Get Real: The Four Agreements

What if you had four simple ways to live in peace and increase your happiness? Don Miguel Ruiz gives us a guide in his international bestseller, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.” 

I recall how helpful the book was back in my early days of co-owning an ad agency ten years ago. This past week I revisited the book to as a way to ground myself in the midst of my divorce and the news of our separation reaches our friends, family and community.fouragreements

While I do want to keep my private life private, I’m also aware that I am called to share some of that publicly as I have all year in what it means to be true to your nature and “get real” and try to live with unconditional happiness. I also write about women’s journeys in my novels and my most important woman’s journey has to be my own. Making tough choices and surviving rough times is part of our story.

One sunny day last week at a park near my new job at a PR firm, I shared what those Four Agreements can do for us.

I hope the book helps you the way it’s helping me through this difficult time. That being said, even for a person who does live with the “glass half full” and a positive attitude, I still feel pain and still get hurt feelings. Our brains WANT us to jump to conclusions and make assumptions and our egos feel attacked and want to defend. Hey, it’s hard being human. I’m trying to be kinder and gentler.

I had to block a family member who sent me about thirty Bible verses and said I’m no longer welcome in her home. People feel like they have to take sides, which is unfortunate, and it hurts to be immediately cut off from half the family that have been a part of your life for so long. Others I thought were friends are suddenly acting like I have Ebola. Thing is, it’s awkward. Many people don’t know what to say, or as I said in the video, it’s going through the lens of their own situation. So you can see why The Four Agreements is pretty helpful if I keep trying to live them.

1. Be impeccable with your word.

2. Don’t take things personally.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best.

I want to emphasize how important the support and love of friends and family have been. I do believe we are a magnet for what we are sending out so I’m concentrating on love and joy and peace. Even better, I don’t have Ebola. I have so much to be grateful for.

Not sure what to say or NOT SAY to someone going through a divorce? One blogger shares 5 tips here.  Or know someone who was recently diagnosed with cancer? Six things not to say here. And here are 9 things not to say to a grieving friend. 

Other News:

NaNoWriMo. My goal is to finish the first draft of my brotherhood novel in November. That happens to be National Novel Writing Month so I’m in. Not only do I need the distraction that my fictional world provides, but it will feel great to get this project done because it’s the one I’ve been more excited about writing than any other.

Decorating. I recently finished a project for Sweet Law Firm to give their stale work room some personality. Check out the post and video here. 

FUN NEWS! A new Stork Reality baby! My book club visit in September included a pregnant reader who had just finished reading The Stork Reality, my first novel. I asked her to send me baby pics when her bundle of joy arrived. Welcome to the world, Gigi! Congrats, Megan!

Stork Reality baby, Gigi Franklin.

Stork Reality baby, Gigi Franklin.

Get Happy Week 6: Dark to Light

Getting Happy isn’t focusing on the good stuff or “seeing the bright side.” While that helps, it’s important to get to the deepest part of our core, which means embracing pain and darkness as a foundation for true inner happiness. In my Solo Camping post, I talked about the book Learning to Walk in the Dark in which Barbara Brown Taylor not only describes our fear of physical darkness, but of the “dark nights of our soul.” She discusses how we might get the most out of embracing our dark paths, not repressing them or simply “praying them away.” We have to Get Real about our darkness to deal with it.

Obviously one way I deal with my own demons is by writing stories, which feels like “letting the pressure out of the tire” but it has also slowly removed many thorns in my life. As I write about love and loss and grief as a recurring theme in all of my stories, I’ve been able to deal with my own Dark Passenger, Grief, which I also wrote about in Hope Floats, short stories on loss and living on. hopefloatscovernook

While I’ve dealt with letting go of worry and anxiety that stemmed from a childhood thorn of a fear of abandonment, I hadn’t really dealt with the big thorn of Grief. As I’ve been excavating mySelf this year, I realized it was time to let that go, too. In my 2008 novel, Dating da Vinci, my young widow Ramona, describes life from the viewpoint of either a Normal or a Griever. When you’re a Griever, everything looks different – it’s tinged with a sadness of what was and what could have been and the very painful reality of what is. Her journey is to find la dolce vita, the sweet life. Not the same life she had with her husband, but a new kind of normal. While I had accepted that I do look at life as a Griever and it’s made me appreciate each day I’m given, I do think I had an attachment to that aspect of my life story and I’m ready to REMOVE THE THORN instead of protecting it.url

The thorn theory is in the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Untethered Soul, in which Michael A. Singer writes that, “They let the fear of their inner thorns affect their behavior. They end up limiting their lives just like someone living with an external thorn. Ultimately if there is something disturbing inside of you, you have to make a choice. You can compensate for the disturbing by going outside in an attempt to avoid feeling it, or you can simply remove the thorn and not focus your life around it.”

“You have to decide if you want to continue to walk around with stored pain blocking your heart and limiting your life. The alternative is to be willing to let it go when it gets stimulated. It only hurts for a minute and then it’s over.”

Like pulling a BandAid, but way harder. He writes, “You can look deep within yourself, to the core of your being, and decide that you don’t want the weakest part of you running your life.”

Wow. I know I don’t want that. Do you? I want joy and freedom and utilizing my energy for moving forward, not protecting my pain.

In dealing with our darkness, Singer says, “Just sit in the seat of awareness and never leave. No matter what goes on below you, open your heart and let it go.” He speaks of a world of pure energy that will open up to you as a result and who doesn’t want that?

One of my new favorite mantras came from his book and that’s, “Relax and Release.” When I feel the pang of worry, anxiety, fear or grief begin to stir, I stop the thought short and take in a deep breath and release it. No, that doesn’t guarantee “insta-happiness” but that’s what this series is all about. Happiness WHILE dealing with what is even when that what is is totally crappy.

Yeah, this whole year of Transformation has been about Awareness that can lead to Action and Singer says, “Awareness does not fight; awareness releases.”

Another find that helped me deal with Darkness this summer was a program by Frederick Buechner, who had experienced a great deal of pain early in his life and discovered that he was a Steward of Pain. I encourage you to read or listen to it.

Like Taylor, Buechner tells us NOT to forget it, cover it up, or not talk about things that cause pain OR use it as a sob story or an excuse for your life. We can take the pain and learn from it and release it but keep in touch with it. You’ll never forget it because it changed you but it doesn’t have to keep you down. He says it reminds us of our own powerlessness and that’s a good thing to know. Coupled with Singer’s advice to release your mind of a job to “fix yourself” then we won’t make ourselves crazy trying to control what is OUT of our control. One way to do this is to be an observer of your life. You see that these things are happening to you – but they aren’t you. It can help to grasp that concept with a meditation program where you do sit and see thoughts and feelings pop up but you don’t get distracted by them. To rise above.

Buechner says, “if life and pain is buried, you shrink instead of grow, you become less. Ones who traded with their lives made to be life traders. I have what you need which is me and you have which I need, which is you.” Treasure the pain you’ve gone through helps us feel compassion for other people and can drive us to help others.

I know just thinking about the thorn(s) can be painful and opens us up to that uncomfortable vulnerability to look at love and loss square in the eye, raw and aching. But no one else is going to do it for us. It’s work but it’s worth it. Loving ourselves and loving others is what life is all about.

Grace is ours if we take it.

Questions to ponder: what are the thorns in your life? How have you been protecting the thorns instead of dealing with them? What steps do you need to do to remove them? 

Thanks for being a part of my “Get” year with Get Real, Get Out, Get Fit and Get Happy. I’m taking a blog hiatus so I can work on my novel in progress as well as some short stories in a collection I’m excited about. All of that on top of decorating and branding work and a personal life with a very busy fall.

If you miss me, send me a note or seek me out on social media, where I’ll try not to hang out too much but I do try to respond to messages.

Best of luck on your journey, friends.

xo,

Malena

Get Happy Week 5: Forget Normal

“You’re so weird, Mom!” My 14-year-old daughter said before taking the jar of moon water and trying it.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I like it because it’s cold, not because it’s moon water.” I love her directness except when I don’t.

My 17-year-old son, who would not partake of the moon water and thought it was also strange. I’ve raised my kids to be independent thinkers so this is what I get. They may agree with me or think something is bullsh*t. (They just can’t use that word – yet.) So he doesn’t share my interest in the mysteries of the universe. That’s okay. I’m still glad I exposed them both to something mystical that you don’t find within the walls of a church.

Moon water is soaking up the energy of the Super moon by leaving a covered jar of clean water out all night in the moonlight. Why not? We know about the moon’s effects on tides and moods. The Universe is made up of energy as are each of us so why not moon water? The novelty of it – and the fact I look at the moon each night – made me curious enough to try it as an assignment in an ecourse I’m taking. I don’t think I would’ve thought to try it on my own. I used to be Catholic so it’s not that much of a stretch for me from “holy water” blessed by a priest, ordained by another human being. Besides, the moon is cool.

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Look, the kids know they have an odd mom, and that’s okay. I don’t want to be normal. In fact, like the shirt says, “Normal is boring.” Thing is, none of us are normal. Everyone has quirks. Some of us just express it a little more. I don’t dress oddly, but my brain is wired differently. I create entire worlds from my mind and those characters are a big part of my days. And my personality type thrives on new experiences and adventure. So, yeah, I’ll take a six-week sensuality ecourse and I’ll moon bathe (it was fantastic!) and I’m OPEN to life’s experiences. Living in the present moment means making the MOST of that moment so when an opportunity arises, I’ll likely take it if I find it interesting or challenging or something I can learn from. I flirt with life and it flirts back. Whatcha got? I ask each Day and the Day never lets me down. 

As a creative entrepreneur, I not only write fiction, but I get paid to be a strategic thinker and problem solver, both as a brand and marketing strategist and this year as a decorator, too. I do them all, sometimes all in one day, which I know is not “normal”. I keep a lot of balls in the air, but it makes my squirrel circus brain happy and it works for me. Do you have more than one job or a job that lets you do different things that keeps you challenged?

Yes, I do this, too.

Yes, I do this, too.

Just as we talked about a couple of week’s ago, FORGET THE LABELS. You are more than your title or a singular hobby. You are a marvelous, multi-dimensional creature and that means you don’t have to be normal. Pave your own way. Zig when they zag. I promise it’s more fun.

Yesterday, I even got paid to watch paint dry. Fantastic, right?

Special note of thanks to A Perfect Touch in OKC for an exquisite job.

Special note of thanks to A Perfect Touch in OKC for an exquisite job.

And while perusing the bookshelf of one of the law firm partners, I found ON KILLING, which I borrowed to help with research for my novel. By staying aware in the present moment, all sorts of gifts seem to pop up out of nowhere, making my normal day a lot more interesting.

While the painters painted, I read about the psychology of killing in combat. My days are never boring.

While the painters painted, I read about the psychology of killing in combat. My days are never boring.

 

Our lives are one big sociology experiment. Let’s not waste it. It comes down to: how comfortable are you to LIVE YOUR TRUTH?  Easy used to be putting the mask on and pretending but now that’s actually harder for me. It feels like a rock in my gut. Yet I know which friends to talk to about which topics. Same goes for strangers. It’s comfort and chemistry.

Bottom line: DON’T WORRY IF PEOPLE DON’T THINK YOU FIT IN WITH THIS OR THAT.

DON’T LET PEOPLE’S LOOKS DECEIVE YOU IN EITHER DIRECTION. While it’s natural to “dress the part” when it comes to our jobs, we can still embrace all those “me”s that live inside of us.

DON’T TRY TO BE SOMEONE YOU AREN’T IF THAT ROLE DOESN’T SUIT YOU IN THE MOMENT.

One of my new adventures last week was the first time to speak to a book club in a bike store in downtown Oklahoma City. The Girly Book Club is a national club and they read FAMILY CHARMS, my novel loosely based on the twenty-year estrangement with my mother, though very fictionalized for added drama. Huge thanks to these ladies for hosting me!

Image 4One of the women said she was surprised I don’t have tattoos (like Taryn, the middle sister in the book.) I told her I’d love one but the way my brain works, I’d either become obsessed with them but only AFTER I made the tough decision on exactly which tattoo to get. I also told them that while I look like a fashionable suburban mom, a part of my psyche is more like a soft, dreadlock, tattoo-wearing, barefooted gypsy. (Only I like my curly hair and shoes too much.) How I decide to adorn my exterior isn’t always reflective of my inner mood or interests. The more self-aware and layered we become, the more interesting life becomes. I told the book club, life is art and art is life. I view relationships as art, too – mysterious and beautiful. 

Forget normal. Try moon water someday. Ask the day, “whatcha got?” and give it your all.

xo,

Malena

Get Happy Week 4: Fire in the Belly

I don’t know what it’s like to be a man, but in writing from a male perspective in my current work-in-progress, I’ve thought a lot about it, interviewed a lot of vets and have tried to immerse myself in the world of Jake, my twenty-two-year-old Iraq war vet amputee who is back home in a small town in Texas trying to start his life anew. For weeks I was bothered not knowing who the antagonist of the book was until one day it clicked that it was Misery – basically the black cloud of bad shit that had happened to him all of his life and seemed to continue to be happening. I bring up Jake and Misery in this week’s Get Happy post because it’s important for us to remember to use our pain and sit with the discomfort in figuring out how we can resolve issues (buried and new) and also the importance of having a tribe. Your peeps.Image

So this week’s potpourri of happiness includes: a) the importance of feeling loved and secure to get through the tough times b) having a tribe of people who understand and let you be your authentic YOU and where you feel you BELONG and c) having the will to take the journey to authentic living for a passionate life.

I stumbled upon Sam Keen’s work and because I’m a jump in kind of girl, I ordered and am simultaneously reading three of his books: Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, To Love and Be Loved, and The Passionate Life. While each one is different, they share the foundation of the importance of knowing and loving yourself and sorting through the bullshit our culture and advertising and conditioning dole out. The central theme in his work is really understanding LOVE in all of its forms so that we can be better people and better lovers. From To Love… Elements of love: attention, desire, knowledge, sensuality, empathy, compassion, enjoyment, care, storytelling, repenting, self-love, commitment, co-creation, adoration, sexuality and enchantment. 

In The Passionate Life, Keen gives us the history of sexuality along with the psychology and philosophy of love, desire and passion and encourages us to wake up to the trivialization of the erotic and only thinking it’s for “certain people” such as celebrities or people who look or dress a certain way. He also give us a roadmap for defining and overcoming the barriers to progress to higher levels of love. He describes our journey (which is circular, not linear) as Child, Rebel, Adult, Outlaw and Lover.

Probably my favorite thing about diving in to a subject is how all the parts begin coming together to seek my own clarity and I hope you’ll do that, too. When you open your eyes to really “see” then it seems as if what you are looking for is everywhere. The timing in reading these books and taking the Blushing Wild ecourse with a group of fascinating women online with our own personal wounds from the battle of living and loving and thrashing WHILE working on my novel and WHILE working on my own awakening has truly been powerful. Thing is, we can only make those choices ourselves. No one is standing over you saying, “Hey, you. Time to make a little progress in this whole life thing. Time to love a little more. Time to forgive yourself. Time to forgive others. Time to let go of what isn’t working. Time to get rid of the shame and guilt. Time to love a little more. Wait, I said already, right? So what are you still doing sitting there?” 

Well, okay. I’ll be that person to tap you on the shoulder but it’s up to us to commit and go for it. While a lot of my work is cerebral and spiritual, I can see how it manifests in the real world with my interactions with others – whether that’s personal or professional. And people do notice our energy. Recently a retailer came up to me and told me I had a beautiful aura, that I was glowing, and that whatever I’m doing in life to keep doing it. Wow. I was stunned.

I don’t tell you that as a humble brag but that it served as a reminder for us to be aware of what energy we’re putting out there in the world. It was even more special because she talked about my aura and not my clothes or looks (though they are a reflection of mySelf, too.) Obviously she felt compelled to share that and I think it was important for me to receive it because as much as I seem confident, I am also full of doubt and questioning and unsure a lot of the time.

Question on our energy: Am I being negative? Am I bringing the past with me to the present? Am I being a good listener when others are talking?  Am I being an active participant in the outcomes of my life or simply reactionary? Am I making assumptions or projections instead of accepting what is and feeling it? (All can be hard!) But her words gave me a gentle affirmation that I MUST be doing something right. That I’m on the right track. I’m living my passions. I’m figuring out what’s next and letting myself be vulnerable and open and receiving. I can be confident and scared at the same time. I can feel joy and pain at the same time. Life can be ambiguous and a mystery and yet still full of joy and opportunity.

Questions to ponder this week:

Who are my tribes? Do I need to remove myself from some and find new ones where I might feel more authentic?

What elements of love do I need to work on? How can I focus on them?

Am I good at empathizing with others – understanding or at least appreciating others’ differences whether that’s gender or lifestyle or opinions? How can I get better at “taking a walk in their shoes?”

Is Misery a part of your life? Where and how can you deal with her? (In my book she’s a Her. And trying to bury her won’t work, because she’ll still haunt you. Creepy, huh?)

What’s the fire in your belly? 

As always, I’d like to close with encouraging you to Get Out and explore nature and include more adventure in your life for discovery and connection to something greater than ourselves. I’m thrilled that fall is here for football season and camping and the gorgeous fall landscape.  Will share pictures and stories along the way. Here’s to happy, through the pain.

xo,

Malena

 

 

Get Happy Week 3: The Authentic You

In that same lobby where I met the old couple who embodied unconditional joy in my first Get Happy post, the receptionist asked me if I own a boutique in town. I shook my head and told her, “No. I’m a writer.”

“Oh,” she replied. “You look like you’d own one of those really cute shops.”

Who are you?

Who are you?

I knew she was basing this on my looks, which is fine, and that she likely meant it as a compliment. After all, “looking like a writer” would have a totally different connotation. Believe me, I have writer mode look down to a T.

Upon meeting the dermatologist, he asked if I was an aesthetician. Again, I repeat “what I am” – a writer and brand strategist. I didn’t ask him why he assumed that. (My questions? My obvious love of lipstick? Again, looks?)

In another meeting this week, an owner asked how I describe myself since I’m a novelist, a marketer and even a paid decorator. I told him, “I’m a creative spirit.” Not only did he “get it” but he wanted to work together. I felt free enough to NOT have to define myself in any limited way.

These interactions made me think about the LABELS WE WEAR and how we are perceived by others. In self-identifying with Parent, Occupation, Hobby, Religion, Political Affiliation, Wife and so on, we can become so attached to those labels that we lose ourselves in them. What We Do is NOT Who We Are. Even are ROLES cannot do justice to the magic of our true selves, which is much deeper than the sum of all of those labels added together. We know we are more than our personality types, too, though they help point us in the right direction of understanding. (I’m ENTJ who really wishes she wanted to sit in the back of the room and doodle instead of wanting to be the person on the stage giving the presentation, but I can’t seem to help myself. I’ve worked on going from Type A to Zen with some success.)

We are so many multi-faceted things which is what makes humans and our soul journeys such a glorious mystery. Our culture likes to pigeon-hole us, to know which shelf to stack us on. We try to make sense of others by using these labels, but that can be confining, not only in how we relate to others :: oh you’re ONLY this :: but also that we begin to believe :: I AM ONLY :: and may stop trying to BE something else or what we truly FEEL we are inside. DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR WHO YOU ARE.

In trying to “return to wild” we are trying to honor not only our true purpose for being here in this life so beyond truly knowing ourselves and awakening.  We discussed vulnerability and shame and passion last week with some tips from Brene Brown on Daring Greatly. This week I’d like to share some insight from Dr. Susan Campbell in her book, Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life. The book was synchronicity. I was in Hawaii on vacation with my family when I discovered the book in a used bookstore in Maui. I read it almost to entirety on my trip and highlighted the hell out of it.

Here are some of those highlights which can help us to “unmask” and start living and interacting authentically from the book.

  • You engage with others in what I call a social meditation practice in which you support one another in unhooking from your self-image and your ideas about being “better” and risk being seen just as you are. The result in self-realization – making real the parts of you that you thought you had to hide to survive.
  • Shoulds prevent us from seeing how our life really is – and from taking appropriate action. Shoulds are pretenses.
  • Shoulds keep you from owning your power to create the life you want. They keep you in denial about your actual feelings and situation.
  • Asserting what you want affirms your right to want what you want – even if you imagine it’s an unreasonable demand or that there’s little chance of getting it.
  • On sharing mixed emotions – when you are ambivalent, confused or “of two minds”, go ahead and express this fact. You may be pulled equally in two or more directions. The ability to express complex feelings is important. Most self-aware people experience mixed feelings fairly often.
  • Experiencing what is means allowing yourself to feel what you feel without inhibiting yourself shutting down.
  • Allow yourself to feel it and notice whatever shows up next in your awareness. Experiencing what is requires that you be willing to step into the unknown. You cannot control where your experiencing will take you.
  • Notice your intent – is it to relate or to control?
  • Projections are useful because we often need to get our buttons pushed so we can notice what they are.
  • Holding your differences with another person can produce an inner expansion or transformation that enables them to experience a deeper level of what’s real for each of them.
  • As you grow in your capacity to experience what is, you stop trying to manipulate reality to conform to your comfort zone.

 

Questions to ask ourselves:

Do you feel safe enough to express yourself authentically – in conversation, dress, and behavior?

Do you have “shoulds” you need to let go of?

When something isn’t working, are you brave enough to confront it and change it? Are you willing to break out of your comfort zone to live authentically?

Are labels keeping you “boxed in” when you want to “break out?” Which ones?

Final thoughts:

I don’t believe labels have to be self-limiting as long as we don’t self-identify too much with them. As I’ve let go of some of my attachments to these labels and “shoulds” I have found more peace and happiness, but it’s not easy. It’s tough to watch my kids grow up and not need me in the same way, but I remind myself, they still need me. Even if they seem like they are pulling away, I still need to stay present and find ways to interact with them without trying to control them. In my work life, I decided I needed to work with people again, for someone, which was a huge decision and will be a big transition since I’ve worked for myself for eight years. I believe I self-identified with entrepreneur and became too attached to the freedom to perhaps the detriment of my own fulfillment and need to be social and part of something bigger than myself as a solo entrepreneur with so many interests. It’s scary but yet liberating at the same time. Even my novel writing has taken a pleasant departure as I’m working on a novel that completely challenges me in every way, a non-fiction book that delves into spirituality and living our truth, and even a very divergent book that’s titillating and sensual. How’s that for a tease?

Next week I’m devoting my post to the amazing Sam Keen and talking about love and the man’s journey. I’m reading three of his books simultaneously and have a huge crush on his wisdom. I do believe so much in life is kismet :: this summer I found ee cummings poetry and fell in love with it. When I visited Sam’s website, it begins with this ee cummings quote:

“ Always the beautiful answer. Who asks a more beautiful question?“

ee cummings

Here’s to asking beautiful questions.

Much love and xoxo,

Malena

 

Get Happy Week 2: On Daring Greatly and Passion

What makes your heart sing? What sets your body on fire? How much passion do you have for life? do you live with joie de vivre? It’s delight simply in being alive. People who have a passion for life are simply happier and we can all cultivate more of it. 

Today in week 2 on Getting Happy, we’re talking about Passion, #5 on my list of ways we can create more happiness in our life.

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Oprah and Deepak’s theme for today’s happiness meditation was “Living with Passion” and the centering thought, “My happiness energizes and inspires me.” The sanskrit mantra “rabhasa hum” which means, “I am pure delight.”

In Sam Keen’s brilliant book, To Love and Be Loved, he writes, “Human desire is not psychological but ontological, rooted in our being. Therefore, insatiable.” Do you like living in your own skin? Do you appreciate the wonders of your body and all of your senses?

Everything in my life is “research” for my stories, but my stories are also gateways to understanding my own psyche and what makes me tick. I hope you’ll join me these six weeks as we explore what it takes for us to “get happy” and stay there despite loss and hard times and disappointments.

So combining these two “passions”, today I’d like to call attention to #5 on my 7 Keys to Getting Happy list, “feed your passions” and by that I mean connecting with the spiritual passion that is the wellspring of happiness that never stops flowing – the gift(s) you were brought here to do – and as the Wild Mystics said in today’s lesson, “I will not apologize…” for desire, for curiosity, for the body that you are housed in to live a unique story that only you can live. In fact, Keen also writes that “Curiosity is foreplay.” What are you curious about? Explore. What else do you need permission for? Lovingly accepting what turns you on, be it intelligence, entertainment, particular body parts, particular people, and actions. 

Feeding our passions does imply we know what they are and if like me you believe in the law of attraction, you will find that by keeping your passions a priority AND GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION TO EXPLORE THEM, the Universe conspires to bring you MORE OF IT. It’s kind of like those makeup bonus gifts I love so much. I buy what I need and SURPRISE! I get a whole makeup bag full of more goodies. The universe is awesome like that. Deepak says, “Nature moves to restore balance.” So rest assured that the crappy times won’t last long and with #2 Change your attitude, those crappy times don’t have to feel so crappy because it’s not the situation that causes unhappiness but our mind’s reaction to it. That took me YEARS to grasp and put into practice.

I used to think it was possible to control life and it made me a little crazy trying to live up to the perfection my Type A / Aries / Alpha Female personality seems to thrive on. And don’t even go there with thinking we can control other people or outcomes, either. That’s a recipe for heartache right there. What we can do is choose happiness by not only creating it, but going so deep with it that the wild winds of change and ugly realities cannot touch it. That’s unconditional happiness and that’s what we’re aiming for in this six-week series on Getting Happy.

Our happy guide today is none other than Brene Brown, who boldly discusses shame, vulnerability and courage with us as HER life’s passion. As a researcher, she’s done the work, talked the talk and walks the walk. We should do the same.

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A few of my favorite quotes and ideas from Daring Greatly that can help us on our Get Happy journey and passion-fueled life:

  • Hope is not an emotion; it’s a thought process. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is just show up.
  • Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage.
  • Good enough is really ‘effin good. (take that to heart, perfectionists!)
  • Connection is why we’re here. We are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.
  • We must be vulnerable and open up to the risk. Wholehearted people take those risks.
  • The vulnerability journey is not the kind of journey we can amke alone. We need support. We need folks who will let us try on new ways of being without judging us.
  • We need to not be afraid to talk about shame. Bring it into the light.
  • Perfectionism is doing things to win approval from others. It is NOT self-improvement or striving for excellence. Those are good ambitions. But if we are doing it only to please others and not our own journey, then it is preventing us from happiness because we feel it will never be “enough” and sets us up for shame.
  • Showing your true self and living your passions means you will be on the receiving end of cynicism and criticism and plain ol’ mean spiritedness. Don’t let it get it to. Remember what I said last week about the “jackass whisperer”.
  • Leadership requires discomfort. – Seth Godin (so does following your passions!)

 

More questions to ponder this week:

What are my passions? What passions am I not giving enough attention to? How can I make those more of a priority in my life? 

What am I ashamed of and why? How can I remove that shame? Do I need to talk to someone about it? 

Have I put my own sensuality on the back burner because of family and work duties? How can I feel pleasure again? What desires do I have and how can I bring those to fruition if they serve to bring wholeness and are not destructive? 

How do I really feel about my body? How can I love it and give it the self-care it needs? How can I feed my mind and spirit for wholehearted living?

Do I have a sacred circle where I can discuss these things? Should I talk to a therapist or trusted friend? (And please don’t be afraid to SEE a counselor or life coach. There is no shame in talking through our challenges with professionals. I’ve seen several and they always provide extraordinary perspective and make me think, validate my feelings, and help gently push me in the direction of my unique life path. Each one of ours is different!)

Each week I’ll close with reposting my 7 Keys with a new example of each. Feel free to add more keys in comments.

Until then, feed your passions!

xo,

Malena

Here’s my list of 7 Keys to Getting Happy  WEEK 2

1) Remove roadblocks to happiness - just say no or limit time with negative people

2) Change your attitude (as the song goes, “take your life from negative to positive” – learn to take deep breaths and not respond immediately to every situation

3) Practice gratitude and self-care - make yourself feel beautiful. You’ll feel more passionate when YOU believe you look good. Treat yourself to a haircut, new lipstick, fall nail polish covers, whatever makes you rock it. 

4) Live with intention (on purpose) – when you make a commitment, stick to it

5) Feed your passions – schedule time this week for our passions and stick to it. If that’s in the bedroom, even better. 

6) Take time for stillness/ be mindful - instead of judging when you see something, just practice being an observer. It just is. 

7) Be an adventurer. Stay curious. Play more. Be silly. – try a new class this week.  Last week I joined Barre 3 and also did a Stand Up Paddle board boot camp class and loved both. Challenging yourself feeds your courage and happiness. 

Get Happy: Summer’s End and The Meaning of Unconditional Happiness

The frail elderly woman picked at her short curly hair with a comb, her back against her husband’s chest. “Did I get it all?” she asked.

“Yes, honey, but don’t make it too big.”

She laughed. “I had to wait until it dried.”

“Remember how wild and crazy it was when we were younger, baby?” He teased.

She laughed at the memory.

This went on for several minutes, cooing affectionately at each other on the aptly named loveseat.

When they were quiet, I couldn’t help but comment from across the small waiting room. “You two are too cute.”

They went on to tell me that they had been married 42 years and despite the wife’s bad health the last few years, they figured they looked better laughing than crying.

What better segway into my new six-week blog series on unconditional joy (Get Happy) than this couple who obviously lived happily together despite all of the obvious health problems and likely much time spent in waiting rooms.

What does it mean to be happy? For most of us, happiness is conditional, the circumstances all leading to or away from a feeling of joy or bliss. As a fiction writer, I get to create those difficult journeys for my characters, putting them through hell and back to a hopeful ending. In real life, I struggle as much as the next person, but I’ve come a long way, baby and want to share because I think that’s why we’re here. Happiness, connection and growth.

One of my favorite mantras since 2003 was “I shall not let circumstances dictate my joy.” That mature couple in the waiting room totally get this. People who have cancer or are dying yet are happy know this. Why can’t we know this now?

All year I’ve been blogging about getting real, including getting fit and getting out(side) and for the next six weeks I’m focusing on unconditional happiness, a joy that comes deep within, unfettered by the jerks or bad luck or cranky kids or tough work day.

I’m starting the series at a time of transformation for all of us, summer’s end, when the carefree feelings of sunshine and vacations and sleeping in are replaced by a new school year for kids. The seasonal shift to more responsibility with kids back in school, hectic schedules, and a “buckling down” mentality can add extra stress to our already busy lives.

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The great thing about unconditional happiness is it isn’t based on a beginning or an ending, but a knowing that life is good and worthwhile and precious despite what’s happening around (or to) us.

Like everyone, I struggle with moods and mostly with my “monkey mind” which I refer to as a squirrel circus. Because I have obsessive compulsive thoughts (which works GREAT in my work life for finishing projects and writing books), it can wreak havoc on my personal life, presenting as both worry and anxiety. I’m also extremely empathetic (and a little empathic) so I’m sensitive to energies around me as well as dealing with my own high energy. (My friend Carie’s fiance said she and I share that “hummingbird on crack” personality.) Well, it is what it is.

As Dr. Susan Campbell writes in Getting Real, we can’t be authentic if we aren’t self-aware, so knowing yourself is key.

Being self-aware, I’ve realized what I need to balance my energies, pay attention to ruminating thoughts and assess how I feel and adjust my attitude or actions if necessary. For me, I need a lot of physical and intellectual stimulus in a day so if I don’t work out every day and get some good input and output (usually reading and writing) then my day can feel “off.” I also know my mind is better off giving it a break with daily or twice a day meditation – getting in touch with my “spirit” and making sure the window to my higher self is at least always cracked open to get through. Keep track of your day and how you are feeling and see how you might need to adjust your schedule to help you feel energized and “optimally you.”

What about when shitty things happen?

Last week someone took a cheap shot at me via an email to someone I love. My first thought was, “How dare they?” (Ego) And then I felt hurt. (Ego) And then I felt my loved one’s pain at being on the receiving end of a spiteful remark. (Empathy) As a bit of time passed, my Ego calmed down and I knew THIS TOO SHALL PASS and later that evening, I was even able to smile about it, because really? Try this quote on!

Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.’ -Scott Stratten

In a nutshell, those hard times just don’t bring me down and ruin my days/week/month like they used to. Better coping mechanisms and a more positive attitude + appropriate actions equals CHOOSING HAPPINESS (even while holding an opposite emotion like grief or sadness or dealing with ambiguity). It’s not easy and I wish I could do it as easily as blinking an eye, but it has gotten better with time/practice. More on that when we discuss Getting Real, a book I serendipitously found at a used book store in Maui. Amazing.

We simply can’t live authentically without getting real about our lives and the choices we’re making and what’s holding us back.

Here’s my list of 7 Keys to Getting Happy and I’ll blog about each of them in more detail in upcoming weeks.

1) Remove roadblocks to happiness

2) Change your attitude (as the song goes, “take your life from negative to positive”

3) Practice gratitude and self-care

4) Live with intention (on purpose) – which can begin with saying yes or no when we really mean it and setting intentions and sticking with them

5) Feed your passions

6) Take time for stillness/ be mindful

7) Be an adventurer. Stay curious. Play more. Be silly.

In addition to Getting Real, I’ll be discussing Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. If you’ve read those books, I’d love your feedback in comments.

Week One Get Happy Questions:

If you were honest about your state of “unconditional happiness” how would you rate yourself? Do you depend on other people or things going a certain way to “be happy?” What fed your spirit this summer? As summer ends, what are your intentions for autumn? What would you like to accomplish? Who are the people, places and things that make you happy? Review the list of 7 Keys and answer how you do or don’t do those things. Schedule how to make them happen and then DO IT.

Thanks for reading. Happy End of Summer!

xo,

Malena

Happy pics of the week:

A bee having lunch outside an office visit.

My GetFit challenge for myself was a SUP Bootcamp. I survived! And I loved the gorgeous morning on the lake.

My GetFit challenge for myself was a SUP Bootcamp. I survived! And I loved the gorgeous morning on the lake.

 

Excerpt from my work in progress non-fiction essay book on letting go and living authentically, inspired by nature, Return to Wild.

 

Psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness” talks about our inability to accurately depict our future selves. We believe we’ll be more or less the same as we are right now…forever. We believe our interests won’t change that much and who we like to hang out with is fixed and we think we’re pretty darn good at predicting what will make us happy in the future. We aren’t. In fact, in his research, it showed we’re poor at predicting what we’ll like ten years down the road and that’s because we do change. Knowing this can keep us from feeling like there’s “something wrong” with us, when in fact it’s simple biology and beyond our control. We can’t grow if we stay in the same place and stagnate. Growth is why we’re here. Let’s give ourselves a break.

 

Excerpt from my work in progress, a novel about a war vet amputee struggling with life and love after war. My character Jake is certainly struggling with happiness. 

My gut burned as we turned the corner at the big Oak tree. We were close.

The air turned cooler as the brush thickened. We ditched our bikes and began crawling through, over and under the limbs and fallen trees. I should’ve been more worried about Ben getting cut up, but I felt hypnotized, unaware of his thick little body behind me as I pushed on.

The sun shone through the clearing like a spotlight on the burnt limbs for a good quarter mile radius. The trailer had blown up just seconds after I’d been shoved out the door. The door had fallen on me, which is likely why I only had the slight burns that I did.

Grams said it was a miracle I hadn’t been burned to a crisp.

Said it was an angel who put that door over my frame.

No one wanted to give my meth-coooking mom credit for my survival, but I don’t think that’s fair. Even though she shouldn’t have been doing what she was doing, she did respond the way a mom should when she saw her kid in danger.

Besides, it was me who brought that flame to the fire.

Get Out: Sea Turtles, Bublé, and Lily Pad Yoga

Life should be our biggest adventure. All of it. Earlier this summer when I set my intention to living life full out and seeking more adventure, I had no idea what I’d find. That’s part of the fun. I was open to whatever new experiences came my way. Each week I’ve been sharing my Get Out adventures hoping you’ll do find some in your neck of the woods and beyond. Connecting with nature is a guaranteed way to serenity – and some kick-butt workouts, too. It’s also increased my creativity which is good for business and my soul. Nice win-win. Getting out more has been good for my body, too.

Transformation of body, mind and spirit doesn’t have to feel like a “chore,” but is possible simply with intentional living – placing awareness on what you eat, how you move, what you think. Hitting the “reset” button when you’re feeling negative, pushing yourself to get out and enjoy new people and experiences and truly feeling grateful for the life you have and therefore living it with gusto. Why the hell not?

Get Out Adventure 1 (part 2 to my ALOHA post last week): I hadn’t been on a boat IN YEARS. We used to own one in my childhood and I loved the feel of the wind at my face and the waves beneath us. I love being around water and even on water, but IN WATER, not so much. So sticking my face in the ocean (a.k.a. snorkeling) was definitely about what I could SEE. Ah, it’s pretty down there. Sometimes OUR greatest adventures are seeing dreams come true for those we love so what I wanted most from our Hawaii trip was for my 9 year old to get to swim with sea turtles – his favorite animal. And he did. AWESOME. No pic of a turtle because I was too busy looking at them to snap them, but you get the idea! Our family shadow selfie on a boat. The half-day excursion included two snorkeling stops, breakfast and lunch and loads of gorgeous views.

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Get Out Adventure 2 - not in nature but a natural wonder. My third date with Michael Bublé thanks to Mother’s Day tickets from my husband. I mean, Jesus, Michael is a born entertainer and this was his best show yet. Insert a bunch of swooning here. The arts in general are so good for your soul. When’s the last time you heard live music?

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Michael showered the Chesapeake Arena with paper hearts during ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.

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Get Out Adventure 3 - One of my favorite families on the planet is the Davis’ in Wichita, Kansas. Our kids have grown up together and STILL get along. We only had one day that fit our scheds before school started and my friend Deb agreed to try paddle boarding. We went to another town, Augusta, and Ken took some pics of us. In addition to just paddling around the lake, we also stopped over among lily pads and did some yoga on the boards. It was Deb’s first time and my second and neither of us fell in to our amazement. The lily pads helped keep our boards from going back into the middle of the lake. Yoga ON lily pads. In bloom. Freaking cool.

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Freaking warrior princess pose. Love it.

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The lily pads in the background is where we did yoga. No, you don’t need to see pics of that! ha

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Hello, tranquility. Nice to see you again.

Here’s to getting out this week, friends! I’ll be back Friday with a Get Fit post on getting better body parts. Sometimes breaking down our goals makes it a bit easier to focus on what we’d like to transform.

Thanks again for reading!

xo, Malena

 

Get Out: Adventures in Aloha

Is visiting Hawaii on your bucket list? It’s been on our family bucket list since our kids were little so I started a savings IMG_0944account for the trip last year and away we flew – to Maui, where it’s kid-friendly enough to not have to drive too far for big adventure and get in more than just the beach and pool. This week’s Get Out adventure was a perfect blend of playful and peaceful - blue skies with low clouds, bright blue waters, sandy and black beaches and palm trees everywhere you turn – and those sunsets!

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Lahaina in the northern community of Kaanapali Resorts  in west Maui, perfect for breathtaking sunsets over the ocean. Highly recommend staying there, but when you budget be sure and include the daily resort fee ($30) and daily parking ($16 for self-parking) and give yourself a hefty allowance for the food and drinks. There’s even a Macy on property in case you need more swimsuits or forgot something.

We hiked Twin Falls (yep, two waterfalls there), played on the beach, went on a half day snorkeling adventure on a boat (which I’ll share as next week’s post) and did some great sight-seeing and shopping. The Luau on property, which is a 3 hour event, was a great way to learn about Hawaiian history and get to see hula dancing and eat an authentic Hawaiian meal.

Enjoy the pics and my Top 5 Secrets to Squeezing Every Drop from Paradise! Come back next week for sea turtles and snorkeling.

1. Wake up early. I *know*. You’re on vacation and want to sleep in, but personally I’d rather get up and enjoy the sunrise and the island “waking up” around me. The resort was so quiet and mostly empty between 6 and 8 a.m.. I used that early bird time to work out in the fitness center, walk the grounds by myself and take some great photos before meeting back up with my family. A wonderful way to set my intentions for the day.

 

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Black swans seemed to pose for me early one morning.

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Selfie at the “wall mirror” in front of the luau entrance (Tiki god in the background) on my way to the fitness center at 6 a.m. every morning.

2. Really experience local culture. Eat their dishes (or try them!) and relish in what makes Hawaii unique. The art, the food (passion fruit, coconut, macadamia nuts!) Get to know the history by going to a luau and eating some roasted pig and watching beautiful hula dancers – men and women – share their rituals and story through song and dance – and fire.

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3. Stay in the present moment and notice the small things. What better place to practice stillness and staying in the present moment (not worrying about the past or the future) than paradise? By practicing awareness we see the little things we may have missed if our minds were elsewhere (and I saw a ton of people on their phones – ack). Don’t forget to take pictures of the local flavor, too.

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The hammock was for Marriott guests so we were rebels and borrowed one for an hour to read.

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Noticing all the flowers on our hike at Twin Falls.

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The motto for Hawaii, on the back of the fruit truck! “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”.

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My kids gathered these rocks from the ocean so they wouldn’t trip on them!

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Amazing art perfectly complements the natural beauty.

4. Try a new-to-you adventure. It’s likely that it might be your kids first time to try something new but what about you? The beach is full of vendors ready to teach you how to paddle board or surf or snuba (a combo snorkeling and scuba diving that’s all the rage). I really wanted to bike down the volcano (26 miles) but it would’ve taken up most of a day and my youngest didn’t fit the age requirement, but I did snorkel for the first time. I have no idea why I haven’t done it before now because it’s as easy as sticking your face in the water and breathing through a tube. My 14-year-old daughter was afraid to snorkel until she tried it and then she said, “I don’t know why I was afraid!” Same goes for all of us, right?

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5. Play. It’s not just for kids. Vacation is supposed to be about cutting loose and playing, right? Get in the ocean, jump in the pool, sing along to the cover band. Don’t give in to the temptation to check Facebook or your email. (Or give yourself a strict limit like once a day after you’re done for the day.) If you’re going with a spouse, split some time on who has the kids for a bit if there’s something you want to get out and do on your own. If you do #1 and get up early then you’ll have time to do that before the family is even awake maybe. If the whole family is together the WHOLE TIME, you are likely to FOF out early (Family overload factor.) This happened to us after the teens got sunburned and then didn’t feel like doing anything. Hey, it happens. I found a lounge chair with an ocean view and listened to Sam Smith and chilled out. I loved playing dress up, too. It’s not everyday you get to take pictures with these gorgeous backdrops and as a writer I don’t get the chance to dress up much, so why not?

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On the terrace from the lobby looking down to the pool and ocean…before hitting happy hour!

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Love the easy breezy style in Hawaii! In front of the golf course.

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Wish I could’ve played a bit longer here…

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Tried a new drink each day…that’s adventure. :)

 

 

With my favorite cocktail I discovered on the trip, Sea Breeze

With my favorite cocktail I discovered on the trip, Sea Breeze

Here’s the Sea Breeze recipe so you can make your own at home!

2  ounces vodka
3 ounces cranberry juice
3 ounces grapefruit juice
Ice cubes

Slice of pineapple for the rim!

 

Mahalo! Thanks for reading! xo- Malena

Did you know I set two ebooks in Hawaii? The novellas Life’s a Beach and The Last Resort were each set on the islands. The Last Resort includes all the main characters from The Stork Reality, Life’s a Beach and Fixer Upper to catch up on what happened to them after those books. 

 

Get Out: Yoga on the Water

Yoga is the practice of spiritual, mental and physical awareness on the body and opening up the chakras – energy centers –  for relaxation and transformation. I’ve never attended a yoga class except online (I recommend Yoga with Adrienne) and prefer to start my day with yoga outside on my deck, with the sunrise salutation sequence followed by a few moments sitting in stillness (meditation.) Heck, just laying there in the corpse pose on the ground staring up at the clouds is pretty cool. Since I prefer yoga in nature, this adventure was high on my list.

Lake Overholser, Bethany, OK

Lake Overholser, Bethany, OK

My first official yoga class was on the water!  Yoga on the lake, balancing on a paddle board. I’ve never surfed, never done SUP (Stand Up Paddling) and a friend of mine recommended I take a local class before I try SUP in Hawaii this summer. I’m glad I did because I feel like I’ll have a head start.

Check your local lakes or river centers for a mobile paddle board shop or rentals. Here in OKC, we have Flat Tide and the class I chose was taught by The Yoga Block at Lake Overholser in Bethany.

Tree pose with Vi Le after class.

Tree pose with Vi Le after class.

Your paddle will be adjusted for your height, your ankle cuff will keep you tethered to the board and you can start by kneeling or sitting and paddling your way out until you feel ready to stand. If you already have issues with balance and have never practiced yoga or Pilates before (or surfed), it might be more difficult for you, but by keeping your weight in the center of the board and not locking your knees, you’ll be fine. If you fall in, that’s okay. That’s part of the fun so do dress in comfortable clothes you don’t mind getting wet. I wore a sports bra with a fitted tank top over it and bikini bottoms with booty shorts. You don’t want anything to “hang out” since you are going to be upside down and in various yoga positions.

I found it took me about ten minutes to feel comfortable standing and paddling on the board, taking the oar from right to left and then two strokes of each to go faster. We paddled out to a cove and though a bridge was nearby, you can block out those sounds and preen your ear for the nature sounds, which are plentiful.

We removed our ankle cuffs and placed them around our paddles so they could float nearby and tossed our anchors in the water. We still floated around a bit, but you don’t have to be facing the teacher the whole time and you are close enough to hear her/him.

The next 45 minutes was a typical yoga class, except on the board. What I loved most was how much more aware you are of your body because of balancing on the board and feeling like you are a buoy. Unlike being on the ground, you feel both lighter but also keenly aware of your weight on the board for keeping yourself stable. Some did fall in, but if you don’t try the different moves, you might be disappointed so I say GO FOR IT.

My friend Vi did a full backbend and did fall in, but she went all the way up. I only went half-way up before I felt my board shaking too much and I came back down. I also couldn’t get fully up into Warrior pose (which is my favorite pose!) and she said it’s one of the hardest. I did get into full shoulder stand and for a second thought I would go off the back of the board, but brought my legs down in time to keep from making a splash in class.

Like most of the experience in nature, it’s hard to put it into words because the feeling is so unlike anything else. You just haven’t experienced downward facing dog until you’ve done so with the lake and the sky upside down! Even better, the sunset was gorgeous and it was such a peaceful end to the day and definitely the highlight of my week.

Sunset on the water. Love.

Sunset on the water. Love.

I expected my legs and core to hurt a bit the next day, but instead those didn’t hurt at all and my back was killing me. I felt like I’d been punched all over. The reason is you are engaging every back muscle when you are doing SUP and balancing on the board in yoga! I think it’s amazing that we get to work the muscles that rarely get used in other fitness routines, so I’ll definitely be adding a monthly SUP to my workout routine. (You can rent the boards hourly.) Note: most people do say their abs and legs hurt the next day so depending on your fitness level and how strong those areas are, that could determine how much it affects you.

By the third day, my back was feeling better and of course working out again is always my favorite way to relieve muscle tension. Just keep going! Know that you are transforming your mind, body and spirit when you go for new challenging adventures. You are strong enough and brave enough to do it.

Namaste!

xo, Malena

NOTE OF THANKS: To all my new and loyal readers, thank you for reading my books this summer and visiting my blog. It means so much to me and I love to read your reviews and to hear from you! I do plan on combining Life’s a Beach and The Last Resort as a special for August through Labor Day so stay tuned for that on Kindle if you haven’t read those. Family Charms is really picking up on sales and book clubs have asked me to come talk to them about it and I’m always up for that! In person if nearby and Skype if you’re outside of my area! And Fixer Upper continues to be my number one bestseller. THANK YOU!

NOVEL PROGRESS: I’ve now reached the half-way mark on the first draft of my novel and I’ll be traveling this next week so hope to reach the end of the first draft by the time school starts. EEK! This will mean cutting out a lot of distractions in my life such as Facebook, which I’ll “hide” for a month and also paring down on Instagram, which I check at least 3 or 4 times a day and is my favorite. :( BUT – it will be so worth it!

As I’m also working on my “nature” essay book, Return to Wild, and am outlining a new short story collection, I feel I have to listen to my inner guide during this creative time in my life and honor it. My muse has been more active the last six months than any other time in my life so I don’t want to waste it.

EXCERPT from Work In Progress Novel (Status: 41K of 80K written)

Jake was raised by a stout older woman, Mildred, whom he calls Grams. This partial scene begins with them…

She squeezed me again and even though she’s not the crying type, I heard her sniffle and she turned away and wiped her eyes on her apron. “Now go get ready for your day. You’ve got some training to do, don’t you? And take some of this bacon to Ben. He’s looking too skinny.”

I kissed her atop the back of her head. “Will do. I love you, Grams.”

Don’t go getting mushy on me.”

I felt numb the rest of the day, sleepwalking through even our rigorous boot camp for Tuff Enuf. Our team was getting stronger, but inside I felt weaker than ever. I let Ben shout out the exercises while I stared off into space. I felt the compulsion to…

  1. Grab a match and some gasoline set the obstacle course on fire
  2. Get stinking drunk and then have Jennifer meet me at the lake for an afternoon fuck

I opted instead to blow off some steam at the gun range, putting a few rounds into the target’s head and chest. When that didn’t do the trick to clear the cobwebs, I asked the receptionist to print something off the computer for me. I stuck the picture of the Marlboro Man on the figure and put some bullets into his smug ass smile.

That’s more like it,” I said, and put away my guns and headed back to my truck feeling only slightly better.

There was only one fire I needed to start and that was with Jennifer. 

 

Excerpt from Return to Wild, essays on letting go and unleashing your wild side (inner nature) based on nature as our guide. I’m 8 essays in of probably 20? I realize this sounds “out there” but I’m letting the Universe outline the book for me so whenever a message comes like a hawk did this morning on the deck, I “know” if a certain essay is supposed to be in the book. This one is on love’s limits…

Our confusion is more confounded with our fix-it-quick culture and our highly emotional natures. We’re told we just need to do X, Y and Z and we’ll be good as new! A trip to the therapist’s office, a few self-help books, maybe even a new church. Shouldn’t love be enough? Doesn’t it “fix” everything?

Amy Bloom wrote in Oprah in 2006 about love’s limits. “What I hadn’t understood, until recently, is that sometimes love is not enough. And that is the worst news-from-the-universe I have heard for some time. Love is not enough to lead depressed people to happiness…It is not enough to make people who need passion settle for companionship… Love stretches us, but time often snaps us back to our original shape. Love takes us further than we thought we could go, but it does not take us past the limits of our nature. And that is a hard thing to know.”