Three Monkeys

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My heart, joy, heartache, destiny, and purpose, all wrapped up in a little boy. Cocooned in my bed today with a 101 degree temperature and a tummy ache, he wished something would come up and out of him to give his tummy relief. No luck. An easy patient, he was calm and quiet, almost peaceful, and didn’t complain at all about feeling yucky. It was unexpected, since his older sister has the opposite demeanor when she is sick. Comfort came to him today in the form of cuddles with me, books read, movies watched, and naps taken... but most of all, in his three 🐵 monkeys.

His bedtime companions since he was two years old, they are three identical monkey heads on soft security blanket bodies. Why three? He actually started with one that I would switch out to wash, with a spare for the car; but he got hip to my deception and demanded to keep all three at once. And so it has been, for the last 3 years or so.

Today, monkeys were in their usual spot, gathered up together and clutched in his arm like a bouquet of flowers. He dubbed these best friends “rockstars” early on, but now he simply refers to them as “monkeys.” They have priority over anyone and anything in the house; and even when enjoying warm cuddles from me (one of his favorite pastimes), he may demand I move my face a bit so I don’t breathe on them. 😷 The nurturing and gentle care he shows these precious companions speaks volumes. He is a special soul.

While cuddling with him today, his body hot from fever and weak from starving it, I felt a surge of emotion, as the back of his head rested on my mouth and chin. My eyes welled up, and I acknowledged silently to myself that there was no place I would rather be, and nothing I would rather be doing in that moment. An overwhelming sense of contentment and gratitude washed over me, and I felt as lucky as monkeys to be enveloped in his love.

#threemonkeys

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Becoming You: From Tragic to Transformative

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Thirteen years ago, I had a dream job, dream husband, and dream lifestyle by the sea. Happiness was on the rise, and its expected trajectory was limitless. I was living a perfectly charmed life, despite mild insecurity and self-doubt; and the formula I had created for it centered around pronounced wellness... in health, fitness, discipline of mind and body, and professional success.

I ran three miles five times a week. I practiced yoga. I worked long hours, but was rewarded for it in title and salary. I drank green smoothies, ate vegan meals, and consumed eight glasses of water each day. I wore a size 0. I had overcome a dysfunctional childhood, suffered career failures, and let go of unfulfilling relationships. I lived in an impeccably choreographed external reality, while my internal footing was not completely solid. I fought for the life I wanted, and created the best version of it I could. I felt happy. I thought if my life could just remain stable and secure long enough, then maybe I could feel a deeper sense of happiness and belonging in my soul, down to my core.

But it didn't stay that way. I was laid off my job, got unexpectedly pregnant, and tragically lost my mother, all within the span of a year and a half. This eruption of unexpected losses and unplanned detours blew up my life, triggering unconscious wounds and undesirable outcomes. Life's curve balls were thrown so fast, and from so many directions, that there was no time to brace for disaster. They invaded my intentionally crafted existence and destroyed what I had worked so hard to craft.

Now, not only was my mom gone, but my life, as I knew it, was over. I felt left behind and tossed aside by the world. This world, which I thought had promised me a good life, had lied and reneged on its promise. My baby was born amid my crippling grief. Postpartum depression, marital disillusionment, and a monumental identity crisis soon joined in; and together, these life altering states of being uncovered a minefield of hidden wounds within me, and ignited deep emotional pain, debilitating me.

I naively thought I had paid my dues of difficulties early in life, and that this was supposed to be my time to shine. It was my turn to have a happy life. One full of joy and love. One in which I felt that I belonged, and was wanted and needed. How I always dreamed. But it was not going the way I hoped and expected. I had lost the dream. I was angry and sad. I was no longer the me I wanted to be. My neatly landscaped life was now a messy, damaged life... one chosen for me, rather than by me.

Through sheer will and stubbornness, I hastily rebuilt myself and attempted to regain control of my life. I was a mother now, but also a motherless daughter. I kept mostly intact for years, and even thrived in short, temporary bouts... in motherhood, marriage, and fitness. But my proven formula of wellness, and the method of healthy functioning I previously used before the fallout, was no match for my unresolved wounding. My life appeared put together enough from the outside (again); but inside, insecurity, hurt, and fear were emerging from the shadows. They began to eclipse the happiness I had cultivated out of tragedy, and I couldn't sustain it. Compelled to remove the masks of coping and posturing, all too common in adulthood, I exposed the dark underbelly of my sadness and perceived inadequacy, and faced it.

By my own resolve, I was forced to grow.

This kind of personal growth is distinct from the growing we do as children, which doesn't take our conscious effort. Our new bodies, ripe with possibility, develop beyond our control and without our deliberate intention. Our minds, clean slates ready to be written on like new blackboards with fresh pieces of white chalk, soak up life’s experiences like sponges. Before our physiques are done developing, our young minds and hearts begin to fill with experiences... ones that elicit hope, hurt, conceptions and conclusions. For most of us, the development of our emotional intelligence is hijacked by wounding, in its many forms, encouraging a climate of managing and minimizing to take over while a regimen of denying feelings and numbing pain sets in.

The depth of hurt and vulnerability that's inside us by the time we are adults often remains buried and unexplored, sometimes for a lifetime; unless we are compelled to dig deep and break through to the other side of pain. Loss is most often the catalyst to this unearthing, as was the case for me. Although I had been an introspective student of yoga and soul centered living for years, this was different. More confronting. I realized that emotional, spiritual and whole body wellness could no longer be a surface goal, or merely a healthy or trendy lifestyle choice. Exercise, smoothies, and meditation weren't gonna do it alone. No more glossy top coats to conceal the flaws or slurry to cover up the cracks. I needed to jackhammer that shit up, down to the foundation... to the core of my soul. I had to confront my wounding, look my pain dead in the eye, and rescue myself from its clutches.

I am still under this personal and intimate reconstruction, and expect to be indefinitely. I have learned and healed so much, yet I have so much more to discover and integrate within. I love and fear the process; but mostly, I am grateful for the insight I have gained and the perseverance I have found inside myself to stay curious, courageous, and keep healing, growing and evolving.

I have concluded that if we don't commit to doing this healing, growing and evolving bit, we are at risk of staying stuck in a version of ourselves that we've outgrown, but insist on squeezing into...  just like that tight pair of jeans we claim still fit, but require us to lie down and suck in to zip them up. Being stuck in those old, shrunken selves stifles joy, impedes our potential for true belonging, and immobilizes us from moving about our lives freely with comfort and purpose.

It is possible for personal growth and evolution to be intentional and self-motivated as well, rather than spurred on by loss or misfortune. It could be inspired by a desire for a more fulfilling existence and a deeper understanding of one's place in humankind, or it can be spurred on by the discomfort of trying to fit into those ill-fitting, played out denims.

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Whether prompted by life changing challenges or by curiosity about what exists beyond our self-imposed limits, growth happens when we open ourselves up to the possibility of exploring, healing, and becoming who we truly are. Becoming more kind, compassionate, and empathetic to ourselves and others. Becoming whole and wise and open and vulnerable. Becoming who we were meant to be, before we began to tailor and fabricate a version of ourselves to present to the world for self-preservation.

Becoming you is the single most important thing you can do in this life.

From tragic to transformative, only you have the power to make your life what you want, out of what you have. All that is required to establish strong roots and grow magnificent wings is to accept the invitation to find what authentically grounds you, and to cultivate the strength and courage to let it fly free into the wonderful wilderness of this world.

It's all inside of you... it's inside all of us.

 

POSTSCRIPT: As a strong adherent of my writing, Dr. Jennifer Johnston-Jones, founder of Roots & Wings Personal Growth and Family Excellence, a non-profit organization established in Malibu, asked me to write an article for the premiere issue of their wellness magazine.
Although they shifted gears and ultimately decided not to publish the magazine, I had already finished the article. This is it, reconstructed and edited a bit for posting here.
Roots & Wings' mission is to transform individuals and families into their best selves through parent education, personal growth coaching, child development, and school educational programs. For more information, visit www.rootsnwings.org.

These Feet

Rough start today. First day back to school after a two week spring break. Kids. Moods. Attitudes. No more explanation needed.

After they left for school with my husband, the house was quiet and peaceful again. Hallelujah. I needed to just sit for a minute. Breathe. Regroup. I lied on my bed, checked my email, read an article or two, recited some positive affirmations, and did a few mind centering exercises to collect myself before tackling the day. I have an article to post today, and some writing to finish up on another piece I want to get out this week. So many ideas in my head, things I want to explore, share, open up about, and connect on with all of you. 🙏

Before rising, I noticed the light streaming in from the window, right onto my feet in front of me. It’s as if they were put in the spotlight for me to notice them. So I thought about it... How often do we consciously appreciate the parts of our body that do so much of the heavy lifting for us, but rarely get the love and care that other less productive, but more aesthetically pleasing, parts get?

These feet have taken me on so many lifesaving, therapeutic runs, climbed hills on the toughest and most beautiful of hikes, grounded me in hundreds of renewing yoga poses, walked me gracefully down the aisle at my wedding, kept me steady carrying babies and toddlers everywhere for years, and held me up as I stood at the podium giving mother’s eulogy. I am grateful for my feet. For the mobility they grant me, the solid connection to the Earth 🌏 they give me, and the foundation they provide me to stand tall and strong... even in the face of a moody eleven year old.
👣

#thesefeet

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

We Are Not Our Faces

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We are not our faces. Our physical beauty. Our smooth skin. Our flowing hair. Our yoga poses.

Our professional accomplishments. Our bank accounts. Our cars. Our houses. Our jewels. Our reputable names.

Our extra pounds around the middle. Our gray hairs. Our dark circles. Our wrinkles.

Our shame. Our guilt. Our hurt. Our regrets. Our failures. Our vices. Our self images, distorted through other people’s lenses, tarnished when fallen short of lofty expectations. We are none of these.

These attributes and circumstances do not define us. It may feel like they do, because they have shaped and molded us into who we identify ourselves to be today; and we present these selves to the world (flaunting or concealing parts) for others to weigh in... to decide our worth or our level of acceptability.

But we aren’t these things in our core. In any way that truly matters. No, instead, we are our strength. Our vulnerability. Our kindness. Our courage. Our perseverance. Our empathy. Our hope. Our compassion. Our humanity. Our love. Our resistance to letting all that other sh*t define us.

#internationalwomensday2018

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Even in Australia

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It’s #nationalreadacrossamericaday, so books are on my mind; which, truthfully, is no different from any other day. 📖 I recently color coded my library, with inspiration from my sister’s 🌈 rainbow book display... these are just two of several shelves in my house filled with books curated over many years.

The oldest in my collection is the big red coffee table book on the far left entitled “The Movies.” It was my mom’s and sat on a shelf in the den of my childhood home for as long as I can remember. Having it here makes me happy and feel connected to her, reminding me of our shared passion for film.

But today, when I think about the book that meant the most to me as a child, I could think of no other than “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. I grabbed it from my kids’ bookshelf in their room & added it to my library here for a moment, since I no longer have my childhood copy.

After I birthed my first child, this was the first hardcover book I purchased for my nursery library of cloth and board books. It was my favorite as a child because it taught me that it was okay to have feelings... to have MY feelings, ANY feelings I felt, no matter what anyone else said. That it was normal to feel yucky sometimes and that every day didn’t have to be picture perfect, chronicling a childhood of a chronically smiling (often fake smiling) girl.

Expectations to be cordial, well behaved and “good” dominated my childhood, and any feelings of anger or sadness were rarely accepted or validated. The pressure to present a groomed and shiny exterior, for the purpose of preserving my father’s celebrity and professional reputation, was overwhelming for me, and it didn’t leave much room for normal childhood fears and angst.

I related to Alexander and his desire to get away and move to Australia. I related to his feeling of being invisible and finding life unfair and unbalanced sometimes. This book helped me be ok with being the real me, big feelings and all, and that was transformative.✨💫

*I also wrote about this book in Some Days Are Like That

#booksaremagic #readacrossamerica

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

The Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn

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“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” - Eden Ahbez, Nature Boy

Happy Valentine’s Day to my husband... 18 years of love, laughs, loss, and life together, yet it feels like we’ve just begun our journey. I love you.

#valentinesday2018 #natureboy

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

 

No Filter Rant

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There is no filter on this photo I just snapped a couple minutes ago; so there will be no filter on its caption either (which is the norm for me anyway). It is inconceivable to some that one could look out at this view from their front door & not be grateful every moment of every day. Yet, sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

Gratitude is not automatic or a given. It is not inherent in direct relation to one’s interpreted & conceived good fortune, nor even to the obvious blessing of being alive, healthy & safe. Of course, you would think it would be, but it’s not. Gratitude needs to be cultivated, & so often that part is overlooked. I am grateful a lot, but not as much as I consciously wish I would be.

I have been enjoying this same view & these same sunsets for over 15 years, living in this tiny edge of the world since 2002. I have gotten married while living here, changed careers, grieved the sudden loss of my mother to a car accident, birthed two children, given up having a career at one point, suffered marital challenges, stayed home (sleep deprived & depressed) nursing babies, chasing toddlers, sweeping up cheerios, wiping up smushed baby food & feeling like I wanted to (& actually have) scream & cry from the grief, hardship, mundaneness & lack of intellectual stimulation.

Today, I stand here with children who are 7 & 11 & gone most of the day navigating moments of their own lives without me, on an unpaved road leading to an unknown destination, on the journey of a new career & a new stage of life. Nothing is certain... nothing but the love I feel for my husband, my kids, my siblings, my friends.

It is easy to see that this view is quite spectacular to the naked eye (& this image doesn’t even do it justice) in all its obvious glory; it is harder to see how spectacular everything else is in your life without consciously recognizing it - without tuning in your mind, body & soul to it - breathing it in & letting it inhabit your being.

I am doing it now. NOW. Now is all we’ve got until the next moment comes. Breathe it in. All of it. It is a privilege. Even the hard... especially the hard. It is what moves us closer to our truest selves.

#nofilter #rant

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

 

Soften to the Silliness

The magical 🎈balloon lady storytime event with Annie Banannie at the Malibu Library one week ago was targeted for kids ages 4-10. My son (7) and my daughter (10, but three days shy of turning 11) sat there amongst an audience of mostly toddlers and were skeptical it was going to be worth their while.

This was one in a long series of Malibu Library after school events to which I have taken them over the years... probably since she was about two-years-old, and definitely since he was a newborn. As our library outings have been some of the most fun and memorable times I have had as a mother with my children, it is strange to think that this may have been the last one my daughter would ever attend.

When the show began, they didn’t jump right in to participate. At this point (pictured), he was still deciding what he thought, and she was captivated by a baby sitting behind me. Yet after the show progressed a bit, they both began to soften... smiling, laughing, and letting go just enough to have a good time and enjoy the lightness and the silliness.

Even though my daughter is now 11, I will still try to take her to these events, and hope that she will sit, smile, laugh, and soften... soften to the silliness, despite her tween angst, and soften to the innocence and lightness amidst her inner battle between not wanting to be treated like a baby, and not wanting to grow up at all.

#balloonstorytime

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Farewell 2017

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Any given year can either be an equal mix of good and bad, or can tip the scales drastically to one side or the other. For me, 2017 was a hard year... 365 days of good, bad, and ugly.

Although it was filled with beautiful sunsets, cleansing runs, challenging hikes, and renewing escapes; it was also filled with bitter disappointments and devastating heartbreaks. A year of clarity and conviction, sadness and separation, and trials, tribulations, and truths not welcomed nor expected.

A year full of lessons and revelations that would not have come to pass without the hardships that preceded them - making it a year that was also a surprising gift. Through it, ⚓️hope endured, happiness was found, and gratitude was mindfully cultivated.

2018 is now here, and in this new year, I believe strength and courage will guide me... I expect truths and trials will continue to challenge me... and I know stories and storytelling will inevitably soothe me. Sharing, writing and creating will, as always, save me, and love will most definitely keep it all together.

#farewell2017 #herewecome2018 #happynewyear

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

 

Easy Like Sunday Morning

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Best friends. Balloons. Easy like Sunday morning. Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon.🎈

This photo I took of my son and his best friend at Malibu Bluffs Park is featured on the table of contents page in the current issue of Malibu Times Magazine. Although the issue has been out for two weeks, I didn’t realize I hadn’t shared the news until I walked by the magazine stand in front of Ralphs supermarket yesterday. It had just been replenished with a fresh stack of mags, so I thought I’d snap a quick pic... Thank you @malibutimesmag and @tracyiswright for the cool honor.

#malibutimesmag #featuredphoto #winterissue

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

 

Angels Watching Over Me

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Decorating our Christmas tree is always emotional for me. There are so many memories associated with the act itself, as well as with many of the ornaments I have amassed over the years.

The Swarovski crystal star was given to me by my mom on her last Christmas before her accidental and untimely death in 2006; and the silver angel, inscribed with ”My Sister, My Friend,” was a gift I received from my late stepmother soon after she divorced my dad over ten years ago. I lost her to cancer this past Spring.

My mom and my stepmom were the two most loving and nurturing women in my life, and I miss them both dearly. These special gifts are now symbols for me of who they are today... a glistening star and a shiny angel, their luminous energies connected and intertwined, watching over me together as they continue to live on... not only on my Christmas tree each year, but in my many precious memories of them, and always deep in my heart.

#angelswatchingoverme

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

 

Like Mother Like Son

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A couple weeks ago, I took my son to H&M to exchange a pair of shoes that didn’t fit him. While there, I saw this scarf and asked him if he liked it. He took the scarf from me, immediately put it around his neck, smiled, and asked if he could get it.

We decided it would be a good purchase for winter, and so he quickly made his way to the cashier to get in line. I spotted the matching beanie as I tried to catch up, and brought it along to show him. He was excited to see the hat, and asked if we could get that too. Yes, sweet boy, we can.

Upon leaving the store, he insisted I take his new scarf and hat out of the bag and let him carry them as we walked through the mall. He held on to them like they were his most coveted treasures, and he thanked me for getting them for him. Every time he has worn them since, he has treated them the same, proclaiming they are just as important to him as “monkeys” (his three sleeping buddies).

Something about that scarf captured his heart and held on to it, beyond any explanation or reason. It’s a beautiful thing because, isn’t that the way most amazing relationships begin? An inexplicable, undeniable connection that defies logic and causes us to hold on with the most fervent conviction.

I love his passion. It mirrors mine; and he is so much like me in so many ways. Unbridled expressions of devotion are just our thing, and we proudly flaunt them for all the world to see.

#likemotherlikeson

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Breakfast & Poetry

A deep breath and this breathtaking view at Zuma beach jump started my day this morning. I then arrived at a breakfast and poetry gathering with a tribe of empowered and beautiful women, all of them devoted moms who are living, fighting and thriving in the trenches of parenting young children right now. We were to read a poem of our choosing aloud; but instead, I opted to read “Dear Mom,” a rhythmic and somewhat poetic piece I wrote and posted to my website over a year ago. A letter to my mom on the eve of the 10th anniversary of her death, this was something I had never read aloud before today.

While I spoke, my heart beat wildly and my voice quivered slightly; as the words were louder in my head than they had been before, and the feelings attached to them more visceral. As I heard my own voice give them life, the words floated through the air and landed in the ears of those listening, some of them discovering the fate of my mom for the first time. I kept my eyes glued to the page until the end, as I knew if I locked eyes with anyone while reading I might not be able to finish.

When I finally looked up, I discovered tears flowing on several of the faces around me, and the room was absorbed by the expressions of sadness, disappointment, anger, and love that I had just shared. Yet, above all of the emotions conveyed in the letter, LOVE transcended them all. Love left its mark on the hearts of those who received its powerful message, and it connected us... as mothers, as women, as humans. It was a beautiful moment, and one I am grateful to those women in the room for sharing with me.

#dearmom

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Some Days Are Like That

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Lying on the hammock on our bedroom balcony, I stared out at this view, as if in a trance. I snapped out of it with just enough time to snap a photo of it before the vibrant colors dissipated; and just long enough to be reminded of the splitting headache I was enduring. My son was in the bath and my daughter was finishing up her homework. Bedtime was soon, and couldn’t come soon enough.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. I assume I liked it because I had my share of bad days back then and it must have provided me some much needed comfort amidst the drama and dysfunction of my home life. The book showed that life could be hard sometimes, and not only was that normal, but it was perfectly okay. What a relief... a sort of permission slip to be imperfect.

When I had my first child, I remembered this book and my affinity for it; so I bought a copy for our nursery library. My son chooses it every once in a while for me to read to him at bedtime, and every time I revisit the story, I feel a kinship with the main character. Alexander wanted to escape to Australia because he thought life would be better there, not rife with the challenges he was facing that day. At the end of the book, the lesson conveyed is that even people in Australia have bad days sometimes (and therefore, no one can escape them, nor escape their problems). Everyone, everywhere has them, no matter who or where they are, and that is okay.

Today was one of those days. I have been having quite a few of them lately. I am working, and doing, and becoming so much to grow and thrive as a mother, writer, woman, human... yet it has been challenging at times to tap into the positive and find the hope amidst the climate of our world and of my personal reality. And so the book reminds me: “Some days are like that. Even in Australia.”

#eveninaustralia

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

The Legacy of Grief

And Why It Is So Important to Own Our Pain

 My daughter leaving flowers for her grandmother on her birthday yesterday - Now ten years old, she was born three months after my mom died.

My daughter leaving flowers for her grandmother on her birthday yesterday - Now ten years old, she was born three months after my mom died.

I am still thinking about the people who lost their loved ones in the Las Vegas shooting massacre last Sunday night, October 1st.

Yes, still. It has only been a week.

Those left behind to grieve lost loved ones are on my mind because I was them. I know what they are feeling right now. The rest of the world may have moved on, but they are still in the thick of it, possibly paralyzed by sadness, scared about the future, and looking for answers on how they are going to live without their mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, or best friend.

I know their pain. I have felt their pain; as I too lost someone in an unexpected, tragic accident. One day my mom was here, turning 60 years old, and the very next day she wasn’t. That next day changed my life forever... October 10, 2006, eleven years ago today.

The deadly weapon used to kill her was a truck, not a gun; but the person operating the weapon was unwell just the same. The driver was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time of the accident, and so her impaired state caused her to drift off the two lane highway she was speeding on. When she swerved back into her lane, she over corrected and plunged her Bronco into oncoming traffic... slamming it head on into the car in which my mom was a passenger and killing her instantly.

My mom died lying on the asphalt of a rural road in Northern California at the hands of a woman not intending to kill her that day but who wasn't in the right state of mind to safely operate a vehicle that became a lethal weapon. There was no news coverage of the accident; and no villains were vilified nor heroes celebrated (although the driver did get sentenced to a year in prison). There were no hashtags prayers. Still, my mom's death changed the lives of her family and friends instantly, just as the deaths of those 59 people in Las Vegas changed the lives of their families and friends instantly, and forever.

In both cases, the irresponsible act of one single, troubled and unwell individual took innocent lives. The Vegas tragedy was just on a much larger scale and in a very public forum; and that act was committed with malicious intent. The added sting of knowing the killer intended to harm and kill people that day is one I was spared when my mom died; yet, the result of both events was the same - people were killed violently and unexpectedly.

Social media was ablaze this past week, with some people praying for Vegas, others demanding gun policy change, and still others protesting those demands by trying to convince the opposition that they should blame the individual, not the weapon. I know this is not true, but it seems like the people in the latter group are stuck in time somehow, like we are all still living in the 19th Century, when guns were shot one bullet at a time and were used primarily for protection from looters, robbers, and carpetbaggers. Their argument frustrates and confuses me, seeming archaic and inaccurate on so many levels. Yet above all the various protests, there were genuine sentiments of grief and many heartfelt pleas for stricter laws and demands to hold our politicians accountable for their failure to implement policies that they believe could have prevented this tragedy.

Now, over a week has passed, and most voices have quieted on all sides, save the various articles still being written and shared to further the debate on the subject of guns, media, and politics. It seems most people have moved on, resuming their normal output and usual consumption of media and going about their regular lives.

As I touched upon in Forever Changed, the only post I shared last week, our society functions on our collective ability to keep the tragedies of each day at arms length, and to prevent them from penetrating the armor we built up to protect us from daily doses of bad news, depressing statistics, and inconsiderate behavior by those around us. The Vegas tragedy was so tragic though that people could not help but let it into their hearts; and so they allowed themselves to feel devastated for a day or two, or three... just as they did when deadly shootings happened in Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, or Columbine.

But eventually, after a few days, maybe a week, most people expect themselves, and each other, to revert back to their normal routine of disconnect. Be it for self-preservation or simply for keeping their lives operating, they pull themselves up, look ahead and move forward, leaving the devastation behind, along with most of the emotion connected with it. After all, they would argue that they have to get out of bed, go to work, take care of kids, and contribute to society in the way they normally do and are expected to do. They can't afford, neither financially, emotionally or mentally, to curl up under the covers and allow themselves to feel sadness, fear, and powerlessness to the detriment of their careers, families, and self-images.

For about a week, praying for the families of the victims in Vegas or "keeping them in their thoughts" was the extent of what most people would allow themselves to do or feel. This is understandable, as it really is all most of us can do. The sad reality is that a week of prayers won’t give the lost loved ones back to those families, and heartfelt thoughts won't stop future acts of violence, irresponsibility, and loss that are bound to occur in a society full of people in pain that are taught to treat the symptoms instead of the roots of problems.

The people that were demanding stricter gun laws and policy changes may have felt more in control by "taking action" rather than just sending prayers. As admirable and empowering as this feels, it may not have any effect, since deeming something illegal does not mean people will immediately abide by the law and cease seeking out and possessing it. This has proven to be true over and over again by the whiskey and rye drinkers during prohibition, the pot and hash smokers of the sixties and seventies, the cocaine snorters of the eighties and nineties, and the crack, heroin and meth IV drug users of any decade. It is a well known fact that making something “illegal” doesn't make it unattainable; it just makes it trickier and more expensive to attain.

Too many people own guns already, or possess a large enough arsenal to sell them illegally and make a lot of money. So even if stricter policy changes are made, possibly banning bump stock devices that allow semi automatic weapons to perform like automatic ones, someone somewhere will still figure out a way to make, sell, and buy them illegally.

Aside from guns though, add to those illegal drugs listed above the issue of legal drugs - alcohol, prescriptions, and medical marijuana - that are over used and abused daily, and you have a whole other group of citizens that are taking lives via DUI accidents and drug overdoses in record numbers that dwarf the 59 souls lost in Vegas at the hands of one soul with an automatic weapon.

This man’s horrific deed has incited ideological arguments, intense anger, and (more than usual) political dissonance; yet adding to the debate on gun laws, the responsibility of the media, and the political failings of our leaders is not the purpose of my writing this. It is charged subject, with multiple facets and layers that don't add up to one definitive solution. It troubles me, but I am not entirely convinced that what happened in Vegas could have been prevented by stricter gun policies in a culture that, on the whole, glorifies violence, condones separatism, and encourages and enables the denial and numbing away of our emotions.

Instead, I write to share and process my experience of loss these past eleven years, and to grieve the loss of the people killed nine days ago. Their families are just beginning their journey into grief and loss, so I honor them and the difficult road toward acceptance and healing that they have just begun to travel.

Yet I also write to ask questions. To bring up that which most don't and won't talk about. To point out the way in which our society (dis)functions as a whole to the detriment of our collective mental health and emotional intelligence. Among all this discourse about policy and politics, where is the dialogue on the state of our overall wellness as a people, as a society, as a nation?

Wellness is a buzz word these days, as is mindfulness and meditation. But these concepts, and the efforts to implement them, only seem to surface in progressive communities and are often isolated to an individual's personal journey of growth and awareness. Self help - therapeutic, holistic, spiritual or motivational - is seen by the general public as an esoteric ritual reserved for yoga instructors, therapists, fitness and lifestyle coaches and their tribe of followers.

The fact is, there is nothing alternative or obscure about addressing our natural human emotions and our fundamental need for connection and love, or honoring our pain by approaching it with awareness, compassion, empathy, and understanding.

Where is the national agenda promoting true wellness in our society, outside of Western medicine's money making racket of drugging its people up on prescription medications? Where is a national dialogue confronting how to tend to people's mental and emotional well being without the use of drugs or other numbing methods?

There isn't one. There is no national dialogue such as this.

Sure, we have renowned alternative medicine doctors, writers, and self-help gurus, such as the late Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Eckhart Tolle who guide and teach those who seek them out through their books, articles and talks. We also have influential people such as Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, and Brené Brown who do the same with their powerful platforms, working in their own unique ways to show us how vulnerability and emotional intelligence is not something to shame or be ashamed of, but something to strive for, encourage and support within ourselves and our fellow humans.

There are also thousands of therapists and social workers doing their part every day, without the fame and glory of the former teachers and leaders mentioned above, to instill knowledge and awareness, promote courage and healing, and help people face and overcome their adversities without the use of prescription drugs, violence, or the usual numbing tactics coveted and accepted by our society as the norm.

But on a national scale, the need for and goal of true wellness, for the most part, is unaddressed in our society. In its absence, the crises of our culture is the perpetual numbing of pain and discomfort with a host of band-aids... anticipating and celebrating wine-o'-clock, ritualizing Sunday Funday drinking, zoning out on YouTube videos for hours, and binge streaming seven seasons of Game of Thrones in seven days, to name a few.

Numbing and denying our pain, instead of embracing it, leads to isolation and disillusion. Sharing our pain and our struggles in a supportive environment, instead of sweeping it under the rug, is the road to healing and thriving. The "rug" in its many forms - alcohol, TV, drugs, movies, video games, work, social media, sex, gambling, pornography, and retail therapy - has the magical ability to camouflage and cover up a lot of hurt and pain. Yet after the magic wears off, in a matter of days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years, we are still left with the same hurt and pain, now increased exponentially. If left under there, unchecked and unresolved for too long, this pain can rot, decay, fester, and transform into something twisted and toxic, with the potential to erupt in violence; and in last Sunday's case, a shower of bullets.

So where does this leave us? Where does this leave me in writing about my cyclical grief for my mom's death and the empathetic grief I feel for the families that are suffering tremendous loss right now? I don't know. All I know is I will continue to hold the victims of this tragedy close to my heart, next to the memory of mom, for as long as my grief needs me to do so. I am open to feel and accept it all. The grief, the pain, the disappointment, and the loss. I am a living testament to working through grief and pain by embracing and owning it, instead of concealing it away in a dark corner of my soul.

I will grieve, and when I am done this time around, I will remember and cherish my mom even more. I will recall how my kids brought flowers to her grave site on her birthday yesterday... how my son placed his colorful fall bouquet in the ground and uncomfortably yet sweetly wished her a happy birthday as he looked down at her grave marker... how my ten-year-old daughter chose red roses for her because through the years she has learned that they were her favorite... and how she hugged me tight and cried her first tears ever over for the loss of her grandmother whom she never had the chance to meet.

The legacy of grief.

It seems like an unwanted burden to bear, but it is really an invitation to expand our capacity to love.

Forever Changed

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Tragedies happen every day. A person dies in a car accident, another dies of cancer, and still another dies giving birth or while being born. Tragedies are ever present in our world, even if they don't happen right around us or we are not aware of them. If we were to take every single tragedy into our hearts & feel them as deeply as our own personal hurts, most of us wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning.

So we go on living our lives, hearing about these sad things that happen, and knowing there are infinitely more, and we don't really allow them to penetrate. At least not completely.

That is until something like the Las Vegas shooting happens, in which (so far) 58 people have been killed & hundreds of others have been injured, in what they are now calling the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, and we *cannot* ignore it. We can't keep it at bay and try to prevent it from affecting us on an emotional level, as the scale of it is just too immense. The sadness & knowledge of the sheer waste of life that now pervades our reality is so heavy that it can crush us. The helplessness & fear that this violent act can manifest in us has the potential to cripple us from continuing on our day. Do we let it?

And here on social media, there is an added element of timeliness & appropriateness... it begs the question, should we really be posting pictures of our workouts or meal ideas within hours of hearing about this tragedy? Should we take a hiatus from our regular online social lives out of respect for those who have died & those families who have lost loved ones? I don't know the right answer, or if there even is a right one; but for me, I had written something last night that I was going to post on here this morning & now it just doesn't feel right to post it.

So for today, this is it. This is my contribution to the online social landscape. A solemn recognition of how devastating this act was, and how sad I am for those who lost a loved one last night. Their lives are forever changed by senseless tragedy, and my heart is aching for them today, and for our world. 💔

#foreverchanged

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Beach of Humanity

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When the world seems out of control, and you don't know what you can do to make it better, you continue to contribute to the wellbeing of your family and community, and you keep working on improving yourself as a person, family member, resident of your community, global citizen, and member of the human race... and every so often, you walk out into the great wide open, take a deep breath, and remind yourself you are but a grain of sand on the beach of humanity. Even though every grain matters and has its role in constituting the whole, no grain works or exists alone to create or sustain the peace and beauty of the whole. 🌎

#contributetothegood #doyourpart #everyonematters

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

In Seven Years Time

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I hosted my son's Lego birthday party today to celebrate him turning 7. And now is not the moment when I state any variety of, "Where did the time go?, The years are going by too fast!, or Slow down time!" No, I don't subscribe to this mode of thinking that most parents do. I feel the opposite. I believe that it's all happening at the right speed, in due time, with my close awareness and full presence.

These 7 years have gone by as they should. They have been lovely, hard, joyful, painful, inspirational, challenging, uplifting, heartbreaking, euphoric, devastating, and hopeful. They have been 7 years of my life. Of my son's life. Sometimes lived by me to the utmost & fullest, and sometimes lived less wisely than I would have wished.

There have been moments that have been some of the best of my life, and there have been moments that have been some of the darkest. My son is the gift I received 7 years ago; but along with this precious gift, I also inherited the challenge of parenting 2 children, dealing with an often volatile sibling dynamic, and precariously juggling my time mothering 2 souls, all the while trying to find time and space for my own self care & self preservation.

As I have written about before, I lost myself a bit a few years after having this child, and then I found myself again 3 years ago when I began to share, through writing, what being lost meant. So life - for me, for my son - is happening as it should, as it was meant to. When people say "It's going by too fast," I think they may really mean that they want more of their time to play out in the ways they want it to play out, or that maybe they haven't been using their time to its fullest potential.

Yet who really does? Who can? At least, who can do so every second, or every moment. Life goes on, for all of us... we live it, we feel it, we thrive, we falter, we triumph, we make mistakes, we make the most of it, we waste time, we celebrate it, we have regrets, and we do our best with what we've been given. That's it.

This day has closed. This time is done. We will wake to a new day, with more life and more time; and we will spend it foolishly or we will spend it well. What will you choose?

#whatwillyouchoose

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Love the Inside First

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Apparently, I now have a ten-year-old who's old enough to see films that don't involve animation, musical numbers, or talking animals. My daughter and I watched her first romantic comedy, You've Got Mail, and I am a bit beside myself about it.

She learned about it when I told her it was my inspiration for buying her a couple classic novels referenced in it; and when she asked more about the narrative, I vaguely explained it was about rival bookstore owners. Being an avid reader, this intrigued her and she wanted to watch it; so I told her I believed she was too young still... or maybe I just wasn't ready to accept she wasn't too young still.

I looked it up on Common Sense Media, as I often do for guidance on age appropriateness in media, and they rated it ok for age 10+. I was skeptical, having seen the film many times and knowing how mature the romantic themes were. Yet, since I am admittedly a bit resistant to her growing up (and also indoctrinating her into the world of Hollywood romance), I knew I couldn't shelter her forever. Right? 😩 Must let go...

She loved all the book references and was amused by the outdated dial-up AOL e-mail, but was surprised that the core of the story was about two people falling in love over the internet without knowing who each other were in person. About people beginning to love one another because of who they are on the inside, stripped of ego and vanity. He loved her FOR *not despite* the vulnerable parts she reveals to him while lost and in her most fragile state. Her physical appearance is not a factor at all in the beginning, and when it is revealed, it's still secondary to her inner beauty to which he is drawn.

It is a lovely example of authentic love, one developed through deep connection, vulnerability, and the bearing of two souls who loved with their hearts, independent of physical appearance or attraction. A soul connection. Impossible to fathom? Naively idealistic? Maybe, and all wrapped up in a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan Hollywood Rom-Com no less. Still, the film's core message of loving the inside first, and most, is one I can get behind, and one I would definitely like my daughter to value.

#lovetheinsidefirst

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Communication

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Communication (noun): 1. the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings. 2. means of connection between people.

I've been thinking a lot about communication recently, and how much our relationships hinge on it. The health of a relationship *the sheer existence of it* relies on communication (verbal or otherwise) between the two people engaged in it. Engaged, as in actively participating. Assuming how others feel, or leaving them no choice than to make assumptions about how *you* feel, in the absence of direct communication, is an affront to the relationship, and a likely sign of its demise.

Our responsibility as caring, feeling humans is to authentically connect with those we have relationships with, to honor those relationships by being present in them, and to be open, honest & forthright rather than closed off, dishonest & evasive. It's unfortunate, but so many relationships perish under the weight of the words not said, the feelings not expressed, and the actions not taken. Such a waste.

This reminds me of a line in Gone With the Wind, when Rhett Butler, upset about how many soldiers were killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, said to Scarlet O'Hara: "I'm angry. Waste always makes me angry and that's what this is, sheer waste." That's how I feel about good relationships being damaged, often irrevocably, in the delay, absence, or mishandling of communication. Sheer waste.

Many would say it is meant to be, as you can't force anyone to do anything... you can't make people take action, be courageous, or care more. Others would say keep trying if you love them, and never give up if you think they are worth it. I say, stay true to yourself, trust your intuition, and "when someone shows you who they are, believe them." You know the truth deep down of who should stay and who should go, often long before you will admit it to yourself. Do not lose your self-respect in the face of their cowardice, immaturity, or selfishness. Never hold on so tight that you close your eyes to the truth.

Show up for others. Love. Care. Communicate. Open your eyes wide 👀. See who's there, showing up for you, and honor that. And whomever is not showing up, isn't there.

#showup #whenpeopleshowyouwhotheyarebelievethem

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook