North Star

North Star

Last week I wrote to you about the ring. In it, I shared that often in life we are confused about the noises from the stands and distracted by what is right in front of us. On what matters. I’d like to elaborate on this topic.

Life is messy and beautiful; this we all know to be true. On any given day, week, or year we are surrounded by experiences and people that shape our reality. For me, the messy was almost always the noise from the stands and letting go of what I thought I wanted in exchange for what was true. You see I too drank the kool-aid of fitting in for an extremely long time. An embarrassingly long time actually.

From a young age, I placed my happiness on others. I wanted to be accepted by my family and friends. I wanted to be liked. In order to do this I had to create a life that looked beautiful because I thought it would make me happy. I had written the story of who my life was supposed to be spent with and how it should look before I had lived it. It was a hollow way to live.

Life Changes

This past spring my gut told me my life needed a change. This fall it was delivered to me. As a survivor of domestic violence, I have a terrible time with surrender (even though I know it’s good for me). I was unsure of just about everything yet sure I wanted to find happiness again. Happiness for me and for my sons. So I surrendered. Incredible and hard things began.

The hard things came first. This is why I have written to you many times about walking through pain. As the crowds in the stands got louder I felt increasingly helpless. Yet in my gut I knew I had to stay the course, to sit in the pain, to allow the shift as I committed to my own happiness, safety, and worth. At first, I chose this path for my children. Then, as I became stronger, I chose it for myself. This is when incredible things began to happen.

As I stayed the course of surrendering to myself I let this one truth guide me; “I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be safe. My children deserve this too.” The pain, while present, became muffled and love began to pour in. Love that had always been there as I shed all that did not serve me. Originally, clouded by the noise from the stands, my senses were scattered. Literally. Having PTSD has led to certain noises hurting my ears. Yet as I allowed those who loved me to nurture me I was able to nurture myself. I could say all the things I had been holding onto. I could accept the loss around me and see the gain was greater.

I already knew the idea of what my life would be like based on the opinions of others. Honestly, I can’t remember a family gathering that didn’t press relationships or marriage as a child. I now know part of my extended family’s version of marriage is one where the man is dominant to the woman… no thank you. I thought if I created a beautiful life and my own family I could share them with my extended family. I thought if I gave of my time and heart it would be reciprocated by the family I had.

Living the Life You Need

The reality is that in a true marriage, family, or any other type of relationship, giving time and heart is absolutely necessary. In my case, most of my extended family and my last marriage sat in the stands as I stood in the ring. Realizing that I was spending all my time and love investing in others who did not want to reciprocate was liberating and painful. We are in fact social creatures and saying goodbye to those we convinced ourselves we loved but are not honoring us back is hard. It’s hard and it’s necessary.

As I let go of the life I thought I thought I wanted I’ve been greeted by the life I know I need. It doesn’t look a certain way. You won’t find it in a magazine. When I stopped thinking about what my life should look like and started focusing on what I want to feel like I was able to shift. In this shift, I was also able to look up and clearly see who is standing, sitting, or kneeling in my corner. I bet you have people like that too. I have always deeply loved my family and friends but my energy was split between the stands and the ring. Not anymore. Today and every day in the future I become more focused only on those in the ring.

It’s easy to look at the external world and think if we look or act a certain way we’ll be happy and accepted. But take it from me, it’s not worth it. We are only given this one precious life (as far as we know). While life is uncertain I personally know I will follow my own North Star–my gut feelings. I have built a new life, one built off of self-love, respect, compassion, empathy, and kindness. I have the most incredible people in the ring with me. Truly, I’m honored and grateful every day. I’m happy even as I do hard things. 

Shedding a life I thought I wanted has birthed me into a life I know I was meant to live. With my children. With my family and friends. We don’t look a certain way anymore. We look happy.

Xoxo,

Jessie

The Ring

The Ring

If you’ve been following my writing for a while now it’s not news to you that I quote Brene Brown often. Brene’s research on shame is groundbreaking. Early on in my reading of her work Brene quoted FDR. The quote is:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

To me this quote says it all, summing up what I’ve been writing about for quite some time. I’ve written to you over and over again that you get to decide the value of your own life. That others have a way of pressing their opinions and beliefs against you to question your own value. That you often speak to yourself in a way you would not speak to a friend. And that there are people out there who are either in the ring with you or the critic outside of the ring.

Living the Best Life for You  

Don’t you see? Trying to live your best life, despite what happens to you, what you achieve, or buy is where authentic self-love is born. It’s a roaring fire stronger than any blaze outside of the ring, yet the chants of those in the stands still try to drown it out. The crowd on the outside can be actual people or false, limiting beliefs you’ve imposed on yourself. The trick here is to know that while you may have thought your biggest vulnerability is your weaknesses, it is to know you are not your weaknesses and that you are powerful beyond belief. Not to be too sappy here but love and truth do conquer all.

As a society, there are two classes of people. There are the ones who see you are in the ring and applaud your effort, cheering you on. Then there are the ones mocking you, criticizing you, and being all-around lazy. Because the crowd can be so loud, we often tune out the noise from inside the ring, which makes us think the crowd will overcome us. But the only way that it is possible to let the outside crowd overcome us is to consciously allow them to. Really.

A long time ago I was gifted with the phrase “opinions are like assholes, everybody has them.” I was offended the first time I heard this. Everyone’s opinion matters!  Fast forward about a decade and I’ll tell you clearly, nope, they certainly don’t. The only opinion that really matters is your own. The only outside opinions you should even consider are from those who not only love you fully but are also there when you fall in the ring and are there to wipe the blood and sweat from your face. They will not take the war over for you but they will step into the ring so you can succeed.

Accepting Genuine Offers of Help

I used to believe that a large part of my worth came from doing everything myself. To not be vulnerable. To handle shit. This past fall, however, as I crawled into grief, absorbed by PTSD & divorce, the most incredible thing happened. My family crawled into the ring and nursed me back to health. I was not in a position to turn help away yet time after time as they injected loving care into me I grew stronger. I felt love again. I felt OK not being perfect and held as I healed. 

I also learned that leaning on people can be safe and that there are also people who are not safe. This brings me back to the FDR quote. As I’ve been writing to you over these past six months I’ve been trying to articulate the importance of taking good emotional care of yourself, setting boundaries, and choosing the life you want. To let anyone and anything keeping you from this burn to the ground. The critics in the stand need to burn down. While their voices may be loud, they have no value. You, my love, have plenty of value. If someone is tearing you down and has spent no time supporting you without judgment, taking them out of your life opens up space for the people who will join you in the ring. I promise.

I know this is not easy. I’ve personally lost my marriage and all but a few members of my dad’s family to my divorce. I didn’t want to let my family go and yet I knew I would not stand for bigotry, sexism, narcissism, and judgment. Hard lines for me. As I set these boundaries and lost a family of quantity, I gained a family of quality. Of the few family members that stayed, they honored me and where I was in the ring. By allowing myself to see clearly who is in the ring and who is in the stands I’m able to surround myself with people who honor the love I have for myself and reflect it back. I do the same for them.

Fight for Joy but Learn from Sorrow

We are all only given this one wild and precious life. It will hold many battles and many joys. You cannot walk upon this earth without experiencing both. But so long as you believe that you are worthy of self-love joy will win every time. To be kind you need not invite every person you meet into the ring. Be honest and kind with yourself first, then choose wisely. Know that your value and worth are important above all else. Should a critic become offended at your boundary, voice, needs, or vision, well… that is not your fucking problem. It’s theirs.

If you are trying to live a life where you are true to yourself and kind to others you are cultivating the sword and shield you need for the battle of life. Wield it wisely my loves. You get to decide how your story ends.

Xoxo,

Jessie

Leave the Pain

Leave the Pain

Last week, I wrote about the importance of sitting with pain and fear. In writing this piece I wanted to give others hope for how to sit in our own discomfort to live a life of joy. As I reflected on my writing, I realized that I have referenced, but not fully stated, that there is a type of pain you should not walk through, sit with, or allow. Today I’d like to write about this pain.

Self-Love & External Love

The type of pain and the fear that follows (the second one written about in Untamed) is pain other people are afflicting on you and me. In writing about walking through pain, I meant walking through your own emotions, honoring them, and making sure to nurture emotional pain so you can heal. What I did not mean is that you are responsible for walking through pain that is caused by another person. We are not responsible for the pain others inflict. Walk away from these people. Really.

So often we feel that it is our responsibility to make other people happy. We also feel it’s other people’s responsibility to make us happy. Just name any relationship you have and I bet you have a narrative about the value you want this relationship to add to your life. When we enter a relationship with another person and assign a label to this relationship we have a subconscious (and sometimes conscious) belief about exactly what that value is and what we will gain. This occurs in all relationships from family and friendships to work. Romantic relationships bear the brunt of this because we’ve been submerged as a society with the message that true love and a happy marriage are what complete us all. In my undergraduate degree, I vividly remember that over 90% of Americans listed getting married as a goal. At the same time, 50% of American marriages end in divorce. 

When surveyed about why Americans want to be married studies found it is because we are looking for love. However, relationships don’t define our worth. We have to do that on our own. When we believe that our worth is out there somewhere in the world, we are unable to speak our true needs, honor our boundaries, and cultivate the type of people we truly want to spend our time with. Self-love is the ice cream sundae, external love is the cherry on top. Both are delicious and meant to enjoy, but one has a little more substance.

Leaving the Pain Others Inflict

This leads me back to my original point of talking about the pain others afflict on us. You see, when we believe our worth is out there we get majorly affected by minor things. Small things like when another person is rude and treats us badly at the store. Larger things, like an intimate partner abusing us, become even more of an issue when we are constantly searching for external love. All this to prove we are good. To prove we have worth. I have walked this path my whole life in different ways. I have also chosen to leave this path and see freedom shining in the sky for me. I want this freedom for you too.

You see, as an empath, I’ve been confused my entire life. When another person brought me pain, anything from name-calling, a fight with a friend, someone in a bad mood, I thought it was my job to deal with it. This went all the way up to domestic violence. Yet the whole time I thought “I can sit in this pain. I can help this person heal, even though this really doesn’t have anything to do with me.” As domestic violence came for me I learned in an extreme way how damaging my own behavior was. While I may be strong enough to swallow the pain of the world to birth joy, the labor would be intense. It is not mine to swallow.  

When another person is lashing out in pain toward you or with the intention to hurt you, it is not your responsibility to swallow their pain. Or sit in their pain. Or heal their pain. It’s your responsibility to get out.

Learn from Your Pain

We are all human. We are all going to do things to royally fuck it up with the people we love. Yet so long as we are not OK with hurting other people, apologies honor our humanness. The most sincere apology is changing behaviors that hurt the people you love. These apologies and (eventually) changes tell the other person we know we messed up and allow us to offer ourselves compassion. However, if you are in an abusive relationship or any interaction with someone who does not own the hurt they have brought to you, you owe them nothing. This is not the pain I want you to sit in. I want you to set a boundary and leave this person; these people. I want you to leave before you choose to meet hate with hate and instead lean into love.  

My darling ones. Sitting with the pain of your emotions is essential to your healing. Wounds that aren’t properly healed will leave scars to remind you your entire life they are there. First quietly, then loudly. You deserve to spend time with your pain, nurture it, honor it, and give your soul what it deserves. Staying in relationships when others push your boundaries, cause harm, hurt your feelings without remorse, or are abusive is not pain you need to stay in. You can leave any friend or family member that is nasty to you. You can walk away from anyone at the store giving you an attitude. You can change lanes when that driver behind you is up your ass. You can say loudly and clearly, “I decide my worth and how I am going to be treated.” You get to decide for yourself how you are going to live your life. We only get one wild and precious one.  

Dip into the cool ice cream of your soul and enjoy. Know you are worth the life you want. Know it is never OK for another person to hurt you. If they can’t say sorry, you need to say “bye.”

Xoxo,

Jessie

How to Sit with Pain

How to Sit with Pain

I’ve written so much over the past six months about the importance of walking through pain, being at home with yourself, and shedding all that does not serve you. I’ve taken you through the woods, into the fire, up to the sky, and to my own awakening. I’ve shared the knowledge I’ve learned as I’ve put together years of research and first-hand experience. In reading my blogs, it’s my hope that my understanding of what holds us back and what can set us free serves you.

It’s not my intention to tell you I’m wise beyond all others; I’m human just like everyone else. I struggle just the same and what I write about each week is incredibly hard to do in practice. I’d like to spend some time writing about how I’ve managed to awkwardly walk the path I am on in hopes that it serves you. This week I’m writing about pain.

Recognizing Pain

One of the key things I’ve come to write about is the importance of feeling our pain. I don’t think I have enough time or pages to do this topic justice. You see, the brain is hardwired to try and escape pain and find joy.  When pain comes for us, the brain says “ouch! Make it stop!” Society has given an incredibly bad rap to pain and people taking advantage of this have profited billions of dollars. But what if we let pain run its course? What if we listened to it? What if we didn’t spend our time and money on avoiding pain and instead spent our energy on holding, listening, and navigating pain? I believe if we did this, peace would come.

Birth is an incredible example of what should be beautiful in practice, but the world’s greediness has found a way to make a profit out of our pain. During my pregnancies, I knew that the medical industry saw the profit margin in creating interventions with birth and that unless there was an emergency I would refuse all interventions. I birthed both Henry and Declan this way. When I gave birth to Henry I was not ready for the magnitude of physical pain force contractions bring and I suffered for it. I labored through the pain and pushed him into the world. My Doula held me, yet still, the pain came. I didn’t have the skills to manage the waves.

With Declan I wanted to be ready for the waves, to know what to do. I learned Hypnobirthing from an incredible woman (Robin (tag here) and had a 22 hour, pain-free birth with Declan. Each time a wave came I settled into it, welcomed it, and breathed. When the doctor left the room I flipped on all fours and birthed my son by myself. Navigating the perceived pain as a wise messenger brought my son into the world in peace.

These two different birth stories are examples of what happens to us when we don’t know what to do with our pain. With Henry’s birth, I didn’t have the tools and thought the pain would end me (like really end me). With Declan’s birth, I knew how to care for the pain and that going through it brought life. So here is my first piece of advice to you; stay with it, whatever it is, even if it’s painful. Learn. Fall down a few times. Keep trying and learning. But do not let pain take over. Let it be and learn how to care for it just like a mother cares for the waves of birth.

Learning from Pain

My first tip for you, as I mentioned above, is to stay with the pain. Do not run from it. Do not be afraid of it. If you don’t know you are in pain or upset, take pauses every day and ask, “am I me? Am I honoring myself? Is this the life I want?” If this little practice makes you uncomfortable, I’m sorry to tell you that you are pushing through pain. 

When discomfort comes, either in asking the question above or in sitting in pain, I believe a toolbox is needed to navigate it. Just like birth, pain can either overcome you or you can skillfully move through it.  

My next tip for you is to learn how to nurture yourself and allow others to nurture you. These past 6 months I’ve surrendered to this and created more love for myself and those nurturing me than I thought possible. You see, we’re given this stupid narrative that we’re supposed to just handle life on our own and I used to feel selfish asking for help. This is absolutely impossible and maddening. Most people actually want to be helpful and kind; if they love you let them. I can tell you this made me want to jump out of my skin when I started letting others help me, now it creates a warm glow in my heart (OK, I still jump at first, then I glow).

How to Nurture Yourself

Some things I do to nurture myself are taking walks in nature, taking baths with salts and candles, sitting in front of the mirror offering myself love, writing, and meditating. If I’m spinning in pain, I want to grab the remote, a glass of wine, and slip away. I used to be OK with this. Not anymore. If I can’t offer love to myself I call someone who can and who will hold me so I don’t have to slip. More times than not it’s my sister but honestly, I have more than a handful of people I can call and I know will call me when they need love and support. We have created a judgment-free zone for each other and it’s magical. 

This is where I want to leave you today. With step number one. Find a way to take care of your pain instead of pushing through it. What can you do for yourself (shaming is not the answer here) to deal with your pain? Who can you trust to tell that there is pain within you? Who will you allow to carry you when you cannot walk? Remember my birth stories? Sure, it was me doing the birthing, but it was also Nikki, my Doula. She rubbed my back and smoothed oils into my skin as I labored. I wasn’t there alone. I’m not here alone and neither are you.

Do not let the world take your money or life telling you pain is bad. Pain is painful, but it just needs a little attention and care. If you don’t do this you risk losing your life and damaging the lives of others. If not today for you, do this for me; take one minute to unabashedly step into your pain and honor it. Then next time do it for you.

Xoxo,

Jessie

Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes

This weekend was a quiet one without my boys. I earned something on Audible called a “Weekend Warrior,” which I guess means I’ve listened long enough to be a warrior by their definition. The book I can’t stop listening to is “The Choice,” by Dr. Edith Eger, who, among other things, is a survivor of Auschwitz. While her tale is haunting, her perspective holds the key to our humanity. The key to joy.

Early in the book Dr. Eger shares a scene at Auschwitz when the Nazi’s had stripped the women and shaved their heads prior to giving uniforms. These women stood naked and bald for hours waiting. Dr. Eger’s sister Magda, known for her beauty in their town before the concentration camp, stood next to her, and asked “how do I look?”. Dr. Eger had a choice to make. She could shatter her sister and tell her she looked like a mangy dog or she could tell her the one truth she saw outside of this. “Your eyes,” Dr. Eger murmured, “they are beautiful. I never noticed them with all that hair.” Magda closed her eyes. “Thank you,” she murmured back. That my friends is the choice. That my friends is joy.

Defining Truth

We all have a choice in front of us at any given moment. We can choose to see the negative; we can choose to let the pains of the world swallow us. To be lost. We can choose to believe that the horrible things that happen to us or the words people say to us. Or that the messages pushed down our throats by society should be taken as gospel. This is not true. Yes, it happens to all of us, but it does not define us. We can define ourselves by choosing joy and beauty. By following the truth.

What of Dr. Eger’s truth you say? She went through a hell that no human should ever have to experience. Dr. Eger was forced into the worst situation possible but just because something is real does not mean it is true. It was real that the Nazis abused, murdered, and tortured millions of people but it is not true that the people they abused were less and deserved it. Take this little sentence and apply it anywhere. I promise you will be free.

Let’s think about this together. It is real that children are starving. It is not true that they should be. It is real that women are raped, it is not true that they ‘deserved it.’ It is real that transgender people have a suicide rate above all other people, it is not true that their life holds less value. It is real that black people are suppressed and murdered by white police, it is not true that they are less and deserve such treatment. It is real that women are taught to be polite, small and sexy, it is not true that our identity lies in these labels. It is real that men are appropriately taught to ignore their feelings and man up, it is not true that their feelings do not matter or make them weak. These are all examples of issues we face every day that hide the truth in generations old sexist, racist, or prejudiced societal narratives.

It is real that bad things happen to each and every one of us, it is not true any of us are inherently bad and deserve these things. Even if you have done unspeakable things, you have a choice to offer yourself compassion, show mercy, beg for forgiveness, and go back to what is true. If you are a person that has been the victim of real, unspeakable acts, you can also offer yourself these things and find what is true.

Finding Authentic Joy

Don’t you see? Can’t you feel it? Joy is our birthright. It’s not lost in wall street, in bodies carved from money to follow societal norms, in gender roles, sexual preference, skin color, the size of your wallet, or how you have walked so far during your time on earth. If you choose to believe any of this, as Dr. Eger writes, you are lost in the prison of your mind. Dr. Eger reminds us that while she was a prisoner of war, she was more free than any Nazi. She knew joy, she knew her worth, and knew she was not lost.

If a woman who has been stripped, shaved, starved, near raped, and lost her parents and former life to the chambers of Auschwitz can choose her sister’s blue eyes and hold them as joy, we can all find these tiny angels. They are sparkling through the world to remind us that only love is real. I have not been through half the hell of Dr. Eger’s life. I have walked through my own pain and the false belief that because bad things happened to me that somehow I somehow deserved them. I walked through losing the life I wanted to choose. I wrote to you months ago in the middle of my grief about the light in the forest, but didn’t know exactly what I was writing about. I now know I was writing about joy.  

You see joy is the candle that tells us. Our world offers beauty, kindness, and grace. It comes to us in a child’s laugh, a dog wagging her tail at the door, a cup of coffee with a friend. As I walked through my own hell this past fall this is what I sought out every day. I was looking for Magda’s blue eyes. I was looking for what was true while what was real attempted to swallow me. The truth has set me free. Joy has reminded me of the possibility of being human. That regardless of the pain that may come in our lives we can all choose joy.

Choosing Joy

In choosing truth we can ask those who challenge our worth to leave. We can hold abusers and those lost in greed accountable and end damaging relationships. We can stop wars and bring water to the millions of mouths that still need it. To have this strength, we must first fill our own hearts with true joy. That’s the gasoline that will set the world ablaze with a new kind of life. A life where joy is offered for all.

One life at a time. Follow me, follow joy. Choose again. Joy is your birthright, and it’s all around you every day. Put down the lists, labels, and judgement. Shed the hate. Choose love. Choose Joy.

Xoxo,

Jessie