The Root of Belonging, Pt 1

So I have been inconsistently trying to write about belonging for the better part of a year. I had “finished” an essay, and my friend and mentor told me to break into parts because each paragraph was just scratching the surface of the story buried beneath.  I bring you the first part of my story of belonging.

I have struggled with belonging my entire life, and as a consequence, it contributed in undermining my self-confidence into virtually nothing over time. Growing up, there was nothing I wanted more than to belong. Even if it was just a little bit. That didn’t happen. I had a much better relationship with my teachers than students my own age. Kids are cruel, manipulative, and traitorous as we grow into our skin. And it can cut deep, and those cuts can last inflict a lifetime of psychological damage, if we let it. Once we recognize the hurt and identify some the reasons we hide ourselves; it is up to us to alleviate that pain and grow into our best selves. It is no longer our role to be a victim. It is our role and responsibility to be a badass survivor.

two-options

The myth of the society we live in is that vulnerability and emotion are to be avoided at all costs, especially in public. I have adhered to that rule for most of my life, until about five years ago when I started to realize my own self-worth. I am not sure where the idea of being emotional and vulnerable equated to being weak, but that is the point of view I adopted early on in my life. I do not remember any specific conversations, either directly or indirectly, taking place in my house growing up. It could be that I thought with all the added stress of growing up with a special needs sister that my social difficulties at school were of secondary importance in my mind. I do not know. This is what I do know; I used my distain for vulnerability to create an armor around myself, because not doing so made middle and high school indescribably painful. I had been hurt too many times by letting people know me. I wasn’t about to let anyone else penetrate my armor of protection. I would never let myself be vulnerable again. It simply led to being hurt.

For the rest of my middle school and high school life, to say I was withdrawn and introverted, would be an understatement. For the majority of my middle and high school life, I went to school, later work, and I came home. I would hibernate to my room to escape into the world of sports, music, reading, and writing poetry. I had two after-school activities I participated in, one in middle school and one in high school. I was baseball card club, which is just what it sounds like. Yes that was the actual name of the club, and I had started following sports obsessively to fill a void in my life. Baseball card club especially was a refuge to the self-imposed isolation of my life in middle school. I could just truly be me there, because it was a bunch of other displaced kids who loved baseball cards and sports as much as I did. I think many of us were outcasts. It was an escape from the cruelty that can be middle school, and allowed us to bond in a non-judgmental way that eluded many of us. I loved it, and I was truly devastated when I graduated middle school because it was my one tether to other kids who didn’t judge me for being socially awkward and shy.

teenage hero jolie

In high school, I joined an environmental group called Students for the Environment (SFE). It was a club comprised of like-minded students who were environmentally conscious that organized and promoted environmental causes. Until sophomore year of high school, I still felt pretty isolated and awkward in the group. I had a few friends a grade below me join the group, and I almost developed real friendship there for the first time in years. I felt relatively comfortable, and this bizarrely scared me back into my shell, when I became aware of the connection that was occurring. I realized I could get hurt again, and I pulled back my real self. We were still friends, but I hid my real self behind self-deprecation humor and put my vulnerability armor on. This ended up sabotaging the friendship to one of superficial nature. Ironically, the detachment hurt. Except it was my fault this time, and that was the first time that I realized maybe this armor wasn’t as effective as I had constructed it to be. I didn’t understand what had happened to the friendship until many years later. I didn’t understand it was ultimately my fault that my ever-present armor caused the friendship to collapse. That is how apprehensive I was about connection, and vulnerability. I sacrificed my first connection in years due to my fear of rejection, vulnerability, and to let people see and know me for whom I was.

The concept of finding a place and people where I could feel comfortable just being me was elusive until I was in my 30’s.   My beloved Garden Elite being the exception to that rule at Union County College. I owe that group more than I could ever explain because of their immediate acceptance of me. I struggled to find my tribe of belonging, and it hurt until I turned off the emotional intelligence part of my brain. These revelations have taken place over the past few years due to a wonderful therapist, self-reflection, and finally realizing that I am worth knowing all aspects of myself, and others do as well. I became to understand more of why I acted the way I do, and the underlining why. And it was and is not easy.  The proverbial cliche of peeling of an onion is really apropos, and I’ve been digging deep into a lot of issues resulting in a lot of layers being peeled.  None of this is easy, but it is worth it. That is for another essay that is forthcoming.

shall pass kidney stone

I discovered more of the equation of belonging in high school while discussing it with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a few years. Every time we see each other, I realize how alike we are in many aspects. It is one of the those rare friendships that deepens over time, and it doesn’t matter how often we see each other. She has also struggled with belonging. We are both smart, definitely high on the nerd scale, had similar childhood backgrounds, and can be socially awkward. We tried clubs, activities, and eventually I gave up in high school except for SFE. I ended up working a lot. She was much braver than I was, and did a variety of after school activities that I am still in awe of. I didn’t know much about this until recently, and our friendship has been evolving in the best way as I become more vulnerable and trusting. It seems the more vulnerable I become; the deeper the friendship goes. Vulnerability and trust go together like thunderstorm and a rainbow. It is sometimes volatile, but a beautiful thing to watch as the light comes shining through illuminating the invisible beauty within. It’s been a hard concept to grasp, and grudgingly accept as truth. Since I have an exceptionally hard time practicing both vulnerability and trust. Both are worth risking in order finding your true belonging, and your true self.

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Demon Within

It causes

Inexplicably

Self-
Destructive

Behavior.

Sometimes

Repeatedly,

and
Often.

worst yet,

We

See
what is

Happening

and

Do

Nothing

about

It.

It is

Easier

to

Ignore

the

Demon
within

than to

Conquer

the
Devil

behind
It.

The
ultimate

Culprit

is

Shame.

which

Breeds

in

Fear,

Secrecy,

and Judgment.

The
best

way
to

Duel
the

Demon

Within

is to

bring the
Secret

Out.

Own
your

Story,

own
Your

Imperfections.

this

Painful
Concession

Sets

us

Free.

from the

impossible

Burden
of

Perfection.

which

Destroys

the

best of

Us

when
we

Strive

to Reach
it.

My
Ultimate

Vulnerability

is when
I

Write

for the
World

to

Delve into.

I love
to

Hate
the Process.

Cliché as
it is,

it Sets
me

Free.

it is
my

Art

to

Transcend

my Pain,

Vulnerability,

Epiphanies,

and Emotion

to
Share

Connection

with
a greater

Audience.

That is my

Power

and
one
of
my

Gifts
to

Share

with

Intention

of
Connection.

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 complete 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 upon hearing this information. 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 to be 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 Tohickon 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 friend 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.

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 been able to create an emotional block where the physical pain of empathy is no longer felt, but the energy of soul releasing it remains available for reception and interpretation.  This has allowed me to be able to control how the energy of empathy is interpreted and transformed into an emotional energy I can interpret without it being crippling to me.  It is a welcome development to both myself and those around me.  For my entire life empathy has been a crippling sense of duty and painful burden.  “The Block” as I call it, has been a freeing and glorious development.  I can use my empathy to problem solve the best way to help the pain, and now it feels like a gift I am meant to share with the world instead of being a martyr to it.

This might not make any sense unless you are an empath, and I apologize if you feel confused.  When I explain this to empaths, they ask me “how did I do that”?  I wish I knew how.   I know believe that people have specific gifts they are meant to share with the world to fulfill their greater purpose.  Empathy is one of my true gifts to the world, and most of the time it felt like a curse to me.  I wake up most days grateful to have it, and can sense and then ease pain in a friend.  Sometimes all it takes is a “that really sucks and I’m sorry” or a really funny meme.

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.

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.

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, 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 and in real life who have seen the picture above and wished me well either through a comment, text message, 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.

The Crippling Pursuit of Perfection

What is perfection really?  It is a stubborn mistress that we court, but are never quite found good enough for the Ball.  Perfectionism is different from striving to be better, because that is a competition with ourselves.  Perfectionism is more about proving/convincing to yourself and others that you are good enough. It’s a stifling and oppressive way to live life.  It is often much safer to not go for it, and say I am not going to even bother because it won’t be good enough for insert your favorite excuse here (usually yourself when you really dissect the reason).  The threat of rejection and disappointment are far greater than the reward of showing the progress of discovery.  This is some of the most self-destructive things people can do to themselves, not including bodily harm.  The void of rejection catapulted my self-esteems issues even further because I didn’t think I was even worthy of presenting my skills if it wasn’t perfect.

barriers-to-love

Self-Pressure
Perfectionism is like having to pee in the middle of the night.  Stay with me here, I agree it’s an odd analogy.  You are slightly uncomfortable with the pressure, but you are so warm and cozy in your bed you hate to get up.  You’d much rather stay under the safety of the blanket until it becomes too much and you give in.  Except there is no safety blanket, and eventually you choose to show yourself and your talents to the terrifying world.  Or you pee in the bed, and shrink into self-loathing.

Take this entry for example, I had so many good ideas and lines when I started the concept, but I can’t think of a single one.  And they were good. You know what happened to those ideas I had five minutes before writing this?  I said to myself, “ooo, I like where this is going.  Let me get downstairs and get settled into writing mode before starting to write this entry.” POOF, gone.  I could have written them down where I was, but I didn’t.  I am going to publish this anyway to prove a point because this is an important topic for me.

Judgment
Perfectionism isn’t really about presenting your perfect work.  It is using it to hide behind your excuses, self-doubt, and flaws so people don’t know your vulnerabilities and insecurities.  To have your “best” self always on display, scared of being judged of not being good enough is a crippling mindset that weighs heavily on every decision one makes.  Every decision leads back to “am I good enough to reveal this?”  It’s much easier to show something that you believe is your best effect and have them bring judgment, than it is to show a work in progress and have it ripped to shreds (e.g. first draft of a paper).  It’s the same with my Arbonne business, photography, writing, paddling, and now art.   I used to get ashamed if I swam (it’s where you fall out of your boat in a rapid) while paddling, but it has a become a source of pride because it means I tried something and pushed myself.  Fail your way forward.

Roy and I hitting a rock - hard - in the rapid. Good times. Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Roy and I hitting a rock – hard – in the Cucumber Rapid on Yough River.  Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Self-Validation
The projects don’t have to be physical in nature; they can be emotional as well.  Or the most vulnerable of all, when it is the combination of both.  The vulnerability of art for the world to see, which is always an express of an emotion of some kind, oftentimes gives me the most pause in sharing it.  And being completely vulnerable with all of you, my latest self-discovery is how much I like to doodle.  I like drawing the lines, the shapes, and all of it coming together to make something kind of beautiful in its own unique way.  Art is terrifying to me, so this is a huge discovery.

doodle

One of the hardest things I have worked on in the last 4.5 years is to make an effort to kick my self-judgment to the curb.  It means you have to confront yourself, which is another entry altogether and discover some of your inner demons.   Be real with those closest to you, and I was surprised by the outcome of this.  In my experience, I discovered those who truly love me for who I am becoming and embracing my true self.  I also discovered those who will always see the old me, and who have a hard time accepting the self-confident version of myself.  It can be a brutal wake up call. Give perfectionism an eviction notice from your mind and soul, and be a vigilante when it comes to visit.

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.

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.