Your body remembers significant mile markers along your life journey, even when your mind doesn’t. Today marks six years from the last fight we ever had. My body has been sluggish all week, feeling the magnetic pull to my bed. I only just realized why. I feel it in my spine and tightening muscles around my hips and shoulders–what this weekend symbolizes in my soul. Freedom. Isn’t that strange? My body constricts at the memory of how I reclaimed my freedom. The body and soul are intimately interwoven, and mine are remembering the process it took to get me here–safe, stable, whole again.
Exiting a toxic relationship is never easy, let alone one tangled with gaslighting, bipolar, depression, alcoholism, drugs, and codependency. It was like pulling my head out of a shark’s mouth–painful, bloody, no clean lines. So, that’s what my visceral memory is recounting. It took me four years to finally be able to truthfully declare: I am emotionally stable. And another two years after that to actually feel… I am going to be okay in life.
Domestic violence is a funny thing, the way it sneaks up on you and eats away at your confidence, personality, and neural pathways… in silence. We assume we are safe inside our own minds, but victims of abuse have learned the hard way, this is not true. Once that is understood, it makes sense that it can easily take years to untangle the complex webs of toxic beliefs that were sown into our psyches.
I mostly have amazing days, full of laughter, joy, and love. But a few days a year, my body remembers what I came from. I honor this pull. It’s sacred to me–remembering. I never want to forget the horrific lows of what it felt like to be treated less than human by the one who swore to love me for the rest of my life. I want to be able to tap back into those days of hollowing emptiness inside my chest. Why? Because it’s where empathy lives now. It is no longer re-traumatizing for me to think about my days as a victim (after substantial PTSD therapy), so I treasure those memories and emotions. They are what help me spread and teach hope and power to those who are wading through the dark hollows still.
“Healing” isn’t linear, with clear directions and graduation points. Reconciling one’s past is excruciating at times, and I wasn’t ever actually interested in facing that kind of pain. But I chose to turn into the abyss of lost dreams and try to recover pieces of myself in hopes that I could somehow be able to give my kids something better than what I had. I started out doing it for them, but somewhere along the way, I ended up doing it for me.
As I collected the lost pieces of my soul, I learned the most valuable lessons of my life: I am worthy. I am enough. I belong. I am okay. It was in this learning that I began to accept my story–the abuse, the decisions I regretted, the divorce, the loss of myself. Acceptance didn’t mean it was acceptable to be treated poorly, but it meant it was okay to honor my past for bringing me here today. What follows this brave embracing of one’s self is perhaps one of human’s most precious capabilities: compassion.
When I learn how to extend compassion to myself (for all the things I wish I had done differently), I become capable of showing compassion to others. The same goes for caring for oneself, loving oneself, forgiving oneself, respecting oneself, embracing oneself. If we can get clear about practicing these patterns with ourselves, we will naturally create space and capacity in our lives to do these things for others. It’s magic.
So, yes. I am allowing myself to soberly sit in the memories of what this weekend represents for me: the beginning of my exodus to freedom. It isn’t painful to remember, it’s humbling. And at the same time, I feel immense pride for the six-year younger version of me who was brave enough to say, “No more.” She’s fucking radiant and I am honored to hold her in the deepest parts of my soul today. She has taught me so much, led me home, and reminded me of my humanity. I love her. I love me.
To all the souls who are still wandering for your scattered pieces:
Carry on. You can do hard things. You are worth the often silent, lonely journey back to yourself. And I see you.
Photo by William Farlow Unsplash
I am deeply rooted in my efforts and ability to tell the truth and live honestly. I speak, write, coach, parent, and relate on the single steady foundation of honesty. To me, living honestly also means being aware and up front about any realizations of covert motives or agreements I’m trying to attach to a person or situation. For instance, I’ve been known to say, “Turns out, I was only dating you so I could feel worthy, but now I feel worthy on my own and no longer feel we are a dating match.” Brutal or honest? I say honest. So, imagine my surprise when I recently managed to wriggle free from a mental block that has been confining me for over two decades. The block: my lack of honesty.
There have been many plot twists in my story–divorcing a megachurch pastor, him taking his own life six months later, raising grieving children alone, the absolute shit-show of dating post-marriage in my 30’s, and countless “epiphanies” of healing and freedom along the way–so, perhaps, this is just another notch in my “twisted story” belt. But it shook me down to a cellular level because it happened to challenge all those beautifully crafted “stories of honesty” I had been so triumphantly proclaiming. Through the course of relatively unimportant happenings, I landed flat on my face and locked eyes with this brutal discovery:
I’m the one holding myself back.
Oh, that’s cute, huh? Super life-coachy of me to say, “I’m the only one standing in my way.” But here’s what that actually meant. It meant this disgusting, vomit-in-my-mouth reality: I had been unconsciously waiting for a man to appear into the picture so I could then continue on with what I was meant to do, live, and be.
Gross. Why is that so utterly repulsive to me? Because I am a free-spirited, independent, and no less, happy woman goddammit! Why on earth would my subconscious ever allow for such a sadistic and treacherous motive to ever creep in? Needless to say, I was one hundred percent dumbfounded at this realization, so, naturally my mind began spinning a million miles per minute to figure out why, God, why I ever got into this mental trap to begin with and compensate for having stayed there so fucking long (two decades, remember?).
Lucky for you, I will share a cute, tidy version of all the mind-fucking this actually took to retrieve:
After a decade-long regime in an abusive marriage (to the megachurch pastor), I came out rather tattered and wobbly. I had lost all sense of self–self-esteem, self-love, self-trust. It was gone. Because I have an overactive mind (which up to that point had been a curse), my recovery moved at an obscenely rapid pace. If I am one thing, I am obsessed with personal development. The three years following my wildly disappointing marriage were jam packed with sexual escapades (that for sure did not end up like you are imagining they did), so many tears I could have filled the Hudson, lots of fist-shaking at the heavens “why me!”, an ungodly reckoning with my liver by way of whiskey, and playing a tricky game of “catch up” in emotional and relational intelligence as I had taken a lengthy hiatus from those fields for over ten years in order to stay married (if I outgrew him, I’d be blamed for breaking the sacred vows we partook in). It was in playing “catch up” that I unlocked the majority of mental and emotional blocks that had me seek and tie myself to my abuser for so long, continue to chase unavailable men, and kept me adequately distracted from my own “shadow work” while at the same time safely making it seem like I was actually quite knowledgeable on emotional quotient (EQ). As I became aware of these blocks, I would release them and consciously build new habits, beliefs, or behaviors in their place. I was getting healthy! While all of this delicious healthiness was happening, I was also learning how to talk to my kids about mental illness and suicide (as this was what consumed their world having lost their dad to it), which meant lots of bittersweet, brutal fucking honesty. In that honesty is where I gave birth to a new standard of integrity for myself: to live and speak my truth as soon as I am aware of it.
The safety and stability I have created for myself and my family is based on this commitment to myself. I will show up honestly every day to every situation with every person I’m in front of. Fucking honorable, right? Sure is. And it works. It’s an exhilarating way to live, but it is NOT easy. I have a lot of uncomfortable, difficult conversations. I’ve learned to get comfortable with discomfort. I’ve had to in order to keep living the story that’s turned out to be my life.
As honorable as I’ve become, just like you and everyone else, I have a shadow. The shadow is the part of me that I’d prefer to keep to myself, not share with lovers, and pretend it doesn’t exist at all. Everyone’s shadow is a little bit different, but there are some blanket similarities with all of ours. For instance, shame. Shame is a shadow trait. Every human experiences shame. So, that’s nice to know we’re not alone in it. But our shadow likes to say, “But yikes! My shame is grosser than other people’s shame, so I shouldn’t talk about it, otherwise I might not be liked or loved or accepted.” Bullshit. Everyone’s shame is equally terrifying and gross.
Speaking of shame, back to how I grotesquely and unknowingly–but maybe had a little inkling–put my life on HOLD while I powerlessly waited for some fairytale unicorn of a man to waltz in and start building an awesome conscious relationship with me… (for the record, I will never stop hating that this was ever true for me, but if I know myself–and I do–soon I will be able to honor this younger, idiot version of myself for leading me to the point of expansion.)
So I worked through a clusterfuck of heavy, ratchet ass feelings, drank my way through some grief, and came out the other end with some badass integrity. Cool story. Except for that damn shadow. It regularly and unpredictably shows up to keep inviting me to grow and find breakthroughs… unless I ignore it or waste my energy trying to hide it. Then it’ll become the big, bad wolf that huffs and puffs until it blows my whole life to smithereens. You probably know what I mean.
My most recent shadow invitation began with a pity party–why is everyone else finding their person and not me? And ended with another sacred, completely unexpected mindfuck–because, baby girl, you’re still waiting to mooch off of someone else’s power instead of finding, taking, and living in your own.
Power. That’s one of those residual effects of living honestly. You get a lot of power when you live in your own truth. And in a weird, twisty way, this whole shadow appearance about my powerlessness actually showed me how I can choose differently if I wanted to. And I do. So I did.
Here is how Shadow Work usually works:
- Discontent. Not getting the results or outcome you wanted.
- Shadow appearance. Usually creepy and uninvited.
- The great choosing. You make a conscious or unconscious choice about Step 2.
- The reckoning. Your shadow fucks you up, and depending on what you chose in Step 3, this will either lead to the best life yet or it will lead to more pressure, pain, and pretending.
- Power or Powerless. Again, depending on Step 3, you will feel one of these.
Regardless of what other delectable outcomes I’ve had from the most recent shadow appearance (and there are a few), this is the biggest: Whether I’m aware of it or not, when I pretend to be anything lesser than who I am, I am only ever lying to myself.
Here’s the deal, bosses, when we prevent ourselves from living in our truth–our full potential, our highest integrity–we are presenting the world with a smaller, and dare I say fake, version of ourselves. And if you’re like me, you were hoping someone else would come along, call “bullshit” on the whole facade and beckon you into full blossom.
Get out of the fucking fairytale.
That’s not actually how it works. It looks more like we pretend we’re accomplishing all of the dreams and hopes we have for ourselves while secretly in the quiet of the night, lying awake sad or with a brick on our chests because we know there’s more, but we aren’t sure how to get it so it feels safer to never speak of it. So we don’t. We stay silent in our true experience, which happens to be a little disappointing and causes shitty feelings to linger from the night into the day. Those days and nights string together and before we know it we have chronic gut issues, headaches, insomnia tousled with the perpetual switch of the toggle between anxiety and depression, and we surmise that, “Yes, this is in fact, just who I am.”
The danger of not allowing your shadow to teach you is this: You begin to think you ARE your shadow. And this. Well, it’s perhaps the precise source of our restless unhappiness.
If you want to stop feeling like someone else has the power to make your life so amazing that you actually want to keep living it and start finding, choosing, and living in your own power, then stop lying to yourself. You’re only doing yourself a disservice when you pretend what is true isn’t and what isn’t is. Stop that shit immediately. Practice being aware of your thoughts and how often you discount your own experience–feelings, needs, pain. Bring all those swirling thoughts hanging out in the shadows of the back of your mind forward and turn a spotlight on them and start asking them some questions. Get curious about your own thoughts. This practice of awareness in and of itself is going to revolutionize your power meter.
Once you’ve become pretty aware of how often you shove your actual true self under the rug and tell him/her to “shut up and go away,” then you can start getting intentional about how you want to be honest about your true self (either with yourself or with others). You’ll be off the power charts when you start actively, consciously choosing how you want to show up (honestly or not). It’s really quite fascinating. I highly recommend this as a lifestyle.
Whatever you decide to do with this information, I hope at a minimum you’ll stop lying to yourself. Because really, it’s not helping anyone in the long run, especially you.
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Guess what?! Your sexual experience doesn’t make you more or less valuable. Period.
Neither does your relationship status or the number of divorces under your belt or all the “obvious, repetitive, horrible disaster” relationships you’ve chosen to get into or stay in over the years.
They just don’t say a single thing about your worth.
They are part of your story and you have many parts to that story.
So, let’s not fixate, idolize, or obsess about how pure we can be or how tarnished we’ve become due to the pleasures we have or have NOT indulged in.
There is no formula we can insert ourselves in and come out the end as the MOST blessed or pure or beautiful. We are human. And that means we are made an entire world of other amazing things like:
And so much more. Let’s fixate on THOSE things. Because it’s in the choosing of those things, where we BECOME.
We become big thinkers and active doers–unafraid to stand alone, but recognizing the value of community. Let’s teach our children that they can BECOME whoever/whatever/whenever they want. It is the gift each of us gets just for existing.
Let’s learn for ourselves so we can teach our sons & daughters that we are more than the sum of our sexual activity.
We are powerful humans who get to choose how BIG we live in the ways we are–kind, capable, conscious, collaborative, and creative.
Let’s stop living small and teaching the next generation to stay small by supporting and repeating implicit (and explicit) messages like:
“Virgins are whole.” (aka Because once you cross “the” line, you can never have your purity back (aka be whole again). You’re broken if you explored your sexuality–before or between marriage(s)–or if you were violated by incest, rape or molesation. And if you forbid yourself from getting to know your own sexual blueprint before you sign a paper and have a ceremony, then you can achieve the ultimate purity prize which no one in particular is assigned to adorn you with, but rest assured, IT’S REAL and it’s totally worth it).
“Sexual acts tarnish you.” (aka You can never be as “clean”, “acceptable”, or “valuable” as you were BEFORE you engaged in a sexual act. But what “act” this specifically pertains to is up to whomever is currently surrounding you–for some it’ll be actual penetration, for others it’ll be any form of arousal before you’ve said vows in front of people who will never be a part of your sexual discovery process, and still for others it’ll be kissing before your wedding. So! Good luck figuring out how to not be tarnished and forever less desirable and even repulsive. Better be safe and never touch anyone you think is attractive… or even talk to them).
“Your virginity is a gift to your future spouse.” (aka You’re destined to marry someone who is ALSO just as unconcerned with your lack of connection to yourself as you are, and this most certainly translates to your sexuality and other areas too. So, be sure and DON’T live in the present moment and appreciate all you are and have today, because maybe one day some hypothetical person is really, really going to want the BEST GIFT EVER–your lack of sexual experience and ignorance about what you like and want in the bedroom–Oooo, fun! Hope you live long enough to experience your hypothetical gift exchange. Death is so uncertain, so I hope THAT day doesn’t come before you do. And for anyone who isn’t sure they want to get married or is certain they don’t want to be married? Well, that’s just silly! You either want to get married as soon as possible or you want to get married a little bit later. Those are your two options. This formula is for everyone, and that’s all there is to it).
“There’s no greater treasure than a virgin bride.” (aka Men can’t help themselves b/c they’re biologically wired for sex, so don’t expect them to be virgins, but women don’t like sex as much as men, so they’re “purity” is a testament to how asleep they are to their own biology, desire, and destiny–to explore and dive intimately into every part of who they are sexually, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. But shhhh, don’t tell! What women don’t know won’t hurt them. Keep them thinking small and living inside the box or else, because think of what might happen if they didn’t–men AND women alike might go on sexual explorations without shame! Yikes! That’s not in the formula).
Ok, I could go on and on, but there’s no sense in beating a dead horse. A lot of people are probably appalled at my insinuation that all people should have sex BEFORE they get married (what can I say? I’m a rebel). The truth is, I actually couldn’t care less if people have sex (however they define that term) before marriage. As with ALL THINGS, I simply frown upon perpetuating ridiculous subliminal, implicit, covert messages AROUND the topic of “sexual purity”. Americans especially have fine-tuned the idealization of abstinence. To me, it sounds more like a dismissive approach, “Hey, listen, as a collective (parents, educators, clergymen) we’re not entirely sure or wholly committed to knowing each of you as individuals to have the hard and brave conversations about sexuality that would require. It actually makes us feel a little squirmy and uncomfortable. So, we’ve decided to just have you all STOP wanting it or doing it until you have the social/emotional intelligence to figure that out for yourself. And we’ll of course back that up with some religious doctrine so you will feel the shame of any inkling toward rebellion and that will only help you make the “right” choice. This will allow us to remain ignorant and just let you deal with this whole conundrum when we’re no longer responsible for your well-being.”
Yeah. Am I wrong? I get it, nobody wants to admit to this or talk about it because then we actually have to acknowledge what’s happening.
So, here, let me get my point across with another elusive analogy. The American method for sex education is a lot like saying to a starving child, “Listen, I know you have an empty feeling in your stomach, that happens when you are biologically wired to eat and haven’t, but listen, you just can’t. If you choose NOT to eat, even though everything in you is made to do it, if you don’t, you’ll be more pure. Just trust me. There’s no actual scientific proof of this, of course, but it’s true. And, by the way, it will ALWAYS be harder for males to turn down food, so as a collective, we don’t really expect them to, but if one occasionally does, he’s a keeper no matter what other questionable behavior he may display. You can trust him if he has chosen not to eat until his wedding night. So, just don’t even play around with food. Just pretend you aren’t even curious about it. Oh, until your wedding feast of course! Then you should eat as much as you want! It won’t hurt and you’ll know exactly what you like, because you trusted the process and you dreamed about it your whole life. It’ll be the best experience of your life because you pretended you didn’t even want it or need it before, so that made you knowledgeable and ready to consume. You’ll be able to handle allllll the side effects of choosing to have your first meal at your wedding just fine– there will be no emotional, physical, or mental pain AT ALL.”
Ok, so maybe there are some holes in my analogy, but you get the point. Pretending the truth is a lie or somehow unnatural will never serve our race. Humans were wired to procreate. If there’s any question about this, just take a look at the male and female anatomy–it’s hard to argue with that. Regardless of what you think about my analogies, consider what you’ve been taught about sex, your sexuality, and all the “shoulds” that surround the topic. Did those teachings serve you well in adulthood? Did you feel free to live fully expressed? Were they confining or damaging in any way? If you could go back, how would you educate yourself about your sexuality and sex in general?
Now, if you have children of your own, consider what you are or will be teaching them (whether with or without words). I am raising my kids to be conscious, critical, and FREE thinkers, and that means I tell them the TRUTH about humans as a WHOLE. For instance:
- The masculine and feminine are equally valuable and uniquely designed–for a REASON. It’s our gift to get curious and discover how and why we are different and made to complement each other as masculine and feminine entities.
- We are more than the sum of our experiences. That means our sexual history, our trauma, our upbringing, our color/race/status/religion does not define WHO WE ARE. We are far more complex and sacred than those kinds of one-dimensional identifiers.
- Humans are constantly evolving, which means we will be in a continuous dance to get to know ourselves and choose who we want to be. You can choose to be aware of this. This is the life of consciousness. This is what it means to live outside the box and not follow the crowd just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Humans are not a system, we are an organism. Each of us is worth discovering every part of what makes us… us.
- Sex is a natural part of the human experience. Our bodies are designed for pleasure, productivity, power, and purpose. This is one of the most compelling and universal experiences we will have in life, so enjoy the process of discovering YOU.
- Truth does not lie. No matter the audience (young or old, religious or atheist, color or nation), culture, situation, job, goal, or perception, the truth is a super power. The truth has the power to pierce through every social, economical, cultural, physical, and spiritual barrier so it can be seen. Our only job as humans is to make space for it. We begin to do this by practicing identifying and speaking our truth.
Being human is a journey. There is no destination for our intellect, desires, or connections. Identifying who we are is much more complex than a number of partners, a score on a standardized test, or our ability to articulate what we know, what we’ve seen, or what we believe. Humans are sacred, evolving organisms. I think it’s about time we start treating ourselves that way.
We can only teach what we believe to be true ourselves. That’s why parenting is such a gift for those who desire it. It asks us to explain, process, and prove why we believe what we believe. We will always have the choice to deny the whole truth and play small, pretend reality is more picturesque than it is painfully human, or practice shame where we are being called to acceptance, but let us make our choices with care. For it is our choices of today that become our substance of tomorrow. There are little eyes, big systems, and potent beliefs that are forming all around what we choose. As we choose, may we forgive ourselves, deepen our truth, and free those who follow us.
My (ex) husband took his life September 15, 2016. After a tumultuous 10 year marriage and only six months after our divorce was final, he ended his lifelong battle with mental illness. The crazy thing about it is that even though our marriage was always hard–he was abusive and constantly tormented by his own mind–I loved him. I still do. Some days my whole body aches to see and hold him again. Grief is weird–confusing sometimes and other times it’s healing. It’s “normal” in my family now as my two kids and I continue to discover life after losing our very important person.
Sometimes grief shows up in my dreams. Recently, I had a dream my husband came back to life three years after his death and we began to live again… together. I kissed and hugged and squeezed him, laughing and crying, in shock and so thrilled and confused! I was a giddy mess and he was… very solemn and uncertain. His main concern after his resurrection was the shame of the impact of his actions. He had chosen to die, and now he was back. How were our friends and family going to handle him knowing he willing inflicted them all with the pain of his suicide?
Shame. It covered him. And just like I had habitually responded to his pre-death shame spirals, I swooped in to assure him everyone was going to be so thankful he’s alive, his cause of death wouldn’t provoke them to retract their love and excitement for his return. Although my affirmations of the value of his life were the same as they were before his suicide (“you matter, you’re loved, you’re wanted”), something felt very different. I was very different. As I scurried around to arrange reintroducing him to the world and all our people, I felt strangely whole.
When I awoke and began to process the dream, I realized what felt so different in the dream. See, I have spent the last three years since his death doing some megawork on myself–personal development on steroids–and as a result, I even showed up in my dreams differently. This time, when I had the chance to talk, touch, and be with my first love, I brought my new self to the scene. I’ve learned a lot about mental illness, suicide, relationships, connection, and self worth since his death, and as we sat together in my dream, it was all there with us. All the new tools, authenticity, understanding, and love. I loved him better in my dream than I was ever able to when he was alive. I heard him, understood him, connected with him, not because he was better, but because I knew how to show up this time.
Then my heart dropped to my stomach and the grief wave came crashing in. I don’t actually get to show up differently with my husband. I don’t actually get to love him better (healthier, wholly as me). I don’t actually get to apply all that I’ve come to know to our very fragile relationship. Because it was just a dream…
I know that dreams lack details (like his battle with bipolar and his history of abuse with me), but what this dream showed me was something precious and priceless:
I learned how to live whole because he died broken. I understand the sacredness of living because I know the pain of someone giving up their gift of life. I discovered the key to life is connection because he never felt how deeply needed, seen, known, and treasured he was.
I show up to life differently because I lost my first love to suicide. I am more present with our kids. I work everyday to connect better with myself and others because I now know connection is what tethers me to the land of the living. I don’t ignore my own pain or anyone else’s because now I understand how ignored pain can lead to the worst thoughts and actions a human can make. And most of all, I love differently because I didn’t get to love him the way I wanted. I didn’t have the tools back then, but I do now. I know how to choose myself and set boundaries so others can love me safely and fully. I know how to softly, openly approach others so they can feel seen and protected by my love. I know how to create wide open spaces in my heart and mind for my loved ones to dwell.
My dream showed me how big I know how to love now. Oh, how my heart wishes he could experience my new ability of love; the ache is heavy knowing I can’t love him this way and he will never feel it. But I do get to love our kids with it. They get to grow up under it, surrounded by it, being shaped by it. So, I guess his lesson on love lives in my expression of love, and that is a love story that is only just beginning.
When my boyfriend and I broke up after almost two years, I had the strangest reaction. I was relieved. More accurately, I was happy.
I really loved him, so I was a little caught off guard by my own response to him ending our romantic relationship. I thought to myself, “Wait, shouldn’t I be sad? Isn’t this the sort of thing that breaks people’s hearts–going through an unexpected breakup? Shouldn’t I be crying or something?” Of course I was going to miss him and our relationship, but that sadness was overshadowed by the undeniable freedom I was feeling. Something was off kilter.
After a little soul searching, I realized that since I began dating at the age of 16, I hadn’t shown up in relationships as, well… me. I wore a mask–or better said, I had a representative. My dating representative was still very much me, except she was always cool, sexy, and mysterious. She was all the “good” parts of me without any of the “needy” parts. She was extremely confident and fiercely independent. There was no situation that caught her off guard or scared her. She was alluring and compelling (think Lara Croft, Sarah Connor, or Wonder Woman).
Basically, if I wanted to be in a relationship with a guy, I showed up as the coolest chick ever–never needing anything and confident in all situations. I knew how to seduce and intrigue men. I played the game well. In fact, I can’t think of one man I failed to get when I sent my dating rep after him. It was indeed a game for me; a challenge–to learn what he wanted and adjust the insecure parts of me to become what he desired. I didn’t feel like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t, because I hadn’t ever actually decided who I was to begin with. It felt more like I was “trying on” different roles and parts to see if any of them felt true or authentically me (think Runaway Bride).
It wasn’t that I had multiple personalities (although I soberly evaluated this possibility for an hour or so before coming to this conclusion). I just had different versions of myself. My dating rep happened to be the strongest one (she got the most practice and attention). Some of the other reps in my REPertoire were: party rep (chipper, friendly, upbeat, gets along with everyone), work rep (assertive, confident, didn’t take shit from anyone, could handle all kinds of people), travel rep (unapproachable, preoccupied, slightly annoyed by everyone), and I even had a sex rep (having no needs, accommodating, fun, inticing). Every time I sent a rep out to cover the date, the party, the meeting, I had to split myself into two me’s: the authentic me and the perceived me. This was a tricky little web to weave and it took a lot of thought (a lot of overthinking, actually). When I was with whatever guy I was dating, I had to filter through my rep–what would “cool me” say? How would “laissez faire me” respond? What would “flirty me” do? The amount of energy this took was overwhelming and consumed my mind almost entirely.
So, when my boyfriend broke up with me after nearly two years, it wasn’t that I was happy the relationship ended, I was just happy that I didn’t have to use my rep anymore. Using reps in lieu of being my authentic self was exhausting. Historically, I just had short term relationships (5 weeks max), except for my ex-husband. I accidentally let him marry my dating rep. Yikes.
Here’s the thing, I have always been a genuine person. I just haven’t always lived as my authentic self. When I lived split in two (the real me and the perceived me), I hadn’t fully discovered who I was yet, so I genuinely thought my reps were me. The longer and more frequently one uses their reps, the more separated they become from their true self. I wasn’t consciously aware of how disconnected I was from myself, but I felt the discord in the incessant thoughts about the relationship ricocheting inside my head. I was up and down and back and forth on the daily about my boyfriend and our relationship through its entirety. Unbeknownst to him, of course (because my rep would never allow the true state of my heart to be revealed which was at its core, total chaos). He is a good man and I really did care for him, so I didn’t want to break up with him just because I couldn’t figure out who I really was or if I even wanted to be with him or not. That would be crazy, right?!
When he broke up with me, I literally thanked him. I hadn’t realized how tired I was of always playing it cool and pretending we were awesome when our relationship was clearly causing me a considerable amount of emotional torment. My decision to take the time to figure out what that emotional torment was ended up being the best decision I could have made for myself. What started with a little bout of curiosity turned into an awakening. Not only did I fire all of my reps, I found my authentic self.
Once I discovered I was housing a slew of lesser (albeit, cooler) versions of me, I said, “To hell with the house of reps!” and I cut them all out, cold turkey. Then I spun out trying to figure who I was without them for a few weeks before I began my journey back to self. I eventually gave up on distracting myself with relationship-hopping, drinking when I felt sad, or scrolling and texting friends when I felt lonely. I learned how to nurture myself and process my feelings. Now I get to live my life fully expressed, centered, and congruent in all areas: dating, parenting, work, parties, traveling… I’m just me. Sometimes I’m energetic and excitable and other times I’m reflective or melancholy, but it’s always fully me. There’s no mask, no alternate version of me, no representatives standing in place of the real deal.
It was the most beautiful year of my life. Not only did I learn how to live whole and free, I’m a better mom, friend, lover, and person.
There really is nothing like the original… turns out, that’s true about humans too.
We all pick up extra “cargo” along our trek through life. You know, the hard knocks–unmet needs, disappointments, heartbreaks, betrayals, trauma, etc. It’s an inevitable part of life because we aren’t offered courses on How to Let Shit Go in high school… because they aren’t offered! And that’s an unfortunate disservice to our society considering everything we do, think, produce is connected to our mind and it’s ability to process input (emotions, information, responsibility) clearly and accurately. So, just to be clear, everything from how well we can focus on spreadsheets in a cubicle to our capacity to create and maintain healthy relationships depends on our ability to clear the clutter in our minds.
Most of us spend decades collecting clutter without any sort of clearing. Talk therapy, energy work, meditation, self-care, and other mindfulness practices are all common ways to get rid of some of that negative programming we adopted from our first family systems, relationships, and life events along the way. What happens when we don’t purposefully make space to flush some of that unconscious programming out is it begins to shape our beliefs about who we are, who others are, and how the world is. This is where it gets gooey. Sure the quirks our parents trickled down to us (sexist jokes, detaching in tense situations, avoiding conflict, etc.) is all fun and games until those thinking patterns start sabotaging what we’re trying to build in our adult lives. Healthy relational patterns, sustainable diet and exercise routines, profitable careers, and positive self-images do NOT build themselves. The most valuable things in life–our biggest dreams and heart cravings–take intentional action.
After operating with a janky hard drive for the better part of 30+ years, I now have a pretty badass “filter” on my programming. That means I regularly take inventory of the old programs that aren’t serving me anymore and search for new systems (of thought and action) that will help me elevate my capacity to connect. Reprogramming started off as a very daunting experience for me; it seemed there was more faulty programs running my beliefs, perceptions, and self worth than positive ones. But there was no way around it, I had to hack away until I found some new skill sets to serve my Truth. Over time, this “work” has turned from overwhelming to exhilarating. Every roadblock–the kind that used to send me spiraling–now bring me hope because I know each bump in the road is leading me to deeper truth about myself.
Life switched from happening TO me to happening FOR me when I was able to take the power back over my mind. What once seemed impossible to me, I now know it is possible for everyone. And the most ridiculous part is that it’s not even complicated. It’s not always easy per se, but damn is it rewarding. The return on investment is so categorically empowering, it literally makes the work (aka reprogramming/shadow work) FUN. And this makes LIFE fun–full of color, possibility, vibrancy, truth, purity, passion! It’s the ONLY way I will choose to live from here on out.
Because of this absolute gift I have unwrapped in the form of a SECOND CHANCE on LIFE itself, I am now building a career where I can help other people find their gift to unwrap! We all have them, and that’s freaking exciting! So, here it is, my friends:
Beginning January 1, 2020, I am officially launching the MBK Coaching Program!
If you’re reading this before January 1, 2020, then you have the opportunity to jump on board during my soft launch (October-December 2019). If you sign up for 1on1 coaching in 2019, you will get a drastically discounted monthly rate (40% OFF).
The name of my game is always straightforward, so I want to share exactly what starting my program will look like. We begin with a 20 minute consultation call to make sure we are a good fit for continuing with the program. Once we both give a HELL YES, I ask all of my clients to commit to weekly or biweekly (every other week) sessions for a minimum of 3 months. Each session will run 40-50 minutes and will usually be held over the phone: call or video chat. Payments are due on a monthly basis at the rate of $300 for 2 sessions per month and $550 for 4 sessions per month. Every sign up in 2019 will be discounted 40% off for the entirety of the coaching contract. So, that means, if you sign up before January 1, you will be able to LOCK IN your coaching rates at $180/month for 2 sessions and $330/mo for 4 sessions for the duration of our contract together!
Let’s make 2020 the BIGGEST, TRUEST year we’ve ever lived!
Email, call or text 817-438-0373, or message me on social media @marybethkoenes to get started!!
YOU deserve it! Let’s DO THIS!