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cjmillar82 cj millar life without a paddle family

When the two most important things in your life are sitting next to you smiling…my heart is full.

You know, I’ve gone back and reread a bunch of these more recent blogs lately (the ones from this year and end of last especially) and realize just how far I’ve come. A year ago there were more days than not that making it out of bed was a monumental task. Putting on a smile and a brave face and going through the motions of work and life and responsibilities was so exhausting I felt like I could collapse at any moment…only I couldn’t because too many people relied on me. And I think to recent struggles, this year, this summer, and even the past few weeks and everything that’s been going on and in comparison, it’s so much better than to where I was last year, and then these past few months happened. Especially these past few weeks.

Suddenly my morning routine isn’t a struggle to get out of bed, feed the animals, make up an excuse to tell myself why I can’t take them on a hike before work, sit in stagnation and frustration and force yourself to put one foot in front of the other. Over and over. Remind yourself that the light at the end of the tunnel (likely) isn’t a train. Probably. Do it again tomorrow. Wait for the weekends, and want to run away. Remind yourself you’re not actually running away. Consider running away anyway – in a few years when the kids are done with school. Live for the weekends. Struggle through the weekdays. Keep looking for that light at the end of the tunnel to show you the daylight or just run you the fuck over already.

It’s funny how good I am at pushing people away. Being overwhelmed while not feeling worthy of accepting help so pushing that away too. Being overly social while almost entirely solitary at the same time. It’s funny how many friends have told me over the years they’re surprised that I’m single, that no one stuck around long enough to just be there, and I’d shrug. It was what I was always used to, after all. Starting with my parents as a child. Why would I believe my adult life to be any different? I’m sure things I did helped, too. Self-fulfilling prophecy is definitely a thing. A thing I finally started working very very hard at this year to stop becoming. Perhaps it was my father’s death that was the catalyst. Or perhaps it was my mother’s deteriorating mental / neurological health that she refused to get help for. Maybe it was setting boundaries with friends that I wanted to help but didn’t want to help themselves. All of that was hard at first. But those healthy boundaries added up. They allowed me to take some of the shit life was throwing at me in stride, with a deep breath. Let it roll off my back and be calm and steadfast and secure enough in who I am as a person to let it go and know that whatever was meant for me would always be here.

My kids are both home and getting along better than ever. We’re looking at a family trip out west to a place I’ve always wanted to go, that coincidentally is near a place Morgan wants to go to school and always wanted to live. Work is picking up – slowly at first but it’s starting to snowball and I know that things are going to just keep looking up. I’ve got friends around me – both locally and from further away – that are here for me, truly here for me and that’s something that takes a little getting used to. But I’m getting used to it.

You know what else takes some getting used to? Smiling this much all the time. Having something to look forward to every day that makes mornings not a struggle anymore. Knowing that on the hard days, there’s someone looking forward to seeing me, who will tell me it’ll all be okay and actually do everything in their power to make that true. Friends down the road who are willing to work on my bitch of a tractor even when I’m not (do NOT use that as an excuse to not hang out!!!!). Friends who despite being from different places, locations, and all walks of life, all seem to get along and not just for me or because of me. Because we’re all actually really amazing people. Wow. Do you know how amazing of a feeling that is? Do you know how amazing of a feeling that is when you haven’t had that ever before in your entire life? Yeah. That.

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

Yeah, I found them. You found me, too. Damn is this different, in all the best ways. I am not sitting here feeling like I’m too much, or not enough, or everything in between. I am sitting here smiling feeling like me. Thank you. Thank all of you. Fuck around and find out, right? Maybe I should have taken my own advice ages ago. Or just maybe, I needed the right person to convince me it was the right advice to take at just the right time. Thanks for waiting. Hi.

life without a paddle cjmillar82 hi

The Peach, the Heart, and the Truck

heart like a truck life without a paddle cjmillar82

I keep repeating to myself things I’ve written lately, as if to remind myself over and over again that these words are true. That they do hold meaning. That these things I feel are not unreal or imagined but actually very, very real. In some ways, they serve as a reminder that all this work I’m doing on myself to make myself a better person still doesn’t mean I’m okay – there have been quite a few days lately where I’ve been anything but. Sometimes it’s due to those old nasty childhood abandonment wounds festering underneath the surface, bubbling up when I least expect it – or even if I do – that nag at the back of my mind telling me, “you’re not enough, you were never enough, everyone leaves, even your own parents couldn’t ever fully be there for you.” I try to fight it and remind myself that I am neither not enough nor too much. For someone, starting with myself, I am exactly what I need to be and who that is, is a person who keeps growing and working and looking up and finding reasons to smile and keep going every single day. Even when the air I’m trying to breathe chokes me and I can’t stop shaking and I hide under the covers hyperventilating and crying unsure as to even why I am that way in that moment, afraid to tell anyone or ask for help.

I’ve started to tell some of you. I’ve started to trust some of you. I’m trying. It’s fucking terrifying. Because if you really know me, you can hurt me, and all I’ve known my whole life is that letting anyone in = pain, because they always leave. Everyone leaves. Or dies.

I wrote this just a few weeks ago, but I am repeating it to myself again here, to remind myself maybe this time I shouldn’t run away. Push everyone away. Tell my handful of truly close friends that I am okay when I’m not. Stop pretending and only falling apart behind closed doors and muscling through while lying to everyone and myself. I hate liars. I know better. And so here are these words again, and maybe they’ll stick with me this time and I’ll start to listen to myself…or maybe not. But here’s to trying.

You see, people leave. Everyone I have ever loved has always left me so when I start falling for someone or caring for someone, I cling on too hard until I panic, push them away, and then remind myself this is how it always ends anyway and what I always expect. Only it shouldn’t be. There are people showing up in my life these days that believe it to be different. That I believe are different and truly will be there for me. And I keep reminding myself the same words I wrote earlier this week on here and earlier this summer in my journal –

“Stop falling for people who mirror the skeletons of your past.

Start falling for the person who shows up and sees your soul.”

Perhaps I’m not invisible. Maybe I don’t want to be. I don’t really know. What I do know is that caring for someone – actually caring – is the scariest thing I can ever imagine. Getting attached is terrifying. And I don’t mean attached as in losing your identity and needing to be around someone 24/7 or trying to tell them what they can and can’t or should and shouldn’t do – no that’s awful. I mean getting attached to where you expect someone to show up when they say they will, expect them to be okay with you when you’re at your worst, and know they’ll be with you when you’re also at your best. Not just because you’d do that for them – you already do that for everyone around you because it’s just the fabric of your being and how your heart lives. But because they care. Genuinely truly care and are able to be present in a way that no one you’ve ever met your entire life is able to be. That’s terrifying to me. To actually look forward to good things with good people without qualifications or expectations or stipulations or conditions that keep telling you no, you’re not good enough. You never were. You never will be.

Which is the lie? What happens when what you’ve always known is suddenly changing and what’s up is down, and suddenly all these walls start to crumble because holy fucking shit. You’re letting someone in. Not just throwing your skeletons in the street and screaming, “here! Look at me! I am a mess!” though chances are you’ve done that too (I’ve done that too).

This “you” I speak of is me. I am her. I always am. Sometimes my brain spits things out in the third person to make it hurt less. To make reality feel just a little out of reach. To make the pain a little more muted. To make the healing a little easier. To make the understanding sink in a little more slowly in the hopes that it sticks this time. That you start to believe it. That I start to believe it. Shit. It hurts to breathe.

I’m back. Sorry, I had to walk away for a minute. Sometimes believing you are something is the hardest thing you can do. That and remembering to breathe. I’ll be okay, I promise. I always am, and I’ve made it this far after all. Just be gentle with me, okay? Please? I’ve never been anyone’s peach and damn but I’ve got a heart like a truck, that’s for sure. Like our one friend says to me all the time, I’m broken but all the pieces are there. I just may need a little help putting them all back together.

Finding Me (Again) | finding me (5/11/2010)

finding me life without a paddle cj millar

Funny how that I remember pieces of these words, after writing about all the broken pieces of me, and I find the blog I wrote twelve years ago and it reads as if it was something I wrote today. Only I didn’t. It makes me wonder. Was I that full of insight and hope back then to have the foresight to know that more than a decade later I’d need these words now more than ever? Or am I truly that broken that over a decade later, I’m rereading these words because I keep reliving my past over and over and over again and somehow keep ending up back where I started?

I’m guessing it’s a combination of both, though likely more of the latter than the former, much to my dismay. I thought I was past this, but I am also learning to be kinder to myself and forgive myself because growth is hard. I listen to words I am saying to a friend through troubled times, and it’s forcing me to do the same for myself. I can’t very well tell her to be kinder to herself, to let people in, people want to help and be there for you – and then ignore those very same words for myself.

You see, people leave. Everyone I have ever loved has always left me so when I start falling for someone or caring for someone, I cling on too hard until I panic, push them away, and then remind myself this is how it always ends anyway and what I always expect. Only it shouldn’t be. There are people showing up in my life these days that believe it to be different. That I believe are different and truly will be there for me. And I keep reminding myself the same words I wrote earlier this week on here and earlier this summer in my journal –

“Stop falling for people who mirror the skeletons of your past.

Start falling for the person who shows up and sees your soul.”

Easier said than done, I’m learning. Also, it helps if you can figure out who is ACTUALLY showing up for you and seeing your soul rather than showing up for you to fill their hero complex and saturate their own need for belonging and filling their own abandonment wounds. I have plenty of my own, I don’t need to bleed into someone else’s or have them bleed into mine, even when their intentions are good. I can see that now, but it took me a while.

I am finding myself again (again), more than I ever did when the blog below was originally written, and certainly more so than when the quote in there about being softer than stone and stronger than ashes was written another decade before that.

In finding myself, I am again remembering that I actually DO like to be alone. Not all the time, no, and not to be abandoned to be alone. But that I like time alone to myself. Hiking in the woods with the dogs, riding my horse around the forest by myself. No reception, no cell phone buzzing, no one to track me, no one to see other than the occasional passerby as I weave through the campground and back out into the forest. Just me. And you know what I’m learning? That IS enough. And if it’s not enough for someone when I am whole, or because I am working towards becoming whole, and it’s only enough when I am broken and someone needs to help put me back together, I am also learning that means it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with whatever wounds of their own past they are trying to fill.

This is where I bow out gracefully. Not that I don’t love you – I do and will always always be there for you – but this is also where I need to hold those healthy boundaries. You have no idea what you are getting into. You have no idea the damage you can do inadvertently. I already did some damage that I apologized for, because I wasn’t in a clear mindset to see above the water that was drowning me. I am sorry for that. And I thank you for being there for me through that. And there will be times I still need you, your wraparound hugs, your home cooking, your random calls or texts so we can laugh and joke and build on this amazing friendship we all have.

That’s where it ends though – we cannot rebuild ourselves when all we do is rebuild each other. We HAVE to rebuild ourselves from the inside out otherwise all we’ll ever be is broken. I am not broken anymore. Sure, there are still all the broken pieces, but all of those pieces are coming together in a kaleidoscope and even more so now, I am seeing how it’s not just magic those broken pieces of me bring to my life, they actually shine and sparkle and reflect all this incredible broken beauty that has become so much more that it’s even able to inspire friends. I don’t want someone – anyone – in my life because I asked them over and over and over to be. I want people in my life because they love being here, they love the magic we all make together, the laughter and the smiles, the hugs that wipe away the tears, the dreams we share with each other and how we support each other even when the things we want are completely different.

I may not be in quite the right mindset just yet to be fully ready to open up to someone in my life in the way I say I’ve always dreamed of. But I can promise you that where I am today is absolutely light years away from where I was twelve years ago when I wrote these words below, and galaxies away from when I first penned about those ashes. You see, I already have a heart that is softer than stone and stronger than the ashes of the greatest love lost. I always have, because I haven’t even come close to finding that love yet and at the same time I am surrounded by all these great souls I have known for so many lives that I am so blessed to keep finding and sharing life with.

As for you, my friend, you will be okay. I promise. Both of you. And I’ll be here to help because I’ve finally found me and I’m just getting better. As it turns out, a soft heart is far stronger than one wrapped in barbed wire after all.


_______ original blog “finding me” from May 10, 2010 below ______________

in these past weeks, months, really almost this entire year i’ve spent so much time being lost trying to figure out which way to go, which way was up, and where to go from here that i lost myself almost entirely. it’s high time i got back to being me – and making some changes for the better, and that’s exactly what i have been focused on doing these days, and it’s definitely what i’ve needed. i need to find me, and in doing so there were things i needed to realize in order to grow and in order to know that i could be me while still growing and moving forward and trusting myself and having faith and hope and all those things i claimed to believe in all the while standing here ever the cynic running away at the first sign of emotion or commitment to anything other than pure and whole independence. no, that’s not who i want to be. it is time for me to move forward and find myself not just in the here and now, but in the who i want to become, and just how i am going to get there.

i got to spend hours catching up with an old friend today and it made me realize a few things. despite her being the one fighting with illness, it was she who inspired me. it made me smile, realize how much i miss her, and realize how much more there is to life that we all too often forget. it made me see that there are far too many people we waste our time on that are not worth it. it made me realize that there are people that i have not given enough of my time to that certainly deserve more, that i want to give more time to, and that i want to be a bigger part of my life. it made me grateful once again for the true friends that i do have in my life, who will be there for me through thick and thin. and it made me realize that no matter how many lives we have had, or will have, that right now this life is what matters and time is such an absolutely incredible precious commodity.

i’ve had my heart broken before, this life. and i’ve spent many many lives alone and content with that. yet this time something seems to have changed. perhaps something broke in me when i wrote these words in what seems so many years ago but still hurts like yesterday –

“All the while knowing that I may never get closure or a resolution, that he may choose to just go on with his life and never say another word to me, never give me a yes or no, all or nothing, and just drift along in the purgatory I am in now until the fates have felt that I have paid my penance and this cloak of unknowing distraught lifts and I am able to look up again, look forward, and eventually be capable of having a heart that is made from something softer than stone and stronger than the ashes of the greatest love lost.”

perhaps my heart is too broken from that to ever truly recover no matter how much i will it so. perhaps there has been enough in the way of the passing of time. and perhaps the more questions i ask, the less close i am to an answer for i’m simply doing what i always do – taking up time overthinking at every turn to avoid the truth of the matter – how i feel. who i am. how i love.

a friend once shared this great quote with me and this coupled with the stark realization of the long term isolation of my existence in the way of love really shook me to my core.

«Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.»
— Erica Jong

what true, wise words, that are sometimes so hard to comprehend yet there is no overthinking to be done. it’s all there – laid out right in front of me. if i don’t risk anything, i risk even more. and it seems like that’s what i’ve been doing for days, for lives. never truly stopping to find me, defining me as solely the independent isolated me who fills her time with friends and social events so as not to ever have to stop and see and feel how alone independent really can be. it reminds me of another quote still –

«It’s a dead end to create scenarios fueled by what your life might have been like if only this or that happened differently. Using your imagination, reach across the barrier of time and bring something you can use from your past into the present moment. Remember, change can only happen in the here and now.»

so very much something that i need to remember. for all that we can see the past, it is of no use to us if we refuse to learn from it. so learn i must. it is time for me to move forward, with or without that old heart that was stone, over the ashes of love from the past that have long since been blown away by the winds of change. i need to find me, because if i never do that, i can never find love, or life for all that it has to offer. and i refuse to be that person that never took that risk all because my heart broke and i never trusted myself enough to put it back together to give to someone even better.

i don’t want to be perfect. quite the contrary, i know i’m far from it. i just want to be perfect for you. i want to learn that love is okay and not only a means for pain, but rather a means for some of the greatest things this life has to offer. i want to rise above my past, not bury myself in it. i want to move forward and see that independent doesn’t need to equal isolated any more. i want to find me – all of me – my heart wrapped in barbed wire with its halo and angel wings included. i want to fly. i want to love. i want to live. i do believe i have this in me, though it’s been many years since i have believed it to be true. that’s different now. i’m different now. i’m thinking more, but less all at the same time. i’m trusting myself again. and for the first time in a long time, i’m opening myself up emotionally to someone in a way that i forgot what it meant to be vulnerable. yet i am right now, and i am not running. i am not holding my breath. i am still learning. i am still growing. and i am still finding me.

right here. right now. just me.



kaleidoscope cj millar life without a paddle

Maybe we’re not all broken

Maybe we’re exactly where we need to be

For all the broken pieces to come together like a kaleidoscope

So we can see all the magic this world has to offer

I may be broken, but all the pieces are there. I just don’t know how to put them back together. I know they may not fit back together they way they were before, but that’s okay. Before wasn’t as good as who I am today, and tomorrow I’ll be even better. And the day after that. And the day after that.

All these broken pieces, people keep finding them, and bringing them back to me. Little pieces of my heart, things I thought I stopped believing in a long time ago, fragments of dreams and fairy tales that long since washed away in a sea of tears and a life of hardships buried far underneath a picture-perfect pretty exterior with an undercurrent of rumors and lies that anyone who knows me never believed anyway. Even when I didn’t believe in myself. But I do.

I’ll never stop fighting for you. Or you. Or you. And for a change it seems there’s a few people actually fighting for me too. A friend who gives me a hug and wraps around my heart in a way that makes me feel like perhaps affection isn’t a bad thing, or a reason to recoil and run away, afraid of what being even a little bit close to another human being may mean. A friend who walks in the back door just as I hung up the phone crying with another friend who’s struggling and insists I am not to just get in the car and drive because I don’t care if it’s three minutes or three hours away – I have your back. Friends that tell me they have my back – and for the first time in my life, actually show up too. Show up when a week long of plans fall apart at the last minute and I go from looking forward to a day with family to a day with almost no one – that turns out to be a lot more than no one after all. Someone who always answers my messages, even when I’m too much, too extreme, too something, too everything the way I always am to everyone (or almost everyone) around me.

I don’t know that I still believe in fairy tales, but I suppose I’m still looking for one. I’m just looking through a kaleidoscope of all of the broken pieces of me that I don’t know how to put together, but I still believe there’s magic there somewhere. People can see it, I think. My friends can, I believe that. We’re all broken somehow in our own ways. It’s what we choose to do with all of those broken pieces that really matters.

Sometimes I cut myself on those broken pieces. Other times, I trip over them and fall down in a heap, defeated and crying. Other times I answer the phone and talk a friend off a ledge, or through the hell they are going through, because they’ve done that for me before too and I know they’d do it again – they’d do it right now even – even when they are so broken themselves they have nothing else to give because the world and life has swallowed them whole. Every single piece of the broken bits of me, the broken bones, broken body, broken heart, and broken dreams is still a part of who I am and when the moonlight hits those pieces just right, I can still shine. I think.

I’ll always wish on stars. I’ll always hope that tomorrow will bring something more. I believe that there’s more to life than going through things alone, always being the strong one, the one everyone can lean on, the one who gets left behind the minute the going gets tough or someone else around the corner has something more fun to do. But tonight I did something different. I stood still. I stayed home. And for a change I felt like there was something I could offer this world that wasn’t just a pile of broken glass and shattered pieces that will cut you when you try to hold them because that’s what broken things do. They hurt. And sometimes, they inadvertently hurt the very same people that are trying to hold them and put them back together.

Maybe I don’t need to be put back together. Maybe this is just who I am. Maybe, all these pieces are coming together in their own way, a new way, like a kaleidoscope that transforms all the nightmares and tragedies of the past into this beautiful amazing life that just shines brighter even on a moonless night in the rain as we head into October.

It’s almost October. The wind howled as I walked up my mountain in the late afternoon sun the other day, screaming that change was coming. Whistling through the trees, warning everyone to be prepared. Stand tall, stand proud, own who you are, let go of those skeletons, stop chasing the ghosts of the past and the people in the present that haunt you in the same ways you keep finding the big jagged pieces that never want to be a part of any magic and only want to see you to hurt you and tear you down.

Stop falling for people who mirror the skeletons of your past.

Start falling for the person who shows up and sees your soul.

I’m right here.

all the broken pieces kaleidoscope cj millar life without a paddle

All The Broken Pieces

all the broken pieces lifewithoutapaddle

The sounds of a fiddle and guitar float through the air as Ian Munsick plays in the background and I find myself on the porch swing another day. Another night. Everything hurts from pushing wet heavy round bales through the mud out to the horses by myself. The tractor’s still broken. I need to make time and arrangements to get the backhoe down here. I have two horses I’m losing before winter, and land to clean up and a bonfire pit to dig. It’s just farm life. This morning I took a work call from the floor because that’s where I ended up after farm chores, a Charlie horse in my right calf, cramped thighs, a twisted shoulder, and a many-times-mangled too-sore-to-hold-me-up knee.

Strong dark coffee and a quick break in the hot tub helped some, but not for long. I joked on social #coffee now #whiskey later but truth be told I won’t be drinking at all today. Instagram always has it looking like everything is fantastic and there’s always coffee, whiskey, and friends close by but that’s social media for you – especially for me since my profile is public and I work in marketing. But social isn’t reality and often those are two very different things – even when I share some of my writings and struggles there with the world. Lately I haven’t and have simply let people find these words if they want to read them all on their own. Similar to life these days, or at least I am trying, to stop chasing and let things come to me. It’s different, and in many ways I’ve never felt more alone, but I am also starting to see who’s here when I simply stop for a moment to stand still.

Sometimes I walk down the road at night to watch the moon rise. Tonight was especially stunning as the Harvest Moon is always one of my favorites. I walked to try to walk off the pain, stretch out the tangled and gnarled muscles from their knots. Walking along hiding in the darkness wondering what it would feel like to just disappear and become the nothing that everyone told me they’d expect me to become some day even though I’ve long since proved them wrong. And so I duck behind the fence, weaving in and out of the tree line just off the side of the road, avoiding headlights as if I needed to remain unseen even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was just me and the moonlight – I left the dogs inside. I listened to the coyotes and realized they moved back to the other side of the lake again. An owl called in the distance, waiting for an answer that never came. I know the feeling.

Horses are faster so I can disappear. I keep feeling like I need to do just that yet somehow I’m just standing here waiting for something I can’t see, that I am not even sure I believe in. I know I’m broken, but as someone said to me even about themselves, all the pieces are there. They are, I know that, all of the pieces are there somewhere, they just don’t all fit back together quite the way they used to be. Perhaps we’re not all broken. Perhaps we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t yet disappeared.

cjmillar82 life without a paddle harvest moon


cjmillar82 life without a paddle wraparound wish you were here

Wraparound me, like the hugs I never had and the affection I never knew or knew I deserved.

Wrap your arms around me and tell me that it’s safe to breathe here, in a place and time where the air is clear.

Sit on this porch swing with me and just be, let me wrap myself around you in a place I’ve never known.

Even in this place I call home.

Wraparound me like a porch swing with that backlit glow of sunset that warms your back even when your face can’t see the light.

Wraparound my heart as you listen to me without judgement and I can finally be myself for just a moment.

Dream of that wraparound porch and all the things I can never be to you, and know that I’ll always be your biggest fan.

Wraparound dreams, wraparound porches, and wraparound hugs are some of the best things in the world, and I’m so grateful to share any of that with you.

I listen to the campfire crackle. The sound of the radio. The dogs snoring. The stars shining overhead. Somehow I feel always too close to the fire, but never afraid of getting burned, just far enough away to not quite feel the warmth. Something I’m missing in myself, I’m sure but still sitting by the fire looking at the stars writing these words under a moonless night is enough to bring peace to my soul.

I’ve never felt safe before. No one ever had my back. I guess in some ways, it was liberating, there was no one responsible for my success or failure but me. And I owned it – all of it, the good and the bad. And I learned from it too, but not always, or even if I always did, it was at the cost of my heart over and over and over again to the point that nearing my 46th birthday I still don’t know how to let anyone in. Not really, anyway. I’ll still tell you about my past, just a few weeks ago I wrote about all the conversations I had with my skeletons and everything they told me – even when it wasn’t what I wanted to hear – and I’m okay with that. Just don’t ask me why I can’t love someone enough to share a life with them other than friends. And I’ll tell you I have the best friends in the world – because it’s true, I do. Even more so, for all the friends I have, and all the people I know, I still so often feel like the throwaway girl, or the party friend, the social coordinator. I know that’s of my own doing. Don’t ask me why I can’t let anyone in, because I don’t know. A few people have gotten to know me better recently. Some more than others, and well. Well. Sometimes I wish things were different, but they’re not.

I’m here. I’m where I am in life for so many reasons. Some of those reasons are you. Thank you.

No one’s ever really had my back, ever just said, “I got you,” and actually meant it to the point that their actions matched their words, or I could truly trust them. Or worse yet, I did trust them and got hurt over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Wraparound me, the way I wraparound you and take the past away. Let me just be me. Hug me the way that I’ve never been hugged and let me know that it’s okay to show affection, to not just tell people you care, but actually show it too.

Wraparound me. Melt away the past with the comfort of now and the hope of everything amazing to come.

Because that’s what friends do. Wraparound each other’s souls and give each other a safe place to become everything that they were meant to be, so that they can go out into the world and be the amazing person you always knew they were. Wraparound hugs that heal the heart where you know you are safe with someone who can see your soul. Where you know, that no matter what, you’re safe here. Always. On this wraparound with a cold beer ❤️


skeletons cjmillar82 life without a paddle

I sat on the porch with my skeletons tonight. It wasn’t that different from any other night, really only tonight I listened to them when they talked to me. I heard their side of the stories I’ve lived. I asked them why it is that I always throw them out in the street to either act as a distraction or get run over before I ever really let people in, and I listened to their answers even when it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

The moon drifted in and out of the passing clouds, almost full, but Arcturus still made an appearance in the western night sky. The citronella candle flickered on the porch, more for light and comfort tonight as the cool breeze and dropping humidity ushered the bugs away as if the past two days of swampy existence almost never happened. There was a faint smell of campfire smoke coming from the campgrounds over the hill as summer campers sat out under the stars in the place that I live marveling at the sky. And I realized that’s just another thing I have to be grateful for.

I live in a place where the smell of campfire smoke drifts among the forest over the mountains on the cool mountain breeze on any given summer night. This place most people vacation – this is home to me. This is home.

It’s amazing what we’ll learn when we just sit still. The hummingbirds telling me that they like the fresh flowers in the garden more than the feeder I put out for them. The fisher cats and foxes screaming next door arguing over territory and who gets to feed their young first. The coyotes howling over the hill on the other side of the pond, knowing they can’t come too close or our dogs and mule will sound the alarm. Fireflies flickering until the air gets too heavy or too cool for them to enjoy and then they just hunker down until the next night to share their lights again. All of this everyday magic everywhere I look, all while sitting on my front porch talking to my skeletons and learning how to become a better person.

The dogs bark at the nothing in the distance just over the treeline and I laugh at their insistence that there IS something in the nothing across the street. Maybe they’re right, but no matter. They’re only right about half the time anyway. They’re not hunting or guard dogs, after all. Just regular pets, a part of the family with something to say so long as we’ll all listen and I love them for it.

I used to wonder what life would be like if things had been different. If I had made different choices, or done things differently but recently I’ve stopped that. My skeletons are still here to remind me in case I forget, but these days they’re more about the conversation and learning together how I can let them rest, take the best parts of what I’ve learned and move on. Forward is always a better direction than stagnant, and backwards is never a way life wants us to go even when we may feel otherwise. I’m learning that more and more these days, and that’s part of why even on the days I feel like it’s impossible to see the next step, I keep putting one foot in front of the other and have the faith to believe that I will always land on solid ground.

I do. Thank you.

It’s funny how we can plan and think and anticipate, and even drive ourselves crazy doing so – my father most certainly did and I’ve walked that fine line most of my life. But the Universe seems to always have other plans for us, regardless of what we think or anticipate or try to map out before it ever happens. Life never quite happens the way we plan, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. There’s always something new around the corner, around the next turn, the next sunrise, the next daybreak, the next nightfall. There’s magic everywhere if we believe in it.

I do.

Shooting stars are common here, as if the magic in the skies transformed right from the back of the lightening bug’s body into the night sky above seamlessly from the treetops to the horizon and everything beyond. The occasional plane flies overhead looking to weave in and out of the Milky Way but I know that it’s just my depth perception and the twinkling stars of our galaxy’s widest band overhead in the country bending light as it travels through space and time to reach here. There’s so much more ahead.

In troubled times, I refuse to believe the worst in the world. There is still so much good in people and I see it every day. I see it in the people around me. In how my kid helps her friends. How my other kid is such a role model for those around him. How new people I meet connect with other people I know and there’s a synergy there that blends the lines between work and friendship in all the best ways that makes loving my job and my life all that much easier. I am so incredibly blessed and so incredibly grateful.

I’ll leave you with this. The moon is almost full and my skeletons are almost out of stories for tonight. They’re still out here, dancing in the moonlight for everyone to see – because they know if you see them first and still want to get to know me, that you are genuine and that’s all that we ask these days. Genuine people. Laughs that make your abs hurt. Smiles that form creases in the corner of your mouth bringing out your dimples and that twinkle in your eye. The magic as the campfire dances around our faces and we toast to days gone by, days like today, and oh so many more days to come. Real friends. Real experiences. Real life. Skeletons included, because they never scared us anyway and besides, it’s almost October…


Cj Millar #bkawk parksville ny

Parachute | halfway more (7/8/2010)

life without a paddle cjmillar82 words of wisdom

I sat down to write today, after days of thoughts circling in my head, asking to be written down but not yet quite sure what they wanted to say. As the storms rolled out and the sun broke through for another sunset on my porch that paints my life with wonder lately, the words finally started to come together. And then I found this. This blog I wrote 12 years ago, at a time when I was mostly in a dark place. And I reread it this evening, and I smiled. I’m really proud of her. Of me. How much I had been through back then and yet I was still willing to share the softer side of me. I didn’t let the world harden or break me, even though it tried. And oh, it tried and it would again many more times over those next 12 years. But she made it. I made it. I am her, and oh how I’ve grown. I am so proud of myself as I reread those words and smile in amazement at the message I left myself from back then and just how true it still is today. It’s pretty amazing.

The past few weeks have been really hard, but I got through it. I always do, even when I feel like I won’t or I can’t, I do and sometimes I just need to remind myself that. But lately it was even harder, and I was having a hard time keeping my head above water and reminding myself of anything other than that I was drowning. Suddenly, friends showed up from everywhere to save me. And I do mean everywhere. Several friends from Jersey, some whom I haven’t seen in a year, some in much more than that. Some that I’ve known for a few years, and others for decades, and even some for just a few weeks and months. And yet, some of these friends became friends with each other through me, and we all spent time together these past weeks. I went from going out alone all the time feeling incredibly lonely despite being surrounded by people, to simply enjoying life around me, and I stopped to listen.

Do you know what I heard? I heard how amazing I am. How I helped that friend. How I saved another one. How happy they are for me. How grateful they are for who I am. I heard about how some of them wish they knew me in my 20s and how much fun I must’ve been (dude, no, I was a train wreck!). And here’s where the crazy thing happened.

I started to see what they see in me. 

Read that again…

I started to see what THEY see in me!

Maybe I really AM those things? No, not maybe. I AM THOSE THINGS. I am a lot of things to a lot of people, and I learned that even when life and time and the day to day gets in the way of spending all the time you want with all the people you love and call family, they are still always close in your heart. And when you really need them, they and the universe will conspire together to make sure they are there. And they were. Each and every one of them, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, for being my parachute, and for all these years also letting me be yours. ❤️

If you read the below, I’d love to hear your thoughts. It feels like I could have written this today, as it applies to everything I am going through right now and what I see others I care about going through also. If nothing else, read the very last paragraph and know that I hope it helps you as much as it is helping me. #WordsOfWisdom

____________ original blog “halfway more” from July 8, 2010 below____________

somehow i’m feeling halfway gone, and i’m wondering how it was all these years ago i ever did anything halfway.  i live with too much love, passion, and vibrancy for that.  but there was a time that i did nearly everything halfway, afraid to commit to anything or anyone, always convinced that there was something better around the corner until the moment i felt i made the wrong decision and then i came back wishing for all that i’d just thrown away.  it was this vicious cycle that i put myself and anyone close to me through.  it was awful, and i was quite awful at the time.

somehow i’m not that person any more and i’m grateful for it.  in catching up with someone today, i realized that you can touch someone’s soul even when you are not at your best, and think you may have nothing to offer.  and then i realize that even when you think you are nothing, you are not worthy, to someone you are everything that they ever dreamed of, and more.  trust in that.  trust in that and believe in that with all your heart and all your soul.  before you wake up and it’s ten years later and you realize that you’ve missed your chance.  believe me, you don’t want to miss out on that.  i always said i never wanted to miss a thing, and somehow along the way for so long i did.

but it’s okay.  i’m better, i’ve learned better, and i know better.  i’m a better person now in so many ways.  i’ve figured out how to write for myself and to share my life and love and emotions and thoughts and dreams with the world in lieu of having someone right here to share with me.  i feel like if i write it out, then i can let it go and move on and grow.  i used to carry my emotions, especially my grief, in my pocket like a scarlet letter, something to worship or be proud of that i let it take over every corner of my existence.  now i write it down and share it, and let the world read it and know that we all have these feelings, and we all can deal, and we all can get through this, and we are never alone.  and then i move on and smile, and know that tomorrow will be a better day.  

we always push.  we always pull.  but someday you’ll open up and be my parachute, and you’ll never let me down.  somehow i’ll become your own angel, and we’ll never hit the ground.  we don’t just need these grand gestures to get by, though.  we just need the day to day.  we just need to know there’s someone else out there, listening, breathing, thinking.  looking up at the same stars as me.  smiling to the same song on the radio.  watching the same sunset.  dreaming under the same moon.  standing under the same rain wishing for that kiss that makes it all wash away.

one day at a time we will get there.  brick by brick i will rebuild what i have lost and make it through.  brick by brick these walls will come down.  day by day this house will become a home.  life by life i will be closer to sharing this with someone who sees me for me and understands who i am and why i am here.  

it amazes me how people wish for something their whole life.  with all their heart and all their thoughts.  they wish for someone different.  someone who would just understand them.  someone who just gets them and knows what their life is like, how hard it is some days to just be them.  and who won’t take advantage, who won’t push them away, who will be there through thick and thin.  and who has their own life, their own passions, and their own wishes too.  and all of a sudden when that’s standing right in front of them, they are too scared to do anything and so leave the person there waiting with the nothing they’ve said until the person life sent them eventually just walks away.  and somehow they go back to wishing for what they could have had that they were too afraid to do anything about.  blaming it on life, blaming it on timing, blaming it on everything around them.  telling themselves it wasn’t worth it.  they weren’t worth it.  it would have never worked out anyway.  it’s better this way.

you see, i promise you this – it is not better this way.  

you just missed out on one of the greatest things life put right in front of you because you were too afraid to try, and too convinced that you weren’t good enough that you let it all slip away.  that she couldn’t be real anyway.

how do i know this?  because this is me.  i have done this to the best things life has ever given me in a lesson that took me longer than i care to admit to ever learn.  i was so busy convincing the world that i needed something more that when the world gave me everything i wished for i threw it away, yelling that i wasn’t good enough, and it would never work out anyway.

i’ve lived this.  i am this.  i know this because this is my life too.  but i’m different now.  i’m smarter now.  i can live alone somehow.  and while there’s still so much more i want, this time when the world puts someone in front of me, i stand tall and i say how i feel.  and then i stand still.  and then i stand some more.  and i stay strong, patient, honest, and understanding.  i take a deep breath, and before i blame the world, him, you, or me, i step back and try to understand where you’re coming from.  what’s going on, and what else is going on outside of me.

and this time, all the while, i’m still out living my own life.  i may be patient and understanding, and i’m not running away, but i’m not putting my whole life on standstill either.  i’m sorry if i miss your call, or your text, because my phone was off because i was out with friends, or in a meeting, or focused on work, life, horses, or something else that makes my life whole.  there’s so much more these days and it seems the older i get the more i understand that.  i had a friend tell me today that he wished for our younger days when things seemed simpler, but i disagreed.  i think things are better now because i know more now and i love more now.  i’m bolder now, stronger now, and i’m not afraid to stand here and tell you how i feel, and be accepting that if you don’t feel the same way it won’t break our friendship or ruin my life.  we’ll still smile together, and laugh together.  because that’s what friends do.  no drama necessary.  because really, that’s only a means for attention and when you need to resort to that, you’re not surrounding yourself with people in your life that really care about you anyway.

i don’t want to be that girl anymore.  i’m not that girl anymore.  the me i am today is so much better, so much stronger, so much more honest, open and fun.  i want to jump off cliffs into waterfalls, run through fields chasing fireflies, go camping under the stars with some of the best friends in the world, hike up the mountainside so high i feel as if i could touch the sky, and race the wind on the back of a horse who knows me so well it’s as if we share a soul.  maybe that’s too much for you to understand, or too hard for you to see.  but that’s me.  and in the words of some great bottlecaps, i leave you with this, my friends, and my loves…

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

i love you.


the one that got away life without a paddle cjmillar82

is it that hard? / friends for all lives (10/13/2009)

For all lives cjmillar82 life without a paddle

I wrote this back in 2009, not long after my birthday, wondering now where I was just then and what it all meant back then. Rereading these words now and they still ring true, though my mind calls up some new and different friends’ faces alongside some of the ones that I have known since back then. My heart still remembers the hurt though and I laugh a little at a much younger me, lamenting all the suffering and pain and loss I had already been through as if it had been so much. If only I knew what was to come. There was so much more still to come.

It was all of a much greater magnitude – those things to come. The good stuff, too though. Even that was greater in all the best ways. I used to wonder how I had found no way home. I never quite found the road that lead me to where I was supposed to be, yet I can say with confidence now that I did find that road and it’s right here on Brown Settlement, up in Manor, to this home on the top of the hill looking out over the horizon where I can sit on the porch and watch the sunset and know for the first time in my life what home truly feels like.

This is what I have been homesick for all these years. Home. Not just a house, or a farm, or a place to lay my head. A place to feel safe, to build dreams and imagine storybook endings and believe in magic and wander in my woods and marvel at all the wonder the world still has to offer. And I finally found it here. This is home.

Now it’s time to move forward while still nurturing these roots. The family I chose is all here, and life has so much more still to offer. After the past years, I think I am finally ready to look up more, smile more, believe more, and maybe even finally start to trust myself a little bit more, too.

I’m done chasing. I’ve learned that when I chase, all that happens is I push people away. So convinced of my own lack of self-worth, I felt I always had something to prove. Why wouldn’t I? I grew up always being told I was never enough, while always too much. Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not talented enough. If only I had been more… but then I was more. Too much. Too reckless. Too foolish, too trusting, too cocky, too strong, too talkative, too loud, too intense, too everything.

And so I became nothing.

I’ll tell you all my stories because it’s easier than telling you my hopes and dreams and fears. Especially my fears. I’ll have you believe I’m afraid of nothing but heights if you’ll let me. And my hopes and my dreams? For work, sure. Material stuff? No problem – as that doesn’t hold any real value anyway. Ask what I want out of life? Love? Time? No, no, I don’t have a story to spin on that one. Saying any of that out loud means you get to see my soul, and if you get to see more than I am willing to put as words on a page tucked safely behind a computer screen and Instagram vaguebook posts then you may get to really know me. And if you really know me, I can be hurt again, and hurt that I can’t turn into comedy just tears me apart from the inside. So I make a joke about it, dodge the meaningful questions, and tell you a story.

I’ll tell you where I want to travel, the kind of car I want to buy next, what my messed up childhood was like, how losing my best friend saved my life, how losing my father was both a blessing and a relief that I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around. How becoming a parent to two teenagers was the craziest, most spontaneous, and absolute best thing I’ve ever done – not because I am good at it (I still think I am awful but thanks to friends I am figuring it out). But because I didn’t stop for a second to think. I just DID. 

I trusted my gut and made a split second decision that forever changed the rest of my life. For the better. So much better. Even when it was incredibly hard, it was better because they were a part of this life with me. It’s incredible really how sometimes when you just trust your gut, your soul finds its way home.

I still spend a lot of time alone. In a career filled with public social posts, tagging brands and companies, profiles, and colleagues, peppered with work get togethers, happy hours, conferences, speaking engagements, and everything else that has me “always on,” I still spend a lot of time alone. In some cases it’s to rest and recharge. In others, it’s to quiet my mind which left to its own devices seems to keep going often to my detriment and self-doubts. And then I get stuck back to thinking too much, talking too much, and spinning my wheels in a way that just gets me in deeper with nothing while going nowhere. I know it’s futile, and I am spending less days stuck and more days forward again finally, and I think I am finally learning that “forward” doesn’t always mean you have to keep moving.

Sometimes the best way to move your heart and your soul forward is by just sitting still. Stop chasing. Stop screaming at the top of your lungs that you are worth it! That you ARE something! You ARE someone and you DO matter! Stop screaming so loud, laughing so hard, spinning your life story into a great comedy show that makes everyone laugh with you. Because if they are all laughing at your misfortune with you, they don’t have to feel sorry for you, and you don’t ever ever ever feel sorry for yourself so of course why not laugh? Who doesn’t like to laugh?

There are other things to laugh at, too. Good times with friends. Beers and whiskey around the campfire while smoke chases you wherever you sit and your eyes tear and you can’t tell if it’s from the campfire smoke or laughing so hard. It’s a combination of both, really.

I am smiling more these days, and not just when I am out with people, or out alone people watching and sitting by myself at the end of the bar with my laptop working because I just can’t bear to go home to an empty house again when the kids have plans. The silence doesn’t echo so loudly in my ears these days. I ride around the state park for hours on end saying nothing, seeing no one, and just listening to nature and the sounds of my horse’s hoof beats against the trails and catch myself smiling for no reason. Or all the reasons in the world.

That will keep happening more. I believe that. Time alone will always be sacred to me, and a key part of my sanity. It’s finding that balance between withdrawing all together versus having every day and every weekend and every moment packed so full with life that I forget to even stop and breathe that’s a challenge. I am getting better at it. I am not planning weekends, or even weekdays other than general work stuff and deadlines and big things like graduation parties. The rest I am not chasing. I am here. I am home. I am still homesick for someone to see me as not too much, and always enough, but I am lucky that I had that once as a kid in two amazing friends who always had my back, and I do believe if nothing else, there is the possibility of finding that again in some way even if it’s not the way I imagined. Though maybe it will be. As long as there is the possibility, I will always believe it can happen for me.

And so, as I said 13 years ago, this time heading into what I have every intention of making #thesummerofourlives, I again exclaim, “let the wild rumpus start!” as I head off into the forest where the wild things are to camp out in that clearing and wish on the stars. Come find me if you like, I’m right here, not chasing anything, not even dreams anymore, because I believe that everything is right here falling into place and the people that want to be a part of all of this will find me if they want me in their lives. Just know I want you here, too. I love you all, thank you for always being there for me. Let’s go make magic together this year, and for years to come.

Cjmillar82 life without a paddle find me

__________ original blog 10/13/2009 below ______________

sometimes i wonder if it’s really that hard to understand. that hard to communicate. that hard to deal, grasp, and move on. i’ve suffered great losses, and lived through great triumphs, and each one has taught me a lesson. i’ve learned what death means, how it truly is a celebration of life, how mourning is okay, and how when you really think no one understands, someone does.

i’ve learned that when the days are harder than they have seemed to be in years, i’ve been blessed to have friends for all lives here – friends that aren’t just here and now, but friends that will be here through many lives. friends that have left and returned, and friends that are newer and have made their way into the core of my life. these are the friends that are with us, not just this life, but through lives, and i’m grateful for mine that they would be so brave as to be there for me not just in the good times, but also in the bad. to move on and move forward and be willing to leave the past behind. to be there when i need a shoulder to cry on, or to just be there and let me cry by myself sometimes.

it’s times like these and friends like these that make the victories sweeter, the triumphs more glorious, and the dreams we wish for a reality. i’m so lucky and so blessed and i promise to never ever take that for granted. and then i still wonder why it’s that hard. why IS it that hard? to understand and deal and just be yourself? there are people who get this, but then others who seem to just not….and i wonder. what gives? where is the reality in that? why can’t i find someone that i can just talk to and be myself with? why can’t i just end up wherever it is that i’m supposed to be anyway? i can see all of this ahead, i can know so much of where i am to go. but still there are so many answers and no road home, and it’s frustrating.

i wonder if i loved wrong. or if i chose wrong. the heart wants what the heart wants, right? what if my heart wanted wrong? what if the love of my life already passed? what if i’m waiting for too much, or held on too long, or lost my way when i let go so long ago? what if then? or this? or here? or now? what next?

i just don’t know.

i do know that it is hard. and i do know that these are friends for all ages, and all lives, that no matter what else is hard, i have friends that will help make it easier. i know what it’s like to feel lost and feel loved, and i’m happy to be in the latter more often than not these days. i’m happy to be able to return the love – if not to one soul, at least to many souls close to me that help make this life so much better and help me look forward to all that is yet to come.

and there is magic on the horizon and change on the winds. i could smell it on the brisk fall air the way i always do this time of year. the leaves are changing and autumn is all around. there’s ways to other imaginations through this path in the woods where i live, and i know where i’ll be this friday. under the stars in a boat to a land where the wild things are. with friends for all lives. making memories to last this life into the next. and with that i say, let the wild rumpus start!

Let the wild rumpus start CJ Millar life without a paddle

Curveballs & Blue Skies

Curveballs no blue skies cjmillar82

I love this porch. I could live here forever. I plan to, actually and anyone who knows me knows I really mean that. At least for this life or as many years as I have remaining here. This is home. I’ve lived a lot of places, and left a lot of things in my past but this is different. This is, quite simply, home.

I laid down roots here, and this is where I will be. Don’t get me wrong – I look forward to traveling again and getting back out there and having great adventures and amazing times wherever life may take us. But home – home is right here. This porch. These kids. This farm. This life. It’s something I’ve never truly felt before, and I promise you, every second of every moment that lead me here has been worth it for this. This. This is the stuff dreams are made of, and how lucky am I that I get to live mine?

Don’t get me wrong, the past few years have been nothing short of hell that I’m grateful to move on from. But also, for the first time in a long time, years actually, I feel like myself again. I am starting to laugh again. Things are looking up. We can smile together. I can wander the state park on the back of one of my two favorite horses in silence surrounded by nothing but the forest and truly live. Me and my kids have fallen into a comfortable rhythm where we understand each other and no longer need to stress the small stuff because we all know we will always have each other’s backs and even when money is tight, we all know it is temporary. We all work too hard and care too much to have things work out any other way. Sometimes, life just throws you curveballs.

So you learn how to hit those curveballs. And here we are. It’s always good to see you. Welcome home.