Freedom

“Clipped wings I was a broken thing, had a voice, had a voice, but I could not sing, you would wind me down, I struggled on the ground, oh.

So lost, the line had been crossed, had a voice, had a voice, but I could not talk. You held me down, I struggle to fly now.” These are the lyrics from Sia’s song “Bird Set Free”. Those words describe a point in my journey I never want to revisit. Who was keeping me down? The answer is me. There is no one who has been harder on me, than me. Too often, I tell myself I do not deserve better and I don’t allow myself to move towards what is best for me.

When I was going through coaching school, and I was being coached by other coaches in training, I was asked what I wanted. It took me trying on several other words to name what I wanted. I did not arrive there immediately. After being asked several times, the word that surfaced was “freedom”. I wanted to be free. I wanted to write, and say, and paint what I wished, freely. In those days, I spent a lot of time being what others wanted me to be. As I start my business again, I am doing it with a greater level of freedom. In order to help others that are stuck, I have to continue to set myself free to be the creative force that I feel I was meant to be.

Here are some habits I have been developing:

1. Simplicity. Over the last 10 years I have downsized, getting rid of about 80% of the stuff that took up my space and ate away at my time. This gave me more freedom.

2.Worked in jobs that light me up. I have always worked with kids. They are a known source of inspiration in my life. This has also allowed me to use my creativity at work. We spend most of our lives at work. Work should be living.

3.Engaged in proactive self-care. I summarized some of what I learned from the research on the topics of happiness, resilience, longevity, and flow in my book Promising Connections and Creative Discoveries. Play and creativity are often overlooked when we think of wellness, but that is a mistake. It is also important to have the right connections to succeed. Here are promising connections that are validated by research that can not only make you feel better, but also help you be better. How are you doing in these areas?

Connected with your loved ones in a meaningful way

Felt like what your are doing has purpose

Learned from an experience

Stayed hopeful when faced with an obstacle

Practiced mindful care of your body

Wrote in a journal

Accepted and anticipated change

Worked towards a goal

Practiced flexibility

Expressed gratitude

Moved naturally

Made time to do something fun that had no particular purpose

Did a random act of kindness

Noticed the extraordinary beauty in nature or in your surroundings

Appreciated something uniquely beautiful about yourself

Created something new

Became immersed in an activity

Lived fully in your moments and enjoyed the immediate experiences

Expressed and accepted love

Followed your bliss

Moving forward, I am going to write on each one of these and how you start to create habits. These all hold great power to make your life happier, healthier, and fuller. As a coach, I can help you make a plan and hold you accountable to work the plan that will make your life better not just on a dream board but through intentional mindful actions. I am an action oriented coach. I want people to live their best lives and I love partnering with people to help them realize their goals. Warning: I don’t work with people that want to whine, but are ready to win. You don’t need a coach for whining. Call a friend for that.

We all want to be healthier, more at peace, and more productive.

Are you stuck? What do you want? What do you really want? Are you like me? Do you want freedom? What does freedom mean to you? Are you willing to experience some discomfort, some moments of imperfection, failure even, in order to reach for greater freedom? Freedom comes at a cost.

“I don’t care if I sing off key, I find myself in my melodies. I sing for you, I sing for me. I shout out like a bird set free.” Bird Set Free lyrics by Sia.

As we approach the Fourth of July and meditate on freedom, I hope you will consider taking steps towards your own personal freedom.

If you want to schedule an initial session with me for $50 there is still time to do that until August. After that I will return to my normal rate of $125 per session. Contact me at promisingconnections@gmail.com to set up an appointment.

Take Care,

Tracy May

Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday, I did something way out of my comfort zone. I was made aware that there was a need for a DJ and announcer for the Rally for Your Rights making a stand for reproductive rights at our State House. I was in bed, just waking up, and checking my phone, when I saw it. I had planned on going. My daughter went to a similar event in Minnesota. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of it holding a sign in the crowd, blending in. I was suddenly motivated about just doing an act of service for my daughter. So in a moment, I messaged the organizer that I would do it, if no one else would. Apparently, no one else would.

It was about a week out. I managed to find a couple of friends to go with me. It was also a fairly new experience for them. I tried to get a better sound system than the small one the organizer purchased but was unsuccessful. I made a song list, collaborating with some music loving activist friends. I made a sign that copied my daughter’s sign that she had in Minnesota. It said “Mind Your Own Uterus”.

We left early yesterday morning and showed up on time, parked, and helped set up. I got some final information from people that would be speaking. I would be introducing a Representative, a couple of women who had abortions. One had been raped and one had an unwanted pregnancy when she was a young woman. One woman would have lost her child were it not for the life saving medical care of Planned Parenthood. There was an OBGYN who shared how being a doctor is not all happiness. There are times when the doctor has to share bad news. These conversations are emotional and difficult. One man pulled up a chair, held up a cross and just watched me as I prepared. As a I opened up, a larger mob of anti-abortionist with giant gross signs with fetuses arrived. They were quiet but their signs were ….well it was a message.

I thanked everyone for coming and also the folks back there that disagreed before hearing anyone. I could feel myself physically shaking. Addressing the dissenters, I told them I had once been an evangelical Christian and that I had once shared their view. I explained how I felt that empathy was a Christian value and I hoped they would at least listen why we believed women should be able to get reproductive care freely and safely.

I announced Tiffany as our first speaker. She had a story of being date raped. It was heart wrenching. This is when we were blasted by a loud evangelical man. He was bloviating his heretical hate vomit drowning out Tiffany as she spoke since he was prepared with a louder speaker system. He did that throughout the event. I felt helpless to protect these women. They were so brave to share their stories in the midst of hate and shame speech. I was doing all I could with others at the rally. We were standing in solidarity and peacefully resisting. “Control is not Love!” This was the most poignant chant of the day, in my opinion.

I introduced each speaker, I played music, I danced. I danced in my discomfort with others who were also there, outside of there comfort zone. Some had a close personal experience and others just did not want our daughters, and students, and future women of the world to lose ground in the rights, the dignity, the safety, and respect for their own bodies that was won by women before us. I am sure the women who fought for these rights before felt like I did. Uncomfortable.

I do not hate you if you disagree with my position on this issue. We are not all going to agree. I hope that if you are on the other side, you learned something that might inform your level of empathy. Writing this blog today is another step in being real, vulnerable, and authentic. Sharing about myself is something I do to help others and it is not comfortable in the least. Some people are mean when you are authentic.

My job as a life coach is to help people take brave steps. Taking brave steps requires getting uncomfortable for what you believe in. Growth is uncomfortable. It is easier to do things you are already competent at and where you know exactly what to expect. The unknown is stressful. Possible failure is stressful. What are you willing to get uncomfortable for? Your health? Better relationships? Your career? Do you need to speak your truth about something? Do you need to learn a new skill? Do you need to try something new and adventurous? Do you need to ask for help? Do you need to try make new friends? I was uncomfortable yesterday, but I came home feeling I lived my life with intention. I expressed love to humanity. I was living my core values. I believe that the stuff we will find worth talking about in this life will happen outside of our comfort zone.

Through the end of August only, I will be doing private $125 Discovery Sessions for men, women, or couples that I have previously charged $250 when I was coaching in Minnesota. Would you like to schedule some time with me to privately discuss your stories and create a plan for you to take some brave steps into a more empowered life? I would love to be your coach. You can e-mail me at promisingconnections@gmail.com. I will return your message in order to schedule an appointment.

Take care and do something brave today!

Caregivers

You are the only child and you have just learned your dad is dying and you need to come home. You get a few sacred moments to talk to him on the phone. You love his voice. He tells you he had some delicious chocolate pudding. That was him, always trying to be positive and happy even as he was dying. In one of the conversations you facilitate a conversation with your step daughter. He tells her,”love your mother”. He also tells you to take care of your mom. You hear your marching orders and make a promise. You live in Saint Paul and your hometown is in Indiana. You are not prepared. You didn’t even have money for a plane ticket. Your cousins rally to get you there in your dazed and confused state. You, your, mom and your aunt visit with a few friends. You watch your dad’s blood pressure drop. You, your mom, and your aunt gather to hear your dad’s last breath. You hold each other. You hold your mom and physically shake in sobs that cannot be expressed here in words. You are here.

This is where my journey began as I transitioned into my new life. A role that I chose. A role that I would not change. It was a role I should have been more prepared for more than most, and I suppose my prior knowledge was helpful. Just a couple years before this I created and presented a workshop to support caregivers. I was a life coach and consultant. I originally supported young adults with disabilities but my attention turned to their caregivers, who also needed the help that the research behind my work could give. My research was concentrated on happiness, resilience, longevity, and flow. The parents of my clients were losing sleep, stressed out, not taking care of their physical bodies, and not addressing their own health issues because they were focused on caregiving. They were angels to their adult children. I remember one couple telling me they had decided as a result of the workshop to take a vacation for themselves for the first time in over a decade. I had no idea how hard it is to say yes to self-care as a caregiver until now. I really had no idea. I thought I did.

So how did the expert handle it? Well, I sort of sucked at it, but I have made some major shifts in the last 6 months. I took a job in my small town as a special education teacher. It was a high stress, somewhat thankless, and toxic job. I did that for two years. I worked all day every day. I even got a certificate for perfect attendance. Because the nature of my work required confidentiality and many potential friends in my town were more curious about any gossip they could get out of me than friendship, I chose to go to the bar, hang out with some farmers, windmill guys, truck drivers, landfill workers, and retail managers that were interested in simple things. Drinking, talking about nothing of great importance, and calling it a night. I loved these guys and gals. They were my community. Unfortunately, my one or two whiskey drinks a night turned into 3-5 a night. On the weekends, there was more time to kill, and I did not want to be fully conscious in my new life. I lost a lot all at once. The void was filled with drinking. It is embarrassing to say this, but I feel it is important to be vulnerable and say what is true. I made some unhealthy choices.

The home I left was pretty amazing. I lived in a very nice artist loft in downtown Saint Paul. It was a spacious, high ceiling, apartment with new appliances, modern design, and concrete floors so I could paint freely. We had a rooftop patio to gather. As an artist, to lived among artists, in the West Seventh neighborhood, Little Bohemia, I was in somewhat of a personal paradise. I had all of my friends that I made in the Twin Cities since I had moved myself there 28 years prior, I was surrounded by art, progressives, working class people, immigrants, politicians, the lakes and most of all the woods. Oh how I miss the Minnesota woods. In Minnesota I took African dance, salsa, was part of a country line dancing team, and could take dance format classes at the Y just about whenever I wanted. There were art museums, history museums, and science museums. There was amazing architecture. Minneapolis had the modern architecture. Saint Paul had the old. Minnesota offered me so much of what helped me feel my best. All of these things were so missed, but above all, and what kills me the most now, is my stepdaughter is there. We started having a better relationship when dad died, and now I am not there. I miss all of her stuff and feel somewhat trapped between the two remaining most important loves of my life, my mom and my daughter.

This state I am in, is very common. This demographic is called the “sandwich generation”. We are taking care of parents while being parents. This is just one demographic of caregivers.

For me these are the powerful steps I have taken over the last 6 months:

I moved into my own apartment, in a more progressive city, with more of my kind of people, although it was barely affordable with my teaching pay and I felt guilty for leaving my mom .

I fortunately, do not drink as much. As I got happier, it is not a focus anymore. Some people would need professional help to recover. I am grateful that I could take it or leave it in my new environment.

I became an OULA instructor– which is a dance format exercise program and taught for a while. This helped me find more of my people and get my body back to functional. The food in Indiana is delicious and I had been eating more and exercising less. I am trying to get back to eating mindfully and including more super foods.

I maintained a membership at my Y. I have started lifting weights and taking Zumba again.

I became an art teacher for a year. The pay was not good. The commute was long. The benefit was that I had a break from some of the greater stresses involved in special education and I got to focus on art and continue to work with children, my passions. I am now looking for a job where I can serve and use my talents, but also be more financially empowered to take care of my loved ones. I am also starting up my coaching business again because it my personal calling to help people through coaching and art. I feel it is time to make myself available again.

I have a lot of information and tools to help caregivers but for me, going through this personally, the most powerful step for me was to take control of changing my environment to the extent I could. We all need “sanctuary” from life. I needed a home of my own, where I could just be. I spend hours every day just day dreaming n my little peaceful apartment, at times, that if I were in my hometown, I would have needed a drink. I also need a place to work that is healthy. I need to work in a place where I am fulfilled and my financial needs are reasonably met by that work. Most of life is not a beach. Life is mostly work and home. If we can create good environments in both, life feels more in balance. My work is a life coach is to help clients find a plan they are willing to work at and hold them accountable to work that plan. For caregivers, there is often a need to have someone to remind them that self-care is not selfish. We take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.

Above is a painting of an elephant honoring their ancestors with their young at their side. I painted this the summer after dad passed. Elephants often return the to bones of their ancestors, pick them up and seem to peacefully remember their lost relatives. I lost my dad, I get to be here for my mom, I am doing my very best for my daughter. I deserve space to heal myself. If you are a caregiver, you deserve that, too. Take Care.

You can find more about this CDC recognized health crisis for caregivers at this link, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/index.htm

If you want to set up an initial coaching session to see you can find sanctuary in the midst of caregiving, you can reach me at 651-331-1421.

Coming Out of the Valley

Dear former clients, old friends, acquaintances, and new friends, and loved ones near and far,

I am starting up my coaching business again. I started my former business with blogging. Writing at least helps me. If I am lucky maybe it will help some of you as well.

Today’s talk is about play and creativity. When under stress, play and creativity takes as much energy as fight, flight, or in some cases, freeze responses. Wouldn’t you rather use play and creativity to help through stress? Doesn’t it sound more fun?

I have been in a metaphorical valley. Dahlias and Fireflies is a painting I did in another valley of my life. Dahlias are flowers the grow in valleys and fireflies represent hope and inspiration. This last valley was pretty deep and lonely. My dad died about 3 years ago this coming August. I came home in time to be with him at his last breaths. In that first week, I planned his funeral. In the weeks that followed, I decided I needed to stay in Indiana to be with my mom. I got a new job as a special education teacher in my hometown. Due to problems before my dad died, and issues after my dad’s death, I broke up with my boyfriend. Some people were mad about the break up not knowing what my reasons were. I disconnected with some people for a while because of that. I had to leave my dog in Minnesota for several weeks. I went back to Minnesota and made a stressful move taking about a third of my possessions that remained after already pairing down my possessions as a minimalist. Good news,though, I got all of my paintings. Thanks Kelly! Also, thanks to the three dear friends that helped move all of those paintings to my new apartment I live in now. They were light to move but required many trips. I have nice people in my life. I digress.

By January of that first year, I decided I did not have the emotional energy to be a coach and closed my business. In short, I have started all over. It was traumatic. I made some bad choices to cope, and I might discuss those in a future blog, but there were some good choices, too. I made some new friends that could make me laugh real hard. As I worked with children, the children constantly reminded me to access creativity and play. I learned early in my career as a teacher that play and creativity was a great way to get children unstuck. They have problems, too. Divorce, poverty, abuse, sickness, and death unfortunately does not spare children. I tell people that when dad died it was like being hit in the face and still seeing stars three years later. There were some sacred moments of art and play with children that were like a walk in the Minnesota woods I love, with butterflies, egrets, dragonflies, fawns, frogs, and foxes. Those moments smelled like lilacs. Those moments felt like the softest blanket and a breeze through the trees after a rain. Those moments sounded like children’s laughter and their inquisitive questions– my favorite sounds. I am grateful for those gifts. In my time of need, the children I worked with and my new friends were my dahlias and fireflies.

Have you been through a valley recently? Who were your dahlia’s and fireflies?