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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.

Dear Life

Dear Life

Seriously I’m hanging on by a thread right now. I’m really struggling. Fuck you. Fuck you because I said so. Fuck you that I’ve been working this hard for this long and feel like I’m getting nowhere. I know that will change. I know this is temporary. But for fuck’s sake when can you please stop throwing me curve balls?

I mean come the fuck on. Enough is enough already. As if I didn’t already know what I was doing, you just keep lobbing shit at me like I should just hit it out of the park. But guess what? This isn’t fucking tee ball anymore. No, it’s the big leagues, and it’s fucking life.

I just can’t. I’m sick of being alone, so I spend my time distracted with friends to still feel alone. I want to scream and get it all out but that does nothing but echo the sound of the silence in my own head when no one is around to hear. I wander off into the forest almost every day to leave my troubles in the woods that so willingly carry my burdens, and still it’s not enough. I work harder. I work longer. I sleep less. I care more. I keep my head down and my nose to the grindstone. And for what? What, exactly?

Life to keep trampling all over me as if the shit I’ve already been through wasn’t exactly enough? To keep running me over to the point that I just want to run away to go nowhere and be no one to anyone anywhere? For what? I can’t run. I don’t even want to. There are people here who depend on me and I’m so ever fucking grateful for that because right about now is the time that I get in my car, throw the top down and just drive. Drive. To wherever I can get that is anywhere but here. But where? Four bald tires don’t seem to be taking me anywhere but home these days and I suppose, for the first time in my actual life – despite what I’ve said or not said before – this IS home.

Fuck me that makes it harder. I can’t run away. I don’t even want to. But fuck me, when do I ever get to stop fighting? When do I get to lay down my battle sword and just breathe? Sleep. Be. When does anyone ever fight for me?

Breathe. Just breathe. Anna Nalick plays on the Bluetooth and I remember all the things from my past where I remember that life’s like an hourglass and I know better. And yet I still always fall for the wrong people at the wrong time, believing the potential they show me is who they will ever be to me knowing all the time that no one will ever fight for me the way I fight for us and I resolve myself to knowing that I will always be a warrior. I don’t know any other way to be.

Perhaps my battle sword, or my knife always at my right hip this life, is just my ongoing battle scars and broken hearts protecting itself life and life after life and lie after lie after lie that I know that the only way to cut through to the truth is to fight for it, and fight for yourself, and for those you love.

I come at face value. I am what I am, no hidden agendas, no underlying goals. I tell you who I am from the moment you meet me right until the moment you throw me away. I’ve never changed that way, even when I grew up always being the throwaway girl. Someday I’ll write a novel about that – the throwaway girl who had her confidence broken at every turn. The black sheep. The odd one. The loner, always surrounded by friends never letting anyone close. Hi. That’s me. In a lot of ways, I’m still her.

But in a lot of ways I’m different. I didn’t let the world break me, even when it tried. Even when it felt like the world was falling apart and the earth was crumbing beneath my feet – even like right now – I can sit alone on my porch and be grateful for all that I have and all who love me. While I still sit here, alone.

Fuck you, universe. Fuck you. When is this enough? When does someone ever stand up beside me? Fight for me? Say hey, this girl, this woman isn’t a throwaway anymore. She matters, because she cares. Because she has heart, and soul, and a belief in magic that belies her past and the shit that she’s lived through? When does that happen? Because to be honest, I am losing this fight right now.

That will change, I know. It always does. I am forever the warrior. For fuck’s sake I have truth and justice tattooed on my back in Latin. Let’s be honest, it’s just who I am. I am hard pressed to remember a life where I haven’t been a warrior of some sort, always fighting for something, or running away. At what point when I am no longer running – right now – do I get to stop and breathe? Just breathe.

Dear life, I hope you know. I’ve fought down every battle of this road. But I’m so sick of fighting I just want to lay down and sleep.


Love life without a paddle just breathe

Prove Me Wrong

CJ Millar riding again prove me wrong life without a paddle

I would like nothing more. Actions speak our true character, words just romance us. My one friend put it succinctly when she said:

“How we face fear tells so much about our character, we are no more than the sum of our actions and the reliability of our word.”

I’ve said my whole life my word is my bond, and I’ve meant it. There are some things that are values that are a part of me. But truth be told, actions and words aligning are the most important part of who we are.

There have been people in my life this year who I have had to step back from because their words and actions didn’t align, or they just didn’t have the courage to follow through. It’s been easier than in prior years, which is saying something since this has happened with a few friends so far this year, though I hope we’re done with that. I just keep reminding myself that negativity will not leave you. You must leave it. If it is in your life, it is only because you allow it to be. Easier said than done sometimes. It gets easier over time with confidence and trust in yourself, and when you respect yourself enough to realize that while there is some good in having boundaries adjust and change, it’s never okay when it is to the detriment of your values.

My opinions are based on what people show me of themselves, not on what stories they tell. I’m a storyteller too, both in work and life. We all are. Life is a story, and we are our own authors. However it’s more than that. Words on a page can spark emotion, drive anger, inspire love, create passion, and so much more. But they’re still just words.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

– Maya Angelou

I don’t always. That’s a lesson I have a hard time with. I also believe people can change, but only if they truly want to and never for someone else. Change for someone rather than change that is self-initiated is never sustainable. At some point in the future, the choices made to enact that change for someone else result in resentment, a crumbling of trust, and eventually the floor falls out. I’ve seen it too many times in people around me and that’s not something I want to be a part of. I’ve spent a very very long time alone because I felt that I was worth investing in – and I still believe that today. I learned that going from one relationship to another just to fill that hole in my heart and to feel loved only resulted in the floor falling out eventually. And eventually I learned that hurt far more than learning how to look myself in the mirror every day and love the person looking back at me.

It was a long journey, and I’m finally home. I moved in this past September, but it just recently truly started feeling like home. Once the weather broke from winter, riding again was the last missing piece. The yard still needs work, and the ground hasn’t settled and as soon as I have more money, I need to lay the Lighthoof panels and order more gravel so we can drive along the barns behind them and drive to the shop if we need. Right now it’s a sopping wet muddy mess but that’s ok. We just put in the water lines in early December so it’s going to take some work. We have time. We live here now. It’s home.

I lost most of last year from riding because every free moment not working for one of my three agencies, I was commuting 2h away to my childhood home to clean it out and sell it after the death of my father. There was barely time to breathe, let alone ride. This year is different. I will have Duke and Cole both conditioned and ready for the first pace April 24th, right before I leave for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day event for one of the busiest weeks of my career. I am doing their marketing with my team and we’re going to rock it! But it’s long days, and even longer nights, usually up at 6, working by 7, home by 10 to do it all again the next day. And that’s not counting the other client work that needs to get done that is unrelated to the event. It’ll be exhausting but worth it.

When I’m back, it’s full swing on hunter pace season, and I can’t wait! We get one in before the trip. There’s a follow up trip for Florida planned for mid-May, and then beach to see friends, then Six Flags, and hopefully VA to see more friends and Busch Gardens, and camping to Lake Luzerne with the horses in between. Working this hard is absolutely worth it!

Maybe you’ll be here but I don’t believe so. Good thing I’m not a betting person, huh? Guess that’s why I only bet on horses – they’re a lot easier to understand than humans, that’s for damn sure. There’s a lot of stuff you’ve said that I don’t believe, but that doesn’t mean I want to be right. People assume I always have to be right but that’s not true at all. I just prefer not to ask questions that I don’t already know the answers to which is why I research things so much and learn as much as I can before I speak….well most of the time anyway haha! We all have our moments. Anyway. I really don’t want to be right, especially not about this. For now, though, I believe I am. There’s been nothing else to show me otherwise. It’s also why I’m not asking the questions. I have no way of knowing the answers other than to base it on what I’ve seen so far. I don’t have time for conjecture. Life is calling and I must go. Feel free to prove me wrong.

Prove me wrong CJ Millar life without. Paddle

Honestly, Honesty, and Lies

CJ Millar honestly honesty and lies life without a paddle

Recently I’ve been scrolling through some of my old blogs and writings, back from the days of MySpace and when Tumblr was actually a blog site and revisiting things I’ve written in the past. Sometimes it amazes me how much of what I’ve written still holds true today. The larger message in so many of my words is still very much the same, as I’ve worked to grow, learn, improve, and evolve. I also took one of those personality tests – partly out of curiosity, partly out of boredom, and partly because it’s wet and rainy out and I am procrastinating barn chores. But regardless, I took it and found I am an ENFJ-A which makes a lot of sense. As a protagonist, I have high ideals, even higher standards for myself, and a core foundation of trust, honesty, authenticity, truth, and justice. It resonates with me and was reassuring, as recently I’ve had my truth questioned by someone who I thought trusted me – but clearly does not.

Any time things get hard, or I am faced with a statement or observation from someone close to me that I didn’t see or realize or feel, I take a step back to evaluate. I go to a place of calm, take out my own emotion so that I can better understand someone else’s point of view. I always want to learn more about myself and how others see me, so that I can continue to grow and learn and improve. Most of the time, their insights are valuable. Actually all of the time, insight from others is valuable. What I’m learning is that there’s also a duality there that needs to be separated. There are people who share their thoughts and opinions and observations of you who are, doing so out of honesty and care. But that’s not always the case, and sometimes people are sharing based on their thoughts and opinions and observations of themselves that they are afraid to admit really is about them, and not you. That’s the duality that needs to be sorted through. Which is it?

I’m learning that if you take the former to heart, it’s a great way to learn and grow. I am also learning that if you take the latter to heart, when those statements come from a place of fear and are actually a projection of the observer’s own insecurities or even their own actions, it can cause incredible hurt and pain. Separating that duality and not lumping both types of observations into the same category – and learning not to take someone else’s projections of their own actions as a true assessment of your own can help you see their inner emotions and fears and realize that it never really was about you, after all.

Sometimes it still hurts. Sometimes it makes me sad for that person, but I’ve also learned not to take on that sadness as my own. And I’ve learned that my greatest fault always will be seeing the greatness in someone and loving their potential, even when they are too afraid to make the changes in their life around them to embrace the strength and beauty of their own soul.

Not every ugly duckling grows up to be a beautiful swan and not every caterpillar emerges from the cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. Sometimes, some people choose to live in a place of fear and insecurity and jealousy and untruths. When those things become a way of life – and they in turn project those emotions and behaviors onto you – that is when you have to step back and remember to breathe.

I am many things. A liar is not one of them. And anyone who knows me at all knows that to be true to the core of my being. Truth and Justice are tattooed in Latin across my back, and for good reason. They are words that define me, who I am, and how I live. I believe, above all else, in living your truth and always always having your actions match your words. Without honesty, the rest of who you are becomes entirely obsolete because what are people to believe anyway? If you can lie to some people, and you can lie to yourself, how I am to believe that you’re not lying to me?

I am not a liar. Sometimes, and for some people, that is especially hard to understand. Those are the people who live in the muddiness of their own lies. I do not want your misery. I only wanted to help you see the joy around you when you live your life with honesty, integrity, and truth. Only then can you be a champion for the justice that you say you believe in, or be the partner, parent, or best friend you claim you wish to be.

Find your truth and learn how to live it. I cannot do that for you. I can only – and always will – live mine.

Impossible Life

I am not afraid Joan of Arc Life Without A Paddle CJ Millar

I live an impossible life. In nearly every aspect of my life, I defy the odds. I move mountains. I make the impossible a reality almost every single day. It’s exhausting, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling. I know my strengths, and I am continually learning and working on improving my weaknesses. I am human, but that doesn’t mean the impossible is just that. I am anything but ordinary, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Forgive me for my honesty and my never-ending grit. Over the years as I’ve seen obstacles all around me, I used to be afraid. Frozen in fear, I’d only see the path right in front of me regardless of if it was even passable or not and in the wake of challenges I’d often give up.

Over time, I learned to not give up. That even when there are seemingly no other choices, there always are other choices. Sometimes you just have to change your perspective. As I grew up, I learned that when you can’t see anything but the path right in front of you, that doesn’t mean there is no other way. It simply means you may have to make your own path. And, at times, my sword from all my years as a warrior became instead a tool for clearing new roads, finding new ways, carving out new options and creating better choices for the life I wanted rather than the life I had.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Over time, you learn that if you lower your expectations of everyone around you, and choose to focus instead on the expectations you set on yourself, you’ll never be disappointed in anyone but yourself. And you can always improve and fix yourself. With love, time, and attention even the most stubborn and broken and battle-worn parts of your soul can heal. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone to share that with. Actually, it always is. But it’s not a requirement. You learn to shoulder on, focus on the positive, carry the wins with you, and take the losses and turn them into tomorrow’s triumphs.

Life has been hard, but then again it always is. It’s just a matter of choosing your hard. It’s hard to be stuck. It’s hard to be afraid. It’s hard to miss out on the life you want because you’re so busy heads down working to pull things together that you fool yourself into believing that if you just keep going and just keep pushing on, that things will get better. It’s also hard to forge a new path. It’s hard to change your way of thinking. It’s hard to see things from a different perspective – a lot of different perspectives. I’m still learning that, and asking questions and trying to see things better from others’ points of view. It’s even harder still to choose the way you want to go over the way you need to go over the way you thought you’d be going and trust yourself enough to know that whatever you choose, you have to always have faith in yourself. Life is hard. Choose the hard that leads you over those obstacles and pretty soon you’ll realize, it’s also beautiful.

Mountains can move. There’s a big difference between can’t, won’t, and choose not to. Use the right words when you tell yourself your story long before you tell your story to the world and you’ll find it will make all the difference.

Ethereal Calm

Life without a paddle CJ Millar ethereal calm

There’s a calm that comes over you in the wake of a storm where regardless of the outcome, somehow you have serene faith that everything is going to be okay. It doesn’t matter that the wind is howling at you, the storm is screaming, and even if the world around you seems to be splintering, if you are really strong, you can find this deep sense of faith that will see you through.

You see, I don’t care which God you believe in. Or Goddess. Spirit. Light. Buddha. Or any many other names. No, that doesn’t matter. What matters is who you are at your core, and where does your faith stand. Who do you trust? Yourself? Yeah, that’s a good place to start, but a hard one too. Sometimes trusting ourselves feels like an impossible challenge until one remembers that the word itself implies the possible by simply saying, “I’m possible.” There are answers there if only you look hard enough. There are answers if you have faith.

Regardless of anyone’s personal struggles, we all have our burdens to bear. Life is not easy, and for those who may have it easy, often behind closed doors the things that they live are less easy than they may have us believe. And, even so, regardless of that too, if we have faith we will see that that one person’s easy doesn’t make the next person’s life hard in return. We each have our own challenges, our own burdens, and our own battles. The beauty comes when we can see that none of these has to happen alone if we allow ourselves to be loved.

I used to believe I was unworthy of love. Most of my life, actually. I still struggle with it sometimes. I thought for a long time it was because of my weight, but then I got healthier and I didn’t feel all that different. I still had many of those same self-doubts nagging at the back of my head telling me it was easier to stand here on my mountain and let no one in. But you know what I learned? I was wrong. Being vulnerable is beautiful and if you learn to love yourself, no one can ever use you against you, even if they try.

I am worthy of love. Even more so, I am also worthy of giving love. And that can be reciprocal. It doesn’t always need to be unrequited or fatalistic or some be all end all suicide pact. That’s not love at all.

Love is caring for others, opening your home and your heart to people you care about, and in turn letting those people care about you, too. It’s about family circles on Life360 so that we all know that each other is safe at all times without ever having to question it. It’s peace of mind knowing that we all care enough about each other to check in. It’s having a home where none of us have keys because we don’t need them – we all have codes to the door because everyone is welcome here and we will always call this home for everyone we love. Even when people feel they don’t deserve it, or don’t belong, or haven’t had the chance yet to figure out if they do or they do not. Because it’s more than that.

It’s home. It’s that ethereal calm that reminds you that your fear is lying to you, that your insecurities are bullshit, and that your doubts are only temporary. It’s that same ethereal calm that helps you through when your body decides to have a panic attack days after your brain sorted through (or so you thought) the stressors in front of you such as work and time and money. It’s that same ethereal calm that washes over you like a wave of relief in a hot shower after a long day and an even longer night filled with laughter and good times even when sometimes there are questions, too. And again it’s that same ethereal calm that reminds you it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not know what happens next. It’s okay to not know all the answers, or to sometimes feel like you know none of them and you have a million more questions every single second. It’s not knowing the outcome but loving anyway.

That’s what faith is. It’s trust, and hope, and love, and serenity, and a belief that if we live to our truest most authentic self, that we will always find our way home. Thank you for showing me that. I love you.

Light Across the Storm

Snow life without a paddle CJ millar

Sometimes in life you have to be strong to get through the stuff in front of you to get to the good stuff ahead. Even when that means it feels as if everything around you is burning to the ground and you feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water, if at all. Treading water is exhausting. Trying not to drown while still trying to swim through everything life keeps throwing at you like some massive obstacle course or challenge that you know will make you stronger even when in the short term all it feels like is that you’re getting hit from all sides and barely have time to breathe.

Sometimes in life, you start to realize you don’t have to do it all alone. It’s okay to ask for help. To stay up late to be there for others. To call someone just to say, I needed to hear your voice right now. To work a little longer. Try a little harder. Breathe a little differently. Just to make things come together even when it feels like the universe keeps throwing storm after storm your way until the big one rolls in and everything comes to a head.

Because you know what? On the other side of that massive storm is daybreak. And better days ahead.

I fell asleep before midnight, collapsed in exhaustion after a long day on the heels of a long day, followed by another long day strung together like a series of life challenges coming after you wave after wave after wave crashing over you pulling you out to sea only to realize things will settle, and you will wash ashore.

I sat on the front porch in the late night cover of snow listening as the snowflakes changed over to ice pinging against the steps. The soft white velvet blanket took on a silvery sheen under the pale light shining from the garage across the empty driveway and I wondered what tomorrow would bring.

Tomorrow is almost here. And the tomorrow after that is close behind. Sometimes when everything is on fire, you realize that it all has to burn down before the snow can blanket the earth in its soft comforting magic to remind you that where you are now is not where you were meant to always be.

Life is about change. Growing to become better. Learn more. Evolve. Adapt. And, through it all continuously seeking your True North.

The street is blanketed in cottony white, untouched by plows or salt at this early morning hour and it looks as if this mountain will remain untouched – at least for now – offering solace from the world down below. I listened to the wind rolling up through the hills, swaying the trees as the gradual change from snow to ice resonated differently across the landscape making a soft almost musical pinging sound as if nature was singing its own song to anyone who would stand still long enough to listen. I’m reminded of the story of The Piazza, the fairy cabin up on the mountain hidden in the woods under a blanket of snow and ice and sunlight that hasn’t yet come today.

Things will get better. That’s why we’re working so hard right now to get through this. Not just to survive, make ends meet, and go through the motions day after day, but to move forward to the magic that’s outside, the wonder that’s ahead, and all of the amazing things to come.

Life’s challenges make us better, stronger, and help us grow. Without storms to overcome, life would be flat and the flatness of surviving is a stark contrast to really living. Even when the night steals my sleep and I sit here listening to the snow fall outside mixed with ice against the windowpane, I know that eventually I will sleep and everything will be okay.


here life without a paddle cj millar

In every sense of the word.

I am reminded of things every day.

Even when I am not wanted somewhere, I am still loved.

Even when I am not the best version of me, I am always giving 100% and more, and sometimes that’s too much, and sometimes that’s not enough, but the one thing it always is, without a doubt, is me.

I take responsibility for things, even when they are not mine, not because it is about making things or situations or emotions about ME, but because it’s about helping me learn, grow, and do and be better. For those who stand by me and love me. I want to be better for YOU.

I will never do anything to willingly hurt myself, ever. Not even on the bad days, the hard days, or the darkest times. There are always moments where I can smile. Wrestle with my kids. Joke with people I love. And remember there is always light in the darkness and there is always magic around you if you believe.

I believe.

I am here. I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. I learn. I grow. I evolve. I make mistakes. I say things thinking they will be seen one way to learn they are taken another. I am afraid of saying the wrong things and sometimes stumble over my words or say nothing at all and in my fear I fill that space with the wrong words at the wrong time and the wrong stories with the wrong endings.

I am still writing my story. This is just a chapter. And the beginning of a new part of my life.

I am not alone. Even when I feel it as such, I am never alone. I am loved. I am valuable. And even when I make mistakes, I hope that all those whom I love can see that I never ever do so with the intention to hurt. Even when my gut reaction is to burn it all down, or rebuild those walls. Or shut down and pretend everything is fine.





I am not okay. And that’s okay.

I will be. We will be. All of us will be.

I hear thoughts. I second guess myself. I am often afraid of what I hear, or how to be honest about what I see. I see more than I say, and I hear more than I am comfortable with but I am still sorting through the truth of what is real and what are my own fears, and what are imagined thoughts, self-doubts, or even my brain trying to convince me that the only way to deal with emotional pain is to make it a physical one. I know it’s lying. I haven’t been that person in decades. And there’s a reason why – aside from friends – I’ve been alone for decades.

Life has too much to offer to keep tearing myself down and building myself back up to have people keep walking away.

I’m not walking away.




here. I don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t have anyone else to be. I only know how to be me. Even the bad parts. Especially the good parts. And I am so blessed to be surrounded by a tribe of people who pick me up and hold me every time that I feel like I am falling down, or drowning.

I love you. Thank you.



tomorrow life without a paddle

Sometimes the words come tumbling out. Other times they get stuck somewhere between my head and my heart and my brain. Sometimes I’m having five conversations with myself in my head all at once and it takes such effort to quiet and focus it that I have to reset and step back and slow down. I can’t always control it, and, like the chaos theory, even the most random of things that seemingly come out of nowhere are actually quite clearly interlinked in my brain even when the outside world can’t see or understand how.

Deterministic chaos. Everything out of order still in its own order. A paradox because it connects two notions that are familiar and commonly regarded as incompatible.

Sitting on the tarmac after a long week away feeling a bit lost and disjointed, a little displeased with myself in some ways, a whole lot proud of myself in others, working through some hard stuff, fighting through some heavy stuff, figuring out what weight to carry all on my own, who’s weight I can help carry, who’s stuff I can help physically move (in, in this case), and what I can put down, pick up later, or simply leave behind.

Wow. That was a tumble of words that I can hear my English Lit professor in my head telling me is too long and rambling and then I point out James Joyce and how he writes even though I hate his writing.

Sometimes my brain does that. It’s just how I process. It’s just how I deal. I know that I am not wired the same. I’ve spent countless hours over since my father died explaining my (and his) brain to my sister and brother to help them understand. It just works differently. I revisited some of Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison’s book to remind myself of some of it, and how far since she wrote that back in 1995 our understanding of the brain, and treatments and everything have come. Reading some of the excerpts and summary on Wikipedia (because I am on a plane and I don’t have the book with me) I was reminded of something I’d almost entirely forgotten she wrote. The section on “This Medicine, Love.”

It’s something I’ve never truly experienced before in many ways, and certainly never in the way I have at the present time. I think that’s part of what makes it so scary – because when I look inside my own unquiet mind, for all its years of healing and change and growth, and all the work I’ve done on me, there’s a part of me that will always question myself. I still argue with myself over things such as being confident – and not. Being afraid, and completely content. Being sure of what’s coming next, and totally unsure of anything beyond tomorrow. It’s exhausting, thinking in circles like that sometimes, but like the chaos theory, eventually it all sorts itself out.

That’s the beautiful thing. None of our brains are truly linear. Mine just happens to be even less so than most. But it all sorts itself out and makes sense if I remember to stop and breathe along the way.

Funny thing is, leaving wasn’t hard. It was the going home that got me. It made me realize the difference and why. How a home so full with life could feel so empty at the same time, realizing it also isn’t empty at all but just filled with my own insecurities and self-doubts that I need to clean out of my heart and my home and my head for good. Even if they never really fully leave, I know I can make peace with them and move forward again. I am good at that, and when I let things bounce around and rattle about and ping-pong all over up there, eventually what settles is the good stuff. That’s what stands out and that’s what my brain holds on to and carries forward with me into tomorrow.


I can deal with the inauthenticity tomorrow and in the days ahead. I despise it, but I know the difference between the gaslighting and lying and rumors locally vs the reality that exists, or even the reasons for some of the shifting and why some things absolutely must happen behind the scenes because shouting our truths from the rooftops doesn’t help anyone when those truths cause hurt and anger and pain to people we love.

My patience often fails me. My math brain prefers logic, but my heart believes in magic and when I try to reconcile that, sometimes I run myself in circles. Sometimes I run the people I love in circles. It’s amazing that any of them can keep up, but they do. Even when they don’t understand how my brain works, or it is working in completely opposite ways than theirs do, they are still there. How blessed am I to have that in my life on any level? How selfish of me to ask for more, even though I want it.

I’m learning that what we want isn’t what really matters. What matters is how we spend our time, who we surround ourselves with in our lives, and learning the balance between integrity and authenticity and understanding that they are not the same thing.

Sometimes we need integrity to work through inauthenticity. Sometimes we need to allow and understand why things may be or need to feel a little inauthentic at times for the consideration of others, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when it becomes the accepted, the norm, or filled with lies and gaslighting. I’m learning there’s a difference between lying and inauthenticity, too although often times they overlap in life.

I am so tired of building something great, or something that I believe to be great, or will be great, or may grow to be something great, to be wrong. And it would seem I am just SO tired of that, that for some reason my mathematical brain decided that if one thing is going to blow up, they all should. Keep it neat and orderly. The order of chaos. It’s why I like a clean house, lack of clutter, organization. Sure my dresser drawers are messy and filled with unfolded clothes, but that’s okay as long as they stay neatly tucked away from view. Organized chaos.

But life IS messy. Life IS hard. Life IS challenging. And it’s all that stuff that we work through together that builds us up for the good times ahead. For the smiles and laughter to come. For the changes in the road aren’t all hills to climb. There’s a time in the future where the road rises to meet us, and encourages us on, not forcing us uphill or tumbling us down the other side. That’s the opposite of what I’ve been doing – understanding that, accepting that, and accepting myself.

If one thing burns down, may as well burn it all down, why not? Clean slate. Set it all on fire and start over. But what if there is only one thing that needs to burn to get to the better stuff ahead? Is it really worth setting the world on fire in spite of myself, or to spite myself or those around that are inauthentic? Are they ALL really inauthentic or are only some of them guilty of gaslighting and rumors and trying to control the narrative to the detriment of others, while some perhaps, are actually trying to do all that for the good of those around them. Sometimes I have a hard time sorting through the difference and making sure my reactions and emotions are directed in the right places, and the right people, and most importantly at the right times.

So what’s next? Where do we go from here? Perhaps I should start with not borrowing trouble and pain from tomorrow. Today already has enough of its own. Perhaps I should forgive myself for my shortcomings, and stop looking at myself in the mirror feeling like it doesn’t entirely look like me, and not understanding how others see me. Perhaps I should be a little bit kinder and more patient with those around me. Perhaps I should be a little bit kinder and more patient with myself. Perhaps I should start changing my mind about the love I think I deserve, and accept the love that’s right in front of me, and start feeling a little more at home in my house and my mind and, perhaps, even my body.

We’ll get there. I know I am ready for what’s next, I just need to be patient until those around me are ready, too. And I need to remember to love myself along the way. I already love you. I’m the hard one to love, at least through my own eyes it seems. But that’s okay. I’m changing. And so is everything around me in its own chaotic perfection.

Anna Todd dark meets light chaos lifewithoutapaddle