What I Learned In The Year of Jess

Part 1

I've been mini-blogging (posting on Instagram) as I process the many things I learned in my Year of Jess.

Gathering the lessons, inspirations and Ah-Ha moments of a journey doesn't happen in one sit-down. Sometimes we have to step back from the experience and watch, feel, hear the changes of who we have become. That's how my unpacking is happening....and...I literally still have my suitcase on my bedroom floor NOT fully unpacked. To completely unpack it, might just mean I'm finished. And I'm not finished yet.


Things I Learned In The Year of Jess ✨


After a year of intently exploring personal change, I realized I have the ability to LOVE MYSELF with or without change. BUT I love the spaces I’ve created for myself to be an even BRIGHTER version of me....and that required change.



Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨


Difficulty, hardship, pain, loss , illness and the list goes on. These things ask so much of us. The energy it takes to manage even one of these things can often shut down everything in us except what is absolutely necessary to cope. It takes great intention and choice to open up each sense and embody the moment we are in. After many years of surviving like a queen, I decided it was time to pass through pain and hardship completely present.


It’s scary. It feels impossible. It makes you think you’re weak because you FEEL so much. But it also makes you feel strong...because you truly know who you are. I learned that by being present in my pain that I had a super power. Being present - mind, body and soul- is like walking on water or passing your hand through a brick wall like it’s air or it’s like standing with your hands on your hips, legs shoulder width apart, head held high and cape flowing in the wind.


I learned I was freakin Wonder Womxn!


Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨


Entering a year with the intention to heal myself and find peace with my body brought opportunity as well as expectation.


In a willingness to do whatever it takes to heal, I had to pay close attention to WHAT I was willing to do. The changes and investments had to make sense to the outcomes I was looking for.



So my RISKS looked like : changing my mindset, breaking previous coping skills, undoing false stories I or others were telling me, seeking help when I’m used to doing it all myself, asking for support from the healthy voices...and placing myself in new circles of thought. What it didn’t look like was filling voids with things that only kept pain and healing at bay.


I spent a lot of money in the Year of Jess. I paid close attention to the investment and risk...and then I booked the trip, I hired the life coach, I quit the job and I evaluated my relationships. My risks resulted in the outcomes I expected.


Consider looking at your risk to outcome relationships.

Are they aligned?

Do they point you in the direction you need to be going?


You don’t have to know the in between or even know what you want to learn or change. You just need to be in alignment so that you can confidently take the next step...your Year of You.




Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨


Choosing to heal yourself is one of the hardest things we can do.


Remember that analogy we’ve heard about scraping our knee on the pavement? You know...we have to wash it off and get all the gravel out before we can coat it in medicine and a bandage. We can heal a wound with gravel stuck inside, but if you’re like me, you have looked at the scrape on your knee, acknowledged the gravel, known what it takes to heal it BUT still trusted that the gravel would find it’s way out of the wound ALL ON ITS OWN.

Sometimes when the gravel doesn’t hurt so bad, it’s more comfortable to leave it there. In this analogy, we all KNOW that at some point it will fester, get nasty and scar. It may even move those stones out one by one because the body will eventually push the foreign pieces out in efforts to expel the toxic pieces from us.


My brain surgeon told me to watch for titanium pieces to emerge from my head over the years because the body will try to rid itself of something that’s not naturally it’s own. (Umm...yikes! )


We can choose to fester and pick and poke at each piece of gravel over time OR we can do the hard sometimes painful work of cleaning out our wounds when they happen. I learned in this year that I’m not more comfortable sitting in pain over time...not anymore. I long for joy now. I long for deeply rooted, exempt-of-gravel joy NOW.


THE HARD WORK IS HARD! But the joy found on the other side...THAT is worth the deep cleansing.


And a little side note: you’re a much more pleasant human to coexist with when you’re not a stinky, festering, gravel-puking wound.



Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨


My value. My worth. My beauty. Me.


These are stories I get to write.


When i set out in 2019 to heal myself and find a sense of peace with my bruised body, I did not expect it to lead to bold and conscious steps away from abusive relationships. I thought my broken body only needed to heal physically. How short sided I was.


Being open to wholeness wherever it took me, the essence of the Year of Jess, aloud me to unravel and heal the nooks and crannies of even the unknown pains effecting my body’s ability to heal. As my journey led me to confront the overwhelming levels of anxiety I was exhibiting, I was spending more time in therapy and realized drastic changes were needed.


The biggest was becoming aware of abusive relationships in my life. Someone else was writing the story of me and the longer I remained in these relationships, the more I lost sight of me. Gaslighting is a powerful and destructive physiological abuse and I had contemplated numerous times whether I needed to be checked into a facility’s as my grip on reality was daily in question.


In a last effort to avoid such a drastic action, I hired a life coach (@madisonhedlund ) whose purpose was to help me remember and return to the true stories of me. I took the trip. I changed various environments. I did the hard hard work. Inevitably, I chose to remove myself from the abusive relationships that were exhibiting the traits of this new word (new for me).


My world got both very small and very big all at the same time.


I could hear me again...and i thought I might even like the sound of it. My value was no longer based on the story (false story) that someone else wanted to tell of me. I actually liked my story. I liked who I was outside of merit and qualification.


My spirit was finding peace and I wasn’t spending healing energy on sorting out reality.


I get to write the rest of my story...how ever I want. I have plans to keep my story beautiful, adventurous and healthy.


—-Epic Tree Swing courtesy of Africa and @lisafaraway.



Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨


I am not a disembodied creature.


My soul, my body, my mind...all make one body. They make my home.


I’ve spent nearly my entire life living segmented and disjointed from my whole self. I have given a few key areas credit for this.


Here is one. ....My evangelical Christian faith. Although we say we believe in a loving God with mind body and soul, the practice of church teaches something very different. Our body is more evil than good (starting from birth) and we are taught to suppress all passions for the sake of suffering and holiness. It’s sounds heroic on one level, to suffer. But I think we actually deny a part of God when we see more evil than good in this Home He crafted for me.


When my body took on radical physical changes post brain surgeries, it was way too easy for me to disconnect from my body and create an enemy with it.


My hope in my Year of Jess was to listen intently and merge her back into whole. I started resting when she needed it. I let her enjoy yummy foods and drinks. I gave her time and space to engage all six senses in any given moment. I let her ask for things, desire things, touch things, hope for things and LOVE things.


I felt red dirt between my toes in the center of the world. I tasted coffee and wines in other people’s homes, I ran everywhere and I ran nowhere. I listened to many voices whether I agreed with them or not. I just stopped living outside my life and jumped into the heart of it! ....so today I need to listen again.


She’s very tired and she’s telling me in all her ways that it’s time slow the pace. She needs rest and I’m going to listen.



Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨


For most of my life, I lived with a very core belief... as a woman, I am second to men before God.


The theology I formed my God-belief and world view from, taught that it was woman who was deceived and led man to sin.

Women could not have authority over men, could not teach if a man was present (even determining the proper age for a male minor to be removed from a woman’s or his mother’s teaching) and could not hold roles of leadership.


Today this sounds most ludicrous but when it is the basis for which you understand the world and your place in it, it becomes an act of rebellion and heresy to live differently. It’s not just about taking on a new belief or rule. It’s about undoing the core of how you understand yourself. It’s changing your story. It’s changing the truth of yourself.


I walked into Christian marriage fighting for my submitted position beneath my husband and other male leaders in the church. I was gifted with a husband who tried over and over again to liberate me from this thinking.


But letting go meant letting go of a piece of me. No matter how much my soul cried to be heard and known for my own thoughts, I would have to deny a part of myself. I would need to grieve.


At the unraveling of me, I was also letting go of the previous “physical” version of me (brain surgeries have repercussions). The Year of Jess opened the gates wide for me to grieve and be reborn. But this rebirth does not look like my evangelical Christian theology. I continued to challenge the idea that IF God was good and I acquired a MORE good thought of Him, then maybe the constructs of my theology were wrong.


The rebirth that happened were these GOOD thoughts :

  • As a Woman, my value exists because I exist.

  • My worth is not decided by men or any patriarchal system.

  • I am not broken from birth. And as a Woman, I am not too much for this world to see and know the real me.

  • I am enough and I am worthy in the same way and space as any man.

  • Evaluate my skills and talents...as those are things I develop with growth, practice and education.

But i can not become more valuable or more worthy. I just am.




Things I learned in the Year of Jess ✨ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Walk through the door! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

You are seeking something. You are on a journey.

You have to open the doors that stand in front of you.

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Sitting back and waiting for it happen has been your way before...before the year of you. ⠀⠀

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Intention is what makes a Year of You.


You will have to turn the knob, open the door and walk through. ⠀⠀⠀

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I opened a door and this is what I saw. I saw Africa. I arrived in the darkness of 4am and when I opened the door I heard, saw, smelled and felt the magic of Africa. This Sacred Moment was intentionally captured because I knew it was changing me. I knew I would share it with you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


So...what door stands before you? Will you turn the knob and walk through? Will you let the magic change you? Inspire you? Grow you? Launch you? I’m rooting for you! Go open the door! ⠀



Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Savor the moment.

Literally. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Diving into your senses becomes an experience all of its own.


I didn’t understand what the word EMBODIMENT meant until the Year of Jess. Embodiment is a choice. It’s intentional. It will involve comfort and discomfort. Opening yourself to sit in all of your senses can be breathtaking and incredibly out of yourself. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


But...the paradox is that you find yourself within its experience. You might just realize that you like things you never knew you did. You might also learn that you actually detest things you’ve experienced in obligation. ⠀

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Go taste the food and the wine. But this time...consciously sit in it, the moment or the flavor. Gift yourself with this! Taste an expensive wine and wait through each layer of its profile. Good wine in good space with good people...an embodied moment. I call those Sacred Spaces. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


For some reason this bowl of Soup in Africa was the best I’ve ever had. I imagine it was all the things that landed it a space in front of me. The garden, the harvest, the hands that simmered it, the joy that brought it to my table, the women I shared it with, the conversation that filled the room...ya...best soup ever. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


Go savor...everything!




Things I learned in the Year of Jess ✨ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Everyone needs an outdoor shower!! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I did not know living until an outdoor shower. I’m not entirely sure what all to say about this except that you must. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Sometimes the Year of You is just purely indulgence. So...indulge, my friend! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Oh I will say this... my life has been a series of justifications. 40+ years of finding real cause or need for what I did or how I spent my money. Growing up in the Faith that I did, I was engrained with the Martyr Syndrome (i made that up...i think). The more you suffer and deprive, the more holy you become. Indulgence was not something to ever know. Overtime this easily robs you of joy, pleasure, ecstasy , even pure unnecessary (but actually very necessary) fun. This outdoor shower...ALL OF IT! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


Happy Valentine’s Day! Indulge!




Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨


Dream it! It might just actually happen! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

This space. Oh this space!


Before I had made a decision to travel to Africa I saw my (eventual) group host post a picture of this very spot. My heart swelled at the thought of sitting here with a glass of wine and amazing women after a day of running in the African landscape.

A picture very similar to this one found its way to my iPhone home screen. I figured if I let myself be inspired by it each day, I would sort out the details of how to get there. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


I got there! I did exactly what I dreamt. I drank wine, laughed, shared stories...and I healed. This is an intentional Sacred Space. I will never be able to recreate or duplicate it. It was exactly what I needed when I needed it. The women I shared this moment with are Sacred too. For us to have this exact moment again...we can’t. It was for that day.

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Dream it...it might just be even more than you thought it could be. It might just heal you.




Things I learned in the Year of Jess✨ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Wholeness absolutely can not happen if you keep holding onto programming that does not serve your healing. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Being internally at odds with yourself creates a life of mistrust with your most valuable relationship...you.


This inability to bring unity between your mind, body and soul is demise to authentic living.


Sometimes our social, religious or familial programming is nearly unseen to ourselves UNTIL that one last thing happens. Trauma. Tragedy. Trial. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


But what if we embraced the UNRAVELING? What if we saw it as opportunity to RESET? What if laying down the SAFETY of our programming for even just a short time, offered us the space to ALIGN our body, mind and soul into a cohesive TRUTH? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


What if we sat for back for a time and just listened? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


That’s a Year of Jess. I’ve tossed away a lot of garbage thought in this time. And I’ve been able to see the difference between truths and programming...and there is a BIG difference. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

A journey to wholeness is a lot of things...quiet contemplation is the most of it. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Now...if you’re wondering if I lost my faith and gave up believing in God? Yep...but not the way you think. I gave up programming. And I’m pretty sure God can handle that.

Now....Let's write your Year of You!