We made hundreds of decisions every single day. When bad things happen we look back on all those little decisions and wonder, “did I cause this? or was this my fault?” Logically we understand there are something in life that are just out of our control, but we still want to blame ourselves. Here’s my story of finding forgiveness after the stillbirth of my daughter.
When was the last time you sat down and listed everything you’ve accomplished or experienced in the last year or five years? A few weeks ago I did just that and I was shocked. Take a peek at what happened when I decided to write it all down and consider what might happen if you did the same.
Have you ever looked at the pathway ahead of you and felt overwhelmed? I haven’t written for publication in a long while. I was afraid and let my fears hold me back. Anyone else have that problem? Well here’s how I’m overcoming those fears.
Figuring yourself out sounds easy, right? Who knows you better than you, right? I've been surprised to find that I didn't really know myself at all. Here's how I'm getting to know my true self and how you can too!
For months I’ve been telling Josh, “I need a vacation.” A respite from the everyday... The kind of vacation where you travel with your best friend, explore, get lost, and soak up your surroundings. The kind where you get to step away from your “real” life and reset.
So we planned a trip to Portland, Oregon, and as the plane pushed away in the dark this morning, tears streamed down my checks. I knew I needed a vacation, but I had no idea just how much. It took a few moments, as my breath returned, before I could literally feel the tension in my shoulders let go.
There is something magical about gazing out an airplane window knowing a break from “real life” is about to begin, to feel like you're leaving the weight of the world behind.
For just a moment, a single week of time, I get to escape the sadness, the pain, the appointments, the meetings, the laundry, the bills… everything. I get to put it all on the back burner and enjoy life, unhindered by the mundane.
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when we need time away.
We get caught up in the distractions of daily life and miss the signs. Here are just a few of the signs I experienced. Please take them as a reminder to take care of yourselves, my friends. I know not everyone can jump on a plane, so find something that works for you. Find time to take care of yourselves.
1. The idea of doing another load of laundry feels like climbing Mount Everest.
Do regular everyday chores feel like they might send you over the edge? Josh and I try to keep it light in our house by laughing when we hit our edge, raising our hands and making a declaration: “I’m losin’ it!” It’s our little signal to each other that we’re at our max and can’t handle much more. It's been two years since we lost Adeline and we still experience these moments frequently. And then your Word-a-Day calendar literally tells you to take a respite...
2. You wake up thinking, “How many more days until the weekend?”
I’m sure many of us look forward to our weekends, and Mondays always seem to come along a little too quickly. Are you one of those people who dread waking up Monday morning? Must you drag yourself out of bed everyday? Do you feel like you're forcing something that just feels off? Ask yourself, “Do I need some self-care time?” Would that help you face future Mondays? Would you find a little peace in knowing you took time for yourself and provided your heart and soul with the replenishment it needs?
3. Staying in bed all day sounds like a mighty fine idea!
We’ve all have days when nothing goes right and you wish you could crawl back into bed and just hide for a while. Sleep has always been my “getaway” of choice, a place where I could go to stop the voices in my head, to ignore the emotions, and to hide from it all. Give yourself a little grace. There will be days when sleep/rest is exactly what you need, but when you find yourself constantly thinking, “I just can’t wait to go to sleep,” it might be time for a vacation.
4. Tomorrow feels more like a burden than a gift.
On the surface you might be a highly-functioning, responsible person who’s getting it all done, but as you close your eyes each night you wonder how you’ll make it through tomorrow. You struggle with whether or not you can do it all over again. So you find ways to cope: you meditate, do yoga, go for walks, take weekend trips, etc. all in an effort to find a little respite. All in an effort to breathe, unencumbered by life's daily demands.
You find yourself exhausted, worn out, beat down, and no one else would know your little secret unless you told them.
When we lose our sense of gratitude for the gift of tomorrow, it’s probably a good indicator it’s time for a good bit of self-care.
5. The explorer within you knows there is more to discover.
Many feel a pull to get out of their comfort zones because they know when they do it opens their eyes to new possibilities. If you feel the need to leave the mundane life behind, even if for just moment, it may be a sign to allow your creative mind the space to breathe. Sometimes, all it takes is a little change of scenery to remind yourself about what really matters most to you. Along the way you might just discover true joy again.
If you’re willing to listen to your heart, my friend, I believe it will tell you what you truly need.
Mine needed a big break from reality and so for the next seven days you’ll find me dipping my toes in the waters off the Oregon coastline, writing in quaint coffee shops, hiking under the pines and firs, and climbing to the top of mountains. We’re off on an adventure to refill our souls and to replenish our hearts.
Happy trails, my friends.
Feel free to tag along on my adventures this week by following me on my social media feeds. I promise not to spam you with my vacation photos too much. :)
When an instant changes everything about your life, there is the before and the after.
Before the stillbirth of my daughter, I was an active, energetic thirty-five-year-old woman who trusted the relationship between my mind and my body. I had a sense of knowing that if I asked my body to do something, to perform, it would.
And then on that day, when my body wasn’t able to deliver our daughter safely, all bets were off. My mind no longer believed my body could do even the simplest of tasks.
I noticed this change during a retreat a few months after Adeline Grace was stillborn. We spent days immersed in the healing embrace of nature, taking deep breaths, attempting to fill our souls with fresh air.
Somewhere along the way, I began to notice a storm raging within me. My legs burned; my feet hurt; my lungs struggled to take in air; my frustrations grew. What I had once known to be easy was now hard. Really hard.
I kept telling myself to “just keep going,” that all would be fine.
However, sometimes our bodies know things that we do not.
They tell us stories and send us messages, and mine was screaming at me to slow down. I did not want to slow down because I knew slowing down meant having to face the sadness, the pain, the hurt, the emotions of not only the loss of my daughter but also the broken bridge between my body and mind.
I didn't know how to mend that bridge. I really thought I just needed to get physically stronger and everything would be ok.
So I started with what I knew. I forced myself out of bed and into running shoes. I tried all the things I used to do before, but nothing helped. I had very little energy and developed plantar fasciitis in both of my feet.
My body was literally rejecting everything I did.
For all of my good intentions and effort, there seemed to be so much resistance.
I realized what had worked in the before would not work in the after.
I had to find another way, a different way, a way that worked for this new me.
Follow Your Intuition
With that in mind, I made attempts to slow down and to listen to what my body needed.
I was having difficulty falling asleep at night, so I considered what might help me relax before bed. After several google searches, I found Bedtime Yoga by Yoga with Adriene (who is awesome and I now love her videos). Within that simple and subtle practice, I found a way to start connecting with what I had lost, to slow down, to feel my own body, and to acknowledge not only what my physical self needed but also what my broken emotional self needed too.
It felt natural and comfortable. I was at home, safe in my own space. There were no commitments. There were no preconceived notions. It was just me and my mat (and sometimes pillows to cradle and to support… or to soak up the tears).
As nature would have it, once you start doing something that feels good you start to crave more. I soon added a short morning practice to help connect with my intentions for the day ahead.
Listen to Your Heart
It’s amazing how our bodies hold onto and remember the pain of trauma. Any time I attempted to “push myself” physically, I was immediately reminded of the physical stresses of labor and the emotional pain of our loss. With those memories came the flood of emotions.
If I wanted to get strong, I was going to have to find a way to acknowledge my heart, as I integrated movement. Yoga encouraged me to explore my physical boundaries and yet allowed me to honor my emotional limits at the same time. There’s an acceptance around doing what feels right for you, not exactly what someone’s instructing you to do. It allows for exploration in a manner that feels right for you.
Cultivating Patience and Acceptance
No relationship is built in a day; it takes time. The relationship between my body and mind has been complicated by the loss of my daughter. I have this desire for everything “to go back to normal” as quickly as possible, as if returning to “normal” would make it hurt a little less.
There is the before, and there is the after.
No sense of normal will ever make the longing for her go away, yet my heart desires the simplicity of my former life. Yoga reminds me to breathe, to accept, and to acknowledge where I am now and what I’ve been through. No judgement or expectations, only an acceptance where you are right now.
That, my friends, is a precious gift, especially for someone who now lives in a state of longing for something she will never have.
I’ve been able to take this practice off the mat as I learn to live in my new normal. I’m able to use these practices to heal not only my mind/body relationship but also my heart. There are so many way yoga can serve you, don't believe me, check out this list of 18 Amazing Benefits of Yoga, from JennReviews.com.
When you’re hurting, try noticing your intuition. What is it guiding you towards? Try something different. Explore. Listen to your heart. What does it need most? Be kind to yourself by finding patience and acceptance. Give yourself a little grace.
Yoga has been instrumental in helping me do just that. I’m a long way from bridging the gap, but I feel like I’m on my way.
I almost didn’t write this letter today. I wanted to, I really did, but my heart was hesitant. And yet here I am, writing. Why?
Making a choice to slowing down or taking a step back from a traditional path does not mean there's something wrong. It can mean that there is something VERY right happening. Here's why I'm choosing to take a step back and slow down a little.
Life gets busy and we end up not being able to accomplish all the things we intended. Has that ever happened to you? Here's how to return to the things you love, even if it's been years since you did them.
The reality is there will never be enough time, there will only be what we are given.
In our fast paced world taking the time to slow down and breathe isn't easy. I'm finding it completely worth the effort.
Our world if full of constant distractions. When was the last time you slowed down to notice the world around you? Here are some tips for how to get started, because it's not as easy as you'd think.
How do you feel when you open the door to your home? Do you smile and find a bit of relaxation? You can with these tips. We spend so much time in our homes and sometimes don't realize how the space around us impacts our thoughts, emotions and relationships. With a different way of thinking and a little effort you can create a space you love.
Maybe you’re like me... You crawl into bed at night and wonder, “What did I do today, and did any of it really matter?” Do you feel like life is passing you by? Do you think you might be missing something? Does your life seem a bit like a blur?
Do you ever feel like you’re on a predetermined path? A path someone else (or our culture) laid out for you? What if you could live your life a little differently and be happier? Would you do it?
This is my promise to you...
A mother’s love has been said to be “unbreakable.” With this, I would agree...
The first day of December has arrived, which means the end of 2016 is right around the corner.
Have you accomplished everything you wanted to this year?
Do you find yourself trying to squeeze it all in before the end of the year?
Has your “to do” list run off the page? Is it filled with things like finishing up assorted projects and preparing house and home for Christmas, not to mention the mundane tasks of daily life? Do you find yourself frantically running from one place to another in an attempt to make everything perfect and get everything done in time?
The transition from one year to the next can sometimes feel like a looming deadline, especially for those of us who think we need to check everything off our lists, before we can relax and enjoy ourselves.
As I look at my list for December (see below) I couldn't help but feel like something was missing.
- Finish eBook (which has only been drafted)
- Stay active (so I have the energy to get all this stuff done)
- Create a new website (for a work project)
- Prep for family visitors (who will be here for a week)
- Shop for gifts (which stresses me out)
- Decorate for the holidays (which sounds simple, but as you know never is)
It keeps going and going on and on...
Our lists just get longer and longer, and yet we're not given any additional time to get it all done. It can feel overwhelming. Indeed, my shoulders feel a little heavier while writing those words. I struggle with the desire to get it all done so I can go into the holidays and into the new year with a “clean slate.” Clean slate… haha… What the heck does that even mean? Is there ever really such a time where we can shut down and walk away leaving nothing left to be done? If so, what do we have to sacrifice between now and then in order to get it all done?
I’m reminded that there will always be more work to be done, more tasks to be completed.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, "What matters most to me?"
So what's missing from my list above. It's quality time with with myself and others. My greatest wish for this holiday season is to find joy in my interactions with others. If this is my priority, some tasks will not get done, some projects won’t get finished when planned, and, you know what, that’s ok. Life isn’t a linear evolution from one year to the next. Some years we progress, and some years we relish in the progress. Some years we have set backs while others we move forward at the speed of light.
This month is a time to relish in the deep beauty of this life. So here's my new list:
- Find presence in as many moments as I can
- Forget about my "to do" list whenever I'm speaking to someone else
- Listen with a whole heart
- Share kindness
- Relish in the joy of this season
Everything else will get done exactly when it's supposed to get done and you'll enjoy doing it when you first focus on what matters most. What matters most to you this holiday season? What brings you the greatest joy during the holidays? What will you prioritize this season?
Share with us in the comments below.
Creativity to Release Stress
Have you ever seen an article or study suggesting a link between physical exertion and stress relief? One of the primary reasons so many people workout, I believe, is indeed stress relief. Did you know, however, that creative outlets can also be helpful to relieve stress? James Clear summarizes this well in his article Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity. Indeed, I’ve experienced stress relief through a variety of creative outlets myself.
So if we know something is good for us why wouldn’t we do more of it?
What holds us back?
- Fear of failure - Maybe it’s the first time we’ve picked up a paintbrush since 3rd grade. The first thing that goes through our minds is “I’m not the artistic type” or “This is going to turn out horribly." Creativity is much like exercise: you wouldn’t run a marathon without first training nor will you be able to execute a perfect painting (if there even is such a thing) the first time. We are rarely good at things the first time we do them. Is that a reason not to try?
- Fear of judgement - We often self-criticize and worry what others will think of our work. The cool thing about creative outlets for stress is that you never have to show your work to another soul if you don’t want. I wrote in a journal for 20 years of my life and never showed any of it to anyone. It was mine and mine alone. Being creative to find connection with your heart only requires that you do it, not share it.
- Not enough time - We’ve all used this rationale for so many things. Indeed, there will never be more time for creativity... unless we value the experience and understand the benefit. Try it. Experiment to see what you feel while you’re being creative. Do you feel a release? Did you discover something new about yourself?
When was the last time you let your imagination wonder? You know, like you did when you were a kid. No boundaries. No restrictions. Just freedom to explore.
As adults, our ability to think creatively becomes stagnate as we allow our fears to place the restrictions upon ourselves.
I wouldn’t describe myself as the “creative” type either.
I would describe myself as a person who seeks creative outlets to release my fears and to discover my heart. Here are some avenues I’ve been drawn to throughout the years.
- Writing: I’ve mentioned writing repeatedly because it has been present in some form or fashion for nearly all of my life. I’ve only just decided in the last year to begin sharing it with all of you.
- Coloring: Sometimes you just need to soothe your mind with the repetition of a pencil or crayon. (See below.)
- Photography: I’ve shared my love of photography with you too. I’m enjoying discovering the world from new angles and new perspectives. With just the shift of a camera angle, my whole world can change.
- Organizing: Organization may not seem "creative" and may sound ridiculous to some, but I get so much joy from finding creative ways to live in small places and still maintain functionality. It stimulates my brain and makes me think outside the box of transitional methods.
- Candle making: I’m getting adventurous over the holidays and have decided to make soy candles. First time, so I’ll have to let you know how it goes!
What piques your interests and creative side? What have you been wanting to try something new but haven’t yet taken the plunge? Is there something that’s been calling to you for release and exploration? Go, my friends, and do. Express yourself, find a release, and you might be surprised to find a whole lot more while you’re there.
Grateful for so much this year.