Tag Archive | inspire

Consequences, Secrets, and Being Ceaseless

There are times in life when you have no choice but to own up to the mistakes you’ve made and deal with the repercussions. I say this as I am going through that exact scenario as we speak. What I’m about to share is something that few outside my immediate family know about. It’s not something I’m proud of and I’m not particularly chewing at the bit to tell the world, but I think it’s important to share, nonetheless.

At the age of eleven, a kid in my class called me “Thunder Thighs”. I was in the early days of puberty and quickly surpassed the other girls in my class in the development stage. My hips grew as did my boobs…and boy, did they grow, making me an easy target for every kid in my class. Being the first girl to have them in my grade made me extremely self-conscious and self-aware, and as the months passed the name-calling grew increasingly more common. “Hippo Hips” and “Barbie Cow” appeared to be the favorites among the eleven to twelve-year-old-male pre-pubescent crowd, none of which did anything for my self-esteem.

As time passed, I began to obsess over my weight, worried that the names were accurate and not necessarily meant as a way to get a laugh from those around me. The more I obsessed, the more weight I gained…almost as if my own body was plotting against me. Looking back, I was in no way overly overweight but instead merely curvy for my age. But I couldn’t see the forest through the trees back then. In my own eyes, I was fat.

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So, at the age of twelve, I began to exercise excessively. I spent most nights in our empty living room listening to the Pointer Sisters, dancing and doing Jazzercise, in an on-going effort to get down to a smaller size like the popular girls in my class. In my mind, I thought, if I could just lose the weight, I would be accepted and no longer teased for the few extra pounds I was carrying.

But the weight didn’t come off.

Why? Because I enjoyed food far too much, and not to mention I grew up in a household where you were expected to finish all the food on your plate whether you were full or not. And I’d like to say I had the support of friends and family, telling me I wasn’t fat and that a few extra pounds wasn’t something to obsess about…but I’d be lying.

My minor excess weight appeared to be of great concern to some which only led to me feeling badly about myself. Depression came next, making me feel as though I would never be good enough or accepted by those around me.

Graduation

The cycle was maddening, and to a pre-teen if felt like the end of the world. I couldn’t control my eating, I couldn’t control my weight, and I couldn’t control the teasing and weight-shaming that was aimed at me. The more I worried about gaining weight, the more weight I gained. The more weight I gained, the more depressed I became. The more depressed I became, the more weight I gained.

So, I finally took control.

And that is where this particular story truly begins.

For thirty years, I secretly struggled with bulimia. It isn’t something I’m proud of. In fact, it’s a part of my history that I wish I could forget. Over the years, I lived in constant fear of people discovering my secret. I was afraid of how people would look at me or react if they found out. But over the past decade, I’ve had to come to terms with the consequences of that condition…both mentally and physically.

Mentally, I still struggle with it all…almost daily. I liken it to being an alcoholic. Even if you manage to quit drinking and go into recovery, you are always an alcoholic…you fight it for the rest of your life. It’s the same with eating disorders. It isn’t something you just get over and move on from. For me, it is something I will have to fight until the day I die. And physically, I’ve found myself dealing with terrible acid reflux, stomach pains, and other issues related to the binging that occurred off and on over the years.

So, you may be wondering why I’ve decided to come clean after all these years. Why tell one of my deepest, darkest secrets to you now?

There are people out there who fight this same battle every day. They feel as though they’re alone and that no one could possibly understand their struggle. If you’re one of those people, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. There are people who have overcome this disorder with the help of family, friends, professionals, and even prayer…including myself.

I know for a fact that the fear of being found out…even by total strangers in the medical field…can make someone even more secretive. It’s a cycle of fear that never stops. I myself lived in complete denial: lying to friends, family, dentists, doctors, and psychologists. I felt it was no one’s business, and I certainly didn’t need anyone telling me what I already knew.

That I was slowly killing myself.

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Without treatment, mirasol.net says that up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders will die. For people with bulimia, it’s said that 3.9% will die. But these statistics can’t measure the impact these disorders can have on a person’s mental well-being.

Many believe that people with an eating disorder are strictly obsessed with being thin. That is partly true. Some have an ideal image in their mind of how they should look or how they believe society wants them to look. As for me, it took many years of soul-searching and coming to terms with the real reason behind my own battle. I knew part of it certainly had to do with body image and my lack of self-esteem; however, with the help of a therapist, years of reflection, and my husband’s love and understanding, I discovered that the root of my disorder had to do with something else altogether.

During my pre-teen and teen years, I felt helpless to control the world around me, which wasn’t unusual for kids that age. But unlike my friends, I couldn’t seem to handle that reality. Most of the time, it felt as though my life was spinning out of control and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t control the rocky relationship I had with my parents. I didn’t feel I had control of my emotions or my actions. I was unable to control the way my teachers viewed me…as a nuisance and obnoxious. And I certainly didn’t have any control over the bullies who spent the greater part of my youth teasing me about anything and everything.

At least that’s what I believed.

And as I got older, it only seemed to get worse. I couldn’t control the downward spiral of my first marriage. I was unable to control my debt, my career choices, my friendships, and because of my lack of a college degree I couldn’t control what job opportunities were available to me.

At least that’s what I believed.

But there was one thing I could control.

My bulimia.

I know what you’re probably thinking, and I agree. Now that I’ve said it, it sounds incredibly ridiculous and makes zero sense. But at the time…for a span of thirty years…it made perfect sense.

Thirty years I will never get back.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog post. I am now dealing with the consequences of my bulimia. Back in 2011, I underwent oral surgery and lost 2 permanent teeth. Thankfully (if there’s any bright side to this particular story), they were in the back of my mouth and not as noticeable as they could have been; however, six years later I’m going through it again. I am about to lose 2 more permanent back teeth, and it’s all because of the stomach acids that gradually destroyed my mouth. So, now I’m dealing with the fact that I did this all to myself. I have no one to blame but me, myself, and I.

untitledBut, there is a moral to this story and quite possibly a lesson to be learned…and a reason behind why I’m sharing this all with you.

I eventually decided to take control of my life. I discovered my inner strength and my ceaseless spirit. It took thirty years, but in the end I learned a valuable lesson. There were a lot more things I could control than I thought. And while I can’t control everything in my life, what I can control is how I react to things and situations. I no longer need to feel sorry for myself for every misstep or awful thing that happens to me. The desire to roll over and throw a pity party is now gone. Instead, I can look at my life differently and realize that every situation is a potential lesson learned and gets me one step closer to where I want to be in life.

A few years ago, I began a health journey that started with removing soda from my diet. Then I started to do light cardio. I watched my food intake, and as the weeks passed, the weight came off. The more that came off, the harder I worked. The harder I worked, the better I felt. I grew stronger, both physically and mentally. And as the weeks turned to months, I found myself more confident.

Now before someone jumps all over me for saying you must be thin to be confident, that’s not at all what I’m saying. My confidence didn’t come from a smaller pant size…it came from my ability to believe in myself. And not just in believing I could lose the weight. I started to believe I could do anything…ANYTHING…that I put my mind to. Losing weight was just the first step.

I gradually made different choices in life. I stopped being a doormat for people who had always put me down or walked all over me. I believed in a future that was filled with writing my books full time and becoming a public speaker. I believed in my ability to make a difference in the lives of those around me. And I believed in working hard to be the role model my children needed me to be.

Eventually, I came to the realization that I was worthy of any good things that the universe or God wanted to send my way. Because while I always believed good things could happen to me, I didn’t always think I was worthy of them.

And in the end, I think that’s what holds many of us back in life. We are taught to believe we should show humility and be humble in everything we do…that we shouldn’t want for things and instead be happy with what we have. But in doing so, many people hold themselves back and never find their true potential or that one thing that makes them shine. How many artists, musicians, or writers aren’t living the life they were destined because they weren’t taught to believe in themselves? Growing up, I was led to believe that it is arrogant to want greatness or praise and that being practical is sensible and Godly.

But that isn’t the case. At all. Whatsoever. Seriously. Not even kidding.

Being open to the possibility of positive things happening in your life isn’t an arrogant act. It’s merely a different way to view your relationship with the world around you. If you go through life thinking you don’t deserve happiness, you will find yourself living an unhappy life. But if you go through life believing good things can and will happen to you, then they will.

Sound a little too new-agey to you?

So what if it does? But perhaps you’d feel better knowing it actually has a basis in science…far more than any new age movement. Quantum physics’ law of attraction states, in short, that your thoughts can alter the universe on a particle-by-particle basis to fashion your own personal life. The universe is fluid and is continuously in flux through the use of our individual and collective thoughts.

Don’t believe me? Google it.

Look. What it comes down to is this…you must own the decisions you’ve made in life. Good or bad, those decisions are a part of who you are and made you the person you are today. A lot of them weren’t great decisions and resulted in consequences that you still have to deal with now. For me, it’s about learning from those consequences, taking responsibility, and using my experiences to help others who may not be ready to help themselves. But once you’ve owned your mistakes, you must make peace with it all and move on. Otherwise, the past will hold you back.

Bulimia no longer owns me, and I no longer allow bulimia to control my life. And while I am still a control freak, I handle things much differently these days. For years, I saw myself as a loser and was my own worst enemy. But the moment I began to see myself as a winner and someone who was capable of being anyone or anything, the control I thought had eluded me for years was there for the taking.

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My Tattoo

While tattoos today are more widely accepted than they used to be, I know that there are still some who find them tacky and pointless. My own parents believe that marking your body permanently in that way is ridiculous and stupid. For that reason, I’ve always fared on the side of caution and carefully placed my tattoos where they would remain out of sight. That way, there was never an argument or the inevitable eye rolling that would ultimately commence once my parents saw them. In fact, most people are shocked to discover that I have them at all. Apparently, I don’t look like the kind of person with tattoos.

I often laugh at this statement because, let’s face it, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

This past weekend I received some new ink. This one, however, is clearly visible. It was a deliberate and deeply personal choice to place it prominently on my forearm. It will not only be visible to others but, more importantly, it will also be visible to me.

ceaseless

It’s just one word – ceaseless. It’s a simple, innocuous word that rarely gets used in today’s conversations. Merriam-Webster defines it as “continuing without cease: seeming to never stop: continuous or constant”.

But it’s a word that has far greater meaning to me than just its definition.

It all began some months back when 2 of my daughters decided that it would be fun to come up with song titles that best described each other. They laughed and had fun with it, coming up with silly songs that emphasized personality traits, humorous shortcomings and unrequited loves. But when my youngest asked her older sister what song best represented “mom”, her answer was “Keep On Keeping On”.

I had never heard the song before and wondered what it was, so I pulled it up on YouTube and watched the video. By the end of the song, I was in tears and instantly became reflective of my past.

My kids’ childhoods were never easy. I married young and had 2 young daughters within the first 5 years. Then, 2 years later, I found myself a single mother who quickly had to figure out how to survive. I worked full-time during the week as a clerk and junior buyer at a large corporation. My weekends were spent waiting on tables, slinging alcoholic beverages in a sports bar. And throughout all of that, I was attending school at night to earn my Bachelor’s degree. Sleep was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Money was tight, and there were times when my kids ate and I didn’t. Yet, somehow I managed to pay my bills, keep a roof over our heads, and food in their bellies.

Before long, I met a guy, fell in love, and became engaged. I began working at a new company. Later, we bought a small townhouse, just big enough for the 4 of us. But within a year, we welcomed daughter number 3 and the house became a little smaller. Not long after that, my husband joined the US Army Reserves and left for basic training.

Over time, the house grew smaller as the kids grew bigger. We knew we needed to sell it and find a larger home. Eventually, we found a large rental house to move into. Instead of selling our home, we made plans to rent it out to a woman I used to work with who had gone through some tough times. But after only a few months in, she and her kids packed up in the middle of the night and left us with both a mortgage payment and rent. We had to let our townhouse go and we thought the worst of it was over.

But it wasn’t.

And then I lost my job. Long story short, this began a spiral of ups and downs that, at times, I didn’t think I could recover from. We had a car repossessed, were close to living out of our van – twice. And there were a few Christmases that nearly didn’t happen.

We eventually dug our way out, but I always worried about the impact that all of it had on my girls throughout the years. Would they see me as a failure? Would they look back at their lives and wish that things had been better? Would they resent me for not being able to give them everything they wanted growing up?

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

Fast forward to today. My middle daughter believes that the song “Keep On Keeping On” is indicative of who I am as a person. It speaks of having dreams, believing in yourself, working hard even if you keep losing, and one day realizing that all that hard work has paid off. In other words, it isn’t about how many times you get knocked down – it’s how often you bravely claw your way back up.

So, while I worried about leaving a legacy of failure behind for my children, without even realizing it I was leaving a legacy of perseverance instead. My apparent tenacity and courage, my ability to get back up whenever I was down, is what resonated with my daughters. I was leading by example.

So, as a constant (and permanent) reminder to never give up – no matter what – I had the word “ceaseless” tattooed on my forearm. It will serve as a reminder to lead by example and show my daughters how to face fear and defeat it head on.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.

Why I Write

Many people are under the impression that authors write because they want to be famous. This is true in some cases. However, that isn’t always the case. Some do it to supplement their income. Others do it just for the joy of writing. Many do it because they feel they have something to share. For me, the reason I write is personal.

Growing up, I was told I could do anything I set my mind to. But each time I made a decision on what kind of career to pursue, someone in my life told me why I shouldn’t.

“You can’t go to school for journalism. No daughter of mine is going to be a filthy liar for a living.”

“I think becoming a radio D.J. is a bad idea. There’s no future in it.”

“You’ll join the military over my dead body.”

“You want to go to school to study literature? There’s no money in that. You need to be more realistic in your goals. Dreams don’t pay the bills.”

You get the point.

So, for years I went along with all of it and did what was expected of me. I went back to college and earned a degree in business. Any love of writing that I had left in me went dormant. I went about raising my daughters and going through my 9 to 5 days as if nothing was amiss.

And then in 2009, something happened that changed my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the start of something amazing. Something big. Humongous.

I lost my job.

Yep.

So there I was. No job and no way to help support my family. I tried to find a new job, but it was tough out there. I became withdrawn thinking I had disappointed my children and my husband. I cried almost daily and couldn’t get out bed. But after a few months, I discovered something that consistently seemed to cheer me up.

At the time, the Harry Potter movies (at least the ones I owned up to that point on DVD) played 24/7 in my bedroom. I watched them over and over – and over and over and over. They made me smile. They gave me hope. And they gave me an idea.

I pulled out my husband’s old laptop and just began to type. I’m not sure where the words came from, or the story for that matter, but they started to flow nonetheless. It began to develop into a narrative about a girl who discovered an ancient secret that was handed down from mother to daughter. Her newfound powers were to be used to save the world and her family. And since my oldest daughter’s birthday was coming up, I decided that I would finish it and give to her as a birthday gift.

When I finished, I thought the story was brilliant.

Looking back, the story was crap.

But I wrote it. I wrote every single word. I poured my heart and soul into the story, and in the end I dusted away any of the cobwebs that had gathered in my brain throughout the years. My juices began to flow and I wrote another book. Then another, and another, and another.

And then those same people who discouraged my dreams early in life came back and said all the same things.

“You can’t make any money writing books.”

“So after you write this book and get it out of your system, are you going to quit writing and get a real job?”

“Don’t you think your time would be better served cleaning your messy house than writing books? It’s not like you’ll ever be famous.”

But this time, I didn’t listen. I smiled politely and walked away.

Why did I continue to write? It wasn’t necessarily to become famous, or make a lot of money, or even to get noticed – although those are all nice goals.

It was because I’m not just an author. I’m also a mother to three amazing young ladies. They look to me for guidance in life – a role model to show them how life should be lived. And what kind of role model would I be if I gave up on my dream?

“Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.” I heard it a lot growing up – almost daily. But as the years passed, I realized that it was some of the worst advice anyone could have ever given me. Actions speak far louder than words. My daughters look to me to learn how to deal with life’s situations through my actions and reactions. Because – come on – let’s get real. How often do our kids really hear what we have to say?

I write because I want to show them that following your dreams isn’t folly. It’s important. It’s the dreamers in this world that have given us movies, books, music, television shows, new medicines, prosthetics, art, and a whole slew of other things that are important in this life. Einstein was a dreamer as was Edgar Allen Poe. They all dreamed of giving the world something we’d never seen before. Where would we be if they had given up?

My 2 oldest daughters

My 2 oldest daughters

My daughters need to know that failure happens. People fail every day. But if you get up each time, dust yourself off, and keep moving you haven’t truly failed. The only time you really fail is if you stop trying.

I have one daughter who dreams of one day working in TV, film, or Broadway as a make-up artist. I have another daughter who wants to become a pastry chef. Neither of these are “practical” goals. Some might even say they’re unrealistic or impractical. But why should that stop them from following their dreams?

My youngest daughter

My youngest daughter

So I continue to write – push ahead – improve my craft in an effort to make my children proud and show them how to succeed in life through example. I don’t need to be famous. I don’t need to make a million dollars. I only need to show them my resolve, and then maybe…just maybe…one day I can show them how that hard work pays off.