The Being Wellness Community came out of a desire to bring people together from all walks of life who want to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives through health and wellness. My intention is to share information that brings health and wellness into all aspects of our lives, not just physically, but also emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I believe there are many people who have gone through this journey and have figured out how to make health and wellness a priority.
This is why I would like to share Corina’s 10 year journey into health and wellness. It wasn’t as neat as hiring a personal trainer and nutritionist and Viola! On the contrary, Corina adopted a healthy and well lifestyle. It is much more raw, painful and is full of struggle. But through the pain and struggle she emerges and steps into the woman she was always meant to be.
So here we go…. meet Corina Chavez Madruga. The story of a woman who, despite losing all that she knew, decided to choose meaning and fulfillment and has become an inspirational leader in her community gaining more than she ever expected.
Corina, like most GenX women, spent the 90s and the early part of the millennium trying to keep up with the Jones’. Just like many young girls who grow up in poverty she was unknown to the concept of self-love, self-acceptance and self-respect. Corina was pregnant at 16, married at 16, divorced at 18, went back to high school and ended up a single mom in the workforce.
She started from the bottom and grew up feeling like a failure, she felt like she had made such a mess and could not believe this is what her life turned out to be. In a desperate attempt to turn it around she decided to start living by the Jones’ checklist, looking for success and striving for the American dream… the second husband, check… the cul-de-sac lot house, check… another child, check…the two cars and two dogs, check, check… a Bachelor’s degree, check… a Master’s degree, check… Everything looked great on the outside, the happy face mask was firmly in place. Everything should be good, right? What more do you want? Right? Well Corina felt like there WAS more and there was MORE she had to offer the world. She just didn’t know where to find what she had to offer and who would accept it.
She earned her Bachelor’s degree when she was in her late 20s and Master’s degree when she was in her 30s. She worked hard to maintain the perfect social lifestyle, but her marriage felt empty. She and her husband were great business partners, but not great romantic partners. She ate horribly, she didn’t exercise, and gained weight. She noticed she had zero energy, she couldn’t run around with her daughter which caused her to sink lower. Corina started a habit of going to work, coming home and siting on the couch, going to work, coming home and siting on the couch. She started to develop digestive issues and was sick all the time. Her work attendance had taken a downward spiral because she could not find the energy to leave the house at times. Corina asked herself “what the heck is going on? She realized that something needed to change, she started with getting the courage to divorce her second husband.
Guilt immediately sank in as the initiator of the divorce. The guilt of hurting such a great person and that she was causing pain to her children, which spiraled into a depression that immobilized her. She felt so lost the first year of her divorce. She discovered she didn’t know who she was, where she was going, and she didn’t know what to do. In order to escape the feeling she started down the road of “I am a failure and I make bad decisions.” Corina realized that she did have a choice in believing that she indefinitely was a failure and would continue down the road of bad decisions, or that yes, she had made some bad decisions, but those decisions did not define her and they were not who she was at her core. But if she is not the teenage mother who divorces her husbands and makes bad decisions, then who was Corina? She didn’t know and couldn’t answer that yet. What she did know was she didn’t want to handle her depression with medication. Corina’s own mother had suffered from depression when Corina was younger and she recalls how she felt seeing her mother incapacitated at times. She did not want this for herself and she did not want her daughters to see her this way. So she decided to exercise instead. Exercise became a daily part of her life.
Exercise was her medication and her escape. She recalls how one Mother’s Day she was completely alone, her youngest daughter was with her father who refused to grant visitation on that particular Sunday since it was “his day”. Her family wasn’t speaking to her because she initiated her divorce, therefore, no mother, no grandmother, there was no one. It was a dark day. She took to exercise in her apartment gym to relieve her feelings of depression. She cried it out as she lifted, squeezing all the pent up emotions she was feeling, but could not fully express. Hysterically she cried as snot ran down her nose. She squeezed out the helplessness she felt as a woman making her own choices and living with the backlash of societies’ idea of her role as a woman. She cried for the loneliness she felt, for the lack of control she felt. What gave her strength and direction was this:
Corina enlightened to the fact that, you can’t control how other people will treat you, what they will do to you, how they will love you or accept you. The iron (gym weights) teaches you discipline and patience.
Although exercise started to help she continued to eat horribly. Inevitably, Corina continued to have even more medical issues. She found out, after a trip to the emergency room, caused by a small pizza binge, that she was lactose intolerant. She could not digest dairy and she had no idea that was one of the causes of her digestive issues. That knowing forced her to cut out dairy from her diet. As she connected more deeply with her body and what caused it pain, she also learned red meat was a culprit as well as white flour and breads which are all painful to digest for her. For Corina this became a metaphor for how the decisions she makes causes her pain.
As Corina learned what was causing her physical pain, mental pain, and spiritual pain, she asked herself, “What is it that I can control?” She realized that she either lived with the pain caused by her decisions and lack of control or she needed to change something. She opted for change. Part of the change included exercise, eating well, sleeping well, while taking care of her daughter and herself. These became her priorities and it took her 5 year post divorce to learn how to manage her pain, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Corina emphasizes it was a “mindset change”… and it was an everyday and every minute struggle.
Up until 1 year ago, Corina admits part of her motivation for exercise was trying to look like the women in the magazines. She was still not satisfied with her body. She saw all of the flaws, the dimples, hated the size of her arms, the cellulite, and stretch marks. This past summer, she bought a bathing suit for the 2nd time in her life, and even now as a size 2, still felt self-conscious.
Last year Corina is proud to say that she sought professional help in a therapist to help her figure out why she still didn’t feel whole and complete. She was feeling and looking better physically yet she could not manage her emotions. The doubts and insecurities she had were still affecting her day to day life. It is through therapy sessions Corina has learned about the real meaning of self – love and what it means to love others, especially family, which is often littered with ultimatums. She felt this head on when her family stopped talking to her after she divorced her second husband. After the divorce two thirds of her immediate family stopped talking to her, which included parents, grandparents, siblings, and extended family. Everyone she knew and spent holidays with for 37 years…gone. Corina found herself learning to spend holidays on her own. If she had a flat tire, there was no one to call. When she goes out of town on business, she doesn’t have that in-case of emergency person. This time of her life was extremely lonely and out of control, but this is where she grew the most.
As she dug even deeper into what made her, Corina realized she couldn’t get past the feelings of rejection and not being accepted. It became apparent how important it was to truly love herself and accept herself for the perfectly flawed person she is. She realized growing up, there was no class that taught you how to love yourself. Not conceit or arrogance, but truly deeply loving who you are, that kind of love. She felt like that kind of experience really sets the tone for you to have any type of sustainable relationship, whether it be platonic or romantic for the rest of your life. Now one of her passions is to help other women who have struggled, their whole lives, with this inability to love and accept themselves.
[custom_blockquote style=”red”] “Transparency is liberating, once the fear comes out from the darkness, it no longer has power over you.” [/custom_blockquote]
Through it all, a cancer scare, digestive issues, depression and anxiety, Corina learned to appreciate her body and all it has done for her and continues to do for her. She feels most beautiful when she is fresh out of the shower, no makeup on, when she is completely herself, no mask, no facade, just her, raw and unfiltered. One of her greatest realizations is…
[custom_blockquote style=”red”] “If I don’t love myself, I can’t expect anyone else to love me.” [/custom_blockquote]
Corina is no longer afraid to say NO to the things that make her feel negative in anyway. She will walk away. She confidently shares she is done cutting herself with other people’s broken pieces. Women are natural caregivers and fixers. She found out she was subconsciously drawn to people whom she thought she could fix. The most liberating realization she has had is “It is not my job to fix you, it is my job to fix me.” She is empowering others to fix themselves, she is not owning their problems anymore. This maxim has inevitably caused her to lose people in her life, so she has learned to be okay with that, for her own wellbeing.
As a Hispanic woman, the hardest “No” she faced was the pressure to live the life everybody thought she should be living. Even though she struggled every day to build a new life for herself, her family didn’t notice the new Corina. The family dynamics went on as usual, but she made a pledge to herself not to get caught up in drama and gossip in other people’s problems. Culturally, it was so difficult to say no, but she stayed true to her priorities and she believes she is a better person because of it.
Corina also believes her struggle was for a reason and purpose. Before she had experienced depression, she didn’t think it was real. She thought it was only in a person’s mind or maybe it was a weakness. Even in those darkest moments, she wouldn’t admit to herself she was depressed. She also didn’t want to be numb and addicted to medication. She didn’t want to be that person. Looking back she truly believes that because she suffered through depression, and knows it is very real, she is a more compassionate & empathetic person. It helped her to see beyond all the material possessions and realize that it isn’t the foundation for happiness and self-worth. She feels less judgmental of herself and others because of it.
The first year of her divorce, she did her best to put on a pretty face, but she could see that her soul was not as shinny as her lipstick. Corina could not look at herself as a woman in the mirror, she didn’t like who she was. Now, she has evolved into a woman who loves and accepts herself, and is living her passion by helping other women. Women reach out to her all the time to ask, “How do you do it?” “Where do you find the strength?” “If you can do it, I know I can do it”
[custom_blockquote style=”red”] “It took me 40 years to figure out my passion.” [/custom_blockquote]
She is an HR director, which pays the bills and she is very thankful for that job. It gives her the freedom to do something that feeds her soul. She can support herself and her youngest daughter with that job and not have to work multiple jobs like many women do.
In the jungle of her post-divorce life, another woman who she worked with, saw something in Corina she didn’t see in herself. She invited her to apply for Hispanic Leadership training. This was a huge turning point in her journey. The training was about being a servant leader in the community and finding ways to support and provide solutions for different community issues. This 10 week program gave her more insight into herself than her two collegiate degrees.
Part of the program included pealing back the layers of who you were. She learned that passions sometimes emerge from traumatic experiences. It caused her to really think, feel and deal with the messy stuff she had never dealt with before. She would drive home from the training crying as she pealed back those layers. She felt lost even though she had come so far through her education and building a great career.
As Corina emerged from that experience, she saw a need to bring people together. She participated in community cleanups and even involved her youngest daughter. She became part of the solution and began volunteering within her community. At a volunteer event, she learned there was an upcoming school board election in her district. She attended an event out of curiosity where her youngest daughter stood up to ask the candidate questions about their role in helping improve lives for children her age.
Corina wanted to learn more about this school district candidate. She had lunch with him and asked “How he knew what he wanted to do?” He turned it around and said… “Why don’t you run for the empty school board seat?” All Corina could think was… “I don’t know anything about running a school district or being an educator!”
She needed some guidance, so she went to her dad. Corina remembers the powerful question her dad asked… “Corina you did got your degrees, you went through Hispanic Leadership, what was it all for?”
She realized it was all for that moment, to live her passion and to help others. To be the woman she was meant to be. She entered into campaign life, which was a whole new world of sink or swim.
She secured her governing board seat and does three key things:
-Listens to the community
-Is a voice for the community
What she realized and what emerged was that she was very good at being an advocate for other people and the communities’ needs.
Corina reflects that serving in her district isn’t about her, in fact, as a governing board member you work as a volunteer. The service is about advocating for the 12,000 children in her district where approximately 75% are Latino and approximately 65% are low poverty.
Corina reflects, as women, we need to be asked 7 or 8 times to do something outside of the home or work. Women are engrained with guilt that they can’t leave their children, they can’t leave the home, they have to be there to do this or that and everything else is selfish. So the guilt consumes us as women and we say NO, we can’t do it because our role is traditionally something else. For men, it is no big deal, he may decide to do something and mostly everyone else in his life will adjust. Corina will now tell women 7 or 8 times “Run for office”. Yes, it is a balancing act, yes there are some sacrifices but she shares a common political quote “If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you are on the menu”.
As Corina has learned more about herself she has carved out her four primary priorities and everything else is optional. These four priorities are her own well-being (emotionally, physically, spiritually), her youngest daughter who is still at home, her paying job and her school district. Though each day can bring challenges, for the first time in her life Corina feels balance and peace.
When asked what she does to put herself as a priority, she described her self-care ritual musts as:
- Eating good healthy foods
- Exercise 5 days a week, which feels good and provides those amazing endorphins.
- 8 hours of sleep, she turns off her phone and gets those ZZZZs
- She doesn’t go out partying, she would rather focus on those 4 priorities.
- Very little alcohol, only once in awhile
- No smoking or drugs
By staying true to this routine, her mind stays balanced and she has enough energy for her 6 am – 10 pm days.
When asked to choose three words that represent her values, Corina narrowed them down to this:
LOVE – Love and compassion for others, but more love for yourself.
ACCOUNTABILITY – Holding yourself accountable. You know what your body likes and doesn’t like and if you choose not to listen, then the consequences are on you. Being honest and truthful to who you are and empowering others to do the same with you. Lastly, having the courage to call “bullshit” if someone is not honest or truthful.
PERSEVERANCE – Not just surviving but thriving despite the cards you are dealt.
Even through Corina has made major changes in her physical appearance, beliefs and how she lives her life, she is still the loving, generous, kind Corina to her core. Those who truly know her, will see it in her eyes. The light might be even brighter because of her effort in transforming into a woman who is living her passion and making a difference in her community one child at a time.