Where I stop trying to do All. The. Things.

Up until a few weeks ago, my life looked something like this:

Work + half marathon training + teaching dance + yoga class + book club + activities for each kid + school event + meal prepping + cleaning + packing lunches + so much laundry + so many dishes + squeezing in significant people and checking my phone nonstop to see if I’ve forgotten something.

Most of these things are great. OK, not the cleaning and the meal prepping, but this why I now have a cleaning lady and a roommate who likes to cook.

But what’s missing on that list?

Relaxation.

Reading.

Netflix and chill.

Resting.

Writing/ journaling / meditation time

Travel.

Doing silly things with my kids.

Here’s what I realized: in the words of the wonderful Sarah V, I was crowding out my happiness.

It stems from my overachieving teenage years where yes, I was the child who did her homework before watching TV.

It stems from a slew of “Catholic guilt.”

It stems from eavesdropping on too many Dave Ramsey episodes where he tells people not to do anything fun until they can pay for it in cash, and not until they’ve saved up a good 6 months of emergency expenses first. I don’t know about you, but by the time that happens I will probably be too old and feeble to do ANYTHING.

It stems from, above all, fear.

I’ve been working on this fear thing lately with my therapist. One of the things we’ve developed is a risk list, or as I’m calling it, 37 before 37. And no, I’m not going bungee jumping. It’s things that I’m 99% sure I will enjoy that I have neglected doing out of fear. I will never, ever, enjoy bungee jumping.

Readers, it’s taken me almost 36 years to realize: I’ve been afraid of being happy.

I’ve used crowding out and overbusying myself because it was a great way to NOT think about what I would really like to do. And by not doing that, I could be unhappy and thus blame other people for my own unhappiness. That’s a really good recipe for a happy marriage, by the way (NOT).

So what’s on my list? I’m not going to share it in full just yet, but I will say if anyone knows a good tattoo artist who deals well with squeamish females, send him or her my way.

Here’s a few that I’ve crossed off:

Attend a rally or a protest.

Run a half marathon.

Have a heart-to-heart closure talk with my ex husband.

Let someone read this list.

Pierce my ears.

Go on a trip by myself.

Cook a meal for someone.

Part of the reason I haven’t been blogging lately plays into that. It felt like this space had become, like a lot of things, an area where I had to have a “purpose” to show off. My happiness fear (feariness?) thrives on that. It always asks me “what would people think if you told them you did absolutely nothing all weekend?”

My transformed self has two answers:

A. They’d think it sounds awesome

B. I think I just found risk #38.

The magic that happens when you start being true

In a way, I started out 2017 feeling as, if not more, broken, than I had felt at the start of 2016. While I had shed myself of both a marriage and a job that had become unhealthy for me, I was left with a giant feeling of “what’s next?” And a lot of empty space and time to fill. There were many tears, as I stumbled through smaller relationships and workings, in a way similar to trying on clothes in a dressing room.  I spent a lot of time on job sites. I spent a lot of time on Tinder. They aren’t dissimilar, actually. A lot of putting out the version of yourself you think someone is going to be attracted to, and trying not to beg people for that attraction.

Then I stopped.

I realized that I was receiving back was unfulfilling. It was a “OK, I’ll do this for you, but only if…” Only if I was quieter. Only if I would settle for less money than I thought I deserved. Only if I would do work that was not fulfilling. Only if I put out. Only if I was available between the hours of 10-2.

I deleted Tinder (and Bumble, and OKCupid, and all the other sites out there). I stopped looking at Indeed obsessively.  Instead, I committed to working more on myself as a whole. I read Miracle Mornings.  I went to a life coaching seminar.  I talked a lot to my therapist. I started meditating and journaling and affirming myself on a daily basis.

And within LESS THAN TWO WEEKS, my mindset had completely shifted. I finally, for the first time in 35 years, truly believed I was worthy – just as I was.

In that two weeks, I landed the full time job of my dreams.  I had four gyms contact me to teach dance fitness. I stumbled into…something…of a romantic persuasion that I haven’t fully quite figured out yet, but that is true and honest and good and open and completely makes sense for me WHERE I AM AT NOW.

I know this sounds like a lot of self help woo woo.  But I think there are more of us out there that aren’t fully awake to themselves and their potential. Here’s how I knew:

I started listening to myself when it said “If only I could…”
and answering it with: “well, why don’t you?”

The only thing that’s stopping you is you.

What is this space for?

Sitting in a coffee shop, trying to think of what the *thing* or *things* I’m supposed to do are.  Here’s what I know:

I’m a creative, but I’m not an artist, or a designer. I’m a blogger, but I don’t cook elaborate meals or write recipes. I don’t develop fantastic DIY projects, and my messy home is definitely not one for Pinterest. Also, I suck at photography.

Before this gets negative, I HAVE figured out that I have truths to tell, and while blogging is SOOOOO 2013, this is still the best form for me to tell them. I love sharing my life here – whether it’s the silly things my kids are doing or the new things that I’m into.

I’m a very goofy person, but for some reason, I gravitate to blogs that are more serious.

Also, I hate pictures. Ask Ted.

What does that make for me? What is the best use of this space?

In short – I haven’t figured it out yet. I’d love to hear from you if you have.

Love and Sparkles

It seems the “word of the year” moment becomes more popular every year. Because of that, I almost chose NOT to make a word choice for this year. My 2016 word was “love” and I suppose it was a success, though it took me the greater part of 10 months to truly begin to understand how to love myself. I felt like before that time, using that word gave me permission to accommodate a lot of bad behavior from people around me. Love is NOT conflict avoidance.

This year, my word choice came to me due to the only podcast I make a point of listening to every week, SortaAwesome. Its tagline reflects “discovering all the shiny things out there” and their logo is this beautiful gold, sparkly piece of design on a white background. I kept seeing this simple white-on-gold on mugs and shirts all throughout the holiday season.  It reminded me of how my mother used to say my hair looked like “spun gold” (that’s pre-gray now, Mom!).

I keep hearing people describe me as “spirited” and “feisty” which are words I didn’t think described me until recently. I also hear a lot of compliments on my unique hair, which is both golden and very curly (a bit of a unique combination). When I started developing my personal brand platform, I immediately thought of a way to incorporate my look (curly) into what I do (communicate). Thus The Curly Communicator was born, helping companies to “make waves.”

Similarly in my personal life, I view myself as the gold that goes overtop the white background to add the shine and fun. Thus how I came upon the word “sparkle” for this year. Here’s how I am viewing my mantra for this year:

*Not letting anyone dull MY sparkle – eliminating people and things from my life that do not allow me to reach my fullest potential

*helping other people find their sparkle – both professionally and personally

*allowing “sparkle” to come into my life as I form a new identity as a single, non-traditionally employed person. Not being afraid to try new things.

Here’s to a year of embracing the shiny, loud, glittery, and new!

The things I’ve been afraid to tell you

Like most of the world out there, 2016 was a Great. Big. Cluster of a Year for me, and it resulted in some forms of radio silence from this space. I’m ready to come clean with you on some of them:

  • I’m no longer married.  I’ve really struggled to figure out just how to address that in this space.  I don’t want to get into the details, out of respect to my ex-spouse. We’re still friends, and are committed to raising our children together.
  • I’m in therapy. You should be too. If you haven’t been, and you’re struggling in any way, I urge you to go. It’ll be the best money you ever spend. And if it isn’t, you don’t have the right therapist. I was very deliberate with finding a person who meets the direction I want to take my life, and she has been everything I have been looking for. I’ve confronted a lot of demons from my past, and discovered some others that I didn’t even realize were having an impact on me. I’m nowhere near whole yet, but I’m a lot closer now than I have ever been.
  • I’m a terrible date. I’ve been with my now ex-spouse since I was 19, and before him I had very limited significant male relations. It’s been a true challenge for me to figure out how the dating world works in the 21st century. I’ve realized just how poorly I’ve been at revealing my authentic self to people, mostly due to fear of rejection from my past. It’s amazing to me how much gender roles have changed even since I was dating the first time around, or maybe it’s just my awareness of the fact that they exist? For instance, I consider myself a staunch feminist…but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a man to buy me dinner or open the door for me.
  • I’m a terrible date, part 2: I have no idea what or who I am looking for. Am I even looking for a romantic partner right now?I haven’t a clue.  I have let a few new people into my life, and while it’s been deeply uncomfortable at times, I have already learned so much about myself, what I value, and why my past relationships didn’t work.  Other things I’ve learned: Sylvan Esso makes great music, Game of Thrones is an incredible TV show, The Cosmos in Lansing has amazing pizza, and not all beer is disgusting.
  • I’m no longer gainfully employed. I also finally realized that my self worth is not tied to what I do for a living, and that what I was doing was making me deeply unhappy. I was devoting too much time to travelling back and forth to work, and feeling obliged to care about things that didn’t resonate in my heart. I’ve been working in a retail environment for close to eight years, and to say it out loud: I really don’t care about sales, profits, and margin. So now: I’m figuring out what the next thing is.  It won’t be a full-time career, I can tell you that. I’ve struggled with working in fear for my entire adult life, and I’m not going to live that way anymore.
  • I love my children both dearly. I don’t love dealing with them together. Holy cow, outnumbered parenting is the worst thing ever. I have no clue how people with more than two children deal. Every moment they are talking over each other, fighting, injuring each other, breaking objects, etc. etc. Is this just an impact of divorce? Do I have evil children? I hope not.
  • I have a home and a roommate. As part of our settlement, ex-husband and I each landed with our own house. Mine is the newer one, close to parents, in a suburban city that’s starting to find its way.  My BFF and her 7-year-old son have also moved in to prevent me from being lonely and to help me figure out how to actually use my appliances correctly.

Thanks for allowing me to come clean. I’ve got big plans for this year in this space – so hopefully I haven’t lost all my readers 🙂

Inspired by a Jess Lively post of the same name.

Ferraris and Books

I don’t talk about my college experience a lot in this space. Mostly it’s because I felt a lot of guilt over the fact that I didn’t *LOVE* college the way most people love college. My first semester brought my first significant boyfriend, who was connected to a particular group on campus. When we broke up, I was unfortunately still living with the women in that same group, and I felt really isolated. It seemed like he was ALWAYS around them, while trying to ignore our situation and what had happened. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year when I started to come to terms with it.

That semester, I took a Business Writing class by Dr. Brent Chesley. It was a class that will always stick with me, because it was the only class I had where there was NO ONE I knew in it. No one has any preconceived notions about me or what had happened. I couldn’t tell you a damn thing I learned in that class – it was an easy A – but I do remember, Dr. Chesley was one of the first people in a very long time who made me feel like I was accepted.

He was one of the first professors I found on Facebook a few year ago, and even more so, one of the few I made a point to keep in touch with. I was stunned to learn last week that Dr. C had died of cancer. I had no idea he was even sick.

This afternoon, I went back to campus for the first time in a very long time to celebrate his life. There was a part of me that still felt like the awkward 19-year-old who didn’t have an identity. But as I walked through campus with my friend, I discovered there was a much larger part of me that finally could look back on my time there with fondness, from the diabetic-inducing coffee drinks to the creepy boys that I now realized were probably trying to date me. Isn’t it amazing how there is room for all of those things in life – the yin and the yang, the pain and the laughter?

They opened up his office, and I was thrilled to see it was orderly, yet colorful, just like Dr. C had been. He was so full of contradiction – a lover of both Jane Austin and Diet Snapple, of Ferraris and donuts.

Today was an amazing day spent remembering an amazing soul. Good night, Person of Quality.

Up the Hill I Go

Two weekends ago, I participated in the Ragnar Michigan race along with my friend Caroline. Ragnar is a 12-person, 200 mile relay race. In my case, the race route started in Muskegon and followed along the Lake Michigan Shoreline to Traverse City.

I’m not going to lie: it was tough.

The toughest part was my third leg, when my calves and hamstrings were already fatigued. This leg was my longest, 6.5 miles. It was also the hilliest. Due to our pace, I’d also be running this leg at about 5 am – in pitch blackness.

I dreaded every moment of this leg.

From the start, it was awful. The course was mismarked, so I ended up running a mile in the opposite direction, adding to my fear of exhaustion. I also got cornered by a male Chatty Cathy of sorts, who admitted to having no sense of direction nor technology to direct him (how he functions in day-to-day life is uncertain).

About 10 minutes later than expected, I reached the hill and started running.

For the first mile or so, I tried to distract myself from the task at hand. I sang Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” and Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” out loud, as if my bad singing would wart off the creatures of the night and make the time go faster. Who knew I could sing every word to these songs?

I had to stop and walk after that. By then, Chatty Man had passed me, so I was left alone, in the dark, with only my headlamp to guide me.

I started crying. It just seemed so overwhelming, I was off my pace, and I didn’t see a way out.

Along the way, someone pulled over and gave me water. I don’t know why they knew I needed help, but I just said thank you.

Eventually I reached the top of the hill, where my van of friends was cheering me on, giving me water, and promising me the rest of the path was flat.

I’m in the midway point of my own personal hill right now. There are lots of days that seem like they will never end. There are lots of moments where I am left alone, where the only way to cope seems ridiculous or distracting.

But sometimes, you get help from an unexpected source. And you can hear cheering in the distance and know you’re on the way back to the top.

35 is

img_4893.jpg

…knowing that sometimes convenience is worth the price (hello, Amazon Prime)

…but that some things are really, really, not worth the price.

…treasuring true friends, and giving up on the ones who are too much drama.

…enjoying your family because of who they are, how they know you, and how they came to be.

…being comfortable enough to go out without makeup on. And take a selfie (see above).

…vocalizing when someone or something doesn’t meet your needs. Facebook rants on local business pages are really good for that.

…understanding that experiences are usually worth it. Things sometimes aren’t.

…knowing that I really do feel the best when I get up and go to sleep at the same time every day.

…and being really sad that that time cannot seem to be any later than 7:30 a.m.

…enjoying smells, tastes, sights, sounds, and textures.

…savoring every moment spent with my two kids.

…but also being able to understand that I need time alone to recharge my batteries.

…being able to turn down social invitations, just because.

…making a grown up budget.

…and a grown up grocery list.

…but occasionally having fro-yo for dinner.

…trying to read more books and create more pieces, and scrolling feeds less.

…not waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.

…saying “thank you” and “you made a difference” more.

…thinking about what will make the world a better place and what gives my life meaning.

…actually enjoying exercise and eating right.

…trying not to pull out the gray hairs, because there are just so. many. .

…being young enough still to dream, but old enough to understand what is possible.

…following intuition.

…listening more.

…spending every summer moment outside.

…not beating myself up for needing rest.

…trying to not have regrets.

…understanding that a lot of wrongs can be corrected by a smile.

…having a hairstyle that allows one to go from bedhead to ready in 20 minutes.

…insisting on good coffee.

…buying more flowers (ok, fake ones. I don’t have a green thumb).

…learning that others’ feelings don’t have to become my feelings.

…taking it one day at a time.

Update

There’s nothing worse for a blog silence than a blog post acknowledging your blog silence. I finally felt OK with it when Leigh Kramer posted about how she was “processing some big stuff right now, none of which is for public consumption. It’s nothing dire but as an introverted feeler, this is the time to tend to my soul.”

So yeah, big life stuff is happening. I’m trying to follow Leigh’s example and tend to my soul – making more time to read, exercise, pursue other creative projects, and realistically, devour The Good Wife on Amazon Prime. It’s so good ya’ll.  If you haven’t watched, go spend 128 or so hours doing that rather than stalking this place.

I’m struggling right now with figuring out how to pursue an authentic, creative life…that doesn’t seem like I am doing so for the sheer purpose of sharing it with you all.

More later. Happy Memorial Day. I wish you many Mason jars of tasty drinks, grilled treats, and mosquito bites.

Easter

There is a lot of loss that happened for me in March. 3 of my 4 natural grandparents passed in March. My friend Caroline’s dad passed in March. This year, we lost my dear Uncle Jerry in March. But March is also a month of gains. I’ve started 3 of my past jobs in March.  My son had an awesome first hockey season and an amazing parent-teacher conference that made me wonder if I’m really capable of raising the incredible young man I see every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past couple of days, as I munch on far too many Easter eggs filled with candy.  There needed to be death in order for there to be the Resurrection (if that is something you believe).  There needs to be darkness before the dawn.

That’s why I live in a place with four seasons and suffer through blinding snowstorms – because I’m starting to see the life blooming again.