acceptance · confidence · fears · letting go

When Failure Is The Only Option

Our little family is officially on summer break, but my thoughts are still wrapped around something that happened at the end of the school year. My son had a presentation due in the final weeks of the last quarter – an in-depth, visual, interactive, role-play type of assignment.

Now, while I am a hands-on parent and actively involved in my son’s education, I am also a realist.

He is in middle school so I only help when absolutely necessary. He is responsible for class assignments, school projects, homework, studying, deadlines, teacher communications, library returns, etc. I no longer interfere or assist or remind about his academics because he is old enough to be held accountable.

He needs to succeed on his own which also means he needs to fail on his own.

So it was that his presentation was due in two days, and he had neglected to mention it. I scrambled to purchase the most basic of supplies and offered to proofread his final report (I am a writer; I can’t help myself). And as I did, I realized he was probably not going to do very well. The example the teacher provided as a guide was far more elaborate, very detailed, extremely organized, and painstakingly set up to impress.

After rushing between school and baseball to print, cut, arrange, paste, and label, he declared himself to be finished and ready for the big presentation. I studied his project board – it was neat, organized, easy to understand. It was … presentable. But still, I am a writer, a person who loves to create and research. I enjoy the planning and effort it takes to make a project shine – pop – and wow.

I feared his project would not wow.

To be honest, I did not even care about his grade. What truly worried me was that he would feel inferior to other kids who had cooler projects with interesting props and better information. But as I watched my son gaze over his finished product with pride in its creation and satisfaction in its completion, I let it all go.

This was his and his alone – he would decide whether he did just enough or more than enough. And he would ultimately pay the price or be rewarded with his grade.

The next morning my husband went to the presentation (parents were invited) and texted a picture of my son smiling beside his project board. Over dinner that evening my son said a lot of people stopped at his station to listen to him speak and complimented his interpretation of a young boy from ancient China. He compensated for a lack of decorative props and colorful design with extensive knowledge and sheer confidence.

He proved less was more. He succeeded when I feared he might fail.

Too often we believe we know the right way to a happy ending simply because we have already walked the path ourselves, found how to get there. And because of this, we hope to save others from the pain or struggle, make it easier somehow.

The problem? If another person constantly tries to guarantee our success we will never understand the importance purpose, desire, and determination play in the achievement of goals. We will never experience the incredible sense of accomplishment that comes from difficult work or rough days. We will never know our victory is sweeter because we fell down and then picked ourselves up (as many times as it took).

And while sharing personal experience is important, it is not always the best predictor of success. Sometimes we must heed the advice of others who have been there while subsequently ignoring it. We must jump into something with nothing more than the simple faith we will be okay because we have done all we can do.

We need to rely on our ability, believe our best is good enough until we are told it is not. And if we do fail, we need to learn how to avoid failing again. On our own.

Mapping our own path often means we will stay on it longer. Perhaps more importantly, it might reveal that pushing to be better is not always a marker of success. Just because we try harder does not guarantee we will get what we want. Sometimes, perseverance is simply a reminder we are able to do great things, things we may have believed to be out of reach. Yes, we might reach a little too high and tumble to the ground. But that is the beauty of failure. It reminds us why we want something, makes it more desirable, and helps us determine if it is really worth it.

I still plan to nudge my son, encourage him to try a little harder, work a little more, and go above and beyond the moment when he thinks he is finished. But I am also going to let him make his own mistakes and allow him to fail. In truth, I hope he fails a lot because that would mean he stepped outside his comfort zone, took chances, and pushed the limits.

Perhaps then he will see himself as I do – so amazing and talented and smart and funny and loving and a reflection of all that is possible in this world. Only then will I feel I have succeeded.


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acceptance · daily life · fears · renewal

How To Weather The Storms Of Life

Last night was a weather-watcher type of evening as hours of severe storms passed through our area. Growing up in the Midwest, I am quite familiar and comfortable with an active tornado season. They are random (often hitting one building and missing those surrounding it). They are unpredictable (veering from a path at a moments notice). They are devastating (I have witnessed the damage to people and property). They are to be respected (they often leave death in their wake).

As my little family huddled in our basement, I first thought about the editing I hoped to finish. I tried to resume the work but within minutes I shut down the laptop. Instead I snuggled on the couch with my son as he fell asleep for the night and listened as my husband monitored the forecast.

I thought about the storm raging outside. I thought about the storms of life.

The likelihood of something hitting our part of the world was slim, but I also knew tragedy could strike at anytime and to anyone. It could happen to us. It has happened to us. Not in the form of hail or wind damage but in illness and loss.

We cannot predict or prevent the storms heading our way.

No one is immune. If we are blessed enough to live a long life, tragedy will find us. It always does. Illness, death, financial struggle, personal betrayal, estrangement, job loss, an accident. Life is not created to be perfect. And because of this, we are not perfect beings meant to handle situations in a perfect manner.

Eventually, our homes will be the epicenter. And when they are, we can face the storm, hold on through the night, and embrace the morning after. It may not be easy but it is possible to come out on the other side. Here is how:

  1. Take ShelterGather with those you love in a comforting spot. The key is to have a support system you trust who has your best interests in mind. And being in a place that makes you feel safe and secure will ease the uncertainty.
  2. Ride It OutNothing lasts forever, not even personal pain. The feeling of helplessness is common for anyone going through a difficult time. Sometimes we do not have the solution and must allow things to fall apart before we can put them back together.
  3. Assess The DamageTake a close look at what has changed within your life and you. Too often people prefer to believe nothing is different, that life can return to what it once was. It is important to acknowledge some things might never be the same but if so, it does not mean they cannot be better.
  4. Accept What IsUnderstand things are out of our control. If the reality of your situation is too much to bear, allow ample time to process what happened. Let it all sink in at a comfortable pace but be wary of avoidance. Lingering in the realm of denial will only make the healing more difficult.
  5. Make A PlanCreate a path to recovery. It can be an overall goal or a series of smaller goals. It can be as detailed or broad as you like. Having a path forward does wonders for a fractured soul. And although it may seem the end result is unattainable, knowing you are in charge can ease the process.
  6. Take Your TimeMove one step ahead and celebrate small successes. Rebuilding anything – a home, a relationship, a life – does not happen overnight. Be patient with the effort required to get back on your feet. Get help where you can. Work when you can. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Be GratefulWe may never understand why tragedy hits one home and not another. But if you are fortunate to be missed this time around, show some gratitude. Volunteer time. Donate goods or money to those in need. Lift someone up. Do so with a grateful and giving heart because the next time it might be you in need of aid, compassion, and love.

Weather the storm…


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

confidence · discovery · fears · learning

Sometimes We Fall Before We Fly

Lately, I have been repeating a favorite quote in my mind.

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

As a writer, I have to deal with many more downs than ups.

It is not uncommon for someone who creates and shares their work to feel this way. The fear of putting myself out there and having no one care. The feeling of being ignored, unappreciated, or unacknowledged. The disappointment. The rejection. They are all part of the business.

Life is much like a roller coaster. Some parts are simply more thrilling than others.

The good? An official book release. The best? Hearing from a reader who loves my work. The worst? A not-so-flattering review. In an industry validated by book sales, viral shares, and best seller lists, it is easy to fall into the trap of negative thought. To somehow believe I am not enough or have failed.

But, there is one thing I believe more: without a little risk, there is no reward.

I can either play it safe where I know the outcome or seize an opportunity and see where life carries me. My choice? Take an enormous, frightening leap outside my comfort zone and fall into the unknown rather than deal with regret. Following my heart is the true measurement. I decide whether I am a success or failure. No one else.

Sometimes, life only gives us one chance.

Anytime we become caught in the web of criticism, missed expectations, or self-defeat, it is natural to turn and place the blame inward. A game lost, a job opportunity or promotion missed, an error of some kind, a broken relationship. Missteps like these and others may seem unfair, especially when we tried our best and believe winning is the only option.

But the perceived losses are actually part of the plan and that plan is always greater than any we could dream for ourselves. As such, a setback – big or small – should never be the deal breaker for quitting. Instead, it should serve as a reminder of how much we want something.

Have a little faith. Muddle through the not-so-glamorous in search of the true beauty. Realize the bumps and bruises we seemingly suffer will not only heal but strengthen and propel us forward. Without the low moments we can never begin the slow, exhilarating ascent to the top. View the struggle, the uphill climb as an integral part of the journey toward something better.

The next time you feel like giving up, stop. Straighten your wings and try again. Yes, you might fall. But you might fly.


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discovery · fears · health · learning · self

Depression: My Story

Months before I was diagnosed with cancer, I suffered through moderate depression. Living in the Upper Midwest, I often self-treated for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the late, gray months of winter, but this episode came early in the fall and it came hard.

DISCLAIMER about depression: There are many different types and causes. More importantly, there are tons of resources available regarding symptoms and treatment, tests to self-diagnose, and articles/tips on how to manage it. I will not pretend to be a resource nor will I provide medical advice. This is my personal experience. Everyone’s situation is unique. If you believe you suffer from any form of depression, please consult your doctor.

I am a fixer. I do not back away from problems and as a result am an avid seeker of solutions. When people confide their troubles, I want to help make it better. I am no different when it comes to myself. So when I realized what I had, I took action. First, I told a few people close to me and while most were supportive, some were unsure how to deal with it. Much like cancer, people become frightened when someone they love is “sick.” As if they might catch it, too. Or perhaps they are just someone who is afraid they will do or say something wrong.

I had this: I confided in someone important, and they essentially avoided me. No appreciation of my honesty, no acknowledgment of how difficult it was to open up. The sad part is I told them in order to improve our relationship. It had been a bit off because of my actions due to the depression, and I hoped to explain and clear the air. Even in my low state, I wanted to make them feel better. As you might expect, their lack of support was not a good reaction to someone who is already at the wobbly edge of a precipice. It made me feel insignificant, unloved, and a bit ridiculous. I knew what I was going though and yet this person made me question myself even more – as if I was making an excuse for my abnormal behavior. As if it was all in my already mixed-up head. As if I could just get over it. I tell you this because even if others do not recognize the pain, your feelings and needs are real – they matter.

And despite those who tried to tell me it was nothing and would soon pass, I knew better. I knew me. I did not want to linger there. And this – whatever it was – was not right. It was not the person I wanted to be. It was not me.

I was sad more than happy and overly emotional to the point of crying daily. I was impatient, lethargic, and extremely self-critical. I was uninterested in anything or anyone. I was anti-social and fearful. I was without purpose or direction.

I believed no one knew I was lost and even worse, that I would never be found.

My college minor was Psychology so I recognized my plight and knew there were options. With my time, budget, and minor symptoms, I chose basic therapy. (ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: Be wary and do your research, especially if considering online therapy: this is a hotbed for scams and unqualified people who claim to be experts. Seek advice from a trusted medical professional before you do anything). My referral came from my own doctor and over the course of our sessions, the therapist gave me in-depth questions to answer and projects to complete. And when it was all done, I came to realize why I was depressed. Turns out it was more mental than biological, and I was able to determine the cause was my reaction and negative thoughts to something that happened earlier in the year. Looking back, I knew this was the reason but while lost in depression, it becomes difficult to find a way out.

Seeking help provided much-needed guidance, a map for me to work through the messiness and discover ways to improve my thoughts and reactions.

That was over five years ago, and I have not suffered from that type of depression since. Even better, we now live in a warmer climate so I no longer get SAD. Yes, I have been down. Yes, I have been sad and melancholy too many times to count. Heck, I even battled cancer. But thanks to the lessons from therapy, I know to dig deeper and prevent myself from falling too hard. I have not only learned to release the negativity, I have chosen to do it. I am unafraid to seek help when I need it. I try not to belittle my feelings – they are not insignificant or ridiculous, they are real. I no longer blame others, but I also do not blame myself. I have compassion for me.

Often we believe life just happens to us, as if we have no control. And although there is much we cannot foresee or prevent, how we approach this life is a choice. Our reactions are up to us. When there is loss or frustration or hurt or rejection, feel the loss, frustration, hurt, or rejection. But as you work through it do not allow yourself to retreat to the point of no return. Make the effort to move forward and eventually past it. Depression is a part of life for many, but it does not have to be the everyday. More importantly, depression is not a weakness and you are never, ever alone! You do not have to do this by yourself. There are people who will understand. And while finding help is easy, working through the problems might be hard … but I promise, it is so worth it.

Rise above the storm, and you will find the sunshine. — Mario Fernandez


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · fears · relationships · self

What To Do When You Feel Ignored

ignored

There will come a time in life when your needs are not met. A spouse / partner brushes off affections or diminishes your concerns. A family member misses your birthday or other special event. A friend forgets to invite you to a gathering. An employer sidesteps your complaint or idea.  A stranger looks past you and onto another.

We are human. We exist. We are flesh and bone. Real. Tangible. And yet when someone neglects or dismisses us, we feel invisible. Not every time, but when we need the attention to fill a void? It hurts. Bad.

Sometimes we require higher levels of understanding to get us through a rough patch. We often need extra support to help us deal with problems. But most of the time, we simply like to be acknowledged. We seek to be sought after. We hope to be understood. We want to be included, needed, remembered, and missed. 

We want to be seen.

I have been dissed. I have been excluded. I have been forgotten. I have been ignored. We all have. And when that happens, there are a few ways to counteract the blistering effect of rejection:

1) DO NOT ALLOW IT TO GROW – Most of the time we can brush it off, but if you sense a simmering anger over what happened, address it head-on and immediately. If possible, discuss it with the person who hurt you. Be honest but also aware of the damage it might do. Choose words carefully. Remember you are trying to mend the relationship rather than ruin it. If you are unable to discuss it openly, seek to better understand the reason for your reaction and work to move past it.

2) DO NOT INTERNALIZE IT – Realize it is not always about you. Work to find out the Why before worrying about the Why Me. Maybe the other person is dealing with their own troubles. We all battle personal demons at various times and too often we get caught in the steely claws and direct our frustration at someone else. Perhaps they need you more than you need them right now. Being forgotten is not always a sign that you mean less to someone nor is it a measure of your worth.

3) DO NOT JUDGE – The goal is to foster healthy interactions that better you and your life. Criticizing another for a slight slip-up serves no one. If you find yourself putting someone else down in your mind because they did not fit some perfect expectation you have, stop it now. More importantly, be wary of ignoring the person on purpose or making them feel left out as some twisted means of revenge. Chances are they will not even know your intent and it will only leave you bitter. This is not a competition to prove who is the better person.

4) DO NOT MAKE EXCUSES – If the other person hurts you on a consistent basis and with intention, it may be time to leave. People say things and do things to hurt the ones they love, but it should not be a regular occurrence. Blaming yourself or excusing their behavior because of [insert reason here] may be a sign that the relationship is toxic. Whether it be spouse, family, co-worker, or friend, if they purposely make you feel like less, love yourself enough to create distance and let go.

5) DO NOT FORGET TO FORGIVE – We all make mistakes. Whatever happened to make you feel ignored may have been a simple misunderstanding or unintended oversight. Not everything directed at us is tinged with malice or meant to be personal. If the other person has never shown you any reason to distrust or question them, find forgiveness. Allow yourself to feel the emotion but also allow room for some error.

From my experience, I will admit these are not always easy things to do. In the midst of our hurt, it becomes easier to make up stories in our head and focus our anger on others. Placing all of the blame on those who truly care, however, will not erase the pain but only create more – in strained relationships, internal stress, and useless mind games.

In the end, it does not really matter who sees you as long as you make the effort to truly see yourself.

smile


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acceptance · confidence · discovery · fears · happiness

Find Joy In Whatever Comes

playing-children-vector-silhouette

There is an episode of Friends (The One Where Phoebe Runs) in which Rachel and Phoebe go jogging together. Rachel runs like everyone else in the park while Phoebe runs in an awkward manner with clumsy, heavy feet and wild, swinging arms. She tells Rachel it is more fun to run this way but Rachel avoids jogging with her because she is embarrassed. By the end of the show, Phoebe convinces Rachel to try her method of running and when she does, Rachel feels so free and happy that she no longer cares if people stare.

When we become adults, we also become accustomed to being judged and critiqued by others. Too often, the worry of what someone else might think overshadows the desire to do what makes us feel good. What if the other person loses respect for me? What if I don’t live up to their image? What if they no longer want me as a friend? What if they reject me or gossip to another? These fears are often unfulfilled, particularly when it comes to our true friends. But then, there is the added panic that a complete stranger will not accept us as cool or subject us to public ridicule.

Yet if you look back into your childhood, there were things you did freely without concern or consideration of someone else’s opinion. You did it without thought or care because it was what you wanted to do in that moment. It not only passed the time, it made you feel content. For me, that activity was drawing. I would sit for hours, doodling and sketching. I would freehand images from the catalogs and magazines we got in the mail. I loved to draw even if I was not always good at it. My clothing designs were impressive, but I could never get the facial features of my models just right. The other day, I glanced through my son’s notebook – the one he has on hand for whatever randomness – and I saw something that warmed my heart. He had sketch upon sketch of sports uniforms. Front view, side view, back view, accessories. Hand drawn in pencil, imagined in his mind, some colored in, and all imperfectly perfect.

In a world of family and work and home and technology and social obligations, it can become easy to get lost in the realm of responsibility. My son’s images reminded me to not only stop, but rewind to a time and place where I found joy in whatever came.

That evening, I doodled. I drew. I sketched. I smiled. I went back.

quote-frolic


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · fears · letting go · self · simplicity

3 Ways To De-clutter Your Mind

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There are countless tips and tricks to rid the excess stuff from your home, but have you ever considered a purge of your thoughts? Here are three ways to de-clutter your mind and make space for what truly matters.

  1. I COULD HAVE – Release the belief that you have power over every aspect of your life or the lives of others. When something goes wrong or hurts someone we love, it is natural to question our role, as if our actions or words might somehow protect from harm and prevent any bad from happening. Let go of the guilt. Realize there are simply some things you cannot do, people you will never change, and that you are more than enough.
  2. I SHOULD HAVE – Erase the old and negative worry replaying constantly in your head. We are human. We all make mistakes, suffer judgments in error, and feel the course of our lives would be different if we had just done that one thing. Regret is normal and yes, there will be times in your life when one choice or decision will alter the trajectory of subsequent events. But you cannot undo what has been. You can only focus on what might be. Look ahead while learning from the past. Live a life free from regret.
  3. I WOULD HAVE – Let go of trying to convince yourself that if there had just been more of something [time, money, energy, beauty, attention, patience, love, etc.] the status of your life would have turned out better. Look, I mean really look, at what is around you. Home. Family. Friends. Job. See beyond the surface. Gaze within and find gratitude for where you currently are in this world. If you seek to improve an area, by all means do it. But do not forget the best moment of your life is NOW. Do not wish it away.

Replacing a full mind with mindfulness is not easy. It will take time. Be patient but consistent. No more second-guessing. Shed the negative weight of regret, lighten your heart, and realize just how amazing you already are.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE