Thankful and Grateful

“Thanksgiving is about celebrating the gifts that are within us. It’s a holiday that’s about honoring the gift of friendship. It’s about recognizing the gift of family. It’s about opening your heart and your mind to the larger picture of family. It’s about reaching out to those who might not have a family or a place to go and inviting them to the table.” Maria Shriver

Thanksgiving was my mama’s favorite holiday. She always loved fall colors and would oftentimes keep fall decorations up all year…leaves, flowers, etc. It was kind of funny seeing fall colors amidst Christmas and Valentine’s decorations, but my mom marched to the beat of her own drummer. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all…wink, wink!

I get how she used to feel. It saddens me to see this beautiful time of year get lost among all the Christmas decorations and displays. Retailers want us to shop, shop, shop even if it’s at the expense of rushing everything along. All we do is rush….we need to slow down and appreciate the beauty and the bounty each season bestows upon us as well as the people around us….without feeling stressed!

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year for contemplation. Just as we gather provisions for the holiday, it’s a perfect time to pause and take stock of all we are blessed to have in our lives and the people with whom we get to share life. Many of us don’t have large families anymore or no family left, so the gift of friendship and camaraderie become more special. And if you know of someone who is alone or has no place to go, please consider extending an invite to them so they can enjoy as well.

And let’s not forget how stressful family can be. It’s no wonder many people have taken to going away for the holidays or hosting Friendsgiving parties!

With the political climate the way it is, an already stressful holiday gathering for some can end up being catastrophic. People shift from calm to chaotic in record breaking time and, oftentimes, bringing on panic attacks. It’s as if the first of November comes with it this dark, looming event of epic proportion. And if you don’t fall into this category, perhaps this time of year burns you out. You hit the wall and crash. You abandon your self-care practices and spiral into a dark abyss.

The holidays are a time in which we need to amp up our self-care practices so that we can enjoy all the blessings that come with gathering with our friends and loved ones. What self-care practices allow you to remain in an undisturbed space of calm and ease? What allows you to maintain the calm in the chaos?

Boundaries play an important part in all of this as well. Who is welcome at your table? What will or won’t you allow in your space? What conversations or topics are welcome? What items should and shouldn’t be brought to the table? 

As  I was reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, I came across an article by renowned therapist, Lori Gottlieb. In it, she listed a few pointers that can help us move through the holiday season with less stress and more calm and peaceful ease. Since “sharing is caring,” I want to pass on the pointers  from Ms. Gottlieb’s article as an offering to you on this Thanksgiving:

  1. Take care of your health: eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, don’t use substances to numb your feelings.
  2. Say no, guilt-free: protect your time so you don’t become overwhelmed.
  3. Stay connected: if you’re feeling sad or anxious, reach out to friends or a therapist. Remember, you aren’t alone.
  4. Reach for the gratitude: focus on one or two things that you’re grateful for this year or that you look forward to creating in your life in the new year.
  5. Have perspective: it may be that everywhere you go, all you see are reminders that it’s the holiday season, but really the world hasn’t stopped, the holidays are short-lived and, before you know it, life will be back to normal (now that’s something to celebrate!).
  6. Remember that you’re a grownup now: it’s easy to slip back into childhood roles when we’re around our families, so if you notice this happening, step away to the restroom, take some deep breaths, look at your adult face in the mirror, and smile because you’re an adult now and you’re finally free to do as you please.

Darlings, my wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you have a day filled with the warmth of friendship, the love that surrounds you and the joy of creating new memories.

Infinite Love & Gratitude, JTC

The Paper Man

“Just when you least expect it, someone’s creativity and agility blows you away, makes you laugh and almost makes you pee your panties.” JTC

Oh what a night!!!

It was a much needed night of laughter, friendship, love, shenanigans, delicious food and fun cocktails.

You see, I’m having my apartment painted as we speak, so everything is all packed up, bundled up and covered up. My otherwise colorful, fun and peaceful treehouse has been turned upside down. There’s nothing peaceful, colorful or fun about it right now. There’s very little room for movement and finding a place to sit without getting paint on me has been an adventure in and of itself.

So…. a night out with a lovely group of girlfriends, otherwise known as The Usual Suspects in our group chat, was just what the doctor ordered. Laughter is, indeed, good medicine for the soul. And the more we laugh, happily, joyfully and unabashedly, even to the point of tears, boogers coming out our noses, or peeing in our panties (that’s if you’re wearing them- but that’s for another blog), the more we can appreciate the little things in our lives in very big and profound ways.

The restaurant was crowded, noisy, we were noisy, and at any given time there were multiple conversations going on at the same time. You know the feeling, right? The one where you feel like a ping pong ball, going back and forth, head spinning, yet in each and every conversation. It’s the antithesis of mindfulness and giving your sole attention to the one task at hand. Fully present and engaged in that one task.

But you know what? Sometimes the task at hand is to BE fully present and engaged with ALL of it….the zaniness, the laughter, the stories, the madness, the shenanigans and antics alike. And let me just say that no topic is ever “too much” for this group. We put it all out there on the table. If it interests you, then run with it. If not, sip your cocktail and be the curious observer.

The beauty of it all is that there are no cautious or fake “representatives” at that table! We are all simply free to be ourselves and that makes it all that more meaningful. And by the way, we’re not an easy group. By that I mean that, with the exception of one or two people, we all have serious food allergies and restrictions, so ordering can get tricky and dicey. Yet, we make the best of it. More importantly, we’re not obnoxious with our questions, concerns or inquiries. Quite the opposite. We make light of it and tend to warn our wait staff beforehand. It makes the oftentimes painful process of ordering much lighter and humorous.

I believe for us it’s all about the humor, fun, entertainment, friendship, camaraderie, honesty, openness, and heartfelt genuine love and admiration we have for each other that makes our times together all the more meaningful. We are real, the conversations are raw and the topics are relevant to each of us. It’s a win-win.

It’s like a giant dose of feel good endorphins when I’m with these ladies. Female friendships are a must in my book. It’s like free therapy when you stop and think about it. How incredible…it doesn’t get any better!

So after a delightful evening of sipping, tasting, munching, chatting, laughing, catching up and planning future adventures, our time together was winding down… or so we thought.

Just when we thought we couldn’t laugh anymore (I was even losing my voice) out comes a gentleman I will lovingly call “Paper Man.”

Paper Man is an older, Asian gentleman who was sporting a Hawaiian shirt, a paper cut out hat with birds on it, and a necklace advertising his services. He was pushing a cart that had a tip jar on it. Ok…. now we were all a bit weary. However, in a matter of seconds, I was instructed to write my name down, look to the left… and voila! He cut out a profile picture of me from black construction paper, complete with my spiked hair, glasses and “Yaya” below it. Wow! Then he glued it to a white piece of paper- like a card.

Since it was my birthday celebration, he then cut out a pregnant woman on her back that, when you pulled on the legs, a baby’s head popped out from between her legs. Oh my! Needless to say, we all cracked up and were somewhat dumbfounded at his agility and how quickly he proceeded to take a paper plate and make a birthday hat for me- complete with a cut out cake and candles on top. He said something about the candles standing for prosperity, peace and happiness or something like that. I don’t recall his exact words, but you get the idea.

Little did we know the best was yet to come. After giving me my hat, he surveyed our table and his eyes landed on the pretty blonde closest to him. With that, he looked at her and told her he had a “trick or treat” for her. Oh boy! In rapid speed, he cut out a skeleton man that, when you pulled on his legs, a big penis popped out…. OMG!!! I think we were in tears. What made it even funnier and more hilarious was that the gal he picked is probably the shyest one in the group. Of all people to have been picked …wink, wink!

Paper Man left with a generous tip. He also left us thinking of how we must have him a future party. However, it will have to be after we have one with our new best bellydancer friend from a precious birthday celebration. We will simply add Paper Man to our list of future soirées.

As for my beloved usual suspects, any time I get to spend with them is guaranteed to make my heart soar, my belly sore from laughter and my throat raspy from all the convo, screaming and hysterics. It’s a night, or day, that leaves me feeling alive, refreshed, exuberant, grateful and blessed to be floating in this magical universe together.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” -Marcel Proust

Long live The Usual Suspects!

Infinite Love and Gratitude, JTC

Finding Our Common Ground

Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.” Tom Robbins

Greetings, darlings!

You all know how I love to share. Someone very wise once said to me, “Sharing is caring.” It sure is!

You may also know that I love reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper. She usually writes about what she’s been thinking during the past week, and she also shares stories and writings from people she calls Architects of Change.

It’s always an enjoyable read. I look forward to making a cup of tea and reading it first thing Sunday mornings. If for some reason I don’t get around to doing so, then it’s one of the last things I read before turning in for the night.

This past Sunday’s piece really spoke to me. It speaks to differences, kindness, compassion, friendship, love, politics, beliefs, respect, judgement, separation and the insanity of it all. So, in the spirit of caring, I am sharing with you the piece Maria Shriver wrote, Finding Our Common Ground:

We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK.”

Those were the words that Ellen DeGeneres used to defend herself after people became outraged by a picture of her sitting next to former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game.

It was, and is, stunning to me that she felt she had to defend herself for sitting next to someone who she considers a friend, but who happens to have different political opinions. I mean, let’s all pause and let that sink in for a moment.

Two people watching a football game. Two people enjoying themselves and their friendship. Two people being kind to each other. That makes people mad?

Are we supposed to only talk to, sit with, and be friends with people who share our exact same opinions about God, country, and politics? Look, I was against the war in Iraq, and I was furious that the Bush administration led us into that years-long battle that took the lives of thousands of young Americans. I know their families will never fully recover. I understand their pain.

I also know that many felt their loved ones gave their lives for their country, and that they take great pride in their service. I also understand that many people — regardless of whether they had a loved one fighting in the war — are still angry that the Bush administration got our country into that situation in the first place.

Still, I worry that most who reacted negatively to Ellen’s picture were only reacting because of their own personal opinions. They couldn’t give her the respect to make her own choice about her beliefs, her friendships, or whom she chooses to spend time with.

These days, people just seem to despise anyone who is not in their political wheelhouse. Can we not be friends with someone from a different political party anymore? Can we not be friends with someone from a different religious background? Can we not be friends with someone who comes from a different walk of life, or who is a different color, or who has different experiences than our own? Is that where we are now as a nation and as people? I fear that for many, the answer is “yes.”

I understand that many are reacting strongly right now because tensions are so high in our nation. A lot of people are hurting, scared, struggling, and worried about where we’re headed next. Many fear the “other” because they view those different than them as a threat to their own lives, futures, and beliefs. But if you ask me, our political problems will only deepen if we all retreat into our own corners.

It’s this kind of thinking that is driving us apart. It’s this that is keeping us apart and preventing our families, our friendships, our politics, and our country from coming together and bridging the divide. It’s this kind of thinking — this kind of judgment — that was hurled at Ellen. This should cause us all to stop and dig deep within ourselves.

Is this really who we want to be? Is this really what we want to teach our children? Is this how we truly feel? I don’t believe it is. I won’t accept it, and I don’t think you should either.

Think about how you feel when hate and judgment are directed your way. Does it make you feel good? Does it make you want to show kindness and love to yourself and others? Of course not.

“When I say be kind to one another, I don’t only mean to people that think the same way that you do,” Ellen also said this week. “I mean be kind to everyone.”

The reaction to Ellen sitting with former President Bush presents us all with a teachable moment. Do we, or do we not, want to be leaders of a movement that fosters kindness, acceptance, compassion, understanding, and love? To be such a leader — to be such a warrior — takes guts. It takes an open heart and an open mind.

It’s easy to spew hate, but it’s also small-minded. It’s easy to post a mean tweet, but it is also cowardly and weak. It’s so easy to criticize and judge, but it’s way harder to love someone who is different than you, or who you think is different than you.

I believe it’s our job right now to try and figure out what we have in common. After all, God only knows we are really good at letting everyone else know how divided we are and how much we don’t have in common.

Maybe we both love football. Maybe we both have issues with our parents. Maybe we both have felt like the “other” at some point in our lives. Maybe we both have felt like we don’t belong and like we must cover up our wounds. Maybe we both feel shame about something that we’ve done wrong and desperately want to right. Maybe we both are worried about the state of our nation’s heart and want to find common ground so we can work together to do better. Maybe, just maybe, Ellen and former President Bush were talking about that.

The fact is, we will never know what we have in common — we will never heal our divide — unless we can agree to sit down next to someone unexpected and begin a friendship. Try it and see how it makes you feel. It just might heal your heart, your world, and our world at large.

If you don’t subscribe to the Sunday Paper, you may want to consider doing so. It is one email I love seeing in my inbox first thing Sunday mornings, and I bet you will too!

So what do you say? Are you up for finding our common ground?

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Keeping It Real

“With a greater awareness of who you are, and a deeper  understanding of how you define a friend, you can clear a path to choosing people with whom to spend time.” -quote from Breathe Magazine

What is a friend? What kind of friend are you? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Do you embody these qualities? Who would you like to spend your time with? These questions can and do speak volumes when we take the time to listen. Listen to our own answers and perceptions of what friendship means. After all, as in all relationships, friendship is most definitely a two-way street.

How are your friendships going these days? Oh boy, that could be a potentially loaded question given the “political” and “polarizing” times we are living in. Nevertheless, these are the times we need our friends and a sense of community and connection the most, and when we may be called to be there for a friend who is having difficulty in life. Personally, I don’t know what I would do without my circle of like-minded, supportive and soulful friends. They add value to my life. And as I grow older, I’ve place a higher value on the power of friendship to shape and influence my life. I have grown to a place where I am very grateful for the friends who’ve come into my life, both those who’ve remained and others whose time it was to leave. And then there are others who are still there but no longer play a prominent part of my everyday existence for whatever reasons.

Friendship can mean different things to different people. And in the digital society we are living in, friendships take on different forms. Some are up close and personal and some are virtual. Either way, the more we are aware and can deeply define and embody what is is to be a friend, the healthier, stronger, more meaningful and more valuable our circle of friends become. So much so, that somewhere along the line our friends become the family with whom we choose to spend time with, spend holidays with and with whom we celebrate life. These are the people we invest time in, especially if we don’t have a family or if our real family leaves us feeling emotionally and physically drained. As in all life-related things, discernment is key!

We cannot underestimate the power of love in friendships and its significance in our lives. As I was reading an article on friendships, it was suggested that we look at all the people we know and identify the ones who are truly our friends. The ones who make time for us and the ones whose company enlivens and enriches us.

Here are the three traits the article encourages us to look for in a real friend:

Ability to Listen

“Sometimes, the greatest thing friends can do is simply to listen to each other. Friends who are able to put aside their own life experience and focus on the experience of others are the most likely to contribute to relationships in a happy and peaceful way.”

Trust

“Trusting a friend to speak openly from the heart, to do what they say they will, and to understand when something said in confidence should be kept to themselves- are all vital in a true friend.”

Perspective

“Friends who offer fresh perspectives, ideas, experiences, and advice can help you to learn more about yourself, see life from another angle, and grow as a more well-grounded person.”

Darlings, let’s keep it real here…if we want to have friends, we must learn to be a friend. These three traits pretty much surmise what it takes to be a friend. They also give us an opportunity to examine ourselves and identify whether or not we embody these specific traits. The other key piece is discernment.

I plan on looking at these traits to further identify when and how I need to navigate these traits when a friend comes calling. Sometimes, all a person wants is someone to listen. Other times it may be someone whom they can trust with a deep sentiment. And yet other times, a friend may just want some perspective. They key is knowing and being able to identify the need. Personally, I know I have to work at this better. Sometimes, I’m very quick to offer perspective or share an experience when in actuality the person may really just need to talk and be heard.

Ahhhhh the art of practicing deep listening! We are so often quick to jump and offer our assistance or share in a manner that resonates for “us.” However; during such times, it’s vital to hit “pause” and listen…listen and discern the need. In doing so, we tap into our compassionate communication skills. If we are going to be generous with our time, and expect our friends to reciprocate when needed, then we need a major dose of keeping it real.

And speaking of communication skills and keeping it real, be sure to stay tuned for my next blog where I hope to share some guidelines and valuable aspects of face-to-face conversations. I think we can all use a refresher on conversation etiquette, don’t you?

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

My Guest Blogger Returns

Red Lipstick is My Armor

by Shannon Green

I was never a very confident person growing up. 

I was constantly teased by my brother for my “witch-nose,” teased by the public school kids for having to attend Catholic School, mocked for getting good grades, and called anti-social by my 5th Grade teacher because I enjoyed reading books during recess. I’ve had glasses and braces simultaneously, been called too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice.  I’ve been asked “why do you smile so much” like it was a bad thing. 

Over the years, I’ve struggled with trying to figure out who I am and how to love myself despite of all of the criticism.  I’ve tried on a few different masks over the years to try to fit in, but none of them really felt comfortable –  until I decided to take them off completely and just see what being me felt like. 

After returning from Maui and adjusting back to reality, I knew that if I wanted to continue feeling the bliss I had experience while I was there, I needed to do some serious self-work. I needed to overcome the things that were feeding my insecurities and fears. I needed to admit that I was stressed out, which literally took a case of Shingles to make me come that realization. Not kidding.  Five years ago, just a few weeks after returning from my amazing Maui Yoga Retreat, I came down with Shingles. Luckily for me it wasn’t a severe outbreak, but it was enough for me to FINALLY admit that I was stressed out. Years of denial, both to me and my friends, had finally culminated in my body retaliating against me; as if to say,“You aren’t listening to me so I am going to make you listen to me!”

Let me set the stress stage for you. At this time, my husband and I were living with my in-laws while he finished up yet another Bachelor’s Degree (this time in Mechanical Engineering) in hopes of getting a better job than his previous Master of Fine Arts afforded him.  I was terrified we would never have enough money to move to our own place and that we would have to live with my in-laws forever. My work was ok. I wasn’t unhappy at work, but I also wouldn’t say I was happy.  Additionally, I had been hoping to start a family by now, but that wasn’t happening. Because of this, I was seeing various doctors and trying everything I could to figure out the problem.  

After returning from Maui, I realized that I needed to make the “Maui-State-of Mind” a permanent thing. I had a glimpse of how good life could be, and I needed to figure out how to sustain that feeling back home.  So, like everything I do, I tackled this with full force, as if it were a college class I needed to ace. I started reading “May Cause Miracles” by Gabrielle Bernstein. The book promised change in 40 Days, and I worked each chapter religiously.  I bought more books and more journals, and I became devoted to figuring out how to “let go” and “surrender” and how this differed from just “giving-up.” I read about love and forgiveness. 

I became a junky for all things Hay House, which is funny because I don’t think I even knew what Hay House Publishing was at the time.  I became obsessed with Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love,” which has become one of my absolute favorites. I was downloading Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenges onto my phone every time a new series came out. I just kept following any signs I could find. If a name was mentioned in a book I was currently reading, I wrote it down and I researched it later. Who was the author?  What was the book?  I took the list Yaya gave me,  went to the library, and I checked out as many books as I could find. Little did I know at the time but, bit by bit, things started to change.  I had started to change, and life had started to change along with it. 

My husband eventually graduated in December 2013 and, about 10 months later, we found our beautiful home. By 2015 we were living in our house, and he was working at a good job. I realized that the fear and insecurities I had surrounding money had disappeared. Additionally, my job was starting to change too. At one point in 2015, I was working for 6 different people. Wow! That is a lot of personalities, but there was change on the horizon and, by 2016, I was working for the one person I had wanted to work for. 

I had also come to a huge decision about having a family. We were just in the final stretch of closing on our new home, and I was at yet another doctor appointment.  Unfortunately for me, I was meeting with a doctor who had a terrible bedside manner.  I was already on the verge of tears when I realized I didn’t need to keep doing this. I could stop at any time. It was my decision to make. I decided I needed to stop seeing these doctors. I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to continue with the stress of the multiple doctors’ appointments and the disappointment I felt each month when nothing I was doing was working. Once I realized that I could stop going to see these doctors, I had this amazing feeling of peace wash over me. I knew what I had to do. I had to stop going. I had the power to stop. So, I stopped. And I felt free. With this stress now lifted form my heart, I felt a huge relief wash over me. I could now concentrate on living in Maui-Bliss!

With all of those stress creators out of the way, I realized that one of my biggest insecurities still needed to be addressed: how I felt when I looked in the mirror. I believe we are always our harshest critics, and every time I looked in the mirror I heard those voices from my childhood. I knew I had to face this fear – this insecurity head on, and I thought to myself, “What is one thing I have always wanted to try but was always too scared to look foolish?”  The answer was “red lipstick.”

Now, up until this point in my life, I was fairly neutral about my lipstick colors. I tended to wear more natural colors and focused my makeup on eyeshadow and black mascara because I have always liked my eyes. My lips are naturally thin on top. Truthfully, I hardly have an upper lip. I have always been afraid to try red lipstick because I have such a fair complexion spattered with freckles, and I was terrified I would pick the wrong shade… and then end up looking like Bozo the Clown. I was determined to do it though. Face the fear of the red lipstick. So I did what I always do, and I researched the best red lipsticks. Truly I did! I went to my computer and Googled it. 

Once I had purchased the “perfect” red I rushed to the bathroom mirror to try it on. The first day I wore it, I felt a little self-conscious. Like I was trying too hard but, as the days passed by and I wore it more and more, I realized that it was boosting my confidence. In fact, applying my red lips each morning became like adorning my armor to face the world! I had on my war-paint! Once applied, I was ready for battle! I could face anything! Who knew that a little red smear on my lips would give me such confidence?? Just the littlest thing like wearing red lipstick gave me the boost I needed to make other changes in my life. 

After reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,”  I revamped my entire wardrobe and only kept those items that “sparked joy” and made me feel beautiful, powerful, and confident. I realized, as I went through my clothing, that so many items had been bought to make me “fit-in” and “blend” with the crowd so people would accept me as one of them.  My childhood drama of wanting to be liked was still replaying itself because I was afraid to just be me. Enough! I said goodbye to anything that I did not love. 

Fast forward to the present: 2018. I have been back a month from the most amazing Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica and, yes, this past week I was experiencing such inner turmoil that seemed to come from no-where. All of a sudden I felt those old insecurities bubble up to the surface again. I felt like that teenage girl who just couldn’t believe that she was anyone special. The old voices were getting louder and louder each day. Luckily for me, I was able to talk to some very amazing friends of mine who helped me realize this as old drama and not truth. Then, as often seems to happen in my life, the signs started to appear. I am currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s book ,“A New Earth” and have just got to the chapter titled “The Pain-Body” which he describes as follows: 

Any negative emotion that is not fully faced and seen for what it is in the moment it arises does not completely dissolve. It leaves behind a remnant of pain….. The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in  every cell of your body. It consists not just of childhood pain, but also painful emotions that were added to it later in adolescence and during your adult life, much of it created by the voice of the ego. It is the emotional pain that is your unavoidable companion when a false sense of self is the basis of your life.  

The energy of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.”

Wow! That was it, exactly what I was experiencing. I read on to the following: 

The pain-body awakens from its dormancy when it gets hungry, when it is time to replenish itself. Alternatively, it may get triggered by an event at any time. The pain-body that is ready to feed can use the most insignificant event as a trigger, something somebody says or does, or even a thought.”

As I was reading this and sharing these passages with my friends, I started to wonder why this was coming up. Hadn’t I already dealt with this issue?  I re-read some of my journal entries from last year and saw I had written about these same insecurities back then, but I had forgotten. I realize now that I had never fully dealt with the issues. I had skimmed the surface but never dug deeper. Now I knew why it was coming up again. Now I could put a name on it. The pain-body. 

“Nothing ever happened in the past that can prevent you from being present now; and if the past cannot prevent you from being present now, what power does it have?” ~ Echkart Tolle, “A New Earth”

There is no benefit to me by replaying these old negative stories in my head. They do not serve me. They no longer existed; yet, I carried them inside of me where they were eating holes trying to escape back into reality. I was giving them power.  

I believe that this was resurfacing because of the amazing experience in Costa Rica. I had recharged myself. My armor was now more than just on the surface. It was more than just red lipstick giving me confidence.  It was positive energy that was radiating from inside of me and surrounding me. I believe that this old story has come back to me at this time because I am now able to face it completely and finally slay this dragon. I believe that just being able to recognize this has already started me down the path. I know it will probably come back around to test me, but I feel confident that I will be successful in recognizing it for what it is and stop the pain-body from feeding.

During the week, as I was talking to Yaya and other friends about this issue, I thought about how often we try to suppress our true authentic-self in order to appease others and make them feel more comfortable- which in turns leaves us feeling badly because we are stifling ourselves. We end up feeling uncomfortable and unhappy. Why do we do this? Why do we change our behavior? We want to fit in. We want to be liked. We are not often encouraged as children to be confident in ourselves and celebrate our uniquenesses.  So we adorn these masks to fit in, to blend in; until ultimately, we fade away, and we become scared to be ourselves because “what if no one will like me?”…. and we wonder why we aren’t happy??? 

But then we meet people we can take our masks off with…. People who love and accept us for our quirks and differences, and we realize when we are around them we feel like the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer, jokes are funnier, food tastes better, and life is just grand! I know I have been fortunate enough to find these people in my life and seeing that this way of life is possible. The hard part is being able to remember this when I don’t have them around me 24/7. It is work, and it isn’t always easy. According to Yaya, that is why they call it “a practice.”  Luckily, I know that support is only a phone call away. 

I realize now that those people who don’t understand the true-me are the same ones who tell me I am “too sensitive, too emotional, and too nice,” but I have realized that I don’t’ want to change those things about me in order to make them feel more comfortable. In fact, those are all things I love about myself!    

I have a huge heart and want to be friendly to everyone. I love to give hugs. I love to smile. I love to cry especially when I am happy. I will be your cheerleader and champion routing you on whenever you need me. I don’t want to change. If I make you feel uncomfortable with my behavior, I am sorry you feel that way; but, I am NOT going to change! I am going to wear red lipstick to yoga class because that is what I love to do.

So I leave you asking this:

  • What old stories do you replay in your head that you have adopted as “truth”? 
  • What are your pain-bodies? Can you recognize them when they appear?
  • What masks do you wear?  Why do you wear them?
  • Are there people you remove your mask for? How does it feel when you are around them?
  • How do you live your authentic self?
  • Is there something you stopped doing that you really liked because someone told you it was “stupid?”
  • Is there something you want to stop doing because it does not serve you, but you are too afraid to stop? This could be a behavior or activity. 
  • What brings you joy?
  • If there something that you always wanted to try but were too scared? Maybe a new hobby or hairstyle?

Sometimes, something as trivial as red-lipstick can make you feel like you have adorned your Knight’s Armor and gives you just enough confidence to slay your dragons. I know for me it surely has. Wishing you the best on your journey! 

 

Thank you, “Blondie,” for digging deep, digging even deeper with each re-write while you were “on assignment,” and for the journey you shared with us. I’m sure it was cathartic and a long time coming! Personally speaking, we can all relate!  I’m certain you have touched many hearts with this blog. I’m honored, blessed and grateful to be part of your life! Love you! Mama Yaya xoxo

PS- Looking forward to your next one!

My Guest Blogger

“How I Met My Yaya and Faced My Fears”

 by Shannon “Blondie” Green

Recently, while on a Yoga Retreat with my dearest people in this world, Yaya (as I call her but as you may know as the one and only Jo-Ann Carricarte, the driving force behind this blog) mentioned  that I should guest blog for her, as part of my Yaya mentorship (more to come on that at another time).  As we were discussing the “assignment,” I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t know what to write about. She suggested that I should start at the beginning of my journey.  So that is where this story begins…

Time: March 2013

Place: Lumeria, Maui, HI

Now I will admit that prior to this experience I was the quintessential worrywart and control freak. Reflecting back, I now see that I lived in constant fear. My life consisted of many “what-if” scenarios, and I believed it was normal to worry about things like money, health, cars breaking down, etc.  I set my watch ahead about 10 minutes so I wouldn’t be late, and I always had to wear it. I believed everything had to be planned, and planned, and planned some more. I did not have faith to just let things unfold organically. When things did not go as I planned, I did not handle it gracefully and with ease. I responded very emotionally and often had a difficult time resolving the problem. At this point in my life I was 36, and I knew that these behaviors were not serving me…and I certainly wasn’t happy in my life, but what I didn’t know was what I could do to change things.  Luckily for me, I had an amazing, life long best friend, Christy, who decided she was going to organize a weeklong yoga retreat to Maui. And luckily for me, my best friend from college, Claire, convinced me that we NEEDED to go!

As we began our first class, Christy spoke about being present and living in “Maui Time,” where it didn’t matter what time it was, where life moved a little more slowly, and the idea of being purposeful in what we said, thought and did while we were there. At this point, I did something that I will never regret; I decided to remove my watch for the duration of the retreat.

The second thing that happened was that Christy gave us each a small journal to use while we were there. Each day, she would give us journaling exercises and if we chose to do them or not was left up to us.  I soon became engrossed in writing in my little pink journal. My thoughts and reflections helped me realize that one of the reasons I was sad and struggling in my life was because I was filled with so much fear.

The third thing that happened was I met Yaya.  I honestly don’t remember how the conversation began, but there was some mention of her name “Jo-Ann” but how everyone called her “Mama Yaya”. Somewhere along the way I dropped the “Mama” part, and she just became “Yaya” to me.  Any of you who know Jo-Ann know just how “Yaya” she is. She is this vibrant being filled with love and energy. She is funny and energetic, but serious and very much about living her authentic self.  As the week went on, you would often find her “holding court” at the dining room table after we had finished a meal, sitting at the head of the table while me, Claire, and a few of the other ladies were bombarding her with questions about what books to read, what websites we should check out-  all the while writing down everything little thing she said…the list in my journal includes among them the following books, websites, and authors: Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Four Agreements, A Return to Love, The Law of Divine Compensation, Wishes Fulfilled, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, The Power of Now, A New Earth, Daily Om, Daily Love by Mastin Kipp, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Hay House Publishing, Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and even more.

Who was this Yaya person?? How did she know all of this stuff and how could I get some of it??? I knew she held answers, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to find the peace and energy and love she spoke of.  My journal is full of entries that talk about how I wanted to have an open heart and clear mind.  How I wanted to listen to the wisdom of my body, my desire to let go of fear and the things that frighten me. I wanted to make room for miracles and be open to abundance coming into my life.  I journaled about my fears of not becoming a mother, of not finding purpose, of growing old and unfulfilled and my desire to release these fears. I knew I needed to let go of my fears and somewhere during that week I began to learn how.

March 15, 2013:  Journal Entry

“Today I let go of what weighs me down.  I accept that my life is unfolding as it should be. I surrender. I am not afraid of what is not happening. I detach from trying to control that which I cannot control.  I surrender to the will of God and the Universe.  I open my heart to whatever may come into it. I welcome what may come in.  I am not afraid of things that don’t turn out the way I thought.  I will enjoy every moment as it unfolds.”

As I reread these words from my journal the other day, I can honestly say that I don’t know if I wrote them or copied them from someone.  They sound so wise and profound that I believe I likely stole them from someone else- except I didn’t note who said them, which I normally do if I write down a quote I like. Regardless, this was the point at which I surrendered and let go. As I continued to read my old journal, I can see how this day was a turning point where I decided to let fear stop running my life. One thing I know is that the girl who arrived in Maui on March 12, 2013 was not the same girl who left Maui a week later.

The journey hasn’t been easy, and it is still continuing. I won’t lie, it  has been a journey that has taken many years and a lot of work, but it has been wonderful and fulfilling. and I hope to share some of that with you as a guest blogger for Yaya.

So I leave you with the following few questions:

  • Looking back, do you see a turning point in your life where you surrendered and let go of the fears that were holding you back from being your authentic self? 
  • Was there an event that happened that made you realize you wanted to see things differently and live life differently? 
  • Was there a person you met that inspired you to make the change that you had been afraid to make?
  • What tools (journaling, authors, podcasts, etc) have helped you on your journey? 

Oh, and in case you are wondering about that watch, I took of in Maui. It has never been put back on my wrist. ☺

 

Bravo! Thank you, my beautiful Blondie (aka “La Bomba”) for such a beautiful reflection! You took the first step, rose up to the challenge and produced the first of many future blogs to come. I am so proud of how much you have grown, evolved and embraced your magnificence since Maui brought us all together! I am proud of how fabulously you are playing your own version of “Yaya” in your everyday life, both personally and professionally. Thank you for the reflection questions you posed. Thank you for making a difference and making the world a more beautiful place. Thank you for the light you bring to others. Thank you for your love. Lastly, thank you for choosing to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart…right from the start! I look forward to reading more!!! Love, Yaya xo

Relationships Expire

“Let go. Something beautiful wants to grow on its place.”

So let me begin by being totally transparent here and tell you that I waited until late in the day before this blog was set to publish before I sat down to write it. I don’t know why, it just happened…..I’ve been off  my writing schedule a bit, and today I felt a little bit “off my game.” I had something in mind, but it just wasn’t flowing, and I’m all about going with the flow.

A part of me didn’t give it a second thought because my “pseudo daughter,” otherwise known as “LL Cool Rutz,” was stopping by to pick up some delicious, home made, old-world, Cuban black beans (made by my friend Barb). By now you know I’m all about sharing, so Barb also put some beans aside for my fellow friend and foodie. I also knew that LL and I would end up in some sort of conversation that would fuel ideas for future blogs.

Now, LL may have thought she was just making a quick pit stop at the treehouse to pick up some food….really? Who comes to a Cuban, Italian-by-injection, food-loving household and doesn’t get fed? Oh, and did I mention she was also going to have a cocktail? Well, the food “drive by” and quick cocktail ended up in a Tito’s jam-fest complete with hummus, chips, popcorn and freshly steamed brown rice, black beans and a side of avocado (mind you, she didn’t want to eat here). So much for a quick pit stop. I’ve learned…don’t ask, just serve!

As we ate curled up on the couch, I shared my thoughts for a blog with LL, and she insisted on the title, Relationships Expire,  because of the direction our conversation was headed. I initially was thinking about romantic relationships, but then we zeroed in on friendships. We talked about how we can get “stuck” in relationships that don’t serve us any longer and why. Here are some questions that were thrown around (in no particular order):

  • With whom do you commiserate?
  • Have you ever felt “stuck” with a person / people because they are part of  your life?
  • You know the saying, “misery loves company?” Is that some kind of coping mechanism? 
  • Are your peers growing alongside you?
  • Can you identify the stagnant relationships in your life?
  • Who guides you along your evolutionary path?
  • Is there someone who drags you down?
  • Is there someone keeping you from growing?
  • Can you identify the givers and the takers in your life?
  • What value do your friends bring to the table?
  • What value do you bring to the table?
  • Are there conversations / stories you are getting tired of telling?
  • Are you OK with letting go of a friendship that no longer serves your greatest good?

OMG I am trying to make sense of some of the notes I took while we were chatting up a storm, and I can’t make heads or tails out of them! It’s like they are written in a foreign language. I have pretty nice handwriting, but what I scribbled literally looks like gibberish! Why on earth do I scribble? Ugh!

Anyway, as we were chatting away, we were also sharing times in our lives where we felt that a relationship had expired. Especially if we are on an evolutionary path. There may come a point where we start to grow apart, and we see the learning gap getting wider and wider. We see that we have less and less in common with a particular friend(s). And that’s OK. Everyone is on their own path and has their own individualized learning plan that must be respected. We may reach a point where we feel we are growing by leaps and bounds, and others are lagging behind – until it gets to the point where we get cut loose or we do the cutting loose. And that is OK. Sometimes, we just have to let go! The key is knowing when to let go!

We each have a role to play in the friendships we develop along this journey called life. Some friendships are longterm, some temporary, and others are transitional. Some ebb and flow, some hover on the surface, and others sink to the bottom. As we grow, mature and evolve, our circle of key friends may decrease in size but increase in value.

Also, different people fulfill the different needs we have as human beings. It’s like we have various “gas tanks” to fill….survival, primal, emotional, intellectual, professional, physical, spiritual, cosmic, creative, etc. It’s very rare for just one person to fill all of these tanks (although occasionally it may happen). That’s just the way it is. Another key factor is being able to identify who is filling these various tanks for us and knowing how we contribute to the lives of others as well. If there isn’t some sort of mutual exchange happening, if we aren’t adding value to each other’s lives, if we aren’t showing up for each other when we need it most, then we must examine the significance of the relationship we are holding onto.

Sometimes, by holding onto a relationship that has expired, we are keeping something truly beautiful from growing in its place. After all, don’t we see that in nature? Nature is truly such an amazing teacher! Periodically, we must do some weeding. We must clear out dead weeds, plant new seeds, nurture and water them, and watch them blossom. Relationships are no different. Just as weeds die, relationships expire!

OK darlings, as LL and I have taken to saying on many evenings, it’s time for me to go to Club Bed –  featuring DJ Pillow and MC Blanky (I saw this posted once and just loved it).

Next up, the second half of our conversation that dealt with romantic relationships. Some have expiration dates as well!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC