For the Love of Poetry

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“So what’s up with the blog?” she asked curiously. “I thought the plan was to use this time to grow creatively and work on all that stuff?”

The plan.

Plans are fickle things. You start something new and you have the plan in place, at least, that’s how I operate. There is a plan, a way, and things will go accordingly. I will work hard and keep my head down, and soon, very soon, the plan will come to fruition.

But life…life is strange. And just when you think you have it all figured out, BAM, it knocks you sideways and you’re left shaking your head wondering what the hell happens next. It’s confusing and disorienting.

I have learned so much in the last year, there is no way to gather it all into one blog post. But probably the most important thing I learned in the last year was I cannot function without self-care, and sometimes self-care doesn’t fit into one’s plans. For most of my life, I have ignored those signs that most people see easily. I was constantly busy, a fury of check lists and unread emails and calendar appointments. Most days I wouldn’t realize I’d missed lunch until around 4 p.m. I consistently got around 4 or 5 hours of sleep per night, so proud that I could sustain myself on such meager rest.

“How do you do it all?” they’d ask. I’d coyly smile and give myself a silent pat on the back for my amazingness. I was *almost* enough. If I could just finish that assignment or blog post or project, I’d really be a wonder woman! I chased that status like I’d die if I stopped for a sip of water or some fresh air.

The problem with living like that, especially for such an extended period of time, is it’s extremely hard to stop. It’s mind-bogglingly difficult for someone like me to sit down and rest. And it’s compounded by the fact that I have surrounded myself with people who think the same way. Friends, family, colleagues…they are all massive overachievers of the highest sort. So when I tried to stop or sit or breathe, I looked at them and felt guilt. Shame. Less than.

Here is the catch, and the thing I really learned in the last 11 months:

I am enough. Just as I am. I am enough with one blog post every 10 days and I am enough with 5 a week. I am enough with crisp, edited photos and I am enough with a quick iPhone capture. I am enough with late nights working and I am enough with a cup of tea and a good movie.

It’s okay to take care of myself. And it’s okay to be afraid of doing so. For me, it is scary, and I had to learn being scared wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was so afraid if I stopped, and took a breath, I’d find out I was a fraud. All the spinning around in my hamster wheel was a way I could avoid looking at what I was doing, and if it really made me feel good. When I finally did stop, I had to cut it all off in order to see if I missed it…to see if writing and photographing and creating was truly what made my heart sing.

Turns out, it does. I love to write. I love capturing people and moments in photographs. It makes me feel alive. There is poetry in my life again. I feel it. It’s a good thing.

I saw this commercial a while back, and I felt my breath stop, then slowly start again. A creative mind is sometimes a hard place to live inside. My brain isn’t rational…it seeks life and love and joy. It does not spark with items crossed off a list. Which, honestly, is why I believe I felt so lost for so long. I was forcing it to think in a way that wasn’t how it was built. Now, instead, I’m letting it go. It’s scary. But scary things can be very, very good.

Repost : Why I Blog (Lessons from Alt Summit 2013)

This was originally posted last year, right after I returned from the Altitude Design Summit in Salt Lake City. Can you believe it’s been a whole year?! Me either! I thought it might be fun for some of you who are headed to Alt 2014 or just dreaming of a future blogging conference to re-read some of my thoughts after returning from Salt Lake. An honestly, it was a good thing for me to re-read as I’m pondering the future of this blog these days. Hope you enjoy!

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Alt Summit stirred up a lot of feelings in me, some positive…some not so much. And I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out why that is. Why do I feel a giant weight of inadequacy about to crush me after I’ve left such an uplifting experience?

I was so overwhelmed with all the goodness at Alt Summit, and I think I was internalizing it in a way that was totally negative. Which, I mean, come on, right? Stop it. But I couldn’t help myself. I met so many people, tons of whom had only been blogging for a year or two, whose lives were overflowing with sponsorships, book deals, speaking engagements and everything else under the sun. Many of the people I’ve spoken to left Alt with a new sense of purpose…a new idea they were going to make come to life or an amazing plan for a collaboration. I left with a book full of notes and a big case of “oh poor me” syndrome. Gross.

But luckily for me, I at least had the foresight to look through that big book of notes and found my answers staring me in the face. Page after page of my notes described talks by bloggers who had started out with the same doubts and worries that I was feeling. In fact, a few of them expressed how they are STILL dealing with those emotions. Suddenly, I felt less alone.

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Photo by Brooke Dennis for Alt – Layout by Me

Over and over people had asked for advice during these sessions, and over and over the answers were simple: Be Yourself. Don’t try to emulate others because you’re just going to come off as a cheap version of whoever they are, and you’re so much better than that. Karon Walrond gave a speech on “Finding Your Voice” and one of her main points was to stop comparing. She outlined the difference between inspiration (makes you want to do better) and comparison (makes you feel bad about yourself), and that was a real lightbulb moment for me. I was comparing. And it’s never going to do me any good.

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iPhone Photo and Layout by Me

I’m me. Crazybananas. I write a blog about nothing. And everything. I’m not a designer or a professional photographer or someone who can craft my way out of any situation. I’m not usually the most fashionable girl in the group. Sometimes my life is mundane. Sometimes it’s extraordinary. I write about things that I like. I write about my life. I write about TV and pop culture and shoes that I think are totally rad. I’m not an expert on anything. Except for myself. I’m a world renowned expert in the study of me.

And now that I think about it, that’s a pretty awesome thing to be. And that’s why I continue here. This is why I blog. Because I have an internal voice that wants to tell my story. Someday, when I’m old and my grandkids can’t imagine who I was before, I want them to be able to read here and learn about what I am all about…what I liked and who I loved, no matter how mundane it may seem. My voice matters to someone out there, even if I can’t see it yet. And that someone is me.

(Someone remind me to read this before the next time I go to Alt, deal? Deal.)

(Just in case you need to have a dance party after that heaviness…I’m having one right now too!)

2014 : A Year of Acceptance

Well, it’s here! 2014! Cue the parade!

(Wait, they already did that? Okay, nevermind.)

I am so excited about 2014, it’s honestly a little strange. 2013 was a difficult, life-changing year for me, in every, single aspect. I had to change everything in order to find myself in a place where I am FINALLY at peace with who I am and where I fit in this giant universe we call home. Every year I choose a word that will hopefully signify that year’s journey, and give me something to use a touchstone as I work through issues and experiences throughout those short 12 months. In 2013, my word was “COURAGE.” Most every decision I made last year was with that word in mind. There were so many times in 2013 when I was afraid, worried, and feeling rejected, but in the back of my mind, a little voice told me if I kept working toward living courageously, it would all turn out okay. Thank god for tiny little voices.

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This year, my word is “ACCEPTANCE.” This is something I truly struggle with on a daily basis. I am just not very good at acceptance. I want things to be the way I want them to be, and when they are not, for whatever reason, I go in to toddler meltdown mode. Even when I’m right (most of the time, obviously) I need to be able to accept just because I’m “right” doesn’t mean things will go the way they should. And when I say “should” you can just replace that with “the way I want them to go.”

Radical Acceptance : Accepting of life on life’s terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life, just as it is. (Source)

Happy 2014, y’all! I wish a year of acceptance, love and joy to you! What is your word for the year? What goals do you plan on working toward?

Finding My Path : Boundaries, Honesty and Balance

Fall mini shoot beautifulness about to happen! #photography #fall #leaves

This past Sunday was not anything special. In fact, it was probably as normal as could be. The kids were up early due to daylight savings time (blerg), so we made a huge breakfast, with pumpkin pancakes, eggs, bacon, juice and coffee for yours truly. Before the kids got up I did some early morning meditation and reading. I am not a very religious person, but in the last year, spirituality has found me again, and it has been a gift. We went to the park and played outside while the cool autumn wind brushed our pink cheeks. We came home for naps, and afterward headed out to the gym for a playdate for the kids and a yin restorative yoga class for me. When we were all done, I took the kids to the gym pool and we splashed around for a while. We ate an easy dinner and I put the kids to bed a bit early. I watched a bit of TV on my iPad, and then was off to bed around 9 p.m.

Now, this particular day might not sound like a big deal to you, but for me, this is huge. As in epically gigantic. Because this day would not have existed a year ago.

One thing that I have had to face up to as I walk along this path of life is I am a perfectionist. Actually, scratch that. I have always known I was a perfectionist, the difference now is I don’t see that as a positive thing. Before, when people would compliment my ability to “do it all” or how “perfect” my life seemed, I’d fake-humbly nod and say, “Oh no, I’m not perfect!” But inside, I was squealing with glee. My self-worth and happiness were almost exclusively based on doing everything perfectly and being the most wonderful person anybody had ever met, ever, in the history of the universe. My goal was to be everyone’s favorite person, and to show everyone how incredibly amazing I was by doing everything right the first time.

The problem with this outlook is it is absolutely unachievable. I will NEVER be everyone’s favorite person, that’s an impossibility of the highest degree. Also, as it turns out, perfection isn’t a goal that can be reached by any human on this planet, including little ole’ me. So if your goal in life is to be perfect, you will be consistently disappointed. Your life, regardless of how fulfilling and beautiful, will never be enough. And speaking from experience, this is no way to live.

One of the things I’ve really struggled with on this journey is creating boundaries. One of the symptoms of my struggle to be perfect was the inability to create and hold real boundaries within my life. If someone wanted to do something I didn’t necessarily want to do, I’d agree to make them happy. I never wanted to rock the boat or upset people, so I would do, say or act in ways that were not in line with what I wanted for myself. I truly had no idea how to say “No.”

I’m learning boundaries are a gift, not only to me, but to those that I love. When I say “No” or tell the truth about how I feel about something, I am being authentic and real. I never really thought of myself as a liar, but I have had to come to terms with the fact that I have spent much of my life being dishonest about who I am and what I want. This is especially painful, but so, SO necessary.

The crux of this was realizing that perfectionism and “people pleasing” is a very dishonest and sad way to live. And in order to change this, and live my truth (notice I didn’t say THE truth, but MY truth) I have to be able to set boundaries in my life, even if it’s hard. Someone very wise once told me, “Just because you have done something in the past, doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it. You can set a new boundary whenever you want.”

These days I say yes by saying no. I am not everyone’s favorite person, but the truth is, I never was! Do I still want to do my best? Yes! Do I still try very hard? Of course! Do I still have goals and aspirations? Duh! But it doesn’t mean I have to do it all today.

Instead, today I will do the next right thing that comes to mind. I will have a fun day with my kids where I cross absolutely nothing off my “To Do” list. I will not feel guilt or shame over not being perfect, instead I’ll be proud to be a flawed, but authentic human being. I will go to bed with a smile on my face and joy in my heart, knowing my imperfections are what make me my best self.

Then I’ll wake up and do it again. And again. Ad continuum.

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