In Spite of Fear

IMG_0995“You’re scared,” Jen tells me, as a matter of fact but so kindly.
I jump back, not at her words but because, you know what?, she’s telling the honest to goodness truth.
Sometimes the truth is terrifying.
I’m telling her about this retreat I want to go on, an awesome yoga and writing retreat.   This retreat I’m telling Jen about helps you examine fear head on.  Jennifer Pastiloff asks you what you’re afraid of, she helps you move beyond your ordinary.  And before I can even list all the reasons that I really really want to go my Jen is encouraging me, “You should go! Go!”  And I’m trying to tell her why I shouldn’t, why I can’t, and then- “You’re scared.”
I don’t like being scared.  I mean, does anyone really like being scared?  No.  We all fight it, we fight fear.  So we say things like “be fearless” (I think I’ve even posted that very phrase on the StL Facebook page, my apologies).
Fearless-without fear.  Who is actually without fear?
[We live in spite of fear]

A while ago I was standing on a ladder attempting to reach some suitcases and Patrice stood at the bottom saying, “Be really careful Mom.  I’m gonna help you.”  I have balance but since my stroke and vertigo I don’t really trust it so Patrice says this and suddenly one of the fears that I’ve tucked away into the corner of my mind is right at the forefront.  What if I fall off of this ladder (read:  what happens to Patrice if I fall and hit my head?)?  It turned out that even with the ladder I couldn’t reach the suitcases so when I get off the ladder, trembling with fear, I ask Patrice, “What do you do if Mommy falls and Daddy isn’t home?”
“I’ll help you.”
“If Mommy falls and Daddy isn’t home, you go across the street and you get Jen.”
“If you fall and Dad is not here I’m gonna go and get Jen.”  Did I just transfer my fear to my child?  Fear is the easiest of the communicable diseases to spread and the most difficult to get rid of. . . . because you can’t really get rid of fear.
[We live in spite of fear]
We live to spite fear.
Fear is what motivates us when all your peers in high school think that you’ll never amount to anything so you swallow the lump in your throat and you leave everything you know.
Fear motivates us when someone you trust tells that no one in the predominately Caucasian area you live will want the burden of marrying a black woman; so despite that voice ringing loud and clear in your mind you get dressed and you go on that blind date.
Fear motivates you when death is hovering over you.  The fear of death is so great that you’ve made up your mind that you’ll fight like hell so when you wake up from your stroke you hear things like, “it’s pretty amazing.”
I’ll never be without fear.  I’ll never be fearless and I’m no longer afraid of that.
I live in spite of and to spite fear.
Fear can suck it.

 

KStLI’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra.  After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com.

No Excuses, No Regrets

RegretsRegret is a funny thing. We often hear the advice to try to live life without regret. Why? As I was watching some useless TV show or an internet video…I can’t really remember now, a person mentioned regret in their talking head/monologue. They said something to the effect of, “Trying to live life without regret is for young people. As you get older you realize that regret can be useful.” I don’t regret watching that video because it got me thinking a lot about regret. Regret causes us to reflect. This of course can give way to things like hindsight bias, social anxiety, or inaction. Too much regret can be crippling and keep us from living our lives, but is regret always bad? Alright, ready for this somewhat self-serving tangent…

If you feel regret, shame, or guilt about something, maybe it’s a sign that you need to stop and evaluate why. Take that regret to be a chance to change something in your life, change the way you think, change the way you view yourself, an opportunity to avoid future mistakes or missed opportunities. Regret can help us reclaim control and responsibility over our own mind and actions. Small choices everyday make a big difference in our personal well being. Now, you can only do the best with what you know at the time. When I was in second grade and called Michael Router “Michael Rooster” because I liked him and he had skinny chicken legs, I thought this was a way to get his attention. In my pint-sized brain and limited social experience this seemed right. Now I see that that teasing could have been hurtful and also annoying. Sorry Michael Rooster… I mean Router, wherever you are. If we learn something after the fact the experience shouldn’t be a regret but a learning experience.

Sometimes I regret not traveling more before having a child. Of course there is a time and place for things in our lives. While my husband was in law school travel was difficult. Moving and starting a new job makes it hard financially and leaves little time to travel. Children make traveling hard. Having a child doesn’t make travel impossible, but maybe now that I have a toddler it’s not the time for extensive travel. Do I really need to go to the Himalayas if I haven’t been to the mountains in my own backyard? Why do I regret not traveling? Is it because this is a badge of social status? Something that receives praise, attention, or gives me recognition? If I just want to expand my horizons there are other ways. See, evaluating this regret is already helping me change.

There are times I regret not living in the moment. Spontaneity is all well and good, but that isn’t all living in the moment means. Being spontaneous now and again is a good thing, but anything that gives you a real sense of accomplishment doesn’t happen overnight. Take the time to enjoy what is happening around you. Choose to step back and be a spectator or to step forward and get involved. It’s about balance. Too often I find myself looking forward to what’s next, what needs to happen or be done. I feel guilty when I’m not working towards those things. I have also been guilty of thinking about my life too much and not living it.

Just yesterday while on a walk with my husband and child I felt a pang of regret. As my little girl was walking beside us, she would stop, sit down, and proceed to check in between her toes. She did this three or four times in a row. We couldn’t help but laugh. I thought, I need to write this down in my journal when we get home. Then I realized that I haven’t written in my journal since I first got pregnant with little Avery (who is now 18 months old). All the missed moments made me feel a regret at not doing this one simple thing I vowed to do before she was born, write things down. Did I write down her silly toe checking in my journal? Nope. Obviously I haven’t learned my lesson.

Good or bad, our choices have shaped who we are. They are unchangeable. Don’t dwell on them, don’t gloat about them, just keep moving forward. Pausing momentarily to reflect on our past and shortcomings should be enough. Regrets are useless except as a means to learn from your mistakes. The key to being truly happy is to recognize our regrets, let go of fear and do what we want. Within reason of course. If you feel a desire to walk around a supermarket naked, please think twice. There are reasons that social conventions are in place.

(Sometimes) Regretfully yours,

Willow

P.S. If you are like me and have to continue reading about, or watching videos related to one topic (ad nauseam) once it’s in your mind, feel free to follow these links for more musings on regret.

Video:

Articles:

You’re Welcome. Now don’t regret spending time on these.

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Hello, my name is Willow. I have sensitive skin, enjoy my cheese melted, and don’t like wearing socks. My husband often calls me a tree hugger and my toddler sometimes calls me mom (frequently I am just the ASL sign for milk). If you know me, you know that I can be flighty and lose track of time easily. I’d like to chalk that up to a “creative temperament,” but let’s be honest, sometimes this is just me being lazy and not paying attention to details.
 I love making lists and will often add completed tasks just to have the satisfaction of checking them off. I am scuba certified. I own my own handgun. I have lived in Paris for a brief time, been part of a hot air balloon chase team, trained for two marathons (ran one), and read too many books to count. I have worked as a caregiver, carousel operator, nanny, window painter, speech tutor, waitress, receptionist, secretary, maid, cashier, ophthalmology clinic coordinator, and currently I work at a library. Did I mention that I love lists? In high school I had several blind and deaf friends. So, between learning braille in order to pass notes and learning sign language in order to communicate better, I believe they helped me see the world differently. I also took Latin and was in the Old English club at the time, but I count that as part of my nerdy phase.
 Right now a lot of my time is spent doing mundane and repetitive tasks: dishes, laundry, pick up toys, cook, and repeat. It’s easy to lose yourself in the everyday things, but I believe it’s important to see the beauty in the moment, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
Questions, comments, good jokes? You can reach me at willowt@gmail.com
or visit my personal blog that I might get back to really soon andrewillow.blogspot.com

Nothing Left Unsaid

Nothing Left Unsaid- a poem by Alli

Stay positive.
Be honest.
Love with your whole heart.
Smile.
Believe in miracles.
Leave nothing left unsaid.

Take responsibility for your choices.
Cherish the small things.
Say “I love you” every chance you get.
Share your blessings.
Be genuine.
Leave nothing left unsaid.

Take your time.
Express appreciation.
Be present.
Laugh long, hard, and often.
Go after the things you want.

Life changes in an instant;
Leave nothing left unsaid.

❤ Alli

 

AlliHi there- My name is Alli. The first thing you need to know about me is that I am an identical twin and I’m very co-dependent (ok, not very co-dependent. I am fully capable of being independent and alone, I just choose not to be!) I am a passionate person who always has an opinion on everything. I am quick to get angry but I also forgive easily. I believe in being cheerful and that a positive attitude can make all the difference in the world. You can find me at:  www.tooblondes.blogspot.com
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Do I Matter?

Do you ever wonder if you make a difference in the world?  If you’re making any kind of impact on the people you come in contact with?  Then the more you think about it the more you wonder if what you’re doing right now, what you do day-to-day even matters?  You think that if you had an “It’s A Wonderful Life Moment” you’d see that your lack of existence doesn’t really make much of a difference at all.
Lately, I’ve had lots of those moments.  Lots of those “my life is for what?” moments.  I’ve moved in and out of the days less than enthusiastic and yesterday was more of that same feeling.  I went to church with a smile on my face despite that feeling, despite feeling aimless and purposeless.
At church I have the opportunity to work with young women.  I do it every week, twice a week, and sometimes I don’t know why I’m doing it or if they are even listening.  Yesterday, I saw one of my young women in the hallway and I felt like I needed to talk to her, like I needed to just ask her a question, that I needed to make some time to talk to her.  I asked her a simple question, it wasn’t a probing “telling me all about your life right now question” but the answer she gave me turned into a 40 minute conversation.  40 wonderful soul opening minutes.
I went home afterwards hoping that the week would be kinder to her and hoping that something, anything, I had said to her had encouraged her.  A few minutes after returning home she text me, so many kind words, among which, “. . . I feel like you were the answer I needed.”
Me-an answer.
Each of us is an answer to someone.  We each carry within us something for another person who desperately needs what we have.  Sometimes that something is a smile, a simple thank you, a phone call, a loaf of homemade bread, or a shoulder to cry on.  Whatever that thing may be YOU are the only person who has it for the person in need.  As much as I would like to think that I was just someone standing in the church hallway, I know that I was the person who saw that young woman for a reason, not just for her but for both of us.
My response to her text ended with, “You are one of the brightest stars in the sky, don’t ever doubt it.”  The truth is though that we’re all bright stars, our light is constantly guiding others.  I’m reminding myself of this today, a bad side effect day, but I should be reminding myself of this every day.  I don’t know when we stop believing that we make a difference in the world or when we start telling ourselves that our lives are too insignificant to matter.
Let me tell you, and myself, plain and simple:
You matter.
The world would not be same the without you.
You make a difference.
You are someone’s answer.
It doesn’t matter how crummy and awful things may be in your life, how unappreciated you may feel, how desperate you may feel--
You are one of the brightest stars in the sky, don’t doubt it.

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 KStL
I’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra.  After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com.

You have my heart

Mom and son

Somewhere between my third and fourth miscarriages I realized that I was probably not going to ever have another baby. Ever. It was a long journey to get beyond that but I did. Each loss has brought me closer to the children I have and the God who sent them to me. Acceptance is a beautiful thing. I recognize what a precious gift I have been given in my children and I’m learning to enjoy that gift every single day. We have our moments of chaos, fighting and sometimes bedlam, but I try to diffuse, distract and keep harmony in our home.

When I finally accepted my youngest child to truly be our ‘baby’ I started to anticipate the day he would leave me for all day school. Two years of preparing myself did not lessen the blow. As I walked him into class on the first day of school, my cheeks were streaked with silent tears. I stood by a friend who was also sending her last and sobbing heavily. When it became obvious that she and I were being invited by the teacher to leave I yelled out, “You have our hearts.” Involved in the morning’s activities, neither teacher nor students heeded my call and we slipped out.

After a mere four days my son appears to be adjusting well to school. I anticipated more tears from us both but we seem to be acclimating to our new lives. His full of friends and recess and learning, mine yet to be determined. He seems to have moved on without a backwards glance. Yet today while he was discussing a newly made salt dough figure crafted in primary, he lovingly declared it to be “his heart.” His use of a phrase I’ve only ever uttered once brought the week’s emotions rolling back over me. I realized in that moment that he was paying attention the first day of school. He saw me dry my eyes, pull up my shoulders and pass the right of instruction to his teacher with my simple comment, “you have my heart.” In that statement he and I both knew that he would always be mine but it was okay to share him too. His teacher is the first woman I have to share him with but I know she won’t be the last. Luckily I have another couple decades to prepare for that.

Jen

Most days I am hanging on by my teeth and praying for a miracle. I’m always trying to do more than I’m able while dreaming of curling up with a book and doing nothing. I get bored of almost everything after an hour and I clean when I am stressed. My husband and I have four awesome kids whom we love dearly and we spend most of our time trying to keep up with them. I can’t remember what free time feels like. I worry about the day when all my kids leave the house, but I’m taking life one day at a time and trying to enjoy the journey! Catch a glimpse of our lives at www.fairbanksphotography.blogspot.com or send me an email at fairbanksphotography2@gmail.com.

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