Beauty In The Breakdown–Four Years Later

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Another year…another anniversary of me leaving a country I called home, a man I referred to as my husband, and the only adult life I had ever known.

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been four years already (time surely does fly when you’re working on rebuilding yourself, creating a life that’s worth living, and reassuring yourself at least one hundred times that you’re going to be ok).

Each year I’ve written a blog on this anniversary (the anniversary of leaving my husband). For now, it’s the one I hold closest to my heart…I can’t remember the exact date I got married, or the day I moved to Germany, but I will always remember the day I moved “home.” In the past, this particular blog has gotten thousands of views and I accredit that to the title of 1. Why Leaving My Husband Was the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done, and 2.Why Leaving My Husband Is Still the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done — Three Years Later Although it’s clearly a popular title and it intrigues people to read what is on my heart, I’ve decided to switch things up for my fourth year anniversary.

That was my story then, and it will always be a part of my ongoing journey throughout life, but as it remains that’s no longer my present, simply a chapter (a rather long chapter) that I’ll now refer to as “Beauty in the Breakdown.” It’s a story about who you thought you once were vs. who you choose to become.

Do you remember growing up and listening to your parents tell you that you could be anything you wanted? Well, that’s still true to some degree. But, we do grow up, we get hurt, we get knocked down, and as a result we become fearful and even more vulnerable. In today’s society there’s more people telling us what we can’t do, rather that what we can.

As I’ve grown up, and continue to do so I find that my truest form of beauty comes from reinvention and the ongoing choice to continuously re-write, re-create, and change my proposed purpose.

Throughout the past four years, my exterior has certainly changed but it’s more about my interior and how it’s made the most improvement. A year ago, I had a difficult time attending weddings of friends that I hold dear to me, a year before that I wasn’t always able to process my feelings an in turn did everything humanly possible to mask the pain; I worked out way too much, had one to many drinks (ok, four or five) too many drinks at the bar while out with friends, I sobbed in the middle of the day for no reason asking myself “why me?” There were days when I felt empowered, and days when I literally wanted to quit life. I remember sitting on the couch across from my therapist asking when I’d get mad instead of sad, wondering if the immense amount of pain and confusion I was feeling would ever subside or if I’d just have to accept the overwhelming feeling of anxiety forever. Although she wasn’t able to answer my question with utmost certainty, she told me that as time went on, I’d begin to heal in various ways.

As I write this years anniversary blog, I still wholeheartedly believe that leaving my husband was the best thing I’ve ever done, but this year I’ve also come to the realization that there’s SO much more ahead of me; more struggles, more failures, more setbacks, more heartache — and as a result those hurdles may in fact become the best thing I’ve ever done…

I firmly believe that leaving a situation that I was so unhappy in, that ate away at me both mentally and physically, and that didn’t fill up my tank the way it needed to be filled was the best choice at the time, despite it feeling like the most gut-wrenching one.

Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d be ok, I didn’t know if I’d make it out alive, and I didn’t know what life after divorce would look like for me…if anything. Well, it’s been four years and I’m here to tell you that I’m better than ok. Yes, I’m human and have my days (even months) where I’m not 100% clear where I’m going or what direction I should be heading in, but I’ve never been so sure of my purpose, or my ability to create this magical space, and continue to share my story, to allow someone, anyone to see that they’re not alone.

I was afraid of the unknown, of uncertainty, of judgement of not being enough for him before, or myself after.  I was afraid to share any piece of my story, but I’m so, so glad I did, and I do. Similar to fitness; I didn’t know what was real and what was fake. Yet through the process of self-acceptance and self exploration, I stopped believing the myths that leaving behind the title of Mrs. would somehow make me less than, when in fact it made me more than– more than I ever thought possible.

If you think about it, we’re all in this together. So thank you (yes you), for having my back, I appreciate it, and I’ll continue to have yours by sharing my truths no matter how uncomfortable it may make me, in hopes that it will comfort someone else’s pain.

Let’s cut the bullshit and be honest about ourselves and our stories because once we do, we realize that our stories are what make us human, they’re what connect us to one another on a greater scale, and allow us to see just a glimpse of our potential purpose in this great big world we call home.

Sometimes, the most beautiful form of creativity comes from suffering. For me, each beautiful piece of artwork was birthed by failure, defeat, heartache and loss.

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“I Did.” > “I Do.”

jl-14I’ve had a lot of recent successes- what feels like success to me, and I suppose what looks like success to others. In the past few months I was invited to give a keynote speech to hundreds of women about my journey (big moment for me), I landed the cover of Be Well Philly’s annual health and wellness magazine, and I graced the pages of the New Balance Women’s catalog as more than a fitness model, but rather a role model. I’d say I’m well on my way to making a name for myself in the fitness industry.

I’ve gotten an overwhelming amount of “congrats” and “I’m so proud of you” moments, and I so appreciate them, but…there’s more, more that you probably won’t see me gracing any magazine pages for- more that may be passe to speak of because my exterior paints a much different picture than my interior. It’s an image of seemingly doing well that people are proud of, yet it was not doing well that has led me to the point in my career that is now considered successful.

Too often people fear sharing the not so pretty side of their seemingly glamorous life, but I truly believe that to be a mistake.

As I’m sure you know, and it’s rather apparent- I haven’t been blogging as often as I once did, for various reasons but one in particular that makes me feel like a phony, because I’m not practicing what I preach.

I preach the importance of making time for yourself, and to make time for what truly matters. Yet I’m failing time and time again to realize how much matter. The phrase “I matter” is something I still struggle with because I’m so used to putting others first; their schedules, health concerns, and feelings. Yet as I tell each client the importance of giving back to themselves, at the end of the day I find myself with nothing left to give.

This isn’t something that happened overnight, it’s something that I’ve allowed to happen for years. When returning back to the sates (three years ago) I threw every fiber of my being into my business, allowing me to solely focus on the present, without truly facing or dealing with my past. As I’m reminded by my past I force myself to be grateful, and thankful for my present and my future- yet I struggle with allowing myself to just be, whether that’s here or there.

Yesterday was, or what would have been my sixth wedding anniversary. I didn’t really speak much of it but I felt (the memory of what I once imagined life to look like) staring back at me.

Please believe me when I say I don’t want that life…I did then, but I don’t now. I’ve learned so much about myself, and continue to do so on a regular basis and for that I’m thankful. Yet taking time out for myself is something I need to make a priority. Often times I don’t deal with my feelings as they arise, but later on when I have no other choice but to confront them. I’m just like everyone else who struggles with negative coping mechanisms. Moments of drinking too much, attempting to eat my way through feeling better, and overall just feeling bad about myself-but I know I’m not alone, and as cliche as that may sound, I believe it to be true. I know I’m not the only person that struggles with demons from the past and that’s why I continue to share the realness of my life.

It’s so important for me to be transparent in a world of people that are driven by fear (I’m often one of those people too), to allow others to see that their journey and what they feel may be a failure is indeed not that. It’s an opportunity for change.

I think sometimes because something happened years ago we think shouldn’t discuss it, that we should automatically be over it, and no longer have any feelings associated with that memory. I call bullshit. In fact, I think it’s important that no matter what you’re feeling, you address it, and remind yourself that there is no right or wrong here, there just is.

For me, it’s reassuring myself that it’s ok to invest in my personal life as much as my business. I’ve grown my business with purpose and through potential, and I’ve learned to be ok with the ups and downs of that, yet I still need a lot of work when it comes to being fully capable of giving myself permission to potentially fall on my face and be less guarded in my personal life.

This is mainly for me, but also for all of you reading this- as long as you’re moving, you’re creating. Take time out for yourself and begin to create. Forward motion.

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What’s Your Biggest Fear?


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A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for an incredible event that brought nearly 700 women together through fitness. I was asked to share my journey and how it’s impacted my life.

In Philadelphia Magazine, and on social channels it was displayed as such; “In the face of unexpected hardship and pain Jayel Lewis learned that the only way to overcome obstacles and rebuild the pieces of her life was to quit pretending to be perfect and just get real- with herself, her friends, her family. Through her inspiring story, Lewis will share how that one decision indelibly changed- perhaps even saved- her life.”

While preparing my speech and trying to find the right words that would connect to an audience that knew little to nothing about me, I found myself having a difficult time. Should I introduce myself, should I go right into my story, should I start from the beginning, or maybe the end? These were all questions that I didn’t necessarily have an answer to, but as time went on, I was left with one question…

What is your biggest fear? 

That’s how I opened my speech because it would get people thinking about what they were afraid of, it’s something we can all relate to.

As I went on to share my journey, and my story, my heartbeat began to slow down, my breathing was no longer shallow, and I didn’t have this sense of urgency when it came to explaining every little detail. I was at peace, I was in a place were I actually felt comfortable, and empowered to share how my story and how my biggest fears have lead me to where I am, and to who I am today.

Just a few years ago I was so incredibly uncomfortable telling people about where I was in life, because at the time I saw it as defeat, I saw it as something negative and was unable to see the possibility of it becoming positive. I was in a very dark place and didn’t know the “right” way out. I was so accustom to holding my feelings in and not sharing them with anyone, but by doing so; that made me sick. Not only physically, but mentally as well. Whether I liked it or not, I was living a lie, a lie that would eventually become my truth…

Although it often takes a lot of guts, and a lot of balls to share your truths, now matter how difficult they may be, that’s what will ultimately set you free. You see, we all have a choice- how we comeback, how we suffer, and how we overcome some of our biggest fears, whether they’ve already happened to us or not. What we take from those situations, and what we choose to apply to our everyday life is up to us.

It’s on us so we begin to pave the way for others; for others to find their voice, and to share it. We all have a voice, believe me, we do…we just have to have enough balls to speak up to whoever is  listening, and by doing so we begin to create a cyclic cycle, a pattern of positivity, of acceptance, and other women embracing one another for it all. Although the struggle may be real, we have to understand that we don’t have to struggle alone.

At the end of the day, most of us are fearful of the same thing – experiencing pain. Although the cause may be different, we fear suffering the same effect.

My fears…? At the time they were relevant, they ended up becoming my own worst nightmare, but it was also those individual fears that taught me lessons of how to overcome unexpected hardship, what success means, what triumph takes, and what defeat feels like. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to continue to speak my truths.

For the full speech: Click Here 

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Why Leaving My Husband is Still the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done – Three Years Later

AB-10It’s been three years since I boarded a plan from Germany, back to the States. It’s an anniversary I’ll always remember. While my friends surround me and celebrate the anniversary of their weddings, their children’s birth, and the day they bought their house, I’m reminded that my anniversary, this anniversary is just as important.

I may not be where my friends are in their lives, because I took a much different path to end up where I am today, but I’m so grateful I did. While it was not an easy road, and it’s still quite bumpy at times, it’s one I needed to take.

For years I tried to make my relationship with my then husband work time and time again, and time, and time again, it failed- yet at the time was failing to see that the relationship I needed to work on the most, was the one I had with myself. There were numerous times I wanted to leave, wasn’t happy, and was lying to everyone around me. I did this for so long that it became comfortable, it became normal, and I feared what was on the other side.

It was a place of the unknown.

Every time I wanted needed change, doubt crept in. Fear was at the forefront of my brain and all of the reasons why I shouldn’t ended up being the reasons why I did.

Being comfortable is something we all strive for. Whether it’s in the form of financial stability, job security, or in our relationships with others, and it’s a feeling that we tend to let lie around (in certain situations) for far too long.

Right before we’re supposed to take a leap of faith everything seems uncertain- it’s scary, and often paralyzing, yet we know it’s something that must be done in order to take the next steps.

I speak candidly when I say leaving my husband was the best thing I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t easy, by any means. To this day I struggle with commitment issues- that spans from where I’m going to make dinner reservations to my personal relationships with others. I still have anxiety over the unknown, and have a difficult time trusting people. I’m still in therapy (thank God), and truly fear loss. When people say that they’ve made the right choice, that doesn’t mean that it comes without baggage. It simply means that the choice they left behind, the one that didn’t make the cut, was far worse than the choice that they’ve made to move on.

Looking back I would have been in a relationship that I was trying to make work which ultimately never would have, but now I’ve learned to be in a much more open, honest, and genuine relationship…with myself.

I’ve learned so much about who I am, who I was, and who I no longer wish to be. I’ve become something I never thought imaginable and I have myself to thank, honor, and applaud for making a choice that seemed nearly impossible but oh so necessary. Whether I was still in a relationship with my ex, or where I am today- they all require great work and continuous effort.

Three years “sober” and free (I will use that word loosely) of my past, I’m a living testimony that we must leave what may seem comfortable for the mere reason that it no longer serves us in a way it once did.

The people that tell you it’s easy, are lying, but knowing you have a choice will set you free.

 

Perception is a Bitch

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The way people perceive you will always be just that…the way that they perceive you. As I get older, I like to think that I’m becoming wiser, that the opinions others have formed about me don’t hold value, and that I am able to do it all. If only that were the case. When someone sees you, they view you from the outside looking in, they have no idea what it takes to be you on a daily basis. They see a glossy picture that they begin to create in their head of who you are, and at times we have a tendency to mirror that image–for various reasons. We want people to see us as having it all together, as being able to pull it off, and as picture perfect. The fact is that in that moment we’re given several options. We can continue to allow others to think that our life is as they see it, or we can begin to allow people to see us for who we really are.

Nowadays people are slowly becoming more authentic. Not that it wasn’t always there, but it’s something I think people struggle with; the truth. For both themselves and others. We all struggle with something, whether or not we choose to admit it. A few years ago people viewed my life as picture perfect, it was far from that, but yet I was trying my hardest to make it feel picture perfect. I had so much pressure coming from (none other than myself) to be in this magical relationship, to live a life others would dream of living, to smile at every possible thing I could, and yet, inside I was dying. My soul was unnourished, my heart was broken, and my story that I was portraying was no longer mine, it no longer belonged to me. It belonged to everyone else because they created it, and I allowed it to be my reality. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I had a voice. That I was just as guilty as everyone else for allowing them to paint a picture of me, that in fact, didn’t resemble me at all. I realized that although my voice may have been muted for awhile, it still existed. It may not have been the loudest in the room, but it was mine. It didn’t always make sense, and it wasn’t always pretty, but it was still mine. Learning I had a voice, was me also learning that at any given moment, I had the ability to rewrite my own story, and thats when I began to be authentic. I didn’t care if people were listening, but it was something I needed to speak into life on my own.

For as long as I can remember I always held my feelings in, I didn’t know how to express them. I always kept quiet about the things that really bothered me, but that changed. It wasn’t until my world got turned upside down that I realized it was OK to discuss my feelings, both positive and negative.

At first it’s scary. You believe that you’re  supposed to be someone that has their shit together. For me, as a fitness professional, I felt I had to always be on, and I thought that allowing people to see that I wasn’t showed vulnerability, and that was something I didn’t like. It was a feeling that I wasn’t fully comfortable with. Hell, I still struggle with it. I thought about how sharing my weaknesses would discredit me, how opening up would leave room for someone, or something else to hurt me. I thought that people wouldn’t take me seriously, and would allow me to be less than. Yet I knew that I couldn’t live a lie forever.

People aren’t dumb. They know (at some point) when you’re faking it. When you’re pretending, when you’re no longer being your true self. I was the one to call myself out on my own bullshit, and I thank God I did. Authenticity is something you can’t fake, and as it turns out- people don’t want to connect to someone that they don’t view as real. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be one way or the other, when in reality we have to learn how to just be – whatever that may mean, and begin to not allow others to define us, because at the end of the day what will really happen if we don’t meet those preset expectations? Nothing.

Disclaimer; This is something that I must work on consistently, and be reminded of on a daily basis. This is not easy.

By being you and being the authentic you, you begin to create a better relationship with others, but more importantly yourself.

Less perfection, more authenticity.