The Reason we Feel Pain

nikki novo pilates

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at three years old. Honestly, my mother was really on top of it and I was so resilient as a child that it didn’t really throw a wrench in my life plans.

The symptoms rarely show themselves, but when I have a bad year, I know I’m about to undergo some serious transformation. After all, when our bodies talk, the messages aren’t to be taken lightly.

This year has been a swelling of the knee kinda year for me. When I have these episodes, I always know it’s my true self’s desperate attempt to get my attention.

At first, I try to cure myself. You know, deep breaths, extra green juice, lots of prayers to Archangel Raphael, and some at-home stretching. But of course, when our fears start to manifest themselves in our physical bodies, there’s usually a much bigger lesson to be learned that requires our complete attention and energy. That’s when it’s time to call in the reinforcements. For me, that’s my Pilates instructor, Kara.

It had been about three years since I last saw her. And I admit, while I like the final product, I avoid going because I know she’s going to make me work, plus the guilt of taking time out of my day feels so heavy.

Kara heals beyond the body, that is for sure. Sometimes it is her words that speak to my soul, but mostly it is the space she gives me to connect with my wounds that allows me to heal. We all need people and activities that allow us to do this. We do not live in this world alone.

The other day while in session with Kara it was time to do these quad exercises that kill me, because I’m so weak in my right leg from protecting that injured knee. I’ve done a really good job of not letting that knee feel pain by overcompensating with the other leg.

In that moment, the lesson began to come out of the shadows and show itself. We all do this, don’t we? We protect ourselves from the feelings we need to feel the most. We try desperately to find partners, in an effort to not feel inadequate. We keep ourselves so incredibly busy in order to not feel that awful feeling of not being enough. Or we eat, drink, smoke our way through the anxiety.

We’re so scared of feeling, because it’s uncomfortable and it hurts. But what I learned through the pain of lifting up that leg was that the cure is just underneath the pain.

As I worked through the pain, I found my inner strength. It was a really weak inner strength, but nonetheless it was there. I could barely feel it, but it felt alive and so excited to get stronger. It's been there this whole time, but for some reason, I convinced myself I had lost it or that it never existed.

This is true for all of us. The pain that we’re so desperately avoiding is, in fact, the answer. Acknowledging it, and agreeing to go through the healing process is where we find the inner strength that has always been there — it just went unused for a while. The pain is actually a gift, a sign, a path.

And the strength, well, it's always been there. We were created with this super strength inside that is beyond the physical world. All we need to do is connect. 

I try not to get caught up in the drama of wondering why that strength was covered up in the first place. But what I do know is that strength needs to be realized, and some of us just rather explore, discover, and tell others about it later. 

Tell us your story of strength below. <3

The Secret to Living Life on Your Own Terms

nikki novo self help writer

It had been a few days since my father flew back to Miami leaving me alone in this strange place known as Los Angeles. I remember looking around at my new living situation, which was basically shacking up with one of my dearest friends in her studio apartment, and thinking to myself, “Where are all the adults?”

I had spent a few days just lounging around with other 20-something-year-olds, talking like adults, eating what we pleased, and doing what we felt was right. It was absolutely nuts to me.

You see, although I was 22 years old — a whole four years past the age of what Americans consider a legal adult — I didn’t quite feel independent. It was strange for me to be able to speak, dress, think, and well, be whoever I was without the opinion of an “adult.” It felt weird. It felt lonely. But overall, it felt like freedom.

For so many years, I defined myself as what other people told me I was. Like most children, I looked to my parents to validate who I was. I looked to them for a clue of who I was in the world. As I began to socialize, I also began to depend on my friends to define me. And then there were the opinions of boyfriends, teachers, employers, and so on.  When I thought of who I was, I would think about who people told me I was. And that was me.

When I moved to California, my entire perception of myself began to change. As the days passed by, I started to realize I was doing everything on my own terms. There was no one near me who was going to tell me otherwise. My parents, family, and friends were thousands of miles away from me. Meaning, I could be whoever I wanted to be — without judgments, without criticisms, and without expectations of those I surrounded myself with most. It was a pretty liberating experience.

In high school and college, I always thought of myself as someone who needed the last word, someone who needed to be heard. My family and friends saw me as this person, too. You might even have considered me high-strung when around certain people.

So you can imagine my surprise when I realized I really wasn’t that person after all. On the contrary, I’m actually a very peaceful, compassionate, laid-back person. In simple terms: I’m pretty chill.

The only way I was able to learn this about myself was by living my life on my own terms. When I started to live a life that felt true to me, I lost the need to argue, yell, or have the last word. Why? Because the person I needed to be heard by the most was me. And I was finally listening.

Looking back, that high-strung person was just me mirroring some people around me. And it was also me trying to fight for freedom—something that was given to me at birth, yet I thought I had to struggle for it. Once I found deliverance, I lost the desire to demand respect, because I finally allowed myself to be respected.

A lot of the times, we can get stuck in the pictures people hold of us. Perhaps you were the rowdy kid growing up and your mom still sees you that way? Or maybe you jumped from project to project as a young adult? Those moments in time do not matter. Every day, every minute, every second is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves — an opportunity to be the person we truly want to be. We always have the choice.

And know that we don’t all need a big move to become independent of others. Divorcing ourselves from the judgments and beliefs of others can be accomplished anywhere. Once you stop listening to and believing the opinions of others is when the incredible, amazing you will come out to play. And I’ll bet you, she’s way cooler than that other girl you’re trying to be or hold on to.

At times, it may seem as though we do not have the choice only because the people around us tend to remind us of who we were in the past. It’s as if they snapped a photo of us during a not-so-great time and they continue to hold it in their pocket. If we ever get out of line and do our best to be something greater, they’ll whip out the photo and remind us of who we once were.

There is no reason to be ashamed of who we once were. And there’s also no reason to feel tied down to our past selves. If you continue to do this work, the work of looking within, your level of awareness will continue to elevate. And as your understanding of the world widens, your understanding of yourself will also expand, causing shifts in your everyday life.

You are constantly evolving and changing. Just because someone sees you a certain way doesn’t mean you need to be a certain way. Your actions define who you are at the moment. And you control your actions. Show those who hold pictures of you who you are today.

My younger brother was one who would sleep in a lot. One day, I made a comment in reference to his “immature” sleeping patterns. To my surprise, he looked at me calmly and said, “Actually, Nik, I don’t really sleep in anymore. I worked hard to change that about myself.”

I was holding a picture of him. He could have listened to what I said, accepted it as truth, and allowed his actions to follow suit. But instead, he reminded me of the photo I was holding of him. This kid has courage, and I like it!

People will undoubtedly hold photos of you, even if they don’t mean to. It is your responsibility to see yourself for who you are today. Maybe you feel really good about yourself while at work or around a certain friend. Why is that? Who are you when you’re in that environment?

Who are you besides being your mother’s daughter? Who are you other than being your boyfriend’s girlfriend? Who are you other than being a sister in your sorority? If you can’t answer the above questions then go do the research. I promise you it will be the most fulfilling project you’ll ever take on.

Start of by making everyday decisions based off what you really feel inside. From the mundane decisions like what are you going to eat for dinner to deciding who you want to surround yourself with. I discovered that I didn’t really care to eat red meat and that I wanted to be around people who had really big dreams for themselves.

As you go through this chapter, allow yourself the permission to be whoever it is you want to be — even if you’ve never been that person or don’t know where to start. Imagine your life as a blank canvas. What would you draw? Make your own picture and live it. 

Gigi Guermont: A Life Well Lived

Photo via coolpoolevents.com

I remember coming home after our first Saturday Blogging Bootcamp class and turning to my husband to say, “I’m so lucky. I am so lucky to teach the women I teach.”

When I decided to start to teach blogging and writing courses, I admit, I had a very specific student in mind. I didn’t just want the common blogger we see today talking about the on-the-surface stuff. I was looking for the girl who had something to say, something to teach, and something to live for. I was looking for a girl like Gigi Guermont.

Gigi Guermont

As always, my class was filled with inspiring ladies whose voices were changing our world. Among them, was Gigi. At the start of every course, I ask the girls to share their story so we can all get a better idea from where each one comes from. Gigi briefly mentioned her diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 16, which was followed by a double lung transplant just a few years ago. Obviously, these details were all important to understanding who Gigi was, but that’s not really the story she cared to tell. What she wanted to tell us about was the new lens through which she saw the world.

Gigi saw the world in bright, vivid colors. She knew every breath was a gift. Life wasn’t about the challenges, it was about the opportunities. And that’s why she enrolled in the course. To tell that story: the story of a life lived to the fullest.

Gigi Guermont Miami

Besides raising awareness for the Lung Transplant Foundation of Florida, Gigi had plans to blog about what it meant to truly live. Don’t sweat the small stuff is what Gigi wanted us to know. Step outside our own little bubble and make our lives count. She believed in the arts and creative expression. Her blog was also going to be a place to sell the jewelry she made to also raise money for the many causes she believed in.

Gigi’s life was cut short yesterday, and it’s really hard for me to understand that she is no longer with us. But I think the only reason I feel that way is because I’ve never met anyone with so much life in them. I truly believe that towards the end of her life, Gigi lived fuller than many of us do even into our 90s. So I know she wouldn’t want us to be sad for her, because she lived her life every day, which is more than a lot of us can say.

Gigi Guermont blog

This morning, as I walked my dog, I took a little longer. I made sure to look at every sight with Gigi’s eyes. I saw color and life in my mundane surroundings. And I smiled thinking of the way Gigi would hug her friends, which was always full with the kind of unconditional love, I imagine, comes from the heavens.

You will be missed, Gigi. But know your message still lives inside of me, your fellow classmates, and I’m sure every one you touched. Life has a new meaning, and I’m deeply sadden that you had to sacrifice yours to teach us that. But I find peace knowing that yours was a life well lived.

Rest, my sweet Gigi. 

The Time I Lost my Way

i feel lost

When I first started this work, I had no idea where I was going. My sole intention was to seek revenge against an old boyfriend through my new dating blog. I had no idea the road would lead to, well, me.

I had this little blog I could come to when I needed to be myself, far away from maintaining the different images people in my life expected to me. I knew the blog was public. I knew people could read it. And I knew people would eventually meet me on the street and think, “Oh, that’s the weird girl who blogs about her problems.” But when I sat in front of my computer screen to write, I wouldn’t think of those people. I didn’t really think of anything other than the desire to let go of a story that was haunting me by swimming in my mind for days. It needed to get out.

Eventually, the blog became less about me and more about the people who would read my work and were willing to connect with me. I started to write for them. I started to write for us. Because, after all, we were from the same tribe. A tribe of people who believed in a life beyond the constraints of the world we were currently seeing. A tribe of dreamers. A tribe of believers. A tribe of world-shifting creators. 

I was asked to be a leader, even though I’m not sure I was ever really aware. And ever since I began writing for us, I’ve been struggling to find my definition of a leader — and if I even had it in me to be one.

At some point, I decided that in order to lead, I needed to be successful. In other words: I needed to make loads of money, like right now. Otherwise, I was just a fraud. Plus, this thing that I’m doing — whatever it may be — must be a full fledge business to be taken seriously, of course. Without that component, I’m failing. 

Naturally, in order to be successful, I started to follow the money. And I started to follow the rules of others. The rules others have defined as success.

Last week, a big money deal I had been working on for months, crumbled within my two little hands. It was like a magic trick: now you see it, now you don’t!

I felt like total crap. In fact, it felt like a post 4am-partying hang over. Yet, I didn’t even enjoy the party.

I cried to myself, and not so much because I lost the deal, but more so because I lost my way.  And the scariest part of all of this was that I had no idea I was lost until I fell to the ground and asked myself, “What just happened?”

What happened was that I lost my intention. As Simon Sinek would say, I lost my “why.” I’m a heart-guided person, for better or for worse. And geeze, are there some days I wish I wasn’t. There are days when the sensitive creative thing gets old. There are days when I truly wish I could be practical and led by common sense rather than a set of feelings and goose bumps.

But that would be wishing to not be myself. And when we’re not ourselves, we lose our way. And the whole point of my work is to make an impact by paving my own path and to encourage others to do the same. My vision is that we all look within first, clean out all the debris, and leave a (somewhat) clear vessel in order to do the work we’ve each been called to do — yet, on our own terms.

I lost sight of all of that. But I’ve come back with the absolute knowing and sense of urgency that we must all stay on our paths — even when we’re tired and have no idea where the step will take us. The large vision for our lives is where we’re going. The steps are details that will be shown to us one at a time, when the timing is right.

And no, our paths don’t look exactly like anyone else’s path, which I know can be confusing and heartbreaking. But we didn’t sign up to take those kind of roads, now did we?

Do You Know What I did Many Summers Ago?

I was always that kid who wanted to make her own money. Why? Because I wanted to spend my way. In high school, I took a job at TCBY because I loved the product and I figured I could get some free froyo. But then I had to clean out the hot dog stand. Ewww. That was the end for me. I then hopped over to a Hallmark store, which, of course, was heaven for me. I'd spend hours reading sappy cards.

These days, it might not be so simple finding a summer gig for teens. It kills me when people think they need to wait to be given a job. Psst, you can make money on your own! Same goes for teens.

Today, I had the honor of being on NBC's Six in the Mix here in Miami. Roxanne Vargas and I talked about summer jobs teens can do from the comfort of their own home. And guess what? The stuff you can do from home can be activities that you love and make you money, too. 

Watch my segment, and next time you see a younger version of yourself, inspire her to find her calling, live her purpose, and believe she can make a life doing it. 

Much love to you always!

PS - For fun, tell me about your summer job growing up!

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO.