MEET DENISE

Your Best Life Activator

1974
These crazy kids are introduced by their mothers, who work together in a shoe factory in Hialeah, Florida. Having been exiled from Cuba during the revolution a decade before, both families are struggling to start over. They stack hopes and dreams onto these two, hoping that the lives they build in America will redeem the trauma of losing their beloved island. It’s love at first sight, and the seed is planted for the sprouting of a new generation.
1974
1984
I come on the Earth scene. Several Cuban cigars are lit in celebration.
1984
1995
Cancer steals my father’s life, and my life is changed forever. I learn how to split myself in two; part of me can wallow in bottomless grief while the other part projects perfection on the outside. People marvel at my resilience. I hardly skip a beat, making it back to cheerleading and dance practice just a few days after the funeral. Inside, I’m drowning.
1995
1995 - 2002
Still drowning, but still smiling. I nail the art of looking so put together on the outside that nobody suspects I’m suffering on the inside.
1995 - 2002
2001
I attend my first spiritual retreat and learn what it means to hold space and have it held for me. For the first time ever, I release the pain I’ve been carrying and let myself be witnessed in it. I start to feel hopeful for the first time in a long time.
2001
2002
I move to North Carolina for college. Almost immediately, I start suffering from crippling anxiety that manifests as regular panic attacks, compulsive exercise, and food restriction. When my hair starts falling out, one of my friends sends me to the student counseling center. I meet my first therapist, who also introduces me to Buddhist philosophy and meditation. Our conversations transform me.
2002
2002 - 2005
Somehow, I manage to make good grades while also making lots of ridiculous and reckless decisions. I finish school in three years with a psychology major and philosophy minor. People tell me I won’t make any decent money with my degree, so I don’t even bother applying for jobs. Instead, I move to Virginia with my emotionally abusive boyfriend, and we work at a restaurant to make rent. We pretend we’re happy.
2002 - 2005
2007
My relationship crumbles, and I call my mommy to come pick me up. On the drive back down to South Florida, she tries to convince me to go back to school, and I resist the idea until I realize I can’t come up with any better ones. I go for a master’s degree in mental health counseling and get a job at the university to cover my tuition. Something in me starts brewing that I think might be clarity.
2007
2010
I’ve fallen completely in love with therapy, but I’m annoyed by the field’s insanely shortsighted views about the human experience. Fortune favors me, and I make a completely unplanned appearance at a lecture by a social constructionist. I fall, head first, into this philosophy, which lands me in a marriage and family therapy Ph.D. program. It’s the paradigm shift I need, and a solid wink from the Universe letting me know things are aligning.
2010
2010 - 2014
Devotion and discipline become my two masters, and I serve them well. My switch stays locked in the ON position; if I’m not in class, working with clients, keeping up my side hustle as an editor, living and breathing my dissertation research, working out, or developing my nonprofit organization for LGBT+ youth, I’m partying for days on end. The candle keeps burning on both ends, and I only slow down to sleep (sometimes). But I’m not tired. Maybe it’s all the meditation I’ve been doing, or maybe I’m numb. By 2014, I’m sure it’s the latter. My boyfriend of 5+ years and I realize that things definitely aren’t working out between us. We decide to get married. I defend my dissertation and exhale for the first time in 4 years; two weeks later, I take my vows. Dread moves in and takes up all the space in my heart.
2010 - 2014
2014
New husband tells me my career choice is a financial liability, because I “won’t contribute much to the household” with my therapist salary. I make my first vision board and start fantasizing about how good it will feel to prove him wrong.
2014
2015
My marriage unravels in spectacular fashion. I’m free! And I’m broke. And I’m scared. But I decide to surrender to my circumstances and lean in to the adventure. I sign a lease and the divorce papers within weeks of each other. Then a routine gynecology visit turns into an ENT consultation, which turns into an ultrasound, which turns into a biopsy, which turns into a really unpleasant phone call. Thyroid cancer. The same kind that took my father from me. I’m petrified; but again, I surrender. Surgery and treatment are successful, and I make a solid vow to myself: to make the rest of my life an honoring, and to give myself over to the fulfillment of my heart’s purpose—no matter what. I open a private therapy practice and design a new vision board.
2015
2017
The vision board becomes the reality. I reconnect with devotion and discipline, this time tempering them with spiritual practice and self-care. I make more and work less than I ever have before. A gorgeous man who’s completely aligned with what I’ve been calling in appears. We quickly realize that our favorite things are the same: family, traveling, making the world better, and pizza.
2017
2018
While feeding a monkey in the mountains of Morocco, a wave of knowing runs through me, and I download a clear vision for what I’ll create out of what I’ve learned and lived through.
2018
2019
I get to start sharing that vision with you.
2019