Blog # 16

The Cobwebs of Failure

January 21, 2022

“Working out our own emotional baggage is the precursor to helping our kids w/ theirs.” – Kelly Corrigan

I heard this on a recent Podcast and it has been percolating on my heart. As I continue to witness my kids experience struggles, I feel it deeply. I often find myself desperately wanting to tell them exactly how to handle every stressful situation and measuring my own self-worth on how they are managing life’s ups and downs.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our kiddos, no matter how old or young they are, is to allow them to see us owning our imperfections and mistakes AND in the aftermath of failure, offering love and compassion to ourselves.

That last part – offering love and compassion towards myself – is hard. I feel like this is one of my greatest challenges as a human being. I have come to believe that in order to move the dial towards loving myself I must actively exercise the muscle(s) of acceptance and compassion.

Accepting my imperfections. Accepting tendencies that lead to suffering. And then, offering myself grace and compassion on the other side.

I am a (recovering) chronic pleaser. I spent decades desperately needing to be liked and approved of by all the people all of the time.

Alongside pleasing comes a “perfectionism” undercurrent that drives me to constantly ask “what will people think?” According to Brene Brown, “perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.”

I also want to be “all the things for all the people.” I do not like to or want to admit that I cannot handle something that is asked of me.

All of these tendencies share a common thread - the distorted belief that I am unworthy of love when I come up short. I am unworthy of love when I screw up. When I fail. And fail again.

Not getting approval can feel like a failure. For me, this is the hardest type of failure. The failure to live up to someone’s expectations.

Intellectually, I know the sayings – we learn from our failures, you have to fail in order to succeed, failure should be our teacher, etc.

But … do I genuinely believe this to be true for me? Do I actually believe that failure at a task or failing to get someone’s approval are necessary in my journey to wellness? When I am in the midst of the discomfort that accompanies failure, it is much simpler to push those feelings into the dark corner, and move on to the next task at hand.


Through writing, therapy, and meditation, I am learning to acknowledge and lean into these awful, uncomfortable feelings. I am learning to hold space for my failures and meet them with compassion and forgiveness. I am also learning that in order for toxic patterns to come undone, they need the freedom to breath.


So here I am, trying to clear out a few cobwebs of shame with the hope that this will provide oxygen to those feelings of unworthiness. I am cautiously sweeping the chronic need to please and paralyzing fear of failure/perfectionism into the tender light of awareness. I am learning that the driving force behind is the practice and act of self-love. Letting go of the grip of wanting to please everyone takes strength that comes from within.

Ultimately, I cannot solve or fix the struggles of my kiddos. I can hold space for them to fail and experience inevitable suffering. I can meet them where they are at with compassion and acceptance without trying to manipulate solutions to their trials and tribulations. I will continue to build the muscles of acceptance and compassion in the midst of my own struggles so that maybe, together, our paths will be illuminated by the loving light of awareness, compassion, and acceptance. One failure, one imperfection, one breath at a time.


Be still and notice.

XO

Tara


Blog # 15

Finding JOY in the face of suffering

December 28, 2021

Upon reading the news that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had passed away at the age of 90, I scrolled through my audible library and began to listen excerpts from the “Book of Joy.” This book was recommended to me by a beautiful person, and I decided to spend some time reflecting on the profound wisdom and insight in honor of the archbishop.


Book Summary: In 2015, Desmond Tutu, a former South African Archbishop and anti-apartheid pioneer, traveled to Dharamsala, a place in India and home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for his 80th birthday. Both have fought non-violently against oppression in their countries for over 50 years, while leading millions of people in their spiritual journeys. Hence, they took this special occasion as a chance to sit down together and evaluate one of life’s most important questions: how do we find joy in the face of suffering?


Both of these incredible human beings have survived soul-crushing hardships and yet are brimming with true joy.


I have long been fascinated by the idea of “joy,” I have sought out books, podcasts, and lectures that I hoped would provide some clarity or explanation as to why I have struggled to find true joy. My intellectual self can recognize that it is not something I will ever “find” but this certainly hasn’t stopped me from trying!

The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu agree that we must shift our focus away from ourselves in the midst of suffering. “When we are able to move beyond our pain and suffering, we are more available to others. Pain causes us to be extremely self-focused. Whether the pain is physical or mental it seems to consume all of our focus and leave very little attention for others.”

My gut reaction to this is – how can I move beyond my own pain when I feel completely paralyzed by it? How can I take a step towards joy if my feet are stuck in the quicksand of mental anguish?

Suffering often leads to fear, frustration, stress and anger. For me, depression can sometimes feel like toxic anger turned inward; anxiety can cause me to feel highjacked by fear; overwhelm can create layers of stress, and worry can generate a downward spiral of frustration.

Hyper focusing on my failures feels familiar and has long been my natural tendency. I am only now coming to understand that my fears and frustrations are creations of my mind, not reality. Much of our (and my own) suffering comes as a result of expectations that didn’t match reality. I am immediately thrown into the mindset that I am a failure, or I have failed and this leads to suffering.

An example of my failure spiral: When I am trying to find something to wear for an outing (could be a school event or a happy hour) and I find that what I hoped to wear doesn’t fit, and subsequently nothing in my closet fits … I can feel the joy being zapped right out of my soul. What started as a simple pair of jeans being too tight snowballs into / I am a fat cow and will never find anything that I feel good in / my house is a mess and I am such a slob / I am such a terrible mother and my kids are watching too much tv / I feel like I am failing as a parent / I am the worst friend / i don’t stay in touch with family / and pretty soon, I am deep in the rabbit hole of toxic self-sabatoge! This has been the familiar downward spiraling soundtrack that has lived in my headspace for so long that finding a pathway towards joy has often felt unattainable. I had resigned to the idea that accessing pure joy was out of the cards for me. It just felt exhausting.

As I valiantly attempt to glean the wisdom shared in this book, I find myself curiously hovering over the word “dissolve.” These wise leaders remind us that one powerful way to dissolve anger and fear is through compassion.

Can I find ways to dissolve the fear, anger, and frustration that show up when life is hard and I feel stuck? If these obstacles begin to dissolve, I believe that JOY can find its way in. I also believe that JOY does not have to be a permanent state or a goal that I want to achieve. I think JOY exists in those moments when anger, fear and frustration gently dissolve, and I am able to fully engage with the world.

“We can be a reservoir of joy. And oasis of peace. A pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you. Joy is quite contagious. As is love, generosity and compassion.” ~ Desmond Tutu

For me, learning to be connected to the present moment and not jerked around by fear and rumination has been life changing. It feels like these small victories that remind me I am not completely defined by depression, anxiety, or whatever I am struggling with. When I find that “sweet spot” of the present moment, I can feel the warm glow of joy and begin to open my heart to the suffering of others.

The more we heal our own pain, the more we can turn to pain and suffering of others.

I used to get down on myself when my dark thoughts would weigh so heavily on my heart, that I couldn’t step outside of myself and offer love and support when someone was suffering. I felt incapable of helping others and just like Dalai Lama says, my pain was making me very self-focused. I still struggle with this from time to time, but I am working on shifting how I think about helping others. I used to feel like I was a failure because I couldn’t make these huge gestures or find the mental strength to send a card or make a meal. When I am sliding into a dark space, I try to lean into the practice of loving kindness and find that it is a beautiful compliment to prayer. It involves offering kind wishes of happiness, health, and peace to yourself and others. I am discovering that the more specific I am when cultivating these wishes, the better equipped I am to move away from my own suffering. One moment of joy can lead to other moments and when strung together can help me show up for my life and truly be available for others.

Although the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu hold different religious beliefs, their message of finding joy among suffering transcends across all denominations and is a beautiful reminder that we are all united through our suffering. We are all connected by a common desire to live in a world where joy exists. Suffering is inevitable, but we are each made for goodness, love and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live out this truth.

My journey to discovering JOY is far from over. I think each of us could write an essay on our definition and understanding of JOY. I could certainly write pages on this topic! For now, I will start by embracing the gift of the present moment. I will continue to observe the narrative that often leads me to believe I am failure and gently invite in compassion and kindness. By extending kind wishes to myself and others, I can begin to dissolve the layers of anger and fear and create space for JOY. I am slowly able to focus outward and discover the JOY that comes from a generous heart.

Rest in peace Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Asked once how he wanted to be remembered, he told The Associated Press: “He loved. He laughed. He cried. He was forgiven. He forgave. Greatly privileged.”


Be Still and Notice.

xo

tara

Blog # 14

The Dance of Gratitude

November 21, 2021

We all know deep down that gratitude is good for the soul. There are scientific studies that illustrate the physiological and emotional benefits of a regular gratitude practice. So, why then does my brain struggle to focus my lens on things that I am grateful for?

Like many families, we struggled for several years with infertility, and like anyone who has gone through it knows, it is a painful journey. During this time, I struggled to cultivate gratitude. I found myself filled w/ bitterness and anger towards God and everyone that was able to start a family quickly.

I promised God that if He would bless us with children, I would be spend every waking moment feeling grateful for the gift of a family.

17.5 years and four kids later, I have so much to be grateful for. So many blessings. And yet, there are days when I only see the negative and feel deep resistence when trying to cultivate gratitude. I get pulled into the narrative that everyone else's life is so much fuller and better than mine. Sometimes, I feel like it becomes an intimate dance between gratitude and negativity bias. Dr. Rick Hanson describes our brain's tendency to allow negative experiences to stick like velcro and positive experiences to move through like teflon. In other words, we naturally tend to focus on the negative and see the world through this lens. I think if you have struggled with depression like I have, this is a familiar place to live. I have spent so many years filtering every experience through the lens of negativity that it is exhausting to carve out new neural pathways of gratitude.

Here are just a few of the specific areas that I have been struggling with lately:

I am so grateful that the kids are in school and resuming "normal" experiences, but find myself overwhelmed trying to navigate their social interactions. The game of being included/excluded from friend groups, and everything else that comes along w/ all of this drains me of my ability to feel gratitude.

So grateful to be able to send my boys to a wonderful high school, but often feel like everyone else is better connected and feel exhausted trying to manage/understand all the social groups.

Grateful that I am able to meet and get together with adults in the kids' communities, but feel surges of anxiety as I try to push out of my comfort zone and cultivate connections w/ new and even familiar parents of my kids friends. I do not want my own anxiety about these connections to spill over and impact how my kids feel.

I have been feeling triggered by some of the struggles that my kids have been experiencing and this continues to be an obstacle in my ability to access gratitude.

I am learning to embrace the notion that focusing on the things in my life that I am grateful for does not mean I am denying the pain or suffering or loss. Gratitude can be a burst of appreciation for being alive and having survived. We must cultivate it and tend to it. I must cultivate it and tend to it with a gentle nudge and grace when it takes work.

For me, the practice of gratitude begins with the process of self acceptance. When I can work on cultivating acceptance even in the midst of toxic negativity, this can help me to authentically tap into gratitude.

I accept ... that some days, being grateful feels natural and easy and other days, I face a deep resistence.

So, I just keep showing up. I keep finding small pieces of my life to be grateful for especially when I feel paralyzed by the overwhelm of it all. Lately, I started a practice of stopping several times throughout the day and noting something I am grateful for that happened in the last hour. When my heart is grateful, I am able to focus the lens of attention of the goodness within and around me.

With a Grateful Heart,

Tara

#togetherweheal

#gratitude

#keepshowingup

Blog # 13

Unpacking the Suitcase

October 21, 2021

Our washing machine broke last week and although I know that the loads will quickly pile up leading to a laundry marathon when the new one comes, I find myself feeling a twinge of relief that I have an excuse not to do laundry for a few days! I strongly dislike laundry. For me, it ranks at the top of most annoying chores!


There is only one thing that I dislike more than laundry and that is doing laundry after coming back from a trip! Unloading the suitcase and finding the motivation to wash and then put away the clothes along with all the other crap can bring out the worst in me. I find myself dreading and avoiding the tedious process of unpacking.

When I began my most recent therapy journey, my therapist gently told me that during the early stages of therapy, we would treat all of the areas of my life as clothes packed tightly into a suitcase. At this point in my life, they were all shoved in so tightly that when I opened the suitcase, I couldn’t locate anything without everything falling out. Our job was going to be to take each piece and examine it with compassion and love, fold it and place it back into a more orderly fashion. Of course, this is an oversimplified way of describing what was a complicated and sometimes painful process, but it was a powerful reminder that healing & growth take time and incredible patience.

What i came to better understand was that by continuing to shove all of the parts of me tightly in, there wasn’t any room for me to breath. The load of mental weight felt heavy like a massive pile of wet clothes. Every struggle I encountered, I stuffed it into my already overcrowded headspace. All of the negative thoughts and feelings of self doubt were mixed together and because they haven’t yet been offered compassion and kindness, they had devastating consequences when they spilled out.

I still have these parts of myself that I struggle to love. Every time a challenge comes up – I recognize that my tendency is to shove it in with all the others.


Many of us are facing many challenges right now - new and unprecedented struggles that we don't have experience with. One of my fears right now is that I don't know how to help my kids articulate what they are feeling. I want them to scream it, shout it, and tell me everything! I want this because I know first hand what happens when their feelings get shoved away. But they don't always know how to express what they are feeling.


So i just keep showing up. I show up for them by being available to help them unpack a few small things at a time and offer compassion & acceptance for each struggle. More importantly, I show up for myself. Damn that is hard some days. I almost lost my mind a little over a week ago. Completely lost it. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with fury and frustration. I was standing at the kitchen sink feeling myself begin to unravel. What started as a feeling of annoyance that the kids weren't helping with the dishes quickly escalated to a feeling of complete worthlessness and self-hatred. I felt like a complete failure.


I knew that I hadn't shown up for myself in the days leading up to this meltdown. I can look back at this moment and recognize that there had been little red flags popping up and I didn't make the time to pay attention.


I think I might always strongly dislike laundry, but I am ok with that. Well, most days :-)

Every once in a while, I have a week where I can actually see the floor in the laundry room because the laundry has been folded and put away it feels like a sweet victory! I feel like this is the same for my mental wellness. When I can manage to recognize those smaller struggles as they are happening, sit with each one and offer compassion to myself in that moment, I do feel like that is a victory! Small wins lead to a long term growth.


So hopefully, I'll be able to apply this wisdom as I manage the daily meltdowns, complaints about dinner, and most importantly the next time I come home from a trip with a suitcase full of laundry that needs to be washed and put away! I will take things one load at a time.


#TogetherWeHeal

#Istillhateunpackinglaundry


WIth LOVE & Gratitude,

Tara


Blog # 12

I am an expert liar about my mental health.

September 12, 2021

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Ed Lally Foundation advocates for a pro-active approach to mental health and suicide prevention through awareness and self-expression. As part of our efforts, I will be sharing several BLOG entries that speak to my experience with mental health struggles, specifically surrounding suicide.


Every time we can bring the topic of suicide and mental illness out of the darkness, we are moving the dial just a little bit. Little by little, we are normalizing the conversation. One story, one heart at a time.


I am writing about this topic from a healthy, strong and hopeful place. I am writing with the intention to help fight against the stigma, melt away shame and offer compassion to those that are suffering or have suffered in the past.

#TogetherWeTalkAboutSuicide #YouAreNotAlone

I can lie with the best of ‘em. Especially when it comes to my mental health. How honest are you about your mental health?

When I was in college, a friend told me about a wonderful therapist that she was seeing and as I listened to her glowing recommendation, I thought – well, maybe she could help me too. This was my first of many attempts to seek therapy. I knew something felt very wrong and that I was hurting, but I wasn't sure where and how to start. As I sat across from therapist #1 in that smooth velvet chair inhaling the potent scent of her perfume, I quickly became fixated on her many dangling bracelets. I remember thinking how perfect she appeared – petite, put together, and pretty. All three things I desperately wanted to hang my identity on. I wanted her to like me. I wanted her to approve of my clothes, my hair, my size, my … well, everything.

What I didn’t want … was to tell her what was really going on. I believed that if she knew the real truth about me, she would be appalled; disapproving of me.

So, I told her a polished, manipulated version of my truth. I told her what I “thought” she wanted to hear. I even convinced her that I was making progress and putting into action some of her suggestions.

Eventually, I made up excuses as to why I was no longer able to attend therapy and convinced myself that I could figure it out on my own.

Except I couldn’t.

This detrimental pattern of lying to myself & subsequently, a trail of therapists chipped away at my chances to experience healing and mental wellness.

In January of 2019, after many failed attempts at therapy (5 therapists and 3 psychiatrists), I showed up at an appointment I scheduled after a depressive episode and another brush with suicidal ideation. I was beaten down and exhausted from trying to uphold my manipulated truth. But something was different this time. I could feel a glimmer of hope rising from within.

Was it possible for me to re-think how I approached therapy?

What was different this time around?

1) I had been practicing meditation for about a year and was beginning to experientially understand the science behind healing your brain.

2) I had nothing to hide anymore. I had been sharing my truth through a few BLOG entries and was beginning to reveal my authentic self.

3) I was ready (and willing) to sit with the raw, uncomfortable truth ~ the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Don't get me wrong, it isn't a walk in the park. It is more like a walk through the jungle at night with wild animals jumping out around every corner and unexpectedly sinking in slimy swamps. It has been scary, awkward, and hard. I have been working with the same therapist for over two years and as hard as it is to admit that I need support, I have come to learn that once I was willing to name my truth, it was (and continues to be) met with acceptance and compassion. I am profoundly grateful to be alive so that I can continue this therapeutic relationship.*

*I want to acknowledge the challenges that arise in the process of finding a mental health professional. It took a tremendous amount of patience and persistence to find someone that I could connect with. I believe that when we are truly ready for healing, support will be made available. Reach out if you need help.

In his most recent book, Think Again, Adam Grant illuminates the importance of being able to “re-think” situations and beliefs, including but not limited to the need to challenge our most intimate thoughts. I began listening to this book on Audible at the same time I sat down to draft this BLOG entry and thus I felt a strong sense that this was no coincidence.

Approaching conflict and turmoil from the mindset of a scientist has proven time and time again to yield the greatest results, according to Grant. By observing our thought patterns and biases with curiosity instead of loaded mental ammunition, we have the power to elicit real change. Change within and ultimately, societal change.


So much of my mental health struggles stem from a distorted and negative core belief about myself. So much of re-thinking forces us to be open to the possibility of change. I am a work in progress and doing my best to re-think how I view my mental health. I continue to re-think (and let go of) the polished, manipulated truth I had been clinging to in order to please everyone, especially the therapists I had failed to connect with. I continue to re-think (and learn to observe) my thought patterns with curiosity, as if through the lens of a scientist. I continue to re-think and trust that these discoveries will be met with compassion and kindness.


I found this quote in the book:

"What I believe" is a process rather than a finality. - Emma Goldman


I would like to re-write this quote as such:


"What I believe about myself" is a process rather than a finality. - T. DeCapite + Emma Goldman :-)


...............................................................

We believe in awareness and honest self-expression and are here to support you on your journey to discover mental wellness.

Together, we can break the stigma and melt away shame. Together, we can talk about suicide, depression, and anxiety. Together, we can heal.


Crisis Resources

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.

  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)

  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Blog # 11

Stubborn Ants; Suicide Prevention Awareness

September 1, 2021

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Ed Lally Foundation advocates for a pro-active approach to mental health and suicide prevention through awareness and self-expression. As part of our efforts, I will be sharing several BLOG entries that speak to my experience with mental health struggles, specifically surrounding suicide.


Every time we can bring the topic of suicide and mental illness out of the darkness, we are moving the dial just a little bit. Little by little, we are normalizing the conversation. One story, one heart at a time.


I am writing about this topic from a healthy, strong and hopeful place. I am writing with the intention to help fight against the stigma, melt away shame and offer compassion to those that are suffering or have suffered in the past.

#TogetherWeTalkAboutSuicide #YouAreNotAlone

Have you ever discovered an onslaught of ants in the middle of a room only to discover that they were all magnetically drawn to ONE tiny morsel of food? How do these little insects find that single crumb that is far from anything edible? This scene gets me every single time! I find myself furious at these small helpless creatures simply because they found that lone scrap!

When this happens, I work ferociously to find the source of the ants so I can prevent them from returning with a vengeance. Aside from having the entire house sprayed, I know that they will return if I don’t do anything preventative.

This scenario plays out in mind as I try to find a clever way to introduce the sensitive and taboo topic of suicide awareness. How does a story about ants attacking a small crumb have anything to do with mental illness? :-)

Depression and anxiety can lead us to feel isolated and alone, kind of like that single crumb left out in the middle of the room. In these moments of vulnerability, feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt can crawl into our headspace, attacking our sense of purpose and hijacking our thoughts.

These thoughts will scream loud and clear telling us we are worthless and our life has no meaning. For me, these deafening thoughts will shout ~ "everyone will be better off without you," or "you are a burden to everyone around you." No matter how hard we may try, we cannot simply think or talk our way out of this mental state.

I thought seriously about suicide for the first time when I was 16 years old. I was desperate to be seen and wanted the throbbing pain of isolation and sadness to go away. Just before my 46th birthday earlier this summer, I experienced a bout of depression that included mild suicidal ideation. It struck me as I prepared to write this entry that I have battled suicide ideation for 30 years. The weight of this realization hit me hard - 30 years is a long time. This sudden awareness simultaneously pumped a firey energy into my veins, motivating me to break free of the shame and stigma that prevents us from being open and honest about this topic.


Although I have succumbed to feelings of hopelessness over the span of three decades, my relationship with suicidal thoughts has evolved as my awareness heightened. For so many years, I searched for a solution, desperately seeking something or someone that could cure me of this awful disease. I prayed that God would call me home so the suffering would end.

It is a scary and dark topic and I want to acknowledge that although it feels unnerving to write about suicide, I am alive today because I was able to find my way out of the darkness. I believe that there can be profound healing when we share our stories with authenticity, hope, and love.

I spent over 30 years carving out neural pathways of negative, sometimes irrational thoughts and once I began my healing journey, I recognized that it was going to take hard work and patience to create new ones. Neuroplasticity tells us that our brains are malleable. We can actually rewire the pathways in our brain and cultivate healthier, hopeful thoughts. My practice of meditation and mindfulness provide a doorway into this process as I continue to heal my brain.


Like those relentless ants who lay down a chemical trail tracing back to their nest, we too can find our way back home - back to that which gives us hope. We can have honest conversations about our mental health and shine the light of compassion on our struggles. There is always a glimmer of light even amidst the darkest moments and no matter how isolated you might feel, you are NOT ALONE.


Thank you for reading and for opening up your heart to the conversation around suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 90% of people who die by suicide have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom that can be treated and improved over time.


Together, we can break the stigma and melt away shame.

Together, we can talk about suicide, depression, and anxiety.

Together, we can heal.


With Love and Hope,

Tara


Crisis Resources

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.

  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)

  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Blog # 10

Too Much Too Soon.

August 5, 2021

Too much too soon.

No plans to a packed calendar.


These are two statements that were shared with me recently and I wonder how they land with you?

How do you think others are managing?

According to a small survey we recently conducted using a scale of 1 (not managing life well) to 10 (doing great!), only 45% of us are managing life right now at a 7 or above.

Our perception is that 68% of us are managing life at a 7 or above.

Our perception can often be distorted and lead us to believe that others are doing “better” than we are. Everyone else is out there killing it … while I am over here (alone) feeling anxious and worried.

Whatever you are experiencing right now, you are NOT alone.

Over the last few months, I have been a crappy human being. I have forgotten birthdays, neglected to check on people that I know are struggling and taken weeks to respond to text messages.


I have yelled at my kids and said things to my teenagers that were unfair. I have saved the worst of the scraps for my husband and cursed the world under my breath more times than I care to admit.

I have dropped the ball at work and in my volunteer responsibilities.

I feel confused about my faith and what community I belong to. I have doubted our decision to switch schools and feel twinges of guilt for leaving.

I feel incredibly frustrated and embarrassed about the weight I have gained during covid … and am so sick of looking at myself on zoom calls. Ugh.

Sharing these thoughts makes me feel a bit like “Debbie Downer” as I unmistakably hear the “whaaa whaaa” lingering within earshot.

Is it helpful for me to air my feelings & frustrations out for all to hear?

It is helpful if I can layer in mindfulness and self-compassion to soften the sting.

Observing, accepting, and sitting with the feelings - is a powerful step in moving towards feeling better. I need to be willing to name what is going on underneath the surface.

Here’s the thing; I have dropped the ball a LOT over the last year, specifically the last few weeks, but I am working on reframing the phrase “crappy human being” to something more like “a human being doing the best I can and making a few crappy mistakes along the way.” It is so easy for me to fall into the trap of distorted thinking because this is my mind's default mode and it feels comfortable and natural. Creating new pathways in my brain is hard work and can even feel scary.

I recently experienced a bout of depression that grabbed ahold and shook me to my core. It spread a furious fire of self-doubt and toxic self-talk into my veins knocking me down into a dark pit of self-sabotage.

I was scared. Scared that despite all the skills I have acquired and supports that I have in place, I, like all of us, am susceptible to setbacks.

Depression is stubborn.

I recently read “The Hilarious World of Depression” by John Moe and discovered that so much of his story and thoughts deeply resonated with me. The book served as a gentle reminder that depression (and mental health) was, is, and always will be important enough to talk about, no matter where you are on your journey.

So, despite that nagging imposter syndrome – who do I think I am to write about mental health? - here I am pushing through those familiar fears and insecurities. I continue to write not to elicit sympathy, but to give oxygen to the struggles that surround us right now.

As I observe the stories that accompany my failures and setbacks, my relationship w/ (my) depression and anxiety will continue to evolve. I want to cultivate new pathways in my brain and I need to observe, accept and sit with all of it; the thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Too much, too soon isn’t working for me.

Diving in at lightning speed came with a hefty price tag. It cost me my mental health.

I am incredibly fortunate that I was able to make it to the other side of another depressive tsunami, and I do not take for granted the support I received in getting there.

So, if you are managing life ok right now, maybe you could take a moment to check in on someone and see how they are doing. And if you are still struggling right now and trying to navigate this re-entry … you are NOT alone. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Don’t feel like you “should” be doing better.

I invite you to ask yourself what YOU need right now. Especially in moments of suffering.

Whether it is in a fleeting moment of anger or the depths of deep despair. Treat yourself like someone that you love.

Offer yourself kindness and compassion, just like you would to someone you care deeply about. Invite God into this journey with you or perhaps even unite your suffering w/ others. This is something I am still working on. We are all a work in progress, right?

Instead of a “packed calendar,” I’m aiming for an intentional calendar that includes scheduled time for self-care. I’m also striving to remove shame and guilt from those blank (or 1/2 blank) squares.


You are never alone. #Togetherweheal

BLOG # 9

If This ... Then That.

July 16, 2021

Are we really almost 1/2 way through July? How is this possible? How are YOU doing?

I find myself surprisingly distracted by how others are handling this “re-entry” into normal life. Questioning my timeline (and maybe even my sanity) – I keep asking myself - am I supposed to be jumping back filled with excitement? Am I supposed to be immediately comfortable re-connecting with others?

I don’t know how I feel. I mean, I am definitely chomping at the bit to socialize again. I have attended several social gatherings including a birthday party for a peer of my youngest daughter and it felt great! I was ecstatic to be around grown-up humans in a social setting once again!

Remember when we all said – once we finally get to the other side of COVID, everything will be so much better? I do feel better, I think. Do you? I am doing everything I can to embrace that natural high that comes from being able to chat w/ friends and family IN PERSON!

So, we schedule trips, birthday parties, vacations and ... we feel energized and excited!

But what happens after these coveted social interactions?

I come back to my kitchen counter and open the fridge for the 67th time in a row hoping to discover a hidden motivation to make the grocery list, cook dinner and get all “the things” done.

I desperately search for it.

That thing that will help motivate, inspire and move me to get myself in gear. To make me feel in control.

I can begin to feel the heaviness of all the people I am supposed to be re-connecting with. The unanswered text messages and emails. The fear that comes up when reading or listening to the news. The uncertainty of what will happen in the fall when kids go back to school.

The overwhelm begins to creep back in.

Is this how it was before COVID? Maybe. Ok, yes. Anxiety is and always has been ever-present in my life. It is and has often been paralyzing, preventing me from moving from overwhelm to fully functioning. Is this different?


Where are you on your journey? What fears are hiding right below the surface? Do you feel like you just want to put this last year behind you and not deal w/ this anymore?


I want my journey to be moving towards wellness. If I hurry back to meet everyone where they are at, I fear that I am selling myself short.


If this … then that. If I can socialize again, then I will totally be happy, right? If my kids can play with their friends in person again, then they will be “normal” again, right? If I can lose the weight I gained during COVID, I will feel happier, right? If I get a new desk, then I will be more organized during the summer ... and on and on.


I find myself lost in this mental trap - this idea that "if" I can check a certain box, I will ultimately be happ(ier) ... and what ends up happening? I feel more lost and overwhelmed than ever. Some days, I let these stories that play in my mind pull me down. Other days, I am do my best to accept myself in the moment. Whew, why is this so hard sometimes?

In her book, “The Addiction Inoculation,” Jessica Lahey illuminates the notion that perception drives reality. In other words, our behavior is often driven by what we “think” others are doing or feeling. What is your perception of how others are handling/managing this “re-entry” journey?

Is everyone is happily jumping back in and loving every moment? What do you think?

I am going to spend the next few weeks pondering this very question. I am deeply curious and ready to dive in. I have so many questions … and thoughts!


I am going to use the results of this anonymous survey as a launching pad for a "Summer Series" of blog entries. Each week, I will reflect on the topics included in this questionare ~ including concerns around post-COVID body image, the evolution of relationships, our connection with faith communities, etc.


I would love to gather input from you. I am curious about your journey and how YOU are managing life right now. If you have a few minutes, I kindly implore you to complete this very brief survey, and let us know how you are doing.

ALL RESPONSES ARE ANONYMOUS!!


I hope you will join me on this journey of exploration! I believe we can collectively name some of our struggles - talk about hard things - while simultaneously experiencing JOY and finding hope.


COMPLETE SURVEY HERE:

https://forms.gle/xMeYYFsy2KQ4yMro9


With Gratitude,

Tara

BLOG # 8

Dear Inner Beauty

March 16, 2021

It had been about one week since I had undergone outpatient surgery to remove my gall bladder. Aside from the expected stress that arose as I vigorously tried to regain my strength in order to care for the boys, who were 4 months and 22 months at the time, my body wasn’t feeling quite right. I found myself doubled over in pain throughout the night and eventually noticed that my face appeared to have developed a yellowish tint. Upon calling the doc, we learned that this yellowish “tint” was in fact jaundice; a signal being sent from my body to my face, that something could potentially be seriously wrong.

The surgeon had inadvertently clipped the bile duct while removing my gall bladder, causing obstruction, preventing anything from moving through and ultimately causing jaundice.


In order to clear the pathway, the medical team inserted a stint in the bile duct in order to keep it open and allow liquid to flow through.

As I was recovering in the hospital, I finally built up enough courage to take a close look in the mirror and was stunned by the ghastly image staring back at me. Pale, yellowish skin, unkept hair, complete with a faded oversized hospital gown. I was immediately struck by the absence of joy that was exposed in the colorless appearance of my face.


Although I am fortunate that I have not experienced any lingering physical ramifications from this medical mishap, my mind frequently revisits this time in my life. One such time came a few weeks ago.

Earlier this month, I was preparing for the Women’s Mindful Mental Health gathering and I came across a video that told the stories of several women tasked with describing their face to a stranger. What they didn’t know was that this stranger was a skilled criminal profiler who was sketching their face according to the description each woman provided. Then, those same women were described by someone that they just met and drawn accordingly.

The women were brought back in to examine the difference in the two pictures – the one drawn as a result of their own description was hung strategically next to the drawing that was created from the description provided by someone they just met.

The results were profound. These women were able to witness first-hand the striking difference in the way we perceive ourselves vs. how others perceive us. The sketches created from the strangers description were far more beautiful and full of life than the description the women provided.

Why is it that others are able to see the beauty in us in a way that we struggle to see in ourselves?

This video instantly took me back to that hospital room. To the image of that pale, worn down woman suffering as a result of a blockage happening inside her body. In order for color to be restored in my face, the obstruction had to be opened up.

What blockages are making it hard for me to recognize my own beauty - outer and inner?

I prepared for the Women's group the same way I prepare for all of my groups - reflecting on the message I was going to share, preparing a meditation, selecting a song and then piecing it all together. As I watched the video that I was preparing to share with the group, I suddenly felt inspired to write the following thoughts that I loosely formed into a poem. I was tempted to change it and make it sound better, but I didn't. The only thing I did to finish this blog entry was to add a final paragraph. Perhaps it will inspire you to write your own poem. Or just a journal entry.

Dear Inner Beauty,

Who are you, really?

What are you, really?

I use this phrase so often that I think I might actually forget to stop and define what you actually mean – to me.

What do you look like?

What do you feel like?

What role do you play in my life?

How much attention do I give you?

If I had to draw you – what would you look like?

If I had to find colors to represent you – what colors would I choose?

Do I think I am beautiful?

No, I have never thought that.

Do I think I am kind?

I strive to be kind

Do I think I am pretty?

No. I do not.

Do I think I am generous?

I strive to be generous.

When I say “hey beautiful” to a friend – do I really believe that they are beautiful?

Yes. I really do.

When a friend says “hi beautiful” to me – do I really believe them?

I am not sure.

Do I think I am brave?

Some days

Does brave equal beautiful?

In other women yes

In myself – I don’t know

Do I think my daughters are beautiful?

Absolutely

Do they think I am beautiful?

Silence.

How do I define beauty?

Can my heart spread enough love?

Can my soul shine bright enough?

Can my kindness make a difference?

So when I feel darkness – what happens to you?

When depression comes to visit – Do you exist then?

What does my mirror say?

Can I really see beauty with my eyes?

Maybe you (inner beauty) can only be felt when my eyes are gently closed.

When the muscles in my face are soft. The tension has melted away. When my forehead isn’t scrunched up as I am unconsciously lost in thought. When I am present in my own body. When I can offer gratitude for my flaws. I don’t love them and I don’t think I necessarily need to. I just want to accept and be grateful for them.

Dear Inner Beauty,

I am discovering that you are a little bit like the stint that was placed in my bile duct.

You have the power to open and release the valve that can allow love, light and goodness to flow freely. When the gates are open, true color can return to my face, radiating outward. The warmth that I exude and put into the world will then come from a place of pure authenticity.

So, inner beauty, who are you, really?

You are pure love, light and goodness that exist in the depth of my soul and when given permission to flow freely, can shine a bright and beautiful light.

I now know that I can always find my way back to you in the quiet of my heart ... when I am able to be still and notice.


Thank you for reading.

With LOVE & GRATITUDE,

Tara

Blog # 7

It's My Quarantine, I Can Cry if I Want To

February 21, 2021

It started out as any other Thursday, as I found myself marveling at how quickly the day had flown by! I hurridly set an alarm and managed to squeeze in a meditation before it was time to head out to pick up the girls.

In my haste to set the alarm in a genuine effort to offer myself a buffer should I doze off during my afternoon meditation, I must have forgotten to actually “set” the alarm. Needless to say, the formula of lack of sleep plus calming music and I was fast asleep within 5 five minutes.

30 minutes later, my eyes popped open and in a state of delirium and daze, I glanced at the clock. I had absolutely no chance of making it on time to pick up the girls from school and I quickly shifted into panic mode. Frantic, I grabbed my keys, slipped on some shoes and sprinted to the car. Convinced I was going to beat time, I shifted the minivan into reverse at lightening speed. The next few moments are blurred, yet clearly etched in my memory as I felt a jarring thud. In that moment I had no idea what I hit, praying that it wasn’t the other car in the driveway. In a state of shock, I lunged out of the car to observe the damage.

It was as if all of the oxygen was instantly sucked out of me and I struggled to breath. The entire back windshield was shattered. Into a million pieces. All over the trunk of the car and the mulch. I had backed into an unassuming tree that instantly jumped into the forefront of my story.

I became flooded with shame. The kind that suffocates you, moving your body into a numbness.

Shame brings a toxicity that has the power to poison the soul.

Embarrassed that I damaged the car.

Mortified that I was going to have to explain this to my kiddos.

Angry that I was so careless

Scared to find out the damage – financial and emotional

Driving around the beltway trying desperately to breathe life back into my body, I felt the sting of sadness and despair make their way into every cell in my body. I began to hear the deafening sounds of my inner critic. The lies that travel alongside my old friend, depression. These lines are so familiar to me that they almost feel comforting.

You are such an idiot. How could you let this happen?

You don’t even have any friends at this new school to call – you are all alone once again.

God doesn’t have time for this. The piece of crap that you are. You just keep screwing up.

Of course depression was rearing her ugly head … and the more I fed her, the stronger her presence became.


After picking up the kiddos in Matt's car, I pulled into the driveway in slow motion, cautiously surveying the damage. Matt was attempting to meticulously pluck the pieces that were delicately hanging on to window pane.


Once the kids were back in the house, Matt looked at me with a genuine sincerity and asked “Tara, what exactly happened?”

I turned my back to him, sunk to the ground and sobbed while in the fetal position.

It’s my Quarantine, I can cry if I want to.

“Tears are prayers too. They travel to God when we can’t speak.”


The damage to the car was done. Once the reality of getting it repaired, renting a car, and paying for all of it settled in, I knew deep in my soul that the real work was just beginning.

Picking up those small, jagged sharp pieces was an arduous and painful process. With each group of pieces, I was observing the stories that were playing in my mind. I was once again reminded that the stories I tell myself in the quiet of my own heart and mind are the ones that matter the most.

Over the course of the next few days, I felt a sense of peace and purpose start to seep into the cracks that had been exposed from this accident. Despite the paralyzing effect that depression has on my ability to show up, I knew this experience was going birth something beautiful. I could feel it in my soul.

Break wide open. As my youngest daughter would say ... into "a million gazillion pieces."

Will I take the time to notice all the pieces? Or do I swiftly sweep them under the mulch, hoping to NEVER have to think about this day ever again.

Sure, this little "accident" bruised my ego. It jerked me back to the reality that I can mess up and not have to dive head first into a shame spiral.

More than anything, this experience helped me to realize that the pieces are not supposed to fit back together, but instead make room for something new.


I have been chewed up and spit out by the shame spiral many times before, but this felt different. I had developed a solid practice of self-compassion ... learning how to hold space for the suffering instead of blocking it out and pushing it aside.


Turning inward and welcoming those parts of myself that I try so hard to reject. This was paving the path to move forward and create that "something new."


You see, by rejecting these unwanted parts of myself, I blocked my ability to accept the good, the bad and the ugly. I continued to prevent love from flowing freely through me and back out into the world.


If I can’t even tolerate my own imperfections, how will I ever truly be able to hold space for the imperfections of others? This has been a huge realization for me.

I was still ashamed of the incident and remained tight lipped when anyone asked why I was driving a new car. I think my ego needed a little while to recover and my soul needed to sift through all the broken pieces.


Within a few weeks of the shattered windshield I came up with the first round of something "new." With the support of my family, the Foundation moved forward with the idea to create a virtual platform that would afford us the opportunity to offer classes and workshops. We had been thinking about this idea for many months, but I just didn't have the courage to put myself out there quite yet.

I think we all know that there isn't ever going to be the “perfect” time to start anything new and scary. I had to fully embrace this notion that I do not have to be completely “healed” to teach others. Once I believe that I have figured it all out, I will have nothing left to impart. I learn so much from hearing about the struggles of others and experience the most growth when I am willing to be vulnerable.

Here I am almost 4 months later having lead several classes and recently completing my very first Mindfulness for Moms 4-week series. I will be eternally indebted to the 10 beautiful mamas that entrusted me and showed up week after week with an open heart and a willingness to try something new. The experience was far from perfect, pushed me way out of my comfort zone, but ultimately forced me to closely examine piles of broken pieces and birth something purposeful.

I have many aspirations for Lent and beyond. I need to move God from being in the distant corner, to coming back into full focus.

Getting back to writing is my second round of something "new." I put the brakes on blogging simply because I felt the fear of judgement start to creep back in and it paralyzed me.


I am publishing this entry despite the judgement that may come. I am able to accept that this is all part of being true to my own evolving purpose. I want to please everyone, but I just can't. It is exhausting and depleting.


It's my quarantine I can crash my car if I want to - okay, maybe that is crazy sounding, but thankfully, I can finally laugh out loud when I think about the ridiculousness of it all! I mean, who backs into a tree on their own driveway and smashes the entire back of the car?


I do stop and place my hand at the damaged spot on the tree just to remind myself that pain and suffering are necessary for growth and beauty to emerge.


I needed to release this story and remind myself that I am still standing ... even after being shattered in a million gazillion pieces :-)


I look forward to offering many more opportunities for mindfulness, connection and honest conversations. Please know that all are welcome to attend any of our classes - no matter where you are in your journey. Please visit our website to find out more. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Signing off until my next entry, and remember to slow down, be still and notice.

With LOVE,

Tara

Blog # 6

Orbeez, Black Jesus, Listening, Bicep Curls, and LOVE

June 25, 2020

As I wrote this entry, I struggled to find the right words. I still have much to learn and so much more that remains on my heart. Like so many of us, I want to help move the needle of discrimination and take away the pain of those suffering. I desperately want to move myself, my family and my country out of despair and confusion. It is easy to get caught in the web of negativity and polarizing opinions and find myself feeling helpless and overwhelmed. So, I decided to share some thoughts and insights that have risen to the surface of my awareness over the past few weeks. I am pushing out of my comfort zone and allowing myself to be vulnerable. It is petrifying to put myself out there, so I hope that something I share resonates or at least lands gently on your heart.

Thank you for taking the time to read. xo

Ava recently used some of her birthday money to order a kit of supplies that she then used to create DIY “stress balls.” The kit contained several different materials, including a bag of orbeez. If you are not familiar with them, they start out as tiny little round beads and you then add water. They sit in water and over the period of two to three hours, they expand and evolve into a more rubbery, smooth texture. They can be used for many beautiful and creative purposes, including table decor, sensory play or for our purposes, stuffed inside balloons to create a “stress ball.”

We had a bowl of orbeez beads that hadn’t been used for the stress balls yet sitting next to the computer. Despite passing by this bowl many times per day, I never really gave it much attention. Then, one day, I stopped and noticed that this bowl (that was filled to the top with colorful, smooth marble looking beads) … was now an almost empty bowl filled with teeny, tiny beads. The water had left them and they were back to their original state. It was a powerful visual to observe as I reflect on the recent turn of events happening in our country right now.

I have recently begun to ponder the times in my life that I have been granted the gift of racial awareness through an experience, a book, movie, podcast, netflix series or even just a conversation. I feel like the experiences and information I was given can be compared to those small beads, fresh out of the bag. When I lean into these pearls of wisdom, my awareness grows and I can feel a shift happening in my heart. Just like the beads expand with water, my awareness grows with intentional work. I can’t, however, expect movement to happen on its own. If left unattended, these pearls of wisdom will shrink back to those tiny beads.

How many times have I neglected these tiny beads of knowledge that once landed on my heart?


Black Jesus

I was 22, naive and ready to change the world, while fiercely trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I nervously pulled into the parking lot of a run down brick building located in the middle of SE Washington DC. The campus was surrounded by iron fences and the school was protected by gates with padlocks. I was interviewing for a teaching position at a small Catholic School.

On my first official day, I walked up the stairs to my classroom and abruptly stopped dead in my tracks as I glanced up at the statue carefully placed in the corner of the landing. It was Mary holding baby Jesus and they were both black. In my entire life, I had never seen a black Jesus. I vividly remember feeling confused, mesmerized and in awe of this beautiful image in front of me. I had fallen away from my Catholic faith during and immediately after college and this felt like a strange coming home for my soul. As I continued up the stairs and walked through the hallways, I began to notice that all of the images of Christ portrayed him with dark skin. How had I gone my whole life and never seen or felt the presence of Jesus as anything other than a white man with a white mom and dad?

I embraced this new venture as a naive, somewhat ignorant, and strangely confident white woman. Back then, I just saw myself as a white teacher in an all black school. Nothing more, nothing less. Only in hindsight, can I appropriately reflect and recognize the complexity of these inter-racial dynamics and acknowledge just how privileged I was.

During my second year there, around Christmas time, Matt and I arranged for a dear friend to dress up as Santa and come visit my second grade class. Within a few minutes, we realized this was the first time many of these children had ever seen a “live” version of Santa. A white santa with a fake beard and belly. This Santa was met with fear, curiosity, joy and pure love. It truly was a transformational experience for me. The children asked Santa many questions and didn’t want him to ever leave but they never questioned the one thing I was most worried about; his skin color. This moment in time has always held a special place in our hearts because this friend who dressed as Santa passed away several years ago from brain cancer. I can still vividly remember the palpable energy that Drew created in the classroom that day.


I found myself being drawn into the world of these children and desperately wanted to connect with their souls. This experience informed the next steps in my career path, moving me to pursue a masters degree in School Counseling.


What happened to that fearless, confident young (naive) woman who set out to change the world?

Have my children ever seen or been exposed to a dark skinned Jesus, Mary or Joseph? Have my children ever visited a black santa? How would they react if they did? Why have I never questioned this before?

I wish I could go back and ask those families what life was really like for them. What made them choose to send their child(ren) to a Catholic School and what role did faith play in their life as parents and as African Americans?

Today, I try to hold these experiences close in my heart, acknowledge the beautiful tiny beads I was given at that time and continue to lovingly add the water of awareness and action.


Listening with the intent to hear. (This statement along with a video was recently shared by my friend ~ Janice Moore )

Earlier this school year, my oldest son was invited to participate in a Neighbor’s Retreat that created a unique opportunity for students and staff to come together in fellowship, reaching across social and racial groups. The invitation was met with trepidation and honest discernment. However, just as I predicted, the experience was both transformational and uplifting for him, despite the fact that he acknowledged leaning into the role of an observer. We were talking about this experience recently and I asked him to reflect on how it impacted his life and what this experience brings to mind with everything going on in our country right now. After a few minutes of reflecting on the friendships he made and the staff he formed new relationships with, I asked him if he was looking forward to participating again (if he is invited) this coming school year. After a long pause and much hesitation he said, “I feel like I don't have anything to say … and I don’t really have much to offer.” My heart sank. I was deeply grateful for his honesty but sad that he felt this way.

I looked him right in the eye and told him to hold tight to the notion that listening with the intent to actually hear someone is a gift that he is able to genuinely offer. To listen to others, see them, and acknowledge their pain is a powerful offering available to us as human beings. We talked for a while about the contentious banter that continues to go back and forth in today’s society, especially on social media. We talked about the rare and powerful act of listening with the intention to hear and NOT with the intention to argue or immediately offer your opinion.

What I know to be true is that he is able to engage in a meaningful and authentic conversation in what he considers a “safe” space at home. My hope is that each time he, or any of us, can talk with those that we feel safe with and in turn listen to others with genuine compassion and understanding, we are experiencing a small paradigm shift.

Sometimes, the most powerful moments of parenting happen when I realize my “teaching” moments subtly move me into the seat of the learner. When I am able to put aside my ego and genuinely apply the lessons I am imparting to my own heart.

I need to be a better, more compassionate listener. I want to be better at listening with the intent to HEAR, acknowledge and not feel like I need to have something wise to say in response. I need to let each of my kids embrace their own journey, at their own pace, in their own comfort zone. I will continue to provide a safe space for them to talk openly and honestly so that they can make their own mark on the world, whenever and however they choose to do so.

A wise friend recently reminded me of this simple, yet powerful quote spoken by Mother Teresa,

“The way you help heal the world is that you start with your own family.”


Bicep Curls for the Heart

Depression is a disease of the mind. Your mind will convince you that your life doesn’t matter and that you are worthless. I am waking up to the realization Racism is a disease of our society, of the systems that have landed us here. I am ashamed to admit that I am only recently understanding how pervasive and ingrained it truly is.

One can say - I understand sadness and loneliness but unless you have experienced the depth and despair of depression at its darkest moment … that moment when the idea of taking your life seems like a relief and the only option … the greatest power one has is to listen and try to offer support.

I can say - I understand feeling alone, misjudged or mistreated, but because I have not experienced the depth and despair of discrimination and/or racism, I cannot truly fathom its harrowing and devastating grip.

I don’t know what the world looks like or feels like without seeing through the lens of mental illness. It colors and shapes each step I take. I am waking up to the fact that our black brothers and sisters can only see the world through the lens of the pain and history of inequality, injustice coupled with their own personal experiences. It is impossible to separate our personal vantage point from societal structures.

Depression doesn’t fade away or get better on its own. It takes work. Hard uncomfortable work.

I am deeply grateful that I have been able to find my way back to the light. I have the privilege of access to medication, therapy and a supportive, safe place to do the work, and yet I still struggle from time to time. I often forget to recognize that the many members of our community have been carrying around a raw pain that can make it impossible to feel the light of acceptance.

Over the past few years, I have become open about my struggles with mental illness and my journey to wellness through mindfulness and meditation. Dan Harris describes meditation as “bicep curls for the brain.” I love this analogy because it reminds me that the practice of self acceptance and awareness happens little by little over the course of time, requiring sustained attention and dedication.

I am hopeful that the journey of learning about and leaning into racial awareness can begin to build biceps for my heart. The intentional act of adding water to the beads of knowledge and insight can build biceps for my mind. For my soul. I am hopeful that by continuing to make small deposits into my vault of awareness I can cultivate growth and movement in myself, my family, and ultimately the world outside my front door.


Strength to Love

I have been introduced to several books through the Ignatian Mission and Identity department at Loyola Blakefield and I want to conclude by referencing the most recent one, Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. On page 85, he shares a beautiful insight that I found comforting:

When the sun finally passed completely beyond sight, darkness engulfed the earth, but in the east the radiant light of the riding moon shone supreme. We have experiences when the light of day vanishes, leaving us in some dark and desolate midnight - moments when our highest hopes are turned into shambles of despair or when we are the victims of some tragic injustice and some terrible exploitation. During such moments our spirits are almost overcome by gloom and despair, and we feel that there is not light anywhere. But ever and again, we look toward the east and discover there is another light that shines even in the darkness and ‘the spear of frustration’ is transformed ‘into a shaft of light.’”


Dr. King continued to speak profound and inspirational words amid dark, desperate and even violent circumstances. He never allowed the darkness to seep into his soul and turn toxic. He saturated his writing with scripture references and invariably found strength from his unwavering trust in God. He lived out and preached about the same Gospel that we read today. He allowed the same Jesus into his heart that my students from 20 years ago did.

I find comfort and strength from Dr. King’s words, especially his notion that we can always find our way out of the darkness.

Be still … in the darkness

And notice ... the beams of light that have the power to guide us.

I freely and willingly acknowledge that I have been gifted small beads of wisdom throughout my life that I only temporarily nurtured. I am just now waking up to the fact that those little precious beads didn’t get a chance to grow into something beautiful because I unknowingly let them dry up.

So, now I begin to shed a warm and loving light of awareness on the past, present and future beads of knowledge. I will try to consciously align my struggles with those who have come before me and those who continue to experience the blistering pain of oppression. I will listen with intentionality, allowing the words of thought leaders and the plight of those still suffering to echo on my heart and move me to action. Although my actions are small and feel insignificant, I want to believe in the capacity of little acts of love that have the power to unite our hearts and cultivate a collective paradigm shift.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

God bless you.

Blog # 5

A Tree Full of Color

May 17, 2020

As my mom was dropping off some treats for Ava’s birthday, she expressed how sad it was that the Dogwood tree in front of our house had died. She was standing at the end of our walkway looking directly at the tree that I had walked by at least 200 hundred times over the course of the last month. I had no idea it was dead. The trunk and branches are completely intact and if you look quickly, you may not even notice that there is no growth or bloom happening. In my defense, the tree is surrounded by lots of overgrown bushes that earn lots of disappointing looks!!

My spirit. Our spirit. The essence of who we are and how we connect with others and God. Our spirit may be unknowingly and slowly drying up without us even realizing it. Just like the tree, it still remains intact and at the center of who we are. But how often do we actually stop and notice it, water it, pay attention to its state? I would like to believe that I nurture my spirit each time I sit down to participate in virtual mass on Sunday or exchange heartfelt text messages with friends and/or family. But am I really noticing and paying attention?

That tiny little flame that glows inside of us … inside of me. Am I intentionally and actively sustaining its glow?


In the movie Trolls World Tour there is a scene at the end of the movie when all of the characters (colors) fade to gray and they are left feeling hopeless and lost. They feel as if their identities have been taken away from them. Poppy then *realizes* that everything they were searching for was already inside of them … their passion for music and each other wasn’t something that could be taken away from them because it exists inside of each of them. Once they became aware of this transformative sentiment and tapped into their inner flame, their spirits began to regain the color and glow that had been drained.


This scene deeply resonated with me, triggering a chain of thoughts that lead me to ponder … what is inside of me that might be fading during this time at home?


The reason I created this blog/site was to remind myself that in order to stay afloat, in order to retain my “colors” I must grab a hold of my anchor. My anchor is found at the intersection of mindfulness, mental health, and faith.


In his book, The Body Keeps Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk provides an explanation for how mindfulness can help us function better in all areas of our life. Basically, he says that mindfulness is “being able to hover objectively and calmly over our thoughts, feelings and emotions and then take our time to respond (62).” The part of the brain that helps us with this is the prefrontal cortex, which he says is kind of like our watchtower, “offering a view of the scene from on high (63).”


Why am I including this information here? I loved this idea of our prefrontal cortex serving as a watchtower! In my mind, I picture a lighthouse in the middle of a dark and sometimes stormy sea (my mind/body/spirit). When I can somehow manage to activate this part of my brain, the light will come on and show me the way to shore. It isn’t taking away my feelings of despair or frustration, but it is shining a light of awareness on the darkness in my soul, so that I can move out of that “stuckness” … is that a word? I can very easily get swept away by the tides of negativity and sink deeper and deeper into despair. Having lived with depression for so much of my life, I have often described this movement as “going dark.”


I want this light of awareness to illuminate so that I can keep my inner light shining. As we move into another week of the pandemic, here are some feelings and fears that threaten to drain the color from my soul …


  • Understanding and accepting the difference between feeling like a failure and just being ok with failing at a task (or two or three).

  • Being compassionate and kind to my body after eating too much and not exercising as often as I want to. This one was hard on day one and is still hard today.

  • Thinking about how we are going to handle moving into the next phase of this experience and not let worries about tomorrow suck the life out of today.

  • Being gentle with my reflection in the mirror. Furiously fighting through the cruel thoughts that make their way in when my emotional walls are down.

  • Embracing the part of me that whispers ‘turn it over to God’ and forgive myself when this is a struggle.

I think each of us have our own list of fears and feelings and my hope is by continuing to name a few of mine, you might be able to gently name your own.

If I can activate the light of awareness, maybe I can let the warm glow illuminate my fears and feelings … tapping into the healing potential of my anchor. Be still and notice. Notice my mental health. How am I intentionally nurturing this piece of the anchor? Notice my faith and ask myself ~ where am I today?


I have given much thought to these ideas because I want to be mentally and spiritually intact when the world around us starts to rebuild. We won't be able to re-enter the world as the same people we were back in February. I hope that I can shine bigger and brighter. I hope all of us can. I hope that each of us can find our anchor and gently nurture the areas that need our love and attention.


Some of us may not have any tangible accomplishments to show for the work we are doing, but we can certainly nurture roots that will ignite our spirit, keeping our tree alive and our soul full of color :-)


Be Still and Notice.

Be well.

xo





Blog # 4

1-2-3 Magic

May 3, 2020

Just like so many of us, the past week has been especially tough for me. The days seem to blend together as I find myself mindlessly tripping over muddy shoes, squishing ants and ignoring those projects that I promised to get done. I don't know about you, but any sliver of motivation I may have had a few weeks ago has gently dissapated. I am still fiercely leaning into gratitude and stillness, but my pendulum gets stuck in despair more and more. Despite my fading motivation, I still desperately want to write this blog and try to make sense of the confusion in my headspace!

I have been reflecting on other challenging times in my life and trying to cling to the lessons I learned in hopes that you might be able to do the same. I struggled to piece all of my thoughts together and as a result, this entry is really long, awkward and a bit choppy. Instead of overanalyzing and trying to make it perfect, I am just going to post it as is. That is the raw beauty of owning my own story ... and encouraging you to do the same. xo


I wiped away the tears of exasperation and reluctantly pulled into the parking lot of Don Pablos. Grilled chicken, rice, a bottomless basket of chips and salsa and the biggest margarita they had. This was the meal I inhaled after each and every fruitless fertility treatment. We recognized early on that we would need to find joy in the painstaking and dismal journey of infertility, and so this became our new tradition. Once we received word that the current treatment was unsuccessful, we would make plans to meet there immediately after work. I can still vividly recall the sting of sadness and loneliness, accompanied by the curtain of shame that would swallow me month after month. We had to learn to embrace the struggle as somethig other than failure. These setbacks were not failures, although it sure felt like it. We were learning to grieve the loss of what we hoped for and accept the outcome. This was one of those lessons that became clear only in the rearview mirror. We were incredibly fortunate that the treatment was ultimately successful and we were ready to begin the next chapter as parents.


Around this same time, I was hired by the Howard County Public School System as a school counselor and I was more than ready to assume the role as an expert on parenting! HA! One such area that I claimed to be an expert in was a program called “1-2-3 Magic” by Dr. Thomas Phelan. Basically, you (the parent/teacher) explain the behaviors that are acceptable vs. those that will be “counted.” No discussion or negotiations are used at the time of misbehavior, just straight counting. I learned about this strategy from a wise mentor and eventually began confidently presenting and implementing this program to teachers and parents. According to the research, this blueprint was all you needed to be successful in the classroom and/or at home. I shared it with Matt and remained confident that we would be kick ass parents once we implemented this program with our future kiddos. HA HA


We were blessed with four healthy children and each one cultivated their own unique response to 1-2-3 Magic. Here is a snapshot of how I remember things going as we tried this same program with each kid:

  • 1, 2, 3 We named the behaviors, counted to 2 and occasionally sent him to time out when his behavior warranted punishment.

  • 1, 2, 2 ½ 2 & ⅔, 2 & ¾, 3, 3, 3, …. Wasn't working so well and became more of a verbal wrestling match into “time-out.”

  • Counting to 1 was received with an intense stare, followed by a quivering lip and tears.

  • Just the idea of counting was received with a declaration that she will never be going to time out, so we didn't even bother.

I can reflect (and chuckle) at these varied reactions now, but at the time I was determined to enforce this program so my kids would be well behaved! Looking back, I can clearly see that their reactions were a cocktail of birth order, gender, and good old fashioned temperament. Despite knowing this intellectually, I still wanted clarity and understanding. I scrutinized myself, constantly measuring my self worth based on how my children behaved; how they performed. I still struggle to separate my worth from the successes and failures of my children.

We are all adapting to online learning and confined living SO differently! In our family, I am finding an eery parallel to when I (stubbornly) implementated 1-2-3 Magic! I am still as headstrong as ever, falsely trusting that each person will be able to do what is expected of them. This is just not going to happen. I am moving closer to accepting that this is not failure. There is a wide spectrum in productivity in our house. Some of us need only a gentle nudge and little to no guidance; some require many reminders, lots of encouragement and hours of guidance. I am still striving to meet each person where they are at without feeling defeated when things fall apart: without measuring my own self worth against my kids performances.

At times, I feel as ill-equipped to handle the unknowns of this experience as I did when we were standing at the brink of parenthood.

“ALEXA … OFF!!!!”

I screamed at Alexa so loudly that Matt asked me an hour later if I had apologized to her yet. :-) The noise of the music and the kids fighting and the work not getting done, and the internet cutting out … well, it was all just too much. It wasn’t just one thing, but all the moving parts that were closing in on me … louder than ever.


1-2-3 Breath. 1-2-3 Name it . Feel it. Lean in. There is no "magic" solution to any of this.


When I pulled into Don Pablos all those years ago, I was trying to acknowledge and accept the undesirable outcome no matter how awful it felt. We figured out that sitting (and eating) with our discomfort for a bit helped us begin to move from despair to gratitude. Then, we got up the next day and put one foot in front of the other.

So, I raise a margarita and celebrate all of us. Let's lean in and honor each time our expectations are shattered and acknowledge that this is not failure, even though it may feel like it. Cheers to all of us for getting up the next day and doing it all over again.

Thanks for reading.

Be Still and Notice.

xo



Blog # 3

A Baking Experiment and a Pendulum

April 13, 2020

Mom, do we have ingredients to make Banana bread?

Oh boy. This should be interesting :-)

Within ten minutes, the kitchen counter was covered with every bag of sugar, powder and measuring tool that we own.

“Is this yogurt expired? It looks a little chunky.”

“What kind of sugar should we use? Why do we have so many different kinds?”


Standing at the counter were two teenage boys desperately attempting to assert their independence while simultaneously reverting back to their childlike ways. As the boys fought their way through the breadmaking process, I marveled at the fact that they hadn’t killed each other and discretely snapped a few photos of this unexpected experiment :-)


As the bread began to bake and the delicious aroma of fresh baked banana bread slowly seeped through the house, I cautiously allowed myself to feel gratitude for the creation of this new experience in our kitchen.

Some say that cooking is an art and baking is a science. That baking involves exact formulas that must be followed, and every ingredient has a purpose. I am not an expert with either, so I defer to anything that is simple and involves as few ingredients as possible.


Being at home right now feels a little bit like a baking experiment. We know what needs to be done and why; what ingredients should be included (hand washing, masks, social distancing, etc.). We just have no idea how long this experiment is going to take and what the final product is going to look or feel like. All this time in our house kinda feels like we are desperately trying to create something; “bake” something that will turn out ok. I can confidently say I have failed more times than not, and worry about the missteps.


My struggle now is to move away from the feelings evoked from these “failures,” and not get stuck there. How can I acknowledge the suffering that is happening in my heart, in our hearts, and still actively feel gratitude for the blessings in my own kitchen?


We are experiencing small losses that if not adequately acknowledged could form a collective darkness. I find myself getting lost in the confusion that arises as I try to recognize my own personal suffering and compare it to those that are worse off. In her podcast, Unlocking Us, Brene Brown emphatically instructs us to “give ourselves permission to feel hard things.” She reminds us that burying our feelings will suffocate them and ultimately, these emotions will show up in our body and/or our behavior.


In other words, our suffering needs room to breath so the underlying pain doesn’t metastasize.


When I began to shed light on my own struggles with depression and anxiety several years ago, I was terrified and paralyzed by the fear that I would be judged. Like many of us, I was a true master at hiding my struggles and sharing my truth was acutely uncomfortable.


I spent considerable emotional effort clinging to the notion that my suffering wasn’t nearly as “bad” or painful as others and therefore, it wasn’t worth sharing. I would tell myself that God had far more important things to worry about than me. He certainly did not need to hear about my frivolous problems.


The “problem” with this inner dialogue is that it denies us the opportunity to name our sufferings and unite us with the pain of others, including Christ. Refuting our own anguish does not dissipate the intensity of the emotions.


As I navigate my way through the long days of this pandemic, I am trying to maneuver the emotional pendulum that is pulling me back and forth. I find myself fluctuating between gratitude and despair, desperately seeking the stillness that will come when the swinging subsides. But when and how does this stillness come?


It feels like I am riding on a seesaw ...


~ Blessed to have so many choices for all of us to watch and/or binge on during this quarantine … then feeling guilty for saying “yes” to another show and lacking the desire and motivation to engage with the kids when the tv is off.


~ Recognizing that spending time on Social Media brings me joy and evokes compassion for others as I soak in the heartwarming stories, video clips, walks down memory lane, etc. ... and an hour later can pull me down a rabbit hole of shame feeling overwhelmed with guilt for not gathering (or forcing) my family to do creative and fun things together.


~ Deeply grateful for the health of my kids and then experiencing anger when they whine and complain about being bored, despite the many activities I have suggested that they try.


~ Grateful for a full pantry, sad for those that barely have enough to eat, followed by irritation with my kids for complaining that we have nothing to eat.


~ Thankful for the awesome opportunities to experience different online masses (while in our pajamas), and immensely struggling to keep us connected to our faith outside the constructs of comforting rituals and routines.


~ Blessed to have Zoom calls and a patient husband to talk to as the days unfold, but still feeling a profound loneliness that causes my soul to ache.


The pendulum continues to swing back and forth, slowly and gracefully one day and fast and furious the next. If I lean into the motion, allow myself to spend quality time on both sides, I can eventually find the stillness that exists in between.


In the stillness, I can notice and name the feelings. I can feel the peace that comes from spending time in prayer. I can unite my own suffering with that of society without playing a game of comparison. I can breath.


Especially now, the profound suffering of others can take our breath away. I try to hold tight to the belief that we are each called to attend to the greater good in our own way. Some days my calling is to tend to the suffering in my own heart, in my own family. Other days, my calling is to support the kind and beautiful efforts of others. Then there are the moments when I am able to attend to the suffering of others through personal action. The pendulum continues to swing and I lean in wherever my heart leads me and needs me to be.


As I scrolled through my camera roll, pausing to examine the photo of the boys “fighting” through the banana bread making process, I didn’t give any thought to the mess and mistakes they made or the arguing that occurred, but I did recall the yummy bread they created and the fruitful seed it planted in their inquisitive hearts.


As I continue to steer the swaying motion of my pendulum as it swiftly moves between gratitude and despair, I am learning to settle into stillness one breath at a time. This stillness could be the most important ingredient in my baking experiment, allowing despair and gratitude to serve a purpose. Giving our hearts permission to fully experience and lean into all the feelings will ultimately create something beautiful.


Be well everyone.

Be Still & Notice

XOXO

BLOG # 2

No Wrong Note

April 1, 2020

I burned the bagel. Not once, but two times. In a row.

As I turned the knob on the toaster oven, I repeated to myself don’t forget about the bagel … I walked upstairs to change the laundry and called out to anyone that would listen “Don’t let me forget to take the bagel out of the toaster oven!” Okay mom - we won’t let you forget.

5 minutes later the smell of a burning bagel permeated throughout the lower level.

Crap.

Now we were down to ONE single bagel and I was determined to NOT burn the bagel. Again.

And then I did it. I burned the very last bagel.

Feeling an irrational rage rising within me, I threw burnt bagel #2 in the trash and prepared a packet of oatmeal. I stomped up the stairs, dropped the bowl of oatmeal on the bed of my teenage son and loudly declared, “I burned two bagels, so here is your breakfast.” and maturely stormed out of the room.


According to Miles Davis, there is no such thing as a “wrong note.” He reminds us that “it’s not the actual note that is wrong, but the note that you play after that matters the most.”

What note comes after two burnt bagels?

A mini temper tantrum and secret wish that someone else would step in and be the grownup for the day? Maybe. Maybe not.


I feel like our days can be loosely compared to how it might feel to compose a piece of music. Most of the day is filled with random, loud, irrational notes thrown onto a scale. None of which make much sense at all.

When we learn the simple notes of a song like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” it immediately registers when we hit a wrong note. We know the song in our heart and our hands have to slowly and patiently follow.

Most of the time, I know when I have hit a wrong note. I feel it in my gut and take control of my heart. What I don't always know is what note should come next.


I opened up my email to find a message from a teacher indicating that all students should know if they need to do a retake of a test that was given before school let out. Out of nowhere, I blew up at my daughter, accusing her of not keeping up with expectations and demanding that she figure this out right now.

Her face dropped and her eyes filled with tears. She ran up to her room and slammed her door.

I hit a wrong note and it was painfully off tune.


I was desperately trying to persuade my youngest daughter to finish her assigned work, which included listening to a read-aloud on my laptop. She was fighting me and covering her ears to show me she wasn’t interested in listening. :-) I responded by raising my voice and demanding she sit down listen to her story or she would go to time out.

My wrong note was loud and off key. It was deafening.


My 14 year old was playing Minecraft on our family iPad despite knowing the expectation was that he wasn’t allowed to play any games until all work was done or at least started. Since this had happened other times, I lost all of my patience, grabbed the iPad and slammed it on the couch. Mature, right? Yup. An incredibly erroneous note.


Ok so now that I have pulled back the curtain on my impeccable parenting :-) ... I want to share how I mindfully created a melody from a string of wrong notes.


I walked up to my daughter’s bedroom and climbed into bed with her. I named all the feelings that I was experiencing, admitting I was having a hard time understanding and knowing how to handle everything right now. Once I started admitting my fears and worries and offered a heartfelt apology, the energy between us softened.


Even though I wanted to win the war with my 6 year old, I spent bedtime that night owning my behavior and sharing how I was feeling. I told her I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the tasks that were being assigned and when I feel overwhelmed, I lose my patience. She was able to open up to me about how she was feeling about having to do so much work and we laughed about our silly behaviors. We also agreed to make a different plan for the next day.


With my son, I asked him to join me in praying the Examen (shared daily on Loyola's YouTube channel) and after a few eye rolls and grunts, he reluctantly agreed. The act of listening to and (parallel) praying started to melt away the ice that had formed between us over the past week. One powerful part of the Examen includes the act of reflecting on what areas you have fallen short and need to ask forgiveness for so far in your day. I turned to him and asked him for forgiveness for losing my temper. This experience of exchanging forgiveness was quietly powerful and shifted both of our moods.

Before I was able to figure out how to play notes that might produce a harmonious sound and could naturally follow a string of very wrong notes, I had to name my own suffering and bring it into the light of awareness. I had to spend time with the feelings and fears that lead to my outbursts and angry reactions.

I wrestle with anxiety around what the teachers are going to think if my kids are not performing well or don’t complete their online work. Name it.

I feel disappointed in myself for not having a better handle on expectations and follow through with the kids. Feel it.

I feel ashamed that even with the gift of time, I still struggle to finish tasks that I start. Name it. Feel it.

I feel embarrassed and angry that I burned the bagels because my mind got so easily distracted and overwhelmed. Name it. Feel it.


Sitting with these feelings, fears and anxieties is part of my meditation and prayer. And since I have been using a music metaphor, I feel like this mental exercise can be described as my mindful refrain. A kind of mental exercise that brings peace and clarity to my otherwise unpleasant melodies.


Be still. Notice, name and feel all of it.

Hey, maybe next time I put the last bagel in the toaster oven, I will set a reminder on my phone and if that doesn’t work, I will remember my oldest son’s kind response to my outburst, “Mom, it’s ok. I actually like oatmeal.” As Miles Davis said, there is no wrong note.


BLOG # 1

Into the Unknown

March 24, 2020

Into the Unknown …


Are you out there?

Do you know me?

Can you feel me?

Can you show me?

Where are you going?

Don’t leave me alone ...

How do I follow you into the unknown?

These lyrics taken directly from Frozen 2’s Into the Unknown reveal an uncanny raw truth. We are all entering the “unknown” and intimately getting to know our inner voice, that ringing in our ear. How do we prepare our hearts to enter this vast unknown? We can start by taking the sage advice from Elsa’s sister Anna and just “do the next right thing.”


What is my next right thing? Be Still and Notice. This is my lenten project. Or at least, that is what I am hoping :-) As Matt’s uncle, Father Pat Lamb said in his homily last weekend, “this is going to be a different kind of lent.” It sure is Father Pat. It sure is.

Last year during Lent, I wrote about leaning into discomfort and embracing “boosts” to my spiritual journey, including listening to the Catholic Channel in the morning. Oh, how I took for granted the freedom I had to be in my car listening to the thoughts of others! This year, I have struggled to bring awareness not only to Lent, but also how to keep my Catholic faith alive with little or no structure.


I continue to lovingly observe all of the beautiful live stream prayer groups, divine mercy chaplets, etc. but for me, all of these “opportunities” just evoke anxiety, causing me to feel even more overwhelmed. This is where my next right thing kicks in. Breath. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and notice. Notice all the feelings, all the emotions, all the fears. Notice what and where the feelings are the strongest.


It is scary. Name it. It is uncertain. Name it. I feel anxious. Feel it. I feel overwhelmed with the vastness of time that needs to be filled. Feel it. I feel inadequate as a homeschool teacher. Feel it deeply. I feel so sad for everyone that is suffering right now. Feel it deeper.


This Lent, I have landed at the intersection of mindfulness, mental health and spirituality. For me, these three paths exist in communion with one another. For me, one cannot exist without the others. Each time I wholeheartedly try to go “all in” with any one of these separately, believing that I am capable and competent … I fall short.


I believed that if I went all in with mindfulness, I wouldn't need to treat my depression or anxiety any longer. I claimed that if I talked openly about my mental health and shared my story, then I wouldn’t need to see a therapist or practice intentional self-care. I claimed that if I volunteered for everything that I thought needed my help, attended all the church functions and went to daily and weekly mass, I could be free of the paralyzing grip of anxiety.

I could not have been more wrong. By shining a light on my stubborn tendencies, I have started to become aware of the prison that I had built around my soul. In order for me to truly free myself, I need to embrace any and all paths that lead to healing and wholeness. Can I stay connected to my Catholic faith while embracing mindfulness? Can I advocate for mental health awareness while stuck in the weeds of spiritual confusion?

For now, I try to embrace that sacred space that exists in my heart, providing a way out of the prison of self doubt.

The Corona Virus has certainly loosened my grip on this wellness quest :-) I know many of us feel this way, so how do we find our way in and out of the unknown? Maybe we can start by noticing and naming the feelings ... begin to release their power and practice self-compassion.

Living together as a family of six, I continue to witness (and experience) six completely different reactions to the quarantine.

Be still and NOTICE.

I notice that I begin to feel a tightening in my chest when I read through endless Google Classroom threads with what seems like a thousand different instructions and expectations.

I notice that I feel inadequate when I see other parents posting about the creative and fun activities they are doing with their kiddos at home.

I notice the rise of anxiety and restlessness that comes from being inside with my kiddos from sun up to sun down leaving little or no opportunity to fill my well.

I notice that despite the gift of time, I struggle to stay engaged and interested in the repetitive games that my kiddos want me to play. Then I notice the guilt that rises within when I don’t enjoy these games the way they want me to.

My prayer is that God’s love for humanity and each of us will find us in our moments of stillness. That the warmth of self compassion will wash over us when we find ourselves at the intersection of uncertainty, fear and feeling overwhelmed.


Into the unknown. ~ Elsa

Just do the next right thing. ~ Anna

“It is how we embrace the uncertainty in our lives, that leads to the great transformations of our souls.” ~ Brandon Trean


Thank you for reading.

xo

Tara


Esspresso Our Story

In November of 2017, I wrote and published my first blog entry. This was the very first time I had ever shared my story. Although I have retired this site in order to create a new one, I am including this so that I can always remember how and when my journey towards healing through mindfulness began. xoxo