Monthly Archives: April 2017

8 Things to Remember When Considering Self-Care

  1. You don’t have to ask permission.

This might be the single most important thing to remember. You don’t need permission to take care of yourself. You don’t need anyone’s approval, nor do you need anyone’s opinion about what you do to take care of yourself.  Well, unless taking care of yourself leads you to hurt other people.  That’s not very cool. Ooh, and taking drugs. That’s pretty much the opposite of taking care of yourself.

  1. Even the small things count.

No one ever said that taking care of yourself meant huge gestures of kindness and compassion.  Sometimes self-care means taking your favorite stretch of highway on your way home, even if it is way out of your typical route. More often than not, it is the little things that we can try to incorporate into our every day that mean the most. Want that Slurpee? Do it! Want to sing a ballad from Swing Kids at the top of your lungs while cruising down the freeway? Do it!

  1. You won’t always be #1 on your list, and that is okay.

Self-care will always be an ongoing endeavor. As time goes on, and as you are more mindful of the practice of self-care, it will get easier, but you will still need to be intentional in your actions. Unfortunately, though, life will get in the way. There will always be work deadlines, family issues, traffic on your way home that eats up your extra time, etc. The important thing to remember is that just because you may go days or weeks without taking time for yourself, doesn’t mean you’ll never do it again. It just means you snatch up what little time you do find, even if it is for only five minutes, and work to get back in the habit of taking care of yourself.

  1. Laughter can cure what ails you.

One thing I know that can breathe a bit more life into me is laughter. Typically, if it is at the expense of someone else it makes it even better. (I’m kidding. Kind of.)

I try to surround myself with people that are pretty funny in their own right, or at the very least, surround myself with people who have a twisted sense of humor much like my own. These people are the ones that breathe life into my sails, and make me laugh so hard I cover my face because I know I’m ugly-laughing. If I walk away with a red face and a stomach ache from laughing, I know I’ve found my people.

  1. Sometimes you need to go big.

I’m a firm believer that when you are stuck in what seems to be the death spiral of absolute BS in life, you are absolutely entitled to get out and clear your head. This doesn’t mean you’re giving up on whatever situation you’re in. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Walking away and catching your breath means you value your own sanity and need to take some time to recover. Often times taking the opportunity to regroup offers up a perspective shift that could be the missing key that you need to sort out the BS.

So, if you need to jump in the car and head south to warmer weather for a day or two, do it. If you prefer pine trees to the ocean, and head to the mountains to convene with nature ala Edward Abbey, do it. If you need to go really big, and hop on a plane to Mexico where you will sit on the beach at an all-inclusive while the cabana boy brings you mojitos, do it. And take me with you, please.

  1. Self-care isn’t selfish.

If anyone ever tries to tell you that taking care of yourself in the manner that you wish is selfish, tell them to go to hell.  Seriously, you have my permission (not that you needed it, right?).

Those that love you and honor you in their life want you to be well, for you and for them (in that order). If they try to make you believe otherwise, then they are not worth the energy or the space in your life.  Harsh, I know, but it is the truth. There are going to be times where people are going to say you’ve changed, or that you are no longer the person they knew (and they don’t mean it in a good way), but all this tells you is that they don’t know how to handle the fact that you’re no longer living life like they want you to.  Their comments aren’t so much a reflection of you, as they are reflection of the struggle they have in their own mind and soul.

  1. If all else fails, try to have an attitude of gratitude.

There will be times where we feel like we don’t have the time or the money to do what we want to take care of ourselves. In situations like this, I rely on remembering at least five things I am grateful for that happened that day. I’d like to say that most days my lists are full of grand gestures of gratitude. In reality, most days I’m grateful that I remembered to wear the comfortable bra, or that the bathroom at work didn’t stink like I had just missed the morning post-coffee rush.

If you have days where the only thing you can be grateful for is that your commute to work was smooth, or that you noticed how blue the sky was when you were outside at lunch, that is okay.  It isn’t always about the big things; the small things are perfect too.

  1. You don’t have to ask permission.

I know, you’re thinking that I clearly don’t read my lists as I bang them out on the computer. If I did I would have noticed that I already addressed permission at the beginning. Well, guess what sister? This one is so important that I thought it made the perfect bookend to a list about self-care. You know why? Because this is my list and I do what I want.

Nothing says a big “screw you!” to haters than taking care of yourself and doing your thing. There isn’t a single ounce of shame in doing something that makes you happy.  I know I said before that if it involves hurting someone, then maybe you should avoid it, but if you have to inflict pain on someone, do it to a sibling. I’m pretty sure they have to love you no matter what, so use it to your advantage.  But only in an emergency. And maybe give them a hug afterwards or something to show your gratitude. (Oh, see what I did there? I just gave you something for your gratitude list. You. Are. Welcome.)

Look on the Bright Side of Life… Ha! Just Kidding!

I love me some quotes. I’d even go so far as to say that I hoard quotes like a fat kid hoards Twinkies. I love being inspired and I love being challenged.

But, there are days.

Days where I wake up and the first thought I have is, “FML.” I drag my sorry butt to the bathroom to get ready and I curse my alarm for being the dick it is.  Perhaps these are the days where I’m supposed to really love quotes, and lean on them in an effort to turn my attitude around? Eh, no thanks.

Instead, I look at positive quotes and think to myself, “Oh yeah?  Well, here’s a dose of real life, jerk.”

  • Be yourself. No one else is qualified.

Pretty sure that’s a lie. According to my recent job search, there are tons more people qualified.

  • Laughter is a powerful way to tap positive emotions. – Norman Cousins

 Laughter? Really? I always thought punching someone in the throat when they have pissed you off was the way to tap positive emotions.  Guess I’ve had that wrong.

  • Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love. A gift to that person. A beautiful thing. – Mother Teresa

What if you’re smiling at someone while you while you run them over with a car?  Is that really considered love?

  • There is no wealth but life. – John Ruskin

I’m pretty sure this quote is mostly meant for those people who make more money than they know what to do with, and didn’t grow up on government cheese and Tang.

  • Beauty is what gives you joy. – Hugh Nibley

What if watching people fall on the ice is what gives me joy? I mean, I guess I can see the beauty in that.

  • Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. – E.B. White

As I get older and wiser, I’m always experiencing wonder.  I wonder why my 2 year old won’t let me use the restroom alone. I wonder why it seems like I woke up fat, so why shouldn’t I be able to wake up skinny? I wonder why I went grey in my 20’s. I wonder how many pounds I’m going to gain by simply looking at that slice of pizza.

  • Don’t be afraid to be amazing. – Andy Offutt Irwin

Oh, I’m not afraid to be amazing.  Amazing is easy.  It’s trying not to be awkward that is hard.

  • Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. – Chinese Proverb

If this is the case, I am royally screwed.  Tension is what gives me my winning personality!

I think I’m the only person that needs to read a book or take a class to learn how to relax.

  • Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. – Victor Borge

Just regular old laughter?  How about awkward laughter due to inappropriate humor?  That has always seemed to work for me.

  • Success is following the patters of life one enjoys most. – Al Capp

I’m pretty sure spending my days on the sofa eating popcorn and watching TNT every day is not the recipe for success. Neither is living with your mom for all but five years of your life, and not having a decent job in over 30 years.  Just ask my uncle.

  • Balance is beautiful. – Miyoko Ohno

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume she doesn’t mean a Slurpee in each hand.  Or a rum and Coke.  Ooh, maybe she means a Slurpee in one hand a rum and Coke in the other!  That is the type of balance I can get behind.

  • Change before you have to. – Jack Welch

Like, my underwear? My winning personality? Where are we going here, Jack?

  • May you live all the days of your life. – Jonathan Swift

If someone said this to me, my first question would be to ask if they are making a threat.

  • Always make new mistakes! – Esther Dyson

Finally, a quote I can get behind! Even on my worst days, I can do this without trying. Remind me to tell you the story about the time I accidentally told my step-mom her people breed like rats instead of like rabbits.  That was an “awesome” moment.

 

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4 Things We Need to Stop Doing As Parents

When my husband and I found out I was pregnant and began navigating the following nine months, we heard on more than one occasion of how much our lives were about to change. Obviously, they were right; there isn’t one facet of our lives that hasn’t been affected. The word “hard” doesn’t quite capture just how difficult things are as a parent. Conversely, no one could really prepare you for the depth your life takes when you have a child.  It is both scary and exhilarating.

As my daughter continues to grow, and I continue to read a way too many articles related to children, I notice a theme when it comes to parenting. Parenting seems to have become an either/or situation. Black or white; the right way, and the wrong way. It is because of this dichotomy that I have come to the conclusion that there are five things we need to stop doing right now.

  1. Parent Shaming

We all know that there isn’t a single kid on earth that arrived with a manual. Sure, we wish such a manual existed. If it did, potty training and sleep training would be a breeze (and if these two situations were easy for you, we don’t want to know about it. No one likes a bragger). If we all know that none of us really know what we are doing, why do we keep shaming our parenting peers? If parenting were to hold their own Olympic games, I’m convinced that there could be a Facade Event, where parents – both moms and dads – pretend to have their crap together. Ooh, we could even call this the Highlight Reel Event, where parents comb through their Facebook feeds showing just how perfect of a parent they are.  If the thought of such an event makes you gag, you’re not alone. Just typing that was difficult.

What we should do: Recognize that there are a million different ways to do any one thing and that, short of which way the toilet paper roll faces, there isn’t the “right” way to do anything. If we ourselves can drop the facade and embrace the mess of parenting, we have a higher chance of becoming better parents because a) we’ll stop the cycle of comparing ourselves to those around us (kids or no kids, this is just not a fun cycle to be on), and b) we’ll see just how big of a tribe we belong to, and can lean on. We aren’t in this crazy world alone, so why do we act like it?

  1. Parent Guilt

I often joke that I am constantly giving my daughter one more thing to talk about in therapy.  Most days I am joking when I say this, but there are others where I worry that it is true, and I use that statement as a way to use humor as a coping mechanism.  I often wonder why we as parents feel guilty?  Are we comparing ourselves to our peers?  Is it society’s fault, with all the celebrity worshiping we do?  Ooh, how about Pintrest.  Is it the peer pressure of the perfect birthday party that does us in?  Regardless of where it comes from, it really doesn’t serve any genuinely good purpose.  Last time I checked, nowhere in the course of time has the perfect parent existed. Well, I never really researched that, but I know it is true.

What we should do: Embrace the fact that just as your parents weren’t’ perfect (regardless of how much we’d like to think they were), you won’t be either.  Are your kids fed? Perfect!  Do you love them unconditionally? Even better!

  1. Striving for Perfection

This one is really hard for me because I am a big-time perfectionist.  I am tremendously hard on myself in all areas of my life.  I can’t even write on a Post-It Note without trying to determine if my handwriting was perfect.

One thing parenting has taught me is that regardless of how many children we have, no one knows what in the world they are doing.  No one.  If anyone tries to make you believe otherwise, they are lying or trying to talk themselves into believing it too.

Sure, human behavior does replicate itself, even in a toddler.  To a certain degree we can comfortably navigate certain situations, but at the end of the day we are all still trying to figure it out.

What we should do: Instead striving for perfection, strive adequacy. Obviously that sounds like I am trying to set the bar so low most of us would be able to walk over it, but hear me out.

Life is messy, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. Learning to embrace the mess, and roll with it is liberating. The comparison game is a losing battle, no matter who you compare yourself to and how hard you are trying.  Think of the term “Pintrest Mom.”  It isn’t normally said with excitement and a smile.  Typically, it is said with exhaustion and a glass of wine. Or two glasses. Three glasses? Sounds good to me. I’m not judging.

  1. Pushing Our Kids to Be Who We Want Them to Be, Or Believe They Should Be

There is a stark difference between raising our kids to be successful adults, and pushing them into endeavors that more closely align with what we value over what they value.

I have a friend who would, when talking about his kids, would always say, “It’s my job to get them to 18.  After that, it’s all up to them.” What did this entail? Helping them to be well-rounded, which included performing well in school, both academically and in sports.  He also ensured they understood hard work, and the value of having a job and getting your driver’s license.

What didn’t he do? Force them into activities that would make the outside world think he was living vicariously through his kids.  Additionally, he didn’t put unrealistic family expectations on them, nor did he dismiss who they were as human beings.  He valued and respected their individuality, all while ensuring they learned to be respectful themselves.

What we should do: See parenting for what it can be: an opportunity to add one more good person to the world.  Support the individual, all while instilling in them the values you hold dear.

I’m talking about unconditional love and support.  Now days we are looking well beyond the Tiger Mom label.  Now we talk about transgender children, non-binary children, LGBQ children, and so on.  In some ways, it feels unprecedented all the situations we are faced with, but in the end it all comes down to the same thing: our kids need us to see them, hear them, and love them.

 

Clearly, these four things are just the tip of the iceberg of what we could stop doing now as parents.  My hope is that it opens dialog and sparks conversation, which could lead to more revelations.  Parenting is hard enough as it is.  Understanding that we aren’t on this roller coaster alone and that our tribe is bigger than we realize could help us be the perfect parents we strive to be.  Er, I mean, adequate parents…

To Live Outloud

Another lifetime ago, I diligently created all my own greeting cards.  I would painstakingly search for the perfect paper and adornments in an effort to create a flawless birthday card.  On a whim, I created a few cards that could be used for any occasion.  I had found a piece of scrapbook paper covered with one-liners.  The paper struck a chord in me that I was unable to identify.  All I knew is that I wanted to purchase it because I figured that eventually it would come in handy.

While I was able to use a majority of the cards that were created using that one piece of scrapbook paper, there was still one remaining that I was hesitant to give.  “I am here to live out loud!” it screams.  What does it mean to live out loud?  What does such a life look like?  This card seemed to both a challenge and a mystery.

You know the quizzes in magazines that purport to be able to tell you all about your personality?  “Are you a wanderer?  Take this quiz and we’ll tell you! ““Are you ready to save the world? Take this quiz and we’ll show you how!” While each time I took a quiz I would hope to be on one end of the spectrum, I knew that I would fall squarely in the middle.  The topic of the quiz never mattered; I was never part of one extreme or the other.  I was always safely in the middle.

Eventually, the middle didn’t feel safe at all.  It really ends up feeling quite stifling.  I wasn’t looking to be the crazy girlfriend or the person most likely to be on a reality show about hoarders.   I was, however, looking to no longer hold myself back.  Those magazine quiz results were the manifestation of a life unlived.  A life squarely in the middle, toeing a line drawn by someone else, yet followed as if it was a religion: unquestioning, blindly drifting along.

Typically when someone goes through a drastic life change, it is usually preceded by something traumatic.  Car crashes, hiking accidents, drowning incidents, terminal illness scares – these are the catalyst for a change of course.  For me, it wasn’t a close encounter with death; quite the opposite, actually.  For me, it was the birth of another life.  The birth of my daughter, all 8 pounds 1 ounce of her, was the catalyst for change.

You spend your formative years under the purview of your parents.  They guide you, instill values, show you how to fend for yourself, and then eventually encourage you to leave their nest and create a life of your own.  Your 20’s are a time to find that life.  To live beyond the rules you grew up with, and instead create rules of your own.  It is the ultimate opportunity to fully embrace your existence.

Conversely, your 20’s can also be a time to crawl further into yourself.  At least, that is what was for me.  I did make my own rules and made my own mistakes.  I built a career; started, and ended, a marriage; and dove back into the maze of my subconscious.  To say that I am a chronic over-thinker seems too light-handed.  To say that I spent too much time ruminating, worrying, and full of anxiety is nothing short of an understatement.

I entered my 30’s dragging my control issues behind me.  I may worry, and I may be full of anxiety, but if I can just control a little bit more around me, things will be fine… To look back now, I can’t help but laugh.  I tried to control everything, and at the same time did nothing.  My career had a life of its own, and to some degree my trajectory was organic and expected.  I remarried for the second, and hopefully last, time.  I was staring in the mirror, not knowing exactly who was looking back at me.

A few years of consistent therapy with a doctor that I will never let go of, helped me see the path I had created, and assisted me in creating a new one.  Mindfulness entered my life, and for the first time in a long time I worried less and was anxious even less so.  My actions were increasingly intentional.  Drifting was no longer an automatic response to life.  Instead, my actions had purpose; my intentions were clear.

Prior to my daughter’s conception, I didn’t think I’d ever be a mother.  I liked children, but I never felt the pang of wanting my own.  I enjoyed my niece and nephews, and loved them like only a favorite aunt could.  It wasn’t until I heard a story about a woman I know that upon turning 40 knew she was no longer going to be able to start a family.  She may remarry, but having children was no longer an option for her.  She would now have to let that dream go.  I had such a physical gut reaction to hearing her final decree that I knew something had changed.  My intuition told me that perhaps I wasn’t completely done with the idea of having a child.

Now my daughter is here, and she brings more love and light to my life than I could have ever imagined.  There are days where I am convinced her smile and laugh could cure the most terrible of illnesses.  I find myself doing anything I can to make her smile, regardless of where we are.  I no longer care what people think when they see me out and about.  I don’t care if they think I am being silly by making animal noises while at the grocery store, or if I am talking to my daughter as if I completely understand what she is telling me with her limited vocabulary.

I finally understand what living out loud means, at least for me.  It is the life I have now, where my days and nights are full of family and love; where adventure waits and memories are ready to be made.  I have been given the opportunity to see the world through a fresh pair of eyes and a child’s perspective.

I still have that card, and while I suspect the moment may not come to use it, it brings a smile to my face when I come across it.  It reminds me that I have been given the opportunity live out loud.