Is Recovery Just a Never Ending To Do List?

Sometimes this recovery thing is a real pain in the ass. I've taught it for years. I've really practiced it myself for the last couple. And, I literally talk about it daily to my clients.

And yet, it is still a huge pain in my ass.

My life has been crazy. My routine has changed. My schedule is busy. My stress is high.

And, from the sounds of it lately in my office, I am not alone in any of this.

And yet, my recovery stands.

Although, some days it feels like only by a thread.

But, my recovery only stands through my practice.

I am not talking about this rainbows and butterflies idea that practice makes perfect. Because, seriously, that was just a lie we've all been fed. There is no perfect. Perfectionism is only born out of our shame and is only about what others' think. It is not about being the best version of ourselves.

I'm also not talking about just trying harder either. If our recoveries were based on just trying harder, we'd all stay super happy and healthy all of the time. I try hard every day. Unfortunately, my trying harder is also sometimes in direct response to the whole crazy, busy, stress mentioned above. Which really only means I get in my own damn way of my practice which means my recovery suffers. Because, as I had my own aha moment in my therapy session this week, I like to control or micromanage things (and some could argue my loved ones) when my life is this crazy, busy and stressful.

The Practice of Intention

Practicing recovery needs to be about intention.

Even though from the outside is looks very much the same, like a never ending to do list.

Recovery (for me):

  • daily self care (morning routine and night routine)
  • exercise
  • eating right
  • meditation
  • prayer
  • coloring
  • music and dancing
  • reading
  • writing
  • talking (asking for what I want and need)
  • reaching out
  • DAILY

These are the daily choices I must make to practice my recovery.

To consider them my never ending to do list is only counterintuitive and counterproductive to recovery.

My practice cannot be born out of perfectionism or trying harder or micromanagement. Recovery is not this check list or to do list I must complete every day. It is not a to do list that makes me better or fixed.

Check. Check. Check.

All better. Done. Recovered.

Not even close.

Recovery must be practiced with intention through the choices I make every day because I know it helps, because I know it heals, because I know I deserve better than my old sad, miserable, bitter self.

If my intention is perfection or just trying harder or micromanaging it all, I will suffer the gravity of my own relapse. Because life is busy and hard and it is simply unrealistic to complete my recovery and do it perfectly.

There will always be the days (some weeks more days than not) that not everything is checked off the list.

That is okay.

I can practice again tomorrow.

This week I have been witness to some of the toughest sessions of my career. The sessions of true struggle. The sessions of utter heartache, of strangling perfectionism, of the desperate ache for more, of merciless loneliness, of suffocating shame, of brutal relapse.

Sessions of rock bottom.

Sessions of I know this is so hard. Sessions of I promise it can get better.

Sessions where I know greatness can be found. Sessions where I see the lightof and for my clients. Sessions where I hope for them. Sessions where I walk alongside, push forward and pull ahead.

Because I know through this work is their healing, happier and healthier selves.

 
 

I know because I've trudged the damn hill myself. Several times. And, during some seasons of my life, I've trudged it what seems like every freaking day.

And yet, there are times when what I can offer them of this practice, of the I get it and me too that can feel so powerless in what they are facing, like it just can't be enough.

But, then I trust. I trust my intention in showing them unconditional compassion, connection and courage. I teach them the work of intention and practice. And, I try to model it all.

Because, I know it can be enough.

And, I ask them to fight with me. Every. Single. Day.

Because, through this fight, this practice, this recovery is being found by and finding our own ever upward.

 
 

*To read more about my recovery (Choosing Change-Chapter 4) make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Our Infertility Rap Sheets

Ever Upward is growing. My world is expanding. My recovery is strengthening.

Which also means my shamed silence is triggered more often. Even though my shame resilience has grown as a result of my practicing recovery.

As I meet more and more people in the infertility world, blogging or otherwise, I am finding myself comparing my story to theirs. I have always been uncomfortable with the TTC (trying to conceive) timelines. I am especially uncomfortable when our About pages and Twitter bio's are our TTC timelines full of numbers and acronyms.

What I have come to realize is that my discomfort is simply a result of my shame being triggered.

The numbers we share to describe ourselves; how many miscarriages, cycles, IUIs, IVFs, BFNs, etc.* Hell, I have my numbers in my bio (two rounds of IVF and three never to be babies). I thought I included these because they are part of my whole story. But what I think I am figuring out through working my recovery is that I have left them in for proof and as a way to cope with my shame.

Proof that I too have suffered and lost; my comparing my story to others', my way of shouting out, "I tried too."

But, this really comes from my sense of not being enough, of trying to prove myself rather than owning myself. The scarcity culture, as Brené Brown describes in The Daring Way™ work. The never ______________ enough. Never pretty enough. Never thin enough. Never rich enough. Never happy enough.

This scarcity culture has helped turned these numbers into one of my biggest shame triggers.

My fear that I will be judged that I didn't try enough. That I didn't lose enough.

Because I don't have a long rap sheet of years of trying to conceive or IUIs, IVFs and BFNs.

And, I have no doubt that I have been and will continue to be judged for not trying more, just as much as I am judged for not choosing adoption.

And so, at least from Ever Upward, the blog, I have removed my counts, my proof, because I am more than just my two rounds and three lost babies. I am actually even more because of my lifelong losses. These numbers could never come close to describing what I have been through or what is left as a result.

Because within this I truly it own it, and myself.

Apart from surviving infertility and thriving thereafter, I also have the mental health therapist part of my head and heart at work with these TTC timelines and rap sheet descriptions. I cannot help but be scared and saddened by it. That as men and women suffering through infertility treatments we are identifying ourselves, sometimes completely, through how many treatments we have endured.

 
 

We are so much more than this.

We have to be so much more than this.

We have to be because, I think, that is the only way we will survive infertility and thrive thereafter, no matter what our ending looks like.

I am not sure what our motivations are for making our infertility rap sheets part of our bios or even our whole story. But for me, it was about comparison and scarcity. Comparison in making sure the world knew I tried too and therefore have suffered. Scarcity in proving that it was enough.

Comparison and scarcity; two things I am practicing shame resilience and recovery from.

Because, I did try and I have suffered.

Enough.

Because, only I define my enough and my "did we do everything?"

For me, I need to be more.

Because, this is ever upward.

I will talk about it, I will embrace it, I will practice and model recovery from it and I will own it. Because maybe within my ownership, one person will be brave enough to demand to be more than their infertility rap sheet.

Because we all are.

So much more.

And, we all deserve to be.

*For a full list of infertility acronyms click here.

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

This post linked with Amateur Nester's Link Up #9.

The Complicated Gray

Several days after one of the most difficult days of the year for me, Mother's Day, I am reminded at how complicated this whole thing actually is...infertility, childfree living, loss, trauma, tragedy, faith...life. I've written it many times before; life is hard and people are complicated. It never seems to be very black or white, which sometimes would be nice and so much simpler.

But most all of life is in the complicated gray; always between the simplicity of black or while.

Albeit, beautiful complicated gray.

 
istock_000034399810small.jpg
 

This weekend I felt everything. Mother's Day was a good day but it was still super difficult and felt very sad, at least inside my own head and heart. All the talk of mothers and mothering at church wasn't easy to hear. Feeling torn and like a bad daughter and daughter in law because just acknowledging the day is difficult and I really needed to honor my own pain and myself. But, also spending the afternoon swimming and playing with three of my favorite little boys filled every cell of my body with pure joy, love and laughter. I am also so thankful for all the messages and cards I received and for the blogs I read about how wonderful and difficult Mother's Day can be for so many of us.

The complicated gray.

Our losses, traumas and tragedies are never uncomplicated; infertility, IVF and accepting a childfree life are definitely not an exception to this complication.

For me, especially as a therapist who has survived infertility and has fought to thrive thereafter, the complicated gray is always there.

The complicated gray I feel between the lifelong costs and losses of infertility and childfree living with the peace, freedom and happiness I have achieved through my recovery.

The complicated gray of making my almost enough moments my enough moments.

The complicated gray of honoring my losses but never allowing my heart and soul to scar over and close.

The complicated gray of the anger and bitterness at the unfairness with the trust and faith in the 'I'm okay and it's okay'.

The complicated gray of owning my shame and sadness while also educating and fighting for my story and the importance of my message and voice.

And for the many women out there struggling with any difficulty in the department of mothering and infertility, the complicated gray is never ending.

The complicated gray of living in shamed silence of infertility and desperately wanting and needing to be seen and heard.

The complicated gray of self sabotaging ourselves because we feel so damaged and shamed in our infertility battles; betrayed by our bodies, by science and, sometimes even ourselves or our loved ones.

The complicated gray of every impossible decision that must be made in the journey of infertility whether emotional, financial, moral or ethical.

The complicated gray of every parenting decision.

The complicated gray of the cautious hopefulness and the reality of the statistical un-success of infertility treatments.

The complicated gray of our real stories not being seen, heard or understood by many.

~~~~

I always work with my clients on finding the middle, seeing the gray and not thinking in such black or white terms. For the most part, our health and happiness lie in the middle; in the gray.

Through my infertility journey, my recovery and my ongoing acceptance of a childfree life I am learning that maybe we really must also truly embrace this complicated gray.

Because, I think, it is within this complicated gray we will find our permission for it all.

Permission for our stories.

Permission for our recoveries.

Permission for our light.

Permission for finding our ever upward.

Scarred But Never Closed

Singing my heart out, holding back tears, as this seems to be what I do lately in church as I am wrestling so much with myself, with trusting and my faith journey, I had one of my first true writer moments. Smack in the middle of the song, I grabbed my bulletin and pen and wrote the title of this post and a line from the song down. The song: Let Our Faith Be Not Alone by Robbie Seay.

The lyrics: "May our hearts be not of stone, give us souls that never close".

 
 

As a therapist I hear terrible things every day from my clients. And, it is not unusual for the thought to cross my mind that someone has every right to stay sick, to stay angry, to have hearts of stone and closed souls after what they have been through.

After infertility and the lifelong losses of three babies, I have also felt as if I have three very good enough reasons to allow my heart to become stone and my soul to close.

But I am learning, this is not meant to be the end of my story. Nor do I want it to be the end of my story; just as I help my clients every single day to make sure that their losses, traumas and tragedies are not their endings either. Because, I also get to hear amazing stories of hope and recovery every single day.

But this recovery requires the choice to choose hope and to do the work.

I will always have the soul scars of infertility and losing my babies. And if I am not careful these scars could very easily harden my heart and close my soul to the amazingness that is this life. As they are forever scars much like the four inch back surgery scar I have. Except, my soul scars are invisible to the outside world, and many times are completely misunderstood, invalidated, minimized and sometimes even ignored.

Either scar, back or soul, if ignored by me only worsens; the scar tissue building up, increasing the pain and decreasing my quality of life. For my back it is only through my physical therapy, exercise and self care that this old injury and scar tissue can be as healed as possible. Nothing I do will ever make that scar go away but I sure as hell can make sure I do what is in my power to make it as better as possible. And, almost 20 years later, I wouldn't want that scar to go away anyways as it is a constant reminder of how much strength I truly hold.

As for my soul scars, I must do much of the same work. If I do not do the work of recovery from the trauma of infertility, the lifelong losses and costs of IVF and the ongoing work of accepting a childfree life, I will only allow the scar tissue to grow. And if I am not careful my heart and soul will scar over leaving room for only bitterness, anger and sadness.

Our trauma, tragedies and losses (infertility related or not) make us who we are. I have learned that I am a better everything because I wanted and loved those babies so much. I am also a better everything because I lost them. Sure, the losses left my heart and soul shattered at first, but now with daily work in recovery I have a scarred but healing heart and soul.

Scarred but better and complete, and most definitely open.

This openness is not possible without the daily practice of recovery, authentic living and courage. My choices in recovery, in daily practice, and my faith are what is required for me to not allow the scar tissue to close everything. And I did not survive infertility and lose my three dreams to only be left scarred, closed and hardened like stone.

I am still wholeheartedly figuring this whole thing out, awkwardly stumbling through this life in recovery. And, sometimes I am not a very pretty picture while doing it. What I think I am finally coming to terms with and learning is that I can trust that the end of my story isn't supposed to be a heart of stone or a scarred, closed soul. That I can trust my faith, doubts and all, because within this journey I will always have Him*. And it is with His acceptance, love and help that I will continue to fight for, find and redefine my ever upward.

*For me, my faith is in God and Jesus as my savior. This is something I am newly figuring out, with a lot of doubt and struggle and questions. But it is something that is helping me, especially in my recovery. My only hope is that we can all find something to have faith in.

*This post submitted to the Tuesday Infertility Link Up on Amateur Nester.

The Almost Enough Moments

I've been having a slight existential crisis lately; between finishing up the book, Ever Upward and coming up on a year of submitting to agents and publishers (over 220 of them) and the success (although the desire for more) of this blog and my continued journey in finding my faith again and today being the two year anniversary of the bittersweet day of the last negative pregnancy test, ending IVF and learning to accept a childfree life; I am finding myself feeling all sides of everything, over-feeling and over-thinking, doubting and just plain struggling.

How can I balance this desire for the blog to blow up and the book to get published, both for validation of my story and for the wider outreach to help others but also because I think it just has to with knowing my story has already touched and helped so many? How do I let go and trust that what is meant to happen will happen, as it has never been in my hands to begin with?

How do we sit with the be all, end all questions, what is this all supposed to mean? Why did this happen?

Aren't we all wondering the why?

Why does the 35 year old mother of two young children get late stage colorectal cancer?

Why did he cheat?

Why did she have to die?

Why did he have to fall?

Why did they leave?

Why didn't I die?

Why are they lying?

Why did this have to happen???

Why?

But, I'm not sure we will ever get to know the why.

And, what I think I am learning is that some of our answers can maybe be found in our almost enough moments.

 
 

You know those moments where you look up (to who or whatever you believe in, for me it is God) and say okay, I get it. I would not have this if that had all worked out. Or I would not have this if I had not lost that. But really, that just doesn't feel like it's quite enough? So we question it; I get it, I'm thankful, but it's still not enough for all that pain, all that suffering, the never to be's; I sure hope you have more, better, in the works.

I am also learning we all have to figure out how to open ourselves up to these almost enough moments, really embracing their capacity for awe.

Can I have the presence and gratitude to embrace that piece of almost enough? And, have the faith that I might get to see the pieces all fit together one day? Better yet, can I have the presence and gratitude, and patience, enough to have the faith that I just may not get to see them all fit together and that the almost enough is, well, enough?

Because without a doubt, I have some pretty amazing almost enough moments...

Being McKinley's godparents.

Being asked to be in the delivery room to help bring baby Smith into this world.

Having every moment with our chosen family.

Attending all the piano recitals, church concerts and ball games of all our chosen children.

My friends through Emerging Women, The Daring Way™ certification and this blog.

Our Christmas morning tradition of going to see what Santa brought our chosen children.

The healing journey of writing my book.

A better marriage.

Building our family home, Mason house, for all our friends and family to grow and enjoy with us.

The continuing journey of my blog.

Becoming a better therapist.

Our dogs.

 
 

My improved relationships.

The happier, healthier me.

Fighting for me, fighting for my recovery and rediscovering my light.

I could go on and on, because I am able to wholeheartedly say, the list of my almost enough moments truly is endless.

My soul will always have the scars of my three lost babies, of three lost dreams, of three never to be's. But, I can choose if this is my whole story and I can also choose to move forward, having the faith that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, no matter the why.

But, can I trust and have the patience that these almost enough moments will lead me to more understanding and that my suffering, better yet, my story, will end exactly as it is meant to? Learning to have the patience and faith that I just might never get that final moment of what I think would be completion, understanding and the good enough reason for my sufferings.

So I must figure out how to be okay with that. I must learn to be whole without those enough moments. Trusting that the sole purpose I think I have found is really only my plan, and I'm not sure I really get that say.

But I also have to keep that in check with this part of me that yearns for my losses to mean something bigger; to change the world and help others. It is this part that asks, why else would I have been given this path in life? Why else would I have suffered the way I have and lost what I have? What would the point be of that? Am I that undeserving? Or is this my punishment for something? Surely, it has to mean something; two back surgeries, a year in a body cast, two rounds of failed IVF with a surrogate, three lost babies and fighting for recovery can't just be it, can it?

And, there it is again... Why did this have to happen to me?

I am not sure these questions come from the best part of me. However, I also know I wouldn't be honoring myself if I didn't allow this doubt a space to question; and maybe that is the point exactly.

There is only so much we are capable of, and probably allowed to, understand in this life. Maybe, it will always be this constant balance between finding my purpose through my story of struggle, making sure it means something more, at least to me, and trusting that it will still mean just as much without the soul completing clarity I so desire.

Because, all those almost enough moments...well, maybe it's up to me to embrace them as my ever upward, which really makes them the more than enough moments.

But, it has only been through my sufferings and my fight for recovery that I have been able to really see, let alone embrace, these moments as being more than enough.

 
20140414120612669.png
 

This is ever upward.

My recovery.

My story.

My purpose.

My path.

My light.

And even, my soul scars.

Allowing every single almost enough moment to really be more than enough...this is my ever upward.

My Dementor: Shame and Self Doubt

Today I gave a presentation for a Lunch and Learn at a major corporation here in Saint Louis. This is my sixth Lunch and Learn with them. I always have good attendance, great feedback and they actually pay me to speak.

And yet this morning as I over-prepared, I literally made myself sick with anxiety and self doubt.

Because, today I spoke on Wholehearted Parenting.

And, I am not a parent.

And, I was scared shitless.

A few days ago my shame consumed me as the presentation got closer; "I am not a parent and I am speaking on parenting". I remind myself that this is also major public information now.

The self doubt settling over me like a thick fog casting fear inside my very core.

Shame.

Fucking shame.

Like the dementor to my light, stealing my voice, sucking away my soul, leaving my heart empty.

I reached out to my friend,Janine, who organizes the talks and she of course gave me an amazing pep talk. And then last night my friend and colleague reminded me that I am actually a parent. Kelly's words will forever and always mean the world to me. She said that I parent as much as she does, just in different ways; I parent my dogs and I parent all of the children in my life and that most of all I parent my clients. In many ways therapy is like parenting or even re-parenting with clients. She parents her two boys, but my audience of children is simply bigger as this is my purpose, and my path.

I cried and took in her words because I knew they were my truth. I drew in a deep knowing breath and thanked her for reminding me of my light. She reminded me of what I know every day in many ways, I wasn't given the chance or blessing of my own children because I am meant for this greatness of working with clients, writing and helping others. It's neither better nor worse or more or less important, it's just different.

 
 

So, this morning before I walked into that board room I wrote myself a permission slip, just like we ask ourselves and clients to do as they work through The Daring Way™ curriculum. I wrote myself my permission slip and set it right beside my notes.

I have permission to be scared. I have permission to not be parent enough. I have permission to know, and own, that I know what I am talking about and that I can help even though I am not a parent in the traditional sense.

And so I spoke. And I was painfully vulnerable in owning to them that I am not a parent but that I was there to teach them about wholehearted parenting. I called out my own imposter syndrome, and let them in to my world: I don't get to be a parent but I can still help you be a better one I think.

I also stated that I am the right person to do that because, one, I actually have the time to read the research and parenting books because I wasn't able to be a mom. And two, I parent every single day, just not my own children (and according to Kelly this probably means my house is cleaner, I am more well rested and I have more sex).

I was real, I was vulnerable and I allowed my brilliant light to outshine my shame. And because I fought for that bravery, I connected and delivered one of my best lectures. And I have no doubt that there will be some families this weekend with some new language and new ways to love and parent because of that hour we spent together today.

Doing the work of recovery and learning shame resilience doesn't mean we won't experience shame. It simply means that we will be able to better cope with it when it does come in.

Shame is my dementor. And it has been very ominous this week, floating over me threatening to take my spirit with this parenting presentation and with more activity from agents and publishers on Ever Upward, the book. But that self doubt has been further shattered today by the success of my last post. A post that I struggled with so much to write and didn't think was my best work; damn art of letting go. And yet, it has been viewed over 450 times in two days, breaking my record of daily views today alone.

I almost let shame and self doubt stop me from writing that post earlier this week, I almost let it steal my light this whole week, and especially today.

It was only through courage, compassion and connection  that ever upward prevailed.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, say or feel in the crazy journey of life or in your recovery? How can you practice courage, compassion and connection to remind yourself of your ever upward light? 

**This prompt later linked with the WordPress Daily Prompt: The Great PretenderAre you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? Tell us all about it.**

The Paradox of Letting Go: 5 Things We Continuously Hold On To

I read once in a yoga magazine, which sat in my own waiting room, that in order to let go we must set up the circumstances in our lives that allow us to let go. In other words, as I always tell my clients, letting go is more of an art than a science. And, if I had the power to make it a science, or better yet an easily followed recipe, I'd quit my day job as a therapist and pursue my backup career (makeup artist in case you were wondering).

The Art of Letting Go

Letting go is an art we must grapple with, I think, throughout our entire lives if we are going to have any sense of peace, contentment and happiness.

A practice really.

A practice, that I will admit, I must continually put effort into, sometimes daily.

I can stamp my feet and scream at the top of my lungs that it's not fair! That it's just too hard to let go, let alone accept. But, it doesn't really change the fact that many of the things I need to let go of and accept are things that were never really in my control to begin with.

What can be even more frustrating is that I really do feel like I have been able to let go and accept one of the toughest circumstances of my life in surviving through IVF and accepting a childfree life. Although, only through practice, as there are definitely still days of major struggle on this front

Yet in my own recovery and in my work with clients, letting go will always be a battle of life that we must rumble with, and if not continually challenged and worked on can have major consequences on our happiness and well-being.

The big ones I struggle with myself and continually see in my office with clients tend to be the soul crushing and spirit stealing ones that have the staying power of tattooed eyebrows (which I'm not sure I'd ever recommend, even if I did become that makeup artist). They're the ones that can leave us empty, defeated shells of our authentic self.

The Five Hardest Things to Let Go

So here they are, the five things we tend to continuously hold on to and how we can attempt to set up the circumstances in our lives in order to allow ourselves to let them go...

1. The past.

We can't change it.

What's done is done.

It is what it is.

If it isn't okay, it probably isn't finished.

Instead of dwelling or wallowing, we need to begin asking ourselves things like: "Where do I go from here?" or "What's my next best step?".

And we must remember to have self-compassion around it, "Well, that sucked or I messed that one up. What now?".

For the most part, we all do the best we know how in any given moment. If we had known better, we would have chosen better or differently. Even when we are really messing up or hurting others or when someone in our life is really messing up or hurting us, it is the best they had in that piece of time; learn from it and move forward.

2. The what ifs.

We are not mind readers.

We are not fortune tellers or clairvoyant.

We tell ourselves, playing out the what ifs is a way to protect ourselves from being hurt and a way to prepare us for the worst case scenario. But really, it is just a waste of our time, energy and spirit. If we must play the what ifs, play it fairly and play both sides of it. And put a time limit on this type of worry.

Asking ourselves things like, "How possible is it? How probable is it?" or "What is the concrete evidence? What actually is?".

Life is uncertain; we loathe uncertainty and yet we must embrace it, because if we don't we simply just miss it completely.

3. The need to be understood by everyone and the need to understand everyone.

Sometimes we just won't get it or we just won't get someone.

Sometimes they just won't get us.

That doesn't mean we judge or pity. Within our differences we must find respect and compassion for one another, and we only find this through authentic connection and practicing empathy. Focus on what we do have in common and set clear healthy boundaries if needed.

Love and belonging are inherent needs for us all, we thrive through and within connection. But we must also give ourselves permission that this connection can look and feel differently for everyone. And, at the end of the day, we will not find belonging through fitting in, peace will only be found within our own self-validation.

4. Things not in our control.

The harsh reality that we all must face is that there isn't much in our control; only how we think, feel and behave.

My reactions to life, or better yet my response to life is completely within my power. When I embrace this limited power, of just myself, I actually gain full control of my life.

5. What isn’t.

Not thin enough.

Not rich enough.

Not happy enough.

We must stop living in the never ______________ enough.

Because we are enough.

Not accepting what is and what isn't, especially when it isn't what we wanted or hoped for is one of the biggest thieves of happiness and well-being.

We must trust and have faith that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be.

There are no mistakes, no failures, just lessons and moments.

Very few things actually last forever, and even if they do we're still changeable.

And in reality, this brings us right back to the beginning of our need to learn to let go. I suppose, putting us right back where we started; kind of a paradox of ourselves.

And yet, the only way through is to continually work on letting go, as this can be our guiding light out back to our true self.

Worth Every Raindrop and Thunder Strike

It has been a week of witnessing the dichotomy between the sheer terror and the joyful hope of change. A week of asking clients to trust that if they feel the fear and choose change anyway there is light waiting for them. The fear of the storm that must be felt at the same time as having the courage for riding out and fighting through the storm, along with the bravery for the calm after it.

The work my clients do each week will be the scariest and most difficult of their lives. And yet it can, and will be the work that changes everything. The work that leads them back to their true, whole, healthy and authentically happy selves.

Even though we know we want, deserve and can do, be and have better, we are so fearful of it and scared to death of what it will take to get it.

So we settle and stand in our own way because it feels safer, even in the dark misery of it.

img955649.jpg

I know, because I did it.

I know, because I didn't define my rock bottom for myself and life did it for me.

I know, because I've finally gotten out of my own way and fought for myself.

I know, because I felt the fear and I chose recovery anyway.

Our recoveries will all be different, but have no doubt, eventually we will each need to choose to recover. Because life is beautifully flawed and heart breakingly difficult.

But through the fear and the work of the storm, after we make the choice to change, lies the calm and brilliance of recovery.

Because we must be afraid and brave at the same time as Brené Brown has found in her research. We must feel the fear and choose ourselves in order to fight the fight of recovery.

I have my story, myself, to show as evidence. And I will model that every minute of all of my days.

I will model that it isn't easy; that there are setbacks and it definitely doesn't feel fair most of the time.

I will model that on the other side of the storm is ever upward light.

And, all I can hope and work for is that my clients, and my loved ones, see my fight and my light every day.

Because through me, I hope they can trust and have faith that I will fight alongside them. Constantly reminding them that their light is worth both riding out and fighting through the storm because the ever upward calm of recovery is worth every raindrop and thunder strike.

My First Step Out of Rock Bottom to Start My Walk on the Moon

This post inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Walking on the MoonWhat giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break? We had already made the impossible decision of stopping IVF treatments without having had become parents and knew that adoption was not for us.

Surely, this was it, the worst it could get.

I had already survived two back surgeries, one year in a body cast, depression, two rounds of failed IVF with a gestational surrogate, three lost babies, depression, anxiety, anger.

But that is the important part, I had only survived up until that point. And then I was pushed to the edge of doubt and question, the edge of even worse; we had to the make the even more impossible decision to let go of our first furry child, Maddie.

And there I found myself, off that edge in my rock bottom.

Dark.

Pain.

Nothing.

Anger.

 
 

I can't say for sure what was the one catalyst for me to take the first giant, and most difficult, step out of rock bottom. That first step of my own walk on the moon. The first step that was the beginning of the last year and a half of my life in recovery.

I know it was a combination of finding the work of Brené Brown and learning how to own all the parts of my story with bravery in order to live my now wholehearted life.

I know it was the decision to change my lifestyle by changing my food and exercise and getting off medication and starting yoga, meditation and self-compassion.

Above all, I know it was my choice.

My choice to no longer be the victim to my past, to my traumas, to my losses. To no longer just survive and choose to thrive.

My daily, sometimes minute by minute choice, to choose to thrive these survivals. To place these amazing and haunting hurts into my life puzzle making them the beautiful tapestry of my life thus far, and therefore just part of my epic story.

My every step on my moon. My walk that continues with many lights of my own ever upward.

Starting to write.

Owning my story and publishing the blog.

Improving my relationships.

Finding my childfulllife.

Investing in my career, and therefore myself.

Reawakening my marriage after the traumas and losses of IVF.

Fighting for my faith and finally finding a church where I belong.

To wake up and stand up.

And considering it all pure joy.

My walk on the moon started at my rock bottom with a damn near impossible, but completely necessary choice.

The choice, my choice, of the first step of my walk, for myself, my recovery, my happiness, my ever upward.

We Hold the Pieces to Our Puzzle

Every day I work with clients to help them learn how to let go, accept, redefine and find themselves. Often times we work on owning our stories and not allowing our whole selves to be defined by something that has happened to us or a mistake we've made or a loss or trauma we have suffered. A lot of what I do is help my clients figure out how to be happy and healthy after things do not end up how they had hoped for, pictured or planned for. I help, I teach and I model, as I have fought this recovery battle myself. We all have an epic story, and we all have hardship in our lives. Because hard is hard. Where we often get tripped up is in how we integrate these pieces of our stories into our whole, and hopefully one day, recovered selves.

I often get asked things like...

"How long will I hold onto this?"

"Will this ever get easier?"

"Will I ever stop thinking about it?"

 
 

The thing is, our lives are our puzzles.

Our life, our story, is a million piece jigsaw puzzle made up of pieces in every color, size and shape possible.

puzzlethat will always have some missing pieces.

As it takes our lifetime to complete.

A puzzle that will have missing pieces forever, if we don't face the work we need to do to recover from whatever we need to recover from. Leaving an incomplete picture if we don't do this work. Sure, we may not notice the gaping holes in the whole picture from afar, but when we really look closely they will be impossible to ignore.

As they are missing pieces of us.

 
 

A puzzle that only we hold all the pieces to.

When we do the work that we need to live a happy, fulfilled, authentically brave life and to heal ourselves we place every puzzle piece into place. We not only place each piece into it's perfect home, we also push it down.

Therefore, making the seamless picture of our intricately flawed, and yet perfectly imperfect beautiful lives.

Sure up close, one will see all the individual pieces of our stories but from afar they will simply see us. All of us.

We are made up of all the pieces of our puzzle; each moment of our lives completing the picture and each story defining parts of who we are.

But, we must remember we hold the pieces ourselves, as we have the power for change and recovery.

We have the power to complete our puzzle and therefore truly, and bravely, embrace and own all the pieces of us.

Fill in your _________________.

My mission of Ever Upward has been clear from the very beginning and my purpose in Ever Upward continues to only grow stronger. Because, I write for many reasons; healing, helping, educating... but as I have learned over the last week in my Daring Way™ certification training, I write to invoke change. I have been torn between being oh so grateful for the many shares, views, follows and the expansive exposure Ever Upward has received in only 3 short months and the inherent need for more. Analyzing how to write so more people are moved and so more people have the courage to share it on Facebook or to email it to someone they love. Questioning myself in my desires for the outside validation of the view count or earning Freshly Pressed versus my soul's desire for my words to reach many in order to help.

It has been suggested, and most of me knows, that for Ever Upward to continue to grow and to reach the people who need it most, I must write to the masses, which for many would be to not include infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss and childfree acceptance. Those who bravely read and share Ever Upward; my friends, my family and even the strangers all across the world supporting me, know Ever Upward is about more than IVF; it is about life. Ever Upward is about recovery. However, it would be naive to believe that people will click on or share my words freely when it includes some of the most shamed and silenced parts of our society and ourselves.

So, I propose a challenge for us all. Fill in the ____________________.

Whatever your struggle. Whatever your loss. Whatever your hurt. Whatever your shame.

What is your recovery? When you read IVF, fill in your ____________________.

For me, I have recovered from anxiety, depression, general discontent, unhappiness and anger, and yes, IVF, shame and childlessness. That is my journey. That is my story. But I know parts of it can apply to everyone's story.

As part of my training for The Daring Way ™ I wrote a personal manifesto on the first night of training. Sitting here this last night before heading home tomorrow I am even surer of the words I wrote:

 
 

I will practice authenticity and have the courage to tell my story, living it out loud, without apology, in order to stop proving it and to actually own it.

Because I was born, and have survived to thrive, to help and heal myself and others.

And in my heart of hearts, I believe my story can start the conversation to change the isolating shame that surrounds infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss, childfree acceptance and recovery.

As it is only through my own daring greatly, and the connection of my story, that I can be healed and find myself again. And, only then will I connect, help and heal others.

Ever Upward will continue to include some of the most shamed words in our lexicon; IVF, infertility, pregnancy loss and childlessness. Because this is my journey. My story. And it is with much hope that I choose to believe that one day my light and the courage I have found in owning my story will move you to share it anyways, to inspire the continuation of the excruciating shame conversation that suffocates the infertility world. However, I will also continue to write about life, learning, growing and choosing change. Because, it is only with this acceptance of the shame surrounding IVF, infertility and childlessness, that more eyes and hearts will stumble upon my words.

As, I will have faith that my words will reach who needs them most. And I will trust that my story will spark change. Given that, I will no longer try to just prove it and I will own, and live out loud, my story and my light.

Because this is myever upward.

Lights in the Tunnel

I can’t keep doing this. Things will never get better.

Why can’t I just do this?

I’ve never been able to change before.

It will never work.

Will I ever get better?

It’s too hard.

Why can’t I stop?

It’s too good to be true.

It won’t last.

Why do I keep doing this?

I can’t.

I won’t.

The words of battle scars. The words of recovery wars lost thus far. The words of pain, hurt, loss and shame.

The words before the true fight.

Life is hard, people are complicated and we simply just don’t get the joy without the pain and work. Which means it can be tempting to give up, to quit; to accept what is but not in the healthy letting go way and only in the learned helplessness give up way.

Sometimes we can’t even fathom putting one foot in front of the other because we’re still trying to pull ourselves back up from falling.

Sometimes we simply cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore.

Dark hopelessness.

Except, I can always see your light.

~

I help.

I can’t not help.

And, I love what I do. I was born to do what I do. My life, and my survivals, have made me very good at what I do. Every day I fight alongside amazing people who are setting forth to change their own lives. To choose themselves. To choose to fight. To choose their ever upward.

This war of change can, at times, feel like the most impossible choice ever. But it is also the most necessary choice ever. And it is a war that is won through each small battle, each small step taken forward in that long dark tunnel of recovery. That tunnel that, hopefully, you can see the light at the end of.

But oftentimes, this just isn’t how it works. We will want to quit and the light will disappear and we will even lose some of the battles. But that is exactly when I ask my clients to have faith. Because, when they can no longer see their light at the end of the tunnel I need them to trust that I can see it for them.

Because that light just isn't their recovery, it is their light, the light of their spirit, soul, being.

I need them to trust that I can see who they are truly meant to be

That I can see what really lies beneath all of the struggle.

I see them, I see their light. Always.

~

But, sometimes that light isn’t always at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, in our fight to get back to our true selves the tunnel can work against us, creating a blind tunnel vision. The tunnel vision that keeps us stuck. That keeps us trying the same things over and over that just aren’t working. We have been losing the battles and have to force ourselves to put one foot in front of the other with our heads down because we simply don’t have the strength in us to keep going if we look up and see that the light isn’t there anymore.

But this is when we miss it. This dark stuckness that keeps our heads down makes us completely miss the lights beside us. The other outs. The other helps. The hands reaching out for us.

 
 

The lighted detours.

I work every day to not only see the lights within my clients, but to also remind them of that light throughout their journey through the dark tunnels of recovery. But it is also my job to help them find the other lights beside them; the lighted detours.

Because recovery isn’t this straight up trajectory of perfection. It is usually hell filled with deep dry valleys, cold thin aired mountains, swamps, quicksand pits and even tight ropes across ravines. And it has many detours, both dark and light detours.

Recovery definitely includes those darker detours, the ones that just didn’t work. We didn’t quite make the best choice possible. And a lot of the times, this can set us back, but never back to the beginning and we just need to take the best next step. It is then that we must remember to keep our eyes open to those lighted detours. The detours that we easily miss because we are trudging along so painstakingly in the war of recovery searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Many times, these lighted detours can be our outs. Our escape from the cycle of hurt. The path to our recovery. Our lighted path to our ever upward.

~

Recovery, from whatever, is brutal, the tunnel is almost always long and dark. Having someone to walk alongside you through that path is helpful beyond measure. Someone who can always see your light. Someone who can see the light at the end for you when you lose track. Someone who can remind you of your own light. Someone to nudge you to look over to the lighted detours.

Someone to fight for you, but most importantly, with you.

Inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 words.

Reaching Through the Keyhole of Your Closet

Every day I have the privilege of witnessing my clients' bravery in session. Every day when I read my Freshly Pressed and the other blogs I follow with my morning cup of coffee I am in awe of the vulnerability and bravery people write with. And every day, I choose to live, write and love with wholehearted brave vulnerability. The vulnerability and bravery movement is in full force. The songs Brave by Sara Bareilles and Roar by Katy Perry. Authors such as Danielle LaPorte, Kris Carr, Gabrielle Bernstein, and Brené Brown. Websites like Upworthy and SoulPancake. The thousands of blogs being shared via Twitter and Facebook everyday. And best of the all, the research is backing it up. People who live wholeheartedly, authentically vulnerable and brave are happier and healthier people who have healthy, real and fulfilling relationships.

Vulnerability and bravery are also showing up a lot in my office this week. I have had several clients so excited to tell me about an instance where they finally made the excruciating choice to take the risk and be vulnerable with someone; to be their true self, honest and authentic. To witness their soul expanding amazement of feeling heard, seen and understood is something I will never take for granted.

I have also been blessed with the honor of witnessing friends and friends of friends openly talk about their IVF journeys after reading Ever Upward; whether sharing for the first time or telling a loved one, or even on Facebook, or by sharing or commenting on my blog, that IVF is how they are trying to achieve or have achieved their family. This terrifying, but incredible, courage that is required to finally break the shameful silence that IVF makes us feel we have to live by brings tears of joy and hope to my eyes..

 
 

This bravery and authentic truth telling, means we are all finally feeling it; feeling the magic of true connection, the power of being brave and the freedom of stepping out of our closets.

We all have a closet, because hard is hard, as Ash Beckhman states in her brilliant TED talk. Hard is telling someone you love them for the first time, hard is living your life openly, hard is asking for help, hard is just hard. We cannot wholeheartedly live inside our closets, only peeking through the keyhole.

All of this vulnerability and bravery coming just before I pack up and leave Tuesday for The Daring Way certification training with Brené Brown herself.  Just about two years ago my life changed when the pastor in my old church spoke about a TED talk by Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher. Brown’s, now famous, The Power of Vulnerability TED talk is one of TEDs most viewed videos. It is also the speech that has catapulted Brown into, not only psychology and social work fame, but mainstream Oprah fame.

Living wholeheartedly and authentically vulnerable, which requires showing some major brave, have been an integral part in my recovery after the losses of IVF and in learning to accept a childfree life.

Ever Upward is my authentic truth telling.

My story.

 
 

It is also my hope to show that living it all out loud makes life better.

I guess it is my way of showing my love to reach through the keyhole of your closet, hoping you will take my hand and live your ever upward right alongside me.

I Am a Mother, a Mother to My Magic

A defining moment for me in this Ever Upward journey was during Elizabeth Gilbert's keynote speech at the Emerging Women Live 2013 Conference in Boulder. She told her story of how she first lost three other versions of her current bestselling novel The Signature of All Things before finding what is the magic on bookshelves now; much like losing my three babies in our IVF journey. Elizabeth spoke about these losses in the sense, that they were never her magic to grasp. She further described how magic will float around asking the universe, "Are you my mother? Are you my mother?", finally, settling in the space where it is meant to be nurtured and grown. "Are you my mother?"

 
 

This question has developed so many meanings to me over the last year or so, especially as I feel like I have found a major spark of my magic through this journey.

Which means, I know, I am a mother in many ways.

As I have written before, I will never be the traditional mother, raising my own children, biological or not. However, I have learned, and even continue to cultivate, my broader definition of mother. This definition made even clearer by my peers. One who assured me I would have a lifetime of meaningful relationships with my friends' children and family's children, maybe even more influential than their relationships with their own parents. One who assured me that my mothering skills would find their outlet through my dogs but, even more so, in helping my clients and others. And finally, one who wrote this comment on my Taking Off the Armor post, “For what it is worth, in my view you chose to be and are a mother even though you suffered the injustice of not being able to raise any of the babies that ought to have come from your transferred embryos.” She has helped me to see, that I am a mother, just not one who was meant to carry out the job here on the physical earth.

Family and mother, has many definitions. I have no doubt, these definitions will be the topics of future posts, as I continue to discover and nurture the magic of my Ever Upward journey.

I am a mother, but not in your conventional sense of the word.

I am a mother because...

I am a nurturer.

I am a helper.

I am a mentor.

I am a healer.

I am an advisor.

I am a coach.

I am a teacher.

Most of all, I am mydefinition of a mother. One that the people who know and love me understand and root for.

One where my magic grows.

What magic are you a mother to?

Taking Off the Armor of My "Choice"

Publishing a book and blog for the entire world to read, means one must be ready for the critics, even the really unforgiving, judgmental and unsympathetic ones. Sometimes they are strangers on the other side of the world and other times they are your very own loved ones.

I’ve experienced my first super harsh critic. And one who said the words I have feared the greatest.

You CHOSE to not have kids.

Publicly starting the conversation that it is okay to stop IVF treatments before getting the intended result of becoming a mother and publicly owning our decision to not adopt have been some of the scariest things I have ever done.

Scary because I have ultimately feared this exact judgment.

What if people think I did not want kids bad enough because I didn’t do 5, 10 years of treatments? What if people think I did not want kids bad enough because I’m willing to admit that adoption isn’t right for me?

What if people think I didn’t want to be a mom bad enough?

Maybe to some, I have chosen to not be a mother.

But I know my truth.

I fought really hard to be a mother. I paid lots of money to be a mother. I endured painful tests and procedures to be a mother. I put my body through synthetic hormonal hell to be a mother. I put my faith and trust into many doctors and other humans to be a mother.

Does accepting that the battle would never have my desired outcome mean I chose to not be a mom? Does redefining my life and figuring out childfree mean I chose to not be a mom? Does accepting what is mean I chose to not be a mom?

Maybe to some, this is my choice to not have children. But, I know I tried to be a mom. And, though, I respect your opinion I will not be defined by it.

I am working every day to accept graciously that I will never be a mom in the traditional sense.

 
 

And I know, accepting this as my truth doesn’t mean I didn’t want it.

And I know, redefining everything doesn’t mean I chose not to have kids.

I have chosen what I can. I have accepted what is.

And I write about it, to help and heal myself, and hopefully others.

And I will not apologize for that, as I choose to be my own witness in search of others; my warriors and friends.

And the only thing scarier than publicly owning all of this as my truth?

Would be not owning it.

Sometimes we don’t get what we want or what we dreamed of or what we fought really hard for or, even, what we feel is meant as ours.

Sometimes we lose our way, our truth, our dreams and faith.

But, sometimes it is through these very never meant to be’s that we find ourselves, our journey and our truth.

No matter the judgments and shaming and misunderstanding, this is my story of not just proving it, but owning it.

So be clear as I clarify for my critics, I will not armor up, I will not shy away and I will not stop living my authentic truth.

Because this is my ever upward.

Can Our Incapables in the Stands Become Our Warriors in the Arena?

 
 

As I sit in my writing chair; writing candle lit, warm blanket on my lap and the light of the laptop and my salt lamp casting a glow around me, I am overcome by how much this blog, Ever Upward, has changed me, even in just a few short months. The people I have ‘met’ through the blogging world.

The people I have reconnected with through my writings.

The strangers, who are no longer strangers because of this sad but full of understanding connection.

The ‘I get it’s’.

The ‘thank you’s’.

The authentically braves.

The warriors in my arena.

The connections.

Telling my story to heal myself, and to also practice and build credibility for my book, has really led me to more wholeness through connection.

The biggest lesson of my IVF and finding my childfree journey?

Connection is what it is all about it, as my relationships have been a huge part of my survival and continued thriving.

Relationships are the continued focus in positive psychology and research continues to demonstrate how much relationships heal us all; making us better and happier people.

My continued lesson is that this healing is through all of my relationships; the fellow warriors, true friends, limited supporters, and even, the incapables. Because, relationships change and grow, because we change and grow.

tumblr_myxyd8ipl91rg2go7o1_500.jpg

The relationships I have with my limited supporters, and even the incapables, may not be the most poignant, meaningful or deep right now. But that doesn’t mean they will remain that way forever. However, it may mean I need to limit how vulnerable I am with you, how much I let you into my life, and how much effort I put in, as you choose to simply not get it. You choose to not see me or know me, and therefore not love me unconditionally. As Brené Brown, writes and speaks, if you aren’t “daring greatly” in my arena, I’m not interested in your feedback.

And though, the limited supporters and incapables can make it feel as if they are in the stands of our arenas; denying, shaming and not getting us, they are still there. Sure, maybe we need to ask some of them to leave our arena altogether, but maybe, just maybe, one day the spectators can become our fellow warriors.

Because things change, and people change.

I've changed...

This limited love and understanding may not be forever. And the only thing I can do is to continue to live my authentic truth, asking for what I want and need from my loved ones, and accepting their limitations.

Because one day, the incapable just might finally see my bravery in battle and decide to join me in the arena. But, only if I never stop believing in my own “daring greatly” and ever upward.

Because our light, our path, our ever upward is in owning our story no matter the understanding we receive back.

Our Soul's Way Through Invisible Sufferings

Our invisible sufferings are simply our stories we are not speaking; our pains, our losses, our struggles. What happens if we don’t somehow speak these sufferings, if we don’t own them?

I have learned, especially in the last year, if I am not speaking my truth loudly I’m actually slowing dying inside. Before the work of this last year, my spirit, my soul, my heart was only getting more and more lost. IVF and a childfree life, honestly only seemed to shut me down even more.

Until, I fought. Until, I spoke.

I’m a mental health therapist, which means I’ve always known that talking is the answer.

The answer to happiness.

The answer to healthy living.

The answer to combating shame.

The answer to acceptance.

The answer, at least my answer.

When we speak our truth we will find freedom.

When we speak our truth we will help others.

When we speak our truth we will find wholeness.

When we speak our truth we actually have the chance of being understood.

And yet, so many of us live in silence.

In silence with only our struggles, haunting us and growing stronger.

In silence with our depression, anxiety, addiction, infertility, faith difficulties, health problems, relationship struggles…

Choose to break this silence.

Write it, draw it, paint it, sing it, dance it, speak it to many or speak to just one…

Find your soul’s way, trust it and live your truth out loud.

Thriving and Not Just Surviving

Every day I make sure to model to my clients the work I’ve done to change my own life.  And I am reminded that happiness is a choice we must make every day and that it doesn’t really come easily to anyone. I’ve survived…

a year of my life in a body cast.

depression.

the loss 3 babies.

the loss of my first furry child.

the loss of future dreams.

the loss of my identity and sense of belonging.

and at times, the loss of my hope and faith.

I’ve had to redefine my happiness and choose to thrive many times over.  And in the last year of my life, I’ve worked my ass off on becoming a better, happier and healthier person.  And the more time that passes in this work, the more I realize that no one gets out it.  I honestly believe the people who are “making it look easy” aren’t really living as happy and as fulfilled of a life as they could be.

Choosing happiness can be a huge pain and definitely takes time, but it is also effort that shows immediate pay off.  I can stamp my foot and scream at the top of my lungs that it is fair.  But the fact is, nothing in this life is necessarily fair or unfair.  It just is.  And I can choose to focus on the uncontrollable or realize that the only power I have is what I do with what has been bestowed upon me.

That acceptance means I work every day, and sometimes every minute, to choose my happiness.

I thrive because…

I exercise.

I dance.

I listen to happy music.

I meditate.

I write.

I read.

I journal.

I eat right.

I help.

I engage and connect.

I live authentically vulnerable showing my soul to all the world.

I choose to continuously work on the art of letting go of what was never meant to be mine.

And I choose to embrace my whole self, losses and flaws, along with the joys.

And I choose, every day, to practice this happiness work and to model it to my clients.  Showing them they aren’t in this fight alone but rather have a knowing partner to walk alongside them, and at times push them forward from behind.

This journey has been a constant reminder that sometimes we just don’t get what we wanted and that sometimes life just doesn’t turn out the way it was “supposed” to.  But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened exactly the way it was meant to.  We just have to have the faith that we may one day get to truly understand it.

And in the meantime, I choose to embrace this uncertainty, trusting in my work and in the practice of happiness.

As this is my thriving acceptance and my story, and therefore me.