Personal Writing

There she is…

I was outside on a recent steamy morning, harvesting my second round of rhubarb this season. Looking around my lush back yard, I felt an immense amount of gratitude for my life and where I am right this minute. I’m feeling centered, grounded and ready in ways I haven’t since I was a senior in high school. And let’s be honest, I thought I was ready for life back then, but we all know that part of the charm of being 18-years old is our naiveté at how unprepared we actually are to face the world. This morning, I checked in with myself and feel more ready for whatever is next than I ever have before.

But this is a relatively new feeling for me.

Perhaps you know this story: when I was little, my mom told me every year that I was going to be Miss America when I grew up (read here for the longer story).

We both understood I wasn’t actually going to be Miss America. I mean, you know me, right? Uh huh. Enough said.

It was never about being Miss America. It was about being a superstar of whatever kind I elected to be.

And that I could quite easily believe.

I never doubted it, until I was 18-years old and looking at college.

In that moment, when I was on the cusp of pursuing my greatness, my mom pulled a bait and switch on me. Instead of using it as a moment to say, “Yes, this is your time to fly off and find your light.”, she said, “Who do you think you are to go anywhere but the college down the street?”

I took that in, and I’ve held onto it ever since. It has been the defining moment of my life. I’ve always kind of known that, but I’ve been terrified to admit it because what do I do once I say that out loud?

Last month, I had a mini breakdown about where I’m going with my life. This was the most recent in a series of discoveries I’ve made about myself since COVID entered our lives. In May 2020, I had a dawning realization. I wrote in a blog post:

On a walk with Dr Marry, I had one of those exploding lightbulb moments where I realized that my entire adult life I have self-sabotaged my own success, my next move. The roadblocks I have encountered have not been accidental: I have absolutely designed and installed them to keep me from pursuing so many things. That infuriates me to think of all I haven’t achieved because I stopped myself. I also can see that the detours led to some fabulous experiences and opportunities. Tough to reconcile those two things, though.

After my breakdown in the car last month, I understood that there is absolutely no way I will make this transition to superstardom without getting some mental help. I can’t go into the largest arena I have ever entered unprepared to manage and change my own mental habits and tendencies.

Truthfully, I’ve always been terrified to go to therapy because I’ve been afraid that what I would discover is that I’d have to “break up” with my mom. That a therapist would tell me that that moment was so mentally damaging that in order to move on from it, I would have to cut her out. And I’m not willing to do that. Then I’ve imagined a therapist telling me that I was broken beyond repair and was wasting my money and her time. (To my actual therapist friends and readers: really sorry that my active imagination created such a terrible version of you!)

I was telling my marketing team about my fear of all of this, and they recommended I look into The Whole Health Lab. I did, and I signed up for a year.

To get to the point of all of this, I recently did an EMDR session with Leina Hoyt, a trauma-informed life coach and one of the facilitators. I was the only person on the call, so it was technically my first individual therapy session. I was terrified, but I’m so serious about overcoming my issues that I swallowed my fears and went in.

And it was amazing. It was also emotional, challenging and freeing.

I won’t regale you with all the details, but I was telling Leina about this moment in my life, and I said, “I can understand her perspective (panic, fear over money and not being able to afford to send me away to school) now that I’m an adult, but I still keep waiting for my mom to say the thing that will let me get past this.”

Leina said, “Dayna, it’s got nothing to do with anything your mother says or does. This is about healing your 18-year old brain’s trauma. That’s stuck in your subconscious. She can’t say or do anything that will magically heal this because this is all about you, your nervous system and your healing.”

I sat there for a minute, taking this in.

First of all, the relief that she didn’t tell me to break up with my mom was immense.

But way more importantly, the notion that I could take charge of this change, independent of any outside person or experience, opened up a new path for me to move forward. This was extraordinarily empowering to realize that I am in control of how I chose to manage a moment I’ve allowed to hold me up for 31 years; I can change the way I think about that moment and the way I see myself based on it going forward. It’s my subconscious, and I can dig around in there and work through it for myself (with some gentle guidance and tools).

I’m not “cured” because I don’t know that we’re ever cured of the traumas, big T or little t, that we encounter in our navigation of life, but I’m feeling much better about having opened the door and faced my fears. I know I have other things to uncover and work through, but it will never again be as scary as the first time. And I will never again enter in afraid that my problems are beyond fixing.

I looked down at the rhubarb I was holding in my arms this morning and thought, “These look like long stem roses. This is my Miss America moment to walk the long runway and shine.”

And I’m ready, or at least more ready than I’ve ever been.

So how about you?

Where is fear, real or perceived, holding you back from moving forward? Where are you hung up on past experiences that you can start to work through if you can get brave and say yes to help? What do you need to let go of to walk your own runway and shine in your own special way?

If you don’t even know what you’re dreaming about because you’ve lived with fear for so long, download my (re)Discover Your Spark guide and get going. It won’t solve your fears, but it will give you an inkling of what it is you need to work to get past them for. I’m here for you as we journey together down this path called life.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • Wendi Wheeler

    I love this so much, first because you are so vulnerable and second because you are sharing about entering into therapy. I am so proud of you! As a future mental health therapist, I applaud you for taking the big, giant step and for embracing your fears. You are doing excellent work!

    On a related note, I recently realized that one of my core beliefs is: You are not loveable. I have been working every single day to rewire my brain and to prove I am loveable to myself. It is immensely rewarding. I can already see and feel the difference.

    Thank you again for your openness. You are a treasure.

    • Dayna Del Val

      Wendi—first of all, thank you for writing and for lifting up this journey I am on! Secondly, I know we need to believe this in ourselves first and foremost, but please know that I believe to my core that you are extraordinarily loveable and the right person will find you when the time is right. That sounds like a stupid platitude, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the Universe rarely operates on our timeline, and when we finally receive an answer, we can almost always see that it happened at the exact perfect time. Carry on my fearless, fabulous friend!

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