I Want To Be Free

“What good are wings without the courage to fly?” -unknown

Fear of the unknown is natural, yet I’m quick to overthink and often resist change, while also wishing life could be easier or make more sense. I want to stop spending so much time searching for reasons and answers in everything. Maybe sometimes shit just happens, people let you down and leave unexpectedly or treat you like garbage for no apparent reason, and life pushes you in a new direction against your will. I’ve been wondering lately if my deep desire to understand the motives and actions of others, or the reasons why I feel like I’m constantly starting over and having to change course, is actually holding me back? It’s obviously valuable to learn, important to pay attention, and I know that growth comes out of difficult seasons, but where is the line between healing and self torture? I want to let go. I want to be free, not just from the hurt but also from the desperate need for understanding. Maybe there would be more room for love and joy and adventure and the light-hearted spirit that I desire if I could just accept that not everything makes sense or can be explained in a way that would heal the hurt. I want to take the power away from the negativity in my past and present; I wonder if working so hard to give meaning to each difficult experience is fueling unhappiness more than creating peace? I believe what we focus on the most becomes our reality, so I think it’s time for me to choose a different focus. I’m tired of brokenness, trials, setbacks, and reasons for starting over to defining me. We all fall down, some more than others, but shit, the getting back up matters way more than the falling down!

“My demolition might not be in my hands, but my reconstruction is.” -Najwa Zebian

If the focus is on rising after falling, the spiritual energy associated with starting over, rebuilding, or changing course will naturally be more hopeful and positive. It’s the difference between looking up and look down, or walking forward verses walking backwards. We celebrate getting back on the horse because it takes courage, but every rider is trained to anticipate falling which eliminates the surprise when you end up on the ground; there isn’t a need to reevaluate the decision to ride in the first place because you’re prepared to fall. I was born with a wild, creative, adventurous, loving spirit, and a dreamers heart. Life has seriously challenged me, disappointed me, and broken my heart. But I’m still here to talk about it. I’ve come out of each difficult experience with a new passion for living and a smile on my face, yet far too often I’m focused on the rearview mirror, desperate to make sense out of the past instead of fully living in the present. I’m sick of my past hanging out in my head and weighing down my heart, and I don’t want it to keep having influence over my future. Enough! I’m ready to be free of the worry, questions, fear, and power that I’m feeding to events, circumstances, and people in my past.

I read a quote that said we should talk to ourselves the way we talk to our animals: “hello sweetie”, “you’re so good”, and “you want a treat?”. In the moment I laughed and kept scrolling, but it’s stuck with me. I definitely affirm myself in regard to my healing, lifestyle, and fitness, and I live in a purposeful spirit of gratitude, but I was recently prompted to consider how I cheer myself on when things are difficult or I’m hurting, and realized that I sound like a coach: “get up” or “try harder” or “you’ve got this” or “don’t let anything slow you down”, and that voice, while intense at times, has gotten me through some crushing trials in life. Earlier this week I shared with my counselor an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion in the face of uncertainty; a desire to walk away from the demand, need, and expectations stacked sky high on my shoulders. She suggested that instead of “pushing through” when I’m feeling scared, tired, and lonely, I show myself more compassion, grace, and love by accepting that life is hard, change is scary, and the unknown is intimidating. I really thought I was loving myself by pushing myself to be stronger, try harder, and rise to the occasion, and could honestly say that sitting with my unhappiness sounded counterproductive, but it’s not to wallow in self-pity, it’s to give myself the space and permission to feel without it being right or wrong. Accepting the light and darkness inside of me, and showing every aspect of my spiritual person kindness and acceptance has been emotionally draining. I’ve had a series of very thoughtful, quiet days with myself, and a seemingly limitless flow of tears, but each time I feel myself wondering “why” and tensing under pressure, I start speaking to myself with motherly tenderness and love as if I’m a scared child, and somehow the hurt becomes a friend instead of an enemy; something to understand instead of fight. I’m thankful for my feelings, and have gained a deeper appreciation for the ways that happiness and sadness can coexist. It’s especially freeing to accept how I’m feeling as natural and normal, without it needing to mean anything profound. The highs and lows mean I’m alive, navigating the complexities of a beautifully broken world, and I’m suddenly more grateful than I’ve been in a long time to have the privilege to live my life, experience my dreams, pivot as needed to continue moving forward, and freely and deeply love my family and friends.

“Gratitude is a natural healer. Living in the energy of gratitude changes the way we perceive challenges. Where there’s gratitude, there’s no anxiety or fear.” -Nansia Movidi

“Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today, so celebrate it. Don’t let it haunt you.” -unknown

I want to do a better job of living in the moment, and believe with my focus in the present and future instead of working so hard to understand the past, I will love more fully, expand spiritually, and know myself more intimately. This week of emotional hardship has been a blessing, and I’m excited for life with newfound freedom from the heaviness of my history. I also want to be more emotionally and mentally prepared for change, with confidence that I’m prepared to handle whatever comes my way. I have faith that the internal coach cheering me on and the mother comforting me can work together, and when fear and doubt show up, I’ll remind myself they’re necessary energies when facing uncertainty, and I can both embrace the emotions and push myself forward. I want to live with boldness and courage, truly embracing and celebrating this life I’ve been blessed to live.

“I believe that what we regret most are our failures of courage, whether it’s the courage to be kinder, to show up, to say how we feel, to set boundaries, to be good to ourselves. For that reason, regret can be the birthplace of empathy.” -Brene Brown

One of Those Days

“You can feel good in contrast to the hard times you’re in.” -unknown

Today was one of those days where fear, uncertainty, and exhaustion took over, and I cried. . . and cried. . . and cried. I’m so tired of life being hard. I’m tired of feeling like I’m always surviving, adapting, shifting, and trying. Even having faith in my dreams feels impossible right now, because making it from the start to finish of each day feels like a week’s worth of trials. I work and work and work for what? To do it all over again tomorrow? There’s a heaviness in every aspect of life right now, a constant need to be positive in the face of the unknown, and the necessity to instantly pivot emotionally, mentally, and physically whenever another unexpected hurdle appears so that everything doesn’t disintegrate into madness. I’m really good at rising up and doing whatever necessary to provide for my family and get shit done, but sometimes I hit a wall, and today I desperately wished I could fall down, walk away, and take a break. But there’s no room in my world for me to crumble, and no one to step-in and pick-up the pieces or be strong when I’m weak, so I battle through the moments of crushing fear, worry, and loneliness until I’m back to feeling strong again. Today was hard as hell. My heart felt so heavy and hopeless as I attempted to make sense out of new oppositions and new changes forced upon me. I’m living in the kind of emotional exhaustion that feels like sleep walking through my life, and as the challenges of balancing full-time at-home work with the needs of my children continues, the heaviness increases. I feel like I’m not doing anything in my life well-enough, and that stresses me out and pisses me off. My sleep is restless and my heart is desperate for peace and reassurance. Most days the only things I feel like I’m doing well is eating healthy and consistently working out. Fitness is my escape; the place where I feel stable, focused, challenged, accomplished, and able to release my pent-up stress and anxiety.

Within the sorrow and emotional heaviness there’s a part of me that knows I’ll get through this, and tomorrow won’t feel as raw as today. I know that I’m often happy, excited, and inspired while facing all the same challenges that are too much for me to handle today. It’s helpful to have a flicker of hope when everything feels like it’s crashing down and too much to face, but the reality is that even when I wake up tomorrow and my spirit feels stronger and more hopeful, the same set of difficult circumstances will be waiting for me.

I want to change the circumstances so I don’t have to keep digging up the strength to continue fighting the same fight.

I vented to a friend today: “I’m tired of having to be strong” and “I’m not doing anything in my life well enough”, and as the words left my mouth I felt guilty for complaining. Everyone is going through unprecedented hardship right now. Everyone is facing uncertainty. It could be so much worse. I realized that I have extremely high expectations on myself in every area of my life: professionally, for my family & friends, and for my own growth and self-care. I can’t be 500% everyday, yet that’s the pressure I continually placing upon myself. I often feel resentment toward myself for not accomplishing more in a day, or for not exceeding expectations, or for not handling a situation with more patience or grace, or for wishing I could fast-forward through this challenging season of life.

While crying I sank into the pain, hopeful I could understand how I got to this dark moment. I quickly identified fear, uncertainty, and anger. I held the sides of my face with my hands, because I desperately needed comfort and my own hands were my only option for connection, and I whispered “going through hard shit sucks” over and over. I continued to comfort myself by affirming my feelings; I accepted the struggle and fear as natural, I envisioned the uncertainty like quicksand under my feet, and I acknowledged that my anger for everything lost and my fear of the unknown are normal emotions. I gave myself permission to hurt instead of critiquing myself for being unsteady, and I slowly started to breathe deeply again. Eventually I felt strong enough to go back to facing the needs and challenges of my day, tear stained and fragile, but moving forward once again.

For the remainder of the day I practiced “I Am Statements” to counterbalance my lingering sadness and feed positivity into my soul. I am resilient. I am powerful. I am strong. I am adaptable. I am prepared. I am enough. I am worthy. I am brave. I am a provider. I am a leader. I am a warrior. I am balance. I am growing. I am love.

“The reservoir that holds peace and joy is the same place that holds brokenness and sorrow. If it all lives inside of you, what matters is how you view yourself.” -unknown

I Am Me

“If you don’t program yourself, life will program you.” -unknown

I want to be crazy or wild or stubborn or silly or quiet or upset or opinionated because it’s who I am and how I feel in the moment, without questioning if it’s acceptable or worrying about the opinions of others. Outside of my children, there are very few people who’ve seen my authenticity, and that’s a way of being that comes with jealousy, self judgement, insecurity, and heaviness. . . all toxic energies that negatively impact me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I’ve been fighting the battle between who I am and who I think I should be for my entire life, and I’m seriously over it. I’ve stayed quiet when I wanted to say something, and I’ve agreed to things I wanted to decline, all out of fear that I’d disappoint someone or be rejected. The more I recognize the difference between how I act and how I want to act, or how I feel compared to what I express, the more I’m desperate for freedom from this tension living inside of me. But wanting to change and knowing how to change are different; pushing myself outside of my comfort zone is something I have to consciously and logically do, and it’s REALLY FREAKING HARD. But the alternative would be to continue living as this carefully crafted version of myself, and I don’t like her anymore.

Kids play hard, believe in themselves and the world with endless possibility, and dream without limitation. Then we grow-up and make everything so damn complicated; over-thinking and self-sabotaging and second-guessing and desperately trying to fit-in, until we’ve boxed ourselves into a corner. Why? Because shit got hard for a little while, or it didn’t work out once, twice, or even ten times, or someone told us to grow-up or be different? Thank god baby’s don’t function like adults, or the human race would be extinct.

I was raised to be a lady, and overtime the practice of being polished, polite, appropriate, thoughtful, courteous, acceptable, and respectful became me. These are attributes that I like about myself, and are definitely ideal in professional settings and dinner parties with strangers. But I’m also creative with a wild spirit, obsessed with music and dancing, I’m silly, love to laugh and joke, I’m sarcastic, judgemental at times, stubborn, opinionated, curious, adventurous, and deeply emotional. . . I rarely show these aspects of myself to others because at some point I determined that they were too real, too vulnerable, or in contradiction to the ideal version of myself. Second-guessing and holding-back as a way of living sucks, and it’s crazy lonely knowing that very few people actually know the real me. But who’s fault is that. MINE! I feel like there’s a caged child or wild animal inside of me, desperate to express herself and be free.

I’ve viewed most of my emotions, impulses and desires as negative if they didn’t align with the ladylike perfection I was attempting to portray. But why? Recently I’ve been asking myself “why” over and over, and pushing myself to find an answer better than “because someone said so” or “I think that’s how it’s supposed to be”. In the process of self-evaluation, and with the guidance of my counselor, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve lived more like an actress than my authentic self; I’m playing a character based on beliefs passed down to me, people I’ve chosen to emulate, and the fear of rejection, instead of simply being me. What a shitty thing to learn about yourself. How did I allow this to happen? What the hell did I do to myself? Getting mad sometimes helps me see through the bullshit, and in this situation I’m really pissed off. In attempting to please others and fit-in, I’ve rejected myself and I haven’t loved or appreciated myself.

I love the quote “we don’t know what we don’t know”; sometimes we don’t even know the right questions to ask to get to the answers we need. So while a part of me is super irritated that I’ve lived this long without realizing how stupid it is to bottle-up major aspects of myself to fit a mold I didn’t create, don’t believe in, and know isn’t the right answer for me, the rest of me is just excited to unleash the parts of me that have been repressed. I don’t want to emulate others, I want to be me.

It shouldn’t take bravery to be myself, but since I haven’t shared significant portions of my personality and spirit with others, the process of letting my guard down feels more scary than freeing. Shit, it should be the most natural thing I ever do to be true to myself! I want to unapologetically have an opinion or preference, dance in public, explore my likes and dislikes without considering the opinion of others first, and laugh or cry when I feel like it without questioning if it’s ok to feel that way. I’m sick and tired of wishing I was something other than who I am or wondering what others thing, and I’m done bottling up the parts of me that my younger self determined weren’t grown-up or mature or ladylike. My spirit is full of energy and enthusiasm, eager to live. I’m setting myself free.

This is the playful, dorky me my children and closest friends know. . .

Manifest Your Dreams

I believe in the law of attraction. I’m talking about mindset, visualization, energy, and the belief that what you desire can become a reality. Every day when I wake up I breathe deeply and tell myself I’m excited about the day and thankful for another opportunity to live my life, and that energy sets me on a course to attract positivity, which naturally makes me more likely to navigate difficulties faster because my spirit is positive, hopeful, and more easily adaptable. The opposite is obvious: if I wake up dreading something in my day or telling myself I feel tired, the day will unavoidably attract more hardships or I’ll be unable to navigate them as smoothly as my positive self could. While this is a practical and small example, I believe that what we choose to think and feel, the energy we internalize and express, and the way we believe in ourself, goals, and purpose, will set us on a course to either experience positivity and accomplish more meaning things in life, or make life extra challenging and chase away the potential of living our dreams.

“When faith [by which he meant belief] is blended with the vibration of thought, the subconscious mind instantly picks up the vibration, translates it into its spiritual equivalent, and transmits it to the Infinite Intelligence, as in the case of prayer.” -Napoleon Hill

For years I lived in an abusive relationship, and viewed myself as unlovable, unattractive, and overweight; convinced that if I were prettier, skinnier, or anything other than who I was, he would love me. I allowed his cruel words and unacceptable treatment to define my worth, and the hopelessness inside of me spiraled out of control. I hated most things about my physical self, and blamed my exterior for the suffocating war inside of me. I developed a closet eating disorder that lasted many years, used working-out as a punishment for not losing weight “fast enough” and for eating something “unhealthy”, and I allowed my internal voice to be downright cruel. I got to a place of defeat, believing I deserved my miserable life, and I tried my damndest to stop feeling. Maybe if I didn’t want better and could just stop caring, it wouldn’t hurt anymore? The painfully low calories and hard workouts seemed to invite weight-gain, and while my size increased so did my lack of worth, and the shell of a human that remained watched my husband flirt with skinny women and feed his addiction to porn, and I hated myself more and more. I discovered a kind of loneliness that’s way worse than simply being alone: sharing space with someone who hates you, disrespects you, belittles you, and uses you is oppressive. He didn’t work, was always some version of intoxicated, and I was his emotional and verbal punching-bag. I allowed the abuse while trying anything and everything to minimize the outbursts, and attempted over and over to become someone he liked well enough to stop being cruel, all while hiding my ugly reality from family and friends because I made a “for better or worse” promise, I feared failure and the stigma of divorce, and I desperately wanted people to think I was happy. I just wanted to be loved and happy, and the lack of both for year after year sucked the life from my soul. I did everything in my power to insulate my children from a lifestyle that should only exist in a nightmare or horror movie, and carrying that added pressure was extremely heavy. He told me over and over that I was worthless, had no value beyond my paycheck, that my children wouldn’t miss me if I never came home, that my friends didn’t like me and I didn’t have any real friends, and that the world would be a better place if I got hit by a bus. I retaliated by building a fortress around my heart, and was ice cold toward him both physically and emotionally. We lived in separate parts of the house for over two years before officially separating, awkwardly avoiding one another unless communicating about the children or finances, which always dissolved into him verbally attacking me until I retreated to my bedroom to hide. I slept poorly for years, I escaped by watching Hallmark movies, and I desperately pleading with the universe, angels, and the gods to save me from my life. I wished everyday for more than a year that he’d have an affair so he’d finally leave, because I was physically afraid of making him mad and that fear prevented me from taking the first step. I spent years feeling unloved, navigating hatred, control, and abuse, while pretending everything was okay. The double-life I lived was exhausting and so fucking lonely. No one knew the truth.

I incorrectly assumed that I would naturally feel better and go back to who I once was when my abuser was gone, but the unhappiness and insecurities inside of me were so ingrained and powerful that I continued to fear food, I harshly comparing myself to everyone “prettier”, and I viewed myself as a broken, abused, overweight single mom with nothing to offer; I was convinced I’d never get to experience loving another and being loved in return, and believing my human experience would only include failed attempts at partnership was soul-crushing. My devastation about life and loss and the bleak future ahead took me into a dark place. I stopped caring about myself and worked even harder to not feel, because facing the death of my dreams, the hardships of my new reality, and trying to be positive for my children was too much. I didn’t clean my house, I ate my feelings, and I quickly outgrew my wardrobe. If anyone asked, I was “okay” and the kids were “good”. I had a happy face for work, and leaned into my career to escape. It took maybe six months of surviving and pretending, and then one day I walked into my house and saw it from an outside perspective. I didn’t have much furniture after my ex took most of the big things, but there were messes everywhere, and nothing hanging on the walls. It was my hide-out, but not a home, so I stood in the mirror and started yelling at myself to get my shit together. I was consumed with anger like I’d never felt, and it was like a bomb going off inside of me; I got really pissed-off about everything I’d gone through, the horrible ways I’d been treated, everything I’d done to myself, my lost dreams and set-backs, and the ways I was continuing to maintain unhappiness and negativity in my life. I had become my own abuser, and that hit me like a ton-of-bricks. Fueled by a fiery passion to live instead of just survive, I decided in that moment to stop sleep-walking through life, and overnight I turned my world upside down. I was on a mission to prove that I was strong enough to make it through this crisis, and I was passionate about reigniting the fire in my soul and creating new dreams.

I started talking to myself in the mirror, saying kind words that I hoped would attract comfort and healing into my heart: “I forgive you”, “I love you”, “you are worthy”, “you are lovable”, “you are enough”, and “you are beautiful”. It felt like I was lying to myself, and the exercise hurt like hell. Hot tears poured down my face every morning and evening as I spoke and felt these words, and sometimes I fell to the floor sobbing until I ran out of energy. But I continued to practice positive self-talk until I believed the words I was saying, and slowly my spirit, perspective, and attitude changed; darkness, fear, regret, and anger were replaced with light, hope, happiness, and love. I started believing in myself, and like wildfire, positivity spilled into every other aspect of my life. I found myself dreaming again, my friendships became more meaningful, my house became a home, I found passion for living that I’d never known, and faith in myself to face some of my darkest demons. I had created some practical habits that were healthy, which gave me something to look forward to on good days and structure when I was wavering, but forgiveness was my biggest hurdle. Every time anger resurfaced it was harnessed as external motivation, and oh my shit, it was a very productive season of self-improvement and practical accomplishments, but it was heavy to carry and I was tired of the turmoil. Life was different and in many ways becoming better, but I wasn’t free. So I sat in daily meditation and journaled until I’d filled multiple books, all focused on gratitude and forgiveness. As I untangled my history it was clear over-and-over that I couldn’t remove any of my worst experiences without also removing something beautiful, and so I worked to forgive those who had harmed me, and accepted that the darkest moments were valuable for shaping and growing me. Forgiving myself was a completely different beast. I had been unwilling to release myself of guilt and regret; it was as if feeling responsible and emotionally punishing myself for poor decisions, lack of judgement, and ignoring red flags was going to protect me from making the same mistakes again. I was in a YouTube rabbit-hole one evening and found the song “I Am Not Nothing”. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Laying on my bedroom floor I said “I forgive you” over and over while hugging myself. I was finally free.

With excitement for my new life and a desire to feel healthy physically while I continued to heal emotionally, I faced my diet and fitness issues head-on. Every morning I would say, “I trust myself to make healthy decisions because I care about myself”. I started small with daily walks and portion awareness without food restrictions, and the first 10 lbs came off pretty quickly. I was so proud of myself that I decided to run a 5k, which required significant training because I was seriously out of shape. The mental strength and self-love required to go from weak to strong has been a more powerful blessing than the physical transformation, because the grit to push through pain and not allow excuses to get in the way of progress has transformed every aspect of my life. I trust myself and I keep commitments to myself. I’m the person running in the rain and in the extreme desert heat, because it’s my day to run and nothing will stop me. The journey has been full of emotional set-backs, physical limitations, a knee injury that took 6 months to heal, and has taken years longer than I’d anticipated. I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with the scale at times, and while I “know” the scale doesn’t matter, have you ever noticed that the people who say that look like models? No average or overweight person says the scale doesn’t matter, so I believed that methodology didn’t apply to me. I’ve allowed the numbers to heavily influence how I feel about myself and my progress, which has caused me to slip back into self judgement from time-to-time. My weight has plateaued for long stretches and gone up and down more than my emotions have appreciated, and I’ve had seasons of doubt. I don’t know if I should credit my stubbornness, or my desperate desire to look hot in a swimsuit for the first time in my life, but I made a commitment to myself that I would move 7 days a week, and that’s what I’ve done for the past 2 years with very few exceptions. In that time I’ve become a runner, regularly improving my fastest times and genuinely enjoying multi-mile runs. I love going to the gym and feeling like I belong in that environment is super cool. I track my progress and celebrate little wins, I love when my muscles are tender, and I’m so excited when I complete workouts I never imagined my body could do. Overtime my goals have changed to reflect my progress and drive, and through all the highs and lows I created a lifestyle around healthy eating and fitness that I love.

4.5 years ago I weighed 165 lbs, my BMI was “overweight”, my Body Fat was boarder-line “obese”, and my Metabolic Age was 10 years older than my actual age, and I set a goal to weigh 132 lbs. As of today I weigh 135 lbs, my BMI is “normal”, my Body Fat is boarder-line “fitness”, and my Metabolic Age is 1 year younger than my actual age. PROGRESS IS MY ACHIEVEMENT, and I have done this for myself through grit, enthusiasm, faith, passion, and dedication. My fitness app says I’ll reach my goal weight in 28 days. In less than a month I’ll “arrive” at this arbitrary “finish line”; a goal I created when I believed that losing weight would make me worthy of love. I sat and stared at my phone screen for a long time, flooded with excitement and so much appreciation for myself, my journey, my strong body, and what I’ve accomplished; and in that same moment I thought, “what’s next?” and “who cares about the scale”. The realization that the number doesn’t reflect my strength and physical appearance felt like ascending to a new level in my fitness journey, and I literally laughed out loud, said “that’s badass”, high-fived myself in the mirror, and went on with my day. The reality is that I workout everyday because I love it, I eat to nourish myself, I enjoy dessert without fear or regret, I’m proud of the way my mind, body, and spirit have transformed over the past few years, and I love my lifestyle. I’m worthy of happiness no matter the shape of my body, and I create it for myself everyday, and I’m worthy of experiencing love, which I give and receive daily through my family and friends. I’m whole because I healed my heart and the lies I was telling myself, and thankful that in the process of healing internally I’ve also created a healthy body that I’m proud to live in, and I’m really excited to retire this goal that in many ways has been hanging over my head for far too long with something new, created in a season of healthy happiness instead of broken dysfunction.

While on my “heal my heart to improve to health” journey, I started exploring spirituality beyond the confines of traditional religion, created routines that support my spiritual, emotional, and physical health, and have redefined who I am from the inside out. Change is hard, even when we choose it or want it or know it’ll turn out well, and when change is thrust upon us or necessary or completely out of our control, it can feel like swimming in complete darkness; exhausting, directionless, and hopeless. I’ve made amazing progress on my own, but “starting over” with so much hurt and brokenness, partnered with significant responsibilities and children relying on me to maintain their normalcy, is not a “blank slate”, and I could only go so far without guidance. I noticed myself sinking into fear from time-to-time, questioning if my dreams were too big, and feeling very overwhelmed by the reality that a major aspect of what I want in life is reliant on another; what if I never experience “the love of my life”? Living in a state of constant gratitude and choosing to manifest positivity, I’m hyper-aware when negative energies, thoughts and emotions show-up. I’m a different person with different hopes and dreams for my life, yet old fears and hurt still haunt me. I love, appreciate and have confidence in myself, I’ve created some seriously big goals for my human experience, and I believe that my potential is limited only by my own fears. So when there is internal resistance I dig deep, and I discovered a piece of me that was still punishing myself for experiences my children went through as a bi-product of being mine, and I was still carrying hurt from my childhood, and I was worrying about “how” to have the kind of partnership with another that I desire since it’s not something I’ve ever experienced. So I started counseling, and my god, why is there a stigma associated with seeking mental and emotional health? I wish I’d been going to counseling for my entire life, because session after session I gain new insight, heal old wounds, understand myself better, and I’ve developed healthy tools for navigating the times when old hurt resurfaces. My life is blessed and positively changed again and again as I continue to grow in my understanding and appreciation for myself and my journey, and through ongoing healing I’ve embraced the reality that hope and fear can coexist, and sometimes they need to. I’ve also discovered that my psyche will remind me of past hurt or fear in an attempt to protect me, and it’s my job to recognize when that’s an appropriate reminder and when it’s holding me back from ascending to a new level of understanding and experience.

I choose to live in a state of self awareness, positive energy, gratitude, faith and hope that I believe creates a heightened quality of life and will attract my biggest desires, while allowing me to focus on my purpose and passions, and manifest new meaning into my journey as I continue to grow, learn, and heal.

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” -Buddha

I have friends and family who’ve said “you’re better off alone” and “you don’t need a man” because of everything I’ve been through. I know they’re coming from a loving place, but this is my life, and dammit, I don’t want to be alone. . . or maybe better said, I don’t want to prevent myself from experiencing love, but I will also be incredibly aware and honest with myself when dating to ensure I avoid another dysfunctional relationship. I have a heart that feels like it could explode with love, joy, enthusiasm, compassion, and tenderness. I am capable and powerful and adaptable and independent, and I’ve survived some seriously messed up shit, but the yearning for true connection and understanding has been present for my entire life. I’ve given of myself to men who didn’t want or appreciate what I have to offer, and my heart has lived engulfed in sadness for many years at a time. The sorrow and loneliness were suffocating at times, but that hurt was ultimately harnessed as motivation to heal, and in the process I learned to truly love, appreciate, and accept myself for the first time in my life. With a special perspective of the journey my heart has endured, and deepened appreciation for my human experience, my desire to love another is alive and well in a completely new, more intentional way. I’ve always known that there was more to me, my life, and the possibility for a loving connection; it’s as if I’ve lived up until now in the shadow of unrealized potential, searching for the heart that my heart is meant to love.

Years ago I started writing letters to my future person; it’s a collection of thoughts, hopes, and best wishes that are safely stored away for “someday”. Six months ago, with the idea that faith attracts your desires and prepares you to receive them, I started thinking more consciously about the man I will eventually meet, wondering what his energy will feel like matched with mine, and regularly sending hopeful thoughts, positive energy, and prayers out into the universe for him. At times he would come to mind when my heart felt light, and I would wish him well in his day, praying that his heart was happy and his life fulfilling. Other times I could sense with heaviness that he was hurting, and I would send thoughts of peace, courage, and blessings for the hardship he was facing. A couple months ago I wrote this in my journal: “I pray your healing journey blesses you in profound and unimaginable ways. I sense that your story includes some broken parts, and I have faith that your hopeful and resilient spirit will guide you out of the darkness. I know you’re hurting and I wish I could protect your heart. I’m on my own healing journey, proactive in self-care, and purposeful in my lifestyle, waiting and excited for the day we meet and start sharing our lives with one another. I am loving and compassionate, longing to share my heart and human experience with you”. In contrast to this hopeful mindset and the positive vibrations sent out into the spiritual world, I’ve spent countless hours in counseling talking about fears and uncertainty related to dating: “what does it actually look like for two established adults with separate lives and families to come together?”, and “what if I can’t tell the difference between a red flag and normal challenges between two people?”, and “am I brave enough to be truly vulnerable?”, and “since I’ve only experienced unhealthy relationships, how will I know if I’m doing things that support creating a healthy relationship?”. I’ve travelled down dozens of “what if” paths, and all lead to the same outcome: it takes faith to want something that’s outside of your control, and courage to believe it’s possible when every prior experience has taught you it’s just a fantasy or an unrealistic dream, but I believe I was born with this heart and these desires for a reason, and I’m willing to risk heartbreak for the possibility that there’s a soul out there that somehow already knows and understands my soul.

In meditation I practice attracting peace and living in the moment, and I focus multiple times a day on gratitude. I truly believe that what I put out into the universe will come back to me, positive and negative, and that while I have little control over most aspects of life, I have the power to choose my attitude, mindset, and energy. I also believe that what I internalize, how I talk to myself, and who I spend the most time with shapes my attitude and perspective. I choose joy, hope, peace, and love every morning, and whenever I’m pulled from these positive energies, I pay attention to the internal and external factors that have caused me to lose my balance, and work to heal, release, and restore my state of positivity all over again. I picture my emotional, mental, spiritual and physical journey like a dancing heartbeat; there’s a special rhythm to my human experience, and I’m excited to continue exploring, learning, and growing.

A Loving Affirmation

What we feed ourselves affects our health. It’s easy to acknowledge the nutritional difference between a salad and a fast-food hamburger, but do you consider the way you talk to yourself, the media you consume, and the conversations shared with others as food for the soul? Emotionally, mentally and physically, are you feeding yourself positivity, love, kindness, compassion and understanding? Are you dreaming, improving, giving-back, paying-it-forward, and living with a spirit of gratitude? Or are you feeding yourself with impatience, regret, sadness, fear, loss, loneliness, judgement, anger, and worry? If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s a combination of both positive and negative, but which is “winning” most of the time? It’s unrealistic to think that happiness is the absence of negativity; we will face hard times, change and challenge, and some of it will come and go easily and other experiences will rattle us or even break us for a little while, but I believe that we can influence how we respond to difficulty by establishing and maintaining positive self-talk habits.

In a season of my life where I wasn’t sure which way was up and everything felt broken, I started reading and meditating using the affirmations of others. Google, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram are full of motivational words and speeches, and I was consuming them morning, noon and night. I memorized a few so that I could sit with my eyes closed and speak hope, kindness, forgiveness, and love into my heart and mind, and the process was both emotional and very rewarding. I had lived so much of my life without tenderness or care that it took practice to believe the positivity and allow it to change my way of thinking. Then I started writing my own affirmations, many on my bathroom mirror so that I could read it while also looking myself in the eyes. The deep trust and connection with myself that was created in that season was such a blessing; a true turning point from viewing myself as lost and broken to viewing myself as lovable, worthy, and capable of significant and meaningful change.

When we do something, positive or negative, often enough for long enough, it becomes a part of who we are, how we think, how we view ourselves, and how we live. I am constantly practicing positive self talk and gratitude, either out of deep appreciation and happiness in the moment, or as a way of resetting negativity that’s clouding my day or robbing me of joy. Most of my affirmations these days are internal and spontaneous, sometimes written on my mirror or in my journal, and today I wrote one to share. These thoughts came to me while meditating, and I invite you to read these words as if you’re drinking them into your spirit and feeding them to your heart. Please add-to or remove from this message to make it exactly what you need to hear, and I promise that if you adopt self-affirmation as a way of communicating with yourself, your days will be lighter, your spirit more free, and your energy grounded in positivity.

noun: affirmation

The action or process of affirming something or being affirmed. Emotional support or encouragement.

“Today, I am thankful for my heartbeat. There is a rhythm and energy inside of me that is beautiful, unique, and worthy of expression. I have the power to move mountains, the courage to dream big, the grit to try again and again, the heart to show myself and others compassion and love, and the peacefulness to sit silently and pay attention to my wants, needs, fears, and hurts. My spirit is bold, my heart is brave, my imagination is wild, and my potential is limitless. While I choose daily to push myself toward new greatness and connect with my spirit on a deeper level, I am perfect just as I am, in this moment. Where I feel broken I trust myself to care for the hurt, and I live with confidence that the combination of light and darkness inside of me is worthy of love, tenderness, and acceptance. What lives internally is reflected externally, therefore loving and caring for myself gives me the ability to love others. Each heart has the same desire for connection and understanding and I choose to spread light over darkness, to pay attention to energies over appearance or words, and to freely give positivity to everyone I encounter. I believe in love, and choose to release past hurt so my heart can give and receive love fully. It takes courage to open yourself up to others, but remember, people are designed for connection and love is the greatest gift you can give another. I give thanks for my heartbeat, because it’s a blessing not a guarantee, I pay attention to my feelings and accept both joy and pain as it comes and goes, and I choose to live with a spirit of gratitude for all that I am, all that I’m capable of becoming, all that has come and gone, and the beautiful reality that each day is a new beginning. I am capable of creating wholeness, connection, love, excitement, adventure, and newness for myself. I will be brave with my heart today and everyday, love both recklessly and intentionally, with passion and faith, because I believe the human experience is limited only by our own restrictions, and I want to live each of my days to their fullest potential; physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

The Power of Silence

I have a deep desire to know “why” I’ve turned a blind eye and ignored red flags, allowed mistreatment, and survived instead of truly living for the majority of my adulthood. I want to know “why” I’ve repeated the same dysfunction over and over, even when I knew it wasn’t good enough and knew I wasn’t happy. My quest for answers has been a beautiful and painful journey. I’m so thankful for counseling, heart-felt conversations with my closest friends, journaling, and silence, although it’s taken me the longest to appreciate quiet time with myself. When I was in the trenches of change, and feeling extremely lost and broken, I feared being alone because sitting with myself meant I’d have to feel all my hurt. There was so much pain inside of me that sometimes it literally took my breath away, so I lived from one distraction to the next, and while I ignored my complex internal crisis, I made some positive, practical changes that were valuable in my healing journey, but true change didn’t come until I faced my tornado of emotions head-on. I visualized all the loss, hurt, cruelty, and disappointment bottled inside me like an out-of-control windstorm, while my mind was full of “what ifs” and “whys”, and my body was physically exhausted from moving from one day to the next pretending that I wasn’t dying on the inside. The first time I meditated I was uncontrollably sobbing on the floor within minutes of attempted focus on my breathing and a desperate effort to not think. I was so tired of being lonely and feeling unwanted, unloved, and unworthy of happiness, that I was afraid of feeling more pain. It was like opening the floodgates of my soul, and with the brave decision to sit in silence and embrace my emotions and thoughts day-after-day, I found answers to questions I hadn’t thought to ask, peace, forgiveness and a truer sense of self than I’d ever known. This practice was painful in the beginning, and I often had to force myself to sit quietly for long enough to clear my mind and feel, but I quickly learned that embracing my hurt came with clarity, and through acceptance I was able to release pain I’d been holding onto for years; pain I’d allowed to become my identity.

It’s been years since that dark time, and often my meditations are calming, peaceful, and rejuvenating. But sometimes I still experience a wave of emotion and feel heaviness that needs some attention or release. My first reaction is always to question it: “where is this coming from?” or “I thought I’d already dealt with this?” or “why is this coming up again?”. I have to remind myself that every feeling doesn’t need to be defined, that there isn’t always a known “why”, and that the experiences of the past can be studied, embraced, mended, and forgiven, but they’re still apart of who I am, and sometimes they just show up. No explanation needed. So I shed a few tears, hug myself, whisper affirmations into my hopeful and sometimes heavy heart, picture my spirit like an eagle soaring over mountain-tops, dance, and give thanks for my journey. I’ve learned to not resist the hurt, sadness, fear, loss, and loneliness when it shows up, and amazingly the emotions leave as quickly as they arrive. Even more, when they’re embraced with a spirit of acceptance, the result is always a deeper sense of self-love, peace and gratitude.

Do you sit in silence with yourself? Do you listen, pay attention, and embrace your feelings? The longest relationship you will ever have is with yourself, and the person who can know and love you best is yourself. Call it meditation, or quiet time, or prayer, or a breathing session; you can even release your mind of clutter while stretching or dancing. . . I love adding movement and visualization to my meditation practice because I experience a connection between my mind, body, and spirit differently when I’m free-flowing and guided. Start wherever you are, in whatever form feels safest, and be brave on behalf of yourself! I have faith that you’ll grow in special and unexpected ways, and discover a deeper sense of self, appreciation for who you are, and gratitude for your journey through life. Be silent with yourself and see where the practice takes you.

Show-up for Yourself

Do you consider the heart of people when you meet them? We live in a culture where appearance is valued over substance, and we’re living in an era where everyone presents only the best of their life on social media, creating a false reality that’s used as a benchmark for unhealthy expectations and self-destructive comparison.

I lived for years with hidden turmoil and unhappiness, and no one would have ever guessed it because I looked happy and presented confidence in all the socially acceptable ways, but I was dying on the inside and desperate for someone to notice and care enough to save me. If you can relate, let me tell you something. . . no person or life change can fix your brokenness or make you feel whole; it can mask the emptiness or brokenness for a period of time, but it’ll always come back, and sadly in hindsight you’ll see some destructive repeat patterns. Your internal health is deeply personal, and yours to understand, embrace, and own. With a healthy self-awareness and self-love you stop seeking a savior or a quick fix, and your friendships and intimate partnership will transform into something completely different and fulfilling. When you’re free and open, with an absence of neediness, you’re able to experience life, family, friendships and love with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation. It’s your job to show-up for yourself, know who you are, what you want, what you need, and be aware when you’re off course.

Change is intimidating, and it’s human nature to stay where you are, as you are, even if you’re unhappy. We tell ourselves we can’t handle life if it gets harder, or we don’t believe we have the energy, or we’re afraid of what it will mean for those around us if we choose to turn everything upside down. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the way we embrace and use our fear for growth; so recognize your turmoil, and start considering the things you’re truly afraid of. Are they good enough reasons to sacrifice the beautiful, special ways that you were created? Are they valid enough excuses to slowly self-destruct? I believe we’re each created with a unique spirit, set of interests, talents, and beliefs that we’re intended to embrace, experience, and share. Living anything other than your truths isn’t just damaging for your human experience and emotional health, it also sells yourself short and wastes your potential for positive impact, and true bliss. I believe we can only experience the deepest desires of our heart when we release the shoulds and fears controlling our decisions and beliefs.

The lessons we learn while we’re living as less-than-our-best are important. It’s part of the eye-opening, bottom-of-the-barrel journey that’s often necessary to truly discover our deepest sense of self, gratitude, purpose, and ability to love. So please be kind to yourself. No matter what you’ve been through or are going through, you are worthy of living life freely and authentically, and it’s never too late to change.

I had no idea that hurt I’d been holding for 20 years could be healed, or that starting over again could be viewed as a blessing. I honestly thought that all the hardest parts of life were intended to teach us how to be stronger, more self-reliant, and more guarded. Any previous version of myself wouldn’t have been able to comprehend a reality where I could feel gratitude toward physical and emotional abuse, loneliness, financial disaster, and the hardships of being a single mother. But I am truly thankful for the things those terrible experiences taught me about myself. Sometimes we need to break to realize we’ve been tiptoeing through life in an attempt to protect ourself from shattering, and thank god, because caution and surviving are emotions with boundaries, and our spirit is intended to fly freely.

Once you truly embrace yourself, forgive and heal, your human experience is limitless and the way you approach others is more genuine and caring. I have a deep desire to know and understand others, feel their energy, and pour kindness and love into their cracks and hurt. If we were all a little more loving and little less critical, the world would be a more beautiful place, and it starts internally. We cannot fully love others, show kindness, patience or acceptance, if our internal voice is negative, judgemental, and hurting. We are only capable of seeing and experiencing to the extent of the limits we place on our own heart, mind and spirit.

I recently met a very special heart, one that has felt sorrow, brokenness and neglect, loved deeply, been courageous in the face of despair, and hoped when there was no hope. There’s weight that comes with history and experience, but that doesn’t mean the heart has to remain heavy forever. We all have a story, and it’s a special pleasure to connect with someone who has gone through some seriously hard experiences and still chooses faith, hope, and love, and displays courage to truly live instead of just survive. It’s a beautiful example of the wonderful outcome of working through heartbreak and fear, and shows that our hearts can experience freedom and hope over and over again. We can’t control the external influences, and life is absolutely a journey of highs and lows, but we do have the power to influence what we internalize, how we process and heal, what we hold onto, what we release, and what we embrace to free ourselves of internal resistance.

What is your story, and what do your life experiences mean to your heart, mind, and spirit? Are you living broken; lost and discouraged and less-than-your-best, or are you living in the empowerment of transformation; grateful and free? My hope is that you invest the time and energy into yourself that’s necessary to both embrace and be freed of the burdens tattooed on your heart, the fears that have caged your spirit, and the assumptions about life that have written disappointment into each and every one of your actions and decisions. You are worthy of experiencing your greatness!

Internal Journey

As the external uncertainties in life continue (coronavirus numbers climbing, black lives matter protests, social distancing, working from home, the delayed return to school for our kids, travel restrictions, and our fragile economy), I’ve been thinking a lot about all the aspects of life that we take for granted, the ways we live on auto pilot, and how change, especially when it’s outside of our control, has an effect on every aspect of our existence. Right now I think it’s easy to say that most people are living with extra emotional heaviness, and while we can all acknowledge that change is inevitable and constant, and there’s little in life that we can actually control, the current lifestyle restrictions, uncertainty from day-to-day, and constant change is difficult. These feelings are multiplied when the natural stresses of our human journey are also taken into consideration: stress at work, conflict or difficulty at home (relationships or parenting), break-ups, loneliness, or starting over (physically or emotionally). Even changes by choice can feel overwhelming right now: self-improvement goals, buying your first house, changing jobs/careers, writing your first book, or starting a new relationship. It can feel impossible to heal and grow when everything around us feels so unstable.

There is comfort and peace that comes with predictability. How do we navigate this crisis and pandemic in a healthy and thoughtful way that allow us to grow and feel safe, or even create stability, when everything feels upside-down? I believe our attention needs to be internal instead of external.

  • Create boundaries around what you’re consuming: eat healthy, reduce caffeine and alcohol, and minimize exposure to negative media. Feed your body and soul in ways that allow you to feel hope and peace, instead of anxiety.
  • Take time for yourself to “escape” from the stresses of this new normal: laugh, explore, dance, daydream, focus on your breathing, pay close attention to your thoughts, and even closer attention to your inner voice. How we talk to ourself shapes most of how we perceive our life and make decisions.

Our greatest changes start within, and I believe each of us contains the necessary power and insight to control how our external journey influences our internal journey. Even more, I believe our internal journey will shape and change our external journey in wonderful, meaningful and lasting ways. Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve been working to process the loss of social freedom, struggled with sleeping, and experienced a decline in passion toward some of my dreams and goals:

  • By embracing and truly accepting the aspects of life that are outside of our control, we release the desire to try and control the uncontrollable.
  • The ability to shift your life in a new direction is deep within; not external but internal.
  • When you’re feeling unhappy or lost, or you’re waiting for something to change or feel better or heal, choose a different mindset and open your guarded heart to the possibility of wholeness, and the other pieces will naturally fall into place.
  • Growth starts in the heart, and it can take a long time to see the rewards of your consistent efforts, but no one is more worthy of your effort and diligence than yourself.
  • Pay attention to the areas where you’re uncomfortable and dissatisfied; pay attention to your desires and biggest dreams. They are in you for a reason, waiting for you to open-up and release your deepest and greatest potential.
  • Surviving is heavy and letting go is freedom, so don’t hold onto things you can’t control, can’t answer, and can’t change.

Life is a journey, not a destination, and we are simply in an uncomfortable season right now. While non of us would choose most of this change, and we are all desperate for life to feel more comfortable and free, there is so much potential for internal growth and self-love right now. Diamonds are created under pressure, and I believe we all have hidden beauty in our spirit that is awaiting discovery. . . maybe, just maybe, the tension and discomfort we’re currently navigating is exactly what we need to grow and bloom. Listen to yourself. Truly pay attention, acknowledge your feelings (happy, sad, fearful, lonely, etc.), and embrace what you’re experiencing. When we stop resisting all the energies living within us, or telling ourselves stories about how we should feel or act or live or behave, we are able to discover our true magic and elevate our spirit to a new level of peacefulness and belonging. This kind of self-love frees the heart of hurt, loss, heaviness, disappointment, fear, and uncertainty; all negative emotions that we hold onto to “protect ourselves” from additional pain, which actually restrict us from experiencing the kind of happiness we desire and freedom we deserve.

I encourage you to remember that each day is a new start, and that the efforts you direct toward your internal health will reward you with deeper self-awareness and appreciation, while releasing your spirit, heart, and mind of heaviness and hurt that doesn’t need to go with you from season to season, and chapter to chapter. With internal healing and connection naturally comes shifts in yourself that beautifully and powerfully influence the external journey. If there are things about your life that you wish were different but you don’t know how to change, look within and show-up for yourself day after day. The answers you’re looking for are already inside of you. I wish you peace and blessings in this time of uncertainty, and hope each and every one of us will look back on 2020 with appreciation for the growth we achieved and self-awareness we gained by being forced to live uncomfortably for an extended period of time. We are more adaptable, capable and resilient than we give ourselves credit for, so let’s make something great out of this unfortunate time. We’ve got this!

I Am Resilient

I am a vessel of everything I’ve ever learned, perceived, experienced, wanted and lost. I have a heart that’s required mending many times, a dreamers spirit, faith in “happily ever after” despite experiences that have taught me to give-up, and massive goals for my life that are only achievable if I free myself of disbelief.

I have experienced physical and emotional abuse, lived in a state of loneliness and loss for years at a time, I’ve had an eating disorder, spent years of my life body shaming and very insecure about my appearance, and I have felt worthless, lost, misunderstood, and unsafe for such large periods of time that it became my normal.

Healing from each difficult experience and trauma in my past has been a process of unpacking, letting go, accepting, and rebuilding. While I hope to never experience similar events in my future, each high and low has been intricate in creating this version of me; I’m a resilient, powerful, grateful, happy, and loving woman who has survived some hard shit, and I’m proud of how I’ve grown and changed. So as ironic as it may seem, I’m very thankful for even the darkest times of my journey, because without the need to recover from those traumas, I wouldn’t have discovered the depths of my spirit. Falling in love with myself, and becoming deeply connected with my heart, mind, and soul, ultimately freed me of hurt I was allowing to define myself, and the reward of all my understanding, healing, and forgiveness has been a deep sense of peace and emotional freedom.

The decision to change takes courage, but more than that, it takes action. There are often a million reasons to not do something, and as people we are very good at holding ourselves back, creating excuses that feel valid and genuine, and we fear change even when we know it’s for the best. I was the queen of justifying and excusing all of the negative, unhealthy, and dysfunctional aspects of my life, and I’d been unhappy for so many years that I didn’t really feel unhappy anymore; I was just existing and surviving, and would think things like “there are people going through much worse”, in an attempt to make myself feel better. My “rock bottom” wasn’t exactly a coming-to-Jesus moment, and my “transformation” didn’t look like a movie montage. I made an incredibly hard choice, mostly out of desperation, to end an abusive marriage for my children. Let me say that again, my “why” was my children, not myself. I would have remained unhappy, unloved, and mistreated for the rest of my life because I’d made the vow “for better or worse” and I didn’t want to fail. But “worse” had been normal for years and wasn’t compartmentalized to only effect me. The family atmosphere was toxic, and the example being set for the children was terrible, yet I had to dig deep and fight some serious insecurity and pride before I was capable of standing up for the needs of my children (and unlimitedly myself).

Even after making the choice to change, it can be hard as hell to follow-through. I second guessed myself everyday in one way or another for nearly a year, but I’d made a choice and constantly reminded myself that I believed it was for the best. So I put one foot in front of the other, took it one day at a time, faced my fears as they arrived and quickly learned how to live in the moment because I simply didn’t have the energy to worry about tomorrow with so much to worry about today. When I didn’t feel like I had the emotional energy to live the hardships of transition, I did it anyway. I went through the physical motions of my daily life and acted like I was okay until that started to become true. I journaled like crazy, went to counseling, prayed and meditated, changed my diet and my fitness, studied my sleep, and read countless self-help books. What I learned along the way is that there’s momentum in choosing to move forward every single day, even when you don’t feel like it. Over time I found myself setting some big goals and working on my mind and heart in deeper and more profound ways, but it all started by focusing on the physical needs of my body, home, family and career.

My “why” transformed as I grew and changed, and it will continue to evolve as life continues to unfold. So my encouragement for anyone battling with the need to change and fearing the journey is this: find a reason, any reason, that motivates you to start. Then take a leap of faith and take action, because you are worthy of freedom from the burdens you’re carrying or the unhappiness you’re unnecessarily surviving.

Faking Happiness

Even if “faking happiness” doesn’t become the title of my book, it’ll definitely be a major theme since it’s the foundation of most of my heartache, and the way I approached living starting as young adult. I became a master of secrecy and pretending for the ability to appear happy, and over time developed a strange addiction to the idea of happiness because it wasn’t an emotion I felt often or trusted, all while slowly suffocated emotionally. It’s exhausting to live a double life, and it wasn’t just my fake reality I needed to protect, I was also hiding the ugliness of daily abuse from those who claimed to love me most. When I was young I couldn’t understand why abused women would stay in their unhealthy relationships, but after going from one abuser to another, I felt like I finally understood them… I had become one of them. I settled for unhappiness, justified and excused it, carefully veiled my disappointments related to life not matching my childhood expectations, all while thinking that’s what it meant to love, respect, honor, support, and care for your husband.

When I felt unloved, uncared for, and unsatisfied with my life, I would suppress my feelings while chastising myself for being “selfish” or “ungrateful”. From a young age I did everything in my power to “be happy” even when I wasn’t, and I simply pretended everything was ok, while also developing a damaging internal dialog with myself. And honest-to-god, the entire time I believed that this was how life worked, and that most of my unhappiness was related to resisting reality by holding onto my youthful dreams and ideals about life and family.

Leaving my first marriage was damaging to my friendships, my relationship with my immediate family, and professionally. And while there was a part of me that felt like my life had been saved, there was a bigger part of me that was ashamed that I hadn’t found a way to fix everything and somehow make it work. I felt like such a failure.

With years of practice at faking happiness, I pushed forward and started over physically with a new city, new career, and entirely new life, and told myself that I was changed, different, and never going to experience anything like what I’d survived and escaped. The problem with my minimal understanding of life, lack of self awareness, and ideas about how relationships are supposed to work, is that I ended up back in an identical marriage a few years later. I convinced myself it was completely different, yet I was accepting of treatment and a lifestyle I didn’t support and wasn’t comfortable with, I accepted influence into my young daughter’s life that I wasn’t happy with, and I minimized my dreams, personality, likes and dislikes, to give my husband room to shine and feel powerful. I was suffocating and I didn’t know it, and my way of surviving life was to become more and more disconnected and hopeless, while pretending everything was wonderful.

Everyone has a story, and in every story there’s a breaking point. It took me a long time to realize I was at “rock bottom”, because when you’ve been slowly dying emotionally for years, the change isn’t always inwardly obvious. My sister provided my “eye opening experience” through a single heartbreaking speech delivered while she gave me facial. She had an hour to challenge me, tell me a million truths, and push me to step-up in life for myself and my children, while I quietly laid there as she applied product after product to my face. . . and my entire life was forever changed. I’ll always be grateful for her bravery and insight. I was suddenly done pretending on behalf of my family, whom I desperately didn’t want to disappoint. I was done pretending I was happy in an attempt to hide feelings of brokenness, loss, and worthlessness. I was done being a shell of a mother. And I was done making excuses and being submissive to an abusive, unloving man.

The years I spent surviving abuse taught me powerful things about myself. I had a tendency to please others or say what I thought people wanted to hear, instead of thinking for myself, because I thought that’s how I would find and experience love. I was successful and independent outside of the house, while hiding so much hurt that I always felt moments away from tears, and I carried significant fear that someone might learn the truth about my personal life and that ugly reality would somehow eliminate all the goodness I’d created for myself. When I ended my second marriage, my entire life changed in beautiful ways. I began a journey of enlightenment, self-care, and a deep dive into my own spirit, personality, lifestyle, and preferences. I discovered grace, power, compassion, patience, and a deep love for myself, my family, and my life that I’d never known. I’ve definitely learned what I don’t want in life, but sitting with myself in silence, forgiving myself and others for the hurt I endured, and discovering who I really am and what I want in life was incredible, and scary, and emotional, and beyond anything I could have comprehended or imagined. My healing journey brought me to a place of wholeness, peacefulness, and a deep sense of self-love and self-care. I’m thankful for my past experiences, thankful for hitting rock-bottom, thankful for the love and support of my closest people who have supported my journey as I’ve worked diligently to transform my life, and I’m so thankful that life is journey not a finish line.

I’m hopeful that sharing truths about my life and transformation will function as inspiration for others. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is enough motivation to fight for yourself, and sometimes having a guide is the only way out of the darkness. When I didn’t know what to do or how to change, but knew I wanted a different life and was tired of feeling broken, I started small daily habits that I knew were positive and healthy (like walking and drinking a bunch of water). . . and I did them even when I didn’t feel like it, day after day after day. While this may sound too simple to turn an entire life from negative to positive, please trust me when I tell you that it created momentum in my lifestyle and spirit that turned into a wildfire. Sometimes there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, and sitting and waiting for something (or someone) to change your situation or motivate you to take action simply means you’ll be sitting there forever. If you’re feeling stuck or can relate to anything I’ve shared, maybe it’s time to light your tunnel on fire, create your own light, and stop faking happiness or pretending that your unhappiness is justified? You are worthy of living your best life!