2020 has been a year of growth for me. An entire year. Usually I would fall off the bandwagon here and there with long gaps of sinking into a depression. This year has been life-altering and not just because of COVID although that has played a part. I think that has helped others to understand that change can happen, will happen, and that pivoting is a part of the cycle of nature.

I have re-established a connection with my inner-self. This is so important to me because without this centeredness, wholeness, alignment with my spirit guide, I become lost in the small stuff. I had to take some time these last few weeks to start a ‘Miracle Morning’ routine. I used to do this when I was first in college and would get up early and go out running. There is just something about the stillness of the morning – the quiet. I have learned that I have a better day if my mornings are not rushed, but instead welcomed. Along with this daily practice, I have begun to challenge myself and implement a few more things on my self-improvement practice to-do list that I have long been ignoring. Why? Because society tells us that everyone else matters more than we do to ourselves. This is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The truth is…In order to be able to help others in a supportive and guiding manner, we must first help ourselves to understand the practice and the process. We must struggle ourselves in order to be able to empathize with the struggles of others.

There have been many struggles in my life as I am sure there have been in yours. We all experience the world and reality differently. Our brains develop as we progress through life. The brain is constantly repairing itself, forming new pathways for information to flow. Thoughts are in fact a physical force, an energy. If you practice, you can tap into this at a much deeper level and help to form those pathways in a purposeful manner. This reminds me of my dad. He is such a big part of who I am and I am sad that he has moved away. It is more than that. I miss having that guide – another deep thinker. Deep thinkers are rare, but we are out there. If you are feeling alone because no one understands the depths of your imagination, please reach out to me. Back to my dad – well, maybe even farther… In order to understand where I come from, you must first understand my story.

I grew up in DeKalb, Illinois. When I was nine years old, my parents bought a small farm here in northeast Iowa. Practically every weekend – rain, sun, snow, holidays – we would travel the 200+ miles each way to come out and work at the farm. See, when we first bought the place, it was a complete disaster. An old farmhouse had been moved in from several miles away, set on a foundation, and left there. The previous owner was allowing his horses to take shelter in the basement. Yep-horses in the basement and a foot – a literal foot of manure left in the dairy barn that we scooped out and cleaned up. That was the worst.

I have spent so much time in a car or truck. So. Much. Time. What did this give me? It gave me time – time to be bored – time to wonder – time to think. We would often travel in two vehicles because we were moving items at the same time that we would come out. So all at once we were cleaning up the former owner’s mess, rebuilding the farm house and the single room cabin, generally taking care of the property (mowing, plowing, etc.), and moving in. I am a helper so I liked to help out with projects – sometimes I had to be told to. We did have play time too. There is a creek there that we would swim in, catch crawdads, and watch minnows. The woods provided plenty of hiking in nature and imaginative play. Oh, and the hammock. I love laying in a hammock. I also love to read – so you might have found me there too. Or sleeping a on the forklift. Yes. That is correct! Ha ha. I would sit on the forklift in the dairy barn and sometimes, with a cat, I would fall asleep.

Anyway, this was our way of life for years. Yes, YEARS. Eventually, my dad and my little brother moved out here. My older sister and her husband followed along, but they bought a house in the next town over. My dad and brother lived in the cabin while my mom and I stayed in DeKalb my senior year of high school. See, I had this friend – my best friend – and I didn’t want to leave her and start all over. Although, this happened eventually when I came the next year and started college at Upper Iowa. I moved into my sister’s basement and lived there for about a year. Time went on and I met my husband and eventually moved in with him, got pregnant, and we started our family. More time goes on…

About three years ago my mom filed for divorce. This was a huge blow, but also felt – expected? A little over six months later, my dad suffers from at least seven strokes. He had had a stroke or two before this, but this was serious. This was life-altering. I lived in the hospital with him for a few weeks until he was transferred to a nursing facility where he received physical and cognitive therapy. This was heartbreaking to watch. Before all of this I had held my dad up on a pedestal like most children do. All of this made him human. It made him – fragile. It was heartbreaking because I would go with him to his speech therapy where he would work with the therapist and name random objects, but he didn’t know who I was. I was erased from his memory. Maybe not completely, but that pathway had been broken. I suffered so much breaking at this point in my life. It has taken time, but he has mostly returned to himself – however, the genius pathways have not been totally reset. But at least his sense of humor has returned.

Another six months goes by. My husband suffers a literal gut-wrenching accident at work. He was rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital where they performed life-saving surgery. I will forever be in debt to those doctors, nurse, and hospital staff. He was then life-flighted to Iowa City hospital. Meanwhile, my mom has come to my rescue to drive me to the first hospital where he was taken to find out that he has been flown farther away. Never before has my soul felt so ripped from my being. We stayed in the ICU there for over a week and then were transferred to a quieter space. That whole experience was… I am not even sure how to put words to it. The complete and utter depth of despair the ICU held. Unfathomable. A woman who shared our same room was taken off life-support and I sat in there and listened to her die so slowly, so, so, slowly. It was unbearable. She died while her family sat there and talked like nothing was happening. They ate lunch. They laughed. There was so much denial. I cried for that woman. I mourned her even though our meeting was just moments, really.

Eventually, my husband recovered enough to go home 17.5 days later. Through all of this I somehow lost myself as I became a caretaker. I lost the art of taking care of myself. Everyone else was more important. But, if you take a step back and really look at the big picture, all there is is you in the now. Who you are right now. That is it. You are the universe experiencing itself in human form. Think big. Go beyond. Reach farther. You are the universe. You, as in your soul, your spirit, your inner-self, your guide. Whatever you want to call it. You are the universe. You are all that ever was and all that ever will be. You are connected to everything and everything is connected to you. Each of us has had experiences that make our paths through life and our neural pathways unique. But in essence – in the physical world – all that is and all that means is that one this is connected to another. One thing leads to another.

How is this relevant to my identity? Over this past year I have focused on growth instead of all the immense pain. I chose to do things that I have been long pushing aside. I chose to focus on myself. While that may sound selfish, and parts of it are, I also believe in balance. You cannot have the growth without the struggle. Similarly, you cannot act selflessly without also being selfish. selfishness doesn’t have to be greedy – It just means that you also must care for your self. Find your inner child. Care for her. Take her on the journey with you. You are your inner child’s guide. You know in the end it will be okay – Be sure to convey that to all the parts of you that are broken or hurt. Heal yourself. It is so powerful and will guide you to a better, stronger, and more truer you than you have seen. Be true to yourself. Accept the good and the bad. Shout it out.

Others are listening and they need our guidance.