My Inner Voice

February, month 2 of our calendar year. The month that those New Year’s resolutions go to the forgotten graveyard. A study cited in People magazine shared that the average days that people stick to their New Year’s resolutions is a mere 36 days. Today is day 43 of the year 2021. According to that timeline the resolutions are gone and we are skipping happily forward as if they never happened. Or, perhaps, there is a feeling of guilt and shame that the resolution is too hard and, “I just can’t do it anymore. It’s not worth it”. Boy am I glad I didn’t make a resolution. This makes me neither worse or better than anyone else. We all make our own decisions and live with those consequences, good or bad. It is not for me judge anyone else. If you made a resolution and didn’t stick with it, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is ok to change your mind and just be the glorious loveable person you already are. But first, you have to be comfortable with who you are and what you want. I don’t have this all figured out for myself so I’m not going to say that the things I share in this post are guaranteed to work for everyone. I just hope that by sharing my story it will inspire others to take their own self-discovery journey and create their own story a life they deem to be well lived.

In my January blog post titled Goodbye & Thank you to 2020. Hello & Welcome to 2021 I declared that 2021 is my year of restoration. What I am learning is that rather than restoration being a destination, I am more interested in making this a self-discovery journey. There is no end goal in sight. This is perfectly fine. Oh sure, the “type A” perfectionist in me screams a little now and then that I’m not doing enough, there is no a step-by-step plan to follow, and there is no defined end point. I have to tell my inner voice, who I will refer to as “her” or “she” to “Shut the hell up” every once in awhile. I’ve learned that the key to silencing her is to simply tell her that this restoration journey doesn’t have an end point and if I truly want to heal emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I have to do the work. Here is a fairly typical conversation between the two of us.

Well then she scoffs, “What is the work?”

Me: “Beats me. I’m using the trial and error method this go around.”

Her: “You don’t have a plan. You’ll never feel whole or right.”

Me: “You’re right. I don’t have a plan. When was the last time one of your plans worked? Oh wait, that’s right. You had my life all planned out and how did that work out? I’ll consult you when I need you. Until then, leave me be.”

Silly to have a full on conversation in your own head, right? Wrong. This is just one of the conversations I have with myself. I learned from my counselor that sometimes we have to quiet our inner voice because it stems from our brain trying to protect us. You see, the amazing organ that our brain is will do many things to prevent us from being hurt. Most of the time this is helpful. However, when our brain goes in to overprotect mode it will sometimes be the cause of anxiety or fear. In order to maintain a healthy relationship with our own inner voice and brain we must sometimes set our own boundary by telling her, “Brain, thank you for working to protect me but I need to you stop. I get it. I realize there is a rough road ahead. We will be ok.” She is typically ok with this conversation but also has a boundary to declare, “Ok, I’ll let you have it your way but you don’t get to give up. You have to show me the work. We’ll talk again later.”

“Her” criticizing and questioning voice grows a bit dimmer every day. She’s learning that the space in my mind, heart, and soul for perfection with well-laid plans is slowly becoming overcrowded with grace, peace, and stillness moving in. I don’t want her voice to ever completely go away because when working in a normal mode she keeps me safe from harm and guides me with intuition. That’s perfectly normal. She’s just learning to cohabitate with her new roommates grace, peace, stillness. There’s one more roommate that has applied to live in this heart and soul. The new roommate’s name is “self-love” and I am happy to say that she has been approved to move in. There is light and love to be had for me, for you, for all of us. We just have to commit to doing the work and allowing that love to flow through our heart, mind, and soul.

Why am I sharing my personal story in a public space? Sharing my journey is a way of healing for me. I enjoy writing and hope that my story can be one of inspiration and hope. If you have had a tough year or are going through your own stormy season I want you to know that you are not alone.

I Am The Storm

In January I wrote “Me vs. The Storm”. https://thankfulgratefulhumblekind.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/me-vs-the-storm/ It was a moment, a sliver of hope and unbeknownst to me at the time…the eye of the storm. 2020 will forever be a distinct year in my mind. If you are reading this and describe 2020 to a “dumpster fire”, I would wholeheartedly agree with you. But this isn’t a story of despair. This is my story of finding my inner strength.

Let me rewind for a little bit. For me, this year started out much the same as 2019 ended and the majority of my 2020 has been filled with heartache and deep emotional pain. I started this year still jobless after a mass lay-off in 2019, painful relationships, and most days were filled with doing just enough to get by. I didn’t know that one person could cry as much as I did during the first 3 months of the year. Yet, as I reflect back on the last 10 months, I don’t even recognize the woman that brought 2020 in but I sure as hell know the woman that will ride the rest of 2020 out. I no longer want to shrink away and live in a small way. I have found out exactly what I am made of and I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I’m not done yet. I am the storm.

Fighting the storm versus becoming the storm hasn’t been an easy journey. I didn’t just wake up one morning to everything being back to “normal”. Quite frankly, I don’t want what normal had become. I had to learn how to say goodbye to what had become my normal and hello to the idea of new possibilities, even if I didn’t know what those were. Even today I don’t know what my new normal will shake out to be, but I do look forward to whatever it brings.

“One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.” (Author unknown) My oh my how these words ring true in my heart. I look back and I am so very thankful for all of the people that have shown up in my life this year to support and love me. Some were on a similar journey and others not so much. I anointed them into my personal support group with the tears that were streaming down my face. For months they called and texted me just to tell me they love me and remind me that I am not alone.

This group consists of people that I trust. These are my people. They have lent me their shoulder to cry on and tissues to dry my tears. A few have talked to me for hours on end on the phone. One video chatted with me for 2 hours until I was almost asleep. Another held me, cooked for me, and created the coziest most loving environment one could imagine. The collective wisdom of this group has guided me through the darkest days and loneliest nights. I couldn’t be more grateful and humbled that they chose to wrap their arms around me. It is now that I see that the best way to honor those who have shown me unconditional love and support is to share my own survival guide to help others.

For me there wasn’t some huge wake up call or event that magically made me spring out of bed and go full force at life. My story of strength and renewal is built on many small actions and moments that add up to who I am today. But know this reader, I am nowhere near my destination on my personal journey. Nor do I want to be. I am having fun getting to know me again. Maybe even for the first time. If just one person finds my story valuable or inspiring to begin embracing life again then I will have considered this blog post a success.

Here. We. Go.

As I reflect back to the beginning of this year I remember feeling lost and scared but I knew I needed to start somewhere. I started reading scripture. To this day I find Romans 5:3-5 as one of the most meaningful and comforting scriptures to be my light in those dark days.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn and endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. “

Romans 5:3-5

For seven months I perfected the art of smiling wide while holding back tears. I could win an Academy Award for “fake it till you make it”. This strategy did not serve me well and I don’t recommend it for anyone else. I spent days feeling as if my entire body was clenched up and a good nights’ sleep was a whopping 3 hours. I was scared and lonely 100% of every day. I pinpoint the true beginning of my healing process back to when I found a gem of a counselor. Rather than continuing to push my feelings away, I started talking through my feelings and unpacking baggage I didn’t even know I had. I spent the first 3 sessions clenching a box of tissues, crying my eyes out, and piecing my feelings together. My counselor has helped me to unpack my baggage layer by layer, fold it neatly and send it away. For me, talking about my true feelings is a raw experience and it is scary. This was hard and emotionally draining work but it was the very beginning of my personal healing process.

When going through life’s perfect storm a good counselor or therapist is an absolute must have. They will listen, ask questions, be a truth teller and help you sort through the mess. What I didn’t know then that I 100% know now is that it takes an incredibly strong person to make the call to go to counseling. This is NOT weak, embarrassing or shameful. There is no greater gift you can give to yourself than positive emotional and mental health. Let me shout it out for those of you in the back rolling your beautiful eyes, “THERE IS NO GREATER GIFT YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF THAN POSITIVE EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL HEALTH.”

What a counselor will not do is hug you, hold you as you ugly cry for 30 solid minutes, make you dinner, create a cozy space to hide in for 4 days, or call you randomly to meet for dinner or coffee. This is what you need a strong tribe of friends for. Readers, I deeply regret undervaluing the healing power of a strong friendship. I will forever be grateful for the women who chose to ride this storm out with me and love me hard.

The one piece of advice that I heard the most was “Focus on taking care of you.” This didn’t mean that I was to ignore my children, responsibilities of the home or neglect others. Rather, a gentle reminder to make space for taking care of me. This looks different for all of us. What worked for me may not work for anyone else. I had to use a test and learn strategy to figure this out so it wasn’t a quick process.

What Worked

  • Bible study
  • Counseling
  • Journaling
  • Reading or listening to inspirational books & podcasts
  • Creating an exercise routine strength training, treadmill, elliptical, yoga
  • Asking for help from friends and family & graciously accepting it
  • Accepting comforting gestures from others

What Did Not Work

  • Listening to any music
  • Binge watching tv
  • Yoga

Heed my advice, the test and learn experience during the healing process can be both frustrating and rewarding. It is an emotionally intense journey but I promise you that it is well worth the effort. I had to let go of being ashamed of my circumstances to ask for help from friends and family. Asking for help is hard because many of us are just not wired to do so. If this describes you then I urge you to let it go. I bet there is at least 1 person in your life willing to help you but you have to dig deep tell them what’s really going on. Showing vulnerability can be terrifying but people cannot help you if you aren’t honest with them about what is really going on.

I also learned that some things that had served me well for years did not serve me well during my darkest days. For example, yoga has made a tremendous, positive impact in my life and served me well for several years. Yoga is also a deeply emotional and very inward experience for me. When I go to a class it’s like a massage for my emotions and soul. Even though I understand the healing powers yoga holds, in the thick of my storm I could not go there emotionally so I left it on my mat and walked away for a little while. I’m back now and loving that I am relearning technique and have a newfound appreciation for the way my body is serving me and how I can serve her (my body) better. Be open to shelving a few things for a bit if they seem just too hard on your first try. You can always try again later. There is no one “right” way to heal.

Do not expect this to be a fast process. This has been a year long process for me. I still have so much to learn and try. I know that I love life most when I embrace it as a journey of self-discovery. As I begin a new chapter of life I am excited to see what this chapter will be, what I will learn and how I will evolve.

Parenting Is Tough…But The Hugs Are Worth It

Parenting is tough. Tougher than any corporate job I’ve ever had. The baby stage is hard. Until you don’t have it anymore. The toddler stage is hard.  Until you don’t have it anymore. The little kid and tween stages are hard.  Until you don’t have them anymore. The teen years are hard. Until you don’t have them anymore.  If we are lucky we get to raise our kids to be full grown adults and maybe, just maybe, we can be friends at that point.    Every stage of parenting is hard until you get through it. Then it becomes easier  to remember the good times more than the bad and it just doesn’t seem that hard anymore. 

Today my 13 year old son came over to me and hugged me.  He said, “Mom, thanks for taking care of me today.”  You see, he had minor oral surgery this morning. This teenager who is  now taller than me, who has his own opinions, who is trying to figure out who he is, and loves to test my sanity at times recognized that he needed and actively received help from his momma.

In that single moment of a hug his entire life flashed through my mind. It was like I was reliving his entire existence on fast forward and it was glorious. Then I thought, I would live at least one hundred more hard days just to get that hug that tells me that we must be doing something right as parents. I mess up a lot as a parent, but today I got it completely right and all I did was make a comfortable space for him to lie down on, ensure his pain was managed, and make soft comfort foods for him to eat. He was thankful and showed it the very best way he knew how; with a hug. That hug said it all and for that, this momma is grateful.

The moral of the story? Don’t underestimate the power of hugs. Especially hugging your children. Give hugs and take hugs through every stage of life with your kids. All stages are tough but hugs will help you make it through. I don’t promise you that it will be easy on the days where you are bone tired, but it will be worth it. I promise. As your kids grow they may not initiate hugs like when they were little. Warning: You may not be “allowed” to do this in public for a few years. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m told public signs of affection become okay again somewhere around the 19th birthday. I’m a few years away from that so I can’t make any promises to you yet. Still, give them as many hugs as possible. With a hug you receive just as much as you give. How many hugs will you give today?

Proverbs 3:3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Me vs. The Storm

Source: photo credit unknown

Tonight I’m breaking my own rules. For the past week or so I’ve deemed electronics off-limits after 9 pm. Right now I’m supposed to be in bed with the lights turned off but still wearing a sleep mask while listening to a sleep podcast. All in the name of a good night’s sleep to start each morning well-rested and ready to tackle the day. Yet, here I am breaking my own rules.

I have this surge of energy and empowerment that I can’t let go until I get it out in writing. Not even to rest my head. I had a tough end to 2019. I had to dig into a deep place inside my soul and go to depths I didn’t even know I had in my mind and then climb my way back out. The last quarter of 2019 was crappy and difficult. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was days and weeks of feeling unsettled and unsure of myself. I know this tough season isn’t over quite yet. What I do know is that it has made me stronger. This tough season that’s had me in tears and on my knees asking “Why?” has helped me grow in my faith. It has forced me to question who I am and who I want to be.

I didn’t come into 2020 with a plan. In fact, I came into 2020 kicking and screaming. Unsure of what the new year would look like, trying to be strong yet feeling like I was failing. Every. Single. Day.

I did not come into this new decade with a plan. No resolutions or intentions or declaring my word. Those weren’t for me this year. Yet now, in the eye of this storm, I am calm. I will continue to be strong and grow stronger. I came into 2020 with just “being” and knowing that I had to be o.k. with that. I had to pray and rest. I had to create routines to feed my soul. I had to find space for gratitude. I had to be humbled and ask for help in numerous ways.

16 days into this new decade I have finally figured out how I want to embrace life. I’m creating space. I’m not referring to physical space. I’m referring to space for learning, creativity, comfort, joy, and acceptance. I’m stepping out of the “safe zone” and willing to take risks. 2020 get ready….here I come.

Stay tuned to read about my adventures and lessons learned. I’m sure there will be laughter and likely a few tears shed. I intend to be part of a world that shares life and builds communities near and far. My writing is my effort in doing this and if you’re reading this…thank you.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn and endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. “

Romans 5:3-5