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Surviving to Rebuilding

I told myself in December that 2019 was going to be the year of “Standing in Your Power.” Which meant expanding my community and business, owning my worth, celebrating my gifts, honoring my values and feeling more and more confident with saying “Hello, I’m an entrepreneur. It's a thing, you should take me seriously.” 

But instead of being the year of standing in my power, it has turned into months of being cut at the knees, both literally and metaphorically. A little over a year has passed since I moved from Texas to the beautiful, but often intimidating, Eastern Sierras in California with my now husband and dog. Within the year, I have had five injuries, one of which recently required a two part knee surgery. I also experienced the loss of people who were very close to my heart. 

Transitions are vulnerable.  Leaving my home, feeling isolated from the community I had built, creating a new identity, and physically overcoming one injury after the next was a little more than I could bear. To survive, I sought out therapy, had weekly coaching sessions, and pushed myself to work and get out of the house even when the snow drifts piled up 20 feet outside the house. Some days I wasn't able to see the positive or have gratitude. Some days I said "Getting up is all I can do today, and that's okay."

My transition from survival to rebuilding, while unique, is also one of many. It’s hard for people to talk about the in-between. We don’t often post pictures on Instagram of the vulnerable spaces in our lives. Our stories may all be different, but our pain and the way through it can be similar. Which is what makes sharing our healing process with each other so important. When it all felt overwhelming and it didn't seem like there was a light to hold on to, this is what carried me. This is how I rebuilt. 

1. Mindful Meditation:  Mindful meditation is being present with ourselves. It is as simple and as profound as that. We find a comfortable sitting position and with a strong back and open heart, we close our eyes and breathe. Set an alarm. Take 5 minutes a day, then, when you're ready, move to 8, 10 and so on. When your brain starts to go into the past or create anxiety over the future, notice it. Bring your thoughts back into the present moment. Feel the breath going in and out of your body. Do this as many times as you need to without judgment. This is practicing the art of being mindful. Within this, we are also developing a relationship with ourselves based on observation and self-compassion.

2. Acceptance: Acknowledge what needs healing, whether it’s your heart, your elbow, or simply being exhausted. We cannot heal what we do not feel. Tell your pain that you see it, accept it, and then give yourself all the time that you need to work through it. When the reason for your pain comes up, ask yourself if you're dwelling. Am I replaying my painful emotions over and over again? Is this acceptance? Give it the space it needs but do not procrastinate on your healing. If you are taking the time to sit with yourself, you will know the difference between avoidance and giving yourself the space that you need. Notice when the pain comes up and give it permission to pass. Do not allow it to overstay. 

3. Meeting Your Basic Needs: If we are suffering from "burn out,"  it can be tempting to push ourselves to keep up with the old status quo before we have fully come to terms with where we are. We are running on fumes, pulling from energy we no longer have. Once you recognize your need to regenerate, do it. Don’t wait. Incorporate self-care as soon as possible. This can be a simple as a good night’s sleep or making appointments with doctors and showing up for them.

During part of my transition I was fighting with depression. I saw a therapist during the course of this year and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. Yes, your local life coach deals with depression too! And to be honest, I wasn’t sure about spending the money on myself. Investing in ourselves, when we don’t have the time or money, can be a difficult thing to do. But think of all the times in your life when you somehow came up with money you didn't have, whether for rent or getting tickets to a show you couldn't imagine missing. Sometimes, when it comes to our personal healing and health we find a way to make excuses for not caring for ourselves. Make sure you are prioritizing your needs, however small they may seem. All your needs are important.

4. Communication: Gather your tribe. Know who your people are and ask them for help. I cannot stress this enough. If you are in a place of not being able to meet some of your basic needs, your people will make sure you do. Communicate with them. Your friends and family cannot do anything with information they don’t have, so when you tell your people that you need their help, be specific. It’s OK to ask them questions like “Can you call me once a week?” or “Ask me if I’ve been going to yoga,” or “Could you come with me to my doctor’s appointment?”  If you don't feel you have people you can call, find them. Work with a coach, a therapist, attend community meetings, join a book club. We need people during the process of vulnerability and transition. We need the connection.  So I repeat: meet your needs. Gather your tribe. Communicate. 

4. Stepping Wildly Out of Your Comfort Zone: Mmk, hear me out. I don't mean jump into the Atlantic without a life jacket. I mean do something that is "wildly" out of the comfort zone for you. This could mean paragliding or taking a painting class. I went cross country skiing by myself in the middle of a blizzard. While I was ridiculously under dressed and cried 80 percent of the time,  the act felt like a hard-won victory. In braving the snow, the wind, my own sad feelings, and getting out anyway, I realized that you don't have to be glued back together to find your courage. You are already in a state of vulnerability, so embrace the wave of it if you can. It can be extraordinarily healing. 

5. Trusting the Process: As adults, we sometimes feel it is our obligation to try to control as much of our reality as possible. Wisdom teaches us that control is an illusion. This can be particularly difficult because what often plagues us during times of transition is attachment to our old life. Letting go of attachment was the most important step to seeing myself through to the other side. I was holding on to my old life as the identity that I had to have in order to be me. My friendships, career, physical activity, all had to look similar in order for me to thrive. Once I let go of that concept, I realized that my identity didn't have to rest in those things. I'm allowed to be in a constant state of growth and change. I'm allowed to let go of who I was to become who I am and who I will be. A fixed identity is a false one.  

It’s also important to remember that while change can sometimes mean loss, it can also just mean change. You haven't lost your friendships, they've changed form. You haven't lost all of your brilliant career skills because your job has changed or you no longer have it. Your body doesn't suddenly become useless because you have surgery or have a baby, it remarkably changes form in order to heal. Attachment created by far the most suffering for me. Once I was able to let go, I was able to make room in my heart for all the possibilities waiting for me.

6. Self-Compassion: How we talk to ourselves becomes what we think, what we do, and what we feel we deserve. Have compassion for your choices, especially when you hit rock bottom. You are not the sum of one mistake, reaction or impulse. You are a collection of experiences and choices. However painful it can be to see where we "went wrong" or where we could have chosen differently, beating ourselves up is not the answer. 

Remember the good that you do and the light inside of you. You, too, are deserving of the compassion you give to others. Be the wonderfully imperfect being that you are. Look at your choices head on, without trying to escape them, deny them, or blame others for them. Take in the accountability with kindness. Use the information you've gained from this transition as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with yourself and others. 

7. Planning Your Future: When you've reached the place where you can think about your future again, you're doing good, real good. It means you have faced yourself, (hopefully) armed yourself with some knowledge, and are ready for the next phase of life. Being ready, however, is different than developing a plan. So ask yourself: what worked during your transition? What didn't work? What steps led to where you were and where you are now? Where would you like this experience to take you?

Feel free to dream. Think big, develop a 5-year plan and where you'll need to be at the end of this year in order to be at X stage in that plan. Most importantly, give yourself permission to fly and fall and get up again. This is where we learn the most about ourselves.  

8. Gratitude: It is difficult to find gratitude when we are consumed in the suffering of our transition. Forcing ourselves to be grateful when we’re not ready may also make us resentful. So wait until the word gratitude means something heart-opening to you. 

There are a number of creative ways that people get here. You can start a gratitude box and write something for  it when you feel moved. You can write a monthly phrase of gratitude on a whiteboard or in your calendar. You can make a list of things you are grateful for every night. There are also lots of gratitude journals out in the cosmos you can buy for under $15 on Amazon. Lastly, my favorite, is through mindful meditation. Identify one thing you’re grateful for, try to be as specific as possible. “My best friend’s laugh,” for example. Then focus your energy on that heart space, meditating on it during your practice and going back to it throughout the day as a way to ground you. 

However you choose to practice gratitude, it is a beautiful exercise in re-centering our minds on what is important, either in the grand scheme of things or simply in the present moment. And the best part is the more often we do it, the more this becomes a superpower for harnessing the positive energy in our lives when we need it. _________________________________________________________________________________

Is this still the year of standing in my power? Here’s what I think, sometimes it’s not as important to “stand in your power” as is it to stand back up. Believe in yourself. Take in the self-awareness from your life transitions with spoonfuls of softness. Rise again with intention. True strength comes from understanding our vulnerabilities. Self-honesty is powerful. Forgiveness is powerful. Self-compassion is powerful. Authentically facing ourselves from a place of tenderness and accountability is what helps us to move forward as our highest self. The power you have is the power you create. This is what it means to rebuild.  

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