Five years: Choices, Gauntlets, and Life

My life can be awesome and hard at the same time. It might be counterintuitive, but they are not mutually exclusive. I absolutely love my life more than I ever thought I could, but it is often hard. Social media is the highlight reel. Real life is almost always different and more complicated.

Five and half years ago I was an environmental consultant. Steady job, decent salary, and it could be quite rewarding. I paid my bills, had money in my savings, and I could splurge now and then on something I really wanted. Sounds great right? A crucial part was missing. I wasn’t happy. I had minimal emotional connection to anyone; smiling was a rarity, and was apparently quite intimidating to people.

courage to grow up

You might be thinking, here it comes. The ode to Arbonne, which has been the catalyst to change my life.  It changed me, it’s always present, and I’m not here to convince you. This essay is more about the ode to my journey to self-worth, acceptance, and getting the fuck out of my own way.

In that time, my self-worth grew and I started to blossom. I went from someone who literally couldn’t look anyone in the eye while speaking to them, to becoming a leader in my business known for my perseverance and gratitude.

There are precious few in my life who know the full truth. Numerous events big and small have taken me from an unfocused mass of metal and forged into platinum that has yet to be cast.  I have been fired, twice. I have had to choose between paying my credit card bill and paying my car insurance. I have had family members die, and have had other family members have serious and almost fatal medical issues. My uncle had a series of strokes that left him with brain damage that he had to retire from dentistry. My friend and I called it “The Gauntlet.”  The medical issues were all at the same time.  It sucked, and our family fought through it.  I made sure to talk to all the doctors and ask the important questions when necessary.  I am so thankful that it didn’t become more serious in one of the cases.

Those times were hard, but manageable. I could do certain things to fix it, and I knew how to tackle the problems. I steadily grew my leadership and myself. Throughout all of that I tackled personal growth and development, and despite all of the shit that was happening I became a much happier and positive person. I developed a core group of friends and I would consider many of them family. I realized I never really had a group of friends like that before. I have deconstructed some of my trust and vulnerability barriers.  I started this blog, and have used it as an outlet that has been powerful for myself and others.  I promoted in my business twice.

All of that progress came to a screeching halt within the last year. It has sucked with a capital S, and the challenge consisted of personal struggle.

Periodically crises are like a ninja where it creeps and builds slowly in the background, and then WHAM! It becomes like whac-a-mole. One problem seems to be resolved, and another one appeared.

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My car after the accident

Breaking my codependency, wage loss (partly my fault), traumatic car accident, finding a replacement car, ongoing months of physical therapy (very grateful for), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Good times. The car accident, which caused another layer of PTSD. You can read the details of each by clicking the links. I have broken through on a lot of barriers, but I couldn’t seem to get through these on my own. I started therapy last month because it wasn’t getting any better. I have trust issues, and despite that it’s going surprisingly well.

I thought I had put the issues of self-worth in a time capsule to be revealed 20 years from now and opened up to be like YOU caused all that trouble? Not so much. It decided to resettle in with nagging doubt, frustration and increased the fear. Once I figured out that this was still the underlying issue, it all started to make illogical sense. I didn’t think I deserved success, the apartment, leadership status, or living among the successful.

It’s all bullshit. I have fought on every level to achieve the life I was growing, and I’ll be damned if I let it get taken away. Even if caused by me. Everyone deserves success. Everyone deserves to live a life they love. It should not be a luxury of the rich.

unbecoming

When things got tight financially, I became innovative. In the past year, I started my photography business that I absolutely love. There is nothing like capturing a moment in time for people or a moment in the outside world to live forever. It’s another form of self-expression.

My life is messy, complicated, remarkable, and sometimes painful. I wouldn’t trade it for the life of mediocrity and safety I was living in over five years ago. The difference between my life before and today is choices and a path for something better. I am on my way towards sustainability in life, passions, love, and finances. The true American dream.

 

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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.

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.

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 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.

Be the Catalyst

Get Dirty with Change
People say that is change is hard, and it can be. It is also inevitable, and it can be beautiful. It is important to embrace the changes happening in your life because they are coming either way so you might as well embrace it. If the change is unpleasant, the sooner you deal with it, the sooner it will change into something tolerable. If the change is good or long-term beneficial, then embrace the journey to get to the beautiful place on the other side. While paddling I came up with an expression, “on the other side of the mud is often a beauty hidden by the effort to get there.” It is the same with change.

courage-fear-do-it-anyway

The Push
Quite honestly, the catalyst in my growth in the stages of my business has come from outside sources. I do much better historically when helping other people. I am more focused, more determined, and it’s because I genuinely enjoy being a part of helping other people achieving their dream. It’s the part I play, and I play it well. However, it is time to grow out of that. I have written how that is really not enough, but for me it is how I have measured my worth by adding to a cause. As if I am not enough just being me. It’s not true. There are things I am privately passionate about and very important to me that deserves to be heard, known, and acknowledged. These are the ones that only a select few know about, and that scare me for people to know.beat-her

Sparking Your Catalyst
All of it is coming to a climax. Tony Robbins says “change happens when the pain of staying the same is bigger than the pain of change.”  Everyone has demons, and every person has at least one that likes to linger. A lingering whisper is the fear of not being worthy of the amazing friendships I have built in the last 4 and half years. Which is completely ridiculous, and thankfully doesn’t surface often anymore. It’s the old me popping up like a prairie dog, and the part of myself I deserve to beat whac-a-mole style. Its presence has lessened since I am coming out of a transition period that seems to be inevitably messy. The result is a new level of leadership being born. One that I am ready to take on because staying hidden behind some type of misplaced pride is becoming too uncomfortable to stay idle. It’s like a bug molting into a new shell because it’s outgrown its old one. It’s painful, it’s uncomfortable, and as it happens you are incredibly vulnerable while growing into a new stage of development and waiting for it to harden.   It is time to be the catalyst for change and become the adult we are all destined to be.

Fear of Success and Codependence

 Codependence

I have steadily been moving towards independence, and took a big step towards it by finally moving into my own place. It is exhilarating, scary, and necessary. My whole life I have been enabled and codependent, mostly without me knowing it.   This has lead to some unhealthy and self-destructive habits that I have been slowly working my through to be the best version of myself. I have written about the personal growth aspect of the journey repeatedly.

The Battle

I have never shied away from it. The necessary pain of personal growth until recently. I didn’t know why until yesterday. The last vestiges of codependence are attempting to adhere a strangle hold on my road to greatness, and they are powerful, deeply entrenched, and are not going away without a fight. It is possibly my hardest personal growth battle to date. My will, grit, and determination are even greater.

decisions regret

I don’t think I have ever been more scared to continue on my path to greatness, to success. I will beat this. I will conquer the doubt, frustration, and little nagging voice that says “no you can’t”. I have to. It is past that, I deserve to.

It is bigger than me. It always has been. It is just more real now that it ever has been. The fear of success, and the lingering doubt has been crippling as of late. What if I am not good enough, what if I am not the leader everyone expects me to be, what if blah blah.

Belief

It’s all bullshit, of course. Some of the biggest leaders in Arbonne believe in me, and it’s been a long time since I have felt this uncertain about myself. This is how I know I am close to a breakthrough. The closer one gets to the breakthrough, the more the universe challenges you to see how much you want it. I deserve to get out of my own head not for the last time, but certainly one of the most important to date. I am at the critical junction where my fear of being noticed and success have come to a head. This is my pinnacle moment where I can aspire and reach greatness, or I can shirk into the background. The latter is not really an option. It would be so much easier, but I am never one to take the easy way out. Bring on the pain, I’ve got this. Finally. Yes, I realize I have said this numerous times. And every time it has been true in different aspects of my life’s journey.

Full Moon and Refocus

Since the Arbonne area retreat in Albany I had been doing inspired action to achieve my goal, which is a big goal. However, I knew something was missing. I just couldn’t figure out what it was. I was so focused on what I needed to do to achieve the goal that at some point in the last few days I lost the reason behind the goal.

It's a bracelet given to me by Debbie Carroll Neal.

Tonight is the Capricorn full moon, which is apparently very powerful. I am looking at it, and connecting with it. I am focusing on the power of the moon, and seeing what needs to change in my life. And not just in Arbonne, but in all aspects of my life. Most importantly, I deserve to let go of the outcome. Once I let go of the outcome, the pressure was off my psyche. There is a weight off my mind tonight. I am making a mental list of things that deserve-not need- to be changed in order for my life, my destiny, and my goals to be fulfilled.  Verbiage is another one. The word Need is one of the lowest forms of expression, and carries with it a low vibration. I am switching it to Deserve.

I feel grounded again, but inspired to touch as many lives as possible. The focus and intention has returned instead of the activity being similar to unorganized chaos. Activity without intention is like paddling with half a paddle. You may get where you are going, but it’s going to take a long time. Intention is key to obtaining any goal.

Sometimes we are so focused on the goal, we lose sight of the WHY behind the Goal. In the process, I lost the inspired action, and couldn’t figure out the disconnect between the action and the goal. It became slightly overwhelming, and without me realizing it.

I have unknowingly repeated this behavior for some time now, and never made the connection of why. Everyone has the habit of getting in their own way, and I’ve gotten really good at recognizing the signs of when I am doing that. The devil however is very adaptive, and when those old ways of hindering you stop working, it gets creative.

Chasing a dream is exhausting, which is what I have been doing for months now. However, reliving, immersing yourself in it, and envisioning your dream life on a daily basis are not only necessary to achieving the dream, but it’s reinvigorating.  I am enrolling not just active affirmations, but active, present vision into my daily life. BOOM.

New Beginnings

I had a conversation with a mentor and one of my best friends recently about my attire.  It’s well established that I am a treehugging, hippie, paddler who likes nothing more than cargo pants and some quick drying layer (usually fleece or tech shirt).  I own a lot of men’s clothing of every variety.  I have a plethora of men’s pants because at one time, either in reality or in my head, I believed that I could only wear mens pants because of my muscular thighs.  I love them.  I have worn them for YEARS.  They are comfy, baggy, practical, and just a staple of my wardrobe outside of my Arbonne attire.

However, they are no longer serving me.  I have done a shit ton of personal growth, a lot of which was painful, some extremely.  All necessary, and all infinitely worth it.  My mentor told me recently to get rid of all my men’s pants that were ill-fitting.  For my job (not Arbonne, I sell work boots) I am regularly crawling around on the floor, searching through boxes, climbing up ladders, often get covered in dust, etc.  I do not wear nice things at work for this reasons.  I literally have work pants and go out pants because my knees always get worn out.

I initially went full out against this idea, because who cares what I look as I crawl around looking for boots, digging through boxes, or carrying heavy, dust laden boxes down the stairs?  I never had.  Perhaps-no definitely-I should.

Where I work is not glamorous, by any stretch of the imagination.   I sell work boots and work clothing, primarily.  I really like where I work, and have worked there on and off since I was 16.  It’s flexible, family owned and operated, and locally owned store in the Hunterdon County area.  It’s also different than anything you have probably been in, in the best kind of way.

The work boot area where I work in particular is quite different from what you may think.  It’s extensive, massive, and we have boots everywhere in the stock room.  I came to the realization today that just because it’s not the most classy place or the cleanest doesn’t make a difference in the pride I should have in working there.  There’s a reason I have worked there since I was 16.  I truly do love it there.  We have something for everyone. I  take pride in that, and therefore I should take pride in what I wear there.

I don’t need to be a diva.  I would like to be practical and classy.  The two are not mutually exclusive, despite me thinking that until recently.  I can do my job effectively, look classy, and not destroy my clothes.

The crazy thing is this is one of the hardest things she’s asked to me to do.  By the way, they have all been awesome and totally worth it.  The personal growth, while not easy, I did it quite willingly and without question.  This I questioned, and whined, until I realized that this out of all the other things she’s suggested I do, have caused me the most up-front mental hurdle.

Why?  Because my old self is trying to hide my badass figure from society.  I am worth it.  I am worth all the attention to my mind, body, and soul.  In personal growth,  there is always another piece to fill in your jigsaw puzzle.  This was a big one.

Your True Self

Sometimes the person you have spent your entire life being, isn’t really your true self.  You may have been taught things that weren’t true about yourself and that became your truth, or you succumbed to the version of yourself that everyone believed was you.

This is the story you are telling yourself.  If you are unhappy with it, it’s is time to write a new one.  It’s your damn life, be happy with the choices, lifestyles, and career.

I have recently stepped into the person I am supposed to be, and that for whatever reason has been buried under a mountain of my own bullshit.  Over the past three years, in order, I have developed or done:  started a business, adopted a mentor, followed them around everywhere, did what they said, read a lot of books; developed self-confidence, probably for the first time, actually worked my business; got promoted, and taught and inspired others to be the best version of themselves, and then got promoted again. At times it was painful, but it was worth all of it to be building my future freedom.  Success is rarely easy.

When I got to train after completing Area manager with Arbonne, I got a standing ovation.  It is a moment I will never forget as long as I live.  It was reaffirming, it was magical, and I finally felt comfortable that this was where I was supposed to be. It was at that moment that I realized I am changing the world one treehugging hippie at a time.

me training 2-1-16

Me training at our Arbonne meeting

This is just the beginning of my life.  This is my true self that have unburied after a lot of painful growth, which I have written about before.  The person who I am today is so different than anything I have been in the past twenty years that sometimes it takes awhile for people to see me as I truly am.

The leader, the paddler, treehugging hippy, the person who has inspired an entire Arbonne nation to celebrate with me, and just overall badass, cargo pant wearing chica.  All of those are who I am.  I have shedded the skin of my former life because I’ve grown into my adult embodiment of myself.  It feels like home.

In Love with My Life

I have liked my life for the most part since I graduated high school.  I went to class, graduated, and I truly enjoyed and probably loved my life in college.  After graduation?

I certainly didn’t love my life; I barely had one.  It was working two jobs, 60-70 hours a week, and one job I truly did love, the other was just there to pay the rest of the bills.  One year I got my w-2’s back, and was like, “that’s it? And literally thought, ‘there has to be a better way’.”  I have found that way.  It is a company founded on respect, empowerment, and helping others.  There is no amount of salary worth making you feel like a piece of shit by the end of the day.  NONE.

One of the benefits of realizing one’s worth is that I am truly in love with my life.  There is a difference between liking your life and being in love with it.  Think dating to get a better understanding.  I love everything in it.  I love my friends, my relationships, my business, and  most importantly myself.

I have worked hard to understand, conquer, and retire my old-self, as I call it.  I have reincarnated myself to be more positive, self-confident, present, less passive-aggressive, and immensely grateful person.  Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 2.01.43 PM

I am proud of my journey it took to get me to this point, and I am even more proud of apparently the inspiration in it for people.  There is no greater gift.