reCHARGE® Your Life

Ep57: Jennifer Alemany reCHARGED

April 27, 2022 Dr. Keri Ohlrich & Kelly Guenther
reCHARGE® Your Life
Ep57: Jennifer Alemany reCHARGED
Show Notes Transcript

Jennifer Alemany shares the journey that gave her the courage to speak her truth about the pain of losing her significant other. She speaks openly about her grieving process and "being okay with not being okay." She details how she's found her way through her expression of love, loss, and looking at life differently through her memoir, Mark My Love. 

Jennifer Alemany was born in Brooklyn, New York. Jennifer is Latin American with a background from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Cuba. She was the first to graduate from college in her family with an Associate degree in Early Childhood Education from SUNY Cobleskill and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brooklyn College. 

After losing the love of her life two and half years ago, she began to transform her life through loss and her first book, Mark My Love, was born. 

Optimal wellness is also important to Jennifer, who has been practicing yoga 13 years. Jennifer is a Reiki Master, a spiritualist and has been meditating for over 11 years. 

She currently lives in New York City with her dog Leo Luna. 

Connect with Jennifer to learn more about her and her background:

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Keri [00:00:15] Welcome to the reCHARGE® Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Keri Ohlrich and Kelly Guenther. We are thrilled to talk to people who have made a decision that reCHARGE® their lives. Often they push themselves out of their comfort zones and took risks. We want to know about that decision point. Why did they make that decision? And most importantly, how can we learn from them? Kelly and I are passionate HR professionals, and together we co-founded our HR consulting firm Abbracci Group. We have talked to amazing people throughout our careers and listen to them as they made decisions that changed their lives and knew that these inspirational stories would help others. And why did we call it reCHARGE®? It's based on a book I coauthored called The Way of the HR Warrior, and in it we have a leadership model CHARGE which stands for courage, humility, accuracy, resiliency, goal oriented and exemplary. We know that people used one or more of these qualities to help them make their decisions, and we want to learn from them. Now sit back, listen and be inspired by these stories, and then do something to reCHARGE® your life. Let's get to it. 

Kelly [00:01:21] Hi, everyone, it's Kelly. We're so excited to have Jennifer Alemany is our special guest. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jennifer is Latin American with a background from Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba. She was the first graduate from college in her family with an associate degree in early childhood education from SUNY Cobbleskill and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Brooklyn College. After losing the love of her life two and a half years ago, she began to transform her life through loss and her book, Mark My Love, was born. She speaks openly about grieving about her grieving process and being OK with not being OK. In her memoir, she explores love, loss and looking at life differently. Optimal wellness is also important to Jennifer, who's been practicing yoga for 13 years. Jennifer is a Reiki master, a spiritualist, and has been meditating for over 11 years. She currently lives in New York City with her dog, Leo Luna. Jennifer, thank you so much for being a guest on our podcast, and we always like to start by asking what you do when you want to push yourself and expand your thinking. 

Jennifer [00:02:32] I generally go into meditation. I think that's that's been my guiding light for the past about three years. I if I'm confused with something or any guidance, I always go to the medication. And there's also actually one book the path made clear. I also go to that book. I tend to just open it up wherever it lands. And I kind of read where where I'm guided to. 

Keri [00:02:58] Thank you, Jennifer. Jennifer, how we tile quite a few of our guests talk about meditation, and I know it feels sometimes elusive for people. It's just like, I don't know if I could sit there for an hour and like, I don't know what kind it. If someone's starting meditation, what would you recommend how they get started? 

Jennifer [00:03:20] I always say to start small, I want to say five minutes is enough of sitting still. I think that we tend to put a lot on ourselves as a as a society, and we want to get to that hour long meditation and so on. So I always tell people, start small, you know, five minutes. I've just been quiet with yourself and you'll start to notice the time starts expanding on its own. I think that's what happened on my journey. But you also give yourself grace if you don't get there right away. Just give yourself a break. Go back to five minutes every single day. And I think just showing up in that way will get back to where you need to be. 

Keri [00:03:55] Yeah, we've talked about before to the whole just a small habit, just a tiny thing to do. So when you say five minutes, Jennifer, it's like I could do five minutes. It's just five minutes. That's like a commercial break or in between my streaming. You know what I mean? Like, I'm streaming something and just give myself a five minute break would be awesome. What do you think meditation has done for you? Like, what are some of the benefits that you've seen with meditating? 

Jennifer [00:04:27] I think it's on my mind a lot. I used to be the average over thinker, so I would analyze everything. My my professional career, I was about any professional about 22 years. So I was engrossed in analyzing so many different things in different ways professionally. So I know that I was doing that in my own personal life. So I want to say meditation has stopped me from overthinking things and analyzing things, and it's kind of it served me to kind of go with my gut when I'm feeling something. 

Keri [00:05:00] Also, I like first, congratulations for being an HR for that line. You should. We should all get medals for that one. And if you're if you want a career where you can overanalyze, you can go to HR because there's never quite an answer, right? You're like, Let me think about it. And then one more thing happened. And what about this? And humans really allow us to overanalyze a lot when you're trying to think through situations with human beings. So congratulations for getting out, Jennifer. So let's talk about kind of the decision or something that happened in your life that changed the trajectory of your life. And what are some of those charge qualities that you use to help you through that? 

Jennifer [00:05:49] Yeah, my my boyfriend passed away about two and a half years ago now, and when I when I had that loss in my life, I kind of shook me. I want to say into place, I felt like for a while I had been wondering what my purpose was, and I felt that my career wasn't fulfilling, that there was a lot of things I was wondering about about life. I had lost my mother about 13 years prior to this, this last loss. So I want to say I didn't. I didn't realize a lot of I thought I was living. I want to say the entire time that my mother was gone, but I realized with this last loss, I realized I wasn't really living quite a full life, if that makes sense yet. 

Keri [00:06:28] Tell us about like what? So first, I'm sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing it because so many people, especially now with COVID, have lost loved ones. And I know lots of people are struggling around that. So I really appreciate you sharing your story with us. You. What did it mean? Like, how did you realize that I wasn't really living the fulfilled life where we kind of unpack that a bit for us? 

Jennifer [00:06:56] You know, I think I think I discovered through the last I didn't have complete self-love of myself for a very long time, and I think I discovered that when I was going through my grieving process, I noticed I was. I was trying to take care of myself a little better and every which way, whether it be mind, body, spirit, connectivity. But I realized I had put certain things on hold, and I want to say with my and my voice in itself too, I had, I squashed, I think, a lot of what I was feeling after losing my mother, so I wasn't quite, you know, that's how I put it. I wasn't quite living the full, honest life with myself, if that makes sense. 

Keri [00:07:36] Yeah. So do you feel like you were living in an honest life before your mom passed and then after your mom passed, you weren't? Or it was kind of the entire time and it started to come into focus with the passing of your boyfriend. 

Jennifer [00:07:50] Like it came. It came more to focus when my boyfriend passed, I think before my mom had passed. I was living. I want to say a fuller life. I was I was able to experience emotions because she was in my life, I want to say. And when she left because she was a single parent, right? So she was my mom, my dad and my my best friend. So when she left my life, it was multiple people I felt were gone. So that was kind of a reformatting of my life at that point. I was about thirty three years old when she passed. You know, I was a grown adult. But when you have this person who takes up, takes up different roles in your life, it's it's a lot when they're gone. So I kind of I think I did a reformatting of my life, but I didn't quite get out of the grief at that point. I think I was swallowing myself in the grief and the sadness, and I didn't want to see light again. I want to say that's how I kind of put it. And I think with this last loss, when my boyfriend passed away, I knew I felt it. But the I want to say the the spiritual side, you know, however you want to look at that. They were telling me it was time to come into the light again that I suppressed a lot of different things with my mother's passing and I felt like they don't want me to do this again. 

Keri [00:09:10] Hmm. What what did you did you feel after your mom's passing that you were like you weren't suppressing everything? Or did you kind of know Jennifer that like, I don't know if I'm fully dealing with it, like how aware were you of it and during that time? 

Jennifer [00:09:27] Yeah, I think at times I realized I wasn't fully aware that I was suppressing it. But then but then I think at other times, I drown myself in work or things around me responsibilities. So then it was easy not to acknowledge that I wasn't really facing it.  

Keri [00:09:42] Mm-Hmm. And so then when your boyfriend passed, what kind of because you could have gone back to the same place, right? And you didn't have to fully kind of realize everything with with the passing of him? What kind of change that? And for you to say, I really need to examine everything. 

Jennifer [00:10:01] And I think when when he passed, I started journaling about, you know, I want to say, three months after he passed, but the journaling was different for me. It was it was I was writing a lot faster. A lot of different things were coming out about my mother's passing. Mm-Hmm. About my own self-love that I realized I didn't fully give myself. But a lot of my voice was coming out in a different way where I realized I don't think I've been truthful to a lot of people around me about certain things and how I was feeling or truthful with myself. So I think because that journaling was coming out so quickly, I knew I need to reexamine things in my life a little bit because I knew it was coming from another side. I want to say because it was so cathartic and raw the way it was coming out. 

Keri [00:10:49] What you mentioned, that self-love part and so wit. What how did you notice that that I'm not taking care of myself or I'm not giving myself that self-love? And then what are some of the changes you made to to maximize your self-love and feel in a comfortable place?  

Jennifer [00:11:08] I think I think I realized I wasn't putting myself first. A lot, I think, you know, I think I saw my mother do that her entire life know because she was a single mom and it was what it was. But I think I took on habits of doing that myself and kind of caring for those around me and putting them first. And I realize, like my own needs and whatever I was feeling about things I was, I was putting it on the backburner. So I think that was that self-love, a realization like, Oh, wait a minute. Know. And I also discovered that I want to realize I realized, you know, people were criticizing me a lot in my life when I was younger about my weight and things like and things like that. So I realized also there was a lot of self-esteem damage that had been done very early on in life that I knew was around and always hung out with me for my entire life. But I realized I needed to kind of deal with that once, once and for all so that that came out into play too.  

Keri [00:12:01] I love how you said it hung around with me, right? Because that's kind of what it is. It's like a friend you don't really want, but they still keep hanging around and it's like that voice that keeps saying it and you're like, you can leave now. Like, you think, Oh, the the self-love. I was thinking, putting yourself but yourself. Last, Jennifer, boy, you took a you chose a good career to do that. HR because most HR people will put themselves last right because you have to do so many things for other people first. So it's kind of a good profession if you want to put yourself last time to go into because, you know, I mean, does anyone care about us and HR Jennifer? 

Jennifer [00:12:42] No, no, no. And it's it's a hard it's a hard pill to swallow, right? You want to know what you want to be helpful with the future about the career and all of that. And you know, it has had those moments, you know, I want to say, but you're always the last, as always, thinking about taking care of its life and you're always that way, right? Who cares? Who cares about HR?  

Keri [00:13:02] Yeah, that's what I was going to say. So now you so now you've kind of addressed this, this this not a friend of of hearing about weight and weight gain and things like that. And that's not a good friend to have. And you're deciding I'm not really putting myself first. And you mentioned the truth that you started speaking more truth to people and maybe upsetting people. What did that look like? Jennifer, if you did, you not. I mean, confronts kind of a harsh term, but like, did you talk to people and like, say, No, this is kind of did you shed people from your life like, what did that look like when you decided to speak more to the truth?  

Jennifer [00:13:41] Yeah, I had I had a few conversations because I had to because I realized I was squashing my voice in a lot of different things. So I had a a few key conversations that you know that I needed for my own healing, right? So it was kind of part of it. And, you know, I want to say it. Relationships may have taken the back burner. I want to say with that because of a difference. Differences of now people are seeing me differently, right? But I'm also being true to myself, so I had to. I had to be honest with a lot of different folks around me. And it's kind of I want to say it's part of the rebuild, right? I think. You know, I had trauma that happened in my life in 2019. And, you know, it's been a it's been a tough road, right? And then COVID came on top of that in 2020. So it's been a rough road for a lot of different folks, for different reasons. So me being honest with myself, I had to be honest with those around me. 

Keri [00:14:34] Did you notice Jennifer with being honest? Was there someone kind of a relationship that surprised you? That's even stronger by you being vulnerable and kind of talking about what's happened? 

Jennifer [00:14:45] Yeah, I want to say, I want to say so. I had I had a few of those where people were just opening up a little bit more to me because I was so open. And I think it's it's changed how they're viewing their own life and how they're moving things forward for themselves. So, you know, I think me being vulnerable benefited myself as well as others around me. 

Keri [00:15:04] Yeah, I do. It's a scary place to be to be vulnerable, but once you what we found, especially doing these podcasts, once people do that, it's amazing how many other people say, Oh yeah, and me too. And Mitch and this happen and oh yeah, and how much more they like you because you are not. You have this vulnerability and you shared these things with them. How how hard was it for you to do this, Jennifer? Like, if we think about the charge qualities, I'm assuming you're taking a lot of sea courage in our resilience. But like, what are some of those qualities that helped you through this? 

Jennifer [00:15:44] I think the courage to be vulnerable, I think that was a hard one for me because I'm I'm generally a private person. I always have been. So I wasn't out on social media, anything like that. It's not a space that I feel comfortable with, but I knew I knew with me being uncomfortable that it may help other people grow in that space, too. So I kind of I took all the courage I had inside me, I want to say, and I said, You know what? I'm going to throw caution to the wind and kind of do something different. And I just jumped in and out of the pool and started it. I want to say so. I kind of I took whatever pain I had experienced over the last two and a half years, and I just allowed it to feel me in a different way. 

Keri [00:16:24] Hmm. I think people that I know a lot of very private people and they would have a hard time with sharing, and so did it take, how did you kind of get yourself? I know it took a lot of courage and you said you kind of use it as fuel. But like practically, how did you did you feel sick before you were going to share it? Did you say, like, this is enough now I'm going to do it? Like, how did you actually psych yourself up? Meditate on it? How did you set yourself up to do it? 

Jennifer [00:16:50] Yeah, it was a roller coaster of emotions because I was I was done. I was done writing everything I probably want to say five months after I had passed, so I was done. I was done at the end of 2019, but I took all of 2020 to decide what I published this intimate story and that and it took me the entire year because I went back and forth. I went back and forth with it. I got sick. Like you said, I felt sick about it. I was like, I can't do this. And I felt like, No, I need to do this. And, you know, so it took the entire year for me to get there, and then I kept getting. When I meditated on it, I kept getting the feeling, Well, you're meant to do this, you're meant to share the story with others in the way that you're doing it. So I decided I'm going to do it. 

Keri [00:17:35] Wow. I appreciate that it took you that long because sometimes it doesn't happen for people like overnight, like, I'm going to do it right. We talked to someone else who they posted it that day. Right? And it doesn't. It depends on who you are and for you, it's like I struggled for a year. Did you talk to a lot of people, Jennifer, or because you're so private, you're like, I'm keeping it private and I have to struggle within myself. Or did you have kind of any one kind of coaching you and talking to you? 

Jennifer [00:18:04] You know, I kept I kept a private because I'm a private person. So I went that same route and then I, I said to myself, Well, I'll I'll you. What conclusion? I come to you and I, you know, and I did it, but I think, you know, I read the book over that year. I read the book a lot, right? So I think that it also helped me get through some things I need to get through. I was crying a lot after reading it back to myself. So I think it got me to a different place where I needed to be, you know? I want to say I was free, I was free once I was done with it and reading, and I want to say the last time I read it before they went, before I could send a publisher, it was I felt sick, like literally after I read it. Yeah. And then I knew, OK, it's good to go. I just felt it at that point. 

Keri [00:18:55] I adore that. You said I felt free. Like that is amazing to not have that weighed on you and to let it go and to be free. And what what has it look like on the other side? So you had this whole year of do I do? I do, I don't I. I got a sandwich that I sent it to the publisher. Yeah. What is the other side look like for you? 

Jennifer [00:19:23] It's been, you know, I think I wonder now, why did I keep myself in such? I want to say in prison a prison within myself, right? I'm just sitting on it. And now it's kind of like, Oh, well, you know, things are easier for me. I'm not. I'm not again, I'm not overthinking things at all. I think I'm making decisions faster. I'm just in tune with myself a little bit more than I have been in my entire life. So it's kind of putting this on writing and putting everything out there gave me that freedom. I want to say that now the second part of my life going forward is going to be a lot different because of it. 

Keri [00:19:59] Mm-Hmm. I for Jennifer, I was thinking about that even this morning. I'm like, Man, I would have killed it in my 20s if I were this smart as I am now, right? Yeah. You're like, I wouldn't have made those dumb dating decisions I would have like. Really? Yep, yep. Yep. But here's where we're at. And so it took this amount of time to figure that out. And everyone, as you well know, being in yoga, what do you say? Like, it's your journey, right? Yeah. That's why I love yoga. It's like you're at where you're at. And so how do you manage through it? What what advice do you have for people? Jennifer again, we mentioned earlier, so many people have dealt with loss with with just COVID. And then there's other things that have happened to people and there's mental health issues. And so how there's a lot of people who have lost. What advice do you have for people who are managing a loss through this? 

Jennifer [00:20:58] I would say, you know, to get out in nature a little bit. I think that helped me walking out by the water and then I'll buy under the trees and hanging out, you know, just the nature. I want to say it gave me a sense of calmness. But it but also for me, I felt connected with my lost loved ones, just a little bit more when I was outside in nature. So that's always one piece of advice that I tell folks that are grieving, you know, and experiencing loss and and loss in different ways. You know, it's not always just the loss of a person. It could be, you know, the loss of a marriage, the loss of a job. You know, we all go through so many different things in life. But I want to say getting out and walking a little bit, get out in nature. 

Keri [00:21:39] I the there's my son went to a Waldorf school and nature is such a big part of it. And so many research studies are talking about going out in nature and refreshing your brain and just walking around the block at noon. If we're all in places where you could do that, but that just getting outside and being with nature is so impactful for the brain. And then the one I love, Jennifer, don't know if you've seen this one is how humbling nature can be to because you realize wow, especially if you're around mountains like those mountains, they're here. Long before I was there will be here long after and they're giant and it makes you in way humble because you realize it's not all about you. There's like lots of other forces around and make a nature exist all on its own, you know, without a human, without that stillness to just exist altogether. Yeah, yeah. I really appreciate that advice. We haven't had the nature advice yet, Jennifer, so I really like that. Kelly, I'm going to totally out you because we might have talked about Kelly's having a bad night's sleep, and she's like, I don't even want to tell you why, because I was just overanalyzing something stupid. And she had a bad night's sleep because of it. So Kelly, I know Jennifer's overanalyzing spoke to you so, so much. I guarantee it. 

Kelly [00:23:03] It sure did. You know that I have a half a dozen things like meditation? Yes, I've been told you should meditate. There's many, many apps for that in five minutes, and I think I will put some of what you've mentioned into practice, Jennifer. Just for the just for the reasons that you mentioned in your the practical aspects of how it's really benefited you, just even how you are, you present yourself on this episode is incredibly moving to me. So whether you realize. It or not, I don't know if you've ever been given that feedback, but the clarity that you that you provide, the sense of calm that you, you speak with is incredibly soothing almost to me. 

Jennifer [00:23:48] So thank you. Thank you. I've been told that before. I want to say a couple of episodes that I've I've recorded. Sometimes that the hosts have gotten choked up where they were. They were just move. They were crying at times. So I've I've been told this before, so I look at it as like a gift. If I can help others heal a little bit and any which way, you know, I'm glad that my voice is doing that. 

Kelly [00:24:12] Absolutely, and that you're paying it forward, you're taking something that's incredibly painful in having the lives of a mother who meant so much to you and provided and was such an important role model in your life. And then the loss of your boyfriend who again really important in your life that you've been able to turn it into this force for good and share a very poignant story about it? Well, and certainly incorporate the link to to your book in the in the show notes. So all of our listeners can absolutely download it or access it and buy it for sure. I'm wondering what is one of your most favorite things about the book? 

Jennifer [00:24:57] I think that it gives that sense of freedom, that it shows people, you know, I needed that freedom and people can take it, get that, take away from it in their own life. I think that's that's the biggest piece of it for me. 

Kelly [00:25:11] Was there anything that surprised you as you were writing it? Anything unexpected? 

Jennifer [00:25:17] I think that me being honest about my, my just myself, myself, body image issues, you know, since I was young, I think that wasn't something that I generally shared at all. Very few folks know about that in my life. So I think that coming out and me just throwing it out there, that also was that was surprising to me. 

Kelly [00:25:38] Hmm. And one is in this day and age to where we have Instagram and people who are looking at images of people who are photoshopped and airbrushed it. It leaves people feeling very low and feeling like there is a certain level of perfection that they have to attain. And you'll never unless you're a size two or zero or double zero or whatever it is, that will never be enough. I think that's an incredibly powerful, powerful thing to know for sure. And then one last question for you as you were having the key conversations, as you noted with the individuals that you you felt you really wanted to be more honest with. Did those relationships strengthened as a result of the conversations or did or did they not? 

Jennifer [00:26:31] I want to say they didn't strengthen as much, but I think I think, you know, I think during the conversation, there was so much learned by the conversations that I'm hope that there will be growth, you know, for the relationships in the future. If that makes sense. I still I'm hopeful for that. 

Kelly [00:26:49] Yeah, absolutely. And again, it's nothing else. I think what you emphasize most is that you did it for yourself if for no other reason than you give your you where you previously squashed your voice or suppressed your voice, you gave your voice a chance to speak and you were able to have conversations that you previously had never had before with people that were important to you to set the record straight. And like you said, it's everyone has a journey. And so you it was important for you. And so I applaud you for being able to summon up the courage because some people never get there. If they never do it, they never find that voice. And so the fact that you've done it is it is incredibly powerful. And I just applaud you for the work that you've done for keeping it inside really and kind of not sharing the book for an entire year and then realizing, OK, I'm going to go ahead and release it. I mean, what an amazing experience. But I look forward to reading it, and I will certainly make sure that everyone has access to all of your information in our show, notes Jennifer. And we certainly recommend that everyone does access all of your information and certainly check out your website as well as all of your social media channels for all of your great information certainly reaches out and connects with you. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your very powerful story with us, and we wish you all the all the best going forward.  

Jennifer [00:28:23] Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. Thank you.  

Kelly [00:28:26] Thank you, Jennifer. 

Kelly [00:28:30] Thank you for listening to the reCHARGE® Your Life podcast. Please sign up for our newsletter at Abbracci and follow us on social media. You can find us on LinkedIn at Abbracci Group. Instagram at WarriorsofHR and Twitter at Warriors_HR. Remember to subscribe to our podcast, leave a review and please tell a friend and be sure to drop us a note on how you are recharging your life. We can't wait to hear from you.