INNER TRAVEL COACHING with Tammy Faulds https://www.innertravelcoaching.com Life Coaching | Transition Coaching | The Daring Way Toronto Sun, 18 Aug 2019 16:09:13 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 How To Stop Being Busy https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/how-to-stop-being-busy/ Sun, 18 Aug 2019 16:04:29 +0000 https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18601 Busyness has become our favourite tool for showing everyone how indispensable/ loveable/ needed/ worthy we are...and it needs to stop.

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Have you ever…

  • Mentally rehearsed your to-do list before getting out of bed
  • Started your day feeling already depleted and dragging your feet 
  • Had lunch at your desk so you could catch up on emails
  • Rescheduled self-care and fun with friends in favour of ticking one more thing off your list

Yep.  So have I. Welcome to the ‘I’m too busy to tell you how busy I am’ club.

We grew up believing the gold stars we earned meant we were good students and therefore good people.  And the more gold stars we racked up the better we were. 

Over the years we may have traded in gold stars for praise from our boss or admiration from our co-workers but we’re still trying desperately to prove we’re contributing.  We’re valuable family members, teammates, employees.  We’re still trying to prove that we’re important. And busyness has become our favourite tool for showing everyone how indispensable/ loveable/ needed/ worthy we are.

It’s all about identity & perception.  

Brené Brown says “healthy striving is internally focused” (For example being productive feels good.  It gives us a sense of accomplishment. Pride in our work. Joy in connecting with others and being of service.) whereas unhealthy striving is driven by fear of what other people will think of us.

Busyness can be fueled by…

Perfectionism – they’ll only like me if I’m flawless (and do it all with a smile) 

Avoidance of Criticism – or disappointment if you say no (hands up if you’re a people pleaser in recovery).

Escapism – if you’re always busy, you don’t have to deal with uncomfortable emotions… like grief or shame

Fear – if I don’t say yes to this, someone will replace me

The good news is, these are all CHOICES and repeating stories in our head – and they can be rewritten because we always have a choice. Let’s be truthful here, somewhere along the way you said ‘yes’ to something that has lead you to this point.  I said yes to staying in jobs that didn’t fulfill me and lead to burnout (over and over again).  I said yes to not making an effort to meet people because I was just too damn tired (inaction is also a choice).  I chose to make my career a priority over my health (over and over again)!

I still struggle with this.  With the “not enough-ness” that pokes its head up and tells me I should be doing MORE.  Hustling harder. The difference is now I can recognize my triggers and what they mean for my self-worth and course correct MUCH faster. (read more about how my perfectionism damn near killed me)

Here’s what you can try…

Do a reality check – Monitor just how busy you really are.  Notice how long you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, subscription emails, zoning out on TV, video games, dating sites, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. on any given day.  Think about cutting down your time online or in front of the TV by 20%.  That would then free up time to do other, more meaningful, things.

F*ck the 5 AM club – If you’re NOT a morning person (like me) then don’t try and force yourself into an early morning routine because you feel you should do it because everyone else seems to be. Honour what works for YOU – maybe you’re a night owl or simply function best after the sun is up. Point is, if it doesn’t work find something that does. Zooey Deschanel says it best “In an ideal world no one would talk before 10 AM, people would just hug because waking up is really hard.” Which leads me to what I do…

Breathe – When you wake up in the morning, DO NOT GRAB YOUR PHONE and instead just sit in your bed with your eyes closed and breathe.  This can be for 1 second, or 10 seconds, or 10 minutes.  Do whatever feels good to you. Meditation can reduce stress and anxiety.  It helps lengthen your attention span and improves focus.  All things that will help you move through your to-do list with a little more grace and speed.

Rewrite the narrative – When we tell ourselves (or say aloud) things like “I am so f*ckin’ busy” we give up our agency.  Statements that begin with “I AM” create our reality, they feel so much more permanent and it makes us feel like the “busy” is happening TO us.  So next time you hear yourself saying, “I am busy” try switching it out for “I CHOOSE to have a full schedule.”  When it’s a choice it doesn’t feel like it’s happening to you and you can take back your power.

Ask for help – Our society champions doing everything on your own.  It’s the often glamourized American dream of going from nothing to rich and famous ALL BY MYSELF.  Except, of course, our lives don’t happen in isolation.

So many of us struggle to ask for help because we worry that others will judge us for not being able to do it all on our own.  Or perhaps we really have been rejected or resented for asking for help in the past.  And now we’re silently judging ourselves every time we even think of asking for help, ‘just easier to do it by myself’. But this isn’t sustainable and leads to burnout. We go farther, together, and heck people love to be needed!  So, go ahead, be courageous, and ask for help!

Set an intention – Set an intention for the day before your feet even hit the floor.  Make it something that feels abundant and, dare I say, luxurious!

  • Today I will give myself space to think before I say yes to one more thing
  • Today will be filled with serendipity and magic!
  • Today I will skip the gym and go for a sun-filled walk by the lake instead
  • Today will be abundant and joyous and filled with laughter!
  • Today I will ask for help with…

Pay attention to your needs – Emotional.  Psychological.  Physical. You need different things during different cycles of your life.  It’s okay if you can’t maintain the energy and hustle you did 10 years ago. I used to think napping was a weakness but now…it’s my friggin’ superpower!

PLAY! – Make sure every single week you schedule, and prioritize, time for play or creativity.  It’s important to have downtime, it refreshes and refuels us and connects us with ourselves and our loved ones.  And play can be whatever you want it to be, provided it’s meaningful and not just you numbing out.  Hang out with a friend in person vs. on text.  Have a dance party with yourself while you cook dinner.  Paint or colour.  Sing along to some of your favourite classic tunes.  Read that book that’s collecting dust on your nightstand.  Do whatever makes your soul smile – BECAUSE YOU CAN CHOOSE TO DO SO.

If you need help rewriting the stories that keep you stuck on the busy hamster-wheel of life…I’m here for you.

Aaaaaand

(pause for exciting news)

I have one more way for you to connect with me + receive bite-sized bits of coaching wisdom.  I have started a YouTube channel (which is totally challenging all my stories of being enough) and I’d love to see you over there.  If you have any topics you’d like to hear me talk about don’t hesitate to comment on my YouTube channel or drop me an email.

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Love After Loss https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/love-after-loss/ Tue, 30 Jul 2019 21:22:03 +0000 https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18564 It becomes this delicate balancing act. Not too soon. But not too long. Walking a line you didn’t create. Learn more about love after loss.

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7 years after the death of her beloved husband my friend D was ready.  She gave herself a mission. She wanted to kiss a man. So, she assembled her gal pals for moral support (missions like these take tremendous courage) and to help her reconnect with her feminine power.  Armed with red lipstick and an open heart her mission was a success. She kissed a man. And that kiss held the promise that it would be possible to love again. It held the reassurance that she deserved to love again.  And the surprising truth that love had always been right there, within her reach the whole time, waiting patiently for her to take the first step.

Learning to love again after a loss is a tricky thing.  It takes courage to be vulnerable and open your heart. Often, we feel guilty – as if finding someone new diminishes our relationship with (or love for) the person we lost.  Nothing could be further from the truth. And there’s fear, of course, whispering, “what if you get hurt again?”  After all, nothing in life is guaranteed.

We also have to contend with the reactions and judgements of friends and family.  If you wait too long people begin to worry about you. They start to play matchmaker.  They cite studies on the effects of loneliness.

Find love again too quickly though, and people will criticize.  They’ll question your devotion to the deceased. They’ll wonder if you’re somehow replacing the one you lost.  Attempting to fill that uncomfortable void in your life with someone new instead of taking the time they believe is required to heal.

So, it becomes this delicate balancing act.  Not too soon. But not too long. Walking a line you didn’t create.

Here’s the thing…

We all grieve and heal at our own pace.  Grief is as individual and unique as the relationship that was lost.

No one gets to tell you when you should love again – it’s your choice.  Only you know when you’re ready.

Which brings me to my friend H, whose wife died suddenly.  He remarried soon after. People gave him a lot of flack for that.  They decided it was too soon. They decided he wasn’t living up to their expectations of honouring his wife’s memory.  But H chose to follow his heart. He admitted that he didn’t expect to find love again so quickly either but once love showed up – it was wonderful.  And it felt absurd to ignore that.

My friends both deeply loved their spouses. And they both found the courage to love again.  They said goodbye to the guilt, walked through the “what ifs” and fears and chose to open their hearts anyway.  And each did it in their own unique time.

I love what Elizabeth Gilbert said on social media when she announced her new love after the death of her wife, Rayya.

“I will always share anything personal about my life if it could help someone else feel more normal about their life.  SO…if you have lost a loved one to death, and you thought you’d never love again, but you’re feeling a pull of attraction toward someone new, and you’re not sure if that’s OK?  Let me normalize it for you. Let me say: It’s OK. Your heart is a giant cathedral. Let it open. Let it love. Do not let your beautiful loyalty to the deceased stop you from experiencing the marvels and terrors of your short, mortal, precious life.  It’s OK to live and to love…Love who you love. It’s all OK and it’s all impossible to control and it’s all an adventure that I will not miss.”

Heart Opening Exercises

If you’re still wading through your fear and guilt and grief but you’d like your heart to feel open again, to begin moving forward, as Liz Gilbert says, “to live and to love” and not miss your next adventure I have a few tools you can begin to use today.

Yoga Poses

Follow this link to find 13 yoga poses that will help you open your chest.  My personal faves are the cobra, upward facing dog, sphinx, and fish pose.

Breathe

• Sit comfortably, spine tall, shoulders back so your chest is open, and begin by noticing your natural breath.

• Notice how the air feels crossing your nostrils. How your chest moves and how your ribs expand and receive with each breath..

• Now notice how many beats/seconds your breath naturally cycles at (i.e. 3 beats in, 3 beats out).

• Try and deepen both the inhalation and the exhalation by one beat. So if you were at 3, lengthen it to 4. Try and get the breath down into the belly, then up into the shoulders. Keep repeating this by adding a beat until you’re 8 beats in and 8 beats out (or whatever number works for you where you feel you have a FULL inhalation and exhalation.)

• Repeat these deep breaths for a few rounds, and when you’ve got the rhythm, bring your attention to your chest. Visualize the colour green swirling and expanding across your chest and around your heart. Breathe deeply with this green visual knowing it’s a healing colour for your heart. Compassionately look for any heaviness in your heart and on the exhale you can release it powerfully through your mouth. Inhale green healing light, and exhale the darkness out the mouth. Once you feel you’ve cleared your chest, return to your normal breathing.

How do you feel after doing that? Are you calmer? Clearer? Lighter? More grounded? Or perhaps you don’t feel different at all? There’s no right answer – just take note. Make a point of doing deep breaths every day and notice how you feel each time.

Do Death Differently

Module 4 of my Do Death Differently course is dedicated to the heart.  Opening it. Healing it. Allowing love back into your life.  It’s full of compassionate coaching guidance, journaling prompts and more breathing exercises.  And it’s just one part of the bigger journey towards healing your grief.

You can read more about Do Death Differently and start the course today right here.

Remember: “Your heart is a giant cathedral.  Let it open. Let it love.” And do it all at your own damn pace.

PS Want more stories about how people discovered love after loss?  Read this.

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Stuck In The Middle https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/stuck-in-the-middle/ Tue, 16 Jul 2019 15:41:27 +0000 https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18548 It’s a feeling that there’s something “off” but you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s a restlessness. And moving forward in any direction can feel daunting.

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Summer has finally arrived here in Toronto which means one thing – patio season!  It’s a beautiful time to get out with friends and enjoy the sunshine + cold beverages.  The vibrancy and colour of nature seem almost infectious.

Our lives, like the seasons, are cyclical and summer brings with it that energy to go out and DO THINGS.

But what if you feel more like you’re walking around in your own personal blizzard?  What if you’re feeling stuck in winter when everyone else is rushing out to enjoy the sun? 

We ALL experience feeling stuck at some point in our lives.

We’ve all felt like we’re hanging out in perpetual limbo keeping an eye out for our next adventure and hoping we’ll know it when it smacks us on the head.  It’s a feeling that there’s something “off” but you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s a restlessness. It’s uncomfortable. And yet…moving forward in any direction (even if you could pick one) can feel daunting.

Maybe you’ve worked REALLY EFFING HARD.  You’ve already overcome a lot.  You’re a survivor.  But you just can’t ignore this calling to do more.  You know it’s time to go beyond surviving.  But what does that even look like?

Or maybe you Hate (yes, with a capital H) your current situation (job/relationship/space) but can’t see a way to move out of it.  I mean…how?? How do you begin to create something better?

Anyone can get stuck.

Don’t be fooled by appearances, we can all end up “stuck” no matter what our lives look like on the outside.  For example…

Everything is great…on the surface.  And you feel ashamed for wanting more.  I mean, who are you to feel dissatisfied with your life?  Maybe you’re a successful doctor because your Dad was a doctor (and so was his Dad) but secretly you wanted to be a concert pianist.  Rocking the boat by walking away from a financially stable career that makes your family proud can be…scary. Embracing uncertainty and stepping into the unknown is never easy.

Or everything’s secretly a mess…but it’s a familiar mess and there’s comfort in familiarity.  It takes buckets of courage to change your situation EVEN IF you hate it.  On the outside…you’ve got everything except the white picket fence. On the inside…you feel stuck in a marriage that brings out the worst version of yourself.  Stuck in a town that sucks the vibrancy from your soul. Mindlessly going through the motions of your so-called “life”. Having NO IDEA how to move forward.

Or you’re stuck in the past…because of grief.  Old pain. A loss that still stings.  And you’re carrying that grief and pain into your present reality.  It’s hard to welcome more into your life when you’re so focused on what you’ve lost.  Your joy feels faded and evaporates quickly. Everything seems coloured by the lens of loss.  And you’d really like to be able to take those damned glasses off…but how? How do you heal?  How do you shift your perspective?

There are so many reasons we end up “stuck”, each as individual as you are but whatever the reason that got you here…we’re all craving 2 things.

  1.  Clarity

    If you have no idea what to do next, where to go or what to focus on and you feel like if you just had a direction…(something to point you the right way) you could begin.

    The #1 place I recommend starting is with your core values.  What’s most important for YOU right now at this moment in your life?  It’s not about the values that have sustained you in the past. And it’s not about the values you aspire to.  It’s right now. Right here. Declaring this is what matters.

    You can get started today by downloading my Core Values Assessment.

  2. Tools

    You’ve tried “everything” and it hasn’t worked.  You’re still here facing the same brick wall. Reaching that goal, honouring that dream seems to be a 1 step forward and 73 steps back kinda process.  And it’s friggin’ annoying, frustrating, exhausting, and discouraging.

    My coaching is all about sustainability. What will get you started AND keep you going on the path to your best life?  What do you need to release? What stories need to be rewritten? What old wounds need to be healed? So that the way forward becomes…less struggle, more ease.

    You won’t find any “5 quick steps to blah, blah, blah”.  This is work, deeeep work, but it’s worth it.

    You can book a discovery session right here.  Let’s talk about how you’re feeling stuck and where you’d like to be instead.  And let’s see if I have the right tools to get you moving and sustain your momentum.

Now, let me get real for a second, we’re already halfway through 2019!!  


If you’re wondering where the hell that time went…you’re not alone.  We all feel this way (and that feeling often intensifies as we get older).  Now here’s the good news: you still have 168 days to do things differently.  To grieve. To heal. To ask for what you need. To take action. To change directions.  To rearrange priorities. That’s 168 days of possibility.  And when it comes to work like this, it’s #nevertooearly #nevertoolate.

Right now I want you to grab a piece of paper and pen or open up a fresh doc.  Let’s look compassionately at the first half of the year and see where…

  1. Maybe the Universe had other plans for you or lessons to learn first…what were the lessons?  What were the detours?
  2. Where would you like to shift things/priorities moving forward?

Remember: it’s okay that you’re not where you thought you should be.  Just like my fave line from “Ms Jackson” by OutKast says, “you can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.”

Get clear.  Live now.

Start by downloading my Core Values Assessment to get clarity.  Or book a discovery call to see if I have the right tools to help you get unstuck. #thishitworks

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12 Myths of Grief & Vulnerability https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/12-myths-of-grief-vulnerability/ Fri, 05 Jul 2019 12:57:12 +0000 http://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18504 Collectively, we’ve accumulated some wonky beliefs about grief and vulnerability (thanks society), and it’s time to set the record straight.

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Nothing makes us feel more exposed and vulnerable than grief and loss (except maybe that nightmare you had of finally becoming a bonafide rock star only to realize you stepped out on stage COMPLETELY NAKED! 😳 Just me?!).  Collectively, we’ve accumulated some wonky beliefs about grief and vulnerability (thanks society), and it’s time to set the record straight. So I’m taking the stage, (in an outfit to die for) with a mic in my left and a sword of Valeryian steel in my right, because we’re about to expose some myths and slay some outdated beliefs up in here!

Myths of Vulnerability*

1. Vulnerability = weakness
Nope, it doesn’t.  Here’s the paradox: when we witness OTHERS being vulnerable we see it as an act of courage (it is).  However, when it’s OUR TURN to be vulnerable (scary!) it feels like weakness (it’s not). Vulnerability is ALWAYS an act of courage – for others AND for us.

2. Vulnerability is optional
Vulnerability involves uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. To be ALIVE is to be vulnerable.  Can you imagine how exhausting it would be to travel through life trying to minimize ALL uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure?  It’s impossible. Vulnerability is unavoidable.

3. Vulnerability = oversharing
Oversharing can be…awkward for the listener.  There’s a recklessness to it that doesn’t respect the listener’s boundaries.  Sometimes, we convince ourselves to keep quiet (and avoid vulnerability) rather than risk oversharing.  Vulnerability is different.  It’s sharing with the intention to connect.  It builds trust and intimacy.

4. We can practice vulnerability alone
We convince ourselves that being vulnerable in the pages of our journal or crying when no one is looking is enough.  But the point is to connect.  By all means, write it out but don’t stop there.  Take your vulnerability off the page and share it with someone you trust.

5. You can take the discomfort out of vulnerability
Rehearse what you’re going to say.  Anticipate reactions. Adjust your script.  Rinse. Repeat. Until you wash all the vulnerability out of it.  Here’s the thing: interactions between humans will ALWAYS involve some uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  That’s what makes vulnerability uncomfortable. With the right people though…it’s worth it.

6. Trust comes BEFORE vulnerability
Actually, you can’t have one without the other.  Trust and vulnerability hold hands. They grow together.  They support each other. To betray one is to destroy both.

Which brings us to why sharing your grief with someone always involves uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  It makes us feel oh, so vulnerable.  

It can feel extra scary if you’ve ever bumped up against some of the myths of grief.  If you’re human, you’ve had someone say at least one of these things to you.  Maybe you’ve also said a variation of these to someone struggling with grief. That’s okay.  Part of being human is making mistakes. We’ve all been there.

Often, we fall into the safety of these myths of grief to avoid the discomfort that we feel in the presence of someone else’s pain.   Because their pain reminds us of our pain.  At the end, I’ll share what you can do instead, so keep reading!

Myths of Grief**

1. Don’t feel bad.
This is a logical response to emotional pain. The brain can’t heal the heart. We can’t think our way out of grief.  This myth can sound like, “Don’t worry. There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” (Gag! Can we please all agree to let this particular metaphor sleep with the fishes?)  Or it can sound like, “He/she’s not worth your tears.” This myth confuses the griever and teaches them not to trust their emotions. Should they NOT be feeling this way?

2. Replace the loss.
We’re taught how to acquire things in life – not what to do when we lose them.  This myth can sound like, “So, when are you going to get another dog?” Or, “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”  Moving on too quickly leaves us feeling guilty or simply repeating the patterns of a previous relationship.

3. Grieve alone.
“Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.”  Grief needs to be acknowledged and honoured. It needs space to breathe and be recognized – only then can the healing begin.  Grief is a bittersweet reminder of how much love and connection you felt. Reach out to a trusted friend, coach or therapist. Letting loved ones witness your vulnerability strengthens the trust between you and can encourage others to share their vulnerable moments instead of struggling alone.

4. Just give it time.
Say it with me, “Time does NOT heal all wounds.”  Waiting for relief doesn’t work. We don’t tell someone with a broken ankle to “just give it time.”  So, why do we expect broken hearts to heal on their own? The best thing you can do is take action. I write more on what “taking action” looks like right here.

5. Be strong for others
This myth doesn’t acknowledge our pain.  It teaches us to stuff the pain way down deeeep in our emotional basements.  And we all know NOTHING GOOD EVER COMES from ignoring and suppressing our emotional pain.  What if, instead of “being strong”, you allowed yourself to grieve (whatever that looks like for you)?  You can read more about honouring your grief over here.

6. Keep Busy
Avoid.  Outrun. Outsmart.  Elude. Exhaust. Keep busy so you don’t have TIME to feel anything.  We’re experts at avoiding our unresolved emotional pain. Kings and Queens of distraction.  Masters of numbing. But the pain never goes anywhere. Your pain will still be waiting for you at the end of the day.  It’ll be there to greet you every morning – until you take action to complete it. It’s time to give yourself permission to grieve.

We’ve all used (one, more, all) of these myths.  It’s okay. We’re all human and we’re going to mess up.

So what CAN we do?  What’s actually helpful?

Grief makes us feel vulnerable.  Vulnerability is an opportunity to connect, build trust and foster intimacy.

Instead of giving someone space to “get over it” why not check in on them?

Be a heart with ears.  Listen…deeply.  No judgement. No fixing.  No criticism. Grievers just want to be heard.  Be open, present, loving, and listen with empathy and compassion.  And when in doubt? Listen more.

Want to see a brilliant example of being a heart with ears?  Watch Julia Roberts and Richard Jenkins in this scene from Eat, Pray, Love.

Take action today.

I’d love for you to start a conversation about the myths of grief and vulnerability with your friends.  What’s the best thing someone ever said to you after a loss? What’s your favourite way to support someone who’s grieving?

Join me over on Instagram where I’ll keep the conversation going.


*The Myths of Vulnerability are taken from “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown

** The Myths of Grief are taken from “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John W. James and Russell Friedman

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And the Academy Award for Recovery goes to… https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/academy-award-recovery/ Tue, 04 Jun 2019 01:59:31 +0000 http://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18470 No....really....I'm fine. Really.

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‘No, really….I’m fine!’
😬

With winners in the supporting categories going to:

  • You’re being too emotional
  • Crying is for wimps/babies
  • You need to be strong
  • Why can’t you just “get over it”?

Messages like this confuse us. They teach us to ignore, deny or bury our natural emotions. Until we end up swearing to ourselves (and anyone who’ll listen) that we’re fine. . .really.

But this “fake it til you make” rapid grief recovery never actually works. Instead, the emotions we refuse to acknowledge find other outlets for expression. And it becomes a game of finding new ways to continually numb them when they threaten to break through the surface. We scroll through social media, head to the mall (or online) for retail therapy, drink too much, turn to drugs, work long hours, surrender to every craving, exercise too much, or binge on Netflix (popcorn and wine not optional).

Is it any wonder we struggle to move through our grief journey?

Grief makes us feel vulnerable and out of control. Especially, if we were taught expressions of grief were not welcome. Stories of needing to be strong or “just get over it” only serve to keep us stuck. Instead, what we need to do is face our fears and learn to embrace vulnerability.

Brene Brown says we feel vulnerable in situations that involve uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Grief ticks all those boxes.

Grief is uncertain.

We don’t know what will happen or when. The waves of emotion can catch you completely off guard. They can be triggered by the most mundane things, like hearing a loved one’s favourite song on the radio. Suddenly, we’re acutely reminded of what we’ve lost. Then BAM a tsunami of sadness will stop us in our tracks. Other days we get through with more laughter than tears.

Grief feels risky…

…because of the messages many of us received that said it wasn’t okay to grieve openly. Our displays of grief were met with disapproval, discomfort, and even shaming.

Grief leaves us emotionally exposed…

…because it brings such a WIDE range of emotions. Simultaneously conflicting. Raw. Intense. We can feel anger and relief, sorrow and joy all in the same moment. So we turn to social media, online shopping, or yet another bottle of merlot because they feel safer than being vulnerable and exposed in our grief. We all have our favourite methods of numbing. We’re the most obese, medicated, and in debt cohort in human history…WE NUMB. And although these numbing mechanisms may feel good in the moment, it’s important to remember those things can never heal us.

And yet. . .

It doesn’t have to be that way.

In many Middle Eastern and East African nations, public displays of intense emotion (both joy and grief) are welcomed and expected. They ululate loudly at funerals (and weddings). It’s normal to be vocal about your grief and to express it publicly.

The Irish also have a tradition of keening. A loud, public lamentation for the dead. There’s a master keener and her cry summons the other keeners to gather and sing the dying through their final transition.

These traditions of keening and ululating provide such a sense of community. They honour and love the person who has died. They provide an outlet for the expression of grief. And they show us there’s another way.

I want you to know that whatever you’re feeling is normal.

Maybe you cry enough to fill a river. Maybe you never cry a single tear. All your emotions are welcome. The important thing is that you find a way to express them.

It’s time to stop numbing out.

It’s time to tell your story to someone who has earned the right to hear it.

It’s time to find someone who will hold space for you without judgment.

It’s time to ask for what you NEED – to be seen and heard without anyone trying to “fix” you or dismiss/minimize your loss.

If you don’t have that person in your life. . .I would be honoured to hold space for you and walk your grief journey with you.

I have a new workshop on The Grief Recovery Method® coming up this fall. If you’d like to be on the waitlist send me an email at hello at innertravelcoaching dot com and I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as the details emerge. You can also read more about The Grief Recovery Method® and why I love it right here.

We can also work together one-on-one with individualized coaching where I bring ALL the tools I have to help you navigate your grief.

Or you can get started today with my online course Do Death Differently where you’ll find coaching wisdom, thought-provoking questions + practices to support you whether you’ve been carrying your grief for years or it’s still fresh.

Your grief is as unique as you are.  But you don’t have to navigate it alone.

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Action is the antidote https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/action-is-the-antidote/ Sun, 19 May 2019 23:15:13 +0000 http://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18454 Action is necessary to heal grief. Fear can paralyze us in our suffering if we don’t take action to heal. If you're ready to move forward, keep reading...

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As my visibility as a death coach grew, I kept getting questions about grief. It became a theme. A familiar refrain. A current that wove its way through my work.

I had some baseline knowledge but I was thirsty to learn more. I wanted to be able to meet my clients where they were – at any point along their grief journey.

After some research (who are we kidding, I went down a major Google rabbit hole), I discovered The Grief Recovery Method® (GRM) and I was immediately hooked (much the same way I felt when I discovered Brené Brown). I’m proud to say I’m now a Grief Recovery Specialist® and am beyond excited to be able to share these tools with my clients!

Death and grief are obviously entwined but they’re also often confused. We grieve so much more than just death. In fact, there are over 40 different forms of loss that can inspire feelings of grief.

Here are just a few…

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce/separation/break-up
  • Retirement
  • Pregnancy
  • Change in health (for yourself or a loved one)
  • Marriage
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of pregnancy (ie. stillbirth or miscarriage)
  • Moving
  • Pet loss
  • Changes in finances
  • Infertility
  • Loss of childhood

How can The Grief Recovery Method® help?

The purpose of the GRM is to rediscover the ability within yourself to transform the quality of your life so you can complete your emotional relationship with a loved one who has died (or your relationship with any other kind of loss).

Grief is a normal reaction to loss.

Grief can take many shapes such as . . .

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in routine
  • Waves of emotions
  • Physical/emotional exhaustion
  • Excessive worry/panic
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Frequent crying
  • Overuse of alcohol/drugs/other substances
  • Physical/emotional isolation

There are no “stages” of grief.

You are a unique individual who will experience grief in your own unique and individual way. All emotions are natural and welcome.

There is no “closure”.

“Closure” means putting your relationship in a box and forgetting about it. The relationship will continue forever – we’re just completing the pain. That completion will allow you to move forward and find acceptance for the new form the relationship has taken.

Completion can mean gaining new skills for coping with and processing your grief. It can be about confronting old myths around grief or the relationship you lost. It can mean unravelling unhelpful patterns of grieving and finding new ways to support yourself. It can ask you to examine and acknowledge the ways grief has impacted your life and discover practices that will help soothe the pain.

Grief is as individual as love. – Megan Divine

Why I love The Grief Recovery Method®. . .

Action is necessary to heal grief. Fear can paralyze us in our suffering if we don’t take action to heal. Action is the antidote to fear.

Grief counselling (or therapy) provides you with a safe space to talk about what was lost and how you feel (important, yes!). But talking without action can start to feel like you’re dwelling on the pain. Reliving it. Spinning your wheels. Keeping the wound fresh.

GRM provides space to examine the stories AND helps you discover the steps you need to take to move through your loss and find forward momentum.

GRM pairs person-centred values with practices that are informed by and grounded in research and proven to be effective in helping you find your way through the grieving process.

GRM was developed for grievers by grievers. It’s been translated into 15 different languages and used in more than 20 countries around the world (the woman next to me in training was from Guam!)

They’ve been doing this work for more than 40 years. Which means they have evidence to show that it works (thanks to Dr. Nolan at Kent University!)  And it supports the WHOLE person (knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours).

Time doesn’t heal all wounds.

SPOILER ALERT: your pain won’t go away if you ignore it or distract yourself with the busyness of life. The good news is The Grief Recovery Method® works if your loss is fresh AND it works if your loss is decades old.  #nevertoosoon #nevertoolate Pain is pain. You can heal. You deserve healing. You just need to believe that you can heal. And all I need is for just 1% of you to believe that’s possible. Can you give me 1%?

Your Warrior Heart

Do this with me…

Take out a blank piece of paper and draw a line lengthwise across the middle.  Got it?

Now write down all the losses you’ve experienced so far. Big ones. Little ones. From the loss of your favourite stuffed animal as a child to the death of a loved one. Every time you moved. Every job you left. Every relationship that ended or maybe the dream of one that never got off the ground. Scroll back up to that list I provided earlier with examples of the 40 types of losses.

Each of these losses (big and small) can feel like little deaths. Letting go of a part of yourself. Letting go of another. Each requiring forgiveness and compassion. AND YOU HAVE SURVIVED THEM ALL.

You’re still here. Your warrior’s heart is still beating strong.

If any of your losses still feel painful, still achy, still bring waves of emotion…it’s time to take action to heal. And I would love to help.

I’m organizing a Grief Recovery Method® workshop for the fall. If you’d like to be on the waitlist send me a note at hello at innertravelcoaching dot com (<< I know, annoying but the bots are ridiculous!) and I’ll be sure to send you all the details as I work them out.

If you don’t want to wait (#nevertooson #nevertoolate). . .

Here’s how we can work together 1:1

Or you can get a head start on your healing by developing practices that will support you through your grief with Do Death Differently.

In fact, let’s do a healing practice together…Right Here, Right Now. . .

Breathe with me. One of my favourite breathing techniques is called Box Breathing.  Here’s how it works. . .

Inhale through your nose for a count of 4.

Hold for a count of 4.

Exhale through your nose for a count of 4.

Hold for a count of 4.

Repeat the whole process 3x.

Connecting with our breath is one of the fastest and easiest ways to move into the present moment. To get the hell outta our heads and into our hearts and bodies.

Remember, action is the antidote to fear. Action is necessary for healing your grief. And action can be as simple as taking a deeeeep breath.

May your grief move through you with more grace – less suffering.

With all my love and compassion,
Tammy

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What cancer taught me https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/what-cancer-taught-me/ Sat, 04 May 2019 22:15:05 +0000 http://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18423 Every year I’m reminded of my mortality...a little love note from death herself. You see, I was diagnosed with cancer at age 6 (spoiler alert: I'm still alive).

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Every year I’m reminded of my mortality…a little love note from death herself.

You see, I was diagnosed with cancer at age 6 (spoiler alert: I’m still alive).  After a year spent navigating my way through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy…I was eager to return to school.

My enthusiasm quickly faded in the face of the name-calling I found waiting for me on the playground. That was the moment the seeds of shame that birthed my perfectionism were planted (read more about perfectionism and the dinosaur slide here).  After that incident, everything changed. I vividly remember being so ashamed of how I looked and even more ashamed of my big red scar (no kid wants to be seen as “different”) so I never dared to wear a bikini and when I did MUCH later in life…I slathered on so much sunscreen I resembled a ghost.

The perfectionism that was planted that day eventually fueled a hectic professional lifestyle that led to finding lumps and ‘sketchy cells’ (where there shouldn’t be any) which thankfully all turned out to be nothing terrible. It DID end up being a wake-up call though.  

A call to live intentionally and joyfully.

I’m reminded that life isn’t guaranteed when I go for my annual oncology check-ups.  I’ve seen those dark circles on the scan (that eerily looked like Mickey Mouse ears) and knowing that I’m at a higher risk for breast cancer means that every.single.year death asks me if I love what I’m doing, if I’m fulfilled by what I’m creating, and if my days bring me joy.

Cancer can make you feel like everything is happening TO you. Which is true when you’re in the thick of it.  You’re getting poked and prodded and squished and stabbed and you feel like you really don’t have any say in the matter. You put your trust in your medical team and pray for the best possible outcome – life.

But once you’ve made it through those oncology doors and are given the final “all clear” scan…you can start to reclaim your personal power. You can make the choice to change your life.

You can start to see how all of this happened FOR you…not TO you.

I can say now (hand on my heart) that I don’t look back on my journey with cancer as this horrible thing that happened to me. I can see the blessings it provided. It showed me how strong I am. It showed me my family’s strength and my community’s support.  And it showed me that no matter what life throws at me – I’m built to last.

I’m not broken. I’m not weak. I’m not a victim. My scars are my battle wounds and I’m PROUD to wear them now (although I still apply sunscreen liberally).

The medical system is built to save you…to help you SURVIVE and most of the time they’re f*cking brilliant at it. #nothinbutgratitude  Being a long-term survivor though, I felt there was something lacking. A clear path forward that helps turn a traumatic event into a glorious comeback.

That’s where I come in.

A diagnosis can flip your life around in an instant. Just like death. So how do you navigate your “new normal”?

First, you get in touch with your core values.

You grieve the losses you’ve stacked up so you can move forward.

You learn to open yourself up to the gifts (that “Holy sh*t, that was a close call, I best start living my life NOW” realization) that death has provided.

You ask for help and support as you begin your journey (and if asking for help is hard…I got you covered).

You find others with similar stories and gain inspiration and ‘I’ve been there too’ compassion.

You realize what’s truly NOT important in your life and you stop making time for it…and instead, make time for what matters to you.

Death is a part of life and sometimes we need these “close calls” to knock us back on our path because we haven’t been listening to the myriad of others signs we’ve been given. Because everything is connected. I’ve had clients whose relationship was in absolute chaos get diagnosed with cancer and when they ditched their toxic partner their cancer “magically” went away. Let me say it again, everything is connected. If it hasn’t happened to you I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people who were miserable and experienced a “come-to-Jesus” moment that inspired them to completely turn their life around. And now they’re thriving and excited about life again.

Death is waiting to give you that insight. But you can unpack her wisdom BEFORE she comes knocking at your door.

What dream is burning inside you?

What’s stopping you from going after it?

Do you dream of entrepreneurship but wonder if risking your cushy, pays-the-bills job will leave you living in a cardboard box by the highway?

Do you want to write a book but have no idea where to begin, how to publish and are not-so-secretly terrified that no one will read it?

Is there a trip-of-a-lifetime that you’ve been putting off because responsibilities and obligations are standing in your way?

Everything is figureoutable (thanks Marie Forleo!).  When you choose to get ALIGNED with yourself and your core values you DON’T NEED a brush with death to spur you into action.

But it if has…it’s time to listen. Listen to your body. Listen to your heart. Listen to death.  I’ll hold your hand and walk you through it all.

I know you are more than your diagnosis.

I know you are more than your scars.

I know you are more than your fears.

I see ALL of you. I see your WHOLE RADIANT being.

If you’ve forgotten your radiance, your wholeness, then I’d love to be a reflection for you. Cancer (or any loss) is just a chapter in your story. You get to choose the narrative that shapes it. You get to choose the meaning. Cancer leaves its imprint to be sure but it doesn’t have to define you.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” – Brené Brown

Are you a victim?  Or are you a survivor?

Will you just keep living? Or will you choose to live courageously?

I’m creating a brand new thing called Still Here, Still Whole: a course for cancer survivors. It’s death coaching for cancer survivors that recognizes ALL parts of you.  

Right now, I’m taking a limited number of beta clients. So, if you’ve been looking for…

>> insight on how to turn your cancer journey into a triumphant story
>> clarity on your next steps as you learn how to listen to what you truly want and  write that next chapter
>> a trusted professional who has helped other survivors walk through their fears so they can rewrite their story and gain control of their lives again

Then I’d love to hear from you and learn more. Contact me here or send me an email at hello at innertravelcoaching dot com <— ugh, so annoying but the email spamming is getting ridiculous

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Dying to Live – a manifesto https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/dying-to-live-a-manifesto/ Tue, 23 Apr 2019 14:59:51 +0000 http://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=18377 When did talking about death become taboo? It's a natural part of life, and yet it's unnatural to talk about?

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When did talking about death become taboo?

Why is it on the ‘forbidden’ list of conversation topics?

It’s not us versus death.

It’s not a battle ‘til the end.

It’s a natural part of life, and yet it’s unnatural to talk about?

Why is that?

I don’t understand why we bury the topic of death under platitudes and scripted condolences?

Why does even broaching the subject sometimes result in a gesture that says “helllll no, hard pass”?

Death is the one thing we know with 100% certainty is going to happen to ALL of us.

Because, spoiler alert, we’re ALL going to die one day.

Which is why I’m writing this. I’m willing to risk being seen as a ‘macabre misfit’ in the hopes that we can live in a world where instead of bristling against the mere thought of death, we acknowledge that we’re ALL here for a limited time and can TALK about the fact that the global death rate is, and always will be, 100%.

I want to make death a topic of conversation at every kitchen table, or living room or pub patio. I want us to get comfortable saying the words “death”, “dead”, or “dying”. They aren’t cold and insensitive when you deliver them with kindness and compassion. Talking about death, all the images, emotions and stories should be welcomed and not considered taboo, weird, or wrong. Again, doesn’t it make sense to talk about the one thing we all have in common?

I believe euphemisms don’t make death any easier. They don’t “soften the blow”. In fact, they add to our confusion and fear with their ambiguity and avoidance.

I acknowledge that everyone has a story about death. And these stories are usually passed down to us from well-meaning family members, teachers, or religious leaders that unfortunately, rarely empower us to truly live and instead can keep us feeling supremely stuck.

It’s time to release the stories that shape our fears. It’s time to make the changes that enable you to live a wide-open, wholehearted life of YOUR choosing.

I know you can rewrite your ending (pun fully intended). I know you can also rewrite the ‘messy middle’ you’re living in right now so you have zero regrets when you die. All it takes is curiosity, compassion, and courage.

I am soooo over the narrative of death “robbing” us from the things we love like a thief in the night. We’re all here on borrowed time from the moment we’re born and what death is really asking us is… “How are you living?”

I want to live in a world where not one single person reaches their deathbed thinking, “F*ck, I really should’ve taken that trip, or written that book, or spent more time with my sister, or told my mother I loved her more.” [insert your personal regrets here]

Where each day is cherished. Where we stop procrastinating about the things that truly matter to us and prioritize them instead.

Where we finally stop convincing ourselves it’s okay to fill up our days with meaningless tasks because someday (when we get a raise, when the kids are grown, or when we retire) we’ll finally have time for what we love.

Your time isn’t guaranteed.

I believe we all have a choice: to be terrified by death (stay stuck, keep playing it safe).

OR

We can be liberated by death (and chose the dreams and adventures we’ve been aching to start).

I believe that when we “choose courage over comfort” (thanks Brené Brown) we can LIVE BETTER. We can wake up feeling excited for each day, for each new opportunity to grow and stretch, eager to seize every moment and fall asleep with a sense of deep satisfaction knowing we SHOWED UP for ourselves.

We’re all dying.  The real question is: are you really living?  

If you’d like help to find your courage again, to feel re-inspired by life, or to heal and take care of yourself after a brush with death – whether that’s an actual death, a diagnosis, or any type of loss – I invite you to begin with my course, Do Death Differently: A Course for Survivors. It’s a guidebook to help you navigate the murky waters after loss and tap into your courage so you can radically redesign your life.

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Death will change your life if you let it https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/death-will-change-your-life-if-you-let-it/ Sun, 07 Apr 2019 13:58:28 +0000 http://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=17807 Talking and thinking about death doesn’t invite it in. It’s not Dracula.

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Coming into contact with death has a way of turning someone’s life upside down, and I’m not just talking about grief.

One moment you’re living your life, doing your thang, and if you’re like most of the population, putting your biggest dreams on the back burner. You know you’re gonna write that book, start that online culinary school, or book that trip to Marrakech one day. You just have to straighten up your finances, join the perfect business mastermind, or learn French first.

Then something happens that makes you far more acquainted with death than you ever wanted to be. For some people it’s an accident or illness that puts the grim reaper on their radar and makes them oh so aware of how short and fragile this life can be. For others, it’s the death of someone they love.

Whatever the catalyst, the result is the same: All of a sudden you’re so lucidly, painfully aware that this life is.not.forever. That in actual fact you only have a finite number of days on this earth to live the life you truly want to live, and you don’t have any way of knowing how many those days will be.

Scary, ya? When you really look that fact in the face it’s freakin’ terrifying. But if you have a little bit of heart and courage (and I know you do) you can use it to catapult you into a life that makes you wanna jump on the nearest table and dance for joy.

A Brush With Death Can Change Your Life

As a death coach, I’m fascinated by stories of people who get up close and personal with death, and use the experience to live an extraordinary life.

Take Sebastian Terry for example. When he was just 24 years old, he received the tragic news that his friend Chris, also 24 years old, had died suddenly overnight. He found himself asking a lot of questions about how Chris had lived and whether he would have changed anything. He concluded that his friend was delightfully happy with his life – but Terry himself was not. And so started one of the most touching, inspiring, bucket list stories I’ve ever heard. Terry realised he wasn’t happy, and so asked himself “what would make me smile?”

The result? A bucket list of 100 items that kicked off over 7 years ago with marrying a stranger in Vegas (Elvis impersonator absolutely included) and has now evolved to include beautiful random acts of kindness as well.

Or how about Benedict Cumberbatch, the velvet-voiced actor of Sherlock and Marvel Cinematic Universe fame? When the actor survived a terrifying gunpoint kidnapping ordeal while filming in South Africa, he told Vanity Fair that the experience made him “more impatient to live a life less ordinary”, adding that when you think you won’t get to experience a cold beer or the sun on your skin again, it makes all of those experiences “hit you as firsts again. It is, in a way, a new beginning.”

My dear friend Darius Bashar can certainly attest to the power of death to make us rethink life. When Darius received the devastating news that someone he adored had leukemia, his perspective on life shifted dramatically. He writes:

This experience brought me to the realization that there is a “last breath” looking for all of us. This wasn’t some poetic concept anymore. It was fucking real! One day I will LITERALLY take my last breath. It could be 50 years from now, or it could be 50 mins. There is no way to know for certain and nothing you can do to prevent it from eventually finding you.”

Darius’ new awareness of his limited time on earth spurred him on to the realisation that he had many, many beautiful photographs left to take. He started rising at 4:00 AM so he’d have time before his work day to take the pictures that were calling out to him.

What do these three have in common? They came close to death, looked right at it, and decided to make a change.

Don’t Wait For Deathbed Regrets

No one wants deathbed regrets. I can’t imagine anything more soul destroying than reaching the end of my life and realizing I hadn’t lived it in the way that nourished my spirit the most. When people reach the end of their lives, they don’t regret not working hard enough or not spending enough time vacuuming. They regret not going after their dreams, not saying “I love you” more, not getting their visions out of their heads and onto the page / canvas / songsheet.

Death coaching gives you the chance to think about what your deathbed regrets might be RIGHT NOW so you don’t ever have to live them. Like my client Corrina. When Corrina got the chance to go to a friend’s wedding in South Africa, her first thought was how hard it would be. It would take so much to arrange, and then there was the cost. With a price tag around $5000, the trip wouldn’t come cheap.

It was then that I grabbed Corrina’s intake questionnaire and read back her own answer to the question “at the end of your life what would you most regret having done?”. She could hardly believe it as I read her own words back to her “not taking my son to one of my favourite places in the world.” That place was South Africa. By the next time I spoke to Corrina, she’d booked and paid off that trip.

I Dare You To Write Your Own Eulogy

Writing your own eulogy is one of my favourite exercises to do with my clients. Not surprisingly, many of them are resistant to it. Some even fear that by writing it, they’re inviting death in. If that worries you, let me take that big ol’ burden off your shoulders. Talking and thinking about death doesn’t invite it in. It’s not Dracula.

I’ll tell you what writing your eulogy does do, though: It brings your deepest desires into sharp focus. Like my client Dan. Dan was hesitant to write his eulogy at first, but when he did, he unleashed a storm of creativity and desire. After writing a heart-stirring song for the little kid inside him, Dan realised that his biggest regret would be not releasing his music to the world. That’s why he penned an amazing Christmas song (Christmas On Our Own) AND sung it in front of thousands of people that same year.

So here’s what I want you to do: Take a leaf out of Dan’s book. Or Corrina’s, or Sebastian Terry’s, or Benedict Cumberbatch’s. Look at your life. Imagine it’s ending. Write down the eulogy you’d most want said about you after you’re gone.

Now ask yourself honestly – are you living with that vision? If you’re not, this is your alarm call. It’s time to get up, make some changes, shift some priorities, or work on your boundaries to make sure your dreams don’t die along with you.

Want to dive deeper into living a life you’ll be proud to leave? You can book a Discovery Session with me right here.

P.S. Need a little added inspiration? Check out wecroak.com! I frickin’ love this app. Based on Bhutanese folklore that says the way to be happy is to contemplate death five times a day, the app sends you five reminders a day that you’re going to die. Just like real death, they come without warning. Each time, the app encourages you to pause, reflect, meditate, and make sure you’re living in true alignment with your soul.

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Love Liberates https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/love-liberates/ https://www.innertravelcoaching.com/love-liberates/#respond Sun, 17 Mar 2019 10:21:49 +0000 http://www.innertravelcoaching.com/?p=1188 It was one of those flashbulb moments where everything becomes crystal clear and every cell of your body screams DO IT.

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Permission to love…and let go.

When I was twenty-five, while on a trip to Greece, I had a ‘tripifany’ (like an epiphany, but it happens while you’re on vacation) and I decided it was time for me to follow the whispers of my wanderlust heart instead of my overbearing logical head.  This lead to a bold decision to leave my ‘cushy’ government job and travel for a year to the magical land down under – Australia.  It was one of those flashbulb moments where everything becomes crystal clear and every cell of your body screams DO IT.

So I did.

Because I knew if I didn’t, I’d regret it.  Forever.  (And my sole mission in life is to be an old woman with no regrets.)

I wrapped up my big greek vacation with a huge smile on my face and a certain fire in my feet.  Then upon landing on Canadian soil I realized what I had to do next – make it happen.

*Gulp.*

I was terrified to tell my parents of my decision for obvious reasons but I knew in my soul it was what I needed to do. When I spoke the words to my mother, the sadness in her eyes tore at my heart when she expressed how much she’d miss me.  My protective father was less than thrilled that I would be traveling alone in a country that’s a 24 hour flight away and 14 hours ahead.  They were anxious because they simply couldn’t protect their daughter from that far away.  Anything could happen.  Worst-case scenarios were discussed.  Insurance plans were purchased (‘yes Dad, this plan includes flying my body home in case I die…’).  Maps were drawn out, rough itineraries were hatched, guide books, journals, and a sturdy backpack were purchased.

And over the weeks leading up to my departure, my parents slowly but surely let go…which in turn, liberated me to life.

Because the act of letting go is love.

I’m beyond thankful to them for doing that.  I know it wasn’t easy.  I know they wanted me to stay put.  But they loved, trusted, and released me to the welcoming arms of Oz and it’s no surprise that it became the most transformative year of my life.

Love liberates.

I also remember experiencing that same liberation during the final moments of my beloved Nana’s life (we kids had to call her Nana because Grandma was too ‘old’ for her).  When my mother called me to say that her mother, my Nana, was rushed to emergency room we both instinctively knew this was it.  There was no bouncing back this time.  It took a couple of hours for our wee family to gather around her, but once we were there the most beautiful transformation happened.  Like me, Nana was aching to move on to another place and needed her family’s permission to go.  She didn’t ask for permission per se, but we knew she needed it.

So we silently held hands and formed a circle around her crisp hospital bed and through clenched, dry lips and soggy, wet eyes we told her how much we deeply loved and appreciated her.  And although it was a quiet and somber moment, I recalled what I loved most about her – her wildly loving spirit.  Memories of feeling her excitement seemingly burst through her eyeballs and down her arms when she saw me and enveloped me in a massive hug.  Or in the way she unapologetically taught me the importance of buying good gold jewelry, or how to be self-sufficient, or what it means to be a loyal friend (who was still throwing back vodka soda’s with her best friend in their golden years).  And most importantly she taught me about the power of love and connection in my most vulnerable moments when she’d hold my hand and assure me that everything was going to be okay.  And I truly believed her….because it always was ok with her around.

And now it was our time to hold her hand and assure her everything was going to be okay.

Then my mother intuitively and lovingly leaned over and gave her mother the permission she was seeking.  She whispered in her ear ‘you can go now’ and those four words allowed her to do just that.  As peacefully and calmly as one could hope for.

I’ll say it again…love liberates.

As Maya Angelou taught me, when we find something, or someone, that we love our instinct is to hold on as tight as we can.  We’re scared to lose it, to f*ck it up, and terrified that it will abandon us or be stolen from us.  Yet, I’ve found that the opposite is true….if you find something you love, don’t try to encapsulate or cage it.  Love needs room to roam, explore, discover, and stretch.  It can’t do that if it’s feeling bound and constrained.  So if a loved one needs your permission to go, give it to them.  Whether it’s to travel the world, move away from home, or to transition back home.

Liberate them.  It’s the best gift you can ever give.

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