July 22, 2021

From Perpetual Optimism to Adventuring in a Campervan—& the Courage to embrace the Unknown.


“See the good, be the good.” It’s something I used to tell myself as an affirmation and a reminder that no matter the situation, it was always best to focus on the bright side.

My thorough inspiration led me to create a silk screen of this saying in Courier New font, allowing me to print and wear it on my favorite watercolour palette, iced-dyed tank top. Bonus: while out in public, I’d be prompting others to see and be the good, too.

One day, shortly after returning back to my home in Wisconsin from a retreat in St. George, Utah, my mind was blown in realizing how truly f*cked up living with such a mindset is. As cliche as this sounds, it was as if I removed my rose-coloured glasses to wipe the smudges off, and I suddenly saw life for what it was: neither good nor bad.

This unhealthy mentality came thanks to an overload of self-help books and inspirational quotes in response to a major life traumatic event.

After a healthy and beautifully boring pregnancy, my son, Leo, was born with an extremely rare, incurable, and terminal genetic disorder. The fate was grim. My husband, Ryan, and I were told by genetic specialists we’d only have a few years with him. If I’m being honest, my mind thankfully tuned most of the additional related details out.

Our takeaway: this is going to be hard and we’re likely going to outlive our son. Perpetual optimism became my self-preservation.

We did all the right things through pregnancy, taking impeccably good care of my body and our little guy before he came on Earth’s side. Both our families have incredible health and longevity. This outcome simply did not make sense. “We will get through this. He will get through this,” was on constant repeat in our minds.

From 2015 to 2018, between caring for Leo and working, my time was mostly spent devouring self-help and inspirational books. I became infatuated with the embodiment of a constant positive outlook and attracting goodness as opposed to getting sucked into the doom and gloom of the so-called “reality” our lives were supposed to be. The bad was akin to negativity in my mind, and I was much more interested in keeping the #goodvibesonly lifestyle going.

For a few years, these books served to inspire and kept me afloat, especially when combined with yoga, being out in nature as a family, and incorporating a multitude of holistic health care methods for Leo. He was crushing it in the health department, particularly given his prognosis. We were told his life would be full of hospital visits but instead, Leo experienced a single cold and ear infection, both mild, in his first four years of life.

In late-July of 2018, I hopped on a plane to Southern Utah for a self-care retreat with some friends which was organized through the MELT Method Instructor community. This trip would be my first time away from Leo and Ryan for more than 24 hours.

As one of the younger MELT Method instructors in the community, especially being from the Midwest where self-care was generally viewed more as a luxury than a necessity, I had been greatly inspired by many of my peers flying in from bigger cities on the East and West coasts. Spending time with these women, some whom I consider my true soul sisters, while being engrossed in health and genuine well-being, sparked something deep inside me.

My days started with sunrise hikes in Snow Canyon State Park amidst glowing red cliffs and blooming desert cacti, followed by guided movement workshops and dinner with friends, and ended with a sunset meditative walk around the labyrinth. I was enjoying myself without focusing on seeing the good. It simply was. Being newly sober after and on and off heavy alcohol dependency, most notably during social situations, has absolutely aided in fostering this enlightenment.

Over the following year, I experienced a whirlwind of radical illumination of seeing things for what they were and being honest with myself, noting that focusing on the bright side while discounting the negatives did not make me a good person or provide me with my unique version of a good life.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

Interestingly enough, this gem of a quote from Maya Angelou was another favorite of mine; however, it’s as if I never even considered changing anything.

Leo’s favorite thing is to be outside. The frigid winters and oppressively humid summers with an abundance of mosquitoes of the upper Midwest were simply the opposite of conducive to him living his best life outdoors. Our favorite family activity, hiking, left much to be desired regarding variety, terrain, and overall quality.

Our once beloved yard, full of giant maple trees and pollinator-friendly perennial gardens, no longer sparked joy but rather frustration at the endless work and upkeep we had to maintain.

Focusing only on the good was out of fear, and we knew this bell could not be unrung. The place where we grew up with our families, made all our friends in college, and planned to stay the remainder of our years no longer aligned with our desires.

Our situation with Leo was already challenging in Wisconsin, but allowing ourselves the opportunity to consider alternatives brought big ideas. We were open to choosing a more obscure variety of challenging lifestyle.

In just under a year after returning from the retreat in Utah, we had sold our home in Wisconsin and were anxiously elated to be starting a new chapter in Colorado.

Fast-forwarding through two stepping-stone moves to Denver and then Boulder—approximately two years later, our Goldilocks experience has found Fort Collins to be “just right” for our family.

Few days have been spent exclusively indoors while living in the state of “300 Days of Sunshine.” We have quickly become regulars on the abundant local hiking trails, often driving our self-built campervan to enjoy a post-hike picnic. Holistic care practitioner options for Leo are beyond plentiful. Our new townhome has a covered porch and courtyard, providing outdoor space with lots of room for potted plants that require minimal additional maintenance.

But this journey was far from unicorns, rainbows, and mountains.

Choosing to lovingly and willingly see the negatives while embodying the necessary courage to reject familiarity in exchange for the unknown provided massive rewards beyond what our mind’s eye could see.

As a sort of a ritual, I donated my “see the good, be the good” tank top to our local Goodwill before our move to Colorado.

While this mentality may have served as a liferaft to prevent us from spiralling in times of tremendous grief and overwhelm, it’s no way to sustainably live a thoughtful, genuine, and intentional life.


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