Your crossroads. Your choice | Ataraxia – Are You Positive

Happy to feature Your crossroads. Your choice. by EJ Apicello today and also host a guest post from the author.

About the Book

Welcome to my diary, my journey, as I tripped and crawled through the darkest time in my life- when I witnessed people that I held incredibly close to me shatter my very existence with their words and actions. The things within this book spine are extremely raw and exceptionally real. You and I are going to get very close, the details in this book, although oddly general, are incredibly specific. Yes, I realize what I just said and as you read my words you will see what I mean. As you silently gasp and mentally bitch slap me, please be kind because my story is just that – my story. It is not any more or less special than yours. In fact the only difference between our stories are the choices we made at each of the crossroads in our lives. For most of my life the choices I made were not based on my happiness but on everyone else’s. This book describes what I have experienced in my journey to finding my happiness and hopefully never letting it go. Sadly, it took me thirty six years to find the strength I need to detoxify my life and self view and find someone who is worthy of my awesomeness. Thirty six years to shatter the negative foundation I had built shatter the ultimate representative I created to hide behind and begin the process of building a new foundation. Only this foundation will be built on strength, confidence and above all, happiness. So take a minute or thirty and sit with my story for a while. You never know what you might find out.

The author about herself
EJ Apicello Author Photo

Welcome to my real, crazy, emotional, probably too honest journey. I am an everyday girl in this everyday world trying to keep my head above water and within the pages of this book you will learn about the things that have broken me down and the steps I am taking to build back up. You will see, my new friends, that this story is written in a unique, general, conversational voice, which was my choice. I want you to be able to picture yourself in my shoes, relate my trials and tribulations to yours and see that you too can find your happiness. Even if you don’t realize this yet, every single one of us possesses things inside of ourselves that we didn’t know were there. It took my life taking a crazy right turn and dumping me at the lowest possible point before I could see the strength within myself. We are not defined by what we do, we are defined by the choices we make. I decided when I put pen to paper that I want my choices to start defining me as strong, confident, secure and above all else, happy. So, who am I? How about I tell you who I was – a self loathing shell of myself who put everyone else’s happiness before my own. Herein lies my story to find that happiness and all of the ups and downs along the way. See who I was and who I am trying to become and maybe, somewhere in there, you will find out a little about yourself too.

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Ataraxia – Are You Positive

In order to develop the skills I need as I embark on this new chapter in my life, I decided to try out a local Toastmasters group in the hopes that I could practice and polish my public speaking. Being a scientist at heart I immediately tried to classify the participants into some form of organizable categories and as much as I tried I could not come up with a single one. This both excited me and surprised me; each one of these people were here for essentially the same reason, to gain confidence in themselves and learn essential skills to speak in public situations. Each one was from such a different walk of life too, from their places of employment to age to personalities. It almost short circuited my brain trying to determine a classification until I realized the only thing we seemed to have in common at the moment was the desire to better ourselves. This made me smile because this was a group I didn’t mind being classified in. We were all trying to accomplish a goal we had set in our minds and attending this meeting, on this very night, was a step in the right direction.

As we were making small talk before the meeting began, I mentioned what my profession was and why I was attending this session. A few of the participants were surprised that I was here because of what I do as my “day job.” It requires me to speak in front of a crowd for approximately five hours everyday, but nobody is perfect, I can always learn more. I also realized that they keep things VERY politically correct which is going to be an interesting challenge for me. I am not usually dropping F bombs every other sentence but I do get pretty real when it comes to my writing and speaking. Walking into this new space, this new experience, gave me butterflies that I haven’t felt in a long time, which is how I knew that I was taking the right step. I was coming into this meeting as who I wanted to be, not the ultimate representative that I hid behind for years.

I was not sure how meetings like this were handled – again, this was my first experience. A friend of mine and I were discussing the platform before I went, trying to figure out if I should prepare myself to speak or if it was more of a newbies keep your mouth shut kind of thing. Although I do spend my time speaking all day, it is about material that I feel very comfortable with. I repeat the same knowledge to listeners each year, tweaking here and there along the way, but nothing major really changes. This forum was slightly different – it was more off the cuff, on your feet. Sure you could prepare a speech and get on the agenda but a major part of the meeting was allowing people to speak for a few minutes about a topic that is provided to you in the moment – our topic for the night was “Beating the Winter Blues”. Speakers had four scenarios surrounding this overarching topic to choose from to go up and speak about.

Let me back up for a minute – prior to finding out what the “tabletop” topics were for these short speeches, a word of the day was introduced and attendees were challenged to use it throughout the night in our speeches. The word for that particular meeting was ataraxia. I know, right? When introduced to this word I immediately thought it was the descriptor of the next viral pandemic to hit our country. I was dumbfounded when I learned the definition, that it was actually right in line with my very foundation! According to Dictionary.com, the definition of ataraxia is: a state of serene calmness, a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquility. How has this word not been part of my life until now?!?!? I love it for so many reasons. First, like me, it is quite a lot to handle. Second, although it’s definition is something we can all understand, it’s image to the outside world goes against what we think. A word that emulates calmness should sound like that. Ataraxia doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as tranquility but again, that is one of the reasons why I like it. It has curves and sharp edges but is still striving for what we all seek – calm amidst this crazy world.

I repeated this new word in my head getting used to how it felt as the first thread was brought up – how you would handle beating the winter blues if you were from Minnesota and the room fell silent. I knew exactly what I would say but kept my hand down because this was not my sandbox, I didn’t know whether to get involved or hang on the outskirts. I should have recalled some of my writing because I was falling into old habits of attempting to be a wallflower, to just blend in. I was annoyed at myself when a gentleman from the group volunteered to speak and weaved a very descriptive tail of his virtual Minnesota house and all of it’s cozy accoutrements. I had to remember that I was not here to feel a sense of ataraxia, I was here to sit with my awkwardness, to recognize it as my internal self critic and let it go as the powerless thought it truly was. I should have taken the opportunity to practice, after all this is what I came for, and I let it slip by but I did not dwell on my sense of frustration, did not let my critic have a chance to knock me down.

Thankfully there were three more opportunities and I jumped at the chance to get up and speak. I took the thread entitled, “what celebrity would you like to meet that would help you to beat the winter blues”, and went up to the podium with an idea in mind and a flutter in my belly. Can you guess what happened next? I survived that minute long speech with no rotten tomatoes thrown at me and no boos yelled from the crowd. In fact, the audience laughed and applauded (which they did for everyone, but it still felt nice). Maybe continuing to push myself out of my comfort zone will become my new sense of calm and tranquility, my ataraxia. Life is uncontrollable, messy and unpredictable pushing people in the exact opposite direction of ataraxia. Who knows, perhaps continuing on my path of living in the present moment and finding confidence in my choices will become my ataraxia.

Comment below with things that bring you ataraxia – a sense of calm when you are feeling stressed. Are you having a hard time coming up with something? Message me and we can set up a time to try and figure one out!

Your crossroads. Your choice

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