Which one of my biggest “failures” brought me the most value?

I love this question because it takes me all the way back to why I write this blog: I failed to care for my own needs after several family issues demanded I care for others first. I ignored my need for friends and connections, my need for physical health, my professional goals, and my emotional well-being as well.

And while it’s not a choice I would make, this failure led me to where I am right now, and the value in that is immense: I AM FINALLY ME. I broke as a result of that failure and as I unraveled my failure, my life, I learned about myself, and slowly became the person I always wanted to be.

Now I am doing my best to take care of my needs, because I cannot afford to fail again, at least in that department!

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Connection…it starts with me!

Photo by Stacy Brown

As my son finishes up his 6th lacrosse season, I finally feel like I’m connecting with the other parents. His first season, I was shy, and nervous, especially because all the other families seemed to know each other so well, while my son had been an outcast early on because of some behavior issues.

Anyway, some of the parents were actually unkind, and others just doing their thing. There were definitely some parents that were inviting and helped me feel at ease. But as I watched the boys gather after a tough championship loss, I felt more connected to all of the families than I ever had before. And while it’s true that over time, those relationships develop, I think it was more about me: I wasn’t connecting with myself.

I was a mess, insecure, emotionally volatile, and couldn’t meet my own social and emotional needs. I feel like now that I’m listening to myself, and meeting my own needs, I’m more open to connecting with others. And in turn, people are more open to connecting with me. Feeling proud and happy today, truly. What a feeling!

Yes, I do need to be my own hero

I just got home from paddling and checking in with a friend, had a nice conversation. Came home, put some of my stuff away and opened up my social media. Lately, I’m digging Andy Grammar and his new video was posted. I gave it a listen and before it was half over, I was saying to myself, “that’s exactly what I have to do, what I’ve been trying to do!”

Check out this inspiring song

So in the interest of following what strikes me, I am going to be my own hero. I am going to look within, and look at my skills, and notice the positive impacts I can have on the people in my world. I am going to be my own hero.

Please feel free to share if I have affected you in a positive way!

Little by Little, part 2

I’m making progress, little by little. As I’m seeing things more clearly, I’m also discovering a little more self-discipline. One of the things I’m getting into the habit of, finally, is spending time in the dirt.

I’ve always liked the feeling I get after working in the garden, but depression robbed me of the “get up and go” that used to drive me. Now that I’m becoming myself, again or for the first time (not sure which), I’m spending time tending to my plants every day. Whether I’m pulling a few stray weeds in the sandbox while the kids play, or turning the soil in the garden, each time yields some peace. Gardening calms me, in every sense of the word, but especially the freeway of thoughts that never wants to slow down on its own.

Just looking at this fuchsia, I start to notice the tiny parts of the flower, the unique shape of the leaves and petals, and beautiful combination of colors…and my thoughts slow down, and shift. Gratitude and awe creep into my mind. And how wonderful is that? And there’s the begonia…the many layers amaze me, but I also notice that there are different shape blooms from the same plant. How can I possibly feel anything but surprise and wonder?

So in the interest of drawing my attention outside on my tough days, I created a small garden corner on my deck. When I’m in the kitchen, the window to my right gives me a view of my little patch of color. Sometimes I’ll go out there thinking that I’ll just pick a couple faded blooms and then go back to whatever…I usually end up out there for an hour. I even set up a chair and a couple wind chimes, and it has become a cozy spot to relax at the end of the day with a hot cup of tea. Here is a peek:

It’s a work in progress, but that’s the fun part! And hey-there are days when I really only spend a few minutes in the dirt, but forming the habit takes away the pressure, gives me a sense of pride, and promotes my mental and physical health.

I’m too much sometimes

I’m learning that sometimes I am too much for people. What I mean is that when I connect with someone, and I feel something positive, I open my world to that person. And though I’ve had some success, and some reciprocity, it’s difficult when I come on too strong and there is a retreat by the other person. Even more challenging is when it seems like it’s accepted, and all of a sudden, I am met with silence.

It sucks. But that won’t stop me. You know why? Because I am finally myself. I no longer feel a need to stifle the real me. I accept the rejection because if someone doesn’t want me, I know it’s their loss.

And I also know that sometimes, a person needs a little push…a reminder that they are worthy of friendship, and that they can contribute to another persons happiness, and of course, that they deserve kindness, belonging and connection.

This song, I’m not giving up…, reminds me of what I said to my friend, Laura, when she started to push me away at the thought of moving. Sometimes it’s too hard to care, sometimes it’s too scary, too risky, and sometimes, we walk away. I fought for her friendship, and I won. She is a clear case of someone who needed the fight, needed to hear that she was worth the effort.

But this songs makes me think of Michael lately, who just doesn’t have it in him to be my friend anymore. I am too much for him. I have to accept that. It sucks, but it’s his loss. And yes, I did fight for our friendship, “…until my heart was black and blue,” but at the end of the day, his friendship came with so little reciprocity that it wasn’t good for me anymore.

I’ve paid tribute to the friendship in so many ways, and I’ll always treasure the personal growth that came from it. And if he ever decided to let me back in, I’d still be myself…but of course I’m still discovering who that is. For now, I’m just me. Open, honest, blunt, flawed, emotional, scared, brave, whole, vibrant, alive…and I’m grateful for the color that came into my gray world when I needed it most.

*and did I mention that this song is absolutely breathtaking?!

I Can Only Imagine

Finally saw this movie, which is so unlike me…but a friend of mine saw it awhile back and said it had a powerful impact. So I’m finally watching it and I’ve been in tears off and on the whole time-and I’m only half way through. Had to pause it to write.

  • All it takes is one teacher, one manager, one person to have faith in you to make yourself the authentic and real you
  • Songs as an anchor…they can reach you in a profound way and carry you through tough times
  • The sunsets and sunrises in this film make me want to travel (well, not really but almost😉!)
  • When you have passion and hope and faith (in yourself or something bigger) things will come together as they should
  • Perseverance
  • Sometimes your passion about…whatever…will be too much for people. It’s their loss. Share it anyway
  • Trauma, perceived and literal, stays with you and shapes you…better to accept it than fight it, to heal and grow.
  • “What are you running from? Let that pain become your inspiration.”
  • It’s hard to trust the change in someone, the one that triggers you, when the trauma is still so fresh for you
  • “I got a lot of questions about myself” What a powerful statement-it opens up a whole world of vulnerability
  • Knowing what another person is feeling, thinking, or at least having a window into their world can create understanding, build a bridge between two islands
  • Choosing to forgive…there’s great power in that, though I don’t think God has anything to do with it…I think it’s about putting down the heavy load you’ve been carrying…whether you give it to someone/something, it’s good to set it down and let it go
  • “Like junk, like to fix things, make something out of nothing”…metaphor for redemption
  • This blog is my journal. I choose to share it, but I do it for me. “It feels really good”
  • “I’ve never told anybody my story…” sharing his song, was important for him and his healing…that resonates with me and that’s how I feel about my book. And when your story is embraced…what a feeling!
  • You never know what will open up your soul, your curiosity, your sense of wonder and engagement in the world…stay open, let it happen, and grow from it

Everything happens for a reason…I don’t always know what it is, but I believe we are shaped by everything we touch and are touched by…it’s strange, my friend says he sees himself as the monster, but I see him as the little boy who grew up with a lot of unresolved trauma, who is working through it still. I only hope to see what kind of man he becomes someday…

There’s nothing quite like putting yourself out there…

Sharing my book makes me nervous, anxious at times. I have to meet new people and go to new places and do things that I find scary. But once I get there, set up, and take a deep breath, I’m ok.

I had several book events recently where I got to connect with people…and while I was very nervous, it turned out wonderfully. To see someone open my book for the first time and ooh and ahh over the story and pictures fills me up. It sparks conversations about the world we live in, about what we can do right now to make it a better place.

Connecting with some people I already know in a new way, or after a long period of time has been fun! They are often surprised that I’ve written a book, glad that I’m still working with children…and many ask me how I got there. I’m honest and tell them that I had an unraveling, a breakdown, that led me to spirit animals and beyond. The responses vary: “good for you” or “I’m so sorry” or “oh…”. It definitely catches people off guard, but I think we need to talk about it-we need to be honest and open to diminish the stigma associated with depression and mental illness. And we need to own the laundry list of responsibilities we carry on our own, and begin to take care of ourselves again.

Anyway, sharing this story with others fills me up, from the book store managers to the kids visiting the stores, to the childcare providers who listen alongside the kids…the story is having an impact on all of us, but especially and selfishly me!

To purchase my book locally…

To purchase from Amazon…

Little by Little…

I was in the newspaper today!

Little by little, I’m getting better and better all the time. And I feel proud. And happy. And I’m sure I’ll have more roller coaster moments, but I’m stronger than I’ve been in a long time.

I had a roller coaster moment this week for sure, and it hit me hard at first. But I picked myself up, dusted myself off and looked for a reason…a next step. I was able to reflect and begin to let go and move forward. And though it’s still in progress, I’m feeling good about my next step.

I had a therapy appointment just this morning, and usually, when something happens and I choose to hold onto it, I don’t tell her. But I’m feeling solid in my forced and reluctant decision, and so I told her. And I thought I’d cry and be all kinds of whiny or whatever, but I wasn’t. I surprised the both of us!

I did cry eventually though…because I am letting go of my dear friend finally. The friend who sparked my soul and started this whole thing…we have reached a point where we are no longer good for each other. And though it really is the right decision, it’s tough. I shed tears thinking back to those first acts of kindness and friendship, the laughter and the discoveries, the debates and the conversations. I am grateful for all that came in the days since, despite pain and tears…I’m finally becoming, little by little.

How my unraveling led to a new venture…

For those of you who have been reading me from the beginning, you already know most of the story…

I was so busy taking care of family and caring for others that I did not take care of myself.  My best friend died, and I closed myself off to others, and then a new friend came into my life, and though he was very different from me, I began to open myself up.  I finally broke down and then built myself back up as a result of letting this new person into my world.

So this new friend…I began to think about things differently, and open myself to new ideas.  He inspired me, challenged me intellectually, and asked my advice.  I finally came around to the idea of therapy and putting myself first again…part of that recovery led me to spirit animals and I identified with the sea turtle…my dear friend was more of a wolf.  That’s where the names come from as well…Honu is Hawaiian for turtle and Kiyaya is Native American, Yakima, for (howling) wolf.

Anyway…I wanted to find a way to share my growth, joy, journey…with every walk of life.  I presented at my early ed wellness Network, and started the blog…when it came to children, I saw the turtle and the wolf as my vehicles…the figures were purchased on a trip to the ocean, and I just loved them-they’re made of wood, a technique called intarsia.  I contacted the company that makes them and got permission from the CEO.  Writing the story, I used a few people as proofreaders and tried out the story on my childcare kids. I used some of their feedback…ultimately I wanted to keep the openness of children’s hearts on the forefront of their world, and that of their caregivers and family members…because in this world we live in, we need more emotional bravery, we need belonging and connection, and we need to be exposed to those that are different from ourselves in order to learn and eventually become who we will be…and the greatest lessons can come from the most surprising places!  I never expected to find inspiration from this young man so unlike myself…

Find the book here

And now I am basking in so much support, celebration, affirmation…and joy! Watching the kids as they get to know the characters has been incredible. They retell the tale over and over, adding their own words and adventures! There’s so much that has come from this…

  • The pride on the faces of my family, especially my mom
  • Reconnecting with former classmates and my hometown
  • Connecting with extended family on a new level-when the most unexpected person is touched by the story!
  • I’ve been reaching out of my comfort zone, literally and figuratively
  • To see my mentors react to the book, and to surpass their expectations has been heartwarming
  • Building relationships with new people, with authenticity and opportunity to connect on a deeper level
  • My “professional self” is growing-I’m becoming a leader and instructor in my early ed community.
  • Revealing my real self and seeing the acceptance…the most amazing thing!

For my local people…

Small Reminders=Huge Support

On my journey back from my unraveling, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for things that inspire me or promote my mental well-being. I hate to say it, but Facebook put my likes to good use, and an ad for ZOX kept popping up. At first, I ignored the ads, but one product in particular caught my eye: click here to check it out

Anyway, I checked out the site and though I decided not to purchase the one that caught my attention at first, I definitely found a few that spoke to me. Before I get to that, let me tell you what the product is: inspirational words combined with unique art made into a bracelet. They have different styles and some other variations, but I’d describe them as elastic bracelets that are fun, reversible, and inspiring. Here is a link to their website

So how have I put these straps, as they are called, to use in my life? Well, I bought one for myself that reads Look Within. It also has colors and a pattern that remind me of my spirit animal, the sea turtle, so it was perfect for me. I use it to remind myself that I have all I need within me to be my best self.

The other one that I especially find helpful is Have Faith. Many of you read my post about this phrase already, and you know that I associate it with religion, which is sooo not me. And that’s part of what I like about ZOX-the quote that came with it could resonate with anyone, and relate to anything. This particular strap reminds me to be patient and persistent: two of my greatest challenges!

I also ordered Shine On with a certain young girl in mind. She had some social and emotional obstacles in her early years, and is a very special and unique little lady. She isn’t afraid to be herself despite what others think, but sometimes faces social consequences. I gave her this strap and a huge hug, and I was rewarded by her smile. She’s headed to middle school soon and I hope she is able to keep shining.

And I have a friend who has been struggling with some family issues for the last couple of years. She has been feeling down, but has kept things private. I often find it’s tough to support someone when you don’t know the nature of their struggle, but I found Keep Going and gifted her this strap. It brought tears to her eyes, and made both of us smile.

So thank you ZOX. You are making a difference, and you are helping me to make a difference as well.