The Value of Discomfort

tense handsLast weekend I emerged. Surrounded by good friends, a cameraman and a sound guy, I made some videos in which I stated for the first time what I am now here to do.

After it was over, I was exhausted; emerging is hard work. But it’s also necessary, critically so, and the exhaustion and discomfort are an excellent sign.

It means I’m growing, one scary step at a time.

When we allow ourselves to really own our worth, and stake our claim in the world, magic happens. Because when I really show up, look you in the eye and speak my truth … from the raw edge of my heart … then you show up as well.

In the weeks and months immediately following my daughter’s death in 2012, I experienced a world of people opening up to me on Facebook as I posted my tender, ripped wide-open essays.

At first I was writing them to make sense of the extreme left turn my life had just taken. What I was unprepared for was the outpouring of love and relating that followed. People responded with long, frank personal stories. More and more people began to follow me and share what I wrote about with their friends. All of this flowed like unexpected honey and it encouraged me onward again and again.

Now a year later, the grief has softened and the moment has come to stake my claim. It is time to be known again as a leader and serve people in more specific ways, not matter how tender I still feel.

Otherwise, Teal’s death has been in vain, as has all of my growth since her death.

Because even when I flummox around and feel bewildered and hang back in fear and uncertainty – I know what I have to do. There is a very specific message that I am to deliver in more and more powerful ways. And there will be no better time to do that than now.

No matter how painful it may be.

The recent filming proved it to me. In each of the first three takes I dissolved into tears. But my partners in this project, two British women who have also lost children, gently and firmly held the line. “You can do this,” they said simply.

And I knew they were right. After a certain point you just have to get on with things. Even if it hurts. So I adjusted my make up, looked myself in the mirror and decided it would all be OK.

And it was.

In the next take, I took a deep breath, leveled with the camera and as I did, a beautiful thing happened. I connected with the power of my message –- and I said yes. Put simply it is as follows …

Through loss you grow.

In each crisis there is magic — and often an unlikely joy.

Your breakdown holds the genius of reinvention. You just have to be willing to look for it.

If you are in pain, your life is trying to tell you something. For this is your greatest opportunity to rebalance your life. And rather than dissolve into chaos, or victimized drama, you can actually love yourself all the way back to wholeness.

I know because I have done this. And I’m here to encourage you to follow me on this golden path of redemption.

This is a message I need to be reminded of every day … and so it is my great privilege to share it with you.

Thanks for listening … Know anyone else who needs to hear this? If so, just click Share.

Joyeux Noël from Notre-Dame

 

Maybe this really IS one of the most spiritual places on the planet. It does seem to have a very special sacred energy. For Christians, it is said to hold the relic of Jesus’ Crown of Thorns. For me, it’s just got a glow.

Notre Dame Christmas FB

Five Fast Tips for Surviving Dysfunctional Family Get-Togethers

prozac christmas FBGot one of those families? You’re not alone. Every family is half maddening/half delightful — or so it seems. But you really CAN have a kind and loving Yule. Follow these tips and you’ll feel better about the holiday, yourself … and them!

Remember this is only a few hours of your life. That’s all. Really. It may only seems interminable.

Stay present and keep breathing. Avoid the eggnog if it’s a particularly tough crowd. If you get tense, take three deep breaths. Trust me … things will go better this way.

Remember to line up support. Who are you going to call in case of emergency? Line them up before you go. Then sneak off to the guest room for a quick, reassuring call if needed.

Give yourself a break. Instead of getting triggered, walk away if you have to. Why not go have a silent scream in Aunt Nannie’s coat closet?

Expect the unexpected. You never know where you’ll find the happy moments – and they will be there, too. So stay as open as you can. And hang with the under-six crowd. They’re always a lot of fun.

It’s your holiday, too. So why not give yourself a good one?

PARIS JOURNAL 5: Wandering Around Clingancourt & Montmartre

 IMG_0386Two more weeks have passed in the city of my heart, and now I find myself in the 18th arrondissement. Home to picturesque Montmartre – that setting all those Impressionist paintings of sad ladies drunk on absinthe and can-can dancers in long black gloves. But it’s also home to Clingancourt, where I am … quite perfectly …  being hosted by a cabaret singer.

The neighborhood is completely different from any I’ve seen in Paris. Its ethnic blend varies from block to block, with a broad swath of Africans and Middle-Easterners mixed in among the Parisians who’ve always been here.

I’m surrounded by schools and everyone seems to know everyone. It’s run down, friendly, diverse. Very real.

I feel like I’m finally getting to know the heart of Paris. A few petit moments worth sharing …

–       I wake up to the sound of children in a school playground. Laughs, little shrieks, a muted, high-pitched hubbub seeps through the skylight in the slanted ceiling I sleep under and it never seems to stop. It is comforting and innocent.

–       Walking up the street, I observe six high school students at 1:30 in the afternoon. They are sitting around in a café, eating their lunch of burgers and fries with knife and fork in the manner of sophisticated adults. All that’s missing is the vin rouge

–       I buy a bottle of milk at the Superette from an older woman wearing a Santa hat. The man in front of me tells her she is ‘tres chic’. She has a weary smile.

–       I visit Montmartre’s legendary Place des Tertes, one of the most visited tourist destinations in Paris. It’s a step back in time – only real, not Disney. A half dozen artists who make their living sketching tourist portraits in pastels and charcoal stand around smoking. Business is slow. Graffiti snakes up the cracked plaster of a nearby café’s exterior walls, just below the sign for ‘Sugar Crepes’.

–       Two blocks away I walk the cobblestones to find a pocket park wedged in between three 18th century stone buildings. They are alive with history, as if they have always been there. Blue sky beams above the nearly bare trees and this is a crisp, clear forgiveness to the day. A portly man in an embroidered coat walks by with a tiny dog on a leash. He regards me curiously. This, to me, is the soul of the neighborhood.

–       A gaggle of local five and six-year-olds are being herded in to the Dali Museum. One is never too young to get their first taste of surrealism.

–       Back in Clingancourt, I eat a spectacular lunch of roasted pork in a mustard-rosemary crème with lentils. I push past the dark bar full of men to sit in the Terrasse Fumoir (a smoking porch) simply because it’s sunny. A bulldog wanders around under the table, trailing his leash and visiting the other diners, and no one minds a bit. Lunch – with espresso afterwards – costs all of $13. When you leave the glamor behind, it all gets a lot more affordable.

And that is today’s edition … I am so happy to share this with you.

A Powerful Way to Inspire Your New Year

SurrenderingToJoy_Cover_300THUMBNAIL (1)If you’re looking for a something to jump start 2014 and give you a fresh perspective, why not download a copy of my new book, Surrendering to Joy.

This collection of 35 of my best essays from Facebook charts my path over the last year from the grief of losing my daughter, through letting go and forgiveness to extraordinary joy.

Mystical things happened. Planets moved. Teal surfaced again and again from the afterlife. And so I was reborn.

Thousands of people have read these essays, may of which have gone viral. If you have had a crummy 2013, needs some encouragement, or simply feel like you need a life refresher … why not download a little joy?

Not a bad idea for the long plane trip home …

***
“Surrendering to Joy is a powerful reminder of the spirit of life written from the depths of the soul.” Scott Garren

In Memory of My Daughter Who Was Born Today

Teal.giggle.FRAMED.FB24 years ago I gave birth to Teal Barns, and I am filled with gratitude. Her life – and her death – have changed me profoundly.

Teal was an exemplary person; kind, funny, adventurous, wise. She was an old soul and a lover of the magic and the quick in life.

She loved hula hooping, picking four leaf clovers, baking intense dark chocolate cakes, and consulting with the Goddesses. She could listen to hour after hour of blues music – and the way she sang it was pure and beautiful.

Teal’s sweetest gift was her huge, brilliant heart … She was the most compassionate person I may ever know. She believed everyone and everything deserved loving kindness in this life, and of course, she was right.

She died suddenly of a cardiac arrest; the cause remains unknown. So it is natural to assume that God just wanted to change her form so she could have an even bigger impact in the world.

Today Teal comes to me often as a warm, happy knowing; a sweet smiling presence. And sometimes her angelic laughter ripples through my body when something important is being said … or perhaps when a significant person shows up.

She has become my magnetic indicator, my compass leading directly to the joy. Sometimes she even appears in my dreams – always pointing me back to what is true and right in my soul.

Thank you, Teal, for being the extraordinary person you were – and the light you have become in my life.

Happy birthday, honey. You are remembered and loved, as you always will be.

 

Paris Journal 3: Random Encounters in French

michou 375One of the reasons I came to Paris for two months was to revive my French … a language I love but struggle with. The weird thing is I can speak fairly convincing French, which then unleashes torrents of French in response that I can’t begin to understand. Lessons are in order, obviously. Next time.

Still, some comprehension has occurred and I have the following conversations with Parisians.

–       A cab driver tells me he finds Americans ‘tres religieuse’… I laugh and ask why on earth he thinks that? “Because Obama always goes to church,” he replies. Then he explains that this is not the case with the politicians in socialist France. I consider the fact that 2/3 of France is Catholic and smile. We are funny, us humans.

–       I arrive at my favorite wifi café in Montmartre – Le Sancerre – only to find that they cannot serve me a café because the espresso machine has just broken. I stand forlornly for a moment considering my options, then I sit and order a mineral water. The woman next to me is finishing her coffee, and she sympathizes. I tell her she has all the luck. “Perhaps today,” she replies philosophically as she ties her scarf. “But tomorrow the luck will be yours.”

–       Each day the decision about where to take my computer and work plays on my mind. In Paris – and all of France I suspect – café life is serious business. You simply cannot whip out your laptop in any cafe and expect it to always be okay. Parisian cafes are not Starbucks. They are sacred meeting grounds and respected as the place where you meet with your friends, rehash your love life, and commiserate about la vie en general.

One day I decide to mix it up and go to a different spot. I walk along Rue des Abbesses, searching for a cafe that has that reassuring little ‘WiFi’ sticker on the door. It’s tricky business. Those that have it are often dark, dirty bars full of men standing around drinking beer in the middle of the day. Finally I just plunge into a sunny café that seems reasonable and not too busy. I ask the young waitress if I may use my ‘ordinateur’ and she gives a pleasant nod.

Moments later, in sweeps an older man dressed entirely in blue. He wears a royal blue overcoat, a navy velvet suit, shirt and tie in varying blues and matching bright blue eyeglasses. Even his cufflinks are blue. Suddenly everyone in the place is on high alert, looking up in interest. He could be Yve St. Laurent for all I know. And he stops directly in front of me, pauses, and starts to harangue the waitress for letting me set up my laptop. I may not understand much French, but this part I get.

He slides into the banquette next to me with his friends and orders a glass of champagne. Humbly, I apologies for disturbing him and he melts with a broad smile. Putting his arm around me, he rattles off some French, pointing to my computer. It appears he is asking me “What is the point, cherie?”

I love this guy.

People basically stop to kiss his ring every few minutes, some even coming in off the street. He is a local celebrity and his phone rings every fifteen minutes. He could be a prince, or an artist .. or maybe a bookie. And I’ll never know.

When I finally close my computer I wish him and his companions a bon après-midi and they warmly wish me au revoir. This is what I am learning about the French. There may be grumbling but nothing’s ever too serious.

“Ce n’est pas grave,” they say. It does not matter. And it really doesn’t. How liberating!

PS. After posting this on Facebook I learn from a Paris resident that my ‘man in blue’ is Michou, a famous M (as pictured above)

 

 

 

 

Is Your Hot Flash Trying to Tell You Something?

AAN3PYThis just in … your body is like a radio, connecting your heart, your soul and your mind. So those hot flashes you get? They have a message for you.

For me, they come in waves around stressful thoughts and feelings. I can be walking along feeling perfectly fine, when suddenly I’m overcome with the urge to tear my clothes off.

My blouse has become an electric blanket. My face reddens. I break out in a fast, intense sweat. Any why?

Because I have a sudden damming thought, like ‘I really should be working harder.’ Or I find myself mulling over a situation I felt unsafe in, or a replaying a conversation in which I was recently dissed.

Anxiety. Despair. Regret. Anger.

These are the salt and pepper of our hormonal stew … and they are what bring those hot flashes bubbling to the surface.

In her excellent book, The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup explains that hormones aren’t actually the sole cause behind menopausal mood swings and hot flashes. Dr. Northrup explains that if a woman has distress in life – no matter how buried – hormonal swings will bring it to the surface.

She writes: “It is the particular combination of a woman’s hormone levels and her preexisting brain chemistry along with her life situation that results in her symptoms.”

Here is the good news, friends. You can use that hot flash to determine what is really going on in your life.

If you are like me, you’re a good pretender. You just ‘don’t notice’ how difficult it is to live with a snarky person. Or you put a happy face on the work you do that is quietly killing your soul. Cause – hey – you make a good living, right?

So you look forward to the nightly glass of Chardonnay a little too eagerly. Or you hit the hot fudge sauce, cold and from the jar, as soon as you can get your hands on it.

This would be a sign that a problem is at hand.

The next time a hot flash comes up, why not use it? Just stop for a moment. (It won’t take long, I promise.) Breathe. And see what is going on.

Are you okay? What do you need right now? Perhaps you need a retreat to the ladies room for a good cry, or to write a letter to someone. Perhaps you need to close your eyes and just feel your feelings – even if only for a moment or two, until they pass.

When we are truly vexed on a subtle level, our body will always tell us. After my daughter’s death, my hot flashes were almost continuous … and they subsided significantly as my grief progressed. Particularly as I removed all of the disconnection and stressors from my life in that precious year of healing.

Now my hot flashes are almost completely gone. Except when someone rankles me. Or I get worried and anxious and think I’m not achieving enough, or doing my life the wrong way, or … You get the picture.

The beautiful part is that I’m learning to take that pause to check in. And I am learning a little more about myself every day.

Lovely how the body knits it all together and delivers the truth so reliably, isn’t it? You really can trust your body to take care of you. You simply have to slow down and listen.

 

How to Avoid Attracting Bullies

kick meGot a tender heart? I do. And for some interesting reasons, the Universe has put many bullies in my path over my 55 years.

So what’s a girl to do?

Bullies have shown up in all areas of my life – from school to work to love. Bullies even lurked in some of the places I lived. And after each one of these experiences, I always walked away feeling the same way: hurt.

Forget the righteous anger or the wise acceptance … I felt like a victim every single time.

Which is sort of like wearing a sign on your back that says ‘Kick Me.’

Teal, my 22-year-old daughter who died in 2012, had a serious ‘No Victim’ policy. She made it after she got in touch with her own inner victim.

She discovered that tenacious victim doing a workshop in which she had to find the character defect – or ‘act’ as they put it – that drove her life.

This is that core, central belief which drives much of your action and behavior. Like Teal I had done the very same workshop 25 years earlier – and learned the very same thing about myself.

We both had a Victim gnawing away at our infrastructure, undermining our ability to stay happy and serene. Which would cause her to say to me when either of us were in its grip. “Mom … Victim!”

And then we both would laugh.

I was reminded of this recently when I heard those very words in my head. Teal was, yet again, reminding me from the afterlife of that very truth as I struggled with another small bullying moment in my life.

The circumstances are not important. What is is that I felt small, diminished, and most importantly, unsafe. But here’s the critical part: now I could see that I was completely at choice in the matter.

I could inflate this mini-drama up into a full opera – with costumes and a 40-piece orchestra, and suffer accordingly. Or I could walk away, which is what I did.

Oh yeah …  remember walking away? And how about even blessing the situation?

Because all it has done is remind you of your strength, your perseverance and your ability to return … again and again … back to joy.

Thanks, Teal. I needed that. How about you?

 

 

Do You Christmas Shop From Shame?

brown paper giftIf you have ever purchased a gift for someone out of a grudging sense that you have to … please stop and read this.

Christmas shopping is tricky, right? There are people you love to buy gifts for – gleeful three-year-olds, and friends who really stand by you.

Then there are the people you ‘have’ to buy a gift for.

They might be the disapproving sibling you can never seem to please. Or perhaps the distant relative who always produces a gift like clockwork every holiday season. Even though you haven’t even spoken in years.

Or maybe you give the detached ‘bulk’ gift – the same box of nuts for all the clients.

Consider this for just one moment: what if you didn’t send the auto-gift?

What if you actually made time in your busy day, called up that person and spread a little love instead?

What if you actually called all 23 of your clients just to say thank you?

What if you gave the disapproving sibling you’re secretly afraid of a break and just offered them a little love?

Then something surprising may happen; you might actually feel like giving that person a gift.

Because here’s the truth: compulsive gift giving is a con.

We do it to look polite and normal, like good girls and boys who follow Santa’s rules. And sometimes we do it to stay safe and be liked. And often we don’t even like doing it.

But gifts given from a sense of trying to look good are gifts given from shame. And they never ring true.

They feel disconnected and false, and no one likes receiving them.

But once you raise your head, take a look and really see the person you’re giving your gift to, you start to feel really good about yourself.

What if … just for one single day … you gave from a sense of love instead of proving? From simple joy instead of justice?

Once you let yourself care about that person – really care about them –your heart will open up. That’s when giving becomes a joy.

 

Have you been kind to yourself today?

Someone loves self.FB

The Value of a Good Breakdown

sad-woman train window FBThis is for everyone who’s ever fallen apart … and had to put the crumpled pieces back together.

What if every anguished cry from your heart was actually a cause for celebration?

Once again you can hear yourself think.

Once more you slow down enough to become conscious.

Once more you get rocked in the cradle of God, and so can know life everlasting.

This is the value of a good breakdown. For once again you come home to yourself.

It happens when we cry; when we finally let ourselves go and feel what’s really going on.

Then we surrender to that deep longing for something more, stronger, better … something that will save us from ourselves.

Our breakdown might be laced with shame, with deep regret, the reconstruction of mistake upon mistake. Or it might be in the accumulation of a million moments when we weren’t cool enough, savvy enough, bright enough, popular enough.

Or loved enough.

We collect those moments in a purse that just gets bigger and bigger until one day when it explodes.

That’s when the bottom truly drops out and we find ourselves in fractured pieces on the ground.

A tree falls on our house. Our spouse becomes a stranger. Our children drift away. Our bodies become unrecognizable. Foreclosure on our soul finally begins.

We just don’t know what is real anymore or even who we are.

When this happens we finally begin wake up to what is, and so touch the immense sadness and grief that’s been collecting all these years. We know in our hearts there is no running from it anymore.

No matter how many calories we consume, debts we run up, pills we pop or cocktails we polish off.

When we can finally, deeply know our pain and allow ourselves to sit with it in full acceptance – without trying to pass it off to someone else, fix it or erase it — then we can have mercy for ourselves.

Then we can move through it, and find compassion for the road of broken glass we’ve been crawling along on for so long.

This is how we find forgiveness. We give ourselves a hand up, and we take ourselves out the door and info life with tenderness and respect.

We decide everything is going to be okay. And so we are reborn.

We might do this hundreds of times in our lives, or maybe just a few. It really doesn’t matter.

What counts is that we understand the gift of these breakdowns.

Because they always deliver us to a higher place.

Won’t you share this with someone who needs a hand up?