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

cjmillar82 life without a paddle

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

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

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

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

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

step forward cjmillar82 life without a paddle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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