Fearless Friday: Bring Your Own Sunshine

11217953_969581050172_5123551283742165226_n“Oh my god! I love your sunglasses and your phone!” A little girl the age of five came running up to me in the doctor’s office waiting room. “You’re so beautiful!” She excitedly remarked. She gave me a hug and I complimented her on her tie-dyed mermaid dress. She was glowing with pride.

Her parents were behind her, smiling watching the interaction. I smiled at them and commented on how that was the sunshine I needed this morning! “Keep on shining that sunshine, lady! Don’t dim that light for anyone,” I said as I shot her parents a smile. I thanked her and her parents before they left the waiting room.

Just before she radiated her positivity, I was texting my best friend Rachel with  tears in my eyes, “I’m not okay.”

That morning I had woken up in a panic at 2 am, cried myself to sleep, woke up at 6 am and again had a panic attack before heading to my Dr. appointment. I was overwhelmed with stress from work, house work, and adulting, feeling hopeless and helpless, with a bum knee as icing on that shit-cake.

Shortly, after texting Rachel my SOS, I texted her how this little girl brightened my morning. Rachel texted back “the universe knew you needed that!” Indeed, she was right.

That little girl embodied everything I’m working on becoming. She brought the sunshine to that waiting room, radiating positivity no matter who she interacted with. A quote I saved put it best: “Influence the energy in the room!” This little girl definitely turned my bad morning into a brighter one.

So how can I start brining my own sunshine? First thing I’m working on, undoing all of the negative stories I tell myself that originate from previous traumatic events and social conditioning. There was a certain time in my childhood when I knew who I was and I unapologetically acted and expressed my authentic self. Second, I’m identifying my triggers so I can lessen their impact on staying present and positive, ensuring I can hold space for others. Third, I’m working on my self confidence. When I’m more confident I enjoy interacting and conversing with other people. When I’m more self-confident I can give authentically of myself without feeling depleted.

I’m pretty sure this little girl and her parents could tell I wasn’t having a good morning and she put it upon her toddler self to do something about. Her positivity, her sunshine was infectious and for that I was greatly appreciative.

 

 

 

Monday Motivation: Leaving; It’s Not Failing, It’s Knowing Your Worth

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Today’s post transports me back to a time when I was still living in Philadelphia, working in Camden, New Jersey as a special education teacher, hating my life, feeling stuck. I worked a job that had little regard for a work-life balance, working ten hour days, 50 hour work weeks and bi-weekly Saturday schools. I’d come home with little to no energy to take on any personal projects of my own. My. Soul. Felt. Empty.

It was a time when I was searching for something, anything, as a sign for what was next. I got that sign in the form of the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was the second and third pages of the Introduction that became my “sign”. Here Paulo writes about a personal calling  (what you were put on earth to do, igniting enthusiasm within you) and the obstacles that one has to face in order to achieve it.  But what really stood out to me was this:

“Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the later goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness…”

Upon reading this, I wept uncontrollably. I was living the bearable suffering, too scared to chase my personal calling. I felt my soul being eaten away by my job and by my place in the world. Bitterness had started to creep in.

I read that on a Sunday. By Thursday of that same week, I walked into my job and resigned. It was such a quick decision I hadn’t even called my mom for fear of her talking me out of it. After I had given my letter of resignation, I called her to state my plan.

My plan: I move home for two months, backpack Australia for a few months and then head off to Colorado to start a new life. As much as I was adamant about this plan (deep down I knew it needed to be done), somehow I felt like a failure. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a special ed teacher? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be successful at that school? Maybe I wasn’t good enough to continue with the life I was living?

NOPE. N-O, shit naw. Wanna know what ACTUALLY happened?

I FINALLY FIGURED OUT MY WORTH!

I was worthy of so much more than what I was getting out of my job and my life back in Philadelphia. That was no longer my path and I sensed it. Kudos to me, because as Paulo stated in his introduction some people never figure it out.  And I’m so very thankful for the friends, family and my therapist at the time who helped me to remember my worth.

Two years after moving home for two months, backpacking Australia for four months and then moving to Colorado I can tell you I am that much closer to realizing my personal calling. I still have a few hurdles to jump, some decisions to make but I know it’ll be worth it AND that I AM WORTH IT.

So if you are living your life thinking that this current path just doesn’t feel right, but you think you’d be a failure for quitting, please know, please deeply understand and feel that you aren’t a failure. You’re coming to realize your worth. You’re starting to understand your path, your next steps in your journey, following your own personal legend.

Coelho ends the introduction of The Alchemist with this:

“But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become and instrument of God, you help the soul of the world, and you understand why you are here.”

 

Help the world by following your personal calling, by knowing your worth, by knowing when to walk away.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Case for a Safe Space

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Celebrating my big purchase with my mom and dear friends, one year ago today at Shugas in Colorado Springs. 

It was one year ago today I dropped my life savings into purchasing a pair of house keys worth about a quarter of a million dollars. For a commitment-phobe like me, a house meant more than just owning a home. First off, I did it on my own (All the women, who are independent, throw your hands up at me!) Secondly, I was ten years old when my parents’ divorce rocked my world, and I hadn’t felt like I had a place to call home. Yes, I had a structural roof over my head, but I no longer had a warm, safe, inviting physical space and I no longer had the cohesive family unit to go with it.

After my parents divorce, I hating spending time at my house. Luckily I had one friend whom her house became my second home, and I spent lots of time with her intact, albeit dysfunctional, (written with love) family.  Holidays became dates I yearned to escape as I still continue to travel during most family holidays to avoid confronting painful reminders of my broken childhood home.

But buying my house became a symbol of taking back control of my security, ensuring I had a safe space, physically, mentally and emotionally. What I didn’t know was that my emotional healing would be accelerated after buying my home.

Two months after purchasing my house, I decided to try a more intense form of therapy called psychosomatic trauma release. I discovered it after discussing it, with my massage therapist, an experience I had while meditating, attempting a full body scan.

“I didn’t have monkey brain (layman’s terms: my mind consistently ruminating on thoughts throughout the meditation). But I couldn’t feel my chest or the lower half of my body while doing the body scan.”

“Maybe your body is holding onto something you haven’t fully processed yet,” my massage therapist mentioned, speaking about my childhood experiences. She referred me to my current therapist and the rest was history.

Jumping into therapy required diving head first into traumatic scenarios that I hadn’t revisited since childhood, most memories repressed along with trapped emotions. After revisiting those traumatic experiences and creating new storylines attached to healing and growth, my general anxiety melted away, my emotional triggers now have less of an impact and I can finally feel my legs, hips and chest.

Having my safe space to take refuge post-therapy was vital to my healing process. In fact I argue without my house I would have been less than willing to explore the deepest, darkest depths of my own personal psychology.

Human developmental psychology supports having a sense of personal safety in order to achieve self actualization or a person’s full potential. Abraham Maslow, the originator of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, theorized that humans must reach a level where their personal safety is met, (i.e. shelter, job security, health, and safe environments). Maslow claimed that if a person did not feel safe in a particular environment, they will continue to seek safety before they attempt to meet any higher level of survival (love and belonging, esteem (accomplishments), and self actualization.

My own healing has taught me the value of a safe space, and my willingness to offer it to others. I intend for my home to be a warm, inviting, safe space for anyone who enters, and  I’ve even adopted the safe space mindset to employ in my classroom for my students. But safety doesn’t only come in the form of a physical space. It can be as simple as being someone’s safe space to vent, a non-judgmental friend whom you can share some deeply personal information or the occasional SOS text, “I’m not okay.”  Being that’s safe person can be instrumental in someone’s personal healing process.

I’m grateful for the handful of friends who are my safe space when I need them, and I hope to think I reciprocate in kind. If you want to see someone transform their life, to reach their fullest potential, provide them with a safe space, physically, mentally and emotionally. A year ago I unknowingly took back control over my safety by purchasing my house. Although it cost me a quarter of a million dollars, it’s value, to me personally, was and continues to be priceless!

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Fall Down 7 Times, Learn the Damn Lesson And Not Fall 8

A9A03F0D-F4B9-4F9F-9FA9-1A2CEAB34C75.jpegI don’t think I’m gonna climb today, I think I’ll watch my kids climb instead. 

Those were the infamous words I heard myself say last Friday (6/7/19) as I got ready to head into work, the a 3 week long summer program at my charter school aimed at providing  students with opportunities to try outdoor activities such as paddle boarding, hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing.

That day, my group was headed to an indoor bouldering gym, a gym I had been to many times previously, familiarized with their routes.

Getting to the gym with my group of high school students, I took one look at the ceiling route (a route I’ve attempted many times before but never completed) and said to myself, I bet I can climb that. 

Rewind almost a year ago, I was climbing at Garden of the Gods, my adventure partner Tim and I were showing friends from out of town the legendary red sandstone routes. We had climbed most of the afternoon, leaving Montezuma’s Tower, an iconic Colorado climb, for the cherry to top the day’s epicness.

As we cleaned up the gear from the afternoon, I thought to myself, I think I’m done climbing for the day. Tim confided in me that he too was done climbing for the day and asked me to lead Montezuma’s Tower. “You’ve climbed it before and I’m confident in your ability to lead this route!” He confidently stated to me.

I thought about my friends from out of town and how they’d love to be on top of Montezuma’s tower, and see the view from above. I also considered Tim’s confidence and wanted to believe his words. I don’t want to let them down. 

That day at the Garden, on Montezuma’s Tower, I ended up falling from 10ft off the ground unclipped. Luckily, my partner Tim caught me (and by caught me, I mean took my butt to his face) but the lasting trauma of the fall mind fucked my confidence in my ability to sport climb.

Fast forward to last Friday, looking at the ceiling route in the bouldering gym, my ego got the best of me. I bet I can climb that lead to me climbing past my previous personal best, but swinging out uncontrollably, falling and injuring my collateral ligaments in my left knee.

Both incidents involved me hearing my intuitive voice: I don’t think I’m gonna climb today…. and I think I’m done climbing for the day.

Yet in both occurrences, my ego was the victor and I rationalized my way out of listening to my body’s intuitive response: I bet I can climb that, and I don’t want to let them down.

The lesson: listen AND FOLLOW my intuition. My body knows best, even subconsciously my body knows more than what my rational brain can process. Clearly the universe gave me multiple chances to learn this lesson, and in the words of The Alchemist author Paulo Coelho, “Success is falling down 7 times but getting up 8!”

 

Wednesday Wisdom: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

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Photo by Chris Parish

“Are you okay!?” It’s the question I’ve been hearing for the past three to four weeks now from friends, coworkers and administrators. My inability to hold a poker face let the world know that internally, no, I wasn’t okay.  Recently I’ve felt on edge, trying to prevent myself from jumping off the proverbial cliff. My mood fluctuated between subtle frustration to down right pissed, sometimes veering off into sad and emotional. For that stretch of time, I was doing everything I could to not feel those emotions, because let’s face it, those emotions aren’t fun to deal with. The more I tried to suppress the emotions, not talk about them or deal with them the stronger they became.

This past week, after a few intimate conversations with friends and one intense yoga workout designed to break down the ego, I couldn’t hide from the emotions and their triggers any longer.

Turns out, after a deep reflection on the yoga mat, I had legitimate reasons for being angry, sad, upset.

My first reason I identified is that I wasn’t being true to myself and setting boundaries. I said yes when I meant no. I was giving my time and energy (my most precious resources) freely when I needed to conserve it. My job was emotionally draining, I over booked my schedule and didn’t properly plan times to emotionally recharge.

With Father’s Day coming up, I realized this also contributed to my anger and sadness. Although I believed I’d fully grieved my father’s death, seeing  Father’s Day cards in the stores made me upset as I no longer had a reason to buy one. In that moment, seeing those cards, life felt really unfair.

Lastly, in general I’ve wanted to make changes to a few different areas in my life, but since I hadn’t properly conserved my time and energy, I had neither to make progress on personal goals. I felt stagnant, stuck, no hope because nothing was changing.

After identifying my underlying reasons for my anger, frustration and sadness, I allowed myself to feel the emotions which ultimate led to me releasing them. 

When I was asked “Are you okay!?” I felt the need to smile, nod and pretend everything was okay, when in fact it wasn’t, far from it. But I’m thankful for my close friends who saw through my bullshit and pressed on with more questions, because clearly they saw something(s) I was trying to ignore.

And that’s the lesson I’ve learned, that emotions, especially the unpleasant ones, are there for a reason. Anger was present because I ignored my boundaries. Sadness existed because I was reminded that someone I love so deeply is no longer here with me. Frustration found its way into my life because I wasn’t making  progress on personal goals. And in a world where I feel forced to smile and nod when asked “are you okay?!” I’ll remember to be brave and authentically say “No, I’m not okay, but that’s okay”.

 

Thankful Thursday: Losing Hope That Life Would Have Been Different

IMG_8397Sunday was my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting I’ve ever attended. I felt honored when a good friend asked me to accompany him to a meeting celebrating his six month milestone. I expected to sit back and be a fly on the wall, supporting my friend, instead I was brought to tears by one woman’s story.

The topic of the meeting, forgiveness. The young woman helping to run the meeting was one of the last to share, but what she shared resonated with me long after I left the meeting.She said a patient she worked with at a recovery house (the patient now deceased) had created a painting for her with the words:
“Forgiveness is losing the hope that your life would have been different.”
That quote hit me like a punch to the gut. I teared up because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

For too long I’ve been wondering how my life would have been different without the difficulties of my childhood. What if my parents didn’t get divorced, what if my dad wasn’t affected by a mental illness, what if I didn’t go through a crippling stint of depression. I’ve expended extensive amounts of my mental energy supporting the what if’s, the dreams that my life could have and should have been different.

Losing the hope that life would have been different -It’s detaching yourself from the what if’s, from the blame, from the judgement, from the shame, guilt, and ultimate hurt that’s been a heavy burden to carry for 20+ years.

Losing the hope that life would have been different- it’s the acceptance that I’m exactly where I need to be and couldn’t have ended up here without experiencing all that I had, the good, the bad and the down right gut-wrenching.

I can say without a doubt my experiences have allowed me to develop and employ empathy. I can now look into the eyes of another soul and acknowledge their suffering, saying with a just look “I’ve been there too.” It allows me to acknowledge but more importantly, validate feelings. I’m able to sit with someone in their most uncomfortable moments, because I too have been forced to make peace with my darkest shadows.

Losing the hope that life would have been different – it’s offering forgiveness, not just to my parents but to myself. Truly understanding I did the best I could, given the circumstances and my cumulative knowledge at the time.

Losing the hope that life would have been different – It’s living life with an unburdened soul- the ultimate freedom.

I’m grateful to have been asked to attend that meeting. My friend, conspiring and working in conjunction with the universe, lead me to the medicine that I needed to taste.

Thankful Thursday: Remember When You Prayed To Get Where You Are?

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Today I read a post on IG that said “remember when you prayed to get to where you are now?” 
WOAH! When I had a moment to myself, (let’s be honest, in the bathroom), I stopped to reflect, remembering exactly where I was the multiple times I had dreamt of living in Colorado.

I knew at 15 I wanted to move to Colorado after visiting family friends in Breckinridge. I wanted to move for the outdoor, active lifestyle, and to be in the presence of majestic mountains.

After college I was living in my parents’ basement. One day, I took a moment to think about moving to Colorado. I bawled, ugly cried, thinking that I could never make that move. How could I afford it? Fuck affording it! Could I even muster the courage to move? 

Three years into my professional career, I was feeling stuck. One day I decided to read “The Alchemist” and three pages in, I again bawled uncontrollably. The next day I decided to quit my job, back pack Australia then head out to Colorado, to start a new life. Was I scared?? I was fucking terrified! But I knew that the hardships of leaving was going to be less than the pain of staying.

Fast forward to my first night in Colorado, I told myself I’d give it a year and then buy a house. Buy a house!? For a pickup and go when ever where ever commitment-phobe it was a huge decision. But almost a year later, I signed papers and bought my house. Was I scared?? I was terrified! (See a theme?) What if I couldn’t afford it!? (See another theme!?) Point is, where I am now, I dreamt about years ago, and here I am. What I am currently pipe dreaming about, well, I can make it happen too. I Just need a bit of persistence, hard work and the undying belief in myself and my abilities.

This past year I’ve forgotten how far I’ve come. It was great to look back today, to help motivate me for my future!

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