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Episode 13: From Swiss Cheese to Whole — Finding Inner Light with Survivor and Artist Angie Shireman

Angie Shireman, a jewelry artisan, small business owner, certified yoga instructor, wife, mom, and artist, has seemingly lived a carefree life. But her smiling personality belies her real story. During this episode, our hosts have Angie recount these dark moments in her life and how she dug deep to find her way to the light and become the shiny person she is today.

“It was easy to feel let down by life, repeatedly. I had to forgive all of the people that hurt me, the people that left, the people that took parts of me. They took bits and pieces of me. I allowed bits and pieces of me to go. And then I was going to be like this swiss cheese person, I guess. So in some strange way, I knew I would always land on my feet. And to do that we all have to do these little forgivenesses, every single day.”

Host Erik Weihenmayer has a new film about his pursuit of kayaking the Grand Canyon that is making the rounds on the film festival circuit: Weight of Water. The film was started in 2014 by director Michael Brown and now is winning awards left and right. At the time of this episode, it had just taken home the Grand Prize at Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Dave points out that the movie highlights the internal struggles of those folks in Erik’s life and how we are all carrying some sort of mental or emotional burden at any given time.

Angie has had her fair share of burdens.

She starts with an overview of her childhood, growing up in Buffalo, NY, as one of 5 children in an Irish Catholic family. Her mom raised Angie without her biological dad present and as a young child, Angie was very aware of his absence. As the years went on, Angie’s mom dated other men and ultimately her home was unstable and lacking a feeling of safety.

Her rocky childhood and lack of familial support had Angie seeking a means to escape; whether in her mind by creating an alternate reality for herself or physically escaping and running away as a young teen.

After years of rebellion and denial of her feelings, Angie discusses how important it was to seek forgiveness for the people who had harmed her and to forgive herself.

“This is not going to be the thing that gets me down, I am not going to end my life this way… I would not have the depth of character or the ability to love so freely without these experiences.”

 

During Angie’s experience climbing Kilimanjaro (Jeff was a guide on her expedition), she used her time on the mountain to continue to rid herself of the burdens she carried. Beyond her childhood, Angie faced health barriers as an adult. She got a voluntary double mastectomy after finding a lump. Her decision was to take action and ensure if it was cancer, it wouldn’t spread. Despite being at peace with her decision, Angie discusses how hard it was post surgery and the unexpected ways she felt.

“I felt invisible, like a fraud, like another thing you don’t know about me is this.”

 

Once again, Angie reverted to feeling like she was holding on to even more emotional burdens. And even then her struggles weren’t done. After some odd neurological symptoms popped up, Angie was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder that required not one, but two deep brain surgeries. Between the first and second surgeries, Angie was in a dark place with fear and uncertainty creeping in.

“I think it was the fear of not having lived the life that I knew that I wanted. If I don’t wake up from this, what was my biggest accomplishment?”

To get past those feelings, Angie discusses how she recovered and overcame these feelings by discovering what she calls her “spirit.” Understanding that her physical self and the experiences that have happened to her are not what ultimately make her.

“It’s a thirst and a knowledge that I can do this. I can make it. Even if I slip or fall, my real life is in my ability to choose to try.”

She believes everyone has this capability but not everyone has learned to access it.

“You gotta lean into the parts that are scary and terrifying to truly see who you are.”

Now, Angie has recovered physically and devotes her time to her art and helping others. Using her art to channel her voice, Angie continues to face her demons and express herself.

Purchase Angie’s beautiful jewelry
Follow Angie on social @msyogipants or @goodvibejewelry

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————————— EPISODE TRANSCRIPT —————————–

Angie: It’s just this tiny, itty, bitty little fraction of faith, and one ounce of hope and belief in myself. If I know that one little drip is in there, then there has to be a source that that drop came from. I can’t see it, but I know that I am of it, and I know that we are all of it.

Erik: It’s easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn’t talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I’ve gotten a chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It’s been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means.

Erik: Part of the equation is diving into the learning process, and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. In that unexplored terrain between those dark places, we find ourselves in the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward is what we call no barriers.

Dave: Today, we’ll meet Angie Shireman. Angie is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. Two years after undergoing a preventative double mastectomy and several reconstructive surgeries, she was diagnosed with a very rare brain disorder. In 2014, she underwent two brain surgeries to correct it. Recovering from years of uncertainty and numerous surgeries had threatened her free spirit, depression began to set into her life.

Dave: Years later, Angie is now a jewelry artisan, a small business owner, a certified yoga instructor, wife, mum, and a lover of adventure. Angie’s businesses include Good Vibe Tribe Jewelry. It’s where she focuses her artistic energy and creates jewelry to inspire, elevate and celebrate.

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