Archive of ‘Bleah’ category

JUMP

My husband has this uncanny ability to face fear right in the face and march right through it.
I have an uncanny ability to cry during This is Us.

When he decided to open his own business a year and a half ago, I decided it would be my job to help him. I worked tirelessly, day and night, for weeks getting his licenses and insurance policies and payroll set up. The problem was that I hadn’t ever done anything like this before, so not only was I incredibly stressed out, I was terrified.

Terr. I. Fied.
Three words.

If what Bear was doing, starting this business, didn’t work…there was no safety net. There was no back-up plan. There was absolutely nothing guaranteeing that I was doing any of this right or that it would work.
My stress levels got so high that I literally lost my hair. A third of my hair.

And every time I looked at him, sitting over on the couch with a movie playing and his laptop in his lap, I felt incredibly resentful. He didn’t look scared. He didn’t look stressed. He didn’t even look tired. And I couldn’t understand why I was the ONLY ONE freaking out…

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t even look like he’s going to make it…

Now, as I embark on my OWN major risk-taking experiences for the first time in my entire life, I can look back and see what he was doing. He was doing what every great guru and business coach says to do: he created a vision, made a plan, and executed without acknowledging the possibility of failure. Because he simply didn’t need to deal with failure until he’d failed. And nothing, yet, was failing. He grew faster than people suggested he should, not to prove them wrong (though that his a great motivator), but because he knew exactly what he was doing. He envisioned all of it long before it happened, so while we were all feeling surprised and rushed, he’d had it all planned out well in advance.
Granted, my husband’s brain is very, very, very different from mine. I think about steps. Linear steps. I think about the map, the order of operations, and all the possible outcomes. He thinks about all of that and more, all at the same time, with attachment to none of it. So I am most definitely not comparing the two of us. But what I am starting to realize is that making moves, any moves, leads to massive chain reactions. Making no moves leads to a very safe, predictable life. And that can be nice. But if my 10-years-in-the-future self looked at me right now and told me either to move or stay put, what do you think she would say? And how disappointed do you think she would be if I chose to stay in the same place and put the pressure on her to make the moves?

I don’t like change. I don’t like instability. I don’t like not knowing whether or not something is going to work. But as Mike Dooley says, when you put a new address into a GPS and you start driving, you literally don’t know if it worked until you arrive at your final destination, and not a moment sooner.

I have a few opportunities in 2018. One of them is to publish my first book with Hay House publishing (which will happen). There are others, too. And so I’m trying to be like my husband: see the vision, make the plan, and execute without paying much attention to the end results until I get there. I get waves of deep-stomach anxiety a few times a day. I feel angry that I’m even being given these opportunities because it means I have to grow out of my comfort zone (and I like it in here). But guess what? This all fell in my lap. It landed and I can literally choose to move it over and walk away if I want to. And I want to. But the truest part of me want to see what happens. So I’ll keep moving and it if all goes to shit, I’ll start a GoFundMe for my mortgage.

The Affair

On our way home from Thanksgiving with family, I got a text from one of my closest friends asking me to come over. It’s unlike her, as she’s not really the touchy-feely type who likes visitors. She’s more the, “If there’s a problem, let’s solve it. I’ve got notepaper and shovels,” type of friend. I told her I could come over after we got back into town and that’s when she dropped the bomb…
She’d just learned her husband had been having an affair.
I gasped so loudly that Bear repeated, “WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?” in the truck as he drove, and I couldn’t seem to get words out fast enough. The rest of our three hour drive was filled with silence and a bunch of “Oh my God” and “What the fuck?!”
This wasn’t the couple from whom you’d expect this news. This wasn’t the day on which you’d expect this news. (Is there a proper day?) This was completely blindsiding. And if I felt blindsided, I couldn’t imagine how my friend felt.

I immediately started feeling my divorce PTSD kick in. I was never cheated on, myself, but I know all too well the massive implosion that happens when you get those divorce papers in the mail or, that very specific moment when you realize that you’re definitely getting divorced. Me? I was sitting in our kitchen in the house we bought together at about noon on a Wednesday, and a weird little voice spoke in my head and said, “There is no coming back from this. You’re going to get divorced and move out.” It could have been my dad speaking, who died almost 30 years ago now. It could have been God, but it didn’t sound like the one I usually talk to. Whoever it was sent a MASSIVE rush of fear, anxiety, anger, and acceptance all at once through my body. It was the turning point: the moment that I stopped praying I could fix the things we’d both done to screw it all up and, instead, started walking through the war zone that was my life to get to my new life.

Getting the phone call that someone I knew well and trusted implicitly had cheated on my friend made me wonder, “Do you not realize that it’s not just your spouse you affect with your behavior?” I started feeling angry that he hadn’t once thought about how it would all affect his friends and family, not just his wife.
Of course, being the ever-inquisitive one looking for the other side of the coin, I started googling. I wanted to find out why people do this.
As we all kinda already know, I found a million articles to suggest there is no one reason why something like this happens. There are opinions, well-researched books and articles, and a handful of podcasts (all of which I listened to) on the subject. The through-line amidst it all is that the reason never really matters. The way both people handle it afterwards is what matters. And there’s no right way to handle it, either! So by the end of my 5-day crusade to understand why this was happening to two people I cared for so much, I came to the rock-bottom conclusion that there is nothing to understand. There is only picking up and choosing how to move forward through the war zone to get to the next life. As Esthere Perrel, a famed infidelity researcher, said, “This marriage is over. Now you get to decide if you’re going to start a second one together or not.”

I quietly mourned all week, for my friend and for my first marriage. It seems whenever my divorce PTSD gets triggered, I have to mourn it all all over again. I am in such a better place, such a stronger marriage than I was 5 years ago, and yet I still struggle to love and accept that I didn’t end up with the picture-perfect life I’d so hoped for.
The more I let go of the “picture-perfect” though, the more I figure out that there isn’t really ever such thing. Sure, you can experience it for a while, but life has a way of happening. Stability and stasis aren’t the norm. Change and growth and constant updating are the norm. And the sooner you can get used to that, the easier it is to be happy even when things aren’t picture-perfect.

Were you ever shocked by someone you knew who was having an affair? How’d you handle it? Did you say something? Did you try and save the friendship?

Big hugs to my friend if she’s reading. Keep pushing forward. I’ve got a notebook and two shovels.

Portion Control

Something happened when I turned 35.
The 5 pounds that could come and go as they pleased…came. And stayed.
The tricks I used like lowering my calories for a few days and drinking tons of water made no difference. Suddenly, I was stuck with the extra 5 pounds. And beyond diet pills (which I am NOT willing to try), I had no idea what to do toget rid of the poundage.

I joined a HIIT gym last year and started working out 4 or 5 days a week. I did begin to lose some weight and change my body shape, which was AWESOME, but there were parts of me that wouldn’t budge. (PARTS THAT ALWAYS BUDGED BEFORE.) So after I turned 36, my girlfriend suggested I pay closer attention to my diet.
I’d almost prefer be fat or take diet pills than pay closer attention to my diet.
I hate turning down cake or a martini, or a cake martini. I hate saying no to potato chips; it feels rude. I hate walking past the halloween candy over and over and over again like it’s NOT EVEN THERE. But I agreed that instead of my typical, “I’ll cut out carbs,” or “I’ll cut out fat,” or, “I’ll cut out eating,” diet plans, I would begin to spread my meals out over the course of the day and be more focused on portion control.

God I wince just TYPING “portion control.” It’s like the saddest two words in the universe when you put them together.

I started yesterday morning with an eating schedule and a list of foods that fit into the portions I planned to eat – a protein, a vegetable, a carb, and a fat. Breakfast was at 8:30 with oatmeal, almond milk, a small side of spinach, and a scoop of protein powder. (BTW, did you know that you can order protein powder in a 5lb container? You can. It is the size of my coffee pot. I will be Hee Man by the end of the week. And if you don’t get that joke, then you don’t yet understand what I’m talking about when I say I turned 35 and things changed because you think I should just do a “cleanse.”)
Being an effective woman, I decided to put the protein powder into my oatmeal. It’s flavorless protein powder. What could possibly go wrong?
Glue. Glue is what could go wrong. My oatmeal turned to glue and was completely inedible. I tried covering it in Abe’s applesauce just so I could get it down, but no. It was awful. I went to the gym after breakfast with only about half my required calories for breakfast.

After the gym came my Shakeology shake, which I drink religiously and with fervor. It was the only part of my day that went right.

Lunch. I had to eat another meal, similar to breakfast. I opted for leftover steak, broccoli, and a little bit of macaroni. It’s cute to say you love broccoli and all that. Look, broc is great with butter and salt or cheese or hollandaise sauce. But straight broccoli is not your first choice and you know it. So I went ahead and added some salt.
Except that I added ALL of the salt.

All the salt.

My girlfriend told me portion control is not always like this.

I was starving by the time dinner rolled around, so I dove into an episode of Lazy Recipes Live and then scarfed down my food, Halloween candy just staring me in the face. Dinner? More leftover steak, butternut squash, rice, and salad.

Today is day 2 of portion control. This morning was much better with eggs and oatmeal instead of glue. But then when I got home from the gym in time to make my protein smoothie, I suddenly remembered why it was so imperative I go to the grocery store YESTERDAY – I’m out of spinach. Not such a big deal? Except that it meant I had to add raw broccoli slaw to my smoothie for the vegetable serving which, as you might guess, is not as easy to hide in a smoothie as spinach is.
Don’t do it. It’s awful.

If this portion control thing doesn’t work, I’m writing a very long blog about how this portion control thing doesn’t work.

 

The Worst Book Report Ever

I started writing a book 5 years ago. My dear friend was my editor (she’s an actual editor, not like, “I dunno but I did real good in English class.”). I was planning to self-publish it.
As we finished the first draft, I got separated, divorced, and my life blew up.

It seems that now, 4 years later, life has put me back on the writing path. And I’m ready to finish the damn book.

As some top authors said in my writer’s workshop over the weekend, “Writing a book is fun, publishing it is not.” I had such a wonderful time writing this book, and going back through the pages and pages of what felt like old friends this week has been soooo very wonderful. And while I do need to focus on finishing the book…
…I actually have to focus on getting it published first.

You see, in order for a book to be published by a traditional publishing house, you don’t actually need to write the book.
You need to write the book proposal.
That book proposal either goes to a whole bunch of literary agents, one of whom you pray agrees to represent you and submit it on your behalf. OR. You send your book proposal straight to the publishing house if they accept unsolicited titles (most don’t). Once the proposal is accepted, the publishing house can assist in the actual writing of the book. It’s part of the “book deal.”
HOWEVER.
After attending the writer’s workshop this past weekend, I’m eligible to enter a contest. The winner of the contest wins a traditional publishing contract. That means I can send my book proposal WITHOUT a literary agent straight to a publisher who guarantees they’ll read it.

This is a once in a lifetime.

So. What is a book proposal?
It is essentially the single most boring book report you’ve ever written in your entire life. It contains information like your target market, comparable books, and a summary of the topic. It averages about 50 pages of OH MY GOD THIS IS SO BORING. I asked the CEO of the publishing house there at the writer’s workshop, “Are all book proposals this dry and boring?” Without saying yes, he essentially explained that they already have an idea of what kinds of books would fill the gaps within their library, and they’re looking for those books. If they were forced to READ every book that came across their desks, they’d never have time to publish one. When he asked me who my target market was, I answered, “Women who forget to put on a bra before carpool.”
He said, “So, in other words, women with children aged 5-15.”
Oh. Well, yeah. I guess that’s one way to say it. The most boringest way possible. 

While I could probably finish my book in about 3 weeks, and have another full round of editing done by the end of the year, I feel like it’s going to take 6 months to slog through a book proposal. It’s SOOOO not my kind of writing. I had the bright idea that perhaps I could call a professional book editor to see if they would write my book proposal for me! I did some research (googling) and ended up on the phone with an adorable woman named Aloha (name changed to protect the innocent) who is about my age and edits the hell out of everything like a total boss. I explained my project and that I’d really like to hand my book proposal over to a professional.
Guess what?
I CAN!!
For a mere $4,000.
<le sigh>

While I could take the leap and hire her today with a credit card, I’d like to give the Universe a second to organize itself into a path that might offer a better opportunity than credit card debt. I’m trusting that the money will make itself available to me so that I have the BEST possible chance of continuing to pursue this dream and GET PUBLISHED!!!

Either way, though? I’m going to do this. I’m going to submit and if this publishing house doesn’t choose me, I’ll continue submitting elsewhere. I’m 36 years old and I will NOT look back in 10 years and wish I would have started 10 years ago. It will not be for nothing. I might not become a published author, but it will lead me somewhere. I can’t wait to find out where.

Also, if you know a professional editor who loves writing book proposals for fun and for free, hook a girl up.

Friend-Stuff

When ya get divorced, you lose stuff.
It ain’t all stuff-stuff, either. A lot of it is people-stuff. Job stuff. Memory-stuff. Feeling-stuff.

But the very worst of it is friend-stuff.

I lost a LOT of friends throughout my divorce. Some of them were my decision. Some theirs. And a few just sort of drifted off into nothingness with no one really taking the oars to row in a certain direction.
This past weekend at my writers’ conference, I made a few commitments to myself.

  1. I will take this process seriously and invest in it.
  2. I will give myself a timeline that’s realistic but also pushes me.
  3. I will call an old friend who helped me tremendously in the writing of my first book and ask her if she will be my friend again because I realized I miss her.

Yesterday, Monday, I made a consultation appointment with a professional editor who costs big bucks. I started writing out a calendar timeline for myself, too.
Oh, and I sent my old friend an email and asked her if she would be my friend again. Just that way. I sent her a message that said, “I’d like to know if we could be friends again.”

She hasn’t answered yet.

Now, it doesn’t mean she won’t answer. She might. She might not. It was a risk. Love, even friendship love, is a risk. But I’m not dwelling the way I would have a few years ago…

I recognize who’s here now, and I’m grateful for them. I have really good friends. Friends who do life with me, not just take selfies. And I have a husband who literally forced me to attend a writers’ workshop and forced me to stand in the lines to speak directly to the authors and forced me to take full advantage of every minute because he loves me that much.

Friends who love you and force you to do the things that scare you are the best kind of friends.

 

 

After every speaker, at every bathroom break, lunch break, and headline lesson of the day,
the doors opened to the breezeway outside the convention center conference room, and there was my husband. It didn’t matter if it was a quick kiss. He was there, making the weekend all about me. So many people said to me, “Wow, it’s so amazing to have a partner who supports you that much.”

It is.

At the end of the day if she doesn’t want to be my friend, it’s not that I won’t be sad. I will. I’ll think about her and the cool friendship we could have had just like I think about all the other important friendships that have come and gone. I’ll be missing her and hoping someday she changes her mind. It just so happens I might also feel grateful that I have more friend-stuff now. I’m really lucky for that.

 

 

I Don’t Need Glasses

Last night, Bear held up his phone to my face to show me a funny text.
I slowly pushed his hand away from my face until my eyes could focus on the words.
“Can you not see that?” he asked.
“Yes, I can see it.”
“Why’d you push it back?”
“Because I can’t see it up close like that.”
“You need to get your eyes checked, babe.”
“I DO NOT.”
“I’m just saying, you’ve said you’ve been squinting and straining lately. Probably time.”
“I DON’T NEED GLASSES.”

I got home from carpool this morning and scheduled an appointment at a local eye clinic for an exam. Bear called me a few minutes later.
“Whatcha doing?”
“I just made an eye exam appointment.”
“You want me to come with you?”
“NO. I’m not SCARED because I DON’T NEED GLASSES.”
“Ok. What time’s your appointment?”
“11am.”
“You want me to pick you up or meet you there?”
“Pick me up if you can…”

We arrived at the eye clinic and the receptionist asked me about my eye health history.
“Astigmatism?”
“No.”
“Glaucoma?”
“No.”
“Glasses or contacts?”
“Neither. I don’t wear glasses.”
“Oh! Ok…”
“I just need an eye exam.”
“Ok, not a problem! Just fill out this paperwork and I’ll meet you in that little room.”

Bear and I went to the little room and I began filling out the paperwork. “Can you read that?” Bear asked me.
“Shut up, yes. I can read it.”
Bear held up two fingers. “How many fingers?”
“Shut up.”
“Ms. Salem? Hi there. I’m going to get you started.” A lovely, young eye technician with shiny green eyes and deep brown skin took her seat across from me. I liked her. She seemed nice.

Bear documented.

Photorapdadon.

We started with the regular eye chart. I could read all the letters, no problem. She then used a little machine to puff air into my eyeballs. I don’t know why. All of this seemed really silly. I don’t need glasses, so it was all sort of a waste of time.
She informed me I was to wait for the eye doctor to meet me in the room with the giant machine called a phoropter. I prefer to call it a photorapdadon. Because it looks like a metal dinosaur with lots of eyes.
I was going to miss her.
The doctor, a petite Asian man in a petite-sized suit, walked in and introduced briefly. Then he placed an eye chart in front of me and pulled the photorapdadon in front of my face. I looked through the photorapdadon’s different eye holes and read off the letters on the eye chart. Easily.
See? I don’t need glasses.
Then, the doctor started flipping these little lenses back and forth inside the photorapdadon eyes asking which looked clearer. He’d say, “Lens 1. Lens 2. Which is clearer?”
The trouble was that they were all really similar for me. 1 and 2 were such a close call that I couldn’t tell which one was clearer. And he kept prodding, “1 or 2. 1 or 2,” flipping the lenses back and forth.
“I…I don’t know…”
“1? 2. 1. 2.” <flip flip>
“I’m not sure.”
“1 or 2.” <flip flip>
“1, I guess?”
“1 or 2.” <flip flip>
“1. 1. I’ll go with 1…”
He flipped the photorapdadon around again and flipped more lenses, asking which looked blurry or clear, all while telling me not to squint or strain or try to hard to see…which was like, impossible. How are you supposed to take an eye test without trying to see? I felt so much pressure.
Then he told me to lean my head back for eye drops. “These will burn,” he said, which didn’t really feel like enough of a warning. They burned a lot. “That’ll take about 10 minutes. Go pick out a pair of frames, pay, and I’ll take one last look and we’ll be done.”
“Wait. Pick frames?”
“Yes. From the far wall.”
“For who?” The little doctor left. “Frames for WHO?”

This was the quite unceremonious way I found out I need glasses today.

What the doctor didn’t explain was that he’d just dilated my pupils. Having never had my pupils dilated before, I didn’t realize that “that’ll take 10 minutes” meant I would basically be blind within 10 minutes. Which makes it seem like a very silly time to be choosing eyeglass frames…

I literally couldn’t see Bear while he took this picture of me.

Bear helped me choose two pair we both liked and then led me back to a chair because I COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING. Another employee wrote up my order and billed me for the exam. I tried to pay but I literally couldn’t see the credit card machine. “I can’t see ANYTHING.”
“That’ll go away in an hour or so,” the employee said.
“Is this how people who can’t see feel? I mean, this must be terrible. I can’t see anything.”
“Yeah. It’ll get better in a while.”
“I can’t see ANYTHING on my phone.”
“Yeah.”
“I’m a little dramatic.”
“I hadn’t noticed…”

Finally, the little doctor called me back in for my final round of torture. If you thought the pressure of the photorapdadon was bad, wait until you sit in a chair with your pupils the size of your whole eyeball while a tiny doctor shines light DIRECTLY INTO THEM.
“OW!” I said.
“Yes, I know.”
Like…that doesn’t help me. The fact that you know actually makes it worse. You should have said something if you KNEW this was going to be an OW.
He used a sideways microscope-looking machine along with his flashlight from hell to examine the INSIDE of my eyeball for THREE HOURS. (Yes, it was about 4 minutes, Bear, I know.) Then, he whisked all the eyeball equipment away and I tried to focus on him while he read me the results:
“You have a very slight need for prescription. You probably wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t use computers all day. This prescription will get worse in the coming years and by the time you’re about 42 or 43, you’ll need bifocals. For now, just wear glasses while you’re in front of the computer or reading. Here is your prescription. Have a great day.”

So there ya have it folks. I walked into the eye clinic able to see without a need for glasses and walked out completely blind holding my new glasses prescription. It feels a liiiiiitle like a conspiracy to me.
I guess….yay new accessories?
(I still don’t think I need glasses.”

Hurricane Irma – Part 1

Saturday –
Hurricane Parties are real things, people. Gather up the snacks, the alcohol, all the perishables, and gorge. With so many of the refrigerators and freezers almost undoubtedly a total loss, it’s better to eat and drink everything all at once then watch it go to waste.
We got up Saturday morning and began cleaning, food-prepping, and my husband even went to Lowe’s and bought wood to build more shelves in the living room. Shelves that might blow away in 36 hours. I’ve been asking him to build those shelves for months and it took a hurricane…
Our friends came over with their kids and we ate and drank and played games and ordered pizza. My husband concocted a signature cocktail for the event: The Irma.
I drank a lot of them. Enough that by about 11:30 I thought it would be smart to single-arm dumbbell snatch 25 pounds in the foyer. And you know what? I’m fine with that.
Sunday –
I woke up with an impending sense of doom.
It’s hurricane day.
Today is probably the last day we’ll have power. The last day we can order food. The last day we’re guaranteed the roof on this house.
It’s a really weird feeling to know that it’s possible your whole life is about to change and there’s nothing you can do, while at the same time also knowing that tomorrow might be the same as today.

We mostly ate and cleaned up from the party and checked and rechecked our hurricane supplies. Unfortunately, on top of a hurricane, there was also a Noreaster storm coming in from the west. It rained all day, which meant that the ground would already be saturated by the time Irma arrived. Any roots that were loose were far more likely to let go of the ground and allow whatever they were growing to fall down with gravity.
This is not a problem for Bear and me. We cut down every tree in our yard when we bought this house. Why? Because we weren’t about to lose any part of it to a tree. Most of our neighbors take very good care of their trees so there wasn’t too much concern about trees falling.
Except for one.

Those Neighbors
We live next door to questionable people. I think about 6 of them live inside this house. A beautiful street of gorgeous, well-kept homes and right next to ours are the people who keep their plastic Tupperware shelves on the front lawn. You know. Just in case they’re NOT mowing their lawn again and suddenly realize they need a shelf to put something on. They also store their old cars, new cars, bicycles, garbage cans, and extra pieces of wood on and near their front yard. Their dogs run around the neighborhood, unkempt, barking and biting at cars and humans.
Oh, and they have a big-ass oak tree in their front yard about 10 years past it’s prime, waiting to fall over in a hurricane directly onto the power lines that power our entire neighborhood.

On Sunday, they decided they would pull one of their 7 vehicles, a truck, onto their front yard. It was then that some of them opted to load a desk onto the bed of the truck as opposed to loading up all the debris and potential hurricane-missiles already on the ground. After about an hour, the desk was safely removed from the home in its entirety and escorted off the property via the one working truck.
I stood at the window live-streaming the event because I couldn’t understand why anyone would stack garbage and old chairs on the curb the day before a hurricane and yet remove a desk from INSIDE the property…

At about 6pm Sunday, we settled in with comedy shows on Netflix and tons more snacks. Somehow, during a hurricane, we feel the need to eat. A lot.
Around 7pm, the winds shifted. You could feel the rain coming from the other direction. “It’s starting,” I thought.
Around 9:30pm, we lost power. First it flickered. Then it turned off. And we forgot how dark it was outside because it was really dark inside now. We grabbed flashlights. My mom retreated to the guest room and Bear and me went to our room. We sat in the dark with our phones, watching weather models of the storm, watching destruction it already left in Miami. We sat in the dark listening to wind gust past the house and rattle our windows. Little gusts. Beginning gusts.

I’ve sat through a lot of hurricanes. None of them started at night. None of them started like this.

Lent

When I was about 2 years old, maybe 3, my dad was pulling the basket out of our swimming pool filter. It was dusk and we were leaving for dinner in a few minutes. I was wearing a cute little jumper and my dad had on a nice collared shirt (which never stopped him from tinkering with high-risk shirt-ruining activities). He leaned down and, as he did, I leaned over to watch him grab for the basket. I remember leaning just far enough to hear him say the beginning of the word, “Oh!” Then I heard a big swish. My eyes were open and I remember a feeling of spinning. Before I could really figure out that I was under water, my dad’s huge arm plunged into the water behind me. His hand wrapped almost twice around my little arm and yanked me to the surface. He stood me up and my mom was screaming.
Keep in mind, I’d been swimming since I was about 6 months old. I regularly swam all summer long in Ohio, so there was no real chance of me drowning.
My mom immediately wrapped me in a towel she apparently always had within arm’s reach and my dad kept semi-shaking me asking, “You ok? Y’alright?” I think I nodded I was fine, but either way they knew I was ok.
Most importantly, I knew I was ok. I knew from the second I fell from the edge into the pool, while I spun down into the water, when I opened my eyes and saw the white wall…I knew that within seconds my Dad’s hand would wrap itself twice around my little arm and I would be back at the surface. I didn’t worry or panic, not even for a second.

Growing up, I usually gave up a food for Lent – one that I liked. Sometimes I gave up something I didn’t like because I didn’t feel like giving up anything I actually liked, but most of the time it was frozen Snickers bars or cookie dough. As an adult I didn’t observe Lent. In fact, I haven’t observed it for about 15 years. So this year, while standing in church on the first day of 40, I prayed hard. This is going to have to be a good one, I thought to myself. I prayed and I listened and I didn’t get the answer until the car ride home.
What do I give up for Lent in exchange for bigger faith in God?
Worry. You give up worrying.
How in the hell am I supposed to give up WORRYING?!
There weren’t any answers after that…
Having a dad for 7 years who was my protector, was my savior, was my personal God (yes, we went to church but he was still sort of God-like to me), it never even occurred to me to worry. About anything! I didn’t worry when it thundered, I didn’t worry in the dark, I didn’t worry when he was late coming home, and I didn’t worry if a bully on the school bus picked on me because I knew my dad would size the 9-year-old up in an ice cream shop and tell him, “Never go near my daughter again.”
My dad’s favorite song was, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” He used to call my mom on the house phone when it came on the radio in his office and put the phone up to the speaker, shouting, “This is that song! This is it!”
The night he died was the very first night that I ever experienced worry.
I have probably experienced worry every single day since.
The idea of not worrying for 40 days was completely impossible, but I felt really driven to at least figure a way to try. I decided that when I began to worry about something, I would actively pray for God to take it from me. Take my money, my self-esteem, my career… I’m turning it over to You. Take it from me.
In other words, “You figure it out.” 
I probably prayed that prayer 1,000 times in the first two days. I tried to rationalize away fear, I tried to write about it, I tried to sit with it and let it take over my body (I would not reccomend this if you don’t know what you’re doing…I don’t know what I’m doing). The ONLY way I could stop worrying was to turn around and walk away from it. If I was balancing our budget and I started feeling panicked, I would set it down and walk away. I’d come back to it later and if I felt the same way, I’d walk away again. I just kept doing that until the fear subsided enough that I could get something done. Sometimes it took hours, sometimes it took days. But eventually I walked away praying my prayer enough times that I could come back and face whatever was worrying me.
I was successful at this about 70% of the time.
There were still days I completely lost my mind. There were still days I crawled into bed and stayed there. But a 70% improvement is damn good coming from where I was coming from.

I think if you grew up for any period of time, be it 18 or 7 years, with parents who made you feel safe and protected, worry isn’t as ingrown in your DNA as it is in mine. You have natural worries. But you don’t worry constantly that no one will pull you to the surface if you slip into the water; you assume eventually you’ll float to the surface and breathe again. I don’t have the innate ability to trust I’ll breathe again. In fact, most days I just assume it will be the last day I could truly breath.

So what happened after 40 days?

I now have longer stretches of breathing. I still panic or remind myself that I haven’t worried in over 27 minutes sometimes. I get myself back into the routine of waking up and beginning a list of things I have to worry about before I set the list down and try to wake up again with a different list, or just a prayer. I am still turning and physically walking in another direction when the all-too-familiar gut punch threatens to reverberate for an entire day. I’m practicing replacing worries with best-case-scenarios, and writing my ideal day out in my notebook at least 4 times a week to focus my energy on something I do want instead of something I don’t. I’ve even caught myself letting loose as if there’s NOTHING to worry three or four times!

But the best part is, in 40 days, I never once drowned. Even when I fell in, I just bobbed up to the surface like an invisible hand was lifting me back to safety. I’m still here, and still breathing.

Why You’re Still Fat and I’m Still Broke

Did you ever watch the TV show The Biggest Loser? For those of you that live in yurts: these were people who were severely overweight (we’re talking major health afflictions related to their obesity) that got hooked up with personal trainers and nutritionists and doctors for a few months, and video cameras recorded it all. As expected, this reality show made losing weight a competition and the winners walked away 30, 40, even 50% lighter than they were when they started. HUGE health improvements. HUGE emotional breakthroughs. HUGE wardrobe overhaul (I’d imagine).

But what happened to a majority of those people once the show was over?

Of course. They gained (at least some of) the weight back.

There are a billion reasons “experts” could give for this phenomenon, but I’ll add mine to the mix because I am also an expert. Not at gaining and losing and gaining weight, but…well, let me explain.

Thoughts are just beliefs that you keep thinking. If you think your neighbor is a jerk for long enough, you’ll be right. If you think you’re fat for long enough, you’ll be right. If you think you’re broke for long enough…guess what?

I’ve been broke my entire life. I grew up wearing nice clothes and going to good schools. I got a car when I turned 17 and my mom sent me on a trip to Paris with the French club, too. I went to an amazing private college. I lived in Los Angeles, flew to New York on a whim a few times to see Broadway shows… I’ve bought two houses as an adult and am the proud owner of a (real) Louis Vuitton purse (thank you, Bear). My last luxury car was paid off before I bought my new luxury car. I never have enough money for anything and at least one night a week, sometimes two, we eat out.

See how broke I am?

I’ll bet you thought this post was going to be about carbs…

Here’s the thing: when I was 7 years old, my dad died. He was the bread winner. Like, all the bread. He won a SHIT LOAD of bread. After he went to heaven, my mom sat one night at her dressing table with a calculator and a check book register. I remember looking at her furrowed brow and stiff hand. I watched her push the buttons on the calculator and then write numbers down. I finally got close enough to her for her concentration to break and I asked her, “Do we have enough money?”
“Oh. Yes, honey. We’ll be fine.”
That was all it took. My dad, the protector, the leader, the winner of the bread was gone. And my mom was worried. I could tell. Just that one interaction (along with my interpretation of about 1,000 more interactions) became a belief: we don’t have enough money.
I don’t have enough money.
That belief has never left me. It is a thought I keep thinking. Despite never having starved or living in anything less than a beautiful home and never missing a vacation (we just took our kids on a cruise), I’m broke. Always have been. And always will be, unless the belief changes.

So every single one of those contestants on The Biggest Loser who gained the weight back didn’t do it for lack of willpower or because they’re lazy or because they weren’t educated: they did it because they never changed the BELIEF that they were fat. They just removed the fat. So eventually, the beliefs made things “right” again. They ended up putting on some or all of the weight they’d lost.

To truly change anything in life, you have to change the thing while slowly changing the beliefs. You can’t go from broke to rich in one thought – it’s too big of a jump. You can’t go from overweight to perfect healthy weight in one thought either. You won’t believe yourself. You won’t believe your own thoughts and so you’ll continue thinking the same thoughts you’ve always had, and the patterns will repeat. But if I can convince you to change your THOUGHTS, I can help you change a belief. Then.
Then you can change your body, your bank statement, and whatever else you can use to fill in the blank – “I have always been ______”.

My thoughts are different today than they were even a month ago. I truly believe I’m covered. I still wake up scared every now again because damnit if that isn’t the deep groove I thought myself into over a lifetime, but I’m able to gently lift myself out and start reminding myself of what’s true: “I have enough, there is enough, and my income continues to increase everyday.”
What new thought can you replace your fill-in-the-blank statement with? Need help coming up with a new thought? Just let me know in the comments or an email.

Erin.salem@gmail.com

A Disjointed, Complete and Total RANT (and not for the reason you think)

dribble_stop_makingI had to turn off my Facebook feed today, and not for the reason you think.
I woke up to the news and also to the hate. Hate coming out of the mouths of people who have been preaching love. Hate for those who voted for Trump. Hate for those who voted for Hillary. Hate for those who voted for a third-party. You blame people. You celebrate by high-fiving people in the face. You grieve by refusing to be friends anymore.

Go ahead. Have your freak out. Be upset. But even my six-year-old is required to use kind words when he loses.
I know you’re scared. I know you’re angry. I know you’re happy. I know you’re celebrating. I know you’re confused. I know that’s where all your reactionary behavior comes from. I get it. But stop it. It’s not helping.

Take. A. Deep. Breath.

Your only option is to love. Truly love yourself. (If you don’t know how to do that, it’s time to learn.) Because it is only in the loving of yourself that you’ll feel safe enough to let other people have opinions different from yours. You’ll feel safe that your lack of control over them or your circumstances does not limit the control you have over your own choices.
You have the choice to be kind.
Opinions and ideas are your right, but if you choose to share them, then you have opened a reciprocal door giving others the same right.
You want to “fight”.
You want to “show them”.
You want to give the middle finger to the other voters.
You want to HATE them.
And you can. You can do all that.
But don’t expect to get love back when that’s what you share. It’s not how Universal Law works.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
I keep seeing people ask, “What will I tell my children?!”
What will you tell your children?!
You will tell them that you love them! You will tell them how to love others! You will tell them everything you were telling them just yesterday. You will tell them that in the wake of your perceived injustice, or your perceived win, you will still choose to be kind. You can still choose love.

Love doesn’t just apply to your opinion.

You are allowed to be angry. You are allowed to be unkind. We live in a country that makes it possible for you to be both of those things, freely. But you cannot expect to be those things and then receive love in return. You won’t.

We live in an amazing country during an amazing time. We are chock full of change-makers and love-givers and progress. They’re all still here. It didn’t suddenly change overnight. The world is the same: some horrors and some miracles, every. single. day.
Yesterday was ok.
Today will be, too.
Be kind.
(I love, accept, and cherish all people and opinions, both those I agree with and those I don’t. I want to understand you. I want to understand where you’re coming from. If you choose to comment with an opinion, I welcome it. But keep your tone gentle, and I will do the same.)

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