Unraveling: The Messy Business of Letting Go

BethanyPaige-3267

I am currently between lives. In the best way possible, so it stunned me when I found out that changing careers would bring about a bit of a catharsis.

There are a lot of cliches being thrown at me about endings, beginnings and letting go. I want to shake the people and say, “I may be just a number to you, a cog in the wheel, a person who took up space, but this was my LIFE.”

Or more correctly, my identity.

This process of unraveling has helped me understand that in the end, it is the person moving on who has wrapped their identity in their title, their paycheck, their perception of their own value. It was my choice to change gears, and don’t get me wrong, I am inordinately excited about what is next. But, there is the withering away, the dying of the aspiration to achieve this career that is ending, the closing up of the office you once walked into with big eyes and a sense of utter accomplishment. But you got used to coming into that office and sitting at that desk, and it lost its shine. You realized there is something bigger for you than that desk, and the chair you spun around in, and the view you had out of your window.

Then one day you pack up that office and it feels…. like a little death.

You are dying to the you that you imagined in other daydreams, other vision boards, other meditations, and visualizations. You are dying to the person you built with blood, sweat, tears and a hell of a lot of regulatory permissions and licenses. You built something, but you are dismantling it. On purpose.

And you grieve alone.

A business, an institution, does not have the ability to grieve you in the same way you grieve who you have become within their hallways and offices.

In the process of the dying is the birth of new. The renewed excitement as the seedlings take root. The realization that I may just have a style that doesn’t include lined dresses and razor-sharp high heels. The realization that I don’t have to spend so much energy figuring out how to hide the tattoo I thought was such a great idea when I was 22, but that I’ve spent my career disavowing and hiding under well-placed straps and high backs, never wearing white.

I thought that maybe I should get a new tattoo to mark my new life, which caused my boyfriend to look at me sideways, “This is a career change, not a life crisis, right?”

I suggested it only be a half sleeve of the dragon I’m becoming and then he breathed really heavy as I laughed, “Just a little word or something, something small, that means something big to me.”

I’m not married to the tattoo. It was a waxing and waning moment that reminded me I’m still a rebellious teen somewhere in there, my parents would not be surprised. What I am married to is the new. This big, beautiful new life that I am building with one word, comma, and paragraph at a time. This new platform where I get to say the things that burn within my chest to help even one girl or woman at a time to be the biggest, baddest versions of themselves.

This new life I am choosing.

It always comes down to choice.

Once upon a time, I chose a path that I explored, and God I made it something. There were castles and beautiful hills, and yes, some treacherous valleys, but I chose and then I created.

Now, I’m choosing again and I have faith in the power of my choices and my ability to co-create with that which is bigger than I am.

So, I will die the deaths and unravel. I will surrender to what is pulling me through to the other side. It will be messy and glorious much like childbirth – ugly and magical all the same.

In my unraveling is brilliance, faith, and choice and to be honest….

I can’t wait to meet the version of myself I am becoming.

 

You Are Precious — Letter to My Younger Self by Kim Fredrickson

Kim Age 5

It is wonderful to hear from women who believe in using their words and stories to help others. I was recently contacted by Kim Fredrickson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, with a beautiful story and a desire to spread her message of self-compassion. Kim dug in and below you will find the newest Love Letter to grace LORE. I am delighted to include her voice.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kim Fredrickson –

KimVPCBestOrigsmall

Dear Kimmy,

You are a precious little girl. You have such a bright future ahead of you. You are likable, delightful and have a very kind heart. You are smart, hard-working and a very good friend.

You have many wonderful experiences ahead of you, enjoying life and making an impact on your world. You also have some hard times ahead, just like we all do. I’d like to encourage you to spend your time and energy on things that matter and will help you on the road ahead.

Have Fun!

Enjoy life. Do things that you enjoy, energize you and give your life. Try new things, seek out new experiences, and enjoy each day to the fullest!

Draw Close to God

God loves you and will be by your side no matter what. He created you uniquely, and He is so proud of you. Take time to get to learn about Him in the Bible, and through prayer. No matter what happens in your life, you can draw near to Him. He will help you and never leave you, no matter what.

Cultivate Your Friendships

Your friends will be a second family to you, and they will be your lifeline through thick and thin. You will have many fun and meaningful experiences with them, that will fill your heart over your lifetime. You will have struggles and misunderstandings with some friends which is normal. Do all you can to talk things through, and apologize for your part of the problem. If you feel repeatedly harmed by a friend, despite trying to work things out, you may need to say goodbye to that friendship. This is normal. Some friendships are for a season, and some for a lifetime.

Work Hard

You are very bright, and catch on quickly. Work hard at school and your future jobs. The sky is the limit for you. There will be times you will feel like a challenge is too big for you. It isn’t. Take it one piece at a time, and you will grow and succeed. The world needs what you have to offer. God has given you abilities, a compassionate heart, and a message that He wants you to share.

Work Through Your Emotions

You will go through difficult times, and have many confusing emotions. This is normal. Seek help to process your emotions, regulate them, and learn to soothe yourself when you are distressed. These skills will help you make wise decisions and stay connected to yourself. Friends, books and counselors can be great resources to help you work through the normal emotions of life. Don’t hesitate to get help when you need it.

Face into Conflict

It can be scary and difficult to deal with conflict. That’s normal. The reality is that every relationship, job and friendship will have conflicts. Learn what you think, feel and need, and share with others in ways that don’t harm you or the other person. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable during these conversations. You can work through conflict most of the time. Learn to negotiate, and stand up for yourself. You don’t deserve abuse, and can remove yourself from situations and relationships that are harming you.

Grieve Well

You may be surprised to find out that grief can be your best friend. It is God’s answer to processing loss, pain, and disappointment. You may be afraid of these intense feelings and can’t believe they are good. I know. But they are. God is an expert at grief and transitions, and He completely understands. He doesn’t expect you to have your grief processed within a certain amount of time. He is faithful to love us through difficult times.

Being able to grieve throughout your life will be a big part of getting through difficult times. Grieving difficult times will help you feel the emotions, adjust to reality, and eventually adjust to your new normal. Even with times of loss, there are still wonderful times to come.

Learn How to Forgive

Life is full of well-meaning imperfect people who will hurt you, and whom you will hurt. Work through the pain of what has happened, grieve what you are going through and seek comfort and help as needed. Learn how to forgive yourself and others. Lack of forgiveness will keep you stuck in the past and will keep you imprisoned in your pain. You’ll need to learn to forgive yourself too. It’s normal to make mistakes and hurt others and yourself in the process. You can be a good friend to yourself by forgiving yourself for being human.

Be Your Own Best Friend

The way you treat yourself has more impact on you than any other relationship in your life. Learn how to treat yourself with kindness, as you would a dear friend. Don’t allow an inner critic to be your companion. Learn how to acknowledge your mistakes without beating yourself up. Listen to your instincts and speak out about things that are important to you.

In conclusion, you are a delight! You are a precious creation with so much of life ahead of you. I know you, I know what you are made of, and I know your kind and tender heart. I hold you close to my heart, and encourage you to hold you close to yourself too.

Love Always,

Kim

Kim Fredrickson is a licensed marriage and family therapist of thirty-plus years. She loves to teach others about the power of self-compassion from a faith perspective. Kim believes that learning to advocate for yourself with kindness and compassion, just as you would for a good friend, makes living life a little easier. She is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend and Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children. She recently retired from her counseling practice when diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal lung disease that developed as a rare complication from the chemotherapy and radiation she received for breast cancer.

After being diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decided to write Give Your Kids a Break as a way to have a positive influence in the lives of her adult children and their future grandchildren. Kim wanted to help them with the challenges of parenting, when the time came. She knew she wouldn’t be around to hold her grandbabies, and help her children raise them in person. Originally it was only going to be for them. As Kim wrote, she thought others might benefit as well, so decided to self-publish it.

Kim has been married to her husband, Dave for thirty-nine years and they have two grown children. Learn more and read her blog at www.kimfredrickson.com She also writes a weekly patient column for Pulmonary Fibrosis News, Just Breathe…Compassionate Help for the PF Journey. Thousands of patients and their loved ones read her column all over the world.

You can find Kim on IG @kimfredrickson, Twitter @kimfredrickson, or Facebook

All The New

BethanyPaigephoto-1342

2017 was lumpy. It was a working year. A writing year. A holy hell, I’m 40 year. It was the year I was doing the ugly work that comes with manifesting the new; the details, the calls, the rewrites, the identity crisis, the growth. It was the year I saw myself in all my truth and recognized the things I do really well and the things I don’t. Yet. There may have been an existential crisis on a sailboat off the coast of South Florida over my birthday weekend. My most seasick friend held on to the mast for dear life and announced, “One day you are going to say, ‘remember when I was losing my shit on a sailboat when I turned 40? God, look at me now….'”

I almost see her, the woman my friend described. She’s in the distance, but coming into focus. She’s the woman who has wanted to write a book for as long as she can remember. She’s the one who believes her life’s purpose is to leave her words behind; to help the women and girls that come next.

This is the most vulnerable I have felt in a very long time. I’m almost there. That woman will be me in 2018. I’m still awaiting my pub date, but… it’s happening next year. No more wishing, no more dreaming, no more talking. It’s here.

I want the book done and out in the world like a pregnant woman at 39 weeks screaming, “Just get it out of me!” At the same time I remember the days after Olivia was born. She was no longer safe. I had given her over to the world. Other people would touch her, teach her, have opinions about her, and I could no longer hold her within me, keeping her safe. What feels like my life’s work is going to be outside of me soon. All the speeches I’ve given, all the workshops I’ve facilitated, all the articles and blogs and lengthy, long-winded oratory will be yours. In a book. In your hands. Out of mine.

I only hope that when you read it you will feel the love and intention from which it was created. I hope you walk away from the book feeling lighter, taller, more powerful, more… something.

I hope you welcome all the new that it offers.

Just like I will welcome this new year that I know in my heart is filled with so much joy, healing, love, blessings and a bunch of adventures I haven’t even dreamed up yet. I’m strong enough to take those wobbly steps into my new.

Will you join me?

Open hearts. Open minds. Always.

Back To Me: Honoring The Answers Within

BethanyPaigephoto-1784

Every New Year’s Eve I assign resolutions for the coming year. 2017 was the first year I decided to instead pick a word, something I could aspire to, grow into, rather than a list to check.

I chose the word HONOR.

I would honor myself, honor my voice, honor my gut, my heart, my instincts.
I would also honor others. How they show up in my life, in love, in all things.

I’ve thought about the word HONOR so many times in these last six months, but as life goes, we tend to get stuck in the muck. We get covered over by it, suffocated by decisions, bills, frustrations and we forget the vision board, the Wish List, the promise we’ve made to live a bigger, badder life.

I have very much felt stuck in the muck and I have been searching. I’ve been searching for answers, for someone to save me, for someone to have it all figured out, be it a friend, a stiff Bourbon “sexy rocks” (which just means a big round ice cube), a psychic, a book, a visionary, a guru, a vacation.
Oddly enough, every book that has found its way into my hands lately has been about taking your own lead, trusting your own instincts and intuition. So, I buy another book, unconvinced. I watch talks online, I go to bed early, I bathe in Epsom salts and Lavender, I journal and then I wake up and I search some more.

Until this weekend when I found the answer I was looking for, but not in the way I expected.

For the past ten years I have made a pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City whenever I visit. It began as a way to connect with something grander, which also scared the ever-living-bejeezus out of me. I lit a candle, I prayed. It felt good. Something about Saints felt comforting. They were human. They’ve messed up. Better to ask for absolution through someone who could be like, “Look, she’s trying.”

I know my Saints, where they are placed throughout the cathedral, and they have brought me great comfort for a very long time. I prayed to one for my daughter. Another for my family. Another for my own pains and plights. As I entered St Patrick’s on Sunday, steps sure, and a calm I’ve never quite been able to explain settling over me, I found each of them to be behind plastic sheeting, covered in scaffolding. I would leave one, defeated, simply to walk behind the alter to find the second and the third all covered, kept away and under construction.

I stood in the middle of this grand place of worship, hope and peace feeling as if I’d been abandoned, how is it that only MY Saints are under construction?

Then I sat down, and while prayers were offered for peace in our current global climate, the tears came as I said a real prayer. The messy kind where something in you breaks open and you realize you’ve just been found. The prayer, the offering that doesn’t require circumvention, a team, a conduit, a guide, I get it. I don’t need to search outside of myself. I need to honor myself.

I’d allowed myself to get caught in the noise, other’s opinions and smudged words and intention. No more paralysis while I await the person, the book, the Saint or sinner to tell me where I am or where I’m going.

I am the person. I am my guide. I am my best advocate and advisor. I just forgot.

In my almost obsessive searching I was led back to…. me.

A thought leader may inspire. A friend may provide comfort. A prayer is a beautiful way to connect to that which is bigger than you.

But, without our inner compass, our compassion for our soul’s wisdom, our connection to whatever you call God, our respect for the answers within us, we are merely lost and looking, searching.

And, as the Delta Sky Cap told me today as he searched my name while checking me in for my flight home, “….And my dear, you have been found.”

I smiled, “Yes, I have, thank you.”

Be led back to yourself. Then HONOR that beautiful, alchemical self that is likely equal parts stardust and dry shampoo. You already know the answers.

Trust them.

Love Yourself Some You

loving-yourself-revolutionMy inside-and-out beautiful friends at Kaia Fit asked me to guest blog for Valentine’s Day and I jumped up and down and said, “Yes, pick me!” It felt fitting as LORE turns two today! I’ve reposted my article for them below and I am so excited to spend a week with them in Belize in March to dig into the love letters process. Well, in between all the diving, hiking, yoga and such, I need a vacation.

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers!

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is on the mind. I’d like to use this occasion to remind you of the most important love affair of all and that is the one with yourself.

I first began collecting and publishing love letters from women to their younger selves over a year ago. Successful women took off their shine to virally mentor those women who are still in the struggle. What I didn’t expect (nor did they) was the deep, cathartic work the writers would undertake. As I began to interview them about the process, it became clear I was on to something pretty amazing. Since that time I’ve been gifted stunning letters by incredible women. Donna Brazile, the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, shared that she felt it was important to reflect, pause, and give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished. Emily Nolan, a plus-sized model and author, expressed the deep love she found for herself after years of severe body dysmorphia. Many themes bubbled up around forgiveness, boundaries within relationships and learning to ask for what you want in your life. Every woman shared how important the work had been, but one message stood out among the rest and on the heels of Valentine’s Day, consider it our gift:

You have to love yourself. First. Foremost. Always.

Easier to read than practice, granted. I’m not talking self care. Self care is now almost medically approved. Many studies have been done to show the direct correlation between self care in all its iterations and life happiness, longevity and the avoidance of disease. I argue that one of the most loving things you can do for yourself is to dig in, do the work, learn who you are under all the layers you’ve put on and start to love yourself some you. Release all the stories you’ve been told and in that blissful, painful work you will begin to see the you your children and lover see. I’m here to get you started.

The instructions are easy. Imagine a younger version of yourself. Is she 5? Is she 8? Is she a teenager? When you see her, really see her, trust your gut. What do you want her to know? When I began this exercise I was completely blown away by my first sentence. I had an overwhelming desire to tell this dejected little girl I imagined that she was so loved, so worthy. The first sentence hit me like a ton of bricks,

“You will spend most of your life believing you are unlovable.”

I had to take a deep breath and sit back for a moment, shocked at how true that sentence was and how it had colored so much of my life and relationships. It is ok to take a moment as you write. Just don’t leave it because the feelings are too heavy. There is no growth without pain, my love. If you have to wait until the kids are in bed and you have your glass of wine and a box of Kleenex you do it. Give yourself the gift of time to feel your feelings. If that means you write one sentence and have to process it for several days before you get back to it, you are still on the path. I have found most women need time, because the unlocking of these truths have a bit of a whiplash effect. They bring up memories and misgivings that no child should believe about themselves. With all that said, if you begin unlocking repressed memories or find yourself reeling or having dark thoughts from what you begin to feel, please seek the counsel of a professional therapist.

As women have complete these exercises I have found that the ages they choose are typically aligned with the moment right before or during a tragic or painful event or memory. One writer, Chelli Wolford, a survivor of sexual violence, wrote to the four year old that was being molested by her uncle, “It’s not your fault.” It took her until she was forty to realize she’d carried so much of the responsibility for the behaviors of others on her shoulders and what a relief to finally put them down.

You will also notice that your tone changes. The harshness which you likely view yourself today, get it together, sister, falls away and is replaced with, it’s not your fault or you are perfect the way you are, love. You will find that you begin to guide your younger self with the tone of an older sister. One writer suggested that if we could be as gentle with ourselves today how much healthier we would be.

Once you imagine that younger version of yourself and start with your first sentence of the letter, begin to scan over the distance between that version of yourself and who you are today. How did that first message you’d share with your younger self play out over the course of your life and do you want to carry it with you?

Some questions to ask yourself:

What is one thing I’ve always known about myself? My greatest strength?

What is one thing I’ve always known about myself that was negative? How was it originally triggered? Was it reinforced by my family? Is it true?

What is the best thing that has ever happened to me?

What was your most humbling experience and what was the lesson?

What was I missing as a child?

Who or what do I need to forgive? Is that person me?

The act of writing the letter and referring back to it helps excavate old programming, memories and feelings that you’d like to release and offers you a chance to start fresh at a new point in your growth.

If, after you’ve written your letter, you realize you have something you’d like to share with other women or girls to further help our gender, I have the platform to do that and would love to publish your letters for others to read. If you would like to keep it personal, then thank you for having faith and trust in yourself to do the work and I hope you will share your experience with me.

I will be teaching a workshop at the Kaia Retreat in Belize in March and so look forward to meeting you lovely Kaia women in person!

Happy writing!

Love,

Me

An accomplished author and public speaker, Jeanette founded LORE Advocacy, a network of professional women who aspire to change the world through a gender lens. Jeanette also founded “LORE and Little Things” in 2015. It is a platform for women to discuss issues relevant to professional women and mothers. Her articles and “Love Letters to Myself,” a viral mentorship program, have been seen on Huffington Post.

During the day Jeanette is a Senior Vice President and Institutional Client Advisor within the financial services industry. She serves on the boards of Spread the Word Nevada, the President’s Advisory Council for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and a large charitable foundation. She is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Nevada and a 2016 Vegas, Inc. Woman to Watch.

Connect with Jeanette at www.loreandlittlethings.com, on Twitter @msjwrites or Instagram @msjwrites and @loreandlittle. Letters can be sent to jeanetteschneider@gmail.com.

“Love, Me” featuring Emily Nolan

The Love Letters project began a year ago with Jessica Moore’s letter to her younger self. I found that as I got to know the writers I was privy to insights and gems readers were not. I had questions about their struggles and how they overcame, which they very openly shared. I wanted to make the experience more dimensional for everyone involved and began filming interviews over the summer.

We had fits and starts as we worked through storylines and production, but the result is gorgeous. I am so excited to debut the very first “Love, Me” webisode featuring model and author, Emily Nolan. We sat down in Phoenix in August to discuss her love letter (see below) and I was taken by Emily’s willingness to be vulnerable and her deep faith in something Divine. She was a few weeks out from a breast explant and spoke so openly about her lifetime struggle with body dysmorphia and what she hopes to share with every woman and girl.

**Please see submission guidelines if you are interested in sharing your love letter**

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Emily Nolan –

Dear Emily,

You are eighteen years younger than I am and you’re already so incredibly smart, strong and beautiful inside and out. You are the greatest gift God’s ever given the world and you are perfect just the way you are. You were born to be a brave leader. And, most importantly, you’re a fierce lover. You lead with love so divinely well; it’s a special gift you’ll always had unlimited access to. Use love as much as possible.

Dear warrior, use your bravery to listen in to who you are throughout the years. There will be challenging moments that make your heart break, sadly, and you’ll need to be there to love yourself fiercely. You’ll need your friends and family, too, to lean on for help, because you can’t do everything, always. Sometimes you’ll need help. Everyone does.

Those moments of listening to yourself feel like “listening to your gut,” and choosing not to believe in a bully or someone else’s unremarkable opinion of who they think you should be or what you should look like. Later in life, you’ll know those brave moments to be God’s grace. Which is also your own divine grace.

You’re a child of God, Emily. Your parents’ divorce and the bullying at school, and other moments to come that might make you feel icky and sad inside, they do not decide your worthiness. God does. You do. And because you get to decide what a miracle you are, continue to be brave enough to listen in and honor your own inner voice that says, “I’m awesome!” This way, no one will be able to rent valuable space in that precious little noggin of yours. You are a holy vessel. Be brave enough to always believe that. It’s not arrogant to think your God’s greatest gift, its love. And remember, love is what you’re best at.

You’re strength is in being bravely unique. You’ll feel that looking like everyone else is boring and has very little divine purpose. Like, what in the world are we accomplishing here by trying to look pretty? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? Like who’s on second base and how we’re going to get the third out?

Your fierce bravery will be a rising tide that lifts all boats. Most of your girlfriends are waiting for you to make the move, to feel good enough, just the way that you are, and to allow them the same feeling by being brave enough to own it. They’ll thank you for your courage and permission to be beautiful, just the way they are. And they will support you immensely in the years to come. That bravery you own will make you feel full and good and happy. You’ll say things like, “I’ve never felt closer to God. I’ve never felt closer to myself.” Little me, you were born to be pretty brave.

Being an athlete has taught you that your body is a tool to be used for movement that’s fun and life-giving. Your body is not meant to look a certain way, it’s meant to work! To be useful! Being an athlete makes you a leader; leadership and teamwork will be as important to you as going to school and learning. All of the leadership training you’re getting now, by wearing heavy catcher’s gear every weekend, shouting directions across the field to your teammates, committing to team goals, attending every practice, calling the signals and telling your teammates what to do when the ball comes to them, conflict management with girl drama, all of these skills will be absolutely necessary in your life.

One day, you’re going to have enough courage and leadership skills to believe in yourself. You’ll believe that you can teach women and men and girls and boys that they’re great enough, just the way they are. You will share your love with them in so many kind and gentle and generous ways.

I also want you to know that you’re brave enough now, to ask Mom for help, whenever you need it. Bullies, diets, body image, questions about your body, questions about boys and friendships, ask Mom; she wants to see you win, not suffer in silence. She wants to elevate your bravery, lift you up! That’s her medicine, let her support you. Never feel ashamed to ask her questions. Talking to Mom is always going to help you and you’ll feel so good you did it. Your thirty-year-old self promises.

You are a remarkable young woman, Emily. I love your pigtail braids, dirt smeared across your chin from your catcher’s mask, and your fierce bravery, going onto the softball field shouting out positive affirmations to your teammates. You’re going to use all of these lessons in the next eighteen years as tools to inspire and motivate others to keep moving forward on their own journey until they find the light, which is essentially the love, for everything and everyone, including themselves.

You’re a complete magic trick—how could your precious, pure spirit be so perfectly tucked into that beautiful, capable Earth Suit of yours? I just love you so much. You are a miracle. How could you not be, Emily? You’re a child of God. And you are perfect, just the way you are.

I love you forever,

Emily

Emily Nolan is the author of My Kind of Life.com. She’s also a model and the founder of TOPLESS yoga. #TOPLESSbyemily is a bras on, bellies out self-confidence event used as a tool for self-love. This event is about exposing vulnerabilities by practicing radical self-acceptance.

Emily’s effort to share what is real and authentic in media was the catalyst for the #HealthyBellySelfie social media project contributing to the global conversation around body image.

Emily publicly speaks about her journey through 10 years of disordered eating, plastic surgery, body dysmorphic disorder and shame. She believes that honesty in conversation can spark individual transformation. 

Emily is on Instagram and Twitter @iamemilynolan and Snapchat / Periscope @MyKindofLife_Em

Balance Deconstructed

IMG_9257

When people talk to me about balance I want to throw things at them.

For real.

Certain words have become catch-alls, cliches, if you will, and full of well… nothing. If you google “quotes on balance” everyone from Buddha to the dude that just taught the yoga class with the crazy abs has a quote about how you must find this thing, it’s something you create, not a destination, blah, blah, blah. 

I’ve decided they have no idea what they are talking about and have simply surrendered to a cultural norm.

I have a love/hate relationship with cliches and quotes. I’ve come to think of them as fillers. They are sugared words, glazed and mostly well intentioned. I do believe that life experiences create these phrases and ramblings and some are incredibly beautiful, insightful. I also think that the person delivering the quote has no idea of the history or intention of the person quoted nor the inner workings of the person they are hoping to help. Maybe it came from a man who survived a war, the death of children, syphilis and amputations and you are telling a clerk at Target. Maybe it was a Taoist who had never experienced love and a divorcee is your audience. Maybe it was a writer with a drinking problem and a thesaurus, the odds are high. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t care for the copy/paste quality of them when they’re offered in a prescriptive fashion. I sometimes wonder if they’re not proffered as a very kind exit strategy from conversation, a way to acknowledge, but remove the need to dig in and truly relate.

When I was in my early twenties I remember ruminating on the word “balance,” wondering what my life would look like when I achieved it.

I still have no clue.

So, I’ve decided to take the power away from the word, dear God, please don’t offer me another quote. I’ve decided, instead, to deconstruct it and make it less zen idealism and more of a word with letters, realizing that no matter how you look inverted, you probably struggle with balance as well, so let’s just call a spade a spade. Instead of striving for this otherworldly word that is seriously just some vowels and such, I have divided my life into my roles as a mother, career gal, woman, friend and writer. I consciously strive to simply be present in each of them. I have days when I’m running between things and Liv wants a mama moment. Rather than snapping that we’re in a hurry or telling her that I have chores to do, I stop and remind myself, “THIS is my life. I am living it right now.”

It helps to reframe things.

My life is not whether or not I get laundry done. It is not whether or not she eats yogurt for breakfast tomorrow or I’ve checked a box from a To Do list that never really needs to get To Done. It is the extra smiles and moments we spend snuggling. It is the living that makes a life, the interactions, the blessed conversations she wants to have right before bed when she relaxes into her prayers and tells me who she is and who she’s becoming. It is not the fact that it is three minutes past when I told her to be quiet. It is when she asks God to make sure her heart stays kind and that our dogs will stop stealing her food. It is the sweet moments when we’re at Target and instead of telling her to behave and be quiet while she yammers on in the cart, I catch my nugget sweetly say I’m a great mom and I’m really pretty, can I buy you these cute pajamas, mom?

Sure, baby.

I have caught so much just by reminding myself that THIS is my life.

I have also realized that in order for me to be my most present, most engaged self, I must first take care of myself. This is something I require of myself. I fill up my bucket first and those close know that while I may work my tail off and love my daughter like my life depends on it, I also find a way to run to the gym, hit a yoga class and take small trips to fill up my soul. I am healthier and happier for others when I am taking care of the person that does the taking care.

I learned the hard way.

When I was going through my divorce and running in fifteen different directions I was anxious, sickly and a raging insomniac. I didn’t even like me. We have a tendency to think of ourselves as “selfless” if we put everyone else first.

Nope. Forget that right now, drop it, email me if you need a pep talk.

My loves, the best thing you can do for the people that depend on you is to take care of yourself first and foremost. They will benefit from your enhanced health, mood and overall demeanor.

I promise, Get on it.

Give yourself the space to forget things. To leave the dry cleaning at the cleaners. To be out of dryer sheets. Forgive yourself if your body says nap when your clock says gym. Turn your To Do list into Suggestions and Reminders. The only person in between you and YOUR life is you.

Forgive yourself. Love yourself. LIVE.

Balance be damned.

 

 

 

 

 

Insecurity Is A Waste of Time

Insecurity-is-a-waste-of-time

A few times over the last few years I’ve been asked for a favorite quote or expression that is important to me. Once was for a female small business owner who was building her own blow dry bar. She wanted a wall of famous women’s quotes to act as a backdrop for women who’d just had their hair done. A few months later I stood before it while celebrating the opening of Blowout Dollhouse with a proud new business owner.

Last week I was asked again for quotes for an event where I’ll be speaking this week. I took a few days, mulling over all the gifs and pretty sayings that decorate my phone and my office. I again found myself drawn to the same one and I always smile to myself when I share it.

The back story is a good one, if I do say so myself.

It was roughly four years ago. I’d flown in from one city to realize that while changing out dry cleaning to fly to another, divorce was on the horizon. I wiped tears as I headed to West Palm Beach. I sank into the Florida humidity upon arriving, feeling as if my home state was going to help soften the blow. I had to get it together and fast. I was going to spend a weekend with the most successful women in financial services. They wore Laboutins and sparkling things, all brains and verve. I was intimidated in my state.

I prepped for my mission: looking like them. I would seem poised and polished while my insides were caving in upon themselves. Yes, definitely. They wouldn’t notice that I didn’t belong.

Then a funny thing happened.

They were honest about all the things on my mind. There were maybe twenty men to the thousand women and my God, how women speak differently when we are around our sisters. Yes, there were talks about economies and global trends, but there were also talks about how you have to take time for yourself, how it is hard to juggle career, marriage and children, solidarity sister.

One woman shared that while she had gotten kids to school, ran meetings, thawed dinner, made soccer and took a red eye out of New York, all she wanted to do was fill her brain with mindless drivel. She tucked herself into an InStyle magazine. Her seat mate, however, had her laptop out and was making notes while flipping through graphs and reports. After realizing they were heading to the very same conference, she told the very focused woman, “Wow, I feel incredibly lazy.” The woman laughed and I will never forget what she said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m the keynote speaker tomorrow. I just had a baby and she’s sick. My husband has been sending me updates every few minutes. This is the only time I’ve had to prepare.”

She was the Chief Economist for a large firm.

They then talked babies and balance.

She nailed her keynote.

Every woman at the conference was her most beautiful, natural, smart and nurturing self. These women were so enlightened and encouraged by the way a male-dominated industry feels when the men aren’t in the room. When women come together to inspire one another, to make you feel less alone, less anomaly, its a beautiful thing.

We talked about the guilt, my God, the guilt. We talked about marriage and personal relationships, messy and glorious, I try so hard to be present. We talked about the children we were raising, I try so hard to be present. We talked about who we become when the men are in the room, the layers we put on, the children we forget for a lunch meeting, because you can’t be a mom. We talked about the health concerns we don’t share with our male colleagues and clients, because then you are a woman. We talked about how you are scared to take maternity leave, because then they look at you with the wondering, soft eyes.

The weekend ended with a final keynote by Diane von Furstenberg. She had a Power Point presentation with pictures of herself as a child, as a Princess, as a mom and finally, the pinnacle photo of the wrap dress that turned her into a design house. She talked about her regrets as a mother, her role as a grandmother, her career frustrations and failures.

When asked what she lived by, what drove her to continue, she said as self-confidently as you can imagine a former princess to espouse, “Insecurity is a waste of time.”

Isn’t it just?

Can you imagine if every woman in that room confidently owned each relationship she had and all the hats she wears, no insecurities? I think through conversations I’ve had, meetings I’ve walked into, moments I’ve silenced myself and worried that I was too… something. Too soft, too hard, too feminine, too masculine, too talkative, too expressive, too… all the things that make me who I am.

There sometimes comes a time in your life and in your career that you find your value. And, most will tell you even when you find it, life has a funny way of saying, “Are you sure?” and offering you missteps and ego to dig through so that you finally find your footing and say, “Yes, I’m sure. This is who I am and what I do well. And you know what? Here are the things I don’t do well. I’m going to own them too.”

Ms. DVF herself, in her very poignant, clipped comments, asked us to learn who we were, all our iterations, and own them. Own who you are today, find your why, your reason, your gifts.

Then stand up and introduce yourself.

No apologies allowed.

 

Dirty Little Liar: Beating Negative Self Talk

BreneBrown Quote

I was an awkward kid; string bean skinny, butter teeth, a plague of freckles and the fairest skin most people have ever seen. Some joked that I was so fair you could see my blood flowing through my veins. I had a lot of nicknames, none of them kind.

My sister was “the cute one” and I was “the smart one.”

I was confused when an adult neighbor looked at me as if he’d seen me for the first time when I was about thirteen, “Good God, girl. You are going to be a knockout when you’re older.”

I thought he was gross.

I never thought of my appearance because I was ugly. I knew I’d have to rely on my wits and developed a biting sense of humor to compensate for what my mama didn’t give me. When I did get attention from boys I was suspicious and then I shrunk from it. I had faith in my smarts and a quiet confidence that may have been ill-placed, but served me well. I relied on being a nerd with the hopes I’d land an equally nerdy husband. We’d make informed decisions, listen to NPR and have the best jokes; a match made in nerd heaven.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realized attractive, popular boys were interested in me. I remember the first time a very good looking 20 year old made it clear he wanted to take me on a date. I was the girl that looked over her shoulder both ways to see where the pretty girl was, and upon realizing I was alone pointed to the center of my chest, “Me…?”

I don’t get it…?

Many years later my husband would tell me that a colleague once said, “Jeanette has no idea how pretty she is, does she?”

He’d smile, almost proud, “She’s my ugly duckling.”

So, I turned into a swan, yada yada, good for you.

Well, not exactly. While the little girl in me is happy that my freckles faded, Crest invented White Strips and self tanner doesn’t stink as bad as it did in the 90’s, I’m still an ugly kid on the inside. I just feel a different kind of pressure and I think every single woman knows it intrinsically. While I would like so much to tell you that my brainy confidence transitioned to every other part of me, you can be like me too, I suffer from an ugly little secret:

Negative self talk.

I notice the things about myself you may not. I’m self conscious about the little gap in my teeth, the way my right eye looks a little squinty when I smile, the lines that are coming with age, the size of my waist, the fact I have no pigment in my face after I wash my make up off and I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I don’t really recall negative self talk when I was a kid, Is this a grown up thing? I would like to return it, please.

I’ve tried a few things to combat it and at my best I tend to defeat the beast. At my worst I typically whine until a girlfriend tells me to get my head in check. It’s like a little flash bulb goes off, Oh yea. This is me being mean to myself.

I thought I’d share in the hopes this may help when your inner critic decides to show up with a magnifying glass.

I try to be thankful for my body in this moment, knowing in ten years I’ll wish I looked like I d0 today. I thank my strong legs for keeping me going, my healthy body for creating a life, my clear skin, my freckles for being only lightly freckly. I thank my smile for not only being large (One of my nicknames in high school was The Joker. Let’s move on…), but bringing light to those I love when they see it.

I try to be aware of the negative self talk that sneaks up on you. These are the things you didn’t consciously realize were there, but something stirs something deep. A rebuff or a rejection has you suddenly questioning whether you are lovable or worthy? A question or criticism suddenly makes you question your intelligence or motivation? See it for what it is in the moment. This is war talk. It is your dormant inner critic. Don’t allow it to fester. Do the work if you need to, but do not start to believe it. It is a dirty liar. I give you permission to treat it as an enemy.

I try not to obsess. At all.

My right eye will probably always water and staring in the mirror for fifteen minutes, hating it, worrying about my soon to be off-kilter eye makeup, is silly. Throw the extra mascara and liner in the makeup bag and get the day going. I’ve learned to love my watery eyeball. It gives me character and I will always have a conversation starter, “No, I’m not emotional. My eye just waters. Allergies.”

I deserve to love my life and sometimes that means the taste of decadent things. I also feel strongly about health, so I don’t overindulge, but I’m not going to make myself feel bad because I ate pasta. It was delicious. It’s in the past. Let it go. Tomorrow I will make (mostly) good choices.

I refuse to be mean to myself or anyone else. I may say, “I should probably hit the gym more and eat cleaner,” as opposed to staring at myself in the mirror, “Look at your disgusting (enter body part here).” There is never anything positive about bullying yourself or anyone else for that matter. One of my girlfriends and I recognized that we were in the habit of pointing out what we hated about ourselves to each other a few years ago. We were doing it in front of our daughters, so we created safe phrases and compliments to get each other back into check and remind ourselves that a dimple here or there was not what made a woman. If she started in on herself I would smile, “You have beautiful eyes. You are such a good cook.” If I did, she’d respond, “You are such a great writer. You have such a beautiful smile.” We only had to do it a few times before it stuck.

If someone else feels the need to tear into another individual, I refuse to be part of that as well. You don’t know the struggles and negative self talk of others. Let them figure out their own path and quiet their own dirty little liars. You do you.

I smile as I write this, thinking back on an encounter with my daughter and our Target cashier a month or so ago. Olivia is four and as the woman was ringing us up, she asked very loudly, “Mommy, why is that lady so old?” I tried to give her a look she hasn’t yet realized is the “be quiet” look, so after the second time I had to handle it.

I leaned in, “Liv, what you are saying may hurt her feelings. Don’t say it again and we’ll talk about it in the car.”

We did. She understood that if she wanted to tell the cashier that she had a nice necklace or she liked the color of her shirt she could do that, but saying something about her being old or having wrinkles may not be the nicest way to interact with someone. A few hours later I was on the phone with a friend, laughing about how time was flying. When I got off the line, Liv was ready to have a talk with me.

“Mommy, we don’t tell people that we’re old. It’s not kind.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You told that person, ‘We’re getting old.’ Maybe that wasn’t the nicest way to talk to her.”

Or to myself.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Be good to yourselves, friends.

 

 

 

 

Gossip Girls (and Boys)

AudreyHepburnQuote

Words are powerful. They are often divine and filled with love and depth. Your eyes become soft as they are delivered from the lips of a friend, a lover, your child or they’re printed on pages you can’t stop turning while your heart soars, what’s next? There are other times, however, when the sentences have been restrung and these simple syllables have become laced with a far darker intent. There are times when words cut you like glass and the shards sometimes remain.

Gossip.

I often wonder why people ask about my personal life. Are they interested because they want to know me better, love me harder, or are they asking out of curiosity? Should I get over guardedness to open up to those walking beside me or are they asking so that one night when they’ve had a drink too many my foibles and insecurities may be shared over a sticky table with those that want to be entertained?

When it has happened that I’ve become the subject of someone’s conversation I have typically ignored the eventuality of it. I don’t set a record straight or wonder why, I simply allow my silence to answer the questions that are outstanding. Not everyone has this luxury because sometimes the gossip is damaging. While things said about me have hurt my feelings deeply I also know who I am and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lovely group of supportive friends. They remind me that on most days I’m pretty awesome.

But, I’m also the mother of a little girl who is growing up in a time when gossip is pop culture. It is Twitter, Facebook, every magazine on every shelf and we all know that gossip is the meanest when we’re in school. It causes girls to cut themselves, develop eating disorders and worse – take their own lives before they have even begun. I may know that a friend who talks about me is not my friend, my life is long and people will come and go, thank you for showing me yourself, bless, but when a girl is learning who she is in a bubble her bubble is her entire world. To lose a friend that she has to see at school every day where we rove in packs and take sides is catastrophic.

We lead our girls by our example so I would like to invite everyone that trips upon this post to join me on a 30 day No Gossip Diet and encourage the girls in your life to do the same. Just think of all the good we could collectively put out in the world if we only said words to uplift for an entire month.

Talk about it. Talk about what gossip looks like and how it can hurt. Talk about it as if it is a trans fat.

I’ve done a little research and while we all get caught up in our friendships and such, the true determinate of gossip’s harm is intent. Is the intent to lift another up or to privately share a concern with someone close so that you may help a friend together? I have had friends going through crises where these conversations were necessary and held so close it was as if we’d be indicted for sharing secrets that were not ours. There are times when talking about another is only because you are coming together to support them. Your intent is to show them love.

There are times when the intent is to solve for jealousy, insecurity or pure entertainment value. You know the difference. You feel it in your gut when the words slip from your mouth or as they are delivered to you on a plate. People lean in, grab another drink, settling in to a conversation that is exploiting the stories wrapped around someone that is not present.

Are your words wrapped in love? Or does the person receiving the information look like a viper snacking on your words, delicious? When someone tells you something do you recognize that this is not yours? When someone opens up and tells you something personal do you thank them for trusting you? Do you honor that trust? Their vulnerability was a gift. Carry it as such and understand the words attached are not yours. The secret attached is not yours.

Well, unless they’re like a criminal or a killer or something. Then Godspeed and bless, because your life just got complicated for a minute.

Let’s not just talk to our own daughters, but her group of friends as well. Ask them to trust that feeling they have in their stomach, learn what it is. Girls fear their friends will think they’re not cool if they don’t participate in the group, but what I’ve found is that by not engaging she is setting herself up for deeper, more meaningful friendships. The first girl to have her own crisis will seek the one that did not talk.

After all, while they may be sitting around getting drunk on other’s problems they also know their own failings make the rounds when they aren’t present. There is a tiny voice they ignore, “what do they say about me when I’m not here?” The act of gossip is the surest way to diminish trust in a group setting. People are complicated, their lives delicate. Who are any of us to speculate as to how or why?

Let your words be light.

Who’s in?

whatsusiesaysofsally