Everything You Need to Know About Scott Dinsmore

ScottChelsea

 (Scott and his wife, Chelsea, at one of their many locations on their planned year-long trip around the world.)

 

I have a hard time writing this, my tribute to the late and great Scott Dinsmore, founder of Live Your Legend, leader of authenticity, instigator of passion and purpose.  It’s not because thinking about him makes me want to cry again – I’ve become proficient at writing between sobbing sessions this week. It’s not because of his long, heartfelt response to my last email to him, just a few weeks prior to his passing. It’s not because of all the wonderful truths about him in the thousands of messages, stories, poems, songs, videos, and articles that continue to pour into his tribute page.

I’m having a hard time writing this because:

1) I don’t feel worthy. I’m not family, nor a close friend, nor a colleague, nor someone he’s worked with. I’m not in his inner circle.

2) I’m afraid of messing up, of not doing justice to honor him with something as amazing as he was.

Despite these reasons, I know I have to say something; I’m so full-up with gratitude for him, because it is well-placed.

Even though I wasn’t in Scott’s close circle, he made me feel like I was. And apparently, he managed to do this to thousands of people all over the world. Testimony after testimony continue to show up on his tribute page from people who had never met him in person, but who were so impacted by his energy, spirit, and contributions, that they, too, were devastated by the news of his death last Saturday.

Why?

Because Scott was real. He was genuinely open to connect with everyone who reached out to him. He was also kind, patient, positive, humble, and thoughtful – as uncommonly a beautiful person and gentle spirit as you could imagine.

He was transparent. He had a bubbly, nervous energy sometimes, and he openly shared his vulnerabilities. He loved Taylor Swift, did handstands, and breakdanced for all to see. I was not in his inner circle, yet I knew these things.

Scott was intelligent. He was unassuming about his intelligence, but through his writing, online content, and how he packed his courses, you could tell the guy had a busy, analytical, sparkly brain.

He was also wise. Scott saw the big picture. He wanted to create a life of purpose through work that he loved, and one that would create space for more meaning and love in his life. He wanted to share this with others, as well, to change the world in the most powerful and igniting way – through the individual. To spread this quickly, while keeping the integrity of true human connection, he created the LYL community, with all the local communities run by their perspective volunteer hosts around the world.

He was a giver. Scott gave so much value on his website, in his posts, through his connections, presence, time – for FREE.  He wasn’t a nickle-n-dimer – he even had the LYL T-shirts made available for the community to purchase at cost. He was endlessly generous with his kindness, smile, and energy. He could have made a lot more money, but Scott was more about the vision he had for the good of the world.

He was a healer. Our society is so broken because of the many layers of disconnection. Scott was all about real, heartfelt, human connection. He managed to create this intimacy on a massive scale. For those of us who fortunately meandered towards his work of light, we were rewarded with fulfillment of this basic, yet sorely lacking, human need.

In this past week, members of the LYL community worldwide gathered together online to grieve and comfort each other. It was how I was able to fall apart completely, but then pull through faster than I imagined I could at the depth that I fell. The community was a sieve that I threw myself into through this period of grief, and came out the other side with greater love, clarity, connection, and purpose. This was Scott’s work.

Finally, and most importantly, Scott Dinsmore was unequivocally a good person. One of my favorite quotes that I’ve held close to heart all my life was the Q&A from a reader to advice columnist, Marilyn Vos Savant, for The Washington Post, way back when I was a kid:

          “Q: How do you tell between Good and Evil?
           MvS: You give it power.”

Scott had brains. He had charm. He had connections. He was in a position of power and influence. He could have only spoken or given real time to those who could amp up his career, but he treated every person like gold. He hoarded nothing, tried to help everyone have a leg up whenever possible, and responded to each connection with full engagement and exuberance.

This gift of thorough and authentic goodness is what makes Scott a legend. He is a leader by sheer example. I am so grateful to have been given the chance to know and connect with him at any capacity, because the fruit does not fall far from the tree, and every branch that Scott nurtured will bear fruit of the same light, joy, and healing that Scott’s spirit embodies.

“Even if you decide you want to stay off grid (and you deserve happiness in whatever form you choose), the seeds have been planted for so many people because of you….I want to thank you for keeping me inspired through your own greatness of simply being who you are. The stuff that has been coming out of that is bonus.”  (From my last email to Scott, just before he went off the grid.)

29

Sensitivity 101 (Not a Touchy Subject)

Sensitivity101.DeeAshley

(Photo Credit: DeeAshley)

When someone says to me, “You’re too sensitive,” what I hear is: “I’m too lazy to try to understand your perspective, “ and/or, “The world revolves around my personal measuring stick, which is stumpy and marked by crayons.”

There is a difference between being sensitive (very cognizant and responsive to actual stimuli) and being touchy (negatively responsive to perceived stimuli):

Sensitive: Someone says your hair is ugly, so you cry.*

Touchy: Someone says your hair looks different, so you cry.

*(You’re not necessarily actually crying – just emotionally responsive with non-happy feelings.)

If you cannot tell the difference, you may be touchy, sensitivity-challenged, or both.

Being sensitive renders one open to feeling emotions quickly and strongly, and can be a powerful aid for things requiring intuition and innovation, such as business, sports, art, and inventions.

Being touchy is a useless exercise for everyone, including the touchy person. It is a defense tactic that can come across offensively, creating unnecessary discomfort for and disconnection from everyone around.

I grew up with parents who gave me an abundance of love and praise, which resulted in me having had a strong sense of security and a free, natural confidence. I was also very sheltered, and so assumed that everyone was like me: I met positive stimuli with optimism and energy. Without exposure to real pain until I was older, I didn’t realize until later in life how extremely sensitive I actually was.

The times I have been told I was “too sensitive” were by people who were raised without the care and attention that I was given. They were dismissive because they did not have a reference point for such things. The irony was that the same people often were very touchy, themselves.

The distinction between the two is an important one to be made, because modern society often looks at sensitive (easily emotionally evocable) people as weak. If the sensitive person is also animated and expressive, as touchy people tend to be when irritated, society looks at the sensitive as being unable to make sound judgments, because sensitive and touchy people are often clumped into the same group.

Some may argue that whether one is sensitive or touchy may be a matter of perspective, and so that it is a moot point to try to figure out who is which type. That viewpoint is dangerously incorrect, for it can eventually turn an otherwise sensitive person into a touchy one, or exacerbate the response or condition of an already touchy person.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS OF SENSITIVE PEOPLE

Following are the main qualities that separate the sensitive and the touchy. For those who recognize that they tend to get bristly easily, but don’t know how to approach triggers, pay special attention to the “Touchy Tips” at the end of each item.

1. SENSE OF CLARITY:

Sensitive people feel strongly but also see the big picture because they observe, or rather, absorb the world around them. They are naturally curious, and tend to be stocked with information because they constantly seek to satisfy their curiosity. They simply enjoy learning and understanding.

It can be said that touchy people also observe—like a hawk. They observe and analyze, but often to find “problems,” not solutions. They seek “proof” to support their negative decisions rather than amass info to make an informed one.

A great poster, created by bestselling author, Karen Salmansohn, perfectly illustrates this:

(Credit: Karen Salmansohn)

(Credit: Karen Salmansohn)

The general population senses the lack of clarity in a touchy person’s reactions, whose negative reactions are usually easy to see. This is why emotionally responsive people are generally not taken seriously. Unfortunately, this attitude is taken towards the expressive sensitive, as well, because we’re in a very connection-lazy society – people don’t take the time to really understand or care, so they dismiss or ignore.

Not only is this unfortunate for the sensitive individual, but the byproduct of this as a society is a perpetuation of disconnection. In prison, with hardened criminals, cases have shown that being put in isolation can literally make an inmate insane. Yet here we are, walking around by droves, disconnected, isolated – it is no wonder our society is riddled with mental illnesses!

Touchy Tip: The question of clarity is tricky because from the eye of the beholder, the view usually appears to be accurate. But as it goes with perspective, whatever you seek to see, you are more likely to find. To avoid this biased vision (which is like looking through a lens akin to a fun house mirror), seek truth instead of proof. This will require that you trade your tools of war for those of an explorer: open eyes, ears, and mind.

Relinquishment of pride or control is a mandatory prep for a space of clarity to settle in. This will take practice. Start now, and practice often.

2. SENSE OF SELF:

Sensitive people not only have a strong curiosity for the world around them, but they turn that curiosity inwards, as well. They want to understand who they are, why they are as they are, and how they can use this understanding to grow and improve as a human being.

Touchy people tend to limit their observations and analysis to the external world. They may know what they like and don’t like, but they do not spend much time investigating their own psyche, motives, and values. Because of this, and having an ironic mix of both deep insecurity and inflated ego, touchy people often assume to be experts on others while struggling with accountability. They are quick to identify how others are meeting their expectations (or not), but they are disconnected from their own roles in their disappointments.

Touchy Tip: Rap artist Ice-Cube sums it up: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Is there any aspect about your life, including your history, relationships, characteristics, that you are ashamed of? How do you deal with those feelings of shame? How do you think people see you? How would you like people to see you? Are those images aligned? Answer those questions in detail, and then interview yourself candidly: Ask yourself hard questions and answer them as honestly and thoroughly as you can.

If you are just getting to know yourself, consider how much less you may actually know others. Keep this in mind the next time you get into an argument, and adjust your approach accordingly. You may discover that acknowledging your errors and imperfections to actually be a win that multiplies in returns.

3. SENSE OF JUSTICE:

Sensitive people have a strong need to for what is right and fair for all, because they have an innate sense of it. They do not want to wrong another person any less than they want to be wronged. In essence, they are sensitive for others as well as for themselves.

Therefore, in arguments, the sensitive person may be slower to respond to verbal attacks, as s/he is absorbing both the message and emotions that the speaker is projecting. They want to understand. This pause may be mistaken by the other person as the sensitive person’s admission to fault.

Touchy people are often immersed in an ego-centered world, so arguments for these people are less about mutual understanding or resolutions, and more about some form of “winning.” Most of the time, their winning is in the form of “being right,” and unfortunately, their conviction is one based on negative assumptions.

When a sensitive and a touchy person argue, it’s often a futile effort, as it is with most human connections where the give-and-take flows in only one direction. The sensitive person who is experienced with the touchy recognizes this, and will usually try to disengage from such situations.

This is not to say that sensitive people will not stand their ground. Where they feel something unjust or inhumane may be concerned, their sense of justice supersedes their usually peaceful nature. It is in situations where a disagreement is expressed with an agenda other than for clarity and resolution by the other party, that the sensitive will walk away.

Touchy Tip: In your next argument, ask yourself, “Why am I here? Am I in it to win it?” Unless you’re in a courtroom, if the answer is “yes,” game over – you are not there for the right reason, and it will show.

You probably want to be heard and your feelings to be considered, right? Guess what? So does the other person. So this has got to be a fair fight.

Try this:

1. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – abandon yours for a minute. Listen for the message beyond their words, and try to feel what they are feeling.

2. Respond to them with what you’ve learned from having positioned yourself from their perspective. Don’t accuse first – ask for clarity, and describe your viewpoint as if you were a third person observing the situation.

3. Only after successfully attaining the prior 2 steps do you share your emotional response to the issue at that moment it impacted you.

If you commit to this exercise, you may discover, more and more, that things are not as dastardly as you believe them to be.

*     *     *

Nobody is absolutely 100% on either line of any group. A level-headed, insightful, thoughtful, just-minded, sensitive person may have moments or a situation that makes them touchy. This will be the exception for them, however, and most likely they will regret such incidents, (wo)man-up to it, and make any necessary amends.

The one-way hypersensitivity of touchy people, along with their lack of clarity, introspection, and sense of justice, make remorse and atonement illogical options to them. BUT, there is hope for them if they find that being touchy is no longer rewarding, even with all the “points” they have collected in their minds.

If the touchy commit to being more open, striving for truth above “proof,” they may find their position—in life as well as arguments–soften, maybe even change, and they need to know that this is OK. Gaining understanding is better than winning points anyways. Understanding can build bridges and lay foundations for growth, while “points” build walls and fund isolation, and all the points in the world won’t make anyone more powerful or happy.

The best thing that a touchy person can look forward to in becoming open to clarity is a new perspective on the world in which they live, one where the world is kinder, friendlier, and not out to get them, as formerly believed.

As for those who are still trying to figure out who they can call “too sensitive”: Put your measuring stick away before you hurt someone. In this, and other matters of the heart, size does matter, and your stump is showing.

 

4

State of Affairs: Does Cheating Affect Friendships?

 StatueSecretAwottawa

(Photo Credit: Awottawa)

“My affair should NOT affect you!”

That was my former friend’s words of “conviction” (she was convinced in their validity, and I felt convicted by them) when we spoke recently. I confronted her about rumors that she was slandering me to squash inquiries on our +25-year friendship’s mysterious end. The meeting turned out to be the moot point I foresaw when I ended the relationship 6 months ago, with that statement perfectly representing why.

Such a statement sterilizes “facts” in a realm that is not sterile. It misleads the believer into self-righteousness as a way to dismiss accountability and feelings of guilt. Worse, it is brutal, burying any rights to emotions that the speaker/believer deems unacceptable, a right that they do not actually have.

For those who feel that their involvement in an affair is a private matter between themselves and their lovers, they are partially correct. Their spouses also have the right to know, but the nature of affairs, ironically, takes away this right. But if cheaters think that knowledge of their affairs should not affect those around them, they are sorely wrong. And if they think that witnesses who have survived one of their affairs are responsible for being unaffected for subsequent ones, they are delusional.

*          *          *

We were in our twenties when my former BFF had her first affair. I was alongside her as a good friend should be, supporting her emotionally, and without judgment, for the several years it took place.

Decades later, as she slipped into another one, I again took my dutiful place to help her through it. The first affair didn’t affect me. This one did, for both obvious and unexpected reasons:
– It was not her first time.
– We were no longer fresh out of undergrad.
– We were in our forties, with children, life experience, and firmer footing in our values and beliefs.
– I knew her husband 20 years longer than I did when she had her first affair – he was basically family.

This time, I felt a terrible guilt. I felt like an accomplice, because I knew better. And I knew that she knew better. This was a very painful place for me to be in.

If you cannot walk away from cheating on your spouse, and you have a friend that you trust to speak to about this, a few things to consider before you do:

CHEATER’S CONFIDANT CHECKLIST

1. Get to know your potential Confidant Friend. That is, take inventory of their values and life experiences, and know them in relation to your own. Regardless of what you both may be feeling at the moment, these factors can predict how your affair may affect them.

(DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Your dependable friend will most likely step up to whatever you ask of them; it is up to you to minimize damage from the get-go by gauging how much of your affair that they may be able to handle. Remember: They can not un-know anything.)

2. If you’re going to dish the dirt, be prepared to take the soap. If you trust this person with your affair, it must be because they’ve proven to be a true friend. Chances are, they are in this dismal place because they don’t want you to go through it alone; they truly care and want the best for you. Take their advice when they give it.

DO NOT TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR AFFAIR if you are going to continue to do the exact same thing for an indefinite length of time. They are human, also. They want to be there to help you, but if you are not taking any opportunities to get out of the affair, getting counseling to save your marriage, or taking steps to get separated or divorced (if you insist on continuing the affair), chances are, they will feel like an enabler and eventually disengage.

3. Be kind to your Confidant Friend. Maintaining your dark secret is a heavy burden on them. The stronger their moral code (see #1), the heavier this burden will be. They are going to get stressed over your affair, particularly if they are also close to your spouse and children. They may feel immense guilt for your spouse for sticking around and immense guilt for you if they walked away. They may suffer sleepless nights, loss of appetite, sudden crying and depression. Be prepared to find reserve of patience for your friend: Being your confidant, they will have no one to turn to about their distress, and is most likely overturning their own principles to be there for you.

4. DO NOT, on any level, judge, dismiss, or otherwise be condescending towards your Confidant Friend. They are not judging you on your huge issue, and they take this life crisis seriously, so they may feel obliged to be there at your beck and call (and you will exercise this exhaustively). Meanwhile, they may also have to deal with their own life issues, and will feel unable to commiserate with you while you’re going through your crisis. They are essentially handling both the burden of your secret as well as their own burdens, alone.

If they have the courage to share something with you (and overcoming the guilt of asking from you takes a bit of courage for them), listen and offer support. If you cannot be there for them, let them know you are overwhelmed. Don’t be quick to change the subject and get back to talking about your affair with them or tell them all possible flaws in their hopes or dreams, should any come up. They have stretched themselves too thin for you to receive such little effort from you in return.

IF YOUR FRIENDSHIP ENDS, it is highly likely due to your affair, in which case–

1. DO NOT throw your ex-friend (and ex-confidant) under the bus to save your life. It can have quite the opposite effect. Your former friend and confidant may have had to walk away to salvage whatever is left of your relationship, and they may have had to end it in a way that may not be suitable to you. Remember, they stood by you through things that were highly unsuitable for them, and for an extended amount of time. It is unlikely that you will be put in a position to return the favor quid pro quo, so dig deep and offer compassion in its stead.

People will most likely be shocked that your friendship with this person ended so suddenly, and they will ask you why. You can be assured that it was, in great part, due to your affair, but you may give inquirers a benign, neutralizing reason, or simply say you don’t know, end of story. Do not perpetuate ugly rumors against your former friend to conveniently explain away the ending. If and when they find out, your ex-friend may understandably assume that you were diverting the affair (the one they endured for as long as they could out of love for you) at their expense. That is beyond betrayal, and grounds for open season on clarification by your ex-confidant; this is not the person to whom you want to do dirty.

2. DO NOT, under any circumstances, tell them that your affair should not affect them. This will add grievous insult to injury as described above.

FINAL CHEATER NOTES

Although the consequences can be very bad, having an affair does not make one a horrible person (depending on the circumstances). Good people make terrible mistakes sometimes. But one cannot involve another person into one’s own wayward path without getting them dirty. It is the cheater’s choice to get dirty; their confidant friend is merely alongside them in this unsavory journey as an act of love and sacrifice, to keep their lost friend safe while trying to lead them home.

If you bring a Confidant Friend along, be very, very kind. Unlike you, they are not getting any pleasure out of this journey to offset the grit. If they must exit the friendship, also be very kind – there is a good chance that they are already grieving.

2

Effective Positivity: Inspire All, Empower Only Good

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Photo Credit: S. Braswell

People are not all equal.

That is, all deserve to be approached with openness, kindness, compassion, and the basics of humanity, but not all deserve much more beyond that. This is because there is such a thing as a bad person.

I was like many of you, once upon a time. I believed that everyone was inherently good, that many were just confused, lost, and that there were really no truly bad people. I therefore wasted my  energy in a lot of potential good, not actual good.

This is a tricky line to draw. People should be given the benefit of the doubt, and even those who make mistakes should be given a chance to show that they can be better than how they have been.

At least, in theory, it sounds reasonable. But, as with most credit-based systems in an open market, the potential for abuse is fairly high. (Check out our economy’s ledger if you need proof.)

I understand that “hurt people hurt people,” and I still believe in the majority of people being not-bad, even if they do things that harm others. But there is a small percentage (which equates to a large number, nonetheless) of people who truly are bad. Until this fact is acknowledged, these individuals will continue to cause serious damage to innocent, well-meaning, unassuming people, because bad guys understand and take tremendous advantage of the status quo ignorance.

Q: “How do you tell the difference between Good and Evil?”

A: “You give it power.” ~Marilyn Vos Savant

That answer stuck with me since I first read it in Marilyn Vos Savant’s column, one of my favorite go-to sections of The Washington Post when I was a kid. Its simple brilliant truth manifested itself through people I would meet and try to help throughout my life. The only caveat of this test is that by the time “evil” has been identified, power has been put into the wrong hands, and serious damage has often been done.

I was in a harmful relationship where I was once a Zen Ignorant – I was insistent that goodness was to be found in everyone. My perpetrator ex was simply confused because he did not grow up with the kind of love that I did. If I showed him kindness, compassion, patience, and encouragement, he would be inspired into becoming the same. Right?

What took me quite a while to figure out was that my ex understood, from very early on, my need to be fair and kind to others. So, he tailored his words and actions accordingly, and very effectively, to my detriment. This alone did not make him a bad person, though.

Not even did the fact that he knew to hide the things he did to me from the public and the law – any common criminal would do this, and not all criminals are actually bad people. (I know this because following our brother’s death, my surviving brother became a gangster. He did things that gangsters did, and felt the anger and lack of connection to his conscience during those years in order to survive in the streets. I get it.)

But my ex was not an adolescent/young adult who didn’t know better. He was not living in the streets, looking over his shoulder every second. He was not living in nor reacting from fear or violence. He was not mentally ill and needing medication, nor was he on drugs. Along with the lack of someday-pardonable reasons for his behaviors, what truly set him apart from a “lost/confused” person was the fact that my ex enjoyed causing me pain and seeing me suffer.

And this was made possible because I gave him power: the power to disconnect me from my own sense of worth and abilities; the power to flex his “paternal rights” through the court system as a means to continue to terrorize me for nearly a decade after I’d escaped him; the power to stay in this country and continue the cycle with other naive young girls.

Today, I am very mindful of whom I empower. I am openly kind to all that cross my path because I want to fill the world with whatever goodness that I can. But I do not empower everyone. The lesson on the dangers of empowering the wrong person is one of my greatest gifts from that dastardly period. My hard head about having a soft heart had to be split wide open to understand this. But yours doesn’t.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

In retrospect, there were a lot of clues that my ex was one to be left slithering on the side of the road. If my mind were more open—seeing people as they were, not as I insisted they were (which was “good” and “nice”)—I would have recognized what I was dealing with. But it was fixated on ideals, and no fixation in our mind allows truth to clearly materialize.

Most people who do bad things are truly simply hurt, lost, and confused, some, terribly so. Help if you can, or walk away if you cannot. But keep this in mind:

Some people are just bad to the marrow of their bones.  It is not your responsibility to fix or help them, nor to even try to understand them. In fact, that you cannot comprehend, on any common level, their reasoning, is a good thing. Chances are, there is nothing to rationalize, for there’s nothing humane in the rationalization of seeking and finding pleasure in an innocent person’s pain. You just need to learn to recognize such individuals, and deal with them accordingly, as you would with any deadly serpent in your path.

8

“To Be Or Not To Be” (On Contemplating Suicide)

ToBeOrNotToBe

(Photo Credit: BlueGum)

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.” – David Conroy

This for those who feel isolated, hopeless, in despair.  This is also for all the survivors of a loved one lost to suicide, and for all the survivors of the personal fight won against it. If you are here, you are meant to receive this message. Please read it all the way through.

There were 2 more suicides last week by students from the same high school from where my kids graduated a few years ago. This brings the total to 8 in the past 4 years. Although I don’t know the children or their stories, I feel the heartbreak as a mother, and as a person who has contemplated it many times in her past.

I was not really prepared to write about this yet. I have focused on the lessons from my life experiences, but not the experiences themselves, as untangling a wad of barbed wire is not only messy and painful, but difficult to know where to even begin. But I’m more unprepared to do nothing for those still contemplating whether or not they should continue to be. So let me tell you my story, just enough for you to understand that you are not alone in your suffering. And that it will get better.

*     *     *

MY JOURNEY OF CONTEMPLATION

I was always sensitive. Since I had such a loving, happy upbringing, I mostly felt the positive side of that sensitivity. I didn’t understand the other side of it in time to intercept the kind of excruciation that begged for mercy. When mercy didn’t come (and it often didn’t), the only consolation I perceived to have, with a head bloated with agony, was the choice to end it all.

After my little brother, Dedrick, got killed walking home from school, I lost all ability to cope. I was 16, a particularly unfortunate age for dark emotions, and I made the first attempt to end my life with a bottle of pills one morning before school. The plan was to die at school so that my parents wouldn’t have to find my body; I couldn’t bear to further traumatize them with the image of their dead daughter’s body after the loss of their son.

That day, I was calm for the first time since my brother’s death. There was a sense of relief, of finality, of resolve that all the darkness and pain would soon end. I gave a friend a farewell note, with instructions on the front to not open it until the end of the day. But at the beginning of the next class, a teacher came to get me, and an ambulance was called to rushed me to the hospital.

I was saved, and remorseful for the quiet pain that I saw in my parents as they tried to be extra gentle and loving with me.

But the pain hadn’t left; in fact, it got worse. A year later, I would get into an abusive relationship with a man who could not stand me being happy. He knew how to hurt me, and I didn’t know how to ignore him when he said things like, “Your brother died because you’re a bad person.”

The things that I went through in the 10 years trapped in that relationship had me feeling suicidal every single day. It got so bad that at one point, I remember fearing that even my extreme love for my beautiful, innocent children would not be enough to save me.  I resorted to whatever I needed to do to keep myself from taking my own life, in the event that being with that man didn’t kill me after all. One tactic was closing myself in the closet, sitting and rocking on the floor with my arms hugging my knees tightly, pretending that I was in a straitjacket, so that I could not move or get out until the fragile moment passed.

I would finally escape the relationship, but my sorrows were not done. It would be another decade of fears for my children’s safety, and heartaches from betrayals and judgments by other people.

So even though I was completely out of the relationship, the familiar feelings of overwhelm, of what did I do to deserve this, and of things will never get better, allowed the thoughts of suicide to barge back in. Then my precious children, the most loving, kind, sweet children a mother could ever dream to have, manifested the pains of their childhood years as the storm of adolescence rolled in.

This in itself almost killed me. I felt like a horrible mother, and blamed myself for the mistakes I made in my life that planted the seeds of despair in my children. And throughout all this, I was surrounded by toxic people.

And so, I lost my way, this time, from the inside-out. I stopped believing in myself. And I had nothing to give to my children to assure them that everything was going to be alright. The thought of suicide revisited me. It is very difficult to feel the point of living when you feel like an utter failure, and this can not be more deeply felt than as a parent who cannot help her children in dire need.

I sat one day, head in my hands, reviewing my life, my shortcomings, my terrible choices. I then realized that even if my children had shortcomings, made terrible mistakes, I would love them and know that they are worthy. I had to give this to myself, as well; how could they understand or believe it otherwise?

THE TRANSFORMATION

I forgave myself, as I would want my children to forgive themselves, to release self-blame, self-hatred, feelings of unworthiness. Then, I cleaned house.

  1. I cut out anything and anyone who did not honor or respect me. This was my defining act of self-respect, of placing boundaries, of breaking free from the chains of guilt and helplessness: my family, my in-laws, and more recently, my long-time BFF – all were fair game.
  2. I focused on love, not fear, specifically, love of myself and love of my children, the people I knew were unquestioningly deserving of it. This gave me direction and helped me disengage with drama mamas and downers.
  3. I gave to givers, not takers. This taught me to say “No” to users, so that I could preserve my generous, open heart for those who deserved it. It also gave me a sense of control of justice, which was lacking in my life throughout those trying years.
  4. I fed myself all things positive, from what I read and watched, which in turn transformed my thoughts and emotions and raised my overall well-being.
  5. I surrounded myself with only positive and genuine people. This changed my world from the outside-in, and rounded off the cycle to where I am today.

Oftentimes, we don’t understand the difficult things we go through. It seems so senseless, sometimes unnecessarily horrible. Why did my brother have to die? Why did I ever meet that cruel person? Why did my kids have to still struggle, when they were the most innocent?

Before my brother’s death, my father said someone who had strong intuitions had told him that when his daughter died, there would be a long line of people to pay respects, as far as the eye could see. In the nearly 20 years of hell that ensued, alone and hopeless, I had moments when I remembered that prediction, and I could not understand why she would say something so grossly wrong. I “knew” was going to die in that relationship. There was no hope for me, no way out; my life was over.

Had I followed through with that agenda, I would not be here now, writing to you to let you know that I made it. I wouldn’t be able to understand what you’re going through. I am writing from a positive place, but not disconnected from understanding that very dark, heavy, draining, hopeless place. I remember out of love for those who are going through it now. Yes, that includes you. I could not do this or feel this way had I not experienced it first.

Today, I am happy and stronger than ever, and have so much love in my life. If I had successfully ended my life back then, my children’s lives would have been destroyed. My little one, 6 today, would not have been born. All the people I have touched and eventually will come in contact with will have one less person to help and love them. It keeps growing, the goodness. Whether or not I have that long line of mourners after I move on, I live my life now with the joy of overflow in my heart, and it is a life well-lived.

I know you may not see this for yourself at this moment, and it’s understandable – you have valid reasons for feeling stuck. Keep in mind: you are just in a place right now where your pain exceeds your resources. You may also be in the wrong company. And your spirit is starving for positive nourishment and connection, which you may not be able to find within your circle. In fact, it is highly unlikely, because in the great big world, your circle is tiny. Venture for change.

YOUR FIRST STEPS INTO THE LIGHT

If I have one thing to recommend that you do, to start, it would be to surround yourself with GENUINE, positive, forward-moving people. Cut out all negative and otherwise unsupportive ones. It’s not being stuck-up, as I once used to think, to not allow such people in your life, even if they say they’re your friends, even if they are your family. You will heal and grow exponentially if you seriously change this part of your life, because the genuine, positive people will expose you to a lot of the other things that you need, and in your transformation, you will fill in the rest.

“Well if that’s the rule, why would these people want to hang out with me?” The genuine ones will not judge you. They will see that you want to be better, and they will want to increase the goodness in the world, and so help you. When you get to that stage in life, and you will if you keep going, you will also know who to help and who to let be.

“Where do I find them? I don’t feel like going out and meeting people.” I totally get it. I started by searching for answers through books and the internet. I found online groups of positive-minded people who were passionate, and realized the impact of being with the right people. They can’t just be “nice” – that can be a misleading 4-letter word. They have to be open, authentic, willing to be vulnerable, want to go places in life, and seek to help others.

The friends I’ve made online, I consider some of my best friends now – even though I haven’t met them because they are across the world. Now I have a compelling reason to travel!

LIFE CARDS

Life may deal you some seriously shitty hands—I know it did to me. But here are some “magic cards” for you to memorize and slap on the table anytime the hand gets particularly full of it:

Magic Ace: You are worthy, completely and unconditionally. Anything else that anyone tells you is a lie that you’ve been subscribing to. Surround yourself with positive, kind people who do not believe nor sell this distorted program. And get out of your own way – be a loyal fan of your highest self: Cheer loudly.

Magic Jack: You are a good person. You are simply at a stage where you feel lost and confused. Bad people never want to commit suicide; they lack a conscience required to have the kind of guilt and pain that comes with a suicidal mindset. You care so much that it hurts. That’s because, even through your mistakes, you are good person.

Magic Queen: You are loved. Even if it seems like your parents don’t care, or that your teachers don’t understand, or that you don’t have a single real friend, the truth is, you are loved. Sometimes, the people whom you wish to show you love are also at a place of struggle, where they don’t have the resource or ability to give you what you need. And sometimes they do, but when you are in such emotional pain, it is hard to see anything but a version of your pain, which reflects off of everything and everyone.

I don’t even know you, but when I thought about you in writing this post, I broke down and cried for you several times. It is because I understand your pain, and the thought of you going through what I went through hurts my heart deeply. So I write this from a place of immense love. Imagine how much love the people in your actual life have for you.

Magic King: Your pain is not your destiny; it is your preparation to help others. Your story is not over. You are just getting prepared for something greater than you can see. You are in boot camp, so keep going; when you get to the other side, you will find yourself stronger and more resourceful than you ever imagined. And then, pay it forward.

*     *     *

It was a long process for me to get to where I am today – it didn’t happen overnight. And it was grueling. Lots of loneliness, lots of fear, lots of doubt. But it was worth the fight. IT IS WORTH THE FIGHT.

Much Love,
Yazminh

Recommended: “Out of the Nightmare: Recovery from Depression and Suicidal Pain” – David L. Conroy, Ph.D.

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Taking the Lemonade Stand

Lemonade1Cropped

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

I’ve always found this quote lacking, and here’s why:

1. This assumes that you have all the other ingredients.

What if you don’t have sugar (or agave, if you’re following the trend), or drinkable water, or a suitable container from which to drink, or ice (can you picture a tall glass of lemonade without it?), or even a utensil with which to stir. I know that the quote is about turning something negative into something positive, but it’s not always that clear-cut – not to the person observing the lemonee (lemon recipient), nor to the lemonee him/herself.

I know what you’re thinking: That analogy is too dramatic. It’s just a simple lemonade.

Is it?

Let’s break down all the things you need to make a proper “simple lemonade”:

  • Lemons = challenges, which can be destructive, but can also be fortifying and a catalyst for detoxification.
  • Water = necessities for survival, well-being; you can survive with only this, but not without this.
  • Sugar = energy source; is also things that “sweeten” life, soften the tart and/or bitter parts – it can be fun and frivolous, but necessary.
  • Container = stability; is also the foundation that shapes one’s purpose.
  • Ice = dynamics that enhance the overall life experience.
  • Spoon/Stirrer = facilitator for calls to action.

Before you suggest to someone to turn a given lemon into lemonade, see if they have the other components required to handle it:

– If the person is lacking water or sugar, the addition of lemons will leave an imbalanced, and possibly unpleasant, experience. This is also true if there are already lemons which must be used.

– If that person’s container has cracks or holes, they won’t be able to retain what they get until the damaged areas are addressed.

– If there’s too much ice, the sensationalizing parts of the experience may water down the substantial parts; too little, then it doesn’t revive and refresh in the same way.

– If the mixture is not stirred, it may take a while to create balance in the experience, which will result in more melted ice.

– No container? What are you going to do if you can’t keep it all together?

It’s good to be able to see the positive side of a situation in life, but sometimes, the lemonee is just not at the place where s/he is equipped to do so.

As a well-meaning observer, first seek to understand the lemonee’s situation in better detail, and if appropriate and permitted, help address anything that is lacking before giving potentially sour advice.

As a lemonee, evaluate your circumstances and dire needs first. And be kind to yourself above all – do not add to your burden the acidic guilt of why you can’t simply make lemonade at that moment like everyone suggests. If you just don’t feel like it, THAT’S OKAY. But do attempt to figure out what’s missing.

2. If it can be assumed that you have all the ingredients, why stop at lemonade?

Because if you do have the other ingredients, chances are, you also have more beyond those. Make a lemon custard. Or a lemon meringue pie. Shoot, make a whole meal with lemon chicken, the custard, and the pie, and wash it down with lemonade if you so desire. Don’t limit your creativity to solving problems with what you’ve got.

3. You may not need to make the squeeze anyways.

If you’re really clever, you may find that you have enough other ingredients to put together something that does not include lemons at all.

Sometimes, we focus on the one thing that might pop up in our basket, but just like how “you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to” (Michael Josephson), you don’t have to squeeze every lemon you’re given. The lemons may not be meant to be a central ingredient for the day, and they certainly are not meant to be the central one to your life (even if you have a basketful). They may just be meant to serve on the side as an occasional cleansing, balancing component.

The excess? Now you can go to town with it and take it to the stands. How do you like them apples?

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Stop, Thief! (You Can Quote Me On That)

HappyEvidenceCollectors

(Photo Credit: Karen Salmansohn)

I loved that message and shared it on my personal Facebook page the other day.  On that same day, I found it completely plagiarized by another blogger online, by someone who is apparently a life coach and motivational speaker, who has a list of testimonials on how great a coach he is, and who listed training credentials to include those from the likes of Tony Robbins and John Maxwell.

Impressive, it would seem.  Except, the fact that he completely claimed the artistic expression made by someone else as his own makes me see him as shady and opportunistic. And I would not want him to claim having trained from me, if that were the case; Tony Robbins would probably not be proud of the association.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem, and it’s not just an academic issue.  On Facebook, people post quotes without properly crediting them all the time. I actually had my email signature posted on Facebook by someone that I knew, without any indication that it wasn’t written by her. Many people complimented her on the quote, but she never nodded my way. I was particularly shocked because she was the editor of her own magazine!

Sometimes people don’t know better; others simply don’t think it’s a big deal. And there are those, like Mr. Life Coach and Ms. Editor, who should know, but instead of sharing the joy along with its source, post it with their signatures slapped on. Very wrong, very uncool.

This is why: When we create something, whether it be through an art, invention, or piece of writing, we are putting our time, effort, intention, and essentially, a piece of ourselves, into it. For the most part, it is an act of love to share it with the world, and it is a source of joy to see others enjoy it so much that they want to share it. In that act of sharing, with acknowledgment, one tells the creator, “Thank you, this positively affected me. I want to pay it forward because it bubbles within me that much.”

However, when one takes a piece of the creator and purposefully omits giving proper credit, it is saying, “I think what you made was so awesome that I will steal it and claim it as my own, because I want people to think I’m awesome.” Some may say that it can be considered a form of flattery, but that’s like saying, “Wow, love your car, so I’m going to steal it and ride it around town!”

I want to clarify that this is not about sharing an idea that already exists; almost every idea has been repackaged.  There may be a fine line on this subject, I know, as I’ve held back sometimes out of fear of riding off the coattails of another blogger. I have to keep in mind that, as a writer, there’s nothing wrong with joining in on a popular conversation, so long as it is my own dialog.

In these cases, we are not stealing, but being inspired and then sharing our inspiration through our personal filtering lenses, resulting in a unique product of inspiration. Painters may use the same brushes and paints, and they may use similar strokes and colors, but the landscape will be interpreted many ways across different painters.  This is okay.

What is not okay is if you paint a picture and I take the painting and sign it, and then show it as my own in an exhibit.

So now that I’ve explained why plagiarism is, indeed, that bad, let me emphasize why giving credit to its creator actually beats stealing for free accolades:

1. You get to be in touch with true gratitude. Very little in life will matter without connection with gratitude; giving credit where it’s due returns us to a state of humility and the acknowledgment that the world we live in and the factors independent of our control are awesome.

2. You get to make connections with people you admire. Crediting an author or artist for their work may open doors to connect with them. (Obviously, if the creator is no longer living, this may be harder. But crediting them honors their memory, and stealing from them will probably make you look quite stupid, as there is a good chance people will be familiar with their work.)

3. You honor your creative potential.  Even if no one discovers your lie, your creative integrity is the platform from which all creative growth springs. If you steal, you cannot go through the raw process that creating your own work demands; you cannot grow to your potential as a creator.

4. You may still be seen as an expert. You don’t have to be the creator to be thought of as an authority in your field of interest; crediting all the great people from whom you’ve drawn your brilliant shares show that you are self-motivated in learning and growing, that you process what you observe, and that you recognize talent. It also shows that you are gracious and have integrity.  Speaking of which–

5. You maintain your integrity. If you deny yourself of any level of integrity, you cling on to some fear of shame, of not good-enough. And when someone finds out (and someone will, because intellectual property thieves are usually repeat-offenders), it will be a self-inducing prophecy that will be very hard to reverse.

I will now probably forever see the “Lie” in Mr. Life Coach, which is a shame if he actually has genuine value to give. But he insulted another person by stealing instead of honoring her work, and there are so many great bloggers out there with integrity that I don’t have time or interest to wait for him to prove himself otherwise.

Meanwhile, Karen Salmansohn, of whose writing I am a fan, reached out to thank me for looking out for her, and generously gave me a copy of one of her e-books, neither actions of which I was expecting, but was delighted to receive.

Again, authenticity rules, and the holding up of integrity pays forward manifold.

Related: “Choosing the Red Pill”

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