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.

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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.

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Passing Go

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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.

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?

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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.”

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