Women's History Month: Joy Sheppard
Who are we really?
By: Joy Sheppard
The short version of my story is that I am a compassionate hard worker, which I give full credit to my mother. I also experienced a less than peaceful upbringing with a lot of yelling in the house and molestation from an extended family member. No one taught me how to “feel”, so instead I drowned myself in accomplishments to feel a sense of worth and love. In the past 7 years, I got married to my wonderful husband, had a child named Kaizen, graduated from nurse practitioner school, landed a dream career, and became an IFBB pro bikini. I was flying on cloud 9, until I hit rock bottom.
I call 2019 my “awakening”.
Last year we experienced a death in our family circle, a grieving husband, my first panic attack and a sense of impending doom I have never encountered. I was scared shitless.
My heart could no longer carry the load, the immense pressure of setting and achieving goals, being everything to everybody, betraying myself to people please, and the inability to feel was a toxic seed brewing inside my soul. I came to realize that what I really longed for my entire life was someone to rescue that little girl inside of me, to embrace the innocence, and comfort my wounds. I was committed to re-discovering myself again.
First, I had to learn how to FEEL, to sit with my PAIN, and find spiritual support within myself. “Feeling all the feels” instantly provided a new found freedom within. I was empowered. Situations that I once viewed as problems are now my life lessons, blessings and opportunity for my own growth. I am resisting being lured into dramatic arguments, reacting, and feeding my ego. Instead, I am turning inwards to find peace in my heart. What I longed for as a little girl, calmness and love, has always been within reach inside me. I looked in the wrong places. My pain has now become my power.
The life I want to live is in the NOW, moving towards LOVE and away from fear. I don’t “own” anything and I “know” nothing as everyday I am evolving. I want to re-parent myself so I can be WHOLE and not live with “expectations” of others, especially my son Kaizen. Having him behave “MY way” and a desire for him to attain a successful life is not mine to force. He is his own unique person and all I can do is pave the way so he can fly free and own his experiences.
My marriage has expanded from just love and hope to now a beautiful bouquet of authenticity, truth, growth, and exploration. As we mend our hearts and practice feeling we can remain grounded. Through this emotional intelligence we can recognize that people carry their own realities which may lead them to think and behave differently. Closeness does not need to mean similarity anymore. Instead of being defensive, we can learn to tend to our emotions. We can allow pain and sadness to come and go like waves of the sea. To feel deeply welcomes love to new parts of ourselves. When we fully embrace our feelings we can disagree and exist with polar opposite viewpoints while remaining peaceful. I want to love my husband more deeply, speak more honestly, and celebrate the music of our souls.
I am grateful for today and this very moment. I have learned to let go and forgive, especially myself. My life is a dance of living fiercely and also surrendering. I will continue to work hard and achieve, but it will no longer define me.
My purpose is to embrace life with all its uncertainty and continue learning. “You must become the change you want to see in the world” -Ghandi.