Empathy and Vulnerability

I had dinner at my apartment with one of my best friends, who has gone through a lot lately. We were talking and she said, “we tend to hide from the people who know us best. Because they can see us.” And all of a sudden, the pain and the hurt over the past few months made sense. I have been her, and I have written about it. Because being seen when you have been through so much shit feels so fraking painful. It is so much safer to hide yourself than be vulnerable, and it is often with the ones who love you that you hide from. It is so much easier to put on a front of antipathy when you are feeling like your world is collapsing.

judgment self-destruction

Except it really isn’t easier. This has taken a lot of time and self-reflection to get this perspective.  For further explanation, I wrote about it here. It was before I understood that I am worthy of sharing my emotion with people. That by shutting off my emotion to those who love me the most, I could (and have) end up with fractured and untimely-ended relationships. Trust is deserved to go both ways. It wasn’t until the past six months that I understood how much I potentially and unknowingly hurt my friends in the past. I wouldn’t let them in. I thought it would hurt too much based on prior experience. I thought I had to be the strong one.  It was all very wrong in every aspect. Learned behavior is such a bitch to change. It was an epiphany of epic portions.

point in life

There is something about being empathetic that engenders compassion, obviously. In the past couple of years, I have somehow become able to control how myself embraces the empathy to create a wall, but still feel the emotion so I can use it almost like a tool. I am no longer crippled by it, but I can sense and try to figure out how best to problem solve the emotion. It’s an interesting development, and pretty cool to interpret. I am truly blessed with this gift, where for most of my life I thought it was a painful burden.

life is all the feels

I think it was when I made an unconscious decision to be seen and my presence known that this mindset shifted. It was no longer about me. It never truly was. It was my decision to step up to my value as a human being and a person when things started to shift in my life. I am gifted with a variety of leaders in my life, but I am stepping up to the Viper, taking flight, and starting to become my own leader. It’s not a role I ever thought I’d be playing, but here it is. It is time to step up. Step up to leadership and responsibility, in spite of how terrifying it is. It is time to be me. Whole-heartedly and with passion. Fear be damned because it’s my time to be bold. It’s my time to grow into myself, again.

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Grief Journey

I was inspired to write this by a friend of mine’s hashtag Grief Journey.

Grief is
Never

Neat
and

Tidy.

in
some
Ways

Depending
on the

Connection

it might
Linger

for

Years.

it can
Lessen

as we

Heal,

but the

Memories
of

Time

Lost

is a

Consistent

Burden.

Feeling
as

though

We are

Suspended

in

Time.

As the
Pain

lessens

the
Guilt

sets in.

How
could
we

Forget?

it’s a
Cycle,

and it
Sucks.

but it

Sucks

beautifully.

our

Memories

Turn from

Pain
and

Heartache

to
one of

happy
Reflection

of a

Commonality

still

Shared.

Pain and Acceptance of the Rainbow Bridge

The decision was made to put my dog down last Saturday, and we all knew it was coming.  He had a fantastic, long life, but it doesn’t prepare you for the pain of losing a pet.  I asked why it was called the Rainbow Bridge, and several people linked me to the story.  I didn’t find any solace in it at all, and in fact just the opposite.  So here is my version of the Rainbow Bridge. Farewell my baby boy, I hope you catch all the squirrels. xoxo

Version 2

My mom with Doonie

Pain and Acceptance of the Rainbow Bridge (c) A. Krukovsky 2018

There’s a

Void,
a Hole,
a Gap

in my
Soul

which
Cannot be
filled

with logic
or reason.

It sometimes doesn’t
Feel
real,
then it can be so

Painfully Real that
I can’t
Breathe.

I know You have
Gone,
and that is was
your Time.

it might be terrible, but
I don’t take
much
Solace in that
fact.

there is still only
Pain and
Loss.

You were always there to
Comfort,
Soothe, and
Snuggle

whenever we
Needed you to.

and now it’s an

Empty Blanket,

left vacant and cold.

I can’t come to Peace with that,
even Days later.

May we find each other in
another life,
at another time,
where there will only be

Beauty,
Snuggles,
Kisses, and
Frolicking to be had.

None of this Pain that
Haunts me.

I know the grief will get better, but
It hasn’t Yet.

Despite all this Grief,
I do take Comfort
in Knowing
there is

Beauty and
Purpose

in all things.

Even in grief and loss.

May we meet again
in this life or another,

Until then
I will Cherish
the memories of the

Snuggles and
Love

We had for
Each
other.

 

Ambition and Small-Minded People

To be successful you must have a few things as your core beliefs to achieve long-lasting success. I believe those things to be integrity, ambition, and stickability to never quit. I am lucky to have a reservoir of all those traits, and admittedly sometimes those traits get buried underneath stories that no longer served me. The more dangerous aspect of being successful, though is you become a target. Often it is those closest to you. They tend to be jealous, narcissistic, and fear-based human beings who only know how to deal with success-minded people by hurting them. I am calling it the small-minded syndrome.

As I rose to the levels of leadership, I had wonderful mentors who offered council on how to grow and implement strategies to continue the platform of success. Along my journey of self-discovery and greatness, I had various and sometimes close members of my family say very hurtful and occasionally devastating proclamations. Such as, “this will never work”; “you are never here when we need you”, and my personal favorite, “you’ll never move out” with a sneer and scoff. They wanted to keep me “small” because their life is small. They were unable to make the commitment to make their small, unfulfilling existence into something they could truly be proud of. They resented not being able to be courageous in their life; therefore aimed to keep me small in mine.

The little jabs that are seemingly innocent at first, when reflected upon become glaringly obvious a level of manipulation and belittling. It took me a long time to realize that what my friends and family were saying was not only debilitating to me, but to them. It is a directly reflection of how they value their lives and themselves when they bring people down with sometimes seemingly innocuous comments. They might even perceive themselves as being funny, which I have written about here. I am realizing that the people verbalizing to inflict wounds are not usually bad people. I believe that most people love and express themselves in the best way they know how, and sometimes that way is royally fraked.

They are people in society who do not have a life of their own, so they must tear down others to feel better about their small life. This is not to say that it doesn’t hurt just as deep. Because It Does. Holy hell it does. There are some people who know just what buttons and emotions to press to sustain massive internal damage that leaves us wrecked for days. It can continue to hurt for some time after the initial barrage after you realize the hell you’ve endured, and it can last for years. They say forgiveness is really a gift to yourself, but I have a hard time forgiving those who have deeply hurt the ones closest to me. To be honest, I do not think I’ve ever fully processed the people who have hurt me the most. I am not sure I want to.

There are times in my life where I felt untouchable and kicked ass in every aspect of my life. When anyone tells me I can’t do something, I take that as a personal affront and avenge to prove them wrong. And I do, almost every time. It often comes at a cost, though. It’s a cost I will gladly pay. You find out who really loves you and wants you to succeed. And who wants to keep you small and on their level of comfort. This is when small-minded people feel threatened the most, about when you are ready to have a mindset shift. It is also the time when the disparaging and denigration is at a peak. I have come to the conclusion that this is a defense mechanism, and it saddens me. It still hurts like hell when someone close to you assaults you with words. The person who wrote, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was an idiot of epic proportions. I would much rather have someone throw a stone at me than words that penetrate and sometimes break my soul open. Cuts bleed, scab, then heal and fall off. Words though? They penetrate and can become a black hole of self-doubt, pain, and anger. They can fracture families and leave a permanent rift that will never be healed. Words become thoughts, thoughts become actions, and actions can have devastating results. Verbal abuse leaves a much longer affect on the soul and harder to remedy on one’s psyche than physical.

that is pain

Any kind of abuse obviously is traumatic, but one is more sinister because it is much easier to hide from a physical and psychological aspect.   It often takes place through self-delusion and denial brought on by low self-esteem from being broken in the past. These pieces are often buried deep, and sometimes we think we have gotten past them. This is where small-minded people are so insidious. Because they are usually weaved into your life, and sometimes pretty intricately. And they know us. The clinically narcissistic ones use that knowledge to inflict the worst kind of psychological pain.

Everyone is a work in progress. I have hurt those I love, and some of them deeply. The difference is I am willing to apologize, and learn how to corrective action so I don’t hurt them again. Small-minded people have no desire to better themselves because that would take effort and a commitment to go outside their comfort zone. They would much rather tear others down instead. I am working towards accepting and almost feeling pity for those with small-minded syndrome. Except the hurt goes deep, and I’ve got a long way to go for that mindset switch to occur.

Protecting Our Students

I started this as a Facebook status that morphed into a blog entry. It is obviously not my typical subject category, but I feel this needs to be written and explored. This is not the time for hate, rhetoric, or FB political discussions that tend to be non-productive at best. It is a time for love, light, and actual discussion of a solution to solve this problem. One of my unwritten rules of this blog was no politics. I am breaking that rule today.

politics

I am scared, confused, and heartbroken for not only my country, but also every citizen in it. Risk is a part of my life. It is part of what makes it fun and fulfilling when we push ourselves to be better or do something outside our comfort zone. Risk should not include seeing a movie, going to school, or church. Death should not be a considered risk for going out.

I respect and support the right to own guns, but there is not one reason outside of the military and law enforcement that anyone needs a semi-automatic assault rifle. NO ONE. Not hunters and not people who shoot for the skill. I have lots of friends who own guns, and most of them say there is no reason for people to own semi-automatic assault rifles.

GunControlMeme

How did we get here? I am not even a parent yet, and I am almost scared for my cousins and all my friends with kids. How is this okay?! How do we teach them to love and live in a world that is filled with hatred? These are hard questions that are just getting more complicated and scary. School teachers who texted their spouses something like this: “don’t be a hero and get out of there if [a school shooting] were to happen”. This is NOT normal.

School is hard enough without having to worry about getting shot in the process. I am not being glib. Middle school is brutal, and it doesn’t get much better in high school. And now some of them have to contend with the thought of being shot, too?

Five school shootings this year, that’s a little less than one a WEEK since the beginning of the year (Cox, et. al). Something needs to change. The country and our kids deserve something more than thoughts and prayers because that phrase gets more hollow every time mass shootings happen with no action to back up those thoughts and prayers. Do they (Congress, leaders) prayer for a safer life and community? Do something about it that will actually ensure change for those prayers and not just rhetoric for a sound bite.

arm every teacherThere have been studies from around the world of why mass shootings are such an issue in the United States. Many theories abound: lack of mental healthcare; it’s a violent society, and it’s a divisive country. It’s quite simple, and it’s about math. It’s the astronomical amount of guns. We hold 4.2% of the population, but an almost an insane 42% of the world’s guns. Only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings than the United States (Fisher et al). The article is quite a stark look at gun facts across the globe. The difference is the culture and the choice we have made over the years. Unregulated gun rights versus responsibility and cost of society. Life is about choice, and government is no different.

john oliver

Depending on the source the number varies to as low as 25.  It’s still a high number.

I am not delusional in thinking that there will be sensible gun laws enacted any time soon. In fact our president repealed the mental health background checks last February. The first argument will be “but the 2nd amendment!” Yes, we have the right to bear arms. I do think it’s safe to say that there should be restrictions in the right to obtain those arms. I hope there aren’t too many logical person that actually thinks the government is coming after your legal guns that you already own. I would be very interested to see actual evidence that this has ever happened in the United States in recently history (meaning the last 25 years). I am not talking about buying back gun programs; I am referring to guns permanently removing legally obtained guns from a house that were not connected to a crime. I am not saying it hasn’t happened, but it’s probably pretty rare.

Another favorite argument, the criminals will get guns anyway so why make it harder for responsible citizens to get one? Agreed, people will always find a way to get something if they really want to. But why not make it harder for them to get it legally? Stronger background checks is something 90% of Americans and even 52% to 74% of NRA members approve of (Parker 2017, Kertscher 2015, respectively). Another argument is Chicago’s gun violence, which does have strict gun control laws. The surrounding states, however, do not have strong gun laws. More than half the number of guns recovered in crimes came from out of state (Kurtzleben 2017).

forefathers

I love this country. I think we are in a time of transition, and we aren’t quite sure where to go or who we are. We are like teenagers, and there’s so much at stake. Not just for this country, but for the globe. The United States has set the precedent for many world issues in the past, and we have fallen behind in many areas. I almost feel like it’s Star Wars, and the country is being pulled to the Dark Side. There is a growing divide in this country of hate and derision that is only getting stronger and spreading. I do not pretend to know the answers, nor do I wish for this to extend into the typical online forum of very little discussion and much rhetoric. I am all for an actual discussion though. Let there be peace and change.

Sources

Cox, John Woodword and Steven Rich. The Washington Post, 2/15/2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/no-there-havent-been-18-school-shooting-in-2018-that-number-is-flat-wrong/2018/02/15/.

Fisher, Max and Josh Keller. “What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer”. The New York Times, 11/7/2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html.

Kertscher 2015. “Most NRA members back background checks on all gun purchases”.   Politifact, Times Publishing Company, 3/18/2015. http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2015/mar/18/lena-taylor/most-nra-members-back-background-checks-all-gun-pu/.

Kurtzleben 2017. “Fact Check: Is Chicago Proof that Gun Laws Don’t Work?” National Public Radio, NPR, 10/05/2017. https://www.npr.org/2017/10/05/555580598/fact-check-is-chicago-proof-that-gun-laws-don-t-work.

Parker 2017. “Among gun owners, NRA members have a unique set of views and experiences”. The Pew Research Center, 7/5/2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/07/05/among-gun-owners-nra-members-have-a-unique-set-of-views-and-experiences/.

 

Myth of Self-Depreciation Humor

I am from Jersey, which means a few things. I know what a jughandle is; we understand how to navigate a traffic circle, and we not only talk sarcasm we breed it. I get it. I have done it. I lived it, been proud of it. We wear sarcasm like armor.  There is sarcasm which can be witty, and then there is self-depreciation “humor”.

The more time I have spent with my family recently, whom I love dearly, it is readily apparent how frequently some of them use the latter as a deflection tactic in the aim of humor that I used for years. No one likes a person who takes themselves too seriously, but there is a line between light-hearted banter and consistently put yourself down.  It is not funny to actively break your own self down. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because your brain doesn’t know what is true and what isn’t.  If you say it enough times, even if it was jokingly at first, it becomes a reality in your mind.  A reality that is incredibly challenging to break.  I did this for years. And there’s a reason people do it.

day stop self-destruction

Depending on your life experiences, it can be easy to make fun of yourself. You may say, “easy?”  If this is your reaction, I am epically happy for you.  If you come from a background of belittling, bullying or abuse it becomes is a defense mechanism. In one’s mind they think, “what must this person be thinking about me? I’ll short circuit their thinking and prevent their verbal strike by making myself smaller.” What is the one thing above anything else that human beings protect themselves against from an evolutionary perspective? Being hurt and pain. It’s instinctual and biological, and fighting instinct is a formidable task. Eventually when you experience that much emotional pain, the self-depreciation humor becomes like Captain American’s protective shield. I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now, and it became crystal clear today when I heard it multiple times from multiple people I care about. These are smart and successful people who have no business saying they are a loser or lazy.

goal bullshit story

On the opposite side of all this are the people who have hurt you in the past. I am not saying whatever they did was justified because it most likely wasn’t.  I have come to the conclusion that most people do not mean to be hurtful in their actions. Most people love and act the best way they know how, and sometimes it’s incredible destructive because that’s all they have been taught. It sucks on both ends of the interaction.

One of the most painful parts of this discovery is how real this reality has been for me.  I am certain I did this on a daily basis. It is the self-worth onion that is continually evolving. It literally pains me to hear the ones I love say these things about themselves. Because I know it’s not true.  It also makes things so much clearer as to why I did it for so long.  It’s what I knew.

permission

I don’t have a solution to this. The armor is kind of like the Emperor’s new clothes. It is not real. And eventually that armor actually ends up being more of a self-penetrating device because it punctures your self-confidence every time you use your self-imposed ammunition of protection.

2017, the Takeaway thru all of the Bullshit

2017 has been filled with good, bad, and ugly. There has been a lot of bad and ugly in my case, but it has also been filled with the opportunity of growth and stubborn determination to breakthrough the ugly. If someone had told me last year at this time: I would be a life-changing accident, get my hours cut, months of on-going physical therapy, and subsequently months of on-going therapy, I would have said you are nuts and I want some. And yet that is what happened and then some.

that is pain

Like most of my friends, 2017 was a year of growth and pain. It was also the year of discovering my inner-resolve and growth. The year of how fucking bad do you want this life. For me, I have had to have more tenacity in both my growth and business than I ever had before. It was up to me and me only to get schnitz done. I would apologize for all the cursing in this entry, but I really don’t care.

Because it got real this year. In every fraking way of my life did it get real. My business, my work life, and my life in general. I have struggled more than I have in a very long time, and you know what? I conquered it.  It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. I conquered the deck I was dealt, and I nailed that river card like I was in Vegas betting my life.

breakdown no matter

In a lot of ways, I did bet my life. I put so much on the line that I haven’t before. I was more vulnerable in my writing than ever. Relating my struggles with PTSD, my life struggles of the last five years, and becoming the person I wanted to be. The person I was distancing myself being (the partier) from that at times keeps coming back trying to pull me back to mediocrity. There is nothing wrong with partying lifestyle per say. I have done all of that, and enjoyed it at the time. I have had some of my best times partying with the people I love. It’s just not who I am growing into becoming, and sometimes it’s tough to remind myself of that.

profile pic

Part of my fam

This is a relatively short entry about this past year. There is so much to ponder, and tonight I was pushing towards a goal and I reached it. One takeaway, there is nothing as satisfying as reaching a goal you thought was out of a reach a few days ago. This is a cliché, but if you do your best and miss at least at the end of the day, you can hit your head on the pillow with a quiet calm of knowing you can kick ass tomorrow. I know from experience that regret sucks. Some of my worst pain, and there’s been quite a bit, has been from the things I didn’t attempt for fear of disappointment. Fail forward towards your best self. It sucks. It hurts. But you do move forward.

Losing and Finding Motivation

I had a few large epiphanies the past ten days. The latest and most important one was triggered by something I have been scared of years: therapy. I had pushed it off for years, and I reached a point over the summer where my mood fluctuations weren’t getting better on their own.  It was becoming quite frustrating. I knew the things I was supposed to be doing, and for some reason I wasn’t doing any of it. I couldn’t identify what the underlying issue was, and therefore didn’t know how to break it down into a problem I could manage. For the first time since I started on the path of personal growth and being my best self, it didn’t matter how many books, lectures, and trainings I had attended, I couldn’t get out of own way or my head.  It was different than the shifts during the gauntlet. I was proverbially stuck, and for the first time in a long time I wasn’t sure where I was going with my life. It was terrifying, and it propelled me to take action in the form of therapy. A shout out to Katie J. for the amazing therapist suggestion. I will be forever thankful that we were both at that party at that time. The universe conspires wonderfully.

You might be wondering what my point is here, and I felt it important to lay out the backstory so there was a context. I do not like being vulnerable, and it’s a challenge I rise to every time I write a blog entry; ask someone to take a look at my business, or even make a damn phone call sometimes. Periodically the fear of being vulnerable wins, but it is happening less and less. I cannot think of anything that is more vulnerable than being in therapy and talking about shit in your life with a completely stranger. However, the level of despondency in my life was at an inflection point that caused me to go way out my comfort zone and seek help. It was not up to my friends to help, nor would it have been fair. I even sent a text to one of my best friends, “I need help and neither one of us is in a position to help the other. What’s next?” It reminds me of a quote by Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, “Van Gogh is utterly dead; the world may be fixed, but it never was broken. And shadow itself may resolve into beauty.” The shadow in my life and brain was starting to go beyond frustration to desperation to be off the roller coaster of emotion.

survive fire

I don’t remember exactly how we got talking about the accident, addiction (luckily not mine), and trauma. There are two chemicals in the brain that make us happy: serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin in the brain, among other things, helps regulate mood. Dopamine helps encourage motivation. You know what happens when there is trauma? Those two things get turned OFF. Fight, flight, or freeze is what happens during trauma. If you were happy during times of trauma it would surely be a bad evolutionary design.

My mind did a virtual double take. Wait. Dopamine gets turned off during trauma. Check. I was in a traumatic situation, check. Motivation has been turned off for months now, and a series of epiphanies occurred in a short period of time. Everything started to click and make sense. It was a domino effect in my brain, and it was a cool process to “watch” happen.

see it

It is one of many reasons why getting back on the river, specifically white water was so important. Paddling had and has been a huge part of my identify for so long, and at one point over the summer I didn’t even consider myself one anymore. I wasn’t even sure whether I would be able to get on whitewater again. The last realization happened about two weeks ago after the release I puzzled this all together. The day of the Tohickon Creek release (early November) was pretty much a do or die moment for me. I would either be able to do it or I wouldn’t. But I had to try. I owed myself that much. I estimated later that my dopamine levels had probably been trickling back for about a month at that point because I had started to take action in other parts of my life again. During and after the run however, it came back like a flood. After every rapid that I hit my line perfectly, and the one where I had an epic save at Race Course was a feeling of pure euphoria. I knew my paddling partners would have my back, but I knew I wouldn’t need them that day after the second rapid.

I felt myself coming back to me, and now I understood why. The challenge and the realization that I had not permanently lost that part of my identity. It was temporarily put on hold so I could grow to be a bigger and better version of myself. Like most of the challenges in my life, it was pure stubborn will and years of skill to prove to myself that I could do it. I pushed myself to the perform at that level despite not having been on whitewater since the accident more than six months prior was validation that I was home. I was coming home to myself, and this was a big piece of my soul that had gone missing.

Photograph taken by Brent Burke. Hitting my line at 2nd Ledge on the Tohickon Creek in spring of 2014.

I was on fire and glowing from satisfaction and relief. My physiology was different even. My friends said my skin was different, and I carried myself different. It was a switch of confidence that had been turned on.  I owned my body and confidence again.  Tall and proud. The challenge and fear pushed me to the why. The shadow was my major opportunity for growth. It may have taken me awhile to grasp onto the beauty within that shadow, but I am well on my way to molt out of this shell and into another one. I’m just moltin’ bitches. Bring it on.

Vulnerability – Part Deux

I have been playing small with everything in my life for months now. I thought a contributing factor was the accident, but it was going on before that. It certainly didn’t help matters. Maybe I started then to doubt my purpose. Is that why the accident happened? To challenge how much I value the life I worked so hard to achieve? Who knows.

What I can tell you is that even months before the accident, I was coasting. I was “playing” life instead of achieving it. I was inconsistent with almost everything in my life except for a few aspects. Pilates and paddling were consistent. I just read the last section of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and if you haven’t heard of her check her out. Her books not only changed my business, but also changed my life.

As I was reading the last ten pages of a book I all but finished almost three years ago, several epiphanies occurred. The one constant in my life is my family. It is not necessarily my blood kin, as mentioned before I do not really distinguish between them anymore. One person in particular I think has been waiting for me to snap. I don’t mean snap as in implode into a ball of goo. I mean snap back into my true self. Snap back into vulnerability and action. Snap back into being seen again.

don't grow easy

I wrote two essays recently, one about stepping back into my true self via paddling. The other explaining how hard and simultaneously awesome my life is. I used to pretend it was roses, sunshine, and butterflies. At times it was certainly like that, and I realized it was true when I was being vulnerable and being willing to fail. I was out of integrity by continuing to tell the story of how my life was everything I wanted. Integrity is one of my core values. It’s one of the reasons why I broke my co-dependency and moved. I felt like a fraud. By telling the real story, the good, bad, and the painful I was taking another step towards being my true self again. It was hard to hit the publish button, and to let people see the struggles of my real life. It was brave and courageous. It was real. And the response was amazing.

Actions in proportion to fear is what determines progress.

One of the epiphanies I had after reading that section helped me clarify something I haven’t been able to identify for months. I stopped being seen. I went back to almost being invisible, but not quite. Because despite not accomplishing much in many months, people still look to me at times. It’s not as much, and it shouldn’t be. I have not become an asterisk. Even after I haven’t accomplished much with any of my passions in a long time.

One might ask why that is. It is the value I bring to the communities I am involved with.

This may be selfish, but I don’t want to become an asterisk. I want to be seen and be the example for people. I just realized that I want to strive to be “this is what happened to her, and this is how she rebounded to be even better”. So people realize that you can crash and burn, and come out a bigger badass then before.

I look back on when I was really rocking it with all aspects of my life. and what was different. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time trying to pinpoint what was different. I was different. I was bold and daring. Ready and willing to fail forward as often as necessary. And I did, repeatedly. I swam paddling when trying maneuvers; failed in writing, and failed repeatedly and often with my business. Until I got better and achieved the momentum necessary to explode to be seen for the badass I am. It was an incredible feeling of accomplishment and joy. It was something I did it. I showed up. It might not have been pretty and I might have been wet, but I showed up.

What happened? A combination of things, and all of them referenced in the Gauntlet if you’d like a more in depth understanding of it. The underlying cause? FEAR. And Self-worth.

that is pain

It was like a 2×4 to the face. As Brene Brown says (I’m paraphrasing), “there is nothing as uncomfortable or heartbreaking than standing outside of your (my) life looking in and wondering how I got to this point?” What happened to the courageous woman who broke through the reinforced concrete barrier of being seen?

Life did. I didn’t realize how much I had shrunk back until we were talking about it with one of my best friends today. I still don’t know why the accident caused me to shrink back into self-conscious and low self-worth again, and it’s something I will puzzle out. It’s another piece of the deeper reason behind all of this.

The realization took my breath away with all the implications yet to be uncovered. But it is also an epic relief. I can fix this. This is something I can now tackle. I will be vulnerable again with failure and imperfection.

magic in water

Paddling is my outlet for this. THAT is what I was missing all those months. The challenge, the fear, the action, and then the reward. Of doing something that provided me with such passion, clarity, and sense of fulfillment. A phrase I heard used today is perfect. Listen through the fear, and I’m going to go one step further and then act on the fear. This is why paddling is so important to my psyche. It’s the physical manifestation of working through listening through the fear. It’s about setting that challenging and rising to meet it, and therefore increasing my self-confidence in the process. By doing so, you are raising your own bar of expectations to the level of excellence in your life.

Grief – Revisited

This has been a tough and emotional week due to the loss of a family member, one of my best friends mom passed away.  She was really like my mom as well. I no longer distinguish between blood and chosen families, they are one because they all have significance in my life. I have been numb for most of it, and still haven’t processed it all yet.  The crash hasn’t happened yet.

The funeral/viewing was yesterday. The family decided to have a private viewing where only a few were invited to come, and to spend alone time with Donna. It was more intimate than any viewing I had ever been to, and I think I finally understand the originally intent of a viewing. It’s not meant to be a mass of people going up to the deceased, and paying respects for a split second. It is one last time for closure, and to spend time with them privately that you might not have had a chance to do so. It gave me an entirely new perspective on funerals. I took my time with her. I spoke with her, and expressed my gratitude for her and her family accepting me as one of theirs. I also expressed my concerns, and to send her strength to her family that could use her fortitude. She was one of the bravest, most sassy, and stubborn women I have ever known. The service was informal, and kept as “light” as possible. With mingling until 1:30, and then there were eulogies given. It’s what she would have wanted. It was perfect. It was Donna. The room was filled with pictures, memories, and moments in time that were captured and shared by her husband John and other family members.

happiness in my life

She fought until she couldn’t anymore. She gave us all she could give, and went out on her terms. She was ready. It reminded me so much of my Nana and her last day.

I have felt my Nana’s presence strongly in the past couple of weeks. I still don’t know what she is trying to tell me, but I am ready to hear it. Maybe Donna will help, too.

The Universe/God/Narnia has a plan and a reason, and sometimes that reason sucks at the time. I started to write an entry about the fluidity of friendships, and it has morphed into this. There are a number of friendships in my life that have become distant for a myriad of reasons, and some have already started to be mended. Life happened, choices were made, and we were all in pain for different reasons.. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself first because you are not capable of taking care of others. Learning that lesson this year was quite painful and hard. The grieving process has brought us closer together again.

grief is

It still hurts. All of it. I am sure it will hurt more in the next couple of days when it really settles in. I have cried plenty. I started crying at 9:30 yesterday morning and continued periodically until we left the funeral home at 2. I even sent a text to one of my best friends saying, “it’s too early for me to be crying.” She said, “Love. and it’s never too early to start crying.” I am crying now as I write this.

lauren funeral

It was not that long ago when I rarely cried. And never in public, except for once.  It’s being vulnerable, real, and present. It’s about letting it all in, and then letting it all out. I held all my emotion in for so long because I didn’t think I was worth the opportunity to express my emotion in public. People bond via emotion, and I am realizing while writing this that Grief brings us together. If the silver lining is that this brings more amazing people into my life, and relationships to mend, I’ll accept those gifts.