Archive for the ‘inspiration & selfhood’ Category

If it’s important to you

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

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You know the saying, “If it’s important to you, you will find the time”? It’s true.

If something is important to you, you will make time to do it.

I want to do a lot of things.

I want to write more on this blog and elsewhere. I want to exercise everyday, eat healthy everyday, be present in my relationships every day. I want to read everyday and do interesting things to my hair everyday.

But I don’t do these things everyday. I do try to do some of these things everyday, but other things are often put off until another day.

When December 25th came and went, I wanted to write about my dad’s death. It’s been six years now. I wanted to write about how grief comes and goes in often tumultuous waves and how you never really get over feeling like crying when you think about how continual this process will be. But I didn’t write that. I wrote something else. I did something else. I bought a cup of hot tea at Starbucks and cried a few tears in my coat sleeve and did something else.

I felt better when I did something else.

On January 1, I wanted to do a fun craft with my toddlers, something about New Years around the world. But I didn’t do that. Instead I went to a restaurant with my husband. I ordered ice cream and talked about that craft I didn’t make and all the other things that happened and didn’t happen this past year and how this life goes by so fast. “I never feel like I have enough time!” I said then and so often this past year.

But I get all the things done anyway.

Yesterday, I celebrated a birthday. I usually write something about that on this blog and I take a picture of myself to document where I was and what I looked like that day. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I called friends, ate cake with my children and watched the snow fall. I did other things, too.

I did what felt right to my soul.

My grandmother is 96 years old. I went to see her last weekend. “Hi, grandma,” I said to wake her up. She was falling asleep in her wheel chair, so I said “Hi” to wake her up. She said “Hi” and we talked about all the same things we always talk about. She has Alzheimer and dementia so she forgets things often and remembers things from a long time ago as if they happened yesterday. She doesn’t always know that I have three daughters. She usually thinks I have boys. I don’t know why but I think this happens because she’s remembering her own life. She had two boys. They have both died, but she remembers that someone had them and only sometimes does she remember that that someone is her. “How are your boys?” she says often. “I don’t have any boys, grandma. Just girls.” “There was someone I remember how had boys…. ” she’ll say then. I just can’t think of their name right now.”

She never remembers their name.

I wanted to write a week ago about my how I hardly ever introduce myself as a writer. That part usually just comes out when I’ve gotten into talking about my days. “When do you find the time?” is usually what comes next and answering this is also interesting because I don’t ever really have the time. But I do write. I write when I’m watching TV and the children are napping and it’s the afternoon time and I have something to write. I write when I’m eating and not reading when I’m a passenger in the car to some destination that feels familiar. I write when I wake and before I sleep and in between making dinner and drinking tea. I write at playdates and the library and on notepads on park benches.

I write whenever I can.

I think that quote should say, there isn’t always time to always do what we know to be important. But there is always time. So long as we are alive, we can use our time to live our lives however we want. On my birthday, I thought a lot about my time and how I use my time and I realize how thankful I am to just have the time to use. I am thankful that I can do my important things and can remember them when they happen. I am thankful to have the time to write and talk and cry. I am thankful I have the time to be present in my relationships and if I forget, I am thankful I can remember to do it next time.

I am thankful for all the “next times” I used in my lifetime, all the “next times” I’ve used to do all my important things.

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How are you using your time today?

Happy New Year

Monday, January 5th, 2015

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Over breakfast this morning, my older daughter had a pink spoon. A pink spoon with raised shapes on the handle. That pink spoon wasn’t all that special. But this morning it became “all that special” because her littler sister didn’t have the same one. “My spoon is pink,” said my oldest out loud, looking at the spoon and mostly at her sister who was more interested in her cereal. “And it has hearts,” she said looking more at her sister now. Her sister was, however, still more interested in her cereal and the lone morsel that had fallen on her lap. “Ooops!” she said when it fell. “Yours is blue,” continued my oldest daughter. “And it has spikes like a dinosaur.”

There weren’t spikes on her spoon. They were more like raised polka dots. But my older daughter had to tell her this so that her sister wouldn’t want her own spoon and would instead want the spoon she had. And it worked. Finally. “Mommy, she said my spoon has spikes,” said middle sister. “But it doesn’t have spikes, right?” I said. Those are polka dots, right?” “No,” said my older daughter. “They look like a spike tail. See,” she said. Her sister was crying by then so to settle the score, I told her something I find myself telling them often.

”Worry about yourself. If you like your spoon, then, well, that’s great. Celebrate that. You don’t need to say how great something you have is every single time. You don’t need to compare something you think is wonderful to something someone else has. Just love it as it is and let that be enough.”

The older you get the more you align self to the thinking that “who cares?” Because really, who cares? Just celebrate what you’ve got. Marvel in what you think makes it amazing and that is enough. It’s enough to think your spoon with shapes rather than spikes, I mean, polka dots is the best thing in the world. And it’s okay if no one else agrees. And it’s okay to love that spoon, marriage, bra size, life even when it’s not what everyone has got.

2014 has gone by so fast and so slow for me. In a year, I’ve learned how to write with a calligraphers pen and paint pretty things with watercolor paint. I did a TV interview this year and wrote for The Washington Post and spoke in front of an audience about my daughter’s hair, about my hair. I’ve learned what it’s like to use mostly dull cut your own hair into a bob. Sobering. I’ve learned what it’s like to see a therapist and how to and how not to respond to lingering political debates about hard things like race and gender. I’ve learned to be quiet and when to speak and how paint tall walls without smearing paint on the ceiling. It’s called “cutting in” if you didn’t know. I learned to wear eyeliner and say I’m sorry and say “no” rather than “yes” when I really need to say “no.” Oh, and I learned to use a dishwasher and almost do a headstand and more promptly respond to text messages.

I learned a lot this year but mostly I learned to be myself. I didn’t become anyone else just the version of myself that was lost along the way to me trying to become everyone else.

Last year my word was “courage.” And it was a grand plan of mine to document this journey online. I didn’t really know what courage was when I made that my word. I didn’t know that while courage can be big and loud, it most usually travels in packages that are small and quiet.

The hard part of courage for me was the small and quiet part and figuring out what to do with that. Courage was a series of acts I did that resembled my everyday life. Courage was all the small things I did this past year, normal and ordinary things–my pink spoons. Courage was all I did this year and it was deciding that it is okay, worthwhile even, to love my spoons without sharing or comparing them to the spoons of anyone else.

I don’t know my word for 2015, but I do know I have to keep being myself because really there’s no other way to be.

 

Do you have a word or any resolutions for 2015? What are they and how did you come up with them?

5 Things Learned By Committing to Something New

Monday, October 27th, 2014

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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.

 

Plugged In and Doing

Monday, October 6th, 2014

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

25 Things To Remember If You’re Having a Bad Day

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Not every day is my best day in life. Some days, I go to sleep in a bad mood, often, inspired by something in my life, and wake up that way in the morning or worse.

I used to feel bad about having bad days. I used to beat myself up for my bad days because I believed that they were my fault, a sign of my inability to handle stresses in my life.

Back then, or when I felt bad about my bad days, rather than attempting to process why I was having a bad day, I immediately would judge myself as being weak. “Normal people don’t have bad days,” I would tell myself. “Happy people don’t have bad days.”

But these statements I’ve been telling myself for years are not true.

Bad days happen to everyone.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I am more able to embrace my bad days as a part of my normal life. I take them in stride, accepting them as temporary and good opportunities for me to grow, reflect, and decide to do things differently.

I think doing this is now easier for me because I have learned the power of positive self talk when times are tough. I don’t run away from my feelings on bad days. I’ve learned that trying to ignore my feelings or numb them only makes things worse. So now I give myself permission to feel them. I feel them and write about them in a journal and keep in mind these 25 important things:

a bad day doesn't mean

1. A bad day doesn’t mean you have a bad life.

2. You are worthy of self-love and compassion.

3. It’s okay to make mistakes, to be uncertain, to not know.

4. Your character is make rich and deep by your hardships.

5.You have a good life, full of blessings that are worthy of your celebration.

6. You are okay.

7. You will be okay.

8. And in the end, it will all be okay.

9. A rain cloud can’t overshadow your beauty.

today was a bad day

 

10. Today was a bad day. Tomorrow will be different.

11. It’s okay to smile in hard times.

12. You can be thankful for today even though it feels hard. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not promised.

13. Your happiness does not rest in your circumstances. It’s carried in your hands.

14. You can trust in life’s process.

15. Good things are always on the horizon for those with the vision to see them.

16. Your life is a divine miracle worthy of celebration.

not broken

17. You may be hurt. But you are not broken.

18. The story of your life continues to be written with each breath.

19. The world needs your light to shine.

20. You are bigger than your problems.

21. Nothing is as impossible as it seems.

22.You are here on earth for a reason.

23.You are someone’s sunshine.

24. You are strong.

25. You have much to be grateful for.

What are some things you tell yourself on bad days to keep things in perspective?