Be Led By Your Spirit and Not Your Wounds

If someone told me thirty years ago that in 2016 I would own my own Yoga and Pilates Studio, I would have thought they were confusing me with another person.

By the time I was 28, I was working in a CPA firm preparing individual and corporate tax returns and financial statements, setting up the books of new businesses, and representing clients in front of the IRS. I was also the controller of a corporation that ran fifteen fast-food restaurants and had a payroll of over 300 people that I was responsible for.

Although I graduated with a degree in Accounting and Business Administration, my heart was in dance and fitness. Five days a week, I worked as an instructor in a health club teaching aerobics, dance and weight training.

My dream had always been to go into dance and movement in some way. I wanted to attend college to study these subjects but I had parents who did not believe these were worthwhile pursuits and instead whittled all of my dreams away until the only thing left was their dream of having one of their children eventually take over my dad’s accounting firm.

The only way that people can convince you that your dreams are not worthy of pursuing is if your self-esteem has been obliterated. And mine certainly was.

The obliteration began when my family moved to Japan years ago. I was eleven years old, in a strange country and in a strange family dynamic.

I experienced bullying for the very first time in my life and had absolutely no one to turn to. My mother told me that maybe if I changed people would like me. And then she brushed me off.

Since children tend to think that their parents are second to God himself as far as being good and right, I naturally accepted my mother’s counsel and assumed that if people didn’t like me, it was my fault. Therefore, it was my job to find out everything that was wrong with me and fix it so that people would like me and accept me.

Between the ages of 11-14, I moved two more times and had to begin the being the “new kid” process all over again. I became extremely nervous and self-conscious as I tried to avoid displeasing someone enough that they would not like me. Every day, I picked over my weight, my nose, my teeth, my clothes and my hair. Every word that came out of my mouth had to first pass through an internal sensor so that it would come out intelligent, witty or humorous. To have a comment fall flat in class made me feel like I was experiencing death.

Being so self-conscious and protective certainly kept me safe but it also closed off any possible connections I could have made in my school-age years.

It didn’t get much better in college, either. I resigned myself to a career that I had no interest or great talent in – therefore, I did not connect with classmates who did.

And so, this emptiness and worthlessness pervaded my life along with a strong desire not to be this way. I just didn’t know how to do that.

To make a long story short – and to fast forward this just a bit – I found myself in a career I did not like working for a business that was foundering due to really bad business decisions, father’s alcoholism, my mother’s enabling and my family’s indifference. The only reason I accepted all of this was because my self-esteem was too small and weak to stand up and say “no more!” I accepted that it was my duty to “save” my family – and my father’s business – if I just worked harder. My family was more than happy to have me take the responsibility of that no matter how insane it was.

I do not believe that life-changing moments come to us via lightening bolts. I believe they come all of the time in sometimes seemingly insignificant ways. But I know this for sure – every choice we make builds on the next one.

You see, when I found out that my dad was a seriously addicted alcoholic I turned for help from both Al-Anon and ACOA when no help from my family was forthcoming. I wanted to find a way to make sense of what I was experiencing.

While I never did quite get that, what I did get was a whole lot better.

I got my first lesson in being me

   And I got enough self-esteem back to be strong enough to start my life over on my own terms.

It was a continual process and certainly not easy. I had to stand up for myself but also to take responsibility for my choices. I used to act like a victim in my weakest moments and attempt to gain sympathy from others with the hope that they would somehow “fix” my problems. When I come across someone these days with a victim mentality, I am now more likely to ask what they are doing to help themselves out of their mess – whether it is muscle pain or a bad relationship. If the answer is “nothing” – or they just keep doing what they are doing and hoping for a different result – then I question whether they really want “help” at all. If you don’t invest the time to rise above your circumstances, why do you think I should invest mine on your behalf?

I continue working on myself as I was taught a lot of toxic lessons growing up but it is more about connection with Self than it is picking myself apart. I have learned that what I was taught as “normal” was not “normal” at all and that has been a bit overwhelming. But I am devoted to continual growth and expansion. I made a big step toward healing from my high school years by attending my 40th high school reunion this year. My only regret is that I didn’t know some of these people earlier in my life. I suspect many of them thought of me as standoffish but I wasn’t. I was just scared to let anyone get too close.

There is often a bit of nervousness when I find myself in groups but part of that is that I tend toward introversion anyway. These days, though, I am more comfortable with myself no matter where I am.

As I work my way through this maze called life, I wonder why my parents taught me so many toxic things about life, people and me. They were narcissistic and lacked empathy but they also gave me great gifts – my dad’s brains and curiosity and my mother’s love of the arts – so it’s hard to hate them.

Still, one usually wants some closure from all of the bad stuff. Sadly, that will probably never happen for me. My father passed away a few years ago and my mother is firm in her denial mentality to this day.

I gave up wanting closure because I do not want to be weighed down by the past anymore. I don’t expect anyone to tiptoe around me because I might be “triggered.”

Pain, betrayal, and trauma happen to all of us – it’s part of being human. I don’t expect to be treated any differently than anyone else because “my pain is worse than your pain.” Compassion and empathy are required in healthy interactions with others; neediness is not.

There are simply too many good things I am experiencing now that I am living my life on my own terms and I don’t want to give any energy to anything that might divert me from that and put me on the “poor me” bus.

I choose to live my life leading with my spirit and not my wounds.*


(*Note: I paraphrased this quote. I would like to credit the author of the original quote but I don’t know who that is).