Trip Advisor – Keepin on Keepin’ on, and the Art of Swimming On Through

Just Keep Swimming.

You’re ready. You’ve sat down and attempted to discover where you want to go on your next journey, and even pin pointed the stops you’re going to make, and the experiences you want to have. You’ve even taken the time to chart the distance, in miles, that you will travel.

You’re ready. You’ve color coded the “entertainment” stops, the “museums” in the area. You’ve made a list, checked it twice… actually, three times, and you know exacatly every moment you want to fill with progress.

You’re ready. You’ve spoken to friends, especially those who have traveled as you’re about to travel. You’ve taken into considerations their experiences, they hang-ups, their adventures and inspirations along the way.

You’re ready….But you don’t feel ready.

Not in your heart. Not in the bounce of your step. And so, all these plans, all these beautiful charted lands of adventure… sits stale, on your coffee table. You try to convince yourself you’re ready, you remind yourself of everything you have accomplished so far to get you to this point, but to make that leap, to start driving… to get out there… Man, that’s a journey in and of itself.

And so you hesitate. You ponder. You may even do some jumping jacks to get your mind in gear… but yet something has you stuck.

“Stuck? We hear ya.”

And that something is You. And it hurts. And you know this, either on a subconscious level, or a very surface level. You know you are limiting yourself, something has you believing you aren’t capable of taking that most important step. And so this knowledge builds and builds, hitting you over and over in your mind like a hammer. BAM… BAM…

Either externally or internally, you’re reaching a breaking point. Will you scream “F-CK IT” and jump? Or will you burst into tears, cut down repeatedly by your own blows, and hide in a corner.

Fight? Flight?

And shame still has you cornered. It’s visceral, or so visceral. Perhaps it’s hiding behind glossed eyes, perhaps it’s beating harder and harder in your chest. Perhaps, it’s making you sweat, or making you scream, or making you punch walls, drop kick unsuspecting objects on the floor, or yelling at your cat for sitting where he’s sitting. Either way, you’re stuck- and you’re mad about it- or you’re sad about it- or you’re absolutely enraged by it.

But don’t be. Don’t further resist and blame yourself for feeling scared or stuck. Embrace it.

“Embrace it? For realz? How does one do that? How can I possible be ok with being a fraidy-cat, a nervous Nelly, a ….a ….”

Yes, embrace it. As soon as you allow yourself space to feel stuck, feel scared- it will pass faster than if you skip over this very important step- that of Acceptance.

You’ve heard it before, fear teaches us many things. Fear keeps us alive. And it does! Fear and hesitation acts as a moment for us to assess important situations, take a moment to breath, or reconsider our actions. It helps reduce destructive impulses and actions we may soon regret. It CAN be your best friend. It can also be your most annoying, insecure friend who bombards you with “what if?” scenarios. Each moment, recognize fear, and consider what he/she is saying to you.

What points do you agree with that fear? What points do you know are a load of BS?

Many call this a pros/cons list.

But, let’s try something new. Take a moment to write about your friend: Fear.

  1. Ask yourself: In what ways has Fear saved my life, or been there for me in the past? (Maybe alerted you to a dangerous situation? Possible let down? Red flags?) In what ways has he/she been a boss and stood up for you, putting you in a protective bubble, giving you confidence to get away or stand up for yourself?
  2. Now- before we list the negatives of fear, THANK fear. Thank that mofo biotch for keeping a watchful eye out for you. Thank them for their constant vigilance, their unshakable stance, and their acute eye for the devil in the details.
  3. Now take a breath. And, with compassion, let fear know you can take it from here. Tell your friend you appreciate their concern, and you take what they say to heart and see it as their way of showing love and care. Be grateful he/she is in your life as a lovely stop sign to help you really decide what is best for you. But the light is now green.
  4. Decide for yourself. This is the scary part- and this is the part where your friend, Fear, may be bouncing up and down trying to stop you over and over with their opinion, even after you’ve shown your appreciation, even after you assured them you’re going to be ok. You have the angel and devil on your shoulder, but you can’t tell which is which! Is stopping your plans a GREAT idea? Or a bust? What if? What if?

I can’t tell you how long this process may take. I can tell you, it doesn’t have to take long, and it also doesn’t have to take an instant. Reconsider your plans if it feels right to you. Take fear into consideration if you feel in your gut something is keeping you at a standstill for a reason.

But, if you ARE ready, (and, know, that I believe in you!!) if you have been ready- and Fear, your friend, has been the one holding you back, despite your perfectly charted plans? Give him/her a hug, hold their hand, and walk into the uncomfortable, uncertain future… together.

I’ll see you on the road, dear wanderer. I hope you get a chance to meet my friend, Fear sometime as well, (though she can be a bit of a brat.) She has some good insights.

Fear’s your friend (sometimes.)

What we can learn from the Cleveland Killer’s Desperation

You may have heard about the man on CNN who shot and killed another man on Easter Sunday, streaming it Live to Facebook. You may have heard he did so after having lost all his money gambling, and dealing with a breakup from his girlfriend. You may have heard his name as the Cleveland Killer, or known it as Steve Stephens. And you may have heard he was hiding out in Erie, PA (my current city). You may have also heard that the man was caught by a McDonalds employee, and that the Cleveland Killer turned the gun on himself and ended his own life.

Yesterday, I heard Steve Stephens was in the Erie area, hiding out near Harborcreek- not far from my current residence. At around 11am this morning, while at work, I saw multiple police cars zoom past. Usually, this doesn’t strike me as odd because the downtown Erie area is always bustling. But today, it seemed they had a bigger purpose, and I even looked up quizzically and went “Geez…”

Later, the news broke out that the Cleveland Killer, Steve Stephens, had been caught, and killed himself. Those police cars had just received the tip-off. The man who called it in, a McDonalds employee, was awarded 50K.

While I heard others discuss the man, and how heinous and ghastly his call for attention was, I couldn’t withdraw my empathy bone.

Many of the emotions he was feeling were universal- if not all. We don’t all go around shooting up the place, or killing strangers in response to these emotions… but in our own way we grieve losses. I’m in no way writing this post to take away from the crime this man committed, or the extreme loss both families are currently experiencing given this man’s decisions. I thought this was a good opportunity to review this man’s motives, and maybe see the root of it’s causes, to learn for our own lives and survival, and how best to cope in times of desperation.

And the root problems?

Emotions, the inability to know how to handle them, and fear of rejection when asking for help.

Desperation

The Cleveland Killer desperately cried out for attention online, asking the internet to tell him to stop. This was his (albeit disturbing) way of reaching out for support and guidance from his community. Perhaps he felt alienated and that no one could understand his desperate state. Perhaps he had never learned the tools on how to ask others for help. Perhaps he was not taught to share his emotions and so he bottled them up, and in rage it manifested. In a video, where he details some of his motives, he speaks about how he tried to talk to his mom about feeling suicidal and wanting to harm others, but he was ignored and dismissed.

Grief

Grieving the loss of his fortunes and girlfriend made him feel insignificant. Maybe he felt the only way he was relevant to the world is if he had money, or if he could support loved ones. And without his girlfriend (who he reportedly said drove him crazy) he was seemingly losing everything. He was going through his own grieving process. And in the depth of a depression, fueled by hate toward himself for losing the money, and losing the lady, he blamed himself for everything. Despite openly “blaming” everyone else in his video, he ultimately blamed himself, but was in denial to save himself from the burden of taking responsibility.

Wanting Connection

Haven’t we all felt disconnected and unloved? Haven’t we all wished someone sent us the occasional “hey, I care about you.” message or text, or wished someone could put a hand on our shoulder as we felt awful. The Cleveland Killer cried out for attention online- and because he felt disconnected and angry, insecure about asking for help, he shielded his intent and desires behind angry words “stop me if you can” instead of “Please give me guidance, I feel desperate,” – because it’s vulnerable to ask for help, especially if we might be rejected. Apparently the Cleveland Killer described and blamed his ex-girlfriend, and tried to ask his mom for help, but he didn’t receive the support he felt he needed

“When it comes to my shit, no one gives a fuck.” Stephens reported in his motive video, after killing Robert Godwin.

Steve Stephens blamed everyone for his problems, because he was scared to take all that responsibility on himself. He didn’t want to do it, it seemed like too much. He didn’t believe he could do it anymore.

Wanting To Be Significant. To Leave a Legacy

We all look for significance in our lives. Some of us go out to sell a best-selling book, other’s win the Nobel Peace Prize. Even at his wits end, The Cleveland Killer wanted to leave a legacy: Go out with a bang, that’s certainly how he wanted to go. He wanted to leave a mark on the world, so somebody- anybody would remember him, and feel for him… to understand him. Ultimately, he just wanted to be understood, which is why he made those videos, and why he did them in live time, adding to the urgency.

Facebook live- the New Crisis Line

When you’re depressed and suicidal, and attend therapy, they give you a Crisis phone number to call in moments you may harm yourself or others. These days, it’s so easy to record video and upload it to the internet- sometimes you don’t even have to click a button. The Cleveland Killer saw his opportunity for direct connection with others… and reached out. It may seem like he had decided to go on a killing spree, but he just wanted people to take him seriously. In his motive video, he describes having killed multiple people- but it seems to be all an act. There was no evidence of other murders. He may have said this so that people would take him more seriously, and be more concerned. He wanted to be seen as disturbed, wanting to be helped.

Forgive Him and Forgive Yourself

The victim’s family was able to forgive the Cleveland Killer saying, “I honestly can say right now that I hold no animosity in my heart against this man because I know that he’s a sick individual,” Debbie Godwin (told to CNN).

In my own experience, it can be hard to forgive people who do crazy, unspeakable things- including myself… actually, especially myself. Now, I didn’t try to kill anyone else, but I did attempt suicide multiple times. (Yeah, dark days…) In crazy, desperate times, I tried to end my life. Using similar tactics to find connection before I took myself off this planet, I sent text messages to friends, and shielded my sadness behind anger and blaming others. Ultimately, I just needed to know someone cared: “Someone tell me you care… someone please take care of me because I feel so lost and I’m afraid I can’t take care of myself.” I was afraid to be vulnerable and say “I feel sad like I might hurt myself” because it would be seen as weak if I asked for help. Or if I did ask for help, it didn’t get the attention it needed, and I would blame myself and be angry at myself for not speaking up and communicating better. My fear prevented me from speaking my mind honestly, so I hid behind denial and anger- leading me to take pills.

Luckily, people cared. Luckily, all my attempts failed and I can sit here with the knowledge of what it’s like to put loved ones through those ordeals, and come out the other end, being able forgive myself for doing so. And it didn’t happen overnight… and it’s still not a perfect system- Some days it’s hard to forgive myself for acting rashly. Somedays I blame myself for even asking for help and attention when I felt so desperate. But if I had been rejected in those moments of desperation-how would I have been able to pull myself out of that rut?

I probably wouldn’t have.

He’s a Mirror- But Don’t Be Scared!

I find the people that judge Steve Stephens the most harshly are looking into an uncomfortable mirror, resisting some aspect of themselves that they can’t forgive. Their own grief? Their own desperation? Their own fear? Certainly, not everyone gets to this point, killing another human, but it is fear that hinders our ability to forgive this man. If we forgive him for his heinous crime, does that mean we accept his crime?? Does that mean we will be seen as deranged ourselves? Are we capable of something like that?

Yes, we are all capable. Yes, we can all hit bottom. Yes, we can all be rejected when we hit bottom, leading to feelings of desperation and loss. Yes… it’s possible. And YES it feels TERRIFYING.

Taking personal responsibility, believing in our own strength and peace of mind is what saves us. Worrying that some big change in our own life could ruin us, bring us to the depths like it did Steve Stephens is what blocks our ability to forgive: Our own fear.

I know I’ve been there. But I also know I’m capable of surviving turmoil, though I know what it’s like to feel like I couldn’t (should probably just give up). I know that it is because of the grace and love of others that I am able to sit here today. I also see Steve Stephens inability to believe in himself and his ability to ask others for help and support.

It’s all such a shame really. If only he could have loved himself better, this would never have happened.

What Do I Need To Be Happy? – The Post Break-Up Question to Ask Yourself

After a break up, we’re often thrown out of wack. Kept in this ping-pong type insanity of wishing they’ll come back, and hoping to high heavens they don’t. Then agonizing that we feel like victims, and being too forceful to-get-over-it-already and find control in the situation by focusing on passions, or hiding in a depressive mess on our beds (or floor, whichever looks comfiest).

I got dumped. There. It happened. I said it. Dumped.

It sounds dramatic, and vulgar to say it that way- the opposite of how the end went down for me. Sure, I cried (a lot) and sure, he held me (so lovingly…) but I didn’t set the bed on fire, or give a Xena-warrior-princess shrill cry as I stabbed him in his heart with a sword (much like how my heart felt). I loved him. love him. loved him. love him.

Whichever,

doesn’t matter now, does it?

But either way- every moment I feel some emotion related to the unseen blow… hurts. But I’m convincing myself that it also gives me another opportunity to assess the question….

DaFUQ do I want in life??? Is how I’m living this life… how I want to be living?

And it sucks that it takes a loss of someone in my life to bring this question to mind. And sure, I admit, I wondered this constantly before this past relationship ended, but never to this degree of “Welp, better figure this out now!”

Being single (*cringe- not used to that term yet*) means I don’t have anyone to love as openly as I had, or pamper as much as I want to. Who am I if I can’t care for another person?

That’s what my post-break up mind is wondering. So, In response- I sat down and started my list of “What do I need to be happy?”

This list was different than the first list I made, titled: “My new guy”, in which I detailed every nuance of a perfect mate. (“Delicious man-scent, cleans up after himself, keeps his f$%%$ promises…” etc)

And it was very different than my Pros and Cons list of my (new) ex, in which I examined what the hell I NEVER want in my life again… and gee golly, what I wish I had in my life constantly still…

Nope. This “What do I need to be happy?” list turned a very different corner for me.

I thought it would have things like “snuggly, cuddly animals to cry on when I’m sad”, or “punchable face pillow that resembles my ex”, or even a good mix of the two… “punchable face pillow that resembles my ex that I want to cuddle and cry on.”

But instead, it got down to the bare necessities.

  • Nature
  • Sun
  • Quiet
  • Music
  • Wind
  • Water
  • A hand to hold
  • Skin to touch and love
  • Eyes to love
  • A bathtub
  • Animals to pet
  • Stairs to climb
  • Balcony to overlook
  • Legs to walk
  • Scruffy face to feel (his)
  • Instruments to play
  • Paint to splatter
  • Books to read
  • Hands to heal
  • Light dresses to dance in
  • Blankets to lay on and under
  • Camera to see
  • Computer and phone to share
  • Jewelry to remind me
  • Clothing to express…
  • Faith to believe
  • Strength to continue
  • Courage to begin
  • Wisdom to let go.

My list began with what feels happy to me, and happy for me was feeling alive: Feeling wind on my face, sun on my skin, water flowing past me. Feeling soft animals, scruffy faces, wearing light flowy clothes…

But the last four on the list took me by surprise, and also seemed to make the most sense. Hardly a thought crossed my mind as I wrote them, and it seemed as though some other force was working through me, counseling me on how best to get through this new journey.

And yet, reviewing them now, I wonder- how do I know which trait to enact, given the situation? Will I know what to let go of, and what to have the strength to continue with? Ah, so many questions. But I know that each moment after this break up, as long as I rely on listening to myself and allowing myself to heal and feel as I need to, I will be ok.

And so, I leave you with this song- which is often seen me through times of uncertainty and change.

Self-care = Self-love!

Enjoy a blog post by Kimmy Casey, Her Art is Heart’s April guest blogger! I spent a lovely sunny day, photographing Kimmy, her daughter Riley and husband Jerry out at their house, with fancy rain-boots in toe! From witnessing stickers on the walls and furniture, and Riley’s 3 trips to the swing (because it’s just too much fun not to!!) it’s clear Kimmy lives a busy life of mommy-dom. And what’s also clear is the amount of love this family has, and the great memories that reside at their home. Kimmy and Riley gave me the full tour of what brings their family joy, and as you can see from the photos, there’s a lot of love going around 🙂

SELF-CARE = SELF-LOVE

by Kimmy Casey
When I was asked to be a guest blogger and the topic could be anything related to Susie’s passion of self-love, I instantly knew what I wanted to write about because…
the only way to show that you love yourself is to take care of yourself.
So let us dive down into the nitty gritty of what self-care truly is, how to choose activities that will bring you personal satisfaction, and how self-care has the power to drastically change your life.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of “self-care”, or doing something to take care of yourself?
For me, it’s a quiet hour of getting my nails done with the faint sound of Vietnamese in the background that I don’t have to pay attention to, because I don’t know what they are saying anyways. The ONLY thing I have to do is pick a color.
All day long I talk to people for a living, and then I go home to a two year old. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of having a toddler, you know that you have to give them 100% attention, and if you don’t, they find ways to command it. So if I can get away for at least an hour, where I don’t have to talk to someone, where I don’t have to “watch this, mommy”, where I don’t have to yell “stop pulling the dog’s tail”, then I am doing some self-care… or so I thought.
 There are several ways to define what self-care truly is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “Self Care in health refers to the activities individuals, families and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health.” In the mental health world, self-care is your ability to take care of your own activities of daily living, also known as ADL’s (hygiene, sleep, eating, etc.).
I want to offer my own spin on what I have learned about taking care of myself. So, according to Kimmy Casey: “Self-care is the activities we do to cultivate our dominant positive emotions as a reward for ourselves”. (sounds fancy!!)
Okay, okay, so let me break this down. It is our basic human need to seek desire and reward. If you want to get into the scientific nerdy side of things, our body craves the release of the neurotransmitter Dopamine in our brain, and our brain releases Dopamine when we do things that reward our body… for example when we eat, brain says “mmmm… dopamine”. And when we flirt, our brain goes “I like the attention… here’s some dopamine”. And when we feel joy… dopamine. When we feel satisfied… dopamine. You get the point.

 Instead of the scientific word dopamine… I would instead insert my favorite positive emotions here. For me, when I get the chance to feel connection and belonging, my brain produces this feel good chemical. Everybody’s primary emotions are different. To find yours, think about 3 of your most favorite memories that you have, put yourself in those moments, and create a list of all of the emotions you experience in each moment. Compare your lists from each memory, and you should be able to see the common emotions. Is it joy, happiness, peace, relaxation, love, connection, belonging, warmth, pride, excitement? You choose! Use your own words. For me, my body craves connection and belonging, and my brain releases dopamine when I achieve these things.
 Let’s come full circle with this. Self-care, at it’s basic, is taking care of yourself. To take care of yourself is to make yourself feel good. The best self-care activities for yourself are the activities that you do that make you feel your primary positive emotions, whatever they may be. For example, where I thought my “self-care” was getting my nails done, this was an activity where I am disconnected and out of place. It was truly doing nothing to give myself pleasure. Fast forward to a time where I visited out of town family… I felt that sense of belonging, and I felt that connection with other people I loved. Or when I took a vacation with my husband at an all-inclusive resort, of course I belonged there (haha) and grew my connection with my husband. Or on a smaller scale, when I network with other people (like Susie!!) to learn of their dreams and goals and how they can support mine… ding, ding, ding! These are the things that truly make me feel alive, and when I allow myself to feel alive, I am taking care of my whole self.
  To maximize your self-care, figure out your top emotions that you love to experience, and do things that promote yourself feeling those things. So if your primary favorite emotions are to feel relaxed and pampered, maybe getting a mani/pedi is your thing. If you don’t know what to do or need examples, go to Google and type in “self-care activities” and the first link that pops up will give you 134 ideas. You see, when you do things to promote positivity and reward in yourself, your brain will automatically want you to do them again. And of course, the more positive you feel, the more you feel good, the more you reward yourself, the better you feel all of the time. And we all know what happens in our worlds when we truly feel GOOD – Our fear decreases as our confidence takes it’s place. Our procrastination disappears as our motivation grows. Our sadness and worry diminishes as happiness replaces it. The best way to show that you love yourself is to take care of yourself, and the best way to take care of yourself is to make you feel exactly the way your body is desiring to feel!

Start Your Engines, Get In Gear… And Drive.

Ready… set…

I get it. It can be hard to get moving. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, or perhaps it’s a project that as you mashing the pause button over and over. It may feel like every step you take is hit by 5 obstacles that either make you stop and reassess your direction, or just have you terrified to continue.

Don’t think.

Don’t do that to yourself. Whatever your mission, your venture, you chose this adventure for one very good reason or another. You probably had the best intentions when you sat down and thought “I’m going to do THIS for x y and z reason” and those reasons got you this far. Don’t second guess yourself. Pass go. Collect $200.

Start Your Engine

Starting your engine might seem like it takes a lot of work some days. I bet you it’s less the physical obstacles staling you, and more the mental ones that keep you on hold. If you remove the monkey mind (that beast who offers “what if?” scenarios in your head) and plow straight through into 1st gear- you will follow through. Promise. If you allow those worries to hesitate you, even for a second, it will take even more work to get you to move past. Those worries flooded your engine. Shitz annoying, right?

Get in Gear

Melanie Robbins had a great idea. Instead of giving yourself time to think, reasons to get out of bed and doing the things you set out to get done, she offers a handy trick of counting down from 5.

“5…4…3…2…1!”

This gives you the automatic fuel to JUMP, LEAP, COMMENCE. It’s almost a challenge, or a game. And perhaps that’s why it’s so effective. Instead of telling you why to do something (like a parent explaining to a child why carrots are good for you) it gives you an opportunity. It also takes away thought and leaves you with instincts. No time to worry. No time wasted. Just JUMP.

Drive

I’m reminded of the military. The military service men and women I know take orders without much thought or back talk. That obedience and discipline, and dare I say- trust in the process is commendable, honorable. If only I could bring that into my own life, right? Think about how they were trained: They were trained to honor their higher commanders, who were trained before them- and everyone was trained to push past fear and DO. We all can apply that advice somewhere in their lives– I certainly know I can! Try envisioning yourself as both your own commander and as an under officer. You set these goals for yourself, now your commander (you) is enforcing them and counting on you to see the orders through. Are you really going to say no? And if you do say no, is that truly honoring yourself and your desires?

Keep Driving

It’s easy to get distracted, easy to find reasons to pull off to the side of the road. Maybe you “need” to check your map. Maybe you “think” you missed the right road. In my own personal experience, I find that even if you did miss the road, if you keep driving, you’re more likely to find your way back on track than if you stop and overthink a route. And if you are truly lost, asking for advice and listening to people who know the route better than you is more worthwhile then sitting alone behind your steering wheel. Ask questions, listen to the responses, and determine the best course of action. But please, God, don’t hinder your progress by stopping. All that energy you could be using driving, is now stuck between your eyes, giving you worry lines, and there’s no sense wasting your life away worrying. Not when you could be out there, on an amazing journey.

So shut up and drive.

Medication Reflection- By Guest Blogger Sean Temple

Introducing a blog post by Sean Temple, for His Art is Heart!

  “How many times has someone told you to take a pill to fix something wrong with your body? It starts out small. We have experienced headaches requiring aspirin or ibuprofen to alleviate the pain. We have used salves to cure cuts quickly, remove tooth pain, or relieve sore backs and joints. Substances have greatly impacted our present reality, having us believe anything can be dealt with if only you find the proper dosage of a given remedy. Our physical forms have benefited greatly from medical discoveries and procedures…

but what about the mind?

For a great length of my life, I have fought and experienced mental illness. Often, many people cope with something mentally affecting them, and I knew I wasn’t a special circumstance to the vast dilemma of staying sane. However, we can never disregard that every person’s life is separate, and that they experience struggles differently. It took me a great while to understand this concept. I thought I was weak for not dealing with it properly on my own, and believed that everyone else shunned those who couldn’t cope. I receded into myself and repressed every depressing, sad, hurtful situation that occurred throughout my life.

Pills were always the first or final solution suggested to me by psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. The truth is these pills remove the sadness and hopelessness, but they do not make you happy. Joy and excitement come from a personal standpoint I believe to be deeply rooted within our conscious mind. We may feel the affects of our brain giving us the right chemicals to feel happy and experience pleasure, but the underlying ability to initiate it comes from an emotional level. As such, conscious behavior does hold power.

Our will is a tool and asset;

If we harness it, we can change a great deal in our lives.

            Obtaining the strength of will I now have has not been easy. It has taken years of perseverance and tribulations that have tested me time and time again. It’s an ongoing process that I am challenged with on a daily basis. Some days are worse than others, and some days I hardly think about it at all. I feel every single emotion, every tide of anger, and every sad thought. I allow myself to accept what I am feeling as it is. I have learned to not simply repress it with apathy and try to forget about it.

By doing this, every situation has become a debate that I win.

Every negative self-perception is challenged by my consciousness. No matter what happens, I do not accept that I am worthless or that I must feel guilty.

“You don’t deserve happiness.” I am sure we could all list a handful of reasons why many of us might think this is true, but in all honesty, we as humans are not entitled to anything other than the essentials; I believe these to be food, shelter, water, and love. The world is not responsible for our happiness– we are. Once we learn not to rely on certain outside factors to make us happy, and instead find a silver lining regardless of the situation, we become more observant of the gain rather than the loss.

“No one cares.” As humans, we adapt. Most of us learn to cope with a situation and move on. I believed that family, friends, and those I loved would be sad temporarily and forget about me. As logical as it was in my head, I forgot to think it through completely. Many of us do feel pain and recover in time. When you get a cut or burn, the pain remains for a time, and then it dissipates; You heal. However, a scar tends to remain and always reminds people of why it is there. What about the process? Who or what put the cut or burn there? The idea is the same for attempting or committing suicide. People may recover, but they didn’t need to feel that pain in the first place. Loved one’s should not have to suffer because of someone else’s sadness and actions.

“Nothing has gone right. Why would it get better?” This was by far the hardest thought process I, personally, had to conquer. I was so used to everything going wrong that I couldn’t perceive anything going right. I assumed anything remotely good that happened was eventually going to end badly. Why bother, right? I forced myself to challenge that thought over time. I tell myself, “Life is a constant flow of ups and downs. It’s not supposed to stay up, and it’s not supposed to stay down the entire time. Be patient, and take each step, one at a time.” I learned to become more grateful for the small things. I enjoyed even just having ice cream for the day. I took a shower– wonderful! I ate today! I got up for work! Once we begin to appreciate everything that we do for ourselves, we can start moving on to bigger goals. We can change our lives around, whether it immediately or slowly. There is no set way in life to do things, as much as others may tell us otherwise.

Pills help our physical bodies, and I do not deny that they also help those who have chosen to take them for their mental health. We do have the option of willpower to aid us. It is not for everyone, but it is a possibility we should never ignore or dismiss. I believe the human mind is capable of many great things, and we can control our life without a substance controlling it for us. I am happy to know I struggled and came out stronger without pills. If you are in a situation where you have to decide to take pills for depression, anxiety, or etc, I recommend opening up to the possibility of trying a safe medication that can help you, but never feel pressured into believing you can’t cope without taking meds. If you can trust yourself, you can access that willpower. I believe in me, and so I believe in you.

Why I Suck at Life, and You Probably Do Too

I admit it, I’m not great at breathing in life. And I bet, if you say you feel anxious, or suffer from an anxiety disorder, you probably have this problem too. I also bet that if you have a dysfunctional autonomic system, you suck at breathing too. And this isn’t said to chastise or alienate anyone! I think it’s freeing to admit I suck at life. I said it- I suck! One of the prerequisites to LIVING is BREATHING, so if I suck at breathing… I suck at living!

And again- this is not said to shame you! I say this to free you of your shame, and me of mine. Once we accept our “failures” “mistakes” “downfalls” “flaws” (or however you like to word it) and then see it as a starting point for development and learning- then we automatically start to win at life.

I’m a beginner in life. You are too. Each day, minute, second is a chance to “begin” again at something new or something you wish for improvement in. (Wow, I sound so coachy, don’t I?) But for realzies yo, If there was one easy, quick thing you could change to live a more productive, fulfilling life…

it would be to BREATH, and to focus on what your breathing is doing, and learning how to best breath for the feeling you want most in life (ex- breathing for energy vs. breathing for calming your mind).

In this video, I open up about what led me to my path of wanting to suck less at life, and learn how to be a better breather. You’ll hear about the chronic illness I dance with daily (I say dance, because why use such criminal words like- “suffer”, “deal with”, or”put up with”?)

Hellz nah, I dance. I two step. I conga line!

Giggles for Gratitude- A Visualization Technique that Gets You Grounded

I have no clue how, when, or whereabouts this started.

Actually, it’s rude to begin a blog post with a lie. I’m pretty definitely, positively sure this started on my daily commute to a job I used to work… and HATED.

Oh, I tried to like it. I tried to sit myself behind that grungy cubicle every day, 9-5pm, and convince myself that a light shone from within me, shielding me from the negative comments, complaints, and bitterness around me. I tried to convince myself that this Eeyore-the-donkey-vibed environment was making me stronger, building my character.

But no, let’s be honest: it was sucking me dry. As much as I prayed, sang, and upped my frequency in the car- as soon as I sat in that cubicle, for even an hour, I would be back to my original sadness and desperation.

And so, I developed a morning “Tune-up” routine to prepare myself for war– er, I mean work.

Every morning, I envisioned those around me, family, and friends snorting and laughing. Seeing their joy in my mind gave me strength, at least for an hour- but it was enough. It was a start. It was also enough for me to realize that the environment I was in was toxic, destructive, and did not fit my goals in life. Daily, during this practice, I was able to get a gleam of happiness- and knew it existed. I also knew that gleam died quickly in the job I was working. So when I got laid off, I saw it as an opportunity… and I knew it was the universe KNOWING I hated it there, but also knowing that I would never give up. I’m a good little worker-bee, after all, and I don’t back down. (Thanks Universe, for having my back!)

imagining the joy my family has gives me strength.

 

So here! Have another tool for your happiness toolbelt! If it doesn’t work for you, but some other tool does- please share!! I’d love to hear more.

If It’s Not Broke (and it never is)- it’s Abundant!

Keep holding on! Life is full of many twists and turns

Recently, I’ve gotten away from diving in and writing a blog post. I got sucked into my old habits of overthinking and analyzing my choice of words, so much so that my initial, beautiful message came across inauthentic– at least to me. I’m breaking down that barrier, and here’s what inspired me!

There has been wonderful news on the job front. Last I spoke, I believe I had been laid off (boo- hiss!) and due to complications running my own business, I was not eligible for unemployment benefits. Depression annoyingly booped me on the head as I realized I was now unemployed and BROKE.

And see that’s the thing. I felt broke…broken.

It took some digging out of that hole over the next few months to reconnect with my spirit and realize, “Girlllll, you ain’t broke!”

I was actually pretty abundant. All that time I spent wallowing in my little hole of despair, I could have spent recognizing this free space as just that… free. I was in the land of the free! When the fear of losing everything and not being able to pay bills clouded my judgement, I became insufferable, especially to myself. The stress was so much that my boyfriend and I took a break to recalibrate.

Financially, it appeared I was in ruin. Spiritually I was drained. I lost sight of myself, what brought me joy, and my old peppy nature vanished into… well, I have no idea where it went…

But what once was lost, was soon found.

Having been through trials and tribulations before, I took this as a hint from the universe to figure out my shizz.

(Recalibrate!! Recalibrate!!)

What did I want in life? What did I actually, truly, reeeeeeally need?

Being “broke” taught me the lost art of simplification. I didn’t need to only eat organic food from the most expensive store. I didn’t need to stop for breakfast every morning before work.

What I needed was my family, friends and a reason to get up in the morning- and my reason was: I needed to serve others.

And so began the job hunt! Tirelessly, I sent endless cover-letters and resumes out to the internet. I reconnected with a past retail job I had loved, so I could be surrounded by beautiful friends and beautiful clothing/jewelry I actually enjoyed selling. It isn’t a ton of money- but it’s more than nothing, and working customer service keeps me sharp.

I also reconnected with my high performance coach, who always believed in my capabilities, and became her executive assistant as she helped me on my own path.

Along with the lost art of simplification, I remembered the lost art of appreciation. And with it came new opportunities.

“Them that’s got shall get…”

I was getting. And it wasn’t my overflowing bank account (hah.) that was proof, it was my new perspective, light and happy, that now allowed new opportunities for further abundance to pop up.

Once Upon a slip of paper…

While working my last job, stuck behind a sad cubicle, migraines on the daily, I decided to try the whole “manifestation” concept again. It had worked before. I set a goal, asked the universe, oh so politely for my desires, and diligently continued on with my life as if I hadn’t done so. Then POOF, it appeared. So I gave it another shot. I wrote on a piece of paper what my dream job would look like:

  • surrounded by supportive employees and bosses
  • trusted to go out and about to meet clients
  • not stuck behind a desk the whole day
  • better lighting- more light!
  • doing what I love to do and getting paid to do it
  • valued.

Hah.

So many hahs. Why? Because POOF it appeared.

Once upon a Gallery Night…

While walking from one gallery to another, in celebration of Erie’s community-wide Gallery Night, I happened across a local marketing business I had heard about before, but never looked into. As my gaze turned toward their front window, a little internal “Ding!” noise went off in my head, as if someone was letting me know “take note!”

The next day– and I do mean the very next day– a new job listing was posted for this same marketing company. (Ding, ding, ding!!) I applied immediately. And instead of spending hours overanalyzing my cover-letter and berating myself for it’s minuscule imperfections- I said SCREW IT and sent it as fast as I could; perfection had left the building.

And now I work there.

The job I got hired into surpasses my expectations every day. Initially hired to do graphic design, I am now also recognized as a valuable copy writer, photographer, and videographer. Hot damn- I seem to be doing everything I love? And getting paid for it? Um, whaaaatt? And the people I work for are encouraging, supportive, and trust me to get work done. And don’t get me started on the amount of natural light pouring into the office. It takes little to no effort to get out of bed and off to work, and so I am feel very grateful.

In the end, it took recognizing I was already abundant to allow abundance back into my life. Seems so simple, but it can be easy to forget. I created daily Tune-Up routine to help connect myself back with that “rich” mentality. Next week I share part of this tune-up routine in a video so you can learn to bring in more abundance yourself. Stay tuned for a new Sunday Session with Sooz on, you guessed it, Sunday!

Thump Away ‘Dem Feelin’s!

Here is the first ever Sunday Sessions with Sooz!!

I recently got back into the swing of things on YouTube. In the past, I used to upload vlogs and offer helpful tips I used in recovery to overcome debilitating anxiety, depression and eating disorders. There were over 200 videos up at one point. The insights I made drew attention and I was even contacted by OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) to be involved in a documentary at one point. The project fell through, but man it felt good to be recognized!!! Oprah? Oprah… calling me???

Ok, well, Oprah wasn’t, personally,  but that experience made me realize that people were seeing my stuff. A large part of me made the videos and posted them to track my progress and revisit tips I would need in the future. And I found that helping others helps me feel better.

However, in 2013 I realized that I wasn’t taking the time to really focus on feeling better, off camera. I wanted to have a professional career and worried that my past would come back to haunt me. Ashamed, embarrassed and feeling very vulnerable, I removed the majority of the videos that had helped so many men and women. For the next few years I allowed myself space to breath and re-center. I’m glad I did! Now I’m back with even more insight, and know which tips work best.

And man, I didn’t realize just how MUCH of my life was documented! I’m able to pull from the past, when I was at my worst, and share tips and tricks that helped me get from there to here! I’m forever grateful to myself for recording so much. I know at the time, I just felt compelled to write everything down, to video-tape my every move (even if it was cringeworthy.) and to turn my emotions into art.

Every Sunday I will be uploading a new Sunday Session with Sooz, which will cover a different topic surrounding depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Topics may be dark (suicide, self harm) and I am sensitive to those in different stages of their recovery process.

If there is a topic you would like to see covered or you have a question, be sure to comment on the video or send me a private message. Help me help you!