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Connections, Connecting, Connector

23 Feb

It feels like a Sunday morning, it’s not, it’s Saturday. Typical Saturdays at our house are so hectic, I should be out the door for karate now, not sitting and watching tv and drinking coffee. I was meant to be here, on my big plush green microfiber sofa. I was meant to sit and sip my coffee out of my new coffee mug, the one my mom bought me that reads, “Life is Good.”

I love Oprah. I really love Oprah. I cried when her show ended. I was elated to find her having her own network, The OWN network. I love it to the umpteenth degree. I have a new favorite show called, “The Trouble Next Door.” Here is the premise. A family in the neighborhood is in some type of crisis, desperate and running low on options. They call a neighborhood meeting and the family, who most don’t know, ask all of the neighborhood for help. Tons of neighbors show up to the meeting to meet this family in peril, they show up and take it on all the way.

This episode is serendipitous. This single mother has 5 children, one who is severely autistic, and one with major behavioral issues. Oh my heart beats for her. I feel like our hearts are connected. I don’t know her, she most certainly doesn’t know me, but I wish we could. Hey, this family is from just here in the Atlanta area, it could happen.

This mother is drained, she is sad, she is desperate, all emotions I have felt often. As the episode moves forward you see these connections building. They start out small, maybe like a flimsy wood suspension bridge, but then they build. Now they are the Golden Gate bridge. Miracles happen everyday, you have to ask for them. My heart is pounding as I see the courage it took for this mother to reach out to these stranger and just ask for HELP.

What changes will take place in her life? Has the course of her life been altered forever because she chose to connect, get connected, be a connector. It is powerful.

When Blaise was first diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome I was defeated. I was lost, angry, and hopeless. That never stopped me before in my life, why would I go there now. I got on the phone and started making connections. In 24 hours I was on the phone with two PWS families.That was nothing compared to meeting the Georgia chapter of PWS USA. I was so nervous that day. My stomach was way down by my feet. I felt the earth giving in underneath me with each step. I just kept telling myself, “put one foot in front of the other, keep walking, keep breathing.” I was completely unprepared for what was to follow. It was family, it was connection instantly, it was a group of people who genuinely looked in my eyes and let me know, “we are connected, you are one of us now, we have your back.”

I look back on that day over 3 years ago. Life changing and eye-opening. It was a day full of promise for me, a day filled with opportunity and hope that my boy would be part of something in his life.

My writing has brought me connections that would other wise never have appeared. I feel a sense of utter calm when I am in a room full of connected souls. That is what we all want. We want to feel connected. We want connections. We want to know:

WE ARE NOT ALONE, YOU AREN’T!

making-connections

Connections provide that safety net, that harness that holds you up in a ropes course. When I was 20 years old I did such a ropes course. I had to climb to the top of a tree, I don’t know it was like 80 feet high, probably not but it was really high. I had to then climb on a disc placed at the top of such tree, and jump. Oh, I had to jump and catch a trapeze. When I got to the top of the tree I could make it on the disc. My stomach was churning. I am getting nervous just thinking of that day, that moment in time. I remember yelling down, “I am going to throw up on all of you.” A voice came from down below, it was a friend I had made named Eliza. I could barely make out her words at first, she kept repeating them. “We are here for you, you can do this, we are all doing this together, keep going.” I don’t know but I just gave one big push and up I went. I said, “shit Rachel, I can’t believe this.” and then I jumped. I screamed as I leapt through the air, but I knew the 20 folks on the ground were there for me.

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In your dark night of the soul, or your brightest day of light sending, find your connections. Be a connector. I have this feeling crawling up inside of me. It is creeping up through my restless legs at night, it is finding a home in my belly, it is finding its way up to my heart. This is what i want to do. I want to make connections, keep connecting, and be a CONNECTOR.

Have you connected your soul to another yet? I say go out and make connections. Facebook connections are great, but make those real face to face connections. Get out there. Make plans with your friends even when your tired. Call up your friends on the phone, instead of texting. Make genuine and authentic connections, and then sit back and watch what unfolds for you.

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You could reach down in your soul and find more than enough things to connect with. I look at my own life and realize I am full of connections waiting to happen.

I am connected to Special Needs Families

I am connected to recovering addicts

I am connected to the Jewish community

I am connected to people from Philadelphia

I am connected to people who love the Bay area in California

I am connected to people who lost their parents too young

I am connected to those who love yoga.

I could go on forever. Sometimes I pick and choose which connection I want that day. Sometimes it is more than one. All the time I know that they are there and waiting to bust out.

Are you a connector or are you searching for connections? Share below

 

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The Updated Version 2.0

25 Jan

If you read my last couple of essays than you know I have become obsessed with the idea of having two versions of myself. It all started with watching the movie ‘Another Earth’, which by the way is unbelievably good. I find myself daydreaming of my other version. Maybe an earlier version of myself, maybe a completely different version of me, or maybe it’s an identical me walking around.

another earth

Lately I have spent time going back in my mind at the earlier version of myself. This morning I came across a part of me that I forgot had  existed. It showed itself to me and I stopped for a second, I thought, wow I can’t believe that was me.

Years ago I had a bad habit. Every single time I was around other people I was under tremendous anxiety. When I would leave the company I was in the torment would begin. I would convince myself that the people I was with would talk about me behind my back. I would convince myself that I had said something ‘stupid’ as I always did, or so I thought, and that they would have somethign to say about that. I would have these thoughts even when I was with my best friends. I always had this underlying feeling of ‘little-ness’ ‘un-important’ and ‘not worthy’. I somehow always thought that all those around me had something special that I just couldn’t wrap my hands around. There was always something that I thought was missing inside of me.

un·wor·thy

/ˌənˈwərT͟Hē/

Adjective
  1. Not deserving effort, attention, or respect: “he was unworthy of trust and unfit to hold office”.
  2. (of a person’s action or behavior) Not acceptable, esp. from someone with a good reputation or social position.
Synonyms
worthless – undeserving – undignified

Really! I am quite sure that this is not the description that fits me best. When reading the words it seems even more outlandish that we could ever think of ourselves in terms like this.

I am not quite sure how I let that bad habit go, but I did. I am so thankful for that. I suppose I filled those feelings of unimportance and nothingness with feelings of love and gratitude. Like any bad habit they do try to creep back into your life. They try to worm their way back into your good graces. They try to set up shop and come back home.

Practicing self-love is a practice just as you would practice yoga. I have to be completely aware and present of the choices I make in regards to how I am with myself. I still sometimes am in shock at how comfortable I am with who I am. This whole conversation has come up for me because the old habit is trying to weasel its way back to me.

One of the strange things that has happened to me with my medical problems is unexplained weight gain. I found myself yesterday having this old and boring conversation with myself. If I just lose the 20 pounds then I will be happy. If I just lose the 20 pounds then people will see me as a ‘better’ yoga teacher. If I just lose 20 pounds then I will be ‘better’ than I am now. I stopped myself dead in my tracks yesterday and gave myself an imaginary slap in the face. I know better than this. I know that if I am not happy now 20 pounds won’t magically make me ‘happier’.

Then I came across an essay written by another woman. It was very intense and personal. It was one of the most real and raw things I have ever read. A woman who according to ‘America’s’ standards is drop dead gorgeous. Tall, blonde and beautiful. A well spoken and intelligent woman who is seemingly perfect on the outside, while on the inside breaking apart. She is just moments away from shattering into a million little pieces. I don’t know why but I was completely stunned. I am human and I sometimes forget that we can all be good actors, we can all hide the real versions of ourselves. As I read her essay I was floored with some of the intense and honest words that came out of her mouth. I realized that so many of us struggle with this basic and most fundamental acceptance of ourselves, especially women. So much pressure that we put on ourselves. This woman was so honest and it got me thinking about things that I need to get more honest about in my own life.

I have spent many years working towards self-actualization. I have spent countless hours alone with my thoughts and facing all the things that make me who I am. I am always willing to take a look deeper and discover more of me, and work towards a better me. I am facing this bump in the road head on. When these bumps in the road come up they shake me at my foundation. I have worked so hard to leave those pieces of me where they belong, in version 1. I had a habit of waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the good to turn to bad, for something to go wrong. I have a hard time believing that this could really stick, so these little reminders take hold of me for a minute. I am thankful that I am able to release them back to where they belong before they spread to my entire being. My new habit is to face all my issues with total and complete honesty and then go forward from there. It has helped release me from unwanted and unnecessary stress in my life.

Where can you get more honest in your life? Where do you think that honesty will affect you the most?

I would love to hear your feedback.

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Oakland, Reggae, and The Fish Bowl Apartment

7 Jan

Oakland, Ca  is truly a one of a kind place to live.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say: Oakland has a Mediterranean climate with an average of 260 sunny days per year. Lake Merritt, a large estuary centrally located east of Downtown, was designated the United States’ first official wildlife refuge. Jack London Square, named for the author and former resident, is a tourist destination on the Oakland waterfront.

So lovely and inviting. A city by the Bay. Of course I loved living in the East Bay. I had dreamed of living in San Francisco when I lived in L.A. I had imagined that I would move up to S.F., finish college, get married and raise a small family in one of those amazing houses in North Beach, the ones in the opening of the old show Full House. So I never made it to S.F. I stopped in the East Bay and never left. It suited me so well. It had everything a gal like me wanted, great food, culture and of course amazing music.

Reggae the music that moves me. I can’t think of Oakland without thinking of Reggae. I can’t think of my twenties without thinking of Reggae. I can’t think of Reggae without a big smile on my face. It is a music that moves me to my soul. A reggae bass line can hit me inside and move me outside. A reggae drum beat is something special, in my private moments I fantasized of becoming a reggae drummer. I practiced my air drums for hours on end. It was a magnificent time in my life. All of my most cherished friends were amazing musicians and knew everything in the world about reggae music. It was all around me, it was in my house, it was in my car, it was deep inside my head. I felt so lucky. I would gladly sit and wait baking in the sun to listen to Berees Hammond play at Sierra Nevada Music Festival. I got 2nd degree burns but they were so worth it. I stood right in the front and felt as if that lovers rock was sung directly to me, I get chills just thinking about it.

Like I said, this was such an amazing time in my life!

Hard to believe that I lived two realities during this time. I lived two different versions of me. I was a split personality and it was only a matter of time before I completely cracked. In fact I did crack before that beautiful weekend of sun and reggae at Sierra Nevada. I indulged the night before we were due to leave. I once again brought myself dangerously close to death and I payed for it all weekend long. I acknowledged that the storm was brewing as I arrived that weekend, for what should have been a joyous occasion. After not eating for days I opened a beer and took a sip. I left my tent and moved one leg in front of the other to make my way to the stage. I looked up at the beautiful Northern California sky took a breath in and completely collapsed. My loving friends came to my rescue and cited heat exhaustion, I knew differently, of course they did too. We were all in the same pool of lies, shame, and guilt over our, “not so secret” lives. I wasn’t alone, I never was.

I got back home and brushed my shoulders off, only to get back on the ferris wheel of shit. I went back home to my fabulous FISH BOWL apartment on the lake in Oakland. It seemed like such a great place. It had hardwood floors was near the lake and you know the rest. What the heck was I thinking? It was a long and narrow building. All the doors faced the same way. We were all on top of each other like roaches. If your neighbor took a poop in the middle of the night you heard it. If your neighbor got lucky, you definitely knew it. Here is the hitch, every apartment had a front wall that was on the walkway. This wall had your front door on it. This wall was the pathway for everybody to come and go. This wall was floor to ceiling windows, the type of windows that are like slats and don’t ever really close all the way. I suppose living in a fish bowl where everybody walks by you and sees you is fine for most people, if you are an addict and spend all hours of the night in a pit of hell, it’s not so great.

Shortly before I left the fish bowl I had one of those life changing moments. My ex had painted me a life-size portrait of my beloved father who had passed away when I was 5 on July 15th of 1983. It was propped up in my living room. He was in my living room, Mel he was there. He would look at me, and if I really tried hard enough he would talk to me. As I sat at my kitchen table and watched the clock roll past 3am and then 4am, there he was. Those big eyes of his like saucers staring at me, watching me as I threw my life away, or shall we say snorted my life away. Every time I laid that poison out and ingested the blackness into my soul he watched me. I looked up that one last time and I came eye to eye with him, my father, the first man in my life. I could feel his sadness come through the blue and pink ink on that canvas. I could feel him shaking his fists in the air that I was following in his footsteps and self medicating just as he did.

I hadn’t had children yet or found a husband. I hadn’t finished my college education or came anywhere close to following my dreams. I knew one thing that morning at 5am in a fish bowl filled with smoke. I didn’t want to die alone. I didn’t want my family to find me in a way that didn’t represent who I was. I didn’t want my family to have to fill another black hole in their hearts.

I knew at that moment that I was in an out-of-body experience and one that would smack me right back into reality.

On January the 6th I left the bay. I drove away in my 2-door silver Ford Explorer. I loved that SUV so much, I felt my hair blowing in the wind as I rolled my window down and turned the music up. It was California so it was no where near cold even in January. My car was filled to the rim with everything that was too important to leave behind. My whole life in the back of my car. I left with my music, my pictures, my clothes, and whatever keepsakes I could put together to represent my past. I drove away knowing I would never go back, I would never see that place again. I don’t know if I would ever see the bay again, but I knew that place the lived in me was fading fast in my rear view mirror.

Little did I know at the time that 3 months later a new place would grow inside of me. I found out that a baby was growing inside me, just shy of the 4 month mark of spreading my wings and flying home. I wasn’t scared or even remotely concerned about my future. I knew as that little baby grew in my belly and my heart that I was making a new place for my soul to call home.

I don’t remember what it felt like as that place of poison left my view that day, I have let it go forever.

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Doesn’t Feel Good

28 Oct
Cover of "Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake...

Cover via Amazon

I am reading an amazing book called, ‘Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally‘ by Patti Digh. I picked up this book and have been unable to put it down. Wanting to live a life full of intention is my main focus every single day.

At the end of each chapter there are two exercises for the reader to follow. One is to be done right away, the second is a daily practice. The second exercise is the one that you keep coming back to until it becomes part of you, this is the one I am most interested in.

The chapter I am currently reading deals with the theme of ‘judgement’, most importantly how to live a life without passing judgement. An irony not lost on me as I was on the phone with a friend. I have a friend who is in a romantic relationship that I would have a difficult time partaking in. I spoke this out loud and even used the words that I thought it was a ‘strange’ situation. I immediately felt unsettled inside. I knew instantly that I was doing something that was not congruent with the way I want to live my life. I want to find peace in my world. When I pass judgement on others, I invite them to do the same to me.

I caught myself trying to defend myself and say that I wasn’t judging but…We all know that was not the truth. My friend on the other end of the phone said, “Well, I guess it’s a good thing you don’t have to live their life.” I realized just how foolish I sound. Who am I to think that their life is strange or weird?

I felt terrible when I hung up the phone. It doesn’t feel good to be judgmental. It doesn’t feel good to gossip. It doesn’t feel good to be in-congruent.Certain things become clear to me, as I keep going deeper and deeper in a life of living intentionally.

It doesn’t feel good to be one way in the world, and another way in your private thoughts. They need to match up. They need to be consistent.

I need to be consistent.

My inner world needs to match my outer world. I am still a student. I am always willing to keep looking in and making the changes and shifts needed to live a life full of meaningful moments. We don’t remember days we remember moments. I want to remember my moments as ones that were compassionate, loving, joyful, caring, authentic, and kind.

I was recently told by a friend to do it all with kindness. Even when it is hard, do it with kindness. This is a practice I plan to take very seriously.

Where in your life can you “Do it with kindness?”

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Wear Batman Pajamas!

18 Oct

It is a typical Santa Monica morning. Overcast and breezy and if I listen closely I can hear the rumbling of the nearby waves.

There is nothing that can take the place of being home.

For me, home is a confusing term.

I am not quite sure if home is Philadelphia, the place I was born, if home is New Jersey, where I also lived, and, the place my father is laid to rest. Maybe home is California, the place where I lived most of my life, and the place where my mother, stepdad, and my sister still live?

Mostly it doesn’t matter.

When I am in California, Philadelphia, or New Jersey I still have that same feeling. Like a gigantic sigh that comes from deep down inside of me. It is my soul is coming back home. My true Self is back in its favorite sweatshirt, the one with all the holes that you have had since the beginning of time but can’t bare to part with.

I love the sound of the ocean, the quiet deafening after the waves crash on the beach. I love that sound. I love the memories that come crashing into my mind every time I hear another break hit the sand. I can close my eyes and remember that house on Lincoln Blvd. I can remember that monstrous rod iron bed that I had as a little pipsqueak of 8 or 9 years old. A bed that required a step stool to get into. I remember leaving the window open in my bedroom to hear the ocean, the same way my sister does in her living room, right where I slept last night. It is as if I have time traveled. As a little girl I used to sit as I am now, listening to that quiet, an irony that is not lost on me.

I find it very difficult to be in silence.

Here I am, on this couch transported back in time, a time when I had my beloved Monet, our West highland Terrier. A time when my sister and I had hamsters, skateboards, and bicycles with banana seats. (You remember those awful seats, don’t you?)

Yesterday I took my youngest on a school field trip to a local farm. They have what they call a jumping pillow. Maddock was all over that, as you can imagine.  I watched as 20 of these jubilant 3 years old ran for that nylon filled air sack and jumped their little hearts out. They were so happy to bounce up and feel that squish under their feet as they came down. I watched those children jumping intently.

I thought to myself: What can I learn from this? What can I learn from being airborne?

Here is what I came up with. As kids, all you know is fun. Kids don’t know financial stress, they aren’t worried how the mortgage will get paid. They just want to know that Mommy and Daddy want to play with them and tuck them in at night. Kids don’t know love lost, they love everybody. Kids don’t know self-consciousness, they don’t care what others think of them. If they love those batman pajamas then they will wear them to school no matter what anybody thinks.

Kids can sit and listen to the ocean and imagine faraway lands, as I did when I was a child, or jump on a trampoline and imagine flying, as my son does. They aren’t worried about the stress of the day. There is no room for that when you are living that moment to the fullest.

There is a feeling you get when you are jumping. A sensation that takes over when you are airborne. You are weightless, fearless, and full of joy. You aren’t worried about hitting the bottom. You only live for the air beneath you now.

This is where I chose to live my life from today and all the days to follow.

I am airborne. I am going home.

All Grown Up

22 Aug

 

Sara Blakely 2012 Shankbone

Sara Blakely 2012 Shankbone (Photo credit: david_shankbone)

 

 

Did you ever think that you would be married to a skateboarder with two kids and living in Georgia? I did imagine all those things, except for living in Georgia. Yes I always knew my life would look relatively close to what it does.

 

I always knew that I would have tattoos. I also knew that I would most likely marry somebody who also had prominent ink. I always had a thing for skateboarders, so no real stretch there. I always knew that I would marry somebody that was a bit like me, somebody who lived more on the edge, than on the fence. I always knew that I would have children who would possess a great amount of spunk. I always knew that I would not always fit in with “typical” suburbia. I love suburbia, but at times I am all too aware that I am a round peg in a square hole.

 

 

I recalled the story last night about when I met the owner of Spanx®, Sara Blakely. I was recounting how amazingly down to earth she was. I spoke about how friendly and warm and approachable she was, oh and she just happens to be a BILLIONAIRE. That statement really got me thinking. Does money really changes people?  Of course money can change you slightly, but I don’t believe it can intrinsically  change who you are on the inside. I truly believe that if I was suddenly rich that I would still be me, the same me that I am now. I can’t imagine being altered to such a degree that my true self  is not recognizable. I believe that the people who become successful and distance themselves from the common folk, or believe themselves to be somehow inherently better, were always like that inside, or at least partly like that deep down.

 

Two years ago we lived in a big house, had beautiful things, and lived a pretty good life. Last year we lost our home, moved into a very modest house to rent, and gave up many of our ‘things.’ That all being said I am still the same person I was when I had the big house. I didn’t change because of the square footage of my house. I haven’t changed because of the quantity, or lack of quantity of ‘things‘ in my life.

 

 

Having these type of dialogues have become frequent for me lately. I am always striving to be more self-aware, more conscious of who I am in the world. I always hope that I can show people by my actions that it is always a safe bet just to be yourself.

 

 

 

 

Teeth Extractions and Sleepless Nights

18 Mar

Over 2 weeks ago I had 5 teeth pulled

The last 2 weeks I have spent recovering from what I thought would be a simple procedure.

I realize now how important it is to take care of things when you are younger and your body heals faster.

During the last 2 weeks I spent many nights counting sheep-I mean listing and obsessing over the mountain of things that need to be accomplished in the near future.

1. I start Yoga Teacher Training in 2 weeks (Ok, I am more nervous about leaving my kids all weekend with somebody other than me)

2. Turn in the ginormous application to renew Blaise’s special medical insurance waiver(the thought of not having makes me want to cringe)

3. Plan my One Small Step Walk for Prader Willi Syndrome (this is finally coming true for me and I want to do all I can to make it successful)

Some of you might think that my list is rather small, it is actually a HUGE undertaking.

All of the things on my list are bringing up massive amounts of anxiety for me. I need to be successful at all 3 of them.

I need to complete all 3 of them with a specific deadline.

I need to complete all 3 of these things while handling all the regular life things that are static in my life.

I can’t make the doctor and therapy appointments go away. There is no laundry fairy who will come in my house and magically clean my clothes. I haven’t found a personal shopper, a chef, a nanny, or gardener as of yet.

So, the challenge is on.

 

I am challenging all my previous beliefs that I hold about what I am able to accomplish in my life.

I WILL SUCCEED

I ONLY HAVE ONE MANTRA RIGHT NOW. IT IS MY 3 WORDS ABOVE.

I have no choice. There is only one direction for me and it is always to keep moving forward.

I am tired, anxious, and a bit stressed now.

I am questioning my self, my life, and my capabilities.

What is getting me through these thoughts?

My sister Jen’s words, “Expect to be delighted.”

I am going to delight myself with all that I can do, with all that I am capable of.

The next 6 months are full of long days, crazy schedules, and a workload that I will be in awe of-but I will cherish every single moment of it all.

I am blessed beyond belief.

I am blessed to have such a full life.

I am blessed to have things that I care about.

I will remember that during my moments of wanting to give up, or give in.

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