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  • Writer's pictureErin Johnson

Then and Now

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

When I look at the picture of me on the left from seven years ago, I see a woman I hardly recognize. A swollen face. A cluttered house. She is holding a photo of her family, her precious babies, and yet where is her joy? My heart sinks. She was me, just seven years ago.

My mom sent me this picture on my 47th birthday this last month. Knowing my mom, she looked past the sadness in this picture and just saw me as her beautiful child. She did not realize what she was actually sending me. I cringed when I first saw this. It’s hard to look back at a time in your life that felt so weighted with hopelessness. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a gift from the Universe. This picture captured my dark night of the soul.

At that time in my life, I lived in a sort of prison. The prison of my own thoughts and feelings that I could not see as separate from who I was and imprisoned to my situation. I was living in constant fight or flight. I loved those babies in the picture and I felt angry that my overwhelm prevented me from enjoying them and giving them and myself what we needed and desired: one on one time. I felt like a failure, that I could not meet all of their needs, that I was overweight, mostly stuck on a coach to ease their separation fears, that I was sleep-deprived, that I had no time alone, and that my husband, Bryan, was not happy. I felt imprisoned by his negativity and criticism.

I had to sit down and try to remember what exactly was going through my mind at that very moment. Many memories came flooding back to me. I was discontented about receiving another thing that I needed to find a place in my house for. Something else to squeeze into my life. A picture that did not bring me joy and a frame that I didn’t especially like. In addition to that, I was being forced to take a picture when I felt disgusted with myself on the inside and out.

I remember when my throat chakra first opened up, independent of my control. I was sitting on the couch in my imprisoned location, with babies fighting for free space on my lap, and Bryan was working on something in the living room. We were all there together. He was unhappy, and the kids were crying, and- out of nowhere- my body began violently wailing. Bryan looked at me with shock and fear because- up until that time- he had been the one who allowed the verbal anger to flow freely, not me. This was the beginning of my own vocal release. Sometimes, I would wail, but what developed was habitual yelling. When I wasn’t scrolling through my phone as a means to flee my present life to tropical destinations or lives of other Mamas who appeared to have their shit together, I was probably yelling.

The thing that bothered me most was that I knew this hadn't been me for most of my life. Most people would describe my younger self as highly patient, open to listening to anyone, a helper to those that needed it, and peaceful. Yet, the more days, months, and years I spent in this habitual state, the more my perception of myself was changed. I no longer liked myself.

Years later, I began to meditate. I began to see myself as separate from my thoughts, emotions, and even actions, which allowed me to develop a growth mindset rather than remain locked into a model based on negativity and self-disdain. Then, I found Loving Awareness, which is the art of allowing yourself, rather than loving or liking yourself. I began to embrace myself in all my humanness, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. I was also experiencing God within my soul- my innate beauty. My connectivity to the Universe. I saw everyone as a part of me and me a part of them. All of this allowed things to begin to flow in my life, and I could feel change occurring in myself.

When I look at this picture on the right, I see a woman I've grown to love. Forty-five pounds lighter. No clutter. She is joyful and full of gratitude for all that has opened up for her. But, mostly, I know that she has a deep love for the woman in the first picture. For it was her former self who dared to take one step at a time into the changes that led her here.

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