Beautifully Broken

“Did Cooper leave the slime on the kitchen table overnight?” Justin asked me.

“Ummm,” I said. “I don’t know. Why would I know that? Does it matter?”

“Well, yeah,” Justin said. “It does matter. There is a giant stain on our kitchen table now and it took off the paint on the table.”

I laughed. That’s what I do know when I don’t know what to say or do. So I laughed louder. Justin didn’t seem too upset (thank goodness), but all I could do was laugh. Of course, the slime would ruin our first incredibly expensive kitchen table that wasn’t a family “hand me down.”

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This must be karma for that time that my sister Sarah and I threw “pizza” scented slime on our bedroom ceiling. We wanted to see if the slime would stick to the ceiling or fall down. And guess what? To NO ONE’S surprise, the slime stuck on the ceiling.

We freaked out. Worried that our stepdad would be super mad at us, we started thinking about how we could get the slime off the ceiling.

So, I went into quick action. I took my little sister’s toddler bed and flipped it up vertical. I thought that would make the PERFECT ladder. I started to climb up the bed, and then the entire bed frame broke.

So, not only did we have pizza slime on the ceiling; I also broke my baby sister’s bed.

I am smiling so big thinking about how that slime was on our ceiling the day we moved out.

That’s the story that flashed into my mind at my barre class on Saturday morning. Stacy, the lead instructor, is a human like none other. She is filled with this joyful, bright, and beautiful spirit. You walk into the room and it’s bursting with love because she is in the center of the room, welcoming you to join her community of other compassionate and inspiring women.

Stacy always reminds us that everyone is broken. No one is perfect. We are all trying our best. We are all on our own journey. Barre class is a no comparison zone. You move at your own pace. You do your own modifications. You use the mirror for support and encouragement instead of judgment and defeat.

When I walked into barre class for the first time, I was broken.

I was broken in every sense of the word.

I was waiting to have surgery on my broken ankle.

My heart was broken from a season of devastating loss.

My mind was broken from stress and chaos of work.

If someone pushed me down one more time, I felt I might shatter into a million little pieces.

That class and those women helped changed everything for my mind and body – all because Alison messaged me on Facebook about trying the class for free. I am so glad she messaged me. I am so glad that I showed up. I am so glad that I went back.

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And despite being broken, Stacy reminds us that we are beautifully broken.

She reminded us that we can work on fixing ourselves. She said, “Think about your first day in class, and how far you’ve come since then!”

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I laughed thinking about my first class and said, “Yeah, the first class I thought, ‘What the fuck did I sign up for?’ OH SORRY – I didn’t mean to say that – I know you’re pretty religious so I didn’t want to offend you.”

She laughed and said, “Honey, I have a sign in my house that says, “I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.”

She told us a story about how she just put new kitchen counters in her house. After years and years of waiting to do so, they finally renovated the kitchen. I don’t remember all of the details about the type of countertop because my butt cheeks were on fire and I was staring deeply at a spot on the floor to distract myself from the pain, but they were really fancy and nice countertops. She was cleaning and put a rag with a certain type of cleaner on the countertop. Later, she learned that the cleaner on the rag went onto the countertop and ruined them – just like the stain on my kitchen table from the slime. Just like the broken bed from my ceiling slime.

“You know?” Stacy said. “I was so mad. And that’s when I said a few bad words. I got so mad. I was so mad at myself. You see, when we something is broken – or we feel broken – we want to change it. But as much as I want that stain to go away, I also want it to stay.”

BAM.

Right in the feels with that one, Stacy. I felt my throat tighten up and tears form in my eyes.

I know the tough shit makes us grateful.

I know that struggle breeds confidence.

I know that my past is why I am strong today.

But those thoughts and beliefs are hard to remember when you feel like life is pushing you under water and you can’t breathe.

As I was doing my own reflection, another woman started to cry. That story touched her too. Whatever “stain” she had on her heart, felt more than she could handle at the moment. I was about to run across the room and hug her. Then, the most beautiful thing happened. Another woman in the class noticed she was crying. She moved locations and walked up behind the woman who was crying. She put her arm on her shoulder and started doing the same flow and motion as her.

I LOST IT! There was so much beauty at that moment. There was so much strength that was gained in that moment of weakness for one woman. I felt tremendous love for that room and community. I felt an overwhelming about of joy that a sad moment of reflection turned into a moment of strength for everyone in the room, especially our dear friend who felt broken at that moment.

We are all beautifully broken, that much I know. My book, in a lot of ways, is about how broken I felt in my life. While I am not ready to share the title and all the details yet, here is a quick summary from my introduction:

“This book is a series of stories that help you discover your potential and uncover the beauty and strength in weaknesses. As Macklemore says in his song, “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” (my ultimate hype song), “Take my weakness and turn it into a weapon.” Every weakness I’ve encountered has actually made me stronger. After reading this book,  I hope you see that even once you climb a mountain, you are not done. You just see a new peak. You have found a resting spot to celebrate and reflect on. This book is about resiliency, vulnerability, and digging deep within yourself to run straight into your fears instead of running away from what keeps you up at night.”

You might feel broken, my darling. I know the feeling. But you are so damn beautiful. You are enough. Your scars are reminders of how far you’ve come. Your slime marks, whatever they may be, are reminders of what made you stronger and wiser.

If I am being honest, now I look at the slime mark and smile. That stain feels like it belongs – that yellow-ish smudge looks like a perfect impression to make our table unique. Do you know what that mark is for you?

We don’t always talk about what brokes us. We don’t often want to share memories of what tore us down and pushed us into the ground. That shit is hard.

And honestly, our brain chemically is working hard to repress those memories. I have a lot of experience in burying the pain and hurt – but let me tell you, the moment I started writing this book and opening up about what broke me, I started to heal in the most powerful way. And along the way, others have shared their stories and experiences that they’ve tucked away for far too long as well.

We are all beautifully broken, my dear. You are not alone. Don’t do this alone, either.

Much love,

Ashley

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