The Unforgettable Fire

January 10, 2016

To be sure my head and heart are firmly planted in 2016, I decided to try my “burning ritual” with Jerry this week in order to let go of what weighed me down last year.

Jerry and I sat down to brainstorm about what to burn…it wasn’t too hard to come up with a good list! I am pretty good at figuring out what we need to work on (Jerry is used to this by now – and he’s happy to be along for the ride). It’s doing something about it that is the hard part – that is work.

Here’s the thing. I know that I will continue to struggle with these things this year like I did last year – that is because of my wiring, because of past painful experiences (i.e. baggage), and mostly because I am an actual human being that is most definitely not perfect. And I am certain that more stuff is going to happen in 2016 – and I am sure some of it will be hard – and that some of it will be painful.

Just because I decide that I don’t WANT to feel a certain way doesn’t mean that I can say “poof” and make that feeling disappear. It takes work to process feelings. It takes practice. It takes raising my awareness – getting curious, noticing, acknowledging, and feeling, processing, re-framing, and understanding of my choices – to cope when I am triggered. This is work – and it is work I recommend to anyone who finds oneself constantly negatively reacting to triggers.

This is why I decided on a ritual…I know I can, if only for a moment, remember the feeling of letting go. Combine that with the physical exercise of seeing that trigger turn from a solid piece of paper to ashes in a matter of seconds, and now I have a powerful visual when I need more help.

The hope is that once one of us is triggered, we will remember the paper turning to ash, that we will remember our intention, and channel the “letting go” feeling.

fire

Burning my “co-dependent” & over-fixing tendencies

We are off to a decent start. I found myself triggered almost immediately after publishing my post a few days ago. It was a great test to see if I meant what I said wrote about in that post. Jerry and I were in the car a few days ago when he caught himself – I was delighted when I heard him say – “wait a second – I burned that!” We high-fived each other and moved on with our day instead of getting bogged down in the muck. It won’t always be that easy – but that is why we need to practice. It’s like exercising muscles you never use.

My wise and wonderful friend Kelly recommended The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz to me back in December.

From the Four Agreements:

“Everything we do is based on agreements we have made – agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible. One single agreement is not such a problem, but we have many agreements that come from fear, deplete our energy, and diminish our self-worth.”

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

I already know #2 and #3 are HUGE challenges to me. They appeared on those pieces of paper that were burned into ash a few days ago.

I am about to dig into this book in hopes that it will help me in my efforts to let things go. More to come!

 

You say goodbye, I say hello

January 3, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I have been seeking some inspiration and guidance to start my new year off right. It’s 12:15 pm on Sunday and I am still in my pjs, so no, I didn’t start a new diet or an aggressive new workout routine. I am not creating a long list of resolutions that will wane as the year progresses. I am looking for a more meaningful approach – focusing more on a way of being rather those godforsaken SMART goals that ensure I achieve whatever is on my list. Or to remind me when I don’t.

I have closed the door on 2015. Before I jump into 2016, I want to leave some things behind, and letting go is not a great strength of mine.  But I know the best way to make room for the new is to purge the old – whether it’s in my closet or in my heart. I know that it’s much easier to find that perfect blouse when it’s not buried among 4 seasons and 3 sizes of old clothes. Just like I know it is much easier to feel love in the present when it’s not buried in regrets about the past or anxiety/fear of the future. And I know that the best way to find the energy to make this effort to clear out the cobwebs is from a place of love – because love is a renewable energy that not only replenishes on its own, but also multiplies and spreads to others. It’s literally catching!

So to get some help, I perused my favorite blogs (Marc and Angel, and “Momastery” Glennon Doyle Melton) and  listened to some of “The Bloggess” Jenny Lawson’s audio book “Furiously Happy”. I followed my favorite spiritual icons on Facebook and Instagram (Maria Shriver, Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, and Kid President) and I completed reading  “The Shaken Snow Globe”by a new author Kristy Dominiak, who I discovered is practically my neighbor and fellow Notre Dame alum.

My first thought is that I could really use a cool nickname for my blog persona (I am open to suggestions!). Mostly though, I am marinating in some pretty amazing content.  I think that one of the consistent threads throughout my favorite writers is that in order to live an authentic life – one that is open, vulnerable and full of love, it is certain that I will experience pain. Not just possible – certain.  Ouch. And sometimes big time OUCH! I reminded myself that even though I was experiencing pain and sadness due to the issues my family faced last year, that same family has brought me immense joy and happiness. I relied on what was in my heart – and on my faith that I was in the right place – to remain hopeful and quell the anxiety that always plagues me at my low points.

Another result of this “marinating” is that I am reminded that even though life is messy, that there can be joy in even the smallest moments. The important thing is to be present – to pay attention – to notice, and to STOP and soak the joy in. For example, I stopped writing for about 30 minutes so that Eric, my significant other Jerry’s son, could climb in my lap to snuggle for a little while.

ericlap2

This is me and Eric snuggling in my office chair. Jerry caught us snuggling, and as usual, he had his camera ready.

He discovered that my office chair rocks. I have a feeling that this could become a favorite snuggle spot in the future, and I am totally fine with that! It made my day – and had I decided to keep going so I could finish my “task”, I would have missed out on a joyous moment.

So when I think about last year – I want to let go of that anxiety. I want to let go of the paralyzing fear that destroys my self-confidence and clouds my heart. I want to let go of my co-dependent tendency to over-fix and focus on other people’s feelings at the expense of my own. I want to let go of the need to cross things off of lists. I want to let go of the self-criticism that happens when I am not at my best.  I will no longer say “I wish I wasn’t wired this way” when I feel pain. I am who I am because of how I am wired – and you know what? I kind of like myself this way. In fact, I have worked really freaking hard to figure myself out – and I have come to accept that my greatest strength of empathy can also be my greatest weakness if I don’t pay enough attention to myself and my own needs.

Thanks to Liz Gilbert’s post on New Year’s Eve, I am reminded that I do a better job of letting go when I take part in some sort of ritual.  I am writing these things on pieces of paper and burning them one by one so that I can physically see them disappear. That way when I am sure to get triggered at some point in the future, I can remember that visual and allow myself to let that feeling go.

And thanks to Liz Gilbert’s post on New Year’s Day, I started my first Happiness Jar. The idea is to write down the things that happen in your day that made you happy on a piece of paper – they can be small things or big things. Liz says “When I say that happiness is a consequence of personal effort, this is kind of thing I’m talking about. I’m talking about showing up, paying attention to the instances of good fortune in your life, putting a spotlight on the small good things, and creating a body of evidence that you are (on ALL days) brushing up against grace. Look for it, and you’ll find it.”

happinessjar

This is my Happiness Jar.

 

Moments like this will help fuel me with the energy and love I will need to endure the painful times ahead.

Welcome 2016! Presence is my mantra. My heart, my eyes and my arms are wide open. And PS – Eric is back on my lap, and I am happy.