True reflection

We am experience it at one point or another, that feeling where your inner self just isn’t represented with what you are seeing in the mirror. However, for me 2020 has made this drastically worse. I find myself looking at person who I always feared.

Growing up with a disabled parent is hard. My father was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in the 80’s and my parents decided to not have kids. Luckily for me, they argued about who’d get surgery to ensure this and I popped up unplanned.

While my father lost his ability to walk, I was learning to walk late due to surgeries to fix a birth defect called Club Foot. So, my physical experience has never been “typical” in this life. I’ve always been slower, weaker, and different.

I didn’t get the right doctor as an infant for my foot, it was unseen in my little rural area. So, I ended up having extra surgery than I should have needed. I remember clearly seeing my reflection in the glass of our entertainment center. The scar tissue in my ankle had re occurred and it was twisting my little ankle sideways. Meaning I was walking more on the side of my foot than the bottom. My mom said she saw it in my little wet footprints that summer, and knew it was time to find a better specialist. We did and though my young memory is full of traumatic medical procedures, the doctor fixed my ankle to the best of his abilities. Although limited somewhat due to the botched first surgery.

I remember waking up alone in a hospital room and seeing my little arm wrapped in gauze onto a splint with a hook. It was meant to keep my IV in and hooked onto the side of the bed. My little self though thought they’d taken my hand and now I would forever be like Captain Hook! I screamed and cried, traumatizing the sweet Hispanic lady who was cleaning my room.

Fast forward and I never ran well in school. I never got good marks in PE and remember teachers yelling in my face to try harder with sit ups. I’ve always just felt like I’m trying to work through a world of very heavy gravity. Everything just weighs more on me.

When I hit puberty I got curvy. Then I hurt my knee. We were too poor for MRIs and most doctor’s acted like I just needed to rest it and lose weight. I would and it just got worse. At one point I could move my kneecap around sideways with just a slight pressure. It was constantly dislocating by then and horribly painful.

In my late teens I couldn’t tell if my knee made stairs hard or if it was something else. No one told me I could get my dad’s disease, but I knew it. Little me prayed nightly that if God needed me to learn from struggle, please just don’t let it be my father’s disease. Anything but that. I watched him slowly get trapped in a body he couldn’t move, struggling to breathe or even scratch his nose. Until it killed him before I was 16.

In my early twenties I got pregnant with my daughter. It was extremely challenging with a knee that would dislocate when just standing up. My pregnancy was lonely and painful. My partner worked nights and slowly became a monster who had no empathy and unlimited cruelty. Thinking if I could just be “normal” I’d save my little family. I rushed into reconstructive knee surgery less than three months after having my daughter via emergency c-section, with painful complications after.

That year was one of the worst in my life. Living alone with an abusive partner while battling postpartum depression and trying to heal from a knee surgery that felt more like I’d been hit by semi. I didn’t have internet. I didn’t have cable TV. I wasnt allowed to have anyone over. And anything I did around the house or to rehab was just never enough in the eyes of my partner. I finally broke and told him I needed to be tested for my father’s disease, something just wasn’t right.

This was something I’d warned him of from the very beginning of our relationship. So, it wasn’t like I had kept this dark secret. I even fought the idea of being in a relationship in the beginning, telling him of the difficulties that ensue with loving someone so sick. I was given platitudes that it wouldn’t matter due to love but I guess you can’t know until you’re in it.

Fast forward and his abuse shifted towards our child and I was done. He convinced me I deserved all his physical and emotional abuse but I knew our child did not. I became a single mom weeks before being given a muscular dystrophy diagnosis. All before I turned 23.

The years have chipped at my physical form to now I’m full time in an electric wheelchair. My diagnosis is muscular dystrophy? The genetic testing said no, but the testing is a difficult process. Doctors can’t even figure me out.

It’s so hard to live in a world where you’re simultaneously judged by your physicality and yet told not to allow it become your identity.

How can it not define me when it shapes my entire world?

Or how do I show the world who I am when my physical form is so damn far from who I truly am inside?

When will my reflection be of who I really am?

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The Light Within

I breathe in the crisp fall air as the last of the sun’s light fades into the deep darkness of night. The cool air dances across my skin, sinking deep down until I feel a chill throughout. It is both unpleasant yet revitalizing. The intensity of cold hits my system and reminds me of life the within my body. The life within my flesh is magnified by the icy discomfort. I breathe in deeply and close my eyes to soak in the moment. Feeling my breath hit deep within me, to the place where it touches the soul. The connection makes my heart skips a beat. A smile dances across my face as I gaze up at the dark sky and look upon the stars shining brightly. Oh, how the sky feels more like home than any other place I’ve been. My spirit stirs within me, yearning for places I have not known.

The stars beckon to my soul. As though they are old friends reaching out. Whispering secrets from eons past. I long to roam freely through the cosmos. An ever shining light that travels years through the expanse of darkness searching for someone to recognize the magnificence of my soul’s inner radiance. Looking for those lost in the endless night, to guide them along until they find their own inner radiance. For only a few know what it’s like to shine brightly through the great dark ether, hoping for one day someone will see your light. Years of travel through the dark abyss to find the one who’s heart will sing at the sight of your soul’s shining.

Yet still my body feels at home among the trees, as they know how to reach for the heavens while remaining firmly grounded. They breathe in that which suffocates and turn it into life sustaining air. My heart’s greatest desire is to be like them. To transform that which poisons the world surrounding me, all the pain, all the loneliness, and show others how love can transform it into gratitude and wisdom. To show how we’re all connected and one with the flow of life.

For there is a river within each of us. Ever flowing, never knowing for sure if it’s path will bring it back to reunite with the Source. An ocean of oneness in a world full of drought. The river knows that with such shear power it doesn’t matter what obstacles lie within its path. For partnered with the currents of time, the river has nothing that can withstand it. Water flowing only needs time to transforms what is in its path. For even one day the rock will be shaped by its current.

If only these words may flow and reach out to touch another’s soul. To find those who feel lost; those searching and yearning for that which cannot quite be explained. To comfort the lonely. Those who feel beaten by the waves of crashing down on them. Lost in a crowd who is blind to the greatness that lies within. Do not fret. Do not faulter on your journey. Your contribution to the world is far greater than you can imagine. It is only once you see it that you will truly be free. Remember it is human nature to overlook the beauty of the world. Do not doubt the power you retain, due to the few who are too blind to see the magnificence of the universe that resides within you.

Mindful Connection

As I previously discussed, I’d like to further touch on how our disconnected perspective with mental health is because we connect the mind and the soul as though they are one and the same. That perhaps we need to reframe our perception of the mind.

What if we could look at it as a dashboard or interface to connect the soul to the physical existence? A way for our soul to experience, and be touched by, this thing we call life. But not necessarily something that defines the spirit. Especially with how it seems the line is blurred between soul and physicality. It would be easy to see the how we could lose sight of how truly magnificent the spirit is. Yet we’re so ignorant about what the soul even is; leaving a definition complex. So, with a lack of a universal definition and explanation, truly it is up to what you feel is your truth. Just maybe don’t be so hard on yourself and others, we’re all still in beta testing.

Though be it through the heights of happiness, the bliss of love, or the depths of sadness. I know my soul is more. It’s at these moments of intensity that I feel my soul’s connection is more easily seen. But I also know it’s still there during the monotony of every day routine. Yet I don’t feel that these aspects of the physical experience, define my soul. Though other souls leave an imprint, I feel that Spirit is an everlasting strength, a certainty, I can tap into whenever I choose. Or more like whenever I remember how to, as disconnection feels like an epidemic.

I know it’s not a new realization, but even though we’re more easily connected than ever, the vast majority of people feel lonely. It’s an ironic fact that we’re all lonely together… In s highly accessible world. Is this due to the way technology takes away those highs and lows? Or puts controls on it so we may choose to not experience the intensity at times? Those moments that make the connection more visible, it allows us a filter. Or at least places them in solitude within a device, rather than in unpredictable personal interactions. I feel that it’s more fear of unpleasant interactions or judgement, with technology being a good assistance in avoidance. A lot of negative stuff in our existence goes back to roots in some sort of fear.

Now with that all being said, there’s still times technology may precipitate these deeply connecting experiences, but I see how it can dull the more common interactions. We’re more in control, but perhaps that control comes at a cost? I think it boils down to what all of humanity must advance in, which is mindfulness and moderation.

I greatly value connections I’ve made with people that I might never have had the opportunity to, had it not been for the internet. But I also notice the colder interactions with people closer to me. Such as feeling forced to stay on a platform I dislike to just have any sort of connection or interaction with some friends and family. Rather than phone calls or scheduling chats over coffee. We update our status and put up pictures online to keep others informed. Yes, there may be more information in quantity, but what about quality? Or connection? Remember, it’s more fulfilling to see your beautiful face in person than the perfected photo on your account. Even if there’s a new one every day.

Perhaps in the world of filters and followers, that disconnection with self becomes greater. Due to the pressure of needing an instagood worthy experience every day. When most of us realize how generally the same our daily lives are. But it’s ok to not be picture perfect. Connecting to the real person is far more satisfying than a perfectly filtered image.

In the end it’s ok to dive into the digital world and play a part. But don’t forget to tap out routinely, to take time to tap into connection with your soul, as well as others. It can be a powerful tool for good after all.

As humans it seems we have many things to learn about what mindfulness really is and how it plays a role not only in our physical health but also our spiritually health and connectivity. One of the many good things about the internet is that are more capable of being able to remind each other to take time out to reach out, or reach within. Just think of it as being similar to how your device’s operating system needs updates routinely, so does your spirit. We just get the cool opportunity to connect in many ways, be it spiritually upgrading to connect with others. It during times alone sketching/whatever helps you reach a meditative space. Just take that time to tap in and level up! 😉

10 Tips for Empaths

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The Empathic Journey

Years ago I probably would’ve thought you were crazy if you asked me “Are you an Empath?”. I didn’t even really understand what it was until a few years back, and even then it was only talked about on the super hippy-tastic circles. Mostly, because was so misunderstood. Which is how I felt at the time too.

For those who don’t know, an Empath is someone who has a higher-than-average ability to pick up on other people’s feelings. It is more than just empathy, where you can try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. No, an Empath can feel another person’s joy or pain. They can tell someone is upset before they’ve even spoken. With people they’re really close to, they may be able to “just tell” something is off and call to check-in with that loved one. Empaths often don’t like large crowds, because they pick up so many different emotions. They can have anxiety and feel drained often. There’s a great article that talks about how to recognize if you are an Empath, by Judy Orloff, M.D., which you can find here. What I wanted to discuss today was more aimed for those who are already aware that they are empathic.

I feel as though we’re living in a great time for Empaths, even though there are many challenges we face. I feel like it is so awesome to see it more and more accepted. As a teenager I could have greatly benefited from better understanding my Empathic capabilities. I have vivid memories of games I made up as a child, where I’d try to guess what other people were feeling. Like if I saw a car coming in the other direction, I’d close my eyes and try to “guess” what their mood was. Then look at their expressions as they drove past. But I also struggled with feeling responsible for the negative emotions of others. Like I had to fix it, and I didn’t always know how.  And I didn’t understand why I was sad, just because someone I was around was sad. As I got older, I learned how to use this talent to explain people’s emotions back to them in a way that brought comfort or clarity. I think that is why my social circle jokingly referred to me as the group’s therapist. But there wasn’t much support for me back then. I often felt overwhelmed and confused as to why. I don’t look back longing for a different outcome, I am happy with who I am and those experiences shaped me. But I’d love it if I could help anyone else ease the struggle.

If I had known what an Empath was and told people this, I think a few people would’ve thought I lost my mind, and I might have had a few try to give me an exorcism. But truly, I do not see it as a paranormal gift. I feel that it is a personality trait, one that is evolving within humanity. It seems to me that there are far more Empath’s now, so it only makes sense that we will talk about it more. And hence, it will continue to become more accepted. I personally feel it is just a development of our senses. With most talents there are those who have a better innate talent for it. For these Empaths, they easily have an understanding of micro-expressions and body language. I think as time goes on, we’ll only better understand what it means to be an Empath and why it occurs in some with great intensity. For all of us who identify with it, I hope we can learn to understand it in a way that allows us to see it as a gift.

As an Empath, you’ll likely have heard “overly-sensitive” a lot. You’ll learn to cover up your discomfort in many different situations, just to avoid the judgement. This is draining and frustrating. But I’ve learned a few tools that help me navigate a world of emotions, and be able to tell which ones are mine.

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1. Bubble!
Have you ever play Super Mario Bros.? There’s a way that if you can’t keep up with a friend while playing together, you can hit a button and a little bubble appears around you for protection/help. I want you to think of this in times of high emotions. If things are really intense around you, giggle about being in a video game and imagine pressing an internal button, that initiates your own bubble. You will need to practice this for it to be really effective. So, before you go to bed each night, take some deep breaths. Imagine a warm light, of any color that comforts you, fill your heart. Let it build and build until you can feel it envelop you in a peaceful warmth. If you fall asleep, it’s perfectly okay! Your intention is there. But it is best to try to stay awake so you can really connect to your breath.

Breathing will become your a superpower. I refer to this deep connective breathing as breathing in until you feel it touch your soul. There’s this special feeling you get right in your chest, when you breathe in deep enough. This is where you are being fully present, fully connected, and fully in power. Breathe it in and hold it once it touches your soul. That is the button to turn on your bubble. The great thing is, once you practice, no one will ever know you are using your bubble. It will just look like you are breathing.

2. Music
We get easily drained as Empaths, and it takes time to learn how to not be “open” to everyone’s emotions. So, it is necessary to find things that refill your energy. This is one you are going to have to play around with, because preferences are subjective. But I find music to be one of the most helpful tools for me as an Empath. You start by watching which songs make you happy, not because of old memories. But purely because the beat makes you smile. Put these songs on your phone, so they are always with you. Seriously, it is okay to put in your earbuds and lock yourself in the bathroom for a 30 second dance party! Or to take a break and park somewhere in your car to belt out with your favorite song. Try it next time you feel as though everyone has drained the life-force from you.

3. Move it! 
Yes, just like I said to go lock yourself somewhere you can do a quick dance party. The same goes for any movement. Getting your circulation going isn’t only good for your physical health, it is good for your emotional health. I am not going to tell you to go run, because you may hate running. I just want you to find something that makes you want to move. Do you love the swing-set? Go swing! Love to jump? There are trampoline parks in most cities. Or at least you can get a little jump on at home. Try out different classes in your area, even things that sound weird. You may find something unique that you really love.

4. Essential Oils
There are so many oils out there that are helpful, but I can’t possibly include them all in this post. I highly recommend that you try new ones, whenever you have the option! Some of the basic oils I would recommend are:
– Lavender, or Ylang-ylang, for anxiety: Personally, I prefer Ylang-ylang as it is a lighter and more floral smell. It reminds me of sunshine. And I reach for it when I know I am going into a situations with high emotions. Just one or two drops on the chest, by your heart. But lavender is a great starter oil. It has many uses, is easily obtained, and often very affordable. It can also help relieve stress and anxiety.
– Eucalyptus, for rejuvenation: This oil is a great way to recharge when you are feeling drained. The same goes for any of the mints.
– Sandalwood, or Frankincense, for protection: My favorite oil is Frankincense. I love its rich earthy scent and it is so diverse in its uses. Be it to protect you from negative energies, or to fight off that cold. It is very helpful. In fact, in studies it has been seen to have antidepressant effects and even boosts the immune system! Just be sure to keep your oils somewhere cool, preferably dark, and private. It may sound silly, but emotions are just energy. It’s best to keep your oils somewhere away from other people’s energy.

5. Sacred Space
This is a must have. You have to have a space set aside for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big. I’ve known some people to even use their car! It just has to be a place you can control to some degree. Truly it can be anywhere you can relax. But ideally it is a place you can decorate, purify, and make yours. I recommend routinely saging your space, to cleanse and protect. But you can cleanse with a prayer or intention as well. Oils and crystals may also be used to cleanse your space. Whatever allows you to really claim the space as your own. Use your space to go and relax. To get away from the world. Even if it is just for a few minutes.

5. Creative Expression
Do not give me that “Oh, I can’t draw.” line, it is an old outdated thought that is holding you back. Just like there are a ton of ways to get moving, there are a ton of ways to be creative. Even with drawing/painting there are a ton of different styles, or you can make one up! With humanity we like structure, so that we feel taken care of and safe enough to go outside of those defined boundaries and grow.

So, in order to grow, you gotta start somewhere! Go scribble on some paper. Or shred it into tiny pieces and make a shape out of them. Mix paint together (at Wal-Mart acrylic paint is under a dollar per container or even on sale at times for 50 cents) and drip, splatter, or dump it onto paper. As long as it is yours and you don’t care, you can dump that paint on anything! Go get an art kit for kids, play with air dry clay, or go out to a pottery class. There are options for every budget and lifestyle. You just need to go try it. Poor all those emotions into your art. Let it go through you, into your art. Rather than hold onto it. I think you’ll not only feel better, you’ll be surprised at what you can create!

6. Unplug
There are at least a few times a week we can all turn off our phone, or at least the ringer. And far more times we can all step away from the internet. Personally, I turn my phone on vibrate whenever possible. I also limit the number of apps that have permission to give me notifications. In fact, I’ve never allowed Facebook to have permission to give me notifications and I swear it has a daily temper tantrum. I am available by my phone for emergencies. But seriously, years ago we survived without cellphones. Where you had to play phone tag with someone’s answering machine. We weren’t always available or connected 24/7, and the world didn’t implode. Just making sure your ringtone doesn’t jolt you each time it goes off, can help greatly. Try soothing tones whenever possible.

7. No
This one is tough, but you have to start practicing saying no. I see this with Empath’s a lot, they feel obligated to fix things or maintain the peace. While sacrificing their emotional well-being or happiness. Creating boundaries will help you tremendously, and if they are healthy, it can help strengthen relationships too. This can be as simple as not answering the door when you have no expected guests, no missed calls/texts, and especially if it is a time when you usually aren’t available. Or ignoring a call for a number you don’t know. As well it can be saying no if friends want to go out to a club you hate because it is too loud, or when your family is pressuring you to have dinner with that family member who is always rude. The one everyone knows hates you anyway. I am not saying never be around them, just know once-in-awhile you have a choice. It is okay to say no. Being an adult we have that magic power. We get a choice. Sometimes feeling obligated, we can forget that magic power. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Nah, thanks. I want to just go home and relax.” and leave it at that. Let them complain or tease you. Learn to say no, and feel that you have the right to say it, because you do. There are times you can make compromises, but do not allow it to turn into running your life.

8. Cherish Me Time
For Empaths the best thing you will ever do for yourself, is learning to like hanging-out with yourself. It will not only help you to be a more independent adult, but it will help you get experience with what your emotions feel like. Sometimes when you have so many emotions rolling around inside you, it can feel terrifying to be alone with them. But depending on others to distract you from all of it, can actually be what is adding to it. I know for a good portion of my generation, we weren’t really taught a lot about emotional intelligence.

Think about how you were taught all these subjects in school to “prepare” you for the “real world”. Were there any classes on emotional intelligence? I’ll bet most say no, if you did say yes. Please, send me an email. I want to know what cool school you went to! And I don’t mean that one week your health class teacher talked about stress. Emotions are far more complicated than a one week topic in a class.

So, for most of us it is either expected that parents/guardians would teach us. Or we’d magically acquire the tools for emotional management. But for many they were not given tools, or they were given ones that were dysfunctional due to generations lacking proper emotional intelligence. Today more than ever it is so important to gain emotional intelligence. There are so many streams of information bombarding us with intentions of emotional manipulation. Without proper understanding, it is hard to decipher it all, let alone recognize when it is being used to manipulate us. Plus, with all the digital ways we can “escape” it is easier and easier to become disconnected with yourself. I’ll bet most of us don’t even notice it. The side effects of enjoying time with yourself are increase self-esteem, self-love, and the abandonment of any fear attached to eating or going to the movies ALONE. Hey, being able to choose the movie and snacks is an awesome feeling!

9. Spirituality
Spirituality used to be associated with ghosts and the paranormal, and for some it still is. But I am talking about the connection you have with your soul. Being connected is so essential, for everyone. Perhaps, you already routinely participate in a religion. That’s great! But it doesn’t necessarily mean it is attending to all your spiritual needs. For some religion is their spirituality. They co-exist together. For others, they are deeply religious but they have separate rituals for their spiritual wellness. Still others only focus on their spirituality. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. There can’t be, for it is literally your connection with your soul. No one else can dictate what that is or how it is achieved. Only you. I know that can be scary, but it is also so exciting. There’s so much to be gained. I truly feel if people were more connected, the world would be a far better place.

10. Give Yourself Permission
Whether you need to laugh like a maniac, or cry it all out. It is okay to feel. To let yourself feel the full height and depths of emotions. Especially if you’re carrying more than just your own. It is okay to shed a tear when comforting a distraught friend. It might even be the sign of strength and acceptance they need to let go and release it all. While you don’t want emotions to run your life, it doesn’t mean you’re trying to get rid of them. They’re a part of you. It is just a matter of learning to navigate this journey with them. Also, know that by feeling the deeply, you will be able to help others. As well as to know yourself deeper. And to truly experience the most essential aspect of what it means to be human.

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