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Feel your pulse, own your pride

4 years ago Orlando was changed forever… the LGBTQ community was hit right in the heart… 49 times…. 49 lives… 49 stories that ended that night. It was the night of the Pulse Nightclub massacre.

I was sleeping that night, peacefully in bed with my wonderful boyfriend. We woke the next morning to dozens of messages… we opened up social media and there it was. Every news station, every friend marking themselves safe, videos footage of flashing lights, crying crowds, parents desperately trying to find their children… there was emergency blood drives set up as Orlando didn’t have enough blood to help the wounded… how crazy a thought is that, not enough blood.

My heart was broken. I didn’t lose anyone that night, but I know people who lost friends and family… I have friends who were supposed to be there but for some reason… they decided to stay home. I held my friends, I held my boyfriend and we cried. We cried out of fear… out of hurt… out of sadness.

Orlando is a cultural melting pot, a transient city filled with people from every background… it’s what makes it great. But after that night… and the weekend following… Orlando showed it’s true colors. It said “We are Orlando Strong”, “we have one pulse”… that became the heartbeat of the city, love is love is love is love is love. Strangers hugged, vigils were held everywhere, people cried together, your race didn’t matter, your religion, your orientation… nothing mattered, we held each other.

Every year on the anniversary I remember the sadness i felt when i woke that morning and for days after… but then i remember how I started to see rainbow flags appear in store windows in the days following…displays listing the names of the ones lost, straight families walking around the parks with T-shirt’s supporting the LGBTQ community and Orlando… the clothing brands that released merchandise to raise money to help the survivors… that sadness turned into pride.

Pride for my community… pride in who we are as individuals. I became one of the rainbow wearing, rainbow flag owning, proud gay men. Why did I do that? What made me realize that being gay was something I should own? The simple answer, because 49, proud, loving, diverse people had their pride taken away from them… as well as the survivors who still suffer from PTSD from that night.

What brings us together… all of us… is that pulse, that heart beat… we all have one.

Feel your pulse. It means you are still here. You still matter, you still belong. Pride doesn’t end at LGBTQ, it includes pride in your heritage, being proud of your race, proud of the battles you overcame and the ones you are still pushing through. Never let anyone take away your pride. Someone tried to take that away from us that night… but we came back stronger.

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Your inner critic

A few months ago I listened to a podcast that talked about your inner critic… and it surprised me, I never really put a name to the voice in my head, the doubter, the naysayer…I never realized that the voice was criticizing my thoughts and actions. Nearly all of us have this voice, this inner monologue that tells us “you are not enough, so why even try”.

What has your inner critic stopped you from doing? What risks has it saved you from… or what paths has it stopped you from pursuing? What clothes has that voice told you don’t fit you right? Or made you feel like you need to lose weight, gain weight or go to the gym? Now I am not saying an inner critic is a bad thing, it brings balance to your mind, in some ways it keeps you safe… but when your inner critic is ruling your mind 90% of the time, you aren’t living, you are hiding.

That’s the thing with your inner critic, they know you better than anyone, they can push those buttons that make you feel ashamed, scared, weak and worthless… and most of the time they don’t hold it back. It wares you don’t, it exhausts you and before you know it, you feel like that inner critic is talking the truth. But are they? Or are they just bullying you? If they were a separate person who talked to you like that, you wouldn’t answer the phone when they called or open the door when they knocked… the way things that your inner critic can treat you, it a way that you would never EVER treat someone else… so I ask you this, why do you talk to yourself that way?

The podcast said we should try talking to ourselves how we talk to our best friend, that person who we love no matter what they have been through… this through me off, I would never talk to my best friend how I talk to myself. But that’s the point isn’t it… kindness, support, love and friendship… that’s how we should talk to ourselves. If you can switch your mindset and lead with a voice that they called your “best friend” voice, you would take more chances, make more decisions to better yourself and support yourself. It’s tough, trust me… with everything going on in the world negative does feel like it rules, but you can control your inner critic, you can put them in check and let your “best friend” speak up.

I encourage you to try it, when you feel your inner critic is ruling your mind, stop and think how would my best friend voice respond. With love.

Don’t put yourself down. There are plenty of people out there who will judge you, who will put you down… and who will criticize you. Don’t do that to yourself.

Take risks, make choices to make you happy.

Life is always worth exploring.

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Into the unknown…

So it’s quarantine day… who knows? is it Tuesday? Maybe?

That is the world we are currently living in, where we don’t know the date, we don’t know the day of the week… all we know is that we have to stay home… for how long we don’t know? The rest is unknown.

It’s a scary place to be… we are really living the same day in and out… it takes it toll on your mental health, physical health and your relationships. My dog for example is fed up of us being home… she’s ready for her 6 hour daily naps. But even human relationships can struggle at this time. To be honest my main issue has been more the mental struggle.

Recently I have found myself lacking the motivation to even get up out of bed and keep moving every day, I want to be productive but lack the energy… I found myself initially saying “I don’t have time”… but I have nothing but time right now. That was when I really had to sit down and think about what was going on… not COVID-19 related, not money related or work related but internally.

What I figured out is that the “unknown” makes me unsettled because I can’t control it… as for someone who is longing to travel everywhere and see everything the world has to offer, there will be so many unknowns in that… how can being told “stay at home” cause me to develop this new struggle. But really if you think back to your childhood, there was always someone who had the answer, a teacher, parent, friend… then as you grow up you still have those guiding lights, those people who will point you where you want to go… but right now, at this time we are all in the same boat…. facing the same direction… without a map, no control… drifting.

The unknown is scary and a in itself is a challenge to face. The nice thing is we are all facing this unknown together… yes with our own individual issues and concerns but over all… we all have this joint feeling of not knowing. There should be comfort in that right? We shouldn’t be spending this time putting others down, comparing whose life is worse off. We should be holding each other up and saying “we can steer this ship together” by focusing on what IS in our control, what really matters… and that has never changed… LOVE.

With more time on our hands, we seem to get bogged down with filling it with stress and worry and comparison… but we need to see the love in the world…

There are kids at home celebrating spending time with both their parents… they aren’t going to remember why, they will remember love. Significant others who have spent maybe a week on vacation together are now spending a month seeing each other every day… getting to love on each other. Our loyal pets that spend so much time alone, are experiencing true companionship and love because we are home… and exercising more.

For those that we can’t physically see, we are communicating through other measures, FaceTime, zoom, video calling. We need to keep those connections open when ever this pandemic is over. Sadly I don’t think we will ever return to normal… but we will find a new normal. We are already starting to… but let that new normal be based off of Love… maybe we let love lead us into the unknown… embrace is and control what we can control, what matters. Being a decent loving human being.

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Food Addiction, negative self talk and the insecurities that follow.

Addiction is a scary word…and most think addiction is only for drugs and alcohol but in reality you can be addicted to So many things.

What I have recently realized is that i have an addiction to food. I overeat when I am sad, when I am happy, when I am stressed or lonely. Food has always offered me comfort, it has always been there and it was always available twenty four seven.

I have never said these words out loud or typed them out, but this is it…. this is my addiction. I know some will say it’s not as severe as alcohol or drugs… but weight fluctuation and terrible food intake can lead to so many other long term issues.

After some reflection on my childhood years I pin pointed where a lot of my self esteem issues spawned from and it was food related… whether it was my grandmother commenting on my second helping of dessert, my grandfather pointing out I had put weight on… or closer to home, my brother calling me fatso for most of my preteen-teenage years. Or more recently in a past romantic relationship being told “oh if you lost weight you would be hot”.

I was always… shall we say…well rounded physically than my brother was. Looking back those memories of him name calling still hurt me now which is Insane as they are at least 22 years old. I truly believe this created my downward spiral Into weight issues as an adult. When you are a kid there are parents monitoring your food… when you are an adult… there is no one to tell you to stop eating the entire pizza… followed by some French fries. So naturally I find myself some nights gorging on food and picking at snacks. Everyone tells me “you don’t look big, you are tall so you can carry it well”… I really appreciate the support but I know how I look and how that makes me feel.

Why oh why do we talk so badly about yourselves… why do we look in the mirror to point out imperfections…. when there will always be a grandparents, friend or sibling who will be happy bring us down without even asking for it. My insecurities spawn from those family dinners where my brother made comments, those dates when I was told “are you sure you want to eat that?”.

I started weight watchers a year ago, for a solid six months I stuck to it, I felt great and it was teaching me to have a healthy relationship with food. But with a job change and stress I slipped right off the band wagon and my weight sky rocketed back to where it was. This was a kick in the crotch… it knocked my self esteem, it knocked my confidence and it made me feel like a failure… which is not a nice feeling.

I discovered a podcast that tells you that you have to make changes to yourself in a positive way. No negative talk. You want to lose weight to better yourself, to improve your energy level and so on. But here’s the thing… of you start a lifestyle change focusing on the negative, your body is conditioned to not follow through… start with the positive and go from there.

Every body of every size is beautiful… you just have to listen to what you are telling yourself and make sure it is positive… encourage yourself to try harder, improvement not weight loss.

With that being said, I will be working on improving my well being, cutting my food I take down and focusing on feeling better within my skin.

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Walking alone through the dark with someone

Everyone has their own darkness, their own story… their own cross to bare as it were. But everyone’s darkness is different, some are darker than you could ever imagine… but to us all… our period of darkness felt never ending… it felt like a trap.

That feeling is kind of like it’s own fear blanket that gets tied in a knot around you that you can’t shake.

Darkness is a lonely place to be and you need someone to be your light. No matter how dim it is. There’s a level of support that you won’t accept but that you really need.

When someone is tucking at your blanket trying to find their way under to help you… but you keep pulling the blanket back around you. That’s the true meaning on helplessness. When you become your own worst enemy. When the over thinking is so loud that you almost crave that quiet time alone in the dark where it’s just you and the doubt filled voice in your head.

I am here to tell you that it’s ok to acknowledge you need help… it’s ok to talk about what you have been through. Everyone has a story that made them who they are… and every day is another page in that story. If you hide the chapter from the ones closest to you… do they really know your whole story?

But that being said I would never force you to tell anyone something that you aren’t ready to share.

If you need me to sit in the dark with a dimly lite candle, I am here.

I have known darkness but I found light in the fact that the darkness I was crushing under… well it made me who I am… it made me tolerant of pain, compassionate for others who are lost and gave me the power to try and lead their way.

If you are dealing with your own darkness, don’t walk alone, find a friend, a loved one… someone who won’t judge you, someone who will just be there… you might not need them to guide you, lecture you or hug you. But knowing that you aren’t alone in the dark. That’s a feeling that can start helping you find your way out.

There will always be pockets of darkness that come through the cracks, but look inside yourself and find your light, find your reason to shine and NEVER let that spark extinguish.

If you open your eyes and pull back the blanket, you will find that you are not alone.

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Do it scared

When ever someone would ask me what I deepest fear was… They would ask if I was scared of spider? Snakes? Heights? Airplanes?

What filled me with fear was an easy, losing the ones I love… or disappointing them. That’s always been my answer. What I have recently discovered is that fear… ruled my life. More than a fear of spiders… more than a fear of heights. I found out that I am a people pleaser. Again… this wasn’t a surprise. I love helping others, supporting them and I am willing to work with anyone… I’ll never say no.

When I took an online assessment from a book called “Do it scared” I matched 89% with the “People Pleaser” archetype. Shocking… ha.

What this book has taught me though is that I hold myself back from following my dreams… from speaking up and from following through on what I really want in life… because my fear of disappointment… fear of the unknown… my fear of “what will others think”.

This surprised me because I have never really consciously cared about what others think… if people like me great, if they don’t… oh well. Part of being a people pleaser is letting what you think others think of you rule everything, when 90% of the time it’s just your brain over reacting, and that’s true with any fear. Your mind instantly fires off worst case scenarios, jumping to the darkest possible endings… when in reality… it won’t be like that. That’s fear… fear isn’t the spider, it isn’t the heights, it’s not the disappointment… fear is your brain over reacting.

As per of the book purchase you get access you your “premium” results where it breaks down the overall impact that fear has in your life. There are seven different categories… and all of mine fell in the medium range with people pleaser being the highest. Now of course with all fears there are positives and negatives attached and the book really dives deeply into them, it really makes you examine yourself… your past choices and your decision making processes.

The “final thought” from my results really sums my fear up-

“You struggle most with the fear of being judged, which also manifests itself as the fear of letting people down and the fear of what other people might say”

Growing up I always though that people who prioritize themselves over others were selfish. Really they aren’t. Are you giving the world the best you can give if you aren’t looking after yourself? If you aren’t making choices based on your own happiness?…. no…you are living your life scared.

“Do it scared” is the mantra I am trying to keep in my mind every day… I am trying to turn it into a positive affirmation that I can chant in my mind when ever I feel any kind of doubt… any kind of withdrawal… Life is about exploring…. exploring outside of your comfort zone and sometimes you have to “do it scared”.

A life lived

The beauty in a life well lived, in my opinion, is to be remembered with a smile. Remembered with love and kindness. When people remember you, they feel your presence in their heart and they smile. The memories are what we leave behind. We don’t remember the bad times we remember the good… we have to remember the good. Recently I lost a family friend, it was not unexpected, but it was too soon. It is always too soon. Every life is cut too short, whether you are 105 or 60… your life is too short… we know this. EVERYONE knows this. But still we spend our time worrying about what others think of us, what the perception is and are we normal enough. Why does this matter? it is YOUR life and YOU deserve to be happy… because when you are happiest is when you share your love, your light, with the dark world others are trapped in.

I am starting to realize that the perfect ice breaker question when you meet new people is “What would you do if everyone else’s opinion didn’t matter?”, either you catch the other person completely off guard or they talk with so much passion and excitement that you learn something new and break down barriers.

When ever I pass, I want to be remembered as someone who was happy, smiling and full of love. Love builds a connection that transcends everything else.

There is such sadness in death, a loss of the physical being. The pain of knowing we won’t get to see their smile, hear their laugh or hold them again. That is the loss. The heartache we feel is so deep… and that is ok. Grief is ok. Crying is ok… it lets us release our emotions and let the pain out… when we are able to release the pain we find space the to love.

We still have memories, we have their love eternally and friendship indefinitely.

Hug your friends. Hug your family. Laugh a lot, laugh loud, take photos, videos and most importantly love… love deeply…

The past doesn’t define you.

Everyone has a past… No one is exempt from having one.

As cliche as it sounds, your past doesn’t define who you are. But the trick is moving through the past, processing it, taking the lessons and moving on stronger and with more focus

The crazy thing about the mind is it’s ability to hide trauma, fog over hurtful memories and trick you into believing what you think will protect you. Until one day when you are an adult… those barriers break down, you hear a story, see a photo or read a blog… and that’s it. The blockade disappears… you see it all, the past in it’s ugly, painful, hurtful, raw honesty. But this is where you have to choose, do you face the past and process it (probably with the help of a licensed therapist)… or do you try and sweep it away again.

That’s really the choice… examine and learn or tuck away and hide. By hiding the past we don’t address it… and in your subconscious you let it define you. Those lessons get over shadowed by excuses “Oh I can’t work out, I have bad knees”, “eating junk food is cheaper”, “oh he didn’t mean that, it was an accident”, “she was just angry because of work, it won’t happen again”… by using these excuses we validate our unhealthy relationship with food, the spouse who is physically or mentally abusing you, the lack of physical activity in a day. Then we find ourselves destined to repeat those same steps again and again without truly without learning how to grow.

When we move through our past, learn from it and we evolve into a state of true understanding for ourselves and what we have been through, that’s when we can find the compassion to love ourselves, with our cuts and bruises. There is beauty in us all and that comes from the power hidden in your past. That power is waiting just the other side of the shadows. Find the light.

Home

Behind the four walls that make up your house, there are so many stories. Tragic, beautiful, happy, incredible, life changing stories. The stories that make you who you are… the building blocks that created you. Moments that turned you into the person you are and set you on your path to be the one you will become.

It’s strange to think that every house you drive by holds so many stories, so many family dinners, so many arguments, so many hugs and kisses. Each house is a home to those who occupy it, when they move on those stories are carried on in their memories. When you move on and leave your home, leaving that chapter. It becomes someone else’s chapter. It becomes someone else’s future. The world keeps turning.

The house that I spent 14 years calling home, is becoming someone else’s next chapter. It’s opening it’s doors for new love, a new family and new memories together. They won’t know my families memories, the holidays spent around the table laughing… the Sanctuary from a broken heart… the people who entered the house as friends and left as family… even those they have since passed on. Those thoughts now only exist in my mind and on my levels I am sad that I won’t be able to open that door and see those memories in front of my eyes.

Although my parents haven’t lived there for a few years, it still smelt like home, up until the last night I locked the door. I will miss that smell. There was a comfort in the house, entering it felt like I was being held by my parents. I miss them.

I know home is where you make it, where you feel it within your heart. Home is where you can be yourself and feel loved, safe and comfortable. I am determined that my home will be that for many friends, even ones who don’t know they need it.

My original home in the US is gone. But those memories are not. I have to focus on that.

I’m sorry…I’m sorry…

We all seem to have a “go too phrase” that we use most often. For awhile growing up mine was “it’s not my fault”… but shortly after my teen years that turned into “I’m sorry”. Interesting how I went from pushing the blame from me to sounding like i am accepting blame and apologizing for something. I am not even sure really where or why the transition happened… if i has to guess it would probably be around the time I developed an inner fear of letting my parents down or disappointing them. “I’m sorry” was a saving grace for bad grades, being late home, getting stuck in traffic.

When I say “I’m sorry” I am not always admitting fault, I might be apologizing that something happened. At least that is what I am telling myself. Internally though, I still feel responsible, guilty or concerned for the outcome. Even if the situation is complexity out of my control I will apologize. Today for example i apologized for the behavior of someone i don’t know, i have never met, who was 3500 miles away from me…It’s a boundary that I need to work on. I will start sentences with “I’m sorry to say this but…” or “I’m sorry but my opinion is…” but why? Why am I sorry for having an opinion? Isn’t that part of being an adult… being allowed to unapologetically be ourselves?

I had this conversation last night with my partner. I apologized for something that was no ones fault… but then I stopped and said “no I’m not sorry, because I didn’t do it”. Within 5 minutes I said “I’m sorry but I don’t agree”. I stopped myself and said “I’m not sorry. I just disagree with you and that’s ok”. It was like I had hit myself over the head. I am not sorry.

Now of course there are times that apologizing is the correct thing to do. When you do something wrong, apologize: that’s another part of being an adult. Admit when you are wrong and know that being wrong is ok.

There is a power in owning your opinion, your actions, your voice. When you stand tall and speak true there is no reason for “I’m sorry”.

Paint by numbers

Growing up I loved paint by numbers… I was terrible at them, couldn’t paint a straight line so I would always end up mixing over to another section. I don’t think I ever completed one. But there was something fun about them, the control, the rules. Knowing that if I followed the steps, it would look how it was supposed to look.

In some ways wouldn’t it be great if our lives were a paint by number, where we knew what we needed to do at what step to turn our life into the preprinted, designed masterpiece it was destined to be… But sadly life isn’t like that, 2020 has taught us that no matter how controlled or organized you plan out, something can come along and run your paint into the wrong section.

Every life is a piece of art that is open to interpretation, the downside to any paint by number is that it doesn’t give you freedom… life gives us that freedom, to mess up, to make mistakes and the freedom to own them and create our own vision.

In life we never know what color comes next, what hurdle we have to jump… or what hurdle will take us down. The point is, we have to stand back up, we have to keep painting, through the pain, through the tears, through the losses, the wins and the smiles. Your masterpiece is never complete until you stop painting… sometimes you find out that you only have a few weeks to finish your painting, sometimes you don’t get that warning.

Would that change how fast you paint, would you rush through all the steps to complete your painting faster? Or would you savor east brush stroke… appreciate the colors, their vividness, their ability to blend and create depth in your art.

No matter how much time you have left, you should savor each stroke, each swish of the bristles on the canvas that is your life because you don’t know how long you have, but even an incomplete painting that was created with care and love is still a masterpiece. Life is not a paint by number, life is a Bob Ross painting where happy little accidents can change you for the better. Love every moment, love every brush stroke… because when your painting is done, the masterpiece is all you leave behind. Make it beautiful.

Who’s life are you living?

This may sound like a strange question… but when you really think about it, are you being true to yourself? Are you living your life or are you living a life to keep up with the social media influencers? Or the life that you were told you needed to live.

When you think about your goals and aspirations as a child you could be anything you wanted, there was no dream too big. But as you grew up you were given minor corrections on your path… putting you on the road that lead you in the direction that others felt was best for you. Now of course those little nudges were there to keep you safe but think of how that shaped your life as an adult.

I was always told by my wonderful parents to do what makes me happy and to live a life that makes me happy. Up until recently i believed that i was doing just that… i was living my life to make myself happy, but after some self examination i realized that deep down i was trying to live my life to not disappoint my parents, i didn’t want to let them down as they gave up so much for me.

I am not saying that i am unhappy, I am not saying that at all. I am saying that subconsciously I was making choices and decisions in the hope that I would make my parents proud. But the funny part, is any time I told my parents of a career change, life change or anything… the first thing they asked me was “are you happy?”, my response was always “yes of course” and they would reply “then we are so proud of you”. That validation means more to me than anything else. But i know my parents… and they truly mean that they want me to be happy.

For some reason my mind told me that I had to make the choice to live my life to make my parents proud and how would i do that? Well the stereotypical thing that we are lead to believe from the outside world to lead a good life is to have material wealth and financial wealth lead you to be happy. So if I have a huge house filled with lots of things, I will be happy and in my twisted mind then my parents would be proud. But that’s not right…. they want me to be happy no matter what… no matter how little money i have, as long as I am doing a job I enjoy….

So that is where the question comes in. Who’s life are you living? Are you living a life where you can be unapologetically yourself?

I have started to figure out that when you are being yourself and living life for yourself, the negative self talk in your head is blocked out by the supportive happy voices. Your stress level decreases and you find an inner level of calm. I am not saying run away from responsibilities like children, bills, pets. I am telling you to start small and make minor changes in your life to steer it in the direction you want to go.

Instead of saying “I don’t know what I want for dinner” say what you actually are craving… “I want bbq”,”I want Thai food”, making those small steps towards making your own choices will feel so insignificant but it’s a step… it’s the first step…. so take it! Because in 5 years time you won’t hesitate and you won’t hold back.

Live your life. For yourself.