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.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” – Eckhart Tolle

Several conversations that I have had lately with women near and dear to me have centered around worry and fear.

What are you worrying about right now? Stop, take a breath, and listen.

What is robbing you of your happiness in this moment? What thoughts are sneaking in? What are they whispering to you?

Worry steals from the present; it robs us of the joy in the moment. It sucks us in, taunts us with its captivating dance, paralyzes us with its possibilities. It does nothing to secure or prevent a certain outcome; it has absolutely no bearing on what actually plays out.  Somehow we believe that imagining the worst makes us prepared for it if it happens, but what kind of reality does that leave us with? It may seem like we’re thinking of solutions or somehow preventing ourselves from a negative outcome, but we’re really just causing ourselves more of what we’re hoping to avoid. Focusing on the negative, or possibility of it, begets negativity; focus on the positive, focus on the upside, believe that everything will work out in the way that it is meant to. The only thing you have control over is how you respond to whatever that end result is – worrying about it won’t help you with that. If you’ve already overwhelmed yourself with what ifs and worst-case scenarios, it can prevent you from being open to a less than hoped-for result, finding the lesson or a reason to be grateful for it.

Take the Cowardly Lion, in the Wizard of Oz, for instance. The Cowardly Lion is afraid of all of the things; without Dorothy, it’s not likely the Lion would have made it through to see the Wizard. Dorothy, in her unyielding quest to get back home to Kansas and relentless positivity pushes on regardless of the uncertainties that she and her companions meet along the way. And, in the end, it turns out that the Wizard is nothing to fear. Behind the walls of the castle, the green curtain is pulled aside, the Wizard is revealed for what he is, and the travelers get exactly what they journeyed all the way to Emerald City for.

I do it too. I trip all over my insecurities, my worries and my fears. I have to remind myself to stop operating in my weaknesses, to stop undervaluing my worth, my skills and my abilities, to stop making up fifty-one endings to conversations or situations that haven’t even occurred, when I should just be focused on getting to the damn wizard.

We are all asked to dance with worry; accepting or declining that dance is our choice to make. Acknowledge the invitation, sit with it a moment, politely respond “thanks, but no thanks” and walk away; follow the path and see where it takes you rather than worry about what’s going to happen along the way.

Be present in the moment and put your trust in the one that is to follow. Embrace your inner Dorothy.

 

Retail Therapy

 

 

You can invest in yourself in multiple ways, but everything boils down to two things – time and money. I easily default to doing both of these things for everyone – and anyone – other than for myself.

Considering how easily I can justify expenditures for my children’s sake (because every child needs a $48 outfit for their American Girl doll) it should be easy to treat myself, but I have a hard time investing in myself that way; or, perhaps it’s not that hard, but there is some guilt that accompanies purchases for myself that I can’t shake. It feels good to splurge on things that my kids both need and want. It’s also easier. I know that I can walk into a store, pick up a pair of 5T jeans and a Toddler size 9 pair of sneakers, and they’ll fit – no need to spend hours going from website to website, rack to rack, dressing room to dressing room. My almost 14-year-old is a different story; her ability to invest in herself (or rather voice her desire for me to invest in her) in both time spent in dressing rooms and money spent on clothing, is admirable.

“My friend told me this hilarious story about having a French roommate who was watching her get changed one day and said, in her thick Parisian accent, “Your underwear makes me believe you are sad and hate your life.” My friend looked down at her utilitarian cotton panties, an old pair from a five-pack purchased at Target and thought, But they’re bikinis, at least they’re not the high-waisted granny ones, doesn’t that count for something?”

– You Are a Badass at Making Money, by Jen Sincero.

You’re either someone who invests in this particular area, or you’re like me; I’m not sad, nor do I hate my life, but you get where I’m going. I’m in the “I’d be slightly to mildly to extremely embarrassed to tell you the last time I purchased a new bra for myself” category. They’re a necessary evil, easily neglected and, if you’re where I fall in that latter category, a sad part of your everyday life.

Perhaps your top drawer doesn’t need any revitalizing, and it’s got plenty of life to give you yet, but I’m sure there are other small, mundane areas of your life that you could sprinkle some joy into. I once set out to find a happy cereal bowl; a bowl that I could use every morning to start my day. Sometimes, that one bowl changes my morning.

Go buy a great book, or better yet, a planner (I have a recommendation for you, if you’re interested in one). Take a bath with luxurious oils or salts. Buy yourself some flowers. Schedule a day to try on and purchase some staple, quality pieces (and perhaps a new bra) and take yourself out to lunch. Book, and keep the appointment for, a massage or a facial. Buy yourself a $2.99 cereal bowl that makes you smile. Do what you can to make sure that in all corners of your life, even the ordinary, every day ones, you are cultivating happiness and love for yourself while you’re doing the same for everyone else.

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.