Bird without a Branch

My song with my husband is You and Me by Dave Matthews Band. There are two reasons this song speaks to me personally;

  1. Over and over again he says “you and me together can do anything”
  2. He says “When the kids get old enough we’re going to teach them to fly”.

YES! Yes to both of these things.

I was thinking about our song the other day when I was with little bubby in the midst of our morning routine. I was eating my Cheerios and little bubby was next to me in his swing; the melody being played by the swing was Rock-a-Bye-Baby.

That is a terrible song.

Who wrote that song? I did not bother looking up the origins, for all I know there is more to this story that I missing. On its face though the song is pretty horrific. There is a baby in a cradle at the top of the tree, the wind blows and the baby plummets, cradle and all.

Needless to say I do not sing this particular song to little bubby.

These two songs were the inspiration behind a very special part of my vision board this year though.

I recognized after time spent meditating on the inspiration, my mother represents the tree from the nursery rhyme. I was the baby on her branch never secure in our attachment. Is the branch going to break? Am I going to fall? Will she catch me or abandon me?

What I realized is that I do not need her branch. There is a quote floating around in the ether about how a bird on a branch does not put its trust in the branch but in its own wings.

Exactly. I have wings.

When I was small I did not know this and I clung desperately to this very unstable branch praying I would not be dropped.

Now I see that even if the bottom falls out I will be okay.

It is bigger than that though. It is not enough to know I have wings, I must have the courage to lift off that branch and fly.

How can we teach little bubby to fly if he does not see us doing it? He may see my wings, and he has his too, but if I do not use them he will not know what his are for.

I plan to be a stable branch for bubby but I also want him to know he is not small, he has wings that can take him anywhere his heart is called to go. My branch being stable is only important so he knows there is always going to be a safe place to come home to.

The last part of this bird/branch symbolism that appeared to me has to do with the nest. The nest is the safe space on the branch I created. I do not sit directly on the branch, I sit in the nest that I created. My nest is my comfort, it is my safe place to come home to, not the branch – and at the end of the day, I do not need either because I can fly.

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Getting Creative: Creating Together.

I have felt my sacral chakra open in a way that I have never experienced since having little bubby. This brings me back to the creative energy that is currently flowing in our home.

My connection with my husband started to grow in special ways once we came back to truth speaking in our relationship a few weeks after bubby was born. It is from this deep place of connection that we have felt called together to create.

In truth I feel our call to create came when we knew it was time to call in little bubby’s soul to join us. I think that very act of creation is what has breathed this new and exciting energy into our relationship.

My husband and I are writing a book together. It is a children’s book based on an inspiration that came to us a few months after bubby came home. I have already painted the inspiration for little bubby and that work of art has a home on the book shelf in his bedroom. This project goes a step beyond that though because it is something we are doing together.

My husband is writing the story and I will illustrate. This directly ties into my mantra for the year of done playing small because it invites me to wholly step into my identity as an artist.

Prior to this project we have been called to unite on, I have only created art that I had very specific inspiration for and that on some level I knew I could do. There has always been a wall that blocks my creative self from fully shining and on this wall lies are written. Lies such as; you are not good enough, you cannot draw (fill in the blank), self-taught does not amount to much, it has to be perfect or don’t bother.

This project that is being created in love demolishes my wall. Criticism and self-doubt cannot stand up to love.

So at the beginning of the year we bought three sketch books, one for my husband to create his story in, one for me to create the illustrations in, and a replacement for my art book that is full.

We rearranged our sun room that formally acted as an extra sitting area/dining room. It is now our playroom. There is an area for little bubby with a few toys and then the other half of the room is our creative space. We have created a space for art and creation to have a permanent home. Dinner now takes place at the kitchen table, who needs a formal dining room when you have a place for your family to create together?

Every weekend my husband works for a few hours on the story while little bubby and I play nearby. When he is ready he will share and I will begin my part. I already know the loose story line as we created it together, but I have decided to wait to begin drawing/painting until I hear how he threaded in the fine details. You never know what you will be inspired by.

Our roots are growing stronger and closer together all the time. To create is a vulnerable thing. You are sending a piece of yourself out into the world to be seen. Stepping into this vulnerability together has strengthened our connection.

Since the beginning of the year I have been seeing spiders all around our property and out in the world. I have been very open to receiving cosmic messages recently and finally decided to see what symbolism lay behind this little creature who keeps presenting itself to me. Spider symbolism has to do with manifesting your dreams and being creative. It has to do with the creation of the web. It as if the Universe is winking at us saying, you are on your path.

I am grateful that the foundation my husband and I created together over the course of the last 7 years has allowed us to call in such abundance. We have always joked that I am the ideas person and he is the execution behind the idea; now we are both the visionary and the alchemist. Our ideas flow together and together we manifest our dreams.

This life we have made is nothing short of magic. A smaller version of myself would have never dreamed this love and joy were possible – well they are little girl, and not only is it possible, you helped create it.

 

On Your Own is Hard

Little bubby is now big enough to sit in my lap for story time and I am loving it. This was a milestone my husband and I were both looking forward to as we are both avid readers and hope to impart a love of reading in him.

A few times a week I read him one of my favorite stories from childhood, The Little Red Hen.

You know the one, she bakes her bread on her own and eats it. She was open to receiving help, even called it in, but lack of it did not keep her from reaching her goal. Total feminist book if there ever was one. Good stuff.

Here is where the story falls short though, it leaves out the struggle.

The story has her planting and harvesting and lugging the wheat to the mill and making it almost seem easy. Not to mention it does not touch on the feelings of rejection and disappointment that arise when your friends/family do not show up for you.

Doing it on your own is hard and there are absolutely feelings to work through when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask for help just to be denied. Not to mention, so often in life rather than help people want to give (unsolicited) advice on how to do whatever it is, or even worse – they want to highlight the ways in which they think you are doing it wrong.

It is not easy to climb your mountain alone. It is not easy to reach out for your hand for help just to find it left empty. It is not easy to keep going when everyone is watching as you stumble. When you get there though, you are BIG. The struggle, the stumbles, the falls, the heartbreak – that is where the real story is. It is why the bread tastes so sweet in the end.

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No Promise of Sunshine

Little bubby and I spend a lot of time outside together. We sit on the front porch multiple times a day and listen to the birds, watch the squirrels, and socialize with neighbors passing by. We go on at least one walk a day, usually in the late afternoon early evening, that ends with us sitting at the pond near our home watching nature. We go to nature parks in the area where he gets to explore by touching the bark of different trees, playing with the grass while sitting in my lap, etc. And one of my favorite parts of the day, every evening we say goodnight to the sun as it sets in the west and hello to the moon if she is rising.

On the weekends we spend time together outside as a family, we lay a quilt down in the backyard and blow bubbles or play in water. We take long walks or play in the front yard in the shade of the trees. We also make sure to get Lu out and running, usually at the park near our home.

Today it rained all day which meant no outside time. I love rainy days so I was not too upset, although I did miss watching the sunset as a family. The other part I missed was taking Lucy running.

I found myself counting my gratitude that we did not take the sunshine from the past two days for granted and made sure to do all of these things both Friday and Saturday as a family.

Sometimes we get busy (and tired) and it is easy to want to say not today, let’s do it tomorrow. But the sun did not come out today and rain did not relent, this would not have been possible. It was just a small reminder that as exhausted as we might sometimes feel, the mindful connection we are creating as a family is worth that extra effort. I am grateful we did not put off our joy for another day when we were less tired, or less busy, or had more time, or any other excuse we could have come up with.

Tomorrow is not promised, there is no telling what could happen an hour from now. I am glad we put down our excuses and make time for connection, however that connection looks.

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Hand at my Heart

I had no title for this post and as I sat here grounding, being with my body, allowing the words to come forth – I noticed my hand at my heart. This post is about my ability to hold myself and be with my body and here I am doing just that.

So with my hand at my heart I start this story.

This story does not start here, it starts over 35 years ago inside the ocean that is my mother. Her ocean is in one way my source, while I know my soul has existed much longer and many times over, my body grew in her depths. My mother has always felt like turbulent water; water can be the giver of life – it can also pull you under so deep you feel you will never see the light again.

This is where my body work truly begins, at the source.

Today I focus on my relationship with my body presently. She and I have come a long way, our connection is ever growing, AND our disconnection was so all consuming that the journey of coming home to myself is a daily conscious practice.

I mark the time by my wedding day.

I took the first step towards coming home a few weeks after by cutting off all my hair. A few years later I stopped wearing make up. I realized I needed to peel back the things I was hiding behind in order to truly see myself; no more hair dye, no more blanket of hair to distract from the rest of me, no more mask in the form of mascara and blush. No more.

After YEARS of not recognizing myself in the mirror, there I was staring back at myself, naked faced and absolutely magnificent.

The next step was a rescue mission, the first of many. I had to go back and rescue the girl who believed at 10 years old that her body was wrong and dirty because of the hair that naturally grew on it.

I stopped shaving my legs. This rescue mission, this unlearning, it took time – years to be precise. At first I did exactly what I did the summer of my tenth year when the boys at school started ridiculing girls for the hair on our legs – I wore pants everyday. My ten year old self still felt shame for my body’s natural state. This went on for a year.

I wore whatever I pleased at home where it was safe and when I would leave the house I wore pants or long dresses/skirts to hide my shame. Healing takes time and you cannot force it or it is not actually healing, it is just a new wound.

A year and a half later I was pregnant and uncomfortable and my body begged me to be free of the extra layers – I am hot please do not cover me up! 

Finally I relented. I will not hide any longer for fear of judgment, I will not shrink. I energetically picked up that 10 year old girl and my body and said – Enough! This lie has controlled us long enough, no more. We are enough as we are and there was NEVER a moment when this was not true.

During my work with the hair on my legs I also decided it was time to reclaim my truth about all of the hair on my body. I stopped shaving – period. I wanted to be the tall grass on the plains, I wanted to be branches of the Old Nana Oak Tree, I wanted to be the flowers – allowed to grow freely, in my true form, as I am made, and find my truth about beauty there.

I never feared rejection from my husband because I am not playing by society’s rules for beauty, he has never policed my body. With that said, it took sometime to feel not only comfortable but sexy in my new hairy state.

It has been two years. I no longer think about the hair on my legs when I get dressed in the morning. I no longer live in fear of who will see my wrongness and dirtiness. I feel both comfortable and sexy when I share myself with my husband. I have learned that as  my connection with myself/my body grows deeper, I am able to experience deeper connection with those whom I love as well. I love what I see when apply lotion to my naked self after the shower now- this is who I am. I know that woman. I no longer feel confused and lost when I look in the mirror.

Body work is a big piece of my over all healing work this year. I think I had to rebuild my connection through self-acceptance before I could take this next step. My body is now ready to tell me her story of pain. I had to have love and connection in order to be able to finally hold the pain and perform my ultimate rescue mission – this is where I stop fearing my truth and own it. It is the only way to save myself. It is the only way to be free.

Smaller versions of myself have spent much time and energy running from this work, but I am not small and I can do hard things.

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The Girl Who Waited

Once there was a girl who was biding her time. I’ll wait here until the time is right. The girl believed she controlled the time, never understanding that somethings have no master. Time existed long before this girl and would go on long after, but this girl was young and naive, and some things can only be learned through experience.

So this girl spent her days biding her time. I will be happy once I get this.. I will do this until I can do the thing I really want. I will stay with Mr. No Love until Mr. Love notices me. All the while holding on to the certainty that there was time for all these things and she would have it all in good time.

So the girl waited for the right time. The right time to be happy, the right time to follow her dreams, the right time to know love. She waited and waited, but instead of knowing happiness she knew sorrow and suffering. She watched as her dreams crumbled down around her and love flew further and further out of reach. Still she waited for what else could she do?

The girl felt helpless in this new knowledge that she could not control the time so she stopped trying.

What difference does it make? The girl became certain in a new belief; I will never know true happiness, I will never know true love, dreams serve no purpose in this life.

Then one day after many years of biding her time, and many more of not trying, the girl met a boy. A boy who brought with him his own set of beliefs on happiness and love and dreams. The girl began to see that although she does not control time she is also not helpless. She learned the only way to achieve happiness, and love, and see her dreams come true is to try.

When the girl stopped waiting and began to try, all the things she had ever wanted came back to her; slowly but surely one after another. First came happiness, then love, then every dream she ever dreamed.

From that day forward the girl knew that while not everything can be controlled she was also not a helpless victim of her life and the balance that exists between the place of control and lack of is in fact a very magical place.

Reclaim

This is the word that came up for me today when little bubby and I were on our evening walk together.

I used to hate the time between 3:00-5:00 everyday. My brother and I would be home alone after school before our parents got home and it was not good. As a result, even years later, this time of day always felt moody, heavy, and even dangerous.

This week as I was sitting at the park watching the sun slip lower in the western sky with little bubby in my lap, holding my hand, I was thinking I did it.

Reclaiming is one way I know I have made it through to the other side of whatever it was I was struggling with.

My whole life I hated Sundays because of the negative association that day had with having religion forced down my throat as a child. Years ago this all changed when my husband and I reclaimed the day. Now Sunday is the best day of the week. It is our quiet day, the one day we guard just for ourselves. We keep a quiet home on Sundays, it is a relaxing way to end one week and begin the next. It is our gentle transition between.

I looked up synonyms for the word reclaim and I love what came back:

Rescue
Redeem
Mend
Improve
Save

Sunday did not agree to hold my trauma, it is not Sunday’s fault these things happened. We saved Sunday, we improved Sunday, I mended my relationship with Sunday, rescued the pieces of myself that I left behind all those Sundays ago, and Sunday has been redeemed.

The same is true for late afternoon. My routine with little bubby has washed away the pain my relationship with my brother brought to that time of day. It is saved, improved, mended, redeemed, and my parts have been rescued with love. The love for this time of day has healed my pain.

Nothing has been erased, the pain happened, it does not disappear. The day and the time no longer have to hold it though. Love washed the day and time clean so the pain can just be the pain without tainting other aspects of life.

I am grateful for temperate evenings that allow little bubby and I to sit on a park bench watching the evening unfold.
I am grateful for love in all its forms.
I am grateful for moments of quiet reflection.

Dear Nana

Nana has become a very sacred piece of my life’s story. It starts with my own Nana, the real woman behind all of my writing. The other pieces are all stories for another day.

Nana was Greek and Portuguese, in fact it is with a bit of sheepish shame I admit I am not even certain how to spell her real name. For simplicity sake she went by Nola, to me she was just Nana.

I did not know Nana well and I knew her well enough. I may not know Nana’s favorite color but I know she loved sun showers which has forever changed the way I feel about rain that falls with sunbeams peeking through.

I may not know much about her life growing up and what her relationship with her mother was like (oh how I wish I knew these things) but I know what it felt like to sit next to her on a porch swing and fly, and in my heart that feels like a fair trade.

Most of my memories of Nana are broken shards due to the infrequency of our time together during my childhood. Nana and my mother had a challenged relationship, and even that may be a minimization of the truth. That is all I can say though because that is not my story, it is theirs, I only know what I have been told and how their relationship impacted mine with Nana.

It was an impact I felt, I can tell you that.

I did not see Nana for a long time, we were kept away, we being me and my brother. Then one day we weren’t kept away anymore. Nana looked different when I finally saw her again, her naturally bronze skin, a gift from her family’s Azores heritage, was pale and ashen. The life appeared drained out, as a child I was not aware of the pain that caused this change in her, the death that was already taking her from me. Terminal was not a word yet learned.

She was given 6 months so we were given 6 months, we missed so much and came back for the end. Like a hungry bird with a bread crumb I was grateful for what I was given, time is still time after all.

I was there the last minutes of the last hours of the last days. I was not meant to be and if any human intervention could have prevented it I knew my mother would have tried. The Universe knew though, this was intended, this was what Nana and I were meant to have together.

This moment. This moment of her looking up and away, the ultimate in-between of existing in both places at the same time, life and death, here and there. It has always been one of the biggest moments of my entire life. Such a simple thing to sit and hold her hand alone in a room, just me and her, our sacred moment together before she left me one last time.

I was 9.

I was 9 and I wasn’t. Witnessing death does that to you.

It was beautiful and I was not afraid. A nurse walked by and told me that my Nana was looking up at the angels, maybe so.

At 9 years old there was some ancient piece of my soul that knew how precious this moment was.

At 9 years old there were other little pieces of me that could not comprehend the meaning of forever. I grieved and cried and like the child I was, I questioned. Questions that have no answers because the only ones who know are the ones who go and there is no correspondence that goes through this cosmic in-between.

A social worker came, a foreshadowing of my future, she brought apples and for some reason that was very significant because although I do not remember her face or her name I remember the apples. I do not remember what was said between us save for one thing, you should write.

I was handed a spiral journal with a pocket on the inside and a pastel water color cover, blues, pinks, purples, teals all swirled together.

Write to her. Tell her about your day. Ask her questions. Write anything and everything, there are no rules

There are no rules. The rest of my life I would go in search of places where there are no rules. Writing, art, nature, dance, places where there are no rules and all parts are welcome. Places of freedom where I can slip out of the expectations and noise of the world and slip into my own sacred truth, a truth that Nana helped me find.

There is only one way I know how to end this story:

Dear Nana,

I am 33 now. A social worker providing therapy to children. I write every day and think of you in sun showers. I am married and more importantly, in love. I understand now, things that I couldn’t before, things that elude so many for so long. Every day I come closer to my own sacred truth and it feels like I am coming home. I send my gratitude to the sky in hopes that it reaches your ears in the infinity where you call home. I love you and think of you often. Today you would be 89, Happy Birthday Nana.

With my whole heart always,

Jillian

 

This post was originally written September 2017. It desires a new ending.

Dear Nana,

I am 35 now. A mother of a sweet little soul who chose me and whom I chose. I am a mother, Nana. I know you have been watching and I know you know the significance of me being able to say those words out loud. I feel you here guiding my heart. I still write every day and every day I am still inching closer and closer to my own sacred truth. I feel my light growing, I am being pulled and I am not afraid. I love you. Thank you for your part in my story.

With my whole heart always,

Jillian

Doing it Scared

Our family motto is We can do hard things.

Before becoming full-time mommy I worked as a counselor primarily with children and teens. Over and over again I saw this theme of victim mentality, self-doubt, and fear play out in hurtful ways in my client’s lives. It was an empowering statement I used daily with clients and I knew I needed to bring it home. I need the reminder as well. We all do.

I am not small and I can do hard things.

Tuesday last week I did something that for me was hard. I attended story time with little bubby.

I have been wanting to take bubby to story time for weeks but have been too afraid.

My fear existed on many levels:

Fear of the unknown – what is going to happen?
Fear of not being enough in some way – something happening and me not knowing the exact perfect way to handle the situation.
Most of all, Fear of allowing myself to be seen in my role as momma. I am afraid of judgment, disconnection, getting it wrong, failing my son in front of an audience.

It is an incredibly vulnerable and courageous thing to become a parent. I am opening my heart to all kinds of ache and there is no escaping it. Being a parent will break my heart.

I know this is true AND I do not take anything back. I am choosing this knowing full well at times it is going to hurt and I have no control.

Tuesday bubby took an early nap that set us up perfectly to make story time happen. I decided it was a time to step into my fear and go. I was still nervous AND I went away. I did not allow my fear to stop me. I channeled one of the women from my soul family and I did it scared.

We showed up 5 minutes late. My perfectionist piece was begging me to call the whole thing off, when we walk in and all eyes will be on us. They will judge us for our tardiness. I will look like a bad mom who doesn’t have it together. We will make a scene.

I energetically held the hand of my perfectionist piece and told her, All of this may be true AND we are going to be okay. This is worth it.

It was worth it. We walked in late, everyone looked to the door as we walked in. We joined the group with ease and the rest was pure joy. Bubby was taking it all in, trying to hold hands with other babies and hugging the puppet being used during story time.

I felt deep connection to myself and to bubby because I allowed myself to be brave and do something that was fun for bubby and I while also ,allowing myself to be seen. I sat in a room of mommies and knew I was worthy. I belong here, I am enough and we are okay.

I am past the point of playing small in my life. Bubby needs me to be big. He needs to see me and know that I am big so he will know that he is big. We are not small and we can do hard (scary) things.

I am grateful for the opportunity to stand in my fear and shine.
I am grateful for small acts of courage rooted in vulnerability.
I am grateful for my commitment to growth.
I am grateful for this wonderful experience bubby and I got to share.

Your Heart has to Break to Get Bigger

I have been on my path towards connected living for going on 4 years now. Truth be told, my starting point is a bit further back, we are closer to 7 years, but I truly started counting time when I started working with my current therapist because she is my Yoda.

During the last 5 years I have experienced a few monumental shifts where I broke a mold and could not go back to the smaller version of myself. When this happens things in my life change. Sometimes these changes are small, like being unable to watch violence on TV any longer. Sometimes the changes are bigger, like being able to say No without guilt having any power over me. Sometimes the changes are really big, like truth speaking in my relationships that has resulted in some relationships all together ending and others growing in remarkable ways.

I am on the precipice of my next big shift with my intention of the year being;

Letting go of the fear of my story and embracing all myself in love.
And through playing small.

What I understand is that love is the source and if I am able to actively and consciously practice my two primary intentions this year I will be shifting into a version of myself that radiates love.

I already feel myself breaking the mold as I untangle my attachments with my family of origin. This is not to say I am walking away from these relationships, I am stepping away from my need to belong somewhere I do not belong though. As I do this I feel how easy it becomes to stand in my truth without guilt or shame. No longer needing to belong means freedom to make choices they do not understand without fear. It means freedom to own my story. It means freedom to live my life without constantly hustling for acceptance and validation. It means freedom.

There is something I realized right away when I stepped into these two intentions for the year; releasing my attachment to belong where I do not, and embracing myself/my story with love comes with an ocean of grief that I must swim through to get to the other side.  The shift NEVER happens without experiencing grief.

I think this is true because your heart has to break to get bigger. That is the mold you are breaking, it is your heart, and once your love grows it cannot go back to that smaller size again.

I know this truth- I will not walk out of this year the same woman who walked in and that already makes me feel big.