Opening a gift shop was not what I thought it would be. Taking big steps to grow a business can be overwhelming, but if you remind yourself why you started, it will pull you through. Here are my steps to being prepared for the unknown in the brick and mortar world.Read More
"We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems."
The above Ode was my brother Michael's favorite quote. A Music Maker indeed... You will find it in two important places that are connected to him. The first can be found in his high-school year book as he chose it for his senior quote, the second was actually my doing, when painfully having to decide what would forever be engraved on his headstone... Michael tragically left us on the morning of July 25th. My life from that moment would forever be changed.
On July 25th, I normally do write about him. It has become such a therapeutic tool for me. And I believe for anyone who knew him as well. But today, I want to write about something a little different. I want to share about the miracle(s).
My brother... A talented musician, devoted and true friend, over-protective brother, avid snowboarder, photographer, evolved thinker. He was always seeking out a new journey and had a love for adventure, which ultimately would be at hand in his final hours. I used to blame him in my head. Screaming thoughts at him, never fully understanding why he had to go exploring that night, why did he have to be so dam curious. Through-out the years, I slowly became the exact opposite of everything he was. I hated traveling, new experiences gave me anxiety, taking risks (no way). I was stuck in my fear that if I went to far left or to far right, it could cost me my life. So I just coasted through each day, always playing it safe. Yes, yes I missed out on so much, but I was alive wasn't I? Maybe in the physical sense, yes I was, but in the spiritual sense, I was dead. At this point, I had zero faith and was just going through each day the best I knew how.
I believe when one experiences such a tragic loss, you have two choices. You can live in the past or you can live in the moment. During the grieving process you may actually bounce back and forth, going from the past to the present, the present to the past. The past, for me, meant a different life, one where my brother still existed. The past is a place where I could mentally retreat to and relive memories of growing up, living and learning from him. But... the past is also a place where the darkness existed, never fully feeling a love but just a painful glimpse of what used to be. I knew living in the past was a place I couldn't stay in forever, it was causing me more pain than good.
So, about those miracles... I like to look at them as little gifts from my brother. Gifts that keep coming, they are endless, they are everywhere, they are available to me anytime I need one. Want to know the secret to experiencing miracles in your life? Simply, by living in the present. When you move on from the past and are not fore-casting into the future, then you are fully in the present. In the present is where all the goodness exists. In the present, you are protected and guided. You have everything you need, right in that very moment. This is where you will start to see the miracles in your life. You do not need to have experienced a tragic loss or some other life altering event to see the miracles all around you. You only need to be present to receive YOUR present.
Miracles come in the form of divine intervention, perfect timing, luck being on your side, coincidence, right place-right time, the stars aligning, or karmic energy. Which ever phrase works for you, all of them can be summed up with one word, Miracle. They are the little or huge events that take place in your life, that have you looking up and saying, "Thank-you". They are the friend that calls you exactly at the right moment. They are the diversion in your day that has you cursing but ultimately puts you in a safer place. They are the job you really really wanted but didn't get to only get a call with a better opportunity. They are the person in front of you that pays for your coffee. They are the rescue dog that was supposed to be temporary but now completes your home. They are the sun that shines through the rain on your wedding day. They are the kisses your child gives you when you don't want to be bothered. They are the smile a stranger shares while holding the door open when your hands are full. They are the flowers that grow the tallest even in the darkest part of the garden. They are the lessons we learn from those who do not even know they are teaching.
I used to think that if I let go of the past it meant letting go of my brother. How could I still feel connected to someone who indeed was not present in the present? So, I took small steps, each day telling myself, "Malissa, it's ok to let go of the past." I needed to give myself permission. I needed to trust that letting go did not equate into letting him go. With each passing day that I would tell myself it was ok, I could start to actually feel his presence in my present. Could it be that my connection to my brother was actually getting stronger in the present than in the past. YES! This was my gift, my motivation! Now instead of giving myself permission to leave the past in the past, I now remind myself to live in the now, live for today, live for the present. Do I still miss him? Do I cry for him? Of course I do. Instead now, I am able to enjoy the gifts that remind me of him and enjoy the beautiful rainbow that has finally emerged after my storm.
If you are missing someone today, I wish you the strength to seek the present and experience these little miracles that can fill your heart more than the past ever will. And if your not ready to see them today, no worries, they will be waiting for you tomorrow.
These are my own opinions and experiences. Any thoughts and or idea's posted in this journal are not meant to self-diagnosis or used in place of medical attention. If you or someone you know is grieving or suffering a loss, please find the appropriate help within your community.
In my last journal entry I shared my first non-negotiable in life, which was my daily meditation practice. Meditating is one of the two things that help me deal with daily anxiety and fear. If you would like to read more you can find it here.
Today I wanted to share with you my second daily non-negotiable that is done in correlation with my meditation practice in order to keep me feeling calm and balanced. Unlike my meditation practice, which is done first thing in the morning, writing can happen at any point in the day. This is a more organic and natural process versus one that is regimented. I keep a notebook in almost every room in my house, so when the spark hits, I can just grab the closest one, find a comfy spot and share my thoughts with the paper. I am going to explain below what my daily journaling looks like, however you can create something that is better suited for you if you find my technique not matching your style.
I always start by choosing my top 10 things I am grateful for, whether that be my home, health or relationships, etc. I choose each one carefully, write it down and then connect the feeling of gratitude for each one in my heart. This is not a list that I steam roll through, this is more of an exercise in reminding myself to not just say "I am grateful for X" but to actually connect the feeling of gratitude for each one. Once I have my daily top 10 and walked through the feelings for each one, I re-read the list and out-loud thank God/Source/Universe for each one.
- Write It
- Feel It
- Say It
Next, I will write about whatever is pressing on my mind in that moment. This could be business related, relationship issue's, financial worries or health. (My topics vary from day to day) This week in particular I have been feeling stuck, not really progressing or regressing but just sitting still. I wanted to explore more on why I was feeling this way. When I feel the need to get deep into a feeling I will normally meditate on it and then write about it. I have been taking mental note on all the self-defeating stories my ego has been telling myself lately. I write down why these self-defeating thoughts are simply old stories that no longer serve a purpose in my present day. As humans we tend to carry our stories with us even though they are from our past and no longer serve us well today. Maybe its because we feel our past pains are like a badge of honor. They show someone how much we have endured and experienced. But, in order to leave them where they belong (in the past) we need to greet with them lovingly, let them surface and then be willing to part ways, knowing very well you will not benefit from them today, tomorrow or next week.
When I started to write down all those self-defeating stories I was telling myself, there was a common thread among them. It was the notion that I did not deserve the success I was working very hard and diligently towards. Even though I was putting in the 10 hour days, giving my all to every client, working smart in order to avoid creative burn-out and having a steady calendar of work in front of me, I was still telling myself old stories from the past that I did not deserve success. Even if I kept at it longer, harder, smarter, as long as I was believing that I did not enjoy the fruits of my labor, it would never come. Hence, leave me feeling stuck, not progressing not regressing, just standing still.
In the past there was a time where I did believe this, but that was no longer truthful and real for me today. See, even though I can say, "No I do not believe this story to be my truth anymore" I needed to make peace with it, thank it and release it. I need to believe and remind myself this is no longer the story I want to live out. Instead, it would stay with me, waiting for me to eventually believe it again. And this is exactly why I have my two non-negotiable's in life. I have come to trust that the action of meditating and writing are just as important to my mind as healthy food is to my body. It has become so ingrained into my daily routine that I now look forward to completing each one as I would my favorite glass of Cabernet after a long day.
Now, how does any of this relate to business? Gifting? Being a creative? Because when my mind and thoughts are not aligned with my purest intent, then I am no longer living to my truest capabilities. How can I possibly offer my very best if I am not thinking my very best, feeling my very best, acting my best? Simply put, they walk hand in hand. My business is a direct reflection of my heart. My heart is a direct reflection of my thoughts. And I work everyday to create thoughts that are aligned with all of the above. Full circle, one working off the other.
As apprehensive as I was to share these extremely personal self-care practices, I felt that if one person could benefit from my openness, then that would trump any insecurities I may feel. I'm not embarrassed of where I am, I am so proud of how far I have come. I plan on sharing more often with the hopes that it speaks to your heart. Take what you need, file what may be needed and disregard the rest.
If you are interested in starting a meditation practice, I recommend checking out The Chopra Center where you will find free guided meditations as well as the 21 Day Meditation Experience. And if you are interested in starting a journal routine, well just pick a pen, and write one word at a time. Glory comes from the willingness to begin.
The intent of this journal or other information provided is not meant for self-diagnosis or use in place of medical advice, but to share my personal journey dealing with various mental health topics. If you or someone you know may be struggling with mental health issues, please seek support from the appropriate professionals within your community.
I've been wanting to write this post for a couple of weeks now and finally was able to put my thoughts into words. You may have noticed recently that I have been very quiet on the social media scene. And there is good reason why I have decided to say good-bye to the noise and distractions.
My normal routine upon waking would consist of opening my eye's, giving my body a good stretch and within minutes of rising I would already be "plugged in" for the remainder of the day. It would start with checking my emails before I even brushed my teeth, then right onto all my social media platforms. I was exhausted before I even got out of bed. Well, let me re-phrase, mentally exhausted... By the time I was my pouring my coffee, the thoughts were already filling my head of how my business nor I was just not good enough. Think about that with me for a minute, within moments of starting my day, I was already setting myself up for failure with these negative thoughts about myself and my business. Even typing that out makes me feel such a sadness. I just want to go back in time and give myself a big hug and say out loud, "Stop listening to all the noise."
As time went on, I eventually became my own worse critic. Somewhere on this journey, I started to believe that faster was better, that quantity over quality was favored, that taking on work that did not align with my business model was "OK" for the time being because at least I was "working." Then enter the burn-out, the moment when I not only took on to much work for one person, but work that was no longer satisfying my wallet or my heart. I was lost and so consumed by the noise, I didn't even realize it.
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and realized that I left my phone in my office. So instead of starting my morning off with checking emails and social media, I laid in bed and went over my plans for the day. I then proceeded to slowly rise, brush my teeth, go outside with my dogs, check on the garden, make a cup of coffee and did all this without the noise. The noise that I would normally already have within minutes of waking. This experience gave me a taste for something I had been yearning for but had no idea how to get there. Was I indeed addicted to the noise that I was now despising? I no longer wanted to feel inadequate because of who I am "friends" with or who shares my work. I wanted to break free from the labels we get based upon the number of likes, friends, shares, collaborations, partnerships, shout-outs and true high-school feeling clique's. No thanks! No more! I didn't want to be sold another online course on how to gain more followers. I was not interested in buying into someone else's idea of pay me hundreds of dollars and I will make you an over-night success. Noise, it was all noise and it was crowding my mind, taking up valuable space. Space that I wanted to save for my clients, for my work, for myself.
I now have a commitment to myself that when the noise starts to take up to much of my time, I close down the laptop and disconnect for a short while. And when I say disconnect, I do not mean that I walk away from my work obligations, I actually get busy with-in my work. I dive into creating something fabulous and unique for one of my Bride's or put some writing time into my blog. Anything that helps me ease away from the pressure's of keeping up is medicine for my soul. I am looking for true and authentic connections, not one's that are based on what I can do for you or vice versa.
And while I really do love what some of my social media outlets have done for my business, I now approach it in a very different manner. I am so appreciative for what it has brought me thus far, like some really amazing business opportunities and honest friendships. These are the things that keep the noise away, my clients, my friendships, my family, they are what is truly important in my life. I will continue to be present online but I will close it down when the first feelings of the pressure start to seep in. I am a work in progress as we all are and this is my attempt at being the best possible version of Malissa.
And as far as my phone... It's best left in the other room at night. I really am enjoying the quiet start to my days.
Photos by Love and Light Photographs
For the past year, I've had a running list of idea's that I knew I wanted to blog about, eventually... The one topic that kept coming up for me was how I define success, what does being successful look like? I feel like the success talk is much like the money talk, no one wants to have it. Success should not be something we are embarrassed about, hide from or even feel the need to exaggerate. Your success and victories should be celebrated no matter how small they may seem. Here are a few ways I learned to embrace the process of accepting my own successes.
IT'S NOT A NUMBERS GAME
I've been there, I've done it, I'm guilty as charged. I have compared away, whether its the number of followers they have, number of blog posts, amount of times they have been published, number of likes, numbers, numbers, numbers! I thought in order for me to be/feel successful, my numbers needed to be off the charts, that the amount of followers would equate to the amount of work I received. #FALSE
Yes, of course as my following grows I do tend to feel encouraged and the amount of likes I receive may shift from day to day. But I can now attest to the theory, that the amount of followers equals the amount of work I receive is false. (At least for me this is true) Hand raised high; I am busy, I sometimes receive more inquiries that I can answer in a promptly time frame, I have enough work for my two hands and small studio space can handle at the moment. Numbers no longer control my image of success. Instead, the time and care I can offer each client is how I define my success. When a client sends me a message reassuring me that I am meant to do this, that is what makes me feel successful.
FORWARD IS A MOTION
Don't get me wrong, yes I have semi-mastered the non-numbers game of thought but that doesn't mean I still fall into the comparison game from time to time. I am only human after all, and definitely not perfect. Gauging your success on someone's portrayal of their success is a negative place to let yourself drift into. Here are some tips for when the self-destructing starts to step in.
- GET BUSY! This is when you need to dive even further into your own situation. Recognize your journey is exactly that, YOURS.
- STAY FOCUSED on you and that special gift you are offering to the world. What keeps you unique? What are you offering to your clients and customers that is needed? Reminding yourself why you began can jump start the motivation train.
- SHOUT IT OUT to everyone, letting them know who you are and what your business has to offer. Compose an email and send it other's within your industry introducing yourself. Get out from behind the computer and meet other creatives. Join a meet up, one where you can chat among other like-minded individuals. If you are looking to find one in your area you can check out Rising Tide Society, to locate one near your home town.
- KEEP MOVING, even one small step at a time. Because in the end, forward is forward no matter how big of a jump or little a step. Forward keeps the energy going.
- BE YOUR OWN BIGGEST FAN. Everyone loves a cheerleader, be the best at it!
In the end, we will all have different definitions of success. For some, success may very well be a certain number of followers, while the next may say it's the amount of inquiries they receive in a single day. For me, success is the end result of each gift design I hand over to my clients and customers. Success is the thoughtful email they send to me afterwards. Success is the feeling a gift I designed gives someone who is preparing to start chemotherapy or the Bride that needed help with saying Thank You to her best friends. Success to me will always be a feeling and not a number.