HAPPIEST NEW YEAR


happy new year

I think most people I know are sharing the same sentiment today – “Where did this year go?” How, possibly, could it be the last day of 2014? It is remarkable how quickly the year slips by once we say goodbye to summer. It is like the first half of the year marches along at regular speed and then, the moment the kids return to school and the temperatures begins to drop, the calendar pages turn at a more rapid clip and the days begin to dwindle down. And then it is December 31.

As with most years, I am not making resolutions.  Instead, I am reflecting and learning and continuing to set intentions for my life. This year is noticeably different for me because I am saying goodbye to the year without regrets, without disdain for the burdens that challenged me along the way and without any signs of dismay. I am pleasantly looking back and optimistically looking forward. It is ironic because this year presented many more dramatic challenges than any year prior and I had to confront some of my most perilous demons. And I did this with grace and wisdom. Calmly and wisely. I recognized that, at this point in my life, nothing will really break me and everything is simply another speed bump that will only injure me if I drive too fast. If I slow down and focus on the bump, ensuring that I am careful and measured, I will move over it and continue on my way without damage.

This was the year that my children evolved into fully formed people.  My older son turned 14, towered over me significantly and gave me a sign that, perhaps, we did something right. Our relationship became more three-dimensional and no longer simply focused on me parenting him but shifted to him beginning to teach me about the world he lives in. It is a magical experience to see your child through this new lens and to be able to exist in this new, mature state. While the teenage years can test your resolve and make you sometimes question your decision to become a parent in the first place, it is also a transitional period where you begin to form this adult relationship with your children. While we are not friends, per se, we have a camaraderie and rapport that is unlike any other in my life. I cherish it and am thankful that we have transitioned to this place. It is one of the best gifts this year has brought and has helped me immeasurably. Knowing that my son understands more of the complexities of life forces me to process my own experiences differently and causes me to behave more thoughtfully. As parents, we always know our children are watching but we also recognize that their innocence often blinds them from the more serious matters that we address. As they get older, our children develop a sophistication that forces us to protect them while respecting their maturity and understanding. And, again, my children help me in ways they will never understand and in ways I never imagined. I don’t burden them with my challenges but they quietly and unknowingly make them so much easier to bear.

My younger son also provided me with a perspective that took me by surprise. At 11, he is so unlike my older boy. He has a sensitivity that is deep and penetrating and he empathizes and finds compassion for even the most hopeless souls. While he, too, is maturing rapidly and evolving into a more sophisticated being, he’s still my baby boy and still reveals to me the innocence and neediness for love and comfort that has been a trademark since infancy. He will still cuddle or tackle me with hugs when I return from trips, embracing me with a grip so tight and powerful that I am certain he can hug away all the pain and suffering I have endured in my life. His squeeze is like a panacea for every discomfort and an aloe for my wounds. He is pure healing and teaches me, continually, how to be a better parent and a more loving and evolved human.

This year also marked the 20th anniversary of my marriage. It hardly seems like two decades have evaporated and it is remarkable to me, given my history, that I could manage to maintain a loving relationship for so long. I am always quick to point out that my marriage (like everyone’s, frankly) is flawed and complicated but I have a new respect for the dynamics that make my marriage work and have employed new tools to ensure that I do my best to navigate this relationship intentionally and meaningfully. A switch went off in my head this year, without warning and without provocation, reminding me that, with its imperfections, my marriage is, without question, the most substantial and important relationship in my life and one that provides me with comfort and security in between all the discomfort and insecurity. When the final assessment comes to bear, it is a source of strength and empowerment and my husband and I, together, create a multiplier much greater than we do as individuals.

I continue to learn so much about myself through all the incredible relationships in my life. I have, over the past many years, become much more selective about who I share my life with and how I include others in my life. I have always felt a sense of obligation to provide my friends and loved ones with more of myself than perhaps I should be willing to offer up. My tendency has been to over-deliver and not reserve a portion of myself for me, resulting in an emptiness inside of myself that those on the outside could never fill because I had given up so many parts of me without tending to or nurturing my own needs. Perhaps it was one too many betrayals or disappointments or maybe I have just reached a level of maturity in my life, understanding what my boundaries need to be, but I have arrived at a very comfortable place where I have lowered the expectations on myself and, by association, on others. I still have incredibly powerful relationships that reverberate in my life, providing wisdom, insight, comfort, pleasure, connection, validation, joy and love.  And, I have a clear sense of my needs from my relationships and what I can offer to them. My friends have taught me how to be a better friend. My very best friend has provided a mirror in which I can see myself so differently than I ever did before and his influence has seeped into every aspect of my life, providing me with a deeper level of understanding of myself and a framework to operate more purposefully and reflectively. With the foundation that was established by my family, I have often feared that I would never be capable of dropping my guard or shedding the thin layer of protection that I have wrapped myself in for so many years to ensure that no one could penetrate or violate my vulnerabilities. Through lots of hard work, thoughtfulness and the good fortune of surrounding myself with an incredible set of people, I have managed to emerge from my past and live a life filed with love. I am able to walk through life without my shield and have learned – sometimes in difficult ways – how to trust and who is deemed trustworthy. I have learned to respect my own instincts and believe in what I know to be true. I feel confident and resolved.

As I get older, I experience what many others before me have which includes a deepening sense of the impermanence of our lives. I recognize that I likely have less time left than I have already spent living this life. I have fewer and fewer opportunities to impact those around me and create the indentation I want to leave on the world. It becomes so much more obvious to me how critical it is to choose wisely and be thoughtful about the life that I continue to create for myself. There is no end to the learning and the need for growth and change, despite how much of my life is behind me. And, my ability to adapt and enlarge my field of vision is directly correlated with my level of happiness and contentment.

So, once again, I will make the transition from one year to the next, resolving not to make resolutions but, instead to make the journey with wisdom and reflection and appreciation for the interconnectivity of all that touch our lives and all of our actions and behaviors. I will continue to be overly grateful, no matter how trite it may seem, because I am confident that gratitude trumps discontent every single time. No clever quotes are necessary to recognize that if I can focus on all that is hopeful and joyful in my life while respecting the challenges and disappointments, I will continue to find gratitude in each and every facet of my being. And I will have the strength and courage to take on any challenge I am presented with. Yes, nothing has the power to break me – only I do.

It will be a happy new year and I wish that to all of those who share this life with me, in any form. There are many who I have never met who provide quiet comfort and compassion and solidarity. There are those who are so ever-present in my life who fill my heart with so much love that I often feel like I don’t have the capacity to contain it. No matter where we intersect, I offer the blessing of good health, happiness and peace in 2015. We all have the opportunity to shine.

RINGING IN THE NEW


2014

“Live with intention.  Walk to the edge.  Listen Hard.  Practice wellness.  Play with abandon.  Laugh.  Choose with no regret.  Appreciate your friends.  Continue to learn.  Do what you love.  Live as if this is all there is. – Mary Ann Radmacher

It’s my last one for 2013.  A moment of reflection.  A moment of gratitude.  I end this year better off than where I started.  That’s always the goal.

I am reflective and contemplative because I am intent on not making the same mistakes, not falling into the same traps and not tripping over my past.  I am grateful for those who participated in my life this year.  Those who shared their lives with me.  Those who allowed me to participate in theirs.  I am willing to let go of the tough hurdles and accept that I climbed over them (even if I did it really sloppily) and am now on the other side.  I am playing the highlight reel in my head right now and it is making me smile.  I’ve got so much to make me smile.

As a record or memory of my life, I like to post notes and reminders all around my office.  They connect me to different points in time so I can go back and visit.  I treat these as little benchmarks to help me measure change or improvement and, while I recognize that it might be time to update some, I have quite a few that keep me grounded and focused on where I need to go. Today, I focused on a note that hangs over desk.  I see it daily but, like many things that we glance at but don’t really “see”, this note has become just a blurred bunch of words that is tacked to the bulletin board over my desk.  While I was pulling something out of the printer today, one of the push pins fell out of the board and the note dropped to one side, dangling in front of my head.  It was as if it was yelling out to me, “Read me.”  It could not have more overtly made itself known.  And, I acquiesced accordingly and pulled the note down to take a closer look.  I know, generally, what is written on the paper but I have not taken a close look at it in a very long time.  This is a note to myself from a leadership workshop I participated in December 2008.  5 short years ago.  I have moved this note from office to office until it found its most recent home and kept it close to my eye level in order to make sure that it is always a part of my consciousness.  I do this because the workshop resulted in me wanting to hit the reset button on my life. I walked away from the program knowing that, in order for me to achieve what I wanted, so much had to change.  I needed a massive overhaul but had no plan to do this.  And,  I did not have the skills or understanding at that time to know how to break it down into incremental baby steps.  Despite this, I have achieved so much of what I set out to do and have lived out many of my intentions.  I would not call the journey pretty or strategic but I would call it mostly successful.  And that makes me proud.

Here’s what I wrote:

I AM A COURAGEOUS, INSPIRING LEADER.

My brand:  courageous, creative, inspiring

Start doing: taking risks; leading with strength and confidence; be consistent in my actions and behaviors in all situations; be more thoughtful; embrace the positive energy coming at me (receive!); believe in my truths rather than questioning or denying; own it!; use self-visualization to create my future reality

Stop doing: self-sabotage; letting my emotions rule my behavior; letting go of fear-based thinking; stop reacting.

Upon reflection, I recognize that I have started doing most of the things I set out to do.  In fact, most are part of my regular practice now.  I don’t even have to think about them.  However, the items I encouraged myself to stop doing still seem to be very present in my life.  I find this curious as it is almost as if I stopped reading after I took in all the new behaviors.  Or, perhaps, it is a lot easier to start doing new things than to stop continuing with bad behaviors.  And my story is testament to that fact.

I’m not going to beat myself up over this but, instead, acknowledge that there is still plenty of opportunity to work on quitting those destructive behaviors.  And, while I do not really believe in resolutions, I do believe in setting intentions and I am ready to set some intentions for 2014.  I want to be more conscious about how I show up in my life and I think the elimination of those four troubling behaviors will go a long way to helping me be successful.  So, for the record, for all to see, I am committing myself to revisit my 2008 goals.

1. No more self-sabotage. There are enough people out there who can sabotage your hard work and efforts.  No need to join that club.

2. Stop letting the emotions drive behavior. Reason should always prevail.

3. Let go of the fear-based thinking. It is useless and destructive and never reflects reality.

4. Stop reacting. I’ve already started this one.  I’m learning to count to 10.  It makes a huge difference.  And, when coupled with #2, takes a lot of the air out of the balloon.

I’m keeping it simple.

Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to our journeys in 2014.

2,500 WORDS


2500 wordsSo, last night I wrote 2,500 words.  I sat on my bed and furiously typed out 2,500 brilliant, meaningful, heartfelt, deeply emotional words.  I had been struck by an article a friend sent me to read about abuse and, as a result, out of me leaked years worth of pain and struggle.  I positioned myself in my comfort zone and told my story as it relates to my family and the abuse I endured.  I let it all out.  Then I closed my laptop and put it to rest until today.  I would revisit it, I decided, and refine the message, pretty it up and then publish it so I could share my story with others.  Others who might have experienced the same pain.

Then, in walks my pesky best friend.  You know, the one I always talk about who loves to provoke me to think differently.  Well, he was up to his usual tricks again today.  Last night, right before I sat down to write my blog, he texted me asking me if I had some time to catch up today.  “Sure,” I said.  I always enjoy a good chat with my pal.  It was about time for us to trade stories about our holidays, the weekend, all the highs and lows.  We talk almost everyday for work but have to work hard to commit to personal time when we don’t see each other.  I was looking forward to some light-hearted banter.  After all these years, I should know better.

We scheduled some time this afternoon to talk and it started out all hysterical laughter.  We swapped funny stories for a little bit and then he said, “Let’s talk about your recent blog post.”

Uh oh.

I adore my best friend.  He is one of the most honest and sincere people I know.  He is not afraid to tell me where it’s at (albeit in his own trademark style) and he is fully committed to helping me be a better person.  Next to my husband, he is my main confidant and I trust him implicitly.  I rely upon his perspectives and his prompts to help me move forward with my life.  Today, he abandoned all pretense, ignored any boundaries that might still exist between us and stepped right over the line into my space.  He delicately, with the force of several mack trucks, pushed me right out of my comfort zone…

…and I kinda liked it.

We had what I would call an intervention.  And, as a result, I shelved my 2,500 words and decided to write these instead.  And, I dedicate this to my friend because he definitely inspired them.

I’d like to introduce you to me.

My name is Tammy.

I am 46 years old.

I am an extraordinary person.

I have survived a childhood filled with dysfunction and abuse and managed to create a beautiful life for myself.  It is not a perfect life, by any means, but I love it.  I have been married to just one man and he is, without a doubt, the love of my life.  We met when I was still broken and bruised and he has worked tirelessly to help put me back together, despite his own pain and struggles.  He committed his life to me and our children and, for that, I will be forever grateful.  We do not have the most perfect marriage but it is one that works for us and we have learned, over time, to never try to compare ourselves to others because our lives are completely unique. We have trudged through swamps together, finding our way out of histories that never represented the lives we wanted to be living.  We have battled our own personal demons and collectively struggled emotionally, financially and in every way imaginable yet we still find our way back to each other – our home bases.  Part of the reason why I am the person I am today is because of him.

We have two amazing sons who know nothing of our histories except the small fragments we have shared with them.  When they are old enough and mature enough to understand, perhaps we will share our stories with them but only if they express an interest.  I don’t believe this information is pertinent as it really is not part of their story and, frankly, it is not so much part of ours anymore either.  However, I understand that at some point, they may want to get clarity about what happened in our past that prevented them from having extended families.  We make a great effort to not allow the complications of our childhoods seep into their lives.  While we cannot relate to our children’s lives, we do our best to not let our experience inform how we guide them.

Our lives are centered around our children simply because we made a commitment to ourselves and each other that we would break the cycles of abuse that existed in our families and allow our children to have a different experience and, hopefully, a different outcome.  We are centrally focused on that ideal and know that, despite our best efforts, we are not the best parents.  We probably over-indulge our children a bit because we are overcompensating.  We have a lot of on-the-job training and don’t have a lot of reference points.  We have no familial village to rely upon but we have surrounded ourselves with people who also shower our children with love so they never feel like they are missing anything.  And, I know that is mostly our issue, not theirs.

Amazingly, both of us have a strong moral compass and, even more amazingly, we both have strong cores.  Somewhere along the line, we built a foundation together that made us each so much stronger yet sometimes we forget about that.  We neglect to reaffirm this aspect of our lives and find ourselves falling, with arms flailing before we realize that there is someone there to catch us or simply lend a hand to pull us back up.  It is the influence of our dysfunction that gets in our way of being functional. Our greatest moments as a family are when the four of us are together – eating dinner, lounging on the couch, traveling somewhere in the car.  We all laugh, we sometimes fight, we are fiercely sarcastic and we love each other so much it sometimes hurts.  It is hard for me to process sometimes because it seems so unreal, but this family – this life – is what anchors me.  Is it what allows me to be the person I am in the rest of my life.  My home is my safe space.  Despite the mess – sometimes extraordinary mess – and the chaos that swirls around us with schedules, financial matters, work, personal challenges, we find peace.  And, again, I am grateful.

I am incredibly intelligent and really, really good at what I do.  I cannot explain to you what it is that I do because it encompasses a multitude of things.  I have transformed myself from a career in licensing in publishing to a workplace consultant, helping companies improve their workforce through training and coaching.  I tapped into skills that I never believed I had and embraced my entrepreneurial spirit almost 5 years ago when I decided to give up my corporate career and brave a new path for myself.  I underestimate the courage it took for me to leap off the ledge and do this and, trust me, it was not a smooth ride.  I have tripped and fallen so many times and, just as quickly got back up and restarted myself.  Just today my husband reminded me of what a driven and focused professional I was when I was working my corporate job and how he watched as I struggled through my life as an entrepreneur, encountering individuals who tried to kill my mojo and made me question my strengths and abilities.  I am rebuilding that and am breathless with anticipation about my latest work with my best friend and our third partner in an exciting tech start-up.  Often people tell me how courageous they think I am because I take risks in life.  They are right.  I am very courageous but I don’t always see it that way because it is just the way I have always been.  I am a survivor.  We tend to take more chances because we do what we have to in order to make things work.  We think outside the box.  I guess it is one of the perks of having lived my life.  My own silver lining.

I am absolutely passionate about my work and love every second of it, even some of the more dramatic and difficult moments because it helps me to grow.  I bring everything I have to my work and love to be inventive and find ways to change people’s lives.  I am moved by seeing others shift.  I am learning to find that same passion in shifting myself.  I am determined to continually grow and move beyond the traumas that held me back for so long.  I’m committed to changing my approach and acknowledging that the only thing that can hold me back now is me.  And, that awareness is liberating.

If I were not seeing my friend’s face in my head, challenging every word I choose to share here, I would suggest that I am a complicated person.  Instead, I am going to suggest what he might say which is that I am actually more simple and straightforward than I give myself credit for.  I absolutely have complexities and I certainly make my life more complicated than it needs to be but I don’t have to.  My needs are very basic.  I want to give love and to be loved.  Nothing much else matters.  I thrive on the human connection.  People move me.  I am fascinated by people and, those that I have a strong connection with, fill me up in ways that are indescribable.  I am fiercely loyal and will cut you if you dare to hurt someone I love.  I have a little nest, a cocoon of sorts, where I keep my peeps and I live to protect them.  I love to laugh and enjoy lighthearted fun.  Yet, I am a deep thinker and continually contemplate the world and how I fit into it.  I am fascinated by the human experience and love to write to help peel back layers of my own onion as well as help others to peel away their own.

If I wrote this yesterday, I would tell you that I am a product of my abusive childhood and I live with shadows of my past haunting me.  However, today, I choose not to share that about myself because it is time to put that on a shelf.  It is ready to be archived as a former version of me.  It is definitely part of my past and informs how I see the world but it is not a reality for me any longer.  I have grown and learned so much about myself and my challenges that I am no longer a victim of my past.  I am the architect of my future and, included in that blueprint is not the story of my abuse.  I cannot erase that aspect of my life and I will never forget what I have overcome.  I am so proud of where I have come to, sad about where I have come from and am committed to only looking forward.  I have spent many years looking backwards as a way to compensate for my shortcomings and I am choosing to let go of that.  Difficult as it might be, I am reframing my picture.  My landscape is shifting.

In the end, I have only one real fear in life.

Not being loved.

I crave love, as many of us do, and it influences everything I do.  Love is my guiding force and, when I love, I love hard.  My love is all-consuming.  Both giving love and receiving love heals me.  Love is the antidote to anything bad that ever happened to me.  While I was not loved as a child and did not come from a loving family, I created one.  As a result of the life I have created for myself and with my husband, I have lots of love.  And, perhaps for the first time in my 46 years, I am ready to receive it all.  I am ready to love myself.  Actually, I already do.  I just forget sometimes.

I shared in my blog several days ago what a difficult year 2013 was for me and I have reconsidered some of my thoughts around that.  I will not refute a lot of my reflections on my battles with myself because they did exist but, upon re-examination I realized that, with every word I wrote in that piece, I was begging myself to take a fresh look, to try something new on for size.  Through my words, I was telling myself to stop fighting.  I no longer need to swim upstream.  I am ready to see a reflection in the mirror that resembles what everyone else sees.  I am willing to accept this person for who she is today.

So, in order to share a little bit more about me, I will tell you about my year – a transformative one in my life.

I tackled a lot of demons this year.  I let them out of their cages and let them run rampant.  I waged a war against myself because part of me was desperately trying to let go out the past and another part was hanging on for dear life because I was traveling through murky waters and it was scary.  So, I hung on to ideas about myself that were familiar and resembled what I looked like when I was most scared.  I bravely traveled down unpaved paths, turning corners where I did not know what I would find and I survived.  I tripped, I fell, I got back up, I fell again and I got back up again.  I learned that I can count on people to be there for me even in the toughest times.  I learned that forgiveness can happen and that fences can be mended.  I learned that I can trust people and that I can trust myself.  I can believe in myself.  I can count on myself.  I learned that the worst case scenario is not the only option and that, sometimes, things actually work out better than you might expect.  I discovered that I do not have a black cloud hanging over my head and the only reason why it is not there is because I allowed it to move past.  I discovered I have a sandbox in which to play and learn about myself that is safe and secure and that there are certain people in your life who will have infinite patience and unwavering love for you despite your own best efforts to push them away.

2013 was an amazing year and, while I might want to go back and revisit it with a different lens, I know that everything that happened was an opportunity to propel me forward.  Should I choose not to take advantage of that, it’s on me.

So, there is my revised 2,500 words.  2,500 to help let you know who I am and where I am headed.  When we meet again in 2014, our work is about moving forward.  It is about new learnings.  It is about the highs and lows of this new framework.  It is about looking at the world through my new glasses.  I don’t pretend that it will be easy and I know I will have to keep checking myself to ensure that I am not falling into old patterns of behavior or relying upon outdated benchmarks to measure my life.  I will share my foibles, as I always do and I will know that I am surrounded by love to help me make my way through.

THE DEMONS


fighting demons“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.” 
― Anaïs Nin

It’s that time of year again.  Time to do some serious self-reflection and evaluate your road map for the coming year.  And, while I typically reject the idea of new year’s resolutions, I cannot escape the reality that the chance to slow down, contemplate and think about your intentions is hugely beneficial right now.  I have fallen in step with everyone else and am using these last days of the year as an opportunity to engage in some reflection and try to understand where I am headed.  This year has been one where I have been in perpetual motion and have had little time to stop and think for long chunks of time.  My interactions with myself mostly occurred on plane trips, in the quiet of the evening in a hotel room or on the rare occasion that I had some quiet time at home in my office.  Mostly, I have struggled to take fragments of ideas that have floated around inside my head and tried to tape them together to create some formulations of ideas, understandings and evaluations of how my life has been transpiring.

2013 was a very tough year for me.  Unlike any other year it was not because I was facing constant adversity.  I was not battling the same forces that have been so prevalent in my life for most of my 46 years.  In fact, I came into the year with a sense of peace.  I felt that I had confronted so many demons last year and had built quite a nice size to pen to house them, allowing me to deal with them as needed rather than constantly braving the elements, putting on my armor and going to battle.  I believed I had wrestled some level of control over those aspects of my life that have perpetually challenged me.  And, as I am sure you are figuring out even as you read those words, my life did not follow the plan I had laid out.  What I failed to comprehend is that you only think you have controlled your demons.  You must spend a good deal of time staring them in the face, allowing them to spit their venom out at you and taking it over and over again.  You must confront them, not cage them or they will forever wreak havoc.  They will roar and growl and threaten you constantly.  Sometimes it is more quietly than other times but, until you are prepared to face them head on and tackle them to the ground, proving that you are no longer willing to play the victim to their antics, you run the risk of letting those demons break free.  And, when I say “you,”  I am, of course, referring to me.  No, this year my difficulties were different.  They came from within me.  I went to battle with myself this year.

I read a quote from Cory Booker today:  “Don’t stumble on something that is already behind you.”  Well, that assumes that you have put it and left it behind you.  Early this year, my best friend and I had one of our trademark discussions at a restaurant in Boston – one of the many I will reflect on this week as I conduct my self-assessment for the year.  We were talking about my writing and my ability to come to terms with many of the traumatic events of my early life.  His assessment was that I had to be ready to close the chapter before I would be able to get my story written.  I had to be ready to put it to rest, let go of it and move on.  Could I truly let go?  Was I really ready to move beyond my stuff and stop stumbling over it?  Intellectually, I have been more than ready for a long time.  Psychologically, I struggle. I still have more work to do there.  I’m not sure what I am holding on to and why but I know that my past is still very much a part of me and still exerts some level of control over my life.  I believe there is a reason but it might simply be because I am not ready to push forward.  I am afraid.  Who am I without my sad stories?  What happens when I lose my benchmark to measure how far I have come? Am I hanging on to my past as an excuse to not have to move ahead?

I walked away from our conversation feeling bad about myself.  I felt weak and powerless – and I know that was not my friend’s intention whatsoever.  He was trying to empower me to be strong, to help me find the courage to let go.  Instead, I beat myself up for not being brave enough to release myself, to stop holding myself hostage.  Now, as I think more about this so many months later, I understand that I have not been ready because I simply have not tackled the deeper problems.  I’ve put band aids on the surface wounds and  I am still being held hostage. Until I am ready to look my captors in the eye, accept the pain and learn how to unravel myself from their grip, I simply cannot move on.  I am not ready yet.  And that might just be ok.

Another quote that inspired me around this topic comes from my favorite self-improvement goddess, Brene Brown: “When perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun and fear is the annoying backseat driver.”  I was going to share that with a friend this week and decided to hold on to it for myself a bit longer.  I immediately thought about how this pertains to someone else’s life and had to digest it a whole lot more to realize that this is my story.  I am continually seeking perfectionism.  I am trying to be the most excellent patient who tackles a problem, overcomes, moves on and is magically all better.  I believe that if I don’t fix my shit then I am less than perfect.  I am not ok.  For me, the opposite of perfect is broken.  And, while I will say all day and all night that I know I am not perfect, I simply have not accepted that about myself.  I struggle to fully embrace my imperfections and allow them to be a part of who I am.  I am in a perpetual state of fixing and correcting and whiting out the mistakes in my life.  Sure, I learn from them and definitely make strides forward but I continually stumble and fall because I am not accepting of who I am as a deeply flawed but determined and inspired person.  I have shared a bit of my shame through this blog this year in hopes of releasing some of it but I still let fear drive me.

I spent 2013 in an intense battle of wills with myself.  And, in the process, I dragged some important people into the fight with me.  However, I’m not sure if I have any regrets around that.  Frankly, I’m not sure if I had any choice over the matter (there is the part where I am supposed to be forgiving of myself rather than blaming myself.  You see how that works?).  I spent a good deal of the year feeling guilty – hands down, my biggest vice.  Guilt corrupts me.  Guilt cripples me.  Guilt strips me of all the things that make me beautiful, wonderful and strong.  Guilt destroys my spirit.  And, I lived in a constant state of guilt.  I felt responsible for everything that went awry in my life and took on a preponderance of responsibility in any and all shortcomings in my relationships.  I did not have the courage to stand up to myself and have confidence to believe that I could trust those closest to me to let them know how I felt or what I believed.  I succumbed.  I caved.  I kept quiet.  I ate my heart out.  I suffered.  And, I did it all to myself.  Not one person in my life right now is someone I cannot trust.  I have pared my relationships down so carefully to ensure that I am surrounded by love and trust.  I have created an environment where I can be the best me. The only problem is that I am still part of the inner circle.  The one I trust the least.

Despite all of this, 2013 was also a phenomenal year.  All of this struggle led me to many extraordinary outcomes.  My relationships are stronger, deeper and more meaningful.  I have cried more than I have in the last several decades, meaning that I am allowing myself to feel my emotions.  I have exposed myself to levels of intimacy that at other points in my life would have been too frightening to attempt and I have survived and thrived.  I have learned so much, even if some of it has leveled me.  I have had professional success beyond my wildest dreams.  I could not imagine as this year started out that I would be where I sit today.  I did not have any images in my imagination, any crayons or paintbrushes that could illustrate this picture.  I am so truly grateful for it all, no matter how challenging, no matter how ugly some of the days looked.  The year flew by in a whirlwind yet I have such beautiful snapshots in my mind of those moments where things slowed down and magic happened.  I could spend days sharing all the wonderful stories.

Last week, I sat again with my best friend as we had our annual holiday celebration and we reflected on the year.  We discussed all the less-than-wonderful moments and talked about how much we had grown and how much we have learned about ourselves.  I sat for a moment, staring out at the window behind his head and thought about how different my life would have been had none of the events of the year occurred.  What if the struggles and challenges had been non-existent? It was a tantalizing thought because I think it would have been so much easier on me emotionally but I had to come back to the reality of my life.  I had to stop myself from fantasizing about a different existence. I had to, in that moment, accept myself for who I am.  I wanted to apologize for all the challenges we had faced and my contributions as a result of my own demons.  I stopped myself short.  I literally pulled the words back from my lips because I knew they were not appropriate and were completely unnecessary.  There was nothing to apologize for.  And, while I struggle to accept this, I acknowledged, just quietly to myself, that I am a whole package.  Good and bad.  Plusses and minuses.  Positives and negatives.  I am a complete being filled with a certain amount of chaos, a certain amount of crazy and a whole lot of love.  My friend sees that.  Me?  Not so much.

So, I still resolve not to resolve.  However, I am committed to facing the ugliness in myself and trying to go to the mat with it to move forward.  I am no longer looking to fix and stop the bleeding as much as I am trying to become more aware of those critters that continue to haunt me and control me, preventing me from being the best person I can be.  I will try to accept my imperfections and embrace growth and change.  My friend tells me that he loves my willingness and ability to accept feedback and act on it quickly and effectively.  Perhaps I need to give myself  a little constructive feedback rather than continue to beat myself to a pulp because, after all, those demons I am fighting are all really just me.