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So, I have been thinking… probably too much because that’s what I do.
But as I go through the process of creating this beautiful life, I realize more and more what is or is not important.
And the important things really aren’t what I thought they were at all.
When I was in college, I was determined to be financially successful, to dress in the best clothing, wear high heels every day, earn the admiration and respect of all my peers, have a huge office to myself and own a beautiful home where I threw incredible fancy dress-up parties.
I fought for that vision for a few years. Then I decided to add a husband into the equation. Then kids came along. Then life really hit me, knocked me down, and tore me apart for a while.
But I kept going. I was determined to have the “things” that would make me happy. So determined, in fact, that I cut people out of my life if I thought they didn’t feed my material goals. And as I struggled and fought to gain these ever-elusive material possessions, I found myself losing out on the more important things, many of which I didn’t recognize until it was too late.
But at this stage in the game, I have begun to realize what I really want from my life. I want a life that sizzles. I want a life that makes me throw my head back and laugh out loud. I want a life of crinkles and creases and stretching and growth.
I don’t want to lay on my death bed and realize that my life was just a collection of meetings and errands and laundry and receipts and dirty dishes.
No, I want to eat all the good food, and belt out Disney songs at the top of my lungs, and wear twirly skirts, and laugh until I am out of breath and my stomach hurts. I want to paint the beauty I have found in the world and bring beauty to the places that are aching for it. I want to stomp through mud puddles in bare feet and dance in a meadow on a sunny day. I want to sleep long and hard on clean white sheets and throw open all my windows and enjoy the fresh air. I want to throw costume parties on a whim and wear a wig just because. I want to watch movies that make me cry and read books so good they make me forget that time exists. I want to be so raw, so honest and vulnerable that it hurts. I want to make people think, really think, about life, about their expectations and standards. I want to experience joy so fully that I can’t help jumping up and down.
And I want my life, each and every day, to be made of magical moments and memories. I want a life so full that God himself has to belly laugh when he looks at me because he is so glad he gave life to someone who loves it this much.
I want my life to be a blessing. And I want to leave a legacy of joy and hope.
I want to be every single little bit of the Shannon that I was created to be. I want to squeeze every drop of life out while I am still living so there is nothing left to experience by the time I die. I want to be everything I can be and embrace all of me. The messy housekeeper, the eccentric artist, the dreamer, the writer, the boss, the mom, the emotional redhead, the lover, the fighter… all of it.
And when I die, I want my kids, my lover, my friends, and my family to say “wow, she really knew how to LIVE, didn’t she?”
“Where are they?” I muttered. I looked over to see if he had heard me as I dug frantically through my purse again. Still no luck.
I walked back over to his car and looked in the seat I had just left. I checked the console, the floorboards, checked under his seats. Nothing.
I could feel my frustration growing, and I knew my neck was probably turning red in embarrassment by now. I had to pull myself together. It wasn’t a big deal, right?
Maybe inside his house? We had been in there for a while earlier. I walked back in, attempting to retain my dignity. I looked at the couch where my purse had been. Even picked up the cushions. Nothing.
Headed to the kitchen. Sometimes I like to set things on a countertop because it feels more like home. Still nothing.
He asked me where I thought they might be. “I don’t know! I really thought they were in the side pocket of my purse!” I could hear the exhaustion and frustration in my voice now. I needed to leave before I had an irrational meltdown from being so incredibly tired.
I retraced my steps. Retraced them again. And a third time.
Still no luck.
Now I was embarrassed. How and why I do these things, I will never know. But it was way too late right now and I knew that I should be heading home. He looked tired. I was tired. I knew that he had to work at 6am and I was scheduled to go to the gym with a friend at 4:30am.
I went back to the car. Looked through the middle pocket of my purse. Dumped everything into the seat. Nothing. At this point, I am considering giving up.
I looked back through his car. Still nothing.
I walk back over to mine. Look down at my purse and think “Well, maybe I just didn’t dig hard enough.” So I reach into the first side pocket. Nothing. I reach in the other side pocket…
There they are. My monstrous key chain was in the pocket I thought it was THE WHOLE TIME.
I just needed to dig a little deeper.
Just like life. Sometimes we search and search and search for something. A relationship, a career, our dream home, our perfect friendship. Thinking that the great things, the beautiful things must be over there somewhere, or maybe just far, far away. So we search. We look. And in our searching and striving, we tend to overlook. We tend to see the times our kids misbehave instead of realizing that they are awesome about 85% of the time. We choose to move to another romantic relationship instead of figuring out how to grow through challenges together. We despise our work instead of looking at it as an opportunity. We dream of fancy houses and forget to love and care for our current home. And we keep looking for people to treat us “just-so” if we are going to be friends instead of choosing to learn from different perspectives.
But in reality, what we are searching for is probably exactly where it should be, exactly where we just looked, or where we originally thought it was, just waiting for us to decide to dig a little deeper.
Let’s go deep.
Man, sometimes I wonder how people do the emotions thing. I am generally pretty mellow, but not last week.
I got mad twice last week. Like, really mad. Like, raise my voice and cuss mad. Like, the mad I always said I would never be mad.
And it wasn’t even over big things. It was stupid little things that didn’t really mean anything.
And I sat and I stewed on it. I said things I shouldn’t have. To myself and the other parties involved.
But it didn’t take me very long to realize that I wasn’t mad at the situation. I wasn’t angry at another person either. In fact, there was only ONE direction I could point my anger.
I was mad at me. If I really wanted to own the emotions I was feeling, I had to admit to myself that I was frustrated, disappointed and bothered by me… by my choices. By my mistakes.
I was mad that my house was a mess, yes. Mad that my kids hadn’t done their chores. Mad that I was later than I wanted to be. Mad that I “had to” miss my workouts to do other things. Mad that my ex kept changing things.
But not one of those things usually bother me. So why this time?
I took a few moments to really ponder what was going on with me. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up and I knew the only direction I was going was backwards if I didn’t check myself.
And I discovered that I was angry because I haven’t been true to myself recently. I haven’t been loving myself very well lately. I haven’t been doing the things I know make me happy lately. Instead, I have been giving more than I should, doing more than I should and losing myself in the process. I have been expecting others to give to me, to love me, and to fill me up the way I was working so hard to do that for other people.
But that is like knowing I have a hole in my gas can, hoping someone else will come alongside me and patch it as I walk down the road with it dripping a trail behind me. All the while, other people are walking along the same road, at their own speed, lighting matches and throwing them into the wind. Sure, most of them won’t touch the gas, most will fly in other directions, but should one happen to hit MY leaky tank or a drop of gasoline…. BOOOM!
It is no longer a bunch of little drops of stinky gasoline. Instead, my entire world blows apart.
And that is what I had allowed to happen.
If I had been proactive in patching up the hole in the gas can, the matches other people were throwing would never have had the same impact. They couldn’t break through if I had taken the time to make the repairs necessary or care for my tank in the first place and ensure that everything was ship shape.
I know the importance of self-care. And no, I don’t mean just getting my nails done or taking a long bath, although those can be really nice.
For me, patching up the gas can means cleaning my house before it gets too messy for me to think. It means I need to make menus and go grocery shopping on my set day, no matter how fun other things seem. It means I need to prioritize my kids and their well-being over anyone and everyone else so that I know in my head that I am doing my best possible job. It means listening to my body when I am tired and going to sleep. It means knowing my limits. It means locking myself in my room so that I can get some time in to process my world. It means taking time to read. It means writing. Every single day. It means learning more about myself, learning that I am indeed loveable. It means asking for what I want. It means letting people know when they do something that hurts my feelings. It means standing up for myself. It means saying no. It means making every effort not to overthink things. It means structure. It means routine. It means discipline.
That is what makes my world go ’round. That is what makes me happy. No, not in the moment. In the moment, it never seems worth it. After all, they’re just little things… Maybe they can wait til tomorrow. It’s just too hard and I am too ______ (tired, emotional, busy, fill in the blank) at that moment.
But if you have known me any amount of time, you have heard me say that “the little things are the big things.”
It’s the little things we do, or don’t do, that build a great big world around us. And if the little things are shaky or they don’t serve us or they hurt us, then our great big worldview becomes unstable and inaccurate. And even though feelings aren’t facts, we forget that when the little things make it look so overwhelming.
So, here I go again. Making myself. Becoming better. Putting first things first. One foot in front of the other. Learning to love me. So I can love the world and the people around me.
Because honestly, I can only love you as much as I am willing to love myself. And you will only love me as much as I let you.
Here’s to some lovin’, friends.
Birthdays are the best! I can’t wait to see her reaction when she sees her gift!
I never really thought about birthdays much until I had my own child, my wonderful little Lyla. But when I looked into those big blue eyes the first time, I knew that I would celebrate every day of her life the best I could. Now, birthdays are a bloody big deal. And it seems the older she gets, the better (and more expensive) the birthday.
She isn’t so little now. Thirteen tomorrow! I will officially have a teenager. Where has the time gone?
Growing up in the Midwestern United States, birthdays were just a normal day with cake for dessert that night. I came from a simple family with a simple life. It was a good life, but I always wanted more. When I left for college, my parents were disappointed at first. They thought I should take over the family farm, marry a local girl and raise my kids on the family land, just like the last five generations.
But wanderlust consumed me and I knew I had to get out from under the shadow of that tiny town. So, here I find myself, in beautiful Manchester, with my lovely little British bride and our incredible daughter. I never realized my law degree would lead to all of this, but I sit back at the end of every day thankful that it has. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.
“Happy birthday, my not so little one!” I hold out the card and she snatches it, eagerly ripping it open to read what I’ve written inside.
“Oooh Pop, I can’t believe you got me tickets! She’s the best!!! I’m so excited!!! I just hafta phone Nancy and let her know!!!” She squealed like only a thirteen year old girl can.
“Go ahead, my girl. I’m glad you like the tickets.” I smile at her enthusiasm. Her long blond hair swishes behind her as she bounces away to make plans with her friends.
She has wanted to go to an Ariana Grande concert since the first time the artist was in the UK. I am glad I chose something she will enjoy so much. With her being just thirteen, I wasn’t sure about letting her go, but her mum said she would take her, so I bought the tickets. No regrets now! I don’t think I have seen her this thrilled about something before.
“I think she was a bit gobsmacked, my dear!” Julianne squeezes my hand as she plants a light kiss on my cheek. Her voice is low and she is smiling that gorgeous, slow smile that I fell in love with the first time I met her. Although she is always a bit reserved with her emotions, I can tell she is really happy to see our daughter so excited.
“I know you ladies will have fun. You are a brave woman to take three teenage girls to a concert!”
She chuckles, “It’ll be well worth it, James. You only get to make memories once.”
That’s one of the things I love most about her. She is always looking for a way to live a more memorable life. Always doing something for someone, be it a new charity, a stray animal or our daughter and her friends. I have never met anyone so unselfish and kind. She has made my life worthwhile. Even on the days when I miss home and my family, I can’t imagine missing out on this life that we have created here together.
This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.
One of the first things I HAD to learn on this journey is that it is okay to not be okay.
I am not the only person who doesn’t have it all together. In fact, no one does. At least not all the time.
So that means, it is totally okay to not be okay. A little paradoxical, don’t you think?
But making changes will mean being uncomfortable, on purpose. Creating a better life might look a little messy here and there. Success is not a flat, straight, easy path. It has all kinds of detours and downfalls. It’s rough. It takes guts, courage, intensity and discipline.
Some things I have learned to ask myself when I am struggling with being “not okay” are:
How can I simplify?
How can I stretch myself a little bit in this area?
What is my priority here?
Do I need to ask for advice from someone?
Pain, discomfort… they will be here. They are part of our existence. No matter whether it is intense turmoil and suffering or just the small, daily annoyances that get under our skin.
Life will never be perfect or easy. And if you think “being perfect” or “having it all” is the answer to life’s challenges, you might want to grow up a bit. An adult recognizes that life is complex, that the depth of our world is determined by the challenges we are willing to face and overcome. Life is richer when we become victors.
And no one, not even “The Other Woman” has a perfect life.
In fact, 1 out of 4 women are on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.
It is hard to manage everything. We walk around feeling overworked, overtired, and our resources are overdrawn. Work, family, and household responsibilities don’t leave much time to refresh ourselves. Consistency and prioritizing self-care can quickly become a challenge.
But no matter what our challenge, there are at least a few other people in this world that HAVE faced it successfully. No matter how perfect the Other Woman looks, you can’t know her story unless you ask. Maybe she is one of those struggling depression, pushed to perfection by a feeling of never being good enough. Perhaps she struggles with disordered eating patterns. Maybe she can’t sleep because she is afraid of her nightmares and that is how she gets so much done. No matter what someone appears to be, we are all on this journey together. We are all just trying our best.
And the key to making changes is learning to accept your imperfections and mistakes. That is the only way you can grow and become closer to being the Other Woman.
I believe in you. Let’s journey together.
The other woman.
She is beautiful. Awesome. Everything I wished I could be.
She looks fabulous. Always so confident. She is completely comfortable with who she is.
She works out regularly, and you can definitely tell. Her outfit is always on point and she rocks her skinny jeans. Even after three kids.
Between her skin and her energy levels, you have to wonder what kind of juice she drinks in the morning, because you want some too.
She’s got it. Whatever it is, that’s what she has. Her life is totally, completely together.
And I find myself saying on a daily basis “I want to be The Other Woman.”
We all know her.
She might be an attorney, or a surgeon, or a manager, or even a stay-at-home mom. It doesn’t matter. Whatever she does, she excels at it and is fulfilled.
Her Facebook is full of posts with hashtags like #honored and #grateful and #blessed — and she means it.
And her arms – Yeah, she’s got those Michelle Obama arms too.
“Make me look like her. Please God.”
It might be a movie star, a woman at the school drop off line, someone in the grocery store or running the same trails you are, but she doesn’t look like she is drowning in her own sweat like you.
And in the drop-off line, you see her gorgeous, well-groomed kids jump into her shiny new car while you clear the clutter off your kids seats, dressed in whatever you threw on in your rush out the door this morning, just hoping that you look presentable enough for work.
And the thoughts invade your head…
Why does She have it all together, this other woman, when I so clearly do not?
The truth is, the other woman, really doesn’t have it all together. I know, I know because I have heard people say that I am the other woman. I have had long, heartfelt conversations with some of the “other women” in my own life.
And in their honesty and vulnerability, I realized that we are all the “other woman.”
I have seen one of my fittest (is that a real word) friends break down and binge on nutella and oreos, I have seen my fabulous rockstar friend struggle with an eating disorder, I have seen one of my most well-balanced looking friends drink herself into oblivion as a coping mechanism. I have heard them vent about heartbreak, about fights with their significant other, about the awful way they were raised, and about how they NEVER FEEL LIKE THEY CAN MEASURE UP.
My friend, it doesn’t matter what size you are, if you have six-pack abs, fake eyelashes, or if you workout daily… It doesn’t matter because “The Other Woman” doesn’t exist.
I have fallen into that way of thinking so many times. Talking in my Eeyore voice, “Everybody else is so much better than me.”
I mean, just look at their social media. Instagram and Facebook are full of fun people living extraordinary lives. They can handle their world so smoothly.
It seems like everyone else’s workout plans and diet plans help them lose, gain or have more energy so quickly and easily.
They have their life together. Everybody has everything you don’t.
It feels like you are alone, stuck with your particular problems. It feels like life is so much harder for you than for other people.
But honestly, my friend, there is no Everyone Else.
Everyone has reality, they have family, deadlines, stressors, age and metabolism issues.
Even Jessica Biel and Angelina Jolie can’t hide from the aging process.
Whoever your “other woman” is, I promise you, she doesn’t exist the way you think she does.
We are all human. That means we are imperfect, wonderful, and messy with hopes and fears and dreams. We hall have certain desires and neuroses and jobs and lives. Maybe kids or cats and dogs. All of us have family of some sort, good or bad. Everyone has a toilet that needs unclogging once in a while and no one can escape the little smile lines becoming wrinkles. Everyone’s alarm clock goes off too early, and most of us love chocolate chip cookies or ice cream a little too much. It’s called reality.
And here’s the thing. Nothing gets easier as long as you keep pretending.
Honesty and vulnerability are the only things that can improve your life.
Because it is only by being truthful with ourselves about what is happening in our world that we can change anything. We have to stop thinking that everyone else is more fit, smarter, stronger, getting it all done, has their life together, or is a good enough mom / girlfriend / employee, etc. And when we stop thinking of everyone else and what they are doing, we give ourselves the opportunity to work on becoming our own version of The Other Woman.
You are capable of change. You are capable of getting in shape, learning a new language, achieving your goals.
You can regain control of your life and your habits. You can overcome emotional and physical issues. You can take care of your kids and still take care of yourself. You even learn to love yourself, body, mind and soul. And you can be proud of yourself.
Yeah, it might seem a little crazy and impossible. But it’s all about the “Slight Edge.” (If you haven’t read that book, you should definitely do so.) Making a big life change, becoming the person you want to be, is all about the small, consistent changes and support. It’s totally doable.
You have to know what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice to accomplish it. Six pack abs? You better be willing to give a lot of time to the gym, weigh and measure your food portions, and make your world revolve around it. Be a great mom? Give up some of those fun, me-time activities to build memories with the kids, don’t veg out in front of the TV, ask questions that make you uncomfortable. An incredible relationship with your significant other? You have to learn how to communicate, be consistent, be willing to compromise, learn their love language, do things outside your comfort zone, and put their needs ahead of your own without losing your identity. Want to have lots of money? You will need to give up your time, be disciplined and consistent, go through ups and downs and face a lot of failures.
Make sure your expectations are realistic in the fact that they match the sacrifices you are willing to make. Yes, the sky is the limit, but you will need to choose your challenges wisely. I read something once that said in the hunt for success, you must “decide how you want to suffer” because everything worthwhile will take some sort of sacrifice.
Once you have set your expectations, find inspiration from “The Other Woman.” If your goal is to have more energy, find someone who never stops and ask them how they do it. Or if you see that mom who has a great relationship with her kids, always seems to be having fun, and is never afraid to be goofy or messy, ask her if she has any advice.
That woman who still looks amazing even though she is 20 years your senior? Ask her about her workout and skincare routine over the years.
Anything you want in your life, there is someone out there who has done/is doing it. Find them, ask them questions, learn, grow, invite people in.
Focus on progress, not perfection. You need to have words like “I am doing a little better” or “this is just practice” dancing around in your head now. That’s when you will make real progress. You have to focus on the little moments, the stuff that works. If you workout for 5 minutes today after not doing physical activity for years, that is BETTER. If you set your phone down for 30 minutes to really focus on being with your kids today, that is BETTER. If you kiss your spouse a little longer than normal, or tell them how sexy they are, you are doing SOMETHING to move it in a positive direction, to make it BETTER. It’s the small moments, the things you are able to do TODAY that make all the difference.
Success is almost always built from putting small things on top of small things on top of small things… until they’re transformed into big things.
The Other Woman knows this. So she implements small, daily habits to help her live a successful, fulfilling life.
And that is how she became that woman. No myth, no drugs, no luck. Just small, daily disciplines that are easy to do. Or easy not to do.
You get the choice. Today and every day.
So do I.
I’m excited about the journey and wish you all the best!