Poking my head out to say hello!

It seems I’ve been HIDING IN MY SHELL. For like, a while. Months and months! It was necessary, this journey inward and focused on dealing with some life situations, but time to renter the world already!

So here I am, poking my head out, tentatively at first but pretty soon I’ll be back in the swing of things just like old times, me and WordPress doing our thing. For now, imagine me waving hello! What you been up to? Ready to take on March? Stick your head out of your shell too? I think good things are in store!

Adorable turtle model is courtesy of The Everglades Wonder Gardens @theevergladeswondergardens where your’s truly took the photo. This little dude’s probably more of a metaphor for someone trying to bust loose from fences (internal? External?) but he’s just so gosh darn cute I had to include him.

Bye for now! But see ya soon! (PROMISE!) .


(Pssttt! Do you like following things more on Instagram than on wordpress? Keep up with my posts in Instagram at @followthejoy!) #justfollowthejoy

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Pursuing joy

At some point this past year I decided I wanted my life to be about pursuit of joy rather than reduction of suffering. And to paraphrase Frost, it has made all the difference.

For me it looks like embracing my inner artist. I was born an artist but along the way morphed, conformed, forgot. It’s all good. The journey back to myself has been so sweet! I’m leaping into fear, taking an undergrad art class with students who are literally half my age. Fear and joy! Fear and joy! Even the smell of art supplies makes my heart sing.

Are there any small ways you can increase joy? Share you victories below!! I’m so happy to give virtual high fives to you brave souls.

Peering into the closet

Sometimes we need to dig into the closet. What is in there that scares us?

I’ve read that the Chinese New Year’s FIRE ROOSTER brings with it the energy of tidying up, letting go, and being fastidious. 

Recently I fully embraced the rooster energy and decided to spontaneously empty and organize our walk-in closet. To the untrained eye the room was full of assorted piles of crap. Not so! I had fastidiously sorted each and every last content into items in need of repair (buttons sewn on, stains removed); items to donate–with sub-categories including the items to take to the domestic violence shelter thrift store (clothes mostly) and items to donate to a home for young mothers in foster care (for them, only the nicest household items, some children’s clothes and toys and don’t ask why those things were even in my closet in the first place.). And then was the pile of trash. The pile of random mementos that needed to put tucked away. The pile of clothes that no longer fit but maybe if I lose those last ten pounds? The pile of office supplies (why were they in there….?) You get the idea.

SO. MANY. PILES.

A week later and the project is complete, including the addition of a new plush rug inside the closet that my daughter and I gleefully rolled around on, all the while absorbing the beauty of the clean and orderly closet! 

I thought my Fire Rooster energy had run its course. It turns out, no so fast.

Alas, it seems there were other dark spaces that had slow and steadily collected items out of view. Left in the dark but ready for light to be shined upon them. 

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting as much recently. Mostly this is because I have been doing a lot of artwork, and also keeping busy with my little project #100daysofhope (mostly on instagram).

You could say I’ve been consumed by my art. Every spare moment I seem to be in front of the watercolors. I’ve been posting them on Instagram…and then something started to happen.

Within the span of days several people asked to purchase prints I had made. Did I have a store?

I think the best way to describe what happened next would be paralysis. 

I know, it makes zero sense. This is awesome, people want to buy my artwork! How wonderful!

Yes, yes yes. But it meant getting my act together. It meant collecting and properly scanning and uploading and editing and printing and….and….all the excuses you can imagine. Know what it really meant?

It meant shining a light on my creative work. IT MEANT VULNERABILITY.

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Image found online

The universe was giving me so many nudges, it was ridiculous. And then my sister called. She urged me for the thousandth time to setup a damn online shop. And after I told her about the inquiries she jokingly and lovingly scolded me, WHAT? Sarah get your butt in gear!

I was a tad defensive. Do you know how busy I am? Blah blah blah. Well, in talking to her, I decided to cut work early yesterday and at least get started on the project. 

So yesterday afternoon, dragging my feet still, I slowly assembled the artwork until every last piece was laying on my bed.

My jaw dropped. There was SO MUCH ARTWORK. I had created all this? All this time it had been tucked away in the dark, in need of fastidious sorting and cataloguing.

And it needed light.

At this point in the afternoon I realized I needed to make a call. I left a message for my sister and I told her she would not believe how much artwork it turns out that I had! (Oh, I think she knew.) I thanked her for the nudge. The loving nudge to push the baby bird out of the nest. The bird who was more than ready to fly.

I’m sorting, scanning and fastidiously editing and preparing to print the artwork. I will gleefully-and fearfully-share with you when they are posted online for sale. And if I drag my heals, you officially have permission to nudge this baby bird once again.

What about you? What is hiding in your closet, in the dark, in need of light and air? Are there things you need to let go of? Are there things that need to be seen? Who can hold you accountable and gently push you out of the nest? The fire rooster calls!


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Welcome to Humans Anonymous!

I have a confession.

It turns out i am a human. Who is flawed. And (gulp) imperfect.

There’s something about the holidays that just leaves me feeling raw and vulnerable. I am sure I am alone in this. I am sure no other flawed, imperfect human struggles this time of year!

Let me tell you about my judgment spiral. Wait, let me back up. I need you to know first of all that I am INFJ. That is a meyers-briggs personality assessment because I freaking love any time of psychology/self-help/woo-woo assessment.

You will notice there is a J at the end. J is for judgment. As in, I am a judge-y Judy. My husband-the-scientist is an INFP–“P”  stands for perceiving. Which means conversations like this occur (as it did last night):

Me: It isn’t always bad to be judge-y. Sometimes you need to make a judgement about something!

Husband: Do you?

Me: (Horrified) You are joking when you say that right? YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME!

Husband: No I am not joking. [editor’s note: He wasn’t joking. I KNOW RIGHT??]

Me: Oh, I just judged you for NOT JUDGING. Damnit I have a problem!

Now let’s back up one week. Let me set the scene.

Our babysitter was here watching our kiddo during the final week of the world’s longest break because I had to work (for real) and my husband had to work or else he would go certified stir-crazy (also true).

The sitter came and watched our kid in our house. Our messy, grimy, needs-deep-cleaning-so-bad-I-can-taste-it house. Our sitter–a self-professed “OCD neat freak” — was likely breaking out in hives all week after being forced to be in the grime. Of course that was what I was imagining.

Every morning before she came I cleaned like a madwoman, cursed about whoever didn’t put their shoes away, decided my husband and child were the World’s Messiest Human Beings, and generally felt my stress level go up ten notches.

Dear people, this was because I was worried about what my 22-year-old babysitter thought of my messy house. Yes. A young woman who has no children, no spouse, no full-time job. WHAT THE ACTUAL :!@#IE?! 

Oh, might I add that I assumed she was judging me. It is also possible she showed up, shrugged her shoulders, and carried on without a thought. Either way, why do I care?

Well, I care because at the end of the day I am ashamed of my dirty house. ASHAMED. I mean that is a powerful word right? And why am I ashamed? Because my dear, loving mother kept the most immaculate, clean, neat, tidy house you can imagine. My dear mother who would care for everyone in our house from the moment she arose to the end of the day, 11pm at night, sitting and folding laundry while finally doing something for herself: watching some tv. WHILE FOLDING LAUNDRY.

Guess what I do. Are you ready for this? I work all day, and after putting my kid to bed, sit and watch tv. WITHOUT FOLDING LAUNDRY. I let it pile up like nobody’s business. Or, I sit and write (like now!) rather than clean, or I sit and paint rather than clean.

As I type this I hear my mom in my ear. Tears well in my eyes as I type this: Sarah, you are being so hard on yourself. She also adds, with a chuckle, that housekeeping has never exactly been my strong suit. (She would also be correct.  I have always preferred writing, painting, and day-dreaming to sock-matching . My daughter, who very much likes her socks to match, will sometimes come over and say quite-seriously: “Mommy, good job! Your socks match today!”)

Yeah, I might have a self-compassion problem.  In fact, I do, according to self-compassion.org! (An actual website with an actual quiz.) Yes, it turns out there is a quiz for it. Because the universe has impeccable timing, Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” arrived yesterday, and I flipped directly to the self-compassion chapter which had a link to that website listed.

http://self-compassion.org/. Drum roll for the results….

compassion

Yeah…I’d say that maybe the word for 2017 will be self-compassion.

Me: HI, MY NAME IS SARAH.

Everyone else: HI SARAH!

Me: I AM A HUMAN! I AM IMPERFECT, LIKE ALL THE OTHER HUMANS!

Everyone else: WELCOME TO HUMANS-ANONYMOUS, SARAH!


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Thank You for Sitting on My Bench

Can I hug you all? Seriously, consider these words a virtual hug traveling from WordPress to your computer or smartphone or tablet or smartwatch or whatever device connects us. Because THANK YOUS are in order.

I wrote a post yesterday about how crappy things have been lately and how crappy this YEAR has been. I felt better after writing it (writing heals me, always), but I didn’t fully expect what would happen next. Holy macaroni you guys rock. I was flooded with messages of love and support (and some commiseration too—apparently I’m not the only one who had a bad 2016!). It was absolutely beautiful.

It also confirmed what I already knew, which is that sharing our vulnerabilities in a safe way, with people we trust and whom have earned their right to hear our story, can be truly transformative.This blog has shown me how writing is only half of the puzzle. An important piece for sure—writing is powerful and healing in and of itself. But the second piece, sharing that writing with a tribe who loves and supports you, has the capacity to heal in ways I never fully understood until this year.

Writing + Community (virtual and real world) reminds me of those recycling plants that make benches out of old milk jugs. Writing takes the broken pieces and builds something new, and if you are lucky, that something new might end up being a bench. And if you are luckier still, friends and strangers will SIT on that bench, hold your hand and say, it will be ok.

From my heart to yours, thank you for sitting next to me on the bench. And when you need someone on your bench, because we all do from time to time, you know who to reach out to.

Sweaty Palms and…Joy?

Yesterday I did something that made my palms sweat and my heart race.

I shared my story (the one I told you about yesterday)…publicly on Facebook. With my FRIENDS. AND. FAMILY.

I know. Can you even believe this?

If you are anything like my sister you are laughing a little. My sister is the yin to my yang. An open book to my locked diary. A heart on a sleeve to my hidden tattoo. (I don’t have a hidden tattoo but if I did I WOULD NOT TELL YOU ABOUT IT.)

My sister called me shortly after I posted the article on Facebook and our conversation went something like this:

Sister: “You posted your article! I didn’t realize your article talked about your miscarriage.”

Me: “YESIDIDSHAREANDYESITDOESBUTISTHATOK?HOLYCRAPDIDIOVERSHARE???”

Sister: “Sarah, anyone who knows you would never accuse you of oversharing.” Ok that is a paraphrase but essentially she reminded me of the fact that I am not exactly easy to read. 

She also pointed out how I wrote privately in this blog for a year before even going public. So yeah, baby steps for me.

I’ve been writing for almost another year on my now published blog (yay!) and those baby steps all led up to yesterday. I knew I was ready but still: sweaty palms. (Plus I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder so trust me, sweaty palms are basically my jam.)

So I shared it and…everyone was amazing. Overly amazing actually. And of course they were! But then something unexpected happened:

  • First I felt tears
  • Then I felt…joy?!

What was this? I work from home so I did what I usually need to do in situations like this: I talked out loud to my beagles.

“Beagles….I am crying but I am not sad. Am I relieved? Kind of. But, I think I feel joy. Yes, joy. And love. BEAGLES I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!”

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The beagles: great listeners, but not much for conversation.

Relief, yes. And the relief wasn’t even because people liked it and were being so kind and loving — that was wonderful but there was something else to it. I felt relief that my story had been told.

And joy, definitely joy.

I still didn’t get the joy bit. Frankly it took me by surprise. I did some googling for Brené Brown quotes about vulnerability. Because if you have a question about vulerability you have to ask Brené. (LOVE ME SOME BRENÉ.)

Well, lo and behold I found this little gem:

vulnerability

Image source.

Yes, exactly Brené! When you are vulnerable and share your story about loss and grief and miscarriage, it is not crazy to feel joy apparently. Because sharing your story = connection = joy = being seen.

And then, because I am obsessed with Brené, I kept looking through quotes and found this one. And I was all, YES PREACH IT BRENÉ!

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Image source. .

That is it: I was walking inside my story. That is why it felt good. The sweaty-palm bit, well that is what happens when we put ourselves out there. I know that. But the joy from telling the story, from connection…I wasn’t expecting that. Icing on the cake, my friends.

(And, to those of you who read yesterday and have known me for a zillion years and were so kind and loving…thank you. I love you.)

Yours in sweat and tears and, yes, joy,

Sarah

Have you experienced this before?! I’d love to hear how your own sweaty-palm-moments led to joy. Because wow, right? 

 

Part III: Then it Will Become Buoyant and Light. (My healing journey after loss.)

The post I am going to share with you today –I wrote part of it six months ago but never published it. It turns out that was because I was meant to share it with you today.

I’ve been blogging about my healing journey from grief. In fact, this blog was born from grief.

On the one year anniversary of losing my mom I made a visit to a beach–amid stinking, rotting shells (nothing says peace and contemplation like rotting sea creatures)–and I went within and heard a small still voice that said you need to write. 

So I started this blog. Ok, it took me another year to actually publish the blog, because big steps that are often very good for us are also usually very scary.

Since that day I have been on an epic journey within. I figured, why not reflect on all that has unfolded in less than a year?

Would you like a recap?

  1. I created a flow chart. (WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD VISUAL?)
  2. Part I–shared here–I explained how grief begets griefMy mom died, I healed, more grief surfaced, I healed some more, and then…
  3. Part II: life throws a curveball. Just as I emerge from healing and more healing, I lose a pregnancy. My mother (deceased) chimes in and reminds me to choose love and happiness.

Which brings me to today.

No animated GIFS today. Just tender-hearted love.

We are at Part 3: Love and Mercy.

So to set the scene: there I was, having a miscarriage. The baby whose due date was the date my mother died–this baby was not to be.

I was in so much emotional pain. So very much. 

I made a choice. I could hold these cards, these unwanted cards that had been dealt to me, and I could throw them down in bitterness and defeat.

Or I could take these cards and place them gently over my heart and weep.

Weep for the child who would not be. Weep for all the losses I had sustained and survived.

I also realized something else: that I did not have to do it alone. 

I could extend a hand out for another to hold. Because you see, when your hands are full of cards you don’t want dealt to you, there is someone else whose hands are free. And one day you will be that person with free hands and it will be your turn to hold another’s hand.

I will share my own words to myself written after this difficult passage:

There is so much I want to tell you, Sarah from months ago, Sarah from one, two years ago.

I want to tell you, it is ok that you could not grieve because you had to parent, because you had to manage so many life changes at one time.

I want to tell you to be gentle with yourself.

That this is so hard and heavy, and I see your pain.

I want you to know that it is so heavy for a reason.

That the pain is designed to be heavy—to become unbearable—because that is what makes us realize we were never meant to heal alone.

That the only way to release it is to join hands with others and form a circle around it. To lift it up into the sky together.

Then it will become buoyant and light. It will disintegrate before your eyes.


Tomorrow: Part IV of the journey

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