Spiritual Bad-Ass

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Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by author Debbianne DeRose for her new Spiritual Bad-Ass Tv YouTube series. The series highlights a bunch of Spiritual Bad-Asses who have a lot to say in how we can all get in touch with our Spiritual Bad-Ass selves.

The interview was a chance to really put the message of this blog in a nut-shell. Being diagnosed with cancer is an opportunity. For me, it was a catalyst to discover who I really am and make a choice to live a more authentic life. In the process, I discovered self-love, self acceptance, and got in touch with my creative self – through the healing art of drag.

Please check out the video and podcast via the link below on Debbianne DeRose’s website:


You Are Not an Island

I have to admit, I have been living alone for almost 20 years now. As an independent lady, I feel like I have worked hard to be able to accomplish things on my own. I buy my own cars, bought my own house, and when I make plans…it is usually for myself. It is not like I always want to be alone, but I figure that I can’t trust that someone else is going to be around so I better figure out how to do it on my own.

This thinking process has been with me forever. Because my parents worked a ton, my siblings and myself were often asked to fend for ourselves. We were total latch key kids living in the middle of nowhere. Although our hometown was about 20 minutes away, it felt like eternity without a car.

I realized quickly that if I wanted to do anything, I had to take the initiative. If I wanted to do an after school activity, I had to come up with the funds and figure out the transportation.

When I first went to college, I remember hoping to find someone special. I would decorate things thinking about having company over…but it didn’t really happen. I have never had a Valentine sweetheart or even someone special during the holidays. To get over feeling like a dork, I just shut it out. If I couldn’t fix the relationship part of my life, then I would focus on anything else but it.

Obviously, it hasn’t been working.

When my boys moved back into the area, I finally felt like I had my family. They are my brothers. They are who I have fun with, who consoles me, and who makes me a better person.

This year I have taken so many steps to grow and be a better, more fulfilled person. I have beaten back depression, discovered with a little more clarity who I am, and am working on making myself healthier. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Still, as far as I have progressed, there is so much more work to be done. In talking with Alex and Max this week, they discussed that I could let them even further into my life. We have worked on me disclosing more about what I am thinking and feeling. At first, I didn’t trust that they would be able to hear me without judgment, but they proved me wrong.

In some areas, I guess they feel like they barely know me. Who am I attracted to? Where do I really want to eat? What music do I listen to that we don’t mutually listen to?

It sounds like it should be so easy. Sometimes I do censor myself. If I am talking to someone and they have disclosed that they don’t like something that I do, I just don’t talk about it out of politeness. When it comes to talking about people I am attracted to, I feel super embarrassed and slightly prudish.

I don’t know where the hesitation comes from. Am I afraid that if people really knew what I thought, they wouldn’t like me? Do I feel like my liking of it is not as valid as someone else’s opinion?

For a long time, I didn’t know what my true opinion was on a variety of topics. I would often listen to what others thought and if I could live with it, I just went with the crowd. It seemed easier than having an argument over right or wrong. If I did voice a contrary opinion and was the target of some sort of criticism over it, I wouldn’t know how to verbally defend myself and just cave in to whatever someone else thought.

I guess the reason why that might have happened was that I wasn’t as forthright about why I viewed things the way that I did or how long I had thought that way. If I voiced a contrary opinion and you had no idea I felt that way, it would seem disingenuous, especially if I flipped flopped shortly there after. My memory is not that good either, so if I had not fully disclosed something or went around with the crowd, I might have forgotten about it shortly there after. Latter, if I referenced it….the other party would be left confused about where these thoughts or opinions came from.

Growing up in my household, my parents were pretty explosive if you had an opinion that didn’t match theirs. If it was an honest criticism, they would take it personally and blow up on you. There were so many Saturdays that I watched my parents blow up and ruin the whole weekend that I just decided to be as appeasing as possible. It worked. I eventually survived long enough to get the hell out of dodge.

When I see people with relationships where they feel they can tell their parent anything, I am completely jealous. I begin to think that my opinion just didn’t matter. In conversations with others, I skirted around issues that I thought might be divisive. I often didn’t assert myself on anything that I thought really mattered. There were other times where I did have a firm opinion and if I felt it wasn’t welcomed, I would just slip away from the relationship instead of confronting the other person.

Most of the day, I am alone. I can’t stand being in the house by myself all the time, so I will run out and go window-shopping or just drive around. When I go to visit the boys latter in the day and they asked me what I have been up to, I often didn’t mention what I did earlier because 1) it wasn’t really important enough to share 2) I might think that they wouldn’t approve 3) I may be embarrassed about it.

Since the boys and I have been really working on vulnerability this year, I have learned to be more forthcoming. I have tried hard to include them in my thoughts and in my world. I have learned that when I fell verclempt about something, I should error on the side of sharing it. I feel closer to them than I ever have, and I have noticed that they share more with me as well.

I love the fact that when I am with them that I can be myself. I know that they are there for me unconditionally. Even if they disagree with me, and we may even have a heated dialogue about it, I can still stand by my opinion and they will accept it.

As much as I trust them with my own life, I still have moments where I fall back into my old ways. I have moments where I feel like I have to do things myself. I still feel on occasion that I have to assert my independence. It is like I trust them so much, but just in case anything happens…I want to be prepared. I always feel like I have to be able to fend for myself. A person shouldn’t have to rely on anyone else to survive. The best way to survive is to have that wall up so people can’t readily get to that vulnerable center. Even those with a key, who have proven themselves worthy of entering, should be monitored and I should still be able to revoke access if the shit hits the fan.

I realize even as I am writing this that my self-protection mode is the only thing really getting in between me and the relationships I want to have with people. As much as I have shaken off this self-protective non-sense, it still can creep up.

Since my hair has been gone, I have been wearing a lot of knitted hats. At first, it was because of the bumps and irritation on my head. I have worn a couple of wigs on occasion, but I have felt like they are too heavy or cumbersome to wear for extreme lengths of time. I have wanted to buy a shorter wig for a while.

At first, I told the boys this and they didn’t think I should spend the money on another wig because I haven’t worn the ones that I have. I tried to go on with life, but noticed that the desire to do it grew. I brought it up again and explained in detail all the reasons why I wanted to. They finally agreed and decided that we should go to the wig store together, but after we ate they didn’t feel like going out to do it. I wanted to get the new wig before Thanksgiving, but they suggested that I wait til Friday for a certain sale. Finally, Friday came and I stopped by to see if said sale was going on. They didn’t have one, but the owner told me he would give me a buy one, get the other half off deal for me. I was ecstatic, and had asked if I could leave and bring my friends back, and they said yes.

I left and called Alex and left him a voicemail. It was earlier in the day, so there was a chance that he might have been asleep. I waited an hour but began worrying that I might miss out. I wanted a new wig so bad. I felt ugly and like I stick out like a sore thumb with my hats. I just wanted some hair so I felt normal again. Plus, aren’t I supposed to be able to make my own decisions? If I couldn’t pick out hair on my own, what could I do on my own? Did I always need to be a slave to what others thought?

I couldn’t take it anymore. I went in. I knew what I wanted. I felt bad that my buddies weren’t with me. I haven’t been in the store without them ever, and I had not bought a wig there without them before. Still, I could do this. I should be able to do this.

I selected two wigs and was pleased with my purchase. When I got home, I decided that I didn’t like one wig as much as I thought I did, but the other one seemed perfect. I put it on my head and wore it all day. When the boys invited me over latter, I wore it to surprise them. I walked in the house and they both looked at me. Alex than began to tell me how much he hated the wig and how ugly it looked on my head. My heart completely sank. All I wanted to do was sob. Great! I wasted $70 on wigs that I obviously would never be able to wear in front of them. Alex continued about how I looked like the lead singer from Counting Crows. I grabbed my coat and headed out to the car.

All I wanted to do was drive away. I didn’t want to see them or talk to them again. But, I also knew that I didn’t want to spend the evening alone starring at my cat and sobbing my eyes out. I sat in the car for 10 minutes. Eventually, I reemerged into the house, took off my wig, and placed the hat I had with me on. I felt destroyed.

Alex and Max then began to tell me that they were pissed that I went there by myself. I told them that I had called, but Alex said that no voicemail was recorded. Why hadn’t I called Max or come over if it was so important to me? I said that I didn’t want to bother them and than get yelled at for being over bearing and needy. They said that I put in the least amount of effort to notify them and if I had waited they would have been happy to go with me latter in the day. I told them that it didn’t matter, it was done and I was out of the money anyway. I didn’t need to hear them go on about it for eternity.

Alex than stated, “you are not an island.” We are here and we want to be apart of these decisions. I wasn’t allowed to buy wigs on my own because my history suggests that I am not good at it. He has Max help him make decisions on things because he knows that he needs a second opinion sometimes. I said, “that is great, but you always have each other to bounce ideas off of, I don’t.”

They looked at each other and said, “yes, you do.” They stated that I am over there every day and that they were there for me. I need to rely on them more. Have more patience. Trust that they will come through. It is insulting that I still don’t believe that they are going to be there for me.

“You are not alone. Stop living like it.” Alex said.

Alex than went into his drag supplies and brought out the wig that he knew I was trying to match. I put it on and it did look better than the one I had bought. At the end of the day, I just wanted a wig so I could feel a little more normal and this one did.

I know I still am having a problem letting my guard down. I have trouble trusting others to come through for me. This thought pattern is what prevents others from being with me. I am the only one getting in the way of having the deeper relationships I desire. The answer is as easy as just relaxing and surrendering. I don’t know why I feel like I have to fight it and go alone.

The eternal fight seems almost life threatening at times. Like, if I succumb to this new world order that I am in danger of completely losing myself. Maybe that is exactly what I need to do.

Helping a Friend

I have been feeling so good recently. I am feeling loved. My body feels good. My mind is so hopeful and enthusiastic. Being on the high-flying disk is a radical experience. I am finally comfortable being me, authentically me. The pain of self-judgment melts into the comfort of self-acceptance. For someone who has spent decades feeling so bad, this joy is ecstasy.

Still, no one can be in this place always. I think the more accountability you hold for your own emotions, the easier it can be to stay. I have heard over and over again that people join you at the vibrational energy you give out. Sometimes when we are in extended relationships with family members or loved ones, what holds us from changing is incompatibility of the vibrational energies.

Alex and Max, again, have been with me from the beginning of this year. They probably even started the ball rolling on this year of releasing judgment. I remember Max, in particular, talked about the excruciating desire to change our lives and that they wanted me on the bandwagon so I wouldn’t get left behind.

It sounds selfish, but I think it was one of the most loving things anyone has done for me. I love you. I see our current path heading to undesirable outcomes. I have to change this pattern for me because I know the joy that is behind it. It is my deepest desire that you take that journey with me. To participate in it. To embrace it. If you can’t, I love you so much as to let you go so you can find what you need in life. But, my deepest desire is that you stay right here with me so we can expand together.

All three of us have progressed so far. We have found aspects of ourselves that have truly inspired us and brought us joy, but we have also felt the feelings we have kept in order to hide these aspects from ourselves. We are all becoming much closer to who we really are.

I believe that this process has been radically sped up because we are doing it in unison. When each of us experiences a breakthrough, it inspires the rest of us. When someone experiences a set back, we all learn from it.

This week in particular, I was feeling great. I attribute one night in particular to a magical experience. For someone who has always questioned what she really wants, visions were coming fast and furious. I had an inspired day of writing. So much seemed to be going my way.

When I saw Alex and Max latter that day, I couldn’t hold back my excitement and joy. I was so filled with positive energy that I thought they must be flying as high. I attributed them to the cause of my feelings, why not?

They both stated that they were having a difficult day. Max had woken up late and was beating himself up for not accomplishing stuff on his to do list. Alex and Max live an existence where they don’t have to keep a normal schedule. They don’t work desk jobs. Still, the pull of society is that everyone goes to work at 9am and gets off at 5pm; good people get to sleep by midnight, really tugged at Max.

Alex refers to this as “hall monitor” syndrome. Whenever we were having a great time, there would come a point where Max felt he needed to act like a parent in order to get the kids to behave. He was the oldest in his family, and often felt like he played a parent to his younger sister.

Max is not a boring, lifeless person. He is one of the kindest, more compassionate and caring people that I know. In recent years, when he starts feeling the need to play the “hall monitor” or if his blood sugar is getting low, he can become pointed.

Before, when he made these switches, it killed me. As someone who barely had any self-esteem and felt like they had even fewer friends, when my best one bit back it ruined me. Sometimes it would for days. If the person I loved more than anyone else could treat me that bad, why should anyone else?

I often would never say anything to Max about how I felt when these incidents occurred. Having experienced my parents’ blowouts growing up, I learned that the best course of action was to shut up and hide.  Often, it took Alex to point out to Max that his mood was elevated.

As I began to release the disease to please and recapture my voice, I learned that I had to confront Max during these times. It was so horrific at the beginning that Alex would often have to sit us down to work it out. As I became more honest and assertive, I felt these attacks less.

One of the things we all learned about was the power of blood sugar. All three of us are insulin resistant or diabetic. Back in the day, Alex would hit low blood sugar, step out of a car, and demand to walk home.  When I had it. I would get incredibly weepy. I would refrain from turning on others and just go on a death spiral of how horrible I was. Max has always just gone to a super bitchy place.

This week, Max was feeling very stagnate. He has witnessed our forward momentum, and he doesn’t want it to stop. In his world, we need to get on the bandwagon. Eat right. Go to the gym. Get on a schedule. Write down our plans and start executing them.

This came to a head in a Mexican restaurant. The boys asked if I was hungry, and if I would like to eat there. Now, they don’t really like Mexican food…not the way I do. I also know that I like this restaurant more. I was surprised, honored, and delighted that they asked to go there, knowing it wasn’t their first choice and that I hadn’t asked to go there. I felt as if they where honoring me for no other reason than the fact that they wanted to.

My delight was a little short lived because I knew both of them were low blood sugar. Max in particular was having difficulty. I tried to get Max to describe his feelings and he would run into a brick wall. Everything went back to being fat, not following through, having all these tasks left undone, etc. Knowing that had nothing to do with it, I kept digging. As it brought up something, he would verbally lash shut down. He was having so much difficulty being vulnerable.

I looked at Alex and he looked spent. I could feel his pain through his eyes. He had been dealing with this for a while and had come to terms with what was right for him. If Max couldn’t change his path, he felt like they might have to separate in order to continue growth. Somehow I knew that Max was at the crucial point of change. He was so close that it tasted so far away.

I gave the boys some words of encouragement and let him know that I had faith that this could be worked out. I was flying on my high-flying disk, still looking at the positive aspects of the situation. I used my newfound knowledge to listen, really listen. I shared how I saw comparisons to my growth and what I had to do to change.

I know they were listening, but I know it is annoying to hear someone that you are use to commiserating with or feeling better than because they were at least more miserable, try to tell you what to do. It is a switch of hierarchy. There also has to be some real faith and trust that the other person isn’t blowing smoke up your ass as well.

At the end of the meal, I felt compelled to share one of the lessons that I wrote about previously…but I kind of got left at the table. I took a really deep breath. It was the moment that I was completely knocked off my disk. I was upset that I had let it get to me. I was discouraged because I desperately wanted Max to feel better, but I didn’t know if I knew what to do. The frustration turned into momentary anger until I reminded myself: NO ONE is responsible for your feelings but you. Yes, Max might have knocked me off, but I was the only one keeping myself away from the high-flying disk. It was totally within my control.

I also reminded myself that the quickest way to get into the vortex was to love something, anything. I went through all the things I was grateful for and retapped into my love for Alex and Max. I was immediately back on the disk.

We took a break to do some things and regrouped. When everyone was calm and nourished, Alex and I turned to Max and told him that we love him and wanted to help him. We kept asking clarifying questions, waited for his response and digged further. We reflected back to him exactly what we saw him to be and how much we loved him. The glare of the truth light was excruciating for him. He would hide under blankets or yell at us, but you could tell that he wanted to be released.

What came to head was that his trigger bad emotion is embarrassment. He is afraid of being embarrassed. He is afraid of others embarrassing him. Embarrassment is the gauge he uses to determine his worth all the time. The “hall monitor” was installed to keep anyone from feeling embarrassment. On the other hand, when Max felt threatened…he would release a verbal lashing to instill embarrassment in others.

This was so affective with me. Max and I are so alike. In me, he saw me struggle with the same demons he did. I was worried about being a disappointment, but the same things he thought were embarrassing did often not embarrass me. That way, when he got frustrated that I was beating myself up, he would embarrass me about something I felt okay about. This would cause me to second guess myself, and feel even worse.

I had been so self-conscious about my lady bits that I grew cancer in them and had to rip them out. I told him, you can continue on this path with a similar result…or you can just relax and find some way to appreciate that which embarrasses you so much.

Often times, the solution is just finding some aspect to love. You might have to start with easier things around the target, but eventually….you have to look at the thing you hate the most and either decide to keep resisting it or just let go and learn to love it. So often, the object of your obsession is not as horrific or unique as you think it is. Only by shining the light of love and acceptance on it, can you fully accept how wonderful and marvelous you are.

We are at our best when we are most in tune with ourselves. The more we can honestly say we love ourselves, the more joy and happiness we can feel. It is only then that we can manifest exactly what we want for our lives. This is our purpose on this planet. Just like in the Never Ending Story, the Universe is built on all of our dreams and desires. There is nothing exactly right or exactly evil…..everything is good.

Feel better.

Commence Time Traveling

For most of my late 20s, I felt numb. I went through the motions. I worked 80-hour weeks. I had so many obligations. I had no personal life. I spent every hour of every day working for someone other than myself. At the age of 30, I knew this had to change.

My best friends moved from Chicago to the house across the street from me. It wasn’t forced; it just happened. I went from feeling like I had no confidant in the world, to having my best friends only a stone throw away.

I gave up any obligation that I didn’t enjoy or didn’t serve me. This was tough. I was always a “yes” person. I thought that if I did good deeds that somehow I would benefit from the good karma. Loosening up the schedule helped me regain some balance, but I began to be horrified of the absence of something keeping me busy.

I had a huge birthday party and invited all of my friends. We had the best time, completely drunk and singing poor karaoke. I felt the love and began to release it. Slowly, I distanced myself from my friends. I needed to not feel as if I was being used. I would force myself to hang out with some of them, and pretend to care about their laundry list of life’s irritations without feeling like they cared about any of mine. In order to gain clarity, I needed to redefine my relationships.

I joined a weight loss competition and lost 80 lbs and 4 dress sizes. I felt good and kept it off for almost a year, but my father became diagnosed with the same cancer my mom died from 5 years earlier. I had to take a leave of absence from work to care for him through surgery and recovery. At the same time, my sister decided to get married. I had to balance being the both mom/sister to her and daughter/spouse-like/nurse maid to my father. I eventually gave up on myself.

I went back to school. I earned a Masters in business in order to become a better candidate for a managerial job. I started a Doctorate to try and become a college professor. I quit the Doctorate program when I realized online education is a scam. I returned to my alma mater to get teaching certification and picked up a second bachelor’s degree. I have always been, and will always be, a fantastic student. What I wasn’t prepared for was a life of indentured servitude. My student loans total over 6 figures. I have no idea if I will ever be able to pay them off. To just pay the interest on them, I would have to give up more than 40% of my income.

I switched jobs, went from employed to unemployed. I focused on teaching because I loved it. Once I got into it, I realized that too often the last thing teachers are allowed to do is teach. I have seen miserable administrators and have felt 12% pay cuts. I have worked more than two jobs to just afford to do the first.

Still, I kept plugging away.

I have to say that over time, my enthusiasm began to diminish.

I stopped exercising. I would binge eat crap food. My addition to fast food was ridiculous. I would buy groceries and watch them rot because I would be too tired to cook when I got home. I would go without eating more than a meal a day for a week, then purge on fantastic meals on pay days. My erratic eating lead to extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. On days I ate well, I felt euphoric and capable of doing anything. On days I ate minimally, I found it difficult to get out of bed. I had no energy. I would become so emotional-depressed, sad, upset.

I was still trying to conquer the world, but the engine on my car wasn’t working to capacity. I spent days in bed. I felt crappy. I would get bronchitis regularly. I couldn’t breath or would often be short of breath. I was bleeding all the time. I felt like a horrible, worthless monster.

I started to feel so far from whom I thought I was, that I didn’t recognize myself any more.  I was so disgusted with myself that I would go on regular death spirals of self-loathing. I knew I was not well, but I was too depressed to care.

At the end of December, I was feeling okay but I knew my health was not optimal. I was becoming increasingly concerned that life was just an exercise of going through the motions of what others’ expected you to do. Success equated having all of your bills paid, a closet of expensive clothes, a husband and kids….and I felt like I was never going to achieve it. I was a failure on so many levels.

I was at my best friend’s house and we were having a little dress up party. We got out make-up, wigs, and costumes. While I watch the two of them painting one another, I felt a level of euphoria I had not felt in years. I was so incredibly happy in the present moment, something that was incredibly foreign for me to feel, that I was positive that I was close to dying.  In my experience, people could only appreciate true joy if they were close to dying. It was the only time, I felt, like people would allow themselves to recognize it and feel it.

In that chair, I felt my heart race. My breathing was already shallow. I thought…tonight might be the night. I looked at my best friends and knew I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t want them to worry. I felt so happy and at peace there, with them. I couldn’t think of another place on the planet that I wanted to be. I loved them more than life itself. We took videos of us lip syncing and dancing, and I felt like I was leaving a legacy that they could go back to after I died to remember how much fun we were having together.

Hours latter, we sat down to watch some TV. An old commercial from the early 90s came on for some collection of music. It spanned several years, and I had sworn I used to see this commercial all the time when I was younger. As I watched, I felt myself begin to time travel. Seriously. I am not kidding. I saw myself as a fat 13 year old. I felt pathetic because I was being bullied at school and spent hours in my bedroom alone. I could feel how scared and lonely I was. I moved to my thin self at 18. I felt indestructible. I was a straight A student. I was loved by my friends and family. I collected awards and scholarships, performed in theater and singing groups, and felt the world was mine to own. I felt the glee of my 20-year-old self in Spain. I saw the wonder of the world through my 8-year-old eyes.

It then dawned on me…. I had thought the best times of my life were in the past. I thought being an adult meant that I could no longer find moments of complete wonder and fascination. What I realized was that what I had been telling myself was absolute bologna. I still was capable of feeling as great as I did during the best times of my life. That feeling of complete joy was still accessible. It didn’t go away. I have always possessed it. I had just convinced myself that it didn’t exist. Whenever I wanted to feel those feelings, all I had to do was tap into what I already possessed.

I bawled with overwhelming joy at this revelation. My friends looked at me with concern. I told them what I had experienced and they saw a level of joy from me that they had not seen in years if ever. A light had been reignited.

It was from that moment that a series of incredible realizations and grow experiences were built. I am so eager to share them with you. Patience is not my strongest virtue, but it is my intention to do so with this blog over time.