A Little Inspiration

Elton John’s Only Question Worth Asking

I recently read Elton John’s book Me, and it was a wild ride.

I’d highly recommend reading it in any way you prefer, but I’d especially recommend the audiobook as it was a fantastic listen that featured both Elton John himself, and Taron Egerton, who played Elton John in the biopic Rocketman.

One thing that has particularly stuck with me in the days and weeks after finishing the book is the very last sentence of the epilogue. After telling the incredible story of his life that is full of very high highs and very low lows, Elton John speaks wisely about the hard fact that all he’d gone through—even the things he regrets—got him where he is today. And while he’s wondered whether or not he’d go back and change things if he could, he says, “there’s really no point in asking, ‘what if?’ The only question worth asking is, ‘what’s next?’”

I know I live in the what if far too often—even when I’m not aware I’m doing it. There are things I regret, things I wish I could change, conversations I wish went differently, moments that still make me sad, mad, and embarrassed. But the fact of the matter is, all of those things made (and make) me who I am. They are the reasons the people in my life love me, and the reasons I’m learning to love myself.  They are what will make my life my life.

So let’s stop asking what if and start getting excited for what’s next. Let’s look forward to the possibility that comes with growth, for the understanding that comes with failure, and for the levity and humor that (eventually) come with embarrassment. Let’s look forward and stop looking back.

Let Us All Give Thanks to Our Grey Sweatshirt

If you look at almost any picture of me from high school, I am wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt.

It was nothing special. Just a plain, thin, cotton hoodie that was probably from Target, and did absolutely nothing for my figure or for fashion. But somehow, for some reason, I wore it every. single. day. Even when it got frayed and old. Even when there was a slight toothpaste stain on the pocket. Even when it had been washed so many times and the inside had been so stripped that it was barely comfortable.

I wore it and I loved it and I hid all of my insecurities beneath its thinning, grey fabric.

You might have had something similar in your own life. A pair of jeans, a headband, bright eye shadow, a daring haircut, shoes you wore with every outfit, a jacket you wore far past its prime, an accessory that people knew you by, etc., and if you’re like me, pictures of this thing might make you cringe now. They might make you wonder, WHY? Why did I think that was a good idea?

But then if you look deeper at those pictures, and at yourself, and at all the things they can only show you, you might feel a little different. You might remember what you were going through, what you were worried about, what felt like the biggest deal in the world. You might see the insecurities trying to be hidden, the confusion of self identity, the immaturity, the loneliness, the trial and error of being genuine, the safety net that this thing provided, and how, for some reason, the day, the outfit, the moment, the you at that time just didn’t seem right unless you were wearing or carrying or within reach of this one thing.

I don’t have that sweatshirt anymore. But sometimes I look for it when I’m shuffling through the hoodies in my closet for something to cozy up in. And while I’m glad I grew up, grew into myself, grew out of the part of my life where I’d rather cover up and hide than be seen and known, I’m thankful to have had that sweatshirt to give me time to get here.

So today, on a day when we often talk about all things we’re thankful for, I wanted to say thank you to you, grey sweatshirt, for all that you did for me in those hard four years of high school (and probably a few too many after.)

Thank you for acting as my security blanket. As something that I could put on and not think about, even when I felt so insecure in my skin that I wished I was invisible or thought I wasn’t worth looking at.

Thank you for staying together, for surviving the hundreds of washes, both late at night and early in the morning; and for those times I probably washed you on the wrong setting and rolled you around in the drier over and over when I was too lazy to take my clothes out and fold them.

Thanks for giving me time to develop my own sense of style. For allowing me to buffer inside your thin cotton lining and hide inside your loose-fitting hood.

In many ways, I am as far removed from that hoodie as I am from who I was in high school. I have grown and changed so much since then. I have learned to appreciate myself, learned about myself, learned to accept where I’ve come from and how to work towards where I want to go. But I could never have gotten here if I hadn’t started there. None of us could.

So let’s all give thanks to the awkwardness, the confusion, the struggle, the WHY, and the things that helped us get from there to here. It might not be easy over here on the other side of those struggles, but it’s comforting to realize how far we’ve come, and inspiring to think about how much more we have ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Find the Things that Fill You Up

At the beginning of the year I set out on a quest to find a morning routine. And while that process has been and might forever remain a process, I have recently found myself in need of an afternoon routine as well.

Seeing as many things are still closed and many activities are still limited, I often find my afternoons and evenings in need of filling. Unlike my morning routine however, I can’t necessarily say, “oops, I overslept, guess I’ll try again tomorrow.” I often get home at 4:00 p.m., and while occasionally a nap seems necessary, I’m not looking to become nocturnal and/or nap off the possibility of a great night’s sleep.

Still, it’s hard after a long day of work to find the motivation to do a lot. Sometimes I want to take a nap. Sometimes I want to watch a movie. Sometimes I want to clean. Sometimes I want to exercise. Sometimes I want to talk to friends. And sometimes I want to stay cooped up in my room and ponder the state of my life and/or the world.

In this mishmash of wants and hopes and goals and laziness, I have found that the number one thing to remember when setting yourself a routine—for any time of day, really—is to find things that fill you up.

Emphasis on the you.

For a long time I was putting so much pressure on myself to be productive, to be active, to only do things that would drive me forward. I was trying to check off boxes of successful people, and do things that would in turn make me (or at least make me sound) successful.  And sometimes I felt so overwhelmed by this pressure that I wouldn’t know where to start, and so I would just scroll on my phone for hours and do nothing, which made me feel worse, and would make the pressure to do “big” things the next day even greater, thus making the chances of me laying on my phone even greater.

It was a vicious cycle.

And so, I decided that my only goal for every afternoon and evening was to do things that make me feel good. Things that filled me up. Me. Not those I saw on social media. Not those who might ask me how my day was. Me. What made me feel like I had a good, enjoyable, and productive afternoon?

As of now, this:

When I get home from work, (time willing) I give myself about an hour to decompress on my bed. That might mean scrolling on my phone. That might mean taking a nap. That might mean finishing an episode of a podcast or TV show that I started earlier in the day. Then I will get up, roll out my mat, and do some yoga.  Then I’ll sit down at my desk and do a section of my prayer journal (right now I’m working through The Between Places by Stephanie May Wilson). Then I’ll grab whichever book I’m reading (right now it’s Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw) and I’ll read one chapter before heading into the kitchen to make dinner.

During dinner, I’ll watch an episode of a TV show (right now I’m watching The Boys on Amazon Prime) and then I’ll take a shower, get into some comfy clothes, and sit down on the couch to do some writing, or work on my counted cross-stitch (don’t come for me and my grandma ways).

Again that’s:

  • Decompress
  • Yoga
  • Prayer Journal
  • Read 1 chapter of a book
  • Dinner + TV
  • Shower
  • Write and/or counted cross-stitch

Obviously this isn’t carved in stone. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for everything on this list, sometimes I’m in the mood for none of it, sometimes I’m in the mood for more. The point is, each of these things fill me up. Each of these things provide me with a little boost of something good. And so when I have the time, I am motivated to do them because I know I will enjoy them.

So if you’re in need for some structure in your day—be that the morning, the afternoon, the evening, weekdays or weekends, look for the things that fill you up. Look for the things that make you excited to do them. Look for the things that help you pass the time rather than allowing the time to pass you.

Hands & Words & What They Can Do

The other day I was thinking about hands.

So often we look down at our hands, sometimes nervously, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes in shock or amazement. I recently painted a bookshelf and each day as I was cleaning up I would look down at my hands, covered in white paint, and be proud of the work I accomplished—and ­annoyed at how long it was going to take me to get my hands clean.

Hands can build. And we’ve seen them build. They create things from the ground up and we look at them, amazed that what we see before us came from these hands.

In the same way, hands can hurt. And we’ve seen them hurt. In movies, it’s common to see heroes and villains alike look down at their hands, wondering how—how could these hands have done such a thing? 

Hands leave their mark, good or bad, building or destroying, often stopping us in our tracks to look at the wake of their work.

But the same isn’t always true for words.

When we speak, when we talk or scream or whisper or mention or mumble or demand or inquire or refuse or agree, we use our words. But we don’t always see what our words do. Oftentimes our words leave our mouths and we never know where they land or how far they reach.  We don’t know if they fall on deaf ears or vulnerable ones. We don’t know if they are quickly forgotten or remembered forever.

Our words can build. They can inspire people. They can stay with people. They can shape people. In the same way, our words can hurt. They can tear people down. They can send people into darkness. They can shape people.

Our words leave marks, but oftentimes we don’t see them, especially when so many of our words are spoken online these days. We text and tweet and caption and comment and share and shout into the void of the internet and social media, assuming no one can hear us. We post and repost, sometimes solely to protect ourselves from judgment, and often without regard for those who might be hurt by what we say. We forget that people are people, even people that are different from us, even people who disagree with us. We forget that our words can build twice as high as our hands and can cut twice as fast.

I’m not here to tell you what to say, how to say it, or to infringe at all upon your right to say it. I just think we all could use a reminder that words matter. Our words matter. Whether we have one follower or millions. And what we say can change the world, for better or for worse. In this moment and in the infinity to follow. So let’s take our time. Let’s think about what we say and how we’re saying it. Let’s focus on echoing the good in what we’re fighting for rather than the hate for those we feel we’re fighting against. Let’s use our words (and our hands) to build and then watch as a new world takes shape.

I Love Me (Part 2)

A couple years ago I posted this blog, where I was inspired by a blogging friend to challenge both myself and some of my favorite ladies to write out things that we love about ourselves. It was uncomfortable, a little difficult, and almost felt…wrong—which is exactly why I’m back to do it again with some of my friends.

There is a lot of hard in the world right now, and there is a lot of hate. So I thought it was the perfect time to circulate some love into the picture. Personally, I could write pages and pages about how wonderful each of these ladies are, but I think that would make them even more uncomfortable. So I’ll stick to their words.

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Sam

I love that I can see the good in all people. Even though I’ve been hurt by some I know that we all deserve love.

I love that I have grown to be a more understanding and compassionate person.

I love that I can admit to myself that I am not perfect and I have often been wrong. I use that to keep a light heart and forgive myself and others.

I love that I love all beings and creatures and try my best to cause as little harm as possible.

I love that I have had the courage to travel the world and make friends who have taught me so much.

And I love that I truly believe we are all here for a reason and anything is possible in this life.

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Nicole

I love my dorky sense of humor and that I am quick to laugh.

I love that I am athletic and an adventurer… a cautious adventurer but still an adventurer at heart

I love how I how much I care for my own

I love that I am into “old lady crafts” such a knitting

I love that I am not afraid to be childish (ex. My love for Harry Potter, Disney and LOTR)

I love that I am a fisher woman and will show up them boys!

I love how much I care for our planet. Proud planet citizen over here!

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Natalee

I love my brain. I love that I am always trying to learn and research and analyze, and I love that learning itself brings me joy.

I love my career. I love that I am challenged every day by my clients and my coworkers, and that I can genuinely see the difference my work makes in the lives of others.

I love my roots. I love that I learned at a young age, it really is Family. Over. Everything.

I love that I am a good friend. I am active about trying to make the people in my life feel loved, valued, and supported, and I am really proud (and grateful!) for the strong friendships that I have in my life.

I love how much I love sports, and I love that I can keep up with almost any sports-related conversation. I also love the sass that sports bring out of me, because Lord knows it’s real.

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Taylor

I love myself because I am independent and strong willed.

I love myself because I can accomplish anything I set my sights on, without anyone there pushing me to do so. (Like getting my phlebotomy license, then choosing to go to through flight attendant interviews…almost becoming a flight attendant, to then choosing to go back to school and finish with my BA degree)

I love myself because I wear my heart on my sleeve and am true to my heart.

I love myself because I am caring towards others feelings and needs.

I love myself because I am a damn great cook and not afraid to add spices without following a recipe!

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Rachel

I love that I believe life shouldn’t always be easy. I welcome challenges while doing everyday things and find that they keep life more interesting.

I love that I can always be the first one to laugh at myself.

I love that I am both gentle and tough though I don’t always show either.

I love that I am a newly converted early bird. I was wasting so much time sleeping in!

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Allison

I love that I can push myself to be outgoing when I need to be. I am naturally very introverted and even though it’s a challenge, I’m never disappointed when I step out of my shell.

I love that I’m an extremely loyal person and that I fiercely protect the people I love.

I love that I am a strong woman who has surrounded myself with other strong women.

I love that I’m spontaneous and adventurous because an unplanned road trip is always worth it. And I love that I  keep snacks in my car for said unplanned road trips.

I love that I’m constantly learning about myself and how to be more comfortable in my own skin

 

A Minute Past Midnight

There is a clock hanging on the wall in my bathroom that never tells the right time. I have changed the batteries, I have checked to see if it is hanging straight and flush with the wall, I have changed the nail it hangs on, I have taken it off the wall and blew on it Nintendo 64 style, but no matter what, after a matter of hours or, if I’m really lucky, a day, the clock goes back to having a mind of its own. Choosing hours and minutes seemingly at random, making my incessant glancing at it while I get ready in the morning absolutely pointless.

And so, a few weeks ago, I took the batteries out.

I thought briefly about buying a new clock, but since I wear a watch, and have now grown used to using the series of notifications I get every morning as my gage on whether or not I’m running late, I didn’t immediately feel a need to.

So, I set the hour hand to 12 and the minute hand to 1, and then hung my broken clock back on the wall.

That way, whenever I go in to get ready in the morning, or walk in to go to the bathroom after work, or step out of the shower, or touch up my makeup, or sit on the edge of my bathtub to overthink something weighing on my mind, I can look up at the clock and see it showing me a minute past midnight. No matter what time of day, no matter what kind of day, no matter what I did or didn’t do or how good or bad I might feel, I can look up at the clock and be reminded that I can start over. I can’t redo what’s already been done, I can’t take back what’s already been said, I can’t uncringe the cringe that’s been cringed. But I can take a deep breathe and start over again in that moment. I can accept that whatever happened has happened and I can start to move forward to something new.

There is More

Since I have been lucky enough to continue going into the office for work, I am among the (far fewer) commuters in the morning and afternoon. And lately on my way home, I have been taking the freeway a few exits past my own, and then driving up and down the side streets around my neighborhood, just listening to music and decompressing. I like looking at the different houses—especially the front doors, I love a pop of color on a front door—and seeing which roads wind into each other, which ones dead end, and which go up into the hills.

I also like driving around and finding the little spots that hold memories for me, some good, some bad, some from over a decade ago, and some from only a few months before everything shut down.

I can drive down the street where the food trucks park on Friday nights, where my cousin once jogged down the very windy, cold street to get a churro for us to split before the cart closed.

I can drive past the pancake restaurant my friends and I use to eat at once a week in high school, before we spent the night driving around blasting music—sometimes with added choreography.

I can drive past the front lawn where I saw the boy I liked take prom pictures with another girl.

I can drive past the park where I ate cake with my best friend the week before she moved away.

I can drive past the house with the orange tree out front, where my grandparents use to live and my papa used to let me sit on his lap while he pulled into the driveway.

On some streets I can hear myself laughing so hard with my friends that I can’t breathe; on other streets I can feel the heaviness of a hard day and hear the sad songs carrying me home; and on some streets I think of a specific person, specific food, specific weather pattern or specific song for reasons I can’t remember anymore.

More than anything, the driving around reminds me that the world is still out there. It reminds me that I’m alive—that I’ve lived a life. And it gives me hope that I still have lots of life left to live.

There are more memories to make out there, more spots to claim pieces of my mind and my memory. There is more than what I see from inside my house, more than what I feel inside my own head, and more than what we hear on the news or social media. There is more out there and we will find it.

Talking to Your Fear

I was recently listening to Rachel Hollis’ podcast, Rise, and she had author Elizabeth Gilbert on to talk about fear.

If you’ve been around this blog before, you’ll know that fear is a pretty common topic, as it is a very prominent part of my life—though not always in a negative way. I find that while my fear can often hold me back, it has also driven me towards some of my favorite projects (like this blog) and greatest accomplishments (like running the LA Marathon).

Having seen both the positive and negative consequences of fear, I sometimes find myself obsessing over it. I am always trying to see it from a new perspective, or trying to overcome it with a different mindset, or trying to find a new way to talk about it so it can loosen its grip on a specific situation in my life.

Thus, when two of my favorite ladies sat down to talk about fear, you better believe they had my full attention and I had my pen and paper ready to take notes. But as I sat waiting for these two successful, inspirational women to tell me how to overcome my fear, how to leave it behind and live what I can only assume would be an easier, barrier free life, I was again hit with a new perspective.

“Your fear has one job,” Elizabeth Gilbert said, “to keep you safe. To keep you alive by preventing you from doing new things. Thus, if it doesn’t know what something is, it triggers something in your brain. It says, ‘I don’t know what that thing is and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, so in order to keep you safe, I have to keep you from doing it.”

I’d like to think I’ve always known that my fear tries to protect me, I mean, I am afraid to cliff jump because I think I might get hurt (or die), I am afraid of holding short stem matches because I think I might get burned, but I think over time I forgot that part of growing up is learning the many ways we can get hurt, and thus our minds learn the many things it needs to protect us from. Things like embarrassment, heartbreak, failure, rejection, grief, etc. So when I’m angry at my fear for holding me back, I am essentially mad it for doing exactly what I’ve taught it to do: keep me safe.

Elizabeth Gilbert went on to explain that when we try to throw fear out the window and move on without it, rather than giving in, it tends to send extra fight into a situation because it feels like something really bad is happening.

Think about a time when you set out to do something that scared you, and how in the moments right before doing it, you feel that overwhelming desire to quit and go home. This might be the moment you feel nauseous or shaky or unable to move. That is your fear doing everything it can to keep you from stepping into this unpredictable situation where you might possibly get hurt, and sometimes that last push is so strong that some of us do turn around and go home.

I know I’ve done it.

I’ve thrown up my hands and said, “you’re right, I shouldn’t do this.” Even when “this” is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

But there have also been times when I’ve pushed through, when I’ve demanded that my fear give me a chance. For me, this is when I’m taking deep breaths, praying, pacing up and down a hallway, and sometimes, in the case of my college self studying abroad in Australia, not giving myself enough time to say no, and tip toeing up to the ledge that I’d just seen my friends bungee jump from and jumping.

And that, Elizabeth Gilbert explained, is called talking to your fear. That is taking the time to say, “I respect why you are trying to protect me but I feel like this is something I have to do.”

And so, the next time you feel afraid, dig into the reasons why, and talk it out. Be open and honest with yourself (and your fear), and unpack why you do or do not want to do something—and don’t be ashamed if your fear wins out in the end sometimes. Take each situation as it comes, and give yourself grace in figuring out where you’re willing to step into the unknown. Work with your fear and give it a greater understanding of what you are capable of. Thank it for keeping you safe, and use it to push you forward.

How to Make 2020 Memorable (In A Good Way)

This past weekend I was sitting on the beach with some family, listening to music and watching the sunset, when my cousin Amanda posed a question.

I know that 2020 hasn’t been great, but I think we should each try and think of something that we’d like to do by the end of the year to make our year positive and memorable.

We each took the question in, and then went back to the music. We hummed and danced and occasionally used anything close by as a microphone, all while letting that question twist and turn in our minds.

I had a particularly hard time coming up with an answer, which surprised me, especially because I am such a goal oriented person. But even when ideas and answers were brought up—like seeing a drive in movie or going to the Grand Canyon—my mind still drew a blank.

At one point, I lay my head back on my towel and looked up at the sky.

“Look!” I said, pointing up at the now dark, starry sky, “I think that’s the big dipper!”

The group looked and excitedly agreed and then eventually fell back into swing with the music, this time with the intent to “get our cardio in,” which mostly meant jumping up and down in time with the music, running around our spot on the beach—which was by that time was completely dark and empty except for us and our little electric lantern—spinning with our arms out and our heads tilted up towards the sky, anything that made us feel good, got our hearts racing a little faster, and gave us an excuse to eat an ice cream cone later.

On the drive home (which did include an ice cream cone) I still thought about the question. I was the only one to not give an answer. But when I got home and I relived the afternoon and evening in my head, and I looked at the pictures we’d taken of the sunset and the videos of us singing and dancing around our speaker, I realized why I had struggled so much.

This year has been tough for all of us—in ways we all understand and in ways only you and me can understand. I have had obstacles and hardships you haven’t and vice versa. This year will forever be memorable, but it is not over yet, and sometimes I feel like I’m in survival mode, hiding and waiting until it is.

But just as I wrote in this blog post a little while back, and just as Amanda brought up on the beach, there are still ways we can make this year good. There are still things we can gain from 2020 that we might not have had the time, energy, or inspiration to in any other year.

So I encourage you (and me, because I still haven’t thought of an answer) to think about a way you’d like to make 2020 memorable. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant or expensive, it just has to be something that gives you that good feeling—like sitting on the beach with people you love and singing Celine Dion into a shoe microphone.

The goodness of 2020 is still up for grabs, and I think it’s about time we went out and found it.

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If you have any ideas for how you want to make your 2020 memorable, please leave them in the comments! We could all use some inspiration. white-smiling-face_263a

Thank You For Your Magic

I am currently reading “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle and I just wanted to share this little blurp from the book that inspired me:

 

“Each of us was born to bring forth something that has never existed: a way of being, a family, an idea, art, a community—something brand-new. We are here to fully introduce ourselves, to impose ourselves and ideas and thoughts and dreams onto the world, leaving it changed forever by who we are and what we bring forth from our depths.”

 

It’s easy to get caught up in all the things we think and believe we aren’t, but it’s important to remember all of the wonderful, unique things that we are. We are each so important to the world and waste so much time thinking otherwise. So today, rather than leaning on those self criticisms and the constant nit picking of what is wrong with you or your life, take a second to appreciate what a special thing you bring to the world just by being. Take a second to revel in how lucky the world is to have you and how much it needs you and all of the magic you bring to each and every day.

 

Thank you for your magic, I know it helps me, and I hope mine helps you.heavy-black-heart_2764