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.

 

 

 

As My Girl Enters 1st Grade

Miss M starts first grade tomorrow and as she goes into another school I am sitting here thinking about the power of voice, the power of owning your story and knowing that what you have to say is of value. My hope for her this year and every year ahead is that she will know the power of her own voice, that she will own who she is and stand confidently in herself. That she will be confident but kind. That she will say what she needs to say and stand up for those who need her to be their voice.

Too often as women and girls, we are told to tone it down and to be “lady like,” which typically implies quiet and small. While I want my daughter to have class and to be polite, I refuse to ask her to fit into the stereotypical mold of “being a lady.” She has too much insight and love to offer the world to just sit back quietly.

I want her to be brave, to forge ahead even when she is scared and accomplish all the things she feels in her heart she is meant to do. I don’t want her to feel that she has to “fit in,” rather my desire is that she would find the courage and strength to bring others in instead. To bring those around her into a place of love and acceptance, as they are and for who they are.

“Kind people are brave people. Brave is not something you should wait to feel. Brave is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

When she was born, she came out yelling and she has been a force ever since. She continually challenges me. She is smart, she is tenacious and she is full of passion for life. She is also tenderhearted and kind. I hope that she will never lose these qualities. I pray that as her mom, I will be able to channel her in the right directions, encourage her, stand by her and never try to change who she is. My heart breaks and burst with pride at the same time as I watch her learn and grow.

So into a new school year we go, hand in hand.

Madi –

You are the joy of my heart, you are the greatest gift. May you always know the power you hold deep inside. May you continue to let your love and light shine brightly. May you always have courage and be kind.

I love you, xo

Mom

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Reframe It

I appreciate structure, I feel at my best when I have a plan and know what is going on. But that’s not life. I am reminded on a an almost daily basis that despite best effort, there are no guaranteed outcomes.

Life has a way of stretching me past my comfort zones pretty consistently. Sometimes I handle this well and just “roll with the punches,” still other times, sudden and unexpected change throws me into an emotional tail spin.

I firmly believe in the power of positive thinking. I read an article recently on the concept of Reframing. Reframing is a way of looking at events, ideas, concepts and emotions that could be viewed negatively and instead changing the perspective to a positive one. Finding the good. “Positive thoughts give rise to happy, contented emotions and negative thoughts result in sad and depressive emotion. These emotions than affect biological changes in the body. Basically, the quality of our thinking affects the emotions we experience  and the state of our physical health”

When circumstances do not go the way that we hoped, intended, or wanted them to, it is easy to slip into a negative headspace. But what is the benefit of that? Sometimes we get so caught up in what “should” have happened that we miss the real meaning of what actually did happen in all of the chaos, beauty and pain. All of our experiences in life hold value, even those that make our heart hurt when we think of them. “Regardless of what’s going on in our lives, we can always ‘reframe’ our situation. So – no matter how bad everything appears to be, we always have the choice to make ourselves feel better by changing the way we view our problems or situations.” There are no guarantees in life. For someone, such as myself, who likes structure and order this often creates a sense of anxiety and stress. However, I believe that there is a strong coorelation between the ability to reframe your thinking and a heart of gratitude and forgiveness. When I find reasons to be grateful for the good in any situation, I am then able to deal with the negative aspects of the situation in a healthier way.

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

We have to make a concious decision to choose happiness and find the good. We have to actively choose to reframe our world view. We have to make the choice. Our quality of life depends upon it.

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”
― Seneca

 

Lessons in Brokenness and Beauty

These past two years have brought a lot of changes, a lot of emotional ups and downs, mental and emotional challenges that sometimes seemed insurmountable. Here on the other side now though, I have come to deeper understanding of what it means to live alive, to live without limits, and I have found that there is such beauty, strength, and peace here on the other side. There’s no such things as a “waste of time,” rather every moment becomes a part of you, a part of your story, your journey. If you allow it to, it will give you new depth, soften your hard edges, allow you to see what truly matters, and fill your heart with gratitude – All things work as they should.

Here are some of the things that I have written and learned along this journey …

2013 

You let yourself be vulnerable

And now your scared
Let it go
Quiet your spinning mind
And just trust
If one door closes, it was meant too
Another one will open
Be Brave
Know your worth
Ignore those who don’t
You are worth so much more
You are beautiful


It was all I ever wanted until it wasn’t anymore
Decided to take a leap of faith or insanity, I’m not sure
The thrill intoxicating, went straight to my head
The fire that was burning, demanding to be fed
Reaching for the unknown
Standing on unsteady feet
There’s courage in this uncertainty
Cause freedom is never free
I will stand my ground
Face my demons down
Find the courage I’ve been lacking
Even if my heart is breaking

I’m falling apart at the seams

My heart just keeps taking these hits
And I wonder how long I can go
With a heart wide open
Ever hopeful, I keep pressing on
But it seems so misguided these days
And I am constantly fighting the pain
Of giving so much of myself
Just to find this emptiness
I believe in love
It’s the very essence of all I am
Yet here I am doubting myself
Doubting the value of what I give
Stretched to the point of no return
I keep landing on my face
I know there is beauty to be found
I just can’t see it right now
My vision is so clouded with doubt
Where do I go from here?

Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.
― Eckhart Tolle
2014

And she changed and she grew

Through the storms and the pain
She learned she was braver
Than she once knew
And she started to regain
Her place in this world
Finding a new life amidst the rubble
Of what was once her normal

“Sisu is a word that has no direct translation, but it refers to the idea of continuing to act even in the face of repeated failures and extreme odds. It is a way of living life by displaying perseverance even when you have reached the end of your mental and physical capacities”

2015

HAVE COURAGE & BE KIND

This is not a story of waste and loss, this is a story of something beautiful that you have done …

You gave that person your best and that’s all you can do.
The sacrifice makes it sacred. The cost makes it a holy act.
All the heartache becomes a sacred act of worship.
 — Rob Bell

Life is a balancing act of Fiercely holding on and gently letting go

Sometimes you just get broken and it sucks it really does. Moving forward feels like you’re struggling through deep mud, but above the sun is still shining and you hear the birds chirping and this keeps that tiny spark of hope inside of you alive. Your emotions are on roller coaster mode, anger, laughter, and tears keep arriving in a surprising succession. Your heart feels like the heaviest object you’ve ever carried. It doesn’t make sense and it probably never will but someday it won’t matter if it makes sense, it will just be. You know that giving up is just not an option so you force yourself to steady your aching heart and racing mind and keep pushing past all that appears to be waste, holding on to the lesson you’ve learned time and again, nothing is ever a waste.
There is always a purpose in the chaos.

Clinging tightly holds you back from the possibility of what could be   …

To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.
– Brene Brown

Keep your eyes forward and your heart grateful, happiness will follow, I promise.

Always extend your self in love and in friendship because when you need it the most, it will come right back around to you in the most beautiful and unexpected ways. People are worth your heart and your time, that’s the real purpose of life. Community & Connection, We Belong to Each other.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

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Reckless Heart

I will not stop giving my heart away

Recklessly

I will not stop loving with everything

I have

I will embrace this gut wrenching pain

I will take it and run with it

I will breath it in as fuel

To power my journey

It is the force that pushes me forward

Outside of myself

Into places I never thought I could go

It’s terrifying

The plunge that my heart continues to take

But it gives me life at its fullest

It spills over and washes my world

In full color

It allows me to see life

In all its bittersweet glory

And I’ll come to last leg of this journey

Knowing that I never gave just a little

There was no half way

And the reward will be in knowing

That there is no regret in love

Only brokenness made beautiful in the end

Falling Down Girl

A couple of weeks ago, Madi and I were in the yard and she was running around in her own imaginary world as she likes to do. When out of her mouth came this phrase, “The power of falling down! It happens to everyone.” I was struck by the power of the statement itself and her ability to put such a deep concept into words. In some ways it was a proud Mama moment as I realized that all the times I have told her, “Its ok, mistakes happen, let’s try again…” has now become a part of her subconscious. What amazing strength we would all have if we were able to approach life like this on a consistent basis!

There is power in falling down – it means you were trying to do something bigger than you’ve ever done before. Even though you didn’t make it all the way, you were still brave for trying. You put yourself out there, you were “actually in the arena.”

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while DARING GREATLY.” – T. Roosevelt

As she continued to play, she started to chant to herself, “I’m the falling down girl, I’m the falling down girl.” Again, I was struck by the depth of this statement and her proud ownership of this title. Too often, we shy away from the raw and the real, we want to appear as if we have it all together and that everything is perfect. In reality, there is nothing perfect and put together about life, its one big, crazy, chaotic, beautiful mess and we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve been given.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall. ― Nelson Mandela

So in our house, we’ll proudly say, we’re the falling down girls,  but we’re going to keep getting up over and over again!

So fall hard, fall with abandon, fall wildly, fall gracefully, fall however you will … but whatever you do, don’t be afraid to fall.

xo
Leah

Stick With Love

Above all else, I have decided to “stick with love.” This is not always the easy choice, in fact it requires me to go beyond myself and my needs, to extend grace, compassion, and mercy to others whether or not they deserve it. But I have found that I am unable to live any other way. I was made for love, I was made to love.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. –

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I used to think that it would be better if I could learn how to hate, if I could just find a way to toughen up and give people what they “deserve.” No matter how hard I have tried to “toughen up,” I have never ever been able to. What I have found though, is an assurance and a peace that softens the blows that life likes to throw my way from time to time.

I am assured of this … Everything, every good, bad, great, terrible, frustrating, exhilarating, experience has a purpose and a reason. Most often, I will not understand or be able to accept the reason when I am dealing with pain or lost in confusion. However, I have learned to dig deep and hold on because at the end of my life, I want to look back and know without a doubt, that I lived a life of love. That will be enough, that will be more than enough to fill in the cracks and crevices of a heart well spent and a life well lived.

Love is not warm and fuzzy or sweet and sticky. Real love is tough as nails.

It’s having your heart ripped out, putting it back together and the next day,

Offering it back to the same world that just tore it up.

It’s running toward pain and grief and brokenness instead of away from it.

It’s turning the other cheek ‘til you get whiplash.

It’s resisting the overwhelming desire to quit, to save yourself for yourself.  

Glennon Doyle Melton  

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A life without love is really no life after all … I choose to embrace the good and the bad, the joy and the pain, the beauty and the brokenness and Live Alive.

xo

Leah

 

 

Pause … Step Back … Breathe …

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Pause … Step Back … Breathe …

I am by nature, a very sensitive person; I care deeply, I feel deeply, I love deeply. However, I have a hard time staying calm and composed in the face of disappointment and difficulty. Right next to my sensitive side stands my Type A side – so basically, I am a sensitive control freak. Lovely … I know.

I am intense. very intense but this doesn’t always serve me well. In fact, sometimes I end up tripping over myself because I don’t take the time to step back, calm down, and assess the situation for what it really is. Instead, I am quick to jump to conclusions and assume things that are not true and you all know what they say about assuming …

A good friend recently challenged me to focus on taking the high road in emotionally charged situations. This has been a huge mental shift for me – it is not about making my point, it is not about being right, it is not about controlling outcomes, instead, it is about doing what is right even when it hurts. Right doesn’t always mean it is going to feel right for me or that I am going to like it in the moment. Sometimes I have to do what is right for someone else.

It is easy to remain calm when all is well and things feel certain. It is far more difficult to stay calm and composed when you are facing challenge and uncertainty; but, that is when you need it the most. Every day, we are faced with challenges we can not control.  The only thing that we have control over is our reaction.

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It is not easy, I am still learning, I still fail, but my hope is that over time,

I will learn to Let Go and Trust the Process.

I hope that soon it will become second nature for me to,

Pause … Step Back … Breathe.

And to move forward from a place of Peace rather than a place of fear …

Love & Peace to you! 

xo

Leah

Raising My Strong, Brave Girl

I had a memory tonight – I remember the night I decided I was done being pregnant; I wanted it to be over and I wanted to meet my girl. It was the night before her due date and I decided to dance. I created an M.I.A. Pandora station and I dancedyes, really, really danced!

Now I love to dance, I’ve always had to find an outlet for this in some way, shape, or form. However, at almost forty weeks pregnant, it had been a VERY long time since I had let loose and danced my heart out. The night before her due date though, I wasn’t scared anymore. We had made it past all the crucial developmental points, made it through all playing it safe days, and I was free to move without fear or restraint – so I did!

I was home alone, there were no neighbors living below me at the time – thank god for their sake – and so I was free to let myself go a bit crazy. It was liberating, exhilarating, and it worked. My contractions started later that evening. She was not born the next day, no she is way too strong willed for that. She made her appearance, screaming might I add, two days later.

I chucked to myself tonight when I realized that of all the music I could have danced to, I chose M.I.A. – one strong willed, free spirited, and yes, crazy chick. Not that Madison will be listening to her anytime soon but …

I realize time and again, that as challenging as it can be to raise my determined little girl, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am surrounding her with the understanding that she is powerful, capable, and her voice matters. When she was very tiny, I used to whisper to her, “You are a Strong, Brave Girl Madison Elise.”

To this day this is something that I remind her of – in fact while she was throwing her body on the floor the other day because she was upset, I told her, “Nope, we’re not drama queens Madi. We’re Strong, Brave girls. We don’t throw fits to get our way.” I am wholeheartedly, subconsciously and consciously, sending her a message of strength and determination.

It’s not about pretty, it’s not about fair. It’s about believing in yourself, believing you are capable, and being brave even when you don’t feel as if you are strong or capable.

Not long ago, I heard myself saying, “I can’t” to Madi and around her. I realized that if I want her to believe she can, I have to change the way I think and speak. Instead now, we say, “I am not sure how to do it, but I can learn how.” One of my proudest moments happened while we were watching a group of construction workers on a job site. Madi said to me, “I am sure I will see a girl worker too Mama.” In her mind, there’s no I can’t, there’s only everyone can. I passed a construction sight today and there was a woman, hard hat and all, working on a project. It took everything within me to not stop and take a picture like a crazy person just so I could show Madi that she was right!

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

We can speak life, strength, and the ability to dream big into our children’s lives and into the lives of all those around us. Let’s promote strength, bravery, courage, love, joy, and yes even a little bit of crazy. The world needs lots more “I cans,” because that’s where innovation begins and we are certainly in need of that!
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xoxo