There is a sign that lives above my desk that reads “Celebrate the Successes.” It’s something my sister once told me as I related to her how I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy and stagnation. About how life sometimes just feels so hard and how everything feels like just one long series of failures.
We had that conversation long ago, maybe last year, maybe the year before. I can’t remember, but the paper the sign is printed on is pretty tattered, so it certainly wasn’t recently.
And yet, today I need it more than ever.
Because life is hard, yo. It’s a constant struggle. And, yes, it still feels like one long series of failures.
I was going to come here to whine about just how hard it all is and how low I feel right now, but then the sign caught my eyes and I realized that maybe, just maybe what I need today is a moment celebrating the successes instead of going over the list of failures one more time.
I have work. I even enjoy some of it.
I’m successfully working from home.
The kids are having great years.
I’ve started working on a new novel.
I’m making time to make more family meals.
I’m making more time to walk and take care of myself.
I’ve cultivated and nurtured some amazing friendships.
When I stop to think about the successes in my life, both big and little, it’s like a weight lifts from my shoulders and the dark clouds over my head get a little less heavy.
It’s been a rough few weeks. So much angst and worry and sadness. So many burdens to shoulder. I know I’m not the only one struggling this month. I see it all over Facebook and among my friends. January is hard. Brutally, unapologetically hard. It’s good to stop and remember that finding a little light to make the darkness more bearable is within our reach.
The other day when I was organizing my office, I moved the signs on my wall around. I think I need to move this one sign back to where I can see it easily so I keep reminding myself that success lies everywhere and it’s up to me to look for it.
I have this vision of myself, later at some indistinct time in my future, in a house with a yard. It’s a cozy house with lots of snug areas to sit, with a warm comforting kitchen that is more welcoming than functional.
The me that I imagine I’ll be then isn’t lithe, nor is she overweight, she’s an indistinct somewhere in between. She’s somewhat inspired by the maternal figure in Trixie Belden, or at least as I remember her, portly, busy baking pies and cooking for anyone who might be over, and also by other literary figures who have charmed me over the years.
The thing about this me of the future is that she’s secure in the knowledge that people love her exactly for who she is and how she makes them feel, and not because she’s dressed in a particular style, or looks a particular way. She’s just very comfortable being herself.
She putters. She wears flowy colorful clothing clearly designed for comfort and not for looks. She brews tea at all hours of the day. She hand-writes quotes and hangs them all over the place. She has notebooks stashed everywhere in case inspiration strikes.
She’s always ready to have people drop by for a treat, a cup of something warm to drink, a chat in the yard or in the cozy kitchen.
She’s got advice if it’s wanted and an ear if it’s needed.
I like to think that she’s a safe haven because she’s so secure in her acceptance of herself as she is.
Occasionally I see glimpses of this me I hope to someday become.
The handwritten notes are already populating my office walls. The tea is already a fixture.
It’s the rest that still eludes me. That feeling that I could wear anything that makes my soul feel at peace and not worry about what others might think or say.
Once in a while I spot an item and think, “I need that. I must have that. Because one day that’s who I’ll be.” Usually I demure. And sometimes I don’t.
Which is how I ended up ordering the one piece romper jumper thing that everyone was talking about one day on Facebook. It’s utterly ridiculous, and yet my soul cried out for it and my wallet didn’t balk at the $14 price tag.
The package arrived and sat untouched for over a month. I couldn’t bring myself to face the ridicule, knowing how much I would love having it on.
The other day, I finally found the courage to try it on. I swooshed around the house, loving the feel of the fabric flowing around my legs, relishing the utter freedom of the endless comforting material.
Then I saw my daughter’s face, half smiling/half afraid that her nutty mother might actually wear this thing out in public, and I changed out of my romper and tucked it away.
It’s ok. I get it, I really do. And I’m not entirely ready to be that person anyway.
So, for now, I’m happy to let it sit there, in my closet, waiting for the day that I’ll finally be that person whose self-assurance shines through so brightly that what she drapes over her body isn’t what people will see first.
And maybe on quiet days, it’ll come out to play.
In the meantime, I’ll smile at the knowledge that I’m not the only one who bought the romper while it was on sale. The Facebook frenzy about it is enough to tell me that I’m not the only one who dreams of one day being that self-assured woman.
I look forward to sharing a cup of tea with them in the not so distant future.
Please note, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the links above include my Amazon affiliate link. Should you click on them and purchase something like maybe a book to treat your inner child or a romper to tempt your future self, I’ll earn a teensy tiny portion of the sale and I will be endlessly grateful.
“Just show up.” In the parenting world, there’s recently been a lot of talk about showing up, about how sometimes, that’s all that matters, the act of being there, of coming, of being present where you’re needed. How sometimes, the rest will happen on its own, as long as you just show up.
I’ve thought about that a lot in the last few months. I’ve thought about it as I tear myself away from my computer to stand by my husband outside the school gates at the end of the day. He could go on his own. I could go on mine. But we’re showing up.
I’ve thought about it when I go in to kiss my girls good night and feel crushed by the thought of the million ways I could have been more present during the day. I shut down that train of thought and show up in that moment. Those three minutes when a few tender words of love and support are exchanged.
I’ve thought about it on nights when I haven’t read the book club book and wonder if maybe I should just skip it this month. Or when a girl friend texts to say she wants/needs to meet for coffee.
A million times it would be easier to stay put, miss out, not go. A million times I choose to not overthink it and just show up. A million times I’m grateful I did.
There’s another phrase that pops up in my Pinterest feed distressingly often, proving just how much it must resonate with others. “Live, don’t just exist.” How many others sit there and stare at that phrase, wondering if they’re living enough or if they’re just going through the motions? How many feel exhausted by the mere thought?
But here’s the thought that hit me today as I was driving home from a meeting so dull I swear the dust motes in the room all left in protest. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing it all with intent.
It’s about showing up and doing the dishes and the laundry.
It’s about showing up to pack the lunches and check the homework.
It’s about showing up to get the groceries and put them away.
It’s about showing up and making the beds and walking the dog.
It’s about showing up at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It’s about showing up and doing the work your family needs you to do.
It’s about showing up and listening and then saying what needs to be heard.
It’s about showing up again and again and again, even when you’re bone tired and don’t remember why you’re doing it all in the first place.
And it’s about doing it all with intent. Choosing to show up.
It’s about realizing that not everyone does, and that the fact that you do is a choice that you make every single time you do what you do.
It’s incredibly easy to meander through life without ever really making any conscious choices. When you show up with intent to your every day life, you’re not existing, you’re living. And even if it doesn’t look any different to any observer, the difference you feel inside is all that matters.
Show up. Be intentional. Live your life. You only get the one.
I’ve written a lot of posts sharing my truths. You can find them all here:
I attended a meeting at my mothers’ group last week that was all about making space for ourselves in the chaos of our lives. The speaker, a good friend of mine, pointed out that people tend to be bad at making time for the things that feed their souls. And, when you don’t feed your soul, you’re tired, you don’t have the energy you need to get through every day, and you slowly lose your passion for life.
She’s right. 100% right.
But she sent me into a terrifying tailspin of introspection. Because, as it so turns out, I have no idea what really feeds my soul.
I spent the week pondering this baffling concept and, as I am wont to do, I ordered a few books to see what I could do about figuring out what makes my happy little clock tick.
The books arrived yesterday and I dove into Shonda’s book first. Yes, a book. A paper book. Because I wanted to highlight things and put post-its and mark it all up. And yes, I did at one point tap a page and wonder for a second why it wasn’t turning. Sigh. Creature of habit, I am.
I’m almost 2/3rds of the way through and already the book has helped me shift some thinking around.
My whole life I have lived reactively. I have acted the way people expect me to act. I have achieved what people expect me to achieve. I have done the things people expect me to do. I have happily molded myself to these expectations and done them all quite well.
Every so often, I have stepped out of the bounds of expectations and branched out a bit. I moved to the other side of the world to give a relationship a chance. I spent a year rocking my baby and writing a novel. But for the most part, I just happily conformed.
And filled my life with the business of living up to the expectations.
It’s not a bad life by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just a bit lacking in the “me” department sometimes.
Which, let’s be clear, is 100% my fault.
My love language is steeped in acts of love and acts of service. I live to serve. Literally. I am at my happiest when I am doing things for others. It is no surprise that I have gone almost 40 years quite happily fulfilling expectations. I’m sure I’ll go at least another 40 doing more of the same.
I just also need to remember to do things for me.
Earlier this week I listened to a podcast for entrepreneurs as I took a walk with the dog and I found myself mulling over one snippet that caught my ear. “Always create before you consume,” Mari Forleo, the podcast guest encouraged. Don’t let other people’s creations dim your own creativity.
I thought about it for the rest of the walk and for much of the following day.
I’m a creative individual, but I always put my own creations on the back burner. They’re low on the to do list. In fact, every morning, I start off the day by reading my email and diving into Facebook.
Before I’m fully awake, I’ve already dipped into the lives, feelings, and creations of 50 or so other people.
Before my brain has fully engaged, it’s full of other people’s thoughts.
I looked at the situation from Shonda’s point of view this morning and wondered how she would turn this into a way to say Yes to myself.
I didn’t berate myself for this deeply entrenched habit. I simply decided to say Yes to myself and to my creativity.
Instead of opening Facebook, I pulled out my journal. Wrote for 5 minutes, sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by the girls and their morning chaos. Then I picked up my phone and I deleted the Facebook app.
I’ll still be on Facebook. It’s part of my job. But I’m going to see if I can manage without it on my phone.
I’m going to replace all those wasted minutes as I wait for kids, as I sit at a red light, as I wait in line at the grocery store with more observation of my surroundings, more thoughts, more time for me.
I’m curious to see how it works out.
*Please note, the links to the two books are affiliate links. Should you click on them and buy something from Amazon, you’ll be helping feed my book habit. The spouse and I will be very grateful.*