Making the Days Smoother: A Tip for Parents that Might Help

Many parents are now living full time with their kids. Here’s a parenting tip that helped me when I first started living with my kids around the clock.

When I was first adjusting to being with my kids around the clock, something I found helpful was this: I leaned into my kids.

When I found myself getting frustrated and ready to be mean to them, I stopped everything else I was doing (even if it meant cold cereal for dinner and leaving half cooked food on the stove) and hung out with them. I kept a mental list of stuff I most enjoyed doing with them- maybe it was watching TV, going for a walk, or snuggling in bed while we looked at books.

It worked every time. Because really, it was never them I was frustrated with. It was always something else. It was just easier to blame them.

The more I did this, the more I started to identify what was really causing me to lose it each day. I could then evaluate it. Why was I trying to control so many things? Was the result of our fight over “screen” time really less damaging than “screen” time? Was the tension and pressure I put on that second cupcake less harmful than (I believed) the second cupcake was? (Through intense personal research I’ve learned the solid and unrefutable answer to both of those is no. Click here for more.)

Where do we go from here? Well, it’s probably best to retire the idea that the amount of time teens spend on social media is a meaningful metric influencing their wellbeing. (Click here for the whole article.)

The Parenting Tip is Not Permissive Parenting

Sometimes people think this means we are permissive parents. I assure you, we are not. What leaning into my kids allowed me to do is figure out what was really upsetting me, learn about it, and make a far healthier and more informed choice- choices that allow my kids to learn so much more than if I had chosen another route.

This isn’t something that can be learned in a month or two. It took me years. (Click here for more.) It’s also harder to do if you are working full time from home. You can’t always drop what you are doing to lean in. Maybe you can more often than you think, though.

What I can say is that this small-but-not-so-simple act set me on a course to improve myself and my relationships with my kids (and them with each other) in ways I never could have dreamed of.

Not everyone can do this. Not everyone wants to. Maybe, though, if you find yourself really struggling with your kids day after day after day you could give it a try and see what happens.

One More Parenting Tip

Remember to look at their faces while you hang out. Listen to what they are saying. Ask questions that you genuinely want to know the answers to. Back off when they are done answering. Don’t be annoying. Don’t make it about you or about insituting some thing you have ready is good for every child. Don’t ask something just because a parenting article says it’s a good question. Don’t follow anything just because a parenting article says you should!

These times aren’t easy and I’m in no way pretending there’s a quick or easy fix to make the days smoother. Maybe it could be just a little bit easier than we think, though, and maybe leaning in is something we can try more easily than we suspect.

If you’d like to hear more about how parents who spend all day every day with their kids are are happy, calm, engagend, and keep things mostly connected and smooth, here are some wonderful thoughts from one of my favorite people in the world, Martha:

 

Happiness is a Practice and How I am Practicing with Resources

Happiness is a Practice

This afternoon I was driving along a road that runs parallel to the ocean. It is a cold day here in New England, just twenty-one degrees, but the sun is shining. It’s been weeks, it seems since we have seen real sunshine.

My kids were in the car with me. We had just come from drum lessons and were headed to drop some birthday balloons for my mom at work. It was another nothing/everything moment. (click here to read).  One of those moments when everything just seems so… perfect. I caught myself smiling. I noticed my shoulders were lower. There was a tingly feeling through my whole body- not major or weird, but it was only the 4th or 5th time in my life I’ve noticed it.

What Was It?

I’m big on self-awareness and have been practicing it more in recent years. So, when this feeling-I’ve-only-noticed-a-couple0f-times came on again, I took a moment to be with it, right there in the car while I was driving.

It was a little overwhelming, almost scary. At the risk of sounding new-agey (I’m not) or woo (I am also not) it felt like I was transcending something.

I sat with the feeling for another moment right along with the feelings of overwhelm and the beginnings of fear. I remembered feeling this way when I was younger.  I recalled that it was a reminder to check myself- to remember that something bad is always around the corner and that I should be prepared. But, what was this feeling?

Happiness. The feeling was happiness.

Not so long ago I did not believe I was worthy of happiness, it seems. So instead of appreciating it and feeling gratitude for it, my lovely brain would kick me down a notch to keep me in my place by reminding me that life ain’t easy and something bad is-a-coming.

I have always been open to personal change and growth. Over the last few years though I was forced to put in more of a concerted effort. (Click here to read) I had to dig deeper than ever to figure out how to keep life more steady. At the time, happiness wasn’t even a goal.

Funnily enough, my personal work on feeling better kept leading back to a few common themes; self-worth, gratitude, and happiness. There were some other things too.

I learned that for many of us, living with self-worth, gratitude, and happiness is a practice. It’s not something we are born with or are guaranteed. We have to continually practice these things if we want to feel them, to live in them. I also learned that there are specific things we can do to help ourselves live in these places more often- we can practice them.

prac·tice
/ˈpraktəs/
noun
  1. 1.
    the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
    “the principles and practice of teaching”
  2. 2.
    the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.
    “current nursing practice”
  1. 1.
    perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
    “I need to practice my French”
  2. 2.
    carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.
    “we still practice some of these rituals today”

There are lots of ways to practice these things. In this particular moment this afternoon, though, I practiced two specific things. One of them is called “savoring” and I learned of it through the free Yale class being offered (you can take it too!) “The Science of Happiness” (click here to see the course).

As I currently understand it, savoring means just what it sounds like- to feel the good moments, the sensations, to spend time in what feels really good. So this afternoon, with the sun shining, my two kids with me, and driving a car I love I let myself savor the feeling of happiness I was experiencing.

I thought about how my body felt -light and tingly-, the way the sun felt shining through the car window onto my face, the energy from my two happy children talking about the song they are creating, the joy from knowing the ocean was so close by. Instead of reminding myself that this is temporary and wouldn’t last forever I savored it.

The Second Happiness Practice of the Day

Which brings me to the second new skill I practiced today and came from a book I recently read called “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks. There are many wonderful concepts and practices in this book (life-changing stuff) and what I specifically practiced today was knowing that I am worthy of living in that happy place all of my life.

That’s a big jump, right? I mean, nobody’s life is perfect. How could anybody live in happiness all the time? Combined with all that I have learned over the last several years I have come to appreciate the value in believing not only is it possible to live in and expect happiness all the time, but it is legitimate and that I -and you- are worthy of it.

I swear I do not woo and am not new-agey!  So much of this is scientifically backed!

So, instead of thinking that I had better hoard this momentary feeling because I wouldn’t feel it any time again soon, I lived in the moment, felt it, savored it. I rode it out for as long as I could. Not in a forced way but in an authentic and real way. I self-talked things like:

“my body feels so light and tingly.”

“I realize my mouth is smiling and I did not even know it.”

“I feel so calm and centered.”

“the sun feels so good and warm and comforting on my face.”

“my mind feels free. I am thinking only about this moment and how I feel and it’s scary for me to not be worrying about something. It’s hard to trust that this level of happiness is okay but I am going to trust it and feel it so that I can remember it for the future.”

Sound Goofy?

Does that sound totally goofy to you? It was hard for me to even write all of that. It feels vulnerable and even embarrassing to think of putting those inner thoughts out to the world.

Jesus, though. They have helped me so much. For the first time in my life I am embracing happienss and actually counting on it. I am trusting that my life will be full of happienss because I am worhty of it and because I am practicing at making it so.

Savoring and feeling happiness. Those are the two things I practiced in the moment today.

I could have just dismissed the feeling I was having- brushed it aside. I could have reverted to the belief that I shouldn’t bother fully experiecing the happiness I was feeling because something was coming to steal it anyway. Most times I still do. Instead, today I chose to put into practice the things I want in my life because they do take work.

The work doesn’t have to be miserable or hard. It’s not even manual labor. It’s just choosing to make a different choice in the moments when it’s an option.

For me today that was driving down route 1 in New England with the sun shining, my body tingling, and my mouth smiling. Instead of letting who I was before rob me of the life I am living, I chose to practice some new things that keep making life better.

If you are interested in some of these things I recommend the two resources linked within this post. They are wonderful! The Science of Happiness is a free course offered by Yale and the Big Leap can be purchased or maybe checked out of your library. I have read and watched a lot of crapola, too, so I recommend these resources thoughtfully.

How about you? Do you have any non-new-agey and non-woo resources you can recommend for practicing happiness? Will you share them? 

 

 

J.Lo and Shakira’s Halftime Show: Some Stuff we May Not Know

I guess I’ve come a long way. All I saw on the halftime show heard from Minnesota to Nebraska was two powerful non-white women absolutely fucking crushing it.

A decade ago I too probably would have cried old school feminist virtues. Now though? I saw two women standing in their power, embracing who they are, and in a mere fourteen minutes and 21 seconds including lots and lots of women (not normal sized women yet, but Lizzo is changing that for us and it will have a ripple effect).

Not Much of a Feminist

I don’t pretend to know much about feminism. I’ve only started embracing feminism in the last year or so. I can say, though, that with all I’ve been learning I’m starting to sense that the only way we can live in our power is to be inclusive and intersectional.

This may mean evaluating ideas that make us really, really uncomfortable- and embracing them in the interest of coming together. This doesn’t mean abstaining from our values, or watering down the strong convictions we hold, but considering that the greater our inclusivity, the stronger our power. The infighting does nothing but bring us down, it seems.

Is sex work legitimate? Is stripping or pole dancing empowering and respectable? A decade ago I would have looked down my nose and called the idea disgusting- an assault to womankind.

Now though? I understand the importance of intersectionality and inclusivity. I know, right at my core, that calling women in is better than keeping us out. I know there are circumstances, perspectives, values, and considerations I’ve never been exposed to. I understand there’s more than I know. I feel, for the first time in my life, my privilege, and my limited, sheltered life. I don’t know how I feel about sex work and stripping. What I do  know though is that there is more to  all of this than I ever knew and that I’m privileged to have lots of options.

Maybe Most Importantly

Most importantly of all maybe, when I watched that half time show I felt nothing but pride for my fellow women on that stage. I felt inspiration and gratitude that these two women stood up there on behalf of all of us and moved their bodies in total confidence- with homage to their diverse heritage.

There is no question who held the most power in that arena during those fourteen minutes and twenty one seconds. It was Jenny from the block and Shakira. Two Latin women who commanded we see their strength. Two wildly successful women who have influence, control, power, money, and incredible dedication, perseverance, and skills. Two women who use all of this to raise up women and others who aren’t white men. Why would we, as women, or as feminists, try to shift that message?

Why wouldn’t we instead raise them up, together? What if we considered that these two women have risen through the challenges we women face- they have “made it”. They have lived every experience that holds us back collectively- and J. Lo chose to pole dance. What if instead of casting the line we’ve always held true, we pause for a moment to consider why?

What would happen if instead of trying  to control or contain their power we all cheered them on like hell? What if every single one of us chanted, consistently, that they are amazing?

Did you SEE what they did?

Did you FEEL THAT POWER?

Can you believe how lucky we are to have them standing up for us?

What if our voices were one? What if our collective message was one of support, pride, and love? It’s worth pausing to sink into that experience for a second, I think.

Still Lots to Learn

I have lots to learn. There’s so much I don’t know and I will rightfully be corrected on much of what I’ve written.

What I do know though is that exclusion and telling others how to stifle their power doesn’t really have a place in my feminism anymore. Are there exceptions? Of course. But if you find yourself wanting to cite examples of women using their “power” to harm, you’re stretching so far you are off track.

For those of you who are up for it, I offer you this opportunity.; if you’re in a place where you are capable, watch this performance looking only for the power. If you can, try to overcome any feelings of being offended. Just one time of watching it. Each time you start to feel upset, if you can, acknowledge it and push it aside, just this once.

See what you see. If you are able to feel the power of these two women, maybe you can consider that shift going forward, and see if it makes you consider other things differently.

You don’t have to do this, obviously. I’m really not trying to change anyone’s mind. I don’t know enough about this to have any desire to do this.

What I do know is that things are different than I though and that I’m glad I was finally open to reconsidering and learning. After all, not only am I a woman- I have a daughter. So, if you’re able, watch this show and see if you can see it from a perspective of nothing but woman power. The clip is below. Before you watch it though, there may be a few things you want to consider.

But First

First though- there are a couple of things you may not know. You may benefit from taking a couple of minutes to learn what some of the gestures performed mean. It may change the way you see some of the performance:

1. That tongue flicking gesture. Did you know it is something called Zaghrouta and is a traditional vocal expression done to express joy in Arab cultures? Click on this quote to read:

“The Grammy-winning artist, who is half Lebanese, was letting loose a zaghrouta, a chant often raised in the Middle East and North Africa at moments too joyful to celebrate otherwise. If you’ve ever been to an Arab wedding, you’ve probably heard such an ululation. If you’re related to anyone like my late grandmother, you heard it before you went off to prom, when you aced your final exams and when you returned home after a long trip away. Call it a “yeehaw,” a “yaaass,” a “hallelujah” — whatever suits you best.”

2. Belly Dancing, Rope Dance, and Instruments we Did not Notice:

“Shakira stood up for her Lebanese heritage in a country that is still overwhelmingly defined by ignorance and misinformation regarding the Middle East. And of course, the FCC complaint database is riddled with complaints of “indecency” from last night, and although I’m sure Jennifer Lopez’s stripper pole received a solid amount of those, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good percentage of whining puritans were scandalized by Shakira’s ethnic performance first.”

And finally, here’s the clip of the performance again. Maybe seeing a few of these gestures differently will shift the way we see the rest of the performance, too.

We Are Not as Fragile as We Think We Are

We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. We are capable of handling the hard conversations and setting boundaries. We are strong enough to sit with emotion and think about what it is we mean. We are durable enough to change our mind and shift our perspective and see it from another angle.
We are smart enough to learn what we need to learn and apply it in the moment.
 
We are courageous enough to try on something new and have it feel ridiculous. We are brave enough to try and realize we don’t like it.
 
We are capable of being in that hard moment and sitting in the silence. We are level headed enough to keep it all straight.
 
We are confident enough to know that when things get mixed up it’s temporary and we will straighten them in the right time.
 
Our capabilities and strengths and courage and intelligence are greater than we’ve been taught. We can handle it but we don’t always have to. Sometimes, we can pass. Sometimes, we can step right over it without needing to shove it under the rug. Sometimes, we can look directly at the thing trying to be inappropriately passed to us, acknowledge it, sit with it, and never accept it. We can do that. We can learn how. We are capable.
 
We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. We don’t often permanently shatter. Instead, we take all the shit we’ve been handed and make our version of a beautiful life anyway, without understanding how capable we are.
 
Imagine if we knew? If deep down we felt our strength and smarts and abilities? Imagine if we didn’t have to spend so much of our days picking ourselves up- wondering why we are suddenly feeling so low about ourselves?
 
Imagine walking through life with a self-worth so high we see the world more accurately? Knowing nothing is personal. Standing with another while they process their stuff without it becoming part of ours…
 
Pretty dreamy, huh?
 
We are capable. We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. When we do shatter, wouldn’t it be helpful if others could sit with us knowing we will have to put the pieces back together ourselves? Knowing that every time they they distract us from that work it’s preventing us from being put back together? Wouldn’t it help if those who see us shatter were strong enough to sit with us while we do the work, only handing us the glue when we ask? Getting us some water and a cupcake?
 
How glorious would it be to sit in the company of those who understand our capabilities, see our strength…those who know it’s all there? And of course, for them to see it in us they have to see it in themselves first.
 
We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. We are capable. Do you believe it?

Self-Worth for Women: Resources that Helped after a Mental Breakdown

Here’s what I know: we are losing too many important contributions from women. Instead of speaking up we are camouflaging our stomachs. Instead of saying “no” we are nodding. Rather than swimming, we are staying covered in a chair. We opt out of jumping on the trampoline because our boobs and butts are too jiggly. We are modeling this for the next generation, too.

It would be better if it ends, now.

Everyone comes from a different place. The voices in our heads are unique. Our experiences and criticisms are all different. How we got where we are is as different as our fingerprints. I do believe though that we have some common ground; we all have room to love ourselves more, we could all benefit from increasing our self-worth, most of us would have better lives if we were happy in the bodies we are in, and all of our lives would be better if fewer people told us what we need to be happy.

How do we get there? Gosh, just google it and a million people will give you their “how-to”. Many suggest we follow their ten-step plan. It does feel easier that way- doing a plan somebody else created for us, even though they do not know us.

Self-Worth for Women

In my experience, it’s much harder than that. It’s more work, thought, intention, and time. Our goals and endpoints will all be different. The way we get there will run parallel and even cross sometimes, but it will never be the same path. Our roadblocks, closets, and foundations all contain different stuff.

We don’t have to do any work. We don’t. We can stay as we are. Sometimes it’s too painful. Some of us have been so shattered we need to stay where we are. We find contentment in the life we have.

Though unfair, some of us are able to start to peek into our closets and take the first timid steps through our roadblocks. We are able to rebuild our foundation with new thoughts and memories so that the fresh construction on top is stable, known, intentional- so that when there is a crack we better know how to repair it to make it strong again.

We may not all be capable of doing this work. Life is not just. Some of us have more than others. Some of us get more than others.

Self-Worth for Women

I have no call to action. I have nothing I can sell you, offer for you to download, and no link to my calendar to book a coaching session. Maybe one day I will have something more to offer.

All I have today is my own personal experience of being lucky enough to miraculously find the strength to pull myself from the bowels of self-worth, mental health, and emotion. I’d never be able to tell you how I did it and if I could it wouldn’t matter. My path is not the same as yours. Sometimes what matters is only knowing that another has done it. For me, this acted as a lifeline.

I can share a few of the resources that helped me start to think there might be life left in me. Maybe another time I’ll find it in me to share more of my story and the resoruces I continued to use to not only pull myself out, but build myself up.

Why Is Self-Worth for Women Important?

I want more women to be able to feel better. I want us to stop being duped and start being empowered to heal the parts of us that need healing. I want us to know we are worthy of the time and effort it takes to love ourselves and to stop being exploited and victimized by industries that profit from lowering our self-worth. I am coming to believe the only way we can do this is by finding our self-worth and then reaching a hand back to help other women do the same.

So, for now, I will share these resources in hopes they might be helpful to some of you. You are worthy of feeling better and I hope it can happen for you wherever you are in your journey.

Here are some of the first resources I used when I was in crisis. They are helpful and useful whether or not you are in crisis:

Self-Compassion is a term most of us have heard but it may be different than we think. I dismissed it for years as weak, or woo. It’s neither. It’s important and Dr. Neff has a straight-forward and direct way of sharing it with us. Click here to buy the book.

This was the first book I read when I knew if I did not start to come up right in that moment I would likely not come up ever again. It shattered me open in a positive and helpful way. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown gives us an understanding that we are worthy as we are, even with our imperfect humanity.

For those who don’t know my story, I quit drinking when I realized how dangerously poor my mental health was. I had been self-medicating for years, and I stopped. I needed a way to fill that time at night so I started walking. I walked and I walked and I walked. I walked around the streets of Denver for two hours every night listening to music. (I do sometimes drink alcohol now, but not very often and not very much). 

At one point, I realized that when I listened to female musicians I felt better- that something inside me stirred and I felt hopeful… like I might be able to get better. I started to wonder how I could pump the voices of strong women into my head to drown out the voices of self-doubt and unkindness. This was when I disocovered podcasts and ultimately started my own (click here for Real Women’s Work Podcast).

I wanted podcasts by women only. Women interviewing women. I found Vibrant Happy Woman Podcast and Employee of the Month. I listened to those women speak their messy, challenging, imperfect truths with total vulnerability. I listened to how they had learned to live with their imperfections and sometimes even find their worth.

I listened to strong women share how they became who they are- the absolute shit they overcame and I started to feel connected. I credit these podcasts as much as I do books, therapy, and medication with helping me climb out of the abyss.

These are resources that helped me. They may help you. They may not. If you know someone who is living in a way that is authentic and attractive to you- reach out to them and ask if they have resources to recommend. If you have resources to recommend please, please put them in the comments below.

I hope this post is helpful to you in some way. I hope something in it resonates and sets something off inside that gives you permission to find your worth if its missing. I am coming to believe it is the most important thing we have. 

I Only Work Out When I Feel Like It and I am Proud of It.

Me: “I only work out when I feel like it.”

Them: “pssht. If you only work out when you feel like it you’ll never work out.”

Me: “ I do workout. When I feel like it.”

Them: “I workout a lot because I like to eat.”

Me: “I like to eat.”

Them: “but I like to eat a lot of pasta and sweets.”

Me: “me too.”

Them: “but that’s why I workout. So I can eat a lot of that stuff.”

Me: “I eat whatever I want whenever I want.”

Them: “But if you don’t workout and you eat whatever you want whenever you want you’ll get fat!”

Me: “that’s not my experience and not what research supports.”

Them: “well you’ll never lose weight that way.”

Me: “I’m not trying to lose weight.”

Them: look at me up and down trying to be conspicuous.

Them: “Well, you’ll never make any progress if you don’t workout consistently.”

Me: “I’m not trying to make progress.”

Them:

Them:

Them: “well then why do you workout?”

Me: “because I feel like it.”

Them: “how often?”

Me: “Sometimes a few times a week. Sometimes a few times a month.”

Them: “but if it’s not to lose weight and not to make progress why do you even workout? I hate working out and if I didn’t have to I’d sit on the couch all day eating ice cream!”

Me: “I only workout when I feel Like it- when I’ll enjoy it so it’s not a chore. It’s a thing I always look forward to. I never have to talk myself into it. I’m glad both when I am on my way and when I’m done. To me, that’s really taking care of myself. There’s no self hatred tied to my workouts. No berating. No winning or losing. It makes me better without making me worse. I don’t spend hours dreading, talking myself into, or thinking about working out. I have no goal other than feeling good.”

Them: “I only feel good after I workout, or I feel so much better after I work out.

Me: “yeah. I remember feeling that way too. For me, it in part led to a massive mental breakdown because it wasn’t authentic self-care. I was doing something because somebody else told me it was what would make feel better.

I was a double session gym goer- I went every morning and every evening. I spun. I stepped. I lifted. I sweat my ass off. I was a size 6 always trying to be more fit. I always felt good after. But I was there to make my body pleasing to others, not because it was in my best interest. That took a toll. Now I’m fat. When I workout I lift weights causally and walk.

I still fight the demons that try to push me to do what others think is my self care. Fortunately, I found my worth internally and learned how to really take care of my self and now, I’ve never felt better, happier, or more content. I’ve also never been healthier.”

Them: “Wow. I guess I never thought of it that way.”

or

Them: “No wonder she’s fat.”

Either response is okay. Either way it does not change that I have stopped working out as a from of self-hatred and started working out as a form of self-love, when I feel like it.

 

Finding My Self-Worth is My Greatest Accomplishment

Self-worth is essetnial to living a happy life, I think. I did not realize it, though. How about you?

Everyone is looking back at their year, it seems. There are lots of posts and conversations about greatest accomplishments. I love reading them. I love hearing about how you made something happen. I love to see you celebrate! It got me thinking about what my greatest accomplishment is this year and within seconds of wondering, I knew the answer: this year I found my self-worth. Not superficially. Not in theory. Not because I’m on-trend. I deep down, for real, understand my worthiness for the first time in my life.

What does this mean? It means when I enter a room or conversation I think about the people and the conversations we’ll have rather than if I’ve camouflaged my stomach enough. It means I no longer think about whether the food I’m eating is good or bad and have alllll that time freed up for far more important things and thoughts.

It means I no longer judge myself for living in a way that’s best for me even if it’s atypical. Whether that’s a different sleep schedule, wearing comfortable clothes instead of fashionable, or embracing true food freedom, I love myself and know these are good choices even when the person in front of me stares incredulously.

Finding my self-worth means that when I don’t understand something or think I should know a piece of information that I don’t, I no longer fall down a shame spiral. Now I know this doesn’t mean I’m stupid or less wanted. It just means I know different things.

Having high self-worth has allowed me to see the worth in others. I can see now that even though someone is living differently than me it’s not necessarily better or worse- it’s worthy. I can set boundaries so that if the way someone else lives negatively impacts my life I can step aside or out of it.

This year’s accomplishment in finding my self-worth is life-changing. It has set me up for the second half of life so much better than the first. I suspect it won’t feel like the same person living it. Except it is. And it’s all those fuck ups, poor choices, and irresponsibility that helped me to get here.

We all start at different places. I wish I’d started with higher self-worth. I’m not grateful for starting where I did. Life would have been better if I’d had self-worth before turning 45. My life would have been better if certain things had not happened. I don’t believe it all happens for a reason.

Hopefully, all of this work I am doing is allowing my kids to start with high self-worth. I mean it is. I know it is. I see it in them every day. And that’s what we all hope for, right? To give our kids a better starting point than we had?

My vision for this year is to share the tools and resources that helped me get here in case they are also useful for other women. The more women I talk to the more I understand how too many of us have been robbed of self-worth.

It’s not that I hope other women have the same experience I do. Of course not. I just want more women to have access to living a life unaplogetically and without so many of their thoughts being stuck on how lousy and unworthy they are.

We read about women stepping into their power and for me it was easy to dismiss this idea as corny or woo. Now, of course, I see that it is neither. Stepping into our power allows us to live in a better way. This doesn’t mean grandiose or famous or rich. It just means better in whatever  better means to us- better boundaires, relationships, work, self-love, self-talk, or whatever makes life better, happier, for you.

With all of the struggles, injustice, and wrongs we women live with, it seems we also live at an exciting time. We are stepping into our power and talking about it- sharing what works, spreading our confidence, role modeling boundaries, and stopping ourselves in our tracks from apologizing. It’s not right that we have all this work to do but we are doing it anyway.

Here’s to us stepping into our power and putting our hands down to pull up another woman along with us. Has there ever been anything more hopeful?

Do you have resources that have helped you raise your self-worth? Will you share them in the comments? The more we women help each other the better the world gets for all of us!

 

Boundaries: A Quick and Useful Thought

Here’s something I’ve learned about boundaries: if someone has a good handle on boundaries and has them set, it doesn’t matter if you think the boundaries are appropriate. That’s the point. They are their boundaries.

In fact, the more we judge, disapprove of, and try to dismantle those boundaries, the further away from us that person will push. They will include us in their life less. We will not approach the glorious space of intimacy because we cannot be trusted to be respectful, trustworthy, or capable of holding relationship.

It’s a fascinating thing, really. There are all sorts of memes about it and quick one-off thoughts. There is a real disconnection that comes from not understanding and appreciating boundaries, though.

Boundaries and Self-Worth

I’ve noticed that people with higher self-worth tend to hold boundaries. I don’t know which comes first- does high self-worth come from understanding boundaries, or when we have high self-worth do boundaries just come with it? I also suspect people with high self-worth don’t challenge the boundaries of others.

Personally, I find it much easier and safer to be with people who understand and implement boundaries. Not only do these folks appreciate my personal boundaries, but I know them better and better understand how to be in  relationship with them because they have their own strong boundaries.

However boundaries come to be, what we do with another person’s boundaries very much determines how well we get to know them- how we get to be in their lives. The more we fight to break through the boundaries of another the further apart we will get, the less we will be trusted, the less we will be invited *in*.

Growing up is tough, isn’t it? 🙃 It’s so worth it though.

Will you share a thought on boundaries in the comments below? It’s so helpful!

My Story

A couple of years ago I was in the darkest, scariest place I’ve ever been. I was diagnosed and treated for Generalized Anxiety Disorder before my kids were born. I got better.

Then we went through a bunch of life and just as things started to point up and get happy and exciting, bam! I had an intense and long-lasting mental breakdown.  Looking back I think it probably came then because my mind knew it was the safest time to not be able to hold on.

There came a day when I knew I was in a dangerous place. I was sitting on our porch waiting for my kids to wake up, in a state of something near prolonged paranoia. My mind had crafted the most horrible non-reality and I was living in it.

Hopeless. Terrified. Thinking that at 42 my life was ending- not by suicide but by the number of years I’d lived. It was not depression. I still found moments of joy with my children, but those moments were quickly sent to the depths of a dark and all-consuming abyss.

When I look back at that woman I feel so much compassion for her. I want to comfort her. I want to sit with her, hold her hand when she wants it, make her delicious food, buy her the most comfortable clothes, and find her the resources and tools she needs to move out of that space.

In retrospect, I did do that for myself. It’s exactly what I did. Sitting on my porch that day I knew that if I could not find a way to turn things around starting right then- there might be no turning around.

I got on medication. I started taking a particular B-12 and Magnesium. I reached out to a friend who had made herself visible about a similar struggle. I asked her for resources. She gave them to me and I used every one. I did a lot of work. Hard work. Work I really did not want to do but I also knew where I’d end up if I did not.

To be crystal clear: some people with mental illness cannot change their outcome no matter how much work they do or what kind of medication they take. Literally every day of my life now I pause and offer love to those people. It’s a tragedy and I have so much compassion for people who have to live in that space all of their lives. 

As I sat there trying to think of a simple, basic, actionable step that I could actually take, I evaluated what, if anything, made me feel better and what made me feel worse. Again, I was very lucky to be able to do this even though I was in such a horrid place.

Food and Clothing- Interesting, Huh?

The first couple of things that came up for me were food and clothing. I had been on a near lifetime of enmeshment in diet culture- constantly berating myself for what I did or did not eat, obsessing about food (either what I’d eaten, wanted to eat, or what I “could not” eat). It was, literally, all-consuming, and decreased my self-confidence, self-love, and self-worth.

Though I was a full-fledged member, I did not yet know about diet culture. All I knew at that time was that I did not have the mental space, energy, or resources to think about food for one more second of my life. So I stopped. I was in crisis and what I weighed, or if my cholesterol got high (I had not learned about diet culture yet remember) it did not matter. If I didn’t take my obsession with the restriction of food off the table to move toward feeling better, I wouldn’t have survived long enough to have my cholesterol matter.

The truth is, poor mental health is fatal for many. Just like Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. I needed to do whatever necessary to increase my chances of survival. So I stopped thinking about food and ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I had no idea at the time that this would become one of my core self-care tenets. You can read about it by clicking here.

The next easy actionable step I could take was to wear clothes that made me comfortable. I had long given up shapewear and heels, but I was still wearing clothes for the main purpose of trying to cover up my fat. I spent hours and hours in dressing rooms looking for the best option. Comfort did not matter. The style did not matter. All that mattered is if it helped cover up the worst parts of me (oof. It’s so hard to know those words were true for me for so long).

I started wearing leggings from LulaRoe (I’m not going down the rabbit hole with you. I don’t sell them. I wear them. I love them.). I wore clothing from J. Jill because it had an elastic waist, a great cut, and incredibly comfortable materials. I found t-shirts that were comfortable and fit well and wore them with shorts.

As it turns out, wearing comfortable clothes was another core tenet of self-care for me. Each night when I picked out my outfit for the next day it was a gift. It was a way of saying to myself: “tomorrow you will be comfortable all day. When things are bad and you do not know what to do, the comfort of your clothes and body will not make you feel worse. They will not be a distraction from getting better.”

Other Things

Gratitude, self-talk, listening to music, self-compassion, changing the voices that I allowed in my head (which is how my Podcast started  Click here to read more), sleep, play… all of these were other practices I would adopt in the name of survival. What I did not know then was that all of it was helping to raise my self-worth. Low self-worth had led to low self-love for me. Couple that with poor mental health and it is no wonder now that I was near death.

If you met me now and I did not tell you, you would have no idea of where I’ve been. I’m stable. I’m productive. I’m happy. I’m optimistic. I’m authentic.  I’m engaged (in life. I’ve been (mostly) happily married for 16 years). I’m friendly. I’m conversational. I’m excited. My passion is back. Though I am not at all new-agey, I really am stepping into my power and it is awesome.

But I was there. And now I am here.

Learning what real self-care is combined with medication is what saved my life. If I had been practicing these sooner, I never would have lived in the depths of despair.

You don’t have to have poor mental health or be at rock bottom to start using real self-care practices. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom who loves her life or a corporate executive who travels 50 percent of the year doing work she adores, we are all being fed a list of “must-dos” when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Too often, I believe, these come from people who have not practiced it themselves and their self-care directives are superficial.

I think it’s so important that we all start to learn what taking care of ourselves really looks like. Personally, I don’t know of a better or more beautiful way than sharing our stories.

Pondering Jen is a place where I will share my story in hopes that it will help other women. I look forward to learning more about your story, too, if and when you are comfortable sharing.

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter over there on the right and follow us on our social media channels. Click these links to follow us: Instagram. Facebook. Pinterest. Twitter. 

Welcome. I am so glad you are here.

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World As An Action Not a Quote

Last week I published a post about weight loss and how it makes us fat. (Click to read). I was impassioned and shared the post around anywhere I could. I desperately wanted women to know the truth about diet culture. The more I thought about how many women, like me, have spent so much of their life wasting so much time, energy, thought, and resources on losing weight -when it actually makes you gain weight- the more confident I grew sharing the piece.

It was shared on a page about diet culture where it ended up getting attacked. “Fatphobic” and “cringe-y” were just two of the insults quickly thrown. They got mean and more descriptive.

Imagine My Embarrassment

I cannot exactly remember what I first felt when I read the words that described my writing. I think it was a sick to my stomach feeling with the realization that I had hurt people’s feelings. (This is not a people-pleaser behavior, of which I am recovering from. Rather, it stemmed from me being ignorant and not fully understanding the weight of what I was saying). What I said was offensive -even to myself. I just did not know it until it was pointed out.

As the comments came in I realized that some who were throwing the critiques likely had not read the piece. When this used to happen to me I would completely dismiss the person’s comment and call them out in a not very kind way about how ridiculous it is to comment on a post you have not read.

Maybe the title of my piece was offensive but the content of the piece was anything but (I thought). If these people would just take 5 freaking minutes and read it they would not be making any of these comments! I guess I was annoyed.

I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years though. I’ve grown so much. After my mental breakdown the world became different. I had to learn what real self-care looked like. For me that is engaging in causes that feel unjust to me in a way that won’t send me back to the depths of despair and disconnection.

Be the Change

So, in this case, I paused for a moment. I took a look at what these commenters were saying. I stepped back for a moment and considered my words from their perspective. When I really looked, it did not matter whether they had read the article. The very title of my piece was hurtful, offensive, and perpetuated the very myth and damaging stereotype they have spent so much of their lives trying to debunk. It did not matter what my words after that said. Whether or not they read the post, my words would have been tainted anyway. I was wrong.

Instead of being defensive or justifying what I had written, I engaged. Instead of looking for a winner and a loser, I had a conversation.

See, November 2016 changed a lot for a lot of people. Many of us were left in disbelief. The impossible happened and it was incredulous. We couldn’t imagine it getting this bad but it has. When I woke up the morning after the election the first thing I said was “this is what happens when we don’t listen to each other”. I believe those words still and that single morning changed the way I look at everything. I knew I needed to be the change I wanted to see and I had to be it hard.

But How? Have You Even Been on the Internet?!

So I listend. I engaged. I asked questions. I considered. I detached myself from the emotion and embarrassment I felt so that I could change my piece to make it inclusive.

image of woman in front of computer with text "be the change you wish to see is an action not a quote"I have to tell you, this experience was beautiful. It was humbling in a way I have not experienced before. Admitting how little I know is not something I have ever had a hard time with. I have a hard time though when it seems like people are just trying to be trouble makers. I’ve assumed the latter far too often.

The conversation that followed the initial attack was so helpful- for me, and for my piece. My piece will now benefit more women. More women will be able to read it and receive it’s message. And you know what? All I had to change was the title.

Hopeful and Empowered are Good Results

A lot of times I have felt hopeless about how to affect change. It’s easy for me to get lost thinking one person is not enough to make a difference and get overwhelmed with the possibility of it all. The conversation this group and I have had over the last week affected change on a global level. It did. I have no doubt. What a powerful and empowering realization.

Some of the folks on that thread were absolutely just looking for trouble, or maybe they were just angry. Maybe they are fat and have faced discrimination and hurt their whole lives and were reacting to the awful title I had written. No matter which parts of this are true we modeled something different that day- we modeled understanding, vulnerability, kindness, compassion, humanity, growth, and making the world better for women. Worst case this thread was shut down to the ridiculousness of trouble makers with intelligence, honesty, and a willingness to listen to each other. Best case we unintentionally modeled discourse for the greater good in front of a whole bunch of people.

So What?

Lest anyone think I am trying to pat myself on the back (well, I mean, I am. I am really, really proud of myself for how far I’ve come, but that’s not why I’m writing this). I used to be the angry one. The one who lashed out quickly, shut the conversation down, and shut people up- and don’t get me wrong- sometimes it was absolutely justified and necessary. It became my default though and I carried the weight of the hurts I’d caused for a long time. For me though, now, being the change I wish to see involves more listening. It requires me to replace winning or losing with a conversation.

Instead of being filled with shame this last week for behaving like an asshole and getting in an internet war I have become less ignorant, had more connection, and feel steady and confident moving forward in social justice issues because now I know I can trust myself to be the change I wish to see in the world.

I don’t know about you, but for so long I thought this nice quote was for big important people- people with lots of reach and influence. This week I learned that’s not true at all. It’s for all of us who have the mental space and capabilities to practice it in our every day lives, even when it’s hard.