#peace

Finding Renewal in a Time of Grief

“Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined.” ~ T. Harv Eker

I just reread this quote several times. “Nobody ever died of discomfort …” That actually offers me comfort right now, because this morning I felt like I really might die of discomfort—the discomfort of feeling so alone.

Now, I know, I know: I’m never really alone. There’s always a higher power with me, and I have family members and friends I can call anytime. But when we are in that place of loneliness, fear, sadness, and discomfort, it’s important not to try to jump right to gratitude or “positivity.” Sometimes crying and acknowledging how much things suck, or how heavy our feelings weigh on us, is the fast train to returning home to ourselves, where appreciation and gratitude occur naturally.

This morning I woke early, around 5:30. It was my first morning secluded in a rental house with a single project: write my book. The book is a workout guide for the spirit that will help readers get fit on the inside, and it’s due to my publisher in three months. Today, I was scheduled to write the first chapter, on spiritual stretching. The premise of the chapter is that stretching our spirit—expanding our comfort zone—is critically important to spiritual fitness, and that everything we’ve ever wanted is just on the other side of “comfy.” We can’t change our lives unless we’re willing to stretch beyond what we’ve known up to this point. Little did I know when I planned the book how much stretching we’d all be doing when I wrote that chapter!

I’d rented a lake house in the Berkshires to focus on writing, away from NYC noise and the distractions of home. But what I could not anticipate when I booked this house months ago was that I (and you!) would be a month into quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic—and, as a result, that I’d already be feeling so completely alone and isolated from humankind. (I normally live alone in an apartment just outside Manhattan.)

I’ve been sleeping way more than usual this past month, and when I wake up, I don’t feel refreshed and ready to take on the world. I feel like going back to bed. I feel lethargic.

This discomfort I think we are all feeling is grief.

Grief is like this virus, in that it dictates how long the discomfort will last. There’s no amount of positive thinking that can just make it “go away.” Sure, our mental disposition and spiritual exercises absolutely help with how we manage, heal and respond. But ultimately, the sooner we can accept that this is and will continue to be a challenging time, the sooner we can start feeling like ourselves again. This is what I am learning.

But as I lay in bed until about 8:30 this morning, the discomfort started taking over. And so I decided to take charge. To begin with, I named my discomfort. Now, we’re often advised to name our feelings as a way of acknowledging them, but I like to do this with a little twist: I “named” my discomfort Debbie, and then tried to remind Debbie that I was in charge, not her. In my head, I heard one of my favorite speakers and authors, Dr. Susan David, saying, “We own our emotions, they don’t own us,” and I wondered if Susan ever gets visits from Debbie. I’m sure she does.

But I also heard Susan saying, “Write what you’re feeling. Tell the truth. Write like nobody’s reading.” She spoke about this in a recent TedTalk—it’s the advice her eighth-grade teacher gave her after her father died, a teacher who did not buy into her story of triumph over grief after losing her father. And this resonated with what we’re all experiencing.

Triumph over grief … that’s what seems to be expected of us, now and whenever times get tough, right? Be grateful! Let it go! After FaceTiming my parents recently, that’s the message I received, too. I’m not blaming them. They love me. But I think sometimes when people try to solve our problems for us, they don’t truly see us. I expressed that I was tired. Writing a book is hard, I told them. It’s hard to focus right now. The hot water isn’t working in this house. I feel so lonely. I’m really tired of being alone. And there it was—the truth—I feel lonely. This is a challenging time.

And so with Dr. Susan’s words echoing in my head, I changed from my pajamas to my sweats (my self-isolating routine), and walked a few minutes down the road to get coffee, a matcha latte with almond milk and some bagels. It was cold and rainy, which added to my sullen mood. An older gentleman on the sidewalk showed his respect (and intelligence) by walking away from me and practicing social distancing, but waved and smiled. I wanted to hug him, but I couldn’t, so I just smiled and said, “Hi! Good morning!” in a cheerful voice.

I thought to myself.

As I walked back to the house with drinks and bagels in hand, I noticed the fear inside me bubble up. It said things like, Who cares what you have to say? You should just sleep. Don’t you feel so alone? What are you even doing here?

I walked in the door, put my food and drinks down on the black granite countertop and texted my childhood friend, Allison. “I feel so lonely,” I typed. “I really don’t want to do life by myself anymore. How are you? Trying to focus. Wish you were here.”

My phone rang two seconds later. Allison was on the other end, out walking her dogs for probably the third time already this morning. I was thinking how nice it would be for her to be in this house with me. To have breakfast with her. But then as I drank my coffee, I realized we were having breakfast together. She listened to me with no judgment as I got out all my feelings. If you have someone in your life who can do this for you, consider your rare good fortune. If you don’t, “Don’t panic. Ask yourself how you can cultivate that. Is there someone you can offer that rarest of gifts to? We receive most when we give the most freely.”

As I spoke, she listened. I felt seen, heard, understood, comforted. We started to laugh about life’s absurdities and how everyone is struggling and coping in their own unique way right now. She told me she listened to a podcast recently about a well-known author struggling to write her book, and I remembered I’m not alone. I am a human having a human experience. I have dared to put myself and my story out into the world in a meaningful, vulnerable way, and it is appropriate that lots of feelings are coming out. I’ve never written a book before.

In this uncertain time, there is a lot of talk about people being bored or just trying to make it through the day. I get it. It would be enough for me just to dip my toes into a friend’s hot tub right now, while navigating the collective grief in the world, but that is not my assignment. I’m essentially being asked to compete in the Olympics, not chill in a hot tub, meaning I have a huge project to complete at a time when it is challenging to stay focused and awake. Some say, What a perfect time to write a book! And in many ways, they are right, and I agree.

But then I remember again that grief is like this deadly and contagious virus: it sets the timeline, and I’m discovering that it is best to accept that, and show up in this new “normal” the best way I know how to show up. And so I begin to forgive myself for not feeling like any of this is perfect or easy.

But one thing is for certain: mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness is needed now more than ever. Stretching our comfort zone isn’t just important for us personally, so we can transform our own lives and reach our own goals, it is necessary for the health and safety of the world. Stretching is no longer “optional.” It has been thrust upon us, ready or not: flexibility and resiliency are now required of us all, regardless how we feel about it.

I read a news article recently that argued that after this pandemic, the world will never be the same again. My breath seized up with momentary panic; in our isolation and claustrophobia, so many of us are waiting desperately for things to get back to “normal.”

But the truth is, I believe the world needs to change, starting with each of us and how we choose to respond, not just when things are going well, but when the whole world seems to be falling apart. This experience could be an opportunity to make excuses and go to pieces. Or it could be the ultimate pause-and-reset button we didn’t even know we needed—the impetus to stretch all of us so we emerge truly transformed for the better.

And so my mind reframed how I viewed the article’s premise. And I thought, Thank God.


What It Truly Means To Be Confident. (Psst, it’s not what you think.)

Through my work in front of the camera as a TV personality and model, I learned what it truly means to be confident. (It’s not what you think). The truth is, you already have what it takes. You were born with it. You just need to remember what that feels like.

As a confidence coach, I hold space for my clients to awaken their inner wisdom and guide them back to their fiercest self. I don’t believe it serves any of us to coddle our weaknesses or neuroses when we can choose to honor our greatness instead.

It is our birthright to be unstoppable. We just have to rediscover what it means to be free—of judgment, fear, doubt—of anything that weighs us down.

I know it can feel scary and overwhelming to put ourselves out there in a big way and actually do what our hearts are urging us to do. We think, “Who am I to start this business?” “What will people say?” “Am I smart, talented, good enough?” and so on.

But whatever pain we may experience from another’s judgement of us is nothing in comparison to the pain we will undoubtedly feel by playing small.

What does it mean to play small? It means shrinking so others won’t feel insecure around us. But when we dare to write our book, leave the unhealthy relationship, quit a job to start our dream business or whatever it is, we inspire others to do the same.

The real question then becomes: Who are you not to start your own business (or anything else you feel called to do) and show up fully for yourself and others? Who are you not to be gorgeous, brilliant, wildly successful and joyful?!

Expressing our full potential is not just our right, it’s our responsibility. And it starts with confidence. To have confidence, we first must define what it means for us. So take a moment to write down what confidence means for you.

*I believe confidence is remembering who we truly are (love) and owning that—each and every day. Confidence is honoring who we are—perceived “flaws” and all—and presenting our highest self to everyone we meet, with a smile.

*Confidence is making our own rules, and refusing to settle for societal standards we don’t believe in. It is forgiveness, kindness, grace, and the ability to laugh at ourselves. It is taking our lives seriously, so we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously.

*Confidence is more than just knowing we deserve the best; it’s making choices that reflect that. It is saying “no” when we want to say “no,” and not feeling bad about it. It’s staying in bed when we need to rest without feeling guilty, and listening to and caring for our bodies.

*Confidence is choosing to be the victor, not victim. It is admitting when we are wrong and sincerely apologizing. It is following our heart’s desires, and asking for help.

*Confidence is knowing we were created by the same loving force that created the sun, moon and stars, and living from that magnificent space. It is not needing anyone’s approval, validation or applause.

*Confidence is looking within and asking, “Who do I need to be, to transform this relationship/situation/society/world?” It is the recognition that the peace, love, freedom, and abundance we wish to experience starts with us. It’s the willingness to show up fully, speak up passionately, and stand up straight.

*Confidence is the spark that lights up any room. It doesn’t label, judge, shame, blame, condemn or attack.

If you struggle with feeling confident on a consistent basis, don’t fret! You’re normal! Thanks to the power of meditation and regular self-compassion practices, I’ve discovered a few perspective shifts that have transformed my self-confidence:

1. When I base my self-worth on who I am and on my inherent value as a human being, rather than on what others think or how much I achieve, my confidence soars and my inner critic quiets.

Mantra: I am willing to see myself through a lens of love.

By looking at ourselves through a lens of love (rather than fear), we are able to weather difficult situations, be confident in our true worth, and see ourselves as lovable. When we take full responsibility for our lives, we are able to change them.

2. Whatever I want from others (love, attention, validation), I give to myself.

Mantra: Instead of feeling offended when people fail to acknowledge me, I see it as an opportunity to expand and grow.

As long as we are doing our best, honoring ourselves and our purpose, we will feel less and less inclined to seek the approval of others.

The less we depend on people to validate us, the stronger our emotional muscles become, and in turn, the stronger our sense of self-worth. Focusing on the special characteristics that make me ME is much easier and more rewarding than waiting for someone to say or do something that makes me feel good … for a matter of minutes until I need my next “fix.”

Our lives truly become fuller when we turn our attention inward to the miracle that we are, release expectations, and stay detached from outcomes and other people’s opinions.

3. The answer to any question can be found within.

Mantra: I give myself the space and time to grow still, present, quiet—and then listen to my inner wisdom and guidance.

Any outer limitations (like stress, anger, unhappiness, feelings of lack or unworthiness) are just reminding us to get steady inside. Our strong urge to take ourselves overly seriously can be tempered by giving our inner child some attention.

Start by giving yourself a hug! I think I’ll do the same.

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