Dear Grief: An open letter

Dear Grief, 

Today I woke up with a heavy heart. October 30th has been the hardest day of my life for the last 13 years. My chest is heavy. My stomach hurts. Today is the day the world lost the most beautiful soul, Corinne Marie Craig. One of my childhood best friends. 

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13 years is a long time but grief I never should underestimate your power.

How do you know to make my chest tight?

How do you bring tears to my eyes?

How do you coax me to my laptop because you know words are the only way for me to make sense of what I feel?

If you’re new to your relationship with my friend grief: let me help you out. Grief is a roller coaster. You never know what to expect. Grief can be the life of the party or the person who can’t get out of bed. Everyone experiences this friend differently, and let me tell you many would not consider you a friend, grief. But I do. 

I consider you a friend because you are an emotion and experience that has been with me for nearly half of my life. I’ve gotten to know you well. I don’t want to forget you because I will never forget her. 

My Corey. That silly laugh & kind heart. That sassy attitude & philosophical mind. How many times could we watch Now & Then and a Walk to Remember? A friend so loyal and willing to listen that she taught me to do the same. A rockstar cheerleader. A sensitive soul. A force to be reckoned with. 

It’s been 13 years since we’ve had the pleasure of having Corey earth side but I know without a shadow of a doubt she has been with me every step of my journey. The sassiest guardian angel out there. 

Over the years I have shared about a lot regarding Corey’s life, death & everything in between (you can click the links if you want to read more): Dealing with the anniversary abroad , my journey with grief  , Corey’s story  , The impact she has had , remembering 10 years without her , My own mental health struggles and What it’s like being left behind by suicide. 

Grief taught me to be patient with people having a bad day, whether they can express that or not because  we all have silent battles to fight.

Every single one of us.

 Grief taught me to reach out to loved ones (even the ones who seem really happy) reach out when someone is in your dream, or a memory comes rushing back to you. 

Reach out if you haven’t talked in years and you just want to say that they are on your mind. 

Grief taught me to express myself and to find my voice. 

Grief is what lead me to writing and I know that I am grateful for that. 

Grief has taught me to continue to use my voice & know that the impact spreads farther than you might imagine. 

Last year I wrote about my journey to understanding when grief actually ends

The answer is it doesn’t. 

A lot of people feel pressure from society, even loved ones or friends to “move on” but I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to. 

Grief is an incredible teacher if you let it be. 

Sadness and joy can coexist and for me that pain and sorrow of losing my best friend at 16 will never go away but it has changed the trajectory of my life because I let it. 

I let grief in. Even when it was paralyzing. Even when I need to scream and cry and punch pillows and throw water bottles. It didn’t happen overnight. And because of self-medicating I didn’t fully “grieve” right away. 

But that doesn’t mean I’m not committed to this process & relationship with grief. 

Because what’s your alternative? Denial? Numbing? Ruining you future because you’re running from feelings begging to be felt? 

I don’t claim to know it all. I never do. Grief has taught me that even when you “do” all of the right things, go to therapy, remember your loved one or friend in positive ways, cry, rest, pick up new hobbies, grief can still turn up and throw everything for a loop. It’s relentless. 

At times grief has made me angry, guilty, depressed, scared, frustrated, devastated, but it’s also made me kind, resilient, thoughtful, driven and vulnerable. 

My best advice when it comes to grief? 

Feel everything. 

Laugh when you want to laugh about silly memories or inside jokes, cry when you feel like things are unfair, talk it out when you just want someone to remember your loved one you lost, get angry, sad, whatever emotion comes up- let it come and realize that you can survive & thrive alongside those feelings. 

Time won’t heal your wounds. Your wound is the absence of a person who touched your life deeply. That doesn’t go away. But time does give you perspective. It allows you to find purpose and remember that they WANT you to be happy. 

They want you to live and I believe we owe it to them to do so. 

So, believe in yourself. 

Believe in the impact your experience of loss and your relationship with grief can have on others. 

Believe in the legacy you have left to built in keeping your loved one’s memory alive. 

If you feel the call to share your loved ones story or your story DO IT. 

Grief is different for everyone but I can tell you I wouldn’t have gotten through it without my words for self expression, without the support of our Bishop Ludden Community and without the courage to keep telling this story of life, death, loss, grief, mental illness and all the beautiful bits that happen in between. 

 I tell Corey’s story as frequently as possible because it matters and so many people in life have been there, are there or are trying to help someone who is. Mental health struggles and suicide add a whole entire layer to the grieving process and it’s a huge part of the reason I advocate for proactive mental health consistently. 

I’ve tried my best as time goes on to not resent you grief, to not get angry at stolen moments and get angry at growing older & growing further away from the chapter of life that Corey lived a long side me. I still have those moments of anger. 

Any time someone I love loses someone they love, grief floods through my bones and reminds me of it’s presence. My heart aches for you if you have to join this twisted relationship with grief. Not if, when. It’s inevitable. 

Grief is not something you can escape in your lifetime, but if you feel it fully, if you let it, it will change who you are and hopefully for the better. 

So grief, it’s been a long journey, one that I know that will never end but I am confident that neither will my relationship with Corey. “Death ends a life not a relationship” is a quote that got me through some of my darkest days.

 Grief is heavy, these words are heavy, but I am strong. My love for Corey is strong. If you are at any stage of you grieving process, I see you. I feel  you. I am here for you. We don’t have to have all the answers to offer our experiences, we just have to have courage and I’m confident Corey left me with some of hers. 

Corey, as always, I carry your heart. Thank you for the most recent messages. I am still trying my best to understand what they mean & take action. 

So grief, today you feel heavy.  You don’t feel like a friend. 

I miss my dear friend.

 I shouldn’t let you take me by surprise after all this time but in the same respect I am humbled. Humbled by the fact that pain can be deeply intertwined in our bodies calendar.

The pain reminds me just how much human connection can impact our hearts & souls despite loss, time, distance, and years gone by. This inspires me to be a better human while I’m here on earth and help others find that ever changing dance between sadness and joy. 

I’m not sure how much sense this makes but based on my truth of understanding grief, just getting something out helps. .

Remember, wherever you are reading this, whatever emotions it brings up,

feel everything

& know you are never alone. 

Love,

Susie

 

Hurry Up and Wait: How to deal with the unknown

Hurry up and wait

I was on a local coastal walk with my boyfriend recently and as the wind whipped and the sunshine warmed our skin I said to him, “You know how they say, The Universe keeps teaching you the same lesson until you learn it?”

He shook his head in agreement, probably just to humor my baby hippie heart.

“Well I think it’s clear we need this lesson of releasing control. Waiting just keeps popping back up in our lives. The four months waiting for the U.K. visa to process, the Australian visa drama, the U.K. move itself, and the months and months of waiting for the news on the kidney donation and operation… well, someone isn’t learning their lesson!!!”

He looked back at me with a very loving but cheeky grin and stare.

As the words came out of my mouth, I didn’t realize that I was talking about MYSELF. It wasn’t aimed as an insult or jab at him either. More thinking out loud. But in that moment, I fully realized I still needed to learn the lesson. My boyfriend is super chill, resilient, go with the flow, and rarely gets upset over anything. It’s honestly one of the things I admire most about him.

I have learned more patience and resilence in the last 5 years of living abroad, traveling for extended periods, starting my own online business on the side and now being fully self-employed and being in a relationship with the ultra relaxed human but clearly the Universe still wanted me to learn this lesson, AGAIN!

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What I really think about England

Copy of How to Survive the Visa Process

Dear England,

One year ago I stepped off the plane at 1 am and stumbled my way into the long customs line. I was leaving my family and friends & the drawn out, stress filled visa process behind and spider monkey jumping into the arms of my goofy English man. I thought it was my happy ending or maybe my happy beginning.

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This was not my first international move, but my fourth. My fourth time choosing to start over in a new country.

This time felt different.

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What Women Need

I heard a little girl speaking to her mother on the elevator asking why she had to go to her classmate’s birthday party even though it wasn’t her friend.

Her mother said, “We need to be kind to everyone in our class not just our friends. We need to think about how we want friends at our birthday party so we do the same for others. We need to be…”

DING. The elevator door opened to their floor and I didn’t catch the end of her statement. I wanted to chase after the woman and squeeze her frail and tired body.

I started creating a whole list of things in my head  that “We need to be” particularly as women. Need is often a dirty word, but let’s give need the power back just for a minute.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past 10 years around groups of women. I was in a sorority in college and my coaching team is predominantly female. I’ve met and befriended women from all over the world and I have grown such a deep respect and admiration for women who are fighting the good fight. I am in several online communities in the digital world that promote women traveling, exercising, writing, and pretty much owning their personal passions.

I love women who are standing up for what they believe in, especially when it isn’t something that everyone believes in. We need more women like that.

I believe in strong  women, feminism and women having a voice.

So, here it is.

I don’t hate men. I love men. I was raised by an incredible man, grew up with two wonderful guys as my older brothers and I am currently in love with one of the good ones.

But, I, in fact am a woman. And I have a voice. A voice I can proudly articulate.

Today is International Women’s Day and I am beyond grateful that I have a voice because many women still don’t.

On an episode of Magic Lessons with Elizabeth GIlbert  she said, “To be criticized is the tax that you pay for having a public voice. To be rejected is the tax that you pay for having a public voice. There is a very simple way to make sure that you are never criticized and never rejected and that is to never have a public voice.”

So, today, I want to write a message of hope, a bit of a mini-manifesto; for young women, old women, working women, children, students, prostitutes, artists, or anyone who identifies as female.

Individually, it is hard to be everything we want to be but together we can be. Together we are what we need.

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WCW: Emily Millman

It’s the last month of 2018 and I have some catching up to do with my #WCW series. So for the month of December I am going to feature a new woman crush of mine every week! The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Emily.

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I know it’s not Wednesday but it is this very special lady’s birthday, so I thought what better time to celebrate her? Some may say I saved the best for last. Emily and I met through a travel Facebook group and after getting to know each other fitness came up and I asked her if she wanted to join my virtual bootcamp. She said she already had the program but that didn’t mean she couldn’t get involved with us! I was excited to have her energy and sass in our groups.

Over the last two years, I have mentored and coached Emily,  first on her fitness journey and now on both her fitness journey and her business. She is passionate, coachable, reliable, and a fiercely loyal friend. She is an awesome business partner. Despite me living on the other side of the pond, we have managed to hang out a lot this year and she keeps me on my toes and achieving in our business. We talk about changing the world and how much we love food in the same conversation. She takes me as I am but also inspires me to be BETTER. Whenever someone new enters our business, I always say, “Find yourself an Emily.” I’ll let her take it from here.

  1. What do you think makes a woman worth “crushing” over?

I crush over women who live their values and beliefs while following their dreams and supporting other women to do the same!

  1. What do you do for a living? What is the most challenging part about it?

I wear a couple of different hats! My background is as a nurse— I’ve worked intensive care, stepdown, and the emergency department; specifically as a travel nurse for the past few years. The most challenging part about nursing in general is the sad state of the healthcare industry in the United States… I got into nursing to help people, and it’s both heartbreaking and exhausting to watch the corporate system chew patients up and spit them back out, over and over. Fortunately, that’s not my only job!

My passion lies in my “side hustle” (recently turned full time focus!), which is health and fitness coaching! My goal is to help as many people as possible learn how to care for themselves in order to prevent the plethora of chronic illnesses that my patients have inflicted upon themselves with years of poor lifestyle choices. The most challenging part of coaching is also one of the best parts— I’m on my own schedule with no boss! That means that I have to be dedicated and disciplined, especially with the less glamorous tasks that aren’t fun!

  1. Who are three women that you look up to and have inspired you the most in your career/life?

My mama! She’s built an incredibly successful and respected private driver education business without a college degree or support, while also serving her community in a variety of ways. You— I had no idea I could feel so fulfilled building a business from my laptop! Anyone else who’s slaying at whatever they do— I try not to idolize people in order to avoid playing the comparison game.

  1. What is one topic you wish more women knew about on a global scale? Why?

Climate change. We need to get our act together, and quickly, if we want Earth to be around to host us much longer! There are SO many small changes that we can all make, and would have significant impact if everyone did their part!

  1. What advice do you give to women who feel that they are constantly surrounded by drama in their group of friends?

You are who you surround yourself with! I’m not saying drop the drama…. but maybe think about building yourself a new, drama-free circle that will support and empower you instead of stressing you out! I’ve found that I can impact the culture of my circle just leading by example— try it out! Disengage from the drama, and focus on positivity, it’s contagious.

  1. Do you believe being a strong woman with a passion for her career takes away from a woman’s ability to be a loving partner/mother/friend/sister?

Absolutely not— in fact I think that having passion for your career fills your cup to ENABLE you to be be a more loving partner/mother/friend/sister! You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself, and I believe firmly that every individual needs their own “thing” separate from the closest people in their life.

  1. What is something you are really excited about currently in your own life?

If we’re going with the theory that excitement and anxiety are two sides of the same coin… going “full focus” with coaching! My husband enlisted in the army this year, and we’ve been separated since September while he’s been in training. In January, I’m picking up and moving myself and our pups to be close to him. As a travel nurse, finding an assignment shouldn’t be an issue, but apparently all of the hospitals near that army base are fully staffed, so I have the opportunity to focus on my business!

  1. Why is self love an important part of being a modern day woman?

There are SO many demands on you as a person today! It’s so easy to be torn apart by being pulled in a million different directions— practicing good self care in whatever way works for you is the only way to keep yourself whole!

  1. If you could have a lunch date with any woman on the planet, who would it be?

I don’t put many people up on a pedestal, to be honest! I’d be happy to have a lunch date with pretty much anyone who’s kind and interesting!

  1. How can anyone reading this keep up with you and what you’re doing in the future?

The best way to keep up with my adventures is on Instagram, @scrubs.squats.sass!

Bonus: What is one question you have for me?

I’m a lucky lady in the aspect that I get to pick your brain on the regular! A question for you…. would you rather never fly again, or have to sit with a very aggressive/mean/smelly seatmate who wouldn’t leave you alone for every single flight forever?

What a funny question. I would definitely choose the aggressive/men/smelly seatmate because I can’t imagine living in a world where I don’t fly! How would I see you? And my family? I could suck it up. Plus noise cancelling headphones would save my life. Traveling and new adventures is a passion we both share and one of our big goals in our business is to be able to spend substantial time in Bali in the future. Not to be dramatic, but to me, to travel is to live so a life without travel sounds pretty miserable to me.

Thank you for being you, Emily. It’s been a pleasure building our businesses together this year. I’ve seen you go through so much in your personal life and you never let it get you down. This woman right here wrote a letter to her husband at basic training every single day without fail even when we were on multiple vacations during that time. What.a.sweetie. I always knew that you would be an excellent coach and what do you know? I was right. I can’t wait to see what next year and the years to follow bring as I know this is only the beginning of something wonderful. Keep that sass, keep that hunger for excellence, keep that drive for preventative medicine, keep that goofiness, just keep being you because you are magic. Happy birthday my dear friend, the world is lucky to have you and so am I. You are definitely worth crushing over.

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Can you Thrive through the Holidays?

I wanted to write a holiday “survival”-esque blog post  based on the mental health check-in I did with my virtual wellness community. I saw a dramatic response that most people are struggling this time of year and not necessarily feeling merry and bright. So I took to the internet to see what others have done. Every article that I read for inspiration and research said how to “survive” the holidays. I understand that it is supposed to be a joyous time but also is a difficult time for a lot of people. But is that really the standard we want to set for ourselves? Merely surviving?

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There is often a battle happening inside of me. The darkness vs. the light. Usually the LIGHT wins. I’m not sure exactly what has programmed me to be this way but I know that my life and my holiday season is about much more than just surviving. Sometimes, some days, some seasons,  that is really all you can do. I completely understand that especially looking back to the days in my past I was full of grief and heartbreak. But I think to stay fixed in a mentality that surviving is what you are consistently doing is a serious disservice to yourself, others and our world as a whole.

I do want to give you some tips and reminders to take care of yourself just a little bit more this holiday season. If that means survival for your circumstance then that is what you can call it. But as I was watching another episode of Red Table Talk (if you haven’t watched head to Facebook right now and get on it) with Kid Cudi on mental health and a few things stuck out to me. Jada Pinkett Smith shared that sometimes all you can do is lean on something that “keeps your head above water.” I totally agree. But you can’t live there. You can’t stay there. She also said in the episode, “testimony is so much more powerful than advice.” I agree. So here is my testimony.

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Joking. Kinda. Here’s more of what helps me thrive…

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WCW: Elle Deal

It’s the last month of 2018 and I have some catching up to do with my #WCW series. So for the month of December I am going to feature a new woman crush of mine every week! The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Lauren aka “Elle”

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Lauren and I met at our annual business conference in Nashville three years ago. From the moment I met Lauren I knew I wanted to be her friend. Her personality is infectious, her smile quite literally lights up the room and she has the insane talent of making best friends with everyone. We instantly clicked but as soon as we met I was off to Australia and Lauren was living in Pennsylvania at the time. Luckily, with the nature of our online business and our partnership with the same company, we still spent a lot of time together on video chats, business meetings, phone calls and of course, social media support.

 

Quickly I realized Lauren was not just an ordinary “work friend.” She is like a missing part of me. We bonded over the fact that we were both classroom teachers as our day jobs. We both were passionate teachers who really loved teaching but also couldn’t deny the flaws in the school system and the general dissatisfaction we had with pursuing a career in a classroom forever. Lauren called me while I was living in New Zealand and we had a really long discussion about her gut feeling she wanted to move to Florida. I encouraged her to take the risk, what’s the worst that could happen? She did and she flourished and I got the chance to visit her a couple times before she just recently moved on to her next adventure. I’ll let her take it from here.

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Getting Back on the Wagon

I am announcing this secret to the world again: There is NO WAGON.

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I made a post on Instagram about this and I got a lot of feedback so I just did an IGTV about it too! Why not throw in a blog post? In my post and my IGTV, I was relating this to fitness. This time of year Halloween- New Years people throw a giant blanket of excuses called “the holidays.” I can eat that… it’s the holidays. I don’t have to workout … it’s the holidays. I can drink five days a week…it’s the holidays. I don’t need to save money… it’s the holidays. And come January every decides they need to get back on that healthy wagon. But my secret is THERE IS NO WAGON. There is no wagon for health and fitness and there is no wagon for life. Ebbs and flows are natural. Last year around this time I wrote a blog about the concept of tilting, and told you that balance doesn’t really exist.

I am still singing the same tune. This concept is not to make excuses for poor choices around the holidays, but because being at peace with a life that is not linear is the most liberating gift you can give yourself this holiday season. Ups and downs are inevitable. Weight fluctuation is inevitable. You can’t go too far one way or the other without paying the consequences but veering off course a little bit each way is acceptable, normal, and just HUMAN for goodness sake. Instead of relating it all to health and fitness, I’ll show you an example of there being NO WAGON when it comes to your creative pursuits (in my case, my blog but for you it may be song writing, painting, jewelry making, or pole dancing.)

Every year since I have started my blog in 2013, I have started the next year thinking “This year is the YEAR! I am going to become and A+ blogger, I’ll write a blog at least once a week, reformat my website, include vlogs, master Pinterest, learn SEOs and knock it out of the park!” I’m reminded every year that: 

  1. That’s not why I started my blog
  2. I don’t do well with pressure, self inflicted or not
  3. I have a successful coaching business & my blog hasn’t ever been used to make me money..AND it doesn’t have to be
  4. It’s really hard to write soulfully every week on top of the other content I produce for my social media platforms
  5. My blog= my rules.

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Why you should TRY being a “Morning Workout person”

I wish I could workout in the morning like you.” I hear this ALL the time. I ain’t Superwoman and I’m definitely not NATURALLY a morning person. Homegirl STRUGGLES… just ask my boyfriend. I help support and align clients every single month with workout programs and nutrition plans. In our private fit-fam community we discuss the importance of scheduling your workout like an important meeting you have with someone else and STICKING TO IT. Personally, I find the BEST way to stick to a workout routine is to do it early in the morning. No, it doesn’t work for everyone but I think you should at least consider. Here’s why and how!

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Photography by: @thebrandingphotographer

WHY DO IT IN THE MORNING?

You immediately feel successful– Just like experts say making your bed in the morning is a habit that gives you an immediate  feeling of accomplishment, think about banging out 30-45 mins of an intense workout! You feel like a rockstar! That mindset is definitely going to benefit the rest of your day.

You’re in a better mood– Endorphins people. It’s no joke. It’s science. Working out has an “immediate positive benefit for your brain- increasing your mood and your concentration” Don’t  believe me? Take it from Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist and watch her epic TED talk about how exercise actually changes our brain. Why save that for after work when you’re just headed home to cook dinner & chill? Get those good vibes flowing in the morning!  

You don’t dread it all day– If I miss my morning workout for some reason, I know that I am going to spend the work day thinking about how I need to get my workout in. Maybe that’s just me? But I’ve talked to many friends and clients who agree. If you don’t do it in the morning it’s at the back of your head all day AND you are way more likely to skip it because things come up after work.. Happy hour, appointments, social activities, tending to your child/fur child/ husband/partner etc. For me, if I don’t do it in the morning it doesn’t get done!

More energy-Even though I need to wake up earlier to workout, I can tell a dramatic difference in my energy levels when I sleep in and don’t workout. I have more energy when I wake up earlier, sweat in my living room and then jump in the shower. If I go straight to work I feel frazzled and groggy in the morning and definitely not bouncing around my classroom like I am after crushing a 6 am workout.

Now the more important question…

HOW do I become a morning workout person?

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