Life

Rocks and Feathers

“You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago. You’re always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life. And the very experiences that seem so hard when you’re going through them are the ones you’ll look back on with gratitude for how far you’ve come”

showuptoday

I’d be lying if I said I looked back over the past year and immediately felt grateful for everything I’ve been through. As I sit and reflect on the things I’ve gone through and what they have taught me I am able to intentionally offer gratitude for those experiences, but it isn’t a natural first reaction for me. I haven’t “made it” to some super enlightened place of reflection where I feel gratitude, but I am getting better about intentionally being grateful even for – especially for – the struggles I’ve faced. A year ago I had no idea how I was going to survive a year of 20 hours a week of unpaid internship on top of school, parenting, and working. I pushed the limits of what was logistically possible and scheduled my days in 15 minute windows. I learned the importance of planning and communication, setting realistic goals and expectations, and of being present in the moment.

There were so many moments this year where I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the week – let alone the year or my grad school program. The thing about being in grad school for Counseling is that you can’t just run from your issues… they become the homework. I had to address my personal world view, my wounds, my mindset. If I truly wanted to be helpful as a counselor I had to know my own shit. I have had so many moments of clarity reflecting on sessions I’ve had with clients. My daddy issues were clear when I saw my first older white male and had a hard time asserting myself in session. My relationship issues were easy to spot when I had my first client in a toxic, codependent relationship. I was able to recognize these issues and intentionally set them aside when I walked into the room as the counselor. Compartmentalizing wasn’t something I was good at, but it was something I was forced to learn. I have always worn many hats but before this I tried to wear them all simultaneously. Becoming a counselor has forced me to be mindful and intentional about which hat I wear when. I used to be a major supporter of multitasking, but after seeing how much more present I became in my life when I was intentional about what Courtney showed up I firmly believe that being mindfully intentional allows for a greater depth of experience in life than multitasking would ever allow.

So, here I am right now… sitting in my favorite coffee shop intentionally sipping my black mango tea as I reacquaint myself with Courtney the writer. In the madness that has been my life for the last several years Courtney the writer has been quiet. I’ve churned out my fair share of academic papers and “woe is me” journal entries, but the writer I’ve missed has been the one so passionately communicating the words that burn true in my soul. I used to have a pretty popular blog and after awhile the words became empty because I was writing for a specific audience. I miss writing for the freedom it brings me. I have nothing to prove. I’m not trying to be some eloquent poet. I want to share the words that bring life and freedom. The words that everyone wants to hear but no one will say. I want to give people permission to live and feel and express themselves. I want people to feel seen and heard and understood by my words. If just one person reads the words I write and feels a little less alone, that is completely worth it. Words truly are life to me. A gift. It’s no surprise my love language is “words of affirmation.” Words have the power to inspire or to injure. The words you write, speak, or even just the words you think to yourself – they are either building you up or putting you down. Just like I had to learn intentionality with showing up and focusing on being just one thing at a time, I have had to learn how to intentionally focus on the words I speak and think.

I see speaking or thinking positive things about ourselves and others as feathers. Each thought is just a tiny feather being placed on the balancing scale. The negative things we think and speak about ourselves and others are like rocks. Just one weighs the scale down significantly. Its impact is immediately felt. It takes infinitely more instances of intentional positivity to balance the scale out after one instance of negativity. Make sure you are adding feathers to your scale constantly. It’s a never ending battle that must be fought with mindfulness and intentionality. Carry your feathers with you always. Give them away without hesitation. Leave your rocks, don’t carry them with you. When you are tempted to tip the scales with just a slip of the tongue, stop and weigh the impact it will have before you toss it on the scale – scattering the feathers you’ve fought so hard to accumulate.

Show up today. Be intentionally present. Engage mindfully. You are more powerful than you give yourself credit for.

Life, parenting

it takes a village

Today is my last “first day” of a new term in Graduate school.

Today I walked on to campus, one of the few places that has remained familiar to me throughout the hurricanes of change that life seems to enjoy throwing at me, and reflected on how different I am from the girl who walked on to this campus two years ago. Today I am strong, confident, and comfortable knowing exactly who I am – faults and all.

January of 2017 I sheepishly walked on to campus so quiet and insecure, unsure of myself. I was determined to be the perfect student. I had what I thought was a great support system with my husband nearing the end of his Masters program, I determined to use this program to make our life better.  We were going to be an unstoppable force together, another version of the power couple I thought we had always been. I was so wrong.

Just 2 months later in March of 2017 (on my 30th birthday) my husband, and the foundation of my support system, told me he was done. While we had some struggles I was always willing to do whatever it took to work through them. I was unaware then how toxic and co-dependent our relationship was, I subconsciously refused to acknowledge the level of dysfunction we had lived with for most of our relationship. With those blinders on I was SO sure we could make it work, but our almost 10 year marriage seemed to crumble overnight.

I was left with apartment and car leases that were both about to expire, a decade of jointly accumulated possessions to sort through mostly on my own, grad school classes to attend, an assistant job that barely paid enough to make ends meet on my own, and a then 7 year old to parent while trying to hold it together myself. Happy 30th Birthday, right?

I continued to show up… to my classes, to my job, and for my daughter. Some days showing up was all I could do. I was so unprepared for this. For life. At 30 years old I had never found a place to live on my own, never bought my own car, never fully supported myself financially. I was so overwhelmed with the process of buying a car, finding a place to live, and figuring out how to make ends meet all while negotiating a divorce and custody agreement. The feeling of helplessness I had the first year of being alone was incredibly motivating. I became determined to make it on my own. I bought my own car, found my own place, and managed a budget largely on my own. I had help from some amazing people who were already in my life, made some amazing new friends that showed up for me when they didn’t have to, but largely – I was, scratch that… I am – scared to let people in, to let people help me. ….Because if I let them help me I’d get used to it and when they decided to leave…. I’d end up even more wounded. So I built up walls and insisted on doing almost everything for myself. Need a set of blinds replaced? Buy my own power tools and learn how to do it on my own. Need a babysitter? Don’t ask friends or loved ones close buy – hire your own sitter. People have asked how they can help and my answer is always “I’m fine, I’ll figure it out.” I refused to let people in. I was there for everyone but rarely let someone be there for me. Call it pride, ego, bitterness, fear… Whatever you call it – It was lonely.

Brene Brown is my career crush. She is a vulnerability and shame researcher. I have adored (ok… mildly obsessed) over all of her ted talks, books, podcasts. She is ultimate #careergoals. She insists that we were made for love and belonging, but that requires vulnerability. Again, something I preach to my clients and attempt to make it look like I’m living well. But I kept my walls high. Those who were inside my walls before they closed stayed there, but letting new people in… Nope, I couldn’t risk it. I’d maybe let people help here or there but never really let people in. I walked around in heavy, clunky armor determined to protect myself from pain or disappointment. But you can’t selectively numb feelings. I was blocking out the pain – but I was also losing out on the joy of connection, love, and belonging. It wasn’t until recently I was shown how ridiculous my inability to accept help was… it was a literal light bulb moment. I brushed off my boyfriend’s offer to help me change a lightbulb – something that takes a lot of effort for a girl with the nick name “Shortney” – and he got frustrated with my inability to accept even the smallest amount of help. And he called me out on it. He was right (yes, I said it). So, I (reluctantly) let him change my lightbulb.

I lost my job of almost 8 years in October. I’ve been on unemployment since then looking for a job that will allow me to finish grad school, including 20 hours a week of unpaid internship. I’m now 9 weeks away and filling up my free time with interviews for jobs that pay (like actual money, not just “experience”) but I’ve been cutting it close in a lot of ways – specifically financially. Along with losing my job I also racked up an outrageous amount of legal fees trying to fight for what I believe was best for my daughter, only to be disappointed by the system.  I’ve hid the depth of the struggle even from those close to me for a long time, but the weight got too heavy to carry myself. Because we were made for community and connection. It truly does take a village – and I was doing myself and others a huge disservice by keeping my village locked outside my walls.

I made a status on facebook in passing today about yet another outrageous expense that popped up – a $335 licensure test that I have to apply for by Wednesday – and how crazy it was that they expected a last term grad student to just come up with that kind of money. It was just minutes after that I had people telling me how much they believed in me and how they would help where they could. One of my friends sent me some money through facebook messenger payments and said “you’ve got friends out there. they will step up” and I honestly cried. Others asked for my Cash App name or popped up on my venmo saying they believed in me and wanted to invest in making my dreams a reality. I have been overwhelmed with the magic that happens when you choose vulnerability over fear and shame… true love, connection, and community show up. And many of you showed up for me today. I know how much everyone struggles and to see them choose to invest in me is so incredibly humbling and inspiring.

it truly does take a village, and today I’m reminded that I have a wonderful village full of amazing people.

divorce, Life

Happily ever after is right now.

What a year 2018 was. It was my first “full” year as a divorced woman. Wow, never thought that would ever be anything I would be. I would like to think that I have handled it well. I guess when I am writing for it to be read I want to put forward my best side. The ever optimistic “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” and “look at all the lessons I’ve learned” and the “I’m so much stronger for having survived this” and all the other beautifully penned cliches. I oftentimes tell my clients that I don’t want to hear their regurgitated therapeutic cliches and other bullshit. I tell them I want the reality of where they are right now. If it’s angry they have to be in my program, I want it. I just want them present and expressing themselves. But then I sit here like some polished piece of shit doing the same things they try to get away with. Maybe that’s why it irritates me when I see it in them, because I see what I try to convince myself of every day. That I have this flowery optimistic point of view. That I joyfully choose to look at every challenge as a “opportunity for growth”… The reality isn’t that pretty. Not by a long shot.

This year has been hell. That is not me being negative, that is my bloody and bruised soul looking at you with eyes of fire saying I’ve seen the darkness… I lived there. And I am fighting with everything within me to embrace the light. I have great days. This year was filled with more beauty and adventure and LIFE than I can explain. I felt every heartbeat, every smile, every beautiful moment. And I felt every disappointment, every gut punch, every failure, every tear. I felt it all with every fiber of my being. I’ve felt unstoppable and I’ve felt hopeless. And through it all, I held on. I held on to the hope that it gets better, some days just by a thread.

Oftentimes people only want to share the struggles once they have achieved the success. We hide the struggles as we live them, we will tell our story when we have a happy ending. We don’t share our before until we have an after that seems “good enough” for us to justify the struggle we have survived. But fuck that. When I’m in the darkness bracing for the next deathly blow I don’t want a success story, I just want to know I’m not alone. I don’t want the happily ever after to tell me how much better it gets. My eyes, having adjusted to darkness, are searching for others like me. Those who don’t have it all together, so we can all struggle together – helping each other where we can. But so many of us are afraid to admit that we don’t have it together. Or if we do, those who have it all together just want to give us the lectures of what we need to do to get where they are. I don’t want that. I don’t need that. I don’t need to be fixed. I’m not some success story to add to your repertoire to impress those above you so you can “level up.” I don’t want your advice or “3 easy steps to fill in the blank.” I don’t even want someone to fight for me. I just want someone to take my hand and say “You got this” and stand by me as I embrace the struggle. So, here I am promising to be that person for you. I will stand with you in the messy, dirty, dark struggle and look you in the eyes and say “beautiful soul, you got this. fight when you can, rest when you must. you are not alone. don’t look away… I see you. I see your soul, every part of it. and I will not look away. I see you and I am with you, always”

Today I dropped my daughter off at school after one of the most emotionally draining winter breaks I’ve had with her. Not for any fault of hers, she is perfection, but because life is heavy. I have unhealed wounds from my relationship with her father and sending her away to spend the week with him still stings. I am struggling in every area of life. I am entering my last 9 weeks of grad school in a few days, searching desperately for a job – I’ve been getting by on hope, charity, and public aid – and while I’m grateful, so grateful – it still isn’t enough and the bills are piling up. This past year I’ve lost my stable job of almost 8 years, lost people so incredibly important to me, and lost a year long court battle. Each one of those deserve a time of grieving that I am not able to provide. I go to bed exhausted, but I can’t sleep. This is my darkness, my struggle, my reality. The weight of it all disappears when I keep myself busy. I find myself falling back into that place I lived for years. The numbing buzz of keeping busy. A million lists. So many projects. Check it off and move on. If I’m moving I can’t feel how heavy it is. But that isn’t living. Those are the moments I need you to show up for me. It’s like a trance, I’m asleep – not alive. I miss out on the weight of it all for those moments. But I miss out on the joy of it all. And I am so incredibly lucky to have a few great people who know me well and love me enough to remind to me stop… breathe… live. And I feel the weight of the struggle, but I also start to see the joy of it too. Those moments when the little voice says out of no where “I love you mom, you’re the best” … I stop and I live. Those moments when you make me laugh when I don’t want to… Those moments when you walk up behind me and hug me tight and tell me you love me… Those moments when you text me just the right thing at just the right time because we have BFF ESP…. Those moments are the ones I don’t want to miss. Because that… that is what living is. The weight of the struggle will always be there. I hope someday it won’t be this heavy, but I know it will never go away. If I try to avoid it I miss those things. Those little things that make life so sweet. It’s not the “happily ever after” … It’s the right now. Happily ever after is just a lot of right nows put together day after day after day. Happily ever after is right now… and i’m going to live it with purpose.

Life

… but i should have known better.

This is a story that I have never told
I gotta get this off my chest to let it go
I need to take back the light inside you stole
You’re a criminal
And you steal like you’re a pro

All the pain and the truth
I wear like a battle wound
So ashamed, so confused
I was broken and bruised

you know how you hear a song over and over again for years and yet you never really hear it? And then one day you hear it … like in your soul…. yea, that’s this song. I heard it for years but never really understood it….until it struck a chord on the still fresh wounds of my soul.

i’ve debated sharing my story on a public platform, but I feel like it is a very important step not just in my own healing and recovery process – but also because it is a very important step in fighting the victim blaming stigma associated with sexual assault.

whoa. let’s back it up a bit.

i’m about to get uncomfortably vulnerable and if you’re triggered by stories of sexual assault feel free to click away.

it was March of this past year. if i’m being honest i wasn’t in a very healthy place. i was about to turn 30 and my marriage was falling apart in front of me and i had no idea. i lived in a constant state of intense anxiety that often led me to overuse alcohol as a coping mechanism. my ex had planned a trip to the dominican republic as a spring break/birthday family trip. we had debated cancelling the trip since our relationship was in such a fragile place, but we didn’t want to break our daughter’s heart and i (not so) secretly hoped getting away for a bit would help us reconnect and figure things out. so we went. i was a little nervous about the fact that we were going to an all inclusive resort and i had some issues with alcohol, but i swore i was going to do it right that time. we had lots of difficult conversations on that trip, but came to what i saw as some kind of understanding and for the first time in a long time felt a speck of happiness and hope.

so, i let my guard down.

and i drank more than i intended to. for a second it felt like we were connecting again, like maybe we were going to make it…  i could breathe again and i just let loose. i was sitting at the swim up bar and talking with the bartender and the people around me, some young spanish speaking guy began talking to me and i used my rusty spanish to converse with him. of course, i was naturally flirtatious. my ex was talking to people on the other side of the pool. i got a refill of my drink and that is the last thing i remember for awhile.

i have flashes of memories from this point on… memories that are vivid and filled with feelings. i don’t know how i got to the public bathroom in the lobby, but i remember being in there with the spanish speaking guy from the bar. things happened – things i didn’t consent to. i remember the feeling of being terrified. i’m not sure how i got back to the room, but i did. there is a lot about the night that doesn’t add up, so much so i will always wonder if i was drugged. the rest of the night was a blur of extreme emotional outbursts and other things i’m not proud of.  my initial reaction was one of self-loathing. i blamed myself. i knew i was taken advantage of but the thought echoing through my head was

… but i should have known better…. 

surely i said/did/wore something that brought this on. i should have saw in coming. i should have been able to stop it. i felt so ashamed, so dirty and used. and on top of that there were layers of guilt, shame, self-loathing, and so many negative feelings.

i woke up in the middle of the night feeling sick. my legs didn’t work right so i laid on the bathroom floor. eventually i made my way to the shower and turned the water as hot as it would go and just laid on the floor of the shower in some foreign hotel room crying hysterically for an hour… trying to wash away the dirty feeling in my soul. but i couldn’t.

i had often thought of how i would handle something like this happening to me. i’m a fairly confident, strong, intelligent woman. i pictured picking myself up and marching straight to the police and making an eloquently stated report. but i didn’t. i was told it was my decision, that clearly i wanted it regardless of the fact that i was clearly not coherent enough to consent. not remembering a lot of the evening made me feel like maybe that was true, maybe i didn’t say no. maybe i was being too flirtatious. being in a foreign country on a short trip made going to the authorities more difficult and there was no way to prove anything.

it took me awhile to talk to anyone besides my doctor about this experience out of the guilt and shame and embarrassment. i’ve gotten help and worked through a lot of the issues and i understand that it wasn’t my fault and i was taken advantage of. but i still have flashbacks and sometimes struggle with owning my own sexuality because of this experience. it is one moment that will change your life forever.

please. please. please. if someone discloses any kind of feeling of being sexually violated – don’t dismiss it. validate it. listen. empathize. know that it takes a hell of a lot of courage and vulnerability to disclose this type of thing. check out RAINN for more resources on how to get help or help someone you know who has experienced sexual assault.

remember, life goes on. it gets better. you can overcome. this doesn’t define you. you are a warrior.

divorce, Life, parenting

what i didn’t know six months ago

six months ago my life as i thought i knew it flipped upside down. it was my 30th birthday, that life milestone you spend your twenties simultaneously dreading and looking forward to. on one hand it is that “omg i’m so old” freak out moment… and on the other it is this unspoken life milestone i pictured as a marker of ending the uncertainty and panic that your twenties are known for.

oh how unbelievably naive of me.

instead of having the coveted “dirty thirty” celebration i spent my actual birthday telling my seven year old daughter her father and i were going to be “taking a break” and living in separate houses. and thus began the roller coaster of the last six months.

it’s easy to see snapshots of someone’s life on social media and assume all is well. and for the most part, it is. but some days it’s not. some days are heavy, sad, confusing, overwhelming. the first few months i was a mess. i was in shock. i spent a long time trying to live up to the expectations of myself and others and when those expectations shattered in my hands i struggled. i was disappointed in myself and terrified of disappointing others. mourning the loss of the marriage i thought i had, the future we had planned, the family we had created… it was (it still is) a hard and painful process. this is the ultimate “embracing imperfection” challenge for me. failing at marriage – one of the foundational blocks i’ve built my life on – has created cracks in a lot of my expectations and ways of viewing the world. and i don’t think that’s a bad thing. if i can learn to thrive after what i would classify as one of the biggest disappointments i could face there isn’t much else i couldn’t handle. it has been a catalyst for freeing myself from the cage of people pleasing i’ve felt locked in for most of my life. which i’m thankful for. i’m getting to know myself for the first time in a long time, without the panic of wondering if who i am is enough or acceptable. while this entire process exhausting and painful at times, it’s been refreshing in a lot of ways too. i have to continually be reminded to look for the positive in even the most challenging, frustrating situations.

but… i never wanted this. this wasn’t supposed to be me. it happened so fast. the first few months of living on my own was scary. there is just so much i had never done on my own before… so much you just don’t realize changes with divorce…

  • i never expected to be a “part time” mom (i know i am always her mom… even when she’s not with me… that’s not what i mean). i never wanted to spend long stretches of time apart from my daughter. i didn’t want to miss getting her ready and sending her off for her last day of school. i didn’t want to miss tucking her in every night. the first weekend she was away i had so many mini panic attacks trying to figure out where she was because i was so used to her always being around…. BUT it has made me far more aware of making the most of every moment we have together. we made memories this summer out of moments that would have never happened otherwise.

  • i didn’t realize how heavy simple life decisions were when you had to make them on your own. in the first month of being separated i had to buy a new car and find a new place to live on my own. i moved from the suburbs to right smack dab in the middle of downtown stl. ya’ll – for most of the ten years i’ve lived in this area i refused to drive downtown at all. it induced a high level of anxiety. now it’s just another day. i’m braver, stronger, and more aware of my personal taste and desires. making decisions on my own is still scary sometimes, but rewarding.

  • untangling nearly ten years of physical and emotional connection is messy. he moved out of the apartment that we shared with just what he needed to get by the weekend after my birthday. the lease on that apartment was expiring in a month so i had to move too. that meant the whole apartment and storage unit had to be sorted. packing up a decade of accumulated belongings is exhausting, emotionally and physically. i had to decide what i wanted to keep, what was his, and what to get rid of. our lives were completely intertwined so separating them has been difficult financially, socially, and legally. just when you think you have it figured out something else you forgot about pops up.

this weekend marked the end of the thirty day waiting period that the state of missouri requires when you file for divorce, so it could be legally finalized any day now. this coming sunday would have been our ten year anniversary. so, to say this week has felt exceptionally heavy would be an accurate assessment. but, i’m stronger than i’ve ever been. and i have a healthy support system to hold me up when i don’t feel strong enough to do it on my own.

if you’re struggling through any type of challenging situation, know that you are far more capable than you ever thought you could be. look for the positive. be honest with yourself about your struggles. and find a community of people to be the healthy support system you will inevitably need… because we were never meant to do life alone.

 

Life

new beginnings

hi there!

welcome to my imperfect little corner of the interwebs.

i’m courtney.

some of you may know me from what feels like a previous life over at journeyofadreamer.com. i spent years and years blogging about my life there. that courtney was an entirely different person. that courtney was a young and optimistic wife, mother, business owner, and health enthusiast. over the past few years life has happened and i’m no longer most of those things. i’m now a not as young 30 year old divorced mother and grad student trying to figure out the rest of the “who i am” question.

second puberty is real, ya’ll.

as i emerge from my years of blogging silence i thought it was fitting that i create a completely new online space for the new me. the old courtney was obsessed with meeting the expectations of others, both online and in real life. and it broke me. as i felt the world as i knew it shattering around me i grasped for those shards of expectations i had built my entire worldview on, refusing to acknowledge the pain it caused me and those closest to me… attempting to smile as i bled out from the wounds created by grasping tightly to something so broken.

so, here i am.

broken. bloody. bruised.

but more alive than ever.

see, when hit rock bottom there is nothing else to lose. i lost it all. and in the midst of the darkest time of my life i made the decision to truly start living. and for the first time in my three decades of life, i acknowledged and embraced my imperfections. i still have some struggles with my desire to live up to expectations and portray this image of perfection. so i’ve dubbed myself a recovering perfectionist. embracing my flaws, shortcomings, and quirks as the things that make me unique instead of making me less valuable.

here i’ll share my thoughts about divorce, parenting & co-parenting, being a grad student at 30, finding financial peace, and learning to live a balanced healthy life.

follow me on facebook, instagram, and pinterest to stay up to date.

i’m still in the process of designing and creating this online space… but i didn’t want to wait for it to be perfect before launching it. so, here it is in all of it’s imperfect glory.

and, boy howdy, is it imperfect. but it’s mine. see for a long time my ex-husband handled all my blog tech stuff. as i decided to get back into blogging and create a new space i knew i had to do it myself. and i did. from buying the domain to setting up hosting and installing wordpress and themes… i did it all on my own. once upon a time i believed i was a damsel in distress and wanted someone to ride in on a white horse and rescue me. now, i realize i’m so much more capable than i gave myself credit for and i am determined to figure things out for myself. and i have! not without some tears, throwing things, and lots of ice cream. but i have done it. and i’m damn proud.

i’m looking forward to sharing more with you as i walk this imperfect and unpredictable journey of life.

cheers to new beginnings!

what is something you have done recently that made you feel proud of yourself?

 

Life

It’s just mine.

Just over month ago I turned 30.

I had so many plans and dreams and expectations about what 30 would look like. I wasn’t one of those people who dreaded it. I expected to leave the struggles and uncertainty of my twenties behind me and embrace a new decade as a more powerful and confident version of myself.

I wasn’t exactly wrong… but I wasn’t exactly right.

I enjoy taking time around stereotypical life milestones to reflect on things leading up to that point, compare it with my expectations, and readjust as I move forward. As 30 crept up on me I hungered for that day to come and go, one to symbolize a new beginning… a chance to start fresh. You know the “we can start over on Monday” mindset when you mess up a diet. I needed that with life.

As it turns out, I’d get that – just not in the way I expected.

Most of my twenties were incredibly amazing… times and decisions I wouldn’t trade for the world. I learned so much, grew so much, experienced so much. Not all experiences and growth were pleasant… many were painful and difficult. Each experience and decision led me to where I am today.

Today I’m sitting in my new downtown loft leaning against my upholstered headboard with the glow of the twinkle lights I just attached to it filling the tiny dark room. Despite having just moved in a few days ago, I’m completely unpacked and beginning to feel somewhat settled in. I’m cuddled up in my ruffly teal and purple bedding, complete with a matching mermaid sequin pillow. My room here is tiny, just big enough for my bed, nightstands, and my dresser, which is adorned with my growing collection of stuffies (I keep my favorite purple/rainbow giraffe, Pink, in bed with me). It’s silent minus the sounds of my fingers on the keyboard and the occasional siren or random shouting from the streets.

Despite the fact that it is tiny… I’m proud of my room. MY room. I’ve never ever ever in my 30 years had my own room. Growing up as the second of four children meant I was used to sharing my space. When I moved away from home to my internship program after high school I shared a room with 5 other girls. I made a short pit stop back at home for a few months after that year and half internship program and before getting married. When we eloped I first shared a house with my new husband and his two other roommates for a few months… eventually we moved out on our own to a one bedroom apartment, then a two bedroom apartment, then to what we thought was our dream house which we sold just last year and we moved back into an apartment. Each place was ours. but this one… it’s just mine.

Ah, yes. There it is.

The bombshell I’ve been dancing around.

It feels like there is no truly natural, not awkward way to acknowledge the ending of a season… of a marriage. Life happens. People change and grow and not always at the same rate or in the same direction. We were young, oh so so so young. For a long time we skirted around the seriousness of the issues we were living with. To the world we may have looked like we had it all together, that we were living our happily ever after. We played the parts so well that even we were unaware of many of our issues. We did things right… This wasn’t supposed to happen to us… The fear of disappointing each other, ourselves, and those who believed in us was so heavy that we couldn’t be honest with ourselves. Neither of us did anything more wrong than the other. We still love and care for each other, but we have admitted to ourselves and each other that we are no longer the best fit for each other in a marriage. We are still friends and we will continue to be as we co-parent together. Providing a loving environment… or two… for our daughter is our main priority.

I’m not trying to pretend like this has been easy. It hasn’t. Disassembling the life we built together for nearly a decade hasn’t been easy logistically: we’ve had to decide who gets what stuff and create a schedule for who has our daughter when… financially: the same income we lived on together in one household now has to stretch to cover two households… and emotionally: there is hurt that needs to heal, sadness that needs to felt, and dreams of a future together that need to be mourned. I’ve had days where I feel stronger than I’ve ever been and I can take on the world… and I’ve had days where all I’ve done is cried and getting out of bed seemed to be impossible. I’ve spent countless hours playing through every way I could have done something different to fix it and and just as much time excitedly dreaming of every new opportunity this presents. It’s been a roller coaster. I know those ups and downs will even out eventually… that letting go and moving on is a process.

So, this is 30. Embracing the opportunity for growth that this new decade provides I am now pursuing my dream of becoming a counselor, leaving the suburbs for downtown city living, and disassembling the life we shared as I rebuild myself and my life on my own… now that it’s just mine.

Health, Life, Life Lessons, mental health

Giving Voice To The Struggle

I’ve started this post more times than I can count. I’ve written and deleted what I would imagine is hundreds of half drafts with hundreds more floating around in my head. How do I find just the right words to say what I want to say? What if it’s not perfect? What if people don’t understand? Is being vulnerable worth it? If it’s not flowery and pretty – but raw and honest – will people even care? What if they think I’m just trying to get attention? Will it even help anyone?

… STOP…

Enough is enough. The thoughts keeping me from sharing are the thoughts that I am trying to share. Sharing is important to me. This little corner of the interwebs is a very important part of my life.  It’s not about the notoriety or attention. For me sharing has always been about making people realize they are not alone. Not only have I wanted to make others realize they weren’t alone, I needed to know that I wasn’t alone either. Over the last two years or so I’ve been eerily quiet here though. I’ve wondered what, if anything, people thought about my silence. That I was just too busy (true), that I hit my weight loss goals and had nothing else to write about (not true), that I didn’t care about sharing any more (not true), that I gained back all the weight I lost and was ashamed to talk about it (it’s complicated)… while there could be many different reasons and excuses for my lack of presence both here and on social media there is ultimately one reason…

I’m struggling. 

Not in the “it’s Monday afternoon and I’m a little tired” struggling. The dig deep, foundation shaking, world view cracking, sleepless night, anxiety filled, broken, exhausted, confused, and trying to figure it all out kind of struggling. That kind of struggling isn’t sexy. It doesn’t sell. There are no three easy steps to create pinable images out of. There’s no finished product. There’s no before and after that will fill you with a flash of inspiration.

There are always three parts to a story. The beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is easy to share. I was here… the end generally brings resolution (unless it’s last night’s season premiere of walking dead but that’s a whole other post). But the middle… the struggle… that is always somehow minimized. Yet it is the meat of the story, where the magic happens. Before and After weight loss pictures don’t tell anything about the middle. As a matter of fact, they ignore it completely. People generally don’t want to hear about the struggle. We don’t go around showing our still open and raw wounds. We may show off our scars, once the rawness and pain has passed. The struggle doesn’t ever get a voice. And because of that living in the struggle is a shameful, dark, and lonely place. That’s so sad when the reality is many of us are living in the struggle. It may not be an earth shattering, sleep taking, life altering struggle… but it’s a struggle none the less.

I’m not going to try to minimize or exaggerate my struggle. It is mine to live with, to work through, to conquer. We each have our own and it affects us all differently. No ones is better or worse, easier or harder. Your struggle isn’t any more or less important or valid than mine. While I’ve had many different types of struggle there is one underlying struggle that seems to connect with and make the others far more difficult to conquer… and that is my struggle with anxiety. It wasn’t until the last several months that I was able to put a name to the thing that has haunted me for so long. I’ve lived with this feeling for about as long as I can remember. This constant buzz (and not the fun kind LOL). This constant feeling that I had to be doing something, doing more, doing better. This suffocating fear of not being perfect. This unquenchable thirst for control over the tiniest things. This overwhelming fear of the unknown. It’s lived with me for a long time. It didn’t manifest itself in the stereotypical ways we see anxiety being portrayed. It festered just under the surface enough to be annoyingly undetectable under normal life circumstances. I managed it well without even knowing it, numbing the pain and discomfort with busyness, productivity, overachievement. I kept that dull ache at bay for a long time. This post really sums it up well –> What it’s like to have ‘High Functioning Anxiety

Over the past year or two life has been anything but normal. In a really healthy way and out of a desire to live our best life Chris and I began to ask hard questions about where we were and what we wanted out of life. You know the typical “It’s the end of your 20’s and you should have life figured out by now” kind of questions. How did we get here? Is this the life we want to live? Are we happy? If we keep doing what we’re doing now what will life look like 10 years from now? While there are a lot of deep and personal answers we discovered both individually and together there was one big decision we made that changed everything. After years of running several of our own businesses and trying to live off the high of the “American Dream” because it was what we were supposed to do… Chris decided to pursue his lifelong passion of working in the medical field. With a bachelors in marketing and some experience as an EMT nearly a decade ago we set ourselves on a journey to make the impossible happen. Less than 2 weeks before the start of the semester he enrolled in school to finish the pre-reqs he would need to get into the program he wanted. In typical Chris and Courtney fashion we dove into the deep end. Him in school and working full time with the marketing company meant I had to step up in a lot of other areas. I believed in him and his passion and ability to make the jump from marketing to nursing and wanted to do anything I could to make it happen. I was capable and driven. The story of how we are where we are today with this is nothing short of a miracle. In the past year I went from helping coach and manage to running the CrossFit completely on my own, he passed his pre-reqs, he was accepted into a very difficult to get into accelerated masters of nursing program, we sold our house, moved into in apartment, P changed schools and started 1st grade… so yea, not just a normal year.

This circumstances made my previously undetected unproblematic anxiety show it’s true ugly face. The truth is I am more than capable of handling everything I’ve been through – anxiety just made it a lot harder than it should have been. I didn’t understand what was happening with me. I was scared. Anxiety that usually manifested itself in a deceivingly productive way became almost crippling. There were days when getting out of bed seemed impossible. I was disconnected, shut down, closed off. I couldn’t catch my breath, literally and figuratively. I knew there was something wrong… but I was a perfectionist, the smart girl who should know how to handle it all. The one who helped not the one who asked for help. I was neck deep in the struggle. I said I was ok, that I could handle it. I always did. I was the strong one, the capable one. Hell, I have a psychology degree surely I should have healthy coping mechanisms for this. But I didn’t. Refusing to acknowledge I was living in the struggle cost me a lot. Not being honest with myself or the people close to me about my struggle caused a lot of pain. Pretending to be ok when I wasn’t nearly killed me. Maybe not in the physical sense. Suicide, while a very real and scary problem that I’m not discounting, is not a struggle of mine. I’d rather live with my pain than inflict it on those around me by taking my life. Living with that pain was suffocating though. I tried to numb that pain in a lot of ways – some more reckless than others. My default pain killer of choice was and will always will be busyness. If I’m not still enough long enough to feel it I can pretend it’s not there. All this self-medicating was wearing on me though. Eventually… in some very painfully vulnerable moments… I was able to admit I was struggling and needed help. And even just being able to tell someone that felt like weight off my shoulders.

I’ve spent a very long time trying to be perfect. I’ve constantly been “on” trying to prove something… to myself, to the world. I was trying so hard to hold it all together because I was so scared of falling apart. Of being less than perfect. Of not being good enough. I was talking to a very close friend of mine about this… About how I kept everything tucked so neatly inside the outline everyone drew for me with their expectations… and that if I ventured outside those lines I was afraid I’d fall apart. The response was exactly what I needed to hear even if I didn’t want to hear it (tough love friends are the best, aren’t they?)

“You can’t be scared to address your shit. Living in fear is no way to live. The truth is you may fall apart when you open it up. But guess what?  The people in your life who love you are going to be here to help put you back together and the reassembled version is going to be so much stronger, more confident and healthier.”

I lived my whole life refusing to give myself permission to not be ok. I held myself to impossible standards. I was… am.. broken. Because we, as humans, are imperfect and broken. I have, with the help of Chris and other very dear people in my life, given myself permission to be broken. And it has been intoxicatingly liberating.

I am still in the struggle. I’m just giving that struggle a voice. I have good days and bad days. I saw my doctor and am taking Anxiety meds. I set up a meeting with a therapist. I am learning how to have healthy coping mechanisms. I don’t have it all figured out. My wounds are still raw and open wounds not impressive scars. I don’t have a perfectly posed after picture to inspire you… all I have is the promise that you are not alone. You are enough.You don’t have to be perfect. Simply existing makes you worthy.

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It’s ok to give your struggle a voice. To not have it all together. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m here for you and I know each and every one of you have people around you that love you and would love to be there for you too.

Life

Finding My “Why” Changed My Life

You know when you’re a kid and you think about what you want to be when you grow up? Astronaut, Doctor, Rock Star, Ballerina… Nothing is impossible. We don’t think about the logic or the path it will take to get there. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that in that moment that is what we are absolutely convinced that is what we were made to do. That thing brings us great joy to dream about. That dream may last a day, a month, or years. Maybe you still think about that even if life has taken you another direction. In those innocent moments of childhood we are so connected to our true authentic selves. It’s before we learn to stifle our dreams, desires, and passions to try to fit into some mold society says we should fit in to.

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Years pass and we become so used to ignoring the voice of our true selves – our desires, passions, and dreams – that we don’t even know what it sounds like anymore. We spend so much time and effort becoming who we are told we should be. The only voices we know how to recognize are the ones who tell us what we should want or who we should be. So we build our lives on those voices. Some people live their whole lives never questioning the “should’s” that we have always been taught. Some people begin to question those should’s and are reprimanded… and because they are afraid of disappointing important people in their lives or afraid of being rejected or not fitting in they quickly return to their default programming and live out the rest of their lives as they “should.”

Those options seem so easy, so peaceful, so… comfortable. Life is easy that way. Following the default patterns of operating you’ve been taught your whole life takes little to no effort. It’s like auto pilot. Asking difficult questions, acknowledging that there may be a huge gap between who you have been told you should be and who you really are… those things are hard.

As a habitual people pleaser I have lived a lot of my life working to make other people happy. I prided myself on being a perfectionist. If I was going to do something I was going to do it right. I followed all the rules. I was the perfect church kid never getting into any kind trouble. I did what was expected of me so I wouldn’t disappoint people. And you know what? It worked really well for me for a long time. I devoted myself to achieving whatever goals seemed most admirable. Checked off all the boxes… Graduated High School at the top of my class, spent a few years at a Christian internship “finding my vision” (which really meant finding a husband), found a husband, got a dog, a house, a baby, a college degree (that one was a little out of order, I know), a business… And all of a sudden I had this beautifully chaotic life that I had built for myself because it was what I was supposed to do.

But.

I felt so disconnected. Like a shell of a person going through the motions that everyone expected me to. I had always thrived on meeting people’s expectations… Check off one thing on the list and move on. And suddenly I found myself standing there having checked off all the things on that list. I was left standing there wondering if this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life. I achieved all the goals everyone had for me. I made something of myself. I did all the shoulds that were expected of me. And when finally left with enough stillness to hear my own voice… it was terrifying. Listening to the voices of others was easy and safe. I couldn’t disappoint people or be rejected if I did exactly what was asked of me. Asking myself what I wanted and being quiet and honest enough to hear the response was scary. Could I trust myself? I never really had to before. What if what I truly wanted wasn’t “good enough” or what if it was disappointing to those who mean the most to me? I wasn’t unhappy with my life. I was perfectly happy being locked inside my safe cage of expectations. But something inside of me knew it wasn’t right. I needed to learn to trust myself. I needed to get to know myself.

It’s not that the goals I’d worked for were wrong… or that they weren’t something I would have wanted anyway. It’s that my motivation for reaching them wasn’t because I wanted to do it for me. It was because I wanted to do it for everyone else. I needed to feel safe that what I was doing was right so I just did what I was told. Because if I did, I couldn’t be wrong. And if I was wrong and I simply followed someone else’s directions it wouldn’t be my fault. I had to be perfect and blameless. It was what was expected of me, afterall.

I needed to be fully convinced that the life I was living and the person I was becoming was not because it was what was expected of me, but because it was truly who I was and what I wanted. It wasn’t so much the what… but the why.

When I began to realize and acknowledge these issues I knew I had to fix them. For me, that meant quieting as many of the voices I had allowed to dictate my life and expectations. A huge part of that had become the world of healthy living blogs and social media. I knew that this blog wasn’t something I wanted to completely shut down, but I also knew that I couldn’t keep writing empty posts just to keep up my readership or online presence. I started this blog to help inspire others to embrace the process and the journey, every step of the way. I had no idea how much I needed to hear that message myself.

I don’t have all the answers. I make mistakes. Outwardly my life may not look much different than it did a few years ago… but I can tell you that it is drastically different. I have full confidence in who I am and what I am doing. I don’t do things just because they are expected of me. I have more passion and conviction about finding your “why” in life more than your “what”… Because even if your “what” stays the same when you find your “why” it is life changing. When you can passionately and confidently say that you are doing what you love and becoming who you truly want to be everything makes so much more sense. There is a focus and clarity that can’t be explained. It may not be easy. It could be painful. It may not happen over night… it took me a few years! You have to be willing to let go of the all the things people tell you that you should do or should want. Give yourself freedom to explore, grace to make mistakes, and courage to take action.

[Tweet ” Give yourself freedom to explore, grace to make mistakes, and courage to take action.”]

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All that to simply say… I’m back!

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And better than ever. I’m working on a few fun things as I relaunch this blog. I’m still the same old Courtney, but with a much greater passion for helping others learn to embrace the journey they are on every step of the way. So, I hope you stick around awhile. Sign up for the email list, follow me on instagram and facebook.

Join the conversation either on social media or in the comments below…
How do you think finding your why has or could make a difference in your life?

Health, Life, Life Lessons, Nutrition

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

Oh hey there.

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It’s been faaaaaar too long. I had a moment this summer when I realized that I was trying to juggle so many different things and doing none of them exceptionally well. I wanted so desperately to be good at everything and ended up feeling like I wasn’t good at anything. And while it was something I loved and worked so hard to build… the blog was something I had to let go of updating regularly. Who knew being a wife and mom, running (and expanding!) several businesses, trying to maintain my own health and fitness, and figuring out life with a kid now in school would be too much for one person to handle… ha. It was important to me to be more present in every day life and most of my responsibilities, like running a CrossFit, weren’t ones I could give up on. So I took a break from posting regularly here. But I’ve missed it! And now that I feel like I have a little bit of a better handle on things I’m excited to try to get back into the groove with posting here.

This blog has grown and changed as I have grown and changed. It has been a place for deep reflections, a training journal for my past races, it had a short stint as an attempted crafting blog, but mostly it has been the way I have documented my weight loss and fitness journey over the past 5 years. The thing is along with realizing I couldn’t do it all I reached a major turning point in my weight loss journey this summer. I reached a point where the number on the scale wasn’t very important. I wasn’t willing to go to more extreme measures just to see that number change. I stopped stressing about it. As I continued to study for my Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification I started implementing some of the principles I was learning. I kept up with my regular Crossfit workouts, which range between 1-2 hours a day 5 days a week. I made healthy choices for the most part and enjoyed some indulgences on occasion as well. I’m almost scared to admit it… but I feel like I found peace and balance. I don’t want to say I’m in maintenance mode. I do want to be more lean than I currently am. But I absolutely love my body where it is at as well.

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It’s weird, though. To be at a place I always dreamed of being. We just got back from a trip to Jamaica (I’ll write more about that in another post) where I spent 4 days in a bikini and not once felt ashamed or self conscious. And when people started posting pictures from the weekend I didn’t cringe or hate any of them. I looked at myself and think “wow, I did this” instead of thinking how I need to eat less or workout more.

View this post on Instagram

Coffee on the balcony in Jamaica. The best #sundaymorningview yet! I love being in a place of peace with my body. I've worked hard to get where I'm at, both physically and emotionally. I never thought I would be able to enjoy a vacation like this and not stress out over how I look, what to wear, or what I eat. I'm able to simply relax and enjoy our vacation without caring about how I look in pictures or what people on the beach think about me. I'm comfortable and confident in my own skin and that's a feeling that I wish everyone could experience. @sundaymorningview #crossfit #bodypositive #effyourbeautystandards #bikini #jamaica #tanlines #curvesinbikinis #iamsizesexy @theashleygraham #beautybeyondsize

A post shared by Courtney Feldman (@imperfectlycourtney) on

This shift in mindset didn’t happen because I lost weight. This shift in my mindset happened because I worked on my mind and soul. By learning to care for my body I learned that there is so much more to being healthy than just eating right and working out. Being completely healthy means taking care of your body, mind, and soul.

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and Mind, drawing on blackboard

Doing things you love, challenging the lies you’ve been told about yourself your whole life, speaking powerful truths in place of those lies, taking time to invest in yourself, discovering your worth, surrounding yourself with people who support and empower you… all these things lead to being completely healthy. And that is what a lot of people miss on this journey. That’s dangerous. If all you do is focus on the physical aspect it is far more likely the changes you see in your body won’t stay around for long. I’d wager to say the changes I’ve seen in my body, especially in the last few months, have been not because I was focusing on the physical changes but because I have been focusing on my mind and soul as well. Realizing (and admitting) that I can’t do it all was a huge step for me. It eliminated the stress I put on myself. Because no one expected me to be able to do it all… except for me. When I started removing stress and unrealistic expectations from my life I became happier and healthier.

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Same bikini, 5 months apart. I noticed a huge difference! According to the scale I’ve lost 13lbs on the scale, PR’d several lifts, and even got a few pull ups, got toes to bar, and got my rope climbs back. I haven’t changed my eating or workouts significantly. I’ve simply focused on my mental and emotional well being and tried to manage my stress more effectively. [Tweet “Take care of your mental well being and your physical well being will follow”].

It’s been a process, It always is. But you are worth the hard work.

Do you focus on your mental and emotional health or just your physical health?
What can you do today to be healthier in mind, body, and soul?