What do trailers for Downton Abbey have to do with the holidays?

There it was in my inbox.  An email from MASTERPIECE.  This could only mean one thing: news of Downton Abbey!

 

DowntonAbbeySeason5 www.pbssocal.org
Image credit: www.pbssocal.org

 

With great excitement, I clicked the link in the email right away to watch the preview of the final season that begins in January.

 

 

I scrolled down after I’d finished watching the video and there, among other related videos, was another one labeled, “Downton Abbey 6: UK Trailer.”  So, naturally, I watched.

 

 

And as the teary-eye-inducing trailer came to an end, I was stunned.  Captivated, really, by how a trailer with such a remarkably different feel could be created from the exact same season of the show.

 

The preview that was created for the United states puts its focus on celebration, ceremony, excitement, and a new beginning.  While the trailer intended for the UK features loss, saying goodbye and a season of life coming to an end.

 

In each new beginning something is lost, and each new adventure often comes with a goodbye.  So neither one is the full tale.

 

But still.  The exact same season.  Completely different spin.

 

One could say that our lives are like the season of the show and how we choose to frame them in our minds is like the trailer.  It’s all about which scenes you pick, the angle of the camera, which words the characters say, and what music you choose to play.  And they would be right; how we choose to frame our experiences does hold great power.

 

But there’s another way to look at it that feels more meaningful to me today.  And that is to recognize that real life is not simply made up of sound bites or single glances.  And the trailer isn’t the whole story any more than someone’s Facebook posts give an accurate representation of his or her life.

 

That’s because life itself is more than just a trailer or news feed.

 

Life has more depth.

 

Life is the sum of all of it.

 

And the whole, honest, miserable, and brilliant thing deserves to be honored.

 

So as we find ourselves in this season of beautiful holidays, may we honor everything about our experience.

 

May we honor the warmth of our homes and the abundance that surrounds us.  May we honor the breaths that fill our lungs and the moments of shared laughter and connection with those we love.

 

And in addition, perhaps this year we can also make space to honor the emptiness felt when thinking of those we wish could be at our side, the frustration that arises when things don’t turn out just as we planned, or whatever else finds its way into our lives.

 

Let’s welcome every little bit.  And honor it all.

 

With a deep and thankful breath,

Caitlin

 

 

Some thoughts on ‘genuine’ & a new blog title

This week I’d like to give you a sneak peek at something I’ve been contemplating for quite a while.  I’ve been itching to have a name for the blog but I personally have been changing so much these days that I keep holding off, thinking I might change my mind and regret jumping the gun.  But at this point, what I’m about to share with you today is something that has felt pretty solid for me for at least a year now…so we’re just going to go with it!  Yup, I’m taking the leap, people.  Are you ready to jump in with me?

 

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About six years ago, during a different unbelievably challenging time while my dad was terminally ill (it still feels strange to hear that), I couldn’t read regular fiction because it all seemed too trivial.  I just couldn’t make myself care about characters who agonized and obsessed over clothes, boyfriends and careers.

 

Walking through Powell’s Books one dreary Portland afternoon, a book on the sale shelf caught my eye.  The title read Miracle in the Andes.  With a quick flip of the book and a glance at the blurb, I decided the book was destined to be mine.  I took it home, started reading and couldn’t put it down.  Inside, Nando Parrado shares the story of how he survived a plane crash in the Andes.  I found it inspiring and I learned things that helped me through that time in my life.  In fact, some of those exact lessons have become even more a part of who I am today than I ever could have imagined.

 

Near the end of the book, a specific passage seemed to leap of the page at me.  I was captivated by the depth to which it mirrored how I had been feeling in my own life.  So I wrote it down in a little notebook and have referred back to it many times since.  It goes like this.

 

“I had been thinking of the disaster as horrible mistake, as an unscripted deviation from the happy story of the life I had been promised.  But now I began to understand that my ordeal in the Andes was not an interruption of my true destiny, or a perversion of what my life was SUPPOSED to be.  It simply WAS my life, and the future that lay ahead was the only future available to me.  To hide from this fact, or to live in bitterness and anger, would only keep me from living any genuine life at all.  Before the crash, I took so much for granted, but the mountains showed me that life, any life, is a miracle.”

{I think putting a couple of the words in all caps might have been my doing.  That’s just how I wrote it in my notebook, though, so I’m not sure.}

 

At the time that I first read this I didn’t know anything about life coaching or what it would feel like to be free of the pain that all of our “shoulds” tend to cause us in life.  But deep down, something resonated in a big way.  Probably because that was the point when all of the tragedy and heartbreak that no one ever thinks is going to come knocking at their door started showing up at mine.

 

For most of my life I did my best to be positive in all circumstances, diligently learning everything I could from each experience and situation.  This is all well and good except for the fact that it turned out that most of the time, I was doing it to keep from acknowledging what was true for me and how I really felt.

 

But what illness has done for me, is help me to be genuine, to be honest with myself, and to accept who I am, where I am, what I think, and how I feel.  Because it was in my darkest moments, when enthusiasm felt like nothing but a distant dream, that I discovered I could always muster genuine.  It was at those times when trying to be happy or hopeful just seemed too much to ask, that I finally learned to simply let myself be and allow that to be enough.  And today, that is still the place where I find the inspiration and hope to pull me through.

 

This is why I’m planning to call the blog This Genuine Life.  A place that’s all about being genuine, living a genuine life, and making the most of the only future we have available to us.

 

There’s a part of me that thinks I should come up with something more flashy, more exciting.  But to this day, genuine feels right.  Genuine feels true.  And genuine feels like something I can always count on to create the space for all the beautiful things I’d love more of in my life, like love, joy, grace, abundance, and freedom.

 

I have so many thoughts about this new blog title and theme that I’m not even sure how to fully articulate yet.   But you can trust that slowly but surely, as they’re ready, I’ll share them with you.

 

And like I said, I’ve been hesitant to give the blog a name because I know myself and I know how I like to change things.  But by committing to being genuine, change is part of the deal.  So consider yourself forewarned. {wink}

 

Chomping at the bit to hear what you think!

Caitlin

 

P.S.  I’ll literally keep track of the yeas and nays that roll in because I appreciate having you as part of this community and I truly care what you think.  So leave a comment below or on the post over on Facebook.  If you love it, I’d be happy to know.  And if you think it would be a huge mistake that I’d regret forever and ever…please, DO tell me and help save me from myself! {wink}

 

Tootsie Roll Pops: the sweet side of life lessons

Life lessons are not items to be completed or crossed off a list.  This is decidedly fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it.

 

Life lessons are like Tootsie Roll Pops.

 

tootsie roll pops

 

Or should I say, learning a life lesson is like trying to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop without using your teeth.  It can be painful.  It can be frustrating.  And you can just so badly want to get to the middle and be done with it already.

 

But at the same time, the closer you get to the center the more delicious and exciting it gets.

 

This is quite the combination and more than once, I’ve caught myself marveling at how profoundly annoying yet uniquely beautiful this is.  In respect to the life lessons themselves, not Tootsie Roll Pops.  Although…those DO certainly sound delicious.

 

Anyway, this happened to me just a few weeks ago.  With the lessons, not real Tootsie Roll Pops.  *Ugh, now I really want a Tootsie Roll Pop!*

 

I had the opportunity to learn something again for what felt like the billionth time.  In the beginning it felt miserable and I wished I could just skip ahead and mark it off the list.  

 

But once I made it to the other side, do you know what I realized?  If I had stopped when I first thought I’d learned the lesson and mastered it well enough, I never would have made it to the place where I am now.  I wouldn’t have been able to move past the surface level understanding and I wouldn’t feel it deep in my bones in the same way.

 

I’ve now been relishing the level of peace I know because of the way I was challenged to press forward, moving deeper and deeper into a beautiful loving center filled with peace.

 

Try looking back to wherever you were when you started your own journey and celebrate how far you’ve come.  May you savor that sweetness today.

 

And my hope is that the next time you reach one of those moments with the desperate desire to cross a lesson off the list as “learned for good,” the memory of that sweetness, how great it feels on the other side, will help carry you through.  And just know that each time around the outside gets you that much closer to all of the chocolatey goodness that’s waiting for you at the core.

 

With love, laughter, and Tootsie Roll Pops!

Caitlin

 

Image credit: nuts.com

A little bee with a big message

Much to Dino’s dismay, a bee flew into the living room today.

 

little bee

 

I pulled the nearby door wide open, all but putting up flares for guidance, but it could not find its way out.  It was fixated on getting through the window with a tree just on the other side.

 

It slammed its tough little self into the glass repeatedly, taking breaks in between to rest and rub its back legs together before launching itself towards the window again at top speed.

 

As I sit here writing, it continues to do so again and again as if eventually, given enough attempts and enough force, it will break its way through the glass barrier.

 

How often do we do this as humans, pushing again and again with determination to go one way, when what we really need to do is broaden our view a bit and change direction in order to reach our desired destination?

 

The fact is, there is no amount of time, dedication, or hard work that will get you where you want to go if you’re going in the wrong direction.  And sometimes it’s necessary to back up in order to expand your perception or ask for help to be able to sense the next step and know the best path to take.

 

For now, the determined little bee still has not found its way to freedom (hopefully it will before bedtime) but perhaps you can use the wisdom of its example of what NOT to do in order to find a little taste of freedom in your own life today.

 

Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Caitlin

 

Photo: morgueFile

 

The One with the FRIENDS-style Flashback

Just in case you haven’t already heard…FRIENDS is on Netflix!Friends photo cornersI’ve watched, I’ve laughed, and I’ve been inspired to do a quick Friends-style flashback to ten of my favorite blog posts from last year.  Here they are; click through and enjoy!

 

The One with the Kindest Thing

 

The One Where Caitlin Chooses “And”

 

The One Where Dino Has to Take a Few Steps Back

 

The One with the 27 Lessons

 

The One Where Her Dad Gives Life His All

 

The One Where it’s Between the Ears

 

The One with the Power of Now

 

The One with the Unexpected Messenger

 

The One with the Blog Tour

 

The One with the Story that Started it All

 

I’d love to hear which is your favorite, as well as what you’d like to read about in future posts!  Email me or join the discussion over on the Facebook page.

 

Step Back so the Door Can Open

wait you want me to take a step back

 

One morning last week I got out of bed to discover my Dino dog stretched out on the floor in front of the door, staring at it with great anticipation of getting to the other side.  His chin rested on top of his furry paws so his cute little nose was so close to the door that there wasn’t space for it to open.

He didn’t move when I grabbed the door nob to open the door so I motioned to him and heard myself say, “you have to back up so I can get the door open for you.”  The moment the words left my mouth I smiled, and almost laughed, at the clarity that so magically formed in  my mind.  And I went on smiling, muttering to myself, “you have to back up, sometimes you have to step back.”

Sometimes you must take a few steps back in order to get where you want to go.

Who would ever guess that such a silly, everyday moment of opening the bedroom door for my dog could create such a genuine epiphany!  For that brief bit, life felt so beautiful and full of possibility as I pondered this idea that taking a step back doesn’t have to be something negative.  It doesn’t mean you’re behind.  It doesn’t mean you’re giving up.  It doesn’t mean you’ve dropped out of the game.  And it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t still get to go where you want to go or perhaps get to go somewhere even more incredible than you could have hoped or imagined.

As I thought about my time spent with this illness and the ways it may actually help me get where I want to go, I marveled at the deeper level of peace that I’ve only come to experience because of the way calm, quiet, and the ability to focus on one moment at a time have become necessary for my very survival.

The feeling of peace never seems to last forever, especially when new challenges get plopped down atop of the heaping pile of things that already felt hard enough, making the new challenges feel downright insurmountable.

But I love knowing that this feeling of possibility is always there for me to return to when I’m ready; the invitation to trust that this time spent hanging back, learning to live with pain, uncertainty, and limitations, and being steeped in peace and love, will create the space for a door to open…

A door that will be just the one I want to step through when the time is right.

 

Lessons from My 27th Year

cupcakes

(NOTE:  I feel so happy today that I almost feel silly posting this intro. BUT I like that it is proof of the fact that sometimes you need to fully feel the icky stuff in order to get to the joy, the love, the hope, and the peace that are always waiting for you on the other side.)

As my birthday approached I started to feel sad, and I caught myself thinking, “That’s not normal.  I shouldn’t be sad.  You’re supposed to be happy on your birthday.”

Then the wise part of myself came forward to say that thinking this wasn’t going to help me.  Recognizing that she was right, I called to the nurturing part of myself that usually only shows up for others.  She supported me, saying it was okay for me to feel however I was feeling; that if I felt sad that meant I had reason to be sad and I could let it out.  So I did.

I realized that the sadness was about more than just the fact that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate my birthday the way I want to because of my illness.  I was sad that it would mark nearly a year of being sick with no definite end in sight, sad that it has been another year that my dad has not been here with us, sad that life as a whole has not turned out at all like I dreamed.

Before long, sadness gave way to anger.  I was angry about the years I didn’t get to spend the way I felt I should have had the opportunity to, and angry that my innocence, the idealistic outlook that came so easily, had been taken from me before I was ready.

A new coach friend noticed that my anger had an energy to it.  An energy of hope.  I was shocked, “it does, doesn’t it?!”

It’s true.  I have endured a lot of challenges that most people my age have not.  But no matter the heartbreak or injustice, hope remains.  Hope is the voice that called out from my anger to say, “Hey, you’re ahead of your time in all that you’ve learned, and that, no matter how painful, will serve you well.”

So later that night I was inspired to type out a list of things I’ve learned throughout the last year.  I typed them out rapid-fire on my phone as they came to mind, counting as I went.  I decided to stop at 27 and now I have a list of 27 lessons I learned in my 27th year of life on this planet.  So without further ado, here are the first 27 things that came to mind.  The lessons that will get added to my cherished, hard-won collection that will carry me boldly into the future.

1.      Being content with your own company and only your own company is a skill worth developing.

2.      It is possible to be resilient and feel completely depleted and fed up with life at the same time.

3.      Sometimes your body desperately needs rest, so allow it to have some.

4.      Embrace your emotions, even the ones that you fear might suck you up or eat you alive, because they always seem to lead to something valuable.

5.      Be honest with yourself and don’t cover your wounds with “positive statement bandaids” that don’t feel true.

6.      Make decisions based on what feels right for your soul.

7.      Keep a detailed record of all dealings with medical, insurance company, and school district personnel…even the ones you think you can trust.

8.      Life coaching rocks.

9.      In the medical system you can only get as far as you are determined to push and advocate for yourself, so stick with it.

10.  There are times when you need help so much that you aren’t embarrassed to accept it because you’re already filled to the brim with thankfulness that someone is there to provide it.

11.  Even when you don’t hear from others as often as you’d like, it doesn’t mean that they don’t think of you and care for you.  And there will always be people who will stay by your side no matter how dark things get.

12.  There are few things in life so wonderful as talking with someone who meets you with genuine compassion and sits with you in the experience of wherever you are and whatever you’re feeling in that moment.

13.  People aren’t ever going to understand what it’s like to be you, and that’s okay.

14.  The world is full of exceedingly beautiful and unbelievably horrible things.  Whatever comes, you’ll take it one thing at a time, and you will be okay.

15.  Meditation helps you let go of judgment and creates the space that makes it possible to experience the peace that’s already within you.

16.  There is nothing like the loyal and joyful companionship of a special little dog (named Dino).

17.  Try to be as supportive to yourself as you would be to a friend, family member, or anyone you love.

18.  Your soul is more stunning than words can describe, and more precious than you can imagine.

19.  You don’t need to allow yourself to be limited by the patterns and experiences of your past.  There’s always an opportunity to let go of something that doesn’t serve you in order to make room for something new.

20.  Life is filled with choices, choices you get to be the one to make.

21.  Just because your mind thinks something doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

22.  Good health really is one of the most treasured forms of wealth.  Fight for it, protect it, and delight in it.

23.  Letting go does not mean giving up, it just means you’re making space for the next miraculous thing is yet to be.

24.  People are like books; they shouldn’t be judged by the cover.  It’s likely that whatever struggle is going on inside can’t be seen on the outside.

25.  Even when the list is short, it is always more empowering to focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.

26.  Love and laughter help make everything feel a little bit better and help make the world a little bit brighter.

27.  Keep an eye out for the small, ordinary things that may just turn out to be extraordinary.

 

Choosing A-N-D

sunrise or sunset in distance

I can be stuck in my apartment with a debilitating illness AND I can connect with people.

I can have my own struggles AND I can support others in theirs.

I can be sick AND I can coach.

Today I am overwhelmingly thankful for the fact that the parts of each of these statements can coexist and live together in harmony.

I’m thankful for this revelation and for the incredible people who helped me realize that it doesn’t always have to be one or the other…sometimes, even when you least suspect it, it can be both!

And perhaps most of all, I’m thankful for the fact that it is giving me the courage to make this formal declaration that I am sick AND I am training to become a life coach.

I’ve been shy about announcing it to the world, fearing people would respond in accordance with the old saying shared with kids who are home from school with a cold or the flu, “If you’re too sick to go to school, you’re too sick to ___.”

They might think, “If she’s too sick to be able to drive, be out in the world, be independent, be at work, then she shouldn’t be taking an 8 month training program.”  Or worse, “If she can participate in life coach training over the phone, then she must not really be that sick.”

But I am here to say that I don’t have to be one or the other, I can be and do BOTH.

In the face of so many things that I physically cannot do, it feels good to celebrate the ANDs, the things I CAN do in spite of the challenges and in some cases, dare I say, because of them.

 

The Unexpected Messenger

soaring bird

 

The story begins with resentment.

Doesn’t sound like a very positive place to start, does it?  Just give me a minute, and you’ll see where it leads.

I watched with envy as people walked out of the store, while I sat in the passenger seat of the car, waiting for my mom to return.

I felt terrible for resenting these people, these strangers.  But I did.  I resented their ability to enter the store.  I resented their good health.  I resented the way they moved with ease.

“They can move so freely and they don’t even know how lucky they are,” I bitterly thought to myself.

And with that, something shifted.

 

Good health feels like freedom.

 

I’ve known that I want to be healthy.  Getting well has been the goal all along, the treasured prize that I long for.

But that day I realized my desire for good health runs even deeper.

You see, it’s not just about health.  It’s about the space and endless possibilities that good health creates: opportunity, ease, and freedom.

So while I’m thankful for what my body is able to do (even when I wish it could do more) and for the healthy future I have faith lies ahead…

Today I am thankful for the unexpected messenger, that resentment, which led me to discover some of my soul’s truest desires: feelings of ease and freedom.