What’s My Name?

Have you ever really sat and thought about why names are so important?

Historically, last names would tell us what someone did for a living, or even what part of their country they were from.

Royal lineage was honored with the names handed down to them through generations of monarchs and leaders.

Nowadays, names become our image, our calling card, our business. If people know your name, you’re more successful or sometimes you are infamous and less liked. Either way though, those people out there still know your name.

Famous athletes hear their names cheered by thousands of fans in stadiums, or see their names worn on the back of jerseys everywhere.

So, what really is in a name?

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My Name

My twin sister Heather was named after the Heather flower in Scotland, where my dad served his Latter Day Saint Christian mission back in the 70’s. I always used to joke that they had her name picked out, and then just opened a baby name book and looked on the first page and said, “Oh, Alyson is perfect!”

But, it’s just a silly joke. Alyson was my mom’s choice, it was one of her favorite names. Although, for the record, I prefer Aly over Alyson. I feel like I only get called my full name when I’m in trouble.

My middle name is Leigh (pronounced Lee), and Heather’s is Lynn. Our parents wanted us to have twin middle names. I love that my first name and my middle name have unique spellings, especially my middle name. It originates from the Old English surname, which means ‘delicate’ and ‘meadow’. It makes me laugh because I am anything but delicate, but I do love myself a good meadow.

Maughan is my maiden name; my original family name. The name that shaped me through my childhood, and through some of the most important years of my life. I’ve loved being a Maughan, and everything that is connected to the name in my memories and in my heart.

Name Change

When I was dating my ex-husband, I remember telling him all I wanted for Christmas that year was his last name. I was so excited to marry him and to change my last name to his! I do remember feeling a little sad when I changed it legally, letting go of the name that had been a part of me my whole life at that point.

Fast-forward 4 years later, when I was finalizing my divorce. In my decree, it states I can legally go back to my maiden name. However, here I am 2 1/2 years later and I still haven’t changed it.

It might sound strange to most of you, but I hesitated on changing back to my maiden name, because I don’t feel like that person anymore. That name was who I was in the beginning phases of my life, but I felt to an extent that I had outgrown her and couldn’t just go back to being her. Of course I love and cherish the name and everything she went through to get to where I am today, don’t get me wrong; But I don’t feel connected to her anymore.

I also can’t stay connected to the name I changed to when I was married. But I felt stuck and wasn’t sure what to do; or if I could do anything but go back to my maiden name? Was it weird to change it to something completely different and seemingly random

I tabled the thoughts of name changes for awhile, until I received a very unexpected push in the right direction. I finally felt ready to read a book I’d been wanting to read for years; Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I knew it would be a beautiful book, but I waited so long because of her dealing with her own mother’s death would be hard for me to get through because of my own.

If you haven’t read it, please do yourself a favor and do. Her writing is so raw, so genuine, and so painfully honest that it moves and changes you. There were words I felt were written specifically for me, and resonated so deeply in my heart.

One particular part was where she explains how she chose to change her name after her own divorce to a new name, one that she felt connected to; Strayed.

This renewed my own choice to change mine to a different name.

Finding a Name

So, here started my journey a few months ago to try to find a name I felt connected to; a name I would change to. That’s right, I was going to change my last name to something else, something I chose.

Losing control over my entire life while I was married really put me in a tail-spin for years. I’m still trying to pull up out of it completely, but I’ve certainly come a long way. That’s why I want to choose my name. I want to feel in control of who I am, and choose a name that is totally me. And not the “me” from before, the “me” I am today.

I started a running list of words and names that connected with me, that I wanted to consider for my name. Some only resided on the list for short time. Others lasted weeks, others months.

Slowly, but surely, I began to go through each one and cross them out when I knew they weren’t right. I did research on each one; the historical meaning, any bad innuendos associated with them, and even used Google searches to see who else might have that name.

The names that made it to the final round of cuts went through a “Marie Kondo” session, and I thought profoundly about each one with my first name and decided if they brought me joy or not.

Finally, I came to a decision; a name was found.

Wednesday

Yep, Wednesday isn’t just a day of the week anymore. It’s the name I chose.

Sounds random, I know! Keep reading for my explanation:

Tuesday

Our birth mom told us the story about how when she discovered she was pregnant, our birth dad originally said they should name the baby Tuesday. This was of course before they knew we were twins, and before the decision was made to put us up for adoption.

If Tuesday had been the name choice, Heather would have been Tuesday since she was the first born by two minutes. I came out in quite the chaos apparently, feet first and devastating any opportunity they would have had to c-section me (which was the plan.) Apparently I’ve always made my own path even when I was entering this world, and I did so feet first.

Being second born, I like to imagine I would have therefore been Wednesday. Also, funny enough, we were born on an actual Wednesday.

It’s Not What You Think…

No, I did not choose this name because of Wednesday Addams. Although, for the record, I do adore her and her dark humor. The creator of the Addams characters chose the name because of the nursery rhyme that stated, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” I am not filled with woe, however.

In some cultures, including the Akan people of Ghana, they are literally named after the day of the week they were born on. Have more than one child born on the same day of the week? No problem, they also have a second name (like a middle name) to indicate which order they were born in.

But, I’m not changing my first name, just my last name.

What’s My Name

I want to point out that I am not changing my name to insult, hurt, or confuse anyone. This choice is literally just about me, just for me. Like the way I was born into this world, I am going to do what I want, how I want, and when I want.

That is the beauty of this life, our power to choose and our power to have control over our lives. I lost my control once, and I refuse to ever live that way again.

As I said earlier, I loved my maiden name. Being a Maughan will never leave me, it will always be a part of me. I just needed to choose a new name to represent who I am now. I like to think my new name contains my maiden name in spirit, as well as all the names ancestrally before it too. Every name has a purpose, and has a power within it, and I hope to feel all of that as I go forward with a newly named ambitions.

Wednesday Whys

Wednesday in the Bible is the day that the sun and moon were created; if you know me you know how much I love both the sun and the moon, but especially the moon!

In the Hindu calendar, the word for Wednesday is Budhavara . The root of that word is Budha which connotes the planet Mercury, as well as the Hindu deity who is also known as “the son of the moon.” (Not to be confused with Buddha of Buddhism, just to clarify.)

Wednesday is typically seen as the middle of a work week, and I am currently feeling as if I am finally in the middle of my own life’s work. Wednesday suited the work I plan on doing, and what’s coming in the future ahead.

Mercury was the Roman God of several things including travelers, boundaries, luck, communication, and financial gain, is the namesake for the day of the week from the original calendars. (Mercredi is Wednesday in French, Mercoledì in Italian, and Latin is dies Mercurii which translates to “day of Mercury.”) The things Mercury stood for and helped the people accomplish seem right up my alley.

If you’ve ever dabbled into astrology, there are some interesting things surrounding being born on the day of Wednesday: children of Wednesday are restless and questioning, always searching for answers and can’t sit still. They have a message they want to share with the world. Also, their lucky number is 5; my number all through middle school and high school sports was 5, and it’s still my lucky number to this day. Even if you don’t believe in astrology (…which I take it with a grain of salt but do find it very interesting…) it is a crazy coincidence!

While all the meaning behind the word is fascinating to me, what I went most off of was how it made me feel. Did I feel connected to it? Did I feel like this name could become a part of me, help me do the things I want to accomplish, and could I make something admirable of the name?

The more I thought about it, the more it felt right. I had finally after months of debate, found what I had been seeking.

So here I am world: Alyson Wednesday. Or, Aly Wednesday as I prefer.

Hate it or love it, its up to you. You get to choose how you want to react, but your reaction does not change my choice and my love for my new name. Like I said, this was a choice I made just about me, just for me.

I feel like I am finally getting back to my former self. The one who was in control of her life, and on the right path to where I need and want to get. I don’t have the same name as before, but I’m also not that girl anymore.

I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever change it again; some people have asked me that. When the time comes and I do marry someone else, I’ll decide then what is right for me. I’m not a psychic so I can’t see into the future how I will feel.

Today of all days I chose to write about this, because 6 years ago this was the day my original name was changed (yep… the old wedding anniversary.) I used to feel sadness, or woe I suppose, when this day came around the past 2 years post divorce. But now, I feel inspired by how far I’ve come and how strong and brave I have been to break away from the things that were holding me back, and allow myself to be myself again. I was broken apart and lost myself under the guise of that name I took on, and I will never, ever be in that place again. With the new name I feel a new beginning. I have so much life ahead of me, I’ll never feel sadness again on this day. Only hope, and a future ahead of me.

I am a newly born woman; once again venturing out on the path of my choice, feet first. It may not be a literal Wednesday, but everyday is a Wednesday from now on for me.

My life, my choices,  my name, and my own beautiful journey. This is what life is meant to be!

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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

 

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)

 

 

 

#sorrynotsorry

Why do we live in a world where we constantly feel like we need to say sorry?

“Sorry I’m late”

“Sorry I missed your call”

“Sorry for if what I said offended you”

“Sorry for telling the truth”

“Sorry I made a mistake”

“Sorry I’m not good enough”

“Sorry I can’t afford that”

“Sorry I can’t make it”

I mean, the list can obviously go on and on.

Why do we say sorry so often? Why has this become a core factor in our communication?

The Bad Day

I started thinking about this the other night, Monday night, after I had an epically frustrating and awful day. It was one of those days where everything seems to go wrong, and the universe seems particularly focused on making you suffer. Things had also been building up for a few days that had been wearing on me, and finally it just broke me.

Because of everything seeming to go wrong, and that had built up, I ended up being in the worst mood. I was easily defeated and frustrated, and had the worst attitude about everything. I snapped at people. To say the least, I was not the most pleasant person that day.

After such a day like that, I felt like I had been an emotional tornado ripping through everything and everyone I had crossed paths with, and I felt this intense guilt and need to apologize for being in such a foul mood and having had the worst attitude.

Later that night, I was hanging out with a few girlfriends and one in particular brought up the subject of how we as a society, especially women, feel the need to apologize too often and when its not even necessary.

She said something so simple yet so profound, and I thought about it so much since then:

Don’t apologize for being human, and for what you’ve done. Embrace who you are, accept what has happened in that moment or in that day, learn from it, and move on. Own who you are, own your choices and your mistakes, and let them refine you.

So no… I did not in fact owe anyone from that day an apology. It is only human to have a bad day, to be in a grumpy mood sometimes, and to every once in a while lose my cool.

In essence I did nothing wrong, but why did I feel such strong guilt about needing to apologize for the way I handled it that day? In reality I just had a bad day, and everyone has bad days. Instead of feeling sorry or saying sorry, I needed to adjust my perspective and just learn from the ways I reacted and move on.

Tired of Being Sorry

So the truth is, I’m tired of being sorry.

Why am I allowing society dictate how I should feel? How I should act, or what I should be doing?

I don’t believe I was given this life, just to have to apologize for it constantly. Should a fire apologize for burning? Or the water for being wet? No. So why then, do we feel like we should apologize for being human?

I’ve made a resolution that from now on I will live unapologetically as my authentic self. At least I will try my best!

No one gets to decide when I’m “too much”; no one gets to tell me when I’m “too loud” or that I’m “wrong”, or decide my passions in life.

It is my humanly given right to make mistakes, to have control and ownership of my choices, to be messy and sometimes reckless, to be a bit wild and untamable; and I won’t apologize for it anymore. This is me, take it or leave it.

That being said, though, of course this does not include instances where I do end up making a choice or mistake that does hurt someone else. Then of course I will own that and apologize to them. I’m not a monster, people 🙂

Things We Need to Stop Apologizing For

I’ve compiled a list of things I think we all need to stop apologizing for, especially we as women. I’ve also included some examples to help clarify the points behind them:

01. Your Personal Priorities

They are yours, and you get to decide what is important and what is not. The end.

02. Your Flaws

We are all uniquely made, and given unique purposes and skills. So something we end up lacking or failing at, shouldn’t be something we have to be sorry for. It just means we are one step closer on our life path to discovering our true selves. So flaws should be celebrated because of that, and not something we should be shamed for.

03. Following Your Dreams and Passions

Just like 01, your dreams and passions are not up to anyone else. You get to decide! So never allow the world to make you feel sorry or ashamed of what you want and how you’re going to achieve them. You want to put your blood, sweat, and tears into starting a new business but your friends/family are giving you grief because you’re ‘never around anymore’ or ‘never return their calls or texts’? Tell them you can’t keep people in your life that don’t support what you’re working your booty off to achieve.

Ain’t nobody got time for negativity!

Or, someone tries to tell you the thing you want most in life is stupid or not worth it? Or that you’ll never be able to reach it? That’s not their decision, and not their right to dictate to you how you should spend your time and effort. It’s your life, it’s your passion, and your dream; never be sorry for going after what your heart wants. Even if you fail, at least you tried, you learned, and you will continue on your life path.

04. Saying No

This one is a big one. People always try to convince to me go do something I don’t want to, and then make me feel guilty or bad for not wanting to. Why has this become OK?

If I don’t want to go to a party or an event, no one has the right to make me feel like I’m a ‘bad friend’ for not wanting to go. Doesn’t that seem hypocritical, since they’re technically being the bad friend for trying to shame me into going to something I don’t want to?

Its OK to say no! Never apologize for standing up for yourself, and saying no. Say ‘yes’ to saying ‘no!’ You will feel so much more in control of your life and your happiness when you stop allowing others to choose or tell you what you should do.

05. Telling The Truth

Just like the saying goes, the truth hurts sometimes. But in the end, the truth is more important than sugar-coating things or telling white lies to avoid offending or hurting someone’s feelings.

Now, don’t go around purposely being mean or nasty, but stop lying. Lying never leads to anywhere positive or good. Just tell the raw, honest truth but do it in a nice way. I promise it’s better! But… stop saying sorry when you do it. The truth needs to be said.

06. Loving Someone

And here’s another popular saying, “It’s better to have loved, and lost, than to have never loved at all.”

It sucks, but it’s true, people. We need to allow ourselves to be open to loving others, even when it ends up breaking our hearts, because that is also a continual rite of passage and path of growth as humans that we must travel on.

Yes, we all have at some time or another loved someone we maybe shouldn’t have. Me? yeah, I’ve done it twice. But I won’t apologize for it, even if the world wants me to feel bad or even stupid for doing it. “Well, you should have known better,” the world might say. Or, “Don’t make that mistake again.

But, in all honesty, I don’t regret anyone I’ve loved, even though both of them hurt me tremendously and broke me down to almost nothing. I don’t regret it and I will not apologize for it. The beauty about choosing to love, despite the potential of rejection, pain, heart-break, and sometimes trauma; is that it opens us up to love on new levels that we only can reach through choosing to love someone. It’s the necessary evil our hearts need to experience.

So, even if it ends in a heart break, it is always worth it to love someone, and it’s never something you should apologize for.

07. Standing Up For What You Believe In

This has been one I’ve felt like I need to apologize for my whole life. I am a member of the LDS Church, or better known as, I am a Mormon. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, where the members of my church were far and few between. In high school, my twin sister and I constantly dealt with feeling ashamed or having to apologize for what we believed in because of our religion. “Sorry, we don’t drink.” “Sorry, we don’t have sex.”

Etc, etc, etc….

It’s ironic that as a society we all want to believe in something; yet if that something we choose to believe in is not up to “society standards”, then we feel like we should apologize for it.

Why are we being so straight up #savage to one another guys??

If you believe in something (granted it’s not something hurtful to others, extremist and/or violent, hateful, or anything of that nature,) don’t let the world make you feel sorry for it.

One of the most beautiful things about everyone on the planet is how we all believe in different  things, yet we can (sometimes) find ways to coexist and support one another.

If we all believed in the same thing, conformed to the same ideals and standards and thoughts, this world would be a boring, awful place.

08. Being a Strong, Intelligent, Confident Woman

Historically, we as women have been apologizing since apparently the apple situation with Eve. We’ve needed to apologize for having voices, for wanting power, for wanting to show some more skin, for having emotions, for wanting to vote, for wanting to not need a man in order to have worth.

In more modern day scenarios, we live in a world of business tycoons and a world catered to men, who want us to live in a certain check-listed set of ideals or else we need to apologize for not being that type of ‘woman.’

Just like the whole feminist supportive uprising and #metoo movement that has recently been gaining momentum, we are finally standing up for being assertive, powerful, intelligent women; and we don’t want to apologize for it any longer.

There is nothing wrong with being confident, feeling sexy and beautiful in our own skin, and being a go-getter business woman. Stop apologizing for it.

Ladies, we need to stand up for ourselves, speak our truths, and go do the damn thing! We do what we want, we work hard for what we want, and we won’t say sorry anymore about it.

09. Having Emotions

For some reason, it has become socially normal to make people, especially women, feel ashamed for having emotions.

Personally, in my ex-marriage I was told I could never show my emotions in front of my ex, and that if I needed to cry I could do so in our closet upstairs with the door shut. You’re probably thinking I’m making that up, and I wish I was!

The world, just like my scenario, wants us to hide our emotions as well. If you cry you’re weak and vulnerable,  or if you get upset or angry you’re a crazy bitch.

Emotions are another beautiful part, built into our DNA, that allows us as humans to love, to feel, to enjoy, and to grow. Feeling ashamed of them and apologizing for reacting a certain way or feeling a certain way is literally going against the way we are designed. We have emotions for a reason!

So if you want to laugh at something inappropriate, do it. I do all the time! Cry if you’re sad or hurting, and get upset if you need to about that guy that just broke up with you after a year in a weak, selfish text message (because hellloooo that’s so lame!)

Emotions are beautiful, they are cleansing, and they are necessary. Stop saying sorry for them!

10. For Not Being Perfect

We all seem to be trying to live up to impossible standards, and then feel the need to apologize for not achieving them.

“Sorry I’m wearing too much makeup,” “Sorry I’m not skinny enough,” “Sorry

I’m not smart enough,” “Sorry I’m too feisty,” “Sorry I have too many opinions.”

It’s a vicious and exhausting cycle of empty sorries and never met ideals. This one definitely correlates with 02, and quite honestly anything I’ve listed here, but sometimes it is the hardest one to break the habit of.

If we make a mistake, we feel shame and guilt, and feel like we are no longer good enough. If we can’t reach a certain standard we feel defeated.

We have to stop feeling and saying sorry for not being “perfect”, and instead embrace ourselves the way we are, and celebrate the things we do achieve and the things we do have. Comparison is the true thief of joy, and we can’t keep measuring ourselves up to the social media picture perfect agenda that is constantly shoved down our throats.

Life is not all kittens, rainbows, donuts, and incredible vacations like we see on our feeds; its messy, dirty, painful, and awful sometimes but that is why it is amazing.

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So how do we avoid saying sorry? It seems kind of hard, but that’s because we have habitually been saying sorry for everything. An easy way to try and break yourself

of the habit, is to replace a “sorry” with a “thank-you.”

   –  Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late,” say, “Thank you for waiting for me.”

   –  Instead of saying, “Sorry I missed your call,” say, “Thank you for understanding that I

      have a busy schedule and needed to call you back when I had time.”

    – Instead of saying, “Sorry I made a mistake,” say, “Thank you for understanding I am

      not perfect, and for helping me learn and grow from my mistakes.”

 

See? I dare you to try it.

I’ve been doing it since Monday and I’ve noticed a HUGE change! It’s very freeing to not feel so constricted within this awful apology society we have been living in.

If we keep saying sorry, even for the things we aren’t even sorry for, we are continuing to enable to societal problem, and digging ourselves deeper into this shame/guilt culture.

Like are you really sorry Carol, that you’re late to lunch? I don’t think so, because

you’re always late! If you were sorry, you would change your behavior and not be late

anymore. How about instead of apologizing every time you’re late, just embrace that

you’re an always-late-kinda-person and just show up when you can and say, “Thanks

for waiting guys!”

Don’t be like Carol, guys. Just own who you are an stop handing out empty apologies.

#SorryNotSorry

Back to my original story about this past Monday, and my awful, terrible, no good mood.

I decided that night as I laid in bed and replayed everything I had done in my head, and all the stupid reactions I had had, that I wouldn’t feel sorry for it.

Instead, I contemplated how I could have better handled the stress, the frustration, and the maddening amounts of flights I had to change and angry emails and texts I was getting blaming me for things that were not my fault… instead I would choose to react differently next time and just let it go and move on. I would learn and grow from it, but not be sorry for how it played out.

 

The only thing I will be sorry for from now on, is not being sorry. I own who I am, and I unapologetically embrace and love the woman I have become. I didn’t walk through the hellfire I’ve experienced just to be sorry for the incredible strength I’ve gained and the places it has led me to. This is me, and I’m not sorry for it.

maybe one day we’ll finally
learn to love ourselves and
stop apologizing for the things
that make us who we are
-r.m. drake

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Fool’s Gold

Have you ever stopped to think about what exactly it is you’re chasing in life? What are your dreams that you are seeking in the end?

I think these days it’s very easy to become distracted by everything that’s going on, that we can sometimes end up chasing something that we might think we want in the moment, but in the end it’s not really what we intended to find.

Treasure Hunters

Pondering over this last night, after a dinner with a dear friend where we talked about what we both want in life,  a story popped up from a memory long ago from college when I was studying Chaucer in one of my Lit classes…

…Particularly, The Pardoner’s Tale.

Basically, there are three men who go out seeking to find and kill Death. They come across an old, sad man who tells them he wishes Death would finally come visit him; then goes on to tell them they can find him in a grove nearby under a tree.

What they find there instead is a large pile of gold. They plot to take it for themselves, but need to wait until nightfall. The youngest is sent to town to buy some food and wine. While he is gone the other two plot to kill him and split the money between them. He has a similar idea, and laces 2 of the 3 bottles of wine with poison.

When he returns, they jump out and kill him. In celebration they both happen to drink the poisoned bottles of wine, and soon join him in death.

Like, real uplifting story right??

The moral of this tale is that sometimes we can become distracted or even mesmerized by the “gold” that may be under a nearby tree, and we become willing to give up everything else for it. But this treasure in the long run might not be worth what we give up for it; and it might not even be treasure at all.

Don’t give up something you want, for something you want right now

 

Fool’s Gold

Just like those men in the story, we can find some “gold” in our own lives and think that we need it, and need to do whatever we can to have it. In the end, it’s fool’s gold because we end up losing things that really matter to us to obtain it. So was it even worth it?

Fool’s gold is different for everyone; maybe it’s wanting to build a giant new home, lusting after an expensive sports car, or desiring to be in a relationship with a certain person.

I’m not saying any of these examples are necessarily bad, but if we are seeking them out for the wrong reasons, they will become our own pile of treasure under a tree that could potentially make us lose more than we bargained for to obtain it.

To me, the gold that I am seeking has drastically changed over the last few years. There was a mental check-list I had when it came to looking for a significant other, and I thought I had obtained it all with my former marriage.

Well, as I’ve gone over before, it was not what I hoped it would be. And that’s not blaming him entirely, it was also partially because I was so obsessed with this idea I had in my head of what I thought I wanted; because it was what socially around me everyone else had and told me I needed too. And I was willing to do anything to make it happen.

Seeking to take that gold from under the tree for myself, I nearly lost it all just like those men did in the story. And looking back now with clear hindsight, I see where I went wrong. And that’s why now almost 2 years out of it, I have made huge shifts in my life as to what I want to chase after.

The Real Gold

In life there is treasure everywhere, if we choose to really see it. Its just a matter of deciphering which piles of gold are worth our time, and worth our effort. Or, to be honest, which ones we need to just ignore and pass by.

I no longer want to be the idiot chasing fool’s gold that won’t make me any happier, and possibly make me lose more than I’ve already lost.

Last night after returning home, I got out my trusty journal and I wrote out a new list of goals I want to obtain in my life. Some are long term, and some are short.

It was fascinating to see how much my values and ideals have shifted even just in the past 2 years since my divorce. Honestly, I think losing everything and literally starting over on my own with nothing was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Sounds crazy to say, right? But it’s 100% true.

So for those of you even reading this, I challenge you to reevaluate what it is you’re seeking in your lives; what treasure is worth it for you to keep going after, and which ones will end up just being fool’s gold?

Don’t lose a true diamond by chasing glitter

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The letter

2 weeks ago, I sent a letter in the mail. That’s right, good old snail mail.

I hadn’t sent an actual letter in quite a long time, but for this particular situation I felt it was the best way to send the words I needed to express.

This was an important letter. Maybe one of the most important letters I’ve ever sent, or will ever.

This was a letter of true and genuine forgiveness… to my ex.

Between Both Worlds

I started to write this letter last year actually. I had this really cool epiphany about it while I was in Sintra, Portugal , last October.

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Looking down from the top of the Initiation Well 

At the bottom of the Initiation Well at Quinta Da Regaleira , I was on top of the tiled symbol of a compass overlapping a Knights of the Templar cross, which was thought to have been Monteiro’s herald and a sign of his Rosicrucianism.

The cross has many different symbolic meanings behind it historically; I see it symbolizing finding one’s truth.

There were 9 platforms we descended on the stairwell, which these represent the 9 circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. Unlike in the story, I don’t believe we were to “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The 9 platforms also represent the 9 Spheres of Heaven, from Dante’s Paradiso.

So standing there, between the 9 Spheres of Heaven and the 9 Circles of Hell, you are meant to reflect on your life and your purpose. It is a place you are equally between both ends of the spectrum, and you contemplate the disconnection between earth and the heavens as you peer up to the sky from the darkness below; and also feel the haunting closeness of hell as you are so consumed in the darkness.

As I stared up towards the light, my eyes following the curving stairs upwards towards the open sky above, I wondered what truth I was still searching for. I was drawn to the light above me, but I also felt a heaviness lurking within me that connected me to the dark tunnels of the labyrinth that surrounded where I was.

There were lots of tourists in there with us that day in the well, but for that brief moment I felt like I was completely alone, and was hit with the overwhelming epiphany that if I was to ever feel fully connected back to the light at the top of my own life’s tower, I would need to let go of what was weighing me down to the depths of it.

And that weight, was forgiveness.

I needed to let go of the bitterness and the resentment of what had happened in my past, to truly let myself heal from the pain completely.

While taking the train the next day from Sintra to Lagos, I pulled out my phone and started working on what I wanted to express in this letter.

I’ll be honest, the first few drafts I typed up on my phone were not very positive. In fact, I still only really wanted to convey some pretty bitter sentiments.

So, I deleted what I had and didn’t think about it again, until about a month ago when I was in Rwanda. With all the changes I am working towards making in my life, this idea of forgiveness resurfaced.

To me, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to fully move forward with any aspect of my life until I do officially forgive my ex husband… even though the idea of it sounds impossible.

How can I possibly forgive him for everything that happened?

Writing It Out

When I returned from Rwanda, I got to my apartment at about 2:30 am MST. We had traveled for almost 40 hours and I was beyond exhausted, not to mention a little delirious. But the problem was, I had to be to work in about 5 hours and I was worried if I went to sleep that I would never wake up for work.

So, crazy me, decided to just stay up.

I did all my laundry from the trip, tidied up my room, binged some Netflix, and finally took a luxurious shower.

By that point it was almost 6, and I was struggling to stay awake. Needing something to do to keep myself occupied and alert, I drafted my forgiveness letter. It was probably the best time I could have written it, because I was in such a delirious state of mind that I had no inhibitions and I wrote freely from the heart.

I was surprised with that I said, and how naturally it felt to write out such forgiving words to someone who had completely broken me.

But also surprising… was how much relief and weight I felt lifted from me just from writing them.

What To Do With It Now

Initially, I never intended to send the letter. I wrote it out for me, to release the toxic emotions from inside me and let them go.

But, as the days went by and I continued to look over the letter… I felt a strong urge to actually mail it.

I wondered if maybe he needed to know that I forgave him; maybe to help him on his own journey of recovery from his past and from his addictions.

I’m sure maybe some of you will argue that he didn’t deserve forgiveness, and that it was stupid for me to give it to him. But I think (depending on the situation obviously…) everyone deserves a chance to be forgiven. Who am I to choose who does and doesn’t forgiveness?

Back when I first left him, and was living in my dad’s basement, the nights were long and painful. I literally felt as if my chest was going to explode open and the shards of my broken heart would tear through the walls of the house.

In my moments of what I can only express as absolute Godly sorrow, the only thing I could do to find relief was to crawl to my knees and pray for peace and strength. But in those moments of some of the worst emotional pain, I surprised myself by not praying for myself, but praying for him…

…my soon-to-be-ex.

I knew ultimately  I would survive the pain. I had family and friends who loved me and supported me locally and all over the country. I had survived and escaped the depths of my own personal hell, and I knew I would recover and resurface from those dark moments. But for him, I wasn’t sure what would happen, or what he might do in his very fragile emotional existence at that point in time.

I knew it wasn’t my responsibility to take care of him or enable his addictions any longer, but I still loved him and I hoped he would survive me leaving. So I did the only thing I could do in that moment, and I prayed for him – I sincerely, and whole heartedly begged God to help him, and to give me the peace of mind to not worry about him anymore because I literally and physically couldn’t handle it anymore- and it was mercifully lifted from me.

Sending It

The urge to mail this letter lingered within my thoughts, but in a good way not a bad one. I knew I needed to send it, maybe more so for him than for me. But whatever the reason was, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

So… I mailed it. Without a return address.

I’ll never really know if he received it, or if he even read it. But all I know is I feel the peace in my heart now where bitterness used to reside. I decided to forgive, because holding onto it all would never allow me to move forward. There is so much hate and negativity in the world right now, I didn’t want to harbor any of that inside my own heart for anyone.

I think my ex needed the letter too. Even if he never reads the letter, at least my good intentions are out there in the universe, and maybe will help guide him on a better path.

All in all, I never hated him – I hated his disease, his addictions. I hated the choices he made, but I never hated him.

Truly, I hope he can find his way to sobriety and recovery. Just like everyone else, he deserves to live a happy life. And I honestly, genuinely hope he can find that happiness.

I may have forgiven him of everything, but I will never forget it. The fact is those things have changed and shaped me and my life into what it is now, and that’s something I will never be able to ignore. I am forever altered and changed because of it all.

I can’t say I’m grateful for what I’ve been through, as some people tend to say after a big trial; but I am grateful to have realized my true strengths and seen my ability to survive whatever is going to get thrown at me.

And the most beautiful thing out of this is, I can no longer claim that my heart is dead inside like I used to joke about all the time… because I finally allowed it to be revived to open itself to forgive the person who had deadened it in the first place. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, this is it.

I won’t share the letter completely, because most of it is too personal. But, I will share this section that struck me after it came out of my heart and onto the paper:

“Despite all of it, a part of me will always love you, because the heart can’t just erase what was real, true love; even if it was not meant to last forever. And it is because of that, I have been able to come to the place where I am now, to tell you something that I think both of us need:

I forgive you.

I hope someday you can forgive me too, for the ways I’ve hurt you and wronged you as well. I hope one day you can understand why I had to leave, and I hope you will always remember that I loved you.

Go be happy, because that’s all I ever wanted for you; even if it wasn’t with me. Most importantly, love yourself and forgive yourself – of everything in your past and finally let it go. Because you do deserve to be happy.”

Forgiveness is a powerful, incredible thing.

What is most important about it, is that choosing to forgive someone –  even someone who has hurt you and broken you – allows us to break free from the darkness that can weigh us down, and prevents their choices and behaviors from destroying our hearts.

If you take anything away from my ramblings, choose to work towards forgiving someone that’s hurt you, and let it go. Even choose to forgive yourself. I’m working on that part myself, everyday.

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PC: Alejandro Araos 

Balancing Act

Do you ever find yourself sitting at a table at a restaurant that is super wobbly?

Like so wobbly, that you’re worried  if you move anything, it will tilt and all the items will fall into your lap?

The problem, usually, is that one (or more) of the legs of that table are too short, and not even with the others. Without all legs being even and sturdy, the table will never be fully balanced.

Table Talk

So why am I talking about tables? It will make sense, I promise.

A few weeks ago, I started to feel the unbalances in my life completely taking over. Everything seemed unorganized, chaotic, and all over the place. It was stressing me out!

I knew something needed to change, but without knowing exactly what the problem was, I couldn’t fix it.

That’s when I started writing out to-do lists. For me, seeing it written down on paper makes it easier for me to focus on what needs to be done; and then check it off as I do! (Plus I’m old school and I love writing things in my planner instead of in a note on my phone.)

As I was working on compiling things into lists, I noticed there were 4 groups kind of forming on their own; 4 categories if you will. So then, the huge nerd that I can be, I decided to instead make my lists into a big chart, showcasing each category.

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And isn’t that so weird? It looks like a table… with 4 legs. 🙂

In order for the table (you) to be fully balanced, you need to care for and make each important category (table legs) even.

The Legs

As you can see from my image, my “table” has 4 legs, or categories. Each of us is unique, and so there’s not right or wrong amount of categories you need or want to attach to your table, as well as no expected category types.

I’ll run through my own categories to explain how I work on making them balanced, to give you an idea of how to balance your own!

Physically

My entire life, I have been a very physically active and relatively healthy person. I was a tom boy growing up, playing in the woods and the dirt, and doing every sport on the planet that I could possibly do!

Now, I make physical fitness and health a major priority. Here are a few things I focus on:

  • Currently I am on a meal plan and fitness plan catered to me, through L8r Lifestyle. Check them out, they’re amazing!
    • I work out 5 times a week, with heavy lifting and HIIT cardio. 2 Rest days.
    • My meal plan is catered to my height, weight, age, and what I want to accomplish. It’s real food, and meal prepping is a must!
    • I make sure I eat enough of the food my body needs, and also every once in awhile throw in a cheat meal. Because #treatyoself
  • I am a total grandma when it comes to sleep. I aim to be in bed by 10-10:30 pm during the week.
  • I’ve thrown my back out 3 times in the last 6 months. Yes, I absolutely feel like I’m old and falling apart!
    • I’ve been very smart about listening to my body, and when something is injured or hurting I rest and try to stretch, and do what I can to let things heal.
  • I stay active as much as I can outside the gym:
    • Hiking
    • Sand volleyball
    • Cycling
    • Basically anything outside!

Spiritually

This category in all honesty has felt a little depleted lately for me.

With everything I have dealt with the past few years, I hope it is understandable for me to feel this way.

And no, I wouldn’t say I am having a crisis of faith by any means; I’m just working on more ways I can feel closer to God in my personal life. It isn’t a crisis, just a phase of my life where I am transitioning and growing in this area – kind of like spiritual Feng shui, where I’m just moving things around inside myself to rebalance and feel harmonized again.

And it is just that; personal. Each of us will feel that spiritual closeness and balance in different ways.

  • I feel spiritual closeness in nature. Hiking alone is one of my favorite things to do, where I can go reflect in God’s beautiful creations about everything I’m feeling and wanting to feel.
  • I also feel spiritually close to God when I engage in very honest personal prayer. We have some real talk. He knows me and He loves me despite all of my flaws and shortcomings; and in my earnest and humble nightly prayers with Him I feel so much love and peace.
  • When I am doing service for others, I feel so spiritually balanced and my heart is so full. I feel the tiniest, most minuscule, fraction of a fraction of how much our Creator loves each of us. It is an incredibly overwhelming feeling.

If spirituality is one of your categories, do what makes you feel centered. There is no specific right or wrong way to go about it.

 Psychologically

This category has been a rough one. Anyone who has been through any sort of traumatic event, will understand.

As I’ve explained before about PTSD, it’s not something you can just flip a switch and be done with. It takes time, patience, and lots of work. Feeling psychologically unbalanced has many different repercussions, such as anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and fear of something triggering a past traumatic experience.

Self-care and self-love are two of the biggest things I have been focusing on to recover and rebuild my life after everything completely shattered.

  • Positive affirmations are amazing, and really do help! Read about them here.
  • I started going to therapy. I honestly believe anyone and everyone can benefit from therapy, but especially someone who has been through anything traumatic.
  • I take time everyday to meditate alone, even if it’s just for 10 mins. Finding that time to really zone in on my inner balance makes a huge difference.
  • I love to read, and have been reading any book I can get my hands on in regards to recovering, finding my true joys and passions in life, chasing my dreams, and overcoming the trials that I’ve been given.

Socially

If you know me, you know I also struggle with this category. Ever since being thrown head first with weights attached to me in the deep end of dating and being in the singles scene again, I have had to make a real effort to be social. It’s so hard guys!

But I’ve made some progress.

  • I only do what makes me happy. If I don’t want to go to something, I don’t. If I do, I go!
    • Why let anyone force me to do something I know will not make me happy? Life is too damn short to let other people decide it for you!
  • Hang around positive people who lift you up, instead of bring you down
    • A few years ago I hung out with a crowd that was negative, and they were so mean to me! Once I broke away from them, I was a lot happier.
    • Remember that it’s ok to not hang out with someone if they are toxic to your happiness in any sort of way.
  • I’ve grown to appreciate quality friends over quantity. The ‘popular’ ‘cool’ crowd is not always going to make you happy!

Balancing Act

So there you have it, my 4 table legs. When each of these categories feel balanced, then my life in general does as well.

If you keep focusing on balancing your life, than it will become so through your effort. It’s the whole “if you build it, it will come” mentality reminiscent from Field of Dreams; If you believe you can balance your life than it can happen!

Stay positive, prioritize what’s important, and focus on balance.

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PC: Vino Photography 

Finding My Passion

I still feel like I am recovering from the jet-lag from Rwanda, and I’ve been home for over 10 days now! I’ll start going through my journal and pictures to do a break down of my trip soon, so I can share all of my tips and adventures for you from such a magical and wonderful trip!

While reaclimating back to normal life and my routine here has been something of a challenge, the real struggle has been trying to readjust my focus in life to something with more purpose.

I don’t mean that to sound to vague, so I’ll explain what I mean below.

Poppa, the Rockstar Doctor

One of the coolest parts of this whole trip was getting to experience it not only with my twin sister, but also with our biological grandfather “Poppa”- who we have only known for 4 years (* I’ll have to post about the whole story sometime, but we were adopted and only met our birth mom and her family 4 years ago*)

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Heather Poppa and me outside our hotel in Kigali, Rwanda

He has lived his entire professional career working in the field that he has such a passion for – Infectious Disease. Traveling and living all over the world, he has made incredible impacts in the medical field of infectious disease and has touched so many lives in the process. Poppa and our grandma lived in Butare, Rwanda for a year in as he helped with the local hospital and medical program there as well as in the capitol Kigali.

To sum it up, it was amazing to see him return to the place where he lives his passion. He LOVES working in the infectious disease field, and meeting one of the local medical residents who admired him and looked up to him was so inspiring.

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Christoph our guide, Heather, and Poppa admiring a Colobus Monkey in the trees

Also getting to spend so much time with him in a place he loves so much, was such an amazing experience. This was his last trip to Africa, since he is geting up there in age, but this was his 37th trip over there! This trip literally exhausted me, I can’t believe he’s done this 37 times!

And some of the hikes we did were very difficult, and he handled them like a champ! Running through the jungle chasing a family of chimps in the Nyungwe Forest is no easy task, and when we finally found them he had the biggest smile on his face as we watched them up in the trees!

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Our group with our wonderful porters and trackers after the hike in Nyungwe Forest to follow the chimpanzees (Poppa is all the way on the right)

Not to mention, on top of a very funny sense of humor (with one of the best laughs on the planet), Poppa is one of the most patient and kind people I have ever met. He loves and accepts anyone and everyone, and I wish I could exude even a fraction of this type of love too.

Seriously, Poppa is a true rockstar! I look up to him and admire him in so many ways. Seeing just a small glimpse into Poppa’s life and experience in Rwanda, truly inspired me in my own.

How Can I Live My Own Passion?

This has been the question that has haunted and plagued me for the last 2 years. Figuring out what I really want to do in life.

But really though… how the hell do people figure this stuff out?!

I feel the way I did when I started college and was deciding on what to pick as a major. How was I supposed to know what I would want to study for the next 4 or so years, let alone do the rest of my life? It always boggled my mid that people knew already – some knew since they were little! I didn’t end up officially declaring a major until my junior year, switching from a journalist emphasis to Creative Writing/English. Even then, I still wasn’t 100% sure.

The thing I discovered on this trip, was that something inside me was forever different. Not to sound super cliche, but this trip literally changed my perspective on my life and life in general in the world. I had this growing desire to do something important, to do something that matters and changed the world for the better.

On our way home (an exhausting 41 hour total travel time) during our 13 hour leg from Qatar to New York City, I pulled out my journal and started to write. I was finishing up my entries about our trip and what we had experienced. But, then I started writing something new; the thoughts and feelings that had been stirred up from everything.

This entry became more of a list than anything.

The list was title “Things I am Passionate About”, and as I started to go through the list I circled my #5 item:

Making a Difference/Serving Others

I circled it, and even put a few stars around it. Because that made an impact, an impression inside me. This is what I needed and wanted to feel fulfilled in life, to push me to do more and to focus on.

The Moment It Changed

The funny thing about finding and following your life passions, is that they don’t just suddenly appear in some “ah-ha” moment. Generally, it is something that over time you realize has always been there but you hadn’t recognized it’s importance until the moment your heart realizes how much it means to you.

I’ve always found comfort and peace in serving others. That’s why through all of my own grief and brokenness I have found so much solace and recovery in volunteering and helping with charities and things that are helping humanity thrive.

But this trip, particularly as we drove through a small remote village on the way to Akagera National Park, something inside me changed. I realized how much I want to do to serve the world, to give back and to do more. The moment will forever be etched into my brain; a small clay-brick house we passed on the road with 4 small children outside in tattered rags chasing a black and white spotted goat. I can’t explain why this moment was the one to flip the switch inside me, but it was. And it has. And now I can’t turn it off, because now I know what it is I want to pursue.

Someday, somehow, I want to live my passion of serving others and making a difference. My true dream, is to travel the world doing many different humanitarian services and projects. I will find a way.

I can make a difference here as I can, but eventually – oh yes – I have very big plans!

Here are just a few ways I’ve been researching humanitarian service locally and interntionally:

Help International

Salt Lake Rape Recovery Center

Choice Humanitarian

Do you have any other good ones? Please feel free to share them in the comments!

How You Can Find Your True Life Passion

While I continue on my quest to live my true passions, here are some tips I used to help me figure out what is most important to me, and what I am passionate about.

  1. Make a list with 2 columns. One column is things you dislike doing, and the other is the thing you enjoy doing.
    1. Now, from the column of the things you enjoy, sit and meditate on each one – seriously – and decide if each one is something you could do everyday, for the rest of your life, and never get sick of it.
      1. Is it something you could read an 800-page book about?
      2. Is it something you could do without getting paid?
      3. Is it something you could eat-breathe-sleep-dream about and never get sick of?
  2. Ok, now you should have at least one thing from your original list that you feel is a passion. So what do you do?
    1. Remember that a passion does not necessarily have to be your job – in most cases it is more of a hobby or something you do on the side. But, it’s also Ok if it is something you want to pursue as your career!
    2. If it’s something you’re not particularly good at, or just sort of mediocre in, that’s also Ok! You do not have to be an expert to be passionate about it, you can still successfully reach your passions and your goal!
  3. Do some research, reach books, listen to podcasts, talk to people – who are related to your passion, or can help you towards your intended goals.
    1. Knowldge truly is powerful! The more you can arm your mind with, the better!
  4. Also, remember who you are and the impact you can put on the world.
    1. We can do so many incredible things! Each of us has amazing potential, if we can figure out what our passions truly are. Think of all the good we can put into the world! Even a little goes a long way.

I hope to one day live and follow my passion, just like Poppa. Hoping sooner than later I will be! Cheers to all of us dreamers chasing our passions and dreams!

PS. Stay tuned for my posts detailing all about Rwanda!

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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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Are You Fighting For?

I’ve always felt a deep connection with Belle from Beauty & the Beast. She loves to read and is obsessed with libraries, is very opinionated and stubborn, loves animals, feels out of place in the popular scene, and tends to see the good in people beyond their rough exterior or bad decisions. Yes, that does sound like me!
However, I noticed something else that I related to that she says in the movie, or rather sings about, and it made me think a lot the past few days. The other day I was singing along to the soundtrack in my car, because I have no shame, and I sang these words I’ve heard for years but they happened to make an impact on me that I’d never thought of before:
There must be more than this provincial life
In the opening song, Belle sings about how everyday in her town is the same, down to the fact that she can literally say what is about to happen and when. She wants more and knows there must be something more out there somewhere for her.
Well, in comes me, relating to this like it’s a bad joke and I want to cry and laugh at the same time because it’s SO bad, but really it’s my life so maybe I should cry!
The last year I have been rebuilding my life from the dirt ground up, but lately I have been feeling this strange sense of restlessness. I think I too, am feeling as if there must be more than this Utah County provincial life. But the problem is I don’t even know what I want, or where I would find it.

Stuck

I know I shouldn’t necessarily complain about my life, lately I have just been feeling stuck where I am. I am lucky to have a job, and a good job; but I definitely do not feel fulfilled being someone’s assistant.
Everyday I go to work and I daydream about traveling, and going to do something I am truly passionate about. Sometimes I worry that I am wasting my best days at a 9-5 job that I don’t feel fulfilled doing.
My dream job? Well, I’ll tell you. There are 2 actually.
The first, which I am working on everyday, is to be a published author. I have a novel that I am nearly finished with, and my hope is that within the next 6 months I will get it out there to the public somehow. It’s scary to even think about putting my work out there, but I think it’s more nervous anticipation than anything. It’s my dream and I have to at least try, even if I fail!
My second dream job also involved writing, but a different kind.Lonely Planet writes the world’s best travel books that cater to any type of travelers. The job I would want to do for them would be as a travel writer, based in London. The job would involve me traveling to places around the world, and detailing all the things someone could do in this place that may not be as well-known as the big touristy things to do.
Sounds amazing, right?! *Sigh* A girl can dream…
I want to fight for my dreams. I want to work towards actually achieving something I am passionate about, and finally feeling fulfilled. So for now I will continue to do the everyday, ho-hum, predictable things, but I am only doing them until I see the chance to get to my dreams.

The Fight

Until I am able to achieve my real dreams, I have found something else to fill the void for now. The solution? Serving others and volunteering my time and effort to help with charities. While I’m working towards fighting for my own dreams, I can fight for them and theirs too.
Starting in 2016, my sister Heather and I were the on the board that helped plan the annual charity gala for The American Cancer Societyin Salt Lake City. It was such an honor to be invited onto the board, and to help bring in donations to raise money to go towards cancer research.
Last year, Heather and I were given the chance to become the auction co-chairs of the gala, when the previous chair had to resign for personal reasons as she began her own battle against cancer. We of course stepped in, and threw an amazing gala with the help of our amazing board and the employees at ACS, and raised nearly $300,000.
Of course this charity means so much to me and my sister, because of our mom who passed away 3 years ago on February 17, 2015 from cancer. She was such a warrior and a fighter against the disease, and we saw so many other patients throughout our time at the hospitals and clinics who were also fighting as hard as they could for their lives.
Ever since my mom passed, I have wanted to help as much as I can to bring in the monetary needs that can be used to find a cure for cancer. Even in just the last 5 years cancer treatments have evolved, and I know deep in my heart that doctors are closer than ever before to finding a real cure.
Beyond fighting to find a cure, Heather and I also annually visit The Huntsman Cancer Institutein Salt Lake, where our mom did her treatments from 2009-2015. We bring in donated items such as blankets, beanies, scarves, and cookies from Swig . We go around the anniversary of our mom passing, because giving back to these patients not only helps lift their spirits, but it helps fill in the gaping, painful holes in our hearts a little bit too.
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Cancer Warriors Photoshoot: HMUA: Kathy LynchPC – Angela Marie Photography
Many cancer patients are fighting alone, as they come from out of state to the Huntsman. We always walk around and visit with as many people as we can, and sometimes just simply having someone visit with them and talk to them for a few minutes so they know they are not alone, can make such a huge difference.
Last year, there was one woman in particular who still stands out in my mind. She was in one of the infusion clinics, laying alone in a corner on a hospital bed. As we walked up we smiled and she seemed confused at first, wondering who we were and why we had this cart of donations we were handing out. As we explained why we were there, she asked, “Why are you doing this?” We looked at each other, and then Heather answered, “Because we want to! We just want to visit with patients and make your day a little less lonely or scary.”
Immediately this woman began to cry, and she said she was so grateful we had come by because she had been feeling particularly lonely that day. We cried too, and all hugged. We sat with her for a few minutes and talked before moving on.
I will never forget her, and how much just a simple hug and short conversation (and delicious Swig cookie) made all the difference.
And that, is what I continue to fight for. The difference.
I want to keep fighting for people like my mom, or that woman, or your sister, your co-worker, neighbor; anyone who is trying to win the battle against cancer.

Fighting For Me

Maybe I don’t feel fulfilled in my own personal life for the time being, but I can feel fulfilled fighting to find a cure for cancer through charity donations, and through visiting cancer patients when I can.
I also will soon become certified to volunteer at theSalt Lake Rape Recovery Center  where I can fight for victims of assault and rape, give them comfort and support, and help them recover from the trauma they are going through. I wish I had a center like this to go to when I was 18, so I feel like I can heal that part of me by helping these victims.
Unfortunately my daily fight also includes fighting the demons of my past and my own traumas. Each day is a different battle, but I survive every one and keep moving forward, because I’m fighting for me.
I will continue to fight towards my own dreams too, but can only take it one day at a time. Because I know, seriously, that there is definitely more than this provincial life in store for me.