Blank Canvas

I am generally pretty good at making myself vulnerable, at least on a surface level. Truth be told, it is not total vulnerability though because I am more comfortable, than perhaps the average person, in sharing my struggles.

However, that deeper vulnerability, that vulnerability that comes when things are 100% out of your control and air itself seems hard to come by… good god, I suck at that.  I suspect we all do.

The best way I can describe how it makes me feel, is it suddenly feels as if  I cannot tolerate my own skin.  If I could strip my own skin off and run I would.  I hate this feeling so much… so very very much. My instinct is always to try to push it away.

But I know… the only way to the other side is through it.  That sometimes just simply makes me mad.

This feeling is exactly where I am right now.  I hate not having control, at least some semblance of it.  We all do if we are honest.  Even surrendering control is control.  Right?

My world is shifting in big ways right now.  Ways mostly out of my control and It is fundamentally changing how I see myself in the world.  Changing how I see my role here.  Changing how I see who I am in relation to other people.  How I will define myself going forward? What will I do with this one magical life?  I find myself taking a lot of pictures of myself.  I hate having my picture taken?!  However  right now  It is almost as If I am hoping to find the answer in there.

Who is Vanessa?

And that question makes me just want to put my head down and cry. Cry for everything I defined myself by and everything I still have to figure out.

Good god, some days I just want the grownups to come in and tell me what to do.

Despite  how vulnerable I am feeling there is a magic in it. The magic is in remembering I define myself.  Not anything else.  I get to decide who I am.  Each day, I get to wake up and decide who Vanessa is going to be in this world.  And if I get really quite, I understand how okay I really am.  I know me.   I have known  myself my whole life.  I get that that makes me lucky.  I get some of us are still trying to figure out WHO we are.

But for me, I know. I  know who I am.  And I know who I am going to choose to continue to be.  And I know, I am okay and I will always be.  No matter how vulnerable it feels.

Who are you going to be in this world?  If you don’t know… remember you are a blank canvas. You get to paint your own picture on your own terms.  Who are you?

Pretty exciting huh?

Leaning Into Grace

Grace is a lot like that old saying about porn (yep, I went there!). The one were Justice Potter Stewart said the approximation of, “I don’t know how to define porn, but I know what it is when I see it.”

oh really, grace

Oh, do you now?

Grace can be a lot like that for me. If I try to put it into words, the best way I can wrap a pretty package around it is as a feeling of being bathed in peace. If you aren’t on the hunt for it (and sometimes even if you are), it can be a rare thing, indeed. For me, however, when I feel it and when I acknowledge it, it’s the most precious part of this life.

Grace is often missed because it’s not always a one-way street. It’s not always a blessing dropped at your door. It’s an exchange in which you can choose to lean into the Grace or totally miss the opportunity to experience it. I’ve far too often done the latter and, most likely, so have you.

This morning was the morning of my 45th birthday. Whoo hoo.  But, not really. I’m tired. Putting this store together was…precious and significant for me. I, so deeply, wanted to create a space that was welcoming, peaceful, and above all, safe. A place that’s safe for people to come un-wrap the things heavy in their hearts, flip them over, take a look, talk, and explore. Do ALL the things in an environment where they felt supported. So from this place of deep calling, I also felt a deep responsibility to “get it right.” Hello ego…yeah…I see you. So, getting to the finish line, spread a girl emotionally and physically pretty thin. Adding to that, Joel and I decided we’d work all the hours for the first 2 weeks. All 72 of them. As of Thursday, I’m into week two. And I’m tired. And it’s my birthday.

confetti, grace, selfcare

However, it’s not just my birthday. This week is teacher appreciation week and I’m co-room mom. And it is Thursday. I’ve done nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Not one thing for this incredibly amazing teacher. Have I done anything to help the lead room mom? No. But I told her I would get pineapple. She needed it this morning and do I have it? No. So, this meant a crazy rushed trip to the store after getting the kids off, passing it to the hubs so he can run it school or her house while I rushed off to the store. But I told her I would so that is how this morning will go.

I messaged her to let her know the plan to see if she’d still be at the school or if I should have Joel run it to her house. Honestly, I wanted to cry a bit because EVERYTHING in me just wanted to enjoy 15 extra minutes on the couch in silence sipping coffee.

She texts back, “No, really don’t worry about it for a sec!  You have enough on your plate right now.”

Now Vanessa would typically say, “No!  No worries. I’ll get it. Where do you want me to bring it?” I’d do this for all the reasons. First, I WANT to help. Secondly, I like her and don’t want it to all fall on her. Third, I love the teacher and want her to know how special she is. And…lastly…hello, ego…I’m not a slacker.

eye roll, grace, selfcare

I sure wasn’t looking for Grace at that moment, but damned if I didn’t NEED it. I really, really needed it. So… I leaned in. I trusted this Grace she extended me and said, “Are you sure?”

She met me and made it okay. Okay to lean in. Okay to say, “I sure do need some Grace. I sure do need some help right now. I do have a lot on my plate (we all do!) and would love to take something off.”

And I felt it. Grace. Full and big and warm wash over me. Letting me be safe. Letting me bathe in peace, if just for a moment.

I waited until later that day to tell her how much it meant to me. How needed that gesture was in that exact moment.

I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed staying ridged versus taking a deep breath, relaxing my shoulders, and leaning in.

Try it.  It’s pretty magical.

Love You and Why Self Care is So Hard

I use the hashtag “love you” a lot.  I wonder often if people mistake what I am actually saying.  It is not a statement, but rather a command.  I am calling you to action.

But do you head the call?  If you are like most people, no.  Why is that?  Sure, sure, sure you spout all the well intended quotes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” but let’s be honest, do you follow through?  And who pours from a cup anyway?!

No you don’t.  You intend to right? Why is it so hard?  Well lets flip that over and take a good old look-see.  You have lots of demands.  Could be work, kids, family, spouse, friends, cleaning, cooking, life!  How does one fit in the time for themselves?  Fair enough argument.  Time is limited.  You can only do so much in a day.  However, let me punt back that argument.  Why is any of that more important than you? Especially cleaning!  I mean seriously Betty, put the feather duster down!

So the time argument doesn’t really hold up.  So maybe you say, “I mean too, but my day gets away from me and I run out of time.”  Okay legit.  But why did you put self care at the end of the day and not the beginning?  If you really are committed to self care, do it first.  Start your day off right! Right?

“I can’t do it in the morning, I don’t have time.  Mornings are too hectic!”   Ehhh –hem.  Alarm clocks have been around since 1787 (I know right?!) set your clock 20 minutes early and do something for yourself.

But… but.  Yep.  I thought so.  So I have knocked holes in all your arguments, but that doesn’t really help answer why it is so hard.  The reality is, I don’t know.  But what I do know, is that it is pretty critical.  We run and we run and we do and we do and collapse at the end of the day and sometimes we love our lives but often we just don’t.  We don’t hate it.  But we sure don’t love it. And that is not fair on so many levels.

What if you had 10 minutes every day.  Every single day that fed you?  Sure would you still run and run, but at least you could think when your head is spinning and you can’t think straight…”in just 2 hours I can…”  And self care can look totally different to different people.  For me it would be a long hot bath, yoga or meditation.  For someone else it would be a walk in the woods.  For my husband it is a run.    Self care can be anything that makes you feel joy.  And feeling joy… isn’t that the point of all of this? Really?

What if even you didn’t put yourself at the top of the list but you at least got on the list? Just.Got.On.The. Damn.List.  Radical.  I know. It feels all kinds of itchy right?  But… but.  Yeah. I know, but I don’t know why.

But what I would tell you is that you should be your own best friend or your own mother.  If you have a child imagine your child, if you don’t, imagine the person you love the very very most in this world.

This person is overwhelmed to the brink of tears.  You see them stressed and frustrated. You see how hard they are working to take care of all their obligations.  You worry for them.  It all seems a bit too much.  Then they say, “You know I am going to….”  You think, “Thank God! They really should do something for themselves!  They need a break.”  And then later they say, “Never mind, I don’t have time.” What would you say to them?  I want you to imagine sitting face to face, knee to knee with that person holding their hands looking them dead in the eye.  What would you say?

I know what I would say.  I would say, “Oh my sweet angle.  Stop.  Stop right now.  None of this matters!  I know it feels like the world will fall apart if you don’t get your homework (or whatever) done.  But lets imagine the worst case scenario.  The worst case scenario is you don’t do it.  What happens then?  Does the world end?  Do I love you any less? Does daddy?  Do your friends love you less? No.  So if the world does not end and no one loves you any less, can that thing that has you are so stressed about really be worth more than YOU? “

So figure out what you would say.  Then write that shit DOWN.  And every time you try to opt out of self care pull it out and look at it.   When you do, imagine the person that loves you most in the world is saying it to you, knee to knee, holding your hand, looking your right in the eye.  And by god…LISTEN.

How to Love Yourself and Why You Should

Do you ever think I hate my life? Do you ever think what is wrong with me?

Or perhaps it is not so dark. Maybe it is just this pervasive feeling that everyone seems to “get it” and you don’t.

You want to know what really sucks, you are not alone. Not by a long shot. In fact I got curious, and the results of my curiosity make me so damn sad. According to Google between 1,000 to 10,000 of you guys are searching “I suck” each month.

That is small potatoes to the search term, “I hate my life.”

10,000 to 100,000 of you are searching for that each month. That is the same search volume for the search phrase I want to help change the most:

“I hate myself.”

My heart broke. In part because I know it’s not the same 10,000 to 100,000 people each month. It’s a new 10,000 to 100,000 you each month at a loss for an answer.

There’s a ring of truth that every human can feel in that statement—“I hate myself”—even if we never get to the point of turning to the computer in hope for some solace.

I hate myself. It is crushing to think of all the sweet souls out there feeling this way.

You go to work, to job that is just okay but with a boss you hate. I mean hate. You work so much overtime just to keep him off your back which keeps from you from having the time to look for something more bearable.

OR

You just had your third child and your husband springs on you that he is leaving you. He didn’t mean for it to happen but he has met someone. Your dream of growing old together, being a stay at home mom, being enough for someone just went out the window.

OR

You have a nice life, a nice husband, the kids are doing well in school but you are so empty, so unbearably empty you physically ache.

OR

Your so busy just living each day that you can’t see past the next hour.

This can’t be all there is to life. Can it?

We need a REVOLUTION! It is a revolution I am determined to start. A self care, love yourself revolution.

The #loveYOU Revolution

Let’s agree that “I hate myself” has no claim on you.

Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.

Well there you go, wrapped up in a pretty package, fall in love with yourself. Easy!

If only it were. The reality is we should fall in love with ourselves. Why? There is no other you. There never has been and there never will be another YOU.

Think about that. You are the only you there will ever be. The world needs you. Even if you don’t know why.

So. if we know we are special…literally made of stardust (look that up… seriously http://bit.ly/2jC3Z4V) and you are so magically one of a kind, why is it so hard to love yourself?

Take that in. What does that even mean? The best advice I ever got was to “stop comparing my insides to everyone else’s outsides.” Same idea.

Huh??

We know our worst thoughts. You know, the really dark ones. The ones that are not aligned with who we really are and who we want to be, yet pop up out of nowhere anyway and catch us off guard.

So when we look at the outsides of others, forgetting their darkness, we start a really unfair comparison. Comparing what we know about our darkest self and forgetting they have any darkness at all.

Like that one mom at preschool whose child has on the cutest outfit and perfectly coiffed hair and then you look at your child still in their pjs with bedhead.

Inner cringe. Why do I suck at this? You’re comparing their outsides to your insides.

Let’s look at the mom with the perfect kid a little closer.

You really don’t know how her morning went. Maybe she screamed at her child that morning for not sitting still while she brushed her hair. Maybe she fussed at her for getting her first outfit dirty and made her change into a pristine clean outfit. Maybe her daughter had to change 3 times before they got out of the door.

Maybe she broke her girl just a little trying to make her perfect.

Maybe she is so stressed inside that she’ll go and have drink while her child is at preschool. Or maybe just sit in her car and cry. Or maybe, she is cool as a pickle and has this whole getting the kids perfectly presentable mastered, but her and her husband haven’t hugged in 3 years and she thinks about divorce daily. Maybe none of that. Maybe all of it. You don’t know.

The point is who knows? The point is you only know the outside. The pretty package she chooses to show the world.

But what we do is we write and internal narrative about how she “has it” and we don’t. If only it stopped there, we might actually be okay. BUT NOOOOOOOO, we can’t do that.  We place value on it. We say she is better and we are worse. We start to become disappointed in ourselves just a little. Rinse repeat, rinse repeat, rinse repeat. Thousands of times over in a day. That disappointment turns to dislike, that dislike turns to disgust. Left unchecked, that comparison is such a violence to our true self, we become our own worst abuser.

Sit with that.

Are you your own worst abuser? If you are like 99% (that is not scientific, but a damn good educated guess) of people. Yep. Yep you are.

So how do you turn from being an abuser to a champion? And that is what you need. You need to be your own best friend. A friend so good to yourself, you measure all other people against it and only allow people in your life that come close to that friendship. Let yourself imagine that.

So how?

1. Get a Little Help:

I strongly believe every human being can benefit from therapy. It’s one glorious hour that is all about YOU and what YOU want to work on. So consider it. That is all I am saying.

2. Lists:

Make a list of what you like about yourself. I know it’s so hokey.That mean voice that’s in all of us  is already a strong muscle that does not need strengthening . However, the kind voice, which is often a weak muscle for a lot of us, needs help. Write all the things you like about yourself down. Write it all down no matter how small. Keep that list handy. Hell! Make copies to put everywhere, so it’s always close. The next time “I am so stupid” or “I’m not good enough” creeps up, pull out your list. Think of what is a true statement that counteracts that mean voice. For example, if “I am so stupid” creeps up replace it with “oops I made a mistake, but it’s not a big deal and i can fix it!” See the difference? .

Love you.

3. Notice and replace:

This is sort of piggybacking on lists, but it’s a little more expansive. When you notice your negative self talk, you will likely find a theme. Notice the theme. Is it a feeling of being worthless or incompetence? When you notice that creep up, replace that negative self talk with something that is more self serving (and correct). So when the the thought comes up, “You are never going to pull this off.” Say to yourself, “Stop. That is not true. I have not done this often (or ever) but I can do this. It might not be perfect, but that is how I will get better.”  At first this is hard. It is hard to catch the self sabotage and it feels unnatural when you try to replace it. But like any muscle, it will strengthen, and believe it or not, over time becomes almost second nature.

4. Practice Self Love:

Carve out time each day to clear your mind. Call it meditation; call it quiet reflection. Just try and calm your mind for 2 minutes a day and work up to 5. That’s it. Give your thinking mind a break. Then from this place of quiet, give yourself some huge juicy love. It could be, “I am so proud of how I handled that rude customer today.” Get specific about things. Notice yourself being baller and pat yourself on the back. Only you can do you, celebrate it for goodness sake!

5. Connect

Sometimes we just need to connect with people that love us to remember why we are so amazing. Here’s a great gift you and your friends can give each other. Write down all the things you love about the other person. Can you imagine that in your back pocket? Can you imagine the days where you are feeling like you can do nothing right and you pull out your best friend’s list. Imagine seeing all the reasons she could have loved anyone, but choose to love you. Because you’re that special. Because you are magical stardust (really, look that shit up) and, even when you can’t see it, she can.

At the end of the day we only get one dance on this earth. Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking if you sat on the sidelines not dancing because you didn’t feel like you were good enough?

Shhhh… I have a secret.

You were born good enough.

All you ever had to do was choose to put on your tap shoes.

Go forth and #loveYOU