Choose your own adventure

Did you read those choose-your-own adventure novels when you were a kid?

A single book held dozens of possibilities. It fascinated me that my choices could completely change the outcome of my story. Do I open the green door or the red? Do I select the sword or the crystal ball? Even more interesting was that when I started over from the beginning, I could make 99 of the same selections but if I changed one tiny thing, I’d end up someplace entirely different.

Isn’t it funny how our lives play out in a similar fashion? The smallest choice could change the course of our lives forever. It’s a terrifying prospect, but at the same time encourages us to remain present in each moment. Because this moment – whether it’s a drink choice at Starbucks or a career change – could lead to impressive or terrifying results.

I am a strong believer in karma, consequences, and the law of attraction. What I put into the world and the relationships around me will manifest itself in some way down the line. I control the pendulum when I send something out because inevitably it will come back.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we interpret the stories around us. I see some people take a couple of punches and drown themselves in victimhood. Others rise again and again from the most horrific atrocities, growing stronger each time, refusing to let what happens to them define their internal environment.

It’s made me realize that while we cannot control what happens when we turn the pages of life, we certainly control what comes next. Our past is a springboard into our future. Or, our past becomes a swirling mass of quick sand, catching us and pulling us deeper the more we fight it.

Survivor. Victim. Which are you?

Optimist. Pessimist. Do you react with love or hate? Do you clutch your wounds to you like a shield or do you release them into the heavens, forgiving those who caused them in the first place?

As you probably know, I’ve been digging around in my treasure trove of behaviors, memories, and experiences. It’s a time of great change. I’m growing, grieving, and giving myself over to the process.

In my weekly session today, my therapist asked me to open up a box that’s long been tucked away. As we pulled each memory out, we took a careful look at some of the most painful moments of my life.

A decapitated man when I was 8. Rape. A crazed man coming off the bus shooting in New York, being sprayed with blood as people nearby were shot in the stomach and leg. Friend’s suicides.

These things are all an important part of my story. As I flip through the pages of my life, these are just a few of the things that comes up. And after each moment, I made a series of choices that brought me here, to this moment now. I chose to forgive. I chose to forget. I chose to overcome, to cry and then wipe my tears, to fight, to take up the cause for others. Because everyone deserves a champion when they can no longer fight for themselves.

Of course, I’ve had moments when I feel sorry for myself. But they are fleeting. Pity moves my story in a direction that I do not like. My story is meant to be one of triumph, prosperity, joy, love, adversity, and magic.

But, our lives are so much more than the pain and the loss. Our lives are made up of millions of moments. Some are happy, others are sad. Some are terrifying, while others still are nothing short of miracles.

Certain moments stand out as we look back at where we’ve been. But, we choose the moments that define us. WE CHOOSE. We choose our adventure. We choose our outcome.

Our stories will always have twists and turns. One moment we’re headed for the stars, and in an instant, it’s gone. But, what comes next…that is up to us. Do we let the new plot take us down a path of self-destructive behavior, or do we use it as another building block that gives us an excuse to climb even higher than we ever imagined.

Our stories will all come to an end. It might be tomorrow or in eighty years. When it comes, what will the pages of your life look like to everyone who reads your story?

Is it filled with tears and worry? Is it etched in anger and regret? Or does your story soar above the circumstances to show what true transformation looks like? Were your wings strong enough to weather the shifting winds?

What kind of adventure are you choosing for yourself? Decide now. You certainly don’t want anyone else choosing it for you. You write your destiny when you react to the hand that you are dealt. Will you accept the challenge with grace or will you allow it to keep you down?

What does your adventure look like? Live loud laugh

Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your personal truth discovered

Personal growth is not for the faint of heart. It requires courage, tenacity, vulnerability, and a willingness to admit we are less than perfect. Because of this, I see people every day who choose to wander through life blissfully ignorant of themselves. It’s just easier. Life is tough enough without having to confront the issues we’ve woven into our personal story.

But, for some of us, we need truth. We need answers. Sometimes it’s a behavior or a habit that keeps popping up and impacting your success or your relationships. Yet, when you try to change, you can’t quite see the pattern or the bias that causes this thing to manifest itself.

If we are truly open to discovering the “why”, to living a life of authenticity, the answers to your questions will always find their way to you. But be warned – the answers are rarely what you expected them to be.

Here is an example from my own life. It is very personal, so I ask that you be gentle.

I’ve always had a habit of falling in love with the wrong people: people who are gay, or attached, or damaged, or simply uninterested in me. All through high school, I fell for guys who only considered me a friend, and I wondered why I wasn’t good enough, or pretty enough, or skinny enough to be loved.

As an adult, a similar pattern emerged. I found myself falling for people who could not, or would not, love me back. When I did find love, it was to people who needed me in a certain way, people who I saw as needing fixing. By focusing on them, I didn’t have to focus on myself. I had no idea that I was using care-taking as a way to avoid my truth.

A few weeks ago, I went through a painful break-up. It was the wakeup call I needed to start examining myself. I threw myself open and asked for answers. I just didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes. And then, I waited. When I least expected it, BAM!

My answer came in the form of a friend. He unknowingly handed me the key to unlocking this secret. It happened in a moment of deep pain, and I was starting to play out my typical pattern again. But, unbeknownst to me, something clicked into place and the wheels started turning.

As the minutes and hours passed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was different. A voice told me to step back and take a closer look at my motives during that exchange.

If you’ve ever had a bolt of lightning strike your brain, it’s a lot like those Bugs Bunny cartoons. You freeze, wide-eyed, blink a few times, and then cascade into a million confused little pieces. But, like a phoenix, when you rise from the ashes, you are reborn with a new knowing. Your truth is suddenly inside of you.

So what did I discover as I rose? Every unrequited crush, every failed infatuation suddenly became crystal clear. I purposely fell for unattainable people because they were safe.

They perpetuated the myth I’d written for myself that no one could find me attractive, that I wasn’t worthy of love. Worse, this pattern gave me the perfect excuse to lock myself inside an emotional fortress and avoid rejection.

I never had to be vulnerable and scared. I never had to face true heartbreak. I selected safe relationships – relationships that only existed in my head, or relationships with an imbalance of power where I was always in control.

It was in this moment that I learned you could break your own heart.

When you ask for truth and finally receive it, it will knock you on your ass with a solid thud. You think you’re ready for it, but you probably aren’t. It takes the wind out of you.

Awakening to the root cause of an unhealthy pattern hurts. But, it also feels right. It feels good to finally have a “why”. It’s like a festering wound that’s finally been cleaned – it hurt like hell getting the infection out, and it will need time to heal and grow healthy again, but that moment of finally being free of what was making you so sick gives you a new lightness that can’t be described.

When those truths emerge, it’s so easy to judge yourself, to talk yourself into a place of shame or regret. Instead, I challenge you (and me) to step into this knowing with a kind heart. Be gentle with yourself. You’ve been doing the best you can with what you had. And now, you have a new tool to wield as you trudge along on your beautifully unique journey through life.

In fact, being open to a personal truth is one of the scariest, bravest things a person can do. You’re pulling your head out of the sand and into a world filled with light. It just takes a little while for your eyes to adjust. The hardest thing of all is listening for your answer, wondering when it will come. Once it finally does, it’s time to breathe, reflect, adjust, and grow.

What truth have you been avoiding? What have you recently learned that shocked you? And what is your path to healing?

It may be scary, but I offer you my hand, dear friend. Because none of us should go it alone. Living authentically takes guts. Let’s support each other and rock this together.

Find your personal truth and set yourself free

Image courtesy of worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rejecting Passive

When I look back at my life, I want to know that I took an active role in building my dreams and achieving my destiny. But, I recently came to the realization that I’ve become passive over the years, complacent. Allowing things to happen around me, and then reacting. Waiting for something to change, and then embracing or resisting it.

Life is too short for passive and it’s high time that I shake myself out of this fog.

Why? Because passive sucks. Because passive is not specifically defining my wants and needs, but still hoping that they get met. And maybe even being frustrated when they aren’t.

Passive is dreaming of change, but then not having the courage or the energy or the patience to make them actually happen.

Passive is waiting for someone else to make the tough calls or to cross the line or to make me ready for monumental shifts – none of which are going to happen. And if they do, it won’t be in a way that I expected, it won’t be on my terms.

I don’t want to wait for that guy to approach me. I don’t want to wait for a better job to come along. I don’t want to hope for something better.

This is the time to own what it is I want in my life. Right now.

Active is difficult, scary, risky, and backbreaking. But imagine the payoff when you start that company you’ve always dreamed of, enroll in that dance class you’ve been eyeing for years, find the hutzpah to ask that cutie for his number…because even if he says no, even if the class sucks, even if that company crumbles, you took charge and defined yourself as an active participant in this crazy game of life.

You learn. You adjust. You grow. And you TRY AGAIN, even when it hurts more than you ever imagined. Even when you think you can’t take one more rejection. Because what if the next idea, the next date, the next blog post is the one that shatters all of your expectations and launches you into a future you never could have imagined?

Passive just isn’t good enough. It isn’t loud enough. It isn’t YOU enough.

What have you been waiting for? What have you been secretly hoping to change in that darkest, scariest, most secret part of your heart? What would an active, empowered response look like for you?

What if you said, “This is what I need in order to be happy” and then don’t apologize for asking for it?

What if you leapt without that net? What if you dug deeper than you thought you possibly could? What if you let go of that habit or that person who has been holding you back?

Let’s dance in the rain, and twirl in the sunshine. Let’s do something that scares us at least once a day. Let’s have child-like wonder at the mysteries that are unraveling, while we roll around in the pain and the discomfort, knowing it’s making us stronger and wiser.

I am becoming me each moment of each day that I take charge. Won’t you join me?

Being Your Own Happily Ever After

No one saves us, no one swoops in and rescues us from life. The truth is we save ourselves.

No one makes us feel loved or valued or sexy. Not in the real sense, at least. Those feelings come from within and flow outward, attracting to us people who also see these same things in us.

Sometimes I forget that I am my own knight in shining armor. Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that I am my own happily ever after. Others can enrich my life, teach me lessons, help me tap into new experiences and feelings. But, true love has to come from within me, just as it has to come from within you. That is the only path to true bliss.

I just ended a seven year relationship. It was one of the most painful, heartbreaking things I’ve ever done. I stand here watching the pages of my life flip past, closing one chapter, opening to another. The grieving process will not be easy, but it is necessary.

Without the grief, I cannot grow. Without the messy, ugly digging deep, I cannot heal.

My therapist told me yesterday that the most dangerous thing I can do right now is make a list of things I want in my next partner. A list that I’d already started, of course: smart, emotionally mature, funny, willing to commit to a partnership where we support each other 100%, etc.

Instead, she said I need to make a list of all the things I want to FEEL in my next relationship.

The point is not who does the dishes. Rather, you want someone with whom you can negotiate the things that need negotiating while still feeling loved and respected. As a result of that negotiation, the dishes will get done, but it doesn’t matter who actually does them.

Isn’t that an interesting concept? That it’s not about finding a partner who does certain tasks or possesses certain qualities. It’s about finding a partner that you can work with to make life happen in the most supportive and empowering way – and through that, things get done.

Mind blown. *poof*

But I’m going to expand on that even more.

How do you want to feel about you? How do you want to feel about your own life? Happy doesn’t cut it, either. It needs to be specific, deep, intimate, and real. The kind of stuff that you’ll be proud of on your death bed. The kind of stuff that eliminates regrets and invites joy.

You save yourself in this lifetime. You have to fall in love with you in order to allow others to do the same. You have to sweep yourself right off your own feet and know you’ll be OK no matter what happens. And in that moment, your soul is set on fire.

So, I’m working on my lists. The lists of what I want to feel about myself and my life, and the list of how I want to feel in my next relationship.

I want to feel excited about the future. I want to feel vulnerable. I want to feel empowered to speak my truth and share my feelings without fear.

I want to know what it feels like to love so deeply that I’m terrified and I do it anyway.

I want to laugh every single day.

I want to stand at the edge of the abyss, look into the unknown, and fling myself over the edge – arms out, head back – and soar towards my dreams.

What do you want? What does that feel like? You are your own hero.

Fuck Perfection

“Perfect is beige.” ~ Kris Carr

Ah, perfection: the plague of adventure, the disease of happiness, the obstacle of authenticity.

Perfection is an excuse, it’s boring, and it’s a crutch. Let’s throw out our notions and stop the insanity because perfection means no growth, no sticky edges. Perfection means no change and no unexpected opportunities.

Perfection is void of unexpected delight and spontaneous joy because it keeps us in our head and focused on things that don’t move us up and out.

Rather than perfection, let’s try for experience. Authentic experience is messy and mistake-ridden, but it’s beautiful and poetic. And so very, very scary.

A life of vivacious color and cacophonous joy takes imperfection and mistakes and failures. An unleashed woman is willing to face her fears and take a leap of faith.

So, instead of holding tightly to a false sense of control, why not surrender beautifully into the arms of fate? Instead of fighting to stay inside the lines (that were mostly likely drawn by someone else’s expectations), why not jump into the swirling mystery so that you can create you own story in a way that’s never been done before?

Let us stand up and scream, “Fuck perfection!” Rip off the gloves, toss the dishes in the sink, wrap your hair in a ponytail, and find something extraordinary to do with this moment. Write or paint or sign-up for a class on glass blowing or dance naked in your living room with the curtains open or book a spontaneous weekend away by yourself.

Just do something that gets your heart pumping. Don’t over think it. Don’t doubt yourself.

Trust, decide, and leap. Regardless of the outcome, the fact that you had the courage to try makes you even more incredible than you already are.

ToniVC / Nature Photos / CC BY-NC-ND