Facing My Fear of Joy

Fear is a common challenge many of us face throughout life…fear of pain, fear of heights, fear of loss. However, there’s a fear that I’ve only recently uncovered that seems so, well…taboo.

I’m afraid of experiencing too much joy. There, I said it. Yes, you read that right…I have a fear of feeling JOY, of all things there are to be afraid of in this world.

Six years ago, my world was turning beautifully. I had a precious daughter who was my everything. I was feeling the warmth of a new and very real love like I’d never experience before. My career as a teacher had hit a comfortable phase, and I was finding new ways to challenge myself professionally. I was even quite happy with how I looked, able to see my own true beauty for the first time in many years.

Then, it felt as though the ground I was standing firmly on started to crumble as breast cancer threatened to take away all of the blessings in my life. The many surgeries, chemo, radiation, medications, and hormonal therapies seemed to slowly rip out each page of my life’s plan book and tear them to shreds before my eyes.

I found myself lacking many qualities that I’d once been able to take for granted. My brain didn’t operate the same way it once did. My nerves were so raw that the basic daily routines of life caused me to become overwhelmed, and many times, paralyzed. The exhaustion I felt by just going through the motions of life hindered my ability to keep up relationships that I’d once cherished. Life became a daily dance that started when my eyes opened each morning and discovered which intro music would be playing. Some days, it was the kind you’d hear at the end of a tear-jerking movie; others, I’d wake to hear the soundtrack that accompanies a fantastic fight scene. Never knowing how long the energy for that day would last, I was reluctant to get too comfortable in an energetic place, fearing that I would be too disappointed when it would inevitably pass.

Now, I’m past all of the treatments, surgeries, and physical healing for the most part, and I actually feel good on most days. (Minus the end of the week as a high school teacher kind of tired that my colleagues are quick to remind me is NORMAL). But this year, I found myself feeling anxious as the holidays approached. I was unable to put my finger on exactly why until now.

The anxiety I’ve felt can only be attributed to a fear of truly feeling joy. You know, the kind that can only be felt through loving connections with others…friends, family, loved ones. It seems I’ve been subconsciously avoiding that type of interaction due to the fear of losing it. There is no heart-break like the one experienced when life deals you a hand that takes you out of the game. When life goes on for those all around you, but you lack the strength and energy to be a part of it, a hole is created that can only be filled by clinging to the daily promise of God’s never ending grace.

My instinctive response to this isolation was to separate myself even further, preventing any additional suffering. However, I know now that it is my deepest responsibility to acknowledge this fear, so that it might release some of its impact on my life.

I will begin again, exposing my vulnerabilities, pursuing peace, and allowing myself to feel the joy that I’ve missed for so long. Fear will not win, and whatever the cost or the pain of future loss, the blessings of allowing life’s beauty to unfold will be the greatest gift of all.

True Beauty Radiates From Within!

Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and how we see others reflects exactly how we see ourselves.

You can ask me about what those around me were wearing on a given day (including myself), and I won’t be able to recall. For many years, I wondered what was wrong with me that kept me from remembering details that seemed to come so easy to others. I’ve always been an empath, but didn’t realize to what extent that dominated my outlook until recently. Now, I recognize that this quality has always allowed me to see people’s souls rather than their appearance. It also allows me to recognize those who’s complete energy is dedicated to basing their judgments of self and others solely on the exterior, and every time I recognize that, my heart hurts for those individuals.

We are all so much more than the looks of our “petals”. We are strong, courageous, determined, and resilient stalks, long before our petals emerge. Today, I feel compelled to urge those of you who struggle with insecurity and feelings of inferiority based on achievements, looks, and belongings (because that is where your energy is focused) to spend a little time nourishing your soul, and looking for the beauty in those around you. You will be amazed at how forgiving you can become, and how your outlook changes when you stop focusing on the “stuff” that disappears when we leave this earth.

In this life, I truly believe that for the most part:

  • People are good
  • We are all doing the best we can with what we have to do it
  • Acceptance is the key to relationships
  • A little forgiveness can heal our most complex issues
  • Trying and failing is better than giving up…always
  • God wants us to all to experience connection, unconditional love, deep joy, and peace of mind.

No amount of focus on our exterior will ever replace the beauty that radiates when our souls are properly nourished. Do one thing for yourself today to increase the beauty and kindness you radiate to those around you. Those efforts will multiply infinitely, and last many years after your life on earth is over.

Blessings to all, and wishes for a life that’s peaceful ahead.

Sharing Helps us to Fully Bloom

I am an over-sharer. I share at the risk of being judged, and sometimes wonder if I’ve shared too much. But, I continue to do so with the hope that in sharing my truth in this life, I am helping others to embrace every aspect of themselves. Connections are not developed at the deepest level without sharing, and I feel a deep connection to and empathy for all of humanity.

It occurred to me this morning that depression and anxiety (and all mental illnesses) are allowed to grow when we don’t talk about them. Not only that, but there is an inverse relationship; the less we talk about it, the more they prevail. I want you to know that I’ve dealt with these issues in various times of my life, and if you are struggling right now, I see you, I get you, I feel you. If you ever need an ear to listen, please don’t hesitate to message me here.

Our strength lies in sharing, and when we open up about the realities of our struggles, only then can we begin to truly bloom.

⏰Time to Turn a Page in My Teaching Career📚

My classroom is empty, and my time here has come to an end. Ten years…so much can transpire.

I started teaching Business Education classes to students at a small-medium sized campus ten years ago, and have taught in the same school every year since. Throughout that time, I’ve learned many lessons, experienced heartache, grown as a person and a professional, and ultimately realized what I already knew… what a blessing young people can be.

Before becoming a “Teacher”, I spent several years as a Corporate Trainer in the Financial Services industry, where I enjoyed the rewards of successfully preparing individuals for their new positions by providing accurate guidance, current policies, and user-friendly procedures. During that same time, I was also given the opportunity to volunteer with an organization dedicated to empowering victims of domestic violence with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. This opened my eyes to the gift of knowledge, and the blessing of sharing useful tools and skills with individuals who have a need to succeed, and a burning desire to learn.

After several mergers took place in banking, and my daughter was born, I was searching for my next direction. My nephew had graduated high school, yet needed a little help with the math portion of the ASVAB (military entrance exam). I was able to help him find the piece that kept him from succeeding in math (huge red flag: how did he ever make it to graduation without knowing this KEY piece of math???), and he was then able to enlist and serve our country as he’d intended. This was the first time I thought, “wouldn’t that be great to help others in the same way?”

Soon after that, I ran into my middle school G/T teacher at the store; she was the director of the local community college’s alternative certification program for teachers. Would I be interested…? The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, ten years later, I’m leaving the school where my teaching journey began. So much has changed. My teenager was a toddler. I was a single Mom. I was inspired and energetic, yet had so much to learn. I believed that most kids were raised by parents who cared. I thought that being clean, having a few sets of presentable clothing, bringing school supplies, and having enough food to eat were things all kids could expect. I also assumed that most parents had what it took to provide proper support to kids struggling with mental health issues. Wrong! Anxiety and depression are more prevalent now than when I started teaching for so many reasons (technology, drug abuse, broken homes, underdeveloped communication skills), and those conditions do not discriminate, nor limit themselves to financially struggling families.

Before becoming a teacher, I truly believed the worst things one should be concerned about for their children were alcohol, drugs, and pregnancy. So naive. In my classroom, where I create a safe space, I have heard stories that would break your heart while blowing your mind. Stories of emotional neglect, immense pressure to be perfect, kids taking care of parents instead of the way it “should” be. And it’s not what you think…it’s not kids from a certain background, socioeconomic status, etc.. The stories come from students of all walks of life.

It has always been my goal to remind those who endure the most challenges that the struggles they face now are giving them a leg up on their future. The peers surrounding them who have not struggled don’t know what it means to be grateful for the littlest things…like your teacher having snacks so your stomach won’t growl, or someone greeting you with a warm “hello” every day, or feeling warm because there’s no heat on, or just being able to be silly because everyone at your home is always angry or fighting. The fact that these kids show up every day in spite of their situations outside of school is a feat many of us can not identify with. Yet, the resilience they show beats that of most adults I know. Like I said, teenagers are awesome!

So, I’m closing a chapter on a ten year run where I’ve taught ten different classes, served as a sponsor for a couple of organizations, assisted my peers with technology, and met some of the most amazing young people you will ever meet. I’ve made some forever friends, fought cancer, met (the teacher across the hall) and married the love of my life, and had final reconstruction surgery after breast cancer. I am beyond thankful for the love and support shown to me during what was undoubtedly the most challenging time of my life thus far.

Now, it’s time for me to begin a new chapter. Starting in the Fall, I’ll be teaching at a small charter school. I’m so excited for the opportunity to work in a smaller setting, closer to home, and have more time available for my precious family. I’ll be taking on some new roles, and I’m thankful to be in a good place (mentally and physically), ready to learn and grow.

Change can be difficult, and going into the unknown is a big leap. But my soul is certain of a few things. 1) Kids are awesome, and I believe in the power of education! 2) A change of environment is just what I need to rejuvenate my passion for teaching. 3) I would have never been prepared for the task in front of me without experiencing all of the lessons learned over the last ten years. 4) As my daughter enters her teen years, she needs more of me than ever before. While there are many unknowns ahead of me, I have faith that God has given me an opportunity to reprioritize and recognize the most important pieces of my life’s puzzle, and provided a new path where these can stay at the center of my focus. Since battling cancer, nothing could be clearer to me than the fact that our souls MUST be in alignment with our true purpose and that God makes a way for that to happen, usually when we least expect it.

So, I’m asking for your prayers as I embark upon a new journey. I hope to rekindle the flames of inspiration I felt as a new teacher while keeping the wisdom of experience at the forefront of my mind. Life is filled with so many challenges and obstacles, especially for young people. My deepest passion is empowering students with the tools necessary to achieve a happy, fulfilled life. I have no doubt that I’m headed in the right direction, and can’t wait to meet the next group that I’ll sincerely refer to as “my kids”.

May you all find the thing that sets your soul on fire, and be relentless in pursuit of whatever that may be. This is the only way to a life that’s peaceful ahead.

Blessings to all,

🏖Stacey🏝

Changing My Definition of Peace

I always thought peace was the absence of hardship. But because God performed a true miracle in my life, I know that peace can be found in the best and the worst situations we face.

As a small child, I was the apple of my Daddy’s eye. The pride he felt for being my Dad was palpable to all who were around us. He had my name tattooed on his arm, and later, when my parents divorced, he had an 11×14 portrait of me in the living room of his apartment. I had no question that I was the joy of his life.

Then, as time went on, his struggles with mental health issues, alcoholism, and PTSD (brought on by a childhood filled of chaos and his time in the Vietnam war as a helicopter door gunner) took a toll on him. I know he was involved in a world that was filled with darkness, but I’ve been spared the details by all who knew. He was so ashamed of the person he’d become that he couldn’t stand to let me see him. So, our relationship stretched thinner by the year until eventually, I would have to make many phone calls and find his address and just show up to see him. I missed his presence in my life, but could only muster up the courage to hunt him down about once a year. He didn’t know me, and I certainly didn’t know him. Even when my daughter was born, years later, it was a challenge to coordinate a meeting with him so he could see my greatest joy.

Life went on, and as a new Mother, I knew that there was no way he was consciously making the choice to miss out on my life. I chose to forgive him and pray for his soul, without knowing if we’d ever be able to reconcile. My greatest fear was that I would receive a phone call one day that he’d passed away, and that opportunity would never present itself.

In January 2015, the phone rang. It was my uncle telling me that my Daddy was in the hospital, and they thought he had a brain tumor. I gathered a bag, left my new husband and daughter, and headed to see the unknown. When I arrived, he smiled ear to ear with the same joy emanating from within that I’d known as a child. He was unshaven, dirty from falling in the dirt due to his condition, very sick, but completely cognizant. I knew then that God had opened a door that I could not have opened alone. As I drove home to prepare to stay with him in the hospital while we got more information, I clearly heard God say to me, “It is well.”

What ensued after was a journey from diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer with a metastasis to the brain to a reconnection with loved ones who showed up with love and kindness. Because of the extent of the cancer and the weakness of his body, we chose to ask hospice to come in and provide him comfort as he left this world.

I never left his side longer than was required to shower, pack a new bag, and return, sleeping several nights in a zero-gravity lawn chair just to be near him, and at times, climbing in bed next to him just to feel what I’d missed for so many years. I rubbed his feet with lotion, wiped his face with a wash cloth, and was truly able to return the acts of love he’d shown me as a small child. My daughter and husband were able to meet my Daddy (the person I thought had disappeared many years ago) and I was beyond grateful to be able to witness and reconnect with his true spirit during those final days.

Eleven days later, he passed away peacefully. Red birds suddenly appeared everywhere I looked. It Is Well (With My Soul) of course, was one of the songs chosen for his funeral. To this day, when I hear that song or see a red bird, I am reminded of the true miracle that we were given as we spent my Daddy’s final days with him. The peace I am able to rekindle when I think about those tumultuous, yet beautiful days is truly that which “passes all understanding”.

So, when I created this blog, I chose the name “Peaceful Ahead” because my definition of peace is no longer the same. It does not mean that I will not face sadness, disappointment, or hardship. It means that I know that God has a plan, and that the miracles He presents are not always those we pray for or envision, yet they are exactly what we need when we need it most.

With that, I’d like to wish you all a day and life that’s truly peaceful ahead.

Instagram: @peacefulahead

staceyfade@peacefulahead.blog