Silencing Our Own Voice

Silencing Our Own Voice

I remember when I brought her home for the first time.

Betsy, I called her. I’m still not sure why. But, Betsy would be her name going forward.

She was beautiful, perfect in my eyes. She being my first electric guitar.

Me? I was gonna be a rock star. I already had the hair.

There was only one problem.

I had always wanted an electric guitar, and I had heard that Mr. Britto on Smith Street had one he was willing to sell. My enthusiasm convinced my Mom that she should let me spend the money I had saved and buy it. It was $40 back when $40 was a lot more than what $40 is today.

I didn’t know how to play guitar when I bought it, but I assured Mom that I’d learn. Taking music lessons didn’t quite excite me, no matter how good I was at playing scales or “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. I had a few friends who played guitar, and I was able to learn a bit from them. Ultimately, I sort of just dabbled with it, occasionally made some noise, and eventually Betsy ended up under my bed in the case I first brought her home in.

That one problem?

I never really thought of myself as a guitarist.

A few years back I found the guitar while cleaning out a closet. Immediately my mind went back to that 14 year old wide-eyed, long haired version of me. Eventually, though, I started thinking about what I hadn’t done with that guitar, about the music I didn’t make with that guitar. Like, why didn’t I?

Because I never allowed myself to do so.

What holds us back from being all we were created to be is our belief system. How we see ourselves pretty much determines what we are willing to allow ourselves to be. In music. And in life. Our identity of who we accept ourselves to be regulates everything. If our beliefs are limited, so, too, will be what we are willing to allow ourselves to become. In music. And in life. I never really saw myself as someone who could confidently play the guitar, and I met those expectations with precision.

I used to regret lots of things, things far more significant than not learning to play the guitar. But the root cause of all of those regrets was the same. A belief system limiting what I accepted as possible for me. Even if I told myself I wanted to be more, I was never going to let me do or accomplish anything more than my belief system would let me.

Regrets can crush you or they can be the fuel that moves you forward. I’ve opted for the fuel route.

The good thing about any limiting belief is it can be changed. First you need to be open to the reality that you actually have them and self-aware to compassionately notice them. Not everything we think is true. We just think it is. But when you identify or suspect thoughts which are limiting in nature, you have the right, ability, and obligation to change them.

But that’s on you. Nothing on the outside can change what we are unwilling to change on the inside.

Is there something on the inside that needs to change in order for you to fully express who you were created to become?

Challenging what I think has been such a critical tool in my overall growth, especially what I think about me and what’s possible for me. The mind which can create limitations can also destroy them.

It works both ways.

The guitar? It now hangs on my office wall. I have no desire to learn to play it. Rather, it’s there to remind me of what self-imposed limitations can look like. In music. And in life.

What’s holding you back?

What music are you not allowing yourself to make?

Your music, your voice, is far too important not to be fully expressed.

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

It’s been a couple of weeks now since Mom passed. Expected yet unexpected all at the same time. It’s not something you can ever fully prepare for.

Recently, I found myself back in my old hometown and for some reason I felt called to visit the chapel Mom would quite often visit.

Mom was a woman of deep Christian faith, a guiding and comforting source for her throughout her life. Mom was also a prolific candle lighter, and Our Lady’s Chapel was the place she would light them. For family and friends in time of need or distress, Mom lit candles for us all.

It was my turn to light one for her.

After the candle was lit, I found myself sitting in the back pew of the Chapel. Just sitting. Observing. Remembering. Decompressing. A small boy sitting a few rows in front of me wandered away from his Mother and playfully pushed back the curtain to the Confessional located just to my left. His Mom was not at all pleased, but his actions got me to thinking about something I’ve not thought about for quite some time.

Growing up Catholic, I’ve certainly spent my share of time in the Confessional. As a boy, I’d kneel fearfully in darkness awaiting the priest to open the screen and I’d tell him of my sins for the week. Mostly about the number of swear words I’d used that week (I did my best to quantify my transgressions) and the occasional taking the Lord’s name in vain. Then, with nervous anticipation, I’d await my penance which usually involved a great deal of praying in the back of Church.

Spiritually, I’ve meandered a bit over the years. I’ve confessed a great deal over the years, just not in a Confessional.

Confession is the first step in forgiveness. It’s reflecting upon and acknowledging your actions, or, at times, the lack of them, and asking God to absolve you. In the secular space, I, too, have asked for the forgiveness of others for the times I’ve not lived up to my own Higher standard, for the actions I’ve taken or the lack of them.

Others have also occasionally asked for my forgiveness as well. Forgiveness is always granted, as the weight of holding grudges is more weight than I choose to carry, especially as I get older. I know I’m still far from perfect myself and I like to think I afford others the space to be less than perfect as well.

There is one person, though, I’ve often had a difficult time forgiving.

Me.

Funny how it’s often easier for us to forgive others than it is for us to forgive ourselves.

As I reflect about forgiveness, I realize that self-absolution has never been easy for me. The grudges I chose not to hold towards others I would easily hold against myself, mercilessly holding me perpetually accountable for my actions or lack there of.

Maybe you can relate to not giving yourself the space to be imperfect? To allow yourself to reflect and acknowledge the times in your life where you wish you responded differently, or had taken another path, and then forever beating yourself up for it.

Much of this changed for me when I was able to change the most important of all relationships.

The one with me.

The compassion and forgiveness I so easily dispensed to others? I threw a little of that my own way. I cut myself some slack. I accepted that no matter the result, I did the best I could at the time. I compassionately questioned why I’d befriend others yet wouldn’t extend that same level of friendship towards myself.

I stopped emotionally kicking my own ass.

I’m certain my issues with self-forgiveness can be traced back to the self-identity narratives which were created, nurtured, and perpetuated many decades ago. Many of them based in limitation, steeped in unworthiness, rooted in insecurity. What we are willing to accept as true for who we think we are impacts just about everything.

But narratives can be changed, if we are willing to question them.

It’s a conversation worth having.

It’s the most important conversation I’ve ever had.

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

I’m sure you’ve heard it.

“Be present.”

It’s the only moment we really have, they say. Because if we’re living in our past, we’re re-living the pains and regrets of yesterday, and if we’re living in the future it can be a fearful and worrisome based vision of the uncertainty which lies ahead. The present moment, we’re told, is the sweet spot between the two.

But what if the present moment sucks?

Because sometimes it does.

Then what do we do?

The present moment has been marketed as the safe space between our past and our future. An emotional oasis of sorts. But just because it’s the present moment doesn’t mean it’s always a peaceful moment.

Being aware that the present moment sucks is a good thing. It means you’ve been able to step back from your inner emotional turmoil to assess and determine that, yes, this moment actually sucks. Much like a first responder needs to assess the situation on scene before going forward, our self awareness is the first step for us to move beyond the suck.

Sometimes the suck is just a temporary moment. Sometimes it’s much bigger than that.

Sometimes, though, the best thing you can do in this suck moment is give yourself the time and the space to let the present moment suck.

To accept it as it is.

To allow it to be as it is.

Not beating yourself up because it does.

Not shaming yourself because it does.

Because when the present moment sucks, the last thing you need is to be in an abusive relationship with yourself.

You’ll find a way through.

You always have.

When You Listen To What You’re Telling Yourself

When You Listen To What You’re Telling Yourself

“Good Vibes Only.”

It was a nice t-shirt.

But life simply doesn’t work that way.

At least not mine.

I’m a huge fan of good vibes. Love them. Strive for them. But I know that life, no matter what our clothing may say, isn’t always good vibes only.

I’ve come to appreciate all of my vibes. And I’ve got lots of them, too. The good. The bad. The angry. The empty. The frustrated. The disappointed. A full spectrum of emotions and feelings. I’m not sure if I’m complicated, or complex, but I do know at times I can be a lot for me to deal with.

As much as I prefer the good ones, I’ve found, paradoxically, that it’s the not-so-good ones which are the ones that lead me to more of the good ones.

Huh?

I’ve found that I learn from my vibes. Each one has something to tell me. Something to teach me about me and where I am at any given moment. Emotions are kind of my dashboard which lets me see what’s going on inside of me. Instead of fighting the ones I don’t want or feeding them further, I’ve learned to just notice them. A younger, far less self-compassionate version of me would often beat myself up for feeling a certain way. Now, I simply just let them be, without judging. Much like an auto mechanic, I don’t get mad that the dashboard indicator light is on, I use that indicator to get to the source of what needs tending to. Once I know where to look, I can work on getting me back to where I prefer to be.

Sometimes those not-so-good vibes stick around for a while, and I’ve come to accept that it’s OK if they do. Sometimes those emotions just need their space to breathe and not be forced back into the darkness. And in a strange way, being able to befriend the emotions and vibes I don’t really want to experience and learning to work with them helps me to more quickly get back to the positive and happier vibes I want to enjoy.

Self-awareness and a bit of compassionate patience have become such powerful tools for me to try and take better care of the emotional side of me.

Perhaps that’s the most important good vibe of all?

Thriving In A World Of Magnets & Boomerangs

Thriving In A World Of Magnets & Boomerangs

It actually came back!  

For no particular reason I recently purchased a boomerang. Not a bucket list item, just something that I thought would be fun to have. I went to a large open field behind the school and wanted to see if this thing would actually come back. And it did.

I don’t know the exact engineering behind the design, but their shape and the laws of physics worked together to return to the thrower what was sent out into the world.

Kind of how life works, isn’t it?

The energy we offer to the world will find its way back to the source. That source is us. It doesn’t matter what vibration or emotion we release, eventually it will find it’s way back home.

With the boomerang I knew exactly what I was throwing. I could see it in my hand. I was able to witness the entire cycle of the process, of me releasing and of me receiving. But Continue reading “Thriving In A World Of Magnets & Boomerangs”

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

Imaging what life could be like if we could simply stop carrying around our own backpack full of what we think is wrong with us. How much lighter would life feel?

What if they established one day per year where we could take all the things we consistently trash ourselves for and we could simply let them go? Put them down and walk away. To forgive ourselves for what we’ve done or not done, for who we are or who we think we are supposed to be, for what we haven’t yet done with our lives?

You know. Those gnawing feelings we get about ourselves. Those little voices reminding us of who we think we really are. Our short-comings, our failures, our doubts and fears, our thoughts about not being good enough. What if we allowed ourselves the opportunity to simply forgive ourselves and start new?

Amnesty.

Emotional amnesty.

The good news is today is Emotional Amnesty Day. Today can be the day to gather up all the limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging habits you don’t want to carry around with you any longer. The stuff that keeps you feeling stuck physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The guilt. The shame. The unworthiness. Continue reading “It’s Emotional Amnesty Day”

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

There’s a reason you’ve never seen a sunflower plant in any image depicting the North Pole.

Sunflowers don’t grow there.

Plants are at the mercy of their environment. The proper soil, the mix of nutrients, the amount of water, temperature, and sunshine can mean life or death to a plant. So many external variables impact their viability and growth.

And there’s not a single thing a plant can do about it.

As humans, we, too, are greatly impacted by the environments we find ourselves in. Some environments are conducive to growth and thriving, while others will never let us Continue reading “Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole”

Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?

Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?

It sounds rather simple.

And it should be quite easy.

But in reality it’s often a very difficult thing to do.

Loving yourself.

After all, how could you love you? You know everything about you, the good and the bad. Especially the bad. There are no secrets in your relationship with yourself. And that little voice in your head is always quite good at reminding you of your mistakes, regrets, and shortcomings. How could you possibly love such a person?

Maybe love is too big of a first step.

Good relationships take time, especially if that relationship is between you and you. My Continue reading “Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?”

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

What is the one gift we are so willing to give to others yet seldom give to ourselves?

Love.

Most of us would think nothing of offering a kind heart to others in need, especially to those closest to us. We’d readily be available to a distressed friend, offering our unconditional love, support, and encouragement, even if all we could provide was a shoulder to cry on. We’d do whatever we could to help them up.

Would you be willing to treat yourself the same way?

When it comes to ourselves we often create a cruel double standard. Somehow we believe others are more worthy of our love and compassion than we are. We support our friends during their times of emotional need yet when we could really use a friend of our own we are nowhere to be found. Instead of picking ourselves up, how often do we beat ourselves down, reminding ourselves of our own perceived shortcomings and all Continue reading “The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion”

The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself

The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself

The road to finding peace and happiness is never straight. At least it wasn’t for me and those I’ve known who’ve spent years of their own meandering on a similar journey.

None of us are born angry, miserable, weak, unworthy, afraid, anxious, or insecure. Those are things we can become. Sometimes you can define the catastrophic moment when the world rose up and took away the peace and happiness you entered this world with. Sometimes, though, we look back and can find no specific reason why the peace and happiness we are looking for ever went away in the first place.

It’s surreal walking through your empty life surrounded by everyone else who have their lives all figured out and are moving forward. That’s what I assumed…everyone else Continue reading “The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself”