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Hearts and Handstands

I’ve gotten a few side-eye looks and questions about my activities lately.  

Such as:

    Why are you always posting hearts on Instagram, on Facebook?

    Why are there hearts all over your house, in your yard? 

    Why do hearts show up in your daily life wherever you go?

And:

    Why are you trying to learn how to do a handstand?

    Why would you want to do gymnastics at your age?
     (that’s the tender age of 48)?

    What is the point of being able to do a handstand now?

Since since both of these interests of mine have been expressed in public and in the public eye, that is, through social media, I realize people are just curious.  

Which has, in turn, spurred curiosity in me about why do I do these things?

 

Why #DailyHeart ?

On a recent vacation trip a couple of years back, I started noticing them.  As I am fond of snapping photos of nearly every little moment when traveling, the hearts seemed to be everywhere… in nature, in architecture, in store windows.  So I just started taking pictures of them. 

During this trip, I had a friend back home who liked hearts too, so I shared my experiences by texting her a different picture of a heart each day.  As I found more, I sent her more.

In a week’s time, I had amassed 66 photos of hearts.  That’s nearly 10 pictures per day, or, near-stalker level of text messages.

I was sort of amazed by this - the sheer number of hearts that kept showing up.  So I hypothesized that because I was so happy, and in a “elevated state” while on vacation, with no regular routine or typical demands on my time, my mind relaxed and saw things it usually didn’t see.

But the “heart show” continued even when I was not on vacation.  I would see hearts when I was in a semi-blissful state, like hanging out with my closest friends, in my hometown, or relaxed from spending time in nature. 

After a bit more thought, I realized this was not a new occurrence, but it had been happening all of my life.  Hearts and heart-shaped items have been dear to me since I was a kid.  When I was 8 years old, I collected little boxes.  As I dated, I would save the heart-shaped boxes given to me, long after I had devoured the Valentine’s day chocolates.  And I still do this today; I cannot seem to throw away a perfectly good heart!

In my youth, I always loved Valentine’s day, making my own creations out of paper doilies.  One year I sewed a dress for my younger sister made from red fabric with tiny hearts all over it, and dainty white heart buttons, of course.  My dad gave me a yearly box of those silly conversation hearts, the ones that say “Be Mine” or “Love U”. 

Perhaps all of this love of hearts was just meant to be as my childhood home was located on Heartwood Street.

Now, I am recognizing that they are not just fun tokens or a coincidence, nor do they only arrive during vacation.  

Finding heart-shaped objects is my way for energy to be received

And the best kind of energy:  love, joy, happiness.   They are a sign from the Great Divine that I am loved and cared for no matter where I go.  They show me that love is always possible, even if I am standing in an unfamiliar city unsure of where to go next.

And they show up now in the most peculiar places . . . in my lily pond, on my patio and in my kitchen. 

And, to my delight, I now receive them by text, email, social media feeds, and even in my mailbox in the form of sweet little trinkets and gifts. 

As I keep receiving these symbols from The Universe, I share them with others.  And in return, my friends and acquaintances send hearts of all sorts to me.  It’s like a Virtual Valentine’s Day all the time.

I have learned that this back and forth flow of hearts just part of who I am as a spiritual being, someone who receives love and gives love. 

As I embrace this true vision of myself, I find that I am surrounded by an abundance of hearts.

 

Why Handstands?

About two years ago, I asked myself “Could you do handstand?”  The question seemingly came out of nowhere.  I had just finished an online coaching program, so I was feeling rather strong and curious.  

I gave it a try and to my surprise, I could!  With a little wall assistance :)

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For a while, I practiced every week.  Kicking up to a wall, I would try to do an assisted handstand each day, seeing how long I could hold it until my wrists or hands or shoulders cried “Uncle!”

Next, I tried to get better at balancing unassisted by pulling my toes off the wall.  A few go’s of that, and I decided that I should up the ante and also work on a handstand push-up, which did not go that well.  Probably because I had not practiced holding a handstand, thus, had not built up enough strength to do the more challenging trick.

I read about handstands, sought out advice from handstand experts and did anything and everything that I thought might make my progression go faster. I had a lot of passion, practiced intermittently with a focus on speed not skill, so I did not see much progression.  That was Year One.

And then I gave up my handstand practice for a while.  Not so much in discouragement, but more like, because of distraction.  Just got busy with other things, focused more on other parts of my strength-building workout.  I kind of forgot about handstands.

Until one day, I started thinking about them again, wondering why they beckoned me... why I just needed to do one.  

“This is unfinished business" . . . I heard my inner voice say.

I used to do gymnastics as a kid.  And from ages 7 to ages 13, I broke my left arm a total of 5 times.  Finally, my parents said “no more gymnastics!” and switched me over to dance lessons.

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My parents were not mean, just smartly protective and probably weary of the emergency room visits.  

I realized that deep down, I missed gymnastics - the freedom, the fun, the challenge and the struggle for mastery over a movement.

I realize that practicing handstands are energy given.

Energy intentionally and wholeheartedly given to something that pleases me.  It is my way of reaching downward and being rooted, solid and secure.

It rekindles the feelings of that fearless 8-year old girl on the tumbling mats.  It is about trying and trying again, and noticing that little “aha” when something changes and starts to improve.  It is about play, confidence and practicing “stick-to-it-tive-ness”.

So I have come back to the practice of handstands.  This time I approached it differently.

Breaking it down to a smaller version first:  headstands.  I did handstands nearly daily for weeks in my living room, on my yoga mat, at the gym, the beach.

I tried a few variations, thinking that it would help my balance and help my core (both important to handstand-ing).  Instead of going fast, I focused on just being in the moment, noticing when something seemed a little easier, practicing more and then deciding if I should move on.

Sometimes, I did well, other times I fell out of the hold or held it in a wonky position (like ^this^).  But I kept going.

And when I felt like my headstands were pretty solid, I gave myself permission to try handstands again.  This time much more slowly and cautiously. 

Again, asking for a little advice here or there, but this time I took it in, really listened and then just focused on applying it.  

The more I focused on handstands, the more information and guidance came to me.  Like when I attended the Girls Gone Strong-sponsored Women's Fitness Summit, and one of the break-out sessions just happened to be given by an former gymnast who showed us how to build skills to do handstands.

And now, after a 2nd year of consistent practice, I invert myself with confidence, one leg tapping the wall and the other soaring to the sky, and for a breath or two, I cautiously pull both feet away from the wall,  

and I balance.  For a second.  Sometimes, even two.

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Will I finally master this movement and be able to balance freely without the wall?  Can I continue to improve, gain more skill, more strength?  I am curious to find out.  So that is what will I continue to give my energy towards.  

 

Where do you give your energy to something that gives you a quiet satisfaction, something that is just for you?

 Where do you receive energy from something that fills you up with comfort, love or healing?

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Independence Day: My Before/After Story

Sparkler

Tomorrow I celebrate my personal Independence Day… freedom from fear, from depression, from death. 

Seven years ago, I was driving home from a business meeting that had gone terribly awry.  I was crying and imagining how it was going to be when I got home.  My husband was out of town. I would be coming home to an empty house.  

And I was planning to end my life by committing suicide.

This was a not a snap decision.  Nor a momentary idea borne out of excruciating internal pain from my current situation.  

But rather, I had been considering this a long time.  I had visited this dark solution in my mind often.

In my childhood, I felt unseen.  In my teens, I felt alone and unsupported.  In my twenties, I clung to a poorly chosen husband and felt unloved.  In my thirties, I pondered my unfulfilling life.  And in my forties, I tried my very best but it was never enough.

sundress legs

Shortly after my 40th birthday, my [new] husband and I started a new venture together.  A business that allowed my perfectionism and people-pleasing to fully develop and crush me from the inside.

I fell back into that deep chasm.  “The Pit”, I called it.  An abyss where you are so deeply enveloped in darkness and isolation that you cannot even imagine that there is light.

At the bottom of The Pit is where absolute lies are told with the sincerity of the truth.  Your mind listens to them and becomes paralyzed and ashamed.  You are unable to reach out for help as you believe that you are unworthy of it.

abyss

That’s where I was that day seven years ago.  At the bottom.  In the dark.  Believing that I had no value to offer the world.  That my exit from it was my only option.

And then my mind changed.  It sounds ridiculous as I write it, but it happened that fast. 

“Go to the place that soothes your soul,” said The Voice,

 "You know where that is … go to the Ocean, to the Beach.”

beach sunset

I cannot say with a 100% certainty if it was God or my guardian Angel (I now firmly believe in both) who prompted me to seek comfort.  But my mind shifted in an instant from extinction to self-preservation.

I wish I could tell you that the way back to wellness, to wholeness, was a smooth transition of confidence and ease.  It was not.  

There was sadness, grief, soul searching, separation, confusion, weeping and seeking.  

And eventually, tiny tendrils of joy.  Creeping up out of the muck, very gently and slowly at first, bringing a freshness to my outlook, and returning hope back to my heart. 

And now, Hope holds permanent residence there, along with its other companions:  Peace, Joy and Love.  

peacelovejoy

This is my Before and After story.

Before, I was afraid.  I operated out of fear.  

Afraid I would not be loved.  

Afraid of being alone.  

Afraid of not having a purpose.  

Afraid of being seen and judged.

Afraid to stop and care for myself or I would lost the race.  

Afraid of failure.

 

And now I am living in the After where I focus on love, truth, joy and peace.

I love my husband who loved me when I thought I was un-love-able.

I love my friends, who held my hand and gave me safe haven to figure things out.

I love my family, who always loved me and believe in my potential.

I love my mentors, who have held space for me to grow and guided me.

I love my purpose, which is to guide others along their path.

I love myself by caring for my body with movement and nourishment.

I love myself by seeking wholeness and wellness.

I love myself and who I am becoming.

I seek truth as I listen to my Inner Voice, knowing that I can trust it.

I find joy and miracles in the minutia of daily life.

And, when I remove myself from all of the noise,

I find peace waiting for me.  

 

On October 13, 2009, I thought it was the end.  

On October 14, 2009, I began again, re-birthed through pain and sorrow, seeking the light.

 

The anniversary date  has become a day of remembrance, tearful gratitude and celebration.  

Sparkler Celebrate

I call it Independence Day, not because I don’t need anyone or anything, or because I have overthrown an oppressive ruler.  But because I have embraced true freedom:  the infinite abundance of living a continuous string of Divinely-infused moments.

I am free from the illusion that I was alone, unloved, unworthy and without purpose.

I am free to live as God designed me - as a vessel of light, love and unlimited potential.

And tomorrow, I am going to the beach.

Po on Beach

This story is dedicated to two of my friends (you know who you are) who shared your own Before/After stories with me;  and for all those women out there who battle depression and wonder if they can ever really feel hope, love, peace and joy again.  You can.

braceletsoffreedom

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