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!


One last peak at 2018 before I fully embrace 2019

I took just over a two week break from blogging for the holidays. I really just wanted to be with my family and friends. I spent a lot of time reflecting and remembering what things were like for me at this time last year. Man, last year at this time I was so fucking scared. It seems like a long time ago in comparison to how I feel right now; but at the same time it feels like it was just yesterday when I had a full breakdown at New Years Eve 2018. All I could think about was how unhappy I was and how badly I wanted and needed things to change. I was determined to get myself out of my despair, and to make some serious changes in my life but I was also so unsure of how I was going to do it, or if all the things I had planned out for myself in 2018 would work out.Despite all the confusion and fear, I didn’t know what else to do. So, I put my faith in God and wrote my first blog post of 2018. I literally couldn’t sleep, all I could think about was how I needed to get my emotions, my intentions out and blogging was the only thing that felt right. It was the only thing I could do. So, alone in my room listening to J. Cole I made my intentions for 2018 public and used that post as a mark for the very first day of the rest of my life.

Writing that blog post at the time may seem arbitrary to some, but it was the grandest gesture of love that I had done for myself in a really long time. It was also the most honest thing that I had written in a really long time. I don’t know about you, but for my entire life, whenever I would get really scared, I would not be able to make a single sound. Riding roller coasters as a kid, there would be moments where the fear that comes with the thrill of those rides would literally take my breath away. My stomach would fall out of my butt, and I would be mute until the fear went away and suddenly my voice would come back. That’s what it felt like when I was in the depths of my despair. I just shut down entirely. I would ball my eyes out and punish myself ruthlessly for being in such a bad place. This would only keep me from making healthy decisions. It was a vicious cycle of me being sad and afraid, putting on a brave face because I couldn’t let anyone really know just how afraid I felt because it would only make me feel more afraid. Then I would make some unhealthy decision to try and numb the fact that I was deeply afraid, and I had monsters that I just couldn’t bring myself to face. Then I would feel guilty for making that unhealthy decision. And the wheel keeps spinning.

Eventually, I would feel so much guilt that I would feel guilty about every decision that made me happy because I didn’t think I deserved happiness. I felt like I was fucking up so much at life that I didn’t deserve to go out, see my friends, spend any money on myself; anything really. I felt like I didn’t deserve anything. I would date guys who were so emotionally unavailable that when I needed them the most they were nowhere to be found. I mean they could literally be in the same room as me, and it would fee like I was completely alone. It was fucking exhausting. This mental warfare that I was raging against myself was exhausting. So exhausting that it prevented any motivation to do anything. I would Netflix and chill with the cat on a steady basis.

I’m heavily extroverted but I would only see my friends at party situations so that it would be really difficult to speak honestly with them. These were just some of the tactics I used to keep myself at an arms length from the people who cared about me the most. I fought a lot with my family. I lied a lot to them because I was so afraid of letting them know how much of a disappointment I was. I was so ashamed. No one had to shame me, and if they did, they were just reflecting the shame I was putting on to myself. I could see how afraid my parents were for my well-being, and their fear only added gasoline to the fire that I felt was blazing all around me. It was so hard to be around them because they reminded me of all the fear that I felt on a constant basis. Everything that I was too afraid to face, they would in a lot of ways would force me to face by being afraid themselves.

These were the fears, and feelings that I had walking into 2018. This was all my emotional baggage that I had to finally face in order to move my life forward in a constructive way. Looking back now, I’m so grateful to all of the people in my life who were honest with me. The people who helped me to take a deep look into the mirror and to see myself not for all my faults, and mistakes, but as a human being. Someone who is flawed but perfect and beautiful at the same time. Thank you Alexandra Rinaldo for listening. Thank you for being patient, loving, and understanding with yourself. Thank you for taking the time to take proper care of yourself and your dreams. Thank you for loving yourself enough to commit to yourself 150%. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for choosing to step towards the light despite how dark everything seemed to be. Thank you for finding your voice. Thank you for speaking out. It is because of you Alexandra that you can look back at this time last year with kindness in your heart. You can look back with loving eyes and with pride because of how far you’ve come. The Alexandra that you were then hasn’t gone just yet but you are much closer to letting that person go than ever before. She’s fading into the background. One day you won’t be able to recognise her. When that day comes it will be bittersweet; just like this blog post; full of love.

This year, as I had stated in my last blog post; https://alexrinaldo.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/concluding-2018-my-intention-recap/ I will be focusing on bringing more love into my life. I could not think of a better way to start doing that then by spending time with the people who love me most, this includes time that I devoted completely to myself. Something that I didn’t particularly enjoy before 2018. However, it was during 2018 that I had to learned how to be happy with myself, and by myself. I had to learn to love myself again in order to find my power. Without love, there would be no way that I would believe that I had any power at all. I’m still working on it but man has the love for myself grown. I feel so much happier and at peace with myself. I’m a lot more confident and optimistic for this year because I feel like I’ve put in the work. I’m ready to reap the benefits. I made a lot of hard choices. I humbled myself like I’ve never been humbled before. I poured my heart out onto the internet. I volunteered to clean a yoga studio every Friday evening in exchange for yoga. I decided to leave fitness entirely and to change my career path completely. I left my place in Liberty Village to move back into my parent’s place for a little while so that I could take better care of my health, save some money, and switch career paths. None of these decisions have been easy but they’ve been right. I know they’re right because the more I listen to myself and trust myself the quicker my life seems to improve. I feel so much more in touch with who I am as a person then I’ve felt in a really long time. I’m going to keep loving myself in this way because I know that this love will continue to spill out into all of my relationships, and life pursuits. There is literally nothing you can’t accomplish with a heart full of love.


The Four Step Process of Forgiveness

I’ve talked a lot about forgiveness on my blog, and forgiveness has been a major theme for me this year. I did not realise until this week that there is an actually process to forgiving someone, especially someone who you felt has deeply wronged you. This past weekend I was reminded of the deep seeded anger that I felt towards someone who I felt had deeply wronged me in the past. I thought that I had forgiven this person but the anger I felt told me that I was wrong, and I still had some work to do. So, I logged back on to BetterHelp, the online therapy tool I’ve been using and saw that there was a “forgiveness worksheet” that my therapist had given me that I never completed. I took a whole day to complete the worksheet, and then the very next day I was listening to my favourite podcast Dissect where the major theme just happened to be forgiveness. At the end of the show, the host talked about The Enright Process Model of Psychological Forgiveness. The very same process model I used the day before! God has a strong sense of irony, and I took it as a sign that I’m on the right path and that this is something that I should share with others as well.

So, without further ado, I will explain the four step process of forgiveness. But first, let me explain what forgiveness is. According to Enright, forgiveness is the “foregoing of resentment or revenge” when the wrongdoers actions deserve it and instead giving the offender gifts of “mercy, generosity and love” or “beneficence” when the wrongdoer does not deserve them. In other words, when people forgive, they basically give up the anger to which they are entitled and give to their offender a gift to which he or she is not entitled. How long and painful the forgiving process is all depends on the seriousness of the event, and how long the person has lived with and/or denied the severity of the harm caused. I decided to explain what forgiveness is first before describing the actual process of forgiveness because a common and major obstacle to forgiveness is misunderstanding what forgiveness is. “Forgiveness stands on the truth that what happened to me was unfair, it is unfair, and it will always be unfair, but I will have a new response to it.”- Robert Enright. Forgiveness is a moral virtue like patience or kindness and it must be practised on a continual basis with everyone we meet. It takes strength, courage, and discipline to decide to forgive and to continue to practice forgiveness every single day despite the injustices we may face. It is easy to respond to injustice with malice, revenge, anger, hate, even if those feelings never get expressed. I tend to repress these feelings as a way to make them “go away” so I can go on as if this person never hurt me and I’m “okay.” No. Forgiveness is feeling those feelings, understanding where they came from, deciding to forgive them or let those feelings go; then find compassion for the person who hurt you by trying to understand where they might be coming from, and then accepting the fact that despite the injustice of their actions, we cannot change it and the only way to heal is to have love and compassion for all parties involved. 

Step One: The Uncovering Phase 

It is during this phase that you confront the nature of the offence and uncover the consequences of having been offended. It is during this phase that you must objectively as possible describe who did what to whom. You cannot forgive an offence that did not occur, however, you may be able to resolve the anger aroused by a perceived offence when the actual nature of the offence is understood. This part I did with my therapist, someone who is objective. I highly suggest doing this, because it’s hard to look at the event itself and sometimes it’s hard to look past the traumatic event to see all the consequences you suffered. Especially if you’re the type of person who tends to repress your negative feelings. In order to uncover the consequences of what happened it is important to see not only the original unfairness of the event, but also your reactions to the injustice and how it has affected your life. A therapist can help you see the connection between not having forgiven and the experience of various physical or psychological difficulties that are the result of suppressed or repressed anger. This may involve discovering and working through various layers of pain in addition to justifiable anger. These layers of pain may look like: shame, guilt, obsessive thoughts about the offender and/or thoughts about the offence, temporary or permanent life changes due to the offence, and changes in one’s view about the justice of the world and of God. Lastly, when you uncover the pain and trauma from past events or injuries caused by an offender, you learn that you cannot psychologically forgive certain actions like abuse, or drunk driving but you can forgive the offender for the secondary consequences of their actions; emotional pain, distress and loss. 

Step Two: The Decision Phase

During this phase a person gains an accurate understanding of the nature of forgiveness and makes a decision to commit to forgiving based on this understanding. Forgiveness is and must be a free choice. For me, I decided to forgive my offender because I realised that what I was doing to try and overcome the harm and suffering caused by the offence was not working. I was still angry, I still held resentment and even though I have no direct contact with this person, when I would learn of their continued attempts to hurt me all of my anger would come boiling up to the top. I would get so upset and concerned with the fact that they couldn’t see the harm they were causing. I would get upset at the fact that I was not doing anything to cause them pain yet they still felt the need to cause me harm. I would get upset over the injustice of this all. I finally realised that this person may never stop trying to cause me harm, but I can choose how I react to their attempts to cause me harm. The more I react with anger, the more damage is caused to my well-being, and the more time and energy I waste being upset over something that may never change. That is why I have decided to forgive them. Not because they deserve it but because I deserve happiness. 

Third Step: Work Phase

This is the phase where you actually work on forgiving. In this phase a person gains a cognitive understanding of the offender and begins to view the offender in a new light. For me, I have no real relationship with my offender and to be honest I don’t know much about them. This lack of understanding was a major roadblock in my ability to forgive them. In order for me to gain some understanding and compassion for my offender, I had to ask one of the people closest to them for some background information. When you begin to try and understand your offender and see them in a new light this results in a positive change towards the offender, the self, and the relationship as a whole. It is during this phase that you begin to see your offender as a human being and not as “evil incarnate.” Once you start to think differently towards your offender, you can begin to feel more positively towards them. This leads to feelings of empathy and compassion for those who have hurt you most. You courageously bear the pain caused by the offence and eventually you bear the gift of forgiveness to your offender. This phase is called the “work phase” because it is the most challenging phase but also the most rewarding. Forgiveness is difficult but it is impossible without understanding and compassion for the other. Don’t feel like you need to rush through this phase. Take your time. Just be honest in your attempt to see your offender as human. 

Fourth and Final Step: The Deepening Phase 

I would say that I am currently in this stage of forgiveness, especially after all the work that I did recently in trying to understand my offender and where they might have been coming from during the offence. This is the phase where you find increased meaning in the suffering you endured. You begin to feel more connected with others, you begin to experience decreased negative affects and, at times, a renewed purpose in life. I would say that this is currently how I feel. It is through the process of forgiveness that I have put myself through for all the traumatic experiences I’ve had in the past that has given me a new sense of purpose and connection to others. It is through this blog that I’ve found connection and healing, which is why I continue to share my experiences. It is through my writing that I deepen my forgiveness and compassion that I feel towards others.

It is during the process of forgiveness that you may find release from the emotional prison of choosing not to forgive, of bitterness, anger and resentment. It is through the deepening phase that you may find meaning in the things you suffered from. You may even find yourself asking for forgiveness for the pain you may have caused others, or even your offender if it applies. For me, I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to apologise for any harm I may have caused my offender. I do take responsibility for my reactions to the injustice I felt I was experiencing at the time. Either way, I am choosing to forgive, to learn, and to move past those experiences. 

Those are the four phases of forgiveness. Like anything in life, the process of forgiveness is not necessarily linear. You may find yourself oscillating back and forth from one phase to another. The objective is to choose forgiveness, to try to find understanding for the other, which will hopefully lead to some compassion and empathy towards your offender. This will eventually lead to forgiveness, and then a deepening of that forgiveness which comes from a deeper sense of meaning for all the things that happened. 

“‘Men who lack conscious will even lie to themselves. A friend once said and I even found it to be true, that everyday people, they lie to God too. So what makes you think that they won’t lie to you.’ The dishonest people Ms. Hill speaks of, live a life based on a complex series of lies. First, and most importantly, they lie to themselves falsely justifying their behaviour and character which allows them to lie to their family, partners and friends, and God. Ultimately this passage lends insight to one’s ability to forgive. If we view the malice of others as acts of ignorance. As acts rooted in their own self deception, insecurity and unhappiness. We realise that their behaviour is unconscious expressions of those insecurities and unhappiness. With this understanding we can evolve from viewing these acts as completely unrelatable. Rather, they’re extreme representations of emotions we all experience. This provides a pathway to empathy. And with practice we can pray for rehabilitation not retaliation. We can empathise rather than exasperate or escalate. We can forgive but not forget.” Cole Cuchna Dissect Podcast MS1E6.


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 ❤


Self-Care, What it means to me

I know this is cheesy but before the long weekend during my meditation this line from the Shania Twain song You’re Still the One came to me as if I was saying it to myself, “looks like we made it, look how far we’ve come my baby.” This past year has been a year that I completely devoted to myself and my self-care. If you read my last article, you would have discovered that I am a Codependent who because of her codependency, had fallen into a depression. Now that I understand my codependency and how to recover from it, I no longer allow it to define me. It is through my practices of self-care that I have been able to recognize old habits, behaviours, and relationships that no longer serve me. To me, self-care is more than just your physical maintenance. It is so much deeper than that. Sure, getting your hair and nails done have you feeling better, but it is not as long-lasting. To me, self-care means taking care of all aspects of the self. It means taking care of your body, mind, and soul. Your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Self-care is not a one size fits all, and what I practice in my self-care routines may not feel authentic to you. However, my goal for this article is to have you thinking about what you can do for yourself today that will have you feeling just a little bit better about yourself and your life in general. Lately, I’ve found myself saying “vibrate a little higher Alex.” Everyday, I do my best to find a way to raise my vibration, and my sense of worth. What can I do today to make this day a little brighter, a little happier for myself and those around me? To me, that is what self-care is all about. So here are my steps to taking better care of the self:

  1. SPEND TIME WITH JUST YOURSELF:  You must spend time with yourself, so that you can eventually connect with yourself on a deeper level. You must have time completely alone so that you can get in touch with your thoughts and feeling without outside influence. You need to spend some quiet time alone so that you can get to know what your body, mind, and spirit needs. You cannot properly take care of yourself if you don’t know what you need, and the only way to find that out is to spend some good quality time with yourself. Cultivate a relationship with yourself.
  2. BE COMPLETELY HONEST WITH YOURSELF: How are you feeling? Be honest. You know when you’re lying to yourself, so don’t waste your time and energy trying to convince yourself that you’re “fine.” The universe always finds a way “to put you in your place” so to speak, and then you have no choice but to really deal with your feelings, so you might as well just be honest, and avoid any further pain. I know this sounds really simple, and it really is, however, if you’ve never taken the time to check in with yourself, this can feel really uncomfortable. It gets easier the more you practice. I promise! So, for example, if you’re feeling tired? Why is that? What is draining you of your energy? What can you do right now to recharge? What can you give back to yourself so that you can feel restored? Ask yourself these questions no matter what the feeling may be. If the feeling is happiness, sit in that feeling, soak it in, and think, how could I grow this feeling? What can I do more in my life to try to cultivate more of these good feelings? Whether the feeling or emotion is positive or negative, sit in it for a while, try your best to understand it so that you can find ways of letting it go, or letting it grow.
  3. TAKE ACTION: So, now you’re completely alone with your thoughts and feelings. You’ve been completely honest with yourself about how your body, mind, and spirit is feeling, and you’ve identified the predominant feeling, now what? Well, that is completely up to you, and intuitively you will know exactly what you need to do, or maybe there is nothing to do but to just let it be. The more time you practice being with yourself (not distracted on your phone, or watching television) the stronger your intuition becomes and the better you’ll be able to identify what you need and how to get it. This is the best part of self-care! This is the part where you nurture yourself, and give yourself all of the things that really no one else can provide. Shower yourself with love and affection.

For me, I always start my day by spending quality time alone, planning out my day, meditating, working out, sometimes I read or listen to a podcast and then feed myself my first meal of the day. I do my best to find time in the morning completely devoted to myself and my needs. Sometimes, I have to do this after some of my morning clients but I always find time for myself to be alone. This sets the tone for my entire day. This is when I’m able to identify the actions that I need to take to elevate myself in the areas that I feel need more love and attention. To me, this is self-care. Self-care is taking the time to develop a strong relationship with yourself so that you create value for yourself. The more you value yourself, the better you’ll take care of yourself, and the better others will treat you. Take care of yourself, vibrate higher, and watch your life change for the better.

Photo of Alexandra Rinaldo at Sandbanks Provincial Park wearing a pink racerback tank top

A photo of me at Sandbanks Provincial Park

 


Codependent. I’ve become a Codependent in Recovery

It’s funny, I knew that my family was codependent before I knew I was. I even told my therapist how I thought my parent’s have a very codependent relationship, not being able to really see myself. I knew my parents were codependent because I was Codependent also. In fact, I intuitively knew I was Codependent because I was already following the Twelve Step Program to Recovery for Codependents before I spoke with a therapist at all. Once Codependency was suggested to me by my therapist, I realized that, that was exactly what I was suffering from. It was so life affirming to know that I was on the right path. That I’m doing alright. I’m exactly where I need to be, and I’m going to be fucking okay! It was the biggest thing that happened to me so far this year. I’ve slowly but surely lost my confidence over the course of my twenties. I lost the ability to trust myself and to properly take care of myself as a whole. If I’m going to be real, I’ve never had so little in my entire life. So little money, so little security, so little motivation, so little energy, so little of basically everything. I’ve made myself very small. Like I tried to explain in my last post called Forgiveness which I hope you read, because forgiveness is what really got me to finally move towards a healthier, happier version of myself. Forgiveness was and is the only thing that has allowed me to forgive myself, and to finally give myself the love and compassion I deserve. I’ve been punishing myself for far too long. It is the shame, guilt, lack of self-worth, pain, anger, grief, lack of trust in everything and everyone, that has kept me in a dark place thinking that all of this obviously happened to me because I deserved it. At my very core I believed I was a bad person, who had to fight extra hard to receive love and keep it. In fact, I felt like I had to fight for everything I had in life, and I had to fight to defend it all too. Why? Well because I thought everything that was important to me would be taken away from me at any point, and I had many, many reasons as to why that would be. All of this stemmed from my childhood.

Some of you might be wondering what Codependency is and what it means to be Codependent? Well, I think Melody Beattie does the best job describing what Codependency is and how to overcome it. I bought both of her books; Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself , and The New Codependency, the second my therapist recommended Codependent No More, and they have been the most influential books for my healing. Through reading these books, I learned a lot about myself, my family, and how to finally take care of myself in the way that I need. Like I said before, I was already doing a lot of the things that Melody recommends for recovery, but she really helped to give me a deeper understanding. Plus she really does a good job of teaching you how you can apply her teachings to your life with activities and examples from her life and the lives of other Codependents she has come into contact with. So, what is Codependency? “The behaviours associated with Codependency- from controlling to caretaking are behaviours that saved our lives when we didn’t know what else to do. In most situations, whether alcoholism was involved or not, codependent behaviours are what anyone might do if he or she walked for five or ten years in our shoes… Codependency is normal behaviour, plus. There are times we do too much, feel too little, or overly engage. We forget where the other person’s responsibilities begin and our responsibilities stop. Or we get busy and have so much to do that we neglect ourselves.” (Melody Beattie) You don’t necessarily need to have addiction in your family in order for you to become Codependent. In fact, Codependency is quite common, and it starts in your childhood. That is where we learn these survival mechanisms by experiencing trauma. Trauma is anything that happened to you that you were not able to understand, and so you respond emotionally. It could be as simple as someone consistently calling you names, and making fun of you. You don’t know why this is happening to you, but it keeps happening and it hurts.

A lot of the things that hurt us as children we did not completely understand, especially if our parents or guardians never took the time to explain our pain or emotions to us. Children absorb a lot of their environment without fully understanding it, we try our best to rationalize our pain to ourselves by telling ourselves stories about why those bad things happened to us or the people we love. Usually, the explanation that we land on is that we are responsible for what happened to us, and it is because we are bad, dumb, ugly, stupid, insert any reason. These are very naive, childlike beliefs about ourselves that many of us carry on into adulthood. The only way to let go of these limiting beliefs is to  finally face the root cause of these beliefs. The root cause is the trauma that we experienced as children, all the “bad things” that happened to us. That means we need to go back to our childhood trauma, understand the pain and emotions associated with that trauma, accept what happened, and move on. We need to find the lessons in those experiences so that we can learn and grow, until you do that, you will forever repeat the same pain over and over again. You will become small, like a child.

Everybody on this earth wants to be seen, heard, and recognized. That’s all we want. We want to be understood and loved. Sometimes the trauma that we experience as children was simply not being seen or heard; feeling ignored, or abandoned in some way. This may not have even happened to us on purpose. I mean, how could our parents be the parents we needed them to be at all times? They’re human, and therefore, they have, and will continue to make mistakes. As children, we don’t understand this. As children we think our parents know everything. We only learn that our parents don’t know everything, and aren’t perfect once we begin to learn and have new experiences outside of the home. However, our brains and our bodies remember everything that has ever happened to us, whether it was a positive experience or negative experience. Especially as a child, if you cannot understand what is happening to you or around you, you will forever carry the pain and the emotions associated with that pain in your subconscious and in your body. Just because you don’t think about it all the time, doesn’t mean that it’s not there. The pain is there, and you will start to create patterns in your life that mimic the same trauma that cause you that pain in the first place. “Bad things” or the same “bad things” will keep happening until you recognize the pattern. It takes a long time, and a certain level of awareness or consciousness for you to finally accept your family’s shortcomings, and that doesn’t usually happen until adulthood. That doesn’t happen until you finally take responsibility for your own life. You see, it is not just your parents that have a major influence on your life and your beliefs. It is also your grandparents, and your siblings. It can sometimes be your cousins as well, especially if you had a very close almost sibling like relationship with your cousins. I know I did growing up. You basically need to recognize the humanity in everyone, including yourself. No one is simply bad or good, we are human. We all experience pain, and if we don’t ever find a way to overcome our pain, we will only continue to live out that pain, replay our childhood, and then pass that on to the next generation. The easy thing to do is blame someone else for our pain. They did this to me, and so therefore I’m like this. Blaming, anger, hate, denial, repression, don’t stop the pain, and they don’t end the cycle. In fact, those things keep the pain alive. It starts to become comforting because it’s all you really know. The more you do this, the more frequently you’ll repeat the pattern of trauma, and the worse the consequences.

In a nutshell, that’s basically what happened to me. I spent the majority of my life repressing my emotions and the pain associated with those emotions until I could no longer deny my own unhappiness. I became Codependent because I have been repeating my childhood pain over and over again by using the same Codependent childhood survival mechanisms. I’ve repeated the same toxic boyfriend relationship, and the same toxic best friend relationship until now. All of the pieces that I’ve written so far this year is not me trying to relish in the past, no. In fact, that’s me trying to make sense of the past, forgive my past and move on. Honestly, all I’ve ever wanted was someone to tell me that it’s going to be okay and that I’m not crazy. I finally got that when I spoke to my therapist on a phone session. She told me that my reactions to what happened to me with my family were completely normal, and that I’m going to be okay. (If you’re wondering what I used for therapy, it’s an online therapy called Better Help) I felt for the longest time that I was fucked up, that something was wrong with me, and that’s why I could never find love or happiness. Part of me knew this wasn’t true, but after repeating the same trauma over and over again it’s really hard to believe that. The more you repeat the same pain that you don’t fully understand, the more powerful your reaction to that pain is. The more emotional you become, the more bitter you become, the more naive and irrational you become. You become small, and childlike. You see this all the time. When adults have temper tantrums in the supermarket over a couple of cents on their grocery bill! They’re not upset with the cashier or the store, that’s stupid! We all know that’s stupid. They’re just projecting their own pain onto someone else because they don’t know what else to do with it. They don’t fully understand it, and they don’t want to feel this way anymore, so they do their best to get rid of it in any way they know how. I’m here to tell you that the only way to become healthy and happy again is to go through your pain. Face your pain, feel your pain and the emotions that come with it. Once you’ve weathered the storm, you can come out the other side with a deeper understanding of yourself, and the people in your life. That is when you can finally accept the things that happened to you, and move on.

Some of you may be wondering, well how do I do that? Well, in my post called Stronger Than Me I quoted the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh where he talked about your pain and anxiety as your baby, and you must embrace that baby, take care of it, in order to get a relief. As an adult, you must go back to that inner child and explain their pain to them in order to get a relief. That does not mean that you make up a new story as to why you’re suffering, No. It means you need to detach yourself from the events that caused you pain and suffering in order to create awareness and consciousness. You need to understand that these things didn’t just happen to you, in fact they can happen to anyone, and they happen all the time. They didn’t happen to you because you “deserved it” they just happened. You need to take yourself out of the situation in order for you to be able to see clearly. It is from a state of consciousness that you will finally be able to understand the events that happened to you, find the lesson in those events, be grateful for that lesson, and move on. You can find the good in everything, you just need to be conscious in order to see it. Buddhist principles can be found in various recovery programs. Detachment and awareness are fundamental to recovery, and Buddhist traditions. Prayer, meditation, yoga, and the quest for knowledge and wisdom, are some of the things that I used to raise my level of consciousness so that I can heal myself, and move on. I was stuck for a while, not realizing how stuck I was, until I could see others moving past me. That was a painful realization for me. I was holding myself back, and I didn’t know why. Now I know why. I’m aware of my pain and what caused it. I’ve been actively letting go and becoming the person I want to be. I’m evolving and it feels so good. I’m letting go of my survival mechanisms because I no longer feel the need to survive, I want to thrive. I want to be happy, I want to grow. Now, I’m going to list some of the care-taking, hero complex, characteristics in this post so that you can have a better understanding of me, and who knows, maybe yourself? I don’t know. I’ve spent a lot of my life-giving and taking care of others because that’s all I knew. That was how I got the recognition I needed as a kid. Like I said before, all people want is to be seen, heard, and recognized. For me, I was always coming to the rescue, putting myself in the line of fire. Sacrificing myself for the good of the family. My family was my life, as a child, they were what I needed to survive, so I did everything to protect my life and my family. These behaviours became more and more self-deprecating as I grew older. The more I tried to care for others, put their needs in front of my own, save them from themselves or their situations, the more my needs got ignored. As an adult, the only person you need to take care of is yourself. When you’re a child, you don’t understand that because someone always took care of you. As a child, when we see your parents in pain or your siblings in pain, we do what we know, we react, we don’t think. So, we do what our parents did for us when we were in pain. For me, I nurtured and took care of those in pain. My first reaction was always to come to their rescue. Now that I am wiser, I understand that it is not up to me to come to anyone’s rescue. In fact, I can’t save anyone from themselves. It is exhausting to even try, and believe me, I’ve tried. Over and over again until I myself was exhausted of all my energy, and resources. I guess that’s what I needed to do to finally wake up and recognize that I have no control over anyone else, and I can’t help anyone else the way I want to if I don’t learn how to help myself first.

You see, Codependents mean well. In fact, they can be some of the most loving, generous, and caring people on earth. The problem is, many Codependents give from a deep need to be loved and accepted. They give in order to get, and they begin to feel resentful when their efforts are not appreciated in the way that they hoped. They are so busy taking care of and worrying about everyone else, that they fail to take care of themselves. In fact, many of us believe deep down that we are incapable of taking care of ourselves. We take care of others so that they in turn take care of us. We become very needy and dependent people pretending that it is the people we take care of that need us when really we need them just as much. We act as though we are the strong, and responsible ones, when really we feel very lost, but we do what we know in order to get the things we think we want. I’m very grateful that God has given me the chance to be able to see both sides of the Codependency coin. I know what it’s like to be very Codependent, but I also know what it’s like to be very independent. When I went away to school at Wilfrid Laurier University, I had the opportunity to be my own person, and it was some of the best years of my life. I paid my own rent, bought my own groceries, paid for my own reading week vacations, I worked hard, and I got to see the fruits of my own labour. It gave me a sense of confidence and a sense of self. I can’t say that I was completely independent but I got a taste of what it was like to do something completely for myself and how good that feels. Even when I did bodybuilding, that sport was completely for myself and I worked hard to move from bikini to figure in just 11 months to win second place. I’m proud of that. God has given me glimpses of what is possible for myself if I show myself the love that I deserve, if I gave myself all of my energy. I know that I can take care of myself, and in fact, I really don’t have a choice. My depression showed me that I can no longer live this way as a Codependent. I have run myself dry, I have nothing left to give to the outside world, it is now up to me to fill my own cups. I had to ask some of the people I loved the most for space so that I can do just that. That was not easy for me. For a while I didn’t know my own worth outside of my relationships with others, so I would pour my heart and soul into those relationships not realizing that they loved me for me, not for what I did for them. I didn’t realize that I was enough. That me, being myself, was enough for someone to love me and want me in their life. I know that now because even after asking for space, not only did they understand that need, they respected and loved me for it. I’m so grateful. I know that I am worthy of all the things I want in my life because I see it in others. God shows you the things that you could have through other people. God is showing you what is possible if you believe that you are worthy. How do you become worthy? Through healing, and self-care which is the highest form of self-love. You must show yourself the same love you would a wounded child for you to be able to move on and grow from any blockages in your life.

Here are some of the characteristics of Codependency. Like anything, there is a spectrum of Codependency, not all of these things will resonate with you, but, if a majority of these things resonate with you, it may be worth your time and energy to explore this further. Recovery from Codependency is not as painful as you might think. In fact, it’s really fun and exhilarating when you start to give yourself all of the things you’ve spent so much time giving to others. It feels really fucking good. Good luck guys! And if you want to connect to discuss this further? I am very open to that! I wanted to share some of the things that have been the most influential to my own personal healing because I think it’s worth sharing, you never know who might be able to relate.

Excerpted from Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

Characteristics of Codependent People

by Melody Beattie

  • Care-taking: Codependents may:
    • think and feel responsible for other people for other people’s feelings, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny.
    • feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem.
    • feel compelled almost forced to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings.
    • feel angry when their help isn’t effective.
    • anticipate other people’s needs.
    • wonder why others don’t do the same for them.
    • find themselves saying yes when they mean no, doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
    • not know what they want and need or, if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important.
    • try to please others instead of themselves.
    • find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves.
    • feel safest when giving.
    • feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them.
    • feel sad because the spend their whole lives giving to other people and nobody gives to them.
    • find themselves attracted to needy people.
    • find needy people attracted to them.
    • feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help.
    • abandon their routine to respond to or do something for somebody else.
    • over-commit themselves.
    • feel harried and pressured.
    • believe deep inside other people are somehow responsible for them.
    • blame others for the spot the codependents are in.
    • say other people make the codependents feel the way they do.
    • believe other people are making them crazy.
    • feel angry, victimized, unappreciated, and used.
    • find other people become impatient or angry with them for all the preceding characteristics.
  • Low Self-Worth: Codependents tend to:
    • come from troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional families.
    • deny their family was troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional.
    • blame themselves for everything.
    • pick on themselves for everything, including the way they think, feel , look, act, and behave.
    • get angry, defensive, self-righteous, and indignant when others blame and criticize the codependents something codependents regularly do to themselves.
    • reject compliments or praise.
    • get depressed from a lack of compliments and praise (stroke deprivation).
    • feel different from the rest of the world.
    • think they’re not quite good enough.
    • feel guilty about spending money on themselves or doing unnecessary or fun things for themselves.
    • feel rejection.
    • take things personally.
    • have been victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or alcoholism.
    • feel like victims.
    • tell themselves they can’t do anything right.
    • be afraid of making mistakes.
    • wonder why they have a tough time making decisions.
    • expect themselves to do everything perfectly.
    • wonder why they can’t get anything done to their satisfaction.
    • have a lot of “shoulds.”
    • feel a lot of guilt.
    • feel ashamed of who they are.
    • think their lives aren’t worth living.
    • try to help other people live their lives instead.
    • artificial feelings of self-worth from helping others.
    • get strong feelings of low self-worth embarrassment, failure, etc. from other people’s failures and problems.
    • wish good things would happen to them.
    • believe good things never will happen.
    • wish other people would like and love them.
    • believe other people couldn’t possibly like and love them.
    • try to prove they’re good enough for other people.
    • settle for being needed.
  • Repression: Many codependents:
    • push their thoughts and feelings out of their awareness because of fear and guilt.
    • become afraid to let themselves be who they are.
    • appear rigid and controlled.
  • Obsession: Codependents tend to:
    • feel terribly anxious about problems and people.
    • worry about the silliest things.
    • think and talk a lot about other people.
    • lose sleep over problems or other people’s behaviour.
    • worry.
    • never find answers.
    • check on people.
    • try to catch people in acts of misbehaviour.
    • feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems.
    • abandon their routine because they are so upset about somebody or something.
    • focus all their energy on other people and problems.
    • wonder why they never have any energy.
    • wonder why they can’t get things done.
  • Controlling: Many codependents:
    • have lived through events and with people who were out of control, causing the codependents sorrow and disappointment.
    • become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.
    • don’t see or deal with their fear of loss of control.
    • think they know best how things should turn out and how people should behave.
    • try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination.
    • eventually fail in their efforts or provoke people’s anger.
    • get frustrated and angry.
    • feel controlled by events and people.
  • Denial: Codependents tend to:
    • ignore problems or pretend they aren’t happening.
    • pretend circumstances aren’t as bad as they are.
    • tell themselves things will be better tomorrow.
    • stay busy so they don’t have to think about things.
    • get confused.
    • get depressed or sick.
    • go to doctors and get tranquilizers.
    • became workaholics.
    • spend money compulsively.
    • overeat.
    • pretend those things aren’t happening, either.
    • watch problems get worse.
    • believe lies.
    • lie to themselves.
    • wonder why they feel like they’re going crazy.
  • Dependency: Many codependents:
    • don’t feel happy, content, or peaceful with themselves.
    • look for happiness outside themselves.
    • latch onto whoever or whatever they think can provide happiness.
    • feel terribly threatened by the loss of any thing or person they think provides their happiness.
    • didn’t feel love and approval from their parents.
    • don’t love themselves.
    • believe other people can’t or don’t love them.
    • desperately seek love and approval.
    • often seek love from people incapable of loving.
    • believe other people are never there for them.
    • equate love with pain.
    • feel they need people more than they want them.
    • try to prove they’re good enough to be loved.
    • don’t take time to see if other people are good for them.
    • worry whether other people love or like them.
    • don’t take time to figure out if they love or like other people.
    • center their lives around other people.
    • look to relationships to provide all their good feelings.
    • lose interest in their own lives when they love.
    • worry other people will leave them.
    • don’t believe they can take care of themselves.
    • stay in relationships that don’t work.
    • tolerate abuse to keep people loving them.
    • feel trapped in relationships.
    • leave bad relationships and form new ones that don’t work either.
    • wonder if they will ever find love.
  • Poor Communication: Codependents frequently:
    • blame
    • threaten.
    • coerce.
    • beg.
    • bribe.
    • advise.
    • don’t say what they mean.
    • don’t mean what they say.
    • don’t know what they mean.
    • don’t take themselves seriously.
    • think other people don’t take the codependents seriously.
    • take themselves too seriously.
    • ask for what they want and need indirectly–sighing, for example
    • find it difficult to get to the point.
    • aren’t sure what the point is.
    • gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect.
    • try to say what they think will please people.
    • try to say what they think will provoke people.
    • try to say what they hope will make people do what they want them to do.
    • eliminate the word “no” from their vocabulary
    • talk too much.
    • talk about other people.
    • avoid talking about themselves, their problems, feelings, and thoughts.
    • say everything is their fault.
    • say nothing is their fault.
    • believe their opinions don’t matter.
    • wait to express their opinions until they know other people’s opinions.
    • lie to protect and cover up for people they love.
    • lie to protect themselves.
    • have a difficult time asserting their rights.
    • have a difficult time expressing their emotions honestly, openly, and appropriately.
    • think most of what they have to say is unimportant.
    • begin to talk in cynical, self-degrading, or hostile ways.
    • apologize for bothering people.
  • Weak Boundaries: Codependents frequently:
    • say they won’t tolerate certain behaviours from other people.
    • gradually increase their tolerance until they can tolerate and do things they said they never would.
    • let others hurt them.
    • keep letting people hurt them.
    • wonder why they hurt so badly.
    • complain, blame, and try to control while they continue to stand there.
    • finally get angry.
    • become totally intolerant.
  • Lack Of Trust: Codependents:
    • don’t trust themselves.
    • don’t trust their feelings.
    • don’t trust their decisions.
    • don’t trust other people.
    • try to trust untrustworthy people.
    • think God has abandoned them.
    • lose faith and trust in God.
  • Anger: Many codependents:
    • feel very scared, hurt, and angry.
    • live with people who are very scared, hurt, and angry.
    • are afraid of their own anger.
    • are frightened of other people’s anger.
    • think people will go away if anger enters the picture.
    • think other people make them feel angry.
    • are afraid to make other people feel anger.
    • feel controlled by other people’s anger.
    • repress their angry feelings.
    • cry a lot, get depressed, overeat, get sick, do mean and nasty things to get even, act hostile, or have violent temper outbursts.
    • punish other people for making the codependents angry.
    • have been shamed for feeling angry.
    • place guilt and shame on themselves for feeling angry.
    • feel increasing amounts of anger, resentment, and bitterness.
    • feel safer with their anger than with hurt feelings.
    • wonder if they’ll ever not be angry.
  • Sex Problems: Some codependents:
    • are caretakers in the bedroom.
    • have sex when they don’t want to.
    • have sex when they’d rather be held, nurtured, and loved.
    • try to have sex when they’re angry or hurt.
    • refuse to enjoy sex because they’re so angry at their partner.
    • are afraid of losing control.
    • have a difficult time asking for what they need in bed.
    • withdraw emotionally from their partner.
    • feel sexual revulsion toward their partner.
    • don’t talk about it.
    • force themselves to have sex, anyway.
    • reduce sex to a technical act.
    • wonder why they don’t enjoy sex.
    • lose interest in sex.
    • make up reasons to abstain.
    • wish their sex partner would die, go away, or sense the codependent’s feelings.
    • have strong sexual fantasies about other people.
    • consider or have an extramarital affair.
  • Miscellaneous: Codependents tend to:
    • be extremely responsible.
    • be extremely irresponsible.
    • become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness and that of others for causes that don’t require sacrifice.
    • find it difficult to feel close to people.
    • find it difficult to have fun and be spontaneous.
    • have an overall passive response to codependency–crying, hurt, helplessness.
    • have and overall aggressive response to codependency–violence, anger, dominance.
    • combine passive and aggressive responses.
    • vacillate in decisions and emotions.
    • laugh when they feel like crying.
    • stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts.
    • be ashamed about family, personal, or relationship problems.
    • be confused about the nature of the problem.
    • cover up, lie, and protect the problem.
    • not seek help because they tell themselves the problem isn’t bad enough, or they aren’t important enough.
    • wonder why the problem doesn’t go away.
  • Progressive: In the later stages of codependency, codependents may:
    • feel lethargic.
    • feel depressed.
    • become withdrawn and isolated.
    • experience a complete loss of daily routine and structure.
    • abuse or neglect their children and other responsibilities.
    • feel hopeless.
    • begin to plan their escape from a relationship they feel trapped in.
    • think about suicide.
    • become violent.
    • become seriously emotionally, mentally, or physically ill.
    • experience an eating disorder (over or undereating).
    • become addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

The preceding checklist is long but not all-inclusive. Like other people, codependents do, feel, and think many things. There are not a certain number of traits that guarantees whether a person is or isn’t codependent. Each person is different; each person has his or her way of doing things. I’m just trying to paint a picture. The interpretation, or decision, is up to you. What’s most important is that you first identify behaviours or areas that cause you problems, and then decide what you want to do.


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.

 


Stronger Than Me

I’ve had writers block for the past two weeks. I’ve been writing a series called Remembering Who You Are, and just when I was attempting to write part three, I realized that I could honestly go on forever. I will come back to that series because I do think it’s important but lately I’ve been consumed with something else. I’ve been thinking about this piece for a couple of months now and I finally think I’m able to put my thoughts into words. This past little while has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. I guess that comes with digging up the past and letting it go. I have been literally and figuratively cleaning out my closet. It’s a long, tedious, and sometimes painful process. However, it is necessary. I need to make room in my heart for more love, more joy. I need to get rid of the pain and suffering that no longer serves me, the stuff that is preventing me from really being connected to myself and those around me. I deserve love and happiness, and I’ve realized that the most loving thing that I could ever do for myself is to express myself. Holding on to my pain in silence, and only talking about what is socially acceptable is only hurting me, no one else. If you think about it, if you never speak about your pain, if you never try to understand it, how does that not eventually hurt those around you? I know I don’t need to speak of my pain in such a public manner, in fact I write about these things in my own personal journal almost everyday. I also talk to the people who love me most about these things as well. I chew on it, sit in it, feel it, and then find a way to put into words on this blog. Once I get to the point of putting my story online, I can finally let go. I do my best to come to this space and turn my pain into something positive. I want to share my lessons with you, because maybe I’m not the only person who needs to learn it.

Recently, I listened to a Super Soul Conversations Podcast with Oprah and Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a well-respected Vietnamese Monk, Political Activist, and Author. It was a beautiful podcast that really touched me. I even wrote down a bunch of quotes from the podcast because I found it to be so meaningful to me. One thing that really stood out for me was when Thich Nhat Hanh said:

Your pain, your anxiety, is your baby. You have to take care of it. Go back to yourself, recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get a relief. And if you continue with your practice of mindfulness and concentration, you understand the roots, the nature of that ill-being and you’ll be able to transform it.

Thich Nhat Hanh went on to define what he means by suffering, and basically, suffering is the fear, anger, anxiety, and despair in us. However, the purpose of mindfulness is to cultivate compassion and understanding. This is the foundation of happiness. First you must be compassionate and understanding towards yourself before you can do the same for others. This has been my main goal for myself. I decided that I was going to be happy back in January and in my heart I knew that the only way I was ever going to be able to do this was to find compassion and understanding for myself. Everyday, I have been more loving, compassionate, and understanding towards myself and it has paid tenfold. It is the reason why I have been able to write these pieces, and forgive the people who have hurt me in my past, including myself.

Over the past few months, I’ve been listening to Amy Winehouse on and off. There is one song in particular that has resonated with me the most. It’s called Stronger Than Me. At first, I thought this song spoke to me because it reflected the vast majority of my past relationships with men, where I’ve felt that I was always taking care of them and never feeling like my efforts were being reciprocated in the same way. Looking back, a lot of my relationships were very one-sided. My partners always seemed to need me more than I needed them, and when I needed them the most, they failed to help me. This would only leave me feeling very resentful, angry and upset. I was always the stronger one, and when shit hit the fan, I was left with the mess. After every relationship there would be longer and longer gaps between boyfriends because I just didn’t have the energy to give. I had given so much of myself to this person in a way that was very self-sacrificing. As if their needs were more important than mine. I saw myself as the strong one, or at least that was the story I would tell myself, and therefore, I didn’t need much from them to be happy. Well, that’s not true. This only made me feel more tired, depleted, and alone.

After some time and meditation, I’ve realized that this song resonates with me on a deeper level. A level that I only came to realize this past weekend, but before I get into that, I’m going to tell you a very sad, but true story about myself. One that not too many people know about me. A story that I’ve only recently been able to speak more openly about with my loved ones because I’ve finally realized the power it had over me and my relationships with the opposite sex. So, here it goes:

Once upon a time, there was a very insecure 15-year-old girl who was about to turn 16. She went to an all girls high school and was terrified that she wouldn’t never have a boyfriend because she wasn’t pretty enough, and well, there just weren’t too many opportunities for her to meet boys outside of school and dance class. She did just start working at a grocery store part time, but again, she just came out of puberty and really didn’t think much of herself. She still saw herself as that awkward, ugly, little girl, and in her mind, having a boyfriend would prove that she was in fact pretty. So, she made herself a profile on MeetMeinTO. This was a site where young people could meet one another and a lot of people used it to meet potential partners. She got quite a bit of attention, and at the time, she very much needed the affirmation. Finally, she met and decided to go out with this one particular boy. He was older, and he had a car, all the things that seemed important to a naive, insecure, fifteen year old girl. One day, this boy picked her up to go on a date. It was his birthday. We went to the movies, and after the movie he said that he wanted to go back to his place because his mom had people over for cake. Growing up, birthdays have always been so important in her family, so she didn’t think twice to join him and his family in continuing the birthday celebrations. He lived far from where she lived. In fact, he lived in a completely other part of the GTA. Once they arrived at his place, she came to the harsh realization that there was no cake. In fact, there was absolutely no one there. Terrified, and alone, she felt trapped. He had brought her home to have cake, but not the kind of cake she had in mind. That night she was date raped. He put her in a situation where she felt like she couldn’t refuse him. He had sex with her, and at the end she cried. She couldn’t stop crying. In fact, she couldn’t look at him in the face. He immediately apologized, but it was too late. He robbed her of her innocence, and because of that, she will never be the same.

I never told my parents about this, or any adult. I never got the help I needed. I was afraid, and because of that, I suffered alone. I didn’t allow anyone to help me, because there was a part of me that believed it was my fault. Like I said, I was a very naive, and insecure girl when it happened. I felt really stupid for allowing myself to be in a situation where I would be alone with a boy so far away from my home. I didn’t have a cell phone at the time, but either way, I would have never used a landline to call my parents because I never wanted them to not trust me anymore. I didn’t want them to think less of me. I always wanted to be seen in a positive light when it came to my parents. They are the two people who I love the most, and I couldn’t bear it if they loved me any less. So I stayed in silence. It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I was able to tell my Mom what happened me. And guess what? She doesn’t love me less. Go Figure.

However, it took me a little bit longer to tell my Dad. In fact, I only told him to his face this past Tuesday and it was in passing because I wasn’t able to go into any detail with him. I am Daddy’s little girl. Always have been, always will be. There is no man on this Earth that I love more than my Father. So you can imagine how hard it must be to break your Dad’s heart in this way. I never want to hurt my Dad in any way, so I kept this a secret from him, I wanted to protect him, because I knew this information would destroy him. But this secret was slowly destroying me. I kept finding men who would leave me feeling depleted, men who would constantly be taking from me, or, I would just constantly give myself to these men without expecting much back in return. I would just keep repeating the feeling of being robbed over and over again. Well no more. I deserve better than that, and so did that 15-year-old girl.

When I listened to that song Stronger than me last weekend, it took on a new meaning for me. I realized that it spoke to me in a very profound way because it reminded me of my Dad. I realized that all I ever wanted my Dad to do was to protect me, to be the stronger one, but how could he? I never gave him the opportunity. I just assumed that he couldn’t handle it, and that wasn’t very fair to him, or to me. But then again, I was raped, it happened, and there’s nothing that can reverse that. My Dad couldn’t save me. He wasn’t there, and he’s not always going to be there. It’s up to me to pick up the pieces and save myself. I don’t need someone to be “stronger than me,” even though sometimes it can feel that way, where all you want is someone to “stroke your hair,” and tell you that everything is going to be okay, but I’m here to tell you that, that person exists. They exist inside of you. For me, I’ve been developing my relationship with this person everyday. Everyday I feel stronger, because through my practice of mindfulness I find the strength inside of me.


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.