I used to run with a select group of friends on the weekends, usually when building up my long run mileage in preparation for an upcoming race. They’re all good friends and experienced runners – most of them much better at our favorite sport than I. I’d start the run with them but, at some point, I’d always fall behind. I could have pushed myself harder in an attempt to keep up, but I didn’t often want to, so I’d simply let them go. When they got far enough ahead of me, they’d always circle back or stop and wait, words of encouragement never far from their lips. I’d tell them to just keep going, but they’d hold up anyway, patiently waiting for me to catch up.
When I first fell in love with running, I had just two goals: getting faster and going farther. When I trained for a race, it was to PR and, eventually, qualify for Boston. In this way, running became a math problem: distance divided by time. But I was never very good at math, and no one needs more problems. Over time, however, my outlook has changed. I’m no longer interested in keeping up with anyone. I’m okay with running slow and alone. Speed is no longer my goal… nor is some astronomical distance. My only goal, when I lace up now, is grace.
I run to find my rhythm – that feeling of gliding effortlessly through the air, where my body and my breath work in harmony to propel me forward, almost as though I were flying… and were I to cast my arms outward, I just might take off, right up into the sky!
Runs like that are rare – as rare as a far reaching PR. Like all moments of grace, they tend to arrive unexpectedly, without warning and, when they are over, they leave me feeling elated… wondering if I shall ever feel this good again? Or if it’s even possible?
But these moments have now become my WHY – my whole reason for running in the first place because, when I lace up my shoes, it’s the only way I know how to make that feeling occur again. And so I run, I wait, I breathe, and I hope.
I’ve run long enough to know that going out and pushing myself on every run won’t give me that same experience. In fact, the only thing that brings me closer to grace is listening to myself.
Pushing harder can be enjoyable, and I am proud of the achievements that pushing myself has yielded me in the past – PRs I never thought possible until they were published as “official”, right there, in black and white. These numbers are fun. They used to give me confidence, self-respect and, unfortunately, an unhealthy form of validation. Through the years I have learned that when I push too hard, too fast, or too much, running becomes a grueling and unpleasant labor – a self-inflicted form of punishment disguised as a healthy, physical outlet. And no matter how fast I would run, I couldn’t keep up with my own preconceived ideas about how much faster or stronger I should be. Then the numbers became nothing but bigger indicators of my own personal failure. That kind of running is the opposite of grace. And so I choose to resist it, allowing myself to run almost embarrassingly slow at times in order to practice floating along, actively resisting the urge to push through.
I no longer care what anyone else thinks or chooses to do out there on the roads. Everyone has their own pace to keep and timegoals in mind – goals that will perhaps deliver them to their own state of grace? As for me, I choose to do my own thing – losing myself in this form of moving meditation, constantly in search of an experience that I hope will keep on finding me.
A few years back, I met this girl. Fiery hair, calm eyes, a knowing smile, swagger when she walked, and a spiritual vibration so intense you couldn’t help but feel the pull of connection towards her soul.
One night, she asked me if we could talk – so we did, and this is what she said:
“We all have a box. And in this box, are all of our past experiences, future hopes and fears, every good or bad thing that has ever happened to us… and what if the whole point of Life is to take these things out of the box, one by one, and examine them – choose what things we should keep with us and decide which ones we should simply discard? And what if every person that comes into our life has a part to play in helping us decide which things are worth keeping, what lessons we need to learn from them, and then help us light the match that will burn away all the things that no longer serve the greater good of us, as human beings?”
My response back then was, “Perhaps some things should be left in that box? Perhaps that box should be locked? And stuffed way down in a dark, dusty corner in the basement and the key destroyed?”
I’ll never forget how we both laughed on the phone that night… but, deep down, I knew that she was right. I never knew exactly how right she was – until today.
I arrived at work this morning several minutes early. I am always the first one there, so the Office was dark. I unlocked the door and, as I stepped inside, two gunshots rang out in rapid succession.
I immediately took cover and, as I crouched there on the floor, holding my breath, pressed up against the wall, my mind transported me back in time… “seeing” the bullet holes peeling back the metal, wondering if the next shot would be to my head? My heart was racing, my ears were ringing, and my nose burned with the smell of… LATEX??? This discrepancy in perception pulled me back to NOW. If those were gunshots… why did I not smell the gun powder?
My senses heightened in keen awareness, I now noted nothing threatening in this building which I have come to know as a safe space. I could see enough in the darkness to know that nothing was out of place and I was, indeed, alone. I stood up and turned on the lights. Further investigation found that two balloons, which had been decorating our Office in celebration of Dr. Cotey’s military retirement, had burst against the rough, wooden planks that make up a wall in the front of our Office.
If I wasn’t so scared, I probably would have laughed out loud. By now I had already lost quite a bit of time, so I got right to work, preparing the Office for our 6:30am start time.
I quickly realized that I couldn’t function normally. My brain just wasn’t working. I stared at the computer for minutes, sweating, trying to remember the password. I was picking things up, putting them down where they don’t belong, forgetting where it was that I’d even put them at all. Duplicating tasks I’d already done because I’d forgotten that I already did them. Difficulty standing still, or staying engaged. My mind wandered off in conversation, an other worldly feeling, as if my mind had exited my body, trying hard to pull away as flashbacks would hit me, one after the other, unprovoked and out of the blue – remnants of real life memories, “locked up” and tucked away, deep in “that box”, now released.
My heart continued to race, my skin continued to crawl, internal tremors distorted my perception – was I hot or was I cold? I could literally feel both simultaneously at the exact same time.
“Do your f*ck*ng job!”, I told myself… and I surely did my best. But I knew that I was not okay. I told myself to “just breathe”, and sometimes this would help. Sometimes. Other times it just magnified the choking sensation I felt in my throat. Hours passed. And, here’s the thing – when you’re a high-functioning person, the symptoms of P.T.S.D. are not always visible or easy to see.
As a Paramedic, it doesn’t matter what you’re feeling at the time, you have an obligation to respond and the responsibility to yourself, your partner, and your patients to remain calm and fully functional – no matter what is going on around (or inside of) you. And so today, just as back then, I did just that – just as I’ve always done. But, as our morning shift slowed down and came to an end, so did I. Just as in EMS, once my job was done and there was nothing left for me to do, I crashed. Hard.
Terrified and distraught, despite the lack of legitimate physical threats before me, it was as though my body had kept score of every past trauma I’d ever experienced and buried. Today, no matter how much I “talked myself down” or looked toward vibrant colors to ground me and pull me back to NOW, the “things” would not just let me go. So I did the only thing that made any sense to me in a moment like this – I called Dr. Michael.
Dr. Michael and I have tried EMDR therapy before. It has not worked well for me in past sessions… but today, in an already distressed state, it was the only thing powerful enough to slow the mental spiral and calm the physical sensations! And, just like that, it all makes perfect sense…
“Traumatic events, by definition, overwhelm our ability to cope. When the mind becomes flooded with emotion, a circuit breaker is thrown that allows us to survive the experience fairly intact – that is, without becoming psychotic or frying out one of the brain centers. The cost of this blown circuit, however, is emotion frozen within the body. In other words, we often unconsciously stop feeling our trauma partway into it, like a movie that is still going after the sound has been turned off. We cannot heal until we move fully through that trauma, including all the feelings of the event.”
Susan Pease Baritt, “The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD from the Inside Out”
It doesn’t matter what “things” you “put away” in your own “box”. It doesn’t matter how long ago you may have “locked” that box up. And it doesn’t matter how deep down in the “basement” of your brain you think you’ve buried this box. If you’ve never taken the time to really examine what’s actually inside – if you’ve never taken these emotions out, turned them over in your hands, and chosen to see them for exactly what they are – fear, anger, resentment, abandonment, betrayal, distrust, humiliation, guilt… they will never be gone forever. They will simply hide in the shadows, patiently awaiting the moment when they can (and will!) make their comeback. As fast as the popping of a balloon against a rough surface, all those previously suppressed emotions will rain down upon you in the heaviest proverbial deluge, distorting absolutely everything in your “safe” new reality.
Just as my friend was trying to make me see, way back then, in the beginning of us – the only way OUT, is THROUGH.
(Pretty sure a very wise “Zen-Master Michael” spoke these same words to me again today too.)
“Tragedies will always be found in the things we love. And if we are not willing to see the beauty in losing something that means the world to us, then imagine how terrible it will be to live for them. We must always welcome the end of all things. for sometimes, knowing nothing lasts forever, is the only way we can learn to fall in love with all the moments and all the people that are meant to take our breath away.”
My Dad would have turned 70 today.
Funny how, some things, the mind just never forgets.
Like the strength of his presence when standing beside me, the way he looked at and fiercly protected my daughter, and how gently he loved my mom.
This man taught me so many things! He gifted me with the ability to write, he taught me to read and instilled in me a love of books. He encouraged me to run, taught me to drive, and cultivated the “extrovert” to my naturally introverted personality with a passion for fun, exhilarating experiences, as well as, a deep appreciation for quiet moments and the natural beauty of this world… not to mention, the therapeutic value of cranking up the volume on some really good music!
We didn’t always see eye to eye and our stubbornness could, at times, set us as far apart as two complete strangers. If I’m being honest, I don’t think he ever forgave me for growing up. He wanted his daughters to stay little forever. But then I had my own daughter, and I will never forget the way he looked at her – like a man who just received the chance to live life all over again!
Through the years, my dad taught me so many things… but the greatest lesson of all has been to never take one single moment for granted because, before you know it – just like that, it is gone.
”As I get older I see that running has changed for me. What used to be about burning calories is now more about burning up what is false. Lies I used to tell myself about who I was and what I could do, friendships that cannot withstand hills or miles, the approval I no longer need to seek, and solidarity that cannot bear silence. I run to burn up what I don’t need and ignite what I do.”
Running has changed for me.
When I started down this path, I was seeking weight-loss, confidence, improved self-esteem, stress relief and, ultimately, inner peace.
I was struggling in life and in love, trying to balance many “hats” – as a wife, a mother, co-parent, Paramedic and… well, simply a person – one who didn’t yet know exactly who she was. No matter the situation or scenario in which I found myself, I’ve always had to be strong for everybody and everything else going on around me. “Adapt & Overcome” became the motto not only for my work, but also my life!
I discovered that running was hard – but I knew I could do hard things. At first, I had to break it down, mixing in frequent walking intervals, in order to simply complete a mile – but I did it. Soon that mile became two miles, three miles, four miles and then five. I increased my running intervals, decreased my walking intervals, and pretty soon I was skipping the walk breaks altogether and running for an entire hour! By this time, I had lost nearly 40 lbs. and was managing everything in my life so much better. I began to sign up for races, and even won a few age group awards! These moments were exhilarating, always driving me forward, progressing me further and further – on to the next distance, a new goal, and a better time.
At some point, however, my love of running turned into an obsession… and that obsession, despite it’s benefits, quickly became toxic.
In every run, I kept pushing for more and more, oftentimes falling short of my goals – sometimes by just a little, other times by more than alot. I labeled these moments “failures” in my mind and through the months and years that followed, through thousands of training miles and over 100 race events, I began to feel like it was just never good enough… like I was never good enough.
In 2017, we lost my parents in a car crash. I fell into a deep depression. I stopped all formal training and simply ran for the meditative benefits it offered me – the “calm amidst the chaos”.
For the majority of my life and every day at work as a Paramedic, I’ve always felt the need to be strong for everyone else – my parents, my sister, my daughter, my patients… and in every situation – personal, professional, and especially in preparing for and executing the wrongful death jury trial on behalf of my parents. Running had, once again, become my outlet – but that outlet, once again, turned toxic.
I was currently facing the most tumultuous time of my life. Anxiety, depression, P.T.S.D., changing of careers, growing apart from many friends, an existential crisis, and a pending court appearance where I would be called upon to testify for my parents against the man responsible for their deaths. I began to progress and excel in almost all of my key workouts and official race events. On the outside, this may have seemed beautiful and exciting, something to be proud of. But I am now well aware of what I was going through on the inside. I was running to make the physical pain greater than the emotional pain because, only when I pushed through it and excelled at bettering myself despite it, did I feel worthy of this life – only then, was it easier for me to breathe.
When the Covid-19 pandemic caused race events to be cancelled, I continued to run, but I became anxious and restless, constantly searching for the next best thing to provide me with the adrenaline rush I craved from racing. I pursued multiple high-risk activities and soon came to focus my attention primarily on skydiving. There truly is no better feeling than facing your greatest fear (which, for most of us, ultimately, is death) and then finding the strength inside yourself to overcome it. Skydiving is very indicative of Life itself, and it was during this time, and throughout all of my experiences with this sport, that I learned a great deal about myself – and how mentally unhealthy I had actually become.
On June 5th, 2021, in just a matter of seconds, a perfectly good solo skydiving jump went horribly wrong. I suffered 3 thoracic spinal fractures, a significant injury to my sacrum, as well as a severely fractured arm/wrist.
For the first time in my life, I was faced with the fact that I physically could not run. Several months later, when I was finally able to ease back into it (against medical advice), I quickly realized that my running would never be the same again – nor did I want it to be.
As the 2021 Boston Marathon drew near, I came to the conclusion that, while my body most certainly wasn’t “ready” to run a marathon, that did not mean that it couldn’t be done.
Boston 2021 was my slowest marathon performance ever but, by far, the greatest run of my entire life! I did not run that iconic race for anyone or anything other than myself. The pain I felt that day was purely physical – mentally and emotionally, I had finally set myself free!
I finally realized that it’s not about being strong for anyone or anything else – it’s being strong for yourself that matters the most. It’s loving yourself enough to show up, in every run, in every workout, and silence the noise going on inside your head. It’s choosing to focus on your consistency, your progress, and your ability to do the things you love, no matter the time in which it takes you to do them. It’s taking ownership and accountability of your thoughts. Filling your mind with positivity, encouragement and love, rather than feeding the self-defeating and self-imposed narrative that you have created for yourself in the past. It’s understanding that those thoughts serve no purpose other than to highlight your insecurities and hinder your growth. It’s affirming that these thoughts are no longer welcome here. It’s being grateful for and appreciating the fact that you are able to run – that your body is capable of the handling the impact, the movement, and the mileage, and understanding (now, more than ever) that not everybody is as fortunate as this.
That’s when I realized that I no longer needed to “try and be strong”. I realized that strength is just one of the many positive qualities that I already possess. It’s just one part of the greater whole, that makes me who I am. Running has become the catalyst for so much of my personal growth and I have come to realize that absolutely everything in my life is better when I run.
7 months, 24 days, 2 surgeries, 30 scar treatments, and countless hours of pain, tears, and physical therapy later – I was finally able to resume modified strength workouts at the gym. It’s hard not to feel frustrated at times, I have lost a lot of strength and stability… but none of that even matters. What matters is that I am here, and every day I get a little bit stronger.
On January 22nd, 2022 – I ran another half marathon. I no longer wear my watch or track my pace when I run. Instead, I listen to my body and give it what it needs, whatever that may be.
On this particular day, my husband had accompanied me to the event and (despite the frigid -6° temperature) was patiently waiting for me to finish the race. I had given him an honest estimate of 3 hours, thinking that it would take me every bit of this timeframe to complete the 13.1 miles of rolling hills that awaited me on this well-known course. Imagine my surprise, when he fell in step beside me with a quarter mile left to go and informed me that I was “40 minutes ahead of schedule”!
Running has changed for me. I no longer forsee myself running full marathons or ultras… and that’s okay. I no longer want to… because running has changed for me – in fact, running has literally changed ME. But, despite all the things that I have been through, I am still here, I am still running, and I am quite proud of this fact. That, alone, is now enough – as am I.
“Speed eventually drops, PRs become permanent, medals tarnish. All you can really hold onto is today’s run. All that really lasts in running, is the lasting.”
“I didn’t fall in love with you. I walked into love with you. With my eyes wide open, choosing to take every step along the way. I do believe in fate & destiny, but I also believe we are only fated to do the things that we’d choose anyway. And I’d choose you. In a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality. I’d find you…and I’d choose YOU.”
Kiersten White, “The Chaos of Stars”
20 years ago, I came face to face with the man that would change my life.
Prior to meeting him, I never believed in “love at first sight”, as this is something of fairy tales. But on that day, and in that moment, my life flashed before my eyes and, as I was standing there, looking into his, this incredible wave of emotion washed over me and the craziest thought echoed throughout my mind:
This was completely absurd, of course, considering my current situation and course in life. However, the Universe set something in motion that day and, a year later, under a completely different set of circumstances, I (again) found myself face to face with this man… and, this time, the story of “US” truly began.
I’d like to say that the rest is history and that we lived “happily ever after”, but that’s just not reality in any story line or lifetime. “For better or worse, in good times and in bad.” are words written into wedding vows for a reason. So, no – it has not been all sunshine and rainbows. Lord knows we’ve had our share of dark days, hard times, disappointments and tears… but what’s meant to be will always find a way, and so we’ve weathered all of our “storms” together, building a life and love as strong (and as stubborn) as we both are.
Recently, someone asked me what the secret is to such a happy marriage and, while I am definitely no expert, I know what works for us:
Go ahead and laugh, but it’s actually quite true. You have got to be able to have fun with your partner, as well as respect them enough to never degrade or demean them when you are angry or upset. Not to mention all the “other stuff”, … like honesty, respect, tenderness and forgiveness, as well as, a willingness to share in all the boring and mundane responsibilities that come along with building a life.
One particularly unconventional “tradition” we have invented for ourselves over the years is that every year, on our anniversary, we discuss the previous year (or years) and ask each other: ARE YOU TRULY HAPPY?
You see, marriage is all about give and take. Some years one partner may be called upon to give so much more than they take, and this can become exhausting. When one person needs more than the other, it can be easy to overlook or ignore the needs of the giver. No matter what happens though, it is so important to make sure your partner feels seen, heard, valued, understood and appreciated. And if, at any point in the marriage union, these mutual feelings have changed… well, we believe it’s better to have loved and lost than to continue on, living in a loveless relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, we meant every word when we took those vows. And we mean it when we said “forever” – but neither of us are naive to the trials and tribulations of Life. We both know, all too well, how things can change over time. We’ve both seen it happen and I, myself, experienced it firsthand at a very young age – having been married at 18, and divorced by the time I was 25.
Just like the old saying begins: “If you truly love someone, set them free…” – if ever we are no longer happy together, we have agreed that it’s better to simply let each other go, rather than to stay together and allow our hearts to rot.
Lucky for us though, again, we both agree. After discussing the highs and lows of our most crazy past year, I asked him if he’s still happy…
He said YES! …and I, most definitely, still “DO”!
“Love isn’t only love, sweetheart.
It’s hard work, and trust, and tears, with even a few glimpses of devastation. But at the end of each day, if you can still look at the person at your side and can’t imagine anyone else you’d rather have there, the pain and heartache and the ups and downs of love are worth it.”
From the very moment we are born, we begin to die.
There are a thousand ways to die and each of us may die a thousand times in our lives… only to survive and find a way to live again.
My mom used to say that I was “wise beyond my years” or “an old soul, trapped in a child’s body”. As a child, I didn’t really know what that meant, but now, as an adult, I can clearly see how true a statement it was.
I was just 4 years old when I died for the very first time.
My family and I were at a pool party, one of their many attempts to fit in and make peace with their marriage which was, obviously, “on the rocks” at the time.
I was floating in the swimming pool, unsupervised by any nearby adult. I slipped through my inner tube and sank to the bottom. I watched the bright pink circle of my flotation device grow smaller and smaller above me, my vision blurring as the chlorinated water stung my eyes.
At first, I was not so scared. I’d seen so many cartoon movies about mermaids and magic and the ability to breathe under water. But, until I took that first breath of water into my lungs, I never realized that magic and mermaids… well, they’re just not real – and so I began to fight.
I kicked my legs and flailed my arms, envisioning myself swimming to the top and emerging like a dolphin up and out of the ocean. How proud, of me, my parents would be! But the harder I fought, the more exhausted I became. By my third breath of water, with the surface just shy of my outstretched arm, I remember thinking rather calmly: “I’m about to disappear.”…and, just like that, it all faded to black.
There are a lot of theories about who rescued me that day – not that I know for sure, I’ve blocked it all out.
Some say that it was the dog next door who barked, agitated by the rippling of the pool water, lapping over the side.
Some say that my partying parents finally looked over at the swimming pool, remembered that they had a daughter, and realized she was no longer sitting there.
Some say that it was me – that I thrashed my way to the surface, paddled my own way out… right into the outstretched arms of a “responsible adult”.
I’m not so sure.
Maybe I never really made it out of that pool at all?
Maybe I’ve been a ghost, all these years?
And that would make sense because, for the remainder of my adolescent life, none of them seemed to ever hear me or truly see me at all.
On June 5th, 2021, in just a matter of seconds, a perfectly good solo skydiving jump went horribly wrong.
7 months, 24 days, 2 surgeries, 30 scar treatments, and countless hours of pain, tears, and physical therapy later – daily, at home and 3x a week, in-person… I have officially “graduated”.
I am not yet 100% back to my normal state but, by “medical standards”, I have achieved as much progress as the average human being is expected to when recovering from these particular injuries. Therefore, I have been officially discharged from direct patient care and am released to continue an at-home P.T. Program. I am also permitted to return to all former activities with modifications, as needed, in order to not re-injure my (still healing) arm, wrist and spine.
Today, after nearly 8 full months off, I was finally able to step back into the gym.
I can not believe how much I have missed it or how good it felt to get back in there and simply MOVE! Granted, my workout had to be modified quite a bit. I was not able to lift the kind of weight that I used to lift, I could not perform all of the same exercises as the rest of the class, and I definitely had to slow the movements down in order to maintain good form – but none of that matters to me more than this one simple fact: I was able to do it! …and I can hardly wait to do it again.
More than just the movement though, it felt really good to sit and talk with the trainers about my current situation. In the medical community, they tend to think in terms of limitations, restrictions, and all the things you CAN’T do. In this situation, however, I watched as these two incredible men listened to me, asked questions in order to fully understand, and then brainstormed together on how to actually make this workout WORK for me and focused on all ￼of the things that I CAN do!
We did not stress about the numbers, the measurements, or how far away I am right now, in comparison to the physical state I was in before my accident. Instead, we celebrated the fact that I am alive, that I survived what could very easily have been a fatal skydiving crash, and how I am now already well on my way to getting “myself” back!
My body is different this time around and, therefore, my goals are different, as well – but all of that is okay. I am happy and grateful to simply be well enough to start down this path again… and I am excited to see just how much further I can go!
They say you should only look back in order to see how far you have come.
I couldn’t help but take a brief look back today, and I am amazed at myself – my strength, my resilience, my resolve to finally move forward and heal.
I know I’ve said it before, but things don’t always work out the way you think they will or the way that they actually “should”.
When it comes right down to it, the truth is this:
1.) You’re not always going to get the closure you seek or the explanation you think you deserve.
2.) Sometimes you have to simply accept something for what it is and move on.
3.) Everything really does happen for a reason – even if you don’t fully understand the logic behind it at the time.
A friend and I had a discussion today about old wounds, childhood trauma, and the behaviors that can sometimes follow us into adulthood simply because we’ve never known any other way. And it’s true, unprocessed trauma can keep you in a never ending loop of your past. You can be 25-years-old with an 8-year-old mindset and mental process…which is why you people please, or over extend, or stay in places longer than you should, in situations that no longer serve you, or with people who inflict so much pain, simply because you know no greater love. Your inner child is screaming “finally someone loves me” – and no one’s love is more unconditional than a child’s.
But you don’t have to stay there, stuck in the dark, looking behind at all the things you wish had turned out differently. You don’t have to lose yourself in the would-a’ could-a’, should-a’s that weigh you down with guilt. You can choose to move on. You have the power to turn the page on that chapter of your life.
Start now, start fresh. Initiate a plot twist. Change the narrative, change the ending. This life is your story, the pen is in your hands, and the options are as endless as your own imagination.
When it comes to the past, choose to carry with you only the lessons and the blessings.
This is where I am at now too. And what I love the most is the freedom that I have found to finally strike a balance – to pursue my happiness and protect my peace.
It’s not always easy. Old habits really do die hard – especially for someone who was raised to feel worthless and guilty for pretty much everything. But I am choosing a different path now…because the choice is literally mine!
The best part about coming out of the dark is that nothing ever really looks quite the same. Everything is so much better, so much brighter, and feels so much lighter when you finally choose to release yourself from the darkness step out into the light.
“I choose to fully inhabit my body, to slay my inner demons, and to nurture my inner child. I choose to go the distance to live my dreams, not just to survive, but to thrive. I choose to walk my own path. I choose to settle only for what I want. I choose to write to understand myself, not to be understood. I choose to share my story, not to be heard, but to hear the echo of my truth. I choose to be me no matter how strange, weird, or uncomfortable it may be for others. I choose to let go of the people who make me feel insignificant. I choose to free my past. I choose to forgive, because it’s freeing for me. I choose to stop fighting life, because life knows that I’m already strong.”