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!

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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…
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Mexico 2015: More life lessons and impending liver failure.

I love Tequila.

Out of all the boozes out there, Big T is the only one that doesn’t make me too drunk to speak or draped over the toilet the following day rueing its existence (except for that one time in Mexico a couple years ago when I may have bet Shannon that I could “drink all the Mexicans under the table” – the glass table that I was dancing on. Admittedly, that did NOT end well.).

I also love sunshine.

Given the choice between sunshine and warmth or snow and cold, it’s a no brainer for me – even though I love skiing and winter sports.

Put the two of them together and Tequila and Sunshine = Jo’s Happy Place.

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See how happy I am!! It could be a combo of the sunshine, Tequila and a husband who is hilarious, but I’ll take it.

I have only just returned from my happy place (this time it was the Crown Paradise Golden in Puerto Vallarta) and I’m already lamenting the snow and cold, dreaming of warmer times and a good, clean all-day buzz. Some may think that being buzzed all day is unproductive and lackadaisical, but I beg to differ. I get a lot of smiling, dancing, laughing and body healing accomplished by being buzzed all day. I am a great problem solver while buzzed (hmmm…I can’t seem to fit this entire drink in my big cup, so what will I do with the left over? I know, I will drink them both!); I can handle more stimuli; I can think of clever retorts quickly and easily; and I can learn other languages without struggling.

During this trip I learned so many new spanish phrases, for example:

1. If I’ve had enough of silver vendors harassing me to buy from them, I simply say, “No more silver, please!” or “No más plata, por favor!” When the vendors come by for the third or fourth time and just keep asking me, I change it to, “No more silver, for fuck’s sake!” or “No más plata, para joder amor!”. That seemed to really help.

2. If I am shopping and I want to know how much something is, I ask, “Cuánto Cuesta?” And, when they give me an astronomically high price, I say, “Es muy caro!!!!!” or “That’s too expensive.” I just keep saying that until I get the price I’m willing to pay or I walk away and do the same with the next vendor. If it’s really ridiculous (like the dude at the resort who tried to tell me a silver ring that looked almost exactly like the silver ring Greg bought me in the Mayan two years ago -for a mere 300 pesos-was worth $250 USD), I say, “Debes pensar que estoy loco.” or “You must think I’m crazy.” That, too, seemed to make people laugh and drop their prices by a couple hundred bucks. That or make the universal “She’s crazy” signal by making a circular motion with their index finger pointed at their head. Bahahaah…

3. This was my fave expression of the entire trip and is our version of What The Fuck? “Que Mierda?” or the more vulgar version of “Chinga tu madre”, which literally translates to “Fuck your mother.” I’m not sure why this made me laugh so hard, but I sure know it well after a week of saying it a lot.

We hit Mexico around every two years and every time I go, I learn new words, new customs and make new friends. I met a fantastic couple named Beth and Ken from Wisconsin. I picked up on Beth’s energy from across the pool and realized she was sitting near my posse. When I got closer, I saw she was wearing a dragonfly on her necklace and the floodgates of intuition opened up for me. Maybe it was because I was drunk, but maybe it was also just meant to be. Once I started talking to Beth, I couldn’t stop the flow and I loved her and her hubs instantly. What a life they have led! So much adversity and they’ve come through it beautifully. I will keep in touch with them forever.  People laugh at me and my fetish for everything dragonfly all the time, but I’m pretty sure the dragonfly is my spirit animal…spirit bug, maybe? Whatever it is, the littel critters connect me in all sorts of ways to all sorts of people and I am grateful for them and all the connections they make for me. Here’s a sweet pic of me, Beth and Ken. Love them!

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While we usually stick to the Mayan area, where there are less tourists and it’s a bit quieter, this time we chose to go to the bustling hub of Puerto Vallarta. Probably not the best idea for a gal who is an empath and absorbs everything from everyone.

Life Lesson #4235: Jo LeFlufy does not do well with any kind of bustling hub. This includes large resorts packed full of people, beaches with a bazillion vendors trying to sell me something every two minutes, or crowded downtown areas with crazy drivers, loud music and people moving in all directions at once. To put it lightly, I was overfuckingwelmed and, despite the perfect combo of sunshine and Tequila, I was feeling stretched a bit thin by around Day 5 and I hid in our room and slept for a few hours with earplugs in, trying to ground myself again. I also escaped from everyone after dinner that night and hung out at the beach, by myself, just listening to the sound of the waves…and the couple banging on a palapa under a palm tree behind me. Ah, yes, the beautiful sound of the ocean and drunken carnal desire!

All in all, though, this trip, aside from the overwhelming number of peeps, was super fly fun.

I hung out on the beach with my friends and got a sweet henna tattoo on my arm to cover up a huge derby bruise!

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I watched a Disney show at the nightclub at our resort and sang ALL THE SONGS!

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I soaked up all the sun, wore a sweet fedora all week, and drank all the Tequila I could handle!

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My hubs caught a big, pretty fish (Mahi Mahi) that smelled really awful but tasted delicious!

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I bought two pairs of sweet, hand made shoes from a dude named Hugo. All of us bought them and we chose our own colours and patterns. He was really fast and skilled at making all sorts of patterns and easy to chat with because he spoke English really well. The shoes are ridiculously comfy and I can’t wait for summer here so I can wear them all the time! Here’s a pic of each kind he made me!

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We also ordered “Sexy Coffee” every night. I’m not sure why it was sexy, but the fact that they lit the booze on fire and did really cool things with it was pretty entertaining. It was also delicious.

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That was not the best pic, but I was drunk and my hands were not steady. Pfffft.

We headed downtown one night to grab some authentic tacos from the street vendors and it was so much fun. I ordered Marlin Tacos for about $2.50 each and they were SO DAMN GOOD that I kind of wanted to eat 15 of them instead of only two. So spicy and tasty – like spicy fish bacon. I am in love with Marlin tacos and, despite the number of people in PV, I would go back just to eat at that guy’s taco stand again. Nom nom nom.

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Part of the “fun” of this night, was dropping my wallet in the cab that brought us downtown. When I looked in my bag to grab my wallet and pay for our tacos, my wallet was not in it, even though I had pulled it out to pay the cab driver. ER MER GERRRRRRRRRD. I had a momentary panic attack until Greg (aka The Smartest Husband On The Planet) pulled out his camera and showed me this:

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Yes! That’s me, in cab #161. It took a couple hours of me phoning our hotel and them tracking down our cab driver, but I eventually recovered said wallet…a few hundred pesos short, but whatever. The first couple of times I phoned, I was told that they couldn’t find the wallet. However, when I explained that we had a photo of the cab and the driver and the cab number time stamped for when I lost my wallet, the tune changed and it found it’s way back to me. It’s a miracle! Maybe the cabby thought he needed to help himself to a Finder’s Fee? Whatever the case, I was just happy to get it back with all my ID and cards. Of course, I had to call and cancel all of my cards that night because, these days, all it takes is snapping a pic of the number and the CCV on the back and boom, there goes my identity. All is good now. I have new cards, still have my licence and learned a really valuable lesson about travelling – leave your cards in the safe in your room. DUH!

The highlights of this trip were finding Pomegranate Tequila (that shit is the BEST) in the market and unplugging for an entire week. I thought I would suffer from Technology Withdrawal, but it was the opposite for me. I relaxed more than I have in years and my brain slowed down so much that I had to regularly poke it to make sure it was still working. It was amazing – so much so that I came back and plugged back in only to find myself tense, stressed and annoyed about being tied to technology. This makes me wonder if perhaps it’s time to start farming out even more of my business to others so I can just shoot, hand over the pics to my people and walk away. Something I definitely need to think on some more.

Mexico, in a nutshell, is pretty rad for forcing a gal to relax, teaching some fairly good life lessons and, of course, making impending liver failure a good possibility. You should consider going. Your stress level will plummet drastically and your liver will thank you for the workout.

As always, One Love, peeps. One Love.

Resolutions lead to disappointment. I’ll just keep being human instead.

It’s 11:34 p.m. and, of course, my brain refuses to shut down for the evening. In celebration of my cerebral dance party, I’ve decided that pretty much everyone who is awake right now most likely wants to read my thoughts (not, like, telepathically…here, on my blog. Sheesh.).

This time of year everyone is posting their New Year’s Resolutions – lose weight, exercise more, be kinder, be more loving, clean up the dog poop in the yard every day instead of every two weeks (What? That is actually a legit and doable resolution.), etc.. I have never been crazy about resolutions. In fact, I’ve never been crazy about setting any kind of goals because, honestly, I’m not a goal reacher kind of girl.

I’m more of a “Hey! I have two days to get this wedding edited and I haven’t started yet, so I had better get at ‘er” kind of girl. (Disclaimer: If you are one of my clients, that statement was purely for comic relief. I always start my edits at least five days before the final product is due…#kiddingnotkidding…or am I? You’ll never know.) The truth is that, as I age, I realize more and more about myself and one of the biggest things I have learned in the past few years is that I don’t do well with goals, but if someone challenges me by telling me I can’t accomplish something or dares me to do something, I will complete said task every dang time (Dude, I’m a SCORPIO. ‘Nuf said).

Deadlines? I can rock those because they are necessary, but goals and resolutions? Pffffft. Goals are for people who don’t understand how defeated we can be by our own expectations. You’re better off to just say, “Yah, maybe someday I’ll do that.” Expectations lead to disappointment when they aren’t met, so if you don’t allow yourself to have expectations, you seldom end up disappointed. Plain and simple logic.

Hence, my refusal to make a list of Resolutions at the beginning of a new year…or, well, ever.

So, go ahead, you neurotic goal chasers! Pull out your List Pads right now and detail new goals and resolutions under the heading “How NOT to end up like Jo LeFlufy”. I’m okay with that and, snicker if you must, but I’ll be the gal drinking a beer and enjoying it (because I surprised myself by accomplishing things I didn’t know I would accomplish today) while you cry in yours (and stuff your face full of french fries because your resolution to eat more healthfully and hit the gym every day come January 1st only lasted six hours and you just yelled at the old bitty who cut you off after you vowed to give up your road rage tendencies). (p.s. You’re totally welcome for that last, run-on, sentence, which was the BEST I’ve ever written. I didn’t even know I would write such a great run-on sentence today, so to celebrate my feat, I’ll probably kick back and enjoy some french fries with my beer.) Cheers, mate!

My suggestion (because you’re totally asking for my advice, right!): Be human. Enjoy the moments. Forgive yourself when you don’t accomplish herculean tasks every day and celebrate the things you do get through. Keep moving forward and learn to let go of your expectations. You will never be disappointed by anyone or anything if you don’t expect anything from them.

Oh, and remember that we are all connected and we are all love. One love, people. One Love!

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Forgiveness. What the f$@k does that even mean?

I am on a spiritual journey. Cliché, I know, but true nonetheless.

Part of this experience has been a seemingly endless uphill climb toward learning to live from a place of love and remembering that my actions and words affect more than just the person immediately receiving them because we are all connected through energy.

When you become aware of the oneness of the universe and you start to literally feel (not just figuratively feel) that connection to all things, like-minded people somehow find their way to you. And when they do, common themes keep popping up and challenging the way you think, act and interpret the world around you.

I’m now very aware. I now have so many connections with other spiritual people that I feel as though I have a whole new section to my family. I am now being challenged, more so than ever before, to think about my effect on the rest of the soul pool.

But there are days – OH! There are DAYS!!!!- when I question the meaning of things I hear all the time because I really have no fucking idea what they mean.

Days where I discuss being hurt by someone whom I believed to be a friend and my spiritual friends say, “Just forgive her and let it go.” Or days when I see somewhere that a guy beat his puppy to death because it wouldn’t stop barking and my spiritual friends say, “It’s his lesson to learn, not yours. Forgive him and let it go.” Or days when the odd client slips through my usually keen sense of “this is a gooder” radar and turns into someone fighting a huge battle against the world and probably herself and she goes out of her way to make me feel like a shitty photographer because she’s not happy with herself. And, once again, my spiritual friends (which make up most of my close friend pool these days) say, “Forgive her and let it go.”.

Have you ever tried to forgive someone and let it go? How do you go about it? Do you just say to yourself, “Hey self! That person has not been very nice to you and has done some nasty things and really hurt your feelings, but it’s all okay. Today, you choose to just forgive them for doing such shitty things to you and let go of all the hurt and unhappiness that they have caused you.”? Does this work for you? Because I have tried this technique many times and the next time I see that particular person, I immediately feel shitty, remember all the hurt they have caused and also immediately wish that someone causes them the pain that they caused me. Then I immediately check myself and remember that I have already supposedly forgiven them and let it go. And then I beat myself up a bit for not truly forgiving them or letting anything go. Clearly, this technique doesn’t work for me. If I never see the person again, it might, but what if that person is in my life on a regular basis?

I’ve tried other techniques too. Contacting the person to let them know I forgive them for whatever I feel they’ve done and also letting them know I’m forgiving myself for any part I had in it. Nope. Doesn’t work. I still feel instant angst when I see them or hear their name in conversation.

I’ve tried blogging about how I’m forgiving them and hoping that since I launched it to the universe, I can let it go and get over it. Nope. No dice, homies.

I’ve poured out all my anger and frustration and nasty scum hatred feelings to my counsellor or my girlfriends and hoped that it will be enough to get it out of my system and move on. Nu-uh.

Basically, up until the last couple days, I had no friggin’ idea what forgiveness actually was. Nor did I understand how NOT to hold a grudge (even though I foolishly tell myself that I’m not holding them). When people hurt me-whether it’s intentional or not-forgiving them for the pain they cause is not as easy as just saying, “Abracadabra! I forgive you for being a Grade A Asshole and I’m letting it all go.” and shrugging it off. Once you let the pain in, it takes work and a shit ton of effort to actually get rid of it. And, if you’re not on top of it, ALL THE TIME, it seeps back in and infects you time and again.

Today, I had an epiphany and I, not a word of a lie, hit my knees at the beach in a completely stunned moment of pure awareness. I stayed there on my knees for a full five minutes, with my eyes closed, grasping the full meaning of what forgiveness truly is.

Forgiveness can never be given if it’s accompanied by fear and fear is what wounds us the most, not other people’s actions or words.

For example, if someone says or does something to me that I interpret as nasty or painful or hurtful, I can guarantee that the pain stems from fear. If I think this person’s words or actions will make others think less of me or think that I am someone who I am not, I am coming from a place of fear. Our ego always wants everyone to know that we are awesome and how hard we work at being awesome. It foolishly tells us that one person, out of the hundreds we have contact with, will ruin us with their words and actions, so we go into overdrive-defending ourselves to anyone who will listen and trying to prove that we are not who this other person says we are. Even when we are extremely on top of this part of ourselves and we recognize it easily, the ego can still take over and mess up our heads.

If, on the other hand, the same situation happens and, instead of reacting with fear, I simply choose to react with love, the pain never enters me in the first place. It can be something as simple as telling myself that sometimes, no matter what I do or say or how kind I try to be to others, it just won’t be enough for some people. And, you know what, that’s okay.

That was just one example of the effect that fear can have on us. Fear comes in many shapes and sizes and it causes a whole host of negative emotions and actions – hatred, anger, revenge, phobias, frustrations, etc..

The thing about forgiveness is that you are never really forgiving others, you are actually forgiving yourself for letting fear get the best of you. If your shittastic ego gets the better of you and catapults you into a place of fear, the mere act of recognizing is forgiveness enough. In the above situation, if I recognize my fear and tell myself that I’m afraid of how others will see me or what they’ll think of me, just admitting my fear dissolves it and helps me remember that what other people think of me is none of my business.

If there’s no fear, there’s nothing to forgive.

[Let me digress here for a moment and talk about forgiveness of heinous acts such as rape, murder, abuse and other appalling acts of violence. I can’t even begin to understand the fear that these types of trauma would cause, nor can I say that it would easy in any of these situations to recognize the fear and learn to forgive by recognizing it, but I do believe it’s possible, with time, to come to terms with any kind of brutal act of violence or loss. I believe that we choose our path before we come to live our human existence and some of us choose to go through awful shit in order to learn the strongest lessons our souls can handle and to teach compassion to others and ourselves. So, most of the forgiveness I’m writing about here is small beans in comparison to, for example, forgiving the guy who stabbed your mother to death in a home invasion or recognizing and conquering the fear that lingers from being brutally raped.]

While I’ve been writing this, words have appeared before me, as they often do:

“She is who she is, but I don’t have to like who she is or keep her in my life.”

Basically, let people be themselves. Let them fumble along their own path, in search of the lessons they are meant to be learning and they are most likely struggling with their own fear. However, if people make you feel shitty about yourself or as though you are incomplete and always striving to meet their expectations or that you are never good enough, loved enough, cool enough, liked enough, wanted enough, etc., get away from them. Do everything you can to distance yourself from them. Do everything you can to ensure your paths don’t cross often. If that means giving up time with people you really enjoy, so be it. Those people will find a way to you if they are meant to still be in your life. If you can’t avoid the people who drag you down, guard yourself against them when you are near them by reminding yourself that they are struggling with their own journeys and they aren’t as aware as you of how their behaviour can affect others. Remind yourself that love, not fear, directed at them, may not have an immediate result and may feel like a useless effort, but every little bit they get from you will help them figure out how to come from the same place (or closer to it) someday in the future. And, if all else fails, you can always hit them upside the head with a shovel and casually dump them into the holes you’ve dug in your garden for “excess compost”…Just kidding. Seeing if anyone is actually still reading this.

And, in case you haven’t figure this one out yet (because sometimes it takes us many, many years of living to get to the point where this becomes second nature), do everything you can to surround yourself ONLY with the people who lift you up, make you feel loved, make you feel whole, accept you for who you are and respect the journey you are on.

No fear means no need to struggle to forgive. It really is as simple as my spiritual friends make it out to be.

After all this, I’m hoping tomorrow’s beach excursion will bring an epiphany of being less judgemental, another aspect of life I struggle with every damn day.

Enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas and all that jazz.
One Love, peeps. One Love!

p.s. I did not even remotely proofread this, so if my grammar sucks and my punctuation is misplaced, I don’t really give a…

Let go of that baggage and embrace your life experience. And, also, bums.

I’m totally off the grid these days – still finishing this year’s two final weddings and editing, oh, 14 Boudoir sessions to get them out in time for Christmas, so I don’t have a lot of time to bloggity. However, this happened and I feel it’s worth sharing.

Had a text convo with a friend last night and they said they have a lot of baggage and it was suggested in a negative way. I slept on it and woke up with it still on my brain. I just sent them this and I’m posting it here because I believe everyone can benefit with a change in their outlook on their so-called “issues”:
“There’s really no such thing as baggage. We are what we are and anything we carry with us is life experience, not baggage. If something from our past makes us believe we are damaged in some way-incapable of something for whatever reason – then we perceive it as negative and we call it baggage. In reality, it’s just part and parcel of our life experience thus far. The trick is to use it to improve upon ourselves and not repeat mistakes. You don’t have baggage anymore than I do. You have life experience. Everything you’ve lived up to this point has shaped you into who you are today and that is not negative or damaging in any way. You are who you are because of that so-called baggage and I love who you are and who you’ve become BECAUSE of that life experience. Embrace it. Use it. Learn from it.”…unless you are actually carrying suitcases. Then, well…
Jo’s words of wisdom #259. 

And also, this, because it’s one of my fave poses to put my clients in lately!

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One love ya’ll. One love.

Everyone’s dying to teach us lessons, especially the dead.

Today, I am feeling ALL the feelings and here’s why:

Back in September, a past Boudoir client of mine lost her life to the Big C (dirty little bastard that it is). She was young and she fought really fucking hard to stay alive so she wouldn’t leave her husband and two year old daughter behind, but sometimes, even though we don’t realize it, our time is up, we’ve learned all we need to learn, and it’s our time to go home. Even more often though, the minute our loved ones pass away, they leave a lesson for us to learn while we journey through our grief over their loss.

I’ve learned this lesson through my journey through grief for Cora. In fact, I’ve learned so many lessons from her death that some days I feel as though I know everything and nothing can surprise me.

Not today.

In September, a few days after Dana passed away, I woke up in the middle of the night with a strong urge to look at the photos I’d taken of her. I returned to sleep, but first thing in the morning, I sat down and pulled up her photos. I sat there, staring at her beautiful face and knowing that her family was just beginning to feel the all-consuming emptiness that grief fills us up with when the most important people in our lives pass away and someone or something whispered to me that the photos would be needed. Not just the photos she had chosen, but ALL of the photos I’d taken at her session. I gathered them all up, copied them to my desktop, and left them alone. I knew they would surface again.

A few days ago, Dana’s husband contacted me through Facebook and introduced himself. He explained who he was and asked if I had any more of the photos that I’d taken from our session together in 2010. I, of course, immediately felt that tug in my belly that, of late, lets me know my intuition is sharply honed, and I knew that it was probably Dana who had let me know I’d need the pics eventually. So, I sat down and imported her entire shoot into Lightroom and edited all of the pics that I had left untouched since her session. It took me all day and I had to periodically walk away from my computer because I couldn’t see her through my mask of tears.

I wasn’t crying for her. She is in the most amazing place, feeling a love that is all-consuming and all-knowing. I was crying for all of the people left behind who have to stay the course of loss and have to weather the turbulent sea of grief. The ones who haven’t died (like I did at the end of my grief journey) and had a Near Death Experience to set their hearts at ease and put them in constant touch with their deceased loved ones. The pain of that loss is so unbearable if you don’t experience the miracle of being able to reach out and feel your dearly departeds all around you.

I wept for them. For their pain. For their loss. For the uphill battle with grief that they are engaged in right now. I know that pain. I know that loss. I’ve been through that battle. And it sucks ass crackers of epic proportions.

But even through feeling all of the feelings, something else shone through for me – something profound and uplifting and beautiful. My job allows me to capture the essence of people and preserve it, for the rest of time. My easy relationships with clients allow me to catch all that is THEM and keep it frozen in time. And, best of all, when something tragic happens and one of these amazing people I am privileged to work with passes away, I can help their loved ones through their grief by giving them a huge piece of that person’s essence in a simple photograph.

A simple photograph.

How amazing is that? How blessed am I to do what I love and be able to help people at the same time!

Like I said, I am feeling all the feelings today, but mostly, I feel grounded and content and amazingly blessed to be able to help people- in any way I can – to get through their journey, whatever it may be.

Today is my last day in my 30’s and I could not have asked for a better lesson, better learning experience, better opportunity to learn and grow a little more.

RIP Dana Ranger and thank you, so much, for the lesson today. 🙂untitled-23

One love ya’ll. One love.