How Does Your Story Define You?
"When we deny the story, it defines us.
When we own the story,
we can write a brave new ending.”
I set out to declutter and get organized with the sole intention of preparing to move abroad, and found myself knee deep in a spiritual quest of letting go for the sake of adventure and growth.
An unexpected discovery in excavating my home and heart suggests I am ready to bring you WHOLE, my holistic approach to resilience.
Many of you have asked how I survived the hardships I’ve written about. My final answer to this complex question is that striving to be Well-nourished,
Humble, Optimistic, Loving, and Engaged helps me weather the storms of life and thrive.
WHOLE is the synergy of my experience as a performer, paired with my studies of movement, holistic nutrition, positive psychology and various healing modalities - the final product of my decade-long experiment in applying the tools and theories of well-being to motherhood.
In the coming weeks, I’ll further define each pillar of my resilience, but today I am going to tell you more about my journey to WHOLE.
My Hidden Scars and Shame
I’ll begin by noting these are the hardest words I have ever written, and the shame I’ve been carrying feels ancient. We all have our childhood stuff, but I’ll summarize mine by saying I was raised in a broken home where there was an abundance of love, and an equal amount of heartache. My coping mechanism was perfectionism. I was the golden child who strove to accomplish what was bigger, bolder, and sparklier with the intention of healing the suffering I felt and saw.
I don’t regret a moment of the achievements my perfectionism fueled. From walking on the Miss America stage to kicking eye-high at Radio City Music Hall, I lived a lifetime’s worth of dreams. Still, it’s liberating to finally say I never felt good enough to bask in the spotlight. While donning a crown and evening gown or dancing in a glittery Rockette costume, I was always waiting for someone to pull me off stage and say,
“She is not good enough. This woman does not belong!”
One day I woke up and realized my show couldn’t go on anymore. I packed up my dance wardrobe and abruptly stepped out of the spotlight in a quest for authentic happiness.
Yes, the “dance box” is one of many old containers I had to deal with in my recent purge. In excavating the remnants of my past, I recognized the blame I placed on the harsh environment of the performing industry for my eating disorder. That started when anonymous hate-slingers insisted my thighs were too big to win Miss America and carried over into the “dream career” I was weighed in for. Repressed emotions began to erode my resilience until I had a revelation:
To flourish, I cannot wallow in sadness, harbor anger, or blame others for my suffering.
I know many performers who went on to thrive in show business despite the shadow side we all know exists. Furthermore, I’ve journeyed far enough away from that time in my life to finally admit, the industry wasn’t really the problem — it was me.
You can put whatever label you want on a pattern of self-destruction, but my issues with food and body image were a disease of the soul.
Be it drugs, working too hard, shopping, or drinking, we numb to avoid what is painful. Maybe you understand those haunting thoughts of “not enough” and are burdened by the weight of shame. Or, you might be in recovery and can fathom the loss I experienced in letting go of my passion for the sake of health and wellbeing.
Looking back upon 13 years of recovery, I note that walking a path of authentic happiness requires sacrifice. This is no different than raising the four kids I cherish, or a trans-continental move on short notice.
Happiness, like love and adventure, is really hard work.
I Found WHOLE in Motherhood
In fact, finding my way to WHOLE required more than a career transition. I also needed to hit rock bottom and shatter into a million pieces. Then I remained broken for a while before I picked myself up and grew into a stronger version of myself.
I set out to be a natural parenting warrior, but my caesarean forced me into a sober stillness filled with painful feelings of failure. I was weak and the responsibility was big. Then for the first time ever, I had to actually feel the shame I was so skilled at avoiding.
For a moment, I wanted to quit motherhood like dancing, because I didn't believe I was good enough.
But that girl I grew in my womb who made me a mom picked her head up the very first day she was born. Her resilient spirit begged me to reach deep for the strength I needed to carry on, so I jumped back on the hedonic treadmill of personal growth.
With a lot of writing and self-care, I soldiered on through anxiety and sleep deprivation. My confidence strengthened with time and experience. I grew to embrace my role as a SAHM and went on to have more kids.
Still, I might have remained perpetually driven to hide my imperfection — a quest that left me exhausted and quietly broken — until the day a pot of boiling water came crashing down on my toddler son. You can read more about my journey from fear to strength here, but I choose to believe the scars we all have (both physical and emotional) are beautiful in honor of my boy who carries scars I cannot fix and he cannot hide.
Essentially, WHOLE was inspired by my broken childhood and insecurities, fostered by my postpartum struggle, born in trauma, and nurtured by my determination to break the stranglehold of maternal guilt.
I’m finally ready to reveal WHOLE to you, because our move to Hong Kong made me face and release the remaining shame I was hiding in the depths of my heart.
Now I’m moving forward as the woman I have for so long prayed I would become:
I am not perfect, but I am finally, I am WHOLE:
A WHOLE New Journey
WHOLE allows the light to shine through my cracks, the ones I no longer need to hide. I now can see my calling is to help you ignite the light that will illuminate your own: through my words, in coaching, along with workshops and retreats.
We don’t need glue to hold our cracks together. We don't need glitter or fancy clothing to cover up our flaws, and we don’t need to numb what is painful. We can lean on each other as we grow through adversity, but we must be willing to do the work, own our stories, and dare to speak our truth.
WHOLE is the state of well-being I found in finding and honoring my most authentic self. Indeed, she is good enough. It’s been a long journey home, but the brave new ending I just wrote for an old story is one I’ll keep.
May my words bring you comfort in knowing you are not alone.
May our connection pass on the strength I have received from women like Brené Brown, who dared to reveal their truth before me.
My most humble hope is that you’ll want to join me on my journey into WHOLE trusting,
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of growth."