Tag Archives: joy

10 Minutes

I remember back in grad school when I’d have a ton of reading to do for a class, and I’d pick up a book at Chapters that I’d been eyeing for weeks. I’d take 10 minutes, read a page or two, then leave it to collect dust on my nightstand. For a while it would make me feel better, sitting there reminding me that I liked to read, escaping into a book, and feeding my soul. Slowly though, it would begin to look like clutter, as I realized I wasn’t going to make time to read for pleasure at all. How could I? I’d been avoiding tackling the pile of articles sitting on my desk, and so reading something just because I wanted to really was NOT an option. If you’re gonna read, read the work, I’d silently lecture myself. Don’t waste time reading something that doesn’t serve you. Ha! How crazy to see these words on the screen, slapping me hard in the face, as though I hadn’t written them myself. I’m the friggin How of Happy lady. I teach people how to put their joy first, making all the things that need doing more manageable, yet I couldn’t, and sometimes still can’t, see the point of doing something purely for pleasure, when there are other things that need doing. How can you forget what you already know? With me, it’s not so much forgetting, as it is selectively remembering. You see, there are two levels of avoidance. Procrastination is when we avoid the work, and replace it with something we’d rather do. The second, more destructive level, and one that I am intimately familiar with, is when we are truly stuck, and end up avoiding the work, AND the pleasure, depriving ourselves from feeling good, and blocking our innate ability to get unstuck.

A while back, I decided finally to write my story. Our story. The story that lives and breathes within me, and that has already been written in so many ways, needing only to be scribed. I began collecting pieces of data, and sorting through stuff that I had, that I knew I wanted to include in my book. I met with a mentor, a best selling author, turned friend, to discuss how she might help me on my book writing journey. For the first time, I publicly announced that I was going to write a book. It felt so good, real, and right. I believed that making my commitment known would be like putting it out there into the universe, activating the law of attraction, and lending energy to this deep wish I’d held onto for so long. Well, that’s not quite how it turned out.… It made my book homework, and my blog that dusty thing that sits on my nightstand. The result? I avoided both entirely.

This morning, in my stuckness, I opened a message from Carolyn, the mentor, turned friend. She was congratulating me on some recent press, speaking events, and workshops I’d done. I replied that yes, my “side-hustle” was picking up steam, but now the task was to figure how to make time for writing amidst the success. “You’ll know when the time is right, she replied, “It’s all unfolding exactly as it should. Could be you have other writing to do first to support the side hustle…” I didn’t understand right away what she meant. I launched into my grad school analogy of skipping blog writing out of guilt of not doing my book writing homework. She suggested I write it all down. My frustrations, how I was feeling, encouraging me to write for me. She challenged me to set a goal of just 10 minutes of writing a day, to get back into the flow, and to reconnect with my joy. “Find your WHY. The HOW will find you”, she said. She reminded me of my deep desire to connect, and how impactful some of my work had been, telling me I’d inspired her with my words! Her encouragement came at the perfect time, and felt like a great big hug.

So here I sit, writing this article, determined to give my mentor’s advise a try . I set the timer on my phone, committing to just 10 minutes. “Reconnect with your why Shannon”, I whispered to myself. The timer rings, and I keep writing, and writing… With every click of the keys, I come alive. I cannot avoid the things that make me happy, or only make space for them when all the other boxes are checked. In just 10 minutes I am reminded of all of this. Reminded that I write to feel good, and that when I feel bad, this is my answer. This is what makes me come alive.

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Filed under #joyfirst, life lessons, Uncategorized

AT THE SAME TIME

The last time I was here, we learned that you had cancer… We heard the doctor tell us how sorry she was. We understood that disease was running through you. The last time I was here, I held Marisol on my lap, just one year old. You were happy that she was here to lighten the mood, and to remind us of the good that was still there. You were grateful that I was here to hold mom’s hand, to help brace her for the news that would change our lives, and eventually take yours.

It’s three years ago that I sat in this same waiting room, and eight months since you had to go. I miss you dad, more than I ever knew I could. Filled with so much pain and love, at the same time. Makes me think of that conversation we had in palliative care, about a week before you passed away. A beautiful moment shared together just you and I. “I am both the happiest, and saddest I’ve ever been, at the same time” you said. You knew time was running out. The look we exchanged as your words floated there, lingering longer than words normally do; a look of complete understanding. A perfect connection between two hearts. Moments like that engraved in my heart. We were both so vulnerable, and so purely open to the gut-wrenching exchange we had in that moment. You’d been praying each night for just one more day. One more day, to make one more memory, and have one more conversation like the one we were having.

I am so thankful to have had almost two and a half years from your diagnosis. I am so thankful for our month in palliative care. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share every unspoken truth I ever wanted to share with you. What a gift. I miss you dad. More than I thought possible, and more than I let others see most of the time.

Today I’m here with mom. She’s ok dad. But you know that already. I know you are here with her. I know you are with me too. Despite this deep knowing, and how close you still feel, you also feel so far away. Your diagnosis, disease and departure transformed me, as hard things do. More than anything, I now fully understand how one can be happy and sad simultaneously. I’m leaning into that dad. I recognize the light within the darkness. It’s there, it’s always there. I’m making space for the joy that lives alongside the grief. I am learning to treat my sadness with the same respect; to welcome it in the same way, because I will always choose remembering you, and missing you over letting these vivid memories go. So I will make room for the pain, and the happiness that live together within me. I understand completely that when I resist the hard parts, and gulp down that lump in my throat, that I make it harder than it needs to be.

The last time I was here I put on a brave face. I stood by you, and fought back tears. Today I let them flow. They are tears of gratitude, for the news mom heard today is good. It too has the power to transform me, as good things also do. I am breathing into the lump in my throat. I am making room for the joy and the sadness at the same time. At the same time…

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Filed under connection, family, grief, happiness, life lessons, Uncategorized, Vulnerability

A Way Through

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Today I’m choosing to motivate myself. I’m choosing NOT to be miserable. Today I’m choosing CONNECTION. I sit here, on my front porch sipping my coffee, and appreciating the quiet. “I miss you dad”, I say out loud through my tears. I don’t know what it is about mornings…  I still cry almost every day, usually in the early hours. While life has certainly not stood still, it’s as though a veil still hangs between me, and the rest of the world.  I am stronger. Steadier. I can miss him without coming undone. Most of the time anyways.  But mornings, ripe with new possibilities, and a chance to start over, only remind me, that wherever I’m heading, he’s not there.  Despite this, I have certainly felt his grace, and presence. In some ways bigger, and more absolute than before.  Things that once derailed me, seem not to have the same sting.  I feel him pushing me along, “Connect Shannon.  Don’t back away from your life; your dreams.”  We always have a choice. As hard, and as painful as it is to accept this, it is the truth.  Yet fear, and sadness, that ruled my life for so long, scramble to take up new residence in other rooms.  This energy, needing somewhere to go, only loses its velocity when we are brave enough to release it. It takes courage to move on, tacking up the NO VACANCY sign, kicking fear finally to the curb.  When I’m afraid, I cocoon myself. Self-doubt, and indecision weighing me down.  A sort of self-imposed sequestering, I turn away from possibility, and hope. Like a bear going into hibernation, I insulate myself with food, and distraction, and busy myself setting up camp in my little cave.  I stop moving my body. I take myself off the list of things that need attention. I side step time for reflection.  Fear is a way through, and sometimes all I want is a way out. I’m not readying myself to engage with my fear. I am not working through it. I am sitting idly, waiting, worrying and ruminating. Stuck. When fear is in charge, it’s like the bully you avoid eye contact with. You act like it doesn’t bother you. You fake a comfort with its presence, hoping desperately that it won’t notice you.  The problem with this strategy is that when invisibility is achieved, all we’re left with is isolation.  We feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated, undervalued, and unimportant. Too many “uns”!  It’s taken most of my life to see, that these UNdermining feelings are the result of a CHOICE I made. That I am the one that needs to SEE and HEAR ME!  Recognition, and external validation are but temporary elixirs. True self-recognition is not dependent on anything, or anyone outside of myself. It is dependent on how I feel about me. This relationship- the one with myself, is where I need to start when I feel myself pulling away.  The biggest threat to fear is connection.

While I have said that the how of feeling better, is vastly less complicated than the why of feeling bad, it takes intention and practice to stay on the path, like a muscle that needs exercising.  When fear is fed, instead of met, we get lost. We stop practicing, and start hiding. My hope is that with time, the choice to live better, while always deliberate, somehow stops feeling like such a chore.   I’m on the road again, thanks in part to my dad, my family and friends, and to my two amazing girls, whose existence reminds me everyday that life is good.  I have only to look through their lens for a moment, to be brought back to the joy that lives on in my sadness, and the fire within that still roars in the rain.

Today I choose to motivate myself. Today I choose connection.

*I want to take a moment to thank the nearly 2000 readers of my last article, “New Normal”, who wrote to me, and bravely shared their stories of loss and love.  When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I had no idea the impact it might have.  Thank you for following, and for sharing a piece of yourself with me. Stay connected.

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Filed under Resilience

An Inside Job

My thoughts on motherhood, and the mother I envisioned myself being, in no way matched my early experiences as a mom. This dissonance derailed me for a time. I had a great mom, who loved and nurtured me. I assumed I was cut from the same cloth, and would model myself accordingly. I never doubted that I would be a good mother before I had kids. I’ve doubted it many times since… I felt completely overwhelmed most of the time in the first year of Maya’s life. I thought I knew what it would be like. I thought, if exhaustion is the worst of it, I could surely handle that! I thought, yes babies cry. So what? I won’t mind sitting, and cradling her until she falls asleep. I pictured myself as an endlessly giving, forever nurturing, and never-impatient parent. Seven years in, mom to two daughters, I can assuredly say, that isn’t me.

In that first year I cried a lot… Like maybe as much as Maya did. I walked with her in her stroller through all 4 seasons, and I cried. I cried because I felt like a failure. I wasn’t the mother I thought I would be. I cried because I didn’t feel the way I thought I was going to feel- you know all warm and fuzzy, and madly in love at first sight with my precious newborn daughter. We tell moms-to-be that they will automatically fall in love. While motherhood can have its blissful parts, we exercise selective memory when we tell only the good parts of our stories. We unintentionally set women up to feel inadequate right out of the gate, when we paint the picture that they will not mind being selfless, exhausted and depleted. Think about it.

I knew when my first-born was still living inside of me that I loved her, and that I would care for her with all of my heart. When I held her, and my husband and I looked down at her together, I felt an indescribable connection with this little stranger. But she was just that, a stranger. I understood that she was part of me, of us. I loved and worried for her, but it took me a while to fall in love.

Despite all of the support I had early into motherhood, I felt incredibly alone. I hated the solitude; I was angry, tired, and frustrated. I ached for freedom. Do I have time to shower? Will I ever leave the house alone again? Can I make time for me? When will she stop crying? When will she sleep? For how long? I never could have imagined the impact of sleep deprivation on a person’s wellbeing and stability, and how I would obsess over how to get just a little bit more. Tippy-toeing around, crawling out of her room on all fours, and planning life, as I knew it, around nap time. I need to say here, that what fed my frustration was all of the well-intentioned, one-size-fits-all-advice I got about sleep. The only advice I really needed to heed was do what keeps you sane. Simple. I needed to quiet the noise in my head, so that I could listen to what my instincts were telling me. It came down to- if it soothes her, and gives you a little peace, do it.

Being a mom is the hardest, and best thing I’ve ever done. In time I did fall in love with that little stranger. Worrying for her safety, and welfare became the new normal, and I learned to appreciate the weight of responsibility attached to parenthood. She has taught me more than she will ever know about letting go of preconceived notions, and listening to my inner voice. There is a depth to my love for her that words cannot capture. But, it’s still hard… I imagine it always will be. From the moment our children are born we sit on the sideline of their lives, moving our chair as the game changes. At first we are intimately involved in the game, we shadow the play, and attend to every need. As they grow, and the challenges change, so too does the sideline. I realize now that I will spend the rest of my life negotiating and renegotiating that sideline. I’ve learned that the weight of parental worry is more manageable when shared, and that navigating all of this, is not quite so ominous when I’m taking care of myself.

There is nothing wrong with needing time to adjust. There is nothing wrong with loving so much of what motherhood brings, while not loving all of it. We don’t need to be ok with being selfless, exhausted and depleted. That doesn’t make us good mothers. What makes us good mothers is leaning into the hard stuff, instead of backing out, and making space for our joy and humanity in the process. It is our responsibility to make time to recharge when needed, so that we can get back to the work of being a parent. It’s ok that we see it as work. My expectations of being a mom needed to shift, in order to align with my new reality, thus softening the edges of my previously held rigid beliefs.

My kids don’t need me to be selfless or perfect, they need me to be happy. We sit on the sideline, preoccupied with our children’s wellbeing. We forget our own. With a little nudge, and some encouragement, I am reminded that I foster joy in my children by emanating my own. Cultivating happiness is an inside job. I want my children to learn by example, that exercising self-care is essential. Not only incredibly restorative, and good for the soul, but good for all the souls it’s connected to.

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Filed under Parenting, Transition to Motherhood