She Wrote Her Own Ending Too Soon…

This evening I learned of the passing of one of my favorite designers, Kate Spade. It’s amazing how creative energy can defy the limits of space and time and light a spark of inspiration in a complete stranger. Kate’s designs had that ability. Her creations were witty, cheeky, and inspired me. I was always amazed by how she could create a purse out of ANYTHING! An origami dinosaur, a takeout bag, a wicker teapot, you name it! Kate thought outside the box in such a way that combined simplicity and color with just the right amount of whimsy that allowed every boss lady to do lunch with her inner child. I admired Kate. She was a designer who, I felt, understood me. Which is what makes the fact that such an artist felt compelled to take her own life all the more tragic.


As I flipped through photos of her work and old ad campaigns I was struck by the terrible irony of the stationary that read, “she writes her own story,” and the day planner with a cover that said, “expect the unexpected.” Truth is, Kate wrote the very unexpected ending to her story in a suicide note she left to her 13 year old daughter. I can’t help but wonder how Kate had come to this conclusion?


I’ve been reading lots of comments about the selfishness of her final act and I will admit that I was struck by a wave of anger too as I thought of the 13 year old who is now without a mother. But then it occurred to me that the level of selfishness spoke to the severity of pain Kate must have been in. It goes against a woman’s biological nature to abandon her child. That tells me the strength with which depression held Kate. It had rewired her thinking and deleted all the maternal instincts in the process.

I myself have experienced depression, as have my family members…including my cousin who made an attempt to end her life in 2009. Thankfully she is still with us. In October of 2014 I lost one of my best friends to suicide. He had attempted to get help but when he told the hospital he “thought” he was suicidal he was told to come back when he was sure! My friend had a strong support system of people who loved him and made every attempt to get him help. Still, the system failed.


From the shamanic perspective, depression is a symptom of soul loss, something that occurs after we have experienced a traumatic event or something that tells us the world we’re in isn’t safe. So the piece of us that doesn’t feel safe breaks off in search of well being. As shamans we are trained to travel to the different upper and lower worlds to retrieve these pieces for our clients. This is a standard practice in other cultures, sadly in modern western society we are told to put on a brave face, take a pill, and get over it. Obviously this formula isn’t working.

Tonight I am thinking of Kate’s family and of her little girl. I am also thinking of all my brothers and sisters; my tribe members who have lost loved ones to suicide. Often when we hear of another suicide it can bring up a lot of emotions. That is okay! Let them come out! Talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to me! Even if it’s just a post on social media, let other’s know how you are feeling. And if you don’t know what to say if someone comes to you, that’s okay. Tell them that. Just be there and hold space for them. It’s only when we start to open up and allow ourselves and one another to be truly vulnerable that we can begin to heal. Kate was correct, we do write our own story…and we can change the ending at any moment.

Kate Spade: 1962-2018

Child of the Earth and Sky

My chest rises and falls as I allow my body to melt into the sandy arms of Pachamama; Mother Earth.

She is the Mother who has never left us.

Our heart beats synchronize.

Recalibrate as Grandfather Sun warms my shoulder blades and invisible wings.

My Brothers and Sisters of the Wind and Sea sing to me.

Welcoming me home.

A salt-filled tear streams down my face and into my Mother’s hands as remember

I am one.

I am whole.

The Sun. The Sky.

The Earth. The Moon.

The Sea. The Wind.

The Sand. The Stars.

This is my family.

A Seagull calls, “I love you,” off shore.

My face smiles as my heart expands;

open with gratitude.


by Libby Brittain

Lessons From Sheila

img_2211-2How one fish taught me how to swim in a sea of emotions.

I recently experienced an “a-ha” moment that I thought I would share with you. As you may or may not know, in addition to the 8 dogs and 1 cat I currently share my home with, I also have a fish for a roommate. Her name is Sheila and she is an 18” albino iridescent shark catfish whom I’ve had the pleasure of raising for the past 10 years. Until recently I’d never thought to check in with her to see what lessons she was trying to teach me. For the most part Sheila is a pretty quiet guru…as most fish are, with the exception of when she, “flips out.” When she does this she literally thrashes from one end of the 65 gallon tank to the other. Splashing water out the sides, knocking the water pump, and hitting her face in the process. Her beautiful iridescent white scales marked with a red gash or two, and her mouth looking like she’s gone a few rounds with Connor McGregor. This behavior had become pretty common over the years. So much so that I am embarrassed to say I almost didn’t notice it anymore. That is, until recently.


“…her mouth looking like she’s gone a few rounds with Connor McGregor.”

One night last week, when I went upstairs to get ready for bed I walked by Sheila, like always, and I noticed she was laying on the bottom of the tank. Her gills barely moving. I gasped and after about a 5 full seconds of freaking out, I clicked into healer mode, placing my hands on the tank and giving her reiki. I journied deeper and performed what I call, “energy triage.” I then called for my father, who was still downstairs. I explained that Sheila didn’t look well and I needed his help. He wasn’t sure there was much we could do but suggested we clean her tank. So for the next hour my Dad cleaned Sheila’s tank while I tended to her wounds energetically. After all was said and done, Sheila appeared very happy. She was back to swimming and gracefully sacheting her tail side to side. As my Dad was about to turn out the tank light he looked at her and said, “Oh Sheila, you really need to stop beating yourself up.” There is was; the phrase that lit the “a-ha” moment match in my head. How did I miss it? She had been swimming in front of me all this time?!

One of my favorite parts of Animal Communication is teaching my clients how our animals often model our behavior. They do this as a means of showing us some aspect of ourselves we’d rather not see. Our shadow self if you will. In this case, Sheila was beating herself up to reflect what I so often do to myself. The wounds she wore on her face mirrored the ones I was carrying internally.

If we delve deeper into the symbolism, we can look at the water itself. In dreams, water is often looked at as a representative of ones emotions. Sheila was thrashing around in dirty water. Such could be said about me at the time as well. I will admit, I have a tendency to bottle up my emotions. It’s not that I don’t express myself. I do…I just tend to share the happy things and hide away all the,“stuff,” that I don’t think others want to hear. As a result these thoughts and feelings churn inside of me like an unsettled sea until they finally form a tidal wave and swallow me up. When this happens I’m usually in a pool of tears; feeling like an emotional wreck and definitely not feeling like someone anyone would want to be around. And thus the cycle continues…until today!

For in addition to Sheila showing me physically what happens when one beats themselves up and swims within their own toxic emotions, she also showed me what happens when you ask for help. You see, I didn’t just try to fix Sheila’s situation all on my own. I knew it was too big a task so I reached out for help. And that my friends is what I needed to learn to do for myself! And wouldn’t you know, the Universe agreed, and provided me with some very special women who have hearts the size of the sun. These beautiful souls who I am blessed to call friends are all willing to help me clean my emotional fish tank when it gets to be too much. And what is the key to a clean tank? A working filter. Friends are a lot like that. They help you sort things out and make sense of things that once seemed murky. They give you a clearer perspective if you will. All you have to do is ask. And I can promise you its much easier than banging your head (and fins) against the wall.

It’s truly amazing what one can learn from a fish…or any creature for that matter. I am happy to report that since that evening Sheila has made a total turn around. It’s been a week and not one episode of thrashing. Her iridescent scales are shimmering and her wounds are nearly healed. Mean while, I have been speaking more kindly to myself and learning that when life’s water gets a bit rough, I don’t have to sail the seas alone. I’ve got a whole crew of people waiting to be of assistance. We all do. For, no man is an island and we’re never alone in this fishbowl we call life.

So what do you do when your emotions start to bubble? Or rather, what do your furry and finned friends do when the your seas get rough? Take a look. I bet you’ll find they are more in tune than you…animal gurus always are 🙂


Sheila: My Aquatic Guru