A Little Inspiration

Peanut Butter: What I Know For Sure

A while back I heard Oprah say that the most important question she’s ever been asked is “what do you know for sure?” She wrote an entire book about the question and of the lessons she holds dear, and even though I haven’t read it, I have felt this question on my heart lately.

It goes without saying that there is a lot going on. A lot that I don’t have control over, that I can’t change, and that I (or anyone, really) can see the end of any time soon. As a result, I’ve been in hyperactive productivity mode, trying to find things that I can do. Ways I can help. Things I can enjoy, pursue and try. And though I have found some good—and even great—things, hobbies, and people in this process, I have also found a lot of stress, a lot of moments spent sitting frozen, unsure if I’ve overexerted myself, and a lot of wondering where to start or what to do next.  

My whole life I’ve wanted to feel “sure.” To know that I’m making the right choice or to have clarity of why making the wrong choice taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve wanted to know that I’m doing a good job, or at least doing my best, and that I can be sure my family is proud of me, my friends, acquaintances, (and honestly, complete strangers) like me, and that I am doing everything I can to have a bright, successful future and a long, meaningful life.  But the more I’ve tried to be sure about these things, the more I’ve found myself insecure about them. I let bad days derail my confidence and allow myself to overthink my way to believing that I’m doing absolutely everything wrong.

This is why I find comfort in this question. Because it doesn’t ask me to know everything about everyone from every single part of my life. It doesn’t ask me to know why or when or how I got to where I am or what I’m going to do next. It simply asks me what I know for sure—about anything.

Not what you think about what I know. But what I know.

For example, I hate peanut butter. I know this for sure. I’ve hated it my entire life. So when I’m trying to make a decision about what healthy, make ahead breakfast to try, or which yummy potluck dessert to bring, or what flavor ice cream to order, I know for sure I don’t have to consider any of the options with peanut butter. And that doesn’t make me uncool or uncultured or unworthy of anything or anyone—it just means I don’t like peanut butter.  

This is a silly example, but I can think of far sillier things that have kept me up at night in an overthink-tank. Things that I agonized over in the fear of not being cool, of being rejected, or of being noticeably “different.” Things that I was sure had to be right or perfect in order for them to matter.

My brain loves to spin around and around in circles, and when I feel like there are a lot of things I can’t control, it loves to panic, turn to impulse and, at times, shut down. So I’m trying to hold tight to this question. What do I know for sure? What truths can set me free from some of the spiraling?

For today, I know for sure that I’m posting this blog. I don’t know if you’ll like it, I don’t know if it will resonate with you, I don’t know if it will be the best or worst post I’ve ever made, I don’t know if I’ll remember it, look back on it, or forget about it in a matter of months. I don’t know if I’ll write on this blog forever, if I’ll ever write a book, get paid to write, or write something that changes the world. What I know for sure is that I am posting this. And that I like posting on my blog. And I like writing. And I hate peanut butter. And that’s a start.

Believe in the Slow Magic

At the beginning of this year, I saw a newsletter from Hannah Brencher that introduced 2021 as “the year of slow magic.” I was immediately drawn to the term “slow magic”, loving the idea that we are consistently in the midst of a slow but meaningful build up to something great. Something that is better than all of the quick fixes we might look for in a pinch.

In thinking about this, I remembered a video I saw last year that showed a time lapse of house plants moving throughout the day. Based on my personal experience with houseplants, I was under the assumption that they do little besides quickly and efficiently die. And while I know this change—or perhaps this murder—occurs inside each and every day, it is hard to see it as it’s happening.

The same can be said about the things we struggle with in our daily lives. So often we wait for change, hoping and expecting it to arrive overnight and yet each day it would seem no progress has been made.

It’s hard to believe in the slow magic. It’s hard to have faith that good things are working behind the scenes and that change is happening little by little. But it is. It always is. And that doesn’t mean to stop trying new things, to stop pursuing new paths, or to give up entirely and let the slow magic do all the work. It simply reminds us to believe in what lies ahead. To find hope in the successes that are happening behind the failures. And to look forward to the good that is coming your way, that is stirring inside you right now, even when you can’t feel it yet.

So believe in that slow magic. Even in times like this. Even in moments that are tough. Even when it feels like there’s nothing left to believe in.

Things are always moving. Change is always happening. Magic is always at work.

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.