126. Living the Beige Life with Sonia Graham

When your life story is dominated by trauma resulting from one fucked-up thing after another, it plays a nasty trick on your definition of what’s “fine”.

After surviving being killed almost three times before she was two years old, Sonia Graham was adopted into a strict Puerto Rican / Irish Catholic family. Her father was in the Air Force, so while she developed resilience to deal with ever-changing situations, she did NOT learn how to create lasting relationships because she knew whatever friends she made, she would not have for very long.

Because of her extensive behavioral issues, her parents eventually put her into Boys Town. The bigger issue was that she had PTSD from her childhood traumas, and in the 80s, PTSD was misunderstood. As a result, Sonia was treated with psychiatric drugs rather than the proper treatment.

So, as an adult, she hesitated to seek the therapy she needed, which prolonged her suffering.

All this instilled one of Sonia’s core values – at the end of the day, the only person you really have is you, so you have to be true to you.

After she got out of Boys Town, she graduated high school early, then had her first child at age 18. Six years later she was pregnant again. Then at age 27, she married, divorced, and remarried – all in one year.

Sonia’s husbands, like her father, were in the military, so she went back to the pattern of moving around. After the family moved to Maryland, she became a Realtor. Then she got divorced again. She discovered her passion for teaching and found a unique niche helping Maryland Realtors learn the business side of real estate, beyond simply getting a license.

All in all, everything seemed fine.

Until her teenage son tried to murder her.

Indeed, Fine is a 4-Letter Word.

In a moment, when you meet Sonia, you’ll discover her quest for what she calls “living in beige”. When your life is dominated by trauma and violence, with occasional good things such as finding your niche in your career and excelling at it, you just don’t see the middle.

Sonia’s hype song is “The Greatest” by Sia.

Resources:

The movie mentioned in the episode is called “Inside Out”.

Invitation from Lori:

Like Sonia, it’s possible you’re not “fine” because trauma is the only thing you really understand – as a result, trauma itself becomes your “fine”.

If you want to start changing the coding in your brain so you can see past the trauma and find the beige, the 5 Easy Ways to Start Living The Sabbatical Life guide is for you.

Once you read it, you’ll

✅ Discover a counter-intuitive approach to making intentional changes in mindset and lifestyle.

✅ Learn how to own your feelings and your struggles so you can address them.

✅ Find out how to face fears, step out of your comfort zone, and rewire your beliefs.

It’s only 7 pages, so it won’t take you long to get through. The five tactics are simple, but once you follow even ONE of them, you’ll find yourself seeing a new point of view.

When you’re ready to say F*ck Being Fine, then this guide is the place to start. It’s time to blaze a new trail and chart a new course!

Go to https://zenrabbit.com right now to download it for free.

Transcript

Lori Saitz: Hello, and welcome to Fine is a 4-Letter Word. My guest today is Sonia Graham. Welcome to the show, Sonia.

Sonia Graham: Thanks for having me, Lori. I'm so excited to be here.

Lori Saitz: I am excited to have you. And when we were doing the pre-show call, you reminded me who introduced us. And now it totally went out of my head.

Sonia Graham: Jason Madden.

Lori Saitz: Jason Madden. Right, right, right. I wanted to give him a shout-out. And it's funny because it's been a couple of years, and we've just been friends on Facebook and we haven't had that much interaction. But, you know, when the time is right for somebody to show up on this program, there they are.

Sonia Graham: Yep, here I am. And here you were to ask me. I wouldn't be here without you asking me. So thank you for that.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. And in the whole time that we've been connected, watching your journey from where you were to where you are now is just so incredible. And that's why I was like, "Yeah, you need to come on and talk about your story."

Sonia Graham: Thank you. Sometimes I forget—

Lori Saitz: So I appreciate your willingness to do that.

Sonia Graham: Sometimes I forget people actually pay attention to me on social media.

Lori Saitz: Well, a lot of times it can feel like you're shouting into a void, but you never know who's watching.

Sonia Graham: Right, exactly. Exactly. Well, thank you for tuning in to the Sonia show. I appreciate it.

Lori Saitz: Let's get started by hearing your response to the question of: what were the values and beliefs you were raised with that contributed to you becoming the person you are?

Sonia Graham: That's such a hard question—

Lori Saitz: It is.

Sonia Graham: —because I was raised so differently from most people. I was adopted at two, and the people who adopted me were Puerto Rican Irish Catholics. I don't know if you know anything about those three separately and then combined, but pretty intense, pretty strict, especially because I'm a girl. And then I was actually put into different hospitals and eventually ended up in Boys Town, which is a school for not bad kids—because Father Flanagan says there's no such thing as a bad boy—but for kids who were either going to end up dead on the streets in prostitution or worse. And, thankfully, that wasn't necessarily going to be my journey, but my parents were just, as hard as they tried, they just weren't equipped to deal with the type of PTSD I had. So that is where I ended up.

So all that to say I didn't have a normal upbringing. I had more examples of what I didn't want to be, as opposed to, "Ooh, these are values I want to hold on to and mirror." And so I guess the values I grew up with is: you come first. The only person at the end of the day is you, so you have to be true to you. Do your best. Truly treat people the way you want to be treated.

I later learned to treat people the way they want to be treated, but that takes an extra level of conscious. But I was like, if I don't want to be lied to, I'm not going to lie to someone. If I don't want to be stole from, I don't want to steal. If I don't want to be sworn at, I'm not going to swear.

And at the end of the day, the family is first, but it's not the family that you were given. It's family that were chosen and the people that show up. So I think those are the biggest values that I would say I grew to use while growing up.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. Where were you raised? What part of the country?

Sonia Graham: Another great question. My dad was Air Force, so we moved everywhere. I was born in California. Then we went to Michigan. We went to Mississippi. We lived in Alabama. We lived in Spain. I was in hospitals in Pennsylvania, Spain, Alabama. Oh, California. And then I eventually ended up in Omaha, Nebraska, and Utah. And then I graduated high school in Wichita, Kansas.

Lori Saitz: Wow. That is a lot. And did you find that all of those moves helped make you more resilient?

Sonia Graham: So I have mixed emotions with that. I have no problem saying good-bye. I have a really hard time keeping people close. I have a really hard time with lasting relationships because I have been kind of conditioned that every two to three years, we're going to move.

Lori Saitz: Yeah, right.

Sonia Graham: So I don't know if it's resilient or if it just helped with my disassociation ability or by my good-bye ability. I do think it added a lot of flavor. It exposed me to a ton of cultures, a ton of thinking and beliefs and customs. And I'm so grateful for that part.

Lori Saitz: Sure, yeah. So then after you graduated high school, and now you get to decide on your own what you're going to do with your life, what did you do?

Sonia Graham: Nothing great. I don't know that I should have been left up to my own devices. No. So I graduated, actually, early. I graduated when I was 16. So I wasn't legal to just be out there on my own.

Lori Saitz: Oh, wow.

Sonia Graham: Yeah. I didn't mean to you. It's not because I was super smart. Please, don't anybody think I'm a genius. I'm intelligent, but I didn't graduate because I was super smart. I graduated because of all the places that I was in, I accumulated so many credits. And so when I left Boys Town and went to live with my parents, they put me in a Catholic school. And in Catholic school, they don't really care where you are. You have to have, like, 53 religious credits in order to graduate. And I'm not really an in-the-box person. I didn't really jive with ...

Anyway, so we ended up graduating me early. I do have a diploma. GEDs are great, but I do have a diploma. My mother made sure of that. So I actually ended up working at Sears part-time. I ended up being pregnant and really just kind of fumbled around through life for a while. I got pregnant when I was 17. I had my first kid at 18. I got pregnant again at 24. I had some really weird time in between that age gap. And I ended up getting married at 27, getting divorced at 27, getting married again at 27.

Lori Saitz: Oh, my gosh. That's a big year.

Sonia Graham: It was a great year. And the men that I married were in the military, so we moved around. I had a whole slew of different jobs. The final move—well, not the final move. But in 2015, we moved to Maryland, and I got my real estate license. And so I guess you could say I became a mom, a wife, a single mom, and a Realtor with my life.

Lori Saitz: Okay. All right. It's the realtor thing, though, that has really—like, it seems like that's where you found your stride. Or I don't know how to phrase that. Is that the way you—I think I screwed that—like, found your stride?

Sonia Graham: Yeah.

Lori Saitz: It sounded funny, but I think that's what I meant to say.

Sonia Graham: No, it sounded perfect. I mean, I wish I had this amazing story of how real estate was just my lifelong dream. I didn't want to own a house, and I owned two by the time I got my license. We had just landed here from Italy, and my husband at the time was like, "Are you going to work?" And I was like, "I want to." But I'd been bartending for three years. And I made a lot of money bartending, but I spent a lot of hours from 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. awake and away from my son. And my son was like, "I don't want you to work at night, Mom."

Oh, and before that, I was a 911 dispatcher, and I worked the midnight shift.

Lori Saitz: Oh, geez.

Sonia Graham: So my son was tired of not seeing me.

Lori Saitz: Of course.

Sonia Graham: And we were walking out of our realtor's office, and they had a little sign that said, "Hiring." And my husband, at the time, actually wanted to be a realtor. His aunt was a realtor. A very successful realtor. He wanted to be a realtor when he got out, and he was like, "You should start this right now. You'd be great at it." And I was like, "Okay."

And when we got divorced, it was kind of like, okay, I went from a six-figure, dual-income home where I didn't really have to put effort into the work that I did. But I've had three really great years of apprenticeship and training, so do I keep this? Do I keep going and hope it takes off, or do I go get a 9-5 not even minimum-wage job and go backwards? In my head, that would be going backwards.

So I just hunkered down and said, "Okay, I'm going to be successful at this. One way or the other, I'm going to be successful with this." And I got really clear on my numbers. My numbers were very basic. Like, what do I need to survive every month? How many houses do I have to sell every year to make sure that I survive? That's all I want. I don't want a Bentley. I don't want a million dollars. I don't want to pop bottles on boats every week. I just want to pay my bills and not end up homeless. I've been homeless. That wasn't great. So what do I do?

And, thankfully—thankfully—I was able to make a really comfortable life doing that. Doing this. I'm still doing it. I'm still doing it, universe. I'm still doing it.

Lori Saitz: Yes. And teaching others how to be successful now, too. Right?

Sonia Graham: Oh, I am so passionate about teaching. I don't know if I'm going to teach them how to be successful, but my mission is to prove the missing link between getting licensed and getting into business. And what I mean by that is getting licensed, at least in Maryland and in Texas. I was licensed in Texas for a while, but I don't train Texas agents. But in Maryland, it's a 60-hour law course. It has nothing to do with contracts. It has nothing to do with the process.

When you become a realtor, it's not like you go and work for a broker who gives you ready, willing, and able buyers and sellers. You're opening your own business. You have to establish an LLC, a bank account; and get a CPA. None of that's told to people when they get their license. It's like, "Here's a license. We're going to take half of your money. Don't get sued."

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: And I'm like, "That's insane." Or you have the flip side where it's just, "We're going to teach you how to lead generate. We're going to teach you how to convert—what is that word? Convert, sorry. I was going to say converse, but we know how to talk. How to convert leads. Somebody else will do your contract writing. Somebody else will do your paperwork. You just go out and get more bodies.

And I think that's a great thing to build up to. For me and the way my brain works is I don't know how to tell someone to do a job I don't know how to do. And if I do tell someone to do a job for me that I don't know how to do, then I have no business getting mad at them when they don't do it right.

Lori Saitz: Right. Or they take longer than you think they should be taking.

Sonia Graham: Right. So let's learn how to do it. Most people don't know this, but about 97% of realtors never write a contract until they have their first client ready to write a contract.

Lori Saitz: And I don't want to be that person.

Sonia Graham: Right. And that's kind of what got me started. I was like, "Would I hire me as a realtor? Absolutely not. I wouldn't hire me because I don't know what I'm doing. Okay, let me figure it out. Let me learn how to do this. Let me learn the unsexy parts because contract writing is not sexy.

Lori Saitz: And yet very important.

Sonia Graham: The most important. So, yes, it is my passion to just basically give people a really strong foundation. This is how you do the job of a realtor. Go hire you a coach. Go join a big team. Go do whatever to motivate you and get you excited. Let me just show you how to do your job and give you some tools. And if you use those tools and if you learn the process and then add your own flavor, then, yeah, you'll be successful.

Because that's what I did. I had a really great mentor who took me under his wing, let me write all of his contracts. And I say "let me" not "made me" because, again, I didn't have my own clients to write contracts for and thinking I need a client to write a contract. Wrong thought process. But 2015, we had that thought process. So here I was putting in the reps, learning the process, listening to him talk to people. And that just made all the difference for me.

Lori Saitz: Yeah, absolutely. I love that you had that way of thinking to improve yourself for the better. I mean, for everybody—for your clients and for yourself—to make the experience better and a little bit easier for you. Not that it's easy. But to build your confidence so that, then, your clients could be confident that you know what you're doing.

Sonia Graham: Yes. And that's the trick. I learned that as long as you say something confidently, people will believe you.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: And they will give you the grace and the space and the time to figure it out. Even if I confidently say, "You know what? I'm not really sure what that answer is, and I know someone who will answer it," people aren't going to be like, "Oh, well, you're fired. I'm not going to work with you."

Lori Saitz: Right.

Sonia Graham: They're going to be like, "Wow, look at her. Competent enough to say, 'I don't know.' But, also, she's smart enough to know where to get the answer."

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: And competence comes from doing things over and over and over again.

Lori Saitz: Right. Yeah, exactly. I want to go to something that we talked about, again, in our pre-show conversation about wanting life to be beige. Because I thought that was such an interesting way of phrasing things. I mean, obviously, you just gave us the early part of your life, which was a lot of chaos.

Sonia Graham: Yes.

Lori Saitz: And all the way up to, I think, more recent years, most of your life was chaos.

Sonia Graham: Yeah.

Lori Saitz: And it's only been very recently passed—I don't even know how many years, a few— that you've been able to find some peace.

Sonia Graham: Yeah.

Lori Saitz: So, talk about wanting life to be beige.

Sonia Graham: Ah.

Lori Saitz: Because when people hear that, it sounds like, "Oh, so you just want a boring life?"

Sonia Graham: Yeah. Thank you. Ding-ding-ding-ding. So here's the thing about being beige. I have experienced the highest of highs. I've experienced the lowest of lows. When you're born to people who abuse use you and don't love you and don't care for you, your brain does not form the way that somebody who is loved and cared for forms. Your brain is programmed for chaos. Your brain is programmed for pain. And so, consciously—I learned this in therapy—consciously, your brain is always looking for that. When people talk about fight or flight, the fight reaction is just surges of adrenaline all the time that you can't shut off. Your body is constantly like this. Ready, you know? And when you live like that for 38 years—and it wasn't constant. I don't want to make it sound like it was every day. And I had some really good moments. I don't remember a lot of them. Thank you, trauma. But I know that they were there. I've seen pictures. I've heard recollection.

But when your brain is trained for trauma, it's almost like being an addict. It's like, where can I get my next hit of dopamine/adrenaline? How can I ruin this relationship? How can I stir this pot? How can I make my body feel what it needs to feel? Because that's what I think I need to go forward.

Lori Saitz: Because that's what is familiar.

Sonia Graham: That's what's familiar. That's where you live.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: I did not even know until this past year, until 2023, that I didn't know how to experience joy.

Lori Saitz: Wow.

Sonia Graham: A lot of people will make fun of people who are in their camera at a concert. And I went to a ton of concerts. And someone had said in my comments—what's up, little bubble—someone had said, "Oh, you can't be in the moment enjoying this concert. So sad to see all those people on their phones." And I thought, "He's right."

I have more footage on my phone than I remember being present for this. And I had front-row seats. I don't play when it comes to experiences. I'm going to be in there. Right? But my brain and my body physically couldn't process the joy, so I had to record things so that an hour after, I could look back. And it was almost like I disassociated while I was there because it was just too much. And then I would look and be like, "Oh, yeah, that was fun. Oh, I don't remember that, but that looks cool."

Lori Saitz: It's like watching a movie of somebody else.

Sonia Graham: Yes, all the time. All the time. And so I realized I was booking all these amazing, wonderful, great things because I wanted to feel joy. I wanted to feel the adrenaline rush that came with joy, and my body didn't know how to process it because my body and my brain are constantly looking for the other shoe to drop. They're constantly looking for, okay, it's good right now. I have a big sale now. So that means something catastrophic is going to happen that I'm going to have to pay for to fix. I don't get to keep that money.

And a lot of people say, "Oh, Sonia, that's you living in scarcity." No, that's called trauma. It's called trauma. And so this past year, I was like, you know, I do love to have a good time, and I do love to have a good cry. I'm definitely cut out to handle any emergency situation. I was a 911 dispatcher, for crying out loud.

As a child, I survived being killed almost three times before I was two years old. I got that. I want to know what it's like to just be happy. Just be happy and live in beige. I like rainbows and the darkest cool because that's when the stars come out. I get that. Love that. I want to know what it's like to just be. Just exist and just be in the moment and experience that moment. Not at a super-high high. Not at a concert high. Not at a heartbroken low. Just, like, "It's Tuesday. It's 70 degrees, and it's partly cloudy. And you know what? That's cool."

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: So I want beige. I wish more people lived on beige because beige is so great.

Lori Saitz: When you describe it that way, yes.

Sonia Graham: That's what I see beige as. I don't see beige as boring. I see beige as safe and as consistent because, again, with trauma, we don't have a lot. The only consistent we have is: we're going to be hurt. We're going to be hurt. We're going to have to survive. Beige is: I'm surviving. It's safety.

Lori Saitz: Right. Safety and peace, which, as a survivor of trauma, you haven't had much of. And so, therefore, like you said, no experience living that way.

Sonia Graham: None. And it's been such a journey for my therapist and I because she sees and she knows all these things, and she's a wonderful person. So let me just preface this with: I did not support therapy for the better half of my life because I was forced into therapy. I was given horrible diagnoses because PTSD in children was not even considered in the '80s when I was struggling at the height of it, I think.

And so I was given all kinds of crazy diagnoses. And I was very smart. I was smart in the sense where I was always looking out for myself. If I thought people were trying to get one over on me or if I thought people were trying to trick me, then I would—like fight or flight. I was in fight. I was going to defend myself, and sometimes at my own detriment. So if I thought they were trying to trick me, I was always trying to be one step, two steps, three steps ahead.

And then when I figured out that my parents actually had to pay for everything that they were putting me through, that was very scary. It's very scary to just be dropped in with a bunch of strangers and not know when you're going to leave. It's very scary to wake up ...

When I went to the Utah desert, I woke up in my room, and there was two huge men I didn't know in my bedroom. When I woke up, they handed me my clothes, stuck me in a car—they were basically my security—and flew me to Utah. It's a very scary situation. Right?

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: And so I would purposely do things to either extend my stays and rack up their bills. It wasn't healthy, by any stretch of the imagination. But then I would be pumped full of medicine that numbed me out, that didn't work because PTSD isn't a medicinal cure, so to speak.

Lori Saitz: Right.

Sonia Graham: And that's a whole different conversation.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: So I was not an advocate of therapy until, finally, in 2019, my youngest child attempted to kill me, and I was left in my house all by myself. My husband had just left me. He was threatening to kick me out. My son just tried to kill me, out of nowhere. He's never been a violent child. I don't speak to my mother and my father, so I don't have any support there. And I was like, "I just can't do this anymore. I have been strong for so long by myself. I've put on a happy face. I toxic positivity until I'm blue in the face.

Lori Saitz: Everything was fine.

Sonia Graham: Everything was fine, dang it. But it's not fine anymore. And suicide has never been an option for me. My big brother died by suicide in 2015, and I still, to this day, will never understand his life and my life. Not that there's any comparison. But why was I strong enough to hang on, and why did he check out? Because he's actually the reason why I'm here.

But in that moment, I was like, "If suicide was an option, that's where I would be right now." So I can't do this anymore. And so I got really smart. I hired a therapist, and she's been wonderful. She specializes in trauma therapy. So make sure, if you're listening to this, and you're considering therapy, please do your research. Don't be afraid to say things like ...

In our first conversation—I'll never forget—I was like, "Look, we're not unpacking my childhood. We're not dealing with it. I just need to get past the fact that my kid tried to kill me. If you can get me past this, I'll be fine."

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: Five years later, we're learning that, yes, I am going to be fine. I'm going to be more than fine. And she made it safe to unpack some of my childhood trauma, some of my trauma around my parents. And she has helped me walk into beige and be appreciative of it.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. How old was your son at the time?

Sonia Graham: 15 or 16.

Lori Saitz: And I don't want to leave listeners hanging. Tell them where you are with him now.

Sonia Graham: Oh, my Gosh. We have the best relationship ever. It was two years of separation during COVID. So I wasn't even allowed to go see him. But he was in therapy. I was in therapy, like, twice a week. And when the state was like, "Okay, he's ready to come home," I was like, "Wait, what? This person tried to kill me."

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: Thankfully, at that point, it had been two years of therapy, and I lovingly but firmly said, "Listen." I had moved. In the time that he was gone, I had to move. My husband at the time kicked us out and was letting the house go into foreclosure.

So I had moved, and I said, "Listen, this house is the first house I've ever lived in where nobody has hurt me. Nobody's hurt me. Nobody has used me. Nobody has lied to me. It is decorated the way I want it. It smells the way I want it. This is my safe place. And it has taken me two years to not sleep with all my doors locked and a bat under the bed and with one eye open. I want you to come home. I want you to be a functioning member of society. But I'm absolutely not going to tolerate one letter of disrespect. I'm not going to tolerate one moment of anything that I've dealt with, with you, for the last five years. So if you have any, any, any thought that you're going to come back into my house and act that way, you're not welcome."

And those are the hardest words I've ever had to say because that's my son.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: That's my baby. And he could not have been more apologetic. We continued in therapy for about a year after he came home. He graduated high school and on his own decided to go to college. He just came home one day and was like, "Hey, Mom. I start college on the 26th of August." And I was like, great! I've never been that Mom that's like, "You have to do this!”

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: I was like, "Find your bliss. Find what makes you happy. Do that thing. The answer isn't in a piece of paper that you pay $40,000 for. Whatever path you want to be on, I'm going to support you there."

But he is in college. He's now in his second year in college. He works at a gym. He's preparing to walk a bodybuilding stage in August.

Lori Saitz: Oh, wow.

Sonia Graham: He is the most emotionally intelligent human I have met in a very long time. He's very apathetic. We both still have things that trigger us. And when we either recognize the trigger in the other person or we feel it ourselves, we now can have conversations that are like, "Hey, your energy changed. What's going on? Hey, do you need a minute? Do you want a hug? Do you need space? How can I show up for you?" And that's him. That's not me talking to him.

Lori Saitz: Wow.

Sonia Graham: That's him talking to me. He's very protective of me when it comes to anybody. He's just wonderful. He's just wonderful. And as horrible the memory of that is, I am grateful that we were able to move past it and be where we are today because it could have had a very different ending.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. That is really tremendous, and that's a testament to the work that you've been doing—

Sonia Graham: Thank you.

Lori Saitz: —all of these years, as well as the work that he took responsibility for doing.

Sonia Graham: Yeah. And that was really key. We both had to take responsibility for our part because while nobody ever deserves to be hurt physically, I had a part in his hurt that he wasn't able to process.

And here's the thing. The hardest role I've ever had to play is a mom who was falling apart but had to stay strong for her son. And there's really no way to plan that. There's no way to plan that, and I think there so needs ...

And dads do it, too. I don't want to make it seem like I'm just pro-woman. Dads fall apart and have to show up for their kids. And the truth is, we don't get a handbook. We don't get a handbook that says, "Okay, this is how you handle this situation. This is how you handle this age." Right?

So I think the fact that I was also able to show up for him and be like, "I don't know how to be the best version of myself right now. I don't know what to do. I'm going to figure it out, but I need space right now because I've never dealt with this." And I think the fact that I was able to just be human with him as opposed to be this strong, unbreakable robot—

Lori Saitz: Right. Or to retaliate back what you had grown up with. So you were the one to break this cycle, this ancestral cycle.

Sonia Graham: Yes. Well, thank you for saying that. Because while my parents and I don't speak, the last time I texted with my dad, it was not a pleasant conversation. They were actually unwelcoming me to a family reunion that everybody in my family had invited me to. And I don't even remember what he had said to me, but my last text message was, "I'm really grateful for the dad you were to me even though it's not the dad I wanted you to be because had you been any other dad to me, I wouldn't be able to be the parent I am to my son, and we wouldn't be where we're at."

And so as painful as that relationship is—and there's still days where I'm like, "Maybe I should call. Maybe I should send a voice message."

Lori Saitz: Yeah, of course.

Sonia Graham: I'm just a firm believer if they were the parents that I wanted versus the parents that I needed, I wouldn't have the relationship with my son. And so I'm going to forever be grateful for them for that.

Lori Saitz: Yeah. And it serves you on every level better to be in gratitude than to be in anger or resentment. Not that those emotions aren't valid.

Sonia Graham: Correct.

Lori Saitz: It's just, to live there does not serve you.

Sonia Graham: It doesn't. And I was trained all my life because—I'm very passionate, as my grandma says. But I have very big emotions, a lot that stem from trauma and not being able to process them as a baby and not being taught when you cry, you get love; when you're sad—you know. So my emotions are just huge. I'm super-duper happy, and then I'm super-duper angry. So just being able to process them a little bit differently and acknowledging them. Because I was always so scared of anger. I was like, "I can't be angry because if I'm angry, bad things will happen. I can't be this. I can't be any negative emotion because people don't like when I'm a negative emotion. And I want people to like me because nobody likes me. And if I'm ..." So learning that anger serves a purpose.

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: I don't have to invite anger to sit and hang out with me, but I can say, "Ooh, anger, you're protecting me because I feel threatened. I feel threatened because this is triggering this for me. Oh, I'm sad." Because sad's okay. Sad is a great emotion. I cry once a day.

Lori Saitz: Yes.

Sonia Graham: So I just think being able to honor those feelings and not sit with them. But, like, "Okay, there you are. You're upset. What are we upset about? What are we sad about? Okay. Then, guess what? That happened in the past, and that was terrible. This is what's happening now. And we can put that to bed, or we can put that aside. Or, you know what? You can walk with me, but I'm still going to keep moving. Be angry. Hang out with me. We're only going to be angry until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Lori Saitz: Right.

Sonia Graham: But we're going still keep moving. So I think being able to honor those feelings. I love the fact that the world today is so cognizant of healing and so cognizant of needing to break generational curses. But I also think because of that, we have devalued all the rest of the feelings. And I think all the rest of the feelings are so important. And if we can learn to process them correctly and we can learn to give them the respect that they deserve, we're going to go further, faster in whatever we're trying to do.

Lori Saitz: 100% yes, because it's part of being human.

Sonia Graham: Yeah.

Lori Saitz: You can't shove them under the carpet and go, "They're not there."

Sonia Graham: You can try. You can do it for 38 years before it all boils over. But it's going to boil over, and you're going to be fine.

Lori Saitz: Right. Yes, exactly. Right. The world is better if we do honor them.

Sonia Graham: Yeah. There's a whole movie about that. Have you seen the little feelings movie?

Lori Saitz: No.

Sonia Graham: Oh, my gosh. Elements. Not Elements. Is it Elements? No. I forgot what it's called, but there's a movie about feelings. And they have a new one they're introducing, and that's anxiety. So I'm like, "Ooh, I want to see anxiety because I know what mine looks like. It's really cute. I'll look it up after the call and send it to you.

Lori Saitz: Okay, cool. Yeah. Maybe we can put it in show notes.

Sonia Graham: Yes.

Lori Saitz: All right. Well, speaking of show notes, I'm going to put a link to this in the show notes as well. But what's the song that you listen to when you need an extra boost of energy? What's your hype song?

Sonia Graham: This is such a hard song. I have so many, but I think for the last year, it's been "The Greatest" by Sia because she says, "I'm free to be the greatest. I'm alive."

Lori Saitz: Yeah.

Sonia Graham: There's no conditions. You're just free to be the greatest. Whatever it is. If you want to be the greatest napper, you can be the greatest napper. You can be the world's okayest realtor. That's me. You can be the world's okayest realtor. It's just a constant reminder because I do. A lot of people are like, "Oh, Sonia, you're so confident. You're so this." I'm terrified every day. I was terrified to come on this podcast.

Lori Saitz: What?

Sonia Graham: I know, I know. That's my little imposter syndrome that likes to pop out. But that song reminds me, yeah, you're free to be the greatest because you know what? You work up above ground. You can be whatever you want to be, however you want to be. And if you want to be the greatest, do that. S that song pumps me up.

Lori Saitz: Awesome. And I am going to just note that even though you were afraid, you still did it anyway. And so courage doesn't mean the absence of fear. It means doing the thing anyway. Doing it scared.

Sonia Graham: Yeah. I don't know where anyone got the idea that you don't have to be afraid. Guess what? The more afraid I am to do something, usually the more energy I put into it, usually the more relieved I feel afterwards, and the more proud I am of myself afterwards. And, again, fear is an emotion. Let's dance with it. It will eventually die down. Right?

Lori Saitz: Right.

Sonia Graham: Like me sitting here talking, sharing stuff that I haven't shared publicly very often. Definitely not in the last year or so. And I didn't die. I didn't throw up. The screen did not combust. I'm going to continue my day, and nothing terrible happened. So, yeah, it's okay to be afraid. Use that fear to feel you into movement. That's literally what I've done my whole life. I've been afraid my whole life, and it was like, well, this is what I said I would do. There was never a condition that I would do it if I wasn't afraid. I just said I would do it. So let me do it.

Lori Saitz: Awesome. If someone wants to continue this conversation with you, where's the best place to reach you?

Sonia Graham: I'm everywhere. DM me. I'm going to respond quicker to texts. I won't lie to you. Text me and I’ll probably pop up somewhere. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, Twitter, Snapchat. But I don't use Snapchat a lot. It's mostly to stalk my child. E-mail me. I'm in the Maryland area, so just hit me up.

Lori Saitz: Yeah, excellent. I will put links to all of those outlets in the show notes as well.

Sonia Graham: Thank you, thank you.

Lori Saitz: I really appreciate you joining me today here on Fine is a 4-Letter Word.

Sonia Graham: Thank you for having me. So, so, so grateful and honored. I appreciate it.

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