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!
I distinctly remember when I noticed something wasn’t okay. I was sitting in a beginner’s meditation class, focusing on my breath, attempting to do a body scan. My normal pitfall, monkey brain (racing thoughts, the inability to stay present) wasn’t the issue. In an attempt to scan my body, I noticed a disconnect, an inability to feel my chest or from my navel on down. Rationally, I knew my chest, hips, pelvis and legs were in tact, but I looked down just to get a visual confirmation.
Curious to understand, I brought it up with my massage therapist. She stated that maybe my body had experienced trauma and was shut down as a result. She recommended I see psycho-somatic trauma release therapist named Jennifer, and the rest became history.
For my first appointment with Jennifer I was excited yet anxious. Going to multiple therapists before, both in my hometown and current city, and I knew it could be hit or miss. It all came down to “can I open myself up to her, allow myself to be vulnerable?”, ultimately, “Do I trust her?”
Walking into the office, I looked at her set up, her chair in one corner, my chair in the other. “Can I lay down?” I asked her.
“Absolutely!” she responded, “whatever your body needs.”
I paused and took note: whatever my body needs.
I ended up snuggled among pillows and blankets, laying on a pad on the floor.
She asked me where I wanted to start, if I had any physical traumas I wanted to unpack.
“I had a traumatic brain injury in high school,” I commented.
I began talking about my concussion that ended my promising soccer career. I gave her details of the field, what position I was playing, who I saw, what I saw right before I landed. I described feeling out of body afterwards, and how everyone mentioned that I looked drunk running around the field, running in the opposite direction, stumbling.
Taking notes, Jennifer paused and asked the simple question, “Did anyone tell you you were safe afterwards.”
Stunned by the question, I hesitated then answered with a single word: NO
Jennifer had me hold the part of my head that hit the ground, and tell it, and my body, I was safe.
Taking a deep breath in, gathering confidence, I stated “You’re safe.”
In a dizzying frenzy, the room spun out of control, I felt nauseous, I closed my eyes. Immediately, Jennifer had me open them and pick out five things in the room that were blue.
In rapid fire, I spit out, “the wall, the tapestry, the light, the vase, the bottle.” My body slowly returning to the present moment with each blue object I found.
That session ended, not before making sure I felt safe emotionally and physically after the reorientation. The rest of that week I felt pretty raw and vulnerable. I equate it to a scab being torn back open to scoop out the festering, putrid rotten insides, to then have the burning sensation from the rubbing alcohol to ensure its proper healing. Although I wanted to do nothing but hide from the world to address my wound in private, I noticed that my generalized anxiety, that heightened sense of alertness, always on edge, had dissipated.
My thoughts were clearer. I was present in the moment. Emotional triggers lessened. I could make decisions faster and with less worry. I felt… myself again.
Over the course of the year in therapy, I’ve had similar experiences where my body reoriented, or re-calibrated itself. After I sent my mom to the moon in a sound proof box (I love you mom!), my hips magically relaxed. After I turned my boundaries, that I originally described as an “open field of grass with a flowing breeze”, into a fortress with locks and motes and alligators ready to attack, the lump in my throat disappeared and I was able to state my physical and emotional boundaries more easily. Each time, I began to feel more and more present, less anxious, less depressed, less triggered. I felt I could give genuinely, from an authentic place, to my students at school, to my friends and family. I was less tired, had more vitality and my creative energy emerged.
Now I pay more attention to my body. I pay attention when it shuts down around certain people and when it feels at its best around others. I pay attention to the still, small voice of my intuition. Now after a year with Jennifer, more often than not, its a loud, decisive voice telling me what I should do or shouldn’t do.
I’m eternally thankful for Jennifer. I no longer call her my therapist but my healer. She has helped me return to my authentic self after two solid decades in hiding. I’ve recommended her to several friends, some of whom have taken my advice and called her. If you are in the Colorado Springs area, and looking for a therapist I highly and strongly recommend her. If you are outside of the Springs and looking for a form of therapy to relieve anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, or addiction, then I recommend looking into psycho-somatic trauma release.
If you are looking for resources about psycho-somatic trauma release, read Peter Levine’s books, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma and In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Somatic Trauma Release helps relieve trauma symptoms such as anxiety, depression, OCD, ADD, addiction andothers by relieving physical tension/stored energy that haven’t been released since the original trauma occurred. By safely and properly releasing tension/energy, the somatic symptoms of trauma are greatly reduced and in some cases eventually dissipate completely.
(Editor’s Note: Jennifer Kelly is a somatic processing therapist in Colorado Springs, Co. You can inquire about therapy and book an appointment with her at her website Divine Insight . This article was written independently of Jennifer and her business, and is not intended to be an advertisement. I have her permission to publish her contact and business information, at no cost to her. It’s merely a resource for those who may be looking for a therapist in the Springs area.)
Do not shame me for talking too long with you at the bar. Just because I enjoy a good conversation does not mean I’m interested.
Do not shame me for dancing enthusiastically with my friends at the club. Just because I love to express myself doesn’t give you permission to dance up on me, or touch me inappropriately.
Do not shame me for expressing my emotions, calling me “too emotional” or “you’re overreacting” just because you’re too insecure and uncomfortable, and not in touch with your emotions.
Do not shame me for listening to my intuition. Do not call me “crazy”, when deep down I know that something isn’t right, that you’re cheating, that you’re pulling away.
Do not shame me for dressing up and feeling sexy. Do not shame me and cover me up because you cannot handle your sexual impulses.
Do not shame me for sending nude photos to my, then, boyfriend. You know who should be shamed? Him, for leaking the nudes.
Do not shame me for setting strict boundaries at work, stating I’m too difficult to work with because I won’t freely give my time and energy. Both my time and energy are precious resources, and I’m very discerning as to how I give them away.
Do not shame me for setting strict boundaries in my relationships. I’m selective of how and with whom I spend my time.
Do not shame me for standing up against my abuser, my assailant, the person who violated my trust, my boundaries, my safety. I will not be shamed into staying quiet and compliant; I won’t stay a victim any longer. My voice, my story will be heard!
Do not shame me because I chose my career over having a family. I am following my path, not yours.
Do not shame me because I chose a family over a career. I am following my path, not yours.
Do not shame me for putting happiness, wholeness and self-love above all else. I cannot give my talents and strengths if my “cup” is empty.
Do not shame me into becoming your salvation, your life raft, your caretaker. Just because you’re searching for completeness doesn’t mean I’ll allow you to become co-dependent.
I have a right to express myself, verbally, physically and emotionally. I have a right to body autonomy. I have a right to have my story, my voice, be heard. I have a right feel safe. I have a right to be loved, without expectations. I have a right to walk down the street, to be in a conversation, to be in any interaction where my body is not made mention, verbally, non-verbally or physically implied.
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.
I 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!”
“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”.
Sunday 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.
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!
“So Why Are You Afraid of Intimate Relationships?”
Those were the words a friend asked on Sunday that have still stuck with me since spoken. The question hit me like a punch to the gut. I broke down immediately.
It was a topic my therapist had also sneakily asked when I was separating my fears, a visualization exercise to help me separate my own fears and my mother’s fears that she instilled in me growing up. I was taking stock of my fears and packing up ones that no longer served their purpose.
“Fear of intimacy?” She asked. It took a second for me process, as it wasn’t a fear I had identified on my own prior to the sorting exercise.
“Keep,” I responded, my therapist glancing at me with a smile, both of us knowing it was a short term protective measure I’d be revisiting soon.
Why the fear of intimacy? Intimacy requires a high degree of vulnerability and trust. It requires Opening myself up, all of myself, the light and the dark, to be seen and deeply understood.
Maybe my fear stems from opening up and being hurt in the past. Maybe I’m afraid because my models for intimate relationships were completely dysfunctional, whereas instead of equating intimacy to trust, compassion and respect, I equate it to abandonment, loss and rejection. Maybe I’ve felt safest keeping those I love at a distance. Maybe in order to be intimate with another I must first love and illuminate the darkest parts within me, to make peace with them.
Since Sunday I’ve been ruminating on this. Since Sunday I’ve known this is the next fear I need to tackle. Since Sunday I’ve been an emotional wreck, waiting with anticipation to unpack and process this fear in therapy.