Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

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All I know to do….

My studio reopened this last week, after ten weeks of being shut down due to the Covid-19 Crisis.

I walked through the doors, the first time in ten weeks, the first time after graduating from my 500 hour yoga instructor certification program, on Monday morning at 5:30 a.m., the time the instructor guiding the 6:00 a.m. practice would be there to unlock the doors. I also went back for the 4:00 p.m. practice, and again at 6:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m., and 5:15 the day after. My schedule has been close to that unless I myself was teaching elsewhere. Show up, grab a spot six feet away from my fellow yogis, and just inhale, exhale and breathe.

I can remember during that first practice back, after ten weeks of taking practice on my mat at home thanks to my fellow instructors generosity in posting free practices online, looking down at my abs at about halfway through the core warm ups: for the first time in ten weeks, my abdomen was covered in sweat. About forty minutes into that first practice, I had to pause; I was growing light headed. Not surprising, because my body had lost its familiarity with taking a practice in 96 degrees.

The surprising part of this week? The amount of comments and compliments I received about my body. One instructor even jokingly called me about, referring to the abs I’d gained during the ten weeks I and my loved ones were all sheltering away from one another. Friends and colleagues I haven’t seen since March 15 all commented on how tiny I was, how much progress I’ve made, how I’ve taken my health journey to a new level, how I clearly used my time in lock-down wisely.

The spiritual practice of Brahmacharya, Moderation, is one I’ve never been good at. We’ll circle through the yamas and niyamas at my primary practice studio, and I focus on them each week with my own students. Each week, I gain some new insight, new way of looking at my life and my own path and journey through this world of ours, doing my best to adhere to the mindset that accompanies each one. I grown, I shift, I evolved into (hopefully) a better version of myself with each new week, each new spiritual practice.

Yet Brahmacharya is where I need the most work. I’ve never not gone 150% in anything I’ve done in life; while that’s beneficial in terms of education and employment, in other areas, it tends to lead to burning myself out.

Ten weeks ago, the night before I began my last weekend of teacher training, I spoke with my fellow yogis and instructors. We talked about how people were over reacting: shelves were bare at the stores, the chance of getting toilet paper was slim. I can remember going to the grocery store, and arching an eyebrow when I realized that most of what was left on the shelves was healthy food: shouldn’t people be stocking up on healthy foods, not junk, when a virus was going on that had a high contagion rate?

It was talked about repeatedly during my final teacher training module. I graduated, received my certification, cried, hugged my instructors and my fellow teacher trainees, took photos, went to the restaurant where I was having my graduation party. Yet, most of the people who had said they were attending changed their RSVP to “not attending” and sent their regards. They were too nervous with the pandemic.

The day after graduation, I grabbed my change of clothes, my gym bag, and got in my car. Halfway to the studio, the instructor scheduled to guide the practice messaged me, telling me the owners had chosen to shut the studio down for the better of our community. More than half of the classes I taught were cancelled; one week later, the rest of our county shut down under Governor Abbott’s orders.

I spent the first few days of the week after I graduated cleaning my house. Within that first week, several instructors at my studio began posting online classes for free. I did the same for the students I had at the apartment communities I’ve been teaching in for almost two years.

I spent from April 2019 until March 2020 swearing that when I graduated my 500 hour program I’d slow it down. I’d stop rushing through my life, stop scheduling every minute, take advantage of the opportunity to slow down, breathe, catch up with my loved ones who had supported me through a year of non stop work and study.

I had no idea that it wouldn’t be a choice.

During the ten weeks of quarantine, I took 109 practices. 77 days of being locked down, and I took 109 yoga practices. A year ago, I had completed 105. Yet my first practice back at the studio was my 191st practice of the year.

Moderation, my ass.

See, it was either throw myself into my yoga practice or have to realize that life as I knew it had radically been shifted and changed into something I wasn’t okay with. I wasn’t okay with being forced to be at home, away from my chosen family, away from my spiritual home, away from my students. I was still teaching, but I was doing so on a camera. While I was grateful I could still teach in one way or another, still, it felt like I was screaming into a void; there was no way to judge the reactions of my students, no way to see their progress, no way to be there for them.

So, I did what I’ve done the last two and a half years when shit hit the fan and started splattering: I stepped on my mat, I studied once I found an online personal trainer certification program that should have taken me ten weeks to complete. I blew through it in five weeks and scored high on the final exam. I cranked out artwork, worked on creative writing projects of my own and went back to publishing.

I was grateful for the extra time spent with my kids, with those in my life I sheltered with. For the weekly video calls with friends to talk, to drink wine, to watch a movie.

Yet, I couldn’t just be. Couldn’t just sit in my own space. So I did what I always do: threw myself 150% at everything and anything I could, just to keep moving, just to keep my head clear, to not go to a dark place that is so very easy for me to go to when things have shifted from the plan.

So I kept at it. Kept practicing, kept offering free yoga classes to those in need, kept studying, kept editing and formatting and writing. I’d get done with one yoga practice that a fellow instructor had posted, scroll through their timeline on Facebook, and click play on a practice from the day or week before.

Used to, shit would hit the fan, and  you could find me on a bar stool, looking for vodka clarity. Now, I’m on the mat.

Is one better than the other? Yeah, I get it, too much alcohol is going to do a number on my liver and potentially inspire it to leap from my body saying “fuck this shit…”. Yet, is it really any different at its core that when the shit hit the fan I spent most of my time on my mat searching for yoga clarity? Is it really any different at its core that I slammed my way through a ten week online personal trainer certification program in five weeks? That in one way or another, I lean on a crutch that keeps me from facing down that which is out of my comfort level.

But it’s all I know to do.

Be good to yourself, and to others,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

~Faith ~ Courage ~ Hope ~ Compassion~

On my right forearm, starting just under my right wrist, are tattoo’d the words “Faith”, “Courage”, “Hope”, and “Compassion”. In between each word is my astrological symbol, double waves for the water bearer sign of Aquarius. The font used is “Bastarda-K”, one I fell in love with when working on the design of one of my poetry collections.

20200401_101733 (1)I had the words done separately over the years of 2013 and 2014, adding the Aquarius symbol in when I had another word placed. Depending on the amount of letters, the ink work took roughly half an hour to a full hour to complete. As we moved farther down my forearm, the pain shifted from dull to sharp. There was no set time line of having any of those words placed permanently in my skin, no sitting down and planning the order of the words, or even the words themselves.  Yet, “Faith” was the first word I had inked on by the artist who designed, created and tattoo’d all but three pieces of the art that adorns my body.

For good reason.

2013 and 2014 were years where I went through hell, or as I like to think of it, gained a lot of life lessons and experience. My life shifted radically during those two years, and those two years were earmarked by a great deal of emotional and physical pain as I struggled through surgeries, a cancer diagnosis, the physical hell of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, and went through my first experience of starting an LLC as well as becoming a college professor and leaving the eight years I had spent as a stay at home mother. I lost my father in 2014, and struggled with the heartache and weight of being the person who made the hard decision to move him into compassionate care.

It wasn’t just 2013 and 2014 that I struggled through. If you’ve read me for any length of time, you know I’ve struggled with health issues associated with my very DNA, depression, anxiety, survived an abusive mother and an abusive first husband. I’ve struggled with infertility and lost twice the number of pregnancies that have resulted in living children. I’ve had my ass kicked over and over again in my life. When hearing my story, people often ask why I am not more unkind, unhappy, hateful, bad spirited. And the best I can answer is I choose daily to not be.

“Faith” for me is not simply a concept of religion. It’s a manner of being. Raised Roman Catholic, I’d never bought into the idea that there’s a higher power up there, waiting to punish us for things he’s already determined we’d do. Nor did I buy into the philosophy of “original sin”, that any baby not baptized would automatically be sent to Limbo unless their parents had them sprinkled with holy water.

For me, “Faith” is a concept that came about, a way of living, a way of being that forty-three years (and counting) of being on this planet have shown me, time and time again, is necessary. I’ve had my ass handed to me, I’ve survived more than most people could imagine, yet, life has shown me time and time again that no matter what happens, it gives way to something greater, something better. We rise, then we fall. We are happy, then we are sad.

When faced with anything in this life that can be qualified as scary, unwanted, fearful, anxiety causing, health at risk issues, we have a choice, and it’s one that time and time again is at its core something we should all consider. When faced with anything, ask yourself the following: “Have I done all I can do?” and “How much of this is under my control?” Think about the second of these: “How much of this is under my control?” As a yogi, I can tell you, we control nothing in our lives. But for those of you who are not yogis, take a moment, and think.

And after you ask and answer those two questions, you have to do the hard work: let what will be simply be.

Letting be what will be is one of the toughest things to do in this life. We yogis refer to this practice as “Ishvara Pranidhana”, which translates from Sanskrit into the English word for “Surrender”. It doesn’t mean that you’re sitting there at a traffic light and see an out of control car coming up behind you and you don’t move; you still take the action to do what you can in any given situation. You move if you can move. If you can’t? You trust that things will be as they should be.

Back in 2016, what I thought I wanted, what I thought I had been building towards was suddenly taken from me. For weeks after, I was depressed, I cried when I was alone, ate too much bad-for-me food, drank way too much alcohol, stopped exercising, stopped writing. I prayed for things to go back to how they had been. I spent way too much time revisiting the past, when things were how they had been. I can tell you it was one of the biggest heartaches of my life, one that shook me to my core and made it damn near impossible to breathe.

Then time passed. I healed. I grew, moved on, moved forward. Time and distance gave me clarity, so much so that looking back on it now, I realize that despite at the time it being what I would have qualified as the worst thing I could have gone through, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Because without that heartache happening, without that experience of hurt, heartache, grief, loss and pain, I would not be where I am today. That “worst thing” I experienced in May of 2016 forced me to examine my own life. It forced me to make changes. It forced me to learn a new way of living, a new way of doing things.

Ask me if I could go back to that life before May 2016, back to that space and time in my life where I thought that was what I wanted, what I thought I needed for my life. My answer is unequivocally no.

We are currently all in the same situation. COVID-19 has impacted ALL of us. The lives we have lived are currently drastically different than they were before, and we have no idea how long this period of our lives will last.

“Have I done all that I can do?”  Yes, yes I have. As have all of you in this messy situation with me.

“How much of this is under my control?” None of this. And this is what scares us. This is what is most terrifying about this.

I’ve done what I can do in this. I’ve reached out to friends, listened when they spoke of their fears of getting sick, of people they love getting sick. I’ve listened to friends’ pain filled voices when they’ve spoken of loss of income, loss of freedom, loss of businesses that they’ve built.

Almost daily I post on Facebook the following: “Good Morning. How are you doing today?” For the most part, people have been appreciative of the posts. But I’ve had some negative feedback, being called annoying for being so damn positive when the world is falling apart. I’ve been called naive and told I’m ignoring what’s going on.

Make no mistake, I am not over here, sitting on my meditation pillow, chanting “Om” with a drunk-idiot grin plastered on my face. I am BEYOND aware how bad things are right now. I see it in my bank account, see it in my loss of work, see it in my eyes when I look in the mirror, feel it when it’s 3 pm and I’m not heading to my studio to practice yoga.

I’ve felt it, felt the impact of this illness that’s taking so much from all of us. It’s front and center in my life, day in, day out. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve cried. I’ve had panic attacks.

“Have I done all that I can do?” Yes I have. But focusing on the fear and loss isn’t going to help. It is NOT going to change the situation we are in.

“How much of this is under my control?” None. I have no control in this situation. No control over what has happened, no control over when I can resume teaching in person rather than in front of a camera. I have no control over the next time I can step through the doors of the yoga studio I consider home and hug the instructors who have become my family. I have no control over when the next time I’ll spend an entire Saturday fucking off with a time suck game on my tablet while having a L-O-N-G brunch.

What I do have control over are my actions related to my reactions. I feel anxious, I let it come, let it wash over me. Then I do what I know works for me: yoga, meditation, breath work, reaching out to someone to tell them where I’m at.

“I’m breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.” Past that, I have no control over any of what all of us are dealing with right now. Past being there for the people in my life, past listening to them, past offering free online yoga classes, past continuing my art work, continuing to study for certifications, past just doing the things I need to do in order to do what I want to do, there is nothing. All I can do is offer love and support, to be a shoulder to cry on, to be the person who can always find the silver lining in any given situation, the person who always has an umbrella for when the shit hits the fan and starts splattering. I can’t go back and change the past, what led to where we are at in this very moment. I can’t go forward to what’s going to come after all of this settles down and we begin whatever our new “normal” is. To do either of those things would be to steal from this present moment.

And in this present moment, I feel scared, I feel anxious, but make no mistake, I am neither fully scared nor anxious; these are just two emotions I feel. They are not the sum total of who I am in all of this.

I’ve seen more examples of love, compassion and kindness in these last few weeks our lives have been shut down. I’ve witnessed the earth beginning to heal herself from all the pollution we’ve forced upon it. I’ve had more real conversations than I’ve had in years.

And I’ve said I love you and heard it in return more often than I have before in my life.

I often tell my students who are working to better their health that it is okay if they make mistakes, if they slip, if they stray from the path they’re on in this journey they’re taking. It doesn’t matter what comes before, it doesn’t matter what mistakes we have made. What matters is that we get up every day with the intent of doing the very best we can. And if all you do is inhale and exhale each day? If that was all you had to give? Congratulations: you have done all you can do. And keep doing it.

Having “Faith” does not mean you’re happy with any given situation. It simply means you do what you can to shift things; and when that has been exhausted, you move into acceptance.

Have Faith, Dear Readers. Know you are not alone in this.

“May you be safe,

May you be happy,

May you be healthy,

and may you feel love.”

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Forty-Three Things I’ve Learned in Forty-Three Years of Living

Hello Dear Reader!

For the last twenty years, I’ve sat down and written a post every year on, or around, my birthday, detailing those things that I’ve learned (with exception to my 41st birthday, but when your best friend passes away one week before your birthday, you give yourself a pass on certain things). These lists have often been an excellent way to reflect on my life, as well as mile markers in seeing how much I’ve changed over the years. The year I was forty, after multiple requests from readers, I finally compiled the more striking of each into a collection that was released later that year. The book was entitled “Practical Life Advice… or some $#!+ like that”, the subtitle being inspired by the fact that I have no real idea what they hell I’m doing. More often than not, I’m in various moments in my life thinking “I have no idea how to handle this…” and I end up winging it, going from the gut, and then in the aftermath, I’m looking at it thinking “Well, that blew up beautifully”.

The difference is that me at age twenty-two, me at age thirty-two, me at age forty-two, my reactions to those blowups, those less than stellar results in life, have less of an emotional slam on me. I’ve learned to stop putting so much pressure on myself. To take that which is painful and doesn’t go very well as a lesson. And when I fuck it up, which I and every other human on this planet is going to do, I let it go.

If I’ve learned anything, most especially in these last three years of my life, snug in the mid-life section of what will hopefully be a long life, is that if we were perfect, there would really be no purpose of living. What’s the point if we’re not learning, growing, evolving, moving forward and becoming better versions of ourselves? I bear a scar on my chin, proof of this very fact. Age seven, a neighborhood kid left a toy on our front lawn. My Dad asked me to take it down to their house and leave it in their yard. Almost to their property, having recently spent time with my older cousins, all boys who could do some awesome tricks on their bikes, I decided to attempt my first trick, hooking a U-Turn on my bike while throwing the toy into the neighbor’s yard. This resulted in me falling and busting open my chin, which led to my first experience with stitches.

I learned to throw before turning the handles of my bike after the painful experience of a needle being shoved directly into my split skin.

So we fuck up. We learn. We grow. Then we fuck up again, maybe in the same way (doh!) or maybe in a new way. Either way, we’re human. And that’s damn beautiful.

So here they are: forty-three things I’ve learned in forty-three years of living. Take them as advice. Or leave them. Your practice, not mine, as we say on the mat.

1.) People will tell you who they are, either with words, actions, or both. Listen to them. Honor what they’re telling you.

2.) Unconditional love is one of the most beautiful gifts you can receive.

3.) Don’t be afraid to say no.

4.) Don’t be afraid to say yes.

5.) Contrary to popular belief, men and women can be friends, without there being anything more in there. Some of my greatest friendships have been with men I’ve had zero romantic interest in, nor they in me. And I am beyond grateful for those friendships.

6.) Re-evaluate often. Work, hobbies, relationships, faith, food. Look at what you’re doing, what you’re consuming, who you’re spending time with. Like our breath, release what’s no longer beneficial, no longer serving you, and don’t remain with something or someone if it’s simply habit.

7.) Anything worth having in this life won’t be easy. Anything worth having in this life is worth the hard work it takes not only to achieve it, but keep it in your life.

8.) If you truly want it, nothing will keep you from it.

9.) Stop letting fear keep you from living your life.

10.) Find what brings you joy. Embrace it, don’t apologize for it, don’t explain it. Just DO IT.

11.) The right people for you are the ones who accept you as you are.

12.) Related: if a person asks you to give up your passion, they’re not your person.

13.) Time doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, there are some hurts that are impossible to recover from. But love can make them tolerable, and can ease the hurt.

14.) You are not the things you have survived.

15.) If something or someone is taking more from you than you’re receiving, it’s time to walk away.

16.) I’m not horribly invested in if adults like me or not. But when a child or animal doesn’t like me, I start doubting my self-worth.

17.) It might not make sense to you. It might not work for you. It might not be something you’d ever be interested in. But don’t negate the joy and contentment it might bring to another person.

18.) “Fat bitch” and “Skinny bitch” hurt equally as bad to hear.

19.) It’s never a mistake to love.

20.) Celebrate the small things in life. Sometimes those little things are all you got to get through everything life throws at you.

21.) You can have as many procedures done as you’d like. It won’t change your birth year.

22.) Allow yourself your imperfections.

23.) I no longer apologize for not wanting to talk on the phone.

24.) Step outside your comfort zone as often as you can.

25.) It’s okay to cry.

26.) Never underestimate the power of a hug.

27.) Which is greater: the fear of saying I love you, or the regret of not having said it before it was too late?

28.) What are you allowing fear to keep you from?

29.) Don’t let your past impact your future.

30.) What are you not hearing?

31.) I love hearing people’s stories. Finding out what brought them to any one thing that brings them joy, watching their face as they tell their story is beautiful.

32.) The amount of make-up I have on at any given moment is directly related to the amount of time I had before leaving the house.

33.) Raising my children has retaught me the joy of discovery.

34.) I’m never going to say no to chocolate cake, really good conversation, and hugs. Bring ’em on, most especially at the same time.

35.) Blessed be the individuals in my life who never question the leaps of faith I take and only offer me support.

36.) Grief is never a straight line. It’s gonna come out of nowhere and bitch slap you when you do and don’t expect it.

37.) Learn to ask the why of someone’s wants, needs, and reactions.

38.) When I say, “I love you more”, I’m not competing with you. I’m simply letting you know that I love you more than time, distance, disagreements we might have. I love you more than all the crap that comes with letting someone into your life and heart.

39.) The most beautiful moments of my life can’t be found on my Instagram or Facebook pages.

40.) If I actually spend time with you, remember this: you’re up against my insane schedule and my need for “me” time. That right there should tell you all you need to know about how I feel about you.

41.) Compliment frequently.

42.) Smile, dammit!

43.) All I’m gonna be when I grow up is content. And contentment does not equate with happy. Contentment does equate with the knowledge and the acceptance and the faith that happy gives way to sad, easy to hard, beautiful to ugly; and then back again.

Much love Dear Reader. Keep swingin’.

Amber Jerome~Norrgard


I’ve never gone halfway in my life.

Call it insanity, drive, stubbornness, passion, any other word you can think of that describes balls-to-the-wall behavior. It’s evident in how I set a goal and go after it and always achieve it.

Even now, I’m sitting here, thinking of sour cherry balls. I’m talking about the ones that have that hard outer shell, with a gum drop type interior. They only were available to purchase around Valentine’s day, and I’d stock up. I used to buy those, put one in my mouth, and let it dissolve until I could apply the least amount of pressure to let the exterior crack slightly, releasing more of that sour cherry flavor I loved.

I had to have been around eight or nine when I once ate a whole bag. I can remember laying there on my childhood bed, my stomach aching, mouth watering as I fought the urge to throw up, promising over and over to not eat a whole bag again, if I’d stop feeling so sick.

The past two years of my life have brought about more changes than I ever thought possible. That balls-the-the-wall, full-on passionate drive is still present, although it’s been tempered some what due to my completing a fast track (what else kind of program would I enroll in?) yoga instructor certification program in November of 2017.

Yet one thing remained in all that.

About six weeks ago, a dear friend of mine who moved to another state called me and asked if I minded being his emergency contact on the Snug app. Snug is an app that allows you to set a time to check in; if you do not check in, the app contacts those listed as your emergency contacts. I agreed, and I had actually forgotten about that conversation.

Until this morning.

I received a text from the app, alerting me my friend had not checked in. I called him, and sent a screenshot of the text from the Snug app to my friend telling him I hoped I had nothing to be concerned about.  Half an hour later, with no response, I called his local police department and explained the situation. Half an hour after that, I was called back by a police officer who told me that the house was locked up and his car was not in his driveway, and as hard as it might be, remain calm and wait forty-eight hours, then I could file a missing person’s report.


An hour after that, I received an email from my friend, letting me know he was fine, but had left his phone at home. Two and a half hours after I received the text from Snug, my friend called and apologized for worrying me. When I told him I had actually called the police, he responded with, “Good to know you’re on top of things,” amusement in his voice. To which I responded, “I can hear you smiling through your voice. Stop it,” but I wasn’t actually angry. I was relieved, but still in the post adrenaline panic mode that happens when there’s a near miss.

I might have slowed down my work hours, learned moderation in everything from what I eat to what I drink to how I spend my energy in these last two years. Yet, I can’t go halfway when it comes to a person I love. Especially when it’s a person who has been there for me and supported me in a way very few people have in my life.

And I’m not even sorry.

I read somewhere once that when you start dating someone, the reality is that you’re either going to break up, or one of you is going to die. I think what the person who stated that meant is that it’s all going to end, might as well love as hard and as true as you can while you have that person in your life.

The same is applicable to our platonic relationships: someone’s going to leave, or someone’s going to die. End of story. Even further: one day we all will die. Everything we have is temporary, despite us wanting to believe otherwise. The clothing we have, the roof over our heads, our very bodies: they’re all on loan to us. One day, we have to give them back. The people in our lives, they’re only temporary. Sooner or later, they’ll be gone.

And for that reason, I love hard. I love fully. I love deeply, unconditionally and without reservation. I say “I love you” as often as I can, because we are only one moment, one phone call away from losing that which we love.

In The Return, Part 3  last year, I wrote about how despite the pain caused by over stressing my knee on a 14 mile hike, the pain was worth the experience, as well as how given the chance to miss the heartbreak of losing my dearest friend Marcus earlier that year, it was worth the pain his death caused to have experienced twenty amazing years of friendship.

Some things in this life, we need to moderate: how much we drink, how much we eat, and (yes, believe it or not) how much we exercise. Love? Love, do that as hard as you can, as fully as you can.

Today, while waiting to hear from my friend, my mind went back to the last time we had spoken on the phone. My mind scanned over the conversation, and I remembered that I had, as I always did, ended the conversation with, “Hey, I love you….”

There will come a day, sooner, rather than later, when a loved one of mine won’t get back in contact with me, either because they have chosen to leave my life, or they have passed away. And it will hurt. But when that day comes, I’ll know I said what needed to be say, that I loved without reservation. That I’ll be Snug in the knowledge I went balls-to-the-wall, hard core, passionate and fully in my love for that person.

And that is the only way I know to be.

Much love,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

No Reasons Given

I’ve had my body judged my whole life.

“You’re so short.”

“You’re too thin.”

“Isn’t it time you lost the baby weight?”

“You’ve really put on a lot of weight.”

“I see you’ve been enjoying your groceries.”

“If you gain any more weight is that ring still going to fit?”

“Fat bitch.”

“Skinny bitch.”

Every time I’d hear a negative comment about my body, the same thing would happen: my face would flush with shame that I didn’t measure up to whoever was making the comment’s yard stick of how I should look, my shoulders would slump, I’d avoid eye contact, my heart would hurt, I’d be fighting tears, and I’d apologize or explain why my body was. On the rare occasion I was feeling brave, I’d cut the other person down with my words.

Three years ago, I had apologized to a new friend about how my body looked, even though they had actually just complimented me on how great my legs looked. They looked me up and down, tilted my chin up so I would meet their eyes and they said something to me that hit me very hard: “There is nothing wrong with your body and how you look. You’re a beautiful woman, inside and out. But there is something very wrong with how you see yourself.”

It says something about how my life was that those kind words were the exception, not the rule.

Flash to now, at a time in my life where I am at my healthiest spiritually, emotionally and physically. I’ve shed a lot of weight, not just physical, but I’ve walked away from toxic friendships and toxic situations, choosing to immerse myself in a world in which it is okay to just be who you are and how you are, with no explanations needed or given. You just simply be yourself and you are accepted and loved unconditionally.

The past three years have been a journey in self discovery, self love, and most importantly, healing.

Last week, during a photo shoot, someone made comments about my body yet again, in the whole ball-busting style of passive aggression I loathe and have an almost physically ill to my stomach response to when I see or hear happen. This person has not seen me for a good year and a half, and I could see the surprise on their face when they saw me in person and saw how very  much I’ve changed since the last time we saw one another in person.

“Don’t exhale near Amber, she’ll fall over she’s so tiny now.”

“You don’t need to get Amber lunch, clearly she no longer eats.”

“Don’t drink that water, you might get fat again.”

I made it through three comments. Three comments and I hit my limit. I stepped out of the shot, walked directly over to the person who made the comments, my head held high, my shoulders back. If my face flushed, it was in anger, not shame. I looked that person in the eyes, and forty two years of being teased and made fun of bubbled up to the surface.

I didn’t apologize for my body, I did not make a hateful comment in response.

What I did was look them directly in their eyes and said, “There is no reason or call for you to make comments on my body. Stop it now.”

“Don’t be so sensitive,” they responded, barely meeting my eyes.

“You’re lucky I’m so sensitive; if I weren’t, I can promise you would be ugly crying with what I’d say to you.”

The photo shoot went on with zero comments from the peanut gallery regarding how my body looks.

I cried on the drive home, cried my way through my shower, cried on the way to the studio to take practice before teaching, cried while I was talking with a friend via text while waiting for my class to start, and cried on the shoulder of a friend I ran into when I dropped into a restaurant for dinner after I taught.

I don’t care if the person who made those comments reads this and knows they hurt me. I’m past the point in my life where I put up a front, hiding behind a brave face, not being honest about how I feel or how I’m doing.

And I am done apologizing or explaining away who I am, how I look, the people I choose to spend time with, how I spend my free time.

I’ve been on both sides of different issues or ideals or philosophies. The whole stay at home mom versus working mom debate. The whole breastfeeding versus bottle feeding debate. Being painfully underweight because my first husband would not accept a fat wife and I starved myself to please him. Being overweight because life and my health and bad choices led me there. Being fit because I made life changes.

People tend to get defensive or offended if we have a different mindset or philosophy. If we choose a different path than they themselves are on. It almost seems as if our choices make them feel judged.

Is it any wonder I’m happiest in a yoga studio, where the only rules seem to be “just show up and breathe”, “take care of yourself,” and “you be you and I’ll be me, and we’ll love one another for the beauty of our differences and the beauty of our similarities”?

I’ve been called both “fat bitch” and “skinny bitch”. Both hurt equally as bad, for the simple reason that hearing either of those phrases from the lips of another person, it gives the impression that that is all they are seeing of you: the wrapping. It discredits and makes expendable all the other parts of who I am as a person when a I’m described by what’s on the outside.

Fat, skinny, curvy, fit: how ever my body has been, whatever my size and shape, I am still Amber, a woman who is a mother, friend, aunt, author, yoga instructor, artist, and so many other things. No matter what my body looks like, I’ll still be the person who will offer a hug to someone who’s hurting, or just because hugs are amazing. I’ll still be the person who is going to run full on for a damn good Italian meal, who does a happy dance when she gets good news, who will never say no to a Malbec wine. I’ll still be the person who says “I love you” for no reason other than I love you, who screams like a maniac while watching baseball, who’s prone to do somersaults just because, who throws her phone to friends so they can take a photo of her popping up into a handstand.

A friend I told about the photo shoot asked what they could do to cheer me up. “Never use “fat/skinny bitch” again, please,” was my response, not that they ever have or ever would use a phrase that cruel. Another friend suggested a comeback that would hit below the belt; and while I might have at one time in my life used an acid tongue to make my point, I no longer have it within me. To respond with unkindness in no way would undo the unkindness that was directed at me.

At age forty-two, I no longer measure my worth, my value on the number I see on the scale, on the size tags on my clothing. I measure it in how I move through my day, how I treat people I have no reason to be nice to, how I react to other people’s actions, how much peace I feel when I’m on my mat, either as a student or a teacher. It’s been quite some time since what I eat and how often I exercise is related to self care and self love versus looking good in a bikini.

I only wish my friend last week could hold my true weight and worth in the same way. Because I no longer hold space for those who are unkind, even if they think it’s all in good fun and a joke. Because it’s neither a good fun or a joke when it hurts a person’s heart.

Love each other and yourselves,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Ishvara Pranidhana

It’s a Saturday night, and I’m not out with friends. I’m at home, mixing paint with water, a flow medium, and acrylic oil. Once the colors have all been mixed, I’ll layer them in a beginningcup, then upend the cup I’ve poured the different colors in. A few minutes to allow it to settle against the canvas, then I’ll pull the cup, and spend several minutes tilting the canvas back and forth.

People who have known me for more than two years were shocked when I told them I had been taught pour painting by a friend and that I was absolutely smitten with the process.

middle 1There’s no real control in pour painting, past the point in the process when you layer the paint in a cup. You can create striations in the paint by shifting the canvas back and forth in a certain way, but the process takes a certain amount of letting go and letting what will be, be.

For myself, learning  the process of pour painting was an exercise in the yogic practices of the yamas and niyamas. There was the lesson of Ahimsa, non-harming, on the afternoon I crouched in a squat for ten minutes, slowly adding paint to a canvas through a strainer while a friend of mine spun the canvas beneath it, and realizing the next day I had over extended my hip flexors to the point I had to take a few days off from my yoga practice. Satya, truthfulness, in learning to be honest that sometimes my work was amazing; other times, it was “meh.”  Santosha, contentment, in accepting my paintings as they were. Svadhyaya, self-study, in how I always cleaned between pours at the beginning of a pouring session, and would tend to worry about the clean up later on in the process. Ishvara Pranidhana, surrender, more so than any other yama or niyama, because ultimately, my paintings would turn out how they would turn out.

I never intended to become an artist. Raised by a CPA and a hard-core, old-school, traditional Catholic, I was told from a young age that my goal in life needed to be motherhood. College was for the purpose of finding a husband to support me and become the father of my children.

I walked away from a scholarship at St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee, Oklahoma at age eighteen, one month before I would have begun my freshman year of college, the thought in my head that if I continued following the path my parents had planned for me, I’d be lost. My first marriage happened at age nineteen, my second at twenty-seven, motherhood for the first time one month shy of my twenty-eighth birthday.

I’d set out with various plans in place, ideas and ideals about how my life would be, yet things never would pan out as they had on paper. There is a belief held quite strongly by people that if you stray from the path you’re intended to be on, the Universe will shift you back onto that path; sometimes gently, sometimes with great force.

Looking back, so much of my life was spent in the pursuit of fulfilling other people’s ideas of who I should be, how I should look, how I should behave. Yet there would be moments where I’d get a realization of not being my true self, and would feel a tightening around my chest of fear of losing who I was.

Yet I had no idea who that woman was. I had no idea how to figure it out. I had other people’s versions of me they had been describing to me, yet I didn’t have my own idea of who I was.

At age thirty-nine, I had a wake up call. Laying in my bed at 6 a.m., watching diamond shapes of stained glass cast by the light coming through my bedroom window slowly shift across my bedspread I realized that the crisis I had been struggling through the last few years was my fault and my fault alone; certainly other people had taken part in it. Yet I owned the responsibility as the one who allowed it to take place.

I stopped listening to other people’s stories of me. I stopped listening to what they thought I should do, who they thought I was, and only listened to that interior voice, letting it be my guide. I began taking part in things I had told myself I had no interest in, just to see how they fit. I stopped thinking of what could go wrong, stopped being concerned what my friends thought of what I was doing, and put myself first for the first time in my life.

Painting was just that: I had been told for years I had no talent for art. And maybe I did not have a talent for it. But that belief came from people telling me I couldn’t, similar to someone telling a ten year old they can’t drive. They have no experience with it, of course they can’t do it. They haven’t been taught how to do it.

I hadn’t been taught how to paint. I had no background in it. Yet I still signed up for a local paint nite class. My first painting wasn’t perfect, but even now I can still look at it hanging on the wall by my desk in my home office and be proud of the effort and the end result.

One class led to many, and a friendship with the instructor. A part of me I did not know existed came to life.

Two years later, post yoga instructor certification, my friendship with my instructor Jessi yielded an invitation to come to her house and try pour painting. It was like heroin: I tried it once and became addicted. I’d ask friends for color combinations, pour out a painting, and when it dried, hand it over to the friend who had made the suggestions. Or I’d put together different combinations, wanting to continue that rush of seeing what happened when I pulled the cup from the canvas. Handing an orange pour painting to my friend Iris inspired Iris and her husband to hire me to do a larger canvas for their home. Relaying the story to my boss at the gym I work for, he and his wife commissioned me to do a large canvas.

Yet, despite how far I came from that morning in 2016 watching those diamond shapes of colors float across my bedspread, I still couldn’t completely let go. Letting go has never been my strong suit, with good reason: I’ve had to fight for my mental and physical health for years, for motherhood, for jobs, to be remembered by so called friends who always seemed to forget my birthday or that they were supposed to meet me for dinner.

Every time I’ve layered paint in a cup, it’s been an exercise in Ishvara Pranidhana, in letting go, in surrendering to the idea that what will be, will be. Even the commissions middle 2.jpgI’m hired to do, I warn my clients to not get too attached to the outcome of the test pour, because the final pour will be much different. No two pours are the same, even those that are done with the same set of paints, the same amount of each color, the same order of paint colors. I pull that cup, and chaos reigns.

And in doing so, I began to truly learn to surrender, to have faith, to let go. That even if it wasn’t what I had planned, even if it is not what I imagined things would turn out as, it is in no way less beautiful, no way less needed, no way less important.

In retrospect, those times in my life in which I did let go and not worry about the end result, no longer trying to control the outcome, the Universe gave me the most beautiful and striking experiences of my life.

I’ve named every painting I’ve poured, whether poured for my own experience, my own wall decoration, or a client’s painting. I may have asked for suggestions on names, especially with those pieces commissioned by a client, but each piece stands out, each has been a piece of moving forward, a lesson learned, a gift of healing.

EndSaturday night, I mixed paint with water, flow medium, acrylic oil. I layered it in a cup, flipped the cup over on top of a canvas, tapped on the top of the cup to help it settle, then pulled the cup from the canvas. I tilted the canvas back and forth, not concerned with the end result, yet attached to the end, wanting to see how exactly this particular painting would turn out. I watched off and on for a few hours after I placed it back on the cups I was using to prop the painting up to dry, seeing the cells of acrylic oil shift and move.

About twelve hours after the pour, the canvas begins to dry, the cells of oil stop shifting, things begin to lock into place. And the end is there. There’s nothing left to let go of, there is only the opportunity to be grateful to have the chance to let go, and surrender to faith that the universe will give us what we need when we’re ready to receive it.


Love yourself and love each other,


Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Forty-Two Things I’ve Learned in Forty-Two Years of Living

Okay, so I totally slacked on doing this last year. I fully intended to write out forty-one things I had learned. Then I got busy with HIIT training, a gift from a dear friend I made in Yoga Instructor Certification Training. And then another friend of mine made it a goal to do one hundred yoga practices in January of last year. And I was kinda watching it to get inspired and to support him, but also because that’s a really awesome goal, which ended with him getting one hundred and TWELVE practices in January, which is beyond impressive. There was the passing of a dear friend the week before my birthday. I fully intended to write the list “next week”. But then next week became the week after that, and when it comes to my own writing, occasionally, it gets placed on the back burner because three kids and paid work tend to take the lead in my life.

So here you are, Dear Reader: what I’ve learned in my life that stands out as I’m coming up on age forty-two. Or “Forty-Two’d” as my friend Geoff says, referencing my ability to stand strong with fortitude, no matter the circumstances.

1.) Stop apologizing for your joy. Whether it’s food, hobbies, music, people you spend time with, or movies you like to watch.

2.) Remember the little things. All those little things, those small moments of grace, those small moments of joy, of peace, of beauty, those add up to an amazing life.

3.) Walk away from people who try to change you to fit the definition of what they want you to be. You are who you are. Embrace it. Love it. Never apologize for it.

4.) You can walk away from situations and people that are painful to you or just no longer working for you without anger and hatred. You simply say “this is no longer working for me,” and exit with kindness.

5.) Don’t waste your energy on people who treat you like you’re expendable. Simply walk away. There are better people waiting for you, who will love you and treat you as you deserve to be treated.

6.) Treat people as they need and want to be treated.

7.) Love fully and without reservation and without condition.

8.) Never wait to say “I love you” out of fear.

9.) The people I love, admire, and respect most in the world are the people who treat all people with kindness and compassion.

10.) You have every right to feel whatever you feel in any given moment. It’s what you do with how you’re feeling that is what matters.

11.) We don’t only live once. We die once. We live every day if we do it right.

12.) Anything you want in this world, a healthier body, a job you love, good friends, and a healthy relationship to name a few, are worth the hard work it takes to gain it, and even more worth the hard work it takes to maintain it.

13.) Stop making excuses, and start doing.

14.) Stop telling the world how amazing you are and simply show how amazing you are.

15.) “K” in response to any message still pisses me off. Give me the half second it takes to hit “O” before you type in “K”.

16.) “Skinny bitch” is just as hurtful to hear as “Fat bitch”. I’ve heard both far too often in my journey to a healthy body.

17.) Ask yourself if you’re doing something because it serves a purpose in your life, or are you doing it out of habit.

18.) Be the type of friend you would like to have in your life.

19.) Sometimes, it’s more than enough to get up, inhale and exhale, repeat, then go back to bed at the end of the day.

20.) Never measure yourself by someone else’s yardstick.

21.) Try anything at least once.

22.) Sometimes, you just gotta flip a coin to make your decision.

23.) Take people at their word. If they tell you they’re happy in their line of work, have no interest in getting married, aren’t ready for a relationship, or don’t want a child, don’t attempt to change their mind set, or be offended when they turned out to be exactly who they said they were.

24.) If you present yourself as one way to the world, don’t be offended when you’re treated as such.

25.) I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what your job is, where you came from, how large your bank account is, or what type of car you own. I don’t care about the labels on your clothing. What I care about is how you’ll treat the waiter or the person who empties the trash.

26.) Stop making excuses. Just do the damn thing you’ve wanted to do.

27.) You are under no obligation to apologize for your feelings. Feel what you feel when you feel it. You are however under the obligation to handle those feelings responsibly and not take them out on anyone else.

28.) You are not your past. What you did before, what you have survived to come out on the other side of, these are things that you did or went through, THEY ARE NOT YOU. You are who you choose to become.

29.) Be yourself. Always. The right kind of people will love you as you are.

30.) Listen to that little voice inside yourself that tells you when things aren’t right.

31.) Listen to that little voice inside yourself that tells you to take a leap of faith.

32.) If you woke up and are breathing, you’ve got good news, baby!

33.) Never allow those who are unkind to tell you your self worth and value.

34.) You can have as many plastic surgeries as you want, but nothing will change the date you were born.

35.) There is nothing as healing as unconditional love.

36.) If you’ve hurt someone, tell them you’re sorry.

37.) Give back to your community.

38.) I love those people who aren’t afraid to show their flaws. It makes them human, and therefore, possible to love.

39.) There are no mistakes. Only learning experiences.

40.) Eat the damn cupcake.

41.) No matter what the relationship is, abuse of any type is unacceptable.

42.) I finally know what I want to be when I grow up: Content.

Your experience is not my experience

Several months ago, a friend of mine met someone I was acquainted with. I listened to them go on and on about how amazing this person was, all the while biting my tongue.

The person in question was a huge factor in a dear friend’s divorce.

I’m not saying my friend’s now ex-husband was guilt-free; quite the contrary, he held just as much responsibility in the affair as the person in question did.

Yet, to my friend, this person in question is amazing. They’re funny, they’re carefree, have interesting stories, and are entertaining. He views her in a positive light. Me? My mind can’t seem to get past my dear friend calling me, crying hysterically to confirm her husband and the father of her children had been having an affair for several months with a woman young enough to be their daughter. My mind can’t seem to get past the hurt someone I know and love dearly experienced at someone’s choice to engage in an extramarital affair.

As yogis, we tend to try and live non-judgemental lives. We try and approach things with open hearts and minds, try to veer away from hard, angry words and actions. We try to find unconditional love and acceptance of scenarios, things, people, places.

Yet, I still struggle. Especially when it comes to those I love, especially when you watch the pain and hurt, not only with a dear friend, but that of her children who are missing their father. Of seeing a marriage and a life shatter into a million pieces when one of the people wielding the sledgehammer to destroy that marriage and life walks away after taunting and being cruel to one of the people in your life you love deeply.

I recently had a discussion with a friend regarding red meat, something I don’t indulge in due to how it affects me physically. “I can’t imagine not being able to have a steak. How the hell do you not eat steak?” he’d asked me, and I’d responded simply, “Your experience is not my experience.” For me, eating a steak would be doing to my body what that affair did to my friend’s marriage: I’d be a mess after, and it would be weeks before I’d feel like rejoining the world at large.

Another recent conversation with a work colleague involved them telling me that yoga just didn’t do anything for them. I was beyond confused momentarily, until I asked them what their experience was with it: 105 degree studios, instructors who barked orders at students like it was basic training, other students who had surly attitudes. And while I’ve had similar experiences to my work colleague, I had the good fortune of landing in a studio that is a love based community, where the instructors guide you, where the temperature is the optimal level to promote detox and relaxation. His experience was not my experience.

I bring all these examples up because I’ve been seeing way too much of “You’re wrong” and “I can’t believe you believe that” of late. And we need to try as a world to gain a bit more understanding, a bit more kindness, a bit more compassion. We need to channel our inner Phoebe Buffay and let people believe how they believe and feel how they feel, unless  it’s going to hurt us or others.

It’s not my place to tell my friend that his new friend isn’t how she appears to him, any more than it’s my friends’ place to force red meat down my throat in an effort to show me what I’m missing out on.

Be kind. Be understanding. Be compassionate. Be loving. Make this year the one you stop, take a moment, and try and see things from a different point of view.

Much love,


Amber Jerome~Norrgard.


A few weeks ago, I had the honor of babysitting my friends’ two year old twins, Penelope and Phillipe. As toddlers, those two are nothing but bundles of love, joy, laughter, passion, and grabby need. In the six hours they were over, I cut up about ten thousand pounds of fruit and vegetables, changed seven diapers (Penelope is taking after her dear Auntie Amber in how often she uses the facilities), watched my thirteen year old reconfirm their decision to not have children, and broke up several small spats over various items the twins deemed theirs.

In all honesty, I had a blast: my youngest child turned eight (!!!) last month, and having the twins over for an afternoon and evening gave me a lovely nostalgia trip to the time in my life where I had two under two, both in diapers.

aparigraha3I somehow forgot about the “MINE!!!!” shrieks. If you have children, or are around small children, you’re well acquainted with the “MINE!!!!” shrieks. If not, I’ll briefly enlighten you. “MINE!!!!” shrieks are often heard in the company of small children, primarily toddlers who are learning boundaries and what’s up in the world. Pretty much, if a toddler sees something, it becomes their’s. If they put it down to go investigate something else, and you pick it up, even if it’s the squeaky moose plushie your one eyed rescue dog Pekoe loves to sleep with, said toddler is going to shriek, much like a banshee, “MINE!!!!” It doesn’t matter if it really is theirs or not; if they see it, you can just go ahead and accept that they’re going to want it, and if they can’t have it, they’re going to make sure that people in the next state over hear about it.

Which is a lovely segue into this week’s spiritual sadhana: Aparigraha, non-possessiveness.

Like most people, I’ve accumulated a great deal of crap in my life. When my father passed four years ago, like most children of a parent who dies, I was left with the job of cleaning out my father’s house. Which had about fifty years worth of my father’s belongings in it. I’m fairly certain he kept every single card he was sent or given in the years he lived as an adult. There was a large quantity of paperwork, photos, momentoes, school records and awards my brother and I had accumulated, a stack of thirty copies of the newspaper my first piece of published writing appeared in (which brought me to tears), more books than I could begin to count, National Geographic magazines, Reader’s Digest, and about one hundred and fifty (I shit you not) bars of soap from various hotels.

At the end of the process of cleaning out his house, a bulk of what my father accumulated, things he never used, was taken away by a 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He wasn’t a hoarder, because everything was neatly contained (with exception to his recipe box, but hey, you need that sucker totally filled and haphazard). Yet, for all those material things he had accumulated, none of them went with him when he passed away.

It inspired me to take the time every six months to go through everything I own and either donate it, give it to a friend who can use it, throw it away if it’s no longer functioning, set it aside to be decided on later, or sell it. Back in my early twenties, everything I owned could be put into 4 large Rubbermaid bins and two suitcases. With the purchase of a home and three kids though, you start collecting stuff. With a larger income, you stop really weighing if you truly need something, or if it’s an impulse buy.

aparigraha2But going through my items every six months or so has kept me honest about if I truly need something, or if it’s something that’s useful, or something I’m holding onto because I can’t bear to part with it. What I learned from cleaning out my father’s house was that much as I wanted to hold onto him, he was gone and the items in his house? They were just items. Holding onto them when they served no purpose in my life was harmful. Holding onto something because it did serve a purpose was beneficial (ie: the gorgeous wooden console record player I kept has a radio, and I’m one of those who still purchases records to play; that item served a purpose).

In life, how often do we hold onto that which no longer serves us, whether it’s a broken mug, a job that brings us nothing but grief, a relationship that’s long overdue to end. How often do we hold onto clothing that not only does not fit us size wise, but is no longer a representation of who we are as an individual?

Everything we have in this life is borrowed; we have to give it back at the end, even our breath. At the end of our lives, we take nothing with us. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

On our mats, we’re instructed to exhale, releasing that which doesn’t serve us. We’re asked to let go of what might be weighing on us before we begin our practice. One of myaparigraha4 favorite instructors at my primary studio often reminds us that one day, we have to give back all the postures we learn. They do not belong to us, we just experience them until it’s time to let them go.

In the practice of aparigraha this week, I’ll be starting my household purge a few months early. That which no longer serves me will go onto a place where it can serves others. On my mat, I’ll accept the postures as them come, whether it’s the most basic version or the most advanced version, let go of any expectations I have coming to my mat each practice and let go of any negative thoughts that come with the postures.

Much love Dear Reader,


Amber Jerome~Norrgard


Ever see the movie Fatal Attraction? Michael Douglas’ character Dan has an affair with Glenn Close’s character Alex Forrest. She goes bat-shit, stalking him, wrecking his car, picking his daughter up from school, boiling the poor kid’s bunny. The movie is a good example of why it’s best to stick to your vows and not cheat on your spouse. During a heated confrontation between the two, Alex shouts at Dan, “I won’t be ignored, Dan!”

Grief is like that.

It’s a bit of a stalker. What we don’t face, what we don’t resolve, and let go of, we’re going to be facing it, one way or another.

Back in 2009, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety after my heart rate shot up to 160 beats per minute and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Talking with the admitting nurse, she asked me if I had any past experience with abuse. Already floating on a high dose of Xanax (it had been determined my heart was fine and I was just experiencing a major panic attack), I’d opened up and talked about my mother.

“There are many studies showing that psychiatric patients who haven’t dealt with childhood abuse suffer from anxiety; if it’s not dealt with, the trauma from the experience can manifest as an anxiety disorder in adults.”

Long story short: I entered therapy not long after. But there were moments, sitting on that big couch in my therapists office where I’d get slammed with a panic attack when revisiting those bad experiences from my youth, not just those related to my mother. On more than one occasion, I’d hit my limit and say, “I don’t want to do this!” The therapist, bless her, would step back from it, and we’d resume talking it out the next week.

I still never lost my tendency to run from emotions. I’d joke my way out of them, I’d push people away if they got to close, I’d wall up and shut down in an effort to shield myself from hurt. It was how I knew how to process things. “Yeah, we’re not going there,” was a common response I’d have to anything related to anything emotional.

My father dying though, that was impossible to run from. It was right there, front and center, and when you’re the child of a person who has passed on who is single, you’re the one dealing the estate, the funeral arrangements, getting rid of what they left behind. All while you’re heart is breaking. Then you have everyone who knew your parent needing to talk about it, talk about their loss. A friend of mine tells the story that when his wife’s father passed, everyone kept telling her to take care of her mother, until she got overwhelmed enough to say, “And who’s taking care of me? I just lost my father.”

That’s the thing though: I didn’t mind hearing people’s stories when my father passed, because it kept him alive. What I did mind was people making it about them without regard for how I was doing. Today, I still bristle when someone talks about how much they miss my father without honoring how much I miss him. Selfish? Maybe it is, and maybe I am in that.

But around the two month mark after my father passed, I hit my limit. Rather than lash out at anyone else, I just shut down. I closed down the doors of my heart, and unless it was my children, no one got it. My children still had the full me; the rest of the world, not so much.

There were moments what I was running from would crack through: attending the MLB All Star Game in 2015 on my father’s birthday found me with tears streaking down my face when Sandy Koufax threw out the first pitch. Walking into Wrigley Field in April 2016, I might have cried, except it was about thirty-two degrees outside, and the tears would have frozen. But two weeks later, reaching the terminus sign of Route 66, I stared up at it, and tears ran down my cheeks thinking I wouldn’t be able to tell my father I had finally achieved driving Route 66 from start to finish.

For the most part, I was on emotional lock down. I’d view experiences from a distance. But I never fully let myself open up and experience them.

Entering yoga instructor certification training in September 2017, one of the first things we did was go around the room and talk about ourselves. I stood up, talked about being a mother, author, and publisher, and said I was looking for more meaningful work. A few classmates later, a woman talked about her many pregnancy losses. Another woman told her story of her own pregnancy losses, and I felt something moving down my cheek. Putting my hand to my face, I realized I was crying.

I pretty much cried every day I was in the studio from that point on. See, we were forced to be honest and upfront, all the while being told repeatedly we were loved and it was okay to be flawed and imperfect. It was okay to not take postures correctly so long as we weren’t hurting one another. And then I had the owner and one of our primary instructors in the program up in my face every single time she saw me (and multiple times on the weekends when certification training was going on) saying to me over and over again: “I love you. You are worthy. I am so happy you’re here.”

Here’s the problem with all that: I began to heal. I began to trust in the process once I let go of my own personal bullshit and embrace being loved and loving in return. But in order to trust in the process, in order to move forward and heal, I had to open up.

And there was Grief, doing it’s best Alex Forrest impersonation, except it wasn’t going after Dan, it was going after me, “I’m not going to be ignored, Amber.”

Up until this last year of my life, there’s been this knee jerk response of “Hey how can we just put this off until later?” in regards to my hurt. Dealing with my past of abuse, not just as a child but in my first marriage? Let’s just take a pill to ease the anxiety and put a bandaid on it, because really, do we want to look too closely, do we really want to revisit a time when I was treated as worthless and beaten? Men ending things? Let’s just move onto the next man and drown ourselves in sex rather than face someone not loving me. Father dies? Hey, let’s just get drunk and take a lot of trips and not face something you can’t place blame on.

So now, now I’m having to face things head on. Because I refused to do the hard work and face it when it went on. Which is not surprising: if you see a cactus, you know it’ll hurt if you touch one of it’s needles, so you just don’t touch the needles. That’s been my mindset for forty years of my life: let’s not touch it. Let’s just know it happened and not face it head on. Let’s just ignore it, much like an ex of mine ignored the leak in his ceiling. Yet me ignoring past hurts, me not facing them, me not learning to process and heal on my own, that worked out just as well as my ex ignoring that leak, but instead of a water heater crashing down into my kitchen, my previous hurts, my previous heartaches, those are coming to the surface.

Except I’m not ignoring them now. I’m not at my doctor’s office or my psychiatrist’s office requesting an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety pill. I’m not using sex as anything other than what the one of two reasons you do it are: enjoyment. I’m not getting myself good and drunk to quiet my thoughts, I’m simply enjoying a drink with a friend over dinner, or enjoying my weekend tradition of brunch while getting miscellaneous work done since the place I frequent for brunch has free WiFi and I like talking to the staff.

Yet, putting it off, I’m still struggling. I’ve spent this last week owning up to how I feel, however that is in any given moment. If I need to cry, I cry, no matter where I’m at, although I do apologize to the poor twenty-something guy who was sitting next to me earlier this week at a bar when I started crying while watching the All Star Game. Said gentleman will one day make an excellent significant other because he asked me to tell him about my dad. I’ve given heads up to all my yoga instructors before class that I might cry, and they don’t need to make a big deal out of it. I’m being honest with how I feel when I feel it, and unlike the last three years, the grief has been less.

But the grief is there. As it should be, because I had a damn good father. And I miss him, as I should, because he was one of the most important people in my life.



Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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