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Facing Fear

Turning Grief Into Gratitude

As I come upon the one year anniversary of a life changing event for me, a time where I want to focus on celebrating my accomplishments, I instead find myself rounding up my grief.  

I don’t speak of it often because the event is still confusing for me and pangs of anger and sadness can rise up quicker than I can escort them out. It is a story of betrayal, of lies, of weakness and yet, an event that would cause me to dig deep to decide and follow through on how I would allow myself to be treated and what I truly deserved.

I was told I would no longer have my job, a job I once dreamt of having, a job I did well at, a job where I grew close friends who had supported me through some of the other major life changes I’d undergone…getting married, having my babies, deaths of loved ones and even the end of my marriage.  In so many ways I grew up there, it was my security, it was my home base, and then when I least expected it, it told me I was not welcome there anymore.

Let me be clear, I still had a job, but not at the place I had called my home.  I was not fired, I was told that I would have no choice but to take a different job if I still wanted employment.  For someone like me who needs to understand EVERYTHING, it made no sense at all.  I had not done anything wrong. I was good at what I did. I created opportunity to give as much as I could while I was there. Yet, I knew in my heart why it was happening.  I knew I didn’t belong there anymore, but it hurt tremendously.  

The feeling of intense heartache and anger was not foreign. It was not the first time I had been treated poorly in my life. And I knew I had to make a decision on if I would allow the pattern to continue or if I could muster the courage to change it.  I asked myself the same questions over and over again…what do you want, what would you do if you removed the fear, and what would you tell yourself if you were your own spouse? My answers came quickly, but it didn’t stop me from asking them…repeating “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” I was sure, but wow, it was scary.

I was quickly reminded it wasn’t just about me. I had children to think about, a mortgage, and no actual knowledge of what life outside my little bubble would look like. Prior to making my decision to leave a secure job completely, I didn’t even know what the hell I was going to do!

And so began my first step in my giant leap….huge leap….of Faith.  I knew myself well enough to know once I made up my mind there would be no turning back.  And there wasn’t.

I want to tell you that it was smooth sailing after that. I want to tell you there have been no obstacles. I want to tell you that the fear dissolves.  But the truth is, even being on the “right” path, there are still obstacles, there are storms like I’ve never seen, there are fears that follow me around like we have been besties for years and they still lie to me that they are keeping me safe. The learning curves for me are enormous.  And I become overwhelmed and frustrated and exhausted.  

Yet, when I think of what my life would have been like if I chose the other path, I can’t even fathom how I’d still be breathing. I would have survived, I would have made it work, but I wouldn’t be truly living….at least not comfortably in my skin. And not directly on the path to my own happiness.

 A year later, I AM living an authentic life.  One I’ve had great help designing and one that hasn’t even begun to exploit what I know I have yet to do. I am given amazing gifts nearly every day. Extraordinary highs I've never experienced and a sense of knowing I would have never believed existed. I have had spontaneous tears of joy that seem to come from nowhere and the sensation of my passion bubbling to the surface. I hear myself say thank you all day long...and I mean it from the depths of my soul.

I wish my accomplishments took the sadness out for me. I wish I didn’t still feel the heartache. But maybe that’s just the reminder, that I had a good life to walk away from.  And there really don’t need to be any regrets.  It was just time to move on to the next part of who I am.  

Acceptance…the last stage of grief.  I’m just a few tears away.

I was telling my son that I will be celebrating the date and he highlighted my bravery, stating that not everyone has the courage to do what I’ve done. I disagreed and still disagree. Everyone has the same amount of bravery to access, it’s whether we choose to use it or not.  

How do you want to live your life?  We are all asked the same question and we are all given opportunity to create exactly what we want.  And when the opportunity presents itself, and it always does… it’s our call what comes next.

Making A Big Decision When You're Not Sure Which Way is Right

Over the last two and a half years I have made some big changes in my life. And by big, I mean enormous.

First, I moved with my husband and our children from a home I loved for ten years. Shortly after, my husband and I ended a twenty-year relationship and marriage. With that separation, I made the decision to buy the house we had moved to, which on paper, I shouldn’t have been able to buy.

Apparently ending a long commitment and beginning a large financial one on my own wasn’t enough for me though. The following year I resigned from a secure job to pursue a dream I hadn’t fully envisioned and started a business without projected goals.

When I list out all the changes, I start to question my own sanity.

I have never been one to make quick decisions, especially ones that I hadn’t thought through. I was raised by my father, a self-proclaimed workaholic, who spent his career as a high powered executive for a high risk industrial insurance company.

I was not bred to believe in taking chances, to live on instinct alone, and to leave anything that resembled security. You just don’t do that. But something was stirring in me that kept me unsettled.

I knew it was time to make changes, and I knew those changes were absolutely not guaranteed to work in my favor. I was scared—no, terrified—to alter the course of my life, but standing still gave me even more anxiety.

How do you make the decision to change your entire life and know it’s truly right for you?

I have a secret, one that I’ve used consistently in recent years when making decisions that weighed heavily on me.

It’s a technique that simplifies the agonizing back and forths of “should I or shouldn’t I?” One I wished I learned when I was younger to ward off some major bouts of indecisiveness and internal torment. Although in retrospect, I would not have been ready to use it until I was actually ready to hear it....Keep Reading

The Growing Pains of Becoming My Authentic Self

I have been writing two or three paragraphs at a time for weeks on various topics and I couldn’t figure out why. I have so many things to share and ideas I know would be helpful, but I just can’t seem to get them out. And no matter how much inspiration I ask for, it’s just not coming.  Why? Because as of late, my world is small. I used to write about experiences I saw and learned from others and right now, most of my experiences on a daily basis are mine and mine alone.

I am in a healing phase of my life and have been for many months now.  I have been processing years worth of discomfort while trying to get my life in order. It has been a wonderful time of growth and a challenging time of allowing the emotions to come up and out.  I have had to look at my demons and question their purpose as well as hone in on my strengths to see what skills I want to sharpen.  Most days I am equally focused and driven as I am lost and confused. 

The other day I woke up with a determined purpose. I had unfinished business regarding the end of my marriage I had to attend to and I’d been dragging my feet. I had been getting the not so gentle internal nudges, but I can be a turtle when it comes to finalizing painful things.  This was one of them. 

I was feeling proud of myself mid morning for getting it done and then out of nowhere, the pangs of sadness started to jab at me. “No thank you,” I said to myself, “I’ve felt those already, we’ve been over this. Move on already.” I successfully pushed them down to move on to the next task. I had things to do.

It had been snowing all morning and I decided I would get some fresh air and exercise and begin to shovel my 700 foot driveway.  I had my music playing loud to drown out the thoughts and use my anxious energy for a purpose.  It was cold and my back was sore, but that discomfort was nothing compared to what I felt brewing underneath.  

After thirty minutes of shoveling, I realized there was a layer of ice below the snow that was going to make clearing off the rest of the hilly driveway difficult. I stared down the snowy path and questioned if it was safe to even drive on.  How will I get out? What am I going to do? How do I fix this? 

My immediate inclination was to call my ex-husband. The man who was once my practical fixer for all things I couldn’t figure out.  He’d walk me through it. I pondered how we would fix this problem together.  And then a tiny stop sign made its way in my head. “No, you can’t call him. It’s not his job to bail you out. You need to figure this out without him. That’s not your life anymore.” 

“Yes, but I could really use his help. He’ll know what to do.” I argued.

The stop sign grew larger and the voice bolder than before. “Stop! You know it’s time to accept the change. Accept it, Lynn. You’ve got to break this pattern.” 

“But he’s what I know. I can rely on him to fix this.” I wouldn’t back down. 

“Then go ahead and call him. Start the pattern again. You know how it goes.” I calmly replied.

The urges were so strong and I felt myself crumbling under the pressure. One warm tear rolled down my cheek, then another…and another. Little waves of emotions seeping out of me slowly.  I couldn’t stop them. They wouldn’t stop.

I sat on the steps of my garage in the house I bought alone and sobbed.  How did I get here? What am I doing? This is not the life I would have chosen. I felt completely defeated and alone. I prayed for help. I asked for support. I needed to pull it together.

I took enough deep breaths to call my best problem solving side kick…my sister from another mister.  As usual, she calmly took control and offered to fix my problem without even taking a breath.  Only your closest friends can decipher your needs through your sobs.

Seconds after I ended the call with her I heard the teenager I’d recently hired to plow my driveway come flying up it. I hadn’t asked him to come, he just did. Fifteen minutes later my driveway was cleared and additional help was on the way.  Problem solved. 

Once the tears stopped, I re-visited the harsh questions I asked earlier. 

How did I get here? I chose this path.

What am I doing? Following my internal direction that is stronger every day.

This is not the life I would I have chosen?? This is exactly the life I have chosen and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I am exactly where I need to be and figuring it out as I go along. And forward I will go. 

As for feeling alone, I had help within thirty minutes of asking for it. That’s some seriously good service. I am never, ever alone. 

In my life as a counselor, a healer, a mentor, a mother, a friend, I find it easy to see the patterns in others. I can sense and solve a problem that is not my own in record time when needed. I can feel the pain in others and process it. I can also take the emotion out and see it for what it is. But when it comes to my own life, I am as human as it gets. 

Sometimes I learn from my mistakes quickly. Sometimes I have to repeat them numerous times in various ways to really, fully get the gist.  But always, I am learning and growing and living and teaching everything I pick up along the way.  I believe these are the growing pains of coming into my own authenticity.  I can only imagine it will get easier with more practice and continued dedication. 

And if it doesn’t, I will always have more to learn and learning is one of my favorite things!  For today, I am grateful for the opportunity to practice and to reframe and for the invaluable experience of learning how to heal myself. 

Facing My Fears One Color At A Time

I have been facing some pretty big fears lately. Huge actually. In my head, the continuous voice of “hey, you can’t do that” follows me around from early childhood. It has taken me years to stare that voice down and say “yeah, watch me.”

And truth be told, I am very aware that the fears I am facing now are small compared to the ones I will be facing in the near future. I’m not even sure what they are just yet, but intuitively I know big changes are ahead and I am in need of challenging and redirecting that nagging, negative voice.

Some days the fears are small...speak my honest feelings about a situation I don’t agree with at work.  The fear of not being accepted or even worse, rejected, has dissipated with practice over the years. Life as a counselor has me wanting to please people, but sometimes pleasing people doesn’t actually help them.  This I now know for sure, and practice accordingly.  It not only benefits me, its what is needed for the person I am supporting in their own changes and healing.

Other days the fears are larger...progressing in my business or writing about my personal life and sharing it with anyone who wants to learn.  Exposing my inner most thoughts is both scary and cathartic, but more so, allows me the opportunity to stop judging myself and be proud of who I am and what I’m all about.

And other days, the fears are downright nagging and bothersome.  They seem ridiculous and small, but can be immobilizing.  Today is one of those days. I am painting my bathroom. I know, sounds silly, but creates such anxiety in me.

The perfectionist in me is terrified. What if I picked the wrong color, what if I get paint all over and it’s obvious I’m not good at this? What if I give up and stop doing it midway? What if I get stuck in my head in the silence or even worse, the intense thoughts, and I can’t get back out?

I actually know exactly where these thoughts and anxieties come from.  They are reminders from my past of a time I felt so lost and scared.  I painted my large kitchen two weeks after I bought my house...the house I bought on my own, after the breakdown of my marriage.  The house I never intended on making my own on my own when I first moved in. And I was not the painter in the family- for good reason. My distracted ways and impatience does not lend its hand to thorough paint jobs.

I stared down those walls for two days, trapped in my head and thoughts, wanting to do a good job, questioning if I really liked the color I chose, and praying that soon it would be over.  In the middle of the job I text my friend who is a talented painter and said “If you care at all about me, you will not let me paint again.”  In fact, I still have one strip left that needs to be touched up and I haven’t gone back to it yet from memories alone.  

So I’ve been waiting this project out. It’s the last of the paint jobs for awhile, and it just needs to happen. And it IS happening. I need to face this fear, I will face this fear and that bathroom is going to look good...I’m 87% sure.

And if it doesn’t, does it really matter? No, it will get painted over and I will have faced my fears and felt the pride and excitement that goes with it. Its time to paint over my old life and give it a fresh new look.  After all, life is more stressful if we don’t go with the inevitable changes, so why not be part of the plan?