Remembering My First Friend

Today, marks 10 years since my brother walked this earth. A milestone that requires acknowledge and his life, one that requires celebration.

My first friend.

My first enemy.

My first teacher of forgiveness.

Even when he drove me to the brink of insanity, I learned to accept him for who he was, not who I wanted him to be. It did not matter if I liked him every day, being my brother made me love him always. His love of basketball, his knowledge of all things sports, his genuineness as a human being and as a friend were only a few things he was well known for. Very early on, Derrick lived his life his way and did not require validation from anyone (a current goal of mine). Though I had imagined who he would be at the age of 35, 50 and 72 – that was not what his life was created for and that was never for me to determine.

Writing is my medicine. My source of healing. I empty words on a page and exhale the hurt in my soul. For the last four years, I put in the work to heal from the pain I experienced. I used writing, this tool that I love so much.

I exhaled a novel on some pages.

I created this blog to empty my thoughts into the world.

All of this with the hope that while I heal, maybe there is someone else who hurts like me and needs to read some words that speaks to them. Especially now, during this time of pain in our world, it’s important to find what heals us – what makes us feel connected to others. We are never alone if we are honest enough and brave enough to seek out a source of healing. None of us are fine and that is okay. Pain is temporary if you are willing to put in the work to let it go.

Find what heals you and do it!

When thinking about how to honor Derrick, I could not find the words I wanted to express the pain of losing this person I love. Then I realized I already had the words. I emptied them on pages of my novel and posts I shared with you. I will never be whole again without him, but I am finding ways to heal and honor this boy I watched grow into a man.

His love, his laugh and his giant presence will remain a void in my life always. But because of him, I love a little harder. I live a little more passionately. And I am grateful for the gift of knowing the love of my brother.

“I wake up to the sun creeping into my room. The distinct scent of a mix of fresh rain and a dash of lavender that hints to the night slipping away, lets me know it’s still early morning. The familiar aroma is welcoming to rise to. Inviting me to start my day, it is my first reminder of something beautiful in the world. However, today it’s my first reminder I am waking up in a world where my brother no longer exists. Upon this revelation, I grasp my chest because I can’t breathe. This new truth is choking out the life I had been accustom to. The life where he was there and always would be. Just yesterday, he was here. He was breathing and annoying me. Now he is gone. His room is empty and forever will be.” -From the Inside Out

“After becoming a therapist and a mother, my brother died of a drug overdose. Again, my core was shaken and my direction changed. Again, I had a new lens to see the world and had to find another way to forge down the path where new obstacles lay waiting for me. By this time, I was 30 with a new even more damaging set of coping skills I pulled from my tool belt to “handle” the pain of losing my first friend. Though my questions were different after this loss, the theme of blame remained the same. Why couldn’t I save him? Why didn’t I do more? However, as a good people-pleasing-caretaker, I sealed up all that blame, pain and sadness so I could be fine and attempt to continue down my familiar path. The problem was my life-lenses acted as beer goggles and I found myself fumbling and falling where I once floated.

What I have learned through all these experiences is the single worst thing I can do is be ‘fine’. When I am in pain and I am experiencing loss, I am far from fine. When I don’t give my experience and the stain it left on me the dignity of a name, and rather say ‘I’m fine’ my stain spreads. The original impact of the trauma is much worse if I can’t call out the fact I am hurting and I have been effected by what happened.

I’m not suggesting you have a full-on therapy session with the next person who asks how you are. However, instead of lying with ‘I’m fine’, chose something else. Literally ANYTHING else, because being ‘fine’ is not living.

Life has not been promised without pain. We do not get to skip through Candyland shooting rainbows out of our ass while riding a unicorn. Though, if we can be honest with ourselves and with those we love and trust, we have the ability to come back from anything and find peace in the most troubling situations.” -“I’m Not Fine and Neither Are You (Killinitlife.com)

Are You Overthinking?

Are you an overthinker? Do you analyze every situation from every angle? Have you every worried the joy right out of something? 🙋‍♀️
Why not just go with it? If it won’t physically harm you or someone else & there is a chance you will be better by just doing…then why the hell not?
I used to think my overthinking was my greatest weapon against disappointment and pain. I took great pride in my ability to think of all the possible outcomes from every side of every decision. However, with each analytical view I stole joy and fun and possibility from experiences.
This is not to say throw caution to the wind and seek out danger. Though this is my admission to robbing myself and those close to me of moments because of my fear.
Folks, we are all going to fall on our faces. That is a promise. But getting back up to kick some ass is the reward for doing so.
Let’s not forget the times we did take a risk and followed the road that led us to where we needed to be. How amazing was that?
Search your soul and take your shot!
Go bravely down the path! 👑🧡
@cherylstrayed

Trauma

I’m Not Fine and Neither Are You

Trauma maybe the most relative term in the English language. And funny enough, ‘trauma’ is spelled the same in English, Spanish, German and Italian. However, I bet if we asked 100 people what trauma means to them, we would get 100 different answers.

For me, trauma is anything that stains my soul. Maybe that is gibberish to you, but it makes perfect sense to me. You don’t have to understand my trauma for it to be trauma. You may even think my trauma is no big deal. That does not negate the fact that it is trauma to me.

In my not-quite-40 years on this earth, I’ve lost my father, my brother, all of my grandparents, twin babies and my nephew. Throughout my almost 18+ year career as a social worker, I’ve witnessed, heard and carried the stories of victims of violent crimes, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect. (this is not a trauma resume – just bear with me). My soul has been stained by all. Some stains I was able to accept, process and move forward in a healthy way. Others – not so much.

What I have learned through all these experiences is the single worse thing I can do is be ‘fine’. When I am in pain and I am experiencing loss, I am far from fine. When I don’t give my experience and the stain it left on me the dignity of a name, and rather say ‘I’m fine’ my stain spreads. The original impact of the trauma is much worse if I can’t call out the fact I am hurting and I have been effected by what happened to me or what I witnessed.

I’m not suggesting you have a full-on therapy session with the next person who asks how you are. However, instead of lying with ‘I’m fine’, chose something else. Literally ANYTHING else, because being ‘fine’ is not living.

Life has not been promised without pain. We do not get to skip through Candyland shooting rainbows out of our ass while riding a unicorn. Though, if we can be honest with ourselves and with those we love and trust, we have the ability to come back from anything and find peace in the most troubling situations.

Tell someone you trust you are struggling. Admit when you are in pain. Ask for help when you need it. The holidays are difficult for MOST people. This is not a Christmas movie where everything is figured out with a beautiful bow tying up the end. But, we can take better care of ourselves by being honest and finding the people we can trust with our stains. Stay mindful of your soul and stay away from being ‘fine’.

Photo Credit: Photography by Angela Gross

Living the Killin It Life

Six-Minute Self-Care Review

Good Morning!

How’s your week? What are you doing to take care of yourself? Have you made self-care a part of your daily life? Are you a priority to you? Do you squeeze in six minutes a day for self-care? (This is not the part where you list your excuses – it’s the part where you just begin).

How do you start? Let’s review where we’ve been so far:

  • Attitude of Gratitude – Every day brings opportunity to be thankful. While miracles and life-altering experiences are wonderful, everyday occurrences are full of reasons for appreciation. Seek out gratitude every single day in a concrete way and your perspective will change. People are wishing for what you have today.
  • Thank You is a Complete Sentence -Period. When we explain away a compliment, we dismiss the importance of the person giving it. You look beautiful and strong whether you are wearing black or any other color from the clearance or couture rack. Your hair is on point whether you just stepped out of the salon or it’s day 3 of dry shampoo. Just say thank you and accept the grace you have been given.
  • The Practice of Letting Go – Easier said than done, of course, and a practice that requires practice. Arm yourself will weapons to defend against the anxiety beast. Take a breath. Find a release. Let go and hold on to something bigger than you. Stress will exist as long as there is breath in our lungs, but the beast can be put to rest when we practice letting go.
  • A Simple Shuttle Launch -Connect! Are you feeling like you are on an island fighting the anxiety beast in a solo mission? Pick up the phone and reach out to a firehouse friend NOW! Taking care of yourself includes connecting to those who love you. Send a text. Make a call. Schedule a girls night. Just reach out and feel the power in the bond of friendship.
  • What Are You About? – Don’t forget about the SELF part of self-care. Connect and find comfort in you. Stop being your harshest critic and practice accepting you – all of you. Stay in the moment and be mindful of your thoughts. It can be dangerous walking around in your mind alone, so practice managing your thoughts and be your own biggest fan.
  • Practice Imperfectly – JUST DO IT! Journaling on the porch. Deep breathing at the red light. It doesn’t need to be post-worthy to be worth-while of your time. There is no right way to be kind to yourself.
  • Expectations Are Pre-existing Resentments – Schedule time for nothingness. Sit still. Stop with the 20-item-To-Do-List. Your entire life doesn’t require an agenda. Let life create moments you can be present in.

Well, that’s a wrap! Here is your “self-care-cheat-sheet”. Please share how you practice! Let me know what works and what doesn’t.

Thanks for reading & have a great day!

in the process

Expectations are Pre-existing Resentments

We all know one. The person who literally has 25 hours scheduled in their day. Her commute is 32 minutes longer than yours. Her job has mandatory overtime 7 days per week. Each of her kids are involved in 5 activities which practice 7 days per week. She only sleeps every 3rd Tuesday of the month. You know who I am talking about? Are you her?

We have all been her before. There has been a moment in your life that you felt like the busiest person alive and no one could relate to you. Am I wrong? (No)

No reward will be handed out for the busiest person in the world. You cannot compare your responsibilities to that of the lady in the car next to you at carpool. Our lives have become excessively scheduled. Appointing activities to every single second of every day. Even vacations have schedules to ensure you don’t miss out on something. There is no time left to just live.

I have been in Ruby’s shoes (literally). I am the people-pleasing-fun-baggage-carrying-scheduler of the group. I am guilty of forcing fun down your throat if I can help it. However, when I can let go and leave some time untouched, I allow for life to happen and create memories I couldn’t expect. Can you allow yourself a chunk of time to just sit in it? Nothing scheduled. No expectations. Just be.

Expectations are pre-existing resentments. Leave your expectations behind you and accept what is. In the midst of the hustle, schedule time for nothingness. Let life happen. Your heart and soul and will thank you for the memories that come from just letting it be.

Happy Wednesday!

Practice Imperfectly

Well hello there! Are you present in the moment with me? Did you practice mindfulness this week? There is a mindfulness saying that some “older” and wiser ladies told me a long time ago. It goes something like this, “if you have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow you will crap all over today.” I think they may have used a different term, but you get the idea. It’s true! Staying present in the moment allows you to enjoy what is right in front of you. Mindfulness doesn’t allow for worrying about tomorrow. If we could all take a little advice from Elsa, and let it go, the past will stay where it belongs too. However, mindfulness is a practice. It takes 21 days to form a habit so keep going! These weekly convos with you helps me to practice what I preach and keeps me focused on where my energy needs to be-right here in this moment. So, thank you for the opportunity! We are in this together!

Let’s review our dear friend, Ruby and her shenanigans this week. Have you ever felt the spotlight before? Knowing everyone is watching to see if you can pull something off. Whether it is being the textbook parenting expert or epidemy of class at a work dinner, you feel the heat of the watchful eyes and the weight of others’ expectations. Your desire to hear the cheer of the crowd when you knock it out of the park pushes you forward as fear of the collective sigh of disappointment motivates your effort.

Miranda’s birthday may have looked like a shit-show, but she did what was asked of her. She gave up the applesauce, she may have launched it like a hand grenade, but she gave it up nonetheless. And she is two years old with a new baby brother who is stealing her mother away. What do you want from the poor girl? Ruby had a Rockstar reaction – cake anyone? Basically, the show must go on, shit, cake and all.

This week keep practicing mindfulness. Was it journaling, sitting on the porch or just breathing alone in the elevator that reminded you to stay present?

For me, it’s journaling. I harness my inner Elsa and literally let it all go on the page. But, it’s not something I do every single day. My mindfulness practice has become flexible, which is a new concept for me. I hold myself to doing something every day to stay in the moment. Some days it’s journaling. Some days it’s running with my dog. And somedays it’s taking 35 seconds in the car before I go into work to remind myself I need a paycheck and I am a productive member of society (basically I tell myself whatever is necessary to get out of the car). However, I DO something daily. I practice. It’s not helpful or mindful for me to be rigid about this process. I just need to do it and accept my imperfect mindfulness practice. It’s so freeing!

So keep practicing this week, my friends! Send me a comment and let me know what works for you and what doesn’t. I am always looking for new ideas and it’s helpful to know I’m not alone in this practice journey. I would love to hear from you! And if you can’t think of anything else to practice staying present, have some cake. That will make you enjoy the moment! Have a great week!

What are you about?

Welcome Back! The Self-Care Police is here! Just checking to see how you are doing!

Who did you connect with this week? Did you send a text or schedule a night out? I hope so!

Did Ruby’s flashback remind you of some not-so-far-off-time-in-past that makes you double over with laughter (at least the parts you can recall)? Though Ruby ‘never disappoints’ even at a young age, she has grown up some since her barroom-brawling days. Instead of pushing random cheating blonde girls out of the way, she advocates for her kids at school and uses her voice to support those she loves. Maybe she doesn’t walk around with her Ruby Red showing, but you can find her strutting in her heels with that same confidence as that girl on the dance floor missing a pocket. She may not drink as much or dance in public as often, but she holds true to who she is and what she stands for.

Change may be inevitable, but Ruby is still Ruby.

What about you? Who are you? What do you stand for? Would not-so-far-off-time-in-past-you recognize today-you? Is that a good thing or not?

Last week, I asked you to get connected. Guess what…this week I’m asking you to connect to YOURSELF! Take some time to look at who you are & what you are about. No labels (i.e. mom, wife, partner, sister, employee, lover, hater, etc). Badass is the only exception – BADASS label is accepted.

Take a few minutes each day or if some angel of mercy gives you a few hours to yourself, ABSOLUTELY do that! Stay in the moment and practice some mindfulness (what the hell is that you ask?)

Psychology Today defines Mindfulness as:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. This state encompasses observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. Mindfulness can also be a healthy way to identify and manage latent emotions that are causing problems in personal or professional relationships.” (www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/mindfulness)

Use a calming app.

Journal in a cute notebook.

Sit on the porch and watch the leaves change.

Close your eyes with your legs wrapped in a constrained manner and mediate like an ancient monk.

Just take a moment to be quiet and get to know yourself. Leave your gavel and robe out of this – no judgement! Connect with yourself and figure out what you like and don’t like. What makes you excited and sad. What gives you fire in your belly and what causes pain in your heart. Figure out who you are so you can love you for you. That is the most important connection to make! Have a great week!

A Simple Shuttle Launch

Take a deep breath. Release the beast. Connect and let it go. Practicing self-care. Saying thank you and that’s it. Did you get all that? How’s that working for ya? (My favorite Dr. Phil question)

Is taking care of yourself overwhelming you yet? Did you get to meditate today? Journal? Exercise? Come on, Ruby! Don’t just sit around trying to get a suntan on that pale skin of yours! Fit it in and get it done!

Self-care doesn’t have to be “post-worthy”. It can be quick and dirty. In the car at carpool or at stoplight. One less scroll on social media. 10 minutes earlier in the morning or 10 minutes later in the evening. Whatever you do, just get it done. Self-care is imperative to your life! It’s as necessary as your chewable vitamin and getting enough sleep.

However, self-care isn’t just an extra 10 minutes here or there. It’s more than using mindfulness and centering yourself. Don’t forget the power in your firehouse!

Now, it may feel like you are scheduling a shuttle launch to get multiple grown women together for an extended amount of time, but just as important as space exploration, so is time with your people! Laughing and sharing and being your truest self is good for your heart and soul.

Again, this is time with your firehouse sisters. The ones who know your real hair color. The ones who laugh with you as much as they hold you accountable and the ones who actually want an honest answer to “how are you?”

Girls Nights Out recharges your soul, but sometimes schedules don’t work out. Shuttle launches are not an everyday occurrence. Just get connected! Send a group text. Reach out and touch base on your drive to work or while you sit in traffic. Make this part of your practice.

The most difficult times to reach out for support is when you are in pain. It’s not healthy to share all your junk with someone you can’t trust. Stay connected so when you really need your firehouse they are prepped and ready to be on-call. So your emergency call is like dialing 911 – no one puts you on hold or requires a 30 minute intro story to explain yourself. When you have an emergency, you need help NOW! Make sure you have people in your life that when shit hits the fan, they are dressed and ready to be there for you! And you do the same for them.

Connections to people are so important. Self-care is also nurturing our relationships with people who matter. Starbucks Stella may be great at knowing how you like your latte, but what the hell is she going to do if you come in there crying and need a hug?

Growing up, we think “the more the merrier”. I disagree. One of my firehouse sisters says, “the few and the proud.” Find people you can trust and who are worth investing time staying connected to. If you have three REAL and TRUE friends that’s AMAZING! Three friends can cover a 24-hour shift – so you are all set!

This week, keep it simple…connect to those you care for! Show them some love and I guarantee you will feel it in return.