Overcome Your Fear of Lack in 4 Steps

“Where are you Christmas?”

Overcome your fear of lack in life in 4 steps.

Lately, each day I’ve found myself either waking up in an anxious rush, or huddled up in a small, sad cocoon. With all the knowledge I have learned in the high performance realm, I instantly try to put my tools to work: Just think of happiness. Generate happy moments. Believe in yourself. Just start moving…

But something stops me from doing so. And I know, from years of therapy, that that something is myself– and that that block is somewhere within me, halting my body, mind, and soul from doing what it really wants to do:

Connect.

I forget that I’m the boss, the captain of this ship.

Or, maybe I don’t forget.

Maybe I KNOW I am the boss, and that power scares me, because I WILL fail somehow, something WILL get in my way…

and so it’s easier to get in my own way, right?

Fail small so bigger fails won’t happen? Better to be broke and lose a bit of money than rich and lose all of your money.

My fiancé loves to sing Christmas songs. I don’t know how they pop into his head, (and we’re talking all year-round here). Sometimes, though it seems like divine intervention when it happens. I find that whenever I happen to be thinking to myself “I feel stuck…” “I feel trapped somehow”, Jake walk into the room, singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, or God, help us, “Jingle bells”.

But it works! It helps distracts me from the sadness I’m feeling, because… wait, why is he singing that?

And secondly, it puts me into the space and time of Christmas; surrounded by family, gift giving and receiving. I feel warmed by the hologram of a fire-place and the sound of the crackling wood. It can’t help but settle my disheartened spirit, even by a minuscule. It makes me smile– and laugh– and I start singing with him. I feel connected again; to someone and to myself. I created a new feeling within myself.

Before he walked through the door, my pitiful soul had been singing the Grinch’s song “Where are you Christmas?”, (which is my usual woe-is-me default song stuck-in-my-head, indicating longing and sadness). And I easily beat myself up when I get into those funks, too. It does start with me, after all. It’s all mismanagement of my mind. And sure, external forces may be at work as well, but ultimately, I derive strength and perseverance from within, which overcomes these funks. Feeling “without” (or lack) does not create a strong connection with life.

So, what is the antidote to depression, loneliness, or feeling stuck in life?

Get connected. By doing something that creates a feeling of connection in life, huzzah! You’ll feel connected.

How? For starters…

  1. Lay off the phone, get off the TV, and be thankful for your life

Comparing my life to that of others consciously (and subconsciously) makes me feel like I’m lacking something in my life. “Look at that cute puppy! I don’t have a cute puppy… I can’t feel happy without one…”, “Look at that fat, ugly, crying, cute baby… I don’t have one…”

Getting sidetracked by what I don’t have (whether I saw it online, or on tv) makes me almost blind to the things I do have: An amazing fiancé? Check! 2 adorable, well-behaved cats? Check, check! An awesome job that feels like home? Check-ity-do-da

Why all the hate, man? Why not congratulate myself on what I DO have and how I was able to make that happen in my life.

Also, feeling unsatisfied in life is actually a good thing to feel for just a moment. It gives you some insight into what you truly admire in life, and hope to one day achieve. So, when I feel this overwhelming and draining sensation of lack- I can thank it. I’ve found that feeling abundant generates more abundance in my life. What better way to feel abundant than bask in all the awesome stuff I already have around me? I feel ready to take the next step and see how I can bring in more abundance!

  1. Get in your body

We’ve all heard the advice before: get moving! Stuck in your head? Worried about the future, or feeling embarrassed about the past? Stand up, and jump up and down! Do a few summersaults (if you’re able) and try busting a move to get all that energy (which is pent up in your head) out on the table- er, dance floor! Not only will your endorphins give you a boost in brain-power, it will also create a spacious bubble of understanding around you that helps you allow others to feel their own feels. In essence, it reduces your judgmental thoughts, widens your empathy bubble and paves the way for more connection among you and everyone else. So, pick a thang (yes, thang) that you enjoy doing. Running up and down steps? Yoga? Throwing a ball? Pick something and do that a few times each week, or once a day– But do it often, and try to make it a habit for your own sanity and well being. The more often you commit to moving, the more often you commit to yourself and your health.

  1. Say Hi to Strangers

I speak from experience that getting out there can be scary. At one point in my life, I was so afraid of making eye contact and saying hi (or any other words) to people, I literally didn’t leave my apartment for 6 months. I couldn’t even walk and get my mail because I was so scared of socializing (see: agoraphobia). I came across a self-help game online (they exist!) that gave me small social goals to achieve and rack up points as I did so which helped me build my confidence. One that was the most transformational to achieve was a challenge to walk down the street, smile and say hi to 6 strangers. Knowing I was doing this for the game, I was able to accomplish it with less fear! And any time someone refused to say hi back because they were mean or didn’t seem to hear me? Instead of thinking I sucked and beating myself up over it, I took it to mean that maybe they felt like me and were too scared to say hi as well. I felt less alone, and hey- look! A community! I understood the scared people in my life.

  1. Join a Community

Now, with all that experience you’ll get saying hi to strangers, you may now feel accomplished enough to seek out a community of people who are just like you.

Play an instrument? Find or start a band!

Like pottery? Take a class!

Is reading your thing? Join or make your own book club.

And I don’t want to hear any No’s from the crowd. If your intuition is pushing you to join a community- find a way to honor that drive. It will be one of the best things you can do for your self-esteem. Believe in yourself. You got this! And, if you’re still finding it difficult to say hi to strangers, don’t sweat it. Start by finding a tribe online, perhaps one that also has opportunities to meet in person, or via Skype, zoom, or any of those online communal spaces. Just join and give it a shot.

So if you find yourself longing for connection, or more abundance in your life, try a few of these little habits to help open the door of opportunity. What’s the worse that can happen… Happiness? Connection? Abundance? All you could ever want in life?

Let me know how it goes in the comments, and how you went about getting it in your life. I love celebrating your successes and happiness! It’s contagious!

Attachments – How to Notice and Release Attachments to Uncomfortable Thoughts

 

3 Steps to Release Attachments to Thoughts and Feelings

We attach ourselves to people, places, things, ideas, beliefs, the past, the future, the outcomes, fears, blame, fate…

But what one attachment serves us all?

None. No attachment… attachment to nothing.

So how do we do that?

Smile, smile often, smile always.

Laugh, laugh often, laugh always.

Love, love often, love always.

Breathe, breathe often, breathe always.

Release, release often, release always.

Repeat, repeat often, repeat always.

It doesn’t take much to disengage from thoughts, feelings, people, places, things- but it does take one main thing:

Awareness.

Are you aware when you repeat bad situations in your head, either imagined or real, over and over again?

Are you aware when your brows furrow, your muscles tense, and your jaw clenches?

What about when you feel insulted, offended, annoyed?

No one needs that. In fact, it’s detrimental in life to worry, to obsess, to point a finger.

Release attachments, one step at a time…

FIRST, become aware.

Often, this is the only step needed when overcoming attachments. Awareness is the first step to change, to heal, to release blame of any sort- whether toward yourself or toward others.

SECOND, breathe into the thought or feeling.

One last time. Think of it as an ear-worm. To get rid of it, you have to expose yourself to the song, listen to it in full to get it out of your head. So relive that icky feeling, that accusatory thought, and all the harshness it collected and created. Fele it, live it. And as you do so, inhale. Inhale deeply, feeling whatever you’re feeling, thinking whatever you’re thinking…. And then on the exhale, destroy that thought or feeling. Mentally blow it up, burn it down, evaporate it, send it away. And after the breath ends, and you’re left with a pause between another breathe, see the ashes, witness the absence of that thought/feeling. When the breath is over, so, to, is the distracting thought or feeling. If, on the first breath you still feel remnants of the situation, the pain of attachment, take another breath, destroying again, the thought or feeling. Beat it, repeatedly with breath, over and over, until it is nothing…. Stillness.

THIRD, Thank the space.

Thank it HARD. It was difficult to release those attachments, and even though the way to do so was easy in retrospect, mustering up the awareness, and setting in motion the practice to release those feelings for the greater good took effort. So be proud. Be proud of your courage, of your openness to change. See your strength of will, pat your own back- scream it to the world how awesome you’ve just been. Relish this moment.

Remember that a new time for releasing attachments will arise, but you’ve shown you can handle when that time comes again. Big or small, realized or imagined, you can release attachments to thoughts, situations, feelings, and begin again.

A brand-spanking-new-you.

Why my self-love looks different than yours, and why that’s ok- By Guest Blogger Megan Reinbold

Enjoy a blog post by Megan Reinbold, Her Art is Heart’s June guest blogger! I spent a lovely afternoon taking photos of Megan, her baby-bump, and her pupper-dups– Ruby– all throughout her ridiculously swanky abode. I felt like an uber guest, getting pampered with Megan’s pinterest-snapshot-worthy cooking. And of course the puppy love is just that…. LOVE!

See her cook, see her play frisbee! But most importantly listen to Megan’s wise words about Self-Love and how it doesn’t look for the same for everyone.

Why my self-love looks different than yours, and why that’s ok.

By Megan Reinbold

Anyone on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or with any accessibility to magazines knows the basics of what self love should look like, according to these sources: first, the prerequisite that you have long, wavy, mermaid hair, perfect skin, and flowy beach clothes that don’t require a bra. Once you have these, you can set out on your self love journey. It probably involves ridiculously elaborate smoothy bowls, yoga, massages, froyo, iced coffee, pedicures, shopping trips, and stupid-expensive sushi at a trendy restaurant for dinner. After dinner of course is a candlelit bath with your Lush brand (registered and copyrighted) bath bomb, before cozying up in your hygge-approved bedroom with your Goldendoodle before bedtime.

This in theory sounds fantastic, but about 80% of it stresses me out. When I’ve gone for massages, I either get really self-conscious and try to lie still and somehow make my body skinny at the same time, or I feel like I have to talk so it’s not awkward. The feeling of it is relaxing, but I’d much rather make my husband give me a back rub than a stranger. Pedicures are the same way. Whenever I spend frivolous money all I can think about are other, practical things I could be spending the money on instead. Baths make me antsy. So while I’d like to enjoy all of these self-love things, they usually lead to more stress and anxiety than they’re supposed to relieve me of.  If they work for you, fantastic! If you think all day about your nightly bath and it soothes your soul, great. But for the longest time I tried these things over and over trying to force myself to believe that if I tried hard enough, I could feel relaxed (I now know this makes absolutely zero sense). Here’s how I figured out what self-love actually looks like to me.

  1. Whatever it is, it’s not social media. Social media is a huge soul-sucking monster. You can try to rationalize it, but I don’t think it will ever work out. It seems like something that would be a fantastic relaxer- tune out for a while, get lost in streams of pictures of your favorite celebrities, new recipes, and get some proof that your ex absolutely failed in life after you. It really does seem good, but whenever I take time out to browse social media, I end up frantic, frazzled, and stressed out. I have more home projects than I can handle, I have a new idea of what a “perfect” life looks like (and it’s definitely not my current life), and the pretty girl from high school did marry the quarterback and they have an adorable toddler and are not in the least bit fat. They probably ran a 10k then had smoothie bowls this morning. Afterwards I’m very aware of what everything COULD be if I just tried harder and was cooler, and also at the same time am thinking about all the other things I could be doing instead of stalking people and wishing for another life. Even when I do a “cool” thing, the next step of course is to filter it and tag it and share it and hope for all of the likes or retweets or acknowledgement that yes, the thing you did was indeed cool. Social media relaxation is a lie, and it is not my self-love.

  1. Think of things that you notice that you like in the world. Whenever I wash my hands with a pretty soap in a restroom, I can smell it on my hands, and am often that weird person who smells their hands all night. Having little things that smell good makes me more present in the space and time I’m in, and gives everything a little 10% oomph, at least it does for me. So I have fancy dish soap. Not stupid fancy $48 dish soap from Anthropologie, but the $6.99 method soap that smells exactly like the pear Lip Smacker I had in middle school. When I do dishes (usually a chore) I’m not that sad about it, because the kitchen smells like pear and ginger after, and to me that’s good. So while the dishes would get done perfectly well with the $2.99 blue Dawn soap, I mini-splurge on good-smelling dish soap, and also hand soap throughout the house.

  1. Farmers markets. So simple. So hygge. So Goop. Growing up as an only child, I learned to self-monologue a lot. Most of these featured me on some sort of tv show or interview where obviously everyone was really interested in what I had to teach them. Going to a farmers market or farm stand helps me to set the story for these grand adventures so I have a more interesting fake-monologue later. I am insane, true, but it’s one of those little extra things that make simple meals more interesting, and makes me feel like I’m taking part in something just a little bit more special than everyday. It works for me.

  1. Not magazines. Magazines for me are like social media. In theory they’re great, but what actually happens is that I don’t have time to read any of them, and they gather for months and months on end in my entryway, until I have literally 30 magazines that I’m supposed to read in order to make the investment worthwhile. So what actually happens is that I either speed-read through them, desperately searching for a tidbit or picture to rip out, then throw them out, or just throw them out, guilty over the wasted money. Magazines to me are not self-loving.

  1. A good speaker. I’m a music nerd, for sure. I love reading composer biographies and textbooks, and when I do that, I love to listen to music from that composer, to really immerse myself in the experience. When I do dishes, I like to put on good sing-along music to make a drudge-y task more fun. For this, I’m absolutely in love with my wireless speaker. It’s not a Bose, or an Apple, but it was more than $10 and sounds so immensely better because of it. I very much do believe that if there’s something you use regularly, it’s worth spending the extra money on because every time you use it, your experience will be just better enough to make it a pleasant instead of annoying use. That’s why I don’t buy 79-cent shampoo, my mascara proclaims that it’s better than sex, and my speaker was not from the stocking-stuffer bin. Music can so easily set and change a mood, and hearing it through a good speaker is something that matters to me, so being able to give myself that experience is totally worth it.

  1. If there’s any idea that’s pervaded our recent culture other than hygge, it’s wanderlust. We see it printed on Target t-shirts, across journals that we’re apparently supposed to have time to regularly write in, and all over social media. We see late teens and 20-somethings somehow able to jet to Bali and Coachella and whatever city is trendy right now. I even have a few friends from high school who I stalk on social media (see, bad!) that seriously must have been hit by a really expensive car, because why are they drinking out of a real coconut in places where real coconuts grow? How? My underwear comes in packs, how is that life possible for them? Comparison truly is the thief of joy. BUT, I do really enjoy pure travel experiences, so I’d say that is my big self-love splurge. I had a job for a few years that allowed me to accompany my boss to New York City, which I now absolutely adore and can’t wait to go back to, Chicago which wasn’t my favorite but it was cool to say I was there, and Las Vegas. Each time was as a real adult, so any downtime was for me to do things like go on the subway and visit the Met in the afternoon, then see Holly Golightly’s brownstone and hit up Bleeker St. for dinner. It was fantastic, and something that I’m incredibly proud of actually accomplishing as someone who had never before been on public transportation.

I also recently went to Acadia National Park and got to pig out on lobster rolls and climb an actual, real mountain. I visited Toronto, which looks like a scene from a dystopian young-adult book that got turned into a movie. It really does. But I also had ramen in Toronto, which seems pretty cool. Those not-at-all-unattainable trips and a few fantastic concerts are experiences I know are big things for my budget, and aren’t things that happen every weekend, but they’re experiences that I can gather in my head and heart, and remember. Now that I’m pregnant, I know that solo weekend trips like that aren’t going to be possible for long, and while I’m excited for the baby, there are definitely a few small trips I want to take before it arrives. Thinking back on eating wild blueberries along a mountain trail, putting my hand in a real waterfall, and discussing the merits of Warby Parker glasses with my very favorite band are fun stories to tell, but they make up images in the Instagram of my mind (aka my memory) so that when things are hectic and I’m throwing up because how dare I enthusiastically brush my teeth in the first trimester, I know I’ve had a lot of good adventures.

For a long time I felt pressured to experience self-love in the same way I saw it portrayed to me. Wearing tight clothes, because eff your beauty standards! Read a magazine in the bathtub! Get a massage!

For me, self-love looks a bit different, and that’s fantastically ok.

How To Deal With Change and Other Yellow Lights in Life

How to Be OK with Change in your life:

deal with change

The light is yellow.

It was green, and yet suddenly- maybe when you weren’t expecting it, maybe when you had already committed at a stable pace to head through the light ahead of you… it changes.

Do you slam on the brakes?

Do you peddle to the metal?

That moment of realization that you have to make a decision, that you have to make a commitment, can jar you. Driving analogy aside, life throws many yellow lights your way. I’m not here to tell you how long that yellow light will last- only the yellow light knows that, but I can tell you how to deal with the decision at hand.

Decision making takes a lot of energy.

It is a stressful endeavor. Research says so.

I know first hand. For years I (lovingly) called myself Second Guessing Sooz. My horoscope says I’m a Libra, and apparently that means I’m constantly trying to balance life, often leaving decision making up in the air. It’s an “air” sign, so I like to “go with the flow”, the antithesis for decision making.

But the Flow? It doesn’t always tell you what path to take. That comes from a grounded personality. And being grounded takes a lot of hard work for me, because I’m a floaty, go with the flow, life-is-beautiful kind of girl. I believe I’m led to the things in life that are best for me. People call me optimistic, but I think it’s just faith, belief. If I have an internal knowing that I will know what to do… then won’t I know what to do? Doesn’t that make decision making easy?

Well, yes and no. If you’re also like me, you overanalyze. You get stuck in your head, thinking, thinking, thinking and debating debating debating. Is this the right course? Is this the correct way to go? You may flip flop, you may counter your own arguments. Hell, you may even heatedly fight with yourself.

I wouldn’t know, I’m not you. But I know I do that. I know- especially in moments where decisions seem HUGE- I hesitate, stammer. Deer in the headlights, my fight or flight response is triggered and I want to bolt, or punch Change in the face and steal it’s money. (Ok, maybe not steal, I’m not one for theft)

Change. 

F-ck that guy, amirite?

And yet we’re back on that favorite topic of mine- resistance. Stress IS resistance to change, big or small. If you are holding fear in your body, it causes tension- triggering your sympathetic nervous system to pelt you with hormones and other frantic energy. This energy acts as a poke and prod to DO something- act, now! Life or Death!

It’s not always life or death, as we know, but it’s just energy. Fear is energy that we resist. However, if we switch it up a little, change our perspective on the situation- and see Energy as working FOR us, not against us, we can garner it’s power and turn it into something fantastic.

Turn your energy into excitement.

By going with that flow, by thanking that energy’s presence in your body and allowing it to move through you, inspiring you- you control the situation. Fear into Excitement. If Fear is energy we resist, than Excitement is energy we bear-hug and high five. We’ve accepted that energy as our own, gave it a legit thumbs up, and walked into the future with it.

So are you afraid of this new change in your life? And would you prefer to be? Or do you WANT to let go, move on, decide and get on with it?

It’s your decision.change has boundaries

4 Steps to Getting Unstuck in Life and Making Fear Your Friend

Make Fear your Friend by following these 4 crucial steps

Get unstuck in life by turning that pesky Fear into a friend!

get unstuck and swim

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.

get unstuck

“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 being stuck to get unstuck!

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 is your friend

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.

The 1 Post Break-Up Question to Ask Yourself – What Do I NEED to be Happy?

The Post-Break up Question you need 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).

Just Dumped?

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.

Taking better care of yourself leads to better self-esteem!

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.