The Battlefield

My middle child, now eleven, screamed for the first four months of her life. Unless she was in a swing. That swing saved my life, and probably several lives of those in my general proximity during those months. But at night, when she would scream through those dark, dark hours, not once did I believe that I was earning any sort of badge that would hold any weight or merit.

I did not wear my sleep deprivation as a symbol of honor, nor did I believe I had achieved anything worthy of any value when I was through that particular season.

There is nothing particularly honorable or boastful about the lack of something so vital.

This, however, is what we are fed as the ideal. We must give up everything for our children: sleep, hygiene, time, energy, goals, dreams, careers. There is this prevalent, prevailing ideal that a “good” mother is one who can walk through the hard seasons like she is earning trophies and still come out perfectly coiffed and sane, with no vestige of personal aspirations outside of those she has for her children.

Stop the madness.

Our struggles and our challenges in our darkest moments are not merit-worthy.

This is how we set ourselves and every other woman up for failure, aspiring to obtain or assigning badges to imaginary sashes or vests like we’re still Girl Scouts.

We’re all in the trenches, and rather than sashes, we need shields because some of these seasons that we walk through leave wounds that aren’t pretty. No badge will ever speak as loudly or as truthfully as the scars – especially the invisible ones – left behind.

After you have walked through a hard season, however, do not forget to drop your shield. Once you’ve taken the time to nurse your wounds, share the story of your scars.

“Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.” – Morgan Harper Nichols

shield, wall, wounds, scars, war, badge, honor, motherhood, seasons, armor

Permission Slips

I ask for permission more times than any thirty-five year old mother of three children should.

I look for an okay on a whole host of decisions, from my family to a myriad of strangers; my parents, my husband, my kids, my boss, my co-workers, my friends; hell, even the staff member who runs the Fitting Rooms at TJMaxx.

I seek validation; I am afraid of judgement and criticism; I want to please everyone. I have guilt and shame around pursuing my own objectives when I already have a demanding career, children to nourish, encourage and raise, a husband to be present for, and a house to maintain. I feel incompetent when I can’t do it all, so why add something else to the list?

When you allow others’ thoughts or actions or opinions to formulate how you make decisions, you lose awareness of what’s important to you, what your interests are, what you value, and what makes you feel fulfilled.

You lose your sense of self.

Aha.

Asking permission shows up subtly. It’s not an outright ask; it lives at the corner of our actions. It hides in self-conscious and insecure behaviors, in making ourselves, our work and our passions small. It masquerades as asking for others’ opinions and seeking outside influence. It lulls us into procrastination. It trips us as we’re climbing the staircase of action, and holds us there, feeling like we’re still climbing but we’re simply spinning our wheels with the inaction of seeking perfection.

Seeking approval limits our possibilities, our experiences, and doing what is important to us. It also pushes us to do too much of the stuff that doesn’t serve us or fill our own cups.

My husband gets extremely exasperated when I make a decision, but then recant or second-guess that decision. I used to tell myself that I needed more data, needed to think through every possible outcome or consequence, assess all of my options. Truthfully, it’s because I never really made a decision at all. More often than not I need to talk through choices with someone, or multiple people, before I follow through because I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with my choice.

We mistakenly believe that aligning our choices and our actions with those around us will lead to a sense of assurance.

I’m starting to see it for what it really is, simply a lack of confidence. I’m more likely searching for external validation or approval than better alternatives. And I don’t want to be dictating my life and my decisions based on others’ wants, needs and opinions.

Approval only comes at the expense of knowing what we want and being true to ourselves. And that need for approval smothers our souls.

Once you’re able to identify and build what is important to you, other people’s opinions or judgements lose the weight you thought they once held. It becomes easier to walk away from things that don’t serve you or your highest interests, and replace them with things that allow personal growth, fulfillment and satisfaction.

Giver yourself permission to buy those shoes. Give yourself permission to put you, your hobbies and your goals on the calendar. Give yourself permission to build yourself into everything you can and want to become. Give yourself permission to ask for help without needing to seek approval. Give yourself permission to walk away from situations and people that drain your energy rather than revitalize it.

Who are you asking to grant you permission to be who you want to be?

permission, signature, permission slip, writing, pen, hand, contract, approval

 

 

Hanging Art

wall, construction, work, suspended, labor, building, erecting

When we build walls, when we close doors, when we shutter windows, we feel safe.

We construct obstacles that feel necessary to keep out what we don’t want in.

We spend time crafting and constructing the walls; they take time and energy. They can become quite ornate.

Over time, the walls become familiar. We forget that they are there. We’re comfortable and acclimated to our surroundings.

We’ve painted those walls a beautiful color; we’ve hung pictures and artwork on those walls.

It was once about protection, born from necessity, preventing the outside from getting in.

But we also stopped wondering what else, besides that which we feared, we were keeping out.

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.

pencil, notepad, writing, drafts, stories, erasing, starting, beginning, new, paper

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.

wresting, ring, mat, knockout, man, match

Passing Go

monopoly, passing go, playing, board game

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?

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