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It’s Complicated

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Today would have been my mom’s 70th birthday. She killed herself 12 years ago, when she was 57. This day isn’t tinged with terrible sadness for me, it’s not heavy. Some years it comes and goes and I don’t even realize until a few days later that it’s passed.

This year I felt it coming. It’s complicated. I’m sad, I’m relieved, I feel a bit adrift. There’s a space inside me that’s empty, but the truth is that that emptiness was there even before she died. I was holding that space for her and filling it up with all my dreams and fantasies of what our relationship could be. But they were just dreams and when she died they vanished into nothingness.

I grieved the loss of my dreams, the loss of what could be, the wasted potential, but I made quick work of it and built a wall around that empty space so I could pretend it wasn’t there. I felt that because her life had been so painful for her, and because my life was easier with her gone, that her death was a net win for our team. I made it simple in my mind, breathed a sigh of relief, and “moved on.” But it doesn’t work that way. The pieces of our story (of ourselves, really) that we deny will resurface again and again until we hear them, until we bring them back into our hearts.

I’ve spent the past 18 months taking down the wall around my “mother space” and investigating what’s really in that emptiness. It’s like picking through the ashes after a devastating fire: everything’s gone, but the ghosts are still there.

I’ve realized recently that that space doesn’t hurt quite as much as it used to, it’s just…space. I hold that space for myself now, to work through my experience of being mothered and my experience of being a mother. I think a lot about how she couldn’t show up for me, what that meant for me, all the sadness and pain I suffered because of it. All the stories and beliefs I created about life, relationships, and myself as a result of those experiences. I think about how sad her life was, how a perfect storm of childhood trauma and physical dysfunction sunk her ship before she could even leave the port. I think about how I mother my own kids, the impossible standards I’ve set for myself in response to my own childhood. How do you give what you never received? How do you mother yourself? How do you show up fully in the present when the past is dogging you incessantly?

I ask more questions than I answer, and the answers that do come are in the language of the heart. I can’t speak or explain them so much as feel them. I’m peeling back the layers, coming to an understanding, finding forgiveness—more for myself than for anyone else, because that’s what’s truly difficult. It’s so easy to forgive others their faults and so hard to do that for ourselves.

In simplifying her life, and her death, I shut the door on myself. I left no room for confusion, grief, or exploration. I didn’t want those things back then anyway, but I understand the need for them now. I never wanted to look back, to think about my past, to feel anything but strong and in control and unaffected. But the past does matter, it’s our foundation, and if we ignore it then the only explanation for our faults, patterns, and “issues,” is that we’re broken and flawed.

The path to loving and forgiving myself has involved examining my past and feeling all the painful feelings I avoided at the time. I’ve needed help to do this, to allow a fresh perspective on all this old stuff to emerge. I could write volumes on that alone—seeking help, being vulnerable enough to actually receive the help I needed, being brave enough to explore the darkness. But through this work I’m developing the foundation I never had. I’m becoming multi-dimensional and grounded in life, in myself.

I don’t know that I’d have the space in my heart or mind to do this if my mother were still alive. I needed a distance from it all that would’ve never been created if I were still trying to manage that relationship day in and day out. So, it’s complicated. She was born, she was in pain, she caused pain, she died, and then there was so much left behind that just couldn’t be ignored.

This year what I’ve decided is that her birthday is an opportunity to stop and take a moment to think of her. To think of the good times, her admirable qualities, all the things I like about myself that are a direct result of her genetics or her influence. To send love to her, to love myself. The only way forward is through, and I want to move through life with love. Happy Birthday, Mom.

Feelings Don’t Have an Expiration Date

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My beloved dog, who has been my best friend and favorite person for the last twelve years, suddenly passed away three weeks ago. My whole family is devastated, and I am especially bereft. He was our family dog, but mostly he was my dog. For the last eight years I’ve either worked from home or been home with my kids, and he was my constant companion. Since he died, I’ve found myself completely unable to adequately describe both the intensity of our bond and the magnitude of my current suffering.

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How to Make Decisions Intuitively

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True progress on your path can only happen when you find the courage to listen to your intuition and make the choices that resonate deeply with you, regardless of how well they match up to what other people/society/logic say you should do.

Each of us has our own unique path, and therefore our own unique value system. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. What matters is making the most expansive choices for ourselves–these are the choices that we make intuitively and that naturally align with our paths and our values.

But how do you actually make those intuitive decisions?

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How to Overcome Fear & Take Action

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When we set our sights on achieving things that really matter, the stakes feel high. The more deeply we care about something, the more vulnerable we become to fear and doubt.

The real problem with fear is this: it often prevents us from taking action. When we don’t act, we feel stuck. And the longer we feel stuck, the harder it becomes to act.

But here’s the thing: we’re collaborators with the universe and our action is required.

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Ushering in 2016 With Grace & Openness

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The beginning of a new year is such an exciting time, but sometimes it can be tiring and overwhelming to think about a brand new year stretching out ahead of you. (You’d better make it count, right? This’ll be the best year ever! The year you finally get your shit together, make that change, do that thing, find happiness/success/health! Ugh, just writing those examples makes me feel bad!)

Rather than create a list of goals and resolutions that will either be forgotten or cause you stress (or, um, both), I suggest you take my simple, compassionate approach to transitioning to a new year. Three simple steps, which work fabulously to usher in the new year but can also be used any time you want to hit the reset button.

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Top Three Lessons I Learned in 2015

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As 2015 draws to a close I’ve been reflecting on my year and thinking about everything I learned. This year threw me a lot of curve balls and I experienced a lot of resistance and frustration.

But I had a lot of breakthroughs, too, and in many ways I feel like this past year has been one of the most transformative of my life. I feel so much more grounded than I did a year ago, and I’ve laid the foundation for the even bigger changes that are coming in 2016.

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Recognizing Your Gifts

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You’ve been told so many times that you already have what you need to be who you’re here to be (and do what you’re here to do), but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes it feels like, well where is all that magical stuff? Where is my self-love, my discipline, my clarity? If I already have it then why doesn’t it feel like I do?

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A Lesson in “Right Timing”

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The phrase, “right things, right timing.” is a favorite of mine because it helps me release my tendency to control. I say it to myself all the time when things don’t go the way I want them to or aren’t happening on the timeline I’d prefer.

This phrase isn’t just a platitude to soothe disappointments–it’s true. I can’t think of a time in my life when something didn’t go the way I wanted, but I realized later that what I’d wanted wasn’t the best thing after all.

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My Biggest Challenge Right Now

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This week I channeled some guidance I didn’t want to hear. It was intended for my email subscribers but I didn’t want to send it out because it felt too challenging. (Note that this guidance is for me, too, and I wanted something less challenging!) So I channeled more guidance, which I also didn’t like.

I kept channeling guidance until I had six weeks’ worth of guidance…and I didn’t like any of it.

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How to Deal With Upsetting News Events

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Terrible things happen all over the world everyday. Most of them we never hear about, but some of them we do. And realizing that the one atrocious thing you’ve heard about is just one thing, and there are so many more atrocious things you’ll never know about, is even more upsetting.

Sometimes when we hear about the sad, horrifying, awful things we may wonder how they’re even possible. Or we may wonder how it’s possible that at our core we really are all beings of love, when some of us perpetrate such terrible acts. Sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense.

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