The Unexpected Lessons of 2021

December 24, 2021

It has been a year of many surprises. Both professionally and personally.  My lessons are for my own life’s journey but if they can help you too, I will share them with you. Who I was when 2021 arrived is no longer here, but lessons don’t make our lives better, happier or easier. They make our lives different. Here are the learnings the unexpected moments of 2021 gifted me with.    1. The sooner you start trusting yourself the more at peace you will feel in the long run. Stop questioning the voice inside that knows better. 2. Loneliness will be a part of your life the same way bread, water, and oxygen is. A natural component of your habitat. Unless you find what makes you come to life and wrangle it enough to be your daily companion. Life translates loneliness to solitude when we persist in seeking it. It rewards hustlers. Dare devils. Thrill seekers. Self actualizers. 3. When you have spent your life giving to others and never asking for what you need for yourself you will realize that unless you announce you need help, nobody will offer it. Unless you grab a megaphone and climb on your kitchen table and yell help me, they won’t hear it. They have been conditioned to believe you don’t need anybody’s help. Un-condition them. You need help. You always have. You always will. 4. Long term relationships will end for the greater good of your future, even though it may appear as the worst possible scenario for it. Trust the unexpectedness of your life, it has intelligence that is ancient. It has knowing that is timeless. Don’t question the ancient self that resides within you. 5. Don't ever stop bringing up your loved ones in conversations that take place in the present moment. Include them in your life in permanent ways. It has nothing to do with your grief, or your healing. It has everything to do with love. Honor. 6. You are not here to please your parents, your relatives, or your friends. 7. Take care of your body, it will always give to you all that it has, until its last breath. It is the only place you can be yourself. 8. Postpone work. Never postpone play. 9. Make friends. Partner with people who love and engage with your mind. 10. When something feels wrong, it always is. 11. You can change your mind about the choices you made about your life. 12. Read to free yourself from anything that imprisons you. Books are gateways to other worlds. Go to them as if your life depends on it. It does. 13. Your world is as large and as small as the minds you choose to befriend, love, and interact with. Choose wisely. 14. Write down everything you think about, every day. Capturing your thoughts should be non negotiable. It can save your life. It can give you the next step. It is an invaluable daily practice. 15. Don't lie to yourself to avoid loss. It is unavoidable. 16. Your looks are always influenced by your internal world. You look as good as you think. As kind as you are. As loving as you feel. 17. Use your life as an example of a life well lived, and let that be the gift you give to the world. 18. Pay your bills, put food on the table. But use whatever remains for adventures. The only material goods necessary are those that help you express yourself. 19. You will always be imperfect. Make the most out of those imperfections. They are meant to light up the dark sky. 20. By the end of your life you will realize you knew nothing at all. And now that you finally understand that you wish you could go back to the beginning. Rest assured that you are to begin again. 21. My favorite author Joan Didion passed away today. Honoring her life I will end this year of letters with her words. “Character, the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life - is the source from which self-respect springs.” Rest in love dear Joan.    I will take next week off to greet the new year so let this serve as the last letter of 2021. Thank you for being my pen pal.  May 2022 bless you from its very first day.  And let the Holidays be what they need to be for your spirit.    With many lessons, Christina 

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The Petalling

December 17, 2021

If I had one wish for you, it would be to grant yourself permission to live the life of your choosing. To courageously understand the reasons behind your life’s choices to date, and allow for new choices to emerge that are generous towards you.  These choices would exclude pleasing other people, considering everyone else's feelings first, making your life about only serving others and not yourself. Whether it comes from kindness or societal pressure.  This letter is for you if you are constantly sacrificing yourself for others.  Always making choices that would benefit your family, your friends, your neighbors.  First and foremost thank you for your contribution.  Please know how much value you have offered to everyone in your life.  Some of this selfless giving will continue but let that not be the default setting of your actions unless you are in the aftermath of a war, natural disaster, poverty stricken community, or in a hospital where everyone is in need of help.  If you are a full time caregiver, this also pertains to you, as it is critical that you give to yourself the right kind of daily life experience. Even if it can only last an hour. That hour can nourish you profoundly.  Now that all of the above is said, let’s dive into what it means to choose a life, a day, a dream, an experience for yourself and only for yourself.  It starts with the thought, the act, the willingness to view yourself as a valuable and finite part of the world.  It is the quest of valuing your existence enough to accurately witness life through it while given this opportunity to be alive.  The irreplaceable source of inner health relies on your ability to do just that.  Offering experiences to the self where the noise of the voices around you are quieted down, equipping you with the ability to listen to your own.  Especially the noise coming from the tired part of you, the whispers of suppressed truth, the inhales of burdens that are not meant to be in your life’s bucket.  When you spend time just occupying the true space of you, you change the direction of your future.  You change the fabric of your reality.  We have undoubtedly been conditioned to think of the self as selfish.  We are being quelled. Squashed, subdued, suppressed.  In this context, we have devastatingly quelled ourselves as well as being quelled by others to live a life that either no longer belongs to us or never has.  Whether for meaning, for helping, for doing good, if done without balance it can diminish our existence.  It can cause grief.  Grief for the unrealized true nature of the self that has arrived here to become.  Imagine if you were born a daisy and you lived your life as a rose.  Still extraordinary, and beautiful but never a daisy.  Dying without ever seeing your white petals in the sun, living among the abundant wild greens, is the grandest invisible loss there is.  Don’t finish this life without shedding the rose costume you’ve been wearing.  Start by giving yourself one hour to be, do, experience whatever you want. I call it the petalling, the Greeks before me, called it petannynai, which means to spread out, to fly.  Here’s to granting yourself permission to petal every day of your life, unquelled.    With self generosity, from a modern day Greek :) Christina

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Your Messiest Drawer

December 10, 2021

Sometimes, change comes in ways you never expected.  You feel a force pushing you to do something that is confusing at first.  Trust it. It carries a message.  The only way to know what the message is, is to take the action.  And only then you will figure out what in the world is moving around in your life.  Because something is moving.  It doesn’t look like what you thought it would.  Quite a few changes have taken place this last year for me.  Some very unexpected. Some timely.  But the changes of this past year started to have a say in other parts of my life.  Even the parts that were not to be changed.  The parts that were supposed to be good.  The things I never truly questioned. Oh, my world.  When the questions started to come in I was shocked.  I sat with the questions.  I wrote about them. I cleansed them in my journal.  I walked inside the words I wrote. I started to see something.  Something that was waiting for me to visit it.  I had parked it there a long time ago when my life was a bigger battlefield and I could only fight two or three battles at once.  I left this part of my life there and said ‘it is ok for now.’  Certainly better than everything else I have going for me, let it be my ground, my foundation.  I was grateful for it. I still am.  But now after all these years I no longer have the same level of war in my life. The thing I left untouched, is now asking for an upgrade.  In other words, it is asking for its own battle.  So I brought it front and center to see what needed to be done.  Of course, in my head, the voice says, oh no, not this too.  But yes, this too. Especially this.  And everything else that will go along with it.  Don’t you ever think that when you change one thing, only one thing changes.  Everything around it will rise too.  And since this is the part of my life that kept me going while in battle, it is the final part of me that helped me survive.  As you can imagine my life in the last couple of weeks has been messy.  Painful too. But how else can you do this?  This is the part that most people never change, never question.  And it always holds them back from a more deserving life.  We have 20 days left in 2021 and I am shedding everything that was part of my life that was good, but not good enough.  Along with this, I am emptying drawers, closets, going through everything, and taking it out of my house, my life. Everything must go.  I am done with all the parts of me that cannot stand up straight.  Your homework is to go back to the parts of your life that got you through and ask if you still are in dire need of them. It is time for them to be upgraded, shed, cleansed, and do what you must do with them.  If it's ever time, it is now.  If it ever was a question, answer it.  If you don’t know where to look, go to your messiest drawer.  Open it. Pull it out. Empty it.  Write about it.  See what that drawer has to say.  And start from there.    With empty drawers,  Christina 

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The 500 Letters

December 3, 2021

When I was young, my parents used to call me an open book.  I used to share everything that was on my mind.  But for the last decade or so, the real things that trouble me, or break my heart stay with me.  You probably find it hard to believe but I share the most in these letters to you.  You have been my one constant companion.  One day, maybe a hundred years from now, someone will find these letters, all 500 of them. And will think of us in the years between 2010-2021.  Today I am going to look back at some of the letters I have written to you.  Each one of them tells a story of my life.  But in many ways, it told a story in your life and it helped you too.  I share small snippets of them here, but you can read all of them on the blog in full if you want to.    September 2012, I woke up with swollen eyes, I had cried all night long. I wrote the Quiet sob letter.    “You know that quiet sob…. you keep to yourself? In the middle of the night while everyone else is asleep. You know the tears that are hot as they travel down your cheeks. That feeling in your heart that travels deep into your soul. The moment when you say, I tried everything. I worked so hard. I did it all. And I came home empty handed. That is what I call the ‘quiet sob.’   When my loneliness would not go away, on September 6th, 2013, I wrote The Loneliness Lady    “As the years went by I discovered a different kind of loneliness. This one was so much harder to see but oh so powerful. She Was Dressed Up Looking Like Everyone Else. And you barely noticed that she was in your life. The more different I became the more she walked towards me. The more I discovered who I was as a woman the more the loneliness lady approached me.”   On February 7th, 2014, I wrote Dear Death, I Never Liked You.  I have had such a love hate relationship with death, I despised it, and wanted to know everything about it at the same time.    “Dear death, You come and knock on the door of some amazing people. You take them in the night, in cars, in hospital rooms and in every possible way imagined. I never liked you.”   On May 2nd, 2014 I wrote the most read letter of all, The Anniversary Train.  A reader wrote to me and asked if I could write about it. I did. Who knew I needed to write this for myself too.     “On his birthday we would go and sing to his grave. We would bring breakfast and sit there and sing, and the girls would dance. They would say.  Are you 1, are you 2, are you 3 are you 4….  All the way to his new age.”   On May 23rd, 2014 I wrote about a devastating and humiliating experience and I called it Be With The People Who Want to be With You.   Without sharing the details, I shared the lessons and the heartache.    “Why do we chase people who don’t want to be with us? What is up with us? I really don’t know how else to say this but it is almost as if we are asking for it. And let me tell you, I am including me in this group of people. I am the worst of all.”   The Letter to Heaven was written on July 18th, 2014  Maybe I will be remembered for my love for letter writing. I wrote this letter to my first husband and so many thousands of people wrote theirs to their loved ones.   “I used to imagine how would the pain feel years from the day you left. A part of me wanted time to speed up and another part wanted time to go backwards. You left behind a train wreck. The girls wouldn’t fall asleep at night without holding on to the glass picture frame of you. In the middle of the night I would go in their room to remove it so it wouldn’t break and hurt them. We were all so angry, desperate and very alone.”   On August 8th, 2014 I wrote the letter Moment of Impact  I had always had this deep connection with you all, I would write the letters as if we knew each other. Especially in my loneliest, hardest days.    “We might never meet in person but if we did I would want you to know that you are so beautiful. That your toughest nights are shared with me. That your invisible losses have been seen even by one person. That no matter how much you have been through, no matter the terrible losses you have experienced, you have the courage to overcome them.  That you are worthy of all the stars in the sky. That if I could hold your hand every day I would. That my life is changed by you forever and ever.”   On July 3rd, 2015 I wrote You are not Crazy, You are Grieving.  I have often felt insane, mad, and could not find anyone to reflect my thoughts with.  Madness is lonely. Nearly as much as loss.    “Food has lost its taste. Ice cream makes you feel nauseous. The phone rings and rings and rings. You don’t answer. Your body somehow doesn’t want to carry you anymore. NIghts are a nightmare. Even though you are not sleeping. Days are long even though they still last 24 hours. Silence is loud. Absence is a real person. And you think you’ve lost your mind. You have. And we have to talk about it.”   I wrote the Mirror Letter on May 20th, 2016 I have spent so many years not finding anyone to see me.  I always look for mirrors who can reflect the exact image of my soul.  They are rarely found.  This is one of my biggest invisible losses.    “I know you miss being loved. I know you feel like nobody cares about you. I know this is not easy. And, as I am sitting here trying to think about how I can make it all better, I realize that I can’t. I can’t make it better for you. But what I can do is tell you that you are not losing your mind, your feelings are normal.”   I wrote The Half Step Letter on September 2nd, 2016 I have taken so many half steps forward and many backwards.    “One day in the near future, the half step will become one full step. The two steps back will become one. Can you see this? Soon your back steps will become less frequent. And your forward steps the only constant. Life after loss is a dance.”    On May 17th, 2017 I wrote The Long Game After Loss  It is such a long game isn’t it?  I had felt tired, drained, lonely, life after loss had been impossible to predict.   “If you are in year one, just know there will be many nights ahead of you where you will want to give up. Please don’t, however convincing the feeling of giving up is. If you are in year two, you will feel as if things are getting worse. As if it’s all going backward. You now realize how real the loss is. And it is here to stay. I am so sorry about that. I tried to make this part go away but couldn’t. Year two is hard.”   On December 29th, 2017 I wrote, There is no candy hanging from your alarm clock.  Between the years 2017-2019, I went through such a dark time.  I experienced sadness that was impossible to understand.    “It feels like my whole body is crying. Not just my eyes. It starts with being tired. With the clock starting over again each morning. With the fact that there is no break. No wins between one day and the next. Nobody is saying bravo for doing your best. There is no candy hanging from the alarm clock. Just you and another day asking for your striving. For your very best self. Without anyone noticing.”   I wrote Endings on February 2nd, 2018 after a friendship had ended.  It spoke to so many of you.    “It was not like any other day. Something was in the air. A heaviness, with no name. A knowing. A goodbye. An Ending. A full stop. And it was known. Nothing could prevent it. Nothing at all. It was coming. Like all endings do.”   I wrote the Visit on April 6th, 2018  I took the girls to Denmark for the first time since their dad had passed. It was such an emotional visit.    “The mind has the ability to bring someone back to life and make them timeless. Immortal. And so it is for me and my girls in our visit to Denmark this week, his home country. And so it is, we brought him back to life, visiting his best friends, his parents, sisters. The streets he grew up in. The schools he attended. The adventures he had.”   I wrote You have to stop fixing what cannot be fixed on February 8th, 2019  Something within me always tried to convince me that I could fix everything. Even the unfixable things. I believed always I could conquer it all.  But of course, I learned this lesson many times the really hard way.    “And your life inside the house starts to look like the tsunami did. The destroyer. The chaos keeper. The end of you. But this is what it will take. Complete life destruction to move out.”   On July 5th, 2019 I wrote the Letter “Finding a way to write from the moon” I always connected with those who have been through to hell and back.  You have been my heroes. You have been the ones who could see me.    “I could not write a fairy tale, a happy ending. But I could write myself inside a hero.  I could find a way to the brave words of her life.  Because of that, I know you can too.”    I wrote The Visit on December 25th, 2019, when my soul was traveling back and forth.  I can only write deeply when I feel everything.   “Thirty four seemed old to me, if only I knew how young she really was. I wish I could see her physical strength.  She worked all day and took care of the kids after work until late at night.  She was healthy then.  In the beginning of the grief journey her body was ready for the fight, I wish I could go back to celebrate that with her.  I want to see when it was that she started to get tired.  When was it that grief took over? When did she become afraid?”   I wrote the Imperfect letter on February 7th, 2020 It has been messy, imperfect.  And I wanted you to know that I knew, I knew too.    “In time, we have to find our way to self forgiveness. We have to understand the imperfect self that got us down the mountain. Believe that without it, we would not have made it.  The loss would have taken us all with it.  So, if you feel guilt, shame and regret for some of the choices you made during the chaos, don’t.  These selfish acts saved your life.”    I wrote the Bag Carrier Letter February, 20th, 2021 I have written a few letters about people pleasing and the loss that stems from that.    “Of course when you stop saying yes to other people’s expectations of you, they won’t go down without a fight.  Without sulking. Without the silent treatment.  The list is long.  But you are worth the fight.  You are worth the respect.  Enough is enough.”   On July 24th, 2020 I wrote The Losing of Oneself.  Nostalgia has been my biggest companion in the last decade. What an inner experience it is.    “I am nostalgic of all the moments of my life where I just lived, without any wishing or dreaming, just living a regular life.  Being lost in the weather, the ocean, the normalcy.  Oh the normalcy. I miss that the most.”   I was about to sit and write the letter to you on October 30th, 2020, and I got an email that broke my heart. I wrote about the Changing Chairs and thousands of you sat with me across the world.    “What happens in the moments after a big blow?  More hurting. Even though we go from one moment to another.  It feels like a continuous moment doesn’t it?  I wish it was more like a string of chairs.  One next to the other. Ten or fifteen chairs.  And we would sit, feel the heartbreak, get up, sit on the next chair, feel it, then get up again and so on.”   I realized this week I have written you over 500 letters in the last 10 plus years.  As the year comes to an end soon, I wanted to acknowledge you for our unique friendship and sharing. So many of you have written back to me this past decade.   I may not be able to respond to all the emails, but I read all of them.  Each and every one.  Thank you for reading, you have had a first row seat in my life.  Thank you for the honor to sit with you also.  We may never meet, but know that we have met each other many times through these letters.    With a few more letters to write,  Christina 

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