This morning, I woke up and took a walk for an hour by myself. My breath felt kind of shallow and no matter how deep I tried to inhale, it felt like it was stunted by something. Shortened. Being pressed back out. I came home and stayed busy; laundry and meal prep, cleaning and chores. I made it to a workout class with my girlfriend Kylie at noon, and right as I let my body start to slow down and felt my heart opening up, this crazy headache crept in and my whole world felt like it was throbbing. I made it through the class, I kept pushing, kept moving, kept going. I tried to think of plans to fill the spaces in my day until I needed to be somewhere else. And then, in line at Trader Joes, the woman in front of me, filling out a form of some sort, audibly asked what day it was.
“September 3rd” I heard someone behind me reply.
September 3rd. My heart felt heavy and my headache pounded harder. My knees felt weak and my head felt kind of dizzy.
Halfway through the day, I realized what my body was trying to tell me. I decoded the Morse messages that were tapping on the walls of my heart.
I heard the questions it was so desperately asking. I felt the weight and tension and pain trying to escape. Let us go. Let me fly away.
I paid for my groceries and I canceled my plans. I came home and poured myself a cup of coffee and, for right now at least,
I honor this day.
I honor the feelings and the memories and the heaviness.
Today, I honor it, so that tomorrow, I can let it all go.
Two years ago today, I called off my wedding. I did this 7 days before my wedding was supposed to occur. And as much as it seems like decades have passed since I lived that life, there are memories woven into my heartstrings that can pull me back into the midst of the day as though it was happening all over again. The heart doesn’t forget feelings like that. The cracks remind me that it was real.
The first year after was a lot of healing and a little bit of living. It was a lot of sifting and re-building, a lot of questions that I’ve since learned I will never receive the answers to. A lot of accepting apologies that I never received.
And once I hit that one year mark, I felt such a massive weight lifted off my shoulders that I stopped counting the seconds and minutes and days as they passed. I hit that one year mark and every single thing inside of me knew that I was going to survive. It knew I was better and stronger and more resilient than I could have ever imagined I’d be.
But from the first year to the second, I have dug even deeper.
I have felt the same pain in new ways I could never have expected. I have felt loneliness in a shade of blue that my eyes have never seen and my hands have never felt.
I have felt anger in shades of red that it’s almost hot to the touch. It burns my hands if I try to hold onto it for more than a second. I have felt happiness and gratitude that only loss can bring. I’ve felt highs and lows and grace in all of the tiny stepping stones in between. The past year, I haven’t learned any ground-breaking crazy lessons that will change the world. But I have experienced subtle reminders that completely changed my world.
Here’s to another 365 days spent walking away from the fires behind me so I may honor the flames within me.
The first thing I have learned is that comparison really is the thief of all joy. We live in a really interesting time where people know their smart phones better than they know themselves. We waste so much time getting to know the social media “lives” of the people living within our phones that we fail to realize that these lives aren’t reality and, even if they are, these lives are not OUR lives.
On September 2nd two years ago, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what my life would look like in years to come. The very next day, September 3rd, every single piece of that had changed. The pictures exploded out of the frames and I was left with an empty space in a broken frame and lots of glass around my feet.
I’ve had to work really hard to accept the life I’m living, the roads I’m walking, the path I’m following, and truly wholly believe that this is where I am supposed to be. When I become distracted by highlight reels around me, it only detours me from this path. Things aren’t always how they appear, but beyond that, we have to remember that our life is the life we are actually living. I strive to bask in moments that go undocumented, laugh at inside jokes that social media will never experience, and separate myself from the toxic feelings that lie within comparing where I’m at in my life to where anyone else in this whole world is at in theirs.
The second thing I’ve learned, is that forsaking someone else’s joy or happiness will not bring us our own. When everything first happened, it was really hard to feel happy for other people. I found myself feeling jaded and angry and resentful all the time. These feelings were new to me, and they felt so foreign and yucky. I hated it. But whenever I tried to make myself feel happy for someone else, it felt so fake and forced. I have had to do a lot of soul searching and heart work in order to get to a place where I can feel true, honest joy for those around me. But it was important to me so I fought like hell to get back to that place. And let me tell you this: some of my deepest healing has lived within feeling joy for the people I love. It has been born in moments where I share in the joy of someone else rather than focusing on jealousy or resentment in my own life. Over the past 2 years, I have had the honor to stand alongside or sit in the crowd as some of my best friends and family got married to the love of their lives. I cried real, raw, honest, happy tears as I felt little pieces of my heart start to slowly heal back together. I found wholeness in sharing in the wholeness of those around me. I found hope in seeing the people I love find the missing piece of their hearts. And, in those moments, I found forgiveness. First and foremost, I’ve found forgiveness for those that hurt me. For, without that hurt, I would not be sitting here, healing and growing and learning myself for the great love that awaits my future. But secondly, I found forgiveness for myself. Forgiveness for the moments I struggled feeling happy for those around me. For the moments I struggled with feeling happy with myself or my situation. I felt my heart heal as it learned new ways to carry love forward.
In pockets and creases that couldn’t have existed unless it was broken first.
The third thing I’ve learned is that holding something in will never make it go away. This knocks on my window daily. It interrupts my binge watching of a new Netflix series, shows up unannounced, and almost always overstays its welcome. But if we don’t answer the door or open the window or stop and listen, it will never go away. If we aren’t brave enough to get in the trenches or walk out into the woods or unzip the backpack we’ve been carrying for who knows how long, the weight will stay on our shoulders or around our ankles and we will never get the chance to see how walking forward feels without it. I feel like a pretty aware and connected person, but feelings are so freaking hard to discern sometimes. And we have to be able to set boundaries for them or else we would all walk around raging crying puddles all day. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to just pause and ask my heart what it’s feeling. That doesn’t mean I have to attend to it at that very second, but sometimes just slowing down enough to create space for the feeling to surface is all we really need. When the feelings knock, slow down and answer the door. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Watch the feelings float to the surface like fish in a clear lake. Acknowledge them. Tell them you see them. Tell them they exist and deserve to swim around in the pools of your heart. Sometimes I’ll simple say aloud, “I’m feeling really sad right now.” And I’ll take a deep breath and honor that feeling and before I know it, the feeling has passed. I’ve learned there’s a realllllly big difference between saying “I’m feeling sad” and stating “I am sad.” You aren’t sad. You’re you. All of the beautiful messy details of you. Sad is just a feeling, and it will always always pass.
The last thing I’m learning is that someone else cannot be the source of our happiness. And we don’t ever NEED anyone. This sucked to learn and may make me sound cynical in ways, but it’s truly made me feel quite the opposite. When my dad unexpectedly died 3 years ago, I had to learn the meaning of the circle of life by having it completely punch me in the face. It knocked me down so hard that a lot of me wondered if I’d ever stand on my own again. But I did. I stood and I walked and I’ll be damned if I didn’t eventually run faster than I ever had before. I don’t think our legs learn their true capabilities until they must lift us from our lowest points. I will never EVER say I am thankful that my dad died because I miss him every single second of every single day and there is nothing in this entire world I wouldn’t give to have him back for even one minute. But when we experience a loss like that, we really don’t have many options. We can let it ruin us entirely or we can grow and find new channels of strength that we never would have had to tap into otherwise. We all have those channels. We just access them at different times.
When I called my engagement off for the reasons I did, I didn’t just feel knocked down, I felt buried. Buried in betrayal, pain, confusion, loss, glass shards, broken promises, rain clouds, elephants, and Acme 1,000 pound weights. Everything around me felt so heavy. I literally watched my biggest source of happiness pack his bags and walk out the door. And when he left, he took all of my happiness with him. I sat on my couch, completely emptied. And it wasn’t until I had to learn how to fill myself back up that I realized there’s a big difference in needing someone and wanting someone.
Two years later, I don’t need anyone. But, boy, do I want them.
I have found new trust in my own two legs as they have walked me to hell and back more than once, but I’ve found grace in the moments someone steps up and walks a couple miles by my side.
I know I can get where I need to go alone. And you can, too. There’s not a doubt in my mind about that. I may have had to learn that the hard way, but it’s turned out to be the best way. Because I’ve done it. I’ve walked myself down roads and paths that I never would have imagined walking alone. I’ve researched new ways to make it to the top of a mountain that everyone said couldn’t be climbed without someone else by your side.
I’ve experienced so many forms of darkness that I all but say “come at me” when I see a new shade up around the corner. I’m not scared of life anymore, guys. Even though life is So. Damn. Scary. I’ve lived it and walked it and breathed in enough to feel peace in the roads ahead of me. The funniest part of all of this is that I’ve said this before, and life threw me a big ol’ knuckle sandwich of new things to be afraid of. I’m not saying I’ve experienced everything, but I’ve experienced every ounce of the fears I’ve been handed. And, because of that, they don’t scare me anymore. And, because they don’t scare me anymore, I can stop fearing and keep living.
Life is really hard. In fact, it’s mostly hard. But there are these soft spots in the midst of the hardness. There are little pillows of hope and little marshmallows of happiness nestled in between all of the rocks and glass and jagged edges. And those little spots of softness are worth trekking through the hardness to find. And what I’m learning is so ironic. The hard parts are what actually soften us. They help break down our guards and snuggle into our hearts and crack us open so we may become even more wonderful tomorrow than we were today. The failures teach us to celebrate success, no matter how tiny. The anger teaches us how to forgive. The heaviness teaches our legs how to rise and the trenches teach our wings how to fly.
So, I know, it’s hard.
I feel it. But the hardness teaches softness.
And I hope, with all my heart, you will choose to let it change you.
Here’s to a softer, gentler, even more hopeful next trip
around the sun.