On January 26, 2012, my husband and I left our Minnesota home for the last time and permanently moved to Fountain Hills, Arizona. This was our dream. Some 20 years prior, the Sonoran desert had stolen our hearts, and now we were stepping into the life we had envisioned for ourselves!
“If I had my life to live over again, I would ask that not a thing be changed, but that my eyes be opened wider.”
On February 10th of the same year, I came down with Valley Fever. Yup. Eight years ago. Beginning the year I was strong and healthy, golfing, hiking, socializing, and going to Jazzercise 5 mornings a week. Life was full and busy! By mid-February, I was confined to my bed with severe fatigue, headaches, nausea and body aches, and struggled for most of the next 4-5 years to have any sort of a normal life.
In this 3rd and final part of nO Regrets Living, I’m taking a stroll back through the last 8 years to revisit some of the more important lessons I’ve learned, and to pan for any gold nuggets I might have missed along the way. I’m grateful for every lesson, each challenge, and all the ups and downs there have been. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Somewhere in the last 6 months I can honestly say I’ve reached my new normal. I no longer think of myself as “sick”. I will no longer use my experience with Valley Fever as a way to mark time. I will consider myself recovered. The dictionary defines recovery as “a return to a normal state of health, mind, strength” and/or “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost”. I also looked up the definition of transformation, which means “make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.”
There are definitely parts of myself that have recovered, but I would say, as a whole, my entire being has been transformed. I may look the same on the outside, but my insides seem to have been totally rearranged. It was time. Actually, it was over due. During the last 8 years I have said many times that if I had gotten “well” in less time, I would have gone right back to all my old patterns and coping mechanisms. And that is the last thing I wanted. Change takes time. Transformation takes time. And, I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my life.
I’m grateful beyond words for the role ART has played in my recovery. It is the safe place I’ve returned to again and again, to play, and begin once again to hear that still, small (very wise) voice inside me. Growing up in an alcoholic and overly religious home, feeling “the crazies” comes pretty natural to me. Words and feelings of doubt, being less than, shame and unworthiness abound in this mind of mine. And like my friend, Karla, says, “Our minds are dangerous neighborhoods to travel in by ourselves.” Luckily, my artist self has become my traveling partner, and it has made all the difference. It makes this whole process worth every step. Truly.
As odd as this might sound, taking risks in my art, my writing, and my life were easier when I was sick. Life was simpler, more basic, and safer. As I’ve gotten better, the judgements and expectations I have of myself, and others have of me, have crept in and shut me down quite often. I had to dig deep when I was ill, and now, as I’ve become well, I’m having to dig deep in a completely different way. I’ve been digging deep my whole life, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting I’d have to now. Yes, Sweetie, grab the shovel again. There are more things to be cleared out, and there is more freedom to be had!!
Chronic and long-term illness changes a person, in a lot of positive ways if you let it, but also in some very challenging ways, too. Our brains change and create new pathways to help manage our lack of energy and pain. Those of us who are lucky enough to “get well”, and reach a new normal, can find those coping pathways actually hinder our healing. Again, not what I expected. I’ve recently become conscious of how I immediately begin checking myself (body, energy, mental and spiritual state) every time I consider saying yes to anything. Do I have the energy? Will it take too much out of me? Do I need a nap? These aren’t bad questions, but I no longer need to keep traveling this pathway in the same way. I am well enough. I am strong enough. I’m transformed enough to move forward.
In my new life, I’ve had to admit it’s not good for my health and well-being to handle and have answers for everything in my life, and everyone else’s, too. It may seem obvious how unattainable that is, but for this self-prescribed savior, it is a huge step to let all that go! Staying healthy, grounded, happy and lit up has now become my focus. I have realized that some things (quite a few things, actually) are not worth my energy. For this recovering co-dependent and alcoholic, admitting that is another huge step. Staying focused on nO Regrets Living, meditation, creating art, experiencing Nature, down-time, intimate connections and conversations, good movies, and adventures that expand and enlighten me, get first priority now. There. I said it. In black & white. And, no, “saving the world” didn’t make the list. I may be a slow learner, but sooner or later, I do get the lesson!
Through these last 8 years, I have slowly learned to let myself be loved and seen in new and deeper ways. I’m also learning how to love in truer, less encumbered, less co-dependent ways. I’m so grateful. It’s been a long time coming. Being vulnerable and gut-wrenchingly honest is scary, but the rewards are great. Miracle level great. Learning to trust myself has finally given me a foundation to begin trusting others. Thank you to the many angels who have shown up, in person and in spirit, to hold my hand and show me the way. Thank you for not giving up on me. We are not meant to do this journey on our own (I tried damn hard, though) and I would not have made it without you.
I started this nO Regrets Living 3-Part Series by writing about the loss of my dear friend, Eric Lunde and his family (read nO regrets living-Part 1-a tribute HERE. In it, I wrote:
”Since Eric’s death, I keep hearing: Don’t wait to wake up. Don’t wait to love. Don’t wait to swim in the ocean. Don’t wait to take that trip. Don’t wait to be with your favorite people. Don’t wait to celebrate. Don’t wait to live your life the way you want to. Don’t wait.”
Only now do I realize how impactful writing those words have been. Without knowing it, they have become a living, breathing energy and power operating in my life – helping me to make choices that fill me with light & love, and truly with nO Regrets. Yup, miracle level changes.
Thank you and goodbye, dear Valley Fever. You have been a mighty teacher, and one I will never forget. I will travel lighter, more consciously, and more honestly than before, creating as much beauty and joy as I can. Thank you for giving me a new set of wings. I will cherish them and use them wisely.
One other radical shift that I’ve become aware of recently, that I finally feel in my bones, is that I am responsible for my own happiness. Me. Only me. Not my husband. Not my friends. Not my family. Not the checkout girl. Not my doctor. Not even my therapist. Me. Only me. (My husband is sighing in relief that he is finally, finally off the hook.) Believing that other people were responsible for my life and state of being, even subconsciously, is one of the core beliefs that has kept me acting out of co-dependency, instead of love. It is a hard way to live. And nobody ever ends up getting what they need and want. In my new life, I get to fly free, and so does everyone else. I promise.
So, here’s to freedom, happiness, fulfillment, peace, pleasure and love. It really is possible to create a future, not from the past, but from your beautiful, vibrant, luscious, light-filled dreams. Thank you, thank you, for listening and supporting my journey to wholeness. Listen to the callings of your own soul, and choose things that light you up. You will never, ever, regret it❤️
My last blog post was back in August of last year. 7 months ago. It was titled nO Regrets Living – Part 2 – A Birthday, and I’ve been trying to post nO Regrets Living – Part 3 – A Recovery, since then. Many stops and starts later, and I’m no closer to completing it.
When I started writing about my journey with Valley Fever back in 2013, my intention was for this blog to be heartfelt, gut-wrenchingly honest, inspiring and visually beautiful. The truth is, those things light me up, and it helped me to feel connected to the outside world.
Luckily, my health has been steadily improving for the last 2 years, and I really feel like I’ve found my “new normal”. (afternoon naps and all). Yay!! Except for one thing: even though my brave painting ‘voice’ is alive and well, my brave writing voice has gone underground. I have this strange belief that people wanted to hear from my sick and recovering self, but may not want to hear from my ‘well’ self. Did I really just say this out loud? (Just breathe.)
Enter BRAVE BLOGGING by Andrea Scher. Andrea is someone I have followed for several years because of her honest and creative voice, and when I saw she was offering a Brave Blogging online class, my heart said YES! So this is day one, and her magic has already begun to have it’s effect. I’m actually creating this blog post and I promise I’ll hit publish when it’s done❤️
Those of us in the class will be receiving Daily Prompts for 30 days to help us awaken our brave voices. This is the prompt that got me started today:
25 Random Things About Me
Not sure what will come out, but here goes (and I only get 15 minutes to do this).
- I competively twirled baton for 9 years growing up.
- Tulips are one of my favorite flowers.
- I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t see the sky and the moon.
- I still have dreams about our Minnesota home.
- It was worth getting Valley Fever because I found my artist self.
- My husband makes me laugh more than anyone I know.
- I’m loving being 60+ years old.
- Someday we might move to Dingle, Ireland.
- I love watching my husband cook.
- I love elephants and will definitely see the movie Dumbo.
- One of my favorite sounds is birds in Spring.
- My least favorite sounds are leaf blowers.
- Playing golf lights me up and continues to teach me everything I need to know about life.
- In January I binge watched all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones and really believe Jon Snow and Arya can save the world. Can’t wait until April 14th!!
- I play the Native American Flute.
- Being one of the artists in the Fountain Hills Gallery has brought me a sense of community that I’ve never felt before.
- My two favorite purchases in the last 6 months is a macro lens for my iPhone and an electric cart that allows me to walk the golf course.
- I love journals and keep buying them even though I have 30 or more in the cabinet.
- Mother Nature is one of my best friends.
- I never turn down an opportunity to eat ice cream.
- Yoga and Jazzercise help me feel alive, grounded & strong.
- I wasn’t sure I would ever be strong enough to be out in the world again.
- Even though I’m writing about nO Regrets, I have huge regrets.
- Even after many years of sobriety, being a recovering alcoholic in a high use culture is at times still lonely, sad and frustrating.
- I’m grateful beyond words for the people who have loved me into existence.
Whew! Ok, it took me more than 15 minutes to complete this list, but loved the flow of what appeared. Thank you Andrea Scher for your brave voice in the world and for reminding me how much this lights me up!
“We lose touch with our wingspan when we hunch.”
– Dr. Martin Shaw
If we are lucky, we have them. Those milestone birthdays that kind of take our breath away, and make us wonder what life is really all about. Part 2 of my exploration of nO Regrets Living involves one of those big birthdays.
“Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.”
On January 17, 2018 I turned 60 years old. My three sisters and I had started a tradition back when we were all turning 50, to begin getting together on each of our “big” birthdays. It was a big step for all of us. Coming out of a family structured on competition, addiction and co-dependency, we would all go through our triggers as we came together. Like my wise Yoga teacher says – “If you are feeling enlightened, go visit your family.”
I missed my two older sisters’ 60th birthday get togethers because I wasn’t well enough to travel. I feel like I not only missed out on the celebrations and adventures, but on some of the relationship healing as well. It’s a very strange feeling to be on the sidelines for so long.
This year my sisters kept asking me what I wanted to do to celebrate my 60th (yikes) birthday. We could have done anything. They would even have all traveled to Arizona if I had wanted them to, and even though I was well enough, I just couldn’t say yes. After losing Eric, and trying to process and grieve the loss of his whole family, and process and grieve turning 60, my system and brain felt like it had short-circuited. I just couldn’t muster the energy and focus it would take to be together and celebrate.
Ten years ago for my 50th, I had fallen into some pretty painful co-dependent behaviors, and put immense pressure on my husband to make my day “super special”. (Translation: Do something so grand that I would feel loved now and forever more.) Needless to say, with unrealistic expectations like that, it didn’t go well, and I sure didn’t want to repeat that! Talk about regrets. So as the date neared, I kept asking myself what did I want to do – if anything. I finally quieted myself long enough to hear my inner voice say, “I want to go to Sedona.”
It was a big step for me. I didn’t worry about my sisters or friends feeling left out, or whether they agreed with what I chose or not. I was in need of healing, and a trip to Sedona for an overnight with my husband sounded heavenly. And it really was. Rocks really do have power, and Mother Nature did her magic. My body felt quite strong, I wasn’t hanging onto any expectations of making it “extra special”, and I had a very healing, loving, expanding 60th birthday experience. Just what I needed. Kind of a miracle if you ask me.
In preparation for my 60th, based on a recommendation from one of my sisters, I downloaded the App, WeCroak. It notifies me 5 times a day with this message – “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” As morbid as it might initially sound, there is something very freeing about the message. It is a great reminder to stay focused on what is really important, and on what lights me up. Because in a flash, it will all be over. And at 60, that feels closer than ever.
It takes courage, bravery and vulnerability to embrace nO Regrets Living. It takes getting quiet in order to hear yourself. It takes being willing to feel the feelings that come with being different, odd, or downright eccentric. Sign me up. I am ready.
The truth is, time marches on. And on. And on. Until it doesn’t. Time does not heal all wounds. Some things we never get over. But if we keep being open to experiencing moments that are in true alignment with who we are, I’m finding that they actually really do happen.
And, if you need to embrace your inner snail, do that, too!!
PS. Watch for Part 3 of nO Regrets Living later in August. And, thanks so much for supporting me, loving me, and being brave enough to keep looking inward❤️❌⭕️!!
Is it possible to live a life with no regrets? I’m not sure, but I am setting out to find out!
Oxford Dictionary defines Regret as, “Feeling sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that one has done or failed to do.”
Over the past 6-7 months I’ve had three experiences of which I’ve had no control that have brought me face to face with the issue of regret. The next three posts will cover each experience individually, and hopefully gently uncover some keys to living a life with no regrets.
“Grief and gratitude are kindred souls, each pointing to the beauty of what is transient and given to us by grace.
-Patricia Campbell Carson
On November 8th, 2017, one of my favorite people on the planet was killed in a tragic car accident. I have wanted to write about it for many months, but it has taken this long to be able to gather myself, my thoughts, and enough courage to actually do it.
Eric Lunde turned 47 years old in September of 2017, and 2 months later he was gone. This is so hard to write about. Partly because I want to do him justice, partly because it is so damn painful, and partly because I have no idea where this will take me. But isn’t it the truth that we really don’t know where anything will take us?
I keep thinking I’ve come to terms with it in my brain, and then a memory of him floats by, and my heart breaks all over again. Eric was a free spirit, a nO regrets adventurer, a lover of food, drink, and all things outdoors. I’d hiked with him in Sedona and Lake Tahoe, golfed with him in Minnesota, Arizona and California, traded stories of grand Hawaii adventures, and was there to support him when each of his immediate family members left the planet before him.
I thought I had more time with him. Isn’t that the catch – we always think we have more time. After having his dad, Dave, (my husband’s best friend) killed in a car accident in 1993, his sister, Lisa, dying of a freak brain bleed in 2006, and his mother (my dearest friend Sharon) dying of cancer in 2015, don’t you think Eric would get to die of old age on a beach in Hawaii 40 years from now? It just doesn’t seem right. Or fair. Or real.
I just wasn’t ready. It’s such a dumb thing to say, but I really wasn’t ready. I had plans for us. Deep talks, sharing nature hikes, golf and camping trips, fabulous dinners, and more sharing of wisdom and experiences. I regret not acting on every impulse I had to call him, invite him, and share with him. I feel so robbed. And I can’t quite shake how robbed their entire family was.
I remember sitting in intensive care with Sharon after Dave’s accident, when she looked at me and said, “I have no regrets.” I was floored. Really, No Regrets?? At that point in my life I had made some really bad decisions and couldn’t imagine having a marriage with no regrets. I never forgot her words, and have been slowly (I must be related to snails) gaining enough consciousness and courage to achieve what Sharon and Dave so beautifully created together.
Life is so precious, and so shockingly fleeting. I am forever changed by Eric’s life, and by his death. I plan to do Eric proud by choosing again and again to live with my heart wide open, no matter what life throws my way. Will this be “no regrets” living? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to try it and find out.
Eric and his family meant the world to me, and now that they’re all gone, I once again am left with so many unanswerable questions. I’ve returned again and again to my memories of them, and all the love we shared, in this lifetime, and in what feels like many other lifetimes, too. I keep remembering what my doctor said to me just weeks after the accident – “they are all once again together, galloping across the galaxies”. Whether or not it’s true, it sure helps me to picture it.
Since Eric’s death, I keep hearing: Don’t wait to wake up. Don’t wait to love. Don’t wait to swim in the ocean. Don’t wait to take that trip. Don’t wait to be with your favorite people. Don’t wait to celebrate. Don’t wait to live your life the way you want to. Don’t wait. I for one am heeding this advice, because this might just be the essence of nO regrets living.
This summer, my husband and I will carry the ashes of our most treasured Lunde family back to Minnesota with us. There we will give them a final resting place, so they can be “Together Forever”. The remains of their bodies will rest, while their amazing spirits will continue to spread their special brand of love and magic through the Universe.
Thank you for all the love, lessons, wisdom and adventures. Travel well dear ones. I will meet you among the stars.
One year ago I found myself writing about hitting bottom in my hello bOttOm post. Bottoms are rich with lessons, insights, inspiration and motivation if you choose to keep looking, breathing, and then screaming and crying when you need to. It is not the easiest choice, but, in my opinion, the worthiest.
“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.”
Today I find myself in a much different place (yippee!) and I’m suprised at how uncomfortable I feel. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that, but it’s really the truth. Don’t get me wrong. I’m crazy happy and excited that this is the best I have felt in five years, but it’s also quite challenging to embrace the joy of it all. I’m not 100% yet, but feeling this new level of vitality in my body is amazing, and frightening at the same time.
Amazing because I now feel capable of taking what I’ve learned these last five years to build a life that offers the world the best of me, and really makes me happy. Frightening because I know what it’s like to not have the strength to get out of bed, and the memory of it is still quite haunting. But maybe that makes it even more important to happily and boldly claim where I am now.
“What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.“
– Brene Brown
Maybe this moving on and embracing joy time is as sacred as the dark, rich, fighting for your life time. Oh, I sure do hope so. I wouldn’t want anyone else to miss this part of their journey, so why am I giving myself such a hard time about it? I actually think I’m feeling guilty. Oh, man, I didn’t see that one coming!
Feeling guilty for getting well when other people are still suffering with their dis-eases. That part of this makes me really sad. If I could give everybody good health and vitality I would. I really, really would.
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”
– Anne Lamott
So, I guess I have a choice to make. To keep shining my light in the best way I know how, or to let the shame and guilt win. Well, I will tell you right now – they are NOT going to win. I’ve worked too damn hard and long for that to happen!
Even though it feels terribly risky, I’m making a promise to myself, right nOw, to revel in this new energy. To keep claiming every bit of joy and light I can, and to keep making choices that light me up. It’s really my wish for everyone on the planet, so why wouldn’t I choose it for myself, too?
To that end, I will share with you that I have been accepted into the Fountain Hills Artists Gallery!!! How crazy unbelievable is that?!? Truth be told, I am over the moon about it. As far back as I can remember I’ve dreamed of being an artist. I’ve always loved creating things, fixing things, and finding ways to put things back together again in new ways. And here I am sharing it with the world!! Some dreams really do come true!
For many of my working years I imagined my 80-year old self as a budding artist. I’m so happy I didn’t wait that long. I’m actually 20 1/2 years ahead of time! All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. To the Universe, my creativity, my perseverance, and to all of you. I truly wouldn’t have made it without you.
None of us know what is around the next corner, which makes every day a special opportunity to respond to life in a way that is in line with who you really are. Your unique brand of love, creativity, humor and kindness is invaluable to the world. Don’t ever forget that. I promise I won’t either.
P.S. My artwork will be in the Fountain Hills Artists Gallery beginning June 6, 2017. I’m so happy to be a part of this new community, and to be supporting the arts right here in my beautiful little town. I’ll be sharing more about it in the coming months, and invite you to check out my Artist Bio on their website.
Keep dreaming and becoming!
“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.
Today it is 5 years since my journey with Valley Fever began. I can still hear the first Pulmonary Doctor say to me that it might be three months or more before I begin to feel better. At the time those three months sounded like forever. Who would have ever thought it would be 5 years?!?!!
I have been an instant results kind of girl for most of my life. It worked for me for a while, but I’m learning that it also took it’s toll on my body and soul. I don’t recommend it, and I’m still surprised how often I catch myself setting impossible standards for myself, and, unfortunately, others. I’ve learned it is not sustainable, or even really all that fun. Needing and requiring instant results feeds perfectionism, judgement, and harshness. Yeah, REALLY not fun!
This journey has forced me to grow in ways I didn’t even know were possible. It has been humbling, incredibly challenging, enlightening, surprising, freeing and downright joy-filled many times. I have felt more loved, creative, grateful and empowered than ever before. Yes, this sacred illness has changed my life for the better.
By early November I was feeling the best I have felt since I got sick. Oh jOy!! I even felt up to playing 18 holes of golf on Ladies’ Day, which includes golf, lunch, socializing, and seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Being on a golf course is truly one of my happy places, and I have missed it dearly. So, again, Oh jOy!!
My game was rusty, and I was a bit anxious, but I loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, it was all just a bit much for me. It took 3 days to recover, but the following week I was back out there. My inner dialogue went something like this – “You can do this. It is time to be out there. People are expecting you to finally show up and be a part of things again. And remember, you love golf!” Yes, my inner critic and her high expectations are really hard to shake. By the end of the month my energy had bottomed out and I finally, and sadly, had to admit that I wasn’t up to the whole thing. Again?! Really!?
One day I wandered into my art studio, rearranged a few paintings and came upon this sign. Sometimes the “signs” from the Universe are actually signs!!
I chuckled, and smiled, and was flooded by memories of two of the most amazing women I have known. This sign first hung in Sharon K.’s house and was the mantra she lived by everyday. Even as she battled multiple myeloma for several years, I never once saw her give up. Even during her final days, there was no throwing in the towel for her. This sign was then passed to her life long friend, Sharon L., and was a beacon for her as she open-heartedly walked through her own battle with cancer. So many reasons to give up, and no “I can’t” was heard. And now that neither one of them are on the planet, it has been passed to me.
To be honest, the first time I saw this sign I really thought it was a bit harsh. I mean, some days, don’t we all just get to throw in the towel and cry uncle? As I watched both my dear friends courageously battle cancer and intense loss, I began to see more clearly the depth of their spirits. There was no “give up” there. No “I’m done” there. No “I can’t” there. It humbles me and still brings me to tears to have experienced their unbeatable, beautiful, brilliant spirits.
As I lay on my yoga mat this morning, I finally realized what I had witnessed in my two amazing Sharon’s. This sign doesn’t mean to keep pushing and gutting my way through life. It doesn’t mean to just suck it up. It doesn’t mean to see how much I can suffer through. What it DOES mean is to:
Never, Never, Never give up On yOurself.
As I lay sobbing on my yoga mat, I was flooded with feelings of relief and gratitude. I get it now. They were showing me their light, so I could see mine. It felt like for the first time I could feel the true and real energy and light of my spirit. My spirit really is there. Always has been. She has my back and I have hers. And so do my two Sharon’s.
So dear friends, I am encouraging you to not quit on yOurself. To not quit on the spirit of who you really are. You have no idea what wonderful things might happen. I sure didn’t!
shine On dear Ones!
“A sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences and therefore knowledge that we could not possibly achieve in any other way.”
In early January of this year, I got a notice that the amazing artist and teacher Jeanne Bessette (http://www.bessetteart.com) would be teaching a 5-day art class in Sedona, Arizona in September. I remember laying in bed, which was where I was still spending about half of my time, thinking what a great opportunity this was. Jeanne lives in North Carolina, and as far as I knew, had never come to AZ.
As I continued to read the details about this “Soul of the Artist” class , I felt this rush of excitement, and an absolute and resounding “yes!” in every cell of my body. You know. One of those times when all logic goes out the window, only pure heart energy takes over, and there’s nothing to do but hang on for the ride. It’s quite exhilarating, and at the same time, scary as hell!
Before I really knew what was happening, I electronically plunked down my $250 non-refundable deposit and somehow trusted that in 8 months I would be well enough to attend and participate in the class. You’d think there wouldn’t be any doubt that it would be enough time, but after 4 years of this chronic illness, I’d become leary of banking on any kind of steady improvement.
As the months clicked by, I moved between “how awesome is this” and “what the hell was I thinking” many, many times. I even emailed Jeanne to make sure it would be workable if I still needed to take my daily 2-hour afternoon nap. She kindly reassured me that she would make sure I didn’t miss anything big. Luckily, to my amazement, my energy steadily improved, and on September 18th I happily and nervously drove myself to the magical land of Sedona.
Funny things happen when you say “YES” to your own heart strings. Like:
- you get a partial view of the gorgeous Sedona red rocks from your “basic” hotel room.
- you find a comfy couch, perfect for napping, in the room next to the art studio.
- you put your well being first and find out that really cool people still value you.
- you begin feeling surges of energy you haven’t felt in years.
- you begin embracing a part of yourself that has needed attention for as long as you can remember.
- you begin to feel a strong connection to something greater, something grander, something magical, and can’t believe how happy it makes you.
- upon returning home, you are greeted with many kisses and a giant bouquet of sunflowers.
I always doubted the reality of Sedona being a place of energy vortexes, strong spiritual energies, and healing. It just sounded too good to be true, and more a creation of good marketing than actual facts. Oh, how wrong I was.
It’s not that I’d never experienced the natural beauty of “Red Rock Land”, but for the first time, with support and love from the wise and transformational Jeanne Bessette, I was encouraged to be “in relationship” with it. And it changed everything.
I’m still in process with the whole experience, and it hasn’t been all flowers and puppy dog tails to say the least. But not many things in this life are. I’m still working on being okay with that. In the mean time I will keep loving myself, fighting off shame when it sneaks in while I’m not looking, harvesting priceless energy that has been locked inside unprocessed and unloved anger, and painting like my life depends on it. Because I’m pretty sure it does.
Pay attention to your heart strings, dear friends. They will never lead you astray. Promise.
take the risk.
let yOurself be mOved.
it’s wOrth it!
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
– Maya Angelou
I’m happy to report that over the last 6 months my health has improved considerably. I’ve enjoyed more dinner dates and adventures with my husband, strengthened my core muscles, attended weddings of family and friends, golfed, kayaked, walked in the ocean, hiked in the Blue Ridge Mountains to a waterfall, continued painting, heard mountain climbers, deep sea divers and Olympic athletes tell of their adventures, and spent some time with friends. Crazy good!
It’s been wonderful, scary, challenging, surreal, and at times downright strange. There are times when I feel like I’ve taken a deep, 4-year transforming sleep, and upon awakening find the world looks very different from the one I knew before. I wonder if butterflies ever have the same feelings. They “go to sleep” a caterpillar, and wake up a butterfly. Can you even image what it takes to accomplish that? Or how amazingly unsettling it could be?
For both the butterfly and me,
the world really didn’t change that much.
I feel as different on the inside, as the caterpillar turned butterfly looks on the outside. I wish my transformation had given me actual wings (because how cool would that be), but the truth is I got inside wings instead. It’s taking some time to get used to them. Some days I feel like I know how to use them, and on other days I’m flopping around on the floor, or helplessly caught in some invisible net.
I didn’t think that this “getting better” phase would look like this. I expected I would slide right back into my life as it was, going at the pace I was used to. It turns out, things don’t really work that way. And it’s actually a really good thing. I’ve worked long and hard for this new internal me, and it would be criminal to kick her to the curb, or keep her locked in a cage, crumpling her wings and spirit.
My new internal wings symbolize some very real and external qualities and gifts for me. They’ve given me several new guideposts along my path. Actually, there are only four. Which makes each one of them very important.
- Stay connected to yourself first. Yes. First.
- Keep meditating. Yes. Everyday. This will help you immensely with steps 1 and 3. Oh, and with step 4, as well.
- Own it. Own your wants, needs, likes, dislikes, feelings, emotions and reactions. Own what is important to you. Even if you are the only one who finds it important. Own your spirit, and your life, too. This step is very important and very empowering. Don’t skip it.
- Make your choice. Yes. Your choice. For you. Not for anyone else. And then own that, too.
This whole “getting well” transition will continue for a while I’m sure. It’s exciting and scary, but it’s essential to me to value every insight, lesson, challenge, and gift my illness has brought me. I do believe this unplanned “cocoon time” was exactly what my life needed. I promise I will not waste it. My health and happiness depend on it.
Honor and listen to the transitions, transformations, and the calling of your life, dear friends. I have found life gets pretty insistent if you don’t.
Thank you Honey for hanging in there with me!!
“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.”
Twelve years ago, over a romantic dinner with my husband, feeling more confident and happier than I had in years, I found myself saying, “I think I’ll have a glass of wine”. I had been sober for 18 years.
I had, over the years, made a mess of my life more than once, almost destroyed our marriage several times, and made some really (really) bad decisions. But I still didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. I was just someone who was better off not drinking.
In a span of six months, I found out that this is one of the most dangerous things an alcoholic can think. I also learned that, yes, in fact, I am an alcoholic, and I can no longer, under any circumstances, play with fire. As gut-wrenching and “sobering” as it was to permanently close the drug and alcohol “escape hatch”, I chose to say goodbye to unconsciousness, self-deceit, and death, and said hellO to hitting bOttOm, again.
Bottoms bring us face-to-face with the things we are hiding from, the impact we are having on those we love, and who we are in this moment. Sometimes it’s a pretty painful and ugly picture. But the best thing to do at this point, no matter how scary, is to just keep looking.
In the looking, and all the hard work that comes with it, bottoms also have the potential to change the trajectory of our lives. They help us hear the wisdom of our hearts, support us to make choices that are life-sustaining, and put us in touch with the yearnings of our soul. In truth, hitting bottom is where real magic can happen.
During the last 4+ years of navigating this chronic illness, I have found myself on my knees many times. It is only recently that I’ve been able to relish the richness of these ‘hitting bottom’ places. I have fought like hell to keep my head above water, but I’m realizing that sometimes being in the murk and mire is the best place to be. Really.
The bottom is not comfortable, pleasant or fun, but there is real wisdom to be found there. We don’t choose to hit bottom. In it’s wisdom, it chooses us. And I’m finding myself more and more grateful for each one. How else would I have begun to find my artist self, my natural pace, my deep desires, or the things that really light me up?
The truth is I feel happier, more alive, more authentic, and stronger than ever before. It’s the kind of strength I’ve wanted my whole life. Strength that comes from the inside out. I never would have guessed it would take being at my weakest, to find true strength.
My dear friend Sharon taught me that life happens in moments. I’m really just beginning to learn what she really meant.
Keep listening, dear friends, to the wisdom of your beautiful hearts. And if you happen to find yourself hitting bottom, in whatever form it may come, know it is a place of rich possibility and great love. Dive in if you dare, and find what is waiting for you there.
P.S. I’ve recently completed 2 orders of my Bottle Bling art. Yes, ironically, I make art for wine bottles. Making them always brings me much jOy, and puts me in touch with what is good and right and true. (Insert eye roll here.)
I’ve realized that is what I have wanted from alcohol all this time. To feel good and right and true (and calm, smart, comfortable, strong.) And this morning, along came these words:
It’s not what’s in the bottle,
it’s what’s in your heart.
Yup, that works for me.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.
– Jalaluddin Rumi
In May of 2012, just three months into this illness, I decided I would let my hair grow until I was well. I was so sick at the time that getting myself to the salon wasn’t even an option, but making that declaration gave me a little sense of control, which I badly needed at the time.
While I was writing last month’s nO push zOne blog post, I made another declaration. I consciously made an intention that “I will do whatever it takes for me to get well”. Now, you’re likely thinking, “Weren’t you already doing that? And if you weren’t, why the hell not?!”
You see, I know that setting intentions work. Big time. They alert the universe that you are really ready for a change, and it responds by setting in motion things and events to create the opportunity for that change. Amazing, right!? Well, the scary part is, the universe needs us to work in partnership with it, and there is no way to know exactly what will be required of us once the ball gets rolling.
For example, in October of 2000, I stood in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Kauai feeling so moved and transformed by the beauty, that I found myself declaring to the universe that I was ready to be “opened up” and healed. Three months later I found myself in emergency surgery in Miami for the first of three surgeries for cervical cancer. Believe me, this was NOT the “opened up” scenario I had in mind. In the end though, it saved not only my physical health, but my marriage, sanity and happiness as well. So, yes, miss wise, powerful and creative universe, I got just what I wanted, but it’s all those steps in between that sometimes scare the hell out of me.
So last month, after four years on this particular journey, feeling really ready to be done with it all, I once again summoned my courage and jumped off the so-called perverbial cliff, and screamed “uncle” into the wind.
To make sure the universe knew I was serious about doing whatever it takes to get well, I followed through on the plan to cut my hair. It was scary, empowering and really quite freeing. Since then, almost every day, my meditations have been deeper, my decisions more important, and my body stronger. I’m ever so grateful to the Great Change Agent who has responded to my screams into the wind. I know there are more opportunities for change to come. And I will keep saying yes.
So, my dear friends, I’m encouraging you to live the life that lights you up. It requires tough decisions, finding a way to not care about what other people think of you (yup, this might be a tough one), saying no even when it scares you, and increasing your capacity to tolerate, feel, and transform your emotions (yes, even anger and grief) into the most amazing energy ever. And you might just discover a whole new level of happy, too.
We are all “lit up” by different things. Take the time to find out what your unique combination might be, and:
Claim your truth.
Follow your intuition.
Don’t judge yourself, or others.
And live the life you were meant to live.
Be brave. Be happy. Be true.