By a certain point in life, we all have trauma, whether it’s with a big ‘T’ or small ‘t’, and we have to find a healthy way to work it out or the pattern keeps repeating itself in our own life and in the generations that come after us. And just like the big ’T’ or small ’t’ can afflict us, the ways that we pass down our hurts become a cycle. The good news is it only takes one person, who makes the brave decision to heal, to break the cycle. That fact is one of the reasons for my optimism and even more importantly, the ‘why’ in my life. When we don’t heal from the ways that life has come at us, we end up with other wounds that cause us to make choices that don’t allow us to make our greatest positive impact on our life and in the lives of the people we are closest to. Sometimes those choices put us and the people we love in real physical danger, where lives literally hang in the balance. Other times these afflictions, that are more like a dull scratch at a wound, like the way we choose to communicate or attach to relationships in our lives and create a lackluster and less connected existence than what we were meant for.
For much of my life, I battled a shameful conscience that made me feel like I didn’t deserve the goodness that came my way. It silenced me and made me live smaller, so even though I had all of these big thoughts in my head, I had a hard time putting them out there for other people to hear. It wasn’t until I got my first sense of real struggle, through parenting, relationships troubles that ultimately ended in divorce, and then the healing process that I chose to take to recover from these challenges, that I realized that generational patterns run through all families, there isn’t one that hasn’t faced a struggle and had to figure out what to do with it. Do we shine a light on it and create connection with our vulnerability or do we choose to keep it in the dark and let shame take over. The two paths are so different. Today, instead of the outside looking in, four kid family living by the beach, I am a divorced single mom with four amazing kids, with a mission to spread optimism to help other people process their own stories so we can heal together because resilience is as close to perfection as we can get…and I feel more aligned, healthy, and like myself than I ever have in my life.
I talk almost daily to my best friend from high school. The last few weeks during our hour long conversations, we trade stories back and forth as we support each other through the ups and downs going on in our lives, and lately there seem to be plenty of them. Whether it’s relationships, work, family, or kids, having a go to that has known you for most of your life is invaluable and I’m forever grateful to volleyball for bringing us together for a friendship that has lasted 30 years now. She is the most personable, kind hearted human being that keeps my optimistic spirit in tact with her ability to listen. What I have realized through our talks is that there are ways to protect ourselves and the people we love, and live fully, out loud, and on the big stage of life, if we master certain skills to deal with the trauma that comes our way.
1. Surrender to the struggle. I put up a post on Instagram about this in the last week or so because it is the first step to working through our struggles. Trying to keep up a facade is exhausting and keeps us from living a free life. Surrender is not a sign of weakness but the ultimate sign of strength that puts our feet on solid ground to begin to heal. It is the scariest moment of the battle that lies within us because we look our weaknesses squarely in the face. Whether they are relationship challenges, addictions, or the ways we have been lying to ourselves to live a less than true story, it’s the moment we look in the mirror without any makeup on. This is where the good work starts.
2. Spend the time to heal. The biggest trauma that I have faced in my life has been my divorce. After 20 years of marriage, facing life on my own, feeling like a failure, and worrying about the pain my choice would cause my kids put healing on the front burner from the first day I was separated. What I learned was that while it has been said that you are only as happy as your unhappiest child, your children benefit from your strength and resilience as an example to find ways to tap into their own, so I toughened up and flipped the script. I went about healing myself, mind, body, and spirit. Whether it has been through yoga, beach volleyball, acupuncture, a diet that heals the gut/brain connection, alkaline water, opening a business that taps into my passion for sports to train life, or writing this blog and my book, 365 Days of Optimism, there is nothing that has been without a healing purpose and the time dedicated to all of these things builds confidence and healing. Even when the going gets tough and self doubt rears its ugly head, we can answer back with breath, movement, and connection to heal the relationship we have with ourselves and then everything gets better from there.
3. Befriend your nervous system. This sounds so scientific but it’s so basic to our human existence. I spent much of my life feeling anxious, worried I was going to do something wrong, looking for external validation that I was “doing it right” and not understanding that the power to be fine was already within me…I just needed to learn to control my breath to tap into it. Did you know that when breath reaches the lower lungs, neurotransmitters send signals to the brain to release “feel good” chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin to calm and uplift you? They will help you know that you are safe to experience and allow your mind and emotions to work through traumatic thoughts. When I had Matthew and my experience with life on the spectrum began, I began a self education process that lead me to learn so much about how we can calm ourselves and handle the stress of life. As a mother, I thought I was learning to help him, but soon I realized that we are all so much more alike than different and the same things that help him, help me, my other kids, and even the most elite athletes in the world. Learn more about nasal and diaphragmatic breathing here, it’s a simple game changer. It’s brought me calm, focus, and healing, it’s all within our control and it doesn’t cost a dime!
4. Visualize the “Best Picture”. This is the moment where you believe it’s all possible, that you can heal, that you are strong enough and that your best life is ahead of you if you put in the effort. It’s seeing yourself in a connected relationship, or with a healthy relationship with food or alcohol, believing that you can live a lifestyle that will uplift you and everyone around you. If we can’t see ourselves as successful, whether in relationships, health, business, prosperity, we won’t have the energy to get ourselves there. It’s believing in our “enoughness” even in our most broken moment that our optimism will carry us through. If we can’t believe in our power to heal, it won’t happen.
Now is the time. The stories of my days are heavy, but our human potential is too great and we can overcome our trauma. My vision is for a continually healing family, society, and world and I believe it happens one connection at a time. Put your best foot forward, be honest about your story, do it for yourself and the generations that come after you, they will never know how much they have to thank you for walking that path, but life will begin to be brighter the moment you take the first step toward healing.
Photo credit: Rian Basilio