Home Is In My Heart

I recently went on a trip back home – to the Philadelphia suburbs where I grew up!

I haven’t been able to go back for almost 3 years, and I have been aching for it so much.

So, when I managed to find a $250 RT ticket from Salt Lake (absolutely unheard of!) I jumped on it and was on my way!

Her Heart Is In Our Hearts

I spent my first night back in Wallingford, PA with my mom’s best friend and her husband. We spent hours catching up, and reminiscing about my mom and all of our memories from when we all lived down the street from one another. We laughed a lot, and we cried a lot too.

I needed that, I desperately needed to spend that time with her and feel as if my mom were in the room with us too, laughing at the old stories and remembering all the good times. Being around her, I feel so close to my mom because she carries a huge piece of my mom inside her heart and I needed to be close to that for even just a few hours; it was so healing and so vital.

My heart felt a little less heavy from sorrow and a little more full of joy after I spent that time with them.

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The Court House in Media, Pennsylvania all decked out for the holidays 

Holidays are the Hardest

After Thanksgiving, my heart has been holding this heavy sadness for my mom – I mean, I miss her all the time but the holiday season is always just a little bit harder. After dinner was done and all of my siblings and I left my Dad’s house, I went home alone. But, instead of going straight home and putting on some holiday movie by myself, I decided to take a detour and go visit my mom in the cemetery.

I brought her a Diet Coke like I always do, because it was her drink of choice. It was freezing, about 29 degrees and it was very dark except for the few grave-sites that had lighted fixtures on them around me on the hill.

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Cheers Mom. Miss you everyday.

There in the darkness I cried – and not just some tears, I full on ugly cried. I felt pathetic, but I think I needed to let it out and feel my grief in that moment. Sometimes I try to hold it all in and just deal with it, when in reality I need to own my pain and my sadness and feel it – really feel it. Because the reason it hurts so damn much is because I loved her, so damn much. And that love will never change.

My House

The next day before meeting up with a friend, I had to go see my childhood house. I can’t  go to the place I grew up and NOT go see my house!

I drove down the familiar roads, not even needing GPS even though I haven’t lived there for 15 years; it is all just so deeply ingrained and I remember it all!

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I will never forget this house!

Finally pulling up to my house, I pulled the car over across the street and just stared at it. I wanted to go knock on the door and ask if I could go see the inside of it, but I didn’t want the people who live there (in MY house) to think I was some kind of crazy person.

So, instead, I sat across the street and admired it, remembering so many memories as they all rushed over me. I lived there from 18 months to 18 years old, so almost half of my life! Remembering the girl who lived in that front window, she seemed like such a ghost compared to the girl sitting in the car now.

Feeling so sentimental, and still missing my mom and my family being all together for so many years in that place, I was suddenly crying there on the side of the road. And I’m sure anyone driving by must have thought something was wrong; but I mean, wasn’t there?

And one man actually was worried, and he stopped his car next to mine and waved me to roll my window down. He was a gray haired older man with an incredibly kind smile, although his eye full of concern.

“Are you ok sweetheart?” he asked in his thick Delco accent.

“Oh… yep! I’m Okay, thank you!” I responded, feeling stupid for crying on the side of the road trying my best to wipe my face.

“Are you lost? Can I help you with directions somewhere?” He offered.

I wanted to respond no, because I knew where I was and where I needed to go, but in the moment I responded, “You know, I am a little lost. But I think I can find my way.”

“We all get lost from time to time, but remember there is always someone around that can help you find where you need to go!”

After profusely convincing him I was ok, he drove off, but his words stayed with me.

Lost But Not Forever

I stayed there in front of my old house for awhile, just thinking about life.

That man’s kindness and his words meant more to me that I think he could have known in those moments we spoke.

The truth is, we are all lost sometimes – but not forever. And we even lose pieces of ourselves too – but they aren’t lost forever either; not always.

And just like that kind man said, there is always someone around who can help us find where we need to go.

Finding My Way Back

This trip home for me, I hoped would help me recover pieces of myself that I have lost. This town, and area, was where I was raised, where I figured out the beginnings of who I was and what I wanted.

Important steps and parts of myself were created and developed here; some of my most painful memories also culminated there. But you need the hard times to help you see your own strength and resilience, and to appreciate the good times more.

Going back to your home – to your roots wherever they may be – is important. It is an necessary place to return to occasionally, to feel that part of yourself again. If it’s been lost, you can try to replace it where it all started.

Or if there are painful things associated with your home, you can also go to face those old demons and finally let them go. This is also an important step on the road to self-discovery.

Home Is In My Heart

I ended that portion of my trip to the east coast with a dinner in Media with 3 of my closest girlfriends from high school.

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We laughed, reminisced, and caught up with each other. I hardly ever get to see them, and every time I do it is magical and so healing to my heart. I am continually grateful that we are all still friends and keep in touch, even though we live so far apart.

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3 of the best women on the planet

That night as I lay in bed I thought of that old saying:

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

And as sappy as I always used to think it is, it is so valid and so true; especially now that I live so far from the place I consider home.

My home is inside my heart, I carry it with me everywhere. My friends, my family, the places I hold such fond memories of, the ones I’ve loved and the ones I’ve lost too; they’re all in there in my heart.

So maybe in a way I’m not really lost, I think those pieces of myself are still in there inside me, they’ve just become buried under everything else that I’ve been facing and dealing with.

But my home, the place where the real “me” resides, is always with me in my heart.

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Walking through Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA

 

Life Cleanse

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If you knew something was going to make you sick, or potentially kill you, aka its toxic, would you drink it anyway?

I’m hoping all of you answered no!

So, with that out-of-the-way here’s another question: if you’re willing to avoid ingesting toxic things, then why are you not willing to cut out or avoid other toxic things in your life as well?

There are so many aspects of our lives these days that have become toxic, yet we continue to subject ourselves to them everyday. But why?!

Think about it this way, with my little analogy:

You have an amazing car that you treat like it’s your first-born child. And in this car you spend a little extra to only fill it with the expensive premium gas.

Why then, are you not willing to fill yourself with ‘premium’ too? Premium relationships that uplift you and support you, premium food that nourishes your body and makes you healthy, or premium use of your time instead of wasting it on things or people who don’t matter?

We must detox ourselves from the things that are slowly poisoning our lives, and opt to live a more premium lifestyle.

So here’s my own personal guide on how to detox your life! Keep reading for more 🙂

Identify the Toxins

In order to cleanse your life, you have to know what exactly is toxifying it!

So here are 8 of the most common toxic things in our lives to help you figure out yours:

  1. Harmful friendships
  2. Unhealthy eating habits
  3. Unfulfilling career
  4. Clutter : in your house, your closet, your car etc.
  5. All work and no play
  6. Social media addiction
  7. Wanting what you can’t have
  8. Negative self-talk

Now that you have an idea of what the toxins in your life are, here is a run through of how you can go about cleansing them from your system!

Harmful Friendships

It’s true that we as humans are genetically social creatures, and we have filled our lives with friendships and relationships to fulfill our constant need for communication and interaction; among of course, other needs.

Sometimes, however, these relationships can become negative and even harmful. It happens, not every egg is a good one. Think about the golden eggs from Willy Wonka, the bad eggs happened every so often and needed to be disposed of down the garbage shoots. So, it’s time to dispose of the bad eggs in your own life!

A friend should be someone who loves you and supports you no matter what. The people you can call day or night with your problems, your concerns, your funny stories, and your tears. After all, your friends are the family that you get to choose!

So, why would you choose to be friends with someone who isn’t good for you?

Maybe they’re fun sometimes, and invite you to cool parties or every once in awhile do something nice for you. But, if they are not making you feel good, supported, loved, or happy why bother letting them in?

A bad friend is someone who talks about you behind your back, or even talks badly to your face and cuts you down. They use you for your friendship, and only take from you what they want and need; and they never reciprocate. They are fair-weather friends, who only come around when they need something from you and that’s all.

Listen people, this isn’t elementary school where we have to send Valentines cards to everyone in our class, or invite everyone to our birthday parties because it’s the right thing to do; we are adults now and ain’t nobody got time for people who aren’t good for us!

So do yourself a favor and cut those people from your life who are not good for you! Yes, it is important to be kind, always! But this also means you need to be kind to yourself; so they have got to go.

Unhealthy Eating Habits

This one is a tough one – trust me, I know!

But back to my car analogy : why not put premium fuel into your body like you do with your vehicle?

The old saying “you are what you eat” is so much more valid than any of us want to admit on those days that we binge on chocolate, donuts, and all the breads. But, despite our denial, what we eat greatly affects everything inside of us!

Unhealthy eating habits can zap your energy, and also cause you to have trouble sleeping! Quite the bad combination!

Bad food choices can also obviously make you gain weight, hurt your heart, cause depression and anxiety, and overall just make you feel sluggish.

Reading all of that, you can’t honestly be OK with any of those consequences, am I right?

But like I said, I get it! Eating healthy alllll the time is hard! But trying to eat healthy as much as possible, and allowing certain times where you can indulge in treats or having a “cheat meal” is the better route to go.

Start by writing out a meal plan, and trying to stick to it! And schedule the day you’re going to have your cheat meal, to give you something to look forward to!

Eating healthy does not have to be boring or bland either; it can still be incredibly delicious and satisfying! Some of my favorite recipes come from the Whole30 cookbooks, which you can find all of those here. Or, get creative and find a new healthy recipe you want to try on Pinterest or from a friend!

Start fueling your body with the premium healthy food that it needs, and cleanse yourself from all the toxins that unhealthy eating habits can add! The higher quality the fuel, the more miles the vehicle will go 😉

Unfulfilling Career

Now this is one that I personally can testify to. Working in a job or field where you find no fulfillment or passion for is soooo exhausting and demotivating.

It’s hard enough to go to work everyday, but having an unfulfilling job makes that 1000 times worse.

If you find yourself in this situation, take a real serious look into what it is you really want to do with your life and your career.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are your long term goals for your career?
  • What makes you feel fulfilled?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What are you strengths in a career choice?

After you figure some of those answers out, start looking into what it is you really want to do. Look up jobs, research career options, or even school!

Me? My current dream is to work in the humanitarian field full time. I’ve been researching some schools I could go to to receive a Master’s in global humanities. It will be a lot of work, and most definitely will involve me moving to a different state (or even a different country!) but if I dream big enough I can make it become my reality.

Just like you can! Figure out what you really want to do, and make it happen.

Clutter

We all have it. Its everywhere: in our kitchens, our basements, our bedrooms, our cars, and especially in our closets. CLUTTER!

Have you seen those shows where they go into someone’s home who is a hard-core hoarder?? Now I know most of us are not that extremely infected by clutter, but even just a small amount of clutter and mess can affect our everyday lives.

Compare it to your mind: if you mind is bombarded and crowded with lots of different, and mostly meaningless thoughts, it has trouble focusing on the things that it needs to! Well, the same goes for everywhere we live, work, and exist in.

If there is clutter, it can subconsciously cause stress and anxiety, make you feel lazy and less motivated, and honestly it makes you less desirable sometimes.

Have you heard that saying that says something like “dress for the job you want?” Well, create your space for the life you want to live!

Anytime my room is a mess, I feel like my life is also a mess. When I’m clean, organized, and have no clutter; my life reflects that as well.

Do yourself a solid and de-clutter! Start small, and little by little your entire life will be made-over!

All Work and No Play

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Or, Aly a dull girl.

This proverb, whose origination is unclear, basically is saying if all you do is work and you never take time to relax or do other things you love; your life will be dull and you will be bored and/or boring.

Think about Rhianna’s song Work. The lyrics are so monotonous, basically saying over and over again “work work work work work.” And Rhianna herself couldn’t sound any more bored as she slurs those words in the song! Right?? All work makes even Rhianna a dull girl.

My point is, it’s great to be a hard-working and motivated person; but you also need to take the time for you! Otherwise your work can become toxic to your happiness.

Go do your favorite hobbies, relax and read, go hiking, go to the gym; whatever makes you happy!

Bottom line: take the time for “you” time! Because who wants to live a dull life? I’m pretty sure no-one!

Social Media Addiction

I know I just wrote a whole post about my social media fast here. But I could definitely go on and on about how important it is to break our very real addictions to social media.

Obviously, there are some very great and useful reasons for social media!

On the other hand, there are also some bad things that stem from it as well.

Comparison is the thief of joy, and unfortunately it’s hard to not compare your life to everyone’s seemingly perfect and fun life as you scroll through your feeds. I mean, who are these young attractive people with perfect bodies, who only ever seem to go on vacations and travel??

Well, the truth is no one wants to post the nitty-gritty and bad parts of our lives for the world to see; we want to post beautiful, fun, well edited, and cleverly captioned photos.

So we don’t see the truth.

As soon as we can realize reality versus what is posted on social media, then it can still be something we can keep in our lives. But that’s definitely a distinction you need to make clear within yourself!

Also, it’s addicting as hell! Literally it has become a habit for me to pick up my phone and open Instagram or Facebook without even thinking!

And what an incredible time-waster too! There have been moments, I will admit, where I will open a funny video of a cute dog or some sort of animal, and end up scrolling for almost an hour in a feed of animal videos before I even realize it! Like HELLO! Addicted. But don’t judge me… I know y’all are obsessed with the cute animal videos just like I am 😉

We have to make efforts to cut ourselves off from social media. After my fast of 7 days, I made it a goal to only get on social media during certain hours of the day, and the rest of the day I’m forbidden to look at them.

It’s tough, I won’t lie, but it makes SUCH a difference!

Go ahead and try it, or do a full fast/cleanse of your own! You’ll realize how toxic social media can become, and how much better you’ll feel when you break your addiction.

Wanting What You Can’t Have

Story of my life.

Story of anyone’s life who is dating, has dated, or will someday date.

Story of … well, long story short, of everyone in the world relating to just about anything!

Why do we always want what we can’t have? I honestly think its just a defense mechanism embedded within our DNA to keep us driven; to keep us wanting more and chasing bigger and better dreams.

But, the downfall is sometimes we can end up lusting for things that we can never have; and in some cases, shouldn’t ever have.

It’s ok to dream and to have a goal to achieve something you want, or to try to date someone you really like. BUT, it is not healthy to obsess and lust after something so intensely and so badly when it is something that you may never reach.

Knowing the difference, and having a healthy balance of wanting what you can’t have opposed to what you can have. Just don’t let the appeal of wanting what you can’t have poison your happiness! It’s like baking with vanilla extract; a little bit can perfectly flavor your life, but too much and it’s toxic!

Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is a tough habit to break. That ugly, self-doubting, and ruthless bully in my head started in my early teenage years and still reappears every so often to cut me down. We can be our own worst critics, and it can poison our self-confidence!

Something I have learned to do to help silence the negative voice, is positive affirmations. Sounds cheesy, but they honestly work!

I like to read positive affirmations every morning when I wake up, to help start off my day with positive and motivating thoughts. I really believe that however you spend the first 20 minutes when you wake up can set the tone for the rest of the day!

Here’s a good one I focused on this morning:

I have survived every negative experience in my lifetime so far. I have not only survived, I have thrived.

To heal from any hurt, I must feel every emotion that I need to go through.

I never push my feelings down or try to cover them up. I face them, sit with them, learn and grow from them.

I find my strength through love. I am strong and so very powerful.

Try it out tomorrow morning! Find a positive affirmation, or something uplifting and inspiring, and read it and ponder on it when you first wake up. Let me know what you read in the comments!

The Life Cleanse

Try to figure out even just one or two things in your life that are becoming toxic waste to you, and are affecting you more deeply than you may even realize.

Cleansing your life from things that do you nothing but harm is so important. Take the time to remove things that are poisoning your happiness, and move forward in a new chapter in your life!

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Believe

Last year I volunteered to help at an event during the annual Sundance Film Festival that takes place in Park City, Utah.

The reason I was helping was because, at the time, I was friends with the person who asked me to. I had already worked a long day at my job during the film festival and I was definitely tired, but I told him I would be there; so I went.

I was supposed to work the front door with another girl, to make sure the right people were getting in who were on the list. After everyone made it inside, I stood by the front door leaning against the bar.

The event was not all that interesting to me, and I was counting down the minutes until I could go home and go to sleep. As I stood there an actor approached the bar to order a drink, and then casually started making conversation with me. In all honesty, I had no idea who he was, but he seemed nice at first.

However, he became a little too forward for my liking. He started off by asking if I was an actress, and I said no. Then he commented on how beautiful he thought I was, and that I should consider getting into the industry. I laughed it off, and hoped he would walk away soon – but he didn’t.

“So, you single?” he asked, giving me a real hard look up and down for the 50th time.

“Nope.”

“Oh, you gotta man? Is he here?” He looked around real quick to see if anyone was watching him.

“No, not a man; I’m dating myself. It’s a very committed relationship.”

I was hoping my sarcastic yet fairly obvious answer that I wanted to be left alone would stop his efforts, but they seemed to challenge him to try harder.

Things escalated very quickly, because he began to proposition me to go into the backroom bathroom with him where he guaranteed to “show me a good time” because he always “satisfied the ladies with no complaints.” He also tried to grab my hand to lead me back there.

I jerked my hand away. “Please leave me alone and don’t touch me, I’m not interested.” I was literally backed into a corner of the bar and the wall next to the front door, and felt slightly panicked. If he managed to drag me back there, would anyone even notice or care? The music was super loud and it was very crowded… maybe he really could?

He laughed and waved his hands in front of him as if trying to signal that he was stopping, and he reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his wallet and pull out a business card. “Why don’t you give me a call when you change your mind and want to have a good time,” he said as he proceeded to shove the card down my shirt into my bra. I snatched it immediately and ripped it up in his face, and left him with some very choice words as I ran to find my friend to have this guy kicked out.

I went and found him, and told him what happened. I expected him to be more upset, to go have security kick him out, and to have my back. But unfortunately, he didn’t. He looked first at my chest, because I had a low cut shirt on, and then he said, “Well, look at what you’re wearing.”

That’s all he said.

Because this actor was apparently a ‘somebody’ who mattered and was important, and I was this lowly little ‘nobody’ that didn’t matter. I was furious, disgusted, and disappointed.

The Blame

Society continues to put the blame and the shame on the survivors and not the attackers. In that moment, when my friend pointed out that I had a shirt that showed a little cleavage, he was telling me “because you are wearing something that shows a little skin, he has the right to try to force you to have sex with him in the bathroom.” And this gross logic of thinking is something that many in the world share.

So, let’s test this logic then, shall we?

Historically, women have been raped since the beginning of time, right? Think back to the dark ages, where women had to be covered from pretty much their necks down; Yet, rape was still happening. Interesting, considering they were mostly covered up.

Think of the Muslim women who wear Burqas, where literally everything is covered on their body except their eyes. Do you think that stops rape from occurring in their communities? No, it doesn’t.

Or, do you remember those supposedly cute little scenarios that often show up in any cartoon portraying the cave men? You know the one, where the male clubs the female over the head and then drags her into his cave by her hair? I have to wonder that the cavewoman was probably minding her own business, trying to forage and gather food in her animal-fur outfit just trying to stay warm and alive; not wanting any sort of sexual conduct with that caveman hiding in the bushes with his club. Yet, he took what he wanted when he wanted it.

My point is, the clothing that someone is wearing does not give someone else the right to rape them, or sexually assault them.

Yet, for centuries, we are blamed for “asking for it” with the way we dress. Fairly stupid logic, since even when we do fully cover up it seems to still happen.

You know why? Because clothing does not rape people – rapists rape people.

And putting the emphasis on the way women ‘need’ to dress and ‘should’ dress is putting the blame even more on us:

Well if you dress immodestly, you’re making us have impure thoughts, then we act upon those impure thoughts… and whatever we end up forcing on you, well that is your fault for how you dressed.

Is there a scenario where any of this makes sense? I haven’t found one yet.

The Shame

Back to Sundance…

I was beyond disappointed with my supposed friend’s response to what happened to me. I told him later in the car that just because I have a low cut shirt on does not give anyone the right to touch me or proposition me to have sex in a bathroom.

I don’t give a damn who that man was – he had absolutely no right to do what he did. And I am grateful that nothing beyond what did happen, happened. Because to the movie industry in Hollywood maybe he is a “somebody”… but so am I! Shaming me into silence or letting him do whatever he wants because of who the world thinks he is wrong. Every survivor of sexual assault and rape is a somebody to someone! We all matter! 

We can’t keep shaming people who come forward, and then supporting those who attacked them. Why does society immediately believe the accused rather than the one accusing? Everyone immediately thinks they are lying for attention, instead of being horrified about what they are actually claiming happened.

It makes me sick that society is always more willing to believe the attacker over the survivor. And that we then try to shame them to remain silent. And if they ever do find the courage to come forward and try to report it, no matter how long its been, they are always ridiculed and cut down.

If you’ve never been in the shoes of surviving sexual assault, then you’ll never understand how scary and difficult it is to come forward to tell someone what happened. Look at what we have to fight against just for people to believe us!

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, everyone ridiculed her for coming out now. Why now? Why did she wait so long to come forward about it? To many in society, it seemed just a smear campaign to ruin his run at becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

But, right now was the time. Because if her coming forward can help stop such a man from gaining more power, and protecting the future generations, then it is indeed the right time.

If we keep filling important and powerful positions in our government at this rate, we will eventually be ruled, governed, and groomed by Brock Turners, and Trumps, and Kavanaughs. So, Blasey-Ford stepping forward now will hopefully prevent that from happening. I stand with her, I believe her, and I want this to be another stepping stone on this #metoo campaign to continue to change the world.

“May our daughters have none of her trauma,

and all of her courage” – Jessica Clarendon

Believe

We all deserve to live in a world where we feel safe, loved, believed, and heard. Yesterday,  Blasey-Ford bravely testified in court about what happened, and she had the support of millions standing behind her holding her up. Her voice carried the silent voices of so many victims before her, who have never had the chance to speak their truths to try and take down their attackers.

Unfortunately her testimony did not stop him from being voted into the supreme court. Even so, I am still hopeful that maybe… just maybe… this will still be a good stepping stone to help us be heard.

As I’ve said before, I am a survivor myself. And I refuse to ever be silenced again about it. Because maybe there’s nothing I can do about my own rape that happened 15 years ago, but my courage to speak out may help someone else find justice for themselves. My voice may bring comfort to someone struggling with their own painful darkness. My words can help calm someone who is feeling triggered through all of this being blasted in the media right now.

To anyone reading this now, just know that you are not alone. Together we rise through this, and together we will break down the walls that oppress us. Because enough is enough. Keep going, keep fighting, and hold each other up. #timesup #believesurvivors #metoo

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It’s Just a Phase

If you know me, you know something that I love is the moon.

It always fascinated me as a child; I remember staring at it out the car window or my bedroom window, watching the phases grow larger and then smaller.

And it’s the phases of the moon that have particularly become most relevant to me in my life, the deeper symbolism behind it all.

The reason I have come to relate so much to the phases of the moon, is because of my history of cutting (and yes… I promise I will make the two connect!)

For those of you suddenly feeling uncomfortable about the topic of self-mutilation, self-harm, cutting etc… I’m not going to say sorry about it, because mental health needs to become less of a taboo topic and more freely spoken about. So for that reason, I invite you to keep reading. The more we know, the more we can understand and help those in our lives who are struggling!

The Beginning Phase

My own thoughts to cut started back when I was in middle school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My mom had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the year before, and I was still struggling everyday because of it all.

I had no name or even an idea yet of what these internal, emotional issues I was dealing with every day were. How could I? I was only 13 so at the time I still didn’t fully know what depression was supposed to look like or feel like; or that those awful bouts of feeling like the world was ending and I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was having a heart attack were really panic attacks.

Sitting in health class one day in 7th grade we were in the part of our curriculum where we learned about eating disorders, depression, suicide, and self-mutilation (which for the record: suicide and self-harm are two separate things. However, sometimes self-harm can morph itself into suicidal thoughts and tendencies; it’s just good to know they are initially two separate, but both very serious, things.)

There it was, I finally had a name to the dark face I was dealing with.

It was scary and relieving at the same time to finally know that what I was feeling, this urge to cut myself, was called -self-mutilation; and it was something so many people also dealt with! So I wasn’t going crazy like I worried about all the time.

Once I knew what it was, I did some research in the school library (because yes… I’m old and this was before the days of Googling everything…) and I felt more able to handle all of the feelings I was dealing with in a healthier outlet.

Now I don’t recommend this at all, because I think everyone should talk to someone in their family or a friend or a teacher, or whoever if they are feeling the urge to cut themselves, or are very depressed, or having panic attacks and/or anxiety. But just for me, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about it. At the time, my sister was dealing with her own emotional demons stemming from my mom’s cancer, and my dad was so stressed and busy and sad with it all too, that I didn’t want to bring that on him. My older brother was currently living in France as he served a Christian mission for the LDS Church, so I couldn’t really talk to him about it either. And of course, I didn’t want my mom to know, because she was the one with cancer. And honestly, for most of the time I didn’t even know what the hell I was feeling or how to even express it, even if I wanted to.

So, brave little 13 year old me decided to deal with things on my own, and I internalized it all. I created ways to calm myself down when I was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, or the dark thoughts of grabbing any sharp objects in my house and cutting myself. I’m not even sure how I figured it out at such a young age, but I figured out a way of what I can only call meditating, to ground myself when my thoughts began spinning and spiraling to dark places.

Honestly, I can only attribute it to God – hearing my constant pleas for help and peace. He saved me more than I think I’ll ever even know.

The First Cut

Now, fast forward to about 3 years ago.

I was deep in the belly of the beast of my miserable marriage. My husband was a narcissistic, abusive, alcoholic. We had a horrible fight the night before, similar to most nights, and I was feeling worn completely raw from the physical and verbal abuse and trauma.

Standing there in the kitchen, I was food prepping for my new Whole30 diet I had decided to start a few weeks prior, because I felt like the only thing I could control in my life anymore was food. I was cutting some sweet potatoes and I accidentally sliced the top of my middle left finger.

Instantly it hurt and the blood went everywhere on the cutting board. But in a strange way, it made me feel a little better. It sounds so weird and so barbaric, I know, but feeling that sting of the cut and then seeing the blood released from me made me feel better. (Which is actually from the dopamine and endorphins that are released in your brain when you cut yourself. This is your body’s way of trying to trick your mind into not feeling the pain you’re feeling; instead you feel that quick shot of happiness from the endorphins and you feel “good” from the dopamine.)

So… I cut another finger. I only just barely sliced the top of my left index finger, but again I felt that almost euphoric feeling.

Then, I panicked and was like HOLY SH*T WHAT AM I DOING? and I cleaned my hands off and bandaged both fingers. I felt weird, and I felt ashamed for doing that I had just done… but I couldn’t shake the feeling of relief I felt when I did it.

Well, that was the gateway cut for me, to begin a short lived but very dark period in my life. Quite honestly, I think that for sure was my rock bottom. I was beyond depressed, I had been isolated by my partner from my family and my friends, and I had no outlet or way to deal with all the trauma and pain.

I continued to randomly cut my fingers, because it was easy. Eventually, I started using razor blades to cut on my upper right hip, and then moved to my inner left elbow. I’m not sure why I chose where I cut, it was just where I felt inspired to do so in the moments it happened.

And when I say “inspired” it was not an uplifting thing, it was quite the opposite; it was as if my body were taken over by a very dark presence and I was out of my body watching myself do it. It’s so hard to explain.

Finally, one night after I had cut my arm, I broke down completely in tears in the bathroom, and was afraid I would wake the sleeping drunken beast in the room, so I went downstairs. I felt so crushingly alone, as if the entire universe were pressing down on me. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even think straight.

I texted the one person I knew would answer, and I knew would be there for me in that moment: my twin sister.

I can’t remember exactly what I had texted her, but it was something along the lines of “I’m Ok, but I just wanted to reach out to someone and let you know I cut my arm tonight. I’m just feeling really sad.”

Of course, immediately she called me. It was around midnight from what I can recall. The worry and panic in her voice made me feel ashamed for what I had been doing, because I felt awful I was hurting her by hurting myself. She talked to me for awhile, and listened while I cried, and I promised her I would never do it again; and if I ever felt the urge to do it, I would call her. The most important thing she said, though, was that she loved me and would always be there. That snapped me out of the isolated gas-lighted prison I had been trapped in, and I realized she would always be there for me; and had been this whole time. All I needed to do was reach out. I hadn’t been alone, like I’d been manipulated and controlled to feel… of course my rock, my twin sister, would never leave my side.

Having her keeping me accountable, definitely helped me control my urges to cut. It made me think more logically about what I was feeling, and then of course I never wanted to hurt her again by having to tell her I had cut myself again.

It made me think of this quote I heard once…

If you can’t tell your best friend what you’re                                                                    doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it!

Now, again fast forward to the present. The last time I cut myself was what I just described, 3 years ago. Granted, the urge to do it still rears its’ ugly head every now and again, but I have the emotional stability and strength to not go there again for relief.

Also, I attribute a lot of my recovery to therapy, self-love, and making an effort to only surround my life with positive and uplifting people and activities. I also finally plan on starting EMDR therapy, which specializes in PTSD  and trauma specifically. I will definitely post about that when I start!

Just a Phase

The reason I love the moon so much, is because of the symbolism behind the phases.

The moon constantly fluctuates from being whole, to diminishing into completely darkness. Yet, no matter what, it always phases back to become whole again, and back to it’s full light potential.

This resonates with me, because that part of my life, that uttermost darkness I was barely surviving in; it was just a phase. It was not my forever.

So I have been able to slowly build myself back up, to come back from the darkness, and become whole again in the light. It’s symbolic of reincarnation, a new beginning. An ever forward moving cycle of life.

Because of this, I have been considering for a long time about getting a tattoo in that spot on my left inner elbow (which I briefly talked about here) which would help me remember where I am now, and not remember that dark phase before. I have a tiny scar there, and wanted to put something there that would inspire me and strengthen me, and remind me that I am in a new phase of my life, a wonderful and amazing phase; instead of remembering how sad and hurt I was when I created that scar.

I finally went, a month ago, and got my tattoo. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, Alex Gregory is fantastic and I recommend her to anyone!

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This is the day I got it! Right when I walked out of the tattoo parlor

If you, or anyone you know, are having thoughts of cutting, suicide, anxiety, depression, and feeling impossibly alone… I urge you to please reach out to someone! Don’t deal with it alone like I did, there are so many resources and so many people who love you and want to help you!

Also, if you are in an abusive and/or dangerous relationship, there are resources for you too. There are places you can go to be safe.

I will list a bunch of hotline numbers you can reach out to you, and I beg of you to please do. Also, I know many of you don’t know me, but I am here as a resource too. I will help you as best as I can, and get you directed to where you can go for the best advice or care possible. My email is: aly.paintedwithgold@gmail.com

Remember, it only needs to be a phase. It doesn’t need to be your forever. The darkness can always change orbit again, and you can become full and whole again in the light.

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National Hotlines:

 

Utah Hotlines:

  • The CrisisLine : 801-587-3000
  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition : 1-800-897-LINK (5465)

 

 

 

Suffer In Silence

I’ve always hated crying. I think mostly, it’s because I don’t like feeling emotionally vulnerable. I have always liked to be the strong, tough girl.

It started back when I was 12, when my mom was first diagnosed with terminal cancer. At such a young age I was dealing with an incredible amount of sadness, grief, and fear. Those strong and overwhelming emotions were more than my little heart could handle at times.

So, I started to internalize things, and try to just silently suffer through it.

Mostly, I think I wanted to be strong for those around me who were also struggling; especially my mom. I felt like if I could be strong and not cry or show my fear, that maybe I could help her be stronger through it all too. I also wanted to be a strength for my twin sister, and my dad too.

It’s so interesting to me now, looking back, at how much that habit of internalizing my emotions has affected my life. Because it became somewhat of a toxic habit to silently suffer, and never ask for help or never let people in when I was hurting.

But, it wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how dangerous silent suffering could really be.

The Moment That Changed It All

I have briefly written about what happened to me when I was 18 before, here, but I wanted to bring it up again in this post for a specific reason. It’s difficult to do so, but I have felt very inspired to share my story in the hopes that I can help others who are going through something similar, or who might in the future.

As a freshman at Utah State University, located in the gorgeous mountains of Cache Valley, I was eager for what my future held for me. College is supposed to be fun, new, and exciting; and my 2 years spent in Logan definitely were all of the above.

However, there was one event that literally changed my life forever. Even now as I start to type it out my palms sweat, and I feel anxiety rising in my chest. I will never, ever forget those few moments. This moment literally poisoned my time in Logan with this thick, choking darkness that in the end forced me to move away and never return.

I made many friends in Logan, including athletes on various sports teams for the school. As an athlete in high school, and a lover of sports in general, I loved being around anyone else who shared my passion for sports.

One friend in particular was a hockey player, a very popular and friendly one at that. He had friends throughout the campus, especially since that year the hockey team was playing particularly well and the student body enjoyed going to the USU Men’s Hockey games.

We would talk often, and I trusted him. He was funny, charming, attractive, and an all around nice guy.

Spring break came around that year, and my sister and I and a few of our closest girl friends decided to borrow a mini-van and go on a fun road trip through Las Vegas, and then to Huntington Beach in California.

After spending a few sunny days on the beach it was time to return back to Utah, but our friend (Mr. Hockey Player) offered us a place to stay outside of Las Vegas on our way home at his parent’s house. We went with him to a local house party with his friends, and it was there that he told us he would not be returning to USU because he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was starting treatments soon, starting with surgery the next morning.

We were all upset for our friend. We ended up going back to his house early, while he stayed out on his self-claimed “last night of fun” before the cancer treatments. We went to sleep in the living room, but I was woken up around 3 in the morning by him when he came home. He asked if I would come talk to him for awhile because he was nervous and scared about everything, and I of course agreed, because he was my friend.

It was very clear he was intoxicated, because he was stumbling up the stairs to his bedroom. Still, I felt no danger and followed him. I was worried for my friend and wanted to talk to him and help him through whatever he was dealing with. As I walked into the room and turned to say something to him he came at me from the door he had just locked behind him, and pushed me forcefully onto the bed.

He was normally not aggressive in this way, and I was beginning to feel panicked. He was very drunk, and much larger than me, and I was starting to worry about being able to get out of the room. He kept saying things like “This is my last night, I want to enjoy it”. He was also becoming more and more physical, not allowing me off the bed, and when I started to push back against him to get up he eventually held me down by digging his elbow heavily onto my chest, while holding my my hands down above my head with his other hand.

Many times I begged him to let me leave, telling him we could talk in the morning when he wasn’t drunk. When my pleas went unanswered, I started physically trying to fight him back. The more I pushed and started to fight him, the harder he held me down. He tried to kiss me and I bit him as hard as I could. It made him angry, and more aggressive. I started to think he was literally going to suffocate me because I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore. I tried to scream out but since my chest was being pressed upon so forcefully I couldn’t get more than a whisper out.

And then just like a scene in a horror movie, that you never think will actually happen to you, he quickly ripped down my sweat pants, held down my hands again, and proceeded to rape me. Everything hurt, my entire body was tensed in my fight-or-flight situation, and I prayed to pass out at one point from not being able to breathe so I wouldn’t have to consciously remember what was happening. I was living a real nightmare, pure hell that I would never wish upon anyone.

In one last effort to fight back I was able to slide my right leg up just enough that I could knee him as hard as I could in his stomach. It shocked him just enough that he let up on my hands and I threw a right hook across his face and then kicked both of my feet into his chest and pushed him off of me. Due to how drunk he was he lost his balance and stumbled back across the room.

I had no time, I quickly jumped up from the bed, pulling my sweats up from my ankles as I ran down the hall. I found a bathroom downstairs by where all the other girls were asleep, I locked the door, and shook violently on the floor fearing he would come after me and drag me back upstairs. I also feared he would harm the girls sleeping just on the other side of the wall.

After what felt like an eternity, I hoped he had passed out upstairs when I hadn’t heard anything. That’s when I threw up twice. Afterwards I tried to pee and was horrified with how much blood there was everywhere down there and in the toilet. I laid in a ball on the floor and cried. I was still worried about making any noise, so I tried my best to cry quietly. I wanted to scream and let it out but I couldn’t.

I finally emerged from the bathroom some time later, I’m not sure how much time had passed, but I could see the sunlight starting to come through the windows in the living room. I checked on my sister and the other girls, and they were all safely still sleeping there. No signs of my attacker.

In a delusional haze, I laid back down next to my sister, and I remember snuggling up really close to her. I wished I could wake her up but I didn’t know what to do. I never fell asleep I just laid there up against her, shaking and fearing he would come down any minute.

Eventually everyone woke up, and thankfully we had planned to just get up and leave. Some of the girls went to say goodbye to our host, but I of course did not and immediately climbed into the van to hide.

I know my sister knew something was wrong, but she didn’t ask me on the ride home. I was quiet, and tried to sleep through most of it. At one point when we stopped at a rest area I noticed there was blood on the front of my sweats. I felt nauseous, and it all felt like some awful dream.

The Aftermath

I hoped it would all just disappear. I did tell my sister what had happened when we got home, but I decided since he was not returning to school because of his cancer, that I could just brush it under the rug and forget about it all.

I stayed silent and told no one besides my sister; I was afraid to tell my parents because I didn’t want to hurt them. I was afraid to tell my church leaders because I worried about being blamed for what happened, or getting in trouble with violating the chastity laws I was supposed to abide by. Because of the fear and the shame I stayed silent.

But, as cruel fate would have it, the following fall semester my attacker did return to Logan. I didn’t know he was returning until I literally ran into him on campus. It had been almost 6 months, but seeing him face-to-face brought me immediately back to that horrible night.

I panicked and ran from him, not knowing else what to do. I thought maybe I could just avoid him, but unfortunately for me that would not be easy since we had a lot of the same friends. He texted me and asked why I ran from him, and wanted to hang out. I just ignored him and hoped he would stop.

He didn’t stop though. He persisted on bothering me, sending me texts, calling, and eventually ran me down on campus about a week later. I asked him as bravely as I could to leave me alone, that I wanted nothing to do with him. He asked me why and I didn’t want to answer, but when he kept following me and asking I finally snapped and said something along the lines of, “Do you really need me to tell you why? You should know why.”

With a confused look on his face he said, “Why, because you’re embarrassed we had sex?” It was like a knife was stabbed through me when those words came out of his mouth; so nonchalantly, so casually, as if that night had not been the nightmare I had been replaying in my mind since.

“We didn’t have sex… You raped me.” 

When I said that, something visibly changed in his stance, and he responded with;

“Yeah? Well no one will believe you, because

I’m an athlete and you’re a nobody.”

I walked away, shaken to my very core. I hadn’t been planning on reporting what had happened, but I thought maybe I should. I was worried he would come attack me again, or start spreading the rumor that we had consensual sex. I talked to my sister about it all, and to a few of our roommates. Somehow, a friend of a friend of a friend (who was not my biggest fan) heard my side of the story and decided to tell the hockey player.

That’s when versions of my nightmare story spread across campus, and that’s when I became the center of a witch hunt. Because this guy, this popular athlete who played on the hockey team with the winning season record, had so much support around campus, and according to him I was a “nobody”. So who would care what this nobody says? This girl accusing one of their favorite athletes of something so horrific, so terrible?

To make a long story short, the rest of that year I was bullied almost every day on campus and on my phone by friends of his. I was called a liar, I was called a slut, I was blamed for it happening – people said I wanted it and I asked for it. I even heard a rumor that I actually took advantage of him, because he was drunk and I wasn’t.

To say this was a living hell is an absolute understatement. I feared for my safety anytime I left my house to go to class, which became the only time I ever really left towards the end of the year. I was so belittled and so beaten down that I remained silent and I never came forward and reported the rape. He got away with it, while I eventually decided my only option was to move out of Logan, Utah and start over new somewhere else.

I was bullied and shamed into silence. 

Silent No More

I refuse to ever remain silent again. I was silenced for so long, and now I want to share my story in hopes that someone else out there will find the courage to not be silenced. I hope someone else out there who is reading this will find the strength to report their rape, to turn in their sexual abuser, or to tell someone about the person who is sexually harassing or assaulting them.

Silence actually has noise; it is filled with grief, pain, despair, loneliness, and everything hurtful that can be imagined. It’s filled with voices wanting to be heard, women and men who are being abused and mistreated who want to scream out for justice for what’s happened to them, and stories of people who just want to feel safe again.

When we succumb to the silence we allow the rape culture that has taken over our world to win, to continue to enable this toxic and corrosive way of living.

So I am refusing to ever be silent again.

This is why I became involved with The Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City.

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It’s a wonderful sanctuary where anyone can go to receive help if they’ve been assaulted or raped – there is a 24/7 hospital team that accompany anyone.

There’s also a 24/7 crisis hotline with trained volunteers on the line waiting to help anyone who calls in. The number is:

801.467.7273

You can also speak to advocates at the office. Professionally trained advocates offer information and support to survivors as they navigate the impact of sexual violence on their daily lives.

Trauma therapists are also on-site offering help to survivors to address the long-term impact of post-traumatic stress on their health and wellbeing.

Survivors can also join in on a variety of group services, to help one another through the healing journey together.

This coming Friday (June 8th 2018) is the center’s annual Hope & Healing Gala, which I have been helping to organize the silent auction. All the proceeds go towards the services I have mentioned – it all goes towards helping survivors heal from the traumas they have been through.

If you would like more information about The Hope & Healing Gala, or The Rape Recovery Center please feel free to email me! aly.paintedwithgold@gmail.com

I am also here for anyone who needs help navigating their way through their own hellish nightmare like mine. I am here to help anyone I can, in any way that I can!

Breaking the Rape Culture

While my attacker will never be charged with what he did to me, I hope other survivors out there will be able to bring theirs to justice.

Once we as a society start making changes, then maybe the sickening amount of sexual assaults and attacks will diminish.

  • We need to hold the attackers accountable for their actions. No more victim blaming or shaming.
  • The trivialization of sexual assault needs to stop. No more of the excuse that “boys will be boys” that so often gets thrown around.
  • Too long have we become tolerant of sexual harassment. Why is it ok to treat anyone in such an abusive and demeaning way?
  • No more scrutinizing the way a victim dresses, blaming that for why they were raped. “She was asking for it, look at the way she was dressed.” It’s total BS. (I was wearing sweats and a t-shirt the night I was raped, definitely was not ‘asking for it.’)
  • Society in general needs to take rape accusations more seriously. So many times I have heard, “Oh, she probably made a mistake and slept with the guy and is trying to cover it up by lying that he raped her.”
  • Why do we continue to teach women how to not be raped? There are self defense classes offered everywhere. How about instead, we start teaching people TO NOT RAPE OTHER PEOPLE?

My list could go on and on.

Can’t Silence a Survivor

The #metoo movement was an incredible step towards preventing sexual violence, but it was not the reason why so many people have started to step forward. It gave survivors, like me, the strength and courage to finally feel brave enough to say something – because for once we felt like we had enough support on our side to do so.

That’s part of the problem too – so many people criticized the women coming forward with past assault and rape claims when the #metoo movement went viral online. Doesn’t that seem odd to anyone else? Instead of criticizing the people coming forward, maybe take a step back and see how horrifying it is at the sheer amount of people that have been silent for so long until now, afraid to come forward? That should be criticized.

Feeling that I have support from others, and knowing that someone else out there might also find courage to say something too – that’s why I chose to speak out now and break my own silence publicly.

I speak out for me, a survivor, and I speak out for anyone else who has also survived sexual assault and/or sexual violence.

If enough of us speak out, the silence of the survivors will become the loudest voice out there.

So speak out, find your support, report what’s happened to you, and start the healing process to let go of it all.

I continue to make progress towards never silently suffering again, and I invite all of you out there who read my words to do the same. You do not ever have to suffer alone again, in the toxic silence of sexual violence. Share your story, raise your voice, and be heard.

“You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.” – Alex Elle

 

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Photography: Troy Kolterman MUA: Julie Artistry 

 

A Cold & Broken Hallelujah

 

Do you ever have those days where there’s a song stuck in your head? And I literally mean days… the same song has been playing in my mind over and over since last Friday.

It’s a song I’m sure you’ve all heard, or at least a version of it anyway (because it’s been covered many times.)

This version in particular I have loved since 2004, the end of my freshman year of college at USU, when the first season of the iconic teenage drama show The OC ended its’ first season. The song , “Hallelujah” plays in the background in the season finale in a really dramatic and emotional ending (… seriously watch it if you haven’t…) recorded by Rufus Wainwright. Or it’s in the movie Shrek, which I’m positive all of you have seen.

It randomly came up on one of my playlists on Friday night, and it’s been stuck in my mind ever since. Especially one line in particular has haunted me ever since:

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

A Mother of a Weekend

I knew Mother’s Day was coming, because for the past 3 years I’ve been counting down the days until it arrived again with growing dread and mounting emotions.

It never gets easier to celebrate a day for mother’s without mine. Memories rise to the surface, good and bad, and drown me again in the familiar deep pool of sorrow.

It’s not that I don’t want to remember her or celebrate her; I love thinking of all the fun memories and how much time we had with her despite her cancer.

The hard part is when so many others get to go see their moms, or call them or FaceTime with them; I’m driving to the cemetery with flowers and a Diet Coke. I wish I could get just one last hug, or one last phone call. Boy would she just get a kick out of all the dating stories and mishaps I’ve had lately! And the advice she could give me, or support through these strange dark days of re-building my life after my divorce… I miss it all and wish I could have that with her.

But, she’s gone. And so after visit her grave, and spending some time with my sister and her kiddos, I went home to be once again alone with my emotions and thoughts.

And right on cue that familiar song of ‘Hallelujah’ played in my head again. Especially that one line.

And isn’t it funny how sometimes when something is happening in our life, a song will pop up that perfectly correlates with what we are thinking or feeling?

Praise

The word Hallelujah is a translated from a Hebrew word, which can be an exclamation meaning, “God be praised!”

But in our moments of deepest heart break, pain, and sorrow, is it often our first instinct to still praise God?

Honestly, sometimes its not. It’s those times that we tend to push the heavens away, feeling disconnected and alone, and wanting to blame whatever and whomever we can, especially our heavenly parent.

In our painful times we question everything; the who’s, the why’s, the how’s, and the what’s. It’s part of our nature to do so, and as I have been working through my own grief of losing my mom I have seen a different perspective of this side of it all.

Why, in the moments that we need God the most, do we tend to push Him away and lose our faith? Maybe because it’s easier in the moment, and helps put some sort of bandaid over the giant, gaping, bleeding wounds in our hearts.

The thing I’ve realized so far in my life, is that it’s always easier to trust the process during the sunny great times… but when it comes to trusting in the dark times, that’s when true faith is tested.

Cold & Broken

The night that we lost mom, after we had all driven home from the hospital and I was laying in my bed, feeling completely numb and outside of my own life, I remember fighting the inner thoughts of being angry about it.

Her trial that was placed in her life to have cancer, was a long and painful for her. She was such a warrior, fighting through excruciating pain and constant sickness, not to mention hours upon days spent in hospitals at doctors appointments and undergoing treatments.

It was hard for us too. And many times I felt angry that someone so wonderful, and someone that I loved beyond words, had to go through such agony.

That night, as the realness continued to sink it’s sharp blades deep into my splitting heart, I fought the urge to be angry with God, and instead went in the other direction. Feeling to tired to actually get out of my bed and kneel like I normally do when I pray, I closed my eyes and in my head I prayed:

“I’m sad, and my everything hurts, and I’m too tired to even make sense. Thank you for the time we had with her.”

And that was all that needed to be said. It was my own cold and broken hallelujah. I was incredibly sorrowful, and parts of me were angry and questioning about it all, yet I still reached out what I had left to God and gave him the smallest ounce of praise that I could muster. And it was just enough to bring me some much needed inner peace, that in in that moment seemed impossible to feel.

Faith in the Darkness

The beauty of it all, that I’ve come to discover over these 3 years since losing her, is that if we offer whatever we have to God (even if it feels like nothing) He will fill in the void with His grace. Circling back to my favorite metaphor of Kintsukiroi here, God’s grace will fill in the gaps that we can’t ourselves, to make us whole.

And it’s nice to know during those times we struggle in the darkness, that we are never alone.

I was reading some of my favorite quotes on Sunday from C.S. Lewis, and these few in particular struck harmonizing chords with what I was sorting through internally:

“Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.” – C.S. Lewis

“Hard times, bad times, or tough times, I still have faith in God.” – C.S. Lewis

Honestly, I’ve never lost my faith. Sometimes it has definitely been tested to the extremes, but it’s never been lost.

I do have faith in the plan and the process for me. But as a human, an especially inquisitive one in particular, I have the tendency to sometimes question the why’s and the when’s on my path.

And it can start to escalate quickly: through missing my mom, onto being divorced and alone in my thirties, and even the heartache of not being a mom yet (and possibly never being one due to my infertility issues we discovered during my marriage.) You know, the whole “why me” pathetic thing that we all do.

But if you wallow in the negativity, you’ll eventually be drug out to deeper waters by the emotional undercurrents, and you’ll never be able to swim back to shore without drowning.

The funny thing is about these dark trials we go through, is how deceiving they can be. The darkness wants us to stay there, struggling for as long as possible, and to us we may think it is impossible to come out of it because we can’t see the light at the end of it in the distance. When really, if we just reach out we are already to the other side of it and we just haven’t realized it yet.

For example, when I was 7 my family went on a family vacation to The Outer Banks. We were there right before Hurricane Andrew decimated much of the Florida coastline, as well as further north towards the Carolinas, so the waves were larger than usual and the currents were stronger.

I remember playing in the waves with my sister, and I got knocked over and pulled under a wave. The current was strong and I struggled, and I remember panicking thinking I was going to drown. Then I reached my feet down and felt the sand there, and stood up…. in a few inches of water. I was already out of it, and safe.

Although I may never fully be out of the dark trial of losing my mom, I have faith and hope that I will be able to get through any others along the way.

One Last Hallelujah

As I have been playing this song on repeat the past few days, I looked up the original lyrics to it, which was written by Leonard Cohen. There were some secret verses he would sometimes perform at live shows that were not a part of the original score. This was one of them:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Sometimes that little Hallelujah, all that I can give in that moment, no matter how broken or lonely or cold it is, is all I can give of my faith.  And it’s enough. And these hardships and trials I will keep facing are just shaping me and molding me into the person I am meant to become. At the end of it all, I will be a better person for what I’ve gone through; the good and the bad!

And on days where I miss my mom (which is everyday) I’ll just keep holding onto everything I learned from her while she was here, and give thanks for the time that we did have. And I’ll let all of these trails and experiences help me become a woman, maybe even a mother one day, just like her.

“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” – C.S. Lewis

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Photography: Amy Bischoff 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Habits of a Boss Babe

You might not think that 106 degree weather in the Arizona desert sounds like much of a vacation, right?

Well, for me this past weekend in Scottsdale was just that!

Planning months in advance, our annual girls trip finally happened this weekend and I was so excited to see some of my best and closest girl friends. Some I haven’t been able to see in years!

And the time in the desert was just what my heart needed; 106 degrees and all!

Now, this isn’t any ordinary kind of girls trip. These woman, these 7 incredibly strong, brave, hysterically funny woman; they might never know how much I adore and look up to each of them. They are amazing each in their own way, and have all influenced my life for the better. These girls are essential members of my powerful Pride of Women that I explained in this post.

There’s a saying I heard back in the day that the people you meet in college will be your friends for the rest of your life, and with these women it could not be more accurate. I love these warrior women so much and I was so excited to spend an entire weekend with them!

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The real OG’s standing in the lobby of The Scott Resort before we all said goodbye

We were lucky enough to have found an incredible deal on newly renovated The Scott Resort (formally known as FireSky) in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. Since we were there for their re-opening weekend celebrations, they definitely rolled out the red carpets!

This resort was SO adorable! All of the decors was cute and thoughtful, and had the coolest vibe to it. It was definitely right up my aesthetic alley!

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There were amazing light fixtures everywhere
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One of the fancy pool cabanas

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Such thoughtful decors details all over

If you ever find yourself in Scottsdale, I highly recommend this place. The service was excellent (not to mention they offer a free shuttle service to and from the resort within a 3 mile radius which saved us TONS on money that we would have had to spend on Ubers!) Plus, the location was perfect for everything Scottsdale had to offer.

We spent our time laying out in the sandy beach at their pool, shopping at Fashion Square Mall right down the street, eating at so many delicious close by restaurants like Postino, and just spending some good quality girl time together.

On our last night, we were all hanging out in one of the many cute cabanas they had on the grounds. We were girl talking and taking turns answering questions to “get to know each other’. Even though we obviously already know one another, it’s a fun way to learn more about one another and get even closer. I laughed so much that my abs were literally sore the next morning!

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All but 2 of us hanging in one of the cabanas

One of the questions we asked was for each of us to say what we thought people came to us for, and then we would take turns going around the circle saying what we each went to that individual girl for. As we went around the circle, we each expressed the love and adoration we had for one another, telling each other what we needed and came to one another for.

One we go to for wise advice about health, food, deep convos, and funny embarrassing stories. One we go to for plants and crystals, cool vibes, and is beyond thoughtful. One is generally our leader when it comes to organizing plans and trips, gives logical advice, and is makes everything fun. One is the best listener, and has the biggest sweetest heart; not to mention is funny without even trying! Another has the ability to make you feel like the most important person in the world while she talks about you and learns all about you, and has the best sense of humor. One of the strongest-willed women I know, and despite it all continues to work hard and has the ability to always see the good on the horizon. The last is incredibly sweet, kind, and has a feisty hidden personality that we all love!

When it came to me, I was so touched by the heart-felt sentiments they expressed about me too. I honestly teared up!

As a collective whole, we are one amazing and powerful group of women. My heart was replenished, recharged, and is feeling so full after seeing all of them! I am counting down the days to our next girls trip, just like Stanley counts down until the next Pretzel Day at their Scranton Dunder Mifflin office.

Success Supports Success

There’s a quote I read the other day that I loved:

Behind every successful woman

is a tribe of other successful women,

who have her back

I love this, because we as women definitely need to continue to support and raise each other up! Sometimes girls and women can be so catty, negative and cruel to one another it just blows my mind! It’s hard enough being a woman in today’s world, can’t we all just support and love one another??

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Going along with that quote, my tribe of women all support each other, and have all helped one another be stronger; whether or not we have even realized it! We are total #bossbabes. Don’t know what that is? Here’s the definition (in my own words):

A successful woman who owns a business, or owns her own life ‘like a boss.’ She isn’t afraid to get what she wants, she is in control of her life and makes no apologies or excuses for who she is. 

So, I’ve put together a list of 10 things I believe every #bossbabe woman should be doing in order to be more successful and much happier in every aspect of her life. Each one was inspired from my girl tribe from this weekend!

10 Habits of a #BossBabe

1. Have a Personal Mission Statement

This one may sound a little odd, but if you have your own mission statement, it really does help you be more successful!

Think about it, every company or successful person seems to have one:

Walt Disney – “To make people happy”

Amazon – “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers

can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and

endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”

Google – “To organize the world’s information and make it universally

accessible and useful.”

So, why wouldn’t you, a successful boss babe, have your own equally great mission statement?? Am I right?

The reason having a mission statement helps you, is because it forces you to have a purpose, and to clarify what is important to you. Through it, you express what you value most and what your aspirations are.

Also, seeing and repeating it to yourself everyday helps to drive you towards those goals, and to becoming that boss babe you know you can be!

What’s my mission statement? I’ve been thinking about it ever since I started outlining this post. For now, as it is still a work in progress, I think mine is this:

Redefine Yourself – Recover Your Pieces – Rediscover Your Life

This quote is on my main page of my blog. It sounds more like a mantra, but I think a mantra and a mission statement can be one in the same. I like it, and those are definitely things I want to accomplish in my life, and they are things I value tremendously right now.

What’s your mission statement? Feel free to share it with us in the comments below so we can see it! 🙂

2. Recite Positive Affirmations Daily

I’ve talked about positive affirmations a few times, but it’s because I really believe in them! The mornings that I read them I feel more confident, and feel more ready to take on my day. Sounds cheesy… but it’s true!

Improving your relationship with yourself is a major key when it comes to success, self-confidence, and being happy! And when you literally recite positive things, like affirmations, to yourself, you are making yourself happier by doing so.

According to the CBT (Cognitive Behavior Theory) your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all related. So if you are reciting and implanting those good thoughts and vibes into your mind, you are essentially going to make your behaviors and feelings equally as positive. The result? You are happier!

It’s science people.

What are some of your favorite positive affirmations? Here are some I’ve been reciting lately:

I have the power to create change

I am worth everything

Just be kind and brave. That’s all you ever need 

Know some good ones I can add to my list? Leave em in the comments!!

3. Recharge & Refocus

Life is pure chaos sometimes. So often I find myself feeling like I am in this insane wind tunnel, trying to focus on all the things I have to do and I can’t!

The thing that we forget to do is to recharge and refocus ourselves, so that we can have the energy and the dedicated mindset to focus on our tasks. If you are on 3 hours of sleep and needing to write a well punctuated and grammatically correct email for work, is that going to be easy for you? Probs not.

That whole “I can sleep when I’m dead” mentality may have worked when I was 21 in college and pulling all-nighters, but now in my ripe old age of 33 I know I need more sleep. Otherwise I can’t function, and I may as well be dead; but more like the walking dead because I’m a zombie.

It’s not just about sleep either though; recharging and refocusing can also be personal mediation. It’s important to take time for yourself very single day, to do some mediation. And it doesn’t need to be literally sitting cross-legged on a yoga map with your eyes closed chanting things in your head (although sometimes that is definitely needed and so helpful!)giphy-1

No, you can honestly just take the time for yourself everyday to just stop and slow down, and re-organize yourself. Think of it as a time-out during a crucial final quarter of a football or basketball game. Sometimes it gets a little hectic and they take the time out to regroup the team, and figure out their next plays; as well as going back in the game with a fresh mind-set.

So, take a time-out! 

Use time for yourself everyday to refocus your goals and your priorities, and recharge yourself!

4. Invest In Yourself

The most important investment you will ever make is in yourself.

That’s right; you need to invest more into Y-O-U!

For example, think about investing into buying a house. You shopped around and finally bought your dream home! You’ve poured so much money into filling it with beautiful furniture and things, making an necessary repairs or upgrades, and up-keeping it so it stays beautiful and feels like home forever!

Well, you are like that house. Except much… MUCH… more important!

So, to fully utilize your important investment in yourself, you need to take the right steps to keep up the value of said investment. How do you do that? There’s a lot of different things you can do:

  • Never stop learning! Take education seriously, even if you never go to college or earn a degree, just never stop learning! Because knowledge is powerful! And the more powerful you are and the more things you know, the more confident and successful you will be.
  • Fill your heart and soul with lovely, positive things. Pray, meditate, recite mantras and affirmations… whatever makes you happy!
  • Learn how to shake off the shame culture. Forgive yourself more easily, and move on. You’re going to fail and you’re going to mess up; it’s a part of life and it’s not worth holding onto. Let it go!
  • Take care of yourself on the outside too! Workout, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and sleep!
  • #treatyoself. That’s right, I said it and I meant it! If you want to treat yourself to hair extensions, lash extensions, or splurging on some expensive clothes or shoes… DO IT! Not all the time, you must have self-control, but sometimes you need to treat yourself! It will make you happier to every so often treat yourself to something nice. Also? Life is short.. so eat the damn donuts.

The bottom line here, is you are an amazing and wonderful investment, but you have to believe it and take care of yourself to continue adding more and more to your already incredible value.

Invest in yourselves boss babes!!

5. Read More – Screens Less!

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If you know me, you know I love to read books! I currently have about 5 books on my night stand I’m trying to read simultaneously… because I’m a nerd.

But, reading is important for your sanity and for your success! Here’s a list of 24 books successful people read just for some examples if you’re looking for something to read!

According to this article about Reading and Life Success :

The act of reading, particularly engaged reading, as opposed to the mechanics of reading, is a powerful predictor of life success by any measure. It is the best predictor of who goes to university regardless of socio-economic background. It is the best predictor of life income, career options, even life partner choices. And neuroscience is proving that reading fiction is one of the most powerful means of developing sympathetic individuals, with better social skills and higher levels of self esteem, resulting in increasing self improvement and prosocial behaviours.

My new goal lately has been to read more books and use my screens less – meaning my phone, laptop, and tv. It’s tough sometimes, I’ll admit it! But isn’t it scary to anyone else how reliant we are on just our smart phones alone? It’s like we can’t function as humans without a phone glued to our hands anymore.

So read more and use screens less, and you’ll find more success! It’s honestly that simple!

6. Accept Your Challenges Head On

This weekend my one girlfriend reminded me of one of her most recent Instagram posts about challenges and trials. Here’s the link if you want to see it, or below is part of it quoted:

I am going to take a lesson today from how buffalo and cows handle storms in Colorado.
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Only the strongest storms come over the ridge of the giant Rocky Mountains to the east. When a storm comes the cows see it & start to run from it. Seems logical, but the problem is they don’t move fast enough & before long the storm is over them, moving in the same direction as they are maximizing the pain & hurt
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Buffalos react much differently. They see the storm, gather together, and turn HEAD ON STRAIGHT into the STORM. Seems illogical at first thought, BUT they go the opposite way the storm is moving & make it out of the storm faster with less harm taking it head on in the long run.

If only we could be brave like the buffalo, and head straight on into our trials instead of trying to outrun them and avoid them for as long as we can.

In the long run, it’s better to face them head on. Sometimes its not easier to do so, but it is better and makes us stronger.

Just like in this post here I quoted, “What challenges you changes you.” At the time it may suck, and it might hurt, but in the end we will become a better and more successful person because of it.

Through challenges we grow, we learn, and we become stronger. So be a buffalo, not a cow, and handle those challenges like a successful #bossbabe.

7. Make Socializing a Priority

I will be the first to admit that I am the worst lately when it comes to being social. In fact, I always warn people about how I’m anti-social and to not take it personally! I’ve talked a lot about how much easier it is sometimes for me to stay home and not go out (with all my PTSD anxiety and such I explained in this post) but I know I need to be more social because it’s for my own good.

Not to mention, the more social you are the more successful you will be in life!

As humans, we need connection, affection, and communication to feel normal and happy. If you tend to be more like me, Ms. Hermit McHermitsen over here, you will feel more detached from the world the more anti-social you are. It’s just not good, you need friends and interactions!

Part of being successful in any aspect of life is having the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, and to make connections with them. Networking is not just some word people throw around for fun, it’s a real thing! And it’s really really important for success.

Apparently your success depends on the people you know, and that could not be more true! The more people you socialize with, the bigger your network reach is, and the bigger your success potential is!

So go socialize already! Make new friends, go outside your comfort zone! Network outside of your own work circle, be spontaneous, and build up your social network! All you’ve got to lose is that dent in the couch you’ve been making thats forming around your body every night you stay in and binge watch shows.

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Successful people socialize, and they’re happier too!

8. Focus on One Thing at a Time

Easier said than done these days, right? There’s always so much happening at once.

But, if you can, try to just focus in on one thing at a time.

This weekend in our round-robin of girl talk, we each said one thing we wanted to work on in our lives. I said I wanted to start making smaller goals to accomplish at a time, instead of trying to focus on one huge goal that seemed impossible to ever get to.

I think I nailed it with that, because too often we have our eyes on the big prize at the end, instead of realistically focusing on the smaller prizes that will each act as a stepping stone to get us to the end.

In the wise words of Bob (Bill Murray from the movie What About Bob?), “Baby steps!” Or can we actually change it up? How about “boss-babe steps.” Sounds better 🙂

If we can take the time to re-prioritize our goals into smaller, more realistic and obtainable goals, we can get ourselves to the bigger ones later.

And, don’t forget to celebrate yourself when you hit your goals! Go back to #4 and TREAT YO SELF!

9. Smile

I know what you’re thinking, “Smile? That’s it? That’s so easy!”

Well yes, my friends, it is that easy.

Smiling makes you feel better, and gives you confidence, and it can be shared! Have you ever done the simple test of smiling at everyone you see? Every time I do it, they almost always smile back at me. And you know what? They probably keep smiling at other people too, and so on and so forth… therefore,  a smile and create hundreds maybe even thousands of other smiles!

Once you’ve mastered the whole smile thing, then you can go about the rest of your day feeling that boost of confidence. And what do confident people do? They succeed!

Yassss.

10. Have a Big Heart

One thing that I have tried to do ever since I lost my mom 3 years ago, has been to serve others to help my own heart ache to hurt a little less. And, after my own abusive marriage and broken heart, I have reached out even further to try and serve and help others as much as I can.

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity — Leo Tolstoy

In today’s society I feel like treating each other with kindness and love is quickly becoming an outdated habit. The world can be mean, dark, and selfish. What better way to help bring back that light than to have a big heart towards others?

I also want to continue to serve others and give as much as I can, because so many people in my life have lifted me in my own times and helped me through desperate moments. I feel I must pay it forward and do that to others, to pass it along and help brighten up the world.

Each of those girls in my tribe from my trip this weekend has helped me so many times. They give without thought, they love, they support, and they comfort. It is so inspiring to be around them, and their loving energy. It made me want to come home and do more!

And that is how a true successful boss babe should be; always humble enough to remember that she was once in the shoes of the ones who need the help.

Despite my heart being previously crushed, I will never let my love to serve others be diminished. It’s through that service I can truly heal it back to being whole again.

Total Boss Babe

Really, what it all boils down to, is you are the average of the 5 people closest to you. Looking at that aspect now, how successful, how powerful, how happy are you on average??

This weekend, my cup was running over with a 100% boss babe success average. And in my life I have so many other incredible and powerful women in my pride that fiercely love me, and inspire me to push through anything that comes my way.

With everything and everyone I have in my life, and I have no choice but to keep going towards becoming the total boss babe I know I can. And each of you can too, I believe in you!

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My 5 Truths and No Lies About PTSD

I knew I needed to go to therapy; in fact, I’ve needed it for years. But, especially after all of the things I have experienced in the last few, I definitely needed to finally go.

For some reason, I found it so hard to make the appointment and go. Maybe it was a mixture of the whole social stigma surrounding ‘needing therapy’; but I know for a fact it was also because I just wasn’t ready to go.

These demons and monsters, buried deep inside my emotional subconscious, are scary and blood-thirsty. I knew once I started drudging them up to my surface that it would be difficult to fight through them, to say the least.

But, a few weeks ago I was finally feeling prepared to go face them.

I won’t go too much into my therapy as of yet – but I will say that I am glad I finally got up the courage to go. I think anyone can benefit from going to see a therapist! It’s nice to have someone unbiased listen to you and give you good feedback to help you work through whatever it is you are struggling with.

After my initial appointment, my therapist warned me that working through such dormant emotional traumas came with the potential risk of triggering PTSD.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You may have heard about it pertaining to anyone who has served in the military or armed forces, has witnessed violence or death, or has been a victim of sexual or physical assault. According to Wikipedia:

In the United States about 3.5% of adults have PTSD in a given year, and 9% of people develop it at some point in their life

Unfortunately for me, I fall into a few of those categories myself, and as I start to unwind the complex strands of the trauma nooses that are bound around me internally, I am also beginning to experience certain side-effects from my own PTSD.

So today as I struggle to make it through work on about 2 hours of sleep (due to a fairly traumatic PTSD triggered episode) I wanted to write about something to help bring more awareness to this topic. It shouldn’t be something NOT talked about, and there needs to be more support for those who are suffering through it. Just like all forms of mental illness, this is one that is best treated with support and understanding. So here are 5 things you need to know about PTSD.

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Photography: Michelle Madsen 

1. Stop the Stigma

Just as I said, there is a stigma surrounding all forms of mental illnesses and disorders. I’m not really sure why the world has always had such a hardened heart towards these things.

Back in the “olden days” of Ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt, things were actually fairly humane when it came to treating these conditions. Mental disorders were thought to be connected directly with the person and the Gods; a true reflection of a fight between good and evil. There were special meditation rooms in their temples, herbal treatments, and ceremonies all specifically to help bring back the “balance.’

As time went on, things became less humane and more barbaric. Up until as recently as the 1950’s, lobotomies were still being performed as ‘treatments’ for mental disorders. People were locked away in asylums, children abandoned, electric shock therapy was done; so many horrific and terrible ways people considered as treatments to help.

Nowadays, treatments have progressively become more effective and especially more humane. However, there still remains this stigma about mental health. People suffering are afraid to talk about it or seek treatment, are made fun of for being “crazy”, and according to society should just be able to “suck it up” and “get over” whatever it is that is  affecting them.

This stigma around mental health needs to stop. Even I struggled with just deciding to go to therapy (which I DESPERATELY have needed!) because in my mind I felt like I could work through all of the trauma on my own. Its not true, and I waited longer than I should have because of social stigmas.

So a word of advice to you, someone who does not struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, being bi-polar, schizophrenia, or anything else under the mental illness spectrum: be as open minded and understanding as you can towards those who are. Don’t tell them to “just get over it” or that it’s “all in their head” and that they can easily feel better if they work out or eat better. NONE OF THAT is helpful, or even true. (Yes, working out and eating healthy can possibly help with some symptoms, but if someone is truly suffering they need actual help and actual support.)

2. Not All PTSD is the Same

While over 8 million Americans suffer from PTSD, not every case fits into a cookie cutter mold.

Because every case and cause of PTSD varies, so do the symptoms, and the treatments that help. As you venture through these turbulent waters of recovery, just like I am right now, listen to your body and mind and see what helps you the most. There are many different medications, meditations, therapies, and techniques out there. Do what works for you!

3. Not all Triggers are the Same

Going along with #2, everyone is triggered differently and from different things.

For instance, I get triggered often from nightmares. Last night I had a terrible nightmare that someone was physically attacking and choking me, and I woke up inside my closet shaking and coughing as if someone was strangling me.

I also suffer from a newly formed social anxiety when I am around people I don’t know, or large groups (which, for the record, I never used to have issues with until after my marriage.) Panic attacks also plague my nights as well, keeping me awake or causing nightmares like the one I described.

While we all have different triggers, once we realize what they are we can begin the work to overcome them or help lessen their severity. If I have anxiety in large groups, I should definitely avoid large groups when I’m feeling triggered or feel anxiety coming on.

Set boundaries for yourself so that you can avoid feeling triggered. If you don’t want to go to a social activity, then don’t go! You shouldn’t let anyone make you feel like you need to do something if you know you won’t emotionally be able to handle it. Listen to yourself and what makes you feel safe, secure, and in control.

So for those of you in my life who have given me a hard time about me being ‘anti-social’ lately… this is why. I’m doing my best to get back to being my old self, and I’ll come to things when I can! You have to be patient with me, just like I am with myself.

4. Know How to ‘Ground’ Yourself When You Feel Triggered

I came to know the term of ‘grounding myself’ back when I was married and dealing with emotional and physical stress and abuse on a daily basis. And no, it doesn’t mean I sent myself to my room to think about what I did… it’s a mental technique I learned from my sister to help ease the oncoming triggered anxiety or panic that would crash over me like a tsunami.

She deals with panic attacks and anxiety every day, and she explained that in order to feel more grounded she would go through her 5 Senses to help reign in the spinning thoughts or racing heart, and panic that was beginning to take over. I have started calling it “5 Senses in 54321“, but I’m sure there are other names for it too:

5. Name 5 things that you can see around you (a chair, trees, a succulent…)

4. Name 4 things you can feel/touch around you (the grass, wind blowing on your skin…)

3. Name 3 things you can hear around you (traffic driving, birds singing, music…)

2. Name 2 things you can smell around you (perfume, food, flowers…)

Now when it comes to the last sense (taste) if I am not able to name 1 thing I can taste currently, then I would supplement it by reciting a positive affirmation or mantra to myself. Here is my current mantra of choice:

I am strong, I am resilient, I am a survivor

Doing this technique helps to bring me back to solid ground, to feel balance and in control. Seriously, try it out next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or panicked.

Another grounding technique was one I learned from my energy healer from a few months ago. She showed me how to ‘clear away’ or ‘break off’ any energy surrounding me that I didn’t want to be a part of. Like if there was negative tension in the air from a fight between 2 co-workers, I would simply hold my hands out in front of me, palm forward, and swipe them in unison in circles towards my center and back up into place. Essentially, the right hands moves in a counter-clockwise circle and the left is clock-wise.

Now, this energy grounding technique can feel a little funny, especially if done in public (because honestly when I do it I feel like I am trying to mimic Dr. Strange from Infinity War with all his fancy hand gestures and ‘wizardry’ according to Tony Stark). But, when I focus in on my inner energy and want to feel fully grounded, sometimes it honestly does help to physically break away the negative energies that are poisoning my own.

5. You Have the Right to Detox Your Life; of People, Places, and Things

Life can be filled with all different kinds of toxicity; whether its a frenemy who likes to spread mean rumors about you or others, a place that might trigger bad memories, or an activity that gives you social anxiety.

Whatever it is, you have the right to cut it out from your life.

For me, right now all I want is to feel in control of my life and to feel emotionally secure. There was someone I used to hang out with that just was not a good influence on my energy and on my emotions; they were bringing me down when I just want people who raise me up right now (… and I know y’all started singing Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up in your head when you read that.. don’t lie!!)

So, I cut them out of my social life. I wasn’t malicious about it, and I still see them and consider them a friend. But, I don’t need to let their toxic energy affect me and bring me down.

Same goes for any place that might trigger bad feelings or memories, and send me spiraling into a PTSD/anxiety episode. I avoid all the places my ex and I used to go together, because for now it still stirs up emotions I can’t handle. It’s not that I necessarily miss him, it just makes me sad and hurts me to remember it all.

I also avoid anything that feels negative or toxic to me right now. Generally I love dark, twisted movies and tv shows but right now I can’t seem to handle them. Like the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale just dropped on Hulu, but I just can’t bring myself to watch them just yet.

And you know what? It’s ok to cut these things out and avoid them. Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what other people think or say you should do or be doing to be happy; all that matters is how you feel and if you really are happy. Because you wouldn’t keep eating something if it was filled with cyanide and slowly poisoning you, right? So same goes for toxic people, places or things; cut them out!

Listen to yourself and what you need to feel in control, secure, and of course happy.

Live Your Life

The good news in all of this, is that PTSD is a totally manageable thing. You just have to put the work and effort into managing it.

On the days that I am more consciously making the effort to feel good energy and be positive, I notice a huge difference. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s definitely doable.

Beyond medication there are plenty of ways I can help myself overcome and fight through the stormy waters of PTSD, beyond what I’ve already listed:

  • I have my person. The one who I can call day or night, 24/7, show up at their house in absolute tears, and the one who I can depend on to always be there for me. My person is my twin sister, Heather. I have talked about her a lot, and for good reason. She is my rock, my yin to my yang, and my forever voice of reason.
    • Designate your person, so that you always have that comfort and support whenever you need it!
  • Find creative ways to release your angst, your pain, and your voice. For me, it’s my writing. I have found writing to be so incredibly therapeutic, that’s why I started this blog last year! I journal privately, and I also write on my blog.
    • You could write, paint, play music, garden, dance… anything that helps you release everything building up inside!
  • Find a therapist you feel comfortable with who can help you work through everything internally. I promise you won’t regret it!
  • Go outside. Break away from being in your office all day, or from isolating yourself away from it all. Feeling distant from the world may help for awhile, but eventually it can end up being harmful to your emotional well being. So, go outside! Get some fresh air, go for a walk or a hike, or even a bike ride! The sun and fresh air will do you some good!
  • Every day, take some time for “you” time. It’s easier said than done, I know. But I feel a huge difference when I carve out even just 20 minutes a day to do something just for me, that I know will make me happy. I come home from work and like to unwind by reading, meditating, or honestly even just taking a 30 minute nap. Whatever it is, take the time for you! It’s not selfish, it’s taking care of yourself.
  • Remember that any road to recovery takes time, and to not be too hard on yourself. There will be plenty of bad days ahead, but there will also be good days too. Just be patient and don’t give up.
    • Just like breaking a bone and never getting it fixed; you have to go back to the Dr’s office and have them re-break it to set it into the right place. That is how you should see yourself as you are on this road to healing. You are re-breaking through all the old injuries, and re-setting them into the correct place.
    • Its gonna hurt like hell before it feels better. But it will eventually feel better.

Love yourself, take the time to heal, and you will eventually be to the place where you want to be.

Just as the Philadelphia 76’ers are saying these days in the NBA playoffs, #trusttheprocess !

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Photography: Michelle Madsen 

 

Life: Don’t Quote Me On It

Every time I walk out of my gym, there’s a white board by the protein shake bar that they will write motivational quotes on. Most days I kind of just pass by it and don’t read it, because they’re usually pretty cheesy and cliche. Like:

” You Gotta Hustle for That Muscle”

“Don’t Wish for a Good Body; Work For it”

“Sweat + Sacrifice = Success”

But honestly, the last few have been different, and I have thought very deeply about them. So much so that I even wrote them down in a note on my phone to save them!

“If It Doesn’t Challenge You It Won’t Change You”

“The Speed You Move Doesn’t Matter, Only the Direction”

“Positive Thoughts Breeds Positive Results”

As silly as I felt writing these gym quotes down in my phone, they really impacted me. But it’s always the small and simple things that we aren’t expecting that make the difference in us. Just like these quotes, they started small but has snowballed and escalated within me into these thoughts I am writing now.

All of these quotes can of course be applied to my life (and yours) outside of the gym.

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Won’t Change You

This particular quote has been on my mind the most since I saw it last week, due to all of the traumatic experiences and trials I have faced in the last 3 + years.

I have been challenged so much, that it’s literally almost killed me; my entire life burned down around me and I somehow survived and have dug myself out from the ashes.

And because I survived what challenged me, I have changed. I will never be that woman again, nor do I ever want to be her again.

Last week I got an email from the online print company Shutterfly  reminding me “Hey! Remember these photos from 5 years ago?” They were bridal/groomal photos my ex and I had taken, that I had used the website to put together into a printed book. And to answer your question: No, Shutterfly automated email, I didn’t remember those photos until you sent them to me. In fact, I never wanted to think about them or see them again! But there they were… showcasing me in a beautiful last wedding dress that I had picked out with my mom and my sister, posing with my ex at the Castle Amphitheater in Provo.

It was like a punch to my gut to see them. Memories flooding my mind of that day and how excited I was to take those photos, and then printing them so we could cherish them forever. I was looking forward to our wedding day coming up in May, looking forward to marrying who I thought was the man of my dreams.

Quickly, I deleted the email, but I felt dizzy and sick. It’s always a trauma trigger to see any photo of my ex for me. After talking to my sister Heather I felt a little more calm, but my feathers were definitely ruffled for the next few days.

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The thing that disturbed me the most, though, was not so much seeing my ex, but seeing that stranger who was with him in those photos. Yep, the stranger I’m referring to is me; or was me.

I am no longer that woman, and like I said earlier, I never want to be her again. She was manipulated and trapped into a sadistic and abusive relationship; she was co-dependent on the unhealthy behaviors and patterns within the marriage; she nearly lost everything including her own life trying to make it work.

I am a changed woman, and I will never… NEVER… let someone control me again like that. I am stronger, wiser, and most cautious than I was before, and it will not happen again.

And for that, those changes that have been forever made within me down into the very marrow of my bones, I am grateful. The challenges I faced changed me, all for the better.

The Speed You Move Doesn’t Matter, Only the Direction

Lately I have been struggling with feeling like I’m stuck in this weird funk. And I do not use the word “stuck” lightly at all; I feel literally trapped in this stage of my life that I can’t seem to figure out.

I wrote about it here a little bit I feel so unfulfilled right now in what I am doing and I wish I could figure out what I really want and what I really want to do with my life!

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Me…. everyday!

I guess that’s the problem everyone deals with, figuring out what to do with our lives! I’m still trying to answer that question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Well here I am, a grownup, and some days I just don’t have a damn clue!

 

To try and help guide myself on to the right course, I started making an outline of my life, which includes my goals (small and big), when I want to accomplish them, and then I went through and filled in ways I can make these things really happen. For me, visually seeing them I front of me helps a ton!

To make this outline of sorts, I actually use the incredible online organizational tool called Trello. If you haven’t checked them out, do yourself a favor and go look now!

There’s Always Time

While I sort through figuring out what exactly I want to do and what I need, I have to remember that there’s no time crunch or clock that I’m trying to race; there’s plenty of time!

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Society likes to make us believe that everything these days is fast-paced and fast-tracked, and if we don’t know what we want to do before we enter 3rd grade that we are super far behind. OK, that was an exaggeration, (and if I wanted to be what I aspired to be in 3rd grade, I would be an astronaut veterinarian, which sounds kinda cool I guess!)

Life might seem like it is racing by us, but we really do have time to figure things out at our own pace! We shouldn’t ever let anyone, or anything, pressure us into something we are not ready for or that we don’t want.

Stop to Smell the ___ (Insert Whatever You Wanna Smell Here)

The old saying about stopping to smell the roses will always be good advice, because we will always need to be reminded to slow the hell down and enjoy the present.

Too often I have felt pressure: to figure out what I wanted to do in college (even though I still wonder if I really graduated in what I should have or could have); to get married (the first time), and now to get married again; to be better, smarter, braver; to be more social and to go to more social events.

But by farrrr… my favorite pressure pertains to the trauma I am still recovering from. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of the pressured advice to “just get over it” and “move on already.”

Gee, thanks… great advice! Easier said than done unfortunately…

In my defense, I am trying to get over it! It’s not as if I am just sitting around doing nothing and hoping it will all go away. I’m doing everything I can, but at my own pace. I go to therapy, I do energy healing, I meditate, I’ve ready numerous articles and blogs and books about healing and recovery, and everyday I continue to work on “me” in my own way!

And the most important thing in recovery and healing is not the speed of it, but the direction of it. If you’re going in a good direction, then you’re doing just fine. Stick to the middle lanes and let everyone and everything else zoom on past you in the fast lane.

I’m not writing this to sound mean or spiteful, I am just trying to put the awareness out there for anyone else in this situation. Don’t rush anyone through their recovery or grieving! Support them and love them, but definitely don’t try to tell them what to do.

If you’re reading this and  you’re working on recovering from something traumatic or heartbreaking, or if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, by all means TAKE YOUR TIME! Because the bottom line is there is no set timeline to work through any of these things.

My only advice to anyone out there is to just take your time, listen to your body and your heart about what you need to recover and heal, and honestly take the time to stop, not just to smell the flowers, but just enjoy where you’re at and take your time getting to where you want to go!

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Positive Thoughts Breeds Positive Results

Boy oh boy, do I have issues lately with my attitude. I’ll definitely be the first to admit that I have just felt defeated and super down about everything. I’ve retreated into my anti-social cocoon and been very distant and uninterested in my own life sometimes.

I think a lot of it relates to how I just feel so stuck in place right now, and can’t seem to find that light at the end of my tunnel that I’m moving towards, and gives me a purpose. Like why do I work? To just pay bills? To just exist? I want to feel like I have a reason for everything I am doing right now, and as of lately I just feel very blank and empty.

And as easy as it sometimes is to just wallow in my grouchy cloud and just feel sorry for myself, that isn’t helping me one bit. I make an effort to climb out of it everyday; some days I succeed and some days the darkness does. It’s a constant battle.

There is a saying about how Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe, and I think it also means that in general the energy and vibes you put out into the universe will reflect and then attract back to you the same.

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You can’t litter your life with negativity, and then be surprised when your attitude turns into a pile of garbage!

So, if I want to be happy and find my true happiness, I have to put that out into the universe. If I believe I can find what I want and feel happy and fulfilled through that, then it can happen!

Some days it is harder for me to break away from the negative thoughts and the fears that seem to weigh heavily on me, but eventually as I continue to work through therapy and my own self-healing processes I can be rid of them forever. It just takes time and work, and I just need to be patient and loving to myself as I do it.

What Is Broken Can Be Fixed

Going back to my initial post on my blog about Kintsukuroi  brokenness can be considered a blessing sometimes, because sometimes it takes being shattered down to pieces to be able to re-assemble your life the way it needs to be – and should be!

As I do piece myself back together from everything I’ve been through, those cracks everywhere tend to leak and let in the negativity and self-doubt that can end up breaking apart my progress again. I have to be strong, and hold those pieces together with all the good vibes and positivity I can muster up!

I won’t be broken forever, and I know that day when I finally feel whole and completely new is something definitely motivating me forward.

But go ahead and be broken – you are allowed to say you are not OK and that you’re hurting! You dont need to pretend that everything is roses and rainbows! Let yourself be broken, and start the process of putting your pieces back together.

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Just Around the Corner

So as I continue to navigate my way through my life, I’ve decided to focus my perspective and change my attitude towards what’s ahead; and not fixate so much on where I am now.

If I live as if good things are always around the corner, it gives me motivation to keep going!

And honestly, good things really are always up ahead. Life won’t always hold you down under the water trying to drown you, sometimes life will be your best friend and you’ll live holding hand dancing under rainbows and riding unicorns.

Ok, obviously not really. But life won’t always be so bad. So as I give myself a major attitude adjustment, I ask those of you also struggling to try to do the same.

And just like another motivational white board quote said once;

“You Only Live Once? False. You live Everyday! You Only Die Once.”

So friends, let’s live everyday. Be in the moment, enjoy everything (good or bad) and find the joy that’s just around the corner.

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Golden 33

Every year around my birthday, I start to think about my life. All of it. Almost like an annual existential crisis of sorts. And these are a lot of thoughts, just swirling around my head like some heavy fog overpowering a city.
And the fog gets heavier and thicker, until suddenly it’s 3 am and I’m still awake just thinking about stuff.
Where I’m at currently and what I’m doing…
What I wish I was doing with my life…
What I realistically should be doing with my life…
Where I wish I was living…
Something dumb and embarrassing I did like 5 years ago…
Choices I wish I’d made differently, and how my life might look today if I had…
The lyrics to If I Could Turn Back Timeby Cher…
Who I was 4 years ago on my birthday…
Who I was even just last year on my birthday…
What are my passions…
Are aliens real…
I mean, clearly the list goes on and on in a never-ending swirling circle of chaos. This is why I only got about 3 hours of sleep.
But, the good news is that there is something constructive that comes from this annual existential crisis. Every year when I get into this little funk and start over analyzing my life, it helps me see more clearly that there are thing I do want to change in my life, and I start trying to plan what I can do to make those changes.

Scottish Stories

While I was lost in my thoughts last night, lying awake in my bed, my mind drifted to a place I hadn’t thought of for about two years. Scotland.
I went on an amazing bucket-list trip to Scotland; something I had been wanting to do for years. Unfortunately, I went with my ex as a sort of “last effort thing to try to save our marriage.” And if I can give you any advice, it’s to definitely not try to save your marriage with a vacation. (Because that’s just horrendously stupid! And yes… I admit it was a stupid choice to go with him.)
Soon after we came home was when the s*it hit the fan and I ended up finally breaking away from the toxic relationship for good. However, because of the timing of everything, some of my incredible trip to Scotland got a little lost in the chaos and hidden away to find as fun little mental Easter eggs that I will probably continue to find over the next few years as they resurface into my consciousness.
That trip to Scotland, as cliche as it sounds, was exactly what I needed though; because certain events and experiences there helped me realize that I did need to end my marriage. And honestly, in ways changed me forever. I think that’s what real travel shoulddo though… it should change you!
Now, I won’t go over my entire 14 day trip in one post because it’s just too much to take in with one sitting. But, I will showcase 2 stories I thought of last night that randomly happened to pop up into my chain of existential ponderings, and the “how did I get where I am?” and the “where do I need to go now?” thoughts.

The Sheep and The Mud

One of the places I had been looking forward to the most of my Scotland trip was the Isle of Skye. I had researched it for months, drooling over the gorgeous photos and just finding it so unbelievable that this place could be real. (And for the record, pictures do not even come close to doing this place justice…)
Quite literally, as we drove across the bridge connecting Scotland to Skye, we entered a place of my dreams. And I say this because, since going there, I constantly dream about it. There are several reoccurring dreams with the same locations that I have (I’ll have to do a post sometime about my dreams in general…) and Skye has become one of those places. So I figuratively and literally dream about the Isle of Skye!
We only spent one day there, and packed in everything we could in those precious hours. After starting off exploring at the ruins of the Clan Donald castle called Armadale, we wanted to do some hiking.
Studying a map, and doing some research online when we found wifi at the castle visitor center, we found some close by castle ruins we could hike down to, starting at a beach called Tarskavaig. Driving along a dirt road for about 17 miles, that we came to realize was used for herding to millions of sheep that apparently live on Skye, we found what we believed to be a good spot to park and start walking.
The thing about Scotland that is cool, is that you can literally hike wherever you want to. If it’s open land, it’s open for hiking. The bad part about that, though, is unlike here in the US, trails are not really marked so you kind of have to just find your own way.
The result? Most people get horribly lost.
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Tarskavaig Beach
 The silver lining in us getting lost was I didn’t mind so much where we got lost. We started on a rocky secluded beach, and made our way towards some green cliffs, which we climbed up to get to higher ground. Up there, we ventured through fields of sheep, passing a small abandoned home, and finding some cool caves along the way. Every where we turned was picturesque and wonderful.
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The abandoned old sheep herder’s house 
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After walking for some time, my hiking partner was becoming frustrated that we were lost. I was lost too, but more so in my thoughts and in the scenery around us. There was literally no one else around, it was as if we were in a completely isolated place in the world, and the only other living things were sheep. I kind of wished it was just me and the sheep though.
We were up pretty high, and I thought if we walked towards the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean we could maybe spot to castle ruins we were trying to find below us somewhere. As I walked towards it, I happened to step with my right leg into a deep pit of mud, which went all the way past my knee!!
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The mud pit that I stepped in was right by those big boulders by the cliff! 
So after I got pulled out, and I laughed hysterically about the fact that my entire right leg was covered in mud and my boot now weighed 20 pounds, we looked over the edge of the cliff and still saw no signs of this supposed ruined castle.
Feeling defeated, we started to circle back towards where we thought we had come from. However, we did not and ended up even more lost and turned around. Magically, as if summoned by our need for help, a man came walking down a hill in the distance. From the looks of him, he was a sheep herder. A bunch of the cute, fluffy little sheep were frolicking behind him as he walked right towards us. Waving us over, we walked towards him too.
Quickly we realized he barely spoke English. He had an incredibly heavy Scottish accent, but he mostly spoke Gaelic and we could hardly understand him. What we did understand immediately, though, was his warm friendly smile! He just beamed with joy! He seemed like one of the jolliest and friendliest humans on the planet.
I was super stoked about those sheep of his, they are these adorable little sheep with the cutest black and white legs and curled little horns:
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I tried to pet a few of them and they scampered away. The farmer laughed at me, calling them, “wee little beasties.” I just wanted to pet the wee little beasties so bad!
Realizing we were very much not from around there (sassenachs as Scots call them, which means outlanders, or outsiders) he spoke slower and was very patient with us. He waved his arms around as he talked with us, and we tried to tell him where we were trying to go. I showed him on my phone the castle ruins and he started laughing. “Ach… it’s weeeee over there!” he explained, pointing towards the far shoreline in the distance.
I managed to get some of his story of of him (from what I could understand anyway.) He had been born and raised on Skye, and had been a sheep farmer his whole life. Married to his wife for over 40 years! I I commented, meaning for it to be in my head but it ended up being said out-loud, “You must love your life here!”
He nodded actually understanding what I said, and replied with a giant smile, “I kenna the mud and the wee beasies!” He laughed and pointed at my mud soaked right leg when he mentioned mud. (Which I figured his comment loosely translated to “I know the mud and the sheep!” or maybe “All I need is the mud and the sheep!”)
Eventually, we decided to give up on this particular castle adventure, because there were other things we wanted to see on Skye before night fall came in a few hours. We said our goodbyes to our farmer friend, and started walking in the way he told us to go back.
I looked back and watched him round up his wee beasties, and continued merrily on his way. I envied him. Honestly, I did. I felt this immense jealously of how happy this man was, with the simplest life on this unbelievably beautiful island. It’s all he knew, but apparently that’s all he needed.
We climbed back the cliffs and made our way back to our car. As we began the drive to our next hike to the Fairy Pools, my thoughts remained with the sheep farmer for awhile. I wished my life could be less complicated, less out of my control, and less sad. I wanted to feel the joy that farmer felt every day. He loved his life! He literally radiated with joy! And those sheep were joyful too, frolicking and dancing all around him!
What I wouldn’t have given in that moment to feel that kind of happiness. I tried to think when I truly, really, felt that happy. It had been months.. maybe even years. It made me sad, and I started crying in the car.
He asked if I was ok, and I said I was just feeling tired from all the jet lag. It wasn’t a complete lie though. I was feeling emotionally jet lagged from years of unhappiness.
I managed to pull myself back together, to just try to enjoy the beauty of this place I had been waiting so long to see.
But deep down I knew that eventually, I needed to find my own version of wee beasties and mud that made me happy. I will never forget that farmer; he will never know what an impact he made on a sassenach visiting all the way from Utah.

Dierdre of the Sorrows

Heartbreak and despair are two very common themes among Scottish folklore, I came to discover. I think that happens in almost every culture, though, because we as humans always look for stories we can relate to, to help us through our own mess.
Well, Dierdre’s story happened into my life right when I needed someone to relate to.
It was close to the end of our trip, and we had honestly been fighting quite a bit that day.
Despite it all, we were in Glen Coe which is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in person, second only to the Isle of Skye, and that made things better for the moment (a bandaid on a bullet hole so to speak.) The rolling, green hills and expansive valleys are simply stunning. No wonder so many movies and shows are filmed here! (including scenes from Harry Potter, Skyfall, Braveheart, Game of Thrones… just to name a few notables!)
We had finished visiting the historical site of the Glen Coe massacre(which I will have to do another post about that whole place someday…) and we decided to drive eastward through the Glen Coe highlands towards our next destination of Dalmally.
After we went on a brief climbing adventure to see the shooting location of Hagrid’s Hut in Harry Potter (on which I ended up rolling down a very steep hill and sprained my ankle…but it was so worth it!!…) we pulled out a map and were deciding where to go next. Since my ex was a very stubborn person when it came to figuring out directions, I left him alone and hobbled towards The Claighaig Inn where our car was parked, to explore a little. There was some information inside the gorgeous wooden lobby, including an array of pamphlets.
I managed to grab a few random ones before I was summoned to head back out on the road. The driver was still upset with me about something I can’t even recall, so as the passenger I silently enjoyed the scenery surrounding us on the road, feeling mesmerized by the intense beauty of it all.
Remembering some of the pamphlets I had grabbed, I happened to pull out one describing the folklore surrounding Glen Coe, including Deirdre of the Sorrows. The name itself pulled me in, because in that moment I was feeling like Aly of the Sorrows, so I quickly read through her story. To paraphrase:
Deirdre was the daughter of a famous story teller, who served in the court of King Conchobar Mac Nessa in Ireland. When she was born, the high druid of the court (a magical priest of sorts), prophesied that she would grow to be so beautiful that kings
and lords would go to war over her. 
Intrigued by this, and clearly doing the kingly thing, Conchobar tore her away from her family and sent her to live in isolation until she was old enough for him to marry.
Well, Deirdre had her own ideas. As she grew close to the age of marrying, she was out hunting one day and happened to meet the handsome young warrior named Naoise. Falling deeply in love, the two defied the king and fled to Glen Coe in Scotland to be together. They made a life there, living among the valleys and the mountains
in Glen Etive.  
I wish the story had a happy ending, but it doesn’t. The king was furious and sent his army after them. It took them awhile to hunt them down, but eventually they found them and in the end Naoise was killed. 
Heart broken and inconsolable, Deirdre took her own life to be with her love, right by the river in Glen Etive. However, the legend says that she was never able to find him in the afterlife, because King Conchobar wanted to keep them apart forever; so sometimes her sorrowful cries can be heard in Glen Etive by the river. Some people even see her wandering around searching for Naoise. She never stops searching for her true love.
I had been so consumed by this story, that when I happened to look up at the road again I saw a sign to turn right for Glen Etive. “TURN RIGHT!!” I yelled dramatically (even though the turn was still another 500 or so feet ahead…)
Something was just pulling me to go there, to go see where Deirdre had spilled the blood of her inconsolable sorrows into the waters of the river. Maybe Deirdre herself was pulling me there, who knows!
Glen Etive definitely did not disappoint us one bit. The road led us into a small canyon, carving into the wet green hills and into some unearthly beautiful terrain. I was silently staring out the windows again, just intensely taking it all in.
We pulled over eventually, stopping in two different places. The first was here, by this small but incredible waterfall.
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Then we stopped here, at the iconic Skyfall location from one of the more recent James Bond films. (Everyone raise their hand who wants to make out with Daniel Craig!) (And for the record I’m raising my hand.)
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In the movie Skyfall, James Bond stands in this exact place with M (if you recognize it)
I didn’t hear Deirdre’s cries, or see her, but I think her story resonated somewhere deep inside me. I was wanting to leave a controlled life to find my true happiness, to experience the real joy I knew was out there for me. I remember standing back and watching my ex as he walked further down the road from where I stood and took the last photo, and I realized he was not my Naoise. My Naoise was still out there. Fighting back tears, I blamed it on how beautiful the scenery was, but really I didn’t want to admit to this man that I realized I was probably going to have to leave him to save myself and go after what my heart really wanted and deserved.
It was a difficult thing to come to grips with, and having those thoughts terrified me. Guilt overwhelmingly rose within me, telling me I was a terrible person and wife for even thinking those things. But at the same time, I was miserable beyond whatever sorrows haunted Glen Etive; and I thought if Deirdre was willing to risk it all to find her true happiness than maybe I should too.
I think I spilled my own sort of blood there on those river beds; feeling the beginnings of my new life path forming inside my heart that led me away from who I was with. I’ll never forget that pivotal and important moment, and a part of me will forever be left there in that beautiful wilderness. Just like Deirdre, I never want to stop searching for my true happiness.

The Golden Birthday

So here I am, on what I am dubbing my Golden Birthday (turning 33 on the 3rd! Or is that a ‘double golden’ birthday?). Since I was only a toddler on my real golden birthday, I’m pretty sure this one counts because I don’t remember my real one.

Supposedly your golden birthday is supposed to be a lucky year. I’m hoping that can be the case for me. I feel good about 33! I really think 33 is going to be a magical year for me.
I feel healthier than I have in a long time, and I’m still working towards the happy part… but that doesn’t mean my life is not full of joy! I have so much to be thankful for and everyday I realize how incredibly blessed I am for everything I have, and for all of the amazing people in my life who I love.
The good news is, I still have plenty of time to figure out my life. So despite how many more sleepless nights I may have ahead of me, thinking about everything, at least I find comfort in knowing that I still have time to sort it all out. Everyone is continuously progressing, learning, and growing; so I’m not alone on this strange road of life. So I know one day I’ll find my own Naoise, and my own sheep and mud too.
So cheers to 33!

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Forever searching for those wee little beasties