Currency

I overhead a conversation at our local public pool yesterday between two girls who were, at my best guess (and I’m terrible at age guessing), around eight years old. It went, loosely, something like this:

Girl #1: “Hey, where are your Nutter Butters? I hope there are five left. I told you that you had to give me five of them if you wanted to hang out with me.”

Girl #2, hanging her head and pointing: “Yeah, they’re in my bag, over there.”

Now, I can’t for the life of me understand the social value of Nutter Butters, however, I know that they are not nearly equal to the cost of this poor Nutter Butter holder’s dignity.

Besides raising my blood levels a notch or so, this exchange made me pause and think about how we exchange our own value for the wrong reasons.

How many times have you found yourself lowering your standards, or offering up something that holds value to you – your time, your energy, your efforts – to appease or gain the approval of someone?

How many times have you judged yourself as not measuring up, and conceded your own dignity at someone else’s command?

I haven’t often held the “new girl” status, however with our recent move I’m faced with not only building up my daughters’ confidence against these sorts of social exchanges, but also my own. Each of us will be navigating new relationships in our new town, in our new social circles, and in our new extracurricular activities.

The message, at age eleven, at age fourteen, and even at age thirty-five, is still the same.

Know your worth. Know your value. And don’t give up your Nutter Butters just to have a temporary seat at someone else’s table.

cafeteria, table, seats

A Year of Tuesdays

I didn’t realize this until tonight, but this blog is one year old.

On August 11th, 2017, I hit Publish on my first post, Starting.

I had more excuses, more fear, more insecurities about launching a blog than I can list. I thought I wasn’t ready. I was quite sure I would run out of ideas for content. I certainly needed to understand a bit better the mechanics of maintaining a blog. I knew there were others out there who had been at it longer, who were absolutely doing it better, reaching far more people, having a much deeper impact than I could. I definitely thought people wouldn’t read it. I also thought they would, and that no one would like what I had to say, or feel it was relatable in any way.

You’re reading this today because I disregarded all of that bullshit that I built up in my head. I took the leap, and I have continued to do so for fifty-two weeks.

I have been a blogger for a year. It took me much longer to identify as such than I care to admit. For months, I wasn’t a “real” blogger. I was just someone posting words, online. I gave plenty of credit to others, who were doing the same damn thing, who surely understood they were the true real deal.

It’s been a year of pushing past my inner critic. Every week that I hit that green “Publish” button, I do it with varying amounts of trepidation.

Fear, excuses and insecurities don’t dissipate just because you jump. You just have to be louder.

I am a blogger. I am a writer. My content speaks to people. I haven’t missed a week. Sure, there were Tuesdays where there may not have been substantial content, but I showed up here, every single week no matter what.

I’ve learned more than how to build a blog here. I’ve learned about connection and conversations and vulnerability and so, so much more.

What could you do today, to get you closer to where you want to be?

What could you create, if you simply committed to showing up?

What would happen, if you just decided to start?

woman, walking, arrow, road, direction, starting, start, forward, move

 

My Why

I was asked last week how am I so comfortable sharing the things I do for you all to read. I thought I’d share a bit about why I show up here, week after week.

I have always been able to work my thoughts out and communicate more effectively through writing. There were some innumerable sheets of lined paper that I hurled into my parents’ fireplace when I was a Junior in High School, pages of daily scrawling that filled at least four or five three-inch, three-ring binders spanning years of self-reflection (of course I didn’t think of it like that then, and good lord what I would do to have possession of them now, although it’s probably all for the best that they met such a fate).

When I was in second grade, I can recall the teacher asking what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I remember not hesitating. I wanted to be a writer with every fiber of my being when I was young. I wrote a couple of “novels”, saved somewhere on floppy discs that will never see the light of day (which is, again, probably for the best).

It was right around the culmination of teenage angst that led to the fiery demise of years of daily writings that I stopped doing it altogether.

And then, years went by, and I was suddenly a 30-something-year old wife and mother of three who was feeling a bit lost in and consumed by everything she had become to everyone else.

Shortly after the first few months of trying to figure out who I was outside of being “Mom”, after digging into discovering things that I wanted to do solely for my own personal enjoyment or gain, a spark lit. It wasn’t a lightning strike by any means, but I slowly remembered my love for writing.

And sure, I could have kept plugging away at the personal writing, pouring words onto lined paper, into spiral bound notebooks or documents in Word, never to be read by another.

But that didn’t light any sort of fire for me.

Everything that I have learned or gained since this all began has been the product of insight from others sharing their own stories. Whether it is blog posts, podcasts or books, everything that I was devouring and finding so much inspiration from was content provided by women who weren’t afraid to disclose the messy, unbridled, honest truth of being a woman, of being a mother.

At the heart of my desire to put my thoughts out there is my belief that our stories can help others.

Our experiences are different, varying in so many ways. However, at the same time, the underlying emotions have so much in common. When I first became a mother at the age of twenty, I didn’t have an outlet. I didn’t have a support network of women. I was terrified. I wasn’t prepared to lose my entire identity to motherhood; that’s one of those things that wasn’t in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I wasn’t prepared for the number of ways on a daily basis one could feel like they were failing, or how at each stage you could fail even more infinitely at yet more things. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll it takes, or the emotional labor parenting provokes. Nor was I prepared for the isolation that at times felt crushing. I wasn’t prepared for always feeling less than. I have carried all of these things with me through my fourteen years as a mother.

There are so many things that we can learn from each other’s stories. They can lift us up, carry us through, and help us discover things about ourselves we didn’t take the time or didn’t have the capacity to discover on our own.

Knowing that I could possibly help even one woman with my story leaves me compelled to share. Not because I think my experiences are so worthwhile, that my insight is so knowledgeable and wise, but because I think I can share what those experiences were to me in a very real and honest way, and normalize the feelings rather than shutting them away and ignoring they exist. And I know there are others who, like myself, can benefit from hearing more candid versions of other women’s stories.

If one woman feels less alone or assuaged by hearing a piece of my story, or because of me is empowered to share her own, putting myself out here is worth it.

“Be so completely yourself that everyone else feels completely safe being themselves too.”

evan-kirby-101570-unsplash

Stuck

I’ve been feeling a bit off lately. Some days have felt like a much heavier dose than just a bit. This hasn’t lasted for just a couple of days, or a week. It’s been at least a month; maybe more.

I blamed it on a number of things; the end of the school year, grief, our move, summer, the moon. So many transitions were happening, and I gave myself allowances, time to let my world stop turning so fast.

I think, however, I gave myself a much wider berth than I needed. I expected the dust to settle exactly where I had left it, but I slid back into older, more well-worn tracks.

I haven’t had much energy. I have found it hard to get motivated. I haven’t been able to settle into a positive mindset. I’ve been overly irritable for no reason.

I haven’t however, done any of the things that sparked so much for me prior to the transitions. I haven’t opened my planner since the end of May; my journal, even before that. I haven’t met with my Accountability Ladies in as many months. I’ve stopped following as closely along with the groups I was finding so much inspiration from, and instead I’ve been doing an inordinate amount of mindless social media scrolling. I’ve blown through far more than my fair share of light, chic-lit beach reads, and haven’t opened a single self-development book. I haven’t been exercising. I’ve been drinking again, and not in the mindful way I had been so conscientious and successful in for so many months.

I haven’t been listening to myself; in some instances I have tuned out completely. I haven’t kept my own personal goals and interests front and center, with everyone else’s. It’s led to some personal confusion, and a lot of noise in my own head.

I got stuck. I landed right back where I was before I began this journey.

Car, Stuck, Old, Broken

It’s so, so easy to get caught up in the every day of life; it’s also easy to get stuck in old ruts when you’ve become unsettled, even when you were doing so well blazing new paths.

You can get caught up in being stuck, and not even realize that you have stopped moving.

The first step to getting unstuck is recognizing that’s where you’re at.

“What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given,
If all you do is stand in one place.”
~ Lord Huron

Unmasking


I’ve been thinking about anger quite a bit lately.

I think it’s a fair assessment that I used to be a fairly angry person. While I still have my moments – my fuse can still be short and thin – I don’t necessarily identify with the woman I once was, who wore her anger like a shroud.

I experienced a situation last week where I took a bit of a different approach to anger. I could have let a bad situation fester, swell and ultimately ruin my day. I didn’t want that, but I was having a hard time releasing it. Or, rather, allowing it to release me.

However, I chose growth. I sat with my anger; I recognized it, and questioned it (thank you, Brene Brown).

The anger that I was experiencing was unreasonable, I could see that. So I asked myself, what is this anger, and why, exactly, am I so angry?

It took awhile – it could have been minutes or an hour, maybe even two – but when it hit me my breath left my body in a huff and tears pooled in my eyes.

john-noonan-420160-unsplash

It wasn’t anger. It was hurt.

The hurt was tied to a situation that left me vulnerable to a few of my biggest insecurities.

While I’ve been working through this journey of self-discovery and growth, I’ve started to understand why I used to feel easily incensed, consistently angry and hardened. I used my anger as a shield; I used it to disguise what I was really feeling, and it in turn allowed me to turn a blind eye to things about myself I was not yet ready to recognize.

Have you ever taken the time to sit with your anger, and let it tell you what it is masking? Have you taken the time to understand your reactions to situations that arise that bring out emotions before you simply allow them to consume you?

Anger isn’t about anyone else but ourselves. It comes from within us, and it tricks us into thinking something was done to us, that it is about others and their actions or their words. But, if you sit with it and turn it over, it will reveal itself as something else altogether, and it is always trying to tell us something from within. That message is usually a challenging one to hear, because it most likely speaks to our greatest insecurities about ourselves. If you can open yourself to the message, you can use it as an opportunity for strength and growth, not pain.

Diving into your anger, and then peeling back the layers to reveal what it truly is – such as fear, anxiety, hurt or sorrow, which are difficult emotions to connect with and understand – will help you understand yourself, your thoughts and your actions. If you make a practice of it, that practice can help you identify and change your patterns. It will help you to address difficult conversations, and circumstances. It can provide a foundation of strength, and of empathy.

So I challenge you to question yourself. What was the last thing that made you honest-to-goodness angry? And what might it have been, instead?

 

Follow the Leader

Lately, I’ve been a bit fatigued with the conflict between who I am and adopting the characteristics of a person that I want to be; there is an array of emotions that I’m surprised about having on this journey.

How do we acknowledge and appreciate the characteristics of others, yet not lose ourselves in wanting to become something we are not? There are times where the acknowledgement comes as a detriment to ourselves, working against our natural inclinations, our authentic selves, to achieve something that isn’t meant for us. Comparison, and striving to compete, overshadows simply growing into better versions of ourselves.

I need to replace the feeling of lack, the fear, the worry, and the guilt with something. I’ve had so many conversations with women who feel the same.

A friend shared over a Ted Talk recently about filling our lives with joy, and the line at the end, “putting yourself in the path of joy more often,” resonated deeply with me. With this one line, I worked out a bit of the tension I have been feeling.

When you’re on the same level with joy, there is little space for guilt, worry, fear or lack.

If we each were more intentional in chasing what brings us joy, who would we be? If we were joyful, and sought joy on purpose, not by happenstance or by hoping and wishing for it, what would our lives look like? So much of how we view ourselves, others and our lives is rooted in our mindset; comparisons would dissipate and we could acknowledge and easily celebrate that which brings joy to others simultaneously with that which brings joy to ourselves.

As my youngest’s fourth birthday looms tomorrow, I am reflecting a bit on her impact in my life. Our kids teach us more than we could ever hope to learn about life, and she may be my greatest teacher when it comes to joy. She sings with abandon, dances every second that she can, races from discovering one magical thing to the next, and sees wonder in absolutely everything. She is very black and white about what brings her joy; if it doesn’t spark joy, she creates resistance around whatever “it” may be.

As adults, I think we’ve become adept at allowing and justifying the opposite, and we are drowning because of it.

So today, and tomorrow, and the days following, I will try harder to take her cue; I will intentionally seek to put myself in the path of joy. I will celebrate other women for the characteristics I admire in them while reminding myself that there is a wealth of joy to be found within, too.

little girl, running, field, flowers, carefree, joy, joyful, wonder