Learning to Love the Burn

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Learning to Love the Burn

Movement is the destruction of balance. – Brian MacKenzie

When I started this journey a little over two and a half years ago, I was only clear on one point. I wasn’t enthusiastic about my life. Admittedly, there was a lot of good happening and so much for which I was grateful. That being said, I felt off balance and out of sorts. What I wanted was to just feel happy.

Being me, I immediately began to focus on all the things I did wrong. I closely examined all my failures and shortcomings and heartily beat myself up for each. I came up with plan after plan to right my wrongs. Again and again, I failed at all my self-improvement attempts.

Then I came across this quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” by Albert Einstein. It was then I realized I was acting like an insane person.

Here I was trying to change my life by doing exactly what I had always done. My modus operandi had always been to work harder and longer and to be the first in line to give myself a butt kicking if I slipped up even a tiny bit. I couldn’t take a compliment. I didn’t cut myself any slack. I never celebrated success or even had a kind word for myself. I just pressed harder until I ended up imploding, yet again.

I realized if I wanted to live the life of my dreams, I had to let go of what didn’t work and embrace real change. This became my mantra as I began to question and challenge every single thought, feeling, attitude, and action. I knew I had to address it all body, mind, and soul. I read and listened to anyone who I thought might be the least bit helpful in leading me to make the shifts I knew I needed to make.

At first, it was like hearing a foreign language. Little of the material made sense to my addled mind. Slowly, patterns and themes started to emerge. I began to test what I was learning. There was vegan week and WordPress tutorials and chi running and marketing workshops and positive affirmations and prayer; lots and lots of prayer.

I tossed new ideas and thoughts around in my mind. I wrote about what I was thinking and feeling. I dialoged and discussed with anyone willing to sit and share.

When I was in college. I very much wanted to meet and fall in love with the man of my dreams. I was able on an intellectual level to imagine how it would feel when I met that special someone. I had a couple of serious boyfriends, but it wasn’t until I met the man who would become my husband that I knew, really knew, what it was to be in love.

It was the same with all this learning and striving I was doing. On an intellectual level, I was able to imagine how it would feel when I started living the life of my dreams, but in spite of all my effort, I just couldn’t get to the place. I just wasn’t in love with my life, yet.

This past September things started to shift. I really don’t know how to explain it except to say that every time I opened my inbox or my mailbox, went on Facebook or twitter, ran into a friend, walked into a store, I was bombarded with a new piece of pertinent information.

It was crazy making. As I diligently vetted every thing I encountered, I had no time for anything or anyone. All I could do was try to manage all the great material flying at me. While it was all so very, very good, I still mostly felt confused and overwhelmed and frustrated.

Then all of the sudden it was if someone grabbed a knob in my head and gave it a big turn and things started to come into focus. I would encounter an idea, a piece of information, or a theory and in a matter of just a few hours would have completely synthesized it. Things that had made no sense or that I had only understood intellectually quickly became things I knew to the core of my being.

So, is my life exactly what I want it to be? No. Do I know exactly what I’m doing and how I’m going to do it? No. Guess what? It turns out that it’s o.k. Now, I have the one thing I lacked two and a half years ago. Now, I’m enthusiastic about my life and what my future holds.

My biggest take-a-way? The answer isn’t out there. It’s inside of me, and it’s only by doing the hard work, by challenging my thoughts and changing my behaviors that real change will come. The trick? I just have to learn to love the burn.

Last year I had no real goals or objectives other than letting go of what didn’t work so I could embrace the change and live the life of my dreams. Mission accomplished. For 2013, I’m writing real goals for the first time in a long time and freaking out in the process. But it’s o.k. I’m suppose to scare myself, daily. I’m suppose to challenge myself, constantly. I’m suppose to love the burn.

I’m starting to think that maybe this is what it’s really all about. That to be happy I have to continuously challenge myself to do the big scary things I don’t want to do but that I know will be really good for me in the long run. I have to forgive myself when I freak or fall down or just don’t quite hit the mark. I just have to keep going even when it really, really sucks.


  1. YAY! Excellent! And those big scary things are what burn us, but they also refine us as fire refines gold. 😉

  2. Denise, I don’t know if writing a book is on your goal list for 2013, but I’m praying for an agent (one who will do the “work” so you can just get on with writing and “being”) to scoop up your valuable insights and spread them worldwide. You have a gift for penning truly life-changing wisdom in one post — and so many others you’ve shared. xo

    • From your mouth to God’s ears, Kim. I’m humbled my your praise.

  3. I hope someone grabs the big knob in my head and gives it a crank soon! Love this essay. It’s encouraging to hear about the journey from someone who isn’t THAT far ahead of me, but far enough that you’re feeling results.

    • Thanks for inspiring the end…love how our work informs the other.

  4. I, too, want to see your writing encapsulated in book form. SO.MUCH.WISDOM. I have been doing a major “clearing” in my life to create space for what emerges when I stop DOING and give myself permission to listen deeply to what my body and psyche are calling me to “experience” next, which right now is “nothing imminent.” I love it that you are courageous enough to do big scary things and that you keep going no matter what. Keep writing, Denise. Keep writing.

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