Where to begin?

I keep getting the same message, in short: I need to use my voice and tell my story.

The question I pose isn’t why, but how? Where do you start? Who do you start with?

I’m looking for guidance, friends. Read. Think; and also PLEASE discuss this with me.

Note to Self

You say you want happiness.

We all do.

But the truth is, you’re scared shitless of it. Completely bat shit crazy of having it because lo and behold if you get it, if you experience it and get used to experiencing it, you just might lose it. Here’s a little 411 for you: so am I, and so is everyone.

That’s our first problem.

The second one is this: most of us wouldn’t know happiness if it appeared on our doorstep and introduced itself.

Happiness. What is it? We walk around striving for it, hoping for it, and looking for it in all the wrong places; but the truth is, most of us wouldn’t recognize happiness if it tackled us in broad daylight and held us down screaming: “I’m here, I’ve arrived, I am your happiness, see me, see me, see me.”

I know this one like I know the palm of my own hand.

I was a miserable child. From the outside I looked happy and carefree, but on the inside, for as far back as I can remember, I longed to be happy one day. Back then, happiness was simple in my child’s mind—it consisted of staying in one place for more than a year, escaping my mother’s harsh tongue and dodging creepy, lurking relatives. Even as a small child, I kept thinking: “one day I will be out of this house and on my own, and then I will be happy.”

The trouble is, that search and that anticipation lasted beyond leaving my childhood home. It followed me through college as I longed for graduation day and dreamt of escaping my studies—then  and only then, could I be happy and free.

Of course once I entered the job force as a diligent nine to fiver, happiness awaited me after work and on the weekends. Happiness lurked about in my mind’s eye through anticipated vacations surely delivering happiness within those 14 days of no work bliss.

But did it?

Hell no. Happiness was never in any of those end point intellectual destinations.

Happiness did not arrive when I fell in love, got married and walked down that aisle. Happiness did not arrive along with my huge bonus checks and yuppy lifestyle. And happiness certainly did not arrive when I worked my ass off to fit into that bikini and take that trip to an exotic island.

Happiness never arrived because happiness wasn’t an outside job. It was, and is, an inside one. One that we are all entirely terrified of grabbing.

Grabbing the brass ring of happiness means that we hold still for a little while and look around at the life we’re living. Happiness lies in acceptance and gratitude for what is. Happiness lives in the smallest of small things: the scent of the morning grass when the sprinkler first hits lawn against early light; happiness hangs out on the little hairs of your dog’s ears back lit by sunlight, and happiness exists in the way a lover’s arm feels heavy across your back as you struggle to claim your side of the bed.

You see, happiness is so tiny and so small that it’s fleeting if you don’t take the time to see it.

I write about happiness on my blog, and teach 40 day workshops on rebooting yourself so you can live a life you love. My entire message to the world is about positivity and happiness; but the truth is, most of the positive spin we try to put on things is horse shit.

We live empty lives searching for happiness, while touting yoga mantras and positive affirmations. Truth be told, our habit of putting a positive spin on things is actually like frosting a cake made of crap with beautiful frosting. It’s a lie and it’s not a pathway leading to true happiness.

True happiness takes courage.

I’m talking the vulnerable, put yourself out there and  look like a total fool sort of courage. It’s not easy. You’ve got to be willing to break from the norm, appear uncool and stop caring so damn much about what other people think of you.

We’ve all got to take the time to slow down, break from this crazy pace in life and take a minute to sit and stare at the sky without checking for a text, listen to the birds without multi-tasking in our heads, and walk the dog without the cell phone while risking a missed call. We’ve got to shelve our egos and say yes to love, open ourselves up to being hurt beyond hurt again, and say hell yes to taking chances.

Yet  most of us aren’t willing to take a small chance on anything.

We say we do, but we don’t. We say we will, but we won’t. You don’t. You know you don’t. You play it safe and color between the lines like a good girl or a good boy. You’re afraid to open up and be vulnerable and say to someone:  “you know what, I adore you, I love you, I’m afraid you might leave me one day, and honestly I’m afraid period.”

We’re all afraid.

We’re afraid to relax and enjoy life and instead we work long hours to make that money to go on that two week vacation that in the end…ends. Then we’re left with pictures and memories that fade quickly and credit card debt that doesn’t.

If you would slow down and appreciate what you have daily, happiness might just poke her head out from behind your back and say: hey, here I am. If you would count what you’re grateful for on your fingers and toes every single morning and every single night, you might start to sense what happiness tastes like. When you realize that the fact the sky is blue, the sun rises everyday, and the beat of your pet’s heart are all miraculous, happiness might just start to let you catch her scent.

But instead, we find it easier to chase after happiness which is insanity. Chasing happiness is like trying to catch your own shadow.

It’s not possible because it’s part of you.

Happiness is inside of you. It’s not out there, it’s in there. But there’s no way to reach it unless you slow down, get quiet, and stop for a little while to notice.

They say that time doesn’t exist, and those same scientists say that when you break anything down, you’ll see a bunch of moving atoms that when you break those down, you’ll see nothing but space—empty space.

They  say that there’s no out there either. This means that there’s no time, there’s nothing but empty space and there’s nothing out there. Kinda boggles your mind doesn’t it? Well, if that’s all true (and it is), there is no where out there to find happiness. Psst…because it’s inside of you.

Ask anyone dying of Cancer, or going through hell. When life pulls the rug out from under you and you’ve got nothing to grab onto, or hope for, there’s a crystal clear clarity that comes. In those moments, you realize well shit, the smallest of things make me pretty happy right now because that’s all I’ve got to hold on to. And in those moments of hell, you finally realize lo and behold, happiness is in the way my child’s hair smells after an afternoon nap, it’s in the feel of my dog’s paw on my leg and it’s in the way my partner’s eyes look when they say I love you.

It’s not out there after all. It’s right here in front of me.

But that’s only half of this troublesome equation.

Even when we do start to recognize happiness, we’re afraid to grab onto it and trust it. We’re afraid to actually relax into enjoying it because God forbid, what if we taste it and start to like it and then lose it? What if? What if? What the F– if?

Yeah, that’s the absolute deadliest of problems we all face in this quest for happiness. We’re more comfortable wishing for happiness than we are actually noticing it and enjoying it. Our entire society is based upon anticipation and hope. Striving for what’s next, what’s better and what’s around the corner.

All that anticipation and striving delivers us right into the next moment, but you know what?

Happiness is back there behind you, like a shadow, in the now moment. Happiness is the polar opposite of someday. It’s the complete antithesis of one day, and it’s never to be found in the when. Happiness is here now if you relax enough and have the balls to accept it.

Being grateful for the job you have and realizing that regardless of how you feel today, you’re in this job for a reason. At one point you wanted it. At one point you hoped for it.

That partner of yours? At one point you wanted them, but because you’re always searching for what’s better or what’s next, you don’t take the time to appreciate what you’ve got right there in front of you. And that body of yours? I’m betting if you lost your right leg tomorrow, you’d long to have that chubby little cellulite filled inner thigh back again, wouldn’t you?

So relax and let yourself realize right now: you have everything you really need right here.

If you relax and appreciate what you’ve got, chances are you might actually slip into a grateful moment; and if you’re really brave enough to totally relish that moment, happiness just might slip over you like a soft warm blanket of goodness—so good in fact that you slowly let your eyes close and let that sweet satisfaction of happiness embrace  you for a little while

A higher calling

I’m not trying to catch feelings, I’m trying to build an empire.

That’s real talk.

I’m done with this low level, surface bullshit.

Yes, I’ve been broken, but it’s only taught me my capacity to love and I’ve grown and continue growing.

I’m learning to trust myself and others in ways that have been uncomfortable, but SO worth daring greatly.

I’m ready.

Sunday’s Song

The day after tomorrow, I have an appointment with my neuro-opthamologist. I have finally decided to ATTEMPT to get my driver’s license back.

I have not driven in over 4 years. That was when my vision loss began and because my other symptoms were so unmanageable, I had to surrender my license. It wasn’t until late last year when a cardiologist mentioned to me that it MIGHT be possible for me to get my license, with medical restrictions, that I even allowed myself to consider the possibility. When you go from being a working mother to a reluctant housewife with children and no way to get around accept depending on others for transportation, it really sucks. Being dependent on other people is not something I’m good at. One of things I promised myself when I left an abusive marriage years ago was that I would never put myself in the position to be dependent on others again. Life had other plans.

After all that has been said in done medically, I have learned how to get myself functional in certain situations. There are others that are completely out of my control that I still struggle with but learning to letting go has been one of the biggest challenges of my life as well.

As I started this year, I was reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown and I made a resolution to do so more often. So, I will go with all my necessary modifications in hand, daring greatly, to discover new possibilities and potential. I will not balk at having to look or feel disabled. I will try. I will continue to fight the good fight.

That’s what this Sunday’s Song is all about.

Random Ramblings

– I finally finished reading ‘Daring Greatly by Brene Brown today. The book should be required reading in the class of “LIFE”. Its been life altering for me. I highly recommend it. For everyone. You should also check out Brene’s TED Talk videos. Absolutely amaze balls stuff can come of this.

– I spent my evening in the ER at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital. Apparently my littlest, but oldest furbaby, PNut, like PDiddy but smaller and way weirder, because he thinks he’s a big dog but also a cat, simultaneously, ingested something square shaped. $250 later, we are taking him home to watch for vomiting and bloody stool. We live large! Saturday night’s are lively around here!

– I am nearly finish with importing and editing my posts from across the interwebs to their final destination here in Stephieopolis. I gave myself until the end of February to complete this task and the closer I get the more I find myself procrastinating. It’s not just this. I seem to like to see how close to the edge of things I can get without plummeting to failure. Except I dont enjoy it but continue to do it so then it begs the question: Why? I have no fucking clue. Maybe it’s a part of my mental illness. Maybe I find it somewhat exhilarating to push myself. Honestly, I dont know. Am I the only one who does this?

– My stomach is still causing a raucous. As I type this Im forcing myself to drink a milkshake. A milkshake may not seem like something that would truly need to be forced, however, when everything you ingest causes pain, it’s tough. I guess you could think of it like sex without lubrication. Sex is great but if it’s going to leave you uncomfortably raw, you might feel differently about it. Just sayin. Now, lets take some drugs!
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– I am 463% done with winter. Old man winter has been a merciless, mean bastard. He must be stopped!

Our “coming to Jesus” moment with St. Valentine

It is Valentine’s Day and Jer and I will be attending a marriage seminar at a local church all day. I don’t know what it will have to offer us that we don’t already know or want but Im going in with an open mind and heart, hoping to come away with some tools for a tune up.

People often say marriage is hard but they seldom tell you why. Its hard because in order for a marriage to really stand a chance you have to constantly consider your partners needs which goes against all our basic instincts for survival. What makes it harder is being able to trust your partner to do the same. It may sound as simple as “you scratch my back and Ill scratch yours”, but its not. Its about selflessness, vulnerability and trust. Im pretty certain that everyone reading this struggles with at least one, if not all, of those attributes alone, much less in practice with another human.

I have the hardest time wrapping my brain around those concepts to the point that I doubt the possibility of it really existing, until I think of my children. When I think of them I know beyond a shadow of doubt that you can act selflessly. I recognize the vulnerability every day when they leave my shelter. It’s like letting your heart or piece of your soul walk around outside your body. You trust that it will return. It has to.

When it comes to my husband, who is capable of scratching back though, the doubt creeps in. The trust frays. I struggle to let my guard down. Id rather scratch my own back sometimes.

And so we’ll shuffle our sinner shoes and come to Jesus on Saint Valentine’s Day and try looking through different perspectacles, lens that may help us see this all through a different perspective, sans the rose color. If that doesn’t help gain stronger footing, we’ll dig into the very foundation we stand upon to see what could be the underlying cause for the wobble and sway.

Send your thoughts, love and prayers our way. We need them.

PUBLISHED

I am so excited to tell you guys that my favorite, online journal has decided to publish one of my pieces and I’m super stoked ya’ll:

Dear Stephanie,

Thank you for your submission to elephant journal!

It’s official: your words have somehow inspired our hearts and we’re accepting your piece for publication.

We are swamped and working our trunks off, and so we ask for your patience as we process your submission.

We’ve placed it in our queue of articles for publication; currently, our turn around is approximately one week. The next you’ll hear from us is when your article goes live.

We’ll send you an email with a link, along with suggestions on how to spread the reach of your words far and wide.

Do you have a personal photo (that you took or own) to accompany your piece? Send it in! (The feature image for an elephant article should be high quality, 500 x 500 pixels, personal and stylish.) This is optional, as we can choose just the right image for you if you’d like, but we always love to see original personal photos in our pieces, too!

*Timely: Do we have your bio photo? If not please send a (200 x 200 jpeg) headshot. Do you have a bio? If not, please send a short, personal write up about who you are and what makes you tick. Write in third person, please!* Try to get these in right away so we can get this up by Saturday.

By submitting you give us use rights in perpetuity.You can use with credit and a hyperlink, if you ask permission, in any publication that you own or control. We generally will not give permission or reprint articles we’ve edited, hosted, shared in other publications, unless they’re in other mediums. Once we have published your piece, we will not remove it from elephantjournal.com under (almost) any condition.

Thanks again for sharing your work with us. We hope to see more from you in the future!

Warmly,

Travis

Editing Team
@elephantjournal voted #1 in US for #green on twitter 2 years running
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