Time to Rock the Boat

 

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I took this picture when on a sail boat in Mexico this summer. The water got a little choppy. The guys in charge were a little tipsy. I had a choice to make: get stressed out and fearful, or relax, trust and snap pictures of an amazing sunset. Thank God I was able to do the later. What a sunset! 🙂

With that said, there are definitely times in my life when I need to rock my own boat a little. Not stir the waters and create unnecessary drama, but to say how I feel in the moment and acknowledge when someone is hurting me and let them know how I’m feeling honestly. Too many times in my life, I find my metaphorical boat, my life, affected by someone else’s choices and I remain quiet, or act as if everything is OK or not a big deal, for fear that I’ll lose that person. And sure enough, the Universe keeps sending me friends who do just that: leave when I finally muster up the courage to say that something’s bothering me. So I’ve been letting a lot of people I care about go. But givers attract takers, so when a relationship is established firmly with one person always giving and not rocking the boat, the minute she stops giving and calls the other person’s behavior into question, it just isn’t tolerated. Read my article: Giving To Yourself This Holiday Season to see if you are an over-giver.

How often have I swallowed my own feelings in order to have smooth sailing within relationships? But relationships are for growth. They are not for one person to give to another and never get angry when taken advantage of or lied to. To always stay easy going, even when when being treated insensitively, is not a good trait. That is the behavior of someone with little self worth or a lot of fear of abandonment.

I know this now. And it’s been a hard and wonderful year. I’ve let go of two dear friends I love. It was sort of easy. When I was honest about how I felt, about the imbalance in the relationship, about lies, about toxic behavior and manipulation, both people exploded (how dare I not be there for them always, no matter what, and how dare I call their behavior into question!) and then ended the friendships. They did what I would never do. Another soul I’ve loved I let go. When I could see that I was giving too much and hoping for oranges when this person would only ever give me lemons, I said I needed to let go. I miss this person, but it just wasn’t meant to be or else he’d have stepped up by now. Letting go can be a kind and compassionate choice as it allows the Universe to send in someone available and loving and emotionally secure enough to talk about feelings and be supportive.

 

It’s a learning curve. After my mother died in late May, I was reminded during the funeral just how much she gave to everyone in her life. Giving is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. She was a social worker and a loved volunteer and wonderful mother. I miss her dearly. But she never really got angry at her husband, even through all the drinking, lies and affairs. I don’t really think she thought she deserved that experience, but she was from another generation. Plus, southern women were taught to smile and act like everything is ok. Ever hear Miranda Lambert’s song Mama’s Broken Heart?

I can SO relate to this song! The line: “My mama came from a softer generation, where you get a grip, and you bite your lip, just to save a little face.”

I think I internalized that a lot. Maybe it’s why I’ve attracted men who cheated, lied, or were just emotionally unavailable to me? The Universe has a way of mirroring our beliefs. My experience in childhood defined my reality. Until Now.

Back then I couldn’t love a healthy person because I felt more at home with someone unhealthy: what I knew and grew up with. If a child grows up with a father who drinks too much, makes fun of his wife, belittles her, and then is abusive in other ways within the family—and it is NOT tolerated to ever confront or talk about feelings without getting hurt or ignored—this child will have more of a comfort level for this sort of behavior and will internalize it and basically take more shit from others.

Until I dealt with it, let it go, and dropped the belief that speaking my mind would leave me abandoned or hurt, I kept attracting those who did just that, ironically, reinforcing that belief.

This I now know for sure (I feel it on a cellular level) if I want to attract love, understanding, respect and compassion from others, I have to give that to myself first and know that I deserve it. Saying no to someone who keeps asking or who keeps taking without giving,  is saying yes to me. Those who take advantage or don’t reciprocate, I need to let go of, and allow their energy to drift away from my life so I can create balance. To give AND receive is necessary for our chi, our life force, to remain vibrant.

This year has been eye-opening for me. I have more clarity, understanding and awareness than ever before. Memories have come back through intensive yoga and meditation. Insight that I could never have had has come through the sharing with friends and other beautiful souls who are now close dear friends, some I’m working with at New Kind of Rebel. (check them out!)

We are all on a journey. We are eternal and chose this journey. Yup. Those who have hurt me the most I chose. They are my teachers and before coming into this lifetime, loved me so much they signed up to hurt me and help wake me up. My evolution has been dependent on them in many ways. That’s my belief. And it keeps me loving those in my life, even if from a distance, to remain healthy. I have so much love for my journey and for yours. I have so much more peace once I can detach a little from it too, and know that my eternal soul, the light that existed before this body, and will after this body is gone, is evolving and growing. Those who have helped me to grow, I give thanks to. I pray with all my heart that those who are suffering can find this sort of compassionate detachment, through meditation and prayer, to see the light and love that is available to them and within them.

Thanks, as always, for reading my meandering prose.

With so much love,

Laura xo

 

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Today

(Dedicated to my friends on the verge of divorce.)

What if, just for today, I loved you for exactly who you are?

What if, just for today, I decided that my joy was my own to create, and not connected to you at all. Today, my joy does not depend on your mood, your smile, your behavior, or you doing the dishes, or any other chore for me. Just for today, my joy, my bliss, is independent of you.

What if, just for today, I decided my job wasn’t to fix you, control you, or try to get you to be more like me.

What if, just for today, I asked for help, but without any conditions or any criticism.

What if, just for today, I decided to give myself to you, with such reckless abandon, that it leaves you breathless and without a clue as to what you did to deserve it.

What if, just for today, I decided that you didn’t need to ‘do’ anything, or ‘be’ a certain way, to deserve some reckless, playful love.

What if, just for today, I remember what drew me to you, what I adore about you, and I tell you what I still see, what I still respect, and what still drives me crazy about you.

What if, just for today, I don’t interrupt you, correct you, or keep record of any past wrongs.

What if, just for today, I let myself be vulnerable and raw? Instead of getting mad, shutting down, turning away or stomping off, I will pause, breathe and say: “I need you. Hold me. I’m sorry. I love you.”

Today, I will not fight with you.

Today, I will focus on being a better me and let you figure out your own journey.

Today, I will respect you enough to make your own choices.

Today, I will love you without worrying about tomorrow, or what ifs.

Today I will breathe deeply and be present.

Today I will be patient.

Today I will listen to my heart and quiet my mind so that I do not feel the need to ‘do’ anything, or react, or panic.

Today I will be grateful for you, for this journey, and for all that we have created: the good, the bad, the frustrating, the joyful, because it is teaching me something valuable.

Today I will try to realize that I chose you, I chose this journey, this lesson, this experience so that I can grow. You loved me so much that you let us have this, have all of this.

Today, I will hug you because no matter what, we are blessed.

X & O

Lessons from a Frustrating Day

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photo by @rickylesser

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

God is indifferent, but not uncaring.

The dolphins still play, the sun still sets, the stars still shine, even if I can not see them.

There are trails to hike, trees to climb, clouds to dream under, even if I can not find the time.

When someone steals from me, God is still Good.

If fires rage, God did not cause them.

If he never calls again, God is not to blame. And I am still enough.

We are all in this together. The one who steals from me, the one who abandons me, and the ones who lift my spirits. We are all God’s children. We are all each others teachers.

When everything goes wrong, God is still Good.

There is much to learn. How did I respond when I didn’t get my way? How did I shake or tremble or shut down by another’s hurtful behavior or frightening choices? Did I stay graceful when speaking my truth?  Can I find gratitude or a lesson within what feels like a never-ending chaos of activity and whirlwind of needs to be met? Did I pause at the end of the day and reflect with kindness? Can I still embrace forgiveness? Can you?

I have much to learn. I am grateful to be able to keep going. It is a miracle I can fall asleep knowing that no matter what happens to me, or to you, God is still Good. Love is still alive. I detach and focus on Love.

Giving to Yourself this Holiday Season

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I recently read a very cool blog post about Buddhism and giving without any intention of receiving. It was written by a man. A very beautiful soul. And I love his blog: The Accidental Anarchist.

With all that said, it is still abundantly clear that this post was not written for me—or any other American moms with co-dependent tendencies or who are over-giving, people-pleasers. I am laughing right now at how I worded that! See, I’ve been working for about 6 years, maybe more, on my issue with giving till it hurts and people pleasing. I’ve been in a support group about it. I’m a yogi who, in every class I teach, reminds her students to balance their chi: learn to give AND receive. Receiving tells the Universe that you are worth it and that you value yourself and your time. When you allow others to give to you (and that can mean just giving friendship or compassion, not necessarily monetarily) it says that you believe you deserve to receive, that which you also give. Otherwise, when you give and give and never receive, you are telling the Universe that you are not worthy, not entitled to love, friendship, compassion, and trust me, that vibration will be heard loud and clear. You know the person who always throws the birthday parties, or who always gives of her time in a myriad of ways, but THE MINUTE someone asks if they can do something for her in return, she insists NO NEED, DON’T BOTHER. IT’S FINE!, REALLY, I WAS HAPPY TO DO IT! That was me. And I’m now a recovering over-giver. ha ha

Ok, some of you who are reading this may think, well, that’s a  bit harsh in the holiday season. Not at all. It’s in the holiday season—when everyone and every agency and every school is demanding of your time, your money and your volunteering—that you are tested and are given the opportunity to discover whether you are an over-giver, and whether you’re ready to slow down and be kind to yourself. That does not mean you don’t give charitably. I’ve already donated to causes, adopted a family and volunteered at one school this season, and yet, I’m viewed by those I did find the courage to say no to, as not giving enough. It’s time to stop the pressure to go, go, go  and to stop taking advantage of the givers. That may never happen in our frenetic American society. But you and I DO have the power to slow down. It comes with one word: NO. A No to a taxing demand, is a YES to YOU and your family. Trust me.

So, here’s how to identify if you are an over-giver.

These are the two main types of over-giving that drains your chi, your life force, and creates emotional instability, resentment and health problems:

  1. Co-dependent giving:
    * When giving to others never ceases, as people keep asking for more. You are literally attracting more and more takers because that is the energy you are putting out: Others needs are more important than your own.
    * When giving to one individual becomes toxic as they make it clear they might become destitute without your help. They use guilt and manipulation to take advantage of your giving heart. Yet that person’s problems or needs become a burden on you, your family, or thwart you from meeting your own goals or taking care of yourself or your family.
    * You are the go-to person in a crisis. You never lack for friends, yet you don’t confide in many of them. Instead, you are their ear, their rock, their support. For instance, do you always pick up the phone every time a friend is in need, even if you are on a work deadline or it means you won’t be able to run crucial errands or take a desperately-needed exercise class? If this is a one-time thing, no biggie. If it’s a daily or weekly experience, you are stuck in the rut of over-giving due to an insecurity of being needed and, therefore,  are creating distractions to thwart you from following your dreams, achieving good health, or leading a balanced life.
  2. People-pleasing giving:
    *Do you always say yes to every request to volunteer or to help out, then are later filled with resentment when you are exhausted and on the edge of a meltdown?
    *Do you find yourself throwing the biggest parties or fundraisers, yet rushing around filled with anxiety about what others will think, so much so, that you yell at your children while you are putting together the perfect evening to raise money for a school-project?
    *Do you find it nearly impossible to speak your truth or say no for fear of what others will think about you or say about you? And when you do finally find the courage to say no to something or to back out of something or a project that is taxing you, do you feel obligated to give a million explanations to smooth things over?
    *Is your favorite line: “Oh, whatever you want to do is fine.”? In your attempt to be easy going, to be liked, and to ‘go with the flow,’ do you end up always going to the type of movies you hate, or going to restaurants you don’t like just to not make waves?

If you feel like I’m being harsh, just know that this tough love article is written as a reminder to myself. 🙂  To some extent, I was the woman above. And to this day, I still find it hard to say no to someone, or to back out of a volunteer gig or an activity without feeling insane amounts of guilt and without giving a million excuses. (One of my favorite books on this topic is Women Who Love Too Much, check it out!)

For instance, this past Tuesday I had been running since 6 a.m. After getting lunches done and getting kids settled for school, I worked at a yoga studio from 8:15 a.m. – 2:15 p.m. Then I raced to pick up my youngest from his school, then dropped him at his chess club, then raced to my older son’s soccer game. I missed the first half, sadly. It ran over, so I was late to pick up my younger son from chess, but thankfully, one of the moms stayed with him. Then we raced home, only to recall my older son had a therapy appointment he almost missed, so we raced back out. As I dropped my older, my youngest reminded me that it was also Cub Scouts night and that I was to stay for an additional hour to plan the mistletoe fundraiser and the Christmas party. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and just said “Nope, not doing it.” I was calm, but just decided enough was enough. My youngest said that his friend’s parents would be mad if we quit the Scouts again. (this had happened last year and they begged me to try again as it ‘is so good for teaching morals to young kids.’ I took a deep breath and told him that we just can’t make everyone happy. I need peace. I need stillness. My house was a wreck. There were dishes in the sink, laundry piled high and I really wanted to cook a healthy meal and help with homework and get my youngest to bed on time. I needed to meditate. I needed to edit a manuscript. I needed at least an hour to myself. I had no desire to be in the Scouts den until 8 p.m. and then race home exhausted, eat pizza and crash into bed late, feeling resentful. If the Scout leader and his wife get angry, so be it. I’m exhausted.

As we sat at the table that night my youngest looked up at me and said, “I accept your apology mom. It’s ok. You can’t do everything.” What a sweetie. He really loves the Scouts. He really wants to do camp outs. But mommy really needs some sanity, some quiet, some balance. I can’t be racing about constantly. I had to fight every urge in body not to write a super apologetic note to the scout leader. I don’t need to. It’s just not the right time for our family. Nothing more is needed to be said. What I have learned is that giving a ton of explanations to takers is like giving a bone to a dog. They will chew and chew on it, giving you all the reasons why you can still do what is causing you anxiety or draining you. Why? Because it serves their needs.

Earlier this year I bowed out of an additional yoga training I was in. I so wanted to do it. But it required three days of nearly 6 hour sessions, 2 – 3 classes to take each week, reports, etc. This came at a time when some drama hit my family that was super stressful. That, on top of my increasing editing work load and all the other classes I teach. Plus, my older son’s soccer schedule ballooned into daily practices and 3 – 4 games a week. I was drowning and exhausted and becoming drained.

Will my friend who led the training ever understand? Probably not. But that’s not the point. My health and emotional well-being was taking a toll.

So, it’s been a long road to learning this hard lesson. I can’t do everything right now. I must give to myself. Even if I don’t give to myself at the same level of giving to others (what full-time single mom ever does?!) at least my needs, my health, my life goals, are on my to-do list. Just knowing my needs deserve to be on the list, is half the battle.

My challenge to you, dear friends, is to put yourself on your to-do list this holiday. What can you do for yourself? How can you fill your heart so that you feel abundant and joyful and grateful? When we are depleted, it’s hard to give with open arms joyfully.

Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have the funds to spring for a massage or a mani-pedi. That’s ok. Take a walk. Ask a friend to watch the kiddos and go for an exercise class or to a movie or write in a journal at a coffee shop while sipping foamy hot chocolate. Find something that feels luxurious and just allow yourself to have that. A bubble bath while reading. Take one hour off and give to yourself. Or even better, say no to one request from a taker, even if that means you lose that friendship. You are making space for yourself and for more compassionate and thoughtful people to come into your life.

Happy Holidays!

With love & light ~

Laura xo

Breaking Through Resistance

machureversenamaste

Resistance is a “Force of Nature”, a Universal Law, like gravity, according to author Steven Pressfield. In his book, The War of Art, he explains how resistance appears to everyone through fear, procrastination, distraction, anxiety, thoughts of not being worthy or good enough, etc. Steven writes that we all have our own unique creative genius, but this force called resistance often keeps us from expressing it. It’s the force that keeps us from changing careers, running a marathon, writing our novel, starting a business, even falling in love.

Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday replayed her 2013 interview with Steven this week, as his 15th novel, The Knowledge, hits book stores. Clearly, Steven is not slowing down or  giving in to resistance. Here is what he has learned in the 40+ years of tackling this force:

Resistance is strongest as we approach the precipice of our dreams, or are on the verge of growing spiritually closer to the highest version of ourselves. Watch this amazing short video clip as Steven describes “The Six Things We Resist Most in Life.”  

If this clip doesn’t launch, here is the quick list of where resistance hits most:

  1. The launching of any entrepreneurial venture (profit or nonprofit).
  2. Any diet or health regime, especially an activity to tighten abdominals.
  3. Any program of spiritual advancement.
  4. Any program to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
  5. Education of any kind, even in the endeavor to help others.
  6.  Any act that entails commitment of the heart, such as the decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship. ANY movement away from petty EGO-based viewpoint to something more noble, “to be generous, to be kind, to be open to love,” according to Steven, attracts much resistance.

To me, resistance is very much like the law of hiking long distances. If you’ve ever hiked for days with only a compass and a topo map, you know this law. The hike will be at its most treacherous point: raining, fog, encounters with wild animals, etc. a few moments before you find your way, or make the clearing that lights your path. That’s Resistance to me. And it requires that we just keep going. We just keep doing what we are meant to do to grow, to evolve spiritually, to embody love, to create art, to fulfill a goal; any goal.

Those dreams that are the dearest to us ignite the loudest resistance due to this Universal Law. The good news is that since resistance is a force of nature, that means the voices in our heads saying we are not enough: ARE NOT US. They do not represent our souls, our highest selves. Resistance is an outside force must be pushed through, faced, in order to rise to a higher level of being, a higher level of consciousness, to LIVE our Purpose. To face resistance, we just simply have to “put our ass where our hearts want to be,” as Steven puts it, meaning, just do it. If you want to write, write. If you want to love someone, push aside your EGO and just love him or her. If you want to start a company, keep taking baby steps and start it. If you don’t know what you want to do, just meditate and start dreaming and exploring what you like in life without judgement. 

When I heard Steven Pressfield’s Super Soul Sunday interview, SO many bells went off.

Steven, who has written 15 books, as well as screenplays, said he, too, felt resistance his whole life. It took him nearly 20 years before he began earning any money from his writing. It took many years before he allowed his writing to be his vocation rather than his avocation—meaning before he just started writing every damn day. It required a shift in thinking. A push through resistance. He had to mentally embrace that he was a professional writer and each morning just go to his desk and sit his ass where his heart wanted to be. Once he started writing, all fear vanished as he entered the Universal flow of being exactly where he was supposed to be to create art, to be a conduit of something greater than himself. If you’ve ever lost yourself in creating something, you know what that feels like. Time floats by. You are so in the zone. You forget yourself, your troubles, time, and you focus on being a conduit of creation. It’s a dreamy state to be in.

I could so relate. Listening to this interview last night, I realized that I had major resistance to push through. I hadn’t written a word in my next novel since May. In early May I had flown my mother-in-law in town to watch the boys and I spent a week away writing every day. I had accomplished so much. Then my mom died. I returned on my birthday at the end of May, with summer approaching, I allowed myself to focus on my boys; their activities, and earning as much money as I could via journalism articles and teaching yoga. But at the end of the day, it was resistance in the form of distraction, fear, the need to be the perfect mom, the need to prove that I can take care of myself financially, the need to not feel, as I was filled with grief that I couldn’t allow out.

“Resistance is the highest as we come closest to manifesting our purpose.” It’s so true.

Last night, in a quiet house, with the boys in London, I picked up Between Thoughts of You, my latest novel, and started writing. Soon as I was back in the zone again.

If you are encountering resistance, just do the thing you fear. Just do it, without thinking too much about it.

Steven says resistance occurs whenever we are close to evolving in any way. So we resist allowing love in. We resist committing to marriage. We resist being compassionate, kind and giving when it means a friendship will deepen into something meaningful. We pause after we commit to starting a new career. We allow ourselves to get stuck. Why? Because that means we would evolve into the person we ultimately already are. We would reflect our highest self. Resistance is a force of nature that occurs as we approach this significant step onto the path of our growth.

Just do it. Sit at the chair and write. Sit by the easel and paint. Call the girl. Show up. Keep going. Cook that souffle. Take a class. Go on the interview. What do you have to lose?

Love & Light ~

Laura xo

You are the PATH: Loving from the Inside OUT

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Everything you seek is within. This is what the world’s wisdom seekers say. And it’s true. But that may be hard for you to feel where you are right now. Most of us seek ‘things’ from others. We have been given messages from a very early age that imply someone will save us, complete us, rescue us. The prince on a white horse is you. The angel to save you from your reckless ways and addictions is you.

YOU are the PATH.

To some, that feels like a lonely journey. I understand. This message does not suggest that you live as a hermit meditating your days away by yourself in a remote mountain village. A journey to wholeness does not require such sacrifice. But in order to attract unconditional love, acceptance, compassion, support, forgiveness from others— you must first give it to YOURSELF. As Deepak Chopra says, “You can not receive what you do not give yourself.”

If you look to others to complete you, to fill an empty void, you ultimately become frustrated, disappointed and filled with ego-centric self loathing and victimhood. When we seek external approval, success, money, or another person who may ‘fit’ a long laundry list of what we think we want, we become lost and disconnected to what really matters in life and to our true self.

Ask a cancer patient what is important in life. Another healthy and playful moment with their child? Another hour snuggling in bed with their lover? Feeling sun on her face while sipping tea in a favorite chair with a beloved pet in her lap. Walking with a good friend out in nature. These moments are what fill us up. We connect with our highest self in these times. And we connect on a deeper level with those we love, because we are reflecting our highest selves. We are connecting in a pure, authentic, vulnerable manner.

So we must peel back the layers, the fears, the wounds that keep us from living purely and authentically. Create a loving relationship with yourself first, then you will find your PATH, find your TRIBE and begin connections on deep levels.

One reason people have a hard time keeping connections with others is due to a fear of vulnerability. We fear being judged. We fear being abandoned and hurt because we have been abandoned or hurt in the past. But the reality is that in order to truly love and be intimate with others, we must be free from the chains of fear. We must love ourselves so fiercely that no one can truly keep us from our center again. Then we know that we will always be safe whether alone or with another. From a fierce, rebel heart, we can connect on a pure level.

So how do we get there? It’s a journey. A journey through meditation, yoga, breath, writing, activity of any sort: running, dancing. For me, meditating has been remarkable. I find stillness and meditate, whether guided with DavidJi or Deepak, or on my own. I feel silence and sit with my feelings and begin to repeat over and over a silent mantra to connect with my light. My favorite is: I AM. SO HUM in Sanskrit. I repeat this over and over and like a whisper from the Universe, whatever follows I AM, I know I already am, but just need a reminder of: I AM LOVE. I AM LIGHT. I AM POWERFUL. I AM ENOUGH…I set my timer to 11 minutes. When I come out of it, I feel connected to all that is and deeply to my eternal light.

Find forgiveness for yourself. Feel what needs to be felt. You are eternal, divine and worthy of love just for being alive. You need not do anything but allow the light in.

Those who have been abused or neglected must feel the wounds to heal them. I know this from personal experience. Find a community, a tribe, a counselor, a support group and begin the journey back home to yourself.

Peace, love, non-violence, acceptance begins with you. You are the PATH. You are a REBEL. You are a Goddess. Nothing that has been done to you—nothing that you have done to cope with your past—defines you. The spark of divine light shines brightly within. Peel back the layers that cover it and shine.

The REBEL in me Bows to the REBEL in you.

~ Namaste

Laura xo

Becoming Gracefully Strong

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I dare you to find an athlete who is stronger than a a petite graceful ballet dancer. I remember working with football players when I danced and one linebacker growling at me: “This is HAAARD!” as he tried to leap. Yes, it is hard. Ballet dancers, especially, know that grace and strength come from hard work on oneself. The strongest person in the room is not always the biggest person—it is the one who can endure the most, who can continue to try to dance, even when in pain. Here are some more thoughts about strength:

Strength is never loud. It isn’t controlling. It isn’t angry. Or forceful. Or threatening. A strong person doesn’t hurt another for his own gain. Words of strength never belittle, or bully, or make fun of another. A truly strong person doesn’t boast, hold grudges, manipulate, or try to get even.

A strong person has already surrendered, accepted her situation and her role in it completely, and has forgiven her teachers—especially the cruel and harshest ones. This must happen before she can then begin the process of becoming strong. For me, it’s a process that will likely continue to unfold for the rest of my life. Today I saw a picture of myself from six years ago and it shocked me. I must have been 85 to 90 lbs, although I was trying to hide it wearing a baggy skirt and boots. Holding my nearly 2 year old in my arms, I was faking a smile. All the emotions flooded back in. I was broken hearted, tired, scared, worried, fearful. I had been taking care of two boys alone for nearly 16 months and I was with friends and trying to pretend that everything was OK. I was in a nasty divorce with an ex living abroad with his girlfriend. My mother was slipping away with Alzheimer’s. Some friends and a few in my and my ex’s family  were telling me things like I wasn’t capable and should give up. They reminded me that it was too hard; that I’d fall apart; that I would fail; that no one would want me with kids full time; that it wasn’t financially feasible to pursue a career in my field AND take care of them solo; that LA was too expensive; maybe I should take my ex back, etc. etc.  The fear and anxiety and anger and victimhood and martyrdom swirled around inside me like a raging storm. Until one day, while exhausted on the yoga mat in savasana (meditation), it all finally stopped. I could hear a little whisper that said “ENOUGH.”

This rock bottom place allowed me to sit still, acknowledge the people-pleasing storm I had allowed myself to create, and to realize that it was time to walk away from the drama. As the fog lifted, I began to listen more to that inner voice and to take baby steps into finding my strength and my core vision. If you are finding yourself knocked down by a sudden turn in life or are just unsure of your path, these steps may help. I’m sharing them with the humble intention that I may be of service. Steps to Find Your Strength:

  1. Listen to you inner voice. This requires finding stillness. In the beginning, it required power yoga, running and biking with tunes. I had to exhaust my body before I could get out of my head, lay in stillness and meditate. Find what works for you. A walk in the woods or on the beach alone. Lighting a candle and sitting in the dark. Taking a bath and closing your eyes while taking deep breaths. Just listen without judgement and allow whatever needs to surface, to surface. Maybe that requires journaling. But make this an alone exercise. No chatting with friends who may try to sway you.
  2. Acknowledge. Be honest and own up to your role in your situation. Do this without being too hard on yourself. But it’s important to not always be pointing fingers at others and playing the victim. What role did you play? For me, I was co-dependent and other’s happiness was more important than my own. Another’s vision for my life, was more important than my own. What role did you play in your current circumstance?
  3. Accept. Accept your life, your circumstances, your family members, your loved one, right now, for exactly what it is and who they are. Try to change nothing about circumstances or people. Do this without bitterness, without blame, without shame, without judgement. It’s hard. But just try it.
  4. Surrender. Surrender your life to a higher power. If you are not religious or spiritual just surrender to all that is. This is your way of saying, ‘I surrender to something more powerful than myself to help me, to guide me, to let me know that I am not alone.’ For me, it felt powerless at first. But once I surrendered, and asked my angels for guidance, I started to see where I did have power, over finding my own way, finding my own voice, following my heart, finding my courage. … Surender first, you’ll love what then comes.
  5. Dream. Start to dream. Make vision boards. Just go through magazine pics and cut out what you like. If you’ve been controlled for a long time,  it may be hard to even know what you like. This is fun. What designs, what colors, what music, quotes, etc. do you like? What do YOU WANT? It’s a step towards saying you are WORTHY and DESERVING. Make lists of dream jobs, without attaching to them and see if they are all in a creative field or analytical or health-oriented field. Focus solely on what you like, what you’d love to explore: Italy, Greece, India? Put those pics on your board without a thought about finances. This is dream time. Have fun. Play your favorite music while you do it.
  6. Trust. Trust the Universe, God, a Higher Power to take care of you. Say affirmations every morning in the mirror: I trust the process of my life. I trust that my life is unfolding exactly as it is meant to. I have faith that I will always be taken care of. I trust my voice, my vision, my heart. I am capable and I trust I am led and guided every day. I am safe. I am loved. I am abundant. I trust that only those people who want the highest good for me will float into my life. I trust myself. I trust the Universe. I trust, therefore I will not try to force anything, opportunity or person. Those people and opportunities meant to be in my life will float in with ease and grace.
  7. Take Baby steps. This is where I mainly live right now. (I did a cha-cha with Trust for years, ha ha! And I know I still have more dances with trust in my future!)  Just know this: Strength isn’t loud or forceful. It doesn’t require perfection either. It just builds by taking baby steps in the direction of your heart. It requires courage. So, for me, it meant writing another chapter, then another, until my novel was finished. It meant that I had to have thick skin for rejection and edits and to then send my novel out to more editors and publishers.
    It also required taking multiple yoga trainings, trusting my voice, finding confidence, and teaching class after class. Both writing and teaching yoga are equally frightening to me. But how wonderful is it that six years ago I whispered to myself that someday I’d like my career to involve my writing and teaching yoga. I love the creative and cerebral and spiritual aspects of each. One allows me to go inward and have the alone time I crave and need. The other provides the community and family and social outlet that I also need to thrive. As a single mom without much support or family or free-time, it’s critical that I take care of my health and not become a hermit by being alone too much. It’s the Yin and Yang of my existence. I love my life so much. I’m still taking baby steps. Another book to write. Yoga classes in bigger studios to tackle. Maybe a yoga retreat? Maybe more ways to explore my trust issues with loved ones…It’s never ending. Where can you take baby-steps today? Do you want to apply for a new job? Want to explore going back to school? Want to join a MeetUp group to go hiking or attend music or art shows? Take a few baby steps and see what emerges.

    With LOVE & LIGHT,

    Laura

 

 

How NOT to be both Mom & Dad

footprints

How many of you  have heard such sentiments as: “Poor thing. You have to be both mom & dad to your children. It’s tough. Your kids need a male influence.” Or something along these lines that make you feel as if you, alone, can not possibly raise children successfully. It’s scary isn’t it? Doesn’t it make you feel like you aren’t enough? Like you aren’t capable? Like you are insufficient and can never be sufficient until you find that MAN. But that kind of thinking can render a whole lot of hurt if you start to desperately just let any MAN into your children’s lives.

Listen to me clearly: YOU ARE ENOUGH. And when you find the right man to make YOU happy and who will be a good influence on your children, then you can let that person into your wonderful family. But for right now, protect that family and know that your parenting style can, and will, be enough to raise successful humans.

Yes, it’s true that the single parent with sole custody has the daunting responsibility of being the enforcer of discipline, as well as the care-taker, the champion, the soother, the cook, the maid, the tutor, the driver, the cheerleader…their everything.

But why make it Mom AND Dad? I find that offensive. I know plenty of wonderful dads who are just as compassionate and patient as any mom I know. So I’ve come realize that I just need to embrace a new version of discipline. I am not both Mom and Dad to my boys. I am the sole parent of my children and I have to find a way to discipline that is true to myself, commands respect, yet is still feminine and caring and mothering. It’s possible.

So to be clear, my children do have a father. He lives in Europe and is really much like a cool uncle. He sees them 4 weeks a year and it’s always on vacation. So no schooling, no carpooling, homework, discipline, soccer games, back to school nights, sick days, etc. But, and lets be super clear, I’m very grateful for his support.

I’m lucky. I know many single moms whose husbands left and never looked back and never sent one child support payment. That is just incomprehensible to me.

So, I’m lucky to have some financial support. Yet I still do all the parenting and I’m learning that I’m just not great at discipline. It’s not my strong suit. So I need to ask for help. And I’m doing that. As well as stepping into my own shoes.

I had a remarkable dream a few weeks ago. It’s not entirely strange for me to have lucid dreams with deceased parents or grandparents of my friends. I guess I’m one of those receptors. My mother, who passed in May, as well as my former father-in-law, has come into many of my dreams lately, too. So, when a good friend’s father, who passed recently, came into one of my dreams, it didn’t seem all that strange. He was pointing at his son’s enormous shoes. I knew who it was because they were skate shoes with green and red and black and enormous. My friend is very tall. He then pointed at the sun and then at the beach. I saw a child trying to step into the footprints already marked on the sand. A small foot trying to fit into big prints, stretching legs as far as possible to make it happen. He then smiled at me and shook his head. (In my dream.) The waves washed away the prints, showing the child that he shouldn’t be following illusions.  I then saw my friend growing up and instead of trying to fit into his father’s prints, he was starting to embark on his own path, with no prints before him, trusting his own vision, his own thoughts, his worth. There were no prints in front of him to follow, he was making his own prints, fresh, unexplored, unique, not trying to be anyone else, or embark on another person’s journey, or meet anyone else’s expectations. He was making his own way. Before I woke up I heard, ironically, in my friend’s voice, not his dad’s: “Step into your own shoes.”

WOW.

So Powerful.

I can’t say exactly what this will mean for my dear friend. But for me, it’s about my children and how I parent them. I can’t be an enforcer like a typical dad, or their dad, who could be tough in a good way. There are no bedtime quarrels with their dad, for instance. Their dad would never have to sacrifice me time, like I tend to do… But I do need find a way to garner balance in the household. It’s no longer OK for me to go to bed each night at 10:30 p.m. because my youngest keeps being ‘frightened.’ And, of course, when he finally goes to bed, I still have to clean up and do other chores. It’s exhausting.

And, it’s no longer OK that every morning my youngest has temper tantrums about going to school, potentially making me late for a new job. It’s also not OK that my youngest screams about brushing his teeth or going to soccer practice or games. My life has a lot of drama due to my youngest. But guess what? My youngest never had a father. His dad was traveling by the time he was 3 months old and left by the time he was 8 months old…He never had that fear of ‘what will dad say or do when he finds out?’ like a lot of children have. So, I have to figure out a way to garner balance without giving up my own personality which isn’t one to instill fear.

OH, but how I need to have peace in my household. I need self care. I need respect from my youngest and also some personal space. This past Friday a friend needed to talk with me on the phone. My son kept getting up and making excuses as to why he was scared and it was 10:30 p.m. before I could call my friend back. It’s been 7 years of very little me time. I deserve to be able to get to work on time, to read, to call friends, and to b r e a t h e. I know that IF my ex husband was the sole parent, he’d have them ship shape within a week because he just wouldn’t put up with so little time for himself. And they’d get that straight away.

So, it’s been a wake up call for me. And my friend’s dad seems to care.

No, I can’t discipline the way my ex might. But I can discipline with love and compassion and calmly the way I feel comfortable. I can step into my own shoes.

So, that means telling my little guy he has no ipad or utube videos until he can stop screaming about going to school, hitting me about going to school, or having tantrums over brushing his teeth, or going to soccer. He has to respect me. But I *have* to stay calm, loving, not make it personal, and stick to my guns by taking away what he cares about most: his ipad. I was so worried for so long about him not feeling loved or valued or wanted. But now I see that I can still discipline in a responsible way without making it personal and being loving. I have to stay calm.

And, in the meantime, I’ve started a new rule that my ex agreed to (hip hip for little victories!) that I take one Saturday off a month). Even if that means I go down the road to a hotel and veg. … My ex & I will share nanny fees. I no longer go 3 – 4 months without a day off or the ability to sleep in one Sunday a month!)

And I think my boys will appreciate me more because of it.

 

So, here’s to little victories and BIG AHA moments. It’s a learning process. I still have so much to learn. … And am so grateful for the process and who shows up to support me on this journey. The Universe is amazing. And so filled with L O V E.

With Love & Light ~

Laura xo

 

An Old Friend Helps me Remember to Feel, Heal & Say NO

My Witness To Madness & the Definition of Love

Recently so many miracles have been occurring in my life, at the same time as a lot of drama. But the miracles are helping me flow through the drama, accept the scary or uncomfortable issues, detach from them, and to do what I can to help, or set boundaries when I need to most. It’s nothing short of amazing.

In mid-August I got re-acquainted with my former best friend in high school and college. So, my bff from when I was 16 years – 23 years or so. We hadn’t talked in more than 20 years. And it was just like old times, chatting nonstop from 9: 30 p.m. until 2 a.m. our first conversation. The next ran from 8 p.m. – nearly 4 a.m. These conversations were amazing, but also put me on edge too, as this person has a razor sharp, nearly photographic memory. I have selective memory. As a child of an alcoholic, highly functioning successful parent who see-sawed from random explosive violence—to razor-sharp focus on himself and work—I typically was not seen and ignored, or the witness to frightening episodes that I still do not clearly remember. I found letters outlining some of the most violent episodes when I was in the room as a child, and yet, I still don’t remember, but some day I likely will.

My bff remembered finding those letters with me, that were stuffed under a bed by an older sister for me to find. We read them together in college. He remembered all the times he tried to save me or rescue me over the years, too. The time in college when my roommate called him as I had stopped eating, stopped showering, stopped going to classes. He raced down from his school and slept on the floor by my bed. I barely remember that. He said a few times on the phone: “Why wouldn’t you love me? Why wouldn’t you want to be with your best friend? Let me take care of you?”

Hard to explain that to the best person I know. I didn’t love myself.

He reminded me of the time in college he drove to Georgia and realized I had no food in the apartment, and he shopped for me, held me all night, even though he always wanted more. I couldn’t let anyone touch me. Not back then. But I didn’t explain myself. Nor did I feel worthy of asking for help or of being the recipient of such constant love. We’ve talked about it all over this past month, he ‘sort of’ gets it now. He was so hurt when he begged me to move to Colorado after two of my best friends were killed my junior year (a super hard year), but I just couldn’t do it. No one had ever taken care of me. I drove myself up to college. No parents came to my graduations either. I had been alone for a very long time and because of the abuse and neglect, I didn’t feel worthy of being taken care of. He didn’t understand. I didn’t understand, so couldn’t explain it. So, I ran off to Europe at the end of my junior year. I was a good student. I got an internship with the BBC. I worked three- four jobs while in school my senior year too, the student paper, radio station and at a Japanese restaurant and as a lifeguard. All came in handy when my father forgot to pay room and board for a year while he was divorcing my mom and living with another woman. He was distracted. But, I could take care of myself. And I was trained at an early age not to make a fuss, not to complain, not to talk about my feelings, or I’d likely get screamed at or ignored— which is worse, much worse. So, I worked my ass off and paid my own way, even eating one potato a day for at least 2 months at one point because money was so tight. My bff came down for a weekend and saw that, tried to help, but I just wouldn’t let him fully in. See, his love was so unwavering. That had to be a mistake. I didn’t deserve that. If I had gained 15 pounds, he still thought I was beautiful. If I was down to 90 pounds with my hair falling out and so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed, he wanted to take care of me. If I wanted to just talk about everything but what really mattered and couldn’t let him make love to me, he listened and waited. And he waited for longer than anyone could imagine.

So, I was stubborn and wasn’t going to quit college and let someone who loved me, take care of me. Wasn’t I more comfortable being ignored and / or treated like pond scum? Wasn’t I more comfortable working my ass off and still never being enough or worthy of a phone call or a birthday card? See, abuse and neglect leave watermarks on our souls. And they are very hard to remove, even with yoga, therapy and mediation, if a person refuses to remember and just keeps going and going and saying intellectually that it’s all ok, but not feeling it. I know now that I have to feel to heal. I recall trying to confront my father and getting a three word reply: GET OVER IT.

And I thought I had. But maybe not. Maybe the watermarks of not feeling enough manifested in marrying someone who would leave me at the most vulnerable time in my life: with a baby and another child and a sick mother. Maybe it has manifested in me choosing men who are narcissistic and can never truly think I am enough: always looking for the younger or more hip model, trying to change me, or ignoring me. Maybe the Universe just kept putting people into my life to wake me up. To help me remember what I lived through so that I can so NO.

It’s taken me a long time to get that.

So, my former bff, who likely saved my life my junior year, came back into my life. Our long conversations have been healing but they sure dug up a lot of memories that I kept tucked deep down. And for a while I wasn’t sure why they needed to be resurrected. But maybe he came back solely to be a reminder to me of all that I’ve lived through and gone through and why I need to say no to all the men who will never be true to me, who will neglect me, who will think I’m not enough. And he has also reminded me, just from his example and his love, to set boundaries with those who will continue to dim my light, even if they are family members.

I’m more dedicated than ever to helping those with post-traumatic stress. I’m honored to be the editor of NEW KIND OF REBEL, an apparel company started by yogis who have experienced some sort of abuse, neglect, PTSD in war.  We will provide free yoga to veterans and domestic abuse victims, as well as give a percentage of all proceeds to charities that provide assistance to all who are victims of abuse: abusers and victims. Both are in equal pain. I’m honored to teach my therapeutic yoga classes to cancer patients whose disease is sometimes a manifestation of deep wounds. I love bowing to their inner light, that they may not truly acknowledge. Their tears in savasana, when I apply lavender oil to their foreheads, wash away my own pain. We ignite more flame into our own heart lights when we give and receive. I love what I do.

The past few weeks have been challenging, yet I know these events are setting me on my path. My father is having heart surgery and called me twice, for the first time in maybe 20 years that has ever happened. I lit him a candle. I visualized his highest self healing. I said a prayer. I sent him a text. But didn’t call back. And, an ex-boyfriend who broke my heart twice, who I’m still attracted to, got in touch, wanting to see me again. I said no. Saying no to someone who will never truly love me—whose actions are contrary to his words—is saying  yes to a better future for me. It’s allowing space for a future that is filled only with those who lift me up and accept me, rather than tear me down. From a place of support, I can continue to help others, and support my boys fully by being someone they can respect.

Sending love & light,

L. x

Struggling to Surrender to What IS

As I write this, it is a beautiful Sunday morning in California. I am trying to be grateful for all that I have. I so want to go for a walk on the beach, or for a run, take a yoga class, or just walk into town for coffee. But I can’t. My oldest had a sleep over, my youngest is still so very scared of ever being alone. He’s nearly 8 and my clingOn. I fell asleep with him last night as he was scared to be upstairs alone, without his big brother. He’s just my super affectionate, sensitive clingOn.

So, as I sit on the couch with gluten-free pumpkin bread in the oven, filling the house with wonderful smells, I wonder why I am still struggling today? I put on Star Wars Attack of the Clones for my little guy, in order to give myself time to read, to write, to garner focus and gratitude. Laundry is going, we have another soccer game later. I’ve been through worse, so much worse.

Yet for some reason, I still struggle today. Maybe it’s because my tank is empty? And maybe it’s because I no longer accept that it’s okay for me to be ‘on’ for two, three months without help. Plus, I took on more writing assignments than I should have this week, requiring that I sit for hours with stressful deadlines. I also taught 6 yoga classes, turning down 4 requests to sub… but still, I took on so much more work than I’m used to that my back went out. It’s almost better now. I know how to apply therapeutic RX to my back from my yoga training, but it’s still been daunting.

So what’s a full-time single mom to do? I refuse to wallow. If I get triggered, like I am today, I am aware of it, I accept it, and I surrender to the feelings, asking that they be lifted. Tomorrow will be Monday. School will begin, I’ll teach two yoga classes, I’ll have yet another deadline for a magazine. That is much easier for me to deal with for some reason. Today, longing to get fresh air and have some me time, is starting to do me in.  I look over at my adorable 7 year old and I remember this tug and pull of being so in love with him and yet still feeling ‘stuck’ for years. Weekends were so hard when he was a baby. I didn’t ask to do this parenting gig alone. It’s been 7 years…So when I remember those days, those months without help, I start to wonder what the Universe’s plan is for me. You know? I did go out this weekend, but saw myself through the eyes of someone who chatted with me. The man could not believe that I had the kids full time. He was ‘shocked.’

“How are you fucking sane?” he asked me, then told me that he had his kiddos every other weekend only and that he could never date someone like me who gets 4 weeks off a year only.

It was upsetting. I don’t accept this version of me, or his pity for me. I called a friend yesterday and told her how much I adore my life. This man said if he couldn’t go ‘out’ every weekend or play golf  his life would be too hard, he could never live my life without getting suicidal. I get that. But my life has so much more meaning than he could understand. So I don’t accept his view of me or his pity.

So, today, I mentally start to take note of all that I have to be grateful for:  I have two amazing kids that I’m very close to. They have goals and hearts of gold. My oldest volunteers, teaching his brother’s AYSO team, and works so hard to make straight As and to be a soccer star—wanting to garner a soccer scholarship. My youngest wants to save the world. Literally, he wants to be a scientist who can save the planet with an environmental discovery to clean the air, protect our forests and get us off our dependency on oil. My novel is with a publisher right now. SERIOUSLY! Crossing fingers the editor green lights it…I’m teaching yoga, and have a wonderful new boss within the yoga community who has a vision and presence I adore; whose goal is to expand awareness and reduce violence in our world. I’m going to India over New Years with this boss and other soulful yogis. My life is full and rich. And no, I won’t attract a needy man who only wants a woman who has a lot of free time to give to him. And that’s ok.  I’ve given to others for so long, and still do, that to let a needy or selfish man go is very ok in my book. I am happy to not go into that spin of trying to be something I’m not for someone else’s needs…. And yet I can be realistic and feel my tiredness today. With my ex in Europe and no family here, I will have many more years of doing this solo parenting gig. And, at the same time, I’m also beyond lucky to have them. It’s the yin and the yang of my existence.

It’s just, today, right now, I’m desiring a little freedom. Like a long ride up the coast to take a hike, or the chance to take a walk on the beach. And I need to be OK with just wanting that, needing that.

I read today that struggle comes from the Ego. When we demand that God must be heartless and unfair because there is suffering in the world, that is the Ego. When we get angry or bitter or resentful because of others’ suffering, that is the Ego. When I feel sorry for myself, or fall into bitterness, that is the Ego. Instead, I choose to take a deep breath and to ask that I can let go of my Ego, from an unwillingness to let go of my struggle, from my lack of trust in the process, from my lack of acceptance today for what is. I can surrender to these feelings, ask that they be lifted by a merciful God and then walk into grace by helping someone else.

That’s my goal for today. …

But I still plan on hiring a sitter or calling a friend later so I can take that beach walk. 🙂 I am no longer a martyr.

Thank God for little miracles.

With love,

Laura