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.

 

 

Bad Blogger (Made for More)

Hi, I’m Andrea, also known as MyPhareLady. I’m going to make a bold and shocking statement: I might just be the world’s worst blogger, by social media industry standards, anyway.

The following is a list of eight solid reasons to support this claim:

  1. Historically speaking, I haven’t done the best job of posting regularly and consistently.
  2. I don’t have a large following.
  3. Sometimes when I put my stuff out into the world via a blog post, I have absolutely no idea if anyone ever reads, or moreover can relate to what I’ve written.
  4. I don’t receive many comments on my posts.
  5. My blog isn’t driven by a specific product or service. (I’m not trying to sell anything to anyone.)
  6. I don’t put much energy into curating beautifully staged photos with perfect lighting to complement my posts.
  7. I make absolutely no money running my blog. I don’t have companies approaching me about sponsorships and endorsement deals, nor do I accept paid advertising on my site (not that anyone has ever asked me about any of these things…lol).
  8. I don’t really advertise or promote my blog, apart from sharing with family, friends, and on my personal social media feeds.

There. I said it. These are my blogging “failures.” The many reasons I suck at blogging. But I can also say that none of these things had anything to do with me wanting to start a blog in the first place.

So, the next (and most obvious) question is, if you’re not doing it to make money, why bother having a blog, right?

Well, the reason I started this blog was simple: because it originated with a tiny whisper from my heart. And although this small voice from within was barely audible, I was incapable of ignoring it. Well, I suppose I did try for a while, but it was persistent and just kept getting louder and louder, so I eventually caved to its demands.

I couldn’t make much sense of it at the time, but I knew I must honour the deep longing to share my writing with an audience, even through my uncertainty and fear. There was a reason for listening to the whispers of my heart that I couldn’t comprehend then, nor am I even sure I understand now—to not only take that leap of faith into the world of creative self-expression, but also to make myself vulnerable to a vast Interweb of strangers at the same time.

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Switching gears—and please bear with me as I promise to bring these thoughts full circle by the end of this post—I recently discovered an author, momprepreneur, and all-around magical unicorn of a woman by the name of Ms. Rachel Hollis. Seriously, this woman was not even on my radar two months ago, but a friend invited me to go see the final screening of her documentary, Made for More, in our city in August. I jumped at the chance (because, who doesn’t want a night out with a girlfriend?), and I was pleasantly surprised to learn how authentic, raw, and vulnerable she is, not to mention her determination to inspire and uplift other women is unstoppable. Needless to say I found the documentary (and Rachel) to be refreshing and inspirational in every possible way.

I’ve since started following all of her social media, devoured her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, and, in an effort to end 2018 with strength, intention, clarity, and grace, have been participating in her #last90days challenge. In the relatively short time I’ve known of Rachel Hollis, I’ve received so much inspiration from her work and the simple truths she has made it her mission to share. Among these are the importance of: being completely and unapologetically yourself; maintaining a growth mindset; going all in, as in being 100% invested in your goals (still working on this one); paying no mind to other people’s opinions; and, last but certainly not least, that all women deserve to belong and be supported by community.

Discovering Rachel Hollis has reminded me about what’s really important to me, what’s important in life, and also why I started this blog in the first place. For me, it was never about making money and having a billion subscribers. Rather, it was always supposed to be an online space dedicated to authenticity, growth, community, and connection.

Thanks in large part to Rachel’s wisdom and teachings, I’m able to see it all so much more clearly now: my passion, and ultimately my goal for this blog, is to bring women together in the spirit of community to create dialogue around topics that matter. This is a vehicle for sharing my thoughts, opinions, and experiences, and using them as a catalyst or starting point for conversations with other women. It’s a way for me to use my voice for good, to help others on a parallel or intersecting path—to build a sisterhood of like-minded souls who, just like me, are seeking a community in which love, support, and kindness reign supreme.

Even though I know all too well the metrics that define a successful blogger, and even though I admittedly fall way short of these metrics on all accounts, I cannot shake the feeling that I must continue to forge ahead. I must keep writing. I must keep sharing the pieces of myself and my life experiences I feel called to share. I must do so, not because I’m seeking fame or notoriety, but because this blog is here for a reason, and dare I say I think it’s supposed to serve a far greater purpose than anything that can be defined solely by monetization or subscriber statistics.

dontquityourdreams

And perhaps most important of all, this blog has taught me, time and time again, that when my heart speaks, what it’s telling me is not up for negotiation. I MUST listen. And if listening to my heart and following my dreams in spite of the evidence that’s stacked against me means I’m the worst blogger out there, I suppose I’m alright with that.

And I’m pretty sure that it’s all because I’m learning (and maybe even starting to believe) that I am made for more.

With all my love,
MyPhareLady
xo

WAIT! Don’t go yet…just one more really IMPORTANT thing:
I want to know what big dreams and goals are you working on, and more importantly, what are you doing to get through the challenges and push past the setbacks you encounter along the way? Are you working toward something that feels so completely out of reach, or even impossible, that you often think about giving up, but choose to keep going anyway?
I’d really love to hear from you. Let’s get this conversation started…drop me a line in the comments below!

Calling All Love Warriors

Is the true mark of a good book one that’s been referred by numerous friends, approved by critics, and reached the top of the bestseller list? If you ask me, the best indication of a book’s merit is its ability to strike a chord and hit me where I’m going to feel it—right in my humanity.

And that’s pretty much exactly what Glennon Doyle Melton’s, Love Warrior, did. It hit me square in the face and simultaneously yanked at my heartstrings, while calling into question all of the darkness and light of being a woman and what it really means to be human.

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I hadn’t even heard of the author until about a month and a half ago, when a Facebook friend began posting about reading Love Warrior. She apologized to her family and friends to let them know she would be holed up in her bedroom for as long as it took to get through all of the pages of this particular story, which I distinctly recall her referring to as intense.

At the time I wasn’t sure why, but I was compelled to get my hands on a copy of this memoir by an author about whom the only thing I knew was that she went by three names. Having just finished Love Warrior and being left emotionally depleted and somehow hopeful and also changed and as though I want to read it all over again in order to soak up more of its goodness, I am again compelled to let the world know this book is an absolute must read.

I couldn’t have predicted the way in which Love Warrior would affect me, finding its way into the deepest, darkest crevices of my heart. It’s not just because I feel a strange sense of sisterhood toward the author, who obviously understands the cause and effect of being a highly sensitive person in an often intensely insensitive world. It’s not just because she has an uncanny ability to turn a phrase so simply and beautifully that it is, at once, both breathtaking and heartbreaking. (She’s exactly the type of powerful female author I aspire to become.) It’s not just because her life story is both riveting and compelling. It’s not the profound choice that she’s made over and over again to carve her path guided by trust and faith. And it’s also not just because her experiences, and her choices in reaction to them, resonated for me so deeply that I can’t even explain it, and have been left with no other choice but to feel it in the depths of my soul. It’s not just any one of these things in isolation. It’s actually all of them, and so much more.

This story reminded me of being at an interesting and critical point in my own life; standing at a crossroads where unexpected pieces of my past are converging to form the present. Similarly, Melton poignantly reflects on her experience of being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and writer while overcoming the odds stacked against her. And to top it all off, she does all of this with an unparalleled sense of grace, the likes of which are rarely seen in our time.

The totality of Melton’s story of unlearning everything she once thought she knew and unbecoming everything she thought she was, is eerily familiar to me. This must be why her words have landed so close to my own heart, shattering it into tiny pieces and leaving me to pick up the debris.

While the circumstances of her life path are quite different from mine, there are a number of common threads too similar to be ignored. Warp threads are spun by two women trying to make sense of their lives and figure out their place in the world. The weft threads are the sheer determination that, no matter what happens along the way, these two women will always choose the path of honesty and remaining true to themselves. The interweaving of warp and weft has created the fabric of our lives, both Melton’s and mine.

On a side note, every time my kids and husband came home over the past few days to find me sobbing as I made my way through the final five chapters, they would always ask, “You’re reading that book again, aren’t you?” And on these occasions, they would ask me with great concern what the book was about and why it was so upsetting to me. Each and every time I failed to find adequate words to express the intense feelings it was eliciting from within me. But what I can say is this: Love Warrior landed in my lap at just the right time, allowing me to open my heart and shed a few layers of its skin as I was immersed  in a story that took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from disbelief, loss, and grief to acceptance, faith, grace, and love, and everything in between.

It doesn’t quite do justice to Glennon Doyle Melton’s gift as a writer to say I enjoyed Love Warrior, and it simply wasn’t possible for me to ignore the urge to write this post. Because doing so is the most honest choice and the next right thing I can do to honour where I am at right now. (And also because this is important work and everyone needs to read it.)

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Love Warrior has reminded me of our shared humanity and the need to keep coming back to love in these tumultuous times. It dug up and forced me to feel some deep emotional baggage that I’ve been carrying (even though I didn’t really want to). And, yes, I’m just going to go ahead and say it—it’s changed the way I choose to look at the world.

I actually enjoyed this book so much I just may go read it all over again. And if you want to read something interesting and important that was created out of the only force that matters and on which we all need to focus more of our attention during this lifetime, dare I say, so should you.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy, fix yourself a tea or coffee, get cozy, and start reading Love Warrior today.

Perhaps you’ve already read Love Warrior? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

My story is unfolding, with major changes and subtle shifts

This summer has been a time of significant transition for me—a time of both major changes and subtle shifts. My daughter finished Grade 2 and my son graduated from Kindergarten, I left my job at the end of June, and I somehow finally summoned the courage to announce to the world that I plan to pursue my dream of becoming a published author.

While I’ve always insisted on working outside of the home (I felt I had something valid to offer the world and felt strongly that staying home with the kids wasn’t right for me), over the last year it became increasingly apparent that my children needed to have me around more than I needed to have a career, even if I was only working part time.

At first this message came masquerading as something else, but as time went on it got louder and much more obvious. This dance went on for a while but I began to see through the veiled disguise, eventually coming to understand being available to my children was the answer I didn’t know I was looking for, yet desperately needed to find.

But don’t let me fool you into thinking the decision to become a stay-at-home mom was an easy one for me to make, nor that it wasn’t met with any resistance on my part. In fact, resistance might just be the understatement of the century. My ego screamed and kicked and dug its heels in on this one. My identity as a career woman—a working mother—has guided every major decision I’ve made in the last eight years, and I was fiercely determined not to let go of the “working” part. I was extremely emotional just discussing the idea of not working, and I cried as I gave notice to my employer, all the while knowing it was what I needed to do.

As more friends and family members learn about my decision, many have asked about my motives and how it feels to assume this new role on a full-time basis. It’s not an easy question for me to answer, as I have mixed emotions and likely will for some time. What I do know, on the other hand, is this: the major changes that I’ve recently initiated are precipitating several smaller and more subtle shifts, which seem to be coming at me, fast and furious, in a successive chain reaction.

These subtle shifts have helped me to realize it’s time, once and for all, to release the pain and stagnant energy that is not serving me in the pursuit of my greatest good. I am learning to let go of things I can’t control. I am allowing myself to love and be loved. I am listening to my intuition more freely and uncovering what I desire most, which for the moment is to create, to nurture, to express love, and to receive love into my heart.

I want to live my life on purpose, starting right now with just one season (thanks to Melsha Shea for creating #SummerOnPurpose). This summer I want to be the most loving mother I can possibly be for my two beautiful children. I want to experience, through them, what being a kid is all about—having fun, playing, and seeing the world through innocent eyes with childlike wonder. I want to grow flowers and vegetables in my backyard. I want to do more art journaling. (Art journaling is an incredibly therapeutic process, and I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t already done so. Check out http://www.jenngarman.com. She’s a great teacher!) I want to read, cook, bake, dance, and move. Oh, yes, and I want to WRITE!

My first art journal page, "My story is unfolding"

My first art journal page, “My story is unfolding”

Through a series of synchronicities, I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop on How to Write and Publish Your First Book in Seven Steps, presented by Kelly Falardeau and Carrie Kohan. These two wise women removed the mystery around book publishing by providing a series of practical and easy-to-follow steps, as well as sharing a process to capture my ideas and create outlines for the books I want to write. Further, Carrie Kohan rocked my world with her ability to “read” me, while confirming my deeply held belief about the incredible healing power of meditation. The workshop was both simple and extremely powerful, as it helped me realize I can stretch beyond my perceived limitations and pursue my passion of writing. With the knowledge Kelly and Carrie shared, and as I remain open to the possibilities life brings, I will share my words and stories with the world.

All of these changes in a relatively short period of time has felt like a whirlwind. It all feels like a bit much for a girl who prefers life to happen on her terms while having both feet firmly planted on the ground. But I can honestly say, without reservation, that my soul is downright giddy to have uncovered this path. So I’d like to thank the universe for these major changes and subtle shifts that are leading me to my truth. It’s like a reassuring pat on the back that’s letting me know, in no uncertain terms, I’m on the right track and my story is unfolding exactly how it’s supposed to.