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.

I am NO expert!

So I have a confession, I know I talk about self care a lot so I must have it down to a science, right?WRONG. It is something I know is important,. I know that it is something that there is a lack of space for and lack of language around. I also know I find it illusive sometimes.

So I recently found myself in a place of lack. It was mid December and I was heading into full on burnout.There were a lot of contributing factors but the reality was time was lacking and demands were high. I did my best to carve out time. But as you know, December is lacking in it. “I am burned out, but down time is coming,” became my mantra.

Fast forward post Christmas and TA-DA much needed down time was all mine. I did some assessing to figure out how to make next year less overwhelming. Mistakes were made, but luckily there were easy fixes going forward. I mapped out goals, I took baths, I introverted (boy did I need that!), read, and had family time. It was amazing.

Yeah….but no.

Prior to the holidays I felt like for the first time in years, the path to the life I wanted was wide and clear. It was as if, I finally got off the back roads and was on an open highway with no cars and a clear path to where I was heading. Then somehow I took a wrong exit and ended up on the back roads again, and then there was traffic on the back roads and lots of blind corners. I felt totally lost and scared I had lost my path. No amount of “self care” was doing it.

Help! Help me! Ughhh…I need Help! 

So I finally reached out for help on a private Facebook group. A “has this happened to you and what did you do” sort of request. I got a lot of perfect advice. Rest some more. Be kind to yourself. Just be and have fun.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

But no. It sounded right, but didn’t feel right. What was wrong with me?! What is this funk?

Then a friend texted. She saw my post but decided to reach out directly and she said, “Ride it out and trust that place of inspiration you were in. “ Then she said, “and what would the you at the end of January tell the you now that she wished you had got done? Is there something you can do to be productive?”

Productive schmucktive

I need to get back to work?! But…but…hmmm? Still unsure I just let it sit there. The next day I went to an early morning meeting. However, the conversation from the night before was still kicking around for me. What if, I felt disconnected and unclear because I was literally disconnected. I had not worked in over a week. Maybe?

Ding Ding Ding! Ah ha Moment.

After the meeting I went to the studio to get something and meet with a studio mate about something and instantly I knew that was it.

I love what I do. I do. I love building this thing that lives in the world that is a part of me. I love nurturing it and loving it and seeing what that turns into. It is work. IT IS. But it is work I love. And for me self care was decidedly NOT about disconnecting and resting but about ,now that I was rested, finding a place to put that love.

 I read a quote once by Jamie Anderson that said “Grief was just love with no place to go.” It was such a truth to me and touched me deeply.

 So on the smallest level that unsettle I felt was grief. It was my love for what I do with no place to go. For me, self care was a need to get back to it.

So that is what I did.

Go forth and #loveYOU

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.

Embrace Your Inner Weirdo and Become Authentically Vulnerable!

I have had two totally separate conversations recently that have me thinking about these things we call connection and authenticity.  As fate would have it, both conversations were around social media and engagement. The irony is not lost on me… trust me.

The conversations just kept kicking around in my head. What gets people to connect? What draws us to people?

We grow up being told to put our best foot forward. Have you ever really thought about what that means? To me, best foot can mean any and all of the following:

  • Hair perfectly done
  • Makeup on point
  • Clothes properly pressed
  • Shoulders back
  • Perfect posture
  • Smiling at the rude comments
  • Ignoring the passive insult

Have you ever stopped to think, “Is that really the goal?” I’m not suggesting, even for a second, that there is not a time and place for being polished. There is. I mean, don’t go to that job interview in your pjs (though that is kind of a dreamy thought, no?).

But is it the every day, every moment goal? I say no.The goal is NOT to only present our bestness.

The goal is to be vulnerable.

The goal is to be authentic.

Think about it. You see that woman at a party. You know the one. She’s centerfold beautiful. You know what really sucks; she’s fricking nice. I mean… nice nice. Ooey gooey nice. Bitch.

If you’re like me, you admire her. You might even envy her a bit. Right?  Okay… let’s be totally honest, we have that big old measuring stick out and who’s falling short? I am!  Ughhh. And how does that make me feel? Like shit.

So she is putting her best foot forward, right? We can all agree on that. But what sense of connection are you really having with that “bestness”? None. Admiration is not connection. Envy… that’s really not connection. In fact, all the things you are coveting about her… that best foot is actually counterproductive to connection. We cannot connect to “bestness”.

So here you are, both at this party, and then the façade slips… just a little. She goes to take a sip of wine and manages to pour it down the front of her dress (who has done that? Can I get a holla? Oh just me… damn).  You can see she’s mortified. She’s red-cheeked and you know if there was a rock handy, she’d crawl under it. How are you feeling now about her?

Or maybe the façade slips a fair amount? Maybe she shares that these sorts of events make her nervous because she never knows quite what to say?

She grabs your hand and says, “I am so glad you are here though, you’ve been so easy to talk to.”

How do you feel about her now?

Or maybe she is sipping a tic too much wine and the façade falls totally away?  Maybe you both tipsy-talk about the challenges of marriage and she shares she has been in counseling for a year, but she doesn’t see much change? You tell her about this amazing therapist that you feel saved your marriage. She writes the name and number down.

When you leave, she hugs you like she doesn’t want to let go and says, “thank you.”

How do you feel about her now?

The great connector is not perfection. The great connector is letting the veil down. It’s making ourselves vulnerable. It’s showing our authentic self… messy and imperfect.

We connect over shared sorrows, struggles, and joys.

So why is that vulnerability so hard?

I think there are a lot of reasons, really. Some of it might be the feeling of “what if?” What if I am totally authentic and they don’t like me? I mean, if you just put your best foot forward and someone rejects it, they’re really rejecting your fake foot, not you. There’s safety in that.

Of course, the other side of that coin is if they accept you, they’re not really accepting YOU, are they?

Damn that coin.

I think the other, more complex part of this has to do with unconditional love.

Think about it. Most of us have little to no concept of that. We say, “I love you” with an expectation or hope. We want to hear it back, right?  That’s the condition. We’re, for some reason, afraid to put love out there that might not be returned.  

What if you could put love out there and just not care what the outcome was?

Think about it. I want you to imagine everyone you encounter and just give them love—be it a compliment, a hug, or a listening ear. Maybe you tell a co-worker how much you love working with them? Or the lady on the elevator that always gives you the nicest smile? What if you told her you loved her smile? What if you just didn’t care if she thought you were weird or didn’t care if she liked you? You just gave her love.

What if?  That would be your authentic self. I think we have this feeling that our authenticity lies in our darkness. It doesn’t. It lies in our love. It lies in our vulnerability. It lies most surely in our imperfection. Imperfection isn’t darkness.  It’s humanity. Maybe even a gift? 

What if it’s the drink spilling-socially awkward-drank too much-over shared part of you—the part you are hating so damn hard. What if that’s what has allowed every connection you have ever had.

What if all you hated about YOU, was all that allowed the people you hold dear to feel safe trying to love you?

Go forth and