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

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Navigating Joy & Sorrow in the Labyrinth

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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.

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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

 

Photo Essay: A Path Unfolds

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Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

Where is her heart leading her? Is she listening? A path emerges from the depths of her despair. Will she follow it? When she hits rock bottom and has nothing left, she has nothing left to lose. No one to please. No one to worry about. Will she follow this path? Or will she stay safely stuck, tucked away in her narrowing mind of grief that closes all doors, folding her further into darkness.

This is her pivotal  moment. This choice can change everything. Will she choose it? She has an inkling that it just might make everything that happened—every God damn shitty thing done by those who loved her most—almost make sense.

But only if she gets on that plane. Only if she follows the nudging of her  heart. It feels like running away. It is. It feels like giving up. It is. It feels terrifying. It is.

Finally, when she can no longer get up in the morning in the same house decorated with sinister smiles peering behind photos in every hallway, she’ll know what to do. When she’s finally had enough of being left with the mess; being left to walk alone past the empty nursery; being left with the trinkets of 15 years of betrayal and longing mixed within memories pushing her six feet under, she might muster up the courage to go.

A path is unfolding. And because she no longer cares whether she’ll live or die, she may just get on her first international flight and leave everyone and everything she’s ever known behind.

 

Photo Essay: Diving Deep

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For the next seven weeks, as I dive deep into my creative writing and finish my next novel, Between Thoughts of You, I won’t be posting articles on this blog. Instead, I’ll publish photos from my multiple trips to Italy and Hawaii, as my novel occurs mainly in Tuscany and in Honolulu. One agent describes the premise of my book as: “Think of it as The Descendants meets The English Patient.” Well, sort of, not really. Flash backs for the characters also occur in Northern California and Japan and New York. I used to live in New York, so will drum up some photos, but have never been to Japan. My son travelled there with his father, so if I’m able, will post a few of his pictures. 🙂 Every day that I am writing and editing my novel, that I intend to finish at the conclusion of my Yoga For Writers Workshop I’m hosting, I’ll post a photograph. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂

As always, I am so grateful for all who follow or read this blog. ❤

Manifesting B A LA N C E = More Play

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B A L A N C E

 

In yoga it’s a daily mantra that we use physical metaphors, such as hand stands or Warrior 3 poses, to represent. Off the mat, in civilian life, it’s the juggling act of not tipping the scales too much into work verses play. Balance represents the Yin & Yang of our existence. I find that when I’m ‘on’ with the kiddos for months on end and working at a hectic pace, the minute they are with their dad, I have to literally restrain myself from going a little nutty. I have SUCH an urge to dance, be naughty, to travel somewhere random, you name it, I crave it. Right now, I’m in a dancing mood, lol.

LOVE this! My mood currently. ha ha

 

 

And it’s just because I’m not currently balanced.

Living in Europe was refreshing as I saw so many balanced people. People who drank one glass of vino with their meal each night and wouldn’t finish the glass if they didn’t like the wine, for instance. Europeans also take more than 6 weeks of holiday time, on average. So they have a lot of leisure time, do nothing time, be present time, decompress time, play time. In America, most of us (from my perspective, including myself!) work until we are drained and then party over-the-top to blow off steam. We can get attracted to relationships that mirror that up and down drama too, to help us FEEL alive and out of a monotonous grind.

If I just played a bit more on a weekly basis, doing what I love: dancing, jogging, hiking, playing between the long stretches of work … I’d have more balance. That’s my goal for 2017.

I just dropped the boys off at the airport after being on for months and right now, I’m craving a European or Greek holiday filled with a few weeks of just pleasure, writing, dancing, laziness, drinking and eating naughty food or all of what I mentioned. 🙂 I’m manifesting this in the new year. 🙂 Sometime in Summer 2017.

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I’ve been drooling over this Greek Island villa for 3 years! I found it on Airbnb…built by a British shipping magnet, it has two old buildings, with surprise rooms with rope ladders and hidden door ways…pools, sauna, tennis courts, basketball courts, jacuzzis, a huge outdoor eating area and kayaks. It is the only estate on the entire little island. It comes with a driver and cook who live off site. So, I’ve been trying to manifest this for three years, waiting for the right time, the right person to come into my life, the right circumstances … and I’ve decided that I’m just going to do it. The time is now.  There are no ‘right’ circumstances. At $116 a person/a night, it’s not bad ey? And it’s perfect for kiddos as they can scurry up and down the Cliffs, run amuck on the island without supervision and adults can hang at one of the pools or outside spots for yoga, wine, dinners, swims. … So, I’m manifesting this playtime that will either be a retreat for yoga and writers, a newkindofrebel.com retreat … or just fun with families and kiddos.

The time is now.

This I know for sure: 2016, with all its losses, has taught me to take control of manifesting my future. So that includes creating balance, incorporating more  fun, healthy love and work that feels like play.

What does B A L A N C E mean for you?

Seriously, I’m interested, so chime in. 🙂

AS Always, thank you kindly for reading my meandering prose. What would I do with all these rambling thoughts swirling in my little brain. No wonder I have to run, bike, do yoga and still write it all out. ha ha

Love & Light … AND have some playful fun this week 🙂

L. xo

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

 

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

gift2me

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