Petite Post: More Than Choosing It

Looking at me with the spark in her eyes that I have missed so much, she leans forward and says,

I think I have finally realized that I have to surrender and obey.

She's right.

***

Every day we choose our recovery. We make the choices that are aligned with who we want to be.

Or we don't.

Some days I muster up everything I have and white knuckle my way through these choices because I have to, my happiness (aka sanity) depend on it.

Other days I truly enjoy making these choices and don't have to put much thought into them.

Years into this journey, along with these words from my client, I have come to realize that the choice to practice recovery, to live a life that is happy, healthy and engaged, is more about surrender and obeying.

I must surrender to the fact that only so much is in my control. And, most of all, I must obey what is required to live the life I want.

 
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Penned Musing: Flight of Feathers

She looks around and sees the speckles of blood littering the sidewalk with bright red splashes, almost as if firecrackers bright in the night sky. The white feathers float all around.

The mother in her looks frantically around tuning her ears to hear a distressed bird to only hear silence.

The feathers are everywhere but nothing else.

I guess that is good, she thinks to herself, she must have been okay enough to fly away.

She is only left to wonder and be in awe of those feathers.

What do the mean as the float around one of her favorite places in all the earth? They're scattered around her light and love filled butterfly garden. The place she seeks and feels God. The place she quiets her mind and fills her soul.

Those feathers, some fluffy white and others big and bold in color, like mere wisps in the wind; a reminder that many things are never meant to be caught.

Again, the constant lesson of letting go in her life.

 
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*Penned Musings are posts based off of my daily writing prompts. You can read more here.

Penned Musings: My Shifting Shadow

My trip to Montana for the Haven Writing Retreat with New York Times bestselling author Laura Munson was the best money I have ever spent, the best moment I have ever listened to that voice telling me I have got to do something and some of the best days of my life. Montana is my happy place. Laura is my friend, coach and a gift to the world and my life; I learned so much from her. In addition, there simply are not enough words for the women I met at Haven. They are my new found tribe that I so desperately needed after the last year of lonely platform building and trying to get Ever Upward noticed and selling. They are my soft landing spot full of inspiration and love.

I found my voice there in the quiet of beautiful Montana. And most of all, Laura and my new friends helped me to discover that my passion, although one of my very best qualities, was allowing the mission to get in the way.

And so, I am anew; practicing my art of writing differently, and daily, and working on the sequel to Ever Upward in a completely different way.

Because through only my truth and only my voice will the mission actually shine bright.

~~~

And so, I thought I would occasionally share some of my writing prompts that I work on daily here at Ever Upward, especially while I work more on the second book for now. I hope you enjoy, I hope they inspire you, I hope they make you laugh, and most of all, I hope you can trust me in this slightly new direction.

~~~

My Shifting Shadow

Walking down two short gravel roads in the Montana crisp air alone with only the bright moon as my guide I realize how quiet my surroundings are and just how alone I am.

Shit, I did not walk along this barn before.

The gravel crunches beneath my feet as my pace picks up both out of fear and shiver as I feel the cold Montana air seep through my clothes and onto my now anxiously sweating skin.

It's okay just back track, I think I just missed a turn.

The stars shine bright, more of them at once than I have ever seen, and the moon nearly bright enough to guide my walk.

Oh fuck, what happens if I can't find my way?

Oh how loaded this question really is...

She had put me in the back of the property in the most isolated and quiet cabin she had. She was the New York Times bestselling author, so I knew she had her reasons but my stubborn ass was not going to thank her that first night as I calmed down from missing a turn in the pitch black Montana night.

And I sure as hell wasn't thanking her as I laid in my bed that first of four nights attempting to journal through the deafening silence that hit my eardrums as hard as the bass at a Taylor Swift concert.

A deep breath makes tears spring to my eyes but only briefly as the clarity of my voice begins to gain strength.

These women will change my life. God, I have missed community.

And I begin to write, just a bit because tomorrow begins the first big day of finding my voice with the guidance and loving arms of Haven.

My voice, now more audible than a library whisper,

I'm here, just a bit drowned by the social media-ing, the earning a living-ing and a mission we are so desperate to accomplish.

By the third morning, she's no longer a whisper but a rather confident and renewed heart and soul-filled voice.

She's me.

With the sun shining bright, the morning air crisp with possibility and the Canadian geese as my own personal morning playlist, I walk up that gravel road alone. I am greeted by the steam rolling off the tree embraced lake and with my next step I notice her, my shadow.

My shifted shadow.

My shadow that is no longer casting my darkness ahead but rather trailing behind as if to stand in holy support.

 
 

I Get It, My Story Makes You Really Uncomfortable

HuffPost Parents ran an original piece yesterday and I wanted to make sure everyone here saw it too. Also, a piece from a friend! Have a great weekend! Justine ~~~

When Your Truth Makes Others Uncomfortable

The first defining part of my life story is one that makes people curious and sometimes left in awe.

I had two back surgeries in high school and was in a body cast for a year of my life.

I survived and overcame.

This makes people feel good and they want to know more; they want to know me.

Skip to 20 years later, and to the most defining part of my life, and it is one that makes people sad and scares the hell out of them.

Infertility treatments did not work for us and we are choosing a childfree not by choice life.

I survived and actively work to overcome and thrive each day.

This makes people sad and uncomfortable.

Click here to keep reading over at HuffPost Parents.

~~~

In Other News

My friend and a huge supporter of Ever Upward, Jessica over at A Hummingbird Paused has been selected as one of the Best Blogs for Resolve's Hope Awards.  I am so excited for her and asked her to write a blurb to share here:

You are not alone. As the theme for this year's Bloggers Unite challenge, it was easy to write about the infertility community and how to find support. There are so many ways to make connections and reach out to the community. But the loneliness? The isolation? That's not something that will just disappear. Because it all starts within your mind. That sense that you're different. Your path to parenthood may be unconventional or non-traditional. You may be forced to make hard choices that few can comprehend. You compare yourself to others and suddenly you start to feel isolated, lonely, and misunderstood. But let me tell you, just because your journey is different doesn't mean that you're alone. You are part of a welcoming and open community, and your story matters.

Being part of any community requires conversation and interaction. It's truly amazing how supportive the infertility and loss community is. And Resolve is a big part of that. They are a huge supporter of the blogging community, as well as providing invaluable resources and a voice on Capitol Hill. I'm so grateful for all they have accomplished and for what they continue to work towards.
Your voice in this community matters. And I would greatly appreciate your vote. But please check out the other bloggers who were nominated as well. Each one of them deserves this nomination for adding their voice to this challenge and for their vulnerability in sharing their stories. We are all in this together, and your participation in this vote is greatly appreciated!

 

The Post-It Miracle

My first book signing was back in April when Ever Upward launched. My first book signing was nothing about selling books, as I wrote had I to choose to shift my definition of success. My second book signing was this past weekend, and as He would have it, was also nothing about selling books.

I had a short talk prepared, to which there was no one to give it to which only solidified my lack of expectations for this book signing. But, Chad and I made a day of it, we had already had a great lunch at a local place and enjoyed connecting with people we would have never connected with throughout the day.

For the record, I sold two books.

One less than my first book signing.

You see I don't have the big publisher behind me. I was just now able to invest in the literary publicist. And, my marketing plan for this first book has remained writing for free for other publications and working my job that pays the bills, seeing clients.

Publishing a book is not for the faint of heart. Publishing a book about a topic that no one wants to talk about, can at times, feel like career self-destruction. Let alone publishing a book about this said topic when your story makes the world very uncomfortable because you are not one of the success stories.

And yet, there is always something churning...

We may not have full understanding in the moment, but have faith there is always something amazing in the works for you.

So I did not deliver my talk and I sold minimal books, but it was the ending to the afternoon that made it, just as with the first signing, this one also ended in a goosebumps kind of way.

In lulls of the two hour book signing I was reading Pam Grout's E-Cubed on my phone. I had just read my manifesting assignment for this experiment: Be a love bomber (leave post it's of love in random places around the world).

 
 

A few minutes later as we were getting ready to pack up and I was signing the remaining books we had not sold, Chad said, "That's weird, look there's a post it in your book." Then a Barnes and Noble employee said, "Oh, I found one earlier too!"

 
 

It's a post-it miracle!!

Goosebumps, tears and gratitude along with the deep knowing breath in allowing myself to feel it all; fear of failure, stress that this will never get noticed, trust in knowing it will, belief in myself that is already is, and most of all, knowing trust in that it is all exactly as it is supposed to be.

Needless to say we went out to a nice (early bird) dinner to celebrate and toast our post-it miracle.

 
 

Getting Out of Our Own Way: What We Look For We Will See

Shift your perspective.

Believe in miracles.

The universe is working completely in your favor.

God's timing is perfect.

Be the change.

We've all heard something to the effect of all the above statements. On some days we believe and practice them with our whole hearts. On other days it does not seem that easy.

My faith is the strongest it has ever been. I feel lighter than I have ever felt. I honestly believe it is all possible.

And yet, there are days that my own self doubt, inner critic, comparison, and some days just life, get in the way of it all.

No, in reality, I allow it to steal it away from me on those days.

I have recently started reading Pam Grout'sE-Squared and frankly had to share my own manifested miracles with you all.

Starting the book I had my fears and my doubts, especially as a Christian.

Was I not trusting God by even reading this book?

Pam quickly dispelled my fears. As she writes:

"The FP (field of potentiality) is a force field that's equally available to everyone. It's a natural capacity in all of us, not an exclusive gift bestowed upon a few. In fact, that is the primary lesson Jesus taught. God is within. You are part of God. You can perform miracles."

"Jesus is our brother, our legacy, the guy we're supposed to emulate."

"The will of God, for those who insist on using that term, is the ceaseless longing of the spirit in you to become all you're capable of being. Amen."

And from these words, I was on board enough to try to her experiments and honestly it didn't take me long to open my heart and mind to the possibilities.

The possibilities God has right in front of me, just waiting for me to believe in.

Experiment #1: The Dude Abides Principle

Bottom Line: We are surrounded by infinite possibilities, all we have to do is ask for them. I asked the universe/energy/field/God (for me, I call it God) for a clear sign/blessing/gift and it had 48 hours to show it to me. My deadline was Monday May 25th at 4:36pm.

That morning I sat outside with my morning smoothie observing what could only be an introductory flight lesson between mom and dad robin and their three baby robins. The babies were just about popping out of the little nest they had built on top of our light right outside our back door. I, of course, had been checking on them multiple times a day for the last few weeks. I swear, I would be an animal hoarder if it weren't for Chad. And yes, I squeal with childlike wonder and joy at the sight of any baby animal. After the flight lesson I also watched breakfast be served. I knew this was incredible but still felt there was more to come.

Just a few hours later, both Chad and I were outside and Chad went up to the nest to take a peek. All of a sudden all three babies flew/fell out of the nest in all different directions.

We just witnessed their first flight.

Within seconds at least ten adult robins descended upon us, making sure their new family members were safe. Each baby seemed to pair off with an adult and hop/skipped/flew off.

It was such an incredible moment; a true, fulfilling gift.

Experiment #2: The Volkswagen Jetta Principle

Bottom Line: According to Pam, the world out there reflects what we want to see. She says that it's nothing but our own illusions that keep us from experiencing peace, joy and love. The assignment was to count how many sunset beige cars we saw in the next 24 hours; then the next 24 hours how many yellow butterflies.

What we look for we will see!

My deadline for the car count was Monday at 5:30pm. My day started of strong and fabulous with my self-care morning routine. And then I totally got in my head about the book. That inner critic coming in and reminding me of scarcity and comparison. I left for my office to see 8 clients that day in a not so great mood (that I now realize I had completely created myself). I only have a short commute to work and up to that point I had only counted about 5 sunset beige cars, and admittedly, was not super impressed with this experiment thus far. On my commute I remembered, oh yea I need to count cars!

In my eight minute commute I counted 20 sunset beige cars.

I literally laughed out loud and looked up,

Got it! Look for what you want to see and you will see it.

If this isn't true perspective shift I am not sure what is. The next 24 hours I counted 7 yellow butterflies, and yes I couple of them I completely created myself in my butterfly coloring book that morning.

This is creating the life you want.

This is just the beginning...

I will post about my experiences with the next experiments but can already tell you, I am a believer.

A believer in God, in endless possibility and in myself.

I have always, especially in these last few years of practicing my recovery, known how much our lens we see the through world effects everything.

And that lens is completely within our control.

Things are always in our favor, everything is a message and it can be, and will be, incredibly amazing.

If we just get out of the damn way, believe it and live it.

This is the life I want to live and embody, one of light, love, belief, and of course, ever upward.

 
 

~~~

Keep those Amazon reviews coming please. And, keep an eye on my social media, I have some exciting changes and things coming up!

Being the Happiest and Healthiest Version of Ourselves: Can We Just Do It?

It has been a theme in my office lately, the frustration we can feel with recovery, well, really with ourselves. The frustration of falling off track with the choices of recovery. The sense of it never getting easier. The inaccurate inner critic telling us that we are a failure and that we will never _____________ (get better, lose the weight, be happy, achieve success...).

When this happens it can feel easier to just stay down, to wallow and sit in the shit.

How long does this have to feel like such a struggle? Will it always be this hard? Will I ever feel motivated to choose better?

Some of my clients look at me and think this recovery I fight for every day is easy and that I have it all figured out, which really only means they must not be keeping up on the blog ;). They think that the only way I practice my self-care daily is because I feel like it and I am super jazzed and awesomely motivated to (sarcasm).

And, sure, there are days this can feel true, but not every day, in fact probably not most days.

There are days that I must just choose it.

Just do it.

And no, it is not easy. But it is simple. However, I know just choosing recovery is definitely not easy, and maybe not even simple, in the depths of severe depression and anxiety. But, I do believe that we still always have the ability to choose again.

Practicing recovery daily means that I make the choices that are aligned with who I want to be.

I choose to meditate, color, journal, exercise, tap, take my supplements, drink water, write, get enough sleep, etc. because I want to be the happiest and healthiest version of myself.

I choose in alignment with who I want to be and I want to be happy, healthy, present and engaged in my life.

There are days that I am not motivated to do my morning routine. My thoughts and my feelings aren't pushing me towards choosing self-care. But I choose it anyway because it is in alignment with who I want to be and I make sure to at least do something that moves me toward that person.

We can choose this person. We can choose who we want to be. And better yet, we must choose daily the steps that move us closer to that person. What if you took just that next best step toward the happy, healthy, engaged and present person you want to be?

 
 

What can you choose today that is in alignment with that amazing, healthy, happy, present and engaged person you want to be?

~~~

Need ideas? Make sure you are subscribe to my FREE 30 day toolkit here.

Or check out my new self-care ebook now available on Kindle here.

Our Light Can't Shine in the Darkness of Perfectionism

The planting season.

For the last 6 months I have been working nonstop to get Ever Upward noticed, read, reviewed, Tweeted, Facebooked and loved. I have also been trying to maintain my sanity, marriage and relationships. I have also been trying to not go broke while pushing out my debut book without a big publishing house behind me and no experience in marketing or PR. All while seeing the most clients I ever have each week and being the best therapist I have ever been (only because I work my own recovery).

All this pushing and planting about topics that many don't want to talk about or even hear about.

All this pushing and planting because I believe in myself, in my message and in the need for it.

But now it is spring.

My seasons are changing.

Less than two weeks out from the bookstore launch of Ever Upward and I am realizing, again, the need to step back.

Step back to watch what I have planted grow.

Step back to make room for it to grow.

Step back to give it back to Him.

Step back to allow it bloom.

To imperfectly bloom.

As all of my work begins to bud, I am also beginning to be faced with one of my personal struggles.

Perfectionism.

Because not everyone likes what I have to say or how I go about it all.

But, no one has ever changed the world by being liked by everyone and the people who know me and know Ever Upward can trust that my intention is always to help. Besides, I only have room for those who are actually in the arena with me; living their lives every day with wholehearted courage.

And yet, the perfectionist part of me also cringes at the thought of being disliked by anyone. Or worse yet, people out there saying negative things about me and my message.

However, rising ever upward means not being defined by what others think of me and always choosing to shine my light no matter what.

Because nothing is perfect and light will never shine in perfectionistic darkness, which means nothing will ever grow.

The perfectionistic darkness

This darkness almost got me recently when I received my first 3 star Amazon review that contained good constructive criticism. Now I am not delusional, I know those negative reviews are coming; just as I have learned that I will never please everyone. But this one was my first and it stung a bit.

But just for a bit because I wasn't going to allow that perfectionistic dark to steal the moment.

Because the truth of the review was that the better (and longer) half of the review was incredible and super supportive. If I focused on those 3 stars and the criticism for too long it would completely negate the positive part of the review.

But, isn't that what we all do?

  • You were told five exemplary points during your job review and you can't get the one thing your supervisor needs you to work on out of your mind.
  • 95% percent of the evaluations are raving positive reviews and that measly 5% is haunting you.
  • You didn't get those three jobs before your dream job that you actually got and yet you hold onto those rejections for way longer than they deserve.

Give yourself permission to take the feedback, the rejection and the criticism in order to grow from it but then let it go. Because, we must give ourselves permission to celebrate and to actually pat ourselves on the back, especially when we deserve it.

The crazy part is my 3 star reviewer reached out to me after I posted about my disappointment on my personal Facebook page and the Ever Upward Facebook page. You see part of my ever upward journey is to be honest and vulnerable on social media because that is real life. Just as my friend Jen of Daring Happiness says, "Facebook Happy" is our fault not social media's fault. Take a chance and post about your real life on social media and feel how much your life and the connections in your life flourish.

My 3 star reviewer apologized and reiterated how much she loved my book and even offered to change the star review on Amazon. To which I wrote her back and thanked her for her apology but assured her it was completely unnecessary.

And then, I thanked her for her criticism.

She is now a significant part of this journey for me. I need to trust who I am, to know my message matters and will help others. I don't want to develop a tough skin because then I am not honoring the wholehearted and authentic person I am and want to be. But I do want and need to practice my recovery wholeheartedly, which means I get to learn and grow from criticism while also allowing the light in.

My 3 star reviewer allowed me this practice: to let go of that perfectionistic dark in order to allow the light in.

To let my light in.

Because none of it can bloom without that light.

 
 

~~~~

Just 2 pledges left for the Thunderclap to go out to over 90,000 people on April 7th. Please help by signing up here!

I am also slowly getting closer and closer to launching with 50 Amazon reviews, please help by clicking the Kindle version of the book and leaving your review of Ever Upward. Thank you so much!

Courageously Contagious

The overarching theme of Brené Brown's research and work is shame, vulnerability and courage. And it has completely helped me to change my entire life. The courage she displayed in her first TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is something to be in awe of. It has only been through witnessing this courage that many events in my life have unfolded and taken place; Emerging Women 2013, Ever Upward the book and the blog, The Daring Way™ Certification training, and really, the first spark of my own recovery.

Because courage is contagious.

Witnessing courage in others; through the work of my patients, through my own loved ones and through amazing people like Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Melton helps us all to believe in our own power to change our lives.

And there are simply not enough sufficient words to portray the emotion I feel when others own their stories because I have owned mine.

Every single like, comment, and especially, share of Ever Upward posts.

The woman who has never spoken to anyone but her husband about their infertility struggles and stumbles upon Ever Upward to then post on Facebook that she is starting a infertility support group at her church.

My friend who admitted to more friends of how they finally became pregnant with their soon to be born baby girl.

My patient who chooses her recovery every day because she knows we've all had to fight some sense of recovery in our lives, even me, her therapist.

 
 

It is not always easy to speak, let alone own, all the parts of my story. Shame still resides in me, really in us all, as my unhealthy, unwanted, and really unneeded, savior; the dark dementor that comes in to shut me down, to protect me from pain and judgment.

The shame that comes in making me feel a dark, heavy pit in my stomach that then wafts the suffocating fog over my spirit dulling my light.

I felt it just this past week when Huffington Post ran the article, The Question The Gives You a One in Eight Chance of Being an Insensitive Jerk. I was so excited to see a huge site like HuffPost run a blog post about infertility. And I will completely admit, I only wish they had featured my blog and that they had spoken more to every side of the infertility world, but breaking the silence of infertility on any level is a step towards the death of shame that silences us so much.

But then I made the mistake of reading the comments on HuffPost's Facebook page in response to the article. The amount of ignorance, judgment and mercilessness were all I needed for my shame to pull everything I've worked so hard on right out from under me. I was faced with the words that bring on my shame spiral in a blink of an eye, "I don't understand why people who cannot have kids don't just adopt."

It hit me like a two ton shield. My heart started racing, my breath quickened and I could feel the dark pit in my stomach churn. My dementor came in so quickly to shut me down, to "protect" me, to steal my light.

And then I named it.

Shame.

I took a breath, reminded myself of the power of my light and I spoke. I took a moment to post a comment myself on the Facebook feed, taking the opportunity to educate on how much infertility is misunderstood, minimized and invalidated, especially with that inevitable question. And, then I also emailed HuffPost asking them to run additional articles on this subject and even submitted for an opportunity to write something myself.

I took a breath and I found my courage.

I took a breath and embraced the pain and the judgment to remind me that the flame of my spirit, my core values, are courage and hope. And unless, I protect that flame myself, no one else will ever be able to see it.

 
 

I took a breath and I spoke.

I took a breath and I tried to be contagious.

As, it has only been through the courage and spark of others' protecting and living their own flame, that I have found mine.

Because courage is contagious.

So even if HuffPost never features Ever Upward or my book doesn't become a New York Times bestseller or the blog never achieves a hundred thousand followers I will still be here.

I will still be here, shining my light of courage and hope because it is the only way I honor my own recovery. And, if my light sparks the courage in even just one person to fight for finding their own ever upward, well then, I consider it contagious.

The Myriagon of Ever Upward Light

A myriagon is a polygon with 10,000 sides. A shape that can look much like a circle with as many sides as Ever Upward has now been viewed all over the world in 43 different countries.

 
 

The circle that has encompassed my healing, recovery and my ever upward light and love. In celebration of how much Ever Upward has changed and enhanced my life I thought I'd recap a little with a few top five lists. So, here are my top five most viewed posts and my top five most commented on posts. However, I also wanted to include the posts that have been the most difficult to write but also the most healing and helpful for myself in writing and publishing.

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts

5. Tread or Float

4. Taking Off the Armor of My "Choice"

3. 41 Often Silenced, and Left Out, Parts of Our IVF Stories

2. Conceiving Our Chosen Family

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

Top 5 Most Commented on Posts

5. Self Validation: Finding the Balance Between Proving It and Owning It

4. My Child-Full Christmas: Making My Own Christmas Magic

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

2. The Almost Finished, Yet Unpublished, Ever Upward

1. Taking Off the Armor of My "Choice"

Top 5 of My Most Healing Posts

5. My Dementor: Shame and Self Doubt

4. Making Room For the Light

3. The Frankenstein Walk of Feeling Left Behind: But I'm Still Here

2. I Am a Mother, a Mother to My Magic

1. 41 Often Silenced, and Left Out, Parts of Our Stories

Chosen Children

A picture mail text of Lyla's drawing of us.

 
 

Snail mail of Joycelyn's drawing of the dogs.

A picture mail text of Lane with his "Justine socks" on.

 
 

A voice mail from the boys begging us to come play Just Dance.

My favorite picture of the boys cuddling with the three dogs watching cartoons.

A birthday card from McKinley.

The moms in my life will never know how much the small gesture of letting me know their children are thinking of me mean to me; as they mean the world.

I will forever spend my energy making sure these children know I love them and I am here for them and more than anything I want, and really need, to be part of their lives.

As, these are our chosen children.

The children we have the honor of being godparents to. The children we have the privilege of being their guardians. The children we get to see grow up. The children who ask to see us. The children who love us. The children we love more.

Or maybe, it's really that they are the children who have chosen us.

Surviving the losses of IVF and accepting a childfree life to redefine family for us has meant we figure out what it means to still have children in our lives. It means living my truth as a woman who wanted, and desperately, tried to have my own children. It means having the courage to say adoption isn't for us. And yet, it is also making sure my heart is not closed off to all the light and love that family and children can bring to my life, even if it comes with the bittersweet sadness that they aren't my own.

It means traveling to Vegas for McKinley's birthdays.

It means going to Noah's piano recitals.

It means sending happy birthday and happy valentine's videos of the dogs singing to all of the kids.

It means having a toy room in my house.

It means having the pool for everyone to enjoy all summer long.

It means watching the boys play the Wii for hours.

It means hosting chosen family every spring break and playing St. Louis tourist.

It means embracing my sadness that I will never get to parent in the traditional sense, in order to make room for the endless, ever upward light that all of these families and kids bring to my life every single day.

I do it because the alternative is too dark. I do it because it is my journey. I do it because I have fought for my recovery. I do it because it is ever upward.

And, because we have all chosen each other.

 
 

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.**

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.

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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 Full Circle of the Personal Analysis Bureau

This post inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Object. Look around your writing space. Pick object(s) you see (or hear or smell or feel) and reveal them to your reader. How do they represent you? How do they tell your story? Writing has changed me on a cellular level. Writing has been a miraculous piece of my recovery. Writing is the purpose I’ve found impossible to live without. And, the magic I can’t seem to stop from finding it’s way into the world.

And I’ve never considered myself a writer.

Every minute I spend sitting in my writing chair in my writing room with my writing candle lit I feel a universe of emotion.

Awe in the magic and ideas that are surging out of me.

Frustration of judgment in the middle when I allow self-doubt to invade the process.

Wholeness when I see ordinary words weave together into the powerful story of myself.

And occasionally my eyes will settle upon the vintage secretary desk in the corner that holds vintage books. The desk and the books were left in the home we purchased that was formerly owned by a hoarder. We kept the desk because it is a beautiful piece. We kept the books because they were an intriguing collection of small books of poetry and literature and mysteriously charming.

 
 

And then there was this book, mismatched and not quite fitting into the collection. Personal Analysis and Development Volume II Physical Fitness published in 1928 by the Personal Analysis Bureau. Simply the main title alone was too fitting for this mental health therapist in the midst of her own recovery (and arguably the “are you crazy?” status of our decision to purchase and remodel a hoarder’s home).

I kept the book then because somewhere deep inside I knew I could not let it go. Then, though, it was simply an old, smelly but intriguing book. For, the spark of my own book had only just begun inside of me. I had submitted my first round of query letters for Ever Upward that spring on what would have been my first Mother’s Day. But the blog, Ever Upward, was not even the slightest flicker in my being.

And here I am, about 9 months later, irony not lost, feeling the lightness of the small book in my hands. Running my fingers over the series title; feeling the words that, in reality, have embodied every second of my recovery. Smelling the old as I flip through the yellowed pages. And, feeling a sense of completed wonder as I notice, maybe for the first time, the titles of the volumes of the entire collection inside the book.

The parallels they run with the chapters of Ever Upward, the book, feels eerily perfect. The parallels they contain with my life in recovery fills me with a sense of wholehearted honor and dignity.

I. Analyzing Yourself II. Physical Fitness III. Mental Ability IV. Building Character V. Utilizing Time VI. Working With Others VII. Speaking Effectively VIII. Writing Effectively

Noticing this book again and truly seeing the objects around me enabled me to literally feel the physicality of ever upward in my hands.

The awe inspiring and spirit completing reminder that there are no mistakes and everything is exactly as it is supposed to be.

As, this is not only my story, my spirit and light, but also every single page of the book of me. And only one of the many volumes.

That, and the spiritual grasp that I am a writer.

For this is a book, for me, soulfully filled,somehow, with my history, presence and the hope of my ever upward.

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.

Shamed Silence Broken

Out at happy hour with several couples she’s never met. They are together because they are couples without children. She has taken the step forward in her childfree life to try to meet other couples like her, childfree, and yet she is quickly finding she does not fit in here either. There seems to be a lot of talk of how their houses are not childproof and how frustrating it can be that their other friends, the ones with kids, always expect that their kids are invited for gatherings. Or how much canceled plans can suck. Or how much they don’t want to talk about soccer games or potty training or sleep schedules.

She sits back and listens. Because this is, of course, what she does best. And this is, of course, what shame has silenced her to do.

~~~~

Childfree couples, partners without human children, maybe even without furry kids.

Perhaps historically, and unfairly, referred to as selfish people; ones who chose not to procreate. Who chose to not do what is expected of them by society and their families.

But what if they are simply couples who are willing to own their truths?

Couples who know they really don’t want kids of their own, even though they love kids.

Couples who know they really don’t want kids of their own, because they just don’t like them.

Couples who tried desperately to have kids but can’t.

Does it matter how the childfree status is come to?

Parts of her say, yes absolutely! Parts of her say no, why would it?

~~~~

 
 

But to own her truth, she breaks her silence…

“We actually have a toy room in our house,” she blurts out and then hesitates, but just for one second.

“We love kids and sometimes it gets old always having to go to our friends’ houses. So, with a toy room and a pool at our house, all the kids in our lives can grow up with us.”

For the most part, she is met with bewilderment and the subject is quickly changed.

But she breathes a sigh of freedom and truth. She gets it may not be easy to understand but she has done the work to accept her life, let go of what isn't  and redefine.

This is her truth, her story, no longer silenced shame.

She wanted to a be a mother, it did not work out and now she owning her story, living her truth out loud and lighting her ever upward.

This post inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

46 Often Silenced, and Left Out, Parts of Our Infertility Stories

Infertility and IVF are finally beginning to gain some attention in the media; as more and more celebrities own their stories of conceiving their families through IVF and/or surrogacy and The Today Show portraying a couple throughout the entire process of consultation, injections and pregnancy. I am proud that the veil of silenced shame is beginning to lift, however I can't help but be frustrated by the continued invalidated and left out parts of our IVF stories and the constant hopeful, and yet misleading, message being delivered. So I am practicing my bravery and I have come up with 41 things often left out of our courageous stories. 39 Things the Media Silences About IVF

1. It only works about 30% of the time.

2. It’s expensive, very expensive. And most insurance policies do not cover it.

3. It’s painful; injections, vaginal ultrasounds with stimulated ovaries and swollen follicles, hot flashes, weight gain.

4. It’s a great way to make sex the least romantic and spontaneous part of your relationship.

5. Guys, get ready to go in a cup in a cold, sterile room all alone and possibly without any reading material and all the good sites blocked by hospital.

6. A baby isn’t the only way to find wholeness and happiness.

7. You can meet some amazing women through the online support groups, message boards and blogs.

8. It ONLY works 30% of the time.

9. It doesn’t always end with a baby.

10. Sometimes it ends with two.

11. Or three.

12. Or eight.

13. Or none.

14. There are couples it is never going to work for.

15. It’s painful; the Clomid crazy train and it's beyond up and down roller coaster mood swings.

16. If you collect a $1 from every person who has a child that says, 'You just have to ...', you'll be able to afford another round of IVF.***

17. It’s okay to stop.

18. It's even okay to stop before you get the baby.

19. It’s healthy and healing to talk about it; to talk about all sides of it and all the possibilities and outcomes.

20. You will have to ask and answer some of the heaviest and most difficult ethical questions of your life with limited resources and on a time crunch, sometimes revealing differing opinions between you and your partner.***

21. You may feel time crunch pressure to start the next round as “your eggs are dying by the second”.

22. The message of "just keep trying, it will work" feels invalidating, unrealistic, shaming and denying to many of our realities.

23. It’s SUPER expensive.

24. You may have to make emotionally and financially life altering decisions immediately after you just lost a dream (embryo, baby) and are actively grieving.

25. You or your spouse may discover you have a phobia to needles and are quite the fainter.

26. You may never feel panic quite like the panic you feel when you realize that your last chance didn’t work.***

27. That breath stealing, throw up panic and sadness. And yet, it can also come with a sense of bittersweet freedom of at least knowing something and having an answer. Even though it was not the something we so wished and hoped for.

28. You will wait, a lot.  In waiting rooms for procedures, for appointments and consults, and therefore find the funniest and weirdest things on YouTube to help pass the time and lighten the suffocating pressure of the process.

29. You will endure the wait of the tortuous and infamous two week wait, probably several times.

30. You will feel invisible and alone, even though I promise with all of my everything that you are not.

31. You will experience moments of unadulterated belly laughter.

32. You will experience moments of sheer terror.

 
 

33. You may have moments of gut wrenching breath stealing loss.

34. And you will have moments of jubilant soul completion joy...

35. You will be forever changed because of the journey.

36. Your marriage or relationship will also be forever changed; made stronger or completely ripped apart.***

37. It might work.

38. It might not work.

39. It’s okay to stop.

40. It’s okay to keep going.

41. You will eventually find and conceive your chosen family.

42. Every family looks different, and yet, is complete just the same.

43. Either way you'll need to choose change and recovery, and do the work to be okay.

44. Because it will be okay.

45. Because, it is worth it, baby or not.

46. And, because you can find your own ever upward within the journey and in owning your story.

What would you add to the list?

**After some much appreciated feedback and my own consideration, I changed the original title of 39 Things the Media Silences About IVF to the current title in hopes of more exposure and education. Always growing, always learning, always ever upward.**

***Thank you to Shana for her addition of #19, Valerie for her addition of #24, Jenna for her addition of #36 and Colleen for her addition of #20***

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.