This picture is what started it all. Last summer, my James fell in love with a calico cat who visited us in our barn in Greece during my yoga & writers retreat. She chased grasshoppers and shooed away spiders and bees and purred and snuggled and was just adorable. But what I failed to realize, is that she was a cat, not a calico kitten. So…seeing that my son was in need of more unconditional love around the house after our move, I adopted a calico kitten that looks much like our beloved Greek cat. A yoga student, who had seen this picture, called me and proclaimed it was destiny, we had to have this look-a-like kitten. While my boys were with their dad this August, I adopted this little one. But the stars weren’t exactly aligned with this one. Just my luck. Who knew something so cute could end up more like the bunny from hell in Monty Python?!
Don’t let her cuteness fool you. Sweet, adorable Tabitha, my crazed arch-nemesis! Notice her collar? She’s had this for three weeks due to an infected paw that won’t heal. This hyper diaper high energy gal climbs window screens, tearing them and re-infecting her paw, even after two shots of antibiotics, one round of pills and three different lotion medications. She’s managed to find ways to rip mattresses open from underneath, climbing up inside them and clawing at the coils. A master of untangling woven baskets, and a natural at flying directly up to the top of our refrigerator, only to fly out across our kitchen, as if by hang-glider, landing anywhere: on a lit stove burner, countertops with bowls of prepared food, you name it, she lands on it. Yup, she’s certifiable. And it’s not like she doesn’t have toys. So many, my den resembles a pet shop. But she prefers ‘other’ ways to get her energy out. Like tackling and scratching my ankles the moment I walk into my house—biting my calves deeply as I try to shake her off. In rare sleepy moments where she resembles past kittens of mine who like to snuggle, if I make the mistake of picking her up, she often bites my cheek or chin, so deeply, a few of my students wondered if I had had surgery for skin cancer. I’m not kidding.
For the love of my son, I mentally tell myself: “it’s only a flesh wound.” My youngest adores her. Tabitha sleeps in his bunk bed and even when she scratches or bites him, James still loves her and reminds everyone that she doesn’t mean it, it’s just instinctual. Well, I grew up with cats and I know for a fact that not all kittens are like this. But I just nod to him and wonder what I did to adopt a crazed animal like this who injects stress and frustration and high frequency energy into my house. During the day when I write, I lock myself into my room, not allowing her in, and lock all the bedroom doors and bathroom door so she can’t reek havoc.
Just when I’ve had it and am considering giving this expensive kitten away (four visits to the vet already for her damn paw!) James crept up behind me last week, put him arms around my waist and said: “Thank you SO much for Tabitha! She’s the best gift I’ve ever received. I just love her.”
Geez, well I can’t give the devil cat away now, can I? So, what can I do? Every time I scoop her poop or swat her away from our dinner table, after she’s thrust a dirty paw into my meal, I bite my lip and swallow down the strong urge to pick this little urchin up and throw her into the next door neighbor’s yard with a doberman pincher. Lets just pray that I make it sanely to next year, when the Vet insists that she’ll finally “chill out.”
I’m taking a moment today to send love and prayers to those in Hawaii affected by the earthquake and Kilauea volcano eruptions. My heart goes out to all whose homes have been damaged and to children and elderly now in shelters.
I’ve donated directly to the Red Cross Hawaii chapter (information below). If you’d like to help, here is some information:
AT&T has activated their text-to-donate line. To donate via phone, text REDCROSS to 90999. That text will send $10 to the American Red Cross and their recovery efforts to assist Hawaiian residents impacted by the eruption and subsequent earthquakes.
The $10 donation will appear on your monthly phone bill.
Donations may also be made directly to the American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter by clicking here, or calling (808) 739-8109.
For those who have never been to the Big Island, here are some photos from last year’s trip, showing the majestic, other-worldly landscape of the Kilauea volcano and lava, bolder fields on the way to Kona. Aloha. <3
This teabag wisdom is perfect for me right now. Perhaps for you too? So many women are taught to ‘be kind’ and put others first. ‘To understand before being understood’ is a great concept for people who tend to be self-centered. But those of us who give till it hurts, by putting others’ needs before our own, don’t need this mantra.
Co-dependency is a sickness. It’s learned, usually from a very early age, within a family dynamic. But society as a whole (especially in the South) can push women to support, volunteer, and basically put way too many others’ needs first, at the detriment of their own dreams and sometimes their own basic needs. So many women and yoga teachers (lol) are co-dependent or are people-pleasing helpers. It’s great to be compassionate, but it’s not great to be taken advantage of, is it? So the Universe will keep sending the exact experiences we need to learn important lessons to help us grow into stronger more self- compassionate people who stop letting in, or doing bidding for, pushy or selfish takers.
Breaking old habits is hard. Finding strength to calmly voice myself, set boundaries, or walk away when I am de-valued—no matter what my timing may be—puts me on the right path to self compassion. Most often, in a situation that arises when a person goes back on their word, in work or in friendship, I don’t speak my mind directly due to a fear of confrontation, or maybe an underlying feeling of not being worthy. It’s irrational. It’s likely linked to how I was raised where direct confrontation wasn’t allowed without some sort of punishment. So I often don’t respond immediately when I should, and a few days or a week later, when I have time to think about it, I re-group and find the courage to address a situation. Often that’s in writing. Maybe because I hate fighting and shut down. And maybe because some manipulative or dramatic people might start crying or complaining or making excuses for their bad behavior and I might not finish saying what needs to be said. Other times, I have this knee-jerk fear of being yelled at or hit, which is also irrational. (I’m working on it.) And the Universe keeps sending me situations and people where my ‘kindness is taken for weakness’ like the Rihanna song.
But I’m determined to work on my throat chakra and speak more clearly and directly the moment things go awry, as it shows that I value my time and myself and even the person causing me anxiety if I speak boldly and give them a chance to respond. So, the moment a client says he will not pay me for services rendered and agreed upon and accepted, for instance, I need to speak up and invoice again. The minute an agreement isn’t honored, or a contract not adhered to, I need to speak up clearly and calmly. When someone doesn’t follow through with a promise or lies to me, in friendship, I need to speak up. And if that isn’t received kindly or respectfully, I need to walk away. It’s as simple as that.
Walking away can be so hard when strong feelings are there, but I was reminded today during a conversation with a good friend at the studio, that we lean towards what we are comfortable with. I’ll explain. My friend lamented that so many women still seek bad boys, just like in high school. But I thought about it and said, “No, they seek what they are used to, what feels familiar. When they realize that what feels like home isn’t always good for them, they change.”
Think about it. The man whose mother was overly critical will likely feel at home with, and date, a critical, bossy woman. It’s the same as the gal who might have been verbally abused, or witnessed abuse in the home. She might become attracted to a difficult man who is hot and cold and not always kind. She may become focussed on changing him, understanding him, or earning his love—reflecting unmet childhood needs.
But once people ‘get it,’ they really get it. Maybe the Universe gives us experiences so we can feel those unmet childhood needs and then release them by ‘getting it.’ Once I ‘get’ that someone’s proclaimed love isn’t healthy if their love is neglectful, controlling, confusing, dishonest, shut off, or whatever the case may be, I allow myself to ‘get’ what true kindness is—what ultimately I believe we are all attracted to on a deep soul level.
True kindness is priceless. It gives space to those in your life to be themselves. It gives space to yourself to explore your dreams, speak your mind, be seen and heard and accepted, exactly as you are. True kindness is about strong action, not words. A person that shows up for you, is there for you, who listens without trying to fix, or control or manipulate, is a gift from the Universe. When we value ourselves, we value the uniqueness of others more, honor agreements, are more respectful, and are more accepting and open.
Kindness starts inside. And I’m realizing that it may not look like what was shown to me in my youth. It’s not about volunteering all the time at my child’s school or outside appearances. It’s about modeling self-worth, self-discipline, mindfulness and closeness at home. It may mean I have to say no, and remit invoices and stop someone mid-sentence when they go back on an agreement in the future. (And hopefully, less of those experiences will be drawn my way.) It may also mean walking away, yet again, from someone I love whose love isn’t loving or kind. Because if I’m loving and kind to myself, I won’t accept being with someone whose behavior is neglectful or hyper critical or controlling—all making me feel bad about myself. Staying with someone who hurts me, is just a form of procrastination, as it thwarts me from stepping into my dreams and into the highest version of myself.
What I’ve come to believe is that any thing, situation, or person, who constricts another’s heart, is there to teach a hard lesson. When a person keeps returning to those things or situations or people, it’s soul-crushing. The action of returning to abusive situations or people says more than words ever could. It says I’m not worthy of better and I’m going to waste time with this pain and not be able to reach my dreams or live a peaceful life, being authentically me. It is self-sabotaging—even when the intention is one of ‘rescuing’ or ‘helping’ a loved one. Especially then. Even if it’s rooted in fear of the unknown, because that isn’t trusting the Universe to provide or feeling worthy of receiving healthy loving situations and people in our lives. We are all deserving of love, joy, friendship, support and respect, just for being alive.
I’m grateful for the lessons that I’m learning. I’m grateful even for feeling and seeing the pain of staying in bad situations and comparing that to the pain of setting boundaries and walking away from them. I can try to work with someone and cringe when I set boundaries and ask for them to honor agreements, or my time, but in the end, it’s what is necessary for me to respect myself and my family. And it’s the same with love. I can love someone dearly and still walk away. I can see their goodness and potential, but realize that they will continue to hurt me because of where they are in life. Walking away is actually harder to do when you still care, but in the end, no one can ‘fix’ another. We can only love each other and love ourselves. Walking away from who hurts (or bad boys, as my friend likes to judge) allows me to make space for someone and for situations that feel good, uplift, is respectful and where I’m valued.
I’m grateful for all of my mistakes and blunders as I try to find my way to a stronger, authentic, self-compassionate space. And thank GOD for the women in my life who are showing me what strong kindness is. You know who you are!
Every sun salutation series I teach in my yoga classes reflects my lifeline: gratitude. We end each sun salutation reaching up with our hands together, arms straight, stretching, reaching past imagery clouds to find light, inspiration, that we then bring into our heart space as we bow our heads and pause. We breathe in what has brought us joy, peace or even just a smile that day. We do this over and over until we have put together a list that is nearly 12 long of moments, people, projects, things, pets, events that we are grateful for that day. At the end of the series we pause longer, with our hands over our hearts, heads bowed, as we shift our vibration by thinking about what works. We focus on what is good, positive, flowing, beautiful, inspiring, supportive, comforting in our lives. It’s a powerful choice. And it has saved my life.
I can recall a time when what didn’t work would drive me crazy. And I’d focus on that one nasty comment or the inconsiderate actions done, or the hurt from real sorrow. But instead of finding the lesson in that pain and letting it ALL go, I became filled with resentments and a need to fix, control, make it better, understand, or be understood—which is another way of focussing on what isn’t working, instead of just allowing, accepting and letting go of what doesn’t serve and focussing on where the love is, the light is, the support is, the friendship is, the compassion is. These beautiful things and souls are in everyone’s life. It takes mindful effort to focus on them and not obsess on the negative, the toxic, the unhealthy, unloving people or environments. But once I do focus, and give thanks for, and give more time to the people, events, jobs, activities that fill me up with joy, acceptance, love, support, I suddenly find more of that in my life. And then giving feels like receiving, because I want to give to those who bring me happiness.
I’m welling up with tears by the sweet texts and notes from my dear yoga students this past week. Happy Mother’s Day wishes, thank you’s for classes they enjoyed and meditations that moved them, etc. My work feels like play. I’m in another yoga training right now with such an inspiring teacher and women. The focus is making me stronger, too, at a time that could tip me out of gratitude and into sadness or anxiety if I let it. But how cool is it that instead, I have to take two hot classes a day (that kick my tush), attend training and teach to my teacher. At night I memorize dialogue, in between all my mommy demands, and I love every minute. Sometimes I need to have a distraction in order not to worry about what I can’t control. Can you relate? I can’t control disease. I can’t control violent events. I can’t control the president, geez. I can’t control what will or won’t happen to people very close to me who are fighting for their lives. I can only love them. And when I take care of myself, I can love them better. I can be more mindful after yoga, and be present with them without letting fears race. I can trust the Universe more, and trust their journeys and my own. I’m so grateful for the calm and trust and strength that yoga and meditation brings. I can love and accept others and even let go with so much love, trusting that we are all on our own paths, our own journeys, that are exactly as they are meant to be, for our highest expansion.
My heart is full this week. Yes I miss my mom who passed away this week last year. And yes I’m scared to lose anyone else close to me. I know death is an illusion, but damn, you can’t really talk with, smell, hug easily from the other side can you? It’s still a painful loss anyway you look at it. Choking away the fear is hard. Hot yoga classes, meditation, sweat, no alcohol, makes it so much easier for me to float back into a space of gratitude.
And having the best boys on the planet doesn’t hurt either! This Mother’s Day my 15-year-old got up at 5 a.m. (he thought I was taking a 6 a.m. class) and walked into town, bought me a mocha with coconut milk and a huge bouquet of flowers. My 8-year-old gave me an adorable picture and hand-delivered a chocolate cupcake and a juice box to my bed for breakfast. And you know what else? My ex-husband texted and offered to buy us brunch. How lucky am I?
So lucky. When I think about going to Hawaii this June to finish my next book—AND my yoga & writers retreat I’m leading in Greece this August—I’m BEYOND grateful. It’s amazing where life can lead me if I let it. If I’m open to allowing my dreams, and the right people, to float into focus, and then focus on them, the miraculous bubbles to the surface.
Here’s to letting in—breathing in—more: peace, calm, light, love, compassion, joy, adventure, strength, patience, friendship, acceptance—and a little wiggle room for fun.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That title may alarm some people. But the fact is, our loved ones communicate with us all the time after they die. It’s as simple as one thought away. And it’s the most beautiful aspect of grief and death. So many people are distracted and numb and out of alignment so the idea of magic and eternal love and light isn’t a reality in their every day life. Yet it is. They are just not aware of it. When someone you love dearly dies, for weeks afterwards, you can feel them, dream about them, sometimes even hear their voice. It’s remarkable and it brings so much hope to those who have forgotten that there is life after death. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. But life drones on. Responsibilities, work, routines can keep us from day dreaming, noticing beauty, magic. Hurts and regrets and pain can compound our vibration so that our hearts are heavy and we can barely muster hope when we see a beautiful sunset. We become out of sync with our divine selves. We are out of the frequency to hear or see the messages our loved ones send us.
When someone dies, however, we are forced to stop everything. We stop our daily routine. We stop work. We focus. We remember. We pray. We become grateful for what this person gave to us. We open up to the magic of life. And in this grateful, open, vulnerable state, we notice, or hear the messages. That is the gift when someone dies.
My mother died May 20th of this year. I flew to North Carolina on the 21st and on the 22nd (a dear friend will love that number, you know who you are!) I saw this double rainbow forming over the highway. I was driving with one of my sisters two hours to her house as she had the best picture of my mother that we all decided must be enlarged and placed at the entrance of her memorial service. So, we drove the two hours to my sister’s house. As we were driving the two hours back to Chapel Hill, this amazing rainbow started forming. Another formed on top. I took a video of it that I can’t upload for some reason…But right after I videoed the rainbow and was still watching it form, my dad called. I am not close with my dad. Well, that’s an understatement. I have forgiven him for the many disrespectful choices and things he did to my mother. I’ve forgiven him for things I still can’t mention, toward me and to my oldest sister, but I keep a boundary up for my own health. Yet I could feel my mother present with us and I could feel her forgiveness. I could feel her urging me and so I answered my sister’s phone and I spoke kindly to my father and even agreed to pick him up from the airport and take him to his hotel. He wanted to come to my mom’s funeral. He likely doesn’t even remember half of what happened during our childhood or even forgot some events with mom later—that’s what is so puzzling and hurtful and insane about alcoholism, and whatever else came into play. But I decided to let it go. He is old. He was sad. And clearly, my mother forgave him years ago.
On May 25th, the day of my mother’s funeral, the minister surprised the family by asking everyone to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Us four siblings had put together the program and we all agreed upon speaking. I was the one who spoke about the power of music, as my mom played piano by ear and communicated through music. I even provided her top song list as I kept it after we moved her into an Alzheimer’s facility. Somewhere Over the Rainbow wasn’t on it, nor was it mentioned. Perhaps one of my sisters suddenly asked the minister to add this? I don’t know. But my oldest sister and I began crying as we remembered the rainbow forming in the car just a few days earlier. It wasn’t a coincidence. Mom was telling us everything would be ok. Listen to the lyrics. My two sisters aren’t physically well. They both have autoimmune disorders and serious stress and I wish so much I could take away their pain. My big brother even admitted to losing his faith in God after my mom developed early-onset Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t fair. She was a social worker with a huge, kind heart, and helped so many without ever asking for anything in return. He felt it was cruel. It was hard on him to see her, and he lived so close to her facility. It was hard on all of us to lose her. My mom was sending us all a message of hope. To not harden or become cynical in life. To stay aware of the magic that is subtle, but always there.
That evening, as I was coming home to my brother’s house, after walking around with my childhood best friend, we saw this little lime green frog on my brother’s door.
Frogs like this just don’t appear on doors in North Carolina. I know a lot about frogs. As a little girl I collected them. In fact, I would sit by a pond in the woods surrounding the horse trails and watch for hours waiting for the tadpoles to finally leap out of the water onto the Earth as precious little frogs. I’d put them in containers and take care of them until they were big enough (or so I thought) to ward off predators. Some kids had imaginary friends, I had friend frogs. Neighbors would capture rare red ones or orange ones and bring them to me for my collection. Yup, I was that kind of kid. To this day, my siblings still buy me frog paraphernalia for birthday or Christmas gifts. So to see this frog on the evening of my mom’s funeral was just a little reminder that I was loved, watched after, and was special. I was teased a lot as a child for being stupid. Not by my mom, but by my dad and siblings. I barely spoke until I was 11 and daydreamed constantly. I guess you could say I have always been partly in another dimension or watching for what was happening underneath the surface. I could sit outside watching birds fight for territory for hours. I would get mesmerized by the way light sparkles on dust particles. Listening to the wind through the pines I’d imagine someone whispering to me. Inside the house, I sometimes wrote invisible words or names on the ceiling and imagined them dancing or fighting over me. When sitting at the table for dinner, I paid attention to how words were spoken and whether a person’s eyes were sad or angry, or whether arms were crossed—and often didn’t hear or listen to what was actually being said.
Mom was telling me that was my gift. That’s why I can still hear her. For weeks she’s come to me in my dreams. I see her in her garden. I see her playing her piano. Talking with me about boys in her blue kitchen. One dream was funny, with her and her friends laughing over her fridge magnet of Nixon with the words: “Thank God he kept our boys out of Northern Ireland.” She was suggesting a similar one about Trump. It was funny. She was engaging. I loved talking politics with her. When I became a journalist, I had ground my day dreaming wire, but I still watched body language, especially when covering murder trials or interviewing politicians. I’m glad I’m not in that world anymore, but I remember how much fun it was to talk with my mom about it all.
My dreams showed me her quirky side before her mind was ravaged by Alzheimer’s or before she was stressed and heart broken. And I could feel that she’s returned to her quirky, beautiful, poetic, funny, musical self.
Over the past two months, through signs and messages and songs and dreams, these are the things she has told me:
There is no way to sum up the entire life of another person with a quick comment, so don’t read gossip crappy news or watch any of it. Don’t participate in judgmental gossip.
Strive to be happy now, with your life exactly as it is.
Forgive everyone. We have to let go of our judgements against others based on one or two things that they may have done. That doesn’t mean we become door mats and let in every person who hurts us over and over again—but let go of resentment.
You are enough, exactly as you are.
You are special.
You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone.
Those who hurt us the most are expressing their own internal pain. They are bleeding inside from issues and scars we may know nothing about it. So ignore whatever hurtful words they say to you.
Follow your heart.
Get out in nature every day if possible.
Don’t Let In anyone go who is negative or who stirs up drama in any way.
Have fun. Be silly. Laugh more. Let the dishes stay in the sink every now and then.
Don’t try to fit in. Be nice and polite when needed, but show your true feelings whenever you can.
Take risks. True love exists for every person at any age.
Stay true to yourself.
Take care of yourself: your body is your temple.
You are deserving—remember that, but don’t forget to give back.
Own up to your mistakes, but don’t punish yourself for them.
If you’re ever on an ego trip, pause and give to someone else.
If you give too much of yourself or try to control others, step back and allow others the dignity to make their own mistakes and choices.
Trust your gut, not your ego.
Don’t worry so much about pleasing others. Please yourself and be yourself and those who float into your life will be divinely orchestrated to be with you.
~ Thanks for reading this long post! My wish is that it brings a little ray of hope into your day.
It’s a loaded word. And people write A LOT about it. Here are some quotes swirling around social media these days:
“When you know your worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.”
“The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.”
“Your Value Doesn’t Decrease Based on Someone’s Inability to See Your Worth.” (My favorite.)
“Never force yourself to have a space in anyone’s life. If they know your worth, they will surely create one for you.”
“Know your worth. It makes no sense to be second in someone’s life when you can be first in someone else’s.”
“Make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you. Know your worth, even if they don’t.”
Ok, here’s what I think about all of this short tough love worth advice:
Knowing intellectually that you are worthy of love and deserving of being treated respectfully is one thing. It’s on an intellectual level. But truly feeling your worth on a cellular level—and living your life based on that deep knowing—is a different matter entirely.
Think about it.
There are a lot of factors in why we allow others to treat us badly. Some have been abused as children or watched neglect or abuse between their parents and on some subconscious level, don’t feel worthy of anything different. I’ve known wonderful, extremely talented and kind people who say they want to be treated well, but keep taking back neglectful, hurtful, toxic, or abusive boyfriends or spouses or girlfriends.
Some in this world appear to have enslaved themselves within dead or abusive marriages, too. From the outside it’s hard to understand.
Having lived on both sides of the spectrum: the side that watched abuse and neglect as a child and who allowed neglect and abuse in my relationships—to the person who owns her worth, is on her own, and who will no longer tolerate the abuse, neglect drama cycle…I know compliance to ANY type of abuse: emotional, physical or psychological, boils down to deep-rooted fears.
Intellectually I’ve always felt worthy—even when I stayed with someone who belittled, neglected and disrespected me. Even when I was with someone who never accepted me for who I am and tried to change me, while comparing me to others. I still felt worthy. I’ve been with a few people like that. And shame on me. Intellectually I knew I deserved better.But maybe this type of behavior ebbed and flowed? Maybe it was what I knew—what I grew up with. What I was comfortable living within the parameters of. EVEN though I would never, ever admit it. And, with girlfriends, would complain and always say I deserved better, bla bla. Perhaps I thought things would change? Perhaps I thought therapy, or my own inner work would make things different? Perhaps I bought into the other person’s viewpoint and tried to change until I no longer knew who I was? I mean, the love was there, right? Or was it? I was stuck in a drama rut. That’s what I now call it. And it’s insane. And it’s disrespectful to both parties as it always spirals into a destructive dynamic based on unmet and dashed expectations, hurt feelings and perhaps depression or an inability to communicate. It’s soul crushing. But many of us live in the lows and the highs and get used to this turbulent and distracting ride. It distracts us from reaching our highest potential. It distracts us from truly living, loving, growing and having authentic relationships filled with gratitude, respect and open communication.
I imagine that 99.5% of us would agree with every quote that I listed above. We agree intellectually. But less than half of us likely take the steps necessary to get out of bad relationships until they are beyond destructive and our health and wellbeing is tanking.
It’s due to fears. The biggies? A fear that there will be no one else out there better for us. Or the fear that it’ll be too hard or impossible to survive financially solo. Or maybe the fear is about being too old to start over? Another biggie: the fear of judgement. What will family and friends think? Oh, there are so many fears.
Knowing your worth, therefore, is intrinsically linked with trusting the Universe. More people would leave a person who belittled, abused, cheated or neglected them—if they trusted that life would be OK after walking out the door. Fear is debilitating.
Think about it. If you trusted more and feared less, what would you still put up with? And if you’d decide to keep trying, how long would you put up with it? After one year of therapy wtihout any change? Two years? Would you finally settle back into the status quo?
What if your guardian angel whispered in your ear tonight that you would definitely win the $10 million lottery jackpot and lose 15 pounds this year, how would you feel? Would you change anything in your life right now? Think about it. Would you be more confident? Would you want to keep the current relationships you now have—exactly as they are? Would you wait to see if others were sincere and were willing to make an effort before letting them into your now valuable and desirable life?
Read those two paragraphs again. Maybe journal on it. It’s powerful.
What’s even more powerful, is if you lived ‘as if’ all of the above is true.
Because it is.
Your life is already valuable and desirable because it is yours. YOU, (and I) are valuable and desirable and deserving of love and deserving of others making an effort for. But maybe you need more proof before making any changes or standing up for yourself or your needs?
It takes a leap of faith—especially for those of us who weren’t validated as children or by spouses or who were raised to give and give and expect nothing in return. You are worth someone making an effort for. And you are worth making more of your own effort for … like taking a step in a positive direction.
It takes faith. It takes trust. It’s a powerful combination. Put together, they form a kind of mental pixie dust that starts to erode your fears, letting you take baby steps toward your best life.
I’m up for two editor jobs. Two really interesting editor jobs. And both can be done mostly from home. Amazing. I’ve gone through one round of interviews that were both positive. I put it out to the Universe that I’d begin work with a magazine or webzine full time by September if there wasn’t movement on my book getting published. Alimony ends Sept 1st. I have two boys to take care of full-time. And I’m a writer. It’s what I do—and have been doing as a journalist, blogger, editor, most of my life. I used to say that writing was how I communicate best. I’m not completely sure that’s entirely true anymore. It may be how I relay my thoughts, interviews, stories, figure out my viewpoint. But it isn’t a two-way conversation. It isn’t heart-felt, healing connection with others. Not like yoga. Which is why I plan to continue teaching at least 3 classes a week after I start my job. Maybe that sounds nuts to some who are thinking she’s a full-time single mom too! But I can’t imagine my life without these classes right now. Five years ago I would never have believed that I’d be writing this, but maybe I communicate authentically in a healing and very real and present way through my yoga classes.
All I know is that the past two years of teaching has taught me incredible things about myself. My life may even be more stressful on some levels, but I am less stressed, more confident, more grateful, more open to love, new experiences, and much more trusting of what comes. So those that I help, are actually helping me. I learn so much from my yogi friends about what it truly means to be brave.
I teach therapeutic & restorative yoga and meditation at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Each class begins with a lot of pranayama so stress can be lowered and energies centered. Then I always ask what’s up. It’s a bit group therapy. Some have fallen. Some have lymphedema flareups. Some have other injuries related to hip or knee replacement surgeries, or the need for them. Others are going through the real pain and severe anxiety of caring for a dying spouse or family member. It manifests in severe headaches, spasms, major muscle cramps in the neck, back, shoulders, gut. I’ve devised flows that include modified yoga poses, balancing postures, T’ai Chi, visualization, acupressure holds, chakra alignment breathing… to help each issue. It’s part yoga, part physical therapy, part group therapy. The cool thing is that I keep learning. For instance, what I’ve learned about what the hamstring, IT band, iliopsoas & rhomboid muscles do to an aging, stressed out individual is just cruel. They work in tandem like rusted rubber band bullies gripping on the hips and back. And those who are swelling due to chemo and radiation from years ago, are still dealing with its feisty unpredictable, lymphedema flares. Finding a way to allow the lymph system to flow just gets me juiced. No pun intended. During one class, I watched the arm of a sweet yogi reduce its swelling size by half after we kept opening up the muscles of the sternum and collarbone and upper arm over and over like we were all doing synchronized swimming circles with deep breaths.
It’s transformative—and mostly for me. I see every week how important deep breathing, meditation, stretching, finding space to re-align body and attitude are. And while that may sound depressing to some—to work with this demographic instead of with the youthful in yoga studios—it is the exact opposite. I couldn’t find more inspiring, uplifting friends on the planet to hang out with 5 hours a week. Honestly. They are like family.
A dear yogi has been in the hospital for 25 days, staying by her husband’s bedside. Her husband had a quadruple bypass-and spine surgery. She finally took her first break and came to my Monday night class. I shared something that a yoga teacher told me in a class earlier that week: that tension is temporary, change is constant, but bliss is possible. Ananda, bliss: a state we can achieve from deep breathing, stretching, re-aligning heart, body, muscles, soul—trusting the Universe with gratitude—is so attainable, even during stressful times. I received a text from her today saying that she told her husband and the nurses in the ICU, who then posted: “Tension is temporary, Change is constant, but Bliss is possible” on the nurses station wall. Wow, I love the ripple of the positive vibration!
See what I mean? My students teach me about the power of a positive attitude, the courage to take care of oneself, and the ability to reach out to others in a positive community for support. There is nothing like deep Ujjayi breathing for an hour to lower stress, cortisol levels, and boost serotonin release from the gut. Add a lavender oil temple massage during savasana, meditation, and we all leave class feeling blissful, grateful, cared-for, trusting, and just a little be happier than when we walked in. That vibration carries over and lifts others around us. All yoga does this. But for me, my regular hospital yogis, make me feel amazing. I’ve seen such a change in all of them for the past two years. Most had never done yoga before. The seniors clearly aren’t doing handstands or vinyasa power flow. But, like after any restorative class, they walk straighter and with more balance when they leave. They are in better alignment. And they all seem to be dealing with their anxiety so much better. I love the love I feel when I walk into the rooms. It’s hard to describe. I love these people dearly. And every time I quote someone important about why we keep our hearts open, or why we focus on what’s working, or why we can start again with each breath, I’m reminding myself of these things too—usually at exactly the right moment. When we feel good—mind, body and spirit—it’s empowering. Yes brain-washed terrorists may still strike. Yes, a driver may cut you off. Yes, our loved ones die. We can’t control everything in life. But we can breathe deeply. We can force ourselves to stay vulnerable and to break through resistance, breath through our fears, make intentions and do so with loving supportive people who remind us, just by their presence, that there are more kind, considerate, caring people in this world, than there are nasty, vengeful, violent folk.
This is powerful. Positive thoughts are so much more powerful than negative or fearful ones. And they help us to be calmer, more present, caring and in tune with one another.
After I teach, I go home, relieve the sitter and am a much better mom. And usually, on the nights I teach, I stay uplifted and grateful, even while I’m writing or working late into the night. I feel like the luckiest woman alive. And it all started with the sweet yoga teachers who kept reminding me six years ago to breathe deeply, know it’s all going to be ok, and to relax into and accept the space of NOW.
Have a beautiful day. Ironically, by my next post I may be back in the news full-time as an editor, but I’m advising you, just for a few days, to turn off daily news. Lets not focus on the tragedies we can’t control. Take deep breaths. Light a candle. Say a prayer if that helps you feel more at peace. If you can, put a drop of lavender oil into your hands, rub them, place your fingers on your temples and lightly make circles while thinking: Life is Good. All is Well. I am taken care of. I am So Blessed.
Ok, so how many of you parents (this isn’t mom exclusive…) have found yourselves suddenly sweating, heart-beating madly in your chest, rage bubbling to the surface over something your little ones are doing–or in many cases—are not doing? How often does this happen? How do you deal? I actually said the F bomb in front of the boys yesterday. My oldest laughed later and said I was now perfect for Ricky Bobby , you know, the star of Talladega Nights? One of my 14-year-old’s favorite quotes is: “I’m Ricky Bobby. If you don’t chew Big Red, well, F*ck You.”
So, yesterday, I didn’t say F you to my kids, but I did drop the F bomb. And, yes, it was exactly one hour after I did yoga in the back yard.
How does that happen? It’s like emotionally cruising along happily in 2nd gear, filled with gratitude, noticing the clouds and butterflies—to suddenly catapulting into a rage-filled Mach-7 explosion. How do kids DO this to us?! Do you feel me? Know what I speak of?
For me, it happens slowly. I do and do and do too much until I just can’t handle it anymore. My ex-husband used to say I was the most patient person he had ever known—especially when we were traveling across Europe with our oldest when he was only 3. We’d experience tantrum after tantrum. Sometimes he just wouldn’t get out of his chair at a restaurant and would cling to the sides, so when I’d lift him the chair would come up too. Kids are nuts. But when you’re in the trenches, as a parent you know what I mean—when the kids are say 2, 3, 4, 5 years old—you know to expect this craziness. It was easier for me to deal with because I just could. I’d get quiet. I’d count to 10. I’d take deep breaths and then try to mirror their feelings until the kiddo got quiet. Or, if they were in full tantrum mode, I’d hug so hard they couldn’t hurt themselves or hit their head on anything and shush them until they stopped and started crying and saying how sorry they were. Then it was over and we’d talk about it. Now, however, I’m SOOO not used to it. I have a 7-year-old and a 14-year-old and they are really good kids. We rarely have any sort of outburst. I mean it’s super rare. I even take my 7-year-old to my yoga classes and he sits calmly for an hour and doesn’t interrupt, or he’ll join in.
But yesterday morning, the first Saturday of our summer, all Hell broke loose within a 20 minute period. We had a soccer reunion to go to. The Black Dragons were to meet in a park with parents playing the kiddos, then a picnic. My oldest is their assistant coach. We were to be there by 11 a.m. Now don’t judge, but I hadn’t properly showered in 3 days. I mean, I showered with my hair pulled back for 5 minutes. But I hadn’t washed my hair, deep conditioned, shaved my legs, put a mask on my face…you know, really had a shower that made me feel like a woman. I had fallen asleep 2 days in a row with my youngest, who’d been having trouble sleeping, and not brushed my teeth at night either. Yeah gross. So, yesterday morning, after a quick run to the grocery store, I sneak in a little back yard yoga, come inside and tell my oldest, who had been out 3 nights in a row with friends, end-of-the-year pool parties, sleep overs, etc. that he needed to help me and make sandwiches for the soccer reunion picnic. I tell my 7 year old to put on his soccer uniform, mommy was taking a proper shower. Just to be on the safe side, I announce this to my oldest son’s friends who were on Skype in his bedroom as they played a video game together. Then I pulled out all the sandwich fixings AND pulled out my youngest son’s soccer uniform, shin guards, socks, cleats…
Phew, shower time. And you guessed it. Within less than 5 minutes, before I’ve shaved my legs, conditioned my hair…banging starts on the bathroom door. My 7-year-old is screaming that his shin guards feel funny. He has 3, so I tell him to put on another. He is hysterical saying none of them feel right and that his older brother won’t help him. He then tells me the older brother is still playing the video game in his room and hasn’t made the sandwiches and won’t help.
Can’t a single mom get a break? Really?! I look at the deep conditioner bottle with longing and my legs with stubble and my heart starts racing. So, you can imagine what happens next. I wrap a towel around me, stomp into my older son’s room. I don’t care that there are teenage eyeballs on me via Skype. I drag my oldest into the kitchen to make the sandwiches. I then go into the youngest room and announce that if he can’t put on his shin guards and socks and go to the car holding his cleats, he can stay home. But if he can do this much, I’ll help with the cleats at the soccer field.
In the car navigating to a park none of us had been to before, both are grumbling. We live right on the beach, but have to go to a dingy park, far away…the shin guards still don’t feel right, bla bla … I finally explode with the F bomb. And I think I may have even said something along the lines of, “When we get back, I’m planting my ass on the beach and don’t bother me for an hour.”
Mom of the Year! Whoohoo!
They had it coming, but still.
Of course, once we get to the field, all the little kids run up to us, embrace Coach William and run around with James and all the dads play with the kiddos in a scrimmage that is ridiculously fun. I share about my morning, explaining why we are late, and the other moms all tease my boys and tell them they should know better, bla bla. It becomes something funny. The morning is diffused. My boys get razzed. I feel better. We all play soccer. Over lunch a few other moms of four say that scenario happens in their home every, damn, day. Woah, I’d seriously need medication if that were the case in my house. But we all have an excellent time and when we go home, I’m no longer mad, but I do go to the beach for an hour, walking off my stress pier to pier and getting some sun.
Why is parenting like this? My oldest apologizes to me and my youngest promises to do better on the way home. We’ll see…
Today, my goal is to actually shower, shave my legs, brush my teeth, take vitamins, put on my bikini and plant my toes in the sand for an hour by the Pacific. My oldest owes me an hour in babysitting.
I decided over the weekend, inspired by Goldie Hawn (yes, Goldie!), to institute a new policy in my house. My home will be a safe, gossip-free zone. Wow. That’s an exciting concept. When I think about it, I’ve been on this path for a while. For years I’ve strived to create a safe, supportive space at home—especially for my boys. Since they were born I make them say ‘gratefuls’ every night. We also do ‘love bombs’ at the dinner table, which is hilarious as my boys have to say something they love about each other. (This has become especially hard for my cool teen!)
I’ve also become more conscious of energy and feng shui. (This is a cool article for feng shui decorating tips.) Three years ago one of my best friends gave me the Chinese coins pictured above. These are to protect from negative chi and bring in prosperity. The laughing Buddha card I have in my bathroom I bought for myself. He seems to say “Yeah! The Universe Has Your Back!” I wanted to raise vibrations, even before meeting Andy Dooley last month—THE vibration master, who inspired all us TUTers in Peru. (Click his name to go to his site. He’s an awesome life coach!) I read that the laughing Buddha inspires happiness, vitality and wealth. Cool beans.
For two years now I’ve had this Buddha quote posted on my fridge: “In the end, 3 things matter the most: 1. How deeply you loved. 2. How gently you lived. 3. How gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”
I even feng shui’d my bedroom…So…I thought my house was in positive order. But as I was reading Oprah’s book, What I Know For Sure, I realized that I have to practice what I preach to really create a positive and safe vibration at home. I often remind William, my oldest, to stay away from people who are gossiping at school. I tell him that if they will put other friends down, they will put him down too. Just walk away from that. But do I always follow my own advice? The answer, if I am brutally honest, is no. But awareness, self-compassion and an open heart can be a conduit to change. I’m ready!
In Oprah’s book What I Know For Sure, Oprah describes how Goldie Hawn created a safe house, a gossip-free home as part of her work with Words Can Heal, a national campaign to end verbal violence. Goldie asked her family to exchange words that belittle with words that uplift and encourage. I love the idea! Oprah’s powerful video really sheds light on how easy it is for women, especially, to hurt one another.
Now my fridge has another quote on it, placed underneath the picture of one of my yogi soul sisters Angie Hall ,who also has this on her fridge!
We all gossip sometimes. But I’m going to work hard not to. And every time I go to my fridge, and every time my son embarks on his midnight munchie raids, we will both be reminded of the power of the spoken word.
With that in mind, I’m challenging my yoga students this week to join me in creating gossip-free houses. It’ll be hard. I mean, how many of us watch TV and say things like: “What was SHE thinking?!” But as Oprah Winfrey says, gossip creates negativity in the house where you want to feel the most at ease.
Oprah also explains that gossip is poison. Whether you are a social columnist writing about wardrobe malfunctions and which celebrity is cheating—or whether you are a person in pain by a loved one’s actions or betrayals—it all boils down to the same thing. Gossip is a negative hex. It shows that the person engaging in it isn’t trusting and is not trust-worthy. It shows that the person engaging in it is insecure or can’t find the courage to speak to a person directly. (That’s my issue, a fear to speak up directly.) Or that he feels like a victim. Even if you don’t intend to cause another person harm when you gossip—say you are trying to garner advice over a hurtful situation—most of the time you will. Clearly if something is weighing on you terribly, talk with your therapist, priest or trusted friend.) But in most cases, I believe talking about others nearly always causes harm, most of all, to yourself/ myself. Maybe you can join me in pausing, even during a conversation, to ponder these four questions before speaking:
Is it Kind? Is it True? Does it Need to be said? Does it need to be said by Me?
And maybe you—and I—will become more mindfully conscious with our words.
AloneTogether: Single Moms Support Group (This is a closed group, please say you found their site from me, Laura Roe Stevens, when requesting to join.)
The UCLA Family Commons: http://www.uclacommons.com/
Single Parent Housing: www.SPAOA.org
Pell Grants For Mothers: PellGrants.ClassesAndCareers.com