20th Wedding Anniversary

Wow. Twenty years. Some days drag on, and some years feel like an eternity (2020), but when you look back, there is a sense of awe at how quickly time passes as we grow older. Michael is my best friend. We met in 2000, right after he ended a serious long-term relationship, and I was heartbroken. The timing wasn’t right. But, I was always drawn to him. Happy 20th wedding anniversary my love.

2001 and 2021

How we met

Our mutual friend, Rob, introduced us when Michael came to a party at our house. We share a love for live music. He has the most incredibly strong calf muscles. He was a 28-year-old attorney in Litte Rock, and I was a 23-year-old grad student working on my Master’s in Psychology. For a year, we were “just friends” and we dated other people. But, we always found each other at parties. He loved the way I massaged his shoulders and now his feet most nights.

I loved the way he looked at me and made me feel special. We always had a connection. Then one day in February of 2001, we were both single and at a party. He needed to run to his house and get something and asked if I wanted to ride along. I said sure, and we went back to his house and made out for like 3 hours. He is the BEST kisser in the world! And I kissed my share of toads before I found my prince. I remember telling my best friend, Shana, that he is the only guy on the planet who can handle me and put up with my quirks.

We dated from February 2001 to May 2001. Then Michael asked me to be his wife. There was no fancy proposal. If you know Michael, you know he can’t keep a secret for long. He just gets too excited and wants to share the news. I think he had the ring about a day before giving it to me. LOL

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The Wedding

We were married in his parent’s backyard in RidgePointe on September 1, 2001. It was simple, sweet, and perfect for us. Our dog, Abby, was there, along with about 100 of our closest friends and family. I wanted to walk to him barefoot and in love. That’s exactly what I did. It was perfect. Now here we are, 20 years later. We have four exceptional children and have loved three dogs, but only one is still with us, Stella, our 2yo rescue. We have lived in our home for 19 of those years, and I’m excited to say we get new carpet, and the inside of the house painted as our anniversary present! Yay!

There have been challenging times in our marriage. I have questioned if we were meant to grow old together. I don’t think there is a marriage out there that didn’t struggle at some point. But, the bottom line is that we love each other even when we are mad or don’t agree. We want to be an intact family for our children. I grew up in a broken home, and it was awful. I want stability for my kids and to die of old age married to Michael.

Moved to Jonesboro and Started Crawley Law Firm

We moved to Jonesboro when Alex was born in July 2002 and started Crawley Law Firm in March of 2003. Then we partnered with another attorney in town, and it lasted about a decade. Then for a multitude of reasons, things went sideways, and it was time to split. I battle anxiety and depression, and when we suffered this loss about seven years ago, I mourned deeply and was in a state of major depression. Like stay in bed for multiple days and stared at the ceiling, crying, and wondering why kind of depression. The kind that isn’t “just in your head”; the kind where you need therapy and medication. Both of which I got down the line. I drank a little too much and wanted to party to numb the pain. It all seemed like a bad dream, but we inevitably started all over again with Crawley Law Firm in 2014.

God placed friends in my life to lift me out of my depressed state. Michael kept telling me to keep moving. Take a shower. Go get some fresh air. I met my dear friend Julie around this time, and she loved me unconditionally. She always told me that God has a bigger plan and Satan wants to destroy. She modeled for me what it is like to be a wonderful Christian wife and mother. Julie taught me about Juice Plus and keeping my family healthy. She listened while I cried about financial stress and feeling so helpless. She always advised with understanding, love, and kindness.

Weathering the Storm

I am now grateful for the experience. It created a great deal of stress and unease in my life, but it was okay in the big scheme of things. Not ideal, but okay. Sometimes life doesn’t play out as you expect, but I believe God gives us the strength and the people we need to get through today. Just keep your eyes on the light and not the dark and have faith in it all working out, whether you can see how right now or not.

It’s surviving the highly challenging situations in life that prepare you for what’s to come. Without them, we may take the good times for granted. Michael has always been the best guy for me. He loves Jesus; he loves me and our kiddos. This man works hard to help those suffering from financial strain at our law firm, so he can play harder with his friends and family. We travel, see live music when we can, and love taking our children on trips and adventures.

COVID-19

When the pandemic in March of 2020 was thrown our way, I was on the verge of major depression. Julie organized a book study during the lockdown. There were about 15 women who met daily via zoom to discuss: 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry. I highly recommend the book to be read annually. It changed me and my outlook on life. It reminded me that we choose our thoughts, our actions, and our responses to stimuli. We are in more control than we realize.

I was worried about how it would all work out. Would the kids stay home in the fall? Are we going to lose our business? Would we have food? Will this virus kill people we love? Is this bug going to kill us? It has been an extremely challenging year and a half for so many. I chose to go with the flow. I decided to let go and let God. Every time I shared my concerns with Michael, he assured me it would be okay. Even if we lost the business, our house, our cars, he kept the faith it would work out in some way we can’t see yet.

Some other dear friends started a message thread when the pandemic began. Sarah, Beth H., Rachel, Danielle, and Beth B. have been my saving grace. We have shared meals, swim time, all the good and bad experiences with each other. Just knowing people are there that “get you” and love you regardless of your flaws is priceless. Lauren, Shana, and their husbands have been there for me too. I am super-sized blessed by the friendships I have created in Jonesboro over the last 19 years.

Michael is my Rock

Michael is my rock. He is always there when I need him. He constantly supports me and my crazy ideas, like writing my first fiction novel that will be out in the Spring of 2022. I would not be who I am today without his love and advice. When I found I was pregnant at 40yo and was literally beside myself in shock, he told me that I willed this baby into existence. I always said if someone dropped a baby boy off at my doorstep, I would take him!

I wanted a raise a boy and a girl but after 3 girls we decided our family was complete and I had a surgical procedure to prevent pregnancy. Well, that failed. I don’t do well pregnant. Lots of vomiting and exhaustion. But, we are a team and we do things together. Michael always has my back and he’s rarely wrong, which is annoying, but I tell my girls to marry a man more intelligent than them. It is boring to the smartest person in the room. LOL

I say all this to assure you we all have issues. We are all struggling in some way that may not be visible to the naked eye. I told my 19yo, Alex, the other day that emotional pain can be as severe as physical pain, but you can’t see it. There are millions of people hurting inside, and no one knows about it. I have struggled and learned from the lessons and pain I’ve endured. Now I teach my children what I’ve learned and share on my blog, with hopes that I can educate others.

A big part of growing up is learning and accepting you are. Becoming the best version of yourself, coping with change as it arrives, and taking life as it is not how we want it to be. I highly recommend finding your person and holding on tight. It is ok to make mistakes along the way. It is not okay to dwell on those mistakes. Those choices do not define you. What defines you is how you choose to move forward from here. You learned the lesson; now teach it to your kids and friends. We are not on this planet alone; we have each other.

Happy 20th wedding anniversary to the man I choose to spend the rest of my life with. To the man who is the best father to our babies and the best boss. I love you always and forever.






In the Flow vs. Clog/Rut

Last summer, my life was in a clogged state/rut, and I knew I could be a better version of myself, but I stuck. Rut defined is a pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change. Clog defined a wooden shoe with a thick wooden sole. Oh, wait. Not that one. It is also defined as a weight attached especially to an animal to hinder motion; something that shackles or impedes; encumbrance sense. Wow, that’s exactly how I felt in general; I was encumbered by a habit that wasn’t serving me well and not in the flow.

I was in the habit of drinking daily, going to bed buzzed most nights, feeling depressed, and gaining unwanted weight. Waking up foggy and groggy most days became the norm for me and, as it turns out, alcohol is a toxin, and when overused, it can make you feel like crap. I focused on the negative aspects of the covid-19 pandemic and worried about the unknown instead of focusing on gratitude and what was going right.

This was definitely not me being in the flow of life but instead fighting, kicking, and screaming because I wanted to know how it was all going to play out. But, we are not designed to see the future. I think it’s because we wouldn’t enjoy the here and now if we constantly want to get to some happy point in the future. Or trying to avoid a hard time in life would prevent you from learning the lesson the experience taught you.

When I found out my friend Tharwat Lovett was presenting information on the topic of flow during one of our monthly lunchtime virtual meetings to the ShiftHer group, I was so excited. It was in perfect alignment with where I choose to focus my energy now, at one year sober! I felt stuck in some old habits of worrying about things I can’t control instead of focusing on all the good around me. As it turns out, you can’t be grateful and worried at the same time! Who knew?!

In the Flow
Flow

The following are notes I took during the meeting Tharwat led.

Flow

Flow state is losing yourself in the moment. Have you ever found your abilities match so well to an activity that the world around you quietens, and you find yourself achieving things you only dreamed of being possible? Time passes because you are so into what you’re doing, and you have no memory of it? You know, when you’re in the zone.

It all begins with self-awareness and learning more about yourself, along with acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. We must learn to recognize and love our shortcomings and flaws as much as we love our strengths. When you are in the flow, you are in a powerful state. Flow is when our intention is focused on the present moment. We focus intensely on what we want, and we learn to regain control when our attention is distracted by outside forces. 

Amy Cuddy

In the book, Presence, Amy Cuddy, who is a Harvard professor, says that “by accessing our personal power, we can achieve ‘presence,’ the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we’re making on others and instead adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves. We need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behavior, and mindset in our day-to-day lives.”

Minimizing distractions and focusing more on thriving than simply surviving is essential. We must direct our intentions because we are, after all, the ones who choose what we pay attention to and how we focus our energy. Tharwat says awareness is light, and not all we pay attention to is energizing; some things are depleting. Flow occurs when we are focused solely on the task at hand and in an energetic state that is intrinsically rewarding. Being in the flow produces invigorating energy. 

The average woman, especially a mom, carries an extremely large cognitive load. When we are in the flow, it frees up some mental energy and feels incredible. It is good for our bodies physiologically. There is an increase in the release of chemicals that boost our immune system. When we are in the flow, we are performing at a peak level. Ex. Runner’s high = flow. 

Psychological

Tharwat says we have intensely focused attention and long periods of focused concentration when we are in the flow. It is essential to have a clear goal to move into the flow. When we have clear goals, the immediate feedback tells us how to do it better. She also says that high consequences drive extra hard focus.  

Environmental

It’s easier to get into the flow if you have a rich environment where you experience lots of novelty and unpredictability. For example, you are in observation mode when you travel. There is no auto-pilot because we haven’t been here or done this before. Deep embodiment and serious concentration make it easier to block out distractions when you are in the flow/zone.

Deep embodiment is paying attention to multiple sensory streams at once, such as sight, sound, and touch all at once. We can practice this during mindfulness; when feeling anxious or overwhelmed, recognize it and stop to take a few deep breaths. Focus on each sense, one at a time, and come back to this moment. When seriously concentrating, our maximum attention is on the here and now, making it easier to get in the flow and block out distractions.

Social

When working with others, we must have shared, clear goals. With good communications and open creativity, we can reach our goals faster with others’ input and ideas alongside ours. When in a group, it is important to have equal participation among all members. Remember, those who have more to lose will be more focused.

Creativity

Our creativity is at its peak when we are in the flow. Tharwat said when she sees clients back to back all day, she is in the flow. Time tends to pass differently, usually faster because when our subconscious mind is in the flow, time doesn’t exist. Also, when time flies, it is an indication that you are in the flow. The subconscious receives data from the energy around us, and the feeling is powerful. If it feels right, then move in that direction. Flow and alignment are interrelated. You must feel first and use intellect second. 

Cultivate Flow

Explore and allow yourself to cultivate flow; what is easy for you is your skillset and part of your purpose. Our minds are flowers, and our attention is the hose. We cultivate the flowers and weeds that pop up. If we focus our energy on the weeds, we take the food source away from what we want to what we don’t want. Don’t spend too much time watering the things you don’t like in life. Instead, intentionally feed the flowers! 

Failure is Part of the Process

Remember your intention but forget the big picture and get into a state of flow. Permit yourself to embrace imperfection. Perfect is a feeling, so don’t let perfectionism stand in your way. Failure is part of the process! Thomas Edison said, “If you 99 times, then you know 99 things that don’t work, and you can keep moving toward the solution.” 

When in flow, we are in a state to say yes; we are not argumentative. The power of adding is more productive than subtracting. Focus on what you are ADDING, not what you are taking away. Adding is more sustainable than always focusing on what you lack. Instead, focus on gratitude and what is going right. 

An Experience With Flow vs. Clog 

Recently, I was assigned the task of finding a place for an elderly distant relative, Daniel (name changed), to live. He has no other family to help him, and somehow it all fell on me. Daniel was in the hospital in Jonesboro and basically homeless. He is on a low, fixed monthly social security income, and he is not healthy enough to live alone but not sick enough for nursing home care. I had to help him find assisted living and was freaking out because we were leaving for ten days at Disney World, and I had 48 hours to make it happen. 

It was time to make a choice; would I fight the process, or would I embrace it and make the most of each step at a time? Someone told me it was possible to find him somewhere to live on short notice, and I believed them. So, I googled and made a list of about ten facilities in the area. Mom helped me by calling them and asking their monthly pricing and if they have any availability. She found one immediately! 

I went by that day and signed him up; the next day, a good friend helped me move his furniture, and we left for Disney the next day! It all worked out at the perfect time. I just trusted that God/Universe had my back! Daniel lives there now and loves it. So, instead of fighting the flow, kicking and screaming, and making myself physically ill. In the past, I would get a tension headache so badly it felt like my head may explode. I was definitely fighting the flow. This time, I chose not to worry about the when, why, and how, I decided to go with the flow!  

I then decided not to worry about it and trusted God would open doors I didn’t even see. And that is exactly what happened! So, when I CHOSE not to worry and worked to find him a place without stressing, it worked out amazingly! There was minimal physical stress, so no tension-headache or agitation with life in general. I focused on the next right thing (the next decision to make) and trusted it would work out.

Remembering Liane Neshat

I have started and stopped writing this blog for a couple of months because I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around such a tragic loss. Four months ago, on November 5th, 2020, one of my dear friends and co-worker, Liane Neshat, passed away suddenly. We worked together for almost three years, and Liane made Crawley Law Firm better. When we were looking for help, I asked some friends if they knew anyone reliable and hard-working looking for a job. Our mutual friend Jennifer said she had the perfect candidate. I remember calling Liane, and we had an informal phone interview that lasted for a couple of hours. 

masked liane
Liane protecting those around her

Hired Liane Immediately

We clicked immediately. Liane was so easy to talk to, mature, highly intelligent, kind, and funny. In a word, she was WONDERFUL! She started work the next day, on February 14th, 2017. Bankruptcy paralegal work requires hands-on training and is not something you can learn outside of the office. I mean, you can learn how to use our bankruptcy software, but beyond that, the requirements of the job are learned as you go.

Liane was an organized and efficient fast learner with experience in human resources. She was in her late 50s and didn’t skip a beat. Over a few months, we taught her the basics and then asked her to please help us find a “better way” to make the office more efficient. So, she dug in and did just that; she created different organizational systems to streamline our processes and procedures.

For example, we improved the workflow from when a client hires us through the document collection process. She was talented at staying in contact with clients until we had all the necessary documents to file the case. If Liane thought a revised document would benefit our clients or us, she would change it. She did this without prompting, then showed it to me with a big grin on her face.

Liane Neshat worked harder than anyone I know, and she found joy and took pride in a job well done. She came in on the weekends to get the paperwork ready for the week. Usually coming in early and working late. She did leave mid-afternoon to get her daughter from school, but that was considered her lunch break. There are few people these days who have the same work ethic as Liane did. I feel like God hand-picked her for us. I’ll never understand why he took her away so soon, but I am grateful for the time we had together. 

I told her the day before she passed away that Biden may pull out the election, and she said she hadn’t looked because she was so nervous. It shocked her it was such a close race. She was passionate about her politics, her family, and her work ethic. Liane loved all people and was extremely supportive of her friends. Being a cheerleader came naturally to her, and she blessed more people than she ever realized. Her encouraging words will live forever in my mind. She was always supportive and loving.

Liane Passed Away Suddenly

liane and her daughters
Liane with her daughters

Oh, how I pray she knew how much we cared for her. She wasn’t perfect, no one is, but she set an excellent example for us all, and she had the kindest soul. Losing her was one of the hardest things I have endured in my adult life. Liane was the closest friend I’ve had who passed away suddenly. I spent a lot of time with her; not only were we co-workers, but we were also friends outside of work. We texted and talked most days.

She was supportive of my Juice Plus business and told her friends about it. Liane Neshat often bought our Complete Protein Shake mix because it was Vegan and she was a vegetarian. My oldest and her youngest graduated from high school together in 2020. So we would chat about the girls and upcoming school events. Thank goodness she often reminded me of important dates because she knew I had a lot going on with my three teenage daughters and toddler son. Liane delivered her youngest at 43 years old, and I was 40 years old when I delivered Trey, so we had that in common as well. I would mention being an “older mom,” and she would clear her throat and say, “excuse me.” Then we both laughed.

At 9:04 pm that Thursday night, my reality changed. Our mutual friend, Jennifer, called and left a message asking me to call her as soon as possible. From her tone, I knew something was wrong, but I did not know what. I called her back, and she answered immediately. 

“I have some bad news,” she said in a somber tone.

Then continued, “Liane passed away.”

I said, “Wait. What? That’s not possible; we worked together all day, and she appeared perfectly fine. She wasn’t sluggish or lethargic. Liane didn’t complain about feeling bad. She seemed completely normal, and now you are telling me she’s gone?” 

It has been months, and I am slowly coming out of the shocked and angry phases and into acceptance. I think about Liane Neshat daily. We will never know exactly what happened, but we know she was sitting on her couch when she passed away peacefully and without suffering. Sadly, she was not tested for Covid-19, so we don’t know if it played a role, but the coroner said it appeared to be a sudden and massive heart attack

Confident Loving Mother

Liane was knowledgeable and knew a little about many different things. She spoke her mind but knew when to keep quiet. She had strong values and beliefs and wasn’t afraid to share her opinion or what she thought. Liane was kind, professional, compassionate, and open-minded. She was witty and hilarious! We laughed together often.

Liane's children
Liane’s children
Ariana, Armeen, Ahzahdeh

After her husband passed away suddenly about 16 years ago, she raised their three children by herself. Liane’s youngest daughter, Ariana, was only a few years old when he died, and she is 19 years old now. Her oldest daughter, Ahzadeh, and her middle child, Armen, were in high school when their father died. They currently reside in California.

She was a loving mother and a loyal friend. When you met her, she made you feel special and seen. I loved her eye contact and how it made me feel heard when I talked, and she listened intently. Liane volunteered at The Foundation of Arts regularly and attended many plays at Jonesboro High School and The Orpheum in Memphis. Liane loved to read lots and lots of books in different genres, and she even edited some for up-and-coming authors. She offered to be one of my beta readers after completing my first fiction novel’s rough draft.

Liane was thoughtful and would leave small “happy” presents on our desks on special occasions to let us know she cared. It would be a simple sweet treat or a card that made your day. She was a good listener and never complained. While visiting a college out of state with Ariana, Liane fell down a few stairs, and I’m pretty sure she broke her foot. She was too stubborn to get it x-rayed and said they would just put her in a boot. So, she skipped the doctor’s visit and ordered the boot online. Typical behavior for Liane; she didn’t need help.

She was incredibly proud of her children. Ariana was the light of her life. The day before she passed, she told me how well she is doing in virtual college at Rhodes in Memphis. When Liane spoke of her three children, she lit up with love, adoration, and pride. Liane loved and adored them; being their mom and grandmother was her favorite, and she was good at it. She was proficient at anything she set her mind to. There was not much she wasn’t good at or couldn’t figure out how to do.

Picking Up Where She Left Off

Since she was not here to train me, I have spent the last four months learning how to do Liane’s job. I’m working twice as many hours in the office as I did before she passed. She did much more than any of us realized. She saw a need and took the initiative. I’ve also hired 2 part-time employees to assist in covering all the bases. She was a phenomenal friend, co-worker, and human.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to know her over the last few years. I loved her big and contagious laugh. It was always fun to make her laugh, and I’m thankful for being able to do so the day she died. I still look for her smiling face when I walk into the office’s front door. She always had a friendly demeanor and was pleasant to be around. I miss her wit.

Liane Neshat became one of my dear friends, and I still can’t believe she is gone. I miss her every day. I know she wouldn’t want me to be sad and that she is in a better place. Her heart was pure, and she was full of love and life, but it was her time, and I must accept that truth. It was an unexpected, shocking and unfortunate tragedy to lose Liane. Fly high, sweet friend. We love you and miss you dearly.

We Find What We Are Looking For

Two years ago, we were looking for a Toyota Camry for our second daughter. Then, suddenly, I see them everywhere. It was strange to me how many more there seemed to be around than usual. There probably wasn’t an increase in Toyota Camry sales, but this is an excellent example of how we find what we are looking for.

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. Therefore, we find what we are looking for.

Concept Backed by Science

Our brains have millions of bits of information to sort through each day. Therefore, it creates filters to help with the workload. According to a post titled, The Science Behind Why You ‘Attract’ What You Focus On, “we form this filter ourselves by telling our brain (whether consciously or subconsciously) what’s important to us, what we believe, what we fear, and what we’re focused on.” Over time, we create more of what we focus on through this process, and we find what we are looking for.

Your brain filters all the information it processes for things you are focused on, think is important, and validate your beliefs. So, as our brains filter all the data, it will only present the things that you find essential. Two people can view the same situation entirely differently because of this. Everyone’s version of reality is unique because our experiences and belief systems shape the brain uniquely through a process called neuroplasticity. 

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to changes in an individual’s environment by forming new neural connections. The brain goes through structural and functional changes when you have new experiences. Neurons communicate with each other using electromechanical signals. Communication is strengthened through repetitive, memory-forming cognitive functions. For example, when studying for a test, practicing an instrument for a recital, and doing affirmations by repeating ideas or thoughts in your mind.

In your day to day, are you looking for what is going wrong or what is going right? Are you looking for the positive in every situation, or are you looking for the negative? When you are pessimistic and continuously thinking negative thoughts, you have trained your brain to present only the negative data. However, if you are optimistic and positive, your brain will offer you solutions instead of problems, good news instead of bad and good people instead of awful people. 

“We find what we are looking for in life, her father had once said to her, which was true—if you look for happiness, you will see it; if you look for distrust and envy and hatred—all those things—you will find those too.”

― Alexander McCall Smith 

The Full Cupboard of Life

We Can Re-train Our Brains to Find What We Are Looking For

The good news is that we can change the parameters through which our brains filter our lives. We can re-train our brains to find what we are looking for. I used to worry about what I couldn’t control. I’m not saying that I don’t worry now, but I fear much less and shorter periods. Before I dove all-in with my commitment to personal growth, about seven years ago, there was a lot of anger, yelling, and frustration aimed at the people I love most. I was processing some significant and unexpected changes in my life, and honestly, I didn’t handle it all that well. It disappointed me when the plans we made and worked extremely hard for didn’t pan out. We took a gamble in our business, and we lost.

We Are Always Evolving

Over time and with practice, I’ve learned to process change faster. I accepted we are all evolving. I do my best to adapt to each situation as it arises. Being sad and depressed because things didn’t work out the way I planned is simply a waste of my time. I tell my girls that it’s okay to be upset when they make a mistake or do poorly on a test.

They have 48 hours to be frustrated and angry with themselves for the error, not preparing, or whatever the reason, it upset them. But that’s it. They are only allowed to criticize themselves or be mad about that situation for a limited time. Once it is official that we can do nothing to change the problem, it is time to process and feel our sad, angry, and mad emotions. Then it is time to accept it and let it go. Worrying doesn’t change the past; all it does is rob you of any joy you may have today.  

We Learn From Our Experiences

I believe everything happens for a reason, and I am grateful for my struggles because they brought me to this moment. A moment where I feel safe in my skin and confident enough to be vulnerable and share my thoughts with each of you. I work daily to re-train my brain to find what I’m looking for. I may not have reached this point without all the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Each one taught me something that made me a happier, mentally healthier, better person. Without these experiences, I may not have the incredible amount of empathy, compassion, and understanding for those struggling in similar ways.

Today is day seven of being home from work because of the ice/snow from an arctic blast we just experienced here in Jonesboro. I was remoting into the office and clicked on an incorrect document, not once, but twice. I was annoyed with myself, and in the past, I would have berated myself and said some horrible things to myself like, “What is your deal, Juliana? Are you even paying attention? Are you smart? You already made that mistake – twice – LEARN!!” 

But you know what I did? I laughed. 

Yep. I laughed out loud with a big fat HA! As I discussed in Celebrate Your Wins, I am working to re-train my brain to be kinder to myself. Today was proof that it’s working! I laughed, then I thought, WOW! I’m making progress, and I am becoming more like the person I want to be when I grow up. If I can do it, then you can do it. I’ve survived an incredible amount of emotional pain, and the best way I’ve found to thrive is to choose a positive outlook. 

Focus Creates Feeling

According to Tommy Newberry in 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, “at any given moment, you can choose to pay attention to what’s present or what’s missing, what’s working or what’s broken, what’s possible and what’s impossible, and what excites you or what frightens you. And in so doing, you will win or lose the battle for your mind.” He says that if your emotional life is not where you want it to be today, then your top priority should be shifting your attention to your blessings, strengths, and aspects of your life that are working. “You WILL experience a deficit of joy when you allocate a surplus of attention to the things that dissatisfy you.”

Since our lives tend to imitate the thoughts that we entertain most consistently, then doesn’t it make sense to focus on what is going right more than what is going wrong? Our focus determines our feelings. So, it’s no wonder that we are always unhappy about our circumstances if we are always complaining. “We condition our minds to value what we read, watch, study, discuss and ponder. What absorbs our interests shapes how we think. Whatever holds our attention molds our intention. What we contemplate, we internalize. What we internalize, we emotionalize. The more frequently we think about something, the tighter the grip it exerts on us, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. Whatever we idolize shapes our character. You always feel what you focus on.”

Core Beliefs

Our brains filter information based on our experiences, inferences, and deductions or accepting what others tell us is true. Most of our core beliefs form when we are children. Our parents and environment play a big part in molding our beliefs from a very young age. They teach us right from wrong and what is true or false, and these standards help us create our belief system. 

Sadly, we are not all taught how much control we have over finding what we are looking for. Our minds are powerful, and we must train them for good and not harmful. The best news is that we can alter the way we experience life for the better. As Bob Samara coaches, when we carefully choose to feed our minds pure, positive, powerful, and productive thoughts and information, there is no room for negativity. 

Eliminating the harmful, hateful, and negative thoughts and replacing them with optimistic, curious, and positive thoughts takes practice and repetition, but I promise it is worth the effort. Maybe you are in your late-30s when you learn about the ability you have to train your brain. Perhaps you learned as a teen, like my children. Maybe you are learning how to re-train your brain at 70 years young. It doesn’t matter when you start; working to improve your mindset every day you are blessed to be alive is essential. 

Celebrate Your Wins

Recently, we had the great fortune of paying off all of our credit card debts. This has been one of our objectives for many years, and with a few clicks on the computer’s mouse, it was done. Right now, we have zero credit card debt. Wow! It’s kind of surreal, to be honest. I was chatting with Michael about it, and I mentioned that I thought I would feel different. But it seems super anticlimactic. There was no phone call congratulating me on adulting well by paying them off. I didn’t get an email saying, “Great work, lady! You are not paying interest on your purchases! Job well done!” There was no one celebrating my wins.

Nope. None of that transpired. Nothing changed.

Then, I thought about how I feel when I make mistakes versus when I reach my goals. As explained in my self-compassion blog, I’m excellent at berating myself; that took years of practice. I haven’t been as diligent about celebrating my successes as vehemently as I torture myself over my losses. Assuming I’m not the only one who does this, I chose to share what I’ve learned.

Ways to Celebrate

celebrate your wins
Image from LeanGreenIslandGirl.com

Create a Vision Board AND An Accomplished Board

I asked my dear friend Julie once, “Where do I put the pictures I take off my vision board after I have accomplished or bought what I’ve been working so hard toward?” Taking them down and tossing them to the side didn’t sound like the appropriate thing to do.

She suggested I design an “Accomplished Board” and place it right below my vision board. Being reminded of all that I have achieved makes me feel fantastic about my hard work. Looking at this daily reminds me to smile and celebrate my wins.

Cheerlead Yourself

When we reach a target, I think most of us downplay it and not celebrate it. If we want to reward the behavior of winning, then it’s an excellent plan to associate success with positive emotions. When we acknowledge our achievements, we reinforce the sensational feelings we have when we reach our goals. We desire to do it again so we can feel good again. 

As you achieve your goals, it is essential to praise yourself. You can be your own cheerleader. For example, I can state, “Terrific job, Juliana! You are a hard worker, and when your mind is focused, you are unstoppable!” This makes me feel good just writing it, much less saying it out loud or out loud in a mirror. It’s essential to recognize each effort toward your targets, no matter how small, celebrate your little wins. A small goal for a salesperson may be to make a phone call, email, or social media post to share his/her product. For a writer, it may be to write 500 words every single day for a week. Without these small steps, you are unlikely to reach your objectives. 

Take a Gratitude Pause

Health and Wellness Coach Gail Smith stated, “For me, nothing beats the power of practicing gratitude to celebrate your small wins. I find it helpful to take the time to pause, reflect, and appreciate my effort. Being grateful for these small successes brings a deeper connection to the work I am doing every day. Celebrating these wins with gratitude makes me happy and reminds me of my purpose.”

When I quit drinking alcohol 7 months ago, many suggested writing in a gratitude journal daily. I love it because it pushes me to reflect on my big and small triumphs. For instance, I may note something as simple as, “I’m thankful for the ice/snow days this week so that I can spend more time with my husband, teens, and toddler. I’m grateful I completed my workout today, even though I wasn’t in the mood. I’m thankful my 3-year-old gave me an enormous hug and announced, ‘I love you, Mommy!’” There isn’t much on this planet more awesome than toddler arms wrapped around your neck and squeezing. It’s nice to have the journal as a reference to reflect and review all I’ve achieved. Also, focusing on what’s going right in my life is beneficial to staying positive and optimistic. 

Take a Deep Breath

According to the article, “30 Ways to Celebrate Your Success”, another simple technique is to take a deep inhale and appreciate this moment. Meditation teaches us that this very moment and this one breath are all that we have, so why not stop, be still, and be present with it. When practicing visualization, you take the time to feel the elation of the win beforehand. You imagine what it would feel like in your body. Are you smiling? Do you scream with excitement and dance around? Does your tummy flutter? Do you look in the mirror and say, “Good job! I’m proud of you! Keep up the excellent work?” I realize this may sound slightly awkward, but it all leads back to practicing self-love and caring for ourselves with kindness. When we treat ourselves as an ally, then we experience a more pleasant existence. You would praise the success of a friend, so why not celebrate your own wins?

So, take a deep breath and agree to soak in every second of that wonderful feeling. It’s the exhilaratingly feeling of accomplishment and feeling gratified with yourself for setting a target and reaching it. You worked hard, and you earned this moment of happiness. It’s ok to take the time to celebrate your wins. In fact, it’s critical to be still and know you did a magnificent job.

Tell a Friend or Family Member

Another way to celebrate your win is to tell someone you love so that you can experience it together. Have a nice dinner or FaceTime, and share your excitement with those who have supported you along the way. Thank them for being there for you while you were working toward your goal. When they tell you how awesome you are, accept and enjoy the compliments. Often we dismiss the praises of others, just like we dismiss our wins. Say thank you and be grateful for knowing people who will honor you.

Some additional ways to appreciate your achievements are watching a TV show or movie, reaching out to others, supporting them in realizing their goals or doing something you enjoy but seldom take the time to do. You can take the day off from work and spend it with family, take the dog for a walk or treat yourself to a spa day full of relaxation.

I encourage each of you to take the time to pamper yourself when you work hard and accomplish your goals. Please leave a comment below stating how you reward yourself for attaining a goal and celebrate your wins.

Self-Compassion: Becoming Friends With Your Mind

Self-Compassion

Practicing self-compassion is something I have worked extremely hard on in my 40s. It is not something I was taught in childhood, but it is definitely worth exploring, along with self-love and self-kindness. My friend and Wellness/Life Coach, Tharwat Lovett, calls it “becoming friends with your mind.” It is of utmost importance that we learn to care for ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here I discuss what I’ve learned about self-soothing, treating myself like a friend, arrogance of belonging, awareness of my thoughts. Finally, I share some exercises I found that teach you about self-compassion.

Treat Yourself Like a Friend

Self-compassion also includes treating yourself like you would a friend. Being kind to yourself requires a lot of positive self-talk. According to the National Science Foundation, an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative, and 95% are repetitive thoughts.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” — Mahatma Gandhi

The Arrogance of Belonging

I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and she shares her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. She also writes about some personal experiences, and the book has me so engaged I don’t want to stop. I’m on the chapter titled “Entitlement.” She says in order to live in a way that you are free to create and free to explore, you must have a fierce sense of entitlement. You must love yourself enough to believe you are entitled to at least try to reach your goals. Gilbert says it’s not the kind of entitlement where you act like a princess and as if the world owes you something. It simply means you are allowed to be here and that by being here, you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.

I have struggled with both self-compassion and the feeling of “belonging.” It can be difficult and scary to push out of our comfort zones, where we feel safe. Gilbert encourages you to do just that and to leave the “suffocating insulation of safety and go into the frontiers of the beautiful and unexpected.” Also, she says poet David White calls this “the arrogance of belonging.” You need this to take creative risks. It’s not egotism or self-absorption. “The arrogance of belonging is a divine force that will take you out of yourself and allows you to engage more fully with life. Often what keeps you from creative living is your self-absorption – self-doubt, self-disgust, self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection. The arrogance of belonging pulls you out of the darkest depths of self-hatred, not by saying I am the greatest, but simply by saying ‘I am here.’”

Stop the Negative Self-talk

Gilbert writes, “this ‘entitlement to exist’ is the only weapon that allows you to combat the nasty dialogue that plays in your head. ‘Who the heck do you think you are trying to be creative? You suck! I think you are stupid! You have no talent, and you serve no purpose. Get back in your hole.’ Some of us have spent a lifetime obediently responding, ‘You are right. I am stupid. Why even try?’” 

Gilbert hopes that we will at least defend ourselves, show some self-compassion, and have a conversation. Proclaim, “I am a Child of God, a wife, mom, office manager, fiction author, blogger, and a great friend.” Shout, “I don’t know what all I am, but I am curious enough to go find out.” Speak it out loud and let it know you are there. Let YOU know you are there. This statement of intent is an announcement to yourself, the Universe, and anyone who will listen. 

Gilbert writes, “upon hearing this announcement your soul will mobilize accordingly and ecstatically because this is what your soul was born for. Your soul has been waiting on you to wake up to your existence for years but you must be the one to start that conversation.” Then you must feel entitled enough to stay in that conversation. She says, “this proclamation of intent and entitlement can’t be only made once, and expect miracles. It must be done daily, forever”. Gilbert “reminds herself and re-reminds her soul and the Universe every day. She is very serious about the business of creative living no matter how deep her fears, anxieties, and insecurities may be. She will never stop creating, no matter the outcome.”

Start Using Positive Self-talk

Gilbert says, “Over time, she found the right tone of voice for these assertions too. It’s best to be insistent but affable. Repeat yourself, but don’t get shrill. Speak to your darkest and most negative interior voices the way a hostage negotiator speaks to a violent psychopath – calmly, but firmly. Most of all, never back down. You can not afford to back down. The life you are negotiating to save, after all, is your own. 

Who do you think you are? The dark interior voices will reply. It’s funny you should ask, you can reply. I’ll tell you who I am; I am a child of God just like anyone else. I am a constituent of this Universe. The fact that I am here at all is evidence that I have a right to be here. I have a right to my own voice and a right to my own vision. Silence beast, I have a right to collaborate with creativity because I myself am a consequence and product of creation. I am on a mission of artistic liberation. Now, LET THE GIRL GO!”

Awareness of Your Thoughts

This requires an awareness of your thoughts. When I first started paying attention, I, like Elizabeth Gilbert, realized how mean I was to myself; I definitely didn’t show any self-compassion. If I made a mistake, I would say things like, “You are so stupid. You know better. Why did you make the same mistake again? Will, you ever learn?” Wow, what kind of friend was I being? Not one that I would like to spend time with for sure! As Gilbert shares above, she has found a way to talk to those negative voices and take back control of her negative thoughts.

Affirmations

We are the only animal who makes a mistake and then beats ourselves up 1,000 times. There is no point. The mistake is made. Beating yourself up does not change the past. It is a self-inflicted pain, and I have found that self-compassion and affirmations help tremendously. I have an app called “I Am” that pops up notifications every 15 minutes about positive affirmations throughout the day. I’ve been using affirmations daily for the last 6 years. They keep my mind in check when old patterns rear their head.

You become what you believe.”

~ Buddha

“I Am” App

The “I Am website asks readers, “How many negative thoughts have been endlessly repeating in your mind? Daily affirmations help rewire our brains, build self-esteem and change negative thought patterns. Empower yourself by verbally affirming your dreams and ambitions. Positive affirmations not only help make major shifts in your mindset, but they also serve as prompts and daily reminders on what you are truly capable of, making sure you have an amazing day, every day.”

It continued, “An affirmation is a simple but powerful statement that helps to strengthen the connection between your unconscious mind and your conscious mind. The more you strengthen this connection, the more resilient you will be when difficult or challenging circumstances. It is important to practice affirmations on a daily basis.

  • They help increase your awareness of your thoughts and words, making it easier to recognize the negative and self-doubt thought patterns holding you back.
  • Affirmations define your focus. When you focus your energy on the things, you want: achieving your goals, the positive, uplifting, and good, you are creating an abundance mindset and strengthening your resolve to make it happen.
  • They open you up to possibility. We often get stuck in the ‘impossible’ mindset, but affirmations flip this on its head. When you begin to positively affirm what is actually possible, a whole world of opportunity opens up to you.”

Practice Affirmations Daily

I have been practicing affirmations on and off for about 7 years and consistently for the last 2 years. I learned about their importance when I took my first IMAGE course with Bob Samara. Learning to say, “I love you, Juliana. I am in the right place at the right time, engaged in the right activity. I am sober, grateful, and blessed,” regularly was a challenge. Sadly, I was in the habit of being a terrible friend to myself and self-berating when I made mistakes. But, I was committed to changing those neural pathways with repetition over time. I am worth the effort, and I make choices every day to be kind and understanding to myself as a friend would be. 

Choosing to laugh at me when I do something silly and make an error instead of being hateful is more fun. No one is perfect, so mistakes happen regularly. It is how we choose to respond to what happens around us that matters most. So, now I make the conscious decision to be loving, patient, and giggle when I screw up instead of berating myself. It does no good to be mean and hateful to yourself when you mess up. It only hurts you and doesn’t change the fact that a mistake was made. 

So, now that we are paying attention and aware of our thoughts, we can reprogram our minds to flip the script. Instead, we are sweet to ourselves and say, “Silly girl. I love you. What did we learn? Going too fast, maybe? It’s ok. Let’s slow down and do it correctly. All good!”

Self-compassion by Dr. Kristen Neff

I found the following exercises on Dr. Kristen Neff’s website titled Self-Compassion. I highly recommend taking the time to do them and wish I was taught this as a teen/young adult. 

Exercise 1

In this first exercise, you are asked to write about how you would respond to a struggling friend. Then she asks you to think about how you would typically respond to yourself in these situations. Finally, she asks if you notice a difference between the two and ask you to write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering. Why not try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens?

Exercise 2

In this second exercise, also available on mp3, you are asked to think of a situation in your life that is difficult and causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body. Now, say to yourself:

  1. This is a moment of suffering. That is called mindfulness. You can also say, this hurts, ouch or this is stress for example.
  2. Suffering is a part of life. That is common humanity. You can also say, “Other people feel this way. I’m not alone. We all struggle in our lives.
  3. Next, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest.
  4. May I be kind to myself.
  5. You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:
    • Please may I give myself the compassion that I need.
    • May I learn to accept me as I am.
    • Please may I forgive myself.
    • May I be strong.
    • May I be patient.

Dr. Neff explains, “this practice can be used any time of day or night and will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.”

Exercise 3

In the third exercise, she encourages you to feel compassion as it soothes and comforts you by exploring self-compassion through writing. First, she has you write about which of your imperfections make you feel inadequate. She says to try and feel your emotions exactly as they are. Then write a letter to yourself from the perspective of an unconditionally loving imaginary friend who is kind and forgiving. After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back and reread it, really letting the words sink in. Feel the compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you like a cool breeze on a hot day. Love, connection, and acceptance are your birthright. To claim them, you need only look within yourself!

Exercise 4

In the final exercise, Dr. Neff shares, “one easy way to care for and comfort yourself when you’re feeling bad is to give you some self-compassion through supportive touch. Touch activates the care system and the parasympathetic nervous system to help us calm down and feel safe. It may feel awkward or embarrassing at first, but your body doesn’t know that. It just responds to the physical gesture of warmth and care, just as a baby responds to being cuddled in its mother’s arms. Our skin is an incredibly sensitive organ. Research indicates that physical touch releases oxytocin provides a sense of security, soothes distressing emotions, and calms cardiovascular stress. So why not try it?”

You might like to try putting your hand on your body during difficult periods several times a day for a period of at least a week.

Supportive Touch (Hand-on-Heart)

  • When you notice you’re under stress, take 2-3 deep, satisfying breaths.
  • Gently place your hand over your heart, feeling the gentle pressure and warmth of your hand. If you wish, place both hands on your chest, noticing the difference between one and two hands. 
  • Feel the touch of your hand on your chest. If you wish, you could make small circles with your hand on your chest.
  • Feel the natural rising and falling of your chest as you breathe in and as you breathe out.

Linger with the feeling for as long as you like. Some people feel uneasy putting a hand over the heart. Feel free to explore where on your body a gentle touch is actually soothing. 

Dr. Neff shares, “some other possibilities for supportive touch.

  • One hand on your cheek
  • Cradling your face in your hands
  • Gently stroking your arms
  • Crossing your arms and giving a gentle squeeze
  • Gently rubbing your chest or using circular movements
  • Hand on your abdomen
  • One hand on your abdomen and one over your heart
  • Cupping one hand in the other in your lap.”

Right Now, I Am Fine

I recently bought a book for my toddler titled Right Now, I Am Fine by Dr. Daniela Owen. It discusses how sometimes bad things happen, and it makes us feel scared. This makes us worry about how the people we love will be affected. The worry can make us have a negative physical reaction. We may have a hard time breathing, or our tummy hurts. Our worried thoughts may make it hard to concentrate on anything else. When this happens, it is important to self-soothe and to remind ourselves that we are fine right now.

Then she suggests some steps we can take to calm ourselves down that are very similar to Dr. Neff’s final exercise. Dr. Owen instructs the readers to close their eyes and take 3 deep breaths while breathing in slowly and out slowly. While your eyes are closed, wrap your arms around your body and give yourself a big, warm hug. Tell yourself that you can handle this because you are here right now, and you are safe. Relax your body a little by dropping your shoulders and wiggling your toes. Let the worrying thoughts leave your mind. Think about a place where you feel calm and peaceful. The bad things may still be happening, but don’t worry about them at this moment. Right now, you are fine.

She gives other ideas on how to relax:

  • draw a picture
  • look at the beautiful world outside
  • read a funny, exciting, or adventurous book
  • play a game
  • solve a puzzle
  • cuddle a pet or stuffed animal

Then remind yourself – Right now, I am fine.

Hopefully, you learned more about self-compassion and will start to develop the habit of being kind and loving to your mind. Becoming friends with my mind has been the most rewarding conquests of my life. Learning to physically comfort me when needed (especially during a year-long pandemic when hugs are less frequent). Please take full advantage of these surprisingly simple and straightforward ways to be kind to yourself. I encourage you to hug yourself, speak kindly and gently to yourself and show yourself the same love and respect you show your dearest friends.

Find Your Tribe (Discussion with Kim Chrisco)

Importance of Finding Your Tribe

I was looking at my blog post drafts on WordPress and saw this post I started 2 years ago. I was scrolling through Facebook at the time and came across the following written by my friend Kim Chrisco. It inspired me to write about the importance of making an effort to find your tribe.

She wrote, “Today, I’m reflecting on the amazing people God has strategically placed in my life along the way. Some have loved and encouraged me. Others may have abused, shunned, or shamed me. The truth about life is that we either grow together or we grow apart. And since we are constantly growing, that means that some people are in our lives for a season, or a reason, or a lifetime. Celebrate those who have and will make this life journey with you. 

And don’t be afraid to let go of those who aren’t growing with you…sometimes it’s best to love certain people from afar. And that’s okay too. Believe in yourself and listen carefully to God’s whispers constantly guiding you along the way. He will reveal those true friends/loved ones and will help you let go of those who wish to deter you on your journey. This is your life journey…so step up and take part in it. Stay present in this moment and let go of past hurts and future worries. Only this moment matters. And what you make of this moment is up to you. Ever-present, From My Inner Pilot Light to Yours”

find your tribe image
Find Your Tribe

Wow!! Those words hit me and still do! When I first moved to Jonesboro, 18.5 years ago, I thought the friends I made when my children were small would be my life long friends. I was naive and thought when I had a connection with these moms, we would be friends indefinitely! As it turns out, not all relationships are designed to last, but each one is teaching you something. I work to be the best friend I can and if a relationship ends for any number of reasons, it’s ok to let that relationship go.

Evaluate Current Relationships

It’s important to take a current evaluation of your relationships. There are some friends I can’t wait to see and I light up in their presence. We both give each other energy and it feels good to spend time with them (Kim for example). Others drain me or always seem to take more than they give. Sometimes I allow people who are only supposed to be in my life for a season, to linger. It’s something most of us do.  It is so very important to take the time to find your tribe. They are the people who light you up, give you energy, and love you just as you are.

I learned that reality is more like what Kim described. We are all growing and I didn’t realize how much until I reached my late-thirties. I spent a decade trying to be a part of people’s lives who were just on a different path than mine. I felt like something was wrong with me but now I understand it’s ok to grow apart from those who are not meant to be in your life for long. Since our relationships teach us lessons, we can trust each person we encounter was placed there for a reason. It’s important that we are always becoming a better version of ourselves and some people help us to grow into better people each day while others don’t. 

I’m blessed to have a tribe of people I can call day or night. They love me unconditionally and I can be myself without worrying they will judge me. I have a Wellness/Life Coach, Tharwat Lovett who calls me out when I’m being too hard on myself or tells me if I need to look at a situation from another step back – the big picture. Thank you for loving me so well Tharwat. I am part of a group called ShiftHer and we are a group of like-minded, positive, and optimistic professional women. We support one another in reaching our goals all while reading a different book each month. These ladies are all striving to accomplish big goals and become better people along the way. We meet via Zoom once a month to discuss the book along with progress toward our goals. 

Kim’s Story

I messaged Kim immediately after reading her post a couple of years ago and said we needed to do lunch soon. She agreed to lunch and an interview the following Monday. Kim is a friend with whom I always feel like I can be completely open. She doesn’t judge me, she’s loving, kind, and considerate. She’s an excellent listener, easy to relax around, and I always feel better after an interaction with her than I did before. We met around 8 years ago when she was teaching a Bible study at First United Methodist Church. A lot has changed over that expanse of time. The most recent change is that she is now divorced from her husband of 24 years and is happy with her new single life (she has since taken a paralegal position in Chattanooga and bought an amazing house on her own).

We met for lunch (pre-covid) at Truck Patch and after exchanging pleasantries, we got our food and sat down. Truck Patch Natural Food Market, offers the “opportunity to shop for healthy alternatives to conventionally, mass-produced food. They believe if quality food is a priority in your life, you will feel and see the difference in your life.” They have a restaurant in the store and it serves fresh and delicious sandwiches, smoothies, a salad bar, and more.

Kim’s Abusive Husband at 17yo

We started by discussing Kim’s young motherhood. Kim said, “I was married at 17 and had my first son Ryan at 18. Ryan’s father was terribly abusive. God sent certain angels into my life that were encouraging and positive. They enabled me to leave that marriage despite being terrified! I knew immediately when the abuse began, how badly I needed to improve myself and get out. I put myself through paralegal training and the angels I mentioned before were placed in my life at just the right time to encourage and push me to improve myself and muster the courage to leave.”

“At one point my husband kidnapped me as I came out of work at a law firm. With a child, I had no choice but to keep going. I wanted out so I could protect him. At 20 years old we got out and 7 years later I met my second husband, Count,” she continued.

As she shared her story with me I tried to imagine what it would be like to not be old enough to legally drink, have a 2-year-old son, and escape a severely abusive relationship. I just can’t. It’s wild how much life we can live in just 18 short years. I thought about what I was like at 18 years old and I definitely would not have been in the best situation to raise a child. I was basically a child myself. My oldest is 18yo and it’s hard to wrap my mind around being a grandparent right now.

Kim went on to say, “Negativity has always rubbed me wrong. I think because I have had to be my own cheerleader and boost myself up to where I was strong enough to leave that abusive marriage. Then it was like my testimony was going and working in a women’s crisis center in Chattanooga and I did that and I pulled our law firm into it. Every week we did dinner for these women and then I got other law firms in it and their secretaries would go and do dinners on different nights. And then I went and bought Christmas presents for them and their kids the day after Thanksgiving. It was a realization that I need to help other women that have been in this same situation. Helping others and keeping a positive attitude to give to them has helped me to be a positive person to myself.”

Kim married Count at 27 and went on to have two more children. Although she had healed so much, she was still a people pleaser. She did whatever it took to please other people because of her experiences with abuse in her first marriage. Because of these experiences, she is now a “beacon of positivity to other people.” It helps her when she helps others.

Kim’s Tribe (Ya-Yas)

I love how Kim has a huge support system that she has created for herself. She knows that you become like the 5 people you spend most of your time with. She has a group of women called “Ya-Yas” that is made up of 9 women, all different ages (40 years old to 70 years old), backgrounds, and lived in Jonesboro. They all met up randomly and pulled different people into their group. They did a book study every Tuesday at noon. Then once a month they gathered at one of their houses, this is called Ya-Ya night. They went to things like art shows, went out to eat, or to Memphis on the weekend. They also grow spiritually with meditation at Eastern Livity (this was before covid and before Kim moved to Chattanooga).

Kim said, “These ladies have been an incredible force of encouragement when my ex-husband Count was sick with leukemia. They also encouraged me to make changes in my life when I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I was unhappy for a very long time and didn’t want another divorce or a broken home with small kids. She mourned the family unit that she wanted it to be, but that it never could be with him.”

“I have met some incredible people while going out and finding myself. I have had several different groups of women I connect with on a regular basis and I have created a community of friends who I learn from both intellectually and spiritually. There are love and acceptance no matter who and what you are; I enjoy philosophical conversations,” Kim said while sounding happy and grateful. 

Kim started meditating about 5 years ago and she explained it is a must for her, even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. Depending on her mood, she will use an app or go to YouTube and watch a guided meditation she has saved. Or in the morning she will get up and go into a quiet meditation or contemplative prayer and it centers her. Then she would go to the gym or write. 

She shared that she likes the book “Change the Story of Your Health” by Carl Grcalls because it forces you to be honest with yourself about where your health is at that point in time. Not just physical, but emotional, financial, spiritual, and mental. Then through different practices and applications, you dig deeper and ask yourself what in the past has brought you here? Then you elaborate and then journal about it all. Kim has shed lots of tears along with laughing. She said the journaling part has just been awesome. 

Interview Questions

I asked, “What does healthy living mean to you at this point in your life?” 

Kim said, “Healthy living is listening to your inner guide. Ignore the other voices and opinions. Quit being afraid to pull the trigger. Quit worrying about being judged. I turned fifty and decided to stop living for other people. Giving and not taking care of myself was exhausting. I was ready to make my own choices without outside stressors interfering with my life, so I decided that NOW is the time and I am ENOUGH. So after 24 years of marriage, I decided to not worry about everyone else.”

I then asked, “Knowing what you know now? What would you tell your high school self?” 

“I would say to follow your own dreams, not your parents. What is life speaking to you? Stay connected and be honest with yourself. Take the time you need to find yourself and what makes you thrive. Don’t let life just ‘happen’ around you; go out and create it. Remember there is power in positivity. Don’t let the negative vibes of others weigh you down. You must set your intention, feed it with positivity, love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Don’t only forgive others but forgive yourself too.

Never pretend to be anyone other than who you really are. For years, because of a need to please, I was a chameleon who changed my colors, spots, and stripes to be whoever I needed to be for the person in any relationship to be happy with me or accept me (not just romantic relationships). Huge mistake! It’s not fair to you or the other person in the relationship. When you pretend to be someone else, you lose yourself in the process. Years will go by and you will no doubt have a battle on your hands to regain who you are.

When I turned 40, I started working hard on myself and digging deep to find myself again. It was painful – not just for me, but for my now ex-husband as well.  When I realized I could no longer pretend to be someone else in order to please others, my entire life changed. It was difficult, but in the end, my life has a whole new meaning and I love it. I discovered I liked myself exactly for who I am. If others like me, great! But, if not, that’s definitely okay as well.  I’m good with it. Just remember that you become like the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, so choose carefully.”

The final question I asked was, “Kim, what in life makes you the happiest?”

“The laughter of my children and the belly laughter of my grandchildren; the warm hugs of love, acceptance, and encouragement I receive from my family, my Ya-Yas, and other soul sisters I have met along the way; and the possibilities of new beginnings. At 50, I took a chance on myself and started a new chapter in life. It was scary! But, I believed in myself and I allowed myself to open up to new possibilities; I listened to my heart, said a prayer, and waited for guidance from my Inner Pilot Light. You have to get still and listen to the guidance and then take action…set the intent and let go. Wow, what a ride it has been so far!” Kim said with joy in her eyes. 

What I love most about Kim is that she is genuine. As I age, I am learning to be very picky about who my friends are because I know the importance of my tribe. Kim and I may not see each other as often now that she is in Chattanooga, but we have plans for me to go visit as soon as we feel it is safe to travel. We will always keep up! Thank you for being an amazing friend and for believing in me before I truly believed in myself.

Sober for 6 Months!

The Journey

Six months ago today, I decided to quit drinking for a while. I wanted to see what it felt like sober for a couple of weeks. It was mid-July 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic. That may not seem like the best time to make major life changes, but as it turns out, it was perfect timing. When I went into a 9-week lock-down with my 4 children, I will admit that I turned to alcohol to help me cope with the stress. Michael continued to go into our bankruptcy Law Firm, but he didn’t have clients come in; everything changed to virtual. Until that point, I did have a drink or two most evenings. I still don’t consider myself an “alcoholic” but I did turn to alcohol more and more to numb my emotional pain and stress as the global pandemic went on. 

The pandemic added more stress because I was worried about people I love getting sick and dying. I wasn’t sure how we would cash flow at our office and how the kids would do in school since they were all switched to virtual classes. Plus, three teenagers telling me that their friends were all hanging out, and I am the “mean mom” for trying to protect them, was no fun. All while trying to keep my 3-year-old son entertained, and it was all very overwhelming!

My oldest daughter graduated from High School in May 2020 and had lots of emotions about it being different than she expected. No formal prom (they were able to get dressed up and take pictures), she attended a drive-thru graduation, summer senior trips were canceled, and she was so sad and disappointed. We spent as much time outside as possible. I Face-Timed more than ever before and met up with friends at the park to social distance as often as possible. I also participated in a book study called 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry with friends via Zoom. This is Christian based, but I highly recommend it to every human on this planet. It helped change my perspective on many things and molded me into a more joyful and positive person. I’m actually reading it again now. It is on my list to read every new year.

As summer came, we were so happy to sleep in, get outside more, and spend more time with friends at a distance. Michael and I bought an elliptical machine and began working out at home to avoid the gym germs. We went camping and floated the Buffalo River, got the kids a trampoline, and we spent as much time at our friend’s pool as possible. We made the best of a tough situation.

I began waking up and looking forward to my first drink. That drink came earlier and earlier as the summer days (daze) were upon us. At one point I convinced myself that drinking at noon was okay because of the pandemic stress. In June I journaled about sobriety and wrote down information about being sober. I was telling my brain what I already knew in my heart and soul. Change is difficult, and it takes work to alter habits. It was easier to stay the same; I was in a routine of drinking daily and feeling buzzed.

sober
Sober

On July 14th, 2020 I Googled sobriety apps and decided to download one called I Am Sober. I wanted to quit drinking for a week or two and see how I felt. I loved that it was a community of like-minded people who are all working to stop addiction (there are groups for quitting prescription drugs, carbohydrates/sugar, caffeine, illegal drugs, social media, and more). This app is great because it not only tracks your days sober and has an awesome anonymous community, but it also tracks time spent drinking and money saved. As of today, I am on Day 184 (6 months), I’ve saved $1,840 and 552 hours. Wow! That’s eye-opening and rather sobering (LOL). I bought a new Dell laptop I adore for Christmas, so I guess I paid for it with my sobriety.

Being in a like-minded community, anonymously, is empowering. Feeling alone in a battle is the worst feeling in the world. You are not alone, others are suffering in a similar way. Connecting with people who are also working to stay sober and who are understanding and compassionate, is extremely empowering. There is no judgment, just love, and kindness from people who know what you are going through. When someone drank and reset back to Day 0, it was motivating for me to keep going. Not one person logged on and said, “I’m so happy I drank last night, I feel amazing! Resetting is so fun!” Nope. Not one person. They were disappointed in themselves but each was met with kindness and grace. They may be resetting back to Day 0 for the 10th time but it didn’t matter. Often we beat ourselves up more than anyone who cares about us ever would.

When I stopped drinking, it was because I grew tired of unhealthily drowning myself in alcohol. Being exhausted, sad, dehydrated, hungover, groggy, and foggy was no fun. I wasn’t my best self for me, my kids, my husband, or my friends, so I gave my body time for recovery. I practiced self-love and self-care, so I could be a better version of myself.

Benefits of Being Sober

Some of the benefits I experienced are as follows: more energy, weight loss, deep sleep, more compassion, more free time to write, increased self-awareness, setting better boundaries, more productivity, and stronger relationships. Most importantly it has given me power over my own story. Overall, I feel healthier and more clear-headed. I don’t feel sluggish and exhausted from my body fighting off the alcohol’s toxins daily.

My friend Ashley Chism’s blog titled, Welcome to my Revolution: 1 Year Sober is spot on. She says, “it’s a challenge to put into words the ways sobriety has affected my life. Everything feels different, but also native, like this was always inside of me, wanting to thrive. My anxiety has improved tenfold. I now know that my drinking was creating the anxiety that I would often drink to subdue. I still experience anxiety (hello 2020!) but I have the awareness and the tools to deal with it in a healthy way.”

Anxiety is something I too battle and once I quit drinking, I realized my alcohol use was only making it worse. Ashley said her sleep quality is better, and she feels more rested and restored upon waking. I agree 100% with this. I pass out after my 15-20 minute nightly meditation on the Ten Percent Happier app and wake up refreshed.

Ashley shared how her self-confidence has grown and she prioritizes her intuition over external factors. Again, I am right there with her on this. I feel more self-confident than I have in years. I don’t feel ashamed of my choices or like people are looking at me and judging me. If they are, I don’t mind because that’s not about me. I am constantly learning through personal development – reading/listening to books, being a part of my ShiftHer group, reading my First 5 app upon waking, and working with my Wellness Coach, Tharwat Lovett, all play a role. I practice more self-love and truly feel like my own best friend. As Tharwat told me recently, “this is what it feels like to be friends with your mind.” What an amazing feeling it is! 

Ashley wrote about how she feels safe to lean into her vulnerability. It is terrifying for me to be vulnerable, especially in my writing, but I’m learning that the fear is from our natural tendency to stay “safe”. Change can bring about anxiety that we must push through. We must Do It Scared; another must-read. Ashley says, “I know in my soul that I can make the most impact in this world with my vulnerability. Combined with my self-confidence, I believe I can do anything.” I totally agree with her!! We are unstoppable when we set goals and take baby steps daily toward them. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for!

She also talks about “enjoying being present in all the moments, big and small. Experiencing joy in the little things (especially the little things) has been a tremendous and unexpected surprise of sobriety.” It is my toddler’s giggles, a long hug from my husband, a phone conversation with my mom, listening to the girls tell me about their day, and time spent with sunshine on my face that matters most. I am more intentional, fully aware, and better able to enjoy them when I’m clear-headed.

I set big 2021 goals. I’m working to finish and publish my first fiction novel with my friend, George Jared. I am creating an online self-care course for teens with Tharwat Lovett. And I am starting a second fiction novel with my mom, Sheila Collins. All while momming hard, being a wife, taking care of the house, blogging, sharing Juice Plus, and working part-time at our bankruptcy law firm, Crawley Law Firm, PA

Yes, they are HUGE goals, but I feel empowered and capable for multiple reasons, but the main one is that I’m sober. I know I can accomplish more when I’m not adding a toxic depressant into my system regularly. The first 30 days were the hardest, but with determination, the right support, and the willingness to literally take one day at a time, you can do anything. I highly recommend giving your body a break if you find yourself over-indulging in any substance. I’m not saying that I’ll never drink again, but I do know that I’m not drinking today! That’s all we have, anyway – this present moment. I choose to live this moment sober!

In closing, I share the same sentiment that Ashley posted on her blog. I do not intend to bring shame or judgment to anyone who drinks. I’m sharing this, hoping to be helpful and inspirational to anyone who is questioning their own relationship with alcohol. If you are sober curious, there are resources for you if you are struggling and want a change. Alcohol, like nicotine, is an addictive and legal drug. Sending you each LOVE and LIGHT!

Ditch Toxic Positivity: It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

Ditch toxic positivity because as it turns out, it is not helping anyone. Cynthia sat at her desk staring at the numbers. They just aren’t adding up. There is a lot more going out of the business account than is coming in. The global pandemic which started 6 months ago is taking a toll on her finances at work and at home. She’s put on a brave face for months now, but the reality of the financial struggle is real. Everyone says it’s all going to be okay, and she need not worry. But they aren’t the ones looking at the books! She thinks, “it’s not okay!!” We’re in the middle of a crisis! There is a lot of stress and a lot of unknown. There’s more unpredictability than ever before in her life. Cynthia prays somehow it will all work out. But, for now, she just needs people to stop telling her “everything will be fine and it could be worse.” That isn’t helping. 

Rebecca is a second-grade teacher. Her room is not big enough for all 20 children to be six feet apart. The rules do not require first through third graders to wear masks when seated at their desks. She must wear a mask all day and love on her students from afar because COVID-19 is on the loose. It is hard not to worry about all the kids spreading germs. She worries about her health, her family’s health, and her parent’s health. It’s all very overwhelming and scary. She’s tired of hearing “it’s all going to be okay” because it is not okay. There’s so much unpredictability right now. Rebecca thinks, why is everyone being so positive? 

Ditch Toxic Positivity 

Toxic Positivity Definition

Life stresses many people around the world more than usual because of much unrest, specifically in America. I read an article titled, Time to ditch ‘Toxic Positivity’, Experts Say: ‘It’s okay not to be okay’ and I immediately texted my friend and wellness coach, Tharwat Lovett. She texted me back and said, “I love that! I have had several clients tell me they get sick of all the positivity sometimes. It’s so true!!!” I told her I was going to write about it and I wanted to discuss some ways she suggests coping with the stressful times we are facing. There is so much uncertainty in the world, and it’s okay not to be okay. 

This article says experts caution “against going overboard with the ‘good vibes only’ trend. Too much forced positivity is not just unhelpful, they say – it’s toxic (positivity)”. Stephanie Preston, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, says, “By far the most common [phrase] is ‘It’s fine,’ ‘It will be fine,’. You’re stating that there really isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed, period. You are kind of shutting out the possibility for further contemplation.” 

Preston says, “It’s a problem when people are forced to seem or be positive in situations where it’s not natural or when there’s a problem that legitimately needs to be addressed that can’t be addressed if you don’t deal with the fact that there is distress or need.” 

Natalie Dattilo, a clinical psychologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston says, “‘Looking on the bright side’ in the face of tragedy or dire situations like illness, homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment or racial injustice is a privilege that not all of us have. So promulgating messages of positivity deny a very real sense of despair and hopelessness, and they only serve to alienate and isolate those who are already struggling.” 

Internalizing such messages can also be damaging. Dattilo said, “We judge ourselves for feeling pain, sadness, fear, which then produces feelings of things like shame and guilt. We end up just feeling bad about feeling bad. It actually stalls out any healing or progress or problem-solving.” 

Research shows that accepting negative emotions, and not avoiding them, maybe better for our mental health in the long run. Dattilo said, “Recognize that how you feel is valid, no matter what. It’s okay not to be okay.” 

Crawley and Lovett Discussion 

I called Tharwat Lovett, and we discussed the article mentioned above. 

Mindfulness 

Crawley: If we are doing our best to take care of our body’s health by getting 8 hours of sleep, eating healthy foods, limiting our sugar intake, drinking 1⁄2 our body weight in water, and exercising daily, and taking our Juice Plus, then what else can we do to care for our mental health during this difficult time? 

Lovett: One thing we can do is practice mindfulness. Mark Williams and Danny Penman define mindfulness in their book, Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World. They say, “mindfulness is the awareness that emerges when we learn to pay attention on purpose in the present moment without judgment to things as they are. In mindfulness meditation, we cultivate the ability to stay awake and aware of what is happening in our mind and body and in the world around us so we can see clearly and discern wisely what is true and what is wholesome.” 

Mindful.org defines mindfulness as, “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing in the present, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. There’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.” 

By using mindfulness tools, we can activate and deactivate things within our body chemically, and even in a muscular way, when we practice self-care and treat our bodies with respect. As far as our autonomic nervous system is concerned, when we engage in these simple mindful activities (spending time in the sun, time with family, time exercising outdoors, meditation), we engage the calming parasympathetic responses more often, giving the body more time to rest and replenish. 

Breathing Techniques 

Crawley: Most of us know that it is essential to focus on what matters, but sometimes we get overwhelmed. What are some examples of how you recommend we do this?

Lovett: Breathing techniques are probably the easiest way to engage in mindfulness. When we are mindful of our breathing, we are paying attention to our breath in the present moment. This takes our attention away from thoughts about the past or the future, which tend to cause anxiety. Typically, when we are stressed out, the last thing we’re thinking about is breathing. We often hold our breath or our breathing becomes irregular, then our body follows suit. If we are breathing irregularly and holding our breath, our heart is going to race, our muscles will tense and our digestion will slow down. So, if we are feeling anxious and don’t know what to do, we can respond with breathwork. One example of breathwork is the box breathing technique. 

Box Breathing 

Box breathing is a powerful, yet simple, relaxation technique that aims to return your breath to its natural rhythm. This exercise can help clear the mind, relax the body and improve focus. It is so simple that a person can do it anywhere, including at a work desk or in a restaurant. Before starting, people should sit with their back supported in a comfortable chair and their feet on the floor. 

First, you close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs. Second, hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds. Third, begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds. Last, repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes, or until calm returns to your body. 

Lovett: There’s another breathing technique that I recently learned about where you break up your exhale into three parts. You begin by inhaling deeply for 4 seconds. Then you exhale a third of the breath, hold it for a second, then exhale the second part. Finally, release the rest of the breath after the second pause. Engaging in exercises like these are going to pull us back into the present moment, fostering the mindfulness that helps us control the racing thoughts about the past and the future. 

Crawley: Those are great! Many of us feel like we are spiraling out of control at the moment because of many outside factors we have zero control over. 

Lovett: The toxic positivity article suggests that being overly positive is in a way causing us to feel as if we are sticking our head in the sand or failing when we have a negative thought. In essence, it can create more harm than good if we try to avoid all negative thought or negative emotion. It is important to understand what an emotion is. Emotions are energetic packets of information. If we’re only reading half of our emotional messages (positive ones) and completely ignoring the other half (negative ones) then we’re not really serving ourselves or anyone else. 

The real growth and learning in life comes from those little negative packets of information that we receive from the negative emotions. 

Emotions

Lovett: Emotions are also something we can learn to regulate, influence, or even generate. An emotion is a biochemical response to a thought we’re thinking. This is where it can go toxic. If we’re trying to control our emotions by only validating the positive ones, then we’re ignoring the action signals that are being prompted by the negative emotions. We are invalidating our experiences. Tony Robbins refers to emotion as an action signal. 

When we experience an emotion, especially negative emotions, it is prompting us to either adjust our perspective on the issue or change a behavior. Robbins refers to emotions as action signals. We are being asked to update the perspective or behavior. When we are experiencing a positive emotion, our body is telling us ‘right on’. When we are experiencing a negative emotion, our body is telling us one of two things. One is that I’m looking at this in a way that’s not serving me. Second, it’s telling me it’s time to change my routine, my reaction, or my narrative. 

Crawley: So, if we ignore those negative emotions and invalidate them, then we’re missing the point. We are slowing down our own progress and growth, aren’t we? 

Find Your Tribe

Lovett: Yes! Another important action we can take to combat toxic positivity is by putting forth effort into finding our people aka our support group aka our tribe. It doesn’t have to be many people. It can be just one or two people, but we need those people to be non-judgmental and able to hold a space for unconditional positive regard. 

These are the people who will celebrate our wins and love us through our losses. They will not judge us, but listen and offer support even when they don’t have the answers. Some people don’t enjoy sharing that kind of personal information with those they know, so another helpful alternative is to hire a professional. We all need someone to talk to or decompress with. Trained professionals can offer insight and alternative perspectives. They can validate our emotions or give us tools we can use to validate our own. 

So, ultimately, negative emotions are opportunities. If we are not accepting of them, then nobody else will be either. If we completely ignore the message, it has nowhere to go. Emotion is energy in motion. Ignoring emotion stops motion. That energy gets stuck inside the body and all that information, there to simply deliver a message, stagnates. The negative energy can’t move through us, so it remains stuck inside of us, primarily in our nervous system. If left unresolved for long periods of time, it can lead to chronic disease or disorder. It can interfere with our body’s ability to function properly. 

Feel Your Feelings

Crawley: This is so interesting and true. So, what I hear you saying is that we should feel our feelings (good, bad, and ugly), sit in it for a bit, process it for a while, but then move on. It’s unhealthy to stay in the negative emotion like being sad, mad, disgusted, full of rage, or annoyance. The negative emotions are there to teach you something and tell you something, but dwelling on it can be harmful, right? 

Lovett: Yes, people can grow severely depressed if they dwell on the negative for long periods of time. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay, so you can give yourself permission to be sad, but give it a time limit (i.e. a day or a few days, an hour or a few hours). During that time we are allowed to cry, lay in bed, feel sorry for ourselves or mope around. Life is full of challenges and nobody’s happy ALL the time – we are human. After the time is up, we accept that there are things we can not change in life, but we can take the next step or do the next right thing to move past the change or loss that has upset us—remember action signal. Dwelling in it for weeks or months can not only become detrimental to our physical and mental health, but it can also alter our personality. 

Crawley: So, if I have a friend move and I feel sad about it for a while. Then I decide it’s ok. I didn’t lose contact with my friend. Yes, things are different now because she is not physically here. But I can still text, call, and FaceTime whenever I want. So, I feel the sadness, then accept the change, and finally be grateful for the time we had together and continue to enjoy the friendship even though it’s different now. 

Shift In Perspective

Lovett: Yeah. That’s the shift in perspective; an outstanding example of the action signal we were discussing earlier. So, absolutely. If something creates negative emotion, allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is, whether it’s grief, sadness, or rejection, makes it easier for us to eventually accept it and then move on. We are validating the emotion by giving ourselves permission to feel the feelings. It’s kind of like a storm cloud that’s rolling through. You just have to hunker down for a bit, allow it to roll over then past you. Healthy, authentic positivity becomes easier to grasp when we give ourselves permission to feel ALL the feelings. When the timer has gone off, it is then our responsibility to look for the alternative perspective; the brighter side of things, and that will help us heal and move forward. It’s our responsibility to pick up a better story. 

This is where the narrative comes into play. Negative emotion comes and goes physiologically. It’s not meant to stick around or last forever. What causes it to stagnate and perpetuate is when we pick up the stories, the narratives that are reinforcing or justifying the negative emotion. A better choice is to consider the positives that can come from the situation or the healthy change it can signal. 

We can’t have an emotional reaction to something we don’t have a corresponding belief about. We need to step back and objectively look at why this has upset me? What is it I believe that has been triggered by the event? Beginning the process of addressing that, figuring out what the root program is inside of me causing me to feel triggered, is the beginning of a self-awareness journey. We can do this on our own through self-exploration and introspection. The subconscious mind loves questions. We can also talk to friends or maybe hire someone who is trained in this area, like a life coach or a therapist. The goal is to uncover the beliefs and programs that are no longer serving us. Once they’re identified, we can begin the process of breaking those physiological connections warehoused in our nervous system, so we are no longer being held hostage by the habit. 

Write It Out

Crawley: Then it becomes less like toxic positivity by saying to ourselves and others, “Everything is fine or it’s all going to be okay.” But more like, “Yeah, this totally sucks! I dislike not knowing what’s going to happen next and how this pandemic is going to play out in my life 100% sucks!” I have to allow myself to spend time feeling the emotional pain, go for a walk and scream, take a shower and cry, beat my pillows, etc. 

Another thing that helps me is to write it all out. When I feel 20 things weighing heavy on my mind and I feel overwhelmed by it all, the act of getting it out of my head helps tremendously. Looking at it on paper makes it all seem more manageable for me than when I have it all swirling around inside my mind. 

Lovett: Exactly, it’s easier to gain perspective when we get it outside of us by writing it down or speaking it aloud. We become the observer of what we’re experiencing, which creates a healthy, manageable space. When we are identifying with or attaching to the experience rather than observing it, it triggers our survival mechanisms, which make gaining the perspective we need more challenging. 

Crawley: Thank you so much Tharwat for your time today. I have thoroughly enjoyed it! I look forward to implementing some of what we discussed in my daily life and I look forward to our next talk.

If any of you would like to work with a professional, I highly recommend Tharwat Lovett.

Addiction

He is like an amazing lover who looks deep into your eyes, into your soul, and tells you that you are special. He draws you close for a slow, soft, sensual, and passionate kiss. He tells you that you are his one and only and without him, you will suffer. 

He is handsome, charming, and seductive with his promises and tempts you with his lies. When you’re with him nothing else matters. Selfishly you want to constantly feel his warm embrace. You want to hold him close and never let go. You want the temporary numbness that comes when you’re alone with him. He is yours and you are his. 

With him, you feel no pain, only pleasure. As time goes on, you want more – crave more. He implies you are nothing without him. His empty promises lure you in for one more dance. The more time spent, the more you lust after his attention. He tricks you into letting your guard down. You let him in. You open your heart to him and you become vulnerable.
Time passes, and as the night draws to a close, you feel loose. You feel free and you say and do things you wouldn’t normally. You are weak and although you stumble some; he catches you because he wants you to feel safe. He wants you to feel loved. 

Then it happens. Every single time. The night ends, and he leaves you. You look up and he’s gone. He disappeared. You struggle to get home and as you pass out in your bed; you wonder if it was all a dream. You try to sleep, but you are restless and longing for a little more time with him. You are alone and you feel sick now. It’s 1 am and you make it to the bathroom just in time. You puke in the toilet. Where is he now? You feel abandoned and have a terrible headache coming on. 

It is now that you see him for what he really is. He is an illusion of something you desire. He numbs the pain, but only for a short time. The next day you are still facing the same realities of the day before. The same stressors and the same sadness. There is joy too, but you are too blinded by the agony of the night before to see it. 

You knew deep down all this time, but you didn’t want to admit it to yourself. You knew it wouldn’t last. You didn’t want to face the reality that you were played. How could this happen to me? I am smart. I am worthy. I am wonderfully made. How could I have been so blind? Next, the self-loathing and self-berating begin. You feel nauseated, confused, and exhausted from this relationship. 

You wake up one day and say today I choose me. I choose the happiness you cannot bring me. I choose joy and self-care. One day at a time starting today, I see him for who he really is. He is an addiction (nicotine, food, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.) He is a liar, a fake, and he is no longer controlling your days and nights. For today, you choose sobriety. 

I’ve known addiction since childhood. An alcoholic step-dad who was verbally abusive raised me with my mom from 14 to 17 years old. Mom and I moved out when I was 17, and he sobered up then. He’s been sober for over 20 years now, but I’ll never forget the painful memories of his drunkenness. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who have all struggled with addiction.

It doesn’t make anyone less than because of the struggle. We all struggle. Some just struggle more than others. Some seek treatment from professional counselors. Others choose AA groups, Facebook groups, an app like I Am Sober, or any other group for accountability with like-minded people who struggle the same. Sharing your story with honesty about how difficult it is to overcome these addictions is a form of therapy. 

I too have found myself in ruts where I had too much…regularly. Today I choose to take better care of myself for not only me but for the people I love; for my family, my friends, and my readers. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of changing habits that do not serve you well. I wrote more on this in my Our Habits Are Powerful blogs. The good news is that we can choose to be sober! It is not an easy path and sometimes feels like losing a close friend. But, these relationships are dysfunctional and need to come to an end.

I’m more clear-minded, energetic, and sleep better. I have been more focused on self-care and pampering, goal setting, and finding joy in the little things again.  It’s nice to focus on what really matters most in life. This moment. Right now. Sober and grateful. There are always difficulties in life, but hiding behind addiction to numb any pain or distress is not the healthiest way to live. 

If you are struggling with any addiction. I encourage you to reach out for help. You are not alone. Many are silent about it. You are among friends who just want what’s best for you. Ask for help if you need it. Today is a great day to be sober!