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.

fb car pic

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.

Compartmentalize

I have
been
Compartmentalizing
my

Entire
life.

It’s
how
I’ve
lived

this

Long.

Until
now.

I

Hate

that I

Can’t.

not a
word
I use

Lightly.

I Hate

having
uncontrolled
Emotions.

I’m a

Problem
solver,

especially for

Others.

My own?

I’m not used
to
dealing
with

Emotion

on such
an

Unbridled

Visceral
level.

I am

Accustomed
to

my

Emotions

being like a

Switch

that
I

can

Control

with a
Flick.

On and
Off.

most of the
time

my
Emotion
is still

My

Switch.

Occasionally

it

becomes
like a

Renegade

Bomb

of

Precision.

like a

Lightning
bolt

Through
my

Soul.

just as

Quick,

Deadly,
and

Precise.

Leaving no

Mark.

only

Confusion.

of

my
Life.

 

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.

2016 Year in Review-it was interesting

2016 was a rollercoaster of the highest highs, and the one of the oddest periods of my adult life. I experienced the amazing achievement of Area Manager in my Arbonne business, and it is a day that I will never, ever forget. The reason for that is because of the sheer inspiration it created in other people. There will be people who become nation before I do because of my journey, and I’m completely okay with that.   I also experienced one of the most profound and amazing experiences I have ever had at the area manager retreat. My face hurt from smiling so much, and I was inspired but also aimless. I understand it doesn’t make sense. It didn’t to me, either.

reflect-and-learn-fave

The Transition
August saw me move into my own place, and that’s where the weirdness started. I was inspired, in activity, but going nowhere. I didn’t believe it. I finally was growing to be an adult, and the comfy backup living plan I had was gone. I fought in my head to figure out why I was struggling so much with this. This should be the pinnacle of my year. The catalyst to growing into my greatness, but it wasn’t. I am growing into that role on a daily basis, but it took some time.

The codependency relationship I had, which I have written about a few times was the culprit. When you are in a codependent relationship of any kind and you get out of it, you start to realize how fucked up your life was. If not, then at least unhealthy.

It is only within the last couple of weeks where I have started to feel like myself again. I am in activity, but it is not only inspired but intentional. Everything in my life has come down to self-worth. I honestly think most people’s issues come down to that issue if you really break it down.

not-what-i-happened

The Break

The codependency break quite frankly sucks, especially when you don’t see it coming. I had no warning; I just expected to keep rocking it. The universe had other plans. The punch you in the face truth from two sides that came to a glaring forefront of change and challenge. It made me face the reality of myself and of my family dynamic. It forced me to realize that I’ve got to get growing to not only be the leaders I know myself to be, but also to lead my family in ways I never wanted to but became necessary.

The Future

The future is always messy. You just have to choose which mess to wade through. Regret or awesomeness are your main choices. Either way, you are going to have to go through your own shit, so it might as well be as short as possible. It will suck. It will be painful. But the pain is short-term, in comparison to the life long pain of what ifs.

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.

Type of Decisions

Life is not a series of moments; it’s a series of decisions. I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of decisions. One is deliberate where you choose to go after something in your life. Two is passive, where you let the decision come to you. Three is where the situation determines your decision. The third option may seem like passive, but I beg to differ.

Passive is where you are ambling through life, but situations arise and you ride that flow without participating in it much. Situational decisions are where you make an active decision driven by circumstances where you decide to drive your own your circumstances. If you don’t see the difference, please continue to read.

done-to-me-human

I have always enjoyed puzzles, and life is no different. I have always been good at dealing  with problems and obstacles, regardless if they were mine or someone else’s. I have never been one to panic when faced with an obstacle because it’s an objective problem I can fix. When my car bumper was literally hang by a few pieces of metal, I fixed it with cable ties. When power has gone out, I grabbed my head lamp so we could search hands free. The pragmatic and solution oriented approach to problems have always come easy and natural to me.  It is a situational decision brought on by fear.

Everyone goes through things in their life that are presented as obstacles. Last November life presented me with a series of the biggest obstacles I have ever faced, and I used it to propel me forward. I responded to the situational decision, and I used it to fuel me. I grew more than ever, both in life and personally.  This post is not to brag about that level of growth, for which I am proud of accomplishing and grateful for.  The growth I experienced was driven primarily and instinctively by fear.  It is a small way to grow, however.  I would like to show you a better way to grow without external stimuli.  Fear will push you into greatness only so far.

two-options

This post is what happens when there is no crisis or obstacle, and you still have an all-consuming desire to grow.  When there is no life event that makes you realize that you have been playing small, and you better step up.  It is what happens when you turn from an amateur (in anything) to a professional.  Because your decision and action is not propelled by fear, but it is propelled by love and faith in something bigger than you.

I have heard time and time again in my network marketing business it takes a decision. It takes a shift. Each time I promoted, it was because of an external event. It’s not enough. To be truly better, you deserve to strive to be better when there is no propelling reason to be. This is that moment for me. I have no external struggle happening in my life, but I have not felt this much internal determination to be better than yesterday in quite some time.

Situational decisions will only get you so far before you hit a wall of your belief. If you feel the pull to greatness, be aware that your mindset and soul deserve more than to be pawns in a situational game. Be an active participate in your greatness, and make that decision now to live in a life that is not fear based.

So it Begins

Where do
we Go
from

Here?

I don’t
Know.

This is what
I
Do
know.

Love
trumps hatred.

This is
an
Inflection
Point
for our
Country.

I never
Thought
it would
Come to this.

But it has.

It is
Our
Duty
to show up

Even
Bigger.

Be bigger
than
Hate
and
Repression.

be
Bigger than
Disappointment
and
Anger.

Be the
Light.

Show them
Why
We
Will
Not
Back
Down.

It’s in
our
Blood.

We are
not quitters.

We are
the
Beginning
of a
Revolution.

the
Revolution
of
Love
we
are

Echoing out
to the
World.

This
is
Our
Time.

to
Show
what can be
Done.

It is
our
Responsibility
to show
the world

We are
Better
than

This.

So
it

Begins.

Moving On

The worst part of moving on is realizing that you’ve been a jackass for way too long.  I had been clinging in some odd way to my previous life.  It was like I owed my previous life of co-dependence something.  I don’t, and I won’t any longer.

fear pass, regret not

Being vulnerable is a love-hate relationship with me.  This blog is definitely a part of that journey.  I express myself much better in writing than I do at any other form, so this blog is a major source of release and equal scariness.  I can connect with people on a way I rarely feel comfortable doing.  Real, vulnerable, scary, and it’s all me.  When I am with people in public, even most of my friends, they rarely see any of the above.  Unless my guard is down.

This entry is going to be a bunch of free-thought.   If you don’t follow it, that’s okay.  If you don’t like it, equally okay.  I haven’t been writing as much, which is always a red-flag for me. We are all in a battle for dominance in our own heads.  It is our will that determines whether the ego or our true self wins.

The Beginning

My life has been a series of transitions, as I think most people’s are.  For me, I found myself in college.  I didn’t have to be invisible anymore in college.  I agree this is often a theme on my blog, but it’s an important one.  I was actually for the first comfortable with myself and other people.  High school were not the best years of my life, it was full of years of hiding and pretending I was okay.  It was also were I had way better relationships with my teachers than with my peers.

Next transition was home from college.  I was back to being self-conscious and apologizing all the time when I got my first “professional” job.  There are many amazing things that came from that first job, but the best was being fired.  It led to a series of things that brought me to my friend Jenny.  Who introduced me to Arbonne, the best decision I have ever made in my entire life.

The Middle

The transition into entrepreneur was much longer than I thought it should have been.   The amazing thing about being in network marketing and entrepreneur enterprise in general is there is no time table.  I have finally taking control of most of my life, and it’s the best thing I could have ever hoped it to be.  There are more transitions to go, but this one was where I knew I could kick ass and change lives at the same time.

And yet, I still had not yet let go of my co-dependency.  I still lived under a roof that was both freeing and oppressive.  It was weird and it was not a home anymore.  I finally broke that cord in August.

personal style

Adulthood

I didn’t realize I hadn’t moved on from that until this week.  I have my apartment set up with the major things:  bed, kitchen table, kitchen stuff, and internet.  What I don’t have is a way to have people there.  Which would make it permanent.

I don’t think I truly realized what I big step that was until a few days ago.  This is truly my space.  It is no one else’s.  It is scary, amazing, and truly inspiring.  I will be free from the co-dependency when I realize that I am doing this.  That this space is mine.  I created it, decorated it, and am living in it like an adult.

Moving on is painful and necessary.  This is another step into a journey of greatness.  As usual, my head gets in the way of my progress.  It’s not even my head, it’s my ego playing to my insecurities.  We are all in a battle in our own minds for dominance.  It always depends who wins the war, not the battle.  I will win this war at any cost.  Because I deserve better and so does every one else in my life.  It starts and ends with you.

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.