I am back after a nice, long and restful holiday.  I’m not going to lie, it felt so good to take some time off.  I made sure to take enough time so that I would actually crave getting back to work.  Two weeks definitely did the trick and I am grateful I could take that much R&R.

A lot has happened during this downtime.  Let’s start with the biggest one.

I turned 44

Probably the most significant, I turned 44 on the 5th.  Despite the frigid temperatures, a so-called bomb cyclone, and the fact that I postponed a birthday celebration a week, I truly felt grateful on my birthday.  Only being a few days after the New Year, I felt really good about 2017.  I changed a lot of things about my life, learned to better manage the things that were out of my control and entered the New Year on a high note.

For most of my life I have been like the duck who has appeared to be gliding along the water while beneath surface paddling tirelessly.  It’s always been my nature to suffer in silence while keeping it together on the outside.

I don’t want to alarm anyone.  I use this analogy not to freak you out, like I was in some sort of danger.  I have always been your garden variety over achieving woman who put way too much pressure on herself and never seemed capable of just enjoying the ride.  Even as a child, my mom was shocked that such a small child could carry as much worry as I did.  In addition, admittedly, I have experienced quite a few years that were just plain challenging even without my own inner struggles making them that way.   There have been plenty of New Year’s Eve celebrations where I have hoped the next year would be better and then found myself wishing for the same exact thing the following New Year’s Eve.  The simple fact that I can enjoy an upswing is progress.

Perhaps this comes with age, this ripening into inner-comfort and learning to just go with with the flow in not so much an apathetic way but in more of an ability to be more accepting.  Life is good right now and much of that is because of the choices I have made and what has come as a result.

Looking back at 2017 I made some changes, like:

I completely overhauled my health

Truth be told, this started in 2016 after one of the most harrowing experiences regarding my weight.  Knowing I was on the heavier side for me, imagine my shock when I found out I was 30lbs. heavier than that.  I have since described my reaction to that scene in Breaking Bad when Walter White finds out Skylar gave their money away, has a psychotic break and starts hysterically laughing.   I remember the nurse’s reaction at the doctor’s office being much like Skylar’s.  She didn’t know what to do with me.


Since then I have lost the extra 30lbs. and still have more to lose, but the most important thing is I developed a workout and eating plan that I stick with.  Everyone keeps asking me what my secret was and, I hate to break it to you, it’s just plain old exercise and diet.  I touched on what I do briefly in this post. Essentially, losing weight and getting healthy needs to be a lifestyle change, and that takes time.  Losing weight slowly, like I have, might not be the most enjoyable way to lose but it does give you ample time for a workout routine and eating plan to become just part of life.  I workout everyday, and if I don’t get to the gym, not feeling like it is never a good enough excuse not to go.  Seriously, I even got myself to the gym when the windchill was in negative numbers last week.

I started knitting

It shocks people when they find out that I only starting knitting in February of 2017.  I did have two false starts in my 20’s and 30’s, however, it took this third time for it to stick.  It might be because I have a degree in fashion design and actually used to design sweaters, but knitting came exceptionally easy to me even though I am left handed and knit backwards.  I tell people it’s either knitting or Xanax…or throwing myself off a bridge.

Yet, the knitting itself is not the important part of this change, it’s why I started knitting and what it gave me, that is.  In early February I got fed up with social media, particularly Facebook.  Every morning I would read my Facebook feed and get depressed with all the political posts and arguments.  Realizing that starting my day with such sadness and hostility, I decided to go on a Facebook fast.  What was meant to be a day turned into 11 months and I haven’t read my Facebook feed since.  Spending more time on Instagram (a much happier social media outlet), I got inspired by Krysten Ritter’s knitting posts.  Going through a particularly tense time, I broke out my needles and started playing around.  I basically learned how to knit through YouTube videos and with the virtual help of my friend Wendy, who I affectionately call my Yarn Yoda.   I knit Christmas gifts for my entire family, and have learned how to use this hobby as an outlet to not only relieve stress but express my love for my friends and family through the gifts I make.

My point is, when life gets tough, when you find yourself sucked in way too far into the social media vortex, need to get back to yourself or are running into too many directions, find your “knitting”, whatever that may be.  While handcrafts can be incredibly helpful because studies show the act of handcrafting can actually have healing benefits, I don’t think it matters what you do just as long as it is centering, mentally nourishing and brings you joy.

I expanded my professional career

In 2017 I celebrated my 15th year in business as a personal stylist.  Despite the enjoyment and contentment I get from my work, I was feeling unchallenged by it.  This is when I was presented with the opportunity to speak at a huge fashion trade show in Vegas last year on the topic of training salespeople in the area of personal styling.  I put together my presentation, flew to Vegas and spoke to an unexpectedly large audience of retailers.  Despite being nervous, it went really well.  And I also realized how long it has been since I was nervous about anything regarding my work.  Nerves means you are growing.  It feels good to be growing again.

And from this event came another opportunity to speak on this topic in Orlando Florida this month.  At this point I am just excited to see how it all unfolds.

I celebrated ten years of marriage

In October I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary to my beloved husband, Frank.  To say I was a dating disaster before I met him would be an understatement.  But, Frank, well, he is the cheese to my macaroni.

I finally grew out my God D*mn hair

When you find the most perfect light you have to take a selfie. #nofilter

A post shared by Bridgette Raes (@bridgetteraes) on

Two years.  Two painstaking years of growing out a pixie cut.  Two years of living with hairstyles I never would have chosen for myself.  Ugh, it was torture.  Yet, it was the perfect metaphor for riding out the dark times and learning to live in the yuck until you get the the light at the end of the tunnel.  A special shout out to my hairstylist who made the process as painless as it could be.

Darkness is there to help us appreciate the light

Nobody likes dark times and for some reason we feel miffed when they happen, as if there was some guarantee that said we were never supposed to experience difficult times.  Ten days after celebrating the 10th anniversary of my marriage, I also marked the 20th year of losing my dad.  What I learned from this is without hard times we would never have the full capacity to embrace  and appreciate the good.  If you look at everything that changed for me in 2017 it sprouted from darkness, be it weight gain and poor health, an evolution of a career that felt a bit stagnant, a delightful hobby as an antidote to stress and tension, celebrating ten years of love after being with a string of horrible boyfriends, or just learning how to finally enjoy the ride after putting too much stress and pressure on myself.  We can’t fully know light until we experience dark.  So as much as we buck hard times and get uncomfortable and frustrated with difficulties, it’s important to remember that this is just life reminding us that it’s just time to grow and change, to look for the cracks of light in the darkness and, most of all, to just keep swimming, Nemo.

If you are in the middle of change, experiencing dark times, feel lost, humbled, in pain or just generally crappy about where your life is right now, I am not going to shower you with empty encouragement because the hard times suck… they just SUCK.  And as hard as we do to get the ball rolling in the direction we want it to go, we only have so much control over when things begin to move.  On many things I pushed for years before I didn’t feel like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a mountain.  And in some things I still feel like good ol’ Sisyphus just sweating it out.  I never want to be one of those “hashtag blessed” women you see on social media and want to punch in the throat.  I am not her.  I am just another woman who is pushing her own boulders up the hill.  Sometimes things go well and other times they don’t.

As we begin this new year, I wish you all an amazing 2018 full of growth and bliss and learning.  I feel incredibly appreciative to all of you who read this blog, even the passive readers who stumble on one article and then go on their merry ways.  To my loyal readers, you have my heart.  Let’s see what 2018 has in store for us.  Here we go!