The Payoff

Yesterday I was sitting by the pool with Adam by my side. Nothing particularly exciting was happening. Just the two of us relaxing after a busy week, taking time to connect. As I lounged, listening to the sounds of kids playing 'Marco Polo' around me, feeling the sun warm my face, I was overcome with a sense of contentment. Knowing I was meant to be in this exact spot, next to the man of my dreams. The realization that hard work and a strong commitment to personal growth was what got me here was not lost on me. It made the moment sweeter.

Seven years ago, I was in a toxic relationship. We lived together and both our personal and professional lives were heavily intertwined - making it difficult to walk away. On our best day, I tolerated our situation. Thinking I could make it work; ignoring every red flag and nagging intuitive whisper saying, "this is not where you are meant to be." I was stuck and feeling stunted by learned behaviors, fear and insecurities to do anything different.

Then fate intervened. Suddenly, I was single, living alone, and unsure how to move forward. In the past, I would have found myself preoccupied with some sort of distraction to ignore my pain, then choose to date a guy who represented every past partner and then fall into a deep sense of failure and regret when that relationship crashed and burned. Listening to my inner voice this time, I chose to make some real changes, ones that would allow me to succeed on my own, content and happy.

It's very easy to fall back into old habits, especially in times of fear and uncertainty. It provides a false-sense of security. However, avoidance does nothing but keep us in a fragile game of limbo; making the same mistake over and over again.

I wanted to explore the underlying reasons for my behaviors and break every unhealthy pattern I had, especially the ones connected to relationships. Deep down, I knew I would never have all that I envisioned for my life if I didn't try something different.

It was hard. Brutal even. But I was determined. I started working with a therapist, then a coach who gave me tangible tools and practices. I also began taking yoga, which saved my life emotionally. On my mat, I was able to process and release all the feelings and past wounds I'd been carrying in a way I couldn't quite let go of in talk therapy. I explored other alternative healing modalities, such as reiki, breath work, spiritual retreats and acupuncture - anything to help purge what I had spent years holding onto. Each therapeutic tool was a stepping stone.

As I moved through the world as a healthier version of myself, I began to understand the why behind my actions, becoming more mindful of my communication and personal relationships. I gave myself space to unlearn coping skills that held me back and slowly began to rely on myself for validation, instead of others. It wasn't perfect. In fact, it was messy and ungraceful at times. But I never gave up. When I was tested by old triggers and wanting to behave as I had in the past, I worked harder.

I did the opposite of what felt comfortable. I listened and followed suggestions. I wrote every day (another therapeutic release). I continued working with a coach, took long walks with Jax, reevaluated my personal & professional goals and said no to dating.

In time, I changed. Sure, I still had insecurities (I mean, I'm human after all), but I trusted myself and followed my intuition - which helped me make better decisions. I learned to feel okay on my own, and eventually I fell in love with myself, my life & admired the person I had fought to become.

When I was ready, Adam came into my life. I wasn't looking for him, or needing him to fix or heal me. He was a surprising payoff for years of hard work. We complemented each other - two individuals at their best coming together. For the first time, I chose a relationship based on mutual respect, understanding and emotional maturity.

Change doesn't happen overnight, in a week, a month or even a year. It's an everlasting process that requires willingness and effort. Most importantly, change happens when you get out of your own way. It may seem obvious to choose an easier path; to seek out people, places or things that will temporarily fill what is missing. This is fleeting and everything you're hoping to avoid will still be there when the dust settles. Taking the path of safety will only get you so far.