Your Gift Is in Your Gut
As a shy young girl, I spent most of my early years observing life rather than participating in it. Whether it was listening to the conversation in the restaurant booth next to us or watching the interactions at my family gatherings, I learned early on that what people said often did not match what I sensed they were genuinely feeling or what their true intentions were—which usually remained unsaid.
When my grandmother’s new husband would set me on his lap, anxiety would overwhelm my little body like a herd of wild Mustangs running through my chest. And worry would burn through my belly each time my older brother would abuse alcohol to numb the deep pain I had always sensed in him—which would only be acknowledged after his death, many years later.
This contradiction between my intuition and what the world around me was expressing was unsettling and led to a deep insecurity and uneasiness that grew within me. Unable to validate anything I sensed deep down, I began questioning my own truth and I withdrew further, finding comfort only with my pets, who made me feel deeply connected, accepted, and understood.
In those years, I worried that I would never thrive in a world where my senses seemed unreliable. This showed up as a deep, continuous, gnawing pain in my belly.
When I was eight years old, I found two carefully folded pieces of paper in my mother’s jewelry box. The first one read, “Brian’s test indicates that he is gifted.” The next one read, “Angela’s test indicates she is average.” This moment confirmed that I wasn’t gifted in any way. All those things I sensed and couldn’t verify? Yeah, they were all just my imagination.
By my late teens, I had perfected the art of making myself small in the world, and I was committed to making sure nobody would ever know the truth of who I was. Nobody would ever know that I seemed to sense things that didn’t fit what was being said or done around me…or the fact that I wasn’t really “gifted.”
And though I had a feeling it wasn’t necessarily a compliment, tenacious was the one word people consistently used to describe me. So I clung to that.
Eventually, I hid that sensitive girl behind corporate titles, career climbing, countless men, and one-sided friendships. By my early twenties, that pain in my belly finally took me down. A doctor determined I had a rare condition that was likely to be cancerous and metastatic.
Against the odds, I survived the dangerous surgery, but the re-routing of my GI tract only re-routed me back to my race up the corporate banking ladder. Five years later, I was diagnosed with another condition that wreaked havoc on my body and threatened my fertility, something that I had not yet considered as a newlywed. I faced the threat with the same tenacity. I sought every medical intervention available, and after several years of failed attempts, I fell into the darkest place I had ever known.
I became silent for the first time in my adult life. I realized that in my attempt to hide my truth, I had literally disconnected from my body. All of what I sensed and was never able to validate as a young child had left my body screaming at me with a long list of symptoms that I learned to ignore until it grew into disease. First, where we filter toxins, and next, where we make life.
For days, I sat alone with my broken heart, my broken body, and my quiet mind; in the silence of that darkness, I began to feel something oddly familiar. I was reminded of the feelings that I would get as a child when I sensed truth—or the unease in my belly in the absence of truth. I came to understand that those inklings I’d had as a child were my intuition, my own truth speaking to me.
The truth of who we are lives right in our belly, and I had been running from it. I had ignored the whispers of my heart and gut to live in the perceived “safety” of my mind.
In those dark, quiet days, I reacquainted myself with that sensitive girl I once was, and I slowly began practicing trusting my body and intuition again.
The more I trusted my body as an ally to help me navigate my life, my intuition became clearer and I knew I had to quit my corporate job to get back to who I was meant to be. As fate would have it, I ended up pregnant…naturally! But through a long, difficult journey, my tenacity never waned—because just three months after meeting my daughter, I learned I was pregnant again with another daughter.
It has been my greatest privilege to mother these girls, and I am raising them to live in their own truth. I’m teaching them to understand that intuition is the keeper of our truth, and that our bodies are the tuners that guide us. We often teach the best what we need to learn the most, and I am moved daily by the opportunity to share the story of my younger self with young people as they, too, search for how they will show up in the world as their true selves.
Reclaiming the truth of who I was and embracing my sensitivity as my gift, my intuition nudged me in a whole new direction, inspiring me to be my most authentic self. With my experience of the validation and love that animals offer, my horses and I now hold space for others seeking to uncover, rediscover, and nurture their own truths.
The moment my students walk into the round pen full of fear, self-doubt, and vulnerability, come face to face with 1200 pounds of majesty, and tune into their intuition and their bodies for perhaps the first time in their lives, is nothing short of magical. Facilitating a person’s recognition and acceptance of their true self is my new definition of success.
There is great wisdom in the mind, and as science is now demonstrating, even greater wisdom in the heart and the gut. Dancing with all three is what empowers us to live to our greatest potential. My journey has led me back to who I always was, which can be summarized beautifully in Pablo Picasso’s quote that hangs above my desk: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”