Transformation

At almost 41-years old, I am starting to figure out what I am. I have always thought of myself as strong and independent. I put myself through college, including obtaining my master’s degree. I had the “dream” life; a husband, two kids, a dog, a house, and financial security. And then, my world fell apart. Specifically, I lost my job due to a mass lay-off and realized my marriage was falling apart in the same month. The pandemic kicked off a few months later. I started a new job, and soon after, my husband moved out. I didn’t even know which way up was from down. I trudged through daily routines doing just enough to get by until I fell in bed at night. I was exhausted, but I could not sleep. About a month after my husband moved out, I decided it was time to shift my focus. I had no clue what I was getting myself in.

Before you keep reading, you should know that this is not a “bash him” blog post. If you are reading this because you want to revel in someone else’s despair or connect on an “I was hurt, and I’m out for revenge!” level, then exit now. This post isn’t for you. This post is a one-third self-healing and two-thirds self-empowerment blog post. This particular post does not share tips or have a call to action. No, this is more of a journal entry and self-declaration. I am on this journey and dedicated to the adventure. I don’t know exactly where I am headed but let me tell you, I am excited! This post is my unfinished story of self-discovery.

I reflect on the last two years and see that I am a different person. The separation and impending divorce have forced me to re-evaluate what I need and want out of life. Perhaps my single-greatest learning throughout this entire process comes from the words of Glennon Doyle, “I can do hard things!”. I now know how to make minor home repairs, negotiate a car purchase, handle home emergencies, and ask for help when I need it. All of this while maintaining a (mostly) organized home with two boys and a dog. We have all survived. 

I have dreams and plans. These are BIG! They involve taking risks, and I am known to be risk-averse. I like living in control. I like having certainty and security. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons life has taught me over the past two years is that nothing in this life is guaranteed, nor is it given. My dreams will not come true just because I wish them. I won’t ever bring these dreams to life if I don’t fully commit to jumping in.

Instead of backing down and shrinking away, I am stripping away the façade. I am questioning everything I do and asking myself, “Why?”. “People-pleasers” tend to talk themselves into doing things and making decisions that make others happy or proud. I’ve been a “people-pleaser” all my life. I have sought affection and appreciation in praise from others. This fact is just as accurate in my personal life as it is in my professional life. This behavior has not served me well. I refuse to let my “people-pleasing” nature continue to hold me back.

My mission is to create beauty by bringing comfort and joy to the world. Not just my house, not just my community, but the WORLD. This dream is still a bit fuzzy because I can’t quite put my finger on exactly how I fulfill this personal mission. Usually, this lack of clarity annoys me to no end. I like clear goals, decisions, and actions. I believe this is what I am supposed to work through. Right now, I am not supposed to have clarity. I need to learn how to work in the muck and unknown. I will hold on to the belief that I can make this new phase of life absolutely mine. I can travel unfamiliar territory and try new things. I am so very excited.

Recently I signed up for a 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT) course. I want to use this training to dive into self-discovery. Additionally, I want to take my practice deeper in emotional, spiritual, and physical ways. I’m considering teaching yoga after I earn the YTT, but I haven’t made that my final decision quite yet. I want to see where the journey takes me versus forcing an ending of what is considered “normal” or “should” happen.

Two weeks ago, I realized that this self-started journey of getting to know myself in this new phase of life piques many new interests. These interests include blogging, crafting, ideating, DIY home projects, and taking a proofreading course. My goal over the next five weeks is to be a “finisher.” I’ve had a blast learning new interests and hobbies. Yet, I realize that in my zealousness to learn “new” things, I haven’t finished many of the projects I have started. Now is the time to complete those projects and balance time with my kids, YTT, full-time job, part-time adjunct instructor side-gig, and taking care of myself. It is up to me to create a life that I love and fill my mission. 

I am 41- year old mom of two boys navigating single life for the first time since I was a teenager. I believe in progress over perfection and that we are never finishing learning. I hope that sharing my story brings comfort to others in a similar situation. 

My Inner Voice

February, month 2 of our calendar year. The month that those New Year’s resolutions go to the forgotten graveyard. A study cited in People magazine shared that the average days that people stick to their New Year’s resolutions is a mere 36 days. Today is day 43 of the year 2021. According to that timeline the resolutions are gone and we are skipping happily forward as if they never happened. Or, perhaps, there is a feeling of guilt and shame that the resolution is too hard and, “I just can’t do it anymore. It’s not worth it”. Boy am I glad I didn’t make a resolution. This makes me neither worse or better than anyone else. We all make our own decisions and live with those consequences, good or bad. It is not for me judge anyone else. If you made a resolution and didn’t stick with it, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is ok to change your mind and just be the glorious loveable person you already are. But first, you have to be comfortable with who you are and what you want. I don’t have this all figured out for myself so I’m not going to say that the things I share in this post are guaranteed to work for everyone. I just hope that by sharing my story it will inspire others to take their own self-discovery journey and create their own story a life they deem to be well lived.

In my January blog post titled Goodbye & Thank you to 2020. Hello & Welcome to 2021 I declared that 2021 is my year of restoration. What I am learning is that rather than restoration being a destination, I am more interested in making this a self-discovery journey. There is no end goal in sight. This is perfectly fine. Oh sure, the “type A” perfectionist in me screams a little now and then that I’m not doing enough, there is no a step-by-step plan to follow, and there is no defined end point. I have to tell my inner voice, who I will refer to as “her” or “she” to “Shut the hell up” every once in awhile. I’ve learned that the key to silencing her is to simply tell her that this restoration journey doesn’t have an end point and if I truly want to heal emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I have to do the work. Here is a fairly typical conversation between the two of us.

Well then she scoffs, “What is the work?”

Me: “Beats me. I’m using the trial and error method this go around.”

Her: “You don’t have a plan. You’ll never feel whole or right.”

Me: “You’re right. I don’t have a plan. When was the last time one of your plans worked? Oh wait, that’s right. You had my life all planned out and how did that work out? I’ll consult you when I need you. Until then, leave me be.”

Silly to have a full on conversation in your own head, right? Wrong. This is just one of the conversations I have with myself. I learned from my counselor that sometimes we have to quiet our inner voice because it stems from our brain trying to protect us. You see, the amazing organ that our brain is will do many things to prevent us from being hurt. Most of the time this is helpful. However, when our brain goes in to overprotect mode it will sometimes be the cause of anxiety or fear. In order to maintain a healthy relationship with our own inner voice and brain we must sometimes set our own boundary by telling her, “Brain, thank you for working to protect me but I need to you stop. I get it. I realize there is a rough road ahead. We will be ok.” She is typically ok with this conversation but also has a boundary to declare, “Ok, I’ll let you have it your way but you don’t get to give up. You have to show me the work. We’ll talk again later.”

“Her” criticizing and questioning voice grows a bit dimmer every day. She’s learning that the space in my mind, heart, and soul for perfection with well-laid plans is slowly becoming overcrowded with grace, peace, and stillness moving in. I don’t want her voice to ever completely go away because when working in a normal mode she keeps me safe from harm and guides me with intuition. That’s perfectly normal. She’s just learning to cohabitate with her new roommates grace, peace, stillness. There’s one more roommate that has applied to live in this heart and soul. The new roommate’s name is “self-love” and I am happy to say that she has been approved to move in. There is light and love to be had for me, for you, for all of us. We just have to commit to doing the work and allowing that love to flow through our heart, mind, and soul.

Why am I sharing my personal story in a public space? Sharing my journey is a way of healing for me. I enjoy writing and hope that my story can be one of inspiration and hope. If you have had a tough year or are going through your own stormy season I want you to know that you are not alone.

I Am The Storm

In January I wrote “Me vs. The Storm”. https://thankfulgratefulhumblekind.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/me-vs-the-storm/ It was a moment, a sliver of hope and unbeknownst to me at the time…the eye of the storm. 2020 will forever be a distinct year in my mind. If you are reading this and describe 2020 to a “dumpster fire”, I would wholeheartedly agree with you. But this isn’t a story of despair. This is my story of finding my inner strength.

Let me rewind for a little bit. For me, this year started out much the same as 2019 ended and the majority of my 2020 has been filled with heartache and deep emotional pain. I started this year still jobless after a mass lay-off in 2019, painful relationships, and most days were filled with doing just enough to get by. I didn’t know that one person could cry as much as I did during the first 3 months of the year. Yet, as I reflect back on the last 10 months, I don’t even recognize the woman that brought 2020 in but I sure as hell know the woman that will ride the rest of 2020 out. I no longer want to shrink away and live in a small way. I have found out exactly what I am made of and I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I’m not done yet. I am the storm.

Fighting the storm versus becoming the storm hasn’t been an easy journey. I didn’t just wake up one morning to everything being back to “normal”. Quite frankly, I don’t want what normal had become. I had to learn how to say goodbye to what had become my normal and hello to the idea of new possibilities, even if I didn’t know what those were. Even today I don’t know what my new normal will shake out to be, but I do look forward to whatever it brings.

“One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.” (Author unknown) My oh my how these words ring true in my heart. I look back and I am so very thankful for all of the people that have shown up in my life this year to support and love me. Some were on a similar journey and others not so much. I anointed them into my personal support group with the tears that were streaming down my face. For months they called and texted me just to tell me they love me and remind me that I am not alone.

This group consists of people that I trust. These are my people. They have lent me their shoulder to cry on and tissues to dry my tears. A few have talked to me for hours on end on the phone. One video chatted with me for 2 hours until I was almost asleep. Another held me, cooked for me, and created the coziest most loving environment one could imagine. The collective wisdom of this group has guided me through the darkest days and loneliest nights. I couldn’t be more grateful and humbled that they chose to wrap their arms around me. It is now that I see that the best way to honor those who have shown me unconditional love and support is to share my own survival guide to help others.

For me there wasn’t some huge wake up call or event that magically made me spring out of bed and go full force at life. My story of strength and renewal is built on many small actions and moments that add up to who I am today. But know this reader, I am nowhere near my destination on my personal journey. Nor do I want to be. I am having fun getting to know me again. Maybe even for the first time. If just one person finds my story valuable or inspiring to begin embracing life again then I will have considered this blog post a success.

Here. We. Go.

As I reflect back to the beginning of this year I remember feeling lost and scared but I knew I needed to start somewhere. I started reading scripture. To this day I find Romans 5:3-5 as one of the most meaningful and comforting scriptures to be my light in those dark days.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn and endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. “

Romans 5:3-5

For seven months I perfected the art of smiling wide while holding back tears. I could win an Academy Award for “fake it till you make it”. This strategy did not serve me well and I don’t recommend it for anyone else. I spent days feeling as if my entire body was clenched up and a good nights’ sleep was a whopping 3 hours. I was scared and lonely 100% of every day. I pinpoint the true beginning of my healing process back to when I found a gem of a counselor. Rather than continuing to push my feelings away, I started talking through my feelings and unpacking baggage I didn’t even know I had. I spent the first 3 sessions clenching a box of tissues, crying my eyes out, and piecing my feelings together. My counselor has helped me to unpack my baggage layer by layer, fold it neatly and send it away. For me, talking about my true feelings is a raw experience and it is scary. This was hard and emotionally draining work but it was the very beginning of my personal healing process.

When going through life’s perfect storm a good counselor or therapist is an absolute must have. They will listen, ask questions, be a truth teller and help you sort through the mess. What I didn’t know then that I 100% know now is that it takes an incredibly strong person to make the call to go to counseling. This is NOT weak, embarrassing or shameful. There is no greater gift you can give to yourself than positive emotional and mental health. Let me shout it out for those of you in the back rolling your beautiful eyes, “THERE IS NO GREATER GIFT YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF THAN POSITIVE EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL HEALTH.”

What a counselor will not do is hug you, hold you as you ugly cry for 30 solid minutes, make you dinner, create a cozy space to hide in for 4 days, or call you randomly to meet for dinner or coffee. This is what you need a strong tribe of friends for. Readers, I deeply regret undervaluing the healing power of a strong friendship. I will forever be grateful for the women who chose to ride this storm out with me and love me hard.

The one piece of advice that I heard the most was “Focus on taking care of you.” This didn’t mean that I was to ignore my children, responsibilities of the home or neglect others. Rather, a gentle reminder to make space for taking care of me. This looks different for all of us. What worked for me may not work for anyone else. I had to use a test and learn strategy to figure this out so it wasn’t a quick process.

What Worked

  • Bible study
  • Counseling
  • Journaling
  • Reading or listening to inspirational books & podcasts
  • Creating an exercise routine strength training, treadmill, elliptical, yoga
  • Asking for help from friends and family & graciously accepting it
  • Accepting comforting gestures from others

What Did Not Work

  • Listening to any music
  • Binge watching tv
  • Yoga

Heed my advice, the test and learn experience during the healing process can be both frustrating and rewarding. It is an emotionally intense journey but I promise you that it is well worth the effort. I had to let go of being ashamed of my circumstances to ask for help from friends and family. Asking for help is hard because many of us are just not wired to do so. If this describes you then I urge you to let it go. I bet there is at least 1 person in your life willing to help you but you have to dig deep tell them what’s really going on. Showing vulnerability can be terrifying but people cannot help you if you aren’t honest with them about what is really going on.

I also learned that some things that had served me well for years did not serve me well during my darkest days. For example, yoga has made a tremendous, positive impact in my life and served me well for several years. Yoga is also a deeply emotional and very inward experience for me. When I go to a class it’s like a massage for my emotions and soul. Even though I understand the healing powers yoga holds, in the thick of my storm I could not go there emotionally so I left it on my mat and walked away for a little while. I’m back now and loving that I am relearning technique and have a newfound appreciation for the way my body is serving me and how I can serve her (my body) better. Be open to shelving a few things for a bit if they seem just too hard on your first try. You can always try again later. There is no one “right” way to heal.

Do not expect this to be a fast process. This has been a year long process for me. I still have so much to learn and try. I know that I love life most when I embrace it as a journey of self-discovery. As I begin a new chapter of life I am excited to see what this chapter will be, what I will learn and how I will evolve.