Feed your dreams, not your fears

My step father once said,
“What are the dots in your life?”
As in, I did x dot, dot, dot then y dot, dot, dot.

I didn’t fully grasp it at the time but now it’s a little more clear.

What he was saying is to pay attention to the pauses in life—the thoughts, moments of mediation, reflection and of being not doing. Sage advice. Thank you, Dave O’Connor!

As he and my mom age I am reminded how very short this life we have is.

In November last year, my mother took her second big fall. This time she was partially paralyzed and forced to recoup in nursing home for five weeks. Meanwhile, her ninety-year-old husband of twenty-eight years and my stepfather was battling age related memory loss and required a caregiver to assist with meals and meds. To top it off his son attempted to assert control over David’s health and finances. It was a nightmare, but we survived.

My wife graciously cared for my mom for six weeks after she was released from the nursing home and eventually moved in with us for four months. When the six weeks leave of absence for my wife was up, my work was generous enough to allow me to work from home, so I could care for her until we were able to sell their house and find a new place for them.

For four months, I was not able to break free to recharge. I was unable to make time to feed my soul. I desperately needed to hike the coast, to be in nature, to reconnect with my spirit. I needed to pay heed to the other dots in my life. Once their house closed escrow and we got them all settled in one of the first things I did was take a long hike along the West Marin Coast.

Even though I battled fears my mom would never be able to live on her own again, I trusted everything would work out the way it was supposed to. Fortunately, it did.

In hindsight, everything happened exactly as it was supposed to. My mom and Dave are now in a place in Petaluma where they can maintain their independence while having meals and cleaning services provided.

Though I did the right thing, those few months sapped my soul to the core. Now, I make it a point to carve out time for me to rekindle my inner spirit. To dream again. This year has been a challenge but despite it all me and our family have been blessed beyond measure. I don’t take anything for granted and am even more intentional about investing my time on the important things.

The past three years my wife has chosen a word as a focal point for something she wanted to work on that year.  It worked. Last year I watched her whole life transform as she lived out her word, confidence. My word for 2018 was focus. I have accomplished virtually everything I set out for myself and more. When it is all said and done, my relationships are stronger, my faith has grown immeasurably, I joined Toastmasters and even pushed myself to go back to school.

I am feeling pulled to grow even more in the year ahead and that is both frightening and exciting. I know in my soul that I need to dream bigger. So big, in fact, that I must rely on the divine forces of the universe to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I am growing to trust my higher power even more. From a logical standpoint, there is really no reason to live in fear or doubt. I could list hundreds of experiences where I was given exactly what I needed, despite any of my best laid plans.

2019 will be a milestone year. The events and blessings to come from faith, effort and my willingness to grow will set the course for the rest of my life. The dots will be many. I will walk through every moment of fear with a quiet certitude that there is a plan for me and my only job is to seek and trust that inner voice which guides me— my responsibility is to put one foot in front of the other and march forward into the vast unknown. In so doing, my prayer is that the dreams I live and achieve will ignite many others to aspire to whatever change they seek.

I am more determined than ever. This year, my word is commitment.

What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

In the wake of the tragic wildfires, I am a bundle of mixed emotions. Me and my family were spared from major loss, but thousands of others were not. At last count over 7,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. Over 43 are dead. Many families lost everything.

In many respects, we are all hurting from this.  How do we process our feelings? How do we cope?

I’m not a psychologist nor a counselor and therefore I am not qualified to give any specific advice.

I do however, know that I have to process my own emotions and do what I can to help those who need it.

Here’s what I can offer:

  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Listening

Offering food, clothing, shelter and financial support are also helpful.

Yet even then, I am left with a sense of grief. How would I handle it if I lost everything? I don’t know.

A couple things that have always helped me in past personal crises are writing— journaling about my thoughts, and emotions, talking with others, counseling, and trying to offer help to others.

I was given two opportunities to talk with people in the midst of these devastating fires.

Last Saturday I had a book signing at Barnes and Noble. In some ways, it felt selfish to promote my book, but I quickly realized that I was there for another purpose—to offer encouragement and guidance to those who had family members suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and also to offer encouragement about the fires. I was able to listen to their stories and offer suggestions. Many of them also bought my book. Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness.

B&N

Two days later on Monday, I was scheduled to do my first live radio interview by phone on KZSB – 1290 AM in Santa Barbara. It was largely unscripted and conversational. Granted, I had a framework for the program including talking about the fires, ways people can help, and, of course, my recovery journey as it related to my book.

The interviewers, Ed Giron and Maria Long were both gracious and kind and asked some really good questions. Ed at one point asked me what advice I would have for those that don’t think they are ready to stop drinking or using drugs and a follow up question about what I would suggest for those who really don’t think they have a problem. I paused before answering.

You see, my experience has been that sometimes we may think we are ready to stop drinking, using, overeating,etc… and may  even go to a meeting or seek counsel, only to return to our old addictive behavior(s). Other times, we feel we still have control and therefore have no need for any solution. If you want to learn more, you can listen to the whole interview here:

In summary, I suggested that for those who don’t think they have a problem with food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc., —they may not. However, if they are causing an individual pain and affecting their relationships they may want to seek help. In response to Ed’s question about those who think they may have a problem but are not yet ready to change or seek help, I expanded a bit more but, in a nut shell said that the first step is admitting that one has a problem. Then an individual can follow the 12 steps or work with a counselor or another program to find a solution.

The bottom line though, for me and millions of others, is that the solution must come from a power greater than ourselves. We are not God. And no matter how much we think we are in control, ultimately, we are not.

That brings me back to the current state of my emotional and spiritual development. I rely on prayer and meditation to help me stay centered. I have a sense of faith. I call my higher power God. I have witnessed hundreds of miracles in my short lifetime and trust that even in the wake of these horrific fires that most of us will survive. In some respects, we have become closer as a larger community and stronger because of them. That is not to placate, minimize, or sweep away the pain they inflicted.

My heart goes out to all who lost it all. I too have lost so much in my life—jobs, health, brother, family, broken relationships. In the midst of it all, I always found hope.

My prayer for all is that we find the courage to process our emotions and continue to grow in love and kindness for each other. May we become more unified as families, community, country, and world. May we realize that we are truly never alone. That at the end of the tunnel there is always light.

Shell Beach - Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Shell Beach – Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Love,

Shawn

Find our more at

www.shawnlangwell.com

One step at a time…

Two weeks ago I took I took a much needed day off to recharge. I had pushed myself to exceed my sales goals at work over the past several weeks and was rapidly reaching a point of burnout.

My idea to unwind was  to take a 10-12 mile hike to Alamere Falls along the Palomarin Trail of the picturesque Point Reyes Seashore in West Marin.

Ironically, I had been talking about making this hike for a long time, but never made it a priority to actually do it. I looked at pictures, maps, and blogs to plan my trip, but always found a reason why now was not a good time. Then the rains came. Which meant even more water to feed the falls. But the trail would be too muddy to hike, I rationalized, while sitting at home wishing I could do it.

One night I saw a picture on Facebook of my friend standing in front of the falls with the most joyful smile.

I have to do this soon, I thought, but never set a date. Another few weeks passed, followed by even more rain. Then, one evening, I saw a picture of that same friend standing atop the Andes in Ecuador. He looked at peace-happy. He had made a monumental climb. One that undoubtedly required, planning, conditioning, and time to acclimate to the altitude, but he didn’t give up, he had persisted.

When I saw that, I became even more motivated to make time to hike to the falls.  I finally reached the point where I wanted it bad enough-it looked just too beautiful to not experience first hand. I picked a date and committed to making it happen. Sure, there was a bit of envy and jealousy associated with seeing my friend’s glorious outdoor excursions, but I had to do this for me.

Several more storms pounded the Northbay over the weekend prior to my planned date.  I worried that I may have to change my plans. Fortunately there was only a 30% chance of rain on the Monday I’d be making the trek.

The morning came, I packed some rain gear, a delicious salami, prosciutto, and mozzarella sandwich,  Jalapeno Kettle chips, and a bottle of sparkling water and set out for Bolinas.

As I glanced at the trail map it looked a little daunting- 14 miles to the falls it said- it would take an average of four to five hours. I paused and told myself, you can do this, and stepped onto the trail.

A couple miles in my legs started to get sore. I had not hiked for more than 10 miles before and second guessed whether I was in shape enough to do this. Before long, though, I could see the Pacific ocean. It was a spectacular view and motivated me to press on.

Just past Bass Lake the trail wound through some woods. I stopped, looked up and heard nothing except the trees whispering and a few birds chirping. I held my hands to the sky and thanked God for the silence. Chills overcame me. This is what my soul craved, I said to myself.IMG_1120

Feeling recharged I continued on, winding my way out of the woods, along a narrow path, to an incredible overlook.

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The air was fresh and alive with the early signs of spring. Step by step I kept going. Much of the trail skirted the coast. I paused occasionally to drink in all its natural beauty.

Soon, I found a perfect spot to have lunch.

Eventually, I made it to Wildcat Camp, used the facilities, then backtracked along the beach. As I walked along the gravely shore, I noticed the tide coming in. For a moment, I wondered if I would  be stuck, but I could see the falls in the distance… Keep on…don’t quit before you finish, I thought.

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As I made the final steps to the falls I was overcome with elation. I felt the coarse sand  between my toes as I sat in stillness, allowing the calm cascade of the falls to sweep away any stress I had felt over the previous weeks and months. A seal bobbed its head and looked briefly toward the shore before swimming on in search of a tasty snack.

I love goals. I have always found them to be an exciting challenge. This one may not seem like a big deal for some, but for me it was. I was not nearly in as good of shape as I thought, but I made it.

Here’s to many more  waterfalls, waves, and sunsets. To open grassy fields and fresh, clean air. To letting go and letting down your hair. To leaving the stress behind, without a care. Here’s to dreamers everywhere. May you set your sights on high and take the first step to your dreams and goals, and listen to the silence with a sigh.

May we all remember to take the time to stop and hear the roar of the falls or the crashing waves in our ever increasingly busy lives.

Love ,

Shawn