What did that little yellow thing represent though?
It represented the freedom that accompanies innocence. I think that’s the bulk of it. Innocence supports a feeling of safety, a veil of solitude away from the big bad wolves out there. I long for the consistency and security that those whom I admired fervently gave. All of the sudden, my “big girl” goals are achieved, and I’m left looking around, craving for my next moves to be rolled out gracefully before me. I did the education thing, and my equestrian show partner dedicated eleven years to the competition limelight. I married the love of my life, and we’re dedicated to nurturing our financial blueprints so we can grow and blossom in the ways we crave.
There’s a sense of loneliness when we witness the closing of chapters for ourselves and others. Whether it be tearfully sending our children off to boot camp as they embark on their own dreams, or kissing grandparents farewell, with a pinky promise to see them on the other side. Promising your aging show horse a comfortable retirement, longing for one more ride, one more dance in the show pen, just one more…
How much heavy can a heart withstand? How do we carry on and “fight the good fight” when our souls are bored of the burdens and exhausted from the heartache? You see, I identify as a therapist, yet I securely know that some answers are not mine to hold. I sit with clients, normalizing the bravery that is admitting “I don’t know” at times of immense vulnerability. When we don’t know the next steps or the next “to-do” to accomplish a sense of peace or fulfillment, it’s a challenge not to panic from the sense of loneliness. Boredom that accompanies the sensation of wandering aimlessly through our routines can creep in and fester.
Here’s what I rely on and am leaning quite heavily on as I carry out my responsibilities with a heavy heart and a tired soul. I know there are three things guaranteed in this reality: the beginning of life, the ending of life, and change that happens in between. I’m thankful this heaviness holds the promise to be temporary. I’m reminding myself to focus on my foot being place in front of the other. Pushing myself, knowing the only way through this heartache is forward. I am fixating my gaze on the glimmers surrounding me: my loving rock of a husband, my tenacious family, my compassionate work crew, my quirky kitty and her fascination with the movement of water.
Drip Drip Drip
Life carries on to her own tempo. Invest in her promise of reaching new terrains, new opportunities, and novel chances to embrace what makes you feel alive and whole.
I love my cat for a number of reasons. Her quirks never seem to disappoint squeaking a smirk from my lips, even on the dullest of days. One of her idiosyncrasies includes sitting in the soaked shower, just under the showerhead promptly after I finish my nightly cleanse. The leftover droplets cascade below, scattering delicately around her. Each time one lands, she gazes quizzically at the place the droplet expanded into a uniformed puddle surrounding her toes. Her gaze does not lose its complexity, no matter how many beads of water fall below.
Drip Drip Drip
Life is one of the most impressive marathon runners. She sets her pace and sticks to it. Seconds tick methodically, routinely, and do not skip a beat. She carries this pace without tiring, without pausing. Carries on into the abyss, unconcerned with PRs or possible stumbles along the way.
I envy her ability to keep the pace.
I’ve noticed I’ve been watching life run her marathon, feeling as if I’m cemented to the sideline. Perplexed by the notion she continues on at this pace while I feel mesmerized by her fluidity. Perhaps this is how my cat feels as the droplets scatter about.
Maybe I’m bored with the burdens I’m carrying. As life has run her race, I feel as if I’ve been running alongside, carrying around the same yellow backpack and that shit gets heavy. This bright yellow backpack was so shiny and appealing in the beginning. The neon reflectors kept me safe as I ran in the dark. Its snug straps supported my body and propelled me forward. As the race carried on, as did time, this shiny yellow backpack began to weather from the seasons. It began to rip from the wear and tear. At first, the tears were manageable and small. A piece of duct tape could quickly do the trick. But now, oh now there’s not enough duct tape in the world to piece it back together. The yellow sheen has faded, and the reflectors have fallen off. The marathon continues on, life moves forward at her methodical pace, yet I feel burdened. Tired of the worries I’ve been toting for what seems like something past its expiration date.
Rationally, I’ve learned about the consequence of time. To live means to age, and to age means to cease one day to exist. I know this, yet I’m finding my heart grappling with the idea of forever. Desperate to do a deal with the Devil if that meant renewing the bright yellow backpack to its formal glory days.
Drip Drip Drip
How does one invest in their own narrative while bearing witness to the conclusion of others they cherish so deeply? Yes yes, I am very familiar with the phrase “it’s OK to not be OK”. It is a favorite hashtag of mine on social media. A thought of reassurance for others yet does little to console a soul who is mourning for what once was.
I miss that yellow backpack.
What did that little yellow thing represent though?
*I was recently asked to respond to the prompt “What nature taught you”. I thought I would share my tid-bit in response*
Nature has taught me the necessity of reboots. Recharges. Restarts.
Life has a funny way of locking our perspectives into a tunnel-vision mindset. Hyper-focused on the next day, the next stressor, the next thing to worry about. Along the way, we can get stuck in the quicksand of this mentality.
Step into nature, and it is the most consistently nurturing teacher. She’s always there, compassionately cultivating the changing of seasons. The waxing and waning of the weather, the flowers, the leaves dancing in the trees.
Reboots are vital to our well-being, just as the changing of seasons is necessary for the health of the natural world.
Recharging encourages rest.
Restarts encourage moments to pause and take a step back.
So, step into nature often, friends. She’s there to remind us of our humanness and the vitality that accompanies reboots and recharging.
A lot of running happens in therapy.
Running in circles, from the past, away from emotional turmoil. Deflecting away from the hard stuff, the pain, the grief that we all encounter at some point in our journeys. Somewhere along the way, some emotions began to embody the big, bad monster that lurked under our beds as children. Something we more subconsciously than not pull the metaphorical sheets over our heads in feeble attempts to cower from.
Perhaps we are so fond of running because we hate the ending of most everything that is “good”. The conclusion of a relationship, the closing of a life chapter, the death of a loved one. Unless the ending is on our terms based on our clocks, we want nothing to do with it. Even the ending of a TV series or the conclusion of a good book can send pings of longing and hints of sadness dancing delicately down our spines. A witty commercial once termed this experience falling into a “show-hole” and I still giggle at the accuracy.
I wish I could convince others (and myself) that running from “the end” is only going to leave us exhausted, lost, and with no sense of satisfaction.
Grief is apart of the human condition. I feel like someone left this out of the “How to be Human” handbook. It’s the balance that is necessary for a full life. Just as joy and the full extent of enjoyable emotion is inherently ours to experience, grief is just as required. We forget to acknowledge the beauty of grief and the purpose of this heartbreaking sensation. Perhaps this is due to the breath being knock from our lungs and the punch in the gut that follows.
Can anyone guess why grief is a side effect of humanness?
Grief exists because love ensues.
Personally, I think the most courageous act a person can do is to love deeply following the experience of grief. We begin our lives with innocence enveloping love. Innocence serving as a protective barrier away from the existence of conclusions. Love only means connection, security, snuggles, and togetherness. As we grow, the harshness of reality chips away at this barrier, some quicker than others. However, there is typically enough innocence left over for our “first loves”. I believe we can all envision a memory of either experiencing or witnessing a “first break-up”. The dramatics of it may make you cringe, so sorry if it did.
I’d like to fill in the blank in your “How to be Human” handbook.
Grief will come, and the wave of its entirety will knock you senseless. For a moment, or perhaps a block of time, you may not know what is up or down. The sensation of emptiness and longing will leave you gasping for air. You may clutch at your sides in a futile attempt to hold your broken heart together.
Grief will come because love ensues. This the beauty in the chaos. This is the rainbow after the storm. What a privilege it is to love deeply and to be apart of a story that exceeds our wildest dreams. I wish we could have a say over the conclusions that we care most about, but these conclusions are simply not meant for us. The extent of our power as humans only reaches so far.
Let yourself feel it. Let yourself cry. Allow yourself to crumble amongst those whom you cherish. Validate your gamut of emotions that will wax and wane, for these are yours and they are meaningful.
“For what is grief but love persevering.”
Imagine a world where your perspective is locked downward. Your focus unwavering from the path before you. No break from the reality of unrelenting tunnel vision. The pain in your neck twinges as you march on, hyper-focused on the next step, the next move, the next *fill in the blank*.
We humans are perpetual creatures of habit. We find safety in the ruts we create within our lives, solitude in our reliable routines. While this focus on comfort is endearing, it can also leave us in a state of stuck-ness. Perhaps a reliably consistent theme not only within the therapy room but in my own life is that our gaze can become stuck in a downward glance, comfortable in the discomfort of one fixed outlook.
When I experience this particular sensation of stuck within my own life, my mind wanders to the mountains.
My husband and I share a passion for hiking, particularly in the undulating terrain of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Being that I am a Florida native, navigating precipitous paths is not my strong suit. Funny enough, we habitually place bets on the number of times I am bound to trip prior to any beginnings of a trail. Of course, this sparks the competitive zeal within me, and I find myself hyper-focused on the earth beneath my feet as we begin our march up the mountain.
Unlike the Florida flatness that I’m numb to, these mountains emphatically encourage me to pause and look up. The views, the colors, and the idiosyncrasies tantalize my fixed downward gaze to shift and bare witness to the wholeness of the present moment.
Can you imagine how dull the hike would be like if I never looked up?
Can you imagine how exhausting life could be like if we never shifted our focus?
Our souls rely on these shifts. Our mental and emotional well-beings satiate themselves on refocusing our lens from time to time. It is utterly valid that a particular routine or standpoint is necessary for our functioning within our worlds. The workplace is one situation that demands this often. However, one viewpoint is not necessary for the duration of our days that fade into years. Just as my soul is numb to the beauty of Florida, it craves the reminders to climb out of my rut in the ways I experience my world.
So how can we remain mindful to the vitality of these shifts out of our normative tunnel vision ways we hold onto from day to day?
Do me a favor.
Close your eyes for a moment and let your mind wander to a place you find peace.
Where did it go?
Perhaps it’s your back porch when the sun is tucking itself in for the night. Or maybe it’s the symphony of song the morning birds orchestrate outside your window as you wake up. It could be the experience of going for a jog, sipping on your morning coffee, or reading your kiddo their favorite bedtime story. Wherever your world sheds it’s glimmer of peace, make it a point to check-in with yourself. Relax your jaw, release your shoulders, and fill your belly with a breath. Move your neck from side to side, as it could be aching from the fixed stare at all that lay in front of you.
You will get to where you need to go.
However, the journey is far more radiant if we just remember to look up and bare witness to the wholeness of our present moments.
As I mosey along this life journey of mine, I find myself in the position of asking questions and listening to other’s narrative vs the latter. Subconsciously, I think I’ve somewhat adapted to playing to role of empathetic listener and inquirer in and out of the therapy room. It’s a running joke in this field to hold off on disclosing what you do for a living to others, because it’s all too common to get responses like “Oh, I need to come see you!” or “Are you analyzing me right now?”.
So, it’s a unique experience whenever the table is turned, and someone inquiries about me that goes deeper than the stereotypical “what’s shakin’?”. I must admit, these times are mildly unsettling because I am so unused to having the coin flipped. Recently, this question was “What makes you feel confident?”
Perhaps this is just a therapist thing, but I had to take a raincheck on my answer because I wanted to sit with it. It’s one thing to say you’re confident, but it’s another thing to identify what exactly perpetuates this confidence.
As I continued to mull over this question in my mind, I invited it into the therapy room. Posing the question to others as we toss around other relative themes such as self-worth and self- image. I have to say, it’s led to very fruitful processing and exploration.
I’ve been discovering that confidence and worth are two phrases utilized interchangeably within our worlds. Two words referred to as synonyms, however they’re actually quite different. It would be like saying a doctor and a dentist are basically the same thing. Good luck having a doctor fill a cavity!
Let’s take worth for example. We have a tendency to put our worth into the hands of others or into the places we cherish. Tying our worthiness to the temporary sensations of validation from others, or the goals we set that are influenced by many aspects largely outside of our control. There is a roadblock with this framework for one’s worth because we are viewing it as something that is transient. Where in reality, our worth is constant. Grounded. Anchored to the uniqueness each soul holds within themselves. Our worth is tied to our voice, our values, and our resiliency just to name a few.
Switching gears to confidence, this is where the fluidity we experience comes in. Confidence is a wave that is notorious for waxing and waning throughout our lives. Some days, we are rocking our favorite heels paired with that perfect lipstick and we walk down the sidewalk to that meeting we know we will crush. Confidence oozes from you as you feel as if you could conquer the world. Then, we have days where all of our clothes feel frumpy, our hair is doing that weird flippy-thing, and all you want to do is curl up on the couch with your cat and lock away the world. Confidence level those days could be close to zero.
Confidence is a product of our humanness, worth is inherent of our being.
Our worth demands to be respected, and runs deeper than the materialistic contributions that may boost our confidence. Our confidence deserves compassion for its fluidity as a part of the human condition. It’s OK to feel “extra human” sometimes, however our worth is unwavering during these experiences. If anything, our worth is highlighted during our “frumpy” days because when our vulnerability is showing, our worth glistens from our persistence and resiliency traveling along our journeys embracing the beautiful, messy, imperfect, feeling souls that we are.
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.
I’m a little disappointed that this candy-riddled day falls on a weekend. Since I work with a lot of youngsters, I have a special place in my heart for these kinds of fun days that can spark different flavors of processing and exploration. Therapists enjoy a smile-worthy shake up from time to time.
The narrative revolving around this rosy-colored day has always irked me. Our culture embraces such a linear take on love, and I am rolling my eyes as I type this. We can celebrate nine types of knowledge but only one type of love? Wake me up when this snooze fest is over.
But in all seriousness
Valentine’s Day could use a reframe.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are frequently thematic points of conversation in the therapy room. We live in a world that hyper-focuses on extrinsic joys and motivation yet neglects intrinsic or self-reflected anything. Our culture thoroughly draws attention to the latest and the greatest thingamabobs and the burst of joy that could ensue if one were to obtain such doohickies or accomplishments. Just turn on the TV or glance at social media and they will prove my point.
Same goes for love. We tend to place a price tag on love, just as we do on the whose-its and whats-it in the store. I frequently hear “If I could just lose 10 more pounds…” or “If I would have tried harder…”
Rip that price-tag off!
Genuine and authentic love is priceless. We are inherently worthy of this love for the mere fact that we are uniquely us. Layering on the materialistic hoopla can distract away from the love that’s meant to be celebrated not just one cloudy February day, but every single damn day.
So, here’s a thought…
Recognize the intrinsic love within your world as well as the extrinsic. If you have a honey, share those extra words of affirmation and carve out time to embrace cherished moments of connection. However, don’t forget to celebrate the day by weaving in some self-love and compassion, however this looks for you. Each soul is worthy of this kind of love.
Regardless of what anyone tells you, parenting is one of the hardest, most convoluted adventures one can embark on. There is no hard-set playbook for the rights and the wrongs of how to be a proficient parent, and that can be so inconvenient.
Saying “I’m sorry” is a vital component of being an attentive and skilled parent. It’s necessary to model humanness to our little humans and acknowledge even superhero Mommies and Daddies make mistakes sometimes.
However, there is an art to apologies, and this is a very handy trick.
I witness so many parents come down with a case of the “I’m sorrys”. Not-so-ironically, many of their children embrace the victimhood mentality and challenge boundaries with every breath they take.
When this is the case, I encourage these empathetic Mommies and Daddies to cut it out with the apologies. For the most part, they are saying sorry for being a proficient parent. It’s OK to set limits, bedtimes, rules around electronics, and family time. It’s also OK for your kiddos to not approve of or like these boundaries.
Because here’s the thing.
It’s crucial for youngsters to learn how to sit with uncomfortable emotions. As hard as it is to witness our children displeased, it’s an essential growing pain for morphing into an independent and confident adult. By unapologetically setting boundaries, you are not only modeling that boundaries demand to be respected, but you are encouraging your kiddos to problem solve and de-villainize tough emotions.
Apologize for and acknowledge human moments such as being late to pick up your child from school. Unless you kick your kid in the shin or embrace the parenting mentality of Matilda’s Mom and Dad, pause and think of what exactly you are feeling the urge to apologize for.
Instead of apologizing for the boundaries necessary for wholesome parenting, validate and normalize that uncomfortable emotions are tough and not easy to learn how to sit with. Validation is far more powerful, and growth-inspiring than apologies in these instances.
Whenever one ponders about their worth, I hear it talked about as if it exists floating somewhere above us. Drifting along in the same group of clouds that envelop our fantasies, hopes, and dreams. These aspects of ourselves are seemingly intangible and translucent. Something that comes and goes at rather inconvenient times. Life always has a way of challenging the security of our worth.
Whenever I explore someone’s experience of their worth, I find it’s typically in the hands of someone or something else rather than the person sitting in front of me. It could be grasped within the dynamics of a relationship, the productivity of a job or school performance, the reactions of others and our interpretations of other’s experiences of us.
What if the cloud we place our worth in were to be reframed into the steadiness of a rooted tree?
I recognize that comes across as awful corny but bear with me.
Worth is not supposed to be derived from other people, places, or things. Worth does not originate from materialistic ideations or relational dynamics. Rather, our worth is uniquely and undoubtedly our own since the moment we develop conscious thought. Our worth is grounded in the power of our voices, and the choices we are privy to whenever we are faced with crossroads in the way we can respond to an experience. Just because this idea of self-value is not something that has a designated color or graspable shape does not mean it is any less accessible.
Our worth is rooted within us. Deep in our bones, cozy within our souls.
You are worthy because of your experiences, resilience, imperfections, quirks, and the addition of someone utterly one-of-a-kind in this World.
Recognizing our worth and our accountability for it can be intimidating at times. Perhaps that’s why we are so eager to hand over the responsibility of it to someone else.
But here’s the thing.
Our worth is so rooted within us because we are undeniably human. We are messy, imperfect, and deeply feeling souls whom have individualized perceptions of the same universe we all inhabit. Our worth would falter if we were perfect, uniform, and untouched by the unpredictability of how life rolls. Worthiness is inherent simply because we can do and have done hard things.
It’s OK to make mistakes, my friends. It’s brave to have days or weeks or months where you feel deeply and vulnerably human. It’s welcome to cry and express your perceptions of the world around us. Making it through the hard days highlight how inherently and unshakably worthy we really, and always are.
I think we can all agree that this week has brought a hefty amount of fatigue.
COVID fatigue, compassion fatigue, mental and emotional exhaustion, gulley’s of grief, celebration hangovers, you name it.
It seems as if Americans have been holding their breath since November, or perhaps even longer. We could cut the tension in the air with a butter knife. Layers upon layers of intensity brought to us by conflicting perspectives, aching inequalities, deeply run injustices, and unfairness none of us seemingly feel we have much control over.
And then there was Bernie.
Wednesday invited a peculiarity that was the feather that tickled the collective deep sigh right out of us.
The world was delighted with an image of a political figure slumped begrudgingly into a cold fold-up chair. He donned a dark grey winter jacket, and brown-patterned mittens that proudly displayed the love that was put into creating them. One leg perched across the other, a disposable light blue mask stretched unsymmetrically, but properly across his furrowed face.
Each one of us instantly resonated with the humanness Bernie Sanders quietly embraced.
And halleluiah for that!
The quiet tension that seeped from America’s bones has suddenly erupted into laughter. This genuinely human-felt image has captured the delight of many as they cut and paste it into every scenario that embraces the human in us. A chilly Bernie playfully represents the teacher about to retire but still has recess duty, the bored parents at their child’s soccer game, the cranky soul perched impatiently at the oven waiting for the cookies to finish baking, the list goes on.
The laughter that is echoing is a welcomed and much over-due chuckle.
So, thank you, Bernie Sanders.
For the joyful reminder of the thing we all have in common.
We are, and will forever be, human.