Quaker (Not the Oats)

It started yesterday. A need to reconnect, to recenter. As someone who grew up attending church on a regular basis, I find that every now and then I have a deep longing to join with a community for spiritual connection and  contemplation. However, it has been years since I felt at home in a church setting and in the current political climate even less so. This has been both liberating and disconcerting. It’s difficult to rewire the pathways in the brain and painful to come to terms with a changing landscape of your views on the past and how it shaped you. Knowledge and experience will teach you many things but they will also rattle you to the core and demand that you face your demons by not shying away from the truth even if it hurts, even if it makes you question everything you ever “knew” to be true. 

The need to find a place for quiet contemplation and connection led me to a Quaker meeting. I have never attended a meeting before. Instead of being greeted boisterously or not at all (yes this has happened) as has been the case in most churches I have attended, I was greeted quietly and led into a room where other people were sitting silently. There was no altar, no pulpit, no band playing music. Instead, there was silent reverence. It was peaceful. 

During a Quaker meeting, there is no leader. All are welcome, all sit quietly and if anyone feels led to share they do. No one is allowed to speak when someone else is speaking. No one is allowed to debate another person’s point. Less is more. 

I sat quietly in a pew, my head leaned against the wall, a beautiful breeze blowing through the window next to me. I closed my eyes. I was prepared to be in this space of silence. I had left my cell phone in the car, no distractions. 

Nature had a different idea though. The building we were in shares the space with a local Montessori school and they have chickens they care for outside in the yard. The chickens decided that this time of quiet contemplation was the best time to be as loud as possible. I laughed a bit because it was comical. I was frustrated a bit because my goal was to find a place of peace. Then it occurred to me that just like a mantra repeated to clear one’s mind, that if I focused on the noise the chickens were making my mind was clear of all other wandering thoughts. So I settled in and did just that and by the time the chickens finally gave up their incessant chatter, I was calm and relaxing into the new space I was in. 

We all sat together quietly for an hour. Some people spoke briefly, some said nothing at all. Each person who shared said something simple yet meaningful. One woman sang a song and asked those of us who knew it to join if we would like to. The song was one I had known since I was a small child, in some ways so familiar and in other ways like a far away place I used to live. It was oddly comforting to sing along though, “… prepare me to be a sanctuary.” 

Reflecting on the meeting today, I was struck by how often we fill the void with noise to avoid discomfort. It’s foreign to us to sit together quietly and not find it necessary to speak. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about “holding space” for people in my life and what that really looks like. Today, I found that concept so beautifully expressed. Holding space is sitting with someone, literally or figuratively, quietly and without agenda other than to be a place of peaceful sanctuary. In a world so full of noise and chaos, sometimes your silent presence is what’s needed most. When we offer a place for others to land gently and without judgement, we are holding space for healing, connection, and growth. 

Come in she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm.

xo

Leah

If you’re local to the Merrimack Valley and would like to know more about the meeting I attended click here, Friends Meetinghouse

(Title inspiration goes to the witty and creative Christine Green)

Defiance Moment

What do we hide from?

We hide from the things we fear.

What do we hide from others?

We hide the deepest truth of our hearts.

We live in a constant state of fear and scarcity, never believing that there will be enough to go around, enough to cover it all. We hold ourselves back from truly diving into life and living authentically because we’re afraid we won’t be accepted as we are or that love is somehow a limited resource that we will lose. So instead, we paint on a face that we think will satisfy the “thems” and “theys” and quietly let our truths and dreams die inside.

But when will the defining moment, or the defiance moment, be the turning point that sets you free? It’s up to you. You are the only one who can decide to look fear in the face and move past it. You are the only one who can choose to push past the discomfort of owning your truth and shed the skin of your pretense to become the person you’re truly meant to be.

It’s in learning to let go of preconceived ideas, subconscious baggage, and the knee jerk response to control that you will find the deepest levels of growth. The only person you own is yourself. The only person you can control is yourself. When we stop trying to control things from a place of fear, we can begin to live from a place of authenticity and experience life in its fullest and most beautiful form.

On the other side of fear is your freedom.

 

 

Still Here

Grief is a strange thing. It comes back in unexpected ways and stops you in your tracks. All of sudden the emotion is there whether you are prepared to deal with it or not. We look for closure, for finalization as a bridge to move forward. However, as time goes by, I am left wondering if closure is actually a reality or if we simply learn to live with the heaviness while still embracing new life, new joy. Life doesn’t stop and so we must continue to move forward even if a clear path does not present itself.


Sunday, the last sail race of the season, was significant, yet again. The end of my sailing season and the beginning of Fall, marking transition and loss in similar and different ways for the second year in a row. Last years race was dark and stormy, mirroring the events that were happening in my life and relationship at the time. In that relationship, I had found a new hope and so the loss of that was significant. Now, I fear it may still paint some of my views on love and my emotional reactions to connecting with other people.


Recently, I was challenged to view connections with other people as lessons I learn rather than focusing on the loss that I experienced. So what did I learn? I learned to stand my ground, I learned to speak my truth even when it was constantly questioned. I learned that I wanted more in life, more in my relationship. I learned to let go of a toxic situation because I am worth more than that, I do not need to allow that type of energy into my life and by default my daughter’s life.


This year, was a clear, beautiful, sunny day with no wind. A new mirror of current events. I am far more grounded and centered, far more okay this year than I was at this time last year. I can see the light despite the pain and darkness I have experienced. In a strange way, “no wind,” seems like the perfect metaphor for a relationship that I have fought for on and off again for almost four years with very little forward motion. Without wind, there is no race. The end.


However, I am too close to the experience to process the lessons I learned at this time. Instead I find my heart wrapped up in the loss and lack of closure for both situations. I find myself hopeful but grieving. I find myself alive but broken. I find myself resigned and yet I can not quiet the fight that is constantly going on in my heart. Letting go without a defined sense of closure is hard to do.


I organize things, I fix things, I make things neat and pretty – I can not do that this time around and it goes against the grain of who I am at the deepest level. I love until it hurts, literally, I don’t let go. However, this time, I have to let go. I can not hold on anymore. If I learned anything last year, it is that I matter and that I am the one who determines my path, no one else. However, there is still a level of heaviness in that knowledge and always grief in letting go.


Some days, my heart carries this weight well and I am able to go about my day with a sense of purpose and hope in new things to come. However, on days when my defenses are down and the grief hits unexpectedly, I struggle to remain steady and hopeful. I will not remain there though, I have fought too hard and stood my ground too long to give up now. So instead, I carry the grief and loss, joy and pain, love and let go, hope and brokenness inside my heart as graciously as I am able to and I keep on moving forward.

IMG_5063

I’m still here, I’m still smiling, I’d say that’s winning.

xo

leah

Tied

Do I live for the fire
Strive for the rain?
Do I crave hanging by a thread
Losing myself?
My heart tied to your disaster
Souls without escape
All this pain, all this joy
Interlaced
Can I live outside this space
You have my heart
But maybe I need you to let it go
I thought you were my wings
But now I no longer fly
Because I’m tied
To this thing called “You & I”

 

Grown into Grace

 

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Caught in a whirlwind or two.
Divinely, my sail caught the winds of you,
and changed my point of view.
Never hopelessly lost, you see.
Spirit wind set its course for me.

And calmed the waters of a troubled soul.
Pulled the anchor from the depths below.
Set a horizon of direction
in this heart of mine.

– Watermark

 

I left organized religion a few years ago. When I say I left religion I do not mean I lost my faith or belief in God. However, the damage that organized religion caused in my own life set me on a path to seek out what faith really means and just how far God’s love and grace actually extends.

I’ll never forget the beginning of my divorce. I remember crying and saying, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever done, this is the worst thing I’ve ever done to someone.” I also remember thinking that this was too big, too big for grace to cover. I was so scared I’d never heal, never be forgiven, never find restoration.

I had no idea that the very grace I doubted could cover me would ultimately be what has carried me through some of the hardest moments of my life.

These years have been hard. I’ve struggled emotionally, physically, financially, and of course spiritually. I lost my house and then my puppy in the same year. I have had my heart broken over and over again. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so much in my entire life.

But I found a grace so much bigger than I ever imagined in all the little moments that were still beautiful despite the heartache and pain.

I completed my degree and received high honors while parenting, working, and finalizing a divorce.

I gained a village to raise my child with, a friend and an ally in my daughters Step Mother. This is one of the most beautiful gifts. Our family may not be made of blood but it is most definitely made of LOVE.

I found a new passion in Sailing. It has been one of the most therapeutic parts of this journey, both empowering and calming to my soul.

I have met some of the most wonderful people along the way. I would never have had the opportunity to know them if I had not set out on this journey.

I have grown and I have changed in so many ways. I’ve found my voice and comfort in my own skin. I have solidified my core values and learned what it means to stand my ground despite my fear.

I am watching my daughter become an incredible person full of love, tenacity, intuition, and joy. She is brave, she is strong, she is kind.

I am still standing, I still have hope.

All of this … Grace, amazing, overwhelming, unfailing grace. God is not inside the walls of religion. God is not confined by tradition and expectation. He walks beside us, he is in the moments of every day, mundane life.

Grace never gives up, there’s nothing so big that it can not be covered by grace. I know because I live and breathe in it every day and I always have. Now I know. I have finally grown into grace.

In the darkest moments of the soul, I hope you too will find the beauty and the Grace.

I Wish You Could See

I wish you could see

All that I see in you

I want to find a way to

Connect the dots

So that you can find the path

To loving yourself

You sit under such a heavy weight

You bear so great a burden

Let love soothe your soul

Though your mind

Is chaos and turmoil

My love is steady and true

I can’t erase the damage

I can’t undo the pain

But I can sit here with you

And love you all the way through

l. perez

 

Sometimes

Sometimes

I still dream about you

And it feels so real

I wake up with a heartache

The memories

Pull me in too deep

Till I feel like I’m losing air

My heart hasn’t caught up

With what my head knows

It all came crashing down

And like my dreams end

You are no longer there

If I could taste the magic again

I would

Even if it ended exactly the same

I still would

l. perez

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Sometimes I write bits and pieces here and there. I save them to my iPhone notes until I can either finish the thought or am ready to share the thought. This poem is one of those pieces that I came across today – I think sometimes I have to allow the emotion to pass before I am able to share what I was thinking at the time. When the edges have worn down a bit, that’s when I can release it. Almost as if I am letting go with words. 

The Grief, The Growth

For the past few months I have been contemplating a lot of the transitions and changes I experienced throughout the past year. This is the first time I’ve been able to write about it and it only touches the surface of all that I lived and learned.

I experienced a significant amount of loss on an emotional and personal level in 2016. The emotion surrounding that has often bubbled to the surface. At times I have found myself in tears as I continue to process the grief and move into the growth sometimes the tears still come. I want to fight the feelings, to ignore them, to have them not exist but one of the things I learned best this past year is to allow myself to feel – feel it all, good, bad and ugly. Don’t pretend it’s not there. The only way to deal with it is to actually deal with it.

I thought I had given up on fairy tale endings long ago. I thought that I had come to terms with the fact that life and love are far more complex than the stories that we read and the dreams that we dream. Last Summer though, for what feels like a moment now, I thought that fairy tales might be true after all. I was giddy with it. I was head over heels, all in, and I let go of all my inhibitions. I am not usually one to let go and just give in but this time I did. I don’t let go easily but when I do I am someone who loves with all their being, I don’t hold back love, I’ve never been able to.

My heart had been broken very recently so it seemed a little crazy to open up to someone new. Maybe it was crazy but I was willing to take the chance because I wanted to believe in something more and to this day I do not regret taking that chance. I wanted crazy, head over heels, love more than anything in the world. Even now, months later, my throat closes up with the sadness and it feels like a million little splinters to my heart. The healing is beginning though – I am finally able to find the energy and the words to write again. I haven’t been able to write a single post since last year. My heart was far too heavy with the weight of all the sadness I experienced in such a short time span. My mind was filled with the confusion and conflict I was feeling and it drowned out my creativity for a long time.

There were so many magical moments, so many seeming coincidences that led my heart to believe and to hope again in this new relationship. My heart was still a bit fragile from the pain of my past relationship but I was committed to living from a place of courage and vulnerability. “He’s charming until he’s not,” one of his friends jokingly said and I laughed not quite realizing how true this statement was. I wanted to believe, I wanted to love, so I did. The connection was intense and sudden; at times it was overwhelmingly beautiful yet other times it was painful and confusing.  I began to question myself, to feel as if there was something about me that was either too much or not enough. I reminded myself that love is never easy and continued to try to understand, to love, and to be myself even when it was painful. 

At the time, I needed a place to rest, a place where I felt at ease and cared for. There were moments of love and care; little notes, flowers, poems, dinner, coffee dates, and day trips … Those are the moments I cherish still, the moments that make me feel as if it was worth it even though it didn’t end the way I had hoped at the time.

But months later I still wrestle with the unanswered questions, I wonder why it all ended almost as quickly as it began and with such finality. Why my truth was never accepted as truth. I wonder why I was critiqued and criticized, questioned and doubted, isolated and shut out. I wonder why I felt that every move I made was under a microscope and why towards the end I began to feel scared – scared that I would end up again in a relationship that would try to tone me down, change me, control me, and require me to paint on a smile when I was dying on the inside. I let go in the end, just in a different way, I let go of the fairy tale because it wasn’t true.

I stood my ground for myself even though it felt like my last dream was dying and the tiny flicker of hope the relationship had provided was being extinguished. I stood my ground because I had fought too hard to become myself, to be free, to remove myself from toxic relationships, and to be fully alive. I stood my ground because my daughter deserves to have a mother who knows who she is and walks in it with confidence despite what others might say or do. I stood my ground because I am enough as I am. I stood my ground because growth is the most important piece of all that I am becoming and I refuse to go back. I stood my ground because I will not dumb myself down, quiet my voice, or change who I am to make someone else comfortable. I stood my ground because although the fairy tale has died, I believe in love, a love that is tough as nails and all encompassing. A love that embraces me as I am while it allows me to become all that I am meant to be – a love that holds me secure and gives me wings.

 

 

 

Resonate

Resonate
The sound of your laughter
Echoes through my soul
Moments
A gift of time and place
Forever to cherish
Memories
Held for keeps
Woven into my heart
Refrain
Words on paper
Singing through my airwaves
Saltwater
The taste on my lips
The touch on my skin
This
Will remain a part
Of everything, always

 

Fear, it’s holding you down

fear

ˈfir/
noun
  1. 1.
    an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is caused by “belief.”However, belief does not mean that what you are thinking is actually true. But we get stuck, so stuck in the belief aspect of fear that we become paralyzed, unable to react/act rationally. We isolate ourselves, we minimize ourselves, we miss out on living fully alive.

These past few days I have had to deal with a lot of things that I am afraid of. A lot of emotion has come to the surface and as I contemplate the source of a lot of my pain and confusion, I am becoming aware of how often I react and respond out of fear and not from a place of courage. I am learning; I am able to stand my ground far better than I was a year ago but it is a process and I still fall into the fear trap.

There are many ways that fear can cripple us if we allow it to.

Boundaries – When I operate from a place of fear I do not allow others the proper boundaries nor do I protect myself by maintaining the proper boundaries that I need.

Expectations – When I operate from a place of fear, I need to be in control and so I place unrealistic expectations on myself and on others.

Self Preservation – When I operate from a place of fear, I do not believe that I have enough or that I am enough so I cling tightly and don’t allow myself or others breathing space.

Blame – When I operate from a place of fear, I do not want to be wrong so it is easier to blame or deflect than to take responsibility for my own actions.

Excuses – When I operate from a place of fear, I try to justify with excuses for my behavior because it is easier than taking ownership and responsibility.

How can we combat the demon of fear? By facing it head on. By admitting that we are afraid, that we are wrong, that we don’t always get it right and loving ourself and others through that process. By letting go of unrealistic expectations and the need to cling on to others in an attempt to feel whole or validated.

 

The opposite of fear is bravery; it’s not the absence of fear but the answer to fear. Bravery is being afraid and moving forward anyway. Bravery is standing up and doing the right thing not the easy thing, not the comfortable thing. Bravery means that I am able and willing to admit when I am wrong, own it and begin taking the steps I need to take to change.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela