Love is the ONLY Answer

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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

Empaths and Energy

It has been several years since I first read about empaths and what it means to be one, but it was like a huge, bright light got turned on for me, and it helped me understand why I move through life the way that I do.  I won’t reinvent the wheel here, because you can do a google search right now and find a million articles telling you what being an empath means and how to know if you are one.

For me, one of my traits is that I am very sensitive to the energy around me.  I’ve always been this way, but I didn’t always realize it.  I have always absorbed the energy from other people, but didn’t know I was doing it.  So at times, I would internalize someone else’s feelings and take them on as my own.  This worked to my detriment as a child growing up in a house with a lot of fighting.  I was absorbing that negative energy and internalizing it as my own burden to carry without realizing what was going on.  Looking back, it was exhausting and was at least the partial cause of my depression as a teen.

In recent years as I realized just how powerfully other people’s energy affected me, I would still feel drained and negative after having an interaction where someone was giving off a very strong, negative energy.  I’ve done a lot of work to learn how to separate someone else’s energy from my own. Recently a teacher of mine channeled for me and found that I am able to differentiate my energy from someone else’s about 70% of the time.  So, about 70% of the time, when I interact with people, I can tell what energy they are emitting and I am absorbing from them.  And recognizing this has been very important for me, because the more I can separate my energy from someone else’s, the less I am going to unknowingly take their energy on for myself.  I use this a lot in my day-to-day life.  For instance, I use people’s energy to make decisions about whether or not I want to spend time with them. I have very strong intuition and I have been learning to trust it, and the more that I do, the stronger my intuitive sense becomes.  If someone has a really good energy about them, I don’t need to know a whole lot else about them before I find myself wanting to hang out with them.  I pay attention to the energy I receive from potential baby sitters, friends, healers etc.  A person’s energy tells me a lot about them. And I take it more seriously than the words that someone tells me, because people can lie, but energy doesn’t.

Last year, I had an experience where I was hanging out with a friend just after one of their parents died.  I enjoyed my time with them and felt good while we were hanging out.  But when I went home, I felt drained for no apparent reason.  Based on what was going on with me, I felt like I should have had more energy.  And I was excited about an upcoming concert that night too.  Then I realized what was going on.  I had taken on some of my friend’s energy during our interactions.  I took on some of the heaviness of the situation, and some of the sadness.  I actually had to take a nap before the concert. It was a really cool experience for me to be able to recognize that what I was feeling was not a direct reflection of something going on in my own life.  I think that sometimes, part of my purpose here in this lifetime is to take on some of the heavier energy around me and transmute it to positive.  I think that’s part of what I was doing in this case without even realizing it.  I took on some of the heaviness so that my friend would not bear all of that weight alone.  But what I am also realizing is that it is not my responsibility to take on energy that does not belong to me.  And that in fact, as Abraham Hicks says often, I cannot become poor enough so that others are not poor, I cannot become sad enough to keep others from being sad, and I cannot be negative enough to keep others from being negative.  It’s just not the way the Universe works.  In becoming happy and prosperous, I am not taking away from anyone else.  There is always enough to go around.  We live in an abundant Universe, not one that is lacking.  It is much more useful and important that I remain in my vibration of positivity and attracting prosperity, so that I can be an example that others can follow to help them find ways to raise their own vibration.  We don’t do anyone any good by lowering our vibration thinking that if we bring ourselves down into a state of sadness, lack, negativity, that we will somehow help those around us feel better, or at least not feel so bad.  I have spent my life working this way.  Feeling bad to be happy when I was surrounded by sadness.  Feeling bad to be healthy when I have been surrounded by those with illness.  But the important thing that I have been learning and figuring out and working to internalize is that this method never works.  Plus, I end up feeling terrible.  I listened to a great audio clip on YouTube today of Abraham Hicks, and it ends with this quote that is my take-away on this subject and that is “I’m going to be who I know I can be, so that I can show you who I know YOU can be.”  You can listen to it HERE.  It is often said that misery loves company.  When we are down, we get comfort when others join us in that vibration.  But, when was the last time that someone joining you in misery really helped you dig yourself out of the hole that you had found yourself in?  I know that I have been uplifted by others who are uplifting.

For those of you in a health care profession, or experiencing illness second-hand via a loved one, I want you to know this:  at no point in my healing journey have I needed anyone to lower themselves to my level of despair in thinking that it would make me feel better.  I did not want anyone to “fix” my problems for me or take away my illness.  I simply wanted support and love from those around me.  I had to go through all that I went through to get to the level of high vibrational functioning that I now get to experience.  My experiences not only make me a better nurse, but they make me a better human.  My experiences give me much more compassion than I could have developed any other way.  Like I have written many times here, losing my health completely has made me appreciate my health and body more than I would have otherwise.  I live my life in a state of gratitude for all that I have because I almost died, not in spite of it!  Therefore, losing my health is one of the best things that has ever happened for me, second only to the birth of my son.  Let me repeat that:  LOSING MY HEALTH IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED FOR ME!  Granted, I did not feel this way as I was going through it.  But I can tell you from where I am currently, if I could go back in time and change things, I would NOT do it.  I would experience everything I have gone through again knowing that it would lead me to my current level of gratitude for this precious life that I have been given.

Everything is made of energy.  We have limited senses to perceive the energy around us, but it runs through everything around us, and through all of us.  That cannot be denied.  Are you aware of the energy you are putting into the world?  Is it positive?  Does it uplift those around you?  Are you an empath, like me, who has a difficult time differentiating your energy from those around you?  Does knowing that you’re an empath make you feel better too that you have some clarity about why you move through the world like you do, and why you feel SO MUCH all the time?  I know it helped me a lot to realize my gifts as an empath.  Sometimes, those gifts have felt like a curse, because I can feel the hurt around me as if it’s my own.  The first step for me was connecting the dots, the next steps have been creating energetic boundaries for myself.  If I can do it, so can you.

I have more difficulty differentiating the more at large energy field of the world from my own than I do the energy of other people.  It’s much more common that I take global energy on as my own before realizing it. It becomes most apparent once a friend who is also highly sensitive mentions the way they have been feeling and the energy that they have been picking up on.  Then we all share a collective sigh of relief to have some understanding that the energy affecting us is outside of us and our lives.  My brain likes to connect what I am feeling to something happening in my own life, yet it doesn’t always realize that the energy I am sensing isn’t always originating with me.

As our collective consciousness continues to shift and more people begin to awaken, it is imperative that we do the inner work that each of us needs to do so that we can keep our vibration high, even when we can feel the energy of the collective dip down.  Those of us functioning at a higher vibration will be the best help to others if we stay where we are, so that they can rise up to meet us, versus lowering our energetic vibration to meet theirs.  This is the work that I am currently doing within myself.  I am working to do things that make my energy vibrate higher, so that I can live my best life and in turn, affect others positively.

If you have read my other posts, you know that I got into nursing after I, myself, became gravely ill.  Even as I was struggling with my own health issues, I was in nursing school, learning how to help others.  I feel like my journey with nursing has come full circle.  In nursing school, I was able to witness some of the people who were present during my heart surgery, perform an open heart surgery.  A few of them even remembered me.  I was able to thank them for saving my life and told them that I was using my experience to go into nursing so that I could help others.  In nursing school, I met with a few of the nurses who had been there after my surgery and had come to check on me as I recovered in the hospital, and I thanked them.  As a new nurse, I eventually ran into the nurse who had taken care of me on 3 West, the step-down ICU, and I realized that her name wasn’t “Angel” as I had remembered from the scary night that she took care of me prior to my heart surgery, and was able to thank her for being there with me and getting me the help that I needed.  I’ve had the honor of taking care of some of the sickest patients in the hospital who were wrought with pain and fear, and I overcame my fear of death, as I helped alleviate their fears.  In taking care of new Mothers, I have been able to heal my wounds related to not having the natural birth that I had hoped for, because I see now that the healthy Mom and baby ARE truly all that matter.  And I have been a part of the process of c-sections to show me why I did not get to hold my son right away, which has been healing.  I have helped Moms struggling with breastfeeding which helped heal the parts of me who placed so much responsibility on my shoulders to feed my baby the best milk I had available, even when it wasn’t going so well.  Working as a Nurse has given me such a wide variety of people and energies to work with, which I believe has led to me being so good at recognizing my own energy vs others’ energy, a skill that is highly valuable to me for so many reasons.

Early in my nursing career, I often felt pulled down into the despair that my patients were feeling.  Over time, I have learned to separate my energy from those I care for in a way that makes it much more healthy for me and for them.  But even still, working in the hospital as a Registered Nurse lends itself to a level of stress that only other Nurses can relate to.  Adding to that stress the fact that I am so sensitive to the energies that surround me, the hospital is not a good working environment for me.  Luckily, I have been through enough in my life to recognize when something is affecting my health negatively, and so I am moving on.  This is not the first time that I have witnessed a direct correlation with the stress that I experience and the health problems that it creates.  So, I am choosing to not wait until the health problems become debilitating before I change my course.  I am proactively choosing to put my health first, above EVERYTHING else, including my job.  I will continue to help people in other ways, and if you want to know a bit more, you can check out my “About Me” page above (I will be writing more about it here shortly).  My purpose in this life is to heal myself, body, mind, and spirit, so that I may help others navigate through their own healing journeys.

Life really is always working FOR us.  Everything that happens for us in this life is meant to grow us so that we can become the people we came into this life to be.  How have you benefited from your challenges, and in turn, how have your challenges benefited the world around you?  Have you discovered a way to use your empathy to help yourself and others?  Are you able to see the blessings in your extremely empathic nature?

It’s never too late to start the day over.  It’s never too late to choose to put yourself, your happiness, and your health FIRST.  Life is too short to live it any other way!

Listen to Michael Franti and Spearhead’s song “Never Too Late” HERE

Thanks so much for reading.  I’d love to hear from you!  If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it.

 

5 Years, 1,825 Days of Being a Nurse

Today, 3/11/18 marks 5 years since I started my work in the hospital as a Registered Nurse. A low-mid estimate puts the number of patients that I have taken care of during that time to over 4,000! I feel honored that I have been part of so many people’s story. And I hope that I have positively touched their lives in some way. Their stories are now interwoven with mine, and all the time they give me the priceless first-hand experience that we are all connected. That all of our challenges despite how seemingly different, all turn us into humans with similar baggage and triggers to overcome in this life.

No matter the person looking back at me from the hospital bed or crib, I have seen the beauty of their souls. We are not our experiences or our stories. We are not what we have been through. But at the same time, our experiences work to shape us into the people we came here to be. So rather than getting lost in our personal stories of tragedies and triumphs, we are meant to use those times to move us to help make the world around us a better place. When I decided to go into nursing, I was a patient in the hospital recovering from a heart surgery. I asked the nurses taking care of me what their experience had been in nursing school and if they were happy with their decision to become a nurse.  I asked them about their work schedule and about how they manage with having kids while being a nurse.  I chose to use my experience to become a Nurse in hopes that I could alleviate some of the fears that I knew my patients would be feeling in the hospital. I am so grateful that even in the midst of going through my own health crisis, that I was given the strength and perseverance to get through school and these last 5 years as a Nurse.
I know that my main purpose in this life is to help people on their healing journeys in whatever way I can.  For 5 years, it has solely been as a nurse in the hospital.  I started out in reverse, taking care of adults, some of which died during my shifts, and then moved on to my current position where I sometimes care for brand new babies just entering the world.  I am grateful that I have been an intimate part of the full circle of life.  The birth to the death, each are sacred as they are the entering of the soul into the body, and then the exiting of the soul from the body.  But the soul never dies.  It is born, it grows and transforms, and then moves onto its next journey.  After all, everything is made up of energy, the divine life-force energy that moves through everything, and energy is never destroyed.
When I hit my 3 year mark, I wrote this on my Facebook page, which is a beautiful way to share my experience: “I’ve witnessed the strength of the human spirit and body. I’ve been a witness to pain with perseverance, death as a natural part of life, people holding onto hope, and people staying positive regardless of circumstance. I’ve supported families as their loved one took their last breath, and also as their baby took their first. It has been amazing. It has been stressful. And it has helped put everything that happens in my own life into perspective.”
What are some ways that you have used your own, personal challenges in life to do good for other people, or for the world around you?  How has your life been positively influenced by a nurse in your own story?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

I Am You

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Happy New Year everyone! 2018!  Wow, just like that, another year has come and gone! For me, 2017 held a lot of change:  endings, beginnings, including the start of this blog. As 2017 wrapped up, I felt a heaviness in me.  Maybe due in part to the changing seasons and lessening of outside time and sunshine in December, but also likely due to the purging of old patterns, belief systems, and emotions of 2017.  Do you ever feel like you move about not always fully feeling your emotions when things happen?  I know I do.  I kind of push on through, and at the end of the year, I felt that catching up with me.  I think it’s a defense mechanism that I have developed over the course of my life.  Keep going and maybe then I won’t be swallowed whole by my emotions.  Maybe then, I will be protected from spiraling down into depression that I have had a lot of experience with in my life.  But, I have come to see that I handle things differently now.  Even when sad things happen or life doesn’t go as planned, I have a way of seeing the divine-ness of everything.  And I have learned to allow myself to feel more in the moment.  I have also learned to pause during difficult conversations, so that I allow myself a moment to feel and to put those feelings into words before speaking them. In so many ways, 2017 was a year of tremendous growth for me.  I am looking forward to seeing how the new seeds of growth that I planted throughout 2017 blossom into being in 2018.  I can feel that 2018 is going to be an amazing year of manifestation.

“I am you

You are me

No more leaders

We must lead if we want to see God in the enemy”

Matisyahu’s song “Mist Rising”

If you know me, or follow this blog at all, you know that I listen to Matisyahu all. the. time.  Sometimes, even after I’ve heard a song a million times, certain lyrics will jump out at me as little messages from the Universe.  The above lyrics really stood out to me one morning as I was driving to pick my friend up to go for a hike.  I had a moment after hearing them where I thought, yes, we’ve got to stop looking to other people to make the changes that we want to see in this world.  We’ve got to stop looking to our appointed leaders for the answers.  If we want to live the truth that we are all really one, and not separate from each other like we are made to feel, then we have to start leading by example in our own lives.  We are all made of the same, divine energy.  We are just the Divine, Universe, God, consciousness (or whatever else you like to call it) having an experience in human form.  That’s it.  We are here to grow and evolve in consciousness.  We are here to face obstacles and transcend them, so that we wake up.  We are here to find our soul’s purpose and then use it to make the world a better place.  We have to lead if we want to be able to see divine/Universe/God in our enemies.

We are not separate.  We think we are.  We walk around feeling alone.  We pit ourselves against others, people in other groups, in other countries, of other religions, but the reality is that we are all one in the same.  We all have our specific journey that we are supposed to be on in the time and place where we find ourselves.  We are brain-washed to think that we are not enough as we are, so that we’ll buy the new latest and greatest gadgets.  We’re made to feel small and inconsequential so that we keep our heads down and work hard to keep a few rich and in power.  But friends, we are so much more than we have been led to believe, and we can have so much more in our lives than we even believe is possible.  We are all on different paths to the same destination, our awakening, our rising of consciousness.  The us vs. them mentality is merely a distraction.  It’s one way to keep us all feeling alone.  It prevents us from really connecting with each other in a deep way, because we’re always afraid that our problems are worse than the next person, or our insecurities are bigger than everyone else’s, or that our dark sides are darker than everyone else’s.  But that’s simply not true.  Like I have said before, in the times when I have opened up and gotten vulnerable with others, and have really listened to others share their stories, I have found that while on different journeys, we all fundamentally end up with the same baggage and the same feelings about ourselves.  Keeping this idea that I am better than (fill in the blank) or that I have my shit figured out more than (fill in the blank) is just a judgment that my human mind, my ego, is placing on the situation.  It is no more true than the stories I have carried about myself.  And it keeps me feeling separate.  Likewise, when I place others on a pedestal and see them as better than me, I also keep myself feeling separate from others.  But, it’s when you can see everyone as equal in this game of the divine having a human experience, that you really feel like you can connect with everyone on some level.  Even if my beliefs are hugely different from yours, I am sure that we can connect in some way.  Maybe you’re also a Mom, or a Nurse, or maybe you grew up feeling like you had to prove yourself to feel worthy, to get the love you so desperately wanted.  Maybe you can relate to my stories of chronic illness that I have lived through.  Or maybe you connect with me because you too have struggled with severe depression.  Whatever it is, it’s there and it connects us, and it makes you see part of yourself that you like, or that you hate, in me.  The people around us are always reflecting back to us the things that we need to learn about ourselves so that we can grow and evolve to become the best versions of ourselves.

I think that this can be a difficult subject to grasp.  I will use an example from my own life on both sides of the coin.  I am attracted to creative people.  I love it when people produce something with their creative talent and then release it into the world for others to see, irregardless of how it might be viewed or judged by others.  I am creative, but I usually recognize it in others more than in myself.  But it really has to do more with what I perceive about an artist who puts their work in the public eye vs. me who has usually just made things for friends and family, or for my home.  I love being around people who are adventurous.  Creativity and an adventurous spirit are qualities that I carry.  When I see these qualities reflected back to me in others, I enjoy it.  I see our commonalities and I love them in me and the other person.  This also has a flip side, because the things that really anger us or upset us about other people are also merely reflections of things that can also be found in us.  We all hold a balance of light and dark.  None of us are completely light nor completely dark in nature.  It’s interesting to me that sometimes in relationships, when we see things that we like about ourselves in another person, we really like them and want to spend more time with them.  But when we catch a glimpse of something in the other person that we have not yet learned to like or accept about ourselves, we tend to push them away and not want to spend time with them.  Have you experienced this in your relationships?

I have talked about this before in previous posts that at square one of stepping into our power here as humans is learning to love ourselves.  For myself, I have found that I am usually MUCH more compassionate with other people regarding qualities that we would label as bad or dark, because generally, I have been more empathetic to others than to myself.  If someone graces me with their truth in all of its wholeness, light and dark included, I find that I can connect the dots to see how they came to be all that they are, and I am always grateful for the way that they openly share themselves.  None of us can ever truly understand what another person has gone through, no matter how well it is explained to us.  And really, it’s not our job to understand, just as it is not someone else’s job to understand us.  But we can still be understanding, and we can show others kindness and compassion for their journey.  And we can love them, in all of their messy human-ness, baggage, triggers, and all.  In doing so, in loving others for all that they are, not for their potential to change or only for the things that we like about them, we can come to love all parts of ourselves.  Because really, if another is worthy of my unconditional love, then I am worthy of my own unconditional love.  Do you see how the two go hand in hand?  That kind of love. That kind of acceptance and unconditional love is what we all want for ourselves. Right?  But how can you receive it if you do not feel worthy of it from yourself?  How can you give it if you still think that you’re better than, or worse than other people?

In one of Eckhart Tolle’s books, he says that the purpose of relationships is not to make us happy, but to wake us up.  I think that’s brilliant.  The us vs. them mentality keeps our attention on things outside of ourselves, rather than on the things that really matter like unconditional self-love.  If society is always telling me that I’m not enough so that I’ll buy more things, or give my power away to other people (by making them responsible for my happiness for example), then I won’t be focused on building my best life.  I won’t be realizing my limitless potential in this life.   Instead, I’ll live small, and be more apt to follow than to lead.  But like I have said, we are meant to transcend the obstacles that are placed on our path.  Like the lotus flower, we are meant to rise out of the mud and bloom, not get stuck in it comparing our mud to the mud surrounding the other flowers.  It’s not about our challenges, it’s about how we handle them.  It’s how we carry ourselves and respond when the shit hits the fan that really counts.  Realizing this has come from a lot of reflection and work on myself.  I did not always accept my reality gracefully.  The more that I can see how every experience and meaningful relationship shapes and grows me, the more confident I have become in the fact that the Universe is always supporting and guiding me in ways that are for my highest good, even when it appears that “bad” things are happening.  I know that I have always made it through my challenges so far and that they have made me a better person and have given me my current perspective on life. So when things happen, I assume that it’s all for the best for everyone involved.

In my own life, I have had the experience where the person that I was dating wanted to start seeing someone else.  (I have also ended relationships for this reason)  It happens for various reasons.  We’re human.  Situations change.  People change.  In the past, I have taken their decision personally.  I felt deeply hurt by it and became angry and resentful.  I felt like a victim.  I can imagine that many of you can relate to that reaction.  Since becoming more conscious, I have had the completely opposite experience as well.  The person told me that they wanted to see someone else.  I admit that there was still a level of sadness in saying goodbye, but I saw the whole situation in a completely new light.  I understood that this person who I loved felt compelled to follow his heart, and I respected that.  On one hand, I would not want someone to continue to hang out with me when they really want to date someone else, and also, who am I to keep anyone from following their heart?  I personally try to not live with regrets, so I appreciate when others live from that same space.  And so, rather than having a heated discussion that involved my hurt feelings and blaming this person for them, I simply let him go.  Honestly, I did not feel hurt and angry about his decision, because I trusted that it was best for both of us in the end.  I told him that I had really loved our time together and that I had so much fun on my adventures with him and that I hoped that he and this other person would share a lot of joy together.  I told him that I was really grateful that I had met him.  And it was beautiful.  So beautiful in fact that I write about it here.  Now, I will not take all of the credit here, because we had developed the ability to have open conversations with each other, and that took two.  Our sweet connection took two.  But do you see how one person can make such a difference?  Do you see how my response painted the kind of ending that we shared?  Had I come at him angrily, it may have completely dissolved our connection and prevented us from remaining friends.  But I chose to accept the reality with gratitude for what this person’s presence had meant to my life rather than to leave on a bad note simply because I was not the one deciding to end things.  We each have that kind of power!  It was not his job to stay and make me happy.  It was his job to follow his heart on his journey as he saw fit.  It was my job to accept reality without taking any of it personally.  It was my job to take care of myself.  I did not leave the situation thinking that there was something wrong with me, or that I had done something wrong.  And I did not leave angry.  I left with a lot of peace about it all, and a lot of love in my heart for this person.  I sincerely wanted nothing but love and happiness for both of us.  When you realize that we all have our own journeys to live our joy and to find our purpose, you also realize that the only journey that we each need to focus on is our own.

It is really none of my business what someone else wants to do in their free time, or who they want to spend their time with.  All I can do is stay as present as possible when I am spending time with the people in my life, so that I can fully experience and enjoy their presence in my life while they’re in it.  Life is short.  Nothing is guaranteed.  I have found that when I am able to stay present in the moments in my relationships, and I treat my relationships with gratitude and take to heart the fact that we are all only here for a short time, I have little to no regrets when the relationship ends or the person dies.  When I say that I stay present, I mean that I do not let my mind wander all over the place to the past and future.  I am not thinking about my to-do list.  I shut my brain off and I just am.  It gives me the space to be free in the moment.  To feel the sun on my face.  To feel the cold water hit my skin.  To look at a person and see a beautiful soul smiling and laughing.  To me, being present means allowing myself to enjoy a moment, activated by my five senses, without bombarding it with a bunch of thoughts.  And if I do think, I think things like, this is amazing, I am so glad to be here, this is so fun, and I am so grateful to have this time with them.

Try it. Set your mind aside.  Stop the whir of thoughts telling you what you “should” be doing.  Be present with the people in your life while you can.  Turn off your phone and focus on where you are in the moment.  And then move from there and work to put yourself in other people’s shoes more often.  Attempt to see the world from their vantage point for a change.  Stop judging yourself and others so harshly.  Can you see that we all have light and dark inside of us?  Can you see the beauty in it?  Can you see the beauty in the dark depression that I experienced in my life?  I can.  Knowing that level of pain is what allows me to really enjoy all that I now have in my life.  I’m not sure that a really happy, joyous heart gets that way without experiencing some form of depression or shadows in life.  The pleasure of life is much more profound when you can still remember how much life can hurt.

Our differences are meant to be.  Our journeys are supposed to be unique.  We are each supposed to be unique.  We’re supposed to have differing opinions.  But, we’re not meant to walk alone on our journeys feeling separate from the other humans around us.  We aren’t meant to fight each other and attempt to hold each other down.  We are not meant to be hardened by our pasts.  Regardless of how hurt I have been by things that have happened in my past, I still feel as though the connections that I create with people who cross my path are the important part of my journey.  I crave deep connections with people.  Part of the process to get to that level of connection is realizing that I am you, you are me.  The world I am living in is full of people who are out living their passion, connecting with other people, getting inspired by each other, and lifting each other up to live our best lives.  We are meant to lift each other up.  We perceive the world through a veil of our own thoughts.  If you want to see the incredible world that I see, make that choice, and join me.  Our lives are only as good as our thoughts allow them to be.  Change your thoughts, change your life!

If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it!  And please feel free to comment down below.  I would love to hear from you!

Much love.

Listen to Matisyahu’s “Mist Rising” HERE