My wonderful husband and I had a date very early on where we visited the beautiful Mecom Fountain. It was lovely and romantic and less than a year later it was also the place he proposed.
Another year later, on the morning after our wedding, we had a lovely breakfast at our hotel’s restaurant and could see the cascading fountain from our table as we sipped coffee and orange juice.
To say that this fountain has played a part in our romance would be an understatement. So when the time came for me to procure a ‘wood’ gift for our 5th Anniversary I decided to paint our beloved fountain on a wooden canvas with the words “I will always say Yes” painted at the bottom. Here was the result:
I mixed glow in the dark paint with the white. Because I’m a grown up. Acrylic on Wood.
The husband had no idea what I was getting him so what do you think he got me? A wooden jack knife easel that he burned our anniversary date and other sweet nothings into. We gave each other complementary anniversary gifts without even realizing it. And in case you’re wondering, yes, yes, we are this lovingly disgusting all the time. 😉
And for those of you looking for a partner to love (not that you need one to be happy or whole or anything in between) here’s some advice I got on my 21st birthday. Take what you like and leave the rest:
A few weeks ago, I wrote about being afraid of ‘hard work.’ In my research for that post, I came across a lovely piece called “Learning to Work” by Virginia Valian (which can be read for free as a PDF here). In it she discusses trying to complete her thesis and overcoming her own mental obstacles. She decides to commit to a certain amount of ‘work time’ every day. The only amount of time that doesn’t overwhelm her is 15 minutes. And so she works on and eventually completes her thesis in small, manageable chunks.
This was unbelievably eye opening for me. Before my daughter was born, I could only work on my creative pursuits in large, uninterrupted chunks of time. I had to be in the right ‘mood’ and feeling ‘inspired.’ I also had to be feeling exceptionally well physically. As you can imagine, not a whole lot was completed or even worked on. Just as Ms Valian would procrastinate on her thesis by volunteering and sleeping, I would procrastinate by cleaning, running errands, organizing, etc. Whatever creative project I was trying to work on was just too overwhelming – not to mention the many mental obstacles I faced about worth and value.
After my daughter was born, it was pure survival mode for months. Then we moved. More survival mode. Then we slowly crawled our way out of survival mode and into the adjustment period of having a new, wonderful little person in our lives. It was here that I started to want to work on my creative projects again. And at first, I tried to go back to my old way of working – large, uninterrupted blocks of inspired time. Ha! My time was now such a hot commodity I knew that if I ever wanted to do some of ‘my things’ I would have to prioritize my time. One by one, ‘priorities’ and distractions fell off my list. Bye constantly clean house. Hello messy, fun times with my daughter. Bye folded laundry, hello haphazard pile of clean clothes. Bye 20 blogs that I follow, hello cherished few. Goodbye filler TV and movies, hello books I want to read. Now I at least had my priorities straight and some time to myself, but the ‘hours’ of creativity I still felt I needed to complete anything were elusive.
As I contemplated how to get anything done, my urge to be creative grew and I was drawing or singing or writing in the small moments here and there that I could find. In my mind, these small stolen moments were satiating but not enough to ever complete anything. And then I read “Learning to Work” and it changed my little world. No longer were these 15 minutes of creativity just scraps to feed the hungry beast inside me. They became wholesome, fulfilling sustenance that not only filled me up but would allow me to create AND complete something. Ms Valian created her 15 minutes for herself with a timer and increased her productivity. My 15 minutes are created by my new life as mom to a toddler and I’ve been more productive than ever.
As prolific author Nora Roberts says “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.” I might only write a couple of paragraphs, or create just the melody to a song or paint a small corner of a canvas but it’s at least progress. And it’s progress without all the mental anguish and endless procrastination because if I’m ever going to get anything done, it has to be in the small moments and I kind of like it like that. Afterall, all these little moments will eventually add up to something big. 😉
What do I have against hard? Ever since my daughter was born, all I’ve been looking for is easy – the path of least resistance. I’ve shunned hard hard. So what is it about hard that I’m so afraid of?
My dear husband makes my life harder in many ways. I’m a neat freak, he’s…not. I love veggies and tofu, he… doesn’t. I’m a saver, he’s…not. But sharing my life with him is so worth the ‘hard.’ There has been so much joy and healing and fun and unconditional love because of him. And it’s only the beginning.
My daughter makes my life harder too. But she is so unbelievably worth it as well. Owning a home makes my life harder but it’s worth it. Being a stay-at-home mom, in many ways, makes my life more difficult, but it’s also worth it. Breastfeeding. Cloth diapers. Co-sleeping. Trying to get my daughter to nap on her own. Cooking unprocessed, whole foods. Eating low sugar. Self-care. Exercising. Meditating. Creating memories. All of these things require substantial effort and make my life ‘harder.’ But they also, in many ways, make it much easier at the same time. And they’re all things that I have chosen consciously and created within my life. And they are all worth it. And somewhere along the lines of exhaustion and fatigue, I’ve forgotten that hard isn’t a bad thing. I’ve forgotten that just because the path is hard doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path for me. If I’m presented with a hard path and an easy path, the universe isn’t telling me to take the easy path just because it’s easier. Giving birth to my daughter was hard but so worth it. So worth it, in fact, it didn’t even register as hard. It registered as a challenge but one I was happy to meet. And somewhere along the line I have stopped being happy to meet these challenges. All I want is easy. All I want is effortless.
Sometimes I think about my life if I had never gotten married and had children, almost as a fantasy. And when I’m in a dark place, so weary, tired and run-down, it seems like a wonderful fantasy. But thinking about it now when I’m only slightly weary and exhausted, it just seems sad and devoid of the chaos and mess of life. This life that I have, that I have chosen for myself and created consciously, it’s hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It is time for me to stop choosing the easy path simply because it is easy. Sometimes that will be all I can do and that’s okay and forgiving myself for that and being gentle with myself will be the hard part. Because even when I take the easy path there is always a hard part that goes with it. So no matter what I choose I’m taking the easy/hard path or the hard/easy path. Writing a book while being a stay-at-home mom to a rambunctious 1 year old who doesn’t seem to want to sleep without her mom next to her will be hard. But it will be so worth it. Unschooling my daughter for the next 17 years will be challenging but it will so be worth it. Making time for my self care is freaking hard but it’s worth it. And making time for dates with my husband is hard but worth it. Making time for friendships and family is hard but worth it. It is time I stopped running away from hard. It’s not something to be afraid of – it is something I have chosen consciously, to create a life full of love, chaos, fun, mess and even challenge. Because an easy life, though seemingly wonderful at times, is boring for me and not the life I will choose for myself. This is the life I choose – time to go live it.
One of my teenage relatives was recently having a rough time of things.
This is what I would say to her (and my high school self).
I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear and already know: life isn’t fair. And sometimes, I think, a teen’s life can have extra bits of unfair-ness. First, there is school. Don’t even get me started on school. You can read about why school sucks here, here, and here. Then there is the fact that you’re almost sort-of an adult but not really. You are given tastes of freedom and independence but none of the trust or respect to go with it. “Be an adult. Stop acting childish” but also “Listen to me. Do what I say. You live under my roof, you have no rights.” This is in addition to the pressure and expectations of everyone around you: friends, teachers, parents, relatives, your church, your culture, the media, etc. And as the cherry on top are all of the ‘normal’ things in life that suck: trauma, abuse*, hardship, death, etc. What I’m trying to say here is that, generally, a teen’s life can really suck. And when your life has a tendency to suck, you tend to have a few bad days (or weeks or months or…).
This is for those times. The bad days. First, I’m going to give you some advice my mom gave me (yes, parents do actually know something from time to time): you can’t change anyone but yourself. Another gem from the old lady: what other people think about you is none of your business. And lastly: don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides (this includes the crap people post on Facebook). These three statements have profoundly changed the way I look at myself and the world.
MEDITATION : Am I spending enough time alone? Do I make time to deal with my big emotions? Do I make time to get in touch with myself and figure out who I am and what I want? Do I listen to my inner wise voice?
SELF-EXPRESSION : Am I making time to express myself in a way that feels true to my soul? Even if I’m not going to share it with another living person, it still needs to be expressed.
What I’ve just listed is essentially radical self care. And contrary to popular belief, caring for yourself is not selfish. It’s like they say on an airplane: you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else put on theirs. And let me tell you – self care isn’t easy. Change takes time and you will fall off the wagon. Be kind and gentle with yourself and just get back on. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or get creative.
And if all else fails, get some perspective: read a book, make a list of what you’re grateful for, help someone else, give back, focus on what you do have. The world is so much bigger and more beautiful than high school and you are stronger, wiser, braver, and more resilient and powerful than you know. Hang in there – I promise you it will get better.
Oh, and one final thing:
YOU ARE VALUED.
YOU ARE NEEDED.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
YOU ARE LOVED.
All my love,
*If you are currently in an abusive situation, I urge you to seek help. Please call one of the hotlines on this page. You will get through this. You will survive.
Your dear husband is probably wondering what this ‘self-gift’ is all about so please be sure to read this letter out loud.
This year I am gifting myself the power of “HELP NO.” (Get it, ’cause it sounds like “HELL NO.”) But really it is a two part gift of “HELP” and “NO.”
Let’s start with the gift of “NO.” Too many times you say ‘Yes,’ or more frequently say nothing at all and therefore OK, when you really mean “No.” And the two people who suffer the most because of this are you and Bill. You because you end up doing things you don’t want to because you previously agreed to it and then you’re angry and resentful or depressed. Bill because he is the one you most often say ‘Yes’ to when you really don’t want to because you think it’ll make him happy but you just end up angry and passive-aggressive with him.
So this year it’s time to start saying “No” (including to yourself). Which means you’ll have to start really taking the time to think about things before you respond instead of just saying “Yeah, OK, whatever.” I know! I know what you’re thinking! This requires time: time to put Ellie down, put your to-do list down and get in touch with yourself to know what it is you truly want. This bring me to the next part of the gift: “HELP.”
You need to start asking for help. Help with Ellie, help with the dishes, help with whatever it is you need help with so that you can get these 10 or 20 minutes EVERY DAY. These 20 minutes help you to stay sane and happy and in touch with your truth. And really, 20 minutes a day ain’t a lot to ask. 20 minutes a day for one year is less than 1.5% of the whole year! That’s a helluva deal for increased happiness. And it doesn’t always have to be Bill whom you’re asking for help. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You have wonderful family and friends who would LOVE to watch Ellie for 20 minutes or take her for a 20 minute walk. You are not superwoman and that is perfectly OK. In fact, it’s normal. So this is my gift to you – the power of “NO” and asking for “HELP.” Use it wisely.
All my love,
P.S. Eating better and starting yoga again might help too. <3
Happy Holidays Everyone! May your days be full of love, laughter, and joy! <3
After many years of wanting to, I finally shaved my head and I’m loving it. Here’s why:
It was on my list. Ever since my high school English teacher showed us a picture of her shaved head, I’ve always wanted to do it. Why hadn’t I done it yet? Fear. It feels SO GOOD to throw fear aside and do something I’ve always wanted to do. It is incredibly empowering and joyful. I still giggle with glee when I see myself in the mirror. Which leads me to…
I feel so sexy! Confidence and sexiness go hand-in-hand and doing something even though it scared me was a huge confidence booster. Bonus: my husband finds my new hairdo super sexy too!
It’s so easy. I have a 2 month old daughter so I’m all about quick and easy right now. No hair getting in the way while breastfeeding or carrying her around. It’s the ultimate mom haircut but with a little bit of badass thrown in. Also, with this hair, I’ve gotten my shower time to well under 10 minutes. Good for my baby and the environment!
Earrings. I finally get to show off my beautiful earrings that were always hidden behind dark hair before. It’s a whole new jewelry world!
It feels awesome. I love rubbing my hand along my head and feeling how soft my hair is. I love feeling the water from the shower hit my scalp and the wind blow through my hair (which is amazing in this Texas heat!). It’s a completely new way of feeling and I love it.
Overall. I give shaving my head 5 beautiful, bald stars. I highly recommend.
“Fun, joy, and love is who you are. It is the natural you. Just give in to that[…] Share love with everyone, in the form that your soul tells you is most appropriate to the moment and to the kind of relationship you have with each person – and with yourself.” –Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God for Teens
From the articles, I absorbed a few gems of wisdom and felt I needed to write them down in action-type bullet points above my desk as a daily reminder. Hopefully, they help to remind you of what is most important as well.
Be true to yourself.
Have fun; don’t work so hard.
Express yourself (feelings, opinions, etc)
Maintain golden friendships.
Let yourself be happy.
Life is so very beautiful; see it and appreciate it.