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.


Concluding 2018: My Intention Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Forgiveness

You’re looking for the explanation, the loophole, the bright twist in the dark tale that reverses your story’s course. But it won’t reverse – for me or for you or for anyone who has ever been wronged, which is everyone. Allow your acceptance for the universality of suffering to be a transformative experience. You do that by simply looking at what pains you squarely in the face and then moving on. You don’t have to move fast or far. You can just go an inch. You can mark your progress breath by breath.

Cheryl Strayed

Ever since I got into fitness, I’ve thought about how much it relates to real life, and this quote above explains both life and your workout. Working out hurts for EVERYONE! No matter how much you workout, or for how long, workouts will make anyone sore (if you’re doing it right). Life just like your workouts don’t get easier, you just get stronger. No one chooses pain, of course! But you have the power to choose how long you will suffer. Everyone is going to experience pain at some point in their lives. No matter your walk of life, we are all human beings and because of this we all hurt and we all love. Life, just like your workouts, you can only mark your progress breath by breath. You cannot workout for long if you’re not breathing just like you can’t be living for very long if you stop breathing. It’s so easy to see the negative when you’re hurting, it’s so easy to see all the places you’ve “failed” in life. “Failed” relationships, “failed” career attempts, I can go on. There are twenty-four hours in a day. That’s a long time you can spend focusing on all the things you can’t do, or don’t have, or will never have, how little you have, etc. “Worrying never changes the outcome.” The only thing that brings about change is action. Just like in life, you need to MOVE in order to bring about change in your physical body. You need clear and concise actions geared towards your success, both in the gym and in life. Your lifestyle needs to support your efforts in the gym, and your efforts in the gym need to support your lifestyle. That’s balance, that’s happiness. Everything is connected. Just like Lauryn Hill says, “everything is everything.” Now you might be thinking, what is she rambling on about?

Well, I realized this year that fitness has always been a guiding light for me. No matter how bad things got in my own life, I always knew just how much taking care of myself was important. Fitness taught me that. It taught me about the importance of taking care of myself. This is the greatest gift that God has ever given me. I’ve forgotten that for a bit while I was busy trying to figure out why God was punishing me so much. So busy wondering why I deserved the things that happened to me, but at the same time pretending that they didn’t cause me pain. Trying to be normal, happy, because I realized that no matter how much I tried, there was no one that I knew personally who could help me. And looking back, it’s unfair that I would expect that. How could anyone I knew personally help me? Most of them were going through the same things I was. They couldn’t possibly give me the things I needed because they were busy trying to figure it out for themselves. It’s no surprise that I found myself in this unhappy place earlier this year, or that I’m in the place of healing that I’m in right now. If I was so busy trying to help and take care of all the people around me, hoping that they will do the same for me, who was around actually taking care of me or my needs? Plenty of my loved ones have found the professional help that they needed, and they are where they are in their lives because they got the help they needed. It just took me a little bit longer. I had to tire myself out first by focusing on everyone else except myself; I can be a prideful stubborn little Bitch! Once I exhausted myself, I had no other choice but to put myself and my needs first. I needed to heal myself, I needed to take care of myself. I needed to go back to my roots and figure out what makes me, me. What speaks to my soul, what is my truth.

A big part of doing that, is letting go of my losses, and the stories I’ve told myself about those losses. These stories only created fear and unhappiness in my life. It’s hard to see your light when all you can see is darkness. You can’t possibly be genuinely happy until you learn how to accept your past, forgive, and move on. “When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them? The word for that is healing.” (Cheryl Strayed). I realized this year through finding professional help, that I needed to let go of my childhood. I needed to let go of the pain that my family had caused me, especially the pain from my Father’s side of the family. The thing is, the same people who caused me the greatest amount of pain, have also given me the greatest gifts. There was only a tremendous amount of pain because there was also a tremendous amount of love. I loved everyone who has caused me the greatest amount of pain, that’s how they were able to cause me such pain in the first place. These things still weighed heavily on my life because I was never able to really come to terms with the things that happened to me. I never understood them. I never understood why it happened? Why I deserved the things they did? The thing is, I may never fully understand what happened. I loved them, they loved me. In our own way we were doing our best to love one another. We are human, and we make mistakes, it hurts the most when these mistakes are so close to the heart. But it’s the fact that we are all human that I was able to find a way to forgive the people who’ve hurt me in the past. I had to remember that even though I loved them, they were human beings who are imperfect. They will make mistakes, and they will most definitely hurt us. They will hurt us when they themselves are hurting. When we are in pain, we end up causing others pain. Especially if we haven’t been able to find a healthy way of dealing with our pain. Denying your pain will only postpone the healing process. Eventually your pain will become unbearable. I know, because I’ve been there. I had to let my pain literally kick me down for me to realize that I can no longer pretend I’m okay. I needed to heal.

I learned about forgiveness as a child. Jesus taught forgiveness, and I was taught the teachings of Jesus growing up. However, there are examples of forgiveness all throughout my life. Life gets harder as we grow older, and so does forgiveness. The more we repeat the pain of our childhood, the harder we become, and the harder it is for us to forgive ourselves and others. A lot of the most powerful/influential people in our world teach forgiveness. Buddha, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Beyoncé!!!! We put these people on a pedestal, as if they are an exception to the human race. They’re not human, they’re superhuman! But that’s not true. Beyoncé is a human being! An exceptional human being, no doubt. But she’s human. She gets hurt. I think that’s why so many people like to cut other people down. Especially people who seem to “have it better.” It seems like we enjoy reveling in the suffering of others, because for once someone else seems to be hurting more than us. However, that’s not how we should be treating ourselves and one another. If you want to find suffering it will find you! You will see it in other people’s lives because it exists in your life. Soon, your entire life will be surrounded by suffering. Other people who are suffering, who complain about their suffering and you won’t grow. You will shrink. You become small when you think small. Instead, think of the bigger picture. If Beyoncé can survive a very public and humiliating affair, and still find it in her heart to forgive the love of her life?! Well, that’s just beautiful. And it turned into some of the most beautiful works of art too. Like I said above, the greatest pain in our life comes from our greatest loves. That’s why it hurts so much. Jesus suffered and died on the cross out of his love for humanity. He loved us, and because of this he suffered. Some of us did not understand him or his message. Instead we caused him a long and painful death, however, he still found a way to forgive us! While he was dying he asked God to forgive us. We are all human beings, we are all made in the image of God. We all have God within us. We all have good within us. Remember that when you hurt the most. You are a good person, and bad things happen to everyone. The bad things that happened in your life don’t make you a bad person. You don’t need to continue to punish yourself anymore. You can do the best for yourself because you deserve the best. Show the people who hurt you the most compassion, and you will be able to give yourself the same. It is through the most trying times in our lives that show us what we’re made of. We’re made of love and if you can find that within yourself, you can find it in others.

YOU WILL LEARN A LOT FROM YOURSELF IF YOU STRETCH IN THE DIRECTION OF GOODNESS, OF BIGNESS, OF KINDNESS, OF FORGIVENESS, OF EMOTIONAL BRAVERY.

BE A WARRIOR FOR LOVE.

Cheryl Strayed

I became a warrior for love, for myself. Eventually this love for myself, grew to love those who’ve hurt me. One day my love will grow to more people outside of myself. The more I love myself, the more love I will have for others. That’s how it works. You only get what you give. It is the same in life as it is in fitness. The more you give to yourself, the more you will receive. Eventually you will have a surplus where you can then give to others without having to sacrifice yourself. That is the goal. Through the love that I was able to show myself so far this year helped me to see through my pain. It helped me to realize that my Father’s side of the family, even though they may have caused me the most pain, they gave me the greatest gift. They taught me the gift of taking care of myself. In more ways than one! My grandparents took a lot of pride in themselves. They always looked nice. My Grandfather used to dye his hair! I know where I got my vanity from LOL I’ve always admired him. He took care of himself first, so that he can then take care of his family. He’s worked out and has been highly active my entire life. He took care of his health and his body. He is turning 88 this September but you wouldn’t know. He has arthritus in his knee and a pace maker but he doesn’t have a cane. He still gardens, and goes for walks. He is the primary caretaker for my Grandmother who has dementia. I’m inspired by him every single day. He is a good person, who has a tremendous amount of love to give. I know that because he gave it to himself first, and then it spilled over into his life. He’s been living a long and healthy life because he took care of himself. If you take good care of yourself, you will be better able to enjoy life! And that’s really why we’ve all been so blessed to be on Earth! We were put on this Earth to enjoy this world and all it has to offer. The only way to do that is to love yourself, honour yourself everyday by doing good things for yourself, the more you do this, the better your quality of life. When I was writing the “Remembering Who You Are” pieces, I guess you could say this is the final chapter (for now). My past and the people in it have all contributed in a huge way to the person I am today. When you go through shit you learn how to either kill yourself or how to take care of yourself. So far, I’ve chosen to take care of myself. I chose love.

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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.


The Sky is Always Blue

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

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

 


I wear my heart on my sleeve. So What?

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

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

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

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

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

A selfie of Alexandra Rinaldo without makeup