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❤️❌⭕️!!
“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!
Here in the desert Southwest, December brings cooler weather, usually some rain, and spectacular sunsets. My husband and I head out onto the deck each evening to catch Mother Nature doing her thing. Obviously, not every sunset looks like the one above, but knowing it is possible keeps us coming back for more.
In a couple of days, here in the northern hemisphere, we will experience the Winter Solstice. There is something very grounding about the day. To me it is a celebration of not only the returning light, but an honoring of the dark. The kind of dark that comforts and nourishes, and is the vessel for life’s creative processes.
Seeing the Solstice in this way helps me be kinder to myself and others. We are all so quick to judge when we find ourselves and others “in the dark”. What we miss by doing this is the rich and fertile ground of possibility. So much of this life is mystery, and when I can accept that, and even revel in it, I find more compassion and kindness. Not only for myself, but others, too. And I really think the world needs more of that right now.
Each November, I compile my latest artwork into a calendar for the coming year. It is a way to honor what I have created, and send wishes of jOy and well-being out into the world. The resulting calendar can help you set a monthly intention, and schedule events that make you happy!
If you’d like to purchase a limited edition vickiO 2016 Calendar, Click Here❣ Free shipping, too!
As Christmas approaches, even though this past year challenged me in ways I could have never dreamed, I’m feeling drunk with gratitude. It feels kind of strange to say this after some very big losses this past year, but I feel more supported in my life than ever before. I’m not sure how this is possible, but for the first time in my life I really don’t feel all alone. What if it’s true that I actually do belong here, and that the universe is conspiring with me? You mean I don’t need to do it all on my own? Wow! Really?!?
I encourage all of you to entertain the idea of being open, versus being closed- in your thoughts, judgements, ideas, and conclusions- when it comes to yourself, and others. There is true magic in it, and I would have missed it all if I’d clung any longer to my “closed”, always right, way of being. And I’ve always thought I was SO right. Kind of scary.
Honor the dark, celebrate the light, hug each other, see the good, and may all your wishes come true.
And thank yOu for being yOu!
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”
I can still remember the day my very gifted therapist suggested I make it a daily practice to ask myself, “What would make me happy today?” I thought she was crazy. Or least delusional. You see, where I come from, only selfish “sinners” concern themselves with their own happiness. And since I had worked very hard not to be one of them, I filed her suggestion under For Emergencies Only, and quickly forgot about her scary and seemingly impossible task.
Seven years, a chronic illness, many losses and a lot of digging deep later, I’m finally beginning to see what my therapist was offering me. She wanted me to see the possibility of a type of happiness that builds and supports ongoing confidence, resiliency, and possibilities. A type of happiness that feeds itself and isn’t dependent on outside influences. A type of happiness that can’t be bought, only experienced and shared.
I always believed that the pursuit of happiness was shallow and frivolous. “Be happy” always sounded rather flippant and condescending, and just not serious enough. It also seemed impossible and out of reach.
Luckily, my wellbeing coach is a brave man, and one day pointed out to me how fixed and closed I can be about what I believe. In the middle of explaining to him it was because I was usually right, I realized in horror that he was right. In that flash of insight moment, everything changed. A big beautiful door flew open and I realized I don’t really want to be “right”, I want to be happy.
Since then, the Universe has fed me new ideas, thoughts and experiences of what I’m calling radical happiness. I’m beginning to see the true value of being happy, and that it really is a gift to be the bearer of happiness, ease and light-heartedness.
Happiness, for me, is an inside job, and is born out of a very tender and sweet place. My happiness loves color, movement, sunrises, heartfelt chats, and gentle connection. What I once thought was unattainable, has become very present, very real, and very powerful.
Needless to say I am grateful beyond words.
“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
– Wendell Berry
I have tried writing this post every couple of days for the past 2 months, and haven’t gotten any farther than the first few sentences each time. Today will be different. It just has to be. The question is – “How does one go about writing about the process of grief when there is no roadmap, no “This Way” sign, and no solid ground to be found?”
The truth is I want to be writing about something else. Something that is inspiring, and uplifting, and pretty. I want to be sharing what I’m doing to feel better (meditating, spending time in Nature, reminding myself that I’m a part of the universe). But, my soul keeps tugging on my sleeve and whispering, “tend to your heart, dear one”.
For a good part of my life I protected my heart behind a wall of perfectionism and the belief that “it doesn’t matter”. I told myself over and over again that it doesn’t matter if I get hurt, if I get left, or if there isn’t any help. It was an effective coping mechanism back then, but over the past 25 years I’ve been committed to being a more vulnerable, authentic and wholehearted person.
And that means staying connected to myself, and choosing to listen for those things that really do matter to me. It also means taking responsibility for what I need, and not leaving it up to others to figure it out for me. As my coach Andy says, “Your wellbeing is in your hands.”
For me, grief triggers shame and thoughts of weakness and failure. Unfortunately, from the place of shame I begin asking some really unhelpful questions: “What is wrong with me that losing one of my dearest soul sisters and my Mom in a span of 6 months has dropped me to my knees? What is wrong with me that I can’t think or focus for any length of time? What is wrong with me that I’m struggling to stay in contact with the dear friends and sisters who are still in my life? Why am I not strong enough to “handle” this and just move on?”
I’d rather not feel vulnerable. Ever. But life really isn’t like that. I’m learning through this process that it’s worth the effort to summon my courage and risk being vulnerable. That by being vulnerable with those who love me, the loss and pain really does begin to shift. By being vulnerable with those who “get me”, I’m finding that their love, understanding and wisdom really does reach my heart, and some of the raw edges are begining to soften. Where I thought there was only loss and shame, there begins to grow true connection.
“Courage originally meant
‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.'”
Shame and anger tell me I don’t have what it takes to move through this. But my amazing heart tells me I’m strong enough to feel this deep loss and come through to the other side. It keeps telling me that this work is very important and that it is essential to honor my process, my path, my wisdom. My heart says, “Listen more, and judge and react less.” And my heart and dear friends promise that if I stay with my vulnerable self, the pain will shift and transform, and bring renewed light and joy in due time.
As I stay committed to my wellbeing, I will continue my play dates with the sunrise, build cairns of peace and remembrance, strengthen my body, meditate, keep seeing beauty, and ask for courage, joy and ease for myself and all others.
Thank you for listening, caring, believing. May you trust the wisdom of your own heart, and begin to soften some of those jagged edges in your own life. You are worth it.
I’m sitting in my comfy bed watching the TV show The Voice right now, and continue to be amazed, week after week, by the tremendously talented artists on this show. It is inspiring and heart-warming to watch the contestants consciously choose to become more and more of who they really are. As impressed as I am with the contestants, this season I am even more in awe of the judges. They are all extremely accomplished musicians and performers, and the reason is not only their talent, but their commitment to being true to themselves. They are teaching the artists, and those of us watching, that the real value and beauty of life is in living from and expressing our unique “voices” in the world.
Wouldn’t it be great if this was part of the curriculum in every school in the country? We could call it heART 💟 101. And as coach Pherrell says, “we need more different in the world”. Don’t you just love that❤️‼️
As much as I enjoy watching these miracles unfold on the screen in front of me, I’m very aware that a lot of the real life of the process has been edited to “fit the time slot”. In real life, there is no such editing available – not that I haven’t looked high and low for it! But the truth is, there are no shortcuts. There is no perfect. And taking the steps to become more of who we are is messy, frightening and courageous work indeed.
As I continue to prepare for the 3-day Fountain Hills Art Festival in mid-November, I’m having to consciously choose to be true to myself over and over again. Fear and doubt are such loud mouths, and though they believe they are keeping me safe, I’m having to challenge their every word! Most (if not all) of what they say is nOt true, but they are so damn persistent and loud that I start to believe them.
To bring some light to the darkness, I began writing down what my internal critics were saying to me. It is impossible to battle the demons if I don’t know who they are. Here is my Top Ten List of Mean Things To Say To Yourself To Stop Your Creativity In It’s Tracks:
1⃣ Everyone will know you are a beginner, and laugh. 2⃣ Everyone will know you really don’t belong here. 3⃣ You paid what for your booth?! You’ll never sell enough to make it worthwhile. 4⃣ Your art isn’t unique enough. 5⃣ Your art isn’t professional enough, or sophisticated enough. 6⃣ How can you think you will have enough energy to pull this off?? 7⃣ You will never be enough. 8⃣ La-dee-dah. So you’re an artist. So what. 9⃣ Don’t think you’re special – because you aren’t. 🔟 Nobody really cares what you think.
Ow. Ow. Ow. Hearing this is really painful, but I know that choosing not to hear it is deadly.
To help myself combat these untruths, I am pretending that I got a chance to pick The Voice judge, Pharrell Williams, as MY coach. I’m choosing him because he is consistently kind-hearted, honest, and humble. He is crazy talented and never seems to do or say anything without first consulting his heart. He could definitely be the professor of heART 💟 101!
Thank you, Pharrell, for honoring your gifts, and encouraging me to do the same. I will continue to open my heart, and consciously create my art, and my life.
“The process to create is simple when
your heart is completely open.”
“You no longer need to feel guilt. You can just sing for you.”
– just uttered by Pharrell (speaking directly to me!)
When I’m not being held hostage by my internal critics, I am actually really happy and excited about showing my artwork – and showing more of me. How sad would it be to die never having been courageous enough to let myself shine? If not now, when? I really do believe we are all meant to shine in our own unique way. Not based on what others think, but based on our own hearts, our own loves, and our own standards.
Here’s to living and loving life on our own terms.
It’s your life. Live it the way you want to.
Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.
As my 88-year-old mother tries to recover from from two major surgeries, two extended stays in rehab, and many confusing hours trying to understand what is happening to her, I am doing my own version of soul searching and recovery.
Life is short. And sometimes healing is long. Today, I experienced a miracle. Grace knocked today, and I chose to let “her” in. This letter to my Mother has been years in the making. And today it arrived.
Trust the process. Trust the healing. Believe in your own beautiful heart.
With these words in my head, I am choosing to trust my voice, and pray that this healing swiftly arrives at my Mother’s door, too.
Thank yOu for giving me life. Without yOu, I would not be living and loving my beautiful, amazing and miracle-filled life.
Thank yOu for receiving me into your body and giving me the cells needed for me to come into being. Thank yOu for giving me time and room to grow. You gave me everything I needed.
My body and mind grew because of yOu. I got nourishment because of yOu. I was taken care of because of yOu.
I learned to feed myself, clothe myself, tie my shoes and read because of yOu. My brain developed with a zest for learning because of yOu. I have an artist’s view of the world because of yOu. Thank yOu for helping me become who I am.
As much as I have strived for it, I have finally learned that there is no such thing as perfect. The truth is, being authentically human is so much better than being perfect. Who knew?
Thank yOu, Mom, for being brave enough to bring me into this world. Thank yOu for being brave enough to love me, hope for me and carry me. Thank yOu for your patience with me. And thank yOu for setting me free.
Please, also know, that yOu have done enough.
You have worked enough.
You have strived enough.
You have given enough.
But most importantly, I want yOu to know that yOu’re enough. Without a doubt, I know now, that yOu ARE enough – and yOu have always been enough. I’m sorry it has taken me this long to realize that.
I wish for yOu peace, and healing and comfort.
You can relax and smile, Sweet Mother.
You are enough.
Your loving, growing, sometimes stubborn, always learning daughter, Vicki
One of my biggest fears in life is to be thought of as selfish. Where I come from, it is one of the most serious of “sins”. And sins are those terrible black marks on your soul that stop you from getting into heaven. Pretty heavy stuff for a child to deal with and make sense of. (Not that this is even possible, mind you.)
Over the years, as I’ve slowly recovered from a childhood filled with fear, unrealistic expectations, alcoholism and neglect, the issue of self-care has repeatedly been the focus. But how do I truly take care of myself without being a sinner? How do I take responsibility for myself first, without adding more of those ugly marks on my soul?
The truth is, my wounded child self and my soul have been dying for my attention for many years. The more recovery I have, the more I’m finding that codependency and addiction are driven by the deep pain of despair that we feel when we stop listening to the needs, wants and desires of our beautiful and authentic hearts. So how do I reconcile the message of “total self-sacrifice is of highest importance” with my knowing that “self-care and self-responsibility” is the healthier, more balanced way to live? Is it time to give up the promise of heaven?
Addiction and codependency run rampant in my family tree. It’s like Dutch elm disease, but worse. These two demons are a very toxic and powerful tag team. They truly suck the life out of everyone and everything. One demon speaks of self-importance, manipulation and an indulgent ego, while the other speaks of total self-sacrifice and “bleeding out” for others. I bounced back and forth between those two places many times in my life, until I realized there was no peace (for myself or the people I love) in either place.
Over the past 2 1/2 years, as I had more time to go inward and listen, I began to hear some profound (and sometimes scary) truths:
- I am solely responsible for my happiness. (Not my husband, not my sisters, not my parents, not my friends, and no, not even Jesus.) Good riddance codependency! (I will be practicing this for the rest of my life.)
- It is my job to choose myself. It’s nice to be chosen by others, but the real healing happens when I choose myself. (Who knew?)
- Help is available, but it is up to me to ask for it. (Still working on this ; )
- There is no such thing as perfection. (Excuse me!?) Now, after many, many lessons, given the choice between perfection and love, I chose lOve, hands down, every time! (Perfection is a very painful standard to hold yourself, and love ones, to. And there is truly nO peace in it. Trust me, I tried. My dear husband has been my greatest and most patient teacher on this one. Thank you, Honey!)
- The Reader’s Digest was right – laughter is the best medicine:
So, to answer my own question – yes, it is time for me to give up the promise of heaven. I know this choice is not for everyone, and I’m really ok with that. Coming to this conclusion, I am feeling relief and a deep sense of happiness and peace. The unbearable pressure has been lifted. I will continue to do my best by showing up, loving deeply and letting go. Because another of my truths is:
I am grateful beyond words for my art – the process, the lessons, my teachers and the outcome. My creative artist self is so darn happy, and I am so grateful that I have had this time to explore my own heart and my own truths. I highly recommend it! Thanks so much for all your lOve and encouragement. Want to be an artist?
SO, as Batman says…
Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.
check Out mOre new vickiO art HERE!
A few weeks ago, my sister Julie put one of her clients (I’ll call her Robin) in touch with me. Robin had seen a piece of my art work hanging in Julie’s studio, and wanted to commission me to do a similar piece for her.
After having a wonderful conversation with Robin to hear her preference of color and feel, I set off to my studio (currently our dining room table) to uncover some magic.
Blank, stark white canvases don’t scare me. I love the feeling of possibility, and it seems easy to trust my intuition.
The middle is where I tend to get scared. It is there where doubt, judgement and big old mean critics creep in. Actually, they usually come storming in, weapons drawn and firing. Sometimes I’m able to head them off at the pass, but when I don’t, my playful, bright and creative artist self shuts down the second she hears those demons at the door.
Somewhere in this “middle waste zone” I quiet myself long enough to hear the gentle whispers of wisdom…
There are so many wise people in the world, and thankfully they have posted their wisdom on Pinterest!
This little bit of self-lOve usually brings me back to center. I remember that my primary goal is to have fun and allow myself to explore possibilities. What’s funny is that once I embrace myself and know that I won’t abandon myself, most of the time the “middle danger zone” clears and I am able to arrive at a most wonderful result.
So the day Robin’s brave heart was complete, I lovingly boxed it up and sent it to her.
I love this part, too!
And upon receiving her Brave Heart, Robin wrote, “I love my Brave Heart art work. It is perfect! Thank you!” I am always amazed at the results when I am able to let go of the outcome. I sure don’t come by it naturally, but I’m learning it is a much gentler and peaceful way to go.
So thank you, Julie, for putting your client in touch with me! I love celebrating our Brave Hearts! And please click here tO see what amazing and very cOOl things my sister, Julie Interrante, is dOing in SacramentO!
During this time of exploring what it means to be brave hearted, we in Arizona experienced a terrible tragedy. The Yarnell wildfire claimed 19 hotshot firefighters’ lives. The loss of so many brave young men reverberated through every city and left no heart untouched by sorrow.
I have cried and questioned and wondered why. I’ve felt angry at such a cruel turn of events. It is such a helpless place to be, and I can’t imagine the depth of distress in the hearts of the families and friends of these amazing men. So, we donate money, and buy raffle tickets, and hope they can feel our love from a distance.
The flags in Arizona are still flying at half mast, as they are in our hearts.
So today I honor all our Brave Hearts. It takes a Brave Heart to walk with fire, to feel loss, to get up in the morning, to take care of the kids, to protect ourselves, to protect others, to deal with illness, to face our fears, and to love.