Well, friends. Here we are.
I am 2.5 months into a season I wasn't prepared for. Or perhaps I was all along...
And I am still standing.
I am still here. I've made it this far which 2.5 months ago I would have told you nope, don't think I'm going to make it.
For those of you who may not know, on September 11, my husband of 10 years told me he was done. He doesn't love me. Hasn't loved me in 4 years. And two days later moved out.
Just like that.
A family broken, hearts shattered, shock and pools of tears. In a matter of moments.
And I'm still actually here, present, feeling it all, allowing myself grace, laughing at times and smiling more than I thought I would.
Why? Because what do we do when we don't know what to do?
We do our habits.
One friend sent me this message:
"Hey Ann - you seem like you're doing great and you talk about habits a lot. Is there a book that you read that has helped you establish good habits?"
Nope. No book. It's just discipline. It's consistency, monotony, it's doing the thing every day that you often don't want to do but when it's done, you feel 100 times better. It's not grandiose or massive. It's truly the small things every day that create an ecosystem of a healthy, habitual lifestyle.
And because of that ecosystem I had already created, I made a firm decision within hours of this trauma that I would stay committed to my habits and trust God with it all.
I recently heard Rachel Hollis say - you don't establish good habits for the good times of life, they are for the hard times. Yep. Exactly, Rach. That is precisely 100% accurate. No wonder she has millions of followers. When you have a healthy set of habits that touch on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, you can face the trauma and the trauma likely - not always - won't completely wreck you. And listen, I am not a doctor and I can't speak to every type of trauma, I can only speak to my experience. And my habits have helped me immensely not just with this trauma, but previous traumas in my life. So, in the spirit of wanting to perhaps help even one person, here are 9 habits that have allowed me to smile, to feel joy, to sleep and to believe I have a good life ahead during an otherwise tragic season. And if you're reading this today and your life has been wrecked or you lost your job or you can't get out of bed, it's not too late to start a life of healthy habits.
1 - Prayer/Quiet Time With God. Consistency reading my bible and/or reading a morning devotional has been a cornerstone to my faith, allowing my eyes and heart to be fixed on things above. I'm currently loving a devotional called "Always We Begin Again" and dozens and dozens of bible verses have been pointing me to the truth. The truth about who I am, that I am loved, that my husband leaving me doesn't define me. For me, spiritual discipline is a make or break no matter the season, but especially in times of trauma. I pray, ask for prayer, receive prayer and do it again multiple times a day. The prayer could be a prayer of gratitude (more on that below) or it could be at 3am begging God to heal me (he is doing just that). The point is - prayer and time with God are habits that have held me and they can hold you, too. God is waiting with arms wide open - no matter your past, He LOVES YOU.
2 - Community. Within hours of my life imploding, a wise friend firmly said to me - "Ann, fill your house. Be with people. Let people pour into you. Let people love on you. Don't isolate. Don't be alone." This was easy for me because that has been a habit for me ALL. THE. TIME. When people are gathered in my home, I am in my happy place. So, that's what I did. When friends called and showed up and invited me places - it was yes, yes and yes. They listened. They held me. They loved me. And they still do all of those things. I am so gosh darn blessed it's unreal. My people are the best people on the planet. Crisis can be made manageable in the context of community.
3 - Being Open. I think there is a significant difference between having community and having depth and truth in relationships. Being open is the precursor to depth and truth. I open up to my people daily. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I share my pain, my flaws and my failures as much as I share my success and celebrations. I believe deeply in authenticity and I am 100% unafraid of it. I was born this way and over time, have learned the importance of creating and maintaining open, honest and deep relationships. I feel to be loved and to love well, there has to be space for raw and real and open. Our truest selves. I believe that because I have been open the last 4 years of my marriage, the season after Rick's brain injury, where my closest community felt as if it was their own journey. So when Rick left, they knew the narrative, they knew what to say, what not to say. That habit I created allowed my community to carry me. You can read more about that here. Are you open with your close community? Do they really know you? Is being vulnerable part of your life? I realize it's hard, but I also know it heals.
4 - Orange Theory (and/or any physical activity). I have done orange theory for nearly a year and a half for 4-5 days a week and it has changed my life. I love it. It's the most amazing workout (and I've many workouts - yoga, running - which I still do - barre, beach body, tennis, pilates, you name it) and the habit of OT has been an anchor for my healing. The people I've met who are cheering me on. The physical challenge EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT. It's literal fuel. And despite my life taking a 180 degree turn, I never stopped going. And it has made all the difference. I love you OTF Miami Shores! And for you reading, GET PHYSICAL. You need it, your mind needs it, your kids need you to do it, your family needs you to do it. Create a habit and make exercise part of your life.
5 - Church. And specifically, Vous Church. I have gone to church on Sundays for the last 13 years. Maybe I've missed 20 times. And in this season, I have held tight to church like a blanket of hope. Because isn't that what Jesus is after all? Yes, yes he is that and much more. And that we get to have church on Sundays amidst a pandemic thanks to technology? No excuses, people! I believe in this so much, I'm extending an invite for you. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let's make a date. Church is more than a gathering on Sunday but that weekly habit matters immensely.
6 - Eating Well. Okay, so I may or may not drink wine at dinner most nights which could be argued a good or a bad habit. I'm counting it a good one for the sake of this blog. I digress. FOOD. Salads, crusty sourdough bread, meals from my garden, fresh seafood from the fish truck, avocado toast (Sarah and Eileen, that was for you), eggs, protein, lemon dill hummus, sweet oranges, vegetable soups, popcorn and dark chocolate. I have focused on eating well for years and I absolutely splurge on the bad but oh so delicious stuff too - gimme a waygu cheeseburger and truffle fries YES PLEASE. But my habits? They are filled with food that fuels my body. That helps trauma. It does.
7 - Music. Music lights me up. Bossa nova, Coldplay, Lauren Daigle, holiday jazz, the Rise Up playlist on spotify, the K Love station in my car, Vous Worship, and Justin Bieber on repeat (don't even get me started on his latest song Holy because I DIE AT THAT SONG EVERY SINGLE TIME), 90's hip hop at Orange Theory (thanks Jay) - this practice of having music playing throughout my day, while I'm cooking dinner and as I head into the evening is an easy, beautiful habit. But one that I can't disregard because music has carried me many of times and especially in this season. Don't discount beautiful, soul-filling, heart-wrecking music amidst your suffering.
8 - Gratitude. Perhaps cliche but perhaps one of the most important daily habits I have is gratitude. The expression of thanks, to God, for every single solitary blessing that has been bestowed to me. Because even when the pain comes and the blessing gets removed, there is still much to be thankful for. I have legs that I run with. I have blood pumping through my veins. I have a healthy daughter. I have a beautiful home with the most incredible neighbors on the planet. I have a business I adore. I have clients I adore even more. My friend Barbara said it this way, "we have a choice every day - we either make a list of our pain or a list of our purpose and the way we move to the list of our purposes is through gratitude." I agree. I'm living my life glass half full, despite the wreckage and a lot of that has to do with giving thanks. I wrote about this a few weeks ago in further depth, feel free to read.
9. Prayer. A lot of prayer. I have been praying daily now for over 13 years. I pray for it not to rain and I pray for God to do miraculous things like heal people with cancer. I pray for my work days, my clients and my creativity. I pray for protection over my house, over my daughter and I even pray for Rick. I pray for my family, for health, for safety in our country. You guys, I pray. A lot. In the morning, in my car, while running on the treadmill. It connects me directly to the creator and it allows me to surrender it to Him. And when I couldn't pray, just days after this all happened, my people interceded for me. Just like I have interceded for others. Prayer is not my last resort, it's my first response. It changes everything and is arguably one of the best habits to create starting right now.
Now, make no mistake. I am NOT perfect. I don't do each of these, in order, every single day without fail. No. But I do most of these things most of the time. And that is why I know what to do when I don't know what to do - I DO MY HABITS. They have the ability to carry us in our pain and strengthen us in our purpose. Start some today, dear friends. And watch, as you do most of the things, most of the time, how your life will change for the better.
And you, too, will be able to stand. To be present. To smile. To laugh. You will. You WILL be okay. YOU WILL LOVE AGAIN. YOU WILL BE LOVED AGAIN. (Clearly this is what I'm preaching to myself rn.)
I LOVE YOU.