Saturday, November 23, 2013


It was a normal morning.  He even made them pancakes and for a school day, this is a treat. He hadn’t complained of any discomfort, there were no symptoms of what was to come.

Over these past couple weeks, I’ve become painfully aware of how much practice it takes to experience joy and gratitude in the presence of challenge.  In Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection, she describes numbing as “taking the edge off of pain or stress” and when we try and numb the bad stuff we inherently numb the good stuff too.  This discovery has been life changing for me as I realize I do numbing really well, it’s my safe place. 

I think we all have a numbing toolbox of some sort and for me it often comes in some form of overconsumption.  Sometimes its wine, Facebook/getting lost online, an over committed schedule (being too busy), shopping, sugar, and/or exercise.  Even in the places where it appears I am making good choices (like being busy or exercising) I am still avoiding what is challenging  me most.

I got “that” call last week.  You know, the one you dread, the one you hope to only hear about but never experience.  One week ago, my Wednesday morning began with a phone call from the hospital.  At about 10:45 am, Matt suffered a mini-stroke and I am deeply thankful it has left no permanent damage.  As we continue with testing, looking to learn why, I find the greatest trial for me is staying awake through it all.  Leaning in--to the fear.  Leaning in--to the sacrifice and adjustment our lifestyle may need as a result.  Leaning in--to the difficult conversation around what could have been a warning sign, a wake up call; a look at learning how to live with less stress.  I can’t help but wonder, were there signs or things we should have noticed in the space between the numb places, maybe we could have prevented it from happening or saw it coming?

Recognizing what triggers numbing for me makes me more conscious.  It can be the stress of these unplanned life events, the discovery of bad news.  Or, the more common emotion of feeling overwhelmed, afraid, anxious, exhausted, pressured, uncertain and guilty, this is when I want to turn it off and go to sleep; when I want to numb, when I don’t want to feel.

I’m still navigating through the discovery of what I need for comfort when I feel like I’d rather numb instead. Thinking of when I’ve felt comforted the most and when I didn’t feel alone, it has been the quiet time with coffee and a good book, church and fellowship, lighting candles, writing, sleeping in or taking a nap, alone time with Matt, alone time with friends and/or an easy walk or run.  These are the times I’ve felt the most renewed, the most cared for.    

There is opposition between numbing and gratitude and I’m learning that practicing gratitude and experiencing joy can only happen in place of numbing. I am grateful for what I am learning about myself in this process.  While we cannot always control the outcome, we can influence our reaction to the experience.

They do what we do, not what we say—this keeps running over and over in my mind.  What are we teaching them about priorities?  What are they learning from us based on how we care for ourselves?   They are watching us.   They are learning from us.  We teach them how to respond.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

You're Perfect.

I see the perfectionist in her already.  Her fear of not knowing the answer, her fear of not doing it right the first time.  Her fear of trying, her fear of failing.  Her concern about what people will think.  I see her holding back, afraid of pushing to places unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  For as long as I’ve known her, she’s been an observer, taking in the whole before engaging in the parts. It aches me to see myself in her.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-compassion and what makes it possible to get there and stay there.  Somehow it was easier for me to start with them.   

For you I want:
To believe you can change your mind. If you give it a good go and find yourself somewhere you don't want to be, you get to change it. It won't always be easy but it's fair. You are worth it. Your ability to be available for anyone else depends on it.

You don't always need the right answer the first time around; don't let it hold you back.  Ask for help, ask for what you need.  And when you don't know, still ask for help.

Laugh. A lot.  It’s contagious and people need it, including you.

Surround yourself with all types of people. Those you can learn from, those you can teach. When you have the answer, share it.  Share your experience, share your failures, and share your wisdom. There is so much more to learn when you teach.  It will enhance your experience.

Live big in the little places with those you love. It's not the big news, the big trip, or the big weekend that counts. It's the strength that comes from the little ways you connect with them in between.

Stay where it’s uncomfortable. It’s not about being perfect or arriving at the end. Real work, real growth happens right in the middle of it all.

Ask for what you need. Ask for what you want. Expect it, you deserve it. People can’t read your mind so communicate it, lovingly.

Listen to that quiet voice inside. It means what it says no matter how much you try to silence it. It knows.

Things don't always work out the way you want. Or, the way they're supposed to. And sometimes, it won't make sense for a very, very long time.

You can't always fix it or change it.  You can’t always help.  Protect yourself.

Surround yourself with healthy souls. Sometimes when you don't know what you need, they do.

Lean in. Feel it.  Let it happen. Allow yourself to have a reaction. Be brave enough to move past it.

Let bad days happen. It means you're growing, it means you care enough about something that’s not working.

Find your one thing.  Find something that makes you passionate, something to neutralize and bring balance.  A place where you stop to restart.  Be selfish about it.  It’s yours.  Protect it, prioritize it, and make it important, because you are.

When I started this blog six years ago, I had no idea how much would be revealed to me. The value in documenting life, appreciating the sum of small ordinary moments, creates greater meaning and understanding in the whole of this experience.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Picture It.

I thought I’d choose a picture of me smiling and laughing. Having fun, being goofy.  It’s how I first recognize myself.  Other people know me this way.  I am comfortable laughing (even when I shouldn’t be)

The lesson this week was about cultivating authenticity, requiring me to find a photo capturing my authentic self.  A picture conveying a sense of who I am.  I went in looking with no expectations, no plan, letting it be and believing I’d know it when I found it. Brene Brown defines authenticity as the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are suppose to be and embracing who we really are.

This process was challenging and revealing.  The most recent photos were of my kids, there were very few of me alone.  Of these photos, many were posed and prepared with the same smile.  After spending some time, I realized it was difficult because I was looking for something specific--one of me laughing, having fun, and being carefree, a candid snapshot telling more of the story. There aren’t any recent photos of me this way.

Of all of them one stood out, kept pulling me back.  I noticed my eyes first.  They are quiet and relaxed.  My hair is wet and I have little makeup on.  My shoulders are soft and I’m slightly leaning forward; he must have snapped the photo before I was ready.  In this picture of me I felt something when I looked at it.  There is a quiet confidence in my expression, a sense of certainty and contentment. 

I remembered we were on vacation in Mexico, just the two of us.  We decided to start trying for a second child on this trip.  This is not the photo I imagined selecting as it reflects an unfamiliar side of me.  This is a perfect example of authenticity.  While laughing and humor are most definitely a part of who I am much of the time and how most people know me, I also have an introspective, much more serious side. I chose this photo because I saw depth, the place in me where contemplation and decision happen.

The good old days of huddling around a picture album would encourage me to share and remember the experience. In the age of digital photography, I feel pictures have lost value. We print less of them and have more than we know what to do with.   

This exercise encourages us to question how true we are living to who we are and more importantly who we want to be.   It gives us an opportunity to consider how and with whom we are spending our time.

What do pictures of you tell about how you’re living your story?