Let’s Discuss: The Stigmatization of Depression

Depression Defined

Hi folks. Let’s get a little serious today, shall we?

As you all probably already know, the passing of our beloved Robin Williams and the somewhat ironic circumstances under which it occurred, has spurred a lot of conversation over the last few days. Some of it has been sweet and thoughtful. Some of it has been tasteless and cruel. And some of it has uncomfortably settled somewhere in-between the two. With this surging debate on depression and mental illness, suicide, and our misconceptions about what kinds of folks are susceptible to this stuff, I suddenly felt a need to candidly speak on the topic. So here it goes.

When I first heard the news, I was shocked – as I think most of us were. I can’t say that I ever thought of Robin Williams and depression in the same sentence before, or even remotely at the same time even though it turns out he’d been struggling for years. And perhaps that is one of the biggest lessons in all of this – that depression can surface is some of the most unlikely places.

Think about it for a minute. How could depression be a choice, a weakness in character or nothing more than situational sadness – as it is often stigmatized in society and in the media – and still have found a way to attack an incredibly accomplished and loved man with a spectacular career – a man who possessed an inspiring talent big enough to bring joy and laughter to so many people around the world? Doesn’t that demonstrate the power of deep, intrinsic sadness and how predatory it can be? I’d say so.

And yet, after scrolling through dozens of sympathetic and shock-filled social media posts regarding William’s passing and the circumstances behind it, there it was – the inevitable judgment, hatred and mis-education that [sadly] compromises so much of today’s online experience. Words like coward, suicide promotion, choice and selfish began to fill the commentary – and I thought how lovely – listen to these people who have likely never dealt with actual addiction or depression passing judgment on something they don’t understand. As I read more and more, I came across an increasing number of individuals turning the sad passing of a legend into an opportunity to spew hate and spread rampant mis-information just because they can, and just because they have easy access to a mass audience that will listen.

Come on folks. Haven’t we learned this lesson time and time again already? Don’t we all know by now that it is from hate that so much of the evil in our world stems? When we hate, stigmatize and blame, we shut people off – we leave no room for healing and we invite more pain. In our society, depression and mental illness is often so stigmatized and so silenced, that many of those who suffer from it are forced to suffer in silence. They do not seek the proper help. They attempt to fix something that is much bigger than themselves by self-medicating or taking other measures. And then when it becomes too much to handle all alone, we judge them. We call them cowards. We view the sympathy and understanding of others as the promotion of suicide. We point fingers, and we blame. But rarely do we truly understand what was going on inside that person’s brain, inside his or her feelings, inside that broken heart, that would have driven them to take such extreme measures. Can you imagine how big the turmoil has to be to get there? I can. 

I have been there. I have suffered from depression, and it’s still something I have to work on every day — fighting it with everything I have. Doesn’t it all make a little more sense now? Yes. That is a large part of the reason why I push positivism so much, why I work so hard to find the good in all the nooks and crannies of everyday life – it’s why I fight – because fighting is what has helped me escape that darkness, stay healthy and become a source of light – at least I hope – to others.

You see, depression is a very strange and powerful force. I know firsthand how hard it can be to explain to people who have been fortunate enough to never experience it how tangible and real depression can actually be. To me, depression is best described as this hopeless, gaping, stinging feeling right in the middle of your chest – it causes physical exhaustion, random tears, sometimes outlandish thoughts, desperation, restlessness and a long list of other things. When it’s really bad, your body literally hurts and the thought of getting up or going out to complete the smallest little task – hurts even more. Smiling hurts. Conversation hurts. Pretending — it hurts. At times, your bed starts to feel like the only safe, comfortable place in the world – where the pain seems to subside even if only for temporary relief, and so you cling to it.

Often you just have no idea why you feel this way – and that right there can feel sufficiently maddening. You think, well, nothing is particularly wrong right now. Why am I so sad? Am I going crazy? What is wrong with me? These questions only serve to amp up the hopelessness and self-loathing – and the vicious cycle continues to spiral out of control, often gaining dangerous momentum.

Luckily for me, through the grace of God, the universe or who knows what, I have been able to work through my depression, and I have stayed relatively free of it for the last few years — with only short-lived bouts here and there. Still it is always there – in the back of my mind – the possibility that it could creep back on me at any time – and that, most days, is mortifying in and of itself.

I was very, very lucky indeed, and I still am. I was able to overcome. I found light. I found a way to turn my sadness into an almost obsessive mission to practice positivism and healthy emotional habits as often as possible – to fight and to not let it get too big. I constantly read messages of hope, and I spread my own to others. I have learned to catch myself when I start to feel the smallest inkling of that awfully familiar sting, and I fight. I force myself to get up and go out and connect, to get dressed and show up. I fight.

But here’s the thing. What did I do to deserve the ability to overcome? Nothing. Am I somehow better, smarter or more capable because I was able to escape my depression – and the suicidal thoughts that did cross my mind quite often circa 2009 – than those who did not find an out before it was too late? Of course not. So how can I judge? How can any of us judge? How can any of us truly know the kind of pain inside a person, and the reasons why they might have or might not have overcome it? Why should we call them cowards when they fought some of the strongest demons that can afflict a human being – depression and mental illness. Who are we to assume they are weak or selfish or unworthy? 

So here’s a thought. Why not promote openness and sharing instead? Why not extend your hand to someone you suspect might be struggling with this kind of battle? Why not choose to lead with kindness instead of with hate? Don’t you think that would help stop someone form committing suicide more so than shaming them for their struggle, and making them feel even more alone than the demons inside already do?

This is critical folks. We will never be able to walk anyone to the light, if we continue to lead with darkness. Let’s try a little harder today, please. Let’s try to respect the struggles of others so that they might respect our own. Let’s work together and not against each other. Let’s be a little bit more sensitive to the things we don’t understand. Let’s ask more questions and make fewer assumptions. Let’s do better. I know we can.

And to those suffering from depression or from similar battles, if you feel like no one in the world understands, I’m here to tell you that I do. I really, really do. Reach out to someone for help. Leave the shame at the door, and put your life and your well-being first. You CAN escape it. You CAN find light. You CAN find happiness and health. You CAN overcome. You CAN. I promise you, you CAN.


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

A Love Lesson: Thank You for Not Loving Me

Love LessonDear Eric,

Sometimes we want something so bad, that we shut our eyes, and we follow it blindly, even if we step on hot coals as we do it. We clutch on to it, and we don’t let go despite that frightening feeling in our guts telling us it’s slowly killing us.

It’s now been about eight months since we stopped dating, six since I’ve seen you, and about five since I’ve talked to you. Still, it has only been maybe a month or two since the weight of your memory on my mind, on my heart, and through my deep struggle to move forward after what I Iovingly like to call the Major Mind F**k of 2013 begun to lift.

To some people, our relationship or the major lack thereof, was not real. It was fake and disingenuous and forced. It had too many rules, and none of them worked in my favor. It’s hard for them to understand why it became so big for me, why it hurt me so much, and maybe even why I’m still talking about it today. And for the most part, they are right. On your side it was all of those things and less. But for me it was real. It was very real. Our weak, borderline abusive, unhealthy, pathetic time together is the closest thing I’ve had to a real relationship in a decade. It meant something to me. It meant everything to me. And when you pretended to love me, I believed you. I shared things with you and opened up to you romantically in a way that I had not done with anyone in my adult life. I opened my arms, and I said, “Here, take it. Take it all.” And you did. The problem is you gave me nothing in return.

During that entire year together I struggled with my feelings for what I came to know as a bad person. I struggled to look in the mirror and respect myself, because I knew very well that I was putting up with all of the things that go against everything I believe in, and everything I preach. I let you control me. I let you demean me. I let you disrespect me. And I let you do it over, and over again. Although it was never anything particularly huge, the sum of all the small ways in which you would devalue me and the love that I wholeheartedly offered to you even when you didn’t deserve it (and your rarely did), became much more than I could handle. I began to see your lies, the coldness in your eyes, and the emptiness in your heart. Still my stubborn heart loved you, and at times I thought I’d never find the strength to let you go.

I spent all of 2013 questioning. I questioned my worth. I questioned what I might be doing wrong to deserve your cold-hearted ways and your refusal to commit. I questioned whether the games were real, or simply in my head. I questioned my strength, and whether I would in fact end up settling for someone like you, even though it has been my life’s mission to never settle. I was so scared. The good thing is that, much to your surprise, I did finally find the strength to let you go. It took me a very long time, but I did it. I said I’d had enough, and I walked away. Sure I struggled to cut the cord completely at first, and I might have reached out many times when I shouldn’t have, but as the days and months went by, I felt like I could breathe again. I felt like myself for the first time since I met you, and I began to regain my confidence and my strength. I began to see that it had been your negativity that had brought me down, and that I still had it in me to be very much victorious. My only weakness had been loving you. I was not depressed. I was simply in a bad, soul-sucking relationship. There’s a huge difference.

After more tears than I’m proud of having shed, in the onset of 2014, I made a decision. I was going to live more life. I was going to give up dating for a while. I was going to seek out new adventures, make new friends, take trips, invest in me, regain my center and heal. And for the last six months, I have filled my calendar with musicals, volunteering, ballets, dinners and travel. I intentionally sought out friends, I made plans, I lived. I stopped waiting around for you or for anyone, and I LIVED. Some days I was so tired from all that living that I wondered if it was all worth it or if I was going too far with it. Would this work? Could I once again take control of the happiness I had slowly and painfully let you suck out of me?

Guess what? I could, and I did. Today, as I write this, I am healed. Your rejection and your pain pushed me to reevaluate my life, to get back to my dreams, and to remember, that although I do very much want and believe in love, marriage and children, I have never wanted to be the kind of woman who revolves her life around a man, especially around an unworthy one. I have always wanted my life to be a big adventure full of progress, success, friendship, experience and healthy relationships. I want a partner who can add to my life, and not one who constantly takes away from it. I want to share my life with someone as bright as me, so that together, our lights can shine even brighter and help others in the process. All you ever did was dim my light. For a while there, you damn near shut it off.

But now, I’m in a whole new, beautiful place in my life. Last week I moved to NYC, and this Monday I started my dream job as a writer helping to inspire young girls to have courage and be all they can be. What could be better than that?! The possibilities ahead are endless, and my adventure lives on in true Sonia fashion. I am healed. I am happy. I am ready to date and believe in love again. I am ready to never accept anything less than the treatment I deserve. I am ready to stand up for myself and to be firm. I am also ready to be soft, tender and open with someone who will be able to accept it and appreciate it. I am ready to believe again in the power inside of me, in my resilience, and in my ability to move forward into bigger and better. I am ready to be Sonia again; whole, happy and ready to take on the world.

The lessons your pain taught me are proving to be invaluable. They have made me stronger and better than ever, and they have pushed me into this amazing place where I sit right now; a place where I feel almost invincible. My breaths are deep, and my gratitude is big. I remember now. I DO have control over my happiness, and no one can take it away from me unless I let them.

So thank you, Eric. From the bottom of my now-whole heart, thank you for not loving me. You gave me the love lesson of a lifetime, and changed me forever in the best way possible.

The end.

Yours truly,

Hate is Hate: The Donald Sterling Fiasco

Hate is HateHey ya’ll.

I’m just now catching up with all of this Donald Sterling news (I know, have I been under a rock?!), and I’m really glad he’s been banned and that it’s been made clear this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in the NBA. Also, WOW. Just WOW. It’s still bone-chilling to me that we live amongst people in 2014 that would still say such things and worst, believe them. It scares me, and it saddens me. And no matter how many times I see it or hear about it, it still shocks me. Maybe I’m living in the ideal versus the real? Who knows.

Anyway, as the ban was announced, I quickly noticed several individuals that would be and have been just as quick and disgusting to say ugly, hateful things about gay people, homeless people, disabled people, overweight folks, etc. etc. etc., all in a rage on social media about the racist comments made by Sterling. Suddenly, I just felt the need to remind everyone that HATE IS HATE. It’s all the same, and it’s all just as horrible, unproductive, mean-spirited and completely unnecessary as the comments made by Donald Sterling. No matter how you slice it, HATE IS HATE, my friends. Regardless of who started it, or who you think deserves it, HATE IS HATE.

So the next time you start to feel like you’re on the right side of it, I urge you to please think again, and please, please keep it to yourself. You don’t have to understand, like or even accept everyone, but please just try and find a way to respect them and keep your negative feelings tucked inside instead of spit off into someone’s face. Respect. It’s the very least every single human being deserves.

Now go out, and have a beautiful, positive, hate-less Tuesday. K. Thanks!


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Photo Credit © Raywoo | Dreamstime.comWiping Off Hate Photo

Grit and Glory: The Battle of Intelligence vs. Grit

Grit and Glory: Hello. I am a survivor.

I absolutely love TED talks. These days it seems I hardly go a day without listening to at least one or two. And each time, I am inspired and reinvigorated to dig a little deeper and push a little farther than I had previously thought I had it in me to do that day.

I find hope, reassurance and energy in every talk. It’s the kind of stuff I truly believe we could all use more of on the daily; real, eye-opening, often sensitive, and perspective-filled content that helps us to live better, to be more open and to experience life, if only for a few minutes, through the words and circumstances of others so that we can learn to be a better version of ourselves.

And, although I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a TED talk, the one I came across today has to be one of my absolute favorites. Go ahead. Trust me. It’s more than worth the six or so minutes.

Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit.

There you have it. Grit and glory, baby! Grits are in fact a higher indicator of success than intelligence – I’ve always suspected it, but it’s nice to have a trained psychologist confirm it. In fact, I’ve written on a similar topic before related to a study I came across a few years ago. Grit (and hope) is the reason I’ve arrived anywhere in life. It’s how I made it into graduate school twice even though I’m a terrible standardized test taker (I mean, TERRIBLE). It’s the reason I completed an MBA with honors despite my more than lackluster ability with numbers. It’s how I’ve managed to become pretty tech savvy and contribute more at work. It’s the reason I’ve found my way through difficult economic times. It’s the reason I’ve been successful in my career (success has a different meaning for each of us). My driving force, grit and glory!

It’s how I’ve overcome the extreme shyness I experienced as a child and as an adolescent. It’s how I’ve conquered the emotional issues of my past. And its how I’ve slowly moved away from the statistic I could have easily become and the poverty I was born into (although very first-world in nature). It’s how I’ve managed to do and experience the things that often seemed out of my reach in my previous poor-girl mentality. Yup. You guessed it. Grit and glory!

It’s the reason I’ve accomplished or finished anything in my life – not because I’m smart enough to be a rocket scientist (yeah right!) as many of my schoolmates back in high school would say when they wanted to flatter me into helping them with homework or a big project – but because I have GRIT and lots of it. I never give up. I never take no for an answer if I really want something bad enough. I always find my way. I research. I figure it out. I stay up late. I wake up early. I ask questions. I dig. If this doesn’t work, I’ll try that. I examine all possibilities. And I get it done, whatever it is, and I get it done well. Dare I repeat – grit and glory!

So the next time someone tells you you’re not smart enough, or the next time you start to tell yourself that – I don’t want to hear it. Remember this TED talk and my subsequent rant, and remember that passion and perseverance – or grit – can get you there every time. No excuses, just hustle, grit and glory!


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Loving Yourself: The Power of A Selfie Date

Loving Yourself: The Power of a Selfie Date

Haaaaaay. #selfiedate

This past Thursday, I had a very long, exhausting day at work, and going to do more work (albeit physical and not mental) at the gym after the office just wasn’t sounding very appealing. I wanted a nice meal, a drink, a movie to get lost in – a distraction and a night of fun to distress from the day. I needed a little quality time with my selfie.

As I thought about this concept of having a selfie date, I realized how badly I didn’t want to go through the hassle of texting people to see who wanted to come with, wait for a reply, coordinate schedules, etc. So instead of all that ruckus, I decided to take control and just head out on a lovely selfie date (you know, kind of like the photographs we all like to take of ourselves and post on Facebook  and Instagram, but way more fun!), blow off some steam without any complications, and have a great night – just me, myself and I.

At first, I was a little afraid to go sit at a bar by my selfie, and have my meal and my much-needed drink all by my lonesome. Would I look pathetic, I thought? Would I feel uncomfortable? Should I just stay home and have a glass of wine in the comfort of my non-judgmental couch? But then I thought no, if I stay home I will do nothing but take one sip of wine and fall asleep at 8 p.m. That is not what I was looking for. I wanted to get out. Besides, I do things by my selfie all of the time and have a good time, so what was my issue now?

So I took my fears and hesitations, shoved them in my purse, and walked down to a nice, quaint neighborhood bar that is just a few blocks down from my apartment. I arrived, looked around, and suddenly I didn’t feel so afraid of my selfie date. I took a seat at the bar, ordered my vodka soda with extra, extra limes, a scrumptious steak salad, and got comfy in my stool. Within just a few minutes, I made a new friend – Tom if I remember correctly – shared some stories, had a very tasty salad, and enjoyed a basketball game on the big screen TV (I don’t even like sports, but for some reason, I was thoroughly entertained).

As the minutes wore on, I began to feel a combination of things – all of them very positive. I was proud of my selfie for getting out on my own, and for overcoming my fears. I felt good that I didn’t give into the easier route of just staying home on the couch. I felt content at the realization that new friends are ready to be made everywhere you go, that people can be very friendly, and that I was not the only person enjoying a selfie date at the bar. I am not weird, I thought. I am brave, and there are many others just like me.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and so it did. Suddenly I realized I was cutting it a little close to make it to the movies in time for the next showing of The Lego Movie. So I closed out my check and proceeded to jog/run to the movie theater – all with a nice little selfie date buzz on me. I had 20 minutes to get there and it was quite a long walk, so why not speed up the process a bit?

As I ran, I felt so free. I began to feel very present with my selfie, and I remember thinking, wow, I’m a lot of fun!  I thought I’m really having a great time, and there isn’t even anyone else with me. It was a crazy cool feeling. There was no one waiting for me at the movies, no one to care if I was late. But I had made a date with my selfie, I wanted to watch that movie, and so I ran to show up for ME on time. What a beautiful thing that is – to show up just for yourself.

I made it to the theater just in time — all out of breathe but excited to have made it. I bought a water and got comfy in my chair. And again, I began to feel that feeling of freedom I had felt at the bar. I enjoyed the movie, I laughed, I cried a little at the end (what can I say –I’m a sucker for inspirational storylines), and then I had a lovely walk home, and went to bed. And woo, I was exhausted! And it was all from a great time with just me, myself and I – well, and I guess ol’ Tom was pretty entertaining too. The selfie date was a total success!

So whether you’re single like me or have a partner, whether you have two friends or 100, once in a while, don’t be afraid to get all dolled up and go out on the town with just your selfie and a pocket full of hope. In fact, make it a priority. Learn to enjoy your own company, and exercise the courage to talk to new people, to try new things. Enjoy a show – laugh, cry and be inspired, savor a meal, laugh at yourself, have an adventure. Remember that you are your friend too, that you are fun and exciting and a great date.  Remember that the relationship you have with yourself needs nurturing too, that you need your own love, attention and encouragement as much, or sometimes even more so, than you need that of others.

Go on, plan that selfie date, and get to know the beautiful, fun, exciting you in a whole different way!


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Valentine’s Day: Attention Single Ladies & Gents

Valentine's Day Heart

So it’s Valentine’s Day. Your surroundings, your TVs, your radio and your computer screens are uncontrollably puking red and pink hearts, chocolates, flowers, mushy words and sentiments, etc., etc., ETC, and you simply can’t escape it. It’s Valentines Day!

There you are, still single, and you begin to feel sorry for yourself when this day starts to seem like it was created solely to destroy you. Well my friends, don’t be sad. 

Instead, look around you. I mean, really LOOK. Take notice of all of the different kinds of love you DO have in your life on Valentine’s Day and every day – from friends, family, pets, the universe, and most importantly, from the almighty you. Love comes in many different shapes and sizes, and being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t at all equate to being loveless, just like being attached on this day doesn’t always equate to more love or even more happiness.

So this Valentine’s Day and every single one to come, I urge you to say “thank you” to your singleness for as long as it’s there. Thank it for giving you the time and energy to fulfill your dreams and aspirations. Praise it for all of the lessons and the patience it has awarded you with. Kiss it for helping you to not settle for the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Thank it, cherish it, take advantage of it, travel with it, laugh with it, be free with it, drink it up with a nice apple martini or a cold beer. Take it out to dance, sit with it at a great movie, hug it, flirt with it, sleep sprawled across the bed with it, enjoy it. When it’s gone, I have a suspicious little feeling you will miss it a bit, even dare I say, on Valentine’s Day! I know I will.

Happy V-Day ya’ll, and never give up hope! Just live your life, and all that mushy, gooey, good stuff will come when it’s supposed to.  Being single isn’t tragic. Like all of life’s seasons, its beautiful in its own right.


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, They Are Alive

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Not all those who wander are lost. It’s a line from the poem All that is gold does not glitter, written by J.R.R. Tolkien for the Lord of the Rings. I’ve never actually seen any of those movies, I know, GASP, but I came across the quote somewhere in social media land today, and I thought, aha! Isn’t that the beauty of the digital age we live in? You can catch small, but meaningful gems at every random click of your mouse. I’m corny, and I know it. Also, I love it. Anyway, here it is:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

That line is so true. Not all those who wander are lost. Some of us have a “nasty” little habit of constant daydreaming, planning, searching, looking – for a little spark, for a new adventure, for a fresh accomplishment, and that some of us is definitely, unequivocally, me. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m lost.

All my life, I’ve heard things like:

“You’ll just make yourself unhappy by expecting so much out of life.”

“You have food, water and shelter. What else do you need?” (I’m so serious. I was totally told this at 17.)

“You’re restless. That’s bad for you. Just sit.”

“Oh, stop being crazy. Stop trying to be a hero.”

Despite the nags, I’ve always pushed for more, questioned things, searched for progress, and I strive to move forward in some small way every chance I get. If you’re anything like me, and people also tell you to stop daydreaming, or just settle for what you have, stop being ungrateful, or that you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment, I invite you to take a stand with me, and yell, not all those who wander are lost! 

Try new things. If they don’t work or you fail at a new venture, try something else. Keep moving forward and searching. Make a little tweak here. Make a little tweak there. Never settle. Don’t listen to fear or failure. They are your teachers, your friends, and your road to glory. They are not your enemies. Don’t let anyone make you impossible-minded. Always stay possible-minded and forge ahead. Figure out a way to get where you want to go. Don’t let the passing of time without successes deter you. Triumph rarely happens in a day.

And when you achieve one goal, set the next. Always strive for improvement. Always find new things to excite you and fulfill you. It’s not frivolous or ungrateful, and it doesn’t even mean that you’re entirely unhappy with your current situation. But there is so much to experience in life, why stop at the now?

The day you stop daydreaming, planning, hoping and wishing, I suggest you check your pulse. All those who wander are not lost, baby. They are ALIVE.

Happy, motivated Tuesday ya’ll.


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Live. Learn. Do Better.13 Awesome 2013 Life Lessons!

13 Awesome 2013 Life Lessons

Whoa! It has been WEEKS  since I’ve written. You know how it goes. The holidays tend to derail us from many of our regular routines especially with travel, family and all that good stuff. The good news is I just couldn’t let the year slip by without offering a little last-minute inspiration.

Here are 13 awesome lessons from 2013. It’s sort of a culmination of everything I’ve written about this year. You might have learned some of these lessons already, and others might offer a little something new to think about, I hope! Enjoy, and have a fun, wonderful and safe NYE! Thanks for reading in 2013!

Life Lessons #1: Settling is only a temporary fix. Hold out for the thing you really want, even if it seems incredibly far away.

Sometimes we chose to settle because it hurts too much to keep waiting for the thing we truly want, or because we feel like we will never find it. Whether it’s in love, in career, or in general life, settling might give you a temporary sense of relief and security, but in the long run, you will end up more unhappy than if you had just held out a little longer, and waited for it to be truly right and satisfying. Like they say, often people give up right before they were about to achieve success. Hang in there. Don’t settle!!

Life Lessons #2: Stop going to the hardware store for milk!

I learned this one from a mentor, and it is truly a glorious lesson in all its simplicity.

Stop going to people or places that you already know, from beating that dead horse one too many times, will not yield the desired results. For me, this year, that really translated into forcing myself to stop going to a proven toxic person and expecting love, understanding and compassion. It’s not there. That hardware store will never have milk in stock! Stop it. Just stop it.

Life Lessons #3: Love is real.

Love isn’t easy to find or maintain. Love is messy and riddled with imperfection. But this year, attending the wedding of my friends Sophia and Ross (a story of international love), taught me that love is real and can exist purely between two people despite distance, barriers and complications.

When love exists, there are no excuses, no pretences, no distances too large or obstacles too high. You should never have to beg for it, work endlessly to make it work, or constantly be on edge about it. Real, healthy love will just flow. It will have its bumps in the road, but it will always find its way. When it’s right, it will not be so hard. Wait for it to be right. Anything else is just a waste of heart and energy.

Life Lessons #4: A narcissist only wants an object’s adoration, not the actual object.

This one also came from a mentor, and it has served as a great reminder for me. I do think it’s rare and sometimes hard to spot, but the world has a fair share of folks who truly care about nothing but themselves. These are folks who will manipulate you, play games with you, and do just about anything to feel your adoration and feed their ego. But, they don’t truly want you, only the attention you offer them. Stay alert, and when you feel this happening, run. Run fast.

Life Lessons #5: Standing up for yourself is not mean. Its right, and it’s necessary.

It’s taken me quite a long time to understand that standing up for myself does not make me mean. You have to do it, because no one else is going to do it for you. Standing up for yourself takes strength, conviction, and self-love. Stop worrying that you’re being mean, and just do it when it becomes necessary. Others will respect you more for it, and you will respect yourself immensely for it as well.

Life Lessons #6: Not everyone in your life belongs in it, and that’s OK.

It can be a sad realization that some of your current friends are not a positive influence in your life, but hey, it’s called growth. People outgrow each other. It’s natural and a necessary part of building the life you want surrounded by the energy that will help you maintain your well-being.

Life Lessons #7: You CAN learn to stretch your money a little farther if you just pay attention to your spending.

I struggle with money mostly because of sizeable debt. But hey, who doesn’t? The good news is this year, I’ve really learned that if I just pay more attention, that if I do not charge things I know I cannot pay off in the upcoming month and if I charge things that I know I can, if I just say “no” to unnecessary spending, that bank account doesn’t look quite as sad three days before payday as it once did.

Just pay attention, don’t give in to every spending whim you have, and watch that check stretch a little bit farther every time. Stop thinking so negatively about money and  somehow it will just work itself out.

Life Lessons #8: Time does heal wounds, but you have to give it time.

You will never get over something or someone, if you don’t muster up the strength to walk away and give it the time it needs. Stop picking that wound while pouring salt on it. Walk away, cry it out, let yourself feel the pain. Give time a little time. It will be OK. But if you don’t walk away, the pain will never end.

Life Lessons #9: Being happy takes an everyday fight. It doesn’t just happen.

Life is complicated, and there are many things on a daily basis that are just out of our control. But there is also a lot you can control. You have to put the effort into your happiness. You have to wake up and choose to be positive about the events of your day, push yourself to get to that gym and eat that healthy dinner, make an effort to connect with friends. Fight for it, don’t just sit around and wait for it.

If you feel sad, push yourself even harder to get up, get out, be productive, and not give in to feeling low.

Life Lessons #10: There will be great years, there will be just good years and there will be hard years. But all of them can still yield important lessons, delicious laughter and much-needed growth.

Not every year is going to rock. This year was not my favorite by far. But there were still a lot of good times, laughs, lessons, and a whole lot of growth. Learn to appreciate those things. Be grateful for the good that comes out of the bad. And keep remembering that tomorrow is a new day, and today, tomorrow is a brand new year!

Life Lessons #11: Don’t get overwhelmed by the size of a goal, and give up. Take it one step at a time, and celebrate small accomplishments.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the size of a goal we want to accomplish, and decide it is just easier to give up. Try and set up your goals in more digestible, small steps, attacking one piece at a time. Celebrate every time you get past one small step. If all you can see is 0 to 100, you will always feel defeated.

Life Lessons #12: You have to take care of yourself first in order to have anything to give to others.

It’s not selfish. You have to take care of yourself; of your well-being, your health, your mind, your heart, you life. When you are at your best, you are able to offer your best to others. Constantly focusing outside of ourselves can sometimes leave us with nothing to give. Take care of yourself, and do it well. Never, ever feel guilty about that. It benefits you and  everyone around you.

Life Lessons #13: Be kind, and the kindness will always find it’s way back to you.

There are a million good reasons to practice kindness in our every day lives and interactions. But if you want to focus on just one, realize that what you put out into the universe is likely to come back at you. Be a friend, and when you need one, there will be on there for you. Help someone in need, and when you are in need, someone will appear to offer you that same hand. Be understanding, and when you need someone to understand you, that understanding is likely to come out of some corner, somehow, some way.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

The Hunger Games and the Gift of Hope

Hunger Games and the Gift of Hope

Last weekend, I watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Having never read the books (please hold your contempt :)), I had no idea what to expect as much as I didn’t know what to expect from the first movie. I must say I was thoroughly entertained even with my hands going up in my face half of the time to block the view of all the impending violence (I’m a scaredy-cat, what can I say?). But I was surprised at the thing that struck me most about the movie, and that I really didn’t expect to see in the development of this story; that is the overarching theme that fear only works so long as people lack the gift of hope. It’s such a simple, yet powerful message. Dontcha think?

I won’t attempt to summarize the movie, because I am sure most of you are familiar with the story or might be planning to go see the movie, read the books, or both. But just for some context, essentially the main character, Katniss Everdeen, through her strong and rebellious spirit, manages to give the gift of hope to a society that has been bogged down by the government-led fear tactics they have endured their entire lives. When the leader of this society, President Snow, starts to realize that Katniss has become a symbol of hope for his people, he begins to worry that his fear tactics will become increasingly unsuccessful, because fear only works when there is no hope. In other words, the gift hope is stronger than the threat of fear.

Those words really struck a chord in me, and I’ve been thinking about them ever since. Today, on Thanksgiving, I have to say that the thing I am definitely most thankful for in 2013 is the realization that the gift of hope in my heart really is and always will be stronger than any threat of fear in my mind. I have fought some demons this year, particularly in the shape of toxic people, but through the gift of hope, I was able to let go, and come out of it all stronger, more determined and more confident.

This year, I realized that I have enough belief in myself that I rather wait for the right things, than to accept the mediocre things that deplete instead of nourish my soul. I realized that no matter what is happening around me, I always have hope that tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year holds something spectacular for me and usually, little by little, it does. I realized that flowers always blossom out of just buds, that strength can be derived from pain, and that fear will never win, so long as I have the gift of hope with me.

So my point is, if you are not feeling too hopeful, I suggest you dig deep, because that little hope sucka is quite helpful, even when you’re dealing with the likes of President Snow! And when you find it, hold on to it, because it will save you and give you so much.

So, what are you most thankful for this year? Even if you don’t wish to share it, it’s definitely a worthwhile reflection. Just stop, take a deep breath and find a moment to be truly grateful for whatever that might be.

Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll!


Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Reaching 30: Growth Hurts Before it Heals

After the ending of my latest pseudo relationship, I swear I feel like I’ve just been through a war. Good news is, I survived and I’m much, much better for the experience. During 10, long, often bitterly unhappy months (I still managed to ride that sucker out kicking and screaming with my positivity and commitment to the big, HAPPY fight :)), I learned an immense amount about myself, the issues I still need to work through, what I want in a partner and what I am willing to accept, and in-turn, what is absolutely unacceptable to me in the realm of love and relationships, and well, in life.

I also learned that I am considerably stronger than I might think at times, and I bet if you dig a little, you will find that you are too. Sure, that situation bordered on emotionally abusive or perhaps it really was, but I walked away from it, and that is all that counts. I might have stuck around for longer than any of it ever deserved, but the whole time I continued to fight. The real problem was that the biggest battle existed between my heart and my logic. But in the end, and thank goodness, my logic won.

Now I’m in the process of straying away from beating myself up for participating in the whole crazy thing in the first place, and instead, focusing on all the lessons and renewed strength it has given me. You see, that is the thing about growth; it hurts like hell before it heals.

As more and more days go by since that last encounter, I’m beginning to feel more like myself than I have in months. My energy is up, my smile is making more frequent appearances on the Sonia show, and my heart feels about a billion pounds lighter. I find myself laughing more, breathing deeper, finding more things that I love to do, and doing them. Most importantly, I know now more than ever that I am not in fact desperate, and that I still do have hope that I will someday find the healthy, passionate, understanding, lasting love I crave and deserve, with the right person at the right time. Always focus on the outcomes, and not so much on what got you there. Pain often provides great revelations for us and our lives.

And, at times, as we get older, we wish we could be as carefree and consequence-free as we were or thought we were in our teenage years and early 20s. At least I do. But, as I sit here turning down the less-than-thrilling advances I’d gladly welcome just a few years ago, demanding more respect, nurturing my own needs, wants and dreams, and more and more frequently standing up for Sonia, I realize I’ll gladly leave my youth at the door. Because this place, where you know who you are and who you wish to become, where you rather have nothing than accept scraps, where instant gratification has been replaced by the hope in the bigger picture that awaits  – that is a much better place to be.

To everyone out there reaching their 30s as I am (it can be quite a transition I’m finding), when you think you used to be more fun, wilder, or more adventurous, you’re not by any means boring now, you’ve simply experienced growth. And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Breathe it in deep, and thank it for hurting so much in return for inner calm, peace of mind, and a stronger sense of self.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie