J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 142. Hurtful experiences from our past and present relationships can leave us feeling not good enough, which then affects all our interactions going forward. But the good news is we can heal those hurts through practicing mindfulness and meditation, which you're going to learn about in this episode; stay tuned.
Intro: Hi I'm Dr. Jen Riday, former burned-out mom of 6 turned happiness whisperer and I'm here to help you get off that hamster wheel and make time for yourself without the guilt so you can live a balanced, calm, heart centered life. With over 2.5 million downloads, this is the Vibrant Happy Women podcast.
Hey there, welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women, I am Dr. Jen Riday your host and I am thrilled that you're here, that you're taking time for you, that you're setting aside your laundry and dishes and cooking and cleaning and whatever your boss wants from you or your kids or your spouse and you're just doing something to fuel your spirit and fill your soul; thank you so much for listening. Last week, I spoke with Lisa and Scott McGrath all about finding joy and letting that joy be infectious, celebrating that joy in your families. And today, we have another great episode with my friend, Danielle Mendoza, all about past hurts affecting how we interpret our lives. Danielle struggled with feelings of abandonment when she was growing up and it has influenced her relationships today. However, she figured out a way to heal her hearts and that has something to do with mindfulness and meditation, but her own unique spin on it. So stay tuned, we're going to talk about that in just a moment.
But first I want to ask you, have you watched the first and second videos of the ‘how to love yourself’ video series? It's a free workshop I created for you guys. If you've listened to this podcast before, you know that loving yourself is the foundation of all good things, it's the foundation of a healthy body and a healthy marriage and health and relationships with your kids and living your purpose, because if you don't love yourself, you can't have those healthy boundaries where you can say no to some things and create space for that more powerful yes. If you don't love yourself, then it's hard to show up in your relationship in this energy of authenticity and giving rather than being needy for approval. If you don't love yourself, then you won't have that courage to go live your purpose if you're always seeking approval from everyone around you. So self-love is truly the foundation of living your happiest life. Well, you need to watch this video workshop, ‘how to love yourself’. I really put my heart and soul into helping you learn a few things including why it's essential that you love yourself, the first step on a journey of self-love which is all about intuition, and the BOLD meditation method, B O L D, that stands for something, and then coming soon is another video with the blueprint, the entire ‘heal your heart’ self-love journey, all those steps. So if you want to get your hands on those free PDFs and watch that workshop, signed up now at jenriday.com/loveyourself; jenriday.com/loveyourself. I can't wait for you to hear from Danielle Mendoza, my friend, who is talking about fear of abandonment and how mindfulness and meditation and listening to intuition have helped her to combat that and enjoy healthier relationships today. So without further ado, let's go ahead and slide right into this interview.
My guest today is Danielle Mendoza and she's a certified life coach and founder of Be Myself Now where she helps teens feel confident and happy by reducing anxiety, improving focus, and boosting self-esteem through mindful awareness; I love mindfulness. When she's not homeschooling her 2 kids, Ella and Jack, you can find Danielle painting, doing yoga, creating in the kitchen, reading or doing something fun with her husband; all the same things, Danielle, you should live by me and will be friends. She and her family currently live with their loving cats in the Bay Area of California. Now, Danielle, I'm going to go right there, the loving cat story. Let's just start right there about the cats because it's so awesome; this shows who you really are.
D: Yeah, I love to rescue cats. So every couple of years, we'll rescue like a litter of kittens and we always like to keep the best ones and we rehome the rest. And it's hard to get rid of them always but, you know, the more that we rehome, the more we can rescue later so we're always reminding ourselves of that. But I just absolutely adore the ones that we have so they've really been hand-picked.
J: So do you call yourself a crazy cat lady or is that just in my head? No, I’m just kidding. (Laughs)
D: No, I’m a total crazy cat lady, I’m crazy for cats. And my husband even is like I can't believe it because I talk to my cat, I can get him to lay down when I want him to or…
J: No way!
D: … he can have treats like…
D: … it’s (Laughs)… we totally communicate, it's on another level. (Laughs)
J: What! How do you train a cat to do things like that?
D: Well, this cat, he's a Maine Coon and Maine Coons are really, really smart. So they have that kind of ability, and just like all animals, they're driven by food. So I just keep the treats coming and they learn what to do to get the treats.
J: Ah, and you know, teenage boys same thing, they're driven by food.
D: That’s so true. Even my 6-year-old is pretty driven by food these days, he's not much different. (Laughs)
J: Well, anyway, Danielle, let's go to your favorite quote and then hear your story.
D: Yeah, my favorite quote is, at this time I guess, there's always so many, but I love, “You cannot spend your life avoiding things that are not actually happening or everything will become negative.” And that's from Michael A. Singer from his book, ‘The Untethered Soul’, and I just love it. He has this analogy about a thorn in your arm and if you cover the thorn with an apparatus to keep from touching it, it can change your life in the way that you end up building your whole life around not touching this thorn, whereas if you had just addressed the thorn in the first place and remove it and handle it, your life would be free to be whatever you want it to be; and we do the same thing with our internal hurts.
J: Mm, wow, you just kind of gave me my maybe all-time favorite quote, “Address the thorn,” right? So how did you have to do that in your life? Because I know that's where we're going to go and we have a thorn to address, so let's hear about yours.
D: Yeah. So a few years back, my husband was assigned to work in the Bay Area, and at the time, we lived in Los Angeles. So he would travel Monday through Friday for work and my kids and I would stay home. And it ended up not being a good situation for us because I really didn't have any time for myself or to take care of myself, and my kids were so young, they really needed a lot of attention and care. And I just really lost who I was and I ended up in a really deep dark place to the point where, it's not that I wanted to die, but I just didn't want to exist anymore. I just felt like it was too hard and that I was becoming a burden on everyone else around me, on, you know, damaging my kids with my own struggles with depression and anxiety, you know, not being a good enough wife for my husband, not being a good enough family member, just all of those thoughts and feelings were happening. And I was really overwhelmed and I was asking my husband, “Should I leave?”
D: You know, “Should I go? Would this be better for everyone?” because it's not that I wanted to leave my family, but I love them enough that if it really was logically better for them, I was willing to do that.
D: And that was really upsetting, you know, just to my own self to feel that , it was really, really hard. And my husband panicked; rightfully so. (Laughs)
D: I don't blame him for that, but he was really worried that I was going to leave, that he was going to come home one Friday and I would just be gone and he would have to pick up the pieces of life with the kids after having, you know, a stay-at-home mom for a wife and figuring all that out. So…
J: Where were you going to go, Danielle, do you know?
D: I had no idea (Laughs). Honestly…
J: Like become a surfer? (Laughs) I don’t know.
D: There was no plan. I knew that if I did leave, I was going to feel awful.
D: I knew in a way that it would just destroy my life, but I felt like it couldn't be about me.
D: And I felt that way about everything, I felt like nothing could be about me, and I think that's part of where I went really wrong. But anyways, long story short, my husband panicked and he came home and he ended up getting reassigned back to Los Angeles so that he could move back home with us full-time. And at the time, I was really upset that that happened because I felt like it was because of me, but I was also really grateful for it because, as soon as he was home, it was like this huge pressure lifted. I mean, even just sleeping at night knowing there was another adult in the house was just huge. So I really knew then that I had to do something.
J: So would you say you… it sounds clinical. I mean, it sounds like phases of my life when I felt the press and your thoughts seemed to follow where you just think you have no value and, “Ah, no one needs me anyway,” do you feel like it was clinical depression and anxiety?
D: Absolutely. Yeah, I really struggled with postpartum depression after my first child was born, and then after the second one, I was doing well with placenta encapsulation and I was also struggling with a basal cell skin cancer. And because of the resistance of the cancer, I had to stop taking the placenta capsules immediately and it threw me into a hormonal spiral and I ended up developing postpartum anxiety at that time as well.
J: Oh no!
D: Yeah, and the depression was never really fully resolved so that was sort of still there too.
D: So I was really like doggy-paddling through life, keeping my head above the water as much as I could. And I didn't recognize it and so I was never able to reach out for the help that I needed.
J: Ah. So do you think your husband knew it was… you know, did he know what it was or not necessarily?
D: Yeah, he knew. We had spoken before because it is something that I had faced in my life previously and so we talked about it, but he didn't understand he didn't experience it and so that was really hard for him. And so then when I was talking about leaving and we had a big talk together one day and he looked at me and he said, “You know, you need to be happy, and if that means that you're not here with us, then that's what you need to do, but I want you to be happy,” and it was like simultaneously the most loving and the most devastating thing anyone's ever said to me.
J: Ah! I know!
D: Because it was just so… it comes from such a place of love to say, “Go take care of yourself,” and yet I was just devastated the idea of not being with him.
D: And I just knew that that wasn't the path to my happiness. And so I knew right then that I had to figure it out for myself.
J: Yeah. How old were you kids then?
D: Let's see, this was about… it was 2016 so my kids were 7 and 4 or 5.
J: Mm-hmm, okay.
D: So we were just coming out of the woods with the young one.
J: Right, right, exactly. Well, so you have this cancer which is super depressing in and of itself and then you actually have clinical depression and anxiety, whoa, how did you get out of that place? I mean, so many listeners are probably there right now, we all have moments of it at some point in our lives, what do you do?
D: I sat in that place for a little longer than I should have and I ended up having a huge problem with my car and then I got food poisoning, like all in one week.
J: Oh no! Oh no!
D: And it was huge thing and I just… even out loud in the middle of the food poisoning, I said to myself, I was like, “Okay, universe, I get it, I'm strong enough, I can handle this.”
J: Yes! (Laughs)
D: There was this epiphany of like, “You got this,” you know?
J: So it was kind of like it's all dumping so it really… you know, you chose to believe, “Hey, someone's trying to tell me I can do this,” right?
D: Yes. I was like, “This has to be for a reason, all of this hassle and pain.” And just the food poisoning on top of it, it was just like right as I was deciding to get a therapist and I was calling therapists that day actually and getting turned down left and right because they were all full with clients.
D: And it was so hard and I just was like, “Okay, I can do this,” and I made an appointment with a therapist and I started seeing someone and talking to them and that was incredibly helpful, just to have sort of a third party person who wasn't so emotionally invested as my husband was because when I talked to him about some of the scarier stuff, it's hard for him not to react.
J: Ah, okay. And the therapist just keeps their face nice and calm.
D: Yeah, and they're not thinking like, “Am I going to have to take care of the kids? What's the plan for next week when you can’t get out of bed?”
J: (Laughs) Yeah.
D: Or, you know, all of those things that the baggage that sort of comes with the depression and stuff.
D: So that was a huge turning point, getting in with a therapist and starting that talk therapy.
J: Mm-hmm, and were you on a medication or you weren't allowed to be because of the cancer? Or you… no, you'd stopped your placenta encapsulation which gives you…
J: … good hormones, right?
D: Right, the hormones… the growth hormone in the placenta encapsulation was the concern for the cancer.
D: And I continued to try to treat the cancer for a long time, it was a few years until… in fact, it was right after my low point that I had the surgery to finally remove the cancer tumor, and it ended up being about a third of my top lip.
D: So on top of all of this, then I was like sort of losing a physical piece of myself.
D: And I've never been a very vain person but I like my smile and, you know, it was like, “What's going to happen with this surgery?” There was a chance that it could be bad enough that they would have to like remove part of my bottom lip to create a new top lip, like it was just really, really scary and overwhelming.
D: But I had an amazing surgeon and he did a wonderful job, you can barely see my scar today, he was able to get it all without making a new lip. And I actually have pretty much all of my nerve function and feeling which is amazing…
D: … facial surgery.
J: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, when I met you, I didn't… I couldn't tell anything different about your lips so it obviously was really good. (Laughs)
D: Yeah, living in the land of movie stars at the time was definitely a good place to be.
D: There are some really top notch doctors.
J: Of course, of course lucky. Well, so you started talking to a therapist and you… I suppose you talked about, you know, your emotions with the cancer and everything, but how did it progress talking to your therapist and what did life look like?
D: Yeah. I mean, I really started talking to my therapist about my relationship with my children because that… that was really devastating to me. I… you know, I felt so much love for them and yet I questioned it all the time and like the validity of it. And, again, it was just the depression speaking but I wasn't able to sort that out. So she really helped me to sort through, you know, those thoughts and feelings and kind of taking some space from that. And at this same time, I started meditating and that made a huge difference for me.
J: Mm. So tell us more about why meditation was helpful for you.
D: Yeah, so I wasn't really sure if meditation would even help so I just downloaded this headspace app and I figured I would give it a try. And it had some really good little animations to kind of explain the meditation to you and like how it works. And when I first sat to meditate, I couldn't meditate for more than 2 or 3 minutes, I was so antsy, I had so much on my mind, I was like felt like I had a million things to do. But I stuck with it and it really helped me reduce that sort of antsy feeling and get to a place of calm where I could focus and be present with what was happening in my life at that moment. And, you know, later, I discovered sort of that word, ‘mindfulness’, and I was like, “Okay, so that's what that really means,” and I was able to sort of put those 2 together.
J: So they say anxiety is when you're too focused in the future and depression is when you're too focused in the past, and I don't know if there's full truth to those, but probably some truth. So how does mindfulness feel to you if you were to describe it? Maybe even just close your eyes so we can get the sense of it, but what does it feel to be present truly? That's what mindfulness is, right?
D: Yeah, definitely, mindfulness is just that present awareness. And when I'm presently aware, I can sort of feel the space around me with my body, at the same time, I can take in things visually sort of in a greater frame like I'm not as narrowly focused as I am when I'm running through those thoughts in my head.
J: Mm, mm-hmm.
D: And I… it's just quieter, I am able to just sort of see the beauty in whatever is around me at the moment, even if what's happening is not that great, even if it's kind of a bad situation, but it just gives me the chance to like find something that's nice.
J: Mm-hmm. So mindfulness is present awareness. And then it sounds like you're also adding a bit of gratitude to it, loving what you see, is that accurate?
D: Absolutely, yeah. I think that present awareness opens you up to that gratitude, you're not so closed off, you can… you know, you have that quietness of to tap into, you know, the miracles in your life.
J: So how did that meditation practice affect your mood?
D: It put me more in control.
D: Which was one of my biggest problems with being with the kids 24/7 was I would just lose control, I would just be so frustrated or upset and, you know, I was a yeller, I'm still kind of a yeller, I'm not going to lie, I yell, I'm kind of a loud person in general.
D: But it was bad, it wasn't good. I felt bad, you know, and I know that my kids felt bad, but through the meditation, I was really able to take that space in between what was happening and then reacting. And it took time to master it, I mean, I still haven't mastered it. It's still something that happens in hindsight on occasion or in the middle of a moment, I'll be like, “Oh wait, I could respond differently here,” but it really gave me that chance to just consider a different response.
J: Mm-hmm, I love that. I always say meditation makes me more patient, and when I skip it, I'm more snappy; I see it for sure. So what advice would you give to those who want to meditate or want to try it? How do you get started with… you know, you mentioned that you could only do 2 to 3 minutes at the beginning, how long do you go now and how did you gain that growth in that area?
D: Yeah. So now I can meditate for like 45 minutes or an hour, really no problem. The key I think is to set a timer so that you're not anxious about the clock like how much time has passed because your feeling of time will change from meditation and meditation. Sometimes 20 minutes goes by really fast and sometimes it feels like it takes forever, but start small. I think that's the biggest thing is start small and just do it. Don't expect a perfect like meditation corner with a pillow and some candles and quiet. I mean, when I first started meditating I would literally lock myself in the bathroom, sit on the closed toilet lid and turn on the app for 3 minutes.
D: Because it was the only place that my kids would leave me alone. (Laughs)
J: Yeah. And most moms don’t even get that.
D: And I would lock the door.
D: Yeah, and I would lock the door so that even if they did knock, I would just be like, “When I'm done,” you know? (Laughs)
J: Right, right, exactly; I love that.
D: And so my kids were a little older so that was easier to do than if you have really tiny babies. But, you know, put the baby down in front of you and just do 3 minutes.
D: You can hear noise in the background, you're probably going to focus on it, that's okay, that's all part of it.
J: Mm-hmm. And so when you hear the noise or you get distracted, what do you do?
D: I try to just bring myself back to the breath. The breath is really my anchor for meditation. I focus on feeling the breath in my body as well as regulating the breath with in and out deep breaths. And then it's really… I describe it as like a bullfrog in the bottom of a river.
D: And as you're sitting in this river, your thoughts and emotions are going by and those are like logs and boats. And some are really small sticks that just sort of drift by when you're like, “Hey, I had a smoothie for breakfast,” and some are these really big giant speedboats that like stir up everything and make the bottom all murky and it's like this these big past thoughts usually or worries about the future.
D: And you find yourself caught up in these sticks and logs and boats and it's like the bullfrog has jumped on to it. And so as soon as you realize that you're on the boat, you just jump back in the river and settle to the bottom…
J: Oh yeah.
D: … and just continue to watch them go by. And so it's just a practice of continually jumping off the boats honestly (Laughs) settling down.
J: Like you're the observer of your thoughts instead of thinking you are your thoughts.
J: Mm, I love it. Well, so think of a time or something that you experienced during meditation that felt like the speedboat, the murky waters that came up and what you learned through that.
D: Yeah. After my low point and I started therapy and I started getting more serious with the meditation, then we decided that we were going to move. We were going to move up to the Bay Area, my husband's work wanted him to continue working up there, and I didn't want to live alone Monday through Friday anymore.
D: So with that decision, I knew I would be leaving my therapist and that was really scary, that fear came up in meditation a lot, and so I was trying to decide kind of what to do and I knew I needed to get more serious about sort of my inner work.
D: And so I found your program, Heal Your Heart, and I signed up for the because it started in January and we were moving in January so it was sort of the perfect transition moment out of my therapist's office to my new sort of method of inner work because it's hard to find a therapist and I wasn't really ready to jump back into interviewing them up in the Bay Area yet.
D: So I continued with that program and I got really more and more serious about the meditation and I started focusing on my unhappiness and my unhappiness in my relationship and in my family. And it really became clear to me that those were stemming from feelings of worthlessness and fear of abandonment.
J: Ooh. So you're meditating, how did this come up that you could identify that? So many people don't understand where their baggage is coming from, but how did you see it, you know?
D: It's difficult to explain, but when I meditate, I'm really in a more expansive place, if that makes any sense.
D: It feels really expansive and it feels really clear and I get to a place where I'm really ready to just receive and to just hear and it just sort of comes to me.
D: And it comes as a thought usually and then I will think about the thought, I'll be like, “Oh my god.”
D: And I do that sometimes when I’m journaling to stream-of-consciousness, I'll write something out and then I'll be like, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea I felt that way.”
D: It just sort of comes to me.
J: So all this stuff is kind of wired up in our brains and then meditation just lets us be quiet enough to hear what we're thinking sometimes maybe, or for you, is it higher self, is that God or the universe, is it even higher than yourself, you know?
D: Yeah, the higher self is connected to all of that. I mean, I think God is just another word for the universe which is another word for Prana which is another word… you know, there's all these words humans have assigned to describe it and talk about it with one another.
D: But I think it all means the same thing and it's sort of this meta consciousness or this interconnected web of energies, you know, that just flows through our universe and we all can tap into that, we're all connected to it.
J: So why do you think we are… you know, we have meditate and slow down to do that? Why can't it just be easier (Laughs)… to tap into that, you know?
D: If only, right? (Laughs)
D: I think because we are functioning so much through our thinking brain, we start to assign identity to it. You know, that ego is so strong and ego can't receive…
D: … if that makes sense.
J: We assign our identity to our thoughts and ego can't receive, wow, you are good. Keep going, Danielle, this is so like… ooh, I love it.
D: Yeah, I think it's just really important to slow down in that way that you can get in touch with that energy because we are just so distracted all the time.
J: Yeah, and bypass the ego so we can receive, you know, right?
D: Absolutely, we have to temper the ego. Almost like a teenager living in our house, you know, it's like a teenager living in our mental house, we have to be like, “Okay, we know you're upset but it'll be okay in the morning,” you know?
J: Yeah, isn't it true? I love that. And, you know, so many women I hear from or who are in the club or new students in Heal Your Heart, they start out thinking, “Oh, my life is hard,” or, “My spouse did this and I felt like crap,” or, “I'm a terrible mom,” and they start to realize, “Oh, you can dissect your thoughts, detach from your thoughts, and we are not our thoughts,” so the identity becomes different. So what is your identity when you detach from all of your thoughts? Who are you exactly, Danielle?
D: Ooh, good question, that's a hard one to answer. When I really detached from my thoughts, I'm just so connected, I feel so connected to everyone and everything and really in tune with it. And I enjoy just sort of the beauty of that, it feels so loving and open.
D: And when I'm caught up in my ego and my thoughts and my emotions and I'm identifying with them and I'm not taking that time to be separate, I'm not experiencing any of that, I'm just completely closed off.
J: Mm-hmm, I agree, that's exactly my experience. When you were talking about that connection to when you're tapped into your higher self, God, universe, Prana, that interconnected web of energy that flows through us, I also find that very, very healing and that's the experience I have. But how has that energy and that continued connection to that force or God or whatever you want to call it helped you to heal from your past experiences?
D: That's a good question. I'm still in the process of all of that of course, I think it's a lifelong process healing through those energies. But it's just really given me the opportunity to see that I am connected and that there is so much more available to me than I ever thought.
D: And it's given me this opportunity to step into my highest self. I have to remind myself to do that but it's getting more and more regular where it's just automatic.
J: Mm-hmm. I guess that's why they call it a practice; we're training ourselves to go to that place.
D: Yeah, absolutely.
J: Yeah, and I found the more I meditate and the more I go into this interconnected feeling instead of just my thoughts, I don't know, the more time I can spend there and I want to spend there. Like, I love to kind of do dishes or do anything at all because I can just turn it into this meditation time, especially the bath, oh my gosh, I could spend hours there. (Laughs)
D: Yeah, it's like once you can meditate and once that feels good to you, you're like, “I could spend 4 hours in the airport, no big deal.” (Laughs)
J: Yeah, exactly. And then so you're learning this process of meditation, connection, healing your heart, what does it look like now as a mom? I mean, you said you're still a yeller but how has it helped you to be better as you show up for your kids?
D: Well, I definitely don't yell as much, so that's huge. (Laughs)
J: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
D: And I think, you know, just in being open through this journey of my own with my family, with my husband and my kids and communicating with them what I'm experiencing and what's going on, the times when I do maybe yell or get upset, it's like they know now sort of better where that's coming from, and so we can communicate better through it and I can speak to it and that gives us the opportunity to just have a much more harmonious life.
J: Yes, yes, it's cool. And you're also modeling for them something, I mean, I'm sure they pick up on that energy of calm that you have.
D: Yeah, absolutely. And the self-love, I mean, my daughter drew this drawing of a heart in the car and I found it later and she wrote at the top, “People I love,” and it was like, “mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, cats,” and she wrote, “myself.”
D: And I was like so touched by that. I mean, when I was a child, I would have never even considered putting myself on the list. In fact, if I had, I would have thought it was selfish.
J: Oh shoot! Well, tell us more about your childhood and what made you… you know, what experiences you have had that might have caused that thinking.
D: Yes. I think the idea of it being selfish really is like a societal lesson that we learned as children, especially as women, there was very much this idea of giving to others and not being selfish, not taking for yourself. And not… more and more I think is being rectified through the ideas of interdependence and taking care of yourself for others.
D: But as a child, you know, my experience that led up to these feelings of worthlessness and abandonment and having to address them, it was really my relationships with my fathers.
D: I had a father growing up very young and they separated, my parents separated, and my mom married someone new when I was 4 and he was my stepdad. And I still saw my father occasionally, but then I stopped seeing him when I was around 6 or 7 years old.
D: And then my mom and my stepdad split when I was 9 and then they got back together a year later, but that only lasted a few more years and then they separated again. And then right at the time when my stepfather and my mom were separating, I found out that my father wasn't actually my biological father, it was a different person; so there's like a third father figure in the picture.
D: And then and right around that time of separation, my brother graduated high school and moved out.
D: Not to fault him, I mean, he was 18, that was his life. (Laughs)
D: But all of that together, it just sort of really created this story of, “I'm not good enough.”
D: And one day whoever I'm with is going to just decide that, “This is too hard,” or, “It's not good enough,” or whatever, they’ll come up with something and just leave.
J: Oh! Wow.
D: Yeah. And I really internalized that story because, you know, as they say, “Children are great recorders but terrible interpreters.”
D: And I was sort of recording these events, and then as children want to do, I was just making it all about me, you know, I figured it all had to be about me. And it took a long time to even realize that I had done that and it took this meditation to really bring that to light for me. And then it's taken a lot of work since then to really quell that fear and address it and figure out, you know, what's not true (Laughs) actually and give myself the love and the comfort and the company that, you know, I desired so much.
J: Mm, so essentially, to become the father figure to yourself.
D: Yeah, yeah, and it's really taken a long time to do that in a healthy way. I read Lewis Howe’s book ‘Mask of Masculinity’, I highly recommend it, but I read that just to understand men better since I have a husband and a son. And in the process of reading it, I realized I was wearing masks of masculinity in an attempt to have men love me or approve of me. And, you know, that played out in some destructive ways through my young adulthood, seeking sexual attention, you know, seeking approval through that, which it's taken me a long time to overcome that message as well. You know, even now in my marriage, I feel unsure sometimes about that and I'm like, “Oh, is that…” you know, and I have to remind myself that my approval is not linked to that.
J: Ah, yeah. So growing up in high school, you felt not good enough and that, you know, men in your life or love, you know, partner whatever, a future partner would just leave, and then it just sounds like almost too much to dissect. So meditation is what helped or what else, you know? Or maybe you're still dissecting it, it's just…
D: I am.
J: You know, because everyone listening has a story like that. I mean, for sure, I'll just add a little caveat that interestingly, in my mom's side, farmers, women I guess just weren't really valued coming down that pipe because, even 20 years ago… well, when my grandpa died, I don't know how many years ago it was, he left half of his land to his son and the other half was split between the 3 girls. I mean, what kind of a message is that? So these messages, I know that everyone listening has some message about their worth that came down either related to gender or experiences like yours when a parent might have left or something traumatic might have happened. So, yeah, I mean tell us how that kind of stuff gets dissected.
D: Yeah, it really has been a process. You know, looking back over my relationships, I can see where sort of I did the abandoning in order to prevent it from happening to myself.
D: And then I ended up in a really emotionally abusive relationship and it definitely was just a case of accepting what I thought I was worth and trying to gain that approval from someone who was never going to give it to me, and it sort of was the brass ring.
D: If I could get approval from that person, that was like the penultimate approval.
D: So that really came to a head when we had a huge fight for like the millionth time and I was crying and I was just like, “What can I do, you know, to be good enough for you?” and he looked at me and he said, “You'll never be good enough for me.”
J: (Gasps) Oh no! He didn't say that, oh my gosh!
D: And something in me switched in that moment and I was just like, “I am worth more than this.”
D: I didn't feel like it was a lot, but I knew it was more than that. (Laughs)
D: So I walked away out of that relationship and I did a lot of learning after that, learning how to be on my own and learning how to sort of face some of my emotions and just really deal with some of the heavy stuff. But I still wasn't very good at it, I was really young…
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
D: … and I was just trying to figure out my place in the world. And so I was working and I met my husband at work.
D: And we started dating about 6 months after I got out of the abusive relationship and then he and I got married 6 months after that.
D: So I left this abusive relationship, and a year later, I was married, and I just would have never ever guessed…
D: … that that would have been my story.
D: Even my sister was like, “What is going on? that was really fast,” you know?
D: And she didn’t say anything at the time but we've talked about it since then. (Laughs)
D: And it was overwhelming for them I guess. But my husband is amazing, he is just… he's really stubborn and willing to just like dig in. And so he is in it for the long haul with me and I really had to learn to accept that about him and to accept love from him.
D: I spent a long time just not even accepting what was right there in front of me.
J: It's almost… you know, it seems kind of providential that you found or were given or whatever crossed paths with a man like that because it's exactly what you needed. Anyone else, it might not have helped you to grow in that way, you know?
D: Absolutely. And he regularly astounds me. I mean, he's not a man of many words, he's very much an engineer type math brain, but sometimes I will just be having such a hard time and I'll talk for like 15 minutes and he'll listen, and then he'll just say one little thing and it like… I don't want to say it solves all my problems, but it will totally shift my perspective and I'll just be like, “Oh, like I could have saved myself like all this agony,” you know? (Laughs)
J: Oh yeah.
D: .. to say the perfect thing in like the shortest little sentences and it blows my mind.
J: Wow. You know, maybe, just maybe, now we all want to know what he says, start writing them down and… you know, remember back in the day that Jack Handy quotes? Well, we can have… what's your husband's first name?
J: The Paul Mendoza quotes. I mean…
D: Oh, he would love that.
J: … I want to buy your book, I want to buy the book (Laughs) because I want this wisdom.
D: It’d be fun to have the book of quotes from like the speechless man. (Laughs)
J: (Gaps) That's the title, ‘The Book of Quotes from the Speechless Man’ (Laughs).
D: Good one.
J: ‘Wisdom from Paul Mendoza’, oh, that's so great. So what's marriage been like for you guys, besides that I can hear you love him a ton?
D: It was very, very rocky at first. When we first got married in August of 2008 and then we got pregnant in December of 2008, so that was very quick, but we both knew we wanted to have kids so we were just like, “Yeah, we're married, let's do it.” And so then I got laid off when I was 12 weeks pregnant and so that didn't help with the depression and that made things sort of complicated for us. He ended up working 2 jobs and was going to school so he was just gone all the time working so hard…
D: … and I was not making life any easier.
D: I had jealousy issues coming from that fear of abandonment and, you know, I would really give him a hard time when I really should have just been thanking him and been more grateful.
D: And so it was a struggle. And after my daughter was born, we had some sort of issues come up and I thought we were headed for divorce. I had like a 3 week old baby and I was making plans in my head like, “Okay, what am I going to do? Like I can move in with my mom and she can help me watch the baby while I work,” and, you know, it was just scary and sad. And the hospital that we delivered at had this program available called Bringing Baby Home, and it was based on the marriage research of John Gottman. And I didn't know anything about John Gottman at the time but I heard about this workshop and my daughter was about 4 months old and I knew that we had to do something. And we were able to get a scholarship to sign up because we really didn't have any money back then and we went to this class for a few weekends and it completely changed our marriage. It completely changed our perspective of family and how we were to relate to one another and to our extended families, and it gave us that strength to really come together and start to confront the problems that we'd been having instead of just being like, “Well, there's problems, it must just be over.”
J: Mm-hmm, exactly. And so you stuck it out and things got much better or quickly, slowly?
D: Yeah, things started to get better. And, you know, we've had our ups and downs of course and it was really hard, again, when he was gone and then again right after he came back. I felt like some trust was broken in the process of him coming back to Los Angeles because I didn't want him to come back because of me. I see now what a gift that was and I can't hold anything against him, but it was hard and it's been hard to overcome that.
D: And it always, always comes back to my feelings of worthlessness and my fear of abandonment.
D: Any time we get into that deep discussion and we start, you know, dissecting whatever it is I feel like is going on in our relationship, it seems to always come back to that.
J: Wow, wow. So how are you healing that, you know, so the relationship can be more and more stable? By the way, I admire that you see your part in this instead of just pushing the blame all on him, which most of us are prone to do so…
D: Yeah, I definitely did for a long time and now it's almost harder because when we have talks, it almost always ends with like it's something I need to work on.
J: Oh yeah.
D: So I'm like, “Should I bring this up? It's going to be me anyway,” like…
D: So I just… but I do, I bring it up because we learn things about each other in the process of communicating, even when he maybe doesn't want to have a talk. (Laughs)
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
D: Poor guy, bless his heart. But it's great, I mean, it's great now, we're able to really connect and not fight, whereas before it was more fighting. We still thought after that workshop, sometimes like say mean things or, you know, I don't know… you know, just make blame, that's the biggest thing is just blaming the other person for what's going on…
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
D: … and then getting defensive.
J: Yeah, right.
D: And that lasted for a really long time until my husband was like, “You need to be happy, and if that means that you're not here, you know, that's what we need to do.” And I was like, “Okay, this is it, like I have to figure this out,” and I signed up for Heal Your Heart and I really committed to doing the lessons weekly and doing the journaling and just… you know, I know that I would get out of it when I put into it so I dove in and it really paid off. And I've learned all these different tools to just sort of give myself that mindful presence because I can't get caught up in feeling worthlessness and fear of abandonment when I'm here now and connected to that meta energy or the God or universe.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Would you say you love yourself now?
D: Absolutely, yeah. It's taken a long time to get there, but now even at yoga class when I, you know, I'm in a pose and I come up and look at myself in the mirror, I smile sort of uncontrollably…
J: Wow, that’s really good!
D: … and that’s not happened before.
J: And how do you think you loving yourself as improving all your relationships with your spouse, your kids, maybe your mom, other people?
D: It's taking the burden off of them. You know, I can find what I need myself and it sort of removes that dance of like, “Am I showing up okay? Are they going to be mad at me? And my… you know, should I be doing something for them?” I know that I sort of put my husband on eggshells for a while with my behavior and my reactivity. And so now, it's like that's a non-issue, that just doesn't even come up anymore.
D: And we know that we can say things to each other and talk about it, and we might get emotional, but we're in much better control of that and just expressing through our emotions instead of letting the emotion take over.
J: Yeah. Kind of like giving up victim thinking, thinking that everyone else, if they only changed, then we could be happy, but just acknowledging, “Oh, I am 100% in control of this. I can work on anything,” especially through that connectedness you keep mentioning.
D: Absolutely. Yeah, it's kind of funny but it helps me to remind myself of like maybe someone like a prisoner of war who's like trapped in a cage and not like… no good food, no warmth, and there are people who've existed in that condition who have found gratitude and beauty and appreciation for life. So if they can find it, I can find it.
J: Ooh! Isn't that the truth? Comparing prisoners of war with moms, there is so much truth there.
J: And not to discount the prisoner of war experience.
J: And, you know what? I can say that because a few weeks ago, I interviewed Nicole Crawford who actually had a lot of war trauma and she said being a stay-at-home mom was harder.
J: So we have someone who can really say it.
D: There you go.
D: Yeah, I don't like the idea of like, “Someone else has it worse than you, buck up,” but I do like the idea of really empathizing with that person and saying like, “Okay, if they can get it going on, I can get it going on.”
J: Mm-hmm, exactly, empowerment, taking your power back instead of expecting others to make all the changes.
J: Which makes you powerless because they often don't do it, right?
D: Never. Yeah, why would they? Why should they?
J: Mm-hmm, exactly. Well, Danielle I love your story and I love how confident and, you know, smiling at yourself in a mirror at yoga, you have arrived in my opinion.
J: So, well done. But I want to come back and talk more about some of your favorite things and some of the other lessons you're learning now and what you're doing with your life now after a quick break from your sponsor.
Okay, Danielle, welcome back. We are going to talk now about some of your favorite things and then what you're doing in the world today. So let's start with, what does your morning routine look like? You know, a homeschool mom…
J: … I know you have your business, Be Myself Now, you meditate, okay, so this has to be an amazing morning routine; or not, whatever, no pressure.
D: Well, I am a questioner so I really don't like the idea of a really fixed routine or someone else telling me what to do, and I feel that way about schedules sometimes. So I really like novelty. So I sort of asked myself the morning like, “What do I need?” and I tend to that; I love the flexibility of that in my morning routine. But the first thing is to get up early, to get up earlier than my kids, it's really, really hard to set my intention for the day and get my day rolling right if I'm waking up responding to the needs of others.
D: So I like to get up early and then I usually make a cup of coffee and feed my cats so they don't meow and wake up the kids. And then I go downstairs, we have a little downstairs laundry room area, I call it my apartment, it is off-limits to the family unless they're invited, and it has a little bathroom and a desk and my studio is down there. So I like to go down there to be alone and meditate and do some yoga. I made the commitment to myself to do at least 5 minutes of yoga every day, it's not hard to do 5 minutes, so I do that. And usually once they get started, I just keep going; it's like momentum thing.
D: So I do that and then sometimes I'll do a little reading and then I hear my kids are waking up, so I'll go upstairs and get them started with breakfast and just get their morning started nicely. And then I tend to whatever they need for school and I help get them set up and then I take an hour at a time to go downstairs and work on my business throughout the day in between their schooling. And by the afternoon, we're usually all finished, and if I don't have any clients, we'll go to the park or we take… I call them field trips, we just go somewhere do something fun.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So what's your homeschool regimen look like? I'm asking because I found it very admirable how you do it.
D: Well, I set up a daily accountability board for the kids so they can keep track of what they're doing, because I really feel like autonomy and education is key, it helps inspire that excitement. And so we came up with what they're going to do together when we first created it, and their board includes things like doing yoga, getting ready for the day because kids are still learning sort of the routines of all of that, and then they have centers that they can choose from, those include things like Spanish and art and science and Minecraft, I let them build in Minecraft, all different things. They practice a skill every day for 20 minutes and they do music every day for 10 minutes. So it's just sort of a free-for-all and they can go in any order, and then I will give them lessons about their more like academic stuff every couple of days; they don't love to sit. And I think one of the biggest follies that homeschoolers have is they try to recreate school at home…
D: … and homeschooling is just something different. So I try to really take a loose approach and let the kids lead.
J: That's awesome. And so your kids love learning, you know, in their own way? Are they good students?
D: Yeah, they love it. When you call it school they're like, “Ugh!” you know what I mean? They've sort of adopted that attitude a little bit, the stuff that they have to do. But they love homeschooling and they tell me regularly that they would not want to go to regular public school and they just enjoy it so much and we just have so much freedom.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And do you have other homeschool friends?
D: We do, mostly in LA because we just moved up to the Bay Area this year and we're still getting to know the area. But yeah, we homeschool through an online public charter so there are field trips with other kids enrolled in their program and there is an Academy class that they can take once a week and all kinds of stuff available to us, so it's sort of a blend of homeschool and public school.
J: Ooh, that's neat, online public charter, I haven't heard of that, I will check it out; if I want to homeschool, and I'm thinking about it (Laughs). After our rough last year with our kids in regular school, I'm tempted, you know? (Laughs)
D: Yeah, the attendance alone sells it for me. I mean, I was just reading some public school guidelines the other day and it was like, “Your kid cannot miss more than 4 days, even with excused absences or you're going to start getting truancy letters.” And, you know, my daughter was in kindergarten, she was in public school and they couldn't miss more than 10 days. And in kindergarten, they're sick more than ten days, let alone any enrichment stuff we wanted to do like seeing family who was in from out of town. We had a death in the family that year, I mean, I was getting a letter from the school, I was just like, “This… this is not going to work.” (Laughs)
J: Well, interesting side note, they send those truancy letters but they almost never actually enforce anything with them (Laughs); we’ve learned by experience.
D: Well, it’s useless stress…
J: It’s useless, exactly.
D: … even more reason to homeschool. (Laughs)
J: And so tell us your favorite easy meal and kitchen gadget.
D: Yeah, my favorite easy meal is, we call it Brinner, so breakfast for dinner.
D: Anytime that I am like, “I don't know what to do, I've been way too busy today. I haven't started anything, we need to eat dinner in like 10 minutes,” we almost always have eggs. And so I'll make some eggs and throw some toast or waffles and some fruit together. Sometimes the kids get really lucky and they get to have cereal for dinner if we're really low on groceries…
D: … and that's like super exciting, right?
J: That’s great. Brinner, I love it, let’s have… I'm going to start saying that.
D: And it’s my husband’s favorite…
J: It is?
D: … so I never go wrong with it. (Laughs)
J: Yay! What's your favorite kitchen gadget?
D: I love my KitchenAid stand mixer.
D: It does all the work for me.
J: So funny story, I don't have one and I always think about getting one, but I've become a little counterculture there, so tell me why do you love it?
J: I might ask for one for Christmas this year. (Laughs)
D: I bake a lot.
D: I bake a lot and it's hard to like cream butter and sugar together, you know, it takes some muscle. And at Christmas time, we like to bake for the homeless so we're typically baking like 500 cookies at a time.
D: And it's a lot to stand there and do that. And like cakes need to be whipped for a really long time.
D: Kneading dough, it has this dough hook so it can knead the dough for me. But I know you don't make bread anymore so that's probably…
J: So you're… you're still in good mom mode, I gave up. I'm just like…
D: No, I am the minimum.
J: What’s the “minimum?”
J: I'm kidding, no that's great, good for you. You know, I think I could imagine maybe baking bread, but I have so much stigma attached to it that I can’t; I can't I can't go there psychologically. (Laughs)
D: It’s really great for mashed potatoes too.
D: I boil the potatoes, throw them in, some butter, some milk, salt pepper, whatever, turn it on, they're done, they're creamy, they're perfect.
J: Ah. Well, so I still have my Electrolux bread maker which has a whipping attachment, so I do use that big giant hulking thing to make meringue and buttercream frosting whenever we do make a cake. So otherwise, it's a hand mixer, but yeah, I might do it, I might do it; I'll let you know.
D: I recommend going around Christmas time. I got mine at Lowe’s, it's like a little bit smaller one but it was much cheaper than they normally are so…
J: Oh, okay, okay. Well, what's your favorite life hack?
D: Oh, my favorite life hack is getting up early.
J: Oh yeah.
D: I'm a night owl by nature.
J: Yeah, uh-huh.
D: I've always stayed up late, my husband gets up really early. And then when I had my daughter, she inherited his early bird syndrome. (Laughs)
D: So she would wake up early all the time and I just realized how unhappy I was waking up to someone needing me and I just had to make that switch to get up early. And so now, I get up at about 4:30 and I love it.
J: Wow, wow, that's impressive. When do you go to bed?
D: I usually get into bed around 8:00, 8:30, sometimes it's later. Sometimes I don't get as much sleep as I should, but being a homeschool mom and working from home, I can nap if I need to, so that works out.
J: Yeah, and your husband's going to bed early too, right? I think that must help.
D: Yeah. He sometimes goes to bed earlier than the kids. (Laughs)
J: You know, it's really perfect, if you're homeschooling, you guys can have the schedule. I feel like when you're in the public school, the schedules would be nearly impossible; not impossible, don't get me wrong, but harder because kids are all up later with everything they're doing, I don't know.
J: Maybe that's a stereotype, I'm just not…
D: No, it's true. With homeschooling, we do sports, music activities during the day. I have a rule that I don't do anything after 3:00pm or on Saturdays because that's family time.
J: Aww, that's nice.
D: So occasionally, we do, but for the most part, I schedule all of their activities during the day. And all of those places have homeschool classes during the day.
J: Mm-hmm, oh, that's really good; lucky. What's your favorite book?
D: My favorite book currently is ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A. Singer.
J: Okay. I have not read it, what's it about?
D: It is so good. It is all about how to let go of all the junk and be mindful and just live your life.
J: Cool, awesome. We will have a link to that book and your KitchenAid and ‘Mask of Masculinity’ and everything else so many good things you've talked about on our show notes page at jenriday.com/142. And our final question (well, second to last), what does it mean to be a vibrant happy woman?
D: Well, for me, being a vibrant happy woman means knowing yourself and creating your life. So knowing yourself means getting in touch with that meta energy, becoming familiar with the inner you, this is your highest self that inner observer, and becoming familiar with what feels good or feels light to that inner observer. And then to create your life, you're just making daily decisions that are in alignment with that highest self because now you know what that feels like.
J: Mm, and so everyone listening, that means you need to meditate or do something quiet it or else you just get stuck in your brain; right, Danielle?
J: And also, I want to add, for those of you who feel guilty taking that time for yourself, well, let's let you answer that, Danielle. How do you justify it? You know, what do you say? What's your self-talk around taking this time for yourself?
D: I feel guilty when I don't take the time for myself because if I don't take that time, I can't show up for others in the way that they need me to. I'll be too caught up in my own stuff to really, you know, offer my kids a good mom or offer my husband present and happy wife. And yeah, it's just… it's so necessary but you can't feel guilty about it, you just have to celebrate it. And it doesn't take very much. I feel like, initially, it takes a little more because we have to heal so much, but once we've sort of done that and we come over the hump of that hill, it's like it doesn't take very much to really just get to that calm place and get back to yourself. So it's not something you really need to hold a lot of guilt for.
J: Mm-hmm, perfect, well said. And a challenge from you to our listeners and then we'll say goodbye.
D: Yeah, I'd like to challenge the listeners to learn to know themselves by getting in touch with themselves, like 3 times a day, doing what I call SING; so that's S, Stop what you're doing, I, Inhale deep and steady (so if that means you have to take a few breaths until it's deep and steady, that's what you do), N is Notice what your thoughts and emotions are just notice what's happening inside of you and then G is to gently respond, so whether that's to others or to yourself.
J: Ooh, I like that, gently respond to others and yourself. Well, Danielle, I guess one last thing and I want you to share, what are you doing online and where can people find you?
D: Yeah. So I am connecting with teens to really help them figure this out sooner than later. As I went through this process, I realized I could have benefited so much from having these tools sooner in my life, and a lot of the people I met said the same thing. So I just want to offer, you know, what I've got to teens and I'm online at bemyselfnow.com, and I teach teens how to know themselves and create their life. Because I can't really tell them what to do, every life is so different, but I can teach them how to figure that out.
J: Mm-hmm. So tell us, you know, a little more about the work you do with teens.
D: I work with them to figure out, you know, where are they stalling on creating their life, what's really standing in their way. Because for teenagers, it's very little actual stuff. They don't really have bills, they don't really have all those responsibilities of adulthood yet, and so it's very much about the inner work. And handling that sooner really prepares them to just confidently step out and have that self-efficacy and that self-esteem to take on life.
J: So if any women listening think this might be good for their teens, where should they go?
D: They can go to bemyselfnow.com/free and they can download the mindful life management for teens e-book that I wrote, and it's totally free. And they can give it to their teen or they can even do it for themselves. I find that, as teens go through this process, they want their parents to sort of start to address some of these things as well, so that's a good way to get your teen involved is to show them that you're willing to do it too.
J: Mm, okay, so bemyselfnow.com/free?
J: Cool. Danielle, you're doing such good stuff in the world. I'm going to be waiting… for what was our book called with Paul Mendoza?
J: ‘The Silent Man’s Guide’?
D: ‘Quotes from the Silent Man’. (Laughs)
J: ‘Quotes from the Silent Man’! I'm going to be waiting for that, and everyone, definitely check out Danielle's e-book, it's awesome. And Danielle, this was great, you're doing great things in the world, thank you so much for being on the show.
D: Thank you, Jen, thanks for having me.
J: Well, there you have it, the amazing Danielle. And I just love her, she is so soulful and real and authentic and she talks about what's on her heart, not just what's on her mind, but what's on her heart, and I love that. I want to challenge you all to take some of her words to your hearts and listen to your intuition, listen to that inner voice to know the right path for you, how you can heal, how you can grow, how you can live your purpose. Also, I want to remind you, don't forget to sign up for the “How to Love Yourself” workshop, it's a 4-part video series and the first 2 videos are live. You can get those for free at jenriday.com/loveyourself. I will be back later this week with a Happy Bit, and until then, make it a vibrant happy week. Take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.