All posts by Carmen Walsh

Gratitude

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of year when a lot of people talk about gratitude. I’d like to suggest we all practice gratitude on a daily basis. It certainly is changing my life for the better.

Today is my brother Eric’s birthday. It would have been his 53rd, but he celebrated only 21. He died when I was 15. I am grateful he lived, and I am grateful he died.

Eric had been my almost-constant companion at home for those 15 years: he couldn’t drive or keep a full-time job because of his epilepsy. As the youngest, I spent a lot of time with him, much of it just the two of us, as the rest of my siblings grew up and moved on with their lives. We were playmates, and we encouraged each other’s dreams of fast cars and self-designed mansions. We shared a great love for reading and especially for music. Oh yes, and chocolate too.

The last several years, however, my anxiety about his seizures overshadowed my ability to simply be present with him. I somehow knew he wasn’t meant to have a long life, and I decided that wasn’t acceptable. I was going to control the circumstances as much as I could, to protect him. While I loved him fiercely, I didn’t enjoy being with him as much. It was too much pressure.  And so started the avoidance and denial, controlling behaviors, internal conflict, and guilt. When he died in 1988, I was momentarily relieved, thinking all that anxiety was behind me. Wrong. I just took those destructive patterns into other areas of my life.

Fast forward to 2019, the year of awareness and forgiveness. I realized the impossible job I had given myself as a child and forgave myself for that and for the psychological mechanisms I had unconsciously chosen. I forgave myself for all the bad decisions that flowed from those old patterns. I finally knew I was safe to let go of control, and I grieved the loss of my brother. And then I realized that he had never left. While I can no longer hear his human voice, I once again feel his spirit with me. He is so proud of me and happy that I am playing and singing again. And I am sincerely grateful that his main dream came true: his seizures were taken away.

Eric didn’t need to stick around in human form any longer. He already knew how to love fully and be grateful for things just as they are (as you may have read in my old post, Just Live). It’s taken me quite a lot longer to learn that lesson, but now that I have, I shed tears of gratitude almost every day for all the abundance I enjoy. The beauty of life is truly astounding once you start looking for it. We are surrounded by miracles.

So today, in celebration of my big brother Eric, I wish you awareness and gratitude for all the abundance in your life. Focus on that and watch as your heart opens and the quality of your life improves.

With love,
CW

Today’s New Song

Another headless video … yep, sorry about that. What can I say? I just don’t care enough about that, especially when I am excited about learning a new song.

I heard this song from the TV show Nashville today after not hearing it for a long time, and I just knew I had to find the sheet music. So tonight I bought it and started learning it.

I definitely have more practice ahead to get the piano parts smoother (and then I can focus more on the singing), but even so I thought it was worth sharing. It is such a beautiful song.

That’s How You Learn to Live Alone

https://youtu.be/pp97TE9wjok

To My Ex-Husband

I was 16 going on 17. You were 19.
We were in my parent’s living room. I was playing the piano.
Maybe I was singing too, I don’t remember.
I thought I heard a sound from back the hall.
I started to jump up. Then I remembered: Eric was gone.
I got emotional. (I don’t remember the details.)
You said, “I don’t understand why you still get upset. He’s been gone a year.”
So I stopped.
I stopped crying.
I stopped playing piano and singing.
I stopped expressing myself.

Now I’m 46 going on 47. You’re 49, wherever you are.
Last year, I started to play and sing again, albeit awkwardly.
Reading music takes more effort now.
My fingers and brain don’t simply connect the way they used to.
My throat often tightens and closes, painfully choking out my voice.
One day I prayed, “I’ll do whatever it takes. Just please let me sing.”  
Wouldn’t you be surprised and confused at the many tears that fall now?
Because I started.
I started allowing my emotions to flow.
I started learning to accept and love myself.
I started using my voice.

So thank you for the 30-year lesson. You’ve been out of the picture for most of those years, but I’ve been repeating the same lesson in other situations. It’s now time to turn the page and move on.

And one day soon, I’ll be able to sing in full glorious voice for more than a few seconds without breaking into tears. I will no longer feel unworthy of the amazing feeling that accompanies the true expression of my soul. Because I am worthy of that feeling. We are all meant to have that feeling, from whatever lights us up.

Use your voice, whatever that means to you. It is your gift to enjoy and your gift to the world.

~Carmen

Early morning musings

This first poem I jotted down in the wee hours of a morning in late August but never shared. The second came out early this morning and reminded me of the first. It’s always interesting to see what the soul needs to release at that time before the mind kicks in.

HELPLESS

It is the most difficult feeling:
knowing I am helpless to save the ones I love.
What could be worse?
The fear that they may believe
I don’t care enough to help.
The pain doubles and yet
helpless I still am.
I would give anything to make them happy,
help them be at peace,
but there is nothing I can do.
 
Nothing is what I must do.
It is the only way to free them
to experience their own journeys.
Uncaring I may seem,
but my heart aches
full of love and prayers for miracles.

DENIAL

Shhh…. don’t let it show.
Don’t let anyone know
that inside you chaos reigns,
that fear courses through your veins,
that you’re continually terrified
of what’s on the other side.
 
Shhh…. don’t reveal
how scared you feel,
on even higher alert at night
when no one else has danger in sight,
afraid of what you will find
whenever you open your eyes.
 
Shhh…. just pretend.
The madness must soon end
and peace will come again.
But trust is nowhere to be found
in this world where fear abounds,
panic striking at every unusual sound.
 
Shhh…. shut up and deal
but not with you how feel.
Push it down, lock it away.
You get to live another day.
Why are you still sad?
Nothing in your life is bad.

If any of this strikes a chord with you, know you’re not alone.

And know for sure that if you have faced trauma and never opened up about it, that same kind of experience will keep repeating itself in various forms until you recognize it and deal with it.

I couldn’t help my brother survive epilepsy.
I couldn’t help my parents when my brother died.
I couldn’t help boyfriends face their old unhealed wounds.
And I couldn’t help myself until I accepted that I wasn’t responsible for any of these other people but that I was responsible for myself.

Only then could I start to forgive myself for all the unrealistic pressure I had felt and controlling behaviors I had exhibited, for the unhealthy situations I had allowed to continue, always in the name of loving someone. 

It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I now believe this is true:

No matter how much I loved these people, it was not my job to fix them. Their lives were not my responsibility. In fact, the best thing I could do was to love them unconditionally and let them be on their journeys, while at the same time take care of my own well-being.

Funny thing is I have sucked up every kind of responsibility I could find throughout my life. I was proud of how I handled things so well, so independently. What I didn’t realize until recently was that I had not fully accepted responsibility for myself — not just for my actions but also for my thoughts and my beliefs, which affect the energy I put out into the world.

We often do not create our initial wounds, but we are responsible for healing them and for being accountable for how we live our lives. With that realization, my journey started to take a much different direction. I needed to heal if I was ever going to find peace. And that has required opening up and allowing myself and others to see my messy truth. 

Vulnerability is not pretty or easy work, but it is necessary.  Thankfully, it reveals we are not alone in our pain or shame. We all have wounds. And the process is beautiful, for it allows the natural courage and strength of our spirits to come forth, and we discover that, at our cores, underneath the scars, we are unconditional love. I believe discovering that alone is worth the work.

Be well,
Carmen

Signs from the universe

On Sunday, I pulled in the driveway of my childhood home for my parents’ last day there. (We were getting everything ready for them to move into their new apartment the next day.) As I got out of the car, I heard a noise: a massive chattering, similar to but definitely not cicadas.

I looked toward the noise and saw something very much like what is shown in this video. A massive flock of swallows (I assume) were circling my grandparents’ farm across the street, flying in and out of one of the large trees. It was breathtakingly magical. I stood there for several minutes watching the birds, entranced by the beauty of their coordinated aerial dance. I felt as if I had been given a gift directly from Heaven.

And then my eyes refocused, closer. Something else was flying around in circles, directly in front of me. Dragonflies! At least half a dozen of them. In my almost 47 years, I don’t remember ever seeing any dragonflies at our house, ever. And there they were, darting back and forth, maybe 10 feet in front of me.

Soul sketch by Alena Michaels July 11, 2019

Recently, a friend read my soul’s energy and was inspired to draw a dragonfly in a heart. We discovered that dragonflies can symbolize souls that have been freed from their human bodies. She said my brother was communicating with me: I just needed to open up and allow the connection. All the dragonfly decorative items I’ve collected over the years took on a new meaning. And now here were real ones, coming to support me during this huge life transition.

Yesterday, I started the drive to my parents’ new home, to get ready for the movers to arrive with their belongings. A hawk flew directly over my car, close enough for me to see its face. For some reason, I have always gotten excited every time I see a hawk– so to have one fly so close was special on this momentous day.

Thank you, Universe, for reminding me that I am always supported and never alone. It’s taken me a long time to realize, but I feel so blessed now to finally accept the gifts that are being given, every day.

May you all be aware of the gifts, the miracles, that surround you.

With much love,
Carmen

Things need to get messier before they get better

Order is comfortable. Order looks good. Keeping our homes and lives in order makes us feel as if we have things under control.

But do we, really? (Or is just orderly on the outside and a scattered mess of fear underneath?)

I enjoy order. Getting things organized makes me feel such a sense of accomplishment. An orderly environment is calming and peaceful. A cluttered environment, on the other hand, causes stress.  

So you’d think it would be a high priority for me to keep my home orderly, wouldn’t you? That would be logical. And yet, for the past several years, my house became more and more cluttered. I had a couple of businesses, one of which included selling my artistic products, so inventory of finished pieces and supplies took over much of the basement.  My boyfriend moved in his belongings, which took over more of the basement and the garage. Our relationship was of the utmost importance to me, and it was wildly out of control. I desperately wanted to help him heal his wounds, and I couldn’t. I wanted to succeed at everything while being stretched way too thin. I was so focused on commitments to other people and the community that I neglected myself.

Other people first, always. I wasn’t as important as they were. I needed to earn my spot in this world to be of value. Focusing on myself was selfish. That is what I believed.

Thankfully, I recently accepted the truth that I am just as important and valuable as everyone else, regardless of what I do and don’t do. (Those daily affirmations really do help!) I accepted that focusing on my own self-care is vital to me being able to serve others—and to being happy. This year, I realized self-care includes not only my body, mind, and spirit but my external environment as well.

In March, I asked my now ex-boyfriend to get his belongings. I wanted him to have his things so he could feel freer to move on with his life however he wanted, whether we were going to be together again or not. But he wasn’t able to psychologically handle that transition. It took me more than a month to accept that. Then I realized I didn’t need to be held hostage by his unhealed wounds. I could “out of “consideration for him” allow his things to stay until he was ready to deal with it (old me), or I could decide that my needs were just as important as his and find a way to resolve the situation respectfully (new me). I packed up and returned his belongings. Let’s be clear: At this point, I was doing it for me. I still wanted him to have his things, but I realized that I too needed the space to move on. I needed the energy in my home to be cleared. And I did it.

Taking action on that decision, made out of love for both him and me, was a major turning point.

I started decluttering the rest of my house. I threw away ton of papers, magazines, and miscellaneous stuff that had accumulated. I started going through the supplies I had for my businesses to offload some of those. I just barely started sorting through clothes and books, and then I paused.

I decided to make it a priority to support my parents during my mom’s surgeries and their decision to move. My house decluttering didn’t have a deadline; their life events did. And our relationships have grown through the process.

At the same time, to take advantage of the spring and summer weather, I decided to hire help for my yard maintenance and a huge landscaping project in my backyard. Then the Universe and its powerful winds brought down two tall trees, making the project even bigger. It required dealing with people, being frustrated by communication issues, trusting others, losing patience—all great learning opportunities for me.

There were times that I just wanted it all to be done. I wanted order. I wanted the house to be decluttered and organized and the yard to be beautiful and ready for visitors.

Why? Because I wanted that sense of peace.

Then I realized something: There will always be something in transition. There will be progress and achievements, but there will always be something more, another goal, things shifting outside my control. It is never done. Not until life is over do the pieces stop moving (and maybe not even then).

I needed to find peace amidst the chaos.

My backyard in its current state of chaos

I walked around my yard yesterday, looking at the mess: bare and straw-covered spots where grass seed was put down, a ladder left by one of the helpers, pots of dirt and leftover bulbs awaiting my action. And I didn’t cringe at the To Do list, as I have most of my life. I thought about how far it had come in just a few months. I thought about how blessed I was to have this home to take care of. I thought about how beautiful it will be next year and how wonderful it will feel to invite friends over. I smiled at bumblebees looking so happy on the blooming sedum.

The bumbles love the sedum.

I walked inside to stacks of books and clothing, small gatherings of decorative items, and piles of empty boxes—and I thought about how grateful I was to have this abundance in my life, to have extras I can donate to others who will appreciate them. And what a great project for colder weather! Instead of wanting to hibernate, I can be productive.

Do I want my home environment to be more orderly than it is now? Absolutely. Will it be? Without question. How do I know that for sure? Because now I am doing it from a place of self-care rather than self-criticism.

This is the same approach that has been working to improve my internal environment. A couple of years ago, I acknowledged that my Self needed improvement—if I wanted to be happy. (Breaking up with my boyfriend revealed he wasn’t the only one with unhealed wounds.) With that awareness, I dove in to take action. It hasn’t been an easy journey for sure; it’s been a super messy emotional one. I’ve had to let go of caring how other people may view me and of how I viewed myself.

This is a journey that never ends. We are always growing, if we choose to. But to grow, we need to allow things to get messier so that they can get better. We need to be uncomfortable and surrender to the process before we can find peace and joy.

To make progress, we need to be fully aware of our current situation and realize we have the power to change it. If we focus on how a situation will feel when it has evolved into what we want it to be, progress becomes a pursuit of joy, instead of a fixing of problems. When we realize our power and take action, our self-worth increases dramatically.

So let’s embrace the mess. Let’s show ourselves and each other compassion and grace through the process and celebrate even the smallest signs of progress. Let’s appreciate the blessings and beauty that surround us, always. Let’s stay open to all the possibilities and be grateful for this journey of being human.  

Appreciating each little bit of beauty , even amidst the chaos

The Surrender Experiment

I finished this memoir by The Untethered Soul author earlier this week. While I lost interest during the latter business-focused part of the book, his overall idea (and repeated examples of how it worked) that the Universe conspired in his favor when he simply surrendered to what was happening—regardless of his personal preferences and thoughts—was really fascinating.


Here are some passages I noted about needing drastic situations to inspire us to change, which certainly has proven true in my life — and I think offers hope for our society and world for the future.


“Perhaps change only takes place when there is sufficient reason to overcome the inertia of everyday life. Challenging situations create the force needed to bring about change.”


“Life is going to put us through the changes we need to go through. The question is: Are we willing to use this force for our transformation? … even very intense situations don’t have to leave psychological scars, if we are willing to process our changes at a deeper level. My surrender experiment had already taught me to deeply honor the transformative power of life.”


“I was not in charge; life was in charge, and there was an underlying sense of enthusiasm and excitement about getting to see what was going to happen next.”

Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment

31 Years

Today my brother Eric has been gone 31 years. I woke up with the first words of this poem on my brain and spent 2 inspired hours writing.

31 years (6/10/19)

31 years
of not seeing your smiling face,
hearing your booming bass voice,
feeling your crushing embrace.

31 years –
truth be told, when I heard the news, I felt relief,
thinking the fear and anxiety were over.
It was a false belief.

31 years
of trying to be helpful enough, likable enough
to be loved by someone, anyone –
no matter what kind of love.

31 years
of living peacefully alone but sad my heart was being wasted
or centering my life completely around another’s,
on the roller coaster ride between adored and deserted.

31 years
of trying to control everything around me,
thinking that would provide a life free of anxiety,
never getting quiet and still enough to hear.

My spirit was crying:
Where is the laughter? the music? the fun?
Where is the little girl happy simply to play in the sun?
What happened to knowing I am loved for who I am, not for what I do?
Where did my childhood memories go?

The time is now –
to be still, to listen within,
to show myself the love I have been seeking,
to know I am here for a reason.

Joy: that is my reason –
to not only survive this life but thrive,
to show it can be done
and not just for a season
but for the next 31(+) years.

My brother feeding me what was likely my first (of many) Fudgsicles, 1973.

I’d like to note that codependency is putting someone else’s needs above your own. It can start out of what feels like necessity (in my case, always wanting to make sure my brother was safe), but it can become a destructive lifelong habit. Thankfully, I have become aware of this in the last couple of years and am making changes. I share this not to gain sympathy (I made all my own choices) but to help inspire anyone else who may have a similar experience.

Be well and make self-care a priority.

Embrace the power of light

Don’t despair when you see the darkness. Be inspired by the courage and resilience of the human spirit and know that the light has the power to eliminate the darkness. And make no mistake: Everything you do matters. Nothing is too small. Changing your own thoughts and self-talk changes the energy you put out into the world and makes it a better place. Imagine when we are all working on loving ourselves better how peaceful and beautiful a world it will be. It takes each one of us being responsible for ourselves. Start with you. Start right now. Embrace your power. ❤️

Nina Cried Power – by Hozier, featuring Mavis Staples

Spring growth

The crocus is one of the first flowers to appear, announcing the spring season. It fills people with joy.

Look at it. Its structure appears so delicate, and yet it is strong enough to make its way through the frozen ground, reaching for the sunshine. I find that fascinating and inspiring. (And so I had fun taking these photos of them yesterday.)

If a delicate crocus can successfully grow through the cold hard ground, we can do anything.

As Don Miguel Ruiz says in his transformative book The Four Agreements, “Life can be very easy when love is your way of life. … Happiness is a choice, and so is suffering.”

Where is your focus for growth today? What is one thing, one thought, you can adjust to have a more beautiful life today?