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How to Love Yourself First

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My 15-year-old daughter sat next to me in the passenger seat as I drove, curiously opening the pile of notes before her wondering what each one would reveal. We had just been given a box of memorabilia from when I was a young child.

“Dear Mom, I love you and you are the most loveable person in the world and wonderful. I love you very, very much. xoxoxoxoxoxo Love, Lynnie

“Day by Day, I Love You. Night by Night, I say, “No matter what will ever happen, I’ll always Love you anyway. Love, Lynn”

“To Mommy, Just want to say I LOVE YOU. Love, Lynn.”

One after another expressing my love to the person who I knew needed to hear it. My mother.  A woman who suffered from Manic Depression and struggled to manage her debilitating highs and lows as she attempted to live a “normal” life. 

It appeared I needed her to know…to feel…Loved. I did my very best to shower her with proof that she was important and thought of with warm and loving thoughts.  What I couldn’t do was convince her to feel the same. I couldn’t get her to see what I saw or felt, but that didn’t stop me from trying. 

My efforts were strong, but her will won out. She committed suicide right before I turned 15 years old…the same age as my own daughter reading my love notes from childhood.

“That is just another example, ” I told my daughter,” of how people can’t receive what they don’t feel. We can love someone with every part of our being, but if they don’t feel it for themselves, they won’t be able to feel it from outside of them either. It has to start with yourself.”

I’m a professional counselor. I’ve heard myself say those words many times before, but not when describing my mother. Even as I said the words they began to sink in more.

There was nothing I could do….

Suicide brings on a complicated kind of grief. All the typical cycles are present…the denial, the anger, the sadness, the regret…on repeat. The “what iffing” that joins in is one that seems to have it’s own relentless voice. 

“What if I had…what if she had…what if he had…what if they had…?” 

Over and over again. What would have been different? Even when we’ve accepted the WHY, we still struggle to not keep asking “But what if?”

I’ve dedicated my life’s work to helping people enjoy life more. I’ve dedicated my own effort to doing the same for myself. I know crippling anxiety. I know the heaviness of depression. I know what’s it’s like to question, what the hell am I doing here? 

I also know what it’s like to want to feel loved and appreciated but put myself in positions over and over again that gave me the opposite feeling. I know what it feels like to keep trying to prove myself and not feel accepted in return. I know what it’s like to assume life is never going to actually improve, despite my desperate desire for it. 

But I also know that life has a way of giving us what we need and feeding us our worth when we open ourselves up more and let it in. And the only way to do that, is to start with how you feel about yourself.

What Happens When You Start to Love Yourself First?

If you don’t think you are good enough, then you won’t accept the compliment. If you don’t like the way you feel, you will look for the validation of your value outside of yourself over and over again, but you won’t be able to fully absorb it. It will fill you briefly, but then you will be hungry for more soon after. It won’t be enough.

And that’s because you can’t hold on to what you don’t fully believe.  If you won’t take it in then why would you ask for more of what you want? If you don’t feel confident enough, then why would let yourself be in a relationship that feeds your desire to be loved? Really loved with actions that prove it.

In order to own it, truly own the love and acceptance that is given to you, you must love yourself first. The way you view your life, your value, what you give to the world and the people in it. You’ll benefit from looking inside of your own heart and identifying the pains and the voices that keep you down. And you will really benefit from challenging them!

You want proof that you have something to offer? That you are enough? Then spend some time getting to know the you you want others to see. The scared parts, the lonely parts, the protective parts, the angry parts, as well as the loving parts, the proud parts, the compassionate parts, the optimistic parts who see hope clearly and the light of a cloudy day. Get to know those parts, all of them. And befriend them. Accept them, feel compassion for them and learn to let them really be loved and honored for who they are. 

Those parts want to be seen, heard, understood and accepted, as well acknowledged for the gift they are that makes up amazing you. 

Take out a piece of paper and list out the parts of yourself. Give them names and their dominant characteristics. Introduce them to each other. Ask them the questions you’d ask someone you were just meeting. 

When do they show up in your life? Where did they come from? 

Who do they remind you of? Who are you drawn to the most? Who irritates you the most? 

How are they protecting you? How are they harming you? Ask them why. 

Get to know them each as the parts of you who make up your amazingness as a whole. We are not looking to abolish them, but accept them. All of them. They each have a purpose. Learn what that purpose is and how you can learn to work with them, not against each other.

If you can’t understand why you don’t feel loved or why it comes so fleeting into your life, start with you. 

All of you.

You deserve the time, focus and energy it takes learning to accept and appreciate yourself and all the sustainable joy that comes with it.

The original post is on Purpose Fairy.

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Why Living is Always Worth It

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My 12 year old son came home from school recently and mentioned he wrote a poem for class that had two of his teachers in tears. I asked what it was about and he said, “After your mother’s death.” 

My mother, who had committed suicide.

“Really?” I asked, “what about it?”

“Oh nothing,” he squirmed and then no longer wanted to talk about it.

That always drives me nuts. Reel me in to push me out. Frustrating.

But what I’ve learned is that IS him letting me in. He is only willing or able to so in small doses for heavier subjects and the only thing I can do is wait until he is ready to share.

With that said, I keep asking. Also in small doses. But to let him know I’m paying attention. A couple days later, he brought home his poem….and quite frankly, it blew me away.

“Did she have to go?

Could she have stayed?

What would it be like on this day?

Did she think she wouldn’t be missed?

After all that is what she thought?

Some have overcome this death,

When others mourn in thought.

Some have never met her.

And never will.

So maybe just maybe she could have stayed.

Did she have to take her life?

Just throw everything away?

What about the people to come?

Her family that was so big,

Did she not know we would love her anyway?

So why throw it all away?

The one action, the one thought,

That changed so many lives to this day.

Only if one thought changed, one thought shifted,

But it didn’t and it took her life away.”

He expected tears from me and they came. They always come. Even easier now as I see the gift of their arrival rather than the shame of being so sensitive.

“That was amazing. Your perspective is inspiring to me. It reminds me why I do what I do. Thank you for sharing.” I said to him.

Still squirmy, he was unsure if I’d be upset. He was looking for reassurance that his words, his voice, had value. At that moment, I could only give him half of my own thoughts. I had to sit with the feeling that came with them.

Being the child of a parent who committed suicide is not really a category I live in. I wear no badge of ongoing pain, or talk about the experience of how damaged I am because of it.

Although, in truth, I am. Damaged is not a fair statement, but touched…changed…strong because of it. 

For me, I made a decision long ago that I would use the experience to enhance my life, not ruin it and use it as an excuse to keep screwing up and saying that life owes me because I’ve been hurt…by the will of someone else.

The victim mentality makes me edgy. And feel powerless. Its not a place I’ll let myself live.

Instead, I’ve used my scars as motivation to prevent someone else, like me or my mother, sensitive and imperfect beings, from feeling stuck in misery and worry. The kind that allows fear and frustration to rule the days.

I used to. I had to try it on first. But even during that time period, I knew it would not last for me. I couldn’t live like that. Being miserable bores me. I become impatient with my woes. I get lost in my symptoms of depression and anxiety and I am dedicated to finding my way out of the maze to make it easier for the next time I enter.

And I will. Its part of my human experience. I’m not immune.

I’m filled with dysfunctional patterns of protection I’ve had to unravel and re-wire in my brain and in my choices. Those come with the experience. My inner optimist wants to ignore them, but the realist in me says, you’ve still got shit to work on. And I do.

But I also won’t be held back.

My little boy’s beautifully expressed thoughts reminded me that life does go on. That we continue to grow and thrive after great loss, but we don’t forget and we don’t move on unchanged.

He never met my mother, his grandmother, but he has seen the way her life and death changed mine and in turn his.  Had I not been so motivated to change, he would have a very different mother. Had I not been so vulnerable to face my demons, he would be experiencing them by default.

I knew when I had children I would have to teach myself to mother them. I knew I had to dig into myself and find the courage to learn to love without limits and not protect myself from the fear of loss or pain by holding them too close.

When you lose someone you are attached to suddenly, it has a lasting impact on your ability to trust. And yet…I’ve chosen a life where my purpose is not only to learn to trust more, but to teach and inspire others to do the same.

I have been surrounded by suicide for the majority of life. Mostly the loved ones left in the wake. From friends to close connections to clients, I’m well versed in the feelings and understanding of what it’s like to experience the guilt and sorrow and anger and confusion, after someone ends what we find to be so precious.

I know what its like to be lost while trying to make sense of it all.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I’ve also worked with many who let the obsession of not wanting to be here take over their lives. Those who have attempted to die and those who just wish it would happen so they could move out of their internal hell hole.

My question of the why’s have been answered. I can see how and why people get to the brink of wanting to end the pain. Its heavy and its real.

But I’ve also seen and felt what its like when the corner turns. When the one thought changes to a new one of hope. Of opportunity. Of light in a very, very dark tunnel.

Anything is possible. I don’t just believe this, I live it.

I laid down with my son that night before he went to sleep and told him, again, how much his poem had touched me. 

I told him how I could hear his own “what if’s” in his words and feel the questioning that life often brings…and that I will always walk with him to help him find the answers he seeks. Its what we do for those we love.

I reminded him that Hope is the driving force behind my life’s work and Trust has changed me. And that Support is available to all of us. We just have to ask. 

He hugged me close and said, “I love you, Mom.”

And once again, I knew, its always worth it. Life, the work that comes with Living…always, always worth it. 

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15+ Standout Ways To Start Living An Authentic Life

Living authentically means trusting yourself.

Trusting your judgments, your visions, your ideas and knowing that no matter what you are going to be okay. We are taught how to fear early on in life by many of the influences around us and then end up spending a lot of time deciphering what feels right for us versus what doesn’t, with a dash of hesitation in between.

Anticipatory anxiety comes from fear of the future and the unknowns accompanying it. Fear of all the things that could wrong and how that it may impact us. Even if we trust our decisions, we may fear that other people’s decisions will “screw everything up,” so we want to plan for that too by worrying about it.

We may believe that by worrying enough about something, a solution will reveal itself or better yet, we can avoid the discomfort altogether by not doing or saying anything and continuing to live in limbo…hoping it all just works itself out on its own. But if that’s not working, then let’s just go back to worrying so we can see all the potential obstacles in the way.

Where does worry get us? Living in the pain we are trying to avoid.

How do you know you can trust yourself?

Turn around. Look at your past. Look at the many, many times you were scared to speak up, or take a step forward, or make a wrong turn. Did you ultimately end up okay? Eventually at the place you wanted to be, with the kind of people you wanted to be with, feeling safe and loved and more comfortable in your skin?

Perhaps not every step of the way, but did you finally arrive? Most of the time, yes.

But if you didn’t, what did you learn along the way? Where did you find your strength? How did you get through it?

You may have found great support by others you didn’t know was available to you or you may have even dug down and found your own ability to support yourself. You may have even began to see that what you thought you needed, you didn’t. You may have learned that you could rely on yourself…in turn, trusting yourself.

Most of us are talented at not trusting ourselves.

Keep Reading...

There's Purpose In Pain and A Gift In Every Loss

“There’s a bit of magic in everything and loss to even things out.”- Lou Reed
 
“Although I have spent years training myself to reverse my own anxiety, I have only left survival mode in the last couple months and am learning what that feels like and to be comfortable fully trusting that I am and my children are taken care of. I am at my goal of better than fine- but I’ve never been here before.  And while I know my work is in the interim of where I’ll end up, I am learning to appreciate where I am in the journey. It’s a wonderful and foreign place and I know this appreciation is also a practice, but it feels incredibly important.  I don’t want to just say I am grateful, I want to fully feel it. I am whole without more, just as I am. I create as I choose.  Peace is happening now if I allow it. Big revelation.”

I sent this text to one of my closest friends one morning after a particularly empowering meditation.  Our daily conversations were always this deep, introspective and growth oriented.  It felt good to write out my inner thoughts and fears and I was excited for every one of her heartfelt and insightful replies.

Her response…”That is incredible! I understand the angst of living in the now. Took me years of working hard at trying to change my patterns and reactions that I picked up as a result of living so many years with fear, angst and chaos. So Lynn, live it, breathe it, be it! You earned it! I’ve only known you a short time, but this has been the best year of my entire life. A year of learning, understanding and clarity, it’s been incredible sharing my thoughts, dreams and sorrows. Thank you.  Thank you for what was, what is and what will be.  I am so grateful for you! For your friendship, for your support, for your love, I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”

Five days later, after many more texts, and one evening of sharing our joy through our growing pains in person, my treasured friend died in her sleep.  Unexpectedly for those who loved her, her soul exited peacefully and left an enormous hole in the hearts of her son, family and friends who relied on her unwavering strength and glowing light to keep us comforted and inspiring our own power.

I, for one, was devastated.

The peace I had felt a week prior was shattered. I felt nothing but shock, anger, confusion and a deep, deep sadness. But worst of all, I felt alone.  Keep Reading...

The Almighty Powerful Thought...and how to change it

My chatterbox mind was in full effect.  One thought racing to the next. Which thoughts would dominate was rarely in question.  They always come back to the “what ifs”, the “what’s nexts”, the “but how do you knows.”  They are the familiar trio which can overpower the calming thoughts swiftly and easily.  Most of the time, I don’t even know they’ve arrived until I start to feel my physical ease dwindle.

The morning walk I was on when I noticed them was no different than the day before.  Early morning sun, quiet and peaceful…until the thoughts nudged their way in. I was midway up a hill, pushing my body a little harder, when I heard another voice in my mind get louder, “Stop. We don’t want to do this right now. Let’s change this up and make it a gratitude walk. Focus on the good. Focus on now.”  Another voice chimed in, “Great idea. Let’s do it.” 

I instinctually looked up at the sky, beginning the chant of thanks.  I was grateful for the blue sky, the cool morning and bright glowing sun. I was thankful for the trees donning their green glory. I was thankful for my legs being strong enough to take me where I wanted to go and for the ability to even be out walking on such a lovely morning before my work day began.  I felt my mood instantly elevate, the chemistry in my brain shifting with my thoughts.  I kept going, listing small details, yet feeling a powerful sense of thanks for the beauty around me.  

I began to notice things I had not noticed before.  Details that had likely been the same for the past two years I’d been on this walk, but didn’t see.  I noticed how tall the trees were.  They looked down on me lovingly with their wisdom and whispered their secrets of balancing the seasons of change. They had been rained on, snowed on, pushed constantly by wind and lost their leaves every year, but yet they continue to grow. They had withstood extreme cold and heat, been damaged by storms, broke branches and lost limbs, while watching others be taken out to make room for new houses, yet they stood taller one year after the next.  They were strong and stable and made room for the new while the old fell away.  Looking at them, you would not know how they sustained the cycles, they looked as radiant as ever. 

As I marveled in the divine strength around me, I felt my eyes well up with tears of joy and appreciation.  The “what if’s” and “what’s nexts” were gone, replaced with the energy of gratitude and presence of my surroundings.  And all it took was a decision.  A change in thought. And follow through.

It didn’t take two months, or two days or even two hours to adjust my perspective. It took minutes. With a quick alteration in intention, the world around me seemed to change. But it didn’t. I changed. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to spin in anxiety and I didn’t have to. I made a choice. 

We do have the power to change our thoughts. We do have the ability to craft a life we desire. We do have the potential to have what our heart is telling us is rightfully ours.  We just have to listen, accept and follow through.  And we won’t do it perfectly every time because we are human, and that is okay.  It is part of the enriching experience of being authentic and whole, but it’s our experience to create as we wish. Choice and creation is the strongest birthright we are gifted. What’s next is up to us.

Making A Big Decision When You're Not Sure Which Way is Right

Over the last two and a half years I have made some big changes in my life. And by big, I mean enormous.

First, I moved with my husband and our children from a home I loved for ten years. Shortly after, my husband and I ended a twenty-year relationship and marriage. With that separation, I made the decision to buy the house we had moved to, which on paper, I shouldn’t have been able to buy.

Apparently ending a long commitment and beginning a large financial one on my own wasn’t enough for me though. The following year I resigned from a secure job to pursue a dream I hadn’t fully envisioned and started a business without projected goals.

When I list out all the changes, I start to question my own sanity.

I have never been one to make quick decisions, especially ones that I hadn’t thought through. I was raised by my father, a self-proclaimed workaholic, who spent his career as a high powered executive for a high risk industrial insurance company.

I was not bred to believe in taking chances, to live on instinct alone, and to leave anything that resembled security. You just don’t do that. But something was stirring in me that kept me unsettled.

I knew it was time to make changes, and I knew those changes were absolutely not guaranteed to work in my favor. I was scared—no, terrified—to alter the course of my life, but standing still gave me even more anxiety.

How do you make the decision to change your entire life and know it’s truly right for you?

I have a secret, one that I’ve used consistently in recent years when making decisions that weighed heavily on me.

It’s a technique that simplifies the agonizing back and forths of “should I or shouldn’t I?” One I wished I learned when I was younger to ward off some major bouts of indecisiveness and internal torment. Although in retrospect, I would not have been ready to use it until I was actually ready to hear it....Keep Reading

Skeptic Turned Believer

As a young child, I watched way too many horror movies. Way too many. I was obsessed with scaring the crap out of myself.  I played on Ouji boards, followed my horoscope, attempted to do séances with friends and did reports on Witches, until I was so freaked out I couldn’t read anymore.  I remember reading once in my horoscope that I lost a parent at a relatively young age and that I liked the occult. Creepy and disturbingly true.

How did the stars seem to know so much about me?

My mother’s mental illness had her looking for solace anywhere and I was one of those objects of solace.  She would tell me of her deep sadness and I would say positive, encouraging things to her often. Most of the time, I had no idea what I was even talking about. I was in elementary school, I hadn’t learned too much about the world. Yet, she would always say I knew exactly what to say and when she asked how I knew, I would reply, without hesitation, that God told me to say it. Ain’t no big thang.

Looking back as an adult, with skeptical and questioning logic, I would say, “well, of course it was comforting. She was as depressed as it gets and I was young, hopefuland positive spewing whatever desperate ray of sunshine I could muster.”   But the truth is, I was far from hopeful and positive and not full of sunshine. I wrote one poem after another of darkness and misery, of sadness and anger, of living in a dark hole.  So what if, maybe, just maybe, God really was speaking through me to offer my desperate mother some sense of hope?  

My interest in the occult ended somewhere in adolescence after my mother died and was replaced with booze and numbing out any uncomfortable emotion.  If God had any chance of speaking through me, it was going to have to get through the layer of toxins I’d put in my body.

Somewhere in college, my beloved grandmother started talking to me about the afterlife and her spiritual beliefs and because I loved her so dearly and respected her so much, I jumped on board to the New Age train.  We traded books, talked of God, spirits, energy and strange, serendipitous events.  It was so fascinating and the more I learned, the more peaceful I felt.  Like the missing puzzle pieces were being handed directly to me.

The busyness of full time work, marriage and children distracted me from furthering my spiritual side and instead left me with lots and lots of anxiety.  Although I loved being married and being a mother and greatly enjoyed the work I did as a counselor, the pressure I put on myself to do even more was huge and the voids I felt were large and looming.  There were many whispers and opportunities for me to change my attitude and shake things up, but I tuned many of them out. After all, change is scary!

In the winter of 2013, I was in the darkest place of my life.  My marriage was ending and life as I knew it and dreamed it would be would never be the same.  Yet the entire time, I heard those whispers of support, encouragement of which direction to take and distinct ways to take care of myself. I began to meditate daily, withdrew from my everyday worries and spent months healing with my long time best friend I once married. It was both incredibly painful and incredibly rewarding. I began to understand myself and who I was and appreciate all I had to offer. I allowed my nonstop chatty mind to slow down so I could actually hear my inner thoughts and not just the babble that rambled all day. 

In the early Spring of 2013, I approached the hardest part of my new reality…the physical separation of my family. I dreaded it immensely and questioned myself daily.  It was at this point I was introduced to Integrated Energy Therapy, quite randomly I would add, at a holistic health fair I wasn’t even sure I’d go to.  But I was drawn to the table and the description of what the modality offered.  One empowerment session later and the warmth of the amazing woman who’d eventually be my teacher, and I was hooked. In my typical inquisitive fashion, I skipped receiving a full healing and chose to learn IET instead.  I was intrigued how this stuff worked! The first class was incredible, but wasn’t sure I needed to continue. In my also typical fashion, I questioned everything. Maybe I just needed a flavor…yet I continued to be intrigued.  I took the Intermediate class two weeks later. The class that changed my life.

A week before the classI was in court to officially announce my dissolving marriage. The following week my best friend purchased a house and moved out.  The night before the class I sobbed for hours. The morning of the class, I remember standing in the shower willing myself to move. I don’t recall ever being so depressed. I just kept telling myself I had to get there. I forced myself to go.

I can’t say there was an exact moment or a lightening bolt or anything, but the healings I gave and received that day altered me forever.  My natural skeptic wanted to believe there was something to this energy stuff, but I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t rationalize it, I just had to hope it was true. I knew it made me feel good, but could that be enough?  I could tell you how I physically pulled an energy block out of my friend’s third eye (with lots of angelic help) or how I received “messages” that were loud and clear for me to share. But what made me a believer from that day forward was how I felt, right down to my soul. By the end of the class, my despondent self was long gone and an excited, energized over the top happy me talked my friend’s ear off the entire hour ride home. We still laugh at how I was seemingly on speed!

I have since been trained to become a Master Instructor with lots of fun angelic energy tricks and am able to teach the modality I’ve come to love and immensely respect.  I know, with the utmost confidence that we all benefit from opening ourselves up and allowing ourselves to heal.  And with that healing and trust, our lives can and will change for not the better, but the best! 

Looking back, I do believe that God, the Universe, the Angels, my guides, whatever you want to call that Divine help, played a role in helping me help my mother and every other person who comes to me for help.  I feel so fortunate, so grateful, so blessed to be able to share my gifts.  After all, they are meant to be shared!