Gratitude Confetti When Times are Tough

How many times have you been to hell and back? Maybe in this post-election, holidays-are-coming time of year, you feel the embers of hell at your feet right now. Any type of suffering…physical, mental, familial…it’s hard. The only way to get through it is to sort of turn your hell beast into some sort of anti-superhero.

Kind of like this…
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Why? Because the saying goes, “what you resist, persists.” The more you DENY that your situation sucks right now, the more it holds a grip on you, keeping you from DEALING WITH IT and moving on. You stay stuck. And you burn up. Ouch.

Painful times can help us grow and discover who we are and what we really want out of life. Whether you are in hell right now because it’s your first Christmas without a loved one, your traditions have changed due to separation or divorce, your kids are away from home, you lost a job or your business is suffering, you’re worried about the state of the country with Trump at the helm…know that no matter what THIS TOO SHALL PASS. In some situations, it means you have to get out of your own way to LET IT.  The gurus say that it isn’t the situation that causes us unhappiness but in our REACTION and THOUGHTS about the situation. In other words, it’s us, not them. It’s our own mind that causes us misery.

So what are you going to do about it? Mope for the next four years…or take action to work on a social cause to make a difference?

Spend the entire holiday in mourning…or do something special to lift your spirits or create a new tradition?

I get that “making the most of what you have” is easier said than done, but it is possible. Is it weird and awkward when you switch up a tradition? Can be. But it can also be better than you expected. I had to learn to let go of the importance of “the date” versus an experience around a holiday because I have shared custody of my kids so I have to be flexible and make sure they experience a beautiful time despite what day we celebrate.

The holidays aren’t the same if a loved one has passed and honestly the holidays don’t have the same BIGNESS as they did when my grandmother was in charge of our holiday merriment – and she’s been gone 25 years. They don’t have the GIDDINESS from when my kids were little and we did the whole Santa thing and waking extra early for unwrapping gifts, either.

Because it makes me happy, I put out holiday photos of the kids when they were little and elfish. This year I even added a photo of my grandparents to my mantle display so I can remember the two decades of holidays spent with them and honor their memories.

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Now my kids are older and it’s my third Christmas with the man who recently asked me to marry him. I am so full of love and gratitude and that’s what life is really about, isn’t it?

pic by Valerie Sebestyen
pic by Valerie Sebestyen

My antidote to surviving life’s hellish times is to THROW GRATITUDE LIKE CONFETTI. It’s like throwing water on the fire – extinguishing some of the pain and soothing the burn. Gratitude makes you realize not all of life is so terrible…there’s always something, someone, to be grateful for.

List your confetti…heck, maybe you should even write them down on a  piece of paper, cut them up and throw them over your head. Add the little things, too. I’m so thankful for Lipsense because I can kiss Chris and drink coffee and it still stays on my lips. I’m thankful my daughter is so chatty with me. I’m so thankful for bride tribe of supportive girlfriends. An on and on. List it. Live it. Volunteer. Whatever works to cheer you up.

Namaste. Happy holidays.

xoxo—ready.aim.grow—>

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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