On gaining, carrying, and starting fires: A short tribute to the last decade and some exciting news.

It is January 1, 2020. I am keeping it short today. We have greeted a new decade. The earth works tirelessly each and every year for that full rotation. It’s the time of year when people make promises to “change”. As the previous ten years come to a close, I can feel a shift in the mindsets of those around me, in society, in myself. I have been seeing less of the “new year, new me” type of talk. As if we can just drop all of what we were and become some shiny and polished version. But this year is a little different.

Yesterday, I was talking to a client and I asked her about what she wants to leave in 2019. Her response was this: “Nothing. I’m taking it all with me. I deserve to remember the good things, and tools I have given myself. I don’t want to forget the past. It has granted me now”. Boom. She’s right.

I’m a sucker for new beginnings. The chance to start over. Fresh, shiny, new. A blank canvas. It’s such an exciting concept. However, it can also be short lived. Whether it’s making resolutions we don’t stick to, or changing little pieces of the whole, or taking on new challenges, facing fears, starting or ending relationships, moving, whatever your situation is, unless we use everything we have learned from the years prior to the present, none of it matters because history does, in fact, repeat itself when we are not aware of the lessons it has for us. The reality is–we are all the same people we were on December 31 regardless of the numbers. And this is a good thing. You are growing. I am growing. We are all growing. There is no need to be a new you. The you as you ever were is enough and progressing through life so beautifully. The last decade was enrichment for the soil, kindling for the fire, and the structure for a solid foundation for the next decade to come.

2019 was a year of deep reflection. I was in my head more often than I wasn’t. Universe bless those that love me enough to stick around while I floated in and out of the crevices within my brain. I am grateful. Not just for these people, not just for the experiences, but for all that the last year, the last years have given and taught me.

What the last decade has taught me to use in the next one:
1. You are by no means obligated to give any part of myself to anyone for any reason if you do not have the means, energy, or want to do so. People do not have a right to access you at any time. “No” is a complete sentence. Boundaries are a means of survival.

2. It is fine to be tired and rest when you feel you need it. Take the rest. Take the time. You do not need to feel guilty for needing it. Give your words time to form before you speak from a mindset that is fatigued. You cannot ever pour from an empty cup, so be mindful of when it is time to replenish. Give yourself permission to pause. No one else will.

3. Trusting yourself often grants you more freedom than anything in the world. Trusting yourself is never the wrong choice. You are not required to land every leap, but you will never not gain something from a leap you take. So it’s better to just take the leap.

4. You do not need to compare yourself to anyone else. You have an abundance of something the world needs. You have an abundance of something you need. Stop letting others tell you otherwise. You are enough. Self-compassion is the best friend of growth. When your inner critic comes over for lunch, let him, and keep going. No one can hurt you the way you hurt you. So be kind.

5. Whatever you feel, whenever you feel it is fine. You are not required to change the way you feel about things. Do your best not to hurt people along the way but if you do, apologize. Your emotions have power. They are designed to teach you. Listen to them.

6. Loss is just an opportunity to create something new in your life. It is the opportunity to revise what you are doing to make room for what comes next. It’s an opportunity to check in and understand what is important.

7. Honesty is the key to real, authenticity. Standing in your truth is re-claiming your power. The more honest you are with your work the more honest it will be with you. There is only ever will or won’t, do or do not, genuine or not genuine. There is no half truth, there is only truth. But you get to decide how you make sense of what that truth is.

8. Forgiveness and closure are something you can only give yourself. Stories don’t have endings unless you decide they do. It is okay to remember the impact something has on you, but try to refrain from re-living it if you want to be able to move on and flourish. You are not the things that have happened to you. It is rarely that the people who love you will not be able to forgive you for something that was not ever your fault.

9. You are resilient as hell. Whatever you are doing, you were made for it. Even on your worst days, however fragile you might feel, you are a force. You can be many things and still be growing. Fear is a building block for resilience. It deserves a place at your hearth and a seat on the bus, but never let it drive. Strength is not something that you are, it is something that is built.

10. Be curious. Seek to understand and not just to know. Seek to really, truly figure out what’s going on underneath. There is always a why. Have the conversation with yourself to figure out what it is even if takes days. You deserve to know yourself. You deserve to feel strong in your understanding. Everything is practice. Everything is asking the right questions.

What the last decade has gifted me for next one:
1. Curiosity and the ability to refrain from casting judgement.
2. The ability to make meaning out of every experience.
3. Empathy and the ability to recognize when I need to step back.
4. Forgiveness comes from within.
5. Friendship & Family- new friends, old friends, and a brother in law!
6. Love for myself and the gift of finding the love of my life.
7. Wisdom, Knowledge and self-awareness to understand my limits and what to do with all I have learned.
8. Healing from wounds I never realized I had, and some that I did.
9. Boundaries and the gift of seeing my power
10. Growth and the ability to acknowledge just how far I have come

What I am leaving in the last decade:
1. People pleasing and bending over backwards before my spine is ready.
2. Guilt and shame around what has happened by no fault of my own.
3. Comparison and the notion that I need to be doing or acting in any way that differs from what my heart needs.
4. Negative self-talk.
5. People with toxic intentions.
6. Holding mental space for my abusers.
7. The notion that anything is ever perfect.
8. The word “should”.
9. Expectations and wanting control over everything.
10. Distorted thinking.

What I am hopeful for for 2020:
1. Good and improved health.
2. Momentum, focus & Patience
3. Humor & Light
4. Clarity & Abundance
5. Knowledge & Wisdom
6. More nature
7. More adventure
8. More room for warmth and love.
9. Strength & Growth
10. Thriving and flourishing far beyond survival

2019 was the year of the fire. It was the year of discomfort and re-claiming. It was the year the earth shifted a shift so big I fell on my knees but the earth pushed back. When you ask the universe for change, you will get it. But you are going to have to work hard to make sense of the way that change manifests.

Ten years ago, I was a young, 17 year old girl. I had a lot, A LOT of learning to do. I was a little bit careless, totally unaware, completely naive and not ready. Ten years ago, I had a spark in my belly that was the result of wanting, exploring, feeling alive. This year the spark is a fire. It is raging and roaring and ready and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. That fire in my belly has spread to my limbs and my brain and my heart and I have courage. 2020 is the year of courage. Of enrichment. Of trusting myself. Of taking chances because I know I am worth it. You are too.

You are worth whatever chances you are contemplating. You are deserving of enriched and potent soil for growing. You can carry every lesson you have learned, remain who you are as you simply become better. Because growth is rarely about change, it is more often about becoming better. Doing more of what your heart requires of you. Learning more of what is of interest to you. Taking risks so you can outgrow your restrictions.

Who were you ten years ago? What has the last decade taught you? How will you move through the next ten years with the lessons you have learned? What will you do to ensure this happens for you? What has the last decade gifted you? What will you leave behind? What will you carry with you? What do you hope to learn, do, achieve, be in the next year? Next ten years? How will you acknowledge progress? What has been your kindling? What can you do right now to get your fire rolling?

Warmest wishes ,


What happens next
Folx. I have some exciting news:

I am starting a podcast with plans to launch by the beginning/mid February. I will be providing you with more details as the time nears, but stay tuned. The focus is on mental health, resilience, and the concept of self-care practice. It is called, How Are You, Really?.

Come January 5th, I will have officially obtained my certification as a life coach. Which means I am moving in the direction of launching my career as a resilience & curiosity coach. I am building my website at the moment, so if you are interested in working with me, stay tuned for details on that as well. As part of this practice, I will be starting a newsletter which will contain free self-care and journal writing prompts as well as any resources I am utilizing at the moment as an area of interest. When you sign up for the newsletter you will have access to major updates, as well as an opportunity to get little knowledge nuggets which might spike your interest. The newsletter will be monthly/bi-monthly.

Happiest of January, warmth, love and joy as you enter this new year.

I’ll talk to you, Sunday !


On depression, the ten essentials and self-compassion.

Trigger warning: Themes of depression, and hopelessness. Discretion is advised.

“ Once it snowed, and it wasn’t that I felt great,
because I felt awful, but awful is better than nothing.
Depression wasn’t an endless grey sky,
it was no sky at all. ”

Neil Hilborn, “Our Numbered Days”.

I took a break this week.

It was Monday morning and I had just had blood work done and I had had the flu shot on Friday but was still feeling like garbage. I could tell internally that something was not right with myself and my soul. I felt off and sad and angry. So I did something I am not used to doing. I checked in with my supervisors, called my clients to cancel and went home and slept. I slept for three hours. I got up, took a shower and slept some more.

It helped. Positive re-enforcement for the fact that listening to your body is, in fact, a good thing.

I was feeling sad and down and depressed. But on the way home I realized something. I felt guilty for leaving unless I had a physical reason to do so. Me, a mental health provider, felt guilty for leaving work because of mental health. I could only warrant it because I had physical problems going on too. Perhaps a harsh realization of the fact that I have been living within a version of stigma and not aware. But why?

I have a clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder, anxiety, OCD (in remission), trichotillomania (also, mostly in remission), and PTSD (growing all the time). I struggle with my anger. I struggle with boundaries and people pleasing (getting better every day). I’m a chronic worrier. When there is nothing to be worried about, I worry about the fact that I have nothing to worry about. If my environment isn’t perfect, I will freak out in less than .25 seconds. Too hot? Open all the windows right now and give me a bag of ice. The bed comforter is a little askew? I’m not sleeping until it is perfect. The lighting too bright? I will literally hide and/or cringe until it is better. These diagnoses are all like waves. They come and go and through the years I have gotten better at not waiting around for the next wave of whatever DSM-5 delight is headed my way.

I have carried each of these diagnoses for some time. But, the oldest book in my bag is depression. I don’t remember exactly when it “struck”. I just remember that my lows got to be really, really low at some point. It became harder to come out of it through the years. For the longest time, I fought medications. I didn’t let myself go to therapy–I had been in and out of therapy throughout my life and never felt like I had accomplished anything. I was skeptical about the efficacy of anything but my own brain. But I had a chemical imbalance. I still do. It is a psychological illness. And I refused to do anything about it for a long friggin’ time. If this were a broken leg, I’d have gone and seen a doctor. Gotten an x-ray. Plopped a cast on it. Went to physical therapy. So why is a chemical imbalance any different? Because we can’t see it? Because we aren’t trained to identify when something feels wrong? Because we should be able to just “suck it up”? Because having depression is “just self pity”? Because? Because what?

Depression. It’s the unwelcome guest that crashes the dinner party late, comes a little drunk, and brings up your most embarrassing stories for all to hear. You want to take it and shove it out the window and tell it you’re breaking up with it forever. But maybe at some point you realize you can’t ever fully kick this person out of your life, so you stop reacting and just wait for it’s spiel to be over. Your dinner party guests get used to it, and offer to help clean up the mess. You offer a half smile and say thanks, and begin cleaning up in a pregnant silence, wondering when your drunk friend will ever get their shit together.

Depression. I think of the word and I instantly feel my shoulders slump over. I immediately slow down. My breathing becomes less involuntary and uneven. I want to crawl under the sheets and turn the lights off. I just want to hide. I know we all experience sadness. And maybe most have been depressed for a time a two. But there is a major difference between feeling depressed and having depression. Depression is rarely something that just goes away. Mine took four years of weekly therapy and a nice dose of 75 mg of Venlafaxine ER nightly to stabilize. I’m still not 100%. I still see my therapist every month, and the meds are the same.

I often envision my depression as a ditch, or a sink hole and I am a circus bear dressed like a cute little clown on a unicycle just wheeling around in circles around this ditch. I could lose my balance and drift right in at any time. Sometimes I am able to keep upright. It used to be that even the slightest thing could send me right into that ditch. And there are days where this is still the case. I wake up and I know instantly where I am at for the day. But that’s just it. I know where I stand for the day. THIS is progress. I gave up a long time ago on the expectation that my depression would ever truly go away. But I have learned to approach every day with the mindset of meeting myself right where I am.

Some days are so productive and so alive and so fruitful for so many reasons. And other days, I am lucky if my greatest achievement for the day is getting out of bed. There is only one major thing that has changed throughout all of this that has made either outcome something I am okay with. I stopped getting mad at myself for not being able to (insert daily tasks here) because of my depression. I stopped getting angry with myself for having a chemical imbalance. I stopped becoming frustrated when I couldn’t focus because I was too sad. I started to listen to what my heart and brain and soul required of me every. damn. day. Sometimes it is ritual. A cup of tea made slowly for the sole purpose of showing my body nourishment. Sometimes it is a pint of ice cream. Sometimes it is just letting myself feel how I feel. Sometimes it is total isolation and other times it is surrounding myself with love, soft blankets and wearing cozy clothing. But in order to have this knowledge, I had to stop and really really listen.

Depression. Ugh. There are hardly words to explain what it feels like. It’s heavy and dark. It doesn’t let light in, and when it does, the light is usually too bright anyway. It’s controlling and doesn’t let you see your friends. It takes all of your energy. It requires every ounce of strength from you and the some. It makes itself known in every way it can. It has a grasp that is cold and menacing. There is a gravitational pull that happens with depression that is a force to be reckoned with. It is messy. It is not showering for days. It mood swings, and weird cravings, and also you’re not hungry at all. It’s staring at walls wondering if the paint can hear your thoughts or if you are going crazy. It’s staring out windows and finding yourself leaving your body. It’s watching life as if it were a movie. It’s “never being good enough” to be a part of someone’s plans. It’s fear that you will “just bring everyone else down”. It’s not being able to speak because it might take up too much energy. It’s feeling hollow and empty. Like really, really feeling like there is nothing inside of you. It’s not being able to speak because words aren’t there any more. It’s focusing on absolutely nothing and not being able to focus on anything. It’s dark humor. It’s not being able to sleep or sleeping so often you lose track of time. It’s crying. So much crying. It’s crying so much you can’t cry anymore. It’s being numb. It’s not feeling. a. damn. thing. It’s wondering what the hell is wrong? It’s changes in grades or work performance. It’s self-depreciating statements. It’s constant second guessing. It’s wanting to change but feeling like you don’t know where to start. It’s wondering if days ever get better and also not caring. It’s wonder what your worth is. It’s feeling pain all over your body for “no reason”. It’s having skin that feels like it is full of needles and not knowing where or how to fix it. It’s not being able to find the light in a room made of light bulbs. It is exhausting. It is invisible. And if you think you have it, I believe you. Because it is real. And it is painful.

Depression. It is heavy. It’s clunky and doesn’t fit well in any space. It seems to be attached to you wherever you go though, so “it has to fit somewhere“. Right? Maybe. Maybe it is something you can allow space for. Maybe it isn’t something you need to eradicate from your life. Maybe it is something you simply need to understand rather than try to “fix”–you’re not broken. Sometimes, we need to be curious about why things happen or are coming up for us. Depression does not have to rule your life. I’m not saying it ever becomes easier. I think we, as humans, just get better at learning the nature of depression in the way that we experience it as individuals. We come up with tools along the way.

I often equate this to camping. It is suggested and good practice to pack a bag at the beginning of a hike with the “ten essentials”. These are ten items you would utilize to prevent an emergency or to handle an emergency should one arise. Things like extra water, hats, a knife, food, a first aid kit, fire starting materials etc. But take a minute to remove yourself from the hiking mindset of it all to a mindset of mental well-being. If your wellness journey is similar to that of a hike, which ten items (concepts, coping skills, resources etc.) do you require to ensure a safe travel? Keep in mind that these ten essentials may change as we are fluid beings, our needs change with the tides. Whenever I bring this up with clients, I ask them to really be specific, because ten items is both not enough and too many at once. Some find things like “hope”, “support”, “family”, “friends”, all fit into their wellness journey bag. But something I NEVER hear is self-compassion. People just don’t go there. I often wonder if this has anything to do with why people are depressed in the first place. It might be. But I haven’t conducted that study yet.

Why is it so scary to be self-compassionate? Why is it so difficult? Hell, what does it even mean? Self-compassion. It does not mean being easy on yourself or taking the easy way out. Self-compassion is approaching your own being with that similar to how you would a friend or a loved one (that you have a good, healthy relationship with). It’s opening your eyes each day and choosing to show up for yourself however you might need to on this day. It’s asking yourself about your needs and giving you those things. It’s advocating for yourself when no one else will. It’s acknowledging that maybe you are doing too much right now and it might be time to take a step back. It’s making a love offering every day for the person that you are. It is choosing, each day, to strive to understand you a little bit more. It’s asking the right questions. It’s thinking and exploring the person that exists within the vessel of flesh and bones and water that makes you you. It’s doing something that is meaningful to you. It’s creating ritual to allow for positive nourishment of the self. It’s regressing and not becoming angry about it. It’s acknowledging any progress you have made. It’s changing the language you use with yourself conscientiously so that you are not being mean to you anymore. It’s not speaking to yourself in your abuser’s tone of voice anymore. It’s choosing to identify one thing abut yourself every day that makes you worthy of what you seek. It’s creating healthy boundaries in your life so that harm cannot befall your soul. It’s not standing in lies, and living your truth to reclaim your power. It’s not forcing anything. It’s allowing emotions to come and go. It’s greeting challenges like old friends, and lending them an ear so that they can feel heard. It’s being honest about who is in your life, and why. It’s making a plan to try your best which is much different than making a plan for “success”. It’s understanding that the original plan for success will change thirty five times before you realize you are standing in it one day. It’s being gentle with yourself. It’s loving caresses on your own skin until you believe it exists for more than the criticism and pleasure of others. It’s acknowledgement of any effort, and identifying areas of growth. It’s finding your passions through trial and error. It’s having courage to try things you won’t be good at. It’s being fine with not being good at some of those things. It’s dropping expectation, altering standards, and seeing what happens when you provide a safe space void of judgement for yourself to grow. These things are meeting yourself where you are. And it is the only way, I have found, to really make a dent in managing my depression.

I used to find self-compassion difficult and sometimes it still is. It is work. It is not an easy practice. I had to change the language I was using with myself. I had to stop becoming so reactive to my own actions. It took me a long time to become okay with saying something kind to myself. And if this is a struggle you have, I would encourage you to consider this: If hearing positive feedback in your own language and voice towards yourself is too difficult right now–whose voice must you hear it in to believe it to be true?

Circling back just a bit to the idea of the ten essentials, I want to take a quick second to speak on what to do with the things you have to take out of the bag. We often, as a society, talk about what else we can take on to make our lives easier. But what about what we need to take off? What is in your bag that has been in there for way too long? Is it still serving you? Did it ever serve you? How did you wind up with it? What are you going to do to take out? Who was the original owner? Maybe it is time to give it back. It is not your responsibility to take things on that do not belong to you. Part of self-compassion is recognizing what is rightfully yours to take on what is not. You are not required to share anyone’s load. If you so choose to, keep it on a timeline be firm about it. I believe you have superpowers, but this is not one of them. So get rid of it. Give it back. Do whatever the hell you have to do to give it back.

Depression does not change all that much. But you do. You gain insight. Your days become less agonizing. You find your worth again. You actually start to believe it is possible. The next time you feel like you might need a day off, or some time–take it. Spend some time being compassionate with yourself. A chemical imbalance is JUST as serious as an injured leg with worse long term impacts if left untreated. If you disagree, I am open to a debate at any time. If your boss disagrees, send them my way. The things that need to get done will get done. But do not put yourself at risk of mental decline to do it. Nothing is more important than your mental freedom. Depression is not about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. It’s about sitting in the dirt for a second to assess if you are alright, assessing why you fell in the first place, and following your gut in what to do about it. Sometimes you will need help. Most times, actually. And that is actually fine and great. It’s okay to rely on a therapist for a bit. It’s okay to need medications to get you to a point where you can even pick up the phone to call a therapist. It’s okay that you don’t want any of it. No one does. But they will be there when you are ready.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to be gentle with you? Last week? A month ago? A year ago? Ever? How do you choose to show up for yourself every day? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to give back? How are you going to empty your backpack? What will you replace those items with ? Will you replace them at all? What are your ten essentials? What language do you use to speak to yourself? Does it need to change? How? When are you going to allow yourself to be more self-compassionate and gentle with you? What does that mean to you? What steps can you take TODAY to start?

Love, warmth and cozy feelings on this Sunday morning,


If you or someone you know struggles with depression or thoughts of suicide please contact:

Lifeline: 2-1-1

National Suicide Prevtion Hotline:

pyschologytoday.com (has amazing resources that can allow you to search for a therapist by zip code, insurance, and specialties)

On trusting yourself, self-love, reclaiming yourself and closeness after trauma.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post explore mental, emotional and sexual trauma and its impacts on relationships with self and others. Discretion is advised.

“I have realized that the moon
did not have to be full for us to love it.
That we are not tragedies
stranded here beneath it.”

-Buddy Wakefield

Friends. Today, I come to you to discuss what has probably been the heaviest of endeavors of 2019. My partner came in to this room three times, while I prepared to write this one, and I had not yet started. I don’t know why these topics are so hard for me to explore. But I suppose I am about to find out. I’m going to get a little jumbly, and it is likely that I will jump around. I don’t know how else to do this. Here we go: Trust. Self-love. Closeness.

I have never been a touchy feely sort of person. I don’t recall ever being the kind of person who loves hugging. Maybe I was when i was a child, but if that is so, I have no recollection. I have, however, always considered myself a very trusting individual. It has only come to my very recent attention that, in fact, I trust no one. I don’t know how that came to be, but it is something I am looking at these days.

When I started writing this, I had planned to write about intimacy. But here is the thing. The word intimacy is something I am not yet comfortable even saying, and I found that in order for me to even write this post, I had to look at the most fitting synonym for the word. The word intimacy makes me cringe. I feel a very visceral bodily reaction to it, and I want to hide my body in a burlap sack and disappear into the darkness like some old maid from a movie based in the Dark Ages. I get chills. I do not like it. I get mad about not liking it. Intimacy. The simple of act of opening oneself to another in a way that exposes the realest version of who they are. Intimacy is not all about physical touch (though sometimes it can be). Intimacy is connection. Intimacy is closeness. It is deliberate closeness with a focus on joining in some way. It includes things like trust, and understanding.

I am a survivor. I have never not seen myself as a survivor. But the word survivor does not ever make me feel like less of a “victim”. I do that. I change my perspective on that. A title means nothing if you don’t own it. Because what is surviving if you’re not trying to live, and love, and trust, and be able to respect your own skin again?

When I met my partner, I thought I was fine. Our story is beautiful and cute, and honestly movie worthy. When we met, neither of us were looking for each other. He had just ended a long term relationship and I had been assaulted about a month beforehand. Weird timing, but it was meant for us. We connected in a way that is really not common anymore. We continued to hang out with little expectation. We found common threads, and all it was was friendship. He became someone I felt safe around. He showed me early on that I could trust him. He was the first person following my assault that was new to me who had no expectations of me. He probably will never truly understand the importance of that.

I have always been really upfront with him about my experiences and the things that have happened. I did that, initially, because in my eyes “he deserved to be aware of what he was getting into–about how damaged I was”. He was appreciative of my opening up to him. But it wasn’t so he could prepare himself emotionally. I don’t know if either of us realized it at the time, but it built trust. It built a closeness between us that allowed for us to see deeper into one another’s hearts and hurts. He has never once said that I am damaged individual. He understands that I have simply been hurt and asked to face challenges that many others have not. He is patient with me, and supportive. He is able to see me in a light that I am sometimes unable to see myself in. I am very well aware of how fortunate I am to have him in my life and I recognize that not everyone has this gift in their own lives. But that is why I want to discuss what is next.

Sometimes, when we do not have people or supports in our lives who can fully understand what has happened and what we have survived in our lives, we do not feel as though we are capable of connection. We feel as though there is a barrier always standing in our way. No matter how hard we try to push this barrier down, it stands there firm, in its power as a reminder that we “are not like everyone else”. It feels as though there is a mark on our physical being, a stamp indicating that not only are we fragile, but we have been declared as undesirable. That there is something wrong enough with us that we will never be able to form a close bond with anyone again. That in turn is what blocks trust. Trust in others and trust in ourselves. It destroys our ability to love ourselves again. We feel dirty, and unworthy. There is so much shame and so much guilt that comes along with this label. But what hurts most is that this label is silent. We disguise it by trying to disappear. Take attention off of who we are. Some of us self-medicate. Sometimes we feel as though nothing we do in life will ever be enough.

Speaking from my experiences, I can say I have come a long way. But in the days, years, and months following my abuse, and my assault I found it impossible not to categorize myself as a non-human. It was not out of choice, it was just what I was used to. That my body was meant to be an experience, some conquest for an angry man who probably has suffered his own hurts. That I would never hold any permanence in anyone’s life. That I could never exist as anything more than a tool to allow for temporary satisfaction, be it physically or emotionally. I didn’t feel like I deserved anything good in life. Like my skin was just a waste, and that my intellect, and love and courage were insignificant. That I had nothing to offer and that anyone who would try to engage in a closeness with me, would be risking their own being. I felt like I would become someone’s project. That I would exhaust them. That I was unlovable. My brain had gaping holes in it, with large gaps in time, and distorted thoughts.

It took years of therapy to re-claim myself. It has taken me a long long time to stop hating myself. It has taken me a long time to allow myself to grow into the little sprout of life I have become. I have good days. I have bad days. But one thing has never changed. On even my worst days, I chose to trust myself. Whenever I have been in the thick of my depression, I have found that the only person who really knows what I need is me. And you know what? The same goes for you. You are the expert in you. No one gets to tell you otherwise.

I used to believe that I had to forgive myself for my own traumas. But I had it wrong. I have only ever had to forgive myself for not allowing myself whatever I needed to heal right when I needed it.

We are not responsible for the pain the others have brought unto us. Read it again. It is not your fault.

Whatever it is, it is not your fault. I think what is most difficult is believing that. What is more difficult than believing that is allowing ourselves to trust who we are and what we need. Because if you are a survivor, there was a long time where others got to decide that for you. Your power was taken away from you.

Choosing to trust yourself is allowing yourself to take that power back. And you deserve that.

Trusting yourself. It is the first step in being able to build connection with someone else. It is the first step in understanding that you get to make decisions. You can decide what you wear. You can decide what to eat, and who gets to live within the synapses of your brain.

Trusting comes in parts. But I am a firm believer that if you are not in full support of trusting your own self, you might not be ready to give some of the trust that is leftover to others.

I want to give you an image. You are standing in a field. It is flat land, and it is beautiful. You look into the palms of your hands and notice three little seeds. You decide to plant these little seeds. You don’t know what plant will come from them, but you do it anyway. You return to this spot every day to care for these seeds. They start to sprout and reach for the sun. One day, you cannot make it to the field, so you ask the neighbor and they agree. You ask them again. Then they start offering, they don’t mind. Then they start going without asking. When you return to your field, you find your sprouts wilted and dried up. You ask the neighbor what happened and they report to you that they have done everything as you asked. When you start reflecting on your broken garden, you realize, the only difference on these days was that YOU weren’t the one to care for them. Perhaps then, the neighbor didn’t know how much to water your plants, or how much light to give them. Maybe they just made decisions based on what they thought would be best for the plants. Maybe they had ulterior motives. Either way, the plants are gone. There is nothing you can do about it now. But you can plant new ones. The moral being: your garden can never grow the way you need it to if you aren’t the one watering it.

This is what happens when we do not trust ourselves. We lose our fields. We lose ourselves. Others take over the gardens. Plants die and we will never have that exact plant back again. This is what happens with trauma and abuse.

You are the only one that is always going to show up for you in the way that you need. But the key is this: You need to let you do it. This can feel terrifying after trauma and abuse. But to do so is self-love. When you do this, you are not only helping yourself build trust in you, but you are demonstrating to others what they can and cannot do when you claim your part of the picture.

After my traumas, I did not know myself anymore. I couldn’t let myself into my own head for fear that I would not recognize what was in there. When I finally did, I was right. I didn’t recognize anything. So I had to do some digging. I found old chests with cobwebs on them full of memories and photos and things I had long forgotten. I found old clothes that did not fit anymore. I had to use a flashlight to find my way, for it was far too dark in the crawlspaces in my brain. I grabbed a broom and got to work. I got rid of the dust and started to transform the space again. I got rid of clothes that no longer fit. I reorganized. I filed away the the old papers and photos. I downsized. I locked the doors and opened the blinds. I made it mine again.

Those doors stayed locked though. Eventually I got so comfortable in my space, that I wouldn’t let ANYONE in. In fact, I put bars on the windows, and a deadbolt on the door and installed a high security alarm system with motion sensors and heavy artillery. I wasn’t ready for anyone else. I had work to do.

I spent time working in this space. Ensuring that I was addressing everything I had left untouched. Leaving no stone unturned. Now was the time to start to reconnect and become close with myself again. I re-acquainted with myself, learning all my new favorites, asking myself the hard questions, caring for myself. Giving myself time to learn that I am trustworthy. That I would never let anyone into this holy territory again. This, my sacred space, a nest for nurturing and working through. Learning my softness.

When I met my partner, it’s true, we worked together to build our trust in one another. It happened slowly. Eventually, I gave him the passcode to my security system. We have not gone without challenges. He has had to learn my softness. He has had to work hard alongside with me. There are days where I still have a bar or two on the window, and the I remember he is safe and he can come back in. What helps, is constantly discussing and checking in with one another. When something isn’t right, we discuss it. Sometimes, we lose sleep discussing it. But one night of lost sleep is worth an eternity of nights next to him. I have had to work harder on allowing space for him in my sacred little attic brain.

The reason I bring all of this to the table tonight, is in hopes that as the reader, you will recognize that healing from trauma and working toward intimacy and closeness and self-love is not linear. This journey has been one with ebs and flows and it sometimes feels like work more than I would care to admit. I had to readjust my thoughts around what survival meant. Around what self-love, trust, and closeness all mean in relation to my experiences and what I am capable of doing and expanding into for RIGHT now. Because this will change.

In five years, I may be in a better place for allowing people in. In five years, I may be living in a cottage on a mountain with my partner and my dog and you may never hear from me again. I’m not even kidding. It can be that extreme when trauma has been a part of your life. Trying to explain it to people feels like a hopeless endeavor. You don’t need to explain it to everyone. But if you feel up to it, sometimes explaining it to the person who knocks on your door every day, rain or shine, can allow for little sprouts of trust to build. I am not saying to let others be in control for your garden. I am saying, show others how to care for your garden when they show up time and time again. I am not saying let people into your attic brain immediately. I am saying, wait and watch to see who continues to show up every day at the same time. This is not testing. This is re-building. This is trusting yourself enough to acknowledge when it is okay to trust someone else.

When I think of trusting myself, I think about listening to what my body needs. Be it soft shirts, or quiet or vegetables, I listen. I don’t ask why, I just give it what it needs. That is building self-trust and self-love. Being so dependable for yourself that you never have to question if you are willing to show up for yourself, you just do it. Our hearts and souls require this of us.

Trusting someone else is choosing to let them see parts of you that you do not show to others, and being willing to take that risk within reason of what you are capable of doing right now. You are not required to do this for anyone. It is a choice. It is important and it is risky and sometimes it can be hurtful. There is no way to know how trusting someone else ends up. But that is why we need to be able to trust ourselves first–so we can choose to let others in when we are ready. It is worth it. And it is possible.

I do not believe in the phrase “love yourself before you love someone else”. It is unrealistic. Loving oneself is an eternal journey. It is an end goal with millions of little actions leading up to it. It is daily practice. It can never be made official. It is not measurable.

Trusting oneself before trusting others is a simple way to re-frame however, because it requires action. It requires measurable milestones. If I am going to go to my therapist to work on mental health issues, I can build my trust in myself by follow through. This leads to self-love, leads to stronger self-connection, leads to understanding of shared experiences, leads to vulnerability. This is the path to intimacy and closeness and healing. When you are able to show up for yourself so deliberately, intentionally and without fail every single time you need to, that you are able to trust your vulnerability in the arms of someone else.

Intimacy (closeness). I still struggle with it. I continue to do this work every day. Intimacy is terrifying. It requires a full-frontal plain-faced view of another person. It can involve cards and tables and throwing them into a pile and presenting them in an authentic way. If we are to do this honestly, we are not arranging cards into neat piles. We are throwing the deck in front of someone and saying “Here it is. I trust myself and my experiences enough to know that whatever you make of this does not change me. I am whole exactly as I am. I am choosing to trust you because I would like to be closer with you and I need you to be aware of what I have experienced as it may have an impact on how I let you in. These cards aren’t here for you to organize, they are only here so we know how to move forward”. That is real intimacy and closeness.

How do you know when you trust yourself? What do you do to ensure that you are maintaining your garden? How will you know when someone else has taken over? How do you actually define, trust, closeness and self-love? What are you doing to grow these seeds? What are you doing to clean out your attic brain? How will you know when it is time to give someone the passcode (keep in mind, this is not always a romantic partner)? How do you show up for yourself every single day?



On fragility, hurt, fear and anger.

Let the wild rumpus start!

-Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are” (1964).

Buckle up! This is a long one. I am talking about the wild things today. I do not mean the book. I mean about the wild things that exist within us. Emotions. Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings. The icky stuff.

As far back as I can remember, I have been angry. I am an angry person. I am the first to admit this. Usually when I say this, I get the same reaction each time: “What!? No way! You always seem so bubbly!”. Eye roll. I can recall times when I would be talking to my mom, and she would gently say “Gina, you are so angry”. It usually was met with some annoyed teenage response, only further proving her point. I don’t ever recall a time when I was not carrying around some big old bag full of anger . I would imagine by now that this bag is old, and worn and probably the straps are hardly hanging on.

I have gotten better about recognizing when my shoulders need a break from my anger bags. I have developed an understanding by now, that when I feel angry, I am in full control of how I express it. My anger and I have a mutual understanding now. Now, when I am angry I ask my anger a question. It’s simple, and effective: “What are you trying to tell me?”. We do not feel emotions unless our bodies and brains are trying to communicate with us. Anger is usually the result of some type of hurt, or fear or sadness.

When I was 7, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I very specifically remember a night when I heard him coughing so much that it woke me up. I don’t know what happened next. I know he went to the hospital. The next thing I remember is finding out he was sick. My seven year old brain could not understand what cancer was, but I knew it was bad based on the feeling I got. Based on the fear I could recognize in everyone around me. I think this was my first real experience with anger. I was terrified. My dad. My hero. The guy who would sit in front of a screen saver with me just so I could watch tropical animals play on a loop. The guy who would lie on the floor in my room and read me bed time stories and fall asleep before me. The guy who couldn’t swim but still got in the pool with me to ensure I had a good time. I had only known him for seven short years, probably four of which that I actually would remember. I was furious. The idea that I could lose him terrified me. Of course, back then, I did not have words in the way that I do now. Which made me angrier.

If you are curious, my dad survived the cancer. Twice. He is a bad ass. But my dad never verbally questioned the way things are in my presence. My father handled cancer with grace. He had my mother to rely on. They are a beautiful team. My father had never shown fear that was outwardly visible to me through any of this. He just did what he had to do, because as far as he was concerned, he had two little munchkins waiting for him at home. My father, if he was angry about his cancer, never showed it. I think this is where he and I differ immensely. My father has always worked hard. He loves to plant things, and he enjoys the simple things in life. He spends his Saturdays making bread and cheese. In the summer he enjoys tending to his plants and in the winter he cures meat. He is the only person I have ever met that has a certainty about him. I have always thought of him as “Mr. Fix-It”. He can fix anything, from the many computers I have destroyed to my first broken heart. It has always seemed like my dad has life figured out. He has always instilled in me the notion that life is a series of decisions, and that all we can really do is our best. We will change whatever we can, but there are things we will simply need to accept. He never has expectations. He lets emotions and anger and difficulty roll off his back. I think my father realized a long time ago that there is very little in life that is in the control of life’s subjects.

I think what often times we don’t realize is that anger is so often a result of feeling fragile, and sad and hurt. There is a small child inside that cringes as one might after a scolding, each time we become angry. It is so instinctual. It is our mind and our body telling us that we feel hurt, or sad, or fragile and we have to do something fast to protect that hurt. True, real, rage and anger comes from a very deep place within us that has been made to feel fragile more than once, and is growing weary of it. Anger is a defense for the parts of us that we don’t feel we have protected sufficiently enough. Anger is the response our body wants to give each time it is asked to sacrifice some part of the original plan, or some part of itself for the sake of someone else. Anger is the result of a fast judgement. It also helps us survive. Anger is not in existence to make our lives difficult. It still does, but the intentions are good. I often think of anger as a small child who has spilled milk all over the kitchen floor because they did not want to ask for help in an attempt to develop independence. That child feels helpless right in that moment. It is a moment of true fragility. It is in this moment, that the child realized they were not ready to pour milk on their own yet. Anger comes to us when we make the realization that we were not ready to hear, do or be something just yet. It comes to us when we have not met expectations, specifically our own. Anger is not designed to be hurtful, but it can present that way. Anger is not designed to show you weaknesses, it is there to help us build on our strengths. We become angry when we feel we are lacking, or when we feel something has been taken from us.

I have spent a long time getting to know my anger, my hurt and my fragility. And you know what? I still don’t know them very well. They’re unpredictable. They’re sharp and mean and reactive. I think of them as the first responders for my emotional crises.

But what does it mean to actually experience these things? I’ll break it down. I’m sure it is different for you, but I will explore them each.

To feel anger is to feel betrayed. It manifests as sweaty palms, increased heart rates, flushed face, tunnel vision. I have described my anger as a caged animal. I have described it as a snake waiting to strike venom into whomever is willing “to go there”. It’s lashing out, cutting people off, thinking and acting impulsively. That is what it feels and manifests like. That is not what it is. What I really think is that anger is the result of feeling fragile, fearful, sad.

To feel fragile is to feel incapable at times, but mostly it is to feel isolated. It is to feel that every bodily movement is weighted down with cinder blocks. It is to feel as though you could break at any moment. It’s the thought that you are not enough. It’s filling your head with thoughts that do not serve you. It’s knowing that none of those statements are factual, but all of them feel real and hurt so much more than anything anger could do to you. Fragility is lack of trust in oneself.

To feel fear is to feel uncertain. It’s an acute anxiety that rings hot in your ears when things change quickly. It’s not knowing the outcome in a life or death situation. It’s not knowing the outcome in any situation. It’s both never seeing an end in sight but also seeing all the endings at once. It’s having something removed or placed in your life without your say. It’s loss of control and power. It’s the notion that everyone else has it “more together than you do”.

To feel hurt is to feel as though you have been wronged. Someone has, deliberately or not so, done something that has created pain in your life. Perhaps it was you who created your own pain. Perhaps it was the sidewalk after your tripped on your shoelace. Perhaps it was the alarm clock when you hit snooze too many times and wound up late. To feel hurt makes us vengeful. It makes us want revenge, and it makes us want others to know that same pain because it simply “isn’t fair”. To feel hurt is to feel that someone or yourself has done something so inherently the opposite of your own values and principles that it causes a bodily response.

The idea is not necessarily to educate you, but to help you understand what I mean when I say that anger is really just a reaction to a wound. Whether it be out of fear, hurt, or fragility, it is the result of something that has put us in a position to feel ill-equipped with what is on our plates. It’s confusing. It is important.

Of all the feelings, these are the most personal. These are the ones with the most to say. They stick around with us the longest. I have learned, only recently, the importance of taking them off once in a while, like the back pack i mentioned earlier. These are emotions that we, as humans, must develop relationships with. I am not saying it is time to become best buddies, but it might be a good idea to reach out to them the next time they knock on your door.

We’re going to get a little visual. The last time these three knocked on my door, I decided to try something different. I greeted them all by their names: Ghee, Franklin, and Teddy. I have let them come and go as they pleased. I did’t invite them in but when they knocked on the door to visit, I was ready with biscuits in the cupboard for them. They took their tea with cream and a little over done. They enjoyed butter on the biscuits. They never considered taking their shoes off. They all smelled funny, but it was hard to place what the smell was. They had sharp teeth and claws and they chewed with their mouths open. They stayed about thirty minutes to an hour and when they left they didn’t bother to pick up after themselves. They just needed a place to rest and banter on. I listened. I asked questions. When they left, I cleaned up their mess and forgot about them. It does me no good to wait around for the next time they will come. I took a deep breath. I put the stale biscuits away. I put the tea away. I cleaned up the table in the cottage kitchen in my mind. I opened the blinds, the sun spilled in. Over time, I have realized their stays have grown shorter and shorter. They are merely messengers. I tolerate them. They tolerate me. It is a working relationship. I hold the control.

These guests are only fleeting, not dissimilar to a breeze, if I let them be. It does not mean they won’t leave a mess. We will likely have to tidy up after. But there is nothing like having the opportunity to re-arrange your space, anyway. Emotions and feelings are not facts. They only exist to help us understand ourselves and our circumstances. In the case with my father, I was feeling fragile, fearful and hurt. It manifested as anger for a lot of years. I had to understand that to learn to be able to accept anger, and its role in my life. I had to understand that it never existed to hurt me, it was only ever trying to help.

These feelings are natural. We do not have to hide them. We just have to do our part in trying to understand them. Ask questions. Explore. Understand. Clarify. It won’t always make sense all the time. But these feelings won’t go away until you acknowledge them. The longer they stay, the messier their tea time gets. In turn, the angrier you get, because that is YOUR kitchen.

As long as we continue to see these things negative emotions and feelings, we will never be able to understand them. Our instincts tell us to get rid of the pain and the hurt and “negative emotions”. We don’t want to feel them so we do everything we can to stop. Trying all different approaches and techniques. We never think to sit in it. Society places more value on feeling good, and positive psychology which all has a place in the world, but so does the “negative”. The real issue lies in calling them anything other than natural.

The next time you feel anger, hurt, fear, fragility ask them to tea. Let them be for a while.

What are they trying to teach you? What is the take away? What are you going to do about it? When and how? What needs to be different next time? What will you name your guests? What will you serve them? How can you have an open conversation with them? What do you notice about how long they stay? What are the patterns? What can you do to ease their worry? What do you want to say to them? How can you develop a relationship with them?

When they leave, tidy up. Pull the blinds up. Let the sun in. You do not need to live life waiting for them to come back around.



On authenticity, honesty and a touch of vulnerability.

” Re-examine all you have been told
in school or church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem… “

Walt Whitman

When I was in undergrad I studied BFA Sculpture. Maybe you knew that, maybe not. I love art. I love art in every single form. I am certain it was my first real language. It is the only way I have ever been able to make sense of the world, or apply meaning to the things that happen around me. It is my answer to all of life’s hardest questions.

Art and I have a very complicated relationship though. Art has never sugar coated anything when it speaks back to me. It has something to say about everything. Sometimes it is so loud, I would rather burn it than face what it’s giving me. I used to say that art was my personal garbage, splayed out into this jumbled creation. Sometimes I still feel that way. Sometimes art is my very best friend. It is the only thing that knows exactly what I am thinking whenever I create it. It forces me to confront all my problems head on. It is a direct representation of where I am in life at any given time. It’s honest. It’s clear and blunt and rude and hurtful and so authentic.

There was a time when creating authentically was something I had lost sight of. I became so focused on creating something that would tell some big important story. I created these big installation visuals in my head and it felt wrong. I was trying to appeal to a piece of me that was not real. My professor, Bob, sat me down one day. We had life talks often. He is the only person I know who is the direct embodiment of art. Not in his appearance but in the way that he approaches life. He is so authentic and genuinely true to himself, that it would be impossible not to be intimidated by him. His desk was neat but not too neat. Drawing of birds decorated the walls (I later discovered they were drawings his father had done). The walls were a deep blue. His office had a window that looked out onto campus.

So here I am in his office sitting across from him at his desk. He strokes the beard that matches his grey hair and he is just listening. I’m telling him about how I am struggling to create a piece I am proud of. I tell him I don’t know how to appeal to everybody with my work. I don’t know how to make myself better. He leans back in his tee shirt and cargo pants and looks at me from behind his glasses. He says, “Gina, the answer is always simple with art. Stop pretending. The more honest you are with it, the more honest it will be with you”.

Stop pretending. This hit me so hard, I almost fell out of my chair. He was right. I had spent so much of my time pretending. I had spent so much of my life pretending already. I was instantly angered. How could I do this to myself? How the hell was I supposed to walk back out to my studio space and just go about my day creating work when I wasn’t even sure what it meant to not pretend I was good at it?! So I decided I wasn’t going to. I went home that day. Defeated . Sad. Feeling like a phony.

The next time I entered my studio, I refused to let myself think. I just created. I picked up the clay, and I mashed together a bunch of stick and twigs and I just made things. I played with sawdust. I sewed together paper. I added whatever natural fibers and elements I could. I let my hands speak for me. I let my soul take over. I told my brain to rest, and leave it to the rest of the team for the day. And you know what happened?

Nothing. I was still. I was angry. My brain started racing, catching up for lost time. “He was wrong. What the hell am I doing here?”. I went home again. Defeated. Angrier. Super sad.

But I kept going. And I kept letting my soul take over. And I kept asking my brain to step to the side. I created work that said something. I started to create work that allowed me to make meaning of my life. I started to create work that people wanted to know more about. I didn’t tell them. It was for me. I created work that was not intended for the use of others, or to mask some pain I was feeling, or as a way to hide. I created work that communicated with the people who took interest in it. I created work that become about my vulnerability. I stopped worrying about who would see it, and focused on why I was creating it. I explored. I let myself make mistakes and I kept doing it anyway. This time in my life became a time that I cherish. It was Bob Booth who planted a seed about what it meant to be authentic. The rest was a practice I had to maintain every. single. day.

I am sure many of you are familiar with Brene Brown and her theories and writings on vulnerability. She is amazing and if you do not know about her, go and find out about her– you will not regret it. She reports that vulnerability breeds connection which is something human beings require in order to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. What she doesn’t always make clear is how to go about doing this. It’s where I get stuck and I know it is where many others get stuck.

Because vulnerability is not just about going to a mountain and screaming your deepest secrets to the world. If you decide to do that, more power to you, and please let me know. Vulnerability is about creating a safe place to share parts of yourself and your mind even when the rest of the world does not feel so safe. Vulnerability requires so much of us. That is why it is difficult. It asks us to step out on to our front porch naked in the dead of winter. We hate having to be “naked” in front of people and a lot of people hate the cold–so right off the bat this can seem senseless and even a bit foolish. But I want to let you know, that the fear of “nudity” around others due to what people will say is what gives them power. In being vulnerable anyway, we take our power back. When we start doing things to allow for vulnerability we discover multiple things:

We learn what it is like to have relationships based on honesty. We become too tired and frankly lose all interest in being anything other than authentic. We grow confident in our stories. Being vulnerable breed authenticity. Which is really just vulnerability sans intense, stomach wrenching fear.

Being authentic is not something that is done by the flip of a switch. It requires practice. It requires daily decisions to stop hiding pieces of ourselves jut for the sake of making others comfortable. Being authentic requires honesty, even when the honesty is ugly. It asks us to communicate in ways we are not used to communicating. It asks to take masks off, and discuss our scars. It asks us to ask more questions. It asks us to be direct. It asks us to asks for what we want and need.

Authenticity recognizes that we all have something to say. It recognizes that we are all tired. Authenticity is what happens when carrying around the weight of expectations becomes too much.

But what does it actually look like? How does authenticity manifest?

It shines through in going to the grocery store in pajamas knowing full well we will see 30 people or more from high school but going anyway. It shines through when someone tells us they like something and we are brave enough to disagree. Authenticity is being honest, when you are running late, about having slept in. Authenticity is not bending your core values in half to allow for something mediocre to occur. And trust me, if you are bending your values, whatever project you are working on will be mediocre at best. Authenticity is not saying something nice just to say it. It’s meaning what it is you are saying. It’s standing by whatever you feel is part of your biological makeup, and making a deliberate choice to set all else to the side. It comes out in the way we speak, our body language, our communication, how we choose to fill our days, what changes we are pursuing, what our “guilty pleasure movies” are, what our favorite anything is. Authenticity is being real. It’s not always natural. It’s practice. And it is a choice. It sits within you, just waiting for you to decide it is more important than all else. It comes with small, slow practices every day. Using honesty. Showing parts of yourself to others that you might not have previously. Relating to the experiences of others and contributing to real and meaningful conversations. Ask questions. Seeking education. Not just in books. But from others about how they have grown in authenticity.

I’m going to tell you what I have noticed about what happens when you chose to live in authenticity:

Authenticity allows you to stop planning for what you want to be so that you can just be. It allows you at least six more minutes of rest, because you are no longer doing things for the comfort of others. Authenticity can breed a deep sense of satisfaction with where you are in the present. Authenticity allows you to stop worrying so much about where you are going to be, and focus on where you are. Authenticity grounds. It anchors its subjects to a sense of deep, wholehearted realness that is otherwise achievable. There are no lies with authenticity, and therefore no cover ups. Authenticity means you get the ice cream flavor you really wanted instead of what someone else’s favorite is. Authenticity leads to real decisions and real action being made.

The more honest you are with your work and in your daily practice, the more honest your outcome will be. If you shape your future around your current authenticity, it is impossible for the outcome to be anything other than wholly made or derivative of you. When one is able to live life in an authentic way, the mind is suddenly much lighter. Sleep is deeper. Feelings are more intense. Relationships change. You find out who is in your life beyond surface level. Small talk becomes boring. Small talk stops happening at all. You become more aware of how you come off, but you accept it as your truth embodied in your very real and important vessel. You accept a purpose of your own design. Self-nurturing becomes second nature. You remember what really gives you joy. You become your own leader. You realize that the only stories you want to hear are the stories of real, deep, personal transition and meaning. You realize you can sit with yourself as your own company and feel reunited with a good friend. Silence is no longer unbearable but is a welcome guest. You start to see that wrinkle by your eye as a story marker rather than an imperfection. You notice white hairs and rejoice over them rather than try to hide them. You find it harder to lie. You find it easier to know when someone else is lying. You find yourself drawn to people, places and things that are not elaborately decorated and drawn up in ways that don’t reveal who and what they are fundamentally. You start accepting your imperfections. You stop seeing them as imperfections altogether. You accept the imperfections of others.

Pressure becomes lighter. It’s not doing something if you do not want to do it. Time moves slowly when you are authentic. Everything feels new and inspiring. Resentments fade, and gratitude blossoms. Life becomes easier. Everything becomes easier. You can pay more attention to what your body is telling you. You can live a truth that comes from within you rather than the one others place on you. You become an architect for your day to day interactions, decisions, and outcomes. Looking in the mirror becomes like greeting a pal, instead of something you dread. Your actions start to reflect your beliefs and all begins to line up. You can literally feel you heart and soul growing. You can fill your days with more of what you love.

Authenticity is a choice. It is a daily practice. It’s taking time and permission to be in your head for a little longer so you can be the real deal when you come out. It’s bravery. It is not easy. But it is the only way to live a life that means something to you. It’s waking up and showing up, every day, all day for yourself in ways only you can make sense out of. It’s sometimes presenting yourself exactly as you are to the world and doing the very best you know you could do. Authenticity is self-nurturing. It’s kind and gentle. It’s not about taming demons, or hiding or seeking safety. It’s creating a safe place for the demons to recover from all the hiding they have had to do. It’s acknowledging all that you are, and fearlessly showing that to anyone who is lucky to meet you. It is letting the fires that burn in your soul rage free and being fine with that. It’s harnessing that fire and using it to light your darkness. It facilitates deliberate and actionable choices towards the life you truly want.

I leave you with this today:
What are you doing to ensure you choose authenticity each day? How does authenticity manifest for you? What changes have you noticed in your life since being more authentic? What do you need to stop pretending about? How will you be more honest in the world? What would you like to create for yourself? How will you communicate with the world in an authentic way? What is your “art”? What do you say to your truth when it looks back at you?

Warm regards,


On stillness, intention, healing, and self-nurturing.

!!! TRIGGER WARNING. This post contains themes of rape, body image issues and shame. Discretion is advised.

Breaking taught me to see and appreciate
the beauty in re-building.

Alex Elle

October is a tough month for me. For me, it serves as a reminder of who is no longer here. It is the start of a cold embrace that will remain for several months. I love cold weather. I bask in the colors all around me. But there is a melancholia that comes each October 1st. A certain sense of bitterness, a reminder that another year has passed and I am in this body and vessel that I am still learning to love.

Each year, I find my mind racing and making preparations internally to be able to deal with how difficult this month is. And every year, as I make these preparations I find myself struggling, feeling as though I’m out at sea in a little ship and I have only just spotted a tidal wave coming for me after I’m already enveloped by it. Like clockwork, at October’s end I wind up in bed, lacking motivation, feeling as though my back is made of cinder blocks, and that sunshine is too bright for my saddened skin. I wind up exhausted, spent and slightly angry that “I let this happen again”.

October 6th, 2017. It is a heavy day for me. A day that holds hollow space for what happens when control is taken away. On October 6, 2017 I was sexually assaulted. I wasn’t ever going to talk about this on here and I feel knots in my stomach as I type this. But I am trying to take back my power which means that I don’t have to hide parts of my story anymore. I get to tell it. I get to handle it however I handle it.

As September was ending this year, I found myself making the usual preparations. Closing up the cabins of my brain for the winter, and laying some higher brick on the walls around my heart. Little seeds of stress and cortisol planting themselves in my mind, slowly and routinely. I found myself growing fatigued at the thought of how fatigued I knew I was going to be come October’s end. So I stopped. I changed my plans.

This year, I tried something different. Anything I would usually have done to try to escape the tidal wave of emotion I would usually experience, I promised to do the opposite. I opted out of honoring “anniversary dates” like October 6th with silence or sadness and I put focus on giving myself permission to be still and do the things I wanted to do. Taking a class. Creating something for myself. Building on my dreams. And I wasn’t scared. The day passed. It was over and he didn’t get to hold any more unnecessary power over me on that day.

I have been circling. I have been saying this for months to my loved ones– ” I feel stronger right now, but I feel like I am constantly circling a pit of despair and that the smallest thing could set me off into a spiral”. So in short, my strength has been building. I have been healing. But I often find myself wondering when the next ball is going to drop and I am going to relapse into an even worse depression. I find myself worrying about this and wanting to protect how far I have come. But rather than panic like i might have done previously, I have been reflecting and present and practicing self-care. If you have come here for answers today, I am not sure that I have any.

Today I am focused on self-care. This term has become a popular term in the wellness community. It has taken on the face of skin masks, manicures, and bubble baths. As a mental health clinician, I can’t even tell you how frustrating this is for me. Self-care. Say it enough times and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. To be honest, I hate taking baths and haven’t had a manicure in years. These things are so lovely. But they aren’t self-care.

On October 6th, 2017 I felt so much guilt about needing to take a minute to myself and missing class that I still got up and went anyway instead of giving myself time. I had just been raped and got so nervous about doing poorly in class that I got out of my bed and went to class and sat there learning about art therapy theories and then went home and couldn’t figure out why I felt so confused. I know that I am not the only one who has just “pushed through it” so I could be a “strong and productive member of society” because anything else is “just letting him win”. Right?

Self-care. I want you to take the “care” right out of it. Self. Let’s put the emphasis on “self”. I have been thinking so much about what it means to actually care for the self and maybe baths and face masks can fall into that but I think they are the absolute smallest fraction of it all. People fall back on these things when they have no idea about what they might actually be needing. It is by no means, any fault of their own. We have not been taught in society to care for ourselves beyond basic hygiene and nutrition (which feels like a luxury most days, anyway).

I want you to think about the last time you asked yourself “What do I need right now?”. What was your answer? You might even find that you couldn’t come up with one. Maybe your answer felt selfish so you didn’t follow through. All fine. But why? When did caring for ourselves become seen as being indulgent? Who decided this? When did getting the proper amount of sleep, rest and nutrition become something that we feel guilty about? Who let this happen? Why is it that unless we are contributing to some bigger thing, that we are seen as lazy?

What do you need? The question is loaded and difficult and makes me squirm. What do you need? It doesn’t have to be anything tangible. Maybe sometimes it is courage. Maybe it is love. Maybe it silence or nature or a pint of ice cream. What the hell do you need right now, here in this very moment? Maybe it is soft clothes and clean sheets. Maybe it deep reflection. Maybe it is pausing to take in the view from where you stand in life right now. What do you need? Sometimes in response to this question from my clients, I get a big puff of breath and a chuckle. Other times, it seems that pulling teeth might be easier.

Whenever I see my therapist, she tries to instill in my brain the notion that I cannot pour from an empty cup. It’s a simple visual. We cannot serve or help others if we have nothing left within ourselves. If we are totally spent, and exhausted and fatigued we cannot expect ourselves to successfully do our jobs, or be present.

What. Do. You. Need? We often don’t allow ourselves to be still enough to feel it. I have mentioned in previous posts the beauty of being able to find gold in our own pockets if we are only brave enough to stop and look. But what about when we are not currently searching for gold? What happens when we allow ourselves minutes to simply be. To simply be still. What happens for you? What happens when you are so present that feeling the brisk October air on your cheeks feels like a gentle reminder that you have made it to exactly where you are of your own volition. That brisk air on your cheek is a greeting for your own resilience. But you can only notice it when you allow yourself to be still. That brisk air is a gentle kiss from your future best self and it is full of gratitude.

Stillness allows us to walk with intention. Intention allows us our power back. It makes movement something more of an act of deliberation. It takes away the autopilot and puts us in intentional motion. It makes morning coffee taste like you harvested that coffee bean yourself. When we are still, our sense come out of hibernation. Our sight is expanded and our feet become planted in the ground wherever they are. Stillness is the act of permission. It is allowing yourself some extra time whenever the hell you need it. It is an act of love when the chaos of the day becomes too much. It allows us to face fear in the eyeballs rather than running for something better. Instead of finding something better, stillness allows us to make what we already have better. It builds upon our own castle. It fixes the roof after a long winter. Stillness is the contractor you never knew you needed for the vessel you inhabit right now. You’re not going to get a new one for a long time. And when you can be still and enjoy the one you are in, why would you want to?

For a long time after the assault, I wanted to be someone else and live in someone else’s body. I felt dirty and broken and out of date. But then I started to be gentle with my soft skin. I started to sing praise upon my hands. I started to recognize my body did not betray me. Stillness helped me find gentleness and healing. Stillness asked me to sit down with my body and love it again. Stillness helped me find what I needed. Stillness helped me develop a self-nurturing attitude. Stillness continues to let me clear my head and fosters a relationship with resilience.

Stillness is never forceful. It’s a friendly face wanting to catch up. It’s a slow walk on a chilly day. It’s consistent. It will wait for you, however long you need. Stillness is freedom from pain and suffering. Stillness is taking time to acquaint yourself with the version of you that exists beyond your traumas, your pain, your diagnoses, and everything else. It will always be willing to meet you on the other side. Stillness is not stagnation but a safe and warm hearth to rest at before you embark on your next journey. Stillness always has room at its table and a bowl waiting in the oven for you. Stillness welcomes you with open arms even after years of movement. Stillness allows us to create our own freedoms.

Stillness fosters intention. We cannot make rash or hasty moves if we are willing to be still enough to explore what is inside our brains rather than what externals factors are trying to influence them. Stillness breeds honesty. It never lies. It is quiet and deliberate. Stillness asks us to be present enough to think for ourselves. It asks us to consider the importance of what is happening under our noses. Stillness helps us understand and provide answers for the question: What do you need? Stillness is self-care. I am able to greet each day because stillness helped me come out of a dark place when I needed to care for myself. It wasn’t face masks and spa days.

Still. It makes me think of water undisturbed. It is clean and refreshing. It feels smooth. It feels like a warm blanket I can wrap myself in whenever I need it. It has many meanings. It is not simply a verb. It implies that the story doesn’t end. And still….

Here is what I know to be true:
It is possible to have survived your worst days and still show up for the best ones. It is possible to feel as though the pressure of society has finally won total control over you and still find yourself fighting back. It is possible to lose all you ever found to be meaningful and still create new meaning in the little experiences you have every day. It is possible to be scarred by interactions more powerful than you immediate comprehension and still try again tomorrow. It is possible to be hurt by something or someone and still chose love. It is possible to be angry and still feel empathy. It is possible to feel like you have endured more than your fair share and still work on making things better. It is possible to watch your whole world crash down and still re-build.

You are not bound by what has happened to you. You only are responsible for what you choose to do about it. Sometimes that comes in the form of self-nurturing. Sometimes it comes in the form of stillness. It is okay to wait in stillness until the world makes sense again. It is okay to move when you are ready. You do not have to pretend that you are always 100%. It is okay to be 32% sometimes. Be honest about it. Let stillness greet you. Have a bowl of something warm with it. When you are ready to move again, be sure that it is with intention and self-nurturing. Check in from time to time–what do you need? Deep, spiritual, healing can only come from within. Others can witness it and help along the way, but it has to come from you. And it is also fine to not know where to start with it. Take the time you need. Be gentle. Do not rush your process or you may miss something that stillness has planted there just for you.

What do you need in order to heal? What do you need to foster a nurturing relationship with yourself? What do you need from stillness today? How will you ensure that you follow through? How will you move with intention? What does stillness tell you when you are uncertain?

Warm regards,


If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault and/or rape, there is help:

RAINN – 800.656.HOPE

Rape Crisis —  210-349-7273

On loss, transition, revision and creation.

“All the trees are losing their leaves and not one of them is worried.”

Donald Miller

I lost a client this week.

I came into my office on Monday morning and was going about making phone calls when I got the news that he had died. It was sudden. Unexpected.

In that moment, I closed my eyes and waited for my heart to drop as it does when news of loss arises. So young, and seemingly on the mend and “how could I not see this coming?”. “What do I feel? Should I feel? What was on his mind?”. All of these thoughts run through my mind as I sit in my desk chair and try figure out the next step. I like to imagine a tiny little warehouse worker in my brain representing my sensible mind relaying to other parts of my mind: ” Alright, boys, time to bring in the cleanup crew, we’ve got a mess over here that’s gonna need tending to !”. As if there is some subconscious protocol to handle this news. Because the reality was, right in this moment, the feeling was familiar. It was not new. It stopped being new a long time ago. The cleanup crew never came. It didn’t have to.

Before you judge, please understand that it is not because I have become desensitized to this type of news. I haven’t. But I have had to create a protective layer in my brain throughout the years in order to deal with loss because if that layer is not there, I break. I break in a way that has me in the fetal position in bed every weekend, wishing I could be someone else.

It is hard for me to put words down about the feeling of loss. Losing. As if life can be compared to some type of game and as we lose people, we lose aspects of the game. The word feels thoughtless and harsh. It doesn’t feel big enough to account for the gaping hole that is often placed on one’s life when someone else is no longer in it. It’s not fair. It feels senseless. It feels wrong and “what am I supposed to do now?”. The very thought that anything can ever be how it was is almost insulting and equivalent to rubbing salt in a fresh wound. There is never enough time for things to feel complete when someone is suddenly or not so suddenly taken out of your life. And there is never a word, a combination of letters or phrases that can describe how completely and wholeheartedly devastating loss can be.

When I was in college my professor told me about a job opportunity working for a summer school program with children in high school prepping for college to develop their art portfolios. It was a month long, and the pay was really good in my 20 year old mind. So I jumped on it. I applied for the position of counselor and was offered the position of head counselor. I had no idea what I was doing but it was exciting. My first summer there, I hated it. It was awful. But something stuck with me and that was how much I adored the kids. So the next summer, when it was time to decide if I was going to go back, I did.

This was the summer I met the student who largely inspired my career. He was 13 when he first came to the program and he was a ball of light alive in the vessel of a blue eyed, dimple faced smiling little artist. I worked with him throughout this summer and then continued the summer after that. We would spend time in the common area chatting about our favorite foods, and baked goods and we would practice our accents together. Some people come into your life right when you need to learn specific lessons and I had a lot to learn from him. Kindness, humor, how to be actively engaged in the moment, how to access my inner child again. It was during my third summer there that he had expressed to me the most remarkable compliment I had ever been given: “I feel so safe around you”. That was it. That was all it took. The instant the month had ended, I went home and started putting all of my things together so I could start grad school to become a therapist.

Two semesters into grad school, I found out that he had died. It was sudden. Unexpected.

I had dealt with loss before. I had dealt with perceived loss and close calls with loss. But nothing, not a single thing could have ever prepared me for this loss. I felt the earth crumble underneath my feet. I begged for it to be untrue. I found myself trying to contact him to find out if he was alright. My brain could not comprehend. There are times where it still doesn’t. I found myself going through it in my head, over and over. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I felt guilt. I wasn’t there to help him through whatever pain he was feeling in his last moments. I found myself coming up with excuses for this: Life had gotten in the way and we had lost touch. I didn’t want to bother him as he embarked on his life adventures, etc. I found myself thinking that I should have known that his light was too bright to be shining for long. The universe is good to people, but he was a gift this world was likely not ready for.

Loss. Losing. To be lost. I have lost. I lost. The world has lost. Lost.

If I say it enough times it starts to feel abstract on my tongue. The word doesn’t attach itself to the event that it represents. It implies irresponsibility and faultiness. It sounds and feels belittling.

When loss is sudden, there is a different kind of pain that comes with it. It’s not silent or one that you can expect. It’s the type of pain that comes when you miss a step going down the stairs and before you’ve realized what has happened, you’re already on the floor. It’s a cold, hard landing on concrete. It’s the sting that comes with the aftershock of landing on your hands and knees after the step was missed. It’s recognizing you will have bruises for a while after. It’s waking up the next day and feeling sore because the impact was so hard. It’s sitting at work and one day having a strange flashback and thinking “How could I have missed that step!?”. There is no answer and there is rarely closure.

When loss is sudden it makes you hold on tight to the memory of someone who has been stolen away from your life. It is pangs of anxiety each time you depart from your living loved ones. It’s answering the phone with a slight dread every time you get a call because any call could be “the call” delivering “the news”. You live life, often preparing to hear the news because if you’re always prepared it can’t possibly hurt as much as it did the first time. Right?

One big thing I have learned since being in this profession is not that loss is something to “get over”, it is something we can only make room for. There is no such thing as “time heals all”. Time heals nothing, but it does help you create a bigger space in your heart for the moments you share. But something else I have learned since being in this profession is the idea that however horrible loss is, either personal, professional, perceived, etc. it almost always forces you to create something new for yourself. It’s instant transition. Maybe it’s a subconscious way to fill a void. Maybe it is a coping skill. I don’t know what I would call it. I’m not talking about opportunities or the notion of doors closing and opening or chapters ending and beginning. I am talking about real moments of authentic re-creation for how you thought your life would go. Because when loss arises, it is not ever possible for one to just go back to the way things were. We have to build on that loss in order to move into a new version of our future. A version that doesn’t include who or what has been taken away.

Loss brings about revision. It asks us to consider what is important to us. It asks us to break things down and take an inventory of what is specific and necessary for us to keep going. It asks you to slow down and take care of yourself because whether you have lost a person, a pet (same thing), a job, an object of importance, a house, whatever you are going to have to take a minute to reassess what is important for your next move.

When something or someone is lost to us, or taken from us, we are left to mourn that person’s or thing’s absence in our lives, and what they or it meant to us. I often wonder if mourning or grief is an act of selfishness because of this. Is it wrong that we mourn the impact this person or thing has had on our lives, or is it more appropriate to celebrate that this person or thing has swapped energies and is on a new adventure?

When my uncle died suddenly several years ago, I remember crying in the hospital wondering what the hell came next for our family. We would never be the same. We weren’t. We aren’t. But we have adapted. We have had to create new traditions. We had to accept that he would not be present at weddings or funerals or holidays. We had to accept the impact it had on family dynamics. Because to try to change any of it, would be holding on to something that was no longer obtainable. I am not a religious person. But I do believe in energy shifts and that when someone leaves their human vessel, it is entirely possible for them to take flight into a new vessel. I find myself channeling into his energy and promising it that I will always try to create something better for myself. Because things don’t just happen to or for us. They happen because of us. Because of what we create and do for ourselves when we are forced into transition. How we revise the original blueprints of what we thought we had totally sorted out.

Loss allows us to create new futures. It asks us to imagine what is at stake if we do not live the life we know we want, truly and deep down. It’s not that life is too short. It’s that any second spent doing something you hate or forcing yourself into a cookie cutter mold is a second too long. Loss asks us how we want to spend our time. Loss asks us to face our innermost fears about all the potential we really have and yet somehow, do not use. It’s not always about who or what we have lost. Sometimes grief and mourning transforms into an unexpected check in for all we might have lost trying to live life according to someone else’s standards. Loss is not about opportunities that fall in our path because after the funeral, the life we had before the loss is still somehow waiting for us as though nothing has happened. But sometimes, if we pay attention to it, there is a shift within us that tells us that something about the way things are needs tweaking. Loss allows us to utilize the tools in life that make it worth living again. Loss puts the pencil in our hands to be able to write or create our own meaning out of what has happened.

There is a cyclical pattern to this and within us. We see it every year when the seasons change. There is something beautiful about each one, and we have to adapt each time. In the spirit of autumn, leaves turn beautiful colors as one last gift before they say goodbye to us. These specific leaves may be gone, but the trees remain there, resting. They still possess the ability to grow leaves and when they awake and feel ready they begin. So come spring, the new leaves come about and greet us with the sweet smell of hello. It’s silent adaptation, and re-creation. But it surrounds us every day.

Loss isn’t always about goodbye. In fact, it is often about how we navigate transition, create meaning and what we are going to do in the future to make sure we have lived according to what our energy requires of us. Loss allows you to rest. It forces you to access parts of your brain and soul that maybe you have placed on a shelf for a while. Loss hurts. Of course it hurts. Mourning and grief are real and never get easier with time. But we do learn to give them their appropriate space when they require it of us.

I am not saying you have to accept loss or forget about those who are no longer with you. But I am saying it would be unfortunate not to honor their energy or spirit or memory by living a life unfulfilled. We, at the very least, deserve to give it some thought. I am saying, sometimes our blueprints need revisions. Sometimes we need new maps for the path we thought we were headed down. Sometimes we need to create a new path altogether.

I leave you with this today: What does loss mean to you? What transition has it led you to? How are you navigating that transition? What life revisions have you had to make recently? Have you checked in with your energy to make sure you are following your full potential and using your time the way you want to be? What new practices you have had to create for yourself as a means of continuing on? What have you had to make room for recently? What does a life fulfilled look like to you? What does loss require of you? How will you make room in your heart for what you have lost? How will you create meaning out of your losses?

Warm regards,


On people pleasing, survival and the power of “No”.

!! TRIGGER WARNING !! This post contains material about domestic violence, physical, and emotional abuse and rape. It is a survival story. Discretion is advised.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Maya Angelou

Hi. I am back. I took a bit of a break because I have been practicing a new skill: The art of boundaries. This is going to be a long one, so buckle up.

Often when I write this blog, I try to spend a bit of time practicing what I feel I want to write about. And this one, has been difficult to say the least. I’ve been thinking a lot on this lately. Boundaries. What the hell does that even mean? It sounds restrictive and ugly and I hate it. The word makes me think of a giant brick wall, extending into the sky. Impenetrable and proud. It looks old, like it has been there for a long long time. To stand at its base, one might wonder about who built it and why. Where did they find the resources? What had to happen for a wall such as this be built?

Do you want to know my absolute biggest pet peeve in all the land? It’s, surprisingly, not loud chewing or interrupting, or even having to repeat myself thirty five times. While those things are bothersome, my biggest pet peeve is this: “Gina, you are too nice”. This statement has made me so angry in the past. I have heard it my whole life.

My mother raised me to treat people the way I want to be treated. I want to be treated nicely. So I have always treated people nicely. What’s the problem with that? What the hell is bad about that? Now, here is the thing. I had never made the connection that what people might have actually meant is this: “Gina, you are too accommodating and people will take advantage of that”. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school, talking to a professor who brought this to my attention (shout out to the life saving, incredible soul who is Robin Shiffrin, the real MVP). She was noticing a pattern in my behaviors and she called me out in a loving way, but it hit me so hard. It was at the end of a class. This class was a class about learning to facilitate groups and the main exercise was to feel what it is like to be in a group experience. So we were placed into groups with our classmates and group therapy commenced. She would observe and take note that I had a tendency to be “too easy going”, “too agreeable”. When one of my fellow group members told me she thought of me to be disingenuous, I lost my mind. This could not possibly be the case. Me?! I couldn’t understand.

I valued my genuineness above all else, and to be told that my “niceness” was perceived as the opposite of that hurt. It hurt a lot. So I was processing this with my professor and she got me thinking. “Gina, is it possible that the fact that you are so accommodating just doesn’t seem real? Isn’t it possible that you are so willing to jump over hoops for strangers is something that seems impossible for some people? Isn’t it possible that you might be sending people a message that you don’t care about yourself because you don’t mind other people walking all over you?”. I was honestly blown away by this. But it made sense. Maybe the fact that I was so willing to be this way for the sake of others was not based in wanting to help people in this group but more on the desire to be accepted? Man, thinking back on this class still gives me very scary anxiety. But it makes sense.

Story time. In high school, I was very well liked. I could fit into any friend group and get along with them. It was not difficult for me. Through out all of it, I found I gravitated towards certain groups a little more here and there and I eventually created my own group and it felt amazing to be part of something so close knit. And then one day, I met a guy. He was a little odd, but he was mysterious. He was artistic, and did not attend school. He was what I would have described as “quirky” back then. He had nice words, and he asked to take me on a date so we met for coffee. I was smitten. Absolutely head over heels. Everything seemed perfect for a little bit. I couldn’t see clearly what was about to happen. I do not have his permission to discuss this in any form of media, and frankly, I don’t care. This is my survival story.

This relationship lasted nine months. And that is nine months way too friggin’ long. The impact it has had on me and my life has been monumental. This relationship quickly turned into an abusive one. He was like a snake, able to slither into all the synapses of my brain. Everything became about and for him. I changed my hair, clothes and makeup to fit what he found attractive. I started to gain weight because he “preferred the pin up look”. He made it abundantly clear on a daily basis that I, as I was, would not be enough for him unless I did these things. He convinced me to do things that I would never have done. He used to cut me so that he “could make art out of my blood”. He used to tell me that while I was sleeping he would wake me up by raping me. He used to tell me that my parents and family and friends didn’t care about me. He even went so far as to try to convince me to excommunicate myself from my family members legally. I think there was some instance of him convincing me to try to use a dead snake as artwork. I would go to work, and then use my money from work to buy him things and then go right to him. I began lying about him coming to see me while I was in school. I stopped caring about all that was important to me. I started watching movies and listening to music only he found acceptable. For what? To be loved? I had that in family and friends. To be accepted? I had that too. No. It was because I didn’t know how to say no and he knew it. He used it. This is my taking responsibility for what I can. I recognize that this abuse is not my fault. But I have to take responsibility for the hurt and pain it has caused, because if I don’t, I do not let myself heal.

If you ask me about this now, I still can’t really tell all the details. Not because I am scared, but because I actually cannot remember. My brain has done an incredible job of protecting me and blocking out a lot.

The first time I ever implemented a boundary was the time I saved my own life. I am certain that if I were still in that relationship I would have been dead a long time ago.

The first time I ever implemented a boundary was out of survival. I was driving home from school with him in the passenger seat. October 30, 2010. He was talking to me about who knows what and we were disagreeing and I stopped dead in my tracks and said ” I cannot do this anymore”. He was confused. I told him it was over. He did and said nothing. I dropped him home. I drove home and I collapsed on my parents kitchen floor. I remember them holding me, telling me “it is over now”. *It was. The relationship was over. I never went back. He tried to get me back and keep his hold on me for months after this. His last words to me were “You have no back bone. You will never be anything because you let everyone walk all over you”. Even he knew it. I was the only one not in on this information. Are you seeing a pattern? I do now.

In the end, I was grateful. It has taken me a long time not to hate myself for the damage he caused in my life and the lives of those I love. I missed out on a lot. I was a bad sister, daughter, friend during this time. I lost all of my friends. I miss them and I miss what we had. Mostly, I was horrible to myself. This was my first lesson in saying “no. you don’t have the right to me”. When something like this happens in one’s life, it is natural to not have any idea where to go next. This person was a con artist. He successfully fed off of me for nine months, and I continue to deal with the aftermath even today.

For a long time, I become obsessed with going back to how things were. To the person I was before my traumas. I will never be that person again and i hope that she is resting peacefully somewhere. The person I was at this time is dead. She has been for such a long time and I am finally understanding the importance of focusing on now. I have started to set a boundary for myself. I am healing. I am becoming. I am constantly seeking ways to grow and improve. I consider this part of my life a rebirth. I can be angry. I can also grow through my anger. Life doesn’t end when the trauma does. Even if it is all you are familiar with at that time. Life begins when you realize your worth. It does not mean you are taking action right this instance, though if you feel so inclined please do. I understand that I had it easy and that leaving in my situation was a little simpler than some. I had that privilege. But if you could give yourself one thing each day to focus on putting a boundary between you and what holds you back (your abusers, your trauma history, your past, yourself..etc) what would it be?

No. It is so powerful and so intense and I can count on one hand the amount of times in my life I have said it. But each time, it gets easier. It is not simple. It feels like a lead weight on the tip of my tongue and to spit it out in front of anyone is to change a part of who I thought I was on a fundamental level. But you are not the things you say yes to. You are not the things you say no to either. You exist in a world where you sometimes have a choice to do something for yourself or for someone else. I would encourage you to really look inward before you answer and ask if this next part leads to the life you want. You don’t require any excuses. You are not required to run yourself ragged while others use you as a stepping stool. You are only required to do the very best you are capable of. That doesn’t always include other people.

Humans do better when they are connected. But do not left yourself believe, even for a second, that you are required to douse your light for the sake of someone else. Make sure that the people you say yes to are striving for the same amount of brightness that you are. Don’t let it be stolen. This is not selfishness. This is surviving in pursuit of thriving.

If you say yes to everyone else, there will be nothing left in you to say yes for yourself. Read that again.

It has taken me approximately 27 years to understand that I do not always need an excuse to say no to something. If I cannot make something work, I have been practicing the art of honesty and boundaries and recognizing that if I put too much into making everyone around me feel comfortable I will live my whole life wishing I had their skin and not mine. Saying yes is sometimes an easy way to forget you have your own work to do. You have your own life, your own goals.

I am not saying that you shut the world out. I am saying, take stock and really examine the impact saying yes in any given situation might have on your own existence. There will always be the unexpected. This is inevitable. But saying no when something is not feasible, creates a platform for you to stand on when the waves get a little choppy.

When I think back to my class and why the words “you are too nice” really bothered me I realize it was because it was revealing a very harsh truth that I wasn’t ready to accept. I am too accommodating. I always have been. I didn’t know how to fix that. But then I realized–this isn’t about me changing anything about myself. It was simply about adding more. Becoming stronger. Adding more of my own power, the power of saying no. Finding it from within.

Boundaries are scary. They can be ugly. They are a quick way to understand the people and the world around you. They are an excellent tool for knowing exactly what people really want from you. It may seem like an impossible feat. Some days you won’t have the energy to stand your ground. That’s okay. What’s not okay is letting people walk into your life and rob you of all the good and bad and whatever you have to offer to use in whatever way it serves them. You are not a puppet. You are worthy of knowing your limits and sticking to them. You are worthy of the satisfaction that comes with having survived your worst days and utilizing “no” to reinforce what you are not willing to do. You belong to yourself. You are not here so someone else can use you however they please. You are not here to build resentment for people who don’t even care if it’s there in the first place. You are not here so your boss can treat you poorly, or to have fair weather friends, or to be exploited. You can not control what happens in this world. But you have 100% control over what you make of it, and what you do with it. You have control over who you let into your life (most of the time).

Boundaries are not about loyalty. Someone can be loyal and still be shitty. Boundaries are not about the “no matter what” and the “real friends”. Boundaries are about freedom. Self-care (real self care). Boundaries are about protecting yourself and your space from people and circumstances that drain your light. Boundaries are a rock solid wall and its only job is to make sure you are surrounded by good people, with enough energy to enjoy them. Boundaries are not guidelines. They are law. They are what you have put into place on the grounds that you know what you need. Boundaries also change, as you too, will change. That is okay. You do not need to explain it to anyone. YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING. THEY DO NOT OWE YOU ANYTHING. This world is focused on obligation and exchange and transaction. If you don’t advocate for yourself through all of it, no one else will.

I leave you today with this. What have learned about boundaries? What does your wall look like? What is your wall made of ? How will it keep you safe? When do you know it is time to make it a little taller? How will you know when you can start removing a layer of bricks? How do you know when you need to change the wall a little? Who are you letting through the gate right now, that maybe you shouldn’t be? What are you willing to put up with and for how long? What are the consequences of broken boundaries? What is your survival story? Are you being too accommodating? When was the last time you checked in on your walls? What changes do you need to make in your life right now to ensure your energy is protected?

Warm regards,


*I have said it several times and will say it forever, there are no words that can accurately describe how lucky I am to have the support system I do. I know many do not, and it is not wasted in vain on me. I share this story in the hopes that those reading understand it is possible to survive the worst days of your life.

**If you or someone you know has been or is being impacted by domestic violence, abuse, or sexual violence there is help:

The Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224

RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE

LIFELINE: dial 211 or call 1-877-356-9211

A Letter to Little Me.

“Even though I didn’t start it, the only person who could stop that cycle was myself, and a great way to do that was to picture myself as a little kid when I was being cruel to myself. It’s taken some time, but I’ve definitely been kinder to myself since I learned that. “

Georgia Hardstark, Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered (2019)

Oo boy. I have to be totally transparent with you today. I have been sitting in this seat on my porch for about 20 minutes trying to decide if today is the day I choose to tackle this post. I didn’t want to write this one. I still don’t. But there a couple of reasons on why I am choosing to move past that and do it anyway. 1) I am trying to do more of what is terrifying to me. 2) My therapist assigned this to me about three months ago and I have been putting this off for quite some time. 3) I got a horrible stomach ache at the very thought of writing this post which tells me it is likely what I need to write most right now. 4). I was probably never going to write this until I read the quote from Georgia Hardstark above. (If you have not read Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, do it. Buy the book. You need it.).

The little girl in the photo up there is me. I don’t know how old I was. I don’t know why I had my pants pulled up so high (still do this though). I don’t know why I had so many clips in my hair. None of it matters though. Because this little girl was happy. She was light and if she wanted to wear seventeen clips in her hair, she did and she did not care about what anyone thought. She looked up to people with awe and she was naturally curious. She was obsessed with animals, horses to be specific, but was impartial in the scheme of things. She was in a band called “Bubble Gum Swirl” with the boy across the street, he played drums and she sang. the lyrics they co-wrote were actually pretty damn good. This little girl didn’t have secrets or sadness. She was horrible at sports. She fell right into the role of older sister when the time came. She would fall asleep half way through eating chicken nuggets right at the dinner table. She didn’t know anything about the world yet except for the world her two incredible parents provided for her (thank you, mom and dad–you are still my rocks to this day).

I’m going to tell you how I decide on what to write about every two weeks. It is simple. It’s usually based on what I am feeling most confident in each week, something I have been focusing on, or something I have encountered a couple of times throughout the week or what I feel might be most helpful for others on any given day. But today, I need to be a little selfish. The best way to describe how I am feeling right now is this: “We need to talk”. You know the feeling. You look at your phone and see this, and the contents of your intestines fall to the ground, your heart starts to race and you want to hide. That is what is happening. Here we go.

A Letter to Little Me.

Dear Gina.
I have to be honest with you, I don’t know where to start. You are so small and soft and stubborn and I don’t know how to begin something like this. There’s a large part of me that feels I have foresaken you and even tried to forget that you ever existed. I’ve always tried to be a version of me that you would be proud of, but to be honest I am not sure I’m doing it. I don’t know how to. I feel I have disconnected myself from you. But it has never been out of anger or resentment. It has only ever been to protect you from the bullshit of what has happened, and to perhaps let you form your opinions on everything else. I believe it is probably out of love, but more likely it is out of shame. I am not who you thought I would be, and I don’t know that ever will be. In fact, being vulnerable to this degree right now makes me want to slam this computer closed and run away (yes, laptops are a thing, you will see).

I need to take time though to apologize to you. All the times I have ever called you stupid, or ugly, or someone who was incapable of receiving love. You are none of those things. You are just learning. You don’t need to be anything specific. You are just fine exactly as you are. You don’t need to fit in with everyone at school. In fact, go with your gut because you’ll be glad that you didn’t want to fit in with them. The truth is, little me, I wouldn’t have changed anything. You’re going to wind up in some messy situations. You will make friends and you will lose them. It will be your fault.You will come pretty close to losing your dad. He will make it, and he will continue to be a superhero for you. Take what he says seriously. Don’t get the credit card. Check the oil. He is right in saying life is nothing but choices. That’s all it ever is. You will fight with your mother a lot. You will realize it’s because you are the same person– deeply passionate about different things. You are just going to have to accept that because once you do, you will understand everything. You will understand why she worries. You will worry too. But she is the only person who will ever understand what worry really is to you. Try to realize this sooner, so you can have more time with her as your friend. Your sister needs you more often than she lets on. Please don’t let her down this time. You will lose your uncle. Treasure the time you have with him. Spend more time with your grandparents. You will lose a lot. You will lose yourself to abuse, and to trauma, and confusion. You will find yourself again, though. You will be angry. It won’t be forever. Your life is going to be one long weird phase. You’ll wish you could pull your skin off at times and hang it up to bask in the sunlight on days when you don’t have energy to get out of bed. This won’t be forever either. Or maybe it will. I don’t know yet.

You will meet so many people who will change your life. It’s a 50/50 split of good and bad. You’ll always learn something, regardless of their intentions. You’ll learn how to differentiate rather quickly, but you’ll always need a little help. You will have nights that you need your parents and they will show up for you at 4:30 in the morning to hold you until you fall asleep. You will have nights that you feel stronger than you have ever felt. There is no formula for either of these things. You will take leaps, and you will fail and you will hate yourself some days and others you will feel like you are made of the sun. You will learn to use humor as your best defense mechanism. You may not ever know how to do life “right” but you will be alright. You will feel as though you have been cheated out of so much, like there was some secret to success that you missed out on while you were distracted by whatever else. You will become cynical and bitter. 25 is going to be the worst year of your life for a multitude of reasons. But 26 will be the best for a multitude of reasons. You’re going to fail (you will fail your road test 6 times before you pass–yes, you were crying the whole time). You will also succeed. Don’t choose failure out of fear of succeeding. You will lose your relationship with God. You will develop a keen intuition that allows for you to connect with energy and environment around you in ways that have shed real light on resilience. Inf act, you will become on of the most resilient people you know. The bottom line is though, try your best not to get caught up in the notion of what you have lost. Because you will gain so much.

You will gain insight. You will become wise beyond your years. By the time you are 27 you will have lived at least three lives or it will feel like that. It’s no wonder you are always exhausted. You will become someone that people look to when they are in need. You will be able to stand on your two feet even when your feet are torn up because you rip at them out of nervousness. You will learn that trust is something to be earned, and that it is not always good to give people the benefit of the doubt. However, when you are able to do this, most of the time people are grateful you did. You will choose to be a warm, loving and kind person in spite of all you have had to endure. Do not confuse this for being weak. You are far from weak. You just choose to show up for people in a warm, genuine way every day because it’s what you would want to receive. You will have to learn to forgive yourself. You also do NOT need to say yes to everything. For the love of sweet baby Jesus, please say no once in a while. You are not responsible for how other people feel about the world or how they feel about you. You will gain an understanding that abuse can appear in many ways, and to get out as soon as something feels wrong. You will be able to help other people heal. You will fight this. But you already know that you are in this world to walk alongside others. You will continue to do everything the hard way. In fact, you sometimes will deliberately choose the hard way while your friends and family shake their heads and then you will come out of it saying you wish you had gone with the easier way. Don’t. Still choose things that challenge you. Choose people who challenge you. Choose people who choose you. Choose. You will learn to take responsibility for your mistakes and there will be ten billion of them probably within just one year so brace yourself for that. Try not to get down on yourself for it though, because no one ever gave you a map for life and you’re doing the best you can. You will never be who you are right now again. That’s okay. Stop trying to be. Water is fluid. You are made up of mostly water. It is okay to change and shift when the tide rolls in. Remain open to this.

You will have many strengths. You will have many shortcomings. They are what makes you who you are in the long run. So embrace them, change in ways that make sense to you, and do your best not to hurt anyone. You will always be learning. You’ll have the opportunity to move to Alexander Street. Do it. You’ll be glad you did. Go see the medium. Understand that the way people feel about you does not define who you are. Your disorders, career, weight, emotions, trauma and abuse. None of this defines who you are. You are still discovering who you are. But you now know for sure it is none of those things. Try to have more faith in yourself. You will get embarrassed. But it is fleeting. Take more leaps and break more rules. But be safe. Ask questions. Learn to be curious again. Don’t just smile and nod. What you have to say is actually important.

I hope somewhere deep down I have made you even a little bit proud. I know you have high standards, and you hold yourself to nearly impossible ones. That might be your OCD or anxiety. Or maybe it’s a learned behavior from being too fearful of messing up. Either way, you will gain control over your OCD, anxiety. You will mess up a lot. It is never as bad as it seems right in that moment. You will learn how to keep yourself in check. Take breaks. Give yourself some kind words once in a while, you deserve them. Try not to get mad at your sister when she copies you, she just loves you. She will wind up being a crucial part of how you come back to finding yourself. Don’t call yourself names. You don’t deserve that. Acknowledge when you have put forth your best effort, and own up to when you know you didn’t. Reduce how much you expect from others. Be patient with yourself. We both know this is not a strength of yours, so really. Be. Patient. Try to be a little more grateful for your days. Show the universe it has done the right thing in helping you out in all the ways it has. You have so much more left to do, little me. I am proud of you so far. But something I have never told you in all the years we have existed is that I love you. It’s hard for us to use this phrase. It’s hard to admit because we are so afraid of loss once the words are out there. But it’s true. I do love you. In spite of everything, you need to know that I love who you are right now and who you are becoming. And you are always becoming.

I am so proud that you didn’t give up and that you continue to wake up every day even when it feels like getting out bed is the biggest accomplishment of the day. You carry so much around with you and none of it is visible. But you deserve to rest once in a while. When people want to help you, let them. Help yourself by letting go when you can. Changing what you can. Being more kind when you can. I know that through everything, you only ever have done the best you could do. It has taken me a long time to realize this. You do not have to be perfect for me to love you. You do not have to be perfect. You deserve the good that comes your way and the bad is not a punishment but a stepping stone. A transition. Learn to love stepping outside of your comfort zone. The reward is much greater. Trust yourself more. Learn boundaries, and admit to your limits. You are brave. You are just fine.

I don’t know what is in store for us now, but I will say 27 years is a long time. And somehow, you’ve made it this far. So keep showing up, you squishy little sun baby.

Warm regards,


What would you say to little you? What will it take for you to be able to openly address little you? How will you acknowledge that you were only ever doing the best you could do?

On self-doubt, landing your leaps and fear.

“There is little that can withstand a man who can conquer himself. “

King Louis XIV

I have been sitting here, looking at this screen for ten minutes trying to figure out exactly how to start this week’s post. I find it utterly hilarious, given the topic, because the thing that stopped me each time is doubting whether or not it would be enticing enough for anyone to want to read.

Self-doubt. Ugh.

When I reflect on what this phrase means to me, I would probably point myself in the direction I always ask my clients to explore. What stops you from doing what you really want at any given moment? The answer always comes back to self-doubt, thinking “it’s not good enough”, or straight up fear around taking the time to really trust that you can land your leaps.

I have always been someone to be methodical about the way I do something. If I haven’t thought it through, I generally won’t act on it because “there is too much to risk being lost”. Fear. It is rarely when I have enough faith in myself to land any leap I take. Sometimes, to think before a leap is safe and even smart. It’s never a bad idea to look down at the ground before you hop off a cliff to see what’s waiting down there for you, right? Maybe. But there is always a chance that you’ll scare yourself from follow through. There is something beautiful in not being sure, and trusting yourself to know that when you land, you will get up and walk away. You may have a broken leg, or a few scratches, but you know you will be fine.

I am so terrified of failing or even success at times that if I am not absolutely certain I can “get that job” or “make that connection” or whatever, I won’t do it. But lately I find myself challenging that. I have mentioned on this blog before that I am trying to do more of what scares me. So in small ways every day, I have been. Taking extra chances, taking classes, figuring out what is next but only outlining it. It’s starting to feel better. But I want to step back just a minute.

When I was small, I was always terrified of being embarrassed. I hate it. I hate that feeling. It started when I was young. I can specifically think of a time in kindergarten–I found out an astronaut was coming to speak to our class about his adventures. So I had this little ball, that looked like a moon and I brought it with me to give to him (I am so embarrassed even telling you this story). So at the end when he was done speaking he asked if we had any questions, and I raised my hand full of pride and I said into the microphone “I have this ball, and it looks like a moon and I want to give it to you”. The entire crowd in the room did one of those “aweeee!!!” things, a few classmates just looked at me laughing and I got so embarrassed that I almost cried (I might have actually cried but have chosen to block it out by now). In the end, the astronaut was so nice about it, and took the ball and said thank you but I was really ready to just go home and crawl under the covers. His kindness didn’t matter anymore, I had blown it.

The weeks following this was full of teachers telling me “oh what you said was so cute!” and my classmates teasing me for being a “suckup”. I thought it was a kind gesture at the time, and my young mind couldn’t register my emotions afterward as anything other than shame. This was a time where I felt I really did not land my leap. I tell you of this moment in particular because was one of my earliest experiences with the fear and self-doubt that follows after what you perceive as a big leap.

Cut forward to 2015. I had just finished my most recent summer as head counselor at a pre-college program for young artists. I had an experience with a student in which he shared with me that I made him feel really safe. I had never been told this before. But it was right in that exact moment that my stars aligned and I promised myself I would take a big leap when I got home. So I used all the money I had saved from my pay from the program and paid for my prerequisite classes to start grad school to become a therapist. While I’m still finding my way, this is one of the biggest leaps I have ever taken. And frankly, I landed. My parachute did not eject properly, both of my legs were broken when I hit the ground and I will have a permanent limp, but I sure as hell did land.

My point in sharing this with you is this: The bottom line is, you are not going to land every leap you take the way you had hoped. In fact, I have so many more stories of times I wound up with injuries than I do of times I landed successfully. But what links them all is that through my fear of being hurt, and through my fear of failing, I still trusted that no matter what happened I would be able to get up, off that ground, take my time to heal, and get ready for my next jump. I am by NO MEANS someone to model yourself after. But I am absolutely certain of this: No matter how hard you hit the ground, if you want to get back up, you will. The moment you think you can’t do something, is the moment you stop being able to. Fear and self-doubt are nasty things. They are ugly and mean and they plants little seeds all over our brains when we let them.

I imagine them manifested as a bully. Much like the bullies from my astronaut debacle. There they are just picking on you, pointing out your flaws, making you feel weak and small. Second guessing all you do and then making you second guess that.

If we equate our self-doubt and fear to the inner bully, we can break it down as such: Our inner bullies are just us from another time. I think in some way, the inner bully is trying to protect us from being hurt. Perhaps our inner bullies are just the kindergarten versions of us who were humiliated once and never want to experience that again, so they just tell us not to try. Our bullies are just parts of us that were hurt a long time ago and never got the chance to heal. No one on this planet can hurt you the way you can hurt you.

I would encourage you to be kind to it. Smother it with love, hold it while it cries, and tells you it hates you. Look into its eyes and remind it that its home is within you and whenever IT hurts, you also hurt. Remind it that it is not alone the world. Remember this piece of you works so hard all day long. Acknowledge just how exhausted it must be. Offer it tea, and warm, clean sheets. Teach it love. Teach it patience. Show it that you aren’t giving up on it. Make it realize that your experiences are the same, and let it know how grateful you are for it having your back all the time, but that it is time to let go of the pain it holds. Your inner bully secretly just wants to best for you. Be gentle with it, and it will be gentle with you. Ask it questions. Get to know it.

There has always been a part of me that has felt that I should not take leaps because I don’t deserve the success and the adrenaline rush that comes with being able to land well. But that is just my inner bully being fearful of actually having everything it wants, because then what?

I will tell you. When you take leaps you do several things for yourself:
You learn to trust yourself. You show your inner bully that landing leaps is easier now, and that you can do it safely. You learn things about yourself, and the way the world gives to you and receives from you. You learn about what you can reasonably give to others. You learn that being vulnerable is not nearly as scary as everyone makes it seem. You begin to flourish in ways that are honestly horrifying but exhilarating and fundamental in who you are going to be. You make promises to yourself and break them. You make promises to yourself and keep them. You learn the difference and what that really means to you. You learn that “actually, yes I absolutely can do that and do it really well”. You learn what you want out of the world. You learn what you want out of your relationships. You stop settling for things being how they are, and “that is just the way it is”. When something doesn’t sit right with you, you change it because you know that you have the power to. You become healthier. You become content. You experience deeply. You develop gratitude. You experience happiness.

How will you nurture your inner bully so that they feel safe enough to let their guard down with your want to experience the leaps? What is it that you are really fearful of? Are you fearful of failure? Success? Letting yourself have the life you want because maybe you don’t feel you deserve it? What does it take for you to trust yourself enough to leap and know that no matter how hard you land, you will get up and keep going? How will your life be different when you start leaping?

I’m not saying go skydiving tomorrow. By all means, if that is what you want to do, please do. But what I am saying is, start thinking about what small changes you can make in your life, inwardly , outwardly, both. How do you start building trust within?

Tomorrow, take a little hop. Just stand in place. Hop. Take note of your feet on the ground. How solid they feel. How sturdy the ground underneath you is. How it caught you during a small moment of instability and how you are just fine. Do it again. Keep doing it and never stop. You might find that you love it.