How walking my own camino changed my life

Last night, I saw a post on FB about walking the Camino. The Camino de Santiago is a 500 mile path that starts over the border of Spain and continues into 4 of Spain’s 15 regions. According to the Catholic tradition, completing this trek forgives one’s sins. Since then, millions of lives have been forever changed by this journey, and various movies and documentaries have been made about this magical trek.

I feel like I’ve been walking my own Camino de Santiago the past six months. Today’s post is about love and loss. And how trekking through my internal mind helped heal decades old patterns for the very last time.

Last Thanksgiving, the love of my life relapsed in his recovery.

I remember the day we fell madly in love.
The day he married, he pledged his sobriety to me.
Our love for each other always had been a constant through the ups and downs. When things came undone, I turned to our love to conquer all.
Except it couldn’t.

My ego said I didn’t like who he had become.
The truth was, I didn’t like the person I was becoming.
I became irritated, frustrated and tried to “fix”.
We fought all the time.
The energy in our home felt dense.
The more I “tried” the more I failed.
There was no way to win this race.

I could point the finger at him. 
But really, I realize this was about ME.

I grew up with addiction in my family.
My mother was my qualifier.
I was the youngest.
Taking in her pains, her hurts.
I became the champion fixer, enabler.
My mother’s needs came first, to keep calm in the family.
My bar for chaos raised high.

It comes as no surprise that I would be continually tested.
Until I chose me.
He said he would stop for me.
For us. I said yes. Yes. Yes. Until no.
The biggest gift I could give to him,
To me, To us,
was to come undone,
So we could work on ourselves,
and perhaps have a chance to come together one day down the line.

On Mother’s day, he moved out. I would lie if I said there are days it doesn’t hurt like crazy. Afterall, it is much easier to break up with someone you hate.

But without sounding corny, this saying comes forward. “If you love someone, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be. If it continues to fly, let it soar, and have faith that God has something better in store. ”

Below are six tools that have helped me tremendously these past weeks.

6 ways to empower yourself during a challenge or crisis. (My inner version of walking to Santiago)

  1. How to stop thinking bad thoughts about yourself or someone else. When we do this, it’s usually our ego talking, defending our position. It goes nowhere fast. Only in circles until we spin that thought into a story. And our energy spirals down into negativity. When negative chatter like “I should have known” comes up for me. I tell myself “God bless me.” (you can create any affirmation that is neutral or your own version of a blessing) Then I take 3 cleansing breaths, get up and go get a drink of water or something for a few minutes that will short circuit that thought. By moving around, moving energy, it helps brings our vibration back up to a higher level.
  2. Keep the focus on you. When things are going awry, it is much easier to point the finger at what is going wrong outwardly. Try instead to bring it inward, back to you. If someone is “making” your life miserable, what are action steps you can do to bring relief into this situation, vs. wishing that someone would change. There’s a saying that whatever is triggering you about someone is an aspect you don’t like about yourself. Turn inward. Get quiet. Empower yourself to take one step towards back to balance.
  3. It’s not always about you. Ha ha. Whatever that’s bugging you, that someone or that something that has happened is probably not intentional. And even if it is, chances are, it is not personal. Somehow, our ego has a way of turning things around so that things are happening TO US. My partner did not do any of this to hurt me intentionally. He is an amazing person.
  4. Where would you be without that thought? I have been re-reading a lot of Byron Katie and “The Work.” When my panties get all bunched up, I ask myself, where would I be without that thought. Because usually, that thought is not based in reality. It is something I am telling myself to protect myself, or justify what’s happening, or feel safe.
  5. Stop pushing. Whatever we are resisting will most likely persist because we are giving energy to it. When we say what we don’t want. “I’m sick of not making enough to pay the bills, why does life have to be so hard, life would be so different if he stopped doing….” we are affirming the NOT vs. the desire. Reframe whatever it is you are lacking into an affirming statement. You can accept where you are right now. You may not like where you are in life. But at this very moment, it is your reality. Since we cannot change this very moment, why not try feeling into what it is you want?
  6. Ask for help. Vulnerability is not weak. I am not one to usually ask for help, but sharing my truth and asking for prayers, comforting thoughts, support, a hug, just knowing someone is on my side has helped keep me buoyant. Also, you never know how revealing your vulnerability gives someone strength to take action on something they may have been afraid to do.

These past 6 weeks has allowed me to get to this place, internally, externally, literally, where life seems to be opening up.  And it seems crazy to say, not knowing where I am headed, or what I am supposed to do is EXACTLY where I feel like I am supposed to be at this very moment.

In this seeming crisis, I’ve found inner peace. Instead of blaming, there is love.  And each day, there is more clarity, as I allow life to unwrap itself vs. making “it” happen.
My “it” is… me. Taking care of me first.

Please share this post with any souls who are in recovery, their family and loved ones around them.  Or anyone struggling with addiction. It is a family disease. We are all affected.

I would love to hear any versions of your own “aha’s” or walkabouts you’ve had below.

Don’t be cheap with your love

0407BLOG

Hello beautiful souls,

Immersed in the world of creating life after loss, I know both professionally and personally how challenging the journey of change can. This is especially true when we want something to change (um, yesterday please). It doesn’t matter if we are moving through grief, trying to release weight, create a new habit, if we could, we would like the “results” of our efforts now please. But when we don’t allow the room for something to percolate, we might just end up judging everything and everyone.

This has been on my mind lately, the word “process”.
To allow. To percolate. To be with.

What does the word “process” mean to you?
For me, it means surrendering and relinquishing judgment.
We live in a constant cycle of judging, judging something is good or bad, right or wrong, pretty or ugly, etc.
We label everything. Without meaning to.

What have I discovered. I am not immune to judgment. No one is.
Even as someone on a spiritual path, I am guilty of the undercurrent of labeling.
Below are a few things I am trying to put into practice. I share them with you this week with love.

THREE WAYS OF ALLOWING PROCESS DURING TIMES OF CHANGE

1. Don’t be cheap with your love; The best thing I can do for myself and others when experiencing change is to allow ourselves to have the dignity of our process. Seeing that everything in life is a work in PROGRESS.  Just as it takes time for a caterpillar to change into a beautiful butterfly, it takes nurturing and gestation for things to shift and expand.  In the past, a knee jerk reaction of mine has been to protect myself from future hurts by putting the karate chop on my love. I keep it close to my heart. Now, I see that this hurts not only the people I am with holding from, it also hurts me.  When I feel scared, frustrated, angry, or hurt, I remind myself to not withhold love from myself or others.

2. Allow others in your life to have their own experience; Instead of butting my head up against the wall, wishing something/someone was different, surrender. Especially when you do not agree or approve of someone’s behavior. You can be available to the person if they ASK for help, and when they don’t, allow them to have their own process without interfering. My mentor once said, when you are trying to fix, you are creating karma.  It is also the ego self trying to “control” a situation (and often one we may not like).

3. Uninvite yourself to the pity party;  Yes, we all have those days. The “why me”, “why them?” “How unfair this feels!” popping up. We feel sorry for someone’s plight and try to fix their pain. Even when we do it with good intentions, we are judging someone else’s process, as the layer below that, there is something we are not approving of.

I am witnessing this firsthand in my own life this week. I might be stirring up a pot here by saying this, but I actually think it takes a great deal of courage to love someone in spite of the very human experiences they are having. To love without trying to change, trying to fix, or see your point of view.

To love without negotiating. Without witholding when we feel hurt. To love. No matter what.
This is one of the things I’ve learned from my rescue pups. They are one of my greatest teachers. They love fiercely, even when they’ve been abandoned or hurt before.

I’d love to hear from you below the ways in which you love when you are feeling upset or vulnerable. 

ps- This is dedicated to my first pup and greatest teacher Sophie Chew, who gave me the greatest gift of unconditional love 20 years ago.

7 Comments

  1. Sabrina Bolin   April 8, 2014 8:08 pm / Reply

    YES. I absolutely agree that love can become more powerful when it’s not as easy to do so.

    One of the ways I love when I’m feeling vulnerable to is to respect my need for solitude versus connection. Sometimes I genuinely want to reach out but other times there is a beauty to allowing myself the space to process it alone. Rather than getting stuck in one way of being, love reminds me that this too can change!

  2. Anne Omland   April 8, 2014 10:32 pm / Reply

    What a beautiful article! I think it takes real courage to love others in this way. Number 2 is a great reminder for me- instead of trying to fix or change someone going through their process, it can be most helpful to let them know you’re there without trying to control the situation.Thank you for sharing this! x

  3. Krystal Bernier   April 8, 2014 11:15 pm / Reply

    You are so right, love is where it’s at. My husband always teases me that if he locked me in one car trunk and our dog in another car trunk for a day he would open the dogs trunk first. Because she would be so happy to be let out she would lick him and love him to death. I on the other hand, would not be so thrilled – lol. Your 3 ways of allowing process during times of change are so helpful and I plan to put them to good use. Thank you for this!

  4. Elise   April 9, 2014 12:00 am / Reply

    Thank you for this post! I have learned so much from my pups, too, so your message really resonated. I lost two dogs last year to cancer, and some of my biggest life lessons about love & letting go came from my furry family members. I LOVE your three ways to process during times of change. Of course, it’s easier said than done. We just need to remember when we are going through it…

  5. lily   April 9, 2014 12:29 am / Reply

    Great post. I find offering gratitude when I’m feeling upset always gets me through difficult times. For friends or family who are hurting, simply listening without throwing in unsolicited advice can be very healing.

  6. Sam   April 9, 2014 11:23 pm / Reply

    I love the comment about allowing others to have their own experience. That’s so important, to just let people be and let yourself be as well.

  7. Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin   April 10, 2014 12:28 am / Reply

    Such a brilliant post! I struggle all the time (especially with my husband– LOL) with the surrender instead of try-to-change dynamic. Thanks so much for the reminder that acceptance and surrender matters. XOXO

Feel it so you can heal it!

blog0318

Today, I want to speak to my alter ego that’s been crowding my space. I call her Tough Tammy. Tough Tammy is type A and a go-getter. She is all about making it happen. Especially when she is grieving, she likes to keep busy. It helps her keep the lid on her emotions. I wrote this love note to her, and the bit of Tough Tammy that may be in each of us.
——————-
Hello beautiful,
You are so kind, loving, caring.
You hear this from others.
But sometimes you have a hard time drinking it in.

You put others before you, giving, validating.
You intellectually know your worthiness, your power.
But when it comes to affairs of the heart, you sometimes put yourself in the back of the line.

Who dimmed your light?
Stop submerging yourself in the bustle of work, life and things.

Outwardly, you look fine.
Inside, there are judgments, unresolved hurts, perhaps even anger.
Waiting to be unearthed.

How much time has to pass before you finally get to live life for YOU?
It’s time to step to the front of the line.
——————-
What does stepping in front of the line means for Tough Tammy?
Self-care. Putting herself first.
Not bypassing her emotions.
When she FEELS IT, she can HEAL IT.
It means stop doing for others and put the focus back on herself. Below are some self-care tips I wrote for her.

10 practical self-care tips on FEEL IT SO YOU CAN HEAL IT!

-Acknowledge any and all feelings that may be present; the anger, sadness, pain.
-Give yourself permission to express it (Some creative ways: throw eggs against a wall outside, then hose it off. Create a safe space outside, break some plates. Yell. Scream. Jump up and down.)
-Tell the truth. Chances are, there is some negative thoughts running around. Give it room to move through. Journal. Cry. Yell. Write it all down and get it all out.
-Stop the to-do list. Do only absolutely what is necessary, then insert something nurturing and fun if you are up to it.
-Leave the dishes in the sink.  Don’t get caught up in mindless busywork like laundry or deleting junk e-mails.
-Stay present to WHAT IT IS you are feeling.
-Weather permitting, get outside into nature. Being with nature is grounding. (when we are grieving, we can feel scattered)
-Stop with the “I am too busy, too tired, too exhausted, too sad, too (you get the picture)
-There is never a more perfect time than NOW.
-Find a mantra that acknowledges where you are, right here, right now. And that is good enough. (Example: I choose ME. I am. I am enough. I am supported.)

Since I am all about “walking the talk” I couldn’t resist heading out to the shipping office to practice #2.

egg

I’d love to hear below what self-care tips you use to soothe your Tough Tammy below.

Why I am not sugarcoating my loss

0305blog

Warning: This week’s post is intensely personal, and my perspective may not resonate with everyone. This is just a humble perspective of loss from a party of one. 

On 2/11/14, I had a miscarriage. For 6-7 brief weeks, he appeared, but suddenly he was gone. I even named him, spirit baby Michael.

For 2 weeks, I allowed myself to feel pain, anger, shame, denial, and unworthiness. I admitted to myself I wanted this so badly. I stopped getting mad at myself for allowing myself to get excited so soon. I questioned, then stopped questioning, wondering what I could have done differently. In my grief, one night, I even projected my pain onto my husband, because he said having another child would not be his first choice, then finally, I took responsibility for projecting my loss. Past losses came up again for healing “Hadn’t I been through enough already?—stage 4 cancer, my mother’s suicide, divorce, infertility , etc” until one morning I woke up to begin counting my blessings and gratitude instead of re-writing all of those stories. I stopped thinking I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough for this spirit baby to stay.

This week, I was reminded that:

Everything is energy.
What we focus on amplifies.

Energy doesn’t discern whether a loss is big or small.
It just knows it’s moving or it’s stuck.

There are 2 ways I could heal my loss.
I could continue to stay in my grief and give more to that stuck energy.
I could even build stories around my loss, an armor to protect my heart.
This is the way of the warrior.

THE WARRIOR.
Telling myself I’ve got to control it, manage it. Keep trying, going, going, don’t stop. Get the sword out to fight, (especially in the case of wanting to be pregnant) with no idea when and if I will get there (success) or how it is going to end.

This was the old me around secondary infertility. I would have continued to go through my to-do list, meditate, run energy, eat super healthy, exercise 3-4 times a day, etc. Do whatever it takes to “manifest” or “will” baby Michael to make another appearance. This way is exhausting.

And at what cost?

There is another way. A softer way.
Whatever your loss is, find your way to accept things as they are.

Miscarriage isn’t a good or bad
Death isn’t a good or bad
Divorce isn’t a good or bad
Cancer isn’t a good or bad
A breakup isn’t a good or bad
It just IS.

Instead of grasping at negative messages, learn to let negative emotions go. Neutralize self-judgments or negative thoughts. Stop sugarcoating loss with well meaning myths like “It’s God’s will” “Be strong”, or “Stay busy”. Put away the guilt, the “would haves” “should haves”. A loss is a loss is a loss. One loss isn’t more important than any other.

You are not less or more of a person because of any loss that’s happened. 

You are wise, capable and a good person. Period.

No sugarcoating the past few weeks. I had a miscarriage. In the darkest moments, there was pain, darkness, suffering.  I am far from perfect. I’ve been down the slippery slope of depressed and back.

The softer way. I remind myself all the “doing” is  just an illusion of me trying to be in control. A month away from my 46th birthday, I accept pregnancy may never happen for me again, ever. Or it may. Either way, it doesn’t change who I am. I am no longer attached to the outcome in a way that can be paralyzing. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be over the moon in calling in a sibling for Kayman. In present time, I am accepting of what is.
What’s true today. I love being a mother (to both my 2 legged and the 4 legged “kids”)  I am going to focus that goodness here right now versus the suffering.  I am so so profoundly grateful for these learnings (and I continue to learn and uncover more gems each day), and ways to work through the ebbs and flow of loss. I am no different or more special than anyone else because of what happened.

Through these personal experiences, I’ve learned some new tools to transform loss. I’m grateful to be on other side of more possibilities, and am here to support you or anyone you know that is going through a rough patch.   I am grateful for my coach and my community being a “container” for my loss. I took some time off to grief, knowing that in order to be there for others, I had to replenish first. It feels good to feel grounded, and back in my body. If you are grieving, this is my wish for you too.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a love note below  what helped you the last time you found yourself navigating loss.

Get your “joy sparkles” on!

Ten years ago,
My heart was broken.
I was grieving deeply, having just said good-bye to a marriage
followed by the death of my beloved dog, Sophie.

Sophie was my little dutch boy with his finger in the dam.
The catalyst for me to shine the flashlight on my own grief.

I started a luxury pet keepsakes company to honor her, and heal my grief.
I was still numb.
I had no idea how I was supposed to be in the world with my darkness.

In all that darkness I used my awesome work ethic to move forward.
In all honesty though, it still sucked.
Want to know why?

I closed my heart.
Because I was “grieving”
I said no the light.
I stayed in the dark.
I didn’t let any joy in.

Not one joy sparkle.
Not when we launched Luxepets gifting styling celebrity pooches.
Not when I sold my first remembrance charm at the NYC gift show.
Not when we were featured in InStyle magazine’s holiday editorial next to Burberry.

Why am I telling you this?
Whether you are grieving,  weathering your own challenges, feeling okay but want to feel great,
I want to let you in on a little secret.

You have permission to feel a sparkle of “joy”, or what I call “Joy sparkles” even when you are feeling like crap.
Especially on those days when you have to drag yourself out of bed,
It’s when we need sparkles of joy to motivate us.

What are “joy sparkles”?

It can be as simple as:
-writing yourself a post it note to yourself before you go to bed, so you awake to something you need to hear. IE: “I matter.” “This WILL get better.”
-set your coffeemaker timer to brew, so you have a cup of coffee waiting for you in the morning, or when you make your bed in the am, turn it like in a hotel and leave yourself a mint.
-put something nutritious on the kitchen counter for you to take before you goto work. I love my Lara bars when I am running late.
-find a funny something to watch on youTube.
-you don’t have to be a dog person or own one to go to a dog park, or pet store for some unconditional love.
-at work, get up from your desk, go walk OUTSIDE. Go find a tree. And really LOOK. Pay attention to how the branches extend out, the leaves, the color. Notice.
Drink it in. Allow your senses to perk up. Imagine the tree as a young seedling and how it’s grown over time.
-If you are in an office park/cubicle, get up. Walk over to a Starbucks or a café near you. Notice something different on way there, something you haven’t seen before.

The point is; Do SOMETHING that allows some joy into your daily life.

The key is to do something, 1 thing, everyday.

Action. Forward. Action.

When we are sitting in dark, we feel alone, in that boat out to sea, having to do everything ourselves.
We miss the person, the pet that used to do those things for us.

When we begin to DO for ourselves, each joy sparkle will illuminate the room just a bit more.
The darkness begins to lift.

Challenge:
November is the month of manifestation! Can you committ to doing one thing that gets your “joy sparkles” up and out?
Look at one dream you have, and see if you can do one little joyful thing each day to bring you closer to it.
I would love to hear about your “woot woot” below.