Everyday Grace

Grace {A Divinely Given Blessing, A Tender Mercy, Elegance}

In seventh grade I had a teacher named Sister Mary Brendan. She may look sweet, but she was a hard ass and something of a nut. She frequently gave the girls hell for trying to shrink our jeans and called one classmate by the wrong name because his parents “named him wrong.” What the??? She particularly didn’t care for me because I was constantly asking, “Why?” Especially during religion. You don’t do that in Catholic school and particularly NOT with Sister Mary Brendan.

Sister Mary Brendan, 1980

Sister Mary Brendan, 1980

Which was why it’s a little shocking that this woman changed my life. She said something to the 12-year-old me that hit me like a ton of bricks and then seeped into my pores and has become as much a part of me as my heart – as breathing.

Here is what she said, “In every situation there is Grace. Sometimes it might not seem like it, so you may have to look really deep to find it, but it’s there. Look for it.”

She went on to say that some people might challenge that notion, “Oh yeah? – What about people dying in earthquakes (I grew up in Southern California and we had a lot of them.)? Where is the grace in that?” To which she replied that there are always helpers. There are always people that will leave the comfort and safety of their homes to dig through rubble to help save a person or a dog. And that THAT is what Grace can look like in a tragic situation. Look for it. It’s there.

To me, who was growing up in a dysfunctional home, to hear that Grace could be found in the crazy of my life felt like a life raft and it felt like freedom. It became a game for me to find the Grace – especially in the shit times. I would immediately look to see where I could find Grace. And without fail, I could. Without fail. It’s always there.

I’ve spent my whole life since then looking for and finding the Grace. It is so ingrained in my being that it didn’t occur to me that other people don’t do it.

I think that it’s also why it’s so natural for me to have such a deep gratitude practice. Every day I have so much to be thankful for. Even during the shit times.

When you are looking for and finding the Grace in every situation, gratitude follows. “Thank you for the helpers.” Like that.

It is my mission in life to help people reconnect with the Grace in their lives so that they live richer, deeper, more meaningful lives. Without fail. It’s always there.

This is the first of 31 {or more} posts that I’ll be writing on the topic of Grace. I’ll be writing about what Grace means to me and the ways in which I’ve found it in my life. Please leave a reply any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.

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“And” has become my new favorite word. I use it now instead of the word “but” in so many places.

As I sit here this morning sobbing in fear and gratitude, the word “and” becomes even more profound.

I’ve been suffering excruciating monthly pain for well over a year. When I say excruciating here is what I mean (those of you who have borne children may relate to this better than others.): If a 10 on the pain scale of 1-10 is Pitocin-induced triple contraction labor for hours on end (without an epidural) – my current pain is a 15.

Rolling around on the floor, screaming, sobbing, gnashing of teeth – you get the idea. This happens every month for over two weeks. The length of time between cycles has been steadily shortening. I’m getting about 10 days off now.

Four years ago I had an ablation to relieve my massive menstrual bleeding. I had a friend who had had one and swore by it. No more bleeding. No cramps. No hysterectomy. Just blood-free, pain-free living. Who wouldn’t want that? So I signed up and got mine. Easy peasy.

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there is a thing called, “Post-Ablation Syndrome” that about 30% of women get 30 months post-ablation. Lucky me! It has to do with scar tissue forming and the uterus not being able to do its monthly squeeze. The ablation never really worked for me the way it did for my friend, and now it’s become a thing much worse than what it set out to cure.

So, this brings me to “and.”

I have REALLY resisted having a hysterectomy. I had a lot of really good reasons – my naturopath agreed – for not wanting to have my uterus removed. She’s the one who actually diagnosed my pain and together we set out on a course to try to fix it non-surgically. I really was desperately attached to my uterus.

None of what we tried worked and she spent one entire office visit talking me into the hysterectomy. That was unexpected. And eye-opening.

It’s taken a lot of coaching around my thoughts about not wanting to have surgery and about keeping my uterus (and let’s be real – a shit ton of pain) to get me to where I am today – The Eve of the Parting of the Ways. My uterus and I will be parting ways tomorrow. My friend Maya said it sounded like neighbors that just don’t get along anymore when I phrased it that way. And that’s exactly how it feels. We co-existed and got along well enough for 46 years and now it’s time to let her go.

I am so incredibly grateful that this chapter of pain and of losing so many days is finally coming to a close. I’m grateful to the people that have supported me through this. I’m grateful to the people that made this surgery happen tomorrow instead of months down the road. I’m grateful to be parting ways with my uterus.


I’m scared.

Shitless. Surgery scares the crap out of me.

This isn’t a “but” situation, it’s an “and” situation. I am grateful and scared. I’m excited and afraid. I’m relieved and nervous. I’m sitting here with all of those emotions living side by side in my body. Grateful, excited, relieved. AND. Scared, afraid, nervous. I’m all of it. I’m both. I’m and.

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Just Let Me Be Me

I’ve been TOO BIG my whole life. I’m not speaking of my physical size, but rather the magnitude of my personality; exuberant, happy, outgoing, love to laugh, emotional, excitable. Big. That is my Essential Self, the Who. I. Am. deep down without any influence from others.

Some people get really uncomfortable around BIG people. They begin to feel as though they are falling in someone’s shadow or being thrust into a limelight they aren’t comfortable with. They feel jealous because they “aren’t big” themselves. Maybe you’ve experienced this. Has anyone ever said to you, “don’t be too big for your britches?” or shut you down when you’re simply being yourself?

I can remember several instances over the course of my life of being shut down by people when I was in my full joy and being too big for someone else. One such instance happened when I was in high school and I was eating lunch with one of my best friends. We were outside, standing among 300 people, and I was laughing out loud and having a wonderful time. My friend got really upset and snarled at me under her breath, “Stop it, Laurie. People are looking.” I remember saying, “Who cares? Let them look.” But I received the message loud and clear. Be small. Blend in. Don’t be big. It’s not safe. You’ll just get 
shut down. 

Message received.

‘Blend in’ was the lesson I learned in my childhood home as well. Growing up in an alcoholic home I found that it felt safer to blend in and not make waves. After all, you never knew which version of dad was going to come walking through the front door at the end of the day. Perhaps this is why my Essential Self would cut loose when I was out of the house, and come bubbling forth right out of me. I needed to be seen. I needed to be heard.

Who is Driving the Bus?

We’ve all got an Essential Self, some of ours’ are hidden more deeply than others’. We also have another part of us called the Social Self. This is the part of us that says we “have to” fit in socially. We have to be polite. We have to like our relatives (that we secretly hate). We have to be thin, drink green smoothies, be environmentally conscious, and on and on and on. We put other people’s ideas of what’s right in charge of our lives. Even if we hate those things. Even if they make our bodies cringe into a tight ball just thinking about them. (I’m looking at you ‘environmentally conscious.’)

So, I’m going to encourage you to find the things that light you up and give you that joyful feeling inside. Sometimes it can be like you’re playing a game of “You’re getting warmer, you’re getting colder” until you figure out. Pay attention and notice when your Social Self is trying to run your life and see if you can find ways to put him/her in the back seat for a bit. Is there an Essential-Self-Way that could work as well (or better) than the Social-Self-Way? Or is there the possibility of an “and” solution?

I had a client recently that said that she likes to read in bed in the morning, but she also feels better if she gets up and walks. Most days the books in bed were winning and she was feeling bad about that. I suggested that there might be a way to combine those two things, perhaps with a book on tape during the walk. “I’ve never thought of that!” Right, because reading and walking at the same time seemed like mutually exclusive things. But because we found a way to combine them, her Essential Self is going to have a party in the mornings now, by nourishing her mind and body at the same time.

Let Your Essential Self Shine

Figuring out a way to let your Essential Self shine when others (or even ourselves) are trying to dull it is key. Noticing when it is happening is the first and most important step.  You can’t do something about it if you don’t notice it’s happening. And then, instead of taking what “everyone” says and making it your truth, figure out what is really your truth and remind yourself that your Essential Self wants what it wants. It’s a way of living authentically. It’s a way of living in harmony with ourselves. If we are blending in and playing small, then we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and others. We are negating the part of ourselves that IS TRUE. A piece of us breaks off and we have to work like hell to get it back.

So, I’ve decided that I want to spend time with people that allow me to be me, that allow me to shine and want me to be BIG. Those are my people. And the rest? Well, when they’re ready for BIG me, they know where to find me. This is my first step. Being around people with whom it’s okay to be myself. In this safe environment I’m rediscovering that bit of me that has been hiding in the shadows all these years. It’s a process and there may be setbacks, but it feels like it’s time for me to be seen and share my gifts with the world.

Please feel free to share in the comments below any thoughts you have about the Essential Self. If you want to talk about the things that light up your Essential Self, I’d love to hear.

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