That Day We Saw Beauty Everywhere

East Texas is beautiful this time of year. It’s springtime. The grass is sprouting with such a vibrant shade of green you can almost hear it saying, “Hey! Look at me!” Many of the trees that bloom haven’t yet, so their bare twigs and branches of brown and beige give way to the ones that have. As you drive around town and through the beloved back roads you can let yourself be lifted up with wonder and awe when you see the occasional burst of white and purple in the woods that line your path. Or not. Today we did.

Last week:

My phone rings. It’s my mom…she hardly ever calls me, I call her every day or go to her house to check on her. She’s on a mission…she wants something. I smile as I answer her call.

Me: Hi!

Mom: Can you take me to the beauty shop Friday? Susan can’t come get me.

Me: Of course! Unless I’m working. I haven’t heard from them about my start date. When I do, I’ll ask if I can start next Monday.

Mom: OK, good. Let me know as soon as you can…I guess I can cancel my appointment.

Me: (smiling with slight eye-roll) Will do! I’ll call you as soon as I find out.

The next day I contact my new employer and find out the details of my start date, which to my delight is next Tuesday. Plenty of time to take care of my mom before starting my new adventure with a whole new schedule, one that I’m sure will leave plenty of time and flexibility to be available when she needs me. Whew! I call her…

Mom: HELLO?!?! (She yells because she has lost most of her hearing.)

Me: Hey! I can take you to the beauty shop on Friday!

Mom: Oh, you can? Great. You need to take me to lunch with the girls, that’s at noon, then my beauty shop appointment is at 1:30 and you have to take me to the bank and to the dollar store to get my allergy medicine.

Me: (Noticing how “can you take me to the beauty shop” has turned into you have to do lots more so plan on the whole day) OK, great, I’d love to. What time do you want me to pick you up?

Mom: Susan said we are meeting for lunch at 12.

Me: (laughing) OK…what time do you want me to pick you up?

Mom: Eleven!

Me: OK, I’ll see you at 11.

Today:

I show up a little late, she’s been sitting by the door ready to go since about 10:30. We grab the step stool we keep by her door so she can get into the Jeep a little easier. She zooms out the door without her walker, needing no help to walk down the ramp while holding on to the handrail, and only needs to hold my hand to walk to the Jeep. She gets in easily and we are on our way. I’m already feeling that goose-bumpy feeling of being so blessed to have things work out so that I can spend the day taking care of her, laughing, talking about stuff, being quiet for part of the drive and not needing to fill the silence with words. We’re good. She’s good.

At a local Mexican food restaurant, one of their favorites, I sit with this marvelous group of women, feeling honored to have been invited to stay for their “girls’ lunch.” They look forward to this time together once a month. They’ve been friends since their school days and still love each other, laugh at each other, enjoy seeing each other. I’m sitting at the table with them, watching and listening, soaking up the wisdom and humor from these lovely steel magnolias. They are in their 80’s and as I sit with them, I see each of them as they were in high school. I grew up looking at their pictures in my mom’s yearbooks, hearing all of the stories of their growing up together. Lunch is done, time for the next stop.

It’s too early to go to her hair appointment so she says, “Let’s just drive around town,” so we do. We go down the main street of Marshall and around the square, talking about fun memories of when she worked at East Texas Sports Center and Joe Weisman (her mother worked there too). Still more time so we decide to ride out to the cemetery and have a look at the family plot. Can’t explain it…it’s just what you do here. Going to the cemetery while I was growing up was something we did every holiday, on my dad’s birthday, and on July 4th which is the anniversary of his death, and it was never a sad thing. We would take fresh flowers, throw away the previous bunch and be on our way.

We drive through the gate of the old cemetery and slowly meander along the grown-over path riddled with deep holes, that was once a paved road through the many graves with ornate and weathered headstones. Some have fallen over and broken. Others are sinking into the ground. We get to our small family plot and she says, “Oh Hallelujah!” I start laughing and ask her what she’s so happy about all of a sudden. She points out the large empty space next to my dad where she’ll be buried one day and says, “All this time I thought I was going to be buried between Raymond and Mother and could NOT imagine being between those two for eternity! I coulda sworn Mother was buried on the other side of my daddy, but I guess not. Well! I’ll be between the two men in the family…perfect! I feel so much better, glad we came out here today! Now let’s go get my hair done.” So we do.

We make it to the beauty shop in plenty of time and I’m happy to see friends from my childhood who are now business owners in our home town. Lovely, sweet, beautiful Toby is the owner, and takes such loving care of my mom as she not only makes her hair pretty, she carefully holds her hand as she moves from station to station, then hugs and kisses her with sincere adoration. We’ve known Toby since she was born as her mom is one of my mom’s dearest friends, one of the girls we just had lunch with. It all fits together and is one of the joys of growing up in a small town. I’d like to think there’s also a deeper joy that is unique to this small East Texas town.

One quick stop at the dollar store, then another at the grocery store for flowers. I like to make sure she has a vase of fresh flowers on her kitchen table because it’s something we have in common. I love having flowers in my home, wherever home is at any given time.

She’s tired, ready to get home and tucked in her recliner with a blanket and a good book. Her favorite way to spend her time these days.

As we drive home along the country roads through the Piney Woods of this small, historic East Texas town, my mom is looking out the window and expresses her joy in seeing the trees that are blooming as I mentioned earlier in this story. She names each one. The flowering pear tree, the white rosebud tree, the ornamental tulip tree…I ask her how she knows the names of these trees and she says, “Mama taught me.” She looks out the window again and speaks of the beauty of the trees everywhere.

There’s a calmness about her observations, almost wistful, yet she’s happy. There’s a twinkle in her eye as we point our more trees and I ask her to name them over and over again, sometimes saying, “There’s one! Oh, look at that one, it’s beautiful!”

It’s days like this when I am so blissfully happy and aware of how blessed I am to be here. I look over at her and the past disappears. I’m grateful that the need for family, deep love for others, and a sense of humor have been the strongest tools in my life’s tool box.

I’m grateful for today. You’d never know by looking at my mom and watching her get excited about the beauty of nature, that she has what they say is terminal cancer. She has a belly full of malignant tumors and her abdominal cavity is rapidly filling with fluid. It’s ok, we take care of that each month too, just like we take her to meet her girlfriends for lunch and get her hair done with Toby. We don’t talk about it. We don’t deny it, we just have more fun things to do and share. She has redefined what hospice care can look like for all of us. She has once again reminded me of something without even being aware of it.

If we can change our thoughts about what we are looking at, then what we are looking at will change.

Each day my intention is to see how life is changing  me, making me better, helping me remember who I truly am, and then I do my best to live these changes.

Love always, T

When Your Faith Grows Bigger Than All Your Fears Rolled Into One

As I write this, I could be scared to death. But I’m not. I choose to have faith. I choose to be happy. I choose to know in my heart that I’m safe and all is well. I’ve chosen to “put all my eggs in one basket,” and I know that means this one channel could stop at any moment and I’m willing to take that risk, because it’s tied to a strong commitment I’ve made and it gives me the freedom to go where I’m called.  I’ve chosen to say “yes” to the path that has chosen me. Every day after meditation and prayer, I playfully ask from deep in my heart, “What if it really is about the journey after all?” And then I quietly ask, “Where would You have me go? What would You have me do? What would You have me say and to whom?” Then I go!

I’ve shared this story ad nauseam, “to a sickening or excessive degree,” according to the Merriam-Webster definition, so hopefully this is the last time you’ll see it here for a while. I just want to start with it today for myself, to see it in writing one more time, to feel it, to share it because sometimes I find it hard to believe it’s all happening. Only for a moment though. I’ve grown used to seeing the miracles that surround us every day. I’m blissfully aware when God surprises and delights me with the gifts of time and love for everyone who crosses my path, as well as the friends I will never meet. Because my faith is bigger than all my fears rolled into one.

For the past few years I’ve been on the most amazing adventure and I’ve not taken one minute of it for granted. Every time I get in the Jeep I say a word of thanks and declare “this is my job, this is what I do.” I keep my head high and my heart open, finding inspiration wherever I go. I’m empowered by the people I meet and the friends I make every day. I’m blown away with inspiration every time I go to my social media sites and see the wonderful things others are doing out there in the world of “I want to make a difference.”

I started out in 2015 making very rough, “as-is” videos and posting them on Facebook whenever I got the inspiration to share something, which was almost every day. It was so exciting for me to do that. I felt close to everyone. I felt I wasn’t alone. In my mind, we were having a conversation. I would learn something or see something that moved me and could hardly wait to share it with you as though we were best friends. I would post an early morning thought while out for a walk or run on a beautiful back road, usually with some cows in the shot for happiness and a smile. I’d pull over on the side of the road “somewhere” to show you the sunset and share with you an experience I might have had with a stranger at a gas station while on my 18-hour drive. I would post videos or photos at a Susan G. Komen event in Colorado, or at a Special Olympics event in California where I was volunteering, or maybe each December at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Marathon Weekend in Memphis. The stories I gathered and the people I met every day fed my desire to belong somewhere, to feel compassion for everyone, and to empower my belief in a world where no one is excluded and there is room for everyone to do their part.

Today I find myself at a crossroads. I’ve been so focused on being “a girl in a Jeep” out there loving the world, saying “yes” when someone asked if I could help, going to them instead of asking them to come to me, that I haven’t thought about how I would monetize this gift of inspiration. By not chasing money, I’ve been able to live a miracle.

Being a person who walked away from high paying, secure jobs to follow my heart, I do have a practical side, a business side, that tells me money is energy and I have to keep doing my part with that, too. In order to support our economy, I have to make money to give money and it’s something I need to provide the means to continue being GoTerriGo.  We’ll see how that plays out, I’m not sure about the “how” I just have to keep trusting.

I guess my point in writing this post is to be transparent with you and to tell you it’s ok to start where you stand. It’s progress that inspires, not perfection. It’s ok to follow your heart and do something daring even if it doesn’t make sense to those who know you. Shine your light. Climb into your version of “the Jeep” and go. See where it takes you instead of following someone else’s map. Others might try and pin you down to a destination and ask you to find the words to explain what you are doing or where exactly you think you’re going. In serving your desire to accommodate someone and put him at ease, or to make sense of this tremendously strong “heart-pull to do good in the world” in order for it to make sense to someone else, you might lose your way and then everyone gets lost in your efforts. That’s no good to anyone, now is it?

Maybe when you can’t find the words for who you are and what you’re doing you are right where you are supposed to be.

So fill your tank, take a deep breath, get some water and go. Life loves you. And so do I.

Yours truly, T

 

 

 

Be Still, Pay Attention…and Magic Happens

I get up extra early and jump out of bed. I pour myself a super hot cup of coffee, drink it, pour another. And another. Grab my Best Day Foundation t-shirt, ball cap and keys, and jump in the Jeep.

It’s one of my favorite days every year.

The beach is overcast, the picnic area is crowded with volunteers, staff members, water professionals, clipboard officials and onlookers. The participants (youth with special needs) are gathering over by the wet suits, getting their helmets and life jackets. I volunteer at Best Day every summer, so I know things will calm down soon and we’ll get our assignments, so I just stand still and take it all in, staying out of the way but where I can be seen when the time is right. The purpose of the Foundation and our being here today is to give youth with special needs their best day at the beach. It’s why I love volunteering as a “buddy.”

“Is there a buddy available?” I hear someone call out, barely audible over the chattering crowd. I look around to see where the voice is coming from and I hear it again, “Do we have an available buddy?”

A “buddy” is the volunteer who is paired with a participant on the beach that day, to stay with them and take them wherever they want to go, to cheer them on and keep them safe as they surf, paddle board, kayak, build sandcastles, and experience anything and everything available.

There she is. I spot her through the crowd, over by the registration tent. A young staff member is standing by a participant, a young man, who is all set to go have some fun. She calls out again, “Do we have any buddies available right now?” I can’t believe it. It’s as though I’m the only one who can hear her and I’m at least 20 feet and 15 people away. I catch her eye and yell, “I am! I’m available!” She smiles and I make my way over to her.

She looks relieved because she actually has another job at the event, but this sweet guy was on his way to the water when she happened to catch him. “Oh hi, this is Matthew, and he’s ready to go down to the beach now! I’m not sure where his parents are or his guardian, so would you mind standing with him for now?” I happily say, “Of course, I’m happy to do that!” I look at this magical, sweet face and say, “Hi Matthew, I’m Terri and I’ll be your buddy today. Is that ok with you?” He looks up at me and says gently and quietly, “Yes.” He smiles a beautiful, bright smile and puts his arms around my waist. I melt into bliss as I put my arms around his shoulders and feel an overwhelmingly warm feeling of love and joy. It’s done. We’re instantly forever-friends, I just know it. We let go and Matthew gives me a kiss on the cheek…yep, he’s quite the charmer.

When it’s time to pair up the buddies and participants for the day, staff member Maggie walks over with her clipboard as we head to the beach. “Hey, Terri. You good?” “Yep,” I say, “I’m all set. This is Matthew.” She winks as she sees the twinkle in my eye, and knows we’re a perfect match, then she asks, “Well, I know you don’t need any help, but would you mind if Sarah hangs out with you and Matthew? Sarah has come to volunteer today, too.”  I welcome a big hug from Sarah and say, “I’d love some help from Sarah today, thank you!”

What a great day! Sarah is a vibrant, happy adult with special needs who has shown up today to volunteer because her friend is a staff member. How blessed am I to get to spend the day playing with Matthew all day, and now Sarah too?

Soon, Matthew’s mother, Jacqui walks over and we hit it off immediately. She tells me Matthew is not too verbal, and I tell her, “He doesn’t need to be…he communicates his wit and humor perfectly with little to no words at all.” It’s true.

At one point, Jacqui looks at me with such deep appreciation and joy as she tells me she believes Matthew and I were supposed to meet today. I agree.

Matthew is first on the surf board to start the day for everyone. For the next 3 hours we go from kayaks to paddle boards, back to surf boards and boogie boards and through them all again. And again. I sign Matthew up each time, walk him to the water professional who takes him out into the sea, and I wait by the shore, cheering him on as he coasts back in. I’m in heaven. Matthew owns the beach…he is having so much fun, he’s filled with pure joy. All the kids are. Everyone can feel it.

When it’s time to leave after lunch and the award ceremony, Jacqui and I exchange numbers and she invites me to come see them sometime, maybe for lunch with Matthew and a hike. I graciously accept, and I mean it.

Matthew kisses me again on the cheek and we hug with joy and happiness like we’ll never let go.

This truly has been one of my Best Days.

P.S. Jacqui sends me a few pictures from the day, and we keep in touch. This morning my phone rings and it’s Jacqui with a very special invitation. On Saturday I’ll be going to the Alpha Resource Center’s Family Picnic as a member of Matthew’s family. I have a feeling I’ll be sharing more hugs and kisses, and I can hardly wait.

 https://bestdayfoundation.org/

 

You Are My Old Story…and I Thank You

I didn’t think it through when I chose to take the high road during a traumatic time in my life. Ever done that? I made a promise. I’ve kept the promise. I will continue to keep the promise. I will keep the promise all-conditionally, not because I owe the person who asked me to, but because breaking the promise might hurt someone else I love very much. Seems easy enough when I put it that way, doesn’t it?

The thing we have to remember is that if we choose to go within and see our responsibility in a situation and we own it, we can also choose the path of least resistance in becoming our best self. If we choose the path of compassion for everyone involved and don’t place blame on another person even when it’s confusing and feels like we are being “wronged,” we can also choose to not share the hurtful details with someone else who might have a positive and loving relationship with this person. We can separate ourselves and respect the fact that just because our relationship with someone is toxic, it doesn’t mean their other relationships are negative also. It would be unfair to impose our experience on someone else. It doesn’t help anyone to interfere with a relationship between this person and someone we love that has nothing to do with us anymore. As their relationship grows and they keep in touch, we can’t take it personally. We just have to stick to our promise and remember it was our choice from the beginning what to share and what not to share, so they don’t know what they don’t know. And isn’t that why we made the choice in the first place?

I found out this weekend there can be things that happen now, even after all these years, that catch me off guard. In that one particular moment I didn’t find it easy to keep the promise. It all came rushing back and I saw past events without the benefit of being in shock this time, as I believe I was all those years ago while it was happening. The flood of emotion was gut-wrenching and I could feel my heart breaking all over again.

How could I have known there would still be times when I would want to scream, “Are you kidding me?!?” Only for a few seconds, though. I’ve trained myself (thank God) to zoom into compassion and satisfaction within minutes of feeling hurtful thoughts. I’ve learned the practice of feeling joy in the sorrow, gratitude in the pain, peace in the chaos, and finding the light in the darkness, because I enjoy feeling good and I am certain that state of being puts more good out into the world. When we think about an experience, any experience, our brain responds as though it’s happening in the present. Perhaps that’s where we get the term “the struggle is real.” I’ll confess to you that I had to sit with this one for a while before I realized the actual pain hadn’t come from this person’s actions years ago, it had come from my feelings about his actions (and my own as well), from my expectations not being met. I had assumed he would love me through it all as I’d loved him, that he would protect my heart and do his best to leave things in the best possible way. I’d like to think we were both doing our best with what we had and what we knew. After all, it’s about how you leave things when something is complete that really matters.

I have found the sooner I can find happiness and appreciation in all conditions, the sooner everything unfolds before me and I can see the gift in every moment. Today, two such gifts became clear to me and I was able to put this whole incident into perspective.

The first gift came to me this morning through an Instagram post by a beautiful young soul I follow. She is among other things, a talented photographer, and a prolific, authentically vulnerable writer with the capacity to love that knows no bounds. She writes, “…all these fears taking hold of us – keeping us from growing into the things that should matter most to us, out of the sane fact we once placed our hearts in the wrong hands.”

The second gift of knowledge and wisdom today came from a reminder I’d recorded months ago and it popped up on my phone at the very moment I was feeling a tiny bit of residue from this memory. What we see in ourselves and our surroundings today is a result of something we asked for, whether wanted or not, by focusing on it and believing the story we told ourselves. Life is not always easy, but the path to happiness and safety is always simple. Life is not supposed to be a struggle, and sometimes we think we have to hit rock bottom in order to learn a lesson or pay our dues. I have found this belief to be untrue. Now when I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I can say, “You are my old story,” and start to change whatever is not pleasing to me. The same goes for the people in my life who have come and gone. I’m very grateful for the ones from whom I’ve attracted the most pain, for they have been my greatest teachers.

I can safely say this incident from long ago has now become a good story to tell one day in order to help or entertain others, and I am healed. My promise is now delightfully effortless to keep. If and when this person from my past crosses my mind or if we should ever meet again, I can smile warmly and see him with compassion as I whisper to myself…”No worries, there is no blame here. Once upon a time I placed my heart in the hands of someone else and we both did the best we could. You are my old story and I thank you for every moment of our time together.”

It’s all good.

Love always, T

I kept going. I’m still going.

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I guess if I were to put a start date to it, “GoTerriGo” came to be in January of 2014.

Recently someone I’d just met became interested in my story and he asked me, “Have you been in search of something all these years?” I grinned, shook my head and said, “No.” He looked doubtful, and replied, “Yeah, that’s what most people say when they’re searching for something.”

I immediately felt confident, appreciative, filled with excitement and a bit overwhelmed by all the experiences I’ve been blessed with along the way. I smiled so big I could feel the joy all the way from my toes and said, “That’s an interesting observation, I’ll take it into consideration.”

We finished our coffee, shook hands and went our separate ways.

As I pulled away from the coffee shop, into the parking lot and out onto the busy street, I noticed the cars around me and sent love to every driver, wondering what was on the agenda for their day. I was deeply affected by the beauty of the new grass growing in vibrant splashes of bright green on the mountains that were, just four months ago, charred to a blackened crisp by the fires in the area. I kept driving. I turned off the radio, quieted my phone and listened to the silence. 

And there it was. That familiar feeling of all the hours in the Jeep, driving more than 200,000 miles the past five years, remembering that whenever I embrace the silence and let myself “just be” that’s when the truth surfaces and the magic happens.

No, for the first time in my life I wasn’t searching for anything as I drove from place to place, volunteering, pitching in and saying yes to jobs I’d never done before, offering help to anyone who felt the need for assistance, studying human nature and truly seeing and hearing everyone I met, enjoying and learning from each holy encounter.

I was learning that I’m enough. I was practicing the love and appreciation I had for everyone I met and it quickly became my natural habit for daily living. I learned that I’ve always lived this way, but in secret. My belief that I couldn’t or “shouldn’t” live my truth was stronger than my desire to do it. I just hadn’t learned that yet. I decided to loosen the grip on my desires and expectations, and stopped being attached to the outcome. I kept going. I got up every day and started again, not over. I remembered my best feeling from the day before and that’s where I started each new day, staying as present and aware as I could. I made mistakes and eventually started seeing them as opportunities and guidance instead of something I’d done wrong. I was like a child, enjoying the present and eager for what’s next, not wanting to miss a thing, only this was a feeling I was experiencing for the first time, not remembering it from my past. My childhood wasn’t like that. I guess it’s never too late to shed the conditions, cultural beliefs and learned habits in order to uncover the inner child in all of us who never goes away, never stops yearning to play and laugh, never judges, only loves.

Soon my faith grew bigger than my fear and my beliefs rose up to match my desire to do my part and work toward the betterment of my community and make life more meaningful. My life became flooded with people, places and experiences that lifted me up higher than my limited, human brain could imagine alone. I wasn’t alone. I’ve never been alone. I kept going. I’m still going.

Love always, T

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How Changing Your Definition of “Soul Mate” Can Help You Forgive and Feel Gratitude Instead

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I found this picture and it made me laugh. It was taken many years ago during a photo shoot for new head shots in Austin, Texas and to get that “look” I was thinking of my husband. I could feel the love I had for him shooting through the camera lens as though he was standing right there.

We were together for 16 years, married for 14, and I thought we’d be together forever.

We had so much fun together. We worked well together, played well together, laughed often, hiked a lot, went camping whenever we could, enjoyed snowshoeing, and we traveled well together. I happily watched him play volleyball in Wash Park with his friends. I hung out with our friends and watched him play beach volleyball and other sports in Southern California. I made sure he always had tortillas in the house and he would slip me dollar bills to put in the tip jar at Starbucks or the red Salvation Army bucket. I married him in Colorado and followed him to Texas three weeks later when he got a promotion. When that job was complete and no longer needed, we moved to California. We worked on his resume together, and he would read lines with me for auditions. He gleefully supported my acting career and was my tried and true light and sound man during my one person show in North Hollywood. I’m not sure I could have done it without him. He could get us anywhere anytime and would drop me off backstage at The Comedy Store for my stand-up set, then park the car and walk back for the show. He always magically got us places on time, no matter what. He came to every performance of every show I ever performed. He would bring me flowers often, and would always add something specific to make the bouquet special. He loved my son and my son loved him. They were great friends, still are I suppose. They filled voids for each other and I loved watching them hang out together. His family became my family and I love them to this day.

That’s all I’m going to write about our marriage because I think those words paint a lovely picture and those are the parts worth remembering. I am grateful. I married a great man. We loved each other.

Obviously, something grew bigger in our marriage, so big in fact that it overshadowed our love for each other and we must have finally become so focused on the problem we couldn’t see the solution. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Because our divorce was so shocking, so humiliating, confusing and incredibly painful for me (I can’t speak for him) I know that he is indeed my soul mate. How could I possibly feel that is my truth? Because one certain paragraph in the book Eat Pray Love, written by Elizabeth Gilbert, resonated with me so powerfully I started looking for and finding proof. Proof that neither of us did anything wrong. Proof that he didn’t mean to hurt me and I never wanted to divorce him. Proof that all of the times he asked something of me I couldn’t give and I asked something of him he didn’t have, were supposed to happen. Proof that no one is to blame in a marriage that will never end, but has instead taken a different form. It’s not over, it’s complete, and he is now married to someone else. I wish them joy and happiness whenever a memory of him pops up. We all deserve to be happy and it helps me to believe they have found it together.

In Eat Pray Love, Richard from Texas says to Liz: “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.”

Like the book says, I do believe my ex-husband’s purpose in my life was to shake me up, drive me out of that marriage I needed to leave, tear apart my ego, show me my obstacles and addictions, break my heart open so new light could get in, bring me to such a deep feeling of despair that I had to transform my life, then he was to introduce me to my spiritual path and leave. “That was his job, and he did it great…” For all he did and all he is, I am grateful.

For all I am now and all I continue to become, I am grateful. So very grateful.

I’m sharing this realization with you, my dear reader, because it gave me so much relief and freedom, I began to see changes in all areas of my life. I know there is no room for blame in life, no judgment of others, only curiosity and appreciation. We’re not here to understand each other, we’re here instead to accept others, to love everyone we meet and to be excited about what we learn from each interaction…whether it lasts an hour, a day, or a lifetime.

Love always, T

Under the Influence

I couldn’t imagine living through what was happening.

Well, I knew I would live through it, I just couldn’t imagine what life was going to look like or how I was going to keep going. This wasn’t my plan! I thought I had it all figured out, then life took a turn and I wasn’t prepared. Deep in my heart I knew I was being watched over, protected and guided. So I surrendered and released it all. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I handed it all over to God with one request.

Use me. Use this. Put me where you want me and guide me to be the very best example of love, strength, faith, and kindness I can be. Please let my light shine from within.

For the next 20 years, I told the best story I could about everyone involved and I practiced forgiveness. I forgave myself. I forgave them. I described a situation where, although it was devastating, those involved didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they did it all out of love. That was my story and I’m still sticking to it.

I grew up in a house where it was commonplace to live two lives. The one everyone sees and the one that goes on at home, behind closed doors, when you are all alone. When I was a child, my mother told me the question, “How are you?” is always rhetorical, no one cares, and no one ever wants to know the truth (I think this also is where I learned to use absolutes.) She said I should just smile and say, “Fine, thank you.” This didn’t make sense to me because when I asked how someone was doing, I meant it. Still do. In any case, the habit of saying, “Fine, thank you” while dying inside helped me to survive. Barely.

When it happened I felt completely blindsided, unloved, unwanted and unworthy. Childhood and teenage beliefs of my being in the way and useless were triggered. I left Texas on a wing and a prayer, fueled by ignorance peppered with courage, and I had a plan. What is important to say here is there is no room in a happy, meaningful life for blame or negative feelings. I know it was my perception of what was said and done that influenced my actions. It’s not what others say or do in life that matters, it’s how we feel about what others say or do.

I gave my washer/dryer to my mother. I donated all of my furniture, linens, dishes and cookware to the church. I loaded up my Chevy Blazer with what I had left. The important stuff. Family photos, books, 10 copies of my resume, a stereo and a microwave (it was the nineties.) I had no home, no job, and only $1,000 cash that my mother convinced me to tape to my stomach so it didn’t get stolen while I was on the road. She might not know me very well, but she does know I can’t stop myself from making eye contact with strangers at gas stations and soulfully asking, “How are you?” I’m pretty sure I’ve always seen the value in human connection, in truly seeing and hearing everyone I meet.

I drove to Denver and within two months I had a job at Janus Funds. Within a year I was promoted to assisting the Executive Vice President and began traveling across the United States with the Marketing Department as an Event Specialist. My boss always made it easy for me to fly through Texas (Hint: this will be important later in the story) to visit the person who matters most in my life. I spent every cent I made and every minute of vacation traveling through Texas. I couldn’t stand being alone during waking hours with nothing to do because my heart was broken and I had issues to ignore, so I began taking acting lessons at The Denver Center for Performing Arts. On the advice of my instructor, I got a headshot and started acting in Denver. I married someone and we got transferred to Austin where I pursued acting and teaching classes with incredibly talented actors at Alleywood Studios. There I was in Texas, scared, hurting and confused for three years before moving to Los Angeles. I lived in California for 13 years, acting and writing while again spending all my free time and money visiting Texas. I was also honored to work in the West Coast Office of The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees for many years with union professionals I respect and to whom I am grateful for trusting me with promotions and duties I had no idea I was capable of handling. One of these duties had me traveling the United States and Canada every six months and whenever I could, I flew through Texas. The entire time this was going on I was afraid something would happen, I would let my guard down, and someone would find me curled up in the corner of my office wearing a business suit and crying my eyes out.

I moved some more, got other jobs, became divorced and learned how to survive, all the time traveling forward. Always moving onward, growing, learning, making mistakes, making amends, finding the good, seeing the joy, being grateful and very often traveling through Texas. What I couldn’t understand for those 20 years was if I had forgiven, why was I still in so much pain every single minute of every day?

Two years ago I became overwhelmed with a “knowing” that it was time to overcome my worst wounds and move to Texas for a while. I’d tried this once in 2012, it fell through, I was devastated and told myself I’d dodged a bullet. This time my intuition was strongly telling me something was about to happen with my family and I trusted my faith to be bigger than my fear. Again.

Having that trust brought me an answer to the question I’d wondered for so long and that is what I’m sharing with you. As mentioned previously, I’d forgiven everyone, but I was obsessed all those years with wondering “how someone could do that to someone else.” Does that mean I hadn’t truly forgiven? Nope. It means I had forgiven all, but wondering how they could have done it in the first place means I hadn’t released judgment. There is a difference. Holding onto that judgment without even realizing it, was only hurting me all those years, not them. So when I saw it, I let it go. I let it all go, and it looks like I had to once again “go through Texas” to do it. To heal. Once and for all.

What happened years ago doesn’t matter, that’s why I’m not divulging the details. It was an incident then (according to Elizabeth Gilbert’s description) and now it’s a story. I no longer remember the pain, I only remember the wisdom.

We are always under the influence of something or someone. Next time you have a decision to make, ask yourself if you are under the influence of what your inner self knows to be true, or the influence of what others might think. Trust yourself even when it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.

Love always, T