Finding Light Even In Darkness

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Photo courtesy of SBWphotography

Photo courtesy of SBWphotography

It is a popular theory that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people on the planet. I struggle with the reality of the idea, but I’ve never been more likely to be convinced of its truth than I was today – at least from a sentimental perspective. A French Parisian friend asked me to help her express her thoughts and appreciation to clients and friends that had reached out to her during the horrific events . As I worked to help shape her ragged emotional thoughts, I was both impressed by her indomitable spirit and deeply affected by the candid rawness of her sadness. Operating a program in Manila at the time of the attacks, neither she nor many of her team could reach family or loved ones – yet they carried on producing a conference for fifteen heads of state. Little by little, news of loved ones arrived. There were some celebrations and some heart crushing losses. As I wrote, I cried and laughed with her – and suddenly, the Paris catastrophe feels very personal.

A tragedy is an odd bedfellow who time and again binds our hearts in solidarity and gives us the strength to lift our chin, square our shoulders and take a step forward no matter how difficult it may seem. I trust that for hundreds and thousands of people that are missing family, friends and loved ones that each new day is a challenge. God Bless everyone touched by this tragedy.

I am angry. I know that many of you are as well.

My heart rails against the injustice that the monster Daesh inflicted upon innocent men, women, and children for no reason other than to satisfy a bloody and sadistically twisted version of reality. I cannot wait for the day that they all stare death in the eye – it cannot come soon enough for the thousands upon thousands of victims they’ve claimed.

Has the world learned nothing about the likes of mass murdering monsters? Perhaps the stark reality of the numbers on this list will help shake us awake.

61,911,000 Murdered: The Soviet Gulag State

35,236,000 Murdered: The Communist Chinese Ant Hill

20,946,000 Murdered: The Nazi Genocide State

10,214,000 Murdered: The Depraved Nationalist Regime

5,964,000 Murdered: Japan’s Savage Military

2,035,000 Murdered: The Khmer Rouge Hell State

1,883,000 Murdered: Turkey’s Genocidal Purges

1,670,000 Murdered: The Vietnamese War State

1,585,000 Murdered: Poland’s Ethnic Cleansing

These are just the beginning of a very long list.  Let us not forget the thousands of smaller historical events that have shattered hearts and devastated lives. Every single innocent life counts.

History doesn’t have to repeat itself. We can say no, not this time! We have the strength to say it, mean it, act on it and wipe it off the face of the earth. I wish it were as simple as pushing a button. I would happily do it. No guilt, and without a second thought.

As Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” I don’t want to be one of those who watch.

I hope that we as humans have learned enough from history to put the effort into stopping this madness named Daesh. While they are brutal and without conscience, they are not unstoppable. Humanity will stand long after they are obliterated. It is possible, but as a human race, we have to stand together and against them.

I find an odd peace within the following words that were scrawled on the prison walls of a Nazi Concentration Camp:

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.

I believe in love even when I do not feel it.

I believe in God even when he is silent.

(Author unknown)

Those words give me hope that in the face of horrific evil, that the goodness and love within the human heart will help find the way to justice and lead us back to the light.

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The Sisters: Hatred and Forgiveness

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Meet Hatred and Forgiveness.

What a strange coexistence they share, such opposites yet so synergistic in their authority and power.

Hatred. She is so viscerally motivated, powerful and strong with a deep desire to destroy without grace or compassion, to wipe evil clean off the earth as if it never existed. She is a fiery bitch, that one, yes she is.

Forgiveness. She is compassionate and loving. Soothing and cool to the brow, bestowing grace and mercy where none is deserved. A heart healer, she is emotional and humble. She is amazing in her capability to salve the hot flames of destruction spread by her sister, Hatred. She understands that in order for Hatred to exist without poisoning the depths of her own soul, that she, Forgiveness, is the anti venom to the devastation that Hatred inflicts upon self.

Those two strange sisters, they saved me.

People don’t realize that there is a very fine line that separates the sisters of Forgiveness and Hatred. They share much of the same powerfully emotional DNA, and both have the supremacy to change lives – that of our own, and those of others.

Oddly enough, sometimes they join forces and work together. In balance, they allow me to live in a place of sanity and peace. They balance and temper each other.

When hatred overpowered sanity and compassion, and tried to destroy my very existence, I had to grasp for every thread of strength and weave them into a rope that was resilient enough to allow me to escape from a pit of vipers named violence, manipulation, selfishness, evil, insanity, insecurity, disrespect, rejection and narcissism. That was the version of “loving” that I experienced. It was hell on earth. I hated it. I survived because Hatred and Forgiveness worked together to my benefit.

I waged war from an iniquitous place of self-hatred, self-doubt, worthlessness, betrayal and heartbreak, and battled through tears and disappointment, stood on my feet and fought back against the trolling demons to regain the self I know, and love. After that grueling bitch of a marathon, trust me when I say, I’m rock solid. Determined. Courageous. I am confident that I will never run that race again.

I forgave the transgressions that were carelessly levied against my spirit’s being. It took every ounce of grace and compassion that I had. It was a gift undeserved, yet extended.

That gift, alone, is all that exists. I will give nothing more. Hatred and Forgiveness have their limits. They are finite in this earthly realm.

Walk the thin line, but recognize it is only a slight misstep to eternal hell and a dark rabbit hole of confinement. It is a desolate and lonely place where there is no redemption, no grace or mercy.

Forgiveness and Hatred are the very best outcome. They are the final offer. Take the gift, and go. Find the future. Don’t ever look back again.

It is over. It is done.

I am not there.

You Want Inspiration? Here’s Some!

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One of my favorite quotes is, “If you want inspiration, go find it.” I live by it, and when I see others doing it, my curiosity is piqued. I immediately have to snoop out the story. Enter Jeffrey Brous. Jeffrey is a fitness instructor at Horsham Athletic Club in Horsham, Pennsylvania. While he may seem like the picture of health and happiness these days, that wasn’t always the case.

Jeffrey grew up as a closeted homosexual that hid behind his weight. By the time he enrolled in University, he weighed over 300 pounds. It was an embarrassing moment for him when he couldn’t climb three flights of stairs. Rather than shirking him, his classmates rallied around him and helped him reshape his eating habits and exercise. As a result, he dropped over 180 pounds in about 3 years. Holy sh*t! I know, right? That is exactly what I said, too! That is a major accomplishment, and I don’t think any of you will argue the point. But losing weight wasn’t enough for Jeffrey, he wanted to inspire others and pay it forward.

Today, Jeffrey is a trainer at Horsham Athletic Club in Horsham, Pennsylvania where he teaches Zumba Fitness, Zumba Toning, Yoga, Yogalates, Fitness Boot Camps and is available for personal and small group training sessions. Who would have thought that someone that couldn’t climb three flights of stairs could end up being a fitness instructor? It is what happens when you dig up the courage, go find the inspiration and take action to overcome the odds that are stacked against you.

Jeffrey’s story is inspiring to me, not only because he has lost so much weight, but because of his attitude toward helping others. He’s a big advocate, of the “It Gets Better Project” which is a charity organization founded by Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller to inspire young people facing harassment. The It Gets Better Project™ has become a worldwide movement, inspiring more than 50,000 user-created videos viewed more than 50 million times. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of “Glee”, Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more.

I cannot truly understand what it is like to be bullied because of sexual preference. I cannot imagine what the shame and embarrassment of not being able to climb three flights of stairs would do to the psyche of a person. But what I do know is that someone that can face those circumstances, overcome them and lead others through the maze of emotional and physical evolution to a better and healthier life – is a hero! He may not run into burning buildings, or stop a bank robbery, but he’s saving lives every day, all day, one life at a time. I can’t say that, can you?

Jeffrey does what so many forget. He leads by example. He inspires. He encourages. He pays it forward. He did not forget the darkness of what he went through. Today he is a light unto the path of inspiration, and he won’t quit until his clients have won their battle. I believe that approach is taking “winning” to the next level, and THAT, my friends, is inspiring!

Jeffrey has been nominated as a finalist in the Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge. In order to win, he needs your vote. If you were at all inspired by his story, by his efforts, by his accomplishments and attitudes, then please take a moment to GO HERE. Please “Like” the Be Well Philly Page, watch Jeffrey’s video, and vote for him (you’ll be cheering him on by the end of the short video). It will only take a minute and your efforts will provide someone that deserves a cheerleading battle cry even more reason to continue changing the world. You can vote everyday, until October 31st. If you need to go find some inspiration, then perhaps you might start with Jeffrey and pay it forward in faith.

I don’t normally endorse people on my blog, but I see the transformational difference that Jeffrey is making with people that I personally know and care about. I know he is their inspiration, and I know that watching them evolve, change and embrace fitness inspires me to get off my behind and get moving, too. Sometimes you only have to inspire ONE person to start a tidal wave. Are you in?

Ruth Meet Ruth

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ImageHi, my name is Ruth and I am adopted.

After 45 years of having no clue of my ancestry, heritage or medical history, today I received my genome testing results and for the first time, “met myself.”  I’ve always felt like one little lone star, unconnected to all of the others that exist in the galaxy.  When my daughter was born, it added a connection for me, if only with one other person.  It provided some relief, but it is still pretty lonely when I think about it. Wanting to connect in addition to finding out some health information, I went ahead with genome testing.  It’s been a nail-biting month waiting for results.

It is information that most people have access to, or learn through the traditions of their families. What an overwhelming amount of information to absorb after so many years of having only a blank chalkboard with question marks.  It’s honestly more than my mind can comprehend and I’m a little overwhelmed, but oh so happy!

Here’s the tip of the iceberg:

I’m mostly British and Irish.  Adding to that, I have touches of German, French, Scandinavian, Southern European, East Asian and Native American.  Oh, and I might add, I’m 2.8% Neanderthal. Who knew that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals existed for 1000’s of years side by side and hanky-panky was alive and well back then? Whatever the case, I’ll take it and embrace it.  I think it is pretty cool.  All of it is… who I am.  Me.  Ruth.

While this topic might be uninteresting to some, for me, it has given me an anchor to throw down. I now understand parts of me that have always been a mystery.  I understand why I feel a connection to many things in my life that I always just thought I liked just because they were cool. I understand where I get some of my physical characteristics. I better know how to manage my health.  I know things about myself with a certainty that most people don’t.   I know whether I was born smarter and whether my fingers are longer or shorter.   I know that my genetics show that my pain tolerance is very low compared to most people along with about 200 facts that people don’t know about him or her self. It’s so much cool information that you cannot even begin to imagine unless you’ve done it.   The test also told me that I have red hair, brownish eyes and freckles.  Good to know since it is what I have suspected all along. *smile.

It’s an immense relief to know what my inherited medical conditions could be. I also found out I don’t have the BRCA gene.  That’s awesome news, just ask Angelina Jolie. I also found out that I could be at a risk for Alzheimer’s disease.   There’s so much to absorb, but I’ll take the good with the bad –  at least I have the information to go on.

I’m a curious bird and at the moment my curiosity is getting the best of me. I want to know if I have brothers and sisters.  Do I look like my biological mother or father?  What about family and relatives?

I’m not sure if I’m ready to cross that bridge yet, and it will be a long and legal process to find out the information, if it is even possible.  According to my DNA I’ll have some time to think about it, since I stand a good chance of living to be 95 or 100.

With my discovery there is a whole new chapter to write, but meeting “me” today, has given me a smile inside that I’ve never had before.  Knowing who I am, for me, is like owning a little piece of heaven, the rest as they say, is just icing on the cupcake.

Wisdom of an Idyllwild Woman

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RuthandRachI had to share this blog with all of you. My daughter was here a couple weeks ago and we took a day trip up to Idyllwild. It is moments like the one that Rachael describes in her blog that make life worth living. Not only was the time spent with my daughter precious, but the wisdom of a lovely stranger created a moment that will be remembered for a lifetime. Enjoy.

Burlesque Bohemian

Yesterday was a beautiful and profound day. Mom and I took a mini road trip up to Idyllwild to walk around and get away from the city for awhile. After checking out a really awesome metaphysical store (where I got a lovely new pentagram pendant), Mom asked where we could find the best root beer floats in town. We were directed to Oma’s.

This little cafe was adorable with a brother/sister waitstaff who kept bickering with each other. The brother waited on us and was really nice with a snarky sense of humor. Mom and I dig that sort of thing. I ordered a cinnamon roll and Mom got her root beer float, both of which were out of this world delicious.

There was an elderly woman there who looked like Oma, a painting of whom hung on the wall. Mom and I couldn’t quite figure out if it was…

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Saving Gracie

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When I had to put my dog of twenty years down less than a month ago, I was determined to not have another one.  It was heartbreaking for me, and the last weeks of his life had been heart wrenching  Arriving home to three men breaking into my house made me rethink the situation. 

Ever since I was a child, and read “Where The Red Fern Grows,” I have wanted a Redbone Coon Hound. I never thought I’d have one. They are not a common breed here in California, but I decided to look anyway.  While talking with my bestie, Mel on the phone, she suggested that I look on Pet Finders.  I did a search and Gracie popped up at a coon hound rescue here in California.  WHAT?  I thought I was more interested in a puppy, but I kept going back to Gracie. There was just something about her.  I decided nope, and closed my computer. The next morning, there she was staring at me from the screen. I decided to call and just ask a few questions.  What harm could that do? I thought no one would answer the phone or that she would be gone.  They answered on the first ring and she was available and wanted to know when I could see her.  I made arrangements for a couple days later. 

The night before went to see her, I couldn’t sleep, I was anxious, and I wasn’t sure what I had been thinking.  Heart in my throat, I left the next morning to go check her out.  The drive to El Cajon seemed like the road to forever as my anxiety pinged back and forth like a pin ball in my head.  I needn’t have worried.  It was my first lesson in grace. 

When Gracie came out of the back at the rescue, she calmly walked to me and put her head in my lap.  Then she stood up and pressed her forehead against mine and just stared me in the eyes. My eyes started to sweat a little. Her eyes searched mine. Then she put her paws on my shoulder and rested her head. I choked up.  What could a few more question hurt as I mulled over my decision.   Gracie walked behind me and nudged me behind the knees and then went to the door and then did it again.  I asked Rebecca if she did this with everyone, and she told me Gracie did not. In fact, she had been disinterested in some others that had been to see her. It was clear that Gracie was picking me.  I wasn’t sure why, but sometimes things just are what they are.

To be sure, she was a little beat up, and desperate looking, but you could see the longing and hope in her eyes. When she’d arrived at the rescue she was 39 pounds soaking wet.  Rebecca said that she was a bag of bones, if that.  Where she’s from, Redbones are considered disposable dogs and it was clear that Gracie had been abused and neglected. Not a great start for the first year of her life. I decided to give her a try and see if I could make a difference.

Gracie’s home with me for good now.  It’s a little like having a three year old around and I am learning how to care for someone again. Yes, someone.  I’m convinced she has a soul. Caring for Gracie is teaching me how to be vulnerable and how to open up and adapt to imperfect situations.  She’s teaching me to be more selfless, she’s reminding me every day that I need to get out and exercise with her.  She is teaching me that the comforter on my bed is not nearly as valuable as the love she is willing to shower me with.  She is teaching me to open up a little at a time.  Shouldn’t I be teaching HER all of that?  Perhaps I am in my own way, but I have to tell you, I’m not sure I saved Gracie, I think she may be saving me.   

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It’s amazing what a little hope and love can do for someone….dog, or human.  I think her spirit is a perfect example of how we should live our lives.  She has seen the worst of humanity and yet she is ever the optimistic joyful soul.  Her circumstances were the ugliest.  She walked next to death.  Her message is clear. Even though we go through tough times, we will get to where we need to be if we don’t give up.  

Perhaps letting go and having faith will do the same for all of us if we give it a chance.  Gracie is showing me to never stop having hope, that faith in God will give me what I need.  The answers may not be in our timeframe, but if we have unwavering faith, it will be our saving grace.    

I Learned From It…

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Recently, I was in Colorado spending a couple days with my daughter and a dear friend, and we were at Baker Street Bar & Grill enjoying a cool drink (my favorite, Grape Expectation – you should try one) and catching up on everything that we miss in each others lives living in different states. You know how women are…we like to “talk” and we are pros at it. (Do NOT run with that statement guys!).

While we were sitting there, we noticed a young fellow (maybe 26?) that was intently focused on us. We laughed and gabbed about it for a minute, and then my friend being the outgoing personality that she is, threw out a funny one liner to let him know that we knew he was in our business. He jumped up and came over to our table and started chatting…you know, the questions of how old are you? (29 is good, we said)…are you single or married? (Married AND single). What are you ladies doing out all alone? (Uhhh, it’s 2012 they let us out alone these days – smile). You know all those “testing the water” questions. He was a sweet guy, pretty to look at too, but I digress. Long story short, he and his group of co-workers had been evacuated from Colorado Springs that day due to a huge wildfire, which was at their hotel’s doorstep, and they were now staying in Denver at a colleague’s house. One topic led to another and soon we were talking about life, love and all that it encompasses. He told us the story of his recent break up with a girl that he really cared about and how much he loved her and her child. You could tell he was sincere and missed them greatly. I asked him how he was doing with everything now that a couple months had passed. I fully expected him to launch into the typical litany of remarks about how terribly his heart had been broken, and how he would never trust women again and so on…you know the “I’m bitter” conversation I’m referring to, right? Instead, he just looked at me, smiled and said, “I learned from it.” My mouth fell open and I’m sure I was boldly gawking at him as I looked at my friend and said, “Wow, that’s a new take on it. How cool and mature is that?” He said, “Well, I did. What more is there to say about it than that?” No bitterness. No regret. I found his statement profound, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Usually when I hear a statement like that, it is derisively delivered, “Well, I hope she/you/he learned your lesson.” Ugh! Time to turn the negative into a positive, and he had.

How much emotional pain could we save ourselves if we were able to look at negative experiences in such a simple and clear way? No strings. Just a conscious effort to pick out what needs to be learned instead of playing the tape of failure, anger, hurt, rejection, disappointment, or sadness over and over again. Think how much of our lives would NOT be wasted playing the shoulda, coulda, woulda game. I don’t know about you, but I could shave off a several good years I’ve lost living in the world of “hurt”.

That being said, I’m one of those people that (and sometimes do) can think a problem to death. Some call it cerebral or analytical; I call it pure torture when it comes to a challenging or negative situation. I feel things much deeper than most people I know. Personally, it’s a curse. Professionally, it’s a great thing as I can instantly identify how something is viewed from every angle for my clients. Thank God for my patient friends that let me work my way through a self imposed, complicated maze until finally making a conscious decision to resolve (and sometimes just being okay with not being okay with it) and move on. I tortured myself for years after I left an abusive relationship. I wore the negativity/self flagellation tape out. How much love and happiness did I miss out on being scared to trust, wondering if the guy was a player, or questioning if he was telling the truth? In the end, I was only looking for the lesson called self-doubt. And, that’s really what it all boiled down to in the end. I was worried about trusting other people when the answer was that I didn’t trust in my OWN ability to make a good decision when it came to trusting others. Maybe I should have just “learned from it.” It would have been so much simpler.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying. I don’t think that all our problems can be solved within ten minutes and that we will move on not being shaped or affected in some way by them – not at all. A broken heart hurts. Divorce hurts. Death hurts. Rejection hurts. There are a lot of things in life that hurt us deeply. What I’m suggesting is that perhaps a simple shift in how we approach the process would create a better and quicker outcome allowing us to get back to living joyfully. I’m suggesting it would expand our opportunity to be happier and healthier a greater portion of our lives. Life is going to happen. We can’t stop it…we can only learn ways to capitalize on the time we have here. I suggest that we stop playing the that tape I mentioned earlier …I suggest that we make a conscious choice to resolve sooner…to discover faster…by consciously seeking to identify and learn what we can from an experience, and then move forward. I have a sneaking suspicion we might come out on the other side, a bit wiser, carrying lighter baggage and WAY better off. It’s not easy; in fact, I find it rather challenging, but more rewarding in the end. (You didn’t think I’d tell you something without trying it, did you?)

When I put my own idea to trial (with very challenging situation I’m smack dab in the middle of) I notice I feel like I’ve gained knowledge I can put to good use in the future. Yes, the sting of the hurt (or other emotion) might linger, but when you cut yourself, don’t you automatically know that it’s going to take a little time to heal, and that it’s going to hurt along the way? But just like a wound, if we apply healing applications to our emotional hurts in the approach we take to resolving them, we will heal faster. Here are some examples of some of the questions I ask myself.

1. What is the situation?
2. What about this situation is making me feel angry, sad, bitter, jealous, hurt, rejected, etc? (I identify each one and define it).
3. Why does the situation make me feel this way? Be specific. (There might be more than one reason).
4. What were the signs that perhaps I didn’t pay attention/missed that might have helped me avoid this outcome? (Be honest with yourself – even if it pisses you off – it’s important).
5. What are the signs that I need to look for to identify a problem that might be hurtful to me so that I can proactively change/deal better with the outcome in the future?
6. What would I do different the next time I face the same situation? (Hindsight is 20/20 and you will face more than similar situation)
7. Then I pay attention and put my observations into 3 categories to help me keep on track. Green light = Good. Yellow light = Caution (put it into the back pocket and be vigilant). Red light = Stop. (These are non-negotiable actions or signs and need to be acted on).

Make sure to write it down in a journal, so you can refer back to it later. It’s always great to see the progress we make as we learn about life. It is also helpful to look back and review them once in a while.

Now PLEASE PAY ATTENTION CLOSELY. As with everything in life, discernment needs to be applied. For example, when you cut yourself, you have to decide if it just needs some peroxide and a band aid, or if you need to head to the doctor for some stitches or a tetanus shot. The same logic applies in dealing with emotional wounds. Some problems need that extra push from a professional to help you understand and work through them. Be smart enough to know when to ask for it. There is no shame in working hard to get back to content and healthy life. And, that’s really all counseling is, a few stitches to help an emotional wound heal quicker, stronger, and better. A professional is also well trained to assist you in pulling out the lessons/learning from a complex or traumatic situation much better than you can yourself. That birds eye view is a beautiful thing! Keep your eyes on the goal and go!

At the end of the day, I would rather be wiser, smarter…and happier all the way around. I can’t stop life, but I can find better ways to deal with the curve balls, rollercoasters and the brick walls that sometimes spring up in my path.

Isn’t being blissfully happy what we all desire in life? Don’t we all want to spend as much time loving and enjoying the journey as possible? I think that if we can quickly learn from situations that make us discontent and move forward, it could be a better way to go. There is no one answer that will work for everybody since we are all individuals… but if the conscious effort to discover what DOES work for you, and how you can learn (or gain conscious experience) from any situation is present, then you will get back to living a joyful and fulfilled life in record time. It’s so much better than just caving into the idea that time heals all wounds. We are all responsible for our own happiness. We just need to learn how to tap into the tools and resources that can help us actively achieve it.

I have “Grape Expectations” for this idea of healing faster…after all it was my favorite drink, in a fun spot with a dear friend and a country boy from Oklahoma that started all of this anyway. I definitely learned from it and this time, it didn’t even hurt a bit. Just think about doing things a little differently…

The Power of Choice

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There are just some things that are out of our control.  It absolutely 100 percent sucks in every sense of the word.  BUT.   There is something in every circumstance that you CAN control.  WHAT?  Did I hear you ask WHAT?

I’m so glad you asked, because I had every intention of telling you whether you did or not.  *smile*

What do you do when there are circumstances in your life that you cannot change? It’s simple.  You have a choice.  In fact, you have two.

One.   Give into it.  Proclaim yourself a victim. And, ride the poor me train.  It’s a lonely, depressing ride.  Enjoy that.

Or…

Two.  Acknowledge the situation, really take a look at whether you are giving it more power than it deserves (and you most likely are, just like I have more than once), and then put it in its place and move forward with faith and a deep seated belief that it’s not going to stop you, control you, or blind you to even greater opportunities because you’re busy blubbering. My mom used to call it crying over spilt milk.

I personally like Choice #2.  Sometimes it just takes me longer than others to own it.

I’ve spent some time boohooing and licking my wounds lately, but you know what?  I’m DONE.   I’m going to kick it into high gear, get off my arse and step into my power, and blow through my circumstance, because honestly there is nothing that I can do to change it.  It doesn’t define me nor does it dictate what I can become.  That’s the bare naked truth of the matter.  Any matter, really.

Does that mean I’m happy about everything?  No.  It just means that sometimes coming to terms with something not being okay is the answer.  I’m pretty damn selective about this option though.

I’m not giving up the fight, I’m just choosing to fight it in a way that BENEFITS me and drives me forward in other positive ways.  I’m putting it on the shelf where it belongs.  It’s a biggy but what the hell.  “You only live once,” or as my grandmother used to say, “There is more than one-way to skin a cat. “ (That is cliche number 5 in case you’ve lost track).

So, let me share what my brain is telling me, with you. Get over yourself.  It’s not that big a deal. Move forward. Look up. Have a little faith. You’re so much better than succumbing to the pity party that the crappy little “angel” with the tarnished halo sitting on your shoulder is encouraging you to do.  You are powerful in ways that you will only discover if you give yourself a chance to be imperfect and be okay with it.

I don’t really care what the circumstances are (and yes, I can hear you listing 100 different terrible things out that would make us all shiver)…this applies to every situation there is in life.  I’ve overcome challenges before and I’m sure there will be bigger hills to climb in the future.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not scared, or vulnerable (have I mentioned how badly I hate being vulnerable?).  Pick yourself up.  Dust your self off.  Shoulders back, rack out…step, step booty kick.  Ah, now isn’t that better?  Oh and just one more tacky saying for the road…”Fake it till you make it.” I promise that “practice will make perfect.”  Oops.  That’s two more.  Deal with it.

Choose to live your life powerfully.  Only YOU can do that.  That simple CHOICE is in your control no matter what you are going through.  Do the best you can.  That’s all anyone (and most importantly YOU) can expect of you. Push yourself out of your comfortable little box and stretch those unused muscles. Cry a little now and then when you need to (I’m a strong supporter of a good wail now and then), but set the timer (yes, seriously).   Some days I even ration Kleenex, but it works!

I will tell you this…when I apply option two…there’s been nothing that I cannot overcome.  Sometimes it just takes a little pep talk and a positive attitude (and plenty of garishly colored sticky notes all over my house so I’m consistently reminded of MY choice) to push you through the situation.

Choice.  It’s a powerful thing, isn’t it?   It’s always yours to make.

I CHOOSE to live passionately and powerfully. (That’s going right on a sticky note the minute I hit the “Post” button.

Always remember, move forward and look up!

P.S.   I wrote this just as much for me as I did for you. A good a$$ kickin once in a while never hurt anyone.   Now let’s go. We’ve got this!!!!

Remember To Be Proud

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For ten, long, miserable years, I was a battered woman.  There.  It’s out in the open for the world to see.  It can’t get much starker than printing it in black and white.   When you pick up your chin off the floor, let’s continue.  *smile*

Why am I telling you this now?  There are a few reasons.  The most important one is that I’m finally ready to say the words out loud without fainting from mortification and fear of judgment.  Secondly, another writer challenged me that if what I’m posting is not necessarily a challenge to me, then it might be mediocre content.  I don’t do mediocre.  I don’t want to address the same things in this blog that can be found in a thousand  other blogs. There are some topics that are just ugly and they need to be addressed because those thousand others can’t, won’t or don’t.

Domestic violence more than ever is a subject that needs to be faced head on and eradicated as sure as any other deadly cancer or disease.  Like heart disease, it’s a silent killer, but more importantly, it’s an ignored killer.  There are people in the world, which at this very moment, need to know they are not alone.   They need to know that someone understands, and cares.  I do.

This is a gnarly subject that’s uncomfortable for people, and because of that discomfort there are wounds being allowed to fester and ruin peoples – and I mean women, children AND men’s – lives.  Abuse is a corrosive and perpetual cycle – not only in the physical damage it wreaks, but also in the toll that it takes in the emotional and mental sensibilities of the person at the end of the fist.  It is a soul stigma.  It’s a bitch of a hole to crawl back from.  I know.  I’ve been there, and I’ve crawled back.  There are others that need to know they can do it too.

Before the condolences and sympathy start rolling, I don’t need them, nor do I want sympathy. That’s not the point of this blog.  This post is about the strength and the heart of any person that crawls back from a festering pit of self-hatred, self-doubt, fighting through the tears and disappointment, stands on their feet, fights back and succeeds. There are millions like me. I’d rather hear a stadium full of cheering applause. I’d rather be an inspiration for others to follow my path. Many stories do not end in such an inspiring manner as mine does.  It is they, which deserve sympathy and condolences, because they don’t have the opportunity to live life with a second chance.  As Martina McBride sings, they are Concrete Angels. I am, very much a live.

The question that I’m most often asked when speaking with people about domestic violence is, “How could you have been with someone that hit you?”  It’s a genuine and curious, yet repugnant question, since it implies that someone in an abusive relationship makes a conscious choice to be with someone that tortures him or her physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, financially or otherwise.  Yes, there is more than one kind of abuse, and I’m here to tell you that the broken bones, cracked ribs, broken ear drums, black eyes, choke marks and steel toe boot bruises in my chest were only a passing worry once I knew I was going to live to see another day. The answer is so much more complex than simply leaving.  It was a gut wrenching, stressful place in which to exist.  But exist I did – for a long time.  The titanium that forms my eye socket and bridges my cheekbone is only a simple reminder of a path traveled.  Nothing that is encompassed in my experience defines me, but it has REfined me, and the way that I look at life, react to circumstances, and it has most certainly affected my level of compassion.  You never know what someone is facing in his or her life. It doesn’t have to be as serious as abuse to be relevant or deserving of kindness.  We all could use a little more compassion. But I digress.

I want you to know how to recognize an abuser.  Abusive people are ordinary, good looking, normal people like you and me on the outside.  On the inside they are manipulative, insecure, sociopathic narcissists (not like you and me on the inside).  Could you identify someone like that from outward appearance?  I couldn’t until I experienced it – and it is not appearance that identifies them to me.  The abusive beast reveals itself through a slow unveiling that rips back the layers of self esteem and self confidence until they are gone, and only then are the personality traits completely revealed in their full glory.  At that point in the cycle, it is too late to leave, and it becomes a battle for escape.

Abusers are not all drunken, drug-addicted beings that are characteristically generalized in the movies.  You might be surprised at who is disposed to the classic behavioral tendencies of an abuser.  They are men, women, and children; they are police, lawyers, thugs, secretaries, and playground bullies, celebrities, and college professors and more. They can be your next-door neighbors, or the pastor at a church. The look of an abuser is indiscriminate.  They come in every color, age, shape and size. While there are certain demographics that identify characteristics there is not a mark that says someone will or won’t be an abuser.  Once I understood that, I began to understand that the entire situation wasn’t my fault.  It gave me a place from which to begin rebuilding myself.  That voyage is much to much to post in a single blog, but you will find many exercises and lessons throughout past posts, as well as future ones that I implemented throughout my journey on the way back to me – I won’t always point out that it was an abusive situation that was the catalyst, because they work equally well for many different situations. I am not a result of the abuse; I am the result of constant hard work, complete self-honesty and taking a step forward when I didn’t think I possibly could.

I’ve realized that by not talking candidly about my experience that I am hiding a part of me that can inspire and encourage others to find the resolve to take that first step in fighting for something better for them selves.  My first step is to say to others out there:  You are NOT ALONE and there is a healthy and fulfilling life left to live. You’re going to have to reach out and grab it and hold on for dear life and believe in yourself like never before – but it’s there – and it’s worth every second of pain and every tear that falls.

Yesterday, I met an incredible woman.  She’s lived through a horror story similar to mine.  We bonded immediately.  Not in the fact that we’d both lived through horrible circumstances, but rather what we did to move forward with power.  She had never had someone, a friend that understood the way that I did. Now, she does.  What she doesn’t realize is  that by sharing her story, it is SHE that has inspired me.  She’s amazing, beautiful, a great mom, and a go-getter.  I’m so utterly proud of her.  She also motivated my desire to start this conversation.

I’m proud of all that I’ve accomplished since the day that I sat down to start figuring out what color I liked.  (Yes, I had to start from the bottom and work up as I fought to regain myself and rebuild my self-esteem).  Recently a friend was talking me through a difficult situation, and they reminded me to always be proud.  They don’t know the impact of their words, but trust me when I say that I’ve gone back and applied those words to a lot of different situations throughout my life.  In every circumstance I found something that I could be proud of.  Through failure, success, grief, anger, happiness, and joy – every situation leaves you with SOMETHING to be proud of.   You just have to learn how to recognize it.  I’m most certainly proud that I crawled back from the pit of hell to live a rewarding and opportunity filled life.

All days are not bright and joy filled snoopy dances. Today was one of them (and I didn’t feel well on top of it). The key for me is to recognize and acknowledge my feelings and understand that theses days are rare and pass quickly. Considering the alternative outcome that could have been my reality, I embrace the emotion and go out of my way to be extra kind to myself.  I am still smiling.  That’s good enough for me.  Most people never know, and only realize that I’m much quieter than usual.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that writing this post doesn’t make my belly quiver.  It does.  It’s challenging me to my limits. I feel vulnerable, and being vulnerable is something that I struggle with.  I know that there are people that may criticize my decision to share this part of me. I also realize that it won’t resonate with everyone.  Like I said, the topic is a queasy one for many.  For me it’s a triumphant story, one that included a long fight back from circumstances that could have easily ended my life.  Instead it left me with a soul stigma that has evolved into a soul insignia, and left me with an opportunity to extend my hand to help pull others up if only by the mere fact that they now realize they are not alone.  That is my motivation.  I step up for the people that won’t or can’t.

You’ve all heard me say countless times – Move Forward – Look Up.  It’s my mantra.  Those simple words were at times, all I could utter as I navigated my way through a journey of self-discovery, rebuilding, and loss and all the emotions it carried with it.  Faith and simple words are what carried me through so many times that I didn’t think I had the strength to get through the day.  But I always did. No matter the circumstance.  You can do it too.  You are never alone.

In a certain sense, there is final healing for me in writing this, or at least there will be once I hit the Post button.  If you’re reading this, then you know I succeeded.  It’s a “secret” that I’ve held closely unless you are someone special to me or had a reason to know – and admittedly there are not that many.  The landscape is different now.  I’m choosing to be proud of what I’ve accomplished instead of being shamed by something dark and miserable.  I write this as the sun is setting, but for me, the sun is rising and the road has opened before me.  I feel like I can take a deep breath, exhale and love a part of my life that for so long I’ve hated.  Breaking that final chain is worth any risk that saying these words publicly can pose.

Finally, I am free.

The Effects of Hot Air Ballooning & OTDD (Obsessive Technology DISconnection Disorder)

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Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?

We could float among the stars together, you and I

For we can fly we can fly

Up, up and away

My beautiful, my beautiful balloon

The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon

It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon

We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky

For we can fly we can fly

Up, up and away…

The Fifth Dimension

All week long this song has been playing over and over in my mind…and this past weekend, I got to experience balloon flight first hand.

When my alarm went off at 4:00AM Saturday morning, I bounced out of bed excited (trust me THAT’S an anomaly) as we had to meet our group out in Wine Country by 5:15AM.  It was still dark out and I rarely contemplate getting out of bed that early unless spurred by the fear of a missed flight, but this time I was inspired by a chance to see the sunrise from a completely new perspective than I have ever experienced before.

I hoped the balloon company wouldn’t cancel the flight as we tried to find the turn off in the darkness and thick fog. Finally, we arrived at the meeting place, checked in and piled into vans and headed out farther into wine country with balloons in tow to “outrun” the fog roll.  We got a mile or two ahead of it, and found a spot to set the balloons up.

The sun was already peeking over the horizon, and I was so eager to get up in the air, I felt like there was a herd of butterflies romping through my belly.  When the balloon was set up and inflated, we climbed into the basket and we gently floated up, up and away.

I didn’t realize we were moving until I looked down…any nerves dissipated and I hungrily drank in the sunrise and watched the fog rolling across the Temecula Valley with an eerie cool mystique.  A chord of peaceful stillness resounded within me, as I absorbed the perfect silence and the stunning beauty surrounding me.

It’s not often I get that I get completely taken up in a moment. The experience got me thinking.

Every single day we are consistently bombarded with information, media, digital communications and constant static that affects our ability to fully absorb the present moment.  Think about it. You’re writing a sentence or trying to concentrate on a single task, and a ringing phone, a knock at the door, multiple deadlines or an email notification consistently scatters your focus. No matter the time or place, our attention is pulled from one incomplete thought to the next. I realize that multi-tasking is an ordinary state of mind these days, but I cannot help but wonder how critically it dilutes our ability to effectively absorb the information that we must comprehend in order to stay ahead of the curve. I’m going to say it’s a monumental suck on our mental and emotional sensibilities.

Are you mentally exhausted at the end of the day?  Do feel like you’ve been dragged through the mud?  Eyes blurry? Do you feel tense?  I would humbly suggest that perhaps its time to limit the constant (digital and otherwise) bombardment on our psyche and learn to focus on one thing (or at least fewer things) more completely. I can hear you laughing as you shake your head and list out ten excuses why that it’s not possible.  But… I’m here to tell you it’s time to unclutter our concentration.  If you don’t do it yourself, no one is going to do it for you. I personally don’t want to be the one walking around clucking like a chicken because I finally lose it.  Don’t laugh, it can happen.

I have to make a confession.  While I was up floating with the clouds and breathing the clean air, the obscene question popped into my head of whether I had cell service?  I did – five full bars of communication muscle. I immediately flexed them to snap a picture and post to Facebook. I had to laugh at the nonsensicality of it. I guess in my mind there was just something cool about Facebooking and checking email on my iPhone from a hot air balloon that’s ascending to 5000 feet above sea level (and I still think there is – in a preposterous obsessive sort of way).  But that proves my point doesn’t it? We are constantly distracted from the pure joy of the present.

Feeling somewhat silly, I pulled myself back into the moment, and wrapped myself into the beauty of the sunrise; the fog rolling in, the immaculately appointed orchards, and carefully tended wineries, the beauty of the rolling hills, the horizon and the fact that I was floating with the clouds.  I physically felt myself exhale.  It was an amazing feeling to completely unplug and consciously be present to the moment. I could have cared less when we landed, what came next, or if I needed to accomplish anything else later in the day.  When was the last time that YOU intentionally unplugged?  Yesterday?  Last month?  Last year?  Saturday, I soaked in the pure, unadulterated beauty of the experience of floating up, up and away from all the worries, the stress and the constant onslaught of everything that demands my attention.  I swear it was a religious experience even if only because of its rarity. Much later when I was back on the ground, I couldn’t wait to upload some of the 107 photos that I took to Facebook. See?  I clearly suffer from OTDD – aka Obsessive Technology DISconnection Disorder. Frick and frack!

We so often live for vacations, weekends, and days at a time when we get to disconnect, but in between those times, we find it acceptable to stay constantly plugged in.  In a world that revolves around technology, it’s really hard to disengage.  After a long day at the office we shut off the office computer and trade it in for a smart phone, iPad, television, or multitude of other devices and continue on our distracted journey.  We CAN make a different choice.  And, perhaps we owe it to our health and sanity to try.  I’m going to do a few things differently in my quest to balance life and work better.  (If you’ve read any of my recent posts you know that I’m on a mission).

I’ve noticed a few interesting ways that people around me are using to relax and unplug on a more regular basis – and here’s the best part for the serious OTDD sufferers (like me) – a few of the suggestions even use some technology so we don’t have to go completely cold turkey.  Check them out.

  1. Read a real book (not an electronic version) that is not related to work before going to sleep.  (I do this EVERY single night to power down my brain).
  2. Set a shutoff time for digital communication at least one hour before bedtime (that includes status updates, tweets, emails, internet access, etc).
  3. Write a letter or send a real card.  (People LOVE the personal touch).
  4. Find a stand up comedy show and sit in the front row.  (I dare you to check email there).
  5. Go on a bike ride and find ten things that inspire you.  Take a picture of them.  (See?  You get to use technology – and you can post on FB during your next “on time” session – *double fix).
  6. Limit checking emails to set times throughout the day at the office (not constantly).  Studies show that people are less stressed and more productive when doing so.  Your boss will love the benefit of that, right?
  7. Want a FB break?  Try writing your statuses in a journal rather than on FB, you’ll expand more, and it might even spur a creative idea or two. (I sometimes use this when furthering ideas for my book).
  8. Go roller-skating.  (You get music, fun exercise, and nostalgia all rolled into one).
  9. Go to the gym.  (You can use your iPod for motivation music and shedding a few pounds or staying fit is always a bonus).
  10. Go on a hot air balloon ride (and leave your phone on the ground for God sakes…use that old digital or analogue camera)…and enjoy the view!

The worst thing that can happen by doing ANY of these simple unplugs is that you might just find yourself experiencing solitude, clarity of mind, having fun and beating OTDD.  What a concept!  Disconnect.  Clear the cache.  Decompress.  Sounds like heaven to me.

All content and photos copyright 2012, Ruth Moyte