Let’s Not be Stress this Holiday. Let’s be Truth.

fullsizerender

I have a Christmas wish: can we please stop saying this time of year is stressful? Beyond the holiday, can we also please stop saying everything is so stressful? Most of us say this now- but is it helping? Isn’t it just a catch-all phrase that now doesn’t really mean anything?

What are we really saying when we say this? Are we really saying we need a rest? That we really don’t like what we spend our energy on? That our family dynamics (especially during holidays) makes us scared or resentful or not heard and seen? Or are we just trying to fit in with all the other stressful people and we actually feel good?

Whatever it is, let’s get to the nitty gritty of it and speak honestly and stop saying everything is so stressful. We are what we think, you know, so let’s not be stress. Let’s be truth.

Side note: after posting this on FB someone in-boxed me share the truth of what is going on  with them. This is the point of my post- to have us saying what is, not use blanket terms or just say something that we all say. It isn’t to make anyone feel what they are experiencing isn’t stressful. 2016 was rough for many of us. This is just a request for us to dig deeper. To seek the truth and share it, if so inclined. Share your truth here if you’d like.

The Soul Reporter

My Toxic Relationship with Trump

I made a mistake, and I’m probably not alone. I paid too much attention to Trump. It was fun to laugh at him. I was proud to get on my soapbox about him. And, if I needed a drama/adrenaline boost I could count on him to push my buttons. He was a captivating character who made me curious and also terrified. No matter how I tried I could not wrap my head around how this man got as far as he did on a campaign the pretty much divided many groups of people by making them feel like the “other” that they already felt so well.

My mistake in one way makes sense. It is a reasonable response for those of us who care about our country to pay attention to the candidates. But, Trump was no regular candidate as most of us know, and what really captured my attention was something far more unconscious and yet, oh, so familiar. I was entering into another toxic relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable.

In order to discover this I had to endure the crushing blow of our break up last night and not for the reasons you might think. As I sat down for the long election night the anxiety set in. Florida. Florida. Florida. I needed some licorice to chew on. I wished I could knit. I wanted to go back to smoking cigarettes. I was not emotionally regulated. Then California was called and Hillary took the lead. I could breathe. No longer did I wish to knit and eat licorice.

Then Florida was called. He won it, and it looked like he would win many other key states. I imploded and when I go on emotional overload, I shut down— all the way down. Now I was numb. Numbness helped me take the final blow when Hill conceded. Then, the fear hit like a five-ton truck. Goodbye women’s right to choose. Goodbye Planned Parenthood. Goodbye Universal Health Care and Free college tuition. Goodbye Earth. Goodbye rainbow lit white house. Goodbye diversity in politics. All of what is progress going, going, gone. If this weren’t enough, then fear showed me the violence that could come upon my multi-racial family.

Three hours of sleep later, I was resigned. Bitter. Depressed. But, Hillary spoke and then spoke right to me and my daughter as we both sat there and listened. She opened up my woman soul and it hurt. It hurt so bad. I felt slammed by the patriarchal structure. Then Wolf Blitzer went in for the kill and said, “Hillary Clinton: Very, very emotional speech. You saw her holding back, choking back those tears. She is, uh, well known for being very, very emotional at these kinds of moments. Clearly, a sad moment for her.” I grieved. Why don’t we understand and care for the female soul?

So, now what?

For one, I have broken up with Trump, officially. I have decided I will not watch the inauguration. I will not watch any state of the union. I have deleted my news apps. I will turn down the volume when I hear his voice on the radio or turn the channel when I see his face. I won’t add President in front of his name. And, I won’t worry about my patriotism in regard to any of these choices.

Here’s what I also won’t do anymore because of these actions— take care of him emotionally or be his moral center. Why did I take this on?  Because I sensed he had no emotional IQ or moral center so I assumed the role as many women do and made up for it within my own self. I became his moral center. I took on his lack of emotional depth and fed him mine, even if it was hate and anger. Trump didn’t care what emotion I gave him because he fed off it. It invigorated him. Considering the results we know it wasn’t just my energy and emotion that invigorated him. Many of us gave him our energy and emotion and right now it is all he has. Without it, he fades into the darkness. We, my women, and I’m sure men, have kept him in the light. And, this is extremely unhealthy for us and essentially for him.

We do this with our fathers as young girls. We do this with our husbands as young women. We do this with our children, I am sure especially our sons, but I can’t truly speak to that because I have daughters. We take care of the emotions people can’t take care of for themselves. We give morals and character, even if we just hope for it or bitch about it, to people that don’t seem to have them. It’s deep.

I kept our union going by resisting his ways. By bitching about his lack of emotional depth. By feeling hate and anger for him and fear of him. And, here’s what made this union even more toxic— the man is unstable. He is unpredictable. He is insecure. Oh, what hell for women when we find this in a partner. What hell for a nation when we elect this kind of president. But, it could not be helped. DT is “their” Barack. He’s their change master, the Savior. And, we know how powerful that is.

But guess what’s going to happen, in my opinion? His people are going to abandon him, just like I feel I did, and probably countless others did, to Barack once we elected him. I went to bed on those two election nights with a smile on my face and a happy tear in my eye and woke up the next morning and did my safe, secure life.

Trump will also be abandoned by many others who didn’t want him as the president, who like me won’t give him that title. The big T will be left all alone. Alone with everything and everyone that is our nation and he will do this alone with not only little, to no experience in our political establishment, but also without sound character, emotional stability and mental fortitude. Holy. Friggin.’ Cow. At least Barack, where he lacked in experience, he more than made up for with character, stability, fortitude and a healthy dose of grace and cool.

I am grateful, though, that I invested in this relationship with Trump. It has changed me for the better. It has made me care more for the poorly called “others” that were brutally brought to attention by his campaign. It has clarified what I really want for our nation, for our earth. And, it has brought me back to a core learning: never emotionally engage with an unstable, unpredictable, insensitive, insecure person.

If any of you are feeling “crazy” consider you did what I did. Consider you made it your job to give him what he doesn’t have. Consider you protected him emotionally by giving him your emotions. Consider you got too emotionally involved and attached. It happens to the best of us. In fact, I think it only happens to the best of us because we want so much for people and we expect so much from ourselves. Now expect yourself to get free of it, and not just with Trump, but in any or all relationships where this is occurring.

We too easily become emotional surrogates for others, often without knowing. It will and does drag us down. I think many of us became Trump’s emotional surrogates. I really do. We took care of what he couldn’t. Now, let’s not do it for him as President. He wanted this and now like good old tough love (and right now I use the word love lightly) it’s time to let him go and see what he can do with the power and the shoes he wanted to fill. There’s no excuse with a Republican majority.

Now, we can breathe better. We have space in our souls. We aren’t taking this on anymore. We can self-care and start to heal and mend. As we feel stronger we will get back to the business at hand, whatever that is for us and what we care about. As long as we remember we are not here to take care of anyone emotionally. We are not here to protect grown people from their lack of character and integrity. We are here to do our part, run our race. We get back to our core, our center because this helps everyone, even those inept emotionally. And when we lose perspective and get drained by this news and whatever is to come, we might step outside and look at the stars or feel the sun on our face and know we are a part of something larger than what goes on down here. As much as what happens here matters, its a blip on the totality of what is the Universe. When we touch back down to earth and then to our country, in this case, the United States, and we realize this presidential decision did in fact happen, we can realize it is a part of a larger framework that we are a part of, but that we don’t fully control.

The only thing we are in charge of is our mind. This is our domain, and responsibility to do the upkeep inside this domain is ours alone. We must work to keep it as clean and clear as possible and this is NOT an easy task. But, the rewards are plentiful. A clear mind is an open mind and we need this now. An open mind gives a clear pathway to our heart and we crave this connection now. With this connection we see with both heart and mind and come to understand this is the only protection we need, especially from forming toxic, unhealthy relationships. And we need protection now.

A clean, clear, open mind and an awakened heart is our only direction, and we need direction now— so let’s get moving.

Nikki.

 

You Belong. You Exist.

You belong. You exist.

This is important to say. You belong. You exist. Exist means: to have actual being.

Very often we don’t receive these messages as children. You belong. You exist. The yearning to belong and exist is deep, deep within us. I might argue this yearning creates everything we have experienced in our lives so far. There comes a point, if we are reaching for it, where we realize we actually do belong, we do exist. This occurrence happens even if our experiences have shown us the opposite.

I just had this experience. I was listening to Day 5 of Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation, Experiencing, Creating Peace from the Inside Out. Oprah said, “If it is intimacy and connection you resist, it is love you crave most.” This struck a chord and is a theme that’s been surfacing lately.

Moving into the meditation, the centering thought for Day 5 was, I only feel a need to connect. Instead of closing my eyes as I normally would, I looked up at a picture of me, probably 4 or 5 years of age, sitting at on a chair at my grandmother’s house. I’m wearing light bluish-green pants, a dark blue-green turtle neck and what look like Buster Brown shoes. My hands are folded in my lap, my shoulders are hunched over and my head is slightly tilted to the side. My eyes are bright, yet distant, I have a soft smile and I envy my thick, wavy hair. I think: this little girl only feels a need to connect.

I cannot hold back what’s inside of me. Pain and hurt for the yearning of this little girl. I began to speak to her. You are not rejected. You aren’t rejectable. You are sacred. You are connected. You are loved. You are safe.

I cried throughout the meditation and continued to speak to her. I imagined myself holding her to my heart, giving her a kiss on that thick, wavy head of hair. After the meditation I picked up the framed picture and kissed her face and held her image to my chest and said, “You belong. You exist.”

The word exist felt like truth ringing inside of my being. I made the connection to my pattern of hiding to this fear I don’t exist. I keep this pattern going by continuing to hide. But, now, I know~

littlenikkiI do belong. I do exist. I don’t need to hide anymore.

I look at her now, and smile.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

Rethinking Self-Care

Self-Care……..What do you think and feel when you read those two words?

When I think of self-care I feel enthusiastic. But, I realize this is not the case for everyone. When the word self-care is mentioned, I have heard people (mostly women) ask, “What is self-care?” I have heard women say, “I am not good at self-care.” I’ve heard other women say, “It’s not realistic to take care of myself. I am a mother. I work full-time…” For some women, self-care is just one more thing to do and if it’s not done, it’s one more area in their lives to feel badly about. This is not the point of self-care and so before self-care becomes even more of a hot topic, let’s be careful not to taint it with shame and false ideas of what it is. Instead, let’s take these concerns and questions and expand our idea of it so we can easily and effortlessly fit it into our lives. My guess is self-care is already a part of many of our lives.

What is self-care?

Image result for self care quotes

Self-care is any act that we do that promotes well-being. I highlight any because self-care doesn’t just mean yoga and meditation, although these are good self-care practices. I have had long stretches where I didn’t feel like I took good care of myself. When this has happened, I would usually have an impulse to give myself a pedicure. First, I use a foot file on the bottom of my feet. Then, I use a handmade scrub of either salt or sugar with olive oil and scrub. From here, I rinse with warm water and massage my feet with lavender foot lotion. Before I start walking around I make sure to put on soft, comfy socks to keep them smooth. This is self-care.

Here’s a (partial) list of other self-care rituals:

  • Baths
  • Reading
  • Walking /Hiking
  • Physical activity
  • Therapy
  • Lunch dates with friends
  • Coloring/painting/drawing
  • Journaling
  • Decluttering
  • Pedicures/Manicures
  • Massage
  • Mindful breathing
  • Music
  • Dancing in your living room
  • A few minutes soaking in the sunshine
  • Lighting candles and sitting in the dark
  • Lighting incense
  • Silence
  • Crying
  • Making a cup of tea

 But, I’m not good at self-care

 As you can see from the partial list above, many of these rituals do not take up a lot of time or may be things we are doing already. I first learned the ritual of self-care (before it was a trend or had a name) spending weekends at my dads. There, I listened to classical music, drank hot tea by the space heater, took baths in the claw tub and drew pictures. These rituals still bring me comfort today. When someone says they are not good at self-care my insides crumble a little bit. What I hear is shame and doubt- as if self-care is something we have to be good at. We don’t. We just simply have to do it or recognize the many ways we already are doing it.

When we want to change our eating habits one of the ways to do this is to begin a food diary. This kind of documentation facilitates self-awareness and change doesn’t happen without awareness. In the same way as changing our eating habits, we can start a self-care diary to become aware of how we take of ourselves or how we don’t. If I were to begin a self-care diary today, here is what it might look like:

Ways I took care of myself today~

  • Slept in
  • Picked up the house after having a big dinner last night (and for me staying organized and keeping a clean house makes me feel good)
  • Did 25 minutes of yoga
  • Started Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day meditation program
  • Finished writing this article

What I think is important to understand is self-care is anything that gives you some space and room in your life, in your body, in your mind, and in your self. We all need space and thrive in it. Without space in all of these areas we will feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed is unmotivating and so of course, just the idea of self-care will make us angry or fill us with shame because we just can’t seem to do it.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes said in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves, “The modern woman is a blur of activity. She is pressured to be all things to all people.” I have a feeling most of us (in this case, women) resonate with this, which brings me to the next common obstacle about self-care…..

Image result for self care quotes

Self-Care is not realistic.

 Self-care is not realistic for many of us if we are looking at it through a narrow lens. As previously stated, self-care is any act that promotes well-being, or if that’s too overwhelming of a definition—any act that just brings us a tiny bit of peace and space so that blur of activity stills for a moment. Recently, I listened to a woman share an example of how self-care is not realistic, especially for women with children. Sometimes her son needs help with homework and for her, helping him is important—more important than taking time out for herself. What I heard from this example was the conflict behind the experience. The issue here is not taking care of our child or taking care of our self. The issue is the mind creating a conflict between the two. We, as women, do this a lot. When we have conflict we are not at peace. We are in distress. And, why do we do create conflict in our minds? I think it’s because of what Clarissa said above, we try to be all things to all people— and, now the world also wants us to be all things to ourselves. Many of us respond, Oh, hell no.

But, you know what. We know this is what we have to do and for some of us it’s what we want to do. It’s time to take that old metaphor we know so well about putting on our oxygen masks first and apply it directly to our lives. We, especially have to do this if we are in conflict about what we do for others and what we do for ourselves. And, here’s a twist— we don’t have to pick one over the other. We can have both at the same time. Returning to the example of the woman wanting to help her son—if helping her child is her commitment, then there is no need for conflict. The way to not have conflict is to be mindful about our commitments. When we are mindful and conscious about our choices and commitments we are at ease. This is self-care. What is not self-care is beating ourselves up about what we should be doing when we are doing something that is important to us.

If our argument is that self-care is not realistic, but on some level we do sense the value in taking care of ourselves then we need to make it realistic for ourselves. We need to find the space to fit it into our lives, even if it’s 5 minutes of coloring. Any action we take toward taking care of our self will not only benefit our selves, but our families, our friends and any one or thing we come in contact with.

Image result for self care quotes

Why is Self-Care Important?

Just like self-care is more than just sitting in meditation or doing yoga poses on our mats, self-care is important for reasons we may not fully comprehend. Sure, our self-care practices will make us start to feel better inside our bodies and minds. But, what is really happening is we are building a relationship with our selves, which can be the best relationship we will ever have. I see self-care as an opening into the deeper world of our souls. Our souls know who and what we are. Our souls carry what is true and real about ourselves, and I believe we can consciously live here in our souls, which means we will live in a more authentic way—the ultimate in self-care. For this to happen we need to start digging our tunnel inside of ourselves and create a self-care plan for our selves. This is a good start.

Image result for self care quotes

Creating Your Self-Care Plan

I am available to help you develop a self-care plan starting with taking a self-care inventory. I am also available to help you stay with your plan and help guide you deeper into your relationship with your self. If you have questions or are interested in setting up a time for your self-care assessment, call/text @ 612-405-8053 or email me at nikki@nikkidivirgilio.com. For more information, go to the Self-Care & Discovery Consultations Tab on this site.

 

 

 

Seeking the Warmth

image

Today was a sad and contemplative day. It was also a little stressful. My computer was acting funny so instead of doing homework as planned I went to the Mac store. Fortunatley my old 2007 is still going to get me through for a while. I had my bike in the car so I went to a lake, but I couldn’t yank my bike from the back.  I was getting pissed, which means I am going to break something and make it worse. Instead I took a deep breath and took off the front wheel. When I finally got it out of the car and the wheel back on my anticipated quiet ride was infilatrated by something that went clickety, click from somemthing I probably broke.

Six miles of clickety-click I put the bike back in my car. I grabbed the blanket from my backseat and walked to a massive tree by the lake. I stretched out my blanket, bunched up my sweatshirt for a pillow, put my hands on my belly and moved my face toward the soon-to-be-setting sun. And there it was— something familiar—warmth. In the warmth of the sun, my body cooled. Whatever I was irritated by calmed. What I’d been angry about vanished. But, there were tears. This warmth I was feeling— I determined is love.

There was a man and his dog sitting on the bench nearby. I didn’t pay him too much attention until he got up and started walking toward me. At first I was uncomfortable. I would have rather been left alone. But, he stopped and asked, “Are you doing alright,” as if we were old, dear friends. I didn’t answer truthfully, of course. I said, “Yes, I’m doing alright.” He replied, “Well unfortnatley for me my bike tire is flat.” I empathized and we agreed on what a beautiful day it was (despite his flat tire and my tears). Then, he was gone. My previous tears turned to sobs. I sat there until it passed.

When I get home, after I dinner I opened up to where I left off in Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Love Warrior. She is talking about drinking whiskey. She says, “The whiskey warmth starts in my mouth, travels down my throat, pools in my belly, and now my insides are also wrapped in a blanket, hushed, quieted, rocked gently to sleep.” I realize I had the very same experience as Glennon, but not with whiskey, with the sun, and that man. How often does someone ask us geunuinely, are we alright? I think we are all seeking the warmth.

I recall all the warm spots I have found. I found it with my dad as a kid when I’d stay at his house and drink warm tea and sit down next to the big heater that blew out warm air. I found it snuggling up to my husband on a cold, winter’s night. I found it when my dad rubbed my temples when I was young girl with a headache. I found it in the smiling eyes of my aunt when I walked through her front door. I found it in books. I even found it with my mother (who I often don’t feel nutured by) when I was sick and she snuggled me up in a blanket on the couch and handed me her famous pb & j with the big chunks of butter. I found it at the sunny spot by the lake. I found it in the question of a stranger.

Once I find it my insides are quieted. My mind is calm. I know I am loved. I am restored.

The Soul Reporter

The Month of September

fall

Once, many years ago, while going through a particularly difficult time I got this idea in my head I would die on September 16 (0f that particular year). I was reminded of this today, September 16, on my walk. Suddenly, I smelled something foul. I looked to my right and there was a dead racoon in the grass. Several steps later, once I arrived in the woods near my house, a dead squirrel on the path. The bodies were still fresh. Was this a sign?

I thought: death is all around us. I remembered all the death that has surrounded my family and myself since December. On December 11, just as my kids and I were about to watch A Christmas Story, my dad called. He was not himself. He said, Mary Lou died. Mary Lou was my step-mother. Then, in January my husband’s last grandmother passed away. It snowed in April when Price died alone in his elevator. June took Uncle Mel and then, his wife, my beloved Aunt on September 6.

September 6 is now shared with September 24, my father’s birthday, when my best friend from Kindergarten died in a car accident when she was only 27 years old. Along with September 11 and September 29. On September 29th, 2011 I was driving my white Toyota Matrix on a Los Angeles freeway. My mother and 11-year old daughter were in the backseat, my 19-year old daughter in the front seat with me. We were listening to Enya and playing the alphabet game. Suddenly, a large truck with glaring headlights was in my rear view mirror. Before I could finish my sentence about what I saw, that large truck hit my car. The car flew and flipped through the air several times until it finally landed on its side. I remember wondering, am I going to die?

car

The Toyota Matrix

I have told and written this story many times, and this year, five years later, I notice the story no longer holds the emotions and trauma it once had.  Now, what seems to be unfolding are the lessons and awakenings from that day that changed everything. Death is all around us.

But, what does this mean exactly? And, is it death or just change? Here’s what is becoming clear for me— life. I think I have been so afraid of death and that impending shoe drop (in my case a tow truck that comes out of nowhere) that life has been cumbersome. I noticed this heaviness after I returned from my aunt’s funeral. Prior to her funeral, I sat with her for four days while she went through the process of death, of change. I had never been this close to the death of another human being or for so long.

flo

Me and Aunt Flo

Before I entered her home, I was afraid of what I might see. But, all my fear went away when she opened her eyes and smiled at me (and my dad and daughter). All I felt was love. I knew I loved her, but those four days I felt my love for her. I was able to tell her she mattered. This experience is invaluable to me now.  But there is a physical, mental and emotional price, at least for me, when going through something like this. That price felt heavy. It felt exhausted. It felt sad.

After the car accident, I carried heavy, exhausted and sad for nearly 5 years.

I feel lighter now. Life is becoming more clear, but not because I have figured anything out. But because I’m not taking it all so seriously and maybe because the desire to live life finally outweighs the fear of living life. I am moving, once again, toward curiosity, beauty, wonder and listening. Listening, as I did on my walk today, that I needed to get grounded. This looked like me stopping in the middle of the forest doing tree pose and volcano breath. This means committing to creating a life that will match my desire to stay in harmony with my higher self and nature, and not the day-to-day grind of this current culture.

I also intend to move more toward what my aunt taught me—love. And, believe me, I am a newbie to love. It’s always been inside of me, but it’s the emotion or state of being that I resist the most. At the least, it makes me feel awkward. At the most, it frightens me as if I might be swallowed by it. But, while my aunt was in  hospice I had a new experience with love. As I stroked her hair, held her hand and kissed her forehead as I said goodbye and I love you, love comforted me.

Love is a comfort, not a burden I need to protect myself from. So yes, death, the unexpected, change surrounds us—not to stop us or scare us or burden us, although it can, but to notice it, wonder about it, learn from it and let it guide us to more clarity of life, comfort of love and truth of being.

The Soul Reporter

Going Against My Grain

What is my grain, currently? Currently, I am afraid. I hold back. I let myself off the hook, and rather easily. I can work hardGrain as a mother, as a daughter, as a wife, as someone who takes care of her home, as someone who works with myself toward greater growth and transformation. I have even shown I can work hard at being a middle-aged student. But—I don’t work hard at my desires—my desires to become a published writer, to be a business owner with any one of my good ideas. I also don’t work hard at making my overweight body healthier even though I have high blood pressure and thyroid issues. I guess we all have our weak spots. Here are mine.

 

Grain3

The issue is I could get by with only working in the places I am strong, until now. Now, I face a body that has to get healthier or it will only continue its decline. Now, I face another fork in the road—follow my desires that are still very much alive inside of me or not. Both choices, right now, terrify me. All week I have faced myself in these weak places and mostly, I’ve been resentful. I resent the inertia I have created. It’s a tangled mess of weakness, fear, anxiety and doubt. It’s a place that has been accumulating for 20+years. It’s a place I have been avoiding for at least that long, and have always known is there.

 

Grain2On the bright side, yesterday, on a walk in one of my sacred spaces I could actually feel myself aligning with my desires. I know it’s time to walk through the tangled mess, fight and claw and probably love my way through until I stop for a moment and realize: I’m through. And, I’m through with doubting my abilities. I’m through with questioning the desires of my soul. I’m through worrying if my actions make a difference or not or where they may or may not take me. I’m through with anxiety clouding my intuition and instincts that move my desires forward. But, I’m not through yet. I’m still here, doubting, questioning, worrying—and still, moving forward anyway.

 

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

The 5-Mile Hike

A month ago, with spring break approaching I booked a 3-night stay at a resort on Minnesota’s North Shore. At least once a year I go on retreat, alone. Usually I stay at a small cabin in the woods—rugged, no television or amenities. This year I wanted a bit more luxury. I wanted the option of staying in bed all day on a comfy, king size bed, with the fireplace on, watching satellite television. I also wanted the option of stepping into a whirlpool bath, full of bubbles and lit candles. I brought 4 books, 2 magazines, my laptop and iPad. I also brought my homework just in case and the notes of my memoir that I’ve been working on and thinking about for ten years. The difference with this retreat, I didn’t care if I even opened my backpack with all of those options inside. As I said, staying in bed was also an option.

room room2

However, yesterday I decided it would be nice to hike. I drove to mile marker 43.5 along the Superior Hiking Trail. I parked at a wayside. I wore my knee-length, down North Face jacket; my green, rubber, ankle-high rain boots and my cross-body leather purse. I also had a scarf and hat to match. On the brochure from the resort, the hike was listed as 5 miles. After, crossing the bridge at 2.5 miles, it read I would be led back to the wayside. How difficult can 5 miles be? That’s like walking Lake Nokomis two times around. It turns out 5 miles on a hiking trail is equivalent to about 20 miles on a paved trail around a lake, at least in my estimation.

Hike4

I was met with many obstacles upon the trail. The first being a couple on the path that I kept trying to avoid, which was difficult because they kept stopping. The first stop was to set down their backpacks and strip off their oversized coats, rolling them neatly into their backpacks and putting on a lighter coat. I decided to follow suit. But, I had no backpack so I folded up my bulky winter coat and hung it over my purse. Their second stop was to take a drink of water and eat a snack. I had no water. I had no snack so I sat on a tree stump and watched the waterfall. Their third stop was to tie their hiking shoes. I had rubber rain boots. Fourth stop—kiss on the bridge (that wasn’t the one to cross over to head back as I hoped it was). My husband hates to hike so we will never kiss on a bridge if it’s on a hiking trail. And finally, their last stop at the actual bridge, which was the half-way point, at a camping site, where I watched them unload their gear. This, is where I started to worry. Should I be camping out? Is the hike back not possible without an overnight stay? As much as I tried to avoid the couple I was now afraid to leave them behind.

Hike5

I checked my phone. Up until this point I had no signal, but now I had two bars. I sent my husband a text informing him of my location. You know, just in case I don’t make it. Because you see, prior to this I was really struggling. On the trail to the bridge was mud, lots of mud. And ice. My rubber boots are not made for ice. There were steep slopes up and down filled with ice and mud. I had to find other ways around, if possible. Sometimes this wasn’t possible because to my right was a ridge and then the river and to my left trees and brush and prickly branches. At one point, I took a tumble, and cursed loudly.

So I wrote: Ok so if you don’t hear from me I’m on the split rock superior hiking trail. First signal I’ve had and it’s full of mud and ice and I’m not prepared for that. Then another text to say, I am still only half way. I’m the stupidest person I know. He replies: Are you going forward? I say, Have to. It’s too bad to turn around. I’ve already fallen. Then he says, I wish you well with that. Better person than me.

Wish you well with that….? I could break a leg or twist my ankle next time I fall.  I’ve seen animal prints I hope are domestic dogs and not wolves or bears. I have no water or food. I don’t know how long it will take for me to get back. I don’t know if the trail back is full of mud and ice. I don’t even know if I am following the right trail. And, that couple I wished would go away are now behind me, camping for christ sake. And, I’m telling him my location in case any of this happens. And, he says, I wish you well with that.

Hike2

At this point, I never thought the trail would end. Four hours had gone by. There was no end in sight. All I wanted was to get back to the resort for my $5 smoothie before they stopped selling them at 4pm. I wanted the hot tub and the cozy bed. I cursed the path and then cursed myself for taking myself out on yet another stupid adventure where I don’t feel prepared. Where I get swindled by my own mind to have an experience, where all I do is realize I just want to be at home, relaxing. Where I understand I really don’t want to work so hard. I don’t want to be challenged by miles of mud and ice and rocks and tree roots and a husband that doesn’t get it. Then, I began to hear traffic from Highway 61. I was up high enough I could see glimpses of Lake Superior. Signs, I knew, I was going in the right direction.

Hike3

Did, I even feel relieved or heroic upon retuning to my car….? No. As soon as my tired, aging, aching body got into my car the experience was already becoming a distant memory. I was in the moment of now being in my car, in pain. I’ve gone most my life holding onto experiences and making them mean something. But, do they? I’ve also made sure I learned something. But did I with this experience? If I did, I learned I am not as tolerant or interested in being challenged as I think I should be. Or maybe I am just tired of being challenged and just want to relax and take it easy for a while. Maybe I just went for a damn hike- and as with most things it wasn’t what I thought it might be. End of story. And, I have the boots to prove it.

Hike

The Soul Reporter

The Shire in the Woods

theloft

My kids call me a hobbit. So it’s appropriate I’m spending a few of my days during spring break at a retreat center called, Shire in the Woods. It was once called The Dwelling in the Woods and from 2006 or so to 2010, I visited the “hobbit hole” called The Loft, once or twice a year. It is a small, cozy cabin complete with kitchen, wood stove, screened in porch, 1/2 bath, and a small spiral staircase up to the loft/bedroom—all surrounded by woods and trails. It’s intention: to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

staircase

In those years between 2006-2010, I would enter The Loft and sigh a relief of suddenly being alone with myself. It was a relief to be away from the needs and wants of my family. It was a relief to feel and know myself again. This time there was no relief. Although it was nice to see The Loft again after several years, I was somewhat dreading being with myself. It hasn’t happened since the last time I was here in 2010—and a lot has happened since then.

One thing is I no longer need to get away from my family like I once thought I did. I have worked through enough of my “stuff” and I love being with them—no longer feeling resentment that I can’t be myself with them. And so alone on a Thursday night, fire burning in the wood stove, a cup of hot tea next to me, I find myself texting them just to see what they are doing, almost wishing I was with them watching Parenthood on the couch. But, I’m here and although I feel a little foreign to myself after all these years, I’m hanging with me anyway.

So far I made myself lunch and dinner, using only the toaster oven provided. I took a two hour nap. I have written a a couple of articles, including this one. And, I went snowshoeing. Yes, I went snowshoeing in April on my spring break. I am in northern Minnesota and it still looks like February in these parts.

lunch

After lunch, I stood in The Loft over-thinking the possibility of snowshoeing—Is it cold? Will the snow hit my face? Will I get lost? Stranded? What if there are bears or wolves? Then, I just moved. Put on the snow pants I have never worn, that unfortunately were a bit too tight in the gut, wrapped a scarf around my neck three times, put on my pink hat, my green jacket, which quite frankly I am sick of wearing and ready to store away, and then my boots. I grabbed the orange vest provided by the staff so I wouldn’t get shot by hunters (even tho it is no longer hunting season) and a ring full of bells for that wolf or bear (as if that might scare them off). I went outside The Loft, struggled to put on my snowshoes with my tight snowpants and hit the trail.

snowshoeing

The snow was hitting my face and I wasn’t cold, but sweating. Not only were there no bears, wolves or hunters there wasn’t even a bird or a squirrel. I was the only one in these woods, which didn’t stop me from looking around for someone watching me when I kept falling in the snow.

You see, it was a bit deceiving out there. It seemed I was walking on solid ground, but then I would notice large, deep crevices in the snow. I soon discovered these were snowshoe prints from previous snowshoers sinking into the snow. I had joined their club and made my own prints in the snow. One of which I took a picture of, where not only did I sink into 2-3 feet of snow but fell hands and face first. That’s when I looked to see if anyone saw me because if they did I would be so embarrassed because obvioulsy I am perfect and I should never fail and fall.

falling

I even got so paranoid about someone seeing me I had the stupidest thought—what if there are cameras out here and someone is getting a real good laugh. Because not only did I continue to fall and my snowshoes kept getting stuck and coming off, I was shouting the F bomb all through the woods. At one point I sat down in the hole in which I sank and almost cried. I was becoming exhausted by this journey and it wasn’t even a long one—or that serious. It reminded me of the journey of the past few years, those years between 2010 and now. A journey I keep being exhausted by—but there was a song playing in my head that stopped those tears from falling down my snow covered cheeks. Shake it Out by Florence + The Machine. 

Shake it out Nikki. 

I got up, fell several more times but in place of exhaustion was determination to just get up, shake it out and keep going.

Tonight, 6-12 inches of new snow is going to fall and cover all traces of my falling and getting up. Such is life…

Goodnight Day One.

fire

 

Good Morning Day Two.

I wake up feeling happy, serene. I am relaxed with myself. This is a pleasant surprise. I made some cereal, eggs and toast. Cleaned up a bit and got dressed. My big outing—walking to the main lodge to pay my bill. After I paid though, I kept walking. Here she goes again….but this time with no snowshoes. At first I intended to take the longer way back to The Loft, but I had remembered a beaver pond off one of the trails I wanted to see in the winter time. I mean spring time.

destination

 

This (above) is what it looks like in winter time. I realized after the journey there it wasn’t about seeing this. That was just an idea in my mind that pushed me forward, like some conquest I had to conquer. Turns out I did more than my share to conquer this goal. I ended up walking much further down a path than I had to. Walking through the snow is similar to walking in sand—it’s a workout. At least for me who hasn’t moved much this long winter. I could not find the path that lead to the beaver pond, but then saw a map posted helpfully on one of the trees. I missed the turn off completely.

I headed back the way I came and found the path toward the beaver pond. And guess what, it was filled with those sink hole land mines again. At least this time I wasn’t losing my snow shoes, but I was soaking my sweatpants in the snow that went almost to my hips. Remember I am a hobbit so I am practically being swallowed by snow.

I was also getting exhausted—again. And this time there was no song in my head from Florence + The Machine—I cried. Hugged the birch tree beside me and cried. I bet no one has ever cried holding this birch tree before. Is anyone looking? My heart was beating so fast. I was standing at the beaver pond realizing some other force pushed me here because I knew it wasn’t for the view, even when I set forth toward it. It was about regaining my strength. Pushing my heart again against life and for life.

I am not sharing what the past few years of my life entailed, but I will share that I set out on another kind of journey and I expected not only the view, but the journey to be spectacular. It wasn’t. In fact many times it was horrifying. I have been exhausted, standing and sitting similar to what I have done on both of these days where I’ve ventured out on the snow packed trails, hesitating.  Should I go? Or should I stay? Should I go to that beaver pond? Or just head back? Even while on the trail, epseciallly at the birch tree I stood for a very long time—hesitating—not feeling like I could head back. I’ve been doing this with life. Do I dare venture out again and risk being disappointed, exhausted and scared out of my mind? Or could I have a new experience?

footsteps

In all this questioning and over-thinking, I just move. It just happens. Apparently, some inkling of hope there are new possibilities. That the past in in the past.

I stepped inside the same steps that got me to the pond. It made it easier in dealing with those sink holes. I continued on with my steps and my tears, allowing myself to cry out the disappointment and exhaustion of the past few years. It was all in place to gather strength, to transform my view, to shed me of what’s not needed—as are all my steps now.

Goodnight Day Two.

 

sunset

Good Morning Day Three.

Today I leave The Loft. Much of the snow that fell has melted in the sun that says, Spring! I look forward to seeing my family. My husband will have dinner made. We will all watch a movie and have good conversation.

Before I leave, sitting at the familiar round table in The Loft, eating buttery eggs, cottage cheese and raspberries I accept what I’ve made a significant flaw, a “flaw,” which has shown itself on this short retreat. My hesitation about life, my caution and slow way of moving forward—perhaps a stubbornness or fear or laziness. I accept how long it takes me to move. I accept it often takes a lot to get me to move. I get it. I accept it.

I have cleaned The Loft, leavning it fresh for the next guest. I am pressing publish on this post. Time to leave. Goodbye Shire in the Woods. Until we meet again….

The Soul Reporter.

Dear Mom, Why Can’t I Love You?

sc000183e4

I was in a workshop, my mother sitting a couple seats down. I am looking at her and I hear this question, Why can’t I love you? This question lived within me for the next several days—and then I sat down and wrote her a letter.

Dear Mom,

Lately, I especially notice I cannot look at you. I notice when I am around you who I truly am shuts down and I become broken and numb. But when you aren’t looking I do look at you. In these moments I feel sad for you. I wonder what it’s like to be you right now. Are you lonely? Are you afraid? I want to hug you. I want to tell you I love you.

I know one day you won’t be here. Or maybe I won’t. Either way I know there will be no one else in my life like you. No one to get on my nerves like you do. No one to give me newspaper clippings about the newest eyeshadow color or my birthday horoscope. No one to ask me how I am that actually wants to know and no one who will look at me like you do or give me a bag full of presents—some bought, some taken from your own shelves for my birthday. There’s no one like you.

And, yet I throw away those newspaper clippings. I criticize your bag full of goodies. I reject the look you can only give and the words to me you only say. I do all this while knowing someday you won’t be here. Mom, why won’t I love you. This letter is my attempt to at least try.

I love you mom.

The past is over. Who you’ve been to me, these reasons I’ve told myself why you aren’t worthy of my love are not real. With the past in the past, the present and the future now have the possibility of me having a new experience with you. I am open and ready for this. I invite you to be also. Thank you for listening.

~Nikki

SONY DSC

What I realized from writing, and than sharing this letter with my mom, and later that group of people at that workshop is I was relating to my mom from the past and the future. I was using stories I created about her from the past, even ones I worked through about her not being available for me to justify not expressing love to her because I fear a future without her. Isn’t it funny how we think creating distance with ones we love will somehow protect us….

I’m opening to a new experience with my mother because I know living a life of survival and protection from the past and the future is a small and isolated way to live. I do not want to have regrets and I want to experience another possibility with my mother.

Thanks for being a part of this exchange with my mother,

The Soul Reporter.