Friday, January 17, 2020

The Most Influential Woman of the Decade (as decided by Me at my kitchen table)

Hey, it could be worse.  I could have made the decision in my bathroom.  But the real truth is I made the decision on naming this person The Most Influential Woman of the Decade in my most sacred place...in my studio, in front of my easel.

Way back in 2009 (holy cow why does it feel like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once?!?) I wrote my first brief blog post about Heather and her blog.  A couple years later, Heather wrote a post about a portrait that I sent - unsolicited - to her of her daughter.

When Heather, aka Dooce, shared that watercolor portrait on her blog...it was...not an exaggeration...life changing.

You see, the actual act of creating that portrait and sending it out to Heather went against the grain of every thing in my life at that point.  I was not in a situation that nurtured chance, risk, or anything out of the Perfect Picture of Domestic Life that was The Goal.

It was profane, almost.  Like that sexy novel hidden among the self help books on my nightstand. I sent the portrait to Heather in secret.  I didn't tell anyone I was doing it.  I was ashamed at my inner voice, telling me to Paint it, and Send it.  It was - truly - the first time in a long time that I didn't care what my close circle would say - I only cared about what my heart told me to do.

And Heather could not have been more generous with her kindness, and her platform.  By sharing that portrait on her blog, she introduced thousands of people to my work, and many became patrons, and for that I am truly grateful.  It set my business on a course that allowed me to nurture myself as an artist, and nurture my children because I was in a good place as well.

Over the years, we collaborated on a few other pieces, and I was inspired by many of her photographs which led to a series of some of my all time favorite portraits.

Divorce happened, in her life and in mine, and I cannot imagine what it was like for Heather to share that with her audience on her blog.  I very rarely talk about mine - even though I would like to share more -  because I cannot talk about the impetus for change and growth without talking about the catalyst for it.  And, like other conscientious parents out there, I am aware that my children will always be half of me, and half of their dad, and if I insult or disparage either one of us, I'm hurting them as well. 

But I will say this...when I was pretty much at the bottom, when I thought nothing good was coming down the pipe again...I heard from Heather.

Heather reached out to me in the sweetest way, wanting to create something special to honor the Cowboy (you can read her own words about him here).

What Heather doesn't know, is that she saw me, she sought me out, when I felt the most lost, forgotten, and invisible.

I was at a point when I felt like Damaged Goods.  I had been battling false police reports, lies to DFCS, having my children removed based on false statements made by a person I removed from my life YEARS before because I knew she was Toxic...holy cow.  I was Unseen.  Unloved.  Unwanted...by the people I spent my whole life trying to please with every fiber of my being.

But in the midst of this...Heather reached out.  She not only hired me to create - she shared it again with her Tribe.

She believed in me, and shouted it from her keyboard.

Do you have any idea what that means to someone?

Do you have any idea how life affirming that was?

Do you have any idea how powerful she is...to remind me that I am Worthy of praise.  That what I do matters.  That I made a positive impact on her life.

And this past December, she reached out to me again, for another covert operation: capturing the children of the Cowboy, for his birthday.

Heather has faith in people.  She believes they are capable.  She believes in their minds, their creativity, their decision making process.  She has never micro-managed me as an artist, but has always responded with enthusiasm for the choices I have made on my canvas.

That is rare.  I know...I've worked with thousands of wonderful clients.  And this amount of Trust has only appeared a few times.

Heather has a belief, and a trust, in me that is incredibly precious to me.

The portraits that I created of two of her boyfriend's children are two of my all time favorites.  They were done in a limited palette, a very timeless almost sepia-toned range of browns with a touch of black.  Based on Heather's photos, they were casual, sweet, and done with a great deal of Love.

And I will never show you.

But I will tell you...Heather hired me to create these beautiful pieces right before the Holiday.  She paid me a deposit immediately.  And that deposit helped me have one of the best Christmas Holidays I have had with my family in years.  We're not talking a huge amount...but the amount I needed to buy a few gifts without using my credit card and feed my family and spend the quality time with them we all deserved.  It was the first time I had both of my kids for Christmas in four years.  And Heather helped make it amazing.

I wrote this on my blog way back in 2012...

As a writer, Heather puts herself out there, in front of millions of people every day.  Without shying away from the harsh realities in her life, she shares her joy and sorrow with her fans and followers.  Her bravery is inspiring.  As an Artist, I hope I am following that lead, and sharing a bit of myself with every drawing or painting I share with you.  We both know that not everything will be rewarded, but more often criticized, and yet we are compelled to do it anyway.

I went through the harshest period of my life a couple years ago.  I was afraid to even leave my house for a while.  I was silenced.  I was erased from my son's life for a period of time.  I was eliminated by family members.

But throughout all of that, I discovered what true Kindness is.  I discovered how special it was to be lifted up by another.  I realized how powerful it is to be Seen.  To be Heard.  To be Trusted.

As I stood in front of my easel on the last day of 2019, working on two of my favorite portraits of all time, I realized that Heather has meant more to me these last ten years than most people will ever know.  While her love life is reduced to internet fodder and her medical issues are another reason for small minded people to Judge What They Do Not Understand, I was one of the lucky ones behind the scenes, being Seen.  Being Heard.  Being Trusted.

At a time when I felt silenced in more ways than one, Heather shined a light on my strengths and my potential, and she helped me find my way back to my Voice.

I wanted to write this today to acknowledge Heather, her impact on me, my self-worth, and how by doing so she has helped me as a Mom, a partner to my own Cowboy, and as an Artist.  In a world where sometimes the easiest thing to do is ignore our own pain by tearing another person down...I wanted more than ever to lift someone up.

I Love you, Heather.  And Thank You.




Monday, December 9, 2019

True Love, Freely Given

"Nobody respects Love that is not freely given."

Alan Watts.

I heard this quote in one of his lectures and it was incredibly clarifying for me. The context of the moment in the lecture used the example of parents, telling their child "You SHOULD love me...I am your Mother!" (but of course you can insert any "title" into that last word...father, grandparent, sister, brother, BOSS...etc)

YOU SHOULD LOVE ME.

Then...what happens? The "love" they give to you is not genuine, not from the Heart...it is given to you from a place of fear. And, you don't respect that Love...because you coerced it. You controlled it. You manipulated it. And, ultimately, if they take that love away from you, the precedent you have set is that it's THEIR fault for not following the Rules of Society, and THEY have the problem for deciding, freely, who to love, and who not to love.

I heard this quote on Saturday, then found myself talking to a dear friend on Sunday, who dreads every interaction with one of her sisters. When the sister calls, there is a lot of guilt, shaming, and blaming. Very little compassion, concern, LAUGHTER, joy, etc. But my friend feels obligated to answer the phone (especially being that it was her sisters birthday...double whammy...one sister calling another sister to complain about the THIRD sister who didn't call on the birthday...and now YOU ALL MUST SUFFER)

I had so much compassion for my friend, and a huge amount of empathy...for there was a time when I played the role of any one of those sisters. The "You should have called me" Sister. the "I Always Answer the Phone For My Family Even Though They Treat Me Like Crap" Sister, and finally the "I'm Going to Remove Myself From This Toxicity Now" Sister.

Obligatory Love can cripple any relationship. You are my WIFE...you SHOULD love me. I am your Pastor...you SHOULD love me. I am your TEACHER...you SHOULD love me. I am the most popular mom in the neighborhood...you SHOULD love me. I make more money than you do...you SHOULD love me.

But expecting Love through obligation is not healthy, and in my experience, does not last.

So...laying out a problem but not providing an implementable action plan is a Politician's Job, and since I know that my role here in this Matrix is a Teacher, let's see if I can find a lesson here...

Lesson: Remove All Obligations of Love

Where do these "required" feelings of Love come from? It could be a family pattern...of course. You may have watched your parents tolerate a lot of bad behavior from THEIR parents, and then you followed the same pattern in the relationship with YOUR parents, and then...because patterns in families repeat...you EXPECTED Love from your kids...in spite of the way you may be treating them...because it was Done That Way for Generations.

How confusing to a child, to watch someone treat another so badly, speak terrible words and hurl painful insults almost daily, to belittle their mind and poke fun at their feelings, and be told that this is "Love". THIS...is marriage. THIS...is Family.

THIS...is Love through Obligation.

There is a contract here: Parent/Child, Husband/Wife, Sibling/Sibling. The contract indemnifies us from having Loving behavior: we don't need to be Love to be Loved...that part has been deemed "unnecessary".

So...what if we understand, at a deeper level, that these constructs of family, religion, work, school, etc do not place ANYONE at any time in an OBLIGATION to Love? Nor does any CONTRACT ever REMOVE the clause that Love can only be given FREELY.

This was a huge concept for me to hear, comprehend, and put into practice (while I just heard this particular quote on Saturday, it summed up a lot of what I have been going through over the last few years)

If Love can only be given freely...where do I feel free to Love?

And...when I do feel free to Love...how can I create that same environment for those people in my life that I want MUTUAL free love with?

I started to really look for the people in my life who I truly loved FREELY. Who I called with a sense of Joy and excitement, not trepidation and obligation. I started to notice who I smiled and laughed easily with, as genuinely content to sit and watch TV or cook or swing dance or paint or hike, without fear that if I didn't dress a certain way or spend a certain amount, I was not Enough...where did I always feel like I was enough?

I noticed who I could have a real argument with...and not be afraid that we couldn't end any discussion by looking in each other's eyes and saying "I hear you...I understand where you are coming from...and I love you".

I noticed who encouraged me, who delighted in my success, who loved to see me genuinely happy.

I noticed...how much happier I was, when I was with people who I wanted to be with, not who I was obligated to be with. Who I freely chose to be in my life.

Lesson: Become Lovable

OH yeah...there's a whole 'nother part to the equation. Putting into practice, in the relationships you want to perpetuate, the same things you natural seek out.

So, I loved being around people who are do-ers. People who have passion for adventure and learning and growing and exploring. These people are the ones who always have exciting THINGS to talk about - books or movies or travel or paintings or WHATEVER. And because they have so much to talk about...guess what they don't have as much time for...

-self pity
-gossip
-judgement

Man oh man. I had NO IDEA how much time I wasted on those three things when I was surrounded by obligatory love instead of free love.

Here's the big thing I realized: when you are not known to be judgmental, fatalist, or gossipy...people want to be with you. They want to engage with you. They want to create with you. They want to grow with you.

-enthusiasm
-positivity
-understanding

What three things would you gravitate towards?

Now...Let me clarify something...I had to change a LOT of ingrained habits, a lot of pathology: I was used to a lot of negativity, and so it felt "normal". Changing it - and being OK with it not being part of the way I lived life every day - was really effing difficult. It's the same as a child who is used to getting only negative attention...it's takes a lot of cognitive behavior therapy to crave POSITIVE attention when all you grew up with was attention given only when you caused trouble. I was used to bullying, belittling, and even the ignoring: You did not behave like I wanted you to behave, so I will withhold my attention and love now.

It's a hard pattern to see...an even harder one to break...and the most difficult thing...

Is behaving in a way that is not just "I didn't like the way they did it, so I will do the OPPOSITE just to show them how wrong they are!" This is not a healthy pattern either.

That is still dis-empowering.

The true power, the truest Love, is trusting your heart: trusting who you are, at your core.

You are Love. You are generous. You are compassionate. You are empathetic. You are a creator. You are a giver. You are JOYFUL. You are full of wonder. You are Love.

Don't just do the opposite of what didn't work for you before...do what comes from the heart.

And, what I have found, and what I hope to keep nurturing, is that the more I am true to who I am, and the more I become a Loving person, the more my True Love relationships grow. They are few, they are precious, but they are love without obligation.








Sunday, January 13, 2019

My Most Valuable Paintings

A few months ago I was looking for a photo on my computer and I came across a series of snapshots that I had taken of my two kids about 5 years ago.  The room they are sitting in was towards the front of our little house, bathed in morning light that was creating a striped pattern on the wall.

Both kids were engrossed in their personal activities.  Ari was writing in her notebook, a habit that continues to require a NEW NOTEBOOK EVERY TIME WE GO TO THE DOLLAR STORE.  I keep thinking that there is NO WAY the child could use another notebook, but occasionally I attempt to find the floor of her room, and as I organize her numerous notes, I see that she, indeed, uses every single one...dozens of to-do lists and planning and yarn types and shopping lists and weekend activity plans.  It's not exactly snooping...but it does give me a delightful peek into her motivated 11 year old mind!

(detail of the new painting...forgive the wet paint glare!)

Jack was at his usual spot, the head of the table, Master of The Coffee Table Domain.  Various creatures of all shapes, colors, sizes (and expressions!) were at his every command.  Sound effects poured effortlessly from his cheeks, and warriors changed outfits and weapons and tactics moment by moment.

To me...pure heaven.  Not an electronic in sight.  Colors everywhere.  Chaotic bliss.  Relaxed...everyone getting to Be Themselves.

I started the painting, my heart beating with excitement over the patterns and colors that I couldn't wait to translate into paint on canvas!  I also thoroughly enjoy painting my children, as I have many many times before.  Not having them 24/7 is tough.  So.. sitting in my studio, painting their faces, I constantly send them love and good thoughts.  In that way I am always with them.




As I mentioned in a previous post, I really enjoyed Alain de Botton's lecture "Art as Therapy".  Listening to it as I painted this most recent portrait of my children, it really impressed upon me WHY I was so motivated to paint this picture at this time.

Alain de Botton stated (forgive my paraphrasing)

 "If we had a better memory, we wouldn't need art.  We forget stuff.  Particularly, valuable stuff.  A work of Art becomes valuable the more that it captures something significant.  The more fragile the moment is, the more valuable the art is because it's touching on something that otherwise we can't put a finger on"

I LOVED HEARING THIS as I was painting this particular moment!!! It is difficult to put into words the warmth, pride, joy, love, delight that was flowing through me 5 years ago.  And unfortunately the last two years have just been a constant war on me as a mother, so much so that there were times that I questioned if I had done ANYTHING right!  But this moment reminded me that I did A LOT right.  I am a good mom.  I look back at all their pictures now, not with a sense of sadness or  regret, but SO much pride and joy!  I nurtured their individuality, their reading skills, their creativity, their sense of adventure, their HUMOR...I really could not be prouder of my two awesome kids.



THIS is why Art can be so important!  Time heals a lot of things, but can also distance you from some of the good stuff from long ago as well.  Difficult times, hard feelings, can cloud our perspectives... and memories - especially good ones - can get lost in the shuffle.

So, according to de Botton, what DOES Art do for us?

There are three key things...

1.  Art compensates for the fact that we have really bad memories.  (99% of my commission work has been created to commemorate good times and good people...so vital to immortalize!)

(Portrait of Ari about aged 5, holding a baby bird)


2.  Art Gives Us Hope.  (For me, this means that you honor good moments to inspire even more! I don't paint something beautiful thinking it's going to be the LAST good moment...I paint out of the delight for every beautiful moment that's going to inspire me next!  What's more hopeful than appreciating beauty all around?)


(Jack, aged 11, at a festival in Downtown Atlanta)

3.  Art re-balances us.  Art connects us with the missing bit of us.  Art opens our eyes to the neglected value of the every-day.  (oh my goodness those three points hit me hard!!! Painting re-balances me in ways that I'll need 11 blog posts to explain.  It's my therapy!  This particular painting really reminded me of GOOD times I spent with my kids.  It balanced my perspective at a time I needed it most.  And this painting was connecting me with my son..we have very little time together, and just sending the good vibes and love to him during the process has helped me fill the hole in my heart.  And this precious moment was VALUED by me so much!  I've never been a really big "pose perfectly with your hair brushed and clothes perfect" kind of mom.  I thrive on capturing my kids as They Are...and this every-day moment has more value than any perfectly crafted pose)


(Ari reading, around age 2)

It has always been my greatest pleasure to paint portraits and commissioned work that captures so much of the points above.   I am so appreciative of Alain de Botton's lecture which helped me put those feelings into words!




Monday, January 7, 2019

Art as Therapy...Alain de Botton

“Growth occurs when we discover how to remain authentically ourselves in the presence of potentially threatening things. Maturity is the possession of coping skills: we can take in our stride things that previously would have knocked us off course. We are less fragile, less easily shocked and hence more capable of engaging with situations as they really are” 

Alain de Botton, "Art as Therapy"



We were heading into court, again.  I was exhausted, emotionally and physically.  I just wanted to move forward...from the manipulation, lies, cruelty, and the campaign to destroy who I was.

I was trying to stay positive.  I was at a Zumba class with some of my absolute favorite women on the planet.   At the end of class, several of them gathered around me to get an update on the situation.  Many of them had been through similar scenarios - the misuse of the justice system, using children as pawns, the aligning with family members to drive you out, the lying lying lying that seems never-ending.

I broke down, in tears.

"I'm afraid, the only way that I will be able to win in court, is if I become...like them"

I would have to become vengeful.  Spiteful.  Jealous.  Stonewall progress or therapy.  Lie to authorities. Dig in my heals and brush them aside like unwanted trash...because that's what they were doing to me, and I felt that "just keeping my head high" was not going to work.

These beautiful women gathered around, shared their stories of triumph over tragedy, and then said "we need to pray"

Hands clasped and heads bowed, in that circle my dear friends prayed that I could maintain my integrity, spirit, heart, and soul as I faced this trial.  No lies could maintain their power, only the truth and my love for my children would be victorious.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs may be...the circle of souls that came together and BELIEVED that I was capable of maintaining WHO I WAS gave me such comfort and helped me remain calm, and be victorious...twice...in court.

The situation is a constant battle for reasonable compromise, integrity, and honesty.  Just being treated like a human being is something I can barely hope for.  But...I have grown.  I have matured.  Sometimes only harsh situations can strengthen our minds and bodies.  And, because I am now less fragile, the bald face lies and being dismissed as if I was a bug on the windshield don't nearly effect me as they used to.  In fact, the lies cause me to burst into laughter!

I ran into an old neighbor the other day, and she was telling me that for a few months she had to navigate the horrific Atlanta traffic to get to her job every day.  After a while, her daughter looked at her and said "Mom! What is WRONG with you?  Why are you miserable?" 

My neighbor realized that the daily stress of dealing with traffic, the anxiety of facing the horrible commute every day, was making her miserable.  She quit her job, and was gleefully back to her true self.

Facing horrible people, and the anxiety of facing them again and again, can make you miserable.  Get to know who you really are.  And, if you have to deal with horrific traffic or difficult personalities or financial troubles or whatever it may be...remain true to who you are.  IF the situation...be it a marriage, a family dynamic, a job, etc...forces you to become something you are not, then it's time to move on.

Hopefully, you will have the time that I have had, to study, meditate, and focus on what REALLY matters, so that the crap that doesn't matter can no longer effect you.  You will begin to see lies as exposing a deeper truth: the weaknesses and lack of self-confidence or  inability to change and grow in the liar is what causes them to lie...it's all they have left.  Truly happy, confident, fulfilled people have no reason to destroy others.  

Be who you are.  Be creative or caring or adventurous.  Be loving.  Be patient.  BE CURIOUS.   Explore the magic of your mind.

Eventually, you can drive in traffic and see it as the perfect speed, the perfect situation.  Eventually, you can begin to spend time with family again, because you see their personalities as who THEY are, not a reflection of who you are.  You can engage with situations as they really are, with deeper understanding and strength.

Spend a few minutes every day reminding yourself WHO YOU REALLY ARE.  Listen only to the TRUTH within you.   Remain authentically yourself, even in the face of potentially harmful situations.  See the situation for what it really is.  Then be yourself. No one can take that away from you.










Monday, December 31, 2018

YouTube Play List from my Studio for a Successful 2019

Last night, while enjoying the best home made lemon pepper wings courtesy of my BF and a four hour chat-fest marathon with two of my dearest friends, I periodically said "I have to send you the link to this video!" as we discussed our lives and plans for 2019.  So I thought I'd put all the links in one place and share them with you all as well!

YouTube is my constant companion in the studio.  It wasn't always this way.  In college and grad school, it was the radio or CD's.  Eventually my iPod on a speaker, then of course Pandora.  Music transitioned to comedians for a long while, then almost two years ago I started to explore lectures - Ted talks mostly - dealing with some of the personal issues I was trying to comprehend.

As I learned more, understood more, about the psychology and pathology behind the personalities that threw my personal life into a tailspin, every talk, every explanation, every answer eventually led me back to an ultimate truth: I am in control.  My thoughts, my reactions, my life.

One of my favorite lectures, and he has another one I will share in a later post, is about Love.  Well, the familiar kind of love we seek.  And, more importantly, cultivating and nurturing a better kind of love.  I find this talk especially important as a mother, because I would like to live an example of powerful, nurturing, unconditional love to both of my children, so that they seek that type of love in their future relationships.

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person - Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton talks about loving the entire person, good and bad, and letting go of expectations that Perfect Love means perfect Understanding - without words and communication!  Our partner should just KNOW.

Also, more profoundly when this is present in both individuals in any relationship IMO...

"the core of what Love is is the willingness to interpret another's behavior"

THAT is when a relationship can truly thrive.



As A Man Thinketh by Earl Nightingale

Law of Attraction...maybe you've heard of this?  Maybe you were just thinking about it and now you're reading this?  (Yes!)

James Allen wrote "As A Man Thinketh" in 1903.  Over these past two years, my goal has been to Understand.  As I delved into healing my heart and my head, the Law of Attraction was referenced by almost every spiritual leader, life coach, Oprah, Jim Carey, Wayne Dyer, etc etc etc that I listened to.  And this law is expalined in writings way way way before any Instagram Influencer acted like they were the first one to share it with you.   Wayne Dyer talks about the Tao, which also speaks of this law, and those texts are from almost 2000 years ago.

I love this video, and it was helpful to read the original text as well.  Ultimately, our minds are magnets...and we are always attracting what we think about, good or bad.  With that kind of power, why think of anything bad again?


"We're all self-made, but only the successful will admit it"

Whoa.

Watch this one...again, and again.

Change Your Life in 19 Minutes with Earl Nightingale

and if you like that you should watch Napoleon Hill, author of "Think and Grow Rich"

Napoleon Hill Laws of Success


OK I'm quickly realizing that I have about 50 videos saved and I can't share them all in one post but as you watch these, you will see more and more that speak to the same principles.  I find time becomes irrelevant in the studio as I listen to these positive speakers over and over.  Repetition is so important, as well as understanding where these beliefs come from and how many scientists, theologians, doctors, etc have confirmed almost all of these ideas on the quantum level.  Energy is what moves the universe.  Thoughts, feelings, have more power than we are ever led to believe.

I'll leave you with one section of a four part conversation between Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra "Beyond Miracles"

Wayne discusses the spiritual, Deepak the scientific...and really, to me, shows that once you see the miracle of who we are and what we are made of on the smallest scale, you can't NOT believe in an Infinite Wisdom, an Infinite Intelligence. 

I highly recommend all 4 parts of the conversation, but this was the section that really resonated with me, because here's what I think we all need more of, for ourselves and for others: the ability to believe in our ability to change.  And, our understanding that we are all made of the SAME things.

Deepak explains how quickly our cells re-generate, change, become new.  We are not the same body today that we were one day ago, one year ago, ten years ago.  Yet, our memories remain.  Where exactly, then, are these memories stored?  The cells that were in our brain as a young child are no longer here as an adult, yet our memories remain.

There's a magic in our minds.  There's mystery and beauty and SO MUCH to learn about ourselves. 

So many this list becomes a brief overview of what I would like to work on going into 2019

Love:  Learn to communicate, learn to understand where every person I love is coming from.  Why they feel the way they feel, why they react the way they react.  It's amazing how quickly fights and misunderstandings can be fixed with communication.  And, it's important to teach this empathy to my children, and also to teach them to expect it from those who love them.

Success: Have a desire (goal, plan, etc) and let this desire inspire my thoughts and actions every day.

Unlimited Potential: Our bodies and minds are always growing, always in the process of changing and becoming new.  Believe that I always have the capacity to grow and improve and change...and so does every other person I meet.

Wishing you all love, success, and unlimited potential in 2019!!






Thursday, December 27, 2018

Cutlets and Compression Garments


I'm cleaning out everything.  Do you get that way once or twice a year, too?  Maybe it's all the presents that came into the house at Christmas while at the same time we're heading into the blank canvas of a new year.  Plus, the kids are outgrowing stuff literally and figuratively day by day.

The purge is cathartic, exciting, therapeutic, etc.  Wayne Dyer encouraged his students to "give it all away...without the need for compensation" (I'm paraphrasing) 

As I was going through my dresser drawer by drawer, I came across a few things I had forgotten about.  And it reminded me that I am in a much better place, mentally and physically, than I was a few years ago.

When I started to test the dating waters after my divorce, I worried.  Worried about being Enough.  Enough to attract a new partner.  I mean...I was never enough to so many in my life already.  It didn't matter how many presents I sent or parties I threw or phone calls I made or how I kept my house or raised my kids or what I accomplished in my professional life...the elusiveness of Love plagued me every day.  And because I witnessed the people whose (unconditional) Love and Approval and Support I desired so much be so freely doled upon everyone else with great enthusiasm...I kept thinking that the reason I was not privy to the same treatment was because I STILL WASN'T ENOUGH.

Bra inserts to make my breasts look bigger.  Tight compression garments to make my butt look smaller.  If I could just fit myself into some mold of The Perfect Woman, I would find someone who loved me back.

One night, getting ready to go out, I put the cold cutlets into my bra and tightened up my thighs and (let me just add...I only weighed about 115 and I'm 5'4"!) as I was leaned over to grab a pair of shoes from the floor of my closet, those slippery boob inserts slipped right out of my bra and onto the floor.

I LAUGHED SO HARD.  I was ready to humiliate myself leaving a trail of fake jellyfish because I thought bigger BOOBS would make me more attractive?!?  I laughed that moment off...but it took a while for the lesson to sink in!

It was only after a seriously life changing event that I could finally SEE that ZERO amount of posturing or prostituting, padding or pinching, would endear my heart and soul to anyone who couldn't see my worth EXACTLY as I am.  

And that's when I stopped looking outwards - I had to start inside.  I had to see myself as beautiful and talented and WORTHY and nurturing and loving and funny and accomplished.  I had to see myself through the eyes of my students and my friends.  I had to remind myself of what pure love felt like...reverting back to my childhood and feeling the embrace of my Babu...the purest Love I could remember.  I have to daily remind myself that the Universe, Infinite Intelligence, Mother Nature, God (however you define it for yourself) does NOT see me as angry or depressed or stupid or selfish.  The Higher Power sees every good intention, every bit of joy, every ounce of Love that I am, and wants to nurture me as the perfect being that I am.

Love.  That is what will define me.  Not boob inserts or duct taped thighs.  That nurturing force of Love CRUSHES anything else.  Shame, manipulation, guilt...these emotions that I was so used to for so long are finally receding as the waves of love break down old habits and self doubt.

Slowly...I removed the voices from my life and my head that kept harping on my shortcomings, and started amplifying the voices that built up my strengths.  And what this does is allows me to do the same for those I adore and love and nurture in return.  I am a better teacher, a better mother, a better partner because I practice this attitude to as many people as I can every day:  build up their strengths, don't harp on their weaknesses.  Be a source of Unconditional Love that knows mistakes are part of the journey - we are ALL learning and growing and improving every day.

Love people for who they are...nurture the aspects of their greatness...always believe in their amazing potential.  It brings great Joy to my heart to BE that person for myself, and for whoever else needs it from me, every day.

And..if you feel better about yourself with a padded bra or a control top waist shaper...you do YOU.  If it makes you FEEL good, go for it!  But I hope that you never ever feel that there is a magic garment or insert that makes you worthier of love...because, dear soul, you are already perfect, and worthy.  And I send you great love. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

It's Just Dog Pee on a Backpack

A couple of months ago, my 11 year old daughter was feverishly working on her "list of things we will do" for a weekend with one of her good friends.  According to Ari's list, the weekend would not be complete without a Dollar Store scavenger hunt, shopping at the outlet mall, matching outfits for a family birthday party...and those are just the few points I can remember!

What I do remember was telling Ari that I would fund part of the adventures, but she was going to be responsible for the rest of her spending money.  I encouraged her to look for opportunities to earn money to present themselves, and then be willing to adjust her list if necessary, knowing the weekend was going to be awesome no matter what the budget ended up being.

Well...here's what you have to know about Arianna.  She just knows everything is going to be fine.  Every dog is going to be her best friend.  Every shopping trip will end with donuts.  Every school day has lunch period, so how bad can it be?  She has a wonderful attitude to have every day!

So...countdown to weekend of fun...long list of spending opportunities...small budget...but open to the universe presenting opportunities...and then...

One morning Ari was at the bus stop in her dad's neighborhood.  A woman with a puppy was walking by, and of course the dog WILL be Ari's new best friend, so Ari is enthusiastically petting the dog.  Well, as dogs sometimes do, he decided to lift his leg...and pee, right on her backpack.

Immediately the woman was frantically trying to pull the dog away, apologizing profusely, as Ari broke out in her usual goofy laughter and said "but it's a puppy!!! Look at his fluffy tail!"  She was sincerely nonplussed by the turn of events!  The woman was trying to find a working water hose, rubbing grass clipping on the pee to try to soak it off, etc.  She even said "I am going to buy you a new backpack!"  Ari assured her that this was NOT necessary.

However, the next morning, the same woman showed up at the bus stop, cash in hand.  And Ari really tried to refuse the money, but the woman insisted she take it.

So, when Ari returned to my house a couple days later, she relayed the story to me, and I was incredibly proud of her for how she handled the situation.  She knew the backpack was just a thing - she didn't get flustered at the woman, or her dog, or make matters worse but getting upset at the situation.  And, she did try to refuse the money.

So, I said to Ari, that there will be a lot of situations like a dog peeing on your backpack, situations where you could decide to shrug or laugh it off, or situations where you can get angry and make matters worse.

(Don't get me wrong - there are DEFINITELY situations where justifiable anger is the order of the day.  But, if no one is physically or mentally hurt or abused, if the opportunity is there to shrug it off and walk away...then do so.  The momentum could easily shift from "let's get angry and blow this out of proportion" to "let's have some perspective and keep calm".)

In my opinion, Ari's calm response and her knowing that everything would be ok, was what allowed the universe to present her with some of the money she needed for her weekend-of-fun to-do list.

There are times where anger seems like the correct response...but probably not. (TRUST ME...this is coming from a woman who was jailed based on a lie on the day of her daughter's dance recital.)  I can tell you for certain: out of everything that happened to me and my children over the last couple of years, I can distinctly feel the difference in my life, and in my heart, and in my soul from BEFORE i learned to "shrug it off" to after.

People lie...people manipulate...entrap...coerce...abandon...and sometimes, the worse thing they do is perpetuate an idea that you are not worth forgiveness, support, or love.  But I have never felt more powerful than I do today.  Because the power never lies in lies or manipulation or revenge - true power is the energy to focus your life, focus your thoughts, focus your mind in a direction that will propel you to greatness. 

After all...isn't it all dog pee on your backpack?  You always get to decide how to respond...and your attitude will help you see the solutions that the universe already has lined up for you. 

May Dog Pee With You.