Radical Love in the Face of Extreme Emotion

So last night before bed I did something weird… In response to all the violence at the Capitol, all the negative feelings and bafflement at what is currently happening, I played out a little exercise in my head. I decided that instead of projecting all my frustration, my negative feelings, my confusion and upset, and energy toward those emotions I would instead try to reverse it radically toward positivity.

So, I tried to imagine these people who feel so different than me as little kids who were upset, but that was too difficult and not really helping, so I started thinking of them as just a person reacting to constant bullying and being told over and over that they are wrong, and so instead of making better choices they just keep leaning into the worst because what’s in it for them to change at this point? But then, I thought what if I just loved them despite and because of their insane choices and actions? What if the world is so full of toxic energy that it needs to be rebalanced with more positive energy? What if no one is sending “positive vibes” toward and to them and that to start to neutralize that toxicity, there needs to be more love. I’m positive at this point I’ve lost some of you. That’s fine. Still, for those who are still reading, I’ll continue down this path further.

For the past year, there’s a parenting trick that I’ve been implementing with my teenage daughter. And yes, I am 100% THAT mom which I am okay with. My daughter is full of big emotions, she is fiercely independent, and like any growing, angst-ridden, hormonally-charged but not fully developed human, life can feel really hard at times. She can fly off the handle in weird ways at weird times overreacting to the littlest thing despite also being the kindest, most empathetic, emotionally mature teenager at the same time. I know that every parent of a growing child can relate to these maddening paradigms and parenting challenges.

Anyway, she’s never been a cuddler but like anyone needs physical touch so I have to devise sneaky ways to get that in, like squashing together on the couch during movie night. I know that when she is in a confused emotional rage that she needs it then too, maybe even more so. So when she starts spouting insanity and flipping her lid I’ve implemented the worst of all “punishments”, a 20-second hug (which is a really long time) followed by eye contact and each saying “I love you” to one another. Horrible but awesome, right? She knows that if she goes insane, I’m coming for her. She resists it at first but then melts into it and then her emotions feel more accessible to her, she can start to process what she is feeling, we can talk about it together, we can diffuse the situation.

I believe in body autonomy. I am only advocating for this if ground rules have been agreed upon ahead of time (not during a heightened emotional tug of war). Yes, it will probably cause your child to roll their eyes severely at you being “extra” and annoying and “the worst mom in the whole world” but then they might at times also tell you that you are the best mom like mine does at times too.

Why the 20-second hug? Well, research shows that when it is done between loved ones, it is proven to lower reactivity to stressful events and that each of us needs between 5 and 8 hugs a day to be happier. And why the eye contact? Because research says it creates a “calming, connected state of being” as well.

So, back to my positive visioning exercise, before drifting off to bed, I started imagining the faces that I had been seeing in articles, the faces of these people who confuse and upset me with their opposite values, who seem to be acting out in a crazy rage and I imagined hugging them for 20-seconds until they melted into it. Then I imagined looking them in their eyes and telling them “I love you”.

Crazy, right? But leaning into more positive feelings and love did make me feel a little better. What if that’s what we need to do to both remind ourselves that each of us is only human but also to re-balance all the stifling pressure of hostile emotions at present?

I’m absolutely advocating for change, advocating for taking agency and ownership and using your voice and I am 100% not okay with what is currently happening. This is in no way suggesting that all these hippie-dippie feel-good exercises replace accountability. Still, when it feels like the world is focused on anger, confusion, and resentment, what harm could it do? What’s the harm in trying especially if it makes me feel more compassionate overall? Maybe in some alternate universe or even this one, those energy waves reach them and help to disarm the insanity even if by only a micro-level. Who knows? I’m open to the possibility.

And there is another thing I say to my daughter that applies here: I’ve taught her that when she goes temporarily emotionally insane and bursts out into anger over seemingly nothing that she is afraid of something but maybe she doesn’t know what. That when each of us reacts this way at times they are like a “bull in a china shop” breaking everything around them because they are spooked. I ask her to consider “what is she afraid of”?

So, to this, I wonder what are the people who are making audacious, overwhelming, anarchistic choices that make no common sense afraid of? And to me, it feels that the answer is that they are probably afraid of change, that they are probably reacting to a sense of unfairness in their own lives, a shift in power dynamics that don’t benefit them anymore or haven’t for a long time so they are trying to reclaim it at any cost. They are afraid of losing control. Ironic right?

As Newton discovered “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So what would happen if we reacted in a different way?

What is A Vision Board & How To Make One

A vision board is simply a visual collage of inspiration that you have collected and put together into a new assemblage. The goal of a vision board is to tap into your most intuitive self and let your feelings and the things that you are naturally attracted to resonate with you and remind you of a part of yourself that is not always easy to access.

Some of us are naturally more intuitive than others but all of us spend a lot of our days consuming other people’s content and reading words, and trying to make sense of the things we are taking in. And for all of us our intuition can get buried when we are stressed and overwhelmed. Though we take in a lot of stimulation and process a lot of thoughts, we are less often curating our own worlds based on the things that move us deeply.

Some people believe that creating a vision board will help you to manifest your dreams and wishes and while I will leave that up to you to decide, it is undoubtedly true that when we see the things that move us and are reminded of them, we are more likely to pursue them and seek them out for ourselves and bring them into our lives.

I like to go about making a vision board loosely and not overthink it. My vision boards are oftentimes filled with colors and textures and sometimes words, but mostly they evoke a feeling. Seeing a finished piece with all these things that feel good in one place will make you feel more aligned with yourself. Somehow the act of curating visuals in this way feels like a roadmap back to yourself. It unlocks an intuitive appreciation in a way that is hard to articulate, that exists more on a visceral level. And even if all of this sounds too esoteric for you, it is a relaxing and enjoyable activity to start a new year and a good way to get out of your head if you’re stressed and overwhelmed with the news and just the state of things in general.

To make a vision board all you need are old magazines or visuals, a glue stick or tape (or any way to attach the images you cut out to the paper), scissors, and a piece of paper or poster board (or cardboard – use what you have on hand). Once you’ve cut out an assortment of imagery, words, textures, colors, etc. that inspire you, repaste them onto one piece of paper or poster board collage style. Don’t overthink it, just feel, just do, just use your hands and see what emerges.

If you don’t have access to supplies and want to create a digital version, Pinterest is a great resource as well as the graphics program Canva. I still prefer to do this exercise by hand as I think the tactile making process is more satisfying.

There are various ways people use vision boards and you could create more intentional ones as well related to specific goals: finances, your home, etc, but for me the exercise is as much about tapping into the intuitive as it is about “seeing” the future.

When you are done, stick the vision board somewhere where you will see it often and be reminded of what you are drawn to. Alternatively, or additionally, you could take a picture with your phone and save it as your phone or desktop wallpaper.

That’s it, super easy. You are done with this very low threshold activity, you have made your first vision board! You are now one step closer to manifesting a more aligned future or at the very least having created a craft that is contemplative and soothing.

This is a great activity to do with a group of friends. The pictures above are from the beginning of last year when we were able to congregate together at Gather Goods Co in-person but this idea could easily be replicated virtually. Just grab your friends, some snacks, some magazines, and gab and collage at the same time. And, if you do decide to host your own virtual vision board party, send me pictures or tag me on Instagram. I’d love to see!

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

When Silence Is Betrayal – Why It is Important To Speak Up About What Matters To Us And Make The World A Safer Place

I shared these thoughts about last night’s events of the storming of the Capitol on my personal facebook page this morning but felt that it was worth sharing them here too:

My friend Ahmed put it eloquently: “But the ones that deserve the most blame are the ones who voted for him. Every single one of you knew this would happen and knew this group of violent extremists would be brought out front, and you were fine with it. We told you this would happen, that this is what he’s really about, and you were still fine with it.” This gets to the root of my feelings about the election, that no matter what else, voting for Trump is/was saying that this rhetoric, this culture, this POV is not just accepted but literally endorsed.

And while the people who stormed the Capitol with their wooden gallows and confederate flags may have been outliers, they are still representative of the party as a whole being willing to not just accept but incite this thinking. 147 representatives (almost all white men) STILL voted to overturn the election results even after and probably because of yesterday’s actions. If the people storming the Capitol were outliers, these representatives believe they should be the voice of the party, regardless.

I believe a third party or a new Republican Party is necessary for our democracy to sustain itself and that without it, this extreme, theatrical, violent, and domineering ideology will only escalate. To associate yourself with it in its current form is both shocking and disturbing. It was before and it is even more so now. If you believe otherwise and are willing to own up to your vote, message me privately, but as it stands, I can’t see any other perspective, and that’s frankly saying a lot from me.

Courage means being willing to look at our own blind spots and values and stand up for what’s right. It means having to draw some hard lines in the sand and pick some values over others as more important right now in this current moment and for the future health of others. It means breaking away from things that are broken and wrong and using your sphere of influence to accept, acknowledge and admit to yourself and others that you were wrong, and that you are willing to change, that you are willing to make hard choices for the betterment of the world and not just for yourself.

History repeats itself. We have a violent and disturbing past to use as a guide but even in our sordid past, this has never happened before. At what point will standing up for what’s right be too little too late? Our leaders must be held accountable. We as individuals must be held accountable. As Martin Luther King, Jr said “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Word of the Year & New Years Resolutions – Free PDF Workbook Download

Every year I look back at some of the things that worked and didn’t from the year before and I try to set some gentle milestones and habits for the one ahead. I also like to set a “word of the year” which serves as a touchstone and guidepost to future choices. When I am deciding whether or not to pursue something I can look to that word that I’ve set and it helps steer me back toward my intentions, especially when things get muddy as they often do.

Free 8-Page PDF Workbook - Word of the Year & New Year's Goal Setting

I’ve created a free pdf workbook that you can download for yourself. I like to do this exercise on New Year’s Eve with my family. In the week leading up to it I’m often thinking towards these ideas so that it is easier for me to clarify them when I do take the time to sit down. I also think that it is helpful to write these things down long-hand versus on the computer where so many of us spend our time. Our brain processes things differently when we write them by hand and the things we write down we remember more easily.

To download the free 8-page pdf workbook just enter your email below and you will receive the workbook automatically. I hope you enjoy using it as much as I do and that it helps to make powerful and impactful growth in your life.

If you enjoy digging deep and want more. I’ve created an online course that helps clarify & align your goals called “Discover & Create A More Fulfilled Life” that I offer at the beginning of each year. The aim of the course is to help you find purpose, passion and self-acceptance and to gently guide your path forward. If you’d like to find out more about the coure and sign up for the waiting list for next year visit courses.gathergoodsco.com

Gift Guide, For the Foodie

  1. A handsome linen towel towel to clean up in style
  2. A beautiful cookbook dedicated to innovative drink recipes that encourage a good-night’s sleep
  3. A perfectly petite salt cellar for keeping by the stove
  4. A collection of delicious hot sauces that can be given all together or broken up to gift to a handful of people
  5. A four pack of locally made almond butter to keep at their desk
  6. A hydroponic grow-your-own kale & arugula kit for the kitchen window
  7. A trio of honey for sweetening up recipes and drinks
  8. A teal serving platter for making a pretty presentation
  9. Locally made spicy pepper relish for crackers and cheese
  10. A trio of jams for Saturday morning biscuits

Gift Guide, For Your Stylish Friend

  1. Brass Circle Pendant Necklace – For Making a Simple But Striking Statement
  2. Super Chic Sunglasses – A Daily Wardrobe Staple
  3. A Long Hanging Necklace Perfect for Wearing with Sweaters
  4. A Delicate But Edgy Infinity Bracelet
  5. A Note Card Featuring a Vintage Inspired Portrait
  6. An Art Deco Inspired Opal Ring
  7. Palo Santo Body Oil – Because if “Cool” Had a Smell This Would Be It
  8. Half Moon Earrings – For Dressing Up or Dressing Down
  9. Vegan Leather Backpack – For Toting Around the Essentials While Biking Through Town
  10. Rattan Clutch – For Beachy Vibes
  11. A Note Card Featuring A Portrait of A Chic Woman in A Straw Hat, For Their Aspiring Elizabeth Bennett/Lady Farmer/60’s French Ingenue Aesthetic
  12. A 14k Gold Filled Infinity Bracelet – That is Subtly Unique

Last Day To Sign Up For My 12-Week Online Course Until Fall 2021

Just a reminder that tomorrow is the last day to sign up for my 12-week online course “Discover & Create A More Fulfilled Life” until I teach it again in the Fall of 2021.

Create community & intention in your life this coming year. This year has brought so much to the forefront, continue on that path with intention, joy and community alongside others who are on a similar journey.

You can find out more and sign-up here: https://courses.gathergoodsco.com/

Gift Guide, For Nature Lovers

  1. Porcelain Planters – for elevating your house plants in a beautiful, heirloom-quality vessel
  2. Champagne Poppies – a windowsill garden to grow your own flowers
  3. Peony Embroidery – for keeping your hands busy while watching your favorite show
  4. A Real Fern Embedded in a Tear Drop Necklace – because it’s a great touchstone when you can’t be outside
  5. Forest Bathing – a book about the healing power of walking in the woods
  6. A Vintage-Feeling Art Print – so that you can have a bouquet of flowers year-round
  7. Protea Flower Paint By Number – for a little plant therapy
  8. Fern Letterpressed Art Print – simple and sweet
  9. Beautiful Ceramic Wall Hangers – for a wall full of foliage –
  10. Houseplant Book Markers – The prettiest way to save your page
  11. Vintage Inspired Enamel Pin – For wearing on your jacket
  1. A seed shaker full of bee-friendly pollinator flowers – for growing all the flowers
  2. Leaf page markers for noting your favorite quotes
  3. Round Hanging wall planter – for making an impact
  4. Beautiful super sharp scissors – for trimming and deadheading
  5. Plant ladies puzzle – for whiling away an afternoon
  6. A needle-felting craft kit inspired by a beautiful houseplant
  7. A mixed media flower print for creating cheer
  8. Hand-forged copper feather necklace for a wearable totem
  9. A DIY Gardening book for making hanging kokedama (plants suspended without a pot and bound by its roots)
  10. Ceramic bird coasters – for art on your tabletop

Holiday Gift Guide, For The Hostess

  1. An oblong cutting board – For serving snacks and cheese in a pretty way
  2. Dried Flower Bouquet – For an everlasting arrangement to display on the dining table or on a mantle.
  3. A sweet black bud vase – For making a simple statement.
  4. A decadent & divine smelling lotion to keep by the bathroom or kitchen sink.
  5. A pair of matching ceramic mugs for tea.
  6. A box of insanely good peppermint bark to say thank you (or to keep on hand for a personal treat), because who doesn’t love chocolate?
  7. A multi-purpose turkish throw perfect for picnics, tables, a wrap or a towel, in a cheery bright pink.
  8. Pink polka dot ceramic coasters – to keep near coffee tables
  9. A beautiful glass tea pot with loose leaf diffuser – for afternoon tea, of course.
  10. Statement-making, hand-dipped, black candles for a dramatic tablescape
  11. The Art of Edible Flowers cookbook for creating impressive treats enhanced with petals from the garden.

Holiday Gift Guide, For the Teens

  1. Be Kind Sweatshirt – For Wearing Their Values & Staying Cozy
  2. Frida Kahlo Puzzle – For Being Inspired by a Strong Female Role Model
  3. Grow Your Own Bonsai Kit – For Nurturing A Green Thumb
  4. The Magic Is In You Flag – A Reminder For Their Room (in Black, Natch, To Match Their Teenage Angst
  5. Square Stud Earrings – For Dressing Up Their Sweats
  6. Yes She Can Embroidery Kit – For Quality Time Away From the Devices
  7. Find Me Under the Stars Pin – For Budding Astronomers
  8. 52 Lists of Calm Journal – For Making Lists & Getting Out of Their Heads
  9. Eye Sticker – For Their Diary, Their Laptop, Their Bulletin Board or Water Bottle
  10. Bath Salts, Grapefruit & Lemongrass – For That Coveted Alone Time & To Unwind From Hours of Virtual Learning
  11. You Are A Radical Woman – A Reminder For Them To Have On Hand
  12. Yes, Washi Tape – For Hanging Prints, Adorning Snail Mail & Collages
  13. Crystal Gemstones – For All The Good Vibes on Their Desktop

14. Frida Kahlo Paint By Number Kit – For Low-Stress Unwinding from Hours of Zoom Classes
15. Houseplant Embroidery Kit – For Creating Something Cute
16. You Got This – For Helping Them Ace That Math Test
17. North Carolina Pullover Shirt – For Showcasing Their Local Love & Being Cozy At the Same Time
18. Swim Cap Print – For Whimsical Wanderlust on Their Walls
19. Ceramic Rainbow – For Groovy Texture & Positive Sentiments
20. Be Gentle With Yourself Print – Because They Could Use The Reminder
21. Inquire Within Deck – For Manifesting Dreams and Possibilities
22. Dream Big Dreams Embroidery Kit – To Inspire Them To Keep Dreaming
23. Love Is All Around – To Foster Hope
24. How To Be A Wildflower – For Sweet Journal Ideas

All of these items are available on my online store GatherGoodsCo.com. Everything on the site is “Free Shipping” for the holidays. If you are local you can shop our open by appointment only online shop showroom by sending me an email. We also offer free contact-less curbside pickup and free delivery within 5 miles of our downtown Cary, NC location. Happy gifting.