Tag Archives: Freedom

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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Free to Be Me: A Lesson in Forgiveness

When age 50 arrived, so did a swift quick to my soul that if my desire was to be free, only I had the key.

I admire (with a tinge of jealousy) those light-hearted youths in their 20’s and 30’s who figured this out without wasting decades running on a hamster wheel, hoping for someone else to show up on a white horse to save the day.

When it occurs to you that (a) No one is showing up to save the day and (b) Life doesn’t owe you anything and (c) You’d better get crackin’ if you want to start living the life of your dreams…

…it can be depressing.  Especially if you dive down the black hole of “What about all that wasted time I’ll never get back?????!!!!!”

But is it wasted time if lessons were learned along the way?

Is it wasted time if, on the journey, you were able to love and be loved?

My life has been a series of Family Circle cartoon paths, rarely a straight line going from glory to glory.  My trajectory features dark valleys and nonsensical detours along with entire decades I mistakenly thought I was moving forward, but instead completed a circle. Over and over again.

And today I find myself tempted with the anguished thought, “You’re starting all over again…at age 54???”

Who says it’s supposed to be a straight trek to the mountaintop? And how can we judge our journeys by their seeming dead ends? If I hold myself hostage to every perceived failure, I will never be free.

One of my favorite quotes from this past week will encourage your heart if you’ve ever fallen into the trap of beating yourself up:

Therein, for me, lied the secret to my freedom: forgiving myself for what I didn’t (and couldn’t) know at the time.

And, as Maya Angelou said so perfectly:  “When you know better, you do better.”

Each day offers a new opportunity to know, and do, better.

Let’s give ourselves a break – and buckle up for the new Word of the Week (with some parting thoughts on FORGIVENESS):

What are you needing FAITH for?

Remember, it works by LOVE (not fear).

With much love,

Brenda

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Exiting Our Cages (and the New WOW)

The famous film producer, George Lucas, said, “We are all living in cages with the door wide open.”

I have pondered of late the sheer waste of living in a cage. To have the potential for a big, expansive, limitless life  yet choosing to stay constrained in a prison of my own making.

My sweet little Sheltie, Shasta, taught me a lesson years ago. If you are unfamiliar with Shelties, they are miniature Lassies.  A little bundle of joy full of white and brown fluff, our vet advised us to crate train her as a puppy, because dogs never mess where they sleep.

One day as I led her to her crate, she simply refused to go in. She dug in her paws and made it clear, “Enough!”

She never went back – and always whimpered to let us know when she needed to go, like a well-trained puppy should.

It would have been cruel to force her into that confined area.  It was a tool that had served its purpose, but when the purpose was fulfilled, it was time to put the crate away.

If only it were so clear cut in our own lives!  We begin a routine of morning coffee, work, going to the gym, cooking dinner, watching TV and doing it all over again.

This routine becomes what we call “normal life.”

But aren’t we the architects of our own normal?

So what keeps us in the cages of our own making?

I’ve looked at my own life, and came up with three answers; each tied up with bows of fear:

  1. Fear of what people will think
  2. Fear of loss
  3. Fear of the unknown

Life can be an Oscar-worthy performance with little to do with reality if you judge it only by Facebook or Instagram posts. What you see there are the happy, shiny, delicious, romantic highlights of a life – and none of the underbelly.

To a certain extent – that’s appropriate.  You don’t want your dirty laundry or every spat played out for the world to see.  You’ve invested in this Potemkin Village of a life that looks perfect on the outside but if you dare to take a closer look, it’s infested with termites and the foundation crumbling.

One of my favorite writers, Genevieve Georget posted this on Facebook this week, and it truly resonated with me:

Fear of what other people will think suppresses raw candor because it seems easier to keep up appearances. But do you want to perform at life, or live it?

And at the end of this life, will it matter if everyone else was pleased with you, but you, in fact, were miserable?

Riding shotgun with the fear of what people will think is its bosom buddy, fear of loss. If you disrupt the status quo, you could lose the respect and admiration of your family, friends and peers. If you leave that termite-infested house (in that great neighborhood with the amazing swimming pool), you might end up living in a studio apartment. Cutting ties with the old means your old stomping grounds, your old comfort zones, may no longer welcome you.

Leaving a beautiful home infested with termites of anger and fear and negativity? Difficult, but not a profound loss in light of what my soul yearned to gain.

Ah, the fear of the unknown.  This is best addressed by squarely facing what you DO know. Might, just like little Shasta, the crate of life not suit you anymore?

Certainly, there are no promises of what life will be when you exit the cage, but there is one certainty – on the other side of all of those fears is FREEDOM.

I have dreamed of a limitless life; the kind of life where yes is the first response, not no and where dreams are nurtured instead of dashed by negativity. I long for love to freely radiate from me, fueled by hope and effervescent belief.

At first I called it a lovely cage. I decorated it. It offered safety and familiarity. But in my moments of brutal honesty, I knew that the true me became smaller and smaller while my soul and spirit tried to thrive in toxic soil.

When you choose to exit your cages, you will upset people.  You will experience loss. You will face the unknown.

But my friends, you will be free, which is a gift more valuable than gold.

We are all living in cages with the door wide open.

I choose to walk out, by faith.

What lies on the other side for you?

Transformation was our Word of the Week and I can only imagine that the caterpillar has its moments of doubt that a butterfly will emerge. Caterpillars, please don’t judge your transformation midstream.

The key? Stay the course.  More on this and the new WOW here:

What a powerful, powerful directive.

Please let’s stop beating ourselves up for simply being human.  We are all flawed children of God.  It’s what we DO with what we’ve been given (or what we’ve done) that brings us closer to the light or draws us to darkness.

May forgiveness, of ourselves and others, let the light shine in on the dark places this week.

Love to you all  – and many thanks again for your kindness and care.

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

 

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Joy, Silliness. Enthusiasm (and the New WOW)

We went off the rails a bit in this week’s recording of the WOW.  A special guest appearance by Snoopy and my HUSBAND escalated into silliness  – but we went for it enthusiastically.

Silliness is underrated, don’t you think?  

There’s a lightness and freedom to being goofy that my husband has mastered.

I haven’t always appreciated it.

Sometimes, I find it downright maddening.

But when I take a step back and see that deep crevice of a dimple in his cheek and how it lightens up the world around him when he makes stuffed animals talk or contorts his face like Jim Carrey or jumps into quoting lines from Young Frankenstein, I know he is the exact yin to my yang; the peanut butter to my jelly…and the much needed cream in my coffee.

One time during the holiday season we were at the Christmas Tree Store and a particularly rousing carol came on.  He started a flamboyant, broadway-worthy dance in the aisle.

I first observed this with caution : “Was anyone watching?”

My second impulse was to join in…and next thing you know, Fred and Ginger were having at it with the abandon of slightly crazy people.

If you’re going to go for it, do it ENTHUSIASTICALLY, whatever it is!

Here’s what I love best about the word enthusiasm:  It’s wrapped up in bows of joy and freedom (and if you’re lucky, silliness.)

I’m ALL for giving and receiving gifts like THAT this holiday season, how about you?

So, without further ado, my regularly scheduled Word of the Week with a surprise guest (or two):

My mother BEGS Duane not to make silly faces in photos, but it appears that he was fairly well-behaved in this recording.

Unlike this:

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Or, when dressed in our best for a recent wedding:

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No, life is never boring with Mr. Viola.

And I look forward to another ENTHUSIASTIC week.  How about you?

Love!
Brenda

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Truth, Lies and the New WOW (Word of the Week)

Our WOW was TRUTH and never have I received such a response to a simple post that emanated from a REALLY tough weekend.

Another example of how your MESS becomes your MESSAGE.

Those of you who aren’t into Facebook make have missed out, so I am putting it here because what I was grappling with bears repeating:

So in the midst of our WOW (which is TRUTH) I have had a few revelations about LIES.

They don’t always come from sleazy salespeople or sweet talking guys you meet at a bar.

The most dangerous lies lodge in your mind.

They jump on a perceived slight and try to settle in with a whole story to support the negative jolt of feelings. They prey on a fear – usually your worst fear – and try to set up housekeeping to erode your joy.

After an attack of particularly hurtful messages in my head this weekend, I realized that instead of playing with them, entertaining them and helping them stay lodged between my ears (which ultimately sinks down into my heart), I needed to DISCARD them.

Why give credit to every message that pops up in your head?

And how do you KNOW its a lie? Well, if the TRUTH sets you free (it may upset you at first, but ultimately it brings freedom), a LIE puts you in bondage. LIES have a posse that includes anxieties, insecurities, torments and overall soul-sucking properties.

Lies

Let’s kick the lies to the curb this week. And when you hear one, instead of wasting your energy fighting it, put your energy into reinforcing the TRUTH.

You are loved.
You are accepted.
You matter.
You’re beautiful.

And the list goes on.

I also was pretty fired up about truth leading into this week’s WOW.  Here it is!

Ah…

A week filled with things that are easy to understand or do!  (Or sifting through the complexities to GET to the simple things.)

What an interesting word!  I’m looking forward to how SIMPLICITY plays out and what new understanding I will have of it at the end of this week.

What does it mean to YOU?

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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WOW! Word of the Week for 8.16.15

From support to healing to…what does this week hold for us?

Well, the pieces of the puzzle are building on each other very nicely.  In fact, almost as a foreshadowing, I used this very word (about to be revealed) in one of this week’s posts on healing:

As we meditate on this word, surrender – here’s a disclaimer:

Don’t confuse giving up with letting go.

I’m not in favor of anyone giving up on their dreams.  But I do know from experience that sometimes you need to let go of your “ideal.”

Blessings sometimes come to us in different packaging than we expected, and when we are so STUCK on how we think it should play out, we might take a pass on the very thing that would make our heart sing.

I’ve also learned holding on with white knuckled resolve is downright exhausting.  Let it go, she sang in Frozen.  Let it go!

Oh, shall we have a lyrical reminder?  (Did I just hear all of the parents out their groan because they’ve heard this song a little TOO much?)  Moms and Dads, feel free to skip to the bottom:

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!

What I love is the FREEDOM that comes after you surrender.  Say goodbye to the past (and that perfect girl or guy, too.)

Just be wonderful you.

And when the storms rage this week, let’s go surfing on some amazing waves.

What are you looking forward to letting go of this week?

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