acceptance · daily life · discovery · learning · letting go

Learning To Live A Messy Life

Some days I am amazing. I get all things crossed off my to do list. I am on time for appointments, sports, and errands. I keep my inbox clean. Housework and laundry are caught up. I exercise. I eat healthy. I prepare meals from scratch. I write, edit, or blog. I listen intently as my husband speaks. I have ample time to relax and snuggle with my son. I connect with family and friends.

And then there are days like today when I simply cannot keep up.

You know the day. The one when you have a ton of things to accomplish but each one a) brings unexpected extra tasks along with it, b) hits a roadblock mid-project and does not get completed, or c) is a pipe-dream because life is happening instead.

All of the above happen to me more and more and when they do, I cannot help but wonder what I am doing wrong. I am a minimalist. I am organized. I have an excellent work ethic.

Why can’t I do it all?

Everyone around me seems to have it together. They look great. (I went to the post office this morning in the same pants I slept in last night). They have kids who are up-to-date with tech, clothes, sports equipment. (My son is in his second season of baseball cleats, and I refuse to buy any new clothes until he wears more than the same four outfits to school). They have tons of friends and do cool things. (I work from home and fear I am becoming more introverted by the day). They post, interact, and connect on social media. (Other than work, I have not posted for weeks nor have I read other posts. Notifications=94, Being Social=0).

My list could go on but the hard truth is: I have given up on keeping up.

Ever since my battle with cancer (in remission almost 5 years!), my body and mind have changed. I can go for days with no problem but then suddenly I am overcome by debilitating fatigue, unable to do anything. And my mind? There are times when it simply shuts down, as if the weight of everything is too much so it collapses in defense.

Before cancer, I would have ignored these signs. Pushed through until I was on the edge of oblivion, believing I had to do everything and do it perfectly. I would become physically ill by the stress. I would not sleep well. My temper and patience would be short. I would sacrifice me in order to please others. I wanted to be productive. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to impress.

I wanted to be strong.  I wanted to WOW.

After cancer, I understood how none of that mattered. What matters now is not getting it all done or doing all things. I matter now. If I cannot do it, I either seek help or move on. And when I cannot avoid being over-scheduled, I simply do my best.

My best is all I can ever do. I have learned to live a messy life.

The upside? My time is spent on things of value and importance. My energy is given to the people who deserve and appreciate it. I…

  • avoid over-thinking
  • follow my instinct
  • release guilt and regret
  • no longer have a fear of missing out
  • make better choices
  • enjoy a deeper purpose

I am strong. And I do WOW (even if I only impress myself). I simply do it on my own terms and at my own pace.

I still feel like I am constantly apologizing or explaining myself to those who have not yet learned to release the pressure. Thankfully most of my friends and family understand and encourage it. They have granted me the incredible gift of letting me be me.

My ultimate hope is you might also shed the burden of whatever weighs you down. Realize that you do not have to keep on keeping up. And when you do, you will learn to love the messiness of life.


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discovery · learning · relationships · self

How To Rise Above The Noise

Too often we hear but do not listen. When someone…

  • opposes our opinion, we seek those who agree.
  • loves us, we wonder why.
  • hurts us, we hurt them back.
  • insults us, we believe them.
  • offers praise, we want more.
  • criticizes us, we try to change who we are.
  • rejects us, we think we are the problem.
  • gives judgment, we retreat.
  • compliments us, we don’t believe them.
  • ignores us, we crave their attention.
  • says something we do not like, we try to ignore it.
  • offers to help, we pretend there is no need.

People do become lost in their own pain and often try to heal the wounds by hurting those around them. In an effort to control the uncontrollable, they speak harsh words and spread negativity without realizing the depth of damage left in the wake.

Others, however, are well aware of their actions and say things with a purposeful intent to cause harm. They try to lift themselves up while knocking someone else down.

And what about those times when we are offered a genuine helping hand or positive reinforcement? We question the motive behind the gift or convince ourselves they do not mean what is said.

Words carry power, but our heart holds more.

Allowing others to steer our emotions and reactions in a direction we do not want or deserve can prove toxic. Over time, it corrodes, removing layers of trust, confidence, and self-esteem until there is nothing left but an empty shell. And although we may not be able to stop the dialogue from others, we can change the conversation in our minds.

If someone…

  • opposes your opinion, open your mind.
  • loves you, love them back.
  • hurts you, seek to understand why.
  • insults you, realize your own worth.
  • offers praise, be proud of your accomplishment.
  • criticizes you, view it as opportunity.
  • rejects you, know you matter and are loved.
  • gives judgment, show yourself compassion.
  • compliments you, say thank you.
  • ignores you, give yourself what they will not.
  • says something you do not like, look for the message.
  • offers to help, accept it.

Navigating through this life can be difficult. The paths are bumpy, the signs hard to read. Sometimes it is about others, sometimes it is about us. Decoding the meaning behind everything is not only exhausting but futile.

Rise above the noise. Stop relying on what others tell you. Learn to listen to your heart.


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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 · discovery · learning · renewal

Dealing With The Dark Side of Life

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When something major disrupts our view of what life should be, it is natural to feel a sweeping range of emotions. Anger. Frustration. Hopelessness. Anxiety. Sadness. Fear. Depression.

Bad things should not happen to good people, but they do. Jobs are lost. Accidents happen. Trust is broken. Health suffers. Mistakes are made. Grief overwhelms. Tragedy touches us all. And when the painful task of living pushes our limits, we wonder … why is this happening? Why must we endure such difficulty? And the biggest question often spoken silently: Why Me?

Every one of us is a unique individual worthy of happiness and all that is good in this world, but we are not so special that we are immune to heartache. The ups cannot be appreciated without the downs. Trying to avoid every negative consequence or potential threat in life is impossible. We can be mindful, love fully, work hard, be diligent, and embrace each moment with gratitude, but the hard truth is we will still be submitted to the dark side of life at some point. Learning to cope with those challenges when they come can be the difference between long-term joy or sorrow, love or hate, confidence or fear, peace or discontent.

The path of Life is a bumpy one, but the bruises do eventually fade. There are lessons to be found in every situation and the process of healing makes room for goals, dreams, and plans for the future.

After my cancer diagnosis, I questioned many things but I refused to ask Why Me. My subsequent treatment carried the proverbial promises: a light at the end of the tunnel, a blessing in disguise, etc. The fight showed how much the people I love matter. It revealed my personal strength and determination and love of life. My eyes opened upon the amazing beauty of second chances. I was reminded that a positive outlook can drastically change the outcome.

I decided my struggle would not be in vain. It would have purpose. I wanted to be a survivor, but I also sought to learn from the experience. Rather than Why Me, I chose to ask Why Not Me?

We are not guaranteed a perfect life and to be honest, I am a bit leery of anyone who has not dealt with adversity. Personal loss, heartache, and challenges teach us to cope when things do not go our way. They force us to peel back the layers, look inward, dig deep, and reveal our true selves. Perhaps more importantly, they give us hope. Emerging from the fog helps us see people and circumstances more clearly. It encourages compassion toward others because we have been there. We understand.

Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles. – Charlie Chaplin

The next time life goes left instead of right, allow yourself to feel the pain of your situation. Do not hide from the reality but do not dwell in self-pity either. For although you may not deserve the challenge placed in your path, you have been given an incredible opportunity to become a better version of yourself. Look beyond the obvious and seek to answer the question of Why Not Me? 

Yes, we will be tested, but it is possible to come out on the other side. For even in the darkest moments the light is still there, just waiting for us to claim it.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

daily life · discovery · learning · simplicity

10 Tips For Mindful Single-tasking

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In this busy, non-stop world, a powerful myth has been formed that multi-tasking is the key to success and happiness.

Juggling multiple tasks can lead to a sense of pride and accomplishment. In many instances, multi-tasking is necessary to complete a huge undertaking such as a household renovation, work project, big move, or major life event. Doing more than one thing simultaneously and stretching our attention is often vital to making it through challenges, milestones, and celebrations. Yet when constant multi-tasking seeps into every facet of daily life, it can prove harmful.

I am a single-tasker. When too much is thrown at me, I stress out. I worry. I do not jump into action and cross things off my list with ease. I freeze. Then I retreat. I am wired to think things through, be methodical. Too much to do in a short time overwhelms me to the point of not wanting to do anything. And while I am entirely capable of putting out many fires at once, I make every effort to avoid it whenever possible.

Many of us strive to meet the dueling demands in any given day but this does not mean a) we are good at it or b) we enjoy it.

Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None
If someone spreads their time and mental focus across too wide a path, they will likely fail at something. Often people who boast at being good at everything are not. And if they dig deeper, they will discover some aspect of their life is suffering: health, self-care, relationship, job, school, social life, home. Multi-tasking is only beneficial when it leaves room for personal well-being, growth, and contentment. If the stress and pull of duties take away from the people and activities you love, it might be time for a significant change.

Do What You Love, Love What You Do
For many of us, the demands are overwhelming and unwanted. Closely monitor your calendar to be sure you do not over-commit. First should be the have-to-dos (basic needs of self and family). Next, add the agreed-to-dos (commitments to family, friends, work, school, church, community). Finally, consider the want-to-dos (hobbies, projects, entertainment). Review your schedule. Living up to promises and responsibilities is important, but there should be ample room left for what matters most to you. Priorities should be at the forefront and consuming the bulk of your time. If they are not, begin to say no to the excess.

TIPS FOR MINDFUL SINGLE-TASKING
1) Go technology-free. Check texts, phone messages, and email when you are alone or without distraction. More importantly, do not try to talk to someone who has eyes on a device rather than you.
2) Seize the moment. When someone you love asks to do something, do it with all you have. When my pre-teen son wants to snuggle and watch a movie, I drop everything and do it.
3) Write it down. If tasks are taking over your ability to think straight, document each one digitally or on paper. Seeing them in print helps with management and does wonders for perspective.
4) Be ruthless. When your list becomes too long or duties pile up, consider what can be put off, re-scheduled, or ignored completely. Immense relief comes from crossing unnecessary tasks off a list and letting go.
5) Compromise. If you cannot separate, strive to focus on one and then another in fair intervals. My husband fields work calls during family vacations by setting aside a few minutes every morning when my son and I are preoccupied.
6) Investigate. When you constantly sacrifice one area in favor of another or it begins to create problems, ask yourself why. Hiding behind duties in order to avoid people or situations might be cause for concern. Excessive procrastination may also be a sign your heart is no longer in a project, and it is time to let go.
7) Be sensitive to the demands of others. Sometimes we have to accept things will not always go our way. My husband travels a lot and when he does, my responsibilities grow. Initially, I fought it, but I have since learned to look at the bigger picture: he loves his job and my support is a huge reason for his attitude and success.
8) Find the magic. Moments of leisure are limited so make them extra special. If you are unaware of the cool trend of Hygge, consider it when you settle in for some quiet time.
9) Release perfection. We often believe we should perform a certain way in order to be a good parent, spouse, child, employee, friend, etc. Everyone has limits, and it is okay to acknowledge them. Giving to people we love is a fulfilling part of life, but be wary of the pressure to mold into a fabricated ideal. If you cannot do something well and with purpose, admit it and ask for help.
10) Find balance. With practice, patience, and understanding, you can learn to handle whatever life throws at you. Distractions are inevitable. Accept there will be chaotic moments and embrace the crazy, but also realize this does not have to be a permanent state.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race
Doing too much at once can give the false idea that we are somehow winning at life, getting ahead of others, or proving our value. Remember the classic fable The Tortoise and the Hare? The speedy hare taunts the slow tortoise into a race. Confident in its ability to win, the hare stops to nap. When he awakes, he is shocked to see the tortoise crawling across the finish line. The lesson? Overconfidence and rushing are not always the best approach. Perseverance, focus, and a little extra time to do the job right can be invaluable measures of success, putting you on a path to living the life you envision.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

daily life · discovery · happiness · learning

Love The World You Made

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I am not Pollyanna. I do not wake up smiling. It usually takes three cups of strong black coffee before I am remotely prepared to spread cheer and sometimes that is not even enough. Since I manage a website about joy, some people may think I have a ridiculously bright outlook or that I am faking happiness.

To be honest, it is a little bit of both.

Cancer opened my eyes – wide. The way I wasted time. The people I spent emotional energy on. The choices I made. I elected to stay positive in my fight so I could become well again. I vowed not only to win the battle but appreciate every healthy moment thereafter. At times, I wore a false smile. I had to. Some days were just too difficult, the journey too daunting. I allowed myself to fall down but more importantly, I sought to be picked up.

Even the gray days were beautiful. And now…

I have a ridiculously bright outlook … most of the time. I am determined to fill the bulk of my days with things I enjoy. I am unafraid to admit I have become extremely selfish. I am selective in how I direct my energy and with whom I spend my time. My focus is on activities and people who matter. If something does not fit into that plan, I say no. I refuse to over-commit or wade in excess.

I also love solitude and after years of believing I was an extrovert, realized I am actually introverted. I embrace it. I no longer hide behind a different label. I no longer pretend to be something or someone else. I am honest with others and unapologetic. Being alone is energizing, and those who know me understand I give whatever and whenever possible. The greatest source of  happiness comes from being true to self and that, in turn, creates a positive outlook.

Our days are limited. Be a little selfish. Focus on what matters. Be you.

I am faking happiness … some of the time. I try to find something good in each moment and when I cannot, I seek out others who might help. I avoid the trap of fake news and rude comments online by blocking or deleting the negativity. I keep my distance from people who choose to see the dark rather than the light. You know the person: the one who constantly complains and drains precious energy. I work to surround myself with all that is right in this world. And when times are really tough, I let the sadness in because I know the joy will soon return. After difficulty and illness and loss, it has always returned.

I do not pretend to be happy if I am not. I simply make an effort to push the good feelings closer to the surface so they can emerge when ready. Do you remember the saying fake it until you make it? If I am stuck in a low place, I look for the person reaching a hand to lift me up. When I am unable to see beyond the bad, I read up on everything good. Gratitude and joy are highly contagious. They spread, infecting us and others. Seek to plant a small bit of positivity in your everyday. Tend it. Nurture it. Watch it thrive and grow.

Train yourself to be a more positive person.

ONE WEEK CHALLENGE: At the end of the day, quickly jot down everything that made you happy. Include even the littlest, seemingly most unimportant things. If it made you smile, add it. If you conquered some fear, add it. If it filled your heart, add it. There are no wrong answers – just do not include anything remotely negative on there. When the week is done, look back upon your list. Those things that made you feel powerful, brought joy, and carried goodness? DO MORE OF THEM.

When we fall, it is so easy to stay there. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. Fear. Hurt. They tempt us with their ability to release what has been bottled up inside. They want us to spew them into the air so they can harm and contaminate others. Misery spreads faster and easier than joy. Staying positive, on the other hand, requires concentrated effort. Do not push away your true emotions. Feel them, acknowledge them, but then release them. Make room for happy.

It is possible to learn a positive approach to life. Be aware it is a work in progress – a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of thing. It does not occur overnight and it is virtually impossible to master, but that is not the point. Simply capturing more of what is good is the goal.

Love more of life. Love the world you made. Love everything.


Something I love? ONE LINE A DAY Journals. I still have one from when I was a girl and have gifted them to others. They are a wonderful way to document highlights and provide a snapshot of daily life. Perfect for anyone looking to record simple memories for themselves or others. Parent, grandparent, new parent, student, newlywed, new homeowner, newly hired … help someone love the world they made!


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE