What I know…

It’s challenging. Being right in the middle of life and faced with an incredible number of decisions.

Career?

Business?

Relationship?

Kids?

Travel?

Stability?

Or basically any goal or desire that you ruminate upon.

You’re in the middle of this maze and none of it seems to make sense. It feels like you are traveling on a dozen different journeys and you’re unsure about all of them. This feeling… the dead-end, pit of uncertainty, it’s a hell you didn’t realize could be a thing.

“What should I do?”

“What career should I choose?”

“Should I start a company?”

“Should I date this person?”

“Should I travel or build more security?”

“I don’t know what I want.”

Period.

Decisions, decisions.

They look like an endless sea, stretched out in every direction.

You feel overwhelmed, directionless, restless and anxious. It seems everyone wants answers, yourself more than anyone. There are so many things to do, so many possibilities.

But here you stay, motionless, treading water and gaining very little ground. Why is this so hard?

It seems like these should be simple choices, but you find yourself ruminating on every decision, trying to think of every possible outcome… You spend weeks, or months, or maybe even years thinking about the right choice. And then you still don’t make a decision. After all, you wouldn’t want to make the wrong one.

You know that failure is okay, but you still can’t seem to take the leap. You determine that it must be because you don’t actually know what you want.

But the truth is, it’s because you want so much. You want a lot of things and you are capable of having them all.

The truth is, you don’t like choosing.

Anything you choose will take away from one of the other paths you could have taken. And you could actually like that other path much better, right? You want the BEST.

I get it. Believe me. We only have one life, and time is short. It’s important to optimize what we have… But if there is anything I’ve learned in my brief stint here on earth, it the fact that you are still going to be restless and anxious and searching in 5, 10, or 15 years if you continue to hold on to that logic. You can’t just wait on life forever.

You have to do. If you don’t start, you won’t ever figure it out.

Your life isn’t a fancy formula that you need 10 years to write. Especially since, no matter what the calculations, you’re never guaranteed that the next finite amount of time will be ANY better.

Life is an experience. Lived by EXPERIENCING. It’s certainly not optimised by thinking 24/7 while on autopilot for the next ____ years. You figure out what you want by doing, by trying different things, by problem solving, by eliminating and adding as it serves… it’s not about a formula.

And the best part? When you look back at life, you get to see that path, with all those decisions, and you realize the adventure was possible because of your choices. Each decision led to a lesson, fulfilling you, building you, bettering you. Yeah, there will be mistakes, sadness, uncomfortable times. But you’ll be growing and going to the places you’ve only thought about up to now.

It’s hard to start. Changing routines, chasing more, breaking free from your own (and other’s) expectations. But dont wait until you are in a hospital bed like I was. Don’t wait until you think it’s the end and all you have are regrets.

All that uncertainty can be traced back to the thought “I don’t know…”

But if you focus on what you don’t know, you can’t make any progress.

So here’s my suggestion: Start with what you know. What is certain in your mind? Focus on that.

I am absolutely not telling you to avoid learning or doing new things, just to be clear. I am also not telling you to live risk-free (obviously by my own lifestyle).

What I am saying is that you know you better than you think. You know your goals and aspirations. You know what you’re interested in (or not).

What I know about me:

I want to travel to as many different countries as possible.

I want to work remotely for myself.

I want to always feed my creativity.

I want to raise my children to be responsible world citizens.

I want a partner who adds to the life I’ve built.

You will obviously have your own ideas and dreams. Maybe you know you don’t see a future with your partner. Maybe you know that you value stability over everything. Maybe you don’t want children, or maybe you do.

Figure out what you actually know about yourself. It could be anything. And it will most likely be very broad.

Seems simple, right?

It is. AND it gets rid of those self-imposed barriers to your decisions. Questions like, “I don’t know which country to go to” or “I don’t know what I want to do for a career” become a certain thing because you’ve opened yourself up. No, you didn’t answer the question per se… But you’ve changed the context and freed yourself to make a decision that is more true to you.

I know that I want to travel as many places as possible.

That’s it.

It makes everything else negotiable. I could go to Vegas, Bali, or Mexico and I am following the direction that I outlined for my life.

Life is about trying, not analyzing. Being in action feels better, I promise. The key is to ensure that your actions are aligned with the things that you know for certain.

It works for everything.

Starting a company is scary, but I know I want to work remotely and I want to work for myself. Regardless, if I fail at this particular endeavor, it will teach me something about my strengths and weaknesses and put me on the right path. I will begin to realize if this is the right fit. But if I don’t start? I’ll never know.

You get to write your story.

So figure out what you know for certain, focus on that, and you WILL figure out what you want. I promise you, it’s going to be an amazing story, full of great adventures and twists and turns…

In fact, you can make your life into a story that might be read by some as a fantasy.

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Her Story

This story is for you.

1. She couldn’t believe she was here. Her first apartment completely on her own. Finally finished with college. Great job at a law firm. Working with her best friend to accomplish some goals outside of her job. She sipped on her coffee and reflected on last night.

He was incredibly cute and kind and funny. He told these charming stories about his daughter and said he couldn’t wait until they could meet. It was really refreshing to see a guy so committed to his family. He definitely knew what he wanted. He had brought flowers and complimented her numerous times throughout the night. She felt like she was the most interesting, beautiful person alive just by being in his company. They had spent hours talking about anything and everything. He was a great communicator too. They had even delved into some really deep subjects, but it was amazing to see all the emotional vulnerability. *sigh*

He seemed so perfect.

2. It’s been a month now. Everything basically feels like heaven. He wants to spend every waking moment together and even when they’re at work, he texts to let her know how much he misses her. They’ve been talking about a future together. He said she was his dream girl and he couldn’t imagine life with someone more perfect. He randomly buys flowers and he always seems to know exactly what she needs or wants at any given moment. They are taking a trip together soon. She is so excited! Everything in life seems better now that he’s come along.

3. What a whirlwind. They were getting married! He asked her on the trip and of course, the answer had to be yes! She could not believe that she had found someone so incredible. She was definitely nervous, but the anxious feeling in her stomach was just the excitement and newness, nothing to be worried about. She did wish he had met her family first, but when she verbalized that to him, he said that their relationship was just between the two of them. It made sense, really. They would meet him at the wedding and they would love him. Everyone loved him. She had never met someone so charismatic and funny. It seemed he was the ultimate charmer everywhere they went. People just adored him. He always knew the right thing to say, whether it was in a crowd or at home with just her.

She had informed him that she wanted to wait at least a year before they got married. After all, they had JUST started dating and that seemed really fast. He agreed, but seemed a bit disappointed. The sulking had worn off after a day or two, but she kind of felt bad. He said it was everything he could dream of to have her as his own and she absolutely could not wait to be a Mrs.

 

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October

Autumnal_tree_roots_2560x1600Don’t fall for my flowers,

Please fall for my roots.

For when Autumn comes,

I will still need you.

The leaves will change,

they’ll turn and fall.

I do want to trust

That you’ll stay for it all.

As seasons change

Some harder than others,

Cold spells could be soothed

By the heat of a lover.

So if you decide to tell me you love me,

Please love who I am, not just what you see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Girl Who Smiles”

Three times yesterday. Three different conversations. Three separate people.

“How can you always be in such a good mood? Even with your car accident and now the job thing, it seems like you just have no worries.”

“I’m not sure I believe you. I can’t tell when you are feeling down at all. It seems like you are always happy.”

“How are you always so positive? It seems like nothing ever goes wrong in your life.”

These are people who KNOW me. Not my closest of friends, but definitely people that I have spent time with, hours upon hours over a period of years.

I had a conversation with some girlfriends a few months ago and we were describing how we would reference the others if they weren’t there. They labeled me “The Girl Who Smiles.”

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The truth is, I am not always positive. I am not always happy. Sometimes life is painful. Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of bed in the morning. Still. Even after all the shit I’ve been through.

I thought that my encounter with death last year would mean that I always appreciated everything. I thought I would easily see the good in every single day and every moment. I thought there would be no more hard times because I would be so grateful to be alive. 

Tomorrow marks one year since that first hospital stay. One year since they told me they weren’t sure if I would make it out of there. One year since my mortality confronted me in a very scary, very challenging way. Thirty-six days in and out of the hospital, organs struggling to function, doctors confused as to why. Twenty-some days believing that I was on my death bed.

I had spent all of 2018 preparing my will and writing letters to my kids for all the big events in their lives. Their thirteenth, sixteenth, twenty-first birthdays. Their first car. High school graduation. College graduation. Their wedding day. Their first child. I had prepared them for life without me. I was ready to go.

And then it all changed.

My incredible doctor came into the picture and decided that nothing I had been told was accurate and I needed to go a different route. She went rounds with the “specialists”, insisting that the medications I was taking were killing me faster than my condition.

When I left that hospital, I just knew that I would never perceive life the same way. After all, I had just beaten death. There was no way that I COULD have an ungrateful or out-of-sorts day after that, right?

But life.

Life can be challenging and ugly and hard.

There are little annoying things that happen on repeat.

My kids have days where they don’t stop fighting. I often spill coffee on my shirt or trip in front of other people. I wake up late or get back later from the gym, rush around, attempting to get everything together and out the door on time. Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth. Other people say hurtful things. I make mistakes.

There are plenty of days where I feel overwhelmed.

I recently wrecked my car, and if you’ve ever experienced that, insurance and attorneys and physical therapy and repairs can add a lot to an already full plate.

I am in the process of a career change. I don’t know if timing is right or if my future holds something better, but I knew it was time to move on. Again, overwhelming.

This summer I experienced a betrayal that hit me harder than anything I had ever experienced (be careful placing people on pedestals). I spent three days in bed, crying almost the entire time.

Then, when I finally picked myself up,  I realized that certain people I thought were my close friends were only out for themselves and I didn’t really matter in their world at all. That was a painful lesson that brought more tears than I care to admit.

Life is not all paint and food and dancing (I would say sunshine and rainbows, but I like paint, food and dancing better).

I am no different than you. I do struggle and my life is not easy all the time. But I spent years using a smile to hide pain and sometimes old habits die hard. I don’t want you to have some watered down, unemotional, happy-all-the-time picture of me. Because that isn’t real. And there is nothing in the world that I value more than authenticity.

But even when life sucks… and life can REALLY suck sometimes… we aren’t stuck there. Two things help me remember that.

1. Everything is cyclical.

I have a tattoo of a tree on my back and it’s very meaningful because it is a reminder that no matter how hard the winter, spring still comes. It’s always darkest before the dawn (or something like that).

When I get down, THAT is the most important thing that I remind myself. Nothing lasts forever. Good or bad. It’s all temporary and this moment is all we actually have.

And… Yes, I do try to remember where I came from. I am no longer destitute, no longer abused, no longer dying.

2. I am grateful. I choose to be grateful.

Even when it’s hard. I make a list every single day to remind myself. Sometimes that list looks like “waking up” and “my kids”, but some days I master it and I realize that the feeling in my fingertips is a gift.

But friend, if you are going through things right now, don’t hide. Don’t be ashamed of where you are. And please know that it will get better. You just have to make it to the other side.

If you are struggling, I am here. Always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Persistence

There are days when the road is smooth and everything seems to be going exactly as it should. There are days that the kids do their chores without nagging and dinner comes together easily and work is full of interesting, but good surprises (like plants from a coworker). Creativity comes easily and inspiration is in the air.

Then there are days that things fall apart. People say or write things that carry a tremendous weight. The kids cant seem to get along. Sleep was nonexistent and coffee barely touches the exhaustion. Your heart rate won’t slow down and it’s making you a bit dizzy. The person that is typically your confidante on such bad days is not around and it’s difficult to know where to turn.

Every word written or every stroke of the brush feels like a challenge and it’s obvious this is not your best work.

But you choose to carry on. You choose to entertain the habit, simply for the sake of habit.

Those hard days? Those are the fires that forge you into the person you want to be.  That is where character is formed and where it becomes skill building instead of raw emotion.

No matter who you are, you will face some basic challenges.

Fear will try to tell you that you can’t do it, that your work isn’t good enough or it’s already been done. Anxiety will whisper that you should do something different or scream that no one will like it. Competition might intimidate you. Laziness will tempt you. Other people will try to distract you. Time will always try to evade you. Money might present a challenge. 

And then, of course, there is the never-ending uncertainty. You don’t know what might happen. There is no guarantee of success. And even if you do succeed, who knows how long it might take.

Days become weeks and weeks turn to months, but you continue to do work and you find that your craft has become second nature. If you take time off, it is strange now. Your art/writing/goal has become a part of you.

The key to success in anything is not to get it all done at once, but rather to continue to show up. Show up when it’s easy. Show up when it’s hard. Show up when your heart is breaking. Show up when things don’t go your way. Show up when things are absolutely blissful. Just show up.

Water can carve stone with only a drop at a time. All it has to do is keep dripping.

Any goal you have in life is exactly the same. You just have to do a little every single day and eventually the results will appear. You have to show up again after you’ve let it go. You have to keep going, no matter what.

I read somewhere that 90% of success is just getting started, developing a habit, and persevering in spite of obstacles. I think that is the absolute truth.

Strategy and resources can only take you so far. You only cross the finish line when you decide to do something and you keep on doing it… without regard for what the world has to say, how you feel, or what your results are.

Keep going, friend. I can’t wait to see you do great things!

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-September 12-

My friend, who was a first responder to the towers posted this today. So incredibly powerful.

My Heart is My Compass

Steel beams like shoelaces.
Twisted, taught, writhing.
Struggling, pleading to be unfolded and hammered straight.
Begging to have time turned back.

Souls hurled at terminal velocity
Their descent fueled by pain, anguish, love, fear, hope…
All of these at once being felt, but none, at once, able to be distinguished.
The downward force pressing emotions, thoughts, screams and prayers into
A ball…flesh, bone, suits, ties, shoes.
Leaping forth, eyes closed, led blindly by gravity unto their inevitable concrete canvas.
Creating a hellish masterpiece so gruesome, so unreal, it races past my heart and mind, black as night, devoid of substance, but carrying the weight of 2,606 life stories and anchors itself forever directly into the forefront of my soul, taking the place of the innocence that resided there.

A sea of humanity.
Confusion, hope, loss, animal instinct.
The strange beauty of the ash and dust settling, like snowflakes of death.

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Little Things

“Won’t that hurt your shoulder?”

“I knew you didn’t get lunch today, so would you like me to grab you Pad Thai since I am here already?”

“I saw this song and thought you might like it.”

“I can come over and help with the housework so we can spend time together. I know you are busy.”

“I’m sending a burger your way right now.”

“Maybe I can take the kids for a bit tonight so you can have some time to get things done.”

“Would you like to steal a moment and look at the moon tonight?”

“I was thinking about you and I am at Starbucks. What should I grab you?”

“Lets run barefoot in the snow and appreciate the cold.”

“I saw that this artist is playing and remembered your friend liked him. Maybe you could tell her.”

“Since our kids go to the same school, I can just take her in the mornings.”

“I can take care of your cat while you are gone.”

“You should really go to bed. I can bring over some food for your lunch tomorrow.”

“I will grab some beers and head your way so we can catch up tonight.”

“Let me grab your bag for you since you aren’t supposed to carry anything.”

“I’m listening.”

“Come here and give me a hug.”

I teared up after a kind word from someone and they seemed shocked as they observed that I responded to small courtesies like I hadn’t experienced them much before.

The truth is, I have experienced a million and one little courtesies and thoughtful moments, just in the past six months. Even more over the last few years, big and small. I have incredible, beautiful people in my world and I am so grateful for that. (Yes, I know a lot of the above examples are about food, but… ya know, it’s my love language.)

My life wasn’t always this way.

For a long time I believed I was the invisible girl, put on this earth to serve others quietly and never be noticed, because being noticed meant being hurt. Growing up, I learned to be quiet. I learned that I shouldn’t take up space. I learned that using my voice meant being harassed or far worse. I learned that disappearing was the easiest way and the safest way. I learned that I did not matter and my needs were a burden.

So, when people see me, when they think of me enough to do those “little things,” it absolutely means the world to me. I still have a hard time asking for help and I probably do a lot more than I should on my own, but when someone offers to go out of their way or put my comfort before theirs, I hope I NEVER stop appreciating that.

Every one of the above sentences brought tears to my eyes. Overwhelmed with gratitude for a friendship, a kind soul, who shows me that I matter. The past few years, the moments have been sprinkled all through my life like glitter highlights that never go away.

There are days when I still fight the demons that say I should disappear, when I feel like being unnoticed is always going to be better because I am afraid that somehow it’s all a trick and the people in my life will eventually see the things that the people I left behind seemed to see.

But when those fears start screaming, when I feel the most like I shouldn’t matter, those are always the days that someone comes along and quietly reassures me with a small “I see you and I’m still here” moment. I have chosen to build my life on gratitude for those little things, because they all add up to one damn good life.

So, to my lovely friends, the ones who spoke the words above or others similar, please know that I appreciate you. You mean the world to me and I am so grateful we are still here, walking each other home.

 

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