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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Over the course of my lifetime, I have always run from reality, hard. As an empath, I want peace, love, and harmony. When discomfort, rejection, and pain come into my mind they conflict with my inner belief that everything can be harmonious. I wanted the positive emotions in my being for myself, others, and the world. Pushing the pain aside and not walking through it created realities around me that were damaging to me and my children.
Before I learned the value of walking through pain to find peace I fought hard. Whenever anything came to me that I felt was a conflict I ran toward it saying, “no, no, no,” choose a different way. There is a better way; stop the madness. But because I was running through the pain, with fear driving the car (remember she’s a terrible driver), I was running into all of it without a battle plan. I was running with a fairy wand. As cool as fairy wands may appear sometimes you just need a sword. Wishing something to be different does not protect you. Facing true reality and what is damaging to you protects you. This is what love can do when we pass the decision-making process over from fear to love.
Confronting Your Fears
I believe that each of us has our own demons keeping us from living our best lives. Some of us have it pretty figured out and are content with life. To those people: rock on, and guide us all! But many of us allow ourselves to remain in cognitive dissonance when fear and love remain in conflict with each other. This can look different for all of us and cause a disconnect in our spirit. For some, it could be a little too much wine at night. For others, it could be a full addiction. It could be a feeling of discomfort when your jeans don’t zip, all the way to anorexia. It could be scrolling on your phone throughout the day or only living inside the cyber world. Small arguments in a marriage or living with domestic violence. It’s a huge spectrum but it’s there within us; a disconnect from the life we deserve to live.
I’d like to share a piece of my own dissonance. As an empath wanting harmony for the world, I have exposed myself to really damaging people with the belief everyone has love at their core and wants to get home to it. Even in writing this last sentence, my heart says, “this has to be true, it has to be!” But it’s not. The reality is that while love lives inside of each of us, worth as our birthright, not everyone wants to go home to love, and hate will win. It’s cliche I know, but it’s the battle of the world. Love versus hate.
The reason I’m so passionate about this is I know that love is stronger than hate and I know the peace the world could feel in the connectivity of it. I believe that love and our Gods/Goddesses live within us, not above us (please see patriarchy). That in brotherhood and sisterhood the world can heal. While this is true, it’s also true each person is given the opportunity to live their own life and choose this or deny it.
Choosing Love Over Hate
I want every creature from the dolphins in the sea to each baby born to live a fulfilling life full of joy, love, and belonging, with all their basic needs met. Unfortunately, I cannot wave a wand and have all of humanity join me. What I can do is boldly walk away from anything that damages my own spirit and help where I am called. We all can.
So what about you? What is your dissonance? Are you lost or at home in your own body, heart, and mind? How will you know?
Stop for a second. Close your eyes. Breathe, baby, breathe. What is in your body? Is your heart fast or slow? Is your mind buzzing or quiet? Listen to your breathing. Is it deep or shallow? If, upon closing your eyes, anxiety begins with a racing heart, buzzing mind, and shallow breaths, your body is telling you fear is driving. So stay sweetheart. Stay. Stay until the mind goes quiet, stay until your heart slows down, stay until you take a breath that fills your lungs. Now do it a dozen times. Stay there. Now ask; how do I get back home to love? Love that is within me, not out there. Begin to unpack hate.
In the battle of love versus hate, hate within each of us takes over love when it is untamed. It tells us we are not enough to fight the hate coming toward us or from within us. We get distracted and fight hate, hard. We fight hate in our own minds for ourselves as the interactions and realities of the world bring battle after battle. This distraction is what causes our inner conflicts and distracts us from the voice of love. It distracts us from our worth because if we were at peace in our hearts, hate would have no chance. Not in our own minds and not in our world.
Seizing the Future with Love
This is how I will always live today and evermore. When I am not awake, hate is battling my mind as a distraction from what is actually happening in my world. The truth is there are bad people in the world. These people won’t hesitate to hurt you or me. It is not my job or yours to heal people who are not willing to do the hard work of offering themselves compassion with accountability. I’m not interested. Period. But it is our job to keep ourselves and others safe.
I haven’t always been enlightened. But today I am, and grow more so every day. I know that when hate comes for me I have the choice to let it overtake my mind or to give it to love. If I can give it to love, love will tell me if it’s a danger I need to consider or not. It will also tell me when I need to hold myself or others accountable.
Harnessing hate, and bringing it to love is where my, where our, freedom lies.