Inspiration

*wipes dust off blog*

Ah. I love the sound of the wheels grinding back onto the tracks after being derailed for awhile.

Sometimes we just need a little nudge, a little push or a great big wake-up call.

Sometimes all three come in the way of a coffee invitation and a warm, welcoming smile.

(After all, coffee is the only love I have ever written poetry about.)
Inspiration

You are all of the above. A breath of fresh air. Exactly what I needed.

*wipes dust off brain*

Pain. Laughter. Memories. Regrets. Openness. Authenticity. Reality. Vulnerability.

Life.

Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of all of it.

It’s been a while.

 

Reading the stories of our hearts, between the lines, deeper than comfort allows at times.

Scenes of days long gone dance through my mind, bringing cold coals back to blazing fire.

My dormant senses awake with purpose and passion once more.

Adventures await.

That was always my phrase.

Adventures await the bold, the brave, the beautiful.

And I needed to remember.

Hope.

No matter how tumultuous or tiring your journey, you carry hope with you, freely showering it on anyone who will accept your gracious gift.

Passion.

 

It blazes from you, warming those who dare to walk close enough, lighting up the dark places, and consuming those who are too frail or fragile to withstand.

Energy.

Raw. Pulsating. Vibrant.

I needed that. I needed you. You will never know how much.

Thank you.

I will keep reading.

I will keep writing.

I will keep painting.

I will keep going.

And today, it’s all thanks to you.

 

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Break

So much brokenness. So many hurts. If you’ve lived a little, you know the feeling.

My kids have been with their dad this week. But before they left, we started growing crystals on my kitchen counter. They made me promise to send them a picture each day so they could watch the progress since they wouldn’t be here.

Yesterday, I sent a picture and got a response about all the broken pieces. If you didn’t know, crystals break off as they grow and they create a nice little mess.

That’s right… The broken pieces bring growth.

Brokenness creates the room that is necessary for the crystals to become more.

IMG_20180102_163025_747

Much like life, isn’t it? Sometimes we need some brokenness, an end, a change, a hurt that spurs us to be more. Sometimes we can only find growth if we accept the brokenness. Sometimes the broken is the best thing for us.

How beautiful is that?

 

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The Little Big Year

Oh the memories.

Home Sweet Home 2013

This was my first home after I left the shelter. 900 square feet with 2 bedrooms and 1 very tiny bathroom. The washer was in the kitchen and the dryer was in a closet in another room. The kitchen floor was a hodge-podge of different laminates pieced together to form a somewhat workable floor. The bathroom was between the bedrooms and made it really awkward for guests if the kids were sleeping. There were holes in the kitchen and living room walls that I patched up the best I could, but never got around to painting because I couldn’t even afford a gallon of paint. My bedroom wall was splintery wood pieced together to hide even more holes. It was in a neighborhood where there were people shot and you couldn’t go to the park without seeing some kind of drug deal or being threatened.

But it felt like a palace. It felt like freedom. It felt like hope.

See, we were coming from one bedroom with a twin bunk bed that the three of us shared. So two bedrooms, a private space for me, was about next to heaven on my list. We were coming from a shelter with 150 other women and children, so solitude, the ability to have quiet, was an answered prayer.

I loved that house.

I loved that the landlord let me rent it. Because I shouldn’t have been able to. My credit was in the toilet, I had unpaid evictions on my record, and I had no “good credit” with anyone. All I had was my word and my story. And she believed in me and trusted that I could make it work. So I did.

We lived there for two years before upgrading to a nicer, newer home.

That was the house where I decided to upgrade my life. The house where I started back to school. The house that I started my first job that I loved. The house I was in when I started to open my heart back up a little. It was a house where growth happened. Even though I couldn’t see it at the time. Even though all it felt like then was work. MOre of the same. Trudging uphill.

Looking back, I can see how those changes have impacted my life, but at the time, I just felt like I was doing what I needed to do in order to survive.

I was embarrassed that I was on state assistance, embarrassed that I couldn’t even afford a little run-down place like this without help.

But because of that, I made the changes necessary, one small step at a time.

Which brings me to 2018. The Little Big Year.

Here I am, with a beautiful home, a wonderful job that I love, and a happy little family. Our life is pretty stable these days. Not a lot of struggling or scraping by. And I am so incredibly grateful for that.

But I have become complacent lately, and upon becoming complacent I became bored. And boredom led to a bout of depression.

I don’t like to feel like there is no more to accomplish, no more to do.

So, in 2018, I am going back to basics. Back to the little changes that make such a tremendous impact on what my future might hold.

I have no resolutions for this year. No big “I am changing EVERYTHING going forward from this day” attitude. No big announcements of weight loss or monetary goals.

Instead, I have determined that 2018 is a year to focus on the small habits that will impact my life long-term.

This is the year where the little things become the big things again and life moves in a positive direction as I go back to the basics of becoming who I want to be.

I wrote a list of 12 habits I would like to implement in 2018. Each month I will focus on only ONE small habit. I will do this until they are engrained into the very fiber of who I am, a habit that becomes me. It will not be a dramatic change, but over time, I am excited to see what the growth looks like.

Here’s to a new year and a new lease on life! I am excited to see what happens.

Did you make New Year’s resolutions? What is your plan for 2018? Leave a comment below! I would love to hear it!!!

 

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From a different time and place…

I found this journal entry that I wrote in 2012 and wanted to share it with you. There is so much truth in this. That period of time was the most painful, challenging time I have been through, but I feel that it made me stronger and wiser than I ever could have imagined. Reading this, I can feel how deep my pain ran, although if you had asked me at the time, I would have told you I felt nothing but numb. It wasn’t long after this that my world changed forever.

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through love and friendship can we create the illusion for a moment that we’re not alone. I have become so enthralled with that illusion that I wrapped my entire self in it and lost my individuality in the process. I am on a journey to discover who I am and unwrap myself from the illusion. I can’t have my identity wrapped up in another being or I will never discover happiness.

Jim Morrison said: “A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”

I want a love like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning it is a flame, hot and fierce, slowly fading to something light and flickering and fun… When it is fed with oxygen (freedom and trust) and wood (affection and affirmation), it dances and lights up the night. As the fire matures, as two hearts meld together, love becomes like coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.

I know that all love shifts and changes, becomes something different almost daily. I don’t know if you can be wholeheartedly in love all the time. Love does not begin and end the way I always thought it would. It isn’t a fairy tale with a “Happily Ever After.” Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up. And a painful one at that. But I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

It is sad not to love, but it is much sadder not to be able to love. To fear love is to fear life, and in fearing life, I am already three parts dead. Love is so vulnerable though. It takes off masks that I fear I cannot live without and know I cannot live within. It reveals more of me than I ever thought one person would know and that makes me tremble in anticipation of being left for who or what I really am. I have heard so many times that you never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back. I just have to figure out HOW…

I have a picture of love in my head. Love, wholehearted, unabashed, more than I deserve kind of love. Love that sees the flaws and works to be a covering. Love that tells AND shows in everything. Love with trust and respect and affection and the knowledge that one is valuable and needed. Love- a gift bestowed freely and willingly, without any expectations. Love is a commitment with no guarantee of whom or what the other person will be… when they are given an endless supply of forgiveness and grace. Love is a persistent pursuit of passion for one another. Someone to stand by you. Respect you. Give you two arms to cling to and something warm to come to.

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The Yearly Thankful Posts…

I have been debating whether or not to do these, since I am currently on a hiatus from Social Media. However, I think it is important to count our blessings and this is a great month to remember that.

Today is day 3.

Day 1 found me grateful for rest. The cool, fresh feel of a fluffy pillow as I lay my head on it. The way the sheets form to my body as I slide under them. The warmth found in my comforter as it settles around my body. That moment right before oblivion when it feels as though all is well in the world. And the feeling of waking up refreshed from an uninterrupted night of glorious deep sleep.

Day 2 revealed the beauty of a clear, crisp fall day. The colorful leaves meandering in slow circles as the cool breeze whipped through my hair. The smell of the earth and rain mingling with the final, fading sounds of summer. To be in November with this glorious weather is quite the thing to be grateful for.

Day 3, today, I am grateful for my job. I am grateful that I have an employer who provides fair pay, phenomenal benefits and a great work environment. I am grateful for the opportunity to grow and develop, not only in my career, but also as a person. I am grateful for the friendships formed and the good times provided here.

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I made a speech…

My lovely friend Miss K. asked me to speak about my experience for the Stand Up and Speak Out March yesterday. Anyone who knows me knows that speaking to one person often causes hives and extreme anxiety for me. Speaking in front of a crowd at a rally on the town square? That is a few steps bigger than a conversation.

But I said yes. When I moved out of the shelter, I promised myself that I would do anything I could to help other women get out of harmful situations.

So I spoke.

I was terrified. I got hives. My voice shook. It was windy and I don’t know that anyone heard a thing I said. But I did it.

22448169_1834346583544807_8768126055507071375_n In the video recording (which can be found on Facebook), you can’t hear much, so a few people have requested a written transcript.

This was my speech:

Hi, I am Shannon Norman, I am not sure if I am a speaker or a storyteller like we are supposed to be in order to stand up here, but I am a survivor. So, today I would like to share a few things with you. I am better at writing than speaking, but I am okay at reading, so I hope you don’t mind if I just read this word for word. 

I can still feel the cold tile of the kitchen floor, hot spit landing on me as he screamed. Calling me crazy, telling me how worthless I was as a mother and a wife. Telling me once more what a waste of space I was in this world. I attempted to stop crying, trying to get it together as I looked up at the man who was supposed to love me, the father of my children. Was this really what love looked like? When had it all come this?

He didn’t hit me though, not at first. I swore if he ever touched me I would leave.

Looking back, I can see the progression, but it was so gradual I didn’t have a chance of seeing it while I was right there in it.

It all started innocently enough. Maybe I didn’t load the dishwasher correctly, or the laundry wasn’t done in a timely fashion. He talked about needing more freedom, or wished I was more fun, how he thought I should be doing more to help our growing family. There were a few arguments here,  and then he started making some degrading remarks occasionally. He always felt that nothing was ever quite right and when we tried to talk, he would twist my words so I couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say… But, somehow, I was always wrong. I began to doubt myself. Every word became monitored, every move calculated carefully to see if it would set him off or create an argument.

Eventually the external pressure began to break through to my heart and mind. I was convinced I was unworthy of love. His constant disapproval gradually turned to threats, constant fault finding, and reminders of my worthlessness.

But still, he had never touched me.

So many nights I cried myself to sleep, terrified about what might happen if I didn’t do exactly as he said. So many times I knew I shouldn’t give him my paycheck, but I did it anyway. So many times I felt like I should call someone and tell them to come get me. I told myself to get out. I told myself that life would be better if I just left.

But those thoughts came along with his voice, telling me I wasn’t strong enough, and I would never make it on my own, I was stupid and couldn’t succeed in the corporate world, much less find people to love me. I knew that if I left and failed, it would just prove my weakness, prove him right about me.

So, always haunted by the  fear that he was right, I stayed.

A few years into our marriage, I stopped recognizing myself. I would look in the mirror and see a woman too fat to love at 100lbs. I saw a mother destroying her children because she was a terrible parent. I saw a wife who could never satisfy her husband. I saw stupid. Fat. Ugly. Worthless. Useless.

Eventually though, I just saw nothing. I had become the invisible girl.

I found emails, text messages, panties and lipstick that didn’t belong to me. But, if I were to bring it up, “I” ruined our day, or our evening, or our life. He didn’t understand why “I” always took the fun out of everything. Maybe if I was a bit more fun, he could be a bit more loyal to me, to our family. But I was so boring, he couldn’t handle it.

So, I tried to change. I started cheerleading for the arena football team, went to parties ad clubs with him. Acted like I was young and exciting again. I was miserable, but I wanted to make our marriage work and I had figured out very quickly that it was all on me to do so.

It didn’t work though. Nothing changed. In fact, when he commented on any efforts I was making, I could see how much he enjoyed the power, knowing that I was in pain, that I could no longer speak up, that all my boundaries had been broken down.

I began to live and breathe for the moments he would hold me in his arms and apologize, saying I brought it out of him. Things would be better for a while, full of laughter and smiles and good memories, even if making those memories meant we were getting swallowed up by debt. But, he convinced me in those precious moments that he wasn’t like this. I made him like this. I should have approached him differently. I should spoken in a softer manner. I should have done more listening and less talking. I should make my wishes clearer without being demanding.

He knew he could react differently if I just approached him correctly.

So, I adjusted my approach. Again and again and again. Until finally I realized the only way to avoid the pain was to be silent. Until eventually even that didn’t work anymore.

My friends came to me, concerned that I was disappearing. I defended him, told them that we were just going through some things and learning to be a team. All marriages had to go through a learning curve, right? We were both educated, we knew how to work through things, we could figure this out. I just knew it would all work out eventually.

When people began to ask why I no longer smiled, I learned to say “I just have a lot going on” and left it at that. When I accidentally let slip one of the terrible, hurtful things he had said to me, I immediately found myself justifying it by degrading myself exactly as he would.

Eventually I stopped talking about it. I didn’t want anyone to see the shame, didn’t want them to know the insanity of my circumstances. I couldn’t fathom the idea that a strong, independent woman like me could no longer take care of herself and leave an obviously toxic situation. 

But, I had stopped expecting anything better for my life.

And all of this before he ever laid a hand on me.

I knew I could never explain that I felt it was my fault too. I had studied social work in college, of all things, and battered women always thought it was their fault…

But I was different, right?

I mean, no one knew him the way I did. No one really understood our situation. No one saw how much potential was locked behind his pain. I knew that if I could only protect him long enough, if I could just help him figure out his temper issues, he could learn to be better. He had to, for our children’s sake.

Plus, in a selfish way, I didn’t want people thinking I was married to a monster. I didn’t think I could handle them knowing I was so weak, making this decision I knew wasn’t healthy. I didn’t want them knowing that the man I loved treated me so poorly. We had a beautiful home, we were small group leaders in our church, we were involved in the community… We looked like we had everything together.

I couldn’t talk to anyone about the reality of my life, so I was left feeling completely alone.

Plus, he still had never hit me.

I found a job working from home. It was much easier to hide. I didn’t have to answer “how are you?” questions. I didn’t have to feel like a liar every time I said I was fine. However, my solitude meant that I no longer saw a reflection in other people’s eyes to remind me what normal looked like. 

Now, the only reflection I saw was the one in his eyes. And the beliefs I had attempted to fight for so long flooded over me. I began to believe everything he told me about myself. I began to believe his irrational explanations despite my own heart and eyes. He defined my reality. I had no one but the monster to tell me who I was.

I knew that if any of my friends knew what was happening, they would try to force me to leave.  In fact, a few of them already had by this point. But they never knew details, so they respected my decision to stay… while distancing themselves from me.

I still believed I would leave the moment he touched me.

And never go back. Until the night it happened.

He grabbed my arm and pushed me into the table, followed by a quick slam into the wall. The next day I left.

But…

The way I thought about myself began to cloud my vision. My doubts and fears brought me to a realization that he could be right. What if no one else could love me? What if I was the terrible person I saw reflected in his eyes. What if I really could never do anything right? That first day, he texted and called me so many times that my friend I was staying with thought we should call the police. She was so concerned. And rightfully so.

But he convinced me that I owed him communication for the sake of our children.

That communication lasted several months until one day, we went to the park with the kids. There was a photographer, and he made sure it was the perfect day. Then he gave me the perfect apology with the perfect words. He told me that everything would be different now. Sometimes we just have to fall when we learn to ride a bike. We had fallen off the bike, but we could learn from it. He begged me to come back, to try again. So, I “got back on the bike with him”.

I rationalized that he had only been violent because I provoked him so much. I told myself that if I was able to avoid confrontation, it would never happen again. I believed he had realized just how crazy and out of hand things were.

I thought my leaving would change everything. I mean, it was obvious to everyone how much he loved me. Perhaps even how crazy I made him was proof like he said. He cared so much that he became overwhelmed by his emotions; anger, sadness, jealousy, whatever it was, and he just couldn’t control himself.

I was wrong. There were several instances after I went back where the police were called to our home. Eventually, I left in the back of an ambulance, after he attempted to murder me with his bare hands. Choked, thrown  down a flight of stairs, my arm shredded, wrist broken, and shoved over the railing in front of our house.

I knew that night that I could never see him again. Because I believed the officer as he leaned in close and whispered, “next time, you will be dead. You are worth it. Those babies are worth it. Please take care of yourself. Please stay away.” I knew in my heart that he was right. 6 years of marriage and two children ended with my husband in the back of a police car while my children and I looked on from an ambulance.

I was lucky to get out alive, but we are here today for those who did not, or who still cannot walk out.

Because 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic violence.

Look around. 1 in 4 women. 1 in 7 men.

Does it surprise you? Or are you one of those people?

Either way, I want to talk to you about a few things.

First, let’s look at a few red flags that could reveal a dangerous match.

The National Domestic Violence hotline says that most domestic violence relationships begin just like mine. A whirlwind, incredible romance where your partner seems too good to be true.

To quote from their website, “many abusers may seem absolutely perfect on the surface — as if they are the dream partner — in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.”

Here are a few things that you can look out for. If you see your relationship in any of these, there are resources that can help. Get out while you still can.

Some of the signs of an abuser are:

·   Embarrassing or putting you down

·   Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you

·   Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do

·   Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing your friends or families

·   Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses

·   Preventing you from making your own decisions

·   Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children

·   Preventing you from working or attending school

·   Blaming you for the abuse, or acting like it’s not really happening

·   Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets

·   Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons

·   Shoving, slapping, choking or hitting you

·   Attempting to stop you from pressing charges

·   Threatening to commit suicide because of something you’ve done

·   Threatening to hurt or kill you

·   Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with

·   Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol

·   Preventing you from using birth control or pressuring you to become pregnant when you’re not ready

Obviously, domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have power and control over their partners. It’s all about power and control.

As a friend of someone who might be abused, keep your eyes open.

When it really sinks in that over 25% of our population as women, over 14% of men are abused, you start to look around you a little differently. You start to realize that some of the people who look like they have it all together might not. And you realize that you have at least one, if not more people in your circle who are experiencing the pain of living with a monster in the dark.

So, how can you help?

Talk to them. Let them know that you see them, that they are not invisible, that their pain matters and it isn’t okay. But try not to judge them if they stay. Judgement means isolation and makes the decision harder for them.

Be sure that if/when you address it with them, it is in a safe place. If it gets back to their abuser that they were discussing their relationship, there is a chance that you are putting them in harm’s way.

Listen to them. Really listen. Sometimes feeling heard and validated can change a person’s mindset more than anything.

If anything, help them realize how common it is. Help them see that it is not their fault. Most abusers are master manipulators and their victims, aka your friends, feel that they are the one at fault for the hell in their life.

There is a very real possibility that your friend will be like me, in a state of “abuse cant happen to me because…” And whatever reasons they have come up with are real and true to them, so it is important that you use clear examples of the things you have seen and explain that although things may not be to “that level” yet, domestic violence tends to escalate over time, and you are concerned.

You can provide them with resources or help them develop a safety plan in case things escalate.

The most important thing is to let them know that they are not alone.

Leaving is the hardest thing I ever did. I had to start over, from ground zero. Realizing and redefining my ideas of normal. I had to realign my expectations. And I still have to consistently remind myself that acts of violence are never acts of love, no matter how heated the moment.

It has taken me a long time to see life reflected in other people’s eyes again. I am so grateful that there are more people like me, people who have broken down the walls that kept them in the darkness. There are incredibly strong, courageous women who have shared their stories, and by doing so, gave me the strength to continue. They embraced me with the pain of their pasts, showed me that I was not alone and that I am worthy of so much more.

Although that was a truth that was hard won in my own head.

But…

Knowing I am not alone has allowed the shame to dissipate over time. I still struggle with many of the thoughts that were forcibly shoved into my brain on a repeated basis. But I no longer believe I was crazy, or overly sensitive or my imagination was just running wild, because I could not reconcile the love and the abuse in my mind.

Both existed. I have accepted that.

And now, I can only pray that as I speak, my words will find the woman they are meant for, that they will embrace you in the knowledge that you are not alone. I pray they equip you with strength and love and give you wings to rise from the depths of your own darkness.

As that officer whispered in my ear all those years ago, “next time could be the last time. You are worth it. Your babies are worth it. Please take care of yourself!”

Thank you for listening to my story today.

 

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Life by Design – So many questions

I have spent the better part of my adult years around network marketers. You know, the people who are always saying bigger is better and life needs to be maxed out in every way? The people who push you to dream bigger, to push yourself, to live the life of fantasies…

This weekend really started me thinking. If you have read any of my other posts, you probably know that I am a firm believer that every person on this planet can do whatever they set their mind to. If they want it bad enough. I am also a believer that there is excessive abundance in the world and it’s there for the taking. And I believe that things, high-quality, nice things, can be very fulfilling in their own manner.

But in all the years I have spent around network marketing, there was one tiny little problem. I could never make myself want “it”. I could never push myself to the next level. I could never picture owning the fancy cars/house/etc. And I felt bad every time I realized that it just wasn’t what I wanted. I thought everyone was supposed to want more, to push themselves more. I felt like I was unambitious and lacking inspiration because I didn’t want fancy. I felt like it was an injustice to my family, my mom, my kids to choose a simpler lifestyle.

But every single time I start to ponder my life, I come back to how much I love the simple things. My favorite date I ever went on was a walk. That’s it. It wasn’t a walk on a beach, it wasn’t a walk through a big, glamorous city. It was a walk, right here at home, in my own backyard. A walk that was full of laughter and deep discussion and real, heart-filled goodness.

My favorite memories with my kids take place in a tiny 800 sq. ft. duplex. Not the massive Victorian show home that I used to live in. It’s those little moments. Reading before bed, playing a board game, letting my son attempt to teach me to play Mario Cart. (I wish I had at least 1 smidgeon of hand/eye coordination, but I don’t). Its the moments where my daughter has come over when I am on the couch and said “Can I snuggle you?”

And when I spend time with friends? I always prefer a quiet cup of coffee with interesting conversation over a night on the town in a chic dress. I want to know them, at a heart level. I want to see things from their perspective. I want to delve into the recesses of their minds and uncover the beauty that lies within.

Please don’t take this wrong. I am not judging you if you want to be rich and have a Ferrari or a 20,000 sq. ft. house. More power to you. If those things bring you joy, then by all means, go out and chase that! Please!!! You won’t be happy unless you are in pursuit of something that matters to you.

I am just saying that I have FINALLY come to the realization that those things do not matter TO ME.

I spent years chasing. Always chasing. Money, relationship, status. I wanted it all. I wanted people to look at me and say “that woman has it all together.” I wanted the power suit, the high heels, the glam hair and the lifestyle to go along with it all. I wanted to be seen. To be noticed. To be respected and admired. I wanted to be a shining example of independence and assertiveness.

And none of those things are bad. Not one. They are actually all pretty awesome things.

But in light of recent events in my life, I am really starting to ponder what really matters to me. What makes me tick? What makes my world spin? What makes time stop for me?

And that has led to more questions. Like, what if I just want a slow, simple life? What if I find happiness in the peace that exists in the in-between? What if I am never rich or famous, but just a normal, everyday person? What if I choose to be content where I am today?

Everything around me is screaming. You need to hustle. You need to improve. Be more.  Strive for bigger things. You need more stuff. You need to look better/be better/have more than the Joneses. You need to compete. Claw your way to the top. Be more productive. Sleep less. Have a huge impact. Make your life count.

But what if that isn’t what I need to be doing? What if, by striving for more, I am missing the blessings I already have? What if all the competition just makes me feel stressed and worn out? What if it steals my joy? What if running after things means I am leaving my peace behind?

Why can’t I just be enough?

What if I am only a mom? A sister? A daughter? A friend?

And what if I focused, really focused on making the people in my immediate world aware of the fact that they are loved. Deeply and fervently and passionately cared for and held in high regard. What if I used my energy to bring out the best in them? What if I made sure they felt wanted, appreciated, necessary? What if I made them feel chosen and valuable?

What if I never build a huge children’s home with horses and archery classes? What if, instead, I focus on our local Dream Center, providing food and childcare and fun times to the people right here in my own neighborhood?

What if I never give a Ted Talk about domestic violence and the impact it has on people? What if, instead, I just meet random people one on one, and I use my experiences as a survivor to instill belief in them and help them escape a terrible situation? Is that enough?

What if I don’t want to have a six-figure business or a high status job in the community? What if I just want to write? Not writing for money, but to make an impact. To change the one person’s perception who actually reads what I have written. To inspire one other person to listen to their own heart instead of the world around them. What if I find that individuals matter more than a following and helping one person is enough for me?

What if I never end up having a physique competitor body, but I accept the healthy, strong body that I have? What if I don’t give up the occasional treat because it is something I enjoy? What if I am happy with my three or four days of working out every week?

What if my house never looks like a catalog? What if I minimize my possessions and have a lot of empty space? What if I pare everything down to only the bare necessities? What if I am okay with just maintaining order and making real food as much as I can?  What if my home is just simple, but safe?

What if I am a mom who isn’t good at comforting my kids when they cry because I don’t know what that looks like? What if I never attend a PTA meeting or help with a school event? What if I don’t come up with a plan every summer or throw the best birthday parties? What if I am the mom who needs time for myself, even when they are with me sometimes? What if I want someone to put me first sometimes? What if I am just the mom whose hugs are stiff and unnatural but my cuddles are often? What if I don’t keep a rigorous schedule and I let them watch a little too much TV or play on their games a little too long once in a while? What if I am just an average mom who can never live up to my own expectations, let alone yours?

What if some people find me way too religious or uptight, while others find me too free-spirited and open? What if I never publicly proclaim my faith, but share in small spaces and genuine conversations? What if I talk about my doubts, my insecurities, my questions? What if I am not interested in changing society as a whole, but rather changing myself to be the best me for the people in my immediate circle?

What if I just can’t keep up? What if I need to sleep more than a normal person and being sick takes the air out of my lungs when I am walking down the hallway some days? What if I can’t run on two hours of sleep when I have a project to do? What if I don’t have boundless energy and stamina? What if I need solitude, serenity and an abundance of rest to stay healthy and happy?

And what if…

What if I decided that who I am is already enough? What if I decide that when I die, I will never regret the decision to just BE? What if I embrace my limitations? What if I stop beating myself up over the things I can’t do and focus on the things I am already doing that matter? What if  just make peace with who I am and what I need and honor your right to do the same.

What would happen if I accepted that all I want is a slow, simple life? Beautiful on its own and bursting with love, peace and happiness. What if I finally chose to follow the command in the Bible that says “Be still”?

Because that is what I am in the process of doing.

And I think it is enough.

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