Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Regret The Past

The other night, in bed with my husband Ron, I said, “Did you see that thing your brother posted? I really liked it. It asked, ‘If you could go back in time to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give yourself in 3 words?’”

Ron responded, “No. I didn’t see it. What would you say?”

I replied, “Stop smoking now. You?”

Ron stated, “Just enjoy it.” He followed his three words with this: “You know, I wouldn’t want to change a single thing. Everything connects. Everything has gotten me to where I am today. If you change one thing you change it all.”

His words were profound and got me thinking differently about my smoker’s remorse. What would have happened if I stopped smoking earlier or perhaps never started in the first place?

While the obvious benefits would be a lower risk for cancer and fewer dental problems, I realized that if I had chosen to stop smoking, I may never have:

Fallen in love with my husband: When I met Ron at 19 years young, I was instantly attracted to him. His tall lean frame, his auburn hair and the fact that he smoked were all sexy as hell. As a smoker, I loved men who smoked, and most non-smokers didn’t want to date “a girl like me”. If I had quit smoking, perhaps Ron wouldn’t have been so sexy to me. Perhaps I wouldn’t have wanted to date a smoker because he may have triggered me, and maybe Ron only wanted to date a smoker.

Gained strong empathy for addicts: While I’ve experimented with my fair share of drugs and alcohol, I never got addicted (Thank you, God!). But I know what addiction feels like due to smoking. I started when I was 13 years old and the habit quickly spiraled to the point where I couldn’t hold a conversation, focus or function without the inhale of a Marlboro Red. Because I know what addiction feels like, I’ve found success coaching and supporting those with addictive personalities. If I never smoked for so many years and never tried to quit so many times, perhaps I wouldn’t have the enormous amount of empathy that I do now for addicts of all kinds (food, sex, drugs).

Saved Ron and myself: After I got pregnant with our son Aaron, I was determined to quit smoking, but after I had him, it was an all-too-typical cycle: stop, start, stop, start again. Ron kept smoking which didn’t make the “stopping” part stick. We’d fight and it’d get ugly. I’d beg him to quit, to help me quit. One night during a nasty argument, we both got so mad with each other – my arms flailing and Ron going into silent mode – that we swore we’d both stop smoking to avoid the fights; to avoid getting divorced. And we did. We quit. Without the opportunity to reach a place of compromise and synergy with Ron, he might never have quit for good and perhaps I wouldn’t have either.  

While there are still pieces of me that wish I never smoked, I don’t regret it. I forgive myself for the experience. I’m thankful for the learning and growth it gave me. And I accept the lightness and the darkness of what is.

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Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you let go of regret: “I live in the present and look to the future.

PPS – To explore your regret, get out your journal. Here’s a writing prompt: Describe the life you would have now if something you regret never happened. How would it be different? How would it be the same?

If You Don’t Know Why, Ask Me

The other morning, when my 14-year-old son Aaron asked me where I was going, I cheerfully responded, “To my eyelash appoint.”

Aaron’s nose crinkled as he gave me a judgy look, “Why do you try to be someone you’re not? Who are you trying to impress anyways?”

His response hurt; he was quick to judge with questions oozing accusation.

Excited for a change amidst the 2020 work from home same-old, same-old, a few months ago I started getting false lashes. My lashes have brought me joy. They make me feel more confident, more prepared and prettier for my dozens of Zoom calls. I’ve had fun waking up looking like Marilyn Monroe (hey, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) and receiving compliments from my clients, students and even strangers I meet on my daily walks and trips to the store.

That’s why I was disappointed by Aaron’s assumption; that I was trying to pretend I was someone I wasn’t as opposed to enhancing the person I already was and am: Confident. Prepared. Pretty. I cringed hearing that Aaron thought impressing the world was a bad thing. What’s the problem with wanting to look good for others? I’ve found that the more put together and refreshed I look, the more others perk up and are open to my energy, which helps when I am teaching, coaching or giving a seminar. As long as self-esteem doesn’t solely rely on how others see you, then looking good can fuel self-love and happiness.

To snap me out of my critical feelings towards Aaron and I’s conversation, I found empathy. I reminded myself that Aaron’s limited viewpoint wasn’t his fault. He’s a freshman in high school, an age when many kids judge one another and make unfair assumptions based on appearance. He’s superglued to Snapchat, TikTok and I’m sure other apps I don’t know much about that seem to perpetuate this habit.

I took a deep breath in, looking Aaron straight in the eyes.

“This is important. I don’t like that you judged me right there. I am being ME. Just like my blonde highlights and gel nail polish compliment me, so do my eyelashes. A girl can want to look good and do that for different reasons. Some will do it for herself and others will do it for someone else and regardless, that’s their decision to make. These lashes make me happy. I’m not getting them to try to fit in or hide who I am; I get them as sort of a celebration of who I am. As a way to treat myself.”

I could see Aaron processing. I smiled and said, “I love you kid.”

Aaron told me he loved me back. He then gave me a ‘thanks’ and a head nod that showed me I got him thinking differently. And with that, we moved on with our day.  

I’m proud for speaking my truth – not always an easy thing to do – especially to my teenage son. Will he get it? Will he understand? Will he care?

I hope introducing Aaron to a new way of thinking opens his eyes to the importance of not snapping judgements and instead, becoming more conscious of others’ WHY. I hope he starts asking questions that come from a place of curiosity such as, “Does it make you happy? How so?”

Later that day, I started wondering how many people had judged me for my fake eyelashes and how many other females had also been judged for theirs. I then thought about all the women out there getting judged for their botox, their weight or their clothing. That number was enough to inspire me to write this post.

So, to those rocking new outfits that match your flair; those typing away with fake nails; those driving to work with a brand-new hairstyle: Go YOU! There is no need hide or be ashamed. You’ve taken the time to invest in yourself, and that’s beautiful self-love!

As for the others who judge you, remember that their judgment is a reflection of themselves, not you. Hold onto grace and patience in these moments; they don’t know your WHY. If they don’t ask, they probably don’t know any better. Keep rocking anyways.

If you’re making assumptions about others, how can you break those limiting beliefs and work toward appreciating the choices that others make?

And most importantly, how can we have meaningful conversations with our youth to ensure appearances don’t control their perceptions of others?

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Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your ‘I won’t let sticks and stones hurt me’ journey: “I am the only one responsible for my self-esteem.”

PPS – To remind you that empathy is possible in all situations, get out you journal. Here’s a writing prompt: Think back to a time when someone hurt you. What did that person do? How did they make you feel? Although you may not forgive that person, can you find empathy? What human experiences may have shaped the way they treated you? How do you think they feel about the situation now?

Do you know what a Dark Night of the Soul is?

A few days ago, a friend texted me, “So what the heck is a Dark Night?” His question was in response to coming across the free event I posted on Facebook happening December 10th called, A Dark Night of the Soul = A Life Found. (Check it out here if you want to learn more or if you’d like to attend. It would be great to have you with us.)

Anyways…
 
My friend’s question about a Dark Night reminded me that although the term is as common to me as, “I need tea,” “I love you” or even “Charlie, drop the sock” (if you’re wondering, Charlie is my dog), a Dark Night of the Soul isn’t a term a lot of people know, even if many people have or will experience it.

The term ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ has been around for centuries. It was commonly associated with a poem written by St. John of the Cross in the 1500s. A Dark Night is the spiritual depression someone has to go through to “wake up” and strip themselves of ego. Although the term has Christian roots, it doesn’t discriminate, regardless of one’s beliefs.
 
A Dark Night is usually triggered by an impactful event, such as losing a loved one or experiencing something traumatic. It could also present itself when the meaning you had given your life collapses; when an activity, achievement or something you had built your life around falls apart. (Think: the sense of purpose you’ve created in your mind.)

A few years ago, I experienced a Dark Night of the Soul – a term I never knew existed until it rocked my world. The unexpected loss of my job triggered a time of deep spiritual depression and reflection.
 
Without my usual heavy workload combined with a drive for external validation to distract me (yes, I was a workaholic), I was left to see reality with fresh eyes: my life was consumed with self-worth issues and I’d let important relationships with my husband, mom, friends, faith and myself fade into the background.
 
My Dark Night brought on positive experiences too – receiving signs and synchronicities from the universe, adopting a dog (yup! That’s how Charlie entered my life) and breaking into tough conversations with my husband. All these experiences and more showed me I’d been trapped in my own limiting beliefs. Trapped by impostor syndrome, trapped by a severe lack of self-acceptance and self-confidence. When I chose to turn my back to these restricting beliefs and let them fester, they poorly influenced my emotions and disrupted my life in damaging ways.
 
(After reading that, don’t be discouraged… Dark Night experiences vary from one person to the next. But for everyone, there are always opportunities for growth and change.)
 
My Dark Night drew open the curtains and revealed my truth: I was in dire need of internal renovation, a complete makeover that would shed years of self-sabotaging ego. Washing away ego wasn’t a “one and done” process; it took many up-and-down moments to learn how my ego had negatively controlled my thoughts and actions. But I didn’t give up. I didn’t run from the pain or try to escape the darkness. I had my fair share of detours and mishaps but we are human. I am human.
 
What I learned is that we can always find our way back to growth, which is what I did. I welcomed my Dark Night and because of that, my Dark Night helped me find my foundation: My true self from which I could rebuild and start fresh.
 
Because of the profound experience my Dark Night of the Soul had on my life, I’ve spent the last few years researching it, writing a memoir about it and developing frameworks, activities and a community focused on helping others prepare for and move through their Dark Night with intent, love and care.
 
To learn more about my experience with a Dark Night of the Soul and how I work with clients on their spiritual journey, visit drdanielleclark.com.
 
And don’t forget, you’re invited to attend the free A Dark Night of the Soul = A Life Found event 12/10 at 7PM EST.

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Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you if you’re in a Dark Night of the Soul: “I embrace the darkness and know it will show me the light. I accept my discomfort and welcome change.”


PPS – To help you identify and release your ego, get out your journal. Here’s a writing prompt: A good first step is to reflect and identify which areas of your life may be controlled by ego. Do a quick Google search for the definition of “ego” and write it down. Does it play a role in your career, your love life, your relationship with friends or family? How so? When making decisions do you check in with your mind and your heart?

I listened to my true self

Every morning, I aim to walk 3 miles before I do any computer work. I like walking, I really do, but sometimes keeping active feels like a chore. Lately, the conversation in my head sounds something like this:

The Other Danielle: “You have tons of work to do. Go for a walk later.”

The True Danielle: “Get that blood moving. Take in nature. Clear your mind. You know if you wait you won’t go.”

The Other Danielle: “What’s the point of going for a walk? You’ll need to do more than that if you want to get rid of your extra Covid pounds.”

The True Danielle: “Get your butt outside. You’re walking to reconnect with yourself and the universe. To stay healthy. This is where your best ideas come to you and so what if you have a few extra pounds?”

Last week, I woke up and it was pouring. I’m sure it’s easy to imagine how my two sides handled this conversation:

The Other Danielle: “It’s raining. Here’s your excuse! You don’t have to walk today. Woot woot!”

The True Danielle: “You made a commitment to yourself. You’re not going to melt. Since when do you need excuses?”

The Other Danielle: “But the walk will be sooo boring. I can’t even track my steps or listen to my Audible because my phone is on the fritz and it can’t get wet.”

The True Danielle: “Quit your whining.”

As tempting as the arguments were from The Other Danielle, I listened to my truth-telling, no bull crap self. I laced up my sneakers, left my phone on my desk, and braved the weather.

Ten minutes into my walk, I chuckled to myself. I was having the time of my life. Each droplet of water on my skin made me feel alive. The streets weren’t filled with walkers or cars and so I got a beautiful, solidary ‘It’s just me and the world’ experience. All I could hear were the birds chirping and the squirrels nibbling away at their acorns. And best of all, I didn’t break a promise to myself.

After I showered and powered up the laptop, I produced some of my best work of the week.

How can you tune into your True Self instead of that Other Self trying to derail you?

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your ‘I listen to my true self’ journey: “I will trust myself, my intuition and my guidance.

PPS – To remind you that your True Self and your Other Self are always present in the moment of decision, get out you journal. Here’s a writing prompt: Think back to a time when your True Self overcame the excuses from your Other Self. What positives came from that experience?    

I hated her for being pretty and kind

Years ago, my husband, 6-year-old son Aaron and I were at the grocery store. When we turned the corner past the canned soups and veggies aisle, someone caught Aaron’s attention. His eyes twinkled and his smile extended from ear to ear. He then began running towards someone with his arms out wide.

I looked down the aisle and didn’t recognize the beautiful forty-something-year-old blonde, but in that moment, I hated herWho the hell is that? How dare she smile at my son! And look at her. She’s so effin’ pretty it makes me sick.

As Aaron ran towards her, my blood boiled. I peered over at Ron. He seemed fine, content and curious. Of course he’s okay with this! He probably thinks she’s cute!

I took a deep breathe in and tried to play it cool as I approached her.

“Hi. I’m Danielle. It’s nice to meet you… How do you know my son?”

The fit, dewy skinned woman with amazingly white teeth replied, “I’m Cindy. It’s nice to meet you. Ohhh, your son is just the best. I get to see him every day. I’m a lunch volunteer at his school.”

Aaron chimed in, “Ms. R helps me with my straws and helps me to recycle my stuff.”

I could feel my face turn red. I hated her even more… Not only is she happy and gorgeous, but she’s also a volunteer! How angelic of her.

When we parted ways, I started venting to Ron while searching for dino nuggets in the frozen foods section.

“How dare she. She shouldn’t just hug someone else’s kid without permission… It must be nice that she has all that time to volunteer. She must not work… That’s why she’s so effin’ bubbly.”

Ron stopped pushing the carriage. With his eyebrows scrunched he said, “What’s your problem?”

That questions hurt because I knew I had a problem, I just didn’t know exactly that problem was.

Hating on cheery, pretty, friendly lunch volunteers was not my M.O. and certainly something I wasn’t proud of.

I sheepishly replied to Ron, “I’m sorry.”

When I got home, I went for a walk and asked myself over and over again, What’s your problem?

With inward reflection, the truth came out. I hadn’t felt pretty or happy or connected to my son. I was working a lot and had let physical activity and quality family time fall to the wayside. I was insecure about my body, relationships and life.

Looking back, that experience at the grocery store scared the crap out of me. I never wanted to hate someone again (especially for being nice!) and so I put together an action plan. I started saying ‘no’ to a few extra tasks at work to make more time to focus on myself and the family. I went back to the gym to get my energy level up and regain confidence in my skin. I got involved at my son’s school so I could receive the love and pride that comes with volunteer work.

A few months later, I saw Ms. R at the gym. My mind didn’t choose to spew nasty comments or judgements. Instead, a sense of calm swept through me. I whispered from a distance “thank you,” smiled and went on with my workout.

Thanks to years of inner work, I no longer find myself getting jealous like I used to. It takes time, but emotional balance is possible and wow does it feel amazing.

The next time you find yourself hating on someone, how can you use the experience as a mirror moment to look at yourself?

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your self-love journey: “I release all the negative thoughts about myself and replace them with love.

PPS – Are you spending your time hyper-focusing on someone in a not-so-healthy way? Perhaps out of spite or jealousy? Spend a few minutes journaling. Here’s a prompt: Write about ‘the person’ in your life who makes your blood boil. What drives you nuts about them? Review your notes. Then, imagine this person was put on your life path for a purpose. What can you learn from this person? What action plan can you put together to become a better version of yourself?

Expect more typos from me

I recently completed a 10-week advanced memoir writing class with a well-known writing school. I gained tons of valuable tips for my memoir: how to find the right balance between action and reflection, how to create engaging dialogue and how to end a memoir with just the right amount of open-endedness and closure (A tricky balance to find!).

While I walked away with new writing skills, the real takeaway was that I didn’t have to be perfect. Here’s the story:

My writing instructor was (and still is) brilliant: sharp, witty and unafraid to tell you when you should cut a word, sentence or section. Every week, she’d send out thought-provoking announcements, actively participate in our discussion boards and give lots of feedback on my writing homework. It was clear why she was so well-published and regarded – she was a dream come true! 

The second week into my studies, I saw one of her posts had two typos in it. I thought, Huh. Maybe she was rushing? Perhaps it was a tough week? wasn’t judging her; it was more like curiosity and a bit of tenderness toward her. When I make a typo, I can’t help but beat myself up. Danielle, how could you? What will people think? You’re a writer. You’re a professor. You should be better than this. I didn’t want the same self-annihilating mindset for this amazingly talented woman whom I deeply respected. 

Week three rolled around and I saw another typo, and then another, and another. Only little errors, a missing word here and there, maybe a word lacking its apostrophe. The mistakes weren’t distracting, just subtle enough to notice.

Despite these small blunders, her feedback remained top notch – supportive yet critical. I found this a bit perplexing. With such credible work, why would she be making these errors? But over the weeks, as I received valuable guidance regularly, it finally dawned on me: My instructor knows her talents and her strengths. She’s confident in the value of her words and knows she doesn’t need to be perfect to be of great service.

I thought about the freedom this instructor must have felt when she didn’t over-edit her words. I thought about the extra time she gained by choosing not to worry about a missing word here or there. And I thought about how our perceived mistakes can be a gift to others.

I’m taking my instructor’s gift and am applying it to my writing now too, so if you happen to come across any grammatical errors within these newsletters, I want you to know it’s a sign of my confidence.

With that, have fun making mistakes.  

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your ‘I don’t have to be perfect’ journey: “I value learning more than I value being right.

PPS – Does it feel like your need for perfection controls your time and energy? Spend a few minutes journaling. Here’s a prompt: What would life feel like if you released yourself from perfectionism? What would you be able to accomplish if you adopted a ‘done and not perfect’ mentality?