Happy New Year!

Last night, as I watched the amazing fireworks set off over the ocean in Panama City, I reflected back on one of the many gifts of 2018. I have begun to accept and value my self in a deeper way than ever before. This has been an elusive thing in my life.

It has taken a tremendous amount of courage, support and healing. Unraveling layer upon layer of wounding and false beliefs. Allowing myself to take the risk to believe new beliefs about my self.

Oddly, what may have seemed “selfish” to me before – this love of self – has actually been the opposite. It has begun to help me to be a better person in the world. I have so much more accessible to give to the world. Where there was fear and darkness, now I also find light and great courage. I intend to use it in service and in creation.

Wherever you are, however you believe, may your new year be filled with the power of self-love. Today, I borrow the words of a master of love.

PRAYER FOR SELF-LOVE

By Don Miguel Ruiz, taken from his book “The Mastery of Love”

Today, Creator of the Universe, we ask that you help us to accept ourselves just the way we are, without judgment. Help us to accept our mind the way it is, with all our emotions, our hopes and dreams, our personality, our unique way of being. Help us to accept our body just the way it is, with all its beauty and perfection. Let the love we have for ourselves be so strong that we never again reject ourselves or sabotage our happiness, freedom, and love.

From now on, let every action, every reaction, every thought, every emotion, be based on love. Help us, Creator, to increase our self-love until the entire dream of our life is transformed, from fear and drama to love and joy. Let the power of our self-love be strong enough to break all the lies we were programmed to believe – all the lies that tell us we are not good enough, or strong enough, or intelligent enough, that we cannot make it. Let the power of our self-love be so strong that we no longer need to live our life according to other people’s opinions. Let us trust ourselves completely to make the choices we must make. With our self-love, we are no longer afraid to face any responsibility in our life or face any problems and resolve them as they arise. Whatever we want to accomplish, let it be done with the power of our self-love.

Starting today, help us to love ourselves so much that we never set up any circumstances that go against us. We can live our life being ourselves and not pretending to be someone else just to be accepted by other people. We no longer need other people to accept us or tell us how good we are because we know what we are. With the power of our self-love, let us enjoy what we see every time we look in the mirror. Let there be a big smile on our face that enhances our inner and outer beauty. Help us to feel such intense self-love that we always enjoy our own presence.

Let us love ourselves without judgment, because when we judge, we carry blame and guilt, we have the need for punishment, and we lose the perspective of our love. Strengthen our will to forgive ourselves in this moment. Clean our minds of emotional poison and self-judgments so we can live in complete peace and love.

Let our self-love be the power that changes the dream of our life. With this new power in our hearts, the power of self-love, let us transform every relationship we have, beginning with the relationship we have with ourselves. Help us to be free of any conflict with others. Let us be happy to share our time with our loved ones and to forgive them for any injustice we feel in our mind. Help us to love ourselves so much that we forgive anyone who has ever hurt us in our life.

Give us the courage to love our family and friends unconditionally, and to change our relationships in the most positive way. Help us to create new channels of communication in our relationships so there is no war of control, there is no winner or loser. Together let us work as a team for love, for joy, for harmony.

Let our relationships with our family and friends be based on respect and joy so we no longer have the need to tell them how to think or how to be. Let our romantic relationship be the most wonderful relationship; let us feel joy every time we share ourselves with our partner. Help us to accept others just the way they are, without judgment, because when we reject them, we reject ourselves. When we reject ourselves, we reject you.

Today is a new beginning. Help us to start our life over beginning today with the power of self-love. Help us to enjoy our life, to enjoy our relationships, to explore life, to take risks, to be alive, and to no longer live in fear of love. Let us open our heart to the love that is our birthright. Help us to be come Masters of Gratitude, Generosity, and Love so that we can enjoy all of your creations forever and ever.

Amen.

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On the Road Again

My husband and I are driving a Penske truck filled with furniture from our last apartment In the Bronx, NY to Texas. We’ve made this trip before.

Last time, we drove the opposite way with the same furniture from my parents’ home just after we were married 8 years ago, just after my Dad died, a year after my brother died and two years after my mother did.

I was so grateful for that furniture at the time. Newly married, making a home with someone for the first time, I was thrilled to have really nice things to bring to our shared space, a new apartment we’d chosen together.

Having lived in a tiny studio apartment in the West Village of NYC for 18 years prior to this big change, I had no furniture to speak of. My husband had some nice things to bring from his place, but not enough. We were stretching our budgets to get our apartment. New furniture was not in the plan. So my parents was a blessing.

It was amazing how perfectly the furniture all worked together. We chose rich colors for the walls off of the colors in the rugs, and somehow, it all had an eclectic warmth that just felt right. So “us,” somehow. The us we were becoming.

For the first years of our marriage, in those years after those huge losses in which I grieved and lived as best I could, that furniture surrounded me and held me and filled the empty gaping hole their deaths left.

I cherished it all. I had my father’s bronzed baby cowboy boots as book ends. A china cabinet held bluebirds, brown ware and silver pieces from my mother’s collections. We ate off of plates and used pans brought up from their kitchen. Put drinks on coasters from their den.

Our bedroom furniture was from my parents first house. The first expensive rug they bought, a now-worn but still lovely Oriental, sat under their gorgeous dark wood dining table and chairs.

But somewhere along year 6, something began to shift in me, and now, 18 months later, after a Konmari wave that washed away my clutter, a new apartment search, offer, and purchase, a renovation, putting an apartment on the market, a sale, a closing, a move, and a settling in, here I am. Day two of a three day journey to take much of that furniture to a new home.

My cousin, who my parents loved, who has a lovely wife and two young kids and a house, is happily taking the furniture off my hands. Whatever he did not take, others in NY needed and wanted.

Tomorrow we reach Austin, where the pieces will be put in their new home.

And I will let go. Of the grieving time. Of the me that has lived these 8 years in the after-shock, doing my best.

I feel such a mix of sadness and relief and excitement. Sadness because I still wish they were here instead of their things. Relief because something is done that I seem to have needed to do. Some job I unconsciously took on will soon be complete. And excitement is for this next part, whatever it will be.

Today I crave space. I want to be surrounded by things that resonate the me I am today. Our new home in no way resembles our last. And I love it with its new colors and furniture, and kickass river views.

I kept one chair out of it all. And reupholstered it. It looks wonderful there, surrounded by our new pieces, our new rugs.

At the end of the first day’s drive, we were treated to a blazing orange sky. Since my mother passed, I am convinced that beautiful sunsets are her way of letting me know she is there, loving me. It was clear that she, my Dad and brother, approve of this trip.

My parents and brother are still with me. But now they fill my heart space. I carry them wherever I go.

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Fast-Forward

I reach forward through time

Caress my own face

Trace the worn rivulets

Heart-lines that reveal

The worries, the laughter

The life that I have lived

I tuck the silver hair behind my ear

I run my finger down the

Cords and veins on my hand

Touch the wedding ring

My pride, my true love, my joy

I whisper, “Rest now, my friend.

You did it. You survived.

And then you thrived.

And now, you can let go.”

I feel such love for her

The me I came to be

I come back into my present

Filled with love-swell and peace

And deep knowing

Nothing to fear at the end

Nothing to fear

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For Laura

I know some incredible women.

It is one of those women’s birthday today.

Some people just blow you away. Laura inspires me daily. She is an artist, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. A leader. A teacher. An activist. A community contributor. An active citizen.

She lost her 20 year old brother to suicide in 2000. Rather than fall into despair, she has used her grief to create, educate, help and heal.

Read about one of her creations, Arts & Dreams, and the incredible work they do here.

Enjoy her art work here.

Laura reminds me to live creatively, lovingly, with ample doses of self-forgiveness.

I am so lucky she was born and that I know her.

She Is
Scarlet lips
Piercing chocolate eyes
Portals who see your soul
Lives in brush strokes
Of love and thoughtful heart
Colors rich with knowing
Midwife of self-love
Earth angel saving
wretched alone-hearts
One mantra at a time

Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown(-through?)

Fifteen months ago, I began a deep letting go process.

I was very sick, suffering from an unexplained exhaustion that kept me housebound for much of the summer.

Coincidentally, for a year my husband and I had been waiting for a larger apartment in our building to become available. We were happy where we were. We just wanted another bedroom and a larger kitchen.

In the beginning of this “sick summer,” one of these larger apartments became available. It was being sold unlisted, by the owner, who would not price it. “What will you pay for it?” he asked.

And so I began to look around, to see what was in the neighborhood that was comparable, to get an educated idea of the value of the apartment.

And along the way, I began to see possibilities that I had never even let myself imagine for us.

I saw apartments, alright. And some not with just an additional room and larger kitchen.

I saw some with balconies and a gorgeous view of the river! With a seasonal pool!

What?!

For us?

Could we?

Who were we to have such niceness?

It was a real stretch for my husband and I to imagine buying such an apartment.

The move we had been considering before this exploration of what was out there in our ‘hood would have been almost lateral. If we’d gotten that apartment in our building, we’d have basically recreated the apartment we have had these 8 years since marrying. I am pretty sure we’d literally have just brought over everything, just changed the kitchen and added a room.

We’ve both loved the home we made together. Somehow, his furniture and the furniture we brought up from my parents’ houses in Texas after my Dad died three months before our marriage all blended into an eclectic, beautiful style.

We have loved our home.

But I now realize that even before the summer, I had been working towards this letting go, this deep clean, this moving on, this full-on “now” presence in my own adult life.

In January I did a sweep of all my things and let go of a great deal. Yes, I applied as much of the Konmari technique as I could, and it was amazing, and freeing. I even finally went into stuff in storage and let it all go…stuff from my parents’ house I had not been able to deal with or use that had sat there since 2010.

I thought, great! I did it! My therapist and I applauded my actions.

And yet. I was still surrounded by furniture and other things that were my parents’, my mother’s, my grandmother’s. And I could feel the heaviness of it.

And so somehow, unconsciously, this drive to move took over. We daringly made an offer on the apartment with the view. It was accepted.

Uh oh.

This was not a lateral move. It was a stretch up. Way up.

We hired an interior designer to help. What?! Who am I?

(I call him the wedding coordinator I did not let myself have. Brilliant call.)

And I made a Big Decision: We. Would. Get. All. New. Furniture.

All my parents’ stuff? Letting it go! But how?! Some stuff can go to the Salvation Army, but my parents’ stuff?? Most of our furniture I couldn’t bear to give to strangers.

In December, impulsively, my cousin, who loved my parents and has a wonderful wife and two little kids, happened to take a trip up here from Texas for a weekend. I asked if they’d mind looking at our stuff to see if they might want anything down the road.

Miraculously, they agreed to take most of it. They were thrilled! (I was elated!)

Other friends who just happened to be buying new, larger homes who were in need and interested are taking the rest.

It makes me so happy for it to go to people who will use and love it. To not have it sit in storage, unused.

I have kept just one item. An upholstered chair that had been my great grandmother’s, that I had climbed up into as a toddler in my grandma’s house. A chair that my mother had kept. A chair that I have always loved.

We have had it reupholstered and the wood frame repainted. It had to be basically remade. (My husband still thinks it a bit crazy of me.)

I cannot wait to see it with the beautiful new pieces that we chosen for our new home. It gives me a deep joy, and I feel love around it.

We are on the precipice of actually moving in now. We closed on the apartment one year ago. Began renovating it in January.

Most of the process has been relatively smooth: the getting financing, board approval in the new building. The renovation. The decisions. The shopping. The decorating.

Putting our current apartment on the market. Going into contract.

Our current apartment closes next week.

And so here I am, packing and sorting. The move is actualizing now. What has been theory up until now is happening.

I have let go of most things. The rugs/furniture are all spoken for. Most doodads have been given away.

But some I just could not part with yet. Things of my mothers that were in a china cabinet that will now go to my cousin’s.

I have these things in a few small boxes in storage. They won’t be in the new place. I really want to let them go. I just find it so hard to give them to a thrift store. But I am working towards it.

My mother’s china, my cousin wants. Yay! But these other things…

I now realize some part of me is afraid I will wish for them someday. When I am old and alone, won’t I want to be surrounded by proof I lived and was loved?

And deeper yet: if I let these things go, does it make me a bad daughter? Does it mean I loved my parents less?

Am I a bad person if I do not keep the little blue bird figurines my mother collected?

Will she feel forgotten or unappreciated if I just let them go?

Who am afraid it will hurt?

These are difficult questions. There is reconciling to do, which doesn’t happen overnight.

Maybe Konmari can do it swiftly, the way she does.

I am doing the Curry Technique for this final bit. I am in a life/shifting, deep dive excavation of my very soul. I have been living this process that has been 18 months in the making to get here now, on the verge of really letting go of all this physical evidence of my parents and brother, now dead some years.

Of really moving on from these years of grieving. These years of finding a new paradigm. Of finding a new footing in this world without three very key people in it.

It has gotten quite challenging here at the end. We’ve had some new apartment issues. The new wood floor has buckled in places. The central AC’s leaked.

What does it mean? What is it reflecting about our process? The floor is literally the very foundation of our home. The leak? Is it literal tears?

These issues at this point have felt overwhelming. Like the last 6 miles of a marathon.

(I have had fantasies of selling the apartment and all the new stuff in it as is and living out of one suitcase somewhere. Yesterday I had to force myself to drive home. Everything in me wanted to drive away and never return. Seriously.)

Yet here I am. Putting one foot in front of the other. Showing up. Letting go daily.

I am continuing to walk to the edge of this precipice.

Here I am. On the verge.

And soon, in just days, I will leap.

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On Strike

Sometimes, life is too hard.

I mean it. Sometimes, I just have to give up.

Not permanently. Not in a dangerous or devastating way.

But yes, I am saying that sometimes you just have to say, “Enough.”

Do not get me wrong. I am all for positivity.

If it were not for having learned to watch my thoughts and understand that I am not my thoughts or feelings, I would surely be dead today. My thoughts have a tendency to the dark side. The side that urges me to death. The side that has had enough of pain and sorrow and wishes for me a return to the void as soon as possible.

I have come to respect and have compassion for that dark side tendency of my mind. It is, its own way, trying to help me survive. But I have put it in the back seat of my psyche as a passenger on this ride through life. I do not let it drive. It would drive me off a steep cliff, like that last scene in “Thelma and Louise.” I observe it. I am not it.

Back to positivity. I thoroughly believe, after much personal experimentation, that there is, indeed, a tremendous power in our thoughts. Choosing life on a daily basis and choosing  how to respond to life and the thoughts and feelings that arise as a result of living moment to moment are a crucial key to my having a fulfilling existence with some degree of serenity.

I have learned I can direct my thoughts. I can see when they are in a groove, an old, habitual, familiar song. I can pick up the needle off the record (remember those?) and set it on a new groove. I can literally rewire my brain over time with consistency and commitment.

I believe in and have benefited from the power of mantras and affirmations.

These are all tools I use to co-create a rich and full life each day.

Yet.

I also believe, after many failed attempts to do otherwise, that there is a value and a necessity to having times where I can throw my hands up, literally and figuratively, and say to the Universe, to God, and, perhaps most importantly, to my Higher Self and all of my selves: “I give up!”

Somehow, for me, exercising my ability to say “Enough, I cannot go on another inch, I am done, that’s it!” has been very important.

Some part of my spirit, deep down inside, perhaps very young, very formerly traumatized, needs me to heed her desire to say, “No more.”

I tried to push away her voice for many, many years. First, I drowned it in food and alcohol. Later, I drowned it in positivity and recovery. Finally, I stopped and listened. Really acknowledged and listened.

I had to truly stop snd listen. Once I could hear her voice, it was very easy to find compassion for her pain and her suffering.

She did not trust me at first. Understandably, she had no reason to believe that I had any interest in her needs whatsoever. I get it. I’d neglected her for so long. Denied her existence, or worse, judged and bullied her. At first, I didn’t trust myself to be able to help her, make her feel safe.

But I made a commitment to her to always be there for her. To listen and help her. To make her the priority over anything else, as a matter of fact.

To parent her. And as a parent, I do not let her run the show. She is too young. Too raw. Too wounded. But I do honor her needs. I take them seriously. I give her attention, affection, acceptance. I give her my love.

And when she says “Enough,” we stop.

Not forever. Not in a dangerous or permanent way.

But we stop. I stop.

I unplug from the striving. The adult-ing. The New York City drive-ing.

I go on strike. I take a pause. I withdraw from the world.

I take a beat. I let her relax as fully as she can. I hold her hand and say, “I know. It is hard. I hear you are weary.”

And then, when she has had my attention and has been given a rest, when we both feel that it is time, I get back into my life and the world again.

She snuggles back into my heart, and lets me enter fully into the moments of my life.

And so I enter back into my life again. Awake. Ready to strive. To pursue. To stretch and grow.

Whole.