Dropping the Plate

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As a kid I worried unnaturally about breaking things, spilling stuff, or just generally making a mess. It is possible that this sort of behavior comes with being the last of 5 kids and having a Mom who had just about had it with cleaning up after clumsy little ones and messy teenagers. I remember trying to clean up messes that I was far to small to clean up myself. I remember clenching all the muscles in my neck and shoulders waiting for the reprimand from one of my parents. I remember trying to hide the evidence of things and then trying desperately to “fix” the unfixable. 

I also remember my terror when I sat up too quickly in my friend Cristin’s top bunk bed while being silly and broke the glass light cover in her room…with my head. Which makes me laugh to think of now but did not have the same effect on the must smaller much more anxious version of me.

Cristin shot out of bed and said “Let me get my mom.” My immediate reaction was “No…maybe I can fix it.” 

I was 7. 

Really? Were my glass blowing gifts so great that I thought I could do something about this mess I’d made? 

Cristin’s parents rushed in upon hearing the glass break and her dad whisked me down from the bed stating “We’ve got to get you out of there so you don’t cut yourself.” Her Mom then hovered around me looking at my head, my hands, my face to ensure I hadn’t been cut. They each in turn shushed me when I began to apologize hysterically making all sorts of offers to go home or to pay for the damage (again…I was SEVEN!). The Mom eventually silenced me by softly saying “Leah. What’s done is done. Relax. It’s just a little glass.” (Which was a bit of an understatement…it was a LOT of glass…but I somehow heard her through my anxiety) 

Cristin’s mother Maureen was a lovely French Canadian woman, who my mother referred to as “the Catholic hippy” because…well…they were Catholic and she breastfed Cristin’s little brother until he was 2. Her dad was a reporter for the Sacramento Bee and the only person I’d ever known who got paid to write. I loved them. I loved their vegetable garden and compost heap. I loved that they asked how my day was at the dinner table since at home I was a little lost in the noise of older siblings. I loved that Maureen made us wear seat-belts before there was a law (drawing more criticism from my mother) and would ride her bike with us to school (little brother in the baby seat) because she didn’t want us to be scared or in danger. 

In hindsight…I know she wasn’t perfect…but she was always kind to a overly anxious little girl who her daughter loved. And she was calm. She brought peace with a soft word and ginger ale to some of the hardest and most traumatic years of my life. 

And in further hindsight…I offer my mom some grace because she was indeed tired, did not have a stellar support system, and so much more. 

Fast forward to today…

This afternoon I was cleaning my kitchen. As I loaded the dishwasher I dropped a plate. The plate broke upon impact with the tiled floor. 

The plate wasn’t notable. Neither the broom nor the dustpan that I used were remarkable. What WAS remarkable was the lack of internal dialogue in my head at the moment of impact and during the entire clean up process.

My soul was so still…so peaceful…so very present in the moment…that it was until the mess was removed and I’d picked up the next plate to continue with the job of loading the dishwasher that the awareness of the silence came over me. 

You may wonder why the silence was surprising when the plate is mine and I do live alone so must clean up the mess either way. What’s the big deal? 

The big deal is that apparently my inner voice is working on being less bitchy. She is no longer berating me for spilling things, breaking things, or general clumsiness. She no longer mentally punches me in the throat when I get something on my shirt or spill an entire cup of coffee before getting a single sip (family reunion case in point). She is learning to choose the words she speaks to me more carefully and she is learning to call the feeling what it really is (fear, vulnerability, shame, anger, disappointment, hurt) rather than launching into a diatribe about how horrible I am.

I’m pretty sure she is working on her bitchy attitude because she doesn’t want to have to keep hearing from me…or my friends…about my being enough and her needing to change her attitude or get out of my head entirely. No…she wants a role on the team and is willing to do her work to keep her spot. Now that calling me names is no longer allowed…she’s willing to acquire new skills. 

And so far…her new skill of silence to replace the critic has earned her a “team member of the week” award. (Authors Note: Chad Lowman is in a close second for threatening to pay someone to hit me upside my head if I don’t stop feeling shame when I should be pissed off!) 

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Enough

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The last entry in my gratitude journal on 06/04 says “I’m grateful that this day is over.”

Seven words written…so many more unspoken.

The last 6 weeks are a blur of survival. And when I say survival I mean mental, emotional, and spiritual survival. I didn’t intend for these weeks to be this way but somehow I let it happen. I know the starting point…I know the choices along the way…and I know the moment I lifted my eyes and saw the truth.

Invisibility…

Six weeks ago last Friday I was asked to help with a project that would both energize me and separate me from my peers. I took on the project with a huge helping of *desire to please* and a large side dish of *self-doubt*. This particular combo should have been RED FLAG #1. It is rare that I go into anything with this particular cocktail of self-destruction any more but I raced in without even pausing to listen to my intuition which was screaming for me to PAY ATTENTION.

The request was fair. And the task was big. The team I joined has been a huge blessing and I’ve build significant relationships. Also I was the RIGHT person to be asked to do this…not only in terms of availability but in terms of skill, attitude, & open-mindedness.

However the flip side of those facts is that I know better than to do something so critical in such a blind manner. My desire to please and to use this situation to stir up my dissatisfaction at work was a dangerous combination. It meant that I handed over ownership of my days and nights to others…although I would have said I was doing it willfully and for “only a couple weeks”…and was willing to forego sleep, exercise, connection with my friends, and all spiritual practices in exchange for the sudden connection of working with such great people on something so important. LAME! Super super LAME! This is me at 24…NOT me at 37.

+ Family…

Add to that mix a visit with my family. In many ways the trip was successful. In the one way that counts it was dangerous to the state of my soul.

In my effort to prepare the fortress around my heart for what comes with time with my family, I slid backwards into a place of introversion and self-protection. Don’t get me wrong. That fortress is a shield provided by Jesus himself many many scary years ago in the dark of the night. And it is a safe haven in times when I don’t have enough strength within me for survival.

But once I go into the fortress…the climb out is often treacherous, heart-wrenching, and touch-and-go.

+ Excess

Excess work hours…we’re talking 14 to 16 hour days 6 days a week working into the wee hours and then getting a couple hours of sleep before starting over again.

Excess alcohol…I drink socially. And when you are pulling days like I describe above, alcohol with the team is part of the package. It builds bonds but it is wearing on someone who typically drinks a couple nights a week.

Excess food…I went from taking my lunch and keeping a food journal to eating out at every single meal. I didn’t gain weight (praise the name of Jesus) but I didn’t make choices that my body was responding to with love.

Excess connection…too much time with the same people. Hear me…I LOVE and TRUST this team. They’ve become dear to me in so many ways. They are my friends. My Seattle work family. And yet…too much time with any group of people makes an empath like me ride THEIR emotions as easily as mine. When I should have gone home…I stayed out with the team. Too many months bereft of good connection and feeling important to others, made me hungry to be with them and vulnerable to their exhaustion and moods.

+ Tuning Out

I’ll save you the gory details…but basically I met a man that I liked. There was good chemistry. Wait…let me rephrase. There was chemistry the night we met. From that point on there was a need. A need on my part to want it to turn into something. I wanted a friend. A connection. And let’s be honest…it’s been a damn long time and my hormones were running on high alert to the nearness of a man in a nice shirt who smelled good. 🙂

As he was hot and cold…I was hot and hurt.

And I lost the connection to the sound of my own voice. For a couple weeks…while in the midst of all this other craziness…I lost the reception between my head and my heart. It got bad enough that I had to ask my friends if I was crazy to be annoyed by someone who by the fourth date was sleeping on my couch like we were an old married couple? Seriously??? Me??? Leah of the hot, passionate, go-for-the-guy-you-want, settle for nothing less that sizzle relationships was like “Wait…is it weird that he fell asleep after the game when I was basically offering to be all over him?” (BTW–Thanks Tyler, Linda, and Jelisa for confirmation that I’m not crazy!)

Let me add…this is a decent man. A kind, handsome, funny man. But I know better. I know when something isn’t working. I should have pulled back and said “Let’s look at this thing”. I should have heard my gut saying “The chemistry is OFF…way OFF.” I should have said something instead of offering a chilly kiss on the cheek and a “see ya” to a guy that I think I could be friends with in other circumstances.

Instead…I was just pissed. And pissed off in addition to all the other stuff…bad news. (Can you say…dangerous cycle of excess?)

– Meaning

I thrive on meaning.

This 6 weeks had moments of excellence, connection, and laughter…mingled with deep lows, tears, and emotional self-abasement.

Turns out (and yes…I’ve already learned this lesson SEVERAL times in my career) that killing yourself to prove you are good enough actually usually just results in kick-ass work that goes unappreciated by everyone except those who ALREADY appreciated you.

And it turns out that not taking time for (1) Yoga, (2) Meditation, (3) Reading, (4) Writing, (5) Gratitude Journalling, (6) Sleep, (7) Reflection, or (8) Mindfulness makes me a really really unhappy person who lacks deep meaning and joy.

Big shocker? Nope.

= Enough!

I’m able to share this with you because I woke up on Friday with a headache, feeling bloated, an ache in my knee (which happens when I don’t get enough yoga), and a deep feeling of hurt and disconnection. I opened my eyes, ran each hand over the back of a kitty waiting for breakfast, and said aloud “Enough.”

Enough means sufficient, adequate, ample, or satisfactory.

Enough waking up in a state of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain or numbness.

Enough waiting for someone to be grateful for my hard work. I know I’m damn good at my job. Better than most. And I’ll be grateful for my efforts and joyfully accept the gratitude of my team. Full stop.

Enough of not listening to my intuition, needs, or desires.

Enough of setting aside my voice in order to be the pen for everyone else.

Enough, sufficient, adequate, ample, satisfactory.

Then God speaks…

Today I read the and realized why “enough” was the word the Divine Lady gave me:

“We’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough or fit enough or educated or successful enough, or rich enough–ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We got to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack…What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for the unfulfilled life.  

We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mind-set of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough. 

Sufficiency resides inside each of us, and we can call it forward.”

–Lynne Twist in “The Soul of Money” as quotes by Dr. Brene Brown in “The Gifts of Imperfection”

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Playing Chicken with Jesus

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5986_10151532220751107_1333121446_nI thought I’d drive out of the rain today…but I didn’t. Instead I drove IN the rain…every minute of 348 miles. Not one time did I turn off my wipers. Not for one moment was there a sun break. And I think I know why…

Jesus and I had a date on a stormy beach tonight.

Upon arriving at a quaint little hotel in coastal Oregon, I dumped my bags in my room and went over to have dinner in the resort restaurant. I sat alone at a table, facing a very dark sky over a very rough ocean. I drank red wine and at lentil soup and sourdough by candlelight. My head filled with thoughts of the weekend ahead…of being with family (which is both exciting and terrifying)…of things I feel I left undone at work that Amit, Chelsea, and Ramnath are having to deal with and how I can repay that…of my two best friends dealing with trouble and joy all at once…of a dear friend who is in the spot I was in a few years ago being forced out of a job she hates but afraid of what will happen.

As I took the last sip of my wine and wandered back through the chill and rain to my room, I knew that my next steps would be through my room and out over the grass to the steps that would lead me down to the water. I quickly donned a thick scarf, rolled up my pant legs, and zipped up my raincoat. As I stepped out into the storm I had to laugh at the fact that the rain pelting me was of little notice…yup…Seattle is wearing me down. DSCF0040[1]

I walked about 200 yards out over grass and dunes to wet sand. The clouds were dark and thick but their nearness, back-lit by stars, kept the night from being pitch black. Tears instantly blended with the rain on my face. I slid the hood of the coat down, lifted my face up to the sky and said “Hello! I’m here. Did you want something Lord?”

The small voice said “Do you love me?”
My voice replied “Oh yes. If I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I’d disappear.”
The voice said “Then relax. Relax into me. BE with me.”

I obeyed and felt my body relax. Then I looked down and realized a wave was washing towards me. I laughed and stepped backwards to keep my shoes from getting wet. In the silence the waves grew even louder. I knew it was for me. I knew in my heart that God was turning up the volume to drown out my fears, doubts, and questions.

I dodged another wave…laughing as I wept. Then without any hesitation, I lifted my hands to the air. “Lord…I’m yours. I’ve always been. I’m not able to be who I once was…but I’m this girl. I hope that’s ok.”
The voice said “You are my child.”

This phrase…”you are my child”…is a familiar one between me and God. God has been giving me that word…that testimony…that blessings…since my earliest days. I remember those words in the lemon tree in Hondurus. I remember those words laying my bed in a room covered in super hero wall paper. I remember those words as I begged for deliverance from the scariest years of my life.

As I heard them again a name…THE name…escaped my lips.

“Jesus”
“Jesus”
“Jesus”

I dodged another wave…running backwards. Each time as the wave just missed me I inched forward to dare the next one to get me. Each time it came to the toes of my shoes and I stepped back away from it.

“Jesus”
“Come and get me Jesus” I teased.

As you would expect…IF you know Jesus…the next wave was BIG. I couldn’t have gotten away from it if I’d turned and run the other way. DSCF0042[1]

So there I stood…knee deep in water…shoes soaked, pants wet, tears falling, and laughing outloud with my arms raised to the sky.

“You are my child”

“Jesus”

The next wave three waves went back to their pattern of stopping right before my toes. Jesus had come for me…made His point.

Loud and clear…

The Little Girl & the Ladybug…

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Once there was a little girl…

She was funny.
She was sweet.
She loved her sisters.
She loved animals.
She was smart.
She was sassy.

And she was vulnerable and an easy target.

Over the course of 5 years she went inside her own head. Roamed around in her own thoughts. Felt invisible. Was fearful and unsure. She was damaged but unbroken. That little girl’s name is Leah…but she calls herself LeLiLu because that is the singsong nickname her Dad has called her since before she can remember.

There is a woman…

She is funny.
She is kind.
She has grace.
She loves her cats.
She is intelligent.
She is capable.

And she is courageous and safe.

A year ago a ladybug landed on her hand while she was standing at the front door of her new home. She decided that day that any time she saw a ladybug she would stop, share a gratitude with the Holy Spirit, and smile. What she found is that ladybugs are everywhere. Sometimes they’d land on her or being on a plant in her home. Sometimes they would show up in a picture. Sometimes they’d be on a peice of jewelry or the side of a bus or as a barrette in a child’s hair.

Ladybugs are a sign of spiritual enlightenment, fearlessness, wishes fulfilled, rebirth, and feminine strength.

The little girl…LeLiLu
The woman…a lady bug

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Space NOT for Rent!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about renting and renters. The renter in my house in Albuquerque is trying to decide if she wants to renew her lease. My landlords are getting a divorce and I may have to find a new place to light. Being a landlord and being a renter are easy one day and a pain the ass the next.

This got me thinking about something that I heard both Dr. Wayne Dyer and Joe Dispenza say at the recent Hay House event Cara and I attended in Vancouver.

The idea that we let other people rent space in our heads. People at work…our lovers…our friends…our siblings…strangers (seriously!? How dumb is that?) …our parents. In some cases…like with parents…they start renting space even before we are born. And in other cases…we continue to allow tenants to have the space, long after they have packed their stuff and moved into someone else’s brain.

Most of my friends know that I have a firm policy on opinions and advice. If you are not invested in me and my life on a regular basis, you do not get an opinion on my decisions. You don’t get to weigh in. You don’t have a vote. You don’t get a voice in this one-woman supreme court. And if you are in my life regularly, that does not imply you have shown you are invested…or invested in a healthy way. So you may STILL not get a vote.

I’m excellent at upholding that rule…I’m not always terribly great at evicting folks from my brain. But I’m getting better.

Letting someone rent space in your brain is equivalent to having a running dialogue with what you THINK they would say. It’s script-writing at it’s finest because though they are not in the conversation you can totally imagine what they’d say and get caught up in the ins and outs of it. You can let someone else’s fear steal your freedom. You can let another person’s darkness steal your light. You can let their sadness, depression, or just generally bad attitude, steal your joy.

Jesus said “I have come so that you might have life and have it locked up in fear and doubt”

NO…

What he actually said was “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Even cranky old Paul thought we should not rent the space in our heads to other folks…images (1)

Letting in the Light to Be the Light…

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Vulnerability leaves you vulnerable.

Big…Fat…DUH!

In my search for living authentically…for having an open spirit…for being real and really being…I’ve been cracked open time and time again.

I’ve been broken open many times in the past 37 years. Sometime times the wounds have come from others. Sometimes the wounds have come from my own poor choices. And every now and then I make the right choice…to take a risk that might open an old wound…only to find that another person is willing to grab the sea salt and pour it right in the opening and rub it around with the pad of their thumb.

But it is in the hurting places that real friendship and love is forged.

When you are wounded your friends come in with the anointing oil of words and the holy water of acceptance. And they sit with you (even from 1000’s of miles away) while your wounds are stitched. Wounded but on the path to healing. Sometimes a scar is left and sometimes the healing process is slow…but always the Divine Creator of the Universe provides a help in the time of trouble.

The poet Rumi said “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

I know that is truth.

I know because I’ve had the wounds. And I’ve had the Light poured into me from my loved ones…from the stories of others who have survived the wounding of the human experience…and even from Light that I have poured back into myself with self-love and self-compassion.

Wounded…not broken.

Being healed by Light to be the Light of healing on another day.

She is who I am…

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This afternoon’s instructor asked us to quiet our minds and then let whatever came to surface have space in our thoughts. This is a scary request for someone with a mind like mine…a past like mine. The never-ending mechanical whir of my brain being asked to make room for only one thought is intimidating…and yet that is the why behind yoga…the thing that drags me to the mat…the pull of my practice.

As I stood in samasthiti in a quiet darkened room full of other people’s energy, I slowed my mind, folded my hands at heart center, and tried to obey the instructions. As my mind changed from whirling dervish to second hand on a old clock and my breath began to match the universal pace of breathing in the room, I heard a thought rumble in my mind. The kind bass gravel of my Dad’s voice saying “Lee-Li-Lou.”

This alliteration. These three simple sounds. This nickname.

My pulse quickened for a moment…then slowed in a wave of easy comfort…security. A nickname not spoken often in recent years. In adulthood, as my father and I became strangers to one another, he stopped using this gentle term of endearment. I do not like being called by nicknames. I answer to them only for the most special of people, tolerate them from some, and shut them down in all other cases.

But my father…my daddy…my dad…he can call me LeeLiLou.

For in those three little syllables lies a world of security, safety  and identity. It’s rolled up in the trust of a daughter for her strong, handsome father. It’s sweet to the ears of the little girl lost who still lives in the grown woman. It’s a name spoken in the farthest reaches of my mind…spoken today in the clear space…in the calm…in the changed woman.

Before there was a damaged little person with the weight of the world on her shoulders, there was LeeLiLou.

She of the fierce independence  She with the crazy hair and reckless laughter. She who could scowl with her eyes, put a smile on her face, and deliver a message with a look. She whose very existence was a challenge to anyone who would think to put her down, ask her to hide her light, or tell her she wasn’t enough. She of the brave, funny, mouthy, and soulful.

Before there was ice in these veins, there was fire. Before there was fear, there was fearless love. Before there was hesitation, there was a little actress, a writer, a singer, a dancer, a gymnast, a teacher, & a doctor. These were the dreams of the sassy and promises of the Divine.

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I keep this picture in my meditation space because this is a picture of undamaged, unafraid, unabashedly joyful with a kick ass tan, frizzy hair, fight in her eyes, and a smile on her face.

My mother has a different story about this picture…something like “bratty youngest child who cried until she got her way.”

What she doesn’t know is that though I was only 3 years old, I remember every detail of this day. I remember it as one of the last big wins before a series of losses. I picked the day of this picture. I picked the outfit. I picked the doll I got for finally taking these pictures on the 3rd attempt. I smiled the smile I wanted to smile. My eyes say what I want them to say.

Spoiled? Maybe.

In full control of my spirit at 3 years old? Completely.

And for the record…I’ve spent the last 10 years getting that girl back. Every therapy session…every fight to have what is mine at work…every time I’ve spoken up on my own behalf personally, professionally or spiritually…every difficult conversation with a family member…every breakup with a guy who wasn’t man enough…every dime earned…every story written…every dance danced…every song sung.

Every.
Single.
Word.

Taking me back…back to being her.

Like her or not, she’s my hero.

She is who I was…and by God…she is who I am.