Hitting the Spiritual Wall [Building Spiritual Self-Awareness]. Part 1

Last night, while trying to center myself enough to connect with my guide, Linc, without success, I became extremely frustrated my thoughts immediately began to spiral down the rabbit hole…

With all that I do to work toward growing and strengthening my spiritual connection – the meditation; the self awareness; the trust and belief that I can get whatever I want just by believing it already exists for me; the faith in something I cannot see or touch; the hours of visualizing; the readings I do for others; the years of overcoming; and the sheer scope of effort I have put in to take all the tragedy in my life and create something good out of it – what the fuck gives, here? When does this get easier?

When does LIFE get easier?

All I have ever wanted to do is write and reach people with my words, so why, after nearly 40 years of having this goal, am I farther away from it now than I have ever been? Why am I working two jobs (actually, four if I count my one remaining social media client and the editing I’m doing on the side) and NONE of them are full-time writing? Why am I seemingly making choices that are steering me farther away from the one thing my soul has had a lady boner for since I was in 4th grade?

Maybe I’m not supposed to be something greater or different than I am right now. Maybe I’m exactly what I’m supposed to be and letting go of wanting to be more than I am is the key to happiness? What if the idea of manifesting and connecting with Source is all just mumbo-jumbo and all this work to connect with my highest self and my guides and others is just pure bullshit?

What if this moment, right now in my life, is simply as good as it gets and all I have to do to find some peace is to accept it and stop chasing something that keeps leading me in circles?

How would it feel to just work one job with good people – even though it’s not really feeding my creative soul – and then come home to Greg each day and just enjoy his company?

Does it matter that I’m not making a ton of money or that I no longer have the freedom I used to have working for myself? Do we really need more than what we already have? Is it worth this constant, seemingly exhaustive effort to always improve myself in some way and to always keep learning and growing?

Lately, when I try to trust that the universe will bring me what I want by steering me in the right direction and placing my feet on the right path, it feels like I end up walking farther away. It’s a constant battle between my heart and head to trust that what I’m asking for will find its way to me. It’s a constant fight against complete exhaustion as I remind myself that all these extra directions I’m being pulled in are totally necessary to reach my end goal – becoming a well-known, published writer.

But how long do I wait for my guides to help me reach the end game? How long can I stretch myself before I snap into pieces? I’m constantly beating myself up for not getting enough done – not writing enough, not editing photos for clients fast enough, not editing manuscripts for clients fast enough, not getting enough done at work; not working fast enough; not living up to the expectations of others.

And while battling all that, I’m losing the part of myself that shines the brightest – the dreamer with a head full of truth and fiction; the essence of who I have always been – the writer who moves people and feeds her soul with words.

But what can I do? Something’s gotta give.

What if…

What if I just let it all that pressure go?

What if I let go of all those expectations (self-imposed and otherwise) and I just set out to just accept simplicity?

Let go of the idea that I need to create a better life and just enjoy this one.
Let go of the idea that I’m more than this and just be happy with what I am now.
Let go fo the pressure to grow spiritually and just roll with any connection that comes…or doesn’t.
Let go of the constant effort to trust and believe.
Let go of the idea that I need to be anything more than I already am.

What if I just let all that shit go and slowed everything down?

To relish each breath and heartbeat.
To immerse myself in nature.
To enjoy the feeling of Greg’s hand in mine.
To laugh with him and drink him in with the sun on our faces.
To let love flow, if I feel like it, and keep it to myself if I don’t.

What if…

Because of Cora…More on infant loss and grieving through the pain and happiness.

Infant loss. Baby girl Cora Jane LeFlufy. June 2, 2010.
June 2, 2018.
Infant loss. Baby girl Cora Jane LeFlufy. June 2, 2010.
Today would be Cora’s 8th birthday. Eight years ago today, she lit up our souls with her unexpected arrival. Eight years ago tomorrow, she plunged us into the abyss of grief and darkness with her untimely departure.
Eight years-some of them in a blink and some of them with the endless, painful ticking seconds on a clock composed of grief and despair.
Every year, these two days come and go and I power through a gauntlet of emotions-sadness, anger, loneliness, wonder, awe, gratitude-
but the journey always takes me to the same place: peace.
All that we went through-before, during, and after Cora-was a gift. Yes, you read that right. A gift.
It seems strange to think of it that way, but death (especially the death of a child) has this uncanny ability to trigger growth of our self-awareness and understanding. Grief shows us who we really are-good, bad, ugly-and, if we’re lucky enough (like I was) it shows us how to accept all aspects of ourselves and how to make changes that make us feel better about ourselves and our life’s purpose.
Because of Cora, I now understand all my shit and I know how to deal with myself.
Because of Cora, I no longer waste time on shit that doesn’t matter to me nor do I languish over anything that makes my heart hurt or causes me to question my feelings. If it makes me feel sucky, I feel through it and move the fuck on.
Because of her, I give less fucks. If something doesn’t directly affect my life or cause injustice for someone or something I believe in, I simply don’t give a fuck about it. Don’t take this the wrong way, I still give fucks, just about the things that matter most to me. I don’t care what people think/say/do about me unless it physically hurts me. I don’t care what people think/say/do about you unless it physically hurts you. But I still care about all the animals…they are one fuck I will always give. 🙂
Because of Cora, I’m both more compassionate and less tolerant (more about this in my next blog).
Because of Cora I don’t beat myself up over my mistakes and I’m faster to forgive myself and others.
Because of Cora, I’ve tapped into the power and presence of Source energy-where I can feel her and my other babies and my mom and so many others.
Because of Cora, I’m a much better human than I ever was without her (even though I am much less kind to whiners and complainers than I used to be).
How can a gal not feel grateful for that kind of gift? She was worth every second of the 30 hours we had with her.
Happy 8th Birthday, Cora Jane. 🤸🏼‍♂️👼🏼🤸🏼‍♂️

June 3, 2018

unplugging a baby from life support

Up to this point, it has been too painful to look at this pic, let alone share it.

It seems fairly boring unless you know that this is a pic of Cora’s BC Children’s caregivers unplugging her from life support. Now that I’ve told you that, it has a lot more impact, yes?

It was the first and last time I held her and she died in my arms almost immediately after they stopped her machines.
They wanted me to hold her for awhile while the machines were keeping her body alive, but I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t handle one more second of knowing she was already gone while machines kept her blood pumping and heart beating.

I brought her into the world and I was determined to hold her when she left it again.
After all, it was the least I could do for her after allowing people to poke and prod her for 24 hours.

Born healthy and thriving only one day before and braindead 30 hours later.

It’s hard to wrap my brain around, even eight years later.  Even knowing the sequence of events and the tragic mistakes that led to it, and regardless of how happy I am in my life right now, it still hurts if I think about it.

This pic is a painful reminder that love is a gift and we never know how long we have with our loved ones. It’s a reminder to love harder, laugh larger, give less fucks about the small annoyances and what others think of you (as I may have already mentioned a few times above…). None of that crap matters. Remind yourself regularly how blessed you are to have your fave people in your life (even when they annoy you so much you sometimes want to hit them upside the head with a plastic shovel…). As surreal as it sounds, they could be gone in a blink.

8 years ago today. RIP Cora Jane.

Fuck the Box! Listen to your gut.

IMG_6764

Gut instinct. So often we ignore it and do what others tell us we should be doing, molding ourselves into a box we just don’t fit inside. I say fuck the box. Get out there, listen to your gut, and breathe it all in.

So many business experts preach that, in order to be successful in running a business, you have to specialize in one area. I call bullshit!

When I was hip deep in running a photography business, every business class I took (with extremely successful photographers turned business coaches) repeated the same mantra “you must specialize to be successful”. I wasn’t nearly as successful as they were, but I wanted to be, so I ignored my gut instinct and followed their advice.

There were some glaring issues with their teachings (that I won’t even get into here because, seriously, there are too many to even touch on), but at the time I ignored my intuitive doubts in my hungry pursuit to be great.

I just wanted to be like them, so I followed their models and narrowed my focus from a wide range of photography to Wedding, Family, and Boudoir and, eventually, to just Boudoir. I trusted that if I specialized like they advised, I would find extreme success. After too many years of struggling (and still ignoring my gut instinct) to make the specialization work and being ridiculously bored and stagnant because of such a narrow focus, I couldn’t breathe anymore. I was forced to give myself a harsh reality check and completely revamp my career goals, but it was during this much-needed revamp that I had a huge epiphany.

Why should a person, like me (who has developed such a wide variety of skills in my 42 years and has such a huge amount of creative energy), have to narrow down anything in order to be successful? Why should I limit myself to only one kind of photography or, even better, to ONLY photography, just because others say that is the only way I will find success?

I finally just said fuck it to that line of thinking. It certainly wasn’t working for me and it was stifling, so I decided to toss it out and start from scratch. I took stock of all my skills and choose the ones I was both best at and enjoyed the most and allowed a business to naturally develop around them.

The way I saw it, if I wanted to be a photographer and a writer and an editor and many other things (because I was good at all of them), that’s exactly what I was going to be.

I’m just not made to fit into any kind of box.

It’s now April and I am currently still shooting (weddings, families, boudoir, commercial…whatever I fancy), writing (blogs and articles for other businesses and myself), editing (two novels), AND marketing social media for some local businesses in the Health & Wellness industry.

And guess what? I’m killing it! I’m not even remotely specialized now. In fact, I’m all over the fucking map and I have never felt so strong and confident in my work or so motivated and challenged.

  • My brain is happy with the constant stimulation;
  • I am still shooting hilarious and interesting people;
  • I am constantly increasing my knowledge of all things social media marketing (and understanding how much easier it is to market someone else’s business than my own);
  • I have learned how to build effective, kick ass websites;
  • I can read Google Analytics and Facebook/IG insights like a boss (and apply them to my marketing campaigns and Ads);
  • I am learning how to adjust my editing from the proper English of my youth to the modern English we are now immersed in (and, trust me, this is a tough but satisfying experience for me); and
  • I am earning money doing a bunch of different jobs, all of which I thoroughly enjoy.

Basically, I’m following my gut and heart and pursuing ALL of the things I love the most and I’m finally able to let my creative lungs fully expand.

So my message to all of you peeps out there–who are feeling stuffed into a box that just doesn’t quite fit–is to listen to your gut, not the so-called experts, to be able to take a fully freeing, creative breath again.

Fuck the box. Get out there and breathe it all in.

Joy Should Never Have Guilt Attached To It.

NOTE: Originally posted in January 2017

ritchie-valens-43343I’ve been mostly MIA on my blog for nearly two years, but up until a week ago, I really didn’t know how to explain my absence to anyone. I wasn’t ready…until now.

Let me backtrack a bit:

On June 3, 2010, our beloved newborn, Cora Jane, died after picking up nosocomial pneumonia in the hospital and my life was turned upside down and sideways. The road of grief was long and winding and lasted years for both my husband and me. It fundamentally changed both of us but we eventually found solace on different paths – me in roller derby, he in motorcycle adventures. We lost each other somewhere in the meleeand I never quite found my way back.

On March 14, 2014, nearly four years after losing Cora, the stress of grief and life got to me and became really sick. I died a little bit and had one hell of a wickedly, wickedly, wickedly, awesome Near Death Experience (NDE) where I hung out with my dearly departed mom for an entire day and we chatted about the meaning of life and soul contracts. I learned more about myself in that brief blip in time than I had learned in nearly 40 years.

During that experience, mama told me something that I inherently knew but didn’t want to admit to myself: I was not in love with my husband any longer and our relationship was no longer viable. When she said it, I knew it as truth.

However, when I awoke in the hospital and my husband welcomed me back with a floodgate of tears and love, I just couldn’t bring myself to accept my mom’s revelation.

I was full to the brim with love and peace. My experience had opened up my soul so completely that I couldn’t fathom not loving my husband (and everyone else in my life), so I put those thoughts to the very back of my mind and got to work on loving everything. I spent the following six or seven months living life in a bubble of pure bliss, loving everyone and everything and understanding everything about the world. I was in a state of euphoria and it was the most magical feeling, aside from being dead, that I have ever known.

Then, one day in October 2014, it all crashed down around me when I opened the front door and was blasted by a shock wave of negativity that left me sitting on the floor, panting and panicked. It was the first time in my life I had what would later be described to me as a major anxiety attack, and so began the boomerang of the NDE survivor spectrum, extreme empathy. I began sucking up all the energy around me, especially the negativity.

For months, negativity plagued me. I would feel it everywhere I went and it would just keep building up inside. Anger would “jump ship” from someone else to me as I passed them on the street. Frustration would creep up on me if someone in the vicinity was frustrated about something. Despair, antagonism, fear, worry, stress, anxiety…you name it, I absorbed it. I was a Sham Wow for any kind of crappy feeling or emotion and just kept pulling it all in with no means of wringing it out until I was nearly bursting. It was debilitating. I started staying in the house for long periods of time (sometimes up to two weeks), shutting out the world and completely at a loss as to how to stop it.

I stopped working. I stopped hanging out with my friends. I basically stopped living. I was stressed out and afraid all the time. I couldn’t sleep more than an hour or two each night and I was so moody that I would erupt like a volcano over nothing on a regular basis.

I actually thought I might be going crazy and I thought I needed meds to bring me back to sanity.

Through all of it, my husband was really understanding and took care of me —working all day and then stopping for groceries, cleaning the house, making excuses for our friends and family for my constantly skipping functions —and the entire time, I felt resentful of him. I resented him for being so nice and kind to me. I resented him for loving me so much. I resented him for being so nice when I was being such a stone cold bitch and didn’t really appreciate any effort he was putting into our relationship. Nothing he did was good enough or, well…enough, period. I couldn’t understand why he was such a huge source of my anger when he was doing everything he could to make me happy. The guilt of it was all-consuming.

I was more despondent than I have ever been in my entire life, even after Cora died, and everything became a downward spiral. I started losing friends because I couldn’t keep up relationships. I lost business because I couldn’t find the energy to shoot anymore. I alienated my husband and kept him at arm’s length at all times. I just shut down.

At the time, I didn’t understand anything that was happening to me and I didn’t know how to clear the energy out of me or block it from getting in, so I just retreated into myself and grew more miserable every day. I was stuck in a dead end and I felt like I was constantly beating my head against a wall.

One night while my husband was on a motorcycle trip to Mexico, I was laying in bed asking my soul guides for help and my mom’s voice came through loud and clear. “Jo, remember what I said? It’s time to stop pretending and get moving.”

And just like that, something clicked. During my NDE, my mom had also told me that those moments in life when we feel like we are at a dead end and are beating our head against a wall are moments when our soul guides are trying to steer our feet onto a new path and we are resisting. She said that when this happens and we continue to resist, life gets harder and harder until our vibration gets so low, nothing but pain and misery get in. Sometimes we find our way back—if we realize what we’re doing and trust our guides to help us out of it—and sometimes we don’t. Laying there, in that moment, I realized that everything I was feeling and experiencing was coming from my own resistance to the truth —I was no longer in love with my husband. I loved him, yes, but only as a friend. I had been forcing my heart, in vain, to find its way back to something that no longer existed. I had denied the truth in my heart and it had finally caught up with me and kicked my ass. My own resistance had backed me into a corner and forced me to face up to my fears or stay lost forever.

And just like that, I knew I couldn’t pretend anymore. When he called me the following day, even though I knew I was going to hurt him so much, I told him that I was leaving him.

Not only was it an awful feeling, but it was also, remarkably, a great feeling too. The moment I got the words out, I felt the weight of all of that negativity shift and begin to dissipate and I knew that I was doing what I needed to do to save my own sanity. The entire situation sucked moldy ass crackers, but for the first time in a few years, being honest with myself, and him, felt so liberating.

And, suddenly, the world came back to life for me. My vibrations started to rise and I started surfacing from the mire.

Fast forward 20 months to where I’ve gone through some hugely significant changes, all good for me.

I have moved to another city and slowly begun to establish myself here. I have learned how to control the way I take in or block other people’s energy and I no longer get bogged down with it. I also pay close attention to thoughts and feelings that come up within me and I honor and acknowledge all of them.

But up until last week, I wasn’t ready to let go of the guilt I’ve been carrying around for so long.

I couldn’t shake the guilt of not being able to love my ex the way he wanted me to and of disrupting both of our lives to follow my heart. I knew we were both better off because it is so unfair to pretend you feel something for someone that you don’t, but it was still eating me up inside.

Last week, Greg (my new guy) and I had a conversation about how I seem to keep my life with him on the down low. He also said he thought it was because I was trying really hard to be sensitive to my ex’s feelings. Even though I didn’t actually realize that I was doing that, as soon as he said it, I knew it for truth and I acknowledged and sat with it for a couple days.

I, indeed, stopped blogging about most things in my life because they have involved Greg and I was being sensitive to my ex’s feelings and didn’t want him to think I was throwing my happy moments in his face. It had been 20 months since we officially separated and I was still trying to censor my life to avoid hurting his feelings. I was, in essence, subconsciously suppressing myself because I was unsure if my ex was happy and I didn’t want to hurt him more by admitting to my own happiness.

My ex is a good man and I want him to be happy too, but his happiness isn’t my or anyone else’s responsibility. His happiness depends solely on his outlook. I have been burdening myself with too much guilt for following my heart, something that has brought me great joy and anything that causes a person joy should never have guilt attached to it.

So 
I have only just chosen to forgive myself and embrace my new life and all that it is.

I feel like I am home, in all ways, since I moved to the Okanagan. Back in a small town, living with the guy I fell in love with the moment I laid eyes on him when I was 17 (true story), and happily struggling through the ups and downs of the day-to-day.

Chugging forward with an open heart full of gratitude and newly lightened shoulders, I can’t wait to see what amazing things this year will bring for me, my life, and my relationship with my new guy.

I wish you all dragonflies and let the blogging begin again!

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-9-44-48-am

Change your thoughts now! Your 40-year-old boobs will thank you!

NOTE: Repost from 2016.

40 somethingIn a video I posted last week (which you can watch here) I spoke about how our thoughts affect our lives and I wholeheartedly believe that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life.

Today, as I stood naked in the bathroom mirror, lamenting the altered state of my 41-year old boobs, a memory popped up from childhood.

I must have been about 12 or 13, and I was sitting on the edge of my mom’s bed, chatting with her as she stood naked, applying makeup, in the big mirror above her dresser. I don’t remember the full conversation, but I remember her laying down her eyelash curler, grabbing her boobs, smiling and saying, “I may not be crazy about the way my ass looks right now, but at least I have nice boobs and a beautiful smile.” She was around 34 or 35 at the time and she did have both of those things! At that time, though, I didn’t realize how profound her words were, but years later, after hearing her say stuff like that on a regular basis, I know how blessed I was to grow up with a mom who kept it real. She didn’t always love every part of her body or all of who she was as a person, but she made damn sure she could always find something she loved about herself (and me) and always made it known.

I should probably disclose that my mama had implants. She was diagnosed with Fibrocystic disease in her early 30’s and, as mammograms weren’t popular then, the recommended treatment was to remove breast tissue and get implants. That’s exactly what she did. Not only did it alleviate her fears of developing Breast Cancer, but it also made for one fantastic set of Ta Ta’s! When she died suddenly in 1999, I joked with one of my friends that mom would have been super jacked that she’d still had a great rack, at 47, when she died. LOL. Using humor while grieving is a legit coping mechanism!

All this came to me this morning, as I stood looking at my boobs and struggling to find anything appealing about them. I, too, used to have a great rack when I was younger. However, after 41 years, an invasive breast reduction surgery that left them heavily scarred, a noticeable drop after my milk dried up after pregnancy, and well, the old boobies ain’t looking 20 anymore. They aren’t awful, but they are most definitely my least favorite part of my anatomy. For the first time in my life, I can completely understand why so many women feel the need to have their breasts done – be it with implants or lifting or whatever else.

However, I understand something else so much more: I am NEVER going to love every aspect of my body or myself, so it’s critically important that I make time to focus on those parts of myself that I do love- like my arms or my ass or my great smile!

When we spend time picking ourselves apart, it eats away at our souls – it kills our confidence, depresses us, make us feel ugly and undesirable, causes us to compare ourselves to others because we don’t feel comfortable in our skins. I was BLESSED to have a kick-ass mom who ALWAYS found something to love about herself and her body (even on days when she wasn’t crazy about the whole package), but, even with her positive influence, I still struggle with self-love sometimes.

This is why I dig shooting Boudoir so much; it gives me a great opportunity to teach someone else how to start focusing on the parts of herself that are radtastical. It’s so easy to show a woman what a superbabe she is when she’s standing naked before me and I’m truthfully expressing admiration for her beautiful legs or her to-die-for hair or her smooth skin or her killer ass or, well, you get the picture…pun intended!

Growing up with a mom who could see all sides of herself taught me that it’s important to check your thoughts when you’re, for example, standing naked in front of the mirror, wishing your boobs were perkier and prettier. It’s important to learn how to smack yourself upside the head as soon as you start to fall into that rabbit hole of negativity. It’s important to develop the presence of mind to regularly tell yourself to snap the fuck out of it and take a closer look at the superbabe who stands before you. Maybe you have pretty, toned arms or a beautiful curve in your waist or a perky ass. Perhaps you have naturally white teeth or gorgeous hazel eyes with a wicked pattern of greens and golds in them. Whatever you have, it sure as shit is more than the not-so-perky boobs you’re focusing on and whining about. 🙂

Changing our negative thoughts about ourselves, both inwardly and outwardly, is a tough habit to break, but the effort is so worth it. If you aren’t happy with something about yourself, it’s up to you to either find a way to change it or, if you can’t change it, to find a way to accept it and focus on the things that do make you happy.

But how, Jo? How do I change my thoughts???

Start by taking one minute out of your day, every day, to talk yourself up. If you can’t find one thing every day that you love about yourself, I believe you are simply not trying hard enough. Finding ONE thing to appreciate about yourself every day is easy peasy- maybe it’s the shape of your toes, your ability to get shit done, being kind to people, how awesomely loud your farts are…whatevs.

If you have to put a sticky note on the mirror to remind you to look for the good stuff, then do it. If you have to ask your friends or significant other to smack you every time you say something negative about yourself, then do it (I’m sure they would be happy to do this for you…haha). Whatever you do, find a way to recognize and brag to yourself about the parts that you like or admire.

I may not be over the top about my boobs today, but I’m pretty in love with my lips, my muscular legs and arms, my ability to look for humor in any situation, my knack for not giving a fuck about things that aren’t vitally important, and my innate ability to see when I’m being a douche to myself (and others) and snap myself out of it. That’s a lot of good stuff to make me happy.

Change your thoughts, change your life.

Get on it.

Oh, and speaking of 40 something superbabes…
superbabe

Celebrate the Journey: Learning to Love Your Body!

NOTE: Repost from 2016untitled-29

How often in our lives – especially in this age of being constantly bombarded by fake, photoshopped BS ads in the media – do girls or women look in the mirror and say, “Damn, girl! You got it going on!”? Do you know how to love your body and yourself in general?

When is the last time you looked in the mirror and just accepted yourself for who you are – even if you are on a physical or mental journey to improve yourself and learn and grow?

It’s a tough question for a lot of us women because we tend to concentrate on the negative aspects of our personalities or the flaws we see in our bodies. Many of us don’t know how to accept where we are at this moment in our journey through life (even when we’re working hard to improve aspects of ourselves) and instead of going with the present flow, we concentrate on the future, not the here and now.

And it’s so easy to do – ignore who we are right now because we’re so focused on who we want to be later (after we do the work to improve ourselves). I grew up with a beautiful and ridiculously outspoken mom who constantly told me to love and accept myself for who I am – even when I didn’t like who I was at the moment – and I STILL fall down that steep slope of comparing myself to others. It’s so easy to conveniently forget that to learn and grow ourselves (and our souls), we MUST learn to love the process, the entire process, including the downright shitty parts.

We conveniently forget that we are all different and multi-layered for a reason. We forget to celebrate the beauty that shines from our unique characteristics that develop as we learn and grow through life. We forget to celebrate all that we are and all that we will become while we focus on the end game instead of the journey.

Accepting where you are right now is as simple as waking up in the morning and telling yourself that you probably won’t do or say all the right things and you may not look exactly how you want to look or behave in the best possible manner, but no matter what comes with the day, you love and accept yourself and where you’re at in your journey.

I declare that from this point onward, I will help all the women I already know, and all those I will meet, learn how to celebrate their journeys through this life. Of course, I would love to do this by using my camera to capture all that you are at this moment, but I promise to do it any way I can, camera or not.

Don’t you think it’s time that you learn how to celebrate your journey?