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Friday, March 30, 2018

I'm Not That Kind of Girl (And Other Lies We All Believe)

I was never an athletic kid.

I took on the identity of clumsy and uncoordinated early on. Accident-prone, certainly. I thought athletes were naturally gifted at running. You were either fast or slow. If you were tall, you were good at basketball. If you were fast, you were a naturally good swimmer.

I was neither tall. Nor fast. Swimming scared me in a lot of different ways. So, I stuck with the stuff that I was naturally inclined to. Music, being on stage, dance. Fluid movements for fluid gifts.
There are some people who are just naturally good at all the things. But for the rest of us, for me, I stuck with what was safe. With what I knew was in my wheelhouse.

It wasn't until I graduated college that I began running. There, my competitive drive and inclination for distance grew. I ran my first 5K. A few 10Ks here and there. At 26 I ran my first half-marathon.


I love running. I love my breath feeling sharp in my chest. I love my feet hitting the pavement, listening to a podcast, and the feel of the heat of the sun touching my shoulders. It's a different world. It's a world where I get out of my head and only concentrate in the here and now.
I'm not the best at it. Not by a long stretch. But for so long I told myself I'm not the kind of girl who runs.

So I didn't.

Lately, I've come to realize that I wasn't an athlete because I wasn't athletic. I wasn't an athlete because I never tried. I never trained. Not because I'm afraid of hard work, but because I was afraid of trying something and not being good at it right away.
When I laced up my running shoes a few nights ago - the first good run of the season - I found myself wondering what my life would be like if I hadn't pushed through the fear of not being good at something right away.

What if I never became a runner?

And, in that same light, what other bits of my life have I shied away from for fear of failure - for fear of not doing it perfectly right away?

What if everyone thought that way? 

What if no one ever went on dates because they were afraid of break ups?

What if no one ever became parents because they were afraid of raising jerk-kids?

What if no one ever went back to school because they were afraid that even after a master's-level course they still wouldn't be employable?

What if no one ever blogged or wrote stories because they were afraid they'd never get published?

What if everyone spent their whole lives saying: I could never do that. I'm not that kind of girl.

I've spent my whole life thinking I wasn't the type of person who was fashionable, healthy, a leader, successful.

So, I have spent almost thirty years living as though I was not those things. And could never be. I'd tell myself over and over again:

I could never video blog.

I could never lead a team.

I could never breastfeed in public.

I could never move past hurt or failure.

I could never build a platform to get a book deal.

I could never be friends with people like them.

I could never have that type of haircut.

I could never rock that kind of job. 

I could never. I could never. I could never.

I'm not that kind of girl.

But, when I lace up my pink running shoes, and run laps around the sidewalks – still with red lipstick on, mind you – I realize I and everyone else can be whatever type of girl we want to be.
We just have to work for it.
There's nothing magical about the people who do the things you want to do. There's nothing sensational. There's no X-factor, there's no level of IQ (unless you want to be an astrophysicist...maybe?). 

The people we admire likely have off-days, too. They probably feel just as skittish in front of a crowd or sitting in a salon chair.

But they work. They're doing it. They're risking failure. They're risking looking dumb or not put together.

They're working toward being the type of person they want to become.

Be a runner. Be a photographer. Be a business owner. Be whatever. Be that kind of person.

Because the truth is, you'll never be that kind of girl. Not unless you make yourself one.


Monday, March 19, 2018

When Your Pants Still Don't Fit

We had a coffee date scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

One of my best gal pals and I decided to walk to our favorite local coffee shop.  Baby and stroller in tow.

"It's one of those days," I said to her when she got to my house. I was clad in stretch active wear that, if I'm being completely honest, has spent more time on the couch than the track. "I'm going to put on a hat, a dab of mascara and pray we don't run into anyone we know."

Precisely 10 seconds later, we ran into someone we both knew. She was a high school student from our church out on a run. Her blonde hair and her beautiful, sunny face was impossible to miss. We stopped mid-stride to greet her. She pulled the ear buds out of her ears.

"Are you training for a race?" I asked. "Or just outside enjoying the beautiful day?"

She grabbed her thighs, pinched the excess skin and replied, "I'm running to get rid of this."

Bless her soul, her thigh were about as meaty as a PVC pipe. That is to say, there was hardly anything there. I stammered something about needing to get rid of mine, too. How I was almost 10 months postpartum, but still ate like a pregnant woman.

We exchanged words with her along the lines of, "it's as good as it's gonna get," and "I look at pictures of myself from high school and wish for the days that I thought I was so completely overweight."

I was a size six. Completely healthy, but completely self-conscious.

I won't get into the nitty gritty of those days. Not here, not now. But long story short, I thought I was a fat girl. In fact, I have a vivid memory of  a guy who I had known calling me "bloated" in front of our entire AP Physics class.

This was over a decade ago. But I remember where I was sitting. I remember where he was sitting. One-third of my life later.

Since then, I don't ever recall feeling comfortable in my own skin. I don't recall trusting people not to slam me behind my back, or not to think that I shouldn't wear clothes that weren't classically flattering, didn't cover up my arms, or exposed too much of my back, even if I really liked them.

That began in high school. I was the same age as that stunningly perfect, beautiful high school student who stood in front of me. Who I exchanged slapstick self-deprecation with (because it has no age gap) and strolled away from.

Failing to convey that she's beautiful. Strong. Smart. Capable.

Failing to convey that one day she might not fit into a pair of pants that she loves and that doesn't make her any less worthy. It doesn't make her any less likely to achieve any of her goals, or be who she wants to truly be.

Looking back, I should've stamped my foot. I should've taken her by the shoulders and shaken her. Told her that she should only run if she truly enjoys the journey, not if the destination is some impossible standard of thinness.

I had a similar failed interaction with a friend who exclaimed to our friend group that she fit back into her pre-pregnancy pants.

I cheered. The whole room erupted into happy claps and congratulations. 

But...why? Why did we feel compelled to celebrate this? Why was my first reaction elation on her behalf? Why is squeezing your body into anything other than those awful mesh undies and yoga pants after having a baby considered an accomplishment?

Why were we even having this discussion? Why was this even important?

Having an unhealthy or overindulgent lifestyle that puts your heart and health at risk is one thing - but why, in an era of tolerance and love conquering hate have we still not conquered this?

Why are we pressuring our high school girls and postpartum women, both in tender emotional states, to be anything less than their whole selves?

Whether they fit into their pants or not.

I would live those moments over again if I could.

I'd hug them, I'd bring them close and pray that they could remember a moment of acceptance and peace, as vivid as my bad memory from high school.

I'd say to them over and over:

It's okay to wear yoga pants. It's okay to have a doughnut. And it's okay to let go of your vision of perfection to seek after health.

It's okay not to fit into your pants for a spell.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Honey, Don't Hold Back & Other Lessons Learned from
International Women's Day

Last Thursday, on International Women's Day, I graduated from therapy. 

My therapist and I met for about two months; and I was running out of things to talk about.

It was like a breakup of sorts; like breaking up with an aunt. Looking at a person who you've grown to trust and care for, and deciding to end your relationship with them. At least on that level.

She and I had gone deep really quickly. Because, well, when you're paying someone to talk about your fears, emotions and perfectionistic history, you don't want to waste anyone's time.

Or maybe it's more to do with the fact that you have a perfectionistic history and, well, if you're going to go to therapy you want to A. be the best at it and B. be your therapist's favorite client.

But the depression and anxiety I was facing had run its craggy course. It was like waking up in a different time zone, or the first evening after daylight saving: suddenly you wake up and it's still daylight at 7 p.m.

The world, it seems, is a little brighter. Anxieties are easier to manage. You look your beasts square in the eye. You march straight up to them. Because trying to ignore them only makes them more powerful.

You realize that if you've come this far with the beasts of self-doubt, anxiety, depression, negative self-talk and still managed to get out of bed, keep an infant alive, maintain an employed status at a full-time job and juggle with some freelance opportunities on the side, that you could do so, so much more.

If only you could work through what it is that holds you back.

It was a powerful, wise woman who helped me sort out my stuff. And we all have our stuff.

The same day, it was a group of powerful women who stood with me, arms linked as we prayed for a a friend who was deeply hurting. It was the same day that I got to brag about the female leadership in my workplace and how none of us have ever had to question if we were getting compensated fairly or if we were looked down upon because we were women.

We're respected. And if we're not, we're too busy to look over our shoulders, anyway.

This is what it's like to be a woman: to battle the anxiety, the depression, the fear, the loneliness, the doubts, the heartbreak and to have the strength to rise and do it all better the next day.

To nurse our children.

To chase after careers.

To be better wives.

To be better friends.

To battle noise that says we should be this not that. 

Thin, not fat. 

Vibrant, not grey.

Calm, not loud.

Republican, not anything else.

Sponges of miscalculated doctrine, not free-thinkers and meditators.

Stubborn, not graceful.

Thin, not fat. Thin, not fat. Thin, not fat.

But imagine with me, friend. Imagine as I did on my last day of therapy as I stood from that Kleenex-box green couch, empowered and emboldened.

Imagine your life – your very same life with all the same trimmings and trappings but with one life-altering difference:

To be unashamedly your very own self. 

And to not hold back for the rest of your ever-loving life.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Attacking the Adult Witching Hour - One-Week #ProdigalSisChallenge!

My evening routine needs more than a facelift. 

It needs total reconstructive surgery.

So many articles on the interwebs *pushes up glasses on nose* talk about breaking through the morning routine. Articles like "the five best ways to make the most of your morning..." or

And maybe I'm alone in my struggle, but the morning is so not where I struggle. Mornings make us new. They're a fresh start. A chance to begin again.

Am I always high energy in the morning? Certainly not.

But I'm not just talking about being a "morning person" versus an "evening person."

What I mean is that after a long day, when all the spinning plates of the tyrant we named "urgent" have slowed, and my child is asleep, I lack the gumption I need to do what it is I truly love.

It's not just about goal setting. At nighttime I am more likely to: 

Scroll mindlessly through Instagram/Facebook.

Neglect exercise.

Binge eat stuff that's bad for me.

Zone out to Netflix.

Forego chores like dishes and laundry that I know I'll regret not doing the next morning.

Fall asleep on the couch at 9:30 p.m. with my contacts permanently fused to my eyeballs.


I am more likely to not: 

Be creative.

Engage in meaningful conversations with people I love.

Leave the couch, or take any major steps to my goals outside of my day job and duties of motherhood.

It's about more than being tired after a long day, or adjusting to new motherhood.

It's about gearing up for the time of day, mentally, I know I'm more likely to fall off the beaten path.

It's about putting boundaries in place for myself so that when I'm faced with the temptation to flump on the couch (yes, that is the technical word for it..."flump") and neglect housework and preparations for the next day, I'll be more likely to power through.

So I put out an ask on Instagram and man alive, did my people come through with practical tips for overhauling my evenings. I'm going to do the following for one week straight and track my progress. If you'd like to do the same, comment below and post about it on Instagram or Facebook using #prodigalsischallenge!

Put Your Phone in Another Room

For many, the first step seemed to be the hardest: leaving your phone in another room.

Because someone might need me! I have no trouble putting my phone on "do not disturb" while I'm working or on a date night (checking in periodically on the sitter for my little one). Why don't I treat dinnertime or time for personal development with the same consideration?

Honestly, I think there's something there: committing to myself with the same level I'd commit to anything or anyone else.

If there's one time of day I'm willing to let my day get interrupted with Instagram or Facebook notifications, it's at dinner time. Or the first real few moments I have with connecting with my husband. In those moments, I'm telling my family that Instagram is more important than they are.
Is Instagram more important than the man I stood up in front of 200 of my closest friends and committed my life to? I think not!

Making a List Before You Get Home

This is one of my favorite suggestions: make a list of three things you'd like to get done while you're home for the evening. Laundry? Dishes? Paying a bill? Calling a friend? Writing 1,000 words? Taking a bubble bath? Doing a workout?

Whatever it is, write it down. It's easier to commit to it if you can see it.

And even if you only get around to one thing on your list, that's OKAY! It's already more than you would've accomplished on a night spent flumping on the couch.

Turning Off the Television

This one is going to be the hardest for me. We always have the television on. Our two-bedroom condo has an open space and if the t.v. is on in the living room, it's basically on in the whole house. And now that the new season of Marvel's Jessica Jones is upon us it's going to get even more difficult.

But, I don't want to have spent my life watching television when I could've been building a business, making healthy choices or hanging out with my friends.

Setting a Deadline

This is my mom's trick. She never sits down.


She's a one-woman hustle-beehive. I asked her about it once and she said that if she lets herself sit down even for a moment after a long day of work, the tired sets in.

You can set whatever deadline works best for you - but I will work on not getting snuggled up under a blanket on the couch until nine p.m.

In our house, I get home from work at six and my son  goes to bed roughly around 7:30. If I dedicate just an hour and a half of time to working toward any goal in that space and allow myself one episode of Jessica Jones (instead of three), that's a lifestyle change I can get behind.

Put a Timer on It

It's a tried and true trick I learned from The Lazy Genius: For cleanup when the house has gotten completely out of hand, I'll set a timer on our Alexa (you don't have to be that fancy - any timer will do) for fifteen minutes.

My husband and I will do a mad hustle to pick up, sweep, wash, vacuum anything in our path. You'd be surprised what a difference it makes - and how long 15 minutes really is when you're focused on one task.

Grace for Mondays

I've just learned, Mondays are hard for everyone in our house. I'm back to work after a weekend with my main men, my son is adjusting to not having his mom in arm's reach around the clock and my husband is readjusting to doing schoolwork, watching the baby all day and meal prepping for the week.

We need a night to rest and not put pressure on ourselves after a high-volume day. If you choose to do this, pick a day that works for your natural rhythm.

So, What do you say?

I'm committing to doing the following every night (with exception of Mondays) for one week. Follow along in my progress on Instagram. If you want to have your own weeknight hustle challenge, post it with #ProdigalSisChallenge! I'll be picking one lucky participant to win a copy of my new favorite book, Girl, Wash Your Face! By Rachel Hollis.

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