Never Alone

There was one moment. One moment that I began to feel sorry for myself. Spouses taking pictures, kids, families. And me alone. Well physically alone. I retreated back to that old feeling, those old beliefs. Who do I have to be to not walk this journey alone? Who do I have to be to be a wife, a mother? And what is my importance without those things? I am not sure if I found an answer. But what I did find was the moment. Happiness instead of envy for those who have those things. And in turn I found happiness for myself. For I have a family, who is with me in my heart. I have friends who are with me in my heart. I have my Samson kitty who is with me in my heart. And I have God…who is always and forever with me. Always.

Who Are You??

Photo by ahlyton

Photo by ahlyton

A conversation with a friend:

Me: You’re a man, maybe you can tell me what’s wrong with me and why I can’t draw in anyone special.

My friend: There’s not a damn thing wrong with you. All you got to do is be yourself.

I’ve known for quite some time what the theme for this year would be…


If you think dealing with issues like worthiness and authenticity and vulnerability are not worthwhile because there are more pressing issues, like the bottom line or attendance or standardized test scores, you are sadly, sadly mistaken. It underpins everything. ~Brene Brown

I’ve spent so much of my life people pleasing, not believing who I was and am is good enough. I’ve felt awkward, alone, like I didn’t belong, like I was defective, some kind of accident. What I’ve come to realize, is that those qualities that I used to find so abnormal about myself, are indeed, ME. And ME is okay, just the way I Am.

I think there is some point between the time we are children and the time we actually begin our young adult journeys that we are told that who we are is not okay. This is either told to us implicitly or explicitly. Either some adult or authority figure told us we weren’t good enough, or some life event instilled that belief in us. For those familiar with the 12-step framework, it is often here where we become “insane” or our lives become “unmanageable.”

For me, it was the family diseases of alcoholism and codependency.

For example, when I would beg my dad not to drink and he would still drink; or if my parents would get into these horribly scary fights, I used to wonder…

Who do I have to be to stop my dad from drinking??

Who do I have to be to stop my parents from fighting??

I am now learning that there was no one I could have morphed into to stop any of that.

A few years ago, I started doing some inner child work that involved non-dominant hand writing. Pretty powerful stuff. My reason for mentioning this is because it brought me back to that cute, sweet, sensitive little girl that I was before the world got a hold of me. When I was reintroduced to my inner child, I fell in love with her. I wanted to take care of her, love her, protect her. I recognized that it was her that I had been running from, and in essence trying to get back to this whole time. Someone or something told me that she was not okay the way she was. But now that I found her, I never wanted to let her go. For this sweet child, this precious, sensitive beautiful child was me…my true self…my authentic self.

She is the part of ME that is closest to God.

I would recommend inner child work to anyone who is struggling with a lost sense of self. But my point is that there is nothing like getting in touch with who we really are.

And who I am is not always pleasant. But I’m aware of my areas for growth and can embrace those areas that may be considered less than good. My authenticity is about being true to myself first. Then, I can express that authenticity to others.

“Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to life in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.” ~Debbie Ford

It is when I am being my authentic self that I find that I draw in the most wonderful energy and people into my life.

Now of course with anything else, I don’t have it all figured out. There are times when I’m more authentic than others, times I still struggle with belonging and fitting in, and wondering Who do I have to be? Sometimes, I still think of myself as defective; especially when it comes to things like romantic love, which continues to evade me. But the difference now is that I can always come back to that sweet, little girl that I got back in touch with during my inner child work. I’ve seen her, heard from her, spent time with her. So when I’m tempted to morph myself into someone else, I remind myself that there is no one like her. She is a unique and wonderful creation of God.

Authenticity. There is nothing like it in this whole world. That’s because there is nothing and no one like the real you.

Happy New Year.

I Just Ended a 7 Year Relationship

“True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the profound desire to live usefully

This post is featured on the BlogHer Publishing Network

This post is featured on the BlogHer Publishing Network

and walk humbly under the grace of God.” -Bill W.

Photo by marygober

Photo by marygober

I just ended a 7-year relationship with a doctoral program.

At the beginning of this year, I received the most amazing news. The dissertation research project that I had poured my heart and soul into since 2009 since I began writing the dissertation had received IRB approval. I had been in the doctoral program since 2006. For those who aren’t familiar with research at the University level, this is the pinnacle achievement prior to being able to collect data and move forward with entering the scholarly realms. This means that I have created a research study that is ethically sound and worthy of exploration.

In the moment I received that approval, I could finally envision being called “doctor Michele” and truly being accepted into the world of academics and researchers. I would finally be arriving professionally. I have struggled with my professional purpose for so long, asking the question: Where do I belong?
Because I’ve received so much rejection across the board in my professional life, with a PhD, I wouldn’t still have those feelings of inadequacy. With a PhD, no one could ever make me feel inferior.
I would have also been the first in my family to achieve this level of education. In my immediate family, I played the role of the “hero,” the one that was supposed to get it all right. The one that was supposed to go above and beyond. In the larger picture, there are a few Masters degrees filtered through the family tree, but according to our family historian, there is no doctorate. Achieving this level of education would have been no doubt an amazing accomplishment for a girl born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, whose parents both hail from the South with very limited education and world exposure.
But I was quickly jerked out of my daydream. Because in the same breath that I received that approval, (literally in the same day), I received notification that my funding source that I had utilized for the past year and half had been denied. No reason, no appeal. I fought the decision anyway, with academic advisers and my mentor advocating along the way. The unfavorable decision was upheld. I could not start my research without being registered and could not register without having some way to pay.
I searched high and low for funding. I had 3 terms to figure something out. I’m not saying I exhausted all avenues but I made a diligent effort. I ultimately came up empty.
I was completely and utterly devastated. There had been so many setbacks along the way, but always something came through. This had been 7 years of  my life, with the past 4 years falling in love with my topic; going back and forth with committee members and the University about methodology, research strategy, writing style, the viability of my topic, and anything else that I could think of. This project and the doctoral degree had been my child, my lover, my friend, and my enemy, all wrapped up into one.
Much of my self worth had been wrapped up into getting this degree.
There were dark times. But the interesting thing is that in all this darkness and sadness surrounding my impending doctoral doom, something beautiful was happening.
I began to ask myself the question: What would it take for me to love myself, right now, as I am, even if I didn’t achieve a doctoral degree? 
I began to truly examine that question. And I realized through some tough internal work that I was already an amazing person. This was affirmed by some wonderful people who supported me through this process. I also realized that I wasn’t the only “doctoral school drop out” in America, many before me had made this tough decision. And as far as feeling inferior, I had a wonderful conversation with someone who had achieved his doctorate, who said that even after achieving the doctorate, there is still so much pressure to achieve more and more. It truly never ends.
The feelings of self-worth have to come from inside.
And I don’t have to necessarily give up the work, either. For example, I had the opportunity to speak on elements of my topic at a conference. People said I made them think. And there is always my writing. My purpose perhaps is being fulfilled. Slowly, but surely, and perhaps not in the way I expected it to.
So a few weeks ago, after receiving another rejection from a prospective funding source, I made the official decision to withdraw from my doctoral program. I received a lovely email from my school mentor, who had been my biggest advocate, that said to keep in touch and to let him know if I need any letters of recommendation as I figure out my next professional steps. He went on to say that he is “always happy to help out a colleague.” A colleague. That acceptance I craved from others didn’t come until I accepted myself.
I won’t be walking away empty handed, as I will be receiving a second Masters degree. There of course is no shame in receiving two Masters degrees; however, it was not the intended result, so there is some grief that I still feel. But that little voice inside was telling me that it was time to move on and keep moving towards my purpose, rather than staying stuck in what I thought I should do.
And what does my mom think about all this, given the assumed pressure I felt to achieve this level of education in my family? She truly could care less. She just wants me to be happy. And as far as she’s concerned, I’m a winner…and a doctor. Because according to her:
“Two Masters degrees should equal a doctorate anyway!”


Photo by yochim

Photo by yochim

I allowed myself to feel sad. It was the only gift of love I could give myself. And I cried, maybe 3 or 4 times when I felt like I needed to cry. Sometimes they were just tears, other times sobs. But it was all okay. I allowed myself the freedom and time to feel. To feel sad for what I had lost, for the hopelessness I now feel, for the pain in my heart. And when I felt I could not cry anymore, I wiped my tears, and continued doing what needed to be done. The truth is that the crying stopped, the tears, dried up, it didn’t go on forever.

They recycled. But maybe fresh tears have new purpose. Maybe the new tears are another part of me, another piece of the loss that needed to be healed. I know God was with me in my tears, I actually felt that I wasn’t alone. It was odd. Some of my most lonely times I have felt while I was “trying” to be strong. But there, alone, in that moment, when I surrendered my pain to God through tears, over and over again, I felt His presence like never before. And for that, I am grateful.

How To Laugh Your Way To Health And Happiness


Laughter yoga! How interesting.

Originally posted on The Truth Warrior:


In our busy and stressful lives today, many of us have forgotten how to laugh and have fun. We can become consumed by the many things we have to do and we can end up taking ourselves and our lives too seriously. We all have worries, concerns and stresses however if we allow these things to control our lives we can potentially result in being unhappy and lack a sense of joy and peace within.

As you know I have been travelling India for the last few months and I have just recently completed a Laughter Yoga Teacher training. Initially I was a little sceptical of the benefits of this intriguing and funny yoga practice however having completed the training, I am convinced of its many benefits.

Laughter Yoga is essentially a practice where anyone can laugh for no reason without using humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is practiced in…

View original 461 more words

A true self poem

Photo by xdodo

Photo by xdodo

I usually don’t write poetry, but I participated in a spiritual activity the other week where I was challenged to reflect on a time when I felt I was my true self. After the reflection, I was supposed to write a poem. So I thought I would share it here:

My true self stands before you

So free, so full of wonder

So beautiful, so kind, so gentle

And you were there for me,

You held your arms wide open,

held me close, and said,

“I will never leave you…you are not alone.”

Composers, Comparisons and a Light bulb

Photo by elkojote

Photo by elkojote

One of my favorite movies of all time is Amadeus. In my essay, “Music and Beer, (p. 60)” I talk at length about being taken to see that movie by my music teacher when I was a young child, and how the movie began my love affair with classical music and my adoration of the brilliant composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. To this day, I feel love anytime I hear any of Mozart’s music or play one of his pieces on my flute. I have told family members that I want Mozart’s Requiem in D minor (the “unfinished” death mass featured at the end of the movie) played at my memorial service after I die. Yes, my love of the man, his music, and the movie Amadeus is intense.

As a child, seeing that movie, I could only process the music, the wild interpretations of the man, Mozart, his flamboyance, arrogance, brilliance, and genius. But there was a bigger picture to this movie that I did not discover until I became an adult.

Although certified as one of my favorite movies of all time, it had been awhile since I really sat down and watched Amadeus all the way through. I recently decided to revisit this movie, popping in the DVD with popcorn and peach pop; a southside Chicago girl’s only way to visit the streets of Vienna–city of musicians. Once again, I became obsessed. But surprisingly enough, not with the man, Mozart, or the music, but with the underlying emotional and psychological themes that I was unable to extract from the movie as a child.

With all of its historical accuracy, the movie, Amadeus is largely a work of fiction. Based on the play by Peter Shaffer, the movie bears the name “Amadeus,” but Mozart is not necessarily the main character. It is Antonio Salieri; a part fictional, part nonfictional representation of Vienna’s court composer and Mozart’s “nemesis,” who is at the forefront of the movie (and the play–I recently saw the play as well, and it was a wondrous event). Salieri despises Mozart for his brilliance, genius, and his ability to compose the most “miraculous” of musical works with what seems like little effort. This composer-envy (albeit one-sided) builds throughout the movie and ultimately turns into complete hatred toward Mozart on the part of Salieri; for Salieri believes that Mozart is “God’s muse” and that his music is the very “voice of God.” Salieri only just wants to be a great composer, praying to God to “enter him” to create one piece of true music.

It was a battle between “mediocrity” and excellence.

But here’s the truth. Salieri was a good composer. He was just unable to recognize his own worth and his own beauty as a composer, because he was wrapped up in his comparison with Mozart.

Comparison. Thief of joy. (paraphrased quote by Theodore Roosevelt)

This is something that we are all guilty of doing.

The character of Salieri felt that there was this intense competition with Mozart and constantly compared himself…and this whole competition and comparison took place in Salieri’s head. It ultimately crippled and consumed him, and led him to the point of emotional destruction.


I started to reflect. How many times have I been so wrapped up in what others are doing; what they look like; what their accomplishments are; what their lives look like; how their lives are progressing?

This analysis of this movie is not new. But revisiting this movie as an adult put my own personal struggle with comparison into perspective. As mentioned before, the character of Salieri was a fine composer in his own way; he had his own unique style, and for goodness sake he was blessed by God to know music! How many people do not even know how to write one note? As I was watching his destruction unfold, I thought,

What a pity. If Salieri could have just focused on his own authenticity, instead of his own perceived inadequacy, he could have been great.

Damn. Sometimes it takes awhile for the light bulb to come on, and sometimes it comes on like a flash. I said to myself,

Michele, if you could just focus on your own authenticity, instead of your own perceived inadequacy, then you can be great.

And there it is.

What’s funny is at that at the top of my goal list of things to let go of for 2014 is comparison. Be careful what you wish for. You never know what route your Higher Power may take to get you to where you need to go.

I Was Beautiful in 2013


Beautiful – excellent of its kind. wonderful; very pleasing or satisfying.

I never knew that I didn’t know who I was. Or maybe I always knew, but there was so much emotional junk that needed to be removed for me to finally embrace who I am. As I have been on this path of emotional recovery and healing, I have discovered who I am. I am continually discovering who I am. The challenge I have found on this journey to my true-self, is acceptance. Since I have been in denial about my authenticity for so long, the challenge is loving myself and having the courage to share that authenticity with others.

This process of self-discovery has been a definite bumpy road. It has not and is not easy. Part of the reason is because I have had to accept the imperfect, less than the best parts of me as a path to learning that is a part of me as well. My ideal self makes all the right decisions, doesn’t make mistakes, performs at the top of her game, and is good all the time. But discovering who I am has not been just about discovering the good parts. It has been about learning and trekking slowly toward accepting my weaknesses and areas of growth. It’s about accepting the places that do not look so good along with the parts that look great and realizing it makes an awesome package.

This authenticity…the integration of the good and the bad, yes, I have come to the conclusion is quite beautiful.

The word beautiful – I believe is an active process. At first glance, something beautiful means that it is pleasing to the 5 senses; specifically what is pleasing in front of the eyes. While that may be a part of it, I believe that there are quite a few not so beautiful moments that lead a person, place or thing to being beautiful.

Beautiful has been my theme for 2013 because I have finally “seen it” within myself. I believe that I am beautiful…even if it is not affirmed or confirmed by anyone else.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. -Helen Keller

There have been several not so beautiful moments or feelings that I have had to peel away. And in doing so, I have had a glimpse of my beautiful core. And now that I’ve seen it, I have something to reach for and remember on those days when external forces try to overshadow my beauty.

My hope is that everyone get that same glimpse of “beautiful” within themselves as we go forward to a new year. Thank you to everyone who has been with me, continued with me, and are just starting with me on this journey. I look forward to more “beautiful” to come.



She Had Known Me Forever

The January 2014 issue of Foliate Oak Literary Magazine is out. It’s a beautiful issue in general…but specifically, it features my essay “She Had Known Me Forever” in the Creative Nonfiction section. This essay is my most emotionally profound to date, as I discuss the emotional aftermath of my sister’s murder…and how that loss ultimately connected me with my best friend. Through the darkness, there is always light. I hope that you will enjoy and respect my vulnerability, as I share another delicate part of my story.



Cat and Mouse

Photo by Hob

Photo by Hob

“Remember, the two-legged and the four-legged are made by the same creator. We are relatives.” -Cloud Dancing (from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman)

“No creature is undeserving of love. God reminds us of that.” –Today’s Gift from Hazelden

It had been a long week. For various reasons, I was feeling especially lonely and disconnected. That’s kind of how the holidays have been for me. In and out of gratitude, comparison, joy, depression, back again to thankfulness, reflection, and back to hopelessness. Earlier in the week, I had spent time with my best friend, lost hope in what I thought was a promising romance, and learned of an upcoming publication success. The ups and downs of life. Nothing new. I came home Friday night, wanting to share my disappointments and successes with someone in my house. But there were more pressing issues that the people in my house had to share with me. I listened. I responded. I reacted. I worked: took out the garbage, started the car, brought water to my mom, washed the dishes, unstopped the toilet, swept the kitchen, fed the cat. I was needed. I started to wonder, if I didn’t come home, would anyone really miss me? Perhaps if the dishes started piling up. I don’t know. I wanted to run away. Perhaps starting over in another town would be good.

Okay, with the pity party over, I basically felt unappreciated, and codependently unable to ask for what needed.

Of course the people who live with you are supposed to know what you need!

So Saturday, I slept. All day. My all day slumber was probably 50% depression, 30% exhaustion, 10% disappointment, and 10% guilt and shame for feeling the depression, exhaustion, and disappointment. Got up…ate…slept some more. I was checking out. Every time I felt a hint of emotional pain, I would turn over and sleep some more. It’s not the most evolved way of dealing with feelings, but it’s all I had yesterday. It was the best I could do. Toward the end of the evening, I emerged for a bit and spent time with my family…who were still quite self-focused. I watched a movie and then made a decision to not do this same thing again today. Sunday, I would get up, get dressed and go to church. Yes. Having somewhere to go will help.

That’s where the funny part comes in…

I woke up early this morning feeling the same sadness and hopelessness that I felt yesterday. I said, forget it. Maybe I need just one more day of slumber. It’s freezing outside anyway. I’m just going to turn over and go back to sleep.

The moment I turned over, there was my cat, Samson, on my bed, looking intently at something by his paw. He kept poking and poking at it. I thought it was a bug. But then, I saw the four legs…then the little tail…

It was a mouse!!

A dead mouse. The cold temperatures in Chicago have led those little mousey guys into our warm home. We have an old house and there are lots of cracks and crevices that those little guys sneak through. And my 10 year old cat, being the great mouser he is, caught that little guy, and brought him to his mama.

Disgusting yes. But two things happened here. Be careful what you wish for. Just a few days earlier, I had felt unappreciated. Here, my cat was showing me that not only did he appreciate me, that he loved me enough to bring me his prey to share.

The other thing that happened here was that I was so freaked out and disgusted by this dead mouse in my bed, that I was fully awake and no longer going to turn over and drown in my sorrows. If I was going to cry it out, I was going to cry it out among others. In church community. So I went to church, then took myself to breakfast. And then on to one of my favorite places…as I write this…I am at the library.

My problems unsolved, still feeling rather lonely, but among the living. Fulfilling my purpose through writing these words.

And it humbles me to think that God used two 4-legged creatures to communicate His message to me today:

You are Loved


Get your butt up and show that Love to others.

And so it is.

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