By Nora Blumenstein, Program Manager, LiveYourDream.org/Soroptimist International of the Americas
||Nora is our go-to gal for creating a culture of impact here at LiveYourDream.org. From crafting advocacy campaigns ending violence against women to building action opportunities for our two major programs: Live Your Dream: Education & Training Awards for Women and Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls, Nora knows that strong, determined women and girls will set the world on fire! In between campaigns, facilitating workshops and running programs all over the globe (NBD!), you can find Nora reading in the park with her dog, Luna. Here she shares her inspirational story of vulnerability and unconditional self-love...
This time last year, I made the extremely heartbreaking and painful discovery that my husband was having an affair. It turned my world upside down and my heart inside out. The pain, sadness, anger, and confusion were unbearable. At the time, I didn't know how I was going to make it through a day.
Now, one year later, I am still breathing, still standing, and smiling again. I've come a long way from that woman sobbing on the floor, but she's who I've been fighting for everyday since. She taught me to love myself and to commit to myself. She gave me the determination to fight for what I still have, to fight for who is still with me, and to fight so hard for my happiness.
How did I get here? I understood I had a choice.
I could let my painful situation define me, or destroy me, or I could let it strengthen me.
I trusted myself. I spent a lot of time being quiet. I journaled, prayed, and read.
I asked myself tough questions like: What do I need? How do I know when I’m happy? What do I desire most? What makes me come alive?
I listened very carefully to the answers and to where my heart was leading me.
I committed to exploring and trusting my soulful, intentional, passionate self and never looked back.
I accepted and asked for help from others. This didn’t come easily for me!
I’m used to being the helper.
But I honored myself by accepting and asking for help because I knew I couldn’t bear the situation alone.
I embraced vulnerability. I used to run from my vulnerability by trying to be perfect. I asked myself over and over “How did I not see this coming?” “How could I mess up the most important decision of my life?” “I followed the rules and did what I was supposed to; how could this happen?” It was challenging, but also really freeing, to acknowledge: I’m not perfect. I am human. I am vulnerable. I am enough. (Thanks, Brene Brown!)
I noticed that movement helped me process emotions and reconnect to myself. For several months, walking to and from work was the best part of my day. I didn’t want all the negative feelings to stay inside, but I needed something to do with them. Walking helped get them out of my body. Walking eventually turned into regular yoga and running as a way to reconnect with my body and reconnect with me. After every walk, run, or yoga practice, I feel stronger and more confident in myself.
I practiced gratitude. I received a lot of support from my family and friends. I allowed this to sustain me when I couldn’t sustain myself. My heart felt broken and empty, but I refilled it with gratitude for all the people I still had in my life. At the end of each day, I forced myself to think about who and what I was grateful for. I couldn’t always show my gratitude, but I felt it, and focused on that feeling instead of the pain, anger, and sadness. And when I could show it, I did. I knew so well what it felt like to be filled up by others’ love and support; I wanted the people I care about to know that feeling too.
I treated myself. I bought beautiful new bedding. I rented an apartment that feels warm and welcoming and is close to a park. I went on a wellness retreat on the beach in Mexico. When my would-be anniversary came, I got myself a gift. I previously thought these things were selfish. Now I understand I am taking care of myself because these are things that bring me happiness.
I prioritized my health. When I discovered my husband’s affair, I had no appetite and no energy to think about or prepare food. I constantly felt exhausted, unmotivated, and unfocused. I ate what was convenient and easy. Eventually, I was able to commit to a 14 day whole food detox program, which taught me about preparing nutrient rich foods and avoiding inflammatory foods. I am now more energized, in control of how I feel, and empowered to make informed choices at the grocery store.
I celebrated. On the night of that would-be anniversary, I went out to dinner with friends. When my birthday came, I had a big party with many family and friends. When my divorce was finalized, I hosted a “freedom” party. I also celebrated by acknowledging my accomplishments. I was really proud of myself for making a heartbreaking relationship decision. I was really proud of myself for staying true to my character and values throughout a messy process. I was also really proud of starting a new job in the midst of my crisis.
I practiced acceptance. I gave myself permission to like what I like and don’t like what I don’t like. I worked to understand that judgments may come, and reminded myself that my decision was the best one for me and I am the one who has to live with it. I did what I truly felt to be right, so I accept my choice. I tried to accept that self-criticism happens. And when it did, I reminded myself that my worth is not my job, is not my relationship status, is not my salary. I am worthy regardless of these things. I reminded myself that I didn’t fail; my marriage failed. I would have failed if I stayed in a situation because of fear and self-doubt and that no longer allowed me to explore my full potential.
I didn't get what I wanted, but I got exactly what I needed. I am brave, I am strong, and I am happy again. This is my (self) love story and I am proud of it.
Now it's your turn...
Write your own (self) love note - spend a few quiet minutes considering these “soul warm-ups” that Nora contemplated on her wellness retreat in Mexico.