a model of vulnerability & adversity

i’d like to share a book, live with honor – turning tragedy into triumph, written by a friend of mine, michael. we met last fall after he found SALT online, and shortly thereafter we realized that throughout our lives we have literally lived basically arms-width apart from each other. it’s funny how life works sometimes! he self-published a book about a year ago with the hopes of honoring his friend, rich ; sharing about adversity and forgiveness ; and hopefully preventing future tragedies by telling his story. i think it’s timely to share about it.

it’s timely because right now so many of us are experiencing hard times. although our experiences may not be exactly like michael’s (remember, let’s try to be mindful and avoid comparing traumas), we may gain some inspiration from him to help us move out of our own struggles of despair, heartache, or loss. he inspires us to move into a more humble place of healing and hope. below is the review i recently left on amazon.

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image | courtney & michael | providence, ri | october 2019

live with honor shares a raw glimpse into mike panus’ life – a life that has been marked by both devastation and determination. the message that he shares both in this book and in his speaking engagements is one about adversity – something that we can all learn from. his ability to own his faults, to communicate honestly, and to consciously and mercifully make the best out of life leaves us with opportunities to personally reflect and consider empathy amidst tragedy.

the book is captivating! i read it all in one night, and it left me highly moved – with tears, smiles, and so much admiration for a young man who is seemingly just like the rest of them. only mike has a much deeper story beneath his handsome smile – an inner depth that i’ve been fortunate to enough to personally know. i believe this story has many more chapters to go! thank you for being a model of vulnerability, mike, it’s something the world needs more of and for honorably sharing your story.

live with honor lends itself as a great gift; as required reading for any teen, young adult, or military personnel; and also as a powerful prerequisite for anyone set to take a driving test. #lifeisagift #livewithhonor #mikepanus

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image | live with honor – turning tragedy into triumph | mike panus | book cover 

it’s also timely to mention that michael is 4th generation military, and an honorably discharged marine. therefore, as we go into memorial day weekend i’d like to thank all veterans, including mike and his father, for their service to our country.

to learn more about mike or to schedule a future speaking engagement or zoom presentation please visit his website. to purchase live with honor please click here. you can also watch a local news clip of him being interviewed about his book.

where all of our stories begin

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image| courtney & her mom | circa 1985

sending love to those yearning to be mothers ; those who are mothers ; those who have never had a mother ; mothers who have lost children ; those who have lost their mother ; mothers and children with love-filled relationships ; mothers and children with strained relationships ; those who have chosen not to be mothers ; those who love children that are not their own. – rachel garrett inspired by mari andrew

trying to understand

one of the first signs of real love is the moment you realize they are trying their very best to understand you. – jonathan carroll

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image | courtney & giorgio | kings park, newport, ri

i love the photo above because i when i look at it, i see “trying” written across my face. i have a distant, paused, somewhat introspective look and i am holding giorgio after he struggled to walk during a long walk. it reminds me of our capabilities to connect and support one another if we “try.” i’ve been reflecting a lot on what “trying” means in relationship. i believe the first way to “try” is to tap into self-awareness and self-growth work. the more you know yourself and why you do what you do, the better you can communicate needs (and all of us are trying to get our needs met) and better connect with others.

what is happening around the globe due to the coronavirus impacts us all in some way. if we dig a bit deeper beyond our valid anxieties and heightened body stress, we will see what needs are truly important to us. i highly encourage you to print or create a favorite link on your cell phone the list of human needs and create a practice of consulting it when you notice shifts of mood or body stress. identifying what you need has been the most transformative part of my healing and ability to have some compassion for myself and others.

for example, i have a family member who tends to be a more anxious than i am. the pandemic has highlighted this difference between us. when this family member tries to “lecture” me about what is safe or not safe, or “question” or “judge” if my “behaviors” are permissible or not, i try to remind myself that this person has a strong need for security and safety. i totally get that, because i, too, share those same needs to an extent. i am actually deep down quite touched that this person cares so much for my well-being. when we look to commonalities around the need(s) we can try to soften and this helps with relating. by turning to this place of understanding the need(s), instead of getting upset by the way(s) this person is trying to meet the need(s), we can try to lighten the situation a bit more by empathizing, validating, or being a bit more silly than serious. this can be helpful in so many ways in any relationship.

remember, there are so many ways to meet a need. and, it’s okay if we try to meet our need(s) in different ways. therefore, we don’t always need to take it personally if there are clashes (and for more on not taking things personally, i highly encourage you check out the four agreements: a practical guide to personal freedom by don miguel ruiz). i recently had a conversation with someone about relational clashes and my thought is that it’s okay, natural, and it can be healthy to have differences. the important part is how we “try” to work through and understand the differences, particularly around what needs are trying to be met – game changer! we don’t need to label things as “right,” “wrong,” “good,” or “bad.” this is something that i am personally trying to work on. though efforts to try to understand doesn’t always lead to successful and thriving relationships, it can lead to more compassion, and more of that is a great thing for all of humanity.

another great thing to keep in the forefront of your mind is that “trying” can start at anytime! what a refreshing thought. no matter the past or what the future holds, trying to better relate is something that can start now and in the present moment. it takes time and presence, often vulnerability, and a willingness to make effort. this can have the ability to create new chapters in our lives and rewrite endings. how cool!

so what are some inquiry questions or comments to help us when we are trying to understand a situation or differences?

  • can you tell me some more about that?
  • wow, i’ve never considered this perspective, i am curious … go on ….
  • it sounds like you really need [insert need(s)]. i get that because i have that need, too. can you share more about this need?
  • can you tell me what feelings come up for you when you think about what is going on?
  • when have you felt this way before?
  • do you think we can agree that we both want [insert need], and that we are trying to meet it in our own ways?
  • i care about you and want to better understand your point-of-view.
  • what might help bring ease to you right now?
  • do you know i can relate to what you’re sharing and i want you know that i, too, have experienced …
  • did you experience anything in your childhood that produced similar feelings / insights?
  • growing up in my household we … maybe this is why i am reacting this way …
  • we can change our childhood or familial patterns. i believe we both want to have success here. let’s set some time aside so we can have a focused conversation about this.
  • let’s see what we can individually commit to doing so that together we can be stronger.
  • let’s make a point to consistently verbalize something we appreciate about each other (this one hits me personally – and i am grateful to have people in my life that i can connect with in this way!)
  • let’s come up with one thing i can do for you that feels supportive and one thing you can do for me that would feel supportive each day while we work on connection amidst disconnection?
  • this is hard. i care.
  • i realize i don’t tell you enough how much i respect you. please know i do.
  • i am here. i hear you. i see you.
  • do you realize that even during this hard time, there isn’t anyone else i’d rather be trying to figure out life with? i am happy you are here, trying alongside me.
  • can you tell me when you are starting to feel [insert feeling(s)] so that we can address this as soon as possible? i will commit to doing the same.
  • this is important to you, and i care about you and us. so let’s check in about this in few days and a few days after that. hopefully with regular check-ins things can improve.
  • i appreciate you. i continually learn from you. thank you for being in my life.

if you are interested in learning more about feelings and needs identification, i am happy to help. feel free to contact me through the “let’s talk” page of this blog. may we all find more ease in our “trying” … today and tomorrow.

top 5 (unsurprising yet insightful) quarantine takeaways

life has its ups and downs. we call them squats. – unknown

1. exercise & healthy eating = energy

truth : i suffer from leaky gut, inflammation, and adrenal distress.

i am often and easily exhausted. in the early days of quarantining i was moving a lot, exercising, walking, and eating well. i felt great! then the days passed. weeks passed. and eventually the exercise passed. i realized i was sleeping in WAY too late, eating WAY too much and feeling WAY too bloated and uncomfortable, and moving WAY too little. over the past week i’ve gotten myself back on track! i am exercising each day whether it be the digital version of the class, a reformer pilates workout, or a walk. i am taking back control of my diet by focusing mostly on a plant paradox eating plan. i ordered a scale which has been super informative, and have gotten back on track taking my avena doctor recommended supplements and powders. in addition, i am drinking more water and trying a new product to help with gut repair after doing some research – gutconnection 365. i am hopeful that these changes will help with improved well-being. i look forward to seeing how the new wfh workouts and eating regime go, and most importantly how my body feels from the adjustments. what do you do to bring more energy to your body? what are you doing when you feel you are living the best version of yourself? what steps today can you take to bring more well-being into your life? affirmation : i am blessed to be able to move.

the secret ingredient is always love. – unknown

2. cooking = fun

truth : i hardly cook for myself, and i have been relied heavily on prepared meal deliveries for most of the last year.

however, as i’ve tapped back into cooking due to dining out options being limited and having a lot of free time, i am finding that i actually enjoy it and i am actually pretty good at it. my favorite night of the week is “date night in” where i dress up (yes, in a dress and heels), listen to romantic classics (cue “fancy dinner music”), perhaps dance a little, and savor the at home dining experience with white linens, candles, and fresh flowers! i’ve been making a lot of pinterest meals, salads with protein, and have become a big fan of the siete cassava flour tortillas – i highly recommend them and they are plant paradox compliant. there truly is a lot of fun to be found in the kitchen! is there anything you are tapping into for fun or entertainment? are you trying any new eating plans or routines? what are some of your favorite recipes and why? affirmation : one with a full belly is a blessed being.

if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. – tony robbins

3. struggles = everyone

truth : finances stress me the f*ck out!

talk about scary honesty! i, and my finances, are always a work in progress. i feel proud to have been willing to name my struggles ahead of this pandemic because i think we all benefit when we can vulnerably own our struggles and share about them, as we often find that we are not alone. though everyone struggles in different ways, there is comfort in knowing that we are the same in that we all struggle. and as brené brown states, “what we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.” … may we all soften a bit. there are so many people right now struggling in so many ways, and for many right now it’s around money. many are grappling with financial hardships, personally and /or professionally. many are stressing about how to pay their bills and make ends meet (perhaps needing : security / stability / safety / cooperation among others) ; experiencing sleepless nights about how to keep their families and / or businesses afloat (perhaps needing : consideration / ease / clarity / consistency / community / rest among others) ; or avoiding hard conversations because they fear sharing with their family or staff or colleagues where things stand (perhaps needing : respect / empathy /  contribution / hope / understanding / belonging among others). there is a lot of heartbreak and ache. we are also witnessing countless acts of kindness, and seeing so many creative ways that businesses are adapting in order to continue to offer their services. it’s both a scary and an inspiring time. we are needing to lean on one another, and it is in this same spirit i highlight the beauty in both giving and receiving. right now we are really seeing this shine through. it’s quite a basic concept – giving and receiving, and yet it can be so impactful and beautiful. in my hospice work i continue to oversee a “frontline friday” campaign, and i feel a need for contribution is being met in this small way. what ways are you tending to your own struggles? what are you doing to soften around them or the struggles of another? are there ways you are giving? are you offering others a way to gift giving, and allow yourself to receive? affirmation : there is beauty in the blessons.

if i am feelings this way again, what would be the best way for me to bring it up to you? – courtney

4. communication = key

truth : SALT’s techniques of feelings and needs identification have come in handy.

whether it be communicating with colleagues, a partner or family members, it’s been a saving grace for self-expression and appreciation over here. there have been times when i’ve struggled during the quarantine and i’ve had to use SALT tools to get me back on track. after a few work conference calls i’ve had to turn to my lists and soothe my own needs. after a few less than ideal relational encounters i’ve had to consider my recourse, which has helped lead me to more mindful communication, thus greater connection (which, of course, is what i’m looking for). i have continued with weekly therapy appointments and these have been such a great place to continue my NVC practices and process the changes taking place. how has communication been for you while in quarantine? are you seeing different feeling patterns arise? are you able to embrace pauses or revisit conversations to clarify or reconnect? affirmation : i am blessed.

if you want to change the world. go home and love your family. – mother theresa

5. change = constant

truth : change is gonna come. what a great song, and it rings so true.

we have no idea when this situation may lift, and we have no idea what this “new normal” will look like. letting go of control has been a trying task for me who struggles with control on a “normal” day. about 2 weeks ago i felt completely overwhelmed. it was the first week of the 7 so far where i really felt impacted. i began to turn inward and self-isolated a bit more than i had been. i had little motivation to do anything and i did not want to connect much with anyone. my mood was pretty poor, so it’s probably best i limited interactions. i recognized all of these things and i simply gave myself permission to just be this way. to take the time i needed. i was grieving. many of us are grieving in our own ways and for our own reasons brought about by this situation that has been hurled at us. i pulled out of that place, with the grieving stages moving as they do, and am reminded to feel grateful for the good in my life. a restart button reminding me to take small steps each day to move towards the life i want to live. change isn’t going away, it never has and it never will, and the best way i see through this is to let go of expectations and look at the small stuff that i have control over. for years, and you can ask my bff, jules, i have wondered about the state of the world. “can we really continue as we are?” during this time i keep saying to myself and others, “we may never have this time again. turn inward and focus on your yourself and your own,” much like this mother theresa quote above. i believe that if we do focus on these things we cannot come out of this a bit different, hopefully a bit kinder, softer, more true. what is the hardest change you are experiencing? what are you needing? there are many ways to meet needs, what are some ways to meet that need? affirmation : may we all stay blessed by whatever it is we call upon for strength.

the needs behind judgements

when was the last time you judged someone for doing something you didn’t like? maybe they said something you didn’t agree with or did something that possibly even upset you. it’s our ability to continue seeing the life behind the words and actions that can bring us closer to someone who we don’t necessarily agree with, but who we understand. when we understand what needs were trying to be met it’s impossible to hate. this is the transformation we can have in our lives by translating judgement thoughts. – thom bond, the compassion course

inner active

today’s drawing of inner active cards was quite timely and powerful. it’s so fascinating to see what parts work cards are pulled based on the energy put into the deck. it’s another way to ponder or answer the profound question, “what’s alive in me?”

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image | courtney | inner active card drawing 04.01.20 |  illustrations by sharon eckstein

the card on the left perfectly depicts the state of the world right now amidst the pandemic ; the center card reminds me of a person from my past ; and the card on the right is pretty relevant. cheers to prevailing love!

i highly recommend checking these cards out, as well as the accompanying book, which i have been reading more recently. i find both resources to be very practical and relatable. it’s no wonder that the cards were a SALT studio favorite!

make space

make space for the next version of you. she’s coming. – spirit daughter

the class has become my version of “church” – it’s spiritual. it’s emotional. it’s definitely physical. it’s overall healing and strengthening. if you’re at all intrigued, i highly recommend you check it out. click here to learn more and receive your free two week trial today! there’s no better time than now.

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image | courtney | the class digital studio @ the cabin