Wednesday, August 20, 2014

For the First Time in a Long Time, My Heart is Wide Open

I would like to share some thoughts and feelings with you that are precious and dear to me. The last several years have been a beautiful challenge for me. Beautiful, because my life is a wonderful one, and there is sweetness to be found in the sorrows of life. Challenging, because I've picked up some thorns along the way. Most of my friends know that I had a surgery to remove a substantial tumor from inside my spinal chord three and a half years ago. I was blessed beyond belief and comprehension during that time; since then, I have frequently struggled with injuries, weakness, nerve damage, doctors appointments, physical therapy and the most damaging of all, significant weight gain. My closest friends and family know that I also overcame a bittersweet, painful experience at the beginning of this year. 

These two experiences changed me, and they inspired me to closely observe my life. People always say it, but for the first time, I felt it, life's briefness and frailty. Our time on this Earth is short. Too short to spend it worrying, obsessing, being afraid, judging, coveting, self hating, lusting, hating others, feeling defeated or anything else that invites negative, damaging emotions into your heart. It's too short to live with anything other than blinding happiness, in all its forms, and gratitude. I have learned and witnessed that happiness is a choice, an attitude, a way of life. A happy person will of course experience sorrow and trial, but their foundation is not shaken. They acknowledge these emotions and experiences, fully feeling their sting, and then, they release them, which allows them to move on.

I know this because I was a very unhappy person, and I had to learn how to change that. The secret to changing is to realize your worth, and abandon all thoughts, feelings and actions that weigh you down and rob you of that. This was not an easy transition. Over the last several years, I have gained 122 pounds. That had a devastating affect on my body and heart. Recovering from spinal surgery and being overweight, is hard, really hard, but even harder than that, was learning how to love my imperfect body and respect and value myself, learning how to see my worth and beauty, even though I felt defeated, unattractive and worthless. I retreated deep into myself, and where there was once a happy, loving person that emitted light, then stood a bitter, sad person that stopped glowing. The view of the world from where I stood during that time was very gray. 

I used to think that people treated me differently because I had gained weight, but I was wrong. I treated myself differently. I stopped respecting and loving myself, and this caused others to react differently to me. Through feeling and reflecting those thoughts and beliefs, I gave others permission to treat me the same as I was treating myself, which was badly.

The fact that we as human beings have conditioned ourselves to react and feel this way about ourselves is incredibly sad. The truth is we do not need validation from anyone, even though we crave it and think we need it. A parent, a lover, a boss, etc., we depend on these people in our lives to determine and validate our worth, and if they don't, it must mean there is something wrong with us. That's completely false. Does the fact that someone doesn't love you or treat you well mean you are worthless? No, of course not. So, why do we act like it and let ourselves feel badly? We are conditioned to by society and example. A beautiful, overweight woman has a daughter; she loves her daughter and treats her wonderfully. They have a beautiful, loving relationship, but this woman frequently puts herself down and makes comments about how fat and unattractive she is. Her daughter, even though validated by her mother's word and actions, will learn the script, 'If I am overweight, it must mean that I am unattractive and undesirable.' The daughter will internalize this and learn to be critical of and hate herself, and she will teach it to her children and so on. It is a cycle. A parent that over inflates themselves and/or their children is just as damaging. 

Narcissism is self hate in disguise; it is when you feel the insatiable need to feel that you are better than everyone to prove that you are worth something, to prove you are desired. Putting others down to inflate yourself can cause a chain reaction in the other person as well. These are dangerous patterns, but they can be broken through awareness and constant checking of oneself. It is a lifelong balance. I was a very broken girl once, because I loved someone so completely that didn't love me. It started a chain reaction of feelings and beliefs that lead me to believe I was worthless and that there was something wrong with me. Again, I was wrong. 

It took me a really long time to understand and realize that someone else's feelings and thoughts about you only have power if you give it to them, and you only give it to them if you're turning to others for validation of your worth. As humans, we place worth on how we look, the talents and abilities we have, what we've gained, how many people love us, etc. This is called ego, and we each have one that separates us one from another. Ultimately, these things are not who we are, and placing too much value in them will set you up for a fall, like I did. 

We all live in this world together and navigating our individual journeys to who we are while also taking other beings with ego's, beliefs and actions of their own into account is scary. We all affect each other, but you do not have to let others affect you negatively. We all want to be happy and be loved, and we should start with loving and respecting ourselves. When we give into self hate, we are tremendously limiting our potential to do great things in this life. These feelings and thoughts are emotional blocks, and they do not help you. There is no reason to feel them. Ask yourself honestly, 'Does my fear and feelings of inadequacy help me in any way? Ever?' No? Then, dismiss it. Stop punishing yourself and let it go. Once it's gone, it will come back from time to time; so, be prepared to guard your heart and learn to quiet those feelings and thoughts. Acknowledge them and let them go. It takes time, but this practice changed me to the core. As a girl that has overcome severe OCD, this was a turning point in my life and my way of thinking. Suddenly, I realized that I do not have to be afraid or feel badly about myself. I now feel free and light. Doors started opening for me, and for the first time in a long, long time, my heart is wide open, and I am experiencing how beautiful our world truly is. I wanted to share this with you for two reasons. One, I see others struggle with this all the time, and it breaks my heart because I know how they're feeling. The worst part is it's self inflicted and totally unnecessary; we can stop at any time. Two, I'm ready to let go, and I need your help :) I have a goal to lose the 122 pounds I gained. I'm at a place now that I'm finally ready to be happy and healthy, and move forward with love and light. I would really appreciate it if you could share with me what has inspired you. What has brought you happiness and strength? 

Approach this life with an attitude of gratitude and from a place of confidence and love, with an open heart, and wonderful things will start happening to you. I promise. Be a light to others. Love deeply and fiercely, and nothing will be out of your reach. 

"For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you will long to return."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Another Life Changing Realization: Embracing the Fragility of Life (A trip that changed my life, a tumor that changed my perspective, and my first experience in a tanning bed ^_^)

I've come to a realization, which has taken me a long time to form and embrace. My OCD primarily revolves around my obsession with safety, which includes home, road, food and chemicals, avoiding carcinogens of every kind, avoiding and diffusing crazy, psycho murderers, animal attacks, being aware of rare genetic disorders and diseases, safety while visiting any type of attractions or wilderness. My biggest fears are volcanoes/ earthquakes, tornadoes (I'm from Texas o_O), and giant alligators (I'm known for loving alligators, and I do! They fascinate me, and I've caught plenty of them by hand in the bayou behind my house. I know how to spot them, how to handle an attack, and I show them the proper respect. So, consciously, they don't bother me at all, but I have nightmares ALL the time about giant ones. So, maybe there's a subconscious fear there? :S They can be dangerous, but I think they're awesome.) Anyway, the point, you name it, I've probably studied it. 

In 2012, it took me six weeks to prepare for our trip to Yellowstone, which was a huge exposure for me. It's a dormant super volcano that has lots of volcanic activity inside the dome where the park actually is. It changes frequently and sometime violently. There have been quite a few deaths in that park, and there were four just the summer we went, all from different dangers: a child got swept away in a rapid and drown, a girl fell 100 ft., a man was mauled to death by a grizzly, and a girl fell in a boiling spring and burned to death. (I couldn't understand why people went to this place for fun!) I was the safest person in that park for sure. I studied bear attacks, buffalo attacks, snake bites, first aid for burns and major falls, surviving falling into rapids, signs of volcanic activity, earthquake preparedness, the different bacteria found in each of the pools that could potentially be deadly, what plants are editable, what plants are deadly, the fresh water springs located in the park, how to purify water, heat stroke, the list goes on. You know, just in case.....

As soon as we entered the park, we saw a herd of huge, shaggy buffalo laying in lush green grass, next to a sparkling river in the sun; the babies were running around on wobbly legs, while the adults lazily laid around and watched. I'd never encountered a buffalo before, and the beauty of the scene made me forget my fear, for once. It was amazing! I chattered excitedly about it the whole way to the first of the hot pots, while Will listened, amused. By the time, I could see the steam rising from the pots, my excitement wore off, and my fear came galloping back to the little niche in my heart where it used to live. We get out, and here I am, shakily shuffling along on these rickety wooden planks, with no freakin' hand rails may I add. All the while, adults and kids are running down the planks, shaking them, making all sorts of noise, and shoving past me. It probably made for a funny scene I'm sure. Will just patiently wait and studied the scenery while we moved along at a snail's pace. 

My first encounter with a hot pot is that they are amazingly beautiful! What amazed me even more, was how everyone else reacted to these dangerous phenomena. Everyone ooed and awed, some people  left the trail, even though there are signs EVERYWHERE that say you can die if you do. Some people bent down and touched some of the cooler run off water, even though there are signs that say it contains meningitis bacteria, which can be deadly. I was floored. Children were running around unsupervised on these planks with no rails in such a dangerous place. As far as I'm concerned, we're in a valley of freakin' death for all the ways you can get harmed or die in there, and everyone's running around like they're at a perfectly safe theme park, which are not perfectly safe anyway. I couldn't believe it. Will just laughed at me and said, "People don't think about the things that you do. They just do whatever and enjoy life for the most part." 

Those words had a big impact on me. Instead of annoyed and worried, I became jealous. That must be such a free way of living your life. I used to be very like that until I had some dangerous experiences that sobered me right up. Will went on to explain. "Every one knows the risks, but millions of people visit these parks to see the amazing beauty that the volcano creates. Most people don't worry about things until they actually happen." "You mean until it's too late," I grumble as I shuffle away. That walk was the first long, dangerous walk of my life, and when I came to the end, I had undergone a change. I realized that I didn't want to live in fear anymore. I wanted to really live my life, short or long, I wanted to look back on it with happiness knowing that I lived, not wasting my precious time waiting for some catastrophe or for the ax to drop. I will die someday, like everyone will, and I want to go having enjoyed my time here. I'm not afraid of death; I'm afraid of separation. I'm too in love with the amazing experiences our world has to offer and the people I know and love, but really, that's all the more reason to experience all the good you can so you can fill our tank as full as possible before you zip on to the next phase of existence. 

Yellowstone will always be a special place to me because it changed me so. The rest of the trip, I didn't worry or freak out. I enjoyed every second of it, and I had to see everything! We literally visited the whole, huge park in a whirlwind. I couldn't get enough; so, I ended up with over 4,000 pictures so I could always remember, lol. Since our visit to Yellowstone in 2012, I have slowly been changing. I still have anxiety, but it is slowly fizzling out little by little. 

I realized. My whole life, I had been so, so careful of everything. I had fun and did take risks. My personality by nature is very carefree and open, but my OCD combats that, and it had gotten worse with age and experience. So much so, that I wasn't really living anymore. I was avoiding. My tumor was a blessing in disguise. A person like me, who did their best to avoid anything and everything that could cause any kind of cancer or any other illness, still ended up with this freakish tumor the size of half a golf ball in my spinal chord, two spinal cysts, and a pituitary cyst. It taught me that you can't control what happens to you; so, the best you can do is live your life to the fullest, taking and making as much happiness as you can. That's not to say never take precautions; I mean, let's not get crazy. Be smart about your decisions and don't worry so much. That's what I learned and have been instilling in myself. 

A dear friend of mine, June, randomly asked me to go tanning with her last week. While I never, ever wore sun screen in the sun because I tan easy and don't burn much, and I was in the sun too much to bother with it, I was deathly afraid of tanning beds. I had mostly looked at them as cancer machines. I looked at her like she was crazy and said, "But what about skin cancer?!" She looked back at me with an amused look, and replied, "What about it?" I thought and didn't have an answer; so, I said, "Yeah.... Yeah! I'll go tanning with you!" So, I did, and you know what? I liked it! Yes, it increases the risks of getting skin cancer, but you know what? You can get cancer from just about anything these days, including our sun. Sun block has only been around so long, and people had been living without it before that, including me. There are harmful chemicals in sunblock too. I had a laugh yesterday. I was in a my favorite salon waiting for my stylist; so, I raided the boutique as usual. I found a cute bag with that dreaded label that read, "This product contains materials known to cause cancer in the state of California." I don't know what is going on with California and cancer, but I see that little label everywhere! 

The materials and chemicals that we introduce into our lives and bodies can cause so many problems, but they are apart of our everyday lives. You can only avoid so much. Even the air we breathe has toxins. People that live in remote places of the world with no modern medicine at all also have health problems. It's just a part of life. So, I still try to eat organic and healthy, limit the number of chemicals I ingest, and use natural methods of treatment and preventative care with oils if I can, but I'm not going to worry anymore. About tanning, I'm going to do it moderation and see my dermatologist regularly. Why? Because I want to. We'll see if that gives me cancer before the diet Dr. Pepper and non organic vegetables I had yesterday do......