This time of year sickness, depression, and lack of motivation can take over more than any other time of the year. Often, we fight against Winter ,which can make us all feel more miserable. What if you embrace this time of year instead? The holidays are over, we survived another year. Allow yourself time to sit in a warm cozy spot and reflect on what you have learned and how you have grown. Taking time to get things in order around your home on those long winter days when it is too cold to get outside. This is a time of preparation and self-care. Instead of wishing the remaining winter months away, embrace them. Allow yourself to rest and relax, this is not being lazy. Planning a garden for Spring, cleaning out closets and reorganizing, reading those books on your to be read list, learning a new skill while spending so many days indoors. Wintering is a time when nature is resting and preparing and we can learn from this process. Allowing ourselves time to slow down and be still in both mind and body. Cozy, calm, and quiet moments can be spent journaling or shared with family and friends over a hardy meal. Accepting that Winter is necessary for our minds and bodies give yourself this time to slow down and just be in the moment.
Everything that crosses our path in life can have an impact. A book, a song, a warm fire in the fireplace, a cozy blanket, a smile, a good meal….I could go on and on but I think you get the point. It has been about 6 months since my last entry. It was not by choice but more that life has just pulled me away from writing. I have missed coming here and sharing what I have learned about myself and the world around me. I have had many wonderful adventures in the last 6 months and had my share of personal struggles. Probably the biggest struggle came earlier this week. As a fairly new therapist I have navigated my internship, then my practicum but only been under my supervision as full time therapist for about a year now. In this first year I have experienced all types of counseling, from children to elderly and the full spectrum of diagnosis. I work with only the Medicaid population so I have had the opportunity to learn from people of all walks of life.
This last week I had a moment with a client that shook me. I am strong and have a pretty clear idea of my morals, values, and beliefs but when a person threatens you for the first time after months of working with them, it can cause you to question some things. When you watch a person literally become someone else in front of your eyes it is hard not to ask…is this controlled or uncontrolled, is this a choice or are they not aware of what is happening and what they are saying and doing, do I stay and sit in this moment or should I remove myself from this situation….I pride myself on my ability to stay calm, cool and collected under most circumstances. On the surface I was able to in this situation, but it did have an impact bigger than I even realized in that moment. I know these experiences in my first year as full time counselor will teach me many useful things moving forward in my career. Seeing up to 8 clients a day for an hour at a time and listening to trauma and sadness, and worries day after day can take a toll. I felt that toll to the fullest the day I was threatened in great verbal detail and watched a client talk and behave in a way he had not for the 6 months before. A deeper understanding and knowing was awakened within me. Knowing that I can help and I can guide and I can listen and we can prescribe all the right medications but if the individual does not want the help, guidance, listening ear or the medications we have to be willing to set boundaries and let them go. All choices have consequences.
Each event or situation will illicit a thought, with each thought there is an emotion, and with that emotion you have a choice on how to respond, and with your response comes a behavior. Often I see people responding from an emotional mind instead of a wise mind which can lead to saying and doing things we regret. We can easily identify the emotion or feeling and the automatic response but what happens when you start identifying the thought behind the feeling and what happens when we start evaluating alternative choices instead of automatic behaviors? This awareness is when change can begin. Unfortunately, there are times when other things must be factored in that go beyond unhealthy habitual responses. Mental Health is a vast and complicated subject that can take on so many forms. Mental health is unique to each one of us and I realize no matter how many clients I see, books I read or seminars I attend….I will never be able to understand or help everyone. Trusting my own gut instinct and setting my own healthy boundaries is me practicing what I preach to all my clients. Deciding to no longer see a client feels wise in some aspects and heartbreaking in another. Still learning and growing in my craft…
Many changes have occurred in the last few months leaving me very busy and learning so much that I have really been wanting to share with my readers! I am officially working at a Family Clinic in a small town and see about 25-30 clients a week from the ages of 5 to 75! I am a licensed counselor in the state of Missouri and a nationally board certified counselor with training in cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. Most of my current clients have anxiety, depression, and many have some degree of trauma and/or abuse. I would say 80% of my clients have suffered sexual abuse. I am constantly learning more about how to help my clients and learning so much from them. I have settled into my office at the clinic nicely and love my co-workers and the company I work for.
As summer comes into full swing I have also been settling in to my my home and small town life again I have had to learn balance as well. I am fortunate to keep pretty regular hours at the clinic working 8-5 but sometimes stay late finishing the many notes, treatment plans and session preparation required to be a successful counselor. I find time on weekends to be on the river in the boat or kayaking or taking a back road ride in the the side by side or my 4runner. Most of all, I really do enjoy the wind in my hair on the back of a Harley on a cool summer evening. My garden is sprouting with tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers and the herbs of basil, sage, cilantro, rosemary and lavender are all taking off beautifully this time of year as well. I can sit on my deck and enjoy the sounds of frogs, birds, and crickets singing and my dog snoring at my feet. Life is busy but simple in many ways at this point.
As I settle into my new job and lifestyle in the small town with easy summer days I realize this is the life I used to pray for often. I pray that all of clients and readers find a point in life that brings them this same sense of peace. Over the next few months I plan to share some of the things I have learned along the way that may help you see the world a little differently and find more peace. I am thankful for so much, including my readers. Looking forward to connecting with you all more over the next few months.
With love, health, and peacefulness in the mind and body,
Ever have a day that is not particularly awful but you just feel off? It’s like you struggle to just do the basics to get through the day and feel this dark cloud over you? Maybe you didn’t sleep well or maybe you are coming down with something? Whatever it is you know you just are not at the top of your game.
I feel like I have been going 90 to nothin’ since I started my new job. There has been a huge sense of accomplishment and a certain degree of stress as with any job. I have tried to practice what I preach as a counselor and incorporate self-care into my schedule. I thought I had been balancing things pretty good but today I have to admit, I feel like I have hit a wall.
I instantly do the self check of basic self care… am I eating right, drinking plenty of water, getting good sleep, keeping good social support, staying active and taking time to relax? Yes, I actually think I am doing pretty good in all of them except maybe I could drink more water. So, I try to hydrate more and then move on to the next category… How do I feel in my body?
Body scan and check-ins are very important and help us be more self-aware. I have a dull headache and a lot of tension in my jaw, neck, and shoulders. I know I did not sleep well last night but I went to bed at a decent time and got up when my alarm went off. So this assessment tells me that a progressive muscle relaxation scan, some stretching and more water could help ease some of my tension. A little extra self-care is never bad when feeling out of sorts either. I enjoy essential oil baths so tonight that will be on my agenda before bed as well.
Learn to be in tune and listen to your body. If you catch the signs early, when things first start to feel off, then you can take action to help hit the reset button and gently guide your mind and body back on track. Meditation and present moment reminders like alerts on a smart watch or apps, like Headspace and Calm, are great ways to check in with yourself and improve self awareness. Creating this habit can lead to better health by catching things early! Listen to your body!
I cried today as I let my mind run away with thoughts surrounding the last year of events. I lost someone I had loved and lost but still loved, if that makes sense. Grief was magnified from a break-up and two years later his death. Two different kinds of heartbreak from the same relationship. Then I cried tears of joy because my daughter got engaged, then my daughter found out she was pregnant. Then I cried again when she lost the baby. I cried as I felt love grow with the start of a new relationship. I cried when I lost my aunt and my cousin both within 2 months of each other. I cried tears of relief when I graduated with my masters, then again when I passed my state exam and my exit exam and finally when I received my state license to be a counselor. I cried when I left the job where my counseling career all started and when I got accepted at my new job. I cried because it took forever to finally get a start date with my new job. I cried when I sold my house and moved all my things back to my small town. I cried as I navigated a few bumps in the road through the first year of my new relationship. I cried when I first saw my daughter in her wedding dress. I cried today because I made it. I made it through all those hard, beautiful, scary and maddening moments to get here to this one and I am okay.
Recently I have encountered a situation that caused me to really reflect on myself and how I handle conflict. As a counselor I think about all types of conflict on a daily basis, from family, relationships, and especially internal conflicts. In this particular situation I had a family member contact me through messenger on Facebook about a post I had made days before. This family member rarely ever speaks to me and we have not seen each other in person for years. So when I when I first read the message I was confused by the question because it was about a humorous post and where I got it. They did not ask how I had been or what had been going on in my life. This person started off the message with “hey cuz”, and had contacted me in this manner before in reference to a book I had shared on social media. I remembered the song and dance of how they just wanted to question me and tell me their views on how I was wrong for liking the book or the author of the book because of their personal beliefs on the author. Speaking in condescending language, and this time was no different.
I made a choice in that moment to simply not engage, at least not in the form of debate or confrontation. I tried to change the subject and ask how he had been and how was life and explain that I prefer not to have those types of conversations on social media or through messenger. It was so odd to be asked such a random question and I wanted a family member vibe, not to feel like I was being trolled on social media. I figured if they were only going to reach out to me a couple of times a year and both were to engage in confrontation then maybe it was my job to respond differently if I wanted to feel better about it. Sadly, this attempt to connect backfired and I was left feeling misunderstood and realized this person did not care to know me. Even though this person is family, they do not know me, my character or my values and beliefs, and they made no attempt to know me. It was obvious they were making assumptions about me and had just set out to judge and teach a lesson. By the end of the brief interaction I was left defeated and a bit shocked. This is when I reflected on the many sessions I have had with clients on toxic people.
Often I have clients who encounter toxic people and too often these toxic people are their own family members. I have helped many work through the idea that sometimes, for our own mental health, we must make the choice to remove or at least distance ourselves from certain individuals and that includes family. It hurt my heart that my efforts to connect were rejected, but I quickly realized there would be no understanding or reasoning with this person. Two previous encounters had proved that the only effort made to connect with me was to teach me a lesson and talk down to me. The realization within myself left me feeling conflicted at first. I found myself reading over the conversation and questioning if I could have handled myself better. Finally, I realized that I had trusted my gut and in the end it had been right.
I knew from the beginning the intentions were not from a good place. Too often I see people trying to teach others a lesson from a place of superiority, without forming a connection first. Even as children we quickly learn that we must trust and feel safe and comfortable with a person before we can learn from them. What makes us think that will change as we grow older? I spend hours getting to know my clients before we transition into the homework and learning process of counseling. Any good teacher knows they must start as a student. To know a person is to love them and once the love is established then the meaningful conversations can begin. I feel fortunate that this is the first and only time I have encountered what I consider to be a toxic family member and I made the hard choice to remove them.
If you find yourself holding your breath in dread at the thought of being around certain individuals, or feeling drained and frustrated after encounters, then I encourage you to ask yourself if it is worth it. Setting healthy boundaries may be necessary at first, but if the negative vibes persist it is not worth your mental health to stay in an unhealthy relationship with anyone, even family. I hope by sharing my own experience that others may see that staying in it is not always necessary. I was able to walk away knowing I had tried my best but ultimately I have goals and vision for the type of life I want and those types of interactions are not a part of my vision.
With love, health, happiness (and strength to remove yourself from toxic relationships)
I have been hesitant to sit down and write for the last week. The level of change that has occurred in two weeks feels like a heavy wet blanket laying over me. Some grief has caught me in moments but I feel as if I am holding my breath, waiting for the full realization to wash over me and I want to be fully alone when it does. In the last 10 days I have experienced a wonderful vacation to Gatlinburg Tennessee that I planned weeks before. I was able to secure my first Airbnb and with my birthday just two days after Christmas, it was going to be the perfect 4 day weekend! A Smoky Mountain Christmas! Just 5 days before me and my new love were to leave on our trip I was notified that my last long term boyfriend of 4 years had died.
I was driving down the road when I read the news through a text message from a friend who was probably too scared and emotional to call me in person. He was only 54, and had just had a birthday in November. He worked out regularly and by all appearances look to be a very healthy guy. I was shocked and heart broken. We had broke up at the end of 2019 and finalized things with a trip to Gatlinburg of all places, in October of 2019. It was a friendly and mature breakup by most standards but the truth is, I was heart broken. I loved him and really struggled with the break-up. Over the next year life was full of struggle for me. I was completing my masters degree and trying to date as I watched him show up pretty quickly with someone new on his arm.
Let’s just say 2020 was not good. Between the pandemic, multiple failed attempts at moving on and dating someone new, and struggling through work and school… I was exhausted and just trying to heal. In 2021 all the change I had prayed so hard for in 2020 came in like a wrecking ball! I graduated with my masters degree, met a great guy from my home town, got a new job, moved back to my home town, sold my house, and watched my daughter get engaged. All the changes happened so fast but even the stress of it all was good stress with many positive outcomes. I was finally at a point in my life where I was not thinking about him on a regular basis and I had fully began to embrace the new life I was making when the news came.
Nobody prepares you for a loss like this. First of all, I know you may find this amazing, but at 43 years old I had managed to live my life without losing anyone really close to me. I mean, I have heard about school friends passing but they were not super close to me at the time of their death. This was someone I had shared pretty much a daily connection with for four years and we had only been apart for 2 years. I felt like I was losing him all over again. I also felt this weird sense of guilt because I have a wonderful new man in my life but here I am grieving and looking through all the memories of this man from my past. The mix of emotions is overwhelming and so hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it. The grief comes when I allow it but I have not fully allowed it yet. The services will be next week and I am trying to prepare myself for what I know will come.
It was bitter sweet and so very ironic to be vacationing in the last place I vacationed with him. It wasn’t planned that way but it felt almost like a tribute in my heart to say, yes I remember, even though it didn’t work out we had many good times. All the traveling we did together was amazing and he taught me a lot, in some ways about how I wanted to be and in others how I did not want to be. He wasn’t perfect but I think I am realizing that he loved me the best way he knew how. It feels ironic that he died from complications in his heart. It was easy to see in the four years that we had together, he was not always good at expressing deeper and more loving emotions. The heart chakra was definitely a bit wounded and blocked for him and I tried hard to figure out why with only bits and pieces revealed by him about his childhood.
After celebrating Christmas overlooking the Smoky Mountain tops and turning the big 44 sitting at a rooftop bar overlooking downtown Gatlinburg, I realize what an amazing adventure life can be. Every single person who touches our lives makes an impact and some even steal a piece of your heart forever. So today I am thankful…thankful for all of you who read my words, all who have touched my life, no matter how big or small. Thank you for making my life amazing and please remember to tell those you care about that you love them often. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and I love you all!
I have been practicing law of attraction for a while now. The art of allowing, being grateful, tipping the scale of positivity to just 51% each day, and learning to ask for what I want and then believing. The focus would ebb and flow and I would find myself going through moments feeling stagnant, then feeling as if I was going backwards, but the real proof in the pudding was in the large leaps forward. I am a big believer in signs and have come to understand that trying to plan everything out or force it is not always the best way. We don’t have to know the details of when, where, or how because the universe will find a way. When the details start to unfold and the path becomes more clear it is almost surreal.
All the years of practicing, believing it is in process and already done, but when it starts falling into place it really is kind of hard to believe. I didn’t realize how each decision over the past year has lead me to where I am now. It amazes me how it all has come together. So many aspects of my dreams for the future from the time I was just becoming an adult woman at 18 continue to unfold for me even now, more than 25 years later. Have you thought about the dreams you had as a young person, the house, the job, the hobbies, the car, the things you wanted to have more of in life, the experiences you wanted to have, the type of person you wanted to be when you would imagine your life as an adult? Some things are not exactly how I expected and for that I am actually grateful, but in other areas of my life they are weirdly familiar and accurate.
I have often read (or heard) that law of attraction is like the law of gravity and it is constantly working regardless if we believe it or understand it. I think I am realizing this to be very true on a personal level because many of these dreams I had before I had even heard of law of attraction. I am excited about how my life has unfolded and even with all the ups and downs and struggles along the way I can say that there has definitely been more lessons learned, more growth, and more joy than anything. I am really at a point of self growth at this point in my life and enjoying everything life has to offer. I navigate struggles, stress, worry and heartache with a lot more understanding and grace than I used to.
Everything that I have learned in my education and career as a mental health counselor, along with my years in holistic healthcare, are now coming fully circle with my training to become a yoga teacher. All of my interests and practices compliment each other very nicely and help me realize that each point in life has truly been preparing me for the next. The ability to look back over my life and appreciate all the lessons and growth has brought a sense of peace to my heart and soul. I know that I am on the right path and everything I have worked so hard for is really starting to pay off. I feel truly grateful and content in this moment and time and I am looking forward to this new year to see what I am attracting into my path. I hope you all are able to reflect and find much to be thankful for as well.
Often people think having a fresh start means making drastic changes like quitting a job or moving to a new town. In the choice to move or quit they see an easy way to escape their problems. Unfortunately, those problems often follow, and in time they pop back up, sometimes even worse than before. Truly accomplishing a fresh start means tackling the problems head on and then, if needed to heal, a move may be necessary. The key is actually taking action towards the problem first, instead of running away from it, sweeping it under the rug, or just hoping it all goes away if you get far enough away from it.
I made some big moves this year and I had to be honest with myself recently with some of the choices I have made. I started a new relationship, took a new job, sold my house and returned to my very small home town that I left over 20 years ago. To say it has taken some adjusting to the change is an understatement. There are pros and cons to every decision we make in life and it is wise to assess those very carefully beforehand. My choice to move and start a new job did feel like a choice to make a fresh start but in that choice I also had to mentally and emotionally make peace with my choice. If you are not making peace with the past and accepting where you are in the present moment, then you will most likely be dragging a lot of the same issues with you to the future. No matter what big changes you make in an attempt to get that fresh start, it is most important to mentally prepare.
I have been on many little trips over the years and often found myself having conversations about how I would love to find a little place near water and live the simple life. I often dreamed of this when I would stay at a nice cabin for the weekend in places like Gatlinburg Tennessee or a cottage near the beach in Panama City Beach Florida or San Diego California. I even imagined what it would be like to have a small apartment in Manhattan New York when I visited. I knew I wanted a change and always thought it would be someplace new and very different from any place I had lived before. I found myself continually looking at little cabins or farmhouses the most and the dream begin to unfold more over the years. I knew I enjoyed more of the freshwater access with kayaking, fishing, swimming, and areas to hike. For some reason I never seriously considered returning to my hometown until this year.
It was the logical choice, to be closer to my parents as they are now in their late seventies. My brother is far away in the big land of Texas and still raising small children, my daughter is living on her own, in college, and engaged to be married. So I was in a better position to move closer and be around to care for my parents when the time comes. My small town also has a beautiful river that runs right through the middle of it, with ample access to boating, floating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and camping. I had roots here and all the things I traveled and dreamed of along with a job opening in the local Family Clinic where I could give back to the small community I grew up in. The decision to move to the actual process of making it all happen has taken less than 6 months and as of the first of the year everything will be complete. I will have moved, sold my house, and be a licensed therapist in the small clinic of the town I could not wait to leave more than 20 years ago!
This is my fresh start, where I will probably retire and live out the rest of my days. I will still travel and dream of other places but this is home for me, at least as long as my parents are still here. My fresh start is literally where it all initially started for me, kind of ironic. I have made peace with the longer drive to the grocery store and missing other conveniences of living in a bigger town. I think it was well worth the trade off to live out in the country with no neighbors visible from my porch. Where I can start a hike right from own driveway. Drive 15 minutes and drop my kayak in the water. Pay attention to where your mind takes you when you are dreaming of the future, life has a way of bringing things full circle. It is possible your fresh start has been right in front of you all along.
I have really worked to overcome a lot of fears this year. Some were of the mental and emotional sort and others more physical. I have done a lot of hiking this year and heights are not always easy for me, but I have pushed through the fear and felt really proud on the other side of it. I have watched my beautiful daughter go through the loss of a pregnancy and realized for the first time that Mom can’t make all the pain go away as easily as I did when she was little. I have been forced to be more patient with life and trust the process, allowing everything to fall into place as the universe sees fit. I can honestly say, I have grown more in this year than I have maybe in my whole life. That is kind of amazing to admit considering I will be 44 years old next month.
I read in a book, (I believe it was Think and Grow Rich) that many people hit a point of increased wisdom, understanding, growth and success in their lives once they reach their forties. That stuck with me when I read it because it seems to be very true in my case. The book went on to mention many famous men and women who accomplished great things in their forties and beyond. It is never too late to learn something new, go back to school, follow a dream, or climb a mountain! Often, we put ourselves in a box after we reach a certain age. We create unnecessary boundaries for ourselves stating we are too old, or not as athletic as we used to be. We stop pushing ourselves out of the comfort zone and that is when the growth opportunities begin to wain. It is so easy to allow ourselves to get comfortable in life and just coast. However, eventually you will start to feel like something is missing in your life.
Challenge yourself to try new things and overcome fears. That feeling of something missing is our human desire to have adventure, grow and learn, be the best versions of ourselves. Sometimes life will force us to grow by bringing in loss or tragedy in some shape or form. Maybe a loss of a loved one, a relationship, or a job. These are all things that force us to grow in some way and learn something new about ourselves. Reflect on your life and what growth opportunities are being presented to you in this moment. Are you stagnant and just going through life like a hamster on a wheel or have you found new ways to challenge yourself?
Some down time is needed in life and we do not always have to be in challenge mode but it is never good to get too comfortable. Too comfortable leads to boredom and we all know the famous saying, idle hands is the devils playground. Choose healthy challenges in life before you succumb to boredom and start eating more, stay on your electronics for hours, sleep the day away, find unhealthy distractions like gossiping, social media, or an affair. Often these things come about when people say “something was missing in my life” and don’t take positive action to figure it out. Be proactive while navigating your path in life and continue to challenge yourself. Continue overcoming fears, pursuing dreams, and challenging yourself whenever the opportunity presents itself. The growth opportunities are endless and the rewards are great.
With love, health, happiness, and positive growth…