Waking Up Sleeping Beauty

Image copyright: 123rf/kostins

Lately I’ve become fascinated with Sleeping Beauty, the fairytale about a lovely princess who, when she turned 15 years old, pricked her finger on a spindle and fell asleep for 100 years. Pretty boring, right?!

The princess was born. There was large celebration. All the kingdom was invited, including the fairies. Each fairy brought the baby a special gift. She was given beauty, wit, grace and virtue, as well as the gifts of music and dance.

Before the last gift was offered, a fairy who hadn’t been seen for many, many years suddenly appeared, and I believe her words have been misinterpreted over the centuries.

With a look of tremendous sadness and grief, she proclaimed, “If these are the only gifts this little girl is given, she will certainly die by her fifteenth birthday, for no one thought to offer her gifts of courage and strength, of adventure and purpose, of self-worth.”

Then this forgotten fairy turned and vanished as suddenly as she had appeared.

Everyone was horrified. Yet there was still one last gift to be offered. There was not a sound to be heard when the remaining fairy spoke. “This precious child will not die, but only sleep for one hundred years and be awakened by her true love.”

Reading this fairytale, I wondered why we believe that our special gifts are given to us by someone outside ourselves. I wondered why we limit the kinds of gifts we believe we can embrace. When we become disconnected from any of our gifts it’s easy to feel as if we have been asleep for 100 years. For certainly they are waiting within each us to be discovered, to be examined, to be celebrated.

We will always awaken when, imperfectly as it may be, we learn to love ourselves.

The Gift of Community

Image copyright: 123rf/Iakov Filimonov

I really didn’t want to write about Valentine’s Day this week, so I decided to write about last Saturday instead! I went out to breakfast with a group of kind, supportive women friends. We greeted each other with laughter and hugs, sat down at a large table, ordered our food and started talking. We shared stories of joy and grief, of clarity and confusion— conversations women have been having with each other for generations.

We had become a small, compassionate community sharing a meal.

Research shows that being part of a community helps us stay healthy and live longer, but often during divorce friends feel they have to choose sides and may drift away from us. Our community becomes fragmented and breaks apart, and we wonder if we will ever find a new one.

How do you find a new community?

The first step is to participate in life, even for short periods of time. Do something you love. You may want to take an art class, join a ski club or volunteer for a cause you believe in. If you are more adventurous, you will certainly want to try something new!

The second step is to be discerning. No matter how charming someone may be, trust your instincts, and don’t pursue a friendship with anyone you wouldn’t want to meet for breakfast and share heart-felt stories.

My Saturday morning might not have included the traditional Valentine’s Day chocolates or roses, but there was the sweetness of laughter and the fragrance of friendship which smelled a lot like fresh brewed coffee and great hash browns.

Self-blame vs. Self-responsibility

The following is a guest post by Yvette Erasmus. 

Some days, I am simply not ready to be a grown up. At all.

Waking up with anxiety recently, I buried myself deeper into bed. Free floating thoughts about finances, major life decisions, relationships and a harsh, critical voice pointing out all my failings and failures wafted through my mind as I lingered between sleep and wakefulness.

Although I decided years ago to stop indulging in self-blame and fear, judgmental and critical thoughts still arise. Regularly.

So, you can imagine my pleasant surprise on this recent morning to discover a gentler part of me speaking up, taking stock and responding to the various complaints with tenderness. “No, we aren’t doing that anymore. What do you need?”

It’s like I had come upon an inner Florence Nightingale tending to my inner suffering. I know she didn’t just appear magically; I’ve been practicing this shift for a while.

I’ve learned to watch critical, judgmental and fearful thoughts arise and then embrace them with compassion, but I simply don’t allow myself to camp out with them anymore. Self-blame is not the same as self-responsibility. It is exhausting and draining.

Grounding myself in the wisdom of being open to outcome, but not attached to outcome, I remind myself to feel my feelings, to attend to my needs and to focus on what will help move me in a direction of my choosing.

Self-responsibility is an empowered way of both perceiving and responding to life. It grows out of disciplined attention to four transformative questions:

  1. What is happening right now? (I am lying in my bed, dreading my whole life this morning. The dog is wagging her tail at me. I am thinking she needs to pee and that, if I don’t get up, she will. Here in my room. This thought fills me with urgency to take her outside.
  2. What feelings are activated in me right now? (Anxiety, fear weariness, heaviness, urgency, activation.)
  3. What is deeply important to me? (Security, clarity, purpose, growth, contribution.)
  4. What will help? (taking my day one step at a time, focusing on gratitude for all that is present now, asking for help, getting the information I need to make high-stake decisions, practicing being comfortable with uncertainty.)

Building inner resources allows me to cope with the heaviness that life sometimes brings, with more fortitude, strength and resilience.

As a soul-friend of mine recently reminded me: I want to respond to life with grace. With love. With faith. With hope. With courage.

The more I practice compassion instead of judgement, self-care instead of self-recrimination, openness to outcome instead of attachment to predictability, the more I am able to truly live in alignment with my deeper values and my more soulful self.

Stories Carved in Stone

Image copyright: 123rf/Songquan Deng

Recently, I spent a morning with my family in the national park that protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America,

Walking through rugged terrain under a clear blue New Mexico sky, we could see designs and symbols that had been carved onto volcanic rocks 400 to 700 years ago by Native Americans and by Spanish settlers. They were voices from the past etched into giant black boulders, remaining unchanged for centuries. It was a powerful experience.

Later I wondered which of my stories I had etched in stone. Stories about my self-worth, my history and my place in this world. Do these stories still serve me? Are they true? Are they even mine or are they the stories of others that I have taken as my own?

In my personal library, I have the classic trilogy: “I Have No Value,” “My Voice Does Not Matter,” “I Cannot Possibly Follow My Dreams.”

The section of “poor me” stories holds some of my favorites. I take them out whenever I need a good cry or want to feel self-righteous.

Then there is the popular series of “Lack”. “There is Not Enough Love to Go Around” is the first in the series and can cause tremendous grief to those of us dealing with divorce, because if we believe there is only so much love to go around, we force our children to choose between a mother and a father.

Some unhealthy stories are so deeply etched into us, that even if we wanted to, we could not remove them. Instead, we can gently acknowledge they are with us and put them back on the shelf without opening them.

The most important story is the one that informs all the others. It is about living our lives from a place of love, compassion and faith. Out of all the stories, this is the one we must etch onto the rugged terrain our lives.

Self-Love: You’re Kidding, Right?!

I was truly flattered when a respected life coach asked to interview me on the topic of self-love. She explained the interview would be videoed and I went to work compiling as much information as I could. I hadn’t even heard the phrase “self-love” until was in my 40’s. It just seemed way too sappy a concept and too overwhelming a request.

During the interview, I shared that my journey to self-love began when a trauma forced me down inside myself. Until then, my focus had always been outward, doing my best to make sure others loved me—not noticing my own heart. I shared that the lack of self-love affected my ability to make decisions.  Often, before taking a step forward, I would wait for all my ducks to get in a row, but not all ducks do that. From experience, I understood that making the wrong decisions, or making mistakes of any kind, put me at risk of being belittled, discounted and losing the love of others for which I was so desperate.

I shared that before I could love myself, I had to shift my focus inward and just be friends with myself for a while. Because of this shift I learned to speak my truth, most of the time. I began to be gentle with myself, some of the time. I practiced saying “No,” when I felt strong enough and my favorite self-love practices were simple: curling up with a good book, being in nature and journaling.

The interview lasted an hour and as soon as the video stopped recording, the first things out of my mouth were “My hair looked terrible! I used my hands too much! I talked too fast! I sounded awful!”

The women who had interviewed me couldn’t stop laughing. “Didn’t you just spend an hour talking about self-love?!”

Busted! What a fraud! Is it possible to be a star-crossed lover with yourself, almost connecting, but not quite?

Now I focus on a simple, three-step approach to self-love:

1. Practice.

2. Makes lots of mistakes.

3. Laugh as often you can!