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Safe at home

My story has always been: my dad was always mad, my family life was hard, and I had never felt safe.

Last weekend I had an intuitive energy clearing session with Anastasia. About 10 minutes in she said, “they’re taking me back to the night you got hurt.” I was ready.

She asked me to walk her through the memory, piece by piece. Each piece setting a marker in time, a dot on a map. I paused when I got to the balcony and asked her if she wanted me to keep going. She said “take me up to the part where you woke up sober and realized what happened.”

I described the decisions I made and why, the injury that resulted, the immediate aftermath, the ambulance, and the lights of the ceiling in the ER. I described waking up in a hospital room, seeing my bandaged legs and my parents hugging each other. I told her about the confusion, the slow realizations of what had happened, the conversation with the doctor, and the life-changing minute of believing I would never walk again.

Then she got to work. She walked me back through each spot on that map of trauma, collecting and replacing all the parts of me that I had lost in each moment. Replacing my sense of who I was, my sense of safety in my own skin, I’m my own life. She guided my soul fully back into my body, firmly reassuring it that THIS is where it belongs and that it is safe there.

We re-traced my steps back to the moment that I was standing at my locked front door, feeling so alone and so afraid.

At that final point in the journey, she told me to give myself a hug. To tell that version of me that it’s going to be ok, that I am safe and not locked out of my home anymore.

Anastasia said something about going back to the time before that moment, to before I felt unsafe. And I told her, I didn’t feel safe long before then. I couldn’t think back far enough and landed on my old story of, “I’ve never felt safe.”

….

Today is Friday and I took the day off of work. I looked up a recipe and made soup in my kitchen while listening to Harry Potter on Audible and the rain outside. I had to look up directions on how to do just about every step of the recipe, and accomplished each task slowly and successfully, one at a time. I kept the kitchen clean as I went.

I took a picture of my fogged-up kitchen window and posted it on Instagram, saying how nostalgic it made me feel, remembering being a child in my home while my mom made us dinner.

Just as the soup finished, I made my way to the couch to call my therapist for our weekly Friday session. Something in me felt… slow. I didn’t feel sad, exactly, but I felt quiet. I felt something and wasn’t sure what it was, or why I felt it.

Since I couldn’t describe how I was feeling, I described to him what I’d been doing; the soup, the cooking, the cleaning– when I got to the part about Harry Potter, I started crying.

I’ve been in therapy long enough to know that when emotions want to come up, to let them. Crying about Harry Potter seemed strange, but I trusted that as we continued talking we might uncover a deeper meaning.

I told him about the picture I posted on Instagram, and how maybe I just miss my mom. Maybe I’m crying because I’m alone in here and don’t have anyone to share the soup and the clean kitchen with. That no matter how cute or clean I can make my apartment, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re living through an unprecedented global crisis and that I’m living through that by myself (in the physical sense, at least).

That didn’t really seem like the answer (I am at peace with going through this as someone who lives alone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes) but then the work I’d done with Anastasia last weekend came to mind, so I shifted topics and recounted that experience for him.

I walked us both back along the map, back to the image of hugging my 25-year old self. I recounted for him the realization that that moment wasn’t the first time I’d felt unsafe. How I couldn’t retrace my steps far back enough to find the spot on the map where I last felt truly safe. The old story saying: that spot doesn’t exist for me.

But then it hit me. The fogged up kitchen window.

The memory flooded in. Being home on a week night as a kid. My mom making spaghetti. The kitchen window and sliding glass back doors fogged up with steam. My dad reading in a leather chair, a soft light above his head. Me, my older sister and my younger brother in the living room, entertaining ourselves on the braided living room rug. Classical music playing on the stereo. Our chow dog Mingo laying somewhere, sleeping.

….

I’m making my own dinner and fogging up my own kitchen window. Playing my own classical music.

I’m home. I’m here. We’re safe.

The start of her art collection

The vibe around my office can be tense at times, and especially between mine and this one other team.  Natalie is on that other team and through the battles that our respective teams have gone through, Natalie and I have always found a way to laugh with each other.

She asked me to make a “be grateful” painting for her blank room, which she’d recently realized was too blank.

By the time I sent her the picture of the final product, she’d made a second art purchase, inspired by the one I was making for her!

I’m excited for her new art journey, and honored to be part of the beginning.

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unfinished business.

This painting isn’t complete yet but I still want to post about it even, and especially, in it’s un-finished state.

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Up until recently, all my art has been very geometric and precise.  I do like that look, but there was more to it than just taste. I needed predictability.  I needed precision.  I needed control.

Expressing yourself creatively is a way to bring your insides to the outside.  For my art, it’s sitting at my desk and paying attention to what I feel on the inside, and finding a way to put it on that canvas.  Up until recently, I needed complete control over what came out.  Straight line here, triangle there.  I relied on blue painter’s tape for just about every piece I painted.

And that’s how, for the most part, I’ve been approaching life in general.  Our art is a reflection of ourselves and up until recently, I’ve been way too afraid to let any part of myself out without it going through a careful internal review process. No joke, every word of every sentence. Every move I’d make got reviewed by the internal committees of bullies in my head. My outward expression of myself was COVERED in blue painters tape.  Nothing ever went outside the lines. I’ve been so tightly wound around my belief that I need to work really fucking hard to be some perfect representation of one thing or another.  And I’m really fucking tired from it.

The point of this post is to recognize that my art, and therefore hopefully in my life as a whole, has started flowing more naturally.  That I’m learning to sit down, feel what’s moving around inside, and just let whatever happens happen.


 

Nov 27 update: here’s the final product:

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Astral insights

I just came across this transcript I jotted down of a Chani Nicholas full moon, lunar eclipse ritual podcast a few months ago. It’s some of the best self-affirming language I’ve ever come across so I thought I’d store it on this public blog and share it with those of you who read it.

Anytime we run up any sentiment of self-annihilation, we MUST stand against it. That is our job.

Anything inside of ourselves that says;
I don’t deserve this
I shouldn’t exist
I don’t have a place here
I don’t deserve to be here

is BULLSHIT and needs to be stood against very very FIRMLY.

We need to stop in our tracks and say;
No. I won’t have it.
I won’t diminish myself
I won’t shrink in the face of this.
I will stand for myself in this moment.
I will connect to myself and be present for myself and witness myself, and find a way toward coming back into relationship with loving myself in this moment.
I am finding that way right now
I will not leave myself here.

If we’re tired of being left, we have to stop leaving ourselves emotionally.

If we’re tired of being left out, then we need to choose ourselves every time.

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Jonny’s Wall

When my friend Jonny moved into his loft in SF last year, he casually mentioned me painting “be grateful” on one of the walls.

Then he came back from a two-month trip in South America early this year with gratitude in his eyes and a new motivation for me to paint his space.  We started talking about ideas and then we started talking about dates.  We set a weekend and crossed our to-do list off at a hardware store; scaffolding, paint and drop-cloths to protect the rest of his apartment (you’ll see why).

Bam.

Building, Finding, Being Support.

I’ve been taking private Pilates lessons for about 4 years now.  I was gifted from the universe with my soul sister Pilates instructor, Susanne.  She’s helped me come out of the stuckness and stiffness of my injuries, emotionally and physically, and to build the beautiful strength from the inside out for support… emotionally and physically.  She’s changed my life and I tell her that every time I think of it. This past January she started an 8am beginners mat class in which we would:

begin with Fundamentals and some great pre-Pilates exercises from the Pilates Elders, to warm up and mobilize the spine; then we will dive in to the level 1/2 mat work.

I responded to that email saying “i’m pretty sure you just wrote that description for me. see you tuesday!” It’s settled into a pretty standard small group of us, wandering in at 8am with sleep still in our eyes, all there in the name of our bodies and our health.  I’m the youngest by a few decades and with my slow and strong but delicate body, we all slowly get into the exercises and slowly continue to build strength around what supports us. I’m so grateful for Pilates, for the strength it’s shown me, and the community it’s given me.  To health!! Picture 50 Picture 49

May I remind you, please

  

The Be Grateful Project

As you may have been reading, my nephew and I orchestrated a mural project at his school and presented it to the entire student body on Monday, March 30 – the day they returned to school from their two-week break.  We kept it a secret mostly and brought the students out to the black top for a first-thing-Monday-morning-surprise-assembly.

I was excited to talk in front of a crowd (of 9 year olds, ha!) and bring my message to more people but in preparing for my speech – all I kept thinking was how impressed I was with my nephew.  He saw something happening (me putting “be grateful” places) and decided it should happen in his world (at his school) – and then he went and made it happen.

I struggled in finding my words for the speech and then listened to my nephew deliver his – full of sincerity and passion with no second-thought about how it might come across.  Kids are so real and true.

We tried to video-tape the whole event but Aiden’s speech is all we captured – which is what I’m the most grateful for in my life right now.  His words go straight to my heart – and straight to the heart of the matter.  Be kind.  Be brave.  Be grateful. Take action and make things better.  “Maybe use these words to think about the way you treat others or yourself.”

The other beautiful part of this experience – was how easily and immediately the kids bought into the idea.  We had each of the student council kids stand up after I spoke and read what it meant to them to be kind, brave and grateful.  They all spoke loudly into the microphone with their passionate thoughts on what it all meant.  (ok so this is the other part we caught on video.. I caught just a snippet on my iPhone before a kid next to me started spitting on the ground repeatedly and loudly.. oh kids 😉 )

Additionally, my sister had created in-class projects for each of the grade-levels and we gave each teacher one of my stickers and a pack of blank labels for each kid to create their own.

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I loved being in front of young people and talking to them about such a helpful perspective to remember.  I loved seeing how easily they agreed, and how passionately they’ve made it their own.

The younger generation is listening so closely.  I’m grateful to have started this conversation.  Who’s up next?

Here’s the first post I wrote about the very beginning of the project: https://begratefulplease.com/2015/01/06/inspired-by-the-inspired/

And here’s the second post, from when we finally got started: https://begratefulplease.com/2015/03/16/the-sort-of-secret-pbg/

The (mostly) Secret PBG

A few months ago, I wrote about my 9-year old nephew proposing what we now call Project Be Grateful (PBG) at his school.  Well it’s been moving right along and in a few weeks, it’ll all come together in what should be a really impactful event for his school and maybe even wider than that.

We’re doing a bit of an unveiling ceremony but I wanted to put up these little teaser pictures for now because I can barely contain my excitement.

Our first team meeting with Mr. Jones

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Laying the foundation

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The painting begins, Student Council kids were excited to get involved and get started

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Adding some letters!

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More to come in a few weeks!!

I like this!

By some SF-commute miracle this (Monday) morning, I walked onto an empty bus.  Unless you also spend your weekday mornings smashed in a crowded, standing-room-barely, sometimes smelly bus – you won’t appreciate the miracle of an empty morning bus ride.  In my 6 years of taking SF Muni to work every day,* this has NEVER happened to me. The bus was empty and quiet and I had a seat.  I was beyond grateful.*every day except for the days I can’t handle it and take a cab.

When we pulled up to the Van Ness bus stop however, a woman was waiting with some type of walker-cart-chair situation, and needed the ramp lowered in order to get onto the bus.  Unhappy with how the bus driver lowered the ramp, walker-woman (we’ll call her) demanded the driver move forward and do it again.  So the bus driver did, and walker-woman climbed aboard.

Several stops later, through the music in my headphones, I heard yelling.  So I take one headphone out and realize it’s walker-woman yelling at the bus driver again for how she’s lowered the ramp.  The bus driver has raised her voice to match walker-woman’s but her patience was evident.  She wasn’t getting upset, she was speaking loudly to walker-woman as if she was speaking to her own stubborn, hard-of-hearing grandma.

Walker-woman finally gets up to get off the bus, clearly thinking she was about to prove the bus driver right – that she was NOT going to be able to get down this way.

When, to no surprise of the bus driver, walker-woman is able to roll herself and her stuff onto the sidewalk, the bus driver responds to the yells that are still being hurled in her direction with “Have a nice day!”

So before I got off at the next stop, I hand the bus driver a be grateful, please sticker and say, “I want to give you this.  I think your patience is incredible.”

She doesn’t have time to respond before I’m off the bus but about two steps away I hear her yell, “I like this!”

I sit in a comfortable chair at work and can listen to my favorite music on repeat while I ignore most of the world and I STILL lose my temper.  Be grateful, please.