October 27th, 2014

5 Things Learned By Committing to Something New


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I have a friend who is really good at something. She’s so good that she could, if she wanted, quit her job to do it. Easily. She’s been talking about “just doing it” for a year but still hasn’t just “done it” because she is afraid she’s not ready.

I can relate to her story. For much of my life, I’ve been afraid of branching out and committing to new things, too. Out of this fear, I have often, in my life:

1) Turned down or delayed starting really good opportunities that I didn’t think I was “ready” for

2) Prematurely quit at things that I thought I would one day fail at

3) Engaged in self-sabotaging behavior to control my failure at new things

Writing these truths about myself feels strange and kind of sad. But they are all true for me. And, I realize just in talking to friends and family (who are usually female), so many others.

It was these ugly truths and many others that inspired my commitment this year to courageousness. My vision for a courageous life included this, or a life in which I would be more open to allowing myself to take on new opportunities that I could be good at but that, at the same time, terrified me. I wanted not only to grow myself by branching out and trying new things, I wanted to be bold enough to see them, my new endeavors, through until the end, i.e., not quitting when things get tough.

So a month after declaring allegiance to “courage” for 2014, I got my chance to be courageous with a new opportunity via an email from a client with a long-term writing opportunity.

Without going into too many details, I’ll say that I very reluctantly said “yes” to the offer only after narrowing down all my reasons for why I thought I couldn’t do it (“I don’t have time,” “My kids need me more,” “I am not that experienced”). I told myself then that if anything changed in the future, or if any of my “reasons” really did come to fruition, then I’d stop. But until then I was going to, no, I had to, continue on with it.

I’m writing this almost a year later because I really did “continue on with it.” I stuck with that writing opportunity and learned some valuable things about myself and committing to new things in the process.

1. Most of us are so afraid to fail. I think one of the things that prevented me (and prevents so many others) from taking chances on new opportunities or potentially life changing events is that we’re afraid of failing.  Failure, we think, or perhaps we’ve been told, is a sign of the weak. But, really? Failure is just a part of life. It’s the getting up part that gives context to our great stories. Rather than being afraid to fail, I’ve learned to be afraid not to try.

2. We are often are own biggest critics. I realize now that I’ve often said “no” to new opportunities in my life because I was worried what others would think about me.  Like most, I didn’t want to look unprepared, stupid, or out of my league and more than that, I didn’t want to be called out for any of those things by someone else. But there’s an unfortunate and odd truth about this way of thinking.

Usually all the things we imagine “they’ll” say (with “they” being our bosses, strangers, peers, colleagues, friends, etc) are things that we have already told ourselves. These are things that we believe ourselves. We believe these things to be true, and we live in fear of someone else seeing and believing these things to be true, too.

Instead of being your biggest critic, I’ve learned (and am learning) it pays to be your biggest cheerleader.

3. It’s okay to be vulnerable. So a big part of the failing thing is this desire not to be vulnerable. We, or I, was a perfectionist who was afraid to try new things because I wasn’t comfortable living with vulnerable feelings. I wasn’t comfortable with not knowing everything, with possibly not always being prepared.

But this isn’t life. I’ve learned this year that it’s okay not to have all the answers when you start. It’s okay to admit when you’ve made a mistake or have questions. It’s okay to be imperfect and to work your way through uncertainties in front of others. It’s okay to be human.

4. Don’t count yourself out before you even start. All of my life, I’ve approached each opportunity with a list of conditions that had to be met for me to stay motivated to continue. If things weren’t going according to plan, I’d quit. I’d count myself out likely after a few weeks or months because all along I had in my head that “this opportunity” wasn’t meant for me anyway.

Now instead of focusing my energies on why an opportunity won’t work, I focus on why it will. Not every opportunity that comes your way that seems like a great thing will pan out as a great thing. But….you have to give yourself enough time in actually doing the opportunity to figure that out. You have to allow yourself to commit mentally to doing your best and seeing where your best takes you. If things end up not working out, that’s okay. But only make that determination after you’ve given each new opportunity your very best shot.

5. Patience and longevity bring reward. Because I’ve always been a quitter, I’ve never really had the joy of experiencing the rewards that come when you are patient and stick to things. I’ve always over-anticipated and counted myself out and made excuses. But this year when I decided not to do this anymore, I learned the true value of patience and longevity in life pursuits. And this lesson is one that I carry with me in motherhood, marriage, friendships, and so much more.

The client that I’m working for sent me an email last night saying how happy she is in working with me. I was thrilled to hear this not only because I like hearing nice things being said about my work. I was happy because it was not from being perfect that I earned this feedback. It was from what I’ve done all this year. It was from working hard, counting myself in, making mistakes and fixing them, believing in myself and what I was doing more than not believing.

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Over to you. Do share in the comments below something you’ve learned by committing to something new.

Love, Jessica. ♥

PS If you enjoy this post, and you’re so inclined, please share with your friends or online.

 


October 15th, 2014

What the books leave out


 

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My second daughter turned three years old four days ago.  Since that day, I’ve been thinking a lot about time, growth, and motherhood.

I’ve been thinking about these things.  And I’ve been looking at this amazingly, complex little girl, this little person who, aside from her bright eyes, seems nothing like the child I thought had three years ago.

I was convinced when I gave birth to her that she was a “textbook” baby. She would be my child to predictably adhere to the rules of what “most babies do.” Given her predictability, I rationalized she’d be an easy “fill in” for me to finally test the waters in Perfect Parenting.

I never read baby books until I learned I was pregnant with her. I never opened a book because my personality is such that I am skeptical about more complex things in life ever adhering to any formulaic equation leading to success. So with my first daughter, it wasn’t a book that led me to my obsessive compulsive tendencies relating to her growth and development. Nope. Just hard worn anxiety and a perfectionist spirit to not screw up someone’s life.

It was that, I realize now, rather than intuition or any other holistic understanding of life that spiraled my trips into alternative, non-mainstream, nature-y strains of  parenting.

But with my second, I wanted to be different. I had to be different to make having two kids under two work. And in that I became obsessed with the idea of doing things right.

When my second daughter was born, I tried following common wisdom from American culture for what should work with most babies.

I put her down for naps, in her crib at night, used white noise machines and swaddling and tried hard not to listen to any instincts that suggested that sometimes, maybe just maybe, I try to do otherwise.

The end result of this was a baby who appeared, at least by my books’ estimation, to be right on track for perfection.  Before she could walk, she slept through the night. She enjoyed her crib and fit in perfectly with the perfect life I was trying to create as a family of four.

But the more she grew into herself, the more things changed. Or maybe I just changed. Or maybe things were changing all along but because I was ignoring everything that didn’t fit into whatever parenting formula I was using at the time, I didn’t see them.

I stopped reading the books around this time. This came after me finally realizing the books couldn’t tell me what to do when, for instance, it’s clearly nap time but instead of sleeping, your baby is in the crib crying to be held.  And you’re listening to this on your couch with your three year old at your side. But rather than sitting there and listening to her crying, she, the toddler, tells you it’s okay to do what you’ve wanted to do all along.

“It’s okay, mommy. Just go get her. Go hold her.”

You can’t then tell her about my books because that makes no sense. It makes no sense that you’re (at the time) almost thirty and can’t see that your baby isn’t tired, that she just wants to be awake like everyone else, held like everyone else.

Just go get her not because it’s what you’ve been told is right, do it because it feels right.

What the books, most of the books (minus ones like this one which I HIGHLY recommend), leave out is that being a parent is about feeling. It’s subjective, an endeavor that grows easier when you become more in tune with the value of your feelings, your intuition, your heart. I don’t know how to raise perfect children. But I do know that in order to raise children confidently, you have to eventually get to a place where you trust your heart to know what to do with your children. And what you do with your children will never be the same all the time.

There are no prescriptions or theories or equations for good parents or good children.

Being a parent, being a mother, is not about getting it right all the time. It’s about being human and making mistakes  and fixing them, breathing, forgiving yourself and saying “I’m sorry” to your children and everyone else who is undeserving of what happens on your bad days. 

Being a mother is about trusting the universe, or God if you believe, enough to know that the child you were given is perfect just as he or she is. You need not fix them into something they aren’t or feel bad about who they are. Just love them and yourself enough to trust that this will always be enough. Your best intentions, intentions from your heart, are always enough.

The books leave out that there’s more to being a parent than perfect naps and lunches and bedtime routines. There’s a relationship that grows everyday between yourself and your child and if you let go of how this should be, you’ll see how it is more clearly.

Leading up to my second daughter’s third birthday, I kept getting sentimental, mostly at nights. It would get sentimental about mistakes I’ve made and about how it goes by so fast, and about how I don’t regret any of it, any of these years, this time spent.

In case I don’t say it enough out loud, to strangers who marvel at my babywearing and toddler-hand holding skills, I often do have days in motherhood, in parenthood, where I feel stretched thin. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.

Even after three children, it is still hard in that way. And I suppose it will always be.

It’s hard because it taxes your heart. You love so much in motherhood. You give so much in motherhood. You go so deep into and out of yourself in motherhood. When you are really in motherhood, when you’ve accepted where you are in motherhood and love it, you willingly let things go. You let go of your ego, your pride, the idea that your body is anything but miraculous, friends, sleep, and sometimes, if only at times, your sense of self.

But you gain,too. You get this when you put the books down and can really see, in gratitude, the one beautiful blessing or blessings you’ve had all along.

My second daughter told me the other day that she feels cozy in my arms.”So comfortable,” she said in nuzzling against her face against my chest. I don’t know how I once did it, but I can’t imagine her in any other way. but in my arms. with her mama.

Now please excuse me while I cry some more about it really being three years since I gave birth to my second baby girl.

Just kidding, kind of. :) Love, Jessica. ♥

 

 

 


October 14th, 2014

If Nothing Ever Changed


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“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”- Unknown.

 


October 6th, 2014

Plugged In and Doing


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I think I’ve always thought of myself as a reluctant participant in the “technologically connected” bandwagon of my generation . I’ve long been resistant to using technology to stay connected because  I’ve always felt more comfortable with the old ways of doing things. Preferring instead in-person conversations, dinner, and coffee dates to see what friends are up to, I hardly had a need or desire to use social media for that purpose.

But as the years have gone by, I’ve changed. The older I get, the more years I spend in blogging, the more my relationship with social media, technology, and”staying connected” has changed. I’ve slowly, over the past five years, come to use technology and social media more.

I thought I’d never say it, but I am a phone person. Ten years ago, being a phone person meant you stayed on the phone talking all day. In 2014, it means I have a smartphone that I use (for mostly not making calls) and rely on far more than I should. Like most in my generation, I check for emails throughout my day, text more than call, download apps, check Facebook status updates, and carry my phone to bed with me.

My transition to using social media and technology more was slow, but I think it was accelerated in this past year with a new phone and other professional obligations necessitating that I be online, connected, plugged in more. I don’t know if I could have said it before this year, but I am now “modernly” connected.

This new status of mine has been been good, for the most part. If you ever need me, my new status as a connected being, has made it all the more possible for you to get me, to know about me without much effort on my part. I am more communicative with the people in my life.  I know more now about friends, about things in my world, faster and more easily than I ever could.

I am connected and I like it…

Kind of.

With every new good there must be some not so good, right?

Well my not so good is that in becoming more immersed in connectivity, I started losing the dying art of being still, of doing nothing, of concerning myself with nothing but what I am doing in this present moment. Since this present moment is all I’ve got, right? I know this, but in my moments of super connectivity, I lose sight, perspective, MYSELF. Easily.

There’s been studies that argue that the more connected we come, the more opportunities we have to connect, the more unhappier, more isolated we feel. I get this. Not all the time, but I do get this.

I think the imperative for being connected is remaining, or feeling like you’re remaining a part of a conversation that is bigger than you. I write this as a person who is not nearly as technologically connected/ involved as most. But still. I get this.

In past months, I’ve been getting better with this, however.

I am checking my email less. Leaving my phone to charge when I go to sleep. Doing “Facebook” and “Twitter” and “Instagram” less.

I am getting better.

But it’s hard. Like any habit, deciding to unplug more when you have gone through any extended amount of time being plugged in can be tough. But I like to think of these kinds of things, of any habit, as a pattern. You don’t unlearn a pattern overnight, but you do, with time. With time, you change by building your “muscle” to be different, to do things differently, to reorient yourself differently by assessing your unique priorities and values and acting accordingly.

So that’s where I am now. Learning to do things differently by changing my fairly new, learned pattern of connectivity use.

I still love my phone and social media and technology for allowing me to more easily stay connected. But I am re-learning, by unplugging more, the intrinsic value of old ways of doing things, of coffee dates, missed emails, and breathing.

How do you balance your need to technologically stay connected with your needs of staying grounded in your real life?

 

 

 

 

 


October 1st, 2014

Who are you not to be?


our deepest fearSometimes when you’re afraid, afraid of your bigger self, you shrink yourself with excuses as to why not you. These excuses we tell ourselves vary, but usually they’re hinged on not feeling “enough.”

You are not beautiful enough, thin enough, smart enough, good enough, old enough, young enough, brave enough to be more than what we currently are. We are not ready. Our thoughts, these thoughts, which are really lies, become our truths. So as long as we are a person of lack so we become. And in our lacking states, we decide it’s better to just stay put. “It’s safer here, after all.” “It’s known here.” “I can’t make a fool of myself right here. ”

But at what cost? At what cost is this lie that we tell ourselves to stop our minds from allowing us to believe that we can live lives bigger than the ones we currently lead.

We are afraid that some one will figure us out, see our flaws, and call us out for attempting to be something we are not. We imagine ourselves small and such is how we live. But, oh, if only we could see our power. If only we could dare to live in that power and not flinch.

If only instead of asking “Why me?” we asked “Why not me?” Lives change with this proclamation.

Our lives change when we dare to say aloud, in a voice that hardly seems like our own, that we are not just powerful, but powerful beyond measure.

The above quote by Marianne Williamson is a wonderful reminder of this truth. It’s been inspiring me for a week, so I hope it does the same for you. Love, Jessica. ♥