quoteThis quote really struck me a few days ago when I stumbled upon it. It’s kind of a magical life secret that’s easy to forget, isn’t it? We all need people who let us just be ourselves, who take us as we are. The good. The bad. And the ugly. And if you are lucky enough to find those people, well I hope you recognize them and never let them go. Tell them every chance you get.

This journey to healing can sometimes feel like you are going in circles. More often than not, it feels like you constantly meet a closing door. And you are left to look around and hope there is another opening, you know as the saying goes. But when your health is compromised it feels like a lot of doors are locked. No matter how hard you try to shake them ajar or find that missing key, you just can’t seem to locate that elusive door that you just know is going to get you to the other side of all this.

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I can’t speak for anyone else but for me personally, I go through a lot to get to each door. I work  up the courage to try, running the possibilities through my head, allowing myself to feel hope for answers and clarity and assurance and options. So when someone briefly peeks out that door when you come knocking, seems mmmm rather bored or even annoyed that you are there, and without much thought says “Nothing I can do for you” and sends you on your way all with hardly an exertion of effort or any determination to help you…well it can leave you feeling quite low.

And the truth is, I really strive to stay positive and focus on all the good but I am human. I have moments where I struggle and I fall because when you have been fighting an opponent you can name nonstop for a year now (and for 5 years before you were so intimately acquainted) sometimes you just break down. Those are the moments that are not easy to put into words or open up to others about because for me it is when I feel most vulnerable. I have learned that it is okay to stumble and cry and feel depressed and I know this because of the very special people who allow me the space to do so safely, the people  constantly rally around me no matter what is going on in their own lives.

At yesterday’s appointment I had my husband and my mother who took time out of their busy work days to be there to support me. They exchanged looks and we all knew what thoughts were being agreed upon, they asked questions when I was too flustered, they pushed when I felt weak. They comforted me afterwards by just letting me be not okay, by sharing my frustration and reiterating my determination, reigniting the flame when it had blown out.

But the most amazing thing is how many others in my life do the same for me. Friends and family who reach out to offer good luck and warm wishes, those who check in, those who offer all kinds of emotions on my behalf and assure me I am not alone and that they have not forgotten that I am still fighting. And yes I did give myself time to process. I turned my phone off, unplugged, reflected, felt that familiar sting of tears and doubt and fear.

Then I read this quote again and I saw it with a new perspective. How lucky am I? Not because I am without challenge or pain or hardship, because aren’t we all in some way or another? We are all fighting our own war and that is a fact we must not forget.

As the words sunk in, I suddenly felt a flood of good fortune wash over me because while my battle has stolen much, it has also given me something I didn’t have before; the ability to recognize how insanely lucky I am to have people who allow me to weep and still they see me as a warrior. People who have not strayed because this journey is long, and confusing, and illness is very uncomfortable and I am constantly changing as I navigate this road. People who let me be whatever version of me I need or happen to be. And the moment I forget or lose my way, they generously remind me and keep the course. They see me through these glasses so rosy and and sparkly and deeply loving that I start to feel like maybe I am actually a magical unicorn who can indeed do anything I set my shiny pastel colored mind to.

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Isn’t that what life is all about? Our relationships. To have people to remember who you are when you forget, to remind you how far you have come, to hope, to fight for you, to see and accept the pieces of you that you are most afraid to show? And if I have that, well I know I have everything I need to stand up again, brush myself off, and keep moving forward. Yes I cry, I feel hopeless and frustrated and robbed and this is really, really hard. But I recognize I am a work in progress and I am doing my best, and there are more doors to try.

And for every door that closes behind me or refuses to open, I have a person in my life who is giving me an outlet to talk to and confide in, taking me to appointments, researching options and answers, just checking in, reminding me I am loved and valued, reading between the lines of what I say so that they can say what I so need to hear, offering their tokens of kindness and compassion, bringing me back to the good & simple joys in life, all to cheer me on to the next door.

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That, my sweet friends, is a damn good life. Thank you thank you thank you  to you lovely, incredible souls. I share every success in my journey with you, my stone-cold-weirdo glorious tribe. You make a difference in my life. I hope this post lets you know that as you all know who you are and if you are reading this, I hope you go forth with your day and remind all the great people in your life how much you love and appreciate them. Be present, spend time, because nothing we have or want or miss or work for is worth anything without the ability to share it with the souls that make life worth living and fighting for.

Much Love,

Jess

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

Whether you are family or friend or acquaintance or stranger, whoever you are reader… I am glad you are here. You see, I have been meaning to write to you for awhile. Sometimes it is hard to nail down the words in my head and my heart. It is difficult to piece together what I want to say about how I feel, about what I have survived. I do think that I am a survivor and with that, comes specific obligations. You never know who can benefit from your vulnerability, from your story and lately I have had more encouragement to write and to share my story. So here I go.

I am officially one month post treatment. What does that mean? Well, your guess is as good as mine. However, it does mean I have some relief. The sun shines a little brighter and I am spending much less time in bed.

March 2015 to present has been, without a doubt, the hardest chapter of my short life on this Earth, hard in a way that is almost impossible to explain. You, reader, see what I present to you. You only see what I share on social media and you miss so much that I am afraid to share.  I am afraid because maybe my suffering isn’t as bad as yours, or someone you love. Maybe it is not as bad as my good friend who is battling cancer, but then maybe it is worse than that time your goldfish died but you were devastated so my pain makes you feel guilty for feeling so upset even though you had a right to, and maybe the point is we can never compare or lives and instead we have to learn to meet each other where we are.I have learned to be present with what is. Whatever that is, wherever you are, and whoever you are with. Be present. Give your life the attention it deserves.

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that there are others like me out there who are suffering and fighting and winning and losing this battle. And maybe you, reader, are going through something totally unrelated but my hope is that this manifesto of sorts will speak to you in a way you least expect and if it does, that makes it all worth it.

So here are all the things I have never shared. I am a person who looks for the silver lining, almost to a fault. Does it come easy? No. F*ck no. This has been a mental and emotional battle as much, if not more, than is has been physically. I truly feel I suffered a period of deep depression, confusion, anxiety and stress and I hid it very well. Do I wish I was always sunshine and rainbows? Of course. But the truth is reader, my life as I knew it ended 9 months ago. Grief is synonymous with death, but that is not the only form of grief that exists. We as a society, forget that. 

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In September of 2015 I was told casually that I had an incurable, mis-understood, complicated, and controversial disease that very few people in Arizona have.  And when I heard the words, “You have Lyme Disease,” I was relieved. I was relieved that I wasn’t crazy. That there was an actual explanation as to why I couldn’t climb the stairs in my home without having to rest at the top for ten minutes so I didn’t pass out at age 25, why I slept 14-15 hours a day, why I had so much pain I could not hold my own head up, why my entire arm would go numb when I was simply doing the job I had done for so long. For years, I thought I was making it up, that these extreme feelings were normal. Listen reader, I am alive to tell you today… that shit is not normal. And shame on our medical system for making me feel like it was for 5 years. Trust your instincts, and don’t give up if you feel something is not right.

I had no clue what was to come. I started tracking my symptoms in February of 2015, and reading back on that 15 page log brings tears to my eyes. It was clear I was in so much pain and yet I said nothing. I kept working, I went on family trips, I went to visit my best friend when she needed me most, I was so sick I honestly thought that maybe I was pregnant with the symptoms of nausea and debilitating fatigue and just not feeling myself. That thought seems so far away now.

Some of my log entries are heart breaking. To read how much I was suffering and to think that I have lived with pain in some form, daily, for years.Not all day every day, but I feel pain somewhere in my body….Every. Single. Day. Even today. And so many people would never ever know. Or choose not to acknowledge it.Yet, I am not a minority. There are thousands just like me, worse than me, that suffer. It has to change.

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Lyme changed my life in every way. It changed me physically, but also mentally and emotionally. My life and my ideas of the future before Lyme were gone forever. I grieved my life for a long time, months even. I grieved who I was. I grieved not being a woman who got married and could start a family anytime they wanted. I grieved not being able to act my age and enjoy good food and good drinks and good company because I couldn’t eat this or drink that or focus long enough to carry a conversation. And I faked it for a long, long time. Which is why I think going through this treatment was a shock to some. “Well, she didn’t seem that bad, she seemed fine last time I saw her.” I never knew what a good actress I was until I was trying so hard to convince myself and everyone around me that I was fine. But, I wasn’t.

I was dying a slow and painful death, and while that may sound like an exaggeration….it is not. I would go days without showering because it took so much energy that I just did not have. I was in bed the majority of the day and turned in for the night very early. I couldn’t climb the stairs, or comprehend a simple conversation.  My muscles felt like I hiked the Grand Canyon but didn’t drink any water, just extreme isolating pain. I spent more time lying on my back praying the ringing in my ears would stop long enough for me to fall asleep than I care to remember. I carried on alone in silence far longer than I ever should have because I was fucking terrified. My body was failing me in the prime of my life and I didn’t know if I was making it up, or if it was real, or if it would ever get better, or if anyone would believe me.

I am still afraid. I am afraid I will wake up tomorrow and everything will be back. Or maybe it will be 6 months from now or years when I finally trust everything is okay. I am afraid I will never be the wife, daughter, sister, cousin, friend that I was. I am afraid I will never have children or be the mom I want to be. I am afraid I was so focused on a Lyme diagnosis that maybe I missed something else like cancer, or an auto immune disease. I am afraid I don’t remember what normal feels like. I feel immense, deep fear and ridiculous, giddy hope, every single day. Hope and fear go hand in hand. But the hope, that is what you hold on to. That is the only thing that can triumph all the fears I feel daily. As much as I am scared, I am equally hopeful that I will never be where I was, that I will beat this and I will get to live a good, long, full life. I don’t know if I will ever be brought to my knees again. But life is just a big bag full of unknowns for all of us and yet we continue opening and closing doors, living forward and understanding it all backwards, because that my friends is just living.

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Here comes that silver lining I love to look for. Does what I went through totally suck? Yes. Is it completely unfair? Absolutely. Am I a good person that tried to put good karma into the world? I’d really love to think so! But guess what? This is my one and only life. And shit happens. Life is NOT fair. Life is brutal and cruel, but it’s also so beautiful it takes your breath away. It’s gorgeous in a way that is raw and real and unedited. To me, it is my responsibility to paint that picture. This, dear reader, is MY LIFE.

I have lived a beautiful life and if I die tomorrow, I would die a happy person, a fulfilled person. I have loved big and hard, I have been a true friend, I have stood up for what I believed in and made a small difference in the world, I have married my best friend, I have seen parts of the world I always wanted to, I have tried new things, I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and if nothing else I hope I remind people to tell your story. Don’t edit it, don’t accommodate to make others comfortable. Tell it like it is. Because it is so hard, but it is so beautiful.   YOU ARE NOT A TREE, IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY MOVE….CHANGE….LIVE! None of this is promised, so why waste one more minute?

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I went through a hell only select can relate to, and I wish that upon no one. And I am coming out the other side.  To me, I feel this Lyme business was a rebirth I never knew I needed. It taught me how to listen to my body and my soul. Lyme taught me how to be valuable to those who needed me, how to be a true and supportive presence in other’s lives. It taught me how to prioritize, how to dismiss the bull shit and focus on what was most important. Lyme taught me how to recognize true friends and family, but also how to meet people where they are at. It taught me how to live for me, and stop doing things to please others. I feel more content now than I have in my entire life. If I die tomorrow or 70 years from now, I would know that I loved deeply, accomplished much, and stayed true to who I was. And I wish that for everyone in the world.

 

So how am I feeling a month post treatment? I am not 100 % symptom free. I experience pain every day. I take many supplements, I continue therapy, I struggle mentally and physically and emotionally. But I have made very great progress. I am no longer bed ridden. I am able to be out in the world living. I no longer have neurological symptoms and pain, which is huge. And at the end of the day, I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know if I am making the right decisions in my treatment or lifestyle. I don’t know when or if things will get bad again. But for the first time in a long time, I just don’t care. Because today in this moment I am insanely happy. I am happier today than I have ever been.  I live just as I want to live. I see exactly who I want to see and spend time with those who nurture my soul and make me feel loved and strong and I keep fighting. I keep looking for answers and put one foot in front of the other, but I have fun doing it.

Why else do we live if not to do those things? And if you are not living as you want to, I wish you the courage and strength to make the changes you need to.

If you are a fellow Lyme patient, or if you are going through anything physically or mentally, or emotionally, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are people who understand you and love you and want to know you. Do not give up. Do not for one second think you cannot do this because you can and you will. I remember moments lying in my bed where I thought, my life was over, I was dying and there was no one who was noticing. But that is not true. I see you. I know every single one of you who have read this far, and bless your heart if you have read all this, you are fighting your own battles and they are no more or less significant than the next person. That is life, it varies but it is universal and we are all in this together. Keep being kind, keep loving deeply and freely, try to process and forgive and be the best version of you that you can be. Yes life is not fair, but with immense pain comes insane, once-in-a-lifetime beauty. Do not miss it.

As for me, I continue to fight and I continue to live and to love and to enjoy every minute. I wish that for you, lovely reader. I wish it so so much. Is every day perfect? No. But can you find something good, and charming, and true in every day? Yes. Yes, I believe you can and more importantly…I believe you should.

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If you have come this far with me reader, I count you as my truest friend and I hope something in my words made you feel less alone and more understood. We gotta stick together, reader. Whatever you are feeling today I send you so much love, because YOU are a beautiful, capable, kind soul. So go do you! You got this!

 

Much love,

Jess

The Perks of Believing

There have been several celebrities that have come forward and shared about their Lyme disease fight. I am forever grateful because it has raised a lot of awareness. What I find so heartbreaking is that we live in a world where we make assumptions, all the time, everyday and they can be extremely detrimental not only to others, but to ourselves. Yolanda Foster is one such celebrity and some of her fellow “house wives” have publicly doubted her diagnosis and struggle. I read about this daily on Lyme forums, people whose family and friends simply doubt their disease because they look outwardly well. It is so tragic and upsetting to think that this happens.

Truly, I think many of those suffering from invisible ailments become Oscar-worthy actors. What other choice do you have than to find a way to keep living? Sometimes you even fool yourself, or you hope to. To focus on each symptom you could be experiencing at any given time magnifies them. To talk about it, struggle to explain, think about it all the time, it only seems to make things worse. So instead we adapt, we stay positive, we try to pretend we are our former selves. However, it does not change the fact that people are fighting battles of various severity and length all around us. Some days you are victorious, others not so much, but you just keep moving forward the best you can.

I just came across this excerpt from a blog post, “And although Lyme disease has been around for millennia, has had an official name since the late 70’s, and has been growing in media attention ever since, people (and MD’s) still don’t seem to understand exactly what it is or what it does. I can clear that up right now. It’s a stubbornly persistent bacterial infection. And it can do anything.

Lyme disease is an illness caused by complex, spiral shaped bacteria. I say complex because these guys really know how to survive. They can morph shape, drop their cell walls and enter your own cells to wear them as cloaks. They will confuse the immune system by changing their surface proteins (to avoid your antibodies), blocking Vitamin D receptors (an immune-modulating hormone), and will even go after and kill your immune system’s B cells and killer T cells. They are so good at this that those of us who have gone undiagnosed end up with an immune system so disabled by the time the disease is discovered that it can take years for it to fully recover, if ever. Lyme has also been documented to mimic over 300 other diseases. I’m not here to go into all of the ins and outs of what exactly is Lyme disease. I’ve already plastered that every which way on my blog. Suffice it to say, fad disease? Yes please sign me up for all of that so I can sit with the cool kids. Cue eye roll.”

My point is, the quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” is something to live by. You just never know what someone could be going through, and it’s really not our place to judge or assume or doubt. You will always feel better if you give someone the benefit of the doubt, look for the best in everyone, believe. Sure, sometimes that may not turn out to be the case but then you can walk away with your integrity.

The most powerful support I have received through this journey is when someone’s words or actions signal they believe me and want to learn. We all want to be understood and to feel connected to others, yet many times in life we will find ourselves in situations that simply limit our ability to comprehend or empathize with people we know and love. In those moments, ask questions to learn, listen to understand, use the opportunity to gain knowledge, affirm whatever it is they are feeling. Be honest, if you feel like you don’t know what to do or say or how to act or if you are struggling to process or relate….say that! Communicate versus assume and you will be all the happier.

Life is tough enough, try to leave people better than you found them because as the saying goes “you can never judge a book by it’s cover”. When we do, well let’s just say we could truly miss out on stories that elevate our humanity.

The Silver Lining

Recently, I went to dinner with a very dear friend. She asked how things were going, how I was doing? As I proceeded to tell her, I found myself constantly spinning it to find the positive, to make it seem not as bad as it really is. Why?

Well, I think there is a stigma when it comes to illness whether it be Lyme, auto immune, cancer, or any other ailment that alters your life. Some people are not comfortable with sickness, and that is okay. They don’t know what to say, how to help, and so we find ourselves trying to be accommodating by not talking about it or downplaying our experiences and feelings. We try to neatly fold away a messy situation so that people still want to be around us and also so we don’t upset those we love. The hardest part about this chapter in my life, is seeing how much it hurts my family to see me go through this.

We strive to not be a burden, a complainer, or a “Debbie downer” that no one wants to hang out with. Even if none of our friends and family actually feel this way, I think for me it is my own anxiety. It’s not fun to admit your struggling.

But then, something happened in this conversation that is so share-worthy. This wonderful and thoughtful friend said something incredibly powerful, she looked me in the eye and said “You know, you don’t always have to find the silver lining”. And I love her for so many qualities but, most of all I love her because she always keeps it real.

I realized she is 100% correct. It helps no one for me to pretend I am handling this perfectly everyday and maybe it seems so with some of my posts:

  • Last Friday I spent 2 hours curled in a ball on the bathroom floor trying not to vomit. Ben carried me upstairs, helped me get dressed, and sip water so we could go spend the afternoon with my family and no one was the wiser. This happens a few times a week. I have lost 16 pounds. Honestly, I was happy to go I wanted to be with them and not in bed, even if I felt bad.
  • I took a leave from Facebook a few weeks ago because I was so depressed and was struggling with the fact that everyone else’s life around me seemed so normal and wonderful. Maybe you’ve secretly felt this way before?
  • Ben and I were trying to have children prior to my diagnosis, then all of the sudden we don’t know when or if I will be able to biologically have children and we are coming to terms with that as a big unknown where we once felt assurance. We have since begun researching other options to become parents. It is a whole other journey.
  • It’s hard. I am SO grateful because I get to live, I get to wake up everyday and live my life no matter how its changed. But at the end of the day, my life is completely different than it was a few months ago and I will never be the same and that is hard. Life is tricky.

Why I am divulging all this very personal information? Because no matter what it seems, we are all real people, with real life struggles and successes. The tough chapters of our story are just as important as the best ones. The people who are meant to be in your life, won’t be scared off by the less than lovely parts of you.

The truth is, I am not perfect, I am not positive all the time, I get angry and frustrated and I cry a lot because I am only human and so are you. Yes, I believe our quality of life is better if we make it a habit to look on the bright side. But we alienate each other if we project that we never have bad days or sadness or any perceived negative emotions in our lives, and even worse if we don’t allow our friends and family to express those sometimes too.

It was so validating for someone to tell me they don’t expect me to be positive all the time. Though there seems to be pressure to highlight the best moments of your life on social media, I deeply appreciate posts, moments, and conversations where people are real and vulnerable whether it is pretty or not. To me, that is how you are able to connect.

Instead of always advertising your best self, let’s all strive to project our genuine selves whatever that looks like on any given day. You don’t have to be more or less of what you are in any moment, you have to find the courage to just be.

 

 

The Eternal Optimist

Do you see the glass half empty or half full? Well, if you said half full…cheers to you! In this life, perspective is everything.  It is the only thing you can control.  When it comes to your attitude, your point of view you truly are the master of your fate. In the face of great challenge, perspective is your lifeline.

When we enter a period of darkness in our lives, giving up becomes tempting. Losing hope, quitting, giving up, anyone can do that. It is the easiest option. You can feel your mind effortlessly start to shift away from happiness and slide downhill towards negativity, burying you further into that darkness. I believe it is human nature to focus more on what goes wrong than what goes right. We live in a society that very often glorifies our worries, our fears, our stresses, our obsession with being busy.

What have I learned about perspective? It takes hard work; it takes blood sweat and tears to keep going. To be positive requires active practice and sometimes abundant effort. Focusing on the sunshine over the shadows can quite literally be the difference between surviving the tough times and being consumed by them.

Despite this being a dark time, I wake up every day determined to keep going, to put one foot in front of the other, to keep breathing. It is has been a year of big, life altering events, one right after the other. Some you may know about, and others not. I believe in sharing my story because you never know when it will help someone else.

Since beginning treatment for Lyme disease, I have experienced pain every single day for the last 6 weeks straight. Last week I was informed my infection is deeper than initially suspected. The Lyme bacteria is in my neurological system. It does not mean I will never get better, but it does mean I have an epic journey ahead of me.  But hey, what great character has not conquered a heroic quest?

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I got to spend time with family and friends over the past weekend and something big clicked in my head. Everyone kept telling me how good I looked, how I seemed better, my eyes looked brighter. I didn’t tell anyone that my cheeks were burning and I was sweating profusely because I do that a lot lately in between periods of severe chills. I didn’t mention that holding their adorable baby was actually quite painful, my muscles were screaming but I was smiling because I loved every minute of it. I gracefully side stepped comments that were literal daggers to my heart. When the last guest left I felt deep exhaustion flood my whole body and I leaned on my husband Ben to get me home.  But why? Why didn’t I say anything? Let me explain:

I realized that I wanted to tell everyone I have decided to be happy. I have made a conscious and unwavering resolution to keep living as much as I can. I may be sick, I may be ill, I may be in serious pain for a very long time. But that doesn’t mean I want to give in to that darkness.

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I feel like this year has stripped me down to the bare essentials. I have been forced to look at myself and my life in a very real and raw way. The kind of view that forces you to confront yourself on a level that is highly uncomfortable. “All great changes are preceded by chaos” and I realized all the chaos of this year has forced me to find inner strength and beauty and peace like never before. I found out I really like who I am and I know I and I alone, have the power to determine how these experiences affect my life.

I choose to find the silver lining in every situation. I am practicing a conscious effort to make self-care my top priority, to trust my journey, to find a way to experience joy and laughter even during days of pain and struggle and hurt because I am immensely lucky. I have so much to be grateful for. I know I can handle anything that comes my way because I am going to find the lesson from it and grow.

I will still have days filled with tears, filled with challenges, filled with anger and frustration, days I may not even get out of bed.  Even when I look good, or don’t seem sick on the outside, I am going to need my family and my friends and their empathy and support.  I can choose to be miserable and miss out on my life or I can choose to keep living, keep dreaming, keep taking chances, and working my ass off and being kind. Attitude is everything.

My challenge to you, practice focusing on your joys. Try going 24 hours without complaining about anything. Each time you feel it coming, stop and think of the positive side of that complaint.  Things could always, always be worse. So remember, your glass IS half full, you just have to believe it to be so.

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26 Things I Have Learned Before Turning 26

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  1. Life will never turn out exactly as you plan.

I think that is the beauty of life though, you can’t predict the future. It is, after all, an adventure. Let go, enjoy the ride.

  1. Marry the person who makes you a better version of yourself.

I am deeply grateful for my husband Ben. He has challenged me, supported me, believed in me, but most importantly he calls me on my BS. Because of him, I have grown into a much better person over the years.  Ben is everything I want in life, but he is also everything I need. If you are reading this Ben, words can never express how much you mean to me and I am so lucky to call you my husband

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  1. This is a big one: relationships take work; you get out exactly what you put in.

So I just gushed over my husband, but you better believe it is because we have invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into our relationship. We’ve evolved together by being committed to each other, to working on ourselves in order to be better partners to each other. I believe you have to have immense respect, compassion, and empathy for each other. The more you work on your relationship, the better you will weather the big storms.

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  1. My mom and my sister are my truest friends

Yeah it’s extremely cheesy, but it actually has defined my life. I feel immensely lucky to be so close to my family and to have two of the most amazing women in the world as my mentors, confidants, and support system. They are my everything.

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  1. Single Moms, you are rockin’ it even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Single moms are my heroes. Not just because my husband and I were both raised by one, but because they seriously are bad asses! They have to fill two roles, while working multiple jobs, multi-tasking, being in multiple places at once, and keep smiling. They are the hardest working people you will ever meet. Tell a single mom you know how proud you are of them, it is a thankless and scary job. Keeping being Wonder Women! Your kids will never forget it, trust me.

  1. Be Kind

There is a whole lot of ugly in this world. Do what you can with what you have to be kind to every single person you come in contact with. Make it a habit. The smallest gesture can mean SO much to another person and it truly sets off a chain reaction. If we fulfilled our full potential each day and made it a priority to leave everyone better than we found them, imagine how that would change the world!

  1. Be slow to judge

Everyone is fighting battles, every day. Do not assume, remain silent until you can speak from a place of kindness as much as possible. Be thoughtful and ensure your words always have purpose, they are very powerful.

  1. What you want to be when you grow up will change 1,000 times.

When I was 4 I wanted to be an artist, when I was 7 I wanted to be a Spice Girl, when I was 11 I wanted to save the environment, when I was 16 I wanted to work in multi-cultural marketing, when I was 18 I wanted to work in nonprofit, you get my point. “It’s never too late to dream another dream”.

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  1. When something happens that requires an adult, and you look around for an adult and finally realize, “Oh, that’s me. I am an adult now.” Eventually, you accept it.

Yeah man, YOU’RE AN ADULT! When did this happen and how do we make it stop? If you know the answer, please share. When I was little, all I wanted to do was grow up. It seemed so glamorous and fun.  Truth is, it’s messy and sometimes really freakin’ hard, and somehow the struggle of it all turns out to be beautiful in its own way. You just keep on keepin’ on.

  1. It is perfectly okay to love a calm life.

My husband and I always ask each other if we are boring. Maybe we are. But honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. Some people our age can still party like they are 21 and more power to them! As for us, we enjoy our boring adult life of movies, game nights, checking out new restaurants, spending time with family and that’s totally okay.

  1. Family is everything.

Spend as much time with family as you can. Life is short, things happen, things change, enjoy the time you have with your loved ones. They will be there for you when you need it most. Family isn’t just your blood, it includes all of those people who are there in your darkest times and who love you anyway.  Make them a priority.

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  1. Travel

I have learned the most about myself from traveling. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone and inspires you to try new things. The best decision I ever made was to study abroad in high school, it changed me forever. But how many people can say they have a second family on the other side of the Equator? I get to keep in touch with some of the most incredible souls you could ever hope to meet and became the person I am today because I know and love them.

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  1. Never apologize for loving something or someone

This is a big one for me. I love to a fault, and I have a fiery heart and show a lot of passion when I love. It’s burned me a time or two or three in different aspects of my life. Because sure it comes with risks and vulnerability. But that is what makes me, me. If you love someone or something, don’t hold back, take that chance, wear your emotions with pride, and be loud about it! Love makes the world go round’ spread that stuff everywhere you can! It is worth the risk. You will remember those moments, whether tiny or epic, for the rest of your life.

  1. Let your actions speak for themselves and let that be enough for you.

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“When you do something beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and the most of the audience sleeps.”-John Lennon

  1. Take care of yourself

I remember the days when hangovers were a myth and fast food was a good idea. Those days end. It’s cool to care about yourself and your health and your body. It’s a fragile thing that we owe much to, treat it that way.

  1. But, don’t forget to treat yourself too.

LIFE IS WONDERFUL! With things like brilliant literature, epic destinations, style and décor that can change as you do, fluffy linens, rich chocolate, decadent meals and wine to be had, sunsets that never cease to amaze, friends and family that can make you laugh until it hurts, artistic outlets, and causes to be passionate about, there is SO much to indulge in. Treat yourself to all of life’s pleasures and don’t feel guilty about it, your LIVING!

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  1. Friendships change

Friendships change as we change. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s just a natural gravitation toward or away. I believe the right people are meant to be in your life at the right time. Whether that’s your work buddy for a year or two, or lifelong friendships that you could never live without, accept them for what they are and be thankful.

  1. Friendships also take work!

We aren’t in 3rd grade anymore. Which means striking up a friendship isn’t as easy as sharing crayons with the girl sitting next to you. It’s harder to make new friends as you get older but that means it is even more critical to put effort into the friendships you have. Make time for each other even if you are busy, little things like cards or thoughtful texts go a long way! You have to be a friend to have a friend. Recognize the friends who go out of their way to keep in touch with you, and don’t let them go.

  1. Empower other people, whenever you can.

There is nothing more beautiful than having the ability to see beauty, brilliance, courage, heart, compassion, and inspiration in others. A word of encouragement is never ever wasted. Cheer each other on in life, be happy for their success.

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  1. Keep Reading

Learn to love reading when it is no longer required of you. Why? There are far too many reasons to list.

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  1. You are not a tree

Your life is a result of your choices, if you are not happy with your life make a move. Do something new, do something different, embrace change. You are not stuck. Lean on others when you need to, but remember you are not rooted in one place or one way of life.

  1. Improve your compliments

It is 2015 people! Ladies, we are so much more than our looks, point that out to each other!  And focus on this fact yourself. When you look in the mirror, look past your physical features, they do not define you.

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  1. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to not be okay.

Life can be relentless. It can be like Everest, in an ice storm, and your tent flew away, and you have one meal left. You are going to be thrown curve balls and you are going to have to claw your way up mountains that seem impossible. It is okay to breakdown, to cry, to scream, to rue the day. You are allowed to feel cheated, slighted, livid, broken. Feel it, acknowledge it, accept it, then recharge and keep moving forward. Why? Because tomorrow is another day, another chance and living is a privilege denied to many. Do not waste it.

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  1. Naps are absolutely brilliant

Nap time is so glorious, if only kids knew what an invaluable opportunity they have every day. I believe in napping, and napping often.

  1. Learn to say no in order to say yes.

This is my biggest lesson in the last year. I fulfilled a dream to start a nonprofit. But in doing so, I lost myself. I was hurting myself in order to help others at all costs. Costs paid by my family, my friends, and my health. I literally destroyed my emotional well-being by taking on the guilt of families and pets who were struggling. I was made to feel guilty by others when I could not help. I was made to feel like I wasn’t doing enough for clients in need. I shared all their pain and worry and stress and it became far too much for one person to carry. I am very proud of the work that I accomplished, but I am also proud that I recognized what was happening and I had the courage to let go. Sometimes, you have to learn to say no to others in order to say yes to yourself. I owe no one an explanation for my decisions, and I had to come to peace with that.

  1. Good Vibes Only

My mom taught me from a young age that what you put out to the world is what comes back to you. She used to make us do our affirmations in the mirror. I hated it. But she was SO right, and now I am very thankful. Every day you get a chance to put good into the world. Maybe it is a compliment, a kind gesture, a smile. It all comes back to you. If you want something, put it out there, imagine it, affirm it, and work for it. Wake up and speak of what you love, what you are grateful for, what ignites your passion, and hold on to those thoughts throughout the day. It will bring you more happiness, I promise. Keep putting those good vibes out there, your mind set is everything. Stay strong, keep fighting, be yourself, and live! Click the link to see a perfect example : )

This video will make your life!

So that’s that. All my life wisdom before I turn 26! Farewell 25, you have been a true challenge. Though I am now closer to 30 than I am to 20, I am feeling absolutely thrilled about what the future holds!

Letting Go & Moving Forward

Sometimes, we have to let go of the life we have imagined. You can be angry, you can cry, you can grieve, but eventually you have to let it go simply because it will become far too heavy to carry into the future. It’s not easy, but it is necessary because life goes on with or without you.

I recently received some big news, a diagnosis to be exact that I have Lyme Disease. I wrote a post about it on my personal Facebook page, and I am sure I will write more. I feel like I have to talk about it, I have to describe it, make comparisons people can relate to in hopes that those closest to me will understand. But I realize that is too much to expect. It is hard to expect people to understand a disease that is not well known, to empathize with you when from the outside you look perfectly fine. Everyone wants you to be fine, because they love you right? But that can project a lot of expectations and pressure to be okay when in fact, you are not. I don’t know if I remember what it feels like to be normal, to have energy, to not be in pain, to be able to carry the laundry basket up the stairs and not have to rest after. And that can be a very lonely place indeed.

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Tea and Blankets are my friends.

Truthfully, it is all just so weird.  Since then, I have gone through the various expected stages of grief: denial, anger… so much anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

I love what finally led me to acceptance. I have essentially been living in anything I can consider pajamas and I cycle through all the t-shirts I own. Some days, simple tasks like bathing or brushing my hair take a lot of effort and are extremely taxing. I had just finished taking a detox bath and while I sat on the edge of the tub mustering the energy to stand up and dress, I thought to myself, “I need Wrigley”. I put on my Wrigley the Wonderful t-shirt and I smiled instantly. Duh! How could I not remember my little furry role-model and all the amazing life lessons he taught me?

Wrigley received a fatal diagnosis, and he lived every day he had like it was the best and only day ahead. He loved to the ends of the earth, kissing strangers and playing with dogs we just met. Yes, I know he is a dog but to me, he is the best-life coach or knowledgeable guru you could ever hope for and I had forgotten. He was untainted by all our human pettiness. He just kept living the best he could.

And at the moment, I realized that was my only option. Let go of all the bad stuff that comes with being sick, and put all my focus towards the good. Towards the moments of peace and strength and hold them tight in the moments of pain and exhaustion. Why? Because that is all we can do. Living to the fullest is our only job. So now with Wrigley in mind, I am working to create a new life, full of the things and people I love most. Sure, my life is not at all what I imagined it would be on the brink of my 26th birthday. But so what? There are life lessons to be learned in the road less traveled, and I am determined to find the beauty in every curve and turn of this new, unexpected path.

Like the memory of Wrigley, my other 3 dogs have been a huge source of companionship and comfort. They don’t make the ever difficult request that to me, often seems difficult to respond to; “Let me know if I can do anything”.  I am really not one to ask for anything, I hate being a burden to my own self let alone anyone else. It is uncomfortable for me. But dogs, they are just there for you without any projections of what you should be doing, or feeling, or thinking. There is no need to entertain or explain or fill silences. They just let you be. I am very lucky to know some humans who do the same!

Sir, my sweet snuggle boy!
Sir, my sweet snuggle boy!
"Oh you don't feel good Mama? I sits on you, you feel better now," Sheba
“Oh you don’t feel good Mama? I sits on you, you feel better now,” Sheba

It reminds me of this amazing quote, “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing … not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.” — Henri Nouwen

And for now, I too have to find the ability to stay me and tolerate the not knowing, do what I can to heal, and just love and live like today is all that matters. One day at a time.