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Monday, February 12, 2018

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Has it All Together

I'm currently competing in the Winter Olympics:

I'm measuring my day-to-day with the polished version of another woman's life. And I'm losing. Terribly. Bronze medal at best.

How do I know?

It's pretty easy to tell these days. Her Instagram feed is filled with pictures of her beautiful home. It's rare to find her without a smile on her face. I'm almost certain she's never once had a last-minute panic to find the match to a sock as she stumbles out the door each morning.

I've never seen her mad. Never heard a word of gossip escape from her lips. And has a distinct stiff-upper-lipness about her – like she doesn't wrestle with the jungle drums of panic and anxiety. All of her outfits certainly were not cobbled together by disjointed trips to Ross outlets. She volunteers in her free time, despite her rather large family, and daunting business responsibilities.

Her fun personality and talents leave me in a wake of self-conciousness I haven't felt since middle school. Back when I had wide, green-rimmed glasses and wore the same pair of overalls before capsule wardrobes were cool.

We all have that one person in our lives, don't we?

That person who's 30 pounds thinner than us, has hair that a Pantene model would die for, and in any other world where competition and distrust doesn't exist: you and she would probably be best friends.

She's the 2.0 version of us – the celebrity who would play you in the movie version of your life. Except she's the one living out the movie you wish your life could be to begin with.


The thing is, I know this woman isn't real.

We all do.

Because for all of the perfection she portrays, I know it's a mirage. A mixture of what I believe is true and what she knows is reality.

I know that somewhere down the line she probably spats with her husband or loses her temper with her kids. spats with her husband, or has a bad relationship with her family.

But on days when the dry shampoo flows like a river and the laundry stacks high...I just want her to show me how to be a better woman.

We've all heard about the power of vulnerability and how important it is.

We very rarely talk about what it means for others.

Last week, I wrote down some thoughts about success and failure. How successes only help ourselves, but our failures have a way of being tools we can all learn from.

I admire with my full heart women who are open about their shortcomings, women who admit to not having it all together, women who lead the charge and are honest about how hard it was to get to the top. How much of a struggle it is to put on the having-it-all-together mask.

So, to the woman who has it all together, I'd ask that you let the rest of us in.

Yes, you. With the six-pack abs and the thriving freelance business. Yes you, with the smile and pep during seasons that were such a struggle for the rest of us.

This is in no way a shaming of those who are more organized, physically fit or a decree for those around us to live less fabulously. We should all live fabulously, no?

This is simply a petition for us as women, as wives, as mothers, as singles, as business owners, to be open with one another. To let our mistakes be a front-and-center part of our stories.

After all, strong women lift other women up. Our stories make us strong. And they help others along the way.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

4 Permission Slips for Your Every Day Adulting

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Last week I turned down a really good opportunity.

I won't get into the specifics, but I will say there were a million little good reasons to take this leap. It was consistent, and it just sort of fell into my lap.

What a blessing. What an honor...

Taking it would've meant setting aside a little extra income for my family. It would've meant taking a smaller step toward a larger goal, and I felt this external buzzing in my head: the "should beehive."

You might not ever get this opportunity again...

It will be good for you...

If you don't do this, you're lazy and not willing to hustle for what you really want...

But there was another thing: I just felt spent.

I talked over taking the opportunity with my husband. We were pushing our son in our stroller around the crooked sidewalks of Norfolk. I rattled off the pros and cons out loud as we scooted along.

"I know it would be a good idea, but I just really don't want to do it," I said.

After listening to me go back and forth Gordon said, "It sounds like you're asking permission to not do this." 

And I really was.

As an avid member of People Pleasers Not-So-Anonymous, sometimes I fall off the wagon. I'm tempted to think that I'm The Only One who can fulfill a role. That someone else's problem is automatically mine to take ownership of and fix.

But it's really just an opportunity for someone

I forget that I don't need permission to say no to something. Even if it's a good fit. Even if it's "on brand" with my goals for the future.

If you're like me, maybe you need the back-and-forth. Maybe you need compassion for yourself. And to give yourself a reminder that you have the following permission slips for your every day adulting:

Permission to Say No (or Yes!)

Good opportunities have a way of guilt tripping us if we're not careful. If something doesn't quite feel right and your hesitation isn't born out of a lack of a healthy self-confidence or lame excuses (you know what they are), maybe this is something to consider.

But if a good opportunity is causing stress, anxiety, or you just can't stand the idea of adding another thing to your schedule...

If you find yourself saying, "I can do it...I just need to try harder, I need to do better, then I can make it work..."

Permission granted to say no to something good.

Permission to Fail

Repeat after me: it is okay to fail, it is okay to fail, it is okay to fail.

So many of our stories are stacked with successes. We build them up like sand castles. We lay them at the top of our baskets – con-artists that we are – hoping no one will notice what's underneath.

But failure is a commodity: we can learn from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others. If we're not forthright about our own shortcomings, we lose the chance to teach, mentor and thereby protect.

So fail with dignity.

Permission to Unfollow

With this lack of being up front with our failures, we're also lacking a clear picture of other people's deep realities.
Some of us paint a prettier picture than others. On social media, some of us are better liars than others. 

And some people really do just get pedicures, jet off to Tahiti, have a farmhouse sink installed by BFF Joanna Gaines herself (with the accompanying shiplap) and are sponsored by Target, Starbucks and Lululemon.

The truth is, we don't have to follow these people if they pluck our harp strings of jealousy. We have control of our feeds. We don't have to engage with these folks via Istagram stories before we've even had our first sip of coffee in the mornings.

Unfollow. Unsubscribe.

They'll likely never notice. (They're too busy curating their perfect lives).

Permission to Be Okay

Finally, it's okay to be okay. It's okay to be confident in who you are, even if you're self-aware of your shortcomings.

You can enjoy the goodness in yoHur life without guilt. You can be thankful. You can be honest. You can be okay.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

4 Ways to Be Sure You're Not Wasting Your Life

"How's your stall?"

I looked up from the floor, away from the dustpan I was sweeping crumb carnage from the lunch shift into and laughed. Travis always asked me this at the end of one of our busy shifts at the restaurant where we worked.

It was a reference to a Proverb. One that that talked about how you need an ox for a harvest. You don't want an empty stall. Otherwise, you can't do the work ahead of you. No work. No harvest.

The only problem? The manure.

Because you can imagine what happens to the stall of an ox, or any large animal for that matter, after a time. It's sort of like what happens to my son's diapers after a road trip.

Stuff builds up.

Questions would run through my head. Second-guesses, discontent. Often times I'd look at the work before me and wonder if I was on the complete

But this was a long time ago. Long before my son was born. Long before I even knew my husband. It was a very different season. A particularly lonely, doubtful one.

"Lot of manure today," I told Travis that day. "Lots of shoveling."

Travis and I would toss the phrase back and forth to each other. Both of us were waiting tables to pay our way through graduate school. Lots of 16-hour work days. Lots of closing at 2 a.m. and being back for the opening breakfast shift at 6 a.m.

Lots of swallowing pride. Bringing hot sandwiches and tea refills to women my age with slick hair and pressed suits at their important lunch meetings.

On my bad days, I'd hang my head and feel like a complete loser. Like everyone who ever warned me that pursuing an English degree would one day equate to me flipping burgers was right. And there were a lot of warnings.

But on my good days, I knew that I was gaining some grit. That if I had the tenacity to find passion in the small of my job, if I could learn to find something to be passionate about through the 16-hour work days and the all too-real crying in the walk-in cooler moments, someone would notice.

Eventually, I'd wind up serving dinner to a woman who one day became my boss. The stuff I did on a minor scale then (talking to strangers, giving bad news to tables, relaying messages to the kitchen, anticipating the needs of others) was all prep-work for a job I now love.

I don't know where you are today.

Maybe you're an assistant in a marketing firm waiting for an opportunity to show your creative ideas. Maybe you're a teacher frustrated with the administration, waiting for someone to listen to how you could improve your school district.

Maybe you're a new mom like me, and your dreams, friendships, travels, and social life have been put on a brief hiatus in place of building a new dream in the form of a wriggling, squirmy little one.

But these seasons – whether earning your way up in a company or feeling a little like life is whizzing by in the swell of plans, errands and keeping your laundry folded – all have deep meaning. Here's how to know you're not wasting your life:

You're in the thick of it.

Ah, yes. Stall-shoveling. Hard work. There may be qualities of your day-to-day that don't quite make sense, or seem beneath you.

Embrace that feeling and learn some humility from it.

It's true what they say: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You have to start somewhere, and it may as well be at the beginning.

It's hard, and it's hard for a reason. You're laying the foundational work for the rest of your life.

You're practicing important habits and on a smaller scale.

I love the saying, "If you're not happy here and now, you'll never be."

Meaning, if you're not happy with what you have now, why do you think that gnawing feeling solve itself when you moved to the next level? And the next?

I'm totally guilty of this. First it was a boyfriend. Then an engagement. Then a marriage. Then a I have my eye on a home with a backyard for my son. But, I'm trying to learn contentedness where I am in this moment right now.

If I can't find peace and freedom in this season, I'll always be haunted by it.

And who wants to live haunted?

You're learning what not to do.

If you feel like you're in the background, ready for the dream job, ready for the right relationship, or the pregnancy test to show two lines – by all means, learn from the failures of others.

Let those ahead of you make the big mistakes and then learn from their guidance. It will save you a lot of future heartache.

You're ready to get back up and try again.

It's hard being in a season of waiting. But as long as you find purpose in the waiting, you'll be a stronger, more resilient you.

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