2021: And So It Begins

I wrote in my last post that I love new beginnings. There’s an excitement, enthusiasm, joy that comes with new beginnings. It’s the butterflies of anticipation for what is to come. Hindsight 2020, the aftermath of an extremely challenging year, lots of people are looking to 2021 for salvation, insight, reprieve. With a cautious undertone and a bracing smile, I write: And so it begins.

As much as new beginnings are exciting, CHANGE is SCARY! Leaving the familiar behind and taking off to explore the unfamiliar can trigger almost anyone into a traumatic fight, flight or freeze state. Humans being creatures of comfort like predictable, comfortable, routine. Change is just the opposite: unpredictable, uncomfortable, and not routine, YET!

At the crossroads, the precipice, staring straight into the abyss, directly where I need to take the leap of faith, I find my anxiety and insecurities peak. My chest tightens, my throat lumps, my ears ring, vision narrows, my body contracts. At this point, I start to doubt myself, my abilities, my intuitive guidance, because WHAT IF SHIT DOESN’T WORK OUT!? What if this change is BAD? WHAT IF I FAIL? The unknowns of change twirl me into a dizzy.

But then, taking a deep cleaning breath I trust and LET GO! I leap! I SURRENDER! The release of tension is so euphoric, intoxicating, exhilarating. It’s an adrenaline high all it’s own. That’s what I love about change, about NEW BEGINNINGS! For me, at this point, there is nothing left to doubt, knowing the Universe has my back in making the leap, taking the step, making that decision, because as Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist,

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

Finding yourself at a crossroads, what do you do? Do you fight change with all of your might, your stubbornness raging like a bull with strong will? OR do you surrender? Do you embrace the change, go with the flow, dive deep into the current to see where the change takes you?

I’m quite excited to see where my new beginnings will take me this year. I’m prepared to surrender to the flow, and trust the Universe and the Divine work in my best interests. So, I say, with a smile — the most beautifully strung four words I can imagine: And so it begins!

Hindsight 2020: Shedding My “Conditioning” and Returning To Authenticity

This time last year, I was Ouray, Colorado, with some adventure friends from Philadelphia. I took the day off from climbing to tend to my weakened knee from a bouldering accident, and put my energy into writing for my blog and planning my posts for the upcoming year. I was excited to commit to a personal project, one I had dreamt about for so long. Like any start to a new year (new project, new ANYTHING) there was lots of excitement. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE new beginnings! Innovation, excitement, energy, enthusiasm, exhilaration are just a few words I associate with any new beginning. It’s what brings life energy back to me.

BUT coming back from Ouray to my “normal” daily routine, it became very apparent that this was not going to be my year to work on creative projects. Creativity, true authentic creativity, required outward expansion, when really I needed inward reflection and cleansing. It was finally time to come to terms with my shadow self.

Coming into the New Year, I had just learned about Codependency, reading Codependent No More, by [insert name] and processed the core traumatic incident, the root cause of my codependent nature. Processing that memory, and the emotional energy I carried with me from the incident, left me feeling heavy, deep, RAW. My metaphoric scabs were ripped open and I was left vulnerable. As much as it hurt, I knew from past trauma cleansings that I was healing.

Month after month, I found myself digging in deeper, making a true commitment to my healing. I isolated myself, cut myself off from friends and family, like an injured animal walking off into the woods to tend to its wounds. My isolation coincided perfectly with the collective consciousness shutting down and social distancing for COVID. I couldn’t have asked for a better present from the Universe, divine timing at it’s best!

During that time of isolation, I focused on my mother wounds, my daddy issues, my trust issues with myself, the universe and the divine, I tended to my blocked heart chakra (the reason I felt like I had to hide myself during my healing) through Reiki and therapy. The economic uncertainty following the social distancing orders challenged my “scarcity mindset” and forced me to trust that the Universe wanted me to live in abundance. I “called back” my sacral energy I gave away freely to others, which sparked a flow of creativity I hadn’t seen since college. There was this euphoric feeling that I was closer to the person I had always dreamed to be.

Realizing my worth and untapped potential, I left a toxic work environment which exacerbated my codependency, perfectionism, and people pleasing tendencies. That job left me emotionally exhausted, and resentful, the classic signs of burnout from constantly giving inauthentically. I found a job with a Principal that understood personal trauma, respected boundaries, and a work place that felt emotionally safer.

Due to the safer working environment, my psyche/body decided it was time to start working on the bigger shadow aspects of my personality: trust issues from my abandonment wounds, perfectionism caused by emotional neglect, and people pleasing (the residual effects of my codependency).

Thankfully, after working on my heart chakra and allowing trusted friends into my world of hurt and pain, I was able to talk more openly about what I was processing, and found most of my friends were on a similar healing trajectory. Discussing these shadow aspects with friends allowed me to feel less isolated, less alone.

What does this mean for 2021?

All of this deep healing and shadow work over the course of 2020 allowed me to get closer to my authentic self, and align with my higher self. My past conditioning: the codependency, the abandonment, the lack of trust, perfectionism, scarcity mindset, were all preventing me from living as my authentic and empowered self. Shedding the conditioning from my past, rooted in survival, allows me to now focus on thriving. I can’t expect to thrive with the same social conditioning and behaviors used to purely survive.

Now I can work towards outward expansion, creating authentically, not from a place of ego but from a deep desire to share my ideas with others. The creativity is rooted in connectedness and collective healing, not individualism and personal gain. I find myself being more playful, curious, imaginative, and wanting to help others from a place of genuine generosity.

I am thankful and feel blessed to have experienced the past year of personal trials, triggers, challenges and lessons. I’m better for it, and its helped me to get back to, well, ME! #thrivingnotsurviving #abundancemindset #higherself #authenticself

I, Brittany Bigley, am a Writer.

My poem written to my childhood dog, Gizmo, that now hangs on my mom’s refrigerator 26 years after its creation.

As a child, I wrote a poem about love.
My poem had rhyme, but I also included meter ( for you non-English majors, meter is the rhythm and emphasis of a line of poetry based on syllabic beats). I wrote it on a big, red heart I cut from construction paper. It was a school art project for Valentine’s Day.

I gave the poem to my grandparents. My mom upon seeing it and reading it, responded, “Brittany, I think your talent is writing.” I was 7.
Playing off the compliment, I didn’t consider myself worthy, a belief I carried long into adulthood.

My Grandparents kept that poem on their refrigerator, and my mom, who now owns their house, never touched the poem. It still hangs on the refrigerator as it did 26 years ago.

I distinctly remember when my mom acknowledged my talent, I too acknowledged it. It rang true to my soul, my little 7 year old soul. Feeling the intensity of the truth that had just been spoken, understanding the value of that truth, and how it made me feel, I buried it, deep within me, like a pirate burying treasure. My 7 year old self understood the hurt and pain my soul would feel had I tried to unveil my talent in a harsh world.

Recently, as I’ve neared the end of my contract with a job, I’ve thought more and more about writing. The Universe has sent signs, a “download” about a children’s book a few weeks ago, a quote , “to not follow your passion is to die a slow death by suicide.”
Yes, I buried my truth long ago about being a writer, to avoid the pain of criticism. But I can’t deny my truth any longer, because it hurts more to bury my truth out of fear, than to live it and face critics.

I, Brittany Bigley, am a writer.

There were times where I lived my truth wholeheartedly. In college, I pursued writing because college was a safe bubble to put myself and my writing out into the world, with very few consequences or critics. When I wrote my first article for my college newspaper, The Text, as a freshman, a scathing review of George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, there was a very deep sense of satisfaction and contentment, like, “yea, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” My sophomore year I became the Editor in Chief, which I think happened more out of luck and demonstrating passion than from talent.

Writing my column as Editor in Chief was nerve wracking, sure. I demanded perfection of myself, I desired to give the readers my best. Increasing readership and engagement with The Text became my passion project, that is, until it was time to create a senior thesis to graduate with my Graphic Design Communications degree.

I switched my focus to my senior thesis, and I handed over the reigns of Editor, while I studied abroad in London during my Junior year.
While studying abroad, I ruminated over ideas for a senior thesis, a whole year earlier than I needed to. It was while I was in London I got inspired by social activism, calls to action, philosophers of the Enlightenment period, like John Locke and his Social Contract Theory. I knew I wanted to combine social activism, and theory, while also displaying my writing, photography and design skills. After talking with my Serbian and German roommates for hours in our common room of our flat near Elephant and Castle station in South London, “Citizen” was born.

“Citizen” became my senior thesis, a philanthropic magazine about local citizens in Philadelphia who were going out and bettering their communities. Knowing the magnitude of my work ahead of me, I started working on Citizen in the beginning of my senior year, long before most seniors even nailed down their project ideas. I wrote articles, took photos and designed mastheads. I created featured column names, as well as loose ideas for branding. The last semester of my senior year, I took a newspaper/magazine studio course in addition to my capstone thesis studio class to ensure my passion project would get finished.

By the end of my senior year I had a fully functional magazine. Had I handed it to someone on the street, they would have believed it to be a real magazine. My hard work earned me the Writing for Graphic Design award at the Senior Graphic Design Banquet. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully let the significance of that award sink in (at this time, I still couldn’t take a compliment). At the end of my senior year, I was exhausted, and couldn’t stand to look at the magazine any longer. I had ate, slept and breathed Citizen, for more than an entire year. It was the embodiment of all of my talents, from conception to final product through my sweat, stress and tears.

After college, I worked independently as a screen printer and graphic designer while trying to figure out ways to take Citizen to the next level, a real, functioning magazine. But the exhaustion after completing design school coupled with zero start up capital, made it truly difficult to jump start my dream. I found safety in getting a job in education. It was a stable job, steady income, good benefits and hours, plus I knew I could go anywhere and find a teaching job. I switched fields and that’s where I’ve been for over 10 years, up until this week.

Although I have a teaching job lined up for August, I will be currently unemployed for a month and a half. The lack of income during this uncertain time definitely has me on edge, but when I spoke to my mom, she again referred back to her acknowledgement those 26 years ago, “Brittany, you’re a writer, take this time to focus on your writing.” She put into words what I had been inherently feeling, the need to take this time to dive back into my passion.

At 2:15 early this morning, after waking up to a stroke of genius, a fluid stream of consciousness, I’m writing this…

I, Brittany Bigley, am a writer, and from here on out, I’m going to start acting like one.

The Right Moment, At the Right Time

Have you ever had the feeling that you were exactly where you needed to be? Maybe you caught that perfect sunset on the ocean, sat beside the right stranger who becomes your next partner, or read the right book that gives you your next inspiration?

It can be hard to slow down to notice these little moments, but once you start paying attention you find the more you’re in the right place at the right time. Little signs from the Universe, from God, from your Higher Power, whatever spiritual deity you subscribe to, help to show you are on the right path. Will you take time to notice?

What moment made you stop and take notice? Was there a time you knew you were on your right path? I’d love to read your comments below!

Wednesday Wisdom: Walking Away— It’s Not Selfish, It’s Self Love!

I wrote this post about waking away from my teaching job in Camden, NJ in 2016, a year ago. Little did I know I’d be finding myself in a similar situation, walking away from renewing my teaching contract a few days ago. BUT the motives behind leaving both jobs are the same.

I’m coming on almost two years on an important anniversary, the day in which I left my job and my life as I knew it, throwing myself into the unknown to go on a soul searching adventure half way across the globe. Reflecting on the last two years of my life, there are a few life lessons I’ve learned that I think are worth sharing, and one in particular, learning when to walk away.

Let me set the scene of my reality one year ago:  Six months prior I lost my father. Although I subconsciously knew he didn’t have much time left (several months before his death I had a “feeling” I needed to repair our complicated relationship), the loss was sudden. Still dealing with unresolved grief from his passing, and feeling stuck at a job that perpetuated my already intrinsic belief, I am not enough, I had breakdowns during my morning commute daily. Feeling utterly lost, my passion and satisfaction with life dwindling, my dissatisfaction consumed me. Just like anyone confronted with an existential crisis, I decided to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, hoping I’d find direction, purpose, a sign. Three pages into the prologue, the Aha! moment hit me square in the gut as I read Paulo’s words:

“Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter 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 and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.”

ProLOGUE, The Alchemist

Sitting there reading Coelho’s description of the slow death of one’s soul when we do not follow our personal legend, warm tears flowed endlessly down my cheeks. I knew I was not living my personal calling, and as I read his words I became acutely aware of the crushing weight caused by the “bearable suffering” I had been tolerating for many years. In that moment, I realized I needed to take action to save my soul from its creeping fate. I shut the book, and bawled until I regained enough strength and awareness to continue reading. I read the book in two nights, the fastest I had ever read ANY book.

I started reading The Alchemist on a Sunday and by that Thursday I handed in my letter of resignation. Although I felt relief and excitement the moment I handed in my resignation, I also felt guilt, shame, embarrassment. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was a failure. I harbored what I perceived to be other people’s judgement and let that influence my self- talk. I am abandoning my colleagues. I’m not strong enough to stay. I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. I’m a failure. I’m not good enough.

I made this decision without consulting one important person, my mother, and with good reason (love you mom!). I was most hesitant to admit to my mother that I had quit my job, without any plan for a new one.  I expected I’d get bombarded with judgement riddled questions such as, “Do you have another job lined up? How are you going to pay your bills? How are you going to get insurance?” When I did tell her, and after asking those first few questions, she also inquired “So what are you going to do now?”

Humbly, I asked if I could move home, to take some time to process my grief, learn more about self-care, and save money. Thankfully, she agreed. 

During those two months, despite doing the tough work to heal myself, my social anxiety peaked and I was caught up in a debilitating depression. My embarrassment over quitting my job affected my self -confidence which presented as awkwardness and silence in social settings. I confined myself to my mother’s house, to work on my self-healing. Ultimately though, after the two months of healing, I set myself up for success to unnerve myself and go solo backpacking around Australia, and in the end move to Colorado, the place I knew to be my home since visiting at age 15.

I learned one very valuable lesson during this time, there is no shame in walking away, or quitting something that no longer aligns with your values, your worth or your integrity. Had I stayed at my job and still be living in Philadelphia, my soul would surely be crushed by the weight of not living my life’s purpose. Therefore I’ve changed my views on quitting something midway, or walking away when it no longer resonates. It’s not selfish, it’s self love!

When the offer was on the table to renew my teaching contract a few days ago, I remembered this feeling, the crushing weight of not living my life’s purpose, and for that reason I declined to renew. I have no idea what my next move is, and yes it’s anxiety inducing, but I know I’m making space for an opportunity that is more aligned with my soul’s purpose. Here I am jumping, making the leap of faith, as I know the net will be revealed… slowly but surely!

All You Need Is Within You

Do you find yourself looking outside of yourself for love, for comfort, for validation?
Yea, you aren’t alone. We’ve become a culture of addicts: substances, porn, food, tv, sex, social media, love, people… seeking outside stimulation all in an effort to find “comfort” and regulate our emotional state.

Does gorging on pizza make you feel better after a stressful day? Sure, its an immediate, temporary reprieve from the chaos within. But what does it do to your long term physical and emotional health? Does having multiple one night stands help to fill the void deep inside? It’s true, having sex is instant gratification, but it doesn’t come close to the true intimacy and connection you’re relentlessly searching for?

What if instead of looking outside yourself for love, comfort, connection and validation, you looked within? When you feel the yearning to get external validation, that gold star or pat on the back, go ahead and give it to yourself. If you are restlessly looking for love and connection with another, love yourself first.

What you seek on the outside, your soul is asking you to cultivate from within. You hold the power inside yourself. Stop giving it away freely. You are your own teacher, healer, lover, friend.

What are you seeking outside of yourself? What do you need to carefully cultivate from within? I’m focusing on cultivating a self-love so deep, no rejection, or hurt can demoralize me. Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comment section. If this post resonates with you or makes you think of a friend, feel free to share!

Ask This Question Before You Make a Decision…

“How would I describe my relationship with my Higher Self?”

Sitting in bed, snuggled in my lavender colored blankets, I read the journal prompt in Catherine Solange’s The Road to Intimacy Beyond Codependence and sat there stymied. Relationship? Non-existent. I gaffed.

In all honesty, though, I consider myself pretty lucky. For most of my life I’ve been in tune with my Higher Power (I called it my intuition). She’s kept in contact through different modalities. Sometimes she’s a still, small voice, like the one you hear in the movie Eat, Pray, Love when Julia Robert’s character, Liz, is on the bathroom floor crying and you hear a voice whisper “Go back to bed Liz”. Most of the time, she comes through as an overall sense of “knowing” and most recently she got through to me in a flash vision of a car accident, two stop lights before I totaled my Subaru. Startling to say the least.

Despite my Higher Power’s best efforts to keep me in line, I’ll admit I’m fucking stubborn. I’m well aware of my personality flaw: I buck the system, stick it to the man, disregard orders, typically do the opposite of what I’m told out of spite. My unwillingness to listen/trust my intuition has not been without headaches and misfortunes, some situations having a lasting impact from the resulting trauma.

 Laying there, reading that question again, I pondered, Relationship? 

I wasn’t wrong in thinking that my relationship with my Higher Self is non-existent. A relationship, I argue, requires a back-and-forth, give-and-take, between two entities. For 30+ years I have been the passive receiver, only hearing, knowing or seeing messages from my Higher Power. 

So like I can talk to her? About anything? That’s when my epiphany happened!

What if she was my personal consultant? What if I conferred with her before every decision to see if I have her approval?

Had I used my Higher Power as my personal consultant in my 33 years, my life would be COMPLETELY different! She’d have steered away from toxic relationships, situations and places of work. I wouldn’t have sexual, emotional or physical trauma to have to work through. My therapist, Jennifer, would be making a lot less money! 😉

I know I can’t rewind the clock (cue Cher: “If I could turn back time…“). I also realize that my past has made me the resilient, empathetic person I am today, therefor I’m looking to the future. From this day forward I’ll start asking my Higher Self, “Is this in alignment with who I am?” and watch how my life changes. From here on out, I’ll be divinely guided.

Do you have a relationship with your Higher Self? Do you talk to her/him or does he/she contact you? What would you ask your Higher Self? I’d love to know! Please share in the comments below.

Fall In Love With the Process, Not the Results

The start of the new year brings with it New Year’s resolutions, intentions of creating life changes within the next 365 days. Yet according to U.S. News & World Report, about 80 percent of people will fail to attain their resolution, most quitting around mid-February.

There are a host of reasons as to why some give up their resolve, from lack of discipline, lack of clarity, or the lack of belief of achieving said goals. But I argue, maybe it’s the way we look at resolutions, glorifying the end result, not the process.

In reality, who really enjoys the process? It’s difficult to get excited about heading to the gym for a strenuous workout and sticking to the routine for an entire year. It’s a challenge to commit to a budget day in and day out. The process is uncomfortable, mundane, repetitive, boring, a struggle. But what if this is where we can change our mindsets, to embrace the process wholeheartedly?

In the age of insta-everything, the world literally at our fingertips, its a natural impulse to want to jump straight to the end, but that isn’t where we grow and develop our character. Our character is molded in the deep trenches of the process, fighting the urge to splurge on a “treat yo’ self” milkshake, or not abandoning yourself during a grueling rep of 20 burpees at the gym. These are the successful little wins that make up the collective victory, and I argue those moments are more important for lasting success than the sweet taste of triumph conquering the resolution.

Plus end results are are fleeting. Once you hit that target weight, it’s possible and even probable that the weight comes back. After obtaining the set dollar amount in your bank account, the endorphin rush of spending that moolah dissipates almost instantly. I’ve reached summits of mountains, and without even enjoying my summit snack or the gorgeous view, I’ve decided on the next peak to conquer.

So let’s not create resolutions but create life style changes by falling in love with the process. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Get intimate with repetition and routine. Be open to the struggle. Embracing the process means accepting that mistakes and setbacks WILL happen, but how you recover from them is where strength and grit are forged. Loving the process means, you get more enjoyment out of each moment. When you fully focus on the process, the results and resolutions will come naturally.

What process are you ready to fully embrace this year? What obstacles have you come across so far? Feel free to share in the comments below!

And So, It Begins…

Nothing is as exhilarating as starting off on a brand new adventure! Roused with anticipation, a combination of nerves and enthusiasm, untarnished by failures or mistakes, it’s an idea in its purest form. With any new adventure there are inevitable unknowns that prompt cautious excitement as your mind attempts to fill in the blanks, an evolutionary physiological response to anticipate what lies ahead. The suspense, it’s what ignites the flight of butterflies in your stomach, your heart to race, your breath to become shallow, terrified yet fixed on the heightened state of arousal.

Often though, long before the adrenaline high of a new adventure, one must mourn the loss and grieve the death of the past self. It’s the natural duality of beginnings, they are prefaced by an inevitable conclusion, at times sneakily disguised as painful endings. Could that be why we are scared of change?

Yes, letting go can be painful, especially when we are clenching tightly to a life that no longer serves us. But letting go can also be gloriously invigorating, as if diving bare ass naked, head first into a polar plunge.

Whether you are stimulated with excitement or you’re still learning to gracefully release with gratitude, I invite you to embrace that which lies ahead of you with enthusiasm and courage. Now’s the time to proceed with curiosity and wonder. Here’s to a new year, a new decade, and all of the unknowns that you’re sure to encounter.

Happy New Year! May 2020 bring you bountiful blessings beyond your wildest expectations.

And so, it begins

Monday Motivation: Speak, Visualize, Then Manifest

At the last TEDx COS event, I went to the after party and met one of the speaker coaches, Bob. I confessed to him that I aspire to be a public speaker and to give a TEDx talk.

He asked me very poignantly, “Did you make it to the stage tonight?”

I paused and looked at him with confusion.

“You know, to visualize yourself on stage,” he continued.

This past weekend, when I attended the second TEDx COS event, I made sure to take Bob’s advice and get on stage, to look out at the sea of seats and envision what it would be like to tell my story to a large audience.

It was a tad intimidating, AND embarrassing, walking past the TEDx production crew, speakers and volunteers to get to the red dot where the speakers stand and look out at the empty auditorium. Cue my self-doubt : you’re intimidated now, the seats are empty, just wait until they are filled with people watching you! My heart beat faster.

I took a deep breath and told my negative committee to sit down and shut up. I’ll ensure I’m more than prepared to give a talk about my story, I thought. After all, shouldn’t I be the expert of my own story?!

For an introvert, the possibility of speaking in front of hundreds of strangers does continue to make my heart palpitate abnormally fast, yet at the same time, I’m intrigued with the idea. Mainly, I want to overcome my fear of public speaking and I feel that my story is worthy of sharing.

I’m going to apply for the next round of speakers for the spring of 2020, and I’ll see what transpires. But for now I’m keeping that vision of speaking on a TEDx stage in focus, bringing my story to life and speaking my truth to inspire others.

Special thanks to the staff, speakers and volunteers at the September 2019 TEDx COS event who put on a wonderful event. I’ll be seeing you next year!

And to those of you reading who have a dream: speak it into words, tell someone trusted and safe, then tell strangers. Visualize your dream happening. Feel like it has already happened. That’s when the universe will reward you with what you’ve been speaking and visualizing, bringing it to life!