Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Don't Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

I've been really committed to losing weight this year and have been meeting with success, thanks to that determination.  As part of my endeavors, I've recently started to get back into running.  For me, that means slowly building my endurance back up through interval training (like the C25K program).  For the past week, I've been trying to do 4 minute running/1 minute walking intervals.

This is great for most of my route, but there is one section of hill that was totally kicking my butt.  It took me three different runs to be able to get through it, and on the second successful run, I was feeling pretty dang proud of myself. In fact, I was elated about how freakishly awesome I was.

Then, it happened.

Miss Athletic I-Don't-Even-Sweat ran by me like I was walking BACKWARDS, muscles in her shorty running shorts pulsing away, her hair still perfect.

Suddenly, my little 4 minute run up the hill didn't seem so pride-worthy. In one second, all the pride I had in my little accomplishment slid away, and I was filled with disappointment in myself that I couldn't run like her. What I had done no longer mattered.  All I could see was what I couldn't do.

Comparison is like that, always swooping in to steal your joy.  Always making you forget what is great about you, and making you see only what you aren't. The thing about comparison is that you will always lose. No matter your accomplishments, there will always be someone who has accomplished more.  Even Miss Athletic I-Don't-Even-Sweat shows up to her marathons and cringes because her times aren't as good as someone else's.  Even she allows comparison to steal her joy, instead of having pride in the things she has accomplished herself.

Your thing might not be running.  But whatever it is, if you are comparing yourself to someone else and not measuring up, you are stealing from yourself.  Because your accomplishments are important! Sure, maybe you're not as far along in your journey as someone else is in their's, but you are farther along in your journey than you were a year ago.  And the progress you've made is important and you should be proud of it.

We should all be proud of those things.

So, just you wait, Miss Athletic I-Don't-Sweat.  You may be lapping me today, but next month, you're going to have to run faster to do it with the same ease.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Do You Want to Be?

So, here's the thing.  Who do you want to be? There are parts of you that are just there and are difficult to change. For instance, I am naturally shy. I am okay in small groups, but less so in bigger ones. I've learned to fake it, but it's faking it, and I'm not sure that I'll ever be not-shy.

But there are other things that I get to choose. I can choose to be kind and compassionate. I can choose to be bitchy and cruel. I can choose to be considerate and I can choose to be rude. (Truth? I have chosen all of them at different times.) They are behaviors and actions and words that I get to choose to make.

So, think about it.  Who do you want to be?  What kind of person do you want to be?

Sometimes, other people make it really hard for you to be that person.  Don't they? You start out doing a pretty good job making the choices you want to make... and then, people enter the equation and mess you all up!

I used to get really worked up over people saying things to me, saying things about me.  I have a good friend who would say to me, "Jo... you've got to learn to let that stuff roll off your back. Why do you care? Their opinion isn't really that important."  I knew that was good advice, but I just couldn't figure out how to follow it.

Time has gone on, and I'm better at it.  I'd be lying if I said I had it down, but I'm better.  I saw a great graphic on Pinterest the other day that really summed this up for me.



I loved this -- because it's true.  The less you let yourself get upset by things said to you, about you... the more you are able to be who you want to be. If someone else is bitchy and rude, that's their problem, but it isn't yours.  It's only yours if you let their choices become your choices.  Let them be who they choose to be.

But you?  You be who you have chosen to be.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thursday Tales: Door to the Future


(Except it's Friday... it's summer and I've completely lost track of the days of the week)

Door the Future


The sign above the door read "Your Future Awaits.  Enter Here." I gingerly pushed it open and peered inside.

It was mostly empty, or at least what I could see of it was.  The corners were bathed in shadow and I wasn't really sure what awaited me.  But, at the end of the room, I could see a doorway bathed in faint light, as if something bright and amazing waited behind it.  Like a sweet summer day after a year of winter, where the sun seeps into your skin and you can feel the warmth rush over you in a wave.  That kind of amazing.

I dropped my bags in the doorway and stepped forward to examine it more closely.  But before I made so much as a step, a voice spoke from the corner.  "Please close the door, dear," it said.  I peered into the dark but could make it no more than a vague form.  Glancing back at where I'd dropped my things, I hesitated. That was my only way out. My only escape should things get too dangerous.

An exasperated sigh of annoyance came from the corner just before the door slammed shut, pushing my things out into the corridor I'd just left.

"Hey!" I protested. "That was my stuff! I may need that!"

The old woman that I could now see in the light of her staff smiled gently and raised an eyebrow. "You can't head into the future if you refuse to let go of your past, dearie."

And with that, the light flared and the door to my future opened.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Running Away from Trust

Have you ever trusted and had your heart broken?  Maybe by a boy. Maybe by a girlfriend. Maybe that's family or friends or just someone you admired. It seemed so easy at the time... why wouldn't you trust them? They'd done nothing to you... and then, all of a sudden, they had.

Do you know the recoil you feel when you realize that your trust has been trashed?

I still remember a moment when someone that I thought had been a friend was publicly and openly trashing me.  At first, I didn't even realize they were talking about me. Our friendship was in a little bit of a rocky patch... but that kind of hostility?  And public? Dead honest, I never expected that. And while it seems overdramatic to describe it this way, I distinctly remember the moment of horror and disbelief when I put two and two together and realized it was about me. Any hope of reconciliation or love for them died in me that day, forever.

The instinct is to run.  At least for me, it is.  I want to run the other way... and not just from that person, but from all persons. No one can hurt you if you don't put your trust in them, right?

But, over and over, I've learned that happiness never lies down this road. Never. It lacks the threat of hurt, but it also lacks the hope of love. Most of all, it lacks an authentic you. You aren't being you when you're avoiding getting hurt. You aren't loving the way that you were made to love. You're so afraid of being hurt that you can only cower.  And that isn't you.  It isn't me. It isn't us.

Trusting is vulnerability, and it carries its dangers. But, we have to trust anyway. We need people who can trust, despite the possibilities of hurt. We need people who remind us that there is more to life than fear.

Trust anyway. Don't let the world kill that part of you.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Walking Away from the Land of Unimportant Things

"I wonder what that's about..." I thought. One of those infamous vague tweets had come through my Twitter feed and I immediately felt compelled to click around the internet to figure out what it might possibly be referring to.

After a few minutes of feeding my seemingly insatiable appetite for gossip, I pulled myself back and asked "Does this really matter?" I had to admit that it didn't. And I didn't have a good answer either when the next question I asked myself was "Then why are you focusing on it?" I took a breath, squared my shoulders, and walked away from the Land of Unimportant Things.

Walking away is good. Sometimes I barely even cross the border into the Land before I realize where I am and turn back. Sometimes I get far inland before I look around me and wonder how I even got there. But always, the ferry leaving the Land of Unimportant Things is a good one to be on.  There's nothing there worth obsessing over.

I find this helps. Every once in a while, I sit down with a pad of paper and I write down everything I focus on.  What activities do I engage in? What people do I give my attention to? What issues, situations, conflicts do I allow to fill my mind, heart, and emotions? Then, I start crossing off everything that probably belongs in the Land of Unimportant Things.  When I'm finished, what I have left are all the things, thoughts, people, and activities that are important to me.  I have left all the things that are worth being focused on.

That doesn't stop me from trespassing into the Land. I'm human. But, keeping my mind focused on the things that are important to me makes it harder for there to be room to focus on things that aren't.

How's your list?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Living With Cracks in Your Heart


"The worst thing that can happen to a piece of antique pottery is chips and cracks. This will often greatly diminish the value." 


How grateful I am that we are nothing like pottery.

Our cracks do not diminish our value. If anything, they increase it.  It is our cracks that give us character, that give us the ability to understand others. They give us the capacity to love so that we may show compassion and kindness to those who need it. They give us creativity and provide us with inspiration. They make us human and real.

Sometimes I see mine and I cringe. If only I could go back in a time machine and stop that crack from forming. If only I could go back and tell my former self of the pain that would come if I walked down that road. And honestly, maybe I would do it if I could. But as we can only live forward, I've learned to appreciate the cracks - even the ones that hurt so much while they formed.

They made me different. They made me stronger. They made me love more, understand more, feel more. And even if they're not very pretty to look at, they're important, those cracks. They're a part of me and who I am now. They make me beautiful.

As yours do for you.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Conquering the Past: Let It Go


Let It Go


In the end, the act of turning around and moving forward is often not an easy one.  We have excuses for why we keep looking back. We have reasons for why we keep dragging our baggage with us. While we're in the moment, those reasons and those excuses have great weight and they are hard to resist.

But, they are heavy. They are unhealthy. They keep us from moving forward, and we need to move forward. There comes a time when you simply have to be strong. You have to take a deep breath and you have to let it go.  I know the excuses. I know the reasons. But, you have to take a deep breath and let it go anyway. 

Sometimes that means you have to take a deep breath and let it go every day.  There is something in you that will scream "You can't move on!  Go back and pick up that baggage... you need it!!" So, re-letting it go may be necessary. At first, your steps away from what you are leaving behind will be itty-bitty baby steps. But, my friends, every step... no matter how minute... is a step toward healing.

The more baby steps you take, the less "baby"ish they will become. The pull of the baggage will become less and less, and it will become possible to step away from it into the sunshine. There is a remarkable lightness to living free of your baggage, a happiness that I find difficult to describe. It physically feels less heavy, and it seems strange that this should be true of an emotional thing.  But, it is.

But, I don't want to sugarcoat this. It's still hard.  Getting here is hard. Staying here is hard. It can be frustrating to not ever get past the middle section, or constantly letting things go and then realizing that, without you even being aware of it, you've gone back and picked things up that you thought you had left behind.

I want you to know that you're okay. It is a journey and a struggle, and above all, I understand intimately.  And if you want to talk, my email is always open.

Together, maybe we can commit to living fresh and free of the hold our pasts have over us.

-------------------------

"Conquering the Past" Series


Monday......................  Accept It
Tuesday ....................   The Past's Effects
Wednesday ..............   Struggling to Let Go
Thursday ..................   We Don't Look Backwards
Friday .......................   Living Forward
Saturday ...................   Let It Go

Friday, July 19, 2013

Conquering the Past: Living Forward



Living Forward


When we live backwards, it's easy to let the past define our future. It's easy to believe that who we have been is who we always will be, who we have to be. It's easy to be continually beat down by our experiences and the hurts we have felt.

But, when we live forward, we begin to realize that none of these are true. What happened yesterday does have an effect on who we are today. It contributes to our beliefs and our expectations, our choices and our words. But, our experiences do not dictate what those, moving forward, have to be.

There are consequences to every action that we've taken or experienced. And consequences must be paid. But, you guys, consequences have expiration dates. There comes a time when you stop making people pay. There comes a time when you stop paying. If you're the one constantly extending the expiration date, you're got to ask yourself why you're so intent on punishing for someone else's past. And if you're the one constantly being punished for offenses already paid for, you've got to ask yourself why you're so willing to continue paying it. Is paying really worth it?

We have known and been people who aren't good for us - but we are not bound by those people. We have the power to change both the people in our lives and the people inside of us. We have the ability to change who we are and who we surround ourselves with.

Living forward, the future is open. Who we are is open.

Open and unwritten -- until you pick up the pen.

-------------------------

"Conquering the Past" Series


Monday......................  Accept It
Tuesday ....................   The Past's Effects
Wednesday ..............   Struggling to Let Go
Thursday ..................   We Don't Look Backwards
Friday .......................   Living Forward
Saturday ...................   Let It Go

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Conquering the Past: We Don't Look Backwards



We Don't Look Backwards


One of my favorite quotes about living forward comes from Walt Disney: 

 

I love the idea of living forward and moving forward. I love the idea of not looking backwards so much. I love the thought of not being held down by things that happened in my yesterday.

"Around here, we don't look backwards..."

Living fresh is appealing, isn't it? The freedom to not punish yourself for what happened before and to not let yourself get so bogged down by the messages people have fed into you...  It's appealing.

There's no life in living backwards.  Let's not look that way anymore.

-------------------------

"Conquering the Past" Series


Monday......................  Accept It
Tuesday ....................   The Past's Effects
Wednesday ..............   Struggling to Let Go
Thursday ..................   We Don't Look Backwards
Friday .......................   Living Forward
Saturday ...................   Let It Go

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Conquering the Past: Struggling to Let Go




Struggling to Let Go


I can get to this point pretty well. I can look at what has happened. I can look at how I've changed because of those things. I can be grateful for the positive changes, and I can be appreciative of the lessons I've learned.

The next step should be "letting go."  And this is the part where I'm straight-up honest with you and admit that I struggle with this. I can let go pretty well, but oh do I pick it back up once I've gone three steps. I just can't leave it "let-go."

What kind of hold on us do these things have that we can't let them go? Why can't we let the past be the past, and just leave it there? I always want to go back and pick it up. And the thing is... there is no reason for that. There is no reason to pick it back up. The past heartaches have nothing more to teach me, I've learned their lessons. Picking them up only repeats old mistakes. Picking them up only punishes me and forbids me from moving on.

It punishes us and it lies to us. The past tells us that we will always be screwing up. The past tells us that we can never change. The past reminds of us of the hurt we felt and makes it sting like a fresh wound. It keeps us from moving forward and growing. It keeps us stagnant and stuck.

What are we afraid of?

-------------------------

"Conquering the Past" Series


Monday......................  Accept It
Tuesday ....................   The Past's Effects
Wednesday ..............   Struggling to Let Go
Thursday ..................   We Don't Look Backwards
Friday .......................   Living Forward
Saturday ...................   Let It Go

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Conquering the Past: The Past's Effects


How has it affected you?


So, we've been honest and we've looked at what the past was. We've accepted our part; we've been honest about others'. We've stopped trying to run from it. We've stopped trying to ignore it, and we've chosen to face it head-on. We're no longer pretending that the past didn't happen.  So, now what?

How do you think that your past has affected you?  What changes has it wrought in who you are?  I never believe that we are defined by our pasts.  What happened to us in former days doesn't have to dictate what happens to us in the future. John Green once wrote, "We need never be hopeless for we can never be irreparably broken." Healing comes. Conquering comes.

But, I do believe that everything we go through, whether it's good or bad, has an effect on us. The things we experience change our character, our beliefs, our abilities to be empathetic creatures. We are affected.

So, look at the past that you can't let go.  Look at it and ask yourself, "How am I different because I went through this?"  Your answers might be good and they might be bad.  Two people's answers about the same situation might even be totally different.

My parents divorced when I was nine years old. I had two younger sisters, and I took it upon myself to be the second mother to them.  Sometimes, that meant keeping an eye when we went to my dad's.  Sometimes that meant entertaining the younger ones while my mom was studying for finals. Taking on that responsibility was something that made me grow up faster than maybe I should have.  But, I've always looked back on that, not with bitterness, but with appreciation. I've always felt like it developed a motherly instinct in me that I've used as I studied to be a teacher and as I've become a mother myself.

I took a class in college in early childhood education, and I remember a day where we were discussing our upbringings. The girl next to me had almost the exact same situation that I did.  Parents divorced when she was young, she took over a lot of responsibility at a young age.  But... she came out of it with a lot of bitterness that I just didn't have.  That made me see that different people can get totally different things out of the same experiences...  and that the same experiences can have both positive and negative effects on people.

Back to your past...  really think about how you're different.  What lessons have you learned? How has your past changed how you deal with people, yourself, your life, your choices? Are there changes in you, as a result of your past, that you're glad time has wrought?  And likewise, are there changes that you regret and that you wish you could take back?

What are they?  Be honest about them, both the good and the bad.  Write them down and embrace them as truth. They're a part of who you are now - not the only part, but they contribute to the person you are today.

Are there any you're willing to share?

-------------------------

"Conquering the Past" Series


Monday......................  Accept It
Tuesday ....................   The Past's Effects
Wednesday ..............   Struggling to Let Go
Thursday ..................   We Don't Look Backwards
Friday .......................   Living Forward
Saturday ...................   Let It Go

Monday, July 15, 2013

Conquering the Past: Accept It



Accept It


I woke up one day and realized that I didn't want to be where I was. I'd become someone different than who I wanted to be. I had been through experiences that were just hard and hurtful. I had made mistakes. I had felt manipulated. I was disappointed and hurt and didn't know how to escape the past that haunted me.

It was the past that kept popping up as I tried to heal. Sometimes that past was things that I did and things that I said. Things I regretted.  But sometimes that past was things that others had done and said. Things that still hurt. Things I was still trying to get over.

How do you get over a past that won't let you go?

I think that the first thing you have to do is to stop running away from it.  They say that if you're attacked by a bear, you're pretty screwed.  But, then they say that the worst thing you can do is to try to run from it.  You can't outrun a bear.  It's a bear. It can run faster than you!  And it will catch you and knock your head off with one strong blow.  The past can be the same.  You can't outrun it.  It will catch you, and it will eat you.

So, sometimes the best thing is to just stop and face it.  Turn around and look at what has happened.  Look at the things you've said that you wish you could take back. Look at the things that were done to you. Look at how they made you feel. Look at how they're still making you feel.

Be honest about those things. Don't gloss over mistakes, but don't sugarcoat others' offenses against you either. Be honest and accept what happened.

Because the past happened.  For good or for bad, it happened, and you can't change that. You can't go back and not say things. You can't go back and not trust people. It is what it is. But you can't heal it until you accept it.

Honestly, this may hurt and that's probably the hardest part. Facing those things... it's like ripping a bandage off your skin and pouring antiseptic on an infected wound. It's not pretty and it hurts and you want to do just about anything else. But, cleaning the wound is the first step toward healing it.

So, we start here.  With honesty, with acceptance, with truth.

-------------------------

"Conquering the Past" Series


Monday......................  Accept It
Tuesday ....................   The Past's Effects
Wednesday ..............   Struggling to Let Go
Thursday ..................   We Don't Look Backwards
Friday .......................   Living Forward
Saturday ...................   Let It Go

Friday, July 12, 2013

Remember Who You Are

Who are you?  Who are you, really?

See, the truth is that you're someone amazing.  That isn't a gooshy self-love new-age-y statement.  But, you're someone special and you're someone unique, and you can't forget that.  Because we go out in the world and the world tells us that who we are isn't good enough.

We're not pretty enough.  Not thin enough. Not boobilicious enough.
We're not smart enough. We're not kind enough. We're not tough enough.

The world holds up an image of who we are supposed to be... and the image is a little like Barbie.  Not necessarily in looks, but in the sense that who the world says we are supposed to be is not someone that is even possible to attain.  But still, we're told that The Image is who we must be to be okay. And, at some point, we start to believe it.

So, we look at ourselves and all we see are the ways that we are not like The Image.  All we see is where we lack, and we start to focus on those things.  We focus on them so much until we've forgotten the things that make us special, and we've forgotten the things that make us unique.  In the quest to be what we think we're supposed to be, we forget who we are. We forget what makes us worth knowing, worth loving.

Don't listen. Not anymore.  Remember who you are, and be her.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Can Only Love Them

I used to think that I had all the answers. I knew what was best. I could see the big picture. I was wise beyond all things.  But mostly, I just had all the answers and I knew what was best.

So, when I had people in my life that didn't have the same answers that I did, I thought I knew what was best for them, too.  And I was full of advice and wise sayings and well-meant, though perhaps misguided, attempts to change them.  To change the way they acted, who they were, what they wanted out of life, and how they went about getting it.

But, as I've gone through my own struggles, I've begun to realize that when people don't have it all together, sometimes the last thing they need is my advice.  Sometimes they do, and when they do, they'll ask for it.  But, mostly...  mostly it isn't advice or wisdom or attempts to change them that they need.

What they need is love.  We can't save people. We can't make people change into what we think they should be.

But we can love them.  And sometimes... and maybe almost all the time... it's love that they need. That doesn't mean that we are blind with enabling and gullible acceptance. But, we meet them where they are, and we love them where they are.

That sounds easy, but in truth, it's much harder.  It requires a whole lot of patience and perseverance and commitment. But when you love someone, it's what you do.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tough Love, baby

Hello.  Welcome to In Which We Start Anew and our quarter-annual tough love buttkick.

So, whatever you're going through, it's hard.  It's hard and it's been hard for a long time. You've been manipulated and taken advantage of. You've put up with the way you've been treated. You've turned the other cheek.  You've cried and complained and confided in those around you who would listen. You've been the victim. You've been the victim hardcore and wrung every bit of self-pity you could out of it.

But today?

Today, we put off being the victim. We put off how we were taken advantage of and manipulated. Today, we set aside the hurt we felt, and the chinks in our armor.

Today, we stand up.  We accept that what we've just been through is hard, but we claim that we are bigger than our wounds. We are stronger than what has been done to us. We are more than conquerors. We are survivors.

We cannot feel sorry for ourselves forever, friends.  There comes a point where we have to put what happened behind us.

Today is that day.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

When I'm Old



"What do you think I'll be like when I'm old?" I peered at my husband over my coffee cup as we sat entwined on the stairs of our new home.

"Well," he said thoughtfully. "You'll have laughed a lot by then, so you'll have lots of wrinkles around your eyes and mouth, and you'll probably be all bent over.  You'll wear your hair up in one of those old lady bandanas so we can't really see what color your hair is.  And your voice will be all creaky like an old rocking chair, but the kids in the neighborhood won't care because you'll be the lady with all the cats who makes all the cookies."

I wasn't exactly sure I liked all that. He reached forward and touched my cheek.  "But I will love you just the same... only better.  How about me?"

I grinned at him.  "I'll love you when you're a wrinkly old lady, too."


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

You Will Come Back

It had been a long season of hard heartache. Broken relationships, shattered trust, disillusioned expectations. Weeks had been spent in tears until I no longer even had those left... only an empty husk of a heart that was afraid to move in any direction, lest its last remaining thread strength be ripped away.

I felt like there was nothing left of me.  I looked in the mirror and I didn't know that girl anymore. I knew the smiley one, the one who could find humor in anything.  But this broken girl?  I didn't know her.  I didn't want to know her. She seemed to be every weak part of me, all rolled up into one person. To know her was to accept her. To accept her was to ... be her.

Over time, I came back to myself.  Because you do.  That season of heartache doesn't last forever, and you eventually come back to yourself. The laughter you knew before, it comes back.  When you look in the mirror, you begin to see more and more glimpses of the girl you used to be, the girl you liked being.

But, the girl you were in the midst of the heartache, she's there too.  Behind your eyes, she's still there and this is probably a good thing.  For going through the heartache isn't just about getting through it.  It's about healing and it's about wisdom. It's learning lessons about yourself and other people.  It's about changing and growth.

You will learn to recognize yourself in the mirror again.  You will come back to yourself again.  But, you will be different, too.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Is it that important?

We pulled into the gas station, and my daughter joined me at the pump for "a little talk."  The short ride from our house to the station had been fraught with teenage grumpy angst, and we had a "fun day" planned...  Fun is relative when Teenage Angst rears its lovely head.

"So," I began. "What's going on?"

"McKenzie knows you're supposed to scoot over if you're the first one in the car.  And she isn't doing it!  That's the rule and it's not fair!"

I nodded thoughtfully. "Okay... I can see that.  And I'll talk to her about that in the future.  But... all this over where people are sitting in the car? You know, we're going somewhere today where we could have a lot of fun and a really good day...  if we have the right attitude. Is it really worth ruining the whole day because of where someone is sitting in the car?"

"Yes," was the adamant response.

With a smile, I gave her a hug. "I think you and I both know it's only a big deal if we let it be a big deal. Sometimes you just have to decide that things aren't worth getting upset over and that they aren't really all that important. Why make yourself have a bad day when you can simply choose to let things not bother you?"

She agreed to try.  We got back in the car.  We drove away.

And as we drove down the street, I thought to myself, "You know, Jo, this is advice you could take yourself."

Yeah. I know.
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