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How Do You Recover A Sense of Strength?

I am leading a summer Book Club for the Badass on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” It is funny how the right book at the right time with the right people magically fall into your lap. Below is an excerpt of the newsletter I will be sharing with my badasses for our 8th week. If you are curious, intrigued or want to sign up to be a Book Club Badass for Fall 2016, I invite you to read more about our two book clubs and other course offerings in #ARTYOGAPLAY’s FALL 2016 ONLINE ACADEMY.

This week’s theme for The Artist’s Way is Recovering a Sense of Strength. Cameron mentions a truth about creatives. “Creative people are dramatic, and we use negative drama to scare ourselves out of our creativity with this notion of wholesale and often destructive change. Fantasizing about pursuing our art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time- or at all.” For me, Drama is a Diva. She’s like a hurricane that destroys and wrecks my creative pursuits. As an artist, I know the damage Drama can have on my creative dreams, on my self esteem, and on how I view my perspective on this world. This time around, I will try my damn hardest to diminish Drama. I can’t avoid Drama from happening, I can merely choose the reaction I will have to Drama.

For the first time in six years, I have surrendered the notion that everything is gonna be fine and that I am fine. I made the courageous decision to see a professional therapist in Antigua. And, no, we do not converse in English. All of the rawness and realness of this emotional pain is in Spanish (my third language in which I have only 6 weeks of schooling in).  I have nowhere to hide. I can’t hide behind sarcastic comments, horrible nicknames, or my sense of humor. If I recount the experience, it is in simple, clear and essential words in Spanish. That is the only way I am gonna come clean. Journaling, practicing yoga, and reaching out to my honest and closest friends and family can only get you so far. I need that professional grade therapy right now. I have seen darkness and I know what the lure is to go back to old habits, old temporary band-aids for solutions, old coping mechanisms, and old lies from my past.

And for the last six weeks, I refuse to get pulled down and overwhelmed by the deluge of drama and the disgraceful cards of betrayal handed to me last month. I refuse to get the wind knocked out of me because I feel this deep and excruciating pain like a wave of energy coming out of my chest. The pain has other companions that crash the party- I notice the upsetting thoughts arise in my mind and I can feel this aggressive bolt of anger run through my veins. I need a place to work through all of the feelings, emotions, thoughts, and experiences. The keywords are “WORK THROUGH” not run away from or behave in an immature and humiliating manner. I am a classy and graceful woman who knows her own self-worth, talents and beauty.

So, when life seems overwhelming and you get the wind knocked out of you, how do you recover your sense of strength? 

1) Seek the Truth.
In Baron Baptiste’s “40 Days to a Personal Revolution,” he encourages his readers to “Have the courage to face the pure, unsweetened truth of ourselves so that we can move on and grow in more honest and authentic ways.” I had to gather all the information at hand. See what was true and what was deception. Keep a level head. Look at my situation with a sense of calm and see this pure, unsweetened truth about myself. For whatever reason, I like to think the best of others. I am unsure if this is naivety or the curse of being delusional positive. It may take a while for me to warm up to you, but once you get to know me I am so loyal. You will have my heart and you will have my trust. Maybe my loyalty is a flaw. I just choose to give people the benefit of the doubt, and would never imagine that others could hurt me or betray me. How do kind, beautiful and successful people end up in horrific shells of a relationship? I am still seeking the answer to this question, and maybe I will go through life never knowing the answer to this.

2) Surrender the Situation, the Problem, the Anxieties.
If you follow my blog or have spent a significant amount of time getting to know me, you know my demons. I am a perfectionist AND a people-pleaser. I will work my ass off to fix something. I will research, read the articles, over-discuss, and find any sliver of hope to keep a sinking ship from drowning. I get emotionally exhausted and I realize there are times when I can’t fix it. There are forces beyond me in the Universe (maybe spirits, maybe angels, maybe something in this cosmos, etc.) that are trying to tell me to let it go. The experience gets so heavy. I have no other choice, but to let it go. Leave the trauma and the hurtful drama in the past.

3) Accept Help.
I have been completely flooded with so much support. Support in places I didn’t think I had. When you leave your friends and family to move to another country, there are lots of moments of loneliness and frustration and this overwhelming feeling that nobody has your back. When you are honest with yourself and ask for help, the help comes.

It’s trip a back to the US to be with your people. It’s the new friend you barely know who offers to find you a new apartment while you are back home healing in the States. It’s my posse of people who create a nonjudgemental space to just listen to me. It’s the people who will fight the rain and horrific Guatemala City traffic to make sure you are able to teach your yoga class. It’s the kind people who are working in the yoga studio who let you ugly cry and hand you a cup of tea after you take an emotionally heart-wrenching yoga class. It’s your friends who have come from Colombia to see you, share a meal with you, and can honestly relate to the messy life of an expat just wanting to create a beautiful life in a new country. It’s the strangers and the close friends who knowingly nod and say “Yes, I know what you are going through.” My eyes tear up not because I am sad, but for the shame that I foolishly believed a horrible lie. The lie that I didn’t have anyone. For all the people who reached out to me (not out of curiosity and not simply to fuel gossip) I am so grateful for you. You may never know what your friendship means to me.

4) Keep going and keep moving forward.
Cry when you need to cry. Be angry when you need to be angry. Eventually you run out of tears. You run out of angry things to say. There’s a quiet that happens after a rainstorm comes through the streets of Antigua. The air is fresher and the temperatures cool down. In this quiet time of introspection and reflection, you find a new sense of peace in your heart and in your life. Yes in this transition I am getting myself re-grounded, re-connected and re-integrated in a new town where fireworks go off at 4:30am and where people are running around celebrating their country’s independence by blowing whistles and bandanas tied around their heads. There is a sense of resilience and a natural sense of happiness amongst the Guatemalans. This sense of joy is contagious and you learn to go with the flow of the people of Antigua. The three volcanos that surround this town create a comforting hug around me. As my friend Steph has mentioned, my life here is “romantic” with its pastel colored buildings, Spanish colonial cobblestoned streets, and random fruit vendors on the corners. I viewed this place as the escape, and I can be open to viewing this place as “romantic” because I am opening up my awareness and connecting to the sensory experiences of smelling fresh tortillas being cooked, the warm smile of a stranger, the aromatic taste of high quality coffee, and the comfort of my adorable apartment which I affectionally call the “Mayan Palace.”

5) Have hope and don’t shut the world out.
I’ve worked too hard to give up on my creative work. When I say creative work, I mean the daydream I carried in my heart for years slaving away in a cubicle. It may sound cheesy to a cynic, and I still believe there is a reason for me to continue carrying forward my company #ARTYOGAPLAY and the inspiration and the light I need to share with others through books, yoga, mindfulness, art and a discovery of self-compassion. I am not merely a yoga and art teacher. I am the embodiment of a lifestyle that I chose to create for myself after years of self hatred and dark days. I won’t go gentle into that good night because I won’t let my past  diminish my dreams, my focus, and my highest self. I have set out to pursue the work that makes my heart smile.
In my early thirties, I would have given up much more easily. I would have stopped doing my morning pages. I would have stopped attending yoga classes. I would have started eating horrible junk food and resorted to complaining with my friends over drinks. One time, I was so dramatic after the end of a relationship, I sold my beloved SLR Nikon camera. The same camera I owned for 4 years and saved up $350 for on a dental assistant’s salary so I could capture pockets of memories: glaciers off the Kenai Fjords, memories with good people, and photography class assignments. At the time, I just couldn’t see that in the midst of messiness and heartache there is always beauty. I will never discard or diminish my creative work like that ever again. When I accept my beautiful mess of a life, there is always hope for a patch of sunshine on a cold and dark day.

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