An Open Letter to the One Who Teaches Me to Love Again

Perhaps I should start by saying thank you. Even though it was really just ideal timing or circumstances and a chance meeting of two people in this large, crazy universe. But, thank you anyways. For your patience and understanding while I mended my heart. Maybe we knew each other in that time or maybe we did not. Either way, I am grateful for the divine intervention that brought us together.

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There are some things you must know, going into this. I will love you with my whole entire being and give nearly everything of myself to ensure your happiness, our happiness. However, after my most painful heartbreak, I have learned that I will not lose myself within this relationship because now I know, without a doubt, that I am strong enough to stand on my own. I am independent, stubborn, and sassier than I am willing to admit most times, but also selfless, kind-hearted and compassionate. But if you’re all in, I’m all in too. And together, we can shape this into the beautiful story I know it can be.

Our relationship will take work and it will get messy, but perfection is boring. I am brutally honest and will tell you what’s on my mind. When we get into an argument, I won’t back down until I have shared everything that is in my heart. But, at the end of the day, love is more important than being right, so at times we may have to agree to disagree.

Photo Credit: CelebrateQuotes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CelebrateQuotes via Compfight cc

When I’m feeling unsure of myself, I might just need a little direction and guidance. A reminder that I’m not (completely) crazy for chasing my dreams and that what I have to offer this world is beautiful and unique. I need somebody to be brave for me. To recognize those times where, even though it may seem I have it together on the outside, I am falling apart on the inside. I promise to lift you up in your moments of doubt, as well as remind you of all the reasons I fell in love with you. Because that’s what a real love story is, falling for somebody every single day, even on the days where it seems impossible. It isn’t a fairytale with princesses and knights in shining armor, but a willingness from both sides to truly see the other person. Pretty much saying, “You have your flaws, hey me too. But I’m willing to love you in spite of them. Because what you give to this world and our relationship is something I don’t ever want to be without.”

Be careful with my heart ok? I am trusting and choose to see the good in others, until given a reason not to. Maybe that makes me naive, but I certainly don’t plan on changing. I would like this to work out, but even if it didn’t, I would still be grateful for all that I have gained. But mostly, for reminding me that I am able to love. And yes, I have a love for myself, my family and friends. The love of a relationship though? That’s different. It is a vulnerability so raw and honest, most people don’t even dream of allowing themselves to get that close to someone. But you? You brought that out in me. You taught me that being broken isn’t a flaw because having a few cracks only allows more light and love to shine through.

Bending Without Breaking: Finding Myself After Loss

Thirty days they said. You were speechless, angry, hurting and scared. It seemed unfathomable that an entire life of this beautiful human being was now being put into a measly number. This was not it. This was not how it was supposed to be.

You watched her body transform into someone you didn’t recognize. You took care of her during those last two weeks. You gave her one last hug and cocooned her in love before you left, knowing this was the last time. You got the phone call before boarding your plane home. The one you knew was coming. You felt every happy feeling you’ve ever had physically leave your body.

You spent countless nights bawling on your bedroom floor until you could hardly breathe, over not only the loss of your parent but also the loss of somebody you loved. The person that was supposed to be there during all of this. The one that was going to hold you until the pain subsided, at least for a little while. There were times you could hardly make it through your days at the office because the sadness of so much loss in so little time was too much to bear. I bet you remember, because you were there. That was you.

You didn’t think you could make it. Getting out of bed and just going through the motions of every day life seemed out of the question. The days, weeks, and months seemed endless. How long could this go on? When would I be able to breathe again? There is absolutely no way you can survive this.

Remember how alone you felt? Drowning in an ocean of grief that nobody around you could understand. But you persevered. You learned that even though the people around you might not have the same experience, they will listen, and that’s what you really needed. You just needed to know that somebody was there. They would be your buoys until you were strong enough to swim on your own.

Caterpillar

Photo Credit: beautifulxstruggle via Compfight cc

You didn’t believe you would be standing here one day. That you would be reflecting back on who that woman was, and the places she came back from. But look at you my beautiful butterfly, you are here, you are standing, and you are stronger than you ever dreamed you could be.

Be Better, Feel Better, Heal Better

I believe there are moments that shape us and mold us. Times in our lives where we are challenged by our circumstances, and the decisions we make in the aftermath of such circumstances can have lasting effects. After losing my stepmom to ovarian cancer, not long afterwards, a relationship with somebody I loved very dearly came to an end. All within only a few weeks of each other. In those first couple of months, it seemed almost impossible to see any sort of light or hope. Everything felt incredibly heavy in that dark place. Some days, I wasn’t sure I would ever get out.

“When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Learning how to grieve and mourn while being overwhelmed by such sadness and loss has been a struggle for me. Perhaps it sounds crazy, but I feel it has opened up my heart even more. The coping process of grief is something we never need to think about, until we are in it. And that is what I mean when I say my heart is more open. Coping during darkness can come from a dark place within ourselves. Therefore, I feel I cannot judge how others deal with their pain during that time. (This is by no means any sort of acceptance of self-harm or inflicting pain on others, but merely an understanding of the places we can sink into. If you or somebody you know needs help, please contact the proper authorities right away.)

I have an amazing support system surrounding me, consisting of family and friends that love me, who have been by my side throughout all of this. I consider myself beyond blessed for this, because going through this alone is something I can’t even begin to imagine. It is easy to get lost in this place of darkness and uncertainty, to make yourself at home because the thought of anything else might just drive you mad. To actually deal with the feelings going on inside? No thanks sir. I’ll just take the next right at Distraction Land and stay for as long as possible. Maybe pay a visit to Repressionville while I’m at it. Because anything else is just too damn painful.

This works for a bit, distracting yourself and whatnot, until you get sick of it. You wake up one day with the realization of time lost and the nagging feeling that you aren’t the person you were before. At least, that’s how it was for me. So, I did what anybody would do in such a state. I made a pinky promise to myself (with a witness to such an event) to make changes. To find the woman that I had lost. My exact words that evening were, “I make a pinky promise to Heather Reid. To be better, feel better and heal better.” That was it. Three little phrases that summed up so much.

Be better to myself by being kind and accepting of my current emotional state, not judging feelings as they arise. Feel better by putting better things into my body, practicing more yoga and meditation. Finally, I knew that a combination of the first two would allow me to heal better. It isn’t something that will happen overnight and I wouldn’t expect it to. It will still hurt, as the pain of loss never really goes away. But, we can find ways to deal with it in a healthy way and to be accepting of our current situation. Wishing for things to go back to the way they were doesn’t do us any good. Instead, it makes it easier for us to be disconnected to the present because we are so caught up in past pain.

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There is nothing wrong with being sad, upset or lost. In fact, those are the times when we discover who we truly are. The moments of discomfort or pain don’t define you, they will only allow you to grow. Breathe through it. Accept it. Embrace it. Don’t label your feelings. Lean on the people who love you and remember, it won’t last forever. You’ll know when you’re ready to move past the hurt and start working on the best version of you again. You will be so thankful for the strong and unstoppable force of nature that will come out on the other side of all this. I know I am.

Why Solo Travel is Good for the Soul – Part 2

Earlier this week, I wrote about my trip to Nelson, BC. As a follow-up to that, I’d like to point out the top 5 key areas of my life that have benefited from travel, thus why I fully support solo travel (or really any type of travel for that matter):

1) Personal growth – There is nothing that will develop you more culturally and as a human being on this planet than travel. It will open up your eyes to different ways of life and instill in you a feeling like no other. You begin to realize just how big our world really is and that we all play a small part. But, lots of people playing small parts can make a big difference.

2) Humility – This sort of ties into the first one. You gain a sense of appreciation for where you came from and where you have yet to go. And, you recognize that it is perfectly alright to ask for directions every now and then.

3) Spontaneity – I made decisions during my trips that I maybe wouldn’t have made before. I even took nearby trips on a whim just because! I truly feel that I owe much of my attitude of living in the moment to travel. Life doesn’t need to be about the hustle and bustle of an 8 – 5 that you dread, you can do something you love and to hell with what everyone else thinks.

4) Creativity – Things don’t always go according to plan and you might have to improvise. This is true not only in travel, but also in life. Things change and that’s ok. Make a new plan. Roll with the punches. Life will go on. And who knows, maybe that detour made your experience a heck of a lot better.

5) Independence – There is something to be said for going on an excursion by yourself, whether it’s near or far from home. Even the making of the decision can be so…freeing. Nothing and nobody to hold you back from whatever sort of plans you want to make. Try something new. Find your favorite dish. Figure out your signature drink. Discover what it is in this world that you absolutely love. Taking that time with just yourself really allows you to gain an understanding for who you are as a person.

So, what are you waiting for already? Grab that passport, get your ticket and start exploring friends!

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Why Solo Travel is Good for the Soul – Part 1

If you talk to any of my friends or family, they might tell you I’m a little bit….in the moment at times. I see this as part of what makes me Heather and am completely in love with it. (And yes, you have permission to be in love with yourself. I promise, you won’t regret it.) I follow my heart, wherever it leads me. I don’t label this characteristic as good or bad because I find that it guides me to wherever I am meant to be. If you have been following my blog, you know this year has been extremely difficult. I started Exhale Gratitude as a way to cope with everything that was going on and also as part of my year of self-discovery.

One of the decisions I made during this time was to do more traveling. Everybody keeps telling me to go while I’m young and I keep putting it off for whatever reasons I can come up with. And now, I am making it happen. It makes me excited and a little nervous, but mostly incredibly happy.

My first trip to kick off this little venture was to……Canada. Yes, you did read that correctly! I decided to take a trip to our friends in the North and visit the lovely little town of Nelson, located in British Columbia. I decided on Nelson after looking on Airbnb and finding a place to stay on a sailboat. Staying on a boat was not something I had done before and I thought waking up on the water surrounded by beauty would be a nice getaway. (Not to mention that between a full time and part-time job this would be my first day off in 36 days. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe it.)

Away I went on a Thursday afternoon in July, the day before the 3rd to be exact. I couldn’t think of a better way to begin my trip than by listening to the audio book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. You might think that’s dorky, but I found it delightful. So, with Liz recounting her journey of solo travel and a bottle of water at my side (it was insanely hot that day, close to 100° from what I remember), I headed to Canada.

Box Canyon Dam and Pend Oreille River

I traveled via the North Pend Oreille (pronounced PAWN-DER-AY, as I quickly learned upon moving here) Scenic Byway and what a lovely sight it was. After living in Washington for almost 2 years, I have seen quite a bit of beauty, but had only begun to touch on the surface of what this state has to offer. The byway follows the Pend Oreille River and is surrounded by the Colville National Forest. Breathtaking views is an understatement.

Sweet Creek Falls

Sweet Creek Falls

I stood overlooking Box Canyon Dam and realized how I am one tiny speck in this vast beauty surrounding us. I was grateful. I pulled off to visit Sweet Creek Falls and made the short trek to the waterfalls. While standing there, in complete silence, I was in awe. The water flowing through the falls was there long before we were, and will continue to flow long after we are gone. Nature just knows what to do. I drove along the Pend Oreille River and was almost in happy tears. I could not believe how lucky I was. Despite the pain and loss I’ve felt this year, this journey was a reminder of the abundant blessings that still fill my life.

I drove through the border and entered Canada. (Word of advice: Pepper spray is considered a weapon and it will be confiscated.)  I was actually excited to switch my car over to kilometers! Nelson was precisely as I had pictured it. Quaint and cozy, with a small town feel. I parked my car next to Kootenay Lake and walked to the Prestige Lakeside Resort. My host was meeting me on the marina right off of the resort. I had time for a little snack so I ordered the Smoked Salmon Flatbread and took in views of the lake while I waited.

My gorgeous view

My gorgeous view

My host was welcoming and gracious. It wasn’t very windy that day so there wasn’t much sailing, but we did chat over a beer. While talking to my host, I remembered that this was my favorite reason to travel. I absolutely loved making connections with people, no matter where they were from. It turns out my host had a pretty interesting story, and now I have a Canadian friend! (Even if he did convince me to jump in the freezing cold lake, which he ensured me was “quite warm.”)

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Kootenay Lake

To wrap up my evening in Nelson, I had a delightful martini at the Library Lounge, located in the Hume Hotel, followed by fish and chips at a local place nearby. I headed back to the boat and was taken aback, not only by the amazing star-filled sky above me, but also by the quiet and beauty surrounding me. I felt so at peace and remember thinking how great it was to feel that way again. It had been much too long. I thought, after everything that had come my way this year, I was still here. For me, that was enough. I truly hope everybody has the chance to experience the abundance of joy and love that fills you when you view the world with a grateful heart. It is beyond words. I awoke in the morning to the gentle rocking of the water and did some writing before leaving the marina. I was off to start my day and had about 6 hours before I had to head home!

"Rocks of Doom" on the left as I title them

“Rocks of Doom” on the left as I title them

My itinerary for the day was pretty much planned out. Thanks to my fantastic host! I started off with coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Oso Negro. (Will definitely stop there again next time I am back!) Then, after wandering the shops for a bit, I was heading to hike Pulpit Rock. I was told by my host that this was a “glamour hike.” Therefore, I did not put on appropriate footwear. Glamour hike? Ha! For the Canadians perhaps. It was about 90 degrees outside and this 1.6 km (roughly 1 mile) trek was very steep. Never in my life had I been so happy to see the 1.5 km sign. I was almost done! I finally made it to the top and the incredible view made it all worth it. After heading back down, I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Rel-ish Bistro, followed by ice cream for dessert. It was time to head home. Though my outing to Nelson was short, I was definitely in need of time to recharge. Sometimes, a different perspective is all it takes to remind us of what we have right in front of us.

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View from the top of Pulpit Rock