Bringing Your Body Into Balance

My 100+ pound weight loss is what grabs people's attention. However, my weight loss was merely a side effect of finally taking my health and happiness into my own hands and finding that perfect balance. Body, mind, spirit. It all matters.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CBT: Unscrewing My Brain

I am in counseling. There I said it. Feel free to attach the stigma of your choice. I am no stranger to counseling actually. In fact, in case if you haven't figured it out by now, I am a self-help junkie. While others swoon over Tatum Channing (which, I also totally get!) and various other famous people, nothing quite does it for me like a self-help author with a calming voice gently telling me how to be a better, happier person. 
So this new counselor probably makes a solid half dozen that I've had in my life. One of the things I adore about her is that she is completely down with working in a synergistic way with me. She understands and even appreciates that she is going to have to enter into each session with me not knowing if I've spent the last week learning everything I can about something she mentioned in passing the previous week and had planned that day's session completely around. 
Last week was the perfect example of that. Two weeks ago she had outlined our "treatment plan" based on my diagnosis (ADHD, OCD and General Anxiety shame in my game, these are just the labels that describe my own assortment of thought patterns).
One of the treatments she intended to use was CBT. Well, I went to work learning everything I could about it. I watched tons of YouTube videos and listened to two audio books on the subject. I walked into our session last week explaining to her how I was using CBT to interrupt negative thought patterns and create new ones. She seemed pretty impressed so I wanted to share them with you guys as well.
I've provided a graphic above to give you a visual of how our thought patterns work. These patterns are created from a lifetime of, well, shit happening to us! For example, if we were betrayed at a vulnerable time in our lives, we may develop the schema (core belief) that people can't be trusted.
Therefore, when we are in a situation where we feel vulnerable (emotionally or physically), we have that thought of distrust come up.
This will create feelings of fear or anxiety. Maybe even anger.
This will create a behavior of self-protection. It could be pushing the person away or suffocating them with love in an attempt to hold onto them.
CBT is interrupting this loop somewhere along the cycle. Anywhere.
I am going to use a very personal example to demonstrate this. And it taps into one of my biggest fears to share this: My fear of unworthiness and rejection. But that's exactly why I've decided to share it. To, first, challenge that fear in order to change it. And, secondly, to show others who have this same fear that you're not alone, it is actually extremely normal and can be corrected.
Okay, so my fear of rejection almost definitely stems from a childhood of being socially rejected and bullied. Fast-forward to my dating years where I've been cheated on more times than I can count (although I now recognize that it was this original belief that I would be rejected that caused me to date men who would confirm this belief...more on that later). Whether cause or effect, my many experiences in life have caused me to believe that I will be found unworthy and rejected by others once they get to know me.
So, that is the "belief" part of the cycle. The next part is "feelings". When this belief is triggered for any reason, it creates feelings of anxiety, fear, dread and sometimes anger. From an evolutionary standpoint this makes total sense. In modern times, someone rejects you and it's not a big deal compared to, in more primitive times, when it would've threatened one's survival. Before the constructs of modern society, social rejection or rejection from a mate could very well mean your death because you would be isolated and more vulnerable to dangers like predators or starvation.
Then we have "behaviors". This is how I react to and/or deal with the feelings that come up. For me this can span the spectrum of clinging to a mate extra hard all the way to snooping into his email to see if I can prove my schema (that I will be betrayed).
I've learned from my counselor that we love to be right. Even when being right can be unbelievably painful and life altering. It's just who we are as human beings. So, if I believe that I am unlovable and will be rejected, I will pick mates that can deliver this. I will seek out life experiences that will confirm the beliefs that I fear the most. That I am unlovable.
A perfect example is my current situation. I am almost six weeks post-breakup. During the first couple weeks, I just couldn't help myself. I would stalk him on social media and just look for confirmations that he had moved on...with someone better than me of course. I would seek this information out even though dread would eat me alive as soon as I even considered doing it. Why? Why would I deliberately seek out pain? Because our brains love to be right and I was convinced that I was easily replaceable. So I would stalk and stalk until I found something, no matter how small, to confirm that I sucked.
Here's how that applies to the CBT cycle:
My belief is that I'm unworthy and will be rejected.
My feelings that arise from this are anxiety, dread, fear and sadness. Sometimes anger.
My behavior is to seek out confirmation of my belief.
I view anything I find through this lens of unworthiness. Therefore, the results of my behavior very often reinforce my beliefs that I am unlovable. Not good enough. Rejection from everyone in my life is inevitable.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Well, that was my old cycle. So, in CBT, the goal is to interrupt the loop anywhere in the cycle. When I catch myself in this loop, I literally envision myself poking it with two fingers somewhere along the cycle. Anywhere. Here's how I deal with this particular loop (because I have many, we all do, but I'm going to stick with this example).
Anything can cause my feelings of believing I am unlovable to pop up. Sometimes even just having unrelated negative feelings will attract to it other negative feelings. So it's no surprise that during a painful breakup where I often get sad and miss him that I would become more vulnerable to any negative beliefs entering my head, especially one as closely related as being unlovable. When I recognize these beliefs popping up, I challenge them. I think of every bit of proof in my life that this is not the case. I think about how some of my exes have told me how special I am. I think about how my most recent ex seemed to love me with his whole heart and seemed to appreciate the unique things that made! I think about how my family and my clients love and accept me even when I make mistakes or gain a few pounds. I think about what's right about my body instead of what's wrong. It's not an exact list of things I have to do or think about. All I have to do is shift my attention from these previously negative and limiting beliefs to something better.
When I recognize my feelings popping up, usually anxiety, I focus on the physical sensation of the feeling. For anxiety, which I tend to feel in my belly, I breath deeply and deliberately and envision a pink and loving light moving into my stomach. It is calming. Again, this isn't some specific, scientifically proven method of calming feelings. This is merely poking a hole somewhere in the loop. Disrupting an old pattern. Breaking a cycle. You get the idea.
When I feel the impulse to do a certain behavior, like Facebook stalk my ex for example, I think about how I'll feel after I do. I try to think of something I could do to turn the focus back to myself instead of him. This is something I've gotten really good at over the years during breakups. I observed that I felt much more energetic when I shifted my focus off of him and back onto myself and my own growth. I just never knew it was called CBT. Furthermore, I've written a contract to myself swearing that I won't do it. Yes, sure I could break the contract but having it is just enough to interrupt the process and turn an almost compulsive reflex into something I have to deliberately make the decision to do...which I don't anymore!
I am not going to say that I have 100% broken this cycle, but it's pretty darn disturbed and not on autopilot anymore.
There's an audio book that's less than an hour long on Audible called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It. He talks about how he changed his entire life by just repeating the mantra "I love myself. I love myself. I love myself." I've applied this to my own life.
When all else fails and I'm stuck in a cognitive loop and feeling too distraught or apathetic to do anything proactive, I begin repeating this mantra over and over again in my head. And it's working!
But this mantra is just the tip of the iceberg of self-love for me. Because I've learned that THE BEST way to break any negative pattern is true self-love. We tend to not beat up on people we love. Mantras are a good start but investing time and energy into my well-being is a direct message to my soul that I am worthy of being nurtured and loved. And I am. We all are.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Changes to My Body AND My Belief About My Body

I really hate to be "that girl" but I am just so proud of myself. About two months ago I was starting to feel really thick and just not healthy. In the past 60 days, I've lost 16 pounds and 3 1/2 inches off my waist. And this time I can honestly say I've done it in an unbelievably healthy way!! And the other night at the gym I did 46 standard pushups! (3 sets: 16, 15, 15)

Id also like to add that im not the lightest I've ever been. And part of that is definitely muscle mass but part of that is that I am just naturally a thicker chick and Im never going to starve myself again to fit some kind of image of beauty. I am almost ALMOST to a place where I am comfortable in my own skin. I've come so far from the obese, exhausted 20 year old and now, less than two years away from the big 4-0, I can honestly say that I feel in the very best shape of my life. And not just physically but mentally and spiritually. Which, for anyone who knows me well enough, knows it has been hard earned.

Side note: I've also stopped tanning. I have tanned for years out of insecurity and vanity. No more! This girl is going pale. I am who I am. Sexy, cellulite, pretty, belly, morning breath, inviting smile, wild chin perfectly, imperfect self and I'm through apologizing in either direction.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chopra Center Meditation E-Book

I just wanted to share this free e-book that I've been reading through. Inspirational nuggets of wisdom to apply to your growth....

Chopra Center Meditation E-Book

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Living With Awareness

I have always been the queen of distraction. I recently went to a silent meditation weekend retreat. I learned so many things about myself and others but this is perhaps the biggest lesson I learned: mindfulness. It's something we talk about but seldom actually do. Since going, I've become a little obsessed with the idea of trying to be fully present in each moment of my life. I've even finally broken out an audio book that I bought forever ago but just didn't feel the motivation to listen to. I actually highly recommend not just this book but their whole series. They're called "The Great Courses" and they feature top experts in their respective fields giving approximately 30 minute lectures. Most of these collections are very long. The one I'm listening to now, "The Science of Mindfulness" is almost 14 hours long so I'm guessing there's about 28 bite size lectures in all.

This book, along with journaling and overall self-awareness is helping me learn how to consistently pull myself back to the present. One thing (of many things) this helps with is anxiety, which is something I've always really struggled with. The great thing about being mindful and being present in the moment is that very few anxiety inducing things happen right in front of your face. Most happened in the past or you fear them happening in the future. Most moments are beautiful and peaceful when you remove your projected ideas of meaning (past or future) from them.

A perfect example of this happened just last night. Yesterday morning I woke up to my son (once again) in my bed. He felt very warm to the touch and was tossing and turning so I was unsure whether he was feverish or overheated. He woke up and said he was hot and his head hurt. My head hurt too. My allergies have been flaring up. So I gave him a homeopathic medicine we have for sinus issues and told him to go lay down in his bed. I decided to let him sleep until he woke up naturally again. I contacted all my clients and told them I was pretty sure he was sick and I was going to have to cancel. I arranged someone to watch him long enough for me to go grab some work and come back. I was in full-on mommy in crisis mode and I was rocking it. Then he woke up and he felt completely cool to the touch! He acted slightly lethargic but begged and pleaded to go to school because they were going on a field trip. I eventually gave in and took him to school late.

I was able to recover a couple of my canceled clients and, while I was training the first one, I received a snide voicemail from my son's teacher in which she said "he needs to come home now, the Tylenol is wearing off and his fever is going back up." I felt rage boil up inside of me. She was very obviously implying that I dosed my son with Tylenol to lower a fever so I could take him to school. I called back and defended myself and she, in her syrupy sweet voice, said "Welllll, I'm just going by what he tolllld me. He told me you gave him medicine." ....He actually told her I gave him "two marshmallows", which is what we call the homeopathic medicine for allergies. But that's neither here nor there. The fact that she was not so subtly accusing me of deception and neglect, not just of my child but of all the children there, was loud and clear.

It took me a while to get past that one but I was soon distracted with a very sick child. That's when I actually did dose him to get his fever down after it crept up from 99.7 to 103.4 within less than an hour. Finally it was under control and he was comfortable. That's when thoughts of the teacher's accusations snuck back into my head. I felt my blood start to boil again. I looked over at my son in my bed, watching tv peacefully.

I surrendered. 

I let go of my fear that he would get worse in the night. I let go of the anger toward this woman who, in the grand scheme of things, is an insignificant blip on the radar that is our lives and I even let go of the fact that I had probably already caught whatever this was that he had (yes, I'm a mom with a dose of selfishness). Instead, I wrapped my arms around my slightly warm little boy, buried my nose in his hair and truly experienced that precious moment with my most precious child. The room suddenly felt still and quiet. Weird? It had been so loud just a moment before. All that turmoil and chaos and noise had been right between my ears. In that moment there was nothing anxiety inducing. Only peace.

I have never been as in touch with my feelings as I am right now. Which is especially hard because I'm going through yet another break-up with what was the 3 1/2 year, sometimes bumpy, but almost always beautiful, on-again-off-again relationship with the love of my life and it would be SO easy to just put my head in the sand and think about and do other things. I could do what I've been great at doing in the past, running headfirst into my next relationship. But I'm not. Instead, I am sitting smack dab in the middle of the pain. And, amazingly, it's healing me. And it's healing me in the most beautiful way because it's a deliberate, heartfelt process instead of just the fading of memories which never truly works because the intellectual brain may forget but the body and the soul does not. Likewise, the times of joy are much sweeter when you live in mindfulness as well.

I recently re-listened to a Brene Brown TedTalk. The thing she says that echos through my head when I'm tempted to run is this: "you can not selectively dull emotions. If you dull one, you dull them all."

That's really profound if you think about it. And, on some level, we all already know it's true. The more I allow myself to collapse on my bed in gut wrenching sobs in those sad, dark moments, the more I find myself belly laughing with the people I love or feeling giddy feelings of awe at sunrises. It's all connected. There can be no light without darkness. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Social Media Detox and Subsequent Evolution

I recently had things happen in my life that helped me decide to take a break from social media. It hasn't been a 100% hardcore detox but, other than a sneak peak here or a blog link posted on Twitter, I've been pretty darn serious about it. In fact, I even deleted all my social media apps off my phone. 

And, I have to tell you, it feels damn good! Now, the first couple days, it did not! It felt weird. I would pull up my phone and scroll through, quickly realizing I had nothing to distract myself with. I'd maybe check the weather and make a list on my notepad but that was about it! Now, just a few days later, I've come to embrace it so much that I've taken it a few steps further and stayed almost completely off the internet other than work related things and concrete research here and there. 

As a result, I find myself not looking at my phone for hours at a time! I actually keep losing my phone. 

Anyone who knows me, knows this has become out of character for me over the last few years. I've even had a few people text me and then text me an hour later and ask "Are you okay? Are you getting my texts?" Realizing that my loved ones are concerned that I may, in fact, be injured or dead by my lack of prompt response has made me acutely aware of what a phone zombie I had become. And I never used to be.....and I never will again. 

How did I get that way? Where I had to constantly feel connected. I didn't realize how much time I wasted doing it either. I didn't realize how tuned out I was to what was going on around because of this self-imposed obligation to promptly respond to everyone whether it be via text or social media. I've went ahead and told my friends and family, "If you don't hear from me for a few days, I promise I'm alive, you'll understand and appreciate this new development when you see me face-to-face again and receive my undivided attention."

I am officially no longer a member of the "tuned out" society and now I want to encourage everyone around me to tune in to your beautiful, rich lives right in front of you. I can't believe the peace and happiness and clarity that life offers when you truly tune in to the moment. And it goes so far past just not starting at a screen. It's also not dwelling on events that already happened or may happen in the future. It's not dwelling on people that aren't present. It's allowing yourself to be fully engaged and present in the moment. 

And the ripple effect of this is amazing. I recently had a very deep and enlightening conversation with my father that prompted him, at 71 years old, to try to fundamentally change something about himself that will enhance his own life. I would've never had this conversation prior to my social media detox because it was late one evening and I was getting sleepy and I would've been scrolling through my phone having a light-hearted, half engaged conversation with him because that's what I tend to do when I get tired, I space out on my phone. My son is suddenly better behaved and connecting more fully with me. I am getting TONS more done with my life. 

I am almost ashamed to admit that these things are just now happening and were ever hindered by my phone zombification but if no one admits it, then no one learns, and I'm all about always learning and growing!

Today's topic at my UU church was about love. He spoke of how the opposite of love is not's indifference. Let that sink in. Really sink in. I know it did for me. And the opposite to action is also....indifference. Apathy. It's where we sometimes go when our emotions get too hard to deal with...into apathy. We space out. And it detracts from our humanity. 

A couple years ago, someone special in my life introduced me to Pema Chodran, who's writings I've been devouring again lately. She talks about the importance of sitting with your feelings and truly drinking in the full spectrum of them. THIS will add to our humanity. This is adding to MY humanity. I am feeling more pain but, as a result, I am also feeling more joy, wonder and love. I am feeling at peace within myself and that is an amazing step for me. It's something that I don't think I've ever felt. I've always ran. When I sit back and think about it, I've ran through every type of distraction in my life. All seemingly different, but all serving the same purpose. Daydreaming, various screens (tv, computer, phone), food, alcohol, men, cleaning, organizing, SLEEPING....whatever! Just don't feel the pain! Don't sit with the uncomfortable feelings at any cost.

No more. I am learning to sit with all the uncomfortable feelings more and more as time goes in. And the more I don't run, the more humanity I feel. The more love I feel. The less hate I feel and, here's the most amazing part...the more I am okay with just sitting with myself and not needing anyone or anything to "feel okay".

Next weekend I am taking it one big old giant step further. I am going to a silent meditation and yoga retreat. This is a really huge deal for me, someone who is always trying to run from the noise in my head. 

I'm done running. And the more I stop and listen to the's not noise at all. It's me. It's my emotions. It's my humanity, my soul. And I'm FINALLY ready to listen. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Non-Scale Victories

Having recently dropped almost 20 pounds and closely circling around a weight/size where I once again feel light on my feet and attractive, I'm more inspired than ever to be doing all of this for the right reason. Last time around I didn't truly embrace that. Seeing that number tick down each week (sometimes day) gave me a high and sense of satisfaction that just can't be replicated by stepping on the scale once a week or once a month to confirm that I've just maintained. So this time I'm super focused on non-scale victories and just my overall quality of life. And this is making life that much sweeter! So here are a few...
Okay, these first two are somewhat superficial but non-scale nonetheless and something I'm excited to develop upon. 

First, I had almost forgotten since writing this post about loose skin that diet really REALLY matters in skin elasticity. Especially at my age and after being obese for so long and pregnant at 30. After almost two months of eating an almost perfect diet rich in vegetables and fruits, I am astounded at how firm my skin is compared to when I was this weight a couple years ago. Just like I talked about in my post, I won't claim that it's the perfect, taut skin of an 18 year old who's never been overweight but neither does my belly crinkle around my bellybutton or my cleavage have a little loose fold of skin when I bend certain ways. Everything looks mildly....firm!!

Second, I CAN SEE MY ABS AGAIN!!! Yes, I know, I warned you it was still superficial BUT seeing the definition of my abs is my tangible proof to myself that I have a strong, solid core that is FUNCTIONAL!! This goes far beyond looks and will serve me well for all my life.

Okay, on to not at all superficial stuff. I had gotten strong enough at 185 pounds to bang out three sets of eight to ten standard push ups when I was nice and fresh. The other night at the gym I was killing it. I mean I was really in the zone and had already done a couple of chest exercises with really heavy weight. I was in the middle of a back/chest super set and, without thinking, dropped to the floor to do push-ups immediately after some really heavy lat pull downs. For just a split second, once I was down there, I became suddenly aware that I was in public and possibly about to make a fool out of myself by collapsing to the ground, unable to do a single standard push-ups. My body felt shaky. I was already committed so I went for it. BAM!! THIRTEEN standard push-ups!! Toward the end I was miserable but at the beginning I was astounded at how light I felt and how easy it was!!! I hadn't realized until that moment that I was moving 20 less pounds of weight in each push-up and boy could I feel the difference!! My next two sets, I did 12 standards with not to much struggle. I felt so strong and liberated. I felt like I was "back". 

My other non-scale victories are just each time I effortlessly say "no" to poor food choices. My desire to drink alcohol is gone (for the moment anyway). I haven't had any processed sugar, almost no dairy and no wheat. These are things I no longer have to white knuckle my way through resisting. I just want to FEEL GOOD, and I do!!!

My mental clarity is also amazing. Despite going through some trying times in my life recently, I feel inspired and determined. I have no doubt that I can attribute this to healthy food choices that keep my brain operating optimally.

I've also become so emotionally invested in my clients' non-scale victories:

*My 74-year-old male client that, the first time I trained him, discovered that he literally could not sit up once he was laying on the weight bench. I had to help him up for the first few weeks. The first time he sat up on his own, I LITERALLY jumped up and down. THAT is a victory that will carry him through life with much more ease.

*My 48 year old female client who once told me "I don't have a lick of upper body strength" who just graduated to 12 lb dumbbells on her single arm rows (up from the 5 pounds she started with).

*My male client who once said "I am just not a vegetable person, who now turns most of his meals into salads.

*And possibly my favorite, my client who begrudgingly came to me at his wife's urging and sat there about a year ago telling me how he didn't want to change a thing. I just saw on myfitnesspal where he had logged in for the 277th straight day! He has lost 30 pounds and maintained it. He reads labels and now eats chicken and veggies instead of the infamous 4 inch thick pizza down the road from his workplace that he used to tell me about eating once a week.

THESE are real victories when the scale isn't giving me a high. I am in this for life and I am going to drag every person I can get my hands on with me!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Control Freaking Out

Okay, I will freely admit it. I am a complete control freak. I hate it! But if other people could just be as smart and forward thinking as I am, I wouldn't have to spend all of my time trying to help everyone get it right!

Oddly enough, I never had anyone actually accuse me of being a control freak (that I can recall), until I started dating again after my marriage. Then all of the sudden, the term seemed to start coming from everywhere. 

I look back to my life before that and, briefly wonder, "did I only recently become a control freak? Did something traumatic happen to me that caused me to need to become one"...then I think back to who I was the rest of my life, all the way back to my childhood, and...yup, nope, always a control freak! I guess that when you're younger, your peers, boyfriends, etc. aren't evolved enough to identify these types of characteristics in you. Your parents are probably just hoping you'll grow out of it and convincing themselves that "well, at least she won't be a follower" to feel better about this festering social wart on their daughter's personality. 

So, yeah, I can see why my parent's may not have minded it. And I think my ex-husband liked it. Wait, I know he did! I remember him telling me early on, "I don't want to deal with the bills and the checkbook and all that. Just give me a little money to spend each week and you can have total control of everything else." And he handed his paycheck over to me each week and....OH MY GOD! I really HAVE always been a control freak. Looking back I realize that I was in my glory when he told me that. I forgot until this second how I felt like that showed we were meant to be: that I liked to be in control of everything...and he liked me to be as well.

Men since then haven't appreciated it very much. And I understand why. But I really do feel like I usually know the best way to do something. I'm a plotter and a fixer, and I'm pretty damn good at it. And when Gino's not annoyed with me, he'll usually admit it too. When he is annoyed with my controlling nature it's hard for me to see in that moment why he is upset, because I feel unappreciated. But when I'm not in that low-energy place, I recognize that he is a man and needs to know that I trust his decision making abilities. Fine line. Sometimes we both do great, sometimes not so much. And, while my need to control really helped grease the wheels of my often squeaky marriage, I recognize the importance of having a man now that won't always let me control everything. There is unbelievable comfort in him sometimes wrapping his arms around me and saying "I've got this" and, as scary as it sometimes feels, just letting go of control for a moment and leaning into him.

A few years ago, Brene Brown's book, "The Gifts of Imperfection" really fundamentally changed my perception of myself. She talks about how we label those self-perceived negative parts of ourselves and try to isolate them from the good parts. But the take away is that we can't have the truly good without the bad. We can't fully be our glorious, authentic selves if we are ashamed of big hunks of who we are. 

I wrote in a lot of detail in a blog post from a couple years ago, It's All the Shame, about how I really came to terms with a lot of the shame I used to feel about myself. I've worked through a lot of it but I still have pieces to work through and today I feel I did that again.

Yesterday I received some extremely stressful and upsetting information that will remain unresolved for some time and will require a lot of effort on my part to resolve. I spent the first part of the weekend extremely distracted and just really stressed out. This morning I started literally pacing the floor like a caged animal. It was threatening to become a full on panic attack. I could feel my chest tightening and the irrational anxiety growing. 

What could I do? I felt completely out of control. I looked around the house, yesterday I had decided to take it easy and barely cleaned anything. Now, Sunday morning....dirty dishes, legos in the living room, laundry piling up, it felt like chaos swirling everywhere. I felt an urge to run as fast as I could, away from life.

So I did the only thing I could do. The thing that has gradually replaced binging on garbage food over the years and has become my therapy....Like a woman possessed, I cleaned. And cleaned. And organized. And recycled. And folded and straightened and prepared and....ahhhhh. Peace. It was everywhere. I organized a list of phone numbers to start calling in the morning that will hopefully be a first step toward resolving my stressful situation. My mind finally grew a little quiet. 

It was my control freak. She had been losing it. I was running around trying to ignore her because she's obsessing about how to fix something today that there was NO way to fix today. I'm supposed to be all Zen and "everything will unfold the way it should." She's not allowing me to be Buddha-like. She's stressing me out. She's bad. 

But she's not. 

As I sit here tonight almost completely at peace, I can't help but realize that she doesn't need to control everything. She understands that there's this emotionally and, potentially financially, draining situation looming over our heads and she can't control it. But she needed to be dealt with so that she can try! If chaos is swirling around her, how is she supposed to draw deep from that power that she possesses? To find that determination where she sinks in her heels and doesn't stop until she finds a way. 

So I let her control what she could. She made everything beautiful and an amazingly tasty, healthy dinner. In fact, she made me feed my body healthy food all day because she needed to know that at least she COULD control that! 

I've fully integrated my inner control freak and am officially claiming it as an asset. I am a control freak. When I feel out of control I look around and figure out what I CAN control and I do it. That's not me feeding this negative control freak side of myself. It's me recognizing who I am, way past the socially stigmatized labels, and seeing that this is a need within me that needs to be met in order for me to be my best version of myself. And I meet it. I feed that part of myself that I once labeled bad and forced to live in a dark place, and it makes me grow.

Furthermore, my control freak makes me a great trainer. And it's perfectly balanced with my other (no longer) "negative" trait of being overly sensitive to possibly hurting someone's feelings. So, while I try to have my hand in every aspect of a client's life that they'll allow me to slink into (something SO important for real, sustainable change), I'm not a bulldog about it. I gently and subtly, yet consistently, coax them toward change.

It's not everyone's cup of tea. Some people WANT a bulldog. Some people just want me to work them out and shut my trap. But, as for that little slice that is MY demographic, I am their trainer for life. And I love them for appreciating me so it makes me work extra hard for them and put my heart and soul into it.

My perfect combination of ALL my traits makes me exactly who I am and I am just truly starting to embrace that with no apologies....or very few anyway.

And, in my relationship with Gino, after too long of almost pushing him and "us" away at times, I've also come to fully embrace both our "dark" sides. It's very much the ugly duckling syndrome. While we may completely butt heads on occasion (let's face it, we are both strong-minded Italians, it's going to happen sometimes), we also have so many aspects of ourselves that never quite worked or were even rejected outright by previous partners. But, with each other, it all somehow falls perfectly into place and creates love and friendship like I've never known. I don't just love my "dark" traits, I love his as well. I embrace them as part of who he is and wouldn't have it any other way. 

We are all perfectly beautiful in our own way. We just need to embrace, and be embraced for, our entire selves. Not just the squeaky clean, socially acceptable, admirable things. All it of. Shame is not a useful emotion.

One of my favorite quotes by the late, great Debbie Ford is:

"Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you're not. You will no longer have to prove you're good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.”