I’m Busy But Not Too Busy

Lately, I’ve been busy. Like, busy-busy thanks to parenting, writing, coaching, teaching, grading, walking, reading, researching, cooking, cleaning and a bunch of other ***‘ing things ;). I wish funning was a word because that would be on the list too. As you can see, I’ve been busy will all good things, but nonetheless busy…
 
Have you noticed (or you may be annoyed!) that I’m using the word ‘busy’ a lot? That’s what happens when I get busy… I lock myself in a box and make excuses for why I can’t do something. I shutdown and say ‘no’ to adding what always seems to be another checkbox on my to-do list. When I am (I won’t use the ‘b’ word here), when I feel like there’s too much on my plate, I also start telling myself I don’t have time to do something for someone else… Don’t call so-and-so back, you have too much to do. Danielle, you just gotta say no to things and people so you can get your to-list done.
 
Sometimes that voice is the sound of reason, but more often it’s a frantic, fear-based voice that tries to make me someone I’m not: someone who doesn’t have the time and heart for others.  
 
A few weeks ago, a teacher award nomination form was emailed to me from my niece’s elementary school (my niece lives with me). When I received the email, I lit up and thought, Oh goodness. Mrs. Smith and Mr. Hickson have been so great to Amy this year. I have to nominate them. They’re everything a teacher should be: engaging, compassionate, patient and informative. But my heart began to beat fast as my thoughts switched to, “No Danielle. You don’t have the time to write a nomination. Stick to the things you need to take care of.”
 
I deleted the email, felt crappy about myself and continued to sluggishly take care of my work.
 
A week later a reminder email was sent and this time, I listened to my heart and I clicked the nomination form. And guess what? It took me 6 minutes to fill out. 6 minutes! I shook my head and laughed; all they wanted was my niece’s name, the teachers’ names and 250 words or less. Once I hit ‘submit’ I felt proud, so proud that the energetic high I got from that simple good deed boosted my work productivity for the next few hours. I got tons of things done! The effect was like four cups of coffee, no jitters attached.
 

Two weeks later, I was at my office on campus spring cleaning (I’m a business professor). As I dusted my bookshelf, I came across ‘thank you’ cards my students wrote to themselves over a year ago before the pandemic hit. On the first day of class, I asked students to write the notes, thanking themselves for the preparation and courage it took them to be in college (I teach at a community college and many of my students are first generation, so being in college is an extra big deal). I planned to give them their cards the last day of class, but thanks to all that was 2020, that didn’t happen.
 
When I first saw the cards, I thought, “Awwww. How special. They’d love to see these.” My mind quickly shifted to, “Danielle, you’re busy. You don’t have the time to reach out to students if it’s not related to homework.”
 
This time, I listened to my heart right away. I sent emails and messages to the students asking them for permission to open their cards and send them a picture of it. This process end-to-end took a half hour. 
 
One student wrote herself a beautiful thank you note that said something like this: “Thank you for making a sacrifice and joining the military. Because you did, your school is now paid for. You’re now in a better spot and reunited with your family. I am proud of you.”
 
When I sent her a picture of the card, she told me she cried and that she was so thankful. I clutched the phone, as if to give it a hug. I felt so good about sending those cards out that I had a smile and lightness to me the rest of the week and because of that, I got even more things done.
 
The next time I tell myself I’m ‘too busy’ to do something, I’m going to continue to listen to my heart and remind myself that doing something nice for someone else (or myself) is an investment that keeps on giving.

Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this blog to a few family members and friendsThe greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.  

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to remind you that you’re in control of your day, “I have all the time I need. I have everything to make today productive and abundant for myself and others.”

PPS – Do you want more feel-good time in your day? Here’s an activity to put awareness around how you’re using your time. For at least a few days, write down everything you do: talk to your mom on the phone, go for a walk with your dog, attend a meeting with clients, drive to work, go grocery shopping, practice the drums etc. Once you have a few days’ worth of activities, go through and rank them from a scale on 1-10 on how much joy they give you (10 being the highest amount of joy). If you rank anything lower than a 7, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and see if you can put together a plan around removing or minimizing that activity from your life or restructuring it so it gives you more joy.

How I navigate impostor syndrome

Last week, I sent my memoir off for copywriting. I have to say that again because damn, does that feel good! My memoir (somebody pinch me, is this real?!) is in the copywrite stage. After almost three years, my book is complete and is now getting polished, which means it’s another step closer to being in your hands as you sip your morning latte on a sunny Sunday morning.

This milestone has had me thinking about everything it took to get my book to this stage. What comes to mind immediately is navigating impostor syndrome.

The first time I ever considered writing a book was when my mentor said she envisioned me writing one about my spiritual journey after I lost my job (I refer to this period of my life as my Dark Night of the Soul. If you want to hear more about this experience, check out my podcast guest appearance with The Psychic Wives). While I was excited about the idea of writing a book, I didn’t exactly know what that story was and if I could actually write about it.

Over the next few months, any time I’d sit down to write about my past – many of those experiences traumatic – I was overcome with emotion. I’d cry as I relived intense memories. I’d cuss at myself and the computer for not knowing what to say (hello, writer’s block).

During that time, you’d see me frozen at my desk letting unhealthy thoughts spin in loops, “Do people even care about you and your story? You’re not even a real writer. You don’t have any training and experience, so what makes you think you can write a book?”

Regardless of these uncomfortable thoughts, I pushed forward as another voice inside me kept saying, “You need to tell your story. You can do this. You are a writer.” I had to keep this voice alive, so I bought myself a typewriter necklace I wear almost every day to remind me of my goals. I also joined writers’ groups, writers’ workshops and filled my bookshelves with writing guides and memoirs from authors I admire. I wrote positive affirmations on my office chalkboard and often spoke them aloud to replace my doubts.

While these things helped me move forward, impostor syndrome never quite left me alone. It appeared in slightly different ways, making me second-guess my memoir pursuit, “Can I call myself a writer yet? I don’t actually have anything published… Should I tell people about it? They won’t take it seriously… And what if I never finish? Even if I do, will it be successful?”

The way I worked through these new doubts was the same when I first started writing: I moved forward regardless. I changed all my bios on every social platform, like LinkedIn and my professional website, to claim that I am a writer. I started telling people I was writing a memoir. I started crafting newsletters and blogs about my experiences as a writer.

My debut memoir is where it is today because I didn’t let my worries and doubts win. I still have my days when impostor syndrome brings out the skeptic in me, but I’ve gotten better at recognizing it and letting my true voice (the one focused on my goals) soften the negative noise.

Yes, writing my memoir was hard (so f’ing hard at times) AND that payoff was worth it. I healed. I learned a new craft. I made sense of my life. I listened to my true self. I enhanced my empathy, self-discipline, and time management. I created art to help others heal, grow and break free from their own judgement habits.

What has your true voice been telling you to do? Have you been listening to it?

If you want to learn more about impostor syndrome, check out my podcast guest appearance on The On-Call Empath.

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation if you’re struggling with impostor syndrome, “I was born to try new things and to create. Only I decide what success looks and feels like.

PPS – Do you want to remove some of the fear you have towards a project you’re working on (or should be working on)? If so, get out your journal. Here’s a writing prompt: What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if you moved forward with your project and didn’t succeed? What’s the absolute best thing that could happen if you moved forward with your project and you did succeed (get dreamy here). Is the potential payoff worth the risk?

Check on your strong friends

My son Aaron, a freshman in high school, said to me casually one night a couple months ago, “I’m not doing too good in my AP class. I’m at a ‘C’.”

Even though he had never received a ‘C’ in his life, I didn’t flinch; I didn’t get curious. In fact, I didn’t think too much about it. This is his first year in high school, plus he’s taking an AP class. He’s busy with sports. We’re in a pandemic. He’ll be fine, he’s strong.

I responded, “Okay. No problem Big Guy. I know you’ll get your grade up.” I smiled, patted him on the back and walked out of the room.

A month later after the holidays, Aaron came to me and my husband Ron. His voice shaky, his face red, it was immediately apparent that he was distressed.

“I got a ‘D’ in that class… I don’t know what’s wrong with me… I’m not myself. I’m struggling with mental health stuff… I wanted to tell you, but…”

Ron and I were shocked.

Looking back on the night Aaron mentioned the ‘C’, I made an unfair assumption that Aaron was fine, believing he’d figure it out and thinking everything would be okay because ‘It was Aaron. He’s strong.’ 

Here’s a list of things I could have done better in that moment (which I’ll use to make positive change in the future):

Be present: Although Aaron came to me with a cool tone, if I were more in the moment, perhaps I would have picked up on the real message: he needed help. Maybe I would have noticed his energy was off. Maybe I would have noticed him looking down to the floor.  Maybe I would have heard a crack in his voice.

Probe: I took Aaron’s words at place value. I didn’t ask how the ‘C’ made him feel. I didn’t ask why his grade was low. Was it trouble with vocabulary? Not enough time to study at night? Not turning in assignments? If I had been more curious, perhaps one of those questions would have sparked a deeper conversation.

Be more involved: Ron and I had the opportunity to attend an open house at Aaron’s school, but we didn’t. We reasoned, “It’s not needed. Aaron always does well.” Ron and I have access to Aaron’s school grades; we never checked them, “Aaron always gets good grades.” If Ron and I were more active in Aaron’s studies, we may have seen the signs of Aaron’s struggles earlier.

Although I missed signs, I never got down on myself when I realized I could have done better and I never lost sight that Aaron could have done more on his part. As my Dad used to say, ‘It takes two to tango.’ What I did do is turn this into a learning opportunity and a way to get closer to my son. 

What I hope you take away from this story is that, especially in these difficult times, take time to check on your ‘strong friends’ (or kids). Those in your life who you perceive as having it all figured out, those in your life who are usually the ones taking care of others, those in your life who are usually crushing it at school, work and life… They may need you.

I also hope you walk away with this: You’re human. You’re not going to be that ‘perfect’ parent or that ‘perfect’ friend or colleague. You’re going to miss some signs and some moments, and that’s okay.

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation if you’re struggling with mental health: “I will come through this challenge with a better understanding of myself. I deserve help and feel confident asking for it.” Here’s an affirmation for those who have missed signs from loved ones: “I did the best I could yesterday and today.

PPS – Are there people in your life who always seem strong and put together, but perhaps there’s more happening underneath the surface? Let’s focus on pinpointing signs of help or distress in others. Here’s a journal prompt: Jot down the names of a few of these seemingly strong people. Then, consider the last time you interacted with each of them and consider the list above in my blog post. Were you present and invested in the conversation? Were you genuinely curious about how they were and did you probe/ask questions? How would you describe your involvement in their lives in the past couple months? Based on these reflections, what can you do now to show them you are there if they need you?

8 tips to bring more love into your relationship

Today is Ron and I’s 15th wedding anniversary. Our lives are filled with hikes and neighborhood walks together (with Charlie of course), us rooting our son Aaron on at football or wrestling events, excursions to new and familiar places, support and encouragement, amazing friends who come over for dinner and cornhole, and kisses on the lips that say more than words ever could.  Proudly, we are deeply in love, more connected and have never been happier.

We’ve experienced a lot together: family deaths, traveling, the joys and struggles of parenting, relationship challenges, and moving over 1,000 miles away from a state we called home for years. Although we are bouncing on cloud 9 together, that hasn’t always been true. There were times when we slept in different beds, lied to each other, spewed nasty comments and practically lived different lives. There were times when we were so close to divorce, we arranged separate living situations.

We’re together now and stronger because we made the choice, day-in and day-out, to be better people for ourselves and for our marriage. How did we do that? We put in the hard work. Over the years, I’ve learned to tame my outbursts (I have my Dad’s Irish temper), calm my desire to work 24/7, and release my unfair expectations of Ron to share my exact energy, passions, wants and viewpoints. In return, Ron has had to open up and communicate his feelings more, find things he’s passionate about, and put more effort into bringing spontaneity and romance into our relationship.

Carving out time for us, talking vulnerably and trying new things – all while getting rid of the habits that no longer served us – has led to us celebrating 15 years of marriage and the strong belief there’s so many more to come.

While I don’t claim love guru status, I’ve learned a lot over the years. In honor of my anniversary and Valentine’s Day (Ohhh, how I love LOVE), here’s my 8 tips to bring more openness to your relationship, or to prepare for a special relationship coming your way (it’s coming, I promise, just stay open):

  1. Love yourself. It’s that simple. You’ll never be able to truly love someone else until you love yourself. (How do you start loving yourself, you ask? Read on!)
  2. Learn from the past, let it go and move on. This means forgiving yourself, forgiving your partner and focusing on who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow as a couple.
  3. Make time for love. Our lives are busy. Just like we schedule time for a doctor’s appointment or to hit the gym, we need to do the same for love: a dinner date, TV and snuggle time or whatever else floats your boat. If it’s not scheduled, it may not happen.
  4. Have a life outside of your relationship. Being close doesn’t have to mean spending all of your time with your partner. A strong relationship should focus on quality over quantity.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your friends on Instagram have heart-eyes; the lead in your fave TV show has the love life you’ve been dreaming of… it’s hard not to compare. But your relationship is uniquely yours. Only you and your partner decide what it should look like.
  6. Embrace day-to-day conflict. Healthy conflict can be good; it’s a release, a way to get to know each other and find deeper understanding. If you try to avoid conflict, the little things fester and eventually become big things… and that’s when the explosion happens. Try changing your perspective to appreciate the quick spats and disagreements.
  7. Check in with each other frequently beyond ‘How are you?’ Every few months, have conversations about how the relationship is going, what’s working well and what could be better. Be honest about the progress you’ve made and what your relationship goals are for the upcoming months.
  8. Know when to say goodbye. Not all relationships are meant to last. Sometimes the best thing we can do for a relationship (and for ourselves) is to leave, taking with us the memories and lessons so we are more open for love moving forward. 

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to let more love into your life: “I am worthy of love. I am worthy of knock-my-socks off love. I’m open to receiving it; I’m open to creating it.

PPS – Let’s get you thinking about how you perceive love. Here’s a writing prompt: What makes you feel loved? Is it words of affirmation? Maybe receiving thoughtful gifts? Think about times in your life when you’ve felt loved, then take some time to describe those special times. Reflect on these moments and consider: are the things that make you feel loved similar to the way you express your love to others? Why or why not? How could you better understand what makes others feel loved?

Happy birthday to me and YOU

Tomorrow is my birthday. I may or may not be telling you this so you send me over some birthday love – or cake, I love cake. I’ll be 36. Yes, I know this is a shocker as I look a lot more like 25. Okay fine, 27.

Anyways…

My birthday celebration is starting today. I had my husband Ron take the day off so we could get in some me-and-him time. Here’s the itinerary:

  • Get the kids and dog to school/daycare
  • Take a long stroll on the Tampa RiverWalk to check out the Super Bowl Experience stuff (Go Bucs!)
  • Enjoy avocado toast and a London Fog at the Oxford Exchange (where I hope to buy myself lots of tea and books)
  • Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park (I hope we see lots of manatees!)
  • Whatever else comes our way

On Saturday (my actual birthday), I don’t know what we’ll do, but I’m sure it will be amazing – no pressure, right Ron ;)?

I’m thrilled for the festivities, can you tell?

Although I’m excited about my b-day, what I’m most excited about is that I’m excited. Let me explain. You see, there’s been many birthdays spent either fearing turning another year older or feeling shame for not accomplishing what I thought I should that year. Frankly, there have been birthdays (and years) I didn’t have a lot of zest for life and wasn’t too stoked to celebrate the fact I was living (thank you, depression). Now that things are different – now that I’m different – these low-vibing thoughts don’t surround my birthday.

When I think back to what’s changed, here’s what I came up with:

  • I’m closer to myself and I like who I am. This took years of healing old traumas, forgiving myself and others, journaling, connecting with my spiritual side, getting healthier physically, emotionally and mentally;
  • My relationship with death has evolved. I’m no longer scared of death and don’t view life as an hourglass of sand slowly spent to the last grain;
  • My perspective on getting older has changed. I now consider my wisdom and crow’s feet a beautiful blessing. With each year that passes, I am grateful for opportunities to share my experiences and to settle into a fuller version of me (like a bottle of fine wine. Hmmm… Am I more of a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Riesling or perhaps something else?);
  • I stopped using my birthday as a goalpost marker to evaluate my accomplishments. Now, I use it as a way to celebrate life: nature, art, love – The things that matter most  

Hopefully you’ll be able to put what worked for me in practice (if it calls to you of course) so when your birthday rolls around you can enjoy it fully. If your birthday isn’t for a bit, print this out or cut and paste it into your calendar so you have it.

Happy Birthday!

Did you enjoy this blog?  An even better gift than cake would be you sharing it with your community. Feel free to forward it to them, and they can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to use on your birthday (or any day you need a reminder that life and you are beautiful “I was born for a reason. Life is extraordinary and I add to its magnificence.

PPS – To gain a clearer sense of everything you’ve brought to the world, grab your journal. Here’s a writing prompt: Instead of looking back on just one year, look back on the last seven. What have you experienced? How have you grown? What are you grateful for? How have you made the word a better place?

I nominated myself and you should too

Towards the end of last year, Hillsborough Community College where I’m a business instructor, recognized me as a finalist for their Champion of Diversity Award. I was and am still honored. I promote diversity and inclusion in a variety of ways: sharing my unique life stories as an at-risk youth with my students, conducting research on diverse populations, writing on topics that promote a deeper understanding of the human experience, inviting a range of talented and diverse speakers into my classroom, creating programs and opportunities for those in need, volunteering at nonprofits that support underprivileged groups. The list proudly goes on and on.

Given everything I do to further diversity and inclusion, I wasn’t shocked to receive the recognition but there’s also another reason I wasn’t shocked: I asked my boss to nominate me.  

That’s right. This amazing award didn’t just fall into my lap like many people like to believe (or tell you). Not only did I do the hard work to have the credentials to be considered, I also advocated for myself to be nominated. I knew I deserved to be considered for the award; I knew the value I brought to the college and the community, and I also knew that my peers and my boss may not know about all my efforts.  

I drafted out the reasons why I should be nominated and sent my boss a note asking him to consider nominating me if he felt I was deserving. Within minutes, he wrote back excitedly that he’d be delighted to nominate me. Over the next few days, I worked on my nomination form with a friend, and sent it to my boss for feedback.

The point here is simple: If you want something, go get it. Yes, I absolutely believe in the magic of luck and good things happening to good people (thank you Law of Attraction), but I also believe we need to own our journeys and not wait for others or the universe to hand us what we want. I believe we need to be active co-creators in accomplishing our goals. To do that, we need to stand up tall and forge our paths, unafraid to shine our lights and show others what we are truly capable of achieving.

I want you to leave with this: There’s no reason to be shy or embarrassed for wanting to promote yourself and share your accomplishments with the world. Yes, there are times you will get rejected. Yes, there are times people will judge you for putting yourself out there, but you know what? These things don’t matter. What matters is that you show up for yourself. What matters is that the world needs more role models like YOU and every time you get yourself noticed, you inspire others.

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help give you confidence to advocate for yourself: “The world is a better place when my light shines brightly. I courageously promote myself when it benefits me and others.

PPS – To get comfortable advocating for yourself, grab your journal. Here’s a writing prompt: What could you do this week to get your hard work recognized? Brainstorm a list of at least 10 ideas and then choose one and make it happen.

What if death wasn’t morbid?

A few months ago, during a Compensation and Benefits class I was teaching, I encouraged students to ‘think outside the box’ when it came to the benefits they’d like to see their employers offer on top of the standards such as health insurance and 401k contribution. Students responded with ideas such as,

“Free meals!”
“Free parking!”
“Pet insurance!”

As they responded, I pondered over my answer. I said excitedly, “What about funeral planning?”

The class fell silent as quickly as flicking a switch. One student exclaimed, “That sounds morbid.”

I was confused by her response. In my mind, my funeral would be a festive party, a large celebration of life: Family, friends, students and clients sharing stories about me, some funny and some triumphant. Hors d’oeuvres passed around, champagne flowing. People who felt I’d touched their lives in some way walked around smiling, looking at photos of me with my family and chatting over posters that proudly displayed my writing, my book covers and other mementos of my life’s work. The lyrics of Tom Petty and Taylor Swift swirled about the room. I saw guests bringing toy donations for the local hospital and leaving with a small token of appreciation, like a picture frame donning an inspiring quote.

I looked at the student, her face expressionless, and then it hit me: Death to her is different than it is to me.

I guessed that death, in her mind, was scary, somber, and probably marked finality. I used to feel the same, but I now believe that death allows us to come home, that our soul lives on and we continue to communicate with those still in human form. We come to Earth again when we are ready.

My belief that there is something more beyond our deaths has expanded my understanding and acceptance of an imminent life event. While death may mark the end of life on Earth, it doesn’t mean my soul’s purpose fails to live on. Proof exists in those who attend my funeral; my everlasting purpose thrives in those who feel I’ve made a difference in their lives.

Since expanding my view of death, my life has shifted. I’m no longer worried about doing things ‘the right way’ and I don’t carry nearly as much regret knowing I’ll have a chance to do it all again in another life.

Thinking about planning my funeral and taking away some of the family burdens that came with that planning sounded fun, it sounded ‘me’. Afterall, I’m a Type A personality. Why not plan my own last “hoorah!” and have it funded by my employer.

This isn’t to say that death isn’t tragic and filled with grief – I empathized with my student. Death is unknown, mysterious, and flat-out hard, but I believe it can be more than just its inherent gloom. It’s a chance to connect with our intuition and our soul. A time to get curious and challenge our assumptions about life and death (and funerals) handed down to us. At my funeral, the last thing I want is people wearing black; I want everyone wearing an inspirational quote on a t-shirt and hope I’m buried in something cheerful and bright.

With the tremendous loss of life the world experienced in 2020, I want to challenge your thinking when it comes to death. What if death could be beautiful? What if death could be accepted? If you could change your perspective of death, how would the decisions you make in your life change?

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,
Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you open up to the idea of death, “Death does not break the bond of love.”

PPS – To get comfortable with death and grief, you need to think about it differently. Here are two different writing prompts, depending on what you want to focus on: Death: Write your own obituary. Aim for it to be truthful, vulnerable and light-hearted. Be sure to give yourself at least 3 kudos by highlighting some of your amazing life accomplishments and talents. To widen your perspective of death further, try adding some comedic flair. Grief: Write a letter to yourself from the person you are mourning. What would they say to you? What advice and kudos would they give you? What have they been doing to have fun?

The Power of Opening Up

During an advanced career workshop I facilitated a few months ago, one of the attendees (we’ll call him Tim) raised his hand. “You may be surprised by this question, but do you have any advice for when and how to inform my potential employer of a few felonies I have? I never know what to do with that in the interview process.” Tim then gave us some backstory to his predicament.

Tim was someone I’d met a few weeks prior. I found him to be charismatic, driven and flat-out talented. He was working towards a certificate in cybersecurity, working two jobs, and with all those positive characteristics, it’d be hard to associate him with crime. But I wasn’t surprised by his question, not the least bit. Why? Because I have also made mistakes and some less-than-ideal choices.

At age 13, I found myself on probation. The answer to how I actually got on probation is a story for another time, but how that experience shaped me is my point of human connection with Tim. The dark paths I’ve walked down (hell, some I’ve ran down and sadly, some I was pushed down) are the reason I’m so passionate about helping others explore their darkness, learn from it and then release it so they can step into their new selves, into their light, into their true selves.

After the workshop, I emailed Tim: “You were brave and inspiring today. Keep sharing your story. The right people will listen. Thank you for helping to break stereotypes. Thank you for not giving up on yourself and humanity.”

Tim wrote back: “I don’t normally open up like that, but I went with the energy in the room. Thanks for creating a culture of nonjudgement.”

Tim’s words left me misty-eyed and they got me thinking.  How do I create an open and inclusive culture?

Here’s what I came up with:

Be vulnerable. Share your story: You don’t need a gripping “I had a run-in with the law and turned it all around” story to promote an unbiased and accepting environment. We all have stories of adversity and struggle: Speak your truth so others feel comfortable doing the same.

Get curious: Listen to people. Truly listen. Ask questions about others and promote opportunities for people to ask you questions; the real questions, the questions that matter; the ones that could profoundly change someone’s life (like Tim’s question).

Don’t take yourself or life too seriously: Humor, levity, shooting the shit, whatever you call it – it’s healing and helps others not take themselves too seriously. Judgement comes from a place of closed-mindedness; humor (if done right) comes from a place of lightness. If you want people to feel open, then add some whimsy.

Vibe high: People pick up on energy. They can tell if something feels right and if something feels off. Do what you can to ensure you’re giving off the right energy. Keep yourself balanced, honest and healthy.

If you’d like to engage with an open and inclusive culture, check out my Dark Night of the Soul = A Life Found workshop series starting 1/7. It would be great to have you with us. You’ll join a strong community filled with people ready to get raw and real with their darkness – through sharing, listening and connecting – so the light can shine again.

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe here

Sincerely,

Danielle

PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you along your ‘I’m going to create a culture of nonjudgement’ journey: “I increase my energy by choosing to love rather than judge. I expand my energy by giving love, receiving love, and promoting love.”

PPS – Tap into the power of nonjudgement. Think back to a time when someone chose not to judge you. Perhaps it was something as simple as your appearance, or maybe a moment you chose to reveal a deep truth about yourself (like Tim). Spend a few minutes journaling. Here’s a prompt: Write a letter to the person who didn’t judge you. Would you thank them? How did their act of nonjudgement positively impact your life?

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 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?

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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?