motivation

My Least Favorite Question

There is one question that haunts my dreams. One question that I have tried to master my entire life, but still find myself quaking in its presence. This question rattles me to my core, it can make me reconsider absolutely everything in my life, and can even make me want to stand up from a conversation and run all the way home.

This question is: What’s new?

Meant as a breezy conversation starter and a ticket to deeper connection, to me this question often feels more like a challenge. It asks, “what have you been doing with your time since I last saw you—I hope it’s impressive!”

I once had someone say, “So, what’s new? And DON’T say nothing.”

In one sense, I understand what they meant. If I say, “nothing”, or its neighbor, “not much, how about you?” the conversation takes on a staleness that is hard to break out of. It’s polite and awkward and feels more like playing a robotic game of catch rather than a leisurely round of catch up. I get that, and if I was the one starting the game of “what’s new”, a reply of “nothing” would discourage me too.

But then, this seemingly simple question also makes me feel very nervous. It asks too much of me without really asking anything at all. When asked, even by a close friend or family member I’ve known my whole life, I feel like I’m suddenly on stage in front of thousands of people, with a hot spotlight shining bright on my face. I feel like the question asks me to prove that I’m living a meaningful life, that I’m being productive, that I’m successful, that I am worth the time this person is spending with me.

What’s new?

The question bounces around in my brain, searching, begging my memory banks to pull something from the last few weeks or months—anything I can tell them that might make them say, “wow!” or “that’s exciting!”

I look for a story or a big life event or a punchline that can kick off the conversation and make them glad they decided to talk to me.

But most of the time, unless I have something specific at the ready, my honest answer will be “nothing.” Not because I have been standing stationary, eating nothing but beans since the last time I saw them—though this would probably make for an interesting story—but because I get so nervous that my answer will be unimpressive or boring, that I can’t think of a single thing.

The truth is, I usually have a lot to say. And I want to open up and share those things, but it just takes me a minute. My mind has to survey the situation, seeing if it feels safe enough for me to let the walls down and let you in on everything—to really tell you what’s new. But chances are, a lot of “what’s new” is completely internal. Maybe I’ve learned something about myself, or untied a knot that held me hostage for a long time. Maybe I did a workout the other day that gave me the slightest bit more confidence in my body, or just started working on a creative project that I’m really excited about. Maybe I’ve been harping on something I don’t know how to express yet, or I had a dream that has puzzled me since the morning I woke up with it fresh in my mind. Maybe I’ve just been going about my routine, content as ever, but am worried that is not exciting enough to tell you.

I have never been good at conversational shortcuts. People who can sit down and immediately tell you what’s on their mind have always amazed me. Because I need time. I need to take the long way. I need you to do the heavy lifting while my brain boots up and prepares all of the funny or inspiring moments I might have experienced since the last time I saw you. I want time to remember all of the interesting anecdotes I’ve recently learned from podcasts, articles, movies, tv shows and books. I want time to recall the questions I have for you, that will perhaps invite us into the deeper conversation we’re both hoping for.

I know I can’t stop people from asking “what’s new?” And honestly, I’m not trying to. I understand it’s purpose in the conversation universe, and I understand that much of my distaste for it stems from my own insecurities. At the end of the day, we all have a lot of “new” because we’ve all woken up each morning and experienced day after day, with countless thoughts, ideas, hopes, desires, heartbreaks, frustrations and delights. Sometimes it’s just hard to recall them in a few seconds, after a two-word question, when it feels like the fate of a conversation is in your hands.  You know?

So this week, as we walk into the holday season, maybe we all just give each other a little time. Ask the question but maybe follow it up with something more specific, like “what was the best part of your week?” or “have you read/watched/eaten anything good lately?” or “what’s something you’re excited about?” Something that might spark a memory in the other person rather than leave them floundering in their mind, wondering if they’re doing anything with their life.

Give conversations room to take the long way around. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

You Can

Is there a place you’ve always wanted to go to?

A thing you’ve always wanted to try?

A bucket list item that you always bring up excitedly, but then follow it up with a gloomy, wistful “someday”?

Is there something you keep adding to your want-to-do list?

An idea bouncing around in your head that you never say out loud to anyone else?

Is there something you keep wanting to do or try or see or say or explore or learn that you keep talking yourself out of, saying, “but I can’t”?

I just want to remind you that you can.

I know there are obstacles. Some small, some big.

I know your calendar is full and you don’t have time, and what about all of your responsibilities or what if you fail or what if you embarrass yourself or maybe it’s too far or too hard or something only other people get to do, or maybe it’s just too expensive or you don’t have anything to wear or it’s just a crazy idea or WHATEVER.

I know all the reasons why not. Maybe not for you, for your situation, for your life, right now, but I know what it’s like to want to do something and have your mind tell you every reason why you shouldn’t or can’t or should just put it aside for “someday.”

I’m just here to remind you that you can make someday sooner.

That you can shape it. That you can make it happen.

The world can throw a lot of curveballs at us, and we can get lost in the chaos of those curveballs. We can watch our lives fly by. We can pretend like the rest of the world is only for other people. We can convince ourselves that our plans have no place in the future—only in our dreams.

But while we’re here, while we’re living these lives that are ours and ours alone, why not try or see or explore the things that stir something up inside us? Why live in the mindset of “I can’t” when the very loud and obvious truth is you can?

You can take that trip—maybe not today, this moment, but you can start saving for it, start planning for it, and make it happen.

You can do that thing—take that class, try that new hobby, climb that mountain, write that book, pursue that dream.

Think about the times you’ve said to yourself, “I want to try that,” or, “I want to go there,” or, “I wonder what that’s like.”

And then give yourself permission to find out. To plan. To start saving money. To take the steps forward to do the thing.

There are always going to be reasons why you can’t. But it’s important to remember that you can.

Look for the Heart Shaped Pizzas

When I was in high school, I was part of my church youth group. On Wednesday nights, we would get together to worship, hear a sermon, and then hang out and talk. The boys liked to skateboard and play tag and do stunts that would make me say, “that doesn’t look safe.” And the girls would talk and shoot basketballs and try to figure out what in the world it meant to be a teenager.

I wouldn’t be unique in saying that, for me, being a teenager was hard. It was confusing and awkward and terrifying. Nothing felt normal or safe or easy. And on top of the things I was going through in my own body and mind, the world threw a few curveballs at me that really rattled my foundation.

Death, betrayal, and new levels of fear burst through the bubble I’d been living in, introducing me to dark parts of the world I wasn’t ready for. Every direction I turned had a new mountain to climb, or hole to dig out of, or an empty room to sit in that used to be full.

Each shot came at me and I took it, though I didn’t really absorb the pain, at least not in a way I was able to process. I was sad and angry and confused, but I was also 15 and 16 and 17, just trying to get that cute boy to notice me or to pass my Economics final. There were a lot of emotions competing for the surface, and the fun ones were more enticing.

One Wednesday, when I went to youth group, we met in the Fellowship Hall, which is like a banquet room. There were round tables set up and we were assigned seats. Heart shaped pizzas sat in the middle of each table. I sat down in my spot, nervous, but hungry, and listened for further instructions.

The theme of the night was love. It was sharing the hard parts of our lives so that we might be able to help one another work through, overcome, or at the very least talk about them. I peeled pepperoni off my slice of pizza and then took a big bite. A few people at my table shared before me. They talked about fighting parents, divorced parents, difficult relationships with siblings or friends. I chewed on my slice of pizza and then had another.

When it came to my turn, I took a deep breath and then started talking. I assumed it would be like giving an oral report—simply stating the facts. But once I started, I realized how heavy it had all been to hold.

“It’s just been really hard,” I said. And then I burst into tears.

This shocked everyone at my table, as no one before me had cried, or even welled up. No one at any of the surrounding tables was emotional either. But I was suddenly sobbing. My youth group leader walked over and scooped me into a hug. She rubbed my back and I cried in shuddering breaths and sniffles. I kept trying to stop, embarrassed at the scene I was making, but it just kept coming.

As I leaned into her chest, the boy beside me was asked to share. To continue the process so people would stop staring at me. I listened as he shared a story of an abusive stepparent and then I instantly stopped crying. The grief that had literally spilled out of me was instantly swallowed by shame.

I felt guilty for being so overwhelmed by what I was going through, because clearly it wasn’t as hard as what he was going through. I was embarrassed for crying. I went home exhausted.

For years afterward, I didn’t cry in front of people. I’m still not good at it. There is still a shame buried deep inside me, something that tells me that if I breakdown I will look stupid, ignorant of the realer, harder problems happening around me. It takes me right back to that moment in the Fellowship Hall, feeling like maybe I was just weak.

I say this now, with dots connected, though it took me a long time to figure it out. To pinpoint the when and the why. I used to say, with a sense of pride, “I just don’t really cry.” I used to brag that sad movies never got me. I felt tough, cool, unique. Kim doesn’t cry. She’s so strong.

But I wasn’t.

I was just burying it all. The same way I’d done in high school. And even though it’s what I wanted LEAST, I was walking around with all of that weight, all of that pain, looking for another table with a heart shaped pizza to lay it all down on.

I think for a long time I resented that day. Absolutely HATED that I cried and that I got embarrassed. I fizzled out on youth group after that, just slowly stopped going. Not only because of that night, but I think part of me was terrified it might happen again.

I spent the next decade of my life scared to cry. Scared to be vulnerable. Scared to be weak.

But more and more over the last few years I’ve realized how valid it all was. How justified. How okay. That night I needed to let it go. To let it out. To admit that what I was carrying was heavy.

And no matter what is going on in the lives around me, when something feels heavy to me, it’s heavy.

When something feels heavy to you, it’s heavy.

Being a teenager isn’t easy, but neither is being an adult. Let’s face it, as time goes on, life gets harder and things tend to just get heavier. But I’m learning now that I don’t have to run from the heart shaped pizzas asking me to sit down and lighten my load. I don’t have to pretend to be strong. Sometimes you just have to peel off a pepperoni, take a deep breath, and let it go.

It doesn’t make you weak, it just makes you honest. And when you’re honest, when you’re vulnerable, when you’re brave enough to let it go, you find strength, you find peace, and then you can grab another slice.

Permission to Stay Home

If you’re looking for it, or you know in the back of your mind that you need it, or if you’re just too afraid to ask for it, this is your permission to stay home.

Consider this your field trip slip, signed and ready to be turned in.

You can stay home. You can do nothing. You can just sit or lay down. You can zone out to the TV, or clean until your heart’s content, or read in bed, or marathon movies, or do a craft or a puzzle, or dance around to music that makes you feel good, or cry on the couch, or do anything and everything that you have not given yourself time to do because your schedule is too full, or you’re trying to do too many things at once, or you feel like if you sit at home you’re not “seizing the day” or whatever.

Sometimes you just need to stay home.

Sometimes you just need time to breathe.

Sometimes you just need to shut and lock your door and then stay PUT.

This past weekend, that is what I needed.

For weeks my brain had been jumbled. Jumbled with all of the things that I wanted to do, all the things I had to do, and all the things in between.

I made a to-do list, but every time I looked at it it seemed to be the same length. Nothing was getting crossed off. I was just reviewing everything I hadn’t done, only to then spiral into the same chaotic pattern in which I still didn’t do anything.

A big chunk had to do with my new apartment.

Having just recently moved, I had things strewn about my counters and furniture. Pictures waiting to be hung, boxes waiting to be unpacked, trinkets waiting to be displayed, organized, and, in some cases, glued back together.

I did not have that base yet. That foundation. The one where when you get home from work, you put your purse in one place and kick your shoes off in another; the one where you can sit down on the couch for a few minutes as you decide whether you want to exercise or if you’ll get started on dinner early; the one where, on your way to bed, you hang that one rogue jacket back up in the closet and toss the sock that missed the hamper on top of the rest of dirty clothes, knowing that those two things are the only ones out of place; the one where you go to bed tired, but not stressed, aware of your to-do list for the next day and even excited to add a few more things.

That is my happy place.

But as much as I wanted to get there, I didn’t know how to start moving.

When I got home from work, all I wanted to do was sit down. To take a breath, to try and figure out which thing to do first. But I had this appointment or that commitment, I had too many very fun but very back-to-back plans on the calendar.

Every day when I got home I had somewhere else to get to or something else to get done. And I didn’t have any energy or stamina to get anything done before that. I would just sit, dreading the ticking forward of the clock, and then I would sit up, get where I needed to go and then come home and collapse into bed.

As each day went by, the piles stayed piles, the boxes stayed boxes and the chaos stayed chaos.

For me, this is my nightmare.

And I felt the anxiety of disorganization stack on top of the anxiety of the new changes taking place, and I kept looking left and right, wondering if there was a way I could push pause on everything so I could try and catch up.

Well, that pause came this weekend. It came when I realized I didn’t have anything on the calendar, and when I remembered that I have the power to say, “I AM TURNING INTO A CAVE TROLL THIS WEEKEND.”

Or, in other words, I put my outside life on *do not disturb* and I locked myself in my apartment and got to work.

I sat on the couch when I was tired, I hung things up when I was inspired, I danced around my living room when a good song came on. I moved trinkets from shelf to bookcase to shelf to table to shelf to counter to end table, waiting for it to look “just right.” I ate gummy bears. I watched sports. I made myself dinner. I put my hair in a top knot and didn’t even look at my makeup bag. I wore slippers all day. I cuddled up under a blanket and caught up on the book I’m reading. And then I took a long, hot shower, and went to bed mercifully relaxed.

On Sunday, I did it all again.

And as I sit here, writing this, I feel like an entirely new person.

My calendar is still full, my apartment isn’t finished yet, but MY GOODNESS I’ve come so far in two days.

So, if you’re someone who just needs a *minute*, who is feeling like there are simply too many things being thrown your way or asked of you; if your to-do list is in a stagnant state of long or if it has become something that only gets longer, then you might need to become a cave troll.

Maybe for a night. Maybe for a day. Maybe for a weekend. Maybe for a while.

I don’t know your schedule. I don’t know your responsibilities. But I know that we all need a break sometimes. We all need some time to digest what on earth is going on in our lives.

So, this is your permission to take that time.

To say no to that thing. To clear your calendar of what is superfluous. To take advantage of that empty space. Sit. Lay. Read. Breathe. Do absolutely nothing.

Put the outside world on pause. It will be there for you when you’re ready—and maybe you’ll be a little more ready for it.

Savor the Silver

On a recent episode of Couple Things, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and her husband Andrew East were talking about things they wish they knew when they were young adults.

I liked the episode as I feel like you can never get too much good advice. And one thing that stuck out to me was, “focus more on how your life feels on the inside than it looks on the outside.”

As an example, Shawn briefly told the story of her experience getting a silver medal in the all-around competition at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She said that she was incredibly proud of herself and her performance, and felt like she’d done the absolute best that she could. By contrast, in the balance beam event, she won gold but felt like she could have done better.

After the all-around event, when being interviewed by the press, they focused on that second place finish. They asked her what she did wrong, or what else she could have done to secure herself the gold. But in thinking and reflecting on it, she was more proud of her silver than she was of her gold.

I (like many of us) don’t believe I will ever find myself competing at an Olympic level, but there are many aspects of my life where I catch myself believing that if I am not actively succeeding, if I’m not the best, if I’m not perfect, or if my life isn’t outright impressive to other people, I’m doing something wrong.

Why?

Because I feel like every time I talk to someone new, every time I sit down to talk to a friend I haven’t seen in a while, I feel like they’re going to react the same way the press did to Shawn Johnson. I feel like everyone is ready to ask me what else I could be doing and why I’m not doing it.

Are you really happy with silver?

But rather than silver they say something about my life that they find dissatisfying or unimpressive or just plain boring. Surely they could pick apart the things I like to do, or the path I’ve chosen to get here, or the biggest dreams I have for my life. Given the chance, anyone can make you feel like you are living a silver medal life.

But if that silver means I’m happy, inspired, content, and hopeful for the future; if it means I’m doing everything in my power to make my life a good one, and my days are filled with people and things that make me feel loved and accepted and grateful then PASS ME THAT SILVER BABY. Because it’s a gold to me!

Everyone’s opinion of what makes a “good life” or a “gold medal life” is going to be different. So it’s a waste of time to try and shape your life into their idea of what is “the best.” We are all actively competing in the “all around” life event, but the only person we’re up against is ourselves. We are the athlete and the judges and the press. We know what it feels like to give our best, and we know what it feels like to do our best. So why give anyone else a scorecard or opinion?

Do what feels good. Try and keep trying. Find what makes you happy. And strive for your own version of success. Focus on what your life feels like on the inside rather than what it looks like on the outside.

Embrace Your Multitudes

I just finished watching The Bear on Hulu. While I haven’t counted, I’m probably a season or two behind on at least 15-20 other shows. My wishlist on the library app is 150 books deep. My bucket list has 64 items and only six are crossed off.

When I get an idea for an essay or a blog, I write it down in a moleskin notebook I carry around in my purse. Sometimes I write paragraphs, sometimes I write miscellaneous words, knowing that I’ll understand what I mean later.

When I wake up in the morning, I have a thousand things running around in my head. What I want to do, what I should do, what I could do, what I’ve been needing to do for too long. Little sparks of inspiration and courage flash through my mind, telling me, maybe this is the day we try this or maybe we’re brave enough to start taking steps toward that. And waves of anxiety interrupt those thoughts, saying I don’t think we can do this and we’ll never be good enough for that.

I know my hopes, I know my dreams. I know where I want to be in five years. I know where I want to be in forty. Or at least I think I do. I know what I want based on all the things I know right know.

Some of what I think, I write about. Some of what I think, I share with friends, family or even acquaintances and strangers. But a lot of what I think, a lot of what I know, a lot of what I imagine, is just mine. It lives in my head and it stays there.

A big part of my world is just my mind. It’s the colors it knows, the sounds and the smells. It’s the feelings it feels—sometimes different than the people around me. It’s the way I want to be seen and the way I’m afraid I might be seen. It’s all the things I’ve collected, all the things I’ve explored, and all the things I’m waiting to discover. Everything is a layer, a piece, a portion, a reason, a quirk, a characteristic of me. And no one else has all the same parts.

No one else knows what I’m thinking about when I’m staring off into space. No one knows the exact shade of blue I see when I look up at the sky. No one knows what the sun feels like when it hits my skin. No one knows all the stories I want to write. No one knows all the doors and corners and gardens and gravestones that live inside me.

Last week, there was a terrible car accident in Southern California. A drunk driver sped down a side street, ran a red light and crashed into multiple vehicles, one of which exploded on impact.

In a blink, lives were lost. In a blink, a person, a collection of colors and sounds and smells, of doors and corners and gardens, of layers and pieces and portions was gone—and not just one.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Haven’t stopped imagining what it would be like to be gone in an instant—never even knowing I was leaving.

Sometimes after car accidents like this I try to take comfort in hearing that someone was “killed on impact”, because it meant they felt no pain. But it’s overwhelming—incomprehensible, really—to grasp the weight of a loss that happens in an instant.

All those things that live inside a mind, all the hopes and dreams, all the plans not yet shared, all the one-word notes that won’t make sense to anyone else. Gone.

I’m not one to always treat myself nicely. I don’t spend enough time appreciating the value of being alive—of being me and being alive. But there’s something so strange about knowing that it can all be gone. That sometimes people are just gone. That every day, the world loses unique, creative, inspiring, one of a kind, irreplaceable people. And we never get to know all the things they knew. Never get to see all their colors.

There are so many things happening inside me—inside all of us—all the time, all at once. We are so much. We are so many. We are each an entire universe. And I think sometimes we forget.

We don’t know how long we will be here. How much time we have to share our universe with the world. But we do have a choice each day to appreciate the tremendousness of our lives. To realize how much exists in us, how many colors and corners. To see our abundance and that in those around us.

So today I’m just trying to appreciate it all. Everything that I am, as imperfect as that may be. And I hope you’ll do the same.

Embrace your multitudes. The world is lucky to have you.

You Might be the Answer

It’s always easy to imagine that when you meet someone new or put yourself out there, things aren’t going to work out. It’s easy to imagine being rejected, which is why we often don’t want to put ourselves in that position to begin with.

Saying the wrong thing, tripping over your own feet, doing something awkward with your hands or your face, not remembering a single word, or worrying that nothing about you—no part of your life—makes you worthy enough for someone’s attention, affection or love. It’s easy to imagine all the bad things. Because it’s easy to assume they’re all true. After all, they have proven so, haven’t they? We all have that list of moments that live on in our minds, reminding us of the times we were less than perfect or the farthest thing from it.

But one thing I don’t think we wonder about enough, one thing we might never even consider, is that maybe we’re not time bombs. Maybe we’re not mistakes waiting to happen or dark clouds on our way to ruin someone’s day. Maybe, just maybe, we’re the answer.

Maybe someone out there, in the far future or on this very day, is looking for you. Hoping for you. Maybe the exact thing they need to hear is something you’re going to say. Maybe the smile or hug or text message or gift or shoulder to lean on is going to come from you. Maybe the answer to the prayer someone has been praying over and over and over is you.

Not because you are perfect or because everything went according to plan. Not because you never made a mistake or wore the exact right outfit or knew exactly what to say, when to say it and who to say it to. Not because you were cool or pretty or skinny or in shape. Not because you have everything together or nothing left to figure out. You’re the answer just because you’re you.

Isn’t a wonderful thing to consider that just by being you, day in and day out, you have the potential to make someone’s life better? You open the door for someone’s dreams to come true. You give someone that deep breath, that belly laugh, that safe place, that moment of connection, those butterflies in their stomach, that feeling of refreshment—of love, of peace.

Imagine that today, you are the answer to the question someone’s been asking, or perhaps the answer someone doesn’t even know they’re looking for. And all you have to do is be yourself.

Try letting those thoughts be louder than the ones telling you you’re doing it all wrong. They have just as much of a right to be heard. And they have just as much of a chance of being true.

Your Kindness is Never Small

Sometimes when I think about how big the world is and how many people are in it, and then how big the universe is and how much left there is to discover, I feel very small. I am just one person, in one place on one planet, in one galaxy in the universe. And when I focus too hard on being that small, it’s easy to feel powerless and inconsequential, as if what I do on a day-to-day basis doesn’t have a huge impact on everything else.

When I think this way, it’s hard to find inspiration to do good things, to show kindness, to dig deep and find empathy, or to reach out to someone who needs help. When you feel small, it’s easy to want to live small. It’s easy to let opportunities for kindness and compassion pass us by. Because what’s the point?

Thankfully, there is always a point. Always a purpose.

And I got a good reminder of that in a recent episode of the podcast, My Unsung Hero.

In the episode titled: Brenda Arnold’s Story, Brenda tells us about a time in the 1980’s when she went to visit her sister in Germany. She arrived on a weekday morning, and got to her sister’s house only to realize that she was at work. Without a cellphone or any knowledge about where she was, Brenda realized she was stuck. She sat down on the front porch, figuring she’d just have to wait there until her sister got home that evening.

As she sat, a few people walked by, asking her questions in German. She shook her head, as she didn’t know any of the language, and continued to sit there, nervous. Then a woman approached her, first speaking in German, but when Brenda again shook her head the woman changed course and asked, in English, if she was alright. Brenda was relieved and explained to the woman her situation.

“Oh no!” the woman said, “Well, would you like to come home with me? I’ll fix you something to eat.”

Brenda was taken aback by her kindness, but graciously accepted.

As they walked, the woman told Brenda that her husband had fought in World War II, and was captured and held in Louisiana as a POW for two years. While there, he was put to work on a farm but was treated very well and given plenty to eat. So when he came home, he told his wife that whenever they came into contact with an American, they would be kind to them.

So Brenda, who had come to Germany almost forty years after this man had come back from the war, reaped the benefit of this kindness. And not just any kindness, but kindness shown to him during an incredibly dark time in history. Kindness that was rare and perhaps unheard of in the throes of war.

And then, that kindness, shown to Brenda forty years ago, inspired me when I heard it on a podcast.

So that one act of kindness, 80 years ago, continues to stretch it arms and dig its roots. It mattered then and it still mattered. Everything we do, every small act of kindness matters.

The world is big, yes, the universe is nearly inconceivable, yes, but you are never small. Your life is never small. Your kindness is never small.

Merry (Half) Christmas!

Every year, come December, a large portion of the world is set ablaze by the joy and terror of Christmas shopping.

We make our lists, we check them 45 times, and then we often procrastinate until the last minute.

Christmas shopping is about finding special gifts for special someones, or perhaps buying gifts for people who you had no idea were going to buy you a gift, and now you feel like a jerk.

Ahhhhh, the magic of Christmas.

All that being said, you may have noticed that today is NOT Christmas. It’s not even almost Christmas—which department stores start to celebrate about mid-September these days.

BUT, it is almost half Christmas.

That’s right folks, this Saturday, June 25th, is indeed half Christmas, which is a very special holiday in my house.

Half Christmas, as we celebrate it, is when you buy a few gifts for yourself.  

Christmas shopping can be stressful. It’s hard to find the perfect gift and it’s even harder to find it on sale, in stock, and available within an appropriate shipping window. And even when we find the right gift, it’s hard to know if it fully expresses how special someone is to us or how thankful we are to have them in our lives.

Half Christmas shopping is the opposite.

It is never hard for me to pick out a few gifts for myself. I know what I like, I know what I’ve had my eye on, and I know I can return something *without* guilt if it doesn’t turn out the way I hoped.

Half Christmas is about me. It’s about you. It’s about thanking yourself, treating yourself, and celebrating yourself for all the hard work you do.

So it is my hope that you celebrate this year.

Buy that thing you’ve been wanting. Splurge a little. Get yourself something shiny or soft or pretty or powerful. Buy something that makes you want to call your friends and family and say, “look what I got!”

In case you are curious, here are a few things I’ve been considering for my half Christmas.

These shoes from Adidas (which are on major sale!)

These sunglasses from Sunski.

This book about Lost Objects.

And this shear bag (since they are required now at many sports stadiums and concert arenas).

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I am wishing you a very merry half Christmas!

Get something fun! You deserve it 😎

Take a Nap on the Floor

Yesterday, as I drove home from church, I began to map out the rest of my Sunday in my head.

It was 11:45 a.m. and I was trying to plan my day out by the hour. I thought about going for a walk, or even a run. I wanted to get some chores done, to write for a few hours, to try on the dresses I bought and decide which ones I need to take back, to finish a report, to start doing peer reviews in my writing class, to plan the next big vacation I want to take, to buy a friend’s birthday gift, to book flights for an upcoming wedding—and about 10 more things.

If I did all these things, I thought, it would be a successful Sunday, and I would feel good.

But even as I planned, I knew I already didn’t feel good. I’d had trouble falling asleep the night before and woke up feeling anxious. And with this to-do list buzzing through my head, I felt, for the most part, like I wanted to burst into tears.

I am someone who has often believed that being productive makes me a better person. That living “right”—exercising, eating healthy, achieving things in a timely and efficient manner, checking off life events in time with everyone else—means I am living a successful life. And on the flip side of that, when I am not getting things done, when I’m not doing everything “right”, I feel like a failure, or like I’ve wasted time/days/etc.  I am quick to beat myself up over not getting things done or doing things right, and I am quick to assume that other people are judging me just as hard.

For example, I have an alarm set on my phone on weekends—weekends. This is partially because I like to get up at a decent hour and have time to take the morning slow and fully embrace my day off. But up until recently, I never fully admitted to myself that this alarm was also to ensure that I would not sleep in late and be deemed as lazy by other people.

This is a habit I am trying to break, it is a mindset I am trying to unlearn, it is an alarm I’m trying to turn off. I like to call this process untangling knots, and this is one that’s been double and triple tied for a long time. Having an unproductive day feels like making a mistake, being lazy feels like making a mistake, and I don’t give myself a lot of grace when it comes to “making mistakes.”

But yesterday, after I got home from church, and as I sat on the couch, feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I decided to do yoga.

My body was tired, my mind was tired. I had so much I wanted to do, so much on my mind, so much that was saying “if you don’t do this, you will WASTE your day!” But I rolled out my mat.

At the end, as I lay in savasana—which is just lying flat on your back with your eyes closed—I got tired. I told myself I should get up, I should get things done, I needed to get a move on my to-list or risk wasting the entire day. But instead, I grabbed a pillow and went to sleep, right there, on the floor. And when I woke up, I felt so much better.

Afterward, I walked into the living room and sat on the couch and watched the Dodger game. I did my daily bible study and then wrote this blog post. I ate dinner and then made banana bread.

A lot of my to-do list went unfinished, but I still felt good because I did things that served my soul. Things that helped me slow down and rest. Things that make the more traditionally productive days possible.

There are times when we need to buckle down and get things done. There are times when we can push ourselves to do things we never thought we could do. But what I’m trying to remind myself, is that the value of a day is not based on its productivity. My value is not based on my productivity. And neither is yours. Some days we can muster up the strength to check every single thing off our to-do list, and other days we might need to put the whole list aside and rest.

Both days are important. Both days will add value to your life. It is okay to make mistakes, it is okay to take days off, it is okay to sleep in on the weekends (or whenever your schedule allows.)

The only way to waste a day is to spend it in the past, regretting what you could have done, rather than spending it in the present, taking advantage of what you can do—even if that’s taking a nap on the floor.