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.

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.

Life and Love

I figured out what love is.  It’s taken me 36 years to figure it out, and I’m not letting it go.  It is loving yourself enough to own your identity, and it is the scariest thing I have ever done.  The handful who know me really well and who I’ve confided in know what I am talking about.

personal style

I’ve hidden myself in one form of another since I was around 10.  It was first because being weird in middle and high school is quite honestly just plain brutal, as some people know.  It was much easier to be quiet and meek than smart and bold.  In college, I found myself and surrounded myself with like-minded weird people of the best variety.  It was rare when I was unapologetically me, though.

white party pic

These are some of my favorite people on the planet.  Who helped show me that I was enough.

I reached a point last year where I was on top of the world, so to speak.  There was something missing that I couldn’t quite identify.  I finally figured it out and told my best friend.  She said literally, “thank God.”  It’s the final piece of accepting me.  The final piece of accepting who I am, and loving myself for everything that is me.  It is scary and amazing.  I am ready to do this.  To own myself, and more importantly to love myself on an entirely new level of acceptance.  This is not the forum to announce such things.  If you’ve read through the lines, great.   Just know that I am ready, I am coming, and most importantly, I AM ME.  If you don’t like it, I honestly pity you.  Acceptance is a human trait, and also the cause of the worst travesties of human history have occurred when not allowed.

Invisibility, Choice, and Discovery

I have written about my entire life being spent trying to be invisible, and it worked. Then I started to be become noticed and recognized for what I was. A caring, compassionate human being who longed to serve others before myself. This is not meant to aggrandize, this is actually who I am. Those who know me can attest to that.

I think I have finally figured out why the past six to eight months have been so odd for me. People started to recognize me and outside my immediate circle. For a person who until a year ago, at most two, wanted to blend in the with the crowd this took some time to adjust to. I didn’t recognize it. I thought it had something to do with my move into my place, which was a factor but not the ultimate reason of my weirdness. It might have been the reason why I was like, “shit this is real.”

white party pic

Out of Integrity
I am going to be totally vulnerable here. Which I really despise doing, by the way.  Writing is the place where I become most vulnerable because I can take the time to express it. Up until the point where I actually did get a place on my own, I felt almost like a fraud. I confided this to a dear friend of mine and asked for her advice. She said, “because you are living out of integrity with your true self.” If there is one thing in my life I really have a profound and utterly disdain for is dishonesty and not being integrity. If I tell someone I am going to do something, I damn well am going to do it. It may take awhile, sometimes much longer than I anticipated. But it gets done.

So I got to work. It was a slow process, but I eventually got my life together and moved on my own. This was a month after the phenomenal Arbonne area manager retreat, and for whatever reason things became very real and very scary in terms of accountability and recognition. I froze. I was in activity, but without intention. I did all of this without realizing WHY. I truly didn’t realize it until now.

I never wanted to be an inspirational figure, leader, or role model but I became that in the past two and half years. I have written about it before, and truly thought I had come to terms with it. Except I clearly hadn’t. For all of you who have stuck with you and supported me, it means more than you know. For those that wondered wtf happened to her (with good reason)?  HERE I AM.

Standard cargo pants and fleece at Island Beach State park in New Jersey. Photo taken by Looie Voorhees

Slayer My Smaller Self

I am ready the slay the dragon. The dragon is myself. It is my own crippling fear in something bigger, and becoming something bigger and very public. It is the belief that I AM the leader that so many in Arbonne think I am. I AM COMING. It is one of the most terrifying and inspiring moments in my life.   I am finally seeing myself as so many of you do. I am the badass leader who has transformed from a treehugging hippie and into a shimmery water ninja.

This is not about what I want. It is about what I deserve, and how many other people deserve to be inspired by my story. I have grown into my creative self who actually loves to doodle, and perhaps even draw.  I have always loved photography, and this year will be the year to blossom into that.  I am becoming my true self.  It is amazing, terrifying, and realizing it is one of the most understated but determined moments in my life.

I will be a regional vice president and a national vice president with Arbonne THIS YEAR. It’s all revolved around this fraking moment of discovery. In this journey there have been so many moments, but to this point this is the biggest. I am growing into myself and being a whole person, an adult. A woman who up until quite recently didn’t believe I had any artistic talent or even a desire to be an artistic in the traditional term. I am growing into me, and I am a powerful freaking being. Watch me roar, because I am coming like never before. BOOM.

Be the Dragon

The Moment

There comes a time in every milestone, progressive moment, and breakthrough where your fear of staying the same outweighs your fear of the unknown. In addition, there is also the moment when you realize that you have to get out of your own way, your own head, and just freaking do it already.  You reach the tipping point of your mediocrity.

I just had the moment that has been building for a while. The catalyst was unexpected. A friend posted a picture of her mom walking six weeks after a stroke. This woman defied odds and doctors by walking, and one of my relatives is an amazing survivor of three strokes in a two month period. In my head I thought, “and what limitation are you suffering from to limit my potential?” Nothing except the most important one of all: my old story that I am not good enough.

Photograph taken by Pete Kreiger. A moment of quiet reflection.

Photograph taken by Pete Kreiger. A moment of quiet reflection in Florida.

Reflection

Last year at this time I was pushed to my brink by forces outside my control, and it got my ass in gear big time. Crisis equals problem to solve, which for me is something I can and do tackle with gusto. I sit here with tears in my eyes, and reflecting on the year that was 2016. Amazing, powerful, emotionally one of the hardest of my life in very different ways than last year.

I am changing and growing. I am getting past the obstacles of the past few months. I am moving towards OWNING my breakthroughs and break them down brick by brick with a sledgehammer. Fear the dragon or be the dragon.

The Demon and Choice

The little things I have been ignoring in my life are like a pile of brush near an ember  on the edge of a forest waiting to be lit. Those little things that I KNEW deep down I had to and deserved change in order to be my best self rose up to become big fiery ball to slay me. The choice becomes yours. Let it slay you, and cower in the fear of your own demons forever in its shadow. Or you rise up and slay your fear with a fury you didn’t know you had. Fear does not like to be challenged, and it will wither like a brushfire with no fuel. It is just waiting on you to grow a set, and slug it like Muhammad Ali on fight night. To take no prisoners. To be the dragon that slays the crouching demon within.

Codependency and Responsibilities

The two biggest lies about adulthood is that your life is now your own, and that you should live your life to be “comfortable”.

The other thing that people don’t tell you about adulthood is that it is Fraking Hard. You essentially have two choices once you reach the pinnacle moment in adulthood: to stay or create a the cloud of comfort known as mediocrity or change into something bigger. The something bigger is almost always painful, and often times brings you into positions that you’d never thought you would have to fulfill or want to fulfill.

two-options

Responsibilities

This is what being an adult comes down to responsibilities. This is why I love certain aspects of my life, because I have none in one of my jobs. I still do them because I have a strong work ethic, but it’s not expected. And if you don’t, there really aren’t consequences that are noticeable at first. Depending on where you are in your life, those consequences may not surface for a very long time (raises hand).

This is what has separated my apparent adulthood from actual adulthood, codependency. I paid most of my own way for most of my life, except college, which will be forever grateful for, except living space. It was easy and comfortable, and I settled into a cloud of mediocrity. I am sure that my parents thought they were doing me a favor and I am grateful for them, but they didn’t realize they were doing me a disservice.

My life was not ultimately up to me. If I didn’t make “rent”, it’s not like they were going to kick me out. So I stayed, and I stayed far longer than I should have because of the cloud of codependency and comfort of mediocrity allowed me to.

As I am making epiphanies as I write this, it is evolving as I write it. Here is what I have learned about being comfortable in a fog of mediocrity: it is comfortable, but truly unfulfilling. You begin to question your own self-worth, as well as so many other things about your life.

Decide to Thrive

The word Decide means to literally cut off. Who wants to cut off a portion of themselves? Nobody. If a person has gangrene, and it was up to them most people would let it fester and spread throughout their bodies. Why? It’s easier that way. The pain of surviving that pain is often worse than living in their current state.

Changing sucks. It just does. What I have learned about change in the last year is that it happens, and often at odd times in one’s life. It forces you to grow into a role that you didn’t expect to ever take on. Roles that you never wanted to take on, sometimes. Circumstances dictated you to be the rock., be the one to ask questions, and be the painful truth teller in your family.

It would have been so nice if your journey had stopped there. But it doesn’t.

The Choice

fear pass, regret not

Growth and change never stop in the world of responsibility and adulthood. When it does, a person starts sinking into the mediocrity of comfort. I was used to love being comfortable, until one day it wasn’t. I craved more. It was easy. I am OVER it being EASY. Nothing good happens there, bring on the pain.

Here’s the choice that we adults get to make every day: be comfortable or grow into something better. There is no judgment for being comfortable. I lived in comfort for about a decade, and I struggled sometimes in the mediocrity of comfort.

I spent the majority of my life being “comfortably” uncomfortable. It was easy, it was being meh, and it ended up not being enough. I have written before that most of my life was spent trying to be invisible. One day someone saw something in me, and suddenly that was not enough. It shouldn’t be enough.

The pain and growth I experienced in the last 4.5 years was worth all of it to experience the journey of self-discovery.

The regret? It will suck worse than any of the intensely person growth I have experienced in the last 4.5 years. It is about being an inspiration to not only others, but more importantly yourself. Choose your inspiration.

Hiding and Discovery

The only thing I really wanted out of life was to be invisible. I was damned good at it, until I wasn’t. Over the course of the past couple of years I have become anything but invisible. Whether you realize it or not, people watch you. For me, it’s weird to not only be noticed, but also recognized for being myself. Most of the time, it’s amazing and I am always so grateful that I have created the life I have. There are times I still struggle with it, mostly during transitions and self-doubt. This has been a hell of a transition period for a number of reasons.

Realization Uncovered

The odd thing about being invisible and hidden is when it comes truly time to what you are looking for and want, you don’t know what it is. And even if you know what it is, it scares you beyond just about anything you’ve ever done before.

Why? Because it’s finally the real you. It’s not the goofy pretend extrovert; it’s not the aloof woman made of steel, and it’s not even the meek, self-conscious introvert. It Is You. And people knowing you, the real you, is the most daunting thing you’ve ever done. The most daunting, exposing, scariest thing I have ever done.

It is so much easier to hide; to be the person that everyone expects you to be, or to be the go to person for whatever than be truly you.

me training 2-1-16

Expectation

I have not been truly myself since I was a kid. I was always trying to live up (unknowingly) to the expectation, the image, and later try to cover up the vulnerability of what is me. I buried by myself for so long that the real me was incredibly painful and difficult to unearth.   It is like an archaeology dig. Where the past is buried so deep and so painstakingly preserved, it is difficult to unearth without destroying the very being you are trying to make whole.

The End

It’s a misnomer. There is never an end to discovering yourself and your own potential. There is only the willingness to dive into the personal change, gratitude, and submission that there are those who know how to achieve greatness and you must accept and “bow” to their knowledge and expertise. Only then will you truly grow, learn, and become yourself. Regardless of how scary and terrifying that is.

Being vulnerable sucks. It just does. It is also necessary in order to grow to your greatness. Find a mentor. Grow. Be. Do.

New Reality

This poem reflects about my current evolution of moving into my own place for the first time.  Enjoy 🙂

 

New Reality

sometimes
Revisiting
your

Previous
life

Causes

Reflection
Emotion
Pain

like tonight.

I came
back for
an evening.

the
Range
of

Emotions
are

Staggering
and

Perplexing.

It
feels

Foreign.

it’s now
Just a

place.

not a

home.

but
familiar.

What I
think it
may be
like for
amnesia
Victims.

Lost,
Open,
Vulnerable,
Afraid

also

Free.

I am no
longer

Shackled

by
my
Surroundings

I
Embrace

Love

Immerse

myself in
Them.

Blank

Slate
has a

completely
Different

Meaning
to me.

Another
Life,

Chapter,

Being,

Self.

 

Exercise, Music, and Pushing limits

I will admit that I am totally, 100% addicted to exercise in a way I never thought possible.  If I go a two days without it, I’m like Jonesing for a fix.  It’s weird, but it’s a good weird.  Every time I go to Sphericality, I reminded that I made a good choice.  I finally had the chance to take a class with the owner of said gym, Dorian, and she did not disappoint.  Like most of the other classes I have taken there, there was a focus on form.  Dorian seemed to take it a step further, and went around the class and tweaked our movements if need be.  Kelly also did this.  This is one of the reasons I am coming to love this gym.  It’s almost perfect for me.

I love music.  I don’t play it, or sing it, I just thoroughly enjoy it.  It is apart of my soul.  Yesterday, my friend Jenny had her first open mic at her place in Bath, PA.  There were a couple of firsts for me.  I read poetry (okay, I had done it once before), and I played music for a genuine first.  I played the cymbals.  Yes, I know that’s not much.  For me though?  It was HUGE.  I have always thought I didn’t know how to keep a beat, at all.  Yesterday I proved myself wrong, because I was according to Jenny able to keep a beat.  I also felt like I could before I asked her.  It was a night of firsts, bonding, and just celebration of a new, eclectic space.

I pushed through a few boundaries, reading my poetry in public and playing music.  For me, there are very few things more vulnerable than those two things.  Reading my inner-most thoughts out loud to the public is something that I am working on overcoming this year.  This was a first step.  Was it uncomfortable?  Hell to the Yes.  Was it worth that feeling?  Hell to the yes.  Happiness and freedom lay outside your comfort zone, and that is where I am pushing this year.

I am a different person than I was last year, and I’m pushing myself to be even more different next year.  When I say different, I don’t mean a caricature  of yourself.  I mean that you are becoming the best version of yourself, and finding your true calling in life.  Which may be so different than you ever thought it could be (like mine).  Be in love with who you are, or at the least be working on loving yourself.  I know it sounds weird (guilty) and new-agey, but trust me when I tell you when you feel peace with yourself and your mission, there is a peace inside of you that rivals no other.