I Screwed It Up, But I’ll Keep Trying

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Today started out as a good day. I woke up at 4:30, got a quick workout and stretch in, showered, and turned on my Pandora station curated around the music of The Cure. I had high hopes for today.

By the time 6:30 rolled around, I was just about ready to leave the house, looking forward to a few moments to myself in the office to get ahead and think creatively. But then it all went to shit–and I let it go that way. A few small things stopped me from leaving home when I wanted to and instantly, my attitude changed. I left twenty minutes later, but with an attitude that was not even a shadow of the hopeful one I had when I first woke.

My desire for perfection gets the best of me every time. Funny, I know, as I write a blog about the celebration of all things challenging, imperfect and full of courage. But I guess that’s partly why I write it. Those things that I admire, that excite me and motivate me, are also the same things I often struggle with the most.

I dislike the feeling of vulnerability (pretty sure I’m not alone in this) but I’ve done enough research and reflection to understand that vulnerability is as much a part of being human as is strength. I’m constantly seeking examples of strength in vulnerability in order to hopefully one day be more at peace with myself.

I am completely aware that I hold myself (and often everyone around me) accountable to really high standards. I believe that to be better today than I was yesterday, it’s necessary to keep reaching just beyond my capabilities. But when things don’t go as planned, it’s easy for me to forget the truths I know and get caught in that desperate need for perfection. The world starts spinning, I lose touch with the mindfulness and intent I started the day with and I am certainly no better today than I was yesterday, so I’ve lost in more ways than one.

There is a line at the end of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks that says “Live not for battles won. / Live not for the-end-of-the-song. / Live in the along.” Perhaps one day I’ll learn to stop myself before I fall in to my very own perfection-trap. Until then, I’ll continue searching for the courageous and the imperfect and the beautiful which remind me to let go and experience more happiness.

 

 

Why Perfection Is Not Worth Waiting For

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Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65,

or 75, and you never got your MEMOIR or novel written; Or

you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those

years because your thighs were JIGGLY and you had a nice

big comfortable TUMMY; or you were just so strung out on

PERFECTIONISM and people-pleasing that you forgot to have

a BIG juicy creative life, of IMAGINATION and radical silliness

and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going

to break your heart. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN.

— Anne Lamott

Only In The Darkness Can You See The Stars -MLK Jr

martin luther king jrIt’s difficult to write about something as serious as injustice and inequality. I get angry at the general cruelty that people can display towards one another based on biases they carry that have nothing to do with that person at all and I’m often overwhelmed by the amount of discrimination that happens casually and simply every day. Still, I recognize that the ability to recognize how far we have to go to reach equality is a gift from the people who struggled and become a part of the past we now have the pain and privilege to reflect upon.

I’m not really certain I know what fights to fight to make a difference or how to incite change on a macro level. As hard as it is to write about these disparities, the conversations aloud can be even harder to have–leaving everyone involved feeling raw and exposed. But when I look closely at any change that’s ever happened, there’s a theme of small gestures, brief acts of courage,  people stepping up to challenge what is accepted but not right, one meager moment at a time.

So here’s what I tell myself and I hope it might mean something to you as well: When you go to bed tonight, when you wake in the morning, when you’re standing in line at the store, when you’re watching the news or when you’re tucking your kids in at bed, think to yourself, “Could I do one thing better?'”and then do that one thing.

 

Shake It Off–This Could Be Your Best Resolution Yet

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There’s no doubt that emotions have a physical effect on the body. We get scared; we feel stiff, weak and cold throughout the body. We get angry; we get hot and dizzy, our hearts pound heavily. We get nervous; we feel jittery and our hearts race.

The instances are countless in which I didn’t make an active decision on how I would deal with a situation and consequently the emotions that accompanied my perception of the problem really got the best of me. Making that conscious decision is a really tough to do in the thick of things, but failure to do so takes a heavy toll on the mind and body.

Once I read that there are 3 options that provide us the space to move forward when it comes to taking control of our emotions, decisions, actions and to can let go of the hold our emotions have on us long-term.

  1. Confront the problem and create a resolution. The key: stick with the decision.
  2. Compromise on the problem. The key: live with the decision.
  3. Actively choose to ignore the problem. The key: move on–be at peace with this decision and remember that it was your own.

Some situations are more difficult to resolve than others. But one constant is that while we can’t control what other people say, feel, think or do, we can control how we react to the situation. The more actively I practice this, the more I recognize just how much impact my control of emotions, or lack thereof, affect my overall well-being.

There’s a new year beginning and many of us are setting goals to grow and become better than we were the year before. It feels like a great time to adopt a “shake it off” philosophy and choose to control our emotions more instead of letting them control more of us.

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“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and other people build windmills.” Chinese proverb

Read more

“You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Proverb

Read more

Through Service, We Realize How Deeply We Are All Connected

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Service. If I could pick one word that affected my experiences in 2014 most deeply, it would be service. I have had the extraordinary pleasure of working with hundreds of people to serve our community, start meaningful and important conversations and create change where change needs to happen.

The thing that strikes me most about service to others is that the more if it I give, the more inwardly I am changed myself.

Here are a few things that I have discovered throughout my journey:

1. It’s not just what we do that matters, it’s the inner force behind our actions that really count.

The act of service is imperative to create change in the world but when coupled with inward transformation, it can really affect the world in a radically different way.

2. We are all connected.

Over time, through service and reflection, you realize how much we are all connected. Service is not the same as helping. When we view service as helping, it’s as though we are giving something to someone who has less than us and we inadvertently create an unequal relationship. True service, I believe, happens when we are aware and grateful for the things we are afforded in our own lives, and in turn, share those skills and resources with others. True service deepens our understanding of the ways we are all connected.

3. There are a million different “right ways” to view the world.

When you stop focusing on “what’s in it for me” and consider the ways you can contribute, you start to realize how abundant your life really is. Your mindset shifts from consumption to contribution and ironically, the more you practice focusing on the ways you can give, the less you feel depleted and in need.

“When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole.” –Rachel Remen

Be Grateful In Any Circumstance

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“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Henry James

When I was little, I used to love visiting my grandfather in Pennsylvania. I would play with the two teddy bears that lived on his bedroom chair that kept my place when I was not there. He would take me down to the shuffle board court for a game and then rough house with me in the pool, without a care about the other “retirees” who looks indicated we were too loud and rowdy. There were always the smooth little mints, pink, green and yellow, topped with tiny white dots, piled into the crystal candy dish and I always assumed they were put there for me.

Perhaps this is the view from the eyes of an only grandchild. But I believe that partly, this is the view from the eyes of a child. The world belonged to me and I belonged to my grandfather.

Eventually, when I was grown, I look back on those times and realize that life was much more intricate for the adults in my life than I noticed at the time. And although I know those things now, I still choose to relive the memories the way the five-year-old me lived them.

Last night, my grandfather passed away. And even though his life was long and full of wonderful things, death has a way of reminding you of the things you no longer have or of the way things once were. But what I know is that no matter what I feel at the moment, I can choose to see every moment in front of me as a blessing and work even harder to bring joy and kindness to the lives of others, knowing that those things might someday become someone else’s memories.

There’s a reason that people actively practice gratitude–it heals. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own world, that we fail to see the little gems of good that exist despite our own discomfort or difficulties. Remember, when you can find the strength, be grateful in any circumstance. Maybe one day, when you really need it, someone also works to find grace in every situation, will bring peace to you too.

Why We Should All Find Courage To Fail More

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Residents were outraged in the town of Reading, PA in November when the city erected a very sad-looking Christmas tree in town center. Residents were so bothered by it that their disapproval made national news. The City Council president even led a charge to have the tree replaced.

When I first heard the story, I thought of my own Christmas tree experiences growing up. Each year, dad and I headed out to pick our tree and my mom would remind us to pick a tree that was “healthy, full and not too large.” And each year, dad and I would return with what my mom called a “Charlie Brown Tree.” My intentions were good–I never meant to ignore my mother’s requests–but as we walked through the rows of trees, there was always that one, you know the tree I’m talking about, the straggly, half-dead already tree that was missing branches on an entire side, was entirely too tall for the amount of needles left on its limbs and typically, it leaned drastically to one side, which would cause the ornaments to fall of the day we put them on.

I felt sad for the residents of Reading, PA who thought that their Christmas tree was an embarrassment. I wished they could see it for its beauty and purpose–to bring people together and create a sense of connection with one another.

This week, a new report came out–the city had decided to embrace their “ugly” tree and even dubbed it a “Charlie Brown Tree.” People were coming from all over the country to see the tree and celebrate it’s imperfection and beauty.

Reminiscing over my own love-affair with the “Charlie Brown” imperfections in life, I realize that it’s easier to embrace them when they are imperfections that are not my own. The things I view as strength and courage in others because of their imperfection, I typically view as inexcusable failures in myself.

It’s terribly hard to embrace things that have the potential to make us feel vulnerable, exposed or not-enough. Lately, I haven’t written much. It’s not that I don’t want to, I’ve just let the fact that I haven’t had the same luxury of time to write stop me from writing anything, in fear that it wouldn’t the best I could do. Working out has sadly the same theme. Sidelined for a few months after foot surgery, I’ve let my disappointment of losing my normal “fitness” level stop me from finding the time to do anything at all. And because I’ve been traveling a good bit the last month, I told myself that I shouldn’t even bother putting up a Christmas tree, since it wouldn’t be the quality of spirited decorating that I typically dedicate to this time of year. In the case of each of those things, I let my perspective that I would not do them well enough stop me from doing them at all, robbing me of the happiness I know I would get from them if I just tried.

Maybe there’s nothing to the story of tree in the town center of Reading, PA other than was something the media latched on to and made popular. I choose to see it as a great reminder that what is not-enough for some could be perfect to others. It’s a reminder to embrace my own imperfections and live more authentically because of them, not despite them. Everyone loves a good underdog success story but someone’s got to muster up the courage to be that underdog after all.

I Am Thankful For Possibility and Courage

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It starts with reflection. This time of year lends itself to loads of it. What am I thankful for? I am thankful for  memories of my grandmother who cherry scent of Jergen’s and Aquanet I can still imagine. I’m thankful for Grace and Suzie, who have reminded me to be be young and silly and for my little sister, another beautiful Grace in my life, who embodies what her name truly is.

I’m thankful for my parents, who are at home with my little blind rescue dog who has a biting habit. I’m thankful for Matt–we’ve both always said that we’re “just quirky enough” for one another and for his family who have shown me different ways of viewing the world.. I’m thankful for Jaime, an amazing woman who rescues animals. While we’ve only met in person once, I feel  very connected to her. I’m thankful for Ellie, Sommer, Katie , Lisa and Beth–they are exceptional at being who they are and allowing me to do the same. I am thankful for the job I have, the people I work with, the community I serve, the groups I belong to, the people in my life, too many to name all at once, and the many other blessings I probably take for granted every day.

Still, in the spirit of reflection, humility and gratefulness, I realize that I am thankful for the things I don’t naturally view as blessings. I am grateful for the things I am afraid of, for the mistakes I’ve made and the failures I’ve overcome. I’m thankful (now) that I have always felt a “little different” because in hindsight, fitting in was never my purpose. 

As you reflect on the things that you are thankful for, please don’t let fear of losings these things stand in your way of experiencing them to the fullest. Be grateful that you have choice and control in your own lives. Please don’t be afraid to do new things, meet new people, try a new job, do something outside of your comfort zone, or in some cases, stay true to yourself even when everyone around you seems determined to conform to the opposite. 

If we allow ourselves to stretch beyond what we know and what we are certain of we will never run short of the endless amount of things we could be grateful for–we should always push ourselves to find them. 

 
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