My Twenties; Living at Warp Speed

I’ll be turning 30 in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been doing a lot of reflection since the New Year and it’s crazy how much has changed in a year and how much I’ve grown too. Last year, I committed myself to my healing and ending my twenties on a positive note so that I can enter my thirties with joy instead of fear. I had no idea what my year would look like, or if it would even work, but at the same time I felt like I had no choice. I know people say that you can do whatever you put your mind to, and of course we all know this to be true. However, you don’t really realize just how far you’ve come unless you take the time to look. So that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to take a look back at my twenties, give thanks, show myself some love and share some of the lessons that I’ve learned.

Lesson 1: I Move at Warp Speed, and I need to learn to slow down

I have a shit ton of energy. I’m like the energizer bunny when I’m excited and motivated. There is no stopping. This is both a blessing and a curse. For one thing; I get a lot of shit done and I get it done quick. Decide to switch careers? BAM new job, in a new industry in like 2 and a half months. Maybe it’s divine timing? Or a mix of divine timing and my strength of will? Who knows. The point is, I’ve done a lot of things, but I easily forget. I need to stop and remind myself to reflect and breath. That was what I realized I needed the most last year when I decided to get better. I never really took a lot of time in my twenties to reflect upon what I was doing, where I was going, or who I was going with. My twenties were a blur until I began approaching my thirties and I didn’t like where I was. When you move as quickly as I do, and you don’t spend enough time with yourself, you begin to loose sight of who you are, what you want, and what you need to be happy and fulfilled. That’s what happened to me. Suddenly, nothing felt right. When in reality, things didn’t feel right for a while. I just never took the time to be with myself to figure out why or how to change it. Not until I became deeply depressed.

Having depression forced me to finally slow down. I didn’t realize how tired I was or how much I really needed to rest, re-group, and restore myself in all aspects of my life. I was exhausting myself, my finances, my relationships, everything until I literally couldn’t give anymore or take anymore either. I had nothing left. I didn’t know how to stop. It doesn’t help that I’m full of pride either. I could not let anyone know how much I was suffering. I did not want to give up the life I had or the life I thought I “should” have. Even if all the methods I was using to have that life weren’t working. Even if it wasn’t making me feel good. Even if the return on investment wasn’t worth it. I did not want that to be known. I would just do my best to continue, business as usual, because in my mind it wasn’t anyone else’s problem. I just had to figure out how to make it all work so that no one would know. Can you see the hamster wheel I was running on? I’m unhappy, I don’t like the work I’m doing, I’m not making much money, I want to be independent but I don’t know how to do that because the job I’ve chosen, and my lifestyle etc. don’t fit into the life I want to have, and here I am frantically trying to close the gap!!! Imagine the terror, and anxiety of trying to make everyone happy, always saying yes to everyone else’s plans because you have no real plans for yourself anymore because you find your own life so overwhelming. Then WHAM! Life puts the breaks on hard and I threw my hands up in the air. That’s it. No more running Alex. You’re out of gas, there’s nothing left in the tank and you need to surrender.

It was terrifying at first to surrender, but at the same time it was also the most beautiful and loving thing I could have ever done for myself. It was hard to admit that I didn’t know everything, and that the way I was living wasn’t working. Not everything in my life was broken, but enough to make me unhealthy and unhappy. For someone who preaches health and wellness, I wasn’t really practicing what I preached. Another frog I had to swallow. Last year was the most humbling year of my life. I volunteered at a yoga studio for the majority of the year every Friday evening in exchange for yoga. I spent a lot of evenings and weekends alone with a kitty cat, journaling, meditating, reading, watching Netflix; just resting and getting my body and my mind right. I cooked a lot this past year. I danced and I sang a lot too. I cried a lot, I laughed a lot, but the most transformative thing for me was that I was honest. I opened my heart and let it all out. I let go of my pride, broke down my walls and let it all hangout here on this blog. I was more honest with myself, and therefore more honest with friends and loved ones. This helped strengthen my relationship with myself and others as well. For me, there is nothing I value more than the relationships that I’ve built. However, I learned the hard way that the most important relationship that you build is the one you build with yourself. So that’s what I did, I slowed down and focused solely on myself. I was never good at just focusing on myself, and that’s why I needed to go so far off in the opposite direction and really just BE with myself. In my thirties I will definitely continue to implement the lessons that I’ve learned in my twenties and really make myself, and my happiness a priority. Slowing down, rest, and relax. You don’t need to hyperventilate or freak out to prove that you care about someone or something. You can’t control everything, you can only control yourself. So if you do your best to be your best every single day, then chill!!!! Cause there’s literally nothing else you can do. Work hard babe, but rest hard too! You deserve it!


Concluding 2018: My Intention Recap

The theme for me this month was to reflect on the Intention I set at the beginning of the year last year based on the Soul Map I did this time last year in December. I recently re-read and re-did my Soul Map, and looking back it’s crazy to see how much I’ve grown in the past year. Based on my Soul Map, my intention for the year 2018 was to regain or to “find my power.” It’s crazy how much more powerful I felt once I let myself feel all my feelings, work through them and then let them go. It feels like in 2018 I did one huge life detox! I had to step away from life for a bit so that I could heal past wounds and I decided to share my experience along the way via this blog. I realised this year just how much you gain from vulnerability and just being real. This was probably the most powerful lesson I’ve learned this year. There is strength in numbers, but no one can really join your team or be there for you when you need them if you’re not honest about who you are and what you need.

I knew I would heal so much faster if I was just honest about how I was feelings about everything. Why hide so much about yourself from people? What is that going to achieve? I have realised more now than ever before that this is causing more harm than good. I feel much healthier, and capable in my life now than I’ve felt in a really long time and that’s only because I have been working so diligently on my own healing. Because I’ve taken myself more seriously; in all aspects of my life, I feel so much more important, and powerful. I forgot just how many people give a fuck about me! Writing this blog always reminds me of that. People contact me via social media, in the comments of this blog, via text, via phone call, or a one on one hangout to tell me that they have taken the time to read my blog and how much they’ve felt like they could relate or that they enjoyed it. Man! Knowing that makes my heart want to burst right out of my chest. In a Care Bear kind of way… Not in some gross American Horror Story kind of way. 

I’m so happy that you read and care about me but also to know that what I’ve been writing has helped you in some way. You have no idea how much that inspires and motivates me to do more?! There is nothing in this world that I want to do more than to help others. Again, it reminds me how much stronger we are in numbers. How much we gain from relating to one another. There’s so much you could learn from your neighbour if you just took the time to reach out, and extend a little love. Genuinely ask people how they’re doing. Show them you care. Call them, and ask how are you? And if you’re not satisfied with how that person answered that question, ask them the same question in another way. Listen to them. They will open up once you’ve built that trust with them. Once that person sees how much you genuinely care about their well-being they will be more forthright with their feelings. I’m so glad that I could create such a community of trust and mutual love around my blog. For myself and for those who take the time to read it. My gratitude towards you all is so great you don’t even know. The good vibes around this space is so good, and that is so great because it hasn’t always been so easy to be so vulnerable and transparent on this website. I did my best to protect the people involved but I’m glad that I was able to share my story. I will continue to share my stories because it has been such a great tool for mutual healing, I’m not going to let the fact that I can’t control how people interpret my words stop me from being honest about how past traumas have impacted my life. I know that these stories impact more people than just myself, and that’s why I speak only about my love and forgiveness. I never mean any harm when I write, I just want to heal. 

Writing this blog has always been such an empowering tool for me and it has been monumental in helping me grow as a human being in more ways than just one. I’ve been taking workshops about how to improve my web content and how to extend my reach. This blog and the people who read my blog are the reasons why I take my writing so seriously. It’s helping me and others and I know that what I’m beginning to create here online is such a powerful tool. I know that my stories are valid. I want to validate other people, especially women. Women need find ways to validate their own feelings and personal stories. It’s okay to be honest about how you feel. It’s okay to talk about the parts of our lives that we don’t feel so good about. Not talking about it only makes the situation worse. It keeps us isolated from one another. The more you don’t talk about your unhappiness, the more you try to repress it to “save” someone else from hurting their feelings is only pulling you apart from those you love. When you speak of your unhappiness, it’s not a reflection of yourself or the people in your life. What you are speaking about is a common lived experience and your perspective on what happened and how it affected you. Because you have a different lived experience than anyone else involved, you will have a different perspective on the events that occurred. It does not make you “wrong” if how you feel about a situation differs from someone else. If we continue to try and punish one another for the pain we’ve caused each other we will never be able to move on and grow in love. 

Lack of honest communication, as well as forgiveness towards yourself and everyone involved is the reason the pain festered and grew into the toxic monster that keeps everyone apart. If we were able to express our feelings more freely, in a way that was loving and not abusive, we would probably still have more relationships with the people we used to love so much. These are the things that I’m trying to move further and further away from. There’s too many people in my life that I love with all my heart that I would never want to continue to feel any sort of distance from. The closer we allow ourselves to get with one another the stronger we become as a community. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. So think of the children that are coming to your families or circles of close friends. These are the next generation of adults. It is up to us to show them what love and compassion is. If we can’t do it for ourselves, how are they supposed to learn? 

My intention for the coming new year is to grow my love. Grow my love for myself, my friends, my family, and generally anyone I come into contact with. I’m going to do my absolute best to try and be the best version of myself to everyone, even if they are not necessarily the same towards me. I will still have boundaries. I will not accept people’s negative behaviour but I will not allow their choices affect my behaviour. At least in theory. This is going to be my greatest challenge. It is really hard for me to not be so reactionary. I was raised in a way that if you didn’t have a big reaction to something you “didn’t care enough.” So much drama. I am a dramatic person, but I’m sure I would live a happier life if I choose to listen before reacting or becoming defensive. If I choose to breath before freaking out. If I choose to find the love in the situation instead of becoming defensive. Like I’ve said before, there is so much strength in numbers, and to grow your numbers you need to create a space and community for love, compassion and forgiveness. That is what I want to continue to do for myself and others. I will grow love through presence, listening, and understanding, or at least I will try my best. I’m sure there will still be some drama in my life, but I hope that through the intentions that I’ve set out for myself, I’ll be better equipped to handle them. I don’t think this is a one year sort of intention, but neither was my intention from last year. They are starting to become my life mantras. Decisions that I’m making for how I want to aspire myself to be as much as possible for the rest of my foreseeable future.  


I Just Wanted You to Know…

Dear: Young Alexandra Rinaldo,

There are just a few things that I wanted you to know. I’ve realized a lot of things this year, and one of the biggest things I’ve realized is that I forgot who I was. I let a lot of darkness into my life, and this darkness dimmed my light. I decided that since this year is almost over, I would write out a few of the lessons that I’ve learned. Let this serve as a reminder of all the things you know deep in your heart to be true so that you may never again forget who you are.

four year old Alexandra Rinaldo in a dress and curls at a wedding

I brought this young photo of you home with me to Toronto, you’re probably 4 or 5 years old here. I know, you look older, but you’ve always looked older than your age during your childhood. You always had this maturity about you. I took this photo because it reminds me of you Alexandra. This is you at your best. This is you at your highest version. To me, there is no other photo that is as authentically you as this one. This photo also reminds me of one of your most vivid memories where you were able to attend a wedding that not many kids were allowed to go to, including your sisters. For the first time since sisters was born, you were able to have both of your parents all to yourself. Not only that, you got a new dress, shoes, and your hair professionally done. Look at you! Shining with your hair done, nails done, everything did! Holding a fancy champagne glass with punch! Work it girl! Plus you just have this look of confidence in your face. Who are you at 4/5 years old?! A Queen that’s for sure! And you knew it. I remember the feeling of being this tiny human under the giant dryer dome with rollers in your hair feeling special as fuck. Not only were you the only child in the salon, you were there right when it opened, so you basically had the place to yourself. I just wanted you to know that you are special, you are beautiful, and you most definitely are a Queen. You don’t have a crown in this photo but its implicitly there. Never forget who you are Alexandra. For a child of 4 or 5 years old, you seem pretty damn sure of it!

There was a time where you let the opinions of others rule how you felt about yourself. You needed a ton of validation to have yourself feel a little bit like the princess in this photo. Girl, you don’t need it. I just wanted you to know that your worth has never changed no matter what other people may have felt about you. Whatever negativity that was pushed your way, especially as a child, had absolutely nothing to do with you! Those adults who told you, you were too fat, called you “chubbina,” “husky,” or whatever is bullshit and they are just projecting their own self-hate unto you. Sucks, but it’s true. I just thought you should know because it’s so easy to forget. And your body or your beauty isn’t the most important thing about you. There was a good part of your life where you believed this to be true. You’ve spent part of your life hating your body and the way you looked, then when you realized that only a few people thought you were ugly but the vast majority thought the opposite, you spent the rest of the time trying to look “perfect.” Obsessing over your makeup, hair, and clothes. You love dressing up, and I will never tell you to stop but I will tell you that you don’t need to worry so much about your appearance. You’re beautiful baby with or without makeup, and boys liked you when you felt fat, ugly, and insecure, so chill. You have so much more to offer the world than just the way you look and people won’t ever be able to see that if you can’t see that for yourself.

This brings me to my next lesson; don’t be afraid of your intelligence. Don’t hide your intelligence because you think that people might like you more for it. It is such a waste of time and energy. You will always be intelligent, God gave you this gift! Don’t let it go to waste because you think that being beautiful is more important. It’s not. Your body has absolutely no worth without the power of the mind, I just thought you should know. Your mind has the power to create anything. It has the power to build you up or break you down but only you decide that. You’ve spent too much time using your own mind against yourself. All of the prayers, and pep talks you’ve given yourself, keep that shit up! It is the biggest factor to your success. This is something you will have to re-learn later on in life. Meditation, yoga, and your spirituality have been some of the greatest gifts to your sanity and the health of your mind. When your mind is healthy, everything else follows.

“Mind over matter is magic, I do magic.” – Frank Ocean

Alexandra, you have always given such good advice to everyone else but yourself. This is not the first time that I’ve told you this, but I want to make sure that it’s clear. When you speak to others and give them love, remember that you need to hear it too. Each and every person that comes into your life is an opportunity for you to grow as a human being and become closer to God. When you share love, you are sharing the holy spirit that is inside of you. We are all in this together. We are all souls living a human experience, and the best thing you could ever do for yourself and for others is to share love. Alexandra, your love was never meant for everyone else but you. No! It’s meant for you so that you can share it with the world, I just wanted you to know.

Alexandra, you will never know of your magnitude but know that it exists. Every time you think you don’t have an impact in this world, I want you to think about all the people in your life and the impact that they have had on you. I’m sure you can think of countless people who have affected you in some way. If you want to be successful, you have to share your magnitude with others. It is in your bigness or your light where people and things grow. This light will forever exist in your heart even when you have chosen to deny this for yourself. This denial of love for yourself comes from a deep sense of guilt and it will lead you to sorrow and pain, but know that you will find your way back. All roads lead to heaven. Even if you choose to go through the dark for a bit, there is always light and love and the end of the tunnel. Where does this guilt come from? It comes from all the pain, hurt, and fear that you’ve held in your heart. In an attempt to free yourself of this pain, you tried to project it onto others by blaming them for your hurt. However, the more you blame others, the bigger the victim you become and the more guilt you’ll feel. Guilt is a prison of the heart. It’s heavy, it weighs you down, and holds you in place. Nothing really grows in darkness except for darkness. Baby if you want to be happy, you need to understand that no one is guilty and no one is to blame for the things of the past. We are all just trying to do our best here on earth, and you don’t need accept darkness into your life. The only reason why those things of your past hurt you so much is because you believed them to be true. You chose darkness over light. You decided to make yourself small because you didn’t know of your magnitude. You are not small and no matter how many times others may try to make you small they never can, unless you allow them to.

Alexandra, life doesn’t happen in your past or in your future. Neither of them exist because neither of them are happening right now. Weird, I know. Life is happening right now, and if you keep holding on to the past, you will keep repeating it in your future, while you completely miss what’s happening right now. Presence is the single most important lesson of your entire life. It is in the present where peace and happiness lies, it is also where God lives. The more you focus on the present the better you’ll be able to see and experience God and all the joy that comes with it. Literally nothing else in this world matters, I just thought you should know. How do you become more present? Do shit you LOVE! Things that make you smile from the inside out. For us Alex, that’s food, eating food, cooking food, sharing food. It’s music!!! It’s dance, it’s books, it’s yoga, it’s your family and friends. It’s cats, or just animals in general. It’s nature, it’s sunlight. So many things! Take a moment to enjoy yourself, your talents, and the things that make you smile. That’s presence, and that’s love.

“Less morose and more present. Dwell on my gifts for a second.” – Frank Ocean

Alexandra, I don’t think that everything in life is supposed to be hard. As they say, everyone experiences pain, only you decide how long you suffer. Alex, you’ve always been very good at having fun, laughing, dancing, singing, all the fun things, keep that up! It eases the pain, and stops the suffering. However, there’s a difference between truly living life and having fun, and going through the motions in an attempt to avoid the pain. You can never avoid pain, it will always be there until you address it head on. How do you do that? You seek help from powers greater than yourself. You will never be able to get through your pain alone because life was never meant to be lived alone. Life, just like love is meant to be shared. Share your pain with God, with loved ones, with whoever you trust, and you will find the answers you need to rid yourself of pain. Hide your pain from God, from yourself, and the world, and the bigger it grows. Only light can rid yourself of darkness. Shine a light on the pain in your life, take a moment to really see it for what it is, and suddenly it’s not so scary anymore. Eventually, it all goes away. These are just some things I thought you should know.

All my love,

Alexandra Rinaldo


To: The Love of My Life

To: The Love of My Life

I’ve already written an open letter to you earlier this year and I called you my university boyfriend but we both know that’s not fair. You always have been much more than that to me. You are The Love of My Life. You were my first love and the biggest love I’ve ever had. We were young when we first started dating. In fact, I met you during Frosh Week and we were inseparable ever since until our relationship finally ended just before our fourth year.

Even though it was “over” I still saw you a lot. We had a lot of the same friends, and our school wasn’t very big. It was hard. Not to mention, you would always find a way to pull me back in. We would talk, try to work things out, and then in public or in front of our friends you would act like I didn’t even exist. It was during that time that my love for you turned to hate. It was the only way I could protect myself from you. Our relationship was toxic. It always was, but it never changed the fact that I loved you and you loved me. I loved you with all my heart, I guess that’s why I could hate you so much too. I hated you for a very long time. I thought if I hated you, you would just go away… But you never did. In fact, you never left. I just kept dating versions of you over and over again.

I even went as far as dating someone who looked, and even acted so much like you. I overheard my sister and mom talk about how much this guy reminded them of you, then I proceeded to meet up with him and call him by your name… But let me be clear, it’s not like I called him by your name once. I called him by your name THREE TIMES IN ONE CONVERSATION!!! I called him by your name, tried to apologize to him and called him by your name twice in my apology. I mean who the fuck was I kidding?! This guy was trying to tell me that I still had feelings for you, but all I kept saying was that I didn’t, and that I hated you. Hate is still a very strong feeling that I had towards you, so yes, in fact I did still have feelings for you. I was most definitely not over you. We eventually broke up, but I still chose to live in denial. Pretending that I wasn’t hurt, and just relived our toxic relationship over and over again. Each time I would feel more and more depleted. So much so, I made a conscious effort to not date at all for the past 9 months. I just knew that there was a lot of pain and hurt that I needed to finally acknowledge and let go of. Not all of it was caused by you.

When we started dating, I was going through a lot of shit with my family back home in Mississauga. Things were really hard with my Dad’s side of the family, and you were always there for me during that time. Even after we broke up, there was a huge fight that happened on Christmas Eve between myself and my sister, against my father’s side of the family. I called you that Christmas Eve because I didn’t know who else to call. You picked up. Thank you. I was so scared and alone that night.

I’m writing you this second letter because I learned a lot about love this year by loving myself really and truly. I’ve also been listening to a lot of beautiful music by Frank Ocean, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Alanis Morissette, and so on. I realized that I hated you so much because I loved you so much. I also learned that my love for you will always be there no matter how much I try to deny it and hate you instead. The difference now is that I’m finally ready to accept my love for you and let it go. When it was good it was beautiful what we had, and so I will forever cherish the good times. But I need to say my final goodbyes to you. You will always have a place in my heart, but I’m willing to let go of the pain so I can finally move on. Goodbye to the Love of My Life. I’m making more room in my heart for myself and for the Man of My Dreams. I know he exists. I just know now that I would never be able to meet him until I forgive you (check) and let go of our past (check). Our love wasn’t perfect but it was very real. I’m done pretending that nothing can hurt me, that you didn’t hurt me, and that I didn’t love you. It has only kept me stuck on you, and no matter how many times I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many, many times) I will never be able to move on properly until I let go. I love you, but I love me more. So goodbye finally, I wish you well.

Love,

Alexandra Rinaldo ❤


Heroes

June and half of July has been a roller coaster for me. So many amazing things happened! I also learned a lot. I guess that’s why I wasn’t able to be as consistent with my blog writing this past month and a half. I was in the thick of life. I finally feel like I have processed enough of what happened so that I can sit down and write this next piece.  I’m calling this blog post heroes because I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a “hero.” I remember that I used to say “Oh God, please save me,” a lot. Up until very recently this would be a common reaction from me when I was stuck in a very awkward or uncomfortable situation. A situation where I felt that I had absolutely no control over. I’ve realized over this past year that the only thing that I actually have control over is myself, and my life. I have control over my choices, my thoughts, and my feelings. With the help of a higher power, God, the universe, whatever you want to call it, you can achieve and do absolutely anything. For a lot of us that is very hard to believe. Especially when you feel trapped in a very dire situation. A situation that seems like there’s just no way out. It is very easy for us to be convinced of our limitations, rather than our powers.

This year, I set the intention that I wanted to rediscover my power. Everyday I’ve done my best to “save myself” from my own despair. Everyday I’ve done something good for myself. I’ve become my own hero. I’ve looked both within myself and to those around me for their wisdom and positivity. I realized that if I want to change my life for the better, I cannot assume that I have no power in the situation. I cannot continue to assume the role of the victim. There is nothing wrong with asking God for strength, but ultimately it is up to you to make a change. Throughout this year, I’ve been writing a lot about my past. Your past helps to inform you of the person you presently are. It does not however, inform you of your future. You do not need to repeat the past, and continue to live in a cycle of unhappiness if you don’t want to. Living in the past does bring unhappiness because it keeps you from the present, and you miss all the amazing things around you. It has been said that depression has you holding onto the past, and anxiety has you fretting about the future. They are two sides of the same coin. Either way you are not living in the present. I’ve been writing about my past and posting these stories on this blog as a way of letting go of the things that were keeping me from being present. The things that were preventing me from my own happiness. Once I hit my own bottom; I realized that I’ve been repressing these stories of my past and my feelings about them. I was doing my best to pretend that they either weren’t real, or that they weren’t as bad as they really made me feel. It is this denial, shame, and guilt that brought me to my knees. It was the most humbling experience of my entire life. It was then that I realized that I needed to surrender to my past. I needed to allow myself to actually feel my pain. To grieve for my losses, and let them go, so that I can make space in my heart for the love, and happiness that I deserve. I also needed to stop blaming myself for what happened in my life. I’m not a bad person, these things didn’t happen to me because I deserved them. Far from it. These things just happened, I didn’t choose it. However, holding on to this pain has you gravitating towards the familiar. It has you unconsciously choosing to relive this pain over and over again. It has you convinced that you deserve whatever happens to you because it keeps happening to you.

This is simply not true. You know that because through this process of healing, you are starting to see the role that you play in your life and the choices you’ve made in your life thus far. It is through your healing that you’ve begun to realize that all these “bad things” aren’t just happening to you. In fact, there are many people out there who know the pain you’ve experienced. It is comforting to know you’re not alone. It makes it easier for you to feel and express your pain openly and honestly. The more honest you are with yourself about the things that are happening in your life, the more aware you are of the “problems” the better you’ll be able to solve them. You can’t fix something that you’re not aware is broken. And you know what? Maybe I’m not broken after all! Maybe there’s nothing wrong with me, maybe my feelings, my thoughts, my emotions, are all completely normal reactions to the things that I’ve been through. I’m human just like everyone else, I just seem to have forgotten that fact. The most loving and genuine thing that I have been able to do for myself is to openly talk about my pain, it has allowed me to forgive myself for what happened, it has humbled and humanized me. Giving up my power in this way has slowly helped to align me closer with God, closer to real power.

I came to the realization that for the past six months I have been going through the grieving process. It wasn’t until yesterday that I fully realized that I haven’t properly grieved for my past losses. I have had some major losses, but I never gave myself the chance to fully embrace all of my emotions, thoughts, and feelings at the time of loss. Unfortunately, I have been conditioned to repress my feelings. I have always been an emotional person, and I have always been shamed for it. This never helped me to cry less. This never helped me move forward. This never made me become a healthier person. Being teased and made fun of for my emotions has been a regular practice my entire life, from my parents, to teachers, to my grandparents, and so on and so forth. Imagine being a child and never fully understanding your emotions and your feelings, so you cry because that’s all you know how to do, but at the same time you’re being told in many different ways to stop crying. That you’re a baby, you’re “sensitive.” As if there was something wrong with you. Now imagine internalizing that, telling yourself that you don’t need to cry. That everything is going to be okay, when it really doesn’t feel that way. Imagine repressing your anger, fear, guilt, sadness, and grief because you didn’t want to cry. Because you didn’t want to feel weak. You didn’t want other people to think you were weak, or that you can’t handle it, or that you’re not okay. Imagine convincing yourself that you’re fine, lying to yourself enough times that you began to believe it. Then one day, all of these feelings that you never had the chance to fully express and let go of come tumbling back? That’s exactly what happened to me. It was extremely overwhelming at first. When I broke down on New Years Eve, that’s exactly what happened. The flood gates opened and all my emotions came pouring out. I could no longer ignore it, I could see it coming too. My emotions were boiling over in December. I just did my best to keep them back, something I’ve been doing for years. However, the New Year came and I could no longer hold them back, and that was it. I finally surrendered and let myself feel things I haven’t felt in years. You could say that I had become comfortably numb, and disconnected from myself and my life.

My New Years Eve 2018 experience was a gift. I had no choice but to surrender and be honest with myself and my loved ones. I was not okay. I was hurting and I was in pain, and I’ve been in pain for a really long time. I just never really knew how to get rid of the pain, I just kept doing what I was taught. Repressing my emotions, and taking care of others. I had become very codependent. I was the classic “hero” and caretaker, because of this I was never fully able to grieve my grandmother’s death at eight years old. I do believe that’s when this whole codependent thing started. My Mom lost her last parent, and found out she was adopted all in one year. Crazy right?! Imagine how hard that would have been for her at the time. Imagine, how hard that would have been for my Father who is not very emotionally intelligent (most men of his generation aren’t) who felt helpless at my Mother’s time of need. He wanted to help her but had absolutely no idea how. Either way, no one could help her, grief is a process you have to go through on your own. I’m sure he could have been more supportive, but what’s the point of playing the blame game now? My parents did their best to process the death of Nonna Battaglia, and so did I, but my Mom did lean a lot on her children. I guess she felt as though we were all she had, and her soul’s purpose for living at that point. That’s a lot of pressure. I, only being eight at the time did not fully understand what was happening but I did know that I was needed. I was needed by my family, and that made me feel loved.

Ever since Nonna died I was given more responsibility, maybe more that an eight year old could handle? I don’t know, but growing up I definitely felt a sense of duty and responsibility towards my sisters. I had to help take care of them, look out for them, this was my responsibility. I also felt responsible for my parents, and to some extent I still do (it’s something I’m still working on). I could see the pain that they were in, and I wanted to do everything and anything I could do to help. Because of this, I don’t think I really got to process all of my feelings about what happened until I wrote my letter to my grandmother earlier this year. I finally let go. Looking out for my family, putting their needs before mine was a survival mechanism. If I kept my family happy then I would be happy. My family would be safe, and I would be safe. That was the logic. I never wanted anything to break my family apart, and so I did everything in my power to protect them and therefore myself. I don’t think I could handle my family falling apart, and trust me there were some scares growing up! I don’t think I would have become so codependent if there wasn’t a real threat to my family life, and my well being.

You see, once Nonna Battaglia died, my family on my dad’s side were the only blood family that we had left, and they definitely made sure that we knew it too. Family was used as a tool of guilt, manipulation, and emotional/verbal abuse by my Grandparents. My Mom was constantly reminded that she was adopted, that she had no one, and so on and so forth. She was made to feel unworthy. This was damaging to me, and my family. My Grandparent’s on my Dad’s side were very toxic. Not only did my Grandmother die at 8, everything I knew and loved about my Dad’s side of the family was beginning to fall apart. No matter how awful things have gotten between my aunt and grandparents on my dad’s side, I still love them. That’s what hurts the most. I loved them and yet they continued to hurt me. At first the anger, and mutual hatred stayed contained within the adults of the family, however, the grandchildren eventually took notice. That’s when I started to come to the defence of my mother and father. Almost every time we went to visit my dad’s side of the family or they came to visit us, I always felt as though I had to be on defence. Another survival tool. I felt like I had to fight for my family. I constantly put myself in the line of fire to protect my mother, to protect my family, and most importantly to protect myself. Because I was always speaking up for my family and for myself, this caused a big rift between myself and my Dad’s side of the family. It didn’t help that I am so much like my Mother either. My Dad’s side of the family for whatever reason never fully accepted my Mother. This conditioning has made me a very reactionary person. It’s not hard to get a reaction out of me, but this is not me. This is how I’ve been conditioned to be.

Looking back, I did a lot of fighting in the past, a lot of yelling, a lot of crying. I was living in a lot of fear, and the thing is, so was the rest of my family. We all became very dependent on each other. We needed one another. In a way I’m grateful. My family is so close and loving, but we’ve been through some real shit, and none of us could really help one another get through it all because we were all experiencing it at the same time! We were all being victimized by my Grandparent’s (mostly my Grandmother). My Grandmother unfortunately has always been a very negative and unhappy person. I’m not sure she had ever been able to realize just how much power she had being the matriarch of our family. Fear, guilt, and manipulation was how she kept us around for so long, but it is also the same thing that drove us all apart. The saddest thing is, we all wanted out. None of us were happy being apart of that family, including my aunt and cousin, but when the anger escalated on Christmas Eve to a major fight, the ending of our relationship with one another, I was blamed for the entire thing. How is that fair? I was born into this family, I did not choose it. The anger and hate between my parents, grandparents, and my aunt existed before I came into being. In fact, my cousin, sisters, and I are the real victims of what happened.

Yes, that Christmas Eve when my Aunt started laying into my Father the second we walked into the door, I quickly came to his defence. He did ask me prior to arriving to my Grandparent’s place to help him “deal” with his sister, and I agreed. I agreed because I felt an obligation to my Father, and I also felt like he couldn’t do it himself. I forgive my Father for asking me, and if I’m going to be completely honest I probably would have come to his defence whether her asked me to or not. I was in university when this all happened, and at that point I was at my limit when it came to the abuse. I had enough of putting up with their bullshit and being blamed for it. Once I came to my Father’s defence that night, I couldn’t stop! Insults flew out of my mouth like rapid fire. My anger flowed out of me like a volcano and there was no containing it.

I regret that it had to come to that, however, I’m not sorry. My relationship with her, and my grandparents was extremely toxic and it needed to end. For a few years after that I stopped speaking to my Dad’s side of the family. I was way too hurt by them. For my entire life I did everything I could to have them love me, to notice me, but nothing worked. No matter what I did I was never good enough, and then to eventually be told that because I look like my Mother I’m a hateful and awful person who destroyed the family? Well it was just too much for me to bare. I never realized how much this all affected me. My Dad was just trying to make it all go away. He wanted everyone to forgive one another and be a family again, and I think part of him still wants that. At the time, the fact that he would even ask me to see my Grandparents again was extremely hurtful to me. It was as if he didn’t recognize the amount of pain they had caused me. I started to feel like maybe I am fucked up? My sisters were able to see my Grandparents again with my Father. It was only my Mother and I who couldn’t bring ourselves to see them. Maybe they were right? Were we both hateful and awful people? It certainly felt that way at the time. We seemed to be the only ones still hurt and angry about what happened.

I never went to see my Grandparents again, until I realized that my Grandfather had to get a pacemaker, and my Grandmother was diagnosed with Dimentia. I made the choice to see them again because I knew their time on earth will be coming to an end soon, and I don’t want to still hate them when they leave this earth. When I went to see them, and every time since, the past was never brought up and they never apologized to my face for what happened. It was like it never happened. I never realized how much that hurt me until now. It was like my pain, my suffering wasn’t important. It was like I wasn’t important. It was only until recently that I realized how much this effected me. Thank God I found a therapist who made me feel normal. For the first time someone acknowledged my pain, and let me know that my responses to what happened was completely normal. All I needed to know was that I wasn’t a fucked up person and she let me know that. Such a relief! You have no idea. My entire life I was asked to put myself aside for the sake of the family. I can no longer do it anymore. I’m exhausted. I need healing. My entire life I’ve been fighting and trying to save everyone else, meanwhile, all I really wanted was someone to come and save me. I never knew until now that I can save my damn self and it feels so good! I’ve been saving myself this entire year. I’ve finally allowed myself the space to be with myself and my pain. I’ve asked my friends and family for space so that I can finally take care of myself the way I need. I’ve allowed myself to live my pain and express it in a way that was healthy and productive. I’ve grieved the loss of Nonna Battaglia, my abortion, my abusive ex boyfriend, my rape, the loss of my relationship with my Dad’s side of the family, it will never be the same, and now the loss of this old version of Alex that no longer serves me.

I’ve written letters to my Dad’s side of the family and burned them. This past month I’ve learned to let go of my anger towards them, and towards myself. I’ve learned to let go of the blame, shame, and guilt that I’ve been holding on to. I did the best I could with the knowledge that I had. I felt very threatened and I did whatever I could to protect myself. Now I realize that I no longer need to fight anymore. The fight is over, and I need to let it go. I’m sorry for what happened, but I don’t take any of my actions back. I forgive my Grandparents. They were in pain, we couldn’t help them, and for whatever reason they couldn’t help themselves. I forgive my aunt and my cousin. They were in pain and suffering too. None of us could be the best versions of ourselves with one another because we didn’t know how. I’m sorry that things turned out the way they did, but maybe it’s for the best. I’m sorry Alexandra Rinaldo. Your feelings matter. Your pain matters. You’ve been through a lot and it’s okay to be sad about it. I’m so proud of you for going through the grief process even before you realized that’s what you’re doing. I’m so glad that you found the help you needed, and now it very much feels like you’re on a new path. You know that you’ve become very codependent but now you’ve been given the tools to get yourself out of the codependent zone and into a healthier version of you. It feels so good to finally understand what happened to you and why you feel the way you do. It feels good to know that codependency was a survival tool for you, but now you no longer feel the need to survive. You want to thrive and I think that you’re well on your way to doing just that. Working on your codependent tendencies is the final frontier to a happier life. You’re the hero Alex in your own life’s story, you never needed anyone else to save you, you’ve saved yourself with help from God.

 


Remembering Who You Are; Part Two

Last night I crashed at my family home in Mississauga. I like crashing at my parent’s place from time to time because the only two morning people in the house are my Dad and myself. My Dad leaves for work around 5 am and I usually wake up around 7:30 am if I’m not training any early morning clients. Since my Mom and my sister are not morning people at all, I get the entire house to myself. It’s great! The fridge is stocked, free coffee, and all the quiet in the world to get my work done early. This morning, I decided to have my breakfast and coffee outside on the deck while listening to my new favourite podcast Dissect. Just as I started to eat my breakfast, I noticed a male cardinal (red cardinal) fly out from one of the trees in our backyard to the roof of the house directly behind ours. You might be wondering, why is this important? Well, if you weren’t already aware, a cardinal is known to be a spiritual messenger. My Mom used to tell us that a cardinal is a symbol of a loved one who has passed away coming to visit you. Both my Mom and sister have noticed a male cardinal coming to our backyard on several occasions, and we believe that it is a symbol from God letting us know that Nonna Battaglia is still watching over us. This morning, the cardinal stayed there for a while making its own bird call. Because I’m aware of its meaning I was immediately moved, and I thanked God for sending me this sign. I was already planning on writing this piece, but that symbol was just further confirmation of the things that I already know to be true. To me, it further confirms the importance of my heritage, and the things that I believe. These are the things that give me strength and courage. These are the things that keep me grounded, especially when life can feel overwhelming. I can’t lie and say that I don’t currently feel overwhelmed. That’s not to say that good things aren’t happening for me, they are. In fact, a lot of things are changing for the better, and to be honest it does feel like it’s happening all at once. But seeing the cardinal today gave me comfort in knowing that I’m on the right path and I’m protected. I’m being watched over, and that everything is going to be okay.

If you don’t know much about the symbolism or meaning behind Cardinals, then I highly suggest you look it up, and you will have a better sense of their meaning. Cardinals are very important to me and my family because in a lot of ways they symbolize our own values. It’s funny how a cardinal showed up when I’m writing about exactly that, God or the Universe works in mysterious ways, but they are always listening. In fact, if I’m going to be completely honest, I was asking God for protection and guidance over the past few days because I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed. The universe answered my prayers by giving me signs like the cardinal. However, this piece is not about the cardinal. In Part One of this series I talked a lot about the importance of honesty and speaking my truth. I also talked a lot about the importance of having a strong tribe of family and friends. These are two fundamental values for me. Family has always been at the centre of who I am as a person. If you’ve read my letter to Nonna Battaglia that I wrote earlier this year,  you will know that for me family isn’t just the people you are related to by blood. Family is bigger than that. Family are the people who lift you up, the people who help you to become the highest version of yourself. Nonna Battaglia taught me that, and I am forever grateful. It is that core belief that has given me the support network that I have today so that I can speak openly and freely about my depression and experiences on a platform like this.

My Family has also given me many other gifts. Today I want to talk about the power of food. I know a lot of people talk about how much they LOVE food, and how much they eat, and maybe they do. But for me, food has been at the forefront my entire life. Food is probably second to family in the scale of importance in my family’s upbringing. For us, food is love. Feeding your family and friends is how you express your love for them, and as an Italian Canadian, you wouldn’t just feed your loved ones just anything. No! You feed your loved ones the best. Only the best will suffice. My family takes a lot of pride in our food. To my family our food is a direct reflection of us. Growing up, I used to always joke that my Mom was “crazy.” In fact, I still joke that she’s a bit crazy! Especially when people come to visit, my Mom will make an exorbitant amount of food. She would always say “we need options in case someone doesn’t like one thing, they can have another.” To which I would reply, “okay Ma, but they don’t need to have three other choices!” My Mom would go out of her way to make sure that her guests were well fed and taken care of, just like she would for her own family. I was definitely spoiled growing up, and I knew it. Especially as I grew older, I began to realize that not everyone lived the way my family did. Not many families had grandparents on both sides who had extensive gardens, or who would make their own tomato sauce, wine, homemade sausage, fresh pasta, pizza, pizzelle, waffles, cookies, I can go on and on. Now that I think about it, we could have fed armies of people with the amount of home cooked meals we’ve made as a collective. Both sides of my family would stress how their food was “the best,” and I was obliged to agree even if I didn’t fully believe it, because food is so personal to us.

I’m very proud of being an Italian Canadian, and I’m very proud of my upbringing. I’m so grateful to have been given the gift of food. I have been trained since birth to be a cook, because food was everywhere in my life. I couldn’t escape it! But to be honest, it was love at first sight. I loved helping in the kitchen growing up. I would help both my Nonna Battaglia and my Mom make anything and everything that they would allow me to. My Nonna Battaglia passed away just before I turned eight years old, however, her recipes and traditions still live on because of my Mom. I know that one day these recipes will be passed down to me. In a lot of ways they already have.

Food is so powerful, to me it is love. It has the power to heal. We know this to be true. Keeping on with this family tradition of feeding your loved ones “only the best,” I have now done my best to adopt this notion towards myself. For the vast majority of my life I was cooking and baking to show my love for others. Recently, I’ve directed that love towards myself, doing my best to feed myself “only the best.” When I was bodybuilding I was “eating clean,” I was cooking for myself but it was very repetitive and boring. I was cooking out of necessity, not out of love. I needed to prepare my diet food, and make sure that I always had food ready so that I would win my shows. I guess there was love there, I did love how the sport challenged me, and how it made me feel at the time. Bodybuilding definitely kept my love for fitness alive during a time where I was very unhappy with my career in fitness, but I didn’t love the food I was eating. Now, I eat food I enjoy eating, and food that I enjoy making. I’ve been slowly converting myself into a vegetarian. Something that I’ve always wanted to do. I remember in my second year of university when I really got into fitness and eating healthy I told my boyfriend at the time that I wanted to be a vegetarian and he told me not to because it was annoying. So I didn’t, and I never revisited it until now. Right now being a vegetarian and maybe even one day being completely vegan, makes sense to me because I want to feed myself only the best. I personally cannot afford to eat meat that is hormone and antibiotic free, that is free range and organic etc. I’m not choosing to be a vegetarian because I don’t like the taste of meat, I do. I also can’t say that I want to be a vegan completely for moral reasons, even though I am deeply affected by animal abuse. I just know that if I want to be a healthy person inside and out, in a way that makes sense to me, vegetarian is the way to go. I also do believe that the meat industry, particularly beef is not only unhealthy for me, but for the planet as a whole.

Vegetarianism and Veganism has opened up my creativity. It has challenged me in the kitchen in new ways and it’s very exciting! I feel inspired. I’m healing myself through food. Not just by eating a plant-based diet, but through the act of cooking and feeding myself the way my family used to feed me. I’m feeding myself love everyday. I deserve to eat only the best because I love myself, and I share that love online through sharing my recipes. I take pride in my food, I know I’m a good cook, I know that my food is good. I used to joke that I’m “wifey material,” that “I’m a chef.” I never really thought of my cooking as something that was valuable outside of the context of domestic life and family. Therefore, I didn’t really think it could do much for me other than being able to take care of loved ones. Now I realize that my skills in the kitchen have value outside of the home, and that has been a powerful realization for me. I now value myself more because of this knowledge. I share my gifts in the kitchen with you because I love you, and I love myself.

Photo of Alexandra Rinaldo making Vegan Smoothie Bowls in her kitchen

A candid photo of me in my natural habitat making smoothie bowls for a friend and I.


Remembering Who You Are; Part One

I attempted to write this piece over a month ago. I wrote the title and that’s about it. I wasn’t even sure about the title at the time because I wasn’t completely sure of the direction I wanted this piece to take. It wasn’t until last week when I had dinner with my best friend, I was reminded of the importance of personal values and how they keep you grounded. How the things that you were taught by your parents, and grandparents inform you of where you came from, who you are, and what is the most important to you. These things were either taught to you in a positive way, leading by example, or in a negative way, where they show you what you don’t want in your life. I have to say that for the most part, my parents and family have been a positive influence. I was lucky. My family is not perfect that’s for sure, we are all human at the end of the day, but they have taught me a strong value and belief system that I still hold strong today. It is these core values that has helped me to fight against my own depression.

My depression has been a very humbling experience. I got into my depression by slowly forgetting about who I am, what I stand for, and who I dreamed I could be. Little by little, I let fear and self-doubt take over. Depression doesn’t just happen. It’s not like one day you wake up depressed, even though it can definitely feel that way. However, depression starts slow, it’s an accumulation of all the soul wounds you’ve experienced in your life. It comes from you constantly trying to “fight” your reality using defense mechanisms that only isolate you more and have you feeling worse than you did before. The thing is, when you’re living your life you don’t always recognize the negative events in your life as lessons, but rather as punishments. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be upset or feel pain when bad things happen to you. In fact, the only real way to turn these events into lessons is for you to feel all the pain that comes with it. Surrender yourself to the pain, don’t hide from the pain. Don’t drink your pain away, don’t smoke your pain away, don’t party your pain away, don’t try to pretend that you don’t feel hurt. Been there, done that. It doesn’t work.

For me, I lived the majority of my life deflecting my pain. When I was hurt deeply by someone else or by an event in my life, I would cry and be upset, then I would say “it’s fine, I’ll be okay.” I never wanted people to worry too much about me, seeing their fear for me would only amplify the fear I already felt. For example, my parents are great. They love me and my sisters more than anything in the entire world. I would always joke that my parents “care too much.” I know this sounds crazy, how could your parents “care too much?” Especially when some kids desperately want their parents to care about them just a little bit. I know this might make me sound like a spoiled little brat, and maybe I am, I don’t know. But eventually I stopped being honest with my family and friends as a defense mechanism. I was already feeling overwhelmed, and ashamed by the things happening in my life, I couldn’t bring myself to speak honestly about it with anybody, let alone the people who loved me most. I carried my crosses my entire adult life up until this point mostly on my own. I would sometimes drop hints here and there, but I would never allow people to help me. I would always say “this is my problem, don’t worry about it, I’ll figure it out,” or “I know you can’t help me, so what’s the point of talking about it?” So very foolish, and naive of me. I still do this, old habits die-hard. However, writing about my struggles in this way has helped to free myself of my own pain. It has allowed me to lift some of the heaviness I feel. It has slowly freed up space in my mind, body, and soul. Depression is like wearing chains and restraints that you have put on yourself, as punishment for not being able to do better, be better, for you basically being unworthy of happiness for whatever reason.

I think that we forget that we ourselves are human. We make mistakes. Whatever we did “wrong” in the past only happened because we didn’t know any better, or it happened because we weren’t ready to change. If you weren’t ready, it’s because you were scared. And that is OKAY!!! Punishing yourself for being scared, only keeps you living in fear. For me, I was always pretending that I wasn’t scared because I didn’t want anyone else to be scared. I was doing that to protect other people but also to protect myself. For me, it was easier to focus on helping other people because I would never have to really face my own fears. The things that scared me most. I’m extremely extroverted, and so I poured a lot of my energy into my friendships with others. Always being there for them in any way I could. I don’t regret this. Yes, doing this has put me in the place I’m in today, but at the same time it has allowed me to establish a really strong foundation and tribe for myself that allows me to now focus on myself fully and freely without fear. I know I don’t have to worry about loosing my friendships or my family. No matter what happens through this healing process, I know I have several people who love and support me. It is so very comforting. I now know that I don’t always have to be “around.” I don’t need to see them every single weekend like I used to. I don’t have to do EVERYTHING with my friends. I can be alone with myself and my thoughts now more than I ever could before. Not only is this important, it is healthy. I needed to learn to love myself, and to forgive myself for all the things I used to punish myself for, even things that I would punish myself for that I couldn’t control. I needed to let go of the shame and guilt that I’ve been carrying. The same feelings that brought me to my lowest point on New Years Eve 2018. I was with all my best friends, in a beautiful Air B&B celebrating the New Year, new possibilities, and I felt so scared and alone. I had this heavy guilt and shame on my chest. I broke down, I was bawling my eyes out, and I was hyperventilating. The thing is, I wasn’t alone, and my friends reminded me of that. Having all my closest friends there during my lowest point reminded me that I was safe. It reminded me that no matter what I am deeply loved. That is so powerful. New Years Eve may have been my lowest point, but it was also the most honest I’ve been in a while. I could no longer keep the barriers up that I worked so hard to build in order to protect myself. They were no longer helping me, instead they were preventing me from my own healing. That moment, looking back now, showed me just that.

This knowledge, that I can be completely vulnerable and show the parts of myself that I don’t like about myself to the people I love the most and they would still love me was huge. It gave me the courage to continue to be honest. A value that my parents, especially my mom instilled in us at a very young age. Honesty was probably the one value that my mom stressed the most. This is probably why I’m actually a terrible liar and why I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m actually a very genuine and honest person. I only withheld the truth because I thought at the time it was what I needed to do to get through the shit I was going through. I now know how detrimental it was to go against my own values and intuition. It only made me feel more isolated and overwhelmed with the stresses going on in my life. It’s still very hard for me to talk candidly about what’s going on in my life. I still find myself focusing more on the positive aspects of my life when I speak to my loved ones, because again, I don’t want them to worry about me. I’m in a better place today because I’ve found healthy outlets for myself. Writing these blogs allows me to speak my truth in a way that feels safe to me. I have complete control over my story in this way. When I write about my thoughts, feelings, or the things that I’ve been through, I am the protagonist of my life story, and I am no longer the victim. It is my story to tell, and well, I’m a story-teller. Always have been, always will be. Another truth about myself that I’ve rediscovered. If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that there have been lapses in my posts that would last months. I lost my inspiration, my creativity, my motivation. I couldn’t bring myself to write. My life was too stressful at the time, and when I did write it was out of “necessity for my business.” It wasn’t really for me, it wasn’t genuine. I guess you can say I’m grateful for my depression, because it’s humbled me to come back to square one. To come back to my roots. To learn to be honest again, and to learn the importance of telling my story, of speaking my truth. That is the only way I can really help myself and therefore the world. We’re all human, we make mistakes but if God or the universe loves us then we’re gonna be alright.

 


The Sky is Always Blue

Today I went to yoga like I do most days, but today was different. Today I wanted to push myself, so I went to a level 2 flow class. The class was challenging, I tried a lot of new poses that I’ve never tried before, and I learned a lot. The instructor was also a new instructor to me, but that’s not what impacted me. What impacted me was the small hands on adjustment that he gave me at the end of class. I was resting in shavasana after a challenging class, and in my mind I was happy. I was happy and grateful that I pushed myself, that I enjoyed the class, and that I learned so much. The instructor in a lot of ways reminded me of myself. He said, “you should all care less, the pose is hard, it’s challenging but it’s also fun. You should smile at your hand as it raises to the ceiling. If you wobble or fall, that’s okay. It’s part of the process, smile through it, you’ll be surprised how much easier the pose gets once you start to have fun.” That really spoke to me. I know it seems simple but it’s true. I’ve always believed that what you do should be fun, or at least you should always try to find the fun in the things you do. I love to laugh, and I love to have fun. I’m not afraid of work or challenge, but if I have to do something tough I’m going to make a point in making it fun.

This yoga class basically reminded me a lot about myself. The fact that I’ve always believed that you should do what brings you joy, and you should always try to find the joy in the things you do. Even when it’s tough, and you’re being pushed to your limits, it should be a labor of love. Putting love in what you do, not only raises the quality of your work, but the joy as well. I love myself, food, fitness, my blog, yoga, dancing, scream/singing my favorite songs, reading, writing, and so many other things. I’ve been doing all these things more and more everyday for myself. As Mary Poppins says “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” I truly believe that. Life can be tough, your job can be tough at times, your relationships with others, and even your relationship with yourself can be tough. However, I challenge you to try to find the fun in the everyday mundane. I challenge you to smile through your pain. It’s easier said then done. I know. But you were not put on this earth simply to exist and life is what you make of it. I choose to live a life full of pleasure, a life full of fun. The sky is always blue, the grey clouds are simply passing by.

 


I wear my heart on my sleeve. So What?

About two weeks ago, I was having a phone conversation with a new friend of mine. The conversation did not end well, and that was because they had said that “I need to learn how to control my emotions,” in response to me getting emotional on the phone as I was trying to explain to them my thoughts and feelings about a previous conversation we had, had. I don’t even remember what I was trying to tell them anymore because all of that got erased the second they told me that my crying was making them feel uncomfortable and that I need to learn how to control my emotions. To be fair, now that I’ve had more time to reflect on that conversation, I don’t think they were trying to be malicious in their response to my emotions. However, the damage was done. It’s fair that crying may make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you should have to hide your emotions and your feelings just because it makes someone else feel uncomfortable. This is something that has taken me a long time to learn.

The second they had told me to control my emotions the conversation, and I had completely shut down. I stopped crying and said, “I’m sorry that my crying is making you feel uncomfortable, but I have a lot of really good friends who don’t mind me or my crying. So this conversation is over. Especially since I’ve told you that I have not been able to fully express my feelings, and that I’ve actually repressed and denied a lot of my pain for a really long time.” Looking back, I regret apologizing for making them feel uncomfortable. I guess I’m so used to apologizing for being myself. I cry. I’m emotional. I wear my heart on my sleeve. So What? At least it’s honest. I’m done repressing my emotions, and my pain in order to make someone feel more comfortable being around me. I haven’t really talked to this friend ever since. It’s not that I hate this person, there is the occasional text but I know that they can no longer be the friend that I need. They cannot support me in the way I need. My feelings, my crying is NOT THE PROBLEM! I’m not a psychologist but I do know that them feeling uncomfortable and then projecting their discomfort on to me, and making me out to be the problem is actually about them. They have some repressed emotions, whether they be anger or sadness, whatever, and me expressing those types of emotions reminds them of their own unhappiness. I was mirroring the parts of their self-hood that they did not want to see. It’s cool. Like I said, I have plenty of other healthy outlets for me to express myself.

This message is for everyone and anyone, girl, boy, whatever. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in any way that feels authentic to you. I know this is easier said than done, but it is so important. I’ve realized that the more I tried to hide my depression, hold my tears back, deny my anger, and my sadness the bigger it became. My sadness, and guilt got so big that it spilled over into uncontrollable tears this past New Years Eve. By denying my feelings, and holding back my emotions I turned into an emotional mess. I became a sad, sad person. Someone who now would cry very easily (not that I didn’t cry easily before) but it wasn’t as often. I literally couldn’t stop myself on New Years Eve. Who was that girl? I have no idea. I mean it was me, but I became someone I could hardly recognize because I was repressing a big part of who I am. I have always been an emotional and intuitive person. There have been times where I would own this part of myself proudly. Those were the happiest times for me. I feel like that was when I was living more authentically. I was emotional, but I wasn’t sad.

Now, I’m relearning how important it is to feel all your feelings. Let them out in a way that is healthy and productive. If you need to cry,? Then fucking cry. If you’re angry? Then find a way to express that anger. Maybe you need to blow off some steam, go for a run or workout. Maybe you write an angry letter and then burn it. It is a lot less damaging to release your negative emotions then to repress them and bury them deep. Doing this only leads to more destructive behavior. Trust me. I’ve seen it in myself, and in some of my close friends. You put on a strong front, act like everything is fine, because deep down that’s all you really want. All we really want in life is to feel safe, happy, and loved. When we don’t feel safe to be ourselves, we do bad things to ourselves and to others. Our pain manifests in violence against ourselves or others, self-medicating, emotional eating, eating disorders, the list goes on. We see this all the time with ourselves, our friends, celebrities. EVERYONE DOES THIS. It is only human to have emotions and feelings. They are not bad. Being angry or sad is not bad. It’s not fun, but it’s life. When we feel this way, we just want to be heard. We want to know that how we’re feeling is okay, and that we’re going to be okay. That’s literally what EVERY SINGLE HUMAN ON THIS EARTH WANTS! I really do think that we would be healthier as humans if we allowed ourselves and others to express their emotions and feelings in a way that is healthy and productive. A lot of the violence, and pain that we experience in this world would be reduced if we were allowed to talk openly about anything and everything. However, that is not the case. I’m hopeful that one day we might reach that point, but in the mean time the best thing we can do is to make each other feel safe. To listen openly and honestly to our friends and family. To give each other the love that any human deserves. When we feel loved and safe we are capable of doing amazing things for ourselves and for others.

Growing up, I’ve been teased for my emotions. I would try to hide my tears even though I did a very bad job of this. I would turn my face away from people and cry silently by myself. You’d be surprised how much what your parents, teachers, and other kids say to you effects you. I was told by one of my grade eight teachers (who was a woman) that my emotions would be seen as a weakness by other people and I should learn how to manage them. A lot of people believe this. That crying is weak, and that is should be done in privacy. I’ve been told my whole life that “I’m too sensitive,” or that “I care too much.” I’ve definitely internalized these things and believed them to a certain degree. Enough for me to feel the need to hide my feelings, my emotions, and the negative things that have happened to me in order to have other people feel safe around me. This was the most damaging thing I ever did to myself. It’s a lot of work to constantly pretend that everything is okay, and really it’s a waste of time. People can eventually see right through your feeble attempts to be someone you’re not. So why bother? I’m done. I’m tired. That time and energy I’ve started to redirect to myself, and my own well being. I’m learning to see the power and strength behind my sensitivity, emotions, and intuition. Some of the most beautiful pieces of music, art, dance, whatever, comes from real, raw emotions. There is power in being honest, their is bravery in being yourself and expressing every part of you, even the parts that make you feel uncomfortable. That’s how you grow. When you allow yourself to be yourself, to feel all the feelings, and to live in the moment, that is when you are the happiest. They say happiness is a choice, and I agree. However, it is much easier to make the choice to be happy when you’re able to fully express all of your other emotions too. I’m a much happier person now then I was at the beginning of 2018, and that’s because I’ve found ways to express my feelings and emotions in a healthy and productive way. I’ve found a way to be more honest with myself and with others. I do feel like I’m living a fuller life now then I was in the past. I don’t have much more material things, or a ton of new friends, but because I’ve stopped fighting myself, I have a lot more energy to focus on the things that do make me happy. I put my feelings, my emotions, my heart into my work, my blog, my journal, my food, my workouts, my solo dance numbers in the comfort of my home, my casual showers singing, my yoga practice, into me. I’ve been opening my heart up slowly but surely and I think it’s paying off.

A selfie of Alexandra Rinaldo without makeup


A love letter to Myself

Dear: Alexandra,

It’s been over a month since your last letter to yourself and a lot has changed since then. I’m so proud of you for being able to pour your heart out like that for the world to see. Ever since then, your awareness of yourself has only grown. You have learned so much from yourself, and from other people over the past two months. Recently, you have made a new friend through your volunteer work at Moksha Yoga who said to you, “Imagine the things you could do if you gave yourself half the love that you give to others.” It still makes you feel emotional when you think about it because it’s true. Alex, you’re in this unhappy place right now because you don’t value yourself the way you should. You have given so much of yourself away over the past few years, that now it seems like you don’t even know who you are anymore. You have lost yourself in other people. You have allowed too many people to take your energy away from you. Because of this, you’ve constantly been questioning yourself, and your value. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. You are not the problem. The problem is that you have put yourself on the side line. You have put the needs of others before your own needs. This teaches other people that it is okay to walk all over you. If you don’t show enough respect for yourself, how is someone else supposed to respect you? You know this. You’ve just wasted too much of your energy trying to take care of others instead of taking care of yourself. So here we are.

You used to tell people, “you are the most important person in your life.” It seems like you haven’t taken your own advice. For some reason that rule applied to everyone else but you. Well no more. We know that this cannot go on, you have no other choice now but to put yourself first. This is your life Alex, you need to take charge of it. I see you doing it and I’m so proud! Don’t give up. Every obstacle that life gives you is just that, an obstacle. An obstacle that is meant to be overcome. The universe is testing you, God is testing you, to see if you really want this. To see if you’re ready for the new challenges ahead. You are ready, you’ve been ready. I know it. You know it. That is the whole point of this letter. I love you Alexandra Michelle Rinaldo, and I refuse to see you fall. I’m picking you back up because no one else can. You are a warrior. You are one of the strongest people I know. You are generous, kind, and compassionate. You have so much love to give, and now it’s time to give that all to yourself. You know that if your passion in life is to serve others, then you must serve yourself first. You are of no use to other people if you can’t walk the talk yourself. The best way you can help anyone else is to help yourself first. Lead by example. This is the greatest gift that you could give yourself or anyone else. As Michael Jackson says, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” As corny as that is, I don’t care. It’s true. The story of your life, your happiness begins and ends with you. Just you, that’s it.

A week or so ago, you were listening to a beautiful podcast with Alanis Morisette and Oprah, and Alanis said that “art is cathartic but it’s not healing.” I thought that was very interesting. She said that it “could be a catalyst for investigation.” In some ways, I agree. I think that these letters or short stories, whatever you want to call them are my own creative expression, and therefore my own form of art. I do find them to be very cathartic, but I don’t know if I would say they are healing. They have healing properties, and I find them to be very helpful to the healing process. But just because we’ve written these letters, does not mean that we don’t need to still do the loving work of always taking care of ourself first Alex. These letters are a symbol of us ridding ourselves of the things that no longer serve us in our life. They are a symbol of us choosing to move forward with our life, but we still need to be active in moving forward.

You’re doing all the right things. I know you’re doing your best. Keep it up. The more you invest in yourself, the better you will be. Your life, your happiness is what you put into it. No one else can do it for you. You have to do the work. It’s a labour of love. You work hard in the gym because you deserve to feel good, look good, and you deserve to have the strength and the power to take care of your damn self! You eat healthy and vegetarian because it makes sense for you. Because you value your body, and your health. You write because you love it. It gives you energy and you have something to say. What you write has value. You plan and cook your own meals because you care about what you feed yourself. Because for you, food is love. Food has always been a focal point in your life. You are a talented cook, you know that. For a long time you would work hard in the kitchen for the benefit of others. Now you are learning new ways of cooking completely for yourself. Good for you! You deserve only the best! Remember that. Work hard everyday so that you can provide yourself with only the best in life. You have done a great job of creating and maintaining relationships with amazing friends and family who love and support you no matter what. Keep finding positive people who give you energy, who teach you new things. The better you treat yourself, the higher your vibrations will be, and you will be able to attract others who are on the same wavelength as you. Good things are coming Alex! I can feel it. Keep loving yourself, keep working on yourself everyday. Everyday is a challenge but you got this!

I believe in you and I love you.

Alexandra Rinaldo