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No More Gold Stars, You Are Enough

“It is when all our somethings are collapsing that we may finally turn to nothing, and find there everything we need.” ~ Martha Beck

Twenty years ago, when all my somethings seemed to be collapsing all about me, I found myself completely alone and stranded hundreds of miles away from home.  A taxi had dropped me off at a Greyhound Bus station because I had no other address to give the driver.  No marriage, no home, no job, no vehicle, and very little money in my purse.  I was unsure of what the next day, or even the next minute held for me, and my life seemed completely and hopelessly out of control. I found myself grasping for something, anything, that would shine a light into that darkness.

It was then, that I first heard an ancient story that still serves me today. It is an old legend of a Native American Elder sharing an important life lesson with a young warrior in his village.  I share it here in hopes it may help another find their way.  I had been listening to a recording from a lecture series on a cassette tape, and I remember sitting there in the bus station literally hitting play and pause, play and pause, over and over, on my little Sony Walkman with tears streaming down my cheeks, as I wrote down the story in its entirety, word for word. I recognized a glimmering light in these words. Something called hope.

Lost
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand Still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— by David Wagoner

I was so completely lost and untethered in the “forest of my life” at that time and those words offered me a calming wisdom.  Even now, 20 years later, I continue to find solace and answers in the stillness of the forest… when I stand still, and am willing to listen.

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Cape Sebastian State Park, Southern Oregon Coast

The message I heard that day listening to that poem in the Greyhound Bus station was that if I just stopped and stood still, completely still, quieting my mind, my thoughts and my emotions, I would no longer be lost. Because “Wherever you are is called Here.” And “Here” is just one small moment in time.  Just one moment, to be followed by another moment, and then yet another. It was in one of those moments that day, that I began to recognize and understand the powerful sense of peace that comes from “standing still” and stopping the spinning thoughts and emotions that create what we call fear.

For me, those spinning thoughts and emotions of fear came from my lack of control over what was happening in my life. Or more honestly, my perceived lack over the illusion of control I thought I had over my life… as if I had any power or influence over all those things so beyond my control. The more out of control my life had become, the more I had worked to take care of everyone, and everything. I believed if I just tried hard enough, and then tried just a little harder, and did not give up, I could, and would, make a difference. Ahhh… Yes, that thinking is what I now fondly recognize as my great illusion… “my illusion of control.” I distinctly remember the day when I wrote: “Today, I stop!” “No more Gold Stars!” followed by many exclamation marks in my journal.  Again, I reminded myself that I no longer needed the recognition or approval of others to feel a sense of self-worth or happiness.

One of the most life changing and significant whispers my soul shared on that journey in the darkness, was that to be truly at peace, I needed to be responsible for my own happiness. I needed to learn how to love myself and believe I was good enough, no matter what was happening in my life. I needed to love myself just as fiercely, and unconditionally as I had loved others in my life. I was shocked to discover that I had been so focused on taking care of everyone else, I did not even know who I was anymore.

It took years of inner work to once again begin to recognize the self I barely remembered from long ago, instead of  the self who had begun to settle for less than. The self who I had gradually and unknowingly neglected.  The self who had become hidden away in the day-to-day survival of a dysfunctional life that comes in caring about, and loving, someone who struggles with drug addiction. I had to learn and acknowledge what role I had contributed to that dysfunction, learn to forgive myself, and then learn to love myself, anyway.

Thank you to writer, Kathy Parker, for so graciously allowing me to share her eloquent words from her blog, This Girl Unraveled.  Her words speak so tenderly to the heart of that woman I have forgiven, and have now learned to love and admire for her survivor spirit:

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You can read more of Kathy Parker’s amazing writing at This Girl Unraveled: https://kathyparker.com.au

A sterling moment of truth occurred one day after my marriage had ended, and I found myself standing in the aisle of a department store staring bewilderingly at a large collage of color. I had needed to buy some bath towels, and suddenly it occurred to me standing there, that I had no idea what color I even liked or preferred. That image has now become humorous over the years, but it was startling at the time.  I began to realize that throughout my marriage, I had created a home based on what my husband would like, what would please him. Loving him, making him happy is what made me happy. Or so I had allowed myself to believe. I think that this is common for a lot of woman who define their happiness through caring for and loving their families. However sadly, the truth of the matter is, that when drug addiction is a mistress in a marriage, no one is really authentically happy.

From that moment when I realized I didn’t know what color of bath towel to buy, an archeological dig began, that lasted for several years as I searched to find myself and begin to love her again. Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of one of my favorite books, Simple Abundance, calles this excavating your authentic self.  She states, “the magic seeds of contentment are planted deep within us. Happiness that the world cannot take away only flourishes in the secret garden of our souls. By tending to our inner garden and uprooting the weeds of external expectations, we can nurture our authentic happiness the way we would nurture something that’s beautiful and alive.”

I dug down deep and discovered the things I love doing, the things that make me happy, the things that make my heart sing. Creating my own happiness while out working in my yard, or walking on the beach. Hours strolling in book stores and browsing through antique shops. Hiking in the forest, or watching for the first signs of Spring.  Cooking on rainy days, or reading a good book with a favorite cup of tea. Losing myself for hours researching history and family genealogy. Spending time with my friends, or spending quiet time alone.  With time, my list began to grow, and I found I really could be happy by myself.

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February Daffodils on the Southern Oregon Coast

And in all honesty, I have now discovered that I really do enjoy and treasure my quiet time alone. That is one of the whispers my soul was able to finally hear in the stillness, while being bed bound for 3 years due to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  I have come to realize that I truly am an introvert who had struggled for so many years attempting to portray an extrovert. I have a new understanding of how that struggle only led to this overwhelming sense of never being at peace, never quite finding my groove, never quite fitting in anywhere.

I have learned to love my time alone and to really enjoy and celebrate it. I have discovered “there is nothing more empowering and liberating than rejoicing in your own aloneness.” There is a big heart-felt and soul-felt difference between being alone and lonely.  Until I learned how to find my own happiness, I had been very lonely at times, no matter how many people surrounded me in my life.

I truly do believe that each person has to be responsible for their own happiness in this crazy world, and people can’t be dependent on others to make them feel happy or “complete them”…  like the movies suggest, lol. I know I will never settle for less than in a relationship again.

I think that’s why many relationships fail. People don’t know how to be happy by themselves first. They are not bringing a WHOLE person into the relationship, but instead are looking for something or someone else to fill them up, to make them feel better, to define their own self-worth.  Trying to make themselves feel whole by adding another person’s energy to their own, which is somehow lacking.

It has been an ongoing process, one that requires continuous work. From the darkness much color can fill our lives when we unselfishly learn to love ourselves.  With thanks to my incredible health coach Toby Morrison who shared the words below with me several years ago, I have learned to love the perfectly imperfect me. I have learned I am more than enough.

And so it is. And so it is.  ~ Michele Marie

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Start Embracing YOU!

———————————

Toby Morrison, Author & Founder of CFS Health

Toby has helped hundreds of ME/CFS patients, like myself, in over 36 countries with his Online Program. I will be forever grateful to him for the hours we spent working together, as I began my recovery from this debilitating illness.

Follow Toby Morrison – Health and Lifestyles on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tobymorrisoncfs

www.cfshealth.com

Creating Without Attachment to Outcome

“When you do not seek or need approval, you are at your most powerful.” ~Caroline Myss

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” ~Eckhart Tolle

Regrettably, it took a major health crisis to get my full attention to make me realize I was ‘missing my whole life.’ Gratefully, it not only got my attention, it shook me to my very core.  I had been hearing, and yes ignoring, the whispers from my soul for many years. Truth be told, I had not been living fully present, for most of my adult life.  Most of the time I had been living somewhere out there “in the next moment,” somewhere in the future. Many of my days were spent spinning in the frantic energy of working towards the next project.  Many nights were spent working late into the wee hours of the next morning, attempting to obtain the next goal.

Living the first half of my life as an uber focused, extremely goal oriented Type A individual, I relished in the reward and outcome of almost everything I did.  I recall that even as a child, I loved a challenge and the exciting energy of working towards a goal. Yes, I am even willing to admit, that from that very first day of first grade, a Gold Star had a certain appeal to me.

After much soul searching and personal inner work, I now have a better understanding of how the reward of those “pats on the back,” and being told “Good Job,”  fed my sense of self-worth over the years. Although I was not able to identify it at the time, I now realize that the reward of “pleasing others” had become my drug of choice at a very young age. The challenges increased and the rewards and awards got bigger as I graduated college and started my career. My body’s physiology continued to respond to those “gold stars” eagerly.  The endorphins, the feel good hormones, would kick in with each success, creating a high that unknowingly to me at the time, was setting me up for a big fall; “a crash and burn” of epic proportions.

With this new understanding of my self-worth not being dependant upon others approval, came the awareness of how the fear of disappointing others, and the paralyzing fear of failing, had prevented me from living my life fully and joyfully. I could no longer deny the fact that I had spent most of my life making choices in an attempt to please everyone but myself, always trying to meet others expectations, even at the sacrifice of my own health.

What I really want most to now share with others, is how empowering self-care, self-love, and nurturing our own self-worth can be. No longer needing to seek others approval has grounded me, and my future, in a powerful place of wholeness. Although there are still times when that old addictive behavior sneaks back into my daily round, I now know beyond any doubt, that the only person I have to prove anything to, or please, is myself. An incredible sense of power comes in the realization that you no longer need anyone’s approval or their ‘pat on the back’ to define your value as a person on this earth.

Today, I live my life at a much slower and purposeful pace. I choose consciously and deliberately what energy I expend and on what activity. Each morning at sunrise, I greet the day with Gratitude, Enthusiasm, and Wonder. I ask for Grace, Enlightenment, and Wisdom that I might live this day fully.  But more than anything else, I cherish the ability to “Be Here Now” to relish in the joy of this exact moment, and then to experience this over and over throughout my day. When I release myself from others expectations it allows me to go forward in my journey free from the fear of disappointing others and the fear of rejection. Each time I choose to do something and let go of all attachment to the outcome, there is a creation of such bliss in my heart and soul, that it is difficult to describe. There is a powerful sense of freedom; a sense of nothing being more important than just breathing…  breathing in and then breathing out, and just “BEING” present.

In December, I witnessed an amazing example of this in the masterful labyrinth creations by Denny Dyke, and his Circles In The Sand (see previous post about the Winter Solstice labyrinth).  It is with much gratitude that I dedicate this blog post “Creating Without Attachment to Outcome” to Denny, his beautiful craft and his joyful spirit.

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Denny Dyke, Full Moon Draw, January 12, 2017

Each time Denny draws a new labyrinth in the sand upon the beach, he does so knowing it will be disappearing with the next incoming tide. In less than 6 hours his stunningly beautiful creation will be completely gone. When the tide comes back in, it washes the labyrinth away and he says the sand becomes a clean canvas for another day. What Denny does is a perfect example of the beauty in creating and living from a place of joy, with no attachment to the outcome.

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It is possible that this selfless man may not even know to what depth he changes peoples’ lives, physically, mentally, emotionally, and above all else spiritually, while sharing his Circles In The Sand on the Southern Oregon Coast. I know in my case, his beautiful labyrinths gave me hope to not give up, they gave me courage to believe I WOULD get well, get my strength back, and be able to walk again.

During the time I was confined to my bed, I had a picture of one of Denny’s dream circles hanging on my wall attached to what I call my Wellness List, a list of all the things I would do when my health improved. Everyday, I spent time looking at that picture and visualizing being well enough to walk one of the labyrinths on the beach one day. Two years later, a lot of hard work, and it happened this past December!

Last week, on the evening of the January full moon, I returned to Bandon to once again walk the labyrinth, witnessing the winter sun setting as the full moon soon began to rise in the east. Standing at the viewpoint watching the waves of the Pacific come in and wash away the beautiful masterpiece that Denny Dyke had created that afternoon affected me both emotionally and spiritually. It was so evident that afternoon that this man’s joy is found “in the moment” while he is creating. It is pure, and real, and authentic. It is a wonderful example of how I would like to manifest a life void of attachment to outcome in my own everyday activities.

And so it is. And so it is.   ~ Michele Marie

“Circles in the Sand” Video produced by Mike Fousie, LightCurve on the Road / http://www.lightcurve.com
With many thanks to Denny Dyke and Circles In The Sand for permission to use the above short video clip and photograph below for this blog post.

I hope you enjoy this short video clip as much as I do. Denny’s thoughts in the video about when his creation is washed out to sea, is such a beautiful image, it just takes my breath away.

“The tide comes in, and takes the labyrinth out to sea. That night, the whales and dolphins take a walk. I can invision the labyrinth out in the ocean, it’s awesome. The energy the power, the wonders.”

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When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Photo credit for above image: Pamela Hansen Photography.

More information about Denny Dyke, and additional photography by Pamela Hansen can be found on the Circles In The Sand website: http://www.circlesinthesand.us/index.html

The 2017 schedule for upcoming Circles In The Sand can also be found there.

Releasing With Gratitude

“Standing in my truth” as I go forward.” ~Michele Marie

One of the things I find beneficial about rituals is that they ground me; they bring me back to my Intention.  Winter Solstice 2016, the darkest day of the year, seemed like a perfect opportunity to do a much-needed ritual to say goodbye to, and release, all those things that no longer serve me.  Those things that have hindered me from exploring all of who I am, as I continue forward in my life. It is time for my journey to be centered, grounded, and balanced in light, health, peace, and joy.

I drove to Bandon, Oregon with the thought that the special “Circles In The Sand” labyrinth, that was being drawn that day especially for the Winter Solstice, would be the perfect place for the Releasing Ritual that was beginning to form in my mind.

When I arrived there, I stopped at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint to do a Sage Smudge cleansing ceremony to quiet my mind, and calm the chaotic energy that was coursing through my body. Years of inner work and soul growth, in addition to fighting like a warrior goddess these past several years to reclaim my physical health, have all been leading to this day. Emotions were definitely running high.

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Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon, Oregon

I had a bit of a heart to heart with Princess Ewauna with her beautiful face of stone peering above the waves of the Pacific as I sat there quiet and centered, writing down the things I was ready to say goodbye to; the lessons learned.  I knew that by going forward with my plan, I was about to embark on a thrilling new journey.

Brené Brown, author and researcher of vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame, describes this defining moment as “choosing to be courageous over choosing to be comfortable.”  I was making the conscious decision, stating my heart’s intention, to no longer “play small” in my life choices.  I know that by making this choice, I now have the opportunity, finally, authentically, to “Stand In My Truth,” free of the limiting fears I have sheltered for so long; the fears I have allowed to keep me from being all that I could possibly be in my life.

With several deep breaths in, and exhaling fully out, I walked down and stepped into the Winter Solstice labyrinth that had been drawn on the beach. I was aware of a new sense of determination and intention. One foot in front of the other.

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Winter Solstice “Circles In The Sand”  Bandon, Oregon

At the center of one of the labyrinth spirals, I stopped and blessed everything I had written on my list, giving thanks for all of the lessons they each have brought me through in my life.  I silently and reverently lit the corner of the pieces of paper on fire, watched as the words ignited, and soon… they were nothing more than ash, laying there mingled with the sand.  Released with gratitude.

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Releasing With Gratitude

I was amazed by the incredible feeling of calm that I felt.  My steps were barely touching the ground as I turned confidently, and walked peacefully out of the labyrinth, filled with such an overwhelming sense of peace, grace, and a powerful sense of knowing that my soul was about to become visible, maybe for the first time, completely free of fear.

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Nothing More Than Ash Mingled In The Sand

As I neared the bottom of the stairs to begin the long climb back up to the viewpoint, I was struck by the sight of the chaos created by the water, mud, Bull Whip Kelp, driftwood, and rocks that had been strewn about haphazardly by the recent December storms.  This was in such stark contrast to the calm, light, peaceful feeling I experienced as I left the labyrinth.

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Just One Foot In Front Of The Other

As I stood there, this image began to morph into a message that I know will serve me well going forward. No matter the chaos, no matter the storms that may lay ahead, if I fearlessly, and confidently put one foot in front of the other, and then again, continue to put one foot in front of the other, I will cross through whatever the difficulty might be, and get to the other side.  With that thought in mind, I stepped forward, and began climbing towards my future.

During my drive home down the Southern Oregon Coast, Synchronicity jumped in and added the finale to this amazing day. “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang began to play on the radio.  (WTH? What are the chances of that happening?) I can not even tell you the last time I heard that song. But, if you were a teenager in the 70’s like I was, you know the words! So with all the windows rolled down, cold December air rushing in and whipping against my face, the volume turned up as loud as possible, I celebrated.

Singing very loudly, at the top of my lungs, and very off-key, I soared down Highway 101 filled with a new sense of confidence and celebration.  Go ahead, hit the play button and join in! What are you ready to celebrate leaving behind as 2016 comes to an end?

As I sang, the sunlight that had been sprinkling diamonds all along the ocean, suddenly hit the mermaid and crystal heart sun catcher that hangs from the rearview mirror in my car, and the entire interior of the car was flooded with dancing bursts of rainbow light! Coincidence overload?  Perhaps.  But I believe that when we are living authentically, Synchronicity flows in abundance and is at its finest!

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Left Behind in the Sand

On the darkest day of the year, my fears left behind, my car, and my heart, were filled to overflowing with bright beautiful light.  With much gratitude, I confidently and enthusiastically continue forward on my journey.  Ready to “stand in my truth,” and explore all that the future holds.

And so it is.  And so it is.  ~Michele Marie