What my skin has taught me.

TRIGGER WARNING: Body image, rape, abuse, ancestral trauma. Reader discretion is advised.

“My body is my vessel. An archive of experiences. A weapon that has fought battles that only I understand.”

Sophie Lewis

I’ve been thinking a lot about skin. The journey that mine has been on and the relationship I have with it. How I have treated it. What my skin means to me. I don’t think I have ever paid that much thought to my skin–it was always something that was there, functioning as it was meant to.

I have never had a skin care routine. I would try different things because it was the thing to do, and then I would get bored and stop caring. I would hide my skin behind layers of makeup. I rarely used moisturizer. I never saw skin care as something I was worthy of. When other women would invest in their skin care, I would just get out an old cloth and use whatever soap was there. It never occurred to me that I deserved to have anything more.

When I was younger, I would receive comments about how my skin “looks like porcelain”. That it would look like it is “glowing” and all sorts of other white centered praise. I was given compliments only on qualitues passed down to me by colonizers. Any compliments given to me about features passed to me by my Taíno, African or Middle Eastern ancestors came in the form of microaggressions. Microaggressions were not things i learned about. When I was a kid, my skin was a golden brown. It was so beautiful and as I grew older, I became lighter and lighter and somewhere along the line this changed. My skin would react to the sun and I would burn instantly. It would be a burn so bad that it would leave scar tissue. It was a violent reaction to the gifts the sun was trying to offer me. 

The first time I ever really noticed my skin was when my grandfather told me the moles by lips were sexy. I must have been about 10 or 11. I remember not knowing how to respond. I remember becoming self-conscious about my moles. Instances that followed this were my grandfather pointing out blemishes. My skin was always a topic of discussion with him. My sister, who is gorgeous with darker skin and perfect hair, would always get a reaction from him like so: “Here comes Miss America!”. I never felt that my skin made me beautiful. 

Cut forward and I begin to take notice of how light my skin is compared to my family members and I become more self-conscious. This outer shell becomes an additional source of discomfort, and now I feel like I do not belong or that I do not have a place. I am reminded frequently of how much of a shock my skin color was when I was born. This places me further out, and I continue still to find shame in my skin cells. I grew up in a neighborhood of mostly Irish Italians. I grew up when the ideal beauty was thin, with straight silky hair. I did not see girls like me represented in the media with curly hair, my cheekbones, my nose, my eye color, my large hips, my 5 foot frame, my muscular legs.

I recognize now that my early experiences with other people’s commentary on MY vessel really impacted me. When people would comment on my skin, I would actually take offense. Whether it was a pleasant comment or not, I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want this type of attention. I wanted to hide. But skin is not something you can control, and so I was stuck being confronted by some stranger about my skin–someone who felt they had a right to take some form of opinion and voice it about the layer of flesh that holds my vessel together. There was no escape. So I would rebel. I would opt out of taking care of it beyond soap and water. I would let it dry itself out. I would refuse to take the day’s makeup off. I always felt like my body was subject to the opinions of those around me. My grandparents commenting on my weight or how they hate my curly hair. Someone always had something to say, like they were entitled to it. I find myself now, wondering how often my ancestors experienced the harsh grip of entitled abusers. 

I recall the first time I was allowed to become strong and feel respected based on the fact that I am a human. I was 23. I had just gotten a personal trainer. James. He was a fifty something year old, Black man. Aside from my own father and maybe one professor from college, he was the first man who never expected anything out of me. He knew I could do more, and he helped me realize it. But he did not push me, he asked me to be honest with what I could do. He never commented on how I looked. He only ever asked me how I was feeling. He told me right away, that our journey together would not be one about appearance. It would be about becoming mentally strong and focusing on how I was feeling. I trusted him. He knew it and he never took that for granted.

Looking back on all of this, my relationship with James was so healing. I wasn’t trying to change my body in our work together. I was changing how I felt about my body. I was becoming stronger. I was able to respect the time and the patience that come with devotion to this vessel.

I say all of this because I made a connection not that long ago. I was talking to a friend and I realized that after I was raped I wanted to hide from unsafe people. So I stopped caring for my body, my skin. I gained weight. I hid in very large clothing. My skin wasn’t enough to protect me. I had to hide that too, so I wore makeup. I grew furious with my body for betraying me and abandoning me when I needed it most. I disconnected.

When I left my abusive relationship, I read somewhere that skin cells replace themselves fully all around the body every seven years. I found comfort in waiting for skin that would never have been touched by my abuser. Then I was raped. I felt a disconnect from my skin in a very visceral way. I wanted so badly to remove my skin and let it become something I could hang dry like laundry and wear again when I was ready. My skin became this entirely separate entity for me. I could not associate with it because it became too painful. It held too many devastating stories. It held no scars for me to be proud of. It felt dirty. It felt shameful. My showers would entail 25-30 minutes of intensive scrubbing. So much so that I would rub my skin raw to try to erase the stories it had to tell. And I just could not escape. 

In all of this, this hatred for my skin and resentment towards my body, I had never stopped to listen to it. To really hear how it works. What it was trying to say, and how my ancestors have communicated to me through it. In fact, I think there was a time where I actively tried to avoid hearing its message. I blamed my skin for so long. I blamed it for making feel like i was lacking– like i was not enough– “not Puerto Rican enough” or “not Italian enough” or not this or that enough. I blamed my body and my round frame for not allowing me to fit in and wear clothing that was never designed with me in mind. I blamed my skin for making me feel like I didn’t belong among family, or the people I share lineage with. I blamed my skin for something it was not responsible for. I blamed my skin for allowing pain in. But skin is a gentle barrier and it is porous and toxins will be allowed in from time to time.

The first time I listened to my skin, I can remember the love I felt. I was overwhelmed to the point of tears. That it replaces itself to ensure I am always refreshed. That regardless of how I feel about it, it will never stop loving me. The love my skin and my body have for me is unconditional. I can’t help but feel like I wasted so much time wishing it was different, all the while it always just wanted to make me feel like I am enough. This unconditional love is where my ancestors speak to me. 

When I really listen to it, I hear it ask for my patience. I hear it tell me how rewarding patience is. I hear it tell me that my hips are big because my body was designed for resilience. This resilience is not loud. It makes itself apparent in my womb as it has within all the women who have come before me. My skin holds stories of violence, and death and rape and sorrow. My skin holds stories of pain. It holds stories of hurt and helplessness. But it holds stories of love too. It holds gentleness, tenderness. It holds stories of hope. I am here now because my ancestors prayed for me. My ancestors prayed that I would be the one to heal this pain. They show up for me everyday in the way my skin does.

My skin heals slowly, showing the fruits of patience each time. When I nurture my skin, and my body I am nourishing and healing for my ancestors who were never allowed to nurture their skin; they were criticized for their skin; they were not fortunate enough to have restorative time. They were made to feel non-human. The sun left visible kisses on their skin and they were punished for it. When I rest, I am resting for my ancestors who were never allowed to rest. My body has blood from the oppressor and the oppressed. Its very existence means it is at war with itself. I have to work extra hard to find peace in that every day. Every individual cell in my body works hard every day so that I can continue to work at healing the pain of the wounds I have inherited and encountered along the way. My skin did not originate with me. It was passed down to me by the people who prayed for me to exist. This makes it so much easier to love. 

When I wear soft, clean clothes I am providing tenderness that they needed and never received. When I cleanse my body with water, I am washing away pain. When I nourish myself, I am giving nourishment to the vessel that carries me. I can cherish the shape of my eyes knowing that my soul speaks through them. When I rest, I tell the women who came before me that the struggles they encountered were not in vain.

My skin means more to me now, than ever before. I have been unkind to it. This was a learned behavior. I work everyday to unlearn it to honor the people who have come before me. This skin and this body do not exist for the commentary of others. It is strong. It is healing. My skin has taught me so much– 

It is not similar to the vessels of the many folks I encounter each day. It does not have to be.

It does not have to be perfect for me to love it. Each time the sun kisses it, wounds heal.

My skin greets each day with softness. It allows everything it meets in, and pushes what does not serve it right back out. It teaches me to learn everything and use what serves my healing best.

The skin on the bottoms of me feet is rough and calloused. It is deliberate and prepared for the steps which propel it forward. It teaches me to be fearless on the gravel path of lessons ahead. It is ready.

The skin on my legs is thin, and weathered and yet it is unwavering. It holds scars that tell stories. It teaches me to carry the stories of my past, and to move forward with intention.

The skin of my stomach is always warm and soft. It stretches as it needs to, teaching me flexibility. There is nothing rigid about this skin.

The skin on my chest hold lines and marks from where it has been confined. It remind me each day of how liberating it is to be let free of constraints. It graces cloth and the reward of freedom is sweet.

The skin on my shoulders is scarred from a sunburn. This scar will likely last a year before my skin fully heals. This teaches me patience and an admiration for what i cannot control.

The skin of my neck is covered in tags. I used to hate them but they are companions for one another. Teaching me that nothing in this life that makes itself known does it alone.

The skin of my hands is my favorite skin. They teach me every day to pay attention to detail. each cell so well defined and embracing whatever sweet relief they can find.

The skin on my face clings to a bone structure passed down to me by my ancestors. It teaches me the importance of knowing where I have come from. My skin is the gift and the language of my ancestors.

I leave you with this today:

I would only encourage you to consider the things that your skin is saying to you. What healing do you need to provide for your skin? What do you know about yourself because of your skin? What is your relationship with your skin? 

Be soft with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Be tender with yourself. Be well.

Gigi

On identity, ancestry and the mother wound.

“All the eggs a woman will every carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as en egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.”

Layne Redmond, “When The Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm”


It’s usually not surprising when I tell people I am doing some soul-searching. I think, at this point, most people who know me are very well aware that I am someone who is always seeking. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have always been someone looking for my own version of true north. Whatever that really means. I have always felt like a piece of me has been missing. As far back as I can remember I have been looking for that missing piece, unable to place exactly what it was. Some might say that it’s clinical depression rearing its ugly head around, and others say it’s lack of contentment with who I am as a person. Maybe it’s both, maybe it’s neither. This post is going to be a little different. This post is going to get really personal. This post is really for me, but I am going to invite you to read it in the hopes that you will find fruit here.

I’ve always known my story as it exists in my own life. But there is so much I did not and have not known about myself and the people in my family who come before me. This is why identity has always been a weird topic for me. I’ve been doing a lot of healing. We’re not talking going for walks and doing yoga. We’re talking healing from an ancestral standpoint. We’re talking looking at the mother wound. We’re talking reconciling with a heritage I didn’t really know I had.

When I was little, I can remember asking my mother to tell me about her life and about her side of the family. My father’s side of the family was well known to me at this point, and celebrated. I can remember feeling sad that I didn’t know much about my mother or her family. She later went on to tell me that she felt a lot of shame about some of the things that have happened on her side of the family, “especially compared to your father’s family”. I couldn’t understand that. I do remember strange instances where my mother would be faced with family members she didn’t want me to know. One time, they came to our front door, and we were totally uncertain of how they had found us. She told them to leave. Again. I couldn’t understand that. This was family, how could this be her reaction? I found myself getting frustrated and eventually I accepted that I would never know this side of my family. I think somewhere in my childbrain, my mother turning her family away was her forsaking part of her heritage. So I did the same. I closed the chapter on my Puerto Rican heritage. I began to identify as white. Afterall, I was the lightest skinned person in my family, so it wouldn’t be too hard to do. Hell, most people don’t even believe me when I say I am Puerto Rican.

I live in a community made up of mostly Irish, Italian and German people. I still hear comments all the time from people saying “You sound so white”, or “oh! You’re Puerto Rican? THAT’S where you get those curves and those lips and that thick hair!”. I would get burned by the sun and be asked “Well, if you’re Puerto Rican, why do you burn so easily?”. I grew up hearing about how my sister looks Puerto Rican and I don’t. I never really felt like there was a place for me within my own heritage. I have the privilege of having light skin. My life has not been made more difficult because of my skin. And still, my leaves do not match my roots. And this has always been confusing. I think a large portion of me has always wished that I didn’t have to try to prove my Puerto Rican-ness to people. I felt compelled to tell people right away at times, as if to try to grab at some inkling of pride around it. I found myself relying on the label because I couldn’t back it up with any real experience, because I didn’t have any. So eventually, I gave up. I gave up trying to explain my heritage to people who would just laugh it off anyway. It became something I felt shame about. What I didn’t realize is that this shame, was passed to me by mother, and to her from her mother and it was never their fault.

Our mothers do not try to pass pain to us. But when trauma is unhealed for too long, it is passed down to the next generation. We don’t only inherit the gifts and the features of our ancestors. We inherit their pain, their sadness, shame, anger. THIS is how I define the mother wound. I do not adhere fully to the definition placed in the world in terms of absent mothers. My mother was and is anything but absent. But she has pain and hurt and trauma that she carries around. Some of it was planted there far before she was ever born. Our mother wounds are never our fault. They are not the fault of our mothers. They are not the fault of our ancestors. There is no fault. Only healing.

Growing up, I was always very connected to nature. I believed that everything in nature had a spirit. I found myself, over the course of time, cutting ties with the Catholic Church I had been raised in and placing my faith into the natural world. The water was forgiveness, the air was a life giver and a healer, the earth a provider. I still feel that way. This is a spirituality I can see. Cut forward and I could feel myself connected to physical movement, finding rhythm in every day things, singing whenever I could. I remember finding meaning in symbols and totems such as the snail, and the toad. Animals became guides. When I think of it now, I think a lot of my healing has happened because of this. I have returned to this. These are the ways of my ancestors.

My heart has been feeling full and I am going to tell you why. Recently I stumbled upon an opportunity to explore my ancestral connections and ties. I felt something calling me, and I felt a true need to know where the mother wound in my family originated. So I embarked on a journey (Shamanic to be precise) and was introduced to a few of my spirit guides. On this journey I found myself on an island, spinning in circles (little did I know, it was an Orisha dance that I was doing). I was introduced to Yemaya (look her up), who told me to call to her whenever I needed her. I was introduced to my ancestors.

I had always known that being Puerto Rican, there was likely Indigenous blood within my veins. But this made it real for me. I was told that my ancestors were Taino. They were forced into Spanish families and raped. They were forced into slavery and this continued until they became indentured servants. My ancestors were also forced to denounce their heritage and deny who they were so that they could survive. They were considered non-humans. They were not free. I can empathize now with the shame passed down to me through the women who came before me. They were taught to hate parts of themselves, and they complied for survival. If you’re wondering where colorism in the Puerto Rican community comes from this, is partially why. The self-hatred is a trauma response and it runs deep.

I am a storyteller through and through. I respond well to stories. I learn from them and find meaning in each one. Part of why that is, is because I am able to see how a character or person evolves from the beginning until the end. I believe that part of why I have had so much difficulty in my life with my identity and self-love was because I didn’t know where my story began. Without that knowledge, I could never know myself wholly. It is very difficult to place together a puzzle when the pieces are missing. I needed to know this so i can begin healing myself and the ancestors who came before me.

Here are somethings that have started to change since beginning the journey:

1. I feel closer to my mother.
2. My heart hurts way less, and I feel lighter.
3. I do not feel like I am missing something as often.
4. I feel like my depression has begun to lift.
5. I feel a quiet sense of deep deep contentment and gratitude.
6. I have begun exploring my own spirituality again, especially in relation to Yemaya and other Orishas.
7. I have slowly. I mean snail’s pace here. But very slowly started to make peace with some of the things about my body that I have always hated and considered not to be feminine.
8. I feel called to the water in big ways.
9. The heat is very slowly becoming more tolerable.
10. I have expanded my self-care practice to include doing research on the Taino people.
11. I have narrowed down my niche and stopped calling myself a life coach. I am a healer and guide. And I focus on the motherwound, and generational trauma within the Indigenous Latina community.
12. The shame is lifting.
13. I have been having dreams about my spirit guides.

After my journey I promptly began research. I spoke to my mother. I asked her about her life. This was the first time she was able to tell me things in as much detail as she could. I also began doing research on the Taino people as well as Afro-Caribbean religions, deities, orishas, zemis and culture. In all of this, here some things I have learned.

1. The Taino were very peaceful people. Taino literally translated to mean “good people”. They did not create armor. They would utilize bow and arrow to defend themselves from a nearby group of people called the Caribs, who were in fact cannibals.
2. Taino leaders were called caiques, and both men and women held the title.
3. Taino men and women lived separate. Women valued their independence very greatly.
4. Taino people ate mostly fish, and yuca. They relied on yuca so heavily that they had a zemi (modern world’s gods) named for the Yuca and he was on control of many of the crops and crop season.
5. Taino people were the first people Columbus came into contact with. It is believed that due to the disease and genocide brought on by the Spaniards and Portugese, that the Taino people were almost completely eradicated. In fact, many believed that the Taino were completely gone, and only recently a study completed revealed that many Puerto Rican folk still have indigenous Taino blood within their veins today.
6. Documentation of the Taino by the Spaniards was scarce. This is why it is so difficult to know much about the language they spoke, though it is known that they spoke Arawaken.
7. The Taino are Amerindians who originated in the Venezuelan Orinoco Valley.
8. The Taino were agriculturally advanced.
9. It was believed that at the time of Columbus’ introduction to the Taino, there were over 60,000 people spread across the tribes. By 1548, it is believed there were only 500 Taino left.
10. Music played a massive role in Taino culture and was used for celebrations, and ceremonies, cure illnesses, as well as to initiate growth of crops and rain. The Taino were a seafaring people, who built circular houses and slept on banana leaves.
11. They had zemis, and had three types of religious practice: thye would workship the zemi for protection/health/safety/abundant crop; dancing in the village during festivals; and medicine men consulting the zemi for advice and healing. Shells, paint and feather were utilized as part of the dress for such practices. They would eat sacred bread at these cermonies. Zemi were often symbolized by snakes, toads, snails, turtles, alligators and various other animals. They believed in an afterlife.

I have learned a lot more, but I will plop it in another post in the future.

This is likely not going to be the only post I write about this. But this is the first installment of me publicly claiming my heritage. I know where my seeds were planted now. My name is Gina. Short for Georgina. It means “earth worker”. The name of my great grandmother, the woman I was named after. She is starting to feel like less of a mystery to me, and I am grateful. (If you’re wondering, she is one of my spirit guides). I am many things. Strong, powerful, loving, fierce, fiery, peaceful, generous, ambitious, ready. My ancestors have carried me, and they empower me in ways I have never expected. I am an Indigenous Latina and the holes in my heart are finally starting to fill. I am headed in the direction of north and I will break the cycle of pain. I will become my “ancestors’ wildest dreams”. *

I will leave you with this today.
What do you need to know about your ancestors and the folks who have come before you so you can begin healing? What do you not know? How can you go about learning it ? What wounds have been passed down to you? How would you like to see this change?

Warmth and be well,

Gina.

** I am not sure where the quote originated, but I believe it was Brandan Odums who said “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams”.

*** Please note: All of the above is the information as I have it now. This does not mean some of this isn’t subject to change over time as I learn new things.

*** Also please note: All of the above is not said in relation to the BLM movement. However, I would like to make it known, though I have not been asked, that I stand in support of and behind the BLM movement. I am currently doing research, spending time examining my own whiteness, donating and supporting black businesses. I am in the process of composing a long list of businesses to support if you are a creative, as well as podcasts and books. It is imperative that we change so generational trauma can heal and Black folk are allowed to claim space for themselves in the country they built. Please, I encourage to do your own research, examine your own whiteness and explore how the system has allowed you to be complicit in this centuries long injustice. I am by no means an expert, and I am always going to be learning. Here is an excellent resource to start:
https://allblm.carrd.co/

On love.

“Love is speaking in code.
It’s an inside joke.
Love is coming home.”

“If Work Permits”, The Format.

*I want to thank you for being patient with me as I gather myself and come back into the routine of writing. Just a little bit of disclosure, the holidays hit me a bit hard and I am recovering. I love the holidays. But for some reason, this year took me by storm and I was in a sort of daze. I am grateful for your patience and compassion.*

As the first month of this year comes to a quick close, I have been re-evaluating how I do things. Not my actions, but my processes. First on the list, is love. How do I love? What is my definition of love? What does it mean to be loved by someone? What does it mean to be loved by me? What do I know about love?

Love. The word is beautiful. The way the letters come together to create a word that is beautiful, aesthetically and in meaning. When I think about love, I don’t know what to think. It’s not that I haven’t felt love. My truth is that love, for me, is something that I have almost come to stop trusting over the years. I can almost categorize love in sections. There is love, that is a foundation type of love. Friendly love. Romantic love. Inspired and grateful love. Required love. Laborious love. Forgiving. Courageous. Authentic love.

In short, love feels like it could get pretty complicated. Or perhaps, it has always been that I have made it far more complicated than it needs to be. It seems to be the latter these days.

I lucked out. I was born into a family whose foundation is one of love. Unconditional and eternal love.

My father has always been the sort of man whose love is quiet and gentle. He shows his love with humor, and in providing. He listens. He observes. He shows up. No matter what. When I was little, I was obsessed with animals. My dad had a computer with a screensaver that was just pictures of animals. He and I would watch that screensaver all the time. He never complained or said no. It was simple and really rather laughable now, but it mattered to me back then so it mattered to him.

My mother is vocal about her love. She shows it by acts of love, and through communication. She answers the phone with “is everything okay?”. She worries. She hugs. She has made sure I know I can go to her with anything and she won’t judge me for it. My mother and I fought a lot when I was growing up. We bumped heads about everything. If she said yes, I said no. We don’t do this anymore. The older I got, the more I recognized myself in her. If you and your mother are similar, you will only ever get along once you start to recognize the qualities you share as strengths. I promise you this. My mother is a protector. She will literally bring nations to the ground for her children. In fourth grade, my teacher made a remark about my ability to multiply. My mother marched in there and had a looong talk with this woman. Some might see this as a bit helicopter-ish. But at that time, my mom became a hero for me. She has done everything in her power to make sure that I know that she will always be on my side.

My sister is quiet about her love. But she loves so hard. If you are lucky enough to be loved by my sister, you will know loyalty, forgiveness, honesty, humor, consistency, reliability. Her love is intense and fierce. When my sister loves, it is an honor. She is the most loyal person I have ever known. She has a way of making every person in her life feel special for a specific reason. Her emotions are intense and acute and she is solid in mind and body. There is nothing about my sister that is not genuine.

How beautiful a world is the one that I have described above? To know love in those ways, is something I hold so close to my heart. It is love that I never had to question. Each of those people are my soulmates. Our love as a unit makes sense to us.

The thing about love, is that someone’s understanding of it can only ever be expressed or understood as it is in their earliest experiences. This can change. It does change. When new people, new love or different love comes into the mix, things get complicated and confusing. Maybe we aren’t able to understand how someone can possibly love in the way that they do. Love gets complicated when other people bring their own definitions and understandings of love to the table. It scares us. It becomes difficult to make sense of. The way we interpret their definitions and actions of love are the things that sometimes lead to hurt.

It takes courage to love. Each time I have misinterpreted someone else’s definition of love has left me less trusting, less willing and less and open to new love. It has always been painful. It has always been risky. There is no pain like the pain that comes from realizing you had it all wrong. I have found myself growing cynical over the years around that. Doubting anyone’s kind intentions. Not allowing space for anyone new.

But what happens when it begins to impact the love you have for yourself? Sometimes we love people who are not ready for us to love them. They are not willing to accept your love, or they don’t recognize the type of love you have to offer them. Other times, they see how willing we are to love them, and take advantage of that. Both of these can be toxic without proper communication around what love really means for you and your partner or partners.

I want to take a stand and completely discredit the notion of “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else?”. It’s bullshit. It’s not real. It is possible to love other people regardless of how you feel about yourself. Loving yourself is just icing on the cake, and frankly, it is a lifelong process. It will take trial and error and deep reflective practice to understand yourself. We take time to get to know other people. That is what helps us love them. If you don’t take time to know yourself, you cannot love yourself. That is where deep healing comes in. And sometimes, you are just not ready. It takes courage. It will always take courage. Love is what allows you, or asks you to be willing to share what you learn with others. But let me set the record straight right here, right now. You deserve to be loved regardless of your ability to love and understand yourself right now. Please do not let what society deems as acceptable to be the truth. For those of us in this world who struggle with self-love, it is just added pressure to place doubt on their ability to love and be loved because of circumstances surrounding their feelings towards themselves that may not be within their full control.

There was a very. Very long long time where I did not love myself. I didn’t even like myself for a longer time than that. Self-love is not something that we are born with. It takes time and courage and honesty to be able to welcome yourself home into your own body every day. When I was in my most toxic relationships, I believed I was not human. That I did not deserve love. That I was un-loveable. This false belief made me hate myself in a way that I don’t have words for. I have to give credit to my therapist for her patience with me through this. I am a firm believer that humans have all they need within them to bring themselves back, but we do need anchors sometimes. My family was that anchor. Had I not had them, and the love they provide, I am not sure I’d have made it back. After what I put them through with my abuse, I did not believe I deserved their love. I believed it so much so that I actually struggled with trusting them when they told me they would love me regardless. This is how I learned the persistence of love. The patience of love.

Cut to present day. Almost ten years since I survived Calvin’s abuse, and just over two years since what Alec did to me (abusers have names and I believe we should use them. New stance. Not sorry about it.). It was after my EMDR treatment that I realized. I love myself. I was in the shower. I was nurturing my skin and cleaning this amazing and strong vessel I inhabit when I looked at my toes and watched the water accommodate them, that for the literal first time in my life I had a thought: “I love myself!!”. I almost jumped out of the shower and ran down the street screaming it. My body and I had finally reconciled. My brain and body were finally communicating. In this moment, I realized it wasn’t just cohabitation happening within, it was an absolute friendship.

I spent the next few days basking in this glow. And I needed to know how I got there.

So I started asking questions. What is different now? What do I know about myself now? What has healed now in order for me to do this? How do I know that this is trustworthy and real? These questions start sounding like a third date. But to summarize, I was learning myself. You see, I had spent so long after my traumas wishing I could be who I was before them. It was exhausting. I was never going to be that person again. I needed to start looking at facts and stop wishing. The facts led me to understand that I am kind. Empathic. Hilarious. Realistic. Understanding. passionate. Honest. Curious. Creative. Intelligent. Capable. I was never going to be the care-free flea market loving, Footloose dancing Gina from before. And this is a good thing. Because the Gina from now is so much better. And I don’t know how I came to really believe that other than by being compassionate, and using all of the gifts I listed above with myself. Checking in frequently. Doing everything my healing required of me on that day. Every day. You will never be who you were before you were wronged. You do not need to be.

I want to circle back a little bit to the anchor part. What I mean by that, is that every human requires something to keep them grounded. For me, right after my traumas it was my family. Real and true familial love and connection. But something else I have been so incredibly fortunate to find is authentic companionship love and friendship love. They have been my anchors throughout almost the entirety of this healing process. I share this with you because I feel our anchors, are our support systems. Whether it is family, romantic partners, pets, a plant, I don’t care. Your anchors are your anchors, and as long as they don’t force you into drowning, or hold you back they are helping you. We need something to bring us out of our own heads. Anchors do this. Anchors are the lenses that help us understand how to start loving ourselves again.

So how did I get to be at a point of loving myself? Hard work. I took it on because I was ready. You have to be ready. It is daunting and terrifying and some days you will not want to do it. But you will have to do it anyway. Boundaries. Learning to say no to things that force me out of my truth and out of my power has been incredibly gratifying and liberating. And let me tell you, that the people who don’t honor your boundaries are not your people. Gentleness. Honoring my fragility. Honoring my softness when I needed to be soft. Honoring my emotions. Exploring the layers of every emotion. Therapy. So much therapy. But the biggest lesson I have learned about self-love is that sometimes it is too difficult to hear self-loving statements in your own voice. Sometimes you will require help. That is when I say that you can learn how to love yourself from the people who love you. It can be risky. But I have learned to love myself from watching the people I love, love me. Some will say that people learn to love you by how you love you. They’re not wrong. But there are exceptions. And sometimes we need examples. Rely on your anchors.

A couple of years ago, right after my assault, I started serial dating. It was shallow and I never felt a real connection with any one of them. I was terrified to be alone and I also couldn’t handle the thought of being around people who knew me well because I didn’t want to explain why I seemed so different. One night I was writing a paper due the next day and my neighbor was being so loud. I was infuriated. So I was petty and sent an email to the property management company about it. They forwarded it to him. The next day I was doing laundry and we ran into eachother in the hall. He didn’t know it was me that complained but he apologized anyway for being so loud. I said it was fine. He asked for my number so I could tell him to be quiet if he was ever too loud again. We hung out once and hit it off instantly. We were friends first. For a while. And then one night we decided we weren’t going to be just friends anymore.

I wasn’t sure what to think. I thought i was always a trusting person. But to be honest, starting this relationship with him showed me how little I trust people. It had nothing to do with him and everything to do with my experiences. He brought perspective to my life that I didn’t know I needed. I had been shutting everyone out. I was hiding. But I didn’t need to hide with him. We are buying a house together. We have a dog. His voice soothes me, and his laugh is so contagious. We have the same humor. He is patient. He does not love me in spite of everything I have been through, he chooses to love me everyday because my experiences have made me the resilient and strong woman I am today. You do not have to fit into molds for people to love you. I was terrified to tell him about my traumas. He created an environment for me to feel safe enough to tell him everything. This is part of love. Making the conscious decision to make your partner or partners feel safe enough to create a life with you regardless of past experiences. It is teamwork. I have never learned more about romantic love, partner love, and self-love in my life than I have in these two years.

Here is what I know to be true about love:
To love is a choice. People we love will hurt us and we will hurt them. You will choose whether or not that hurt is worth losing someone over. Love does not come in the form of harsh words and physical pain (unless you have both consented and agreed to it). Love is instilling power in someone. Love is trusting another individual with parts of you that you don’t show to the rest of the world. Love is an agreement to continue to grow. Love is challenging the other person or persons to be and do more. When someone steps out of character, love investigates. Love is watching someone grow and not having feelings of jealousy or anger, but gratitude for being able to witness this change. Love is not relying on anyone for anything other than who they are as an individual. Love has no grudges and certainly doesn’t hold anything over your head. Love is teamwork. Love is vulnerability. Love is being seen and acknowledged. Love is authenticity and dignity. Love is sharing room at your hearth even if the hearth is small. Love is creating safety. It is not playing it safe. It is creating safe spaces. Love is checking in. Love is long conversations in bed when you notice the other person might be in a funk. Love is giving the other person a heads up when your depression is hitting so they know it is not them. Love is not mind reading. Love is communication. Love is taking a break when emotions get too hot. Love is making fun of eachother. Love is looking forward to coming home. Love is feeling like enough. Love is discussion. Love is learning patience. Love is apologizing. Love is understanding that you don’t deem when it’s okay for someone else’s feeling to be hurt or not hurt. Love is unexpected. Love is so funny and so sweet. It is also infuriating. Love is horrible morning or dairy breath. Love is doing laundry when the other person can’t get to it or cooking even though you might hate it. Love is long nights of crying, and long nights of laughing. It is staying up late on a weeknight and texting the next day about what a bad idea that was. Love is staying in touch. Love is bringing the other person water when you realize how dehydrated they are. Love is making them soup even though they won’t eat it because they are sick. Love is watching the same movies over and over because you know they love them. Love is not discouraging them when they get excited about something. love is supporting their passions, and mindless banter. Love is not any one action or verb but a collection of them. It grows expansive throughout the years and changes as its subjects change. It is gratitude and commitment. It is seeing the same person or people every day, knowing they are home.

Here is more of what I have learned of self-love:
Self-love is healing. It is allowing yourself space to heal when you need it. It is honesty and facing painful truths. Self-love is re-parenting parts of you that were hurt as a child. Self-love is encouraging your darker hurts to show themselves so you can nurture them. Self-love does not cast judgement but enforces enlightenment and curiosity. Self-love is not minimizing compliments or cringing when someone is nice to you. Self-love is knowing you deserve the kindness you are served. Self-love is not a destination but a journey and it is ever changing. Self-love is knowing you could be someone totally different tomorrow and knowing you will love this person regardless. Self-love is knowing when you need a minute and when you are just being lazy. Self-love is forgiving the past in hope of a better now. Self-love starts as an objective exploration of what is really going on. Self-love asks you to dive deeper. Self-love is discovery. Self-love is courage. It is a huge risk. It is a huge reward. It’s defying everything everybody says you should be in search of what you need to be. Self love is the equivalent of acknowledging that you will make mistakes and are ready to do better next time. Self love is welcoming yourself back into your body when you float too far. Self-love is recognizing home in yourself. Sing it from your shower. Scream it in the streets. When you discover it, you will know no greater feeling.

Today I want to leave you with this.

How will you know what self-love means to you? How do you show love to others? What do you need in order to feel loved? Do the people in your life know this? What can you do to make sure they do? When in your life have you felt most loved? How can you create more of this in your life this year?

Warmth on this snowy day,

Gigi.

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?

Warmth,

Gi

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.

Warmth,

Gigi

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,

Gina

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

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,

Gina

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?