Trust.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”  ~Ambrose Redmoon

Four weeks ago today I sat in a surgeon’s office in Attleboro and received a diagnosis of breast cancer.  Tomorrow I start chemotherapy at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  The space between June 13 and July 12 has felt like the longest month of my life.  I made it through with the support of my husband Jerry (bulldog with a pink folder!), loving family members and many dear friends.  As I prepare for the next stage of this healing journey, I wanted to share with you all where I am today.

Hearing that someone we know has cancer (especially someone fairly young and healthy) can be very scary.  The odds that I would be facing down breast cancer at age 40 is 1% (or less, considering the lifestyle I lead).  I can feel people’s fear for me.  I can hear it in their voices on the phone, see it in their faces when we speak in person, and read it in their text messages.  I too started this journey filled with fear.  I felt blindsided a bit by the Universe.  I’ve spent most of my adult life engaging in healthy practices that are supposed to prevent cancer.  How can I be standing here with breast cancer?  How did my body not fight this successfully?  As I’ve moved through the last few weeks of my life, I’ve found my footing again.  I’ve found my deep trust for the wisdom of my body again.  I’ve rediscovered my connection with the Universe.  The body will do whatever it needs to keep us safe and to protect us.  That must mean that my body needed to create this tumor to protect me from something I wasn’t able to see.

I’ve had cancer described to me a few different ways by a few different people.  (Beware all you scientist types…this is how I perceived what I was told by some of these folks, and I may be getting it all wrong).  Jerry, lover of Nova and Through the Wormhole, told me “it’s a byproduct of evolution.  Genes have mutations that have many causes, but most are random.  The mutations that aid in your survival live on in your offspring and those that hinder your survival tend not to.”  An oncologist friend of a friend told me it’s just cells doing something they’re not supposed to do.  My lovely lady scientist friend says that cancer grows due to an error in the immune system–for some reason it doesn’t take care of the rogue cells when it sees them (her company is working on a vaccine for cancer).  An acupuncturist told me it’s a healing mechanism of the body.  The body takes things that aren’t working for us, whether it’s a behavior pattern, a thought pattern, or something else, and puts it into a form (like a tumor) that can be treated and removed.  A master herbalist and detoxification specialist told me it’s what the body does to protect itself.  If there’s too much acid in your body it will create a cancerous tumor to encapsulate that acid.

We live in a culture of fear around cancer.  We live in a culture where we don’t trust our bodies to heal themselves.  I’ve spent years cultivating that trust in my body.  I’ve spent years giving my body what I thought it needed to be healthy and to heal.  If my body allowed a cancerous tumor to grow, then I trust that it knew exactly what it was doing, and that tumor is the access to a higher version of health for myself moving forward.

In the past few weeks I have spent time experiencing depths of fear like I’ve never felt before.  Some steps on this path to healing will bring me to dark places.  My job will be to release whatever negative emotions may hang out there so I can move back into the light again.  It’s tempting to create from the dark spaces.  That’s where all the “what if’s?” live. I’ve dabbled a bit in the “what if’s”–it led me nowhere good.  With Jerry’s help (your head is a bad neighborhood, don’t go there alone!) I recognized that the place to create is not from the dark, it’s from the light.  Go to the dark, release, but come back to the light before you get those creative juices flowing.  That’s the plan.

Although my Dana Farber treatments don’t start until tomorrow, the healing process has already begun.  Acupuncture, reiki (energy healing), food, supplements, medical cannabis, massage, talk therapy, yoga, journaling, laughter, ocean water, sunlight…it’s all part of this journey for me.  I said to a friend last week, this feels like my own personal Olympics.  I’ve been training for years for this, not just with food and what I put in my body, but also with the products I use in my home, the chemicals I don’t put on my skin, the monthly massages I receive, the yoga I always return to, the small daily actions I take to choose a healthier and less toxic path, the lenses I view life through.  In the quiet moments, I keep hearing the message that this is a story of healing.  That is what I’m choosing for myself.  That’s where I stand, on the eve of chemotherapy.  If you feel fear in your heart for me, I ask you to release it.  Send me love, light, healing vibes, bad jokes, positive energy, good juju, prayers to God, Jesus, Allah, the Buddha…but trust that you don’t need to fear for me.

I haven’t written much here in the last year, but the funny thing about a cancer diagnosis…it got me writing again, and it will be part of my healing journey.  I’ve been writing a lot and will be posting more.  Some of what I post may be from the early days of my diagnosis, when the fear was overwhelming.  That’s part of my journey too.  Don’t be alarmed, trust that today I am okay.

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Me and my boys…ready to ride the roller coaster of life. The one rule? Don’t get off.

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Bring on the wild beasts, harsh conditions, and harmony.

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Team #baldlife

Posted in Energy, Healing, Health, Life Passages, Overcoming Challenges, Personal Growth, Release, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Going Dark

I’m pretty sure that 10 years ago people didn’t have to “go dark” when they had a down spell. I think we just kept to ourselves a bit. We didn’t accept invitations, certainly didn’t invite anyone over. And then, enter social media.

We live in the age of letting everyone know what you’re doing at all times, so “going dark” ain’t what it used to be. So many of us use social media for business as well as socializing, and that makes it extra tricky. Have you ever had a tough month? A bad quarter? How about a rough year? I’ve had all of those in my lifetime. I think I’ve even had a succession of years that kind of sucked, let’s say 3 or 4 in a row (it’s much easier to look at those with a 15-years-out perspective. While in the midst of it I’m sure I don’t know what the hell was up). I happen to be going through a rough patch right now (length to be determined) and it feels different than when I went through something similar 5 years ago, because now…well, now social media is EVERYWHERE. And what are the rules about all that?

I’ll be honest, I don’t know. I’ve avoided social media as much as possible lately, and have hoped that astute friends would see I’m not posting much and not judge me for it. I’m on social media here and there, bingeing at times (hello, 48 hours post-election). I take care of what I need to. On some days I feel better and you may see some likes from me as I peruse other people’s posts. On other days I lay around in my pajamas and curse the life choices I’ve made. Such is life, eh?

At my family Christmas last week, I spoke to a cousin who said she felt such relief when she recently deactivated her Facebook page. She had 15 friends. I get it. I have over 950. Damn.

We’ve been listening to a lot of Diamond Rugs in our house lately. That may seem like a non sequitur, but their music has felt very relevant lately. At least my kids jam out to their music so we have some positive movement going on.

I spent some time with a dear friend last night, celebrating her birthday. We are on different ends of the parenting spectrum, but both challenged by what’s in front of us. She’s a 5th grade teacher and in our conversation she offered the book “Things Fall Apart” as a source of support, explaining that human suffering is universal, wherever you stand.

This too shall pass. This I know from experience, although as each month drags out it seems interminable. My Christmas wish for myself and all of you: strength, peace, and clarity. Namaste.

(And for non-Yogis who may not understand the full meaning of Namaste–it can be translated as:  “The divine light in me acknowledges the divine light in you.”) 🙏🏻

ADDENDUM:  I feel compelled to add an explanatory note to this post.  There are many aspects to human health.  For some reason, discussing mental health is often taboo while discussing physical health is not.  The fact is:  we all go through ups and downs in our mental wellness, just as we do in our physical wellness.  This post was an acknowledgement of that.  We can’t choose the genes we inherit from our parents.  Knowing we have a family history of heart disease or diabetes can certainly help shape the lifestyle choices we make or the treatments we seek.  The same goes for knowing we have a family history of depression, addiction, or OCD.  I speak openly about the ups & downs of mental wellness in an effort to help normalize it.  I want my two boys to know that going in for a mental health checkup is just as important and available as going in for a physical health checkup.  I don’t want them to feel ashamed about their genetics; I want them to feel empowered about all aspects of their health.  For those of you who reached out to me to check on me or send words of encouragement, I appreciate you.  I’m okay today partly because I was raised in a family that taught me from a young age how to reach out for support when I don’t feel okay.  And for those of you who reached out to me to share that you too have been struggling–thank you for sharing.  You are not alone.

Christmas Pikachu!


Fluffy and Katie LOVE their costumes, can you tell?


Heater hugger extraordinaire


Two Tigers 🐯🐯!!

Posted in Daily Life, Health, Life Passages, Motherhood, Overcoming Challenges, Retreat, Wellness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

#thestruggleisreal

For me, summertime didn’t REALLY exist (in it’s current incarnation) until I had children. Sure, I was once a kid.  And then I grew up and lived in San Diego (where “summer” is a term we use loosely–it’s kind of always summer there).  And THEN…I had a child.  And left San Diego to move back to New England.  And I finally really understood summer.

Summer, although it technically exists in time and space (aka June 20th or so until September 20th or so), it’s really more of a feeling.  It means you don’t have to get up until you want to in the morning.  It means you can make pancakes (or avocado toast, my current fave) for breakfast every  morning if you want to.  It means you can stay up late, eat ice cream every day, and watch stupid TV in the late afternoon instead of doing homework.  Summer = Rest and Play and Fun and BE.

For us, this summer has been a bit odd.  Jerry and I traveled A TON (mostly without the kids and a little bit with the kids).  As I may have mentioned already, I’ve been partying like it’s 2005 (aka before I birthed my first child).  I’ve been to Colorado, Alaska, Vancouver, Seattle, on a Phish run (which is really it’s own stratosphere), and to Newport.  I’m headed for camping, Great Wolf Lodge, Canobie Lake, and laser tag (August is all about the kids).  When I’ve been home I’ve been preparing for the next departure or working my butt off to handle my life in the short time I had available.

And then there was today.  Each boy had a friend over and we went to the pool.  I made all the kids lunch, we all stayed hydrated and protected against the sun, and we even caught some Pokemon on the way to and from, and yet…I spent a good part of the day beating myself up.  In my mind, there were two ways I could spend my time while at the pool–watching webinars on how to improve my website (which is actually something I really need to do) or watching Wentworth (a really good show on Netflix based on an Australian women’s prison–kind of like the Australian Orange is the New Black–thanks for the recommendation Kathy!).  And you know what?  I chose Wentworth.  And then I came home, washed all the towels, sent a child off with his grandmother, and climbed into my bed to drink wine and watch more Wentworth.  Yet I felt guilty that I was doing it.

If I’m truthful with myself, I think this is a struggle that comes up every summer.  And because this summer has been SO FREAKING AWESOME (and full of enriching activities), I’ve avoided it until now.  But here I am, about 1/3 of the way through August, and the “not doing enough” feeling starts to rear it’s ugly head.  I see you, scarcity conversation–and I recognize you for what you are.  Whatever this nonsense is, I promise you it doesn’t exist at the same level in children.  I watched my kids tonight eating nachos and watching stupid TV (in my opinion at least) and they didn’t bat an eyelash at any of it.  So why do we?  Next time I start to get all hung up on wasting a little time here or there (aka the point of summer), I’m going to ask myself WWDCD?  (What would Dylan & Cooper do?)  I have a feeling I would have their approval all day long.

With our dear friend Anne, my mom’s best friend since I was a wee lass.

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My boys were on their best behavior on the Amazing Grace, the Newport Harbor tour.

 

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Daddy is the best playground buddy and Pokemon hunter.

 

This girl.  16 years old and no shame in her game.

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Pearl Jam at Fenway Park. Thank you for 25+ years of memories and an amazing Friday Fenway show!

The Cleary Cousins, circa 1982 or so, 1683 State Road, Plymouth MA.  We tried to recreate this pose in the picture below.

 

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We, the Folk

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” ~Jimmy Dean

There’s this thing that happens in Newport ’round about the 3rd or 4th weekend in July:  it’s when the folk flow in. We bring with us an energy; you can feel it vibrate all around you as it’s carried on the sound waves from an acoustic guitar.  It’s an energy that stays with you long after you’ve made your last exit through the gates at Fort Adams, an energy that brings with it a not quite asleep, not quite awake, pseudo-dream state, that space where seeds turn into thoughts turn into possibilities turn into visions turn into reality, and maybe it’s all kind of the same anyway in this beautiful triangle where Newport + life + folk music + energy combine.

We flowed through the gates of the Festival bright with the memory of last year’s pinnacle performance.  Would this year’s Folk meet the mark?  As in life and gravity, the laws of physics always apply.  We can’t truly know the highs without the lows; we cannot truly expand unless we are also willing to contract.  What felt exceedingly special about last year’s Festival was the one-ness that occurred on Friday at the Fort as Roger Waters, My Morning Jacket, festival-goers and festival producers joined forces to create an epic performance that will be referenced for many years to come; even the weather got in on the act.  Last year caused a ripple that stretched beyond the bounds of the Newport Triangle; the world took note. Somebody somewhere who has created a system to weigh and measure and distinguish such events as festival experiences thus awarded Newport Folk the Festival of the Year 2015 (as I learned yesterday by skimming a review of 2016’s Festival written by Ben Kaye of The Consequence of Sound).  Did that draw different folk to the Festival this year?  Perhaps.  But it also drew many of the same folk back.  And we folk know how to flow.

At first glance, Newport may seem to be a space like many others where there are clear distinctions between artists and patrons, musicians and fans, producers and attendees.  The fact is, we are all creating, all the time, constantly.  Some expressions vibe on an output level, some vibe more on an intake.  Just as the tree and human body experience is closely interwoven through the exchange of CO2 and oxygen, so too is the life of a musical note given breadth and movement by the physical expression of those around to feel and hear it.  We saw this happen in the Museum Stage on Sunday in the dance hall created by those of us lucky enough to find our way in at just the right time to hear the Savoy Family Cajun Band.  Here in Newport we the folk have got a job to do too.  We help create the space for magic to happen, building off an energy that’s been held in trust by the walls of Fort Adams through the generations, an energy that’s orchestrated and curated by the powers that be of Jay Sweet and company, of production and operations and foundations and advisors and boards.  For all the hours that go into a festival, all the phone calls, meetings, logistics, and details, all we have to do is show up, let go, and receive.

As we step across the hallowed threshold each year, how many of us question if our experience will measure up to the magic of years past?  Magic is funny though, it ebbs and flows and shifts and transforms in its own right.  Maybe my brand of magic isn’t your brand of magic; what delights and mesmerizes me may not do the same for you.  But that’s okay, it’s to be expected–go seek your magic and I’ll seek mine.  My 2016 brand of magic was less likely to be found on the Fort Stage and more likely to be found on the Museum Stage.  It was less likely to be found while crossing familiar paths and more likely to be found in walking where others were not and dancing in the company of strangers.  We found magic in our conversations with vendors, we formed bonds with those we formed lines with, we inspired, delighted and amplified those around us by our beings and our presence and our vibes.

This Folk Festival was more educational for me than in years past.  Drawn to the Museum Stage for the Savoy Family Cajun Band (the highlight of my festival experience), I caught the story of how New Orleans and Newport became forever intertwined when in 1964 the Folk Festival first introduced Cajun music to the world outside of Louisiana, much to our delight.  As the band’s patriarch told it, Cajun music was clouded with a bit of shame in Louisiana in those days; Newport gave it a space to shine as it was received by a whole new audience.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The Bob Boilen show at Jane Pickens Theatre on Saturday night was phenomenal.  Our crew can most often be found at Newport Blues Cafe late night, enjoying the company of Deer Tick and Friends, a different kind of master class than “Your Song Changed My Life.”  Bob Boilen’s production, echoing his book of the same name, let us peek into the artists’ minds as they described what brought them to play the kind of music they play and the impact a specific song had on their experience as artists and human beings.  We watched an artist confuse the lines to her favorite song (I didn’t know until you told us, Kam!); she owned it onstage and came back stronger and more present, vulnerable and open, and brought her audience there too.  As Mr. Boilen pointed out, we are all human; when we allow our humanity to shine with our perfect imperfections we often forge our strongest connections.

We can’t ignore the give and take that occurs at the Festival, on all levels, all the time.  We’re responsible for our contributions to the soup.  I love the idea that we get to show up, take part and receive, but also that we get to say.  If we don’t like the vibe we can change it with a smile or a kind thought.  There are those I spoke to that were frustrated by lines or by what they say were newfound inconveniences this year.  As so many have said before me, the only constant in life is change.  The more we flow and the less we resist, the more the shifts in life occur simply as an experience of “where we are now” rather than a traumatic event that we need to get through.

We’ll be back next year no doubt, all with a year’s worth more of experiences under our belt.  We’ll rely on Jay and company to do their job, and we’ll do ours.  I’ll smile at you if we share space at next year’s Festival, and you’ll smile at me, and together we’ll send this message of peace and love and understanding out to the world yet one more time.

Until we meet again…

XO, Danielle









Posted in Energy, Experiences, magic, Music, Newport Folk Festival, Opening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Space to Release

Clench.  Grip.  Tighten.  Hold On.

Relax.  Open.  Loosen.  Release.

And so between two extremes the pendulum swings…back and forth, back and forth.  Or does it?

I just spent a week in Colorado.  The first five days were planned, with almost every hour accounted for, allowing a small amount of time for flexibility and the unexpected.  Jerry and I celebrated 11 years married on Sunday May 29th, and My Morning Jacket was playing at Red Rocks for the weekend.  It was a trip where all the stars aligned:  our flights were free using Southwest miles; we had a free place to stay thanks to the generosity of some friends who were out of town for the holiday weekend; we were hooked up with amazing seats courtesy of our friends who work in music promotion in Denver.

On Friday night we ventured to Boulder.  The ladies we were visiting had booked a Monday through Wednesday trip to Steamboat Springs to unwind and relax after the weekend of music.  They invited me to join them.  A master of spontaneity I am not.  But I DO recognize a gift from the Universe when I see one, and this was clearly that.

For me, the last few months have been all about holding on (at times by a thread). I held onto my 6 year old son as I watched him endure severe pain and undergo surgery for a broken arm.  I held onto my 9 year old’s first pet (Fluffy the guinea pig) as we attempted to rehabilitate her from a fall that threatened to permanently damage her ability to walk.  I had been holding onto fear and worry along with some shame and embarrassment (what kind of parent has two “children” with major limb damage within a 3 week period!?).  While we weathered these most recent storms of life, I clenched my teeth, slept lightly, hugged my cat for therapy, and held onto the knowledge that this too would pass.

We live in a culture that encourages holding on.  “Hang in there!” we say to our friends going through tough times.  We admire perseverance and determination in people.  We celebrate that aspect of our human race that battles on, overcomes, and never says die.  With so much “hanging on,” how do we have space for new energy and experiences to come our way?

When I received the invitation to stay on for a couple of extra days and take a road trip through the mountains to the hot springs with the ladies…how could I say no?  Jerry encouraged me to make it work, and my mom was happy to continue feeding the kids so I could feed my soul.  Jen and Sonya (my Steamboat Springs road-tripping friends) were willing to shift their plans a bit to help make it workable for me.  They planned to leave later on Monday (so I could spend a little more time with Jerry as we closed out our anniversary weekend) and return earlier on Wednesday (so I could make a flight that wouldn’t cost any additional miles).

We set out with an intention to release and renew, to enjoy mountaintop meditations and hot springs massages, to eat great food and drink great wine, to hike and laugh and connect.  We NAILED it.

For me, the RELEASING started in Denver, as I enjoyed a more relaxed schedule, explored the beauty of new scenery, adjusted to the change in altitude, and danced my face off to Tom Petty/Mudcrutch and My Morning Jacket.  The releasing continued in Steamboat Springs as we went with the flow, massaged and soaked out our tensions, and stayed open to magic.

At the core, we are all energy.  By letting go of the energy, emotions, habits and beliefs that no longer serve us, we make way for a new future to open up.  I spent the two days leading up to our Colorado trip cleaning out my closet and drawers, an action that seemed somewhat impractical at the time (how about using those 2 days to pack and get the house and kids set up?!) but now seems perfectly in alignment with what was about to go down.  It was a deep purge, and I cleared out some items from 12+ years ago:  before marriage, before children, back when I was a San Diego resident.  If our drawers are filled with clothes that no longer fit or suit us, how will we make space for those that do match our bodies and style right now?  If our heads and hearts are filled with pain and stress and worry from the experiences of months and years gone by, how will we be free and open to enjoy the wonder of all that life has to offer today?

My first night sleeping in Steamboat Springs, I noticed a few things.  I had some CRAZY lucid dreams, which is apparently quite common when visiting higher altitudes.  I had some difficulty breathing while sleeping that first night, and my normal sleep position (on my side, hugging a pillow or a cat, shoulders hunched) wasn’t going to allow me the space I needed in my lungs to breathe comfortably.  I was forced into a new position, lying on my back with my arms wide open (with an occasional hug for Dan, Sonya’s canine companion, to help ground me in reality after some intensely vivid dreams).  I embraced this openness as my second theme for the week.  As I experienced one of the best massages of my life at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, I alternately focused on those mantras: Release and Open.  Release and Open.  Release and Open.

On Wednesday morning I got a call from Southwest that my flight was canceled.  I re-booked it for Thursday midday, to coincide with Jen’s flight out from Denver.  We ladies were able to spend a leisurely day in Steamboat Springs and one more night in Boulder together.  Sonya only had to make one trip to the Denver airport.  I even got a refund for my Early Bird Check-In, making the flight less expensive than the one I traded in.  I connected in Fort Lauderdale and spent a few extra hours in the airport there due to bad weather in Texas.  The delay allowed me to finish taking notes on some final lectures for school (yes, I graduated 2 1/2 months ago) and allowed Jerry to squeeze in a Dark Star Orchestra show in Providence before picking me up at the airport.

I came across this picture on Instagram upon my return home:

Idil Ahmed

If holding on isn’t going so well…maybe try on letting go?  Where are you holding onto energy that doesn’t honor who you are today or the future that you’re creating?

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This post is dedicated to all those who helped make magic happen in Colorado, especially Jerry for encouraging the reverse Ummm, Babe and my mom and boys for releasing me for the week.

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Here’s what Jerry and I were up to 11 years ago on Sunday May 29th…Balboa Park, San Diego

 

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Having been out to Red Rocks before, Jerry thought I would appreciate seeing the venue before the craziness of a concert. He was right. It was incredible.

 

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Rainbow over Red Rocks. It felt like we were in Ireland. I could just hang out in the parking lot and be happy.

 

Nordic Lodge

This is where we stayed in Steamboat Springs (photo courtesy of expedia.com). Owner/operator Grzegorz (you can call him Greg) was Ah-mah-zing. He nailed it with every recommendation. If ever in Steamboat Springs, you should stay here too (as Gregor would say, “It’s a no brainer!”).

 

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See that little house at the top of the mountain? That’s where we meditated during one of our hikes.

 

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The massage hut at Strawberry Park, where I met Shama with the healing hands

 

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The amazing beauty of the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs, CO

 

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One last photo on our way back to Boulder from Steamboat Springs.

 

Posted in Energy, Friendships, magic, Music, Opening, Overcoming Challenges, Reflections, Release, Retreat, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When life gets heavy

You may notice a theme in my blog posts lately.  The titles include words like off track, undertow, and heavy.  As in, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses over here.  I can’t even blame the horrid winter we had (the weather this winter was really quite mild and easy to deal with).  Last night I walked into a house empty of boys, filled with only my lady animal companions, a situation that comes along very rarely for me (my husband works from home, and if he’s gone and I’m home, I usually have the kids with me). In times past this has filled me with delight–oh, what to do with a house to myself?! In the solitude yesterday however, I was confronted by the heavy energy that has surrounded me lately.

So here we are.  Sometimes life is sad.  Things don’t go down the way we planned.  Accidents happen.  Children get hurt.  Parents get sick.  Animals sustain injuries (I’m looking at you, Fluffy the guinea pig).  Rock icons die (is anyone else tearing up throughout the day since learning of Prince’s passing?).  Businesses fold.  Relationships end.  Job offers don’t pan out.  Dreams and hopes and plans for the future are forever altered by circumstances beyond our control.  We are reminded, once again, that we really aren’t in charge here and that life can turn on a dime.

I’ve been hanging out in this space for an amount of time that I can’t even clearly define.  I’d barely know what day or month it is except that my kids have been home from school all week, so it must be April vacation.  I feel distracted, and justifiably so.  I feel disconnected from myself and in my head a LOT of the time (ignoring my mantra to not go there alone, it’s a bad neighborhood).  It’s so tempting to make this space that I’m in wrong.  I mean, there MUST be something wrong, right?  Why do I feel so worn out, why can’t I focus, what’s going on here?

Two weeks ago (or maybe it was three?  Can’t tell from inside my time warp) I decided that enough was enough.  It was time to buckle down, refocus, and get back on track.  Enough with letting my circumstances knock me around.  I refocused on activities that I know help me feel more powerful and grounded.  I made my meal plan for the week.  I listened to some Institute for Integrative Nutrition lectures that I hadn’t yet completed.  I made it to some yoga classes and worked out at home and finished a task that had hung over my head for months (hello, taxes).  I basically flipped a switch one Sunday.  I made the choice, and the next day I showed up a different person.  One that wasn’t confused and murky and held down by the weight of the world.

And then…life showed up again.  Cuz that’s what it does.  And I lost track of time, and my kids were home from school, and my exercise plans involved more “massive overhaul of LEGO apocalypse bedroom space” and less “super zen yoga timeout.”  Jerry and I celebrated 18 years together this past Monday.  It was our 18 on the 18th and it fell on a Massachusetts holiday (Patriots Day).  The weather reports predicted 70+ degrees.  Jerry took the day off from work so we could have a family fun day.  The day promised to be the stuff memories are made from…and it sure was when we awoke to screams of terror from our children.  Fluffy (one of our two guinea pigs) had fallen out of Dylan’s grasp when he picked her up from her cage, and now she was dragging her back legs behind her. We rushed downstairs in a panic and, instead of breakfast in bed, I started my day googling what to do in such an emergency.  We found an animal hospital that was open (thankfully not everyone in Massachusetts takes Patriots Day off) and could fit us in that day.  Instead of enjoying a nice meal with my family at 6pm that night, I was instead waiting for the prognosis on Fluffy’s injury.  We did x-rays and were grateful to learn that her spine isn’t severed and there’s no clear sign of spinal misalignment.  I’ll be giving her steroids every day for two weeks, and we’re hopeful she’ll recover.  I did enough google searches to see that this sometimes happens to guinea pigs, even in the most careful of households.  I’ve read enough stories of recovery to have hope myself.  But man, that sure wasn’t how I expected to spend my 18 year anniversary with my man.

The rest of this week passed by in a bit of a blur.  Cooper had his cast removed Friday morning, just when we had all gotten used to it.  He’s rocking a splint now, and we’re supposed to remove it at night and encourage him to exercise his arm.  Apparently when you don’t move a body part for a few weeks while it’s in a cast, it’s REALLY sore when you start moving it again.  Coops made that abundantly clear to everyone at University Orthopedics on Friday.  He was NOT interested in us removing that splint Friday night.  We did NOT have the energy to fight him.  It has now been 27 days since he’s showered or washed his hair (we did sponge baths–he’s 6, so not super gross yet).  I’m dying to clean that kid and Friday night as we were discussing why it was important for him to get a thorough washing he asked (with terror in his voice): “If you don’t wash a part of your body for a long time, does it grow hair? AM I GOING TO BE HAIRY LIKE DADDY?!?!?!”  (It’s a fair question.  Jerry was shaving by age 12).

I spent most of this weekend at a conference for Pure Haven Essentials, the company I partnered with in 2011.  I educate people about toxins in personal care products and teach them how to make safer choices.  It’s been a passion of mine for many years, and I’m usually thrilled to hang out with my tribe for a couple of days straight.  However, Friday night at 10pm I could NOT wrap my brain around stepping away from all the drama in North Attleboro to spend the whole of Saturday, 7:30am to 11pm, in Providence at a business conference (only 20 minutes away, but miles away from what I’ve been focused on over here).  I gave myself permission to leave at 4:30pm and not return for the dinner and awards ceremony. The thought of bringing an outfit to change into was just too much…just getting there at all felt like an accomplishment.  After I arrived and settled into my day, it all started to feel more do-able.  I gave myself permission to change my mind about going back for the awards dinner…I allowed myself to go with the flow.  I knew I would be returning home after the daytime session ended (someone’s got to give Fluffy her steroids!), but the thought of going back in my fancy wear to be with people who I’ve worked alongside for the last 4+ years suddenly didn’t seem so daunting. As I sat in the daytime sessions, I still felt distracted, but I didn’t make it wrong.  JUST SHOWING UP was important.  I showed up again last night, and today.  I spent some time formulating my plan to flip the switch again, writing down those things that I know I can do on Monday morning to refocus again:  get up earlier; create a morning ritual that involves morning pages or meditation; schedule my workouts; create our meal plan for the week; start to integrate some of the tasks that I’ve been avoiding (i.e. changing out the kids’ clothes; decluttering my closet).  Basically:  just show up, and show up, and show up again.  And when life shows up, deal with it.  Lose track of time, and then refocus.  Sleep.  Eat.  Play.  Do laundry.  Listen to music.  Take your vitamins.  Repeat.

As I prepare to turn 40 years old in September, what I’m noticing is that there isn’t any great trick to balancing life.  It’s ALWAYS out of balance.  The teeter totter never stays exactly in the middle for more than a few seconds.  For me the answer is in not getting knocked off the beam for too long.  Take a break as needed, drink some water (or wine), phone a friend, have a good cry, and then get right back up there.  Life is lived on the beam.

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This post is dedicated to my dear cousin Erin, one of my earliest playmates and closest confidantes.  I have her to thank for the “beam” analogy above.  Erin, my soul sister–it’s been an honor and a joy to journey through this life alongside you.  Thank you for your support, your love, and your listening.

Rocking a bowl cut at my first communion. Erin, age 5, Danielle, age 7.

Rocking a bowl cut at my first communion. Erin, age 5, Danielle, age 7.


Celebrating Erin's graduation from high school, circa 1997.

Celebrating Erin’s graduation from high school, circa 1997.


My boy Coops, trying to be brave (but clearly terrified and in pain) as we waited for x-rays. They took those pins out after confirming that all was healing well.

My boy Coops, trying to be brave (but clearly terrified and in pain) as we waited for x-rays. They took those pins out after confirming that all was healing well.


Words of a visionary.

Words of a visionary.

Posted in Daily Life, Friendships, Life Passages, Overcoming Challenges, Personal Growth, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Caught in the Undertow

I feel a bit like I’m underwater at the moment.  Sounds are muffled, objects ahead look blurry, normal sensations are heightened by the experience of being surrounded by a massive body of water.  I’m trying to swim to the surface, trying to inhale some fresh air, but each time I get close I’m pushed back under again.  Interestingly enough, I’m not alone.  I see friends, family, acquaintances, all in the same undertow.  Some of us are at the bottom of a wave, some are at the top.  But we’re all here, rolling with the punches, just trying to catch our breath, to catch a break, to ride the wave instead of being pummeled by it.

It’s tempting to want to “figure out” what’s going on.  As a child of the Information Age, I’ve often sought out new information as the way to solve life’s challenges.  What I’ve learned over the years is that more “knowing in the head” doesn’t seem to give me what I’m looking for.  Cerebral intelligence can be a helpful place to start, but gut or intuitive intelligence is where I really find peace and understanding.

For me, writing can be a way to access my intuitive side.  When thoughts pop into my head and just won’t leave me alone, I know it’s time to sit down and see what flows out.  Some people use meditation, exercise, painting, listening to music, being in nature…whatever it is that connects each of us to our bodies and gets us out of our heads.  Sometimes I sit down and write and I get some answers.  I come to the conclusion of an issue that’s been plaguing me, and the piece of writing I have to show for it is complete and concise and pours onto the page with ease.  Sometimes I write and it’s a struggle.  There is no answer, at least not yet.  But for me, the writing is part of the process, it’s part of how I will get to the answer, and although I would love to be there now, I’m just not.  It’s tempting to save the struggle for my eyes only, to not reveal the man behind the green curtain.  So often we hear about people only when they’ve “made it”–they’ve won the game or defeated the illness or made the best seller list.  Most of the time though, we are in process.  We’re battling our demons, doing the best we can every day, and we’re overwhelmed, under rested, over caffeinated, and just trying to catch our breath.

If you’re one of the folks who’s struggling in the same wave I am right now, know that you aren’t alone.  Breathe deeply.  Give yourself a break.  Reach out for support, and trust that the laws of physics are alive and well…what goes down must also go up.

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Sunny days in San Diego over February vacation

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At the top of One World Trade Center…Cooper is the photographer. We were in New York City for my conference at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

 

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3rd graders have Colonial Day in school. Dylan spoke with a British accent and put on a serious face for his role as the town cooper.

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Giggles with Katie

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Brothers at play

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Lady hanging with her sisters

 

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Just before surgery to have his broken left arm reset with pins. He challenged the O.R. nurse that he would make it backwards from 10 before the anesthesia knocked him out. He made it up to 20 (apparently a new record). The nurse decorated his swiss cheese sponge while he was under. Charming Cooper, working his magic even while in pain!

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Spy glasses complete the look. Thanks Grandma!

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Cooper lost his 1st tooth 4 days after surgery. The intubation tube may or may not have played a role in that. Either way…go big or go home!

 

Posted in Daily Life, Energy, Intuition, Life Passages, Personal Growth, Reflections | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When being “off track” is on track

Ahh, January.  Standing in December in the midst of the holiday chaos, January looks so bright and shiny and new.  It’s the month that is going to change EVERYTHING.  We will set our intentions and create our resolutions.  We will go to the gym EVERY.DAMN.DAY.  We will go straight from eating all the sugar in the house to eating none at all.  In December it all looks completely reasonable and possible.  Never mind how many January firsts we’ve experienced before, this year we will meet and exceed all of our own high expectations.  And then…enter reality.

We all have our own version of what January looks like.  If you’re like me, January has a slightly different flavor each year.  In the year 2000, January was when Jerry and I decided enough was enough (aka we were fed up with winter and snow), and made our plan to head to a warmer climate before the end of the year.  In September 2000 we made good on that promise as we stuffed our Hyundai Elantra with as many belongings as we could shove in there, and drove off into the sunrise…with San Diego as our final destination, sight unseen by either one of us.  In January 2004 I started a new job, which was a big deal.  A serial entrepreneur, I had been working at home (at that point for 2 1/2 years) and it was time to make a change.  That year we were very focused on cleaning up our finances; in September of 2004 we paid off $17,000 in credit card debt.  Early January 2006 brought the news that I was pregnant with my first child; that month we also previewed Bob Dylan’s The Times They are A’Changin’ at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, before it headed to Broadway.  Dylan Robert Theroux was born on September 5, 2006.

Since Jerry started working in life insurance sales that same year, January has meant long workdays, no time off, his busiest month.  Through the years, January’s have brought potty training success, vision boards, business launch parties, and business closings.  In January 2014 I prepared for my first Gathering of Women:  Creating Intentions; hosting that event symbolized a stepping into my future as a health and wellness coach.  Last January I started a challenge I had created for myself, what I called my Year of Radical Wellness.  I gave up alcohol at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  I registered for school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I laid a groundwork for a future that was exciting and worth living.  And I lived it.

At midnight on 12/31/15, my Year of Radical Wellness ended.  Just like that, another January had begun.  Last year I had a very clear focus, I had a plan, and I fulfilled on that plan.  This year, things felt different.  Things WERE different.  Most notably, January has brought a major slowing down, a shift in perspective.  For me and for my family, January has represented a rebalancing in many ways.  What that looks like and feels like in many ways is that we’ve gone “off track.”  After drinking no alcohol for 12 months, drinking even 2 glasses of wine feels like too much.  We’ve eaten lots of pizza and not enough veggies (except for that one week Jerry & I went on a kale salad bender…good while it lasted).  We’ve had two weeks worth of illness, my kids have missed 5 1/2 days of school, I’ve canceled more plans in the last 3 weeks than I did in the previous 3 months.  I’ve been in the middle of quite a few short-term projects for quite a few weeks, yet I’m one of those people who has, many times, sacrificed sleep rather than stop in the middle of a project.  I caught up on schoolwork, caught up on sleep, caught up on Empire.  I registered domain names, created websites, ordered business cards.  I’ve spent more time and energy dwelling in creating the future (thanks to Mike Dooley’s 30 Day Infinite Possibilities Project) than I’ve spent “doing” the tasks in the present.  My house is a mess, we haven’t eaten at the dining room table all month, and our second garage bay is filled with bikes and scooters and Cub Scout supplies instead of our Jeep (and it’s starting to snow).

By the end of last week, I started to get uncomfortable.  Although I knew that my intention for January was to retreat, withdraw, catch up on school, slow down, work on launching my health coaching business, etc., the reality of what that felt like was a bit disconcerting.  Sometimes when our intentions become reality, it can feel uncomfortable.  We have to grow into a new reality.  To get to that new reality, we have to let go of beliefs and behaviors that are familiar, but that will no longer serve us as we create something different.  For someone like myself who is what you may call a Type A personality (just a little bit), someone who is used to being “on track,” that has meant getting comfortable with being “off track.”  This isn’t a new theme for me.  After graduating from Harvard cum laude in 1998, working an average of 3 jobs at any given time, and sleeping an average of 4-5 hours/night for years, I spent the next two years working ONE job (in a restaurant that didn’t open until 4pm), slowing down, and catching up on sleep.  I slept for HOURS and HOURS those two years.  I’m sure I thought there was something wrong, but at some point I realized that it was just the laws of physics at play once again.  What goes up must come down.  I needed some yin to balance my yang.

Fast forward to September 2006.  Dylan was breech, and I was scheduled for a c-section on the Tuesday after Labor Day.  I packed up my desk the Friday before, enjoyed one last beach-filled, sun-soaked San Diego weekend with friends, and checked into Scripps La Jolla as scheduled.  But–I was self-employed as a loan officer, and I had five loans in process when he was born.  Jerry had just started at his current company 3 months prior, and for the past few years I had been the primary breadwinner (does anyone else dislike that word?).  The future of babies and nursing and diapers was quite foreign to me; working was my comfort zone.  I remember calling clients from the hospital while I was on a morphine drip and Dylan was in the NICU with a breathing issue.  Yeah.

So here I am, January 2016.  2015 brought MANY changes, and all change, good and bad, requires some adjustment…physical, emotional, psychological.  Sometimes that adjustment may look like physical illness in the body, or a pull towards whatever we’ve been depriving ourselves of.  We may have emotional breakdowns or explosions.  We will likely need time and space to process through the happenings and changes of life.  It’s okay and it’s normal, and resisting it just drags things out.  So I choose to give in.  I give myself permission to be where I am, rather than fight it.  I’m taking January 2016 for what it is:  I’m not making it wrong or making myself wrong or making my experience wrong.  With six days left in January I’m giving being “off track” all I’ve got; from where I stand, that should leave me right on track.
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I certainly have a lot of pictures from January, considering I didn’t feel like we did too much…

 

Winter cuddles with my buddies

Dylan earned his yellow belt in karate

Jerry learned how to play Pokemon so that he could crush the spirits of all the neighborhood children in epic battles

This was during our week of salads…it was good while it lasted!

Coop belly

This kid’s belly is GIGANTIC…always has been

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Midday wine, carbs, and Empire


Cousin Jen & I visited Aunt Riri’s grave on a blustery January day

 

I did my time at Chuck E Cheese this month…and caught up on a lot of schoolwork!

Squamster!!

 

Posted in Daily Life, Life Passages, Motherhood, Personal Growth, Reflections, Sufficiency, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Energy of Yellow

If I look back over the years, I find that my mood on New Year’s Eve can be just as varied as our plans.  At times I’ve been excited and celebratory:  out with the old, in with the new. Other years have left me feeling exhausted and worn-out from the busy-ness of Christmas and the responsibilities of raising two kids.  On New Year’s Eve 2012, I remember feeling a profound sadness in the aftermath of the December 14th shooting at Sandy Hook.  Although I was surrounded by my husband and some of my best friends, listening to one of my favorite bands, feelings of joy and celebration were not easy to come by that year. Considering the lives that had been forever altered just 2 1/2 weeks before, it felt like the least I could do to have a more subdued New Year’s Eve.

Some years bring big changes, and as December turns to January I eagerly move from celebration mode into the heart of winter, knowing that as the earth lies dormant, I too may find some quiet time to process the thoughts, emotions and experiences of the previous year.  2015 was one of those years for me.  I intended it to be, and it did not disappoint.  The woman stepping forward into 2016 is a more self-actualized human than the woman who stumbled into 2015.  To feel that one has made a shift in one’s life, that one is now more clearly on the path of fulfilling one’s potential–how to make that shift without experiencing some emotional challenges and disturbing the ground beneath us and those around us?  I don’t think it’s possible, nor desirable.  Emotional ups and downs are part of the yin and yang of life, they adhere to the laws of physics:  what goes up must come down.  They can, however, be confronting and disorienting when we are caught up in the energy of them, they can feel like ‘something is wrong.’  That was the state of my psyche as I walked into Madison Square Garden on December 31, 2015.

If you’ve read my blog before, you will know that my husband, friends and I are avid concert-goers.  As my friend Carra describes it, music is her religion.  We gather in large arenas and crowded clubs, and as we prepare to worship you can feel the excitement in the air.  Over the last two decades, late December into early January has found many members of our congregation at a Phish show.  My last New Year’s Eve show was a warm-weather extravaganza in Miami as 2003 became 2004.  Since Phish disbanded in 2004 in a search for their own self-actualization, and regrouped in 2009 after motherhood had become part of my journey, securing the tickets, transportation and childcare necessary to be physically present on 12/31 has become a bit more difficult.  With a 9-month old at home, I was thrilled to sneak away to Worcester on 12/27/2010 for an early celebration, both of Phish-loving friend Neil’s birthday (12/29) and the ringing in of the New Year.  With the advances of technology, we music fans can stream the live broadcasts of our favorite bands in the comfort of our own homes (#couchtour).  More than once I’ve shimmied away the last hours of the year alongside friends and family, generating our own version of the New Year’s celebration, and adding our own vibes to the waves of energy that are passing among Phish and their phans, wherever they may be.

It had been a while since I had seen Phish live.  Their 2014 and 2015 tours included just one stop in New England, and although my husband Jerry was able to travel for a few shows, I opted to stay home and hold down the fort.  During these past two years we’ve tuned into other great bands; our places of worship have included many smaller venues in the greater Providence and Boston area.  But I suppose a big year calls for a big blowout, and when the New Year’s run at Madison Square Garden was announced, Jerry and I made our plans.  As fortune would have it, we secured New Year’s Eve tickets in the public sale on October 2nd; the rest of the plans flowed from there.  We pushed our New Year’s plans to the background as we focused on the intensity of the fall season, revisiting them as needed but saving our excitement and anticipation until our own holiday run was behind us, and we could grant ourselves permission to feel free.

As the end of 2015 approached, rather than feel satisfied with my accomplishments and excited for the New Year’s Eve festivities, I felt trapped on an emotional roller coaster inside my head.  As I’ve told many a friend in the past, “Your head is a bad neighborhood–don’t go there alone.”  Yet I was ignoring my own advice.  The journey that was 2015 continued to gain momentum as the year progressed, and I continued to seek clarity and understanding of all that had occurred, and of my successes and failings in how I handled the multitude of challenges that arose.  Often, though, clarity cannot be gained by continuing to poke and probe and search.  Sometimes we need to just let it be, and in the quiet space that opens up, we will come to understand that which eluded us until we shut off our flashlight.

Having been to quite a few musical experiences in my lifetime, I know that my headspace and comfort level can make a huge difference in my experience at the show.  My comfort level touches upon everything from the shoes I have on, to the energy of the other people at the show, to where my kids are staying while I’m out having fun.  My headspace includes all that stuff, along with everything else that you can imagine it would.  The amount of activity that goes on in my head at any one moment can be both a blessing and a curse.  One of the things I love most about listening to live music is that it brings me out of my head and into the present moment, into my body.  The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary describes “losing yourself in something” as “to become so interested in something that it takes all your attention.”  There’s  no time to fret about the little things in life when you’re fully engaged in the magic happening in front of you.  Any discomfort I may feel in my being or headspace experiences an equal and opposite pull towards losing myself in the music.  The music wins as long as I allow myself to let go.

And so here we are…New Year’s Eve, 2015.  I’ve got all this stuff looming over me.  I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to let it go.  I was worried about our seats (they weren’t great, and I knew Jerry would want to find a spot closer to the action; I don’t like to infringe on others’ space–it can lead to that issue of discomfort).  I was fretting over the future, rather than living in the moment.  Or, in Phish speak, “Things are falling down on me, heavy things I could not see; when I finally came around, something small would pin me down.”

We spent the first of three sets trying to lock down a good location.  Our ticketed seats were about five rows from the back of the venue, filled with smoke and loud with chatter. It was crowded and the sound was terrible.  But this is a Phish show and, much to the chagrin of the event staff, we look at aisles as free for the claiming.  We managed to claim some prime aisle space near our friends; we made new friends as we introduced ourselves to the people we would be sharing energy and space with for the close of 2015.  We endured several sweeps from the security guards, one of which resulted in an eviction from section 116; but we knew they couldn’t fight the battle all night, and said eviction turned into a well-timed bathroom break as I saw the security guards leaving our adopted section just as I exited the ladies’ room.  We made our way back down to Erin, Matt, Neil (different Neil) and Beth Anne 😉, our new found friends at the ends of the aisles we danced next to.  At Phish shows, generosity abounds; our aisle buddies made space for us to tuck in when the security guards came a-knockin’ and they let us use their tickets to get back in after beverage or bathroom runs.

Phish songs are rarely played on the radio, but they can sell out four nights at Madison Square Garden in a matter of minutes.  Why is that?  To the non-phan, the lyrics may seem silly, bordering on ridiculous.  A song all about a possum being run over?  Yup.  A song focused on characters with lumpy heads?  Absolutely.  Musical jams that can easily top 10 minutes or more?  It happens regularly.  There are multiple websites where Phish fans flock to study and weigh in on the various meanings of all things Phish.  There are people (or software, I hope!) who track when songs were last played and keep a running tally of which songs were played when.  I’m not one of those phans, although I do track the shows I’ve attended:  my current total is 31 since July of 1999, which pales in comparison to some of our pals, who are well into the triple digits.  I do enjoy myself a good live Phish show.  I’ll admit, when I walked into MSG on 12/31/15 I felt a little rusty.  Not only had I not seen Phish in a while, but we haven’t been listening to them too much.  I was in my funky headspace.  With such an intense year under my belt, I had enough wherewithal to pick up a sequined shirt, but not enough mental energy to put towards anything fancier or sillier than that.

And then the show began.  And I remembered why I’ve so happily joined Jerry at Phish shows, and why I always come back.  Trey, Page, Mike and Jon are masters at elevating the energy in a room.  They pull out the best in us.  What that looks like to the untrained eye is a bunch of aging hippies twirling their hands through the air.  What that feels like when you’re a part of the music?  It feels like your soul is being elevated.  Like your spirit is healing.  About halfway through the show, I felt a profound sense of peace.  My perspective totally shifted, I realized I had stopped worrying, and I knew exactly what to do to clear up any unresolved tension.  That, my friends, is the gift of a Phish show, and that is why we always come back.

New Year’s Eve shows have an extra promise included, some sort of jazzy excitement to look forward to.  In 1994 they flew around Boston Garden in a giant hot dog.  In 2013 the band brought a replica (or was it real?) of their first equipment truck onto the floor of Madison Square Garden, and played the second set on top of the truck, complete with original equipment.  This year Phish set up a second stage and started their third set there, until a funnel-shaped screen came down over them, hiding them from view and allowing them to return to the original stage.  And then midnight came, and along with it came the yellow.  Balloons fell from the ceiling, and yellow squares of tissue paper were shot from the stage, over and over and over again.

Admittedly, I gravitate towards yellow.  I grew up in a yellow bedroom, I live in a yellow house, my nickname is “Yell-o” or “Yell-bell” in some circles, I even carried a yellow purse with me to the show.  When I asked my husband if he noticed all the yellow at the show, he looked at me blankly.  That would be a no.  I think some people were disappointed that the stunt wasn’t more fancy.  In my mind, Phish must adhere to the laws of physics as well:  what goes up must come down.  You can’t always ride a giant hot dog around the arena.  At its most basic, music is energy.  Phish are masters of affecting energy.  And yellow is the color of joy, of hope, and of sunshine.  What better way to ring in 2016 than to be surrounded by those emotions and feelings as we ride the wave of another Phish tune.

As I sit in my home office space looking out at the frozen tundra of my backyard, I keep my square of yellow close.  We are still in the beginning of a shiny new year…anything seems possible against the backdrop of a fresh early January.  But as the challenges of the year crop up as we know they will, I will look to my patch of yellow to guide me, to remind me that all is well.  All is at peace.  And it’s okay to let go.

May 2016 bring you love and light and the strength to face all of your challenges.

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My little patch of yellow


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Woof


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A monkey, flanked by two mystery animals…one of which is Irish.  And the other which looks remarkably like our new guinea pig Fluffy…but will forever be known as a Squamster.


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#somanyeyes


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Tricksters


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Pure joy from Mr. Calderon, aka The Mayor


carra view NYE

Carra and company’s view from the floor


Elise view NYE

Elise and Vikas’s view from above


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Our view from the best non-seats ever.  Hello, Yellow.

A special thank you to Neil & Jenny, who actually had seats in section 116 and let us use their tickets to get in the door; our aisle buddies Erin & Matt and Neil & Mary Beth (or Beth Anne, as I like to call her); the many employees of Madison Square Garden who welcome the Phish freaks back every year and eventually stop trying to get us to behave; Carra and Elise for letting me post their pictures; Jerry for being the yang to my yin; my friends for being so “awesome & funny,” always; my mom and brother for showing my children a good time while I partied it up at MSG; and to you, for reading.

 

Posted in Energy, Friendships, Music, New Year's Eve, Phish, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Logic Interferes with Intuition

I’ve got a craving lately.  Picture:  a hot bath, a good book, a warm blanket.  The mood and atmosphere present:  serenity and silence.  The chosen activity:  withdraw, retreat, reflect.

In my training to be a health coach we look at cravings as a tool to understand what is out of balance.  They are your body speaking to you.  Often times when people crave food, it’s a substitute for something else that they’re missing.  We eat so that we don’t feel lonely.  We drink so that we can ignore that we’re in a relationship that doesn’t work for us.  We smoke because it gives us permission to take a break at work and experience a moment of solitude.

We’re entering the holidays, a time of year that can feel very conflicting for people, myself included.  This “most wonderful time of the year” carries with it a folklore that suicides spike around Christmastime.  I’ve bought into that belief for many years, and just learned a moment ago that it’s false (according to studies by the people who study such things).  I think it says a lot about our culture that we have created this myth and that we perpetuate it.  It speaks to the yin and yang we feel as we enter the winter season.  We spend more time with family–which can be a blessing and a curse.  I feel like the holidays have the potential to bring out a manic side of people.  Sometimes we get manic in a good way, sometimes…not so much.  I feel like there’s a societal and cultural pressure for every Christmas to be better than the last, to choose (or make!) the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, to throw a party with the right amount of both fancy and fun.  If you’re from a divorced family like both myself and my husband are, there are many schedules to coordinate, many people to please.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing (talking to you mom, dad, Lorry and Jerry 😉), it just means that the holidays for me involve a lot of logistics, they have from a very young age, and they likely will for as long as I walk this Earth as Danielle Cleary.

When I think back on the ghosts of Christmas Past, there’s one Christmas in particular that stands out for me.  It draws my attention and my longing and I dream out loud to Jerry about recreating that Christmas.  I don’t remember what year it was, maybe 2004 or 2005?  Definitely before babies, and probably after Phish broke up for a bit (we often align our travels with seeing music).  The Christmas that I yearn for is the one that Jerry and I spent hiking in Joshua Tree National Park.  We stayed in Palm Springs, I remember putting our few Christmas presents underneath the fake plant in our motel room.  We spent most of the day in the park, probably packed a picnic lunch, definitely brought some wine.  It was quiet, we encountered just a few other hikers on our journeys.  One thing I loved about living in Southern California is that it’s SO different than New England.  That contrast also made me long for New England while I was living in Southern California.  But what a trip it is for a native New Englander to experience the desert, to hear the electric energy in the air, to see flora and fauna that just don’t exist in the part of the world I hail from.

Whenever people came out to visit me, I made it a point to bring them to the desert.  For me, visiting the desert was a spiritual journey.  The heat, the quiet, the landscape both barren and alive with energy.  Cell phones didn’t work and the likelihood you’d run into someone on a Tuesday afternoon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park weren’t very high.  Of course, that meant if you got into trouble…it could get interesting.  I took my brother out for a visit once, and my trusty little Hyundai Sonata got stuck on a rock.  As I drove over it, my car got wedged on top of the rock, specifically my gas tank or something else I deemed important (this was 12 years ago now, my memory is a bit fuzzy).  We were faced with the challenge of removing ourselves from the rock without removing or piercing a hole in the part of the undercarriage that was stuck.  We made it off the rock and made it home in one piece (as did my Hyundai) but we were shaping up to be in the kind of situation that Dateline specials are made of.

There are aspects of the yang desert energy that don’t appeal to me.  In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang represent two opposite yet complementary forces.  We need them to be in balance in order to experience health and wellness.  Yin is a feminine energy, its defining qualities are:  cool, dark, moist, moon/night, passive, intuition, up, female, sensitive, expansive, and future.  Yang is known as a masculine energy, its defining qualities are:  hot, light, dry, sun/day, active, logic, down, male, strong, contractive, past.  Over time the extreme dryness of the desert makes me feel like my whole body is parched.  This New England girl never quite adapted to the hot days that turned into freezing cold nights.  I’m from the land where when it’s hot, it’s hot all damn day and night, and you didn’t need 6 different changes of clothes or multiple layers to survive a 24 hour period.  And when it’s cold here, it’s cold.  I missed hot and humid summer August evenings, although I sure did love watching the Super Bowl outdoors and celebrating Easter with a picnic by the bay.

Flash back to present day, and I see that I have a deep longing for the spiritual energy of the desert.  Ask any of my friends and they will tell you I’m a “busy” person.  I create busy, I attract busy, it’s both a pleasure and a burden for me.  I love the feeling of connecting with people, I love making a difference in the lives of others, I love me some positive energy and a good time.  It took a long time, however, to honor my need for yin energy.  I can remember walking into my dorm room one afternoon my senior year in college.  As a full-time Harvard student who juggled up to four jobs at any given point in my college career, it was a rare afternoon where I found myself with nothing to do.  On this particular day, my common room was empty of roommates, so I headed downstairs to visit our friends in the “8-Man” (yes, 8 men lived there).  Nobody there either.  This was before the time of cell phones and texting; if people weren’t home, that was that.  I may have looked further for someone to hang out with, that piece of the story hasn’t stuck with me, but what HAS stuck with me was this overwhelming feeling that I MUST find people to be with.  The thought of being by myself, in my room, with my own thoughts, was unbearable.

For someone who had built a life on DOING, BEING was unbearable.  You want to get shit done?  Call me.  I’ll do it.  It may crush my spirit, but I can produce.  I may resent you every step of the way, but I’ll do whatever I can to check things off that list.  Except…except.  Lately?  Maybe not.  You see, I’ve got this craving.  And it seems to have coincided with my kids both entering school full time.  And it seems to be that the more I feed it, the more I want it.  It was always there, whether I acknowledged it or not.  It’s that craving that drives me to “consume” books, like when I read all of the books in the Game of Thrones Series (4,273 pages) in a 60 day span in 2012.  It’s that craving that makes escaping into a hot bath one of my favorite relaxation activities (especially in winter).  And although I actively disliked running for most of my life, it’s that craving that made me appreciate running as a moving meditation, one that allowed me to escape and be free of other people’s (especially little people’s) needs and chatter, whether for 50 minutes or just 15.

So here we are, on the first day of the last month of 2015.  24 more shopping days ’til Christmas, 30 days left to hit your sales goals (I’m married to a salesman), and how are you doing with all those things you said you were going to do this year?  There are parties to plan, cookies to bake, cards to mail, presents to wrap.  I find myself wanting to escape from all of it.  At the very least, I’m resisting getting caught up in it.  The logical yang side of me wants to make this craving wrong.  Who has time to sit on the couch and read when there is so much to do and so little time to do it?  Although I felt a very strong pull this afternoon to sit down and write to process through the thoughts running through my head, that too was an exercise in contradiction.  I just wrote and published a blog entry last weekend.  I should be doing something else with my time.  Who has time to read any of this stuff around this time of year anyway?

As it turns out, I listened to my intuition, the yin side of me, the side that I’m learning to love and respect and honor this year.  By allowing for more balance in my life, I’m now craving it.  The Christmas spent in Joshua Tree National Park was special because it honored that side of me that was long neglected.  It’s a special moment in my past, and it has many lessons for me if I slow down long enough to notice them.  What I’m finally starting to understand is that I don’t need to head to the desert on Christmas Day to meet my need for quiet and solitude; with young kids, I can’t imagine that would be appropriate or enjoyable.  But where can I bring the energy of the desert into my New England December?  When can I quiet the voices in my head, the voices that are judging and critiquing how I spend my time this month?  How can I meet my needs and still meet the needs of those around me?

I don’t have the answers yet; I may not ever have them.  And if I figure something out this year, it likely won’t apply next year (ahh, the beauty of living a dynamic and ever-changing life).  The value is in the inquiry.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  This December, I’m choosing to let my intuition rule over my logic, to honor my needs rather than make them wrong, to create space for quiet reflection regularly.  What will you create this December?

P.S.  After writing this, I’ve been reflecting more on my draw to the desert.  In April 2002, Jerry proposed to me in the desert.  We got up super early on our dating anniversary, drove to the desert, and hiked to an oasis.  He asked me to marry him as the sun rose.  In April 2006, we took our babymoon to the Sedona, Arizona, and drove through lots of desert to get there.  Until I sat down to write this I had totally dismissed and forgotten the role the desert played in my life.  Are there any parts of yourself that you’ve forgotten about that, if remembered, would reignite your soul?

TBTwDYlan

Me and 2-year-old Dylan in a December escape to Florida

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Cub Scout Pack 32 marching in our town’s annual holiday parade on Sunday.

 

It’s funny because it’s true! I love Anne Taintor’s stuff.

 

Posted in Energy, Health, Personal Growth, Reflections, Wellness, Year of Radical Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment