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November 19, 2019

Heart-Centered Living & Belonging to Yourself

I recently invested in my family’s and my health. We joined a gym October 1st. Best decision ever! There is power in honoring yourself by exercising and getting energy flowing. There is beauty in holding a commitment to yourself and creating a healthier lifestyle.

“Healthy” is unique to you.

Healthy, for me, means feeling strong and sexy in my body. Having the ability to run, chase, and play with my babies without losing my breath. It means showing my girls the beauty of yoga and stretching. Pushing my limits and up-leveling. It means the power of focusing on my breath in a moment when I think I can’t continue on. It’s the space in which I drop out of my head and into my body.

Movement requires us to be present. It is damn-near impossible to finish a workout when I am thinking about all the things I need to do or replaying all the things I can’t get done. When I don’t grant myself the permission to BE for just an hour, I lose my motivation and I become fatigued. I want to give up. That sneaky ego voice chimes in and tells me alllllllllllll the ways I am not enough and how I am failing at life. Gulp.

We live in a society that values busyness over presence; and, burnout is a badge of honor. When we do something radical, like choose mindfulness over chaos, we become lighter, freer, clearer. We become more intentional with our time and energy. We go to bed satisfied and wake up inspired. That’s how it has been for me the past 6 weeks.

I have worked out at least 5x each week, sometimes twice per day. It feels amazing! Last week, I took a few days off. I listened to my body and she needed a rest. It worked.

Today was my first day back. I committed to a class. Shit. Those classes, the ones where I want to perish halfway through, but feel like superwoman at the end. The ones where my muscles are shaking and breath is gone. The ones where I burn 600 calories in an hour. I love it. I hate it. I love the energy, the positive environment, the encouragement from the instructor. I love the last 2 minutes where I can tell the ego inside that I did it. I made it. Yesss!!

I love witnessing my progress.

Prior to last month, I didn’t have the capacity to make a physical lifestyle change like I am now – despite nearly 4 years of inner work, I still felt like I wasn’t ready to change my eating and work out habits.

My body was worn. My soul tired. I was thrust into the fire of life for all of my 20s and I am still recovering (but actively choosing and creating my life now — not living from a place of fear, reaction, and survival). Here’s a little backstory.

After my college graduation, I found I was pregnant at 23 years old. I had intentions of law school when my baby was 4 months old. Those life plans were derailed at 32 weeks pregnant when my dad was paralyzed in a freak accident involving ice. My first daughter was due May 12, 2011. My dad was paralyzed March 14, 2011. My babe was born April 22 (Earth Day!) — just 39 days after his accident and 3 weeks early. I became a caregiver one month and a new mama the next.

Chaos and fire became my norm. Telephone calls at 2 a.m. from my dad who now experienced life from a wheelchair and used a ventilator to breathe. Making life-or-death decisions for him. Advocating for him through his pneumonias, therapies, bed sores, nursing changes, being a cheerleader for his spirit in the depths of his valleys when he was begging to die. All while helping a baby cut her first tooth. Struggling with breastfeeding and poopy diapers. Post-partum depression. Enoughness. A partner who was financially bettering our life, but lived 10 hours and a state away, every two weeks for the first year of her life. Navigating family drama. Learning to parent from love and soul. Practicing the power in the pause. Responding to her instead of reacting.

When I thought I had life under control 3 years later, my relationship fell apart. A complete unravel. At that time, I didn’t understand it. I already experienced so much pain in my life, why this? Why now? As we were about to dissolve our 13-year-relationship, I found out I was pregnant with our second child.

I took this as a cue from the universe to stay and heal. We worked on ourselves, our family, our relationship. Phew. Life was leveling out. Then, when I was 4 months pregnant with baby #2, my dad left his Earthly confine and moved heavenward. He was free, but my heart was shattered.

Our second daughter was born May 01, 2016 (May Day!). She was beautiful. My heart sang. My hope. A sister for our daughter. A best friend for us all. She helped me work through the grief of losing my dad. The promise that comes with new life.

Our first was a great sleeper, only fussy when she was hungry or dirty. Our second. Ha. She was a spitfire from conception. She was colicky. Didn’t sleep more than 2 hours/night for the first 3 years of her life. She thrived on no-sleep. I was a zombie. A mom-bie. I survived. Nothing more to give, but we were all fed, clothed, and loved. A reminder from the universe that no two souls are the same.

Lack of sleep, grief, and chaos triggered a deep, scary depression.

It was that contrast that was the catalyst for change. I didn’t want to live like this anymore. So, in 2017 I began my journey to myself. I realized that my trauma-filled past and survival-mode mindset required me to give so much of myself to others that I had nothing left for myself.

It was painful. Like a Phoenix, bursting into flames to burn away all of people’s opinions, judgments, cruelty, and disrespect. Choosing peace over toxicity. Listening to my soul and heart and trusting her guidance.

It was necessary. And scary. I am happier. Freer. More alive. Purposeful. Excited.

I now ride the waves of life with my values and CDF’s (core-desired feelings, Danielle LaPorte – genius!) at the helm. I try to stay present and focused on my goals. I respond instead of react to situations. I have more energy. More time to pay attention to the experiences that are important to me.

Circling back to the gym story.

If today happened to 25-year-old Crystal, I would be destroyed. I would spend days, weeks, months questioning myself. I would give up going to the gym. I would hide in fear and shame. I would self-harm to give meaning to the emotional pain. I would cry myself to sleep.

What happened today is an example of why belonging to yourself and carrying your worth in your heart is crucial to resiliency and empowerment – thanks, Brenè Brown for your wisdom.

I dropped the babes off at the kid-center. I excitedly popped into the class. Found a space to claim with my yoga mat, weights, and stepper. All smiles. Ready to get my ass kicked, knowing I would want to give up when the pain and doubt seeped in, but reveling in the fact I knew I wouldn’t quit and it was only 60 minutes.

It was curious to me when two women, probably a good 10-years younger than me, plopped their stuff directly in front of me — when there was an empty studio all around. It was just curious, not really bothering me. I just shifted my things so we would all have more space.

As I was warming up, I heard their snickers. At first, it was like a searing knife in the pit of my stomach. Their laughs at my mama-belly. How long they thought I would last in the class. How could someone let themselves go like that. She should just stop eating.

Ooof. It hurt. Their words cut. I instantly put my armor up.

When I am kicked into survival-mode, I receive a flood of information and memories. It is my brain’s way of keeping me alive through all of the trauma I have lived. It is necessary for my brain to look for potential threats, identify a pattern, develop a plan of action, and keep me safe.

In a split second, I cycled through hundreds of memories from the time I was 3-years-old until 32. I felt myself start to panic. I heard my ego confirm everything they were saying. All the reasons they were right. Every negative comment someone has made about my body or spirit came to surface. My heart started to break, my cheeks flushed, and tears started to form.

Then. Something incredible happened.

I took a breath. I stopped the spiral.  I dropped from inside my head and into my heart. I heard my soul talking.

This body that houses all of my failures, also houses all of my successes.

What they can’t see and don’t know, is that this squishy, untoned body, carried 2 beautiful, brilliant souls to term and delivered them. I mean, I made a human. From scratch. And I nourished their bodies with my breasts for a combined total of 6 years. So yeah, my girls aren’t exactly perky anymore, but they provided comfort and nutrients to my babes. Those young women didn’t feel the trauma of losing twins when I was only 6 weeks along and the coping mechanisms I used to get through it.

What these young, 20-something-year-olds didn’t see is the grief that I carry from burying my father at 27-years-old, with a 4-year-old, and 4-months pregnant. They don’t know part of me was buried in that casket with him. The fierce advocate. The woman who argued with health professionals to get treatment he needed and deserved. They didn’t know that I worked more than 80 hours per week for 5 years, usually with the toddler in tow, finding all the ways to improve his quality of life and trying to create the best life for my daughter.

They don’t know the pain I feel knowing he never met my youngest daughter. Or that he can’t see Mya growing into an amazing young woman. Or that I have to comfort her when she questions the cycles of life and death.

They can’t know that I didn’t have enough to eat when I was in elementary and middle school because my parents couldn’t afford food. They didn’t know I was homeless from age 12–16. They didn’t know, despite a complicated start to life, I spoke at my high graduation in front of 1,000+ people, then earned a Bachelor’s degree in 2 years instead of 4 from Minnesota’s oldest university. That I had plans for law school and a lucrative career, but fate had different plans and my soul chose caring for my family.

And what is even more beautiful, my friends, is that in that moment, of dropping into my heart-space, I realized their opinions of me didn’t matter and I released their energy from my spirit.

I stayed on my mat. I lifted those weights. I breathed through the shaking legs and voice telling me to quit. I transformed that energy that was meant to destroy me into the fuel that helped me crush my workout.

I don’t have a fear of failure. Failure isn’t an option in my life and never has been.

I have a fear of success. Of being seen. Of someone telling me that I can’t have or do something because they think I’m not worthy.

I (now) call bullshit every time I feel that energy creep in. I tell that fear to sit down beside me and talk. I honor her. I get curious about the wisdom she has to share.

I assure her that she is safe and that this discomfort is necessary to up-level. I let her know that she is welcome in my vehicle, but she isn’t welcome to drive anymore. Girl, we have got places to go, experiences to live, and memories to create. No time for the resistance to keep us small.

I was seen today. And I called on the courage to continue despite the fear. A piece of me healed in that studio today. I am appreciative of those young women. Today, I showed myself that I can do the damn thing — be seen, not retreat, and continue on despite cruelty.

You never know what someone is going through. You never know what someone’s traumas look like. You don’t know what a person battles every day.

Be kind. Be mindful. Focus on yourself and your growth. Come from a place of love and soul. It feels better. It makes the world shine brighter. And always, stay in your own lane. Know that you will always be too much or not enough for the wrong people. Those aren’t your people.

Belong to yourself first, that way when the waves of life come crashing down, you have a clear path to your heart and you know the truth — you are worthy. You do belong. And you know that other people’s judgments don’t define you.

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