Avoiding the Vacuum Syndrome

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The ‘vacuum’ is a syndrome. And I’m a magnet for it. Just ask my college BFF. She can tell you many stories about ‘girls night out’ that resulted in me getting sucked into this vortex by a man who needs a therapist to help him. It sort of goes like this: all the other girls are having fun at a bar, a party or a venue—giggling, talking with all the men who have flocked over, dancing, etc. At one point, someone in our group wonders, “Where’s Laura?” until they find me sitting at a corner table with the first man who introduced himself to me. I’ll have a panicky look on my face, that he clearly doesn’t notice. I’m desperate to get away, but am stuck in his mid-stream confessional rant. I am a magnet for TMI conversations with random strangers.

Now I know the only way to true intimacy, joy, and a real connection is through vulnerability—but Jiminy cricket, not in the FIRST encounter! Why is it that I’m the girl random men, at bars or events, or first dates, like to confess to? Why can’t I be that girl that fun men drag to the dance floor? Why can’t I be like my college roommate who always ended up meeting men who’d later take her to concerts, dancing, or to see comedians?  I’m the gal men want to take out to eat, or go on walks with and TALK. I mean, I have countless stories like this. I’ll go to a bar with friends to hear the local band and dance and instead, end up hearing about one man’s horrific child abuse; or another man’s endless thoughts of suicide after his divorce; or how another man just can’t get over the fact that his mother died of cancer 5 years earlier. These sort of deep convos happen within minutes of our meeting. Well, not always within minutes, but SOON after. I call it the vacuum syndrome because by the time I realize I’m in one of these situations, I have a hard time just getting up and leaving, as the man is typically mid-sentence about something horrifically sad and I feel bad for this person.

But the thing is, I need to feel bad for myself. I need to have more healthy fun in my life! I need more levity, more spontaneous dancing, more gut-hurting laughter. I need this sort of abusive encounter to stop. Especially now. I’m a single mother. So I take care of my sons 24/7. Even when I’m out, I wonder if the babysitter fed them well. Only during the 4 weeks they are with their Dad, do I get that mental vacation from responsibility and worry. I don’t need another drain to my energy or another person who needs a mother, therapist or savior. That needs to be clear.

My line of work is also very giving. As a therapeutic yoga teacher, I listen to others a lot. I can also feel their dis-ease and we talk about it and practice meditations that will help ease chronic pain, anxiety, fear and even combat cancer. I love what I do, and I love my boys and my life. But when I go out, I want to laugh, be silly and basically not be asked to listen to horrific tales as a bar-stool therapist.

Recently, a few girlfriends convinced me to do online dating. I don’t date the men I meet in my yoga classes, that would be unprofessional. And I don’t go out as much as I’d like, so meeting new people outside of my neighborhood or my circle is a challenge.

I naively thought this vacuum syndrome was over. I mean I live in sunny southern California where the skies are blue, the ocean is near and there are many playboys who want to stay young and play forever. But my recent parlay into online dating was disastrous. I mean, ridiculous. I should send each and every man I met for a date a bill for my services.

First, there was the man recently separated who went on and on and on and on about his ex. I told him to stop. Did he even read my online dating profile that said only to reach out if you want to try to make me laugh and lets not talk about exes? Um, clearly not. I ended up coaching this gentlemen and reminding him that his ex is the mother of his children. That it’s important to try to understand before being understood. To practice taking deep breaths and responding, rather than reacting, and to stop talking smack about her in front of their children. At the end of the date, that I cut short, he gave me a big bear hug and told me he loved me. YUP. I RAN to my car!

Then there was the guy who told me about horrific abuse by his father, toward him and his mother.  We had just ordered our meal. I had given up alcohol for lent, but was DYING for a drink as he spoke. I felt like an addict needing a fix. He just wouldn’t shut up. And he was beautiful. So damn beautiful. I remember just mentally drifting, so his voice sounded like Charlie Brown’s principal, wa wa wa wa wa wa wa. As I looked up at his gorgeous mouth I recall thinking: What a pity. If he could’ve just made me laugh, had a casual evening, I would be kissing those lips later. But NO, this former football player and model kept going on and on about how much his mother went through at the hands of his father, their divorce, being raised by a single mother—and then he started crying. Not just a little tear, FULL FORCE crying. Shoulders shaking the whole bit. “I’m so in awe of what you do. Single mothers are beautiful.” Um, OK. What the hell do I do with that? Again, what a pity. He drank an entire bottle of wine and most of the evening I barely got a sentence in, and when I did, it was to reassure him. He even told me a detailed story about a horrific rape he witnessed. I had to put my hands up and stop him. My stomach was turning. By the time we said goodbye, I had NO desire to kiss that man. No attraction to this gorgeous person. I drove home calculating the babysitter costs and feeling super drained and resentful.

Didn’t these men see my profile? In the headline, it clearly stated “Life can be too serious these days. Reach out if you can make me laugh or have a silly evening.”

There were a few other dates that were nearly as bad. So, the online profile is now down. The only reason I did this experiment was to get over someone, but instead, I ended up missing him even more. I miss silly energy. I miss laughing. I miss having someone need me as a woman, and not as a mother or a therapist. Single moms and yoga teachers give and give and give. I want someone to lift me up and not take care of me necessarily, but to add some lightness to my highly responsible world. Just because I’ve lived through a lot, doesn’t mean that I necessarily want to talk about it all the time, or marinate in deep heavy topics. There is a time and place for everything. These men need to contact a therapist, a counselor, a support group or come to one of my yin restorative yoga classes. But going out on a Saturday night, for me, needs to be light and fun.

For now, I’ll either stay in and binge on netflix comedies, or go to a friend’s hip hop dance class, or take paddle boarding lessons to hopefully play with some dolphins. If I meet someone doing things that make me smile, great. But I’m not going out of my way, paying for a sitter, to just get sucked into the vacuum any more!

Here’s to Healthy Love & LIGHT & SILLINESS this week. 🙂

L. XO

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Happy Place

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Oahu, overlooking where From Here to Eternity was filmed.

Is it possible to actually BE happier someplace else? Is happiness found within a destination? Certainly, it can be argued that some locations, cities, countries, just exude a culture or an energy that resonates, inspires, or relaxes, don’t you think? In my mid-20s, I LOVED New York City. I thrived on the vibrant energy, the fun, and being able to see concerts, plays or opera in the park in the summer—or using my student discount ID to see amazing musicians. I loved the food, the multi-cultural vibe and all the writers and dreamers and artists I met in school. Today? I don’t love NYC so much. It’s too noisy. It’s too far away from the ocean. It’s filled with too many rude people who yell at old people if they are too slow in grocery store lines paying their bills. I know. I lived there. And I’ve lived in London, Atlanta, Maryland, and had small stints in Florida & Maine. I grew up in North Carolina. I’ve travelled throughout most of the States, as well as nearly all of Europe, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union and have twice been to India as well as vacationed in Peru and Mexico and Costa Rica. I’m a lucky traveller. None of these places, however, I would consider moving to. Not any more. At one point, I considered moving to Barcelona. Two years ago I even stayed in a central apartment with a roof deck where I slept many summer nights. I visited the International school too. I had thought, intellectually, that being closer to my ex-husband in London, would be good for the boys and we could all learn Spanish, and still be in a warm climate. I had loved visiting before and even had a girlfriend living there with her family. That was the intellectual viewpoint. After living there for two weeks, however, I realized that while I loved all the artists and the liberal vibe and being near the sea, I didn’t quite mesh with the culture. I adored the big dinners and how everyone seemed to love spending time together. There were no snapping at children, for instance. None of that rushed American anxious energy. BUT, and it’s a bit BUT, smoking was everywhere. Meat was in every meal. Loads of drinking. And it was expensive. I wasn’t sure I could start over again there. Visit again? Yes. Live there? No.  And to be fair, I wasn’t always ‘happy’ there, or visioned a way to be.

Why am I sharing all this? Because after my 4th vacation in Honolulu, I’m starting to see Oahu as my 2nd home. It just feels right. Like a good relationship that defies intellectual reasoning, it just feels good—and I feel good—when there.  After I landed yesterday at LAX, I felt some stress immediately. Some may laugh, as I live right on the beach in Hermosa. I decided to go for a walk on the strand. It was 4:30 p.m. and sunny, warmish for here. I grabbed some water and took off. The walk to the pier was met with loads of drunk beach goers and a few cat calls from decks from guys who likely cat call any gal walking by in shorts or a bathing suit. Why did this cause me anxiety? Because I’m not a partier. When in this environment, I get a little anxious. I’ve always been like that. A small group having a picnic, no problem. But crowds and cat calling, no thanks. When I got home, a friend going through a divorce came by. The anxiety was high. She’s going through a lot. He has another girlfriend immediately, they are going through all their assets, it’s fear, anger, abandonment. She isn’t taking care of herself and having a very hard time staying positive. She won’t do yoga or walk regularly or eat well. She is overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to see as I feel helpless. I am helpless. Thank God I am no longer triggered to what I went through when my ex left me with a baby. I’ve literally worked though it all with yoga and forgiveness. I can see that it was the best thing for me as God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself and I’m now teaching yoga and writing creatively. My friend will find the blessing in her situation, eventually. But not now.  And her situation mirrors the southern California culture or energy, or accepted requirement to always stay young, to always be beautiful. It can be a competitive and insecure environment to live in as a woman. After said friend left, a neighbor came by, a wonderful soul, who loves to party, but has a good heart. We’re very good friends. He wanted me to meet his new girlfriend. It was awkward immediately as she gave me a ‘stank’ face after assessing me and complained to him that she didn’t want to meet me. She was loud about it, as she was tipsy and holding her glass of vino as she was getting into the car. I agreed to drive them to a party. It was now 6 p.m. The vibe was competitive and definitely not peaceful. He was trying to be cool, but she wasn’t comfortable and had too much to drink. They were off to a party where likely some of our mutual friends would be. I had no interest in going, as I wanted to get up early, unpack, make an Easter brunch for the boys and do some writing, NOT hung over. Does that make me not fun? Does that make me boring? And why did I get a ‘stank’ face when I was nicely driving them somewhere? And why won’t my dear friend breathe and take care of herself better so she can get through this time? Why do I feel anxious within minutes of being home? Why do these situations make me uncomfortable? These are the thoughts and feelings that flood in, based on outside factors or energy or events. Clearly, I don’t totally feel at home living here. Last night I had nightmares too.

I had no nightmares in Hawaii. The sliding glass doors to the patio were open every night, with warm, reassuring breezes and ocean lapping sounds filling our apartment. Sometimes distant luau dancers could be heard, or the local musician singing at a Waikiki beach bistro. Sure there was partying, but nothing bothered me. There were no cat calls from out of control drunk boys. There were no stank looks from insecure women. It was chill on the beaches, we met cool people hiking and in town at local restaurants. It felt creative and the vibe, wherever I went, was chill. There is a deep reverence for nature and the sea and culture. Sure there are partiers, but there are just as many chill people relaxing side by side with them.

I always feel happy there. Last week, whether I was writing my 9th chapter of Between Thoughts of You, (my next novel), or whether I was in Waikiki or a North Shore beach, or wandering through a remote ranch or hiking in the woods, or up to a volcano. Yes, I was on vacation, but this is my 4th vacation. After coming back home and feeling the pressure and the anxious vibe that is LA, I booked two more weeks in Honolulu via airbnb for late June & early July while the boys are with their dad in France. I have a hard time blocking out the noise and the energy and the fears here. It makes it harder to write. For instance, as I was putting my youngest to bed last night, I worried about him growing up here. I worried about how expensive it is here and how I can’t buy a home. I worried about the quality of men who ask me out. There’s only been one in the past 4 years here that I’d ever want to really be in a relationship with. I’m picky. And it’s because of the boys. This world in LA can be extremely focussed on the external and how things appear, not how they feel. I want to be with people who feel good. People who like to just hang with their kids, be with them, enjoy simple things.

So, while experts, yogis & psychologists all claim (understandably) that happiness is “an inside job,” where you live matters. I understand that To BE happy, one needs to find strength, worth, inspiration, trust, safety, balance, joy, forgiveness, etc. all within. I’m a yoga teacher and a writer and I talk about this stuff every week. (For good reason, I teach what I need to learn, lol!) I love chakra trainings and chakra classes and often my students don’t even realize how I change the class last minute based on the discussions and energy I hear and fell before class. If there are a lot of anxious people who have been dealing with change or illness or relationship stress, we definitely do grounding poses. I talk about the first chakra: being safe, grounded, rooted, supported, trusting, etc. You get the idea. So I’m a firm believer that happiness—and our health—is our own responsibility. But shouldn’t we, or I, notice when I ‘feel’ off in a certain location? Who we surround ourselves with and where we live—what energy and culture and norms exist there—can directly affect our core, our balance, our center.

I feel better in Oahu. I feel at home. I don’t feel pressure to BE anything other than I am. I can write there. I can relax there. I could easily teach yoga there. I meet sweet, gentle, people every time I’ve gone.  So while I can’t move for the next 4 years, as my oldest is thriving in high school here, that doesn’t mean that I can’t go back and forth as often as I can afford to. So here’s to manifesting my next book deal and buying a little cottage by the sea to write my next book! In June, I’ll be staying at a cottage in Ewa Beach, checking out a different location, far from tourists, and writing every day, editing my first draft of my next novel. To say I can’t wait, is an understatement!

As always, Mahalo for reading my meandering prose.

Chime in: Where is your happy place? Do you have one?

Love,

Laura xo

Finding Light Within Loss

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Photo by RickyLesser.com

It’s nearly impossible to find the light, any light, when lost and in pain. Any platitude will ring untrue, like a well-intentioned stranger who says, “It’s God’s plan, dear,” or “Let Go & Let God.” Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is really mis-understood. What a person ‘intellectually’ and ‘spiritually’ understands, is not felt within the body of someone who has been traumatized. Ask any veteran. Ask any survivor of horrific abuse. It leaves a water mark that I believe melts into our muscles and settles into the deep subconscious within our bones that whispers in another language—but one that triggers our insecurity, our doubt, our sense of not belonging, our sense of not being enough. One yoga class, one therapy session, one confession, one psychic healer isn’t going to fix it. Post traumatic stress is something triggered by the body, from something buried deep within. And sometimes, we aren’t even cognizant of what that is, if it’s been blocked out.

Think of the person who ducks every time she hears a car backfire because she was a young child in a war-torn area where her parents were shot. Her heart is racing, palms sweating, and she might manically race to get away from the noise—to the point of running into the line of cars. She isn’t conscious of why she is fleeing, but the noise has triggered a buried memory that she never processed fully and her body is forcing her to feel the fear, feel the anxiety, feel the terror. The problem with PTSD is that, if not treated, this flight or fight mechanism repeats over and over until a sane person is no longer sane. The woman who has been attacked, for instance, may try to shake it off. Years later, she may have a full-blown panic attack in a parking garage when her car door won’t open. Her body, reliving a time when someone grabbed her, will start an internal revolt until she is bent over, throwing up, or passes out. This same woman may begin to suddenly leave restaurants or night clubs if her friends don’t return from the bathrooms on time because her heart is racing and she can’t look other men in the eyes. Her body is forcing her to feel—but it isn’t from a healthy sense of intuition. It’s from blocked pain that has nothing to do with the reality of the present moment.

No one likes to feel pain, or relive pain. Some people may have even disassociated with what they were going through, like a child who was abused, in order to survive. Years later, she may not understand why she won’t allow men to touch her. Again, it’s the body’s memory. It’s the body echoing out through our senses to force us to feel, in order to heal. But feeling sudden panic and reactivity, spurs insanity.

That person becomes paranoid, makes bad decisions, is untrusting and desperately seeks a way to end the torture—which can make alcohol, or any escape, alluring. When trying to kick the escape habits, that person can start to isolate, become severely depressed or even suicidal.

When we can grow compassion for someone suffering from PTSD, then we can foster forgiveness for whatever escapes that person sought out—even those that caused our own suffering. Because it isn’t personal. He or she was in severe pain they couldn’t endure anymore. Period. End of story.  It wasn’t about you or me. And they didn’t mean to hurt us.

For 5 months I’ve lived every day wondering if my sister was still alive. It’s been excruciating. We both lost our mother last May and one of the last things I remember her saying at our mother’s funeral is how mom always reminded her: “there’s someone for everyone dear.” The someone my sister found hurt her badly, beyond comprehension. And she just got lost in the trauma. I won’t go into the details.

Two weeks ago I was convinced my sister had died. I grieved the loss. I cried so hard. But I also remembered her light. It’s so bright. It shines all over my house in every room with some bizarre trinket, picture or perfect gift, (usually an exotic frog of some sort, long story) that she has given me over the years. I recalled the way she played piano and sang. How rebellious and creative and genius she was. How compassionate she was: always rescuing animals and strays of any kind, lol. After two days of grieving, I found out she was alive! And I spoke with her for the first time in nearly 5 months too. She’s now getting the treatment she desperately needs.

She may think that she’s lost everything, but she hasn’t. Her eternal light is burning so bright. Her future can actually be strengthened from this, if she lets it. As a therapist, she’ll be able to help even more people, especially those going through PTSD, because she’s been there. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.

Those who blame, shame, or ridicule anyone who has lost their way, due to PTSD, are heartless bullies. Compassion requires that we all take a moment to think about what someone else has gone through—to imagine their pain, their anxiety, their stress—and to think about ways to extend a hand, lighten their load, lessen their pain. Once we do this, even if it is a prayer we say, a candle we light, or a note we send saying we are thinking of that person, we return to love.

Compassion always returns me back to the amazing power of love. I can no longer stay mad at you, if I love you. If I love you, and realize that nothing you did was intentional to hurt me, than I can forgive you and fill my heart with love and acknowledge your light. Whenever we are back in that space of love, that space of light, there is no room for the ego or blaming or shaming or criticizing or ridiculing. And in that light, we are one, we are equal.

This experience, like others when I’ve lost loved ones or friends from sudden tragedies, reminds me of how fragile we all are. Even so, we all have an eternal light with lifetimes of knowledge and grace within us. If we allow ourselves to feel the pain, bless it, acknowledge it, enter stillness, and risk asking for help when we need it, we can actually feel our light as bright as the sun.

May we all find our way to loving each other, as the sun loves the Earth, without asking for anything in return, except for the blossoming of our potential, like wild flowers on a hillside.

With so much love and gratitude,

Laura x

GREECE BABEEE!

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So I have been dreaming of going to this villa in Greece for F O U R years. I decided to plan a yoga & writer’s retreat here for 2018 and then got the surprise of my life: this villa estate on Evia, which is usually booked a year in advance, had a cancellation and opening THIS AUGUST. After calling a few of my yoga & writer friends who said hell yes, I booked it.

WHAAT?!

Kinda crazy. But hey, life is meant to be lived. And when I get the road signs, the green lights, the serendipitous moments, I pay attention. In last night’s yoga class with beautiful yogis I’ve been teaching for 3 years, two more signed on. One sent me this beautiful text saying:

“After my mother died, I vowed I would travel more but can’t seem to ever get away from work. I’m BEYOND excited and feel so blessed to have this trip of a lifetime! I cried last night with joy.”

Isn’t that amazing? It seems that there are quite a few of us going on this trip who have dealt with the pain of grief or health issues this year and need some FUN and PEACE.

This villa is quirky, unique, gorgeous and hand-crafted. It is a living story, and you know how much I love stories. Once I heard how it came to existence, I was hooked. The owner’s father was a British shipping executive with a hobby in building and carpentry. He discovered this island, that is an hour ferry ride from Athens, and literally bought a huge chunk of it. Then he built three buildings that have adjoining outside spaces with long tables for his friends to come and spend weeks together.

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The man loved food and entertaining and children. His daughter almost had to parcel up the estate or sell it outright once the economy started to tank. Instead, she decided to rent it out to keep it in the family. I’m so happy she did! It’s perfect for entertaining and large dinners and then wandering solo, exploring and time alone. If kids, or big kids come, there is a lot to do! There is a basketball & tennis court, rope swing, kayaks and hiking trails down to the ocean. Every room has its own entrance, bathroom and view of the sea. Of course there is an infinity pool, jacuzzi and Turkish steam bath.
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And because it is so remote, the estate comes with a driver and a cook.

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The driver can take people to the other side of the island that has bars and populated beaches, or to the ferry to go to Athens for sight seeing. The cook will make amazing, authentic Greek dishes every evening. And the price is right. With the Greek economy the way it is, this villa retreat is much cheaper than going to Palm Springs—well, without the airfare! (but that’s not bad right now either!) So come join us. Send me a note and I’ll give you the full details as we only have 4 spots left. There will be yin & beginner flow yoga daily, 3 writer workshops that you can attend, or not. Every thing is optional so there is plenty of time for writing, hiking, swimming, reading, doing nothing, or perhaps sinking into a tub with a view that helps you dream BIG dreams. 🙂

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Love & Light ~

Laura

How Does IT Feel?

A few weeks ago a friend explained to me why she no longer modeled. She simply said: “I just don’t feel good when I do it.”

It was such a simple statement, yet  has stayed with me. How often do any of us ask ourselves how we feel about what we do, until we are bursting with negative feelings? Even then, I bet half of my female friends reading this typically just push aside the bad feelings due to obligation or fear. We stay in dead-end jobs with negative energy or abusive bosses, for instance, because we need the pay check and are afraid there won’t be something else out there. I get it. Or, we sometimes put up with abusive and disrespectful partners because we don’t want to be alone, or be that ‘single mom’ that we see rushing around and struggling financially.

 

Fear and anxiety, obligation and childhood programming can really get in the way of just knowing how we feel and then doing something to move away from a negative experience and towards a more positive one. What we focus on expands. It’s taken me a long time to trust the Universe enough to move towards what feels good. Maybe I didn’t think I deserved to feel good or to be treated with respect or to be nurtured? Maybe I just didn’t think I was allowed to ‘do what feels good’ for a living? It takes time to shift out of fear and into awareness—and even more time to shift into action. Yoga and meditation is what has helped me the most. I’ve written about that a lot. Here’s one story about the process of shedding trauma that leaves a watermark of crippling fear. ( The Science Behind Sanskara )

After shedding some fear and embracing who I am and what I have been through, I’ve been able to shift into allowing myself to ‘feel good’ and not just ‘do good’ & ‘be good’ & please everyone else. It’s hard to make this shift, especially as a southern woman and a mother. I think many of us women are programmed to be good moms, good wives, good friends and daughters and to serve, serve, serve to the point that we no longer even know what feels good because we are so busy helping others. Balance is key. Knowing I, and you, are worthy, allows us to seek that balance. Yoga has helped to release super heavy memories and scars and to lighten up. I’m still in that process of recognizing what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. So here is a list of some of what I’ve been processing and what the Universe is sending me through ‘teachers.’ The Italics are how I am responding or not responding, yet shifting mentally.  I share to be of service.

Someone being disrespectful. I lean away. No need to even explain myself or engage. I Float toward those who UPLIFT & SUPPORT.

When someone ignores me or is neglectful. I no longer try to reach out & am not available the second they are demanding & ‘need me.’.

When someone makes fun of what really matters to me. Next. Don’t even engage. 

When someone lies to me. No time for more of that in my life. That phase is OVER.

When someone is abusing substances & is no longer a safe, reliable or loving friend. I don’t own their issue and I don’t need to fix them or even be there for them. 

When someone is pushy and tries to force me to do something that clearly benefits them, that I don’t want to do. Sorry, it’s just not for me.

When someone is being manipulative and trying to make me feel sorry for them so I will continue to ‘help’ them, even though they know I’m strapped for time as a full time single mother who is working:  Instead of being resentful I just mentally drop this person and explain to them:  “I hear you, but I’m really swamped right now. “

When what someone says isn’t backed up by their actions—like a man who says he loves me & is my boyfriend, and then disappears for weeks at a time, not even texting or responding to a text; or the friend or family member who says they are always there for me, but never has time to chat or call me back when I finally muster up the courage to call—Your actions matter. I send you all love and wish you well, but this doesn’t feel good. I deserve to be treated with kindness and with respect. I love you. I know you’re wounded. I see your closed heart. I feel your fear. But these things I do not own. You own these. I’ve worked through my own. I wish things were different, but they aren’t. Good bye. Be well. I now float towards what feels good. 

When someone doesn’t want to listen to me. Ever: I stop trying. I recognize that this is what I grew up with. This is what I felt in my marriage. This is a pattern that must stop by letting go. If I can always find time to listen & ‘try to understand before being understood,’ the right friends, lovers, family,  will emerge who can find time to do the same. The Universe responds when I visualize supportive, nurturing people flowing in and stop expecting those to  give, who just can’t.

When someone is judgmental and makes assumptions about me and pushes their ‘religion’ or assumes I ‘do’ or ‘believe’ something harmful: My GOD is LOVE. I love you enough to respect your choices, please respect mine. If this doesn’t work, I drift away with love for this learning experience as I must be authentically and unapologetically myself.

 

If you liked this post, check out these!
Manifesting B A L A N C E = More Play

YOU are the PATH: Loving from the Inside OUT

Struggling to Surrender to What IS

Aumakua

 

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     Excerpt from Between Thoughts of You, my 3rd novel set in Oahu & Tuscany

      Hi’iaka i ka Poli o Pele protect this kiki

      Aumakua of the night,

      Watch over your offspring, enfold Lani in the belt of light.

Lulu had been told as a child that Kamakau taught Hawaiians the dead went either to a place of darkness called Milu or a place of light called Wakea. The Aumakua were the intermediaries between the living and the dead. Lulu had always suspected that her wise Nan was one of these.

When Your Book Deal Falls Apart

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There are always two ways to look at things. Always. Some of my favorite authors were rejected multiple times by publishers and agents before getting a break. And my writing mentor in graduate school in New York, Barbara Probst Solomon , told me years ago to hang every rejection letter from every agent and every publisher on my bedroom wall. She insisted that I should be proud of trying. She also had to read, edit and approve my first novel, Lucifer’s Laughter, in order for me to graduate from the writing program. I’m not sure if the novel was her speed, but I’ll never forget her words of encouragement. It was a murder mystery/suicide plot with a southern main character in a little town of Maine. In short, it was nothing she would likely pick up on her own. But she said to me: “You’ve done this before haven’t you? You can tell a story well and move it along. Keep at it.”

In a world that is hyper critical and loud, like New York, that was the kindest encouragement I had ever received during my four years there.

So, I’m sharing my rejection story with you in honor of my thesis advisor, Barbara. In short, a lot of life and a lot of fear occurred in between that time when I was in New York penning my first novel and now. Journalism jobs, marriage, international life, divorce… Four years ago I began writing fiction again in earnest.  My second novel has only been read by one agent and one top editor at a publishing house. Barbara, if she still advised me, would likely say I haven’t tried hard enough. I was lucky to have an introduction to an agent right away. It didn’t pan out, but then I reached out to the top editor of a major publishing house directly, and to my amazement, she said yes she’d love to read my book! It took five months to hear back, but this kind soul wrote a very thorough letter to me last Wed. It was like a soft break-up with someone you really like, but just aren’t in love with. She told me I was a good writer and lyrical and careful with word choice, but that Southern main characters have to be so engaging that she falls madly in love. She wasn’t in love with the main character and I have too many characters. She wants a more simple novel to publish right now. Uriel’s Mask has a lot of action and goes from the end of slavery (inspired by a true story) to the 1980s, so it is more plot driven and reads like a movie. I learned about the type of novel she’s looking for and it’s not as large in scope.

So, this week was hard and I was working such long hours and juggling a lot that I didn’t have time to digest this news properly. I’m sharing it with all of you because I want my fellow writers to realize that it’s just the process. If I am too scared to hear these honest dialogues from those in the industry, I will never grow. Maybe the book just wasn’t a fit for this particular publisher? Maybe she’ll read my next one, which is drastically different and not southern AT ALL.

Maybe I need to do what most do, and mail 15 to 20 copies to agents all over the country? Maybe I need to consider self-publishing if it costs the same amount as spamming agents? All I know is that I can’t give up and neither should you if you receive one rejection letter. All I know is that I’ve been writing and publishing work since I was 18 years old as a journalist with the Red & Black newspaper. Writing is what I do. Yoga helps me do it better and live longer and healthier. In my Yoga for Writers Workshop that I’m leading, I will bring in my rejection letter, as well as all the drafts of the query letter that I created to finally send to the one agent and the one editor who responded positively and requested a copy of my novel. It’s a process. It’s a business. And the best part is telling the stories. I’ll keep writing Between Thoughts of You, my 3rd novel, but also squeak in time each month to mail out one query letter or two for my previous novel. I think baby steps and practice will make it all a little easier. Have a beautiful week. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep focused and out of drama. And keep striving. Laura x

Here are some more posts on writing that I hope inspires you!
Want to be a great writer? How you live matters.
First creative writing conference with kids in tow!
Boldness has no expiration date
How yoga helps you create
 Breaking through resistance

Still Sleep-Training??

A friend saw this video and sent it to me today. It was a wake-up call as life isn’t THAT much better since being given a sleep therapist. Four and a half years ago I was on the Dr. Drew‘s Life Changer’s show because a producer read this blog and saw that I was struggling to get my baby to sleep on his own. Struggling was an understatement. Maybe you can relate?? Dr. Drew hired a sleep consultant and gave me this gift. She did help, temporarily. My son is strong willed and screamed and screamed and kept my older son up. It did die down, but was SO hard. A few years ago I hired a nutritionist to help us as well, as she thought it was tummy upset from gluten allergies. Well, that helped a little, but not a lot, if I’m honest. When I think back to all the years when my son was always yelling and screaming and overcome with dramatic fits over bedtime…no wonder I turned to yoga! lol.

 

I’m sure it was my fault for giving in before the 3 week mark of letting his scream it out. I think single parents often over-compensate and snuggle a bit more with their kiddos or do the family bed thing for a lot longer than necessary just due to guilt, being over-tired, or just the need to get in more closeness if working too much away from the home. My James, now 8, still races down to my bedroom some nights, but it’s not a daily gig. Thank God for little miracles! He still insists that I snuggle in his bed (which I don’t mind!), read a book and then listen to soft music with him. We sometimes do deep breathing and always say our ‘gratefuls’. We have a routine. And I’ve put in star shows, twinkle lights, a range of soothing spa-like music and it’s still hit or miss as to whether he’ll be asleep by 9 p.m. on school nights. Sometimes it’s 10 p.m.after he’s gotten out and in bed over and over.

Seriously?

So, I think my friend sent me this video to remind me to toughen up. It’s time for life to get more organized and allow me more me time. My little guy has a safe and cozy room and a mom and big brother who love him. The energy is positive and loving in our house…so basically, he’s milking it! At 8 years of age, shouldn’t he be in bed by 8 p.m. and asleep lights out by 8:30 p.m. sharp every night? Any ideas on motivation? I’ve done star sheets, Taekwondo awards, allowances…what works for you? Seriously, I’d love to know, as this single mom needs her little guy in bed, lights out by 8:30 every night so I can be more productive and maybe chill a little in the evenings. 🙂

I look forward to your thoughts!! And, thanks for chiming in.

L. xo

Navigating Joy & Sorrow in the Labyrinth

maninmaze

Last night I had a gold thread dream. It’s this lucid dream that sometimes happens with me. I let it. I’m aware, yet the gold thread keeps creating a scene for me. I am not in control and I can ask questions as it keeps moving, sending me a message. Bare with me. I’m not on drugs or was drunk! 🙂  So, this enormous maze or labyrinth was being formed. As it was being formed, it was like I was in it.  Then we rose high above it, reminding me of the labyrinths I saw in Peru, except this one was much larger. I could see the formation that was intricate. I could also see a bus or large image enter it. This image just kept moving and trying to navigate its way through. We were watching, like spirit guides, hoping for the best.

The night before I had dreamed of a friend who just stopped, he decided to check out. Literally, a cash register drawer opened and closed shut as he faded away. He was going to talk with me, then walked away, like walking away from life. I woke up at 4 a.m. frightened for him.

In the labyrinth dream last night, I realized that this symbol was for all of us. It is the quintessential image for life. How we all must navigate our way through dark times to the light and how these times will continue to fluctuate. It’s our ability to keep going, to keep taking baby steps forward—even when we are lost or alone or without any encouragement or faith—that matters in the end. Who musters up the courage to keep going? Who asks for help or reaches out? Who sinks into despair or hides under a mask of false pretenses in fear of letting others know they are struggling too, until their ‘hidden’ struggles manifests in addiction or illness or some other outlet to fill the gaping hole? I know, I’ve been there.

As the gold thread dream started to move, I began to wonder if the person, or persons, in the maze or intricate labyrinth would get stuck? Like Harry Potter’s maze, once inside the high dark hedgerows, without the perspective above to see how it would end, would the person just sink in despair? Taking baby steps forward with blind faith and no real indication that I’m on the right path, is hard for me. Mostly on weekends, after a long work week and without breaks from kiddos, I can sink a bit. Even with the tools that I’ve found, such as mediation and yoga, just the months on with the kiddos and long work demands can leave me drained and a bit blue. Loneliness can sink in on weekends too, even when I’m enjoying hanging with the kids. I admit that I miss the husband best friend thing, of hanging out after the boys go to bed. I don’t miss the ex, just the feeling of having that best friend to chat with. But if I focus on what I don’t have, I tend to lose grip of what I DO have. And I know that. That’s when I have to be ever mindful to just rise out of my little maze of looping thoughts to garner perspective. To realize that my situation won’t last forever. That I’ll find the me-time again, that I’ll find the time to finish my book, that I’m just in a hectic full-time solo parenting and working period in my life with little time for a social life. But it won’t last forever. And I do have beautiful yogis and friends at work who I adore. I am lucky that where I work and what I do is so enjoyable and fills me with purpose. So I mentally need to take a break through 10 to 15 minutes of mediation daily in order to rise up above the dark corridors of my daily looping thoughts or dark lonely moments, to garner perspective.

harrys-maze

Once I have perspective, I can then re-engage and start taking those baby-steps to navigate my way through those pathways again. The lucid dream, like the native indian myth of the hopi man in the maze, was a reminder to me that life is meant to be a challenge. All lives have turbulence. Most people experience sorrow, loss, disappointment, frustrations, and sometimes senseless violence. It’s hard to just keep going in dark times. Isn’t it easier to just sink and say ‘I give up,” get cynical and start thinking ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘why bother?’ But that’s exactly what I have to fight against and picture a positive end result, like a professional athlete visualizes the win. Maybe my end result is just big picture items, like more joy, more love, more time to write, more time to travel…so I just keep going, visualizing that they all start flowing in and getting on my path. And when I’m back in that faithful zone, synchronicity begins: I meet that new friend who is on the same path as me, or that creative opportunity opens up, or that person who supports my vision gives me support that lifts my mood for weeks. It happens and is happening. I remind myself of these amazing synchronicities when I feel blue.

Keep the faith people. (I say this to myself too.) And to my friend, you know who you are, what did Khalil Gibran say? “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” I’m here for you.

L. x

Seven Year Anniversary

I received this notice today that seven years ago I registered this blog on WordPress. SEVEN years. Wow. How much have I learned since that day? How much more do I still have to learn, might be the better question, lol! Seven years ago, January 2010. Wow, what a mess. I was the epitome of the southern mantra: ‘fake it till you make it.’ I was sleep-walking through life with an often-sick baby and an 8 year old solo. My husband and I separated October of 2009, but honestly, he had been flying back and forth to Europe since our baby was 5 months old and gone 2 weeks a month anyway. He had been gone long before his physical, permanent presence. I was just catching up to that fact. And, I was trying as hard as I could to not fall apart or fall into despair and bitterness. I found out in October of 2009 he had a double life and a girlfriend in Europe who had been traveling with him to exotic locales across the globe while I was at home with a colicky baby and another son to raise. Enter months of therapy and going back and forth between trying to stay married and rediscovering he still had this girlfriend when he was away—I landed smack into the realization that I was a door mat and just kept clicking a rewind button that propelled me into yet another betrayal heartbreak moment. After three of those events that landed me at 90 pounds and barely functional, our therapist demanded that my ex finally stop swinging between two women and ‘killing’ me. So he left Dec. 26, 2009, after a pretend family Christmas with a lot of phone calls from the girlfriend. Because I’ve been a journalist since I was 18, and writing has always helped me find clarity, I started this blog. But I didn’t actually post a public post until much later. My first post was when my youngest was 2, so I had been a FT single mom for over a year with maybe three weeks off. The post wasn’t very personal, as perhaps I was afraid to BE personal during the middle of a divorce, but it was accurate. It was about mental fatigue and inspired by a New York Times article. I re-read it today and it’s still very current for me. Here it is: BrainDrain.

Seven years later, I still have many moments of brain drain. I needed to re-read the advice list in this old post, as I still do not follow all of it. Brain drain is very real for single parents, as it stems from making too many decisions. Do any of you feel it? I notice that being the sole care-taker and the sole-decision maker for two humans without a break, is exhausting. EVEN when I teach yoga and do yoga. EVEN when I get a good night’s sleep. Things slip. EVEN when I input as many items into my calendar as possible, emergencies pop up and I’m the only one to handle them. (sickness, someone forgetting their lunch, a game getting cancelled, so I have to leave work early to pick up…)

And don’t get me started on dating. The woman who has her kids full time is treated very differently by men. EVEN by the men who fall in love. Yes, even them. They run away or try to completely control me and change me or my parenting style.  (Example of disrespecting family time with the boys, by calling during dinner, or before bedtime and trying to get me to leave them home alone, yet again, to come over at the last minute.) Some are just not for me, they party too much, drink too much and are not good for my boys, so I don’t go out with them. And some don’t want the ‘responsibility’ that dating someone like me seems to imply, so they try to get me open to booty calls, friends with benefits kind of deal so there’s no obligation or need to truly try to connect. I walk away.  Or they don’t want to compete for my limited amount of time, as the ones I’ve known want me, and only me, and nothing to do with the children. It’s exhausting. I’ve finally stopped trying. I’ve stopped dating altogether. I’m focussed on my yoga, writing my next book and my boys. My boys have only met one man in seven years and that was after we were very serious. My boys come first. They are not a liability. They are the best people I know and I adore them. They have probably saved me from disastrous men. Anyone who would be a bad influence on them, is a no bueno for me. So, dating is easier and harder post divorce. It’s easier because the boys come first and I can quickly see who isn’t a good fit. It gets harder because I just don’t have the time or resources to hire sitters and go out on many blind dates. I’m opting out for now. And that’s okay.

So when a friend, who has only been separated one year, asked me this question a few weeks ago: “When does it get easier?” I didn’t know how to respond. Here’s my attempt:

It gets easier and it gets harder.

It gets easier when the love you had for your ex mutates into a distant brotherly kind of love created out of forgiveness and a willingness to move forward with friendship and gratitude for what is working in whatever type of co-parenting role that evolves.

It gets easier when you start to get to know yourself better and start to explore exactly what interests you. (This is especially true for those givers who try and try to be what their partner wants for years.) So now I unapologetically follow my heart: my yoga, meditation classes, my writing, my photography, my love for music and traveling the way I want to with no need to justify why I’m just not the party girl who loves Vegas, you know? I’m the gal who went to Peru & Spain & Italy & Prague solo. I hiked. I went to ballets, I went to museums, I toured, I lived on a rooftop for a week. I camped. I wrote. I did yoga. That’s more my speed.

It gets easier when you learn to respect yourself and your needs. But this is where it can get harder for the full-time, sole custody parents too. Once you realize your needs, your wants, trying to find acceptance in not getting them met on a weekly basis, is a challenge. With only 4 weeks off a year, every weekend I can fall into a pity-party if I don’t do something for myself. So, I find strategies to give back to me, like hiring a sitter so I can veg and write or go for a run, or get a drink with a friend…I also plan vacations for the few weeks off I get each year. Even if I decide to take them solo, I always meet amazing people on tours and I’m blessed to do exactly what it is I want to do and explore on holiday.

It gets easier when you begin to trust your inner voice, your inner guide, your abilities. I now know that I can juggle parenting, finances, dinners & my work & vacation planning & all that life throws at me while raising two kiddos solo. It’s not easy, but when married, I doubted just about all of my abilities. Now I have more confidence.

It’s gets easier because I’m too busy to engage in drama. I just don’t have time or interest in anything that doesn’t lift another person up. It’s that simple. Anyone who is rude to a waiter, yells at or about another human being, lies, cheats, constantly points out the negative in others, gets hysterical and rants, abuses substances,  etc.  is just not what I want to engage into my life. Of course, drama happens, even within our closest circles, so I try to be kind to myself when it happens, detach, pause, reflect first before responding and then connect to Source for guidance in what I need.

It gets easier because I now value my time more and have learned to set boundaries. Givers attract takers. It’s a universal law. So all the requests of my time, when I’m already drained, are no longer a struggle for me. I only have so much to give. If I don’t give to myself, I’m not valuing myself. I no longer feel the need to give or be there for everyone who calls hysterically or ‘needs’ me instantly. I have to take care of myself, and I still don’t always do it. I’m a work in progress. I work too hard. I do too much. I don’t always remember to eat or take my vitamins, for instance. I have no business trying to help everyone else if the oxygen mask isn’t on me first. So, I’ve learned a lot about how I used to be too giving. Too forgiving. Too easily swayed to volunteer or give more of my time than was good for my health. I’m trying to strike a balance now.

So I’ll end with this final thought for my friend venturing into divorce. Having the rug pulled out from under you with a sudden separation or betrayal may land you on your ass, that’s for sure, but it’s a position with nothing left to lose. You can only look up from there, right? Why not write that novel? Why bother with someone negative or controlling? Why not hike Machu Picchu? It’s also a spot where it becomes easier to let go of expectations and to challenge yourself to become a better you: more mindful, more present, more patient, more joyful, more playful, ever-evolving.  And that’s something to celebrate.

As always, thanks for reading my meandering prose.

With gratitude,

Laura