How to stay when you want to run

I think I’m one of those people who’s difficult to read because I play my cards close. In other words, I don’t let anyone in. Not really. And that’s quite on purpose. Why would I want to tell anyone how I’m feeling right now? I can barely handle it myself.

I’d hoped to do some writing today, but despite a long discussion with my accountability partner, I’m struggling greatly with the “why bother” of it all. It’s true that a bad mood can really suck the motivation out of you.

Well…

Let’s call it what it is. Depression. Depression can suck the motivation right out of you. All I want to do is nap and cry.

I know what I need to do to get through this, but the last thing I want to do is sit with these feelings right now. The second to last thing I want to do is to ask someone else to sit with them with me. I don’t entirely trust my own motivations right now, never mind anyone else.

What I want to do is run. It’s my go-to. From myself. From everyone else. From these feelings. From life. I’m okay, but there have been times I’ve felt this way and not been okay. I suppose that’s why they’re called a trigger. I suppose that’s why I want to run from them, but what good has running ever accomplished? All it’s ever done is made me feel even more isolated, but at the moment? Isolation is all I can imagine. I suppose depression sucks more than your motivation. It sucks your inspiration and creativity. Your hope. Your belonging. Your sense of self. Your friendships.

No wonder I feel like such trash.

I’ll be okay. These feelings pass. Faster if I sit with them, which, although I’m not inclined to do today, I will be doing. And soon. I’ll understand what they’re here to tell me, even if that’s just to slow down. And in the meantime, I’ll try not to run.

What it means to fit in

It’s funny how perception skews your memories.

I remember feeling like I didn’t fit in – which obviously wasn’t the case. It’s taken the better part of 45 years to recognize those feelings stem from inside. Self esteem. Confidence. A bit of insecurity. (A lot of insecurity!)

A lot of people go through that in school. I don’t think it takes most people until their 40’s to sort it out, but maybe it does. I’m still sorting it out, to be honest. I still second guess myself more than I want to admit. I still beat up on myself for mistakes. I still offer other people so much more grace and forgiveness than I’m willing to extend myself. I still fight the tendency to shut down and hide sometimes, and some days are harder than others. But I’m working on it.

If I could go back? I don’t think I’d change anything, would you? I had to learn these lessons, even if it took 40 years. I had to learn that it’s okay to love myself, even (especially) when I make terrible mistakes, because really – who doesn’t? And if my mistakes are on the more epic side, it just means I’m taking risks. I had to learn to love failure. I had to learn forgiveness and focus and perspective. I’m still learning that I’m just as worthy as anyone else, and that worth isn’t tied up in dollars or productivity or validation or likes, but simply who I am. I am worthy ❤️

I’m the same person as I was in these pictures, but these days maybe not hiding so much behind that smile. So many people have asked if I’m okay and the truth is maybe sometimes I’m not. But I’m so much better than I was then because I’m not keeping it all inside anymore. I don’t know if that’s helpful to anyone else or not. Maybe I’m just making a big fool of myself? But better to be an honest fool than to fake it. Better to live out loud than to die inside. I simply couldn’t do that anymore.

It’s not easy to live your truth and not be afraid of what people think but the other side of that is worth all the struggle. I hope, anyway ❤️

How important is community?

There was more to my decision to pause writing last year than just worrying about sales or marketing or publishing. Don’t get me wrong, those were big causes of anxiety and stress (largely because I was making them so). “Why bother” had a lot to do with my slump, that’s for sure. Fear was a big reason, too. But something else has been on my mind, and that’s community.

In my 45 years, I’ve not found a community, writing or otherwise, that I wholeheartedly felt like I belonged in. That should have told me something, shouldn’t it? I used to share all kind of memes like: “if you don’t fit in, you were born to stand out.” Those are great ways to hide the pain of loneliness. Because not fitting in sucks no matter how you spin it. But was I doing it to myself?

There’s a certain mystery about the reclusive writer, but I don’t think that works in reality. You need people around you. You need a tribe. I do, anyway. I need people to bounce ideas off. Sometimes, I need people to pick me up, dust me off, and point me in the right direction. I need people to share how hard this journey can be, and how rewarding and how frustrating and how joyful and desperate. I need people to share a great line I wrote, or a crappy one. In short, I need community, but every time I got near one, I’d push myself away.

It’s funny, I don’t feel like I chose writing, I feel like writing chose me in that way that the things you’re meant to do just feel right. No matter how right they feel, I’m always fighting them, though. Am I really a writer if I’m not traditionally published? Am I really a writer if I don’t make my living writing? Am I really a writer if I don’t fit into any writing groups/communities?

It seems like it would be fun to be a black sheep. The one who stands out. Bucks the crowd. It’s not fun, though. It’s lonely. Especially when the people you don’t fit in with are literally the nicest, most welcoming community. Not all of them, of course every group has their outliers. In the past I’d point to those outliers and say “see! I’m not like them!” and bugger off. I would dare people not to like me so I could validate not liking myself, and guess what? They played right into it. And why wouldn’t they? The world is always ready to tell you what’s wrong with you, especially if you’re seeking it out. I’m not the only one repeating such a self-destructive pattern. It’s the reason I can look at the most angry and bitter and destructive people – even if they aim that toward me – and feel such empathy and love and forgiveness. I get it. I truly do. You can’t fit in outside if you don’t fit in inside, but it’s not as easy as all that. How do you begin to fit in to yourself?

There are more technical, personality related reasons I wasn’t taking into consideration, too. I’m a super social, even outgoing, person and I love to talk to/learn about other people- one on one. I’ve come to terms with being an introvert (some good explanations of what that means are found here and here). As such, I do not like groups. The energy is too much and it’s exhausting for me. I was surprised to find this true with online groups, too. I suppose I thought the dynamic would be different as I could read/respond to things on my terms – but I think we’ve established that my terms are not always reliable. Talk to me alone and I’ll talk your ear off about the meaning of life and the universe (introverts don’t like small talk), but put me in a group and my energy fades fast. I tend to keep myself in the background and listen, which is great but doesn’t exactly scream that you belong. In fact, a few months of metaphorically sticking to the wall in group meetings and no one knows a thing about you or remembers that you were even there. No wonder I felt like didn’t belong.

I’ve made some of my best friends online, but those relationships are largely ones that I cultivate one on one. I’ve yet to find a group or party that I’m entirely comfortable in, and you know what? That’s okay. Maybe accepting who I am is the first step toward fitting in, both with myself and other people. Knowing groups aren’t my thing makes it easier to give myself grace when I’m feeling socially stressed, or on the outside. Messaging one or two people from that group has helped me feel like I belong. I’m not entirely comfortable yet. Maybe I never will be, but those messages have become a lifeline and helped me hold on in times when I want to run. Sometimes I don’t think I belong, but I really haven’t let myself try. I’m trying now.

From what I gather, up to 50% of the population are introverts, though it’s a sliding scale for sure. Know that those of us who struggle in social situations are not always standoffish or shy. We need a tribe just as much as anyone else, but speaking for myself – it can be that much harder to find and stick with groups, and that much easier to convince ourselves we don’t belong and run. I used this as an excuse to quit writing before, but if I continue quitting everything I don’t fit into I’m not going to have much left. This time, I’m going to give myself a chance. I’m going to give myself grace. And I’m going to try not to run, even if I don’t quite fit in. Maybe I was born to stand out, after all?

Some photos from a sunset beach trip I took with just one friend 🙂

The importance of loneliness

Loneliness is an epidemic, but maybe not the way I always thought it was.

I can link you articles not only telling you how prevalent the feeling is, but showing what a price you pay with your health – both mental and physical. This Harvard article claims that 36% of people feel serious loneliness, and I think that’s a lowball. The New York times upped that number in the aftermath of the pandemic, but for me it was a problem that existed long before then. Go ahead and look them up. The numbers are legion and they’re scary. I’m not the only one who often feels misunderstood, or not seen. There are so many of us. What do we do about it?

Since we’re Googling things, what’s the conventional advice for loneliness? Well, therapy. I can’t argue with that one. But therapy isn’t always a cure-all. There’s so much great advice about putting yourself out there and meeting people. Being brave. Reaching out. Joining clubs. I’ve done all those things, but reaching out isn’t the magic wand some people think it is. For me, loneliness starts on the inside. It’s that feeling you’re not even worth spending time with yourself. That you would do absolutely anything to avoid spending time with your own thoughts. My thoughts and feelings are literally screaming to be heard, and I’m putting them off by filling my schedule with one thing after another that largely don’t matter because the alternative is to feel like I’m burning and no one is there to put out the fire. I’m a big fan of flipping the script. Maybe it’s finally time for me to not just be comfortable in my own company, but embrace it. I am an introvert, after all. It’s in my nature. I’ve just spent so long chasing other people’s opinions and company that I don’t know how to value my own.

Incidentally, this is also why I think it’s important to be bored. Boredom is the source of creativity and loneliness is the source of self confidence. If I were writing in my journal now, this is where I’d issue a string of curse words. I don’t like it. I don’t want to feel like I’m burning in my own skin. I don’t want to be confident – I want to be liked and accepted. But somewhere inside, my soul feels differently I guess. Who is it I want to be liked and accepted by, anyway? Isn’t the most important person myself?

There’s a zen proverb that says “you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” Maybe the same goes for being alone? It’s also said the thing you’re fighting is often the thing you have to embrace. I’ve never thought of loneliness that way, but maybe that’s because I’ve pushed it off so hard. What would happen if instead, I embraced it? I’ll be honest, the thought terrifies me. I’m scared I’ll spend time so much time alone people will forget me. That I’ll find out I really don’t matter – to them or to anyone. I’m scared of what I’ll find out about myself, but I’ll never know if I keep fighting it. I don’t always look on the bright side (when it comes to myself anyway), but maybe… just maybe… I’ll find out I do matter to myself most of all. Isn’t that worth the risk?

If you have any tips on being comfortable being alone, or just want to sit with me in the dark, let me know. Maybe we can be alone together 🙂

A solitary beach walk – my favorite place
My favorite oils for loneliness – bergamot, valor, & palo santo

Signs

Do you believe in signs & synchronicities?

Don’t read any further if you don’t. I know what it sounds like, but this week has been filled with the strangest coincidences. Erin and I went sea glassing while the boys were at the Revs game for Father’s Day. Sometimes I get a little broody and in my head when I’m at the beach. The ocean does that to me. Life does that to me 🙄

I threw my hands up and said okay, send me a sign. If it’s going to be okay, send me some blue sea glass. I’m always looking for it. I have bowls and bowls of green and white and brown (it’s actually embarrassing), but I never seem to find blue. I’ll be darned if I didn’t take 2 steps and came across the most perfect piece of blue sea glass 💙

I know it’s not an impossible coincidence. It wasn’t like I found a million dollars, but I don’t think that’s how these things work. Maybe you have to meet the universe halfway? Maybe you have to be open to whatever you’re given.

Maybe you have to believe it’s going to be okay 💙

Writer, just f**king write

I haven’t told anyone this, but I started writing again. Writing the way I used to write. Writing every day. Keeping a schedule, or at least, keeping myself accountable. Forcing myself past my fears and insecurities. Are they louder this time around, or did I just forget what they sounded like?

I’m not sure why, despite all the work I’ve done this year, those insecurities are so f**king loud. I’m not sure why I can talk anyone else past theirs but I can’t seem to get past my own. It’s a universal problem, I suppose. Physician, heal thyself. Writer, just f**king write.

Am I a writer, though? That’s one of the questions I ask myself. If anyone else asked me, I’d tell them it’s as simple as if you write – you’re a writer! But why is the bar so much higher for me? Do you set your own bar so high it’s unreachable? My milestones are constantly shifting. When I first started writing, I didn’t think I’d be legitimate until I finished a book.

When I finished a book, I didn’t think I’d be legitimate until I got it published.

When I got it published, I didn’t think I’d be legitimate until I got an agent.

Other milestones involve the number of sales, the number of reviews, making some random bestseller list – maybe some otherworldly feeling of success that’s not measurable (nor attainable). All things I caution other people against relying on. I know better. But yet… how do you measure success? When are you legitimate? When can you say, with confidence, I’m a writer?

I have a friend and mentor who said, at the beginning of this journey, you climb one mountain and there’s another one waiting for you. (Thank you, Jeff! You’ve said a lot of things that have helped me on my way.) Easy for him to say, I thought at the time. He’s climbed a mountain. Is my problem as simple as not acknowledging the ones I have climbed?

When will I be enough?

I’m going to tell myself the same thing I’d tell you, if you came to me with these insecurities. I’d be tempted to play them down and call them ridiculous, but they aren’t. Your fears are your fears. Under all that bullsh*t are a lot of fears about being seen, and fears about not being seen. Fears of not being enough. Fear that your words don’t matter, that they’re just lost in space. Fear that you don’t matter.

You do matter. Your words matter. If they don’t matter to anyone else, they have to matter to you. And I’ll tell you a secret. Yes, I’m hearing those insecurities and fears as I start writing again, but do you know what else I’m finding? Joy. I don’t know why the complete magic of creating characters and worlds out of thin air surprises me every time. I suppose it’s because of how heavily I was weighed down by those fears. And they’re loud, still. They’re so loud, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen to them.

Today, getting some words typed is my mountain. It might not be tall, and there are some pretty big mountains in the distance still to climb, but if I don’t take those first steps I’ll never get to them.

Courage

Vulnerability & authenticity are my superpowers. Sometimes I wish they weren’t because I don’t always want to be up front and honest with everyone I meet about all my struggles. But I seriously think life put me in positions where I have to be, because my struggles are everyone’s struggles. By shutting them down I was shutting down my ability to help people which is where my heart is.

What does this have to do with anything? This year I’ve been pushing myself to do hard things. You wouldn’t think going to a lunch would be hard, would you? But I’ve always been terrified of speaking and of walking into places I don’t know anyone. (Or sometimes places I do know people – thank you social anxiety!) My wonderful friend Dana has been asking me to go to this professional womens luncheon for so long, and I was so scared. But this month I went for it.

When they asked for volunteers to introduce themselves first, I jumped on it before I could pee my pants (hello new followers, I talk a lot about peeing my pants, it’s a defense mechanism!)

Hi. I’m Amy. I’m a published author of 7 books but I never had the confidence or self esteem to really market them. So why would I sign up for network marketing, then? Because not only do I love Young Living & their products, but I love the community I signed up with. They encourage me every day to be the best version of myself. The version that isn’t afraid to use her voice anymore, whether that’s with oils or writing or creativity or going out of my comfort zone to meet an amazing new group of women that I never would have met if I was living that old, fearful version of myself. For the first time in forever, I felt like I belonged there. For the first time in forever, I felt like my feet were on solid ground and I could really, truly start to trust myself (& other people) and open up. That process has only just begun. I can’t wait to see where it takes me ❤️

I’m not saying that this company & community is the cure for everyone, but we are pretty supportive & amazing if I do say so myself. My journey is my own, but it’s been pretty amazing. Coming home to yourself is a really beautiful thing ❤️

Lashing in

I was really excited to record a Facebook live at 5 am this morning (actually, it was closer to 6:15).

If you’re not a morning person, stick with me. It’s the routine that’s important, not necessarily the time. The idea is to put some quiet time aside to work on your goals or on self improvement. (It’s a combination of those things for me.) Like many people, I’m over-scheduled. I’ve let my morning routine lapse, and it was pretty obvious between my declining health and productivity. It was time for a reboot.

Last year, hopping on Facebook live would have been a hard no, but I’ve started to be a little more comfortable with putting myself out there. I’ve also started to be a little more aware of the ups and downs that go with taking risks. Do you know the ones I’m talking about?

To be honest, I have ups and downs whether I’m taking risks or not, but the ones involved in taking risks are a little more specific. My standards for myself are high. Some would say unreachable. While I should be celebrating the fact that I’m putting myself out there, curating content that I think is helpful, learning and taking risks, that’s not always enough. My video wasn’t perfect. How many times can I say um? Did I really forget to mention meditation in my morning routine? What is going on with my expressions? Do I really look like that? Why isn’t anyone watching it? and on and on….

Funny, I actually mentioned those insecurities in my live. The entire reason for this reboot is to start to get over them and put the focus back where it should be – how I feel instead of what other people think. It’s not as easy as one day of a new routine, though. It’s about consistency and commitment, and this is a start. I’ll be honest, in the past I’d have looked at that video and lashed in.

this is what I look like when I’m lashing in

What’s lashing in? I just made it up. You know how some people last out when they’re emotionally overwhelmed. Take their emotions or problems or insecurities out on other people by snapping or just being plain rude and mean? I’m not built like that. I don’t lash out. I don’t have a mean bone in my body – ask my friend Amy what I’m like in traffic. I’m the only Boston driver who does’t yell or swear when someone cuts me off. A thumbs down is the best I can do, and it hurts. It has to be a huge traffic infraction for me to react and not make excuses for the other driver. Maybe they’re having a bad day?

What do I do instead? I lash in. I beat myself up. I focus on my mistakes to the exclusion of anything I could have possibly done right. I was never aware of how badly I was doing it until I finally settled down this year and started listening, and wow. What a wake up call it is to listen to the things you say to yourself. Why would I talk to myself this way when I would never talk to anyone else like that? I wish I could answer that. The best I can do right now is to be aware of it and try to change my patterns.

To that end, watch my live if you want the whole story, but my new routine involves journaling, meditation (whoops, forgot to mention that!), gratitude, drinking water, and movement. They seem like a no brainer, but it’s easy to let those things lapse. If that’s you, know it’s not too late. We can start over together 💛

Accountability

#goals

I meet with my accountability partner on Wednesdays, and sometimes I go around and around and beg her to tell me how to measure my progress, but progress isn’t always linear, nor measurable. Sometimes it’s in how you feel. Sometimes it’s in what you’re *not* doing as much as what you are.

Example – you’re *not* over scheduling yourself to prove you’re important. You’re *not* listening to those negative voices in your head telling you that you can’t do it or you’re not worth it. You’re *not* hiding or pulling yourself off social media because you’re afraid to be authentic. You’re *not* chasing validation from other people.

What have we decided to replace those with? Be who you are. Advice as old as time, I know. For some of us, that means not feeling pressure to post as much. For some of us (me) that means having the freedom to post as many memes, selfies, blog posts, or life advice without fear of judgement or criticism. Because there will be judgement and criticism, you can count on it. The important words in that sentence were “without fear of”. I’m still afraid of a lot of things, and judgement and criticism are high up there, but not giving them power over me has been freeing. Lisa says it makes us look younger. We sure act it 🙂.

Palo Santo takes center stage for these reflection/visualization/manifestation/meditation/goal setting sessions. That sets the bar really high, but so far I think we’re killing it 👊💪💛

Nice girls finish last

Sometimes I’m still not sure what my purpose in this life is, but if there’s one thing I love, it’s hearing other people’s stories. I’m a listener. Sometimes that translates to a burst of creative writing. But sometimes, it becomes overwhelming and I lose my spark. I’ve lost it these last few months. Can you tell? Call it being in the dumps. Call it a depressive episode. I think what I’ve been feeling is plain unimportant. In my worst days, overlooked or used. Am I overreacting? Maybe. But nice guys finish last is a cliche for a reason.

Listeners notice things people don’t say. You could describe it as being an empath in the way we pick up on energy. We know your priorities before you even do, and often, despite how much we give – we find ourselves low on people’s priority list. It’s partly my own fault. I’m so busy listening and caring about other people that I put myself last, so why wouldn’t everyone else just follow my lead? I expect people to listen to me as hard and as passionately as I listen not just to what the rest of the world is saying, but what they’re not saying, too. But why would they listen to me when I’ve bound myself so tightly I give them nothing to hear? I have no song, except the one in my heart. And that one is caged.

On my good days, I know the feelings of being unimportant, overlooked, or even used starts with myself. I’ve written blogs about it. I know how important self value and confidence is. I know I have to value myself and learn to actually speak up and articulate my needs. How hard is that for someone used to being crushed by the weight of other people’s needs? Articulating my needs means knowing them. It means risking that speaking up won’t mean that I’ll lose that relationship, or friendship.

I’ll be honest, most of the time, that’s not a chance I’m willing to take. And so…

And so, I live with the crumbs I think I deserve. I know that’s not right. I know that means I need to learn to speak up, and I am. Just not today. Today, I’m listening.