Finding the Joy Within

I love my life.

I used to hate when people said that. There was no such thing. Life comes with the good and the bad, and if you love all of it, then you’ve been poorly deceived (or altogether privileged).

But a few years ago, I felt utterly unhappy with my life. Every time I thought I had found something good, it dismantled into a pile of sour mulch.

Take Norm, for example. Pets are supposed to make your life better, right? Not when you spend hours tending to their allergic reactions and thousands of dollars trying to make up for the fact that they’re allergic to 15 different things in the environment completely out of your control.

Sour mulch.

But that’s the thing about mulch. It shouldn’t have an offensive smell. If it does, then there’s some toxic buildup at play. And what happens when the mulch can breathe? It suppresses the weeds and eventually improves the soil’s fertility.

You didn’t come here for a gardening lesson though. You came here because, perhaps, like me, you want to know how to be happy. Continue reading

When One Window Opens

I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy two months. As much as I’ve tried to focus on the positive and take the space for recovery, there is a lot of healing to be had. Happiness is a fleeting moment. The toxic stress of uncertainty lies underneath its glimpses of hope.

But as I’ve told countless family and friends, even with this drastic change, my life now holds more meaning than it did just a few months ago. My everyday feels meaningful, even without purpose. Because for the first time in the societal reigns of financial liability, I am free to just be and re-learn all that once defined my childhood joy.

That doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven myself for getting into certain situations. This is part of my healing journey, and as my best friend so aptly reminded me, often a symptom of trauma. We blame ourselves more than the abuser, and it’s a cold, little heart. But rather than focus on the trauma, I choose to focus on the frame of opportunity.

Some days are easier than others, but just a few weeks into this new path, Norm – the six-year-old tabby that continues to astound me with his resilience – gave me a window of hope. Continue reading

Remaining Resolute

Last week, I was running through weeping willows along DC’s riverside. These trees reminded me of drives through Cherokee Park on Sundays in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Cherokee Park was designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known for Central Park, Biltmore Estate and many others. I’m currently reading about Olmsted’s part in the design of the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as Chicago World’s Fair) of 1893 in Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

And while this past month has not been plagued by the monstrosities of H.H. Holmes, deemed America’s first serial killer, it has been a whirlwind of events – a pattern, it seems, of this year in general. With all the upheaval that has taken place in my life this past year, one could say I’ve been ready for anything. And I’ve taken the changes in stride. Continue reading

When Stars Change Color

Change.

Humans are averse to change. We resist loss of control and excess uncertainty. No one likes living in ambiguity. And a few months ago, my entire world seemed replete of nebulousness. So, that left me with two options: accept the nebulous and make the most of it or ignore the nebulous and fall the victim.

There were three areas of my life that seemed to be in upheaval:

  1. Career
  2. Housing
  3. Relationship

I had three months before my lease on my apartment was up. This meant I would prioritize career, which would then influence home and lowest on the totem pole – my dating life. That would just be a bonus. Continue reading

Proceed Anyway

When I first experienced bullying in middle school, I sought my dad for advice. He told me to focus on my studies, ignore them, laugh in the face of criticism (that will throw them for a loop, he said, and it did) and above all, never doubt myself and keep on going.

A few months ago, my life took a sour turn. Every week I learned of news that would inevitably upend my personal and professional paths. How much worse could it get? And then, it got worse, so much so I felt I had become an expert at grieving.

Each week, I processed a new set of emotions – some for the loss of things and some for the emptiness that loss left behind. I was tired of being sad. So, one day, I came home from work, made myself a martini and started dancing and laughing in the kitchen. Take that life bully. If I had seemingly lost everything, then it meant I had nothing to lose and therefore could do whatever I wanted. My foundation was crumbling but that just meant I could build something new. Continue reading

I Am Amazing: How ‘Thinking and Acting Like a Man’ Changed My Self-Perception

When I was four-years-old, I saw a commercial for Disney World and decided I wanted to visit Cinderella Castle. I started telling my extended family that my parents were taking me to Orlando (much to my parents’ surprise). One year later, my dad took my hand and walked me through the breezeway beneath the princess’ towers.

But somewhere between five and 30, I lost that unwavering confidence. I never considered myself beautiful, smart or strong. I was quiet and invisible. I worried that if I appeared too confident, others would think I was vain and shallow. I had to be perfect, of course, but others didn’t need to know how hard I worked at that perfectionism. I never wanted them to see how inadequate I truly was.

So, even though I had built a successful life for myself on the verge of 30, I felt completely dissatisfied and unhappy. With such a skewed self-perception, it’s mind boggling that I had even accomplished that much. I pretended to fly under the radar in my career, knowing full well I was capable of more. So, with the help of a life coach and a supportive network, I re-entered the job market. Continue reading

I’m Burnt Out

I’m finally on vacation. I should be excited, right? I was certainly excited leading up to this week. But right now? I’m burnt out.

Ever since I entered the professional 9-5 realm almost a decade ago, I haven’t had more than 10 days of paid vacation per year (and some years, I didn’t even have that). It’s a luxury — paid vacation. But as someone whose independent nature lends itself to a career of freedom and autonomy, the structure of the 9-5 can be a struggle. I mostly stick with it for the benefits (so far, it’s been the only way I can afford my diabetes).

But some things happened this past week that made me question how I’m spending the majority of my time and whether I am actually on a path to self-fulfillment. And then I realized just how exhausted I am from all the pressure — pressure from my body (diabetes), my bank account, my career, my relationships, etc. I know that I will be leaving in a few days to a mountain getaway, free from worldly distractions. Yet, I feel I am losing momentum and motivation. Continue reading