This post is part of Dana Gatziolis’s Glow School Blog Tour, where 20 amazing women bloggers teamed up to spread some love. Check out the full list!
I was contacted by my fellow blogger/lover-of-life, Dana Gatziolis, several weeks ago about this Glow Tour she was hosting, and I am so excited to be a part of it. Our main focus is to share life experiences and any advice we might have about living a life that glows. What has happened to us to get us to this point? How do we remain positive? Many of the stories from the women in this tour have been stories of triumph, stories of how they made it through the scariest parts of their lives and lived to tell about it. My story is by no means the scariest, but it’s the part of my life that has brought me to my current place in this world, and in a weird way, it’s the reason I try harder to truly live.
In August of 2014, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an auto-immune disease that makes my own immune system attack my nervous system, which causes damage over time. It can cause numbness or tingling in my hands and legs, and when I have a flare-up (which hasn’t been for about a year now), I have to take steroids to deal with the inflammation and stop the process of the flare-up. You can read the full story of my diagnosis here, but to give you a quick review, I was diagnosed and my immediate reaction was “We have to move home.” That was literally the text I sent to my husband as I sat in the waiting room to have blood tests. I knew instantly that we needed to move back to West Virginia. This move set into motion everything that embodies my life right now.
After my diagnosis, I took a good week to mope around my apartment, do research on the disease and figure out a game plan with my husband. Just a few weeks ago, he and I were talking about this time in our lives, and I told him that when I first told him I wanted to move home, it wasn’t out of fear. It wasn’t because I was so incredibly afraid that I wanted to run home, it was just the right thing to do. It wasn’t a decision I made out of desperation, it was God telling me what to do. Plain as day.
After we moved home, I had to look for work, yet again, while also dealing with my new diagnosis, trying to get settled into a new house and running my first half marathon. It was a chaotic time, for sure. However, I felt healthy, I was doing yoga pretty regularly, and I was finally home with my family. As for work, I decided to get my certification to be a substitute teacher. After working a couple of long-term positions, I realized something: I’m kind of good at this.
I had never thought of being a teacher before, but after being in that position for several months, I could feel a shift happening in my life. Things would get really messy before they got better, but I could still feel God working something out for me. I have never felt this way about anything in my life ever before, so I knew it was something real. Over the course of less than a year, I had:
– Received my substitute teacher certification
– Had a relapse with my MS and had to take IV steroids for three days
– Landed a long-term sub position teaching English and Journalism
– Fallen in love with teaching my amazing students
– Found a good routine
– Lost my job because it ended up being bid out
– Had to leave my students halfway through the year
– Enrolled in graduate school to get my full-time certificate
– Started back to college life (still subbing one day a week)
– Landed a GA position so school would be free
– Began taking three English classes
– Fell back in love with literature
So here we are. I am a student again and I am surprised at how much I love being on campus. And I’m realizing every day, more and more, that if I hadn’t been diagnosed, if I hadn’t moved home or been heartbroken by a job or had to deal with all of this hardship, I wouldn’t have found my way to something I love. In making it through all of this, I’ve learned to trust that it’s part of a plan, stay the path and remain focused and glowing.
When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, naturally you have that moment where you think “Oh my god, I just want to LIVE.” Compared to some other types of MS, mine is actually pretty manageable. I don’t have pain all the time, I am completely mobile, I just have to manage my symptoms with medication every day and watch for flare-ups, which just means that parts of my body might go numb. Nonetheless, I will still have this disease looming over me for the rest of my life, and I feel the only way to combat that is to just worry about living. Like, REALLY living.
Here are some of the things that keep me positive and glowing that you could implement into your own life.
I’ve written about yoga several times, recruited my loved ones to classes and expressed to anyone feeling stressed to just try it. It has helped me with so much more than flexibility and balance, and has deepened my ability to trust in a bigger entity. If you are afraid to try yoga, I encourage you to just try it once and see what you think, but make sure you leave your baggage at the door. You just need your body and a mat. Concentrate on your breathing and what your body is doing, and don’t get discouraged if you can’t do something. You’re probably not going to be asked to get into a handstand at your first class, so don’t fret! Just go.
Trust in something bigger than you.
I was raised in a very traditional Christian Baptist background, so I learned about God at a very young age. Those times set up my spiritual foundation, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve come to know God in a different way. My beliefs and ideals are essentially the same, but I’ve grown in those beliefs and ideals. I learned that as long as I’m doing what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing, then I can’t worry about everyone else. Everyone is on a different path, and if mine looks different, I have to be at peace with that. Believing in something bigger than me is what gets me through the hardest times of my life. Being a control freak, it’s difficult to let go sometimes, but knowing that someone else is in control is helpful. And comforting.
Meditate + Pray.
These go hand in hand with the two tips above, and they go hand in hand with each other! When I go to yoga classes, I try to meditate on something specific, and at the end of class, I pray about it. What is the difference in meditating and prayer? Not much, actually. I consider meditating a way of clearing my mind and concentrating on something I want to happen. For example, I recently meditated on where I want this blog to take me. It’s sort of like when athletes practice visualization. I visualized attending Alt Summit and having my business dreams come true. My meditation was just thinking about this happening a few years down the road and imagining all of the creative ways I could get there. I meditated on the positive things I would accomplish by making this happen. And then at the end of practice, when we are all in Savasana, I prayed about it. I prayed that God would help me get there, keep me motivated, guide me. Meditation and prayer don’t have to be scary!
Find your people.
This is the biggest one for me. I have the most loving, supportive group of family and friends, and they are the arms that hold me up when I’m falling down. I have realized over the years that I am super lucky in this department. Not everyone has super supportive family, but even if you don’t, there is a group of people somewhere in the world that is into the same stuff you are. Are you into crocheting cat sweaters? There’s a group for that. Join forces via this thing we call the Internet and find your tribe. Having a supportive circle of people will keep you motivated to make your dreams happen and make your life joyful. Speaking of joy…
Keep what brings your joy.
Last year, I read this book that changed my perspective on my home and my life. If it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out. I have found that this applies to anything from tupperware to jobs to coffee. (My husband will drink whatever kind of coffee there is, even if its terrible. My friend and I denounced this belief because life is too short for shitty coffee!) Furthermore, I have learned to say no when I need to and stop holding onto things for the “what if” moments. What if I need this later? What if that fits again one day? What if they get angry with me? These things do not serve you in this moment, so toss them. Why have a life full of things that might bring you joy one day? Don’t you just want a life that brings you joy right now? This philosophy has helped me in so many ways, and while there are always exceptions (for example, I currently hate my bed, but I have to wait until we can afford a new one, because no one wants to sleep on the floor), but just using this as a general rule of thumb for your life can be really helpful. Whatever changes need to be made to bring more joy into your life, work on taking steps toward them.
Go on adventures.
This past year, I traveled to Bald Head Island, Myrtle Beach, the Outer Banks, Louisville, Austin and Marfa, Texas, Nashville (this time and this time) and The Greenbrier. I saw Kacey Musgraves in concert at my favorite theater in Huntington, went to Marshall football games, attended a wine class, attended a beer class, met my favorite yogi, and saw my favorite band with my favorite people. I didn’t go out of the country last year, but I still had plenty of adventures. Life is not about spending money to go to the swankiest, most exotic places, it’s about having experiences that help you grow and fill you up. Do the things you’ve been dreaming of doing. Quit your dead-end job. Save up to take that road trip. Move to a new city to follow your dreams (I’m looking at you, Dana!) Go somewhere you’ve never been, even if its within your own state. Of course, you might not be able to do ALL the things you want to do immediately, but taking active steps toward those adventures will make it all worth it in the end.
I hope these tips bring you inspiration and comfort through whatever you’re dealing with in life, and above all else, I hope you strive for a life that glows.
Yesterday, Kristi Snyder shared how therapy helped her find herself, and I’m excited to read Amy Fiedler’s post tomorrow as we wrap up the Glow School Blog Tour! On February 1st, Dana’s Glow School will begin! You can sign up here!