that excite me enough to make me want to jump out of bed each morning and leap into my day.  I am feeling deep, profound gratitude for all that is part of my life and it definitely creates feeling similar to “being in love.”  Wow, how cool is that?!

Here’s what I am most in love with right now.

First and foremost, my children. Hands down they are my favorite people to be with. I love talking with them, playing games, traveling, journeying with them as they become adults, watching them grow, and just hanging out in their presence. They’re all such awesome people and I feel super blessed to be part of their lives.

Second, the vision for my life and what I believe my foundational purpose and mission are.  My most recent falling in love with health coaching is a mere extension of my lifelong love and desire to be part of people’s dream creating and life transformations.  I feel reawakened and rejuvenated!   I bring this love and desire to my work as an instructor, a retreat facilitator, barn owner, health coach, and with my friends and family.

Little more in all of my work/play excites me as much as seeing people light up with joy and freedom because they’ve found new ways of being the person they most desire to be.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE journeying with people seeking to make their dream a reality and live their best lives possible.  Within every aspect of my life, I have opportunites to do this. PURE JOY!

Third, Avalon in all that it is.  The very land itself is part of my heart and breath.   I had a deep flash of this a few weeks back and was almost rocked to my knees as I realized how much I am in love with Avalon.  To be called to be caretaker of this land and all that is part of it is such an honor.  The community strengthens me and holds space for me in amazing ways. The animals speak to me just as I always dreamed of as a kid.  There is pure magic that sings throughout all that is Avalon.

Fourth, I love my writing.  That my Muse continues to be awake and speaking through me gives me great joy and hope that I am inspiring others to seek joy for themselves and believe they deserve it.  I love that I can speak of my dark trips into the rabbit holes of life as well as my light trips soaring on my dragon as a mighty warrior woman.   To say that I AM a writer – ahh yes, that leaves me giddy with love.

My entire journey, my entire self – the good, the bad, the dark, the light – I love it all for the wisdom it gives to me.  What an amazing thing it is to feel “in love” with one’s self and with one’s life!

When a shirt is more than just a shirt

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I know I keep sharing A LOT of stories right now about how happy I feel with my health transformation.  But I just can’t help myself.  Everyday there is something new that I am discovering and experiencing.  For all of you have been following me through the rollercoaster of the past 3 years, I want to share the ways that joy is becoming a stronger thread in my life.  As I unfold more parts of my healing journey I stand in awe of the power we have to heal ourselves, especially if we are blessed enough to be wrapped in love from communities of people.   I simply can hardly believe how many shifts I am personally experiencing right now.

The shirt I am wearing in the picture here is one I bought on a shopping spree with my kids in the first few months after Russell died. We were quite impulsive in those first few months, saying YES to anything that brought even a few moments of a smile and some happiness. When I bought this shirt I bought it because of the tree that reminded me of the tree necklace my sister, Becca, had given me that never left my neck in the week Russell was in the hospital and for the months after he died. That necklace was my talisman and I held it ALL of the time as I would focus on just breathing through my days. When I saw the shirt I knew I had to have it, even though it was way too small and I might never be able to wear it. Just having it in my closet as another visual to take a breath and be gentle with myself was all that I needed.

Grief clogs our bodies as if lead has been poured directly into our bones.   As we travel through the first days, weeks, months, and years the toll upon our beings goes far beyond anything we can imagine.  The shock of everything in those early times can send us spinning into a space of seeking comfort in any way we possibly can, just to find even a few moments of ease for our aching hearts and minds.  We practice self-care. We cry. We laugh at the craziest of things. We hugs the people and animals who bring us relief. We shop. We sleep. We look for things that can bring us glimmers of joy. We spend time with people who will support and love us even on our darkest days.  We just focus on our breathe some days. We eat whatever brings us comfort.   We do whatever we can simply to get through our days without falling completely apart.

Some of the things we do are able to bring us true comfort and ease, even if only for a short time.  But some of the things, in bringing us temporary ease, can set us onto a path that further clogs up our hearts, our minds and our bodies.    The unclogging of ourselves, after the shock has settled, can be as monumental of a task as learning to live a life without our loved ones.   Even with a lot of support, it can feel so daunting that we spend years moving through our lives as if we are stuck in mud up to our knees. Oh we can make progress forward towards living a new  life, but getting there through the muckity muck we are now immersed in can feel beyond exhausting.   We take a step, yanking our leg up out of the mud that keeps us stuck, then we take another and wonder if we will ever, truly feel free to move again.

It is only recently, in my new dedication to learning healthier habits and reclaiming my body, that I am coming to realize how deeply the emotions and internal struggles of the past 3 years since Russell died have settled into my physical body.   All of the aches and pains and inability to move has been connected to my physical weight, but more powerfully it has been the physical manifestation of my emotional, grieving and healing journey.  My poor body has held sooooo much pain of my own and the others close to me who are grieving.   That I’ve not had a complete physical breakdown is a kind of miracle. Actually, I think that is true for all of us who experience traumatic losses in our lives.

As I lose the weight that has physically weighed down my body, the greater joy for me is the feeling that my heart and mind are losing the heavy weight of grief as well.   It’s as if, in saying YES to fueling my body in healthier ways and watching the pounds melt away, I am also saying YES to releasing some of the threads of grief that are wrapped around me.   Not only is my body moving more freely but my whole being feels lighter and ready to transform into a newer version of me.

For 2 1/2 years my tree shirt has hung in my closet, front and center all of the time, to serve as a goal for that someday that I can wear; that someday that I have released enough of the weight to fit into it. On Saturday night, I decided it was time to try it.  And IT FIT!  I cannot describe adequately enough what it felt like to wear this shirt that is sooo much more than a shirt.  Yes the shirt is one I love and am very excited to be able to wear again because of my physical transformation.  But more importantly, it speaks to the heart transformation I am experiencing.

Just as I’ve held onto a lot of extra pounds, I’ve held onto my grief for the deepest loss in my life so far.  As I stared at myself in the mirror with this shirt that I had to have “just because”, I was struck by the freedom I felt.  The freedom to wear something I’ve wanted to wear for 2 1/2 years; the freedom to believe that my transformation is really happening; the freedom to admit that the mantle of grief I’ve been wrapped up in is beginning to ease away.

I have no doubt that there will be moments for the rest of my life that I will grieve but for the first time in 3 years I am freely moving with new things that are completely my own, not connected with Russell.  The cottage we live in is ours.  The new “I am a Warrior” path and retreats are mine. The new steps as a health coach are mine.  I am actively creating a life for myself that is not under the umbrella of my grief.  And that brings me great joy.

This tree shirt is about way more than a shirt or even about losing physical pounds. It is about how, like a warrior, I am striving for the transformation I want even if it takes me years to get where I dream of being.     I am feeling way too good about my body, my heart, my mind, and my life’s purpose to stop now.   And if I can hold onto a shirt for 2 12 years with deep hope that someday I would be able to fit my body into it, then I can most definitely hold onto hope that I WILL  become the person I most long to be.  What a joyous thing that is!