All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun.

The idea of, and preparation before, a physical, bodily detox can be much scarier than the process and experience itself. What will I eat? When will I eat? How will I survive without morning coffee?! I love bread! I love beer! No chocolate?!

But once you begin – and especially after a few days when the initial withdrawal symptoms subside – the feeling of euphoria is likely to set in.

In these days, I compare myself to a rose on its way to blooming. At the onset, I was closed tightly, afraid to let go. I clung to the things that soothed me – that allowed me to remain somewhat numb. The roller coaster of this year had made its way into my habits, routine and daily life. I drank more coffee to become and stay alert. I expanded my drinking from the weekend only to nightly, hoping the hops and the taste would soften the sharpened edges. I ate more than necessary, again hoping the sugar would sweeten the sour spots.  I was in emotional pain without wanting to admit it because I had so much to be thankful for, as expressed in messages of daily gratitude.  More money in the bank.  An opportunity and ability to train to be a yoga teacher.  Travel plans and designer purses.  A beautiful little boy who adored me regardless of if I wanted only to sleep on the couch instead of throw a baseball in the backyard.   A cozy home where the rent was always paid, the utilities ran and the fridge was full.  In essence, I was so very full… but found myself at times feeling so very empty.

We think of Spring as the season of new growth and change.  The trees blossom and the grass turns from brown to green.  We open our windows and sometimes our hearts also come out of hibernation.  But Autumn is due belated credit for its opportunities and willingness to support us throughout equally dynamic change.  In yoga, I heard Autumn described as a blank canvas (after the trees are stripped of their leaves and the world becomes somewhat colorless in the process) and my heart clung to that description, especially as I was in the midst of completing two weeks of eliminating toxins and unnecessary additives from what I was eating and drinking to nourish my body.

With each day, the petals inevitably opened further and further.  Each day of losing things that were apparently no longer serving me gave way to bursts of blocked energy, enthusiasm for tasks that were usually burdens and a feeling of contentedness and fullness originating not from the outside, but from within.  I liken the experience to practicing non-attachment as taught in yoga and meditation.  And at several moments, I felt about as close to bliss as could be measured.  At the close of this two-week time, I woke up feeling like more of the me I have come to grow to love than I have in months.

I would be remiss if I credited this reintroduction to sense of self to just two weeks without caffeine, alcohol, gluten, soy and sugar.  I started October by removing an object from my body that was void of purpose and was likely causing problems and pain.  I left a workplace that was not the right fit and returned to one where thankfully, the shoe still fit and somehow, became even more comfortable despite not being worn for months – no blisters.  I spent mornings in the Arizona sun and dressed up for a party in Jamestown.  I finished my journey to become a yoga teacher and read a book by a woman vulnerable enough to share her own fears and insecurities all while being entrusted with counseling and supporting the fragility in others.  I indulged in new earrings and withheld self-criticism when one disappeared on an airplane.  I chose to appreciate new lines, wrinkles and gray hairs, remembering that they are gifts not all have the benefit of receiving.  I loved bolder, hugged tighter and readily admitted when I was wrong.  I got out of my own way.

Today, the petals are in full bloom.  They will eventually fall off and there will be rain in the midst of the sunshine.  But the flower will grow again.  Inevitably, I may find myself once again too full, numb and tired of feeling tired and closed up.  And maybe – hopefully – once again, I’ll choose change over stagnation… discomfort over complacency.  I’ll walk a path of thorns on the way to smooth surfaces where eventually, I’ll find myself ready to bloom once again.

The Truth Will Set You Free.

I’ve spent hours searching for the obituary of someone I’ve never met.

When I heard the news that the woman who became my ex-boyfriend’s first wife had passed away, I felt an almost instant sense of reversal. My brain went back days, weeks, months and years to a time that I have programmed myself to very rarely think about. It’s my “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” time of life. While there was no hypnosis or medical procedure involved, there were gallons of tears collected by friends, thousands of dollars spent with therapists to de-program, as well as remaining in constant motion and never letting myself sit with anything long enough in order to erase the damage done.

I hated her. I can say that now being so far removed from that time, but at the same time, I feel bad saying that knowing she is no longer here to defend herself. To me, she will forever be “Eliza.” The girl whose name appeared on my ex-boyfriend’s flip phone back on a hot August night in 2005. To be fair, I was not in any way disillusioned by where my relationship with him stood when this occurred.  We had been living together for eight months in a place that neither one of us could really call home.  Prior to the move, our relationship had been a year of long distance and as those stories usually go, especially for two twenty-somethings, it was hot and heavy and intense, but definitely not deep.  From the time we met as partners in my good friend’s wedding, I was done for.  He was beautiful, smart and successful.  And I was at a place in my life where I felt as if I needed someone to guide me.  I needed someone whose presence would improve my life and increase its value, because I lacked seeing any of that in myself.  So when the opportunity came to join him in Florida after his move there from Pennsylvania, I jumped at the chance.  I was ready to leave behind the job I had held for eight years, not to mention my entire family and close circle of friends.  I felt that if I didn’t take the chance now, I would regret it later.

I did regret it, but not in the “I should have taken a chance!” kind of way.  Almost immediately after moving down south, Jekyll became Hyde and our relationship became uncomfortable.  He wanted control over my finances, where I went and what I wore.  He was happy to have me work in the banking industry like him making almost nothing because it was more dignified than working as a bartender.  I did supplement the banking job with waitressing and remember coming home and having him count out my tips and separating them into envelopes… rent… utilities… groceries… and giving me a couple of dollars for spending money.  A couple months after moving, we stopped sleeping together as he explained to me that it was now (all of a sudden) important to him that we remain abstinent until we were married (which was not happening anytime soon as he also explained to me that I would have to be debt-free before he would propose).  I should have realized at that time that something else was going on, but I was naive and still believing that he knew best.  The next few months were a mix of sadness and misery as I became more and more depressed.  Looking back, I believe he was trying to get me to pull the plug so he wouldn’t have to be the bad guy.  But I was too headstrong and stubborn and felt that if we had made such a big commitment to being together, that we would be okay.  In early August, I went home to Ohio for a glorious week of visiting family and friends and didn’t want to go back… and when I did return, he broke up with me that same day.  I can still picture that moment looking from the outside in… lying on our king sized bed in my bra and underwear, looking into his eyes and hearing the words I still can hear so clearly today… “I can’t give you what you want.”  I left our room and retreated to one of the guest rooms for a night without sleep.

For reasons unknown, I went downstairs at one point and looked at his phone.  I knew I was going to find something and this was all before texting was that big of a thing and even before Facebook existed.  And there she was… Eliza.  Her name accompanied by sentiments of a fond weekend together exploring real estate in another Florida town.  I went back upstairs and confronted him and the next hours were a blur… I was a terrible person for looking at his phone… the stress of the day made him forget a friend’s birthday… so many things thrown around, but never an apology.

I had big decisions to make after that night.  Was I going to move back to Ohio?  If not, where would I live?  What was I going to tell my parents and friends?  He convinced me to stay in the house another week because his parents and cousins were coming to visit and his mother wanted to spend time with me.  Like the people pleaser I tend to be, I obliged.  And during that week, was offered a room in the home of one of the girls I worked with.  After his family departed, he made it clear I needed to depart as well and with the help of friends, I gathered my limited belongings, procured a new bed and made my way to Vero Beach for where would be my home for the next eleven months.

For ten years, I never spoke to him  and never really tried to.   Other than him dropping off my mail at the restaurant where I worked, anonymously leaving it at the hostess stand (on Valentine’s Day of all days), I never heard from him either.  Today, I still have his cell phone number and email address burned into my brain, but other than an email I sent ten years ago expressing sympathy for the loss of his best friend in Afghanistan, I have had no communication with him.   I’ve heard bits and pieces about him from our mutual friend.  That he was engaged to Eliza within three months of breaking up with me and married less than a year after that… that they had bought a laundromat and moved to another part of Florida (Jesus, thank you for never allowing me to be a laundrywoman)… and that they had eventually divorced because they ended up wanting different things.  He remarried a few years later.

Sitting on the beach Sunday, I asked my friend the question I usually do… “does he have kids yet?”  I’m not sure why THAT is the question, but it is.  She responded that he didn’t… and I said something along the lines of, “well, at least he didn’t have kids with his first wife…” and she interjected, “she died.”  No details or information as to how or when… which is why I’ve feverishly tried to find her obituary.  To find out when, why or how.  And in the midst of that searching, I asked myself… why this is so important to me?  Is it closure?  Does it force me to review that time and what came of it?

The truth that I’ve found after thinking about this over and over again these last few days is that I’ve spent so much time blaming my adolescence for the difficulties I’ve experienced in my romantic relationships and for the constant work I must do to keep my self-esteem intact.  I don’t doubt what happened in those  developing and ultra-sensitive years was the catalyst, but spending two years with someone whose sole goal was to change me into anyone else but me and then being unceremoniously replaced by someone who was “so much more than me” and then avoiding any and all reflection of that time in order to remain self-preserved explains more than I was expecting to find when learning she was gone.

I no longer hate her and her death isn’t why.  I can imagine she shared similar experiences with him and can empathize with what that was like.  Maybe not to the degree I did because she was likely better suited for him from the get-go, but my guess is that people who are happily married do not get divorced.  I have been regularly told that I should be grateful to her because if not for her, I may have been that laundrywoman, but I don’t kid myself with that… had it not been her, it would have been someone else.  My gratitude lies with him, of all people, for setting me free and giving me a chance to have a better life.

We can take truths and do several things with them.  We can bury them.  We can carry them.  Or we can open them up and force ourselves to look into them and peel them back until we can get to a place where we can see them for what they are and what they have to offer us, no matter how ugly or painful.  And then we can take them and turn them into something beautiful.

(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.

B-Day

My boss was in from out of town a couple of weeks ago and happened to walk into my office as Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes’ classic (it’s over 30 years old now, so it’s a classic…) “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” came on and all of sudden, two women who were talking about clients and contracts were dancing, singing and almost attempting the Jennifer Grey/Patrick Swayze lift.  I think I listened to the song five times on the way home alone and couldn’t stop laughing and smiling at the complete spontaneity of that moment and how often, we don’t allow for such things because so much of life is planned and calculated, down to the very minute we wake each morning until we close our eyes at night.

My list of wishes, reflections and dreams changes from each year to the next because I change.  What I want changes.  What I value changes.  What I’ve grown accustomed to, tired of or desiring more of continues to change.  And as I step closer into this part of life we might call middle age, I think I’m growing more comfortable with the fact that change is not only inevitable, but healthy.  It’s okay to change your mind about something or someone as long as it fits you.  It’s okay to walk away from what no longer has the same purpose in your plan or to realize that someone you once loved is causing you pain and you need to distance yourself.  It’s okay to try things you maybe once mocked because you didn’t really understand them and it’s okay to accept that where you are right now is… okay.  Tomorrow, I start volume nine of my 30s and as of this moment, this is what matters to me most.

  1. It’s time to stop negotiating with terrorists.  You will never be able to afford the ransom.
  2. You may never understand why you’re terrified of fictional horror films but can watch 16 straight hours of documentaries about real people who’ve killed real people.
  3. You don’t really need another pair of jeans.
  4. Someone labeling you as insecure does not make you insecure.  Reading into their description of you does.
  5. It’s okay to embrace the present, be excited about the future, but still miss part of the past.
  6. Please stop using your credit cards so much and start paying off more of your college debt.
  7. Call your Grandmother more often.
  8. At least try to stop laughing when your son swears and give a little more effort to not swear in front of him.
  9. Tupac is probably not acceptable car music for him either.
  10. It is okay that you feel that some of the self-help books you read feel like regurgitated volumes of other people’s work.
  11. You may never write that novel, but you can write bits of pieces.
  12. When people ask you what you’re going to do after you finish yoga teacher training, you’re allowed to say… “I don’t know.”
  13. Sending texts that are not answered does not make you less worthy of people’s love.
  14. When you are trying too hard to fit in, you know it.  Listen and breathe.
  15. Holy crap, you are sick!  Yes, you!  You who does not believe you can get sick.  Go to the doctor.  Wrap your throat.  Take a hot shower.  Go to bed.
  16. There is no competition for best mother.  The only competition is best mother for your kid and guess what… winner winner chicken dinner.  Every day.
  17. Stop sucking in your stomach when you’re in a bathing suit and breathe in that warm, salty air.
  18. You are quirky and goofy and at your best, this is exactly who you were born to be.  Embrace her and love every single piece of her.  Those who really love you (and there are many) do.
  19. You have truly been given the most amazing friendships and honoring them is both your privilege and your responsibility.
  20. Your son may not be an athlete.  He may not be an artist or a musician.  He may just be a kid… if you want to be accepted for who you are, continue to accept him for exactly who he is.
  21. It might be time to find a good therapist again.
  22. Being replaced by someone “more important” does not diminish your effort, your accomplishments or the amount of work that went into them.
  23. Sometimes friendships end.  Not because anyone did anything wrong.  Not because anyone hurt anyone.  But because it was time.
  24. You may never really be able to afford to buy a home here on your own.  Renting does not make you less than and it doesn’t mean your child doesn’t have a home of his own.
  25. You have TWO cars!  How freaking cool is that?!
  26. So you invite someone to do something with you and they say no.  Again, this is not a reflection of you, your self-worth or your value.  Life is busy.
  27. Your gift is remembering everything about everyone.  This is not everyone’s gift, so don’t expect that it should be.
  28. Wash your face at night and if you forget, let the little bumps that appear on your forehead remind you why you should.
  29. You’re doing a great job, kid.
  30. There is no such thing as a mom-appropriate bathing suit.  There are only bathing suits.
  31. If looking at something online makes you feel like crap for whatever reason – whether it’s inadequacy, jealousy or even superiority, stop looking at it.
  32. This really should be #1, but put more effort into putting God at the forefront of your existence.  If you’re struggling, ask Him.  If you’re happy, praise Him.  If you need an answer, ask Him.  If you are lonely, pray to Him and read with Him.  He is your oxygen mask and should be put on first before you are out there trying to save the world.
  33. Fight like hell for that little boy and don’t back down when you believe he is not being loved and treated the way he deserves.
  34. In a year, you’ll have more gray and wrinkles than you do now, so appreciate that beautiful face every day.
  35. You’ve loved the wrong, weak men for years.  Find a strong one.
  36. Ask the people at work if they’re okay.  Ask what makes them smile and what makes them happy.  Be curious about their lives and their families.  People love to be cared about and usually want to share.
  37. Stop feeling guilty about the things you’ve done to improve your life.
  38. Have more moments of spontaneity.  Jump in the car and drive somewhere new.  Fly home and surprise your parents.  Take a random day off of work and lay by the pool with nothing more than a book to read and a good playlist (and a bathing suit… ahem).
  39. Love yourself, continue to be grateful, and listen to only your heart.

May you allow yourself to grow, evolve, change and experience moments of pure, spontaneous joy.

I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.

Do you ever feel as if we’re living in the age of the experts?

Parenting experts… relationship experts… health experts… make-up experts… career experts… culinary experts…

What exactly IS an expert?  According to our old friend Merriam-Webster (the definition expert), an expert is “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience,” or “one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.”

I would like to believe the person I entrust my health or my son’s health to is an expert in their field and their expertise came from years and months and days and hours spent studying and honing their knowledge of medicine and the human body.  I would like to think the mechanic who works on my car went through intensive training to know and understand just what that sound is and why the car is making it.  If I call a lawyer, I want to feel confident that they did not complete their legal training through the Law School of Elle Woods.

But as I scroll through social media, whether that’s Instagram or LinkedIn, I have found that the world has become over-saturated by experts of all kinds and in all areas and it makes me wonder if this is at all causing us as humans to rely less on our own wisdom, intuition and instincts to make the right decisions for our lives and the lives of the people we care about.

When I first became a mother over six years ago, the advice of friends and family was undoubtedly connected to me feeling comfortable in this new “job.”  Before a child is born, you truly can read every book there is, attend the classes and ask the questions about this incoming member of your family, but the truth is, until you’re in it, that information it sitting on a storage shelf in your brain marked, “To Be Used When Needed.”  And regardless of that available learning and knowledge, it may be hard to completely know what you should be expecting after you are done expecting and that little person is here.  But the most priceless piece of help I received in my new motherhood was found in the pit of my stomach.  I remember one frustrating evening where my son was once again sick (his first year of life was full of illness) and I was over my parents’ house with him.  I was concerned for his well-being, but was fighting that concern with justification that I had to go to work the next day.  I had exhausted my PTO and at that point, didn’t have a back-up plan in place.  I sat on the floor of their family room and – this hurts to admit, said, “You know what?  I don’t care if he’s sick.  He’s going to have to go to daycare tomorrow.”  My mom helplessly looked at me and everything in me felt… wrong.  My heart hurt and my stomach hurt because I was lying to myself.  And in this case, lying to myself didn’t make me feel any better.  That night, that little boy woke up at 3:00 in the morning gaping for breath and ended up in the emergency room again.  I’ll never know what would have happened had I taken him earlier that evening when I knew he wasn’t well.

Almost 15 years ago, I was dating a guy long-distance and we decided that the only way we would really know if we would work out was if I moved to be with him.  This wasn’t a small move but an Ohio to Florida move.  I was willing to make the sacrifice because I truly believed he was the one (this song has been on repeat many times in my life) and that we were meant to be.  He was obsessed with money and was very financially stable, and at that point in life, I … wasn’t.  About a week before the move, we had a discussion about finances and what he expected me to contribute to our livelihood.  We talked very candidly and I was open with him about the amount of debt I was carrying at the time.  And I can still see myself in my bedroom surrounded by packed boxes with my tiny flip phone pressed to my ear hearing him say, “You know, Jenny… I’m not even going to think about really committing to you unless you can get and stay out of debt.”  And my heart talked to me and it said, “this is not love.”  Is getting out of debt a good idea?  Well, of course it is.  But is getting out of debt a good idea just so you can be good enough for someone else?  I shared this with a couple of friends who reassured me that he didn’t really mean it like that and that everything would be fine.  Spoiler alert… that guy dropped me like it’s hot about nine months later and was engaged to another girl three months after that.  I have a feeling both her credit score and savings account balance were much higher than mine.

These are only two examples, but I call on them when I’m faced with another gut-wrenching (what an amazing, honest word) decision and don’t know what to do. I do not always choose correctly and when I’m wrong, I can almost always pinpoint a moment when my stomach hurt or when my heart raced because something inside me was screaming “WARNING.”

I appreciate the Mommy bloggers and the pediatricians with Instagram accounts.  I like reading career advice on LinkedIn.  I enjoy conversations with my friends about everything from child-rearing to saving for the future to faith and where to go on vacation.  I believe we can be influenced without being taken over by influence, if that makes sense.  I think we can follow, but we must also know how to lead ourselves.  The world has become so loud and crowded with voices and opinions that it’s easy to lose the uniqueness of our own voice.  I think sometimes if you’re asking someone if something is a bad idea, it may be because you already know that it is.  And if you really feel strongly about a decision, sometimes the worst thing you can do is seek validation from others that they also believe it’s a good idea, because if they don’t, you may not follow your own heart… or stomach.

The next time you think you need to seek an expert, start by looking in the mirror.

Back In The World Again.

close up of text on white background
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Two weeks into a new adventure may be a bit premature to sit and write out thoughts and feelings about how my life has changed in that time, but I’ve decided I’m going to do it anyways…

Two weeks ago today, I signed off as the Compliance & Legal Services Manager of my longtime employer for the last time.  For years, I truly thought I would spend the rest of my career there, especially after making the decision to move and begin working from home full-time.  The freedom!  The flexibility!  Lunch hours by the pool!  Being at home when my little one gets off the bus!  What could be better?  So far, the last two weeks has taught me that a lot can be better…

1. These shoes were made for walking outside of my condo.  Giving more of a s&*t about getting ready each morning has led to a euphoria I didn’t really expect.  I do love clothes and fashion and I love it for more than the vanity aspect.  I love how I physically feel when I put effort into my appearance and I know my energy changes.  Feeling better about myself can only be a positive thing.

2. People are people.  And I am a person who feels better around people.  When I first started working from home three and a half years ago, it was for my boss of many years and with a team who felt more like family than co-workers.  Case in point, my work BFF and my former boss are my son’s godparents.  But things change… companies are acquired and people leave and soon, I felt isolated and lonely in my day-to-day work dealings.  I didn’t realize until I was back in an office environment again just how much that feeling of isolation and loneliness was hurting my spirit.  And now that I have time with people at work combined with alone time on the nights my little one is with his dad, I feel more balanced than I have in years.

3. This cook is back in the kitchen.  Chocolate chip raspberry bars… vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting… hash brown casserole.  Marriage and a bunch of (or more than one) kids did not happen for me (at least, not yet), but I am in heaven when I am in a kitchen throwing stuff together and making food for people to enjoy.  I’m pretty sure everyone at work is convinced I’m brownnosing and doing it for the accolades and the love (which may have some merit), but the truth is I just love feeding people.  A good friend of mine (who I met because she was feeding me at a yoga retreat) once so perfectly stated, “my favorite moment after I cook for people is when they’re eating and it’s completely silent as they enjoy what I made for them.”

4. The desire for positive feedback does not make you greedy.  I’ve spent hours, days, months these past few years being my number one fan and I’ve gotten really good at it.  I am not nearly as hard on myself as I used to be and I’m the first person to recognize my strengths and victories while being mindful of areas where I need to improve.  Regardless, when you work with a team that is supportive of each other and you hear the words, “we’re happy you’re here,” (and it’s not only in reference to your hash brown casserole), it’s meaningful and it’s okay to feel good about that.

5. Always, always, always trust your gut.  I was not looking for a job change.  I’ve responded to a few recruiters the last few years, submitted a couple of resumes and even went on an interview.  But I never had THAT feeling.  I remember going on an interview in the summer and sitting in the quietest office with a woman I couldn’t imagine working for, leaving there and thinking – no.  I remember feeling so peaceful that I was able to walk away from an opportunity that didn’t suit me and not think for a second that I wasn’t good enough for that job.  I also remember feeling grateful that I wasn’t in a dire financial situation where I had to take a job I may not want.

This time was different.  When I responded to the initial email, updated and forwarded my resume and a summary of my experience and then started the interview process, it felt different from the get-go.  I wanted this job.  I wanted to work for this company.  And even when I gave notice at my old job and they tried to negotiate to get me to stay, I knew where I wanted to be.  That knowing made me feel so strong and yes, even a little powerful.  But above  that, it made me feel thrilled that I was so in touch with my intuition.

So here’s to the first two weeks of a new adventure.  Two weeks of meeting new people, learning new things, and baking and dressing up.  Two weeks of my son incredibly enjoying his new afterschool caretaker and the big hugs I get from him when I get home at night.  Two weeks of waking up each morning excited about what I’m doing and where I’m going.

Two weeks of feeling like I’m the best Jenny I’ve been in awhile.  May it last at least another two weeks.

Go Back.

Quotefancy-1757260-3840x2160.jpgWhat was it for you?  Or who was it?  Who did you think about being when thinking about being was more acceptable than maybe trying to (re)invent yourself in your 20s, 30s, beyond?  What did others see you becoming?  Did you want to be rich?  Did you want to be a mom?  Did you want to write stories and be published?  Did you see yourself on stage or did you see yourself backstage as a roadie?

Did your dreams come from what made your heart beat or were they based on the suggestions of others?  Did the popularity contest of junior high school or high school shape who you wanted to be?

I think back to my younger days, especially the days when my great uncle was still coaching football.  I was obsessed with football.  Whenever the media guide arrived at the end of summer, I’m telling you I memorized page after page.  I knew stats, collegiate history, each player’s position and number.  I could tell you what day they were born (maybe this is why I still have a pretty uncanny ability to remember birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) and where they grew up.  It’s a bit creepy, but I also knew their wives’ and kids’ names.  But I pored over that data with gusto that has only re-revealed itself in few other things in the years since that time.  Maybe song lyrics.  Maybe baseball now.  Maybe cataloging my son’s experiences and events in a calendar.

But back to younger days.  That girl who studied media guides and watched football every Sunday wanted to be an NFL commentator.  She wanted to stand on the sidelines and talk to players.  Then she wanted to go into the studio of ESPN and interview players and coaches.  Can you believe I forgot all about this want and this love until recently when I read Barbara Walters’ 2008 memoir Audition?  Barbara Walters didn’t interview athletes on sidelines, but she was the queen of the interview until she retired.  She had an unforgettable voice and dialect, sure, but she also had a knack for getting people to talk about themselves and be comfortable.

So where did this dream get lost?  I think I know and without saying too much, I think it got lost in those junior high and high school years.  I don’t have much fondness when I recall those years.  I remember a perpetual sense of feeling awkward and out of place.  I remember how much the rumor mill and others’ opinions of you can change your status, your lunch table or your Friday night invitations.  I remember worrying about the wrong clothes or the wrong hair.  I remember forgetting about dreaming and instead, doing whatever I could to not be different or stand out.

But I have stopped sitting here thinking  that my dreams have passed me by and that I’m too old to reinvent myself or start something new.  I may never be on an NFL sideline, but why can’t I explore more opportunities to meet people, interview and learn about them, even if it’s just by making new friends or chatting up a stranger in a line at the grocery store?  It’s why I write, it’s why I am going to start yoga teacher training in the winter and it’s why I may just try to do a podcast with a friend of mine, even though there are currently 525k podcasts (and counting).

Take a moment this weekend and ask yourself to remember your “Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up.”  It may not have been something chosen from a popularity contest at school.  Remember YOUR most likely.  Ask yourself if you are living the life you would have most likely wanted to live all those years ago.  If not, ask yourself what you can do to get closer to it. (Disclaimer – this is not advice to leave your family, quit your job or sell your house and start living in a tent.  Unless…)  When you see your kids or friends get some excited about something going on in their lives, soak it in and use it to determine what brings you that joy.  If you’re lucky enough, you’re there, even if it’s just a little.  You’re living joyfully and purposefully, or you’re close to it.  But I know so many who can’t even see a glimpse of that joy and fulfillment and I’m not sure why or where we get lost in life.  I know taking on the responsibilities of adulthood is no joke.  Adulting is a full-fledged affliction and while it has its privileges, it has its challenges too.

The cliches are there to remind us (YOLO, FOMO, IDUNNO), so what can be done to remove our blocks to living a life we love living?  What can we do in order to lay down at the end of the night and have the ability to quote Ice Cube and say, “Today was a good day,” or at the very least Brooks & Dunn’s “It’s Getting Better All the Time.”

Mindfulness teaches us to live in the present moment, but I also think you have to visit your past to improve your present and your future.  I’ll leave you with lyrics to Darlingside’s “Go Back”… may you remember who you were in order to be who you want to be.   May it be of benefit.

We were always on our way
Rolling up our sleeves
Ever moving forward
In the tracks where we lived our simple lives
Kept our blinders on
Eyes to the horizon

And return to who we were
Before we disappeared
Into the thick of big ideas
Now we can see the sweeping view
But we’re waiting out the storm
Stuck under the awning
Into everglades
Greener yesterdays
Skip the stones away
Go back to the start
Photos in the darkroom before they fade
So we hold to who we are
Even into the arc
Beyond our furthest edges

To a world full of strange and towering skies
And a chance to choose in time
To set out on our own way

I know I’m no doctor but I know
You can’t live in the past
But the only way to go is to go back

 

 

Working Title.

Or…

I have had a million ideas running through my head since March and haven’t taken a moment to write any of them down.  I have this tendency to think of an idea – believe it’s something someone else will want to read about – draft it in my head while I’m walking around doing mundane tasks – and then scrap it.  I feel that when you do something that others recognize as a talent – whether you’re a good writer or cook, or an unforgettable teacher – there will come an inevitable moment where you have such a hard time believing the praise and you start to question your gift more than before you were ever recognized for it.  It’s like when you get a promotion at work.  At first, you’re so excited and you know how much you deserve it.  But after you go home from that celebratory happy hour,  you might lay in bed and think… “Oh, crap.  Now I actually have to show that I am worthy of this.  I have to live up to that potential that others feel I have and I’ve been commended for and I can’t let anyone down.”

This doesn’t mean I sit here and think that people care enough about my writing that they’re judging it.  This is all perception.  And the more people I open up to about perception, the more I learn that most of us fall victim to worrying about other people’s perceptions of us. I try to remember a quote I’ve read, allegedly contributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what people really thought of you if you knew just how seldom they do.”  Nothing about this idea is self-deprecating or full of self-pity or self-loathing.  It’s the exact opposite.  It’s the most liberating thought in this world.

But I digress.  I was talking about those working titles and why I left them behind…

Some examples…

“What Do We Owe Our Children?”

This came to me after taking my child on vacation and realizing that at 5 years-old, he’s had more experiences than my 92 year-old grandmother and sometimes acts entitled and I’m not sure if all these things I give him are the best way to raise him.  I felt preachy and like it would come off to others like I knew exactly what I was doing.  Pretty much clueless about being a parent since January 12, 2013.

“How I Defeated My Laziness.”

I have confronted most laziness in my life by using a timer.  Anything that I avoid doing (vacuuming, dishes, unloading the dishwasher, etc.), I started timing so I could get a better idea and appreciation for how much time it actually took me to do something.  It was usually mere minutes, which proved to me that I spent more time thinking about how long it took me to do something than it did to actually DO it.   I wasn’t sure this concept would actually help someone, so I shelved it.

“The Living Eulogy.”

After Kate Spade’s suicide, I read article after article about how lovely and wonderful she was.  How her impact on the fashion industry changed the way women chose their handbags and how her name is synonymous with style.  I also read articles about how lost she felt after she sold her company because she sold her name with it and was never able to develop anything under Kate Spade ever again.  I read the articles with a sad heart and wondered if she was told and actually knew the weight of that impact she was described as having.  Not only that, was she appreciated for her apparent generosity and talent?  After reading so many good things about this woman after she died, it made me want to write living eulogies for all the people I love because I want no one to question how much I care about them.  I couldn’t write it eloquently and I was so concerned about offending anyone with mental illness by suggesting that depression can be healed by kindness, that I couldn’t finish what I started.

“The Intervention.”

I have a friend whose health is in so much jeopardy that I feel he walks this earth as a ticking time bomb.  I’m not the only one in his inner circle who feels this way, but our concerns go on deaf ears, if and when we choose to voice them.  Writing an article about it felt like the passive aggressive way to confront a subject that at this point in a 15-year friendship, I should have the balls to do in person.  I probably just failed at that whole not being passive aggressive thing, didn’t I.

“I Want to Retire In a Home With My Friends.”

I wanted to write about a concept of not ending up in assisted living or long-term care.  I want my friends and I to buy a big house and have a doctor on call and a chef and a manicurist and a yoga instructor and I want to wear Lilly Pulitzer and maybe smoke a Virginia Slim every once in awhile.  Doesn’t that sound like the best way to end your days?  No?  I know… that’s why I didn’t write about it.

“Staying in my Catholic Faith Even After Seeing Investigation After Investigation About How the Church’s Most Powerful People Took Advantage of Small, Vulnerable Children.”

Oh boy.

______________________________________________________________

I hope I can pick up the pen (or tap the keys) enough in the not so distant future to complete a thought.  I hope I can let the insecure thoughts simmer and evaporate and just let myself write.  I think about Erma Bombeck and Dave Berry and even Dear Abby and how they just wrote about whatever they wanted to, or wrote in whatever way suited them best.  Especially Dear Abby.  Someone asks her a question and she does not hold back and does not care if you like what she has to say.  That woman will tell you if your mother-in-law is trying to steal your children or your best friend is trying to steal your husband.  I think about Dr. Phil and Steve Harvey and their bluntness and lack of apology for who they are and what they have to say.  I am not comparing myself to these people.  But I am hoping to stoke a little of their spunk.

I want to just write.  And be okay with me even if others don’t agree.  To harvest this love I have for scripting my thoughts and believing that even if one person gets something from it – and even if that person is only ME – it is worthwhile.

I hope that whatever talent you have… whatever makes your heart happy and regardless of whether or not others see it or recognize it… that you don’t put it on a shelf.  That you don’t hit delete and that you believe in yourself enough to hit “post” or that you take the stage at karaoke and rock your best ever rendition of “Copacabana.”  That you paint that sunset you see outside your window or maybe you start a business helping people with their bookkeeping because you rock at helping people.

Let’s be free together and publish our working titles, in whatever form they are written.