I Want To Tell You A Secret.

Last night I was awake for a while (because my mind was far too busy for sleep), snuggled in my bed with my dog curled up against my back (because I block the breeze from the fan when he does that), and I was smiling. So I'm kind of a glass-half-empty type of girl, and because of that, I actually had a moment where I actively noticed myself smiling -- I just had a flash of time where I realized the smile was there, and I decided to keep it.

Yesterday was a good day. My kids were rowdy and I spent the whole day with a headache that made me nauseated, but it was a good day. My kids are (mostly) healthy and happy, active and playful. They are alive and have the energy to argue with each other constantly. My work is something I love with all of my heart, and I get to interact with you on a regular basis. Sometimes I get replies to my newsletter emails from people who tell me how much they look forward to hearing from me, and it warms my heart. So last night, I was smiling.

It was around one in the morning, I think, and I hopped onto my Facebook account (my personal one) to post something, because I was feeling so very (rarely) positive.

I'm getting to a point here, I promise. If you've been with me for long, you know I'm long-winded, but you also know it's usually worth it, so just bear with me, okay. It'll be worth it.

Anyway, I posted that "I'm awesome," and that "you're awesome, too." Which is going to be my thing for this year.

I'm thirty-one; I'll be thirty-two in February, and it has taken me most of my thirty-one years to learn to like myself with this much authenticity. I genuinely like the woman who looks back at me when I stand in front of the mirror. She's strong, she's a survivor. But she's kind and loyal and friendly. She's just the right mix of introverted and outgoing. She's fun, and she's funny. Now and then, I look at her in surprise and I think to myself, "God, woman! You're beautiful."

It took me a long time to get there though, and I know that people who don't really understand the depth of that journey are afraid of whatever it is that shines out of you when you like yourself. I've had men in my life that were too intimidated by it to get too close to me. Friends who would admiringly call me things like "fearless" or "confident" or "strong," even when I didn't feel like I was any of those things. A few years ago, there was a person who was a very cherished friend to me, and we were exchanging past stories about romances and relationships. She had a way of speaking that made everything seem romantic and beautifully poetic, right down to the mundane tasks of everyday life, and I loved that about her ... she could describe washing dishes or changing diapers in such a beautiful way that it made you want to get up right away and go try it. Anyway, she was telling me about a long distance relationship she had been in once with a man from Japan, and how they would travel back and forth to be together, teaching each other the different aspects of life in different countries. I found it terribly romantic, and I said so, somewhat enviously. She, being very perceptive, picked up on what I was feeling, and told me that she felt entirely otherwise. She liked my stories, my stories of being the hurt one, being the abandoned one, being the discarded one. She found my survival to be romantic, and said she loved the inner strength that my life had filled me with, the way I had learned to love myself and to be comfortable in meeting my own needs.

But I told her it was sad that I hadn't met my "one," that none of my personal stories had a "hero."

And she told me that she loved the way I didn't need one. She said that I am my own hero.

And she made it sound beautiful and romantic and just the very tiniest bit powerful.

And I loved it.

And I believed it.

In the years following that conversation, my friend and I have moved on and grown a little apart. She's busy with a new baby, and since the friendship was a long distance one, it was very easy for us to talk less and less until now she's only present in my life when I think of her. But I do it often, because that one thing she said to me changed everything.

I wrote seven books. I embarked -- largely all alone -- on a career I had been too afraid to truly dream of. And I realized, over and over again, how right she was.

And I let it bleed into my work.

In Selkie, Annie doesn't just move on when she finds her husband cheating on her with her best friend. She takes time to heal, time to accept herself and her circumstance. Only then does a new romantic opportunity come into her life. In Courageous, Allie is the one who has to stand her ground, who has to learn to accept herself and build a life of her own, before she can welcome a man into it. In Fighting For Freedom, Christine is having to rebuild everything about herself after walking away from an abuser. And although there is someone there to hold her hand, to coach her and guide her and help her to feel safe again ... she's building herself first.

It's the same thing with the Kingsley Series. In More Than Friends (book four), Michael is rebuilding himself, renewing his sense of life and purpose and solitude. And he does it before the romance begins. In Wrestling Harmony (book three), Harmony has to learn to stand comfortably on her own two feet before she can let anyone in. In Prescription For Love (book two), Cameron has to learn to overcome unspeakable trauma, to trust again, to believe in her own ability to surround herself with good people. She has to retake possession of her life, of her body, of her spirit. She even has a tattoo to commemorate that moment: "I am my own hero."

And in Fat Chance (Kingsley Series, book one), Cassaundra has to learn to love herself first. She has to find that one thing that we're all reaching for, that one thing that none of us seem to know how to find. The fearlessness, the confidence, whatever "it" is that makes a strong person so irresistibly strong.

How does she do it?

How do anyone of us do it??

That's the secret, you see. And it's so simple, some of us never truly get it. The secret is positivity. It's in your self-talk, the way you see yourself, and the things you say to yourself inside the secret places of your mind.

"You're so fat. You're so ugly. You're so stupid. Why are you so weak? You're such a coward. Fraidy-cat. Loser. You're a terrible person. Why do you have to be like this???" That's how we talk to ourselves, in the deepest, most vulnerable places in our souls. It's what we're told every second of every day, maybe not by others, but by ourselves. And because it's the mantra we force-feed ourselves every minute of every day, we take it to heart. We believe it.

And we become it. But we don't have to.

It's as simple as consciously changing that process. Yes, it's challenging. Yes, it takes practice. You have to want to, and you have to want it consistently, for a long time. If you've hated yourself for twenty or thirty years ... you can't expect to change that in twenty or thirty minutes.

But you can start now. Tell yourself something nice, like Cassaundra had to in Fat Chance. Find yourself a song, or a quote, something that makes you feel strong and positive and confident, and keep it with you. Repeat it. Repeat it. Repeat it. And when it doesn't work anymore or it gets old, find another one. Rotate them out.

Use positive affirmations. Make a vision board. Tell yourself, not just that you can be, but that, like Cameron, you are your own hero. That you are beautiful. That you are smart. That you are successful, right now, in this moment.

And then, like Cass, allow yourself to believe it.

Happy New Year, friends.


In Other News:

  • Check out my recent interview with RopinRomance.com, where I talk a little about why I love love so much, my experiences in romantic life, and what I really think about the importance of an HEA.
  • I'm signing books this spring!! I'll be signing at Romancing the Smokies, and my luncheon table still has a few seats! Want to schmooze with me over an elegant catered luncheon? Don't waste time ... get your tickets here.