It’s just mine.

Just over month ago I turned 30.

I had so many plans and dreams and expectations about what 30 would look like. I wasn’t one of those people who dreaded it. I expected to leave the struggles and uncertainty of my twenties behind me and embrace a new decade as a more powerful and confident version of myself.

I wasn’t exactly wrong… but I wasn’t exactly right.

I enjoy taking time around stereotypical life milestones to reflect on things leading up to that point, compare it with my expectations, and readjust as I move forward. As 30 crept up on me I hungered for that day to come and go, one to symbolize a new beginning… a chance to start fresh. You know the “we can start over on Monday” mindset when you mess up a diet. I needed that with life.

As it turns out, I’d get that – just not in the way I expected.

Most of my twenties were incredibly amazing… times and decisions I wouldn’t trade for the world. I learned so much, grew so much, experienced so much. Not all experiences and growth were pleasant… many were painful and difficult. Each experience and decision led me to where I am today.

Today I’m sitting in my new downtown loft leaning against my upholstered headboard with the glow of the twinkle lights I just attached to it filling the tiny dark room. Despite having just moved in a few days ago, I’m completely unpacked and beginning to feel somewhat settled in. I’m cuddled up in my ruffly teal and purple bedding, complete with a matching mermaid sequin pillow. My room here is tiny, just big enough for my bed, nightstands, and my dresser, which is adorned with my growing collection of stuffies (I keep my favorite purple/rainbow giraffe, Pink, in bed with me). It’s silent minus the sounds of my fingers on the keyboard and the occasional siren or random shouting from the streets.

Despite the fact that it is tiny… I’m proud of my room. MY room. I’ve never ever ever in my 30 years had my own room. Growing up as the second of four children meant I was used to sharing my space. When I moved away from home to my internship program after high school I shared a room with 5 other girls. I made a short pit stop back at home for a few months after that year and half internship program and before getting married. When we eloped I first shared a house with my new husband and his two other roommates for a few months… eventually we moved out on our own to a one bedroom apartment, then a two bedroom apartment, then to what we thought was our dream house which we sold just last year and we moved back into an apartment. Each place was ours. but this one… it’s just mine.

Ah, yes. There it is.

The bombshell I’ve been dancing around.

It feels like there is no truly natural, not awkward way to acknowledge the ending of a season… of a marriage. Life happens. People change and grow and not always at the same rate or in the same direction. We were young, oh so so so young. For a long time we skirted around the seriousness of the issues we were living with. To the world we may have looked like we had it all together, that we were living our happily ever after. We played the parts so well that even we were unaware of many of our issues. We did things right… This wasn’t supposed to happen to us… The fear of disappointing each other, ourselves, and those who believed in us was so heavy that we couldn’t be honest with ourselves. Neither of us did anything more wrong than the other. We still love and care for each other, but we have admitted to ourselves and each other that we are no longer the best fit for each other in a marriage. We are still friends and we will continue to be as we co-parent together. Providing a loving environment… or two… for our daughter is our main priority.

I’m not trying to pretend like this has been easy. It hasn’t. Disassembling the life we built together for nearly a decade hasn’t been easy logistically: we’ve had to decide who gets what stuff and create a schedule for who has our daughter when… financially: the same income we lived on together in one household now has to stretch to cover two households… and emotionally: there is hurt that needs to heal, sadness that needs to felt, and dreams of a future together that need to be mourned. I’ve had days where I feel stronger than I’ve ever been and I can take on the world… and I’ve had days where all I’ve done is cried and getting out of bed seemed to be impossible. I’ve spent countless hours playing through every way I could have done something different to fix it and and just as much time excitedly dreaming of every new opportunity this presents. It’s been a roller coaster. I know those ups and downs will even out eventually… that letting go and moving on is a process.

So, this is 30. Embracing the opportunity for growth that this new decade provides I am now pursuing my dream of becoming a counselor, leaving the suburbs for downtown city living, and disassembling the life we shared as I rebuild myself and my life on my own… now that it’s just mine.

Giving Voice To The Struggle

I’ve started this post more times than I can count. I’ve written and deleted what I would imagine is hundreds of half drafts with hundreds more floating around in my head. How do I find just the right words to say what I want to say? What if it’s not perfect? What if people don’t understand? Is being vulnerable worth it? If it’s not flowery and pretty – but raw and honest – will people even care? What if they think I’m just trying to get attention? Will it even help anyone?

… STOP…

Enough is enough. The thoughts keeping me from sharing are the thoughts that I am trying to share. Sharing is important to me. This little corner of the interwebs is a very important part of my life.  It’s not about the notoriety or attention. For me sharing has always been about making people realize they are not alone. Not only have I wanted to make others realize they weren’t alone, I needed to know that I wasn’t alone either. Over the last two years or so I’ve been eerily quiet here though. I’ve wondered what, if anything, people thought about my silence. That I was just too busy (true), that I hit my weight loss goals and had nothing else to write about (not true), that I didn’t care about sharing any more (not true), that I gained back all the weight I lost and was ashamed to talk about it (it’s complicated)… while there could be many different reasons and excuses for my lack of presence both here and on social media there is ultimately one reason…

I’m struggling. 

Not in the “it’s Monday afternoon and I’m a little tired” struggling. The dig deep, foundation shaking, world view cracking, sleepless night, anxiety filled, broken, exhausted, confused, and trying to figure it all out kind of struggling. That kind of struggling isn’t sexy. It doesn’t sell. There are no three easy steps to create pinable images out of. There’s no finished product. There’s no before and after that will fill you with a flash of inspiration.

There are always three parts to a story. The beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is easy to share. I was here… the end generally brings resolution (unless it’s last night’s season premiere of walking dead but that’s a whole other post). But the middle… the struggle… that is always somehow minimized. Yet it is the meat of the story, where the magic happens. Before and After weight loss pictures don’t tell anything about the middle. As a matter of fact, they ignore it completely. People generally don’t want to hear about the struggle. We don’t go around showing our still open and raw wounds. We may show off our scars, once the rawness and pain has passed. The struggle doesn’t ever get a voice. And because of that living in the struggle is a shameful, dark, and lonely place. That’s so sad when the reality is many of us are living in the struggle. It may not be an earth shattering, sleep taking, life altering struggle… but it’s a struggle none the less.

I’m not going to try to minimize or exaggerate my struggle. It is mine to live with, to work through, to conquer. We each have our own and it affects us all differently. No ones is better or worse, easier or harder. Your struggle isn’t any more or less important or valid than mine. While I’ve had many different types of struggle there is one underlying struggle that seems to connect with and make the others far more difficult to conquer… and that is my struggle with anxiety. It wasn’t until the last several months that I was able to put a name to the thing that has haunted me for so long. I’ve lived with this feeling for about as long as I can remember. This constant buzz (and not the fun kind LOL). This constant feeling that I had to be doing something, doing more, doing better. This suffocating fear of not being perfect. This unquenchable thirst for control over the tiniest things. This overwhelming fear of the unknown. It’s lived with me for a long time. It didn’t manifest itself in the stereotypical ways we see anxiety being portrayed. It festered just under the surface enough to be annoyingly undetectable under normal life circumstances. I managed it well without even knowing it, numbing the pain and discomfort with busyness, productivity, overachievement. I kept that dull ache at bay for a long time. This post really sums it up well –> What it’s like to have ‘High Functioning Anxiety

Over the past year or two life has been anything but normal. In a really healthy way and out of a desire to live our best life Chris and I began to ask hard questions about where we were and what we wanted out of life. You know the typical “It’s the end of your 20’s and you should have life figured out by now” kind of questions. How did we get here? Is this the life we want to live? Are we happy? If we keep doing what we’re doing now what will life look like 10 years from now? While there are a lot of deep and personal answers we discovered both individually and together there was one big decision we made that changed everything. After years of running several of our own businesses and trying to live off the high of the “American Dream” because it was what we were supposed to do… Chris decided to pursue his lifelong passion of working in the medical field. With a bachelors in marketing and some experience as an EMT nearly a decade ago we set ourselves on a journey to make the impossible happen. Less than 2 weeks before the start of the semester he enrolled in school to finish the pre-reqs he would need to get into the program he wanted. In typical Chris and Courtney fashion we dove into the deep end. Him in school and working full time with the marketing company meant I had to step up in a lot of other areas. I believed in him and his passion and ability to make the jump from marketing to nursing and wanted to do anything I could to make it happen. I was capable and driven. The story of how we are where we are today with this is nothing short of a miracle. In the past year I went from helping coach and manage to running the CrossFit completely on my own, he passed his pre-reqs, he was accepted into a very difficult to get into accelerated masters of nursing program, we sold our house, moved into in apartment, P changed schools and started 1st grade… so yea, not just a normal year.

This circumstances made my previously undetected unproblematic anxiety show it’s true ugly face. The truth is I am more than capable of handling everything I’ve been through – anxiety just made it a lot harder than it should have been. I didn’t understand what was happening with me. I was scared. Anxiety that usually manifested itself in a deceivingly productive way became almost crippling. There were days when getting out of bed seemed impossible. I was disconnected, shut down, closed off. I couldn’t catch my breath, literally and figuratively. I knew there was something wrong… but I was a perfectionist, the smart girl who should know how to handle it all. The one who helped not the one who asked for help. I was neck deep in the struggle. I said I was ok, that I could handle it. I always did. I was the strong one, the capable one. Hell, I have a psychology degree surely I should have healthy coping mechanisms for this. But I didn’t. Refusing to acknowledge I was living in the struggle cost me a lot. Not being honest with myself or the people close to me about my struggle caused a lot of pain. Pretending to be ok when I wasn’t nearly killed me. Maybe not in the physical sense. Suicide, while a very real and scary problem that I’m not discounting, is not a struggle of mine. I’d rather live with my pain than inflict it on those around me by taking my life. Living with that pain was suffocating though. I tried to numb that pain in a lot of ways – some more reckless than others. My default pain killer of choice was and will always will be busyness. If I’m not still enough long enough to feel it I can pretend it’s not there. All this self-medicating was wearing on me though. Eventually… in some very painfully vulnerable moments… I was able to admit I was struggling and needed help. And even just being able to tell someone that felt like weight off my shoulders.

I’ve spent a very long time trying to be perfect. I’ve constantly been “on” trying to prove something… to myself, to the world. I was trying so hard to hold it all together because I was so scared of falling apart. Of being less than perfect. Of not being good enough. I was talking to a very close friend of mine about this… About how I kept everything tucked so neatly inside the outline everyone drew for me with their expectations… and that if I ventured outside those lines I was afraid I’d fall apart. The response was exactly what I needed to hear even if I didn’t want to hear it (tough love friends are the best, aren’t they?)

“You can’t be scared to address your shit. Living in fear is no way to live. The truth is you may fall apart when you open it up. But guess what?  The people in your life who love you are going to be here to help put you back together and the reassembled version is going to be so much stronger, more confident and healthier.”

I lived my whole life refusing to give myself permission to not be ok. I held myself to impossible standards. I was… am.. broken. Because we, as humans, are imperfect and broken. I have, with the help of Chris and other very dear people in my life, given myself permission to be broken. And it has been intoxicatingly liberating.

I am still in the struggle. I’m just giving that struggle a voice. I have good days and bad days. I saw my doctor and am taking Anxiety meds. I set up a meeting with a therapist. I am learning how to have healthy coping mechanisms. I don’t have it all figured out. My wounds are still raw and open wounds not impressive scars. I don’t have a perfectly posed after picture to inspire you… all I have is the promise that you are not alone. You are enough.You don’t have to be perfect. Simply existing makes you worthy.

img_0659

It’s ok to give your struggle a voice. To not have it all together. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m here for you and I know each and every one of you have people around you that love you and would love to be there for you too.

Finding My “Why” Changed My Life

You know when you’re a kid and you think about what you want to be when you grow up? Astronaut, Doctor, Rock Star, Ballerina… Nothing is impossible. We don’t think about the logic or the path it will take to get there. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that in that moment that is what we are absolutely convinced that is what we were made to do. That thing brings us great joy to dream about. That dream may last a day, a month, or years. Maybe you still think about that even if life has taken you another direction. In those innocent moments of childhood we are so connected to our true authentic selves. It’s before we learn to stifle our dreams, desires, and passions to try to fit into some mold society says we should fit in to.

shouldbe

Years pass and we become so used to ignoring the voice of our true selves – our desires, passions, and dreams – that we don’t even know what it sounds like anymore. We spend so much time and effort becoming who we are told we should be. The only voices we know how to recognize are the ones who tell us what we should want or who we should be. So we build our lives on those voices. Some people live their whole lives never questioning the “should’s” that we have always been taught. Some people begin to question those should’s and are reprimanded… and because they are afraid of disappointing important people in their lives or afraid of being rejected or not fitting in they quickly return to their default programming and live out the rest of their lives as they “should.”

Those options seem so easy, so peaceful, so… comfortable. Life is easy that way. Following the default patterns of operating you’ve been taught your whole life takes little to no effort. It’s like auto pilot. Asking difficult questions, acknowledging that there may be a huge gap between who you have been told you should be and who you really are… those things are hard.

As a habitual people pleaser I have lived a lot of my life working to make other people happy. I prided myself on being a perfectionist. If I was going to do something I was going to do it right. I followed all the rules. I was the perfect church kid never getting into any kind trouble. I did what was expected of me so I wouldn’t disappoint people. And you know what? It worked really well for me for a long time. I devoted myself to achieving whatever goals seemed most admirable. Checked off all the boxes… Graduated High School at the top of my class, spent a few years at a Christian internship “finding my vision” (which really meant finding a husband), found a husband, got a dog, a house, a baby, a college degree (that one was a little out of order, I know), a business… And all of a sudden I had this beautifully chaotic life that I had built for myself because it was what I was supposed to do.

But.

I felt so disconnected. Like a shell of a person going through the motions that everyone expected me to. I had always thrived on meeting people’s expectations… Check off one thing on the list and move on. And suddenly I found myself standing there having checked off all the things on that list. I was left standing there wondering if this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life. I achieved all the goals everyone had for me. I made something of myself. I did all the shoulds that were expected of me. And when finally left with enough stillness to hear my own voice… it was terrifying. Listening to the voices of others was easy and safe. I couldn’t disappoint people or be rejected if I did exactly what was asked of me. Asking myself what I wanted and being quiet and honest enough to hear the response was scary. Could I trust myself? I never really had to before. What if what I truly wanted wasn’t “good enough” or what if it was disappointing to those who mean the most to me? I wasn’t unhappy with my life. I was perfectly happy being locked inside my safe cage of expectations. But something inside of me knew it wasn’t right. I needed to learn to trust myself. I needed to get to know myself.

It’s not that the goals I’d worked for were wrong… or that they weren’t something I would have wanted anyway. It’s that my motivation for reaching them wasn’t because I wanted to do it for me. It was because I wanted to do it for everyone else. I needed to feel safe that what I was doing was right so I just did what I was told. Because if I did, I couldn’t be wrong. And if I was wrong and I simply followed someone else’s directions it wouldn’t be my fault. I had to be perfect and blameless. It was what was expected of me, afterall.

I needed to be fully convinced that the life I was living and the person I was becoming was not because it was what was expected of me, but because it was truly who I was and what I wanted. It wasn’t so much the what… but the why.

When I began to realize and acknowledge these issues I knew I had to fix them. For me, that meant quieting as many of the voices I had allowed to dictate my life and expectations. A huge part of that had become the world of healthy living blogs and social media. I knew that this blog wasn’t something I wanted to completely shut down, but I also knew that I couldn’t keep writing empty posts just to keep up my readership or online presence. I started this blog to help inspire others to embrace the process and the journey, every step of the way. I had no idea how much I needed to hear that message myself.

I don’t have all the answers. I make mistakes. Outwardly my life may not look much different than it did a few years ago… but I can tell you that it is drastically different. I have full confidence in who I am and what I am doing. I don’t do things just because they are expected of me. I have more passion and conviction about finding your “why” in life more than your “what”… Because even if your “what” stays the same when you find your “why” it is life changing. When you can passionately and confidently say that you are doing what you love and becoming who you truly want to be everything makes so much more sense. There is a focus and clarity that can’t be explained. It may not be easy. It could be painful. It may not happen over night… it took me a few years! You have to be willing to let go of the all the things people tell you that you should do or should want. Give yourself freedom to explore, grace to make mistakes, and courage to take action.

1457279387_full.png

All that to simply say… I’m back!

courtneynorman

And better than ever. I’m working on a few fun things as I relaunch this blog. I’m still the same old Courtney, but with a much greater passion for helping others learn to embrace the journey they are on every step of the way. So, I hope you stick around awhile. Sign up for the email list, follow me on instagram and facebook.

Join the conversation either on social media or in the comments below…
How do you think finding your why has or could make a difference in your life?