It's only appropriate to begin with a few small doses of reality...
Reality Check #1: I consistently set off the smoke detectors in my house when I cook. I tell myself it’s because of where they are located relative to the kitchen, but let’s be real… that’s not normal. My cooking sucks.
Reality Check #2: As I picked up my four-year-old from her Dad’s house a few weeks ago, she grabbed the screen door and said, “Come on and open up, ya asshole door!” I unsuccessfully bit my lip and tried to find a stern face, but still laughed a good three minutes.
Reality Check #3: The same 4-year-old got so mad at her BFF at their first sleepover together that she refused to look at her or speak to her… for at least half an hour. The other mom texted me at 9pm, asking how she should handle the drama.
Reality Check #4: I was on the phone with the guy I’m dating just a few weeks after we’d met when my six-year-old suddenly ran up to the phone and screamed, “Our Mom is a trainwreck!” That was cool.
Reality Check #5: I thought I was killing it as I bootlegged leftover Halloween candy and six water bottles in my purse through the doors of Frozen 2 with four children in tow. Joke was on my stingy ass when I somehow lost my wallet in the theater. Thank goodness for honest people though – I got it back the next day.
Reality Check #6: I recently transported eight cases of wine from point A to point B for work. But when I opened the back hatch of my SUV, an entire case came crashing out. I cussed as wine seeped out of the broken bottles, through the cardboard and onto the sidewalk in the rain. Then a colleague drove by and whipped out his phone to take a picture and I laughed… because that’s funny!
So before you confuse me with someone who actually has all her shit together, please read all of that again. I'm not writing this from my ivory tower or my soap box or my golden throne.
There was a time not so long ago when those same incidents would have sent me into a spiral. I would have found someone to blame. I would have been mad, negative, even hateful toward some of the people closest to me because something didn’t go my way. I would have let some silly, inconsequential thing ruin my day or week because that’s just how I used to live. But the truth is, I was hurting. I didn’t like who I was, and I was incredibly ashamed by some of the choices I’d made.
There’s that saying, “Hurt people hurt other people.” And it’s so freaking true.
Holidays were the worst. I took out anger and anxiety on people I loved. I took what should have been beautiful days filled with family and memories and I ruined them. Every. Single. Time.
After a while though, I realized that messed up person was neither who I truly am nor who I wanted to be. So I faced that unhappy person head-on. I went to therapy. I put in the work and dealt with the mess that came as side-effects of working through my shit. I sat with the pain and the guilt and the past that once bogged down that miserable girl and simultaneously made her want to take others down with her.
There were also some pretty important steps that I now realize helped me heal, which included holding myself accountable. And even though I didn't have some grand plan or end game in mind, sharing the how is important... because I now realize none of it happened by accident.
I set and accomplished a huge goal.
It’s funny how opportunity often appears at our lowest point. I was a complete mess on my living room couch the night my friend Cindy sent me the text, asking if I would complete a Half Ironman with her. Come to think of it, my emotional state was probably why I said yes without thinking it through. But crossing that finish line nine months later is one of the most prideful moments I’ve had in a very long time.
I looked inward.
My company recently incorporated employee engagement surveys at our corporate office. Some of the feedback suggested I needed to improve my management and leadership skills. Big time. First I cried. Then I got mad. Then I was defensive. But after self-reflection and coaching from people I trust and respect, I owned all of it. I realized much of the feedback was true, and some was simply perception that needed to be addressed. Either way, I had a lot of work to do… on me.
I walked away from a toxic relationship.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in other people that we can’t see how much they’re damaging our soul. But somewhere in the middle of therapy and hundreds of hours of triathlon training and self-reflection, I realized I deserve better. So I blocked someone in my phone. I unfriended and unfollowed them on social media. I stopped talking about them. I took away their power over me and gained so much self-respect.
I focused on my kids.
Last April, I took my kids on a spring break beach vacation. Just the four of us. I booked it, planned it and paid for it myself. I thought we were heading to a tropical location with 80-degree temperatures and sunshine for days. But high temperatures that week were mostly in the 40s and low 50s with lots of rain. I knew the kids would reflect my energy. So I made new plans and changed my expectations. And you know what? My littles had no idea our vacation was supposed to be anything different than what it was. We had the BEST time. That trip became a huge turning point for me when it came to learning how to connect with my kids emotionally.
I put myself first.
I knew if I stood a chance of crossing that Half Ironman finish line, I had to take better care of me. I focused on self-care – including eating better and sleeping more. I also built (or, in some cases rebuilt) positive relationships. I stopped settling and decided to spend my time doing what makes me happy. If a situation doesn’t have a feasible positive end-result or if my gut feels weird, I walk away. I’ve never felt more free
It’s worth noting none of this has been a straight line. It was messy and jagged with high points and super low ones. It also took time – more than 18 months – and a lot of really hard (and heart) work on my end. For real.
At one low point in the past year, I wanted to quit my job.
At another, I cried myself to sleep several nights in a row.
At yet another, I screamed at my mom and accused her of not being there when I needed her most.
And at another, I had a hard conversation with someone I'd hurt. Even though it brought that person intense pain, I was finally able to forgive myself and let go of massive guilt I’d held on to for years. I allowed myself move forward.
Therapy helped me work through all of those "things" from my past. It taught me how to sit with the hard stuff and how to do the heart work - to heal my heart from issues I'd avoided and not dealt with previously.
The heart work included lots of solo time. Instead of going out on empty dates or giving my energy to superficial relationships on weekends I didn't have my kids, I chose to stay home. It wasn't fun, but was what I needed at the time.
I write all of this because I know someone out there needs to read it. If someone you love is going through a hard time, please love them harder. They need you (even if they say they don't).
If you’re at the bottom and you feel alone, sad, scared or just plain pissed off, I get it. Those feelings seem to suck a lot more this time of year, but I promise it gets better. You will feel better and do better and be better and love better. It is possible to become a better version of yourself.
But you have to keep moving forward. You have to be willing to put in the heart work. And you have to know you're worth it.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...