Let’s Help Each Other Out of Our Boxes

greyscale photography of human grave

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When people do not feel accepted for who they truly are, suicide rates go up. We’re seeing that across the board, though especially within the LGBT+ community. You can read some statistics about suicide within the LGBT+ community HERE on the Trevor Project website.  Placing further limitations on the rights of those who identify as transgender could mean many more lost lives. I really hope that that bothers you as much as it bothers me.  I do not believe that anyone’s comfort is worth more than someone else’s life.

It’s time that we show ourselves unconditional love so that we can spread unconditional love and acceptance to others. I think the health of our society can be judged by the happiness and peace of the people in it. We’re really out of touch if we think that we have a healthy society when so many people continue to kill themselves and others.  We have a lot of room for improvement in creating a culture that places more priority on authenticity and vulnerability and less on trying to conform us and fit us into generic, one-size-fits-all boxes. Humans aren’t meant to fit into boxes of any kind.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine several months ago and it was really eye-opening for me. We were talking about sexual orientation and the fact that they had been in relationships with men and women. They spoke of the fact that sexuality isn’t a black and white issue and that people can feel attraction to both sexes, but then feel forced into identifying a certain way. We spoke about the fact that humans like clearly defined labels, and that sexual orientation had, for the most part, been reduced to people being forced into the neatly defined boxes of either straight or gay. How accepted is bisexuality as a whole?  The day my friend and I were talking, I just sort of took it all in and ruminated on the way that we tend to try and define each other based on things like race, religion, and sexual orientation. They’re all just boxes of conformity and should not be used to define whole groups of people.

It got me thinking. My belief, shared with many on a spiritual path, is that our bodies house our souls which carry both a divine masculine and divine feminine energy. Both sides are important for each of us as we use them to be the people we came into this life to be, so that we can do what we came here to do. I think ultimately, it’s about striking a balance within ourselves between our masculine and feminine halves, accepting what each brings to the table, and accepting whatever combination shows up as us. Some of us feel more feminine and some of us feel more masculine, and that’s OK and normal regardless of sex. As you all know, it’s hard enough to learn to accept ourselves in this life, without the extra influence of having outside voices and outlets shout at us about who we ‘should’ be, how we ‘should’ act, and what our sexual orientation ‘should’ be. But in our own pain and lack of self-love and self-acceptance, we tend to harshly judge others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. We keep the focus off of our own issues by pointing loudly at other people. This simply leads to even more separation and hate, which is the opposite of what we need if we truly want to live in a more peaceful world. Separation and hate makes guns feel like an answer to the pain. But neither homicide nor suicide are the answers. Love and inclusiveness ARE the answers.

I think sometimes it’s not even about hate necessarily, but about protection from perceived threats. For instance, people will generally prefer to stay comfortable in their own lives, especially if their lives aren’t being personally affected by the injustices, than to speak out and out themselves against the voice of the majority. But I believe that the most change will come when those of us who live lives of privilege educate ourselves on the issues at hand and do our part to speak out and stand with those who need our support. When we have people with political power refusing to sign marriage licenses of gay couples, it is not only the gay couples who should have a problem with it and work towards changing it, but all of us. When we have a government separating children from their parents in the name of ‘border safety’, we should all have a problem.

A quote from the late Elie Wiesel, human rights activist, author, and Holocaust survivor, speaks to this beautifully:

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

At a recent event with Glennon Doyle, a young boy got up to speak about the issue of kids at school talking about how gay and transgender people were not loved by god and would go to hell. Glennon told the boy essentially that when you stand with the kids who are hurting, you can never go wrong. She said if you ever hear words of fear and shame being used to hurt people, that’s not god. Glennon said god is only ever love. She spoke to the fact that god doesn’t make mistakes in creating people. In my opinion, we should all be standing with the people who are hurting. I am sure that many of us have experienced people not being nice to us, and haven’t we always appreciated the support of others during those times?

I think that the boxes we attempt to place ourselves and others in are the ultimate betrayals to humanity. Once we pretend that we know someone or an entire group of people, we stop being present to their truth and the unfolding of their being. We expect certain things from them. We get uncomfortable when they change or don’t fit into the category in which we’ve previously placed them. We close ourselves off from allowing their fluidity, growth, and expansion.  We relate to them with an us-them mentality that is neither loving , nor inclusive.  I believe that this us-them division mentality was taught to us and continues to be fed to us on purpose.  I believe that when we are made to see others as different from ourselves, then we’re less likely to fight our government when they want to drop bombs in ‘other’ places on ‘other’ people.  It causes a divide in our nation that makes us fight and kill each other rather than fight against the people and policies that continue to hold our brothers and sisters down.  If we understood that humanity is one family, living beings are one family, we would be outraged when ANY members of our living family were killed, tortured, ridiculed, beaten, broken, and treated like second-class citizens. We lose power when we’re divided. Our power multiplies infinitely when our intentions are for more love, equality, compassion, humane treatment, inclusiveness, and acceptance for all, not just the select few we deem as worthy of what should be basic human rights. It is essential that we always consider how we would want our own children treated when we take action or vote on laws, choose to speak up or stay quiet. Whatever treatment you want for your own children if they were in a given situation is exactly what should guide your actions and decisions in life. All children are someone’s children and all adults are just an older version of those same children.

When I started on this path towards complete transformation several years ago, I was in a relationship and had the person say to me, “but I like you the way you are and I don’t want you to change.” It was one of the biggest signs that the relationship was no longer healthy for me or serving my highest good. Change is the only constant in this life, so when we pressure others into fitting into a box or staying the same, we ultimately tell them that we do not accept and love them unconditionally. Expecting or wanting someone to stay the same may sound like a compliment, but it is a way of telling them that our comfort in familiarity is more important that our love for them. If we love people unconditionally, then we do not ask them to change OR stay the same. We love them when they are straight or when they are gay or when the lines of those categories is blurred.  We love them when they have a different religious or spiritual backgrounds than us.  We love them when their skin color differs from ours.  We love them because they are our human family and we are all in the same boat of navigating through this messy, human experience.

We have to remember that god/the universe/the divine/source never makes mistakes when it creates something or someone. For instance, you can be sure that if someone is gay, that they are meant to be exactly as they are, irregardless of what society, your church, your family, or your upbringing has led you to believe. We are all exactly as we are meant to be. G/U/D/S is always love. We are all parts of that love. We are meant to show ourselves and each other unconditional love. It’s the key that we’ve been missing on a personal and global level. When I accept myself completely, I accept you completely too. When I love myself unconditionally, I am able to love you unconditionally as well.

I continue to be most attracted to people who don’t conform. The dreamers, the healers, the artists, the travelers, the peaceful, the medicine people, the change-makers, the eccentric, the lovers, and all other forms of beautifully unique, real, down-to-earth people who are living their truth in alignment with their soul/higher self.

This year has pushed me into becoming my most authentic self, and it seems fitting that I also seek authenticity in those closest to me.  It is only by living in the most authentic way that we can finally feel love from others, like truly feel it, because we know that we are being seen and loved for the real version of us.

I want honesty and vulnerability in my connections with others because I crave deeper connections with the people around me. When we are real with each other, then we know that we are all much too vast and limitless to fit inside of any boxes. Accept me as I am, separate from any categories your mind wants to place me in, and give me a hand as I step outside of this cramped box that our culture has tried to squeeze me into for all of these years. And I’ll do the same for you. Let’s give each other the freedom to be the truest version of ourselves as it is revealed to us one minute at a time.

Sending you all so much love. Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please like and share it.

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My Inner Child

Friends, this is a picture of me when I was about 4 years old.  I have had it hanging up in my room for the last several years as a reminder of who I am at the core.  I can feel the joy emanating from this picture, my smile.  I’m wearing my swimsuit.  I have always loved water.  I have always loved to swim.  To this day, being in and near water brings me the most joy!  Funny thing too is that turquoise and purple continue to be two of my favorite colors.  In fact, my current room is predominantly decorated in purple and turquoise/teal.  If I was searching for a one-piece swimsuit now, I could totally see myself getting this one.  It reminds me of a mermaid.  Who doesn’t love mermaids?!

Have you thought about yourself as a child lately?  Who were you before the world told you who you ‘should’ be?  What did you love before you were told what you ‘should’ love?  It’s interesting to me that we know so much about ourselves to the core when we are children, but then we grow up and get brainwashed into thinking that how we are isn’t good enough.

When I was a child, I loved being outside.  I loved camping and riding my bike.  I loved to listen to music, dance, and sing.  I loved having big gatherings with my extended family in the summer and during holidays.  I have always really LOVED spending time with my friends.  All of these things continue to bring me so much joy.  I practically lived at my best friend Jimmy’s house when we were kids.  The story goes that I met him while trick or treating.  I knocked on his door, and when I saw him inside, I marched right in and we sat there looking through our candy together.  When we were kids, we knew what felt good to us and we followed it.  We allowed ourselves to be impulsive with starting new friendships simply because we felt drawn to be around the person.  We didn’t over think things by questioning how people would respond to us.  We didn’t fear rejection.  We just lived.

I feel like I have lived in different sections.  I have the section when I was a kid still living at home, feeling the tension of a family on the brink of divorce, wishing for my parents’ divorce.  I have the section after high school where I left for college and went far from home.  I was opinionated and strong and fearless.  I didn’t care what people thought of me.  I wore tie-dyed shirts on a campus in Florida where there were less than a handful of us who did, OK so maybe just my boyfriend and I.  I liked what I liked and I didn’t make concessions for other people.  I have the section where I traveled the country as a wildlife/fisheries field biologist which led me, in part, to living in 10 states so far.  I was free and adventurous.  I excitedly researched projects and places to travel to next.  I traveled with everything I owned, leaving half the back seat for my dog, Gus, in my turquoise Geo Prizm.  I was a nomad of sorts seeking the “best” place to eventually settle.  There’s the section after meeting my ex-husband where I gave my power away.  I look back now and just see that my upbringing had led me to be very strong and independent, and I think I was a bit tired of it.  I wanted someone else to take care of me and the things in my life for a change.  As you can imagine, giving my power away led to a slew of challenges, notwithstanding eventually losing my health and almost dying.  It was a wake up call.  It was time to take my power back and start taking real care of myself.  I was finally forced into giving myself the love that I had always sought from other people.  There’s the section throughout the divorce where I felt constantly tested and tried and I came into my own and began to build a new life for myself from the ground up.  I struggled further as I lost nearly every local friend I had known, and set out to actively make new friends that would provide a better support system for me.  Then there’s the section where I fully dusted myself off, began to dig deeper into the suffering I had experienced and I made the decision that I was done suffering.  I decided that I was no longer a powerless victim, but an unstoppable creator of my life!  That’s when the real changes began to happen.

I went back to my roots.  I went back and reconnected with the strong woman who had been so independent and adventurous and I worked to learn what had made her tick.  I went back to my childhood and the memories I held of what had brought me the most joy as I was growing up.  I found a lot of answers when I thought about my childhood.  I found out that my triggers surrounding fear of rejection and abandonment came from that time.  I found that at some point, I had internalized the fact that I was not enough just as I was.  I had come to believe on a subconscious level that I was not worthy of love.  Since then, I have had to basically go back and unlearn all of these beliefs.  I have had to brainwash myself using positive affirmations.  You see, in our culture, we are brainwashed from the time that we are very young.  A lot of it has to do with advertising.  We’re trained to think that there’s something wrong with us or missing from us or not good enough about us, and then the commercials come in to offer solutions to solve these problems and fill our voids by way of the new latest and greatest gadgets, plastic surgeries, shopping, junk foods, a house, new car, or the perfect relationship with another person with a sprinkle of diamonds on top.  We get bombarded with offers of shiny objects that promise to fill our void, make us worthy, and enough.  The problem is that we have been taught wrong.  There is never going to be an external solution for our internal problems.  Ever.  The sooner you stop looking for one, the better.  Trust me.

I thought of this analogy recently that explains how I have felt about unlearning and unbrainwashing (I don’t care if it’s not a word). It goes like this:  when we are born, we do not want to go pee in our diapers.  Babies do not want to wet themselves.  Notice that when you change a baby, as soon as you remove the diaper, they pee.  But what do we do?  Because diapers are more convenient for us, we force them on the babies.  We essentially have to train them to go pee in their diapers.  Then, when they’re older, we decide that diapers aren’t convenient anymore, and so we begin the process of training them to pee in the toilet.  And sometimes it’s a real fight, because this child was trained to go in their diaper for their whole life, and now we are changing what we want from them, and so there can be some push back.  We are trained that we are not OK as who we came into this world as being.  We learn how to act.  We learn what we’re supposed to like.  We learn how to be a ‘functioning member of society’.  We lose ourselves.  Then we hit 30 (though it’s a different age for everyone), and everything comes to a screeching halt.  Maybe we’re faced with some big-life changes that leave us unable to deny who we are at the core any longer.  We begin the process of unlearning everything we have learned so far that has left us feeling small, that has turned us into people-pleasers, and that has told us that we must seek some holy grail outside of ourselves to attain happiness.  We experience push back.  The things we have learned are so engrained in our subconscious by this point, that it takes a real effort to not just follow the status quo.  It takes a real effort to recognize the thoughts and beliefs about ourselves that are holding us back.

None of us are alone in this process, not really.  In the US, we are made to live such separate lives and it can make us feel lonely even when our house sits in a town of over 136,000 people.  That void you feel inside is a common one.  Yep, that’s right, you’re not special or alone in that pain you’re feeling.  You may not realize it because you have been too embarrassed to bring it up to your friends or family thinking that you might be ostracized if you mentioned that you feel an immense emptiness in this life that has been fed to you.  Maybe you’ve done what the commercials told you to do.  You’ve gotten the advanced degrees, you live in a house with a white-picket fence, you have the diamonds on your fingers, you have the nice car, and the well-paying job, and yet you don’t feel happy.  Why?  Because your happiness was never meant to come from a box, bag, person, or job.  Your happiness is an inside job entirely.

I grew up extra sensitive.  I am sensitive to the energy all around me.  I am sensitive to tension and negativity coming from other people.  I used to feel like my empathy was a curse, but I have come to find that it is actually a superpower that I can use to make my life and the lives of those around me better.  I am meant to feel everything.  I am meant to be a barometer for what’s not working in our society.  It’s an important job that I have had to learn how to do without losing myself in the process.

Glennon Doyle spoke of addiction the other night during her talk on a stage in my town.  I’m paraphrasing here.  She said that generally, addicts are the most sensitive people in our society.  That they act as sort of canaries in the mine, and that we should pay attention to the health of our canaries so that we can gauge the health of the ‘air’ we’re all breathing in.  What is causing the sensitive ones in our society to hurt so badly that they feel the need to numb themselves with things like drugs, alcohol, food, sex, and screen time?  What is it that we’re being exposed to that is causing us to hurt so much?  As one of the canaries, I’ll tell you a few things.  The pain we see in the world.  The hate.  The murders.  The lack of compassion. The fighting.  The wars.  The internal void.  The emptiness we feel in this pop-a-pill, instant gratification, consumerist culture.  The disconnect we feel from others. Ultimately, the disconnect we feel with ourselves.

People have lost themselves and they’re finding out slowly, but surely that the things that promised to make them feel better aren’t working.  They have all of the things, yet they have more depression than ever.  People continue to kill themselves at an alarmingly high rate.  The rich people who look shiny and happy kill themselves too.  What does this say about our culture?

As Glennon said the other night, we aren’t meant to skirt around, avoid, or numb our pain.  We are meant to feel our pain.  It is through experiencing our pain that we find our strength and our superpowers needed to do what we each came into this life to do.  We do ourselves a great disservice when we tell ourselves that life is supposed to be easy, and that if it’s not, then we’re doing something wrong.  Life is meant to challenge and grow us.  It’s up to us how we handle the challenges.  I would not be the person I am today had it not been for my illness and brush with death, and so I am endlessly grateful for those experiences.

It’s time to get back to our roots, people, like ASAP, as in yesterday.  I have worked with thousands of people in the hospital as a nurse.  I have gotten to know people intimately in my work and personal life, and I am screaming it from the rooftops…YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR STRUGGLES!!  Please, read that sentence as many times as you need to so that you really internalize that point.  Our story lines may vary, but everything else is the same:  the void that we feel, the insecurities, and the baggage we carry that tells us that we’re not worthy of love from ourselves or others, to name a few.  If you don’t believe me, start putting your screen away and start connecting with the people around you in deeper, more meaningful ways.  When you move past the surface topics, I think what you’ll find is another real human being who has experienced (or is currently experiencing) pain, heart-break, loss, abandonment, grief, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.  The truth is that we all individually walk around as if we’re the only ones who don’t feel like we’re enough, yet in this society, that feeling is one of the common threads that connect us all.

So, it’s time to disarm ourselves.  It’s time to remove our masks.  It’s time to connect with each other and get vulnerable, so that we can finally heal the wounds we have been merely putting band aids over up to this point.  Connect with your inner child.  Give that child the love you were lacking.  Give that child the acceptance you’ve been seeking.  Give that child the experiences of joy that you most crave.  It’s time to stop surviving and start thriving!  Isn’t enough enough already?!  The only way to fill that void is with the love that only we can give to ourselves.

If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you!  Please comment below or reach out to me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com.  It is one of my passions in life to help guide others through this process of unbecoming who they were told to be to become the person that they came here to be.

Thank you for reading along!  If you liked this post, please like and share it.  Sending you so much love!

Please Be Yourself

(Photo credit to @ledbyheart on IG)

Please!!  I’d rather see real people with real smiles and real eyes and real faces than all these pics with filters.  Love yourself just as you are, and others will love you too.  Your own eyes, skin, lips and all!  Let YOUR light shine, not the shine of a filter!. If someone doesn’t like it, don’t worry about it, because they’re not your people.  

When I first went to the drum circle here, several people commented that I look just like my profile picture.  I hadn’t ever really thought about it before then.  This year, I stopped wearing makeup and stopped dying my hair, because I really had a growing need to just be myself without any masks, to be loved for me, not for some fake external appearance.

I realize that those of us who identify ourselves as more feminine are sometimes bombarded daily with ads and campaigns telling us that we’re not good enough just as we are and that we NEED makeup and dye in order to put an acceptable version of us into the world.  I say, only do that stuff if you know that you don’t need it to be worthy of love.  Do it only if you feel just as beautiful without makeup as you do with it.  Do it if it feels fun rather than a chore required for you to “be presentable”.  Do it only if you’re not trying to avoid “letting yourself go”.  

Dying my brown hair auburn brown started as a fun change, something different.  It looked really good on me.  People thought it was my natural color.  It brightened up my face.  But as the years went on and more silver hair made its appearance at my roots, I got swept  up in the race of dying it again before anyone noticed.  Even more importantly than that, I began to not like my natural hair color.  The auburn made my brown and silver roots look mousy and dull in comparison.  Dying my hair went from a fun way to change things up to a way to hide myself and my truth.  My truth is that I have a lot of silver hair. I have earned every strand of that silver.  Now that I shaved my head and started over, I actually like my hair color.  Without having it sitting next to auburn, my unhealthy comparison and shame of the silver has faded.  I have so much left to do in this life that I don’t want to be confined to a hair dyeing regimen.

I began asking myself, “why is it that men are not made to feel less worthy, sexy, or attractive when they don’t wear makeup or dye their hair?” Have you ever thought about that?  While buying my boxed dye once, my son asked me “Mom, where is the dye for boys?”  Uh yeah, all the boxes of dye had pictures of women on them.  It spoke volumes of the bias in this society.  Looking at it from this angle is partially what made me abandon my makeup and hair dye routine.  Generally men wake up in the morning and go.  They don’t typically add color to their faces or their hair in order to be presentable to the world.  They get to just be themselves and the people who love them, love them, and the people who don’t, don’t.  Have you ever thought that you wished a man in your life would wear some makeup to brighten up his face or hide some of his wrinkles?  Do you think men look better when they dye their hair? I’m guessing most would answer no.  So then, why should I?  I have never had a man comment that he wished I wore makeup.  In fact, I have had men comment that they like that I don’t wear makeup.  If I’m happy with my face without makeup, and men I’ve dated have been happy with my face without makeup, then who the hell would I be wearing makeup for????!

We owe it to ourselves to let go of the biased constraints being placed on us.  We owe it to ourselves to enter into the world every day as our real, authentic, vulnerable selves.  We owe it to ourselves to show up every day feeling good in our own skin without the masks of makeup and dye and fancy filters.  

Shaving my head was the most empowering thing I have ever done for myself.  It seems silly given that it’s just hair.  I had never felt so beautiful in my whole life, nor had I ever felt so naked.  I did it at a time in my life where I finally felt free to be myself without any care given to what other people would think of me.  I felt free!  I continue to feel free in my authenticity and vulnerability.  I have found them to be keys to living my best life.  

I know that anyone who loves me today, loves me for the “real” me.  And isn’t that what we’re all wanting? To be loved unconditionally for who we really are? Aside from physical things like dye and makeup, for many years of my life, I didn’t feel good about who I was as a person, so I hid the “real” me.  I changed the way I spoke, how much I spoke, and the topics that I spoke about to fit with whoever was around at the time.  I was more concerned about what people thought of me and pleasing others and keeping them comfortable than I was about being true to myself.  So, when people loved me, I had an aching sense that maybe they wouldn’t if they knew the “real” me.

I am happy to say that those days are gone.  If you meet me today, you get the “real” me, completely.  I no longer change who I am to find my people.  Instead, I present myself to the world as fully me, and my people find me.  My fears that people wouldn’t like the “real” me have been proven false.  Above all, I love how it feels to be one person all the time, regardless of who I am around!!  I feel free and happy and at peace!  

We have one body, and one face in this life and if we don’t love them, we don’t open ourselves up to having others love them.  It is my hope that everyone gets to comfortably present themselves to the world as their truest version, whatever that means for them.  Sometimes that means going through the physically difficult process of transitioning into a more male body form or a more female body form.  I have so much love and respect for people who find themselves in that position and choose to walk through a virtual transformative fire so that their outside appearance matches what they feel in their hearts to be true.  Your path to your most authentic and vulnerable selves is one that many of us can’t even imagine.  I love that above everything and everyone else, you choose to be true to yourself.  Being true to myself and loving myself are have been the most important components to living my best life.

If you can relate to any of this, I encourage you to start letting more of your own light shine through.  Maybe start by ditching the fake filters on ALL of your pictures.  I get it, they’re fun to play with, but at least give us one normal, fully YOU picture every now and again.  Filters might make you look like a fairy princess riding a unicorn, but your smile is what lights up the world! While we’re at it, please save the duck lips for the ducks.  Smile more and we’ll all smile with you! Smiling is contagious! 

Thank you for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it!  Much love to you all!  

Love is the ONLY Answer

frozen wave against sunlight

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

The other day, after taking my son to school, I had the feeling like I needed to go for a run.  I’m not really a “runner” in that I hardly ever do it, but every once in a while, I wake up with this feeling like I need to run.  I’ve done a few 5K’s and always without any kind of prep.  Yes, I am blessed that I can do that, and I am completely in LOVE with my body for what it allows me to do!  Do you ever stop to think about how blessed you really are?  Do you ever peel back the layers of your life and compare your life to the life of others and just really sink into your grateful heart?  I felt so grateful as I ran for so many reasons that I found myself dancing with my arms and singing as I went.

I had the thought that I wanted to run for my body’s sake, for the feeling of it.  Pushing my body while I am able to get stronger and better than I was yesterday.  I also felt like I needed to run for clarity.  For the majority of my run (and walk because let’s be real, I walked too), I was listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s album ” We Got it From Here. Thank You 4 Your Service”.  It’s an amazing album if you haven’t ever listened to it.  It really touches on some major, real life issues that I have been thinking and talking about a lot lately, namely equality or lack thereof.

One of the songs “We the People..” has a chorus of:

“All you black folks you must go,

All you Mexicans you must go,

All you poor folks, you must go,

Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways.”

How do these lyrics strike you?  They make me sad, because it’s the truth of the message often sent to these groups of people.  Even when I was a kid, I knew that everyone deserved equal rights and treatment.  I knew that the racist remarks I heard from some of my family members growing up were not OK.  I knew it to my core.  I often spoke out against it in fact, which made family gatherings fun, because I often heard “Don’t go saying that stuff around Jammie, she’ll get mad”, which made me feel like somehow I had been the one who had done something inappropriate.  Funny how people know that if they’re the ones doing the pointing, they displace the pressure from themselves to the other person/persons, even if they, themselves, are in the wrong.

I had a big realization as I ran that I hadn’t thought about before.  I see how my life has lined up to have me work with, and then be a caregiver of people from all walks of life in states all over the US, so that I am really able to connect with certainty with the concept that we are all One.  The notion that we’re separate is a man-made falsehood that only brings judgment, hatred, separatism, and violence into this world.  When in actuality, we’re supposed to start with loving ourselves fully, so that we can spread love in the world.

I am a white woman.  Aside from the fact that I live in a very male-dominated society, I generally feel safe in my life.  I have the typical fear as a woman of walking downtown in my town by myself at night (though I did NOT feel unsafe while solo in Sydney Australia in the Harbour area at all hours of the day and night).  I’m not a fan of being solo in parking garages at night.  With that said, I recognize my white privilege (though I also know that I have gaps in my view, because it’s the nature of the beast in a lot of ways).  I know that when I have been pulled over by a cop in the past, while I was nervous for being pulled over, I have never feared that I would be shot or killed.  And you can tell me that you’re white and you have been fearful for your life in those situations, but the reality is that the fear that you have had does not touch the level of fear held by a black person in this country.  They have to think about their actions even in situations where they are being taunted or even physically assaulted, because they know that should anything happen to the other person, they will likely be the ones to take the biggest fall for it.  They worry about getting pulled over for routine stops, because so many have lost their lives that way.  I cannot imagine the worry that they experience when they send their teenagers out into the world, not knowing if someone will mistake something they do with an act of disrespect or violence that then gets them killed.

We live in a time when our government thinks that it’s OK to separate children from their families in the name of securing our borders and protecting our jobs.  I call bullshit.  How many white people are losing jobs in the agricultural fields to illegal Mexican immigrants in this country?  These hard-working people work for wages much less than most of us would even consider given the extreme heat and harsh conditions that they are subjected to.  This country was founded on the premise that it was a place where people from all walks of life could come for refuge, or to build a better life for themselves.  But now, we find ourselves in times where money and greed are placed as higher priorities than love and compassion for our fellow human beings.  We block the immigration of refugees.  We have stopped being a safe haven.

The white people moved into North America and claimed it as their own even though there were Native Americans already living here.  So they killed off a bunch of Native Americans and sent the rest packing to areas they themselves didn’t see value in. (Fast forward to today when those lands have oil on them and the white people now want those areas too! When will it stop?). Then, they brought people over from Africa to be their slaves to do their work for them. Now, I am baffled when white people are pissed off that black people live here! We dragged them away from their lives in Africa, so yes, they live here now. (Does anyone else have these thoughts?). As white people, I don’t think we are on the side that can be upset with it. Since then, the richest white men work to hoard the land and their material wealth, while keeping the rest of us feeling small and in line, so that they can keep it that way.  People have reacted strongly to my Facebook posts on the topic of my opposition to black people being pulled over and shot during routine traffic stops, and they like to say that the person “brought it on themselves”.  They like to use weak excuses that point to a large majority of black people who choose to “do bad things”.  The reality is that none of that is true.  What is true is that wives of police officers seem to have a hard time accepting that there is a such thing as corrupt police, which doesn’t necessarily mean that their husband falls into such a category.  What is true is that the underlying racism in this country lends itself to the quantity of black people being killed and jailed.  I think we need to get smart about who we side with though.  I certainly don’t side with the white men who have led the majority of terrorist attacks in this country just because I am white.  And I certainly would not choose to accept sweeping negative beliefs about Muslims if I belonged to a church that spoke of such things.  No matter what we have been taught, our race and religion are HUMAN.  Colors, shapes, sizes, beliefs, and preferences are a ploy to stretch and grow our hearts to love more, and to love those who do not look, believe, or behave the same as we do.  If we stop at our shallow impressions based on such things, we miss the opportunity to connect and make a new friend.

The way this society is run, you would think that we live in a Universe of lack, but in fact, we live in a very abundant Universe.  We have been brainwashed into thinking that scarcity ranks supreme, when in fact, we have enough of everything for everyone, but we choose to do things like throw perfectly good food away rather than give it to people who need it.  We seek to grab more of the proverbial pie for ourselves, and hold beliefs like each man for himself when it comes to giving some of our abundance away.  The key to life is creating an abundance in our own life in the form of love, so that we realize that we are always being taken care of, and always have enough to share with others.

Recently, I read an article about a 9-year old boy who killed himself after he was bullied by kids at school after telling other students that he was gay.  As a Mom to a 9-year old boy, my heart broke when I heard that news.  We’ve created an environment for ourselves and our children where we generally don’t feel like we can be our authentic, vulnerable, expressive selves for fear of judgment, ridicule, abuse, or violence from others.  How sad is that?!  I don’t care what your beliefs are about the LGBT+ community, as a human, do you not see the horrible repercussions of treating people so poorly for being different from you?  Our beliefs about this issue are trickling down to our kids, who would otherwise hold only compassion for other kids.  It’s leading to bullying and harassment that is ultimately killing our kids.  Is your belief about a group of people worth the death of a child?

Sure, there are things that have improved in this country over time, but the reality is that there is still so much racism, sexism, and bigotry in this country.  Those of us who are white could have slipped into a period of time where we believed that equality across the board was a thing, but I think if anything, with the election of Trump and the darkness that has come to the surface following, we can be sure that a lot of these issues had been merely swept under the rug just waiting for the right time to emerge.  I truly believe in the adage that to be healed, we have to see the dark side of things.  We have to recognize when people aren’t being treated fairly in order to make the needed changes.  The dark has to be brought to light for the healing to happen.  It’s the only way.  It works like that in individuals as well as the collective.  I cannot heal a destructive thought pattern that I hold if I do not recognize it as destructive.

I know that life can make us hard.  Life can make us cold.  We are constantly fed a campaign of fear in all formats.  So, we often live our lives afraid.  We build protective walls around our hearts and our houses in an attempt to protect ourselves and our families.  We try to sort people into distinctive categories acting as though gray areas for every category do not exist, and then we further assign labels of “good” or “bad” to them.  We then set limits around the love that we can offer to these groups.  At one point, I realized that the walls I had built up around me for protection from getting hurt were acting as a cage that prevented me from having the deep connections with others that my soul craves.

What I have come to know is that we are all the same.  We are all souls here having a human experience.  Many of us grow up with wounds from our childhood.  Perhaps we were abused, neglected, or abandoned and we never fully processed it, and so we hold onto those feelings as adults.  We seek to fill our void with people and things rather than doing the often difficult (but oh so worth it) inner work to move on from our deeply etched feelings of not being enough, of not being worthy, and of not being lovable.  We project how we feel about ourselves onto other people.  The parts of ourselves that we have not healed get reflected back to us in other people, and we place blame on others for how badly we feel.  So people act out.  They withhold love from themselves, and so they withhold love from others.  One that does not fully love themself unconditionally is not able to love another unconditionally.  We are all only capable of giving the amount of love that we carry for ourselves.  This is why self-love is the absolute best thing that we can all offer to each other and this planet!  It starts with each of us.  If we miss that step, and build relationships anyway…or build cities anyway…or build governments anyway…what we find is that eventually, they crumble from the stress of having too weak a foundation to support them.  People have been trained to believe a certain way about various groups because of what their religion and government has told them vs approaching everyone as just as important as themselves.  But, if you think about it, in a society where people are made to feel small, afraid, and not whole in and of themselves, it is no real surprise that people view others in the same light.  If you think that the lyrics above are an exaggeration, I ask you to thoroughly examine the privilege that you are experiencing by not being part of one of these groups.  Just because you, yourself, does not experience discrimination, it does not mean that it’s not a huge problem in this country.  If you find yourself feeling defensive as you read this post, I ask you to question where that feeling is coming from vs simply reacting to the trigger.  As humans, we tend to bury our darkest truths and emotions deep, so that it can take a while to dig it all up and expose it to the light.

It has been a process for me to get to a place where I fully love myself.  I had very low self-esteem for much of my life.  Once I did start making positive strides in how I viewed myself, I found myself still missing the mark a lot of the time.  I would say that I loved myself, but I wasn’t actually showing myself love.  And as with everything else, actions always speak louder than words.  If you merely say in passing that you love yourself, or you love the qualities about you that you or society has deemed “lovable”, and you’re putting everyone else’s needs above your own, you are missing the mark.  I was missing the mark.  I was a people pleaser who lacked self-esteem.  Unconsciously, I did for others and gave my love so that I could in turn receive the love that I felt was lacking (ultimately it was lacking from myself).  Things only began to change once I realized what actual self-love looks like.

Self-love looks like putting yourself first for a change (yes, even above your children).  It looks like doing things that bring YOU joy regularly, and not just going along with what others are wanting to do.  Self-love looks like recognizing when you need solo time to recharge and scheduling a time to make it happen.  It looks like making time for a bath if you enjoy it more than a quick shower.  Self-love looks like taking care of your body in whatever way feels good to you.  It looks like sleeping when you’re tired.  Self-love looks like saying no if you really don’t want to do something even though it feels like everyone else wants you to say yes.  We all have different things that make us feel loved up.  Find those things, and stop waiting for someone else to do them for you.  You will feel better when you take back your power and start creating your own joy, your own happiness, and your own peace and stop expecting it from some external situation or person.  As you grow in this way and begin to really love yourself, what you’re going to find is that it will become impossible for you to not accept other people as they are, and to be against anyone.  In fully loving yourself, you see that whatever you are doing to another, you are actually doing to yourself, because you’re better able to recognize that we all have these struggles to go through and overcome, and that we are all the same.  Having gone through all that I have been through, I find it so easy to view another person at more of the soul level.  Look for the beauty of your own heart, and then look for the beauty of another’s heart, and you will find it there, under the fraction of that person’s story that you have come to believe.

With empathy, I can see that the Mom on meth who just had a baby is hurting so badly because she does not get to take her baby home with her from the hospital.  I don’t have to know her entire life story to have compassion for her. I can imagine that her soul has lessons that it wanted to learn via addiction in this life, but I can also connect with her as a Mom myself.  I’ve spoken of this before on this blog, because to me, it was a very powerful thing when I stopped my judging mind, and turned on my loving heart when taking care of these Moms.  I have no idea what led them to using meth, but I do know that it’s one of the most addictive drugs available.  For all I know, she was peer pressured into doing it one time, and that set her up for many years of addiction.  Why do we even need the back story though in order to be compassionate human beings?  In taking care of so many people over the years, I can tell you that we all have the same underlying issues causing our lack of self-love, which then causes our critical judgment of ourselves and others.  The lack of self-love leads to self-destructive behaviors.  For some, this may mean hatred towards self and others, it may mean drug addiction, or it may mean putting ourselves last to the point of dis-ease.  When you heal those aspects of yourself, you really do start to have love in your heart for everyone.  I now have love in my heart for people I never thought possible, which has added a whole new level of love and peace to my life.  We cannot love ourselves and hate others, and we cannot hate others and truly love ourselves.  If we have hate in our hearts for someone, we have a disconnect in ourselves that needs healed.

Please give yourself permission today to think a different thought and make a different choice than you did yesterday. We are human, we are allowed to change our minds.  We should be allowed to think for ourselves and choose love and compassion over hatred and fear, even when it’s our minister telling us who we should or should not love.  As a child, I knew right from wrong.  I inherently knew that all people should be treated equally and fairly.  I knew that with such conviction, because it is true.  Love is the only answer to every problem in our lives, and in the collective.  If we do not learn to fully love ourselves, then everything we do in the name of “good” is always going to have holes in it at the core.  When we give and give from an empty cup that we have not taken the time to fill for ourselves, we end up with illness/dis-ease.  It is only when place priority on filling our own cup, does it then begin to overflow with joy, abundance, and love.  I am living from that place right now.  My cup is overflowing in ways I never thought possible, and my sincerely grateful heart wishes for nothing more than to use all of the excess to help make this world a better place.

If this is resonating with you at the core, but you feel overwhelmed with where to start, please reach out to me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com.  It is one of my passions to help fill this world with true, unconditional love, and that starts with each of us as individuals.

Thank you so much for reading!  If you like this post, please like and share it!  Much love!

Watch the video for A Tribe Called Quest’s song “We The People” HERE

Are You Grieving for Your Lost Health?

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When I was feeling my worst, I was doing all I could just to keep my head above water.  I went into crisis mode.  On top of feeling terrible and being exhausted all of the time, I really had no idea what was causing my flares of pericarditis.  So I was living in fear.  I was afraid that I would walk too much and have chest pain again.  I was afraid that too much stress from school and home life would cause me to flare.  I never knew when or where I would be when I’d flare and it made me feel paranoid.  I always had to be prepared, so I routinely kept my prescription of prednisone in my bag in case I needed a higher dose.

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other night who is currently living this reality.  He doesn’t have pericarditis, but his illness is no less mysterious or maddening.  In talking with him, I was reminded of a counselor I saw during nursing school.  She was in training to become a licensed counselor, and she had an office on campus at the community college I was attending.  I remember time and again going in and talking with her and just voicing my frustrations with the way that my whole world had been suddenly turned upside down.  I spoke of my fears and the unpredictability of my illness.  I spoke of not recognizing my own body, because I had gained so much weight from being on steroids.  I spoke of my dismay that after a year of struggling with recurrent bouts of pericarditis and even a second hospitalization, that none of my doctors could offer me any answers.  All they could tell me to do was to take prednsione to suppress my immune system and prevent the inflammation around my heart.  One day, as I was really struggling, I went to talk to my counselor.  She pointed out the fact that I was grieving my lost health.  It was a light bulb moment for me, because I had never thought about it like that before.  She was right.  I WAS grieving for my lost health.  My mind was having a hard time accepting my new body and the restrictions that came with it.  It was difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that I had been healthy, had exercised regularly as part of my work, and had eaten healthy as a long-time vegetarian.

When I realized that I was grieving, and my counselor went over the stages of grief with me, oddly enough, I felt a great sense of peace come over me.  It made me feel normal about how I was feeling.  I could see that the ups and downs of anger and sadness and back around again were part of my grieving process.  Knowing this allowed me to release expectations I had for my emotions through this time.  I began to accept my emotions, and I was more open to allowing them to flow.

So I ask you, the one dealing chronic illness, are you grieving for your lost health?  Are you grieving for the life you feel that you have lost?  If so, know that it is normal and OK, and that it is better to feel your emotions and release them as they come up than it is to keep them locked tight inside your chest.  We sometimes think that we’re doing ourselves a service by locking our emotions up so that they can’t spring out and consume our hearts, but the reality is that if we allow ourselves to feel our feelings as they come up, in whatever form they appear, we will be able to heal much more quickly.  Emotions that aren’t expressed get trapped in our bodies and lead to more pain and dis-ease.

It was the most challenging time of my life.  I felt so alone and helpless.  I looked for silver linings as best I could and I pushed through my exhaustion so that I could be present for my son.  I wondered if I would ever regain my health. I wondered if I would ever feel comfortable in my own body again. I wondered if I would always have to be fearful that things I did might cause a flare.

I write this on the other side.  I have gained perspective on life and on my health challenges that I would not have gotten had I never gotten sick.  I have experienced a total transformation of self that was brought on by my years of illness.  I was asked to take a more balanced approach in caring for my body, mind, and soul.  I was asked to tear down the beliefs I held about myself and my life that made me feel bad.  I was asked to reexamine the way I was treating myself and how I was showing up for myself.  My illness caused me to turn over every rock so that I could find all of buried thoughts and beliefs that were holding me back in life.  I was shown what was important in life.  I was taught to not sweat the small stuff and to appreciate everything and everyone I have in my life while I have them.  I was taught the delicate nature of life.  I was taught that there are no guarantees in life and so we should make the most of every day.  What is it that you might learn from your own challenges?  It helps me to look for lessons in challenges now, because I see how perfectly my illness was placed in my path to expand me to heights I didn’t know were possible.  It has made me trust the process now when things aren’t going the way my mind wants them to go.  Even when I can’t see the full picture as to why something is happening, I live with a great sense of trust that the Universe always has my back.  The Universe (or god, source, higher power etc) always has your back too.

Above all, I was taught that self-love is the key to life.  The love we hold for ourselves trickles outwards from us, so that we can love each other in a more balanced, non-judgmental and unconditional way.  How much do you love yourself?  Do you find ways to show yourself love every day?  Self-love involves loving all parts of ourselves.  That can be the tricky part.  It’s easy to love myself when I am happy and laughing.  I have a more difficult time loving myself when I lose my temper or raise my voice in anger.  I am learning and growing just as we all are.  We’re all works in progress, and that process never stops.  We just keep expanding.  We keep learning how to respond to life vs react.  We keep learning to keep an open mind and open heart with how we approach ourselves and others.

If you’re reading this, you survived another day.  Just keep being gentle with yourself in whatever life circumstance you’re in currently.  Your illness may be requiring that you slow down for now, get the extra sleep, limit the stressors in your life, give yourself some extra love, and put yourself first for a change.  Can you see the ways that your body is crying out for more love?  Notice the shift when you view your own illness this way.  When we take care of others when they are sick, we don’t get mad at them and their bodies for needing more care, right?  We don’t curse at our friends and family and make them feel guilty for being sick.  So then, why do we treat ourselves that way?

I went from a time when I was really ill and wondering “why me?” to now when I realize that facing a complicated illness like Lyme Disease and not just surviving it, but thriving beyond it is one of my superpowers in this life.  This is why we humans must be careful with the labels that we place on things, because sometimes it is difficult to know “good” from “bad” when we’re in the thick of it.  I’ve said it before, but I went from calling my illness “the worst thing that ever happened to me” to “one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”

Know that it might take more love and care than you have ever allowed for yourself before, but that we can all rise up above our challenges and see brighter days ahead!

Part of my soul’s purpose is to help others navigate through their own illnesses and challenges in life using  the perspective I’ve gained.  If you’d like some personalized support and guidance, reach out to me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com!  My favorite thing is combining the healing power of Intuitive Reiki with Joy Coaching to help others move through their chronic illness with more support than I had during my own healing journey.

Thanks so much for reading!  If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it! Much love!

Watch the video for Michael Franti’s song “Once a Day” HERE  This is what Michael Franti posts about this song:

“‘Once A Day’ is about unexpected moments in life. Some days we have unexpectedly beautiful moments and others that are unexpectedly challenging. Last year I had a really challenging moment when my son was diagnosed with a kidney disease called FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis). We thought it would break our family apart, but moving through the initial tears, made us realize life is precious and that we need to hug, kiss and be close to each other every day and through that we could ‘rise up’ and face his illness together. I hope that Once A Day brings inspiration to anyone in this world who is going through challenging times. Through music, dance and gratitude for this life we can all ‘Rise Up’!” –Michael Franti

A Night of Inspiration

Last night, my son and I went and saw his favorite band, Imagine Dragons live.  The tickets were his birthday present this year.  As a bonus, Grace Vanderwaal was opening for them.  I love singer/songwriter-type music and Grace, so I was excited! Little did I know how touched I would be by the entire show.

Grace Vanderwaal

As I wrote about Grace in my Instagram post (you can follow me at peaceful.jellyfish) earlier today, “If you’ve never heard of Grace Vanderwaal, her music career started and blew up when she got the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent when she sang and played ukulele for a song she had written herself, “I Don’t Know My Name”.  Grace went on to win the competition.  She was 12 years old at that time.  My son introduced Grace to me last year when he showed me her performance of “I Don’t Know My Name”.  I cried.  I’m not sure why, but when I see her perform, I cry.  I cried last night.  Maybe it’s because her soulful voice and lyrics are much beyond her years and strike a chord in me, or maybe it’s because I love the way she followed her bliss to learn the ukulele and sing.  Maybe it’s a combo of both.  I am in awe of Grace.  She’s now 14 years old and she’s opening for bands like Imagine Dragons for two sold out shows in Los Angeles.  She felt a calling to learn the ukulele and sing and she pushed to have her parents get her a ukulele against their judgement.  She did not listen to people who questioned her dreams.  She did not stop at just learning how to play the ukulele, but went even further by competing and winning a national talent competition.  How’s that for determination and bravery?!  And at TWELVE YEARS OLD!!  We can all learn a lot from Grace.  I am so grateful to have seen her live.  She’s a beautiful old soul.”

Imagine Dragons

Next up was Imagine Dragons.  I was moved to tears several times by what the lead singer, Dan Reynolds, had to say.  You could feel the genuine love pour from his heart as he spoke about issues such as equal rights and support of the LGBT+ community, not allowing our minds to be put in a box and instead seeking freedom for ourselves, and also about the problem we have in this country of making depression a taboo subject.  Wow.  To say the least, his compassion was touching, especially given the fact that I, too, hold these issues close to my heart.

Here is a video of what Dan had to say regarding depression: (it comes in between the music). I am so glad that I happened to be recording when he said this, so that I can share his very important message with others who need to hear it.

 

 

If you’ve been reading along on my blogging journey of almost a year, then you know that I’ve spoken about my own history with depression.

What Dan had to say last night reminded me of how far I’ve come. He made me think back to my years of depression with a lighter heart. I realized that while I don’t feel as much of the stigma associated with my history of depression, that there are others out there who do. The people currently struggling with depression need those of us who have been there and gotten through it to speak out. We need to show them that they have nothing to be ashamed of, and that more people close to them than they can even imagine have been affected by severe depression and have come out on the other side, the side with the light at the end of the sometimes very dark tunnel.

Please join me for a Facebook Live July 23, 2018 at 0900 PST USA on my Peaceful Jellyfish Facebook Page.

I am going to share more of my story about how my severe depression, suicidal ideation, and also the depression and suicide within my group of friends and family has impacted my life.

Catch the replay of my FB Live video HERE!

I would love it if you could join me!

As I have said before, though our journeys may look different, we are all human and so we all struggle with the same emotions and baggage. At the heart of it all, we are all the same, none “better” or “worse” than the next.

Tonight, I dug a little deeper into Dan Reynold’s history and found that he has been struggling with the pain of an autoimmune disease for years and has finally gotten his health back. It made sense then that he joyously ran around the stage in just shorts, so grateful to be alive and no longer in pain. Dan and I share the connection of a past filled with severe depression, chronic illness, and pain.

I don’t think an understanding deeper than that can exist between two humans.

Can you also relate? How comforting is it when you hear that others have been through what you are going through?

Please share your own story in the comments below or email me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com, because I’d love to connect with you!

I also discovered that Dan is Mormon which makes it even more impactful that he speaks so strongly of equal rights for the LGBT+ community. Up until quite recently, the Mormon church as a whole completely shunned people who were LGBT+ so that many were forced to leave their families behind after being disowned, or keep their orientation a secret and marry someone of the opposite sex. Many young people have taken their own lives because the stress of losing family and/or living against their heart was too much for them to handle. I was happy to hear Dan speak out. We all deserve equal rights.  We all deserve love.

If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it! Also, please pass on to anyone you know who may benefit from hearing mine and Dan’s messages regarding severe depression in our lives. Thank you!

 

The Invisibility of Chronic Illness

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I consider myself healed and healthy now.  These days, I do not think about my days of chronic illness unless I am thinking about ways I can use my experiences to help other people going through something similar.  No doctor has ever deemed me cured from Lyme Disease and the other tick-borne infections I was diagnosed with, but at this point in my life I do not feel that I need anyone else to tell me that I am cured.  After all, it is me who knows the pain and suffering that I endured, and so it is me alone who knows that reality in contrast to how I currently feel.  And I generally feel AMAZING!  Because I have come to know how powerful our minds and our thoughts are, I have come to realize how curing and healing it is for me to think and live my life as if I am cured.

When I open up to someone about my days with chronic illness where I could not walk to the mailbox, or when I was dealing with severe depression that made life feel so so hard, they are always surprised.  I hear things like “I can’t imagine YOU being depressed!”  Well, there is no one way that chronic illness looks.  There is no one way that depression looks.  Being someone who has come through both chronic illness and depression, the way that I now move through the world is a direct result of knowing first-hand, the stark contrast of what true dark and true light are in this life.  Nothing can be labeled as “good” or “bad” because the Universe (God, Spirit, The Creator) is always giving us what we need to grow and evolve.  For example, in 2009, if asked, I would have labeled my illness as “bad.”  Today, I am telling you that I would label that same illness, and all that went with it, as “good.”  Everything is relative to our perspective.  Sometimes, as we are living through something, we lack the perspective of the bigger picture because we are so focused on the moving parts.  But, as our life shifts, often we can glean lessons learned and life perspective gained.  And it strengthens us as people.

I was speaking with someone in the throes of chronic illness this past Sunday.  As we talked, I was reminded of how misunderstood I felt in the thick of my illness.  While I was about 40 pounds over my usual weight because of the prednisone I was taking daily, and had the classic prednisone “moon face”, and hump on my upper back just below my neck, to everyone else, I appeared “fine.”  After all, I was not riding around in a wheelchair, I was not hobbling around on crutches, I was not carrying around an oxygen tank, and I was trying really hard to live my life normally and just do what I needed to do.  I met a lot of new people during that time in my life, mostly because it is then that I went back to school for Nursing.   I remember feeling the disappointment of having not gotten off of the prednisone in time to lose the extra weight before meeting all of those new people.  It felt odd to me that people would be meeting me for the first time while I was living in a body I didn’t recognize as my own.  I was not able to do so many of the things that I had been accustomed to doing.  I felt nothing like myself, yet only those closest to me even knew the contrast to how I had looked and lived before.  And even they couldn’t REALLY understand what I was going through at the time.  So in a lot of ways, my illness felt invisible, and a lot of the time, also felt invisible.  The real me felt buried under layers of fat and tissue, doctors appointments, and pills. The real me felt stunted by the pain that would come seemingly so randomly that I was afraid to do anything that required any amount of exertion.

So, I heard the pain and saw the tears of this person in the throes of illness recently who expressed how misunderstood she was feeling, and I was transported back to that time in my own life.  When I was dealing with serious gaps in my memory, I’d have people say things to me like, “yeah, I forget things all of the time too.” As if their occasional forgetfulness compared to my level of constant brain fog, so dissimilar to what I had been used to that I spoke it out loud.  Or in times when I was dealing with a chronic fatigue so severe that my body forced me to choose sleep over studying or doing other things that I wanted or needed to do, and people would say “yeah, I get tired too.”  Even my doctors tried to downplay my fatigue by attributing it to having a baby and being in nursing school.  And it made me want to SCREAM!  I felt completely unheard, misunderstood, and alone in my suffering.  I did not want them to “fix” anything for me, I just wanted to feel heard and understood, or at least I wanted my concerns to not be downplayed by others or equated to the normal struggles someone faces in life. It’s like everyone around me had suddenly forgotten that I had just been living a “normal” life without illness, so in fact I did understand the level of forgetfulness and fatigue that was just typical of being human vs what was stemming from the havoc that multiple types of foreign organisms were creating in my body. I had cared for my baby for 6 months prior to getting ill, so I knew the contrasts of varying levels of fatigue.  And prior to going back to school for Nursing, I had been a student who had earned a Bachelor of Science.  I knew how tired being in school full-time made me feel.  Living was not new to me, illness was.

Above all else, I wanted to be seen and heard.  We all want to be seen and heard.

And that is exactly what is lacking for so many people challenged with chronic illness.  Their well-meaning friends and family tend to either want to “fix” things for them and stand by wishing that things were different, or they downplay their experience and just how hard it feels.  Most people are not equipped to handle the emotions of someone walking through the flames of chronic illness.  It makes people uncomfortable.  They don’t know what to say.  They don’t know how to act.  So they pretend that everything is fine. Or they distance themselves from the person. Or they get stuck in the wheel of repetition where they ask how and why this could have happened to the person.  But none of these approaches are actually helpful.  

My time spent dealing with my own chronic illness for all of those years coupled with my years of experience of being a Registered Nurse working in the hospital has given me a unique perspective.  Not only do I understand first-hand what it is like to live with chronic illness, where rather than dreaming up the next travel adventure and plotting miles to hike, I was scheduling doctor appointments and tracking the number of pills I needed to take in a day.  But, as a Nurse, I also understand that my struggles were not dissimilar to the challenges faced by countless others.  As I have written before, we really are all the same.  As a patient, I wanted to be seen and heard.  I did not want people to fix me or my problems.  I did not want to hear about others’ woes of a normal amount of exhaustion, or normal times of forgetfulness.  I wanted to be seen and heard and comforted and loved.  As a Nurse, I have been able to use this knowldge to be there for my patients and to hold space for them without trying to “fix” anything.

I was lucky enough to be put on call for work this past Sunday, and was able to make it to the morning service at the local Center for Spiritual Living where Reverend Barbara Leger was a guest speaker.  The part of her talk that really moved me was when she spoke of a dream that she had where she saw a little baby in a high chair who was screaming and pounding the tray.  When she asked him what he wanted, he said “ice cream,” so she gave him ice cream.  In the day that followed, news was flying all around the TV of the events in the US on September 11, 2001.  At one point, she saw a man’s face on the TV, she asked her friend who it was, and they told her that it was Osama bin Laden.  In that moment, it clicked with her that he had been the baby in her dream.  The point that she made that moved me to tears was this:  we are ALL seeking comfort and love.  ALL of us, regardless of who we are.  Reverend Leger urged us to go into our day finding ways to be love in the world.  To let go and forgive ourselves and others so that we can be the love that we came here to be, because the world needs more love.

From where I am now on my journey, if I had a magic wand that could go back in time and erase the pain and suffering that I experienced because of my chronic illness, I would not use it.  The level of gratitude that I currently live with is far more valuable than the moments of being pain-free that I would be trading it for.  My loss of health is what causes me to want to live so fully.  It’s what causes me to so fully enjoy the people and experiences I have in my now while I have them.  It prevents me from sweating the small stuff in life.  It drove me to become a Nurse, so that I could use my experience to help other people.  And essentially, it is what has driven me back to the knowing within of who I came to this world to be.  

As Abraham Hicks says often, “you can’t get sick enough to help sick people get well, and you can’t be poor enough to help poor people become prosperous.”  

“There’s a tendency to come from a place where you see suffering and then feel unique and maybe unworthy about you being extracted from it and having all these blessings.  And when you feel that way, you are not a perpetrator of more blessings.”  — from Abraham Hicks: Don’t Suffer Anymore, Just Believe!” on Abraham Hicks Pure Joy YouTube Channel HERE

Adjusting ourselves or how we operate in the world with the false notion that it will help others if we dim our light is not helpful.  Nor is it helpful for us to try to make someone else change how they are operating in the world to suit us.  It will never make anyone feel better to live this way.  Trust me, I’ve been blessed with the contrast in my life to try all approaches on both sides.

Offer your love to someone going through a tough time.  Be there for them.  Listen to them.  Offer them a hug.  That’s all they need from you.  And isn’t that refreshing?  That you don’t need to find solutions for them?  Or empty promises for a better tomorrow?  Just be there, being you, and allow them to be there, being them.  No more, no less.  

I was able to do this for my friend on Sunday.  I knew that they were having a rough day before we spoke, because they had texted me earlier.  But I approached them with my full energy, because I was having a wonderful day.  And I knew that I could not make them feel better if I brought myself down to their energy level.  I listened.  I offered suggestions when asked for them.  I held space for this person to feel the way they were feeling.  I commiserated with them on how difficult it is to live with an invisible illness.  I offered them my current perspective.  They got inspired.  They felt heard and seen.  And THAT’S where the magic happens. I saw some of the heaviness in them lift.

I feel called to use the experiences that life has given me to help others on their own paths to healing.  I do not believe in coincidences.  I believe that everything has happened in my life to get me to this very moment with my perspective and my skills, so that I can be the love and light in the world that I came here to be.

If you or someone you love is struggling with illness, and you are ready to take full responsibility for the health of your body, mind, and spirit, I am here to support you on your journey.  Luckily, with technology, we have computers and phones that will help us connect regardless of where you are in the world.  My intention is to support you as you learn to view your dis-ease as a valuable teacher and precursor to living your life with more joy and gratitude than you have ever known before.  Reach me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com.  I’d love to hear from you! 

From the other side, I can tell you that you can heal.  You cannot get your old life back, but you can get one back that offers you more gratitude and appreciation for all that you have and all that you are.  Be well. 

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Listen to Michael Franti’s “Everyone Deserves Music” HERE