Tag Archives: healing

When Raised on Crumbs of Love

I gave this letter to someone I love, but the message is universal. I’m sharing an edited version here, all privacy protected. Maybe you or someone you love needs this today.

My Dear,

There were many times when I wished a wiser future self could have reached back, shook me awake and loved me hard. I want to channel that most loving and knowable part of you, to remind you and guide you.

If you can open your heart to hear this without shame, without even a tinge of judgement and self-criticism, then this will serve you well. These words are a song my heart pumps through the body until I am full, and it needs to go out, to live somewhere in the world.

Know this. You are good and whole and worthy, exactly as you are, right now. You are beautiful. You are poetry. You deserve to be cherished and honored and respected. There will be no prince charming. You are your own best prince charming and fairy godmother. There is a long lineage of dysfunction and trauma, that goes back farther than the lifetimes we know, longer than we can even imagine. This does not set your destiny, but is up for you to heal in your own lifetime, in the way you love yourself and your children. Our ancestors look upon us with such tenderness. They cannot undo the wounds of the past, but whisper to you, “Your pain is a precious jewel. This inheritance has forged you in the fire of resilience, courage and compassion. You know what it takes to survive. Stand up and walk.”

When you inflict pain upon yourself, or numb yourself, or stay in the energy of physical or emotional abuse and disrespect, you carry that energy forward, into the person you are becoming. Your body knows how to constantly make itself anew. Even now as you read this, new cells are forming deep in the marrow of your bones. How will you make yourself today? What will you tolerate and allow?

And what does it take to feed and fuel a miracle? A woman’s body can form a baby, which she will love with the entirety of her soul. So too does your own life beg to be cherished. Who is worthy of sharing space and energy and time with you? What is the future you wish to build for yourself? Even though you may not see it, how will it feel to walk into your future home? Who is there to greet you? What are the colors there? Create it in the fullness of your mind, so you can be led into it by your deepest and truest desire. You would defend and protect your child like the fiercest lioness. Walk into and inhabit your life. Defend your right to be loved and fully respected, like the queen you are. Settle for nothing less.

When raised on crumbs of love, the spirit becomes accustomed to hunger. Crumbs may seem like a justifiable meal when that is all you’ve known. I want the full banquet for you, nothing less.

When parents are trying so very hard to keep their heads above water, they may not be able to show you what it is to be a strong swimmer. It can feel messy and scary, like drowning. You learn for your own survival how to tread water, but not always the full long strokes of directionality and personal power.

As a young woman, I wish someone had told me to stop flailing, to lie on my back and look up at the stars, and helped me to see what I could have and be if I stopped waiting for rescue. Catch your breath and gather your strength my love. You know how to swim. You are stronger and wiser and more capable than you even know.

Courage, Clarity, Confidence, Community.

Connect here for more support.

#TogetherWeRise #MelissaEppardCoaching #BadassWomen

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Freedom: Experiencing a Full Range of Emotions

I had a cloud-parting, heart-zinging, angels singing type of revelation last month. After mulling over this experience during long drives and late night musings, I share with you a polished jewel for your crown of wisdom. I recently attended “The Experience,” a life changing Women’s empowerment weekend with Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena,” author of the book, Pussy: A Reclamation. Regina teaches that a woman’s experience of pleasure is her greatest untapped source of power. Her mission is to bring women out of feeling disparaged and powerless, and back into their own “inherent radiance and innate aliveness” through sisterhood, and experiencing their power, beauty and brilliance through what she refers to as “turn-on”.

From first glance, you might infer that I’m talking about eroticism or sexual pleasure, but it is so much more than that. We are talking about reclaiming all the parts of the self from 5000 years of patriarchal world culture, parts that we’ve shamed into a dark corner, judged, numbed and hid. The number of women who experience rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking are staggering. From early childhood, girls have been taught to distrust themselves, to feel ashamed of their bodies, their voices, their power, and their sense of self. We internalize messages from society that tell us we are not enough, or that we are too-much. How many women suffer from anxiety and depression and physical ailments brought on by stress?

There were close to 1000 women from a wide range of ages, ethnicities, races and backgrounds gathered together for what was billed as the very last “Experience” weekend to ever be offered. One of the most profound takeaways for me that weekend was when Mama Gena’s shared the idea that a woman, like a piano, has 88 keys and, “all 88 keys want to be played.” She was referring to emotional range, and pointing to the idea that, “the degree to which you can own your own darkness is the degree to which you can own your light.”

That weekend I realized that for most of my life, I had been living in a very narrow range—the safe zone —of my 88 keys, and that I deeply longed to be living and embracing a fuller range in my life. I suddenly knew, that that to the extent that I allowed myself to feel my pain, that an equal and proportionate capacity to feel joy, happiness, pleasure and connection would open up.


Within the safety of sisterhood created in that weekend, Mama Gena led us through a process of “swamping” or coming into contact and fully experiencing the pain, anger, heartbreak, disappointment, frustration and trauma that lives under the surface. It is a process involving music, movement and embodiment, where you make space to be with and experience those feelings. You move them by literally moving the body with music and dance.

The song starts and you might begin by moving your hips, or gently swaying side to side with a hand on your heart; you might begin to weep; you might find yourself stomping your feet and beating your chest. You move with the emotions, staying with whatever needs to come to the surface. You reclaim these parts of yourself that you haven’t let yourself fully feel and heal. The transformation occurs when you add what she refers to as “turn-on”. Turn on is an experience of your own sensual pleasure. As the music crescendos, you turn up the heat in your movement and the body is flooded with those feel good neurochemicals—dopamine an serotonin—from the pleasure of the dance. Something breaks loose inside of you, and that stuck and shut down place is suddenly given freedom and light and you are liberated by the dance.

It is hard to describe the power of this work unless you immerse yourself in it. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen and experienced it first hand. Something magical happens when you take safe, supportive community to both hold and witness you, and make time and space to experience those shadowy emotions . I watched women who came out of domestic abuse situations, and survivors of child abuse take back their power from their trauma in the most beautiful transformations. I was floored by a mother and daughter pair who liberated each other on stage. It was breathtaking and awe inspiring. I longed for my mother and stepmother and sisters and all my girlfriends to be with me then, for us all to be held and uplifted in such a powerful way.

That weekend I came face to face with my life long habit of stuffing the harder feelings and memories into a mental filing cabinet, compartmentalizing and sealing away the shadowy parts of myself. I realized by doing so I was putting a tight lid on my capacity to feel a range of positive emotions as well. For years I learned to do this as a survival mechanism, to both be accepted and acceptable, and to stay safe. But I don’t have to be afraid of feeling the hard stuff. It won’t overtake or consume me. Adult me has tools to be with and process this stuff so that I can experience a fuller range of my emotions.

I’m thrilled to be taking on the later half of my life with a fuller range than ever before, and excited to see where this will lead me! In my own way, through coaching and writing, I want to “turn-on” as many people as possible, to be a spark that helps others reclaim their personal power and honor their unique gifts and life purpose.

Note: If you are intrigued by reading this and want to learn more, I highly recommend getting Mama Gena’s book for starters. If you are grappling with serious trauma, and looking for that supportive container to help you cope and heal, you might look for a therapist trained in somatic experiencing and trauma informed therapy. I can’t emphasize enough how important that supportive container is!

Bio: Melissa Eppard is a certified Life Coach, mom, writer and breast cancer survivor. As a Healing Hope Cancer Coach she uses her personal and professional experiences helping cancer survivors process the emotional impacts of cancer, build out circles of support, and deepen feelings of hope, courage and resiliency. She has shared her coaching work with groups and individuals for the last 4 years, and draws upon over 10 years of work immersed in holistic health and wellness. Her writing has been shared in Conquer Magazine and reblogged by the Young Survival Coalition. Melissa lives in Kingston, NY with her husband and son. You can learn more at MelissaEppardCoaching.com and read about her healing journey at Melissashealinghope.com

Giving Thanks in Times of War

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There has been a growing unrest between the daily headlines. I can read it in the new creases of my brow. Lines have been drawn and the artillery of offensive acts and politifacts carefully stacked. I am armed to the teeth and ready to  face the enemy.

That is where my story ends. Really I am too passive for battle. Thanksgiving Day looms and I already feel too full of it. I imagine hiding behind mounds of carved turkey and a bottomless glass of wine.

So many hurtful things have been said, and the resolution still remains. I conjure up foggy pageant images of Pilgrims and Indians breaking cornbread, sitting around an obscenely overflowing cornucopia. Meanwhile the gesture was wrapped in Friendship Blankets, murderous diseases hiding there.

My Gratitude, oh Gratefulness! Are you there?! I don’t want to wear you like some gaudy holiday sweater. I want the real thing, the healing embrace, your kindness and a softening heart. See me in the warm candelabra light of our shared feast.

I am not your sworn enemy. I am human. We are family.

What will it take to smooth out all your hurts, and mine? We can not take back and unravel all the stories told between us. I’m weary and calloused and seeking shelter from the hostility of the world. This world that gets smaller and smaller, as friends and family are picked off one by one, cozying up to our polarized Truths and the divisive voices that back us into corners, stoking anger, prickling with righteousness.

I want warm buttery rolls and soft trailing laughter. I want extra whipped cream on my pie and your acceptance of how tenuous and fleeting our time is together. Our holidays whipping past, our aging bodies giving way to the turning of the earth.

Please pass the gravy. I am not your sworn enemy.

 

 

Pick me up Mommy!

Tell a Mom not to use her right arm. Tell this to a Mom with a 4 year old and watch her face. I am one of those people who is never content to do just one thing at a time. While the onions are sauteing, I can get the laundry going, start a fire, wipe a nose, answer a text and find my husband’s wallet. I will get back just in time to perfectly translucent onions ready to proceed with dinner. Multitasking is an art.

For those of you following my journey, you may recall that soon after my double mastectomy last July, I developed an infection in my right breast. I had this major operation and was booted out of the hospital in less than 24 hours by a cold and unfeeling nurse with no real discharge instructions.  No one told me that I had to stay on antibiotics for the full length of time that I still had drains protruding from my sides. Coincidentally, the pharmacist only filled my script for a 6 day supply of antibiotics. (Never heard of that before and not sure why they didn’t give the full amount I needed.) I was suppose to have drains in for 2 weeks, but this was stretched out to 4 because of the infection. Was this an oversight by the surgeon, the hospital or the pharmacy? YES!

So, fast forward almost 8 months…. here we are. My right side is filling up with fluid and is quite painful. I saw the plastic surgeon last week and he ordered an ultrasound. The only way to fix this problem is to have another surgery to redo the breast that never healed properly. In case you are wondering how this works, the breast is recreated with a layer of Alloederm which is intended to adhere to your skin, and creates a pocket to hold the breast implant. In my case, the Alloderm didn’t properly adhere on the right side and my body is reading it as foreign material, creating all this extra fluid. Aside from the pain I look pretty lopsided, with one side looking fairly normal and the other teetering on being Pamela Anderson-esque. For the short term, the surgeon suggested I not use my right arm. Pshaw!

My second and hopefully last surgery in this breast cancer saga will be on April 8th. I am told it is way less invasive with a shorter recovery time than the mastectomy, which is great news. I also got the approval from my oncologist to have my port removed at the same time. Usually they like cancer patients to keep them in for a year after treatment, but given the particulars of my case, I’ve been given the green light. I am thrilled about this and see it as a big thumbs up to close this chapter of my life and move forward with the rest.

I know my blog has been fairly quiet, but as you see I’ve had quite a lot on my plate. In case you are wondering, I’m still writing. In fact, I am currently taking a writing class with Martha Frankel and I am starting to comb through the work I generated from this blog. Many people have suggested there is a book somewhere in here. At first mention, it was hard for me to look at this body of pain and suffering as a book that could help others. The more people began to reach out to me, the more I realized that my journey is about more than breast cancer and my particular brand of struggle. There is a unifying pulse that speaks to the human condition and our thirst for something more. I don’t know what else to say about it right now, but if I write it… will you help me share it and bring it forth to the world?

melissa n julian

On Your Mark… Get Set…

Waiting to start,

a splinter of light against a vast dark.

What can begin to take hold in this barren yet fertile ground?

Chemotherapy strips you down, like paint thinner washing out the last self portrait. On a cellular level, diminished as each and every dark internal corner is washed in an acrid bath. It seeps out of you at night while you’re sleeping, soaking your PJs and making your urine bubble and fizz.

I count time in treatment windows, 7 days apart. One day off, then four daily shots of immune boosting Neupogen. Each day, one foot in front of the other, I count down to NOW… to Four treatments remaining.  I am weary some days and optimistic others, with just a crack in the door beginning to open to the Rest of My Life.

On day 6, just before returning to the Oncologist is when I feel best. I can sense an inkling of normalcy in my system, which is a thing vastly taken for granted by most in good health. My hair is newborn fuzzy, and my nail beds near the little half moons are starting to look pinker and healthier. I am returning to a new version of myself.

I’m eager to feel good again, to really feel myself in this tired, achy body. She has been through so much.

This second birth is so different than the one that brought me forth all new and pink and screaming 37 years ago. Loaded with experience, expectations, and all my stories, I feel edgy and anxious to turn this page, to take a sharp turn and never look back. I wonder if there is a handbook called, “How Not to Burn Out in Your First Year After Cancer”? This next part of my life feels like a gift, a do-over. You get to live Melissa, now what are you going to do with it? I have a year to make up for, and just want to START.

 birth process