Letting go of defeat: 2 steps to regain your strength.

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

I’ve faced defeat half a dozen times the past two weeks. Even one instance of this can knock me off my path completely, but over the past two weeks, I’ve done my best to dodge SIX deadly bullets. Six times in twice as many days I’ve experienced feelings of inadequacy and rejection so powerful and pointed toward the core of my being that I’ve been blown backward and forced to regroup… Dust the debris, shake my shoulders, and keep moving forward.

I last wrote about an instance where I didn’t get a job, and about how I recognized that the event was helping me learn patience, trust, and walking the talk I so openly write about. At the end of the post and at the end of the day, I was happy. I had recovered from the little defeat and hadn’t lost sight of my goal.

I then did this five more times. Each time became slightly more difficult than the time before as each event softly stabbed and scraped at the fresh layer of scar tissue being built upon the wound. I did my best to bear the pain and push through.

But, eventually, we all come to a point where we are defeated. We realize that those little cuts are plentiful and that we’re bleeding out. We’re no longer able to heal as we could if only one or two slices marked our skin…

Today, I arrived at this point.

Today, I felt defeated.

When we’ve experienced true, lasting, painful depression and sadness, we’re fearful of re-entering that space (despite knowing it will eventually go away) and we often develop strategies for staying positive and dealing with our dark sides. We try to be proactive about maintaining a positive mind.

Through my personal battles over the past eight years, I’ve developed a couple tactics that work well to banish the blues before they take control of my life, of THE LIFE I want to live.

1) A quick and easy way to deal with negative thoughts and feelings is to give ourselves a little pep talk. I count my blessings, remind myself of my talents and the goals I want to achieve, reflect on the experiences I’ve had, and tell myself that I am enough and that I have enough and that everything is just fine. I bring positivity into my life via a few moments of positive self-talk.

2) A more focused, purposeful way to let go of specific moments and to draw in positivity is by holding a simple fire ceremony to seal in your intentions. First write down the negative thoughts, feelings, or events on one sheet of paper and then write down positive affirmations or goals on another (these don’t have to be the rehashing of all bad things in our lives or recreations of our vision boards, but rather simple cues of the bad and the good). Then, burn the lists. Watch the flame devour your moments of defeat and watch the flame grow as it’s fueled by your positivity.

No matter how we choose to regain our strength when we’re feeling week, it’s important to first acknowledge our feelings and to let our bodies and minds fully express our emotions as to not create more toxicity within ourselves. Let yourself cry or scream when you’re sad and upset just like you *should* let yourself smile big and dance when you’re happy and excited! Let it all out, then do what you can to let go of defeat and regain your strength so you can keep moving forward.

Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.

Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.

After a particularly trying day (Christmas Eve of all days), I decided to hold my own little fire ceremony to release the recent string of defeats. I’ve cried more in the past two weeks than I have in the past three months combined and I do not want to let this sadness become a staple in my present reality — I’m positive and powerful and destined for great things as long as I stay focused on activities I love. I do not want to waste any time being stuck in sorrow caused by hearing “NO” too many times.

So tonight, I scribbled a few words about each of the six defeats on a purple post-it and set it aside. Then, I wrote dozens of affirmations on another post-it, filling up nearly every violet void with positive statements like “I am enough” and “I am responsible for my reactions” and “I am getting closer.”

I lit a candle and filled a small bowl with water (far too many house fires happen over the holidays and although I doubt many are caused by 20-somethings trying to create a sacred space for strengthening the spirit, I can’t be too careful).

I glanced over my defeat note, folded it in half, and held it above the flame. I watched as the sharpie chicken-scratch letters burned and charred then disappeared above the glass water dish. I let it go…

Then, I looked at the barely legible words on the second note, written on top of each other and numbering dozens more than the measly defeats. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, acknowledging the truth of the words I’d written. I folded the paper and held it above the flame. I watched as the flame took my thoughts — I felt strength in watching this natural force envelop my hopes, taking control of what I gave it, doing with it what it liked — I let it go…

This simple act had a powerful effect on my sense of center. I felt better, cleaner, lighter, and more confident in myself. No longer was my solar plexus chakra feeling powerless and defeated. I regained a bit of my pride, and my head felt more at ease and my heart felt full again.

I may have heard “NO” a few too many times lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always hear “NO,” and that doesn’t mean that “YES” isn’t on its way.

Good things will happen — until then and even after they do, I’ll keep moving forward. No matter what.

Patience, trust, and walking the talk.

“Sooo I’m being taught a lesson in patience, trust, and walking the talk.”

While solo dancing in my kitchen, confident and cool and so content with all the great things about to happen in my life, I waited for a pot of lentils to finish simmering on the stove top and the kale and spinach to wilt in the pan beside it. I smiled to myself, thinking that before long, I’d be offered a job paying nearly double what I make now… All my financial woes would be gone and I’d be on the path to having my student loans paid off by 30. Success and sweet, sweet freedom…

As my mukluks carried my spinning body across the linoleum floor, my phone vibrated. I glanced, assuming it was just another pre-Christmas email pleading for me to purchase half-priced presents from an online store halfway across the country…

Nope. Not that. It was… an email from someone I’d just interviewed with. All I could see in the notification bar was “I would like to thank you for taking the time…”

Heart. Dropped.”…taking the time” is never a good sign.

I hurriedly opened the email, only to find out the job I had locked down in my head only days before was no longer an option. They’d offered the position to someone else.

I collapsed on the floor in front of the oven. I was in disbelief. What?! That’s just. What?! I wasn’t prepared for this. NOT getting the job wasn’t a possibility in my mind… I’d banked on this turning out.

As tears slowly dripped from my eyes and onto my cheeks and neck, the greens started to sizzle and burn in the pan. This was not supposed to happen, I thought. But there it was. Black on white, pixel on pixel, “thanks for taking the time…”

I let myself cry. I was going to be late for work and those lentils weren’t going to be eaten. But this girl, this confident and cool and so content girl, needed a moment to cry…

During the past several weeks I’ve been taking a mantra and meditation class at my yoga school. Numerous times, I’ve heard the phrase “think of what you want, then let it go.” I’ve learned it’s best not to get attached to outcomes, but rather to understand the significance or motivation behind what it is we want and ask for that instead. For instance, instead of saying “I want X job,” we should think about the full reasons for why we want X job. What will X job bring into our lives? What are our motivations for wanting X job? We may realize the job itself isn’t the goal, but rather the goal is having more money to pay for something, or to build our skills in an area, or to simply get closer to a career we want.

For the job I thought I really wanted, the core motivation was really that I hope to be financially free. Soon. The job itself was of less importance in this particular circumstance. I needed to say “I want to be financially free,” instead of “I want X job.” Manifestation works with the bigger picture, not details usually (except for that Canadian surfer on the beach in Nicaragua… lol).

I’ve learned how to live on little, and I know there’s more to life than working solely for a paycheck. In my heart I know, for me, I can do much greater things for this world if I’m not bound by “having” to work. I have student loan debt that will plague my indefinite future (currently I’m guessing for at least 7 or so years if I continue paying my current amount), and because I’m not one to completely disregard my obligations and societal responsibilities, I know that I will continue finding ways to pay this off until it’s gone.

So, my heart was a bit broken to find out I didn’t get the job (despite being fully qualified, per the followup-feedback email I received — TIP to all those millenials and young professionals reading this — ALWAYS follow up after getting turned down. Ask for feedback. If they provide reasons, you can build and grow and better prepare for something else, and if they don’t you’re no worse off than before.).

In my head I was a bit confused. I didn’t understand why the Universe would present me with a perfectly good opportunity that would help me become financially free pretty quickly, only to have it NOT turn out as I thought it should. What!? I provided GREAT clips, I am FULLY qualified, and I had the best, COULDN’T-HAVE-BEEN-BETTER interview, but you DON’T want me to work there? Universe, this isn’t working for me… Come on…

Wait a second, I realized, who am I to say that job didn’t “work out”? Oh, so I didn’t immediately get hired? Which means that I don’t have to leave a city that I love and a job that I like to work in a city I don’t really love doing something that may only fulfill me a little bit, to get a bigger paycheck that in my heart I know doesn’t matter all that much?

Ok, Universe, I see what you did there… You made me grateful for everything I currently have. You made me actually kind of grateful it didn’t “work out” like I thought it would.

Points for you, Universe. You win.

Then, after I put back on my cloak of gratitude (Rumi was really such a genius), I started thinking about what else this event was teaching me.

Patience.
What is it that I want? I want to be financially free. I know in my heart I am not destined to be bound by money. But, I do know for whatever reason, I am bound a bit now and that for whatever reason, it’s probably a good thing. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” So, I can wait. I have to wait. And that’s ok. I have patience that in time, when the time is right, I’ll be free from debt.

Trust.
Who runs this place, anyway? Yeah… It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s someone or something greater than any of us can conceive of and it’s someone or something who knows what to do. It’s not my will that’s going to make things happen. I’m done trying to think I know what’s best… trying to plan my life away. I’ve given in to forces bigger than myself and I trust that everything — good, bad, beautiful, painful, exciting, dull — is making my life more complex and as perfect as it should be. And, because this particular job didn’t seal my fate for the indefinite future, the unknown is still an option. And, who is to say this “setback” wasn’t really a trail marker leading me to somewhere AMAZING. An AMAZING door to opportunity just around the bend 🙂

Walking the talk.
What do I hope to accomplish in my life? I want to inspire people to live happier, positive lives while living the happiest, most positive life I can! I try to provide ideas for how we can do this, emphasizing acceptance and compassion and fun and bravery. Well, if I’m not living my advice, I’m a phony. I have to heed my own advice and just let it be. Everything that is, is just fine. Each situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity to learn a lesson and to spread knowledge and joy! No wasting any more moments feeling unnecessarily sad. Enough. I choose bliss.

Our "setbacks" may really be trail markers leading to somewhere AMAZING. Keep going...

Our “setbacks” may really be trail markers leading to somewhere AMAZING. Keep going…

After I gave myself a few minutes to cry on that kitchen floor and release the excitement and attachment I’d built up around the job, I came to some pretty powerful revelations and had to text my best friend the news.

“Sooo I’m being taught a lesson in patience, trust, and walking the talk. They went with someone else.” I wrote.

Her response? “Well that’s a bummer. I wonder what’s coming down the pipe for you now :)”

What perfect, honest, real, useful thoughts. Basically, 1)Tough shit, little girl. 2) Chin up and get excited for what’s next!

So, here I am again. Happy, grateful, and with more possibilities than *I thought* I had just days ago. No worries. No complaints. Life. Is. Good.

Thanks, Universe. For NOT giving me the job. You’re the best.

Tie-dye leggings and gray dress slacks. A note on bending before breaking.

Today, I’m wearing gray dress slacks I put in a box destined for Goodwill just one year ago. I’m pairing these pants with a black sweater and a pair of modest ballet flats.

And a pair of multicolored tye-dye leggings.

Before I quit my job last fall, I decided I’d had it with business attire. Never again would I wear dress pants to work each day! Pencil skirts and cardigans? Go to hell. “I don’t want to work at any company that won’t let me dress in a t-shirt and flip flops!,” I said defiantly when my mom questioned why I was getting rid of my professional clothing.

Well, maybe this happened by mistake or maybe on purpose (her purpose, not mine), but many of these business pieces weren’t stuck with little blue and green tags and sold to someone who needed a cheap option or someone who wanted to be hip by buying used… Instead, the boxes and bags overflowing with khakis and cable-knit were stacked alongside my distressed denim and concert tees. Now I’m wearing these clothes again. They surely have proven useful, and saved me loads of moolah.

I’ve grown through my 20-something freak out, and I’ve learned that having a nice stable job that asks you to look polished and neat each day isn’t so bad after all. Actually, it’s quite nice not having to decide whether or not my over-sized tank, skinny jeans, and moccasins are appropriate (sometimes yes, most times no… not in the newsroom at least). I enjoy that a little bit of decision making is taken care of simply because I have to build an outfit using “business casual” attire. Black pants? Check. Simple sweater? Check. Nude flats? Check. Done and done.

However, what I HAVE learned is that even though I’m not getting the chance to “express myself” as freely as I could by wearing clothes appropriate for interacting with editors each evening (although, many of my coworkers totally dig this Bonnaroo tee-wearing boho chick and would welcome the change of pace), I’m still able to integrate bits of my personality into my fabric and accessory selections. A printed cami. Multicolored Mayan loafers. Leggings and boots and a way-too-baggy sweater. Black on black on black on black. Things that are “appropriate” but are still me. Bending inside the limits, bending to conform just a bit…

At my last office job, I think part of the reason I BROKE like I did was because I didn’t consider how to remain stable while BENDING… I looked at my situation as an ice block that I had to remain frozen inside of, rather than looking at it as something that could melt and conform to my natural shape a bit better. I could have sought out more opportunities to express myself, in areas like creative design tasks or writing for example. Or I could have accepted my professional job as it was, and expressed myself more freely in my downtime. However, I decided I was stuck and I had to break free.

Now I know, learning to bend rather than break is so important.

Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can't, still be YOU underneath ;)

Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can’t, still be YOU underneath.

But even in my current job there are some days, like today, when I decide to go the very traditional route of wearing black on gray. But, I’m still me and I’m still making it a point to make the child inside happy, the one insisting she wear striped socks over argyle tights with a polka-dot sweater (I just reunited with a younger me who lives on the Oregon coast), even if the expression has to be underneath my varying shades of K. No one knows I’m wearing neon pink and yellow tye-dye leggings but me, and I’m the only person needing to be impressed sometimes 🙂

I’ve now learned how to bend and compromise in so many areas of my life. Doing so prevents many headaches and helps keep the peace. In the workplace, and in my heart.

Be thankful, no matter what.

“There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” – Unknown

Homeless Portland man holds sign this morning that  reads, "SMILE! If I can smile, so can you!"

Homeless Portland man holds sign this morning that reads, “SMILE! If I can smile, so can you!”

While traveling in Guatemala this spring I met with a female mystic who told my friend and I the ancient Mayan creation story. She said there were multiple cycles of creation and destruction, and it wasn’t until humans were able to give thanks that the destruction stopped. Until people felt gratitude in their hearts and began acknowledging their blessings, life couldn’t prosper and humanity wouldn’t survive.

We live in a world full of entitlement. Yes, we sometimes have to work hard, but there is always an expectation that we’ll be given what we want and need. Life is pretty easy, let’s be real. The vast majority of us in this country don’t have to worry about where our next meal will come from, where we’ll sleep tonight, of if somebody will love us. We’re spoiled. We’re LUCKY.

However, a big problem in this country is gratitude. We’re a take-take-take society, and we rarely give back, let alone give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

No matter if things are going great or if things are pretty rough, there is always something to be thankful for. For one, the fact that we’re breathing and that we’re alive and able to face another day (and therefore, that there is always a chance that today may be the day things get better). For two, the fact that we’ve had both good and bad experiences in life which gave us tools to improve our situations and those of others. For three, that the sun rises and sets each day, always reminding us that there are new beginnings and that we can wipe away the failures from our past and start fresh.

The past few months I’ve made it a point to give thanks before bed each night. I take a few moments to quiet my mind and thank god for the blessings I have and for all the opportunities I’ve been given. Nothing ever seems that bad if I remind myself to be thankful.

If each of us filled our hearts with gratitude and love, this world might not be so tough…

And remember, gratitude grows from gratitude. Give it a shot ❤

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

– Denis Waitley

What is it about the Pacific Northwest?

Me overlooking the Pacific from Cape Perpetua, just south of Yachatz.

Me overlooking the Pacific from Cape Perpetua, just south of Yachatz.

As my friends and I drove south along Hwy 101 from Cannon Beach, I gazed out the car window at the coastline, rocky and majestic with seagreen water and foamy white waves. “I don’t know what it is, but I feel such a strong pull to this area. It’s like I’m meant to be here. I’ve always felt this way, for as long as I can remember at least,” I said.

Cory then asked what I thought to be quite the bizarre question. He said, “Where in your body do you feel it? Physically, what’s pulling you?”

I’d never been asked to describe a physical location for a mental thought, but after a bit of reflection and feeling, it was easy. I knew. “Well, it may sound weird but I think it’s in my chest. It’s my heart.”

—-

I’ve been in Oregon for almost a week now and although I still have yet to process all of the amazing, exciting, awe-inspiring moments, I can 100% say that I love it here. I. Love. Oregon.

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with and desire to live in the Pacific Northwest. I was born in Eugene but moved to Michigan when I was still quite young. My family and I have travelled back a few times since but this time, I left Michigan to explore this place on my own. The trip has softened a few more layers of my heart and tapped into an even deeper space, filling me with an even greater love for the area.

I don’t know if it’s the depth of the forest green, or the roar of the waves, or the mountains and jagged rocks… The nature is magic. But, this earth is beautiful everywhere really. If we removed our strip malls and parking lots, Mother Nature in her original form is breathtaking. From jungles to deserts to plains to mountains, she’s a beauty.

So then, what is it about the Pacific Northwest that I love so much?

I’m not sure, but I do feel like a child here. My eyes are open and curious, my legs have a little more pep and provide a little more energy, and my heart is simply happy. The forests are really a natural playground!

I just did a bit of research into the heart chakra after thinking about what my friend had asked me (find out more here – fourth chakra – halfway down the page), and it looks like our heart chakra is the joining of our physical and spiritual bodies. It is the place of intuition and love and our connection to nature. It brings a balance to the rest of our chakras, helping us to feel centered and poised for growth.

I think my heart feels pulled here because in the Northwest, not only is the natural world powerful and stunning, the people and the places seem more geared toward peace and positive progress than in many other locations I’ve experienced. Here, I would be, and am, able to use my physical body in a natural space, while emphasizing personal growth and love for others.

Maybe that’s why my heart loves it here and why my heart always feels connected to this space…

Regardless of reason, the love I feel is real and my heart is content. Oregon, I love you. (But hey, Michigan, YOU have my heart, too!)

Here are a few pictures from some hikes I’ve taken the past few days. And, if you ever get a chance to travel westward, come to Oregon. Let yourself be here… And open your heart and see what happens ❤

Zen moment in Punchbowl Falls off the Eagle Creek Trail near the Columbia River Gorge.

Zen moment in Punchbowl Falls off the Eagle Creek Trail near the Columbia River Gorge.

Taking a breather on the Eagle Creek Trail.

Taking a breather on the Eagle Creek Trail.

The Pacific Northwest is FULL of fuzzy trees like this.

The Pacific Northwest is FULL of fuzzy trees like this.

Two friends of mine racing to a lookout at Cape Perpetua. I'm not the only one who plays here :)

Two friends of mine racing to a lookout at Cape Perpetua. I’m not the only one who plays here 🙂

Catching a great silhouette opportunity at Heceta Head.

Catching a great silhouette opportunity at Heceta Head.

The beach at Heceta Head is amazing. Always a favorite spot of mine.

The beach at Heceta Head is amazing. Always a favorite spot of mine.

Moss moss moss everywhere!

Moss moss moss everywhere!

Magical mystical Mother Nature at her finest, showing off in cave form at Heceta Head.

Magical mystical Mother Nature at her finest, showing off in cave form at Heceta Head.

Catching the sunset hiking Angel's Rest just east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge.

Catching the sunset hiking Angel’s Rest just east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge.

Playing at Heceta Head beach.

Playing at Heceta Head beach.

Overlooking the gorge from the Angel's Rest hike.

Overlooking the gorge from the Angel’s Rest hike.

Loving life and the Pacific from Devil's Churn next to Cape Perpetua.

Loving life and the Pacific from Devil’s Churn next to Cape Perpetua.

Me and my hiking buddies at Cape Perpetua.

Me and my hiking buddies at Cape Perpetua.

Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Go here. Just do it.

Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Cannon Beach! Go here. Just do it.

Nature wins. Who needs art when we have moss.

Nature wins. Who needs art when we have moss.

A warm late-fall hike near Cannon Beach.

A warm late-fall hike near Cannon Beach.

The Pacific Northwest is magical. This picture is proof.

The Pacific Northwest is magical. This picture is proof.