The Growing Process

How long has it been? Nine years?  Thirty-four years? Maybe a thousand glasses of wine, two thousand miles of coastal exploration and fifteen gallons of tears? Who knows.

However you choose to measure it, what’s most surprising to me is the cyclical nature of growth.

I’ve been analytical for as long as I can remember.  My loving mother spent many a nights with me as a child, listening to me vent, helping me talk through my confusion, stifling a smile or laugh or look of horror as I explored the corners of my mind.

I have always been curious.  But it was about nine years ago that I was brought to my knees and was forced to look at the world with new eyes.  Forced to see how my choices, my view of the world and the people I choose as my tribe impact every facet of my life.

We want to believe that once we learn a lesson, we can check it off the list and move forward. Ah-ha! I have learned to have patience.  I was patient in that situation, therefore I am now a patient person… check, check, check.

Sadly, this is not how this works. It is not that easy.

All of our lessons and areas for growth will loop back around.  We will be confronted with choices and situations that will make us rise to the occasion again and again.

Can you be patient in this situation? Can you be loving in that situation? Can you show compassion to that person? Can you exercise healthy boundaries now?

Let’s unpack this a little bit more.

For most of my life, communicating my true feelings was not easy for me.  I had so much fear about what people would think, who I might offend, not to mention I often didn’t know how I was feeling.  Years of mindfulness and meditation have helped me understand myself better.  Writing has helped me articulate myself better.  Having hard conversations where I feel like I might throw up or faint, run away or cry, has helped me grow and create better relationships, with both family, friends and lovers.

growth process

But is it ever really easy?  It is ever really done?  Do we ever really know exactly what to say, exactly how to say it, when to say it and what actions will validate our best intention-ed words?

Hell to the no.

We try. We try again and again. And it does get a little bit easier. You learn that you can and will survive these scary situations, but it doesn’t mean you enjoy it or that you don’t mess up.

The same can be said for confidence, worthiness, self-care, mindfulness, authenticity, vulnerability, courage… we learn what it is and how to do it. And then we learn it again. And again. And again.

Each time we will be tested differently. Each time we will respond a little bit differently.  Each time will learn a little bit more.

And hopefully along the way, we learn to offer ourselves some compassion. Offer and acknowledge how far we’ve come and how well we are doing. Knowing that we all make mistakes, we all have greatness and we all have so much to learn.

The best thing I can offer myself today (and maybe you can relate) is to cut myself some slack.

We are all doing the best we can. I honestly believe that. We will trip and fall, hurt people and hurt ourselves, impress others and exceed our own expectations, time and time again.

I think what is most important is that we are always true to ourselves.  That we honor our values and uphold our integrity.  This way, we can always hold our head high. And if, er’ when we mess up, we know exactly where to go back to.

We go back to our true self.  The one that wants to love and be loved.  The one whose hopes and dreams pulse through our veins. The one who hears this with their heart.

Yours truly,

Miss Erin Terese

P.S. Happy 11:11 ❤

The Act of Letting Go

Well, I did it. I released him.  I won’t call it “saying goodbye”, as I had previously written;  I will simply say I released him.

I went to say goodbye.  I walked his ashes down to the water with the intention of saying goodbye, but as the ashes scattered in the wind and drifted down to the waves below, I knew it was just me releasing him, and that he would always be there whenever I wanted to visit and say hello.

A few weeks ago I went on a trip to Europe.  This trip was planned as part of a personal quest to get to know myself. This trip was something I wanted and needed.  Something to push me outside of my comfort zone, test my character and give me the time alone to explore who I am, what I want and where I want to go in my life. And to have some fabulous adventures along the way, of course!

I knew the trip was going to be special. It was not going to be be just an average “holiday”, but rather a turning point. A new chapter.  Perhaps even the beginning of a new story all together.

With this in mind, I knew it was time to let him go. The morning before I boarded my flight to Stockholm, I took the small wooden box containing his ashes down to the water.  With my black leather boots protecting me from from puddles and my polka dot umbrella shielding my face from the rain, I rounded the back of the pier. Luckily there were only a few fisherman out that day, so it didn’t take me long to find a corner to be alone with him.

I stood there in the rain. I had my ear buds in and listened to a sweet, slow melody as I reached into my purse and removed the small box. The wind calmed and the rain slowed to a drizzle. I collapsed the umbrella, resting it against the metal guard rail and held him in both of my hands. Then the tears came. But these were new tears, not the same I had shed for him time and time again.  This time, the tears were letting him go – releasing him. The tears leaked out, rolling down my cheeks, salt kissing my lips and continuing down to pool around my neck.

let-gooooo

I held him tight it my hands. I felt the box, the ridges and grooves where the inscription was carved. I slid back the cover and removed the small packet of ashes.  I snipped the top with a small pair of scissors, looked inside and saw the pale gray dust start to move in the breeze. I held the bag out over the railing, tipped it upside down and watched as he caught the wind and gently floated to the waves.

***

I returned from my trip this past Monday.  It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Still basking in the glow of time spent reading on the beach in the South of France, meeting a psychic in Amsterdam, meditating with Deepak Chopra in Paris and all of the people I met and realizations I had along the way, I spent this week slowly integrating myself back into daily life, trying to carry with me all that happened while making sense of some of my personal reflections.

Today was the first Saturday in three weeks that I woke up in my own apartment.  Instead of rushing to get out into the world to explore or be productive, I took it slow. I savored the morning, just as I would have if I was on holiday. I declined an invitation to meet up with a friend and opted for a day of solitude, choosing instead to read, write, stretch my legs in the sunshine, take a long afternoon nap and have a quiet night at home.

Outside, the sun beat hot upon my face. San Francisco is known to be overcast, with autumn-like weather the majority of the year.  Today was unusually warm. On a day like today, the water beckons and you must obey.  Heeding the siren’s call, I made my way to the Bay and stood there thinking Do I go left or right? Left or right? I chose left.

I chose to go and say hello to him and see how his new spot was.  Today it was bright and sunny and hot – the pier filled with people.  There were men fishing and families picnicking.  There was a man sitting on a bench, playing his guitar and getting lost in the sound.  A couple leaning against the building, taking shelter in the shade and giving their dog a bowl of water to drink.  And right in front of where I spread his ashes, two men sitting on a bench drinking beer out of glass bottles – no brown bag. Proud and happily defiant. He would have liked that.

I squatted down to look at the aqua water and snap a picture of the beautiful day. The woman standing about twenty feet behind me, watched me closely.  When I turned to leave, she didn’t even attempt to avert her eyes, she just watched. Her observing me, me observing the others, and him floating along the water, watching it all with a smile. There were no tears today, just peace.

This is the first time I have written about him without crying. I have finally let him go. I have let him go both literally and figuratively, evidenced by my sense of peace and lack of salty tears.  He will always be a part of my past.  Knowing him and loving him has shaped who I am today which will certainly impact who I will become in the future.  But this next chapter is mine. Mine to write as I wish, carrying with me all that I have learned and all that I wish to experience.

And should I ever wish  to say hello, I will simply walk my feet down to the Bay and watch the waves lap against the pier, where he dances on the water and observes the passersby – just as he always has.

Your truly,

Erin Terese

P.S.  Thank you for taking this journey with me. Your readership, friendship and support makes all the difference in the world. xo

 

How Do You Say Goodbye Without Saying Goodbye?

I wish there had been a funeral or a memorial service.  Something. Something ceremonial or commemorative.  I feel like maybe that was the plan at one point, but the way that everything unfolded was too unpredictable and bizarre.  I don’t think anyone knew how to handle it, or wanted to handle it, or wanted to really face what happened and how much was left unknown.

I think that there is something to be said for communal grieving.  Funerals are not something that anyone looks forward to or wants to attend, but there is something about the gathering of loved ones to help usher and acknowledge the end of ones life.  I remember my grandfather’s and grandmother’s and uncle’s and cousin’s husband’s and friend’s brother’s funeral all vividly. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast two days ago, but I can remember those days like they were yesterday.  They are significant and something I know now to never take for granted.

The thing about my ex boyfriend is that he had been missing for two months.  You can’t have a funeral or service when you don’t know if someone is dead or alive. You have to hope and pray and wait. And then when his body was found, it was so badly decomposed that it was shipped from coroner to coroner throughout the state, each one trying to determine the cause of death.  I don’t think any of us expected it to take so long and everyone was hoping to find out why he died.  To know for sure.  Maybe that would offer some closure. But alas, it came back unknown.  Almost 8 months after he was found and 10 months from when he died, his remains were finally released.  Perhaps there should have been a funeral then, but there wasn’t.  And it wasn’t my place to push.

My most vivid memory is the day after his body was found. I took the day off work and went to his mother’s house.  I sat with her as she made calls to friends and family and as she spoke with the local coroner about next steps.  We drank tea. We went for a walk and sat on a bench under the elm trees in a nearby park.  We shared stories with his grandfather, and we also sat in silence. So much silence.  Later in the evening, his aunt, uncle and cousin came by the house with dinner. We all sat out on the patio, trying to make sense of everything and watched the sun slowly slip below the horizon.  Spoke logically about next steps and reminisced on when he was a boy and all the things we’d wished for him.  I didn’t cry much that day. Perhaps the hours of crying the day before or the countless hours to come kept them at bay that day. Or perhaps it was too real.  I left feeling exhausted, but at peace.  It was nice to have the warm embrace of those that loved him and to share our sadness and confusion.

But that was the only time we gathered in his name.  Nothing formal was ever planned.  When his remains were released, they were divided among his family and his sister graciously offered me some as well.  So now I have this small packet of ashes to spread. And I don’t know what to do with him.  Selfishly, I want that damn ceremony with his friends and loved ones where we can laugh and cry and share stories until the wee hours of the morning.  But we don’t always get what we want.  And I suppose it’s fitting, since I never knew what to do with him when he was alive.  Makes sense I wouldn’t know what to do with him now.  Keep him close or let him go, free to dance on the wind and the waves.

I will never again take for granted the opportunity to grieve together.  To know what happened.  To have a large group of people that want to celebrate and mourn you and mark the end of your brilliant chapter on Earth.

And I don’t mean to sounds angry or resentful that he didn’t get a life celebration or memorial or funeral, I just mean to highlight how beneficial it is in the grieving process.  It helps to look it in the face, feel it in your bones and share the experience with others.  There is a reason you find these ceremonies in most cultures and civilizations across the globe and throughout the centuries. Major life events deserve to be acknowledged.  This was just too bizarre and too painful and unfolded in a way that made it easier to put off, and off, and off. And so the grieving has been long, and drawn out, and long.

sand

I normally tie my writing off with a nice little bow and “here is the takeaway”, but there really isn’t a nice bow on this.  It’s still not closed.  I still have his ashes on my shelf in a box that says Love, waiting to meet their final destination. Now where-oh-where do I take him?  Where-oh-where do I lay him to rest?  Where-oh-where do I choose to take my tiny piece of him and say goodbye, in my own to-be-determined ceremony of my own?

This is life.

Beautiful. Messy. Real.

Yours truly,

Miss Erin Terese

 

 

 

 

Reconciling the Past, Present and Future Self

The journey of life sure is an interesting one, packed with twists and turns, flips, back flips, and quite a few head-spins.  One of the things I find most interesting is how much we change, how frequently we change, and how difficult is seems to reconcile the many versions of ourselves.  Maybe some of you fit in a pretty little box that never changes, but I am more like a hermit crab constantly finding a new shell.  I am Fifty Shades of Erin.

hermit crab

There are things in my past I would never want to repeat and things that I am not proud of; but I do know that every little thing has shaped me into who I am today, and because of that I wouldn’t change a step.  Where I am now is a result of all of those things. Every last one. All of the people that I helped and people that I hurt.  All of the things I learned and trouble I made.  All of the people I kissed and the ones that I dissed. All of the people that harmed me and all of the people that helped me. Yup, every choice and moment has led me here.

It’s honestly amazing to me, how that young girl has become the woman I am today.  It’s amazing how her outlook has changed.

How she was once glass half full, then glass half empty, and back to glass half full. How she trusted in the good in people, felt everyone had an agenda, thought the world might end, that there was a master conspiracy, and that love heals all.  How she thought she wanted to be a photographic journalist, an economist, a financial planner, a business owner, a writer. How she wanted to be married with children, single and in the city, how she just wanted to be happy.  How she cared about others first, thinking that was selfless, only to learn she must care for herself first before she can properly care for others.  How she thought being a good friend was making others happy and later learned it’s about being authentic.

As you change, some friendships and relationships deepen and others fall by the wayside.  Some go quietly and some go with a fight. Some jobs change and other times you change your job. With all of the people that have come and gone, houses I have moved into and out of, jobs that have given me a paycheck and those that I have given my two weeks notice to, there is one resounding similarity: I could never have planned or predicted the change. At least not in the beginning.

While I am learning to accept the past and to be grateful for everything that has lead me to this moment, so too am I learning to invest less into what I think my future should hold or should be.  It will be what it will beWhat matters most is this moment.  Who I am now and who I am creating myself to be. This current version of Erin is no longer making life decisions based upon past circumstances or the things she envisions for her future, but rather from who she is today and how she would like the future to feel.

She would like the future to feel very much like it is today: filled with love, passion and purpose.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese

P.S.  This reflection comes one week before my 30th birthday.  This new decade seems to have my mind doing a review of the Shades… If you have any comments or feedback, please share!  xo

Learning to be Mindful

This post was written for The Lotus Effect – a group created to aid in Spiritual Development.  Enjoy!

Today’s challenge is one I hope you all choose to partake in.  This challenge lasts for one full waking day.  From the time you wake until the time you drift into a peaceful sleep, I want you to be mindful of your thoughts, actions and the words you speak.

Mindful

Our Mind is an amazing tool.  We use it to assign words and values to people and things.  We remember past experiences and formulate wishes and hopes for our future.  It is an amazing and beautiful tool we use to help express our soul and emotions. But I want you to “keep in mind” that your mind is a tool – it is not you.  It is a tool to help you. And as we all know by now, your mind can also speak words of doubt, hurt, conspiracy and gossip.

I want you to be mindful of the words that are passing through your mind and across your lips.  Are they serving you?  Do the words in your mind express doubt and uncertainty?  Do the words you speak express love and acceptance?  Are the words you think and speak reflecting who you are?  Does it reflect your spirit?

All of us participating in The Lotus Effect are trying to open our mind and our heart to a more loving and peaceful existence here in our bodies.  We need to eliminate our self-doubt, negative thinking and judgment of others.  Our primary concern during this process is finding peace and love within, thereby allowing us to share this wonderful state of being with others.  We are looking inward.  As you catch yourself having negative thoughts and conversations throughout the day, I want you to stop and recognize them.  This is not to say you shouldn’t explore why you are having these negative thoughts and speaking in such a manner, but today I want you to realize how much of your energy is spent in this area.  Until we understand how our mind is perceiving our experience, how will we know where to start our healing and what issues need to be addressed.

Do not feel badly about your negative thoughts and words you speak, just recognize that they are there.  If you so choose, feel free to correct your thoughts with a positive affirmation or stop your gossip or conversation in its tracks by changing topics.  But for now, the most important thing is that you observe yourself.  I want you to experience your thoughts and interactions as if for the first time.  Let them resonate with you. What is your mind doing and is it serving you?  Your mind is a tool and is here to help you live the life your innermost self is meant to live.  Do not let your mind get in the way.  Your mind is not going to like this challenge, but your soul, spirit and inner light (whichever you choose to call it) will love this.

Ultimately, we want to trust our intuition and soul.  Part of this is learning the language we have taught our mind to use, and training it to work in a manner that serves us now.  Whether this means quieting your mind, calming negative thoughts or learning to be present rather than thinking about the past and future, we need to first see where our mind is going and what we are doing in there.

This exercise is to know your Self and better understand your inner workings.

It is more challenging than you think.  Please re-read this challenge, take it all in, turn on the Awareness Button and observe your thoughts and the words you speak all day.  Be Mindful of your Self. Once you are aware of how your Mind is serving you and how it is viewing the world around you, you can better assess what areas and issues are in most need of your loving attention.  We all have issues, triggers from our past and hidden things from our childhood that flow in the undercurrent of our emotions.  This exercise is to help you see what parts of you may need healing.  What issue is manifesting itself as impatient, judgmental, anxious, nervous, worried, lonely, overly busy, overly concerned?Be mindful of your thoughts.  Be mindful of your actions.  Be mindful of your words.  Be mindful of your inner voice that speaks through the knot in your throat, the pit in your stomach and the butterflies in your heart.  Be mindful – all – day – long!

Now, re-read, turn on the Awareness Button and observe.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese

Farewell, Dear 2012.

As I prepare for a night of music and dancing with some of my favorite people, I feel I must take pause for one final moment of self reflection this year.  There are only hours left in this year and it’s as if the past year is flashing before my eyes.

My heart swells at the amount of joy in my heart, laughter in my breath and gratitude in my soul.  Tears have been brimming in my eyes throughout the day, recalling all of the wonderful people and life lessons that have come and gone.  I have learned so very much this year, but one of the things that I am most grateful to have learned is to remove the idea of “bad” and “good” and simply take what happens as a lesson.  It makes letting go so much easier when you can take your lesson, say thank you, and move forward.  When you can remove ego and simply enjoy your moment rather than feel as if you won by your accomplishments.  Finding the space to live purely within the moment is the greatest gift. One that I will continue to work on moving in to 2013.

farewell 2012

This is going to be an amazing year.  I know this.  I feel this.  I trust this.  Awe and wonder, beautiful and bountiful change, lie around every corner this year.  Awaken the magic!

To you and yours: enjoy this moment and each-other.

Much love,

Erin Terese

Everything in Moderation

When I look back at my childhood, there are certain phrases I remember hearing over and over again.  The one that rings most clearly in my mind is “everything in moderation”.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard this!  Every time I would ask for another serving of ice cream. Every time I wanted to watch just one more television program before bed. Every time I begged to stay longer at the park. “Everything in moderation, my dear” was the standard response. Humph!  What’s one more little scoop, one more sitcom or 30 more measly minutes at the park?

Thankfully as an adult, I understand that the line needs to be drawn somewhere.  There are only so many calories in a pound, so many hours to sleep, and so much free time in the day.  In order to accomplish all the tasks at hand and to keep a healthy mind and body, we must find the right balance and keep “everything in moderation”.  The problem here is, what is moderation?  How much is moderation?  The answer is: it varies from person to person.  This means we must be mindful in the choices we make. 

Finding and maintaining balance is an ongoing effort.  Life is constantly changing.  We have new jobs, new spouses, new houses, new debt, new friends, new stress and new health problems to balance.  Figuring out what is a perfect balance is no simple task.  Pay attention to how much time, money and energy you are expelling in each area. It may help to make a list of your top priorities. For example, mine are: 1) Family/Friends 2) Health & Fitness 3) Leisure Activities 4) Work and 5) Creative Outlet.

Once you have a clear idea of where your priorities lie, then you can look at your life and make an honest assessment of how well you balance those things.  You may find that you do an excellent job and are totally at peace with yourself.  Good for you!  But if you feel exhausted or stretched too thin, chances are you are putting more effort in to one of your priorities that doesn’t need it, and not enough in one of the others.  Balance.  Moderation is key.  If you can identify an area that is lacking your attention, make a shift and try to find the balance.  And by balance I do not mean equal amounts, I mean the right proportion.  Maybe you will only need to focus a small percentage of time and energy in one category and much more in another.

Just be honest with yourself and know that some days and weeks your balance will need to be adjusted.  Listen to your body, to your mind and to the world around you.  Take into consideration all you need and all you want.  Somewhere in there is your balance – your moderation.

Not everything we learn as children is correct.  In fact, much of it is not – but these words ring true: “Everything in moderation, my dear”.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese