“How is it that you’re so happy after all the shit you have gone through?”
“Oh. I just don’t watch the news.” My sassy reply jolted an uneasiness in me. Which likely flashed across my face resulting in the follow up question.
“Is it real, your happiness? Or do you just fake it on the outside and inside you’re screaming like the rest of us?”
Head up. Also chin. Chest out. Stomach in. This was a chant I learned in my speech class in college. The practice of which was to exude confidence. So, I did a little posture adjustment before I replied.
“I don’t fake it. And the “shit I have gone through” is no different than the shit anyone else goes or has gone through. But really, when I imagine the alternative…everything bad, negative, horrible, hateful— it would be difficult to open my eyes in the morning. Could you pass the wine?”
I did not know this person well. She was a friend of a friend, the one who I was attempting eye contact with as she sat mercilessly across from me engaged in a different conversation with the two women at that end of the table. Part of my uneasiness was caused by the thought that the shit I have gone through has been the topic of others discussions. Right. Human nature to talk of others. (I do it too. Something I have been consciously working on not doing.) Talk of others shit is very tantalizing when their shit is really juicy. Ick. Sorry. Moving on.
I am thankful for that conversation, which took place almost six months ago. It led me down a path of interesting, and beneficial self-study. A study that was nudged awake as we enter the season of love. Yes, thank you for the group “ugh” and beautiful eye rolls. I thought it was worth sharing snippets of my gathered knowledge on the topic. My intent is that we can all begin spreading some mad love into this world instead of circulating the current mad juju.
Head up. Also chin. Chest out. Stomach in.
“The times we’re living require our commitment to love. We are divided, fearful, angry traumatized. The only way to survive these times is to change our frequency. This practice is not just about feeling happier and attracting more, it is about healing our world.”
These are the words of one of my mentors, Gabriella Bernstein. She is known as a spirit junkie, which is also the title of one of her books. I do so aspire to be a junkie of spirit. Dang. Isn’t that powerful? The quote comes from her most recent book, titled Judgement Detox: Release the Beliefs that Hold you back from Living. In her words, the impetus behind writing the book was this: “As a spiritual activist I believe that my greatest contribution to the world is to help people reconnect to the power of love.”
I know. I know. This seams all Pollyanna and rainbow-colored unicorns. It is not. It is attainable by the likes of you and me and all that is required is a little shift. Not kidding.
First of all, it begs mentioning that I consider myself a chosen one. I know that sounds pompous. But I am a chosen one. I survived cancer. This in no way makes me unique, there are millions of us chosen ones, and believe me, we are special. We have been given a second chance. We experienced concentrated, extreme suffering, both physical and emotional. I was blessed to do this while surrounded by a loving nest of friends and family and at the mercy of angelic doctors. I survived. During the period of nine months I got a very distilled look at life and understood that love and connection is what makes it bearable. So, forgive my presumptuousness, but I was chosen to share my life lesson, it was not meant to be kept to myself. We, the chosen ones, are meant to be of benefit to those suffering around us. Our condensed version of suffering was a fast forward way of understanding what was meaningful. The rest of you experience a slow suffering. One that persists on a level you can’t quite put your finger on, and is without the jolting access to the antithesis. I am still here to slowly jolt you. I know of many, many other chosen ones trying to do the same but in different ways. Check out my friend Janet’s blog Dimensions Of Me and also my fellow elephant journal writer Tracey White and her blog Bad Ass Cancer Babe. Just a few chosen ones sharing mad love.
*Please note I am not without slow suffering. However, I have become so aware of its existence, I can, when I allow myself, shift it to a more positive experience.
This is dense stuff and you may just need to roll it up and smoke it for a bit. Feel free to pause, but do come back and continue reading.
After my cancer, I unknowingly began choosing love. It was unknowing because I did not see the connection that my actions had on the world around me as I see them now. I was acting from a selfish childlike awe. I was alive for God’s sake. Every sunrise and smile was a miracle I was still in existence to experience. The awe-ness began to wear off but my foundation had changed.
From my vantage point I can now see there were many negative experiences I diverted because I chose the more positive route. One example was potentially suing the original doctor that had misdiagnosed me. I raised the cancer question multiple times and this was documented, but she defiantly ignored it. The ignorance permitted the cancer the time it needed to travel into my lymph system. People thought I had a case and angrily urged me to pursue it. I realize now those people loved me and needed someone to blame. I was in a different place. I felt strongly that the doctor did not act out of malice. She was human after all and my type of cancer was diagnosed in 74 year-old women. I was 34 and healthy, the information she had did not lead her down that path. I also know she felt a deep sense of responsibility. She checked in with my surgeon/oncologist on a more regular basis than I did. She called me many many times to make sure I understood what was happening. I felt the heaviness of my situation on her. Yes, I could have sued and our system is made for such things. I would likely have had an enormous windfall. But this was not the karma I wanted to weave into the fabric of my life.
I chose love and forgiveness instead.
Anyone who has been betrayed by someone they love understands that retaliating in a loving way seems impossible. Instead you feel seeped in a hot tea of anger, guilt, humiliation and shame. Overwhelmed with feelings you wish to pour out of yourself with the intent to burn others. What I have come to realize is that the people that betrayed me are seeping in a scalding liquid of their own.
I have learned to allow myself the time I need to cool off. I have overcome my staunch independence and now reach out for help from others – professional and otherwise. Once I cool I can empathetically look at my betrayer and eventually even hold space for their human failings. I continue this practice and peel back layers of forgiveness and send love instead.
Stop. Yes. This has not always been the case. There are many times during the shit that I go through when
I do not
I did not
I have trouble with
choosing love. In fact, my first response is usually not love.
As Heather Malone sings in her beautiful song Turn Yourself Around:
I went a long way from love today.
I went to pride. Went to greed. Went to hate. Went to fear.
And I heard a question whisper in my ear that said
Do you really like it here?
You better turn yourself around.
You better turn yourself around.
And so, I do. I turn myself around. I do this daily. Sometimes multiple times during those precious 24 hours. Love and connection require that much discipline. Especially in light of the environment that we live in. But the alternative of everything bad, negative, horrible, hateful— really does make it difficult to open my eyes in the morning. Hate is like acid. Love is all sugar, baby.
“We must recognize that we all have the same problem and the same solution. Our problem is that we separated from love and the solution is to return to love. “ Gabrielle Bernstein
The amount of distractions that separate us from love seem insurmountable.
Work. Money. Time. No Time. Fear. Phones. Internet. Obligations. Others. Shame.
The gravity of these elements disconnecting us leaves me with an image of the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. It is a twister alright. The sound is deafening. The good things call to us but cannot be heard. The negative force sucks everything into its mad spin. Attached and non-attached. The force is furious and strong willed. The ability to ground ourselves feels moot. It is easy to get pulled into the fury and hatred of the thing.
But here is the magic. This image can be completely turned around with a simple shift.
Technology alerts me of the coming storm. On my way to the stronghold that I have prepared for such an event I use technology to contact my friends and family and offer them refuge, or at the very least hear their voice and confirm they have access to shelter. As I descend into this space I have created, I see my neighbors already here in search of safety. We have in this place all that we need; food and water, other humans. I bring with me the allotted one bag containing items most dear to me; photos, a few small talismans, a notebook, a pen, a book and some chocolate to share. I ride out the storm surrounded by other humans and realize that life is abundant. We have all that we need.
Doesn’t that just feel different?
There are things that we can do over and over that make us less susceptible to the hate suck spinning around us in our personal space as well as our communal space. We can set ourselves on solid ground, prepare ourselves for the inevitable shit that happens in our life. We can act in a way that results in our ability to spread mad love instead of exist in a state of disconnected hate.
You may already be thinking of things that you know help turn yourself around. Write them down. Make them the wallpaper on your phone or the message on your computer screen when it goes to sleep. Change your password to one of them so you have to think about it 100 times a day.
For those of you sitting in your boiling tea in need of a spoonful of love to get you out. Here is a list of ten snippets. Use them as above and commit to spreading some mad love for the month of February. The world needs you. You needs you.
- Before you go to bed put an 8oz glass of water next to you. Upon waking drink the whole glass and lay back down. Be grateful for the clean water nourishing your body as you think of 3 other things you are grateful for on this morning.
- Get a stack of paper, pen, envelopes, and stamps. Write a handwritten note to someone you love listing five things you adore about them. The hand has a proven connection to the heart. Do this for as many people as you can think of for the next month. Avoid doing it only on the big V day.
- While you have a pen and paper out, write a thank you note to our President. I’m not kidding. No matter what you think of this person, he is currently in the position of our leader. Thank him and if you feel the need, suggest a few items you might do differently. Positive energy is much more powerful than negative energy. Spread MAD love. You can accentuate the MAD but keep it love. The address is: The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20500. Also you can find tips here to ensure your message gets through.
- When and if you find yourself on the receiving end of someone’s bad day – spouse, co-worker, family member, barista – step back. I mean physically take a giant step back to allow space for you to remember this has nothing to do with you so don’t make it about you. Instead for the next 2 minutes think about the hot tea that person is seeping in. If you can’t find empathy, excuse yourself so that you can search for it. Disengage until you can respond from a place of love and connection instead of amplifying negativity and disconnection. This one is hard but trust me we get offered the most opportunities to practice.
- Commit to pleasuring yourself daily. Show yourself some love. Yes, that can mean sexually, I know most of you went there. Certainly, have a masterdate if that is what you need. But treating yourself to a latte at a quiet café; walking in the woods; sleeping late on Saturday — whatever it is, allow yourself some joy. Every. Single. Day. How else can we spread it if we don’t know what it feels like!
- If you are feeling anxious, negative, depressed and this blog post is only making you more so, seek help. There is an army of knowledgeable professionals that you can access both physically, online or through books. Please, do not hesitate to contact me, I would be honored to guide you.
- Sit quietly for 5 minutes a day. I will not even say meditate because that is such a loaded word. Just set the timer on your phone for 5 minutes and stare into space. Think of it as your white board getting erased.
- Every day share a random act of kindness. Do it for 30 days and I promise it will become a meaningful habit. Read a poem into the Voice Memo on your phone and text it to someone you love. Look people in the eye and say thank you, use their name if you know it. Waiters and waitresses are always startled but it eventually elicits a smile.
- Think about 2 of your gifts and how you can share them with someone less fortunate this month. The homeless population is growing and they are human beings down on their luck. If the only thing you can offer is eye contact and a smile then offer it up. If you want to do more for this population look to the leadership of my friend Dina and her Pay It Forward Project.
- In your daily walk through life when you sense, hear, or feel someone going negative, help shift the energy. Reflect back what they said to acknowledge that you heard them. Steer them down a positive path by shining offering them your attention. Divert their attention if that seems right- ask them to dance or direct them to shake it off, physically shaking which allows them to get back into their body. Most importantly, connect. Let them know that you are there and that it your intention to be loving. Remember the way to fight fire is with water and air, not more fire.
Be vigilant and spread mad love.
If music is a motivator check out my playlist called Love, Love, Love. You can find me on Spotify at graceisgenius.