A few years ago, I hit a point in my life where I lost almost everything. My marriage split while I was living in another country. My career and the economy joined hands in a magnificently tragic swan dive into the gutter. Stress eating became an Olympic sport for me – I was going for the gold and I gained more than 50 pounds. At one point, I went to bed for an entire month. The topping on the cake in a vitriolic separation with my husband was losing a storage unit that contained everything I owned in the world except 10 boxes. Wallowing, grief, and waves of anxiety were my daily meals as I replayed every dramatically toxic conversation and event over and over in head. The conversations from me to my Self were not kind or helpful. The woman in my mirror was so unrecognizable that I stopped looking in the mirror for almost two years. In short – I was a mess and so was my life.
Looking back at that time, I would not trade it for the world. Pain, trauma, and fear forge our souls in ways that we cannot understand until we are on the other side and into active healing. The scary part is getting from the rough patch to the healing stage. The gorgeous part is moving from the healing stage to the Coming Home to Our Selves phase.
My circumstances were not unique or even particularly remarkable in their trauma. We are all going to experience life events that are similar and/or much worse. What becomes unique and the most vital part is how we choose to cope and rebound. For those on this path or entering their healing phase, I am so honored to share a few thoughts from my own journey.
Time heals. Memories fade, pain recedes and life does indeed move on. Being in your grief and acknowledging loss and trauma is an important and an integral part of the process to healing. Bubble Woman Syndrome can only be sustained for so long before we have to pop the bubble and begin again.
Joy is a Choice. Each moment brings us a choice and we are offered options. We can choose to remain in pain and loss or we can choose to move up and out of it. The wisdom of these choices is honoring the time that we need for healing but also honoring the need for our Selves to get back up, dust off and get back into action.
“Joy is a choice – a deliberate, conscious choice. That choice is available to us each day. Our joy isn’t controlled by others or by outward circumstances. Joy comes from a deeper place, a place of security within ourselves. It’s an attitude, not a transitory emotion. Remember to be kind. Remember to be loving….
But most of all, remember to be happy.” Melody Beattie
Seek Sustenance within and without – release and renew. Begin a journal. Write your feelings even if they don’t make conscious sense. Be in nature. Find a new book that feeds your soul. Pray. Watch something that makes you laugh. Be with people who support you, love you and nurture you. Stab a voodoo doll. Cuddle with your favorite animal. Chant. Play with children. Laugh some more. Stop judging and acknowledge your emotions (even the ugly ones) and then release them. Scream into a pillow. Have a lovely cup of tea. Reach out to available resources like a spiritual counselor, support group, therapist or the mighty shoulders of a loving friend. Most importantly, take one positive action a day. Photography saved my life (literally). Getting into nature to take pictures gave me focus and pleasure. Small actions lead to energy moving and movement is always preferable to stagnation even when you aren’t quite sure of the destination.
Be Mindful. Awareness is key. For some time, all I could manage was to be aware that I was self-destructing. That was the first step to acknowledging that I could choose healthier and kinder behaviors and begin to transition – my little bird of hope in the bottom of Pandora’s Box. This does not happen overnight. Stay alert for signs that you are beginning to shift and celebrate them by taking action.
Find your Faith. As an avid observer of life and my own life events, I pondered for a long time what enabled me to come home to my Self – to make it back. I see people who are mired in toxic behaviors and negative loops and I acknowledged there but for the Grace of Goddess/God go I. It was an AHA moment. “There but for the Grace of Goddess/God go I”. My spirituality has always been intrinsic. My faith and dedication in Goddess gave me a driving force when I personally had nothing left to give. Prayer and my mantra practice were life and spirit affirming and worked on my subtle energies and at the soul level.
Be Grateful. Cultivating a gratitude practice heals a multitude of pain. In your journal, if you write nothing else, write what you are grateful for on a daily basis. The list may be short some days but gratitude worms its ways into our soul and slowly fans the flame of spirit. Accept the blessings that life IS giving you. Release the lack mentality and enter the blessing mentality.
Find Your Bliss. I left my career with the economy in that tragic swan dive and departed healthcare industry after 20 years. I started my own Social Media company, continued writing and blogging and pursued my passions. One of my passions is food which I combined with my writing and photography. The first few years were tight as all entrepreneurial endeavors are but I held the vision. I am no longer surviving but thriving after kicking my lack mentality to the curb. Working with food has also put me on an exciting adventure of healing my body with food. The weight I gained? It began to melt away like magic as I affirmed that Self Love was going to be my daily choice.
Know that Self Love is Self-ish. Self Love also involves all kinds of other, wonderful SELF-ish things like Self Compassion, Self Care and Self Trust. Taking care of our Self is one of the most vital life activities that we will ever learn. And it is a learning process.
We are confronted daily with the belligerent phantoms of would-have, should-have, could-have and negative and critical self talk learned from childhood and beyond. Society and cultural memes reinforce that we should be ALL – super woman, perfect Mom, good wife, dedicated worker, culinary genius, and life coordinator for everyone around us. Negative patterns in our lives have taken years of insidious indoctrination. It doesn’t have to take a full on life meltdown to stop the madness and return to the Self. To be honest with my glorious, healing Self, there were signs and symptoms that the pressure that I was exerting and allowing others to exert on my life was going to end in tears.
Be Self-ish. Leave the idea that being self-ish is a bad thing. Embrace the concept that if you don’t sustain and nurture your Self, no one will do it for you. Recognize your choices and slowly begin making them and sticking to them. Easier said than done? I agree which is why slow progress and small changes are the keys to claiming Your Self. Is chaos abounding in your life? Take 15 minutes every single day. Lock the bathroom door. Journal even when you are tired. If you don’t stake your claim, then the people around you will not honor you either. And in the end, as you are coming home … get rid of that which does not serve you. Ask the questions: What does my Self really crave? How do I want to feel in my life? Is this moving me forward? Is this making me happy? Am I proud of me?
Finally, I have one piece of homework for you. Write a love letter to yourself. Pour out all of the hopes and blessings and wishes that you want for your Self. Make a Pinterest board that reflects all of these marvelous things. A good friend of mine thought of the Pinterest board and doing it was an electric epiphany! Then, make a pact to take small actions to accept those blessings and come home to your Self in a blazingly spectacular flash of LOVE.
Books by Brene Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are is my absolute favorite and talks about shame resilience therapy. Mindblowing.
Jennifer Louden – The Life Organizer – this book is phenomenal for mindful questioning to kickstart your journey home to your Self. I use the questions as journal prompts.
Pema Chodron – all of her books are divine but I highly recommend When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
Danielle LaPorte TruthBombs card deck is NEW and lush and vibrant with daily cheers and prompts.
**Originally written for the Shakti Business – Self Love Sadhana