I Survived the Dark to Live in the Light

Last week I felt compelled to hop on my bike and ride down M22 to visit my childhood home and spend some time in the neighborhood I grew up in. Telling people where I was raised is always a bit bittersweet to me; back in the 90’s, I didn’t think there was anything special about Greilickville. Sure, we had the bay across the street, and yes, I was able to take out kayaks and a paddle boat in my own backyard.

It’s hard to believe I didn’t realize how magical this was.

This idyllic childhood setting is something I’ve held on tightly to; the memories of swinging along the creek as I read a good book, hunting for treasure, and imagining all sorts of fantasyland in my own backyard. I remembered peeking over the Norris School playground fence to see my Grandpa Jerome working in the yard, or my mom sitting on the back porch on an afternoon she was off of work.

I felt fortunate to grow up next to my grandparents, my school, and surrounded by nature. As years went on, I began to let go of what I loved so much and began to try to find my way in a new world- a world that involved gossip, rumors, and materialism.

Norris Elementary is now Leelanau Studios, but my artwork of a fishbowl hung in the hallway up until the school closed. My mom has it in her house now.

The early memories of my childhood are the ones I want to remember; not the painful memories of loss, insecurities, or abandonment. I don’t want to recall sitting by myself at lunch, struggling to find connection, or discovering the girls I confided in weren’t really my friends at all.

It was always easy for me to pick up and start over; whether it was a new activity, new school, or a new city, it was never difficult for me to meet people. However, facing the people who hurt me- and facing myself- was much more difficult. Moving back to Traverse City has reminded me of the Kristin people may remember before I left for San Francisco, or even New York- a lost, confused girl with a free spirit. To mask my own discomfort with groups, I would drink excessively- even though my inner voice was always telling me to stay home. Today, thanks to twelve years of “re-inventing myself,” I realized I was exactly who I was the entire time:

A whimsical girl on a tree swing, reading a good book.


Old friends have tried to remind me of the Kristin I was- not the youthful, pure-hearted Kristin, and not the Kristin I am becoming today. No, some people who knew me over the years love to bring up the lost and confused person I was for a period in time- but I realized those people never got to know who I was in the first place.

Despite giving them the opportunity to get to know me now- years of writing on the table and all- they still try to bring me back to the low-vibe, insecure person I was before I found recovery, healing, and inner acceptance.

When asked what I did in Boston, it’s difficult to give an honest answer without unloading more information than the asking party wishes to receive. There is no simple answer for how I occupied my time during my three years in Boston:

I moved to Boston after rehab with no idea where else to go. In Massachusetts, it was a safe space to be myself, to learn to love who I am, and most importantly- to learn to ask for help. If it weren’t for the supportive friends who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t have been able to build such a solid foundation.

When I moved to Massachusetts, I began to think about others- not just myself. With Trump recently inaugurated, there was endless work to do to help others have a voice and basic rights- and I was able to use the skills I learned in rehab to cope with life’s difficult issues.

While in Massachusetts, I became a new version of myself– a clear-headed person with a vision for a healthier, more balanced world.

Sometimes you just have to say goodbye- not only to the people who hold you back, but to the identity that you once clung to. I have to remind myself of all I have endured- the detoxes, the programs, the relapses, and the lives I have lost. I’ve wondered why I survived so many dangerous situations, yet friends of mine have lost their battle to addiction.

Others don’t need to know everything I have faced, but if they did, they may understand why I bike around town with a smile on my face. When you’ve been through Hell and back, you stop letting the little things bother you- and you have an entirely new appreciation for life.

I may be a free spirit, and I may wear my heart on my sleeve. Nevertheless, my struggles were not in vain- and today, no one will take my joy.

For I survived the dark to live in the light.

Where To Meditate? Controlling Your Thoughts Any Time, Any Place

Happy Independence Day! 🇺🇸 As I sit by the Mystic River this morning, it makes me think about freedom, and what being free means to me.

I noticed a fish swimming near the top of the water, flipping about and gliding with the current. This fish made me smile, and reminded me of going with the flow, awareness, and shifting your state of consciousness.

Although our brains are often programmed to look out for ourselves or to seek instant gratification for selfish reasons, we can shift our outlook by coming back to center. When we allow our energy to relax, pause, and connect with something bigger than us, magical things happen.

As humans, it’s easy to forget we are all connected- from the fish in the river to the stranger walking down the street. Everyone and everything in your life happens for a reason, as Mother Earth and the Divine do have a grand plan for us all. Each roadblock and challenge provides a lesson in our lives, but sometimes it takes “coming back to center” to understand why.

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People often ask me about my meditation practice. It’s common for me to hear that they have a difficult time calming down their thoughts; “I can’t meditate,” “it’s boring,” or “I can’t control my thoughts” is the typical feedback I receive.

My answer to all three of those comments is simple:

Meditation takes practice!

When I first started to meditate, I went in with the wrong perspective- I thought I needed to completely sit still and try not to think. Sure, that is an element, but this is what I missed:

To begin meditation, follow your breath, and then focus on each point of your body- from head to toe.

This relaxes both the body and mind, causing a sense of peace and often times, “the tingles.” Guided meditations and body scans were extremely beneficial for me to learn how to train my brain to get into a meditative state, and now I prefer not to be guided. We all have the power within ourselves. After a lot of practice, I am able to control my thoughts thanks to breathwork anywhere- from a cushion on my bedroom floor to the New York City subway.

It’s taken some practice to get where I’m at now, but it’s gotten easier and easier along the way. With a few tools, it will soon be a breeze for you, too!

Here are a few of my favorite places to meditate, which is proof that there is something to suit everyone’s lifestyle!

Outside

There’s nothing quite like meditating in the great outdoors. Not only is it peaceful, but the actual act of grounding is powerful for connecting you to nature and source. I enjoy waking up and immediately going to the Mystic River, the park, or my front porch to connect and recharge. The added bonus is the warm breeze, the birds chirping, and the soothing sounds of nature; voices may enter in and out of your brain, but let those voices go- for this is your time.

Public Places

This seems impossible, doesn’t it? Not at all! I first began meditating on the bus and trains when I began to feel anxious among the crowd. As an empath, I pick up the energies around me, which can sometimes lead to angst or even a panic attack. I remember the very first time I simply closed my eyes, relaxed, and started to focus on my breath while sitting on the Boston red line. As soon as I was able to let go of my thoughts, my outlook on the day completely changed. I was able to arrive at my destination relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready for the day.

At Home

Settling in on a cozy cushion or laying down at home is a wonderful way to meditate. My room is my sanctuary; spending time in what I have created for myself has also been a great practice in gratitude. Your outside can reflect your internal condition, so it’s important to maintain a clean, zen space as much as possible. From protective crystals to sage, I have various tools to assist me in my practice to both cleanse and boost my energy.

Group Meditations

When I lived in Astoria, Queens, I went to a guided group meditation with a wonderful woman named Nilcee. This was my very first experience with a “body scan.” Being guided by a calming voice helps you focus on each energy point in your body, becoming conscious of area of tension. By relaxing the body, you’re also training yourself to relax the mind.

If you’re in NYC, I highly recommend her Tuesday night meditations! I am happy to share more information if so.

Running and Exercise

Although some people say they’re unable to meditate, they have mentioned how they are able to get into a peaceful state while running or exercising. That, my friend, is meditating! Although the physical act is different, the benefits and conscious state are the same. In your own little world, you’re able to let go of your daily concerns and return to center- which is crucial for our everyday happiness.

I hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July, no matter how you spend it. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, may it be this:

We all have the ability to be free like the fish, for true freedom comes from within.

We overcomplicate our lives to the point of worry, fear, and hopelessness, so my intention is to bring light to those who don’t know an alternative way to live. We, as humans, are free to control our thoughts, our reality, and our future. It just takes a little practice. 💫🐟

You can see the fish for yourself on my Instagram stories.

What Inspires Change?

Last night’s book club was a success!  Although I took the wrong bus to Arlington (silly me), I serendipitously got off at Spy Pond, a place I often frequented when I lived in the neighborhood.  It was a good omen to remember how far I’ve come this past year, and how much has changed- inside and out.  The sun shined on the bright blue water, and I legitimately enjoyed my mile-long walk in the freezing cold.  Ah, what a time to be alive.

Once I arrived, I was greeted by Clarissa the cat and a basket of slippers. “The Nest,” my first home in Boston, is lovingly referred to as “the house of healing hearts-” and it lives up to the name.  There’s no warmer, cozier house full of hospitality and love.  Brenda certainly makes anyone in her home feel like it’s their own, and I will forever be grateful for The Nest being one of my first Massachusetts experiences.

Brenda was cutting up veggies and cheese when I arrived, and soon after April strolled in.  An all-around inspiration, April is an emotional health consultant and author- and after reading her book last year, I became much more aware of my own shift in consciousness.  One of her Facebook posts even inspired me to write this piece last summer.

One by one, ladies showed up to discuss the very appropriate book of the night: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck.

Although we didn’t have many negative things to say, some of the ladies felt it was repetitive, a bit entitled, and wondered why someone our own age was at liberty to give us advice.  I played devil’s advocate, however, and chimed in:

“Isn’t it better to learn these things now than much later in life?  Think about how many people in this world who will never learn these simple concepts.  They carry on, miserably, forever giving far too many fucks.”

Most of the girls agreed with me.  Sure, much of the book was full of common sense, but as many of us know, common sense is not so common.

We discussed the ornery coupon queen to the narcissistic serial entrepreneur who never accomplishes anything.  We talked about how the smallest things, such as a 30 cent coupon, could ruin someone’s entire day- because the coupons are what has meaning to that particular person.

Then, we carried on to discuss what has enough meaning in our lives to make the suffering worthwhile.  That was a very interesting question- what is worth fighting for?  What isn’t worth giving a f about?  Why would make ourselves suffer due to things that don’t even have meaning in our lives- such as traffic, a coworker giving you a weird look, or what your third cousin thinks of your new boyfriend?  Why do we search for problems when everything is perfectly fine?

My favorite quote in the book was this:

“Suffering is nature’s agent for inspiring change.”

That’s a very interesting thought.

Two years ago, everything was seemingly fine in New York City.  However, shit hit the fan very quickly- I watched it all crumble within a couple of weeks that July.

If my life would had been as wonderful as I hoped for it to be prior to moving to Boston (I think I was in denial that it ever was wonderful in New York), I never would have ended up here.  Had I not struggled, I wouldn’t have had the courage to make that big life change.  Had I not failed at what I thought I wanted, I never would have been lead into a completely new direction- one that gives me purpose, inspires passion, and has meaning.

Finally.  Meaning.

Prior to moving, I didn’t just have discontentment with my outside situation- it was mostly within myself.  As soon as I began to take ownership of who I was- not who I was trying to be- things began to get better.  Sure, I suffered through the uncomfortable moments of being myself- which inevitably pushed people who weren’t in alignment with me away- yet once the suffering was over, my life began to clear, and I was able to begin building again.

Thinking about the first few months of writing this blog is truly mind-boggling to me.  I was feeding myself a plethora of information- from self-help books to endless YouTube videos, I wrote every single day during 2017, still trying to figure myself out.  I blogged, I journaled, I painted.  I created a couple of other websites and came up with new ideas.  I worked a few different jobs.  I spent the year re-learning who Kristin is.

Although the growing never ends, I’m glad my suffering has.  Sure, we’ll always face both minor and major struggles along the way, but the hard part- the caterpillar trying to break out of the cocoon- is over.  I’ve finally broke out of the trap I created for myself, saw the light, and found my wings.

Returning to The Nest brings back all kinds of old feelings- relief, a sense of acceptance, feeling loved, and most of all, starting to finally love and accept myself.  The “house of healing hearts” certainly helped me get back on my feet, and I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Manson- “suffering is nature’s agent for inspiring change.”

Here’s To A Year

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It seems like yesterday I flew into Logan Airport for the very first time.  On that early December morning, I gazed out the window with excitement as the plane flew along the Atlantic coastline.  With three checked bags and pure faith, I had arrived to my new life.

Now what?  The possibilities were infinite.

I didn’t have money, a job, or an apartment prior to my arrival.  I did have help from my mother and a whole lot of optimism, though.  Unlike my moves in the past, I was starting over- no loose ends, no exes to bump into, no old haunts.  Boston was brand new.

I lined up an Airbnb for the first couple of weeks while I learned the area and looked for work.  On my first days I went into the city for job interviews, explored the waterfront, and visited the historic Freedom Trail.  There was a special feeling from the moment I landed; something felt right, like home.  I still don’t know why that is.  Although it’s been an amazing (and tough!) year, my journey has just begun.  I feel 100% more free, more alive, and finally, I feel at home.

I’ve been shedding who I was over the past 12 months and stepping into the person I was always meant to be.  Damn, it feels good!  When I start being hard on myself for where I am at, I have to remember that the past year was meant for healing, growth, and self discovery.

It’s been a joke among my friends, family, and acquaintances that I never stay in one place for too long.  That’s true; I didn’t in the past.  However, I don’t live for someone else’s expectations or concern myself with judgement.  As I looked all over the country to find myself, I finally stopped and began to look within; it only took me a lifetime to learn.

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I’ve always had a strong need to experience all life has to offer- “settling” has never been an option.  I’m always striving, always seeking.  Although my running streak was caused by a combination of a curious spirit and a tortured soul, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin ended up as one of my biggest gifts. Funny, right? Re-creating myself, meeting new people, and learning confidence for the first time seemed much easier than sitting still, surrounded by painful memories and old traumas.

So I set out to learn who I was- not what my hometown, my parents, my teachers, or my classmates said I was.  I had no idea who I really was when I finally left Michigan and moved to San Francisco in 2008.  Instead of looking at my trials and tribulations as failures or instability, I view the past decade as my time to live life to the fullest- before real obligations, like a mortgage or kids.

Not only can I look back without regrets, I was able to spend time living in great cities (San Francisco, Austin, Charlotte, New York, Chicago, Boston), meeting amazing people, trying out different types of work, and, of course, gathering endless stories along the way.  I don’t know how many women can say they lived in 6 major cities and 6 states in the period of nine years without having a steady job, income, or partner.  Perhaps I do have a nomadic soul… I can make a home anywhere I go.  Impermanence was ingrained in me from a young age.  Although I never saw a need to set up “roots,” these days I have been thinking differently. Something shifts when you’re at peace.  Now that I am happier within my soul, I feel I can finally stand still, relax, and make a physical home- not just the home I have inside myself.

I caught up the other day with a friend from my NYC era who has known my struggles… especially the ups and downs of my old Manhattan life.  He actually knew me before I moved to New York- he tweeted me after finding my old blog back in 2013.   This past evening we chatted about our new cities, healing gemstones (I wrote the jewelry descriptions for his website last year), and how we could work together again in the future.  After reflecting on how much our lives have changed these past four years, he told me how glad he is that I am finally happy.  I didn’t tell him that; he just knew.  The rat race is finally over, the mask is off.  I’ve let the past go and opened my arms to the future.  Although I can look back and laugh at my hot mess days, I know that this good life could easily be broken by no other than me if I begin thinking I don’t deserve happiness because of my past.

He shared one of the best messages I have heard in a while:

“It’s all about incremental freedoms; Letting yourself be free of your history while appreciating the journey.”
 
After years of living with guilt, regret, shame, and fear, I finally feel free- but I can still look back and have gratitude for where my past lead me today.
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