Are you gonna poke my bear?

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“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Except for bears…bears will kill you.”

Every now and then someone comes along and pokes my bear. This is an expression I heard several years ago which simply means, someone comes along and taps on your wounds or stirs up your shit or your baggage to put it a little nicer.

I really love the expression though. I felt it added a layer of humor that resonates with me. It’s like my own personal safe word minus the S&M. If someone is stirring up my stuff and I’m too uncomfortable, all I have to do is look at them and say, “you’re poking my bear.”

But if only it truly worked that way.

Most of my bear poking has to do with the idea that I am not enough and truth be told, most of the people that come along and poke my bear are men. My daddy and abandonment issues run deep and who better to poke that bear then whoever I’m dating.

But I’ve noticed my bear getting poked in all areas of my life, not just dating. There is a story that was set a long time ago, deep in the back of my subconscious mind that says I’ll never be good enough for much of anything or anyone. Work, friendships, my art, even my health has it’s own bear. It’s inevitable that wherever we place our sense of worth will be a prime target for bear poking.

Last night I sat on my couch and listened to Ben Howard’s hypnotic melodies echo throughout my quiet home and I read over my old blog posts. Tears filled my eyes as I relived old memories and feelings that were, at worst, horribly painful and at best, life changing.

I came across the piece I wrote called, Sit In Your Shit and it reminded me how, for the last few months, I’ve felt called to sit in all the uncomfortable feelings instead of run from them as I so often do.

Being a perpetual runner has offered a lot of excitement in my life however, it’s also caused a lot of my shit to reside just below the surface waiting to be poked.

And I’m still here. I’m still being called to sit in my shit. And I’m reminded, once again, that it’s never fun to lean into your past traumas and barely healed wounds. Instead of running or numbing, I’m sitting and at times, it feels as if my skin is crawling and I’m a recovering drug addict, desperate for my next fix.

I want to show you what sitting in your shit looks like…

Sitting in your shit ISN’T about being a victim or pointing a finger and placing blame. Although a lot of our wounds and traumas are the consequences of someone else’s actions, at some point in our adult lives we must find it in ourselves to let go of the blame. We’ll never fully heal unless we do. Sitting in your shit is ABSOLUTELY about getting curious about these traumas and wounds and asking ourselves what the TRUTH is. Not the story we’ve created from it.

For example, if I’m dating someone and I start to feel my bear getting poked I take pause whereas in the past, I’d lash out and stir up the shit. Now, instead I sit in the discomfort of whatever their actions are creating within me. Because we know really this is merely a projection. It’s a memory from the past that is telling you a story triggered by this new person’s actions. So I ask myself; what is the truth here? I get curious. I lean in. I talk to the six your old me who was desperate to be loved and seen by a man who just didn’t have the ability to do so. I tell her she IS loved. She IS seen. She IS enough.

Sitting in your shit after someone has poked your bear is about asking questions. It’s about reacting less and inquiring more. It’s about doing things differently. It’s a curiosity of the unknown. The belief in the possibility, that maybe, just maybe, this wound may loosen it’s grip on you if you understand it more.

And I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it over and over, it’s gonna hurt like hell but each time you address it, that pain subsides and softens and transforms into something different.

So what I’ve allowed myself to get really intrigued by lately isn’t so much my baggage but rather HOW the act of really looking at it has dramatically CHANGED it’s hold on me. I’m intrigued by how I’m showing up different when old bears get poked all because I finally succumbed to the reality that, what I was doing in the past just wasn’t working so why not try something different? Why not look at it all in a different light?

So that’s what I’ve been doing. With dating, with work, with friendships, with communication, with my overall feelings of never being ENOUGH.

Because truth be told, I am enough. We are all enough. Every single last one of us is enough right this very moment.

I’m imperfect and flawed and at times moody and emotional. But this makes me who I am too. Just as much as all the other “good” aspects do. I can’t deny them because by doing so I am only feeding the bears and constantly confirming the story that runs through so many of our minds…I am not enough.

But we are enough. We have to begin to understand that and fully integrate that into our being. I think that our bears and those that come along to poke them are actually, and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, a gift to us. In a weird and twisted way, they are really doing so to get us to wake up and do our work so that one day when that bear get’s poked it no longer needs to rear it’s defensive head and instead, just slowly turns and walks away.




All Dogs Go to Heaven

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One of my favorite songs is Into the West by Annie Lennox. The lyrics are, at times, gut wrenching and most often leave me with tears streaming down my face. It's haunting yet beautiful. I put this song on last Saturday as I aimlessly walked around Encinitas by myself trying to settle on the fact that my Roo was no longer with me. 

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep? 
What are these tears upon your face?
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

 

I'll never forget the last few moments as we sat on the warm blanket the vet technician had laid down for him, his head cradled safe in my arms. A friend had told me the last thing to go was their hearing so as I watched the Veterinarian inject the liquid that would inevitably take him away from me, I buried my nose in his ear as tears streamed uncontrollably down my cheeks and whispered over and over again, " I love you. Thank you for all you did for me. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you..."

And just like that, my sweet Roo drifted off to sleep for the last time, until his body was limp and he was gone. 

I looked up at my friend Oliver who dropped everything and drove down from Irvine at a moments notice to sit with me as I said good-bye to my best friend. Tears poured from his eyes too. Rocky touched many people's hearts. I knew that already. 

Rocky, or Roo as I so often called him, was more then just a dog. He was my best friend. He was my family. 

It's hard to explain what this kind of bond is like to people who haven't experienced it before, but in honor of my sweet boy and the love and life and protection he infused into each day for the short time I had him, I must try. He deserves that. He deserves so much more then that. 

Most people know that Rocky came to me on the heels of a cancer diagnosis that was vague and scary. The irony of that is not lost on me. God works in mysterious ways but also very obvious ones too. 

What people don't know is Roo and I didn't bond right away like I sometimes lead you to believe.  

I knew he was my dog the moment I saw him but he made me work for his trust because he had been severely neglected in his former life. 

I'm certain that God planned for us to meet just that way because as much as Roo came to me to help heal my heart through a traumatic time, I came to him to help heal his too. 

Roo was a special dog. Everyone, accept for maybe my neighbors who he built up a bit of a territorial thing against, loved Rocky. 

We couldn't get through a walk without someone coming up to us and asking to pet him and commenting on how sweet he was. But they didn't even know the half of it. 

My Roo was a gift. A miracle. The most incredible blessing. 

Roo was diagnosed with an advanced form of a very serious lung condition two weeks ago and as much as I want you to know the details of that, I'd rather you hear the details of his greatness instead. 

Roo was stubborn. It was one of my favorite things about him. He was strong willed and knew what he wanted, just like his mama I suppose. When he wanted something, he wasn't afraid to tell me with a serious stare down or a deep guttural bark. Sometimes we'd just stare at each other until one of us gave in, usually...almost always, me. 

Rocky had a sense about me. After I proved my worthiness to him, he watched me like a hawk, never more than a few feet away from me. Unless he was sun bathing on the front porch. My Roo loved the sun. Even then he had one ear alert, following my every move. 

One of my favorite things he did was guard the door of any room I was in. He'd walk in, even if it was just the bathroom, assess the situation and then turn around, sit down in front of the door and stare out. If I was standing at the bathroom sink brushing my teeth, his butt was sitting on my foot as he made sure nobody took me by surprise. It always made me laugh so hard but deep down, he made me feel so loved. So safe. So cared for. 

After I put him to rest Saturday, I came home and walked through the front door to pure and utter silence. I'd never again hear him jumping off my bed or the couch or the infamous sound of his collar and dog tag clanking together as he ran to see me as if it was the greatest moment of his day. I'm pretty certain it was. 

I stood in my entry way and felt a vulnerability I hadn't felt in very long time. Where was my boy to greet me? What would I do on those darker days when he'd make me get out of bed to take him on a walk? He'd act like it was for him but I knew it was really for me.

 Who would understand the physical pain I was in like he did and rest his head on my left hip in times when it was almost unbearable?

Who would gently lick away the tears and make me laugh when I was sad or hurt? 

Who would teach me about patience and slowing down and simplicity and stopping to smell the roses?

Who would dance with me as I cleaned the house or sit right behind me as I was cooking waiting for anything to fall on the floor? 

All of these little things were a part of our special bond. He just understood the things I needed. Things I never told him out loud. Things I rarely told anyone out loud.  

These are the situations where I truly don't understand God. Why would he take away something that he knows I need so badly? 

But at the same time, I feel so fortunate to have had over a year with my sweet Roo boy. All of our day to day moments and our great adventures will never be forgotten. I'm certain God knew I needed him just when I did and knew I was strong now, enough so to make it without him. I like to imagine his soul was needed for someone else going through something so grave that only my Roo boy could take care of them just the way he took care of me all last year. He's good at that. 

So, my Rocky was more than just a dog. Rocky was my best friend. He was my own little personal family. 

And now he's gone. And that hole he filled is empty and aching pretty bad these days. 

My sweet Roo boy, you were the greatest gift I've ever recieved and I hope you are running through fields of kibble and pain free once again. 

I hope you come to visit me in the breeze that kisses me cheeks and dries my tears and on long coastal drives as I sing loud to all your favorites. 

I hope you know just how much I love you and just how brave your fight was. I know it was for me. You tried so hard to be here for me. I'll never forget that. 

Until we meet again my Roo boy...

You're only sleeping. 

Filters, perceptions and adulating -- oh my!

"Life is all about perception. Positive versus negative. Whichever you choose will affect and more then likely reflect your outcomes." -Sonya Teclai

Adulting can be really confusing sometimes. It's this sweet mix of pain and heartache and surrender, joy and growth.

Growing up I thought stepping into the adult world meant life got easier. I use to look on at all the grown ups in my life and think, "Man, I can't wait to be an adult too. Life looks way more fun when you are older."

I had high hopes, big dreams and lofty aspiration as a kid. I was going to set the world on fire with my badass adutingness (That is a word in my adult world) and I could hardly wait to get there. Being an adult is what dreams were made of, right?  

Okay, so insert scratching record player and every head turning in my direction as if I just stepped into the room wearing nothing but a velvet fedora and a bright pink sash that say, "Look at me! Look at me! I'm a mother fing gangsta!" Stranger things have happened. 

Life, as an adult, is interesting to say the least. Some view it as the most amazing part of the human experience, full of incredible opportunities, exchanges, experiences and so on. Others are practically hammering the nails in their own coffin as they slowly let the days pass them by, loathing every minute,  just waiting for it all to be over. 

The only difference? Filters, perceptions and perspective. 

Right after my divorce I was living with my brother and sister-in-law back in my home town of Issaquah, Washington and my adorably sweet and ridiculously intuitive and smart nephew would often as me out of what felt like out of nowhere, "TT, when am I going to be an adult?" It was always said as if he was missing out on some kind of awesome toy that comes once you enter adulthood. I'm serious, we'd be in the middle of watching a movie or playing with his toys and he'd just pause, look up at me and ask, "TT, when am I going to be and adult?

I always took a long, deep breath, remembering what it felt like to be a kid longing to grow up fast. I'd looked at him, smile and say, "Oh buddy, you have plenty of time to be an adult. Just be happy and have fun being a kid. You'll have plenty of time to adult"

He'd always look back at me with a questioning stare as if I was hiding some big, crazy something from him like, the Easter Bunny was in fact, really a Turtle. Sometimes you can't win with kids. Sometimes kids are way more intuitive then we give them credit for. 

I often wondered how I could persuade him into slowing down a bit and just enjoy being a kid. How, if he was't careful, before he knew it he'd be thirty-six years old, looking back on his life wondering how it went by so fast. I want to tell him that there are some really beautiful things about the naivety of being a kid and you can never go back to that time in your life and so try and drag it out as long as possible.

Sometimes, when he'd ask me, "TT, when AM I going to be an adult?" these words would momentarily flash before me: 

Bud, adulting is scary business. Really friggin' scary. You see, there are all these expectations and responsibilities and one wrong move and you can completely screw everything up. Or at least it feels that way most of the time.  

And the choices. All the friggin' choices. God, are there A LOT of decisions to make. Like, seriously man. I mean, I work way better with multiple choice questions so why can't life work that way too? Just give me a few choices, I'll work my process of elimination and viola, I'll know exactly what to do and life will feel very easy. Instead, life feels like you are constantly writing a twenty-five page abstract essay on a time limit of about five minutes. Cause that's basically how fast life goes by when you reach adulthood bud. 

You think picking out a new toy is overwhelming sweet boy? Well, just wait until you have to pick out a whole friggin' life in a world that is constantly changing full of other adults who are trying to make similar choices. It can feel dark and scary and like there are storms brewing from every directions. 

Then there are experiences that happen that are just out of your control. Heartbreak, betrayal, lies, death, illness, losing jobs, falling in love, falling out of love, realizing the person you are with just can't love you back. Mommy and daddy aren't around twenty-four seven to put a bandaid on your broken heart or hold you when you are scared of the lions under the bed. And sometimes you lie in bed at night and just cry because it all just feels like too much and all you want to do is go back to a time when your biggest worry was how the hell you are going to hide the fact that you spilt milk on the couch from your mom and dad and you come up with the brilliant idea that you'll just simply let the dog lick it up and you are proud of yourself. 

Life works it's way so deep into your cells that you start to feel yourself become jaded and rough. You are constantly in a tug-a-war, an internal battle of staying soft and open verses becoming hard and crusty with every major life experience. 

Then there are these things called responsibilities. If you aren't careful they wills start to weigh you down like a one hundred pound weight that you are required to carry around every day, all day. All a result of some choice you made in the past. Another wrong turn you took when you were merely just trying to make, what you thought, was the best decision at the time. 

Oh, and whoa, I almost forgot, people are mean. And scary. I mean, not all of them, but there are a lot of them that are because most of them are just as scared and tired as you are and they are merely taking their frustrations and fears out on you. Their shoulders are just as heavy from the weight of their own stories. 

And don't get me started on failed dreams. All those things you wanted to do, all those places you wanted to go, the wild, crazy adventures you thought you'd experience on a regular basis, a lot of them probably won't come true and you'll be left feeling disappointed, depressed and wondering if this is really what life is supposed to be about. So, buddy, there is plenty of time to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Just stay a kid as long as you friggin' can, okay? 

I'd come to after a minute, shaking off the remnants of my own fears and instead, I'd smile, take a deep breath and say, "Buddy, you have plenty of time to be an adult. Just try and enjoy being a kid as long as you can, okay?" And he'd give me a confused look as if I just told him the Easter Bunny was, in fact, a Turtle. 

And then others times, quieter, peaceful, more self-reflective and grow-inspired times, I'd look at him and think: 

Buddy, if you can, try to stay young as long as possible but pay attention now because you will learn a lot about yourself, who you are, what you want to do, your gifts to the world. If you start to listen closely now, you'll learn that the voice inside of you is actually the truth. Its like an internal compass, helping you navigate your way through life. Its the way, the truth, and the light. Unfortunately, a lot of us stop listening to it as we get older and let other things guide us.

Adulting is amazing bud. It comes with freedoms you don't have as a kid like being able to make decisions for yourself. There are choices that you GET to make as an adult that mommy and daddy make for you as a kid. You GET to choose what you want to do and who you want to be. Isn't that exciting?   

And this bud, this is very important to remember so listen closely sweet boy; life does not happen TO you but FOR you. It's easy bud, to become a victim of life's circumstances. Believe me, your TT has perfected that. We can become jaded and fearful, afraid to get hurt again, to put yourself out there once more, to be seen, especially for an introverts like us. But just keep going. Keep breaking down walls or better yet, fight hard to never put them up to begin with. No matter how afraid you are just remember that life isn't about staying trapped in a protective bubble. Life is about stepping out of your comfort zone and finding the courage to keep going, despite the disappointments, the set back, the fears, the heartache, the pain and the betrayal.

All of it is for your growth as you move through life as an adult. I'll be honest, it doesn't always feel good. Some of it is heavy stuff and almost all of it is the result of a filter or perception we've taken on, sometimes a long time ago. But you want to know one of the coolest things about being an adult? You GET to change that if you want. You have all the freedom in the world to rewrite whatever story you'e been telling yourself. 

So bud, the hard moments are really the defining moments. They don't always make sense. You may end up going through the same experience many times, that too is intended for your growth. You see, until we learn what we need to learn, until we decide to change, life does that to you. It keeps bringing you the same people (just different faces) the same experience, and the same situation, until you decide to rewrite your story, to go down a different path, and to find the courage to react differently. 

Life can be extremely mesmerizing too bud. It can suck you in like when you stand barefoot on the beach, starring down as your feet sinking into the coolness of the sand. Or like when you stand at the shoreline as the waves lap over your feet and you stare out into the endless ocean horizon and feel so full of possibility. Or maybe like when you feel captivated by the crackling embers of the amber and yellow light from a campfire. Adulting has so many moments like that too. 

Buddy, being an adult is awesome. But so is the simplicity of being a kid. Your only job right now is to have fun and be open to new things. To explore and learn, to make mistakes and learn from them. Try not to carry those mistakes with you because if you aren't careful, they will start to feel really heavy and weigh you down later on in life. Learn from them, then brush them off and let them go. Don't let them become part of your story, don't let the cloud your filters and shape your perceptions. 

There will be seasons of pain and sadness. It will come and go, ebb and flow without any warning. If you can, accept that and ride the wave of feelings that come with it knowing that, as grandma always tells me, "This too will eventually pass and you will feel joy and happiness once again. Just give it time."  

And yes, there will be seasons of joy bud and man does this feel good. It kind of feels like every day for you now, as a kid. You wake up so excited for what the day will bring. You jump out of bed, take a big stretch and wonder what amazing thing you will experience today. You know that feeling bud, when we put on our rain boots and go on a walk and jump in puddle after puddle and we laugh and laugh until our bellies ache and are cheeks hurt from that incredible feeling we feel? Those days feel a lot like that. 

Life is a mix of those seasons little man, but always remember this; without the storms and the rain, there wouldn't be any puddles to jump in. 

Then I'd give him a smile and say, "See bud, there is a lot of great things about being an adult, but if you can, enjoy the experience of being a kid." And he'd still look back at me with his confused and questioning stare as if I told him the Easter Bunny was in fact, a Turtle.   

So which one is the truth? Which filter do you walk around with? The first? The second? A mix of both? I don't know. That isn't for me to decide for you. But I hope you think long and hard about the way you view life, the world around you and realize that perception is everything. And it's okay if sometimes you see the world as both because we all have good days and bad days, joyful seasons and sad ones. We would never fully appreciate the happiness that comes from the good times if we hadn't experience the bad ones. 

And it is ridiculously important to remember this one very things;  our filters create our present reality but what we see isn't always the truth. Sometimes we have to take a deep breath, step back and try to look at each situation, each experience, each person from a different perspective, a different angle, a different lens. We have to remember that life isn't happening TO us but FOR our greatest growth as human beings. 

Our filters and perceptions may not actually be the truth and the reality is, we should all smile at the fact that the Easter Bunny very well may in fact, be a Turtle to someone.