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  • Writer's pictureJulie Granger

My Year of the Dragon Part 3: There'll be happiness after you

Updated: 4 days ago





🐉 Hi! Welcome to Part 3!


If you're just joining me and haven't caught Part 1 and Part 2 yet, I recommend you pause and give those a read first so you don't feel like the person who walked in late to a party where everyone knows everyone else, and they're now staring at you awkwardly.


But also, here are the cliff notes version of Parts 1 & 2 --


2023 was Year 8 in my business -- and while it was an AMAZING year, I'm celebrating in a bit of an unconventional way.


No balloons, no smash cake, no instagram posts. No funny and inspirational Reels.


Instead, I'm sharing some vulnerable truths about things that happened last year that I have not yet shared outside of my own microscopic inner circle.


Even though I tend to be pretty transparent in my writing -- I didn't share anything because the nature of the events and situations had me feeling ashamed and silenced.


I hid in plain sight with a smile on my face.


Why? Because it involved a dear friendship of mine that had made a huge impact on many parts of my life, and not always in the healthiest way.


It involved issues like covert narcissism, manipulation, abuse, and codependency. Yep, big and heavy terms.


For the longest time, I blamed myself for all of it. I took full responsibility for trying to fix what was broken.


But early in 2023 I woke up and smelled the coffee.


I noticed that an inherent power differential in the friendship was feeding my friend's unhealthy treatment of me, and the pedestal I had her on was fooling me into thinking that I was weak, powerless, and worthless.


I made a gut wrenching, heart breaking decision to remove that pedestal. And even though she was the one on the pedestal, I'm the one who had the long fall.


That brings us to Part 3.


Here in Part 3, the song at the top in the Spotify player -- Happiness -- is a perfect depiction of what happened as a result of that decision, even though -- at the time -- I had no idea when or how I'd be happy again.


I'll be revealing what the long bumpy fall looked like, how I slayed the dragons that had gotten a hold of my soul, and what the aftermath looked like.


Ready? Buckle up.


PS If you're a Swiftie -- there are embedded lyrics (easter eggs!) throughout this entire blog series. If you can send me a playlist of all the songs I listed in each post the end of this series, I will send you a very cool prize!

Plunging from the Pedestal into the Unknown


When I made the decision to remove the pedestal and reclaim myself, I had no idea where it would take me.


But a voice appeared – a voice I knew I needed to listen to.


It was a gentle loving voice, one that seemed all too familiar, but one I hadn’t heard in a long time in the context of this friendship.


For that reason it was a familiar voice that felt foreign, and paradoxically, it also felt like home.


Like that friend that you haven’t seen or talked to in AGES – but when you get together, you pick up right where you left off, and it’s just like old times.


This voice, a “she”-- reminded me that no matter where the dragons came from, no matter the perceived power differential –


No matter how many times really unfortunate things happened


I was the one with all the power.


I was responsible for digging in, uncovering and reclaiming even deeper power and light I didn’t know I had, and getting myself out of the dragon’s lair. 


It was time to remove the pedestal.


And I fell from the pedestal

Right down the rabbit hole

Long story short, it was a bad time


And so I made the bold decision to do that.


About a year ago – at the start of my Year of the Dragon – enough was enough.


I made a unilateral decision to fully face the truth, break my own heart, walk away, and let it all go.  


I broke my own heart cause you were too polite to do it


I didn’t get permission or approval. 


I had no idea where this decision would take me. 


I chose to trust this voice – this beautiful inkling of intuition, despite the consequences. 


That voice within said “this is going to absolutely suck. But you can handle it. I’ve got you.” 


Just close your eyes

The sun is going down

You’ll be alright

No one can hurt you now 

Come morning light 

You and I’ll be safe and sound


It was obvious. It would be excruciatingly painful to let go. It’s the reason I held on for so long.


But now, the cost of hanging on was FAR greater.


And I was catching my breath

Floors of a cabin creaking under my step

And I couldn't be sure

I had a feeling so peculiar

This pain wouldn't be for

Evermore


So I had these inklings giving me tiny rays of hope and courage. There was a fledgling belief that perhaps BETTER was available.


But problem was — this relationship had become a Demogorgon whose tentacles had reached intimately  into every corner of my life – personally AND professionally  


<I'm not just a Swiftie. Lots of references from Stranger Things are here, too. Wee!>


Oh I can’t stop you putting roots in my dreamland

My house of stone

Your ivy grows

And Now I’m covered in you


I was surrounded by people who were behaving the same way I was and believing the same things I had believed


This made me just want to SCREAM in rage.


And you poke that bear till the claws come out

And you find something to wrap your noose around

And there’s nothing like a mad woman


I knew that like me, it might take years for them to see the truth – and all the while – I could see them unraveling from themselves, too.


And as much as I felt the urge to jump in and tell them 


The voice inside gently pulled me away. She reminded me that I can only be responsible for me. 


I don’t start shit but I can tell you how it ends


It felt like being indoctrinated in a cult or religion of sorts. The Upside Down. It seemed others had drank the kool aid, too, in the name of "Spirituality" and "love". But it also seemed they were currently unaware.


Religion's in your lips

Even if it's a false god

Still worship this love


And if you’ve ever heard stories or the accounts of people who have tried to break up with an actual religion or cult – or if you’ve been one of those people – you know it can feel incredibly isolating, confusing, and it can completely challenge your beliefs of what’s true, what’s false, and which way is up.


The voice was right. I needed to stay in my lane. I was only responsible for my hurt. I couldn’t be responsible for the hurt that other people didn’t even know they had.


But because seemingly everyone around me had drank the kool aid, this is also exactly why I felt silenced. Silently frustrated. Completely cock blocked.


I was certain nobody would believe me.


Turns out, the only thing I could do was feel AND channel all of that rage into fighting my own dragons.


🐉The first dragon to slay was the act of simply telling myself the truth – over and over – until it started to take hold. 


I had to actively switch from the “Dragon Kool Aid” radio station in my brain to the “Loving Truth” station – minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.


It was incredibly rocky at first.


Earth shattering in fact. 


The ground seemed to dissolve beneath me.


But this wasn’t the type of thing I could easily excommunicate myself from on my own. 


Because nobody around me seemed to be able to see the truth, and I had been living for so long in both conscious and unconscious denial of the truth – it was  a steep ditch to climb out of by yourself.


Kind of like that metaphor you may have heard – 


A lobster in a boiling pot of hot water tries to escape

And all the other lobsters pull it back in


You can’t get out on your own.


You need someone to actually come and assist you to your exit and freedom.


I needed support so I could harness the power of Eleven to defeat the Demogorgon that had infiltrated my mind and soul.


I needed people who WEREN’T indoctrinated in the proverbial Upside Down to remind me of the truth. To point me in the direction of “up.”


I also had to reckon with the fact that this place — this relationship— that once felt so secure, safe, nurturing, and grounding


DID INDEED have its beautiful and wonderful, life-enriching moments, for sure. There were so many gifts I was grateful for.


There’ll be happiness after you

But there was happiness because of you

Both of these things can be true


But I also had to face the truth that as far as nurturing and emotional availability went – this friendship was never rich with that to begin with — by any stretch of the imagination.


Tell me when did your winning smile

Begin to look like a smirk

When did all our lessons start to look like weapons pointed at my deepest hurt


Facing that reality meant I also had to endure the pain of –

 

💔Facing, owning, and taking full responsibility for and care of the shadows, wounds, and conditioned patterns that got me into that mess in the first place


💔Recontextualizing the elements of this AND other relationships I thought were supportive and nurturing of me – but were actually tearing me apart slowly


But there was a paradox--


I irrefutably needed deep support and trusted souls to help me fully break myself open and step into my most beautiful and vulnerable parts


In other words -- I needed someone with the tongs to help me pull myself out of the boiling pot


But because of the abuse I was healing from, I also didn’t trust myself to fully let myself open to support without ending up in the same mess.


But as Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist – paradoxes are one of the most healing and magical parts of human life


Turns out, it's REALLY difficult to reconstruct trust while deconstructing it at the same time.


But in this case, it was the only self honoring option.


The Universe had already presented me with a tiny, but mighty, band of non-indoctrinated humans. 


Mentors, friends, and healers had already been lined up. In perfect, Divine timing.


And that tiny band of supporters did exactly what I needed them to do —


👯‍♀️Validate and affirm the truth I was having trouble accepting, and point out places to hand over accountability (energetically speaking) to my friend


👯‍♀️Hold me in my pain, anger, and grief. Without blaming me for any of it.


👯‍♀️Help me find my way back to myself and my power.


👯‍♀️Help me see that I could experience deep, meaningful connection and friendship WITHOUT all the graspy, grippy, lopsided, life-sucking muck -- yes, even while healing from all of that.


With the exact right support by my side, I raised my sword.


And I slayed the Demogorgon. My Year of the Dragon played out in living color.


Do I throw out everything we built or keep it?

I'm getting tired even for a phoenix

Always risin' from the ashes

Mendin' all her gashes

You might just have dealt the final blow


What Slaying the Dragon Actually Looked and Felt Like


I will not sugar coat it. It did absolutely suck. 


I knew right out of the gate that I could still hold my friend accountable without blaming her. 


I had already moved into forgiveness before I even got started. Because making her a villain and myself a victim only cancelled out the parts of the friendship that were incredibly important to me.


… I can't make it go away by making you a villain


My work was to claim what was mine and hand over what was not mine to hold.


With this commitment came rebirth, renewal, and reinvigoration in myself and in relationships in ways I never knew possible.


The pain that surfaced in healing from the wonderstruck dream world I was living in also brought the most magical moments.


In the middle of the night when I’m in this dream it’s like a million little stars 


Looking back, some of the most excruciating dragon-slaying moments became the moments I remember so fondly – the real turning points --


⚔️There were the days I’d fill 10-15 journal pages, furiously writing as I let myself FULLY express the anger I’d turned inward on myself – where I let myself transparently say the things I’d always wanted to say to my friend – but never had the opportunity due to being silenced and gaslighted. This beautiful release helped me find my voice. It helped me find my self respect. It helped me face and hold the truth in living color right in front of me.  I simultaneously released shame and blame while also handing over accountability and responsibility energetically to the person whose baggage I was trying to manage with my own behavior. My favorite part of this was how I burned every journal page and scattered the ashes – giving the weight to the earth to carry, so that I no longer had to carry it. Incredibly healing. I recommend it. Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned Everything you lose is a step you take


⚔️Lots of screaming. Really letting the rage boil and come out. Much to the chagrin of my poor pups (and possibly neighbors? lol) who probably wondered what on earth had gotten into me. To that I say – it’s less about what had gotten into me and it’s more about what was getting OUT of me. One of my beloved mentors – who was by my side throughout this – had once told me to “honor your rage for beneath it lies your self respect.” I love this and took it to heart – because I’d been conditioned that being angry or showing anger meant I was wrong, bad, broken, terrible, shunned … (sound familiar? You too?) –


And there's nothing like a mad woman

What a shame she went mad

No one likes a mad woman


⚔️I began reflexively setting boundaries in other relationships with no filter, no apology. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t make up lies about why I was doing it. I just did it. For some relationships, this meant the end of the relationship. For other relationships – it transformed it into something really special. This is why we can't have nice things darling. Because you break them, I have to take them away.



⚔️ New soul-driven hobbies filled the blank spaces this friendship once occupied, which looked like lots of time befriending my pups, the earth and the trees – the most unconditionally loving and generous friends a girl could ask for I've got a blank space, baby, and I’ll write your name



And bit by bit, breath by breath, tear after tear, angry release after angry release, day by day, week by week, and month by month  – the first step – reckoning and reclaiming – revealed that this truth became irrefutable. 

There were some incredibly wonderful and beneficial and loving parts of the friendship.


And also - so many of the things I’d thought – we’d thought – were “love” alchemized into anything BUT love. 


I know delusion when I see it in the mirror…This won’t go back to normal. If it ever was


And with that, I slowly lived my way into healing and finding "up" again.


And amidst the pain, I learned to trust and breathe again.


The rain came pouring down.

When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe.


Bit by bit, with the support of the best band of co-slayers, I slayed the dragon. 


I inched my way back to myself. 


Back Home. 


Back to the Divine. 


I thought that it would kill me

But it didn’t

And it was nice

So peaceful and quiet 


And the Divine scorekeeper spoke up — 


Slowly but surely — as the soul came home, my body began to chill


Have my back, yeah. Every day. Feels like home 


Gifts from the Dragon's Lair


As I continued to focus on healing and reclamation, the real truths and lessons began to emerge as immeasurable gifts 


🔥I went from feeling like the lobster stuck in the pot where EVERYONE around me was indoctrinated and pulling me deeper into the boiling water  — to having handfuls of people  show up from places I least expected -- without me even asking or saying anything -- to describe similar experiences they'd had with my friend. This affirmation turned out to be incredibly validating. She’s not a saint, and she’s not what you think. She’s an actress whoa.


🔥I was reminded of that saying – fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Forgiveness and compassion are so important in any intimate relationship. But giving someone Second, third, and hundredth chances and Balancing on breaking branches can be a surefire telltale sign of abuse – and the definition of insanity– when you do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, but never getting it. Well, maybe it's me And my blind optimism to blame. Or maybe it's you and your sick need To give love then take it away


🔥I learned that all input or advice I received and took to heart about my business from my friend was not what served me, but what would allow her to feed off of me and take credit, no matter how "good" that advice sounded to me. It deepened my understanding of the timeless lesson that my inner compass was truly the strongest force of nature in making my business decisions, and that's the only real business strategy and plan you need. And if someone feels threatened by your leadership, decision-making, or success – then it’s not you who needs to fix that for them. That’s on them. 


Every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you

I’d be a fearless leader

I’d be an alpha type

When everyone believes ya

What’s that like? 


🔥When I started listening to my own inner wisdom FULLY about my business – I scaled back significantly. We are talking “scale back” on the scale of going from making 7 figures 2 years in a row to choosing to barely make 6 figures last year. I fully stepped into my own brand – Illuminating Freedom – and chose to FULLY embody what I preach, even if that meant making a lot less money. I see this as one of the BIGGEST successes in my business journey.


🔥I learned that there were some unhealed wounds of mine begging for attention – and had gotten my attention VIA the downfall of this relationship. I learned the gift of giving them the attention and attunement they never received – with unconditional love, patience, and acceptance. Which makes my ability to do that for others even stronger now. This is a state of grace. This is a worthwhile fight.


🔥I was reminded that REAL friends are emotionally available, truly want what’s best for you, cheer you on with the energy of a golden retriever with a fluffy wagging tail, lovingly hold up a mirror when it needs to be held up – and do ALL of that without any intention of serving or elevating themselves, and without needing YOU to change so that they can be happy. here’s a toast to my real friends…they don’t care about the he said-she said


🔥I deepened the lesson–a lesson I’ve learned SO many times– that there is so much more power within me than I thought.  And my power can be SO bright — that it may blind some people in such a way that their only way to function is to do everything they can to shield me and others from that light…while also trying to take credit for the light itself. Never be so polite you forget your power. Never wield such power you forget to be polite. 


🔥Slay the dragon, Rise the Phoenix


I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time

Baby I rose up from the dead

I do it all the time


And with all of the healing and lessons learned, BECAUSE I faced the pain head on, joy and health re-entered in a way I’d never experienced --


💖I now wake up each morning hungry, energized, and able to eat a full, nourishing meal. I went from wondering how on earth I was supposed to eat 30g of protein for breakfast to now wanting a huge breakfast.


💖My hair went from falling out all the time to slowly shedding in normal, healthy ways and getting thick and full again. Yes, even in my 40’s. Without a billion supplements to support that.


💖Even though I’ve never really had weight issues, the random pockets of “softness” I noticed had come along and attributed to “being 40” slowly shed themselves. Without limiting my food or trying to workout for hours or “rewire” my metabolism. Nope, I just cleaned up what was going on in my heart and soul, and the rest fell into place. 


💖I notice less pain and soreness after workouts and strength training.


💖I fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling fully refreshed – without needing a billion supplements or rigid nighttime rituals to support that.


💖My dreams shifted from anxious dreams with content like falling, running, slipping, driving too fast and not being able to hit the brakes soon enough – to dreams full of play, joy, relaxation and exploration


💖And I have had more days where I sit with my morning coffee and journal and think “wow, I feel SO relaxed" without needing to DO things to make myself relax. And I take as much time as possible to soak that in, revel in it, and smile into it.


Karma is a god

Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend

Karma’s a relaxing thought


💖In a world -- especially healthcare world -- that equates your worthiness with how many people you heal/save/help -- I no longer use my work results as a place to feel “enough.” Not even a little bit. I work 10-15 hours a week max (sometimes less), and most days I sit in my office and think “Well, there’s really nothing I need to do, so I’m going to go play.”


💖New deep, nurturing friendships have taken root and bloomed with people who fully love ALL of my parts – who validate, affirm, encourage, and give tough love in all the best ways. So make the friendship bracelets, Take the moment and taste it, You’ve got no reason to be afraid


💖I’m surrounded by people who cheer for me when I’m winning whether it’s in work, friendships, marriage, fitness, family…instead of yell at me, try to out-shine me, or point out my flaws I’m the only one of me, Baby, that’s the fun of me 


Most importantly, I see that what was once masquerading as unconditional love and "sprituality" in friendship was as conditional and spiritually-bypassed as it could possibly be.


Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream 


And I vow to never lose myself and ignore the signs of that again.


When I dropped my sword

I threw it in the bushes and knocked on your door

And we live in peace

But if someone comes at us

This time, I'm ready


And what’s been amazing amidst all of this 


Are the ways that TRUE love, TRUE support has come into my life in the most unexpected and unrecognizable ways 


And I’ve unlocked a level of love and peace I didn’t even know was possible


So if you’ve been in that tiny handful of folks fighting the dragons with me - you know who you are -  I thank you from the bottom of my heart – The kingdom lights shined just for me and you … 🎶


Plus, this entire process has revealed a VERY VERY precious and exciting gift that I get to soon offer the world.


I haven't just scaled my business back to take time for myself. I've also done it to gestate and birth something completely new. Although interestingly, it's not new at all. I've been doing it all along in disguise.


And I'm SO excited to reveal that soon. Possibly in Part 4 -- the final part of this blog series.


Small hint: It's not a "marketing and business program." 👀


If you're curious what it is I'm cooking up, make sure you shoot me a message or email and let me know you want to hear about it.


But for now to you, Dear Reader -- Thanks for being here for this share!


PS Swifties -- did you find all the easter eggs? how's your song list going?


PPS As I mentioned in all the other parts of this series make sure you're on my email list and actually opening my emails if you want notifications right to your inbox for when I send out Part 4!













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