A letter to my younger self

young karla2

This week is my 39th birthday! I don’t know if it’s having the last birthday in my thirties and that I’m officially arriving at middle age, or maybe it’s watching my eldest son go through some of the same tough emotional things that I struggled with in my youth, whatever the reason it’s been a season of reflection.

There are some things that haven’t worked out so well, some extremely trying times, sadness, and heartache. I’ve made my share of mistakes over the years, but I can’t say that I really have any regrets. I’ve equally had great times, laughs, amazing friendships, love, success, and many other blessings. It’s true what they say, the bad times really make you appreciate the good times! What’s important is that you keep believing in yourself, pick yourself up and keep moving forward, always learning from your experiences.

I thought it might be fun to write a little letter to my younger self. Maybe it will strike a chord with others out there, maybe there will be a little something that you can share with your youngsters, maybe it will even have some positive or reassuring impact on my kids. So, here we go!

Dear Precious Child,

Let me start out by saying, you’re going to be alright! I know you have days, maybe even several days strung together, where you doubt yourself, your worth, if anyone truly loves you, your skills, and your decisions. Hang in there, keep your chin up, you’re special and it will all work out!

You’ll have those days when it seems like nothing goes your way. School was hard, you’re not really understanding how to do the assignments, you’re arguing with your siblings, your parents seem upset at you, there may be chaos at home, and you just wish you could catch a break. You feel like you want to curl up in a ball and hide out in your room under the covers of your bed. Tears burn your eyes, but you don’t really know what to do.

Sweet Child, we all have strengths and weaknesses. So, maybe history isn’t your strong suit, but you know you’re a wiz with numbers and you love to write. Do your best at those things that don’t come easily, don’t be afraid to fail, keep trying, it’s okay. Know that those things that do come easily will end up serving you well. As you grow older and move on into college, you’ll be able to pick courses that are more suited for you. Then one day you will have an ah-ha moment where you realize how to make those things you’re good at into a career. You’re smart, enjoy the learning journey, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

Siblings, let’s just say that anyone who is an oldest child understands how annoying little brothers or sisters can be. Especially when we are younger and they look up to you so much. They want to do all of the things you do and be into all of your stuff because they want to be just like you. They are seeking your approval and want to be in your inner circle, after all you’re so cool! Try to have some patience. The bond you have is special and believe it or not, one day you will grow past this awkward stage and they will be one of your closest friends. They understand things about how you grew up that others may never fully comprehend. You’ll have memories and fights that you’ll look back on and laugh. I know it’s hard now, but one day you’ll be so thankful for your siblings.

It’s hard to understand when you’re young, but your parents are honestly just two people doing the best they can to raise you. There was no handbook provided to them when you were born that tells them how to do it, they are figuring it out as they go. Just like you’re figuring life out as you go. Life is a continual learning process. Here’s the bottom line, no matter how it seems in the moment, whether they are happy or angry, they LOVE you. Your parents are so proud to call you theirs. They are your biggest fans, your biggest critics, your biggest support system, your biggest gateway to adulthood. They are spending countless hours worrying about you, trying to help you, feeding and clothing you, working extra hours to give you things and provide for you, and they want nothing more than to turn you into a responsible, kind, and successful adult. Their entire mission in life, after becoming a parent, is to take care of you and turn you out into the world fully prepared to conquer anything that comes your way!

There are times when you’re younger when it seems like your parents will be around forever, it’s like they are superhuman in some way and will always be there. As you grow older, you’ll realize they aren’t superhuman after all. They won’t be around forever. So it’s your job to make the most of the time that you have with them. All of those calls from your mom just to check in, all of those quiet moments just hanging out with your dad, and those fun family dinners and trips; soak them up, time is fleeting.

If you think the chaos at home can sometimes be overwhelming, just wait until you’re out in the real world on your own. You’ll be trying to balance a job, maybe continuing your education, possibly a parent yourself, giving time to friends, family, and your romantic interest. All the while you’re keeping your house clean, groceries stocked, gas in your car, and laundry done. Good luck! It’s tough to be an adult, but you’ll do fine.

Speaking of being an adult, you have only so many years to be a child or teenager, so go ahead and be a child or teenager. Don’t be in a big yank to be an adult. Let yourself be young, carefree, have fun, experience new things, live fearlessly. The day will come soon enough that you are truly an adult. With that comes lots of responsibility and you’ll have to do things you don’t necessarily want to do, but have to do. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, experience more new things, and live fearlessly, but with responsibility comes choices. Sometimes you’ll have to face decision and consequences that are much tougher than when you’re young. So, lean on your parents and family, embrace being young, live each day to the fullest, run, play, laugh, and enjoy. That’s what being a kid is all about! You have plenty of years to be grown up.

One last topic, love. You are amazing. You have so many special talents and beautiful characteristics. You’re smart, funny, and great to be around. You’re charismatic and people will naturally want to be near you. Always know that you are worth so much and that you deserve people in your life who know your worth. People who respect and appreciate who you are. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you’re not worthy of someone or something. Do not let those who are insecure about themselves drag you down. Keep your chin up and always know that you deserve love and the very best from people that the world has to offer. Don’t settle for less. If someone is cruel or treats you poorly, they don’t deserve a place in your life!

Cherished Child, life will be tough sometimes, but it’s worth it. You’ve got this, you’re going places, and everything is going to work out just fine! Enjoy the ride.

Love,

Me

 

 

Loving Communication

communication

Why is communication so hard in relationships? We communicate all day long at work, no issues. We communicate with our girl friends, perfectly received and accepted messages. Our mother’s practically read our minds, our fathers can sigh or make a face and we know exactly what it means. Why oh why is it so tough to get through to our partners sometimes?

I believe there are varying levels, or shall I say depths, of communications challenges. First we have the daily, routine stuff, shallow depth. “Did you remember to mail that package?” “No, what are you talking about?” “I have been talking about it all week and reminded you twice today, how do you not know what I’m talking about.” Sound familiar? LOL. I think we all do!

Could it be that we are so focused on the hundred other things on our plate, that we somehow tune out our beloved? I certainly don’t think it’s on purpose, but it does happen. It could be that you didn’t completely capture his attention before you started talking to him. It could be that he’s still ingrained in what happened during work today and his mind is just not available to take in anything else at the moment. It could be that you were rapid firing so many things in his direction that you lost him after the second thing! Let’s face it, daily communication about routine things can become just another thing on our already busy to-do list.

To combat this, you might try finding set time(s) daily when you are both committed to being in the present moment and running through your lists. Heck, you might even find that if you both slow down and listen to each other, you could consolidate a few tasks/errands and make a few less check boxes on the to-do list. We seem to have hit our stride in doing a “how was your day and what’s tomorrow look like” session each night as we are getting around for bed. It’s like our little time of peace and quiet, the boys are already in bed. We can high five about the day’s wins, commiserate about the days short comings and offer advice and comfort. We can also strategize on the best way to accomplish all of our musts for the next day. Who will get the kids up and around, who will do drop off, do we need a post office or mail run, are there any meetings or errands that take us near where something else needs to be done, etc. It sure makes the morning and next day less stressful, we both know the “extras” that are on our plates.

But that’s the easy one…

What about communication about the tough stuff, the deep depth. You know, the stuff that is buried inside of you. Me for instance, my instinct is to blurt it out. I don’t have much of a filter. I am received differently than I intended because of my delivery. Or, on the flip side, some like to hold things in, they bottle it up and pretend everything is peachy. That usually causes a few likely scenarios, either they bottle it up so long that they end up exploding over something small and meaningless. That’s when EVERYTHING comes out. Otherwise, they become passive aggressive and their partner is walking around wondering where that comment/small behavior came from, you know, since everything is seemingly good.

How do we fix this? Good question!

I’ve been reading a book lately, Mastering Your Mean Girl, by Melissa Ambrosini, and it’s inspiring me to approach these things differently. This was recommended to me by a friend and I highly recommend it to you as well (for either gender). If you enjoy authors like Rachel Hollis, this is very similarly styled and equally easy to read and relate to.

She says approach all things from a place of love. That love can dissolve any conflict! Sounds simple, right. Ha. It’s not quite as simple as one would think, however, when I can pull it off I’m getting great results! I’ve been sharing my learnings with Ricardo, so he’s also working on this with me. Practice makes perfect, right?!

It goes something like this…

A situation arises where he needs to give me some feedback. I don’t know about you, but I am always trying to do my best and it can throw me into defensive mode to hear constructive criticism. I am striving to catch myself right there. Rather than allow myself to get defensive, tell him all the things he is saying are wrong (without even really listening), and defending my point of view or actions, I’m taking a deep breath. I force myself to remember, in that instant, that I love this man and he loves me. I open my heart and my ears and listen to to what he has to say. I thank him for sharing his feelings and thoughts and I take it all in. I try very hard not to respond in that moment, but allow myself time to let it sit and see what parts really ring true for me and what changes I can make. Once I’ve figured that out, I circle back to him and again thank him and fill him in on how it impacted me, what my thoughts are now that I’ve had a chance to process it, and what I can do differently. When I do this effectively there’s nothing to “fight” about, both sides have been heard and had opportunity to respond. It feels really good! So much better than spouting off some sarcastic comments, throwing a half-baked thought out there and arguing about it, where neither party really hears the other and everyone leaves the situation frustrated and sad.

On the flip side, he needs to deliver this feedback with love. He’s my life partner, so surely he’s not out to hurt me or ruin my day. This is all in an effort to make a stronger, healthier relationship and bond. Before he approaches me, he’s given it some forethought. He is approaching me calmly, with kindness, and in a positive manner. After all, the desired outcome is conversation and positive change. He understands that with this approach I will need some time to process what is being said, and he respects me enough to give that. There may be additional dialog when we come back together to discuss it, but we try to do that with kindness and an open heart. When we are successful with this method, we are able to share hard truths, constructive criticisms, and make relational changes all while feeling safe, loved, and continuing to build trust and partnership!

It’s a whole new world for me! Give it a try and see what kind of results you get!

 

Finding The One

love people romance engagement
Photo by Katie Salerno on Pexels.com

I have had love and relationships on the brain a lot lately. I’m not sure if my upcoming wedding and healthy, happy relationship has me reflecting back on different seasons of my life or if I’m just noticing more and more young gals, on tv and out and about, who are being treated poorly, disrespectfully, and/or settling. When I was in those situations it was incredibly difficult for me to see it, but now that I’m in a different place it’s so apparent and really troubles me.

Quick call out, I’m writing this from the female perspective, because I’m a chick of course, but it absolutely happens to both men and women.

No one is perfect, let’s start there, so there’s bound to be disagreements and hard times. Everyone has bad days and faces difficulty from time to time that throws them off. Love, however, doesn’t mean endlessly picking up the tiny bits and pieces of kindness that another is willing to give you. Love, in my opinion, is kind, respectful, generous, and full of compromise on both sides to reach a greater relationship good.

I am, by no means, a relationship expert. In fact, up until about two years ago I wondered if I would ever find that special someone to live out my days with. I made plenty of mistakes. I dated for many years before getting married and found myself always cutting them loose. Sometimes for lack of chemistry or difference in interests, but they were very nice men. Sometimes for more troubling issues, like not making sure I was the only one they were interested in, too much drinking or finding out they were drug users, rude comments or putting me down in social situations, and even occasionally taking advantage of me financially. My first marriage, which lasted around a decade, had plenty of good things, but slowly overtime became a cold and lonely place filled with harsh language, shaming, and eventually physical encounters.

After that, I sought therapy and learned that I didn’t feel worthy of love. I could justify, in some way or another, every bad thing that went on between us. Worse yet, I sometimes thought I deserved it. I participated in many of the bad behaviors, tit for tat, and on it went. It took me a long time to unwind myself from all of that with the help of my therapist, friends, and family.

Dating after marriage is an interesting thing, especially when you have children. I sought out men who were completely opposite from my ex-husband. Yes, there were certainly characteristics that I wanted to avoid and this accomplished it, but there were also many positive characteristics about my first husband that were very compatible with me and I was purposely going in a different direction. The result was dating incredibly kind men, but they didn’t necessarily share my interests and beliefs and sometimes the attraction just wasn’t there.

That brings me to the present. I took a chance on a guy who seemed very generous, considerate, and kind, but is also passionate about life and success, he’s driven and hardworking, and we have a lot of interests in common. We’ve had our challenges, as every relationship does, but we’re always able to talk it through and come up with a suitable solution for both of us. It’s awesome!

Now that you’re all caught up on my history, back to the point, through all of these relationships I learned so much about myself. It wasn’t until I sat with loved ones and went to therapy after my first marriage that I was able to see that I had often been accepting things that I didn’t want in the name of love. I didn’t value myself enough to realize that I should be treated differently, yet I “loved” them so much that I was willing to suck it up and push forward even when they were continually unkind to me.

Ladies, you are worth it. You do deserve it. It can be incredibly difficult to believe that when you are in the mix of a relationship that is bad for you, but it’s true. Even after I had realized I wasn’t in the healthiest situation for myself, I would make excuses. I let fear take over. The fear of leaving and being ashamed of what our friends and families would think. The fear of whether or not I could make it on my own. The fear of being alone forever. Shut that voice down! You can do it and you will be better off for it.

If you stay the resentment toward that person will eventually overcome you and you will no longer be your joyous, authentic self. That messiness will get on all of your relationships. You will pull away from family and friends, you may gain new friends that seem enticing because they are enablers to help you “escape,” you may even find yourself in a situation where you consider cheating on your partner. What’s worse is that you are staying in a space where you, and most likely he, are very unhappy and you’re missing out on time you could be loving life. Whether it’s as a single gal who’s investing time and though into yourself and future or in a new relationship with someone better suited for you. One of my oldest, best girlfriends used to tell me, “it’s like he’s stolen your soul.” I thought she was crazy, but after it was all done and I started to come out of his shadow I knew she was right! I had become a completely different person within the confines of the time period I spent with him.

Here’s what you should be getting out of your partnership:

  • Someone who loves the “real” you. You don’t have to hide any part of yourself to have complete acceptance.
  • A person you can talk to about ANYTHING. It may not always be easy, but there is nothing out of bounds.
  • Someone who cares when you are upset, physically or emotionally hurt, or sick and wants to comfort you and take care of you.
  • Name calling, put downs, and insults are not a go to. There is a respect between you that is too great to even consider these on any sort of a regular basis. (We all get angry from time to time and I know this happens to the best of us, but it’s an exception, not commonplace.)
  • Being physically violent in anyway is a deal breaker.
  • Someone who wants to see you succeed in whatever you’re chasing and celebrates your successes with you.
  • You have similar beliefs regarding family, friends, children, religion, pets, etc.

On the flip side, you’re providing all of these back to your partner with ease! It’s a two way street. I know in my relationship now, when one of us stumbles the other picks up the slack. If he’s having a rough week, I try to be extra sensitive and loving and he gives that right back to me when the roles are reversed. Our day to day is filled with kind and loving exchanges, laughs, cuddles, and fun. Everyone deserves this!

Don’t settle. Life is short. It’s an amazing thing to have a close bond with your partner, something I always wanted, but it can also be amazing to go it on your own for a while. Do the things that you have always wanted to do, learn new things, travel, paint that wall a new color, go out, dance, spend more time with your girls or with your family, focus on your kids if you have them. Having a joyful relationship is so much simpler when both parties arrive to it already bubbling over with happiness and a full heart.

Be true to yourself. Demand to be treated the way that you treat those you care about most. You’re worth it!

Exercise, what’s that?

exercise

I created this blog to talk about different ways to increase the joy and happiness in our lives. For me, that mission started out with figuring out some of my psychological hold backs and focusing on self-care and loving myself as I am. I’ve made tremendous progress in those areas and will continue to work on and share about those experiences.

So, what’s next? For me, physical well being!

I am one of those people who seems to always have some ailment. I’ve struggled since I was a young teenager with kidney stones, migraines, more than a fair share of colds, strep throat, ear and sinus infections. I have had meningitis, cysts, enlarged lymph nodes surgically removed. I’ve even broken my back! The list goes on, but it’s daunting to look at all of that fill up space on the page. Let’s just say I’ve never been eligible to be a poster child for physical well being.

Ever since I started my “kick ass at life” journey, I’ve been been reading all sorts of books, watching Ted Talks, following bloggers, and engaging with the people in my tribe who really hit the physical stuff out of the park. I wanted to know, what’s common between these folks who seemingly never get sick, or they rebound extremely fast. Those who, at any age, have been in great physical shape, how did they get started in the first place? How do they keep the momentum going? It’s been eye opening and it’s given me a lot of content to keep thinking on, using to improve my life, and keep sharing with you!

There are many topics that are involved on the road to top notch physical well being, just like there are on the road to mental and emotional wellness. I thought I’d start with exercise!

Many of you who know me have probably heard me say, “I’m allergic to exercise!” Kidding of course, but we haven’t exactly been friends over the years. Looking at me, I am 5’6″, usually around 135-140 pounds, and fairly slender. At a glance, I look like I’m in “good” shape. Friends, I’m not! I mean, I’m not obese and I don’t have any physical ailments caused by ignoring myself, but I am not treating my body like a temple and giving it every chance to function at it’s optimal potential.

Here are my complaints:

  1. I lack energy, I often feel run down and “out of gas” so to speak. Like my mind wants to get going, but my body doesn’t have the  to follow along and participate.
  2. I come up with EVERY SINGLE EXCUSE known to man about why I can’t exercise today.
  3. I do have young children and a fairly active lifestyle, so when I finally do get going I have very little endurance.
  4. I don’t love my body when I look in the mirror. There was a time when I literally didn’t like the person I see in the mirror, but that has changed. Now it’s solely focused on the physical, I get frustrated at myself because I quit on myself. If I would have persisted with my group spinning class, or not excused myself out of the gym or that run with my gal pals, then I would be happier with what I see. I get “mad” at myself for not investing in myself, for quitting on me!
  5. Last, but not least, I believe wholeheartedly that I would be a healthier person if I was physically active and making exercise part of my daily life. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!

And here’s what I’m doing about it:

STEP 1: Don’t delay your start. Let’s face it, if you’re like me and you’re forcing yourself into this, there is never going to be a time that is really terrific to start. The beginning is going to be hard no matter when you get going. You’re going to have to force yourself through a few painful weeks (probably somewhere in the neighborhood of a month from what I understand) to make this stick and become something you feel inclined to want to do for yourself.

I’ve been “thinking” about getting started on making exercise part of my daily life for a few weeks. That’s right, thinking. Folks, that’s several weeks that I could have already started, been over the hard part of starting, and on to the growth part by now. BUT I DIDN’T.

STEP 2: Plan it. No really, schedule time on your calendar to make this happen.

This week is kicking it off for me! I have scheduled time into my week to knock this out. That’s right, actually planning it on my calendar with all of my other important to-dos. I have set this up for the next four weeks and will NOT let myself off the hook.

STEP 3: Build in accountability. Remove excuses, be excited to report your progress!

I belong to a gym that offers a variety of group exercise classes, they have varying levels of participants and everyone is incredibly welcoming and supportive. They’ve been where I am, they know what it’s like to try to get into this groove, they want me to succeed. It’s also nice that it is in my community, so I run into women that I know from my kiddo’s school, gals I went to school with myself, a few of my neighbors, old co-workers, etc. And honestly, I’ve made a few new connections too! If that weren’t the case, because there have surely been times I couldn’t have imagined affording a gym membership, I’d be seeking workouts on an app or even via Pinterest. If that were the case, I’d socialize my endeavor with a couple of close girlfriends, my mom, and Ricardo. I need someone to help keep me accountable. If tell those other gym members I’ll be at the next class, I’m telling you, if I don’t make it I do the walk of shame at the next one. Who wants that? Similarly, who wants to have their bestie call them up, excited to hear about the progress, and have to report that you didn’t go.

STEP 4: Don’t be afraid to start small.

If you’re like me, the last time you exercised was… hmm, who knows! I know the last several times I had stepped foot in my gym was to sit in the steam room. I thought, Self, at least I was at the gym today. Ha… it doesn’t count, come on! With that in mind, be careful with yourself. I know that if I go all out this week, I will end up hating it. I’ll be so sore I won’t be able to move and I’ll dread even having to get dressed, let alone work out. It’s okay to incorporate a few things to ease yourself into it. Hit it hard (hard for a beginner I mean) one day, but the next stretch and take a brisk walk or a slow jog (yes, with walking and breaks mixed in!). I’m targeting three days of classes this week, which are each an hour with warm up and cool down built in, and on the other days 30 minutes of activity. Moving for 30 minutes, could be weights, a walk, rowing machine, swimming, etc. Next week, I’m ramping it up to another day of 60 minutes!

STEP 5: It’s okay for it to be fun! Play soccer with your kids, go for that bike ride, hit the cross country ski trail, walk with your neighbors around the neighborhood and chat, you do you and enjoy that your body is able to move and that you will ultimately get something beautiful out of this!

I know I’ve been going on and on about how hard this can be to get going. I’m just being transparent with you, it’s hard for me to commit to having this as part of my every day. However, there are a lot of things that are great exercise that I already do and enjoy. I love to snowboard with my kids. When it’s not a blizzard here in Michigan, walking the dogs is fun. Ricardo and I like to bike or walk trails in the woods. I’ve been to hot yoga in the past with one of my gal pals and we laughed until it hurt! Make it your mission to seek out stuff that is enjoyable for you. There’s no reason you have to go spinning if being on a bike seat makes you want to die. If getting water in your face sucks, then swimming or aqua aerobics aren’t for you. Keep on trying new things, trial and error, until you find your groove!

I’m committed to making this part of my life! I want to be one of those people who can inspire others, who can tell their story and honestly say that this was how they got healthy! One small step at a time, but always pushing forward. Join me!

If you need someone to keep you accountable, reach out. My email address is on this site, comment on Facebook, comment here, private message me. If you are in need, we can do it together! Let’s get going!!!

 

 

 

 

Past, PRESENT, Future

Live-In-The-Moment

I’ve spent the past several days away on a family “sun-cation,” as I like to call it. We needed to break out of the cold and snow for a few days and soak up some rays and relax. I spent much of my pool/ocean side time reading. Everything from straight up self-help to borderline trashy romance! One theme that kept jumping out at me was living in the present, being in the moment.

Think about that for a moment, do you live in the present? Or, do you dwell in the past about events, words, and things that happened that can never be returned to, you’ll never have a do-over on those moments? Or, do you spend so much time planning for and fretting over the future that you’re too preoccupied to enjoy the here and now?

We landed at our destination in the afternoon, on the shuttle ride to the hotel I was so busy chatting with my family about what we would do when we got to the resort that the boys completely missed out on taking in the scene as we traveled. We got to the resort, checked in, got to our room and all the while I was talking about the “what’s next.” I was robbing them of taking in the grandeur of the place. Noticing the happy, tan people running around everywhere. Hearing the local chatter that wasn’t in our familiar tongue. Exploring the signage, the views, the happenings. I had them completely focused on the future.

Of course, we still had a great time. We made it through that first afternoon and evening, saw many things, did many things, had new food, sand under our feet, a dip in the pool, a few frozen drinks, and it was certainly enjoyable. On day two when I was sitting reading, I came to realize what I had been doing. I immediately tried to make a shift in my thinking. It isn’t easy! Now for some it might be simpler, I’m a very Type A, let’s get this planned out and done kind of person… for me… GIANT CHALLENGE!

It was blatantly apparent on vacation, but this applies to our daily lives as well. How often are we caught up in past events, things that have happened to us, or been said to us that we let define our present? Way too often!

All of the things that have happened in our past that have been negative, we have a knack for storing those up in a little bank in our minds. That negative Nancy voice within us pulls them out to use as examples to feed fear within us when we are in the present. Daily we have are faced with decisions.

  • Should we speak up in a meeting at work with a great idea? Maybe that voice within you says, “No, remember that one time when you spoke up and were shot down. Don’t be be a fool, no one will like your idea.”
  • We have an opportunity to do something that we have a burning passion for, but that voice says, “Are you kidding me? What if you fail like the last time.”
  • You’ve found a love, he’s amazing, you both want to move on to the next step of your relationship. Negative Nancy says, “Don’t do it, you know he’ll just hurt you. Put your guard up.”
  • Your friends are getting together to run a half marathon for a great cause you support. That darn inner voice says, “No way you can run that far. You’re too weak, you’re not good enough.”

Friends, tell Nancy to shut up! She’s instilling doubt and fear in you that is keeping you from experiencing your present to the fullest. You have to push down the voice in your head that feeds off of past experiences like these and instills fear within you. You MUST shut it out and go for it!

Similarly, if you’re so focused on the future and have set up all sorts of plans and expectations for yourself and others, you may end up disappointed when it doesn’t unfold exactly as you’d imagined. I’m not saying don’t plan for the future and don’t make plans. What I am saying is when you go into an event, situation, or family time with no or limited expectations, you’re open to enjoying whatever does happen.

For instance, I’m thinking about a time when I had planned to surprise Ricardo with a night out when he returned from a business trip. My thinking was that he’d return from a few days away and be really excited to go out to dinner and spend the evening on the town. My EXPECTATION was that he’d be really pleased with the plan I’d made and we’d have this romantic, fun, and enjoyable evening together. Turns out, he was really tired when he’d gotten home. He was beginning to come down with a cold and the last thing he wanted to do was go out. I was bummed. Instead, he suggested ordering takeout and cuddling up on the couch with a some Netflix and a bottle of wine. In the end I was still spending time with my sweetie, which is what I was after, but because the evening didn’t meet my exact expectations I was a little bit pouty and didn’t enjoy the present moment to it’s fullest.

We never really know what may unfold at social engagements, family vacations, trips to the park, evenings at home, etc. We rarely know what kinds of things are impacting our family and friends and how it’s effecting their mood, so it’s unfair to have a whole bunch of expectations around how they will act or what the happenings may be. But if we go into it with an open mind, we are able to enjoy whatever does come about to it’s fullest. We forgo that whole disappointment part. We are fully engaged in the present and toss out opportunity for resentment, angst, and let down.

I remember those evenings in my 20’s when I was feeling kind of blah. My friends were busy or working, but I just needed to get out of the house. I’d head out to one of our local college spots alone, just planning to grab a beer or a coffee and see who was out and about. Some of those nights turned out to be the most fun! I would inevitably run into someone I hadn’t seen in a while, maybe they were on their way to do something fun and invite me along, maybe they were in the same boat I was and just wanting to socialize. I remember sometimes one beer turning into a night of bar hoping and listening to bands, sometimes heading back to friends’ dorms and playing cards until who knows what time, and sometimes just sitting around catching up with those I’d lost touch with for a couple of hours over coffee. My night of unplanned, no expectations turned into a great night where I was able to enjoy spontaneity, go with the flow, and enjoy every bit of it!

Point is, endeavor to leave the past in the past, let the future organically unfold, and fully enjoy the present! It takes a little practice, but I promise you’ll thank yourself!

Find Your Passion

fullsizeoutput_13ccDo what you love and never work a day in your life, they say. Follow your passion and the success will follow, you’ve heard. And so many more similar comments. Sounds easy, right? Just sit down one day and think, self, what am I passionate about? Well, maybe for some it works like that, but for me, not so much.

When I was young, I had so many dreams and goals. I had well laid plans to achieve them and worked really hard to accomplish all I had set out to do. Undergrad, finish my Master’s degree, start a family, land a great job, make over $100,000 by the time I turned 30, have a home I’m proud of, have deep relationships with family and friends. Sometimes it was hard. I remember feeling off course and desperate in my 20’s. Buckling down and staying focused was sometimes the hardest thing I could imagine. Often times life took unexpected turns and threw me off course. Financial hard times, death of loved ones, divorce, etc. But, I made it! Sometime in my 30’s I woke up and realized, damn, I did it!!! I’ve accomplished all of those things that I set out to do some 15 years ago! I had a moment of extreme pride and serenity. I patted myself on the back with a smile and took a second to reflect back on the years, struggles, and successes.

But then I had a moment of panic…NOW WHAT?

I realized shortly after that rather than being light hearted, proud, and joyful, absolutely loving the life I had created and the accomplishments I had made, I felt underwhelmed. I wasn’t finding joy in the little day to day things. I lacked motivation to push forward, probably because I no longer knew what to push forward to. I was grumpy, it was impacting the way I was parenting my kids, impacting how I was with my significant other. I often found myself wanting to stay in, rather than accept social engagements. It was like someone let the air out of my tires.

That’s right, I said “someone” let the air out of my tires. Guess who did that… ME.

It took me a while to make the connection between my feelings of being stuck and not knowing what to do next with the symptoms that were showing up in my life. When I finally did, I literally had no idea what to do. I tried reading some books to get me fired up, they helped a bit, but I still didn’t exactly know how to take action. I needed to do something more.

My next step was a life coach. I connected with Murphy Jo Palmer and that was the beginning of a whole new chapter for me! I’ll save the details of my endeavor with her for a future post, but just know that working with her was amazing. Worth every penny and opened my eyes to many things about myself!

I set out to find the joy in the little things, love the life I live, and find my passion. A few things I learned off the bat really changed my perspective and set the stage for the journey I’m on today.

  1. Squash down that mean voice inside of you that tells you you’re not doing enough, you’re not doing it right, you’re going to fail, you have failed, you’re too old, you’re not old enough, you’re not creative, you can’t this, you can’t that. The truth is you are doing enough, you are doing it right, you may fail and that’s ok, you’ve got this…whatever it is… you’ve got this!
  2. Practice self-care and self-love. People say it all the time, I don’t even know if everyone who says it knows what it means or truly does it. Some breakthroughs for me were figuring out what types of activities left me feeling energized and ready to take on the world. On the flip side, what types of things left me feeling completely exhausted and depleted, like I wanted to crawl into my bed and shut out the world. It matters, take the time to recognize those things for yourself, and be honest. I also did this exercise where I would literally look myself in the eye, in the mirror, and tell myself that “I LOVE YOU.” That’s right, and it feels as awkward and as embarrassing as it sounds. But, it makes a huge difference. Try it!
  3. Let the social norms of what is good or how to live go. It’s easier said than done, but it’s a must if you want to find your passion and next step. For instance, my kids did not care if I found some amazing Pinterest worthy projects to bring to their classroom parities. They cared that I was there. They would rather see me be-bopping around the house and dancing to tunes while I fix Kraft Mac and Cheese than see me hunkered down in the kitchen making some elaborate meal. We all have to do things that we don’t love, but we also do way too many of those things in pursuit of some global acceptance. Let it go. Do it your way and let the world eat it’s heart out over your joy!

Next up, finding what I’m passionate about and setting new goals. This is filled with trial and error. I’m still living this phase now! Each week I would set a list of a few new things to try for the week. They weren’t big, sometimes they weren’t even directional, meaning they were just random things that I was going to try and see how I felt following. For instance, one week having ice cream sundaes for dinner made the list. I mean where am I going to go with that, right? Well, kind of true, it’s not like I was going to endeavor to create a movement about having dessert for dinner as a passion! However, my family loved that I was acting silly, changing things up and being unpredictable, the hesitant feelings of my kids while building a sugar filled dinner, the laughs, the creations, the mess, the cleanup. It was all part of it, I learned that it was so fun to act like a child and that we as a family needed to do more of it. The boys now pick dinner once a week, sometimes they make it themselves, and man do we have some interesting things. I did learn that I am passionate about being in the kitchen with my kids and I absolutely get off on seeing them thrive and experiment!

On a more serious note, one of the things that had always itched at the back of my mind was teaching. Here I was with a full-job that I didn’t want to leave, couldn’t leave for that matter, and continuing to have thoughts about teaching. One week I went out and searched adjunct professor postings at our local universities. I sent out a few resumes and waited. Literally 15 minutes after I applied to one posting the department chair called me. I was just what she had been looking for, someone seeking to teach just a class or two, and had experience in my area of expertise. I signed on! Folks, I was suddenly terrified. Who am I to teach? I sucked it up and taught the semester. It was one of the most fulfilling and eye opening experiences of my life. I learned that I LOVED helping people, leading them, and fostering their journey! Teaching a class is a big commitment and in the end it was a bit to taxing for me personally with all of the other irons I have in the fire, but it was an amazing experience and breakthrough for me!

At this point I had learned that I really feed off of helping people, although teaching may be something I come back to later in life, it was not the right fit for my life now. So now what? Another itch that had always tickled the back of my mind was writing. I love to read and I think writing a book would be just about the coolest thing ever, but what the heck would I write about. How do you write a book? How do you get published? All those questions that I had to focus on squashing down (as in the point above). Murphy encouraged me to dabble, start a journal, set a goal for how often you’ll write and see how it goes. I followed this advice, I found I did have a voice, a perspective, and possibly some experiences that others would benefit from.

My blog was born! I don’t have a huge following, but I have some readers. I don’t have words that appeal to everyone, but I know that I’ve helped at least a few people sort out some things they had going on. I’m not restricted by a schedule, as with teaching, I can write when I want to and feel inspired. I may not be an award winning author, but my words are on the page and people are seeing them! This may not end up being my full passion, or maybe I have others that are yet to be discovered, but I’ve made progress!

I no longer feel stalled out and stuck. I’m enjoying the ride! Seeking your what’s next shouldn’t be a chore. It’s not always something that you can sit down and map out. Sometimes you need to take it as it comes and build on the things that make you happy along the way. I have some goals around writing and my blog, but they are focused around joy and balance in my life. I’ve branched out with some ideas in other related areas and friends are supportive and diving in with me. It’s fun!

Bottom line, don’t be discouraged if you feel like you’re spinning your tires. It doesn’t matter where you start in your pursuit of getting unstuck, it only matters that you pick a place to start and keep on going. You will fail, you will stumble, it’s okay…everyone does. In time, you will also rise, you will find your groove, and you will reap the rewards of the journey!

 

 

Wanderlust! Create that Bucket List!

I’ve always been an adventurer, always game for what sounds like an experience in one way or another. Man on man, in the dead of winter this side of me sparks and ignites anew!

We have some annual family adventures planned, like spring break to Florida, summer camping trips around Michigan, and of course that random “let’s go to…” that we decide on a moment’s notice on a weekend with seemingly little to do. BUT… let’s think bigger!

I know, I know, many of us would go the world round if we had the time off of work and the budget to do so, but let’s face it, those stars will probably never align. So, what then? Do we squelch our desire to get out and explore only because the opportunity doesn’t present itself? To that I say NO! Friends, let’s put our heads together and dream. Then, with a little bit of planning and foresight we can put that wanderlust into action and knock some things off of our bucket list!

I was at a business dinner the other night and picking a team member’s brain about his recent travels. He took a leave from work and literally traveled around the world. He’s young, bless his heart, and has limited responsibility at home in terms of family and dependents. However, he’s also not growing money from his ears. He planned out the adventure of a lifetime on a shoe string budget and came home with the most amazing stories, photos, and memories. We can all manage this in our own way if we give a little effort!

I also have an Aunt and Uncle who have really enjoyed the simple life in Michigan, they’ve raised their family, retired from working, and have never really been enticed by the “glamor” of travel, yet, they are entirely adventure seeking and love to be outside and experience new places. One of my Aunt’s bucket list items was to hit up a tropical beach somewhere, an all-inclusive if we could find it…one can never have too many pina coladas in the beautiful, sandy sunshine! Well, we searched and searched, found a great deal and the four of us were off on the trip of a lifetime! Not to mention my cousins came along and we ended up experiencing a catamaran cruise, seeing Blue Footed Boobies, parasailing, and so much interaction with some really fun local beach vendors. It was a wild success and we are actually planning for a “Part 2” in an upcoming year!

All this said, it can be done! On whatever scale you decide! It just takes a little bit of courage, an adventurous spirit, and some well thought planning!

Tips that have helped me:

  1. Research your desired location, find out when the high tourist seasons are. You can often find great deals if you go just outside of the peak season, yet the weather is still desirable!
  2. With a world of information at your fingertips, it is easy to compare costs by traveling different ways. Hotels and resorts sometimes need to fill vacancies and offer good deals, but if that’s not the case you may be able to find a home, condo, or room to rent for an amazing price. Or, if you’re not traveling with children there are often ways to actually live with a family in a local area for extremely cheap. This way you’ll integrate yourself right into the local culture and likely make new friends too!
  3. Planes aren’t the only way to travel! Of course if you’re going from the US to Europe you may need to fly your first leg, but once your feet are on the ground there, trains can be an excellent choice. Short plane trips within countries can sometimes be extremely affordable as well, such as in Mexico.
  4. Don’t over plan your activities. I’ve learned this the hard way over time. Early on when I would set an extreme itinerary for my family we would often wish for down time on the trip and come home exhausted. I think it’s a great idea to plan out a few big things, major sites or milestones along the way, but leave room for you to wander and see what calls out to you as something to do along the way!
  5. Lean on your friends and friends of friends for good tips, experiences they had, things they wish they had or hadn’t done. If you’re lucky, maybe you have friends with condos in far places or hookups that they can help you out with!

So what’s on your bucket list?

A few things from my personal page:

  • Hawaii – gotta get there, want to see it all!
  • London – tea, shops, the palace, Big Ben
  • Skiing the French Alps
  • Italy – architecture, food, romance, the Vatican
  • Montreal – ever since I saw that movie with all of those Mini Coopers!
  • A road trip across the US with my family in the Motorhome
  • Driving along the coastal highway by Big Sur