It’s a beautiful New Year’s Day morning, 2020.
Maybe it’s beautiful because the sun is shining, the sky is clear, and the weather is one degree above freezing.
… Or maybe it’s beautiful because 2019 is finally over.
Another year—and an entire decade—are gone.
For me, 2019 was a year of fighting “demons” and finding “angels”—and not just in the spiritual sense, but in every possible way: my relationships, my business, my pole life, my health, and my home.
Real Relationships: What Love Is and Isn’t
As I reflect on the last year, I could complain for the next 2,000 words about how 2019 was in the top three worst years of my entire life; rather, I will share what I learned and how I saught resolutions with the hope that you as readers will take away something valuable to help you in your own life.
Love is such a difficult thing to understand.
It shouldn’t be, but it is.
They say love never fails… but is that true? And if it does fail, then was it ever really, really love? Can love also be disguised as a demon?
I would love to believe that love is just that: love. However, I have learned—and been reminded more than once—what love isn’t.
Love Shouldn’t Hurt: The Many Forms of Abuse
This year I learned that REAL love shouldn’t hurt—emotionally or physically.
Of course, emotional pain is a part of any relationship. It’s kind of par for the course. I’m referring to the many forms of abuse.
Abuse doesn’t have to always be physical; it can be verbal and emotional. Trying to control or manipulate someone to get them to follow, act, or behave according to one’s own interests, needs, or beliefs is considered abuse.
A partner might disguise this to make the other feel “loved”, but really it’s a lie—a demon.
My last three relationships were abusive in one or multiple forms: physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual.
I constantly reflect on myself and think: Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why do men feel like they can take advantage of and hurt me? What am I doing wrong?
I have since stopped trying to answer these questions. I have learned that I can’t control how others act. I can’t control the demons that live within another person. I can’t control others’ selfish and destructive patterns and behaviors, even if those patterns and behaviors have a cumulative effect on me.
Saying goodbye to this relationship also meant I had to say goodbye to others—family, mutual friends, and neighbors, which was probably the hardest part of all.
No, it’s not right. And, no, it’s definitely not fair. But I’ve had to let all of it go, walk away, and move on.
Yes, it was by far one of the most difficult decisions I had to make in my life. But most often, the most difficult decisions are often the right ones.
What Love Is…
“Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.” —Henri J.M. Nouwen
On the other hand, love can be one of life’s greatest gifts, but you have to be open and willing to recognize it, receive it, and love fully in return.
True love is loving someone for everything they are and who they are—good and bad. This is different than loving someone for how they treat you or because of the things they do for you. And, yes, sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the difference.
Love isn’t rude or easily angered; it is patient, supportive, honest, and kind.
Love unconditionally. Love selflessly. And love like you’ve never been hurt.
Business: Setbacks and Successes
I had somewhat of an epiphany this summer.
Well, okay, maybe not an epiphany, but I learned something important about myself as an entrepreneur.
The Good, The Bad, and The Growth
This year was pivotal for my business—for good, bad, and growth. We hit a lot of important milestones in a relatively short time.
- We opened office space in a corporate building and now have “official” headquarters.
- We have expanded our team.
- We have built new processes.
- We just closed our best Q4 yet.
Although I just painted a picture of a “happy ending”, the journey wasn’t always pretty.
Much like life, running a business comes with its own ebbs and flows. Ups and downs. Good times and bad. It requires constant balance, reflection, improvement, evolution, having and keeping an open mind, and embracing the right mindset.
And some days are harder than others to keep it all together.
It’s also easy to let other factors in life affect business. Even if you are excellent at separating personal from business, tension and stress can affect you subconsciously. Those “demons” have a way of creeping in and stealing focus, shifting your mindset, which can make you lose sight of your goals.
Turn Off “Focus Mode”
I’m constantly thinking. Thinking about how to be a better leader or boss. Thinking about how to better serve clients. Thinking about smarter and more efficient ways to work. Thinking about how to evolve and grow the business. Thinking is an infinite habit.
I love my job and I love what I do, so thinking never feels stressful. But it does lead to overthinking, which is definitely one of my inner demons.
To try and combat overthinking or believing negative thoughts, I write on a daily basis. I read blogs. After writing, reading, and reflecting on my notes, I try to try and figure out what my thoughts are telling me, how I really feel about something, and how to solve a problem. Sometimes this process takes more than a day, but it does help me find a course of action.
But sometimes writing doesn’t cut it… Even though this is a healthy and emotionally intelligent habit, I have learned that isn’t rest.
I took some time away over the summer to visit my parents. They live in the sticks of Maine, down a mile-long private dirt road in a log cabin on a lake, a 25-minute car ride from the nearest anything. So, whenever I visit, I have no choice but to relax.
Less than a day into my visit, I found that I suddenly had a wave of ideas—so many I couldn’t write them all down fast enough. It was such a great feeling. I thought of a ton of new blog ideas, ways the team can work together, and even developed a new service to offer clients.
Sometimes solving a problem means taking a break and walking away from it. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 days, this period of rest allows your mind time to make connections while the mind is constantly in “focus mode”. It also allows you to be more creative and effective with your next work session.
Through this experience, I learned that allowing the mind to relax is important. We might think that working more equals working harder, but sometimes working less is working smarter. Even though I am naturally a hard worker, I learned that sometimes working harder is disguised as me being my own demon, and working against myself.
Spirituality Through Sound
… A demon appears in the form of an angel of light… — Book of Revelation
I’ve always been a spiritual person, but I never really went to church. There was just too much that didn’t make sense to me, or that I didn’t understand, or that I disagreed with.
However, this year I tried to grow spiritually. In an effort to try and save my failing relationship—or to at least understand some of the whys—I started going to church with two of my best friends.
I’ve also always been musical. And because of my best friends, I was given an awesome opportunity to combine the two. I joined the production crew to help operate the audio, sound, and lighting equipment for the church band.
I immediately fell in love with it. No, I wouldn’t call myself super religious, but it has given me some clarity in life, open my mind, and help me to be a better person.
I have also met a lot of new people. I have learned something new. And I’m doing something I love.
I am truly blessed.
My Pole Life: An Angel and A Demon
At the beginning of the year, I made a difficult decision: For the first time in three years, I decided not to compete in the 2019 Northeast Pole Sport Organization (PSO) competition.
There were a few reasons for this decision, but I primarily decided to use my already-limited training time to work on different performances and events—at which I played both an angel and a demon.
In March 2019, I worked with a professional photographer to take high-quality photos of me in various pole positions, moves, and tricks for the first time ever.
Although this may not sound like a big deal, preparing for the shoot required 6 weeks of training and practice. I had to choose 12 to 14 moves and tricks, and practice holding them for 30 to 60 seconds each.
On the day of the photoshoot, I was incredibly nervous. In regards to strength, I found the shoot more difficult than performing a competition piece. Performing in a competition requires 6 to 9 months of training, but then it’s over in 4 minutes.
In comparison, the photoshoot required only 6 weeks of training, but a full 60 minutes of holding various moves and freestyle dance, which required more strength.
All in all, it was incredibly difficult, but it was an awesome experience. And I think my photos came out pretty “angelic”, if I do say so myself.
In June 2019, my instructor—and friend—invited me to participate and perform in her company’s professional show, “Angels and Demons“.
From the moment she asked me, I was on board. My role specifically was to help manage the event, backstage activities, and perform in the 7-minute finale—as a demon.
The more we worked together to plan the event, the more immersed I became. Having the opportunity to participate in something so special and exciting with some of the best performers and dancers was like nothing I could have ever imagined.
The months, weeks, and days leading up to the night of the performance involved finalizing the production activities, running all the music (I must have listened to the show’s playlist on Spotify 650 times…), reviewing the logistics, and also piecing together my costume and figuring out my own dance choreography.
The nerves were real.
But on the day and evening of the performance, everything—and everyone—came together.
For almost 90 minutes, I watched every dancer go out and perform—beautifully and devilishly.
And then suddenly, it was my turn. From the second I stepped out on stage and into the lights in my 7-inch “Pleasers”, I became lost in the music and forgot all about the choreography I practiced. I completely freestyled—both on and off the spin pole—for almost 7 minutes.
Angelic or demonic, it was by far one of the scariest and amazing experiences of my life.
Heaven or Health?
It’s amazing how life’s experiences can affect your health. In 2019, my health took a turn—for better and for worse.
Depression is Disguised as a Demon
All the challenges I faced this year took a toll on my health. I fell into a period of depression. I lost the motivation to focus on work, pole, visit with family and friends, and even eat.
No, I didn’t resort to drugs or alcohol to mask the pain, but I stopped eating. It might sound ridiculous, but I was in such a constant state of worry and so focused on how to fix all the broken things in my life that I stopped paying attention to even my most basic needs—like eating and sleeping. As a result, I became underweight.
Depression is an inner demon that many people struggle with. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to deal with depression on a daily basis, or suffer from it so severely that it completely takes over my life.
But in order to conquer my own “depression demons”, I made a choice to change—change my routine, change my diet, and change my mindset.
I started putting the hurt and pain in the past, accept it, and put that energy towards feeling grateful for what and who I have in my life, and who wanted to be in my life.
I started paying closer attention to and appreciating the beautiful, positive things in life—big and small.
I started taking better care of myself.
Your Mental Script
Taking thoughts captive means controlling them instead of letting them control you. — Priscilla Shirer
You might be someone who is victim to your own thoughts or negative self-talk. If so, you aren’t alone. Most of us struggle with managing negative thoughts, myself included. Personally, my primary negative thought is: “I’m not good enough.”
I don’t think this way every day, but when I do, I try to ask myself:
*Is this something I should allow myself to think?
*Who or what is this REALLY about?
*If I continue to think this way today, will it have a positive or negative result?
*Am I sabotaging my relationships with this thought?
*What is one decision I can make right now to forget this?
The thing is we get to decide what our mental script reads and how it dictates our days. The “demons” inside you—fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choices, negative self-talk, and even the scars or “ghosts” from your past all represent demons. However, we have the choice to listen to and follow them, or take the road to better mental and physical health.
We all have a mental script—the script we follow and believe that was fed to us from other people or experiences, or one that is an accurate reflection of our true identity.Tweet
Beauty Through the Pain
I wish I could write this blog and tell you that I ended 2019 in a healthier state, but that wouldn’t be true. At the beginning of December 2019, I woke up one Sunday morning in excruciating pain.
At first, I thought it was something I ate or a pulled muscle. After all, as an avid pole dancer, I am no stranger to severe muscle strain.
But this pain felt different… it was the worst pain I have ever felt. After several days of rest, Advil, and a heating pad, the pain had subsided slightly, but the feeling in my gut that something was wrong did not.
In the last four weeks, I have had numerous tests and multiple trips to the doctor. At this time, there are still many unknowns, so I will refrain from writing the details until I have more answers and a firm course of action.
I have always taken my health seriously. Of course, there was a time in my 20s when I didn’t, but I grew out of it, grew up, changed my life, and became more health-conscious. However, when you are in constant pain, and in a constant state of worry, it changes you.
Again, I have a choice: I can let the pain take control of me and my life. I could be irritable, angry or bitter, which not only hurts me, but also my business, my team, and my relationships.
…Or, I could accept the issue for what it is, listen to my body, do my best to give it what it needs, and focus on making the best decision that will ensure the best quality of life for me.
Out of the Darkness and Into the Light…
Good versus evil.
Heaven versus Hell.
Angels versus demons.
Regardless of what you believe, we encounter these in our everyday lives, to some degree. And more often than not, they are embedded within the choices we make.
The real angels and demons are disguised in our life experiences, events, and in ourselves.Tweet
January 1st is not only the beginning of a new decade, but a new year, a new beginning, and a new life. Many people say they love New Years because it is a chance to start over. This is true, but every year we are presented with the same choice: Through our experiences, decisions, and feelings, will we choose heaven or hell?
As they say, heaven and hell are right here on Earth in physical form, spiritual form, and are embedded within ourselves.
We have the choice to let them win, or fight.