Today's post is written by guest blogger Lori Nasso.
Not long ago, I was a married woman with young children living in a beautiful home and working full-time. My career as a flight attendant allowed me the ultimate flexibility of caring for my family, working, and a little “me” time.”
In what feels like the blink of an eye, everything changed.
I am now separated and have been fighting for shared custody for almost three years.
My beautiful home was court-ordered to sell and I’m renting for the first time in my life.
After 20 with Air Canada, I’ve been laid off due to COVID-19 with no indication of being recalled any time soon.
This past December, my dear uncle fell outside, only to be found frozen to death the next morning when it was too late.
And finally, test results from a recent visit with my doctor revealed several health concerns around heart disease, mobility issues, and cancer. Three years of chronic stress may not be the sole cause, but was most definitely a contributing factor.
Needless to say, I’ve endured a lot of pain over the past three years, as many of us have. And yet, while it would be easy to dwell on what has or hasn’t gone right, doing so would feel somewhat foreign to me. Fortunately—or perhaps unfortunately, depending on how you look at it—my childhood experiences of escaping a dysfunctional home environment taught me to develop tools to turn pain into power.
So, without further ado, here is what I humbly suggest for anyone in need of a bit of inspiration and empowerment during whatever painful time you may be going through.
1. Let your voice be heard.
As a young child, I remember journaling daily as my father would have another glass of wine. No one coached me. No one suggested I journal. It just felt like a natural thing to do. It was a safe place to express my pain. Today, I can clearly see that the journaling was one of my saving graces.
Had I not been so committed to writing, it’s likely that my emotional pain would have been suppressed. The world of Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic healing system developed in India more than 3,000 years ago, would predict that this stifled pain would manifest as some sort of issue with my thyroid or throat chakra, associated with communication and speaking your personal truth. Instead, I’m able to write with ease and allow my voice to be heard in a safe place. I take this childhood tool and share it with others without hesitation. This is power.
My cousin says singing allows her to express her pain—something that became clear to me when she recently sang a song in Italian about her late father. This is power.
There are so many social media platforms at our disposal where our voices can be heard, and I’ve learned from experience that being honest tends to resonate deeply with audiences. Put your fears aside and let your voice be heard. Sing, write, speak, or draw. Do what feels right for your journey. This is power.
2. Step out of your comfort zone.
After my husband and I separated (while still living under the same roof), my lawyer instructed me to “get in the car and take a road trip” with my children, suggesting Montreal or Ottawa as our destination.
A road trip? I had never driven more than an hour on my own, let alone with kids! Thoughts about “if I could handle it” and worries about what could go wrong flooded my mind. You see, I gave my ex-husband the power of being in charge of everything: I did very little, if any, driving when we went places—often looking out the window from the passenger seat as I did when my father drove me around—and found myself asking for permission whenever I wanted to get my nails done. Despite being a working woman, my husband was in charge of the finances.
Nonetheless, with our bikes in tow and CAA membership in hand, my children and I went on a road trip to Ottawa. It was such a memorable experience. We had fun, learned so much about the city and each other, and met beautiful souls we will never forget.
Last summer marks the first time that we flew on our own. As per the recommendation of my lawyer (again), we flew to Montreal and the children met some of their family members for the first time. They got to see mommy in charge. More memories made. This is power.
3. Practice resilience.
When I was in my early forties, I was in the best physical shape of my life without question. I was able to train four, sometimes five, times per week and participated in obstacle course races. I loved the ways that they tested my endurance, strength, agility and flexibility. Unfortunately, however, years of running and kickboxing caused damage to my knees and a corresponding surgery that would end my running days.
I remember taking pictures after the surgery with a big smile on my face because I didn’t want my children to know about my pain. I went to my son’s soccer game all bandaged up, cheering from the sidelines.
It was one of those fork-in-the-road moments where I could have dwelled on what I missed or dreamed about something new. Choosing the latter, I decided I’d give fitness modelling a try.
Away I went to an agency that specialized in representing athletes and got my first commercial shortly thereafter. It was for Fisher Price—and the best part was that my daughter was in it with me. From there, I was in a piece for the Pan Am Games, directed by one of the most peaceful souls I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Without being physically “stopped,” I never would have had these opportunities. Instead, I was open to reinventing myself. This is power.
4. Create a positive environment.
As part of my journey of turning pain into power, I participated in group therapy sessions that were conducted by a very spiritually grounded U of T alumni. Towards the end of the second session, which occurred when I was still cohabitating with my children and their father, she asked each one of us to describe what our ideal home environment would look like.
Well, what I described is what I have today: fresh flowers, the sound of water, pretty candles, quotes on the walls, diffusers for aromatherapy, relaxing music…. It is peaceful. It is our space. It is safe. This is power.
When we speak about our environment, of course this includes who is in our circle. COVID-19 has forced all of us to limit the size of this circle. In some ways, it actually gives us an opportunity to limit exposure to anyone who does not support our journey. This is power.
5. Take time for self-care*.
Daily self-care in the form of exercise, good nutrition, rest, deep breathing, and time in nature is a necessary tool to turn pain into power. This journey requires energy that only comes from a self that is well taken care of. Treat your body as a temple. Be kind to yourself, ALWAYS. I’ve found that being a good role model for your child/ren also helps them to develop good habits at a young age. This is power.
6. Take time for self-reflection.
It’s important to be able to identify the source of your pain. Speaking with a professional helped me locate the root source of my pain and change patterns that somehow became familiar, regardless of whether or not they were healthy. I am becoming empowered in understanding how unresolved childhood pain can show up in the present. Within the last three years, I’ve made decisions not only for myself but for the benefit of my children.