Category Archives: From Brenda’s Desk

Hard or Soft? The Choice is Ours

When TRUST has been broken, how do we avoid becoming hard and bitter?

I came face to face with this question this week as I suffered a disappointment regarding a new friendship.

Full disclosure, my friend was equally disappointed in me.

Two sides, neither willing to yield.

My stubbornness? Born of a newfound desire to not abdicate what I deem precious to make others’ comfortable.  To value my soul enough to give it voice and not dismiss my feelings is THE point of my current journey.

Perhaps as I find the balance and rhythm of my new life, I will be more willing to yield, but for now, it is critical that I not.

Here’s why: Because I know that in yielding that first important thing  can come a slippery slope of acquiescence; the path to losing myself again.

I refuse to.

And in my friend’s unwillingness to give my refusal space, there came a parting of the ways.

Here’s the kicker:  I have written about my carefulness to engage in new friendships.  When you have quality, beautiful people already in your life and you’re not needy, you have the luxury of being more discriminating about those whom you choose to spend time.

This person had checked off all the boxes that were important to me:  Depth, kindness, spirituality, humor, self-awareness…and I let them in.

Then, the great impasse.  The argument with no resolve.  The parting of the ways.

One side of me says, “Why even bother?  Who NEEDS this?!”

The other side knows that in each encounter are lessons to be learned.

That in the decision to “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” comes the promise of disappointment,  hope, pain, joy – the entire kaleidoscope of feelings.

I’d rather live and feel…even if the feelings are sad for a season.

So back to the question, “How do you avoid becoming HARD?”

The freshness of the disappointment was wrapped in a sense of innocence lost.  Could I ever be so willing and open with someone new?  Had I lost my capacity to try again? Would I become hard – or stay soft?

The answer sank into my heart and was a soothing balm to my soul:

“You stay soft when you put your trust in God, not in people.”

If I put my trust in people, I will always be disappointed.  Because they are human!  They are as flawed as I am.  But to accept that the Universe is unfolding exactly as it ought; that some relationships are just for a season and that there are rich lessons to be gleaned from each one?  That comforts  me enough to put myself out there again.  And again.

Then I hear the words to Kesha’s song “Rainbow”: “What’s left of my heart’s still made of gold…”

But in the dark, I realized this life is short
And deep down, I’m still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild
I can’t lose hope, what’s left of my heart’s still made of gold

You’ll find a rainbow, rainbow, baby
Trust me, I know life is scary
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and play along with me tonight
You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you
Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and paint the world with me tonight.

You can hear it here:

The rainbow was God’s promise that he would never send another flood that would destroy the world.  Yes, there are floods…but they will not destroy you.

Keep living, my friends.  Take the hits – and stay soft.  What’s left of your heart’s still made of gold.

And now, my video take on the word TRUST and a new Word of the Week:

https://youtu.be/JrN1kMJoUns

Hmmmm….Sister/Brotherhood was a call to stop being lone rangers in life.  And now SUPPORT?

When we feel overwhelmed this week, let’s continue to reach out and get the support we need.  (Or, when we see a need, let’s jump in and be a support!)

Have a beautiful week –

Brenda

 

 

 

 

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A Stranger, Yet a Sister – and the New WOW

I met a stranger this week who turned out to be a sister.

It had been a particularly difficult day, with a myriad of work and personal matters mounting as they sometimes do.

My method of blowing off steam is to head to my evening Zumba class and jump around like a maniac to pounding music.  Shaking up a storm and sweating always helps to re-set my frame of mind.

This particular class started late – at 7 PM – so it was close to 8:30 PM by the time I pulled into my parking garage at the apartment complex.

Frustrating!  A space was (oddly) not available on my floor, so I had to go up another level.  This had never happened before.

As I got out of the car, I saw a young woman heading to the car parked next to me.

It is always my practice to say hi to strangers, and as I did she said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I just found out my boyfriend is cheating on me.”

Then she fell into a puddle of tears, and I gathered her into my arms.

It didn’t matter that we were strangers.  In an instant, we were sisters. 

When her sobs subsided a bit, I asked where she was going.  Fortunately, her mom lived close by – but I wasn’t confident that she was in a frame of mind to drive safely.  So she handed over her keys and I got her to her mom’s (knowing Uber could easily get me home.)

During the drive she shared her heartbreaking story.  Her intuition had told her something was off; he protested…then she discovered a series of salacious texts that confirmed her fears.

He held the financial power, so her only choice was to leave.  I held her hand.  I told her to feel her feelings (which is the lesson I have been learning.)  “There’s no better place to be than with your mom, where you can have a good cry.”

The wound was too fresh to offer more than that…but I did sneak in my sister’s favorite line of comfort: “In a few weeks you’ll look back on today and feel completely differently.”  Time has a way of healing wounds, or at least making them less pronounced.

We can sometimes even see that we dodged a bullet by not getting the thing that we wanted.

I held her hand, got her safely home – and marveled at the privilege of being there for her.  It was a Divine hand that had provoked me to go to that late Zumba class and that had filled up all of the normal parking spaces, causing me to be at exactly the right place at the right time to meet a need.

I told her,  “God really loves you.  And just the way he took care of you tonight is how He will always provide.”

And in meeting her need, He met mine.  How quickly the pesky matters of the day faded away when I saw a gentle soul hurting.

Really, isn’t this what life is all about? To love our fellow man…and woman.  To act as a sister or a  brother, even to a stranger?

More on Sister/Brotherhood and the new WOW:

TRUSTING that this week brings you peace, and smiles, and confirmations that “it’s all going to be okay.”

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Acceptance, Rejection (and the New WOW)

I am on a quest for self-acceptance – warts and all.

Concurrently, I’m becoming more and more clear about what I will NOT accept.

Unkindness.  Disrespect.  A callous disregard for my feelings.  Injustices perpetrated against myself (or those I love.)

I’ve discovered a new fight in me!  Brenda 2.0 is feisty!  She’s not buying what you’re selling (unless it is anti-aging serum, of course!) and she’s not afraid to tell you want she wants.

Which means that some new friendships have a short shelf life.

I have become a careful observer of behaviors that previously slipped under the radar screen.  For instance, I welcomed  a new friend to town and invited her as my guest for lunch.  The second time, knowing she was finding her footing, I took her to lunch again.  The third time was coffee…and she didn’t even attempt to pay her way.  The fourth visit – at her request – was another lunch.  When the bill came, she made no moves to her own pocketbook.

Here’s the thing:  I LOVE being generous.  But I do not love feeling taken advantage of or taken for granted.

And it’s not just about money.  Another new friend started a challenging position and was dealing with a host of nerves.  Each time I saw her, I’d encourage her and ask how it was going.  I delighted to hear about her progress and how what started as a source of angst had become a blessing.

When we recently ran into each other, an impromptu meeting turned into a half-hour conversation.  A completely one-sided conversation; a running diatribe about her position, her boss and her sales.

Not once did she ask how I was.  I don’t even think she knows what I do for a living!

I took a careful mental note.

Is it me, or is everyone completely self-consumed these days?

I used to be perfect fodder for narcissists because I was a captive audience with such self-esteem and acceptance issues, it never occurred to me that I was being bamboozled.

No more.

Now, we all fall into the trap of selfishness sometimes.  I love my other new friend, who admitted that in a recent conversation I wasn’t allowed to get a word in edge-wise.

Yes, I left the conversation considering if we would ever have another – after all, this is NOT the phase of my life where I’m going to waste time on one-sided friendships.

Then he called to apologize for running away with the conversation.

The point isn’t being perfect, but it is being humble enough to see how our behavior affects each other.

What are YOU accepting that is beneath you?  More on this (and the new WOW):

Oh, well let me praise my SISTERS and BROTHERS, because I am RICH with their love and kindness.

My real friends?  We FIGHT over who will pay the bill.  We always check in to see how each other is doing and usually have to be FORCED to talk about ourselves.  These precious gems are fail -safe cheerleaders, humorists, supporters, confidants…and truly the family God has given me.

This week, I will not retreat into my ever-ready shell.  I’m callin’ on you, sisters and brothers!  I can’t do this life without you, nor would I want to try.

Who comes to mind when YOU think of a sister or brother of the heart?

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Sweet Release, True Riches (and the New WOW)

Have you ever noticed how tension precedes release?

That’s probably why we shouldn’t freak out so much over stressful situations. They never last forever (though yes, it can FEEL like forever.)

Alternately, those moments in time where we sense liberty and benevolence from the universe? These, too, are fleeting little buggers.

In this week’s video, I talk about how completely sure I was that after my experience in Costa Rica, I would never feel tethered to the base feelings of life again.  I was soaring!  Floating!

And I was wrong.

How come?

Well, LIFE happens.

We don’t have the luxury (nor would we really want it) to escape to an island where other peoples’ drama can’t affect us; where the news reports can ‘t jolt us; where a bad tamale can’t  give us indigestion.

Angst, upset, nausea and all the other feels are just part of the package of the human existence.

The key for me is what to DO with all those feels so they don’t bring me down for too long and I can get back to sweet release.

For me, the process involves sitting in my grandmother’s chair.  I call it my thinking chair.  Just the act of planting myself in that seat says, ‘It’s get real time, Brenda.  Talk it out with yourself.”

And I do.  And yes, I talk back.

I’ve learned that having regular conversations with my soul is not only not crazy, it helps keep the crazy at bay.

In these self-chats, I peel back the layers of falsehood that inevitably try to masquerade what’s REALLY going on.

Keeping it real, I’ll refer to last week’s message about surrendering STUFF.

Turns out, the Holy Spirit wasn’t just talking about my house.

My friend Anita joked with me that I’d come back from Costa Rica renouncing fine dining and eschewing my propensity for the Ritz Carlton, fake eyelashes and my tendencies for glamorous creature comforts. I emphatically countered that I was quite happy to savor the finer things in life and planned on continuing to do so.  It’s how God made me.  And, by the way, harrumph!

I protested too much.

Turns out, this week I was faced with an awareness that I had, indeed, become too focused on getting; that my psyche had been led down a path in which being “flush” equaled success. I bought the lie that I needed to “make up for lost time” and fill my coffers to ensure…that I was valid.

My circle only included people who could easily pick up the tab; who looked and sounded like me.

Then I met a man who has nothing.  And I discovered that he is the richest person I know.

You’d never figure we’d make good friends.  He is completely out of the mainstream and doesn’t even make small talk.  He lives in senior affordable housing and has limited calling on his government-provided cell phone.  We met in the airport on the way home from my Costa Rica trip, and I was struck by his jewelry, his colorful gypsy clothing, his self-possessed persona and aura of joy and peace.

Within moments of engaging in conversation, I discovered that he was a practicing Buddhist, and we engaged in a lovely conversation filled with the richness of spirit.  I gave him my card, and he was kind enough to check that I made it home safely.

Over the course of just two weeks of texts and phone calls (limited, due to his limited minutes!) Roger Mayberry became an important person to me.

Then I got the call that he was in the hospital.

I visited my new friend and observed that within minutes of being admitted, he had charmed every person on his floor.  Doctors, nurses, technicians, random passersby – they all couldn’t help but smile at his pure, childlike joy.

He says it himself, “I’m the richest poor man you’ll ever meet.”

When he first said that, I said, “Roger – stop defining yourself as a poor man!”

Yes, there is some truth to avoiding the sticky tape of speaking out words, for they have power.

However, it never occurred to me that being poor could ever be a good thing.

Stay with me on this, friends.

Roger is so not connected to the drumbeat of performance.  He is not tethered to this life. He is an otherworldly creature; a student of the spirit who can talk and listen for hours…and you WANT to hear what he says. Further, when you speak, you feel HEARD.

Spending time with him has caused me to ask this question:

What ARE the true riches of life?

No, I’m not saying I’m taking a vow of poverty. However, I am conscious of a shift from the oh-so-seductive material world to the priceless beckoning of the Spirit.    

These recent months have been, for me, devoted to not only self-discovery but also a quest for truth.  Stripping away the veneer fear has built over the years has surprised me.

What a thing to realize that, at some point, I began to equate the car I drive and the bag I carry with my own self-worth.

Me!  A self-professed spiritual person!

It broke my heart (in a good way) this week to see that I am being called to a new humility.  Instead of the constant drumbeat to scale up and have more and better, I find myself drawn to a simpler life.

When I finally called it by name and acknowledged what was going on inside of me, I cried tears of release. Repentant is a turning from one thing to another.  True repentance isn’t about beating yourself up; it’s simply an “Aha!  I was wrong and now I can be right!”

This awakening to how I had veered on to a shallow path brought sweet release, because I know now I will not waste more time accumulating stuff.

The one with the most toys is NOT who wins.

People like Roger win.  His bank account is overflowing where it matters most.

More on RELEASE and a beautiful new Word of the Week, coming right up:

By the way, the good news is Roger’s out of the hospital and on the mend.

Hooray! I intend to continue to plague him with questions and pick his brain and heart…all the while thanking him for shifting my view of life by his very existence.

This week, I want to ACCEPT people beyond face value.  I want to ACCEPT what is and relax in the knowledge that the universe is unfolding exactly as it ought.

I ACCEPT that who I always thought I was may not be who I really am, and choose to release those old constructs born of fear and insecurity.

How about you?

xoxoxoxoxox

Brenda

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Yippee – It’s Mine! Now, Let it Go (and the New WOW)

For many years I struggled with the concept of success and “getting what’s mine.”

For much of my 20’s and 30’s, I enviously observed other people achieving results, living exciting lives full of travel and material wealth and I longed for the same.

It seemed that there was a glass partition that I just couldn’t break through, keeping me from accessing life from the driver’s seat of the limo. This wasn’t a question in the back of my mind – it was in the FOREFRONT:  “Why can’t I connect the dots?  What am I missing?”

For as long as I’ve been me, I’ve wanted to live life to the fullest.  Along the way, I got sidetracked and convinced myself that I could settle into mediocrity and still be happy.

Here’s the thing: the definition of mediocre is different for everyone.  My idea of living high might be settling for you (and vice versa).

At our core, though, we know what we are capable of and what will make us fulfilled.  If we fall short, the question “Why?” is a worthy one.

One day I had my breakthrough.  The time I actually got an ANSWER to the question was on an ordinary day as I was driving home from work.

In my spirit, I heard, “You don’t really believe that there’s plenty to go around.  You believe in the idea of abundance, but not as a reality for YOU.  Do you truly believe that there is unlimited success, wealth, potential, blessing, resources available to you?  Then start acting like it.”

It clicked.

My prayer life changed.  I started THANKING God for provision.  I started EXPECTING favor.  

And my life took a major shift from scarcity to abundance – not just materially, but mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Louis Vuitton handbags showed up in the mail (thank you, Shirlee.) I became an occasional guest at the Ritz-Carlton (thanks to my fairy godmother and father – you know who you are).

Yes, kindness and generosity flowed to me from amazing people.

And I even started to manifest some of my own miracles.  Speaking engagements and freelance gigs flowed to me, including travel to places I’d always dreamed of going.

But the shining example of my new way of living life abundantly was my beautiful home in Sarasota.  I’ve told you the story before, but it always held up as a high-water mark of proof that God loved me and wanted to give me the desires of my heart.

I wanted to live there forever.  I would proclaim to anyone, “This is my dream house.  I’ll spend the rest of my life here.”

Until faced with the decision to surrender it.

There was a critical point where I had to choose:  Should I stay in the house of my dreams…or start living the LIFE of my dreams?

At my core I know that no matter how beautiful the home or breathtaking the pool and jacuzzi, I had no peace.

I once read a quote (paraphrased), “Your net worth will never be greater than your self-worth.” – Robin Sharma

Here’s a good one, too:

Once I “got” the lesson about abundance, the second round of revelation was wrapped around the question, “Would my STUFF define me?”

What we have can have US; it can lock us up in a prison (a very comfortable one, mind you), but it can suppress what should be an irrepressible spirit.

This is not to say that I have since renounced abundance.  Hell no!  Remember, I’m the girl who wore her false eyelashes to a spartan retreat in Costa Rica and who goes to the lobby of the RItz Carlton just to sniff it.  (Really, it smells divine.)

But Brenda 2.0 is not beholden to any of the trappings of this life. Yes, they can be fun and the icing on the cake…but the cake is the peace in my heart, the love I have for myself and the respect I now give my tender soul.

I speak more about this in my closing thoughts on SURRENDER:

Here is what is so amazing and cool and miraculous about our new, never before received WOW, release:  When I stood in those rushing waters in Costa Rica, I asked for a RELEASE of creativity.  I asked for my laughter to be unleashed.  (And a few other private things that also go along with this wonderful word.)

My friends, perhaps the universe is saying that on the other side of our surrender; if we’re willing to let go of what has held us captive; if we relinquish your fears and let the white flag wave on the life we THOUGHT was our dream come true – what awaits us all is RELEASE.

Woo-hoo!  I’m doing a happy dance for all of us.

So now that I’ve told you mine, please tell me about your surrenders and releases. It makes this journey together all the more wonderful to share them.

Much love,

Brenda

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The Hardest (Yet Kindest) Thing I’ve Ever Done (and the New WOW)

My trip to Costa Rica was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, it was purposefully planned to hit the pause button on my life and to shine a light on the deep places in my heart.

But I didn’t realize how difficult such honesty would be.

I thought leaving my church and leaving my marriage were the hardest things I’ve ever done.

But nothing prepared me for the stark reality of coming face to face with ME.

When I left my marriage, I knew that I had embarked on a new phase in my life – but by no means did I enter into a celebration of freedom.

It broke my heart to leave a man I loved – and for whom I will always have love.

Our story is not for public display; I will only share my journey in the hope that it may help you, too.

Though my life was in upheaval, my spirit was resolute: To embark on this new chapter of my life in a healthy way, a spiritual path – an awakening – was needed, and a key question cried out for an answer:

How did Brenda fall in to a toxic church relationship and jump from that into a marriage fraught with similar toxic patterns?

This answer, I believed, was needed to avoid jumping into any other alliances. And I sure didn’t want to waste any more time sleepwalking into relationships.

After many tears shed, I knew I needed help getting to the root.

Through this very blog (a reader contacted me), a path forward presented itself and was confirmed by my dear niece, Deena, and my sister, Shirlee.

There is a place in Costa Rica, the Iboga Wellness Center, that uses what Americans deem unorthodox methods to address deeply-rooted hurts.  The week-long, psycho-spiritual retreat has been purported to produce the effects of 10+ years of therapy.

People I love and respect affirmed that they were truly set free.

Freedom – and answers – were what I longed for.

I booked the trip in June and in the three months leading up to the retreat, was weaned off of Zoloft.  Iboga is an ancient medicinal root that originates in Africa, and it does not mix well with pharmaceuticals.

It fights and weeds out toxicity.  The first treatment focuses entirely on removing toxins from your body – and following that first dose I was flat on my back for an entire day.

It was hard.  This was no spa resort.  For much of the time it was me – and my bed – and a pail to catch vomit.

That first recovery day, I had severe panic attacks and considered fleeing.  There were no distractions; I was face to face with ME for yet another five days.

Midway through the journey, a river cleansing ceremony was held. Imagine Eva Gabor on Green Acres, trekking down a slippery 15 foot embankment in a pounding rain.

Just making it down to the river was a victory for my psyche. The ceremony itself was powerful – my hurts were named and seemed to wash off of me as the rain poured down. Next, my intentions and dreams were also voiced.  The river took them, too and I sensed that the current would take them to fruition.

I cried healing tears.

And was ready to go home.

My body didn’t want to face another Iboga ceremony.  I reasoned with myself: “There’s a hurricane coming; I need to get home to prepare.”  I questioned the process, “How much more can I look inward?  I’ve gotten some release – I want to get back to my soft bed.”

Yet I knew there was more, and I wasn’t about to let fear talk me out of what I traveled there for.

The second journey involves a guided meditation.

All I can say is that I came face to face with little Brenda; the child who so didn’t want to upset anyone that she kept all of her fears and hurts locked up.

I had a bird’s eye view of my soul, shrunken down and diminishing with every passing year.

I saw that because my true feelings were never expressed, they lied dormant, unfulfilled. To cope (and not upset the apple cart), I learned over the years to suppress feelings of anxiety, depression and insecurity because they were “bad.” I became adept at psyching myself up into a false optimism.

This worked for a while, and I even enjoyed some success – but the false front is not sustainable.  Eventually you crack.

The church had built on this faulty premise, teaching that feelings were bad and you couldn’t give them any credence.  It was a sin to be sad.

And my soul continued to die inside of me.

The performance that became my life – surviving the church, trying to present an image of the happy marriage – mostly, trying to present the image of a happy Brenda, nearly destroyed me.

All I wanted to do was make everyone else happy.

And I realized I couldn’t.

Happiness or not is a choice we all make individually.  No winning the lottery or taking exotic vacations can shift a person’s paradigm from dark to light.

Least of all, mine.

As the facilitator guided me back through my life, I SAW me…little me…crouched down and crying soundlessly.

I recognized her and my heart welled up with such love for her.  I held her in my arms and said over and over again, “I love you.  You matter.  I will never silence you again.”

My soul is now free to feel. Decades of feelings are now validated and by doing so, I no longer need to look to external sources for validation.

I am valid.

Am worthy.

Beautiful.

I am whole.

If saying those words out loud to yourself is uncomfortable, I pray for your own healing.

We are destined to have a great love affair in this life…and it is with ourselves.

How can we enjoy a healthy love with anyone else until our own souls are restored?

Yes, I took drastic measures to have a drastic change in my life.

And I got what I went to Costa Rica for.

I recorded this week’s video before my trip. I look forward to what comes out of me in the future, now that I have had a major life healing.

When I feel un-moored, I am so grateful to now have practical tools to get me back to ME.

My thoughts on Kindness and the new Word of the Week….

Ah, SURRENDER. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to let go, yet so freeing to open up to something beautiful and new.

By the way, if any of you have questions about my week at the Iboga Wellness Center, please ask.  What I’ve written here is a condensed version, but there are volumes more to tell.

I wish for each of you the freedom that comes from healing the little soul on the inside so she (or he) can grow up into maturity and strength and power.

You deserve that.

xoxoxo

Brenda

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My Stage Name is Gypsy: A Lesson in Inspiration (& the New WOW)

When I recently hit an emotional sink hole, I decided to make a plan to get inspiration flowing again.

Sometimes all you need is something happy to anticipate to jump-start your joy.

Music activates something deep inside of me and, in the last decade or so, finding music I liked that was compatible with my partner’s limited my concert-going.  Silly, actually.  I could have made solo plans – but I was always hoping to cultivate “together moments.”

As a result, my love for old school R & B went on the back burner.

Getting back to making a happy plan, as fate would have it, an alert that the Isley Brothers would perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg – just an hour away – made my heart jump.

For as long as I have loved music, the Isley’s have spoken deeply to my soul. Ronald Isley’s voice goes right to the core of my heart. Even covers of other peoples’ songs, like Summer Breeze (Seals and Crofts) or Hello, It’s Me (Todd Rundgren) get transported to an entirely new level by his vocals.

Instead of mulling it over, I clicked and purchased tickets. (This is also part of my new way of life. #JustDoIt.) Since it was a Sunday night concert, I made plans to arrive in the city on Saturday, discover St. Pete and enjoy.

Yippee! Rather than moping and dwelling on the past (which is unproductive, because I am not going backward), I had a date on the calendar to inspire me.

So let me cut to the chase about Gypsy.  My excellent, third-row seats had me almost levitating with joy. I began chattering with my left and right seat neighbors, warning them that when “Who’s That Lady?” or “Fight the Power” was performed, I may begin annoyingly screaming and step on their toes from dancing.

I hate those type of people at concerts, but I knew I might be one of them for this one.

The lady to the right was dressed to the nines in a sparkly black jacket and rhinestones on her glasses. We discussed the Isley songbook and which were our favorites (hers, Summer Breeze; mine, Let Me Know.)

I said, “What’s your name?”

She said, “Gypsy.”

Hmmmmmm, I thought.  That’s cool.

After talking some more, I felt it wouldn’t be too intrusive to ask a follow-up question.

“Is Gypsy a nickname or your given name?”

“It’s my stage name.”

A stage name!  How exciting!  She’s a performer!

“Oh wonderful!” I exclaimed. “Are you a singer? Or an actress?”

“No.”

I looked at her quizzically.  She replied,

“My real name is Shirley, but I say Gypsy is my stage name because all the world is a stage.”

Preach, Gypsy!

I learned that when she is at work or church, she goes by “Shirley.”

But when she is out with her man for a romantic night – or whenever she wants to put on a sparkly hat and her alter-persona, she’s Gypsy.

She inspired me!

All the world IS a stage that should be embraced as an opportunity to show up and give it all you’ve got.

(I did tell Gypsy that I have recently given up performing at life because it was simply exhausting, but that I loved the idea of living as the world being MY stage.)

Gypsy may never perform on a literal stage or receive a standing ovation – but she sure is a star.

I’m so glad she shined on me.

All that and the band threw a rose to me!

As we close out INSPIRATION as our Word of the Week, never forget that the world is your stage. And make a happy plan to jump-start your joy!

Goosebumps!  What does AUTHENTICITY mean to YOU?

For me, it is continuing to strip away the layers I created to numb and protect myself from what I have feared.  Whether avoiding a confrontation or walking on eggshells to avoid angry outbursts from others – it’s time to drop the facade and just BE.

How about you?

oxoxoxo

Brenda

 

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Clarity is Not for Sissies (and the New WOW)

This is NOT a manifesto against anti-depressants, but tells of MY journey to true clarity and the role that Zoloft (Sertraline) played in clouding matters.

You know that close to four years ago, I stopped drinking.  Haven’t had a glass of anything since November 11, 2013.  (Note:  It gives me goosebumps that I quit on 11:11, which is a power number. It seems the universe parted the waters that day, making a clear path for me to exit tipsy-land.)

Let me re-think the use of the word “tipsy.”  It is a euphemism, as is buzzed, to describe an altered state that numbs you from the pain of life.  

Such words make you feel better about being a drunk.

I quit alcohol because every bad decision or regretted remark or action in my life emanated from a booze-fueled state. Tired of being embarrassed, I no longer wanted to be voted “Most likely to break something” at every party. Some major falls led to a serious reckoning with how simply dangerous it was to navigate steps and life with a high blood alcohol content.

For me, clarity came when I heard in my spirit “If you keep this up, this is how you will die.”

Gulp.

So 2013 marked a new phase of clarity in my life.

Clarity is not for sissies.  You begin to observe things that didn’t bother you before; overlooked slights now hurt.  Suddenly, there’s fight in you, because you start to believe that you are worth better.

Sobriety and self-respect go hand in hand. As my self-worth grows, my capacity to tolerate disrespect shrinks.

Wait, Brenda – I thought you were going to talk about anti-depressants?

I am.

Sobriety fueled my recent life decisions.  What may have seemed to outsiders as a crazy, “Where did THAT come from?” action when I left my marriage, those who know me know I’ve never been more in my right mind.

But that action was just a beginning.

I’ve been on a quest for HONESTY.

As I continued to ask myself the questions necessary to peel away layers of dishonesty, I kept returning to a nagging question mark: My 10-year affair with Zoloft.

In the beginning years of my marriage, we went to Christian counseling.  The only thing I got out of it was a prescription.

Truly, that first 50 mg pill seemed like a magic bullet.  Perhaps psychosomatic, nevertheless, I felt instantly happier, more able to cope, less irritable and more tolerant.

When entering menopause, the script increased to 75 mg. When we moved to Florida, my new doctor upped it to 100 mg.

Patients should obey their doctors, right?

I visited my sister last year and one of my little blue pills fell on the bathroom floor.  She found it and, with trepidation, asked me what I was on.

I thought nothing of telling her – after all, my healthcare provider prescribed the drug!

The counselor had drawn a little cartoon that showed how serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) would build a little bridge to my brain, helping the happy feelings get back where they belonged.

Shirlee, unimpressed by the analogy but without judgment, encouraged me to read about the impacts of these drugs and to consider weaning off of Zoloft.  It took many months, but for me, the evidence was clear.  If I didn’t get off, I’d be on this drug for the rest of my life.

Thus began Brenda Clear Phase 2.0.

My doctor, knowing of my pending divorce said, “Do you really think this is the best time to detox?”

Taking control of my own body and decisions that affect it, I said, “Yes. This is the very best time.”

Since early June I have been on a steadily-decreasing prescription of Zoloft and last week, went to zero.

Clarity is not for sissies.

My body revolted angrily against the disappearing drug. Irritation has returned, flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, sleeplessness, headaches, cramping – yep, it’s been a real joy ride. But here’s the flipside: I FEEL again.

Yes, the difficult feelings were numbed, but so were the GOOD ones.  I now laugh more, cry more, and am more deeply touched by music and words and people.

I am alive.

Eventually, the physical symptoms will disappear.  It’s worth it to plow through them to get to the REAL ME.

I’ve missed Brenda.  It’s wonderful to get to know her again.

Here are my parting thoughts on CLARITY and the new WOW:

Hot diggity! (Wow, there’s a first-time use of THAT phrase.)

Let’s be INSPIRED this week.

Oh, and if my anti-depressant story has tugged at your heart, let me add that you should never cold turkey SSRIs.  There’s a careful way of weaning that your doctor can guide you through.  If INSPIRED to make a similar decision, I’m rooting for you.

And if you are not, please do not feel judged.  Everyone is on a different journey.  Some people have experienced great relief in temporary use of these drugs to get over a rough patch.  However, in my case, I found myself ten years later using the drug as an emotional crutch.

After finally ditching the crutches, I am learning to walk – and I hope to eventually fly.

xooxoxox

Love,
Brenda

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New Joys (and the New WOW)

What I love about life is that there is always something new right around the corner (if you are open to it) that can bring you an unexpected jolt of joy.

It has always been important to me to stay up-to-date on what the cool kids are doing.

That’s why I subscribe to my Entertainment Weekly magazine.  Even if I don’t read all of those recommended books, download the top songs or Netflix and chill with the latest TV, I at least don’t have a befuddled look of someone out of touch with the present day.

Now that I no longer share a TV (silver lining of living alone!), a whole world of pop culture has opened up to me. No, I’m still a Game of Thrones virgin, but I am completely caught up on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, fell in love with The Good Place and out of the blue, a dear friend sent me a CD that had me sobbing juicy, snotty tears.

I love a good cry, don’t you?

Believe me, I’ve had plenty of BAD ones.  Good cries bring the same kind of release that a sweaty Zumba class offers.  The last two pop culture cries that really “did it” for me were The Notebook (zero makeup left by the end of the film) and The Art of Racing in the Rain. (Best. Book. EVER.)

My friend, knowing that I was facing a challenging time, sent me Moana.  Are you familiar with this Disney animated film?  Well, you should be.  Not having given birth, Disney is not usually in my wheelhouse, but my beloved friends Anna Coker hit the ball out of the park with this gift.

Moana is a lovely little island girl with huge almond eyes and is destined to be the next island leader.  Her father, the Chief, guides her in the ways of the land – but warns her not to ever venture beyond the reef.  He paints the picture of danger and destruction and how she has everything she will ever need right there on the beautiful island. Why leave?

But the ocean calls her.  From the time she was a baby, she was drawn to be a wayfarer – to go to distant lands.

She doesn’t want to be a bad daughter, but she also wants to follow her heart.

If you’ve ever felt drawn to something MORE, but hesitated because you didn’t want to disappoint the people you love, you will LOVE Moana. 

I won’t tell you any more because you need to see it for yourself.  And have a good cry.

And when you do, this clip will make more sense.  It is now on repeat on my iTunes playlist:

If you have seen the film (it came out in 2016; where have I been?!), please let me know your thoughts.  Also, have you found something NEW that brings you joy?  Please share! My pop-culture “to do” list is growing by leaps and bounds, but it makes me happy.

Closing thoughts on JOY and the new WOW, coming right up!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are worth getting answers!

xoxoxox

Love,

Brenda

 

 

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Willing to Handle the Truth? (And the New WOW)

If you conjured up the scene from A Few Good Men where Jack Nicholson’s character screams, “You can’t HANDLE the truth,” that is exactly what I was thinking of when considered being WILLING and this week’s post.

For me, the focus on our word “WILLINGNESS” wasn’t so much about being open to trying new things (God knows EVERYTHING in my life is new these days.)

It wasn’t about stubbornly holding on to stuff, because the last few months have been all about letting go.

For me, it was about being willing to dig beneath the surface to uncover TRUTH about how I really feel, what I truly want, where I want to be, and why I did (or didn’t do) certain things in my life.

This awakening revealed that I had mastered performing the politically or socially correct script. I knew what “played well” with different audiences and rolled with THAT instead of considering what Brenda, at her core, honestly felt.

It’s shocking to realize how well we can become at adapting or chameleon-izing our behaviors to avoid conflict, rocking the boat or setting off another person’s explosions.

I’m tired of carefully tip-toeing through this world.

If bombs go off in my wake, so be it.

I’d rather have real than fake.  And I’d rather be fully me that a watered down version of me to make everyone else happy.

But it takes a WILLINGNESS to be honest.

That’s off-putting at first, but ultimately, so freeing.

And here’s the upside: When you are really YOU, the people you attract to yourself are keepers.  They’re not being swept up in a performance; they’re connecting with the REAL YOU.  Good, bad or ugly – it’s REAL.

I will always enjoy fake eyelashes, the transforming power of makeup and the invaluable support of Spanx.

But for the stuff that matters in life, I want REAL.

And I’m willing to be honest enough to get it.

More on that and the new WOW coming up!:

Yippee!

The word JOY always reminds me of my friend Krissie Vincent, who can sing like Janis Joplin but uses her gifts to sing in church, too.  She used to sing this song: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy…” and she milked it perfectly until it exploded into a jumping, rousing “Down in my heart!  Down in my heart! Down in my heart!”

You really had to experience it to know what I’m trying to say.

Joy is a jumping kind of emotion.

It’s when happiness spills over from the inside and activates your outsides.

Give me huge doses, please.

May we all jump for JOY this week!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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