Dear Grateful Lifers,
I spent many hours with Tara, my beloved therapist in San Francisco, talking about life and loss, love and forgiveness. We spent many hours together discussing books, and theories, and God, and hope. I adored our time together, and even wrote her an open letter of thanks on TGL when B and I left for Ohio.
On one particular occasion, I sat on her cozy sofa berating myself, no doubt for the 100th time, for a mistake I’d made in recent history. Carefully unpacking what I perceived to be a new perspective, or angle or clue into why it was all so messed up and in which ways I am to blame was (sometimes still is) my specialty!
“Human beings are the only known creatures on earth who repeatedly punish themselves for the same mistake”, Tara said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Let me put it this way. And really, this is a bit of a caricature example, but you’ll get the point. Picture the plains of Africa – a gazelle is quietly grazing in the grass, unassuming, when suddenly a lion leaps from behind him and a race for life ensues. The gazelle zigs, and zags and somehow manages to escape his fate as lunch. What do you think happens next? Do you think the gazelle then goes over in his mind all of the ways in which he handled this high stress situation inappropriately? Berating himself for going left, when he should have cut right? Regretting his choice to graze in that particular spot again when clearly he should know better? Talking about this incident with every other gazelle for the next few weeks, remembering with more shame each time the story is told, subtly asking for affirmation that maybe he isn’t the dumbest gazelle on the plain?”
(by now I am laughing)
“No. The gazelle has a natural, biological response. Within a few minutes his heart rate and blood pressure lowers. He resumes grazing...perhaps more mindfully, yet absolutely without continuous self-punishment. He survived. Life moves on.”
OK, I realize we are not gazelles on a plain. #Basic, much? I’d like to think of myself as something more regal and emotionally astute, like an elephant, anyway. But you see what she is trying to say, yea?
As part of the natural animal world, humans have similar biological responses of flight, fight, freeze. Of course, our developed brains then layer on about a zillion subsets of choices under those umbrellas, but at its core, we still walk around with deeply ancient biologies imbedded in our DNA.
We need fear to survive. Each one of us is writing and/or reading this because our primal lineages managed to navigate and learn from fear. “Cousin died eating that berry. Berry bad. Do not eat that berry. Lion ate brother. Run from lion.” But we no longer need fear in this same primal sense for survival. We do not need to apply it to every single stinking decision we do or do not make in modern times. We do not need the detailed stories it makes up for us, nor the mental file cabinet of past hurts it utilizes to implement anticipatory grieving, failure, or finality. It is not our only teacher.
What we do need, however, is more forgiveness. What we need are our gazelle-like instincts to learn to let it go, and move on. Let me be clear: When we forgive self or others, there is no lack of acknowledgement for harm caused. It’s truly impossible to have real intimacy with anyone without this. Forgiveness requires transparency and accountability. Yet it does not require complete absolution of all negative thoughts forever. Positive feelings don’t wholly erase negative ones. With forgiveness, we are less likely to be sensitive to, or triggered by, negative memories while seeing our hurts (self inflicted or otherwise) as part of who we are, yet not an all-encompassing representation of our beings or our lives. They co-exist. They are some, but blessedly, not all. Thank goodness, because there are things far more worthy of our energetic investment.
You survived, darling. What did you learn? How did it change you? Where will you create transformation through active choice in the future?
Now let life move on.
This has been a favorite Pema saying of mine for years, as it speaks to the truly temporary nature of all our feelings/life scenarios while acknowledging the powerful immensity of our beings.
So what do we do, when we find ourselves solely focusing on the weather around or within us, instead of our innate strength, wholeness, potential for transformation?
A bit of in-the-moment Food For Thought:
✨ What Do I Need Right Now? Are my basic physical needs being met? In times of stress it is surprisingly easy to let our fundamental needs take a back seat. Asking am I hungry, thirsty, tired -- do I need to stretch, sweat, breathe deep, lay down -- takes care of our primal humanness before continuing on to our more complicated layers.
✨ Is there an ask that could be made? For help, for forgiveness, for clarity. This one may take a bit (or bunch) of humility. Yet, it is far better to be uncomfortable in the moment, than regretful or resentful down the line.
✨ What will help ease my tensions long term? Take a meta view of yourself. Zoom out to one week, one month, one year. Will this matter? Should I be freaking out, and will freaking out be helpful? What is one thing I can do now that will leave me feeling more relaxed later? Take your power back a bit. Your future self will thank you.
✨ What connects me? We’re looking for ways to help us find our most natural, capable rhythm again. Honestly? We’re looking for ways to remember who we are, and what we value. For me, it is talking with a trusted friend and getting fresh air. Other connections may include a walk in nature, a quiet cup of coffee, reading a favorite book, going for a run, being of service to someone else.
✨ What brings me joy? Shifting from stress triggers to simple pleasures is a great way to reset. It may feel a tad forced at first, but trust me -- this is a powerful way to interrupt unserving thoughts and replace them with a perspective that offers more possibilities and less dead ends. Choose happiness over suffering, y’all.
[excerpt from 30/30 email coaching]
How many deep, nourishing, inhales followed by totally emptying exhales have you taken today?
In yoga, the breath becomes a metaphor for life.
Yoga says: If you are struggling to sip in air, ease out of your pose.
Life says: If you are struggling, be gentle with yourself. Scale back. More is not always better.
Yoga says: Send your breath to the spots of tension in your body.
Life says: Pay attention to signs and messages, what creates dissonance, rather than resonance in your being, before they become a problem.
Yoga says: It doesn’t matter what pose you take, so long as you breathe your way through it.
Life says: No matter where you are, or what is happening, your value and “success” are not measured by external circumstance.
Yoga says: Introduce your Ujjayi (Ocean) breath to enhance your practice.
Life says: Facing the waves of being human, do not choose to run in fear, as it will catch you. Do not choose to stand firm in ego, for it will knock you down. Choose to dive deep with humility, and let it transform you.
[excerpt from TGL's 30/30 coaching program]
A balanced, fulfilling life starts with being truthful with ourselves. This season has an extra dose of magic available for this kind of inquiry, a sense of both beginning again, and preparing to let go.
I offer clients who feel “stuck” in unsatisfying patterns these questions, which I use in my own self exploration:
How might I contribute more, and criticize less?
How might I create more, and consume less?
Choosing to put our energies into contribution + creation, rather than criticism and consumption, helps to re-establish a desired balance to our days. Asking ourselves if/how the ways in which we spend our precious resources -- time, energy, money, emotional attention — contributes to our wholeness as true investments, aids in the process of living in alignment with our most core values. This consideration gives us an avenue to taking back our own power, vs. leaving it to “other” to fill our days with meaning.
Want to explore this in your own life? Tricia of The Grateful Life Coaching is offering our tribe 50% off [ $75] a one hour coaching discovery session now through October! Use code “TRIBE” at checkout here; www.tglcoaching.com/store/p16/discover or email to schedule firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the fence about coaching, or have questions about the process? Email or DM her to set up a free 15 minute call, first.
Dear Grateful Lifers,
Oh mylanta, I am thrilled to announce a new project from The Grateful Life Coaching (and blog)....
Alongside my husband, who is both a certified personal trainer + nutritionist (soon to be Registered Dietician), I have created a high quality collection of Life, Health + Wellness information and inspiration to bring you a $30 for 30 days email coaching program!
As long time readers of my blog, you will recognize my style immediately. Plus, be introduced to more varied wellness information, courtesy of Brandon. This is a great way to be introduced to the rhythm of coaching at an extremely low cost (like, really low), as well as a deeper dive for those of you still currently invested in the process (there's always more work to be done!).
I'll be blunt: if you have ever liked anything I’ve written on The Grateful Life in the past 7 years, or as a guest writer for outside publications, you are guaranteed to enjoy and be inspired by these emails. It will still be my voice, speaking from my heart.
And, if you have ever wished your inbox would help cultivate the kind of life most authentic to you, motivate change, inspire healthy choices, spark creativity or remind you of what's possible...you should consider joining us on this digital journey.
What it is, and what you get:
Our first round launches on June 1st, 2018.
**Be one of the first 5 people to subscribe AND comment below to receive a sweet snail-mailed thank you from B and me!**
Your loyal readership has meant the world to me over the past seven years. I hope to continue exploring life, love, faith, adventure, health and wholeness together in this new capacity.
As always, referrals are the heart of my practice -- please share TGL with anyone you feel could benefit ($30 for 30 emails is the perfect introduction to coaching and health training)!
Thank you for trusting me with your most open-hearted selves. Thank you for reading, and always encouraging me to write. You are my inspiration behind this project, and I am so excited to connect with you. I love you!
I recently mailed a congratulatory engagement gift to a dear friend, and included a note that said “Marriage is the best! We would know, we’ve done it for two months.” Kidding aside, I really like being married. I am surprised by how much I love calling B my husband. I like saying it dramatically, drawn out with a southern twang, and a sassy little shoulder pop. I’m pretty sure he likes it, too. (Though maybe less so when I say it this weirdly in public).
Andy, one of our wedding ceremony Reverends, was spot on; When it is right, you do wake up feeling different. A little giddy, youthful, and in awe of this magic. Naive, but brave; the same, but transformed.
My first marriage was... not right (to grossly oversimplify). I remember waking up the morning after our large wedding, steeling myself more intensely than ever for the day ahead. Layering on my masks of all-is-well. Mustering up the phony smiles and “I’m so happy!” pleasantries that would be, naturally, expected of me at a post-wedding brunch. Every day was like this for two plus years. Armoring up. Hiding. Pretending, and out right lying to the broad majority of people in my life. It was not like this for just me, either. My then husband did not play the role of naive, oblivious partner. Not in the slightest. He was painfully aware of the broken, irreparable energy between us; of the resentful, distant, vibrations I leaked into our home and shared existence. I somehow managed to be both transparent and secretive in my deceit, painfully cognizant of his tender awareness yet choosing to limit us both all the same. It was a terrible time.
I’ve never tried on a full firefighters uniform, but I’ve been told they are quite heavy. I imagine they’d have to be, considering what they are built to withstand! This is what I wore every single day for what seemed like forever. I felt tiny and raw and stupid and cowardly. I felt fake and ashamed and slightly, manically crazed. I hated myself. So I pulled on my heavy, burdensome uniform, hoping to feel protected. The more my ex tried to love me, the more layers I piled on. The deeper I withdrew, the more hurt I doled out with disgust for myself. And you know what? Those suits may do the job within a blazing burn, but it only left me sweaty, tired, uncomfortable, limited and sad. Seriously. So, so, so sweaty.
Listen: It wasn’t his fault. And with time, space, therapy, and two individual stories blessedly taking far happier turns...I learned it wasn’t mine, either.
It just wasn’t right.
But this time? This time it is. This time it is a choice fiercely, openly declared over the course of 6 blissful, challenging, awakening years. On December 17th I woke up feeling giddy, youthful, and in awe of the magic. I also woke up feeling sleepy and comfortable and hungry for the bagels being delivered by my dad, wishing B would brush his teeth because of the cigars he enjoyed the night before. For some reason this realness feels important to note, too.
I guess this was all important for me to write out for a couple of reasons. First, as a grateful nod to my husband of two whole months (said with sassy shoulder pop + southern drawl, of course). I love you, I thank you, I appreciate you. You are so funny and playful and sweet. I really love being your wife.
But I also want people to know that the path of love looks different for all of us. One souls journey is not the story of another’s. Your truth ain’t gotta be my gospel, and vice versa. I want the person who may not have gotten their intimate relationship “right” the first (second, third, or fourth) time to see how very possible it is to not only try again, but to succeed. I want the person who is armored, ashamed, or flailing under a sweaty cloak to know that while disrobing from the suit is most certainly, frighteningly difficult, it is not necessarily going to leave you exposed to a scarring flame. In fact I’d argue that if the intention of undressing is both freedom and healing for all, then getting naked in your truth just might turn the blaze of shame into a soft, welcoming light waiting to guide you home. For what it's worth, I think this is true across all of life. Not only in partnership.
If you’ve followed my blogging journey at all over the past several years, you’ll know that marrying Brandon was not the result of some big ol’ stroke of luck. A bit of luck? Sure. The mystery of timing will always amuse and confuse me. But my joyful wholeness is mostly a testament to a hell of a lot of work, effort, reflection, travel, conscious choices + changes. It is the treasure born of forgiveness, acceptance and letting go.
I so deeply wish this for each of you. If you have it - keep at it. This is some of the work most worth doing. And if it is your soul’s desire - keep at it, too. You are most definitely worthy of the giddy, youthful awe of magic.
From our wedding ceremony…
For you, there'll be no more crying.
For you, the sun will be shining.
And I feel that when I'm with you,
It's alright, I know it's right.
To you, I'll give the world.
To you, I'll never be cold.
'Cause I feel that when I'm with you,
It's alright, I know it's right.
And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.
And I wish you all the love in the world.
But most of all, I wish it from myself.
And the songbirds keep singing, like they know the score
And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before, like never before, like never before.
Do Good, Be Well, Keep Loving,
We cannot run from our fears. They are fast, resourceful, and relentless in their attempts to paralyze us or make us choose against our souls core desires. And, they are also great teachers, challengers and motivators; they are invitations to question, to affirm, and to grow.
When a client so much as implies that one of their goals in coaching is to learn how to never be afraid of anything again, I offer them a full refund. I also request they refer me to the person who is able to do this for them, as that is a skill I'd be interested in seeing before I die.
Joking aside -- The point is not to never feel fear, or need to beat it out of our systems in order to be transformed. The point is be a witness to its purpose, and its message. *To observe it, without absorbing it.* To feel so connected to our own innate courage for living a life of authenticity, that while its presence is a part of our emotional story, it is not the driver, the judge, or our gospel.
This takes practice. Probably a lifetime's worth of it. But it does get easier. It gets softer, too. You can absolutely fill your toolkit with resources much better suited to serve you -- that is what we work on in coaching. It is a relationship that each of us could stand to explore, and check in on. But not one that needs to lead the way.
Do Good, Be Well,
A block to coaching I hear fairly regularly from interested parties centers around the price tag of committing to a package. "Oh, I don't think I can afford that right now..." kind of thing.
And I get it. Somebody's gotta keep the lights on, and whatnot.
But this, in my humble experience, is more often really just a way of saying: "I'm *unwilling* to make this work". Or worse: "I am not sure I'm ready to be transformed."
Money is energy. What we appreciate, appreciates.
Coaching absolutely requires a degree of vulnerability to be fully effective, and so many of us fight this tooth and nail, afraid of what we'll discover if we pull back the curtain and allow ourselves to be wholly seen by another.
So I can't help but wonder...
If you do not invest in yourself - your worth, your goals, your spirit, your powerful potential - then who will? Do they know you as well as you do, and will they be present day after day, hour after hour? The only relationship we are guaranteed for the entirety of our days on earth is the one we have with ourselves. People will come and go. Jobs come and go. Houses, pets, families change. You are the one constant. What do you want that to look like?
Money is energy. What we appreciate, appreciates.
How are you spending your energy? Is your ROI made up of fleeting satisfactions, or unshakeable fulfillment?
And, do you believe you are worth the investment?
Because I do.
Do Good, Be Well,
Where does the answer lie?
Allow me to explain….
Winter has never been a favorite of mine. Growing up in NJ, and attending university in PA, meant plenty of years worth of snow, ice, biting winds, frozen fingers, runny noses and wetness creeping into the accidentally exposed cracks of my outwear, sending chills straight to my bones.
When B and I announced our move to Ohio, many first reactions included a chuckled comment on surviving the winters, vs. what we had been experiencing in San Francisco, California (i.e. no real winter) for a handful of years. Eight for me, to be exact.
But, I figured, it wouldn’t be too much of a shocker to ease back into what I had known so well for most of my life. How hard could it be?
As I began to write this, on December 10th, it was 8 degrees. Eight. Degrees.
Pass me the mittens. We are in trouble.
In some parts of the world, winter spans an unimaginable lifetime. Or, in actuality, months and months and months.
“How do you survive the coldest, darkest months here?”, we asked our wicked smart and funny Icelandic tour guide during our August visit two years ago.
“Oh! We drink. We are great drinkers! Vodka. Do you want some?”
Side note: this same tour guide was horrified that we all ate, and enjoyed, crab.
“We wouldn’t even feed crab to our CATS!”, she exclaimed. Apparently, bottom feeders + seaside towns + storms and shipwrecks =
“You could be eating your neighbor! Ack!”
So, I have officially set out on a journey of Hygge. Investing in Hygge has lit a fire in my soul, and I find myself not just braced for true winter, but excited for the opportunities it offers.
From now until March (ohgodwhy), you will find me indulging this list, on repeat, like my life depends on it:
1. Stevie Wonder Christmas Pandora station. This channel has been carefully curated over 3 years, with diligent thumbs upping and downing, and is now pure winter perfection. It feels like living inside an old record player, and you should want to live there, too. Christmas is over? Humbug! If snow is on the ground, Stevie is on the speakers.
2. Yoga. Bit the bullet and got a 30 day pass to a studio up the road. Warm, sunny room + warm, sunny teacher will hopefully help thaw my limbs and heart.
3. Flavored coffees + teas, inside of cute/funny/pretty mugs. I will never not adore a cleverly dressed cup of something warm and tasty!
4. Baking pastries, eating one (two, probably two) and then delivering the rest to the main office of our complex. This fills the house with heavenly scents but keeps the calories away. Our office ladies are all super young and thin, so I feel no guilt over carb-loading them (read: I feel pleasure).
5. Candles, candles, candles. Most of them flameless. I’m sensitive to smells, so other than the this baby that has been my absolute favorite, I prefer the look of flickering light over the too-strong smell so many exude.
6. Hallmark holiday movies. Our DVR was almost at capacity before the season barely began. #noshame. I wrote about my addiction of these last year over here. Suffice to say, nothing has changed (including the movie plots LOL).
7. Shea butter lotion all over my bodacious bod post-shower or bath, followed by extra TLC on the ol’ tootsies via snuggle socks designed to keep them warm + soft. I love to soak in a tub of bath salts so hot that it almost burns off a layer of my skin. It drives B nuts, but it ain’t my fault he can’t take the heat.
8. Bundled walks with Ivy. (we’ll see how long this one actually lasts). She helps me fill my lungs with fresh air after hours spent indoors, reminds me to stretch, and allow the sun to kiss my skin (on top of proper SPF, of course).
9. Time spent perusing the over stock book shop directly across the street from our apartment complex. I mean, look at this place…
(I do not know why he is sitting like that. For the record.) Books for 50-90% off?! YES YES.
10. Read and read and read and read. Read in bed with a diffuser full of essential oils humming beside me. Read on the couch covered in layers of blankets and Ivy’s head on my lap. Read in the HQ of our complex, in front of the fireplace, with my daily free coffee. Read outloud to Brandon, since he falls asleep trying to read on his own. Story time is such happy time for me.
11. Crockpot meals once a week. Makes everything feel homey, and the leftovers keep so well.
12. Coloring! I say this without a trace of humor: I have been wayyyyy ahead of the zen coloring movement for YEARS. Kicking myself for not capitalizing on my stress soothing go-to back in the early 2000’s. This season I’ll be filling out a coloring book of postcards, then sending them off to people I love, miss, just wanna say HI to. Let me know if ya want one -- Britney sold her work for $10k, apparently, but I’m giving mine away for free.
13. Wine from this cup, as gifted to me by my dear friend, Janice.
Hey, the Icelandic say vodka, but wine works just fine for me. (Plus, I feel they’d appreciate this magical chalice , no?)
14. Card games with B. Skip Bo helped heal us once upon a time, and since then we've become big fans of Phase 10, too.
15. Write gratitude letters, practice presence, curl up with Netflix + B, invite new friends over (hooray! we made some in Ohio!), and know that after Winter, must come Spring.
Happy Hygge, everyone!
I've heard that participating in activities such as apple picking, sipping pumpkin spice lattes, taking hayrides, buying pies and cider donuts, etc earns you the millennial label of being a "basic bitch".
I'm not insulted.
Fall is awesome, and there is a reason why people go crazy for it! The smells, the tastes, the colors, the hot drinks, the cozy sweaters, the cute boots. AHHH. I'm basic bitching out on the inside AND outside!
Big thanks to Ali, our new friend in Ohio, for joining us on a little autumn adventure. Ivy loves Ali, and anything that involves being outside in the sunshine. Just like her mom :)
And thank you to Lynd Farm, for having all of the wonderful Fall musts in one place. It was pretty warm during our visit, but I have hope that Ohio will soon flip the switch to cooler temps, just when the soul requires it. We will most definitely be making a return visit, soon.