“Hey, mom? What was I gonna ask you?”

“Hey, mom? What was I gonna ask you?”

This was a question my 7-year-old son walked into the kitchen and asked me today. He wanted me to tell him what his question was so that I could answer it.
Guys.
You guys.
WHY WOULD I KNOW WHAT HIS QUESTION WAS GONNA BE.

Or maybe a better question is: why would he think I would know?
I thought about this, literally gave conscious thought to why he would think I know what he was going to ask me. I zoomed out and a whole movie played in my mind:
“Mom, where are my shoes?”
“Mom, is it going to rain today?”
“Mom, where is the remote?”
“Mom, how many bites have I taken?
“Mom, where is my water bottle?”
“Mom, who is that person in the parking lot over there at that store?”
Our children come out knowing nothing. NO. THING. They don’t even know how to sleep right. They don’t know how to eat enough to not die. They look to us for everything. And where it gets tricky is when the get old enough to know a fair amount of stuff and, yet, they still ask the parents. Especially…the moms.
And it’s pretty much out of habit.
Why? Because we know where the shoes are. We know if it’s going to rain, where the remote (probably) is, and approximately how many bites are left before dessert. So why wouldn’t our children think we know who that stranger in the parking lot is or what question they were trying to ask us just now?

If you know me, you know I’m a little bit lazy. I don’t typically shower until around noon. I don’t make the bed. I don’t dust unless people are coming over. I wear a lot of yoga pants. I spray good smells onto bad smells. You know what I’m saying?
I’m also a little bit of a lazy parent. I will send my children back to their rooms three and four times before I will even consider standing up to help them find their shoes.
I thought for a long time that this style of parenting would create independent children; the kind of children who look for their shoes in REASONABLE places for a REASONABLE amount of time before they come asking where they are. For example: I would think that by now, my children would consider the fact that they went outside earlier in the day and that would result in a good place to start looking for their shoes. You know…outside.
I would think that forcing them to unload the dishwasher for me would mean that by the second or third time, they would recognize that cups ALL go in the cup cabinet and there’s never a reason to put ONE cup in the bowl cabinet.
But nay. Even doing the least amount possible as a parent, my kids still wander into the room I’m in to ask me what they came in to ask me.

So for all of those parents out there who receive the barrage of questioning on a daily basis from children who appear to have no brains, I want to tell you that whether you answer their questions or don’t answer their questions, they will still ask you where we keep the ice, how to open the peanut butter, and whether or not the dogs can eat jalepenos. I’ve done the research. It makes no difference. Parenting literally makes no difference.
My son is brilliant and does his own laundry and got a perfect score on his spelling test and he literally shouted, “SQUIRREL” and ran outside to chase a squirrel in the middle of a conversation today.
So have the glass of wine. Help them or don’t help them. Gluten or gluten-free.* All that matters is you love them and do the best you can to keep them from jumping off of cars in the driveway.

*Yes, I know. If your child is a celiac, gluten-free matters. If they’re physically disabled, they may need help. If you’re an alcoholic, don’t drink the wine. Because, duh.

 

Control

“It is easy to understand how you would come to the conclusion that your path to feeling good is through influencing or controlling the behavior of others. But as you attempt to control them (through influence or coercion), you discover that not only can you not contain them – but your attention to them brings more like them into your experience. You simply cannot get to where you want to be by controlling or eliminating the unwanted.”
-Esther Hicks

I’m realizing more and more that the vast majority of people’s actions are an attempt to control their environment. Control feels like real, tangible stuff. Say you want a thing, walk into a store with money, find the thing, bring it to the front of the store to exchange said thing for money, and leave with the thing you wanted. Control.
Of course, you can probably remember the last time you wanted a thing and they were out of the thing or the store was closed or the thing is different from the last time you wanted it…

We try to control for everything, and yet even the best controllers land smack dab in the middle of the uncontrollable situation.

We try to control our government by voting and by telling other people who to vote for or by refusing to speak to people who don’t vote for who we vote for, but really we have no control over how the government is run at all in the first place. If you’ve ever watched House of Cards or listened to the podcast Serial as they discussed the ins and outs of bringing Bowe Bergdahl back to the United States (think “a bottle of Johnny Walker Black will get you a place on the Secretary of Defense’s schedule), you’d know that pretty much everyone holding a position of power is going to figure out how to do what they want to do.
We try to control our partners by setting up rules (which sometimes we call “vows” and sometimes we call “boundaries” but really they’re mostly fancy words for rules). We tell them not to cheat on us, but more than a third of spouses do. We tell them to be loving towards us, but anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than 5 minutes knows that goes out of the window some days. We tell them not to smoke, so they sneak the cigarettes on business trips. We tell them not to spend too much money, and so they get a secret bank account.
We try to control our society by telling them they can’t drink too much, steal, hurt each other, drive on the wrong side of the road…and yet people do these things. Regularly. Like, a lot.

People do what they want. And as much emphasis as we put on character and dignity and integrity, we’ve all done something that someone else asked us not to do because we liked our way better, even if it’s as small as using regular steaks instead of organic ones for the cookout (why would I spend $15/ribeye when I could spend $9 and they taste the same?).

So what’s a human to do?! Control nothing and just hope for the best?

Well, sort of.

You can only control how you treat the world around you, and how you react to it. You can leave this country for another one whose government you like better. You can choose a partner who is more in alignment with the rules you set for yourself (btw, do you follow all those rules you set for yourself all the time?). You can choose which situations you stay in and which you don’t. (Just remember that you’ll be brining yourself with you wherever you go, so unhappy-here doesn’t necessarily mean happy-there.) But standing still and resisting what IS is kind of the definition of insanity…
It’s all a game of resistance, and as much as I’d love for resistance to result is LESS of a thing I don’t like, it will always result in the same amount or more, because we get and become what we think about, even if what we’re thinking about it what we don’t want. (Remember Prohibition?)

What if instead of trying so fervently to control what others think, believe, and do, you spent all that energy focused on making yourself happy? What if the whole world was filled with people who took responsibility for themselves and left you alone unless you both agreed it would be fun to be around each other? Is it possible that you could find your own personal happiness without worry about what someone else is doing? What if you had the same grace for others as you have for yourself?

I know, I know. Perfect world. <3

*Note because someone will say it: NO, I’m not talking about minding your own business if you know someone is being physically abused or has a disability and needs help or someone got the flu and wants some soup. Because duh.

On Being Positive

I spent most of my 20s complaining. I didn’t really believe most of the complaints I made, but it gave me something to do and someone to be. I liked being the cynical jester, always cracking a hearty little quip about the state of things, always harping on what’s true and what’s real.

The people who loved me loved the fact that I always had a snarky comment.

Trouble was…it wasn’t actually me. And there were other things that weren’t actually me. I wasn’t the fast driver I purported myself to be. I didn’t actually care if I ingested gluten. I didn’t want to be a school psychologist. I really, really, really like(d) Dr. Phil.
There were so many “mes” I tried to be in order to maintain the illusion of what everyone thought that I was. And I built the person everyone thought I was in an effort to feel at home with people. Isn’t it ironic that I left the home that was me to try to join the home of a bunch of other people?

 

 

 

 

When I got divorced in 2013, I didn’t have much veil left to hold up in front of the mes, and what was left was filled with holes and kind of a pathetic attempt at the peek-a-boo game. It’s tough to be the witty-complainer or the gluten-protester when you can’t get out of bed.
That experience revealed some things about me that, at first, I thought needed to be fixed (after all, I’d spent thousands of dollars in the years prior trying to fix myself…):
1. I have strong and fast boundaries. I don’t let people in too quickly and I don’t allow people who aren’t in my best interest to stay. This meant letting some very important people go. I spent a long time feeling guilty about that.
2. I am irretrievably positive. I can see the best in any person, any situation. This led me to believe I was naive.
3. I am an over-sharer. I will tell the gal at grocery check-out about my birth control pills.

I tried changing all three of these things. I tried to let more people into my inner circle and keep the ones who were already there. I tried to tone down the “bright side” and be a little more realistic. I even stopped blogging consistently in an attempt to tone down my oversharing.

Pretty neat how life stripped back all the costumes I’d put on in my 20s, only to have me start putting new ones on…

The good news is, I noticed. I felt the difference between being who I am and being who I think I need to be. I removed some people from my life. I started blogging/posting to social media again with conscious attention paid to how much of my life people need to know about. And, of course, my positivity came back full force. So strongly, in fact, that sometimes it’s physically painful to listen to people talk about the negative or the “reality” of any situation when I know there is so much to be grateful for and believe in. When I don’t feel happy, I know it’s because I’m probably not being true to one of those three rules of me.
Caveat: I break my own rules all the time. This is what makes me human. And it’s only when I break my own rules that I remember how I feel when I’m being anything other than me. It’s actually a really good reminder to be even more me.
The strangest lesson, though, is that my positivity bothers people. Like…a lot. When someone is focused on what’s real, on the current state of affairs, and it’s all negative…they think I’m a dreamer for believing something better and different is brewing.
Turns out no matter what you do, someone is going to complain.

 

 

Noel – 7

I know it’s been 7 years since Noel died because my son is 7 years old. I will never forget the morning I was nursing my newborn son when I saw on Facebook that he was gone. He’d been in hospice after battling a brain tumor. For a short time it appeared that he won the battle, but it wasn’t long before it became clear he would succumb. And my heart ached for his pregnant wife, for his HUNDREDS of best friends, and his unborn daughter who would never know how incredibly fun her father was; at least not in an up close and personal kind of way.

I write about him every year, not because he was MY best friend. I write about him because his life and death had a very profound impact on me. We attended undergrad together and mostly lost touch after that, except for maybe a like here and there on Facebook. And every year, his life and death teach me something new.
This past year has been one of the hardest and most rewarding of my life. You would think being married, having a child, getting divorced, getting into a major accident and breaking my femur, and getting married again…you’d think somewhere in THERE would be the hardest and best year.
Alas, last year my husband and I started a business. (If you’ve ever done this, you just laughed.) And it has, without question, caused my most honest of total breakdowns. Not knowing if we’d make the bills some months caused me to lose 30/40% of my hair, my husband’s perseverance making me feel so strong that I decide to open my own small business, paying off debts, incurring new ones, hiring people, firing people…it has had more ups and downs that any other era of my life so far.
Ups and downs that I took VERY seriously.
This year, though, I can look back over the past 7 years and say – hey. Wow. Some of these years were awful. Some were great. Some were funny. Some were really weird. But all of them I spent here, on Earth, with the people I love. This is by no means a guilt-blog; I’m not feeling badly about being alive when Noel isn’t. I know for a fact that Noel is feeling incredible, loving his experience in his new realm. No, this blog is more about me deciding that whether I lose it all or gain it all, the most important part of my day should be the zoom out and the zoom in.
Zoom out – is what’s happening with the property taxes or the sod or the water stains in the garage ceiling going to matter a year from now? Two years from now? Five? I can guarantee you that 95% of my day today won’t even matter in 6 months.
Zoom in – I have love. I have a loving husband, a loving mother, loving dogs… And I have love for my children, love for my close friends, love for my dogs. (Dogs are important.) If I can zoom in and find love? Everything else is going to be ok.
Of my 36 years, only about a total of 20 days contained major experiences that still matter now. And zero of them contained a day without love.
It doesn’t minimize my struggles. It doesn’t mean I don’t have issues that knock me down. It means that those things only matter as much as I let them. I can complain and freak out and bitch about the property taxes. Or. I can say, “Well, damnit.” And stroke the check. And move on. Because when and if I die, I won’t care about the property taxes.
Noel didn’t care about student loans and car payments when he was facing the end of his life. He cared that the people who loved him most were there, and that he had the chance to love them back.
I can’t live every day like my last. It’s not reasonable to ask myself to do that. I can just remind myself to zoom out, zoom in, take a breath, and keep laughing.
Laughing like he did.
All my love to his beautiful wife and incredible daughter. <3

Hurricane Irma – Part 3

I tried to fall asleep around 11pm. The wind was picking up and the rain was sloshing around outside. I envisioned the pretty little tree on the front yard that I’d grown from a sapling someone gave me. It was almost 11 feet tall now. I was so sad about the abuse that tree was getting.

I fell asleep at about 12am and woke up again around 1am. The once cool room was starting to get hot. “Should we plug in the generator for the refrigerator now?” I asked Bear. Bear was awake.
He stood up and looked out the window. “Maybe.”
Bear got back in bed and we sat there, listening. It’s a helpless feeling, hearing the winds whip through your neighborhood, wondering if one of the gusts will be big enough to do damage…

I learned something new about hurricanes during this one. The northeast side of a hurricane is the stronger, most devastating side. The worst wind, the worst rain, it all resides in that corner, which was the exact corner hitting us. Having sat through Category 2 and 3 storms before, they all came at us from the east. This storm swung north from the southern-most tip of Florida, carrying it northeast. Hence. We got the strongest side of the storm. No wonder Category 2s never seemed that bad to me in the past.

And then. It happened.
Bear and I tried to go back to sleep after making no concrete decision on the generator. The winds began to die down and the next sound we heard was like nails on a chalkboard.

Those Neighbors
You remember Those Neighbors? Well, not only do they have an ominous 55ft oak tree waiting to fall over in a hurricane, they also have a completely abandoned back yard and pool. If you peak over the fence, the pool is black. The once beautifully manicured palms are now covered in vines and moss and weeds. And in that pool, in that black, shadowy pool, live about 500 frogs.

As Bear and I lay in bed around 2:30am, contemplating an attempt at more sleep, we realized that the frogs once taking up residence in the black pit next door had been swept up and out of the pool onto the side of OUR HOUSE. And as the winds died down, we stared into the darkness of our room, half chuckling, half crying, listening to the frogs plastered to our windows…

Starting a generator isn’t all that hard. Starting a generator in a hurricane in the dark is a challenge. As soon as Bear fired it up, though, we realized we would have to run the extension cord through the living room sliding glass door, which meant the entire house would soon smell like a car engine. That teeny, tiny crack in the sliding glass door we rang the extension cord through was enough to fill the house with fumes within a few minutes. My ingenious husband duct-taped the opening of the sliding glass door to minimize the carbon dioxide so we could all live to see another day. The refrigerator was on and running. It was 3:45am and we opened a few roof-covered windows to air out the smell.

We sat listening to the rain, the quick whisps of howling, angry wind. In the pitch black of a hurricane, there’s not much else to do but sit and listen. Occasionally we would stand up together and walk around the house with a flashlight to check on my mom and the dogs. It’s a very strange feeling.

I finally decided I would try to sleep again around 4:30am. Bear laid next to me as I finally drifted off to the sweet sounds of 80mph gusts when a boom that sounded like God tripping on a lego shook the entire house.
I startled awake.
Bear leapt from the bed, which is a story unto itself. My bones were shaking. He plastered his face against the almost opaque window.
“It’s down,” he said with an authoritative voice.
“THE TREE?” I screamed as I raced to meet him at the window.
“Hoooolyyy shit. It came feet from our other neighbors’ house!”
Through the power lines, across the street, and onto our neighbors’ front yard landed the old oak; the oak that Those Neighbors have been asked to remove for 2 years. And just like that…we were trapped. Electrical lines down in our front yard, a giant oak tree blocking the driveway…no matter how the storm played out, we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The sun started coming up about an hour later, and when I peered out the other window at the still-raging storm, I saw it.
My sweet little tree I grew from a baby sap, snapped at the base, flipping around the front yard.
I was more upset about that little tree than the big one…

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.

Hurricane Irma – Part 1

I think it was Labor Day when most of us became aware that a storm was organizing, but like most storms, no one panicked. If you don’t live in Florida it might seem a little insane not to panic about a hurricane. But the trouble with hurricanes is that we have days and days of warning for a storm that all the well-dressed meteorologists in the world can’t honestly track with any certainty. We’ve had SO many Hurricanes Who Cried Wolf that we’re cynical about Mother Nature.

We Floridians know how to follow the models. There’s the Hurricane Weather Research model, the Euro model, the UK model, The Global Forecast System, and about 12 more. Most Floridians have a favorite (mine’s the Euro) and we compare it to the other models all. day. long. We know when to listen to the newscasters and when not to. For example, when a journalist is standing in a light breeze announcing that he can BARELY stay standing as a plastic bag floats by, we know there’s not much to report yet. And we know if Storm Tracker Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel shows up in our town, it’s time to run for our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday – 7 full days before the hurricane hit.
“Are you going to evacuate?” people ask me.
“I have no idea.”
I really didn’t. Without any clear indication of how strong this storm would be, where it would be, and when it would be…we just didn’t know.

Tuesday –
“YOU NEED TO EVACUATE RIGHT NOW THERE’S A HURRICANE COMING,” shouted concerned people across the rest of the south.
We Floridians have been doing this for a really, really long time. In fact, almost every birthday party I ever had got evacuated because my birthday falls at the peak of hurricane season. We just aren’t used to the entire country having an opinion about when we stay or leave, and calling us idiots if we make a choice others don’t agree with. The last MAJOR set of hurricanes to hit Florida were in 2004 (the last El Nino). Social media was not in our hands 24-7 back then. We listened to the forecasters and the state officials and made the decisions that were best for us. All of a sudden, this year, the entire country became meteorological forecasters and told us to get out or we were fools. “IT’S JUST STUFF! GET OUT!” If one more person said that to me, I was going to change my profile picture to a naked photo of Bea Arthur and throw my phone into the Florida muck.

The trouble with evacuating was two-fold:
1. We’d potentially help clog the only 2 interstates out of Florida, which at the time the people south of us needed far more than we did. They were guaranteed a hit.
2. We’d potentially get stuck in the location we evacuated TO (maybe somewhere near Atlanta) after the storm because all of South Florida would be heading back around the same time. My husband has a local business. He couldn’t afford to be stuck in Atlanta for a week.
Bonus problem 3. We’d potentially evacuate and get stuck on an interstate with no gas and be left to weather the hurricane in a Cadillac SRX.

Of course, if we were under mandatory evacuation, we would be OUT of here. But without the city making that call, it was up to us to make the smartest decision for everyone involved.

We decided the best thing to do would be to stay and invite my mom to come be with us since she lives in South Florida.

Wednesday –
With no real idea as to whether or not the hurricane would make it to North Florida or not, Wednesday is better-safe-than-sorry day. Stock up on water, canned goods, gas, non-perishable foods, batteries, propane, and buckets. Also grab important documents, lift important things up off the ground (in case of flooding), buy extra dog food, and prescriptions. My husband was out of town for work so I was left to do most of this prep by myself. It’s a stressful thing, trying to ensure you’ve got everything you need in case you have to run, stay in one place for days, or die.

I decided to go shopping for hurricane supplies after I dropped my son off at school that morning. When I arrived at the grocery store, I started walking up and down the aisles. I passed the same people three or four times because they, too, were sort of walking around just looking at things.
Should I get diapers? I don’t need them, but what if someone does?
Can I buy eggs right now? How long to hard-boiled eggs last unrefrigerated.
Do I buy paper towels or toilet paper? Do I need both?
Ooo chocolate Teddy Grahams, it’s been so long…
It’s a bizarre feeling knowing you’re mulling over these questions when you could potentially lose everything within a few days or be called to a mandatory evacuation and leave it all behind. So you buy everything you could potentially need and then hope you don’t need any of it but also kinda hope you do so you didn’t just spend $50 on canned goods you’d never eat on a non-hurricane day.

Thursday –
My husband came home from his work trip and brought the generator his business bought earlier in the year for a big job. We were SO lucky to have a generator that would keep our refrigerator running so we wouldn’t have to replace every single condiment.
I filled every container we own with water and put half of them in the freezer and half of them in the fridge.
I washed everything we own. There’s nothing worse than being stuck without power AND no clean underwear.
I charged everything that’s chargeable in our home. Flashlights, backup batteries, portable DVD players, iPads…there’s no telling if we’d need any of it.
I watched a LOT of weather reports. It looked like my city (Jacksonville) would take a hard hit. The other issue is that this storm was the SIZE of the entire STATE. That’s never happened before. Not even CLOSE. So no matter what, we were going to experience some kind of weather, but the reports were suggesting anything from a tropical storm to a Category 2, which on the hurricane scale of 1-5 is a nasty, nasty storm. I’ve survived 2s before, but anything higher and I evacuate.
I also bought more food. I don’t know why.
My mom arrived from South Florida.

Friday –
We moved the vehicles into the warehouse.
I filled the bathtub so we could flush the toilets and wash the dishes with the big buckets my husband bought.
I bought more food. I don’t know why.
I brought in all of our potted plants and outdoor furniture.
I let the dogs run around the neighborhood knowing they’d be stuck inside for a while once the storm was upon on.
I checked the weather reports again. There was still a good chance the storm could pass directly over us and that it could gain strength. It had already begun to devastate the small Virgin Islands and islands near the Bahamas. And I mean it flattened them. Those people had nowhere to go.
After learning that we had until at least Sunday night before the weather made it to us, we decided the best thing to do would be to invite all of our friends over for a Hurricane Party.

Tomorrow, we start with Saturday…

But did I ask…

I have a lot of really strong, legit girlfriends. They all serve different “friend” purposes in my life. I have the one who strengthens my relationship with God. I have the one who listens every time I need to cry. I have the one who calls me on my BS. I have the one who makes me feel better about eating massive amounts of carbs by eating massive amounts of carbs with me…
One day in particular I was feeling really frustrated when my husband didn’t seem appreciative of anything I was doing. And I was doing EVERYTHING. I knew that I could go to my “I need to cry” friend, but that I wasn’t actually going to solve the problem by crying. I also knew that carbs would feel good but…
I called my “no BS” friend and explained the situation to her. And she asked me something that changed my life.
“But did he ask you, though?”
“Did he ask me what?”
“Did he ask you to do all of that stuff you’re doing and not being appreciated for?”
“NO! But if I didn’t do it, no one else would have!”
“Right, but you’re the one who wanted it done. Did he want it done?”
“Well, I mean I assume he wants clean clothes.”
“But does he know how to work the washer and dryer?”
“Yes.”
“Then if you DON’T do those things, he can. He knows how. And I don’t get the sense that he would resent you if you didn’t do them. So you’re actually upset that he’s not appreciating the things that you chose and wanted to do.”

Well. Damn.

While I don’t think that conversation in any way exonerates us or our partners from showing appreciation for each other (I think that’s the foundation of any partnership and means the most to some of us), it did get me thinking about how many times I make moves based on what I think other people need.

Then it made me think about the people who make moves based on what THEY think that I need. Oh my GOD is that annoying.
Like when you tell someone about a situation you’re in and they offer advice without you ever asking. If you’re me, then you’re taking the advice thinking that you did ask for it and trying to apply it when you never actually did ask for it, nor did you want it, but still you’re new focus becomes applying someone else’s opinion.
AN OPINION THAT YOU NEVER ASKED FOR?

(Do you do this? Do you give advice even when no one asks for it?! STOP IT!)

I guess the point is to mind your own business, and that really means mind your own feelings. If you’re getting opinions you didn’t ask for, consider them to be worth what you paid for them. Also re-consider going to that part particular opinion-giving person the next time you have a problem.
If you’re feeling unappreciated, first check to see if you’re seeking appreciation for things that no one asked you to do. Then, if you are, tell the people around you that you’d like appreciation for those things so they know! It’s their choice whether or not they show you appreciation after that and, if they don’t, you get to decide if they stay or go, if you continue doing what you’re not being appreciated for, and if YOU stay or go.

If you don’t want to do those things you’re not getting appreciated for, then do what I did: teach your kids how to do their own laundry.

I’m not unlimited.

I just made a huge realization.

HUGE.

Are you ready for this?

I am not unlimited.

Now I shall explain.

When I was 7, my dad died and I felt an immense amount of pressure to be brave (mainly due to all the adults telling me I needed to be brave). My mom and family never asked me to be anything but a 7-year-old but I still felt the need to be the best, or at least way better, to account for the fact that everyone now had to live without my dad.
I grew up with the understanding that I would get good grades, go to college, and have a career. Not unlike most people.
I was an actress and so everyone told me they’d “see me on Broadway.”
I didn’t make it to Broadway so I went back to school, grad school in fact, to get a degree in something I didn’t really care about so I could say I had a masters.
I got married and everyone asked when I’d have a child. I couldn’t get pregnant without the help of fertility treatments and that made me feel like a total loser…until I shared my story on my blog and became a hero again. Hero with a graduate degree.
My marriage didn’t survive, as so many don’t, and I no longer had either of my hands or feet on the ladder to greatness. Then I was in an accident that broke my leg and everyone told me what I hero I was for not giving up or giving in. BACK TO HERO!
(This was weird to me because what was there to give up on? I had a son and people who loved me who were constantly helping me and I had stuff I liked to do. Why would I give up?
Do people often break their legs and give up?
It’s way easier to come near death than to deal with most other life-issues because when you’re injured and incapacitated, everyone shows up to help you and proclaim your greatness.)
Finally, I started amping up my work life and became a Beachbody coach and surrounded myself with what was familiar: people telling me to continue being brave, being a hero with a masters degree, being great. I quickly became a reputable source of health and wellness information and reached the higher levels of Beachbody Coachdom and everyone cheered: “Look at her go! She can do anything!”

Until, one day, it hit me.
I opened up one of my familiar podcasts (you know the ones…full of people telling you that you can be bold, that you can be fearless, that you can have the life of your DREAMS!) and within the first 15 seconds…I stopped it.
Holy shit.
“You have the potential to be UNLIMITED!”
Holy shit.
I don’t want to be unlimited.

I’ll be 36 in a month and…wow.
I don’t want to be unlimited.
I don’t want to be brave or a hero with a masters degree or geared up for greatness.
I don’t want to be scalable or tax exempt or even altogether special.
I just figured out that I want to be…Erin.

I want to work and make money. I want to be a mom and a wife. I want to garden. I want to do things that are fun, like theatre. I want to share my feelings through my blog and social networks and help people to see and love each other a little bit better.
But Lord have mercy, I am tired of trying to figure out the next way that I’m going to be GREAT. No one has ever looked at me and said, “Hey. You’re good, just being you. And you don’t have to do any of this to be good.” Not that this is a very intuitive or natural thing to say, but maybe it should be?
Maybe we all need to look at ourselves every morning and say, “What you’ve done so far today in the past 30 minutes…that’s enough. That’s enough to make you great.” You won’t believe it at first, but you might eventually begin to internalize the fact that not being the best and the greatest and the most important or the most recognized…would be ok?

The process of transformation is not about becoming something that we weren’t. It’s about unveiling what we were the whole time.
– Author William Paul Young

I’m a helper. An employee. A friend. A laugher of laughs.
I’m not unlimited. I don’t need to be.
Just me is enough.

 

On Saying No…(Yes.)

“‘No’ is a complete sentence.” – Oprah Winfrey

I tell people to say no. I remind them. “It’s ok to say no!” And isn’t it just the most tangly web when we tell other people what we ought to be doing?
The problem is I don’t even realize when I start yessing myself to death. Most of us don’t. We say yes to helping, to trying, to fixing, to going, to staying, to reading… We’re exhausted and out of time and proudly wearing the “I Do Everything” badge and we cannot for the LIFE of us figure out when we’ll be nominated for the Nobel ISayYes Prize while we’re finishing up that favor for that one woman we met at church one Sunday and simultaneously texting our girlfriend to let her know we’ll watch her kids on Christmas Eve.

Ok so maybe it’s not that bad.

But it’s bad.

So why don’t we say no?
1. We don’t want people to be mad.
If you’re like me, you feel very, very uncomfortable when anyone is anything but pleased with you. You don’t want to say, “No” to someone in case it might upset them and you don’t want to deal with someone being upset because it makes you feel like poop.

2. We want people to like us.
This is different from not wanting them to be mad. We want them to think we’re great and fun and likeable. We want them to think we’re good.

3. We feel valued when we’re busy.
Every time someone asks us to do something, it’s like a high. It’s another thing to do and having things to do makes us feel valuable. Besides. We’re not worthy when we’re napping…

I was listening to author Cheryl Strayed discuss this idea with Oprah and O said she turned into a bank when she became a celebrity. Her family no longer talked to her like a person; they talked to her like a transaction. And it was really difficult for her to explain why she wouldn’t be funding their every wish and solving their every financial problem. It hurt her to say no! And so, she didn’t have relationships with her family members for over TEN YEARS!!!

Eventually, she decided to tell each of them what she WANTED to give them, she gave them each the amount she wanted to give, and that was it. They could ask for money all they wanted but they knew from that point forward she would say no.
That made some of them mad.
Some of them didn’t like her anymore.
Oprah felt less valuable.

I get you, Oprah.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the importance of saying YES! I mean if figuring out when to say no isn’t enough…
But O went on to say, “I know what a real yes feels like now. It feels awesome. It feels exciting. It feels like a hell yes!”

Do you remember the last time you gave a hell yes? When the yes felt so right, so GOOD, that you couldn’t wait to say it??
Did you know that you’re allowed to feel that way every time you say yes?! And that if you don’t feel hell yes, you don’t actually owe anyone an explanation for your no???
Not your friends.
Not your family. (UGH)
Not your pastor.
Not your neighbor.
Not a perfect stranger.

When to say yes:
When it’s a HELL YES.
When the yes feels good.
When the person you’re saying yes to is worth the yes.

When to say no:
When it’s inconvenient.
When it doesn’t feel right or good.
When your first reaction is a no but you talk yourself into a yes.

How do you know when it’s a yes and when it’s a no for you? Have you noticed lately?
Yes?
No?

 

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