You Can Do Hard Things

Sometimes, we all need a reminder that we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

You can give up a vice, walk away from a relationship, change the direction of your career.

You can say no, you can say yes. You can choose to forgive.

You can stand up for yourself, advocate for someone else, confront a challenging situation, voice your perspective.

You can speak to a crowd, have a conversation with an individual, discuss a difficult or volatile subject, express your emotions, your ideas, your hopes and your dreams.

You can share a challenging piece of your story, open up to a new thought or idea, accept a viewpoint that is different from yours, learn to see things differently.

You can learn a foreign language, cultivate a new hobby, enroll in a class, adapt to a different culture, meet new people, build new friendships.

You can get up early in the morning, go to bed early at night, drink an ample amount of water, eat nutritiously, fuel and move your body.

You can acquire a new habit, change a well-developed pattern, choose to do things in a different way.

We each have our own version of hard things. Your definition of challenging and mine are not the same. Regardless of what they might be for you, you can do hard things.

You just have to decide, and then go do them.

 

False Headlines

We each tell ourselves a surplus of stories every day. We tell ourselves the story of who we are; the story of where we have come from, what has shaped us and brought us to where we are. The story of where we are going, and why we are going there. The story of what this person over here thinks, what that person over there said, and why they said it. The stories of why we are frustrated, overlooked, tired, sad, unappreciated, limited, stuck.

Our stories color the perceptions that we have, the lens through which we see ourselves, how we see and think about others, how we experience life. Our stories dictate our limitations. Stories of what if; fables that play out in our heads of all the (usually negative) possibilities, of all the “rules”, of all of the reasons why not, of all of the fears.

Unless you’re telling yourself that you’re amazing, beautiful, exceptional and unique, that your very existence is awe-inspiring, that you have so much to give and that you are a damn magical being who can make anything happen, your stories aren’t benefiting you.

Our stories are, at the very root, built up around our fears, or the fears that we have adopted from others. They’re meant to protect us, but they’re cheating us out of living. Most of our stories are built up on a foundation of falsehoods.

Limitations are self-imposed.

Seek out your truth. Tell your own story. And if you don’t like the one that you’re in, or where it is going, start rewriting.

Because you can.

Once you dispel one untruth, your curiosity will likely be piqued, your confidence a bit more steady.

What can you do to prove to yourself that you are capable, regardless of what your stories have told you?

Roommates

Sometimes, in the throes of childrearing, we forget who we are. We lose touch with ourselves, as the individuals that we are, and our identity becomes “parent”. Parenthood – as wonderful and gratifying as it is – is fraught with structure, soiled diapers, extra-curricular schedules, appointments, unknowns, really gross bouts with bodily fluids, doubts, necessary evils like braces and the bills attached to them, urgencies and emergencies, and demanding little tyrants who need you for all of the things. Our children need our time, our attention, and they need us to cut their slices of apples just so. It’s easy to let ourselves slip away into the fulfillment of all they require, to fall victim to the urgent versus the important.

There is another thing, that becomes disposable in a sense, other than our identities before children, and that is our relationship with our partner. Sometimes you don’t even notice it, especially during those challenging seasons of young children; the months of every-couple-of-hour feedings, sleepless nights, demanding days where you’re simply trying to get through the next hour or two, teething pains and so much more. During these times it can truly feel like you have nothing left to give.

That was me. One hundred times over, my relationship with my husband took a backseat to our daughters’ daily schedule and routines, and tending to “us” felt like one more thing on an already overwhelming To Do checklist. While we were partners in life, there were times where that meant simply agreeing on meal plans and making sure we were each pulling our own weight in the household and child-rearing duties departments. We both have demanding careers on top of it all, and sometimes (OK – 98% of the time) after tending to everyone else’s needs and wants all day I didn’t even have the time, energy or motivation to take care of my own. Enter stage left my husband, and the need to foster our own marital existence, and I just felt overwhelmed all over again.

Disposable sounds really harsh and unfeeling, but when weighed against all of the other pulls for our attention and time, our relationships can fall into the “I’ll tend to that later” or “I have just one more thing to do and then I’ll get to that” category and that well of time, energy and space is a resource that is too easily depleted. Tending to the health of my marriage takes the back burner most days.

While working towards a better understanding of myself, and connecting with who I am as a woman, I have learned to place a certain emphasis on carving out time for myself, creating space for and cultivating my passions, however I also have come to recognize that my time with my husband is equally as important as the time I make for myself.  He restores me in a way that is as fulfilling, if not more so, as an hour to sit and read, or journal, or paint. It’s infinitely easier for me, however, to chase my personal soul-filling agenda when he’s at home watching the kids than it is for both of us to get a chunk of time to spend together sans kiddos. Take this week for example: he’s traveling for work, returning on Wednesday, I have to attend a music festival for one of my daughters that same night, I have a new class that I am enrolled in and starting Thursday evening, and then we’re at Friday and I have literally not seen my husband in five days. This song and dance is very much the soundtrack of our lives in the season that we are in. I’ll need to get creative and ask for some help in order to carve out some time to spend with him, and I’ll admit that it’s easier to turn away from the challenges that are presented with scheduling childcare or asking our friends or family to watch our kids. However, it is far better than the alternative.

We have to be intentional with recognizing and reaching out to connect with our partners; otherwise, our relationships fall to the wayside in the grind of the every day. My husband and I have had a number of conversations about this; I’ve had a number of conversations with women who have experienced the same, and have the same sorts of conversations with their partners. Relationships take work – they require the same daily amount of cultivation and growth that personal development, goal-setting and pursuits of personal passion take. I need to be mindful that when I have one hand pouring out glasses of milk for dinner and the other preparing a bowl of Halos for my three-year-old’s snack time the next day that taking the time to greet my husband when he gets home from his hour and a half commute from work is only a 30-second detraction, rather than a mild annoyance of “can’t he see that I’m busy and can he not just wait five minutes until I am done”. Because that connection, and that acknowledgement, is essential to the foundation of our relationship. Perfectly portioned glasses of milk and equally sectioned Halos are not.

When I am not intentionally recognizing my relationship with my husband daily and purposefully scheduling time for just he and I, our lives fall into routine. Left to routine, we become little more than roommates.

So, while you’re biting your nails thinking about what to do for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, perhaps utilize this day as a facilitator of what your next month will be, or what your year will be focused on, in connecting fully and intentionally with your spouse or significant other. What are you building today that will improve tomorrow? What are you focusing on this month that you will build upon next month? What are your relationship goals and intentions for the end of this year, and how will you work purposefully towards them?

One of my favorite days last month was spent mattress shopping; who would have thought that something as mundane as shopping for a mattress could be entertaining and a way to connect (minus the sales guy). However, we had a valid excuse to ask someone to watch our youngest, it gave us a chance to work towards a common goal, have a nice lunch out, and lay around in the middle of the day without worrying about who might need us if we didn’t get up.

And you know what? It’s good for our kids to see us commit to our relationships, to recognize that while they are the among the most important focus in our lives, they are not the absolute center of our universe every minute of the day. That having a healthy, fulfilling relationship is important – that is a foundation they will build upon when they start to seek out a partner in life, and that’s as good of a gift that we can grace our children with as any. Add to that the fact that kids grow up far too quickly, develop friends and interests outside of ours, and if we don’t have a solid foundation built, there will likely be crickets chirping when it is just the two of us again if we don’t commit to and grow our relationship now.

So I’m blocking off some time specifically for cultivating “us” as consistently as possible. I’m working to ensure that although there are times we might disconnect from each other when life gets busy, I am being intentional in making sure that there is pre-allotted and committed time to ensure the time we spend together doesn’t shrink from days, to weeks, to months. My husband and I as a unit are the most valuable when we are fulfilled in both our personal interests and our marriage, and I must make a constant, consistent effort to not forget that.

Let It Rest

“Never let it rest, ’til your good is better and your better is best.” – Tim Duncan

“Best” is a relative term. It’s tough to quantify.

Most days, I can roll out of bed, jump in the shower, get myself ready, prepare breakfast and lunches, get everyone else ready, packed up and to school, get myself to work and be productive in my role, breeze through pick-ups, clean, do laundry, make a respectable dinner, accomplish a half-way decent bed time routine, parcel out time for myself to be active, tick off an intention box in my planner and still have time for reading or writing and maybe even say hello to or – on the really good days – have a halfway decent conversation with my husband without so much as a sigh of exasperation. On those days, where there is little conflict, or even if there is but I am able to manage it gracefully, and I can accomplish at least 90-95% of those things, I feel I am at my best. Maybe not vacation-on-a-beach-with-a-live-in-nanny best, but average-day-as-it-currently-stands best.

My “best”, however, is simply as good as I can be, and that fluctuates. On days like today I would opt out of it all if I could, and bury myself into my pillows and blankets and just sleep until I wake up tomorrow. Today, my best is decidedly pretty lacking. I’m battling a head cold, I’m uninspired, unmotivated, lacking energy – creative and otherwise – and I’m kind of angry about it. It’s not my best in comparison to other days by any means, but it is the best that I can give today, and today is all we’ve got, therefore it is still my best.

Isn’t that really all we would ever ask of anyone else? Placing too much responsibility or expectation on ourselves, feeling guilty that we can’t out-perform every single day, leaves us burnt out, bitter and irritated. Some days, our best just comes more easily.

I have found that fighting these sorts of feelings is pointless, and likely further detrimental to my mood. We have to accept that bad days will happen and give ourselves a bit of grace; take a breath, and recognize it for what it is. For me, when these sorts of swings occur, regardless of relying on my gratitude practice to help see me through, there is no amount of positive thinking that could change it. I know that it will break at some point, so I have to acknowledge it, accept it, and move on with my big, dark gray storm cloud as my companion.

Today, everyone got the best that I could give. It wasn’t at the level that my best was yesterday, it likely won’t be the level that my best will be at tomorrow, but today it’s what I’ve got.