What If?

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I believe one of the hardest things to do for someone who is in pain is to know what we can do to make it better.  We watch those we are about struggle with grief, confusion, pain, and loss feeling so helpless to make anything better.  We find ourselves at a loss for words, a loss for knowing what action to take, and sometimes even at a loss for being present to them.  We want so desperately to ease their pain but just simply don’t know how.

What if all we needed to do to show support to people with aching hearts was to open our space up to them?  The space of our hearts; the space of our joy; the space of possibility; the space of ourselves.  What if we just said yes to sitting with them, listening and offering quiet support as they journey through on their dark path?  What if we didn’t need to do anything more than BE THERE without expectations that they tell us how to fix them?  What if we allowed them to enter into our own daily routine so that they could forget the dark swirling of their own, even if only for a few short hours?  What if we shared our happy place with them and allowed them to find some much needed peace from the tumultuous waves in their hearts?

I had the profound gift of an opportunity yesterday to spend the day with a friend’s sister who tragically had her husband die in a vehicular accident 14 months ago.  Eerily her and I share the same date for the deaths of our husbands.  There are many more connections we share – some surrounding our new lives as widows and some just about who we are and what we have done with our entire lives.  I won’t share more than that because it would mean sharing more of her story and I have a strong belief that I should only share my own story, allowing others to share theirs if and when they want to.

What struck me throughout our day of riding, talking, swimming with Karoly in the pond (Joy of joys), sharing our stories and just breathing was that I really didn’t DO anything yesterday besides share the gifts of my own life with someone who very much needed a place to breathe and be with the horses and the quietness that is Avalon.   It was a gift to me because I got to ride which I don’t do often enough; I got to sit and connect with a wonderful person; and I got to remember that my calling at this time in my life is to share my story and share the healing space of Avalon with those who need it.    Oh teaching lessons, hosting clinics and shows, having camps and managing the farm is all well and good but that is NOT my calling nor my current mission.

I don’t know exactly how I can allow or encourage this mission to unfold in a deeper and broader way, but I was reminded yesterday that one of my greatest joys is seeing people’s heart pains ease just by being here in this magical space.  Allowing myself to sit and be present to them in whatever way unfolds is of more value than me cleaning the stalls or fixing fence.  How to open myself up to making this a very active part of my regular work is the question.  I do believe if I remain open to the answers they will come.

I hope and pray that all who come to Avalon find some respite for the cares of the world – whether they be big or small.  Yesterday was just a more radical, conscientious day of offering that opportunity to someone seeking peace.   The gifts to me were so much more than I feel like I gave but that is the magic of being on the right path.  When we say yes to opening up the space of our hearts, our pain, our joy, ourselves so many amazing things are allowed to unfold.

If you know someone who is in a dark place of struggle, of grieving or of feeling stuck think about opening the space of your happy place to them.  Allow them to simply be with you as you garden, as you ride, as sit at your favorite park, as you go to the library where the quiet is so lovely, as  you hike or whatever it is that makes you happy. Pick them up from their house (driving places when you’re in deep pain is REALLY hard) and take them with you, assuring them there are no expectations that they do or even say anything. They can simply come along for the ride.

What if instead of trying to fix everyone’s pain we simply shared a little bit more of our joy with them?  We might be surprised what a gift that could be for us all.

Through thick, thin and some horse shit

“Through thick, thin and some horse sh*t!: Ed Williamson Photography

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This picture right here and the title that Ed gave it are a pretty good summary of our event yesterday. We dealt with extreme winds and cold, several falls, our first major injuries at Avalon in a lonngggg time, mud, equipment breaking, tears, fears, and more. Through all of it there were hugs, laughter, support, trust, magical moments, bravely saying yes in spite of the fear, and the outstanding love that seems to permeate everything at Avalon. It is a day that I will not soon forget and I believe many of us will look back on in future years saying “Remember the Spring Mini Event of 2018. Wow was it a doozy.”
From the very beginning of Avalon 10 1/2 years ago, I have felt a connection so deep to the land, the people, and the horses (all the creatures really) that words are inadequate to explain what it feels like to me to be the caretaker. I try over and over again, and will try again now, but when I read the words that pour out of my heart they are never enough. It’s similar to when I try to explain to my kids what they mean to me. How does one communicate a love and sense of responsibility that seems to be boundless? I don’t really know.

Avalon and its’ community of creatures and humans is not just my job. It goes so, so far beyond a job. Each and every living, breathing thing at Avalon is MINE. Every person who drives into this sacred space. Every horse who roams our fields. Every deer who wanders in. Every cat and dog that calls us home. Every child who lights up the farm with their joy. Every parent who wanders around, bemused that this is their life, trying to understand the unwavering love their child has for a horse. Every bird who flits around singing their songs for us all. Every person who comes to Avalon and finds a space to breathe a little deeper. Every tree and flower that makes me smile. All of it is MINE. I stand at the center of it all, filled with love and wonder, that this has been given to me in my life.

Every joy; every frustration; every injury; every brave choice; every goal reached; every dream realized – all of these are part of the emotional swirling I feel each and every time I am at Avalon. It is an honor and a gift that I feel these things and get to experience it all. It is also a struggle for me at times to remember to allow these things to flow around me and through me without allowing them to get stuck inside of me. The last 5-7 weeks, with yesterday especially, have provided me more opportunities to realize that caretaker I may be, but responsible for everything and anything that happens I am not. My sense of responsibility and driving need to create the safest, most open, most healthy situations possible for all events and occurrences can wreck havoc on me. Combine that with one of the most challenging winters/springs we’ve had and oohwee can I do a number on myself. It is an active part of my learning path right now to learn how to love myself as fiercely as I do all around me. And more importantly, to learn that all I can do is the best I can do and ultimately very little is in my control. To think that I am responsible for all things that go wrong is a self-damaging lie that I must stop believing.

Every event we hold at Avalon, be it big or small, I stand in awe of the bravery I witness. I don’t know what impresses me more, the bravery of the riders or the bravery of the loved ones who watch them ride. Yesterday was a day filled with WARRIORS! It was a day of hearts lodging in our throats and saying YES anyway. It was a day of constantly shifting puzzles and problem solving. It was a day of seeking joy and goodness in the midst of the chaos. It was a day of being willing to say “No, it isn’t okay right now. But I know, somehow, it will be.” It was a day of the community rallying together with a speed and efficiency that is awesome to behold. It was a day of staying committed to continuing even with the cold and chaos. It was a day of love for each other and the horses who bind us together. It was a day that makes me proud of all that we are.

(I wrote this musing to my community at the horse farm I own/manage on Monday about our first horse event of 2018 we held on Sunday.  It was 35 degrees  and a day of many challenges.)

There’s not always a bright side

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When I simply can’t find a bright side I write.  Today I don’t even want to find a bright side to anything.   Honestly for the past 3 years since I first dropped into the twisty space of Cuckoo Luckoo land with Russell’s quick illness and death I’ve sought out the bright side over and over and over again, even in the darkest places of my journey.  Some days, like today, I just don’t fricking want to look for bright spots.  Because some days when you are grieving the loss of one you love you just want to be able to say “It sucks!” and not feel like you have to quickly follow that up with something positive and forward moving.

I dedicated myself 3 years ago to living my journey out loud in very public ways.  I did it for my healing and also to be a voice for others who are grieving that find it harder to speak out loud their pain.   Well as I’ve spent time over the past few weeks reading through old journals, blog posts and other musings one of the things I’ve realized is that in almost everything I write I end with some positive upswing no matter how dark the emotions that prompted the writing.  It’s a compulsion on my part to always seek the light in the darkness; to always find the learning opportunity; to always find the glimmer of hope.  While I like that about myself and want that to continue to be something that I do, I am recognizing I feel resentful towards myself that I just don’t say enough “Large parts of this just SUCK! No ifs, ands, buts or rosy endings – IT SUCKS!”

For my own health and my own sanity, I need to come to an understanding that it is okay to not be okay sometimes.   My kids need to hear this from me and know they have every right to not feel okay or try to find something positive in every single moment.   We need to all give ourselves permission to say some days just suck!

Today I’m in major flashback mode to that crazy ass day Russell entered the hospital.  That day that has no answers as to what the heck put him into the hospital in the first place.  The day that my world forever changed.  The day that my children’s lives forever changed.  The day that just sucks!

With every flashback I try to see if there is something I missed back then.   I try to see if maybe some hidden piece of the puzzle could finally be found.  I try to remember if all the tests were run. I try to figure it all out but I know that I really can’t.  And then I try to tell my brain to shut up and stop remembering.

All I want to do today is wrap all 3 of my children up in some magical cocoon until I can find the way to go back in time and make it all right again.  And if I can’t go back in time with them then I want to be able to go forward in time to that illusive, maybe someday time when the memories won’t still wrap around us like powerful vines dragging us into the quicksand of disbelief and grief. Since I can’t do either of these things I am in this place of pissiness, regret, conflicted memories, and powerlessness to make anything better for them or for me.  We are trapped on days like today, and this next week leading to his death anniversary, in the twisty place of Cuckoo Luckoo Land where nothing is as it “should be” and everything is backwards, upside down and inside out.  BLECH!

So for once I am going to end my writing before I slip into that “find the positive, end on a good note” place I always want to go to.  Because today JUST SUCKS!  And that is enough to say!

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!

 

Transforming my Life

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Ever since seeing the movie Wonder Woman last summer, I have been a little obsessed with her. I have posters of her, quotes from the movie all over my journals, 2 costumes, jewelry, and even a Wonder Woman doll. I watch the movie over and over again to inspire me to be a Warrior for love for myself and the world.
My 2 costumes I have were worn in public 5 1/2 months apart. Both times I needed my kids, family and friends to encourage me to follow through. Wearing costumes in public is something I always love seeing people doing. But doing it myself took far more courage and shushing of my inner critic than I thought it would. Wanting to dress up and play, not caring what others think, is a definite act of being a brave warrior for following my own joy.

What I most LOVE about this “then and now” picture combo is seeing how radically different my legs, especially my knees look. Is it any wonder I was in so much pain back in September when I wore my WW dress to the Japanese Festival? Look at how incredibly swollen my knee was! I knew this but seeing it in this picture has shocked me to my core. I remember that day how I had to sit down often while we walked around, because my body hurt so very much.

I love who I was in both of these pictures – brave, me, loving my life, and following my own path. What I love more than anything now is that my body is no longer infused with pain and unable to do more than short walks. In fact, I have such minimal pain these days I barely notice it.

I’m thrilled that I said YES to taking back my health and started my new health program in November. Changing how I eat has led to me losing 26lbs and that has made my body feel better than it has in 8 years. Plus, I’m thrilled that I’m learning how to be a health coach so that I can help others transform their lives. Having my healthy body back while helping others do the same brings me great JOY!

I’m becoming a superhero for myself because it is what I need to have the life I want to live.

We Never Know

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We never know whose lives we are impacting by sharing our stories.  What if the steps we are taking and vulnerably sharing about are exactly what someone else needs to hear that day?  To not feel alone. To believe they can do it.  To know that there is light at the end of even the darkest tunnel.  We many never know who needs to hear only what we can share, but we should learn to believe that the stories of our healing, our successes, our pain, our glory can make a difference.

When I was a new teacher, I had to learn that I many never see the results of the seeds that I plant.   Oh sometimes I would see the impact I had by the end of each year, but most of the time the concepts of love, justice for all people, respect as the most basic right for all, and the need to work together to make the world a better place were simply powerful seeds I planted in the hopes that they would grow over time and become strong, vibrant parts of my students’ approach to life.

For the past 3 years, I have lived my life out loud in a more conscious way than at any other point in my life.  I have shared the story of my life through the dark times and the light ones.  I’ve shared it partly because I hope my story may help someone else through their own life struggles but mainly I’ve shared it because I’ve HAD to.   There is some driving force inside of me that seems to only be content when I write and share my story with whoever wants to hear it.  The writing and the sharing heal parts of my being that are wounded and hurting.  It also inspires me to seek greater joy and strength as I strive to live a life with purpose, passion and joy.

When I hear that sharing my story is inspiring others I have a myriad of internal reactions.  The first one is most often joy that something about my life and the sharing of it is making others smile, have hope, not feel alone, or simply have a little bit better of a day.  Knowing that my journey and the public sharing of that journey is inspiring others makes me want to continue to write and live my life out loud.

I also must admit that I often feel confused and don’t quite know what to say.  That quiet (not always so quiet though) part of me where my inner critic resides doesn’t always understand how me just living my life and rambling on about it (inner critic words) could inspire anyone.  I’m just floundering around over there and trying to make sense of things.  I don’t always feel as strong or brave or with it as I think I sound sometimes.  So I become baffled when others comment how strong I am.  “What?” my inner critic says.  “I’m not strong at all. I’m just good at putting on that mask.”

This winter as I’ve stepped even more firmly onto a path of living my life as a Warrior for love, peace and joy (and greater health), my journey sharing has become part of my discipline for myself.  Sharing my journey has become the stepping stones to becoming the powerful Warrior Woman I want to be for myself, my family, my friends and the world.    As I play with putting on the mantle of being Wonder Woman for myself and tapping into that amazing, playful, powerful Warrior energy I long to plant those seeds for others who want to find new paths to living lives of joy.

What if we all shared a little bit more of our joy and our pain, the light and the dark parts of our life, so that none of us felt we were alone?   What if we learned to open our hearts and our lives to one another so we could find the strength we need to live lives of greater joy and realness?  What if trusted that in sharing our story we might just be the light that someone needed to see on a very dark day?

I will continue to share my journey, the whole thing – good, bad, dark, light, joy, pain – for my own ongoing transformation.  I will continue to share my journey of being a Warrior Woman for those who long that for themselves but they just can’t quite find their path yet.  I will continue to share my journey because I really may never know whose life I’ve made a little bit better because I shared one story of my own.

While I may never know whose life I’ve impacted, I do know that the very sharing is transforming my own.  That will be enough!

 

 

Transforming my Life

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What an awesome opportunity I’ve had the past two years to go to the dinner/auction for Caritas. Thank you Jill Coffey Wenzel for having me as your guest each year. Thank you Kirsten Marie Peterson for going with me.
Hearing the stories of transformation from people who have been positively impacted by the work through Caritas is inspiring to me to keep being a Warrior on my own journey of healing and embracing life with joy. Plus, each time I have gone new ideas generate inside of me of how I could offer Avalon and the horses as a way for the people that Caritas serves to find some joy in their own lives. We shall see what comes.

I also loved being able to take a picture of myself in the same place 2 years in a row. Being able to see evidence of my own health transformation is fascinating. My hair style is almost identical though the touch of blue still in my hair makes me smile. My smile is almost the same; I think last night’s is a little bit deeper and easier. My excitement to do something out of my norm rang true both years.

Last year it felt like such a giant, brave leap forward to go to the event. I remember the fear and trembling I had at the thought of being around dozens of people I don’t know. My social anxiety was at its’ highest last year. Last night, I had none of that fear and trembling. I simply and radically felt happy to be able to dress up and do something different.

My health transformation is an ongoing process. While I love seeing the physical difference being down 35 lbs (25 in just the past 3 months) from last year has made, I love more how much better I FEEL. I am dropping more than weight off of my body. I am dropping years off my entire being. I FEEL lighter and happier than I have in a very long time. My heart doesn’t hurt all of the time anymore and that is what I am reveling in day after day.

As I change my eating habits and say YES to what feels good to put into my body; I am saying YES to loving myself more than I love the temporary taste of some food. As I say YES to new ways, healthier ways of handling my stress the tension that could only be eased temporarily by comfort foods or a glass of wine has released its stranglehold on me.
Say YES to you! Make the changes you need to make to feel the best that you can. We are worth living the best life we possibly can!