Yesterday’s lesson of witnessing my fear(s) had a bit of a kick to it, but I believe it opened up my willingness to create meaningful change in my life. Letting go of the hurtful things from our past is certainly not a new lesson, but it’s a lesson I have to experience and work through.
Today’s lesson in May Cause Miracles is to become willing. Become willing to see love and good in places where I may see darkness, willing to find happiness when I’m feeling blue, willing to seek help and support when I want to isolate myself.
It sounds simple enough, but in practice it’s a smidge more challenging.
This week I’ve been feeling a little frantic and anxious about returning to work tomorrow. Work has been a bit more challenging since my health crash a month ago and with my decision to resign at the end of the year, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.
Additionally, the symptoms of chronic fatigue, brain fog, aches, dizziness, and so on are not only distracting but really push back against my usual over-achieving tendencies. Where I used to be able to push a 10-11 hour work day, I can now barely make it through 5-6 hours. What’s also challenging, is that my co-workers have come to expect the more ambitious version of myself and I haven’t been able to ease up on the work quantity or the long hours. All of which means I’m running on empty and that could lead to another crash.
So this has been gnawing at me all week and the more the clock ticks by, the more frazzlement I feel sparking in my chest. Which, by the way, is not a particularly pleasant sensation.
It feels like a lot to work through, but I’ve dedicated myself to this wellness path and am determined to see it through. I am willing to to see love and hope instead of “Oh my god what am I doing”.
After my morning meditation and my morning nature walk, I decided that I needed to do something to move the anxiety stuck in my chest and keep it from festering and spiraling out of control.
There was an action I knew I needed to take, but I desperately did not want to take it.
My co-workers have been very kind and understanding of me and my health situation; for which I am incredibly grateful. And even though my manager has mentioned on multiple occasions to let her know when I am overwhelmed or when I need a little extra help, I haven’t wanted to. I don’t want (or know how) to slow down and I don’t want to be a burden to my team.
(There’s a big fear. Inconveniencing others.)
Today, though, with my May Cause Miracles lesson on willingness, I decided to look at my fear and resistance differently. I don’t have to carry this alone and I do have people who will help me; I just have to be willing to accept their help.
So I reached out to my manager and told her about how anxious I’ve been feeling and how I worry about not being able to keep up with my usual pace.
Her response was nothing short of gracious, kind, and supportive. My relief has been immense, and the tightness in my chest has begun to ease.
All of this is part of a significant transformation and I know that taking these steps – even if they seem small – makes a big impact. For as long as I can remember, asking for help has been a last resort that I’ve refused to take. Today’s willingness to witness that fear differently, has made a huge difference in my emotional and physical well-being.
Having had this positive experience today, I decided that I want to start a collection of the things I am grateful for. I believe that gratitude is incredibly important and can give us the resolve to be kinder and more receptive individuals.
Starting today, I’ve begin writing out the things that I am grateful for on slips of paper, rolling them up, and placing them in the vase I won from my sister’s wedding shower (I guessed the right number of Hershey kisses (and then ate almost all of them)).
I will be writing and collecting these every day and at the end of each month I will pull them out, read them, and paste them into a journal so that I can have a memento and way to look back on all the gifts I’ve been given.
I don’t want to forget this journey or these lessons. I know that learning is ongoing and that sometime we need reminders on subjects we’ve already studied. Should I ever have moments in the future where I falter, worry, or feel a little (or a lot) lost, I’ll have these tokens to remind me how abundant I am in good.
What are ways you practice gratitude?
Yesterday I said that I would start Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles: 40-day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness, and sure enough, this morning – after years of living on my shelf – I finally opened up to Day 1: Witness your Fear.
I cringed and thought, “Maybe I can skip over this one”.
The resistance is real, even in someone who keeps saying they want to achieve wellness.
I’ve been feeling pretty transparent with myself and worried that by focusing on what I fear, I’ll simply be rehashing something I’m trying to move past. Little did I know that this lesson was exactly what I needed today.
Today I walked into my art therapy session expecting to talk about how well I’m doing on my road to transformation. So naturally, I ended up gushing about some pretty hefty stuff I had long tried to ignore.
Fear is a funny thing and it doesn’t always come forward in the shape I expect it to.
To Dig or Not to Dig
I had an upbringing filled with turbulence and a lot of let downs. About seven years ago, I walked away from that life and from the people who had broken so much of my happiness. In that moment of separation I built a division, a wall that separated my new life, which was full of potential, from the one that shoots darts at me whenever I peak over its hedges.
I’ve read many spiritual books and one of the top manifesting killers is fear. So during these seven years, I have done my very best to take the fears my younger self experienced and store them in a locked box that lives in a deep, dark, dusty corner of my heart.
But this past week I’ve started to have the suspicious feeling that the memories and emotions stored in that box needed to come out. But I felt stuck by a thought: what is the difference between ignoring something and letting something go? I honestly don’t know where the line lives between unnecessarily rehashing painful experiences and working through an unhealed wound.
Does anyone out there know? Because I’m still not certain.
I had that in mind this morning when I read through May Cause Miracles’ first step and is what I felt burrowing in my chest when I went to art therapy.
What have I opened?
These past seven years have required a lot of work. Yet, through all the growth, all the learning, and all the transformation, I’ve still had this hole of discontent and nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right.
I mentioned 3 days ago that I was clearing out my bookshelves of books that I had bought from a habit of trying to please others a feed a version of myself designed by other people. I’ll try to explain more fully.
I met the man who would become my stepfather when I was six years old. At the time my parents were married, and although they certainly had troubles, we were a family. Sadly, my mother’s mental health issues, which I had been witness to before John entered our lives, became severely exasperated against the backdrop of his narcissism, bullying, and alcoholism.
When I was 11, my mom finally pulled the plug on her marriage to my dad. And to be honest, I was quite happy with my parents divorcing. For nearly 5 years I had been split between my actual family and the weird pseudo-family with John and I was tired of the discomfort that brought.
But the discomfort was only starting.
I was deeply attached to my mother and desperately wanted her to want me. Somewhere in my 11 year old mind, I knew that fighting to live with my mom meant I had to fight for John too. And so, despite my substantial disdain for him, I begged the attorneys, shouted at the court ordered therapist, snarked at the Guardian ad Litem, and shut my dad out. I gave my all to a man who had broken my family, treated me poorly, and during his deposition admitted that he in fact did not love my sisters and me.
For all that effort, I ended up with a stepfather who resented my existence, was verbally abusive, and who pushed my mother further and further away from mental health. And after all that effort, he died from alcoholism after 2 years of marriage, leaving my mother with nothing but debt, foreclosure, and mental illness that was spiraling.
Along the way, I had learned that my true self, my most authentic pieces, were undesirable. My step-father was deeply critical and my mother’s love had always been a little conditional. Over the years I bartered my identity for my mother’s love and my step-father’s approval – or at the very least – his lack of scorn.
Eventually I got tired of paying, and my relationship with my mother collapsed. When I let go, I just walked away, thinking all of that emotional gunk would stay behind me. I secured the locks on my heart and built a persona of ambition, structure, practicality, and stability.
Witnessing my Fear
Getting back to the exercise of witnessing my fear. It’s not that I fear that these memories will hurt me, I know they won’t – they no longer hold that power. What scares me and what I feel hurt by, is how much of myself I’ve lost all these years and what it’s going to take to build myself up.
It’s an intimidating undertaking.
I’ve clung to this false version of myself for almost twenty years. It chose my college degree, drove my career choices, relationship choices, and really, has been the deciding factor for almost every part of my life. Now, this barricaded version did serve me well as I navigated my upbringing and has helped me build a life. But I’m starting to see how much it has sent me in a direction I don’t want to go.
I think I underestimated how much sage I’m going to need for this journey.
A Journey Worth Taking
Today, more than ever, I am grateful for ending up in the ER four weeks ago. Clearly, it is beyond time that I let go (while singing Let it Go), let my hair fly wild, and release my true self from the prison she’s been shoved in.
I am willing to witness my fears – even ones that feel truly mountainous. (It’s a good thing I love hiking.)
What I wish for myself, and what I wish for anyone else out there in a similar position, is the courage to keep going down the path of wellness and self-love even in the face of the things that frighten us.
I’m glad I chose not to skip over May Cause Miracles first step. I do feel anxiety about my circumstances, but I also feel grateful for the clear validation that it’s time for me to take care of myself.
I hope you too will do what you need in your journey to find balance and healing – even if that means being willing to witness your fear.
Four Weeks Later
Today it has been exactly four weeks since I was in the ER with chronic fatigue, dizziness, aches, pains, increased heart rate, and loss of sensation in my hands and feet. I am very lucky that I didn’t have the blood clot the doctor’s suspected, but the fact remains that my body has crashed and I am in desperate need of good health and balance.
When I returned to work a week later, I knew what I had long ignored, that I need to make substantial lifestyle changes – including leaving a job that requires more than my body can give.
For about three years, I’ve avoided dealing with a genetic disorder/dysfunction (homozygous MTHFR C677T) which generates a whole slew of symptoms. I had gone to natural doctors on and off but never really stuck to the health regiments they suggested. I always started enthusiastically, but between demanding jobs and a disorder that wears me out, I always fell off the wellness wagon. My go to motto has been, “I’ll worry about it when I have to” and waved off symptoms that were nudging me to take care of myself.
Well, the time has come and now I have worry about it.
I am dedicating myself to new habits that include meditation, mindfulness, yoga, acupuncture, and whatever other wellness rituals that come my way forward.
Follow the Leader
My dream is to one day be part of a wellness & spiritual community; to work for & with people whose goals are to raise vibrations and urge balance in the lives of all. At the moment, I’m a bit of a lonely island, but that doesn’t mean I can’t surround myself with people who inspire the kind of life I’d like to manifest.
One of my favorite spiritual leaders is Gabby Bernstein, queen “Spirit Junkie” and self-help book author.
I’ve admittedly always been a little weary of self-help books, and have viewed them as a little hoaky. Gabby, however, has a powerful and authentic voice that speaks directly to my healing needs. I’m on her mailing list, and some days it feels like her blog posts are written just for me.
My step-mom gifted me Gabby’s book May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness 3 or 4 years ago. I’ve read the intro multiple times, fully feeling into her message of hope, healing, and finding deep spiritual connection within. Yet, the moment I get to the part that requires my own actions, I stop.
I’m always too tired, I can always start tomorrow, I just don’t have the space for it right now.
These are the excuses I always grab onto.
The thing is though, I really am tired and when the chronic fatigue pops up, every ounce of energy my body allowances, I give to my job. Even though it goes against how I was raised – that hard work is the #1 priority – I’ve decided to switch this order. My health and my well-being are going to the top of my totem pole and I’m going to start implementing the teachings of my favorite coach.
Now, there is a decent chance I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself in signing up for two courses, but I am also feeling pretty zinged for happiness.
I chose these two because I want to deepen my connection with the Universe, become a magnet for the miracles I have my eye on, and to develop a healthy relationship with food and my body. While always petite and slim, I have deprived myself of proper nourishment for 2 decades and have developed a very unhappy relationship with food. This journey of wellness is not just to gain enlightenment, but to heal the physical body I’m fortunate to live within.
I’m finally ready to get past the intro of May Cause Miracles and do the work I need to achieve wellness while also using the bonus courses Gabby offers.
(Not related but I find the word “achieve” very difficult to spell.)
May Cause Miracles starts with a quote from the late Wayne Dyer, “Heaven on Earth is a choice you must make, not a place you must find.”
If there’s anyone else out there who has followed Gabby’s courses or who have found other wellness leaders to help with their healings, let me know! I’d love to learn about your experiences.
Healing is a layered process and my process requires some cleaning up and clearing out of the things that no longer fit in my life.
I’m going to start with the items I love most: my books.
I have been a bookworm ever since my 3rd grade teacher read Mary Pope Osborne’s 3rd Magic Tree House book Pirates Past Noon to my class. The series opened up the magic of reading and books and accelerated an imagination that had no bounds. In these books, a young brother and sister go on adventures via a magical tree house filled with magical books. All Jack or Annie have to do is open a book, point their finger, and say “I wish I could go there”. Suddenly, the tree spins, spins, spins, until it lands in the very place – or time – the siblings requested and unimaginable experiences commence. There are moments when this idea still captures my breath.
My addiction to books and stories has defined so much of who I am and has helped me grow into the woman that I am today.
I have very few memories that don’t include a book within hands reach. I have carried one with me to weddings, dinners, meetings, car rides, train rides, planes, and boats. While some of those habits were not the best, books opened me up to all the possibilities in this world and even some possibilities that aren’t.
My love for reading has been the greatest gift of my life. However, something changed along the way.
I had often received praise from relatives and family friends for reading rather than playing video games or watching too much television like some of my peers. The reality was that I wasn’t allowed to watch tv and we didn’t have any video games, so my aversion to them was not out being more mature or being more ambitious than other kids.
At some point, though, I began reading books less out of interest and more because of the reactions I got from others. I glowed with pride whenever my mother or her husband boasted about my aptitude for giant biographies on founding fathers or dead Russian autocrats. It’s not that I didn’t have a real interest in those things – I did – but there is a difference between things we are curious about and things we love. And those curiosities became fake loves out of the craving for praise and attention from others.
A few weeks ago I realized that I had a giant (GIANT) stack of partially read books that I knew I was never going to finish. I have a bookshelf crammed with books and I have stacks of books lining my bedroom walls. Don’t get me wrong, my personal fairytale includes one day having a house filled with books, but I want to want to read those books.
It dawned on me that I had filled my home with books about genocide, crimes against humanity, and the collapse of Tsarist Russia out of an old desire to gain approval from people I no longer have relationships with. And to be clear again, those books have taught be invaluable lessons and have helped open my mind and heart to people outside of my existence – and I am grateful for that.
But I decided it was time to let (most of) them go.
It’s difficult for me to explain how momentous this was. I have been so attached to these books, both for the lessons they’ve taught me and the identity I thought they gave me. But I now see that that identity was an incomplete one and it is time that I fill those shelves with books that better represent who I am and bring me joy, excitement, and some magic – even if those books don’t earn me any intellectual kudos.
Going forward, I am going to refill my shelves with books I would want to find in a magic tree house.
I think in order to truly heal, I need to let go of all the things that are holding onto me that no longer serve me. Letting go of these books has meant letting go of so much more. I went on to earn a college degree because of those books and built a version of me I thought I should be. While I don’t regret my BA in history or the hours I’ve spent volunteering at museums to ultimately go to Museum school; I am now ready to listen to the part of me that never felt whole while I doing those things.
I feel if I can heal this part of me, I can heal all the other pieces that are hurting and that need some TLC.
Boxing up those books and handing them over at the donation center was fantastic. I had expected to whimper my way through the drop-off, but I almost skipped on the way back to my car.
I was relieved.
Not just because those boxes were very heavy, but because I have let go of expectations that I, for most of my life, have thought defined me. There is a big wide open waiting for me and I cannot express how excited I am to explore.
So today, I am pointing my finger into the unknown, the undefined abyss, and I known I want to go wherever that is. I know that wherever I land, an incredible experience awaits me.
I hope that you too can let go of whatever holds you back from your truest self. It might not be as obvious as a small library of books, but if you let yourself feel fully into what you feel true connection with, healing and release can be yours too.
How does a millennial set herself up to be successful on her new quest to find wellness?
She buys a bullet journal, stickers, glitter, and fancy colored pens. Because tracking and holding myself accountable will only be fun if I get to bedazzle it.
The fact is that I am not historically good at maintaining habits – at least not ones in my personal life. I’m pretty good at starting them, but the second I feel a little under the weather or have to stay at work extra late, I decide I don’t have time for that thing, and then the whole project unravels.
This time though, I need the habits to stick. I need my health to get on track because I am tired of having to decrease the value of my life because I’m crashing from exhaustion. And if there is one thing I know will make this journey more fun, it is glitter and crafting.
My lofty ambitions want me to sign up for 14 yoga classes per week and join meditation circles every full moon. I want to go for sunrise nature walks and take early morning Pilates and naturally wake up at 5:00 AM filled with zen and rest. Problem is that yoga and Pilates memberships are expensive (I’ve also never taken Pilates). I go to bed at 9:30 PM and if I wake up any earlier than 7:00 AM I feel like a sloth.
So, I’m going to start gentle and take gradual but sustainable steps towards those habits. Maybe someday I will have a job and lifestyle that gives room to those things, but in order to get there, I have to start small.
Every day I am going to do the following:
Having a morning check-in will hopefully slow down what is usually a frazzling experience. Typically, I snap awake, turn on my bedside lamp, crunch my eyes closed to avoid the unnatural light, and then jump out of bed. The morning rush starts in an instant and the next rest I get is when I get home 10-11 hours later.
At the end of the day I’m usually tired, a little aggravated, and a bit disenchanted. I usually grab a snack – rather than a meal – to subside the hunger I’ve ignored all day, march up to my room, collapse on my bed, and turn on Netflix (usually Gilmore Girls) to drown out the discontent that wants to overtake my mind.
It’s just not the way I want to be living, and my body has been giving me clear signs that it cannot continue this pattern.
My joyless day-to-day rituals are grating and it is time my days begin and end with some intention and gratitude. My hope is that by starting with attainable goals, I will build the momentum I need to achieve the complete wellness and balance by body and spirit have been craving (and I’ve been ignoring).
How do you motivate yourself in your wellness practice? I’d love to hear what other folks do to keep the balance.
I have a lot of faith that these small and simple steps will get me started on the right track. I’ve heard time and again that meditation and the practice of mindfulness can do wonders and heal the soul in profound ways.
I am in need of something profound. For awhile now, I’ve been numbing my senses by drowning out my dissatisfaction and health troubles with hours of mindless internet surfing, junk food, and binge-watching Netflix.
There is much to be done to get myself to a place of wellness, but, as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
Here is to step one.
May it lead me down the path I’m seeking.
As I sat in a plastic chair waiting for the doctors to decide what to do with me and for them to remove the plastic maple-syrup-esq tap plugged into my arm, I thought: “This is it. I’m done. It’s time to stop.”
And a little over a week later, I followed through on that promise and told my boss that I’ll be resigning at the end of this year.
(That is a sound of both joy and terror)
There’s nothing like a trip to the Emergency Room to make you reassess your life choices.
Admittedly, being in the ER made me feel more like 7 than 27 and I was experiencing slight shame for craving a parent to come take care of me. But even so, it was clear that I was overwhelmed, tired, and thoroughly fed up. The fact is, I had no reason to be surprised that I had ended up in the hospital. Later when I would talk to my doctor, it would become almost embarrassingly clear that I have been paving the path for this collapse for quite some time.
For at least two years, I have been feeling exhaustion all the way down to my toe hairs – and when I shave them, they grow back more tired.
Two point five years ago, I moved to the suburbs outside of Washington, DC for an administrative assistant job at a climate nonprofit. I had been working at a salon and spa for the nearly 3 years I’d been out of college and immediately jumped at the opportunity to leave my unfulfilled existence for a job that barely covered my rent. The other point of my desperation came from 8 months of chronic pain and fatigue from a genetic disorder I had recently discovered.
After so many months of feeling trapped by my health and a job I was uninspired by, the low paying but promising climate job felt like a millennial miracle. I was on my way to save the planet and had been able to skip over the barista prerequisite so many of my peers had been unable to avoid. Ultimately that experience, while valuable and eye opening, was not the right fit for me and aggravated the health symptoms I thought I had run away from.
So I quit, and no one was more surprised than me when I made that announcement. But, I knew there was a better fit out there and my gut was telling me it was time to jump.
For as long as I can remember, I have had this deep, guttural sense of direction. To be clear, not the type of direction that helps me when I drive, because it’s not a matter of if I’ll get lost, but an absolute matter of when.
That being said, there is some sort of magic compass somewhere in my center and when I choose to listen to it, it unfailingly points me in the right direction. I haven’t always been the most disciplined listener, but when I do, nothing short of magic transpires. And magic really showed up for me the summer of 2017 when I took an internship that transformed into an incredible job with incredible co-workers.
In the early days at this organization, I used to practically skip with pep on my way to the metro. I was zinged with excitement and the feeling of belonging. But in all that connection and despite working with – truly – the absolutely best people on this planet, there has been a steep price.
My health began screaming out at me this past spring, begging for a slow down, pause, or any other type of relief. Can you guess what my solution was? (Reminder: this story began with a trip to the ER).
I chose not to listen to that very cranky internal compass. After all, I was raised on the work hard and walk off pain idolatry and had no intention of breaking from tradition. The result, unfortunately, wasn’t just that my health plummeted, but the pep and zing for my job evaporated too. The lesson here is that when you don’t pay the bill, you also end up having to pay interest.
I largely ignored the growing fatigue and creeping aches because I felt that those things were temporary. My job, however, deserved my full attention and I needed to bring my best (and slightly overachieving) self to that work every day. After all, I am entering my late twenties and according to my fellow millennials (especially the DC ones) I need ambition, drive, and the ability to work myself past death in order to inch forward.
I was already known for being the first person in the office and the last to leave, but I never stopped to question what all of this work was inching me towards. That is, until I was in the ER.
Maybe it was the bag of fluids piped into me or staring at the blood drops sprinkled on the floor, but for the first time in what felt like months, I was motivated to think, reflect, and ultimately conclude that it was time for me to do what that compass had long been shouting – it’s time to stop.
Now, I am not saying that anyone else should follow my methodology – especially the ER part. But I do know that listening to that inner voice, compass, guide – whatever it is – is the key to wellness; at least it is for me. I believe that had I listened to myself a little bit sooner, I could have planned a more cohesive transition plan, rather than having to drop everything at once because my body is too exhausted to recover.
Since I first learned of this disorder, I have prioritized my career and have put my health at the bottom of the priority list. Whenever symptoms acted up, I tried to shove them down and push through.
I am giving myself permission to prioritize myself, which is something that still feels a bit awkward and uncomfortable. I still want a career – one that is fulfilling and one that requires a lot of heart – but I also want to enjoy my life and have experiences beyond doctor’s appointments, the office, and the metro I commute on.
Thanksgiving is in two days and I am (startled) to say that I am grateful for this crash.
It shouldn’t have taken health troubles for me to see the reality of my situation. If there is anyone else out there who has been ignoring their voice, quelling their inner protest, I hope that you will take the time (not in the ER) to listen.
I won’t lie – it’s a little unnerving being in this position and not knowing if I’ll have health insurance in a few weeks – but I am embracing the unknown and I think you should too. (Again – not a suggestion to quit your job).
To truly heal, I am starting a wellness journey. In this season of Christmas miracles, I am dedicating myself to healings on my yoga mat, on my meditation pillow, through energy healings, painting, manifesting tactics, reflective walks, and Hallmark Christmas movie marathons. The last one may not be healing, and I should probably be ashamed, but I love them.
Additionally, I am going to do my best to adhere to the wizard wisdom of “Spirit Junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein and “Mean Girl” master Melissa Ambrosini whose books, “The Universe Has Your Back” and “Open Wide” have inspired this quest to find spiritual and physical wellbeing.
If anyone has any wellness practices that have helped them, please let me know! I’m open to trying new things. And, if anyone wants to join me on this wellness quest and help hold me accountable (and remind me not to eat the whole bag of candy cane Hershey kisses), that would be spectacular.
I’ll end with a quote, because they’re mandatory per the laws of Pinterest. I’ve loved this one for many years and it never fails to spawn a little hope for an exciting and fulfilling future.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
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My Story Isn't Over Yet
A journey to health, balance, and spiritual wellbeing
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