Sit back, Dear Reader. This is going to be a long read. Suggestions of your favorite beverage, snack, and a pit stop in the facilities are in order. I’d apologize, but I’m actually not sorry. Sometimes in our lives, we experience something, and 500 words aren’t going to cover it.
I’m fairly open about certain parts of my life here. I’ve written about post-partum depression and anxiety, facing cancer, losing my father, social anxiety, road trips, stress as a parent, my oldest child coming out as a transgender male, the writing process, losing my uterus at age thirty-three, and other mundane details of my life. There are things that I am not open about, primarily because they don’t always just involve me, or maybe they are things that are just for me.
In 2014, my father died. Two years after, I was struggling still, dealing with something painful, that out of respect for other people involved, I still won’t talk about openly (you guys got my hysterectomy story, you’re not getting this one). In June 2012, I published a blog post entitled “I am Free” which was basically a summary of a road sign causing me to pull my head out of my ass and stop letting fear rule my life. In early August 2016, I published a blog entitled “Awakening”, a blog covering a wake up call I received after a conversation with a total stranger that lasted well into the early hours of the next morning.
Since that experience in August 2016 (again, thank you to that angel who came into my life with a message I needed to receive, I hope you’re well my lovely friend!), I’ve been unsettled. Don’t get me wrong, the shift I began making has definitely been taking place ever since, and I hit my goal of being different by the time I turned forty. I have no regrets, and in these last two years, I’ve experienced a joy in my life that I never thought was possible.
I want you to take a quick second, or maybe a few minutes, and contemplate this idea: what if for most of your life, you were sad and hurting most of the time, with happiness being a rarity, rather than the other way around? That was me. The concept of happiness was foreign to me. I recently told someone that if they met me two years ago, or even a year ago, they wouldn’t recognize me. I used to constantly wonder what I was lacking, what was so wrong with me. Then, after that conversation in August 2016, I looked at the people in my life and realized that ninety-five percent of them were toxic. And I placed my value, my self-worth in the hands of people who were toxic, cruel, unkind, and unfeeling.
See, I had to rewire my brain. I had to take a big ass sledge hammer to a distorted mirror I was viewing myself through. I had to tell that Asshole Inner Voice to “Shut the FUCK up!”. Case in point: In December, I was fortunate enough to interview the staff at Utopia Foods and Fitness in Dallas, one of my yoga instructor certification classmates being the manager at a location near our studio. Going in that day, I had thought I was just going to ask about a half-hour’s worth of questions. Instead, they put me through the first day of the program, complete with measuring tape and calipers. When Stephanie plugged my measurements into the computer, I received a shocking result: I came in at 17.6% body fat, in athletes range.
Here’s the thing: I was aware my clothing fit looser, so much so I had to buy smaller sized yoga pants. I had been hearing compliments on how I looked for a couple of months. My mind, my stubborn, hurt filled, mind hadn’t caught up to what was really going on.
Wake up call.
But this isn’t about that. And it’s not about how ten weeks in an intensive yoga instructor certification course showed me that in order to be better, in order to heal, I needed to keep people in my life who would build me up, not tear me down. How in order to heal, I needed to reopen my heart, and stop hiding from feelings, stop fighting love. I needed to open myself up, let people see me as I truly am, and let go of those who can’t accept it or handle it.
My name is Amber Jerome~Norrgard. I am forty-one years old. I have survived an abusive adoptive mother, and abusive first marriage. I am an adoptee, and I found my biological mother when I was twenty-four. I beat infertility three times, and lost my ability to have any more children to endometriosis and cervical cancer. I have survived severe, suicidal depression. My oldest child is a transgender male who has more courage than anyone else I’ve ever seen. Over six years, I lost over 100 pounds. I am an author, a publisher, a college professor, and a yoga instructor. I am terrified of heights and flying. I love hard, and I love deep. I snort when I laugh, and if I’m not drinking vodka, I’m a fan of wine. I love baseball, and have recently discovered the joy of hockey.
And I believe all things happen for a reason.
Staying in Red River became a bucket list item for me around the time I was thirty-seven years. Because up until that point, I only had the good fortune of stopping in the small New Mexico town for about half an hour. The first time, I was seventeen, driving the Enchanted Circle with my father and younger brother. The next five times I took the scenic route were with various friends when in my early twenties, with no kiddos to be concerned with, we’d take off for Albuquerque or Santa Fe to soak up the art, culture, phenomenal food and wine. At age thirty-seven, just two months after my father’s death, I was headed to Phoenix to officiate the wedding of two friends. The Enchanted Circle was definitely on my list of places to go: it had been twenty years since I had first experienced New Mexico, and to return to that amazing day trip was necessary. Stopping in Red River to stretch our legs, we walked up and down the main drag, and upon returning to the car, I looked around one last time, at the mountains, and said to my friend, “I’m coming back one day, and I’m staying for a few days.”
It took almost four years.
In May 2017, I returned to New Mexico, but despite my wanting it badly, the Enchanted Circle Drive didn’t happen. I was disappointed, but kept it in check; I was still in New Mexico, still in my happy, healing place, and still with a dear friend. My trip last year is one I’ll never forget, from the art work I purchased, the tattoo I got on my right hand and wrist, and the experiences I shared with a special friend.
But shortly before that trip, I began looking over my life more closely. I had success in business, a lot of incredible experiences, amazing friends, three amazing children, and was happy, for the most part. But something was missing. I’d spent a great deal of time after my father’s death having experiences that were mainly filler to avoid facing the heartache over his death. Despite the steps forward I had made in healing, in experiencing life more fully, I felt empty. I loved my children, I loved my friends. I liked writing, and I liked teaching my students at the college, and for the most part, publishing was still enjoyable for me.
“For the most part.” That should have been an indicator of where I was really at emotionally. I decided to see my therapist. I won’t bore you with the details of my session, but the summary was this: I wasn’t fully happy in my work. Parts I was thrilled, especially when I was helping a new writer get their first book launched. But in order to keep up with the costs of spa treatments, hair extensions, getting my nails done, hitting expensive restaurants with friends, and weekend trips to places like Las Vegas and New Orleans for no other reason than to just go, I’d been taking on event planning and large ghost writing jobs. Where as those jobs can be very rewarding, I’d dealt with several clients that were hateful and entitled, and the weight of it was growing. In mid March of 2017, a client shoved a plate of food across the table at a tasting, and stormed out, pausing just long enough to spin around, and point at me and shout, “You are so fucking fired you stupid bitch!” after I had showed her the receipt that clearly showed what she had ordered. “But they should have known that’s not what I really wanted!” she’d shouted and then shoved the plate.
The caterers had assured me that there were no hard feelings between us, but getting in my car, I had sat down, reached for the ignition switch, then let my hand drop, and cried for half an hour before pulling myself together.
That was sadly not the only example of that type of behavior in my work, just the one that stood out the most.
In mid June of 2016, a friend came into town for a week to visit and attend an author book launch with me. We hit a Mets/Rangers game his first night in town, and walking back to his hotel that night, we started talking. I’d mentioned to him before that I wasn’t that happy in my work. Sitting down for a drink at the hotel bar, he said, “Don’t think about your response, just answer the first thing that comes to your mind: When were you last really, really happy?”
“Sunrise Yoga on the beach in Santa Monica.” My answer surprised me.
“That’s what you need to do then.”
In all honesty, I had thought about being a yoga instructor before. But my work and life schedule was in conflict with the programs I’d looked into. I said as much to my friend.
“So what? You’re not going to do something that could make you happier? You, the woman who beat infertility three times? I call bullshit. If you wanted it, if you truly wanted to be happy, you’d find a way.”
Long story short? I found a way. I spent the next three months busting my ass to save up money to cover my monthly expenses, I stopped having my hair done professionally once a month, I cut down on nail salon trips, and I stopped frequenting expensive restaurants. Then I took a step back from publishing.
I entered Gaia Flow Yoga’s 200 hour yoga instructor certification with one goal in mind: to find more meaningful work. I also entered it with a closed heart, still clinging to my ideals about being a rock, an island and not letting people too close.
I stepped out twenty pounds lighter, with an open heart and open mind, dubbed the chick who would cry at the drop of a hat by her classmates. And I didn’t care. I didn’t care that Christine in class knew twenty seconds before I did that I was going to start crying. I didn’t care that every day I was on my mat, during closing Savasana, tears would leak out of my eyes into my ears. Because I hadn’t cried in public since my father had died over three years before. I hadn’t truly opened myself up to new people in years, yet, once the program was over, I felt like I had a whole new family, that I had truly found home.
Which is how in early May of this year, I found myself out to dinner with another studio member, discussing wanting to get away. “Been a year since I went anywhere,” I had told him.
“So put it out to the universe,” he’d said.
“What, just say ‘Hey Universe? Got a vacay up there for me somewhere? Cause I’d love one!'” I’d said, and my friend and I laughed.
Three days later, the Universe answered in the form of a text message.
A friend of mine was planning a five-week long road trip, starting one week after school let out (they’re an 8th grade English teacher), hitting New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, then onto the West Coast.. Talking with them about the trip, I mentioned they’d inspired me to bust my ass in order to at least get a weekend away in New Mexico later on this summer.
“Why don’t you come with me? Leave on June 8th, you’ll fly back on June 11th, then you can see the Rockies game with me.”
“There’s an idea. Let me think on it,” was my response.
You’d think I’d be jumping at the chance. Because the first two nights would be spent in Red River, New Mexico.
But I hesitated, because work had been slow. Because I wasn’t sure if I could afford the airfare. Because I was transitioning from full time publishing to part time and into the physical fitness industry. Because I’m a mom, and I didn’t know if I could take four days from my kiddos.
Then I decided to take the weight off my shoulders. The next morning, I turned it over to the universe, and if everything was to work out, if it wasn’t a problem for me to leave the kids with their father, if I could find a flight I could afford, if work wasn’t going to be an issue, if I would get in a bit more writing work to pay for my share of food, gas, and my part of the hotel stays, I’d go.
Within half an hour of putting it out there, I heard back from the kids’ father, from the employeers I needed to check in with, from a new writing client. Within one hour of asking the Universe to handle it for me, I recieved a phone call, asking if I would be interested in becoming a yoga instructor at a local gym.
Jaw hitting the ground, I couldn’t believe my luck. Everything had lined up. Still nervous about money, I decided to give it another day.
The next day, a website rewrite job came in. Raising an eyebrow, I checked flight prices.
Affordable. A slight stretch, and I’d have to fly out at 9 p.m., meaning I’d spend most of that day in the airport. But I could do it.
I was going.
….To be continued…..
Yeah, go ahead and hate me for that…. I still love you, Dear Reader!