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

 

I hope you dance

I love to dance.

 

And for a year and a half now, I have not been able to.

 

So Lee Ann Womack’s song that goes, “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance,” even as just a metaphor for life, somewhat breaks my heart.  That’s because physically, I’ve been doing a lot more sitting than I’ve ever done before or ever thought I would do–especially at 28 years old.

 

Literally sitting, not dancing.

 

But by sitting, I’m playing my part right now; stepping up to do what my body and soul have asked.  Which means that what I’ve been doing IS dancing.  That’s right, I am dancing even though I physically can’t dance.  How cool is that!?

 

Dancing is living with courage. 

 

Life is calling us to take a leap in every moment; each one unique in its shape, size, manner, and purpose.  But having the courage to show up, THAT’S dancing.

 

Sometimes that might be going for a run along the river, when at other times it means staying still and curling up in your favorite chair.

 

Sometimes it might mean opening up a flower shop because it’s always been your dream or it might be appreciating the beauty of a single flower sitting on your coffee table.

 

Sometimes it might be speaking up and sharing your message with a group of people, and sometimes it might mean quietly acknowledging and accepting your own truth.

 

Each of us has the power to recognize which kind of leap we’re being called to next.  And when we feel that pull, we have a decision to make.

 

Did you notice that in the song she doesn’t say IF you get the choice, but WHEN you get the choice?

 

That’s because we always have a choice.

 

We choose.  We decide whether to walk toward life or turn away from it.

 

I choose courage.  And I choose stepping out onto the dance floor of life, whatever form it takes.

 

by Justin Leibow i choose courage

 

So let’s dance.

 

May you dance in exactly the way life is calling to you right this very minute.

 

And if you’d like to share what that means for you, I’m all ears.  Send me an email or comment over on Facebook.

 

The little girl with the sparkle in her eye

This photo of me as a little girl reappeared in my life this past autumn.

 

enthusiastic caitlin 2

 

It was part of a beautiful book my cousin put together for me.  Inside are loads of pictures, inspiring quotations, and heartfelt messages from family and friends.

 

On my first look through the book, my mom pointed out this photo and said that it perfectly captures who I was as a child.  I smiled at the thought and flipped to the next page.

 

Later that night, I gazed at the photo again.  With tears in my eyes, I looked at this little girl and realized that I hardly recognized her.  I felt the tremendous gap between who it appears I was then and who I am now.  I started to wonder, when did that sparkle in my eyes start to fade?  How had life come to tear me so far away from who I used to be?

 

And then gradually I concluded that this wasn’t just a distant person I used to know.

 

I thought, THIS is the real me.

 

This genuine joy.  This enthusiasm.  This love of life.

 

It’s all still there.

 

Some of it just happened to become hidden under layers and layers of life experiences–the ones that change all of us.

 

And while we can’t take away any of the experiences that caused us pain or caused us to change into whoever we thought the world wanted us to be, we CAN call the child within us home.  We can choose to wrap that little girl or little boy up in love.  And we can find ways to honor their bright spirit wherever we are now.

 

Just as I thought to myself that night, this is it; this is my opportunity to fall in love with that little girl again and let the light within her shine. 

 

More and more, I keep getting the sense that life and the challenges we face are less about needing to fix or change anything about ourselves, and more about learning to deeply love and fully accept ourselves.

 

In each moment that you choose to treat yourself with love and kindness, it brings a new kind of joy into being; a joy that does not depend on circumstances, a joy that allows your body to breathe a sigh of relief, and a joy that helps you relax into a deep sense of peace.

 

Care to give it a try?  Let me know over on the Facebook page. :)

 

Ode to the little dog who has seen me through quite a lot

{Okay, so this isn’t technically an ode but it IS something I wrote in honor of this little buddy I got 4 years ago on the eve of February 13th.}

 

dino heart

 

At the shelter he greeted me with a cheerful hello.

 

I went in search of a big dog that night but something inside me said, this little one might be just right.

 

So I took a leap of faith and decided to bring him home.  Out in the parking lot about to head home, he shot out into the darkness, giving everyone a scare.  We feared the adventure might have been over before it had even begun.  Thankfully, a volunteer from the shelter helped put an end to the excitement, getting him safely back into the car.  And we were off!

 

By the next day, I found myself sobbing.  I wondered if I’d made a big mistake.  After losing my dad and my childhood Labrador, Maize, I learned the hard way that having a new dog wasn’t going to fill all that empty space in my heart.  I missed my Maize dog.  She was the one who had seen me through so much.  And somehow, this new dog made me miss her even more.  After all, he was little and looked quite different.  But most of all, he was simply a dog I didn’t know.

 

My mom wisely said to give it some time.  That one day, before I knew it, I’d be talking about how much this new little dog had seen me through.

 

And she was right.  As my mom often is.

 

Now here I am, four years later, and already I can’t believe how much I’ve endured with this little dog by my side.  It is hard to imagine that not so long ago, as I was inspired to trust that we’d grow together in time, we started a fresh beginning, just a girl and her dog.

 

In that first year, we took training classes and practiced tricks.  Sitting and staying, heeling and shaking.  He thrived.  He loved playing this game called Learning New Things where the rewards were dispensed as tasty bits of treats.  This motivation led him to become the star of each class.  And like a proud parent, I beamed as he passed all of his tests.

 

We sat outside at local coffee shops and walked down the street.  With infectious enthusiasm, he’d greet each person who passed by, showing love to business women, homeless men, and children all the same.  Well, actually, he always has the most excitement the second he sees kids are near!

 

He helped me make the transition to teaching first grade.  He’d greet me with excitement each day when I came home happily exhausted.  And then snuggle next to me at night as I did my final bit of planning for the following day.

 

The following year, when the exhaustion felt more bitter than satisfying, he reminded me of how wonderful the simple things in life could be.  His presence alone brought me a huge sense of joy.

 

Going for walks in the park, he was lively as could be.  Always curious, sniffing things out, and looking for new places to explore.

 

And I have to admit he was daring enough to take off on a handful of adventures on his own.  Once, bounding through the greenery of the hills, out of sight and without a sound, I had no way to find him.  I didn’t know what to do so I had to let go and hope he’d decide to come back on his own.  Which he did.  The second I turned around to walk home.

 

And the following year when the strike of illness left me unable to move from my bed, he remained by my side, letting out a whimper-slash-whine to say he wished I could get up and play.

 

Still he brings me comfort as he curls up on my lap.  Soothing my heart and my mind as I pet his downy soft fur.

 

He hogs my bed during nap time and carefully watches the floor when I eat.  He listens intently when I speak and tilts his head, trying to piece together what I say.  He climbs on my lap and sticks his cold nose in my face.  And when he wags his tail with excitement, his whole body wiggles.

 

He makes me laugh every day and keeps me entertained with an endless array of adorable expressions.  And then there are the moments when I see him all stretch out or all curled up, that a single glance at his resting face makes me breathe a little deeper and gives me an infinite sense of peace.

 

And in those rare but comical moments when he starts to bug me, I ask if he wants me to send him to live with the circus.  Seriously, he’d do quite well there with his repertoire of tricks!  He can crawl like an army cadet, give you ten up high like a sports fan, and run to you from across the room, flipping his body around in an instant to be right at your side, facing the same direction as you.

 

All jokes and tricks aside, deep down I love that each day I get to live my life with this ever loyal and loving little dog by my side.

 

My pup.  My pal.  My prince.

 

It just took a little time.

 

What do you love about your pet(s)?  What have they helped see your through in your life?  I’d love to know!  Send me an e-mail or comment over on the Facebook page!

 

Oh, and here’s Dino wearing a pink bow on Valentine’s Day so I could snap a quick photo!

 

dino pink bow

 

 

How sharing our stories can help us connect in challenging times

notebook framed

About a month ago, I posted in a Facebook group for bloggers.  I shared my About Page to get some feedback and a girl from North Carolina responded, saying she is housebound with an illness too.

 

I remember the gentle sigh of comfort that followed, leaving me feeling like I could breathe a little easier than before.  It was the unmistakable relief that comes from knowing you’re not the only one.

 

We both commented on the power of knowing this, especially in such isolating circumstances.  She called it the power of having someone say, “me too.”

 

It was a beautiful experience and I wish I could say it has stuck with me ever since, bringing constant and continuous comfort.

 

But it hasn’t.

 

Especially not this past week.

 

For many reasons, I found myself in the throes of intense loneliness, isolation, and abandonment for much of the last week.  Despite the factual knowledge that there are people who love and care about me, I couldn’t feel it.

 

Sometimes it helps to know that certain feelings are just part of the human condition and that everyone experiences them at one point or another.  And sometimes it doesn’t.

 

It’s not so helpful when you’re pretty sure that even if others feel that way too, yours is definitely worse.  Being housebound with an illness where you’re physically unable to do the most basic everyday things others do without giving it a thought will do that to you.

 

And that’s how I felt.  I didn’t care if anyone else was experiencing it too.  I didn’t want to have to be feeling it.  It felt awful and I wanted it to stop.  Plain and simple.

 

I reached out to a fellow coach who helped me allow myself to recognize the feelings of loneliness and isolation–as well as the deep longing for connection and community–for what they are.

 

Normal.  Real.  Understandable.  Healthy.

 

This lifted some of the pressure so I no longer felt the need to change it or minimize it, and could just feel it and allow it to be.  It still wasn’t easy–it’s hard when it feels like everything is going swimmingly for everyone but you and you’re pretty sure that you really are the only one.

 

But for me, sharing with her made the difference.  I felt heard.  I knew she cared.  And while it didn’t take the feeling away, it helped make it feel a little less awful.

 

So today I’m here to declare that our stories matter.

 

Our stories help us connect with others.

 

Having the courage to share our experiences openly and honesty with people we trust creates the potential for connection.  It clears a sacred space, an opening that allows someone to have the opportunity to say, “me too,” so that neither person is left feeling alone.

 

Perhaps your story is just the one someone needs to hear in order to experience the relief of knowing they’re not the only one.

 

If you have a “me too” story to share, I’d love to hear it over on the Facebook page or in an e-mail.

 

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.

 

An imperfect step in the direction of my inner eagle’s dreams

red shoes agathabrown mf

 

As the first time for me to publish something on the blog in a couple of months, I wanted to put together a pretty and perfectly polished post for you.

 

This sent me on a short boat ride through some agonizing thought waves.

 

What was I thinking when I promised I’d have a blog post out this week?  I should have prepared some blog posts BEFORE taking the leap and making promises.  Should my about page say something different?  I have every hope in the world that I’ll continue to get better, so what if I become completely healthy and want to write about something different?  I don’t want to keep changing things left and right and make myself seem unreliable.

 

You get the idea.  Lots of doubts.  Lots of shoulds.  And lots of me wanting to be able to see the full picture and get everything right from the start.

 

It is an example of me trying to navigate what Martha Beck calls Mouse Vision vs. Eagle Vision.  You see, the eagle in me has big dreams for this blog.  It can see far off into the distance and can imagine incredible things.  But as the mouse, I can only see what’s right in front of me.  Not knowing what the official title of the blog will be long term or which topics and themes will stand the test of time.

 

My mouse self REALLY wants all of the details.  And it wants to know exactly the right thing to do so it can skip to the grand vision as quickly as possible.

 

But as the mouse, all I can do is take the best step forward that I know how to take in the direction of the eagle’s vision.

 

So here I am.  Writing about my experience and sharing it with you, instead of trying to write about what I thought my first post back should be about.  So it may not be pretty or perfectly polished like I’d hoped, but that’s part of what makes it beautiful.  The imperfection makes it real.  And sharing something real and authentic is always beautiful.

 

It comes down to letting go of perfection and the need to get it juuuust right from the very beginning.  Besides, neither of those things even exist!  Incredible creations come to be by trying, failing, adjusting, and trying again.  Over and over.

 

We can alternate mouse vision and eagle vision.  We can use and balance the strengths of both.  And we can keep the spirit of the eagle’s vision alive in our hearts WHILE taking only one step at a time as the mouse.

 

What grand vision does your inner eagle have?  As the mouse, what’s one imperfect step you can take in that direction?

 

I would LOVE to hear your comments about the post and your answers to these questions in the thread on the Facebook page!

 

A new mantra from physical therapy

pink flower by rosevita

Sitting on the exam table, I listened carefully as the physical therapist gave me instructions for the next exercise.

This one, a stretch.

I was to let my head to fall forward as far as it would go, take a deep breath in, and on the exhale allow the weight of my head to give a gentle pull and let it hang there for a moment before lifting it back up to neutral.

By about the third time, I started to notice that my neck was allowing my chin to go further and further with each exhale.  Breathing into it, relaxing deeper, and allowing encouraged my neck to let go so gravity could help out.

And just like that, a little bit at a time, my neck allowed my chin to get closer to my chest than it has in the last 13 months.

I marveled at the power of the breath, of relaxing, of allowing, and the results they created.

 

Not pushing.

Not forcing.

Not trying to MAKE it happen.

 

Breathing.

Relaxing.

Allowing.

 

THOSE were the things that made the progress possible.  Wow.  Pretty profound for physical therapy, huh?

I’m now doing my best to apply this in all aspects of my life and healing journey.  Here’s the mantra.

Breathe.  Relax.  Allow.

Namaste.

 

 

What living in gratitude is REALLY like

roses

 

Today is one of those days where it is hard to feel thankful.  Where my fingers ache as I try to type this, and the vibration-filled sound of the leaf blowers outside fill my whole body like I’m a human tuning fork getting tapped over and over without escape.

But that’s the point.  Gratitude isn’t always easy.  Seeing something to be thankful for when everything feels rotten takes work – a conscious effort.

And at a time when everything, literally everything, is physically harder than usual and requires substantial effort, I often wonder if I have enough energy left to dedicate to the cause.

It’s like being zoomed in so closely on the view of a rose that all you can see are the thorns and tangled mess of leaves.  And it’s only when you take a step back, and broaden your view, that you can see the petals coming together to form a delicate blossom.

So no matter how little energy there is to give, I offer what I have in each moment.

I’m thankful for the spirit of resilience within me that makes living in gratitude possible.  For it is the strength, the fuel, that keeps me looking for the good, no matter what it takes.

And each time I make the choice to give my best in this practice of thanksgiving, it allows me to discover something beautiful, a sometimes small but always generous reward.

When you zoom out, your view might still contain more thorns than petals, but whatever glimpse you have of the beauty, embrace it, treasure it, and allow it to be enough.  Allow it to bring you just the hope you need for this moment.

P.S. I’m also thankful that part of the way through typing this post, those people in charge of the leaf blowers decided to move on and now that I’ve finished, my fingers are feeling a bit more nimble.

Jailbird Dino

Jailbird Dino (3)

 

I sat out on the balcony this evening.

I sipped some tea, admired a pretty red tree, and soon found myself wincing at the sound of a neighbor’s loud music in the distance.

About to head inside, I decided to capture a moment.  I took a photo of Dino in one of his favorite spots – sticking his head through the balcony rails like a jailbird.

I’m so thankful we are captive here together, that it isn’t just me alone.  And I’m thankful for the many moments of entertainment he so generously provides.

Many thanks to you, my cute little jailbird.