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Brave

be brave and free cj millar life without a paddle

It’s amazing what being brave can do, and it starts with you. Be brave in how you speak to yourself. Be honest with your words to yourself and others. Use your voice. Speak up. Speak out. Listen, and learn. As people start to understand that your intentions are always borne of love and compassion, and your goal is to always help the people and world around you become a better place, they start to realize that what you say isn’t ever meant in a mean way, as a judgement of them or others, or for personal gain. The world has a lot more at stake than what it can do for you. Let’s be a part of making it even more awesome together!

Sometimes, when you speak, people hear negatives in your words and assume that it is a judgement rather than an observation. Not all observations are positive. Not all stories have only heroes and happy endings. And above all else, the truth is just that – the truth.

I tell my kids all the time that if you don’t want someone to know your actions or what you said to me or others, the best way to prevent that from happening is to not take those actions. Once those words are spoken, those actions are taken, you are accountable to them regardless if others know or not. They still happened. They are still the truth. If you don’t want people knowing what you said or did, easy answer is simply don’t say or do it. And while none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, it’s by owning those mistakes, or those things we said or did that we aren’t proud of that gives us courage, and takes our power back from others. How powerful is it to say – yes, I did that, or yes, I said that, and I was wrong or I could have done better, or I know better now and I’m sorry? It’s powerful, truly mind-blowingly powerful. Try it sometime and you’ll see!

It’s where freedom comes from. Because it’s rooted in honesty and integrity. If you don’t want someone saying you are a coward, then learn to stand up for yourself, speak up and tell the truth even when it’s hard or scary. If you don’t want someone saying you are a failure, own those failures and learn from them and then suddenly they aren’t failures at all, they’re growth and that’s beautiful! Kaleidoscopes aren’t pretty because they are made up of perfectly arranged pieces of art and colors. They are beautiful because they are made up of all the little pieces of glass or beads or whatever else is inside them that changes and shifts depending on which angle you look at them from, making every perspective that much more beautiful.

You can be whatever you want to be. You just have to be brave enough to be honest and speak up. It’s the only way you’ll ever be free and the first step to finding true happiness and love.

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave
Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
But don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Sara Bareilles’s song Brave came on my playlist the other day and I hadn’t listened to it in a while. So I did. I didn’t “just listen” while doing stuff. I listened to the lyrics. I turned up the volume. I sang along. I played it again and let the words sink in further. I let myself breathe. I let my thoughts go wherever they did and I examined why I kept looking back instead of forward wondering what was going to happen next and I realized that was simply because I was looking back on recent past experiences as a means to predict where I was going. But I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to be there. That wasn’t a cage I wanted to put myself in. I had just found more freedom than I had known in a long time – or ever – because every relationship and every experience is another opportunity for me to learn and grow and understand myself better and know what I want and what I need and what I deserve and even more so, what I love! I am free to be myself, and that’s something I won’t ever let anyone take away from me, and something I won’t ever take away from anyone in life, friend or foe, acquaintance or neighbor, past or future.

That was brave.

Some people may say I fail at relationships over and over. Some people may say that I’m “old and alone.” Some people may say that I’m batshit crazy. Some people may say that I’m too much. Some people may say that….wait. You know what? They can say whatever they want to say. They should say it! All of it! And I will always speak my truth.

My relationships are never a failure for me. They’re an inspiration and a learning experience. They have taught me boundaries, values, red flags, green flags, and self-worth. They’ve taught me I want someone with generosity in their heart who always tips a little extra, reaches into their pockets to offer whatever little they have even when things are tight for them, and who offer love and support through uncomfortable conversations and vulnerability through their own hard times knowing that we reap what we sow. The more we give, the more we get. The more we hide, the more we lose. Respect, love, trust, integrity, friendship, value, and above all else, freedom. Who wants to lose that? Certainly not I.

So I donate even when I don’t have enough and it’s come back to me tenfold.

I pay it forward in the drive-thru and the love and kindness reverberates around me.

I overtip even when my bill is small because I appreciate those who serve me and support me and when things are tight I know that I can still go out for a beer.

I tell people how I feel, even if it may hurt them and I share observations that may be perceived as negative or judgmental, to remind people that how they interpret words from others is their choice every bit as much as how they choose to react – with anger, resentment, defensiveness, or growth. I choose to grow.

I also choose to remove access to my life and my heart from those who do not share theirs. I choose to share with everyone I love, and even those I don’t because I know that sharing our stories and our failures is how we turn them into growth and success stories and stories of love. The skeletons in our closets cannot live in the daylight and as such, I’ve stopped throwing them out in the street for people to run over or hanging them like Halloween decorations to scare away the intimacy I say I’ve been seeking. I bring them out in the sun and tell their stories to people it may help. And, as a result, I am never alone. I’ve built connections that have changed lives, surely as they have changed mine. And in turn, that means that someone else is also realizing they too are not alone, because we are connected by our skeletons or our pasts or our fears and together we bring them out into the light where their bones crumble, our fear of them fades in the shadows, and suddenly we realize together – all of us – that they were far more scary in the closet like the monsters of our childhood than they ever were once we told people what they were. Once we told people who we really are and let them see us for all of our glory and our love and our fears and our scars and our shame. That right there – all of that – melted all that fear and shame and regret and negativity away. Only the light can do that, but it’s bright. You have to be ready.

You have to be brave.

I’ve learned that sharing with the people who are not kind to us, or do not love us, or speak ill of us is even more important than sharing all of those things with the ones who do love us everyday. It’s how we make the world a better place. I want to make the world a better place. Do you? Then be brave.

And, when things are shitty, or you’re questioning yourself, worried about what someone will think of you for your past, your present, your fears, or your futures, try just saying some of it out loud. One little thing that scares you or makes you feel ashamed – say it out loud to yourself in the mirror. That’s the first step. And then go outside in the light and go on an adventure. Do something you’ve never done before whether it’s to pay for a stranger’s coffee or tell someone you hate that you are sorry life has been unkind to them, or donate to a homeless person or something, anything different. LIVE. Be brave.

The world is awesome! Go be a part of it. Let’s experience amazing together!

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unconditional love @writingraw

Yesterday was beautiful. It was the first Valentine’s Day in ages that I didn’t wear my Bullet for My Valentine tee with the band’s name and a gun shooting a heart in metallic (yet fading) red across the chest, paired with my studded black collar as if in warning to everyone around in some dark humorous way poking fun at this “Hallmark holiday.” Yesterday was different and it was amazing.

After driving to school this morning at 6am, I returned home and sat on the porch as the sun rose, and the dogs and Astrid watched with me. The air was a cold, crisp 16° and it felt refreshing. I hadn’t made coffee yet, and yet didn’t feel cold, just grateful. As I took in the world around me, I felt something different. This year I didn’t wear my Bullet for My Valentine tee, or wish people a happy Bullet for My Valentine’s Day, poke jokes at the sappiness of the holiday or make fun of anyone giving anyone flowers or chocolate or showing other signs of affection scoffing as if affection and love made you weak. I also didn’t fly away somewhere this year – the past few I’ve been in Florida – and as I sat on my porch swing watching the sun paint the horizon in whitewashed colors of winter morning light as it lifted itself over the mountains, listening to the birds chirp at the day ahead, I realized that I felt something entirely different. I was exactly where I was meant to be. Right here, right now, on that porch swing, yesterday running errands, talking to colleagues and friends and family. I bought flowers and ice cream to make people I care about smile, knowing they would be coming home to something sweet after an emotional day. I wished strangers “Happy Share the Love Day”, and “Happy Galentine’s Day,” and said “thank you,” and “I love you,” and “I’m excited for you,” every single time that or any other thought came into my mind that I felt was worth sharing to help make the world a better place.

You see, I don’t believe we need to be headed towards another civil war, or world war, or mass destruction or self-destruction or anything else negative for that matter. But I do believe that in order to change that path, we all need to start by sharing the love more and so I celebrated yesterday, with plans to carry that message forward every day.

We need to share the love with ourselves more, allowing ourselves the grace and forgiveness to accept our pasts. We cannot change it, but we can learn from it and even the stuff we may regret right now we can learn to be grateful for when we realize that it was another step forward, a learning experience, and a valuable lesson that helped shape who we are today. There will be more. More experiences – good and bad, easy and hard, more challenges, more heartbreaks, more losses, but there will be more laughter too, and more love and more confidence and more reassurance, and more happiness if we start by forgiving ourselves, and looking up.

We all need a sense of self, and self confidence. We need friends and to find our tribe, too. A sense of belonging and connection to others is how, with love and vulnerability and expression, we can begin to change the world. One little act of kindness can start a ripple effect if you let it. Pay it forward (like the movie showed) can make truly profound changes across a neighborhood, a community, a region, and even the world. But it has to start somewhere. Why not with you?

I know why I am here and am confident of the path I am on even when I question details and things such as why didn’t this work out, or why did I push that person away, why am I afraid of relationships or change or whatever else it is that I am afraid of that I probably never had the courage to share with you before. I am learning how to recognize those fears and really feel them and sit with them and work to understand where they are originating from so that I can continue to rise above and move forward. Always one step closer to everything amazing that is yet to come.

My ability to share my emotions and share love and show people how to find all the magic and wonder in life is truly my greatest gift, and I am so grateful for it. I sat on the porch swing this morning and breathed in the crisp morning air and felt something different. Alive. Not just living, but filled with life and wonder and hope, and knowing there was so much joy to come from sharing all of these things with people around me. And I realized that we can make the world a better place by showing compassion and openness and even telling stories of our own pasts – even the parts we may be afraid of or ashamed of or that make us question if we’re even worth loving – with the people we care about and love. But I also realized that it’s even more important to share those things with the people we don’t love, for they are the ones that need it the most.

So please, do me a favor, if you have anything to share, please do. Practice random acts of kindness. Reach out to the person in town struggling with addiction or depression or both who’s losing everything around them and let them know they’re not alone. It doesn’t mean you have to be their friend or their support or their counselor or guardian angel. It just means you are letting them know they are not alone, and sharing a little piece of hope that they may not otherwise be able to see themselves. We live in a society where people are shunned for their pasts, where depression-turned-addiction is met with ridicule instead of compassion, and where everyone is measured by what they have rather than who they are. Why? Why do we keep accepting this? Why do YOU keep accepting this? What are you waiting for? A sign that it’s time to change? Well here it is. It’s now. Change. Be. Trust. Grow. Love.

Instead of holding on with anger towards the people who have wronged you, or questioning if you’re worthy of being loved, capable of being honest, willing to dig deep into the uncomfortable stuff for the chance to find something amazing, or wondering if you can hold yourself to the same standards you hope for your children and those around you, why not start with looking yourself in the mirror each day and saying out loud one thing you are afraid of. Start there. Let one fear out a day. Let it go – but don’t push it away or chase it. Just release it. Release the anger towards others and release them with the understanding that we can’t change everyone, but we can let those who have wronged us go with compassion and love even as we hold our own boundaries, and at times that means closing the door behind them.

Let go of one fear, one piece of anger, one negative emotion you feel towards yourself or your past or your life every day but say it out loud. To yourself at first. Find the power in that. The power that words have in releasing those emotions once they are spoken, and how it takes the power out of the fear and the regret and the shame. It’s not your fault. It never was. We are all doing the best we can with what  we have for where we are in life at the present time. That doesn’t mean we’re automatically excused from bad behavior. Who we are absolutely is our own responsibility. It means that the addict may have no one to turn to. The single parent may have put their entire life on hold trying to rebuild a broken family and find their own “missing piece” in a partner that they never found their own tribe or friends or someone to really connect with and open up to. The bitter jealous controlling person who name calls and argues over petty details perhaps is just someone afraid to see their own insecurities and so keeps looking for reassurance from others without realizing that they more they grasp, the more they lose. Perhaps their perspective would change if met with compassion and love instead of resentment and rejection. Perhaps they already feel really, really lonely and don’t see the value they hold within because they are too distracted by their own self-concerns, fear that they are unloveable, fear of being rejected over and over again, too. Men used to write love letters while at war. Today’s men are taught that sharing emotions and feelings equals weakness, but where was the weakness in the men at war that wrote those letters? Why are we so afraid to say how we feel, when we feel it, in that moment as if someone who does not view you with compassion or love should ever have the power to hurt you? How can someone be compassionate and loving and honest to you when they do not feel they deserve it themselves and as such continually push others away?

Who is the first person you want to talk to when you have exciting news to share? Something big to tell? Someone to lean on? An honest opinion needed or help requested?

I’ve dreamed so much of this lately. The nightmares stopped at the end of the year and have been replaced with dreams instead. Not all are good ones. Several have been warnings. Someone hiding a truth from me about something that I later confirmed to be true even though I knew it because I dreamed it the night before it happened. Again with something different, a friend upset by running over a small animal when driving that ended its life (fortunately quickly) that I also dreamed the night before it happened. And again even more recently, seeing through my own past and mirrors of my parents in people in my present, transitioning to present day (or presumably the day after the dream) where someone started to see the ugliness of a person on the inside and realize that no amount of back-and-forth words and mind-changing and moving targets and insecure boundaries could change someone who didn’t want to work on themselves. Recognizing with new eyes how internal ugliness transformed them on the outside, giving weight to the metaphorical saying that beauty comes from within. It does. Allowing others to figure out their own paths, while being willing to listen to their excitement, share in their joys, and be there for their fears and their pains, too is beautiful. No human is meant to go through this life alone.

Sometimes you have to let something go with all the love in your heart to find out where you are really meant to be.

I am meant to be right here, in every way. Sharing my story. My past. And even some of my fears. Learning that some of the horrible things I have done don’t make me a horrible person. Even looking back to who I was decades ago, I can see now that she was a terrified girl who thought she’d never be lovable and never deserving of a real relationship and she acted accordingly and received the same in return. It took a lot of time and work, and disarming fear bit by bit, year by year, to get that girl to see she’s me. And she has so much love to share with the world if she just let down her guard a little. One day at a time.

cjmillar82 life without a paddle share

Just be you. No makeup. No filters. Nothing hidden inside or out. Completely, authentically you. The world needs more of it, trust me. ❤️

Step Forward

cjmillar82 mad passionate love

Eat the cheese. Drink the bourbon. Have a beer. Wear the good boots. Buy the hat. Speak your mind. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Walk with purpose. Live with integrity. Love all the things big and small with all your heart. Work hard but play harder and never ever take yourself so seriously that you forget to laugh at yourself. Be different. Be you. Who cares if it looks weird to others. Embrace who you are – all of you – and know that when you let yourself shine, you bring out the light in all those around you ❤️ #bedifferent #beauthentic #beyou #laugh #workhardplayharder #bepresent #behonest #bereal #lifeisbeautiful

cjmillar82 life without a paddle

I posted that on social earlier this week after a visit to the salon ahead of my next big business trip, followed by the purchase of an incredible hat (and a few other things too!), and a glass of Bulleit and a charcuterie board at one of my favorite places to go while working. The response was pretty amazing. The hat is a lot. It makes a statement for sure. But as someone said to me, “the hat doesn’t wear you, you wear the hat and you, my dear wear that hat well!” Someone else told me that I was an inspiration to others. Someone else told me to keep being me. And it continued.

The point? It made people smile. It made me smile. And while I was a bit self-conscious walking around Warwick and then into my kid’s high school game later that evening, I wore the hat and I smiled, and it continued to make others smile too. That’s real confidence. Not about how I look or what my outfit was, or even how much of a statement that hat made. It was about owning it. Owning my own presence in a way that wasn’t intimidating, wasn’t cocky, wasn’t rude or pushy, but in a way that just said, hey, this is me and I embrace all of it!

I wish more people would embrace their inner selves, allow who they really are to shine through. Some people spend years looking for themselves and some people find themselves out in the woods, in their reflection in the lake, on the top of a mountain, standing in the ocean, or simply sitting at home at peace with themselves. But other people spend lifetimes looking and never find themselves. That’s because usually they are looking for themselves in others, looking to be completed much the way Shel Silverstein’s Missing Piece keeps rolling along, looking for his missing piece and when he finds it he finds that sometimes being your own person is better, and that sometimes you can be yourself and still share your life with someone else. But when you keep looking for yourself in others, you’ll keep coming up empty. Happiness doesn’t come from other people and neither does confidence. Sure affection and admiration are great, but they aren’t what makes you YOU.

When you spend all of your time chasing something or someone just to avoid being alone – and I don’t mean being alone for an evening to binge watch a show while texting someone to keep you distracted from your own thoughts. No, I mean truly being alone – spending several hours out in the woods just wandering listening to the forest and sorting through all the thoughts in your head. I mean alone in the sense that you’re not afraid to sit alone with your thoughts, examine the good and the bad, the guilt and the shame, learn your triggers and work on healing those old wounds, that’s how you find yourself. And from there the path to happiness somehow seems to just simply *appear*. Ask me how I know.

There are things I have lived through in life that help me understand others, and that’s why I share my past. I understand abandonment issues because I’ve lived with that my entire life. From my childhood to losing my best friend at 18, my first (and only) long-term boyfriend cheating on me in my early 20s, becoming estranged from my father over and over and over again no matter how hard I tried, and so much more, that eventually I just forced myself to be alone so that I could learn what was wrong with me, after all, that everything I loved either left or died. Turns out, there was nothing wrong with me. There was everything wrong with how I looked at myself and that – that hiding, that running, that fear – permeated every piece of my being and as such, I attracted the same insecurities and fear and abandonment I held inside over and over and over again. Until recently when I learned how to say, enough. You had your second chance, and I deserve better. You deserve better, too but where you go from here is your choice. Going backwards to the past may be an option for you, but it never is for me. Not anymore.

step forward cjmillar82 life without a paddle

I could have helped you if you let me. I could have helped you, too. And also you. But I’ve helped others, starting with the people I share my home with, and continuing to those select friends I can truly open my heart to, and who in turn do the same with me. We’ve helped each other. Pushed each other out of our comfort zones to breathe, think, and grow. Sometimes that’s something like getting back on a snowboard for the first time in 20+ years to help overcome the great losses that marred 2020-21. And other times it’s as simple as laughs around a campfire, or a night out to check out new places, meet new people. Or, even taking chances at going on a new first date, even when you’re terrified.

We’ve helped each other grow in so many ways. It’s why I do wear my heart on my sleeve, and I say, “I love you,” to all of my friends when we hang up the phone. We never know what life has planned tomorrow, so cherish today, every day.

Earlier this week I had a friend tell me that I helped them open up for the first time really, in their entire life, because they were so used to speaking their mind and having people yell at them or leave or abandon them, and I was grateful that I was able to help. They told me it was because I was one of the few people they ever met that could understand some of their past experiences, but truth be told, as we open up about our pasts and our pains, we often find that a lot more people understand us and react from a place of love rather than a place of defensiveness than we’d expect. If you’re surrounding yourself with people who react to your thoughts and your feelings without love and empathy and compassion, you’re surrounding yourself with the wrong people. But no matter, that’s your choice, not mine.

And in many cases, shining a light on people’s dark places within themselves is scary and some people won’t stay to do the work, or want you to be there to do it with them. You can be, if you are strong enough to do so, and so long as it’s not a one-way street. If you’re told their focus is on one person and one person only, and that person is not you, proceed with caution because what does that mean for you? You are not a focus? Or you are a secondary focus when they need understanding and support in the areas of their life that their chosen partner is unwilling or incapable of giving? Choose wisely, for life doesn’t have a do-over button, and some people will give multiple chances, but I am a woman of my word. I say what I do and I do what I say and my boundaries – which are different than walls, they are there for my own wellbeing and security, and are how I ensure that I am not taken advantage of or taken for granted, always operating from a place of love and integrity, always looking at things from the other people’s perspectives who may be involved in any given situation – are never negotiable.

We are all responsible for our own choices. I choose to respect myself and those around me, even when they have not been respectful towards me, because the only way this world is going to become a better place is if we all spend more time understanding and respecting each other than we do hiding from our fears, worst of all the fear of change.

Another great friend said to me, “I am sad for them that they had a real opportunity, and chose comfort and familiarity – even when it’s proven to be toxic, repeatedly, for years prior – over progress,” and that hit me hard. So many people choose comfort and familiarity. The devil we know…well what if the grass really IS greener? Only you have to actually weed it and fertilize it and water it and only then it will grow. Well, that sounds like more work than a dried out yard where you keep pouring water into it for nothing to come out but the same old dirt you had last time you tried. At least you know you’ll always have dirt. I don’t want dirt. I want grass. Life is hard. It’s hard to be in a toxic or unhappy situation. It’s sad to look at the same old dead yard wishing the grass would grow again. But it’s also hard to walk away from the yard you know, down the road to where the grass is greener because you know that needs tending to, you know you’re going to have to put in the effort, you know you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and dig in to the really deep stuff because otherwise, you’ll be asked to leave that yard, too (if you haven’t been already).

It’s also interesting to me how when people are fragmented, struggling to find happiness within themselves and learn enough about their pasts and their hurts to grow and understand what they really want in life, how they also tend to be fragmented outward. Looking for the deep conversations they’ve never had in life is a huge, scary step forward. But, when the person you are looking for that from is different than the person you’ve chosen to build a life with, you become even more fragmented. If both paths were to move forward at the same time, the result is everyone gets hurt, and things crumble, the person in the middle tearing themselves apart finding that they are hiding themselves from themselves seeking comfort in one place, a life in another, friendship elsewhere, and always always finding something to do to keep their mind busy so they don’t have to deal with the things that lie within. I’ve been that person, more than once I am sad to admit, but it taught me a lot so I don’t regret it. I’ve learned boundaries because of it, and I’ve recently thanks to a very short-term relationship, been able to learn more about what I do and don’t want in a partner.

Want to hear it? Well, since this is my blog about my life, I’m sharing lol. Here goes.

I want someone to be a best friend to me first and foremost, and grow into everything else from there. Tonight we are going back to one of my favorite places where we went on our only date in that last relationship, because I’m starting over. I want someone to ask me on dates, take me out once in a while – nowhere fancy (though check out my IG, I do rock a ballgown, with an even better one to come end of Feb!), and it doesn’t need to be extravagant. Actually I prefer it not be. Down home country bar. Night out around a campfire. Dinner at the new place that just opened up to try it out. Meet up with friends for darts and pool. Go see another friend play live music. That.

I also want someone who loves snow as much as I do. Snowboarding / skiing, snowmobiling, snow tubing, snow shoeing, and hiking in the mountains. Sitting in the hot tub on a crisp winter day. Football Sundays. Baseball everyday. Simple pleasures of working on the fencing and projects around the house and farm together that are more bonding in the shared experience without the need for words all the time. Comfortable silences. Individual time for family and friends with a sense of independence and security. Coming together after a business trip with a huge hug that clearly says, “I missed you!” Saying, “I love you,” before you hang up the phone not because you’re in love (or anywhere near it, yet), but because you know that life is precious and that love doesn’t always mean romance or relationships, but also means I care about you and I’m glad you made it home safe.

Honesty, integrity, authenticity, openness, playfulness and excitement, passion for the things that makes life amazing, an adventurous spirit. Hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, hiker, camper, and lover of mountains. The ocean is fun on occasion too. Trying new things, even when it scares either or both of us. A good heart, a willingness to talk through challenges and issues and arguments and never (well mostly not, sorry sometimes I do lose my cool I am human, but I am learning!) yelling at each other. Don’t go to bed mad, but don’t go to bed distant, either. Ask questions of each other so neither of you ever feel like you have to pry. Have nothing to hide. Here, look at my phone if you want…oh yeah I told my best friend you were being a douche canoe the other day bc you were. Sorry lol, glad we’re over it now! And laughing about when we call each other on bad behavior and then get over it together.

That’s building a connection. That takes time. I have time. I have all the time in the world. But I’d like to get started today so today, I’m taking a step forward. And I’ll take another step tomorrow, and another the day after that. And some days, I may take a step or even a few backwards, but I know it’s just a step and not a reverse. And I’ll give myself the grace to learn and be patient with myself and know that the next great thing is always found by going forward. I love you ❤️.

beautiful things

beautiful things starting over life without a paddle

Snowflakes resting on trees as you come over the mountain.Your friend wearing your ridiculous orange gloves drinking a girly seltzer at his own brewery just to make you laugh. Your cat purring to greet you. Tired dogs after a fun-filled weekend. A bald eagle flying overhead at the start of your week. The people who show up to help you with your old beat-up tractor and push out round bales so you don’t have to do everything alone. Basketball games and cheer and Chinese for dinner together. A smile from a friend. A long embrace from the heart. A heart that’s full with happiness. A life you love to lead.

These are all beautiful things. So is having the chance to start over after a week – and month – riddled with challenges, miscommunications, overreactions, and grief. I saw a meme that said January was definitely a free trial month and that 2024 starts Feb 1. So I decided to move that start date back a few days, starting with this weekend and it feels amazing.

Clean slate. Starting over.

See? That’s another beautiful thing. That each day is a new day, a fresh start, and another chance to grow closer to those that you love. Those that you’re just getting to know. Those that are there for you. Those that won’t take no for an answer and keep showing up every day, even if it’s just from around the corner. Knowing you always have somewhere to go to, someone who is happy to see you, and even is there in your worst moments when you owe them an apology for falling apart – and they say that’s okay, you’re allowed to be a mess sometimes, and kiss your tears away. And make you laugh. And make you smile. And toast to the game with you because they know it made you happy. Group chats filled with laughter. Seeing friends old and new to make new memories together. Football food and fun together. Listening to you talk in circles even though they know you’re tying to be done but also know you will always, always follow your heart. And still holding on to the knowledge of the past but not letting it ruin your today or your tomorrows.

There are things worth holding onto, and I am so grateful to have that in my life. There are people who truly care, even when you feel at your most fragmented unlovable self. Another week together here, then back on a plane for another week down there this time hopefully with some sun, and then back north again with a visit to a lifelong friend, more basketball games and cheer and Chinese. And then heading even further north for a family vacation and winter carnival that shares happy pieces of your own childhood with the people you care about and love.

This. This is what life is made for. To see the beautiful things all around us even when the sun isn’t shining and even on the days you have to look a little bit harder, they’re still there. All of the beautiful things, all of the magic, all of the love.

Yes, let’s start over. I’d really like that. This is home and it is truly one of the most beautiful things.

Fly Free

fly free life without a paddle cjmillar82 sky's the limit

There’s a freedom in honesty that can’t be found anywhere else, and it starts with being honest with yourself. My best horse was buried yesterday morning, and the freedom it brought was breathtaking.

I probably won’t publish this for a while, but no matter, I’m writing it now. I’m not quite ready to share it all with the world just yet, but I know there’s beauty in sharing struggles and love in showing vulnerability even when you are hurting because it helps others realize they are not alone. We are never alone.

That horse gave me wings. Twenty-two years together was the longest relationship of my adult lifetime and we had that together. He taught me how to fly, and together we flew. Over jumps, through fields, out in the hunt field, and even across the sand along the ocean. We chased the wind together, and I’d dare say we even caught it a few times. And he was there for me through the hard times, too. Moving from my first rental farm to my own, then again up north and once more to the home I own on my own which would be for him – and several before him – his final resting place. I’m so blessed to be able to give him that. He was there through my kids moving in, the death of their mother, the pandemic, the death of my father, the loss of my cousin, and the passing of a friend – all the latter in just the past 4 years. It’s been a lot, but he’s always been there to hear my fears, let me cry on his shoulder, snort and roll his eyes at me when he disagreed, and in that even then he was still able to help me fly.

I was hurting because I wasn’t here when he passed. I knew it was coming and had planned for the vet upon my return, but time and the Universe took that decision out of our hands and he passed of a stroke at home the day before I returned. It took a bit to work through that – that was the crux of my grief, I think. Not being here with him in his final moments. I lost Lucky like that too, when I was also states away unable to get back in time but they’re together now, with Bobby, my old college horse who taught me everything about horses, and about listening too.

But like all things, when we examine what we consider to be our failures, often we find growth in them and it was the same with this. It just took me a week, what with my friend nearly dying in front of me (she’s recovering with a heart issue thank goodness), and getting slammed from all sides questioning what was real and what was not. Who was being honest with me now – why was my mother in the ER again, was it another real or imagined ailment? Should I be worried? Should I stay or should I go? Trying to be there in all the places for all the things just fragmented me from myself and I’ll be honest – and this is hard to say. I lost myself for a while that week, I did. But, I know there is freedom in honesty and there is, so I am honest starting with myself.

There are things I could have done better, handled better, said better, but I’m giving myself the grace to understand that giving it my best every day is better than being perfect. It means I am giving myself the room to grow and become all that much more free. I don’t need to run away or disappear. I have mountains right here. I have love all around me. I have the best people and animals surrounding me, even if some of them are buried in the yard, I still have their memories to make me smile. To help me fly free.

There’s a freedom in honesty that can’t be found anywhere else, and it starts with being honest with yourself. That freedom is truly breathtaking, so fly free. To all those around me who speak with honesty and integrity, thank you. To all those around me who push me to always be the better person, thank you. To those who support me by letting me talk in circles understanding that is what I need to do to wrap my brain around things when I am struggling, thank you. To the horses that made me a better rider, and a better human being, thank you. To the animals who taught me compassion and understanding, commitment through suffering, and when it was time to stop suffering and let go, thank you. And to all of those moments, those glimmers where hope glistened on the ocean, where we chased the wind – and caught it, where my laughter over the sound of pounding hoofbeats galloping across the hillside jumping all the stone walls in our way, thank you. Life is such a beautiful thing. The Sky really is the Limit. Fly free.

 

The Depths of the Ocean

deep life without a paddle cjmillar82

Recently someone said I was very deep, and it was something they weren’t used to in life and it struck me as odd. Why is it that we live in a world where so many people prefer the shallows to swimming, always afraid to leave shore? What’s so scary about an adventure? Even if that adventure is finding yourself and someone to share this beautiful, crazy thing called life with. I mean sure, it’s scary to open up but every time I do and get burned, it teaches me that I can live through it and that’s truly powerful.

I can. I have. And I will again. And not everyone will have the courage to show the world who they really are, but that’s okay. Those people are the same people that don’t have the courage to even be honest with themselves and there’s no value in that.

It takes the uncomfortable spaces to find the comfortable ones. It takes the uncomfortable conversations to get to comfortable silences. It takes the uncomfortable honesty of looking yourself in the mirror and being truly honest with yourself to get to where you become surrounded by a love that values you to every fiber of your being. And you know what, I’ve done the work on myself, and I keep doing the work on myself every day. I’m not trying or trying to do, as I’ve heard others say. That’s the coward’s way out to explain away the failures. But why would you want to explain away the failures instead of just learning from them? Embrace them as much as you sit with your demons and talk to your skeletons to find out why they are still there, find out what hold they have on you, examine those failures not for how others have wronged you, but for how you have wronged yourself and then look yourself in the mirror and come up with a plan to like what you see, and eventually love the person you are too.

Failures mean we tried. Failing when we know we’ve done our best – even when our best was struggling knowing we gave everything we had to give every day is what matters. It’s how you get through the hard days, how you learn to move forward past the rough ones, it’s even how, as I am learning myself, you learn to give yourself grace for not being perfect and thank yourself for doing your best, even today. That’s something truly beautiful.

There is no “finding happiness.” Life doesn’t work that way. You create it. You choose it in the choices you make. The big ones and the small ones. The way you treat others, the way you treat yourself especially when you are alone. It’s the confidence you find not in how you look or how much money you make, or what car you drive. It’s the confidence you find from within because you know you acted with honesty and integrity coming from a place of love every single time.

But it also doesn’t mean letting the world swallow your boundaries. Knowing you give life everything every day, and you wish for better for others doesn’t mean that you also become someone’s option. If someone treats you as an option, simply remove that option by closing that door. Why welcome someone into your life on any level who is too afraid to match your level of honesty and openness? How can you believe someone who doesn’t even believe in themselves? How can someone ever be there for you on any level whatsoever if they don’t even show up for themselves every day? How sad an existence that must be, such a lonely place to live, when where you don’t even know who you are because you are too afraid of the shadows of your past that you’ve let them turn into ghosts that haunt you even when you are alone.

I know my skeletons. I’ll share them if you ask me to and I’ll always answer you honestly. I have no ghosts of my own, and the one I once shared a house with was a wonderful ghost who always put wood on the stove on cold winter nights so it wouldn’t go out (there are witnesses!). Nah, I have no time to scale walls or wonder who’s looking my way. It doesn’t matter now, because I’m not listening. I’m busy swimming in the ocean. It’s too far away from shore for you to reach when you’re afraid.

Oh and I know I said I wasn’t strong yesterday. I’m strong today. Thank you for that. You make me a better person. I love you ❤️

The Ugliest Parts

The Ugliest Parts

cjmillar82 the ugliest parts of me

The ugliest parts of me are not the things I show to others. No, that’s not who I am. When the ugliest parts of me start to show themselves, I go find the wild and the snow on the top of a mountain anywhere but here. And if I can’t go there, I disappear right here. Or, I remove myself from the situation, wanting to be nobody’s burden and no one’s worry and so I leave until I can pull myself back together and breathe again. Be me again. Because this is not me, this is sad and ugly crying and gasping for air while it feels like the world is swallowing me whole and that’s nobody’s problem but mine and I don’t show that because I’m not pathetic and that’s pathetic and I’m stronger than that. Only today I wasn’t strong anymore and I’m sorry.

I’m sorry you had to see that. I’m sorry I didn’t do better. I’m sorry that I’m struggling right now and I’m sorry if you felt like you needed to carry some of that weight. And I keep reminding myself of what that bottle cap said years ago – the weight is not as heavy as you think. And I tell myself – you got this, because I do. And I’ve been through far worse, more than once, and I’ve lived through all of it. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

life without a paddle cjmillar82 words of wisdom

And you see? I’ll be stronger because of this, too once I get through it, even if I don’t feel very strong right now.

My shoulders are hunched and I still can’t feel my toes, likely more from stress than from the cold. The cold air helps me breathe sometimes when I’m choking on my own oxygen like a fish out of water only to realize that I was never out of water after all. I just needed to stop fighting the people who care about me long enough to see that I deserve to be loved, too.

Thank you for holding me tonight. For letting me be raw, real, terrified, overwhelmed, messy, and outright vulnerable. That’s scary for me. I’ve always hidden the ugliest parts of me from the world, I don’t ever want to add to anyone’s weight even if the weight is not as heavy as I think. It still feels really heavy to me right now and I’m struggling to breathe.

I will be okay, I promise. Sleep will eventually find me, as will grief – whatever happens to be left – and I’m sure a little bit of solitude on the top of a mountain wherever I can get away to whenever I can get away without notice, just to be me with the mountains and sky and no one, and really just let it all go. I can’t wait for my shoulders to drop, my feet to warm up, and my heart to soften again. Thank you for being there for my best horse. And thank you for being there for me. Even the ugliest parts of me. I promise you won’t see them again soon.

 

This Is Me

cj millar cjmillar82 this is me

Welcome to who I really am. Yes, this is me. Good luck finding anyone else like me because they don’t exist and I don’t say that to be different, it’s because I am different. It’s just that simple. And at the same time that complicated.

I do things for people because I care, not because I expect a reaction or am even looking for one. When I do something nice for someone, it’s just that straightforward – I care, and I don’t expect anything in return. Actually, people doing things for me is still uncomfortable for me because a part of me still believes I don’t deserve it, but I am learning along the way too.

Just know that those roses mean something because if they make you smile, that makes me happy. If talking to you or face timing you makes you smile, it makes me smile, too. I am trying to get better at opening up and letting people see me and even more so – trusting them to at least acknowledge me and tell me how they feel. Putting yourself out there to be left wondering is hard. It hurts. Silence hurts. Not knowing leaves everyone wondering, most of all me. And I still feel like an imposter most days. A fake celebrity because of my job where everyone wants to “know me” but no one actually wants to take the time to really know me.

Be real. Be you. Even the stuff you think is hurtful that you think I don’t want to hear, I actually want to hear. Not because it may hurt – I am used to being hurt and I’ve lived through far worse, trust me on that – but because you being real and sharing who you really are matters more to me in your genuine authenticity than hearing the words you think I want to hear.

I don’t want that. I don’t want any of it. I only want the real. The truth. The hard stuff. The good stuff. The bad stuff. The shit I do that drives you crazy. The shit you hate. The shit that matters. The shit that makes you crazy. The stuff that inspires you to be a better person. The stuff that makes you laugh. Let’s do it all together.

Or not. And if not, know that I’ll still be your cheerleader and hope for the best for you. I will always want you to eat, even if it’s not at my table. I still care, and I can still care from a distance and hold boundaries, and know that even if we don’t work out that I still wish all the best for you. I don’t have to be in your life to wish that, I don’t even have to know who you are or what you are doing these days. I just need to know that you are truly happy.

Do you know what I want?  I want someone to be a partner and a teammate, a partner in crime to laugh with and start trouble with. Someone to break rules with, and make new rules with together and to break the god damned mold with. I am different and I will always be different and I know that’s too much for most people, but that’s not enough for me. I want more – so much more. I want someone who pushes me, who challenges me, who inspires me and even scares me when I am afraid to open up, myself. I want someone to offer me the safety I’ve never had in my life where it’s okay to be truly me with someone who calls me out for being rough around the edges needing sanding and polish. And someone who wants to push me to grow, be better for my kids and myself, while also being accountable to myself. I don’t want “good enough.” I want amazing. Mind blowing. Unreal because it’s so real most people are so uncomfortable with that level if honesty they wither. Only I won’t wither in that, I’ll grow and I hope you do too.

Don’t take my word for it – I don’t want to tell you anything. I want to show you but in order to do that you need to show up first. In the words of my favorite bottle caps (yes, really all of these were on bottle caps) –

the answer is inside you. the weight is not as heavy as you think. stop looking and you’ll find it. be here now.

 

Be. Here. Now.

Stop holding your breath. Stop holding back. Stop waiting for the time to be right.

Do something. Now. Before I’m gone. I’m really good at getting gone – whether that’s from around the corner, around the country, or around the world – when I get gone I get gone for good. When I move on, I move forward and in moving forward, there is no room for ghosts of my past.

I care about you, but I care about a future and a life filled with honesty and excitement and passion and inspiration and wishing on stars more than I care about pining for what could have been if only you weren’t so afraid of moving forward or taking a leap of faith. This isn’t a trap. I don’t believe in traps. I don’t want anyone – even my kids – to be with me because they feel obligated. I give everyone the freedom to fly. I want to fly, too. So what’s holding you back? Fear? Like Peter Pan said, with a little bit of pixie dust, you just have to believe in yourself and you can fly.

Fly.

What is it worth to hold on to that fear? I am afraid I am not lovable, too. I am afraid I am not good enough, too. Or that I am too much, too passionate, too rowdy, too tomboyish, too girly, too pushy, too outspoken, too everything. But you know what? And I’ll probably question this tomorrow, but right now I don’t care. I’ll be whatever you label me as, but right now I am one thousand percent me. Love it or lose it. Tell me, or know that I’ll go. I’m already halfway gone but I’m still listening. Just know when I stop listening to you, it means I’ve moved on. And I can still care about you, but I am no one’s second string saxophone. Truth be told, I was the youngest kid to make jazz band in middle and high school, and yes I still have that saxophone, and god damn it yes I can still play. I told you, keep showing me who you really are and I’ll keep surprising you in more ways than you ever imagined.

Just know this. This is me. There is no ulterior motive. There is no game. I don’t play poker (ever – I hate it as much as I hate chess). There is no your move/ my move. There is no winning or losing, Just life. Real. Honest. Raw. True. Me.

This is me. All of me. And there’s so much more you haven’t even met yet but that would take lifetimes to discover. And I keep telling you I’m right here. That doesn’t mean I’m holding my breath. Just like I tell you all the time – breathe. One day at a time. Just don’t lose what you believe in because fear got in your way.

This. This is me. Hello.

Letters to myself…

cj millar letters to myself

There are things I write in my journal that I don’t share with anyone else, but occasionally when I’m really struggling or feel like I need to make those words more powerful, I’ll share on here if it will help me move forward. I wrote both of these letters for myself, they are not about anyone else. I needed to give those words more meaning today and so I am typing them here. I don’t know if I will publish this, though I assume I eventually will otherwise I wouldn’t even bother typing this out. But right now, I’m not ready. Right now, I’m still confused. Right now, I’m still reminding myself that I am trustworthy and how to move forward and look up. Like all things in life, this too, is temporary.


I’ve always said everything I love either leaves or dies. I’m just finally standing still long enough to see that I deserve to be loved, too.

People can’t stay if you’re always pushing them away. Being afraid is okay, you just need to trust that those who love you will be there for you, and those who don’t weren’t meant to be in your life. Sometimes we all need time and space to find our our way and sometimes we realize how truly blessed we are with all the love in our lives.

Loving someone is easy. Allowing ourselves to be loved – and believing we are lovable and deserving of love in return is hard.
Even for me.
Especially for me.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the feelings that we forget to breathe. We forget to talk. We forget to trust others to love us for who we are.

Stand still. Listen. Ask. Be loved.
One day at a time.
11/5/23


I have what I want. Remember this. Go slow. Be open, but keep your eyes open. Talk. Speak your truth. But remember to listen, too. Listen not just to words, but to actions, intentions, and who people show you who they are. Not only who they are to you, but who they are to family, to friends, to those who rely on them, and those who love them. Listen to who they are to those who have wronged them, as well as those they have not been the best to, also.

Then look at yourself. Who you are. How you love those who are good to you, but who you are and how you act to those who aren’t good to you, too. Ask yourself the hard questions – the why’s and the how’s, and the what have you learned and how can you be better and grow.

Own your own shit, but realize you don’t have to do everything alone.
Say “please,” and “thank you,” and “I appreciate you.”
Make time for what matters and room in your heart for those who matter to you. Say, “I love you,” when you mean it, and never when you don’t. But don’t wait so long that you lose it.

Let yourself be loved in return. By family and friends. And learn to let someone in to truly love you – slowly, in the right ways, and the right time – so you can take down those walls and build a new foundation together.

Bury fear.
Abandon hate.
Be willing to trust, listen, & learn.
Be open to loving and being loved.

And believe that, one day at a time, things can be different so long as you’re willing to take a chance, open up, and let someone in.

The key to my heart, the key to my mind, and a penny for my/your thoughts may be three very different things. But together, they can be something completely different entirely. Together they can be amazing.
Together they can become something truly incredible.
12/26/23

Circles

cjmillar82 circles life without a paddle

Circles and feelings and things I am not used to. I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding both of those things that it would seem I’d know better by now, but I do not. If life has taught me anything over the years, it was that everything that you love either leaves you or dies. I don’t say this to be dramatic though I also suspect you don’t believe me and that’s okay. I wouldn’t believe me either if I didn’t live it, and even then I struggle with that anyway.

I started writing this over a month ago, and haven’t come back to it until now. Ironically, I sat back down at my computer to write, opened it up, and went to start a new post thinking of titling it Circles after the circles my brain has been running in lately to find that I already started these thoughts a month ago – I had just managed to somehow push them out of my mind until now.

Funny how things can feel so real and so not at the same time. Funny how three years later and whether I want to believe it or not, my brain reminds me in the back of my mind just how not long ago these circles were the place that I lived, all the time that year and the year after and then some. It’s a time I try to not go back to, a time I think I’ve put – and tried to leave – in the past yet this time every year for the three years now since, like clockwork it’s there. Even when I try to keep myself busy. Even when life keeps me busy with a packed schedule of practices and games and work and life and everything I’m trying to fit in into days that never seem to be quite long enough, or have enough daylight or time to get everything done.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the reason to not trust without wanting reassurance but perhaps needing it anyway. I haven’t cried (yet) this holiday season and hoping to make it through the first one in a while without those tears of frustration, anguish, mistrust in myself and in life around me, and finally moving beyond the near and far past that I keep saying belongs right there – in the past.

Trust is hard for me. I’ll tell you everything about me, what I’ve been through, what I’ve experienced. But telling you how I’m feeling is hard. Telling you my fears is hard. Letting myself really open up and trust is hard. More than that, it’s scary. Outright terrifying really. Though I know it shouldn’t be, it still is for me. I’m not quite sure how to move forward from that, but I know I’m trying. Maybe I should just say, hey, I’m struggling, I need some reassurance but somehow I don’t know how to quite put that into words. At least not for real. Because those words need to be followed up with feelings and intentions and all of that is hard. I just want to skip ahead to the part where everything is okay.

I’m not used to sharing my life with someone. It’s hard enough trying to figure out the holidays on my own, but for years it was what I was used to. Christmas Eve staying up late watching my favorite movies after coming home from seeing a few family members became a new tradition. Christmas Day on the farm often by myself with the animals became a comfort because it was a constant and something I could trust. I didn’t have to rely on or hope for anyone else to be there because I already knew they wouldn’t be and so therefore it was easy. It was me, and I knew where’d I’d be and what I’d be doing and ultimately there was comfort in that solitude that didn’t feel like being alone. It felt like being home and at peace.

But in the past several years, I learned that sharing space with loved ones isn’t a bad thing. It can be quite the opposite – a blessing and a comfort all its own. It brings a different kind of peace, and joys that aren’t the same when it’s just you, but different ones and in many ways better. I always want to share the good times in life with the people I love, and I always want to be there to help the ones I love through their hard times. I am just not sure how to let others be there for me and as such, I just tell everyone I am okay, I’m doing fine, things are good, and deal with whatever it is my head is running me in circles over in my own way. I don’t know that I want to do it that way anymore, but I also don’t know how else to be.

I’m struggling. I need help. A hug. Someone to tell me it’ll all be okay. I’m getting there. In another week or two this will also be in the past and I will be better. Back to my old self, but better. A new year, another path forward, another chance at growth. I’m always growing, always learning, always becoming more of who I am and always working to be better than who I was yesterday and who I am today. If nothing else, I can always promise that I am honest, I am trustworthy, and I’ll always speak my truth even when it’s hard. All you have to do is ask.