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.


I Just Wanted You to Know…

Dear: Young Alexandra Rinaldo,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my love,

Alexandra Rinaldo


Self-Care, What it means to me

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

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

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

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

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

A photo of me at Sandbanks Provincial Park

 


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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Remembering Who You Are; Part One

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

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

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

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

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

 


I wear my heart on my sleeve. So What?

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

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

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

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

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

A selfie of Alexandra Rinaldo without makeup


A love letter to Myself

Dear: Alexandra,

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

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

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

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

I believe in you and I love you.

Alexandra Rinaldo


Trust Yourself, Trust the Process, the Results Will Come

Originally I wanted to talk about my fitness career and how it has evolved over time to the place where I am now. However, once I started writing this piece I realized that really it’s about how I equated my career with my self-worth. I have never truly admitted this to anyone, and it’s funny how I’m posting it online, but for some reason this just feels right, so I’m not going to question it. I’m sure some of my loved ones already know what I’m about to say because I’ve been circling around it for a while now, but I have been dealing with depression. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. It’s been really hard for me to admit, and I’ve been trying to fight it as hard as I can on my own but I know now that, that isn’t getting me very far. I do believe that depression is a very personal battle, one that you can only truly overcome on your own. However, not talking about it, or not talking about your fears only makes things harder. It’s like trying to climb a mountain with rocks in your backpack instead of food and water. And man, I’m tired. I’m done fighting alone. I think I knew that this piece was coming, I think I knew in my heart I had to write this, but I could only write it when I was ready. Hence the almost two-week break from my last piece.

I’ve realized that my biggest fears and my greatest joys surround fitness and my career (my career is in fitness) so really they are one in the same. It is very much my personality to always want to be surrounded by loads of people. I am highly extroverted and I’ve never really liked being on my own, until recently. I also have a tendency to respond more readily to outside expectations rather than expectations that I have placed upon myself. I am always the dependable friend who you can call on any time of day and I will be there for you 110%. I think that is why I love my job so much. It is so easy for me to think of others first, and to readily respond to their needs first. This is not to say that I don’t ever do what I want, but for the most part what I want is what others want. These are some of my greatest strengths but they have also been a hindrance for me, because they were always the easy thing for me to do. These things made it easier for me to pretend that everything was fine in my life, and to not tackle the things in my life that worried me the most. It was easier for me to focus on others, a coping mechanism if you will. I knew and/or believed that others needed me, so therefore I had to be the “strong one.” At least this was the expectation I placed upon myself. I didn’t want to burden others with what I was feeling or going through so I didn’t talk about it much, or at least not to the detail I would have liked. I am the type of person that feels this need to be brutally honest about everything. I need to talk about everything, but for some reason there were many things that I had a very hard time talking about. This was foreign to me and it never really made me feel good. But now the “strong one,” feels left behind. It’s no one’s fault, and that I guess is the hardest pill to swallow. It’s really hard when you’ve found yourself in a bad place, a place that you never thought you would be, and then to look back on your life and the decisions you made without shame, guilt, or regret. It’s really hard to not punish yourself, and make yourself feel small. However, what I do know for a fact is that when you find yourself in this place, a place that you no longer want to call home. A place where your fears are big (real or imagined) this is the time where you need to build yourself up. This is the time where you need to be brave. Because you will never free yourself of the regret, guilt, and shame if you don’t forgive yourself first. You did your best with the knowledge you had. Now you know better because you are in a place you never wanted to be in the first place. It is really hard to not take this personally because it is very personal. It’s your life!!! But crying, wallowing, and making yourself feel small will not make these problems go away. If anything they will continue to fester and grow.

I made the decision to be brave this past September. That is when it truly dawned on me that I can no longer live my life the way I was, something had to change. I realized that the way I was living was bringing me nowhere near the life I always wanted. I needed to take a step back and refocus myself onto myself. I needed to take the time to heal, and to realign myself with my core values, with the things that brought me the most joy, with the things that made me feel the most like myself. It started off small. I started to cut out habits that I had formed as a way of distracting myself from my worries and my pain. I then started to get myself to do more fitness classes with my friends, and I even started running outside (in the winter) with my friends. A task I truly hated because I am a terrible runner, let alone running in the cold. But I also enjoyed it because it got me moving. I felt great after every run, and I was so proud of myself for even trying. I also started to really clean up my diet during this time. I really started to eat more vegetarian. I don’t know it just feels right to me.

Eventually, my healing process lead me to make a soul map. This was a powerful tool for me, and it really helped me to put a lot of my thoughts into perspective. My weekend in Collingwood for New Years with my closest friends was the tipping point for me. It was the point where I could no longer hold my bottled up emotions in and they spilled out uncontrollably. Not my finest hour, but I’m so glad it happened. Because it opened up the flood gates and it was really the catalyst to my healing. Ever since that day I have been making a conscious effort towards my healing every single day. I journal, read, meditate, sing and dance, listen to podcasts, do yoga, eat the best I can, and so on every single day. It is because of all this I have been able to face my fears, to be honest with myself, and ultimately honest with everyone else. It is a big reason why these past few blog pieces have been so deep. It just feels right. I’m doing this for me, putting it online, and into the world is so therapeutic to me because the second I hit the publish button it is no longer in my control. By posting it I am surrendering to whatever happens. Not only is that super scary but it is also so comforting too. It’s weird. I’ve noticed that with my last two pieces, yes they drained me emotionally, physically, and mentally to produce, but at the same time they gave me so much energy and happiness. I have not reread them. I might one day, but for now I don’t feel the need to. Also, the song I’ll be missing you by P Diddy and Faith Evans no longer makes me cry. I know that talking openly about my depression will free me from it. Maybe not right away, but it no longer has so much control over me anymore. Even just typing about it at the beginning of this post was such a release. So much so, that I’m not emotional anymore about it (right now at least). I do feel that I can now speak in person to people about my depression and actually call it what it is. It doesn’t scare me anymore because now it has a name.

It has been really hard for me to allow myself to feel the things I need to feel. I’ve been fighting it for so long. I’m naturally an annoyingly positive person and I guess part of me thought that if I allowed myself to openly feel the negative things I was feeling I would no longer be that positive person. I now know that, that isn’t true. How do I know that? Well for starters, just because you aren’t being completely open about your pain doesn’t mean that other people can’t sense it, and no matter how fast you try to outrun your feelings they will always be there. Because you can’t outrun your feelings. If your life is out of alignment with who you truly are (and not who you think you are aka your ego) the universe will constantly remind you. The universe will keep smacking you down until you’ve finally had enough; until you can finally surrender and let it be.

I always knew that fitness and the gym was such a great metaphor for life. It really, really is and I don’t care about how corny it makes me sound. First of all, one phrase that my coach would always say to me when I was training for my bodybuilding shows was “trust the process.” I will never forget it. I fully trusted the process when it came to my bodybuilding training and I followed his guidelines to a tee! I did EVERYTHING HE SAID AS BEST I COULD and I knew that the rest would follow. I knew that if I put in the work, the results would show, and well… It worked! Man, I went from 8th place Bikini in November 2014 to second place Figure in 11 months! I look back and it makes me laugh that I had so much trust in myself, my coach, and the process when it came to bodybuilding but I had a hard time applying that trust to myself when it came to my career. It makes me sad that I allowed the negative experiences in my career that I came across post university to have me questioning myself, and the process. It’s a trap! It’s really hard to not take events that happen in your life, especially negative events, personally. It’s really hard to separate yourself from the bad job, or bad boss, or the fact that you’re not making any money. I’ve experienced all of those things trying to “make it” in the fitness industry. I always knew this was my calling, but I didn’t realize how challenging it was going to be. Instead of taking these experiences as lessons, and motivations to work harder to get past the grunt work and into the light, I allowed myself to become arrogant. I allowed myself to become a victim of circumstance, and because I was thinking of myself as a victim, all the terrible things were happening to me. In my mind, I wasn’t doing it to myself but rather life was doing it to me. I was thinking that I should be farther along in my career, not realizing just how much work is involved to really “make it” in any career, let alone my own. For some unknown reason I thought I deserved more than what I was getting. I’m re-learning that things don’t just come to you. I’ve always known that, but sometimes when you think that life has gotten the best of you, it’s hard to see through the fog of your own mind. Like I said before, put in the work and trust the process, the results will come. The more clear your are with your outcome, and you have aligned everything in your life with that outcome, eventually you will succeed. I’ve been there, done that, and here I am doing it again. I’ll be doing this process again and again for the rest of my life. The only positive is that I know what it’s like when you don’t trust yourself and the process, and I don’t ever want to feel that again. I can’t promise that I never will, but because I’ve learned it once before, it will be easier in the future to keep the faith.

The second major gym metaphor/lesson that I’ve learned is that failure is good, and if anything its welcome. The only difference is, failure in the gym doesn’t hurt as much. I mean it hurts! But in more of a physical sense, it BURNS!!! But it doesn’t have a lasting emotional and mental pain that failure can have in real life if you allow it to. Failure is essential to your physical fitness. You need to fail in order to fully understand where your fitness ability lies. You will never know how much you can physically do until you do it until failure. That’s when you know where your physical breaking point is, and you can only build from there. Literally, your muscle’s potential for growth if you do an exercise to failure is exponential! Getting to failure in the gym is HARD! It hurts A LOT! And the whole time your brain is screaming MAKE IT STOP FOR GOD’S SAKE!!! Man, I remember my coach would make me do bicep curls until I physically couldn’t curl anymore. Then he would help me get to a static bicep curl hold and make me hold the bicep curl until my arms fell limp. Like noodles. They would just fall and I couldn’t stop it. He was like “you’re not done until you can no longer physically curl your arm.” Damn… most people don’t get there. I did, several times. It hurt so much, but at the same time it felt oh so good! Why? Well, first of all it was over! Thank God! The pain was over, and all the was left was this feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment. Holy shit! I’ve never pushed myself so hard in my life and it feels so good! Now, apply that to your life. Sounds simple right? Nope it’s not. It hurts a lot. I would argue that it hurts more. If you fail in real life it’s not just you who may feel the impact of your failures and that sucks. However, what I’ve come to understand is that failures and obstacles are brought into your life because you were meant to overcome them. And they will keep manifesting in your life until you learn to overcome them. They are lessons. It is when your fighting through the pain, the fears, this is where you have the highest potential for growth. Failure informs you of what you’re capable of, the same way failure in the gym does. It took me some time to really understand this. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone and risk failure, the more potential you have to grow. I see that now. It’s hard, and I’m still working through it but if you truly want to have an exceptional life full of purpose, you need to fail. Failure is good, and it is welcome, a new mantra to live by.

There was a full paragraph that I edited out where I was outlining the points in my life where my depression was the most apparent. I was describing the times where I wasn’t writing my blog regularly, working out regularly, etc. I’ve realized that no one cares, and I don’t need to prove to anyone that I am no longer living that way, so I deleted it. Happiness, success, love, they all speak for themselves. These are all the things I will forever be working towards. To me happiness is balance, and what I’ve learned recently is that balance is a verb and not a noun. You must always practice balance, because the second you think you have balance, you’ve lost it and you need to find it again. I’m proud of myself for the progress I’ve made, and I know that my depression does not define me. I know that even though I’ve been suffering from depression, I’m still a positive person. I’m still here, fighting through the pain, and trusting the process, the results will come.

 

 

 


A letter to One of My Biggest Heroes; A Warrior for Love <3

 

Dear Nonna Battaglia,

I think this will be the last blog piece that I write in letter form (for now) and it’s to the most influential person in my life. I never fully understood just how powerful of a person you are for me, my Mom, and so many other people. As you know, I have been doing a lot of self-healing lately through various practices, music, meditation, yoga, journals; you know because you’ve been there with me the entire time. I don’t need to tell you, but I will anyway. Last Wednesday I was listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations Podcast with Cheryl Strayed. For some reason the title and description of this podcast struck me, and that’s how I started my day while I made breakfast. Last Wednesday also happened to be the anniversary of your death. Cheryl Strayed is a New York Times Best Selling Author who had lost her mother at a young age to cancer. My Mom also lost you at a very young age but I didn’t think too much about that when I decided to listen to her podcast with Oprah. While listening Cheryl said something that for me was so powerful, I had to pause the podcast because I was overcome with emotion. It was as if she was speaking to my soul when she said, “are you brave enough to break your own heart?” Immediately after I was finished listening to her podcast I decided that I needed to buy all three of her books that day, and that my mother had to listen to this podcast as well. That’s how moved I was. I called my mother in that moment and told her that on our way to the cemetary to visit you, we needed to stop by the bookstore so that I can buy some books. Coles Notes: once I got into the car with my mom at the train station I put the same podcast on and I made my mom listen to it, then we went to the bookstore where I bought the books Wild, Brave Enough and Tiny Beautiful Things. I gave the book Wild to my mother as a gift, and I kept the other two to myself.

When we arrived at the cemetery to see you, the mausoleum doors to your crypt were all locked. It was weird because it wasn’t closing time, but there was no one around so we got back in the car and went to my mother’s house. My client had canceled her session with me, so I decided to start reading Brave Enough and I was encouraging my mother strongly to read her book Wild. So much so, that eventually she got upset and said, “What? You want me to read this book because you think I have a problem?” Immediately I realized my own arrogance and I apologized, “Mom, I’m so sorry that I gave you that impression. I only want you to read the book because I was so moved by the author in the podcast. And I thought if Oprah who seems to ‘have it all’ can get something from this book, and Reese Witherspoon, who also seems to ‘have it all’ can make a movie about it because she loved it so much, then there must be something in it for us. Especially since the book is about this woman’s healing process after the death of her mother. I thought you would be able to relate to the author and therefore finally find a book you’d enjoy.” She agreed and we ended up watching the movie Wild that night on Netflix with my Dad. My mom even start reading the book too!

That day I started and finished the book Brave Enough and then I began reading Tiny Beautiful Things. However, ever since that day the words “are you brave enough to break your own heart?” Were burned into my brain, and I could not let them go. Something changed for me that day, because it is a big reason why I wrote my first heart breaking letter this past Saturday and it is a big reason why I have been reflecting and meditating on this letter as well. This letter is the heaviest for sure. I think after I send this out into the universe I will feel so very light, and I can ride that high during my entire birthday weekend. So here it goes, some painful heart breaking truths about your life, death, and the legacy that you’ve left behind.

First of all you knew that you were going to pass, you knew in your heart; because you said it to my mother many times in the coming days before your death. You knew that your younger sister was very sick, and you did NOT want to be around to watch her die. You made that very clear to my mother. You also attended someone’s else’s funeral two weeks before you died and you said to my mom at the funeral home, “I like it here. Bring me here when I die.” Obviously, my mom would respond just like how most people would respond to something like that, in complete disbelief that you would even think about something like that. Fast forward to the night you went to sleep and never woke up. Here’s a rendition of what happened that night written by my mother in her own words (I only fixed most grammar errors and spelling):

MY LAST CONSERVATION WITH MY BELOVED MOTHER!

So it was Thursday February 20, 1987 at 11:30 as ritual I would give a good night call to my mother.

My mother would often call myself during the day to check up on her grandchildren if they were fed, loved and taken care of. These things were extremely important to her.

That evening the phone rang are little longer than usual. Her tone was mean and angered as she was not feeling well! Every winter especially in February she would come down with a horrible cold due to the fact that she was highly subjected to bronchitis!

Knowing this ,I was always cautious and reminded her to be careful not to catch a cold.

She told me how rude & disrespectful I was for calling so late! She states that she was in a deep sleep and she is not feeling well!

I could sense something and not knowing well what I was sensing made me uncomfortable!

My mother asks me the following,

-what time is it?

-how are my babies? are they sleping?

-where is your husband Norm? 

My reply ,

-11:40 by now cause cp24 was doing the weather

-the kids are fine, they are sleeping

-norm is in bed- sleeping

now at this moment she instructs me the following:

Go be with your husband, your place is next to him! I will not need you anymore and don’t worry about me and just look after your kids!

I started to cry since I got frightened and uncomfortable! I told her I shall be over right after I drop off Alexandra at kindergarten! 

NO, DON’T BROTHER ! I’M NOT GOING TO NEED ANYTHING! 

GOODNIGHT!

our phone call was over by 11:45-11:50

the corner called the time of death around 11:45-midnight

That good night was GOOD BYE FOREVER!

You knew that your job as a mother was over, and so, you could leave this earth in peace and die in your sleep. You have been in a way training my mother for this day your entire life and you didn’t even know you were doing it until that day came. In a way you broke your own heart by realizing that truth. You broke your heart because you knew that your death would break your daughter’s heart. However, you had faith that in that process. She would become the woman you had always raised her to be. I do believe that the power of mothers can transcend generations, for better or worse. Your power as a mother has transcended generations and I’m going to explain how. Without you, my life wouldn’t exist. Not because you birthed my mother, but because you chose my mother and gave her a life she never dreamed possible. You and your husband immigrated to Canada and came to the harsh reality that you were not able, for whatever reason to bear your own children. I can only imagine the pain and guilt associated with that as a very traditional Italian woman. However, you decided to be brave. You knew your soul’s purpose was to be a mother, and so you became one anyway, and adopted my mother. You were your highest version when it came to being a mother to my Mom or at least you did your very best to be. You did your very best to love my mother with deep compassion, generosity, and integrity. The biggest secret that you ever kept from my mother was the fact that she was adopted. I’m sure that guilt must have weighed very heavy on your heart, and that cross became too heavy to bear the day you died. I’m sure you never wanted to tell my mom that she was adopted while you were alive, because you never wanted her to doubt that YOU were her mother. I’m here to tell you that she always had an idea that she was adopted and she may have questioned things, but in the end she always came back to the fact that you ARE in fact her mother. You’re the woman who raised her and made her into the strong woman that she is today. She honors you as her mother by holding on to all of your most prized possessions, all your lessons, your hand written recipes, and your memory.

My mother talks about you often. She talks about all the things you used to do for us, for her, and for our family. It was through your bravery that you inspired two other women in our family to become mothers as well through the process of adoption. It’s strange but for one of these women, their first adopted son just so happens to be born the same day you died. February 21st. This could mean nothing or it could mean everything. I definitely see this as a sign from the universe or the divine, and you Nonna are a part of the divine. You transcended into the divine when you died, and you became a guardian angel to my mother, and to me. I’m beginning to really understand our connection more now than ever before. Through your death my Mom realized who she always was. She realized the harsh truth that she was not really your daughter, but she was also very much your daughter at the same time. Even though this truth broke her heart, she decided to be brave and become the mother to her kids the way you taught her to be since day one. You taught her to be the type of independent woman who worked through out high school at a grocery store. Who learned to drive. Who bought herself a car. Who put herself through college, and who helped take care of you when your husband died (my mom was 21). She was also the type of woman who found her life partner, made her own family and became the best Mom she could be. ALL BECAUSE OF YOU! THANK YOU NONNA! GRAZIE PER TUTTI!!

In university, I found my lifelong friends. I found a family outside of blood relation and I would always say that family does not include only the people who are related to you by blood. In fact, your family is anyone who loves you unconditionally, and encourages you to be your highest version. Now I know that in reality, I first learned that lesson when you died. You taught me that lesson. Because when you died my mom learned about her adoption, but she also learned that, that doesn’t define her. In fact, you were her family. She knew in her heart that she was an Italian Canadian, and the family that surrounded her; all her cousins were her brothers and sisters. This was her tribe. This is where she has always belonged. I will never forget that. I know the importance of family, of finding your tribe, and blood relation has absolutely nothing to do with that! So THANK YOU for teaching me that!

Another indirect lesson that I’ve learned in the wake of your death, is the power of music. I’ve been raised Catholic, but to be honest my family almost never went to Church unless we had to. However, I realized that music was my religion, and it was music that was always the thing that brought me and my family together. Especially my sisters and I. Some of my happiest memories involve music and my sisters. We would scream sing lyrics in the car, we would have dance parties ALL THE TIME in our massive foyer. We would put on dance productions for my parents. All our lives we’ve shared music, and we will always have a passion for music. Now, let me make this clear, I do believe in God. However, I consider myself more spiritual than religious. Church never felt right to me. But I would always pray, and now I pray through meditation and music. You died on February 21st 1997 11 days before my 8th birthday on March 4th 1997. The Notorious B.I.G died 5 days after my birthday on March 9th 1997. Later that same year the song inspired by the death of Biggie Smalls, became the song that would ALWAYS remind me of you. That song is I’ll be missing you by Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans and 112. EVERY SINGLE TIME I WOULD HEAR THAT SONG I WOULD CRY BECAUSE IT REMINDED ME OF YOU. It reminded me of the grief I felt, the grief my mom felt, the grief my sisters felt, even though my sisters and I were all too young to fully understand it. One of my favorite quotes from this song will always remind me of some of my fondest memories of us shopping on St. Clair Avenue in Little Italy, Toronto for dress shoes and clothes. “Us in the six, shopping for new clothes and kicks.” Whenever this song would come on I would sing it and cry. These past few days I listened to it over and over and over again until I was no longer crying. I know all the words to that song. In fact, I know a lot of the words to many, many songs, but none are as important to me as this one.

I love all types of music. I’m very open-minded, but nothing speaks to me more than hip hop. I LOVE hip hop and this song definitely ignited that passion for me. I now understand on so many levels why this song and this type of music means so much to me. Hip Hop has spiritual importance to me because it talks about pain, suffering, grief, sin, violence, and turns these negative things into art. Hip Hop artists, the ones who are most profound are the ones who can speak about their pain and suffering so candidly and not only make something out of it but inspire hope for a better future. A lot of hip hop also has many references to God, heaven, forgiveness, love, compassion, and generosity. They teach us to reach deep within ourselves to look past our pain, to see the lesson in our suffering, so that we may be able to become higher versions of ourselves. I know Nonna that you don’t particularly understand hip hop because you were of a different generation, but I do know you understand it’s importance to me and my healing. I’m grateful for this song, and for my love of music. Without it, I don’t think I would be the same person.

Lastly, I want to thank you Nonna for my Mother. Without her, there would be no me. You left a legacy in her that is now being passed down to me. I was in your presence for just about 8 years of my life and I learned so much from you. I learned about what it means to love. I also learned that being so much like my mother is an honor. My entire life I’ve been told how much I look like my mother, how much I act like my mother, how much I sound like my mother, I can go on. I used to get so frustrated by this, and I would try to deny it. Now, I know that you didn’t birth my mom, so I did not inherit my looks from you, but everything else was passed down from you onto her, and then onto me. My mother and I are both excellent cooks, and bakers because of you. We are both strong and independent women who are honored to be in the service of our loved ones because of you. I now know even more so than before, how important it is to honor where you come from because it informs us of who we might then become. I am a proud Italian Canadian but I never forget that my mom was adopted. That cross that you bore as a mother who could not bear children was passed down to my mother who found out she was adopted, but neither of you let that define you or stop you from following your soul’s purpose. One day I know that I will be ready for that call to be a mother and I do believe that is my ultimate purpose. I do believe that I will also build a career and a life for myself outside of motherhood, but being a mother speaks to my soul more than anything else in the world. It broke my heart to pieces when I came across the opportunity to be a mother, but I was not ready to answer the call. I had to break my heart and accept that it wasn’t the right time. I then understood that I had to kill the parts of Alex that were no longer serving me and my soul’s purpose of becoming a mother if I ever want that part of me to be realized. And so here I am. I know that I need to be able to become the highest version of myself and then strive to be that person everyday so that I then therefore be ready for the highest honor of motherhood. With your guidance and strength I know that I can be just that. I have seen it happen for two of my closest friends who have been through similar experiences, just like me, they have both been training to be mothers their entire lives. One of them has already realized this dream, and another will someday soon (she literally talks about her burning sensation to be a mom every time I see her). I don’t know when this will happen for me, but I do know that if I continue on this path of love, compassion, generosity, and gratitude my soul’s purpose will someday be realized. I know I have a purposed in fitness and wellness, as well as motherhood, and I do believe with all my heart that they are connected. If I hold the same values that a mother should hold to her child; love, understanding, generosity, compassion, and integrity to my clients and everyone I come across, then I would be able to create a truly holistic approach to health and wellness.

Thank you Nonna for absolutely everything. My life would not be my life if it wasn’t for you and the woman you raised to be my mother. Now I also know why my birthday has always meant so much to me. It’s because you would always make a big deal about our birthday. You would buy us our birthday dress. You and my mom would make all the food for the party. You and my mom would invite anyone who loved us to our party and make it a celebration to be remembered. My Mom continued these traditions in your honor. She bought us birthday outfits every year for our birthdays up until our early twenties. She would always make a big deal about our birthday, and make a point to celebrate it each year. I carry out this tradition as well. I never forget the birthdays of my loved ones and I do my best to honor their birthday just like you have always honored mine.

Love you and Thank you!

Alexandra Rinaldo

"Seven Year Old Girl's Family Birthday Photo"


Are you brave enough to break your own heart? A second letter to myself, a new beginning….

Dear: Alexandra,

Wow! I’m so fucking proud of you! Honestly, the first heart breaking letter that you wrote and shared with the world this past Saturday was a huge shift for you in the right direction. As I’m sure you know, writing that letter felt bad; it was super scary and uncomfortable to write let alone put it on the internet. It felt super fucking good at the same time. It was also so liberating! Which is why it felt right. Abuse of any kind is really hard to talk about, however, I’ve been realizing just how important it was to talk about. Not only for yourself but for women, and people anywhere who’s found themselves in a toxic situation. You were able to write about your experience in such a candid and fair way because you were far enough away from that part of yourself that you were able to see it clear as day. You were able to see the bigger picture, you were able to accept it, forgive your abuser, and let it be. That part of yourself no longer serves you, you recognized it and you let it die. YAAAAAAAAS GIRL!!!

But here I am again about to break your heart yet again and let you in on some news that I know you know deep in your heart; this isn’t over. In fact, it’s only just begun. This isn’t going to play out how you originally thought. You’re not just going to write one or two heartfelt, painful letters to yourself. You actually have so, so many letters to write. You have to be brave and fight for yourself, and for what you believe in. You know that you have to anchor yourself in your dreams, values, and beliefs but you must be flexible in how you achieve them. You may not have thought at first that maybe this would be an avenue for you to live out your dreams, and yet here you are doing it. When you wrote your first blog post for 2018, you felt a burning sensation that just wouldn’t go away. You knew that it was important to write about your experience and to put it out in the universe. That was the beginning of your powerful and necessary journey to rediscover your power. You even wrote in that very blog your intention for this year was to find your power. Well bitch, this is your power. You’ve been told your entire life how you’re so loud, that your voice carries. Your voice has always been, and will forever be powerful. You know that. Which is why you know that you have to keep using your power, using your voice to fight for yourself. Your own wellness, and well the wellness of others as well.

You are a strong, powerful, opinionated, educated, able-bodied woman who has a talent for writing. You’re a storyteller. This has never been new to you but I’m here to remind you of this power. Words have always held power for you. Ever since you were a part of the “writing club” in elementary school. Why do you think you like writing this blog in the first place? Why has using a journal been so helpful? Why do you think you’ve fallen deeply in love with reading again? It’s not a coincidence. It’s a calling. A call that you now must answer. If you believe strongly in health and wellness then you need to use your ability as a story-teller to help convey that message to as many people as possible. You know that wellness is holistic. You know that mental health, physical health, emotional health, and spiritual health are all important. They must all be balanced in order for you to be the highest version of yourself. You must always strive to achieve this balance for yourself and part of doing that is writing your pain for others to see. For whatever it just feels right. It’s scary and it’s hard but you know you have a voice and you must use that voice to speak about things that are difficult to talk about. Pain and suffering is part of the human condition. Bad things happen to everyone, good or bad, rich or poor, it really doesn’t discriminate. But wellness can also be had by all. Wellness is something that you must always be working towards. You are the happiest, most positive, most loving, most powerful person when you’re working everyday at being the highest version of yourself. You have always seen yourself as a leader, but now you know that in order to be a leader you must always do your best to BE a leader. A leader in the wellness community. A leader that brings love, compassion, and integrity to EVERYTHING she does. Your writing, your classes, your private sessions with your clients because at the end of the day this is bigger than you.

By breaking yourself down in front of the “world” (the people who read your blog) you are not only able to build yourself back up, but maybe someone else as well? I’ve realized that there is power in making yourself vulnerable through these letters. Every time you write about your own experiences, and the lessons you had to learn, you are stepping more and more into the light. And when you step into the light, you will look over your shoulder and see that you’re not alone. That there are actually many people who know your pain too. People who are working through their own turmoil. Pain is relative. Everyone experiences pain in their lives, it is through your courage that you face your fears, your pain, and therefore let them go.

Image result for fear begets fear cheryl strayed

As the author Cheryl Strayed has said that quotes are little instruction manuals for the soul and I have to say that I agree. Like I’ve said above, there is power in words and your voice is powerful. Use it to regain your power, to be more in alignment for what you believe is your soul’s purpose. I know that you know, that you were made to serve others. You were put on this earth to do everything you can to lead people to bettering themselves and therefore bettering the world. But in order to do that you must do that for yourself first. You have to continue down this path of vulnerability to reach a higher version of yourself, and when you are at your best, it will encourage others to hopefully do the same. The best in you will therefore inspire the best in others. You need to believe that and keep fighting. Fight for your wellness, and the wellness of others. I know you believe that this is your soul’s purpose, but it’s going to be hard. Exposing yourself in this way, is painful but it’s powerful. You know that there’s great opportunity in candidly sharing your story with others. It’s a big part of who you are, how you came to be, but letting it go and putting it out in the universe also frees you to be whoever you were meant to be. Your highest version.

Keep fighting, use your power.

Alexandra Rinaldo