Family

My definition of family has expanded quite a bit the past several years. Anyone who truly knows me, I will do anything for my family, both blood and chosen. I am blessed to have developed many friends who have turned into family. And sometimes those people come from the most unexpected of circumstances.

I would say I have four types of family: blood, Arbonne, paddling, and everything in between. They have different places in my life, and I do not discriminate with whom I love. They span all genres, sexuality, and age.  I give readily, but rarely do I give myself.   I do not trust easily, and I readily hide myself because I thought it was easier that way. This is an error in judgment, and it’s a constant battle I fight with myself.  To be worthy of giving that trust.

genetically related

In truth, it is easier that way. It is much easier to show façade rather than to tell the whole truth. To pretend everything is perfect. Be the highlight reel for people.   One of my best friends says that “he has barely scratched the surface of me” after being friends for more than a decade. But it’s a lie. I love my life, and it’s not perfect. They are not mutually exclusive.

One of my consistent challenges is to be vulnerable. I am certainly not unique in this aspect. I would go even further to say a majority of people when they broke down to the basis of their fears that it would rank very highly. We seek perfection in our society. I have written about this, and I am going to extrapolate further. It is much easier to portray the lie of perfection, then to tell the actual truth behind the mask. The truth is almost without exception, messy and multi-layered. There is no easy “fix.”

My closest family members are the ones I trust without question. The ones who ask and push the questions that no one else wants to ask when necessary. They push us out of our comfort zone into a whole new reality and space. Which is often terrifying, because we have often lived and believed our own lie for far too long. They help us confront the truth, which is often deeply buried and disturbing.

being broken

Blood family doesn’t often push that boundary for some reason, at least not in my family as of late. I am still puzzling all this out, and everything is becoming clearer.  Not crystal yet, but it’s getting there. Our own minds are often our biggest obstacles. As one friend of mine put it, “Stop using your big, beautiful brain and just do it.” Put your faith in trust, as terrifying as that may be.

I am working towards putting my trust in consistent vulnerability, and making myself known to everyone I love. It is scary. It is messy. And the effort and pain is worth it. I am worth it. It is one of the hardest aspects of personal growth I am pushing through. It’s another step towards my progress to being the best me.

I am the vault for people. People tell me things that they don’t tell anyone else, and I value that trust as sacred. I have rarely put that amount of trust into other people. And that is where one aspect of my self-worth breakdown is. When people trust you enough to tell you their innermost thoughts and feelings, you are worthy of doing the same for them. You not only deserve that amount of trust that people place in you, but they also deserve the same from you. It is not a burden to them. I will repeat because I have felt this way my entire life: it is not a burden to them. It is a comfort of reciprocity.   If there is not the same amount of trust, they will pull back from you. And it hurts. I have only now just realized why the pull back happened. Loyalty and trust must go both ways.

relationship detective

Thanks to those who haven’t moved on, and I understand the ones that did.  🙂

I have lived most of my life in fear of being hurt by trusting the wrong people. It is a path I am striving to banish. If you find this true about yourself as I have, and you realize the pedestal you place yourself on both undervalues your needs as a human being and the gift of your truest self to others.

Compartmentalize

I have
been
Compartmentalizing
my

Entire
life.

It’s
how
I’ve
lived

this

Long.

Until
now.

I

Hate

that I

Can’t.

not a
word
I use

Lightly.

I Hate

having
uncontrolled
Emotions.

I’m a

Problem
solver,

especially for

Others.

My own?

I’m not used
to
dealing
with

Emotion

on such
an

Unbridled

Visceral
level.

I am

Accustomed
to

my

Emotions

being like a

Switch

that
I

can

Control

with a
Flick.

On and
Off.

most of the
time

my
Emotion
is still

My

Switch.

Occasionally

it

becomes
like a

Renegade

Bomb

of

Precision.

like a

Lightning
bolt

Through
my

Soul.

just as

Quick,

Deadly,
and

Precise.

Leaving no

Mark.

only

Confusion.

of

my
Life.

and

where
to
Go.

and

how to
Proceed.

it is
Unnerving.

I do
not

Understand
this

confused

state of
Life.

PTSD (not military) and Acknowledgment

I was in a major car accident in late March, and since then I am so grateful to be alive. I walked away with injuries to my neck and upper back, but I walked away from the worst accident I’ve been in. One of my best friends right after the accident suggested that I will probably have PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Which, of course, I blew off.   I will explain below.  I just realized, months later, that I do, indeed, probably have PTSD.

Let me be clear I am NOT comparing my PTSD with those who are, or have been, in the military. I know several people both active or former military that served in the military and some of them have PTSD, and that is fundamentally different from mine. I could not imagine how haunting some of the circumstances they have been in would be for me. Both have lasting affects.

Stolen from Facebook. I don't know who, but I love it.

I didn’t think I had it.  I didn’t process much emotion during this whole ordeal except a few times. I thought I had dodged at least bullet out of this ordeal. It wasn’t until I got and read the police report that it sunk in how close it was. If the light had changed a second sooner, it would have been a full on t-bone collision.  And I, most likely, wouldn’t be alive to write this. However, one of my best friends said something to me the other day that struck so deep that I didn’t even give a half smile. I gave a full on grimace. He was listing my injuries to a police friend of his and at the end “and almost had to see a psychiatrist due to not being able to paddle [be on the water] for months”. I not only gave a full on grimace, I stood military straight and whispered, “that is not funny. It is not remotely funny.”

To which he responded, “because it’s true.”
I said, “yes because it’s true […]I also added, ‘he could have killed me for no reason’.”  The first responder in Bath, Pennsylvania, who wasn’t responding to a call almost killed me.

As I said, I am very grateful to be walking and talking considering the damage of the accident. But for an extensive period of time (almost 7 weeks), I lost my mobility, my car, and independence because I had to bring a friend to evaluate used cars for me to replace my destroyed, beloved Honda Fit. I am not writing this to gain sympathy. I am writing this because for the first time since the accident, I am realizing that my trauma goes much deeper than just my physical injuries.

fb car pic

Taken the night of the accident.

For the over 150 of my friends on Facebook who have seen the picture above and wished me well either through a comment or private messaging, I thank you. It meant more than you know, especially because I didn’t post it to my timeline.   It was one of the most humbling and amazing experiences of my life.

I thought PTSD was something only soldiers, first responders, and the like suffered from it. I still really don’t know what it means to me because I just figured out I had it. I just know that people with it shouldn’t feel alone and/or shouldn’t feel like they can’t talk about it. It happens, it’s real, let’s acknowledge it.

Perspective

I spent the past week teaching a group of autistic kids nature and photography in my beloved upstate New York in Lake George at Camp Moki run through an organization called Camp TLC. This camp is all about love and giving not only the kids, but also the parents time together in a safe environment. This was my first year teaching there, and it was life changing to say the least. I’m excited that I’m teaching at least one more, and possibly two this year. Shameless plug, Camp TLC that runs this and three different camps throughout the country.  Go check them out:  Camp TLC.

doodle

This last day of the month is one of my favorite days because there are so many qualifications, promotions, and awards being celebrated through people kicking it in their Arbonne businesses. I absolutely love congratulating people on their different achievements, more so than my own. It was amazing as always, but it felt different.

When the time came to relax and finally go to bed, I just sat in front of my computer processing the events of the past week. It hit me what was different. I was different. They changed me as much as I helped them. For my social media posts, I started using #whohelpswho because I knew that it was going to change me. In terms of capabilities of the campers at Camp Moki, they ranged from high functioning to a few of them had a great deal of difficultly speaking and communicating. They were such an amazing group of kids, and they all started to come out of their safe shells by the end of the week. It was one of the most rewarding and awe inspiring things to watch and be a part of. That is why we do it.   It puts life in perspective.

courage-fear-do-it-anyway

We always say in Arbonne don’t judge anyone’s life by the highlight reel that is social media these days. Life is a challenge, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Lacey, another Arbonne consultant, was also remarkably at the camp with her two kids with special needs. One of them is quite disabled with Downs Syndrome, and she barely made it out of the cabin on Monday. Tuesday she was walking up and down the driveway path with her dad in tow. The dad and daughter both went home because it was too much for her, while her older son and Lacey stayed at the Camp. She wrote a beautiful post that described what their family goes through sometimes. You can go to as many classes, programs, and clinical rotations to get an idea of what it might be like to have a family member with special needs, but until you live it, you can’t possibly know the struggle. For those that don’t know, my sister has some special needs. As much as I love her, it’s a tough struggle that my parents are more involved in than I am.  This post isn’t to garner sympathy, just awareness. The more I mature, the more I realize that she is pretty amazing in her own right.

barriers-to-love

My life isn’t perfect and I have struggles with self-worth, discipline, and vulnerability, among others.   The universe conspires in odd and wonderful ways sometimes. I had been pondering for the last month or two about how I just deserved to get away for a few days and regroup with nature. Camp was at the perfect time, and because of the location allowed me to unplug. I never stopped being grateful, but after this past week I will strive to never to take my health for granted. Or my wonderful amazing extended family and friends. I do not think I have ever appreciated what I have in my life more than I do now.

Your life isn’t perfect either. Nor should it be. Struggles with family, partners, finances, jobs, etc are part of the package called life. It sucks at times, but don’t live there. There is always someone who has it worse than you. Bottom line: be grateful for everything you have. The good and the bad.  There’s a reason for all of it.

Embrace Your Failure

I wrote this a few weeks ago on Facebook.  I had such a positive response, I am posting it here.  Usually it is the other way around.  I usually write it here, and then post on Facebook.  Except this message is so profound judging by the response to it; I wanted the Blogosphere to see it.  Enjoy, and so grateful for all of you to be on this ever expanding journey with me.  There are some points in your life, where you ask one of the following (and they all suck and they are ALL uber scary), “what the frak am I doing”?  Or “where am I going”?  Or my personal favorite at the moment, “that’s my lid universe?  For real?  Can’t I realize my greatness with any other question but THAT?”

adventures, learn

I’m here to tell you, unfortunately, “Yes”.  Your defining moments will be when you OWN your scariest, darkest, and real emotion in your life.  They will bring you to task to see if you are ready.  To tell the world to frak off if need be.  And it’s worth it.  Every time.

I feel this massive shift coming, and tonight I realized what that would entail.  It is that deep down kind of fear and shame that comes with real change.  When you embrace your “real” self and basically say, “oh shit.  I better get going with that.”

This is not to say that your goal has to be big and life transforming.  What I am conveying that no matter how small or big your obstacle and goal are, it comes down to your self-worth and faith in yourself.  I have recently realized this, and it’s a sobering fact to accept.  I love all of you for being on this journey with you.

If something tugs at your heart strings AT ALL.  Just go for it.  You are worth it, even in failure.

The truth is … I’m a failure.
It took me a long time to graduate college
Failed in my Arbonne business over and over.
Failed at writing
Failed at exercising consistently for most of my adult life
Failed at backpacking
Failed A LOT at paddling (lots of swimming)
Failed at eating the right way
Failed at being disciplined
Failed at being a good family member
Failed at being in relationships
Failed at getting out of my own head
Failed to live up to my own expectations
Failed at being my true self until recently
Failed at being ME
and Accepting the real ME.

And the world didn’t end. I moved on and tried again. To be better every day.

I am not perfect, and I don’t want to be. It’s damaging, unattainable, and extremely unrealistic to think you or someone else can be perfect.

If you watch me on Facebook thinking that this happened in a poof, and I didn’t work my ass off to be where I am, you would be severely mistaken. I have bled (literally), gotten bruised, been sore, written badly, read, cried, rejected, laughed at, and been told I couldn’t accomplish something many times. I am blessed to be infused with grit and determination because the universe has given me the strength to learn from my failures. So what you see now is the result of a tremendous amount of work.

I am brave enough to embrace the failures and challenges, and turn them into success and opportunity. My experiences, the good, the bad, and the painful, have all gotten me here. It is learning through them that I am successful. It is only a mistake if you fail to learn from it. The choice is yours. Let your failures define you, or let them teach you.

Playin’

I’ve
been

Playin’
at

Greatness

for
Over
a
Year.

Struggling
to

understand

Why.

until

Now.

Afraid

of
Who
I was

Becoming.

being
Known,

Rejection

by the
people

I
hold

Closest.

all
Ludicrous.

I’ve been
through

so
much

Worse
and had

Acceptance.

during
the
Dark
bouts

in my

Life.

and
Yet

the

Thought
of

Success

and

Independence

Stunted
me
into

Mediocrity.

I’m
Bigger
than

That.

I
Deserve

to
Thrive

Success
and

Freedom.

I am

Not
Going

to
Back

Down
this

Time.

to

Fear

Judgment,

ultimately

Shame.

for

embodying

my
Whole

Heart.

I
no

Longer
feel

Obliged
to

Hide.

Life
is

Discovered

in the

Discomfort

of
Growth.

it is
There

you

Find
Your

Truth

and

Acceptance

of your

Greater
Self.

Change and Fear

Change

It is

Painful

Difficult

impossibly
Uncomfortable.

Our subconscious

Pushes

against

Change

with a
Fervor

as if

Molting into
a

Better you
is

Life
Threatening.

because

It
Is.

Not
of your

Body.

of

your

Mindset of Belief.

This is
the

Holy shit

Pit of your
Stomach

Terrifying

Penetrating

type of

Fear.

that comes
with

Visceral

Change.

When you are

Ready to

Molt
Your

Suffering

Skin of

Self-doubt

and

Worthiness.

You must
Grab onto it

before Doubt
sets in

to Become
the

Grit

necessary

to Face
the

Demons

Fears

Judgment

and finally

PAIN

that have

Pinned

you like an

Anchor

to
the
floor.

of

Guilt

Judgment

Shame

for
your

Entire

Life.

It is

Time
to

Win the

War

of a thousand

Battles

once and

for

All.

Freedom

The word freedom is a rather loaded word. It means something different to everyone. My freedom is paddling whenever I want, being able to give whatever I want without it destroying my bank account, and being present when one of my family and friends wants me to be there no matter what.   And travel. There will be lots of travel. To me, you can’t put a price on any of those items.

This is a pic of my crazy cousins, and their significant others, kids, etc at my cousin's wedding. I am so lucky to have them.

This is a pic of my crazy cousins, and their significant others, kids, etc at my cousin’s wedding. I am so lucky to have them.

Your freedom may be different. The key is to be able to actually EXECUTE that freedom.

There is also the third reality. The burnt out and/or overworked mentality. This is by the far the saddest, and in my opinion the hardest to get out. This is where you either work a bazillion hours and get a really great paycheck. Or you are working a bazillion hours just to make ends meet. I have been in the latter of those two. Many of you know this, but for those that don’t, I used to work two different jobs about 60-70 hours a week. In those years I made under $30,000 for BOTH. I got my W-2’s back and said, “Really? That’s it. There’s got to be another way.” It feels like there isn’t though. You become disheartened, depressed, and just resigned to the fact that this is all your life is going to be. You are really just surviving another day, week until the next paycheck. When you breathe a sigh of relief, and said thank the universe it’s payday. You lose your drive, dream, and eventually the ability to hope for something better. You believe that this is how it is going to be from now on. You become resigned to mediocrity.

Except it doesn’t have to be this way.

If you are in this particular mindset, there is a way to find your freedom. My way might be different from your way; however, I can say with conviction as long as you work your lever to freedom, you will get there. The last three years I have had a lot of absolutely amazing things happen, but I have also had some of the worst possibly scenarios come into my life during that time. Here’s the difference between now and seven years ago. I have a choice.   I got the opportunity to spend time with my elderly Nana and go to the hospital for both my Dad and my Uncle when it was necessary. I literally would walk out of my job saying I have to take care of my family now. I am very grateful and very blessed that my “regular” job I get to do that. Family always comes first.

The nicer part was because of my network marketing health and wellness business, my paycheck didn’t suffer to the point where I couldn’t pay my bills. I earned that time. I earned that freedom. It is like anything else, it takes work and sacrifice.

My question is what is your freedom worth?  Think about it.  This is not a hypothetical question.  Take some time and develop it.

Light and Shadow

I
Breathe
in
the

Cold,
Damp
air

as
Darkness
surrounds.

Light
is
bouncing Off
the River
in a
kind of

Dance.

I Let
the
Darkness
Surround
my

Five
Senses

as I
Submerse
myself

in the

Restorative
Energy
of

Light

and

Shadow.