Fear & Courage

Is It Just Me? Or Is Everyone a Bit Tense These Days?

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you may have picked up on this crazy tension that is going around. A lot of it, no doubt, is tied to the election and the oh-my-God-now-what's-going-to-happen-I-have-no-idea-oh-my-God feeling that came immediately on its heels. But I'm wondering if there's more to it. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like January is generally a pretty tense time in general. Yes, there are the goals and the planning sessions and the big dreams and that's all great. But don't we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves to make those things happen? I mean, less than two weeks in and I have a feeling that many of you are already thinking, "I suck. I can't even keep my focus for two weeks. 2017 is gonna suck." And if that's you... well, stop it. You don't suck. Cut yourself some slack and just go with it. It's January 11th for crying out loud.

Stop.

Breathe.

Smile.

It's gonna be ok, guys.

But January in general seems to come at a heavy price to those of us who use the turn of the calendar as a reset button. With the crazy highs of "Look at everything I'm going to do this year" and "Watch out 2017... you belong to ME" there are some serious lows. I have no doubt that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing and I'm sure it's contributing a bit, but it just seems to me that most people I've talked to are already overwhelmed and we're not even a full two weeks in.

What gives? Why are we making ourselves crazy? Is it worth it?

Here's a thought: let's not focus on what might be. Let's focus on what is. I'm writing to myself as much as I am writing to you but goodness knows I've been struggling with that feeling of "Wow this experience is NEVER going to end." But right now, in this moment, I'm good. My daughter is happily playing, my puppy is sleeping at my feet, my older children are expanding their horizons in good ways and Brian will be on his way home soon so that we can cuddle on the couch. Right now, I'm writing to you and the heat works and the electricity is running and my stomach is starting to rumble but you know what? I have food in the kitchen. Score!

I've never been a big fan of talking about gratitude. I was taught by others that gratitude is something you show, not something you discuss. But maybe we all just need a little more gratitude in our lives. Just a little. Just a quick thank you to whatever you choose to thank for the goodness in your life. For the fact that you're breathing. For the fact that you can read. For the shoes on your feet.

Maybe I'm being simplistic, but the worldly crush of cynicism is getting to me and I don't like that feeling. Not at all. I'm going to watch funny movies with my kids and read light hearted books and jot down a few things that I'm grateful for whenever I think of it. Because you know what? Life is good. It really is. Things aren't perfect. I've got some real shit happening these days, but don't we all? And through it all, life is good.

So, on that note, know that I'm grateful for you. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you would even take the time out of your crazy busy day to read these words. But know that I'm grateful and I'm pulling for you, as always.

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The Joy of Being Proven Wrong

joy of wrongI do not enjoy being wrong. I may have gotten more graceful with situations that show me the error of my ways (in one way or another) but I still don't like it. My pride gets wounded every time it happens. Hi, I'm Angela. And I'm a human being.

Anyway, this whole pride / ego / pride thing can lay me out flat occasionally. But sometimes, after the initial feeling of irritation passes, I am grateful to be wrong. So incredibly grateful.

I believed at the beginning of this year, that I would take some risks and just see what happened. I wasn't expecting earth shattering, paradigm shifting, what in the world is going on kind of events. I just figured I'd put myself out there and see what happens.

I didn't think it would be revolutionary.

I didn't think it would be indescribable.

I didn't think it would be extraordinary.

But I was wrong.

This has been a year of taking risks so far. I've traveled to cities I didn't know (some on a whim, some with a little bit of planning). I've spoken to people about goals and dreams that I was previously keeping to myself. I told a guy I thought he was pretty cute. I've met new people and instead of running for cover at the first conversation break, I stayed put and kept asking questions. I've tried new foods, new music, new restaurants, new attitudes and new routines.

Some of the risks have been little. Like trying a scallop in spite of a pretty serious aversion to seafood... and in case you're wondering, no I didn't like it. Some of the risks have been a bit bigger like when I did a zip line course in spite of a fear of heights. Some of the risks have resulted in mental and emotional breakthroughs like when I drove solo from Cleveland to Boston to watch my younger brother cross off a bucket list item when he crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

I've met new people. And let others go.

I've listened more than I've talked.

I've given people forgiveness even when my heart was screaming that I had every right to stay angry for just a little while longer.

I've tried new adventures and I'm actively looking for more.

I've given love and relationships another chance even though I was smarting from heartbreak and confusion.

I've put my toe in the water. Then I came back for more.

Every time, I told myself at one point or another no, it's not going to happen. No, you can't do that. No, it's too much. No, this is crazy.

No, I am afraid.

Bravery isn't the absence of fear. It is moving forward even when fear is holding your hand. 

Times like these I'm eternally grateful that I'm wrong. And I'm basking in my wrongness.

How have you been happily proven wrong lately?

The Rules Don't Have to Apply To You

rules-dont-apply My brain was wandering the other day (I'm sure you have no idea what this is like, right?) and I got to thinking about the rules of life.

Maybe you already know what I'm talking about, but if not, let me expound just a bit. It seems that everywhere I go I hear or see "rules" in action. Take the following for example:

  • I can't write a book. It's just not practical.
  • It's impossible to get a babysitter for all three of my kids so I can have a weekend away
  • Sure I like to paint, but it isn't something I can really pursue... I have to have a real job
  • I can't wear navy blue and black, it just doesn't work
  • I can't wear a sleeveless shirt because my arms are not toned
  • Women can't do that. They never have before
  • I have to eat dinner before I can eat my dessert
  • Ask him for his number? You're kidding right?

Who made these rules anyway? Just because someone said something like this and put a "should" or "should not" with it, it's suddenly a law? When did that happen?

Here's a funny thing... I've lived a lot of my life not following any rules. It's not like I set out to be a rebel or non-conformist. I guess I just assumed they didn't exist. Or, more likely, I just didn't think about them at all.

When I got into the world of digital marketing and corporate America I didn't worry about the fact that I was a woman in a male-dominated world. I didn't feel concerned about not being able to speak up in board rooms or that I would look stupid or say something elementary. I would just speak. And sometimes my inexperience would shine through, but it was noted (and frequently commented on) that I was really present and really participating.

I heard other women complain about the gender gap and I would think, "What are you talking about? Just work hard, do well and you'll be fine." That's what I thought because that was my experience. I was frequently rewarded for my hard work and advanced quickly into leadership positions no matter where I worked. This was a pattern I had developed from my very first job in retail (ah, lovely Value City) and it was a philosophy that I had learned from my parents.

A couple of years ago, I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I was, admittedly, bored through the whole thing and I honestly can't tell you what the book is actually about or advocating for. I'm sure if I read it again, I would get it, but like I've said this wasn't my reality so it was really hard to relate to the content of it.

But, the damage was done... Now those "rules" were in my head. I began to "see" things that I hadn't noticed before. And I still wonder if I was seeing things differently because I had "woken up to reality" or were things different because I was assuming that they "should be different because that's what other women were experiencing."

Honestly, I don't know that it matters. What matters is what happened next. I got self-conscious. I began to experience Imposter Syndrome. I began to question everything I did and I stopped participating in larger groups. I grew fearful of networking scenarios and business meetings. I started feeling sorry for myself as a woman in Corporate America.

Um, excuse me? What the hell?

I have no hard evidence, but I do have a theory as to why all this went down the way it did. Before I was exposed to the "rules" I lived and acted as if they didn't exist (because, to me, they didn't). The world (or universe or whatever you want to call it) responded in term and gave me the life that I was creating for myself. But as soon as I started "seeing the rules", I started acting and reacting as though they were in place for me.

They've never affected me before, so why should they bother me now? Because I was letting them. It was an intoxicating experience. Breaking free of those rules that I didn't used to have has been (and continues to be) a challenge for me. I still struggle in getting back to where I was before my awful enlightenment where I took some solid information provided by Sheryl Sandberg and warped it into a twisted sense of my place in the world.

(Note: I am not, in any way, blaming Sheryl for my issues. God knows she has enough on her plate. I am responsible for my own interpretation of that information and how it applies to my life. Keep up the amazing legacy, Sheryl. Thoughts and prayers are with you.)

What rules have you self-imposed that are holding you back?

Are you convinced that you can't be in love with someone because it hasn't been "enough time" since your last relationship? Or maybe because you don't look the way that you're supposed to so love isn't an option right now?

Are you putting dreams on hold that have been speaking to you for years because they aren't practical or what "responsible adults do"?

Are you still at the same company, church, social gatherings or worn out coffee groups that are slowly devouring your soul but you can't stop going to them because that's just what you've always done?

Let's get a little crazy, shall we?

Write your book.

Fall in love.

Make a new friend.

Start your business.

Schedule your personal retreat.

Learn a hobby and see what happens.

Wear a navy blue shirt and black pants.

What are you waiting to do because of some rule? What is one thing you can do to move toward that goal? Tell me below in the comments.

Are You The ONLY One That Can't Be Helped?

only one

Perhaps you're like me...

What does that statement do to you? What does it make you feel? Do you immediately think, "You're nothing like me"? Or do you really, truly, deep down hope that I'm about to say something that resonates with you down to your core? Because you're just so tired of being alone on this journey and you're desperate for a connection, for anything that tells you that it's ok and you're ok and everything is going to be ok?

Take a minute and think about that. Are you the type of person who immediately gravitates toward others and the feeling of community or do you keep others at an arm's length and soldier on as you always have in the past?

Quite often it comes down to a knee jerk reaction that most people have. Similar to fight or flight, people have a natural instinct to move towards or away from other people. There is the group that is more inclined to be a part of a community. They naturally seek out groups and community of like-minded individuals. They believe that in that crowd there is at least one person that they can connect with and possibly form a true friendship. These people have an innate talent for connecting with other people. What do they do that is different? They relate.

The other group shies away from anything social. They are able to go and participate, but they don't have a sixth sense about really engaging with other people. When push comes to shove, they can do it but it's not easy and it's certainly not natural. In a crowded room they can find several reasons why they should duck out the back door. And sharing their fears and deeper thoughts with people like this? It's just not going to happen. What do they do that is different from the connectors? They compare.

Several years ago, I was trying to find my footing in a new way of life. I am a member of the second group. Call me an introvert, call me socially anxious... whatever label works for you is fine for me. But the bottom line is I don't connect well with others. Deep down I want to, I really do. But the whole idea is just terribly intimidating and it takes a lot of work. As I was exploring this new "world" that I was being introduced to, I met a couple of women who had been where I had been and recognized an anxious soul and kindred spirit in me. Or they pitied me. Either way, they helped me meet other women, get situated and give me guidance on how to navigate things. They gave me a lot of advice, but one that stood out to me the most while meeting these women and coming to grips with my own concepts of relationships and friendships was this:

Relate. Don't Compare.

It's a beautiful, simple statement. Most profound thoughts are. Relate. Don't compare. Instead of spending your time hunting for all the differences, look for the things you have in common. Look for the ways in which our lives have intersected and how they will continue to do so.

The same can be true for the emotional healing process. Instead of hunting for all the reasons why something won't work for you and why you won't be healed even though others that have gone before you are experiencing great freedom, look for the similarities. When you catch yourself comparing your situation to others, take a second and find one thing, just ONE thing, that you have in common. It could be something as big as "we are suicide survivors" to something smaller like "we are both women." There are similarities there. Be committed to finding them.

And as you find the similarities you will abandon the "everyone except me" mindset. You will no longer assume that everyone can be helped except you. That everyone can move on except you. That everyone can be happy except you.

You can be. And you will be. All we're waiting is for you to open the door, walk in and introduce yourself.

Back from the Dark

Grief is a beast. And it is something that, if you're not careful, can takeover everything without you even realizing it. I know because that is how I have been living for the past few months. Grief can turn its ugly head at any time and take your breath away. It can also hide, lurking beneath the surface so that you think you're ok, that you're all better. And then, suddenly, everything has been turned upside down again.

The past few months have been torturous. And I couldn't put my finger on what was happening until everything spiraled out of control. I've had health issues and emotional issues. But I finally feel as though I'm back from the dark.

I'm reading again. This is huge. Reading an entire book seemed to be such an arduous task in the not so distant past. But recently, I've read three books. God, did that feel good.

I'm laughing again. And smiling. In fact, I can't seem to stop smiling these days.

I'm enjoying life again. The big things, the little things... it's all wonderful.

I'm writing again. I've actually been able to put pen to paper and journal. And each time I do it, the pain subsides a little more.

I'm dancing again. The other day in the car, a song came on and I couldn't help it. I danced.

I'm living again. And it feels miraculous. It feels wonderful. I don't want to let it go.

There will still be hard times. Times that allow me to continue my journey through healing. But the time for grieving in passing.

It's time to move forward.

It's time to be me again.

It's time to come back from the dark.

Holy Heck It's October Already

I was hunting through my Social Media updates and I saw someone tweet about the fact that it's October 1. Holy crap it's October.

My due date is quickly approaching and I'm only 25% ready (both mentally and in terms of having material things ready). I guess I should get busy on that, huh? Crib needs set up, baby clothes need washed, I need to clean up the car seat... the list is just beginning.

The other day I started looking through my Happiness Project notebook because I realized I hadn't even checked my goals for September to see what I can focus on. The theme I had chosen at the beginning of the year was "Challenges" (imagine me laughing hysterically here).

As I was looking at my goals, I was surprised to see that I've actually accomplished some of them. Here is the list:

  1. Learn a new skill - A friend of mine is teaching me to knit socks. I've never done more than a scarf or blanket before, so this was kind of a big deal for me. Goal reached.
  2. Take a class on something - I signed up for a Project Management class online and I've really enjoyed the distraction. Goal reached.
  3. Attend a networking event - this I did not do. Since I'm preparing for maternity leave, it hasn't been a high priority.
  4. Join or get active in a group - I recently joined a crafting group in the area and I've met some really awesome people. I've even made new friends (I know, I'm shocked about it too). Goal reached.
  5. Engage in a daily challenge - Getting out of bed can be a daily challenge, but I'm still doing it. However, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind so I can't say I actually attained this goal.
  6. Make a "crazy idea" list - this is a bucket list of sorts but it's more of a personal project list. I wish I could remember what originally inspired this and I haven't actually made the list, but it might be something I'll actually delve into in the future.
The funny thing about this happiness project is that even when I'm not actively focusing on it, I still tend to take on things that will add to my happiness level purely out of habit at this point.
So what's on tap for October? The theme is "positivity" which may be a "well, duh..." moment, but actually October is Positive Attitude Month. So it does fit in the grand scheme of things. Here are the goals I laid out in January:
  1. Create a storehouse of positive quotes and decorate my favorites. My sister-in-law does something like this and she is the original inspiration for that idea.
  2. Compile positive tips and try them
  3. Help others / volunteer for something. I've already signed up to do a walk for depression awareness and suicide prevention and I've raised over $600 so far. So that's a start anyway.
  4. Avoid saying anything negative. (Have you ever tried this for just a day? It's a lot harder than it seems)
What other goals should I add for October? How would you work to stay positive?