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Starting

I’m still not ready, but I’m starting.

I have thought about starting this blog for awhile, but I haven’t made it past the start up page.  I’ve been writing, but haven’t felt ready.  I have wanted to share my experiences, my thoughts, my insights on being a woman and a mother.  I became a mother first, and am just discovering myself as a woman outside of that.

I’m still not ready, but I am starting.  Because if I don’t, I will continue to delay until it is never launched.  The blog post that I will share next is timely, and wouldn’t have held as much resonance as it might today.  So, it forced my hand.  And maybe this isn’t the right way to begin, without having read all of the vast internet advice and how-to on starting a blog, without truly understanding how to manage a blog, without really having thought this all through.  But today felt right.  So, here we go.

 

Playing Dodgeball

I am not a person who accepts compliments or praise easily.

I shrug, turn away, side-step, back pedal. I refute, toss aside, downplay, deflect to someone or something else.

What is it about compliments that causes us to duck? Why does praise for our accomplishments make us want to bob and weave like we’re avoiding getting hit in a round of dodgeball? We might be able to volley compliments like champs, but when one comes our way, we scatter.

Complaints or faults on the other hand, we fall all over ourselves to outdo each other.

It’s not necessarily that the compliments are untrue; the validity of the statement bears little on the reaction. It’s that we never allow ourselves to applaud ourselves. Most importantly, we never allow ourselves to do so in front of others.

It’s become almost an art of sorts, how good we have become at deflecting.

We could have done it better. We should have done that one last thing. We really meant to do this, not that.

We are not special. We are not worthy. We wouldn’t want anyone to think that we might feel that we’re superior, that we’re self-important, conceited, entitled, or proud.

God forbid we might make ourselves proud, right? How dare we accept that maybe, on some days, in certain situations, we’re pretty great. That we actually did a good job at something.

What in the actual hell.

If I overheard one of my daughters being complimented on an accomplishment, and she downplayed it, or worse, did not genuinely acknowledge someone acknowledging her efforts?

I would be on fire.

Why are we so damn afraid of being proud of ourselves? When did receiving a compliment with grace become a bad thing? Why are we afraid to admit that we might like ourselves? That we feel like we did a damn good job at something?

We try really, really hard to make ourselves small, to diminish ourselves.

WHY?

Because it’s the honorable thing to do? For WHOM?

I want to be proud of my work. I want to be proud of my accomplishments. I want to be happy with myself and my efforts. I don’t want to make myself small, and I sure as hell don’t want to lessen my achievements.

We work hard. We put in a tremendous amount of heart. We deserve to step up and take the damn applause.

So do me a favor. The next time someone compliments you, and it makes you feel uncomfortable, and you want to turn away, or deflect, or play it off…don’t. Simply say, “thank you.”

And practice saying that, every single time, until acknowledging someone for acknowledging you is no longer uncomfortable.

uncomfortable, hiding, shy, woman, eyes, shielding, deflect, compliment

 

Writing in Pencil

There have been several significant times in my life where I have had to make the decision that I wasn’t traveling down a one-way road, writing in permanent ink. I have found myself in situations that were built upon my own decisions and choices, and because of those decisions and choices, I was resolute in seeing them through with little regard to how congruent they felt.

I believed I had written my story and was fated to simply see it through until I hit “The End”.

I’m a bit stubborn like that.

On those one-lane roads to lord knows where, I also had moments where I pulled over, looked at the map a bit differently, and found there was another route. It was rarely well-paved, or well-lit, but paid out tenfold in the experience I gained in learning to navigate.

I realized I had a completely new chapter to write.

The value is rarely in the ending; the real worth is found along the way. And it might be that a new route takes you to another you never would have found yourself on if you hadn’t veered off in the first place.

We’re all just telling ourselves a story. We become quite well-versed in what we think the next page should say, and often times we just keep writing the same chapter. But what if we challenged the writer? What if we asked ourselves to write bigger, write bolder, write more intentionally? What if the story was happier, stronger, more confident? What would we write then?

I want to encourage you to write. But don’t stop yourself from writing for fear of starting the wrong chapter or concluding with the wrong ending. Don’t limit yourself to writing small. And when you get to a place in your story that doesn’t feel right, never be afraid to start a new chapter and change your course.

Nothing is permanent. We’re all just writing in pencil.

pencil, notepad, writing, drafts, stories, erasing, starting, beginning, new, paper

Getting Called to the Mat

When you find your voice, you’ll have to decide to use it.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, you’ll inevitably find others who have something different to say.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, others who have something different to say will challenge and criticize you.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, others who have something different to say will challenge and criticize you, and you’ll have to defend it.

And it likely won’t do anything to change their minds.

But…

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, and you will support these people.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, you’ll support these people, and they’ll support you.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, you’ll support these people, they’ll support you, and those who haven’t yet found their voices might just find the courage to build theirs.

Your voice is your passion; it comes through in many different forms. It will work for you in different ways, if you let it. It will challenge you. It will challenge your perceptions and your views. As you grow into it, it will strengthen you. Things will grow from it.

Growth comes from challenge. Power comes from growth.

When you’re called to the mat, you have three choices: step forward, stand still, or step back. There will always be critics in the ring. You have to choose who your voice matters more to; those who are simply loud for the sake of being loud, those who are there, saying nothing at all but listening, and those who raise their voices with you.

wresting, ring, mat, knockout, man, match

Practice Makes Perfect

practice, piano, playing

On September 14th, 2017 I started a daily gratitude practice. Every day since, I have celebrated at least five things that I am grateful for.

I’ve written about my gratitude practice before, but the truth is, I still feel a bit awkward talking about it. It’s a complete one-eighty from where I came from.

I’d be willing to bet that a few of you will stop reading right about here, and that’s OK. It’s like anything else; you have to experience it for yourself to see the true value in it. But, gratitude isn’t a quick switch. It’s a gradual progression.

I have celebrated over 2,000 things that I am grateful for since I started this habit and it is easily one of the biggest shifts I have made to improve my mindset, ever.

While gratitude enhances the things I am already inherently grateful for yet often overlook, the real gold in this practice is found on the difficult days. The perspective that it gives me in challenging situations, and the shift that I have witnessed on more than one occasion in those who are involved in my gratitude project with me, is remarkable.

I try my best to weave gratitude into my days; there are those days where this is certainly easier than others. I take notes throughout the day to reflect on at night, when I compile my list. It’s the best punctuation on any given day, but especially for the less than ideal ones.

Find a reason to be grateful. Find several. Don’t just cherry pick them, although some days you will find that you must; dig in and find the good in the challenging.

It’s there. I promise.

 

Passing Go

monopoly, passing go, playing, board game

Two months ago, I jumped into a fitness challenge. I joined a gym with a three-month commitment. I signed up with a team, forcing my hand in accountability.

I have never belonged to a gym; my experience has been, at best, an intermittent affair with the gym at work. I have never taken fitness classes. I have never lifted weights with any real intention or direction. I have never shared space with people who push themselves so physically.

Up until about two weeks ago, I was the only person, and in some cases the youngest person, in my classes using pastel dumbbells; the 2, 3 and 4 pound weights. Week after week, in a series of movements, there were my two pastel dumbbells in a sea of black dumbbells in the mirror reflecting back at the class.

To say I have pushed myself out of my physical comfort zone would be an understatement. Not only was I in a new environment, I was carrying around the symbol of a beginner, and – in my head – the symbol of someone who is weak. There were moments where my internal critic’s shouts echoed off the walls of my own head, mocking me, trying to make me uncomfortable. That’s her job after all.

Without that discomfort, though, there wouldn’t be any growth. Without pushing past that unease, there would be no success, no fulfillment, no satisfaction of accomplishment. And that critic, the one telling me that I was weak, that everyone was judging me with those pastel dumbbells as not working as hard or pushing myself enough?

She was full of shit.

The truth is, no one gave a second thought to me and my pastel dumbbells.

There aren’t any pastel dumbbells in the mirror that belong to me now, but I will be the first to encourage and applaud the woman who walks into the next class and picks them up. That is, if I even notice her; what I have realized is that the serious ones, the ones who are working the hardest, are wrapped up in their workout and focusing on one thing: themselves.

Everyone who is inspiring you to grow started somewhere, were beginners at some point. It takes courage, self-worth, self-value, and passion. It takes believing that the journey is better than any momentary discomfort. It takes grit. It takes keeping your focus and your energy in your own lane.

And it takes being able to step out of your own comfort zone and tell your inner critic to take a muzzled seat.

I launched this blog after thinking about it for months. I consumed a variety of opinions on what a blog should look like, how a blog should be managed and found that there were already plenty of people talking about the things that I wanted to talk about. I could have worked myself right into inaction. This blog isn’t perfect, there are people out there doing it better than I am, and I’m happy with that because if I had waited until it was perfect I wouldn’t be in this space at all. I’m here and being in a space where people are doing it better than I am both pushes me harder and assures me that I have room to grow.

If my value in this space was wrapped up in other people’s validation or approval of it, I’d be doing it for all the wrong reasons. I’m here for me. I’m here for the women who have reached out to let me know that my words have had an impact on them.

Without starting, you’re only guaranteed one thing: you’re not going anywhere. Your internal critic doesn’t want you to pass go; she is extremely comfortable and content with where you are. She wants you to think that it’s everyone else that you have to prove yourself to. She’s banking on your not being able to overcome the discomfort of judgement.

One of the most fulfilling actions you can take is the first step in proving that she’s wrong.

Noise

jason-rosewell-60014-unsplash

There’s a lot of noise out in the world. Today especially.

Everyone is trying to be louder than the next.

Social media feeds, Instagram stories, Facebook lives, radio, TV, podcasts, books, magazines, articles, blogs.

Whose noise are you listening to?

Perhaps a better question is, what’s it doing for you?

 

Survival Mode

There is some sort of twisted satisfaction in doing multiple things simultaneously, in serial multi-tasking.

“Look at me, I can do five things in the span of five minutes, all while doing this other thing over here.”

It’s an addictive habit. There’s a sense of accomplishment in the number of things we can do. The hours in the day are numbered, and if we can get through this checklist (and add things just to check them off to make ourselves feel even more accomplished) we’re “successful”.

But, successful at what?

If you’re multi-tasking at two things, you’re giving fifty percent of your energy to each thing. If you’re working on dinner, running a load of laundry, helping your daughter with her homework and scrolling through Facebook, you’ve dropped to an attention span and energy level of twenty five percent for each task. If you’re consistently operating at less than one hundred percent in everything you do, you’re skimming the surface.

You’re in survival mode; meeting the barest minimum requirements to keep your head above water.

water, hand, drowning

Survival mode is not sustainable.

For a time, it might feel like you can operate at a sprint, accomplishing everything you need to, valuing the completion rate above the quality rate, but burnout is inevitable; it shows up in the form of sickness, a lack of energy, frustration, anger, irritation.

Sound familiar?

It’s not all about time management, it’s also about energy management. When we’re trying to fit so many things into our day, and the focus becomes how much more we can accomplish, the important things like connecting with our families, chasing our passions and taking a breath every now and then to connect with ourselves becomes an oversight, or – even worse – an inconvenience.

The meaning is not found in the “doing”. Overloading ourselves with doing lends a false sense of importance and value to the superficial success found there.

Take inventory of your days. Are you consistently pushing your energy into the busyness of life? Are you spreading yourself thin by over-committing, holding expectations of yourself that are perhaps too high, feeling guilty or as though you are a burden if you ask your spouse or a family member to shoulder some of the load so that you can carve out some time for you?

Stop. Start with this.

How do you want to feel?

And then start building your days around that feeling.

Not sure how to get there? Start saying no. Start prioritizing the things that matter to you. Delegate a task or a chore. Outsource the work. Ask for help.

You’re more valuable to everyone when you’re not worried about keeping yourself afloat.