A little over a year ago, some friends encouraged me to get a new hobby-a pastime performed for nothing more than PURE JOY. I have a lot of hobbies that stress me out, like writing or running; but somehow, I manage to drain any joy out of them by trying to do them perfectly. Oh, Michelle!
So, when my friends encouraged me to try a new hobby, I chose painting, knowing I could set the bar extremely LOW. After all, I am the LEAST artistic person I’ve ever met. Anyone who has ever played Pictionary with me knows that my blob-like images of dogs resemble my blob-like drawings of airplanes or blobby houses or blobby cars. 😂
With that in mind, I started painting with only joy in mind. What I found was a hobby so fun that I do it constantly. I’m obsessed. Plus, I’ve gained a community of supportive artist friends who are the loveliest people in the world. I’m so honored that my other friends have asked to see my artwork, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.
My sister Colleen and I wanted to share a little bit about our dad, James Dunne, who passed on to heaven last week. He traveled a lot when we were young. I’m not sure he realized how we ached from missing him. He was his own man, not tied to societal norms or expectations. He served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war, witnessing things that no teenaged boy should. He married our mom and had 3 kids by the time he was 23. He decided in his 40’s to become a lawyer. He provided a great life for us.
Jim, Our Go-To-Guy
Looking back, I wish he would have been around more, would have taken more interest in family life. But, we came to see he loved us greatly, even if his personal conflicts kept him walled off at times. In crisis, he was there on the spot, our Go-To-Guy, ever ready with: you will make it through this, you will be better for this, I am so proud of you, I love you so much.
Our Spectacular Father
Ditto, Jimmy. We love you so much and we’re deeply saddened by the huge, sudden loss of our spectacular father. You were so many things to so many people, listening intently and giving the best advice. Colleen and I will miss you running around the house like a crazy person, screaming “I’m great! Jim is #1! I’m the Best!” You were so complicated and amazing.
We both wish we could have been with you during your last days, but are so happy you had Diane by your side. You loved us and you adored our children. We will smile whenever we think of you being reunited with your mother, the fabulous Anne Dunne. We will hold you in our daughter-hearts forever.
Are you serious? Covid-19, country-wide lockdown, then Murder Hornets – and just when we began to be hopeful, our country implodes. We are all striving to do the right thing, to protect the most susceptible from illness, to voice our concerns over anyone being mistreated. It’s enough to drown a peaceful soul in nerves.
But we know that we can’t do anything to better the world if we are not healthy ourselves. So, after a hard day of fighting off disease, racism and all the other evil in the world, here are a few self care techniques to help ease your anxiety.
4 Ways to Calm Anxiety in a crisis
1. Check-in to your happy place
Do you have a happy place – even if it’s only in your mind? Treat yourself to a mini-vacation by visiting your favorite peaceful spot through visualization. Start by getting comfortable, then close your eyes and take yourself there using all of your senses. Do you see something beautiful? Can you smell flowers, or the salty ocean air? Do you feel the wind sweeping over your skin, or the warmth of the sun?
I usually take myself on a trip to the beach or the mountains. Where will you go?
The deep connection between the body and the mind makes visualization a powerful anxiety fighting tool. This method of relaxation not only eases stress. It boosts immunity, decreases chronic pain and helps with insomnia.
2. Connect WITH SOMEONE ELSE
No battle should be fought alone. Refresh your inner warrior by connecting with friends and family, especially if you are prone to anxiety. Multiple studies confirm that loneliness has been linked with physical and psychological diseases of several kinds. One of these is anxiety. Connecting with someone else helps diminish anxiety in several ways, including:
Helping you not to feel alone
Getting you out of your head and into the real world
Changing your mind’s focus
If you are feeling anxious, visit a friend. If a physical meeting is not possible, call them.
3. Take care of your body
So much of what we feel psychologically depends on how we treat our physical bodies. You may have heard that 90% of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for well-being and happiness, is made in your gut. That’s right. The gut is where brain function starts. Eating a balanced diet that provides essential vitamins, minerals and bacteria isn’t only essential to outer beauty. It’s the first step to peace and calm.
After that, treat yourself to a good night’s sleep. During sleep, your brain is busy repairing and restoring your entire body. When you are sleep deprived, those processes are cut short, resulting in increased anxiety. Studies show that sleep derivation precedes problems with anxiety 27% of the time. Adding adequate rest to the right nutrition sets your psyche on the fast track to psychological health.
Light-up your brain with the feel good hormone oxytocin by snuggling an animal. According to the ADAA, positive human-animal interaction brings on physiological benefits including a decrease in anxiety and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain. Studies show that these biological responses provide measurable clinical effects. So, cuddle-up!
Taking these 4 steps helps to guard against anxiety even in the most worrisome crisis. Nurturing yourself will help you to keep your cool when the world is unpredictable. If cooler heads prevail, we are more likely to stay healthy and make the changes we need in this wonderful world.
How did this happen again? A black man lying facedown on the ground begging to breathe, calling for his mama. Yes, George Floyd had a criminal past; but even if he was caught in the very act, he did not need to die. Law enforcement had him adequately restrained, a threat to no one, yet his life was snatched. I’m speechless and sick to my stomach.
Aren’t we better than that? Didn’t we all learn in Sunday School to love others; that what matters is your heart and your actions, not the color you’re wrapped in? And to imagine those perpetrating these acts call themselves Christians. How dare you. Read your Bible. Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? According to the story of the Good Samaritan, EVERYONE.
At first I didn’t even want to address this. I like to get all of the details before making judgements. But, how can we justify what happened? We can’t…that is, unless we believe in treating others according to some perverse bias based on skin color.
I’m speaking to white people everywhere. Something stinks on our side of the street, and we had better clean it up. I’m in. How about you?
The world is opening up🙋🏼♀️…but hugs are still shut down 🙆🏼♀️. WHAAAAAT?
How can a Pre-Pandemic Hugger survive Post-Pandemic social life?
Hopefully, you still enjoy hugging your significant other after being locked inside the house together for a couple of months. But how can you express love in non-physical ways to your other friends and family? Here are some ideas.
4 non-physical ways to express love
1. CONNECT WITH eye contact
William Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Victor Hugo, Carl Jung and countless others throughout history marveled at the connection of the eyes to the soul. Convey your feelings by baring your soul with eye contact. Even after social distancing is a thing of the past, would more eye contact be a bad thing? Can we put our devices down for a few moments to really connect with another human being? We spend an embarrassing average of 3.5 hours a day on our phones, and we’re only awake for about 18. Watch out, though. Eye contact is powerful stuff, and most of us are not accustomed to it. Try to strike just the right amount. Enough to really connect, but not so much that it’s overbearing.
2. EXPRESS YOUR AFFECTION IN Words
Hugs express our feelings for each other non-verbally, raising our natural “feel good” or “happiness hormones” (including Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins). But, just hearing that you are loved or special ALSO increases natural dopamine and oxytocin levels. So, spread some happiness verbally. Express your deep affection or admiration to someone you would usually hug. For those unfamiliar with the concept, I’m referring to talking; its sorta like texting, only you do it with your mouth. 😉 It’s a little more work, but those you love will be grateful. And don’t be stingy. Blast that love out like a candy-exploding piñata.
3. Invent your own greeting
When I see a loved one that I’ve been missing for a while, I tend to put both hands over my heart and raise my shoulders. While I’m not sure why, it feels pretty natural to me. I think I’ll stick with it.
What could you do to salute those you love? Prince Harry uses the elbow bump. The Israeli Prime Minister advised “doing” Namaste (hands together at your heart center). My brother-in-law air-kissed me the other day, which I found sweet and thoughtful. What fits your personality style? Perhaps a peace sign? Maybe say hello Snoop-style with a little dance?
4. Smile without restraint
Show us your teeth! Give your biggest smile. Smiles naturally raise dopamine levels and convey feelings of welcomeness. Smiling lowers stress levels, boosts your immune system and lowers blood pressure. Sign me up for that!
While none of these can completely substitute being swept up in an embrace by a treasured friend, hopefully they will be enough; at least until hugging is back on the table. But for now, maybe the little gestures with which we greet each other will mean a little more than they used to. Since they take deliberate thought and action, perhaps it will be more appreciated than just going in for the physical touch.
If you have a new or different non-physical greeting,SHARE IT WITH US in the comments below!
🤷🏼♀️ A. This virus and the means to control it is just overblown media hype: “This is a sham, a hoax, a travesty!“
🤷🏼♀️ B. This virus is the precursor to Armageddon, the end of the world as we know it:. “Close everything down until 2025!“
🤷🏼♀️ C. I wish we knew more about Covid-19. I don’t want to spread the virus, but I can only wear a mask and social distance for a little while longer.
I’m definitely C. I don’t want to get sick, but if I don’t see my sister soon, this girl’s gonna lose it.
But, I’m not a medical doctor, biohazard specialist or a politician, so my opinion on this whole thing doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that this shutdown doesn’t psychologically scar us for life. Some days I feel like I’m just a teensy baby-step away from full blown psychosis. So, I did a little research and found 3 ways to prevent a quarantine breakdown.
1. Empower Yourself with Acceptance
You may not realize that you are right, smack in the middle of the grieving process. For the last month, your entire way of life has been stripped from you. Don’t underestimate or belittle the depth of how that makes you feel. But, here is the good news: just the act of accepting what “is” and how it makes you feel is incredibly empowering. Feelings can be scary, but they are your body’s way of telling you that something is off.
If you fear your own anger and heartache, feelings can seem like a flesh-eating beast that would be best ignored. But, suppressing one’s feelings doesn’t make them go away; that sneaky beast always finds a way to escape and make itself known. The only way to move uncomfortable emotions on and out of your body is to acknowledge them and let them dissipate.
2. Don’t Isolate Yourself with Hatred
Researching this virus ’til our eyes bleed has led some of us to believe certain things about its origin, how it is spread, how well or poorly the response was handled, etc. You must remember: not everyone will agree with your findings. Don’t further isolate yourself by harboring hatred or spewing it at a neighbor with opposite beliefs. Stand up for what you believe, but do it with kindness, understanding that the object of your rage may be fighting something internally that you are unaware of. Plus SCREAMING a message is not usually as effective as whispering it.
3. Remember The Good Things That Are Happening
Don’t get so focused on the pandemic that you forget that there are still good things happening. Great changes come when we feel uncomfortable, and this virus has caused me to stretch into territories I would never imagine.
About a year ago, I was asked what my hobbies were. As a mom, I’ve taken care of others for so long that I had no idea what I like to do myself (yes, that is sad). 6 weeks at home will change that. I now have 6 hobbies, things I love to do! They bring hope, reminding me that there is a big world out there waiting for me to conquer it when this is over.
6 weeks at home also go a long way in home projects, upgrades, organization and gardening. My house has never looked better.
All this to say: don’t lose hope. Try to celebrate the little things. Everyday miracles abound for those seeking them.
I’m a bit late to the meditation game. It always seemed a bit whacky to me. To me, enlightenment involves googling a subject of interest, not trying to understand myself. As a true product of the 80’s, things like life balance and living consciously just weren’t on my radar. I did get my aura cleansed once after a massage, which I found fascinating but not exactly life-changing. So, sitting still doing absolutely nothing seemed like a humongous waste of time in my jam-packed day. That is until I tried it. Wow. Now I’m H-O-O-K-E-D.
WARNING: HEAVILY MEDITATED
To clear up any confusion, I’m not considering taking a vow of silence or becoming a monk. But, as I get older, I do find myself more interested in the connection of my body and mind to feelings of calm happiness. Meditation is like a mini mind vacation gushing with healthy benefits, plus it’s really enjoyable. So, here are a few favorite meditations of mine, a totally unlikely meditation fan.
1. Mental Noting meditation
Mental Noting is a great meditation technique for learning mindfulness. It simply asks you to recognize and note what is around you. As I’ve mentioned, I have ADD to the MAX. This means that my mind wanders, making mindfulness difficult. Instead of taking in the atmosphere, I’m assaulted by disjointed thoughts: I should do my roots. I need to wash the dog. I think I have Turrets. Do coyotes mate for life? Mentally noting my surroundings helps me stay in the immediate atmosphere. Plus, it’s easy. I just note what I see: desk, pen, books, picture. What I hear: birds, kids, water. What I smell: tea, cinnamon.
There is no analysis or judgement in this exercise; just recognition of what is. Yes, it seems a little silly. But it brings my jumping mind right into the present; ready to experience this moment, which will never come again and could be missed.
2. Box Breathing meditation
Box Breathing Meditation consists of four breathing steps of equally measured length. Go through each step for the same number of seconds. Here are the 4 steps:
Breathe in for 5 seconds.
Hold for 5 seconds.
Breathe out for 5 seconds.
Hold for 5 seconds.
3. Visualization Meditation
This technique combines visualizing the good things that give us joy and peace, then meditating on them. I find this type of meditation is a beautiful way to connect with God. I visualize God holding me in his huge hands, blessings raining down on me until I’m soaked and floating in a sea of gratefulness.
4. Best Self meditation
I’m only human. I don’t always handle every situation perfectly. So, when I find myself acting like a complete lunatic, Best Self Meditation helps me to get a feel for how I could have acted in a way that feels more genuine to the real me. I settle into a comfortable position and repeat the scenario in my mind, this time acting in a way I like better. This is not to berate myself or guilt myself into better behavior. This reminds me of who I am and improves the odds I will act differently when given the chance again.
5. Walking Meditation
Ah, this is my favorite – meditating in the great outdoors. Find a beautiful spot to walk and meditate. Start by checking in with your body. How does it feel? Notice your surroundings using your senses. What do you smell? What do you see? What do you hear? What effects do these things have on your body? As you walk, the rhythm of your steps provides opportunities for affirmations, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The list of meditation benefits is long and impressive. By lowering stress levels, it calms anxiety, brightens depression and improves sleep, not to mention lowering blood pressure, chronic pain and heart disease. YOWZA! Now is a great time to get in touch with your inner Yogi. If I can do it, ANYBODY can!
Once upon a time there was a lonely, perfect princess waiting by the window for her flawless knight in shining armor…blah blah blah – are you kidding me? Who writes this crap?
Now, tell me about a smart lady forced to gray-matter her way out of a tricky situation, take on the establishment to fight for her rights, all while overcoming her own insecurities. Now you’ve got me. I’m hooked. Tell me more.
This image of perfection that we all put on every morning and wear throughout the day – what exactly is it for? Will love, happiness and good things only come to us in a flawless state? If trial and error is the only proven way to progress, wouldn’t a flawless state only exist where no progress is being made?
We revere the brave, like they are above fear. Yet bravery isn’t absence of fear. It’s the process of overcoming fear, and doing what you set out to do in spite of the fear. The same applies to everything we prize (fitness, money, beauty, wisdom, relationships) are all hard won through trial and error and a big bunch of fails. Putting in the work to get there gives us perspective to cherish and respect it once we have earned it.
Plus, when you show your flaws, it helps me not to feel so bad about mine. I remember one Christmas, showing up for bootcamp embarrassed that I’d gained a little weight from too many holiday treats. I asked my fit friend how she avoided the same temptation. She laughed and said: “I just ate an entire box of chocolates in 2 days that was supposed to be for my kids. I just do my best. I love chocolate”. My embarrassment melted away, and I cut myself some slack.
If I don’t know about your failures, how could I possibly understand your passions? If you don’t show me your scars, how will I fully celebrate your triumphs? If you don’t let me see your imperfections, how will I ever love who you really are? And if I only love some perfect version of you that doesn’t really exist, I don’t love the real you at all, because I never really knew you.
We all love the stories about famous people failing – Oprah being fired because “she’d never make it in television”, Stephen King, whose first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times before getting published, Henry Ford’s first automobile company going bankrupt – but why do we love them? Do we hate celebrities? Well, maybe some, but I think we love those stories just because they give us hope. They encourage us to keep trying when everything around us is telling us to quit, to stop trying so hard, to do something easier.
Join me in embracing our struggles and being open about our failures. Let’s encourage each other and build each other up. Failure means I was brave enough to try. Failure means I have a chance to learn. People who succeed are the greatest failures of all time!
What have you failed at lately? Share in the comments!
My sister was the sweetest little Christian girl you could ever find. Played piano. Sang like an angel. Beautiful. Always had her ducks in a row, and they always looked good. She instinctively knew how to act and what to say.
I, on the other hand: large and loud. In a place where beautiful and worthy meant lady-like and quiet, I came up embarrassingly short. My mouth was a runaway train, jumping the tracks at every turn. I worshipped beauty, but ate my feelings, making me one of those girls who would be so cute if they just didn’t eat so much. Garnish that with strong ADD and you’ve got a real mess. I always felt so…wrong-and in the event I should temporarily stop hating myself, an army of onlookers stood at the ready to rally the cause.
OK, stop crying. I did eventually shrink into my own body. My story gets so much better. My life has been amazing; but before that, I daydreamed of being skinny and appreciated. I wanted to say cool things that others copied and quoted. I struggled to be the new, demure, likable Michelle; the one that others said God wanted me to be. Quiet. Behaved. Unquestioning. It never occurred to me that they might be wrong.
It wasn’t until much later that I discovered God not only loves me, he likes me. He made me loud and funny… and I think he thoroughly enjoys me. I feel him looking down at me when he needs a little comic relief, bragging to the angels: “I outdid myself on this one. I just love this girl.”
We must overcome so many obstacles on the twisted road to being ourselves. We don’t need others to tell us how we don’t measure up. We can just check out the latest ads for our favorite stuff to realize we are not skinny enough or rich enough or smart enough. Why are we all so afraid to figure out who we are? It shouldn’t be this scary.
So next time you’re on Instagram, looking at all of the people you think are better than you, do this: Look up at the sky and picture God looking on you, loving you, reveling in the perfection of his creation, carefully watching you along your journey. And give Him a gift that only you can give him – the gift of being 100% extraordinarily YOU.
Her youngest brother was captured as a prisoner of war in World War 2. She lived through the Great Depression and personal betrayals of many kinds. Yet she was the most joyful person I’ve ever known.
Born in 1911, long before internet, cell phones and even televisions were invented, my Grandma Anne missed living a full century by only a few months. I often asked her if she’d ever dated Moses or Noah. She didn’t, by the way, they were just friends.
When her parents couldn’t afford to feed all 4 of their children, they sent her away to live in a convent. Not easy for a young child, I’m sure. But, when she spoke of that time it was never with bitterness or hatred. She adored her mother, spoke of how cute she was, and knew that her mother suffered more at the separation than she. She faced challenges all through her life, and sang her way through them. Loudly.
Her son, my father, started traveling frequently when I was about 10. It broke my heart; the goodbyes filled my heart with gloom. But occasionally, my grandma would come to stay with us. Instantly the house lit up like a baseball stadium at night. She talked or sang non-stop. Why were we surprised? What else could we expect from a performer? Onstage she stole the show. Offstage, she just showed-off. There was no sitting quietly for Anne.
She went on to live with us while I was a teenager, greeting me daily with the song:
Smile, darn ya, smile You know this great world is a good world after all Smile, darn ya, smile And right away watch lady luck pay you a call Things are never black as they are painted Time for you and joy to get acquainted So make life worthwhile Come on and smile, darn ya, smile
Every day I told her how annoying it was and every day she’d pull me in close for a hug. She knew it secretly made me happy. She could see right through me – even rebellious teenagers need love, sometimes more than anyone else.
I initially named this post “Living with Joy”, but I think it’s more accurate to say that my grandma actually lived in joy. Joy wasn’t a companion she invited in occasionally; it was more like a bubble that surrounded her body and moved in concert with her through life. Now that’s a way to live!
When she was in her early 90’s, she looked in the mirror and complained that she had wrinkles. Really, Grandma? I laughed and said: what do you care, you’re in your 90’s – you’re SUPPOSED to have wrinkles. But she’d go on, polishing her nails, wearing her bracelets and jewelry every day. Not to impress you. If you didn’t like, it she didn’t care. She did it because it made her happy.
My grandma passed away about 10 years ago. I think of her almost every day. My goal is to brighten someone’s life even half as much as she brightened mine. Then, mine will also be a life well-lived.