A Letter to My Little Sister

A Letter to My Little Sister

 

To my incredible sister, Grace,

It  feels like forever ago when we got our faces painted at Halloween and you turned me in to a zombie by wrapping me in toilet paper. Now here you are, sixteen and nearly done with high school, dancing the night away at Prom and getting ready for your first job. I’m so grateful that we were brought together over eight years ago and have been watching you in awe, as you tackle each new challenge with grace and courage. So here it is, my advice for you, as your sister, with love.

Make plans in pencil and not permanent marker, then forge ahead. Things will not always work out the way you hope. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Start again.

Be open to change. Change can be painful and a good thing all at once. Adapt and roll with the punches. Trust me on this one, start practicing now and never stop. It will make you better in your career, your relationships and in the ways you interact with the world.

Invent and reinvent yourself.

Approach social media with respect and caution. You are growing up in a world where privacy is pretty much nonexistent. Everything you do is posted, recorded, snapped. Don’t get me wrong, I love it–this is the way we live now, there’s no going back. But understand that people are watching. What you post on the internet doesn’t go away. It’s really hard to undo social media mistakes. Not everything is worth posting.

Another thing about social media–don’t let it make you feel bad. People post their best selves online. They show the happy, romantic, sexy, beautiful moments, full of filters and staged poses. Not many people share the ugly moments, the mistakes, the failures and embarrassments and the tough lessons. Just remember, we all have them. We All Have Them.

Believe in love. It’s real and the world is full of it. Don’t be afraid of a broken heart. It gives you character.

Give yourself permission to be sensitive. You’ll hear that sensitivity is a bad thing. You’ll be told not to let people see you cry and to not let your guard down or you’ll get hurt. This is nonsense. It takes courage to be sensitive and guts to let your guard down. Only the bravest of people can do these things. You are brave.

Read a lot of books. It’s okay to rip the dust covers off of them–there’s often something beautiful underneath. Underline the words that touch you, the phrases that make sense, the paragraphs that shape you. Don’t just stop at books. Read everything. Everything you can.

Have many points of view. I have to relearn this every day. It’s easy to get stuck seeing the world one way. But good things come from perspective.

Try not to let people down but don’t sacrifice your own well-being. Trust your intuition and you’ll continue to get better at it. Have high standards and resist the urge to compromise your core beliefs. You have every right to say yes, to say no, to quit, to be seen, to be heard, to take your time, to change your mind. Life meets you where you honour yourself.

Home is not a place, it’s a feeling. You’re going to make new friends and have new experiences in the years ahead. Stay close to your family and love them unconditionally. You and I have a special understanding of what family truly is, remember that.

You’re going to screw up. I have made many mistakes, some bigger than others. It hurts, but perfection is not an option, so prepare yourself. “They” say that it’s not the mistakes you make that define you, but the way you deal with them. Embrace your failures and don’t regret them. The toughest moments, not the easy ones, will propel you to be incredible.

Love yourself. Don’t let the bad hair day, the “huge” pimple, the bad grade, or the criticizing boyfriend make you think anything less of the incredible person you are. And as you do this, remember not to put others down either. Be kind and generous, and never assume you know what someone else is going through.

Trust your intuition. Fight for the good things in this world. Forgive people. Choose happiness. Don’t grow up too fast. Be proud of who you are. Shine. Shine big. Take chances and do good things for those around you. And remember, dear Grace, I will always be on your side; you are never alone.

 

 

 

 

Wherever You Go, There You Are

here

I can’t remember where I heard or read the phrase, wherever you go, there you are, but those six words have replayed in my head so often in the last five months or so that it’s become a habit to say them out loud every time I’m feeling anxious about circumstances I can’t control or worried about nearly anything.

For me, wherever you go, there you are, is a reminder to be at peace with the immediate present and at the same time, it helps me see the past and future also in the same perspective. Whatever happened, happened and the past is a truth that is what it is (i.e. wherever I was, there I was). And for what lies ahead, whatever will happen, will happen–wherever I go, there I will be.

Mantras have played a great role in my life. I’ve always been in constant mental-chatter. I talk to myself all day long. I know how strongly negative thoughts affect my actions, so I practice awareness and adopt sayings or phrases that bring me back to a positive space when awareness begins to escape me. When I was a young runner, my first coach taught me how to be in the moment when tackling a difficult hill or terrain. Instead of denying that I was experiencing the pain from the hill, she taught me to repeat, I love hills, and so, I conquered them one by one. Sometimes, it’s not a phrase, it’s a word, like strength and focus.

I’ve been up today since about 3:30. I went to bed wired and alert, and found myself in the exact same place just a few hours later, so I gave up on sleep, planted on a chair in front of the fire and researched the phrase I’ve been repeating to myself. As it turns out, it’s the title of a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who, in his book, writes “Just watch this moment, without trying to change it at all. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear?”

Life unfolds in the present. In the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend who, whenever she sees a beautiful place, exclaims in a near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” “It takes all my persuasive powers,” writes Gilbert, “to try to convince her that she is already here.”

Phrases and mantras of positivity and encouragement are like a ladder that helps us reach a little higher than we could without it. I keep mine in a mental catalogue and reach for each of them often. For now, the words I choose to carry with me are simple and six,  wherever you go, there you are.

Make Life Easier: Look For The Positives In Every Experience & Eliminate The Negative Self-Talk

Live United

One popular American thing to do on the Fourth of July is to participate in a run. I’ve been doing this since I was little. I can remember lining up with dozens of others at a chalk drawn start line on a busy road, closed off for the race, almost always in the scorching heat, and feeling the excitement of being a part of something bigger than myself. 

The Fourth of July race hasn’t changed much. Sure, the distance and location has varied for me over the years, but the run itself remains the same. Only, this time around, I caught myself feeling differently about it. I’ve been injured, running used to be easier and also, running has not been the main focus of my life in the last few years. 

After the race, friends and family will ask, “How was your run?” 

This is what has really changed. 

Once it was “It was awesome. I’m so happy I started the day like that.”

Eventually, it became “It was okay. I placed 5th for my age group and I just know I could have been 3rd if only I held out a little longer.”

One year, I answered “I didn’t run. I’m not conditioned well enough.” I knew I could have run it but my pride stopped me from getting out there. 

Finally, last year, when the question was asked, I simply answered “It was good.” And secretly inside I was disappointed in myself for not being better, faster or placing higher. 

As the same tradition lays ahead, I know tomorrow morning, hundreds of runners, walkers, friends, family and community members will crowd the pavilion where the local race starts and finishes. I think back to the last few years of Fourth of July racing and cannot remember my place or performance.

I can, however, remember meeting my group of running friends and pushing each other through, racing each other for fun for the last 100 meters. I remember winning a gift certificate to a local burger joint as part of the raffle and laughing that the vegetarian in our group won that one. There were breakfasts at the local diner afterwards where we ate stacks of pancakes and planned our next get together.

Two years ago, I ran the race with my best friend–she was 7 months pregnant with twins. It was my first run with the three of them. And I remember how I felt last year, running again with my best friend, but also with the girls in their double stroller, smiling and enticing even bigger smiles from spectators. 

But until I stopped to really think about the lasting memories I had from my runs, I was focusing on the wrong things. It’s important to take note of the things we say to ourselves and about ourselves to others. Negative self-talk can quickly take over what has the potential to be a really positive experience. The times when I have given in to my own negativity are the ones I don’t have much else to remember those experiences by. Choose to live more positively. 

Lead Like A Woman

Woman

I am a woman. 

I believe in empathy, caring, giving. I believe in serving and empowering others. It does not mean I cannot negotiate or make tough decisions.

Once, just before a business meeting,  a client joked that he was just waiting for me to come in and say I’m pregnant. We’ve never discussed my personal life in that manner. I realized he was saving the business conversation for my male colleagues who were soon to arrive.

I wear skirts. And heels. I paint my nails and have a penchant for bright colors. And I am damn good at my job. If that last statement makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why.

I know how to turn the other cheek–to look the other way and go on doing what I do. I know that people don’t always think about the stereotypes they uphold. I’m able to ignore it and get the job done. But I also know that I have a little sister and two small nieces that are watching what I do.

They should not have to learn to get the job done in spite of being a woman. I want them to celebrate every iota of who they are. I want them to know it’s not about being a man or a woman–it’s about being authentic and real and spectacular.

Let’s not shield girls from how unbalanced the world can be. Let’s show them how to blow it all up, cut through the bullshit and lead a remarkable life.

Let’s not settle.

I Will Never Forget Who I Am

Be-Authentic

To Ellie, With Love

 

To Ellie, With Love

The first time I felt really ugly I was in fifth grade. I was practicing for the school talent show with 5 girls whom I considered my friends. As it came time to decide the lineup, one girl spoke up that “Erin should be in the back because she’s a little too chubby to be in the front line.”

I wasn’t chubby. Actually, I was quite the string bean in fifth grade. And I never forgot those words.

In high school I kept up my quest of figuring out who to be. Even though my English teacher told me I was a remarkable writer and I was one of the fastest girls on the track, nothing I did seem to compare to the beautiful girls that seem to float on air and effortlessly command attention from anyone in proximity.

I had plenty of friends, I truly liked people and I thought I didn’t like myself. Years and years later, I figured out that I just never accepted who I had the potential to be. And I never forgot how little I felt.

Around the time I had to start making some decisions on what I would do after high school,  I had run at an invitational at Virginia Military Institute. I talked to a recruiter there and even though there were less than a handful of women attending, I felt like this was something I could do and do well. I told one of my coaches, the one who was really a football coach there to train his off season players and using “track” as the way to do it. He told me I would never survive that school.

Who knows if I really would have survived there but I did not go to VMI. I stopped running and went to a school where I thought I would “fit in.” I never forget how intimidated I was by opposition.

I’ve been told I’m too pushy, I don’t know enough and that I could stand to loose some weight. I have been accused of being too private even when I thought my life was an open book. I have been told I was great at what I did but sometimes I should just be happy with where I am and not constantly seek more.

I used to listen to it all.

And then one day I started to take baby steps back from my life. I began to see myself for who I really was instead of what I thought everyone else thought that I was. And I learned to press on because nobody’s life is quite how they once pictured it to be. We are all striving for someone else’s perfect. It’s just an ideal and it doesn’t exist.

Along the way, I gained enough confidence in myself to recognize when there were people in my life that truly saw me for who I was. It took a lot of practice, but eventually, I let them in. And my life has never been more rewarding.

I’m writing this for anyone who may come across this post. I’m writing this for everyone who has listened to critics and in return become their own worst critic. I’m writing this for my friends, family, roommates of the past, coworkers, classmates and people I’ve only briefly met one evening while standing in line at the grocery store. I will never forget how much you’ve shaped my life.

And most of all, I’m writing this for my best friend. She is beautiful and opinionated and has taught me to trust and forgive. She is full of courage, though she’ll never admit it. She is comfortable in her own skin. She is great a mother. She is a wonderful leader. And this week, she has reminded me that everyone feels vulnerable–even her. And I will never forget how important that vulnerability really is in all of our lives.

 

Let’s Look At Women They Way They Really Are

We’ve all seen it: The picture of the young, fashionable woman, with perfectly sculpted arms, white teeth and a juicy looking cocktail in hand laughing like she’s having the time of her life while talking to a man at a bar. Conversely, we’ve all seen the one of the disheveled woman, looking stressed, hair out-of-place, with a crying child in her arms and an apron around her waist, juggling the telephone and child while standing in the kitchen.

On Monday, in collaboration with LeanIn.org, the nonprofit founded by Sheryl Sandberg with the purpose of empowering women, GettyImages launched a collection of more than 2,500 images of “female leadership in contemporary work and life.” (GettyImages)

This new collection of powerful images of women are hopeful and inspiring to those who believe we can change the world, one picture at a time.

View the full collection: GettyImages / Read more about it: LeanIn

 

Compassionate Eye / Getty Images

Compassionate Eye / Getty Images

 

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

 

Thomas Barwick / Iconica / Getty Images

Thomas Barwick / Iconica / Getty Images

 

 
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