**Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health professional and all mental health concerns should be advised by a doctor, therapist, or certified mental health professional.**
Surviving the suicide of my first love and kid’s father was a twist I never thought my life would take. But here we are, three years later, still living on after the whiplash of the tragedy that changed our lives forever.
I am who I am today because of what his choice called out of me. I am hand-crafted to not just endure, but walk through pain with magnificently messy courage. And it’s not just me who was refined by this fire. My kids are resilient, truth-seekers who bravely practice managing some of life’s BIGGEST emotions everyday. I am in awe of them. Of us. We’re nothing close to the family I imagined us being… we’re way more badass! And tender. I would never have chosen this path for us, but I can’t help but see the wealth we have because of it.
I made a choice after he died. I chose to stop being silent about truth. I chose to live at my highest level of integrity all the time. I chose to teach my kids how to be relentlessly honest with kindness, compassion, and vulnerability. One of the ways I teach them is in the way I engage in (age-appropriate) conversations with them about suicide, mental health, and feelings. I, along with our robust circle of support, am training them to not “fix”, stuff, or silence their “big” emotions (anger, shame, sadness, even excitement), but rather feel, manage, and consciously choose what response they’d like to have in regards to what they feel.
Mental illness, suicide, emotional pain–they are excruciating to watch our loved ones navigate. But there are invitations within these situations asking us to grow—to widen our ideas of love and expand our edges of what it means to truly live. These are invitations, not requirements. They are opportunities not all choose to accept. Saying YES to embracing the truth of these storylines takes deliberate courage as living in the hard reality of these brutal situations can be some of the hardest work of our lives. But the reward is this: While there will be pain, there is no suffering in truth.
It’s when we use filters that we begin to lose a grip on reality. When we sift out the “uglier” parts of our life and decide to only show what we know is widely acceptable and valued, we deny our truth. Pretending things are different then they are, wearing masks to hide insecurities, presenting confidence where shadows of shame lie are all ways we live outside truth. I’m not going to act like radical honesty isn’t difficult! Sometimes it’s agonizing to be the conversation-starter on hard topics or calling out the dormant relationship-killers lying under the surface of every word or interaction. But it’s the only way we can live whole.
Truth-telling isn’t easy, but it becomes habitual with practice. And after a while, you’ll realize there’s no other way to live. Jesus was right when he said, “The truth shall set you free.” Living in complete honesty with yourself and others allows you to live fully expressed and one hundred percent authentic! That means you never have to hide parts of who you are or filter what you need to accommodate others. Can you imagine?!
So, whether it’s you or a loved one who is struggling with the decision to live or die, the most important thing to recognize it’s your truth. That might sound like: Life is a complete shit-show right now. I am drowning in shame and agony. No one understands. No one sees me, knows me, or cares. I feel broken beyond repair.
All of those things may be your truth today. And the truth of tomorrow is this (whether you can see it, feel it, or know it for yourself, it’s true): Nothing lasts forever. Not even this moment (or years) of agony. You are not alone. There is nothing new under the sun, and there are others who fight battles like the ones you are fighting. It’s hard to be seen, known, or heard when shame is so heavy, but that doesn’t mean no one cares for you. You are not broken. No one is, though we may feel it at times, we are not problems to be fixed, but rather masterpieces of art unfolding along the way (some of us are splattered paint or mosaic art formed of a thousand shattered pieces, but art, nonetheless). If you have a beating heart in your chest, you are worth the fight to keep living. There is more than what is in this moment, I can promise you that.
Heavy. This is the heavy duty life stuff. This is why Glennon Doyle calls life “brutiful”. Because life is damn brutal and beautiful, all at the same time. The brutality and beauty are mixed up in the same moments. It’s our job as humans to keep trekking through the brutal parts to see the beautiful ones. It’s there we remember why it’s so important to keep living. We weren’t created to be happy. So if you’re not happy, that doesn’t mean you’re doing life wrong. We were made to experience life: the heartache AND the pleasure, the pain AND the joy, the loss AND the gain, the empty AND the filling, the lack AND the love. If you aren’t experiencing all of this, there’s more LIFE for you to find!
I have two encouragements for those walking painful paths right now:
1. Find out how you can love yourself well. Do you need to practice hardcore self-care, build rock solid self-trust, discover helpful resources? Do it. These are the first steps for you to find unshakable peace. But only take on what is YOURS—you are never in charge of someone else’s choices or actions. There is so much power in choosing what is yours and gently handing back what is not. This is part of living in integrity. Examples of things that are your responsibility to manage: your emotions, truth, triggers, needs, self-care (health, emotional/mental well-being, boundaries), integrity, and your own best interest. Examples of things that are NOT yours to manage: other people’s choices, truths, integrity, responses to life/you/your truth, emotions, needs, self-care. I get it, there is a teeny, tiny fine line between what is yours and what is theirs when we’re talking about mental illness (especially suicide), addiction, and abuse. All I can say is there is FREEDOM in recognizing what is yours to carry. The way you get crystal clear when everything seems foggy and blurred with panic and surging emotion is through radical self-care. Learning how to hold space for yourself and practicing hard core follow-through on commitments to self will help you identify every little “thing” (things that upset you, misplaced blame shifts, codependency, toxic relationship dynamics) very quickly. This online course is a GREAT starting point for clearing up emotionally muddied waters.
2. Speak truth. Do not pretend what is happening is NOT happening. Name the elephants in the room. Call them out and face the fears these elephants try to suffocate you with. This takes an incredible amount of courage to do. I do not underestimate how terrifying this can be. No matter what “elephant” we’re talking about here (be it suicide, toxic relationship/family dynamics, domestic violence, child abuse, infidelity, etc.), it is vital that you navigate these conversations with your safety as the number one priority.
In regards to a loved one who is straddling life and death, speaking your truth might sound something like, “Listen, I know things feel out of control. I imagine you’re not feeling seen and known by anyone right now. That’s got to carry a lot of heavy feelings like shame with it, I bet. While I don’t want to pretend to know what you’re feeling right now, I want you to know that you matter to me. You choosing to live or die matters to me. I am here to support you however you prefer, but if you’re going to talk about ending your life—whether slowly with substances or by suicide—I am going to take that very seriously and seek help for and with you.
You are very important to me and I believe that as long as you have a heartbeat, there is hope for better solutions for what’s happening inside your head right now.
What can I do to help you today? Do you want to talk for a bit or can I look up some resources online to help you?”
Again, regardless of what the circumstance is that needs the steel blade of truth to slice it down the center, your safety and well-being should not be compromised in doing so. If you are feeling the weight of responsibility for a person’s life, a certain outcome, or emotional state, you have some work to do. This “work” includes clearly identifying what is yours and what is theirs to change, fix, or choose. (Hint: Remember, you’ll never be in charge of another adult’s life choices.) If you are struggling to figure out what is your responsibility, I recommend working with a therapist, coach, or practicing some radical self-care until you feel confident in deciphering your emotional world from other’s. This online course is a wonderful tool to learn the basics of finding where your power is, even in the most seemingly powerless situations.
Life is never what we imagine it will be when we start out living it. That’s universal (whether people admit it or not!). Mental illness is not a failure to thrive, it’s part of some of our journeys in life. Our work, whether on the inside or outside of mental illness, is simply this: to gain understanding. Sometimes that means seeking to understand our own emotions and sometimes that means seeking education on how to help or get help. If there is one thing I’ve learned from walking beside my husband through a decade of depression, anxiety, and undiagnosed bipolar, it’s this: We all have more to learn about ourselves and the ones we love. So, don’t close the door to knowledge and perspective. Keep searching to widen those perimeters and expand your view. The greatest treasures in life are born on the edges of what we understand.
My heart is standing with all those treading in the depths of life and death today. I promise, with every heartbeat, there is hope.
I am not a licensed counselor or expert on suicide. I only have my experience and the many stories of others who have walked the stormy waters of suicide with. It is important to seek professional guidance (@national_suicide_prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255) for yourself or your loved one if ending one’s life is mentioned. I believe that every mention of suicide should be taken seriously.
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.
To all the weary hearts who are slowly being ripped in two by their angry, cruel, or unpredictable partners, this is for you:
What you’re facing today is terrifying and daunting. I am reminded of what it felt like going to bed every night fearing THIS would be the night he snaps. My worst fears (the ones were never even allowed into my conscious thoughts) ran like this:
What if he rapes me when I’m asleep? He might come in my room in the middle of the night and shoot me. What if he cuts my throat while I sleep? What would happen if my children came in and saw me bleeding… or dead? I can’t bear this. But what can I do? I can’t leave tonight, I can’t legally take my kids and run, I could lose them forever. I won’t leave them here alone, but in staying, I know I’m risking my life. I don’t have a choice. Whatever happens, happens. I am at the fate of his hand. Oh, God, I hope he doesn’t snap tonight…
My heart is heavy with you today as I can imagine your mind and body are flat lining with the bombardment of input, decisions and overwhelm. I just want to tell you this: it’s ok if you don’t get it perfect– all the next steps and right decisions. It’s ok if you don’t know what to do. It’s ok if you just can’t handle it all. My sweet friend, this is the time to lean on your people. Let them make decisions and decide next steps. Let them mash together all their brains, resources, knowledge, and love for you (and your kids) and set the next step in motion for you. Because the truth is, you are actively experiencing trauma and your brain cannot cognitively sort through all of this data in this state. The lies. The tangled promises. The tricky games. The loaded questions. The constant accusations, blame-shifting, and word-twisting… it changes the way your brain receives, processes, and stores information. This is very important to understand because it means you’re not crazy. You’re not overly sensitive. You’re not paranoid. The reason information, options, and decisions seem so fucking elusive and confusing is because your brain is being short-circuited right now… by the trauma… from the abuse. This is what they call domestic violence–one person exerting power, dominance, control over another person. Sometimes it is physical. Sometimes it is financial. Sometimes it is sexual. But it is always psychological (emotional, mental) abuse.
So, there it is. It doesn’t matter what label is put on it, what matters is that you know two things: you are not alone and there is a valid reason it is so difficult to “figure this out”. Oh, beautiful soul, you are not lost, you are not broken. You are working with a partially frozen mind. The months and years of mental and emotional games will rust the brain, making simple tasks (like remembering a few grocery items or where you put your mail) seem impossible. This mental rust will also make the big decisions seem completely overpowering, it might feel your only option is to stay. To that, let me say this: As one who has walked in similar shoes, I officially give you permission to exhale and stop trying to make all the decisions. Let your army take over for the next couple of steps. Let them keep you and your babies safe. It’s time to stop fighting this alone. If you don’t have an army of friends and family supporting you, guess what? There are organizations all over the country crawling with volunteers, advocates, and other survivors waiting for you to call them and give them permission to swoop in and carry you from where you are today to your next right step. You are not alone and you do not have to sort this out on your own. In fact, you were never supposed to figure this out on your own.
You didn’t know you’d have to fight, you were under the impression it was love that was required of you. You were expected to battle when you only promised to have and to hold. Not having the tools (or the weapons) you need for the life you find yourself in can leave you feeling… crushed. You’re not alone. There are many more like you and me. We know the sting of betrayal, the torment of confusion, and the crushing weight of the shame. I have a secret weapon for you as you begin to recognize and swallow the heavy doses of doubt and regret that come with realizing you are a victim of domestic violence. This is it: Shame grows where new tools are needed.
Wherever you feel broken, incompetent, and small is where your soul is asking you to find new strategies, apply new solutions, and upgrade old programming. This means you have all the power to learn, heal, and grow. All the things you wish you had done differently in the past get to teach you how to live more authentically in the present and future. Your life is not wasted. Your story is not over. You get to take all your power back.
So, weary heart, every time you feel incapable, helpless, and unworthy, remember you are ONE new tool away from freedom, clarity, and expansion. Do not give up, not yet. Find the next step. And then the next. And the next. Before you know it, you’ll be fully empowered and sharing all your life strategies with all of us.
Warrior On, Weary Soul
Domestic violence is never a simple fix. It takes victims to the edges of their humanness and asks, “What now?” When we don’t know how to answer that question, we can lose ourselves in the hollowing fear of our own limitations. Through my personal healing journey, I discovered that by simply being able to locate new resources (therein, new tools), I was able to alleviate the otherwise paralyzing effects of my shame. This discovery has freed me to accept even the wildest outbursts of my shadow. Being a victim of domestic violence is not a death sentence for one’s self-esteem or ability to trust or even be loved well. As I continue on my healing journey, I am only uncovering more beauty, openness, and trust with others, but most of all… with myself. My experience is that radical self-love will always begin with having the right tools.
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!