From autopilot to authentic

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Have you ever felt like your biggest successes come after a period of intense uncertainty and scrutiny? I think that some people are innately focused on creating a soft spot to land during hard times—that’s me.

In the last two years—after going through a separation, family health issues and more—I feel like I’ve grown the most than in my previous thirty-something years on the planet. 

A mid-career separation was the catalyst for a lot of change in my life that has taken me through many valleys and peaks. But for every valley it left me in—I still had the strength to wake up every morning and carry on. “Just keep swimming” (for those of you who know me well, I am a Disney fanatic.) and that’s what I did. That one statement gave me the strength I needed to keep going even when I couldn’t see the path ahead.

Carrying on meant I had to grow up in a completely different way—and quickly. By all means, I am not afraid of change. I’ve always been the one to change jobs, hair styles, household paint colours with no stress. But this was different.

One of my girlfriends hit the nail on the head:

“Brave people can break out of the autopilot life and be authentic. That takes change. And most people are afraid of change.”

Surviving financially (buying my own house!) and building my own routine was paramount to the confidence I was building in myself. But just as things would build to a peak, I would just as quickly tumble down. I’d think to myself what am I doing wrong? I started to think about myself and what I worried about. People talking about me, my career, my family. 

I gathered a lot of strength from looking inward. It helped me to not only heal, but also lead. The great Brene Brown and her wise advice on leading from the heart, not hurt really shows how this is possible.

Fast forward two years later—the idea of the Durham Women’s Network, was my soft spot to land in a climate of uncertainty. I knew I had something in me to create, instead of worrying and projecting my fears on to others. It has come at a time when I have found stability in my family life, with a partner who is amazingly supportive. This new network was going to help drive the upward trajectory I was on.

The initial idea was a spark that entered my mind in March 2019. I attended the Whitby Chamber of Commerce Connect Women event, and it made me think about how woman-to-woman support exists and needs to be more accessible. If I was feeling uncertain and needing support—surely someone else felt the same? I knew it was time to model the change that needed to happen. 

I also happened to run into long-time friend Kerri King at the event, who had mentored me through the years. And after just a short day of some powerful discussions about major changes in both of our lives, I had courage to share an idea with her. The Durham Women’s Network.

What if… women could support other women like this EVERYDAY. It is time to feel good enough, to let go of fears. 

I left the event feeling energized. Kerri and I created a Facebook group and planned an inaugural event in April, and a month later we have 2,000 plus members who want to network, grow and learn together. I CAN believe in the success of this network, because we needed it as women. My original expectations have been greatly exceeded—a testament to what it means to going with your gut. 

My life is slowly stabilizing and becoming more full with positivity. Has this all made me stronger? Yes. It’s time to be assertive, kind and positioned for success. If you put out positivity into the world, it will come back to you. This is what you deserve—we all deserve it.

What I have come to realize is that my experience led me down an important journey to self awareness. If I thought people were talking about me during my times of challenge—it was likely they were. Accepting that, and being in touch with my own emotions, whether or not they made me feel good, was important. 

It also brought me to the realization that I had left out a lot from my life that I had to add back in.  

  • Connecting with others. Understanding the needs of my children and how they viewed me as a role model gave me strength. My friends were a forcefield for me, and I could not be where I am today without them. As an introvert—connecting with others can take energy from me. But I am learning how to replenish my energy stores and maintain relationships at the same time. 
  • The power of touch. A hand on my shoulder; a hug; a kiss; it all went so far in providing me with what I needed to carry on. 
  • Scheduling time for self care. Not waiting to need it. Being able to put the oxygen mask on myself so I can care for others. We put so much effort into maintenance for everything else – cars, house, why not ourselves? This means—going to the spa; exercise; listening to music; creating art—the pieces of our identity that need tending to maintain who we are.
  • Reconnecting with nature. Experience the sounds of running water, birds, trees, silence. Soothes your soul and recharges you for the real world. 
  • Getting out of my comfort zone with new experiences. It helps to prepare you for change that will inevitably come your way. It exercises your ability to deal with the unknown on your own terms.
  • Travelling. Feel the exhilaration of breathing in new air and taking in new sights and sounds. This is not always easy with so many responsibilities, but can be as easy as camping out an hour from home for a night under the stars.

I know that the journey is still ongoing—there is no rush from me to get to a destination. I have opened a new book in my life and I intend to write this amazing story on my own accord. 

The DWN was a light bulb moment for me. It’s time to shine on.

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