Starting the year solo & vanlife over the holidays!

I could have stayed in Tennessee for the holidays or I could’ve enjoyed it with my best friend out in Oregon. It isn’t that I didn’t have options, it just felt like the only way to end the year was alone. It felt right. I have done so much alone this year and when I really needed the support and the love of certain people, I didn’t get any at all, instead I got the opposite- cruelty. When you go through hard things alone, I realize now, you don’t really need anyone anymore. In 2020 I left a relationship with a man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with because sobriety and self development showed me that we weren’t as compatible as I thought. Then, suddenly leaving became the only, but the hardest choice. Then I left the country I had called home for years and came back to one I hadn’t called home in almost a decade. My heart broke so many times this year… for my love, for my country, for the tattered relationships I had wanted more than anything to keep whole. Like all of us, I learned what isolation and loneliness were… except I loved it. I learned to fall in love with my own space (the home I lived in) and with my own body again. I learned to set incredibly strong boundaries, how to heal, how to re-parent myself, how to self soothe… and have been rambling the US in Mosey the van now since June.

So doing the holidays alone felt right. Especially when my memories flooded back to the last Xmas I spent with my own family and then my ex’s family in Mexico— before the world fell apart and before we truly allowed our relationship to as well. Thinking back to the way I hesitated when he invited me until the very last minute when he got red in the face at my lack of a decision. I see my hesitation now as an inner knowing, another example of the way I refused to listen to my own body, of how I constantly shut my intuition down for the sake of other’s comfort. No more. Despite everything, we had a great trip & connected with each other so when we did finally say “goodbye” we did it with so much love. I’m thankful for the kindness we showed each other in the end because I see our growth in that goodbye. All of these emotions kept me from wanting to participate in the Holidays in the traditional sense this year, so after months in Tennessee I wanted my van, my freedom, and my solitude… so I packed up, said my “see ya later’s” and headed south for the winter.

As SOON as I hit the road again solo I always get this indescribable feeling of JOY that overcomes me and it hits me often while I ramble around. There is something about the van and the road, that have always done this to me. I carried on with my no plan “plan” with only the intention of spending a few days around Christmas in some national forest with zero cell reception. I spent a day by a gorgeous river spot while cruising through South Carolina and got to enjoy some awesome hikes. I stopped at a few beaches between Charleston, Edisto & Hilton Head and was brave enough to put my wetsuit on and laughed out loud while I floated in the freezing cold surf, finally reconnected with mama ocean again. I ate dripping mangos out the van door with my feet planted in the sand screaming City Girls lyrics and swooning over how sweet life can be when I allow myself to be guided, to feel empowered, to ask for what I want. I stopped and put my ear buds in and grabbed my hula hoop, or my long board, or my running shoes and seized the moment to skate that park, walk that bridge, or smoke that joint while I watched the sun go down. Mosey drove great and I found myself spending 2 nights in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Savannah where my new friend GI Joe, a retired Air Force Staff Sargent and his cat quickly became Botas and my new friends. We shared a love for unicorns and he complimented my style saying I, “had it going on”.

I walked Savannah’s historic district on Christmas Eve and was stunned at the beauty of Forsyth park and the way the invasive but beautiful Spanish Moss hangs off the Cypress trees. I sat under some of those trees and did an hour of work in the park before I found myself standing in front of the fountain offering to take photos for family’s who were enjoying their holiday together and instead of feeling sad for me, I felt happy for them AND happy for me. I watched a few drifters go by and found them later making and selling bamboo flowers and crickets, the same as I used to watch them do for tourists in Asia. I told them I had no cash but they made them for me anyways as the old man told me about his life in Savannah and the young girl shook over her cheap whiskey bottle. I told them I was sober and traveling, and they told me how the city had changed since Covid. We discussed the beauty of the park and the old Black man told me how the confederate statues made him feel. I marveled at the history the East Coast has. The cemeteries are what always reminds me… I find myself in East Coast cemeteries almost daily now and silently scold myself for not spending more time out this way before. Our country is so young and so bloody, and the only time you can really feel our history is on the East Coast. The west reminds you of progress and the southeast reminds you where progress lacks. It feels exciting, to be here now, and be seeing it through a different lens. I moved on after about 45 minutes and gave myself a self guided tour of the historic district, stopping in front of buildings and looking up the history on my phone.

I made it into Jacksonville that same night on Xmas Eve and was hoping to be able to drive into the national forest, but realized an hour down the road I had forgotten my debit card at the previous gas station- lucky for me a customer had brought it in so I turned around and went to pick it up. “A Christmas miracle!” I said! I don’t lose things in sobriety so I was upset with myself for getting distracted and forgetting to collect my receipt because I made a sandwich and cleaned my windows instead. Either way, I was just happy it was still there! But by the time I had collected it and turned around, I heard a storm was coming and I didn’t want to pull into national forest at night AND in the rain with Mosey. But as I approached Jacksonville, I started to question the lack of rain and noticed in the field to my right above the Tractor Supply store that it REALLY looked like a WALL of sideways rain through the flood lights and I thought, “what a funny illusion because it OBVIOUSLY isn’t raining here” and as soon as I had this thought, we were struck by that wall of rain at 65 MPH I found out from the news later. I am honestly surprised I didn’t flip and that there wasn’t a serious accident because for 10 solid seconds you could see NOTHING and the impact of the rain and wind hitting the road and my windshield’s perpendicular actually stripped the threads on the windshield arms and bent them to the left. The driver’s side wiper was hitting the side of my driver’s door, it wasn’t even on the windshield anymore and I knew instantly that my journey had stopped here for the moment. I limped her off the road and pulled into a Day’s Inn and learned that the best option would involve two 7 mm washers, which I wouldn’t be able to find on Xmas, so I made friend’s with the receptionist and she told me I could park there for the night and use the bathroom.

I got organized and made myself some Mac & cheese while it rained and got a phone call from my sweetheart that he would put me up in a room for the night. So, he had spoken with the same woman I had and I found myself with a king size bed on Christmas Eve in Jacksonville, Florida while the temps dropped to the mid 20’s and I was snuggled up watching the news and the impact the storm had on the surrounding area considering myself lucky that we were safe. What a sweet treat! The next morning I packed up and went straight into Osceola National Forest. The last 45 minutes into the forest the service had already dropped and my speakers had stopped working and I still hadn’t fixed my windshield so I listened to Christmas Hits on my tiny speaker with the windows open as I drove. I pulled in to a discover these tall BEAUTIFUL PINES with the sun peeking through and my heart went “YES” as I sang Mariah Carey’s, “all I want for Xmas is YOUUUU” to the trees. I drove past a few campers and did the loop, managing to avoid all the newly formed puddles since yesterday’s storm. I re-circled back to a nice pull in spot with the minor inconvenience of one HUGE tire shaped hole and considered that if I avoided it, it would be perfect. So I pulled in and hugged the left side of the site and avoided the hole. I got out to admire my spot and it dawned on me that I didn’t want to have to reverse over the hole later, so I thought it would be wise to turn myself around now, so that I could drive straight out in a few days time when I’m ready to go. I’m sure you can guess what happens next- I backed straight into the hole! Oops.

I recruited some fellow campers and we tried everything from wood, to rocking it, to digging it out with a shovel and all we did was sink it further in until the muffler was buried under the mud and I decided it was a lost cause. We couldn’t even jack up the rear. I had planned on staying a few days anyways so voila! We get what we ask for! I had to hitch a ride into town to get enough service to call AAA but since it was Xmas they were having a hard time finding a driver and I kept telling them that it didn’t matter if it was today or tomorrow, as long as I knew someone was coming so I could leave at some point. She insisted it would be easier if they had someone to call and since I would be unavailable I nominated my sweetheart to check in with them. His story was even funnier a few days later when I got out of the forest and we reconnected. It seems the AAA lady was wasted that evening and when he kept calling to check on the update she finally told him, “What EXACTLY do you want me to do, sir” while slurring her words and he responded, “your job”. He proceeded to call multiple other drivers who insisted I was camped in an unsafe, hillbilly, meth area and that didn’t make him feel any better since they all couldn’t help until the next day. One driver told him $500 and then called him back at 2 AM crying and confessing that he had “done a bad thing” to only spent 5 minutes speaking on his failed marriage and life. Yikes. Despite all of this a driver did actually show up the next morning and he pulled me out like it was nothing while he told me of all the situations he had found people in out in this area. I made a friend who I built fires with for a few days who filled me in that the night before I arrived a man had chased his wife through the campground with an ax, apparently he had a drinking problem. So I guess they were right, the area CAN be a bit rough, but I made friends out there and met some locals who assured me that they would follow my blog and bring me good wood when I came back. I slept in 20 degree weather so cozy inside Mosey but when I emerged in the morning the water bowls were frozen and I had to put the jug in the sunlight until it melted enough that I could get it out to make coffee. Once my coffee was made I spent every morning with my gloves on chasing the sunlight beams as they started to light up the forest floor and I would sip my coffee and welcome in Christmas.

Botas had a blast exploring the forest and would only come screaming back in to the van when the big hunting trucks rolled past with dogs barking. Otherwise we found a routine where he would follow me the whole loop as long as nothing scared him back to the van and I finished a few books and journaled a lot and meditated to the sounds of the forest. It felt so good to be disconnected from my phone and from social media. I thought about how much it has become a part of our lives and how thankful I am for it but also how reliant I have become on it and how unhealthy my relationship with my phone has become- another addiction I must get under control. I have been working a social media job for the last 2 years online and I love it because it gives me this type of freedom, and gave me the tools I needed to later create an online sobriety community which has been another amazing connection and tool for me in recovery. But all of these things have made me dependent on social media in various ways and it dawned on me that I wanted to continue to use social media but less in some ways, and more in others. Hence why I am writing this to you on the blog, because I haven’t really been on social media this past week, and I wanted to go back to writing… back to my roots… and back to the people who listen. So if you are here, and reading this, thank you! I think after so many years I need a facebook purge so I can start building a more intentional community again, which has always been my goal. I’d like to use IG less, I am not supportive of it’s new censorship TOS but still plan on using it for work and minor updates but ultimately I’d like to write more here and less there, share more here and less there. You all know how much I love stories and that they’re probably the way I engage the most, I used to use it to update constantly but am feeling more of a pull towards my privacy right now and will be using that less too. I want to be present in my moments and in my life and to the people that are in front of me.

I want to continue 2021 alone, and I want to focus on what I am building and who I am becoming. The theme of this year has really been finding out who I am and who I want to be outside of the influence of other’s. It has been a reclaiming of my time and energy and I couldn’t imagine ending it any other way then reconnecting with myself and the forest and my intention for the New Year. Despite it all, we learned a lot this year whether or not we wanted to. There were blessings in the madness and lessons in the form of isolation, mental health, relationships and finances. I feel gratitude as my primary emotion. Gratitude for a deep knowing of myself and what I want out of this life and gratitude for no longer feeling shame around using the word “no” or asking for what I want. I feel proud of myself for continuously honoring where I am and what I want and not being ashamed to go get it. Stepping into 33 feels humbling and I know things are only going to keep getting better. If you read this far, thank you. I hope your reflection on 2020 has been positive despite all the negative. We are all in this together, although I count myself significantly lucky to still be able to move about the world in the way that I desire when so many people are struggling. Stay safe, stay sane. Muah

Choose yourself, baby.

I wasn’t raised by men that know the power of ‘I’m sorry’. I was raised to accept that people sometimes hurt us and that amends shouldn’t be expected. Instead I heard, “that’s just how they are”, so I didn’t know that people could change, and I worried about the quality of my character if I was unable to grow into the person I desired. The only apologies I saw others give was for the obvious, but I couldn’t understand how an apology (or lack of) was supposed to serve us without changed behavior. “I’m sorry” when it didn’t matter and silence when it did.

I wasn’t raised to understand ‘apology languages’ so I overused ‘I’m sorry’ my entire life. I OVER-apologized. I made these words my favorite words when they were all I wanted to hear. I grew up quicker and I started putting words onto paper… that turned into paragraphs… and all of these words still couldn’t create a bridge between me and the people I loved most.

Later, I went to therapy and I tried pouring my words out verbally, and I tried to make sense of why I wasn’t worth any of the words I wanted so desperately. So I developed better communication skills and I dove into therapy and I took the apology into my own hands and told myself the words I needed to hear.

I traced the curves of my body and placed my hand on my heart. I stepped into the bath and hugged my knees to my chest and I said the words ‘I’m sorry’ to every inch of me. I reminded myself that even when my heart breaks and I lose the living because I chose myself, that I still deserve all the love I so freely give to others. “Choose yourself, baby” I whispered. “Choose yourself”.

When letting go is what is kind.

Six months ago I was packing up my house in Playa and moving in with my partner at the time because of Covid and the lockdown that was happening in Mexico. It seemed like the right move (optimism despite a rough year), but 2 weeks in we called it quits and I flew back to the States a month later. It wasn’t a bad breakup but it was a relationship we spent the last year fighting for and couldn’t come to any new conclusions… the more we tried the less it made sense… we couldn’t fit ourselves into a relationship we had outgrown any longer. So, we made the tough choice to walk away & even though it was painful, we did it with kindness in the end… as much as we could stiffen in the difficult moments anyways. We had moved back in together but the uncertainty of the world and our individual needs pulled us apart. Holding on felt too hard when we couldn’t even be there for each other anymore. The kindest thing we did for ourselves and each other was to let go, but it wasn’t easy.

I loved and learned more in those 4 years but also got shown my worst side… so I could heal, so I could get sober, and he was a part of all of that. He opened the door to my darkness and he is where the real shadow work began so saying bye to him felt like letting go of someone that knew my past and had played an active role in watching me heal, and it felt like a loss that still feels hard to describe… because 6 months later the love still exists. Love doesn’t just go away, it isn’t conditional— and I learned that sometimes… the most loving thing we can do, is let another go, no matter how much we love them. You can love someone so much and still know that person isn’t good for you. I learned this year that love isn’t enough; and for someone that believes in love in all moments, it felt heartbreaking. But moving in this new understanding now, allows me to start asking myself what I want for my future (and what that looks like for me). I’m still learning what that is… and how it feels in this new world… but the lessons keep coming and I’m thankful to be seeing so much clearer now than I was.

After leaving V (my ex) in Mexico and returning to the States, I had no idea what life was going to look like for me in the US and I felt a lot of uncertainty returning given current world affairs. Honestly I felt safer overseas! But the smart choice in that moment was to move back and my incentive for doing so was the freedom I’d have to live in my van, work on and build my online business and start to focus on the passion projects I’ve been wanting the time to birth. It seemed like I was being pulled back across the border & it felt like the universe was going to help me sort it out, plus… tourism in Mexico meant my future as a dive instructor was a bit unstable. The waves of change brought me back and 3 days after arriving my home state of Minnesota witnessed the violent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis PD and well… I think we all know what’s happened since then…

The protests and political division in my home country also brought about an incredible amount of tension within my own family and my personal life. This heartbreak felt suffocating and hasn’t since been reconciled. I grew up with an incredibly privileged lifestyle and a family who was supportive of my lifestyle and dreams, despite the fact that our paths and beliefs became more and more different as I got older. Somewhere along the line, our family curse of sweeping things under the rug came to a head and we haven’t found a way to open the line of communication since. The world is full of division right now, especially amongst families. I’ve always thought we could find common ground on other things, but I’m having a hard time disagreeing over human rights or the rights of women and other marginalized peoples. Losing my partner and adventure buddy of 4 years on top of my family shortly after felt like the rug being ripped out from under me. At the same time I was mourning the loss of my lover I was grieving with my nation and my Black brothers and sisters and then my family… it felt like bricks… It isn’t that we believe differently, I’m not 5 years old! Unfortunately, things were said and done that will take time to heal and will forever change our relationship. My sobriety and my healing has led me on a path of radical honesty and acceptance within my own life and I ask the same of the people I love. I don’t think this is unreasonable. Right now a lot is being asked of us that we’ve never experienced before and if you’re struggling with those you love, stand in love and stand in what you value. As long as you do those two things, you will never regret being true to yourself.

I know none of this is easy & I have it easy easier than most. I recognize my privilege in this world and the more I’ve moved about it and traveled the last 8 years, the more I’ve realized that all humans deserve access to food, water, education and healthcare. This realization shocked me because I never saw human rights as something someone should have to “realize”, and I was ashamed at the things my privilege (and the narrative I was taught) simply hadn’t allowed me to see. When I discuss my privilege I’m not just talking about class privilege but also white privilege, the privilege to be able bodied, to have a University degree, + to be heterosexual (passing). Understand, I’m a girl from a small Minnesota town and a well to do Republican family— speaking out against the narrative that has allowed me so much privilege is hurting the people that have given me everything in this world. To them it feels like an attack on a lifestyle I wouldn’t have had the option of living if it wasn’t for the privilege I was raised in… and the opportunities it gave me over others. Speaking out and voting against a system that disproportionately benefits me seems like a smack in the face to the people who gave it to me… it feels unappreciative and entitled. But dismantling the system that works in my favor is exactly the work that needs to be done because I believe and have seen that there are better ways. I don’t have the answers and I don’t claim to, but I believe in communities and people as a whole to do better, and be better. I believe that by lifting others, we all rise. I believe that how a first world country treats it’s poorest citizens says a lot about that country and it’s morality. I believe in having the difficult conversations and confronting the ways in which our activism may fall short on extending to all peoples. I am so thankful for the education I was given that has allowed me to confront my own privilege and the access I have ((my autonomy and ability to move about the world)).

I think if we don’t use our privilege to open up space to others with less than we aren’t actively engaging in the world; and I intend to use mine to make the world a better place. Having these conversations for the last 14 years since my degree in Women’s Studies and Sociology and traveling extensively has given me a lens vastly different than the one I grew up with. Despite my relationship with my family now, they raised a strong, independent and educated woman who happens to believe fundamentally and morally different things than them… and no matter what, I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would I have the balls to do what I do, if it wasn’t for them and the safety net my privilege has provided. I am still uncovering more layers of healing that need to be done but I can only take responsibility for myself. For the first time in my life, I’m standing in opposition to my family and although it doesn’t seem like much can be done right now, I have faith in the future. I think we can always find common ground as humans, even if that means creating new boundaries so there can be a relationship. I think this sentiment goes for everyone… letting go and boundaries have been my two biggest lessons this year and I acknowledge that my healing here isn’t linear.

I’m not going to lie, the last 6 months have been really hard on my heart. They have tested my values, my voice, my convictions, and my integrity. I have been challenged more than ever before and I am so thankful to have sobriety, self development, and a level head through it all. Because of this, I feel fortunate… fortunate that the universe has given me these tough times when I have the tools to move through them. I feel fortunate to have invested in my own health and sobriety and to have a strong community of supportive friends and coworkers behind me. I feel fortunate to have the space and privilege in this world to stop and reflect on my place and impact within it. I feel fortunate. Period. Even though there are days the grief creeps up on me, I remind myself that I can handle whatever gets thrown at me. I remind myself that I am blessed to live the life I do and I pick myself back up, even if it takes me awhile.

In these moments of turbulence that has been 2020 I am being faced with the opportunity to stay small and comfortable for fear of being difficult, or to use my voice and my platform in a positive way. I choose the latter. We are all being pushed into uncomfortable situations and instead of fighting them why don’t we ask ourselves where the resistance comes from and start looking inside. I keep asking myself over and over, “what is the most loving thing I can do here”, and then I do that… and “loving” doesn’t always mean easy… it means what is kind, what is in alignment, what is in our best interest. & sometimes the most loving thing we can do is let go…

The Power in Remaining Uncomfortable

I took a Graduate level class my Junior year of University titled Queer Theory. There were only 3 of us Undergrads that got invited to the class as a part of the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Bachelor program along with 7 Grad students. This is what my degree is in and before I moved overseas and became a scuba instructor 8 years ago, I was a campus activist and non-profit worker in the University of Minnesota halls. I worked for Planned Parenthood and a non-profit called WATCH where I sat in on rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence court cases to document the court process and record whether or not I felt the victims were revictimized during the trial, whether it be by questions such as, “what were you wearing the night it happened?” Or “How many drinks did you have?” As if those questions have any bearing over the actual rape itself… and in my free time I volunteered for NARAL MN, Democracy Now, the Women’s Student Activist Collective and Women’s Pro Choice Collective… let’s just say I was involved, on fire, and I thought I could change the world.

Now that the scene is set a little and you understand what my life looked like before I started traveling and teaching diving, let me go back to my Queer Theory class. I remember being incredibly excited and honored to be a part of the class and when I showed up the first day and walked in, all 10 desks were sat in a circle. We all took our seats and introduced each other while we waited for our Professor to show up. Her name was Naomi and this class was famous in our department. I will never forget when she came walking through the door holding a stack of syllabi- she had short, funky grey hair and cat eye glasses and wore linen pants with a kimono draped over her shoulders and was about 70 years old. On top of being a stunning woman, she was wearing shoes that more closely resembled boats than shoes. On the bottom they were rounded like rockers and made it incredibly difficult for her to balance and walk normally. No one said anything but we all exchanged looks as she greeted us with an intense gaze, passing out the syllabi in a circle, while trying to balance on these ridiculous shoes. Finally, an Uppergrad said, “Naomi, I have to ask… what’s up with the shoes?” And here begins, one of the most memorable moments of my life…

“The shoes”, she began, “are a reminder that we must never get too comfortable.” She went on to explain that the problem with society is that we’re incredibly comfortable with the way things are, that we don’t often question the status quo or our role in it, and because we rarely question things it has left us in a position of being unable to adapt to change- when change is in fact, the only constant in our lives. This mentality makes us resistant to growth and creates an environment of intolerance. Quite often we can spend our entire life running the same program we have always been fed. She said, “the key to life is to always remain uncomfortable”. And I will never forget watching her teeter in circles as she explained how the uncomfortable is often our biggest teacher, and how the work we will do to dismantle and understand systems of oppression will be incredibly uncomfortable and that’s where we must sit to understand- we must sit in the uncomfortable, we must ask the questions, and we must learn to listen and learn when faced with the ways in which we might accidentally and unintentionally perpetuate these systems of oppression.

“Being uncomfortable” has become a lifelong quest for me because of Naomi. That class changed my life and those words have always stuck with me. What a powerful statement watching a woman that age, walk around on those shoes, and talk to us about the power in remaining always a “little bit uncomfortable” to continue to grow. This sparked my continuous interest about the world and the things that make me uncomfortable, that challenge me, that scare me. I have built my life around doing these things because of this woman and I have found myself in a constant state of re-assessment of myself, my actions, my privilege, and the messages I’ve gotten from society about what “success” and “equality” look like.

When I think about life changing moments, this is one of the most powerful stories that has helped shape me. The memory is still so vivid and I decided to share that story now because I feel as though I have come full circle in the last decade- from the halls of the University of Minnesota, to overseas for 8 years, and back in MN while I watch the world’s biggest civil rights movement unfold, originating in my home state. It has re-sparked the conversations I’ve had and the things I learned from studying systems of oppression, feminism, racism, and sociology. It has got me reading again and listening again and learning again about all of the things that used to light me up- human rights. I remember explaining to my parents once I changed my major from Marine Biology to Women’s Studies that I want to be a dive instructor but not a biologist and Women’s Studies will always be something I’m passionate about. Equal rights will always be something I’m passionate about. That won’t change. Now I’m back and I’m finding myself coming full circle, asking… “Where can I grow? How can I help? Where is my lens limited due to my life experience? How can we do better?” And I realize that we should never stop asking ourselves these questions. We should never stop striving to be uncomfortable and to ask ourselves what makes us so uncomfortable- where does it come from? Racism isn’t comfortable, homophobia isn’t comfortable, sexism isn’t comfortable. If you want to learn about these experiences you have to be willing to get uncomfortable and I don’t see enough people willing to do that.

How I Became a Morning Person

I’ve always liked to sleep in. Let’s face it, I’ve always like to sleep (in general). If you ask me about my hobbies, I will be sure to list “sleeping” among them. I’ve had a lifelong battle with my desire to be a morning person and my desire to sleep in. I have tried to adjust my alarm, and get to sleep earlier, because I’ve noticed how happy I am when I get to watch the sun come up; but no matter what I did, I always slowly found my way back to feeling rushed every morning. I couldn’t seem to make it a habit and there are a few reasons for that, so more on that later. But as a dive instructor, I was required to be to work early, and often was lucky if I woke up 30 minutes before I left the house. Yes, I was a 30 minute morning person! My routine was easy, I needed to throw on a bikini- nothing else required in my line of work. As you can see, this profession allowed me to rush out the door and I’ve been known to use the excuse that I “wake up when I hit the water”. This was normal for me throughout my 20’s but I always wanted to be a bright and shiny morning person.

You’ve all seen the science behind waking up early right? I have obviously seen the studies that show productivity levels in people who tend to be early risers. I’ve also learned that how we spend the first part of our day sets us up for the rest of the day as a whole- it sets the tone, if you will. So, rushing out the door in the morning and not giving yourself any time to breathe could become a bad habit. People that take the time to slow down daily whether it be for meditation or mindfulness in general, make wrong decisions less often. And I’ve learned through Ayurveda that a “morning ritual” gives our body the signal that all is well and not to stress. Cultivating a morning ritual has become a daily practice of mine after years of falling in and out of love with mornings. So, I know what all the science says, and I’ve always innately known that I needed to become a morning person so I wanted to share what I’ve learned and what’s helped me embrace my mornings and set myself up for success throughout the day. I would also like to say that I know people who function much better in the evenings, and if you’re one of those people I don’t encourage you to change. My way isn’t the right way! But if you’re like me, and you’ve been wanting to change your ways for years, then maybe you’d like to keep reading.

Firstly, part of my dislike for mornings stemmed from the 50% chance I had of having a hangover for most of my adult life. It’s hard to love mornings when you wake up feeling like shit, or rushed. Duh. But I really really REALLY thought those extra 15 minutes were doing me good. *sigh* Since I quit drinking, I go to sleep at 11 at the latest, and am up at 8 (at the latest). It turns out, just removing drinking made a much more positive influence on my mornings! Secondly, I used to also think I was a nap person but I’m not. Apparently, getting regular sleep is incredibly good for your mental health and when you’re a non drinker and exercise regularly, you aren’t tired. I’m RARELY tired! Even on days that I do tremendous amounts of physical exercise (not lately) I don’t feel the need for a nap, I usually just need my bed come 9 PM. I still love to sleep though and I can sleep anywhere (it’s a gift). I’m a great sleeper. I’m also a Taurus and if you’re an astrology person you know we love naps!

A few months into sobriety I had a regular sleep pattern down and was already naturally starting to wake up earlier. If I had to leave the house I wanted at least 1.5 hours to myself in the morning. Now that’s AT LEAST 2 hours, if not more, to enjoy my morning ritual, take time to myself, and then start the day. I then started turning my alarm clock back 15 minutes every 2 or 3 days. Although I think it’s admirable to want to dive in all at once, that’s why most of us fail! Set realistic goals. If you try to wake up 2 hours before your normal wake up time, your body won’t adjust, you’ll fall out of the habit fast, blame yourself and then give up. Don’t do that! Start slow, this takes practice. This is really a conversation with yourself about your needs and changing your habits, it will be uncomfortable so be patient with yourself. Beating ourselves up and saying, “I will never become a morning person” ensures that you will never become a morning person.

Another thing that was huge for me was reminding myself every time I didn’t want to wake up, or I was tempted to hit the alarm that I WANTED TO DO THIS- that I had chosen this! Any time we complain to ourselves, we are giving a signal to our bodies that we don’t want to do whatever we’re doing which means, the subconscious is going to try to convince us we can get out of it. Reminding yourself that you’re choosing to wake up early and that you WANT to be a morning person is an incredibly strong shift in your motivations not only in your subconscious but also in your physical body. I encourage you to apply this to all areas of life! I just realized that I should write a blog on this topic alone (to be continued…)! Shift your language and watch your thoughts!

Speaking of thoughts, what we allow in our brain right upon waking is incredibly important. If we wake up and our first thoughts are dread, our physical body is going to feel stressed. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t wake up like a ray of sunshine, but become aware of your thoughts and just allow them to go without focusing on them or labeling them as “good” or “bad”. Also try to avoid waking up and immediately thinking of all the things you need to do that day. Before you even get out of bed, spend 5 minutes laying there and connecting to your body. Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly and feel any sensations that are coming up for you. Then list 3 things you’re grateful for. They don’t need to be huge things, just simple things. This will become a habit upon waking and instead of seeking out worries, your subconscious will automatically see the blessings. This simple shift attracts more things to be grateful for into our field. Gratitude is incredibly powerful! I knocked it as too “new age-y” for years, but such a simple thing completely changed my perspective.

Once you’ve checked in with your body and listed a few things you’re grateful for, sit up slowly and plant your feet on the ground for a minute before you stand up. Ground into the present moment. Drink a full glass of water to start your metabolism and visualize your day. Once again, focus on you succeeding. What we focus on grows, so focus on the good. Call in the feeling you will feel once you’re completed these things, or had that conversation with your boss, or asserted yourself to someone regarding something that has been on your mind. How does it feel to have these things work out for you in your favor?

Once you’ve finished your water, head to the bathroom then splash some water on your face! Throwing water on our faces is so underrated but doing so actually sends signals to our bodies to wake up! This is why we have been told to throw water on drunk people or to calm our nerves. Once again, there is science behind this! How cool is our body? Then go make your coffee, tea or whatever ritual you enjoy in the morning. This doesn’t need to be a long process, and it is most definitely supposed to be personal. This is the part of the morning for me where I then shift into either journaling, or listening to a podcast, or some movement on my yoga mat, music or taking my coffee outside and walking on the earth barefoot while I take in the sounds of the birds. Life gives us a million pleasures a day that are free, tap into those things that really bring you joy! Include moments of bliss in your practice.

For those of you that insist on sleeping with the black out curtains… try letting some light in? I know, I know, you cannot sleep like that! I’ve heard it all! But for real, being woken up with NATURAL light is so invaluable! They have done studies that show how women who sleep outside and are exposed to more natural cycles of the moon will actually start to sync their own cycles with the moon’s. Women naturally cycle in 28.5 day cycles exactly like the moon anyways. How powerful is that? This means that we are obviously much more affected by nature than we like to acknowledge! I know, I know, crazy!?! Back to the natural light though… if you insist on black out curtains maybe consider the moon lamp because it will slowly get brighter and wake you up naturally which is pretty cool.

For those of you with children that are reading this and saying, “for real Lauryn, you don’t have kids you don’t understand!” You’re right, I don’t. I don’t understand OR have children. But I do have a few close mama friends who make time for themselves in the morning and insist it is VITAL for them to show up for their children the rest of the day. We show up for ourselves so we can show up for others right? You cannot fill anyone if you haven’t filled yourself first. Stop making excuses and make yourself a priority! It is not selfish! If you focus more of your attention outwards than inwards, it’s time to consider a shift in priorities. The journey back to ourselves is our most important one. If it involves waking up 30 minutes before your kids so you can take your coffee in silence in the garden, make that a priority.

I have always known that I needed to work out earlier in the day because the later it got, the less likely I was to work out. Mostly because I would probably have a drink later in the day, and then I was DEFINITELY not going to work out. Back to the alcohol! Anyways… I’ve heard that exercise in the morning is great to start the body and get our organs woken up. When we sleep our bodies accumulate toxins and since our skin is the biggest detoxifier for what our bodies are getting rid of, getting our sweat on in the morning has amazing health benefits to our bodies in more ways than one! This is something I’m still working on though. I have found a comfortable rhythm where I want to work out and will find myself on my mat or moving my body in another way naturally throughout the day, it tends to only happen in the morning a few hours afterI wake up instead of right away. I hope to start including a regular wake up and go straight to the mat. I think it will be a beautiful way to start the day if I can make time for 30 minutes of organic free flow movement every morning. I plan on starting this experiment this week! So there we are! Always a work in a progress!

Once quarantine kicked in I really lost my morning routine. I started jumping on my phone in the morning (don’t do this) or grabbing the iPad to look at the news (also not recommended)! Going back to what we put in our brain the first 30 minutes of the day being incredibly important- I’d avoid news sources or phones if you can. Even better, if you can plug your phone in outside your bedroom in the evening. If you have to set a morning alarm I’d encourage a moon lamp or an alarm with a natural sound to wake you up so that you can leave your phone. Haven’t heard of a moon lamp? Check it out! They’re so cool! It wakes you up with natural light instead of sound. If you have to use your phone keep it on silent at night or airplane mode and refuse to look at it once you’ve turned the alarm off. If it is in the room, face it down. Even then, they have shown that our eyes and brains respond to the blue light just from looking at our phones and it takes us away from a place of relaxation which is another reason I’d encourage finding an alternative alarm other than your phone. I used to use my dive computer alarm since it was on my wrist anyways, but now I wake up naturally, right before the sun comes up, and then I decide if I want to sleep in a little more or not.

And voila! You’re a morning person! Just kidding! But for real, I hope some of this helps or may work for you! Not all of us are morning people and that’s okay, so if you aren’t don’t beat yourself up! It’s important to know when and how we function best. For me personally, that involves getting up and starting my day early! I love daybreak, the silence, the sound of the birds, and the stillness that comes before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. Now I feel guilty when I don’t take part in the “dance of the sun” as I love to call it! I used to smoke cigarettes late into the night while I wrote poetry a few beers deep. But now waking with the sun feels good, not to mention I feel a lot more bright and shiny than I used to! I enjoy my time in different ways now, and I think we will always shift and move with what feels good to us in these moments, we should. So before you decide who you WANT to be, ask yourself if you’re doing it for you or because you feel like you should.

A rant on communicating as an adult, social media, and being triggered.

A theme that has been circulating for me recently is how incapable people are of having respectful conversations or dialogue regarding a topic where they disagree with the other person. I feel it too, I feel the need to step in when people are misinterpreting, misunderstanding, or I genuinely or morally disagree with what they’re saying. But I am an adult, and I’ve been practicing deep listening, so I try to show respect even when what is being said seems triggering to me somehow. When I was in my early 20’s I would have a few drinks in me and fight to the death trying to be “heard” by people that didn’t want to communicate about it in the first place. I am wiser now, and I pick my battles, and I realize you cannot argue with stupid (as my father always said).

This is continuous practice! This isn’t easy! And it especially isn’t easy when the other person is triggered or disagrees and leaves respect aside to start insulting you directly because you disagree. I’ve had a few recent experiences with this and I’ve been thinking on the ways I can handle it better next time. When people go on the defensive and start making it personal or attacking your character, it can be hard to stay calm and not stoop to their level, after all, they’re poking the bear… but ask yourself this- who is going to look worse in the end? The person that couldn’t keep their cool or you, for staying silent when respect turned its back on the conversation? Trust me, bite your tongue, it isn’t worth it.

I occasionally post political things on my personal facebook, as it’s my right, but I always try to start dialogue regarding whatever hot button issue it is. I encourage people to act respectfully, but let’s be real, this is the internet, where people can hide behind the screen, be keyboard warriors, and defend their opinions with personal insults and attacks. So even though we see it for what it is online, I also see it being carried out into the real world where we’re incapable of entertaining the idea of listening to something that doesn’t sit right with us. I think this shows a severe lack of compassion and is a huge problem with the division currently escalating in our country. I have deleted people I felt were being disrespectful or unable to engage without retorting to the likes of a 5 year old throwing all their toys out of the cot when they don’t get their way. I received backlash for deleting people because I was told it was blocking free speech. I disagree and here is why: I believe in free speech absolutely as long as it is done with respect and can refrain from swearing, insults, personal attacks, or comments such as, “you must be STUPID”. I also don’t get down with homogenous blanket statements about specific groups of people because I believe it furthers an agenda of division. So YES TO FREE SPEECH but I will not support your negativity or disrespect, it’s called boundaries- have some for yourself.

These should be basic rules of conversation that we have learned since childhood, but somehow it seems that grown adults are starting to forget how to have a respectful conversation about something controversial without getting so caught up in the emotion themselves that they are unable to converse at all anymore without retorting to the above listed. It makes me SO sad to see the value of communication and genuine conversations going downhill so traumatically. I’m sick of dealing with children in my adult relationships because they haven’t done the work themselves and lack the self awareness to realize change. Heal yourself so you can show up to the table and come from a place of love, even when triggered because you’re able to take the emotion out of it or be smart enough to walk away until you can. I will say it again, HEAL.YOURSELF! Stop getting triggered by the president, your mother in law, your partner, or anybody else that you let get to you.

I had another experience recently where I’ve made a good online friend who I’ve connected with and chatted with for months as we have similar interests and are both active in the same groups. We talked frequently about relationships, tarot & astrology. I loved her energy and she published poetry that I adored almost daily, so reading what she wrote became something I looked forward to. But last week she made a post about Jesus where she spoke about how all people who studied witchcraft, the occult, used tarot or crystals, and had sex before marriage were in fact doing the work of the devil. I took the time to read the whole thing in it’s entirety even though I was immediately triggered. I obviously realize she just had a huge shift and stated that she would no longer have sex until married and that she was pulling away from all things “witchy” as she felt called to come back to God.

I respect all of this and as someone who grew up in the Church and chose it for myself, not because my parents wanted me to, I walked away from the Church in my teens because I found that the people preaching nonjudgement were some of the most judgmental people I had ever met. I felt there was hypocrisy weaved within religion and I knew that I didn’t need to be part of a religion to have a personal relationship with God. Over the years, I have found my own way back to God through the practice of witchcraft, ritual and work with my deities. I do not think there is one right way to know God nor do I think you can ostracize all people who don’t rejoice in the same way you do. I wrote out my response to her with respect and said it made me sad that she was taking the road of judgement when in fact our God says that only he can do that. I pointed out the conversations we’d had regarding tarot and the divine and felt incredibly saddened that she was pointing the finger at others instead of focusing on herself and her path. I pointed out that prayers and spells are the same thing- energy sent out into the universe and just because our rituals and altars don’t look the same, doesn’t mean our relationships with creator are less valid.

I re-read what I wrote multiple times before I sent it and when I woke up the next morning I was blocked. I was bummed. I had developed this amazing relationship with this woman and when I tried to point out that we were more similar than different she decided against conversation even when it was done respectfully, and instead chose to block any and everyone that disagrees with her. This is a problem! As I pointed out above we all have the right to free speech and if it’s done with respect we have a great chance to converse, learn from each other, and come to understanding. But if we cannot even engage in respectful dialogues with differing viewpoints, then we REALLY have a problem because we’re clearly so unsure in our own beliefs that anything that contradicts what we think seems like a threat. We cannot live in our own little bubbles and shoo away all humans who see things differently, it is creating a divide in our world and society.

This past week I’ve been reflecting on this theme of not being able to deal with a worldview that differ from ours. Our whole world is full of humans who look, think, act and believe completely differently then you! Grow up. Sit with things that make you uncomfortable for a second and see where the discomfort comes from and if any of it is being carried by you before you project it onto others.

I recently had a couple of openly devout Christians publicly denounce the Church for becoming more accepting and tolerant of GLBT communities. As an openly bisexual Christian women, I felt so upset seeing people tell me that I’m not welcome in their Church. I am sick of people telling me that my relationship with God has to look like theirs, that I can only have one God, and judging me for my path to God. I do not judge yours, and the personal relationship I have with my creator makes me feel safe, warm, accepted and understood. You do not get to tell me otherwise. Any God I work with wouldn’t be a judgmental selfish God, because I think the universe is much more balanced than childish human emotions.

End rant.

Here is what I’ve learned-

  1. I realize ignorance can be frustrating because we expect people to “know” certain things, but try to meet everyone where they’re at, instead of expecting them to be where you are.
  2. Every conversation is a chance to learn something new. To strengthen your argument or show you another way. We still might choose our way but at least we can open our minds to the possibility of other existences.
  3. Most of the things we are triggered by say more about us than the other person. So before you match energy and act out, look inwards. Our unhealed inner child is speaking, shut up. Do the work.
  4. Therapy is good. I hope you’re working some time of self development program because no one is perfect and we are all human. We always need a bit of help to become the best versions of ourselves. Those of us in therapy are in it to deal with those of you that aren’t. I will spend money on all other facets of life regarding my health, why wouldn’t my mental health and self improvement be just as important?
  5. NOT EVERYONE WILL AGREE WITH YOU AND THAT’S OKAY.
  6. Agreeing to disagree is a legit thing. You can listen to someone’s point of view and still not agree. It’s fine, try it out, you won’t die.
  7. It is important to analyze our role in misunderstandings. It takes two to fight and it is never one sided, own up.
  8. Lastly, STAY IN YOUR HEART. If you cannot, then pause the conversation or come back when you’ve returned to the heart. There is no point in continuing a conversation that is pushing you to a place of disrespect. Walk away.
  9. Boundaries are important. Have them for yourself and for others.

 

 

 

But what about the darkness of “good vibes only”?

You see it everywhere these days… “Good Vibes Only”. It’s plastered on everything from restaurant walls, shirts and purses, but we have even gone so far as to start incorporating it into places of spirituality and worship. You hear people say it in yoga shalas and in various other spiritual practices… “Good Vibes Only”.

And as much as I love the idea behind it, I think it’s cute, I own things that say it… I still see how problematic this dogmatic idea of how we are expected to show up. Within spiritual communities it permeates the idea that everything is “love and light” always. It’s not! Telling people things like, “good vibes only” and “love and light” is perpetuating the idea that we aren’t allowed to experience negative emotions, vibes or energy, and if we are feeling that way we most certainly aren’t welcome in our darkness, only in our light.

I think there is power in thinking positively but sending the message of “good vibes only” isn’t honoring the fact that sometimes things just really suck. AND THAT’S OKAY. When negative emotions come up, quite often we don’t want to deal with them, so we push them down or we tell ourselves our feelings aren’t valid, but this is an incredibly dangerous slope- to truly “do the work” you have to acknowledge your darkness, sit with those feelings, and ask where they’re coming from- otherwise healing doesn’t begin and things don’t get worked through, they only get pushed down.

Life is duality. Light and dark, good and bad, happy and sad, everything is full circle and the beautiful part about humanity is that we’re all in it together- no one escapes. But choosing to shame people who acknowledge the dark parts of themselves and actually delve into their shadow work, is problematic and needs to be on the conscious of all healers and spiritualists. In order to know one, we must truly know the other- because pretending like there is only one side is sending the message that spirituality is only for “happy people”.

If we are to move forward and heal past traumas, doing the shadow work is necessary. We are discussing things like “shadow work” now which involves working with your darkness to understand patterns and traumas and “holding space” for others which means to listen and be present for a person in a nonjudgemental way. These things are starting to become more regular topics! I’m happy to see this momentum but want to shed some light on the ways in which this “love and light” and “good vibes only” can be detrimental to growth and evolution of the spirit. Yes, we are “beings of light” but we are also a beautiful embodiment of the whole which involves the darkness.

All great healers had to first do the work themselves to become what they are. If you are in a place of healing or spirituality that makes you feel bad for expressing negative emotions or thoughts, then you aren’t being led by someone who has done the work, and it would be best to find a space where your spirit feels accepted in all of it’s emotions. I think holding space for people has become a huge theme of the year for me because I was never taught to listen without judging, or creating my own opinion, or trying to solve the other person’s problem. I realized now that despite whether or not I agree with someone, if I love them, it is my duty to hold space when I can. I now expect the same in my relationships. I encourage you to do your own shadow work, so that you too can heal yourself firstly. I also encourage you to seek our spirituality that involves both light and dark, that values talking about negative emotions and is able to hold space for you whether you’re “good vibes only” or “bad vibes only”. Wherever you are, you deserve to be met there.

 

How Alcohol Gave Me Anxiety- From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs

I’ve never understood what anxiety was or the ways in which it could cripple your life. I’ve never been an anxious person, nor have I suffered from anxiety in the way some people do. Whenever people spoke to me about their anxiety I couldn’t really connect because I simply couldn’t relate. As a child I was always moving and talking but I don’t remember having social anxiety or feeling like anxiety was affecting my life in any way. After almost 3 months sober I am finally able to see the ways in which my anxiety was a direct cause of my drinking.

Anxiety came rushing into my life about 4 years ago for the first time. Being completely ill-equipped to deal with it, I didn’t even recognize it as anxiety at first! It would come in waves and started gripping me during social situations. Being a traveler you are constantly meeting new people and making first impressions, being asked to sum up your life in 10 seconds and explain who you are and what you represent to people you just met. I’d always identified myself as an extrovert so when I started getting to the point that social conversations with new people because stressful, I started drinking more. Drinking was a HUGELY socially acceptable part of not only every other facet of life but especially the diving community and was the number one way to network with other instructors or people involved in the industry. Booze fueled my travels and social interactions, it helped me make friends and even got me job offers in the middle of the evening, completely sauced. This all gave me the illusion that drinking was helping me make connections and get to where I want.

About a year ago I started feeling hyper sensitive to energy that was surrounding me and became extremely susceptible to picking up and carrying the negative energies of others. I wasn’t healthy spiritually, mentally or physically so I wasn’t able to protect myself from any of this, nor did I have the awareness to identify it was happening. I started having these completely random moments of panic where I felt like something terrible was about to happen, where it consumed me and I found myself in the midst of my first panic attack.

In March of last year I had my first emotional breakdown. You know those “mid life crisis” breakdowns everyone speaks about but mostly in a joking manner? Yea, well… at almost 30 years old I had a alcohol induced emotional breakdown that left me completely scared, lost and alone. This moment became my first tipping point. I recognized this encroaching anxiety as a cry for help from my body. I realized it was time to do something drastic but I wasn’t ready yet to pinpoint exactly what I needed.

I sought out sobriety first to get my life back under control, seeing the ways in which alcohol lowered my self esteem, caused a whirlwind of shame, kept my brain cloudy, and forced me to seek refuge again in the very thing that was causing me to feel this way in the first place. I did great for 6 weeks, really dived into my yoga practice and started actually exploring my own spirituality for the first time. Things started to fall into alignment and once my self esteem went back up and I felt in control, I went back to drinking again.

Guess what happened? Nothing changed! I slipped right back to where I started. I would balance my life for awhile until I would get a bee in my bonnet, go back on a bender, and then start my self depreciation and self loathing cycle all over again. This resulted in huge anxiety that I was unable to control. When I felt all these feelings my first instinct was to have a drink to get my anxiety under control. The thing is, I always knew in the back of my mind that all of this could be controlled and eliminated if I simply quit drinking, but that seemed way too dramatic. I couldn’t and wouldn’t admit that I’d failed! I had failed to control my drinking and substance abuse 10 years before and ended up in rehab, the ultimate mark of an addict! I didn’t want to admit my own failure again. I simply wasn’t ready and I was scared of not being able to do it.

I had to BREAKDOWN to BREAKTHROUGH! This was 2018 folks! Not only for me but the story I’ve heard from so many loved ones! Maybe you had a breakdown, or maybe you had a breakthrough or maybe both! Energetically this was an extremely difficult year. If you are relating to any of this, or if this resonates with you, I hope that you’ll seriously consider making some changes for 2019.

In a few days I will be 3 months sober. My anxiety is completely gone and although I have anxious moments about normal things that happen in life, I no longer suffer from panic attacks or emotional breakdowns. The thing is, introverts or people who suffer from anxiety typically tend to drink more- feeling the need to relax during social interactions they reach for a beer to calm the nerves and believe that this is actually helping them. The reality is that we’re all a little anxious, that sometimes human interaction is difficult and that’s okay. I’ve had to learn to be my bubbly self without alcohol, I’ve had to learn to dance and laugh and be silly without having any “liquid courage” to do it! Although introverts usually seek alcohol out to make them feel more extroverted, my extrovert personality paired perfectly with drinking and partying and in turn give me anxiety. A different route but the same result.

One of my biggest fears about quitting drinking was losing my “party girl” persona. I didn’t think I’d be as much fun and I was afraid people wouldn’t view me that way anymore! I know now that I’m just as much fun, that my interactions come from the heart, that when I connect with people it comes from a real place. I don’t fake small chat anymore and I don’t stay in situations or around people that give my intuition red flags- before I could ignore my own signals by consuming more booze, now I listen to what my body tells me and invest in the people and moments that bring me joy.

I still have INCREDIBLY awkward moments sometimes out at bars and in basic interactions. But I’ve learned to laugh it off because I know that I’m being authentic and we all are trying to connect in the same way. I see now that drinking added so much anxiety to my every day life. If I wasn’t anxious while I was drinking, I was anxious afterwards while I suffered from a hangover and a load of shame, when I felt bad for all the things I wasn’t accomplishing and the way in which I was wasting my time and wasting my life. Because of that anxiety I would just reach for the one thing that gave it to me in the first place and tried to fix A MILLION other things about my life first, instead of starting with the most important step.

You don’t need to be an alcoholic to stop drinking! I know, I know, crazy right!?! You don’t need to label yourself in any way! I for one, don’t like the term alcoholic. It makes it seem like I’m doomed to spend my life wanting something I can’t have. That doesn’t sound like freedom, and I no longer want something that caused me so much misery! I think most of us can agree that drinking affects us in negative ways, but we simply can’t imagine a life without it. If this is you, I hope you hear me- it is possible! And WAY easier than you think! I am happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve found purpose and true joy. I’ve learned that I can handle anything life throws at me sober and that I do not NEED to rely on any substance to live happily! I have never felt more free knowing that I no longer want to poison my body with a substance that has literally never given me anything in return, but remorse.

The cycle of alcohol and anxiety is huge! It affects so many people and we have all been fooled into thinking that alcohol gives us more courage, makes us more funny, lessens our anxiety, calms our nerves and does a MILLION other things!

STOP! Quit lying to yourself and quit letting the rest of the world lie to you too! There is no black and white! There are no “good drinkers” and “bad drinkers”! There are soooo many in-betweeners like me! The grey area drinkers that woke up and realized that alcohol was a waste of money, time, and energy. I’m happy to have myself back and I’m blessed to go into 2019 free from something that used to consume me. From breakdowns, to breakthroughs, I’m telling you, I’ve been there. Bring it, 2019!

What I wish I could’ve told my 15 year old self.

Approaching 30 brings with it a different set of challenges than my early 20’s and has me reflecting on the things that I’ve learned throughout the course of my short life. I find it extremely important to check in with myself and make sure that my values and plans are lining up with my goals and dreams for the future. This is a habit I’ve developed as I’ve gotten older and one that has become even more important and real in the last year. In an attempt to live an authentic life, I’ve now approached the age that I can look back on patterns and behaviors in my past and start to see how they’ve shaped who I am today.

Being a teenager is a very awkward time of identity crisis, where we get to make mistakes and establish our own sense of self. I remember the naive way I looked at the world and how I thought I already had it all figured out. So naturally, it seems like a good idea to start at the age of 15. Looking back, I wish there were a few things I could tell 15 year old Lauryn, or any 15 year old now.

Change is good. It’s really the only constant in life. You’re going to have to get used to it and learn to see it as an opportunity. I remember tying my identity up with my friends in high school, or my friends in college, or the people I associated with, and when those people disappeared from my life, I felt like I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Your sense of self does not crumble when people choose to walk out of your life. Not everyone is meant to stay forever, and it can be hard to learn to say goodbye with grace. The quicker you learn, the stronger you’ll be.

Learn to stand up for yourself. This takes awhile to do because in order to stand up for ourselves we need to have a moderately secure sense of self to begin with. People are constantly going to try to take advantage of you. I know being naive is easy (trust me) but you need to realize that the world is big and there are lots of different kind of people in it. Unfortunately for you, not all of these people will have your best interests at heart. Learn the power of no and use it whenever you want. You do not owe anyone anything, don’t belittle yourself and allow people to take advantage of you. Learn to confront situations and people with honesty and to do that, you must first learn to be honest with yourself.

Your parents will eventually become your friends. At least I hope this will be true. I know it doesn’t seem like it now but they truly do have your best interests at heart, and they will shape your future. Respect them, learn from them, ask questions, and don’t hesitate. If you want your parents to respect you, you must first respect them.

Who you fall in love with for the first time will determine how you view love and relationships in the future. It can be a blessing or a curse depending on who you allow into your heart. Your body and heart do not deserve to be toyed with. When you first start dating, you will be dating a boy or girl who is more than likely unaware of his/her self and may not treat you the way you should be treated. Do not ever allow yourself to stay in a relationship that makes you feel unsafe, threatened, or that you owe them in any way. There is about a 95% chance this person will not make it into your future. Who you choose to fall in love with will determine your boundaries and how you feel about love and intimacy. Choose wisely.

Do things that you’re passionate about. Don’t worry about what other’s think about you or the hobby of your choice, do it anyways. Life is short and if you don’t explore life when you’re younger and learn to truly value what you do and how you spend your time, you’ll spend your whole life doing what other people think is best for you. Explore all possibilities unapologetically and don’t take yourself to seriously. You will fail, you will make mistakes, that’s not the important part… the important part is how you recover when you make a mistake. Let life and experience be your greatest teacher. And jump over and over again because trust me, some of the greatest lessons are learned when we fall.

Don’t plan your life too much! Half the fun is the journey, not the destination. If you plan everything meticulously you’ll only disappoint yourself when these things don’t happen. Take everything as an opportunity for growth and know that if something doesn’t work out, there’s another option that may be better suited to you. Stay open to all possibilities and listen with your heart. I always joke about being on a “no plan plan”. Don’t get me wrong, I have long and short term goals that I’m constantly working towards, but that doesn’t mean that if something doesn’t work out, I need to blame myself. Just enjoy the ride.

Trust your intuition. It’s been there since you were born and is the very reason you have a soul. It’s hard in today’s world to be in touch with our own needs and wants when the rest of the world is trying so hard to keep us distracted. Take time to slow down and build a practice of meditation. But truly, whatever you do, learn to listen to your own inner voice. If you stop listening to it, it’ll get quieter and quieter. Although it is always there to be tapped into, you just need to start doing the work. Intuition will be your greatest guide in life and will teach you that not all obstacles can be solved with the mind, some are simply not a good fit because we just know they aren’t. Trust yourself and trust that voice.

I didn’t think I’d be this girl

I didn’t always think I’d be this girl.

I had this idea of constant evolution

which we are, aren’t we?

Constantly evolving?

I thought I’d eventually evolve into

the person I was meant to be,

leaving behind all the pain.

Thinking the unfinished business

would turn itself into eventual awareness.

Not realizing that I had to do the work.

Not realizing that happiness has to be maintained.

It isn’t a state of arrival where

you coast once you’re there.

There is no finish line.

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