The words were whispered gently, but the strength of these words was as clear as Maya Angelou’s message: “Courage is the most important of all virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

My job was not to protect anybody from pain. Please remember these words: your job is not to protect people from pain! Attempting to do this could only bring you a sense of failure and unworthiness, which do not empower you.

To say that I somehow put myself together is to put it politely. I was demolished and looked like a wreck. My mascara was smudged on my face, and I had wiped mucus and goo all over myself, my clothes, and even my hair. This mix of tears and snot streamed from my nose like a sticky web. The curious spectators had no other choice but to encounter the most horrifying, atrocious image of me. I can smile about it now, but I remember sitting and asking, “How am I going to get it together? How am I going to get home? Once at home, how am I going to manage my role as a wife, my role as a mother, and the role of a daughter again?

How am I going to take a vacation with my husband? How am I going to be spontaneously intimate with my husband again?” My circumstances were hard, yet I was making it so much harder by welcoming the voice of fear. Why was I doing that? You want to know the truth? I knew the answer: I was afraid to even attempt to make decisions.

Suddenly, I remember doing what I usually do when I am stuck at a crossroads, facing a series of hurdles, something I learned at a very young age! Back in middle school, I ran relay races.

See, I was a good runner. I was long, thin, fast, and knew and believed in my potential and abilities to run, yet I was not the strongest. I developed hypoglycemia at a young age, so resistance was not my strength, and if I allowed my nerves to take over my emotions, I was totally out of the race. Thoughts of, what if I don’t make it? What if I am not good enough? What if I don’t feel well the day of the race, and I let everybody down? raced through my mind. If I didn’t participate, I wouldn’t have to deal with the feeling of failure of feeling like the sick loser.

I don’t remember when or how I developed these tricks and keys to auto boost my emotions and my body for the performance, but I did. It was pretty magical. I would mentally make myself tough and healthy and imagined myself standing on the starting line, ready, pumped, and mighty strong, and I would mentally say, “Ready, Set, Go.” I could hear the starter pistol fire and could make myself smell and see the smoke of the gun, and I would run so strong while repeating the words, “I am Strong, I am Light, I can do this.” I would repeat these words until I felt invincible. I imagined myself running and passing the baton with great precision. Little did I know, I was learning to program my Inner Warrior. I was pushing myself out of my head and into action to change the outcome of things. And always, without fail, I finished the vision by giving thanks to God because He didn’t let me let my team down.

I truly believe that when you think like this, you win the race no matter what. You may not always win, but finishing is always an incredible feeling. So, that’s what I did. Something so familiar to me, and as I visualized myself feeling strong with a quick “Ready, Set, Go . . . I am Strong, I am Light, I can do this,” I went home.

The job of my Inner Warrior is meant to bring light to my soul by deepening the essence of it. I needed to not compromise my soul’s integrity. It seemed difficult to access this level of understanding. Of course, getting caught up in the ups and downs of what we are experiencing every day becomes a routine. How can I radiate goodness and patience so I could really be of help to my soul and thus to everyone around me? I needed to bypass the mental torment that comes with being codependent. I had to save myself from feeling undeserving and feeling responsible for situations, feelings, and tasks I was not responsible for.

Working with integrity to find peace within my own heart, mind, and body ultimately granted me the freedom to share the peace with my mom and those around me. So I went to the single thing most known to produce magical results: gratitude. Often, in the deepest state of gratitude is when I get the great sense of awareness that I am one with life. I know I am not exempt from the twists of life; however, taking the time to be fully present creates wonderful results in my ability to connect with genuine, loving gratitude.

Once again, there was not a better time to realign myself and to ap- preciate everything around me. Just by the simple act of expressing gratitude, I notice my emotions and mood transform dramatically. Finding reasons to feel thankful for this disease was challenging, but slowly I found a handful of reasons to be grateful.

Taking action takes courage. I came to realize that as a true experience, the only way to enjoy my mom again was to disconnect from what she used to be and create or mold a new path, a new model, a whole new relationship. How was I going to create a new path in such a demanding life with family and work obligations and all the other things life had pending for me? Simple: restore my relationship with myself. In order to be happy, I had to concentrate on myself.