Redefining Best

I see you all, out there doing your best, yet still feeling like you’re falling short; giving what you have to give and then, in hindsight, feeling inadequate.

When will we be able to acknowledge and feel comfortable knowing that our efforts are enough?

Only when we give ourselves permission to. Only when we stop looking outside ourselves for what defines best. Only when we unlearn how to qualify what best means.

We must stop trying to measure best. We must stop comparing bests. We are judging what we believe to be others’ bests against our own, and – not to mention – we’re trying to cover too many areas with our bests, which leads to mediocre everything.

Best is relative. The variables of best are endless. Best does not stand up to comparison, competition, judgement or critique.

Best is not linear; yesterday’s best could outdo today’s, and yet, that doesn’t mean that today’s effort wasn’t you showing up in the best way you could.

Best is a snapshot; intangible, liquid, fleeting.

Our best is what we have to give in any given moment. It changes, day to day, hour to hour. Our best can look weak or strong, calm or chaotic, but that does not change that it is what we have to give.

Best cannot be measured; it is a moment in time where we use the tools at our disposal, our knowledge as it stands in that moment, and there is no ruler that can quantify the results.

Our best is never perfect, and it may not be equivalent to success. It does not have any less value than what our best looked like yesterday, or what it may look like tomorrow.

Giving what we have to give is always enough. Our best is always enough.

Say it again. Say it over. And over.

Our best is always enough.

Why are we consistently beating ourselves up for giving everything we have to give? Berating ourselves for our best not being “as good” as someone else’s?

Do your best. Learn, grow, practice, train. Then, do your best. Don’t berate or belittle it, or hold it up for comparison. Recognize it, and own it. One day, our best might look like movement, and another it might look like sitting still. It may be reaching out to connect, or insulating ourselves to refuel. It is constantly shifting.

Achieving best is a cycle that we repeat until the end of time, and it is entirely internal and personal.

Best is a practice, not a destination.

Pardon Me

Dear reader,

Thank you for being here, in this space with me.

Today, and over the past several days and weeks, I’ve been working on practicing what I preach. Life has reminded me that I too need to take the time to grieve through transitions and loss, through the endings and the new beginnings of the chapters of my life.

Sometimes, we are depleted and cannot give; sometimes, we are left clutching with white knuckles onto what little we have. This manifests in a number of ways, whether we notice them or not.

I have become fierce in protecting my energy this week, as much of it has been consumed by loss and endings. I have been focusing on important. I have been focusing on abundance in the space of loss, of new opportunities in the space that old routines once filled. I also need to start to conserve for the impending new beginnings that endings create the way for.

So tonight, I simply leave you with gratitude that you’re here and a reminder that you can only give from a full cup. I’ll see you next week.

With love,
Emilie

In Case of Emergency

I’ve misplaced my laptop’s power cord, it’s sitting at 29% battery and I’m just getting home from back to back softball games, so I’ll just leave you with this.

I see you Mama.

I see you, feeling drained, sitting among the permission slips, the sports gear, the calendars, the summer planning, the camp registrations, the daycare arrangements, the field trip reminders, the sign-ups for field day snacks.

I see you, and I want you to remember that another transition period is upon us.

I urge you to read, or reread, this post and remember that within the seasons of change, we must care for ourselves first and foremost.

However self-care looks for you, in whatever form brings you back to center.

Put your oxygen mask on first, before assisting others.

The next few weeks will be a whirlwind.

Nurture yourself through.

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Failing

Last week kicked my ass in a very emotional and mental way. I stepped back multiple times and felt like I was absolutely and utterly failing at this mother thing. I asked myself over, and over, and over, “What am I doing wrong? What can I be doing better? What am I not doing that I should be?”

Motherhood challenged me last week in ways that I have never been challenged before. I had to learn to communicate and process things in new ways. I had to dig deep, and figure out a way to address the single worst moment in my parenting history. I have a lot to sit and get comfortable with, things that I am right now still wholly uncomfortable with.

I had to learn how to absorb an immense level of disappointment.

I’m sure that this will pale in comparison to things I will experience in the future, but I hope to hell not.

I struggle to put into words what happened. I hesitated to share even with my closest friends because I was afraid of the pain of judgement. Judgement of me, judgement of my daughter, judgement of my family and my inability to parent in such a way that could have prevented this. But, the reality is that I couldn’t; we did all the right things, had all the right conversations, but it still wasn’t enough. I’m compelled to share, to help other mothers navigate through or possibly avoid the same experience.

To summarize what happened, I discovered that my daughter and her friends had created secret social media accounts and were pushing out messages about themselves that were disgraceful, derogatory and shocking; the captions under normal, every photos of my daughter, and those that she wrote about her friends, gut me. (I’ll be sharing a bit more of how this all went down in an upcoming Burlington VT Mom’s Blog post, hoping to help other parents wrap their arms around the challenges we’re all facing with our kids’ use of social media.)

Know that I have no illusions of teenage girls, however, it is one thing to know what they are capable of and entirely another to see it very publicly displayed, and to know that hundreds of other people saw it as well.

I don’t think, even after numerous conversations, that my daughter understands the gravity the posts carried. To her, and those involved, it was all just a big joke. People thought it was funny. That’s all it was, to them. We have some lessons to teach.

I have struggled with my personal emotions for a week. I feel like I let her down somehow. That I didn’t have the right conversations with her, didn’t build up her confidence or self-worth enough. I feel like I failed.

I keep repeating over and over to myself that if you’re not failing, you’re not learning. That failing does not define you, but how you handle it does. My heart is hardly appeased by my mind. However, I know that if I were the recipient of this story, the listener versus the teller, I would say the following to you.

There are things in life that will be beyond our control. We will kick ourselves, make ourselves feel irrationally responsible. We will let the voices of doubt and self-criticism rise from the depths within us, and we will believe their validity.

We are not our children’s mistakes. We are not their poor choices. We have already made ours; our action now is in how we address, how we course-correct, and help them learn through the challenges. Our value is in how we help them grow from mistakes. We cannot fix things; we can only be here to support our children while they work through and experience these things for themselves.

If you’re ever in a situation that makes you question the foundation of which you have built your parenthood, I hope that you remember this.

You are not a failure, and you are enough.

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Playing Tetris

This is not a how-to post, and it’s not about video games. This is purely self-serving and I need your advice. Short of hiring a family secretary, I need to know: how do you manage your family’s calendars?

The busiest season for our family has always been Spring. It seems as though every month feels stretched thinner than the last, but no months feel this way more than April, May and June in our family.

We have two daughters playing softball on two different teams, playing in two different towns every weekday night; on top of our own personal, work and social events, and my husband working over an hour and a half away, not to mention our three-year-old who brings her own personal agenda to the mix, it’s become a bit unwieldy. I’m not complaining, I obviously set myself up for this, I’m just trying to strategically manage the Tetris game that is our calendar and I know that someone out there must have a better way.

I’m a bit desperate to figure out how one of us doesn’t end up leaving a child stranded somewhere.

We each have our own personal Outlook calendars, and we each carry our own planners. We don’t, however, have a logical way to mesh these and our daughters’ games, practices, plays, concerts and the rest of the events in one place. We have tried a dry-erase board, we have tried Cozi, we have tried emailing each other the following week’s agenda so that we can both write them into our planners, but duplicating everything – whether it be digitally or manually or both – meant that we inevitably ended up forgetting to share something. Multiple somethings. Which inevitably led to some finger-pointing and frustration. For instance, I was supposed to have a work event this evening, but only found out yesterday that my husband had scheduled dinner with a client, which he is certain he told me about weeks ago. He likely did tell me, and it’s even more likely that I lost it in the shuffle. Kids’ schedules weren’t even involved at this point yet we still effed it up.

We’re currently trying Google Calendars, but we’re lost somewhere in the sharing process. We ideally need something that effortlessly exports to/from Outlook as that is the default method we are already utilizing that contains more than half of the data that we need.

So, I’m sending out this plea – especially if you’re savvy about this sort of thing, or if you have multiple children going in different directions and have a system that works for you – what do you and your partner/spouse use to keep everything in line?

Start Somewhere

I joined an Instagram headstand challenge yesterday.

When I started the Year Compass in 2016, one of my goals was to be able to do a headstand in 2017. I never followed through; I never even got around to attempting one.

I haven’t stepped a foot on my yoga mat since before the winter season started, and I haven’t been working towards accomplishing that headstand in 2018 either.

This challenge popped up and I hesitated; not because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join (I have wanted to work up to a headstand for a few years, and these sorts of challenges have always motivated me more than I have been able motivate myself) but because it required that I post a video of myself attempting not just one headstand but a daily check-in of my headstand progression.

I hesitated not because I’ve never attempted a headstand in my life, but because I had a moment of pure self-consciousness. There are plenty of women out there killing their fitness goals; I am not one of them. Sharing my faltering starts was…intimidating.

I have to start somewhere, however, so I posted the video before any further self-doubt could creep in, and posting yesterday made it that much easier to post today.

I’m hoping that there might be a woman out there who has never attempted a headstand, or whatever it is she might be wanting to try, and felt encouraged by my sharing my first attempt.

And if there’s a woman out there who felt better about herself because she could attain a headstand better than I can, or for whatever reason might have felt superior to me while I threw my feet up over my head and my heels found the wall, more power to her.

We’re often so afraid of what others think that we cut ourselves off before we start. We don’t give ourselves a chance to even try, let alone practice, build a skill, gain the strength. We set standards against highlight reels, against those who have been working their asses off to get to where they are, and we somehow feel that we need to get there by some other smarter, quicker, more graceful way. Or, we just decide to not even try at all.

Whatever you’re thinking of doing, there’s going to be someone – likely a multitude of someones – who is doing it better, and they’re likely going to make it look easy. The key is to remember that they all started somewhere, too.

Chances are, there is someone out there who will be inspired by your effort enough to spark their own.

Becoming

Who are you?

Beneath the titles that are associated with you, which could range from mother to wife to daughter to sister, they could encompass your occupation, and perhaps your hobbies; who are you beneath all of those things that you are to others?

Or, perhaps a better question is, who do you want to become? Who do you want that woman to be, the one that looks back at you in the mirror as you brush your teeth and apply your mascara? Perhaps you don’t even see her.

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My middle daughter stated yesterday that she wants to be a preschool teacher and photographer. My eldest daughter has a running list of the occupations she’s entertaining. It’s emphasized to our children that they should have a goal to be “something”. However, as I sit here in all of my adulthood, I know that the label printed under my name on my business card is not who I am. It’s a piece of what I do, and perhaps that influences me, but it does not define me.

I was in a yoga class a few months ago (actually, this particular class was probably more than half a year ago now) where while we were all lying prostrate in savasana the instructor said (loosely) the following:

“You are not your job, you are not your bank account, you are not what your children call you, you are not the number on the scale, you are not the clothes hanging in your closet, you are not who you are in relation to anyone or anything else.”

I’m not sure if it was the low intonation in which the words were delivered, or the words themselves, but they struck me deeply. Goosebumps and fighting-back-tears deeply.

We are none of those things, and yet, we believe we are all of those things, feel we need to live up to being all of those things flawlessly all of the time, simultaneously, simply a being with whom a list of labels is associated, who accomplishes infinite lists of things to be meaningful.

Anything that you can stop having, doing or being is a role that you play. Who are you without that role?

Have you taken the time to come up for air, and ask yourself that question? Who do YOU want to be?

I never stopped to ask myself this question; I performed in my given roles and didn’t operate much outside of the day-to-day that was right in front of me. I didn’t look too closely in the mirror.

I have been giving more and more thought to the woman I want to become; not a destination, but an ever-evolving view of what comprises me at my core.

When I started looking at what I aspired to be, it was interesting to discover how I operated in ways that were a striking contrast.

So, what can you do to be more aligned with the woman that you want to become? Not to be confused with trying to be someone else, but connecting with yourself on an elevated level. Are there small shifts that you can make now?

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?” – C.S. Lewis

Getting the Worm

I used to hate mornings. I would talk about how I loathed getting out of bed, how I couldn’t function until I had a cup of coffee. I would hit snooze 10 times, or set multiple alarms. I would then work myself and the kids into a frenzy of complete chaos, yelling and madness getting out the door on time.

Much of this, looking back, was a result of my nighttime routine. I would crack a beer, uncork a bottle of wine, or mix up a cocktail as soon as I got home. I needed to “relax” after a long day, or “unwind” while cooking dinner, or maybe it was the weekend and that justified a drink in and of itself. One would lead to two, two to three. I would clean up dinner, get the kids to bed, and then lose hours of my time scrolling social media or watching crap TV. I’d tuck in much too late, and the cycle would start again the next morning as soon as the alarm went off.

I started to evaluate my morning routine closely last year when I went through a Morning Refresh program. The woman that presented the program led us through creating a morning routine that carved out a window of time to allow us to connect with ourselves first, before diving into the day, and making time for that prior to the responsibilities and demands of children (this particular program was geared towards mothers). Participants could do anything – yoga, reading, writing – whatever it was that you felt you could accomplish that was strictly for you.

I got a lot out of those five mornings. I felt energetic even before my first sip of coffee, I felt more calm and, having made time specifically to tend to myself, I had more time for the girls, and more compassion. When I wasn’t rushing around trying to make sure that I was ready for my day, I was better able to help prepare for theirs.

Now that I’ve re-evaluated and worked on my relationship with alcohol, which you can read about here, I want to revisit curating my morning routine. I’ve done some great work on my nighttime routines. I stopped drinking daily. I go to bed with a warm cup of turmeric milk mixed with honey and cinnamon, or a simple glass of water. I use a diffuser with essential oils. Oftentimes, I read before bed. I complete a gratitude practice every night. I fall asleep earlier, and more easily.

I’ll just be getting back from an eight-day trip with my husband when this post lands, and it seems like the perfect opportunity to work on building new habits. I would love to hear how you start your day. What sorts of things do you do in the early hours, to set the tone and pace for your day?

Book It

IMG_2377This post is launching while Bryan and I are just settling down (or, probably more accurately, ramping up) in the Dominican, on our first all-inclusive vacation with a group of eight of our closest friends, sans kids.

This trip has been over a year in the making.

One common intention of the women that I completed the Year Compass with was travel. Solo travel, travel with family, staycations, international travel, visiting a new place each year; creating new experiences, in new places, being intentional in committing to these goals and making them happen. I have this image as the background on my laptop, as a reminder.

I was extremely fortunate growing up to be able to travel to a number of places. Travel as an adult, however, has been limited to a few leisure trips, but mostly travel for work. Recognizing that travel was something that I wanted to integrate more into my life, I set a goal to intentionally work towards travel-specific initiatives, to give myself the benefit that these experiences provide, and to encourage my daughters’ views of the world to literally and figuratively grow as we seek out new destinations. One night, we went around the dinner table and I asked each of the girls where they would want to travel to if given the opportunity; this list, minus my three-year-old’s vote for Walmart, lives as a constant reminder that I want to make visiting each of these places a priority, as well as traveling together with my husband.

While financing travel is obviously important, I have found that simply picking the location and the dates is the most challenging – if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen.

I was in a class recently with a woman who had just booked a bucket-list trip with her husband to Israel. Her joy and excitement was palpable, even though they didn’t necessarily know who was going to watch their children while they were gone. They had just done it; they had simply picked the dates, committed and were going to worry about that detail, which would work itself out as it became necessary. She admitted that if they hadn’t just booked it, they likely never would have, and I knew that to be true for my impending trip as well. Making the commitment forces you to just figure it – whatever the “it” is for you – out.

Last year, I felt successful in the intention of travel because I had planned for this amazing trip; intention can create satisfaction in accomplishment if your steps are concrete enough to ensure that you’ll follow through. I’m currently planning our next family vacation in much the same way. I’m going to make a commitment, put it on the calendar, and then just simply work around it, knowing the details will work themselves out.

This isn’t limited to travel. If you have something that you want to do, whatever you’re thinking about, planning or preparing to launch, book it. Commit, and figure out the details as you go. Anything can be an adventure, and we could all stand to add a bit more adventure in our lives.