I got to thinking lately, about the meaning of this sweet blog… It is love… Love of self and love for and from another. At the age of 16, when my friends began falling in love and again around 22 when they started maintaining longer lasting relationships, I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t even know myself yet. I don’t even want to think of the person that I would choose to be with now.” I dated, had a few boyfriends, none lasting more than 3 months, but for matters of wrong gender and other things, it didn’t work out. I didn’t let guys in past a few dates. I needed to know myself more than anyone else at that point in time.
I remember long quiet nights alone in my room thinking (and over-thinking) about life… reading self-help books, stories of courageous living and writing my own journal entries just to try to understand why we’re all here, what it means, and what really matters. I knew the one thing missing in my inner world was self-love. I always longed for it, admired those who obviously had it, but that longing made me even more angry at myself. “What’s wrong me with me?” I judged harshly.
For those of you that don’t know, I was born 2 months premature, weighing 3 pounds and with a birth defect that required immediate surgery. I had a few more surgeries as a baby and then grew up like most everyone else until I turned 16. Between 16-20 years old I had three major surgeries and by the end of it I had a greater sense of purpose than ever. Simultaneously, I felt guilty for everything I’d put my family through… I felt guilty for surviving, literally for being here, just the same as the lone survivors of traumatic life tragedies — it’s called survivors guilt — only I was the only one. The lost and the survivor all at once. Parts of me had died in the process while others came to life. Pieces of innocence, a bit of faith, and some trust were among the casualties. Meanwhile, I gained massive respect for every human willing to wake up and face the day, most especially those who live their lives helping, nurturing, loving, and breathing life into others and into our world as a whole. I overflowed with compassion and learned that from every person there is a deeply rooted story from which everything they say do and are, comes from. It was at that time that I vowed never to work another day in my life and to always, always do what I love and to contribute to others getting what they want, too. It was an indescribable feeling. I’d always been super sensitive; taking on others emotions as my own, trying to shield others from hurt, and my health and surgeries rocked my family in a big way. My parents have never been the same, and just as I write this, I think to myself, “Who would be?” They lost and they survived, too.
While I finally felt like I knew why I was here and had found the meaning and purpose I was seeking in the most unlikeliest of places, I had to somehow address the guilt. I went to several therapists in my teens and early 20’s with a sole mission to prove to them and my family how great I was doing and how “lucky” I was, only to find myself even more alone. I knew the right things to say, I’ve studied people and emotions all my life and so it went. One by one they sent me on my way with these parting words, “I think you’re doing really well, Lacy, you’re processing everything and moving along in this with yourself quite well. Unless you see a need, I think we can discontinue our appointments together. If you ever need anything, just call.” I never got to feel safe enough to process major trauma to my body and my brain at a pretty critical age in development, nor was I ready at the time.
I’ve been successful at most everything I set my mind to. I’ve never had a lack of ambition or motivation to get what I wanted when I wanted it, but I always had a haunting feeling that maybe I was just pretending… That I was playing the role of the young adult woman, a courageous survivor, who was lucky to be alive — (because I am!) But who was deeply scared of herself and all she had been through. Surviving major surgeries and trauma doesn’t itself thereby remove the trauma simply because we survive. It’s still there. I was scared to know me and even more scared to see… all of me. I knew for years that’s the one thing in my all my life I had to figure out and it came up time and time again. It was the one thing that would bring me self love and the truest love for and from others.
I woke up one morning in late summer 2011 with all the reasons to be happy rattling around in my head: I had come out earlier that year, I lived in an awesome apartment in a trendy part of Portland, I had great friends (some of which were deeply strained when I came out), I had fallen in love (and broke up… 2 times), and I had the job I always wanted with an incredible company… but I wasn’t happy. I had what I thought people wanted though… The stuff we think makes us happy. A shot at love, a great job changing people lives, a cool car, a great apartment in a sweet NE Portland neighborhood… But the reality was that I lost friendships, I was still traumatized after coming out, I felt like an alien in my world, my parents felt abandoned and misunderstood, and I started wondering what it was all for.
I was haunted by my own life. Something was still missing and I finally wanted to figure it out once and for all… So, I went to therapy in early October of 2011 — 2 times per week for 8 months. It was the best investment I’ve ever made on myself. One that I always believed and encouraged others to do, but deemed a “failure” if I allowed my own self the help. Today, I consider those who do go to be such warriors of courage and vulnerability. It’s hard to do the work and to see it all… but it’s worth it. I would do it all over again and I’ll continue to go throughout my life. To give yourself the best shot at a healthy, happy, loving and fulfilled life is one of the biggest gifts you can give the world and yourself… and one that too few of us allow ourselves to have.
I committed to therapy for 50 minutes twice per week and when I went, I showed up and I went alllll out. It felt like massive relief and terrible pain. My chest often felt like it was splitting in two (again) with an ache that hollowed my insides and just when I thought I couldn’t handle it anymore, breathed relief eventually as if to say, “I’ve been in here so long, feeling this, carrying this, and hurting in silent desperation and now — now I’m free.” That kind of aching chest… it was also that of heartbreak. It’s devastating to learn that the world you always thought, or rather always hoped and pretended was truth, wasn’t exactly that. It was more, so much more, so much hidden away to keep me safe as a child and young adult… and so much that needed to be freed now that it was finally safe. It’s mind boggling and gratifying to feel so safe and without need to keep anyone, my therapist included from feeling the hurt I had felt. Finally, I was free… I learned that she could handle it, sometimes she cried right along with me, she always validated me, knowing when to talk and when to just let me be in the silence — oh the gift of silence is a master. We don’t value silence nearly enough. WOW. Such a mighty force comes with silence. Starting out, I was embarrassed or took a while to spit something out and eventually I just said everything I told myself to never tell a soul. Those were the things that most especially needed to be heard and seen and loved as they are… because the hurt is okay, I finally didn’t have to hide anymore. Even the things I heard and felt and experienced as a tiny newborn baby, I let it all out… sometimes it made sense, other times it made absolutely no sense. Both were okay.
I cried salty tears that pelted my face as if I were in my own inner hail storm, snot bubbles formed and popped like childhood all over again… I’m not gonna lie, it hurt like hell after every session. I gave myself space to process afterward — mostly because I couldn’t actually function beyond driving myself home anyway. I felt like a zombie. I would sit for hours on the couch afterward just letting my body and brain process what had happened. Instead of forcing thought, I let myself be. I let myself literally do the big work behind the scenes. I could feel my body processing, reliving, reprogramming, sorting, filing, attaching and making sense it of all. It just needed time and space to do so. I also began writing in my journal… Probably the most honest journal I’ve ever written. So honest that somehow I want to publish it someday… I couldn’t help but think what an interesting and yet brave and helpful read that would be. I hope that it can help us all live more real, genuine, authentic lives. I spent my life hiding from others or from myself and now, I just want to be. I want to say it like it is and feel what it feels because let’s be real, we’re all in this together and the sooner we realize that we’re not so different after all, the sooner we live lives of great compassion, fulfilled dreams, love of self and love for others and from others, and the more we get from life. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?
I dug deep during this time and I learned stuff about myself that terrified me… it also connected so many dots and allowed me to feel greater compassion, and eventually I was free of the guilt I once carried for every person that my health effected. I finally didn’t have to be strong for everyone else. I didn’t have to hide to feel… I just let it all out. I also learned what survival really means as I grew to understand more about myself as a child, young adult and now. I learned how to think and process and hear myself and feel emotions and take queues and how to be honest rather than to hide. I learned that people could handle me, that I deserved to share my thoughts (and I had them), I learned that playing small helped nobody and that showing up meant putting it all out there… and I learned that’s pretty much what people want anyway. I learned that all the stuff I’d be carrying along for years like busted up luggage strapped to my body, was so much less daunting once I popped the clasps and let it out of the luggage. Slowly but surly, I unpacked it and once it was out in the open, it wasn’t so bad, it didn’t haunt me so much anymore. It more or less, sits on an open shelf in my mind. I can see and access it whenever I want — life feels real and true that way.
So as I took the time for myself over the course of the year, I developed a greater love for myself. I put boundaries where there needed to be so that I didn’t get walked on and I welcomed friendships I wanted to nurture. I decided to open up a business to fill a need I had noticed in company product and program launches, and once I got out of my own way and took a big leap in charging twice and sometimes three times what I had before (I always undercharged because I undervalued myself), a funny thing happened… I not only met my financial goals for the year, but high quality people that I wanted to work with, who valued my work and skills, came out of the woodwork to hire me. People I still work with to this day.
Soon, I was so in love with what I had created, how I had basically made it up as I went, knowing what people needed most in the market, that I knew I’d always “make it”. I just would. “Just look at what you did with nothing…” I thought… Nothing but myself, which was everything I needed. Regardless of what happens in life, I’d always be okay. I actually learned that by failing at most everything that terrified me — it was one of the best life learnings I’ve ever realized.
You know what I also learned? That we attract the people we want to be more like… and it’s important to do the dirty work to understand ourselves enough to know why we pick the people we do in relationship, business partnership and friendship… Everyone’s in it to learn something, but we can save a lot of time and pain if we’re clear about why we’re in it with the people we’re in it with. I came out in 2011 and was so damn scared that I picked a woman to be with whom I thought I wished I could be more like – strong, brave, a leader, witty and honest. And she said she wished she was a bit more like me in some ways as well, more compassionate, caring, understanding, trusting, loving… problem is… we both had a lot of shit we hadn’t dealt with and as a result I ended up in a terrible cycle of abuse that I finally got out of, but not until I damn near lost everything. Thank goodness I was in therapy at that point. See what I mean about how important it is to be aware of why you pick the people you do?
As I unpacked my life and started seeing it all in front of me, soon I found myself and began to love the person I was discovering and showing up for. I started my new biz and I focused on me. I fell back a few times and soon caught up enough to begin a pattern of smart, helpful, good choices. I let go of feeling worthless and my ex gave me the best opportunity to say goodbye and get out forever. That was the first time I stuck up for myself. I spoke my mind and I never looked back.
Not long after, I walked into Saucebox, a local Portland bar to meet a friend visiting town from Texas, another friend from a previous company, and my new friend who I had heard so much about but had yet to meet, Maggie… She was exceptionally excited to sit by me (and by excited, I mean terrified and gah-gah. It was the cutest thing), and amped that we lived 5 blocks away from each other.
Apparently this self-care, self-love, worthiness and goodness stuff works! Yes, yes it does. Maggie and I often talk about that. We discuss how even months before, we never would have been ready to meet each other or to appreciate each other as we did when we met and as we do now. I picked her for … her. All the things I had told myself about life and about life and who we pick and why… It was being put to the test. I’ll admit, I was surprised in all the right ways. I often waited for her to get irritated about this or that or to judge me for something, but she doesn’t. She never has. We both learned to advocate for ourselves, to play on the same team (total pun intended!), and to communicate with love and kindness. Being able to appreciate and love Maggie the way that I do is worth all of it. I never would have found her and I never would have had the capacity to love, honor, inspire, lift up, trust, play with, communicate with and be fully myself with her.
It took me years… 29 of them, to learn to love and listen to myself. Just as I suspected, when I did, the best things came into my world. I no longer have those existential freak outs that I often did every 6 months in my teens and twenty-somethings. As a result of experience, age, and failure in my own life, I am certain that we can do anything we put our mind to and everything is possible.
This blog? Yes, it’s about love… starting with yourself. Take the time for you. Do the things that gently nudge you for creative self-care, and be present in it. Nobody is perfect (that’s what therapy is for!… kidding, but not really). You’ll be so glad you did. Nobody ever says, “I wish I’d never taken care of myself. That was a waste of time.” No… we always say, “I wish I’d done it earlier.”
Be good to yourself. Love yourself and be kind to the world. Everyone has a story, everyone wants to be loved, everyone wants to be seen and every single person wants to be heard. Loving yourself allows you that capacity to love another and the ability to help others do the same.
All the goodness and love to you,