Mindfulness: Where ever you are, be all there.

Dear Avery,

After a stressful week of work, I knew I needed to feed my soul with goodness. After work on Friday, I went to a candlelit yoga session, and the teacher encouraged us to stay for the “Restore Mindfulness” class afterwards. And since I’m on a kick of staying in the moment, and accepting things as they come to me… I absolutely stayed!

I sat for an hour perched up on two yoga blocks with my legs underneath me. Eyes closed. Paying attention to my breath, my body, my coming and going thoughts, and to my instructor’s voice.

Half way through the session, a loud constant noise came from somewhere. Loud air conditioner? Rising the basketball hoops from the court below us? WHATEVER it was, my immediate thoughts were:

Thought 1: How rude!

Thought 2: Don’t they know we are focusing on mindfulness?

Thought 3: Ughhhh. Will someone turn that off? This is so annoying.

Thought 4: I can’t focus.

During my thought process, the instructor said something so profound. She said, “Meet all sounds as they come. While it is easy to immediately judge the sound for interrupting our life, we should in turn adapt to the sound – embrace the way it comes to our ears – and meet it in this space.”

My annoyance immediately floated away. I turned that judgement off. I turned my thoughts into acceptance. I met the sound where it was. Visualized the vibrations going into my ears, and became one with it. The sound went away a few minutes later, and then I welcomed the quiet with the same approach. Ahhhhhhh. So simple. Such a small way to tweak your thinking.

From there, I started thinking:

What if we did that with people?

What if we simply met people where they are – who they are – as they are?

What if we let go of judgments, and embraced people in that exact space?

Lovely thought, right? Starts with each of us. Love and accept people as they are, not what they’ve done or who they were yesterday. Love them for who they are now. Love yourself as you are now.

Where ever you are, be all there.

With love,

Aunt Megs

 

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The Bee

Dear Avery,

I had a “me” day, today.

Woke up and read a new book in bed. After that, I stumbled into a new coffee shop. A group of older gentlemen in their 90’s sat around in a circle, laughing out loud and SINGING with each other, and more laughter ensued. This was definitely the reason I walked in today. Walking in to pure joy – plus a french press coffee and a ham and cheese breakfast bagel. < Bliss>

Leaving with a smile on my face, I headed to church. Sat through a message on “Is my good, good enough?” The answer is yes. Your “good”, is good enough for God. You are good enough. PHEW!

Switched gears and went straight for my 2nd favorite place in Orange County: Balboa Island. Walked the perimeter of the island and while listening to one of my favorite podcasts: Invisiliblia. I listened to a story about a couple who’s lively hood was bee-keeping. They built their whole life around it, made a ton of sacrifices for it, and loved these bees like children. Until one day, someone stole them all — a BEE Heist?! What a crazy and random thing to occur. But it happened. The podcast was focused on the psychology of having your lively hood get ripped away  – suddenly. All that you knew, all that you worked for, all that you loved – gone one day. What happens next: Anger. Sadness. Grief. Burden. The anxiety of starting over.

We’ve all been there. Whether on a grand scale, or small. Something or someone you’ve been so used to having: a job, a relationship, a friendship, a home, a pet — one day POOF. Gone.

Now what?

Well, you have a choice. Do you stay in anger and sadness – if so, for how long? Or do you recognize the pain of those bees leaving your life, and start fresh with a new hive? Or do you start a new farm raising llamas? It’s up to you.

I ended my day with a trip to the beach. And given the way the universe likes to give me signs… towards the end of my time there: a single bee landed on my towel near me.

<Of course, right?>

I don’t remember the last time I even noticed a bee. But this one didn’t come near my sunscreen scented skin, this one stayed ahead of me – stopped flying for 30 seconds. Stayed still. I watched it fly away, and from there I noticed a pod of dolphins swimming in the distance.

You should know by now, that I love metaphors — and that little signs in the universe like this bring me joy, and unlocks a understanding that the world is so much bigger than myself. I feel like this bee landed on my towel at the right time. It represented my life changing on a major scale, I sat with it, was still with it, and wasn’t afraid of it — like I usually am when I see bees. And the dolphins were a sign of hope and peace for the future.

Major life changes will happen, Avery, inevitably. Sometimes suddenly. When they do, a range of emotions will occur. I hope you give your self space to understand and own your feelings. I hope you have someone to share them with openly (call me any time!). And I hope that if you ever blame yourself for being the cause of that change, that you’ll be easy on yourself.

Bee brave as you face new changes.

Bee strong with whatever the world throws at you.

Just let it bee.

With love,

Aunt Megs

 

7 & 1 = the right kind of crazy

Dear Avery & Bayley,

Happy birthday week to both of you.

Avery, somehow you are turning 7 — and Bay Bay, you’ve reached 1 full year of life. Insane how the time goes by so fast, but it’s been so fun to watch and be apart of.

I’m sad that I won’t be attendance of your mermaid party today, but I’m glad we got the chance to spend the whole weekend together in Dallas for your God Mama’s wedding. We enjoyed navigating a new, rainy city with huge puddles for me to drive through. We went to the aquarium that housed Flamingos? Because of course it would. Never did I think I’d experience a sea of flamingos in the middle of Texas. We had fun groovin’ on the dance floor, and taking photos in the photo booth wearing panda and shark heads. While I didn’t particularly enjoy sleeping in the same bed with the biggest bed hog of them all, AVERY, it was still fun to annoyingly wake you up both mornings by placing Bayley on your face.

Getting back to your birthdays, I wanted to talk a little bit about each of you, as you are NOW. Because you’ll only be this little for a short time.

Bayley – You are a take-no-shit baby. You are incredibly particular about who you smile at, and who you will allow to hold you. Luckily for me, I’ve passed your test (the photo below mayyyyy say otherwise, but that’s just your resting face). And I’m honored by that. You are a slow to warm up kid, but when you do — you have the best smile and giggle. You make people work for it, and I already admire that about you. I hope that you always hold your ground, and keep that sense of bad-assness. You are already so different than your sister, but I can tell you really love her anyway. Even without speaking yet, I see it.

Bay Bay

 

Avery – You are 7 going on 17. You are intelligent, inquisitive, caring, funny, and full of sass. I could write a book of all the witty things you’ve said. You’ve also become relentless. A trip to Target will always end in you negotiating buying a new toy: “I reach in the way back for the most rare toy, so it’s special.” HOW CAN ANYONE ARGUE WITH THAT LOGIC? You danced until 11:30pm at the wedding because you didn’t want to miss anything — even though your Mom and I were exhausted. So you stayed and danced until the end. You also met my friend’s son who was a couple years older than you. You seemed to really hit it off, talking about science and marvel movies and life in Texas vs California. And when we got in the car — you said, “I don’t really know what he was talking about, but I just listened anyway and nodded my head.” I laughed, but actually really admired that. You could have easily been a 7 year old kid, and thrown more mac and cheese in Bayley’s face at the end of the table. But you sat there, made a new friend, and were really respectful. Wow, am I’m proud of who you are becoming.

Aves and Flamingos

I can’t finish this blog without noting how much of super hero your Mom is. She is grace personified. Having a 7 and 1 year old is a lot to juggle. Dealing with a teething 1 year old who is highly attached to her, while the 7 year old wants to draw and sing and play video games with her… somehow she does it all, with ease. She is incredible at this motherhood thing, and you both are so lucky to have her.

Cracker Barrell

Lastly, I’ve leave you with my favorite thing from last weekend. I realized I told you, Avery, that you were “crazy” multiple times for your funny antics or funny faces you were making. You just smiled and never had anything to say back. Until I told you, “If anyone says ‘You are crazy!” be sure to say back to them “Yeah, just the right amount.” Because we all need a little childlike crazy in our lives. And without a beat, the next time I said “You are cray cray!”… you replied: “Yeah, just the right amount.”

Photobooth

I love you, you little crazy mermaids. Happy birthday(s).

With love,

Aunt Megs

 

My motto for 2018: All is Well.

Dear Avery,

The very last day of 2017, I was hit with a major panic attack. It was as-if the weight of the year for me had waited to show its full strength in the form of taking over my body. It started with a shortness of breath, tightening of my chest, losing feeling in my face and in my fingers. I was grasping the pillow like it was going to save my life. Tears came from every hard moment of the year. Grief sat on my chest, and made itself comfortable for what felt like 15 mins.  Luckily for me, I had one of my best friends holding me through it. Wrapped his arms around me, and let me know he was right there.

Eventually, I came back to reality. I slowed my breath. In and out, in and out – feeling the weight of it. Acknowledging the emotional pain, but also the physical tightness of my entire body. But I got through it.

Hours later, I met up with friends to experience the last beach sunset of 2017, and enjoy the rest of NYE together.

I picked myself up, and I went. No one knew I had experienced that only hours prior. But I went anyway because I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. I needed to push forward, and be surrounded by good people. Ring in the New Year with a positive memory. (At the same point, I’m not dismissing the experience of a panic attack. It happened for a reason. And I am acknowledging and accepting that.)

The next day, I went to the beach alone to watch the first sunset of 2018. As always, I take photos of the ever-changing views. That day was no different. There in the midst of photos, was a Cross of light within the sunset. So clear. So relevant in that moment. I felt a rush of warmth and comfort. With the words “All is Well” that came to my heart. I believed this to be a sign from God that He is with me, and that “All will be well”. It was what I had been seeking: comfort, security, calmness, and peace.

All is Well

To go from a moment in your life where it feels as if the world is emotionally and physically suffocating you, to the very next day feeling peace and comfort, is a bit of a roller coaster….but a worthy one. This life is so beautiful in those fragile moments, and also in the stillness of joy. Finding the balance of the two worlds is what life is about.

I’m choosing to use “All is Well” as my motto for 2018. I know anxiety is a part of my life, and I also know that she’ll come back with vengeance at points throughout the year. And when she comes, I’ll look her straight in the face and tell her: All will be well. Even I have to repeat a thousand times. Because maybe in that moment, it’s not well.  And that’s ok because I know it eventually will be. And that makes all the difference in how we pick ourselves up and go enjoy the next sunset.

With love,

Aunt Megs

2017: Find your Balance

Dear Avery,

2017 was painful, disheartening, sad, and down right the hardest year of my life. But it was also beautiful, full of love, and it’s when I began focusing on being present.

B a l a n c e.

When the flamingo started following me this summer (the “flamingo” post), I recently came across this image and said out loud: YES. There is more meaning behind my spirit animal.

Flamingo

Life isn’t about always being at the peak of happiness. It’s about knowing the valleys will come too, and it’s about how you handle both. In your valley, if you only wallow in self pity — chances are, you’ll stay there a long time. If you stay at your peak — but don’t appreciate the joy and the beauty of it — will you ever truly be present?

2017 was a year I decided what I needed for my life. Going through a divorce is gut-wrenching experience, and I don’t wish it upon anyone. Especially when your husband is such a fantastic man. He will always be one of the best people I know. But it stopped working for many reasons. I felt like a failure. I felt shame and guilt (and will probably always feel this). I came to point where I wasn’t present in a “perfect” marriage. I lost my joy, and ultimately decided to go through the trenches to get it back.

I’m working on finding my balance. Being OK with the hard, and fully enjoying the good.

Working for what I truly want in this life.

Figuring out what passionate love looks like to me, and how I need to give it back.

How to love myself despite my flaws and actions.

Learning to not be so hard on myself because that goes no where.

How to feel deeply and accept the circumstances for what they are.

How to show compassion and grace for all those in my life.

Working on finding stillness in the chaos.

Finding beauty in the flawed.

Owning my life choices because they are my own to make.

Finding my balance. My ying and yang. My inner flamingo.

 

And so Avery, I hope you find your balance when life gets good, when life gets hard, and when life is somewhere in the middle. Through it all, I’ll be here for you. With grace, compassion, empathy, and love as best as I possibly can. Because we all deserve that, even those of us who are currently off balance.

Into a new year we go.

With love,

Aunt Megs

 

My current obsession… PODCASTS

Dear Avery,

Last year I woke up early in my childhood room, well knowing that our family isn’t an early morning family, so I decided to listen to a podcast people had recommended to me. It was Podcastscalled “Serial”, by This American Life. A true story murder mystery that still leaves everyone wondering who did it. One episode in, and I was HOOKED.  And so my love affair with podcasts was born.

From there, I’ve listened to one-on-one interviews style podcasts, slam poetry, motivational speakers, more criminal stories, psychology focused, etc…

I thought I’d share some of my favorite podcasts in different genres:

Crime podcasts

  • Up and Vanished: a true story about a woman who had vanished 10 years ago without a trace, and then a rookie sleuth podcaster decided to investigate — and ends up solving the case! For REAL.
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending
  • Dirty John: a true story about a crook who finds vulnerable women, poses as the perfect man, but ultimately is a sociopath.
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending
  • S-Town: Starts off being about a murder in small town, ends up being about SO much more. This one really surprised me.
    • Run time: 60 mins
  • Crimetown: a podcast focused on cities riddled with crime and heavy mob ties. You learn about the inner workings of the mob – the psychology behind it, the in-depth crimes committed, and ultimate tying back to the notion that all anyone wants is belonging.
    • Run time: 60 mins

Motivational podcasts

  • Oprah’s Soulful conversations: One on one conversations with celebrities about living life to the fullest, and understanding our true souls and meaning on earth. I was SO inspired by an episode with Mitch Albom (author of Tuesdays with Morrie) who encouraged listeners to reconnect with a teach or professor that inspired you. So I did — I messaged my college professor and asked her if she’d like to meet for dinner. We met the next night, and had an amazing 3 hour conversation about life, love, grief, careers, and hope. I was so inspired!!!
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending
  • The Tony Robbins Podcast: This one is similar to Oprah’s – in that there are guest speakers. Tony is probably the most motivational speakers of this generation — so he includes hard topics with solutions. This man is full of gratitude, so I love hearing his views on the world.
    • Run time: 1 hour

Story- telling

  • The Moth: a collection of real life stories told by people all over the world. Sometimes they are: funny, heartbreaking, inspiring, nostalgic, interesting, random, or heartwarming. These are simply incredible. They take you out of your own life — and give you access into other’s views and perspectives. Humanity at its finest!
    • Run time: 30-60 mins depending.
  • The Way I Heard It: Mike Rowe narrates a collection of short stories about famous people — or people you’ve never heard of yet have done something monumental in this world. The twist? You find out at the very END who he is talking about! I love the mystery of it. Often times, I find myself trying to guess the name of the person he is beautifully narrating.
    • Run time: 10 mins – yep! That’s it. Fun short stories.

Psychology

  • Invisibilia: about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Each psychology lesson is sandwiched between two relevant true stories — most of which — never have anything to do with each other — yet paints pictures of the human behavior discussed. The first episode I listened to do was about a man who lived in a coma for 12 years — and was AWAKE during it. He eventually came out of it, and went on to live a full life. The invisible nature of triumph and willingness to survive was unbelievable .
    • Run time: 60 mins.
  • Every Little Thing: a show about the small stuff. I love how she finds the wonder in the small things. She is a great story teller but also fact finder. I put this under the psychology section because you learn something from each episode and it makes you look at the world differently.
    • Run time: 30 mins

These are my favorites among a whole slue of great content out there.

It’s become an escape for me. An educational escape. An escape from screens.  An escape from very day life.

I laugh. I cry. I enjoy.

I hope you enjoy all of these — and I’m also looking for more suggestions!!

With love,

Aunt Megs

When grief slaps you in the face, and tells you to pay attention

Dear Avery,

When I started seeing a therapist over a year ago (which I highly recommend for anyone), I told her of my experience with infertility and how it broke me. She listened for a few sessions, and then introduced the topic of “Grief”.

“Do you think perhaps you are going through stages of grief right now?”

Natively, I thought: isn’t grief about death? I haven’t lost anyone close to me. Surely this is not that…

Wrong.

She followed it, “Grief can be a death of dream, too.  Realization that what you planned in your mind did not happen. Death of an idea you had for your life.”

Honestly, I could not fully comprehend this for months. It didn’t commute in my head. We worked through it over time.

The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with what we’ve lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.

Denial? Yep >> This wasn’t happening to me. Can’t possibly happen to me…

Anger? Lots of it. Anger with God (how you could not let this happen for me?), anger that my life wasn’t going to plan.

Bargaining? Ahh, not so much. But grief doesn’t fit in a box. You won’t fit everything in there.

Depression? This is a heavy word, and I probably told myself I wasn’t battling depression. But that is another form of denial. So I’d like to claim spurts of depression.

Acceptance? This comes in waves. There were periods of time where I accepted that I may not be a mother, or this just wasn’t the right time.

OK, so what now? I am going through grief of my own. I started recently reading books, listening to podcasts, taking time to sit with my self in my grief — and look at it in the face, talking to others about THEIR grief. All of it. I was running away from it so long, until it slapped me in the face and told me to pay attention. Feel the sadness. Feel the gratitude. Feel the acceptance of moving on. FEEL THE GRIEF.

Here are the things I’ve learned, and if YOU are feeling grief or a loved one is grieving, here is what I know:

  1. Ask people “How are you doing, TODAY?” not “how are you”? Everyday is different. Treat it as such.
  2. Let the grief come, when it comes.
  3. You can’t put grief in a box (ha! I already said that. But it’s true. Grief does not look the same for everyone)
  4. Sometimes Option A is not available, so kick the shit out of Option B. (Thank you, Sheryl Sandberg for this life lesson)
  5. Post – Traumatic – Growth: happens after trauma, we grow to become more joyful, more appreciative.
  6. We must believe that Option B exists. And in order to move through your grief, go with Option B.

So Avery, know that you will encounter grief of some form in your life. I’ve learned that it comes in different sizes due to different traumas, but none-the-less, it will come.

A wise professor told me, “It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to give yourself the time to sit in the corner and wallow. But after that, you have to pick yourself up and move on.”

Grief is apart of life, and after it comes such gratitude and beauty once the clouds part if you allow yourself to see it.

I may not see or feel the beauty everyday, but everyday I try.

And that’s where I’m at today. Tomorrow — we shall see! And there is such beauty in that.

With love,

Aunt Megs