February 5th, 2018 made it official. 60! Yes. Six decades. 6-0. I wanted this milestone to be something that really tickled my heart and kindled my spirit … and … I am delighted to report that this birthday exceeded all my expectations and fondest hopes!! And, in all honesty, I’ve been struggling to make sense of exactly what has made it so meaningful. It’s taken me a while to put a finger on it. One thing for sure is that it ‘felt’ so very different to me. It actually ‘filled’ every inch of my soul in so many touching and unexpected ways. And, it was exactly what I needed to make it the ‘best birthday ever’.
I’d like to say it wasn’t about the gifts … but actually … it some ways it was. But please, before you judge me as entirely shallow and materialistic … let me explain! 🙂
One of the gifts I received was a delicate little silver bangle with the word beautiful carved into it.
It was packaged up in a handmade wrapping created by an exceptionally artistic and talented friend of mine. Thank you Cyndy! And another friend and colleague had jotted some words on the bag that helped me identify the root of my nourishment. Thank you for that Tanie!
It was those words “You are loved” that caught me up short. They stirred something deeply introspective in my soul. You see, I have always KNOWN that I am loved (at the head level) … but the truth of the matter is this: I have not always FELT it (at the heart level).
And knowing something and feeling it are two entirely different things. Neuroscience is teaching us that the things we ‘know’ are stored in a different part of the brain than the things that we ‘feel’. Stephen Porges (one of the most revered neurobiologists of our time) offers an important distinction with his Polyvagal Theory. He states that ‘perception’ is when we make meaning of the world cognitively through the pre-frontal cortex of our brain. He has coined the term “neuroception” for the way our body employs our vagus nerve system to sense and interpret the world around us … through what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. It’s a fascinating conversation … one that explains a lot of the complexities and contradictions we encounter as we attempt to interpret the world … both around us and within us.
For example, we can ‘know’ airplanes are safe modes of transportation, but we still can ‘feel’ scared to board one, no matter how hard we try to reassure ourselves. We can ‘know’ we have had enough to eat, but for some reason, we don’t ‘feel’ full. We can ‘know’ our boss appreciates our efforts, but at some point beyond the words we are hearing … we still don’t ‘feel’ like we are valued. We can ‘know’ our family loves us, but sometimes it is hard to ‘feel’ like that is true when we are alone, again, in the kitchen cleaning up … or … nagging, again, about undone homework, and/or struggling, again, to get through the bedtime routine. We can ‘know’ that we are kind, but we actually ‘feel’ it in our ‘beingness’ on a neurological level when pay it forward by actually performing an act of kindness. Experiencing something reaches us in a whole different way.
Yes, to cognitively comprehend something is very different than having an experiential felt sense of something. To be fair and honest … I can easily list a number of things that I not only ‘know’ but … I have also enjoyed a ‘felt sense’ of over my six decades:
- Respected. Yes. I can say that I have a felt sense of being respected. I typically give 150% to everything I do and, more often than not, I do feel my efforts are recognized.
- Needed. Yes. I am always ready to lend a hand (or a heart) and I feel like people feel safe to reach out to me.
- Envied. Yes. Even envied. The smile on my face often belies the challenges people don’t always see circling in my orbit.
- Appreciated. Yes. Most especially by my clients in my work.
But … loved? Hmmm. Not so much. And, not necessarily because people have not offered me their love. I do know that they have. But, mostly because I cannot always feel it. When I think about what it means for me to wholeheartedly feel that I am loved, I am guessing I would need to feel:
heard …. cherished , nurtured, treasured … included … precious and protected … connected … safe … and, perhaps most importantly … understood.
All I know for sure, for the most part, is that I have often felt more expendable than loved. I’m not saying that my perceptions/interoceptions/neuroceptions are true … I’m just saying it’s been my default way of ‘feeling’. We all have stories we tell ourselves. And, our stories and perceptions of the world around us are shaped by our prior lived experiences. As Ellen so aptly shared in this little clip … the power of suggestion is, indeed, powerful!
Did you see a gold and white dress … or a blue and white one? Did hear Yanny or Laurel? Neuroscience confirms that our brains actually ‘predict’ our experiences and, therefore, our inner world actually informs our perceptions of our outer world. That is, we tend to see what we EXPECT to see. And this reality informs and actually shapes our experiences in our relationships in a very profound way.
If you are inspired to learn more and/or want a more detailed and fascinating explanation of this uncanny phenomenon … you might want to check out this TED Talk by neuroscientist Anil Seth.
And, so as Anil Seth points out in this presentation … our interpretations of our outer world are depend entirely upon what our brain is primed to hear.
“The remarkable thing is the sensory information coming into the brain hasn’t changed at all. All that’s changed is your brain’s best guess of the causes of that sensory information. And that changes what you consciously hear. All this puts the brain basis of perception in a bit of a different light. Instead of perception depending largely on signals coming into the brain from the outside world, it depends as much, if not more, on perceptual predictions flowing in the opposite direction. We don’t just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from the outside in.”
And so … all of this begs the question for me as to whether my brain was adequately primed to ‘hear’ the love that is, in fact, infused into my relationships. Attachment theorists contend and neuroscientists confirm that the template etched into our grey matter for what we expect to see in our ‘loving relationships’ is informed by our earliest neuro-biological relationships. And so, those of us that did not get the most favorable wiring in our early years about how ‘loved’ or ‘significant’ or ‘smart’ or ‘capable’ we are … may subconsciously be primed to ‘expect’ to interpret our present day moments in the same way! It is not what is coming at us … it is what we are primed to ‘sense’ that defines our experiences. As the Yanny and Laurel experiment obviates … we can experience different things with exactly the same stimulus!
I didn’t get the very best start from my family of origin. My roots are planted in considerable dysfunction. My earlier life experience left me feeling like I was not the priority … which has led me to a life long interpretation/perception/story which ‘predicts’ that “I do not matter.” I speak more about this in another blog called ” A Tragic Misunderstanding.”
I did feel very treasured by my mom … but because of her illnesses and disabilities, she was simply not able to offer as much nurturing as I needed to feel nourished and protected. Sometimes our roles got reversed. I was looking after her, instead of her looking after me. She died when I was only 31… so I have been without her almost as long as I had her. My dad was an alcoholic. He was never much for sharing his emotions (unless he was angry!), and he and my mom divorced when I was twelve. Perhaps my fears of abandonment and neglect are rooted in those early experiences.
Not withstanding that … my mom’s oldest sister, my Aunt Mil always, always, always made me feel cherished and nurtured and precious. But, for the most formative years of my life she lived six hours away. I didn’t get to see her much, but … I never felt more safe and loved than when I was in her presence. She passed in 1990 … and … I think I grieved the most when I lost her.
And, unarguably, my life is splattered with many love filled relationships … my children and husband …. and …. many, many of my most precious friends. In fact, this “Better Because of You” blog also contains my heartfelt tributes in honor of the love I feel for many of those special souls … including Marie and Jody and Jackie and Kimmy and Kim and Joan and Sari and Robin and Deb and Lisa and Debora and Penny and Maria Beautiful and Teresa and Trudy and our friends Dwayne and Cheryl and Bill and Linda and Hutch and, of course, my daughters and my step-mom and my in-laws and so many more that I have yet to formally acknowledge.
And sadly, despite all of these deep and abiding relationships with these extra-ordinary people … the internally wired ‘story’ that can get triggered and flare up far too often is that “I don’t matter”. Gah. Yanny or Laurel?? The external stimulus can be exactly the same but, because of our internal wiring, we can hear different things.
I’m not sure why, but as I was typing this, I was reminded of watching Romper Room as a young child. Any of you remember that show? At the end of the program, the hostess would look through a “magic mirror” and name all the children she could “see” in “television land”.
“I see Margaret and Diane and Hannah and Susan and Janice and Georgie ……………”
I always waited … literally aching to hear her call my name. I never, ever heard her say it. Gah. Why on earth would that come to my mind right now?? Perhaps more proof of the power of that early brain wiring that, by default, can invite me to question my significance?
Anyway, I would go so far as to say that I have invested much of my life trying to earn people’s love … through approval and recognition. And so … sadly … if/when I have ‘felt’ loved, I have often reduced it to a result of my own efforts. I’m more likely to think you love me because of what I am doing to improve your life, rather than simply because of my being. In fact, I would venture to say that I have been telling myself a story … just for most of my life … that people will not stay connected to me if I am not pleasant and helpful and supportive. Yes. It makes me uncomfortable to admit to this out loud, but it is true. In the shadows of my subconscious, I’m not truly convinced that people would bother to keep me in their world if I didn’t work hard to make myself valuable to them. And, I can painfully round up proof of many who failed to make the effort … once I quit investing in them more then they were investing in me. But … that’s a story for a different time. Let’s get back to my birthday …
And so … when I saw those words ‘you are loved’ on that bag … all of this understanding flooded into my awareness. And, in the context of all the wonderful moments packed into my 60th birthday celebration … I had a deeply ‘felt sense’ of being loved. Yes. I wholeheartedly FELT it … on so many levels. People had done so much … entirely unsolicited by me … to make sure my 60th was nothing short of amazing. And, my heart was exploding with gratitude and appreciation for how ‘loved’ I actually felt in the midst of all of it.
And so … I wanted to blog about it here … for two reasons. First and foremost, so that I can try to adequately express my appreciation to each and every individual for their kind and loving contributions. You cannot even begin to know how each thought, word and deed that you offered has been etched into the felt sense of my heart space. And secondly, I wanted to chronical the whole occasion so that I can revisit the magic of the moments – not if but when – I need to challenge and dispute my ‘story’ of not feeling loved. Yes. I needed to document each and every delight so that none of them get forgotten over time.
And so, for those of you who are still inclined to read on, here is my best recollection of how it all unfolded. The “60”celebration started with an overnight trip to the big city with JUST my daughters. It is very rare for me to have them all to myself anymore! And so, my heart smiled with unspeakable gratitude as I sipped my coffee in the mornings and listened to them chatting and giggling and sister-ing with each other in our nice hotel suite while they were getting ready for the day. And, the first night, we unexpectedly landed in a fancy schmancy bistro and enjoyed a 5 star dinner (with complimentary appetizers from the chef that he was entering into a competition) before our heavenly 90 minute massages and hot-tubbing at the Stillwater Spa!
And, the next evening, after a full day of shopping (@9 hours worth) with a couple of stops for food and drink – (we lucked out at lunch and found ourselves enjoying $5 wine and mimosas) we decided to try the new Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink Lip Color that my youngest daughter had discovered. With Brittany and I rocking the red … and … Sherisse and Tiana sporting the dark maroon, we looked more like we should be heading out on the town (maybe in 5″ stilettos and black leather mini-skirts)! But instead, we cozied up in our jammies, pulled out the hide-a-way bed in the living room of our hotel suite and snuggled in side-by-each as we spilled some tears watching the touching movie “Wonder”.
The next morning we got semi-dressed (scrubbed off the lipstick so as not to draw too much more attention to our questionable restaurant attire) … and … entirely unpretentiously headed downstairs to enjoy our complimentary breakfast. Our footwear was nothing short of fabulous. 🙂
We followed that up by using the “Downward Dog” Yoga App on our bath towels.
And, over the weekend … no one was focused upon their phones. It ‘felt’ entirely sublime to me to have all my little cherubs under one roof with me … and … lots of time for nurturing our innermost desires. Did I mention all the fitting room fun and fashion shows we also enjoyed? I will never forget how much love I could feel in the space during those moments.
And then … a few weeks later … I was completely bamboozled. Yep. Entirely horn-swaggled … in the most meaningful and marvelous way!! I thought we were heading to the restaurant to celebrate my son-in-laws birthday … because it really was HIS birthday. But … I was in for the SURPRISE of my life! They got me … good. And the presence of the people were the very best presents of all! In addition to every single member of my immediate family, my sister-in-law flew in from Vancouver. Our dearest friends from prenatal class (37 years prior!) were there. My Bestie and her hubby and my forever friends and my soul sister were too. Some of my treasured colleagues were also able to join us. My husband, daughters and sons-in-law had planned the perfect party! And although my grandchildren knew … they kept it all a secret!! I was surrounded by people who take up the most space in my heart … and … I truly ‘felt’ the love in that space.
And the French wine flowed … and … the food was fabulous. In fact, my meal stands out as one of the top five in my 60 years! And they had two homemade cakes (made from Lucy’s special recipe – iced with the 7 minute frosting I always put on my daughter’s cakes when they were little.) It was extra special because the cakes were in the shapes of a flower and a butterfly! They resurrected the exact cake patterns I had always used for them. I could feel so much love in all the little details!
And then they dragged me into the ladies washroom … to present me with a a leather bound book of treasured ‘sharing’ from so many loving hearts … personal stories and acknowledgments and memories that brought me to tears.
And there may or may not have been some ‘helium high chatter’ before we headed home … as we were collecting all the balloons. I can neither deny nor confirm the collapse of any high flying balloons and/or and other such shenanigans transpired. All I can say is that … I felt it … all night long. The love … not the helium. ❤
And, even though it was quite late when we landed at home, I stayed up until 1:30am … filling my spirit with all the love tucked into that treasure book. Fortunately, my eldest grand-daughter had tucked a tissue into the envelope that held her meaningful message for me. ❤
And, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better … the next morning … when I decided to clean up all the bags we had just dropped into the entry way when we arrived home, I discovered there were more ‘gifts’ to unwrap. And more tears flowed. And I felt my way through it all … savoring each and every moment.
When I naively inquired about why my book would have been in with the gifts … and with a ribbon wrapped around it … my hubby said my Bestie borrowed it. Oh. Okay. How sweet of her to decorate it before she returned it. I was placing it back on the bookshelf … when my hubby suggested “there might be something in it”.
Huh?? And yes … there certainly was! There was all kinds of LOVE in it! I know it … because, once again, I could actually feel it. And, to think, I almost missed this precious offering from my kindred spirits (aka: the gorgeous gals in my ‘book club’). These precious souls had snuck off with MY copy of the book that originally inspired our gatherings and had highlighted their favorite passages and written messages on the cover and inside the margins and then wrapped it with a ribbon and tucked it in with my other gifts.
It is such a treasure … because one of my favorite things to do is have juicy, meaty, honest and authentic conversations. And … that is what we do. And, now, I have their thoughts and reflections highlighted both in my book and my heart.
And, as I continued to tidy up, I noticed a beautiful scroll tied up with some jute and a red metal heart! Within, were some heartfelt words from Jody, a prior practicum student of mine. This earth Angel has become a very dear and cherished friend … my soul sister. Her words were deeply moving … and … so are my morning emails from her. Our Gmail correspondence has become a beautiful addition and treasured tradition in our friendship.
And then … I noticed THIS very, very simple but oh so sheik and exceptionally elegant box tucked into one of the bags. And it confirmed, for certain, that the old adage is true:
“Less is More”
My fabulous forever friends … Robin and Deb … and myself have been celebrating our friendship and our ‘DRK’ birthdays together for many, many, many years. Although our lives and times have generated some geographic space over the years, we have always enjoyed some special traditions and joyful reminders of our abiding connections. And, this year was no exception. These beautiful souls arranged a number of photographs into a soft, black, handmade Italian leather bound journal … with inspiring quotes (because they know I love quotes) AND a story book length Roses are Red poem AND Deb added a whole NEW picture of the three of us. I’ll let you try to guess who is who! 🙂
And, just so you can appreciate the fullest extent of their brilliance … may I offer you just a wee little snippet of my 60th “Roses are Red” story/poem … in all its glorious grace:
And … that is just one of the pages! Yes. I ‘felt’ their love in such a big way. Just look at those gloriously gifted poets!! I am so grateful to call them my fabulous forever friends!
And then … there was MORE! I got to enjoy a trip away for the weekend with my Bestie! We had so much fun the last time we did it … so we thought we’d do it again! When I had gone to Calgary with my daughters, we had tried to get a reservation at “Ten Foot Henry” only to discover that they are usually booked up two to three weeks in advance. And so … Marie and I booked ahead and enjoyed a sublime dinner … in which vegetables are the star! We could certainly see why they are booked up in advance! If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it.
And … although it was in the midst of a freak snow storm, we enlisted the services of several Uber drivers to take us around and about to all the places we wanted to go. We even snuck in an Angel Card reading with Michelle at the Crossroads Market! And, in retrospect, it is entirely uncanny how ‘spot on’ her reading was for both of us.
And then … to top it all off … we arrived home to a beautiful prime rib dinner which had been prepared by our husbands. We enjoyed a lovely soup, prime rib, fancy scalloped potatoes, asparagus AND a homemade chocolate cake … made and iced by my husband!!
And, as you can see, we were also playing cards! It’s become a tradition for us to play ‘Hearts’ together. I am posting the results of our two rounds of hearts … not to gloat … but because my winning score was 60 in the first game!! Did you notice how badly I beat them the second game … 33? Okay, maybe now I’m gloating just a little … not that I am competitive when it comes to cards with these gems … 🙂
And then, on the actual day of my birthday, I got to enjoy a scrumptious lunch with my fabulous forever friends! I’ve already introduced you to them … those gifted “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” poets! Well, we spent 6 hours enjoying lunch and laughs and conversation on my 60th … officially. Greek salad, chicken and cupcakes … and … wine. Oh, and I learned something important! Apparently, wine should be poured only to the fattest part of the wine glass. How have I lived and loved wine this long and not known that??
One would think it might have been mentioned in the fabulous “Scratch and Sniff” wine book my daughter gifted me. Such fun to read it … and … smell it! 🙂
And then in May … I received an exceptional birthday surprise! My student and soul sister, Jody, whom I introduced to you earlier had mentioned that her birthday gift would be late. She was having something made for me … and … was it ever worth the wait!! Her gift had so much heart and meaning …and came with this beautiful message.
And then in June … I had another birthday blessing. I got to enjoy the getaway that my forever friends gifted me for my birthday. And so, we set off to enjoy a day of time together. Time, after all, is always one of the best gifts we can give one another. We enjoyed a lovely, lovely lunch at one of the best restaurants in our area. And, we followed it up with loud raucous laughter when we went to see the movie “The Book Club”. It was a remarkable day!
And, to top it all off, it was nothing less than serendipitous that I should receive this card from my Bestie … on the eve of my official birthday … during the lovely dinner her husband and my husband made. How incredibly intuitive was she … ?
Yes. As a matter of fact … I am. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I remain forever shifted and transformed by all the love I felt during this exceptional birthday. It feels like my internal world has been rewired in some way … and in all honesty … as I round the corner now toward my 61st birthday … I can honestly say that I have found it so much easier to ‘feel’ the love in my presence. And THAT is the best gift I ever could have received. ❤ ❤
And, I am sending all of that love right back to each and every one of you … at least 10,000 fold, xo Karen