It’s been two years and eight months since I last posted here on SKC.
I know that’s a very, very long time.
It’s been a long, hard road getting here. To get back to sitting here in front of my computer and writing to you all again.
There have been bright days and dark days.
Since my last post, Christopher graduated from USD.
I stopped developing recipes, stopped shooting food, stopped writing.
We moved from sunny San Diego halfway across the country to the great north of Minnesota.
Lived with the in-laws for four and a half months ’til Christopher found work.
I picked up the ukulele and then put it down. Picked it back up again. Put it down.
Moved to Minneapolis and into an apartment on the second floor under an apartment where elephants regularly stampeded and ran amok above us.
Had mini breakdowns on an every other day basis due to said elephants and were then transferred to the third floor where we were then kept awake by those same elephants getting romantic (loudly and every night).
I created Everyday Ordinary Awesome and then – slowly over time – stopped posting because I stopped seeing the awesome in the everyday ordinary, even though there was awesome everywhere.
Time passed, elephants moved on and then a solitary female elephant moved in next door and had loud, trumpeting conversations by our heads in the dead of night.
Christopher and I slept in the living room for weeks. Leases where broken.
We then moved into a new apartment in a completely different part of town and over time, things eventually settled down and we stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Life was going well as it tends to do. We finally had stopped and stood still for the first time in over two years. Then I realized something.
Somewhere along the way, I had somehow lost something very, very important.
Since I had gotten married to my best friend, I had unknowingly been emptying myself out little by little.
This emptying had started long before I’d ever met him, years ago.
I had been emptying myself out for years by defining my value based on what I produced. What I achieved.
By looking to others for approval, permission, validation.
By comparing myself and my work to others.
By always making what I wanted and needed secondary to others’.
By pursing perfectionism with the tenacity of a Jack Russell, when all I was really pursuing was self-abuse of the highest order.
It had just now come to a tipping point.
I had been giving myself away – piece by piece – until there was nothing left inside to give.
And after the dust had settled, after so many moves, so many changes, so much emptying, I no longer knew who I was.
I had become what I thought I had to be.
I had become someone else.
Because deep down – in the very deepest, most honest place within myself – I didn’t believe I was enough.
As such, nothing that I did ever felt good enough. I always came up short.
And no matter what anyone said, no matter what the praise, the accolades, the awards, the approval, they didn’t matter.
I didn’t believe them.
Because one’s opinion of oneself is the only one we ever truly believe.
What I wanted wasn’t important. What I needed wasn’t important. What set my soul on fire wasn’t important.
Because I wasn’t important.
Not because anyone had ever told me that, but that is what I believed. All my actions pointed to that.
I didn’t know what was going on. Couldn’t figure out what I needed to do, no matter how hard I tried. I needed to be rescued but no one – no thing – could rescue me.
I got to such a low place within myself that I couldn’t see a way out.
I will not tell you that I did not want to end it. I just could never do such a horrible thing to the people who loved me and knowing that made me feel even more helpless. Hopeless.
I was at the bottom and this bottom had no bottom.
Okay, so what does this story have anything at all to do with food? (This is a food blog after all.)
But it’s not a story about food for the body but about food for the soul.
It’s a cautionary tale of what happens when one looks outside oneself for self-worth and validation.
It’s also – hopefully – a loving beacon of hope to others out there who may have felt similarly but were too ashamed, to scared, too lonely, too whatever to admit it for fear of not appearing “good enough.”
You are not alone, even though it may seem to be. I am here to tell you that I have been there, and where you may still be.
I am obviously still here, thankfully, and probably precisely because I reached the bottom of This Bottom That Had No Bottom.
It was the thing that made me reach out.
It was the thing I needed in order to change.
It made me make myself important again. I had to because if I wanted to remain on this planet, there was nowhere left to go.
I made myself important again. And with the guidance of a wise, kind soul, for the first time since childhood, I stopped looking outside myself – or for what was “wrong” with me – and began listening to my inner voice instead. It was very quiet at first, because I hadn’t listened to it for so many years.
And then, slowly, as I nurtured it with daily action – baby steps – it slowly peeked its head out little by little until over time, I saw it emerge in its entirety.
And it was beautiful.
A little (okay, a lot) worse for wear, but still beautiful.
And not only was it still beautiful, it was perfect, whole and complete just the way it was.
And unlike the Christina who had gotten lost, it knew exactly what it wanted.
I wasn’t broken, or needing to be fixed, I had just spent my entire adulthood focusing on things that had no power to give me what I wanted.
And on the other side, here are the truths I have come to realize:
We are enough / good enough when we decide to be. We are the only ones in this world who have the power and ability to give us that. No one – not anything – has that ability to do it for us. I repeat, nothing. How? By making the decision to be. And by recommitting to that decision every day, every moment, over and over again.
Being enough / good enough is a state of mind one chooses, not something we achieve when we meet some external set markers of “success.”
That decision alone has changed my life.
Like the mafia, being happy and at peace is – and will always be – an inside job. Why? Because …
We are – and have always been – the creators of our own stories. It is those stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, our lives, the events in our lives, that either help or hurt us. Not the things that we have done or have happened to us, etc. Things have no meaning but the meaning we give them. We choose what everything means to us. Everything. We will never be able to control what happens to us but we always have a choice on how we choose to respond to what happens, and what meaning we give it. Always.
Pain is part of life – and necessary, even incredibly valuable – but suffering is a choice. Suffering is what happens when we resist what is. What happens when we use the word “should” in anything. When our expectations don’t meet the reality of what is. So the answer? Accepting things as they are, not how we want them to be. Accepting ev-er-y-thing. All of it. Once we do, we are in alignment with life, rather than in resistance to it. Only then will we be in the head space to change the things in life we can, that do not honor us, and be able to recognize the things we can’t. We put ourselves in the head space to be able to see the gifts and lessons that inherently come with everything. All of it.
We must design our lives around uncovering what sets our souls on fire – what makes our hearts sing – not the other way around. Of the billions of people on this planet, I am the only me there is. You are the only person in this whole world who has what only you can uniquely offer to the world. Me too. Our unique perspective, our unique combination of gifts are literally unique, one-of-a-kind. That makes us all unbelievably and undeniably special. No matter how cynical one may be, it’s a fact.
When we are doing what sets our souls are on fire, we are alive. When our souls are on fire, we are in alignment with who we really are inside. When our souls are on fire, we are full and can love others fully because we are not looking for others to fill us. When our souls are on fire, we are at peace.
No one benefits when we make ourselves small. When we keep ourselves small. It is only when we allow ourselves to move into our greatness when the magic happens. And that only happens when we do what sets our soul on fire. It sets our gifts – and ourselves – free.
We created the life we now live. We allow our lives to be the ones we’ve got. I used to blame my circumstances and others for my unhappiness. But the truth was that I had created and allowed my life to become exactly what it had become and boy, I didn’t like it. It was a bitter pill to swallow, that. If I thought I needed rescuing, it wouldn’t come from somewhere “out there” but by me taking ownership of myself and my life and realizing that if I didn’t like what I saw, I could choose and create something different.
A life that honored me.
It’s never too late. As long as you are still living, there is hope. And that hope doesn’t come from anything outside of you. That hope is the person in the mirror staring back at you. You.
As long as you can get up every day and do at least two things that make your heart sing – even just a little – every day, those baby steps will amount to millions and millions of baby steps. And before you know it, you will have walked yourself to an incredible place you’ve never been that you created yourself. It will be amazing because you are – even if you don’t believe me right now – and it is possible because I did it.
I’m still here.
But I changed my stories. How I tell them. How I see them. I live these truths. And it’s made all the difference.
And if you can’t? Ask for help. There is no shame in that. It’s not weakness but real strength to reach out to others.
A lot has happened since my last post here on SKC.
Since I made myself important again.
Since I’ve committed to living my life uncovering and doing what sets my soul on fire, what makes my heart sing.
I made mediation a regular part of my daily routine.
I started painting again.
And then painting some more.
Which lead me to begin teaching myself how to play the piano.
Which lead me to stop teaching myself how to play the piano.
Which lead to picking up the ukulele again.
Which lead me to begin singing again for the first time in over seven years. (In my closet).
Which lead me to playing cover songs and accompanying myself on the ukulele.
Which lead me to begin sharing my journey with others.
Which lead me to playing at an open mic and on a stage for the first time in over seven years.
Which lead to looking for other musicians to play with.
Which lead me to thinking about joining or even starting another band.
Which lead to me not wanting to join or start another band at all.
Which lead me to begin writing my own lyrics.
And then my very own song.
Which lead me to being interviewed about my journey by the very woman who helped me see my own light again.
Which lead me to writing even more songs.
Which lead me to releasing my first single as a solo artist just a few weeks ago.
Which lead me back here to writing again to you.
Who knows where these baby steps will lead me?
I don’t know, but I know it will be someplace beautiful.