I’m a special needs mom. To own this title hurts. I have been on a healing path with my daughter for twenty-nine years. I learn everything I need to know about this journey in my life with her.

My life holds daily toxic stress. I have created a treasure chest of sacred tools to help me thrive not only survive. I call them 🌴Tiny Islands. A book with 365 Tiny Islands is in the making.

Plus, JOY has capital letters in my life and so does PRACTICE.

If you don’t make self-care a priority before you help others, you’ll risk toxic exhaustions. It’s only a matter of time until illness will be part of your life.

I’m talking about sacred self-care that touches and heals your body, mind, soul, and spirit. Sacred self-care teaches you an important skill to own. It’s called self-love.

Here are the three 🌴Tiny Islands I visit when I fall apart. Yes, it takes courage to not sit alone with your pain. But courage comes with practice!

  • I go for a brisk walk and sit with my trees. Breathe in nature and breathe out what’s hard.
  • I speak to someone who can listen*. For me, it’s my sister. I limit my venting to 10 minutes. Then I sit in silent reflection for a few minutes and breathe out what’s hard – look below for the 🌴Tiny Island.
  • I find my hero, or I let my hero find me.

* stay away from people who give advice unless you ask for it.

And here is my story on how I found my hero!

I find my heroes everywhere and every day. All I need to do is look. There is always someone who walks a path with more significant challenges than I have.

Ann is my special hero. She has been in my life for about two years.

I met Ann at the parking lot in front of Staples. I had dropped Sarina off in college. We both were frustrated for her being late – again. Having no time management is a disability, you can’t trick out of your life. It costs a lot of patience. Words were flying between us. It was exhausting. I always feel a deep sadness when the mornings are rough.

I needed office supplies, but the store was still closed. I sat in my car, crying. Crying helps me to let go. When the tears are gone, I connect to my breath, forgive myself for not having done better, and start fresh. I’m firm in my belief

The next step is always possible!

I looked up at the sky; it would be raining soon. I gazed over to the left and saw a person sitting in a wheelchair under a tree. It was a skinny man with grey hair; a black blanket pulled up under his arms. He wore a red and black checkered zip-front jacket and was reading a book.

I looked a little closer. Was he homeless? I didn’t see a sign asking for help. It was an unusual scene. Why was he sitting out in the cold early in the morning reading?

I took to heart and walked over to him, saying, “hello and good morning.” He didn’t respond. I repeated it a little louder, and he looked up.

A toothless smile whispered: “Hello.”

“I’m waiting for the store to open and saw you reading a book. I love books. What are you reading?” I didn’t understand him well, but he showed me the book. It looked as aged as he did and made me smile: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. He put the book back on his lap and kept looking at me.

I shared with him how much I loved that book and that I first read it in German. He nodded and kept looking at me. It’s perhaps my accent that makes him wonder, I thought and said in a clear voice: “Hi, my name is Manuela.”

Now I realized that speaking was difficult for him. I didn’t understand the name he said, but he pointed to the inside of the book cover. I looked and read Ann without being able to read the last name.

“Ann,” I said and softly: “I’m sorry.” But I didn’t need to finish apologizing. It wasn’t necessary.

Ann noticed my confusion. She shook her head, and I leaned in when she said: “I’m not well,” and she pulled the blanket aside. She only had one leg. “I love fresh air,” and she pointed to the sky while she covered herself with the blanket again “and books.”

There was a silence that didn’t need words. I was squatting next to Ann, put my hand over my heart, and asked her if she needed any help. She nodded, yes. When I handed Ann some money, our hands touched, and she embraced mine for a moment.

Each time I’m at that parking lot, I look for Ann. She is not always there. Each time we see each other, we have a few words and our hand’s touch. Sometimes when I need a hero I drive there to see her. Each time my heart opens, and I know I can handle anything destiny delivers. With heroes like Ann in my life, I cannot fail.

I’m grateful. I have many Ann’s in my life.

My often-heartbreaking challenges don’t go away because of Ann or a walk or connecting with a friend.

That’s not what this is about. This is about living our life well, embracing what’s possible and creating enough resources within ourselves to always be able to take the next step.

I want you to know there are two things you need to include in your life if we don’t want to break by your challenges.

  1. You cannot heal alone. You must reach out and share your pain and your story with others.
  2. You must practice letting go of your own story. When you get stuck in the pit of pain, doubt, and helplessness you need to find ways to get unstuck. Practice makes this possible.

You can learn to change perspective so you don’t sit in your cocoon for too long. If you do your misery will eat your soul.

It’s a practice. The next step is always possible!

Here is a practice that supports you in hard times:

🌴Tiny Island – 1 – 5 min

  • Pause
  • Feel your breath – breathe in and out
  • let go of doing the breath- let it breathes you.
  • allow being the witness
  • Put one hand on your heart
  • Feel it touch your body
  • Feel the breath touch your hand
  • Reflect – What’s heavy in your heart?
  • Breathe while you listen and feel.

⭐️ Name what’s heavy in your heart in one sentence

  • Come back to your breaths
  • *Breathe in life
  • Breath out what’s hard – your sentence
  • offer what’s painful to the universe*

*repeat three times.

Will you look for your hero? Try it she or her will help you switch perspective!

With Thanksgiving is around the corner I give thanks to all the heroes in my life and to each one of you for walking tall with your heart wide open.

P. S. Want to have more Tiny Islands in your life? I created an ebook with Eleven Tiny Islands for your practice. You can get it here: https://manuelarohr.com/tiny-islands-book/You can print it out. Pick one island a day or practice one for a week. Remember soulful self-care creates self-love!