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September is probably my favorite month out of the whole year, and it's not just because of my birthday. It's because of one of my favorite seasons finally arrives after the long, hot summer-fall, or autumn. The air grows a bit colder, the trees are a little more colorful, the days grow shorter, and everything in its path is undergoing a transformation that will eventually lead to winter. The fall holidays come one after another, from Indigenous People's Day to Halloween, and from Veteran's Day to Thanksgiving. (Notice how I'm not including Christmas in the mix. I tend to celebrate the holidays one at a time. I don't like rushing the seasons or holidays. You can do as you please with starting your Christmas celebrations early. I won't stop you.) But what's the most beautiful thing about fall, you ask?

Just as the trees slowly start to change colors and let go of their leaves, we may undergo different processes to let go of the things that may not matter to us anymore. What does it look like? It can be just about anything - you go through clothes that are either too small or too big for you to wear and give them away to those who could put it to good use. Or it's rummaging through toys, books, CDs, DVDs, and more and donate them to an organization that would give these items to those in need. Or it's looking through the friend list on Facebook or Instagram and seeing who still belongs in your life or needs to be let go. (Believe me, that's VERY hard to do!) Or it's going through yearbooks and pictures of yourself when you're younger and seeing how far you've come in growing up and maturing. It can be just about anything you want. The important thing is to LET GO. (I won't start singing "Let It Go," I promise!) We all have to do it sometime. And it may not even have to take place during fall. It can happen at any time of the year. But here's something to remember: it's NEVER easy to let go. Take it from someone who knows. I've held onto SO MANY things in my life for YEARS, and they range from video cassettes, books, toys, even my security blanket for a long time. I believed that they were a part of me, and if I let any of those things go, a piece of me goes away with it. I wouldn't know how to function in society without these items that I've held so dear to my heart. But it wasn't just the items that became a part of me. It was also the experiences I've had growing up in an abusive household. It was being bullied and picked on in high school. It was the rough growing pains starting out as an actress. It was all of those things that I've held onto for so long that became second nature to me. (Want to learn more? Read my "I'm A Survivor" blog series.) Think about it: Whenever I did something wrong or even didn't do anything wrong, I would be reprimanded in harsh ways. It could be something as frightening as the silent treatment or even the constant shouting and cussing that would go on for a few minutes when it feels like an eternity. If I stood up for myself, I would always receive an emotional and mental lashing because I believed in what my father, sister, and bullies said about me. The words and actions became ingrained in my psyche for many years, and it slowly remained there as if I was the individual they told me I was because of the abuse I've endured for so long. If I even tried to change the smallest thing about me, I would be called out as "stupid" or "ugly" or worse and would revert back to my old self. Don't get me wrong. Every day I carried the pain, scars, and humiliation throughout my life. And at the same time, I wanted to let it go permanently. But I was hesitant because I believed that if I removed each piece of the hurt from within my mind and heart, I wouldn't recognize myself. It's as if I was destined to be this person my father, sister, and bullies told me that I was through constant abuse and mistreatment. Or even become my father, sister, or any of the bullies who tormented me for so long. But deep down, I knew that it wasn't true, and I HAD to let it go. Was it going to be easy? If you've carried all of the pain, scars, memories, and words for a long period of time, the answer is a definite NO. The first step in letting go is realizing that you need to let go. Not WANT, but NEED. It's no longer serving a purpose for you, and it's holding you back instead of allowing you to grow. You are only surviving instead of living your life, and we were not meant to only survive. And that has to come from YOU. No matter how many people tell you that you need to let go, YOU have to be the one to take that first step. And sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. You've held onto so much for so long, it's now a part of you, and if you try to part with it, a piece of you goes away with it. You may not even recognize yourself anymore if you let it go. But you know it has to be done. You want to change so you can move forward, rediscover who you are, and embrace the new self in order to thrive in your life, not just survive. Letting go is painful, that much I can tell you. You will be tempted to hold onto memories, words, actions, and so much more because it became a part of you. For many years, you believed that they were true and no other information or truths are right about you. "I can't part with that! There's so much meaning behind that." "Who would I be without this?" "It's too dear to me to give up." But you have to realize that if it didn't serve you then and it still doesn't today, if it hurt you, or it just doesn't make any sense, it's time to release what was holding you back for so long. Even if an item has all the meaning in the world to you and is special to you, it's time to let go and allow someone else to have the opportunity to have that joy you've experienced. But here's the important part about letting go that DOES feel good. It releases so much pressure and weight from your shoulders that you feel lighter. You can see it clearly now. You can understand why it hurt you and how much you deserve to heal and expect nothing but love and kindness going forward. You begin to discover your resilience and courage for taking that first step in letting go. You start to surround yourself with others who are like-minded, positive, friendly, sincere, and compassionate in order to thrive in healthy relationships. Most of all, you realize the person you were many years ago isn't the same exact individual, and you begin to mature, grow, thrive, and understand how far you've come in letting go and how far you will go in your life as a healthier you. It took me a LONG time to let go. And it wasn't easy. It took 6-7 years of therapy, growing up, being out in the world, and maturing to see and understand that the person I was when I was a little girl isn't the same one anymore. I was so sure that all of the abusive and bullying I've experienced in my life was deserved and it was my fault. But here's a little secret I found out. Even with all of the therapy, heart-to-heart discussions with loved ones, and even moving away, the only one who can truly make the effort to let go is me. I have to be the one to let all of the affirmations, guidance, clarity, meditations, and much more sink into my psyche and BELIEVE in them. It took a lot of repetitions, prayers, reading, and being surrounded by people who loved me to realize that I'm not the things my father, sister, or bullies said I was, and that I have worth and so much to give in this world. It didn't happen overnight that I automatically let go of all the negativity and pain from the past. There were relapses after a bad period or frustrations over things not going my way. But I didn't give up. I couldn't. It was as if that small voice was telling me to keep hanging in there and continue to move forward. Call it my conscience, call it my guardian angel, call it God, call it whatever you will. I had to be the one who wanted to let go of so much baggage and start opening my eyes to who I really am and believe that I have so much worth, even if there are few people out there who don't see it or want to see it. And after so much struggling, soul searching, learning, discussions, and even unloading physical and mental memories, I can honestly say that I'm now at a place where I'm happy again. I'm stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally. I'm healing, thanks to time and prayer. I'm in a positive and safe space. I'm doing what makes me happiest. And I can now see that I'm loved, appreciated, and worth so much to my friends and family. Do I still have my moments of doubt? Yes. Do I still have to ask for affirmations? Of course! Do I still find myself questioning things? Absolutely! But then again, that's normal for just about all of us. It doesn't mean that you're a failure. It means that we're human. Believing in ourselves can be the hardest thing to do when we're tasked with doing something that seems impossible or intimidating. But I find that surrounding yourself with individuals who not only know of your capabilities and appreciate what you have to offer, but also guide you, encourage you, and even challenge you at times can make all of the difference in the world. And here's something else to remember: what seems "impossible," can be translated into two new words - "I'm possible". You can thank Audrey Hepburn for that. And even she had her moments of doubt when she worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, like Gregory Peck and Cary Grant. But she exuded so much kindness, gentleness, and love that it proved to be enough, even more than enough, to appreciate and understand her worth. Letting go doesn't necessarily mean giving up the gifts and qualities that make you who you are. I'm not planning on giving up my kindness, gentle spirit, compassion, understanding, patience, and curiosity among other things. Those are a part of me. But if there are habits or ideas or questions that have been swirling around your psyche and being for a long time and are more of a nuisance than anything, it may be time to rethink some things and do some changes, little by little. Remember, it doesn't happen overnight, and breaking bad habits are VERY hard to do. It just takes time. That's the thing to remember with letting go. Even after parting with items, memories, and people, it takes time to fully feel the effects and release of the weight that's been holding you down. And YOU have to be the one to make that effort and choice to do so. It's not easy, but it will help you in the long haul as an individual. (As mentioned in my previous blogs, these are just my experiences and ideas that I've dealt with and learned in my life. In other words, these are my opinions, and you are welcome to disagree with me if you wish, or even offer your ideas on what I've said. All I ask is that you do it in a way that's both civil and respectful. Times are hard right now, and the last thing I need is to get into a sparring match with those who can't even have a coherent discussion with differing ideas present.)

What's interesting about fall is all the changes nature undergoes as it prepares for the long winter ahead. Perhaps that's another reason why fall one of my favorite times of the year. There's just so much TRANSFORMATION. Believe it or not, we undergo a transformation in different ways. We gain or lose weight. We grow older and (hopefully!) wiser. Our hairs become gray or white. We start aging, which may lead to slower walking and stiff joints. A woman becomes pregnant and glows (quite literally!) with anticipation for the new life waiting to be born. We grow taller. Our eyesight grows stronger or weaker as we grow older. But it's not always a physical transformation we undergo. Much of the time it's emotional and mental. We become aware of our feelings and learn that it's okay to feel. We see with our own eyes as children that we pick up things and actions adults do, even if it's not right. We grow up and discover that what we've learned as kids isn't always right and are encouraged to learn and mature in our own thoughts and lives. We learn lessons about true friendship, unconditional love, courage, understanding, open-mindedness, and more qualities that shape who we are for good. Our past plays a big part in our lives, and it could either help us mature or allows us to live in fear. But most of all, we start to realize what WORTH means, and it can either help us or hamper us. We all undergo transformations, whether we like it or not. Sometimes, people resist the transformations and changes that come into their lives out of fear of the unknown. It's okay to feel that way. Lord knows I've done some resisting myself. But as a certain Vulcan always says: "CHANGE is the only constant." Every day we change. It can be as simple as our clothes, accessories, makeup, and more things that pertain to our physical body. Or it can be complex as thoughts, ideas, dreams, and wishes. If you want to talk about changes in this particular case, the idea of a new administration with every passing election year featuring new congresspeople, laws, rules, and doctrines can be the very reason why so many people want to resist change because of their beliefs they so stubbornly abide by. Politics is never an easy thing to change, let alone talk about with others without exploding and both sides getting hurt. It may take being more informed about the world around you and finding credible sources to help change our minds. (There's nothing that frustrates me more than people not relying on credible sources.) But we shouldn't have to be afraid of change. It's a part of life. Just as the seasons change, so do we. It may be good, it may be bad, it may be in between. But it's a part of us, just the same. What I hope you'll take away from this week's blog is that change is a way of life. It's scary, yes, but it can also be quite the adventure. Maybe this change is a way to help us adapt outside of our comfort zones and thrive in new environments rather than give up and stay in one spot. And here's something else that I hope you realize. It's okay to let go. It may be for the best, and that's okay. It takes time to let go and see with new eyes what has held you back for so long. It's sad to part with an item, place, or memory that has been a part of you for so long. But perhaps it's time for someone else to experience that joy and make memories of their own. It may be hard to let go and transform into this new self because of all the experiences, memories, and thoughts that you've had held onto throughout your life. But you will feel better in the long run when you do let go and release so much of the weight and pressure that has been holding you back for so long. Will this happen overnight? No, not really. Is there a magic formula to make this transformation and change possible? I wish. But the only one who can make this all possible and start to move forward is YOU. And believing in yourself is possibly the hardest step you will have to face in order to truly transform and change. It's nice to have people around you who will help and guide you along the way, but you have to be willing to do all the work and surround yourself with people who can affirm your gifts and capabilities, and even inspire you to bet on yourself to do the things you didn't think you could do. I still have a hard time accepting this new self that I am, and I'm finding that's normal. I've lost 71 pounds, I've moved into a bigger apartment in a new city, I'm actually doing a career which makes me happy and gives me purpose, and I'm surrounded by like-minded individuals who make me smile, laugh, think, and even challenge me every day to be a better, more informed person. It's a lot to take in. Don't get me wrong; I'm happy with all of these changes and transformations, and there are still times when I don't believe that it all happened. But here's something that may help: PATIENCE. Allow yourself time to accept and embrace the new self you've become. You can take all of the time you need. It's on YOUR schedule, not anyone else's. And then, when you're ready, go out and celebrate. I know I'm planning a big celebration when this pandemic is over, and I know I'm not the only one. But even if you can't go out right now, celebrate in your homes with your loved ones, even via Zoom. Remember, the caterpillar had undergone changes in order to transform into a butterfly. And even that takes time and patience. There's beauty in the fall months, and it all has to do with change and transformation. See if you can find beauty and hope in your transformations. No matter how big or small, they're there. And here's one more thing to remember: "Times change, and we change with them." You can thank Mr. William Henry Harrison for that.

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