Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

You only live once
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”—Mae West
Do you know people who are merely existing, day-by-day? They go through the motions of everyday life, but they are really just breathing bodies. They go to work every day, taxi kids around to activities, and appear normal, doing the necessary things. You may see them smile occasionally, or even laugh; however, they have no real enjoyment from their life. Even though their hearts are still beating, they have already stopped living. How do we move from simply existing to truly living a great life?

Many seem to think that in order to truly live a great life, you must have fortune, fame, or incredible beauty. Maybe you must have the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood. Possibly, you must be part of the popular friend group. That is far from truth. Living a full, meaningful life has nothing to do with what you possess or who you know. It starts with just you. We are all imperfect; however, it is when we embrace our imperfections that we truly figure out how to love ourselves. We may be far from perfect, but we are certainly unique and amazing in our own ways. And the first step in truly living is to be happy with yourself.

Living fully also means filling your life with things that interest and excite you, finding your passions. This is where many who are scarred from abusive relationships falter. Your life is meant to be lived in the present, not wasting time dwelling on the past. You are meant to chase the things that you dream of, things that make you motivated and brings you happiness. If you have been in an abusive relationship, chances are you aren’t sure what those things are because the abuser probably controlled everything you knew. That abusive control left you a broken shell and you must rediscover yourself. Now is the time to work on understanding and working through your emotions and accept that yes, sometimes you may get emotional and cry and not know why. And yes, you may feel sad or mad and not know how to handle those emotions. However, to be able to live fully, you have to let your emotions freely flow so you can heal and move past them. This is the time to let go of what happened and focus on what you can do now to have your best future. Basically, get to know and love yourself again.

What are some of the first steps you can take? Ground yourself with nature. Take time to really see what is all around you. Do you see the beautiful sunrise or sunset? Can you hear the steady beat of the rain? Have you really observed how lush and green the grass is or how blue the sky on a cloudless day? Have you ever noticed how beautiful healthy soil is and wondered what makes it that way? Allow yourself to become charmed with nature and how it is all interconnected and many of those same lessons apply to our lives.

Each day when you arise, don’t allow random feelings to determine how you day will go. Make the conscious choice that it will be a good day. Find something good to focus on. Work to appreciate each moment. Recognize what you accomplish that day. Spend time with beloved family and friends. Really listen to conversations. Find your tribe; those who make you feel good and who inspire you to be better.

Figure out your dreams and chase them hard. Don’t give up just because it isn’t easy. Decide on the direction you want your life to go and build the path to make it happen. You may have to build a bridge to overcome obstacles; but, don’t give up.

Work intentionally to be kind to others. Maybe send a note of encouragement to someone that is in a hard time, or pay for the lunch order behind you in line, send a text just letting someone know you are thinking of them, or give a compliment to a stranger. Those small gestures mean a lot. Often, we read stories of someone thinking of ending their life and how a stranger’s small, kind word came at just the right time and gave them hope to continue in life. You never know when you may change someone’s world.

I recently read a dedication post to a local lady who passed away and from it, we can tell that this lady truly lived! The person wrote, “Saddened that my forever friend who amazingly went through so many chapters, never shut the book and settled, but continued to drive and thrive at reinventing and expanding herself, looking for her next adventure, and living and loving her best life is gone.” Wow! What a legacy! She truly lived a great life!

You can make the choice to truly live your life starting today. Instead of being afraid of death down the road, be more afraid of a long life you never really live because you are too afraid. Death is a great loss; however, the bigger loss is dying inside while you are still alive. Truly living is not just doing for yourself and handling the day-to-day grind while gritting your teeth, just getting through. Truly living is doing things that make you feel alive, feeling contentment down to your soul, and doing things that bring true meaning to your life. To truly live is to try to make a difference in the world. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The purpose of life is not to simply be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. You may reach your Jackson County Office at 256.574.5826 for an appointment. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline where you can reach a trained crisis counselor any time at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.

-Teresia Smith

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