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9/11, Depression, and the Meaning of Life


Many people are remembering 9/11 today. It's hard not to remember. So many of us can recall exactly what we were doing when we first heard the devastating news - for me it was that a plane crashed into a building in New York City. I remember a group of students gathered around a TV screen in one of the Social Work buildings. It was one of our first day of classes. I wasn't sure what they were watching, but I cruised right by already late to class.

We moved our desks into a circle. There were a few people frantically pushing numbers on their cell phones. The instructor had the affect of someone trying to maintain calm. It turned out that several of my classmates' families were in New York and my classmates were trying to reach them. As the beginnings of the story of 9/11 unfolded, we exchanged looks of shock. Our professor asked that we stay for the full 2.5 hours of class. We thought she was crazy.

I remember going home and watching the news all day long. I remember going to bed terrified. I couldn't snuggle in close enough to my husband and I finally fell asleep wondering what kind of world I was bringing my firstborn into as I thought about him sprouting from a little seed inside my belly. Earlier in the day I had wondered if our new insurance plan would cover my pregnancy - we had just moved to Michigan from Arlington, Virginia. That seemed like a non-issue at bedtime. I couldn't stop thinking about how I had driven past the Pentagon every day on my way to work when we lived in Arlington. I couldn't begin to make sense of what had happened in our country - the land of the free and home of the brave - that day. Nobody could.

It is National Suicide Prevention Week. I saw a post on Facebook yesterday about a group call To Write Love On Her Arms. According to their mission statement, this is a  "movement is dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide..."

Yesterday's call was to write the word "LOVE" on your arm to help raise awareness. So I did that, knowing that finding hope and help for these issues specifically is a cause that I hold close to my heart.


When I woke this morning to stories of 9/11 and LOVE on my arm, I began to think about graduate school and how I had diagnosed myself with almost every mood disorder I learned about in class. It was actually quite liberating to learn that there was an entire vocabulary for the feelings I had struggled with my entire life.

In a different Facebook post yesterday, someone I know shared a picture of LOVE on her arm. She included a note to her dad - I gathered he had committed suicide. I thought about my dad's sudden death about 3.5 years ago. He didn't commit suicide, but before we knew the cause of his death, the possibility that he did commit suicide wasn't out of the question. With drugs and alcohol, he certainly found other less severe ways to escape the pain he felt in his life.

After his death, I pretty much fell apart. With three little people to care for and my husband back at work, I knew I needed help. I decided to take anti-anxiety medication. While my grief intensified my anxiety and symptoms of depression, it is true that living with anxiety was something I had been doing my whole life. I didn't have words for the constant feeling that something could go wrong at any second until I learned more about anxiety and depression in graduate school. I thought I was "too sensitive" while the truth was I felt things really deeply. Maybe more deeply than other people. When the pain was too much bear, I looked for ways to hide it or dull it. 

When I finally decided to take medication for my anxiety it was in part because I remembered a friend saying to me "Anna, you don't have to live this way" referring to my constant state of anxiety. I never wanted to take medication, but at that point - after my dad died - I didn't think I had time for therapy and I knew from my studies that it would help me. It was a very small dose, just enough to take the edge off and not enough to keep me from crying my way through a year's worth of contacts in way less than a year's time.

The thing about living with anxiety and depression that is so hard, and can be debilitating even, is that you feel so alone. So hopeless. So isolated. And on top of all that, you can feel ashamed of feeling that way. You think the only way out of the pain is to stop it. People try stopping the pain in all kinds of ways.

I would never, ever tell anyone that the key to happiness is to take medication. That is a choice you have to make for yourself based on your own history and your own present situation. What I would do is to say what my friend said to me - "You don't have to live like this." You have options.

See, I have come to realize that while there is immense pain and suffering in this world - and while I am not immune to any of it - we are not here on Earth to suffer. We are here to enjoy our lives and to live them peacefully. I don't know what that means for everyone, but I know that it is true. I don't have any proof, you'll just have to trust me.

Sometimes I wish my medication would numb me to the pain I feel, and that's when I know that it is time to take it up a notch in other areas of my life. When I want to escape what I'm feeling, I have found that writing helps me to feel more grounded. Yoga reminds me to breathe and helps me to stay present. Meditation helps me to quiet my "monkey mind" - the what-ifs that can spin out of control if I don't stop them. Being outside soothes my soul. Taking walks and running (or trying to run...) helps me to clear my mind. Spending time with people I love helps me remember who I am - not a condition, but a soul doing its best to enjoy this human experience. When I can return to myself and what is most important to me, I can better handle whatever life throws my way. 

For me, art is a cure-all. Creating connects me to my core, the Creator, and all things created. I try to create something every single day. Sometimes it's just dinner (usually it's not dinner...). I have been keeping a Blessings journal for a while now and I love it because I can do just a little bit of creating very easily every day AND reflect on the things and people for which I am grateful. 







Yoga, art, and meditation are some of the tools I use to get to break away from the every day and get back to what matters most to me. 

We all have those tools - those things that can help us to slow down and re-focus on what matters. For a lot of people prayer will do the trick. No matter how much pain you are in, you must remember that life is not about the pain. Life is about JOY and you have the right to live in peace.

So, how do we get back there? What will it take to get you back to the peace? Here are a few steps you can try to take...
  1. Breathe
  2. Think of one thing that brings you peace
  3. Take one step, make one stroke, write one word, recall one memory, or reach out to one friend at a time - whatever it is that will take you to peace
  4. Keep breathing
  5. Keep going
  6. Get there

The only way through anything is to go through it. Seriously. Sit in it for as long as you need to. Feel what comes up for you. Yell, scream, cry, stomp your feet. Get as angry or as sad as you need to be. 

And then remember that you don't have to live there. You don't have to stay in the darkness. Let it - whatever it is - flow through you, then you too can go with the flow. You can move through whatever it is. It might take hours or days or even years. Choose one thing that brings you joy or peace and take one little step in that direction whenever you can. You will make your way out of it. And, know you're not alone. If you need help, reach out for it. It's okay to ask for help.

This world - one where true heroes sacrifice their lives to save others, where slowly we are raising our voices around issues like depression and suicide, where communities come together in times of despair to help one another, and where we recognize that we are all connected - this is the world I brought my now eleven year-old son into. It is a world filled with war and hate and hunger and pain and suffering, and it is a world filled with beauty and peace and joy. We have to learn to live with the good and the bad. It's not an either/or proposition. 

When you are suffering, you don't have to stay there. You don't have to live like that. You have options. My hope is that we all choose PEACE and JOY and do whatever it takes to get there.

With all kinds of love and big Anna hugs... xoxoxo

What's Love Got to Do With It?


Yesterday was the Boston Marathon and there were bombs. People died and were horribly injured. Most injuries were lower body injuries. Legs. At a marathon. It's sickening, really, and it doesn't make any sense. I only looked at a few photos from yesterday, and honestly from the looks of it, it seems like a miracle that more people weren't injured or killed. I am so sad for the victims and the people who witnessed such a traumatic event. Lots and lots of people are very sad and angry that something so awful could happen right under our noses. In response to one of my friend's Facebook posts about the incident, someone wrote "Wake up America!"

It's true. It is definitely time to wake up. It's time to keep waking up. For some of us, waking up is a process. I think when people say "Wake up!" they are often calling upon us to DO something. And often what a lot of people DO, is turn to our leaders and say, "What are YOU going to do?"

In tragic times it is completely normal to look to others for answers. When a violent crime takes place, we look to others and we wait to see how they will respond to the violence. We turn to others to bring forth justice. We want the perpetrator named and blamed. We want all that. I think that's normal.

BUT...

Here is what I propose we do:  First, if you are sad and angry because of something that has occurred, sit with that feeling for a bit. Let yourself feel the sadness. Let it fill every cell of your body. Feel the anger. Let it sink it. Simply be with it.

And then, take responsibility for your sadness and your anger. You are not a victim. You are a warrior and it is time to fight back. If you are moved to sadness or anger, you really must do something about it.   None of us can afford to witness the violence we see in our lives each and every day and do nothing. Yes, it's time to fight. It's time to revolutionize the ways in which we do sadness and anger.

What? You have no weapons? Okay. Good.

We are heading into this battle armed with nothing but love. Love. Mmmhmm.

From all I know to be true in this world - from knowledge gained being a painfully shy and overanxious child, from reading countless books, from graduating with an MSW, from attending seminars, volunteering, and becoming a mother; from talking to people, and listening to people, from living, and from experiencing heartbreak and learning how to put the pieces of my heart back together, I know that love is the answer.

If you are awake and ready for action, then love a little more. Give a little more grace to the person who cuts you off on the highway, to the mom who never seems to have it together, AND the one who ALWAYS seems to have it together. Give more grace to your children's teachers and the PTO president, to your neighbors, to the people who take your orders, your boss, and to our leaders. Give more grace to the people who disappoint you and the people you disappoint. Give more grace and love to your partner, your children, and your dog. Give yourself more grace. Just a little to start, see how it feels, then go full throttle when you're ready.

I know that it is true that like attracts like. It is true that what you put out into the world returns to you. You really do reap what you sow. It's all true.

Love more. Those who bask in the glow of your love will follow your lead. Soon the love will go viral. The entire planet will be LIT UP with love sweet love.

Believe me when I say that I know love isn't all lollipops and rainbows. Love mirrors life in that it can be downright dreamy one day and a freakin' nightmare the next. In a second everything can change. It happens all the time.

It hurts to love sometimes. It can be really hard to love. When my dad died a few years ago I kept wondering whey I had to love him so much that I would allow my heart to break in his absence? When I watch my children in their most tender moments, I think "Oh MY GOD! It hurts me to love you this much." Sometimes I watch my husband laugh with our kids and I think, "OUCH. I love you so much that it is downright painful." To love someone so much that I know if anything harms that person, I will die - that is scary.

The awareness that to love something means to open myself right up to the possibility of pain can be so frightening and maybe that is why we often choose not to love so freely. Maybe that is why we will only love with conditions. Maybe that is why we choose anger or sadness - to start from a place that can't get much worse.

What if we made LOVE our rock bottom?

Start with love and where do you go from there? What makes itself known to you? Grace, mercy, freedom, fullness...BLISS?

I'm on a bit of a mission to love like crazy and to open myself up to being loved. We all are really. The mission is OURS should we choose to take it.

Choose love.

Love has EVERYTHING to do with it.

xoxo

One Lady a Leaping...

Hello My Sweet Blog!

Oh, how I have missed you.

I think I'm coming out from behind a creative block, of sorts. I just haven't been feeling the love. And, my attention, time, and energy have been needed elsewhere. I am here now though and I have something I really want to share as it is a bit of a breakthrough, and I looooove breakthroughs.

On February 11, 2006, my life changed in a way I had not imagined. I am afraid I would not have had the courage to imagine the impact, and it has taken years to realize the full effect. On February 11, 2006 I gave birth to my second son, Alexander. I had a very healthy pregnancy and there were no signs that my sweet baby would be anything less than healthy. Until he emerged. He was purple. His cry was very faint. The mood in the delivery room went from anticipatory to grave. I had no idea what was happening. Alexander landed on my belly for a brief moment, and then he was whisked away. I didn't hold him again for 10 days.

Alexander the Great this summer.

Thank God, it was only ten days! Thank God I held him again. Thank God he is healthy, and other than being a very feisty little guy, he bears no scars from his rocky start. We sometimes wonder if his start in life inspired Alexander's intensity, or if his intensity helped him fight for his life? I often think that if in the very beginning someone had said, "This will only last ten days," I would have been better equipped to handle the trauma of the birth of a very sick baby. Ten days doesn't seem very long to me now, but then, as the clock ticked, I didn't know what the future held.

I have told this story many times.

Each time I tell it I think, this is the last time I will have to tell this story. And then, each year since on February 11, I wake up eager to celebrate my boy and over the course of the day I notice a heavy feeling settling into my heart. I feel sad. Maybe even a little hopeless. I need to cry. And I always wonder if maybe this time I am really losing it... I can't figure out why I'm feeling the way I feel.

No matter how well we heal or much time has passed, our bodies remember trauma. Some people call it cell memory. I admit, it sounded a little hokey the first time I heard about it. But it is real. We are surrounded by triggers - scenes, smells, people, places - all of it and any of it can trigger a memory deep in our hearts and cause us to feel the way we felt way back when.

On a normal day, it may not be a big deal. We might make a quick recovery. But yesterday was a doozy. Not only was it Alexander's birthday, but we were also closing on the sale of our last house - the house where our family was made complete. The house Alexander came home to, and where his brother welcomed him. Just two years later, the pair of brothers welcomed their sister. Three years after that, in that house's kitchen my husband told me that my mom just called and said she thinks my dad is dead. We had people over after his funeral.

A huge part of my life took place in that house. It only spanned about six years, but those were six very big and eventful years.  Yesterday we cut ties with that house. It was the day I was called to let go of the house where the memories happened - where the people gathered, where my dad last played Amazing Grace before Thanksgiving Dinner, where my two youngest babies learned to walk and talk and where their big brother woke up on his first day of kindergarten.

I sure do miss this guy.

For someone else, maybe none of these things would matter. But for me, they do. When I was a kid people often said, "You're too sensitive, Anna..." I came to think that was a bad thing. Now I know that my deep sensitivity makes it possible for me to love deeply, and to feel intensely. It is a good thing. A very good thing.

Deeply and intensely I felt the weight of a loss yesterday. I felt the sadness of a good-bye. I felt empty. I was a bit of a wreck all day. I was lost in the muck.

A favorite spot in the old house. A decorator told us this chandelier wouldn't work with the farm table we had here. That made me love the chandelier even more.

I didn't want to wake up this morning. I wanted to stay in bed all day. I got up, I got going, and now I can say that today really is a new day. I feel lighter. I'm finally excited about staring some new projects. I was beginning to wonder if that excitement would come back. I'm writing on my blog... I think the fog lifted.

This was not the time that I finally lost it once and for all. I was triggered, I felt deeply, and I survived. Therein likes my breakthrough. In the thick of it all, when I thought this is it, I didn't see the light. I really didn't see the light. I forgot the light. It's strange how that happens, but for me it does indeed happen sometimes. With the sunrise today, the skies are still so gray here in Michigan, but there is the light of a new day.

I had to share that with someone. I know there are other people out there just like me - who forget about the light sometimes. I want you to know that it's out there. The light is waiting for you.

LEAP into the light.

This is a page I just finished for LifeBook 2013. It's all about Courage - there is  a bear in the background, and this little lady leaping into the light, I think. I'm not real crazy about how it turned out, but I love this lady. She seemed to be calling for a quote I love - "Leap and the net will appear." Julia Cameron said that.  I'm thinking lots of great things can come from a leap. Lots of good things.

In the light there is space for celebration. In the space left vacant by my memories of Alexander's birth, I can celebrate his 7th birthday and his zest for life. He is worth celebrating. In the space freed by memories of the life we lived in that old house, I is excitement for the family moving in there. I am so happy for them! I hope they are as happy there as we were. Even happier. And, like I said, after sitting in the muck all day, feeling what came up, today there is space to get excited about some new creations.   It is all part of the process - the cycle of light and dark and everything in between. Keep going. Keep moving through it, and into the light again. It's always there, somewhere, waiting to greet you. xo

Moments of Truth and Inspiration


Ah, it's been awhile... I cannot believe it is already January 9, 2013. Wow. Oh, and Happy New Year, by the way. The holidays were such a blur. I almost feel as if I'm waking up from a dream - it all happened so fast. I don't regret a second of it, but my head is still spinning.

In the midst of the holiday season our nation witnessed a tragedy - Sandy Hook. No need to say more. My heart still hurts for the families of the little ones who died that day.

As is the case in times of darkness, light bearers come forth to shine their lights upon us.

I was lucky enough to catch one of those light bearers in action when she offered an opportunity for fellow artists, or anyone really, to participate in making Inspiration Decks for the family of Sandy Hook. Her name is Jessica and she writes about her Sandy Hook project here, in a post on her blog, In Search of Dessert. I saw Jessica's post about her idea on Facebook and decided to participate. I had never done this before, but Jessica provided links to tutorials so I wasn't too worried.

Jessica selected quotes for each of the participants and we each made 26 cards (for 26 families - 26 decks). Just looking at the quotes I could tell that they were chosen very carefully and with a heart full of love.

I asked Jessica what inspired her to take on this project. She said the following:


"Everyone making something so beautiful and thoughtful - all this art being made for Sandyhook. I wanted to know if there was a way that our Inspirational cards could literally be "inspiring" for these grieving families. I deliberately chose quotes for the participants (unless they had a specific one in mind) that would both comfort AND inspire them to know they'd heal and grow from this horrible experience. That they are not alone, nor forgotten, nor have they lost their loved ones "for good." Many quotes made reference to the true love, which transcends bodily form." 

While I was traveling over the holidays, Brave Girls Club (an entire tribe of women bearing light) announced a project along the same lines - a Brave Girl Truth Card Exchange. I won't go into too much detail because you can read all about it here. Very, very simply, Brave Girls Club is partnering with Full Circle Exchange to do big, beautiful things. One of these things is taking truth cards made by Brave Girls all over the world to survivors of human trafficking all over the world. It's so incredible to imagine something like that, like the beginning of a worldwide love epidemic.

Spreading the truth about who each of is  - goodness and kindness, strength and beauty, and crazy fabulous love - at our cores, in the center of our souls is something the Brave Girls Club does very well. Making truth cards, again - little cards bearing words and art - is a big part of that, and is something done at Brave Girl camp and in some of the Brave Girl classes offered online. I love making truth cards for myself and I LOVE the idea of sharing these truths with other women.

When I got back from my holiday travels, after the New Year, I got to work.

First, the cards for the Sandy Hook Inspiration Deck.




And in between - truth cards for survivors of human trafficking.


I imagined a mother. A mother receiving a collection of card-sized pieces of art, and not really knowing what to do with them. She may set them aside. She may come back to them. I thought about the hole my dad's death (almost three years ago) left in my heart. Thinking about my own little 6 year-old son, I couldn't even allow myself to imagine the hole left by the loss of a child. It is an unimaginable loss. I have always turned to the words of others to help me make sense of things I don't understand. I remembered the comfort I felt when I read inspiring, hopeful quotes about grief. Like a warm cup of soothing tea for my soul, the words helped fill the spots in my heart that emptied when my dad passed away. I hoped that the mothers who would eventually hold my cards would feel some sense of comfort knowing that they were being held in the hearts of many.   

I imagined a woman. A survivor. I couldn't imagine what she had been through. Again, unimaginable. But I could imagine Melody Ross, who founded Brave Girls Club with her sister, handing this woman a truth card. Melody is without a doubt an Earth Angel. Loving kindness drips from her pores. I had the privilege of meeting her this summer, and am inspired daily by her art, her words, and her work. So, I could imagine this woman being moved by Melody's kind and loving ways. I could imagine the love she would feel in Melody's warm embrace (Brave Girls are huggers). I hoped that in the absence of Melody, my little truth card might remind this woman the truth of who she is when she doubts it.

What if each of us had some artifact that told us we were being held in the hearts of many? Or, that told us the truth of who we are? The impact of these little gifts is so powerful. As Jessica said, these are gifts of true lovewhich transcends bodily form.

Within a week of introducing the partnership with Full Circle Exchange, Brave Girls Club received 1500 truth cards. FIFTEEN. HUNDRED. That is true love.

In these small gestures, these moments of truth and inspiration, lies a great big, HUGE, DEEP, deep well of love. This love is there for all of us. People like Jessica and Melody help us to manifest that love. Thankfully. But we can manifest it for ourselves and for each other too. It's there waiting. A big well of love for all of us. There are no shortages. The well never runs dry. I promise. Jump in.


xoxo

The Cost of Comparison

I think this is what joy looks like.


Comparison is the thief of joy -Theodore Roosevelt

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy.

This is one of my favorite quotes. When I see it though, I'm not filled with a warm and hopeful feeling, like I am when I read a lot of other quotes. Instead, it feels more like a mobster type guy came up out of the blue and pushed me against the wall. He isn't scary at all because I know, despite his rough exterior, he is a teddy bear on the inside. He grabs me by the shoulders and leans in so close that our noses are almost touching. He smells like Ivory soap and Altoids. He says, "Comparison is the thief of joy" in a tough guy voice. He doesn't add "Got it?" at the end, instead he searches my face, he lands on my eyes to make sure I got it.

My eyes say "Yes. I got it." He slaps me on my shoulder, like football coaches slap their players after a great play, and walks away.

Comparison is the thief of joy gives me goose bumps, but I love it because almost every single day I need that reminder.

I used to love taking my first baby to his well-baby exams. I was so proud of my healthy boy. I loved hearing how he had reached all the important milestones he needed to reach between then and the last visit. I left feeling like a superhero. It was blissful, really.

My second baby was very sick when he was born. We had no idea it was coming. Every little fantasy I had about nursing him right away and holding him close, skin to skin into the wee hours of the night, flew out the window when they whisked my purple baby boy away. I felt like a failure. Fortunately, he came through like a champion and it wasn't too long before the trauma of his birth didn't define him and his life here on earth. Soon, he was meeting all the milestones he was supposed to be meeting. It felt different though. I never felt like a superhero.

When I think about how we compare ourselves to one another, the first thing that comes to mind is those milestones. From BIRTH, before we even have a chance to prove ourselves, in our fresh little, sweet-smelling bodies we are compared to one another. It only makes sense that as parents we learn to determine how well our children are doing by how they compare to other children. And then it goes on. We get graded in school, we compete in sports, we interview for the same jobs as our peers. It never ends.

That's just on the outside. On the inside, we actually begin to tell ourselves we are not good enough because we don't measure up to the people around us. We are not healthy or strong or thin or athletic or smart or sweet or aggressive or pretty or handsome or rich or humble or generous or frugal enough. We are never enough. OR, we are too much - too sweet, too thin, and so on.

We can't win if we listen to what we hear, all around us, even when we think we're okay, because an "expert" will tell us that he can get us where we should be. Or, an advertisement will tell us there is a product that will help us get to where we could be. Slowly, over time, we begin to believe the messages all around us that tell us if we just had this or that, or did this or that, we would be happy. Even when we really are happy, we hear these messages and we have to decide whether or not to believe them.

It is helpful to gain insight into our growth and development by comparing where we are with other people in similar circumstances. It is completely natural to gather data about people and our environment by making comparisons between what we experience around us and in other people and who we are to ourselves. The thing is though, making comparisons rarely leads to feeling good. Even when our comparisons make us believe that we are actually better or stronger or thinner or prettier or smarter or more enlightened... than the person to whom we compare ourselves.

Comparison truly robs us of our joy. We cannot be joyful in a place where we are comparing ourselves to others, or even to our former selves. I could not be joyful in the birth of my second son, not only because of the sheer trauma of fearing for his life, but also because I couldn't stop comparing his birth to my first son's birth. I felt like the superhero mother I once was, was no longer.

In the process of comparing, we are looking for differences. As we identify differences between ourselves and those around us, and differences between who we are today, and who we once were, we forget about the qualities that remain the same. We forget about the ties that bind us. We forget about the ways in which we are connected.

At each of our cores, in our souls, or in the depths of our hearts, there is nothing but goodness. Were we to distill ourselves to the essence of who we really, truly are, we are all - each and every one of us - love. We all want to live well, in whatever form well takes for us. We all want what is best for our children. That we forget this in the course of comparison, that we fail to see the divine goodness in one another, is the biggest tragedy of all. True joy comes when we feel connected - to each other and to ourselves.


For me, I invite discontent when I compare my work to other people's work. I will always find better, more refined art and writing than mine. I will always find people who run more lucrative businesses than I do. As I focus on the ways I don't measure up to others and their accomplishments, I lose sight of one of the most exciting aspects of life, which to me, is that there are so many different ways to express oneself.  How wonderful to see how other people's inspiration takes form - to see and read and hear what moves other people. These discoveries can be so inspiring. I want to embrace that inspiration and that sense of community and connection that comes from understanding and even taking pride in the fact that we are all in this together. We may have our own individual lyrics and our own unique moves, but we are all dancing on this one stage called Earth together.


I invite us to make notes about one another, if we have to, to learn and to grow, and to celebrate our differences. After all, what would the world be without big, soft women to hug us? And thin women too? Boring. What would our lives look like if we were all the same color, with the same eyes and mouths and hair, and we spoke with the same voices? Dull. We can't all be athletes. Who would be left to cheer? We need to have different strengths and weaknesses. We were meant to have different gifts from one another. Differences are good. We are all exactly as we should be - different. And, while we hold space for our differences in one hand, at the very same time, I ask that we hold space in the other hand for all that is the same: the essence of what we really are - all goodness and pure love. I ask that we recognize, at the end of the day, we are all made from the same stuff. We are all bound by that which makes us human.

Nothing compares to the joy we experience when we embrace that we are connected.

xo