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

 

My Thanks to Neal McCoy…and to the Guys in the Band (Becky too)

Sometimes, for the sake of delivering on a promise made, you might have to risk looking like a groupie, an awkward fan, and yes…even a stalker.

It’s a hot day. It’s my third year volunteering at William Shatner’s Hollywood Charity Horse Show in Burbank, California. I show up really early because I’m excited to be reunited with my fellow volunteers from the previous two years, and I know that Neal McCoy is performing tonight. I want to say hello before my shift begins, parking cars. Neal McCoy is an American country music singer who has released 10 studio albums, 34 singles, numerous platinum and gold albums, he’s been on USO tours, and currently tours the U.S. with the best band ever. He’s everywhere. And he’s a friend of mine.

I check in and get my t-shirt, walk into the restroom for a pit stop and to change clothes. In the stall next to me I can hear someone on the phone. I try to be quiet, and then without thinking…I flush. Oh no! I jump out of my stall and stand ready to apologize to my bathroom buddy while tucking in my shirt as she opens her stall door, still talking on the phone. I mouth to her, “I’m so sorry I flushed!” She laughs, quickly says goodbye to her son and tells me not to worry about it at all. She then tells me about another time she was in the restroom when her phone rang and it was an important celebrity she had been trying to reach for a charity request, so she had to answer. We laugh, hug (after washing our hands) and introduce ourselves.

My new friend’s name is Sue. Sue Quick. And she is about as big as a minute so her name fits. She stands just under 5 feet tall (I’m guessing) and I can tell she’s a horse lover, she just has that heart, ya know? She also has beautiful silver hair that appears to be in the same stage of growing back as my mother’s. My observation is confirmed when she tells me that like my mom, she too has undergone recent chemo treatments and will soon be traveling back to her home state for another round. She wants to “stick around” to have more time with her sons, so the chemo is worth it to her. She tells me with tears in her eyes and a childlike grin that tonight is important to her because it might be her last time to volunteer with this event. She is filled with joy and her inner light radiates like the sun.

Now back to that important restroom “stall call.”

Sue tells me she was talking to her son because he loves Neal McCoy and when she told him Neal was performing he said, “Awww! How cool, Mom! Wish I could get an autograph!” Hmmm…my wheels start turning. I tell Sue that Neal is one of the friendliest, most personable guys in the business, and if I can find a way to get her son an autograph I’d be happy to do that. Sue lights UP. She says that would mean the world to her son and she thanks me in advance, saying not to worry if it is too much trouble. Psssshhhh…trouble? I’ll just ask him! Now I’m on a mission…

Before heading out to the hot and dirty parking lot (my favorite assignment) and to check in with my friends who are on the same shift, I send a text to Neal. He answers right away and says to come by the stage to say hello at 6pm, he’ll be there for sound check. I tell him I’ll do that and I also mention the autograph I’d like to get for Sue’s son if he doesn’t mind signing something. He doesn’t hesitate, responds immediately with a text to say he’d be happy to sign an autograph. I knew it! Best guy EVER. I can hardly wait to see Sue’s face when I hand over this gift for her son, whose name is Ben.

Here’s where it gets screwy and my heart jumps way ahead of my brain having any thoughts of what others might think of me or how foolish and creepy I might appear. For the first time in my many years of volunteering, I feel the need to leave as soon as my shift ends because I’m hoping to get home as soon as possible. I’ve been staying with a dear friend and things haven’t been going well between us. I’m not sure why and it is very important to me to do whatever I can to mend our friendship before I leave California and drive to Texas in a couple of days.

At one point during my shift in the parking lot, I am asked to report to the volunteer tent to help with another assignment. While I’m there, I run into Neal and he mentions that Les might have a headshot in the bus that we can give to Sue with an autograph for her son. This is turning out to be so easy! Thank ya, Lord! So…where is Les? How do I get the photo without being too pushy? Neal asks if I’m staying for the dinner, I say no, he generously insists I sit at one of his tables with his son Swayde and other family members, Kirbie and Colleen. I start to sweat. I don’t want to say no, but I need to get home and more than that I need that photo for Sue because I know she’s got her hopes up. Dang. I’m honored and so happy to be invited, so I agree to stay. I can do this. Then my mind starts to wander…oh no, did he politely ask me to sit at their table because I am lurking around like a stalker, hoping Les will see me and get the autograph so I can make Sue Quick’s dream come true? Am I creeping him out like a stalker? I’m standing by the stage, totally out of place and it is so awkward, that Neal very kindly introduces me to the person he is talking to. Do I take the hint? Nope! Determined not to ask about the autograph, choosing instead to be awkwardly in the way. Great plan, Terri. Great plan.

Thinking fast, I grab a program from my seat at the table and run to the volunteer tent to grab a sharpie so I can just get Neal to sign it quickly instead of imposing on Les for the official photo from the bus. I go back to the dinner as everyone is being seated and the bar is hopping. I still have on my badge and must look very important with my program and sharpie in hand (from experience, I know to look for someone with a badge and a sharpie when you want something done at an event) because two gentlemen stop me to say it appears the table to which they’ve been assigned has no empty seats. Could I help them please? Yikes. My first rule of running a charity event: make sure the guests are happy and taken care of while you also mind the charity’s reputation with gratitude and appreciation. “Of course, I’d be happy to help, which table is yours?” They point to the one that is within earshot and the people sitting there look familiar but I can’t quite place them. Still, being between the old “rock and a hard place,” I now must figure out the situation in order to help these gentlemen. I walk up to the table and ask, “Excuse me, are all of you assigned to this table?” One of the guys looks up at me and says, “We’re the band and this plate of food is saved for Neal McCoy so he can eat before we go on.” Of course you are and of course it is and of course I want to crawl under the table, and I thank you for the information. Enjoy.

Holy crap. What’s a girl to do now? She goes into full force event mode, that’s what.

I see someone with a radio and ask him to call the person in charge and ask her to come to table 27. I go back over to the gentlemen who are still standing there and about to finish their drinks. I smile my biggest smile. I tell them it’s all being taken care of and as a matter of fact, they are sharing a table with Neal McCoy, and while we wait for him to arrive…”might I go and get you gentlemen another drink? On the house?” They accept and I dash off to the bar and politely break in line (remember I have a sharpie and paperwork in my hand so I look important) asking for “…two celebrity comp drinks, please. A Corona with lime and a gin and tonic.” When I get back to the gentlemen with their drinks, the person in charge is at the table asking what is going on. I tell her, she walks over to the gentlemen and all is well. The band is finished eating by that time and the wonderfully patient gentlemen are able to take their seats and enjoy the show. Whew!

It’s getting later and I am really thinking about my friend and how I can make things better when I get back to her house. I’m also realizing I haven’t seen Les. No photo. No Neal. No autograph for Sue Quick’s son…that can’t happen. Time to be a stalker again. I’m sitting at the table having a delightful conversation with Colleen and a gentleman I’ve just met who is sitting to my left. He introduces me to his partner of more than 20 years and their god-daughter who is just about to go to college. I am so enjoying their stories!

For a glorious half hour I forget to be in a hurry. I get right back into my comfort zone and remember that everything is always working out for the highest good of all involved. It’s all good.

The show is delayed for the best reason, as William Shatner graciously insists on working the room every year and consciously stopping at every table to intentionally meet and thank every guest for being there. Neal is walking around with him tonight and as they stop at our table, I look up and see Les standing behind them holding the autographed photo for Sue’s son, and Neal has personalized it “to Ben.” I whisper “Thank you” to Neal and give Les a big hug as they move on to the next table with sincere thanks to the fans sitting there. I rush to the volunteer tent to find Sue, but no one knows where she is. I search everywhere, finally find her sitting in a special chair, just for her, right next to the stage. She is giddy with excitement to be front and center for Neal’s show. By now guests are up and moving around, turning their seats away from the dinner table so they can watch the show. I scoot sideways, turning this way and that, taking the long way around the room and finally getting to Sue. I hand her the photo for Ben and give her a big, long, loving hug. I tell her what a pleasure it has been to volunteer with her and we exchange info so we can keep in touch.

I realize I’ve been so wound up the past few hours, parking cars, impersonating someone important, breaking into line at the bar, lying for free alcohol, stealing a sharpie out of someone’s backpack (I returned it), and stalking the band, I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink all day. As hard as I’ve been trying to get back to my friend’s house all evening, something tells me to sit down and rest a minute or two, drink some water, take a few bites of dinner before leaving. I always listen when God whispers to me like that. It’s that intuition we are all born with, and it’s never wrong.

It’s 9:30pm and I feel my phone vibrate. I look at it to see who is calling me that late, and it’s my mom calling from Texas, which means it’s 11:30pm for her. I know what this call means. I don’t catch it in time, so I get up from the table, tell Swayde I have to leave, there’s been a death in my family, it’s my step father. I step outside into the cool, breezy California air to return my mom’s call. I sit down on the steps outside, take a few deep breaths and look up at the stars. I call her back. “David died,” she says. I say, “OK. I can leave tonight.” She says there is no need to rush back, so I say I’ll leave the day after tomorrow as planned. I’m thinking that way I can get some sleep before hitting the road, and more importantly I can spend the next day with my friend, hoping we can get to a good place and I can let her know how much I care about our friendship. As life sometimes unfolds, that is another story for another time.

Sue friended me on Facebook the next morning.

Sue’s son, Ben, was very happy to get his autograph.

Most of the time, volunteering isn’t only about the assignment you are given for the event. It’s usually about being authentic and present while seeing, hearing, and appreciating the other people who are standing beside you in the dirt, sitting at your table, or talking on the phone in the bathroom stall next to you. It’s about listening to the “whisper” and doing what it tells you to do even if it doesn’t make sense. It’s about releasing all judgment and comparison, going for it, taking the risk, looking silly, being in the way, feeling awkward. It’s worth it.

There is a gift in every moment. Love always, T.

…and there she was

THURSDAY: She sat in the doctor’s office listening as he told her mother she had an abdominal cavity filled with malignant tumors and her “cancer count” was over 4000. Holy crap.

Her mother’s options for treatment were chemo in Longview/Dallas or MD Anderson in Houston. Since her younger sister lives just outside of Houston, and has a large comfortable home with plenty of room, her mother chose MD Anderson, where she could be cared for by her daughter during treatment. OK, then. Let’s do this.

SUNDAY: She drove to her son’s house early that morning. She left her car there, and together she and her son drove in his car because it is more comfortable, to pick up her mother and the three of them drove four more hours to Houston. They unloaded her belongings and left her there to begin this next, very scary chapter of her life.

MONDAY: She drove to the small, beautiful patch of land out in the country where her mother had lived with her husband for 39 years. Someone needed to check on her mother’s husband, but did it really need to be her…? Yes, it needed to be her.

Ever since she was a teenager, she had referred to her mother’s husband by his last name because calling him anything else felt too familiar, too casual, too friendly. She just couldn’t call him anything “fatherly” or even refer to him as her step-father. It had been her perception from the start that he didn’t care for her, and she felt unwanted at his house. She felt she was in the way and was often told not to “rock the boat,” which she took as meaning she was already an unwelcomed guest in the house, and anything she did to call attention to that was awkward, even harmful,  at best.

When she was sixteen, her mother handed her fifty dollars cash and said, “Take care of your sister. I’ll be back on Monday.” She asked, “Are you going to marry him?” Her mother looked at her with all of the strength she could muster, hoping she was doing the right thing for her girls and said, “Yes, I am.” It felt like a business decision really, and soon she would come to realize she had not been included in the deal. He had agreed to focus on the woman he loved and her youngest daughter, but the oldest one would graduate from high school and be gone soon, so he would just wait that out. Again, this was her perception and it was brutal. It was painful. It was confusing. But she persevered.

She would come home from high school most Fridays to find a note saying, “Gone to Yellowdog” which meant they had gone camping, as a family, down to the river for the weekend without her. There were many other verbally abusive altercations over the years, but still her mother would insist on her sending father’s day cards and making birthday phone calls, only to have him ridicule her for either calling too late or sending a gift that didn’t measure up. But she kept trying throughout the 39 years, hoping to be loved and accepted as part of the family. It never happened.

When she arrived at his house on Monday after taking her mother to Houston, she found him sitting alone in the kitchen across from the pool table, which took up the entire living area upon entry. This pool table was another representation of hurtful memories between herself and this man she was supposed to call “Dad” but never could. She silently walked over to him and leaned against the pool table. He looked at her with tears streaming down his face. This strong, tough, “Texas proud” man sat on a barstool in front of the girl he’d been so mean to over the years, and cried. He asked how her mother was and she told him she was doing well. She gently and kindly explained what little she knew about the next steps, and promised to keep him informed. Her heart broke for him as she saw that the life had left his eyes. He was clearly scared to lose his wife. She knew he could not live without her, and together at that very moment, they silently acknowledged that.

And this girl looked at him with compassion. This girl didn’t mention the tears. This girl simply looked through the paperwork and bills that needed to be paid, and together they took care of business. She stood there, patiently handing him checks, one by one, to sign. His massive hands were curled and cramped into claws by arthritis and he could barely hold a pen, but she stood there and waited patiently as it took him at least 5-10 minutes to sign his name on each check. She would then write the information in the check register for him, seal the payment in the envelope, carefully put a stamp on the top right hand corner and put the correspondence in a stack to be mailed. Each step was important to him, and with a loving heart she did exactly as she was told.

…and there she was, on a cold December day, standing for hours in silence, the abused helping the abuser.

All was forgiven.

 

No One Ever Asked, “What happened?”

Wow.

I’m watching 60 Minutes right now and there is a story being reported about trauma, specifically childhood trauma. I am listening to these brave souls tell their stories and my compassion is overflowing.

The damage I’ve experienced myself didn’t happen until I was in my adult years, although some of those traumatic feelings were a result of my looking back at the child I was, and feeling compassion for her. The blessing is that while I was growing up, I had no idea what was going on, so I defined being “happy” by what I was feeling, which was constantly very scared and confused. Every day of my childhood. Therefore, it is no surprise that what I attracted in my early adult years was also labeled as happy, but was in fact a series of relationships in which I did not feel safe. Ever.

My definition of happy is much different now than it was then. What I thought was a happy life was good enough for that little girl, that teenager, that young woman, and for this I am grateful. There is no blame whatsoever in my world, and today I am still appreciative to have been raised the way I was, because I know it’s not what happened, not what I was told or how I was treated, but my perception of my childhood experiences that created my reality. Everyone in my life, my mother, my sister, my grandmother, and most importantly myself included, have done the best we could with what we’ve had.

There is a traumatic experience in my adulthood that came back to me so powerfully a few minutes ago as I heard this; “the moment of value in your life can come from anyone who looks at you and asks, ‘what happened to you?'” That phrase has haunted me, and at the same time escaped me,  for the past 27 years. It seemed so simple. I stayed open and looking for that one person who would never come. The one who would look at my life and say with love and trust, “What happened to you?”

Because of this, my love for others has been a source of strength, and I have always looked at anyone who is acting in a negative way and wondered, “What happened? What has happened to you, to make you act this way?” I don’t ask, “What is wrong with you,” because I know how that feels.

The incident I refer to was something that catapulted me into a life I could never have imagined growing up, and I now know was Divinely mastered. At the time, I needed help, but I was judged instead. And like the story tonight on 60 Minutes, my perception was more of hearing, “What’s wrong with you?’ instead of “What happened?”

In the wee hours of the night sometimes…wait, who am I kidding…for so many years, I was obsessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and focused on wondering why not one person ever said to me, “Oh my darling, what could have happened to you for life to unfold for you the way it has? What happened to you that made you decide to take the actions you have taken?” Instead, I saw in others’ eyes, “What’s wrong with you?”

I got over that finally when the gift of forgiveness entered my life and it has been like a drug ever since that has kept me on the highest of highs I could ever imagine feeling. It truly doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, or asks, about how we live our life. I don’t blame anyone else for anything, I instead give credit to those who have challenged me and helped me grow. After all, he or she is doing just that…asking. What matters is how we perceive our experience and the power we have to find the good in everything that happens, the joy, the happiness, the love amidst the trauma, the hurt, the craziness. It’s all happening for me, not to me. I know that now, and it’s amazing. What gifts I’ve received just by staying in the open space to receive.

Again, I am grateful for the life I’ve lived, the way I was raised, the scary things that happened to me as a young person, the things I thought everyone was experiencing. I depended on my “whispers” and my gut to make decisions, and I know with all of my heart that beautiful whisper was (and still is) the Divine Being, God, the Universe, Source…whatever your Higher Power is called in your magnificent world, guiding me to be who I am today, and we’re not done yet.

Now I know I’m here to use all of it for the Greater Good for all. I am compassion. I’m still learning, still out there running the road, taking chances, being “GoTerriGo” because so far it’s working. I am vulnerable, I am real, I am still making mistakes and reaching out to every human who crosses my path, with pure and unconditional love.

I am eternally grateful and appreciative for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.

I love you. With all my heart, I love you.

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this entry. You are amazing and worthy. Don’t let anyone dim your light.

Love always, Terri

 

The Power of Self-Care, Protecting My Boundaries, Releasing Expectations, and Not Caring What Others Might Think…all came together for me when something profound happened last weekend.

Ok, here I go…total transparency, complete vulnerability and my gift to you as always, MY TRUTH.

When I write, I imagine you and I are having a conversation, that I am not only speaking to you, I am also looking into your eyes and listening to you. I am not throwing my thoughts, observations, and realizations out there, hoping something will stick, I am simply sharing with love, detached from outcome. What do I mean by listening to you as I write? How can we really have a conversation while I sit where I am, writing, and you sit where you are, reading? I do this by taking time to be silent, to still my mind, and to send Love to you as I listen in appreciation for what comes back to me.

I won’t go into detail (because it’s not my story to tell), but the past three months have been a blur due to circumstances regarding my deep love for a family member and also a dear friend named Ron. Until I saw myself last weekend, uncharacteristically reacting to a situation instead of responding, I had no idea how emotionally and physically exhausted I must have been. And that’s not all.

Lesson OneA reminder to be aware of your body, mind, and soul, every day. Take care of yourself first. Otherwise you might find yourself in a situation where normally you would be thriving, but instead you are shuffling pages of a script you don’t even really need to take on stage with you (literally and metaphorically). This happened to me. I was the emcee for an event and we had simple last minute changes in the order of the closing ceremony. I usually love it when this happens because I get to improvise, be authentic, and it keeps me in the NOW. The only explanation for my obscure reaction to what happened next is that I received an untimely bit of devastating news while being emotionally exhausted, due to an overload of concern for those two loved ones in my life. It was as though suddenly my heart and brain had switched places and I couldn’t think. I could only feel. At that moment I realized I had let my longtime habit of practicing daily self-care fall behind. If I had taken care of myself first, I would have been ahead of any obstacles, changes or challenges and seen them as opportunities. Awareness, especially self-awareness, is not something you acquire or achieve like a scholastic degree, it is a delightful habit to be practiced once realized.

When I get on the road, I have certain boundaries I adhere to. They serve me well. They protect my well-being and keep me safe. Last weekend I softened one of those boundaries, changed my schedule, and it cost me dearly. This change pushed an important meeting with the organization who hired me from early afternoon to late the night before the event and I also skipped a morning stop to see my friend, Ron, who was very ill. I told myself it was okay because I was doing a favor for someone, and I’d see Ron on my way out of town the next day.

All of this was completely my decision, and I take full responsibility.

A few minutes before the closing ceremony began, I received a message that Ron had passed away the previous afternoon. Had I respected my boundary, listened to my intuition and stayed on schedule, it is possible I could have held his hand, told him a dirty joke, kissed him on the cheek and said goodbye that morning. This news broke my heart wide open, with no time to process before hearing about the changes in the program and hopping back on stage to gratefully do my job…see how this is all coming together to teach me something?

Lesson Two: Once you set a boundary, no one can cross it unless you let them. It’s your boundary. It’s up to you to respect your intuition, honor your decisions, and respect yourself. Relax and let your boundaries protect you like a loyal, dependable friend. No defending yourself. No explaining. No blaming yourself or others when things fall beneath certain expectations. Blame has no place here (or anywhere else for that matter). It’s useless. Blame is a wasted emotion and I’ve eliminated it from my life. I can’t tell you how good that feels. Something else that feels good is knowing I will from now on respectfully protect my boundaries as they protect me, even when a request comes from someone I love.

In the end, all went well and we had a successful and meaningful event. Goals were surpassed, beautiful moments were experienced, and I remain immensely grateful for the patience and understanding shown to me by two very special executives (and friends) with the organization. Those few moments where my brain was not cooperating felt like hours. It’s alarming when something that would normally excite you in a positive way causes you to react in an unfamiliar and unproductive manner. Are you kidding me? Being on stage and flying by the seat of my pants is my comfort zone! What was happening? And when I realized others were witnessing my behavior offstage, my pride took over and I started telling myself stories about what they must be thinking. These thoughts were a product of my perception and did not serve me. They were negative and totally made up! Once the closing ceremony was over, and I was reminded about missing an opportunity to see Ron before he died, I started to cry a little bit and I didn’t really try to hide it as I wiped my eyes. Wait…did they think I was crying about the changes thrown into the ceremony at the last minute? Did my friend just see me crying and turn away because he thinks I’m upset about losing it earlier? I don’t cry about stuff like that! Why wasn’t he coming over to me, holding me and asking if I was ok? I needed to tell him Ron died before I could see him. My heart was broken because of choices I’d made and I was sad.

Lesson Three: Don’t hold another person’s actions to your expectations. Release and dissolve all expectations of yourself and others, and just allow life to flow. Just BE. Live and let live. Pay attention to what is happening and know when it is time to move on. And remember…what others think of you or say about you is none of your business.

I took a deep breath and came to my senses. I felt the cold mountain air fill my lungs and felt the snow crunch beneath my boots as I walked away. It’s been years since I let false perceptions get the better of me, and as I drove away I allowed myself to feel any and all emotions that came up. No judgment. Total self-care. I believe everything happens the way it is supposed to, and life is always happening for me, always happening through me, and not happening to me. Sometimes “how” it all unfolds is painful. That’s ok, it’s only temporary. It’s how we grow and evolve into who we are supposed to be while we are here. We don’t know what we want until we know what we don’t want. Go with it.

Create healthy boundaries and protect them, coming from love, not fear.

Dissolve expectations of yourself and others. It’s all good.

Practice daily self-care. Get good rest. It’s imperative.

Don’t defend yourself. Stop explaining yourself to others. Let your essence be a mystery.

And as soon as you get to the point where you (respectfully) don’t give a rip about what anyone else thinks (“good” or “bad”) you will be free.

You be you, and I’ll be me.

Love always, Terri

 

I’ve Seen What Love Can Do

When I started this GoTerriGo journey, all I knew to say when someone asked what I do for a living, was “I help people.” I didn’t say “I want to help people,” because I thought that would keep it in the future and I was declaring it as NOW. I had no idea what that meant exactly or what that kind of life looked like in reality. It was such a broad statement and it hasn’t always been met with positive reactions from people who have known me for a long time. I understand, and I haven’t let that stop me from believing my truth, mostly because when I meet someone new and open up to them, it’s an enlightening and amazing conversation! I see a light go on inside them and the conversation turns to something they’ve always wanted to do. It’s beautiful! When those moments come to me, I learn more about another human being and how much we are all alike. Up until now it hasn’t been easy, although I haven’t doubted for one moment this is what I’m supposed to be doing. For the past six years or more, I have been totally immersed in the Human Connection, finding kindness and inspiration everywhere I go, even in the perception of the most difficult conditions. I’ve seen what Love can do. I’ve felt what the absence of Love can do. I choose Love. Every time. ❤️ I love you.

My Honest, Vulnerable, Messy, Scary, Heart-Breaking, Crazy-Making, Faithful, Joyful, Grateful, Funny, Loving, Forgiving, and Long Way Home (Part 2)

Blame is useless. Blaming others only gives away your power. Keep your power. Without power, we cannot make changes. The helpless victim cannot see a way out.”   — Louise Hay

Maybe clumsy is a better word than messy for this part, like a toddler learning to walk or run for the first time…or like a young child driving a car. I’m excited and scared, filled with wonder and awe, behind the wheel of something huge and magnificent, not knowing whether to hit the gas or slam on the brakes. It’s January 2014, I’ve spent two years on this “road trip” and all I know without a doubt is that I want to help people. I decide to hit the gas (one more time) and see what happens next.

What does happen is a series of twists and turns I never saw coming. Everything that happens is big, and to summarize it all at this point would trivialize the impact these discoveries are having on my life. Each “life event” deserves its own blog entry, essay, or book chapter, and I’m happy to have more to share with you at a later date.

Let’s get to that clumsy part of all this, and be done with it. I’ve heard it said that if you don’t make a move when the time is right, Life will push you. One way or another, the stars will line up and that good ol’ Higher Power, the Universe, or in my case, God will make it impossible for you to stay where you are. That’s what happens to me in 2011, but I’m a little slow on the uptake. I spend two more years feeling a huge shift in myself as I observe changes in my life I can’t explain, but I keep trying too hard to stay on track, doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. The one big adjustment I do focus on is changing my thoughts and watching my words, and I have a great friend and mentor who helps me do that. I start paying attention to all of the information that has been flooding into my life and onto my bookshelves over the past ten to fifteen years, the self-help courses I’ve taken and learned but never applied, and bringing to the forefront of my mind all of the life lessons I’ve filed away for safe keeping. One book in particular keeps following me, popping up in my belongings when I could have sworn I gave it away, or someone gives it to me as a gift. All of a sudden other people notice a change in me, the changes in my life, and they start asking questions.

One example of my disjointed growing pains happens on a rainy day in California. I’m at a small retreat with eight or so other attendees, and we are all sitting around the table talking after dinner. At one point, it’s my turn to tell a story and we are all laughing about my vulnerable way of “fumbling through the weeds on my path.” By now my habit of positive jargon is so firmly locked in, I am constantly mindful of my words. This practice is my lifeline. I’m convinced it’s my survival. I’m just not that good at it yet, and I haven’t distanced myself enough from the shock and pain of recent events to go into detail without fear of a downward spiral. I’m afraid to test it, afraid I’m not strong enough yet to pull myself back up, as I know the brain does not know the difference in a memory and what is happening in the present moment. Because of this, it leads to a disconnect in conversation, but I don’t recognize that, I just honestly answer every question the best way I know how. There is a gap between how bad things really got for me and how life now appears to be heading in a positive (sometimes Divine) direction. It feels like in order to connect to everyone listening at the table that day, one new friend wants me to go back to my darkest time and walk her through how I pulled myself out of it. I get that, but even as I try to accommodate her, I can’t bring back the feelings of despair and paralyzing fright I felt during the worst time that I now lovingly refer to as my “Ten Days at Dana’s.” All I can honestly remember now is discovering my self-worth for the first time in my life, and then the feeling of hope, a knowing, that I am safe and all is well. I was alone at Christmas, house sitting and taking care of Jenni the German Shepherd, and there was no visible sign of how I was going to make it past New Year’s. I had no home, no income, and my bank account was more than $1,000 overdrawn because my new employer paid me with two hot checks on a closed account, and then disappeared. I just didn’t get it. This time my situation was freakishly out of my control and not of my own doing. I dropped to my knees, crying so hard I was almost choking and yelled, “Ok, I give! What am I missing? You have to show me because I don’t see it!” God sat me down at the kitchen table in front of a book and said, “Read this.” And I did. For 14 hours straight, I didn’t move from the table except to feed Jenni and let her out when she needed. I read every word, sometimes going back and reading certain pages over and over, highlighting and underlining, and making notes in the margins of this book that had been following me for at least 10 years. It was Louise Hay’s Life Loves You.

As I consider my experiences over the past six years, I’m reminded that the only benefit the past has for us is to show how far we’ve come and how much we’ve learned. It’s not a resource for highlighting mistakes, regrets, painful moments. It’s where we keep the batteries to power the flashlight we can shine on our accomplishments, our growth, and the gift of the present moment to start again, to be our best, to live with love and laughter…and appreciation for what we have and who we are right here, right now. Whew! That’s a big thought and I bring it to you from experience, from MY experience, my perspective, my perception, and my heart. My intention in offering my honestly raw, vulnerable stories to you is that in them you might find a twinkle of joy, an answer to a question, a dose of rejuvenation, and the “on” switch for that super-duper flashlight of yours. Giving yourself permission to stand in the spotlight and shine from within, gives others permission to stand in their greatness and shine their own light too. Don’t ever dim your light or shrink yourself to fit into someone else’s box. You are meant to be unique, to be larger than life, to experience unlimited abundance and joy. Right here. Right now.

Love always, Terri