Show up with love

How you receive advice depends on a lot of things. Your season. The giver. Your willingness to listen. In the past I’ve been both desperate for direction and unwilling to take it. I’ll bet many people have found themselves, at one point or another, in the situation of not wanting advice at all but a quick fix. I wish it were that simple, but it’s usually not.

I asked my online followers what the best piece of advice they’ve received was, and I got wisdom that ranged from practical (don’t talk religion & politics & everyone stays friends), to spiritual (don’t worry about what you can’t control). My friends talked about the importance of perspective and kindness, the definition of success (definitely another blog in the making), how to manage finance and driving advice. All well-heeded. All important (especially that one about politics!)

I usually quote Dr. Phil in my blogs. He’s got some great advice, but today Mr. Miyagi is on my mind.

A quick internet search suggests themes of forgiveness, effort, and growth are most popular, and no doubt those things are important. In years past, I’ve struggled with a sense of self & purpose. I’ve struggled hard, and I leaned on “don’t give up” to get me through some some dark places. But the truth is, there are times you have to give up. Knowing when to dig in and when to let go – well, someone show me that advice. I’m not sure you can. It’s intuitive, but trusting your intuition? That’s up there, too. There’s something I’ve been thinking about lately that trumps all that, though.

Show up with love.

Someone gave me this advice in a roundabout way, and it never really left my heart. I was first introduced to this idea in Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love,” one of my very favorite books. You can’t go wrong by letting love guide your every interaction and decision, but it’s not easy. Ego gets in the way. Emotions get in the way. Pride gets in the way, and fear? Just look at Mr. Miyagi’s quote up there. Yes, if you’ve seen the Karate Kid 3, Daniel was in quite a pickle at this particular moment. It’s a dramatic example, but fear can guide even my small, quiet moments if I’m not careful. Fear can shape who I am. It has, actually. I’m trying to unshape that. How? How do I show up in my life with love?

There are a million answers and probably many, if not most, are better than mine. I can’t define love. Better people than me have tried since the beginning of time. I can take a stab at what love means to me, and what it means to show up with it.

It starts with being mindful of the present moment, not allowing the fears of the past or the anxieties of the future dictate what I’m doing. Daily meditations have helped a lot with this. Showing up with love involves checking in with my intuition and following it even if it’s telling me something I don’t want to hear. Your heart knows the way, and the way isn’t always easy or simple. In fact, I’d venture to say the right way is rarely either of those things, but worth it? You bet it is. Daily journaling has helped with this practice too, (thanks to Lisa, my accountability partner, for encouraging this practice!)

The biggest piece of all is empathy. Showing up with understanding and grace. Listening. Granted this is something that comes more naturally to some people than others, but the truth is even those of us who have it in spades forget sometimes. It’s ego again, selfishness… fear. It’s difficult to lead with those things when you show up by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Does this practice get me walked on? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Yes. Always.

I’m an intuitive, empathetic person, but the hardest part for me is showing up in my own life with love. Directing my decisions toward what’s right for me. Understanding myself. Listening to my intuition. Honoring my needs. Loving myself. I’m not sure why that’s so much more difficult for some of us than others, but if that’s you – I see you. And I encourage you to see yourself. To show up in your own life with love, however that looks.

One of the ways I show up for myself is for my health

Facing myself

Taking myself off social media this week was a bandaid, but it gave me time to think about what my real problems are. It turns out those aren’t easily solved in a week, not even with a lot of silence.

I didn’t realize until I tried to take some selfies today just how much I’ve been beating myself up. I’m not hung up on my looks. In fact my physical trainer, Angela, has to talk me into watching my form at the gym. It’s not that I particularly don’t like looking in a mirror… Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t particularly like looking in a mirror, and especially at the gym. I’m there for health reasons, but for health reasons it’s sometimes important to make sure you’re lifting correctly. Watching your form is, of course, not a matter of vanity. That was never my problem. My problem is facing myself, and yikes, have I been slacking on that.

I’m not sure why the first thing to go when I’m feeling down is self care. I suppose it feels self indulgent to take care of myself when I have a busy schedule. And after giving pieces of myself away all day, I have none left for me. I’ve been making an effort to get to the gym, but I haven’t been eating right. I haven’t been drinking water. I haven’t been sleeping, and I’ve worn the same Stevie Nicks concert shirt for three days. In fact, my entire diet this month has consisted of a combination of fast food, coffee, and alcohol. Crikey, no wonder I’ve felt like crap. It’s easy to spiral out of control, and I have. I knew my mood was dumpy, I just didn’t realize it showed so much on my face.

It’s not that I think I look bad in these selfies. If I showed them to my friends, I’m 100% sure they’d lift me up. My age has never bothered me. My weight has never bothered me. I am who I am. My real power is on the inside. But what bothers me is that I know I can be better. I can feel better. I can tell in these pictures how sunken in and tired and crappy I feel. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these pictures say: “girl, pull yourself together.” No further words are needed.

I wish I could blame this on a time management issue, adjust my schedule, and go on my merry way, but it’s so much more than that. I talked in my last blog about the physical/mental connection and it has me wondering… am I not taking care of myself because I don’t think I’m worth taking care of? Do I think I deserve these sunken in eyes? This constant fatigue? These negative voices beating me down? It’s definitely a possibility, because I do feel those things sometimes. Which came first, the physical or mental blues? They’re so tied together, I’m not sure I can tell.

I blamed my lack of self care on a busy schedule and poor time management. I didn’t realize until I was off social media those weren’t my problems at all. Am I a little more productive off Facebook? Sure. But I’m also a little more lonely. Is that a trade off I’m willing to make? Sometimes. Last week, it was a tradeoff I had to make for my own sanity. But other days? I’m not sure there’s anything to do on those other days but buckle down and do the hard work of putting myself first. Oof, that was hard to type, especially for a giver. But so often being a giver turns into being a doormat, and the difference between the two has a lot to do with that self care I’ve been neglecting.

Even though I know how much it will make me feel better, I can’t promise I’m going to wake up tomorrow fresh faced after getting eight full hours of sleep and immediately change all my habits. I can maybe promise to change one thing though, (one thing besides that concert t-shirt!) I can promise to take a step. And maybe that step needs to start on the inside. Maybe that step is believing I deserve to feel better. Maybe that step is just looking at myself in the mirror, all of myself, and accepting me for who I am. And from there, just drink some water 🙂

Frustrated with selfie taking, but my hair looks good!

Red flags

I’ve been missing the sunsets. I’ve been missing journaling. I’ve been eating like crap. Sometimes it takes the bottom of a spiral to even realize you’re in one, and the view looking up isn’t always pretty. In fact, it feels like there’s a weight pressing down, keeping me from getting up. I believe technically that weight is called anxiety, or possibly panic attacks. It just feels like a weight. The weight of sadness.

I have this fun thing I do when I’m in that place where I reexamine every word everyone has ever said to me and play them over and over. Especially the ones that were hurtful. The ones that tweaked my insecurities. It’s a real party.

I always thought this was a toxic trait, but lately I’ve been trying to lean into these annoyingly depressive states, and I’m wondering if obsessing about these thoughts is trying to tell me something. Something more than just the sadomasochistic desire to beat myself up, which I am quite familiar with. I actually think somewhere deep down I’m trying to save myself more grief. Maybe, in some cases, I’ve lowered my standards too much? Maybe I’m around the wrong people?

I know you can’t hold everyone to every little thing they say. Some things are off-the-cuff, or said in jest, or without thinking. But some? Some hold a shard of truth, one that’s sharp enough to cut you again. And again and again if you don’t pay attention. I’m the type of person who believes the best in people until they go for the jugular. Even then, really. Here, let me slice another vein for you. Let me dig the knife in deeper, it’s not quite piercing my heart yet. A little to the left… It’s been 45 years of that. I don’t suppose I have to tell you how deep those cuts go. They’re still bleeding.

The better time to think about this is probably when I’m not feeling like trash, but it’s a cycle I’m having trouble breaking. Down and down and down we go.

You know those comments people say in jest? The ones you laugh at, but they’re not funny? I think they’re meant to be veiled insults. In the past, I was so desperate for connections I might have ignored these kinds of red flags, or blamed myself. You know what? They’re right. I am kind of weird/loud/annoying. I should just shut up/fit in/delete all my social media posts/go away. I probably don’t need to tell you, but that’s a pretty insidious way of thinking. And middle school, to boot. I’m too old for that bullshit. I can’t entertain “going away.” Not anymore.

I’d love to say I proudly wear being weird/loud/annoying, but I don’t. The things that make me stand out still make me insecure sometimes. A lot of times, really. And when someone tweaks them? Ouch. That can send me into a spiral, especially if that someone is a friend. But is that someone a friend? I know you can’t hold everyone to every little thing they say (can you?) but thinking back, I’ve never heard those comments from people I consider my good friends. That’s a small circle, for sure, but it’s a tight one. They’re the people I trust so much that if there’s something I need to hear, they’ll find a kind, tactful, appropriate way to bring it up and not a dig.

Those people who dig? Maybe you need me to tell you this – I know I sure need to tell myself – they mean it. It’s hard for me to entertain even veiled cruelty because I just don’t understand it, but they mean it. They know it tweaks your insecurities and they say it anyway. Why? For a reaction? Because of jealousy? To make themselves feel good? I don’t know. That’s sure not how I make myself feel good. And it’s not someone I want to be around anymore. I no longer need the connection that badly, at the cost of myself. I’m just learning it’s okay to pull away. It’s okay to shut doors. It’s okay to be weird or loud or annoying. In fact, it’s kind of awesome.

Those red flags are there for a reason, and it’s not to beat myself up about my perceived inadequacies. I’ve done that enough, thanks. It’s to help me figure out who gets a place in that inner circle, and who doesn’t. It’s to help me learn to value myself enough to close doors to places (& people) that aren’t serving me. And it’s to know I’m good enough, and worthy enough, to raise that bar. When I do, the right people will meet me there. I’d like to say I won’t worry about those little comments then, but I probably will. I am who I am. I forgive easily. I care deeply and I give too many chances. I won’t let the world change that, but maybe protecting my heart isn’t such a bad thing, either.

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My idea of a good time is visiting Stephen King’s house in Bangor. Sadly I was not invited inside 🙂
Sara gets me through these spirals ❤

Holding back

I’d rather be the one talked about than the one doing the talking.

I didn’t always. I still worry about what people will think. I’m still terrified to fail. I still hide parts of myself. A lot. I know it seems like I’m pretty honest & out there, but trust me when I say this is just the tip of the iceberg. I hold so much back.

There were parts of my life when I did the talking – and you know what that was about? Jealousy. Nobody’s perfect. I probably shit talked people because I was so jealous of their ability to just be themselves and live like no one cares. To my credit, that was a long time ago. I still struggle with with jealousy and a lot of other things, but projecting my insecurities out isn’t one of those things. Projecting my insecurities in? Now that’s another question.

I’m admitting that because I know living out loud will get you talked about. I call myself quirky, but I have a theory everyone is quirky, just most of us hold a lot back to fit in. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I am a square peg in a round world? Despite how much I’ve tried to beat it out of myself, there’s nothing wrong with that. I have a small circle, but it’s made up of pegs of all shapes & sizes. We’re not all made to fit in, even though sometimes, we desperately want to.

In my case, though, fitting in doesn’t mean finding all those other square pegs. I’ve lived my life in their shadow, letting them dull my edges. Letting them tell me I’m too much. To tone it down. Stop being so “extra.” Just shut up and fit in. I actually don’t even like being the center of attention. But I do like being me, and if I’m my honest, true, authentic self, sometimes that comes with attention. The right kind, though.

What is the right kind of attention? The kind that’s not chasing people for validation, but instead is comfortable surrounded by other quirky pegs. That could include laying my heart out in this blog (and I’ve taken my share of flack for this. Square pegs don’t like honesty!) It could also be singing karaoke, or hosting a 20’s party, or writing sci/fi or fantasy novels. Any number of things fall outside the realm of conventional and are apt to get me talked about. I’m ready for that, though, because I’m finally okay with being me.

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Digs

I’ve always thought I’m a super sensitive person & have a tendency to overreact, largely because people told me that’s who I am. It’s just a joke! A stupid comment. Lighten up! You know what I’m talking about. Those little digs. Those little “funny” comments about your weight or your lifestyle or your writing, creativity, job…

I still give people the benefit of the doubt. I still don’t think they know how deeply those digs tweak my insecurities.

But sometimes, they do know, and sometimes they get the best of me. I’ve let a few of those comments fester this week. Whether they were meant to hit that way or not, they did. Maybe I am too much/annoying/not good enough?

For those people.

Not everyone is meant for everyone, and goodbyes are hard. So hard. But it’s also hard to let people define you by your shortcomings. Maybe that is what they see when they see me? That’s not what I need to see. And it’s not what I need to be reminded of. I’m never going to take risks if I’m constantly reminded of my mistakes. I’m never going to love myself if I’m looking through a dirty lens. Maybe those people with those comments are just not my people, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean some big dramatic exit. It doesn’t even mean I have to explain myself. Pulling back & setting boundaries is serious self care. It means I finally mean more than all those little digs. That I know where those digs come from, and I forgive them but I don’t need to entertain them anymore. It means I’m free to reinvent myself and embrace being chaotic, creative, and fun without worrying what people will say. And they’ll say things, I guarantee it. I just don’t need to listen.

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I’ve gone as far as I can go alone

I’ve gone as far as I can go alone.

I was surprised to hear those words come out of my mouth this week. They were in reference to the gym, but they could have been in reference to any number of things in my life… emotionally, personally, or professionally. Crikey, I can’t even keep my house clean on my own. I need help, but in the past I’ve been desperately unable to ask for it.

I came across a term this week you may be familiar with. It’s called hyper-independence. If you’re not familiar with the term, you’re probably familiar with the actions. It presents as a need to do everything yourself. There are several reasons for this, but trust plays a big role in it – at least for me. I’m not talking about the kind of trust that your kids will empty the dishwasher when you ask them. It’s more about trust that people won’t talk behind your back when you open up, or leave when they find out how damaged you are, or betray you or think differently of you. Trust and abandonment are big issues for me. I’d rather just deal with my emotional bullshit myself, thanks so much.

The thing is, I wasn’t dealing with it. Not really. I was living with it. Occasionally poking it with a stick. But not dealing with the root issues. Not learning to trust. Not asking for help. It was simply easier to avoid the issue, until it wasn’t.

It sometimes takes something concrete and physical to wake me up. Several months ago, I signed up for the gym with my friend Carol, and I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made. However, I knew I’d been working the same machines and the same muscles for weeks, and I needed to understand more and up my game. (Turns out this was both emotional and physical.)

I would’ve been completely fine working the same machines forever. I’m still moving. I’m still getting a workout. But that’s not how I’m made. Growth is one of my core values for a reason. When I sought out a trainer, one of my goals was to get my body moving together, in alignment, and to challenge myself. I needed help. I’ve gone as far as I can go alone, I told her… and oof. That was a real wake-up call.

I’ve gone as far as I can go alone.

It turns out this was more than just at the gym, but asking for and accepting help from a trainer opened me up to asking for and accepting help in some other areas of my life I’d been struggling with for a long time.

There are a number of reasons I don’t tell people when I’m struggling mentally. I wish I could tell you that they, too, are bullshit, but they’re valid fears and have deep roots. Maybe I should repeat that? Your fears are valid. Mine stem from that well of trust and abandonment. Maybe you told someone in the past that you were struggling and they brushed you off? Maybe you tried again and again and again but not with the right people or not in the right way (note to self – sharing depressing memes is not asking for help!) Maybe after that, you were too scared to try again so you developed a new pattern you thought was safe. No one can hurt you if no one can see you. So instead, you decided to do everything on your own, and you walked that path for so long that you can’t remember exactly how or when to reach out.

I’d gone as far as I could go alone, but unfortunately, building yourself back emotionally isn’t as easy as hiring a trainer. There are leaps of faith involved I never thought I’d be making again. There’s opening yourself up, piece by piece. Learning who you can trust. Maybe even getting hurt along the way. That’s the thing about trust. It’s a risk, no matter how much you desperately want it not to be. But there’s also an amazing reward. There’s that moment when you’re able to admit to yourself, and to someone else, I’m not okay tonight. It seems like a small step, but it isn’t. It’s the biggest, hardest, most momentous step. One that lets you know that even though you’re not okay at that moment, you will be. Because you’re not alone.

Learning to surrender

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 ❤️

I look at myself and see only mistakes

Do you think it’s true you take two steps forward and one step back? I sure do. Sometimes I take more than one step back. It seems like that lately.

I wrote out a whole blog about how I failed so miserably at my Facebook live on Friday (in my head, anyway), and I tried to pivot that by doing another live video on Sunday. That I failed miserably at. In my head. What the f*ck is going on in my head? I’m not writing, which is the subject of a whole separate blog. I’m not reading. I’ve barely kept up with this blog. That’s more than one step back. Where are my steps forward?

My follow up Live

I love measurable metrics. When it comes to the gym, they’re super motivating. I lift a certain weight. I do a certain number of reps. When that number goes up, I feel good. But when it comes to growth and development, those metrics can be so hard to quantify. Yes, I am doing Facebook lives, but I’m beating myself up over every imagined stumble. A line from my journal sticks out today: “I look at myself and see only mistakes.” I wrote it twice because it deserves to go into a poem or a story or something creative – which I’m not up to writing at the moment. Right now that line has to stand on its own, and boy, does it. It’s my very heartbeat. I look at myself and see only mistakes. I look at myself and see only mistakes. Why am I not farther along? Why can’t I reach my goals? Why can’t I even make them?

I hadn’t wanted this blog to be such a downer but that’s where my heart is today. I’ve found that the only way to get to the other side of this feeling is to pay it attention, no matter how annoying that is. And trust me, it’s super annoying. There’s nothing I want more than to shift my perspective. In fact, I wanted to write about how proud I was that I pivoted and re-shot my Live on Sunday, and it really wasn’t that bad. But I don’t feel it.

I look at myself and see only mistakes.

What if I’m not supposed to shift my perspective at all, but accept these stumbles and learn from them? Yes, I know I’m not breaking new ground here. You can find that advice in literally any self-help book since the beginning of time. It’s probably in the Bible. Learn from your mistakes. DUH. But you can’t learn from them if you’re busy ignoring them or feeling bad for yourself. Or chasing people around for validation. Or beating yourself up so badly you can’t get back up again. So badly your inner critic calls you a loser and a failure and convinces you that you’re not worth anything. It seems so silly to go down that path because of one crummy live video, but public speaking is terrifying to a lot of people. Partner that with self esteem issues, then remind me why I’m trying anything at all.

Oh yeah. Growth. :-/

Not quite the Bible, but Einstein is nothing to sneeze at

I don’t know a lot about confidence, but I don’t think it can be found by focusing on your mistakes to the exclusion of everything else. Nor can it be found by ignoring them, though. Like everything else, there’s a balance there I’ve yet to find.

By the way – those steps backward? I didn’t “barely keep up with this blog”, like I said above. I just stopped sharing it because I convinced myself it doesn’t matter. That I don’t matter. I can’t tell you that’s changed because I’m not quite there yet. I’m still sitting with my failures, both perceived and literal. But this time I’m listening to what they have to say.

My followup Facebook Live was shot at Arnold Arboretum

Saying yes

I’ve taken a lot of self help classes in my time. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve watched a lot of Dr. Phil.

Some of those things were more helpful than others. I’ll let you decide which, but sometimes I think all that learning was just a way to spin my own wheels. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to move forward? I have self-destructive tendencies. Maybe over-thinking is one? (Over-thinking is definitely one!) I’m trying to move away from thought and toward action, but it’s not easy.

In all those classes, I learned the importance of saying no. In order to do that, I did some serious inner work to figure out what was important and where to plant my feet. Before I did that work, I would agree to anything not just to people please, but because I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. Can you imagine how easy it is to influence or manipulate someone that has no solid ground? No wonder I have trust issues. I let anyone and everyone push me around because why not? I found myself in situations where I was used, then ditched, quite often by people I thought were friends, even family.

Will learning to say no stop that? It makes you less easy to push around, that’s for sure. It also makes you hyper-aware of who you can trust, but that’s a whole different blog.

It’s not hard to over-compensate and start saying no to everything, which isn’t a great strategy either. There’s a lot of value in stepping out of your comfort zone, but there’s a lot of fear, too. I can tell myself all day long that failure is just one step toward success, but not if you tend to run away the first time you fall down. My word this year is commitment, so I don’t want to say yes to something if I’m not willing to see it through. But what am I willing to see through?

I didn’t start over from scratch. My foundation was there, it just needed some buffing up. I’m saying yes to those things I talked about in my last blog. The things that put me in alignment with who I am – love over everything else. Creativity, joy – even authenticity. I have to be myself first, flaws and all.

I found this beautiful rose on the beach the day I decided to say yes to going out of my comfort zone. A sign?

That all sounds good, but what about the things that are hard? Those real, concrete steps you can take to build yourself up? There are so many things I know I need to say yes to (or maybe I already have and I’m second guessing them), but I can’t just yet. Part of building that foundation is being comfortable standing on it. That means I need the confidence to say yes to the things that will develop me – and stick to them.

What are the yes’s that will help with that? I think they look different to different people, but for me? I can’t tell you how many readers, sales, or friendships I’ve lost because I’m terrified of the sound of my own voice. I’ve pulled out of author events at the last minute because of nothing more than fear. I’ve run away from opportunities because I convinced myself I didn’t deserve them. I’ve said yes when I should’ve said no, but the opposite is also true. I’ve been avoiding saying yes out of fear, and I’m 45 years old. I can’t keep hiding forever.

I’m on a path to finding my voice, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to headline a Ted talk tomorrow. I’m working on intentional yes’s. Small yes’s.

Selfies come so easily to some people, but being comfortable enough with the way I look to post them is a big step

It may seem insignificant, but I’ve found that those seemingly small things add up. I got myself an accountability buddy. A couple years ago, that would’ve been a hard no. Out of fear. Out of trust issues. Out of the fact that I had no idea who I was or what my goals were. They’re still scattered sometimes, but I found a friend who’s exceedingly patient when my goals for the week are nothing more than to hold it together. I have weeks like that, but after a couple of them, Lisa will gently put me back on track. Or at least point me in the direction of the track. It’s up to me to get back on it.

Small yes’s are easier to commit to than big ones, but that doesn’t make them easy. Learning to trust. Finding my voice. Confidence. Those are big deals. They take a long time, but those small steps I was talking about? Celebrating small wins. Sharing my voice through this blog, and maybe other places both online and off. Not running when I’m scared. Getting back up when I fall. Even being on a zoom call with my camera on can be a big deal to me, but those small steps add up. I might not be quite ready for that Ted talk, but when another author event comes up – maybe I can make that speech. And after that speech, who knows? Another few steps and maybe I will be ready for that Ted talk. I have a lot to say.

What things are you saying yes to?

Saying yes to starting a business has been the scariest and most rewarding yes this year!

Back to basics. Back to joy.

I’m hoping this blog will be at least a little uplifting, but let’s be honest. February was a mess. It’s always a mess, at least up here in New England. I like curling up by the fireplace with a good book as much as anyone, but I’m over it. I’m sick of the snow. I’m sick of the cold. I’m sick of being inside. And spring is still a few weeks away. I haven’t even been reading. Anything. That’s how bad it’s been.

How am I combating this? By quitting everything and feeling bad for myself. How’s that working, as Dr Phil would ask me. Not well. Not well at all.

What happened to my vision board? I forgot all about being mindful this winter 😦

The thing with quitting everything and feeling bad for yourself is you tend to spiral. At least I do. I hope you don’t know that feeling, but if you know – you know. If you don’t, February goes easily from I’m not sure I can do this to questioning my value and my worth and belonging. Which leads to quitting. Can you say cycle? I can, and I have. I have to find a way to break it.

I’m always a big fan of turning the calendar page. I love New Year’s day- it’s my favorite day of the year. I know it can seem symbolic and maybe a little silly (I’ve been ridiculed for my naivety more than once), but there’s new energy that comes from new beginnings. Even if those beginnings are numbers on a page – but what do I want to put on that page? I want more than to just hang on in March, but I don’t think I’m ready for those big goals I was dreaming up in January. In fact, I can’t even see them right now. I can’t see much, actually. What do you do when your vision is stalled?

I went back to basics. I thought a lot about the foundation of my life, not in terms of school or knowledge. I’ve come a little farther than that (though sometimes it doesn’t seem like much!) Emotional basics. Feelings basics. When I don’t have a vision, it helps to remember how I want to feel.

The list I came up with includes rooting in love, trusting my instincts, being authentic and brave, and practicing mindfulness. Remember that slump? I was driving myself so hard I was draining the very thing I wanted in my life: joy. Yes, I want to commit and I’m still committed. In order to hold onto those commitments when I want to run (and some days I really want to run), I need to soften and trust as well as hustle. Those words are on my calendar for a reason, but so is joy. And that little three letter word might be the most important thing on there.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t quit my job and run off sipping tropical drinks on an island no matter how joyful that might make me. To be honest, though it’s a great dream, I’d probably feel just as empty after a while living without a purpose. For me, joy is balance. It’s infused in everything I do, every decision I make. It’s where I spend my time and my energy. It’s the mindset I bring to the table. I don’t always have the option to drop everything and live the life I’m dreaming of. To be honest – I can’t even always even see that dream, but I feel it. It’s not just joy, but joy sums it up pretty well. It’s confidence. It’s belonging. It’s happiness. It’s passion. It’s alignment. It’s love. It’s showing up as my best self.

I took out my old bullet journal for inspiration. I know March is not for blooming, but give me a break here 🙂

While I might not have the option to jump right to success, I do have the option to head in that direction and make the best of every step along the way, even when those steps are super sluggish and I can’t see the path. Maybe even when I’m in a slump. We’ve talked about a leap of faith before, but it’s more than a leap for me. I just can’t go leaping off in the direction I think success is, not if I don’t feel it. The first step toward feeling it was learning to be grateful every single day. As far as directions go, that’s not a bad one to follow. You might not be able to get right from gratitude to success, but it’s sure not going to steer you wrong. I’ll choose gratitude over wallowing any day of the week.

To that end, I’m really happy with my March goals, and for the first time in a long time, I can let out a breath. I’m not chasing success or a paycheck or some quantitive figure that lately has seemed beyond my reach. Maybe it’s seemed beyond my reach because I wasn’t chasing the right things? Maybe I don’t have to be chasing at all, but just feeling. And today I’m choosing to feel joy.

Another page from my bullet journal. What I’m tracking this month, days when I’m: confident, have a strong voice, creative, mindful, healthy, adventurous, and hustling.