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!

 

Year of the Warrior – Take back my life

I have declared for myself that 2018 is my Year of the Warrior.   It is the year that I don’t allow anything, including my own deep seated fears and BS stories to hold me back. It is the year that I radically, powerfully, joyfully take back my life and reclaim on a daily basis my belief that we can transform our lives in magical ways.

For 3 years, Rachel Platten’s song “Fight Song” has been my theme song.  I’ve written about it. I play it over and over again. I dance to it.  I share it with others who are seeking to come back from something and deeply need to believe in their amazingness.   It touches emotional cords in me that go deeper than even I know.  It calls me to more every single time I listen to it as the words and the music beat deep into my heart.

Tonight, as I ran on the treadmill I listened to Fight Song for my cool down as I’ve done for the past 4 days.  It is the song I need to listen to as the reminder that I AM A WARRIOR, passionately ready to release the phoenix who has slowly been rising from the ashes of my life over the past few years.   As I walked through my final minutes on the treadmill tonight, listening to Fight Song I felt like the drum was trying to pound directly into my soul.  Tears bubbled up and out as the refrain moved me stronger than ever before.

“This is MY fight song. Take back my life song. Prove I’m alright song.  My power’s turned on, starting right now I’ll be strong. I’ll play MY fight song and I don’t care if nobody else believes because I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.”  

YES, YES, YES!  My year of the Warrior is this.  Being a Warrior is being ME as authentically as I can possible be. Being a Warrior means following my heart, my path.   Being a Warrior means being strong in MY power that is most definitely turned on.  Being a Warrior means acknowledging my fears and doing it anyway.  Being a Warrior means inviting others who are ready to journey with me to feel the magic of their own journeys.  Being a Warrior means saying yes and trusting that as long as I listen to my intuition and take action the path will open up before me.  Being a Warrior means believing in me and what I feel called to do even if it seems no one else does.  Being a Warrior means I will follow my heart and my path which means sharing my wisdom journey with the world.

NOW is the time for me to finally, joyfully take action on all of the hundreds of things that have been stirring inside for me the past several years.  As much as I may have wanted for these to come to be much sooner than now, I really wasn’t ready.  But I am NOW!  As I walk the land of Avalon, I can feel the magic of that land stirring again in ways it hasn’t been able to for probably 4 years.  Oh, magical things have still been happening because it is an amazing place, people and creatures.  But there is a magic that pulses through the land that I haven’t felt as deeply.  Until recently!

As I declare myself a Warrior for love, peace and joy I can hear the land of Avalon sing again.  It is as if the very land drums in beat to the new rhythm that is coming singing up from inside of me.  New life is pulsing through me and in turn new life is pulsing throughout all the areas of my life.   As I plan the upcoming “I am a Warrior” retreats, there is so much awakening inside of me.   I want to share the wisdom that has come to me as I have traveled in the shadow places between the light and the dark.  I want to help others find the Warrior residing inside of them who is wanting to give them the power to be strong and find joy.  And this is only the beginning!

“There’s a fire burning in my bones, still believe, yeah I still believe.”

Daily I am taking back my life and allowing life to take me back.   My commitment to living an entire year (and probably way more) with the mindset of a Warrior is exciting.   I feel the fire burning inside of me as my entire being is lit up ready to live and love with joy!

THIS IS MY FIGHT SONG!  I AM A WARRIOR! I AM READY TO FLY!

 

Not Enough Words & Too Many Words

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There is so much rambling inside of my heart and head right now that I find it near impossible to find the words I want to write, no that I need to write.  No words seem adequate and yet there is too much I want to say as well.

For the past 24 hours I’ve been in deep shock, a shock as deep as the night that Russell died.  Rocked to the very depths of my being, I have been curled up in a ball crying and shaking and reminding myself to breathe, Just Breathe!    I stepped back into another rabbit hole last night and have been traveling the twisty paths of Cuckoo Luckoo Land – that place where things just make no sense.

Last night we received word that Ayanna,  my life coach, my mentor, my most trusted confidant, and my lifeline for the past several year died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.  From the sounds of the information from her husband it was a very brief battle of just a few months.  Considering I hadn’t seen her for about 7 weeks, knew nothing of her cancer, she was younger than me, and last time I saw her she was the epitome of health, the news is beyond shocking to me.    I felt like someone had punched me in the gut and then shoved me head first down a rabbit hole into the darkness again.  As I tumbled down the hole my entire being just kept screaming “What? Why? How? Whhyyyy?”

I’ve texted some with Ayanna’s husband but it has all been supportive messages between us. I’ve withheld from asking the hundreds of questions running through my mind.  He doesn’t need to answer anyone’s questions right now. There will be a celebration of life ceremony for Ayanna sometime soon and perhaps then I will find some answers. Most likely I will never know all of the story.  But then again, I know that none of us ever can really know what the whole story is anyway.  Even if we are there for the acting out of the story there is always some shadow piece, some part of the puzzle that remains unknown to us.

As I have followed the twists and turns of this new journey in Cuckoo Luckoo Land I have slept and eaten very little.  The pain is too raw, both physical and emotional.  Ayanna has known more of my story – every little nuanced piece of it – for 5 years that I cannot imagine her not being part of my ongoing healing and transformation.  With her I was always able to say anything and everything that I needed to say. Plus she could hear the things even I couldn’t speak out loud. She had this amazing ability to read the unspoken words of my heart and heal me in more ways than I can even name.  The tools that she helped me to learn are more valuable to me than anything I ever learned from a book or in a school.

Just being in her presence could provide peace and healing for me.  She would walk into a room like a radiant, light and love filled Amazon Warrior Queen.  When I was with her I believe anything was possible, even the seemingly impossible.  More than any other person she was an advocate for me to write my story – my story of Cuckoo Luckoo Land with Russell and the healing steps I have taken since.  She was going to help me write that book and also a book about healing through grieving. We talked about creating a program to help those who support people who have lost a loved one. She was going to do programs at Avalon Sanctuary – a space she believed was infused with light and love and that is truly a magical space.  When she was there at our anniversary bonfire she said she could feel the room pulsing with healing energy.  There were so many more things I hoped to journey through together.

Part of the powerful light throughout this 24 hour journey has been Ayanna herself, smiling to me and speaking clearly to me. “Dive into the pain Lara. Dive deeper. Keep diving. I am here in the light. Breathe and dive into all. Feel it; scream it; know it.  I’m still here. You can do this. You will do this. You’re not alone.  Love and Light and Peace is all around you. Trust the journey.  You are a warrior of love and it is your time to step forward and stand on your own. You are ready. Dance in the shadow place. Write your story. Heal your heart.”  Throughout all of my crazy dreaming as I’ve tried to sleep she has been in them, smiling and speaking to me.  What a gift that has been.

I honestly do not know what I will do without the presence of this unique, powerful, love filled, healing woman in my life.  Never have I met anyone else like her and never have I entrusted anyone else with as much of my full story as I have with her.  Her presence in my life over these last 5 years has brought me to more understanding about myself and the world than I ever could have imagined. She has helped me transform myself and my relationships in profound ways. And I do not believe I would be anywhere near as far along my healing path since Russell’s death as I am today.     I have a long way to go in many aspects but I credit her with helping me get to where I am today.

Tonight I watch The Matrix, a movie Ayanna and I often talked about as we explored the ways in which we can rethink what reality is.  It’s a favorite movie for both of us. “You are faster (or stronger) than you think. Don’t think you are. Know you are.”  “I’m trying to free your mind Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.  You have to let it all go. Fear. Doubt. Disbelief. FREE YOUR MIND!”    Morpheus just spoke these words to Neo as I was writing.  THIS is what Ayanna wanted me to believe.  That I could free my mind. That I am powerful and magical and full of infinite possibility.  She believed in me and this is what I will choose to take with me as I now make my way out of Cuckoo Luckoo Land back into my world.

Ayanna has reminded me again that there is no time but the one we are in.  I must live my life as authentically, as powerfully, as fully in the moment as I possibly can.  I must live my life out loud, telling people that I love and believe in them.  I must follow my dreams now.  I must do what I can to help heal the world and provide a place of breathing sanctuary because I believe this is part of my life’s purpose.  I must write my stories and share these with the world; it is for my healing and for those who need to hear only the story that I can tell.  I must be the warrior woman of love and light that I want to be. I must seek joy and believe it is okay to do so.

In this time, in this moment I breathe and I am thankful for the light that Ayanna has been for me.  May I continue to share that light with those around me who need it.  As I step out of the dark and back into the light I promise you Ayanna, I won’t forget the journey we’ve had.  Thank you!

 

Inhale, Exhale

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To breathe – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.  Sometimes, oftentimes, that is all I am confident I can do. It’s what got me through Russell’s traumatic illness and death. It’s what got me through the days, weeks, months of shock that followed. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale – over and over and over again. Standing still, eyes often closed to picture my breath, letting go of any and all expectations upon myself but to focus on my breath.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

I find myself turning to this again as I prepare myself for Kateri to move to her new job in Hampshire, IL which is about 5 hours from home. She will be working at a horse farm with a talented rider and trainer who she greatly respects.  It is a wonderfully grand adventure for her first move away from home.    Just writing those few words took longer than it normally would as I had to stop and breathe – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

As thrilled as I am for this new opportunity for Kateri, an opportunity that fills her with confident excitement, the thought of not seeing her everyday threatens to drop me to my knees.  Being with my children everyday, being able to hug them and talk with them everyday, has been one of the key pieces of my healing journey.  To not have one of them here is almost unfathomable to me.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

The moving out of a child is hard for all parents I am sure. We want them to grow and fly free. But we also want them to be close by, able to be hugged at a moment’s notice. We want to see them become strong, confident adults while also wistfully longing for the days we could still hold their hand in public.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

I am experiencing a rawness, a view through a darker lens as I am poignantly reminded that I alone am the parent helping launch Kateri into the adult world and will be doing the same with Soren and Demetri in the next several years.  I am reminded more deeply, more singularly that as my children leave I will soon be alone. All of the dreams that Russell and I shared for “when the kids are grown” are no longer a possibility. They shattered into a million pieces when he died.  And in the preparations for Kateri’s move I am made vividly aware that all dreams are now just my own. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Layers upon layers upon layers of emotions I’ve been feeling these past weeks have left me near mute.  I haven’t been able to write about it much less talk about it.  And I haven’t even wanted to – for my own sake as well as Kateri’s I have chosen to stay in the moment, embracing and loving every precious one as the gift that it is.  I’ve chosen to wait to share my story so as not to draw away from Kateri’s joy.  I have chosen to see the awesomeness of this new path for her and help her find her way through her own fears, worries and questions. I have chosen to love this time for all that it is – the joy and the sorrow, the looking forward and the looking back, the mystery and the known, the tears and the laughter.  All of it is part of one magical whole. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

As the words bubble up inside of me, ready to spoken, I focus again on my breath, the most powerful tool I have to stay balanced and grounded.  With tears flowing down my cheeks and a smile on my face I trust the path I am on and the one that Kateri steps onto today.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Present moment

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Here I am at Day 7 of my commitment to myself to write on my blog every day.   And I find that I am stuck.   What to write about?   Why did I want to do this?  Do I really want to do this everyday?  How do I write if I don’t feel inspired, compelled to write as most of my blog posts have been?  What’s the point of it all anyway?  Would it really matter if I didn’t write everyday?

Today I find myself tired, unmotivated to do much of anything and simply wondering what my real purpose in life is, beyond being there for my kids.  I’ve thought of starting several different things today – creating flyers for some workshops I want to offer this fall; returning a good dozen emails; reading my new choices of self-reflection books; planning for a couple of upcoming events at Avalon; lining up some lunches with friends; and a bunch of other ideas.  None of those things happened.    Instead I’ve spun my wheels most of the day just flitting from thing to thing.

I can end up on days like this feeling very rudderless and get super down on myself.  I start over thinking everything, wondering if I will ever just be able to get my shit together and stay motivated.  It’s like moving through quicksand on these days. The more I try to move with any speed the deeper I sink.  It’s kind of crazy making as I try to rebuild myself and my life, finding meaning and passion for life again.  I know the things that will make me feel better – movement, being outside, writing, etc. – but on days like today I just can’t get myself going.   I know just taking baby steps forward towards some goal I’ve set will be good, but I can’t settle my mind on just one thing to throw myself into.  Crazy making!

Then, as I was scrolling through articles I’ve saved to read, trying to find something to spark my interest enough to at least write a little bit today these words jumped out at me.  Written by Carolyn Moor the founder of the Modern Widows Club, these words named a truth for me that rang with a clear “Ah Yes” in my head.           “I may change my opinion a thousand times before next week because my mind never (never) shuts down. I think about my past, present and future constantly. I’m trying my very best to learn the gift of being in the present moment (I wish I knew why this was so hard?)”

I spin my wheels, making myself feel rudderless and stuck , because I am over thinking things way too much.  Too much thinking and not enough action.   Over and over again, every single day, I need to call myself back to staying in this time, in this moment.  When I do that my entire being clears and I find myself able to move forward. Even if some days it is just tiny baby steps forward that is progress!

Writing here is one of those small, consistent steps I can take that pushes me out of just spinning thoughts.  It is doing something. Walking outside barefoot in my front yard is doing something.  Reading a few paragraphs in my current book is doing something.  Reaching out to just 1 person is doing something.  Celebrating each of these little successes is doing something.  They don’t have to be big, long steps forward.  All of them are important.

I may keep changing my mind 1000x each week about what I want to do or not do or be or not be and that is okay.  I have no doubt I will keep feeling both rudderless and stuck at times.  I also know that I will keep calling myself back day after day, minute after minute to living in this time, this moment. When I stay in the here and now I am good because I trust that I can handle it.

I’m feeling very grateful for others sharing their wisdom along their own journeys.  I love how other people’s stories can help me along my own path.

Happy to be feeling settled in this time, this moment!

I know because I have

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I am committed to writing a blog post everyday.  Writing fuels me and heals me and leaves me feeling like I’ve shared something of value with the world even if it’s just a small piece of one woman’s story.  The last few days I have written of things that popped up in my morning reflection time.  Today nothing is coming to the surface which allows me to share something I wrote last week (after the death of our oldest farm cat, Sammy) waiting for an opportunity to share it here. Starting my day writing here leaves me feeling like I’ve at least got 1 thing done each day.  It’s a great way to start my day.

What fuels you and heals you? How can you make that part of the start of your day?  How can you say YES to you first and foremost!

 

Loss is different now.  Each little loss of an animal at the farm used to devastate me, knock me out and to the ground for days, sometimes weeks depending upon the situation.  I used to wonder, after each death, if I could really run a large farm with a lot of older animals.  The chances for more frequent loss is higher than many other farms might experience. Each death impacted me so much. I would experience great sadness and guilt that I hadn’t done more, fear I had somehow missed something leading to the death.

That all changed, at least to some extent, with Russell’s death.  The depths of my sadness, fear, confusion, guilt and imbalance I’ve had to work through and clear out since his death has given me a far different perspective on death of others.  Other losses since then can leave me feeling sad but I’ve learned to bend like a strong willow tree much more easily now.

Once a month I get a week long reminder of how strong I really am and how far I have come.  The 13th is the anniversary date of Russell going into the hospital, the slide into Cuckoo Luckoo Land. The 20th is the anniversary date of his death. And everything in between is layers and layers of memories.

Every month the 13th – 20th is an opportunity to remember to use all of the tools in my self-care bag.  This bag is full of lots of tools that help me stay grounded, open to allowing things to flow as they will, shield myself from outside influences, be deeply grateful for all that I have and breathe, Just Breathe.  In this bag are breathing techniques, clearing tools, meditations, songs that heal, movements that keep the flow going, choices that soothe the weariness away, and so much more.  Dozens and dozens of valuable tools that I can often forget to pull out and actually use.   But this one week is a consistent reminder that I have tools that I know I can use, because I already have.

This week is a reminder to not allow outside things and people to control me.  Listening to my truest self, the wisdom of me that tells me what is best for me, this is what I remember to do.  We can never understand another’s journey, another person’s deepest needs, even if they are walking a similar path as our own.  I am reminded that I can listen to MY wisdom voice because I already have.

This week is a reminder that I can breathe, JUST BREATHE, through anything.  When all else starts to spin, no answers seem clear and the way ahead is foggy I can just breathe. I remember because I already have.

I am reminded that I am the Willow Tree  – strongly rooted, stretching my arms up to the sky, providing a shelter of branches, able to bend without breaking and so very strong. The things that I am able to withstand in life go far beyond what I every imagined for my life.  I am far, far stronger than I every knew I could be.  I know because I have already experience all of these things.

I am reminded that LOVE surrounds me and flows through me. I can choose to respond with love and light, feeling grateful for every little gift. I can choose to seek love and welcome it when it is given to me. I can choose to recognize that I am never alone.  I can choose to believe that love is the most powerful thing I will ever experience.   I know this because I already have.

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I am reminded that letting go and trusting that all will be well is the only way for me to find healing and become whole.  If I try to have all of the answers, understand all of the whys and make sense out of everything I become more lost. When I let go, allowing myself to live in the mystery I somehow find my path.  I know because I already have.

Each death now opens another door for me, peels back another layer of my cocoon. Death is a part of life and I can dance between the light and the dark, in that glorious space where love resides, in the misty Shadowlands of Great Mystery.  I know all of this because I already have. I already have.

Place of Readiness

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It is in this place at Avalon, by our pond, that I’ve just written for the past hour and a half. Writing, for the first time, of my slide into Cuckoo Luckoo land 18 months ago today and putting into words my memory of that day.

I wrote not out of a painful place but rather out of a place of readiness. Another door was opened, another layer of my cocoon peeled away this afternoon. The compulsion to write came over me so fiercely as I was driving I almost pulled off the road to write in that spot. But I knew I needed to be here, at Avalon, on land that is Sanctuary for me. So I wrote in my head and waited.

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It’s not time to share the story of that day out loud yet. It was enough to write it, knowing that when I write my book the story will need to be told.

I am breathing deeply and freely in awe of the Muse gift that comes to me. I am smiling as I stand barefoot upon the grass I just laid upon writing of Russell and our story. As I write this story I feel him cheering me on, believing in me as he always did.

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In this time, this moment I am filled with love and light as I continue my journey through the shadowlands. I know I am not alone.

 

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