Perspectives on Grief and Chasing Rainbows

It’s been exactly two weeks to the day since our family said goodbye to our dear friend Rocky. Today would have been his 17th birthday.

When we lose someone we love and are in the thick of grief, it seems normal to want the pain to go away so we can just feel better. We generally want to resume our “normal” routine and just get on with our lives. I’ve witnessed a definite sense of impatience, both in myself and in others, along with the desire for these unpleasant feelings to pass as quickly as possible. But as I continue to process the grief of losing my first (fur) baby, consummate lap dog, and sidekick extraordinaire, I have to question whether I’m doing myself any favours with the ‘suck it up and get over it quick’ approach.

I’m pretty new to this whole grief thing, relatively speaking anyway. Sure, I’ve lost grandparents and other relatives, and most definitely faced sadness as a result of loss, but somehow this time with my dog feels different. It is a profoundly deep sense of sadness and loss unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced before.

Maybe it’s because Rocky was much more than just a dog or family pet. In his latter years, he was the doppelganger of Falkor, the luckdragon from The Neverending Story. He was a fierce protector of babies and our home. He was a sensitive, caring companion; a gentle and kind, loyal and loving little dog. He had the most beautiful calm, soothing presence. He was a small dog with a great, big personality. Rocky was not only smart but also very wise, which forms the basis of my belief that he was basically an old soul wrapped up in a little fur coat.

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Our souls, Rocky’s and mine, only saw the absloute best in each other. There’s no question in my mind that he was gifted to me by the universe. He chose me to be his momma, and I believe our souls had a contract to help facilitate each other’s growth in this lifetime. Most importantly, I know he loved me without question or condition, and I, in turn, loved him with everything I had.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Jamie Anderson

Rocky&me

I’ve learned how unhealthy it is to suppress emotion, rather than allow it to flow through us and be processed as it is intended, by its very nature. I’m sensitive at the best of times, but lately I’ve found myself crying more often than not. Although the bouts of sadness are becoming less frequent as time marches on, I continue to allow my tears to flow whenever the need washes over me. In the first few days after Rocky passed, I was angry and irritable. I experienced extreme fatigue, headaches, food aversion, and mild nausea for almost a full week. Apparently, these are all common physical side effects associated with grieving. Huh, who knew?

Yup, this grief thing is definitely tricky, and not at all what I expected. But I’ve essentially placed myself right in the epicenter of an emotional storm and readied myself to ride it out for as long as it takes. It’s nowhere near the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done, but I do believe there’s value in staying the course—standing fully in my grief, unguarded and unprotected, and feeling my way through it, even in the face of the wind and unrelenting rain.

Over the last month of his life, I talked with a number of friends who offered their perspectives, as I struggled to come to terms with being responsible for making the final decision about when it would be ‘his time’. I recall a conversation in which one friend offered that, although Rocky had been part of our lives for close to 17 years and I certainly needed him for various reasons during that time, perhaps I had evolved to the point where I no longer required his wisdom and companionship via his continued physical presence. We also talked about our perspectives around what happens to a soul when the physical body can no longer be sustained.

Interestingly, Rocky appeared to my husband in his dream the very night after we said goodbye. He was licking my husband’s bald head, as he so often did during his time with us, and spoke with real words and a human voice. Rocky clearly told my husband that he was alright, and that he supports our family getting another dog when we we’re ready.

This put my mind at ease a bit. I was relieved to have some confirmation that Rocky was now without pain and seemingly at peace, but at the same time I was disheartened that I hadn’t received a sign or message from Rocky directly, myself. That was until a few days later when I began to notice a pattern—something just slightly out of the ordinary and with enough repetition to actually take note.

You guys, I am fully aware that you may not believe what I’m about to say. In fact, you may even think I’m a stark raving lunatic, but that’s okay. I’m not sure whether I am clairsentient, or if I’m just a heartsick fool whose feeling lost and desperately searching for meaning after the recent passing of her dog, but either way, I believe Rocky (or the energy of his spirit) has been presenting itself to me.

Why do I think this, you ask? Because I keep seeing rainbows—like everywhere, all over my house. Well, I suppose they’re not technically rainbows, but rather bands of colour and dispersions of light similar to the effect of a prism. But it hasn’t been just once or twice—it’s been pretty much daily for the past 10 days or so.

This is the part I find incredibly fascinating: when I was creating my vision board at the end of December 2019, which coincidentally was around the same time that Rocky’s health took a serious downturn, I came across the word “rainbow” written in script font and filled in with pretty colours. I was perplexed, and even struggled to justify to myself why I would need to have this on my vision board, but I did. It didn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. I even tried to remove it from among the collage of other words and images in an attempt to save space, but something inside me wouldn’t allow it, and literally insisted that it must be included. And without any further explanation or argument, I just decided to leave it.

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Now, my vision board lives in my office (which I have been hard-core avoiding lately, by the way), but I had to go in there the other day to grab something. That’s when I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye and did a complete double take. It was at that exact moment that everything clicked and I made the “rainbow connection.” I started to sob uncontrollably, except they were tears of joy in having my suspicion confirmed that Rocky’s spirit and energy are present with me still. It’s like he’s been saying “hi” to me in the sweetest way possible, and my heart swelled at the realization of our soul’s continued connection.

As more days have passed and I finally found the courage to pick up Rocky’s ashes to ensure he’s with us on his birthday and forever after, I’ve noticed a slight shift in my perspective. While there’s no mistaking that I’m still sad, I am also making the effort to intentionally reflect on the good times and to focus on all the love for him that will always live in my heart.

I’m still crying quite a bit, although not nearly as much as in the first few days after he passed. The logical, rational part of my brain knows that storms don’t last forever—not even the emotional ones. And I know the sun will eventually come out and shine down on me again.

With this simple thought I remember, yet again, how people, situations, and yes—even animals—have the ability to crack us wide open. But it in being open to the experiences, the feelings and the lessons, allowing it all and being vulnerable through the process…this is where we realize our own capacity for growth and change.

In his life Rocky taught me about unconditional love, giving me the chance to experience the deepest and most pure form of love I’ve ever known. Through his death, I am now learning how to see the beauty in my pain, as has been shown to me in the eternal nature of his spirit, his enduring love, and of course in every rainbow I will see until the end of time.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Rocky dog!

You may also want to check out the blog I wrote a couple years ago about the many lessons Rocky taught me during his lifetime: old dog // new tricks.

Extreme Makeover: Pantry Edition

A few weeks ago, I boldly showed off my drawers. To be clear, I showed the insides of my makeup drawers after a fit of purging and organizing induced by the first full moon of 2020.

At the time, the energy of cleansing, purging, and release hit me like a tidal wave (as in I chose to catch that wave and go with its flow, rather than go down like a sinking ship), and this very same energy has carried me through January. Back when I showed the world my drawers I also declared my pantry was next up on my list for a complete overhaul, and I’m here to tell you, with much pride and excitement, I’ve followed through with my intention to do just that.

Let me start by saying that I am no expert in the organization department. While I am a true Virgo at heart and I certainly appreciate the finer details of organizational systems and processes, I’ve never been great at creating those very systems in the first place. And after many failed attempts at organizing the items in my walk-through pantry, I essentially conceited defeat and threw in the proverbial (dish) towel. I distinctly remember the moment when I realized keeping my pantry neat and organized had become an exercise in futility. My kids were around one and three years of age, and at the time I knew I needed to choose my battles carefully. In other words, I was a working mother with two young kids and I only had so much energy to go around (and so many flips to give). My pantry was one of the things I decided to stop obsessing about, and I simply let it go.

Over the past ten or so years my pantry and all its contents grew increasingly unruly. After all these years of neglect, it became an overgrown jungle of pasta, rice, cereal, dry and canned goods, and the occasional half-eaten bag of chips that got tossed in willy-nilly, never to be found again, or at least not until well after the bag’s expiration date. Each time I went to look for something I needed, I would wince and my right eye would twitch a little. That is, until I pretty much stopped caring all together, as you can see in the photo below. (Ack, it’s such a mess!)

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I recently came across some photos of beautifully organized pantries on Instagram (the kind pantry dreams are made of) and I got a little insta-jelly. But thankfully that was just the kick in the pants I needed to do something. So I set to work researching online the various products available, and came up with a plan to restore order in my pantry.

After much deliberation, I ended up choosing Rubbermaid Brilliance containers, which boast an airtight seal, stack-ability, a wide variety of canister sizes/sets, and an overall simple and clean design esthetic. I started out with one 10-piece set (purchased from Amazon) and an additional 4-piece set (purchased from Bed, Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon), which I planned to use as the starting point for my pantry project, along with some Mason jars and baskets I already had on hand. I may end up purchasing additional Rubbermaid Brilliance storage pieces in the future, but we’ll see.

Other items I purchased to complete my pantry overhaul included:

  • Two rolls of Con-Tact® Grip 12-Inch x 15-Foot Non-Adhesive Ultra Shelf Liner
  • Two medium sized Spectrum Diversified Scoop stacking storage baskets
  • One SimpleHouseware stackable can rack organizer
  • And although my spices are not technically part of my pantry, I also purchased a set of 12 (4 oz) square jars with chalkboard labels to help me clean up my spice cupboard.

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Following is the basic process I followed:

  • Take an “inventory” of what I had on hand to determine how many storage containers and what other types of organization products I would need. This step also required taking measurements of the shelf space.
  • Source and/or place orders for pantry organization products and food storage containers. Upon arrival, unbox and wash new containers thoroughly in hot, soapy water.
  • Remove everything from pantry, one shelf at a time. This is a great time to check expiration dates and dispose of anything that’s out of date or will no longer be used. If food is still good and just not something your family will use, consider donating to a local food bank.
  • Do a thorough clean (wipe and/or sweep) the shelves to remover any residue, crumbs or debris.
  • Organize all food items into “like” groups and categories: baking ingredients, pasta and noodles, rice, cereal, etc.
  • Cut strips of shelf liner material to size for each shelf.
  • Transfer dry goods out of packaging into storage containers.
  • Place food back into pantry, keeping in mind regularly used items should be more centrally located. Items that don’t get used as much can be placed on higher or lower shelves. This step may entail some trial and error to determine what works best for you on a daily basis, so don’t be afraid to start somewhere and make changes as you go.

I’m so very happy with the way my pantry turned out! Here are some pics of the finished product:

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I know this post may seem entirely out of character; like it doesn’t jive with the type of content I normally post on my blog. Despite how it may appear, there is something deeper going on. If you read my last post, Sacred, you may recall how I chose that as the word I would use to guide me with the intention of bringing depth and greater meaning to my life this year. Indeed, in these first few weeks of 2020, I have been focused on creating routines that honour my sacred nature, specifically those that nurture my mental and physical health and overall wellbeing. And knowing myself as I do, I’ve come to understand the importance of order, cleanliness, and organization in my world. In fact, these qualities are so important to me that I would go so far as to call them, sacred.

Sure, the pretty pantry pics I found initially inspired me based on their functional beauty and esthetic appeal, but I wanted to tackle mine because I see it everyday, and its previous disarray was negatively affecting my mental state. I would become mildly annoyed and even agitated as I walked by or through it multiple times a day. Over time, the frustration grew to the point where I could no longer stand it. This is but one small example of how outer order plays a huge role in creating inner calm, or conversely, how chaos in my physical environment (in this case, my pantry) was causing me to feel mentally chaotic as well.

The underlying energy encouraging me to take small steps and inspired action in all areas of my life is an intentional focus on the sacred quality of simplicity. Cleaning out my pantry, taking stock of what I’ve actually got (so many types of tea!), streamlining its contents, and getting rid of expired and outdated food products was so satisfying. This seemingly small act feels like a form of simplification that will inevitably result in making my life easier.

The other huge bonus of having a clean, organized pantry is being able to clearly see and access all of my cooking ingredients, knowing exactly what I have on hand, and also when I’m low or have completely run out of something that needs restocking.

What I’m really saying is this pantry overhaul was about much more than what the eye can see. Transforming it from ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ to ‘A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place’ has brought me so much joy and peace of mind. And now that I’m riding this high, having discovered the profound effect a clean and organized pantry can have, I feel like there’s no stopping what I’ll tackle next. Watch out junk drawers, cupboards, and closets: I’m coming for you next.

**This is in no way a sponsored post.**

 

Sacred

I’ve come to an extremely important and potentially life-altering realization. The seeds of this knowledge have been with me since birth, but have remained hidden from sight, and yet somehow nurtured, even in their dormancy, by every experience I’ve ever had. Every hardship and every triumph along the way has fertilized the soil of my life and been integrated into my growth, leading me to this place.

And when I look back in reflection on the myriad of experiences that have brought me to where I stand now, I can easily see the evidence of this one indisputable fact: my life is sacred.

Please, don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. With this statement I do not assert myself to be any more important or special than you or the next person. Rather, I am hereby staking my claim to being a physical manifestion of a Divine spark of light. I might add for the record this is something every human being can say of themselves, because it is the absolute truth for all of us. All you need to do is choose to see it, acknowledge it, and believe it to be true.

I was born unto the Creator of all things (call it God/Source, or whatever other moniker suits your fancy), and by virtue of this, I am an extension of the Divine. The ever-present universal energies of love and light from which I was created are always with me, and part of me, because it is my essential nature and the ultimate truth of who I am.

“What if you were to simply take in the entire world in the same spirit as if you had just walked into a holy place?
Because we are in a holy place.

The divinity that you see outside you is also within you.
Know this.
Don’t doubt it or question it—just for today.”

“I am everything you experience.
Your life is my gift to you.
And you—you are my most beloved creation.”

Panache Desai, Discovering Your Soul Signature

This realization represents a considerable shift in my thinking. It has left me feeling shook, with literally no option other than to accept complete responsibility for my life and everything in it. For better or for worse, my life is a masterpiece of my very own design.

Speaking from recent experience, the level of love and attention I focus on myself has a direct impact on how I choose to spend my time and energy. Subsequently, the energy that ripples out from the decisions I make in every moment is what creates my reality. Placing myself last on my own priority list has shown me, time and time again and in no uncertain terms, how to feel like junk and live in diametric opposition to a purposeful and intention-driven life.

However, the idea of regarding my life as sacred single-handedly places such emphatic emphasis on my raison d’être that it brings every other detail into focus and becomes a yardstick by which I’ve started to measure my thoughts, words, and actions. Knowing that when I begin to veer off track or lose my footing, which will no doubt happen because I am human, SACRED is the compass that will bring me back to my true north.

Sacred is, at once, holding myself to a higher standard while allowing myself grace to make all the mistakes. It’s a lofty and ambitious—even holy—word to focus on, but it’s appearance on my radar screen of life is a beautiful, divinely-timed, and completely necessary occurence. I may even dare call it a miracle.

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The rub of choosing to see the Divine in my human self is the obvious and interesting point of contrast, and the challenge of navigating the complexities and potential pitfalls of this duality are not lost on me. If I’m being completely honest, which I know no other way to be (honesty is an important core value), the deep sense of devotion, dedication, reverence, and veneration to myself above all, as the word sacred connotes, is a foreign concept to me for a number of different reasons.

I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious or church-going family, and aside from a short-lived stint of curiosity around the traditional Christian God, religion, and the bible when I was seven, I’ve never really worshipped any particular God or deity. The idea of worshipping at the altar of myself on the daily, quite frankly, seems a little bit cray-cray. Yet, by the very same token, it’s likely the exact thing I need at the moment. And on the brink of one year—and a decade, even—ending, and another year and decade about to begin, I’m willing to give sacred a try.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Alexander Pope

Yes, I’ve realized the error of my past ways (I am still human, after all), and as I continue along my path of learning and evolution, I’ve chosen to forgive myself for my previous misgivings. Standing in the present and looking toward the future, I’ve wiped the slate clean, and I couldn’t be more clear about my desire to invite sacred to a very prominent seat at my table. And as I do the work of crafting my intentions, goals, plans, dreams, and vision for the coming year, I will create sacred rituals and allow myself the luxury of reveling in the feeling of holding myself, sacred.

I am in the process of deciding where to direct my energy and how to spend my time in 2020, getting clear about what feels good and right to my soul. Although I’ve completed similar processes a number of times before, this time around is a bit different as I am guided by the knowledge that I am sacred. From this deep sense of reverence, I am inspired to move forward with both confidence and purpose into the year ahead.

And when I begin to slip back into doubt about who I am and why I am here, as I know I inevitably will, I will say a little prayer and gently remind myself:
I am luminous. I am both a wave in the infinite ocean, and the ocean, itself. I have access to infinite creativity, boundless potential, and the field of infinite consciousness. I am grateful to have my own unique set of gifts and talents that I am meant to share with the world. All of this and so much more is true because I am a spark of the Divine.

The life I have been given is sacred.

Yes, friends, the time has come to honour myself and my life as sacred.

SACRED.

And just in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, this is the word I have chosen for 2020—the year when, no thanks to corrective prescription eyewear, my vision is crystal clear and everything is coming completely into focus.

If you’ve made it all the way through this post, bless you! I know it’s been a long one! Please accept my sincere wish for you to make 2020 your brightest and most beautiful year yet.

And if you’re interested in choosing a word for yourself to guide you in the coming year, or visioning/planning your goals and intentions, or creating a vision board (I’m doing all of these, by the way, because…why not?), I’ve compiled the following list of questions to guide you through the process. By no means is this an exhaustive list. Rather, it is a process of inquiry compiled from a number of sources to be used as a starting point in planning and creating a life of intention and meaning.

Before jumping into the questions on this list, I recommend you first get comfortable and still, whether seated or lying down, and become very quiet. Do a guided meditation or simply focus on your breath for about five minutes, or however long you’re able to focus. Then begin the process of listening deeply to what bubbles up and what your heart is telling you. Grab a journal and a pen and start writing down whatever comes up for you, without editing or censoring yourself. Above all, enjoy the glorious ride, knowing that you can create a life that looks and feels exactly how you want.

Questions for Reflection:
Looking back at the previous year, what worked for you and what didn’t? What were your some of your wins and your losses? What did you learn from these situations?
How did you use the past year to grow (or stay stuck)?
Is there a goal that you didn’t achieve that you still would like to work toward?
What are you grateful for from this past year (or even the past five years)?
What do you want to keep from the previous year, and what do you want to throw away? (consider habits/routines, relationships, material possessions, and more)

Present Day Assessment:
Are there any commitments that no longer feel good and right to you?
What are your core values?
What are your strengths?
What do other people tell you you’re good at? What lights you up and what do you love to do?
In a very general sense, what does feel good and right to you? List it all…
Who are your role models and why? What traits do these individuals possess that you aspire to?

Looking Ahead to the Future:
In which areas of your life would you like to learn and grow in the coming year?
Which areas of your life require more attention and focus?
If you won the lottery tomorrow, and no longer had to work to earn an income, how would you spend your time?
How do you want to make the world a better place?
What does your ideal day look like, from start to finish?
Do you have a bucket list? Create a list of 25 things you’d like to do before you die.
Going into the year ahead, how do you want to feel?
How can you look to align your life with your strengths, core values, likes/dislikes, and how you want to feel?
What do you want your life to look like in three years time? Five years? Ten?
What are three things that are holding you back from accomplishing your wildest dreams? Choose one of these obstacles/impediments and write an action plan to overcome it.

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Chapter 43: Love is a Unique Achievement

Hello, loves. It’s me, My Phare Lady. Remember me?

It’s been quite some time since I’ve felt like writing, and what’s more, since I’ve felt like I had anything of interest or value to share. Being locked into a pretty solid funk since September of 2018 hasn’t helped, either.

Let’s just say these past 12 months have felt particularly draining and heavy. The time has dragged so slowly it felt like I was attempting to run through molasses. Yet—strangely, somehow—days, weeks, and months passed in the blink of an eye. The monotony of my daily responsibilities squeezed me like a vice, the pressure leaving me with an absence of desire to do anything more than the bare minimum.

After facing an initial series of strikes and blows about this time last year, I chose to get still and quiet. I was trying to stay present, to really feel into the sensations of the beliefs and emotions that were locked inside the cells of my body and keeping me jailed in a prison of my own making. But as the feelings of shame and discomfort continued to swell until I was almost certain they would swallow me whole, I slipped back into some familiar patterns.

I neglected my own needs and set aside most of the self-care practices that had generally kept me functional and (reasonably) sane. I numbed out the uncomfortable feelings and immersed myself in frivolous distractions. And through it all I used the excuse of being too “busy” to do the things I claimed were most important to my heart—to my happiness and wellbeing.

Maybe that’s why I am so incredibly grateful for the return of September—because it’s always felt like my ‘new year’. Historically speaking, it has been a time of re(birth), renewal, and new beginnings. It’s a time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Not to mention, the time has come to close this last chapter of my life so I can begin the next—one in which I am the author of my own story.

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My kids’ schools are located just a few blocks away from each other in a mature neighbourhood in the town where we live. One of the best things about this area, in my opinion, is that it features the grandest trees (60-80 feet tall, on average) with the most majestic foliage. The other day at school pick up time, I nearly stopped in the middle of the road as I was driving when I noticed how the leaves had suddenly turned to the most brilliant shades of rust, gold, and even deep purple. The result was a glorious canopy of fall colour that shimmered gently overhead in the autumn breeze. Not only was it a splendid sight to behold, but also it reminded me (again) how there is so much beauty all around, if only we choose to see it and be open to truly receive.

As if right on cue with the changing of the leaves and the season, my outlook has shifted quite dramatically. My energy is increasing, and the promise of hope and possibility are returning to me once again. I am moving my body more, and remembering each day how glorious it feels to be outside—to take in nature’s splendor with all my senses, and to appreciate every aspect of my life as I welcome each new breath of fresh air into my lungs. Dare I say it’s almost as if I’ve been wandering around in the dark, wondering if I would ever see the sun again, when I finally feel a little warmth at my back and a glimmer of light on my cheek.

Everything seems just a little bit ‘brighter’ at the moment. My disposition, just a bit sunnier. Although fall’s official arrival is just around the corner, I have some extra spring in my step these days. While I’m not able to pinpoint why, exactly, I don’t even think the “why” matters much. All I know is that I am excited to welcome with open arms this change in my life’s season.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent a lot of time—far too much, really—worrying about how I am perceived by others, preoccupied with being accepted, and concerned about whether people like me. My previous operating system was entirely based on the fear and limiting belief of not being enough, or perhaps even too much, for others. In this new season of my life; however, I am turning over a new leaf by renewing my focus on gratitude, bravery, and above all, self-love. This shift has me feeling both refreshed and liberated.

So instead of recalling all the ways I’ve failed in the past (and the ways in which I believe others have failed me), and rather than analyzing and attempting to control the inevitably uncontrollable future, I’m consciously and courageously choosing to return to presence and the practice of gratitude. Because it’s nearly impossible to separate one from the other, this process also has me coming back to the importance of embracing love over fear.

Over time and through the lens of my life’s experiences, I’ve really come to understand how fear is an extreme form of rejection, whereas love, on the other hand, is the ultimate form of acceptance. When I think of these qualities in those terms, it shifts my way of thinking to a whole new perspective with a different meaning.

Although it’s been difficult in many ways, this past year has taught me so much. Most important of all, it has shown me that, in order to achieve the inner peace and harmony I want, everything I do—every action and reaction—must originate from gentle, loving acceptance. This perspective also reminds me to view my life with loving kindness, to speak and act from love, to remain open to receiving the energy of love, and, most importantly, to love myself first so that I may be able to extend my love to others.

LOVE

It’s been an interesting year…

I haven’t been that visible in this online space, but rest assured I’m still here.

I am not making any excuses about where I’ve been, and I will not be making grand claims about what I plan to do in the future. (The beauty of being present is in taking one baby step at a time.)

This is just me sharing a glimpse of how I am evolving, while at the same time staying grounded in who I am; remembering what I stand for and why I am here.

This is me loving and accepting who I am in this moment, while not giving up on the person I want to become.

There is no doubt about it—this thing called life can be challenging at times. It’s both undeniable and totally ok. No one ever said it would be easy. And in case anyone out there needs a reminder, it’s alright to not be ok all of the time. (I keep seeing this message all over social media, but it bears repeating here, nonetheless.) You can surely count on the fact that life will knock you down, and also that you’ll need to pick yourself up off the floor, wipe off the dust and dirt, and be willing to try again the next day.

And I suppose that’s really what this post represents—me picking myself up off the floor for about the 8,376th time in my life. And after all I’ve seen, done, and been through in the past 43 years, all I really know to be true for sure is that:

  • Living in the energy of love feels infinitely better than constantly being motivated by fear.
  • Keeping your heart open to love through the difficult times ain’t easy, but it is worth it.
  • Loving and accepting myself exactly as I am, flaws and all, is the secret sauce to feeling whole.
    –AND–
  • A willingness to continue to return to love through all of life’s triumphs and hardships, is, indeed, a unique achievement.

“If I asked you to name all the things you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

It’s taken me the better part of 43 years to figure it out, but now that I have, I’m ready for my next chapter.

 

 

Quiet

“We are five months into 2019 and it’s still January.”

“January…it’s the Monday of months.”

And my personal favourite…
“January, it’s a tough year but we made it.”

There are so many memes about January being the longest month, well, pretty much, EVER…74 days long, or something to that effect.

The thing is, though, that‘s how it feels, at least it does to me. It’s usually quite cold where I live (we wear a minimum of seven heavy layers so we don’t freeze our skin if we do decide it’s necessary to go outside—winter in Alberta is no joke), the days are extremely short (we see so little daylight in our northern locale it’s literally depressing), and we’re generally confined to our homes for long stretches at a time…sometimes up to several weeks. There aren’t any holidays to break up the monotony, and time creeps slowly forward at about the same pace as a heard of turtles.

For interest sake, it’s been one month since I’ve posted anything here on the blog. (For what it’s worth, this feels like a church confessional, and I’m also having a deja-vu moment like I may have said this on here before.) But in any case, this post breaks precisely 31 days of blog silence.

Quiet.

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Sure, I could say I’ve been busy doing other things, which of course is true, at least to some extent.

I’ve been reading a fascinating book, The 5 am Club by Robin Sharma, doing online course work, cleaning and purging the house, writing in my Five-Minute Journal, doing yoga, meditating, testing my strength and stamina with kickboxing, as well as exploring my word of the year, nourish, in the nutritional sense by exploring ways to incorporate a more plant-based diet in my life (more to come with a dedicated blog post about this later).

At the same time, I’ve been isolating myself. Staying home. Being quiet. Sitting with unpleasant emotions I’d rather not feel. And if I’m being completely honest, the aforementioned process has seen me be far less intentional with my time in January than I had planned. This is definitely a common, re-occurring theme as my Five-Minute Journal asks me, every night without fail, “How could I have made today even better?” and my response often has to do with spending less time on my phone.

But alas, it’s true. Much to my dismay, I’ve allowed myself to be distracted and wasted oodles of time on social media. And while I’m on on here confessing all my sins, I’ve also taken to being distracted by online shopping, both to alleviate feelings of boredom as well as to avoid other things I’m having a hard time with, or just downright not wanting to do.

In between these things, and among the other routine demands of my daily life, I’ve enjoyed some small pockets of stillness. These slivers of quiet are, in one word, glorious.

It is in these moments I feel as though a beautiful blanket of fresh snow has draped itself, ever so effortlessly and gracefully, over the otherwise dull and lifeless landscape of my life.

A crystalline snowfall cleans and purifies the external world. Similarly, the quiet allows me to see clearly, making my perception of the world immaculate, even if only for a moment. The sun dances across the spotless surface of my freshly snow-covered mind, gleaming and sparkling as the light hits at sharp angles. And in these moments, my life is a blank canvas, with no limits as to what I might be able to create. I have access to an infinite number of possibilities.

Quiet.

And then the husband and kids come home, bringing animation, noise, and all manner of calamity with them. Oh, so much noise! Voices clamor for attention, as people yell to make themselves heard from one corner of the house to another. The girl—bless her heart—sings unabashedly at the top of her lungs as the boy blares video games in the basement while yelling at his friends over a mic. The dog barks endlessly for scraps of food or someone to bring him down the stairs or to help him down off the couch. Ding. Buzz. Beep. Alarms sound, signalling the need to go somewhere or do something important. My head rings from the chaos.

January certainly marked a return to chaos in my household, and I am thankful that it was interspersed with some pockets of quiet.

I know a little chaos in life is inevitable, but I so enjoy quiet.

It is where I connect with myself and my breath.

It is where I am able to extract order from chaos.

It is where I can hear my thoughts, separate one from the next, and discover slivers of clarity.

It is the source of my creativity, and the place from which I am able to access and honour my deepest truth.

As we welcome February in my neck of the woods, it looks like we may need to hunker down for some much colder temps and another big dump of fresh snow.

It is so beautiful and peaceful, and calls me to remember the profound power that is inherent, both in the quiet and the freshly fallen snow.

They almost seem to be one in the same.

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2018 reflections, plus one word, a vow, and a blessing for 2019

With the holiday season, and all the excess that comes along with it, rapidly drawing to a close, it feels only natural to reflect on the past year in preparation for transitioning to a new one.

And while we’re talking about excess, I don’t know about you but my body is certainly feeling the effects of “too much,” particularly heavy, rich, gravy-laden food and boozy coffee. Too much noise and too much hustle and bustle have also taken a toll. I chalk it up to having a highly sensitive nervous system, because even though I knew it was coming, my efforts to brace myself and proceed with caution seem to have been for naught. 

As I languish in the slow, soupy, drawn-out days between Christmas and New Year’s, the in-between time when time is pretty much irrelevant, I’ve been hit hard with the awareness that I’ve gone pretty far out of balance. My body has been talking to me and reminding me it’s time to return to healthier ways again. And as I reflect on my journey through the past year, I can certainly see how ‘going out of balance’ in order to figure things out is a common theme that’s reflected in each of my key learnings. 

You may recall I chose three words to guide me in 2018: intuition, intention, and inspiration. Little did I know the starring role these words would play in almost the exact opposite way I had expected…or perhaps I knew precisely what I was doing all along? Ya, right. That’s it…

Hits of Intuition – I can see quite clearly in retrospect how, on numerous occasions, my intuition was giving me some serious warnings signs and signals that something was amiss. And I‘m certain I made things more difficult for myself by not listening and trusting the simple signs before me. As my chest tightened and my entire body constricted in the presence of individuals whose intentions were not the most honourable, I was literally being shown how energy doesn’t lie; only people do, and my body definitely knows the difference before my mind has a chance to catch up. I’d like to think I’ve learned a valuable lesson—the importance of trusting myself and my gut, beyond everything else—but I suppose time will be the judge of that. Still, I’m not giving up. I will continue to work on building up my intuitive capacity, flexing it like a muscle, and learning to listen to what it’s trying to tell me. 

Honouring Intentions – The biggest lesson I’ve learned about setting intentions and honouring them is that the time and action (or the energy) you commit toward nurturing their growth are what matter the most. And again this is something I had to learn the hard way. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve squandered countless hours, many of which were consumed with mindless scrolling on social media, to the extent that I decided to remove the Facebook app from my phone for most of December. And you know what? This may have been one of the very best decisions I’ve ever made in my life to date. It has clearly shown me the value of limiting my exposure to the impressions I take in from social media, and that I have much better ways I can spend my time, not to mention my life is better lived in real life. I also know now with greater certainty than ever that, if and when I decide to wade back into the Facebook world, I will certainly be treading lightly, and will do so only with very clear restrictions in place.  

Harnessing Inspiration – In the simplest terms, this year I learned that when I’m not trusting my intuition and not honouring my intentions, when I’m preoccupied with drama and negativity, when I’m emotionally exhausted and not taking proper care of myself, or wasting my life away on social media, inspiration is an elusive wench, plain and simple. And that’s really all there is to say about that. Except for maybe that I’m curious to see how I may be able to cultivate more inspiration in 2019, when I’m better aligned in other areas. 

The good news from all of this is I’ve learned which areas of my life I want to refocus on and place a greater amount of emphasis, and also with whom I want to spend my time and energy going forward. I know I am better poised to enter 2019 with awareness, the ability to set firm, clear boundaries, and the knowledge that I‘m no longer willing to trade my authenticity for someone else’s acceptance or approval. 

I’m also aware that all these failures and deficiencies sound quite negative. Let’s face it: 2018 wasn’t entirely kind in many ways. But as I’ve said before, I can see how the situations that brought me the greatest pain in 2018 were a necessary catalyst for my personal growth, and I can now look back with deep gratitude for the refreshing new perspective it brought me. Also, by being brutally honest about what really didn’t work well or serve me in 2018, I absolutely know what I need to move forward, which brings me to my word for 2019: 

FC36BC0C-A90A-4F24-8857-768C82BC249DAlthough there are many food-related connotations around this word, and even though food/nutrition is very much an integral component of the healthy life I am focused on creating, I actually chose this word, or perhaps it more accurately found its way to me, because it feels all-encompassing of the way I want to approach every facet of my life in the coming year—with the love, care, attention, and nurturing that I so want and richly deserve for myself. 

Just as a seed needs fertile soil, water, and sunlight to sprout and grow, my life needs the proper nourishment for me to grow into the fullest expression of my highest self in the coming year. 

I spent some time thinking about what feels nourishing to me—mentally, physically, and spiritually. And while by no means is the following list exhaustive, it will definitely serve as a guidepost for me as I look to bring the energy and spirit of ‘nourish’ into all areas of my life. And you’d better believe this stuff is going on my vision board, too.

I am nourished by:

  • Meaningful connection and deep, soulful conversations about the nature of the universe, life, and humanity.
  • Creativity and new ideas.
  • Movement—the mindful kind.
  • Introspection, quiet, solitude.
  • Helping others.
  • Positivity.
  • Time spent with good peeps, soaking up the good vibes.
  • Nature and beauty. Trees are my favourite, followed very closely by mountains and water.
  • Singing and dancing.
  • Music.
  • Writing. Reading.
  • Learning. Growing.
  • Sleep, glorious sleep.
  • Water.
  • Hugs.
  • Feeling supported by my peeps, knowing they believe in me and always have my back.
  • Riding my bike.
  • Movies.
  • Practicing gratitude.
  • Fresh air.
  • Walks.
  • Baths.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Simplicity. Order. Organization.
  • Doggie cuddles.
  • Beauty.
  • Sunshine. Rainbows.
  • The sky, the moon, and the stars.
  • Travel. Exploring. Adventure.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Presence.
  • Surrender.

As I dive, head first, into the blank slate that is this New Year, rather than making resolutions that come from a place of fear or inadequacy within myself, I am choosing to focus on what feels like a more positive, growth-based intention setting practice. That’s why, in 2019, I plan to  nourish myself deeply; my overall physical health, as well as my emotional and spiritual well-being. I want to devote energy to nourishing my creativity—tending to it and cultivating it as I would a garden of beautiful flowers. In all these ways and so many more, I intend for 2019 to be about choosing only to engage in what feels good and brings nourishment to my soul.

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Along with making NOURISH my faithful companion, and of course based on everything I learned from this past year—the good, the bad, and the ugly (because there was all of that and more, and I’m grateful for every part), this is my solemn vow to myself for 2019:

May I always remember my life is worth a billion blessings to everyone I meet on my journey. But I am not for everyone, and everyone is not for me. And that is ok. 

I was born of the heavens and am part of all that eternally exists in the sky above.

I am the vastness of my greatest thought,  and the infinite power that sources and sustains the entire universe.

On this day, I remember who I am, what I am here for, and why I chose the experiences that have come to me this past year.

Today, I promise to leave the smallness of my darkest thoughts behind and melt with open arms into the love of my highest self.

I surrender to the endless possibilities 2019 has in store for me, allowing each day of the coming year to surprise me and NOURISH the deepest desires of my soul.

I will remind myself to always return to the spark of the divine from which I was created, using my innate power to light the way forward, for myself, and for others, should they choose to follow.

This year, I will give to others what I want back for myself. If I want love, I will find a way, however small—a smile or silent blessing, to love every person with whom I cross paths.

If I want peace, I will think peaceful thoughts, say peaceful words, and pray for peace for all those experiencing chaos.

If I want success, I will work diligently to help those around me succeed. And I will focus on and honour the commitments I make to myself.

If I want respect, I will begin by respecting my own life—body, mind, and spirit. I will respect those around me and those who work to make this planet better for all of us. I will respect the earth, my body, my past, and the unique gifts I possess that I am meant to share with the world. 

I will surrender judgment in exchange for reverence, and in doing so, I trust that what I give to the world will be echoed back to me.

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As we all ride the wave of the last hours, minutes, and seconds of 2018, I extend my sincere wish for each of you to receive the  things your heart desires most in 2019. 

May you accept the love that is extended to you. May your heart embrace it fully and may it warm you to the depths of your soul. 

May your spirit know the deepest sense of peace.

May you be blessed with good fortune, and if not, may you be resilient enough to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on with even greater strength and determination. 

And may you be healthy and know what it feels like to be completely nourished in all the ways that bring you the greatest joy in the year ahead. 

With all my love,

my Phare Lady

A Sign

A song played at the end of last week’s episode of This is Us. The lyrics stirred up something from deep inside me, like I’m talking on the level of my soul.

I grabbed my phone and quickly opened the Shazam app. The result came up in about 2.3 seconds: 42 by Mumford & Sons from the band’s 2018 album Delta.

I did a slight double take when I noticed the song was called 42.
Well, that’s very interesting, I thought…

I hit the button to purchase the song on Apple Music without hesitation. And I’ve pretty much been listening to it on repeat ever since.

As much as I love a nice melody or sweet harmony, the soulful strum of an acoustic guitar, the unexpected twist of a bridge, or the dynamic rise of a full orchestral crescendo (special thanks to my college Music Appreciation class for this knowledge and terminology), it’s usually the lyrics, or the message a song imparts, that evoke emotion and make it memorable, keeping me coming back for more.

I’m actually kind of obsessed with song lyrics. Case in point: I recently told a friend how I constantly think in lyrics, like pretty much ALL. THE. TIME. My husband and I have entire conversations in song lyrics, both by text and in person in a call and response fashion. AND I have a secret dream about writing song lyrics. Oops, I guess the cat’s out of the bag now and it’s really not a secret anymore.

The words are layered over chords played on an organ, as the song begins with a feeling reminiscent of a church hymn…
“Where do I turn to when there’s no choice to make? And how do I presume when there’s so much at stake?

Building…
“I was so sure, oh, of it all. And what if I need you in my darkest hour?”

Fear. Uncertainty. Isolation. I have been marinating in all the feelings, and it often feels like a certain type of darkness. So many questions plague my mind, yet so few answers have appeared.

An electric guitar is layered in over the baseline and back beat…
“And what if it turns out there is no other?”

I’ve been doubting myself again lately, in all the majorly important ways, and then I this song comes along, so unexpectedly, as the punctuation mark at the end of my most favourite TV show. Really, the only show I watch religiously each week. And it feels a bit like a hug from an old friend, as if it was played specifically for me.

Quieter, with guitar strings plucked to a staccato beat…
“If this is our last hope, we would see a sign, oh, we would see a sign.”

I’ve scoured the Internet, and I cannot find any indication of why the song is titled 42.

My mind trails off, as I think about how I am building a new foundation—one that’s based on a strong sense of my truest self. As I process and grow through my challenges, I continue to learn I am wise and wonderful and capable of anything I want to do. And I am doing everything in my power to integrate this knowledge into my way of being.

Yet, I find myself needing to learn and relearn these truths. Repeatedly teaching myself as I attempt to believe—fully and completely—in all that I am. I remind myself that I am everything I need, and that all of the answers to my own questions are already within me. I also know that as I follow this path—my yellow brick road to freedom and peace—I will continue to stumble, and to forget, from time to time.

I suppose it’s quite normal, really, for those of us who identify as seekers to look for answers, validation, and signs beyond ourselves. I believe it’s our humanity that makes it so. We are wired for connection to other humans, after all; we are literally programmed to seek out others to whom we can relate and with whom we can share this human experience. It’s a fundamental part of our existence. Through all the joy and the pain, we just need to feel like we’re not doing this life all alone.

Louder again (mezzo forte)…
“If this is our time now
we wanna see a sign, oh,
we would see a sign…”

I am exactly 42 years old (and two months plus a handful of days, if you want to get technical), and dare I say, albeit strange, this song is a very timely reminder. It’s a sign so simple and obvious that I could have easily missed it had I not been paying attention.

It is a true beacon of hope. A clear signal of inspiration. A symbolic guiding light, if you will, giving me the courage and strength I need to continue on.

Everything has been building to this precise moment. It’s a sign that, in spite of how I’ve been feeling, I am not alone. I know I am loved and supported. Life is giving me what I need in each and every moment, and everything is working out for me exactly as it should.

THIS IS MY TIME.

I thank the universe for this message of gentle reassurance, delivered in the best possible way, at the perfect time for me to hear, all while lovingly wrapped in the beautiful poetry of the special lyrics of this song.

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This is also a sign. Clever, isn’t it? Found while on vacation in Paia Town, Maui in 2017.

And, for what it’s worth, I also strongly believe this isn’t just about me. I feel compelled to share this story with you, for the universe works in strange and mysterious ways, and just in case you may also be looking for a sign of hope or reassurance, too.

So let me do a quick recap just in case you might have missed it:
You are strong enough to get through anything life throws your way.
And you are enough, period. Exactly as you are.

xo

Do you believe in signs from the universe? I’d love to hear from you!

Where do I turn to when there’s no choice to make?
And how do I presume when there’s so much at stake?
I was so sure, oh, of it all
But what if I need you in my darkest hour?
And what if it turns out there is no other?
If this is our last hope
We would see a sign, oh
We would see a sign
Well I’ve been running from the ashes we left
Forgiveness begs for itself but how can I forget
When there’s a stain on it all
But what if I need you in my darkest hour?
And what if it turns out there is no other?
We had it all
If this is our time now
We wanna see a sign, oh
We would see a sign
So give us a sign
I need some guiding light
Children of darkness, oh
Songwriters: Benjamin Walter David Lovett / Edward James Milton Dwane / Marcus Oliver Johnstone Mumford / Winston Aubrey Aladar Marshall