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facing fear

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Say Yes to What Excites You and Make This the Year You Really Live

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“I imagine that Yes is the only living thing.” ~E.E. Cummings

During the fall of 2017 I began openly dating, four years after my separation and divorce of a twenty-plus year relationship. It was scary. And I was clear—I didn’t want a commitment, I just wanted the experience and some fun.

My third round of online dating, I finally went out with some younger men who I assumed lined up with my non-commitment goal. It was different and fun, but also not quite what I wanted.

In December of that year, my friend, who was interested in getting to know me more and had been asking me to lunch for months, called me out on my non-commitment. I always had the perfect excuse as to why I couldn’t go. But none of them were as valid as the truth: I was scared.

What if I enjoyed my time with him? What if he liked me and I had to let him down because I wanted nothing to do with a real relationship? My biggest fear is hurting other people, so I didn’t want to even consider that option. Until he said, “Why don’t you stop avoiding and commit to lunch.”

I really dislike being called out, especially when it’s right. So I went.

And you know what happened? What I feared. I enjoyed myself—for four hours. It was filled with great conversation and great company. We closed down the restaurant with our lengthy stay. For someone who listens to people all day long as a professional counselor, I thoroughly enjoyed being listened to and heard. It was wonderful.

And from that moment, my goal for 2018 was born. The Year of Yes.

For the entire year I would commit to saying yes to opportunities that scared me. Ones that made me squirmy and uncomfortable and that promised to teach me something every step of the way.

In 2018, I created podcasts, which I had been avoiding. It scared me to put my work out there and expose myself. As I created them I discovered I loved them. They inspired me to continue doing the work I’m passionate about and still do.

I also opened myself up to doing a number of interviews that completely took me out of my comfort zone. If someone contacted me or an opportunity arose that made my heart beat fast, I said yes without thinking.

When my voice of inspiration popped up and guided me to write and post, I did. When I felt the pull to take financial risks that made me question my stability, I took them. If it felt scary but exciting, I said yes. And didn’t look back.

When the days were sunny and I had a ton of work to do, but a fun option presented itself, I chose the fun. Not an ounce of regret.

I said yes to adventure. I traveled more readily and confidently in 2018 than any other year of my life. I’m an anxious flyer and I jumped on a tiny plane up the coast and large planes across the country. I explored. I stayed open. I was scared, but I did it anyway, and loved it.

I also said yes to a new relationship—sloooowly. Very, very slowly.

In that relationship I noticed things in myself I could not have seen on my own. How quickly I want to bail if I’m uncomfortable. How hard it is for me to receive kindness and love and allow it to be a comfortable part of my life. How much I clam up when I want to run and how easy it is for me to shut down, all while teaching others how to do the complete opposite. Which meant I too, had to practice what I preached.

I learned to communicate like a champ. I shared my feelings when I would normally close them off. I let myself get close to people when I’d rather stay much, much further away.

I chose to say yes. I said yes to myself. I said yes to my life.

And I lived.

I lived in a way I’d been wanting to. I let the yeses guide me to the next step and the next place to grow and enjoy myself. I proved to myself over and over again that the rewards far outweighed the risks of what I thought it would take to be enjoying—truly enjoying—my life.

I reaffirmed what I believed to be true: When I follow my heart, my intuition, my knowing, life has a way of working itself out. Not without some level of discomfort. Not without experiences of pain. Not without changing some tough habits to shake. But all with a value that lasts and creates experiences I’ve desired all along.

I learned that my fear was also my thrill. My shaking and restlessness were also my courage. My pause was my inhale before the exhale to true joy.

We are trained to fear, to hold back and question all the things that can go wrong. We are masterful at saying no to living, to taking chances and being uncomfortable.

We want proof we will be okay. I know I do. And luckily, it already exists.

We have years of being afraid of worst-case scenarios that never played out.

We have memories of taking risks and things turning out even better than we expected.

There may also have been times when things didn’t work out better than expected, or even close. But when we didn’t get what we wanted, we usually got what we needed—we learned, we grew, and we opened ourselves up to new connections and possibilities.

From all our assorted adventures, there were pains that helped us grow stronger and triumphs that helped us feel braver.

We have proof that when we follow what feels right, we’re always on the right path for us.

We have a life that lovingly and courageously wants to be lived.

What would happen if you started saying yes? What would your life look like if you let yourself live? If you pushed through your fears and excuses and let your curiosity and excitement lead the way?

You have all the reasons you can’t. But you also have the reasons you can.

What will you choose?

Original Post on Tiny Buddha



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A Simple Way to Change the World...and actually enjoy it

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I was shaking as I sat down to put my feet over the edge of the rock cliff. I have a strong fear of heights and that vision of going over and falling to my bone shattering doom is always unsettling.  But I was determined. And scared. But apparently determination would win out that day.

I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I wanted to push myself to the edge and just sit in the fear, let it wash over me, and not move.  It was hard. But I knew I had lived through harder things. And that fear was just a feeling. I wasn’t actually going to fly over the edge. At least I hoped not. 

Several weeks prior I had dangled my legs over that same ledge and felt the familiar sense of shaking fear. Next to me, sat my friend who seemed un-phased by the potential danger…even commenting that his fear of heights didn’t seem to bother him anymore which almost made him sad.  At that point, I felt I could feel it for the both of us. We sat there together, legs moving back and forth. Him looking at ease, me with my heart racing trying to find my calm. I never would have sat there by myself, but with him sitting next to me I felt safer. I felt protected.  He looked fearless as he encouraged me to do what made me fiercely uncomfortable.  I was inspired by his attitude and his strength. Even though I could see he was pretty unimpressed with himself.

When I returned to the ledge on my own, I knew I could do it. I had proof it was possible. I imagined sitting next to my friend and feeling safe…and even though it didn’t take the fear away, it inspired me enough to keep going. I took a picture of my shaking, dangling legs to remind myself I could be strong and brave if I let myself be. I was in the middle of facing many of my fears in life. I had to keep going.

I sent the picture to another friend who was also in the middle of facing and living through many of her own fears as well. She praised me over and over again. She told me the story of a fire tower she climbed once with a friend and was terrified of it. She felt stronger with a friend as well. She wondered if she could climb it alone.

Later in the week, she announced she was going to climb the fire tower solo. She wanted to prove to herself she could. She text me several times from the bottom of the tower saying she couldn’t do it. She wanted to but she couldn’t find the strength inside herself.  With each elevated step, the panic took over. She was disappointed, but she was glad she made the attempt.

Less than a half an hour later, she sent me a picture of herself at the top of the tower. She looked horrified! But she did it.  She took each uncomfortable step and made it to the top. She was so proud and in love with herself for her accomplishment she could barely find the words to express it. Pure bliss. Pure pride. Pure love. And pure understanding that we are the only obstacle getting in our own way.

She was overwhelmed with all that she had learned in that experience and it took her a few days to process it all. She wrote about the experience documenting the internal journey that got her there. She was excited to share it. We met that week and talked in person as she once again shared how amazing she felt and scheduled her post to go out the next day.  Still overjoyed she went home on top of the world.

The next morning her scheduled post popped up on Facebook…only hours after it had been discovered that she had died in her sleep. The timing was eerily and sadly perfect.

My friend transitioned from this life on top of the world. She loved herself with complete acceptance of who she was and what she stood for.  She lived as a gift and left with a gift that most work much of their lives hoping to attain.

I returned to the ledge the other day and realized I hadn’t been there in almost two years since she passed. I sat on a rock ledge overlooking the area…not the same one…I didn’t need to prove anything to myself that day. I remembered how inspired I was by my friend’s strength when he sat next to me on the ledge and I remembered the pride my other friend felt when she rediscovered her own. He inspired me, I inspired her, and she inspired herself to be who she already was.  Everything connects. Everyone connects. We are all in this together.

You have no idea how many people you’ve inspired or touched or encouraged just by being yourself.  You don’t know because we don’t share our stories enough. We don’t tell each other how often we appreciate each other and how meaningful we find our connections. We don’t even realize how much we need each other to enjoy this life.

We share our heartache and frustration way more than we do our joy.  And I know for sure we don’t say thank you nearly enough.  For our experiences. For the moments that tap into our strength. For the people that surround us who show us more…and who motivate us to be more.

Most of us live in cultures which support “misery loves company.” We don’t want to feel alone in our fears and our sorrows. But what if we spent more time sharing our successes and our conquered fears? What if we spoke more of our beautiful friendships and relationships, as well as and the moments we meet strangers who make us think twice about our place and our purpose? What would that be like?  Keep Reading...

 

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Facing the Fear of Change: Big Risks Can Bring Big Rewards

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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” ~Barack Obama

If someone said to you, “Hey, you know how you are feeling the need for change and you’re not sure what to do? Well, I can’t tell you what to do, but I can guarantee that if you follow where your heart leads you, you’ll create the possibility of more joy than you’ve ever felt before. All you have to do is walk through the doors that will keep opening up for you and trust, completely, that you are on the right track. You may question it at times, but keep going. You’ll be fine no matter what.”

What would you do? Would you follow the guarantee or would you keep doing what you’re doing?

What if the caveat was added, “Oh, you should probably know that if you do this, you run the risk of losing much of what you’ve known and who you think you are now will look completely different the next time you look in the mirror.”

Ummmm… hold up. Let me think about that.

That’s basically what happens when you know it’s time to change up your life and you’re innately scared to do so.

So, what do you do?

I spend a lot of time in deep reflection and introspection. And it’s not because I want to; it’s because I am constantly trying to understand myself, to figure out where I’m headed and what’s potentially holding me back from getting there.

Most of the time, I feel completely in the dark. And while my grandmother always told me that there is nothing in the dark that can hurt you, I’m human; I question this theory. And yet I continue to trust that she’s right. She lived over eighty years and was the most inspirational woman I’ve known; she must’ve learned something pretty valuable to be expressing these bold opinions.

So I had the nudge to change myself and I went with it. No, that’s not accurate—I had the internal and external shove and I went for it.

In the matter of a few short years, I got divorced, bought a house, lived alone with my kids, completely supported myself financially and then left my job, started a business, and changed the majority of my friends. I chose to start completely over in many ways.

On paper, I looked a bit off balanced. Keep Reading...

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The Story Behind the Story...The Secret to Beating the Dragon

Book Summary:

Andrew and his grandmother are best friends and spend their time together telling stories of conquering imaginary dragons (fear) by being brave (looking fear in the eye). As Gram ages and her life ends, Andrew is left to battle the dragons alone until he discovers that Gram has been with him all along.

Embrace the moments…that’s my focus lately.

My children’s book, The Secret to Beating the Dragon, was delivered to me the other day. My initial reaction was excitement…and then an immediate sense of sadness because my kids weren’t home to view it with me for the first time.  I wished they were…

But I am a firm believer in Divine timing. I do believe life is perfectly timed out for us, even when it makes no sense to us at all. So I questioned, “why must I be alone to see the book for the first time? They love it too!”

And it hit me….the night I wrote the story I was home alone for one of the first overnights my kids were with their dad after our separation.  I missed them and it gave me the opportunity to sit with myself and feel. Let’s be honest, that is not something we typically enjoy. But I wanted to embrace it and felt inspired to write.

I sat in my kitchen, notebook in hand and let the words fill the page.  Crying as I wrote, I felt the emotions of love and loss and strength and courage. And then I text the story to my cousin, Andrew, whose relationship with my grandmother inspired the story to begin with.  Along with him, I cried some more.

The story is heartwarming and I knew I wanted to share it.

The moment has come full circle.

But the day I held the book…that moment was for me. And Andrew. I text him the picture of it immediately. He is the primary reason I wanted this story to come to life. His love for his grandmother...and hers for him. Beautiful and inspiring and the kind of love that makes you remember why you love---because it feels amazing. Also, the kind that reminds you why it’s hard to let go---because it feels amazing.

The night I wrote the story, I felt their love so strongly.  I felt how he missed her and how he did everything to make their time together the best it could be. And I felt how much she appreciated it…how much she appreciated him.

She was living with Alzheimer’s disease in her home in the middle of the woods of Maine when Andrew moved in. My grandfather had died a few years prior and she had been living her life to the fullest since, but with the onset of Alzheimer’s, no one wanted her to be alone. My brother lived there for a period as well. Both he and Andrew cared for her as long as they could as they were going through their own life transitions.

Her vibrant spirit and strong independence was shifting. She was going downhill and life was hard for her. I would call her on my way home from work and tell her the same jokes each day because I knew she didn’t remember them from the day before. And she would laugh- every time. Same jokes, same response.

I just wanted to make her smile.

She would complain that she knew her memory was going and it was so frustrating. I hurt for her. It hurt me that she hurt. So I told her that she was living the dream…she was living in the moment, because that’s all she had.

But for me, it was painful.  I just wanted to take her pain away. I loved her so very much. The idea of her suffering was awful.

I was grateful Andrew was there. His humor, his personality, his dedication to our grandmother was unmatched. He would come home from his job on the ambulance and tell Gram of his adventures in the field. Having volunteered on an ambulance herself after retirement, she was eager to hear his stories.

She craved adventure as much as he did and they would share a glass of whiskey as he told his tales of the day.  And Andrew, the charismatic and funny man that he is, is an excellent story teller. No doubt she took it all in, happy to live through the bloodline she created. Appreciative to experience life through the eyes of love and admiration.

I tear up nearly every time I read the story. I’m sure at some point I won’t. But for now, I still feel the intensity of the love and the loss and the exquisite beauty that comes with it.

While the book was coming to life this past fall and early winter, my beloved aunt, Andrew’s mom, was dying. I’ve accepted that I cannot find words that best describe my aunt. Her pure spirit and genuine kindness frame the most giving soul I’ve ever met. She is simply- love- in its truest form.

The kind of love that makes you remember why we love---because it feels amazing. Also, the kind that reminds you why it’s hard to let go---because it feels amazing.

I can’t capture the magnitude of her loss- it runs too deep- but I can say that the timeliness of having our family together to help me critique the character images in the book was impeccable. Sharing our views as we bonded over our pain while I saw my beautiful aunt for the last time----Serendipitous.

Again, Divine timing at its finest.

The journey of bringing a vision to life is quite an adventure. And I love me some adventure. Even the sucky parts.

I’m thrilled to share the legacy of my family. One of immense respect, loyalty, love of living and an unwavering commitment to make our dreams come true.

Thanks for sharing Gram and Andrew. Love you from the deepest parts of my heart.

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