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

Note to Self

I’m in awe of you

Of your courage

The capacity of your heart to forgive

Your continual willingness to try no matter what

Your full-hearted commitment to living your truth

Your love of life that always manages to overcome your darkness

Your never- ending spirit in the face of despair

I am in awe of you

You are my hero

Inspired by The Daily Post Word Prompt: awe

Forever Young

I was with family this past Memorial Day weekend, and it was eye-opening.

I have often noted through the years the many things that get stirred up when I visit family. I know that we all tend to regress when we “go home.” For my recovery over the years I have had to pay close attention to this: going home was always a minefield emotionally. I had to learn to prepare and take care of myself while home.

All the old stuff would resurface, seemingly immediately, upon stepping onto Houston soil.

Often, it centered around my body and appearance. Depending on how I was feeling in my body, I would have negative thoughts and distorted thinking about how my body looked and also about how much others were thinking about how I looked.

I learned not to look in mirrors. To not trust the voices in my head that told me I had become monstrous overnight. I worked hard to distinguish the voices from my own “core,” and to be able to trust that “they” were not “real.”

It was painful, but over time, I have healed much of the sources of the genesis of those voices. They were, in their twisted way, a way for my psyche to protect itself from other much more complex feelings. Feelings that felt way out of my control and way out of my coping capabilities at the time.

I have also come to know that some of what I was feeling underneath it all was shame. I would feel shame around my family about how I looked and how I was. Who I was. I would not been able to name it as such then. It was just how I felt. It actually felt like “me.” But I know now it was shame.

Thankfully, with a great deal of personal work, I have had many visits home in the past several years where those voices were a very low murmur. Sometimes, they were totally quiet. Sometimes they flared up, but I had the relief of knowing that they were not “real.” It made a huge difference. I was not a victim to them. I could observe them and know the truth.

So imagine my surprise when, on this visit, I noticed a totally new form of that old shame.

This shame? It actually had to do with the shame of having gotten older.

I could not believe it. I actually felt ashamed for having aged.

In reflecting on this, I realize that as I am the youngest, when I am around my aunts and uncle, I have been carrying this sense of responsibility somehow to stay young forever. To stay that little girl. Well, my physical appearance belies that illusion. I will always remain the youngest in relation to them, but I am no longer young by any means.

So why the shame? I know that our culture creates an atmosphere of shame around aging, so it makes sense. But around my own loved ones? Wow. That just blew me away.

I actually had to stop myself from apologizing for having aged. I am still trying to process that. I have some unraveling to do for sure.

For now, I breathe and find compassion, once again, for the young parts in me that still feel like all of my value is tied up in my looks.

I take myself by the hand yet again and say, “I love you, just as you are right now.” It is a ceremony of self-love, and if I were to do it a million times, it would still never be enough.

Inspired by The Daily Post: ceremony

On Agelessness*

* I was inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: age to re-visit a blog post from last year after an incident this morning further pointed out to me my continued sensitivity around this issue.

On this fine morning, I went to the grocery store after a run. I was wearing a NYC Marathon shirt, and the man ahead of me in line had one on as well and sparked up a conversation. He nicely offered me participation in a neighborhood running group. I asked if it had a variety of levels of runners (I am not a fast runner,) to which he said, “Oh, yeah, there’s a woman who everyone loves who is your age. Yeah, there’s lots of people your age.”

Now the thing is, I was thinking we were pretty near in age. I certainly wasn’t thinking I was in some whole other generation than him! Yikes!

Clearly, I have more work to do.

You see, I discovered two years ago that I am severely prejudiced.

It was a shock. I didn’t know that lurking within me were truly vile and discriminatory feelings and thoughts about a huge portion of the human race.

I didn’t know I was an ageist.

According to Wikipedia: Ageism (also spelled “agism”) is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic. The term was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.

Lemme back up. I was having an especially terrific day.

There are days when, as an actor, you are just filled with joy because you feel so in the flow. This was one of those days.

I was on my way from a great voice lesson. I had a while to do an errand and then later was going to rehearse and then do a staged reading of a very special play that held deep personal value for me, with amazing fellow actors. What could be better than that?

I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some kale (what is it about me and the grocery store and this issue?!) I was at the register when it happened. The woman checking me out said the following words:

“Do you qualify for the 55+ discount?”

I was shocked. Then outraged. Then mortified. And ashamed. In that order. Appalled and dripping with disgust, I looked at her.

“What?! Do I look like I’m 55?!! Oh. My. God. Kill me now.”

(Yes, I actually said “Kill me now.”)

Poor thing tried to backpedal it.

“Oh, I just thought…you eat so healthy…so maybe…”

Which made it worse, because she was inadvertently inferring that I’m actually older looking than 55 but eating so well that it doesn’t show?!

I left the store, kale in hand, attempting not to spin out on this.

I wanted to enjoy the rest of my day, but knowing myself and how my brain works around such things, I knew I had a triage situation in regard to my frail ego.

First, I tried different paths of logic. Oh, she didn’t really take me in before she said that. She probably says that to every one, right? I don’t look my age. Everyone says so. And my real age is not 55, so she obviously didn’t even take me in.

I’d slip into anger occasionally.

How irresponsible of her. They really shouldn’t let those cashiers  offer that discount willy-nilly. They are just asking for it!

By the time I got home, there was a new voice inside making itself known. A voice that said, “Hey, you. What’s so bad about being associated with being 55?”

I mean, truthfully, the level of disgust I felt at the mere suggestion that I could ever be 55!

I began to examine this, go deeply into it. I discovered that being over 65 felt OK. I mean, I know I’m going to be a rocking 65-year-old.

And 70? Look out! I want to be one of those cool Septuagenarians who astounds people with their vitality and continued accomplishments.

But 51-64? I want no part of THAT club. No way.

Where did this come from? This abhorrence of people those ages? I wasn’t born rejecting a whole segment of the population. How did this hidden inner belief system come to be so strong in me?

And better yet, what can I do about it now that I know about it?

I don’t want to feel such a distaste for any of the years I am lucky enough to have ahead. I thought I had embraced ageing when it first started appearing in my mid 40’s…I looked at how I felt about it then and really thought I had decided I was gonna forge a new pathway for generations of women to come by embracing my later ages. By celebrating the changes as they came. By being a vibrant, sexy woman at EVERY age.

I thought I had decided that I was gonna be a one-woman revolution and reject societal, cultural pressure to look young no matter what the cost for as long as possible. To be on TV and in films at my age and not be ashamed or embarrassed because I am not young anymore. To blaze trails. To be a part of a change that embraces beauty at every age instead of the age-shaming we are bombarded with from infancy through all forms of media.

I thought I had chosen this path.

Little did I know that sure, I was great with aging as long as I still looked 38-48. That was cool.

Little did I know that when I looked in the mirror, reviewing the changes I could see, there was this part of my brain that must have decided “Sure, this is acceptable. I can live with THIS.” But that all the while that seeming acceptance actually held a hidden silent caveat: “As long as it doesn’t get worse than THIS.”

How insane it seems now. But that must have been the invisible internal logic.

Oy.

I can’t stay frozen in time. I cannot choose the face I will keep for the remainder of my life in this body.

My face and body WILL continue to change as time progresses. I am like every other human who has ever lived and aged.

But. I can choose all of the things I thought I chose before. I CAN embrace. I CAN blaze a trail. I can be a one-woman revolution.

I can choose to reject what advertisers and media cram into my psyche on a practically moment-by-moment basis. Anti-aging, this, anti-aging that. (“Anti-” opposed to, against!)

I do not have to believe/embrace or live from the beliefs that:

After 40 it is all downhill. Middle age is something to dread and fear. Women become invalid and invisible once they hit menopause. Life is meant for the young. Old people have no relevance. Old people cannot remember things. Old people are “out of it” when it comes to modern technologies or cultural references. Blah, blah, blah.

Bullshit. It is all designed to make me fear getting old and to buy skin creams and such as if my life depends on it.

When I shared my grocery store story with a friend, she said she could relate to my outrage. She said she wasn’t going to age “without a fight.”

But I don’t want feel like there’s anything TO fight, you know?

Or rather, I am gonna fight. But not aging.

I’m gonna fight Ageism.

Look out, world. Here I come! Who is with me?!

To find out more about ageism: www.legacyproject.org

#beautifulateveryage

Ownership

No longer have to trademark my grief

Don’t need the world to see where I was broke

I’ve given myself full attention and love

All I’d held dormant is now woke

 

I’ve befriended it all, found a place in my heart

For what used to have me in tatters

Don’t need you to see it to make it all real

It’s mine now, and that’s all that matters

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: trademark

To the Core

I used to hate myself.

Seriously. I hated just about everything about me. I was fixated on the way I looked: I felt like a monster, something grotesque, misshapen, disgusting.

This was painful, and difficult. It is hard to relate and be in the world when you have that kind of hatred for your body.

But as I look back, the most painful kind of hatred I felt towards myself was the hatred I felt for the ways I felt and thought. I felt tormented by my own mind and feelings and sought escape in every way imaginable, including close contemplation many times and one failed attempt at ending my own life. I could not get away from this internal self I so hated. I felt like a freak trapped inside a monster’s body.

I wasn’t born with that kind of self-hatred. It developed slowly over time in my early years following trauma that created a kind of split from my own core. Losing connection to my core made me vulnerable to the outside world in a way that was devastating.

With a healthy core intact, dealing with bullies and the other social pressures at school is painful and impactful but does not warp one’s self-perception.

With a healthy core intact, a person can withstand the challenges that exist in most childhood homes where there are people with untreated mental issues, and where there are emotional, sexual and physical abuses or neglect as a result of parents who themselves were abused or neglected.

Without a healthy core intact, the affect of these kinds of external forces become stronger, louder than one’s own innate internal sense of self, sense of well-being, of any innate self-support. As a result, these events, people and experiences bend and shape one’s sense of inner and outer self and reality.

The best way I can describe living without that connection to my core sense self is to have been like a tissue blowing in the wind, this way and that, getting stuck wherever the wind took me.

I do not have multiple personality disorder, so I cannot speak to what that experience is like, and I do not mean to offend anyone who does. But I have sometimes imagined that what I experienced was somehow related. I could not hear my own internal voice most of the time. I was “hearing” the world, and it was loud and dangerous to me.

Living when you are disconnected from your core is terrifying. It is suffocating. It is lonely. It is deadly.

I am lucky, because even though that connection was severed, there was always somewhere deep within me some sense of something to keep fighting for. One tiny shred of connection to a core that I could imagine if not feel or often hear. I didn’t trust it or understand what it was. But it was there and I could sometimes hear it in the very darkest moments.

Like the moment some years ago now when I had the razor blade that I had bought and planned to use in my fingers and held to the skin of my left wrist, ready to end my suffering. That tiny shred began to whisper to me, “What if I am wrong? What if it could get better?”

That tiny shred, and the realization in the moment that followed that I was reneging on a promise I’d made to my two cats – whom I loved desperately – that I would always look after them, that they would never know fear or be homeless again after their difficult early lives feral on the streets of NYC, saved my life that day.

I have written about coming home to my own core within myself in previous posts Dormant Child and Cutting the Cord.

The work of healing my fractured soul has been profound, difficult and beautiful. It is on-going work, but I have come such a long way.

To re-connect with and then feel a permanent connection to my own core self – to know my own essence – has been at times a shockingly powerful and painful process. And at the same time, the most intricate, exquisite and intimate experience I have ever known.

One of the greatest gifts of this this connection to my core, this freeing of my inner selves (every age I have ever been) and this healing of the traumas of these selves into wholeness, has been a growing love and appreciation for my self.

I have learned to love my body for what is does, not how it looks. I have grown a gratitude for my physical abilities and strengths, and try to find joy in moving my own body, using my own voice. Today, I have reverence for all that my body contains. It contains multitudes and is wise beyond my mind’s own wisdom. It holds the Truth, and it never lies.

I look for the miracles within and without, and because I have cleared away what I can of the detriment that is not of my true essence, I find them. The detritus that remains from my past does not clog my joy as it once did. I love the detritus, too, for it holds important information. There is often even gold to be found in what remains.

I genuinely enjoy my own company today. I like the way I experience the world: my own peculiar sense of humor, the unique way I think and feel. I am no longer tortured by my own thinking. I am no longer tortured by being me.

This is huge. Not to say I do not experience anxiety, racing thoughts, negative or critical thinking (the Inner Critic, the Critical Mind, the Ego, whatever you want to call it.) I do experience all of those things and more (panic, depression, the pull towards self-destruction.)

But I am no longer a tissue blowing in the wind.

I am a mighty tree, strong and constantly expanding into the world around me. Yet I am flexible and can withstand whatever weather comes my way because I am rooted, and those roots go deep. I take nourishment from the elements that support my growth. I no longer look for sustenance from sources that can not provide what I truly need to thrive.

I live in light today. There is darkness, yes, but it is a different kind of darkness. I no longer fear the dark places, because I am always there. I trust myself to see myself through whatever comes my way.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: peculiar

With much love and thanks to the gifts and work of Suzanne Connolly.

Mirror, Mirror

Never doubt that I see you

Know all that you’ve survived

See the strength that you have found

All the ways that you have thrived

From where you started until now

Look how far that you have come

All the shit that’s happened to you

The many things you’ve overcome

Look at you, my strong, brave girl

My beautiful, resilient one

My heart is bursting, full of love

For all that you’ve become

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: overcome

In Honor and Appreciation for the Life and Work of Louise Hay

#louisehay #mirrorwork #affirmations #youarebeloved #beyourownbiggestfan