Love Letter to My Younger Self by Chelli Wolford

Chelli at 5

I’ve bit my lip in anticipation of this post.

Chelli estimates that she’s rewritten this love letter 27 times. We’ve had approximately 7.3 conversations about it and she’s watched one documentary that inspired at least one quick overhaul. We had one drink each while we chatted about it on New Year’s Eve. It took one voicemail, three texts and three emails to confirm that this post would go up today.

All big stats and for bigger reasons.

It’s important.

1 in 3 women will be sexually or physically assaulted in her lifetime. That’s your girlfriend at the end of the table. A man recently heard this statistic at a conference and approached the speaker, stone-faced, “I have three daughters. All I could see was their faces when I heard that stat and wondered which one it would be. What can I do?”

1 in 4 college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career. That’s your neighbor next door, the woman you share carpool with and the lady who underwrote your mortgage.

It may even be you and if you are triggered by such topics, please note that this is a message of hope. Of awareness.

I shared the above stats with one of my close girlfriends one night and she paused, giving me the fortitude I needed, “This is important. These are our friends.”

I’m making the decision not to avoid hard topics because they’re uncomfortable, but instead embrace them because they should be brought into the light. What I adore about Chelli is that when she reached out to say she knew what she wanted to write about, it was so clear that it was a message of hope for every little girl, every teen, every woman. It was so soul-baring and earnest and in her own words, “I don’t want it to be dark.”

I called her this morning after reading it, “I’m so proud of you.”

These are our friends.

Ladies and gentlemen, the brave and beautiful Chelli Wolford –

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My Dearest Chelli-Belly:

(This nickname is going to stick – you will eventually find it endearing.)

First, and I need you to really get this, like in your cells, know this: It’s not your fault. Your Mother leaving you when you were just a baby. Being molested when you were a child. Getting gang-raped your first year of college. None of it was your fault. It will be easy for you to blame yourself, to shame and convince yourself that it was somehow your fault, that you were being punished, that God forbid, you deserved it. Sweetheart, it just wasn’t your fault. Stop asking why and start looking to transform your pain into a purpose. This is how you will eventually find peace and become of service to the world.

Learn to forgive like it’s your job. Forgive those who have hurt you, forgive yourself for those you have hurt. Forgiveness is freedom. The older you get, the less you will have to forgive yourself – it will take you longer than you like, but you will learn to live intentionally. Everything will fall into place.

“When people show you who they really are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou
You won’t learn this quote until your early- thirties and you won’t fully grasp it until your late-thirties, but please, for your sake, breathe these words in and live them. People will give you all the information that you need to make decisions about whether or not you should allow them into your life and heart. Not only will they show you, sometimes they will also tell you, don’t think you can “love” them better, you can’t. Don’t justify bad behavior.

Marry that kind guy that you think is too good for you. This will change the trajectory of your life. Having a supportive partner who will assist in your “becoming” will be everything. Trust me on this.

Some things are never going to make sense – and that is okay. Your Mother not choosing you is going to perplex you most of your life. Instead of asking why, just know that she did the best she could with the tools she had. You will do better because you know firsthand what it feels like to be left behind. It will take you a little while, but eventually you will see it as a blessing. Your worst days will become the best days that shape you into the woman you are today. I promise.

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Full stop.

There will be this moment in your late twenties, when you are talking to your Granny and she says to you: “You know you were your sister’s security blanket, right? I don’t know what she would have done without you.” That moment is going to give your life meaning and be your purpose. Doing and being for others what you always wanted is going to be a driving force for you, don’t change it. Ever. (It’s also going to serve you well when you become a Mama).

I’m not going to lie to you, the first several years are going to be challenging, but my love, it’s going to get so sweet. The darkness will diminish. You will only see the light. Your heart will grow bigger. You will laugh way more than you cry. You will experience things that you cannot even imagine right now as you lay in your bed in a junkyard in Ohio dreaming big dreams for yourself. Hold on. It gets so much better.

Finally, thank you for being a brave, bad-ass, risk-taking young girl. You got me here. But now I got you. I’m holding you so tight. You are safe and you can trust me completely. You can be vulnerable and soft and feminine. I will not judge you. Cry if you need to cry, say your scary things out loud, be your most authentic self. I will be with you every day until the day we die and I will forever be your biggest fan. You saved me. And I saved you. It will take you a few years but you will realize, I’m the love of your life. Now go share that love.

So much love & light to you,

Chelli

Chelli Wolford is a Strategic Business Consultant combining over 20 years of experience in the military, business and entertainment worlds. Chelli was the youngest and only female Retail Sales Manager for Sprint PCS when she moved to Las Vegas at the age of 24, building 5 retail stores for the Las Vegas market and managing nearly 100 employees. She quickly advanced, managing several different sales channels within multiple organizations and became known as a “fixer” turning around flailing sales channels through key position hires, team building and lead by example style of management.

After leaving the corporate world Chelli was chosen by international superstar Pitbull to join his team and help take his organization to the next level. Chelli created processes for vetting business opportunities, delineated clear roles for team members within the Pitbull organization and worked closely with Pitbull aka Armando Perez to ensure his brand was consistent throughout his social channels and that he had a direct, authentic connection to his fans to ensure channel growth. It was during this time that Chelli Co-Founded Acento Digital Media, a company that supported and connected music artists and brands in aligned, mutually beneficial relationships. Acento’s revenue grew to half a million in less than 4 years of business.

Chelli recently moved back to Las Vegas after 8 years in California and is focused on empowering women entrepreneurs to achieve their goals through her new company, Illuminated Moxie.

You can find Chelli on Twitter @illuminatedmoxy

 

 

You Are So Powerful: A Love Letter by Jessica Leigh Lyons

 

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A few have asked if I’ve written my letter yet and while it is in my heart, it hasn’t hit paper, it’s complicated.

As I’ve tried to figure out what I want to say I realize there is too much. I find myself hoping that the collection of letters will scratch some of the topics I’d like to cover. You see, my letter wouldn’t just be to my younger self, it would also be to the girls that grew up in my poverty stricken neighborhood. While I was raised by a minister, the girls across the street weren’t so lucky. My letter would be to the women and girls who were trafficked out of my neighbor’s houses. It would be to the women who were beaten and choked when they got too mouthy.

I would tell them they are not where they came from and not the things that have happened to them even though they can’t imagine deserving anything more.

I would tell them they are not the person described to them by those who have taken ownership of them.

My letter would be to all the little girls who don’t yet believe in themselves, and may not, if they’re not guided to find the squeaky little voice inside. This is why Jess Lyons’ letter below resonates with me.

I hope someone who does not have access to the women writing earnestly each week stumbles across this site and realizes there is so much more. It is like a viral hug from women that hope you figure it out much earlier than they did.

Please send your love letters to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com

I reached out to Jessica upon finding her Twitter feed filled with positivity and girl-centric messages of hope and asked her to write from her heart.

She did that in spades.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jessica Leigh Lyons

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A teenager blew me away this weekend.

Sitting in a circle of women at a workshop, a 16 year old woman shared her thoughts on power. She spoke about the girls at her school. She watched as her girlfriends changed themselves to be like the boys; joking like boys, tearing each other down. They changed their dress, their makeup, their hair. The girls actively morphed themselves into some contortion of what they thought boys wanted.

This young woman looked each of us — 30-somethings and 40-somethings — in the eyes as she spoke.

This young woman was courage — unafraid to be in the wrestle.

Women of my heart, I cried.

I cried for my younger self who knew about my deepest heart’s desire, which I contorted to fit into my surroundings.

I cried for the journey of my 20s — finding myself, losing myself, selling everything, traveling, moving, and returning home.

I cried for the tears that I had spent, for the shame-talking I had engaged in.  

I cried because in this space, I could. I was surrounded by bad-ass women who grieved the losses of their younger selves and had risen stronger.

I cried because this young woman is so beautiful–in her deep knowing, in her courageous wrestle, in her coming of age.

I cried because she will go on her journey, too.

I cried because watching her, I deeply wanted to reflect back …

You are so powerful.

I shared this reflection with her.. I wrote her a letter which doubles as a reminder to my younger self AND to my future self; for those moments I feel as though I’ve lost my power.

It is this:

“I know you will be afraid that you are doing the ‘right’ thing. There will be angst because you must walk through YOUR OWN LANDSCAPE. The first time will be difficult and you will not know what to bring. But the second time will be easier, you will have more tools for the journey. And finally on the four-hundredth time, you will speak lovingly to yourself even through the difficult passes.”

And you must distinguish your truth from what women are told and what women are not told.

We are told to get it together, figure out your life, your passion and your purpose in order to achieve fulfillment… yesterday.

We are told that you are only worthy of success if you figure it out on your own.

We are told that we must stay happy and positive in order for others to love us.

We are told to say yes to what comes along because we might not get what we really desire.

I do not believe what we have been told. Rather, I’ve found my truth in what we are not told.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that OUR POWER COMES from FEELING, from SHARING, from BEING SEEN.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that TRANSFORMATION COMES from being with, from expressing our deepest emotions & letting them run their course through us, from emptying so that we can be full again.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that WE MUST CRY-LAUGH in a cycle, surrounded by women and their curves, and their fierce, and their nurturing in order to experience deep healing.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that we can BE WITH ALL OF EACH OTHER AND THEREFORE ourselves.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that anyone can handle you IF you want to be handled.

WE ARE NOT TOLD THAT WE CAN BE WITH ALL THAT IS AND THEN SOME because we are powerful just by being.

To all the 16 year olds, and the 6 year olds, and the 56 year olds: your truth is your power. This is an invitation to share the story of your journey and proclaim your power.

It is only by being SEEN — in the struggle, in the wrestle– by speaking what is true for ourselves, that we heal.

You NEED NOT KNOW YET for what purpose.

You, my sweet, wild, fierce, courageous woman, are powerful regardless of your knowing.

Please trust in your path. Please ask, seek, beg, open, receive, and create the support you desire. We are here to bear witness to your power.

In so much love + deep healing belly laughter,

Jess

Jessica Leigh Lyons is a life coach dedicated to liberating women from their stories of self-doubt and creating the biggest boldest vision of themselves. She leads an event called Storybowl, a place for women to gather and speak truth, which she is taking around the country in April 2016.

In addition to her private practice, she regularly leads training on mindfulness and happiness at Bossed Up Bootcamp, a workshop to create sustainable success and she is the Director of Desire, Goals, and Planning for Inner Glow Circle, a powerful sisterhood of possibility and personal development.

Jess can be found on Twitter @JessLyons_ and Instagram @JessicaLeighLyons

Dear Young Amy Jo by Amy Jo Martin

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Every love letter seems as if it was written to or for me, arriving at the moment a question arises within or another idea regarding content is tucked into my iPhone Notes. The thing that makes my heart soar and shine, however, is that every single woman that has approached me has found a letter that resonated as well. Over the course of the past several weeks I have had people approach me at work functions, charity events and holiday parties to say, “Kimberly spoke to my heart,” or, “I use one of Jessica’s points as my daily mantra,” or, “Tracy was in my head!”

Forget Marc’s. His went viral and was picked up by God Updates.

The magical part? I am having conversations with people I don’t know about how we are all connected. We are talking about failure and freedom, why don’t we believe in ourselves more?

Another thing I’m finding that I didn’t expect is that letters are promised, but delayed. Every person that wants to share insists their words be meaningful, “I know what I want to say, but I have to get to a place.” There is a vulnerability and an openness that speaks, but it can be a scary journey.

Be scared.

Fear is the fraud, not us.

We are lighting the way for others; inspiring, impassioning, incandescent.

Send your love letters to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com 

We’re waiting.

I reached out to Amy Jo Martin after seeing a few of her empowered posts, but was blown away when I watched her Inbound talk, THE RENEGADE FACTOR: EVOLVING “PRETTY” TO “PRETTY DAMN RAD” FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. MEN REQUIRED.

When I received her letter I was sitting in my car outside of my daughter’s school having just dropped Olivia to her teachers with a hug and a kiss and a promise that swim class is tomorrow night, don’t worry. Preschool conversations, share day and my next meeting fell away as I read Amy Jo’s words, nodding my head, eyes watering.

This is good stuff, y’all, and I love Amy Jo’s voice. It is math brain meets soft soul.

Ladies and gentlemen, Amy Jo Martin

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Dear Young Amy Jo:

I write this letter to you on a plane as I fly back to U.S. soil after spending time in Asia. As I boarded the plane in Hong Kong, yet another mass shooting in the U.S. topped global news. The more we’re exposed to in this world, the more we realize how little we know or understand. That said, please take what’s useful from this advice and leave behind what is not. You will create your own journey which makes you unique.

Btw, we’re quite stubborn and it’s possible you won’t listen to the advice below. Regardless, you will still live a fulfilling life (at least until you’re 36). And, we think in bullet points and absorb content best in the form of bullet points so here goes . . .

  • You’re going to experience some amazing things. Humble yourself or the universe will do it for you. The world is much bigger than us and it doesn’t revolve around us. The people we respect the most, including our mentors, are the humblest people we’ll ever meet.
  • We can’t bank sleep. Meaning, we can’t deposit and save up hours into a fictitious sleep account and withdraw rest when needed. This strategy simply doesn’t net out well regardless of what grades we earn in math. After averaging 4-5 hours a night for several years, our 36-year-old version has finally learned to respect sleep. She guards it fiercely. I encourage you to protect your sleep at a younger age. (PS – math is one of our sweet spots. It’s our jam. We like black and white answers and scenarios. This poses challenges for us. Read on.)
  • Learn to push your own buttons. Inspire yourself. Everyone else is busy. It’s wonderful and convenient when others inspire us but there will be droughts between the supply and demand. Subsidizing with a self-sufficient supply of inspiration serves as our safety net. This is how we make inspiration sustainable and scalable. Personally, our strongest source of inspiration is nature – being outdoors.
  • In third grade, you will be put in a ‘special’ reading and writing class because you’re not quite performing up to par with your classmates. Accept, listen and learn. We will apply these skills years down the road when we write our first New York Times bestselling book. We must always appreciate the opportunity we are given to slow down, listen and learn. Timing is everything. Trust the process.
  • Where purpose, passion and skill collide, bliss resides. This sounds like fluffy BS but it’s your reason for not worrying about knowing what path or profession you want to choose when you enter college – just be open, try everything and listen to how you feel. Purpose. Passion. Skill. Collide them. (Heads-up, they change so don’t get too comfy)
  • Don’t let other people rent space in your head for free. That’s valuable real estate. What other people think of you is none of your business. Be you and let go. Repeat. This is a tough one for us. It requires constant practice. We struggle and trip over this one at times.
  • Learn when to make things happen vs. when to let things happen. When you’re feeling strongly about one or the other, move confidently in that one direction. Down the road, if you don’t like that path after you’ve given it a red hot go, then simply choose again. If you are torn on whether to let something happen or make it happen then sit down at the fork in the road and pause. Hint: We have a tendency to make things happen (force it) at times. Ease up, sister.
  • Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is extremely powerful. It takes daily practice. Take risks. When in doubt, ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen if I try ____? And then what? And then what? Also ask: Is ____ safe enough to try?
  • Read. Read. Read. Make it a part of your day, your world. Surround yourself with people who also love to read. Give books as gifts. The benefits are unmatched.
  • Travel. Even if it’s an hour from where you live. Exploring will open your mind. If you have an opportunity to travel due to your career, take the ticket and explore while working – especially while you’re young and have less geographic anchors. Don’t spend 36 hours in Australia for the first time because it’s a “quick work trip”. Add a few more days and explore, chances are that nobody will question the request. Hint: You just have to ask.
  • Words matter. With all relationships, exchange “we” vs. “me” as much as possible.
  • Try not to worry so much about: your career, your weight, your finances, your future, etc. It all works out. We are warriors, not worriers.
  • Your career is going to take off, but please, please don’t get caught up. Make family a priority. I didn’t attend my grandmother’s funeral because I had a business trip that was “critical to my career.” We are one of 19 grandchildren and only two of us didn’t make it to the funeral. To this day, I don’t remember what that very important “career-altering” opportunity was. Show up for family. It matters.
  • Be kind and smile. It’s good for the soul, it’s a mood-changer, it’s contagious and … it attracts. Kindness and a smile are the ultimate positive boomerangs.

I love you and hope you learn to love yourself at an earlier stage than I did.

Ajo

Amy Jo, author of New York Times best-seller Renegades Write the Rules, founded Digital Royalty in 2009 to help corporations, celebrities and sports entities humanize their brands online through social communication channels. Amy Jo has worked closely with world-renowned brands such as Hilton Worldwide, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal to successfully humanize their presence. Her motto is, humans connect with humans, not logos.

Amy Jo herself has a social media following of more than a 1.1 million people and was named the third most powerful woman on Twitter by Forbes. She travels the world to speak about the latest trends in innovation, the future of social communication and women in business.

In 2012 Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, and Baron Davis, NBA player, invested in Amy Jo and her company. After a successful seven-year run as the Founder & CEO of Digital Royalty and growing the business globally into ten different countries, Amy Jo recently exited the company.

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Amy Jo began working for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns during their 2005-06 season. These were the wild wild west days of social media and there were no rules or regulations in place. After asking for a lot of forgiveness instead of permission she became recognized as a social media pioneer while trailblazing through this new unchartered territory.

As a young female building her career in male-centric industries, Amy Jo has developed a passion for helping women thrive in business leadership. She is currently spending her time investing in other female entrepreneurs so they can reach their full potential.

Amy can be found at www.amyjomartin.com or The Guild Agency. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AmyJoMartin.

Dear She, Love He by Marc Graham

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This one really needs no introduction.

Just read it and then make yourself aware of the #heforshe campaign that is growing in strength and numbers. These are men that are standing up for women. It’s gorgeous.

So is this letter.

Please click our Love Letters link for details and email yours to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com

If you work with at risk populations, have worked with (or are) survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, are a woman that has overcome adversity – we’d love to hear from you.

We’d love to post love notes from students to their moms and teachers. Email them, screenshot them, send them our way!

When I received this letter I could only sit quietly, moved. I couldn’t wrap my head around big, feeling words, simply emailing Marc, “It’s beautiful.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, Marc Graham –

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Men are strange creatures. Frankly, I don’t know what you people see in us, or why you put up with our shenanigans, but I’m grateful you do. Much of what we truly feel goes unsaid, and what we try to say comes out wrong most of the time. So, for the times I’ve misspoken, when he said the wrong thing, when we completely biffed a conversation because our tiny brains were trying to process a message from our big hearts, here’s this.

Dearest She,

Thank you.

Among the many things I forget to say, this is right up there. You do so much every day, every moment. Things that aren’t necessarily your responsibility, but that need to be done and if you don’t do them, who will? So (1) please know that you don’t have to do it all and it’s okay to ask for help. And (2) I recognize all you do, and I’m so thankful.

I’m sorry.

Two words don’t adequately cover it, but there it is. I’m sorry for the times I judged you, rather than trying to understand you. I’m sorry for the times I made you feel less ­than, rather than celebrating all that you are. I’m sorry for just hearing you instead of listening to you, looking at you instead of seeing you, touching you instead of feeling you. Mostly, I’m sorry for when I acted like a boy instead of a man.

You balance me.

It’s become a lovely and sentimental notion to say, “You complete me.” It’s also unfair to you. Boys­, ­those needy, selfish creatures­­ naturally look to woman as a source of nourishment. That’s straight biology. But if I’m the man you deserve­­, whether my role is brother or partner, friend or lover­­, I’m complete already. Still growing, still learning, still changing, but complete. What I need is balance, and you do it perfectly. You counter my weaknesses with your strength. You temper my arrogance with your sound judgment. You smooth my rough edges with your gentle touch. You make me better, and you make me want to be better.

I’m proud of you.

Let’s face it, I’m awfully proud as it is, so I hesitate to use this phrase. Male pride is too often focused on self rather than others. But this is all you. You awe me. You’ve accomplished so much, in the face of challenges that would have had me cowering in a corner, tucked into a fetal position. The world puts so much on your plate, and you handle it with grace, which amazes me. And where you really shine, what makes my heart burst with admiration, is when you gently and courageously say, No. When you set your needs and higher goals above the expectations of others. When you recognize that, astounding as you are, even you can only do so much, and your energies are best spent on those things that matter and that feed your soul. You are a rock star.

You’re beautiful.

I mean it. You have a gorgeous soul, and when you let that shine through, when you’re being authentically Who You Are, you take my breath away. That way you smile and your eyes light up, because there’s so much Light inside you that has to come out. That way you laugh too loud, because your joy must be expressed. Even when you ugly-­cry, because you’re capable of feeling so much and so deeply that your body can’t contain it, that’s beauty. Oh, and those little things you try to cover up, those blemishes you try to hide? Don’t. Not for me. Those scars, those wrinkles, those stretch ­marks, all those so ­called imperfections tell the story of you, and are part of how you came to be who you are. Who you are is beautiful, and they are all part of that.

I love you.

Nothing more, no elaboration or justification. I just, plain love you.

Always,

He

Marc Graham is a writer, actor, singer, engineer, bard, and novice alchemist. His debut novel, Of Ashes and Dust, is slated for publication in 2017. He and his wife, Laura, live with their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in Colorado’s Front Range.

Dear Daydreamers by Tracy Brogan

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I love this letter.

Fine, I love all the letters, but that’s because I know the intention of them. I know the notes that come in from readers who feel as if someone has walked around in their head or let them in just a little, I had no idea. I know that women around the country are working on their letters, hoping their voices, struggles and triumphs may help another. I also know there’s a teacher out there that has turned this into a project for her students.

Everyone asks, “What do I write?”

Write from your heart.

I can’t wait to share Love Letters from Readers. From moms, from daughters, from little girls to their moms and grandmas, from grandmas to the littles they see opening their eyes in a much different world. Boys are welcome to join us as well, who do you celebrate and why? What do you want us to know? There is so much wisdom and good intention in the world. Let’s dig into it.

If there are any teachers out there that would like to include letters from their students, please share!

Please email your questions, comments and love letters to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com.

We’re waiting.

I find I’ve had a reason for loving each letter and the reason I love Tracy’s is because I was with her at the first writer’s conference she mentions in her letter. I was there at the hotel cafe the day she walked in and acted as if the meeting of the agents was only a step in the achievement of her dream, This lady is determined. We stood outside the New York Public Library and announced our books would be on those shelves one day. She bet she’d get there first. She was right.

I had no idea that in the realization of her dream she would be subject to something we all struggle with and I thank her for sharing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Tracy Brogan

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Dear Daydream Believers – and Those Who Aren’t,

It’s an honor to share this space with you and I hope what I have to say is helpful. My advice is from the heart, and if it touches yours then I’ll feel that I have done my job.

Today I am wearing a silver bracelet with three words engraved on it. Imagine. Believe, Achieve. If I ever actually get a tattoo, that’s what it will say – in some sort of artsy, elegant, and hopefully painless, font.

Imagine. Believe. Achieve.

Individually, the words and their meaning are beautiful. Strung together, they form a philosophy that has impacted my life immeasurably.

Here’s how…

From the age of fourteen onward I started telling people I was going to write a book someday. I told high school friends, college friends, co-workers. I told my husband on our first date. But I never really believed it when I said it. Not deep down – down inside the secret place where we keep our true, vulnerable selves. Because I wasn’t an author. Not like a real author.

Sure, I had endless story ideas swirling, twirling in my brain like cotton candy, but just as spun sugar is apt to be, the ideas were thin, translucent, only slightly sticky. There was never enough substance. Nothing I could grab onto or sink my writerly teeth into, and after a while the ideas would melt away and I’d be on to something else.

But always I had the hope of becoming an author. Someday.

Some might say hope without action is just a dream. A hollow wish.

Okay.

Sure.

Maybe.

But it’s still a good place to start, right? Because if you can’t even imagine something, how can you ever create it? How can you move toward a dream if you don’t know what it looks like?

So a few years ago (okay, several years ago) when I saw that engraved bracelet at a craft show bearing the words imagine, believe, achieve I decided to buy it.

And then I did something foolishly, naively miraculous. I decided to live it.

This was a mind-bendingly provocative action on my part. As a recovering Irish-Catholic-Capricorn-Midwesterner, I’m not prone to indulging in flights of fancy. Whims are not my thing. But I decided, for once, to gift myself permission to imagine all the possibilities. The plausible. The far-fetched. All the impossible possibilities that were certainly far beyond my grasp.

“What if” became my question for everything. What if I really put the time into writing a book? What if I committed to finishing a manuscript? What if I actually sent it out into the world? My pragmatic brain was quick to point out all the reasons why these things were pointless, but I’d look at my bracelet and remind myself to imagine it all working out. The line between fantasy and goal-setting became blurred.

After some practice, the imagining became second nature. I indulged it, nurtured it, enjoyed it. But the next part was infinitely harder. To believe. I had to give myself permission to believe in possibility, too.

I have a friend who says, “Self-delusion is so much more productive than self-doubt.” She was kidding, mostly, but the phrase stuck with me – because it’s true. Self-doubt means you’ve failed before you’ve even begun and that’s where so many of us get stuck. So I fought against that insecurity and forged ahead in my blissful ignorance. And yes, I was very probably delusional when I sat down in 2010 and finally decided yes, I could write a book. I was definitely wearing Santa-sized crazy-pants when I signed up for my first writer’s conference in New York city a few months later. And I was certainly quite, quite insane when I submitted my first completed manuscript to literary agents.

But guess what? All the crazysauce paid off.

In 2012, my first book was published, followed by five more.  And I have a contract for another five books to come out over the next few years.

So I should be wicked proud of myself, right? I should feel gloriously accomplished. Because technically, I am accomplished. I imagined it, and I achieved it. I worked hard, and learned innumerable lessons along the way because back when I started this journey I didn’t even know what I didn’t even know. Now I do. I know what it takes to write a book, I know how hard it is, and I know I can do it.

But here’s the most fascinating thing. A slightly diabolical and sad thing, too. It’s virtually impossible for me to embrace the accomplishment. To own it. To believe in me. You see, it turns out that even after achieving a dream, the believing part doesn’t always come naturally. In spite of my efforts, in spite of what I’ve learned, and in spite of my success, the only one who still struggles to believe in me is me. Deep down I feel as if I’ve just gotten lucky. Although I’m grateful for my success, I don’t feel deserving of it. And that fear of being discovered as a fraud, a person only posing as a bestselling author, is paralyzing.

In her book, THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION, author and researcher Brene Brown talks about how so many of us “hustle for our worthiness.” We shift from feeling unworthy to asking ourselves who do you think you are?  Sounds as if we are screwed either way, but don’t worry. There is a solution. Brown goes on to say that in order to halt that emotional pendulum from swinging between self-doubt and fear of arrogance, we need to trust deep down in our soul that we are worthy. Whether we succeed or fail, we are worthy of love, attention, recognition, and belonging. Living in an age of air-brushed perfection and endless Facebook posts about other people’s good fortune, it can be difficult to believe we are equally entitled, equally beautiful, equally valuable. But we are. So if there is any message I would want to send out to other women, it’s this:

You can fake it ‘til you make it, but until you believe you are worthy of all your big dreams, they’ll still feel shallow even when you achieve them.

The good news is, you are worthy. No matter what it is that you want, you ARE worthy of it. Of course you are! You are beautiful and unique and never in the history of ever has there been another person just like you. And never again in the future of forever will there be another soul just like yours. The world needs you. It really, really does. So make the most of that.

Yes, life can be a glorious, sometimes unattractive mess, and sometimes it’s easy to feel that that everyone else is smarter/funnier/skinnier but so what? Stop comparing yourself to them. They’re not YOU. Their journey is their journey. Your journey is YOURS. Focus on yours. Focus on your dreams. Your big, Big, BIG dreams, and your little, tiny, sweet dreams, too. Imagine it all and believe that whatever you crave is within your grasp. Believe it’s possible. But most of all, believe you deserve it. Because you do.

Big love to you,

Tracy

Amazon and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Tracy Brogan writes fun, funny stories about ordinary people finding extraordinary love. She’s a two-time Romance Writers of America® RITA award nominee for Best First Book in 2013, and Best Contemporary Romance in 2015, a Booksellers Best winner, and a three-time Golden Quill winner in both contemporary and historical romance. Her books have been translated into several languages including German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Hebrew, and Japanese, and have placed in the Amazon Top 100 bestsellers list in both 2013 and 2014. She’s honored to have received the Amazon Publishing Diamond Award for sales exceeding one million copies. Her most recent release, a Christmas novella titled JINGLE BELL HARBOR, is now available exclusively on Kindle. Brogan lives in Michigan with her bemused husband, her well-above-average children, and their mindlessly hedonistic dogs.

You can find Tracy Brogan at www.tracybrogan.com.

 

 

Dear Younger Kim by Kimberly Derting

Kim and Scot Christmas Morning

The feedback we’ve received from LOVE LETTERS has been overwhelming. These words need to be seen and I can’t wait to share them with you. We will post a new love letter every Monday until we run out and based on the conversations, emails and gorgeous responses, I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen. This is going to be beautiful.

Please remember we’d like to share your words too. Click on the Love Letters tab for details and email your brilliance to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com

With that said, let’s get started.

I met Kimberly Derting through the blogosphere when she was on her path to publishing and finally met her in person in Phoenix to eat tacos and celebrate one of the stops on her first book tour. Kim is probably one of the coolest women I know. She once picked me up for a few hours when I was stuck in Seattle so I could take a shower at her house and get ready for a flight out. I met her husband who very quickly called me a moocher and offered me pho. Cool by me. If you’ve read any of her books you’ll know I was just happy that I escaped. We joked that, “With Kim. Still alive,” should’ve been my status update. Her Pinterest is the spookiest place I’ve visited.

What I love about Kim’s letter is that it comes from a soulful place. She didn’t start with this subject matter or the intention of writing what you see today, but it is where her heart landed.

And, it’s gorgeous.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kimberly Derting:

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Love Letter to Younger Kim by Kimberly Derting

Dear Young(er) Kim,

Believe in yourself.

Cliché, I know.

But your mom is right: You’re tougher than you think. Smarter too. You’re just as good as those who happen to have been born with more—more money, the chance for a better education, those whose families have their you-know-what together.

You just have to hang in there. Keep your nose to the grindstone and all those other hokey sayings. Good things are coming; you just have to work your ass off.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the woman I’ve become in contrast to where I came from. I know that much of what I’ve accomplished is because of my determination. But I also have to give credit to the woman who always said I could do it, and here’s the thing, Young Kim, you should too.

I know you don’t believe it now, but you should love your mom more. Hug her. Don’t roll your eyes (too often) and try not to be so embarrassed of her. I get how hard that is when literally everything embarrasses you—frizzy hair, the tiniest zit known to mankind, food stuck between your teeth—but get over yourself.

Seriously, your mom’s your biggest cheerleader.

Trust me, that woman’s got your back, girl. And that will never change.

She’ll be there when you get your period, go through your first heartbreak, and on the day you tell her you’re pregnant at only eighteen. And get this, she’ll be excited about it. She’ll walk you through stretch marks and hold your hand while you push that screaming 7-pound, 13-ounce little girl into this world.

She’ll be your best friend when you get divorced, and again when you meet your soul mate and have two more babies. She’ll laugh and cry with you, and then she’ll grow old on you. All the while, you’ll learn that you never, ever would have become the woman you are today—living a life you never could have imagined as you were stuck in project housing and standing in the free-lunch line at school.

You were a big dreamer, my friend, but she was always there, chanting, “You can do it. I believe in you.”

I’m crying as I write this because I wish I could go back and hug that mom—the one I never appreciated enough. The one I criticized and yelled at. The one I told to drop me off around the corner because I didn’t want to be seen with her. I wish I’d told her then what an amazing mother she was and that her faith in me was molding me into a strong, self-sufficient, confident woman.

I tell her now, as often as I can.

I wish you would too.

Love,

Older, no, More Mature Kim

Kimberly Derting is the author of the award-winning THE BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, and THE TAKING and THE REPLACED (the first two books in THE TAKING trilogy).

Her books have been translated into 15 languages, and both THE BODY FINDER and THE PLEDGE were YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selections.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the gloomy weather is ideal for writing anything dark and creepy. You can find her online at www.kimberlyderting.com.

To My Younger Self by Jessica Moore

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We are so excited to introduce LOVE LETTERS and we hope over the next few months you will read these letters from amazing women and be inspired to laugh at yourself, forgive yourself, offer someone a hand and maybe, just maybe, share your letters as well.

Please see the submission instructions under our Love Letters tab and write your heart out, we’re waiting.

There is nothing more beautiful than women coming together to share the lessons, the grief, the laughs and the things we wish we could say to our younger selves, girls we hope to inspire or a woman that needs a hug, hang on mama, you got this. We hope to read letters from moms to daughters, daughters to moms, women to women and God, wouldn’t it be beautiful to have a man write a letter?

This project had an accidental start and a few times it was over dinners and weekend getaways with my dear friend, Jess, that I’d catch myself thinking aloud, “I think I want to write love letters to women.” I had no idea that as I shared this idea with the women in my life they would not only jump at the idea, but each had extremely personal reasons for wanting to share their stories and insights and, of course, I’d ask Jess to post the first letter. After all, she wore shades on her trike. She knows things.

Jessica is one of those people who believes in you with an earnestness that makes you feel like you were silly to question yourself. From the moment we met it was Us Against The World and I know when a good thing happens she’s going to send me a text with at least three emojis and a slew of exclamation marks. When I received her letter I immediately got goosebumps. So many times we are too hard on our younger selves, wishing we’d done things differently, what were you thinking, silly girl? Jess shows her younger self compassion and provides endearing insight into the kindness and self love we should all offer ourselves more than any other.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jessica Moore.

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Love Letter to My Younger Self by Jessica Moore

Dear Jessica,

I know you love lists, so I’ll try to make this unsolicited advice less painful than you think it will be. At least read the list; you don’t have to follow everything. Just read the list.

And before you read the list, listen to, “Ooo Child.” These lyrics will serve as the thread that ties all of this advice together.

1. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Don’t make decisions until you’ve had a good night’s sleep and a long walk outside.

2. Don’t touch your eyebrows. Today’s Frida Kahlo is tomorrow’s Brooke Shields. And while we’re on the topic, DO NOT have the mole on your face removed. Pretty soon you’ll realize that being unique is one of the only things any of us really has.

3. Many overwhelming problems will become quite simple after an hour on your yoga mat.

4. Treat the mailman/janitor/barista the same way you treat your best friend.

5. You will endure the kind of pain that you’re certain will be the end of you, but it won’t. Hang in there one more day than you think is humanly possible. The ache is always the most exquisite just before it subsides.

6.. The 5 lbs you’ve gained that are threatening to throw off your whole diet…. no one can see them. Everyone does however, see the frown on your face as you labor over this non-issue. Get over it.

7. Choose the man who wipes away your tears instead of the one who makes you cry. Choose brains over beauty and a sense of humor over almost anything else.
(And don’t choose any man at all until you’re happy with the woman you see when you look in the mirror.)

8. Get a dog as soon as possible. A dog will help you understand your capacity to love and nurture like nothing else. A dog also reminds you that you’re not alone in this world, even when you feel like you are. Trust me on this. Get a dog.

9. Trust your gut and guard it voraciously. Your instincts will always point you in the right direction. When you’re afraid, do it anyway.

10. Be kind and supportive of other women. Not many of your peers will understand the value of this, but the ones who do are unstoppable.

11. People will tell you it can’t be done. They’ll say your dreams are grandiose. Don’t listen. Replace your discouragement with compassion, understanding those words only come from someone who never had the courage to fail.

12. Finally, let life unfold organically. “When you let things come and you let things go, you let things BE.”

It’s all going to be so much better than you imagine it will be, Boo. You got this.

Love,

Me

Jessica is an Emmy award-winning journalist who brings you the news each evening at 5, 6 and 11 on KSNV News 3 Las Vegas.

Originally from North Carolina, Jessica spent time at WDTN in Dayton, Ohio, and WLEX in Lexington, Ky., before joining the News 3 team in August 2010.

While in Lexington, Jessica reported and anchored Kentucky Derby coverage for three years. She also traveled with the University of Kentucky football team to two consecutive bowl games and followed Morehead State to the NCAA Tournament.

In 2009, Jessica made her network debut on CNN during the Northpoint Prison riots and reported for the Weather Channel when a massive snow storm pounded Kentucky. In 2009, a deadly tornado ripped through parts of central Kentucky. Jessica was awarded an Emmy for her spot news coverage of the storm’s aftermath.

When she’s not delivering the news, Jessica enjoys listening to live music, hiking Red Rock, and continuing her search for the world’s best antique store.

You can follow Jessica on Twitter @JessicaNews3LV

The Next Happy: A Love Letter

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While anonymously blogging as Little Ms. J in 2010 I posted a blog, “137.” I started by explaining that the number 137 is referred to as the fine structure constant and some years ago a mathematician was drawn to its significance relating to Jungian archetypes. I, of course, had no idea what any of that meant, but I quickly got to the point:

“I just know that today it is the most beautiful number in the whole wide world because it counts the beats of my baby’s heart. We don’t smile with our teeth showing just yet, that would be too soon, but did I mention that my baby has 137 beats to it’s little heart in one whole minute?”

My cousin, a physicist, corrected me in the comments, “Technically, the fine-structure constant is approximately 1/137 = 7.3*10^-3. But, that’s rather immaterial, isn’t it? Congratulations to you and your hub! Glad your hard work paid off.”

It was a lot of hard work. During the work I met another blogger who I bonded with over our fertility struggles. I was not in a place to be happy for anyone who announced pregnancy when I was being shot up with hormones and looked at cooing babies and happy moms with disdain. Tracey, however, was the first to comment, “I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY FOR YOU. I would put in 137 “o”s but that is a little much. Big congrats to you and your baby daddy.
xoxoxo”

I immediately emailed her to express my gratitude that she had the resolve and kindness within her to express such well wishes. I never forgot it. She didn’t either. Tracey and I have kept up with one another and I’m so proud of her journey. She has turned her own experience into a best selling behemoth of a beauty, THE NEXT HAPPY: Let Go Of The Life You Planned and Find A New Way Forward (I may even be in the acknowledgments). I asked her recently if she’d write a love letter to LORE readers as she is such a strong and beautiful example of the grace of letting go.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Tracey Cleantis.

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You’ve Come A Long Way Baby: A Journey From Grief To Happiness In Five Short Years

On September 20th, 2010, while in the midst of a whole lot of childless-not-by-choice grief, I wrote the following to Ms. J, upon learning of her pregnancy:

I want you to know that it is not every blogger whom reading about their pregnancy would I feel real and true joy — for you, I really and truly feel
That. I am so happy for you. I really am. xoxo


In revisiting my 2010 letter-writing self I am struck by several things.

One: Where have five years gone?

Two: I am happy that at height of my certainty and conviction that “I will never-ever-ever be fully happy because I didn’t get what I wanted most” I could manage real happiness for Ms. J. I wasn’t very good at that with other people.

Three: I have come a long way in being really and truly happy for other people who have kids and it is no longer something I have to pretend with forced pseudo-smiles, saccharine sentiments, a double-shot of piping hot envy, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Four: When I was trying to conceive there was no telling me that I could be happy without a child of my own. I was totally and absolutely sure that without a child I would feel empty, lonely, unhappy, incomplete and like a failure, hence my willingness to undergo endless rounds of costly, painful and heartbreaking infertility treatment. I can now say — and this is the BIG news — that I was wrong! Let me say that again. I was wrong. I was desperately, horribly, tragically and categorically wrong about my belief that I couldn’t be happy without a child. Today, as I was in 2010, I am childless-not-by-choice and I am also very happy. Yes, I am happy without a child. This is the most surprising part for me. My life is rich, full and very very happy, even without what I wanted most. I have a successful therapy practice, a best-selling book, a wonderful partner, an adorable dog. Yes, I still wish, on occasion, for the joys of mothering, but mostly I don’t.

The unshakable belief I had that my happiness could only be determined by being a mother is what I want to really talk to you about, and not because I imagine you too are childless-not-by-choice, but rather because I think this kind of prognosticating and predicticting about what will or will not make us happy is pretty much human nature. As a rule, here is how it goes: we want something and we want it bad. We are pretty sure we know what getting this thing or experience (guy, job, house, baby, car, goal, weight loss, or whatever) will give us. We will be happy, feel loved, secure, worthwhile, and complete and life will finally be as we imagined it to be. We may even decide that it is the absolutely only way we can be happy, and this, I believe, is a red flag and a glowing flashing, screaming warning sign that we are doing ourselves a disservice and limiting our happiness in a big way.

In 2013, years after giving up on the hope of having a biological child of my own, I was invited to speak at an infertility conference to people who were still trying to conceive. My topic was “How To Be Happy Without Biological Kids Of Your Own.” Until I started to prep for the event I didn’t intellectually understand how much I had really come to know about this topic. I was actually an expert! Even though I had loads to say, I was very afraid that no one would want to hear me. When you are undergoing treatment, it is not the time when you most want to imagine that the treatment might not work. I mean, would you want to hear a lecture from a divorce attorney at a wedding conference? Much to my surprise, there was an audience filled with people who wanted to hear that they could in fact be happy without what they wanted most. As I was sharing my tissue-and-tear-filled journey, I came to see that this was not just a journey for those dealing with infertility; it was something that every human being needs to know about.

Here is the message I want to share to you, to my five-years ago self, and to anyone who is over attached to a single outcome as the source of their happiness:

Getting ___________ will not likely have been as you imagined.
You likely want something from __________ that it would not have given you.
There may be other ways to get the qualities you wanted from ___________ in other ways.

Five. Thing five that I am struck by is that Ms. J and I have been blogging friends for almost six years. She continues to support, cheerlead and share in my joys, and I am delighted to be here on her blog sharing my happy ending. Thank you, Ms. J for having me.

Tracey Cleantis, LMFT is a psychotherapist, best-selling author, workshop leader, blogger and speaker. Tracey has helped thousands of people let go of what isn’t working in their life and get to their Next Happy. Tracey is a frequently featured happiness expert on radio, TV and print media. She has been featured on Fox News, NPR, The Daily Mail, The Daily News, Publishers Marketplace, Psychologies Magazine, Redbook, Salon.com, Huffington Post, Forest and Bluff, Sheridan Road and Yahoo News, and in Jamie Cat Callan’s book “Bonjour, Happiness”. She is a Huffington Post contributor. Tracey’s best-selling book, The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward” (Hazelden, 2015 ) is available at bookstores everywhere. In 2016, Tracey’s second book, Self-care is Not a Stupid Candle: How to Give Yourself What You Really Want and Need in Every Area of Your Life will be released by Hazelden.

You can find THE NEXT HAPPY at Tracey’s website (www.traceycleantis.com) or purchase on Amazon.