Day 51 – Our own worst critics

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but at any given time, I probably have at least half-a-dozen blank journals sitting on a shelf somewhere, the empty pages longing to be filled with thoughts and ideas, important words, a story. Yet I always struggle to get things started, to write those first words and mark that first fresh page. Any old words just won’t do.

I want my words to have weight. I want them to matter.

And that desire will often stop me dead in my tracks and make me question whether I really have anything to say worth saying at all.

Yeah, I know. I gotta work on that. I gotta get out of my own damn way.

But that’s just how it is, isn’t it? We are always our own worst enemies, our own harshest critics. So much of the fear and anxiety we feel on a daily basis really just lives in our heads. The situations we find ourselves in, the moments we experience–they’re just moments. The simply exist. They’re here and then they’re gone and they’re benign.

It is what it is.

But it’s the emotion that we tie to those moments that start things spiraling out of control. We get ourselves all worked up and frantic fretting over what if’s and worst case scenarios and building this picture in our minds of how it should be, instead of allowing life to simply unfold as it’s meant to based on the choices we make.

And if all that what-ifing and scenario-building wasn’t enough, what really trips us up is the aftermath, when we carry those moments with us long after they’re gone. We beat ourselves up over the could have beens and should have beens instead of just experiencing the moment.

Letting it in, and letting it go.

And suddenly, something as simple as writing a journal entry can have me wondering if I’m good enough, if I’m just a joke, if I actually have anything to say after all.

I’ve gotten a lot better at keeping myself in check, at not allowing that negative train of thought to keep running out of control. It’s something I have to actively work on and be mindful of every day. It took a lot of hard work and therapy to learn how to temper that negative thinking, but damn has it been worth it!

And I think one of the greatest benefits to learning how to recognize and manage my own self-critic is that it has made me so much more patient and compassionate. We’re all just here trying to do our best while we’re wrestling with our own inner demons, aren’t we? The least we can do is to be kind and support one another. I mean, that’s what we’re here for isn’t it–to love each other and learn how to love ourselves?

Day 36 – Bird’s eye view

It happens to everyone at some point–life just gets to flying by and you’re so busy and bogged down and buried that you feel yourself getting lost in the middle of it. There was a time in my life when these situations may have overwhelmed me, stopped me in my tracks, knocked me flat on my ass. We’ve all had those moments haven’t we? When things just sort of spiral out of control? But what I’ve learned through the years is how to maintain balance, how to stand in that crazy, chaotic space and not let life knock me down.

What can I say? I’m stubborn.

But more than that, I think I’ve managed to develop a pretty decent perspective. And it has a little something to do with this…

“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new suit in a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee like this.” -Special Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks

Maybe I’m a glass-half-full girl. Maybe my default these days tends to be on the positive, looking for opportunities in the challenges. It’s not that I ignore issues or never feel frustration–it’s that I don’t allow myself to get bogged down and wallow in it.

Trust me, I’ve been there. And life is way too short to stay in that negative space and be miserable.

Instead, I make a choice every day–a choice to do the best I can with the circumstances presented to me. I can’t control everything. (Not even close!) But I can control the way I react, and the way I choose to respond. And I’m going to make mistakes along the way. We all do. And I’m okay with that, because I’m going to own those mistakes and learn from them and use what I learn to do better.

It’s been a really busy few days (hell, it’s been a really busy few months, years, decade!), but even in those busiest times, I make a point to be present, to give myself that present, to find the little bits of beauty in every day. And this was one of those moments today, looking up to see some soft snow flurries beginning to swirl outside my window, and a large hawk perched serenely on the bare branch of a tree.

I paused for a moment to admire him, thinking what a gift it is to see the world from that bird’s eye view, having the opportunity to look around at that big picture and not get lost in the details. It was a long day, a busy day, a challenging day. No doubt. But from where I’m sitting and soaking it all in, it was a really good day too. Because every day is a good day, if you get out of your own way and allow it to be..

Day 16 – Find what makes you smile

When you’re exhausted and need to rest, but life just keeps piling things on top of you, find what makes you smile and hold on. Tomorrow is a new day.

Deep thoughts with Electra Romano.

Faith

I wasn’t sure I was going to get a blog post written tonight. Things are a little crazy around here lately (um…yeah…always). But even if we tend to live in a constant state of chaos, things have been a little more chaotic than usual with the kids and Cadence’s activities and work obligations and sickness and all the other little things that just sort of pop up out of nowhere and seem to suck hours right out of our days.

Hell, I was having a hard time even remembering what day it was today. They’re all sort of running into each other at this point.

Yet even with everything that is going on and pulling us in a million different directions and stretching us so very, very thin, I have faith.

Yes, I have faith in God, and yet that’s not all I’m really talking about here (although that is an important part of it all, now isn’t it?). I have faith that we will get through all of this. I have faith that we will get things done. I have faith that we will be able to be strong when we need to. I have faith that one of these days, Mr. Henry is going to start going down for the night and sleeping consistently instead of dragging us along on this rollercoaster of exhaustion that keeps him fussing and waking every 45 minutes or so after we try to put him to bed.

Philosopher Alan Watts once said, “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”

It can be the hardest thing, to let go and trust that you will be able to keep your head above water when every cell in your body is screaming to thrash and fight and SWIM DAMMIT! But forcing yourself to just keep swimming, just keep swimming when you’re paddling so furiously against the current, well folks, that’s a very good way to drown. It takes courage and strength and a helluva resolve, but sometimes, many times, just closing your eyes and taking a deep breath and giving yourself up to float is the only way to survive.

Out here now, in the deep with so many miles yet to go, maybe it’s time to relax and float. We’ll get where we’re going. Just gotta have faith.

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Elf on the Shelf 2015 – Day 13

People always talk about how much your life changes, how much you change, when you have kids. It’s true in a way, I suppose. There are certain parts of my life that have changed immensely. I’m perpetually sleep-deprived. I plan most of my evenings around stories and consistent bedtimes. And a normal day (at least during the baby and early toddler years) usually includes me getting puked on, pooped on, or walking around covered in a thin layer of drool or something unidentifiable and slightly sticky. But as a whole, I’m still very much the person I was before my kids were born. There are parts of myself and my life (like my writing, and my relationship with my husband) that I cling to, because they are things that keep me tethered and make me whole.

A certain level of of chaos is to be expected when you bring a child into your home, and yet I don’t agree with the people who claim that your entire life and world and marriage and identity get turned completely upside down when you have kids. For some people that might be true, and hey, I’m not faulting them for it. We all get to choose how we’re going to approach this thing called parenting. But I tend to think that completely allowing your children to take over your life and your marriage is a very dangerous road to go down, especially if you want to emerge with your partner and your sanity when the kids eventually leave the nest.

Stevie and I certainly aren’t perfect, but the fact that Cadence is still alive and that she’s a really great kid (at least 96.7% of the time when she isn’t overtired and whining) gives us a little hope that our parenting philosophy is working, and that we just might have a chance of our kids growing up to be smart, compassionate, productive members of society.

We try to keep it pretty simple.

1. We’re in charge. End of story. We made you. We wiped your butts. We go to work and make the money. We pay the bills. We make the rules. There is no sense of entitlement allowed here. And this certainly isn’t a house where a kid (be it a toddler, a grade schooler, or a teenager) is going to run the show. Sorry, not happening. As Stevie says (and his Dad once told him), “We’re the King and Queen of this castle. You are our little court jesters. Someday, when you move out, and you are the King and Queen of your own castles, you can make the rules. Until then, we do. Get used to it.”

2. We are a united front against you. There’s no taking a no from Mom and running to Dad to turn it into a yes. Not even a maybe. No means no, and we’re both sticking to it. We started telling Cadence this when she was too young to even understand it, but now she gets it, and I think it just might be one of the reasons she was so excited for Henry to be born, so at least she had someone in her corner to lend a little support to her cause. It’s also the reason we’re perfectly content being a family of four. We’re not interested in being outnumbered.

This December, we are suddenly outnumbered because, let’s face it, inviting a couple of ornery elves in for the month leading up to Christmas is sort of like asking to be thrown into a pool with a school of semi-hungry piranhas–you know there’s some danger present, but you still firmly believe you can survive, even as they begin to nibble at your toes.

So, after a few messes left behind after their late-night junk food binges, Santa decided to step in and help us out a little bit. Thanks big guy.

Cadence and Henry take note.

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Project Life 365 – Day 121 – You Today

As you have probably deduced by the lack of regular posting lately, life around here has shifted into high gear. I gotta say, it’s been one helluva ride.

Yet, unlike other frantic-paced times in my life when everything was spinning out of control and I was doing everything I could just to hold on, this time I feel more like I’m standing comfortably in the eye of the hurricane. I can feel myself being pushed along by the momentum, and yet somehow I am completely unfazed and unharmed by the storm.

It’s funny how the day-to-day chaos of life seems so much more manageable once you find your balance.

The more time I spend here on this earth, the more I realize that is what life is really all about–finding your balance. See, I believe that we are all here for a reason. I believe we were put on this earth to learn, to teach, to connect with our fellow human beings, and to do the absolute best we can with the life and the circumstances we’ve been given. We all have so much to offer…if we can just get out of our own damn way.

There are so many things in this world that can hold us back, so many obstacles we encounter. Yet, the biggest, the one that is always the hardest to overcome, is ourselves. The human mind, with all its capacity for brilliance and innovation, also has the ability to cripple us with fear. It has a way of holding onto negativity, focusing too much attention on trivial things, and trapping us in sluggish, complacent mediocrity.

Just think of what we could do, all the things we could accomplish, if we could just find a way to silence that negative, nay-saying voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not creative enough, not athletic enough, not pretty enough, not artistic enough. On and on and on and on.

Aren’t you getting dizzy?

I’m not perfect. Nowhere near. But if there’s one thing I think I do have going for me, it’s the fact that I have finally found my balance. I’m finally in a place where I can see the bigger picture, where I can look out with keen perspective and make some sort of sense of the chaos.

It wasn’t easy getting here. It wasn’t easy climbing out of the rut I’d spent so much time burying (and barricading) myself in. It took a whole lot of work, a whole lot of soul searching, a whole lot of time and honesty and honestly letting go. It took a conscious decision to be more mindful, to focus on the myriad of blessings that always accompany the hardships. It took a conscious decision to start living in the present moment instead of allowing myself to be completely consumed and preoccupied by what has been and what has yet to be. It took almost dying for me to finally start living, really living, not just walking around on auto-pilot and going through the motions. It took a whole lot of pain and hardship and misery for me to finally begin to understand (and really appreciate) joy.

Life is a two-way street. And it’s up to you to decide which direction you will go.

I’ve always believed that there are situations in life that you are supposed to experience, lessons in life you are supposed to learn, and people in life you’re meant to connect with on a deeper level. Somehow, some way, things happen the way they are supposed to. The universe has a way of nudging us in the direction we need to go, if we are mindful enough to look around and see the signs.

The truth is, we are and always will be our own biggest critics and oftentimes our own worst enemies. But when you’re finally able to strip away all the nagging negativity and the penny ante bullshit, what you’re left with is a deep, unwavering, undeniable and absolute knowing that you are doing exactly what you were born on this earth to do, and that alone can drive and fulfill you in a way that very few people are able to understand.

What we do need at times, though, (to borrow a term from the show LOST) is a “constant”. We need something to tether us, to center us, something that can remind us to pause in the midst of the chaos and just breathe. Sure, we have friends and loved ones who can do that, and our kiddos are really great at getting our attention and redirecting it to the the little things in life that are really the most important. But sometimes when we’re feeling a little lost and overwhelmed and it’s three in the morning and it’s been a long crazy week and that annoying little negative tape starts playing over and over in our heads, making us question ourselves, our work, and our decisions, we need something that can cut through the fog and remind us of what we already know–that this is real, and it’s awesome, and that we’re here to enjoy the ride.

So, here I am today, content in the knowledge that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, surrounded by the people and the things that I love most. I’m tapped in, tethered, connected to something that is so much bigger than myself.

Good and bad, ups and downs, plans and surprises–bring it on. I’m here to enjoy the ride.

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