Post #12 – Clichè Holiday Blog


Well, the calendar has turned to December, and we are firmly stuck in purgatory.  We must go here every year as we finish our last plate of leftover turkey, and no amount of blinky, colorful lights, Yankee Swaps, or 24/7 assault on our ears by songs of the season will redeem our souls and grant us release.  No, we must simply do our time and endure. As part of my penance it seems that I should be writing the obligatory and cliché holiday blog.

Perhaps I should preface this by confessing, if you haven’t guessed already, that I am not a big fan of the holiday season.  Over the years, I have manufactured a host of reasons for my Scroogelike attitude: familial dysfunction, disdain for organized religion, or just the false-face that humanity puts on for the advent season.  Whatever my reason of the season, I celebrate January 1st when all the bullshit is over!


You see, I have spent the vast majority of my life looking at the glass as half-empty.  I have always harbored a not-so-secret intolerance and disgust for those pollyanna people who see the world otherwise.  You know the ones, they become their most annoying in December when they are sprinkling their holiday cheer all over your soggy Cheerios.  They have a smile for everyone and an energy about them that is almost painful to be near.


June of 2017, when I lost the love of my life, should have been the proverbial nail in my holiday hating coffin.  Last Christmas was my first without Kristin and the pain of her loss was so debilitating that there was no chance that I would be visited by three spirits bent on saving my holiday soul.  But this year…


After a year and a half of grieving and healing and pushing away the clouds of pain, I am discovering something wholly unexpected.  Kristin’s love for me was transformative. She changed my heart and along with it, the way I am starting to view and experience the world.  It is as if her love opened my heart to love for the first time and now I can feel it where once I could only observe in others and think it fake.

But love isn’t fake!  It is real and has the power to transform lives.  Kristin had to leave me, but her love resides safely in my heart, opening me to experience the world, and yes, the holidays in an entirely new way.


I hated the holidays because my family wasn’t perfect despite our love for one another, I hated the holidays because gifts seemed like an exchange of “stuff” rather than an expression of love, I hated Christmas because it was perpetuated by organizations who promote intolerance in the name of religion.  They miss the whole point of the story of Jesus! At every turn, the story of Jesus is one of love, the greatest love if you subscribe to the story. A mother’s love for her child, a man’s love for his fellow man regardless of station or condition. A love of students for their teacher, and his love for them.  A love for all of humanity in its oneness and a love beyond self, a love story of sacrifice.


Now, I am not elevating Kristin to that of a messiah, although she was my miracle.  But, I am drawing a parallel in this sense. Love is the most powerful force known to humans whether you experience it through your chosen belief system or in the merging of your heart with another.  Thanks to my wife, I not only see the glass as half-full, but I also understand that I can just fill it up again should it ever become empty.


Instead of feeling disappointed by the imperfect nature of my family, I have come to celebrate that we are all born into a tribe of souls who signed a sacred contract long ago, in a place we don’t understand, to always love us.  While that love may get battered and worn, tested and tattered, it endures. We may not always feel it, or want to feel it, but it’s there, it has to be, that’s the deal.


I have long ago accepted that organized religion is not my pathway to realizing my best and higher self, nor does it help me to achieve a connection to that which is greater than us and to that which binds us together.  But, the messages and the teachings of all belief systems are of love, charity, and acceptance which we can all agree are what make the holidays so special. As a species, we humans are the best versions of ourselves at this time of year.  The skeptic in me used to see this short-lived expression of peace, love, and goodwill toward humankind as fake. I no longer think that way. I think that the holidays bring out our best. It is a brief period of time when our collective consciousness is in alignment and through the power of our intention we make the world a little bit better.

So, if you are one of those holiday fairies sprinkling your good cheer all over the place, please, sprinkle away!  The world needs more of it. But, also please remember that there are alot of people who feel like I used to. They carry Scrooge-like chains that are very real and very heavy.  Try not to feel dismissive, angry, or hopeless for them. They are most in need of your love now and throughout the year. Happy Holidays, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or anything else you celebrate and hold dear!


Christmas, oddly enough, used to be the one time of year that my family could get its act together. It was the time when I could let me guard down and know that my older sisters and brother would be filling the house and life would seem incredibly normal, even magical. My mom would bake endless cookies with my older sisters, we would shop at the local discount store on route nine halfway between Spofford and Keene. I would wind my way around the countless aisles piled high with overstock items and dust and feel encouraged that my $20 budget would be more than enough to get something for each of my four siblings, their spouses, and children and even my mom and dad. It didn’t have to be fancy or even something new and exciting. No matter what I wrapped, whether it was soap on a rope or a bag of beef jerky, the gift was always opened with a huge smile and nod of gratitude. My earliest memories of giving and the emotions received from doing so have been with me since those days in the seventies.

We had a fake tree for most of my early years. My sister and I always fought over who would hang up the golden teapot, the first ornament purchased by my parents in Connecticut when they were married. It was already ancient by the time we were old enough to be able to hang it. There were years when my older sister talked my mom into using white lights, but there were still those when we had colored and my sister and I would lay on our backs under the bottom branches looking up into the tree just imagining all of the magic of the season and how it would unfold.

Christmas was good. There were rarely spells of silence, hurtful words, flying objects, or holes being punched in the walls. Somehow it was protected in a bubble even as we grew older. Holiday cheer and warm wishes always showed up and nestled us in for at least one magical time in December. We were all one, connected, united, and sharing in the very brightest light. These are my very best childhood memories and I will forever treasure them.

All that magic seemed to create a Christmas Troll in me. I needed homemade cookies, gingerbread houses, lots of gifts wrapped in real satin ribbon, multiple trees carefully chosen and cut down from local tree farms, movies by the fireplace with the logs ablazed and roaring insync with the soundtrack, and music filling every nook and cranny. Somehow in needing to create that perfect holiday magic year after year as the responsibility fell on my shoulders and my one child turned into three and then a blended family of family, I traveled farther and farther away from the the true essence I enjoyed as a child and moved closer to the purgatory Kevin so aptly learned to despise.

Instead of being in the oneness of the season, connecting with friends, family, and loved ones, I allowed myself to be caught up in the fancy of it all leaning more on commercialism and less on the spirit within that wants to be reminded that love is not only the season it is the reason. This year I have been quietly turning down the noise in my life, consciously choosing to focus on what feels good and move in its direction instead of dwelling in shame, fear, or guilt. I’ve chosen to give myself a second chance, a third when I don’t get it quite right. I believe that I am a good person and eventually I will be even better at being a human that chooses kindness over comparison in each and every moment. I will get there. Practice makes perfect. That’s something we’ve all experienced in life. This season that has landed upon our shoulders, crept up on us while we were busy trying to get life done, gives us that bubble to be kinder and gentler not only with others but also ourselves. We are not a divided being, unapproachable, distant, and unaffected by another. We are one and when we are focused on the light in others we are focused on the light in ourselves and somehow that feels so very right to me here in my mid-late forties. 

The lights of the trees, the window candles, and the silver balls on the wreath cookies are not where the holiday magic resides, they are just beautiful reminders of what has always been residing in each of us. I’m a good person. You are a good person. We both have room for improvement but who doesn’t. Let’s cut each of us a little slack this holiday season and be a kinder, gentler version of our self.

  • Post #11 – Unblocking blocks


    Ignorance is bliss. Yes, agreed. When you keep on doing what you know and everything is right in what you are doing there is a certain sense of ease to living life. When you stumble upon a new perspective that leads to a new truth, there is a conscious choice to be made. The Earth used to be flat and not so long ago if you consider the span of time it has endured. Then something shifted, a person’s perspective changed, and the world didn’t seem so flat after all. The choice needed to be made by millions all over the world to stay with their mindset of being weary of sailing off the edge or embrace a willingness to consider that one could and may circumnavigate the globe.

    I grew up in a small town in western New Hampshire surrounded by mountains with lakes, trees, and lots of people exactly like me. My perspective was pretty much shared by everyone else. When I moved to Maine just before my sophomore year in highschool I thought I had arrived in a big city, we were twenty minutes from Portsmouth and just over an hour north of Boston. Life changed drastically, my small hometown bubble had burst. One by one previously held beliefs about myself and people in general were questioned and begged to be reexamined.

    Decades later I’m still very much learning that change is constant and growth is not only trying it can be downright annoying and sometimes even painful. I remember a teacher pointing out that I had a streak of tenacity. I smiled and blushed at the compliment. Looking back and having worked in education I have a feeling what he was really implying that I was stubborn, strong willed, and unable to budge in certain areas of my thoughts and knowing. In the past decade, looking back I can share that I have been given ample opportunities to reexamine long standing beliefs and behavioral patterns in order to consider if there might just be a kinder, gentler way of looking at myself and life as I know it.

    I believed with all my heart that giving meant never receiving, hard work was the only remedy to laziness, self judgement kept one from never making mistakes, and probably the most detrimental held belief was that everyone else’s opinion and time was more valuable than my own. Traveling through life with this ingrained mindset makes for a very long rocky road with little reprieve and lots of feelings of guilt, shame, and fear of what others may think about you. Often times this was at the expense of my own balance, happiness, safety, and well being. Sometime during this Summer after facing a new challenge in my life I decided to consider that there may be a new way of looking at life, embracing it. I was longing for a sense of ease, peace, and calm. I was recognizing that there were things that I felt were important and worth spending time on that I have been pushing down while I agreed to do things and fill roles for other people, in some cases for individuals I barely knew. Yet with the beliefs that I had held since a very young child, those other people somehow seemed more valuable and important than myself and I was doing a good deed, providing a service to my community, and being a better person than I thought I was.

    When I allowed myself to consider that there may be a different way to live, tiny little moments began to open up. People who I hadn’t seen for a very long time, opportunities to do things I had once dreamed of, and moments of calm and ease slowly began showing up. At first, I would say thank you but no thank you. Then as I strengthened my resolve to consider, I began accepting, I allowed myself to receive, and suddenly I was feeling change in the air. In allowing myself to consider, I believe that I have begun unblocking blocks which were set and cemented oh so many years ago and have become hardened and stuck with disappointment, negative self talk, low frequency emotions like jealousy, guilt, fear, shame, and doubt. I’ve decided to try something new for a change and be ready and willing to receive and be all the best life has to offer. So far it’s going pretty well. The road hasn’t changed, it’s still long and rocky in some places but the way in which I have decided to travel it is so much more enjoyable. There are still a good number of blocks to unblock but as each day passes I find myself more readily aware of each of them and in a better place to remove them. Life is meant to be good, living can be done with a sense of ease and peace even when it delivers lemons.



    As I was preparing my response to Jen’s entry, I received word that my aunt Pat had passed away.  Aunt Pat was not just an aunt to me, she was my godmother and a consistent source of love and support from the moment I was born.  In the hours after the news spread, a younger member of my family posted on Facebook about how they had just discovered a bucket list that she had written for herself.  The post lamented that my aunt had only crossed one thing off of her list, it further implored anyone reading to “go out and live your life while you can. Stop letting work or obligations or bills or self doubt stop you from doing things. Go live.”  I’ve been surprised by the time and emotions I have spent reflecting on such a seemingly uplifting and motivating post. It reads like one of those inspirational memes, but it is bugging the shit out of me!


    What’s bugging me is that it is written from a perspective that assumes and dismisses.  It assumes that what was on that list was important to my aunt, and it dismisses that which truly was.  Not only do I believe that this is what Jen is pointing out in her entry, but, perhaps more importantly, I believe our lack of an ability to see an alternative perspective is the greatest condition ailing our country these days.


    The Facebook post assumes that if my aunt had lived her life differently and checked off all of her bucket list boxes, that her life would somehow have been better and more complete; that we could have looked at her scorecard and declared her a winner at the game of life.  My aunt may have only crossed ONE thing off of her bucket list, but I promise you that she wasn’t sorry and she damn well wouldn’t want anyone to feel sad for her. You see, life is about choices, as the post and Jen’s blog entry imply. What may look like obligations, self doubt, and a failure to live a fully actuated life are really choices that are consciously and purposefully made by the person living them.  They are choices that reflect the individual’s values and what makes them happy.


    During my last visit with aunt Pat, I was talking with her about how people move away from home chasing that next promotion, higher income, more things, and, at all costs, avoiding family connections.  I told her how I fantasize about living somewhere warm on a sailboat but that I could never do that. I could never be truly happy living that far away from home or from my Dad. It is not because he needs me, he is healthy and fit, and still takes care of me way more that I do anything for him.  No, I couldn’t be happy living that far away because I couldn’t go sailing with him on Casco Bay, I couldn’t go hiking with him in the Whites, I couldn’t go get a burger and a beer with him at his favorite pub.


    As I went on about this, my aunt just listened, then she told me about my uncle Keith.  She told me how he had willingly loved her, and her two boys from a previous marriage, and the daughter they had together.  She told me about how he turned down the opportunity to make more money and to gain more power and prestige within his company.  She told me that he turned it down because he didn’t want to be away from home in the way he would have been required to be. It was a choice he made.  She also told me of how he lovingly took care of his aging mother, something that he wouldn’t have been able to do had he accepted that job.


    It reminded me of a choice that I made a few years ago.  I chose to love a woman dying from cancer. I chose to put my personal and professional lives on hold to love her and care for her.  I chose that, and now, despite my having lost her, I have no regrets. The love we shared. The person she helped me become. I could not have made a better choice.


    As aunt Pat and I continued our visit, she reflected on her life but not once did she ever express regret that she only crossed one thing off that list.  No, she told me stories of family and friends. She spoke of her late husband. She beamed with pride as she spoke about my cousins saying, “I have such wonderful children.  Each of them are such good people.” Every story she told me reflected a memory of someone important to her and every memory was a tale of love. Never was there an ounce of regret for a trinket not purchased, a place unseen, or a dollar unearned.


    Not too long ago, a different family member looked down his nose at my life’s choices.  He felt as though I had lived a “safe” life and that I was a slave to imagined obligations.  Let me tell you, as I stood in the back of my aunt’s funeral service on Saturday and surveyed a room full of people grieving the loss of their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend, I was struck.  I was struck that I was looking at my aunt’s bucket list. THIS is what was important to her. These people! We were all so important to her that she never even considered putting us on a bucket list. Her love for us was so fundamental that it never even occurred to her to write it down on a list and it superseded anything that did manage to make it on a list.  Ironically, that family member who all but mocked my life’s choices was nowhere to be found. His condolences expressed in a throw away text message.

  • Post #10 – “What do you do?”


    “What do you do?”


    Since opening the doors to Hawksbill Healing in July of 2018, I have found that the vast majority of my clients were already well versed in the practice of Reiki.  Lately though, that seems to be changing; a change that I find personally very exciting! It seems that more and more people are finding their way to my humble little practice asking me questions like, “What do you do?”  A simple enough question it would seem, but I often stumble a bit when put on the spot. So, I thought maybe I could try to answer it here.

    Have you ever bumped your elbow, banged your knee, or whacked your head on something?  Besides muttering an expletive, what is your reflexive reaction? Most of us will find that we bring our hands to wherever we just hurt.  The same is true of a parent when their toddler inevitably comes crying with the day’s latest “owie.” But, why?

    The answer can be found in the basic principle of Reiki:  we are all energetic beings. Put simply, a part from our flesh and bones, we also consist of energy.  So the foundational truth of Reiki is actually scientific fact, not some hippie, spiritual, voodoo magical fantasy.  We have energy within us and all around us. Reiki holds that there is healing power in that energy; that we can learn to channel it and use it to awaken the internal power to heal that resides in each and every one of us.

    As a practitioner, I simply open myself up as a conduit for the universe to pass energy on to my client.  My client’s only job is to lay comfortably and be open, the Reiki energy does the rest. The result of the exchange?  Well, that can be described as magical.  I have had so many instances of “knowing” that someone was hurting and where my hands were needed to focus the energy and the experiences that my clients have reported have been amazing.

    Before my training to become a practitioner, I went through a progression of acceptance with the idea of Reiki.  See, I am a healthy skeptic of anything that seems magical or fantasy based. I had great debates about all faiths in college as a religious studies minor and I have proudly carried my tendency to doubt into adulthood.  The term and concept of Reiki was first introduced to me in my mid-twenties. At that time, I was hungry to learn anything spiritual in nature that was a break from the Judeo Christian tradition I had been raised in and I was immersing myself in Buddhist principles.  I can see, now, how Reiki was a natural extension, but at that time it sounded too cooky. I am just supposed to lay there and something supernatural happens? I don’t think so!

    Reiki and I didn’t cross paths again for another twenty years or so until my wife was in hospice and a volunteer offered to perform it for her.  Seeing no harm, Kristin agreed. Her mom, sister, and myself all stayed in the room and had a good laugh afterward: “Did you feel the energy Kristin?”  Yes, it still seemed too weird to me.

    Unbeknownst to me, through my laughing and cracking jokes, I was also becoming more open to the idea.  Have you ever heard a word for the first time and then you hear it multiple times over the next few days?  That’s how it was for me and Reiki from that point on. It just kept showing up in my life until I finally acquiesced and made an appointment with a practitioner.

    By the time I gave in, I was deep into grieving the loss of Kristin.  The pain I was feeling was palpable and I was struggling to release it.  Laying on that table as the practitioner gently moved her hands from my head to my chest, and on to my other chakras, I found a release.  I cried long and hard in a way that I knew I needed to but had been struggling to achieve.

    Today, I continue to receive Reiki as well as provide to provide it, and while my emotional releases are not nearly as dramatic, it still helps me to achieve a state of healing and a feeling of balance that nothing else ever does.

    As I conclude this blog I am eager to read Jen’s response.  I am so curious to know what her experiences have been like.  I am also very interested to hear from our readers. I would love to hear any testimonials that people feel comfortable leaving in the comments section, or to answer any questions that people may have.  Until the next blog…namaste.


    My first reiki experience occured over twenty years ago in Madbury NH. I’m trying to remember how I first found out about reiki. My initial introduction to what used to be termed New Age spirituality was when I was in my early teens. My sister had given me the book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.  I grew up working in Pepperell Cove and as a young girl I worked with someone who began to experience a spiritual awakening and would share with us, often as we held back giggles or would raise an eyebrow with suspicion. Then as time passed and each of us witnessed certain happenings or received messages from loved ones passed, a certain sense of truth and acceptance began to take seed within.When  I decided to have reflexology done, I was nervous and even hesitant. Like Kevin, I remembered certain scenes from movies, conjured up visions of “voodoo” in my mind, and allowed myself to poke fun at the idea of it all. When I arrived at her home, the mother of a friend of mine, I was immediately put at ease and relaxed into a warm and charming home filled with beauty and kindness. As she worked on my feet  she educated me about the specific pressure points she was working with and why. She explained the correlation between the points on my feet and the organs of my body and how the energy would be affected and what she was working to relieve, activate, or calm down.

    She later became my teacher when I took Reiki level 1. I experienced numerous reiki sessions with her as a client over the span of a few years. It was a turbulent time in my life and somehow the connection I had fostered with her and the energy work I received always seemed a bridge through the darkness to the next day of light in my world. There was something about her voice and demeanor that comforted me in a time of isolation and wanting to disconnect from the world after my father had taken his own life and I was going through a divorce in my early twenties. I was lost, gasping for breath, yet the rest of the world might barely notice as I kept working, taking care of my young child, and presenting a strong and capable facade.

    I took a long hiatus from reiki once change came fast and furious as I was turned in a different direction. I never fully let go of it and would use my limited knowledge of healing with energy and lay quietly in meditation when I was alone or the kids had fallen asleep. It was always a way for me to regain mental and emotional composure and somehow allowing myself time and space to be in my body and to just be still was enough when during the daylight hours I was digging myself out of holes life seemed to make, or if I’m honest dug by the choices I had made. I came back to reiki four years ago when by chance I connected with a local practitioner and medium who has since become a dear friend. A an old friend of mine had also begun practicing reiki and I reconnected with her at just about the same time. They both reminded me of the incredible way it seemed to balance my emotions and bring my world back into focus.  One of them led me to Kevin.

    I have had two sessions with Kevin. Energy work, like people have very unique personalities. It’s a strange thing to try to explain, although I think Kevin hit the nail on the head. It’s a quiet sense of ease one receives just like when a child is comforted by a parent. It’s often hands free, yet you can feel the sensation of the energy moving. The best that I can describe it is to remember in Karate Kid when Mr. Miyagi claps his hands and then rubs them together. Try doing that and then holding your hands slightly apart, palms facing one another. If you move your hands slowly back and forth you might feel the energy, the heat between them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

    Science has proven we are all made up of energy. Quantum physics is moving forward in leaps and bounds explaining the unexplainable. It’s connecting the dots between ancient medicines and healings to today’s practices and science. Reiki is being practiced all over our country, all over the world. It has become mainstream and accepted by most. For many it has become another tool in the tool box for self preservation and realization, for others there is still a veil of mysticism that keeps it at an arm’s length. It’s really about you and your comfort zone and listening to your inner voice and doing a good ole fashioned gut check. If you’re ready, you’re ready. If not? Then the world is an incredible cacophony of choice and consideration. We are lucky to be part of it.

  • Post #9 – Chasing the Storm Clouds Away

    Last night was one of the those delicious moments in life when you end up having dinner with friends in a place you love and it was never on your radar to begin with. As we stood on the sidelines in Saco watching our girls play soccer, grey clouds rolled in, the winds stirred up, and raindrops fell from the sky. We braced ourselves for a downpour but it never came, just lite sprinkles. The weather has started to turn and sixty degrees can suddenly drop into the high forties. Our bones were chilled, our cheeks rosie, and our toes becoming numb. The change in weather opened us up for a little midweek adventure. We ended up taking our girls out to dinner in Kennebunkport, yes on a school night.

    One of the moms said that she had read something that she thought I would love. I can’t remember the wording exactly and I’m pretty sure it was a quote from Brenèe Brown, but “don’t quote me.” It was something about not being shy saying no to things you don’t want so that you’ll be able to say yes to the things you do. When she shared it with me I smiled and nodded my head yes. “I love that.” I agreed that it was a good thing for me to hear. Today after falling asleep somewhere after three in the morning and waking up out of a dead sleep after eight, I think I needed to hear what she said. I not only needed to hear it, I need to now believe it and act on it.

    How do we get to that place in life where work equals play, passion is our motivation, and our intuition leads us to where we most belong? Throughout my life I’ve never been shy of taking risks, jumping out of my comfort zone, and willing to start a new venture or change careers. I seem to embrace change, the new energy it brings where anything is possible and it’s only our own imagination that limits our choices of what to do next. Inevitably I’ve always arrived at the place where the dark storm clouds roll in, I’m challenged beyond my perceived abilities and more times than not I throw in the towel before I’ve realized my dream or seen a project or goal all the way through. This is something I like to refer to as self sabotaging. It’s something that I’m really good at. No doubt storm clouds will roll in, they always do. I just have a way of letting them blow me off course. When my friend shared the idea that saying no to others can lead you to the things you want most out of life, something clicked.

    We all have that one thing that seems to cheer us up when we make time for it. Some of us might haven’t even tried it yet but there is something inside that assures us that it would fit perfectly if we did. Yet a lot of us continue to hold ourselves back, talk ourselves into a life profession, habit or routine that makes us miserable and leave us feeling unfulfilled. We do so in the name of financial security or being an adult. We have become accustomed to rationalizing the needs of ourselves and family to the point of putting ourselves in debt or leveraging our free time to where it no longer exists. I’ve just come off of three years of working seven days a week at multiple jobs and having virtually no time for myself or worse my family.

    Then I woke up one morning feeling exhausted, cranky, disenfranchised, and feeling like I was doing what everybody else needed. So I began to say no. Quietly at first, almost a whisper. I was like a toddler trying on my independence for size and not really sure how others around me would respond. Then I grew louder and bolder and pretty soon free time started showing up in my life. I woke up one morning and said hello to my home, after school practice pickups, and events for Anna I had missed the previous years when I was working weekends. This past Sunday Kyle and I jumped into the car for the first time in ages and found ourselves exploring, one of our favorite things to do together. Is my life perfect? No, but it’s better. I have time to breathe and experience life. There is a gift in the moments when we find ourselves able to sit and just consider life around us and  wonder what we would keep the same or perhaps we’d like to change. The gift is a sense of ease and lightness that begins to settle as we realize the sky hasn’t dropped, and the world hasn’t stopped turning. I’m still very much here and now seem to be finding a little bit more joy and enthusiasm in my day as it unfolds. I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and be present for the girls and Kyle. It feels good and I’m looking forward to being able to say yes to the things that make me excited about being alive and here on this planet we call Earth.


    Saying no to things you don’t want, so that you are free and available to say yes to the things you do?  Huh? I have two thoughts that I am not sure are connected or not.

    First, My life is such that I don’t have nearly the demands on my time that most people do.  My job is one where I can mostly work from home and I can generally make my own schedule. I have no kids, only four dogs, and a very, very small social circle.  I can literally go days, if I choose, without any meaningful human contact. But, I once had a very different lifestyle. One where there was a spouse and stepchildren and a 9-5 career.  My life’s journey has taken me far away from that now, both by choice and circumstance. I can’t say that I miss it. I love the freedom I have to choose what I want to say yes to. Which brings me to my second thought.  What do I want to say yes to?

    There is my struggle.  Since my wife passed, I am not sure what it is I want anymore.  I had a long conversation with a friend about this recently. I am not sure that we resolved anything, but it did cause me to pause and reflect.  I don’t ever recall another time in my life when I couldn’t answer that for myself. I always had my idea about the next job I wanted, the next home improvement project, the next toy to buy, the next vacation.  My list was long and comprehensive of my “wants.” But, none of those will bring Kristin back and ultimately, none of those things mattered to her and I while we faced her cancer.

    So, what do I want to say yes to?  Anything that makes me feel light and brings me joy.  All of the aforementioned “wants” at times may have brought me a fleeting feeling of happiness, but I can’t say that any of them ever brought me joy.  Loving Kristin and feeling her love for me, was the single greatest source of joy I have ever felt. It forever changed my calculus. I feel as though living, and dying a little, with Kristin has afforded me a healthier perspective on life than I have ever had before.  I now understand what truly fills my heart and what I was using as mere substitutes before. I think when I figure out my answer to the question, “What do I want to say yes to?” it will be one of experiences and connections. I think I too would have chosen a rainy soccer game and a dinner with friends, even on a school night.


  • Post #8 – Selfcare


    In my last blog, I wrote about the need for balance in life.  To quote, “Light and dark are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.”  While it is true that since losing Kristin, I have spent a disproportionate amount of time in the dark.  It is equally as true that it has been without exception the most painful experience I have ever endured and that there have been many dark days, but there is light too, so much light!

    Light was perhaps Kristin’s greatest gift to me.  A light that comes from the joy of complete, unconditional love shared between two human beings.  Through years of triumphs and tribulations, my life guided me to Kristin at the most perfect time in both of our lives.  We loved without regard, without restraint, and with conviction.

    Kristin didn’t just love me though, she taught me about love.  She taught me how real love, the purest and most enduring love, radiates from the inside, out.  You see, Kristin taught me how to channel all those life lessons and personal growth into a self-love that had always eluded me.  They say that love is not a noun, but a verb, it is an action word. So too must self-love; it follows then that the active expression of self-love must be self-care.

    What are you doing to love yourself right now?  What are you doing to take care of yourself right now?  We all know it’s important, we all know that wells run dry if they aren’t replenished, yet, far too often, when we need our own love and care the most, we neglect it.

    I want to thank each and every person who reads this blog, because you help me in my self-care.  Writing is a perhaps the single greatest element of me taking care of myself and without your readership, I’m not sure that I would always feel motivated to sit down in front of my keyboard.  I am a talker by nature, so writing is a way for me to talk through life’s ups and downs and eventually arrive at some kind of good place.

    The other component of my self-care is meditation.  That is a pretty recent development for me, but stopping, breathing, and just being quiet and listening has proven to be invaluable.  Maybe it just comes back to the principle of balance again? I spend so much time talking and writing, maybe in order to feel balanced I require quiet time where I shut up and just listen?

    Both the writing and meditation help me to keep my inner life in good health and in balance, but I can easily neglect my physical self.  For a stretch of time in my life I turned myself into a runner, then a weekend warrior triathlete, but that took a toll on my back, knees, and every other joint I have.  Swimming though? That is the last magical pillar of my trifecta of self-care. The pool is a place where I can exercise my body, my cardiovascular system, and not be riddled with pain afterward.

    When I can consistently engage in all three of those activities, life hums along pretty good.  It’s not that if I meditate, swim, and write everyday the dark days won’t come. Nope, those are just part of the deal as human beings.  But, by actively engaging in self-love I am better prepared to weather them.

    What do you do Jen?  How do you show yourself love and appreciation for the magically unique individual that you are?  I wonder what our readers do?


    “If you don’t value yourself, how do you expect others to?” If I have an achilles heal, then I have hundreds. Self love, value of oneself just happens to be one of them.

    I remember standing at home plate, my wooden bat raised behind my head, my elbows up in the air. I looked over at the bleachers beneath the large shady tree and recognized faces, judgement, and disapproval. I looked down at the dust covering the white pentagon and my grey sweatpants loose around my ankles and simply waited for the next pitch to come.

    I knew that I would most likely get on a base. I knew that it would be a walk or a ground ball that happened it’s way through the shortstop’s legs as they looked over at third base. I knew that I could strike out if I reached too far and swung too hard trying to hit the stars, a place beyond my reach. So inevitably, I listened to myself and bet on getting on first. I patiently waited as pitchers took their time finding their stride warming up on me, the lead off batter. I was young, but I knew getting on base was just enough.

    At an early age I learned and believed that I was just enough. I was just enough to make the team, find myself in the advanced classes, and get invited to the sleepovers on the weekend. I knew that I wasn’t the mvp, the valedictorian, or even close to being the most popular but just enough felt okay to me growing up. It kept me in the thick of things without having to reveal too much of who I was or worse draw too much attention to who I should’ve been. Just as I waited for bad pitches to be thrown, I waited for people to value my effort, my work, and my being in order to decide where I fit best. I managed my way through life waiting to see how much of my light I should shine in each and every situation depending on who I was with and where I was. I allowed others to determine my place and what role I would play. I spent my time figuring out what others wanted and needed instead of allowing myself the space to be who I was and wanted most to be.

    Kevin, always cutting straight to the chase, asked me above what do I do to self nurture, self love. He of course assumes that I love myself and consciously choose to do things that will show myself love and appreciation. When I read his question I drew in a huge breath and held it, held on while I searched for an answer that would seem uplifting and inspiring to others reading this post. Nothing came at first. I exhaled and took in another breath as I encircled my thoughts and tried to connect to my feelings but I felt empty. The vast wasteland of self doubt, and self loathing left over from my childhood begged to be called on. It reared its ugly head in the most subtle way letting me know I still hadn’t fully let it go.

    What do I do to nurture and love myself? Maybe if I ask the question here to you and let my fingers feel the tapping sensation of the words as they strike the keyboard, the answer will seem apparent. I write. I write when I feel crummy, when I feel calm, when I am uncertain, and I write when I am inspired. Writing is my self love. YES! It is something I have done since I can remember. What else? What else do I do to show myself that I am worth it? I read. I pile books on my nightstand and give myself hours upon hours of sitting with myself and providing my mind and heart with endless journeys to places and thoughts not easily found here. I give myself time and space to wonder what if. I give myself the opportunity to wonder what would happen if I did swing hard and far enough to hit the ball out of the park. I allow my mind to create what that might actually look like and then I sit with the image and believe that I’ve already done it.

    I don’t run, walk, swim, or bike. Once in a long while you’ll find me on the beach, in the woods, or digging in the dirt but not often enough to say it’s something I do. Maybe Kevin’s right, maybe when you’re not loving yourself the darkness seems more formidable and tenacious and harder to take. Maybe if I were to simply choose to be and do the things that I love, life would be filled with a simple sense of ease and consistency. Maybe if I choose each and every day to do the things, be the person that most resonates with who I am and not with who happens along,  I will shine a little brighter and be a little more authentically me.

    I am happy and peaceful for the most part. I have found a place in life that feels comfortable and kind but in my heart of hearts I know that I am only getting started. In some way I am still looking for that validation from others to say, “Go” take your mark, get set, and Go! It’s this part of me that continues to wait, the young child in me asking for permission to create my own reality, that holds me back most from being in the brightest light each and every day. Or, maybe just maybe, all of the experiences I’ve had, emotions I’ve felt, darkness I’ve weathered has really just provided me with a knowing of what it is in life I don’t want and provided the knowledge that there is a part of me that is waiting for its day in the sun.

    If I have learned anything in this life I call my own it is the knowing that there is always something else up ahead of us. We are never done creating experiences, meeting new people, growing into the next better version of ourselves, or feeling the best possible emotions after enduring the most challenging tragedies. Each morning when our mind first speaks, our bodies stir, and our eyes wait to open we are given an incredible opportunity to choose how we want to start the day. Before we stir, roll over, and place our feet on the floor, we have the ability to choose how we intend to make our way through the day. It’s our choice and that’s incredibly powerful to acknowledge and to fully understand. Most days I will choose to wait for the pitch, the right pitch to ensure I will get on base. But then there will be those mornings that something inside of me stirs and feels just a little bit different. On those days, I will be ready to swing hard and far just to see what might happen.


  • Post #7 – The Darkness

    Author Jen Parker(Jen)

    I remember someone once said to me, “I don’t know how you do it. How can you stay so calm and have so much patience?”

    I smiled and changed the subject. Darkness is a funny thing. Once you’ve been exposed to it for a prolonged period of time, you simply adjust. You adjust to the silence, the unpredictable screams, and the tempest that comes on in an instant and blows off when least expected. When you grow up in darkness, it is your familiar. You know how to find comfort amidst its shards and volatility. The heaviness of its air becomes your blanket, your comfort if you will.

    It’s all well and good until that one unforgettable day when you get a glimpse of the light. Normal shows up on your doorstep and knocks, begging to come in. At first you breathe in deep. It is a whiff of fresh air, exhilarating and motivating. Then after a bit of time it becomes your unknown and you find yourself waiting for your normal to return, for the darkness to fall again and fill your life with all that is familiar.

    These past few weeks have been surprisingly challenging for me. There has been a raw gnawing at my bones, begging me to sink between the sheets and hibernate for a  while. I feel as though there have been weights attached to my limbs, making my daily schedule challenging and body set at a constant state of ready and alert. My mind spins in circles, searching for a reason why. Life is calm, settled, and filled with predictable love. Why then would my body be reacting in such a tumultuous way?

    I bumped into a friend this evening at the local market. We share one of life’s horrors in common. I blurted out that I’ve been off and she began listing off community, national triggers. I’ve never taken the time to go beyond myself. My ego can be strong when my spirit is week. I felt relieved in a way. We’re just past 9/11, our community is marking the one year anniversary of some major losses, and our country feels incredibly divided. How could I feel certain, secure in my stable home, when there is so much a foot kicking me into familiar territory of division, hate, grief, and uncertainty?

    CompassionThen Kevin sent me a meme after I messaged him saying, “having a counterpart who has survived the same life trauma’s is reassuring in a strange sorta way.” When I read the quote, I let it sink in and then smiled silently to myself. Having to put on a face, to be stronger than you feel, is exhausting. Having to fake it till you make it, leaves you wondering if you are a poser and often all the second guessing ends up with your insides tied up in knots. Trying to explain your reactions to certain life situations feels very much like you’re embracing the role of victim, even to the person you love more than the entire world itself.

    When you have the opportunity to connect with others who have traveled similar paths as yours, experienced the darkness in the way in which you have, there is a moment that makes space. It’s in this moment you find solace and knowledge that regardless of how many times you thought you were going crazy, you really are just finding your way into the light out of the darkness. Connections in life are invaluable and build bridges out of despair into joy. Look for these connections and embrace building the bridges.

    Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

    “Only when we know our own darkness well, can we be present with the darkness of others.” This is a portion of the quote that I sent to Jen last week. I sent it in response to her asking if perhaps we should be developing a goal for our blogging adventure, and if so, what would that be? Ironically, it is the very same question that I had put to me recently about another writing project of mine. You see, good writing should have a point. A writer should be able to easily articulate why someone would want to read your work. Since Jen and I sort of stumbled on to whatever it is we are doing here, we didn’t really spend anytime thinking about why we were writing. But through our process, our writing seems to have revealed the “why” for us.

    We are human beings. And as divided as our country is, as many screwed up things that fill our daily news feeds, the human condition is universal. We all experience darkness in our lives. We have all been touched by sadness and pain. We have all struggled. And, we all asked ourselves, why?

    So, I sent Jen that quote because I think our goal in blogging is to share our individual experiences with the human condition. To write with an implicit wish that others may find solace, comfort, and hope when they may find themselves in one of those dark places; to know that they are not alone. There are many others who have been there before and have found their way out. In fact, there are many who will go into the darkness with you; they will sit with you, hold your hand, and stay in the dark for as long as it takes for you to make peace with it.

    Light and dark are just two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. Every ancient civilization not only understood this, but celebrated it. It is only in our modern, western society that we somehow think that we should be exempt from the dark and live only in the light. The result is over diagnosing, over prescribing, addictions, and disorders. The fact that others have been there is little comfort though when the darkness falls and it completely and totally engulfs you. Darkness is disorienting, isolating, and often, panic inducing.

    I learned how to surf almost 10 years ago. It was one of those “bucket list” things for me and I was fortunate to have made friends with some guys I was teaching with who were avid groms. I honed my skills from May to August on the “ferocious” surf of coastal New England. Feeling like I was now an accomplished and seasoned surfer, I ventured out into the break with them during a tropical storm that had pushed up the coast in early September. Having successfully paddled out through the break, I was soon staring down the face of the largest wave I had ever seen this up close and personal. Needless to say, I did not survive the drop with my feet still on my board. I wiped out hard and I was in the “wash” cycle of the wave. At first, I felt panic. “I am going to drown,” my thoughts screamed! I wasn’t even sure which way was up. I just kept getting spun around and around, tossed, tumbled, completely disoriented, and running out of air. Not dissimilar to the darkness.

    But then, somehow, I gained control of my thoughts just as they were running away from me. The prevailing cognition being, “slow down.” I told myself, “you’re ok.” As my mind began to quiet, even more encouraging words began to form: “You’re a strong swimmer, you’re smart, relax and think.” Panic makes it very hard, if not impossible, for us to think rationally and problem solve our way through the difficulty: the darkness. In relaxing my mind, my body had no choice but to follow suit. A relaxed body slows the heart rate which in turn utilizes less oxygen. In all of this calmness I had cultivated, it occurred to me that I still had a massive stick leashed to my left ankle. And then…I felt it. My surfboard had floated toward the surface and was tugging on my leg, showing me which way was up.

    So you see, if we can learn to cultivate our minds to remain calm in the midst of a storm, or when our darkness descends, we can find our way out. We can find our way back to the light either through serendipity, the help of others, or on our own accord.

  • Post #6 – Living in the Struggle

    Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

    Hello friends, hello Jen. It is my turn to initiate our writing and I am struggling. It is not the infamous “writer’s block.” No, I have plenty to say, too much actually. You see, I have had a bumpy week emotionally. I feel like whatever is going to come out in this latest blog entry is going to meander a bit, but, hopefully, eventually arrive somewhere of substance. Here it goes…

    Ever have a crisis of faith? Whatever your particular faith is. Whatever truths you hold close in your heart. Whatever it is that gives your life purpose and meaning. Ever lose faith in that?

    I think that I had one this week. In order to protect those in my life that I love and care about, I am not going to share the particulars of my life’s events right now. Suffice to say that in the last week or so, I have seen a meaningful friendship end, had a close family member drift away and disappoint me, experienced setbacks in business that have caused me once again to question what am I really supposed to be doing with my life, and someone very dear to me faces uncertainty in a potentially very serious health matter.

    I am just in one of those places where it feels like everything is going to shit. Where it feels like I just can’t catch a break and get on a roll. When I get feeling like this, I ask out loud to any god, or higher power, or whomever will listen: “What the fuck”!!!??? I truly want to give up or, at least stay safely tucked in bed with the blankets pulled tightly down over my head.

    Over the last year and more, since Kristin died, I have been engaged in an epic battle to get up off my knees and embrace this odyssey of self-discovery and growth; trying to figure out who I am without her and what I am meant to be doing with the rest of my life. I have tried to not feel the victim, as I have written about before. I have tried hard to expect that love and happiness are meant for me and are on their way. When they start to arrive, I have try even harder to accept that I am worthy to have them in my life.

    faithI have placed my faith in my power as a spiritual being who, as we all are, is connected to all of the universe’s infinite energy. I truly believe that not only are we solely responsible for the joy, or lack thereof, that we have in our lives, but we possess the power to create it. Our ultimate happiness is not out there somewhere, it resides within each of us. I have come to really believe that all I need to do is to live my life with integrity, pure intentions, in alignment with my higher-self, and trusting that my life’s journey will lead me to the best possible places and outcomes. But, when your life’s experiences do not seem to be reflecting that ideal, it gets awful hard to maintain such a rosey spiritual perspective.

    I can recall with crisp precision the crisis of faith moment I had when Kristin was sick. I was talking, more like yelling, to whomever, or whatever, it is we talk to in those moments. I said, “If you want me to believe in you then heal her”! That, of course, did not happen and yet somehow I didn’t lose my faith, but rather, I have been transformed into a more spiritual, faith based person. It is as if my pain has been the fire in the forge, and I the stubborn, unbending, obstinate chunk of steel that has been smithed into a far more useful tool. (Yes, I just called myself a tool.)

    So, where does all this spiritual growth leave me when when life gets hard and I’m doubting the very foundation upon which I am trying to rebuild my life? Well, I freak out! I mean really lose my shit for a minute, or longer, and I write something like this in my journal to Kristin:

    You know what? You were right! This IS it! You live and die, and that’s it! There isn’t more! You’re fucking dead! You’re gone! Your spirit didn’t live on, there is no point to any of this!

    We just make all this shit up in our heads because for most of us, life sucks so bad that we need to believe that enduring the suck will get us somewhere. For others, we just can’t fucking comprehend how insignificant our lives actually are and we need to believe that there is more. We need to believe that “love conquers all.” When? Show me! Show me when love has ever conquered. It doesn’t. Greed, self-centeredness, anger, and hate, that’s what conquers all.

    You’re fucking dead! You aren’t with me, you don’t “watch over me” you’re fucking gone! Someday, I will be too. People might shed a tear, but then they have to move on, they can’t linger too long or else they will come face to face with their own mortality and that scares the ever loving shit out of them.

    So, we cling to our Neighborhood of Make-Believe. An elaborate fantasy world where no one really dies, our energy lives on, we are in another dimension. Fuck that!

    We develop further fantasies about how we can be in charge of our own happiness through the power of intention. Well, my intention was for you to not die; how did that work out?

    All of this New Age Bullshit is just that, bullshit! It makes you weak so that life’s inevitable hurts just sting all the more. Fuck that!

    We demonize the “I got mine” attitude in our society, but that’s because most of us aren’t strong enough to go make it happen; it’s like spiritual Darwinism.

    I have swallowed people hurting me and letting me down for long enough! Fuck them, and fuck this shit! They are weak mother fuckers! Not me, I am going to embrace my anger and use it’s strength to go get mine!

    I love you Baby, but you’re dead. Just like you believed. I tried to convince you otherwise, but you were always smarter than me. This is it, this is all we get. So fuck it! Fuck everybody! Life wants me to be angry and be an asshole, you got it!

    Well! That was something, wasn’t it? I really hesitated to share it but my goal for myself, and this blog, is to be real and authentic. That journal entry is as real as it gets. My pain, and crisis of faith, put into words.

    I have friends whom have many different talents and creative outlets, I wish I could play an instrument and write a song, or maybe paint or draw a picture, but those aren’t where my talents are, and they don’t serve me well as an outlet. Writing does. I seem to be able to tap into the rawness and complexity of my emotions and through sharing my words, I’m told that people are touched and find value in reading them. And so, I offer you this blog.

    Writing helps me to purge myself of the flood of negative, angry, hopeless, despairing feelings that build up when life starts to turn to shit. Writing helps me return to my center, regain my balance, and embrace my faith in the power of love and all that is good.

    Despite my earlier outburst, I don’t believe that it is fake and I don’t think that I blindly believe. I feel the truth of it, that a divine white light burns in each of us. We are all connected if only we would allow ourselves to be.

    I called this a crisis of faith, but what is faith if we only believe it and trust it when life is great? There is a tremendously motivating video by Inky Johnson making its rounds on social media. Inky was a star college football player who suffered a career ending injury just 8 games before he would have been drafted into the NFL. In the video talks about commitment, I believe that one could easily substitute the word “faith” and his message would still ring loud and true: “Commitment is staying true to what you said you were gonna do long after the mood that you have set it in has left. You see, people think commitment is saying yes, I’ll do it on days when it feels good.” If faith is to be the bedrock of our lives, if I am going to build a new and improved version of Kevin on set of beliefs, then I have to trust them in my darkest hours.

    So, why must we struggle? Why is there so much hurt? Why is life just so hard sometimes? I know for me, it’s because I’m learning, healing, and growing. The intensity of the pain, the degree of difficulty, the level of challenge, is always in direct proportion to the lesson, the wound, or the skill I am acquiring.

    How do I know all this is real and true? Because my love for a woman endures. I am as in love with her, if not more, as the day we said our last goodbyes. So you see, love does indeed conquer all because it endures.

    Crisis over. What’s next life? I’m ready!

    Author Jen Parker(Jen)

    I found a small little book years ago when I was in the midst of one of many personal crisis. I was in a chaotic downward spiral, wearing an anchor of uncertainty, shame, and guilt. The book was so small that it could rest on my hand with its edges barely moving past the outline of my palm and fingers. Its vibrant colored hard cover and simple title made me pause. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz presented itself to me in a time I needed it most. I picked it up and made my way to the cashier. I hadn’t even looked inside to see what it was about.

    I’ve lived my life in a sea of apologies. With a strong sense of self buried under years of people pleasing, and unwillingly starting off life in the role as a child victim. I’ve spent most of my time walking a tightrope of activism for change and smoothing of feathers. There were years that would go by when I would fall silent, finding it much easier and calmer to sail through if I didn’t stir up the waters around me when something just didn’t feel right or add up. Inevitably against my own better judgement, my gut would win out and I would act impulsively. I would find myself speaking out against something that wasn’t recognizing all the participants, or worse keeping some out of the game. These moments found me bringing my hands up to cover my mouth, wide eyed and frustrated that I couldn’t keep my own voice down, I felt vulnerable and sympathetic to those I may have opposed or worse offended. This is my achilles heel, the incessant need to apologize and smooth over words or actions taken in favor of ideologies I very much believe in as my own truth.

    It was one of those times that I found it most difficult to just simply float along that I turned the key in my new front door, carried the small book up the stairs to our living room and collapsed on our couch. It had only been a month or so since I had left my home, having made a major declaration that I was no longer going to take part in a loveless marriage and was ending what most likely should have never been started. I pulled the small book from the bag and sunk into the corner of the sectional. The book was divided into four easy to read chapters. There was a brief bio about the book and author, explaining his journey and how he came to write The Four Agreements. I felt my body relax, my wrinkled brow ease as I allowed myself to breathe and somewhere deep inside know that everything was okay.

    Here is the magical little book in a nutshell:
    1. Be Impeccable With Your Words.

    Speak with integrity.
    Say only what you mean.
    Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
    Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

    2. Don’t Take Anything Too Personally.

    Nothing others do is because of you.
    What others say and do is a projection of their own dream.

    3. Don’t Make Assumptions.

    Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
    Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.
    With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

    4. Always Do Your Best.

    Your best changes from moment to moment.
    Your best is different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick.
    Simply do your best in any moment to avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

    The book offers a logical explanation of why each of these agreements will exert a positive force unto your life and help get you to a place of balance and ease. Having returned to it many times over the past ten years, I realize that one of the most important attributes each of us may possess is compassion for ourselves and others. Compassion brings patience, kindness, and understanding. It gives us space to make mistakes and allow others to do the same. Compassion knows that we are human and will make mistakes, it holds our hands when we are loneliest, it lifts our spirits when we feel downtrodden, and it melts our hearts when we see adversaries suffering and allows us to be multidimensional.

    I am human. I make mistakes, some days a lot. Just like you, I feel. I feel joy, sadness, love, and fear. I am trying to do my best in each and every moment but some days I come off as a hot mess and I feel as though I’ve washed ashore without hopes of being rescued. When Kevin so eloquently shared his moment of feeling as though he had lost faith, I could only nod my head and agree with every emotion he allowed to pour out onto his keyboard. We all live in the struggle of life but without the struggle we wouldn’t know happiness. Compassion for ourselves and others is what allows us to wake up each new day and start over, hit the reset button and be on our way to self discovery of what truly makes us happy and allows us to be fully present in the moment.

    There are days that my faith is stronger than myself and then there are days that I question if all of this love, compassion, and kindness is just another line that we feed ourselves to feel better. I choose to have faith in love not fear, but if I can’t and fall into fear, I allow myself a second, third, and fourth do-over.

    Do I lose faith like Kevin? Yes. I would add to his incredibly authentic voice that for me, it’s never really that far from where I am, I just need to reposition myself back in the sunlight sailing on waters I choose, and headed for places I want to be.

  • Post #5 – Living in the Past

    Author Jen Parker(Jen)
    Sometimes when I’m writing I feel as if I’m clinging to the past, dredging it up once again. I’ve read, and I’ve been told numerous times that the healthiest action one can take is to just let go. I remember for years nodding my head in agreement when my mom would say, “you just need to let it go.” In my mind and sometimes out loud, I would ask, “but how?”

    I never knew or even imagined that it was my choice to make.  I was triggered by everything that either happened to me, near me, or around me.  I spent most of my life feeling as if I had done something wrong, upset someone, or caused bad things to happen to others. I was an emotional mess and on some days I still am. The difference now is that I  know the choice is mine as to whether and how I want to react to something or someone.  In my early twenties I continued to melt down at the drop of a pin after I moved out of my family’s house. A huge wave of uncertainty loomed over me and would come crashing down when I was stressed from school or exhausted from work until one day when something made me realize there was a better way. It was a slow start but I begun the decade long journey of seeing counselors off and on until I found one that I learned to trust and lean into. At the same time I read hundreds of books from the self help genre and often dipped into the “new age” pool of awakening your consciousness.
    I had grown up under my father’s orders of, “do as I say, not as I do” and the consistent verbal belittling of any tasks, behavior, perceived accomplishment, or honor received. Nothing was ever good enough and I was either lazy, worthless, or pathetic. I quickly found my rock to crawl under. I was playing the parts of people pleaser and overachiever struggling to not be a victim or undeserving. I held onto the belief that my childhood built on emotional badgering was a huge motivational force in my life to do more, achieve more, and be more. Exactly what that would be always seemed to be a shifting goal post and still leaves me feeling as though I have commitment phobias as well as ADD. My past had taught me that nothing was ever enough and unless I choose to believe differently I am in for an incredibly disjointed life spent chasing my tail when I’m supposed to have it all figured out.
    So choosing differently, is it that easy? Yes, sometimes. When a negative thought rides in and begins to take root, I remind myself that it’s not mine to own and I consciously choose to think about something positive or someone that makes me smile. If I’m lucky the negative thought simply dissipates. When I’m not, the thought crashes in, stirs up really old shit, and sends me into a downward spiral until I can get a grip and just ride it out remembering that nothing lasts forever. Someone once told me to stop taking everything personally, that it isn’t always about me. Someone I care about might be upset or having a rough day but it doesn’t always mean I had something to do with it. I just always assumed if someone was off it was because of me. I would feel their feelings, read their body language, and know their thoughts. I owned whatever they seemed to be going through as my own. Just recently I read that it’s not our job to make our children or parents happy. We love them, support them, and are there for them but ultimately we can never make them happy. It is a choice each of us have to make for ourselves. Happiness has to come from within, it’s not an external force that can be bought or obtained from an experience or person. The question I try to ask myself when I am feeling most uncertain or worried is, am I coming from a place of love or fear. The choice is ours and nobody else’s. Does it always come easy? No. Is it always black and white? No. Is it worth striving for? I believe yes, more than anything else that we can either do, be, or achieve.
    I’m far from being able to fully let go of living in the past, regretting, blaming, and holding onto stuff that happened to me or that I did, but I know it’s my choice.  In this very moment and each moment after it’s my choice how I exist right now, no now, no right now. The past is never present, the only place I need to focus on is where I am in this very moment sharing with each of you. I’ll worry about the rest when I get there, or maybe not. Worry might just be left best in the past. So is it fear or love? Is it past or present, and is it always about me? Just some things I think about when I’m feeling stuck, uncertain and the past is nipping at my heels.

    Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

    I get it Jen!  More and more as of late, I am finding that I struggle with how often, and for how long, it is healthy for me to look over my shoulder.  It is by no means healthy for me to completely ignore my past and the experiences that have made me, me. But, giving the past too much of my attention seems to get in the way of me creating a happy and healthy present and future.

    As I have already written about, my personal healing had to begin with an honest acknowledgment of my childhood trauma; that was healthy and necessary.  I then had to learn how that trauma was informing the manner in which I was interacting with the world. I think that through hard work and perseverance, I did all of this pretty well.

    In recent years, my work has been an integration of sorts, an assimilation of my life’s experiences into the man I have grown into.  I have had to take all of that information and figure out what to do with it. For so long, my “job” was to connect with my emotions, to be unafraid of them, sit with them, embrace them, love them, and let them pass through.  In order to make, and maintain, this connection I really had to time travel back to specific emotionally charged experiences. Often I was a victim in these experiences; times when I had to endure physical and emotional assaults.  It was truly healing to visit those places in my history and to cry those tears. I learned to understand how my emotional reactions to new experiences might, at times, be inconsistent because they were being driven by a remembrance of old hurts.

    But, at some point I had to make a choice, as you say.  I had to choose whether I would always be a victim to my past hurts, or whether I would become a survivor.  Intellectually, the choice is easy, of course I want to be a survivor! The choosing is not so easily accomplished on the emotional level.  You see, on my inside, I am torn and bruised, broken and bent, I have scars and festering wounds. I will never be as pure and as whole as the day I was born, none of us are I suppose.  But for me, there will always be something that stimulates one of these old hurts back into discomfort or pain. So, at some point, I just have to choose. I have to choose between the illusion of safety in retreating back into a victim self-image, or choose the strength in declaring that I am a survivor.

    Through my growing and healing, I have come to incorporate new terms into my vernacular; terms like space, power, and vibrations.  They have helped me to frame things differently, to see the world, and myself, through a new lens. When I choose to see myself as a victim, I give away my power, constrict my space, and lower my vibrations.  All of which leaves me feeling sad, lonely, and powerless. When I choose to be a survivor, everything expands, my space increases making room for the loving and caring people I have around me, my power increases because I am so much stronger than I believe sometimes, and my vibrations are higher which attracts more and more positiveness to me.

    A common interpretation of Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken” is that our lives will be fully actuated by choosing the less traveled road:  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” With all due respect to Mr. Frost, I would like to offer a different interpretation.  You see, at the beginning of the poem, he is stuck in indecision at the crossroads of these two infamous roads: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and be one traveler, long I stood.” Perhaps, the power that he feels at the end of the poem came not from which road he chose, but from the empowering act of choosing itself.  While I am sure that each road offered different experiences, maybe the secret is not in getting it “right,” but in the power of our intention when we actively take control of our lives and make a choice for something rather than being paralyzed by fear and indecision, or ending up somewhere by default. Maybe in just the intentional act of choosing, Mr. Frost had already set into motion that which would “make all the difference”?

  • Post #4 – Self Worth

    Kevin St Onge


    Themes of self-worth and self-confidence seem to be popping up all around me lately, both in my life and in the lives of those I care about.  I have come to wonder if the first doesn’t feed the second. How can we expect self-confidence if we don’t feel worthy.


    Last week, I met someone who is reading these blogs.  Initially, it caught me off guard. I suppose I thought that aside from my family and a few close friends, no one would be interested in reading my pontifications about life.  Who the hell am I to have anything important to say?


    Well, apparently there is at least one person out there and she graciously complimented me on our blog and encouraged me to keep writing.  I didn’t take the compliment very well, I kind of deflected it. It’s not because I’m humble; in fact I can be quite impressed with myself at times.  No, I didn’t take the compliment well because I didn’t feel worthy of it: that’s different than being humble.


    I have always struggled with self-worth.  If you know me, or have known me in the past, you might not guess that.  My “mask” is pretty convincing. You see, I have a big personality that I can wield to great effect when I want to.  I am one of those people that can walk into a room full of strangers and own it. I can project confidence, and in earlier versions of myself cockiness and arrogance.  As I have grown and matured a bit that has morphed into an ability to engender feelings of interpersonal connection with people. But yet, as open and as vulnerable as I can appear, that public face belies the hidden inner truth:  I struggle with poor self-image and truly feeling connected to others.


    I think that I have come to use my vulnerability, and now maybe this blog, as a shield to protect myself.  I “out vulnerable” people and it keeps everyone at a safe distance. It’s like an emotional game of chicken, most people will only want to go so deep before they will pull back, so I just have to be willing to outlast them and I’m safe.  (Ya, I’m not sure what happens if someone ever calls my bluff.) You see, I only let you in so far, it may feel like I have let you deep inside, but you are really only seeing what I feel safe enough to let you see, if I let you get too close, you might wander into my truly vulnerable places, into the authentic depths of my being where I doubt everything, where I have no confidence, where I keep every hurt, every embarrassing moment, and every rejection locked safely away.  There have only been a few select individuals in my life who have been given access to this treasure room, and fewer still who I have open that box for.

    self worth

    I want to though, I want to take someone there and show them.  You see, I brought someone there once and I showed her every artifact and every keepsake.  It was magical! She was unrushed and unconditional in the loving care with which she walked down memory lane with me.  Like a proud mother who is overjoyed to see her child’s distorted Play-Doh coffee mug or the imperfect watercolor. Kristin didn’t see the flaws in my momentos, she saw them as a splendid mosaic of my life:  what made me, me. She taught me how to see myself and the world through that lens.


    I remember talking with my Dad about this once and he said, “She helped you to see something we all saw, but you never could.”  It’s true, the love with which Kristin would look at me disarmed me. It melted away my defenses and my mask. I used to think, “If this incredible woman loves you like that, maybe you need to take another look and try to see what she sees.”  I don’t think that I ever felt worthy of her love until after she had passed. Only then did I feel like I passed the test, I kept my promise to love her and care for her to my utmost ability, with an integrity of spirit and a selflessness that I never knew I possessed.  Only when her life was over did I truly feel worthy.


    Well, that might not be entirely true, I still have my moments when I might let some low-self worth sneak its way back in and taunt me.  But, that’s where my work is now, in the nurturing and cultivation of the seeds of worth that she planted in me. In Kristin’s physical absence, it is now my job to keep learning and growing and to honor her love by believing that I am worthy.  So, with a thought of why not me? I am worth it. I mustered up some courage this week and I asked an amazing woman out to dinner; she said yes! Too soon to say if I will one day feel safe enough to show her the man behind the mask, but I want to, want to, so that’s a start.


    Lastly, to the kind woman who went out of her way to say a nice word to me, I apologize and thank you, old habits die hard.  Next time, I’ll remember that I am worthy of your compliment and appreciatively accept it.

    Author Jen Parker


    UGH! you always pick the tough ones, this topic just happens to be the reason I self sabotage, only let myself get so far, and why recently I was called out, “Parker, I think you have a commitment issue.” Alright Kevin, if you can, I can. As far as letting people in? If I’m an open book then there is never  a need for anyone to  look any deeper. Well good morning, Kevin. I wasn’t expecting this prompt, but why not?

    My insecurity, never feeling enough to simply allow myself to be still, has plagued me since I was a young child. My quest for self worth has brought me all over the world, across this country, through three marriages, countless careers, and recently a short stay in politics. The one constant in all of this has always been writing and sharing. In some strange way the release of negative emotions and feelings through streaming my thoughts and experiences onto my keyboard was never enough, so I began sharing my writing on platforms without walls. My search for self worth has felt much like my addiction to sugar, high highs and low lows. It’s always gone a bit like this, if my self conjured approval ratings seemed to be high in the moment than I’ve been able to breathe freely and even have a bit of an excitement buzz. If I felt as though I have disappointed, wronged someone else than hives appeared and I begun to go inward,  taking myself out of the game.
    We live in a world that touts equality yet when there is skin in the game, humanity often seeks to divide and , people into succinct groups. We are divided by age, gender, color of our skin, religion, economic class, life accomplishments, and ability to stand out in a crowd among many others.  So is our self worth something that is supposed to spring internal or is it evaluated by the extrinsic factors of the world we live in? It’s enough to drive yourself mad if you spend too much time thinking and dwelling on it. For most of my life I have allowed my self worth to be determined by external factors and have found myself responding and reacting to the evaluations in many different ways. I became a rule follower who would rebel in isolation. I would ultimately strive to please but struggle silently as I leaned in another direction. It wasn’t until recently that I chose to do the opposite knowing that it would cause others to pause, think differently of me. I had finally come to the place in life where that suddenly becomes okay and being true to your internal compass outweighs approval from others.
    So where does that leave me today in this moment? I’m a middle aged woman, some may think past my prime, with new ideas and expectations about life and all it has to offer. Is 46 middle aged? I guess that would only be determined once I have kicked the bucket and my physical existence has ended. I would like to believe that I have a lot left in me, a lot of new ideas emerging about how I can go about life simply being me. It’s probably one of the scariest ideas I’ve had, even more so than starting new businesses or running for an elected position. It has already changed how I reacted to being asked to do something not in my lane or something that makes me feel uncertain rather than inspired. I’m beginning to know what it feels like to lean into being me: I’ve been writing more, focusing on my newest business, and spending time with the people I love. So far, simple feels good. It’s just the unexpected moments of deciding to share a blog with someone I’ve only just recently met and being challenged to stick with my newest life choices. It’s almost as if life is daring me to be more of my true self than I ever imagined.
    Am I worthy of all of this simple bliss? Is it okay for me to sink into balance and certainty without guilt or worry? I remember Oprah once said if you want to know the condition of a woman’s psyche, just take a look at her bedroom. For years I lived in beautiful chaos. My clothes were strewn across my floor, my bed never made, and books piled randomly throughout the space. Just weeks into finding and living my simple bliss, laundry is caught up, the bed is made, and books have been stacked neatly on a side table or bookshelf waiting to be read. This is new for me. This never used to feel comfortable or safe and while Kyle struggled to keep our room tidy in the midst of my indecisiveness it almost made me feel uneasy. In making the choice to simply be me and saying no to an opportunity of a lifetime I have found a little more space to work with Kyle in keeping our home and building our future together.
    I am far from feeling worthy but I am further from feeling unworthy. In a small way progress has been made and comfort found in my uneasiness of making different life choices. We’ve formed lots of habits along the way, most are difficult to break, others yet to be discovered. As my dad used to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It makes me smile to remember there were moments of light in his life and maybe he made the only choices he knew were available. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will be my realization of self worth and certainty. Still, I can choose to step in a new direction towards feeling worthy and having value in this fractured world of one. I think I will, I know that I have, and today that is enough for me.


  • Post #3 – Isolation “cutting yourself off from the world”

    Author Jen Parker(Jennifer)

    It was the space in between the confrontation and rage that I remember the most. We would count the days of quiet silence knowing that it was inevitable that the jagged words and flying fists would return. It was in his periods of isolation that I found my own solace and time to lick fresh wounds. He would retreat into himself, staying away, avoiding eye contact, and being non respondent. It was in those times that he was the victim and we all became the healers trying anything to draw him out of his funk, to sweep the egg shells from our floor.

    One of my greatest fears is becoming the person he was. The angry, paranoid man who raged at all of life’s injustices clearing anything that happened to be in his path.  He created a wake of destruction, self doubt, insecurity, and denial. It’s not that I am a violent person or even physical in nature. It’s more that I retreat, withdraw from life when I am uncertain and feeling less than worthy.  It’s in these moments of self induced isolation that I question all that I am and who I ever may be. I question my abilities to parent, to be a wife, a business owner, or a  contributing community member.

    I believe it was the isolation, not the physical and emotional rages that did my dad in. He retreated later in life from all of us, his wife of thirty nine years and moved up north to a place in Maine where he once found bits of peace and joy. It was in Houlton where he pulled the final trigger and ended his isolation and created an eternal silence which now lays heavy on us all but has brought an end to his suffering.

    Isolation VII pc: FatZebra

    When I isolate, retreat to my bedroom, pull away from my loving husband I am reconnecting with my father, the man who taught me most about life and how not to live it. My cells pull in, my mind takes over, and my heart closes up. I replay all of the times I went right and should have gone left. Images of choices made out of fear not love envelope me and leave little room for light or hope. I lay still and heavy and allow myself to be battered one more time, aware of days passed and experiences endured. I count the reasons why I’m better locked away, separated from those I love, and simply exist in that moment of heavy darkness.

    In that quiet isolation, something inevitably takes seed and my mind shifts with new thoughts formed. I catch my breath and take control, breathing deeper and aware as the air travels down my windpipe, into my lungs, out to my fingers and down into my toes. I slowly remember the choices I have made that make me feel whole, worthy, and a magnet connecting with others. I see myself in a different light, someone worthy of love and sweet moments of grace. I become aware of my body and feel connected once again. The need for isolation slowly seeps out and takes with it the thoughts that I am my dad, burdened with his fear and traumas.

    The times in which I seek isolation are shortening and growing farther apart in occurrence. The fear of becoming my dad, the man he was is fading and little by little I am letting go of my own triggers. As I allow myself to open up to my husband, my family, my community I am becoming a stronger magnet to all that resonates with who I’ve always wanted to be, or thought I could be. People are popping into my life, out of nowhere, offering incredible opportunities of insight and self growth. Music on the radio brings just the right solace in the moment to heal a thorny memory and books fall off the shelf into my hands providing insight and assurances I need to take the next step on my journey.

    Don’t get me wrong, I require a lot of space where I can decompress, relax and fall back into myself for peace and regeneration. That space is so very different than the isolation that pulls me down and anchors me to a place where all my old demons reside. There is a vast difference and we all know it and recognize it for what it is. When we are strong, we are balanced and content. There is a certainty that rests within our heart and supports our ability to just be.  This is what I strive for everyday and choose to focus on and step towards even in the moments of greatest vulnerability and self doubt. 

    Kevin popped into my life just a couple of months ago. He has become a mirror of my childhood and journey through the darkest moments of my life. Last night Kyle had the opportunity to meet him, spend time talking with and getting to know him. It was strange, not because the space was awkward but because as I listened to us getting to know each other, hovering above in quiet fascination, I realized something. Kyle in his infinite ability to love unconditionally was allowing for a new direction in our lives. He has embraced Kevin and I sharing our most intimate details about our childhoods and lives as survivors of suicide. In Kyle’s most beautiful grace is again making space for the healing of my wounds.

    So in honor of non isolation, Kyle and I are inviting Kevin and his friend to dinner at our home, to meet our family our animals. Instead of retreating to our private space we’ve decided to open it up a little bit more for the unknown, for what the future may hold.


    Kevin St Onge


    Isolation, alone, seclusion, words which evoke powerful feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair from deep within me.  The first “goal” of my therapy, with the aforementioned Sharon, was to connect with my emotions. To feel something beyond anger, something more painful, and more vulnerable.  The anger was just the mask, the defense system I had built up. My journey had begun and my quest was to find, and connect with, those hidden away emotions. Little did I know that I would not only find them, but that they would come bursting out in an uncontrollable fashion when I did.


    Throughout college I always commuted, preferring the isolation of whatever crumby apartment I was living in to the “togetherness” of the dorms.  You could generally find me up in a quiet corner of the library or in a seldom used room off of the main cafeteria that would eventually become the school pub.  On one particularly unremarkable day, I was eating my lunch in my “secret room” off of the cafe when I noticed that one of the “lunch ladies” had invaded my private space.  I would guess her to have been in her early twenties and clearly differently abled. Again, I’ll guess, but she looked as though she may have had Down Syndrome. She was also having lunch, but not the splendid cafeteria food that I was eating, no really, we had pretty good food.  Her lunch was far more modest and brought from home in a nondescript brown paper bag. She too was sitting alone at a table. I couldn’t stop watching her and I began to develop a narrative of her life. I imagined it to be so sad, one of complete isolation from her family, alone with no friends, living a secluded life away from society.


    As my story for her grew, so did a sadness deep inside of me.  The kind of sadness that cannot be held in by mere mortal efforts.  As the sadness escaped through my tear ducts, I asked myself, “What the hell are you crying about?”  The answer was clear, I wasn’t crying for her, her life was probably just fine, she was probably well loved by her family, had tremendous friendships, and she was most likely very pleased with her life.  No, I wasn’t crying for her at all, I actually crying for me, for my loneliness, my isolation. I was estranged from my family, few real friends, and mad at the world.


    I had never really done that before:  cry I mean. Well of course I had cried before, but not therapeutic tears.  As a kid, I didn’t have that “luxury.” I was constantly in fight or flight mode.  “No rest for the weary” as they say; there was no telling what was going to set Mum off next.  So now, I could cry. It was safe to. Those tears that started that day, would flow for years.


    I remember the first time I cried in Sharon’s office.  It was not too long after my “brown bag” meltdown and they came with the same force and determination as those lunchtime tears.  I started to wipe them away, “Don’t,” Sharon said, “Leave them on your face, let them heal you.” A technique that I have since stolen and used with clients of my own.


    More than once it has happened in a crowd of people, not like a busy mall, but a legit crowd, like at a sporting event, or a concert.  It used to amaze me that we can feel so alone and isolated while crammed shoulder to shoulder in an inhuman mass of human beings. Now, I have come to understand how isolation is more than just a geographical concept.  We can feel isolation anywhere at anytime.


    I know that I felt it as a child, a teenager, and young adult.  I am certain that my Mum felt it when she took her life. I even felt it recently with the loss of my wife.  But, it’s different now, its a necessary part of my healing, I now choose isolation sometimes.  But, I don’t call it that anymore, instead I use words like space, privacy, and solitude.  My alone time no longer brings forth feelings of sadness and despair, but rather joy, comfort, and peace.  The lens by through which we choose to view life, the power of our perspective, never ceases to amaze me. Maybe that’s a good topic for a future post?