You’ve got this…

So you had a bad day. The bad day to beat all bad days. A spirit-breaking, heart-aching bad day.

The good news is that your today is not defined by your yesterday nor does it define your tomorrow.

Breathe. Stay in this moment. Ride the wave of emotion running through you. You will reach the other side.

And you know what? Your today does not define your yesterday either. Even if you stumble and fall, it does not erase the ground you’ve covered, the growth you’ve achieved. So get back up. Brush yourself off. Stand and face forward. Even if you can’t take another step. Stand.

Know that sometimes we aren’t meant to move forward…at least not just yet. Sometimes we are meant to stay where we are so that we can go deeper and learn more of ourselves. This is the hard part for me – being still does not come easily for me. But trust me on this one. Look at where you are and ask yourself, “What do I need to know right now?”

Be still and listen. You will find exactly what you need. And don’t worry…you’ve got this.

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Scar Tissue

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Jalaluddin Rumi

On my finger, there is a tiny scar. It’s hardly noticeable really. I got it a few months ago while making dinner. One slip of the knife while cutting corn on the cob, right on the middle knuckle. My minor drama went unnoticed by others in the room, as they were distracted by visiting deer outside the window. Though small, the cut was deep. I quickly dabbed it with antibiotic ointment and wrapped it fairly tight so that I would not absentmindedly bend it and break it open again. The wound throbbed with pain. For several days, I dutifully reapplied ointment and a fresh bandage. It was over a week before I mustered up enough courage to bend it.

Though the scar was tiny, it was tender beneath. Scar tissue formed. I knew if left alone, the tissue would continue to form and harden. In the beginning, scar tissue is necessary. It molds around the wound, keeping all of the parts as they should be. But left unattended, scar tissue begins to bind the very part of the body it was developed to protect. Instead of healing, it becomes a hindrance to movement or growth. The scar tissue must be broken open. Avoidance is natural, because it hurts the very place we have protected so that it could heal.

To break open scar tissue, we must move it, stretch it, massage it. This causes pain, but a different kind of pain. Initially the pain is sharp, but with continued work, tissue begins to break apart, to open up, to release. Where before we were limited, we are able to move again. We breathe freely now without the worry about reopening the wound. All that is left is a line on the skin, a memory of the pain.

Not all scars are visible. Some are emotional, lying deep beneath. The scar tissue that forms will harden so that it appears to be a natural part of who we are. But it is not natural. Left alone, it will stunt growth. Instead of protecting from pain, it now causes it. Dissolving the tissue does not require us to reopen the wound, but instead to allow ourselves to feel the pain, to grieve it, to release it, until all that is left is the memory of what was. Simple but not easy.

Scars are not ugly parts of us that must be hidden. They remind us that we have faced pain and survived, that we can heal and be whole again. They are beautiful parts of our experience that help to make us who we are. If we allow it, compassion and empathy are born from our wounds. We learn to love more fully ourselves and others. We set healthy boundaries in our lives. We share our experience to help others grow. And in doing so, we become more fully who we are meant to be.

Breaking Out

I am at the barrier of my comfort zone and I want to push it. HARD. Not just push it – I want to blow it out of the water. I spent the majority of my life prior to college in a near constant state of fear. I was 36 when I started college. That adds up to a lot of fear.

The trajectory of my life shifted when my husband said to me, “You’ve taken care of us for the last twelve years. What do you want to do?” No one had ever asked me that. Not on that level. I had always been someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mom. I had no clue who I was and his question scared the hell out of me. It nagged at me for days. Eventually I found some courage and began looking at schools.

Up until this point, I thought that a college education was one thing I would never get in this lifetime. It was too big for me to achieve. I had a husband, three kids and a dog that counted on me to be Mom. As I searched, fear moved from anxiety to outright panic. I looked at State, but the thought of sharing a campus with over 44,000 other students overwhelmed me. Then I found Meredith. They boasted and all-women student body and small classes, both of which greatly appealed to me. After seeing the price tag I pushed it aside, rejecting the possibility. State was the only other viable option for a graphic design degree that was also within close proximity to home. Over several days, I would go to the site and research. And each time, I would wind up on the Meredith site. As crazy as it sounds, I was drawn to it. And it still scared the hell out of me.

But I continued on. At my husband’s urging, I called and scheduled a visit to the admissions office. As I drove onto campus, I felt that I was going to have a full-on panic attack. My pulse raced and with the rise in body heat, I was grateful I had worn a suit jacket. My own personal camouflage. I looked the part, but did not feel it. My thoughts became a whirlwind. “What are you doing?! Who do you think you are? Why are you even here? This is SO beyond you!” But I continued on and found a place to park. As I walked in, I struggled to find air but my lungs were failing me. The rep greeted me and I slowly relaxed. As we talked, hope began to grow within me. I began to wonder, “Could I really do this?” The more I considered it, the more I wanted it. And so began my journey.

During my 6+ years there, I fought the negative voice. But with every class, every project, every success, and even every failure, I grew stronger and more confident. I was no longer simply someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mom. I was me. Underneath the masks and scars, I found myself. And it was good. The journey was not easy, more like the feeling of gratefulness that comes from finally winning the war after a series of bloody battles. The irony of my hip surgery right after graduation does not elude me. I was in all senses limping across the finish line.

Going to school has been by far the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life. Here I am over two years later, finding my comfort zone smaller than I would like, not having to face the day to day challenges of school. And I can’t have that. I worked too long and too hard for this and I refuse to lose ground. Writing is my attempt to break down the barrier, to blow it out of the water. Do I have something to say that others want to hear? That remains to be seen. There is much left for me to learn. I’ve often read that in teaching others, we teach ourselves.

As I take these next steps, I have no doubt that I will learn and grow. Maybe by sharing my experiences, I will help someone else. But first, it’s time to do the work.

Unwelcome Houseguest

I have this acquaintance I’ve known for many years. She comes to visit from time to time. It is never what I would call a pleasant visit, only comforting in its familiarity. No matter where I’m at or what I have happening in my life at the moment, she will drop by unannounced. Most often these visits come at the worst time for me. You know what I mean…life is upside down and you feel completely overwhelmed. Yep. That’s when she stops by.

I have known her for so long, as long as I can remember really. Her visits have become expected. Inevitably when she stops by, she will begin to reminisce. Recounting days past, reaching further back than I ever want to remember. She seems to particularly enjoy memories that were less than pleasant for me. Some of them are downright awful. Like a present from an old auntie that still sees you as a four year old, they don’t fit. They’re uncomfortable. I want to shove these little gifts to the back of the closet of my mind and forget they were ever here.

Mind you, no one would ever know of my angst. Knowing me as long as she has, she knows well my propensity for people-pleasing. She knows she can count on my being the hostess with the mostest, that I will bend over backwards to make her feel at home. So I smile and nod and make her feel welcome. The routine is always the same. And no matter where I am at, it begins to feel like a prison.

Prisons are funny places. I’m not talking about the prison you get thrown into after robbing a bank. I’m talking about the prison in your mind. They come in all shapes and sizes. It can be a room, a building, even a country. I’ve had some nice prisons myself. Decorated with total comfort in mind. I knew I would be there a while. Knick knacks, distractions, diversions…over time I would almost forget that it was a prison. Almost.

Eventually my acquaintance would stop by, smile at me knowingly and begin, “Remember when…”

And I want to escape the country without leaving a forwarding address.

My acquaintance, if you haven’t surmised, is fear. Every time I’ve faced a point of growth, she has shown up and said, “Remember when.” Sometimes her friend doubt has joined her and before I know it, the prison I’m in begins to lose its comfort and charm. I begin to feel stifled. Smothered. Stuck. If I remain with them rehashing old times, those feelings remain. They grow bigger. I get grumpy and irritable. I get distant from those I love most. With concerned glances, they inquire hesitantly, “Are you okay?”

This can go on for some time. Eventually my tolerance grows thin and I tell them to hit the road. At least that was my modus operandi for some time. For so long, fear was an unwelcome houseguest that stayed too long and asked too much. Sometimes I would grow adamant about them leaving, even to anger. But at the root of it all was always fear. I knew she was right.

Over time, I came to the realization that fear didn’t stop by at random times simply to harass me. She would visit exactly when I needed her to. Every time my little prison gets too comfortable, when I start looking for new diversions to occupy me or feel the need to redecorate so that the place will be more cozy, fear shows up. And the itch for change begins.

Fear is no longer an unwelcome houseguest. She is an old friend that comes into my life from time to time, signaling needed change. When she comes around, everything begins to feel too small, too tight. When I quit resisting her charm and hear what she has to say, fear guides me. Fear never meant her reminders to be punishment or harassment, but rather a reminder of everything I have overcome, a reminder that I’ve been here before. She lets me it’s time for growth. This is one of those times.

I have avoided writing publicly for so long. Ignoring the signs. Making lame excuses.

“I have nothing new to say…”

“Who am I to write…?”

“What will he/she/them think…?”

But the discomfort grows as fear reminds me that yes, I have been here before. Reminds me that I have all I need within me to face this challenge, to rise above.

And so this next part of my journey begins. I will undoubtedly grow and learn. I will become more of who I am meant to be. And for that, I am grateful.

Fear often comes unbidden, but if followed, can lead us directly to our purpose.

Until next time, old friend.