That cold winters evening. The roaring pellet stove warming the house. I had just returned from work and quickly threw some leftovers on the table for dinner. Mickey Mouse was keeping my two little girls busy while I was folding my 5 plus loads of laundry. It had been another stressful day at work, another day walking on eggshells at the office, stacks of paper piling up by the minute. I routinely counted down the minutes until the clock struck 5 pm so that I could start my hour-long commute back home to my other job. It was only Monday, but I loved being a Mom. This was my dream job. Every since I was a little girl I couldn’t wait to have a family of my own. I longed for it, imagined it, and dreamed about it. Although, looking back on this particular night it was not at all what I had imagined it to be.

Just as I hung up my youngest daughter’s favorite long-sleeved dress, I heard a blood curdling scream. My heart dropped to my chest and I ran into the family room. She fell to her knees and I found her curled up in a ball gasping with tears, “It hurts! It hurts!”

My husband picked her up and looked all over her body, her face, arms, stomach and found nothing. I grabbed her and saw her hands were scolding red. She had pulled herself up on the glass part of the pellet stove. Her heart-wrenching scream got louder and more intense by the second. Giuliana loved to cuddle and was so attached to me. I cradled her in my arms and bobbed up and down around the house. I tried everything to console her. Nothing worked. She found comfort on the floor flailing in every movement imaginable. How could I be so negligent and let this happen?

I was so angry with myself for putting laundry first and not watching my kids. If only I could take back those few minutes in time. I called the doctor. My voice was shaking. I had been on the verge of a breakdown ever since the birth of my oldest daughter three years prior and neglected my own self. I was overwhelmed. I struggled to find balance, happiness and joy. I longed for inner peace, but I was beyond lost…

Two months prior to this happening I had begun a new full time job. My long commute and the guilt of putting my kids in daycare tore my heart to pieces. Rather than taking advantage of my quiet commute, I cried. Then I prayed to God. Every single day, for two and a half years. I couldn’t handle this lifestyle and I begged for a change. I asked for patience, clarity and strength to get through those difficult days.

The anxiety continued to take a toll on me. Even after Giuliana’s hand healed several weeks after this incidence, panic attacks became a weekly occurrence. My body would shake. My muscles ached, my feet buzzed and my body would constantly twitch all day long. For eight months, every time I woke up my hands would tingle. Then they started to zap. I couldn’t watch any news. Even reading a suspenseful book would throw me into a panic attack. I developed adrenal fatigue and my body was depleted of magnesium. I was in bad shape.

As I reflect on these years, joy was nonexistent in my life. Finally, I began to connect with Spirit and identify the tools that would eventually change my life and introduce me to joy. Prayer, affirmations and visualization became my savior. I am a firm believer that we are all connected to the universe and within each of us lies an infinite potential. I started to listen to podcasts, started exercising and really connecting with myself. I practiced mindfulness.

This new routine inspired me to enroll in a Yoga Teacher Training class, which would eventually put me on the right path in finding myself once again. I established a morning routine and self care. I found my breath. I meditated.

Gradually the more I listened to myself, the easier life got.

Being around my girls was more enjoyable. I appreciated all moments, and started my day with gratitude. Joy was now a part of my life, and my life was changing for the better. I began a gratitude journal. Through my joyful state of mind, this allowed me to choose my life and not settle for just any ordinary life. Sure, some days were better than others, but ultimately we are all works in progress.

Being joyful allows me to not just acknowledge the presence of my beautiful children, but it allows me to be present in every conscious moment; their crying, their laughter, even the whining! Most importantly, being joyful allowed me to set a good example to them.  I make sure they see me taking good care of myself.

Practicing self-love was not only good for my soul, but it demonstrated to them how important it is as women, as mothers, as contributors of this universe to love yourself first. Even in the darkest of days we must all practice this, because then not only will it will bring joy into our own lives, but we will inspire others to do the same.

_ Kirsten

Kirsten Marino is a mother of two young girls, Emalie and Giuliana. After years of battling anxiety as a child, and then losing her best friend in high school, Kirsten found spirituality. She credits yoga and meditation for changing her life, and is a yoga teacher in training. In her free time she enjoys running, writing, hiking, and being by the ocean. Kirsten began a “yoginspired” Instagram account as a way to communicate inspirational stories about how yoga has healed people’s lives, while the website, Yoga Inspired, is under production. In 2001 Kirsten was awarded “Youth Honoree of the Year” by The Auburn Seminary for establishing The Tam Farrow Memorial Scholarship. Each year a scholarship is given to a graduating senior from Shepaug Valley High School who is pursuing art or education. Kirsten has also worked as a development director for the past 11 years, most recently at Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust. She lives in Southbury, CT with her husband, Dominic, two daughters and two labs, Annie and Charlie.