“Each piece of this collection was so intimate, it felt as if I was having a late-night, fire-side conversation with a dear friend.” – Cynthia Ryals
In the year following my daughter’s death, I wrote these essays with her whispering in my ear. A tender read for anyone facing loss and transition … or simply craving more meaning from life.
If you are like me, you’ve worked a lot in your life. A. Lot. And as a result you may have held back from the quintessential joy that is the sweet part of life. And here’s the crazy thing … we do this willingly. Even knowingly. Simply because we are in a habit of suffering, or overworking, or plodding along without a whole lotta fun.
Why? Because we think we have to. But such thoughts are truly an illusion.
I invite you right here and right now to take a joy break. That is something my beloved daughter, Teal, was so good at. She lived a happy path soaked in joy pretty much all the time. So it’s my happy privilege these days to share a bit of that eternal joy with you right here, right now.
What can you do for yourself right now that would give you a hit of joy?
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
Do you know this place of complete surrender? Life happens and you are swept along with it. You stand in the wind and feel nothing beneath your feet as you are buffeted here and there. Yet … if you look … you will find there is something beneath your feet.
That something is belief. — you know it in your heart . As the wind rattles everything around you, you distantly recall platitudes about ‘this too will pass’ and windows closing and doors opening.
But belief’s a slippery bugger, and it’s so hard to hang in there when life seems to threaten your very existence.
Here are some things you can do to keep the faith while your own seed is breaking open.
- Remember that nothing is permanent. Whatever is happening right now really will pass. In a year’s time it will be a memory, perhaps sooner. And with that remembering comes perspective. Right now is possibly the worst this experience will feel.
- You might as well embrace reality. Trying to duck it is basically like trying to swim upstream against an impossible current. You will eventually get pushed back to that inevitable truth. So make life easy in the end by opening that letter, making that phone call, having that conversation now. Then just let the chips to fall where they may – no matter how painful. By honoring the flow of life, you will ultimately be rewarded.
- Enjoy what there is to be enjoyed. There will be strange little flickers of joy (and even big ones) along the way. They are Spirit’s way of saying, ‘It’s OK, you can take a break from all of this heaviness.” I saw it all around me in that terrible week that my daughter lay dying in the hospital. At the time I couldn’t understand the joy, but now I do. There is divinity even in great pain and loss. By recognizing it and even savoring it, you give your heart a little relief.
- Take time for yourself. Whatever is challenging you, you can allow space and time to comfort yourself. You must if you are ever to get to the gold buried deep within the fire. (Did I mention there is gold there?) Take a walk, write in a journal, listen to soothing music, read something comforting. Close the door on the rest of the world and allow yourself to actively feel what you need to feel. Then breathe, and know in the end everything’s going to be okay. This is where the magic healing happens.
- Ask Spirit to show you the way. Know that this, too, is part of the divine plan – no matter how heinous or difficult your circumstance. Who said life was meant to be easy and free all the time? Where would the growth be if it was? Above all know that God has your back, now and forever, and nothing that happens is without reason. Whenever you need to understand more, or get more guidance, simply ask. The answer is there.
- Create a bed of support. No one says you have to cross the desert alone. It wouldn’t be in your best interest to suffer excessively. So ask for help. Call a trusted friend or five. Reach out to family. Find a good therapist. Go to a support group, like 12 Step recovery groups, support groups or hospice grief groups. These are people you can learn from – and support in turn. People understand and they genuinely want to help you. They really do.
- Trust the process. You may feel excruciatingly alone. You may feel like you are so lost you will never recover … But here’s the thing. This is all happening for a reason, and you will never be the same again. So allow the magic of life to do its work and set you free. Your soul will thank you for it, and you will emerge stronger and better for it. You really will.
How do I know this? I was given this truth after my own seed exploded into the Universe with nary a trace left behind. It is only in complete surrender that you can know the most profound joy.
Believe it or not, there is magic here, friend. But you must let go to let it in. And so it is.
Recently on a still, calm afternoon I went down to a local beach here on the Sonoma Coast of Northern California. In the year that I lived here, I’d never allowed myself the luxury of just taking the 20 minute drive to the coast to watch the sun set. “I wonder if anyone will be there,” I thought to myself as I drove.
I should have known. Northern Californians are famous for arranging their lives around the wonders of nature, so there was a small crowd. Young men sat in the beds of their backed up pick up trucks, beer in hand, to watch. Retired couples walked the beach, hand in hand. Little kids got football lessons. Surfers darted and bobbed in the waves like exuberant seals. It was the evening’s entertainment.
Beyond them all the spectacle unfolded. I stayed and stayed as the sun dipped lower and lower to the horizon. The water went from blue to aqua to silver as the sky grew first shell pink, then deeper rose, then straight to luminescent orange and red. There was a brief moment when the sun was gone and the water dulled to grey — and then suddenly the full glory was unleashed. The sky lit up just as it is in this picture, taken by a local photographer at the same beach a week prior.
The pink water spreading out across the sand was what got me. That and the secret knowing we all shared that we had just witnessed something spectacular.
Thanks God. I needed that.
I’ve often talked in my work about how guided our dream pursuits can be, and how all you have to do is tune in to ‘get the message’ on what to do next. That said, what do you do when the Universe seems to be sending you mixed signals … i.e. You feel you’re on the path. You’re following all the signals … but somehow fiascoes happen. Things don’t move ahead as planned.
Should you abandon your project or change it significantly?
And hey — Just what IS a signal from the Universe and and when are you only hearing from your own resistance and massive fear? How do you know which is which?
Here’s what I’ve determined are sure signs of a Universal signal telling you to change course:
- The signal is big and dramatic. Back in my twenties, when I was a freelance copywriter yearning to be a real writer, the Universe arranged for my copy portfolio to be stolen and my income stream to dry up overnight. Suddenly I was out of work and had plenty of time to finish my first novel. It got picked up by a major publisher within just a few months.
- Clues start piling up. About ten years ago I put together a small cabaret trio to perform locally. I thought it would be a great way to keep my vocal chops up while developing a bigger, more long-term project for myself. Yet within one 24-hour span, one partner pulled out, the other decided she wasn’t sure she wanted to stick with it, and the borrowed piano we’d been rehearsing with got loaned elsewhere. I got the message and let go.
- Your instinct confirms the signs around you. As I was rehearsing with the ill-fated trio, collecting music, and lugging borrowed pianos around, I had this vague background sense that I should really put that energy into something I was writing. Still I chose to ignore it. Meanwhile, the Universe saw me busying myself with the wrong long-term project and let me know it.
- You get a great sense of relief when you follow the signs and let go. I did, and so did my partners on that project. In no time I was headed in the right direction.
Sometimes, however, the obstacles you’re running into are only your mind doing its Dance of Resistance. This is particularly true when we are afraid — but we are drawn to a pursuit we simply must take on. If any of these ring true, stay the course … there are lessons here.
- The problem is familiar. It may be that you always seem to run out of money for your project, or you keep getting sick. Somehow, trouble always happens when you aim for the exciting unknown. I used to get sore throats before I performed … mainly because I hadn’t yet given myself permission to be a big, gutsy, great singer. This ‘same-old-same-old’ would NOT qualify as a sign from the Universe to change course.
- There’s a sense of straining or uncertainty to the signal. You get a signal, but it’s just not clear somehow. Instead, it’s mushy and uncertain. It could be interpreted as a signal … but somehow, it’s not. Notice that this ‘signal’ seems to mesh nicely with your rampant fear at moving forward, or your innate aversion to taking risks. Not a sign … just a wave of fear.
- You’re missing key pieces of dream infrastructure. You need the essentials first: support, organization tools, a balanced financial set up, regular dream time. Remember that without these key pieces, no dream can move on as scheduled. First, put your house in order … then build the dream.
- The obstacle is around a particular weakness of yours. Could be this is just one of those good old growth opportunities; so instead of running, embrace it, baby! We all have our Achilles Heel, and there isn’t a dream out there that doesn’t occasionally demand better of you. Carpe Diem!
Hope this helps you discover the next right thing.
Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do … Trust it.
I made an interesting discovery after losing everything in 2012. Again and again, as I rebuilt my life, I have confronted an old engrained habit of creating drama, or ‘making trouble’ for myself and others. The good news is that I believe I’ve licked it.
These days drama is pretty much gone from my life. I live in a sweet house with a dear friend who is great at respecting boundaries and communicating her needs. I am also in a wonderful love relationship with someone who is mature, wise, funny, beautiful and completely dear to me. We can talk about virtually anything. I also feel well supported in the work I am doing now – writing books, creating classes and building a new speaking career.
Yet … trouble has lurked. So it has taught me all about this cranky pattern from my past. Here’s how it has gone pretty much each time:
- I try something like setting up an opt-in form on my website to build my email list.
- An unexpected result happens. The form is incorrectly installed and produces an error message.
- I decide the problem is BIG and URGENT. I wave a flag and request help … immediately.
- The tech person in question can’t solve anything right now. But soon.
- I wait. The tech person is generally unresponsive. I gnash my teeth. I become unduly focused on this and gnash my teeth more and more! I forget that I hired a person for this job who doesn’t actually know how to fix this. I also ignore the fact that I didn’t research references on this person before I hired him. Instead, I become ‘loyal’ to this under-performer … and I continue to gnash my teeth as he continues to ignore my problem.
So what’s happening here? Pure trouble-making — mostly for myself.
I have set myself up to fail at this task by becoming dependent on an unreliable/unavailable person to solve an important problem in my business. At the same time, I make this into a HUGE CRISIS in my mind. In marches my Drama Queen.
By the way, that’s Drama Queen with a capital ‘D.Q.’ as in – “Hey! Everyone! Stop, please, look at me, pay attention to me, help me out. All of you! Right now!”
Little Susie, my wounded Inner Child, is still operating as if it’s 1964 and her alcoholic mother is holding forth so there is no room for anyone else to have any needs. In my sad little kid’s mind I must jockey for position, wave the biggest flag, rattle, rage, and generally carry on until my problem is solved.
Oh – and another thing; it won’t be easy. It will all be difficult, a pain in the ass, and painfully protracted. As with most things, Spirit has been steadily providing opportunities for me to see Little Susie in action here.
What is all this trouble really about, anyway? I know. Sighing, I fold my cards and admit I am ready to have life be far easier.
There is a part of me that expects everything to be hard, and so prepares to do battle. Hence the need to hire inappropriate assistants. Psychologists call this ‘negative merging’ – the urge to stay connected to someone through conflict. We do it simply because it’s so familiar. Generally there are other, uncomfortable feelings at play that make us crave some kind of familiarity, however painful it may be.
For me, I’m simply scared. That’s really been the source of my own relationship with Drama. Having a working opt in form means many people – perhaps thousands – will get on the list for my Joy Letter ezine. I will become a working professional again. I will have a community tight around me who I must stand up and provide great things for.
I will have to show up as the leader I was born to be. I will need to generate content, channeling Spirit’s beautiful loving energy, and create the work I knew was here the minute my daughter collapsed.
I will need to be a mouthpiece for God, as we all are when we really tell the truth. And so I must stay humble, keep my head down and go with Grace.
Nearly two and half years after Teal’s death, I know it’s time to step up. This is a sacred privilege that has no place for Trouble. So am I willing to have abundance, peace, ease and divine flow be my norm?
Am I ready to give up the familiar rattle of negativity through my life?
Am I ready to be strong, shining and a true inspiration for those who see me .. even when I have no idea what I am doing?
Yes. Of course I am. For I know, as I’ve always known, I have no choice. This is the work I have been given, and it is actually far easier to do it than to fight it. So I go.
Here’s what it looks like on the other side of all that drama: Life is remarkably calm. I have more energy for my writing, which I take far more seriously. I can hear Spirit whispering in my ear much more clearly and I follow those divine instructions with joy. So the invisible wheels of abundance are rolling in my direction … simply because I’ve done my work.
First, I told the truth about my Drama Queen. I listened to others who gave me important feedback about this. I lovingly checked in with Little Susie to see what she needs. Then I gave it to her.
Now I find I’m organized. I’m more patient. I know what to spend my time on. I’m finally learning who to trust and who to avoid. I no longer mind handling details. Things that used to be difficult are much easier. And I give myself far more space to make mistakes.
I also know there is a right time for everything, and few problems must be fixed right this minute. I know the world will not end and I can wait a reasonable amount of time for solutions to appear. Turns out I know how to do a lot of the things I thought I needed others to do.
So my needs are being beautifully met … by me! And yet, at the same time, others just naturally show up and offer all kinds of fantastic, unanticipated support.
This new life is a lot of fun – and I can feel myself poised for more, better, different, powerful, fun and impactful. All the flavors of the life I have been longing to create as long as I can remember.
Life without drama is rich and sweet. I invite you to consider where you might be hanging on to trouble in your life, simply out of habit. Is there a chat you may need to have with your own Inner Child?
Drop a comment here if you know what I mean. Thanks!
A quote from my book Surrendering to Joy.
1. Remember I don’t have to solve all problems. Nor do I need to have an answer to all questions. Instead I can relax and enjoy life just as it is … even if there are some problems.
2. Revel in self care. I promise to make my well-being, my state of mind and my inner peace my first priority.
3. Feel my feelings. I plan to feel all of them – the good, bad and the ugly. I can do this alone. And when I’m done, I can blow my nose and enjoy the relief that pours through my body.
4. Butt out of everyone else’s business. It’s not mine; never was. I will allow others the privilege of walking their own path.
5. Feel free to say ‘No’. I will set clear, strong boundaries when necessary. It’s actually easier than I think.
6. Check people out before I decide to trust them. No more ‘auto-trusting’. I will check references in business, and spend time getting to know others before I commit to anything.
7. Ask for what I need. It may be uncomfortable at first, but this is basic self-care from which all peace and love truly flow.
8. Remember gratitude. When I stop to appreciate all I have been given, my heart fills with love and peace.
9. Accept reality. Sometimes reality may seem like more than I can take, but hanging out in fantasy/denial/indulging is not the solution. There isn’t enough chocolate, booze or drugs out there to make up for a bad day. Acceptance takes me further.
10. Remember I am not alone. I can ask for help whenever I need it. Spirit is standing by just waiting to help.