Let’s be friends.
I know I haven’t been very welcoming or even very nice to you. I try to ignore you most of the time, hoping you will go away. The truth is you make me very uncomfortable.
You and the Unknown, well, you’re scary. You two are so vague, unclear, downright unsettling.
You show up in my relationships and make me feel nervous, uneasy and fidgety. And when you bring Insecure to the party, that’s when all hell breaks loose and I can’t even think straight. I get so flustered I have a hard time expressing myself and then I can’t say what I really want to say, what I really need to say. Sometimes it just makes me cry.
You show up at work and I can’t get anything done because I am too busy wondering if I did the right thing. It’s so frustrating when you block my creativity.
You’re soooooo unpredictable.
I know it seems like I like Control better, but control makes me feel safer. Although Control is so bossy that sometimes nobody else can get in the door like Joy, Fun, Spontaneity and especially my best friend Love. I don’t really like it when Control is the doorman. I think I will have a “Come to Jesus” chat with Control. She’s really too much.
I’m sorry I get so graspy when you’re around and sometimes panic. I know thats when you call Anxiety. I really feel disturbed when Anxiety shows up. She gives me those butterflies and they aren’t the good feeling butterflies. At all. She makes me want to hide under the covers and avoid people.
You know I think about you all the time and I mean ALL. THE. TIME. Honestly, you kind of freak me out. I never know what you are up to.
I am thinking it would just be benficial for both of us if we got to know each other better and became friends since you seem to be hanging out here quite a bit. I kind of dig your mysterious side. You spark my curiosity even though you feel weird. You do give me a bit of a thrill when I am hanging on the precipice with Doubt. I kinda like the thrill feeling.
Maybe next time you come, you can bring your friend Patience. Nobody seems to like her either even though she brings the best gifts. Especially when she brings those really juicy surprises. And she helps build endurance and perseverance. Which aren’t bad things to have in the grand scheme. She just makes you wait F O R E V E E E E E E R and nobody likes to wait like that. Maybe we could ask her to not make us wait so long and so often.
I promise next time you come, I will be Still and sit with you while we have some tea. I’ll listen to what you have to say, really listen. With my heart. You me and Patience we can have a little tea party. If Anxiety shows up, we can give her a nice bath with some of that yummy bath stuff from Plantfolk Apothecary. The one called Sea of Love that smells like Heaven. I think she’d really enjoy that. It would probably calm her down.
Uncertainty, what’s your favorite song? Next time you visit, let’s have a tea party and then dance. I love to dance. Dancing always brings Bliss. I just adore Bliss. You’ll adore her too. She’s like Joy only more ecstatic. She’s like Peace only more serene.
I love you Uncertainty. Deep down I really do. I know you mean well. I’d like to introduce you to Faith. I think you and Faith would get along so well. Faith can come to the dancing tea party too. You’ll love her. She’s so beautiful, strong, and trustworthy.
You know what Uncertainty, do you mind if I nickname you Possibility and treat you like an open invitation. How’s that sound. You’re always welcome here, my friend.
Oh Hey Unknown, come here, let me give you a hug.
Welcome to the party, wanna dance?
Every morning I wake up, light candles, say the loving kindness prayer and raise my hand for the job the God/The Universe/Spirit/The Force has for me today. I wander down my steps as my big beast of a black lab Obi (wan Kenobi. yes we are star wars fans) leaps down the steps 3 and 4 at a time which makes me laugh and think, happy, happy, joy, joy every time. We head to the kitchen to make coffee and then go outside to greet the day with some big deep breaths, a down dog stretch and a samastitihi, (in yoga, it’s an invitation to come to this moment, the prayer pose). When the coffee is ready, I take it to my favorite spot in the kitchen and settle into my contemplation chair, light another candle, give the dog a bone and I write.
I write the things I am grateful for from the day before, then I ask questions, set intentions, wonder, contemplate, connect and listen for the answers to rise. I look at what I wrote about the day before and see what transpired after that mornings contemplation. I make connections. I see patterns. I chat with my Self and with Spirit this way. Every single morning listening for the calls to action, answers to my questions, assessing my soul needs, my kids needs and I listen for spiritual guidance. Right now I am pulling oracle cards to deepen my inquiries around my work, my relationships, my family, my calling, my purpose. This morning I’d been contemplating my work, what was called for next? My next right move or no movement at all, in other words does this moment in time require patience, stillness, waiting for invitation or action on my part? Interesting things were happening and not happening, even though I wanted them to happen or they sounded like the right thing to happen or to do or offer. I’d put a couple of big invitations out there. I’d gotten “crickets.” I thought they were the right thing to offer but they didn’t fly. Why? What was it that would be the best path of provision for my family, what would truly be what I am meant to contribute, what did I have to offer that was the most lined up with my soul’s mission?
Over the past 7 months I’ve been writing this blog, I created videos on you tube, tried yoga teacher training (that’s on hold for now) taught barre classes at and written the newsletter for the Pilates Studio, taken 14 women on a magical, spiritual retreat to a lovely villa in a charming town in Mexico, taken one woman through a solo retreat at my house, and connected with law makers, law enforcement and people in the recovery and addiction community looking for a place to serve the families affected by addiction and substance use disorder. You could say I am testing and trying the things that call out to me. I feel like with each experience I am morphing into someone different than the day before like a version of Alice in Wonderland.
I am feeling my way into uncharted territory moment by moment. Big changes came down over the last few years. You can read about all that in my book Craving Love and the unfolding story of a year of enchantment, devotion, grief, breaking the cycle of addiction and Recovering Truth, my truth, which started with this blog post and is still unfolding.
First of all, this morning, I was reminded that when the things you want, opportunities, relationships, jobs, don’t pan out, this is a sign that something much better is waiting for you. It is a sign to let that thing go, not to obsess about it or chase after it. It’s not For You. I’d written out my big goals at the beginning of the year in detailed description, set lofty intentions out the you know what, prayed regularly, tried to manifest with my magic manifesting wand, I made a vision board, actually I made two. The goals on that big goal list are not being completely realized. Something is not setting right. Every time I think I hit the the thing or the bright idea, the thing morphs or I do and its not THE thing anymore or its not just right, like the story of Goldy Locks and the three bears. Too big, too little, too hot, too cool. There’s no just right in my work right now.
Then I am told… “wait, listen and watch for the signs. There are signs. Don’t ignore the signs. A Cledon. A spontaneous oracle delivered innocently by the speaker, “much like a message in a bottle. You’ll know. I’ve been getting this message a lot. This “wait” message.
I am all about “signs.” I scrutinize everything and I mean e v e r y t h i n g for meaning. I am like a little mouse, scurrying around picking up every little detail/crumb, examining it, sniffing it out, holding it my hand, keeping what feels right and leaving behind what doesn’t. I am always on the look out for deeper meaning. It makes my kids (and probably my friends) crazy sometimes. They tease me about it. I believe in it, all the way to my bones. While I am writing this I get a text from someone that the very thing I said was needed yesterday happened for that person today. A sign. Miraculous. Magic. See?
Where is this going?
My morning inquiry around my work and provision for my family ends up with WHY?
I am called to go deeper. More soul searching about my WHY in my work. “what is the why that drives my choices.”
“Is it for attention or a desire to share my talents?” Hmmmm. Wow. OK.
I know now, I have to go even deeper and really try to touch that chord and to do that I have to go to “the office.” The office is what my friend Jen and I call the woods or nature. It’s another place you can connect with Spirit/God. I can take my questions, do my soul searching and speak to the soul of the world and the soul of the world answers back. It’s a deeper level of spiritual connection.
So I blow out the candle, make the kids lunches, see them off to school, put on my running shoes, drive to the lake and start running. To connect with the soul of the world I have to connect with my breath, pound out the real world stuff with movement, get into my body and out of my head. I run along the path, over roots, rocks and fallen trees until I get to the bench that faces North.
You can read about why I face North when I go to the office here. (I received the directions for this practice while on that solo retreat.) I take off my shoes, criss cross my legs, set the timer for 10 minutes, close my eyes and listen for cues. (just like in yoga, just like in Pilates, but spiritual cues) I relax everything, my face, my belly, my shoulders, and sink into the bench. I let the thoughts come and go, knowing I am here to listen to my WHY.
The timer goes off and the wind starts to blow strong. This is a sign to me I am connected to the soul of the world. I start to write.
Why do I want to write? Why do I want to speak? Why do I want to be a Fairy Godmother and make wishes come true? Why do I want to be the girl Tony Robbins? What is the WHY behind my deepest desires for my work? The thing I do that shares my gifts and provides for my family.
I contemplate my deepest desires in the realm of work.
WHY Write? For expression and connection. I’ve been quiet a very long time. It’s a symptom of living in an environment of addiction. “Don’t Speak” is one of the cardinal rules for family members/relatives. Silence is a way of suffering and a way of perpetuating the disease. I started writing because I was always better at expressing myself that way. I used to write the best letters, my high school boyfriend says. I feel like I have a lot to say. I get this feeling that rises up and I am compelled to write out my feelings. It started with expression, then people began telling me they were reading it and it was helping them too so I keep writing. Then it became connection too. While I was writing this today, I got a text telling me that very thing, that she was reading my blog and it was helping her. She’s a relative of a person in active addiction. This is one of those SIGNS! I tell you!
WHY Speak? When I was in New Mexico chatting it up with the soul of the world I was told “you have the power to end suffering by using your voice.” I used to be afraid to get up in front of people. I used to be afraid to speak up for myself. Now when I speak I feel differently. Every time I hold a microphone and look out into a crowd I feel alive. Connected. Amped and calm at the same time. I love writing speeches and sharing stories. I love connecting with the audience. I love being felt by them and feeling their energy and then hugging it out afterwards. It lights me up. Hearing how they connected or felt during a speech feeds my soul.
WHY Retreats? Retreats truly healed my soul. I understand the power of surrender to unknown, to someone else’s care, to stillness, to being listened to, well cared for and to reconnection with self and with Spirit/God and nature. I want to share that. Show the way. Be a healing presence. Facilitate that experience for others. I whole heartedly believe in its healing power.
My WHY? Beauty. Love. Generosity. I want to do big things so that I can spread it around. I want to provide for my family, I want what I do to provide for other families too, to relieve suffering, to create freedom, to foster love and inspire faith. I want a fortune so that I can give it away and make wishes come true like Ellen Degeneres.
I have nothing to prove except that LOVE WINS and SPIRIT EXISTS. I feel called to be that person. One of those people. An example of the power of LOVE. Do I need fame or to be widely known? I used to want to be a actor so I could be famous. Now, I really just want to be of service. Being known that way, it’s not an essential need of mine.
My essential needs are Connection, Expression, Beauty, Intimacy. (This I know for sure from another practice called Journeying, which I learned from my friend Shannon and I will share that with you, once I ask her permission)
These essential needs make me feel alive and aligned. All my senses activated. In the flow. Deeply Happy.
I feel the most fully expressed writing. I feel the most connected speaking or in one on one conversations. I feel like I am creating something beautiful during the retreats. I feel the most intimate in relationship with friends, family, romantic partner (that last one is requiring much patience, right now, but I know that God/Spirit has my back on that one too).
What I know, deep in my bones, is that I am meant for this walk, this work. I feel it, in my body. I know I am love. I know I am loved. I am here to contribute, to serve, to use my gifts from God to share with one person, with my family, with the world (whatever that means, the world of my community or the actual world). I deserve to be here, I want to be here. I am powerful beyond measure because my power is the love inside of me. (These are the rapid fire thoughts coming to me while sitting on the bench, in nature, facing north.)
WHY write, speak, host retreats? Why am I here?
To break the cycle of addiction. To heal souls. To be with people.To teach people about prayer. The kind of prayer that is empowering.
As I am writing I hear a little kid call out for his mom and I think about the children. all the children. What kids need.
To receive love and affection. And Guidance.
I’ve done all of this soul work to open myself up to receive love and affection. And also to receive guidance. Messages. Connection, both human and spiritual.
Now I am called to share what I’ve learned. To help open others up to receive love, guidance, connection, their own deep wisdom, the answers to their why?
And then a dog barks. That’s my call to go home. To walk my dog, to reconnect with the earthly/daily things, and to write to you. Writing to you, telling you stories, it’s the thing I feel the most calm, connected, peaceful doing. It’s the thing that makes me lose all track of time, it soothes my soul, settles my heart, quiets my body. I gather up my things from the bench. I am curious about who has been sitting behind me. Someone came up while I was busy chatting it up with Spirit. There’s a big bush separating us. We’ve been hidden from each other, but I’ve heard him there. I say “hi” as I appear from behind the bush. He’s got his laptop out on the picnic table. “you chose a great place to work today.” He agrees. “It’s God’s weather today.” he says. “It’s Glorious.” I smile and say and trot off down the path to my car with his well wishes for a good day trailing behind me and saying my favorite little prayer……
Father above, Great Mother below, May what comes next be the fruit of your love.
And the rest of the day I kept singing this song.
Because I also “ just wanna make the world dance.”
With Love and Affection,
“How was your summer?”
This question stumps me. Every. Single. Time. I don’t know which story to tell.
I began the summer with the full intention to keep publishing the story I’d been writing, to keep Recovering Truth rolling out on a regular basis. The story of how a year on a path of devotion changed the course of my life, the course of my family’s life and broke the cycle of addiction. I wanted to share where I’d been, what I’d done, how I felt as that year unfolded and then turned into this year, a year of recovery, an uncharted course, a year of learning a new way to be, of expression, connection and revelation. A year of clearing, letting go, loss of relationships and renewal. I wanted to catch up to the now. To the moment of the big reveal. So that you were right here with me. I wanted you to hear what it was like to navigate in the darkness of addiction, of uncertainty, of grief and in the light devotion, of treatment, of hope, of exposure, of challenge and of truth so that when we arrived over here you would be able to understand why we are feeling the way we feel today. Over here is something I am still struggling to describe so I keep using what my 11 year old daughter calls a “flat tire” word. Flat tire words are the “usual” words, the “common” words.
“I feel really Good.” I say when someone asks.
Good is a flat tire word.
The thing is, I actually mean it. Deep in my bones, deep in my heart, deep in my body mean it.
I feel good. I feel whole.
I just got here though, like a couple of weeks ago, to really good, to whole.
What happened this summer is part of the story. First of all I wrote like a woman on fire while my kids were on a vacation, like a family, but without me. You can read how I felt about that vacation here. I popped my story (Recovering Truth) up on the blog, boom, boom, boom. I was almost into the Spring of 2015, the part where I’d come home from a private retreat full of hope, excitement, bliss, and new perspective and a little inkling of purpose. I’d reconciled my mind with addiction and how I was going to hold it. I was just about to tell that story on the blog, the story after the retreat to Seattle.
So, here I was writing like a blog writer does and publishing it and I started yoga teacher training and teaching barre class at the Pilates Studio that I partner with and I was working with community leaders on a special program for families who needed help with their loved ones in crisis with substance use. Which all felt really good. At first.
Then the terrible happened. My 25 year old nephew committed suicide. I can’t tell his story. I can only tell my part of the story and my part is this…..I loved him. I still love him. I was shocked when I got the call from my ex-husband and very sad that he felt that hopeless. I felt extremely guilty that I hadn’t been a better aunt to him, been more there, more present in his life. Divorce didn’t change my love or my title, I’m still his Aunt Shelly. I felt guilty that I hadn’t been in touch with him, that I got my news about him and his life through my son or his Nana, my ex-husbands mother. He’d had big struggles. He was three years in recovery from a 10 year battle with addiction. His parents fought for his life when he couldn’t. His family loved him. We prayed for him and held on to hope that his heart and his mind would heal and he would have a life of love, peace and joy. It seemed as though he was making his way there, but then in a moment of despair, suicide was his answer. He didn’t relapse, he took his own life. Somehow that made it more brutal. I am mad that it happened and I am sad that it happened.
I gathered up my family, packed our funeral dresses and my son’s suit and we flew to Chicago to be with their Dad, their Nana, Aunts, Uncles and cousins. My ex-husbands family, but people I still claim as my own because divorce didn’t change my love for them. They are my children’s family, therefore mine too. We huddled together in hotel rooms, church, the ice cream shop and the funeral home and whispered love, held hands, wiped tears, told stories, laughed at jokes, wondered why, hugged it out and tried to look normal when we weren’t feeling normal at all.
Feeling absolutely not normal, or maybe I should not natural, was me. I was sick and trying to act like I wasn’t. All the while getting sicker. I did what I always did, rally. When we got home, I went right back to yoga training and barre teaching for one whole week, then my body did what it does when I am not lined up with my heart or my purpose or my divine call. It shut me down. All the way down.
See, I’d heard the call to Be Still in the Spring. I’d broken some rules around addiction this year. Two of the top three actually. Don’t Feel and Don’t Speak. I’d put myself and my family out there in a big way by breaking the silence about addiction in my family publicly and by opening myself up to really getting in tune with my feelings through the soul work I’d done. I was FEELING my feelings, in my body, in my heart, in my soul. And I was speaking OUT LOUD about addiction and the effect it had on me and on family members. I’d started a YouTube series called Recovering The Relatives. I was open, honest, real about what family members experience, what I’d experienced as a mother, daughter, wife, friend. That’s how out loud I was being. I’d also taken 12 women to Mexico and held space for their relaxation, growth and rest. We’d done some soul work together in Mexico.
I needed rest from all of this output of energy. The kind of rest summer calls for, only I wasn’t resting. I signed up for more doing, less being. I was ignoring the whispers to lay low, to recharge. Then I was ignoring the outright signs, glaring signs that I wasn’t following the path the Divine and I had agreed on. The kind that are very noticeable when you have an auto immune condition. I have ulcerative colitis, a condition exacerbated by stress, which I attribute to being in a life long battle with someone else’s addiction. I felt like I should be past this auto immune thing now, I’d changed so much about my environment, my food, my relationships. I shouldn’t be getting sick.
Then the terrible happened. I suffered a wicked colitis flare that lands me in the hospital for three days because I feel like I am for sure dying and I look like I am for sure dying. Because I am stubborn, it takes several people to convince me to surrender to someone else’s care. I spend the next three days telling people I love them and and thanking them for showing up for me, even when I tell them not to or to go away because in my family we suffer sickness alone even though we don’t want to suffer alone. It’s just the way its been done before. “Just drop me off, I’ll be fine.” I say. They don’t though. One friend drives me to the hospital and stays with me until I am fully admitted and everything is under control. She is my guardian. My sister comes even though I act like it’s no big deal if she doesn’t and I am so relieved that she does. Another friend comes even though I say don’t and I am cheered by her presence. She brings laughter. Laughter is good medicine. I tell very few people that I am sick and in the hospital. I just want to be past this part. I am angry with my body. My body is angry with me. I am angry with myself because I know deep down what is going on. I will have to be still and I am not lined up with my purpose doing what I’ve been doing. I have no choice but to listen.
And I reach for help. I allow people to help me. I am learning about receptivity. I am learning about giving AND receiving. Growing up in an alcoholic environment you learn to take care of your own needs and not need help, to be quiet and not make any one mad. I was not only running on empty, I’d used up all my reserves. I needed help and I needed to be replenished. And so I was still. For weeks. Quiet and still. No more yoga teacher training, no more barre classes, no more daily 530am hot yoga, no writing, no giving, no youtube videos. Just rest. No doing. Just Being. Only stillness and anything that was nourishing including good food, generous friendship and deep spiritual connection. That was my RX. Doctor’s orders. I surrendered.
And my kids left for another family vacation without me. A week in Mexico with their dad, his girlfriend, her family, and this time, my son and his girlfriend. Weird doesn’t describe what I am feeling as that unfolds. I hunker down with my sister for the first part of it. We spend hours talking grief and feelings around our parents deaths and our response to the events of the last two years. We’ve been in some kind of crazy shit storm for awhile now, this last year has been one of hope, healing and anchoring. It feels good to be with her and connect without anyone or anything distracting us. Just us being Together. I rest at her house for a couple of days. We eat and laugh and walk and laugh. We cry a little. We hug. Then I go back home to rest some more.
While my kids are gone on vacation as family without me for the second time this summer, I have a revelation. You can read more about the revelation here.
Here is the short version of the revelation: I do not feel ALONE. I am alone but I do not feel lonely. That deep lonely feeling that I’ve felt for so long, that felt like a screaming hole sometimes, that was felt by others as graspy or needy or wanty, that I tried to hide behind a perpetual smile and positive attitude even when all hell was breaking loose in my heart and in my house, it feels gone. I don’t feel hungry. I don’t hurt with alone.
I feel Whole. Healed. I feel this to my core and in my heart.
Not even the extensive background interview I subject myself to in the name of service to the families I am called to serve can change how I feel now. The unearthing of all of my worst indiscretions, mistakes, lack of integrity in my youth, substance use that determined my choices, my own rumble with the past and the truths I have to share with a complete stranger only rocks my boat for as long as the car ride home. I realize I don’t care what anyone thinks or if they judge me, when they judge me. I am still happy. I am still whole. What happened, happened.
And so I take my whole happy heart and go to California to visit my son and celebrate his 23rd birthday and his one year birthday. “Not your belly button birthday,” they say. Although his belly button birthday and his clean/sober/recovery birthday are only 3 days apart. Three days apart. The spiritual significance of this is not lost on me. I feel like we have crossed over to the other side. I feel like we are no longer in addiction, we are in Recovery. All of us.
I spend three days with him IN JOY. Enjoying his celebration, enjoying the company of my life long girlfriend that came to celebrate with us, and enjoying the company of people we love, of family. Enjoying the moments and honoring, hand over heart, everything that happened to get here, to the other side. The beautiful and the brutal. Getting to the other side is the story I will continue to tell. It is my story, our family story. Recovering Truth. I am choosing the ending though.
I come home and I spend the next three days on healing someone else. I hold a private retreat for a woman in my sanctuary, my home. Three days of inquiry, attention and exquisite care to set her on her own path of devotion. It’s something I’ve been invited to do, called to do, this deep soul healing for others. I believe in this kind of medicine. I believe the retreats are the biggest contribution to my own recovery, healing and wholeness. I am honored to share the wisdom of my journey with other women.
I have another revelation. Recovery. This is my work. Meeting people where they are and helping them get to the other side of whatever it is they are experiencing. Providing the soul medicine that they need. This is my work and I love it.
My body says Yes. You are aligned. My heart says Yes, this is correct. Keep doing this. This recovery work.
And for the last two weeks of summer, I listen, rest, recover. My girls and I, we dance, we laugh, we watch Glee on Netflix, go to concerts and we sing. We have fun. We move slow. We take our time. They are recovering the effects of addiction, grief and loss too.
When someone asks, “how was your summer?” I will say it was amazing and it was awful. It was beautiful and brutal. It was Recovery & Revelation.
I’ve been through the rumble, I have the truth. What happened, happened and we are on the other side. When I am still, I can hear the invitations, the calls, the directions, the songs and the laughter. I can feel the joy, the sweetness, the love, the tenderness and the wholeness. I can see the beautiful and brutal. When I am still, I am present. When I am present, it feels like truth and the story is still being written. A story that ends when I can no longer sing and dance and laugh in the beautiful and the brutal, that ends when I am out of breath.
A story with a lovely, sweet, happy ending.
How was your summer?
With So Much Love,
Family Recovery Advocate
I serve women seeking healing and transformation.
I serve people who have been impacted by addiction recover their lives.