A Little Inspiration

Let’s Have a Funeral

I think it’s natural to do a lot of reflecting on your younger self. To try and connect to the person you were as a kid, as an adolescent, as a young adult, etc. It’s always interesting to recall the things you hoped for and dreamed about, and to notice the differences in what you expected to happen in your life and what did happen.

I think about my younger self all the time. I think about that high school girl, assuming she had it all figured out, convinced she knew the exact timeline of her life to come. Little did she know, things would go differently than she planned. Much differently.

The funny thing is, if she somehow contacted me now to ask questions about our future, I wouldn’t tell her that it’s bad. I wouldn’t tell her to be devastated for the way things have gone. I wouldn’t tell her that every hard thing we’ve walked through, everything that didn’t go our way, everything that we’d dreamed up that didn’t come true (either yet or at all), doesn’t make this future unsatisfying. It just makes it different.

Still, on my bad days I think about the things that didn’t (or haven’t) happened. I think about the ways my younger self might be bummed. And I think about the things that make me bummed. This future, while hopeful and wonderful in its own way, is different than what I imagined. And sometimes I like to harp on the things that could have gone differently, and on the things that might exist (or still exist) if they had.

But the truth of the matter is, they didn’t.

Things did not go the way I planned.

But things happened. So many things. Good and bad. And I became a better, stronger, more vibrant, confident and understanding person. If I’m being honest with myself, had I gotten what I wanted, when I wanted, I probably would have been lost along the way. And THAT (unlike some of my dreams that can still come true) might have been something I lost forever.

SO, I’m hosting a funeral. And it’s open.

You might have heard of an “open house” before, but this is an “open funeral.”

And by that I mean, anyone is welcome to join—to cohost their own.

Do you have any old daydreams that your mind likes to bring up whenever you’re feeling low?

Do you have any old pictures of your life that like to stand in front of your line of sight, tainting everything you have and making you focus only on what you don’t?

Are you ready to let go of your past expectations and embrace your current reality?

I am.

Quite frankly, I’m tired of my mind telling me that because x, y and z didn’t go as I planned: I’m not happy. Or that I’m a failure. Or that I’ve missed the window to find all the good things.

I’m tired of living in the imagined life I could have had, and I’m ready to live the life I’m in.

I’m ready to let that old daydream go. It was a good guess, a beautiful idea, but it’s not what happened. And the sooner I embrace that, the sooner I can find the beautiful here where I truly am.

Do you have any daydreams you’re ready to lay to rest? Do you have any old blueprints for your life that you’re ready to pull off the wall?

Let them go.

They’re not doing you any favors.

Who you are and where you are might not be what you expected, but then, life might have thrown you curveballs you never could have predicted.

Lay the old plans to rest, throw them six feet down. Say a few words and then let them go.

Don’t be afraid to be happy in this new reality, and don’t be afraid to guess again—to daydream again and again.

A Repost for My Fellow Tough Eggs

I don’t have a new post for this week. But I have recently been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, and so this post from a few years back has been on my mind.

Re-reading it was a good reminder that being an introvert does not mean you are an incomplete extrovert. It doesn’t mean that you are less interesting or less important of a person. The world is made of both introverts and extroverts, so it is not our job to try and become something we’re not. It’s our goal to become and to appreciate exactly who we are.

Some of us are tough eggs. And that’s okay.

The world needs tough eggs.


Often when I meet someone new, or when I see someone for the first time in a long time, or sometimes for no reason at all, I feel very shy and quiet and unable to start, continue, or enjoy a conversation.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, demanding, THIS IS ON YOU, and make myself believe that whenever a conversation goes stale, or when someone opts to sit or stand with someone else, or when the stranger I meet at the supermarket doesn’t immediately fall in love with me like the movies told me they would, it’s because I’m boring or unlikeable or pathetic—or a healthy combination of all three.

Anyone else with me on this?

Anyone else wish they had that magic they see in other people? That ability to talk about anything and everything to anyone and everyone. That something that draws people to them without even meaning to. That ease.

I do.

And while I think it’s something I’ll always strive for, and as much as I believe that you can challenge yourself and grow and acclimate and learn, there comes a point when we have to realize that we are not required to be that kind of person.

We don’t have to be the person that knows exactly what to say all the time. We don’t have to talk to anyone and everyone about anything and everything. Some of us are simply tougher eggs to crack and you just have to give us a little more time.

So, to my fellow tough eggs, let me just say that I am with you. You are not alone in feeling like you should do more, be more. You are not the only one sitting there internally screaming, “SAY SOMETHING.” You are not boring or uninteresting or pathetic. You just need time. And anyone worth having in your life will give you that time. So be patient with yourself.


Be yourself.

And take these quotes from Quiet into consideration:

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.”

You can find the original post here.

A Small Prayer for You in the (Not So) New Year

We are ten days into this new year, which is about the time when the “new” starts to wear off.

We are back into our routines, back into the stress the holidays (ideally) took us away from, back into the hustle, bustle, and (at times) chaos.

For some of us, we might even already feel discouraged. Maybe you already quit on your new years resolutions, or maybe you never got around to setting any. Maybe you feel the exact same way you did on December 31st and you feel a little gypped.

The new year always promises transformation and possibility—a solution to all of the problems we feel so stuck in. We want the new year to change us, to make us better, to make us feel good enough. Which is why we set goals and resolutions, why we make plans (or cancel them), and why start good habits and quit bad ones. We want to be changed, and for everything we don’t like about ourselves to vanish at midnight.

But when the sun comes up on New Year’s Day and we don’t immediately see that positive change on the horizon, it’s easy to count ourselves out (and put ourselves down) and to mark the new year as a wash.

So if you happen to be someone who is feeling let down by the new year, who put all of their hope in the potential it promised, but now feels just as discouraged as you were before; if you are someone who still doesn’t feel good enough and who doesn’t know how to pick yourself up and find the goodness that might exist in these next 11 months, I want to offer you this small prayer today.

It comes from author Macrina Wiederkehr. It says:

“Oh God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is.”

There are always positive changes to be made. We can all grow, we can all learn, and we can all become better versions of ourselves as the years go by. But today, I pray that you are reminded of all the wonderful things that you already are. And I hope you don’t deflect them. I hope you absorb them. I hope they fill you up. And I hope they inspire you to look forward.

I’m so glad you’re here, and I hope you are too!

It might not be New Year’s anymore, but there’s still a lot of year left to live.

Here’s hoping it treats you well and you treat yourself well in return. May we all treat each other well this year, and encourage one another to believe in the beautiful things that exist in all of us.

I Love Me (Part 3)

A few years ago, I was inspired by a fellow blogger to start a series that encourages friends and family to write down things they love about themselves.

We often find it too easy to criticize or put ourselves down, whether it be in an attempt to be funny or relatable, or as a side effect of comparison. On the flip side, we rarely, if ever, actively look for things we love about ourselves, and if we do, it is even more taboo to state those things out loud (or write them down for others to read.)

But I’ve now made it a tradition to ask friends and family to take this challenge. To sit down, bask in all of their wonderful, and then share it with others. So, in this third installment of the I Love Me series, allow me to introduce you to some incredible women.


Kristine

I love the way I love others. I always try to please/help everyone and put others before myself.

I love that I am athletic and competitive, but also a good sport.

I love my confidence and my ability not to care what others think, even when I’m my own worst critic. I love that I can laugh at myself.

I love that I am weird and I can embrace my weird wherever I go.

I love that I am hardworking. I am ready to take on any challenge and I am always ready to go above and beyond in anything that I do.


Sammie

I love how much I care for others and animals. I have so much compassion and empathy for others.

I love that I am discerning. I make careful choices and do what’s best for me and those around me. I always try to do the right thing.

I love how authentic I am. I am the same me with everyone around. I love that I don’t compromise myself, my wants, or needs for anyone else.

I love how loyal I am. I’m the friend you call at 3:00 a.m. to drive you to the airport or ask to say let’s bury a body. I am consistent and committed to those I love, even my long-distance friends. I am always ready to pick up where we left off.

I love that I am a nerd. I love learning new things. I love videogames, fantasy and sci-fi. If we could sit on the couch and watch Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter all weekend I’d be in my happy place.

I love how strong I am. I am strong mentally (or stubborn lol), physically (despite my size), and emotionally (I can handle far more than I think I’m capable of.)

I love who I am overall. My demeanor, my mannerisms, and my values. I know it’s not all me: it’s my family, my friends, and my experiences I’ve picked up along the way. You can’t figure me out with one glance and I think that’s special. I love that I’m unique. I love the things that have contributed to the me I am today—good or bad.

I want to love more things about myself, but I don’t feel I am there yet and that’s okay. I am a work in progress, and working on loving myself in all aspects. But for now, it’s good enough. I am good enough, and I love that for me.


Ashlynn

I love my sense of humor and that my husband always gets my jokes.

I love that I get to care for a little man and be his guide for the future.

I love that I am becoming a morning person slowly but surely.

I love that I get to help people everyday.

I love that I learned to make the recipes my mother-in-law shared with me.

I love that I can find something in common with anyone.

I love my sense of style (which I learned from the most stylish person I know who I am lucky enough to call mom)


Mel

I love my smile. I feel like a smile can truly make a difference in a person’s day and I am eager to share mine with the world!

I love that I am adventurous! I find great joy in my time spent outdoors every week and live a happier, healthier life because of it! I love that I am (relatively) unafraid and am willing to challenge myself.

I love that I am a caregiver. I love that I can have an impact on a person’s wellbeing through my work and that I can be the healer and ally that they need through their rehabilitation.

I love my sincerity. I love that I am genuine in my relationships and make an honest effort to grow in friendship with both friends and family.

I love my relationship with God. It is forever growing and changing, but I love that I now spend quiet time each day reflecting and praying to Him.


Kelsi

I love that I’m passionate about the things I care most about.

I love that I am discerning and have chosen a solid support group of friends.

I love that I’ve given myself permission to not always be good at things but to do them simply because they bring me joy such as painting, embroidery, and planting.

I love that I can recognize my own wrong doings and ask others for forgiveness.

I love that I cheer on people while they accomplish their dreams. It brings me such happiness to see people doing their thing.


You can read the last edition of this series here.

Trust that the Ground is There

There have been a couple blog posts in the past where I mentioned not only my love for yoga, but especially Yoga with Adriene hosted by Adriene Mishler on both YouTube and her website Find What Feels Good—both of which I would recommend.

In taking her classes for the last year and a half or so, I have learned so much about breath, about my body and about yoga that have helped me feel inspired, empowered and calm in some very not so calm times.

One phrase that has stuck with me since the moment I first heard it, and has grown deeper and deeper in my mind ever since is: trust that the ground is there.

There have been many classes and videos I have watched of Adriene’s where she says this. Oftentimes it will come when our feet are stepped wide and we are moving into a new posture that requires our feet to be together.

“If you can,” Adriene will say, “don’t look down at your feet. Trust that the ground is there and step your feet together.”

At first, this seemed kind of funny to me. I mean, of course the ground is there. I could feel it underneath my feet. But then, when I heard her say this in the context of more complex poses, and I feared I might fall, I noticed my instinct to look down. To look at my feet to help me center myself and stay balanced. Because seeing the ground, seeing where I was standing, what I was doing, and checking back in with my foundation, helped me feel safe.

After a while however, when I would gain confidence in a pose, or practice consistently at the transitions between them, this need to look down went away. I felt stronger, more balanced, and I didn’t have to double check that my feet were sturdy, or that the ground was holding me up. I could just keep moving, having faith in my foundation and pursuing my next challenge.

In thinking about this outside of yoga, I noticed that there are so many habits I’ve formed in the hopes of holding my balance or keeping myself “safe”—whether it be from getting hurt, being rejected, embarrassing myself, standing out, or just making a mistake. I’ll stay quiet when I have something to say, I’ll stay home instead of going out, I’ll hide behind friends and family, and I’ll agree with opinions that don’t necessarily align with mine.

I will look down rather than look forward. I will hide in the safety of invisibility rather than allow my self-confidence and self-awareness to grow, because sometimes I still feel like I need to ask for permission or reassurance that who I am is okay; that I’m worthy of acceptance, success, love, etc; or that I can say no (or yes) to things without feeling lame or uncool or a burden on others’ fun/lives.

I am still learning to trust my foundation. That the ground is there. And that I can walk into each day knowing that I’ve put in a lot of work to discover who I am, why I’m here and what I’m capable of.

And while sometimes I still might fall—I might make a mistake or say the wrong thing or get hurt—the ground will catch me, and I can get up and try again. So I will continue to take steps forward, to try on new postures and poses without looking down, all the while growing and finding more balance on the ground I’m standing on.

Take time to find faith in your foundation. It is no easy feat to build, but it will only get stronger with time. Take deep breaths and, when you can, try not to look down. The ground is always there, and it will catch you if you fall.  In the meantime, let it build you up.

Look for the Happy Middles

The other day I was listening to a podcast that discussed the cliché: happiness is a journey, not a destination. It got me thinking about movies and books and their tendency to have “happy endings”—a direct contradiction of this cliché.

Oftentimes we are given a main character, and a single obstacle, choice, or relationship that is holding them back. We follow their journey to make things right, sometimes laughing or crying along the way, and then we listen to the music swell, and watch them (sometimes) metaphorically ride off into the sunset, satisfied, accomplished and happy. The screen fades to black and we sit in the goodness of the ending, holding onto it for as long as we can, feeling hopeful and inspired that our own happy ending is on its way.

I have seen this my entire life.

In high school, I watched romantic comedies every single night. They were literally the last thing I thought about before I fell asleep. As a result, I believed that while life was an obstacle course with twists and turns, tears and pain, it always had a happy ending—a place where you would be free from those things.

I believed that about finishing college; about having a lavish and successful career; about falling in love, getting married and having kids; about getting in shape, being skinny, having straight teeth, clear skin and self-confidence. Once I had what I wanted, I thought, then everything would be fine. I wouldn’t have bad days. I wouldn’t feel sad. I wouldn’t feel pain, be scared or get lonely.

But the truth is, there is no such thing as happy endings—at least not in the middle of your life. There are openings and closings of chapters. Beginnings and endings to seasons. Reset buttons, changes of direction, path defining questions and answers. But there is no mid-life finish-line or series finale sunset that you walk towards, leaving behind everything hard or painful, to live our the rest of your days in blissful, unbreakable happiness.

And that’s good.

Because then what would we do? Stop learning? Stop growing? Stop creating?

Imagine how much unhappier a place the world would be if we all stopped searching for and creating new kinds of happiness.

This is why I think we have to stop looking for happy endings and start appreciating the happy middles.

Happy middles (n): happy moments that happen in the great, vast middle of your life. (i.e., the accomplishments, inspiration, wonder, love, friendship, joy, kindness, compassion, etc. that make days better. That make happiness feel a place you’ve been and will be again soon.)

Happy endings in movies are actually happy middles. (Or, depending on the movie, maybe sad middles, hard middles, devastating middles.) They are moments that would stand out in the lives of those characters as they moved fictionally forward. They showcase moments and experiences we’ve had in our own lives, that prepare us for what is ahead—whether good or bad.

Happy middles don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be dramatic or grandiose or come with a pay raise, trophy, or engagement ring. Happy middles can be slow, consistent, and simple. They can be obvious or undetectable. They can be absolutely anything at all.

If happiness is a journey, happy middles are the pit stops. The points of interest. The places where you refuel and refresh before getting back on the road.

So if you’re going through a tough season, keep going, there’s a happy middle waiting for you right around the corner.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bogged down, and/or discouraged with where you are in your life compared to where those around you seem to be, take heart in knowing that we are all in the middle. No one has it all figured out, no one has crossed that fictional finish-line where everything becomes perfect or easy. We are all on our own path, finding our own happy middles, and your next one might be right in front of you!

All that being said, I can’t and won’t stand here and say that I don’t love me a cute, romantic, emotional, happy ending, because I do and always will. But the way I see it, I’ve got a lot of life left to live, so I’m keeping my eyes on the middle(s) and all the goodness they have to offer.  Here’s hoping one is just up ahead.

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!