My Plastic-Free Month

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This past weekend I was in a four-day training for NLP ( Neuro Linguistic Programming) and we learned of this idea that every day in our life, we are constantly filtering and deleting things from our reality. The trainer, Matt, referred to it as the Gorilla. We watched a video of a few men and women dressed in black and white passing a basketball back and forth. We were told to count how many times the basketball passes back and forth between people wearing black. 

When the video was over, Matt asked us some questions. One of them was, "How many of you saw the gorilla?" I had happened to see it but didn't think much of it. It was literally a person dressed in a gorilla suit walking right through the mix of people passing the basketball back and forth.

He then asked if we saw other things like a giant letter 'S' in the background and the person in the black shirt wearing white socks, etc. I hadn't noticed either of those. The idea is that all of us have filters and throughout our day, we are constantly omitting and deleting things from our reality. Basically, we see what we want to see. 

Over the course of the weekend, I thought about all the areas in my own life that I omit and delete which is basically, to some extent, every area. We all do it. But it made me think back to a morning I was walking Rocky and all of the sudden it was as if someone turned on a light switch and I saw the trash and garbage all over the ground for the first time ever. In reality, I had been thinking more about my own carbon footprint and the environment and thus, opened my reality up a bit to include it in my sight.

It was everywhere and it made me really sad and a little angry. How is it in this day in age we are still so careless with our beautiful planet? 

This got me thinking about the little things I could change in my own life to make an impact. It was really one of the last things, in my opinion, I needed to focus in on. I was already so aware of what goes in and on my body, it's was time to take a little more responsibility for my contribution to waste. 

I'll be 100% honest though, this area makes me nervous. We are all creatures of habit and like our little comforts. Giving up ALL plastic use for a month was going to really test me and I had to get really honest about this. At the same time, it was like the gorilla. My eyes had been opened and now I could no longer unsee it. 

I really wanted to know; how can I live with less while still obtaining the quality of life I truly cherish? ie: fixing up my house, eating a certain way, using certain products, etc. Is there a better way to go about all of this? Can I still be totally fulfilled all while consuming and using less?

This is about getting more conscious and taking more responsibility. 

I know for me, I hold onto a lot of things. I wouldn't say I'm a hoarder. I'm a bit too type A for that. However, if you open my cabinets, I have A LOT of stuff. It's just really organized, labeled and in alphabetical order. However, it dawned on me awhile back that I don't need all this stuff and I'd really love to learn to live with less. Way less. 

So I've committed to doing so. For the whole month of March. 

Plastic-Free March!

For the whole month of March I will not be buying or using anything that involves plastic. There are a few exceptions to this rule. 

1) I am going to continue using whatever I currently have in my house like plastic spray bottles that I clean with, my plastic waste bin under my sinks, hangers, etc. Over time however, I'd love to transition these idem out. Slowly. 

2) I am going to use biodegradable plastic poop bags for Rocky. Sorry, but I ain't picking up his poop with anything else but a plastic bag over my hand. It’s seriously what I imagine it would be like to pick up human poop. It’s gross. They will be biodegradable though. 

3) There are a few supplements I take that are non-negotiables for me. Untill I can find a better sorce, I need to continue taking them and unfortunately, they come in plastic bottles. Grrr.

Prep for a Plastic Free Month

So how does one prep for this? 

I had a bit of time to think about how I wanted to go about a plastic free month and thus, plenty of time to prep for it. 

These are some of the things I took into consideration to prep:

1) Gather all my reusable shopping bags and make sure they are accessible. 

Fortunately I already have about ten reusable shopping bags. These will be attached to my hip whenever I leave the house now.  No more laziness on my part!

2) Find those reusable produce and bulk item bags I got several years ago but never use. 

I got these several years ago when I was trying to reduce my footprint a bit. I got lazy and stopped using them after about two times. 

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3) Save everything that comes in a glass jar and go to a thrift store and purchase a few bigger sizes. 

I already try to buy most things in glass jars. Peanut butter, mustards, coconut butter and oil, etc. I even just found these at Sprouts! So stoked about this!

I save all my jars and use them for water glasses. However,  I have enough of those so the overflow will now become storage jars. I simple remove the labels. For those hard to remove labels, here is a little trick.

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup baking soda
6 drops Lemon Essential Oil

1) Mix all in a bowl. 
2) Spread mixture over label and wait 15 minutes.
3) Run under warm water and pull away label. If any areas stick,
just use your fingernail to scratch off a bit. 
4) Wipe clean with a cloth. 

 These are awesome to store items in the refrigerator or pantry. I needed a few bigger sizes so I just went to my favorite thrift store and bought a few for a dollar each. Unless you are canning, you really never need to buy brand new jars. 

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4) Take inventory of what I currently use and how I will handle it if I run out during the month. ie: shampoo, conditioner, etc. Even my tampons have plastic on them! 

I follow a woman on Instagram who has made this her mission. She now educates others on how to go plastic-free. She is really inspiring and I've learned a lot from her. She lives in Australia and goes to this amazing bulk store where they have EVERYTHING in bulk and you just bring in your own containers. shampoo and conditioner! It’s dreamy. If anyone knows of a place like this around Encinitas or in the greater San Diego area, PLEASE let me know.

As for tampons, I finally got the Diva cup. I've had several people recommend getting this but I was super nervous. Turns out it's really easy to use and I never have to use tampons again. Which is amazing because those little little guys are bleached and to be honest, I really don't want something with bleach going up my most precious lady parts. :) It’s a sacred space for sacred things!

5) Do a test run grocery shopping.

The other day I did a little test run and it was hard. It's really mind blowing what has plastic on it. Even my pure maple syrup has a plastic top. However, one of the things I realized and that totally excited me was that this is going to greatly cut down on the random items that end up in my basket. That, in my opinion, is a major win!

6) Start slow if need be.

Not everyone needs to go all in right off the bat like me. I'm doing this to see where I can be stretched a bit. It's easier because it's just me. I don't have a partner or kids to incorporate. With that being said, I don't think that should be an excuse either. I think this is an awesome thing you could do WITH your kids! 

7) Get Honest. What do you really need?

Here is a look inside my medicine cabinet. PS – who else LOVES looking in people’s medicine cabinets? It’s werid, I know and I promise I don’t do it randomly! But you can really learn so much about someone in their medicine cabinet. There fridge too! I LOVE looking inside people’s refrigerators!

But really? How much do we need. Raise your hand if you are like me and have about five different lotions, three different face washes, a plethora of hair products, makeup out the wazoo and the list goes on. I don’t even really wear makeup and I have shit ton of it!

It’s time to get real and get rid of stuff. Well, use it up first, find the products you truly love, and stick with them.

8) Less is more

 Marketers are really clever. Like, really clever. So much so that they have this incredible way of convincing us that we will finally reach the level of happiness we hope for by consuming and buying more. There are a few areas I will be obstaining from for March and indefinitely.

a)      Sorry Target but you and I are breaking up. I know your clothes are cheap and adorable but you see, they fall apart so easy and sometimes I just buy them because they are cheap and they sit in my closet for ever before I wear them. I want my purchases to mean more and they just don’t with you anymore. Just your clothes. Not your homegood ;)

b)     Only quality makeup and hair products. Cheap comes with a price. Most of the time the products that are cheap to buy are loaded with chemicals and in my opinion, even worse, tested on sweet, poor, helpless animals. So, without breaking my bank account, I’m only purchasing products that I truly align with. My goal is to eventually get rid of the medicine cabinet and replace it with a mirror. I can do it!

 

So that is it for now.  It’s been about five days and it’s going really well! Stay tuned for an update about mid-month.

In the meantime, leave a comment below telling me some of the things you think you’d have a hard time giving up. I’d love to create a resource for you to help you reduce your waste!

Hello Old Friend - The Return

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Ladies and gentlemen. I have an announcement to make. 

This morning, one of the most wonderful things happened to me. 

It has returned. 

My period. 

Is back. 

Holy. Shit. 

Miracles. Do. Happen. 

Let the celebrations commence! 

Bring out the marching band and champagne cause Aunt Flo has come back to town and she likes to get turned up!

Actually, Aunt Flo likes to put on her cozies, crawl into bed by 8 pm and binge watch The Bachelor but hey, that's kind of like getting turned up in your late thirties, right? 

I have never, in all my life, been more excited about the presence of swollen boobs and cramps and I'm fully relishing in both. 

I don't even know where to begin.

About a week ago I started noticing old familiar things happening within my body. I cried relatively out of nowhere. Nothing too new here however, that coupled with sore ta ta's and puffy, swollen appendages and face, lethargy, brain fog and feeling like I wanted to eat all the chocolate in the world (side note: I don't even care for chocolate anymore), I couldn't help but feel as if my body was on the verge of starting her cycle. 

But it couldn't be. I was 100% convinced that radiation sent me into menopause. 

So I brushed it off. Couldn't be. Both my oncologists were pretty certain that because they had to alter my treatment and my right ovary was exposed to radiation scatter, I was more than likely going to lose the function of both ovaries, thus, go into early menopause. 

The funny thing is, when my radiation oncologist and I met way back in August right before my last treatment, I had asked her when I'd know if radiation sent me into menopause. She looked back at me with wide eyes and sighed, "Oh you'll know. Right away.  Within the month you should start getting the symptoms." She said.  

But nothing happened. No hot flashes or night sweats. No trouble sleeping, No huge change in sex drive. None of the normals signs of menopause were happening. 

And I was confused. 

So confused. 

However, I had my mind made up. My ovaries were crispy marshmallows and thus, I mourned and let go of a dream

The funny thing was, something deep inside of me wasn't sitting well with this. You know, that tiny voice we don't like to listen to. Let's call her Gut Feeling. Intuition. Home Girl. You get it, right? 

I kept getting these visions or whatever you'd like to call them, of one day waking up and realizing I had gotten my period again but kept brushing it off because I really didn't want to get my hopes up. Something deep inside of me knew though. 

So waking yesterday to her wasn't a total shock but at the same time, was. You know what I mean? When something happens that you knew was going to happen but then you're like, how'd that happen?

Yeah, that's exactly what happened. 

You see, I mourned the hell out of her this past fall. I cried, and let myself feel the feels and said goodbye way before I was ready to. I mourned all the dreams that having a period brought. Mainly, just my fertility and sex drive but I was never one of those girls who dreaded my period. It always made me feel connected to my sense of being a woman and I kind of like witnessing my cycle throughout the month.

But now it's back and I'm never going to take her for granted again

Claire Baker, and adorable gal whom I went to IIN with, has a whole program called Adore Your Cycle where she teaches you to look at your cycle as a gift rather than a burden. I'm kind of stoked to do this now. 

You see, we've been taught that our cycle is this dreaded thing that happens for a few days once a month because so many of us have had horrible experiences with it. However, your cycle actually holds so much information. It's quite powerful really. To be clear, when I say cycle I am referring to the whole calendar month. That is your cycle. Not just the three to seven days you bleed. 

There is a wealth of knowledge out there about the various phases of your cycle. Again, Claire has a wealth of information on this you can find here. And by the way, she has no idea I'm even linking to her. I've just always admired her work and have been leaning into the idea that we women are incredibly powerful, cyclical creatures. Think about what we could do and create if we learned to work with nature instead of against it!

Anyway, I digress a bit. 

So yes. It happened. This thirty-seven year old is back in action. Bring on the chocolate and rom coms because day two of aunt flo is in full effect and I need some Meg and Tom in my life! 

But in all seriousness, I still have a lot to think about. In a weird way, going into menopause early would have made my decision to have a hysterectomy easier. I still want to wait until I'm forty at the earliest but if I'm still flowin' then, I wonder how I will feel about having to decide? 

However, I'm incredibly grateful for a little more time to reconnect with the deeper meaning of my cycle. To explore how it influences my creativity and drive and see how it can teach me to love myself even more. 

I hope, if anything, that if you are a woman and reading this it's sparked a little curiosity within you. 

And now you officially know way more about me and my period then I bet you ever thought. 

You are welcome. 

 

 

Saying Good-bye To A Life-Long Dream + Update On What's Going On With My Health

"Acceptance of one's life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes and injustices." Paul Tournier

When I was a little kid I use to gather the family pets, usually a dog and two cats, and pretend they were my children. I'd reenact what I thought it meant to be a mommy, usually based off of what I witnessed from my own mom, who was an incredible mommy by the way (still is!). I'd spend hours in mommy land cutting the crust off their imaginary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

All I knew back then was no matter what, I was destined to be a mom.

I thought by twenty-two I should have been married and on my first child because that was what I knew. That was how it worked and that was how it happened for my mom. When that time came around and I hadn't achieved that I felt lost and like I had failed. 

As the years crept by and that story was nowhere near what my life looked like, the sadness got thicker and so did the feeling of failure. Then one day I met my now ex-husband and a twinkle of hope ignited within and I thought, "Yes, this is it. I'm finally going to be a mom."

When I couldn't get pregnant after two years of trying I once again found myself feeling as if I had failed and as if life had failed me too. Deep inside, in that place not many of us really like to go, I thought maybe there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Maybe I had made God really mad and I was somehow being punished and undeserving of having my own children. 

When my marriage crumbled at the age of thirty-four a little part of that dream went with it. I started to see the clock tick faster then it was already ticking. When doctors advise you at the age of twenty-four to have a full hysterectomy, your clock becomes more like ticking time-bomb. You are constantly feeling as if it's gonna blow. However, I was still hopeful that I had time. I had time to meet someone, fall in love and get the white picket fence and the family to go with it. 

I had to because I wasn't quite ready to answer the question, "If I wasn't going to be a mommy, who was I going to be?" 

But life is an interesting loop of mysterious experiences that sometimes just don't seem to make sense. 

Over the last four years I've experienced several big disappointments and have had to dig beyond my comfort zone and begin asking those harder questions. And now, as my body begins this next process induced from radiation, I have no other choice to begin finding the answers to the one question I've been avoiding the most. 

What I'm finding is an honesty and a resistance I really wasn't ready.     

I'm realizing that it's time to start saying good-bye to that life-long dream and life has quite literally thrown me into it. Ready or not, too bad!  

And as much as I tell myself all the optimistic things like, I really enjoy my freedom and I enjoy doing what I want, when I want to, I realize that I need to honor that life-long dream and mourn the death of it properly. 

I need to stop pushing down my feelings and thoughts and face them head on. 

I need to acknowledge and mourn that:

I'll never experience the excitement of peeing on a stick and seeing the pink positive slowly begin to form and I'll never nervously get to share the news with my partner, eager to see the smile form on his face and the joy twinkle in his eyes. 

I'll never know what it's like to feel the first flutters of life growing inside of me or watch my belly swell as I transition from normal clothes into maternity. 

I'll never know what it's like to rush to the hospital mixed with fear and excitement as I wait for my body to start a process that it was literally created for. 

I'll never lay in the hospital bed, exhausted and tired, waiting for the first sounds of my son or daughter's life echoing around me until they are safely in my arms, meeting for the first time. 

I'll never experience those first moments and that is a thirty-seven year long dream I have to mourn properly. And at times, that feels like a pretty heavy burden to bare alone. 

One of the shitty things about illness is you have no control over the wake of destruction it creates in your life. It rips through taking out whatever it damn well pleases and you sit back and just watch it do so. It's a little surreal if you ask me.

Yes, we do have control over how we perceive things and our attitude towards them. We all have those choices. And believe me, I practice these things daily but I'm human. A very emotional and deeply feeling human who can't paint away my pain with affirmations and positive quotes. If I don't feel this experience fully, I, Amanda Whitworth, will disappear into a numbness and fog that I couldn't live with. So, I choose to lean into the pain, hoping with every ounce of my being, that it's the true answer to healing.   

I also recognize that I always had the choice to walk away from radiation treatment. However, to live with that fear of whether the cancer had already started creeping up my lymph nodes into my lungs wasn't something I could live with. Radiation was, in my opinion, the lesser of two evils. Just how great of an evil well, I'm only just now learning the truth of what that means. 

But now, as others get to share their first images of the black and white outline of what's growing inside their womb and welcome their brand new babies into the world, I'm having discussions of a hysterectomy with my oncologist and wondering how many nights a person can go without adequate sleep due to a pain that wakes her every hour, before she loses her mind. 

And I know, believe me when I say I know, there are other ways of being a mother. I also know I am so lucky to be alive but please, I beg you, stop saying this to me. I know it's out of love and support but all it does is make me question my own emotions and feelings. It riddles me with guilt. It makes me feel like I need to hide the truth and that makes me feel ugly. That makes the anger I'm feeling inside bubble out of control until sometimes, I'm shaking so much I scare myself. 

I find myself keeping to myself a lot these days because I'm scared of sharing this pain with others. I see their discomfort with it and how no one wants to really talk about it or how they just want to fix it with saying things like, "There are so many ways to be a mom!" Or, "At least you didn't have to have Chemotherapy." Or, "It could have been worse!." 

Don't ever say these things to someone going through something like this. We already know this. Believe me. We are dealing with the guilt and confusion every minute of every day. 

But I'm determined to find my way back out of the darkness. It's just going to take a little time. But I'll find my way back, I promise.  

I just need to spend some time saying good-bye and getting use to the idea that I'll never get to have my own kids. I've got to find a way to make peace with that. Real peace. And that will take time. 

And that means some days I'm going to be angry as hell at everything and some days I'm going to cry so much that my body hurts but that is okay. 

This has been a dark few months for me but I've still been able to see glimmers of light along the way. 

On the heels of losing two wonderful human beings in one week to this horrible thing called Cancer, I know just how lucky I am. But that doesn't mean I don't get to mourn my own loss. That doesn't mean I don't get to feel my own feelings for what I'm experiencing. It doesn't mean that I don't get to feel the deep pain as I adjust to my new world, my new reality, in a body that is riddled with pain all the time now, one that doesn't feel like mine at all. Because I do. I do get that. 

I will find my way back to optimism. I will find my way back to believing in the good of all circumstances and believing that maybe this is happening so I can do something with it to help others. I will find my way back to doing some of the things I loved doing before even if it looks and feels different now. I will find my way back, I promise. 

But right now I get to properly say good-bye no matter how dark I go and I beg you, please let me. 

So what is next?

Being diagnosed with a rare cancer has been an interesting experience. It's really hard to know where you belong when you still don't even know where this started. However, we did narrow it down to being related to Lynch Syndrome. 

Back in May I underwent genetic testing and my results came back positive for MSH2 gene mutation which is what we expected all along. It's one of two possibilities with Lynch Syndrome (Hereditary Non-polyposis Colorectal Cancer) and kind of a scary reality to deal with. (click here for more info) 

So what this means is I have a higher lifelong chance of developing colon, rectal, uterine and ovarian cancer as well as stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder duct, upper urinary tract, and brain. 

Given that this is my second experience at such a young age, my doctor is taken this search very seriously and I am most grateful for him and his determination. I will always be vigilant and on top of my screenings and tests because after meeting a women in the waiting room of my oncologist office who was diagnosed with the same thing as me but much further along, a tumor had already formed in her Vagina and she underwent Chemotherapy and radiation, and none of it worked. Her tumor is resistant to treatment. Last week they attempted to do radical surgery to remove her uterus, ovaries, bladder, anus and colon however, when her surgeon opened her up, he discovered that the tumor was too close to her pelvic wall and there was nothing he could do. And it scares me to think that this could one day be me. 

Radiation has left the left side of my body riddled with pain and I'm trying to figure out what to do now as it's becoming a bit debilitating and chronic. I'm trying to find others who are experiencing similar issues so I don't feel so alone in this because most people who've had radiation that I've come across in real like have bounced back rather easily. As the weeks go on, I'm having a harder time walking and now, sitting and lying in bed. 

I spent my Halloween meeting with a Urologist at Moore's Cancer Center to discuss a procedure I had on Tuesday afternoon to look at lining of my bladder and then in the evening, I had my CT scan. No signs of cancer in my bladder.

I had my PET scan yesterday and now, I just wait for the results to see if this pain is a result of radiation or if the lymph node in my sacrum was actually cancerous and now has grown. 

I will say this. Radiation is no joke and comparing it to Chemotherapy as if it is a lesser evil isn't fair. It is all horrible and it all comes with experiencing great loss. 

Every morning I wake up in a body that feels eighty and it takes me all day to feel like I can move somewhat normally again. The pain in my back and hip are unbearable. I have a whole new perspective for those who have lived a long time with chronic pain. So much compassion and love to you because this alone could make a person crazy. Throw on how tired I feel all the time, like I can't get enough sleep, and the hormonal changes I'm experiencing, well, feeling a bit crazy doesn't even do it justice. And it's not something to joke about because to those of us who are experiencing it, it's really traumatic and scary and very isolating. 

And now a lot of my thoughts these days are of trying to come to terms with and accept the decision I'm making to have a hysterectomy because I'll tell you what, not having to worry about Uterine and Ovarian cancer on top of the rest, would be really nice. 

However, I have to fully come to terms with this on my own and in my own time. But I know one thing for sure. I don't want to die from this one day. I don't want to make the wrong decision only to have it come back to bite me in the ass. (No pun intended...okay, I had to throw in a little humor!)

I know all of this is leading me to something. I'm starting to see that light again. In between all the messy and dark parts I'm still experiencing, I see the twinkle in the distance and it's beautiful. 

 

 

 

 

 

What's Love Got To Do With It?

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"If you are searching for that one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror." - Unknown

The other day I was Skyping with a friend who's current situation eerily resembles mine almost three and a half years ago. As she shared her fears and worries, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of empathy and compassion for where she was. As she nervously confided in me about her decision to leave her marriage of two years, I wanted to wrap my arms around her and say, "It's gonna be okay. I promise. One day it will be even better then okay." 

I wanted to tell her everything I had learned over the last three and a half years about love and how sometimes loss leads you to discovering some of the most magical things about yourself and about life.

I wanted to share how a lot of the time, we think the love from someone else is enough but it isn't. What is enough however is having the courage to do what is in your heart which isn't always the easy thing.

 But I couldn't, it wasn't my place. I knew all these lessons were ones she had to come to on her own. All I could do was listen and hope that she felt my love and support from thousands of miles away. 

It got me wondering though, how many people are married or coupled up who have done so under the same false pretenses I did? The one that says the right person will come along and save you. They will love you enough so that you won't have to learn the very thing that WILL save you; loving yourself.

 I also wondered how many people were staying in relationships that resembled the very one I was in because it felt safe or because they felt it was something the should do. Those damn should's. 

I grew up believing in the fairy tale. The one that had my prince charming riding in on his Technicolor My Little Pony and rescuing me in some way, shape or form. Hey, these were my fantasies and regular horses bored the hell out of me. My Little Ponies were what my romantic dreams were made of. 

He’d trot in with his perfectly parted Ken Doll hair because what young girl doesn't adore Ken. With his sparkling blue eyes and his big, bronze muscles, which were just a little stiff if you asked me, and he'd scoop me up with his arms that barely hinged at the elbows and we’d ride off into the blazing sunset to live happily ever after in our Barbie Dream House. The one with the white picket fence, the perfect career making the perfect amount of money, the 2.5 kids, and a friggin' partridge in a pear tree.  And that wouldbe our "The End".

Fast-forward to real life and one painfully failed marriage and a handful of brutal dating scenarios with openly emotionally unavailable men and this single thirty-seven year old has finally realized that love looks a little different then what my youthful (and delusional) dreams were once so naively made of.

It's taken me a long time to admit to myself that real love isn't the stuff that Blockbusters and fairytales are made of.

It definitely isn’t a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie.

It isn’t black and white.

And absolutely, under no circumstance, can real love sweep in on a brightly colored pony and save you. 

Entering any partnership under these pretenses is bound to fail you at some point.  

But let me start from the beginning. Let me tell how I came to realize that I had it all wrong. That my idea of real love was nothing more then a deceptive idea passed down over time and adopted by a girl who just wanted a happily ever after. 

Let me tell you what love isn't

I remember waking in the early hours of a cold February morning in 2014 from another restless night sleep. A fresh layer of white snow covered the bare vines and steep rolling hills of the fifty acre farm and vineyard I had called home for the past four years. I pulled the covers up close to my chin and in the stillness of the early morning light left over from the moon, I looked to my left at the silhouette silently sleeping next to me and my chest tightened. The heaviness returned from its eight hour break and once again, I wondered how I had allowed myself to get here. 

That had become the norm. I was thirty-three and found myself in a manipulative marriage of less then two years that had become more about constantly trying to change each other then acceptance, support, encouragement and love. I found myself constantly wondering if this was really it. Was this really what love and marriage were? Deception, lies, dread and control? 

Was I really that desperate to be coupled up that I had sacrificed my own personal happiness to do so? 

What about the fairytale? What about my prince charming and my technicolor pony ride off into my rainbow color sunset? What about my happily ever after? 

I slipped out from beneath the covers, quiet as to not wake my then husband, desperate for a few more hours to myself before I had to face my very own Jackal and Hyde. I tip toed down the stairs into the bathroom on the main floor and flipped on the light. Instead of avoiding the mirror as I normally did, I stood, staring down the reflection.

I looked tired and defeated from the daily disappointment and heartache of what I had allowed my life to become. I had no idea who the women in the mirror was. I had broken a promise I made to myself a long time ago after growing up with parents who's marriage resemble the one I now found myself frantically treading water in.

"How did you let this happen? This can't be it." I whispered to the girl in the mirror. For the first time I allowed the words to bubble up and before I knew it, slip out my lips and into the hands of the very thing that could save me, my own.  

It was as if I had broken some kind of spell and I snapped out of the delusional fog I was in. I made a promise to  myself that I would do whatever I had to do to live this one precious life the way I knew, in my heart, I needed to live it. Not chasing down the love of someone else but rather figuring out what that meant on my own.

The events that transpired over the next two months were heavy and heartbreaking but perfectly laid out for me so that I had no other choice but to leave.

In mid-May, just days before what was to be my second wedding anniversary, I found my car packed with all my belongings as I drove north back home to Seattle wondering how I was ever going to put my life back together. However, in my heart I knew a life stumbling solo was far better then being coupled up in something that was abusive and neglectful and lacking any sense of what I believe to be true love

So what does love have to do with it anyway?

Not to sound incredibly cliche, but one of the greatest lessons I learned from walking away from my marriage was that love between two people just isn't enough. You have got to love yourself first. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that looked like and had a long road of hard and repetitive lessons ahead.

How we learn to love ourselves looks different for all of us but I wholeheartedly believe that until we learn to do just that, our lives are going to be full of a lot of pain and suffering because we are going to be constantly looking for that love from others.

The greatest step I ever took was finally listening to my heart and walking away from something that was safe, comfortable and familiar for the complete and utter unknown. It was in that moment I cracked a little piece of the puzzle and realized that this was the way to the truth. This was the way I was going to learn how to love myself and step into a life that felt like me. 

The moment I drove away from comfort I knew I had started a wild and crazy journey into the depths of my own heart. Something I had only ever dipped my toes in. 

I said yes to something big and scary and I have kept saying yes to things that terrify me because I know they will keep leading me to deeper parts of myself. 

So what does love have to do with it? 

Absolutely everything. 

Love with someone else may not be enough but you better believe the love you feel for yourself is. That is the answer. Until you know what that looks like it is going to be really hard to invite in the kind of love you deserve and want with someone else. 

The path isn't always paved perfectly and those bumps and challenges are usually leading you to discovering another part of yourself that needs some love. That's what all those hard, often repetitive lessons are meant to do. They are supposed to shine light on the areas that need more of your own love. 

That is where I'm at now, facing many of the same lessons over and over, slowly realizing I have the choice to love myself enough to say not again.

I'm learning to love myself by leaning into those parts of me that are unfamiliar and choosing to do things differently. I'm creating the life I want that feels like the truth even if it doesn't make sense at the time. And I'm just going to keep doing this. Day in and day out. I'm going to wake up every day and continue to make choices, easy or hard, that are based around doing what is best for my heart, my path, my journey, my life.

I'm going to continue to say goodbye to people, places and things that do not serve my heart and allow time and truth to cultivate the space for those things that do. 

So that hopefully, one day, when the right man walks into my life, I can let him love me just that way too. 

 

 

The Great Lesson I Learned From My Dog

“Dogs teach us a very important lesson in life: The mail man is not to be trusted”  -Sian Ford

Somewhere between the 421st and 422nd sniff and leg lift I lost my cool on Rocky.

“Oh for the love of God Rocky! Come on bud, stay focused. We are on a walk so please, JUST. STAY. FOCUSED! You have literally smelled every shrub, fire hydrant, bush, electrical box and fence post within a one-mile radius of home. And you smelled them ALL yesterday! Come on already!” I cried out. 

Rocky starred back at me as if I had just told him he was actually born a cat. He lowered his head and preceded to walk on, tail tucked between his legs.

My shoulders sunk and so did my heart. I just lost it on my seventy-pound Pit bull who can literally make even the surliest of people smile. What has my world come to?

As we pressed on, I did my very best to gain his forgiveness and make up for my most imperfect quality. I let him happily smell and saturate every single thing he fancied until his big, beautiful heart was content. As we walked on, I thought about how if I couldn’t find joy while on a peaceful morning walk with my dog, what else was I not enjoying in my life either?

I'm always rushing everything; relationships, experiences, moments, TIME! Nothing ever moves quick enough for me. What in the world am I in such a hurry for? To die? 

Later that morning as I washed some dishes in the sink I thought about my ridiculous outburst and started to cry because I knew that one day when Rocky was long gone I’d really miss our long morning walks where he not only stopped to smell the roses, but every single thing that crossed our path.

I dried my eyes looking out the back window as the sweet hummingbird that visits each morning sat on my clothes line to have his morning think. "I bet the hummingbird enjoys just sitting there on the clothes line." I said to myself. Right then and there, as I watched the hummingbird quickly flutter away, I promised myself that not only was I going to take more time to stop and smell the rose, but like Rocky, I was going to smell every damn thing along the way.

And I sure hope you do too.   

photo credit: Stephanie Cristalli Photography