Life Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard

This is exactly the way I dreamed of my life when I dared to dream.

In the dark times- Cancer, job loss, a marriage close to the brink of divorce, a mental breakdown, alcohol abuse, poor mental health… during all of that I was privy to a glimpse. A glimpse of a good and happy life. A happy life filled with contentment, gratitude, and connection. A life of warmth, thoughtfulness, coziness, and laughter.

I caught a glimpse of opting out of the struggle, embracing those around me for who they are, tightening up our bubble, and living fully and authentically with those I love.

I couldn’t imagine I deserved such a life. I am so, so flawed. So very imperfect. So many irresponsible and gross choices.

Yet, here I am. There isn’t a part of my day, or my life, that I dread. Not going to sleep (former insomniac), not waking up (used to hate my life from living a life out of obligation), not Mondays or Sunday nights or Wednesdays at 2.

My husband works from home. We live as though school doesn’t exist. (Click here to read.)  We make choices based on what feels good and right. We keep learning, and S-l-O-W-L-Y try things that make us feel even better.

I don’t hold steadfast to others’ ideas of how my children should live, and what they should do. I don’t get scared when I hear another parent operating out of fear of what may be. When my kids, or my kids and I, or my husband and I argue -and we still don’t argue in a healthy or admirable way- I know that our joint accounts are filled with promises kept, “I’m sorry’s”  accompanied by personal change, and so much love and warmth that the damage done is far less than it’s ever been.

I no longer berate my body and have intentionally opted out of spending one more second of my life obsessing about food or trying to (sweet Jesus above!) lose weight. (Click here to read).  I wear comfortable clothes every minute of every day. Imagine? Nothing cutting into my waste or chosen specifically to hide an area of my body that somebody else believes should be embarrassing for me- my body! The very thing I live in being too shameful to have seen as it is!

I never really dreamed this much peace was possible- this much joy. This much calm. This much authenticity. God, it feels so good.

So as I make a chock-full-of-not-addictive-cheap-and-yummy-sugar-filled strawberry shortcake for dinner with the fire going, my husband working in his office the next room over from me, and listening to my kids drumming and strumming (click here to read) I am filled with such a deep gratitude I’m not sure how to harness it.

But I’ve learned how. I’m learning how. I’m savoring it. I’m recording it. I’m sharing it. Instead of sabotaging it, I’m recognizing that this is my next big leap– knowing that I am worthy of all happiness all the time in my life, and knowing that accepting it is a daily practice.

This is real. It’s not made up. It’s not dramatized. In fact, if I really wrote about how awesome life is I’d no longer be credible- because it seems to good to be true.

Why am I sharing this? As usual, I have no idea. Maybe it’s more ego driven than I’ll admit. I’m selling nothing- no course, no coaching, no opportunity. None of what I have now came from any of those things. It came from a necessity for life to improve and that had to come from me.

I think I’m sharing this so that you know. Maybe it’s because I’m proud of myself, but I think I want you to know in case you need to read this.

For many of us, life doesn’t have to be so hard. We don’t have to move in chaos. We don’t have to fight with our kids so much. We don’t have to control them. We don’t have to have a particular house or car or pair of shoes to justify our worthiness. In fact, the happiest people I know don’t value any of those things.

I’m not suggesting how anyone should live. Really, I’m not. It just doesn’t have to be so hard.

So, I’m off to take a shower and put on my pajamas before dinner- a dinner table likely filled with various meals and the same dessert. A dinner table with people who love to be together, love me, and love each other.

I never dreamed this life could be real. But here we really are.

You are Worthy as You Are. No Diet Required.

Okay male Noom user on the commercial- you “got your life back” from losing 27 pounds? How much self-worth must you lack to let 27 pounds require the need to “get your life back”?

Friends- don’t let this time of year rob you of joy. Don’t let the commercials that are designed by the best in the business to make you question your self-worth change your trajectory.

If you find yourself thinking “it will all be better once I lose weight” stop yourself in your damn tracks -literally if you have to- and say “FUCK THAT! I’m worthy *exactly* as I am and my thoughts, time, and energy are needed for real and important things- not altering my body based on somebody else’s preferences.”

Yes- they are somebody else’s preferences. Check out the info. Bodies -HEALTHY bodies- come in all shapes and sizes.

If you are in a circle getting ready to “take your lives back” by “*finally* losing that weight”, encourage your circle to say “fuck that” with you and go volunteer or get new customers or take a trip or go to the movies (AND EAT THE GD POPCORN AND DO NOT LET YOURSELF FEEL ANYTHING BUT JOY DOING IT).

If they aren’t ready to join you tell them you love them, you value them, and want to spend time with them and ask them not to discuss weight loss or diet when you are near. If they love you too they will support you.

When the bombardment of commercials floods your screen remember your commitment to yourself! Remember that diets DO NOT WORK, are unhealthy, are dangerous, and are designed to make us feel horrible about ourselves so we will buy the thing.

YOU ARE WORTHY, VALUABLE, and WANTED in exactly the body you are in. Love it, accept it, and celebrate it exactly as it is. I know. It’s hard to believe. It’s hard to understand that the size *your body* is is not the exception. It is NOT the exception. It IS worthy of being celebrated. I promise.

So what do you say? Can 2020 be the year you say “fuck that” to others making money by lowering your self-worth? If so, you’re in great company. You’ll find loads of us. I promise.

PS: Spoiler- Noom IS ABSOLUTELY a diet.

Here’s to the Next New Beginning and it Does Not Need to Be Grandiose

Here’s to the next new beginning. It’s just the next one. It’s not grandiose or loud. No one next new chapter creates seismic shifts. It’s a million next new chapters practiced thoughtfully, intentionally, and repeatedly that creates new beginnings. I’ve learned the hard way that some of those previous chapters have to be dealt with before we can get to the good ones.

Wherever you are in your story know that you have plentiful company. You are worthy exactly as you are. You are not the exception.

We’ve all made poor choices. We’ve all been irresponsible. We all have things our wiser selves would not have chosen. And since we are reading this, we are all still here.

If this is the year you breakdown remember you are loved and belong.

If this is the year you are scared and healing, look out the window and find comfort in the real beauty around you.

If this is the year you are confidently healing, move through it with self-compassion.

If this is the year you find your self-worth, celebrate that shit like crazy!

If this is your next new beginning, reach that strong and steady arm back to bring another woman along with you.

This next new beginning will neither make nor break you. It’s one of many. Forget the pressure so many are putting on us with this new decade. If you want it to be a big huge new chapter- take it! If not though, if you want this month, this year, this decade to be lived the way you’ve been living, that is to be celebrated too. That is a beautiful and inspiring choice. We’ve heard lots of talk about how we should grab this decade by the balls and make it ours. Some of us prefer a quieter, steadier way of moving through life.

Whichever new beginning becomes a part of your story it is important, valuable, and yours.  It is also not as big or important as some are making it seem. Nothing magical happened when the clock struck midnight. No timer started nor did one expire.

Each of these lives belongs to the one living it. If you need a fresh slate, maybe this is the time to find it. You can also find it next week, next month, or next year. Maybe more important than waiting for a magical moment to grant you a fresh start is understanding that the life we live holds value- including all of our choices.

I’ve learned that owning our stories is likely the most grandiose thing we can do. Whether we like to move through life in a loud, enthusiastic, and exciting way, or a mild, calm, and softer way, the value of our stories do not change. We all have important experiences. We all have wisdom to share. We all have stories to share that are worthy of being heard.

However you enter this new decade, I hope your next new beginning is one that makes you feel the way you want to feel. Whatever actions you decide to take or not take, I hope they are authentically yours by desire. Whatever road you are walking, or whichever divergent path you step onto, I hope it leads you closer to the life you want.

Wishing you a very happy Next New Beginning, whatever that looks like. Happy 2020!

What is your Next New Beginning? Will you share in the comments for us to know too?

 

Fuck This Shit: For Women Who Want to Move Forward

This “fuck this shit” bracelet arrived yesterday. Knowing the hands that made it makes me feel even more empowered and powerful when I wear it. It is a work of art. It is a reminder to bat away the bullshit that tries to keep me down; expectations, roles, people pleasing, self-worth crises, overthinking, fear of failure, fear of success, gossips, mistakes, poor choices, believing my past determines my future, thinking I’m meant for less and that I have to conform.

Here’s to batting all that noise away with three little words “Fuck this Shit.” “You’re not good enough. You don’t know what you’re doing. That’s meant for other, better people.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit”.

“Women aren’t capable. Breasts make you dumb. People with vaginas have one purpose.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Be appealing. Every man should desire you sexually. It is your role to ensure these things are true. It is your purpose in life.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Cover up so men can stay focused on important things. It is your role. Take up less space. Be quiet. Be invisible. Find the perfect spot between silent and helpful so that you can contribute appropriately and as directed.” Bat, bat. “Fuck this shit.”

“Allow purity culture and male-forward ideology to remind you of your place, your capabilities, your time to speak.” Bat, bat, “Fuck this shit.”

See, it won’t look like some big shift. It won’t spark a televised movement. It won’t rally investors and supporters to jump into the next trendy thing. What it will do is create tiny little empowered moments in me, and maybe in you. The small choices that allow us to move forward toward the life and activities I want.

The reminder of “fuck this shit” will be a quick little personal rally cry that might allow us to shake it off in the moment. A literal shaking back and forth of the head to bat away the shit that keeps stopping us from being who we are meant to be.

Maybe this is the power of middle-aged. Maybe peri-menopause serves a fantastic purpose. Maybe it is this burning, raging fire created by so many sisters who have said “ENOUGH. I am more than this. I am capable. I am strong. I have worth. I hold value. FUCK. THIS. SHIT.” And have gone on to live extraordinary ordinary lives doing exactly the things they love.

These aren’t angry words. These three little words help me to bat all those thoughts out of my path so I can keep moving forward. I love them. And this was made by the talented, capable, creative, skilled hands of the wonderful Joanna Taylor and that just makes wearing this feel even more powerful. (Joanna is a friend and I was in no way compensated for sharing her work. You can click on her name to connect with her).

Do you have a few words you keep in mind to bat away the stuff that keeps you back? Will you share them?

I Cannot Live in the Rabbit Hole: It’s Happier Outside

Poisoned food. Fracking. Climate change.  Vaccines.

I have gone far, far down one Rabbit Hole- no, two. I know there is truth to a lot of the things we dismiss as conspiracy theories.

Here is the thing though; I cannot live there. I cannot live in the place where the government may be out to make me sick with our food or by shooting poison into my children. I cannot live in the place where I believe there is a possibility that I cannot escape the poison- that my children cannot escape the poison- that permeates our existence.

I know that upsets people. “Ignorance is bliss” they say. “I sure wish I could just leave it for somebody else to deal with, too” others say. “Must be nice to just ignore all the things that are killing you and your kids.” “Don’t you worry about your grandchildren?”

Do I worry? Yes. I worry about everything all day, all the time. I do not get a break from the worry, in fact. So why would I choose to live in an environment that feeds my panic? Why would I surround myself with sights and sounds and voices that that prove how murderous the world is?

I am not ignoring these things, though. I am just choosing not to live in the Rabbit Hole.

Because in the Rabbit Hole, life is dark and glum. There are boogymen around every corner and pits of lava and trees whose branches will reach out and rob me of my breath.

In the Rabbit Hole, a cloud should be feared, not admired. The sun will kill my children and doctors do only harm.

In the Rabbit Hole, nobody can be trusted. Everyone is the enemy. There is no safe space or place to enjoy life, or the world; flowers are not beauty realized, but are poison carriers and representations of our dying bees.

I understand there is truth to some of these things, and for a while, I did live in the Rabbit Hole. Life is unhappy, and scary, and dark in the Rabbit Hole. Happiness cannot exist there.

I can put sunscreen on my kids and still basque in the warmth of the sun. I can research the agents in the bottle that the doctor wants to shoot into my child’s arm and still appreciate their ability to heal. I can buy organic when that feels important to me and mix Kraft Mac and Cheese when it does not.

I have chosen not to live in the Rabbit Hole. I have chosen to let some things go. I can both educate myself and opt out of being responsible for the solution. With age has come the wisdom that I am not responsible for changing everything. With greater age has come greater wisdom that it is immature of me to think I can.

Most importantly though, I have come to learn that I can acknowledge the things that need to get better and still choose happiness. I now know that I need not feel guilty when weeks or months go by and I have not even peeked into the Rabbit Hole. Instead, I can celebrate. I can feel good that I have made a healthy choice to see the colors of the leaves as they are and to smile big at the way the sun’s rays light up the beautiful clouds.

For me, only peeking into the Rabbit Hole on occasion allows me to be more of a change agent than if I lived there. By seeing beauty and making small changes when I am able, I have found a balance that allows me to enjoy my time on this Earth instead of fear it.

 

Weight Loss Makes you Gain Weight, Did you Know?

A few weeks ago I pondered losing weight to make running easier on my knees. (Click here to read). Since then, I have learned a term that encompasses all I have been learning about personally over the last couple of years; diet culture. I will do a separate post with resources because it is a an important topic.

I had learned some time ago that diets don’t work- as in, this fact is scientifically backed. They may work for a few people in initially losing weight (though most do not) but research shows that such a small number of people keep the weight off after a few years  that they may be statistically insignificant. Most people, like me, gain back far more weight than they lost. This makes me understand yo-yo dieting in a different way. Quite literally, and factually, dieting makes us fat, or fatter.

image of woman on mountain text reads "Weight loss makes you gain weight did you know?"If that’s true, which it is, why would I choose to diet again if my desire is to have less for my knees to carry, not more? This is what I’ve been pondering over these last few weeks.

My decision? I will not actively try to lose weight. I’ve been on that vicious cycle for the last 10 years. Every time I lose a few pounds I gain double back. I try to lose the newfound pounds and it happens again. And again. And again.

There’s a part of this decision that lands like a thud in my chest. Does that mean I will never be thinner? Does it mean I will always be this size? Maybe. Logically, I should be glad about this. If I stay this size it will be the second year in a dozen that I have not gained weight. But giving up that thought of losing weight leaves a piece of me grieving. I’d always believed I’d be back to a cute pair of jeans and black t-shirt.

What’s that? Why can’t I wear that now? A-ha. Good question.

My body may stay this size and shape and I will keep working on being okay with that. It may mean I have to give up running soon, or sooner than I would if there were less weight on my knees. That’s sad for me. It’s who I am now, though, and I have to adjust accordingly and learn to love her.

Weight Loss and Diet Culture Really Are to Blame

I’m not one to shirk responsibility anymore but diet culture got me here. Misinformation. Untruths. Profit driven lies. Myths fed to the medical community and projected onto patients.

But what about health? Surely being thin is healthier.  I am still learning about this, however, what I know for sure after the self-educating I have done is this; if people were really concerned about the health of overweight people they would stop talking about weight loss. They would stop shaming. They would stop talking about how many pounds they’ve lost and how they did it. They would stop promoting food restriction, elimination, and calorie counting. This wouldn’t be for the sake of feelings, it would be for the sake of health.

The research is in- diet culture makes people fatter. If you believe fatter is unhealthier and you care about people’s heath, you should stop talking about weight. Otherwise, it’s not health you care about, it’s something else.

Maybe it’s the morality of thinking someone who is thin or has lost a lot of weight is better than someone who is or has not. Maybe it’s a way to make you feel better about a different shortcoming you have. Whatever it is, it can no longer be called health. Diet culture makes people fat. If you believe fatter is unhealthier, and you say you care about health, you can no longer talk about weight loss. Yes, I said that twice.

Reconciling All These Years of Attempted Weight Loss

I don’t feel resentment or anger in looking back at what caused me to gain all of this weight. The initial circumstances were beyond my control but the years that followed were too. (I was ready to type were under my control and changed it. Yay for paradigm shifts!). If I were encouraged to eat what felt good and stop obsessing about food my weight gain probably would have stopped, or reversed itself all together, 20 or 30 pounds ago.

Maybe anger and resentment will come later. Right now though, I am grateful to understand more deeply why I will never restrict myself from food again. I will never eliminate another food. I stopped fearing gluten a long time ago, right along with sugar, chocolate, carbs, and French fries. I started to eat because I enjoy it and stopped obsessing about food.

Once I went through an initial binge period I stopped thinking about food, and thought more about whatever I was doing. Interestingly, my clothes started to feel bigger. As soon as I thought about losing weight a few weeks ago I started binging again without realizing it- getting ready for the deprivation I would provide myself in the interest of being able to run more. It’s so fucked up, isn’t it?!

You can hear more about that on my podcast episode here:

The Decision

So, my intentional choice is not to try to lose weight. Wow. We don’t hear that very often, do we? I will get back to eating what feels good to stop the obsession with food and the food items I “can’t/shouldn’t” have. I’ll keep eating lots of fruits and veggies, which I love. I’ll enjoy cooking again because so many limitations will be removed and I’ll release those limitations from my thoughts.

I have also set a boundary- I will no longer be part of conversations around weight loss, size, clean eating, keto, or anything else that perpetuates diet culture. (Full disclosure- I am full on Vegan, which may seem hypocritical but it’t not. For me, animals, or anything they produce, are absolutely not food. This does not stop with particular animals like cats and dogs but includes all animals. If this information causes to you to reconsider everything I have shared  please reach out and I will explain it. I will do this happily, patiently, gently, and kindly. For some people being vegan is absolutely part of diet culture. I am not one of those people).

When conversations about weight loss, diets, or eating plans come up, what will I do? I’m not sure. If it’s a group I don’t know well maybe I will excuse myself to the bathroom. If it’s people I am comfortable with and who understand boundaries I will kindly ask them if we could talk about something else in order to support my mental health. People who have boundaries will not be put off by this. They will understand and respect it.

So. Big decision. It’s pretty awesome though, isn’t it? Imagine knowing you will never diet again? Imagine knowing you can just enjoy your pasta and dessert and macchiato? Imagine no guilt, shame or berating and just being able to focus on the conversation instead? Wow! It’s very exciting! In theory anyway. In reality there’s lots of work to do to get there but I know it’s worth it. How about you?

Aging? Who, Me?

Aging is strange. I hear that word and immediately think of people older than me- like, much older. I feel like the word “aging” does not even apply to me. Same with middle age.

I mean, we are all aging right? Somehow though it doesn’t feel the same when talking about a 24 year old woman and a 44 year old woman.

I went through what may have been an intense midlife crisis a few years ago. I’ve called it a mental break down because that’s what it was.

During that breakdown/crisis I started to feel my “age”. I was 42 at the time, maybe 41.

I seriously started to wonder what the point of anything was. I was on the downhill. The best parts of my life were behind me. The fit and athletic body that could pick up a basketball and play a quick game without even feeling it the next day. The ability to eat whatever I wanted without consequence to my hips. Skin and a smile that wouldn’t quit. All of that was changing and I kept doing the math about how many years I might have left.

At my annual dermatology appointment that year my doctor told me the brown spot on my face was nothing to be concerned about. It was just an age spot. “My grandmother had those”, I might have mumbled out loud.

I think what made me feel the most sad during that period was that I had not lived a life I wanted. I had not done the things that, at my core, felt like me. I worked at a job out of obligation. I got married. I had two kids. I stayed home with them. I don’t regret the last 3 of these.

When I was in my early 20’s I wanted nothing more than to move to New York City. I know, I know. It’s cliche. I really wanted to though. People did it. My sister did it.

My sense of duty combined with the non-existent self worth that came with being a college drop out kept me in my small New Hampshire town. It was okay. I was lucky enough to make an incredible circle of friends, whom, all these years later I could not have done a better job of hand picking.

smiling woman, author, with text "aging? Who, me?"I started a successful blog. I got some writing published. I was interviewed for a national magazine. The woman who interviewed me was a real, honest-to-goodness, published writer. I loved her work and I was a little star struck.

I confessed to her that I had always dreamed of being a writer. I was in my early thirties at the time. “What do you mean?” she asked, “you already are”. Without her seeing, I cried.

A cross-country move, failing mental health, and other professional opportunities pulled me further away from this dream. I did not know how to pursue a freelance career. I believed that a college drop out could not be a writer, at least not today. I bought into the idea that an MFA was a pre-req for achieving your dreams. I read the words “if you can be anything besides a writer, be that.”

A couple of years later I read the words “I don’t know how I feel about that until I have had a chance to write”. Suddenly, the words my interviewer said to me swirled in my head along with the ones I was reading. As though through a time traveling machine I thought back to my many, many stacks of journals- kept from the time I was 8. I thought of all the things stored on my computers over the years, too. A piece for every major life experience; starting college, being at my grandmother’s death bed, becoming a mother, my changing views on religion.

The intention of these pieces was never publication. They were written for me, to process my thoughts.

My time spent blogging taught me that grammar is not my friend and that my eyes have a block to spelling mistakes and typos. Surely, this does not a good writer make.

But now I am 44. Almost 45. It seems all the reasons that stopped me from doing what I love matter less. A critic pokes fun at my writing? So? Someone shines a light on my flawed thinking? And? The grammar police say “and?” is not a full sentence?  Yeah?

At 44 what others think of me and what I love to do is not much more than something I glance at in my peripheral vision. This is a far cry from the thin skinned people pleaser I once was, which in part led to my mental breakdown.

I have done my work and am not just stable but thriving. Now, instead of feeling like life is over or has passed me by I am excited. I love being 40 something. I love the freedom that comes with it. I love owning my story. I love that, in so many ways, I feel like things are just beginning.

So maybe my body won’t recover so quickly after a game of pick-up. Maybe the wrinkles in my skin make me look more like 54 than 44. Maybe my hips have inched up to a number I never thought I’d see.

That’s okay. These hips have just started shaking and they don’t care who is watching.

Turning 40? I’m Not Glum Because I am Finally Turning 40!

We should celebrate the wisdom, growth, and experiences that we gain each year. I am not dreading turning 40, I am finally turning 40!

Do you ever have those moments when you look in the mirror and do not  recognize the person looking back at you? I had one the other day. I have had them before, and they usually scare me. The person in the mirror looks older, unfamiliar. The woman who stares back at me is somebody I do not know.

The other day though, it was different. As I stood at the bathroom counter drying my hair, I knew exactly who was standing there in front of me. I had been getting to know her for a couple of years, intentionally. I had been paying attention to what she thinks, what she believes.  I had started listening to her, instead of everybody else.

finally turning 40This has uncovered a confidence in me that I had not before had- one that allows me to chat with abandon, and worry less about whether my stomach is properly disguised. It permits me to move through life as myself.  This is different. It is beautiful and authentic. It has been a transformation.

Turning 40 is a Gift

As I found my eyes in the mirror on a random Thursday morning, I realized; this year I turn forty. Forty. It is an age dreaded by many, it seems- at least according to party decor and magazine headlines. For me though, it is an age that has finally come; one that means confidence and self assurance, a time to be celebrated for its self knowledge.

My life has transformed; from anxiety ridden aplogizer to authentic embracer of life. My body is transforming from lethargic, difficult to move and aging, to energetic and healing.

I reflected on this as I moved the brush through my hair, and the realization was undeniable; I am entering my 40th year happier and healthier than I have ever been. In my whole life. I suspect that many of us are, or would be if we were not told to expect otherwise.

This is not the end of a transformation, rather I have prepped and fueled my body and mind for what comes next- for all the  thought, beauty, exploration, and acceptance that turning 40 brings. Now I am ready to receive it, to embrace it, to celebrate it.

I am not dreading turning forty. I am finally turning forty