I am so grateful for each woman who shares her story with us. There is power in connection and vulnerability. Melissa is an amazing woman who I love being around. She radiates a love for life that is contagious. You can feel her strength and her resilience when you are around her. When you read her story you will see that life hasn’t turned out the way she planned but she has embraced it and made it wonderful. I just love her attitude and her strength! Thank you for sharing and being a wonderful example to all of us Melissa.
When I was a teenager I imagined a yellow brick road to eternal bliss upon which I would perfectly make everyone in my circles happy and proud of me. I would have a joyful marriage with adventures my husband would plan for us, a handful of kids and I would be totally appreciated as a stay-at-home mom. Today I am 46 years old with 5 awesome kids. I’ve been divorced twice and have needed YEARS of therapy to recover from two deeply damaging marriages (and divorces) and very low self-esteem. At times I felt hopeless, weak and all I could do was cry and wish for someone to come save me.
I have had to redefine my hopes and dreams and take charge of them myself. Amazing therapists and my own determination have guided me to develop the strength to trust myself, learn my own value, and feel empowered to create my own happiness. It has been so hard and has not come naturally to me! I now work full time, run my own household, and recognize that I no longer need or want someone to save me. I have learned how to save myself!
I didn’t use to practice the art of being kind to myself. Did you know perfection is impossible? It has taken time to gently understand that I am just doing the best I can in each deficient moment and with each mistake. Instead of criticizing myself, I have worked to view each fall as a teaching moment and learn from it. I needed to accept my imperfections and love myself exactly as I am. This has been crucial! Without even realizing it, I’m also teaching my kids about self-care by showing them what that looks like when I handle my mistakes with grace and take time for myself to go on adventures for personal fulfillment.
How does a single mom express her adventurous side? “Mom Fieldtrips” with my incredible kids started out small with local hikes. All we needed were shoes on our feet and a map on my phone. As I have become more courageous, our activities have progressed into weekends out of town camping, spelunking, and strapping on microspikes so we can hike to frozen waterfalls.
Another step in my journey has been slowly testing my courage without my kids. Last fall for the first time I spent a few weekends canyoneering and I even rappelled down a 300 foot drop-off! I am so proud of myself. When I head into the mountains I feel the weight of life on my shoulders. Once I hit the trail those worries disappear because of the beauty surrounding me. I’m the girl who exclaims every 10 feet, “Oh! What a gorgeous view! Look at the river! Can you hear the birds?” Being out in nature is therapy for my soul.
One thing that has been missing for me in these adventures has been connecting with women who are looking for the same thing. Last fall I found Get Out There Girl and a few other female-based hiking groups. In January I was able to go up to Starr Valley, Wyoming on a dogsledding weekend with Brittany and 10 women I had never met before. I was nervous! Would they like me? Would I feel comfortable? Would I like them? I was thrilled to discover that each of these women also came seeking connection. We shared about our relationships and experiences in open ways that allowed us to get to know each other’s hearts and intentions. Brittany taught a workshop on vulnerability that resonated with me. You get what you put into something. If you come into a situation willing to listen and share with open hearts, you’re going to be able to connect with people who are doing the same thing.
Life is happier when I am kind to myself and I make myself a priority. I can’t wait to meet more women who are doing the same and to see where my next adventures will take me!