advice

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.

5 Things We Don’t Have to Do (List-cember #9)

I feel like a lot of end of year posts tell of things you did, and New Year’s posts tell of things you want to do or think you should. But for this last List-cember post, I wanted to share five things we don’t have to do—even though the world suggests we should.

There are so many good things in this world. So many good people, good hearts, good intentions and good words, but they are so often shoved into the background by greed, selfishness, jealousy, pride and fear—many of which are celebrated or encouraged—intentionally or not—by and on social media.

So, as we reflect on the year we’ve just finished and look forward into the year we have ahead, let’s try and remember that we don’t have to do these things, even if they seem easy, popular or what everyone else is doing.

Also, please hear me when I say that I don’t write this post from a motherly, all knowing, “perfect” perspective. I am just as guilty of these things as anyone else, and I write this as a letter to myself as well as anyone else who might come across it.

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1) Take things personally

Have you ever been driving on the freeway and wanted to change lanes but the person next to you is either going too slow, too fast, or for whatever reason, just won’t let you over, so you are FUMING, spewing words of hate at this person for being a terrible, selfish driver? Have you ever done so without turning on your blinker, thus not giving the person next to you any reason to know anything about your desire/need to change lanes, thus making them not a selfish, clueless idiot, but just an uninformed driver who is simply trying to get to their destination just like you?

I saw a post on Twitter a while back where a girl shared that one of the most valuable things her therapist ever told her was: “Not everything is about you.” While this seemed obvious at first, I realized how often I too assume this—as a driver or otherwise. Not necessarily in a selfish way, but in an anxious one that suggests, somehow, that everything everyone is doing is targeted at me—whether that be in a positive or negative way.

This is not necessarily surprising, as digital media has made us all believe we are the center of the universe. Algorithms are designed to cater to our needs and technology has been created to satisfy our every whim within seconds. As a result, I think we tend to forget that we aren’t the center of the universe. That there are opinions, perspectives and values that are different than ours—will always be different than ours—and those differences aren’t an attack on us, but rather a truth for someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, our values are important. Removing toxic people and things from your life is important. Unfollowing and/or muting friends and family members that only bring you frustration is important. Fighting for what you believe in is important. But encouraging progress and community by holding room for healthy conversations between opposing perspectives, rather than submitting to the taught behavior of blocking and ignoring all opinions and people that don’t agree with or celebrate you, is one of the most important things we can do right now.

Take a minute. Turn on your blinker and look out for others’. Remember that the things people say and the opinions they hold are built on more than just impulsivity. We are all products of our unique upbringings, and our values are defined by our core experiences. Your way of living is not the only way. So while you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to those blatantly trying to belittle or destroy your or others’ way of life, you also shouldn’t always assume that someone else’s way of life is a direct attack, slight, or even remotely related to or taking concern with yours. It is not always about you, or me, or any single person. Life was given to and made for all of us, and we can all make the world a better place by sharing our unique perspectives and listening to those of others.

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2) Have the last word

The idea of the “clap back”—of having a good retort to an insult or sarcastic comment—has become very popular online. People love to see the drama, to see the perfectly worded arguments and digital slaps to the face. I get it. I’ve tuned in to the drama and I understand wanting to be the smartest, wittiest or toughest. It can give you confidence, it can make you feel like the bigger person. But a lot of the time, it just drags you down.

Sometimes you might say something you don’t mean, just because you were trying so hard not to be the person who was left speechless or proved wrong. Sometimes you set yourself up for more hurt than the comment is worth. Sometimes you forget you can just let things go.

You can let the argument end, you can release the negativity associated with the situation. You can be the better person and realize that, maybe it doesn’t serve you to continue to try say the most hurtful, most clever, or most sarcastic thing. A lot can be said with silence. With not giving in to the invitation to fight or tear down.

Plus, the thing about drama is there will always be more, and people will always move on to the next big thing. But you, me, we are all left with the consequences of our actions, of our “last words.” So maybe sometimes we don’t throw that final punch, maybe we react with kindness, or maybe we say nothing at all.  

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3) Lean on drama for conversation

I am someone who at times is self-conscious about lulls in conversations. I often feel very responsible for keeping conversations going and read awkward silences as a fault or failure of mine. As a result, sometimes when I can’t think of anything else to say, my mind will reach for details that I’ve seen online or heard in passing conversation. Rumors beg to be spread in those moments, it’s what keeps them alive. But maybe next time you catch yourself without an obvious next topic of conversation, you don’t turn to the gossip and drama of other people’s lives. Maybe you just relax into a moment of thought. Maybe you get a little vulnerable and share something about your own life that you’ve never shared before. Maybe we stop spreading (or starting) negativity or judgement just to protect ourselves from discomfort or awkwardness.

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4) Make sense to everyone

2021 was a big year of getting to know myself. I spent a lot of time alone, a lot of time experiencing my own company and everything that entails. I got to know what I like and don’t like without the context, and thus the opinions or judgements of other people. Sometimes it was magical, sometimes it was terrifying and lonely. Because when you really get to know yourself, you learn who you truly are, and in understanding and accepting that person, it becomes harder and harder to present anyone else to others. And sometimes, when you present your truest self to others, it doesn’t make sense to them.

But that’s okay.

Your likes, dislikes, values, opinions, quirks and choices will not always make sense to everyone—and sometimes won’t make sense to anyone but you. But you are the only person living your life, so when it comes down to it, the only person you should make sense to is you.

The term “relatable” has become so enamored and sought after. We want other people to relate to and understand us, especially in our most vulnerable places. But it often takes someone stepping outside the box of relatability to share something actually relatable—even if it’s only to a select few people.

So let’s stop worrying about making sense to every person we meet—or every person we love. Let’s just learn who we are in our most honest states, and start introducing those people to the world.

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5) Witch Hunt

I get that the world has a lot of flaws, and I agree that some of them are unforgivable. I believe that there are people who abuse their power, manipulate others, commit unimaginable crimes, and treat people as less than human. There are people who need to be taken down, laws that need to be changed, directions and attitudes in the public that need to be adjusted and corrected. But waiting in the wings, listening with ears that only aim to cancel and condemn, and borderline hoping that someone makes a mistake solely so you can put them in their place—namely on video or in the spotlight of the social media comment section—does not actually do the world any good.

We live in a world that thrives off of cancel culture. Everyone claims to be furthering a greater cause, when most people are really just screaming at each other from opposing sides of an argument. We’ve stopped looking for ways to connect with each other and instead obsess over ways to destroy each other. We dig into each other’s pasts, unwilling to take notice of whether previous opinions, comments or mistakes have led us to become better, more productive, more educated human beings. We negate all progress and feed only on persecution, convinced that the destruction of bad people will result in the flourishment of good people. But we forget how much life goes into forming an opinion or person, and how far a simple redirection can go. How far a story can go. How far our vulnerability, our willingness to explain where we stand and why we stand there, can go.

So don’t write people off after one mistake. Don’t witch hunt. Don’t feed off of the failure of others. Communicate, encourage, and redirect. Prioritize community over cancellation.

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Happy New Year, y’all. May we take extra time and care to make this year as bright as possible, for as many as possible.

Wishing only good things for you, see you in 2022!


Check out more List-cember posts here.

17 Things that Inspired Me This Year (List-cember #5)

Inspiration is my drug of choice. You’re allowed to roll your eyes at that, but there is truly nothing that drives and excites me more than those feelings of “how did she do that?!” or “I never thought about it that way!” or “I want to try that!!” or “WOW!” So I make it a point to save, follow and emulate things that inspire me so that the effect is not a one-time thing, but a constant, ongoing experience.

This year, these are the things that inspired me:

1) This blog post about popcorn

2) Zion

Which we visited in April and I wrote this blog post about.

3) These Podcast Episodes

  • A Slight Change of Plans, Episode #1, A Black Musician Takes on the KKK
  • Heavyweight, Episode #36, Brandon
  • Proverbs 31 Podcast, Episode: 3 Questions to Ask when Faith Feels Impossible

4) Jay Lee Painting on Youtube

5) “Never underestimate the big importance of small things” – from The Midnight Library

And honestly the whole book, which inspired me to write this post.

6) Graves into Gardens by Elevation Worship

7) Paulie’s Push

I read this man’s story here and then started following his journey on Instagram (@pauliespush) and loved every step of it!

8) The Mile an Hour project

9) The Balanced Life Pilates

I came across this organization when they did their free 5-Day Refresh + Reset Pilates challenge (which I think is only available through their website now) and decided to give it a try. I had never done pilates before but I liked that these workouts were designed to be short and concise, so you can easily integrate them into your daily routine. They were great for beginners and I felt like I was able to keep up without wondering if I was going to die. Which is always nice. Going forward, I’m going to try out more of their content on YouTube and then decide whether I might give their subscription service a try too!

10) This:

11) This article written about the best life lessons people learned in 2020

12) Headspace by Riley Clemmons

13) @ememem.flacking on Instagram

Who adds some wonder to cracks in the sidewalk 🙂

14) CODA

This movie inspired me in the way that I was truly awestruck by how beautiful sign language is. It is a full body kind of communication and I am so drawn to that. It is one of my life goals to learn ASL and this movie added an exclamation point to that hope!

15) Be Like Benji

One of the best parts about Yoga with Adriene’s videos (besides the yoga, of course) is the cameo her dog Benji makes—which is usually him napping in the corner of the screen. This animated video put out by her team teaches the value of “box breath”, which can help with stress and anxiety, and is just about the most precious thing ever. The full video is available on her website fwfg.com, but even the trailer can bring you some calm.

16) This post:

17) The Olympics

I am never not inspired by the incredible stories that come out of the Olympics, and the 2020/2021 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo seemed particularly special, as it was a time for the world to join together and marvel at the incredibly resilient athletes. My family and I even had our own “Olympic” moment this year, and it’s one I’ll never forget.


Did anything particularly inspire you this year? Let me know!

Check out more List-cember posts here.

The Best Things I Bought This Year (List-cember #3)

Since we are in the spirit of recommendations this week, and because I never get tired of reading lists of random things people like/bought/just thought were cool, I thought I’d share a handful of things I’m glad I bought this year. It’s a little bit of everything, which I personally find to be the most dangerous kind of list, because you can’t immediately convince yourself you won’t be tempted to buy anything because you don’t know what’s coming next.

In other words, this list is my (wallet’s) worst nightmare. So I apologize in advance if you find yourself *adding to cart* but just know that I love everything on this list so actually that apology was fake and I think you should do it.

1) Third Love Bras

These were mentioned on an early favorites post and they hold up. They are the first bras that have ever really fit me and they are SO comfortable. I will recommend them until my dying day. (find them here)

2) Ray-Ban sunglasses (Erika Classic)

For years I bought $10 sunglasses that I would throw in my purse and wear until they were too scratched to see out of, thinking I was a bargain shopper. But then I bought these and realized I was just being cheap and more or less going blind because none of those glasses were polarized and how was I even driving while wearing them? Things are better now. (find them here)

3) Aerie no-show underwear

I don’t know how to recommend underwear other than by saying, BUY THIS UNDERWEAR, because that’s the kind of customer review that really drives home a sale for me. So just, like, buy them. (find them here)

4) Free to Grow Tote bag from The Tote Project

I love this company and the causes it supports, and so I was happy to purchase a tote. I did not plan on falling in love with this tote, but I did. I take it on every grocery shopping trip. We have bought so much ice cream together. (find it here)

5) Lounge shorts from Old Navy

In the dead of summer, we all need a pair of shorts we can put on after we get home from work and rip our professional pants off. These were my go-to shorts. They are comfortable and just the right amount of high waisted. (find them here)

6) Big bottle of First Aid Beauty moisturizer

I feel like I could go on and on about this moisturizer as a moisturizer, but I also feel like that’s been said and done on many a beauty review. So instead I’m just here to tell you to buy the big bottle. It has lasted me almost the entire year, which is magical for any skincare product. So if/when (and it should be when) you buy this, go BIG. It’s worth it. (find it here)

7) Bralettes from Forever 21

I love doing yoga, but it is hard to find good shirts to do yoga in. Sometimes tank tops are too tight, other times t-shirts are too baggy and you wind up borderline suffocating while trying to hold downward dog. So, I started wearing these bralettes that are both cheap, comfortable, and not in danger of having a boob pop out. They check all of my boxes. (find them here)

8) Plain white Vans

For a long time I’ve wanted a pair of plain white sneakers because they go with everything and, if you can keep them relatively clean, I feel like they make you look like you’re put together. These were the perfect pair for me. (find them here)

9) Amazon Smart Plug

I never foresaw myself being one of the those people who has a “smart house.” I thought I might get a clap-on light—maybe. But I didn’t think I’d dip my toe into the world of Alexa being my appliance secretary. However, when my sister and I moved into our new apartment at the beginning of this year and the plug for my lamp was in seemingly the most inconvenient place, I decided to try an Amazon Smart Plug so that Alexa could do the footwork for me. Now I ask her to turn on my light every night and I say thank you as if she is a real person. (find it here)

10) Candles

In the last place my sister and I lived, it was part of our lease that we weren’t allowed to have candles in the house. This was devastating to me because I love candles and there are few things I enjoy more than standing in the candle aisle at the store sniffing. In our new place however, candles are fair game and I have been taking FULL advantage. Life is better and our apartment smells like heaven. (I like this one from Trader Joe’s and this one from Target)

11) Kate Spade purse

This is easily the most expensive thing on this list but not nearly expensive as it could have been because I bought it on super sale and felt like I was getting away with murder. For anyone out there wondering if they should get a new purse, this is your sign. Check out surprise.katespade.com. I won’t tell anyone. (find it here)

12) Small crossbody purse

Speaking of purses, shortly after I bought my Kate Spade bag, I realized that there are probably going to be a lot of occasions when I don’t need my Mary Poppins purse. Say, when I’m traveling, or going to the beach. So I grabbed this guy at Target that gives me just enough room to carry my phone, a small wallet and some chapstick and it has been perfect. (find it here)

13) Neutrogena Hydro Boost Eye Cream

I’ve had some troubles with eye allergies for the last couple years and at times it’s felt like I was Ryan Gosling, standing in front of Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, asking my eyes, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” Because it felt like everything I tried made things worse. But, with the help of these eye drops that I mentioned in a past favorites post, and this eye cream, I feel like me and my eyes are finally friends again. (find them at Target)

14) Pill case

This is the cutest little guy that I like to fill with varying assortments of (non prescription) pills in order to be the person that says, “yes! I have that” whenever someone should need an Advil, Benadryl, iron supplement, lactaid, etc. (find it here)

15) Floral Laptop case

I started a big writing project this summer and decided I wanted to buy a new laptop case to celebrate. It was kind of like buying a new outfit for the first day of school and I loved it. (find it here)

16) Amazon Utility hooks

I bought these when we moved into our new apartment on the off chance I might use them to hang things. And let me tell you, I hung EVERYTHING. These are so easy to install and can hold a good amount of weight. At this point they are like hidden Mickeys in our apartment. (find them here)

17) Foam Roller

I started going to the chiropractor this year and she recommended I buy one of these to do back stretches at home in between sessions. For me, it is a night and day difference. Plus, I learned to roll out my legs and my IT band has never been so happy with me.  (find it here)

18) Chick-fil-a Sauce

One day I was at the grocery store and I saw a two-for-one deal on full size Chick-fil-a sauces, so naturally I partook. I assumed I’d use it every once in a while, but I ended up putting it on practically everything. I was completely devastated when I ran out and I bought more the minute I went back to the store—it wasn’t on sale anymore but I didn’t even hesitate. That’s true love. (I found it at Ralph’s but check your local grocery store sauce aisle or probably Chick-fil-a…)

19) Olive & June Dry Drops

Let me start by saying, I have no idea how these work. All I know is: they do. If you do (or at least attempt) home manicures, you have to try these. I am the queen of smudging my thumb the minute after I paint it, and then proceeding to hate-remove the polish on every single nail as a result. But these babies dry your nails almost instantly, leaving little room for even me to mess them up. They are magic! (find them here)

20) Target blankets

At the start of fall, my sister and I decided to clean out our blanket stash. Some, of course, are sacred and irreplaceable, even when they’re shredded and old and barely alive. But others simply sit at the bottom of the pile, unused and unpicked, still in great shape but very much not the favorite. So, we separated out the ones we never use and donated them, and then bought two new ones from Target. Cozy doesn’t even begin to describe them.  (find them here and here)


Did you buy anything especially great this year? My wallet is both scared and curious to know.

Check out more List-cember posts here.

My 2021 Rec Roundup (List-cember #2)

“Best of” lists at the end of the year are some of my favorite things to read. So I always like to include my Rec Roundup in List-cember as my way of contributing to those.

If I were tougher, I’d rank the items in each category from 1 to 10, but honestly, narrowing myself down to 10 choices is hard enough.

So, these are my favorite favorites from this year. I hope you enjoy!

Note: these aren’t necessarily things that came out in 2021, but they are things that I found this year and loved.

Books

  • Survive the Night by Riley Sager
  • The Noticer by Andy Andrews
  • The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Guest List by Lucy Foley
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Live in Love by Lauren Akins
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Podcasts

  • CounterClock (especially season three!)
  • My Unsung Hero
  • Live in Love Podcast
  • A Slight Change of Plans
  • The Happiness Lab
  • The Basement Yard
  • Anatomy of Murder
  • The Proverbs 31 Ministries Podcast
  • Bouncing Forward with Amy Purdy
  • Other People’s Lives

Movies

  • Coda
  • The Last Letter from Your Lover
  • Tell Me Who I Am
  • The Broken Hearts Gallery
  • INSIDE
  • The Year Earth Changed
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Dig
  • The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

TV Shows

  • Panic (Amazon Prime)
  • Love Life (HBO Max)
  • Bridgerton (Netflix)
  • The White Lotus (HBO Max)
  • Mare of Easttown (HBO Max)
  • Starstruck (HBO Max)
  • Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
  • Barry (HBO Max)
  • The Wilds (Prime Video)
  • The Morning Show (Apple TV+)

Music

  • Obviously by Lake Street Dive
  • All In by John Splithoff
  • Songs to Break Up To by Wild Rivers
  • Godsend by Riley Clemmons
  • One Foot in Front of the Other by Griff
  • SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo
  • star-crossed by Kacey Musgraves
  • Into the Mystery by Needtobreathe
  • Red (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift
  • 30 by Adele

Misc

Modern Different Newsletter: I’ll admit, I went in hard on newsletters this year. I subscribed to many—some might say too many—and as a result, I often fell behind on reading them. Never this one though. I always liked seeing a new issue in my inbox and I loved the unique product recommendations that were always inside. (find it here.)

Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi: This was easily my most made recipe of the year. It’s easy, it’s delicious and it makes a lot. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a quick weeknight dinner! (find the recipe here)

KIND Bar Subscription: I never would have imagined I’d be a loyal subscriber to KIND bar content, but here we are. After trying and loving their Breakfast Protein Bars at the beginning of the year, I subscribed to their delivery service, that gives you x number of bars (you choose) per month/every other month/etc. I love having a variety of different choices to grab on the go for breakfast, and in doing the math, I’m saving money in the long run by ordering them in bulk straight from the source! I’d love to say this is sponsored, but it is isn’t—though it could be, Mrs. KIND. (find it here.)

Do you have any favorites from this year?

Let me know!


Check out more List-cember posts here.

And you can check out last year’s Rec Roundup here.

This Thanksgiving, Right Now

At Thanksgiving time, it’s common practice to take note of what you’re thankful for. It helps pull you into the present moment, as we often spend too much time looking ahead—looking for what’s next.

Thanksgiving says, look at everything you have right now and worry about the future later. Which is good. But lately I’ve been worrying about the future in a different way.

Growing up, the future has always promised more. More freedom, more understanding, more confidence, more love, more friends, more money, more adventure, etc. Everything that hasn’t happened yet can only happen in the future, so it seems the future is the place you always want to be.

I know that I’ve reached for (and relied upon) the future, hoping it has answers and solutions that I’ve long awaited. Hoping it holds happy endings to the stories I’m writing in my life. But I also worry (and know) that it will hold things I’m not ready for. Things I’ll want to trade everything to be back on this side of.

Sometimes when I think about the future, I think of everything I will have to give up to get there. And while I look forward to the people, places and things that await me in the years to come, I hope they know (and I remember) what I’m sacrificing to reach them. I’m not just giving up the hard parts and the unanswered questions. I’m giving up all the little, magical things that exist in my day to day that I might not even notice—things I won’t miss until their gone; I’m giving up all of the unique peace that exists in between the current chaos I want to move past; and I’m giving up the naivety that exists in this world before the hard parts that lie ahead.

I’ve been through hard parts in my life. I’ve gone through good seasons and bad ones. And when I look back on the times before the bad seasons, I long for those last few moments of innocence and ignorance. But then I remember all of the good things I didn’t know, all of the magic I was yet to discover, and I feel an appreciation for those hard times and where they have brought me.

The same might be true of what is to come. And I look forward to all of the life I will get the chance to live. But for today, I’m trying to be thankful for what I have right now. The people that are around me, the place I live, the way I feel, what I’m hoping for and working towards, what the world looks like, and the things that make me smile, laugh and clap my hands. Everything that defines this Thanksgiving, this year.

If I’m lucky, I will have many Thanksgivings to come. But this is the one and only time I will have this Thanksgiving, the one and only time I will have today, and I want to embrace and exist in it, before it becomes a memory.

So future, while I’m excited to see you, I can wait. For now, I’m good right here.

There are a lot of good things right here.

Setting “Should” Boundaries

A few weeks ago I got a notification informing me that my blog has been active for eight years.

I always take these anniversaries with an asterisk, because technically I started my blog, wrote one post and then forgot about it for an entire year. BUT it was that decision to start it eight years ago that got me here today, so I’ll take the celebrations as they come.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you might know that I have a tendency to be very anxious. This is something I’ve always known about myself, but have been slowly unpacking the depth of for about, well, the last eight years.

The best way I can describe it is that I once felt like a knot made up of hundreds of other knots. And I was just walking around, rigid and terrified, but not sure why or how I got like that. But then, slowly, one by one, I’ve started to untie those knots, and with each release comes relief, wonder and understanding. I wouldn’t necessarily call it easy, but it is worth it.

One of those knots that’s recently been bothering me is the word should. And, of course, it’s brother, shouldn’t.

The most basic understanding we are given as children is right and wrong, and thus, should and shouldn’t. But somewhere along the way, these defining directives branch out into areas of our lives that are not so easily understood as black and white. And for me, these words became near biblical in their intensity, outlining each and every minute of my day.

I should eat this, I should wear this, I should say this, I should call her, I should let that go, I should exercise, I shouldn’t eat that, I should go to bed, I shouldn’t watch television, I should be a better friend, I shouldn’t think about that, I should try this, I should stop doing that, I shouldn’t act like this, I shouldn’t feel like that, I should be more of this and less of that.

For a long time, I rationalized my obsession with these words as guidelines—parameters that would allow me to have a good day and thus, live a good life. But recently I’ve realized that these words bring more anxiety to my life than joy, and that I haven’t just been trying to hold myself accountable, I’ve been demanding perfection, and not just my definition of it, but everyone’s.

In doing so, the should’s and shouldn’t’s constantly clashed, not knowing whose standard I should be held to, for how long and for what reason. I was trying to be too many things at once, trying to impress too many people who never would have even noticed, and trying to prevent myself from making a single mistake.

I was living in a very “everyone except me” mindset, in that everyone was allowed to make mistakes, have bad days, get lost, feel sad, and be lazy except me. Because I thought I didn’t deserve that grace. I needed to prove myself. I needed to meet the expectation—everyone’s expectation—even when no one was looking.

This was (and is) a very tangly knot.

There are a lot of things that tie (pun intended) into this mindset. A lot of things I have to both learn and unlearn from past experiences. But I am relieved to find the clarity that it’s not the way I have to live.

And it’s not the way you have to live either.

I am trying to set “should” boundaries.

When a should question comes up, I’m asking why?

Should I do_____

Should I say _______

Should I change ________

Why?

Is it because I want to? Because I think it could help me, encourage me, inspire me, or make me feel better?

Or is it because I think it’s what other people expect of me, what society or social media demands of me, or because I don’t think I’m good enough as I am?

Other people—friends, family and strangers alike—can come into play in these questions, and so I know it can’t always be as simple as “do I want to do this?” But when I’m sitting on my couch on a weeknight, wanting to watch television; when I wake up on a Saturday morning, later than everyone else; when I don’t want to go out or have a drink or do what everyone else is doing; when my mind starts to spiral, turning a simple preference, habit or decision into a reason that people are going to be mad at me, reject me or leave me behind—that’s when I know I have to set a “should” boundary.

I am allowed to do the “wrong” thing, the thing that is not the healthiest or the most productive or the most popular. I am allowed to have bad days where I don’t say the right thing or I can’t express how I’m feeling or I just want to be alone. And on the flip side of things, I am allowed to make healthy choices, even when everyone else isn’t, even when it seems uncool or slightly pretentious—this doesn’t mean I’m judging them, it just means I’m doing what makes me feel good.

The bottom line of it all reminds me that I am living my life and everyone else is living theirs. I am the only person living inside my body and feeling my feelings, so I am the only one that can truly understand the benefits and consequences of the should’s and shouldn’t’s that come my way. So I can’t ask myself to be perfect—especially to everyone. I can’t even ask myself to be liked by everyone. I can only ask myself to be honest, and sometimes a little brave.

When I created my blog eight years ago, my mind was swarming with shouldn’t’s, but I did the unthinkable at the time and listened to the single, solitary should that sat inside me. And I’ve never regretted it.

So thanks for giving me a safe place to untangle these knots. I’ve still got a long way to go, but the load gets lighter every day!

The Pants Can’t Do Everything

Confession: I like online shopping.

The ease. The convenience. The ability to make fun mail arrive on my doorstep. It is wonderful.

But sometimes I use shopping—or perhaps, the items I shop for—in a way that I shouldn’t. I pretend that shopping will solve my problems or make me feel better when it won’t. I try to shop my way to somewhere, something or someone, hoping a certain pair of pants, sweater, t-shirt, jean jacket, pair of shoes, book, journal, coffee mug or eyeshadow palette will do all the leg work for me.

Do you know what I mean?

Sometimes I feel down or lonely or out of sorts and I will have a certain struggle on my mind, but rather than actively working through that struggle, rather than talking to a friend, exercising, journaling, meditating, going for a walk, reading my bible, or just sitting in the struggle as it works itself out, I will shop.

I will look at prayer journals, assuming that if I buy that journal, I will become a better, more productive prayer and I will strengthen my relationship with God.

I will look at running shorts and assume that if I can find them in my size, I will improve my mile time and get in incredible shape and finally be proud and comfortable in my body.

I will look at shoes and imagine myself strutting confidently, my introversion thrown out the window. I will look at t-shirts and imagine myself casual and cool, someone people admire and envy and wish they could be like. I will look at makeup and imagine I am as beautiful as all the girls I see in the magazines. I will look at blazers and imagine myself at the top of the corporate ladder, financially stable, with the ability to travel anywhere at any time.

I rely on objects to make me a different person, rather than giving myself time to grow into the person that I actually am. And oftentimes the girl I’m picturing in all of these fantasies, the girl who stars in all of the daydreams that convince me to add to cart, is not me at all. She is a version of me that I’ve convinced myself is “the right” version. The version that the media has deemed pretty, successful, worthy, etc. So when the packages arrive full of clothes and things that are supposed to fit her, they don’t fit me. I don’t like the way they look or maybe a part of me is just disappointed that my daydream didn’t come true. That even though I have these new shoes, I’m still unhappy or lonely. Or even though I bought that eyeshadow palette, that relationship didn’t pan out the way I hoped it would. Even though I bought this or subscribed to that, I am still me, in the same place, with all the same struggles.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with shopping. There’s nothing wrong with buying something that you want, that makes you feel good and inspires you to go out there, try new things and better yourself. There’s also nothing wrong with manifestation. With buying something that can help you picture a specific dream and can help motivate you to chase it.

What I’m doing is shopping in place of feeling. In place of listening to what I really need and want—even though in the moment it might seem like what I both want and need is that pair of leggings THAT ARE ON SALE.  I want to stop shopping under the assumption that buying something is the same as doing something or trying something.

Buying running shorts won’t make me a better runner. Running will.

Buying a journal won’t create a daily journaling habit for me. Journaling daily will.

I have to put in the work to make what I buy capable of fulfilling what I dreamt it could.

I have to be the person in the shoes or the pants or the dress and I have to appreciate how I wear them, not wish they turned me into someone else.

I have to live my own life, my things can’t do that for me.

So maybe I don’t need those pants today. Maybe I just need to take a deep breath and figure out what it is I really want—and then go out and get it.

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.

The One Question I Keep Asking Myself

When I was little, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I was in high school, I was often asked what I was going to study in college.

When I was in college, I was often asked what my plans were after graduation.

When I reached my mid-twenties, I was often asked when I was going to get married.

And now that I sit at almost 31, unmarried and with no kids, I know I still have a lot of questions to come.

I used to believe that once I got the answer to these questions, I would have lived (or be living) a successful life. But then, as each question slowly got answered, I was disappointed to find that another one was always waiting right behind it. And each one got bigger and scarier and more life defining.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention behind these questions. They are shortcuts into getting to know someone. They are milestones that connect people. But I have also felt the pressure of these questions. Of entering a conversation and immediately feeling uncomfortable, praying that I won’t be asked the questions I don’t have an answer to yet, because they make me feel like less of an adult, or even, less of a person. I feel like a failure for not having reached some of the major milestones that my friends, family or some random stranger has, and I spiral into self-doubt and self-hatred, wishing I could change parts of my life that have made me intrinsically me.

And so, I have tried to start asking myself better questions. Mainly one in particular.

For me, right now, I am single and entering into the second year of my thirties. I am a rarity among my friend group, with no boyfriend, fiancé or husband, and no kids. I have worked the same job for over a decade that is not related to the field I studied in college, and I don’t really have a long term “career” path in mind. But that doesn’t make me a failure. It doesn’t make me less of an adult or less of a woman or less of a person. It just makes my path different than theirs.

So, a question I’ve tried to start asking myself is: what can I learn here?

Because one day, I won’t be single. One day I will have kids. One day I will have a new job. One day I will live in a new place. One day my life will look completely different than it does today, and yet, people will still have their questions, I will still have my fears, and there will still be reasons for me to wonder if I’m doing any of this right.

But right now, I’m here. And I believe I’m here for a reason. There are still things for me to learn, people for me to meet, ideas to form, conversations to be had, moments to be experienced and choices to be made. And so I focus on the question that has to do with where I am, not where people want me to go, or where everyone else seems to be.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking, I find myself trying. I find myself searching my surroundings, noticing slow magic, and finding joy in small things that otherwise would have been missed.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking I find potential. I learn more about myself, about what I like to do, what I want to do, and what I’m capable of doing.

What can I learn here? I ask.

And in asking I find peace. Memories long buried turn over in my head, unfelt feelings rise to the surface and new understandings dawn.

When I ask myself what more there is for me to find and learn exactly where I am, I better appreciate that place—this place—rather than wish it into the past in favor of checking off an item on a list, or staying on track with lives and paths that aren’t mine.

There will always be questions, and that’s okay. If there are more questions to ask, that means there is more life to live. But I’m trying to stay focused on one question, as it’s the only one that keeps me present and moves me forward at the same time.

What can I learn here? I ask, and the answers abound.