Hi, I’m Fred.
I’m a cat.
To some people, I’m not merely a cat:
I’m a black cat.
So I get treated differently.
When some people look at me and see a black cat, they’re afraid.
They run away from me.
They think I’m bad luck.
And today is Halloween, so there is all KINDS of stuff related to me - and none of it is good!
People label me as bad.
It’s difficult for me to understand, because after all, I’m just a cat!
The color of my fur isn’t important.
I mean, is it? Really?
Calico, tabby, Russian Blue…
We’re all cats.
We all want love, and food, and belly rubs.
I ESPECIALLY like belly rubs!
I meow and purr and eat treats just like other cats.
I like to play, and I like to snuggle.
Did you know black cats are the last cats to be adopted from shelters?
Many people don’t want my kind around.
They‘re unable to see through the blackness.
Because to them, I am not simply a cat.
First and foremost, they see me as a BLACK cat.
I’m grateful because my humans love me for who I am.
The color of my fur doesn’t matter to them.
I am a cat, and I give love like all other cats.
Does the color of my fur matter?
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
It got heavy carrying around all that weight.
Their need to be right.
Their 'my way is the best way: the only way.'
Their competing with others.
They passed this on to me,
and I carried it all.
I accepted blame.
I took things personally.
I made it 'all about me.'
I lived with these patterns
for much of my life.
Funny thing is,
I never even realized they were there.
They were so much a part of me - like breathing.
Automatic responses. Knee-jerk reactions.
Done without thinking. Unconscious.
The patterns were unattractive and confining, like vertical prison stripes.
I was tired.
It was a lot to carry.
And I didn't want it - any of it.
Acknowledging these patterns existed was revelatory.
I faced them with curiosity and deliberation.
They were weighing me down, and it was time for me to remove them.
All of them.
It's a process, this pattern-shedding.
At times it's been overwhelming, horrifying, and painful.
Like there's no end in sight, because they creep up in so many places.
It's also been beautiful,
as I've recognized the need to forgive others and forgive myself.
To see their innocence, and to see their pain.
To see my innocence, and to feel my pain.
To treat them, and myself, with compassion, kindness, and love.
I hadn't really been doing much of that.
Allowing this process to unfold - shedding this energetic weight -
has created openings that are
more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.
Life, and God, just keeps on giving.
There's so much love in this process
and now I'm more able to open my eyes, and my heart, to let it in.
For much of my life, I allowed others to control my emotions.
I kept turning my power over to them, by falling back into patterns that were handed to me and which I unconsciously carried.
Today, I take my power back.
I choose to be 100% responsible for my life.
Instead of wearing those confining prison stripes,
I choose vibrant colors and polka dots.
© Catherine Borowski, 2018
We are all creators. We all create a mythological world of our own out of certain shapeless materials. -- John Cowper Powys
I'm a Master Creator.
Every day, I create my life.
Every minute is new.
Everything I'm seeing is new.
Because I am always a new person, in every minute.
How cool is THAT???
The way I move through the world, the conversations I have, the people I see - they are all new.
Nothing is the same.
I'm always changing.
Because I am always creating my life.
Through my interactions, by what I read, by what I eat, by how I move..
I am always creating newness.
And I can decide to change, and create something new, in any moment.
I love thinking about myself as a creator.
I determine my life.
I determine how I hear things and how I see things.
Others share with me how they view the world, and I listen.
We all have our unique viewpoints.
I can choose to adopt others' views of the world, of events, of people...
or I can choose my own view.
I like choosing my own view.
My view, out of my eyes.
I choose to eat food that is good for my body.
I choose to exercise so my body is strong and agile.
I choose to listen to and read things
that help me learn, grow, and expand my mind.
I choose to be with people who are uplifting and positive.
I choose to shed what no longer works for me -
whether it be objects, clothing, accessories,
thoughts, routines, ways of being.
I choose to thank God for all of it, always.
By doing all of that, I create a life I love.
I invite you to re-read this where YOU are the "I."
And then, read it to yourself every morning.
Notice what you create each day.
YOU are a Master Creator.
It wasn't always a trampoline.
It used to be the bottom of a cliff.
Something would happen, and my reaction was to jump off a proverbial cliff, crash hard, stay there a while, and then - usually with the help of drugs, alcohol, or both - I'd slowly put myself back together.
It hurt. And I kept doing it.
I met a lot of people down there, at the bottom of the cliff... we'd wallow around, complain about our injuries, pass the bottle, and dust ourselves off for another climb up.
And we'd post our travails on social media and count the likes, feeling 'less than' if we didn't get 'enough.'
It wasn't long before we'd meet again at the bottom of the cliff, old bruises and cuts healing, new ones forming. Over and over.
It was comfortable in its familiarity. But it was no way to live.
The thing is, shit happens. And I've learned that it's important to face it, accept that it happened (because I can't change it), and choose my reaction.
By facing and accepting, I'm able to slow down, notice my emotions, and feel my feelings. To be human is to feel, and squashing down my feelings only means they will eat away at me internally (via ulcers, back spasms, skin breakouts, etc.)
When I choose my reaction, it's a lot easier than being at the mercy of whatever happened. I always have a choice - even if it doesn't seem that way.
So instead of leaping off of cliffs and crashing hard, I choose to bounce.
On a virtual trampoline.
I still fall down. But I now know that I don't have to remain down, ruminating and mentally abusing myself. Instead I'm able to bounce back up.
Now, when I bounce, I bounce close to the trees - holding onto branches and hanging out there a little while, taking in the view, checking out what is possible.
Life is a lot clearer from a higher vantage point.
I think I'll build a treehouse.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
It's all disrupted. Old systems, crumbling away. Ways of doing things are shifting. Massive upheaval.
I feel it everywhere.
My friendships are changing. Conversations have become deeper, more meaningful. I choose not to spend time in fluff, in surface stuff. My friends and I, we delve into heart and soul. Existing friendships are richer. New friends are entering my world. Friends constantly carrying negative energy have been lovingly released.
My relationships with family members are changing. I'm conscious of it, fascinated by it. It is a healthy change, and for me, a necessary change. The old patterns I used to fall into around family - they are falling away. They were comfortable, expected.. and not me. Because sometimes I would fall back into my teenaged self, my twenty-something self.. instead of bringing my real self. I am kind of awed by this change.
The way I work is changing. I am letting go and letting others in. My team is growing and is empowered. I'm amazed and in wonderment at the ease it creates.
I am not fearful of, or fighting, the changes. I am observing them. I'm noticing disparate reactions in so many other places in our world... fighting, excitement, depression, chaos. Shouting, whispering, ridiculing. Loving, understanding, embracing.
I am not judging the changes. Change happens. How I choose to experience it reflects in my eyes, in my soul, in my entire being.
I am choosing to relax around it. I choose peace, and ease. I focus on people and things that matter to me, and that is what I make matter.
As the world's pace seems to quicken, I am more focused on slowing down. Focusing on what really matters. Focusing on the change I am creating.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
He wanted my help.
I helped myself.
I listened as my friend poured his heart out -- he was telling me about someone close to him who's an addict. He wanted to help his friend but wasn't sure how.
I listened for a long time and then had an idea. "Let's each go to a few 12-step meetings and then discuss what we learned and what we can do."
Would I go to a 12-step meeting to support my friend? Of COURSE I would!
In my mind, going to support someone who was trying to navigate his own path meant I wasn't really going for myself -- I was going 'for' someone else. It made it easier for me to walk through that doorway and into that room.
Isn't it funny, the stories we tell ourselves?
Alcoholism and addiction have woven through my life since I was a child.
I had my own struggles with alcohol until finally, in 2015, I decided to stop drinking. But I didn't do the 12 steps (or any support group) back then - I just stopped drinking that one day in August.
Fast forward to today. Sober me starts doing the 12 steps thinking that I'll just listen.. you know, to support my friend. Because I'm not really affected, after all... I mean, not that much. Right?
I didn't realize all the stuff that would come up for me while sitting there listening to the members of the group.
Not only did I see myself as I read through the 12 steps, but I saw myself in the co-dependent tendencies I had for so much of my life.
Only in the past several years have I begun shining that spotlight on myself and recognizing/admitting to behavior patterns such as
The co-dependent patterns I had -- for SO long!!
Why did I think it's easier to live life for other people??
I know why.
Because, really - it WAS easier to try and control other people’s behavior, to point out the 'faults' in others, than to look at my own self. Much easier, in fact.
By focusing on others, I didn't have to go to those dark places in myself. I didn't have to put that spotlight on me, to look at what wasn't working in my life when I was focused on other people.
If other people would just listen to me, they could fix themselves, all would be well, and we would live happily ever after.
It was only when I made a huge life change that I started to peek inside myself. I started looking to see what was inside of ME that wasn't working for me, that was slowing me down and making my life difficult. And - there was a lot.
The thing with going to those dark places is, once I shine the light there, the light remains. It remains because I've created an opening, and that light makes it less scary to go there again.
I'm recognizing old patterns and habits much more clearly. I can keep them, I can change them. I can eliminate them. Whatever works best for me now.
You know how people say that life is a journey?
It is. And even more than a journey - it's the trip of a lifetime.
And it takes our lifetime to keep discovering who we are.
Twelve steps is part of my journey.
That first step - walking through the door - that was scary. Unfamiliar.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
My hair was a great hiding place.
Baby fine, non-descript, mousy brown, and slightly wavy.. certainly nothing to write home about. Luscious locks? Far from it.
But my hair helped me hide parts of me I didn't like. And I kept trying to make my hair into something it wasn't.
The hours spent in salons for perms in the 80s, body waves in the 90s, extensions in the 2000s, and color always. The cuts! The styles! The maintenance!
My hair has been brown, blonde, red, peach, burgundy. As a teenager I spent plenty of summers spritzing it with lemon juice from a spray bottle, desperate for those sun-kissed highlights. Citrus-smelling hair was so refreshing, wasn't it?
It has had highlights. Lowlights.
Bangs. No bangs.
Always trying to fit in with the up-to-the moment cut, color, style....
Egg white mask. Avocado mask. Vinegar rinse. Milk rinse. There was an entire menu on my head sometimes.
There was that week in October, 1982, when I had it colored, then permed, then colored again. Bozo the Clown and I could have been hair twins - I am not kidding. When I went to the store in my Halloween punk-rocker costume to get some last minute accessories, the cashier said "how'd you get your hair to look like that??" I didn't tell her that WAS my hair - not part of the costume.
And that time in 2006 when I got extensions sewn in - I could barely put my head on a pillow, because my scalp was so sore from all the pulling. After two sun-drenched vacations a short time later, my extensions dried out, got knotted, and stuck to my head like an abandoned bird's nest. They had to be cut out. Oh, well. I tried.
Over the years, it was oily. It was flyaway. It was static-y.
I teased it and coaxed it and scrunched it and shellacked it. I singed it and scorched it and pulled it and pinned it.
No wonder we had issues, my hair and I!
All those years that I tried to grow it long, and it never got much longer than shoulder length. It was almost as though it was mocking me: after everything you've done to me, why would I want to grow longer?
Still, I tried to get it to conform to how everyone else was wearing their hair. To no avail.
In the past few months, though, I began to change the way I thought about my hair.
It clearly wanted to do its own thing, and everything I tried just didn't matter anymore. It was as though it wanted to re-create itself. Start fresh. Start new.
So I started to think about shaving my head.
And yesterday morning, slowly and deliberately, I did it.
I had to start somewhere... so I simply started.
One big snip, close to my left ear, cut away six inches of hair in a random place. Ok! I am doing this.
I cut away the longest, driest, blondest parts first. The parts that had been colored, over and over. I had been trying to make it look better than my 'natural' color.
I then cut away the highlights, added to try and make my hair look 'natural.' How ironic.
As that fell away, I got to the silkier, shorter hair underneath all the colored, highlighted processed stuff. It was so much softer, very fine, and much healthier. I was shocked at how dark it was.
Then, the shit got real. The longest pieces still attached to my head were only a couple inches long. I really started to look different.
I thought about all the times I hid behind my hair. It provided a shield. When my skin would break out, I would part it on the other side to hide the blemishes. The shame - the fear of judgment because my skin wasn't 'perfect.'
And if I didn't want to look at anyone, I let it fall in my face. It was another mask. Protection. I'm afraid of you looking at me.
At this point I looked radically different.
I asked Gregory if I could use his electric trimmer. He set it to 10 and shaved off what was left.
I looked in the mirror. Holy shit.
It was fun! How many people get to see themselves pretty much bald as a cue ball? I loved it!
Then, I asked Gregory to set the trimmer to a 5 and shave my head again.
And just like that, it was done.
My hair was in a heap in the bathroom sink.
It is, um, a completely different look for me.
And there is no going back.
No way to clip in extensions. Nothing to attach to a barrette.
I was startled when I opened the vanity and realized I no longer had any use for the 9 brushes, 7 combs, 5 curling irons, 5 rattail combs, 4 bottles of hairspray, 4 shampoos, 3 round brushes, 3 conditioners, 3 hair oils, 2 teasing brushes, 2 blow dryers, 2 detanglers, 2 leave-in conditioners, 2 hair turbans, 1 glossing cream, 1 keratin lotion, 1 mousse, 1 gel, 1 heat protector spray, 1 quick drying hair towel, 1 satin pillowcase, 1 set of rollers, 1 set of flexible curlers, and countless barrettes, clips, ponytail holders, scrunchees and bobby pins.
There is a LOT of extra space in my vanity!
Other startling things I noticed after cutting off all my hair:
My cheekbones really stand out.
My entire body seems leaner.
I feel so strong!
I'm not afraid of how people might look at me.
I don't need to "fit in" - whatever that means.
I'm my own person. It's my own journey.
I shaved my head.
And it's freaking awesome.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
"It's not normal to be so happy before 9am!"
The girls at my first job told me that as we rode the train into downtown Chicago. We were headed to the office, and I was excited to be working downtown at my first "real" job.
So I became less outwardly happy, so they would like me. So I would 'fit in.' I toned down my joy and instead commiserated and complained, because I wanted those girls to like me - to approve of me.
"Are you on something? You're so full of energy - it's not natural - you've gotta be on something!"
My co-workers didn't believe it when I told them I was just excited about something that happened at work that day.
So I toned my natural exuberance down... to win their approval.
(Is there such a thing as being *too* excited?)
"You're not doing everything on the itinerary? Why not? You're a rebel!"
The people I was with were upset that I didn't do everything they were doing. It made them uncomfortable that I would opt out and not do what the group was doing.
So I went along to appease them, and wound up getting sick
instead of listening to my body and to that inner voice that said to take some time for me.
I even did it to myself: "Why don't I have more likes? Don't I look good? Is the message not good?"
Maniacally checking the post every 30 minutes, feeling let down as the numbers of likes didn't increase, made me feel like a loser when I didn't get the approval I was seeking. I felt unloved and "friendless." And I was making it all up because it wasn't even true.
I had it all wrong.
Changing who I was so other people would like me - yeah, I used to do that. A lot. I did it so often that I couldn't remember which persona I had to adopt for whom.
It was exhausting.
I kept thinking something was wrong with me. I thought I had to change so others would like me and accept me.
I didn't realize that it was never about me. Other people were uncomfortable because of who they were - not because of who I was. They weren't happy. And my happiness made them uncomfortable.
It took years for me to realize I'm not living on this earth so others will approve of me.
I'm not here to live my life for other people. I'm here to live my life for me.
Sure, I still get tripped up by this sometimes, getting in my head and criticizing myself about something I did "wrong."
But then I remember - I don't need anyone's approval. It's MY life.
I approve of me. And I approve of this message.
And that's all that matters.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
I binged between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Big time!
"Tis the season!", I told myself. And in that spirit, one morning I started my day with pumpkin pie (sans whipped cream so it would be healthier - as if), then moved on to the cherry pie (warm with ice cream - f it), then apple pie.. followed by toffee and ice cream - first separately, and then together. And then Belgian chocolates. And cookies.
As I kept eating, what was I feeding? It wasn't my appetite, because I was thoroughly stuffed after the cherry pie ala mode. It was something else that took over, that made me not care and just keep eating.
So I kept eating. I mean, since I "blew it" that morning, I decided to go big and eat whatever I wanted that day.
And after I had eaten all the desserts in my house, into my car I staggered on a full-blown sugar high in pursuit of a vanilla malt. Because THAT was what I needed right now!!
In the car, my mind was saying "Vanilla malt. Vanilla malt." ... but my body was saying something else. My body was saying WTF?!? I started to pay attention to how my body felt. It felt like crap! An upset stomach. Shaky hands. A fuzzy, sugar-addled brain.
Getting into the car was a very good thing.
Getting into the car got me away from the sweet temptations at home. It also got me away from the act of feeding unconscious thoughts like: I'm bad. I'm not lovable. I'm not good enough. I had been unconsciously saying to myself with each forkful of pie I shoved into my piehole: "Who cares? I'll show me! I'm a failure!"
Have you ever done anything like that?
How did it turn out for you?
For me, I was able to put the brakes on this out-of-control feeling as I drove around in search of that vanilla malt. My thinking cleared as I got in touch with, and really felt, how I was feeling.
I didn't feel good.
So I didn't get the vanilla malt, after all.
Instead, I decided to love myself.
©Catherine Borowski, 2018
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What if you used your beautiful glassware today, simply to drink water.
What if you treated yourself to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, because you love them and you're worth it.
What if you wrapped yourself in luxuriously thick silk, because it feels so good against your skin.
What if you took yourself to that play you've wanted to see, and went alone, because you enjoy being with yourself.
What if you thought back to the beginning of 2017 and recalled your accomplishments - and there have been many.
What if you called someone you haven't spoken with in a while just to say hello, that you were thinking about them and that you wanted to hear their voice.
What if you took the time to really, truly listen to the person who's speaking with you.
What if you looked at your body with love and were thankful for all the things it does for you, and you don't even have to ask it.
What if, instead of rushing from one task to the next, you stopped and took a deep breath and looked around you and appreciated where you are in that moment.
What if you talked to yourself with love, every single day.
How would your life be different?
©Catherine Borowski, 2017
Live a wealthy life.
Catherine Borowski, life coach, knows that life can be messy. And that's what keeps it interesting.