My Soul Songs #21

Truly Impressive

 

I’ve always been impressed with my ability to overcome.

I’ve just rarely loved myself for all I am.

“Not bad for someone who…”

Insert the randomly selected self-limiting descriptor.

 

Enter MS.

 

Now an MS fighter the phrase has been consistent.

“Not bad for someone dealing with MS, huh?”

I thought I sounded confident and self-impressed.

But I was limiting myself.

 

No more.

Not bad. Period.

In fact, I’m so much better than simply “not bad.”

strength-training-kettleball-weights-muscles-Tatomm-iStock_000063354919_Medium
MS: My Strength

“Impressive, huh?”

 

 

 

Soul Songs #16

Learning to Love Myself

I have always known that I’m quite amazing. Does that sound egocentric? Just kidding. I know it does.

I’ve always been confident. I’ve always known my strengths. And I’ve been criticized for being too self-impressed.

But I am impressed with myself. I’ve overcome a lot. I’ve achieved a lot. I know my work makes a difference.

I also know that I love people. I genuinely love and care about others. The funny thing is that for the longest time I didn’t realize that I didn’t really love myself.

I didn’t love myself as much as I loved others anyway. I always put myself last. I always said “I can help” or “I could be good for that person.”

I actually thought that made me even more impressive. I managed to walk around a contradiction between “I’m amazing” and “other people matter more than I do.”

I have fancy language for all of this now. But I won’t go into it. All that matters is that I learn to love myself. IMG_1628

It’s not enough to be impressed by myself. I must love myself and care for myself. I might even put myself first sometimes–because sometimes you just have to.

Love matters. And I’m going to love myself more than anyone else. Because I am always with me; and that relationship matters too.

Maybe I can help myself. Maybe I could be good for me. And I can still be pretty damn impressive.

Pink Tube Socks 

I never understood the reason to be just “sugar and spice and everything nice.” How limiting it seemed! Of course I told everyone that. I could play house, play school, play with my dolls and do their hair. I could dream looking through the JC Penney catalog at all the princess dresses I dreamed to wear with my long golden blonde hair cascading in waves over the back. I could sing lullabies to my sisters and give eskimo kisses to soothe souls.

But I could also climb a tree higher than anyone I knew and win every race on our bikes. I popped the best wheelies and had the best hot-wheels collection in the neighborhood. I could dream of being a stunt driver. I could scare the other kids with spiders and snakes and worms and any creepy crawly. I could be dared to do just about anything. And I never lost a game of dodgeball! I loved my “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” side.

I was lucky that my family supported my supposed contradictions in my tomboy/princess persona. I remember months and months of my parents going store to store to find a pair of pink tube socks for me. This gesture exemplifies the love and dedication my mom gave me. And this very specific fashion need exemplifies my true nature.

My mom would have done, and did, just about anything for me possible. No desire was ever considered silly. The countless hours caring for my hair and learning new styles so I could feel like a princess in a fairy tale as I ran around in my green baseball tee, nike shorts and pink tube socks are cherished memories. My beautiful dollhouse and coveted race car track for my shiny hot-wheels weren’t the most expensive toys in the neighborhood but they were exactly what I wanted. And the yards and yards of fabric for me to make clothes for my barbies stored next to my sports equipment fed my imagination and boundless energy. My mom made all of this possible.

I was encouraged to be uniquely me and proud of my complexities and gifts. Pink could be my favorite color even if I loved sports. I could be a tough princess. And I could be very clear on what I wanted and fight for it with a loving heart.

I was artistic and athletic. I was adventurous and nurturing. I was a peace maker and a leader. I was loving and driven. I was tender and strong.  And I was always supported.

No matter how many struggles life threw my way–hospital visits, abuse, lost friendships–I never doubted I was loved for just who I was.

Like many women, the world challenged my strength and my unique nature. I subscribed to magazines that advertised very specific ways I should act and feel. I listened to music about how I should love and dream. And I lost myself a little bit more each year.

The path of least resistance was the path of suppressing some of what made me uniquely me, until I forgot just what made me special. But life sent me a wake up call a few years ago that I couldn’t fully appreciate until recently. When you realize life is short you realize you need to make the most of it.

We have to do what makes us truly happy. We have to be true to who we are and make the most of our gifts. This is our mortal cause. Every year we must become more and more who we truly are.

The world needs our unique contributions and will love us for who we are, if given a chance. My mom taught me this and I’m finally learning to believe.

And, today, these pink tube socks remind me of this.

How do you remind yourself to be bravely true to you?

 

ajs-a51627-retro-tube-socks-white-with-hot-pink-over-knee_2080458

Soul Songs #9

Who Am I?

When I imagine the way in which others see me, I still think the shy, smart, sad, and painfully quiet little blonde with glasses is all there is.

But I was the bubbly blonde who talked and laughed all through Sunday school. I was the girl who was everyone’s friend. I was the girl who could outrun and out arm wrestle any boy. I was the girl who had boys vying for her attention. I was the girl who could sing like an angel. I was the fashionable girl who made her own trends.

Still I became the shy, quiet, but smart little blonde with glasses. I cried every night. I lost my voice and stopped speaking up. I learned to blend in, not wanting to make waves or risk attention. I feared making friends I would just have to leave.

It hurts me even now to realize I learned to suppress my laughter, my strength, my energy, my very needs and goals. But what hurts even more than acknowledging the forces to which I was responding when I learned to hide my true essence is the fact that I allowed myself to be only half alive for far too long after those forces ceased to be part of my life.

I have decided to stop responding to those forces, now long past, and to live fully, true to myself.

I am brave and strong. I give voice to the voiceless. I sing songs of joy and love. I put myself out in the world. I take risks. I fear no one. I live for no one’s approval. I live to love life and make a difference.

I am not shy and quiet. I am bold and vibrant. I am no longer hiding who I truly am.

 

img_1416img_1344-1

 

Soul Songs #3

A body in motion tends to stay in motion. So I am a woman on the move.

I get up. I give thanks. I go all in.

I might fall. I might tire. But I won’t give up and I won’t give in. I’ll just keep getting back up–and with a smile at my triumph.

I know who I am, my best self.

I am active, grateful, and ever growing as I move forward on my journey.

This is my soul song. MS won’t win.

Angels Among Us

The snow was falling steadily and the temperature had dropped drastically. Winter was upon us. I pulled carefully into the steep drive to park at the newly opened diner. I was too tired to cook and I needed some comfort food in the worst way. It had been one of those days, one of those years really. I could not wait for 2016 to conclude and 2017 to usher in a fresh start.

I had learned so much throughout the year, but not all of the lessons had been wanted. I had grown along the way, but I was a weary from the journey. I wanted nothing more than to know I was on the right path and that joy would unfold.

Deep in thought, I hadn’t even spoken to my companion. I just stared at the menu. Then an unfamiliar voice jolted me to awareness. “Be present, Sarah” my mind prompted in response.

“Hey! You taught choir, right? You did!” His smile was broad. His words not a question, but a clear, satisfied declaration. “You were my choir teacher and you took us to perform at the amphitheater one Christmas.”

I was stunned. I mentally calculated that it must have been my last year at the school before transferring. And he must have been no more than eight years old at the time–nearly 15 years ago!

“That’s one of my best memories,” he continued. “You were so proud of us and you got us all hot chocolate afterward.” He seemed to sigh and look off into the distance as if visualizing that cold winter’s night during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

“Man, I think about that all the time.”

“Really?!”

“Oh, yeah. And Christmas songs are still my favorite. Look at me! I’m running my own business and I’ve got Christmas music playing. Obviously I’m not doing drugs or in a gang. You made a difference. You have to know that.”

“But you were only in third grade,” I laughed. “You might be giving me more credit than I deserve. Clearly, you’re a pretty amazing person and that’s all you’re choosing.”

“Ha! I forgot how you talked like that,” he chuckled. So did my dinner date. I do get a bit didactic.

“Just know that you touched our lives. What you do matters.” He went on and my heart warmed. It was one of those surreal moments, those gifts from the universe.

 

 

I’ve had a lot of those lately, even during this challenging season in my life. Well, especially during this challenging season of my life.

I’ve been taught to watch for signs that my guardian angels are near. And these signs have always warmed my heart and lightened my step. I do not know what form my angels take. I do not know what I have done to deserve them. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am guided, prompted, loved, and uplifted throughout my days.

I know some might think such beliefs are just fanciful, magical thinking, the kind that can be dangerous and delusional. Sometimes I even wish I could agree and set aside the promptings and guidance, suppress the feelings that I am part of something greater than a mere biological existence. How easy it would be think my impact on others is only temporary or that I have so much control that I can force my life and others’ to fit into my egocentric vision for each day. I’m great at being in control, after all. I’ve made a career of it. But I’ve also made a career of listening. And the more I listen, truly listen, the more promptings and support I receive.

Whether through energy patterns or ethereal presence I know–yes, that’s a pretty definitive declaration–that something far beyond my comprehension is at work and it unites each of us and, if we let go of our feeble illusions of complete control, this unifying force will lead us to a divine state of grace and guide us to a place where we can be the best version of ourselves.

 

The phone was ringing as I walked in, the office still dark. I was too late to pick up, so I tried calling her right back. I left a message and hung up. A few minutes later a familiar chime let me know I had new voicemail. I put it on speaker phone as I continued to get situated for another busy day.

“Sarah, I just wanted to let you know that you’re loved. I know how much Heavenly Father loves you and he told me again last night.” I stopped in my tracks. This was not a typical Friday morning message on my office line.

“I had a dream about you last night and you were sitting by me, softly touching my hand with a sad smile in your eyes and you told me that you loved everyone and this world so much…. ” she paused, her breath thick with emotion. “But you said you were sad and wondered if anyone really loved you.” I dropped to my chair, stunned, and immediately tearful.

“So I need you to know, Sarah, what I told you in my dream. You are loved. You are just beautiful and God has a special place for you in his loving arms.” By this time tears were flowing. Where was this coming from, I wondered. What was I putting out into the universe. Do I seem sad? Ungrateful? Lonely? What did this sweet woman know that I wasn’t acknowledging about my own life?

“Sarah, I’m so sorry that I haven’t told you this before. I want you to know we all love you and think of you. You deserve so much love. I just needed you to know that before the weekend, okay?” There was another pause. “You need to know that. I hope you think about that this weekend. And remember that no matter what, God loves you.”

Completely out of character, I cried for a good ten minutes. Tears of sadness, tears of joy, and tears of love. I said a prayer of thanks for the unsolicited and beautiful reminder of all the love in my life, and I felt a weight lifted that I’d not known was there. I had been given another gift that morning.

I knew I was loved. My thankful-fors in my prayers are extensive. But I had been struggling with how to be my best self and how to fully give and accept love as relationships and roles changed at home and work. And the pure light of love had just let me know through my dear, sweet colleague, that I was doing just fine and that I only needed to ask for and accept all the love available. How simple and wonderful and unexpected.

 

“Hey, Roberts, I’m graduating.” He didn’t beam or exude his usual charm. But he was proud, no doubt about it. His eyelids grew heavy and his chocolatey eyes glistened briefly as he put his head down, almost embarrassed.

I threw my arms around him and squeezed his broad shoulders. He’d grown so much over the last four years. And he was graduating!!

He’d been one of those students I struggled to connect with. I fought to find ways to motivate him and how to keep him out of trouble. I’d tried separating him from certain influences. I’d chased him through the neighborhood to drag him back to school. I’d cried with his mom when he wouldn’t stay clean.

But this resilient young man just kept coming back to school. That, in and of itself, was reason to hope. It took him an extra six months, but he’d done it.

“I want you to come, hear my speech.” He looked up now, eyes almost hopeful, but far too cool to completely emote any nerves.

“I will be there, no matter what.”

And as he spoke, behind the podium, he began with a story of my “eagle eyes” and how I’d chased after him all of sophomore year, and how he’d needed that. He spoke of teachers who never gave up. He spoke of the examples of strength and dedication that uplifted him. And he cried. We all did.

There are times in our lives when we want to give up. I’d thought about it with this student. Would he make it? Could he? What could I really do?

And, in the moment that he shared his story, I knew why we could never give up–on anyone. It’s not for us to decide the future, only to decide to act, with love.

 

 

I’m so thankful for reminders like these. They’re all around for each of us. And when we stop to take stock, to compile our list of thankful-fors, we realize they are all around.

There’s the student from my first class as a teacher in public ed who’s shown up at every shift in my life, seemingly at random, at the supermarket, the car dealer, the hockey game, to just hug and love me and give me her supermodel smile. There’s the good friend who sends a text that just says “I thought you might need a hug today.” There’s the friend who just helps you laugh, no matter what. The dinner invite when you’re down, the little note left on your desk saying thank you, the inspirational message left on your Facebook timeline, the healing energy of smiles and hugs every day.

So I believe in angels. They don’t all have visible wings. But they are sent by a higher power I still can’t comprehend. And they make the world a better place, they guide us and keep us safe. They remind us that love is all around, and it’s available to each of us.

My heart is full. I’m so thankful.

Now, as the sun slowly rises above the snow-capped peaks before me, I say a silent prayer. I pray with gratitude. I pray with hope that you too might see the angels among us this season and always.

 

 

 

 

Soul Songs #1

c9e6a63ddd1d7cd3155437a1bf8362b9.jpg
Take these wings and learn to fly.

I already am all I hope to be.

My best self is with me at all times.

I am open to unfolding and revealing

my beautiful wings.

The’ve always been there.

I was just afraid to stand out and reveal

my greatness.

For when one soars, one risks falling.

Still, I choose to soar.

I already am all I hope to be.

My best self is with me

and she is ready to fly.

In Training for Something Great

 

I almost lost it yesterday. The tears had welled up. My throat was tight. My breathing had shortened and my body tensed.

The narrator recounted the years of violence and abuse, the pain of poverty and putting up with pain and suffering in order to pay the bills and feed the family. He was the oldest, like me, and assumed the burden of both growing up and deciding who he would be and who could never let himself be, but too, he assumed the burden of protector and advocate. This is a noble response to struggle but it can be overwhelming.

He was just a few years older than I am. And here we both were, somewhere near midlife, taking a moment to assess if we have become who we need to be and how we can continue our healing so we can do our part to make this world a better place for those experiencing their own pain.

As  he spoke, I saw his story unfold in my mind. My own story played out in a parallel space. His horrors were not mine, but they were connected. And our present desire to keep learning from our past to become who we truly are at our core … that struggle is inexplicably connected.

I couldn’t speak for some time. As one gasping breath escaped with the first few tears, I was finally able to acknowledge “I’m struggling.”

I realize today the strength in being able to announce my pain–and my work at processing and overcoming that pain. Again, his struggles were not mine. This inspirational man experienced things I can only imagine. And I think he would say the same thing about my story.

The point is that we all have immeasurable strength. And that strength can see us through just about anything. We need only acknowledge it.

So, in the middle of this sunny day, late summer, 2016, as my diseased body flowed through its movements and my mind raced through its thoughts I took a moment to acknowledge that I’m struggling. So this is the time to draw on my strength.

I have been challenged. I have been hurt. I still hurt, in fact. But I am so strong. I have overcome so much. I have overcome by taking the time to place one foot in front of another and finding one reason to smile after another.

If I can now flow through vinyasas and hold challenging asanas in yoga that previously eluded me–and do this with the stiffness and fear my MS brings, then what can’t I do?

If I can overcome abuse and still love life, of course I can love myself. If I can raise an amazing young man with love and passion in his heart, of course I can set cycles of positivity in motion. If I can earn graduate degrees and shape policy, of course I can influence my community for the better.

I have what it takes to make my world a better place. In fact, I can scarcely believe what I’ve already accomplished and overcome.FullSizeRender

I am a beautiful work in progress. I am in training for something great–and I have the strength to get there.