Forgiveness and Balloons

Until recently, the saying “let it go” used to bug the shit out of me. When said to me, it felt like a crappy non-stick band-aid, knee-jerk response to my (self-described monumental) hurts. “If this had happened to them, they wouldn’t be saying ‘let it go'”. But when the tables were turned, “let it go” was always there to fill the space when nothing else would do. And, “forgiveness”? Well, that was just too big of a spiritual mental mountain to attack.

One day this past February, while skimming Gabrielle Bernstein’s Adding More -ing to Your Life, I read about forgiveness. I read. I resisted. I thought and sat and wondered. What if “letting it go” &  forgiveness were akin to just filling up a balloon with the hurt, tying it off, and then releasing it upward. Could it be that simple?

source: Balloons (Midtown, Manhattan) by Youngna Park

There had been something I had been holding on to that quickly came to the surface after my initial reading in Bernstein’s book. It was a messy old hurt, highly charged, and wound into a long, tight thread. Perhaps my reading about forgiveness might not have hit home if I did know that in a month from that moment, I was going to be face to face with it, with her, with my messy ol’ hurt. So I let my resistance and guard down and asked myself: What would it feel like to let it go? How would forgiving change my experience when we meet up again? Who else will benefit from my forgiveness?

So I filled my metaphoric balloon with all that I wish I could say but is probably best left unspoken. And I made a blessing on her for my family and for me and…as my heart began to soften…for her. And my balloon began floating.

source: MicahMax

Truth be told, it wasn’t as easy as ripping off one the above tags and ta-da “now I have forgiveness”. It wasn’t as easy as blessing anyone or opening my own heart. I had to continually remind myself that the hurt and the resentment was taking up too much of my heart space. I had to continually remind myself that carrying my anger and hurt feelings had no positive benefits. I had to psych myself up. I had to cheer myself on. And I had to wade through some uncomfortable first hours with the one I was so angry at. But I went to bed that night with a sense of peace. Our relationship will most likely never be what it was and she might never ever know how painfully deep she hurt me (which was hard for me to let go of – feeling vindicated), but I felt peace. I let go.


Who Do You Think You Are??

Monday I posted a poem that was born from a week of doubting myself countless times. I returned from a week of rest and relaxation to a week where I questioned my abilities, sanctioned creative ideas, and quarantined my enthusiasm, shoving those ideas and that energy into a file and stamping it “Why would anyone listen to you?” or “Who do you think you are to do that?”

Yuck. Yuck. Yucky-yucksville.

And then I came across the newest Brene Brown TED talk about shame. Brene describes shame as a gremlin following you around as you try to carve your way through life, telling you ‘you are not good/smart/pretty/strong…enough to do this’. Had someone asked me about shame before hearing this I might not have answered “Yes”, but this week I shamed myself. As I got excited about possibilities and began working toward goals, I could feel myself getting tired, anxious, and distracted. I could hear all sorts of “not….enough” talk.

Brene Brown says in her talk that empathy is the antidote to shame. When I heard it the first time I heard it in relation to understanding shame and using to “finding our way back to each other” but the more I reflected on her empathy antidote statement, I thought about its importance in our relationship with ourselves. I think it is so much harder to have empathy with ourselves, especially as we are housing and feeding a gremlin like shame. We would never shame a friend right? So why do we do this to ourselves? We are our own worst critic. We keep ourselves small. A friend recently asked me “What do you do when it all begins to unravel? How do you deal with it?” After hearing Brene’s talk, I think I will try to add empathy to my cocktail of breathing and stepping away (perferrably outdoors). I will try to respond to myself as I would a friend – with love and empathy.

Here is Brene’s talk. And if you missed her talk on Vulernability (to which she refers in this talk, do check it out as well.

Feel Every Pain.

I was in a car accident over a year and a half ago. I was rear ended by someone who didn’t note that I was at a full stop. I felt the impact right away. A ‘zing’ from my sacrum up my spine to the base of my skull. Like someone plucking a tightened, taut electric violin string with all their might. Plink. Zing. When I went to get out of the car my right side gave out from underneath me. My everyday shopkeeper legs and baby carrying hips couldn’t hold the rest of this body of mine. [Thankfully, within a week or so I could walk & stand again – save for some pain.]

I was thinking of the accident this morning. More specifically, I was thinking about the drugs that I was prescribed after the accident. These drugs were to calm any discomfort and take the edge off the pain. In my body these drugs were numbing. I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t focus. And in a follow up exam, I had a hard time talking specifically about any pain I was feeling, because I had been numbed out for the week.

Within weeks I was contacted by the insurance company of the woman who hit me. I was asked to fill in forms regarding the outcome of the accident. As it stood, I was still in alot of pain and taking regular doses of medication. I knew that it impacted my abilility to nurse my 10 month old and impacted my ability to do my job. So I wrote a letter which basically said “I am not making any decisions right now. I have no idea how this will impact me in a month, a few months, or a year from now”.

Currently I am getting pressure to “settle” so the insurance company close out the accident file. And while I am sure the insurance company is annoyed, I am happy I took to the time to see how my body was going to heal/shift/react. I am glad I took the time to see how I felt outside of the emotions, outside of the drugs.

This month in my {so} full life experiment/journey, I am exploring the notion of “feeling”. I am trying to learn how to see, feel, hang out with my “feelings”.

Whaz up anxiety? Where’d you come from?

Not unlike my Oxycodiene (or whatever it was called) numbing my body so I couldn’t feel my physical pain, I have been known to create serious distractions in my life so I couldn’t hear my own thoughts or feel what needed feeling. (Hello television!) The poem I posted yesterday was an expression of my first foray into allowing myself that space & permission to just feel. I am making an effort to not judge or analyze but just feel. Like the zing up my spine as that car slammed into me. Like that tingling from within my body from pinching nerves and pressed organs without the numbness of drugs. Just feeling it.  

How about you? Are there feelings running around like free radicals inside your body? Have you given yourself the space to just feel them without judgement or analysis?

Mysticism and a Broken Fence

I cradled the tea cup as I swirled it three times. I flipped the cup over onto the saucer and waited for liquid and leaves to illustrate this (so full) life of mine.

Sunday I had a date with a mystic. As with any good first date, there was low lighting, soft music, and lots of anticipation. I came here dressed in my best self: open, attentive, but with all my baggage and bits tidily tucked away under layers of cotton, wool, and denim.

My tea reader held my cup up and over my saucer. She examined my drips. Two drops clung to the edge of the cup. “You are holding on to two main issues”, she says. She shakes the cup a bit. The drops don’t budge. “And the hold is very strong.”

On first glance at my cup, my reader adjusts her glasses and looks at me with soft eyes. “You are in an emotional tangle right now.” I reached for a tissue. “It is quite a mess. But I see a clearing at the bottom.” She showed me my cup. The edges were strewn with tiny bits of brown green matter which slowly dissolved into a patch of clean, white porcelain.

Crystal Ball

Photograph taken by Shelagh Duffett of Alice in Paris Loves Art and Tea

I have always been a bit of a new age fence sitter. Time and time again, I have dipped my toe into mystic, new age waters but my openness has always been a bit half-hearted. In high school, a friend of mine, who was more messed up than I, but whom I adored ,was really into magic. She was “studying” to be a witch. On weekends I followed her to the magic shop to pick up roots of this and beads of that. I followed her lead and made conjur bags for love and knowledge which I faithfully wore around my neck. I burned sacred candles in my room while I read my own tarot cards using a Coles Notes style tarot book. But in reality, my half-hearted heart thought it was a bit of hooey used as a desperate measure for hope.

A few years ago, my half-hearted heart and I sat in on a tea leaf reading of a friend. The reader revealed things that could not have been assumed – deep, specific things. There began the crack in my practical fence upon which I sat. With every symbol she saw and every nod of my friends head or tear on her cheek, my fence cracked ever so slightly.

Sunday I had a date with a mystic. From the minute her soft eyes looked at me, I found myself slowly release tension and anxiety and gave my heart over to my mystic companion. And my companion saw me. She saw my vulnerability and my truth. She saw my childhood wounds. She saw my adult struggles. And as with any good first date, my companion crashed through my fence and created a big gap – a new opening to other possibilities.


What the Heck is a BFLG?

So we have established in my first two posts that I had been in a dreary place last year. In fits and spurts, I would have moments of clairty about who I was and where I wanted to go/be. But I had a hard time gaining traction on any other those desires or visions. I made endless to-do lists.  I wrote down every desire in the spirit of attracting them. But it was as if every word was written with trepidation on a very cloud sheet of paper.

Today, right now, I don’t know what this year will bring. And I certainly don’t have the answers. But in my attempt to renovate this So Full Life of mine, I knew I needed to get really clear on the big picture. I needed BIG FUCKING LIFE GOAL clarity.

What would my life look life and how would if feel?

For me BFLG clarity had to start with some good ol’ fashion quiet time with my imagination and my heart. I spent a couple of days thinking about this question: “If money were no object and time was not an issue, what would my life look like and how would it feel?” My mind swiftly and clearly lead me to answers. I would wake refreshed and focused. I would go to sleep tired but happy. I would have patience and energy with my kids. I would have dates with my man. I would create: write, paint, make beautiful things, photograph. I would connect and collaborate with other creative souls on creative ideas. I would use my skills, my passions, and my energy to be of service to others. I would take care of myself by going to bed and reading, having a regular yoga, swimming, walking and meditation practice.

As I thought about this ideal, I saw threads in what I love about my life now, what I am missing in my life now, and where I would love my life to go. After a few days of marinating with these thoughts, those random threads began to cluster and braid themselves to create three very clear golden tethers to a larger than life vision.

I wrote it down. In my life I want to: Experience & Enjoy, Share & Connect, and Inspire & Be Inspired. I could see how all my wants, from connecting with my family to starting to paint again, fit into one of these three larger goals. I could see how one of my dreams of travelling around the US & Canada for at least 3 months with the kids and write about it fit into my desire to experience and my need to share. I could see how my desire to write this blog was not just another thing to do but was helping to fulfill my bigger purpose of sharing and connecting.

As for my copious lists of to-dos or not-to-dos? With a clearer idea of what I wanted my life to look like and how I wanted it to feel, I knew what to keep and what to ditch. Creating my Big Fucking Life Goals made planning those next steps easier and clearer. For now. That is the great thing about making your own plan – you can change it anytime you want.


If you were to listen in on my thoughts for half a day, you would need a nap.

If you and I were to hang out, we would most likely have tea or red wine and I would most likely show you the heart on my sleeve. If we knew each other well enough, I would hold nothing back.

If you asked me, I would tell you that I do care what people think of me and I really wish I didn’t.

If you were at my house last Friday at about 10:00, you would have found me on the sofa after a full day of work, a meltdown from the littlest one that lasted from about 5 till 8pm, and a stressful 20 minute dash in the driving rain to an art opening (that my man was participating in) in an hour window between getting the kids in bed & the time the event was to close. At 10:00 last night I would have been found collapsed on the sofa in my 15 year old Ugg boots, watching a documentary on the twenty years of Pearl Jam, eating a Cabury Fruit & Nut Dark Chocolate bar, and doing a Sudoku.

If you were to ask me out for a meal, I would suggest brunch.

If you were to ask, I would tell you that one of the few things I miss about California is really great street cart fish tacos and watching dolphins dive in the surf on grey rainy days.

If you and I were to go shopping, I would gravitate toward simply cut pretty printed dresses that could be worn with leggings and boots, that I would fondle anything emerald, berry, tomato red, or deep lemon yellow, and I would most likely walk away with nothing because I can rarely justify buying things for myself.

If you and I were to go walking, we would most likely walk the beach though I am happy to walk anywhere with a destination or not.

If you and I were to have a laugh attack, it is possible I might tear up or snort or both. And my cheeks would definitely ache.

If you found me in the library looking for fiction, I would tell you I am looking for a good story that is grounded in place or family lineage.

If you found me in the library looking for a non-fiction book, I would most likely be near the cookbooks, home, or gardening sections or the glancing through the business section.

If you were to ask my brother’s wife, I cannot whistle or hum a tune (at least not enough to help our team win at Cranium). If you were to ask me, I have a library of music in my head and it sounds perfectly lovely and that in my dreams I am a folk-rock singer.

If you were to come over on a Sunday, we would fill our bellies with pancakes and coffee and watch my kids play with everyone still in their jammies. Bliss.

If you asked me, I would tell you that I cry during every single episode of Parenthood because I miss my family and wish we all lived in the same town, that we had Sunday dinners together, and that we would be there for each other in a way that a phone or skype can’t provide.

If you asked me, I would tell you that I am extremely loyal.

If you were to meet my kids, you would see that while one is tall and striking like her dad she has a lot of my independent yet emotionally complex spirit and that the other one looks like a miniature version of myself and is just as stubborn.

If you were to visit my home, you would find lots of books and art. You would know that there are stories behind every displayed item. And you would know that I have children really into cutting teeny tiny bits of paper and declaring each one “special” and you would be just as mystified by this as I am.

If you were to go out on a date with my fella and I, you would see a genuine love of 17 years which is rooted in being best friends. And we would probably be holding hands. You would see that he knows me better than anyone.

If you were to have met me as a little girl, you would have found a skinny, whispy haired girl in head to toe purple with a face full of freckles and a head full of ideas. You would have bumped into me putting on a production in my driveway or selling my artwork, family newspaper or novel to a neighbour.

If you were to have met me as a teenager, you would have met a whispy haired girl in head to toe black with fewer freckles and a head full of ideas. You would have bumped into me working on my arts zine, writing poetry (or my novel), going room to room collecting the recycling, or fighting with the principle about all sorts of injustices.

If you were to ask, about fears I would tell you about my fear of losing someone close to me or me leaving them to early, and that sometimes just thinking about it makes me burst into tears.

If you were to ask, I would tell you that the beach is my most favorite place in the world and makes me feel most a peace even though I had a near drowning in the ocean once and am now completely terrified of the power of the ocean.

If you were to ask me, I would tell that writing, especially personal writing, is a necessity for me. I have kept journals since I have been about six years old. I would tell you that before blogs, I wrote a weekly email to my friends and family all about things I was doings, seeing, reading, and thinking about. I would tell you that I am thrilled you are here reading this and that connecting with other like-minded souls is another reason I blog. And then I would ask you to comment and/or connect.

I Choose to Sail

One of my gifts has always been my ability to change directions quickly and surge ahead. As a child if I was told “No” to a request, I would mourn that negative for a moment or two and then decide it wasn’t to be and there was most certainly something better I could ask for. Even massive disappointments, like being rejected from a double major University program I had my sights on, or being told by an ex-boyfriend that he had moved on after I asked for a second chance. While I definitely experience the gut kicks and “the leave me here to cry and eat ice cream” stages we have all been through, I have a superpower of being able to come out the other side, bloody and bandaged, knowing that that battle fought was only so I could get to what ever amazing path is just beyond here.

I suppose that is why the last year (and a bit) was so hard on me. I couldn’t seem to help myself gain traction. I would have a few days where I would feel really strong and I could be heard talking tough. “I’m no victim.” “I am gonna beat this/that/the other thing”. I don’t know if my super suit was at the dry cleaners or buried under layers of nasty ego thoughts, but only days later I would be back to tears mentally flogging myself.

During the Christmas break, my mother asked me how it is that I chose to make progress toward joy again? I really didn’t/don’t have an answer. I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Or maybe in my endless search for “the answer” last year, I found my superpower again. “I just need to choose change. I need to choose happiness.” My supergirl loves the power of this notion – I can choose happiness.


(print for ecojot via Pinterest)

Happiness is definitely a form of courage. Lately, I don’t always have the super strength to beat the yucks, but coming to the realization that happiness is a choice, has put a little wind in my sails. And while this mental boat is a big beautiful beast and changing its direction is no easy feat, I am slowly turning it around so it stops slamming into the rocks. I will face toward the horizon and allow it catch some wind.

“You can not cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” – Rabindranath Tagore