Today I painted my nails two different colors.
I’m sure some of you are thinking “Girl, what’s the big deal? I paint my nails ten different colors each week!”
But when you are like me, you get comfortable with being comfortable. You don’t stray too much over the lines. You avoid change.
You order the same meals at the same restaurants.
You watch the same tv shows over and over again.
You wear the same clothes week after week — often buying the same shirts and pants in different colors and sometimes in the same colors because you know you like them.
You look for the predictable, the routine, the ordinary — especially in the midst of a pandemic. Those ordinary things became a lifeline for me this year.
As the world outside me swirled into chaos over the last several months, I leaned into the things I could control and the things I could predict. I responded to the daily uncertainty of our lives by choosing to live my life in comfort, a space that sometimes felt like control.
But today I leaned a bit out of my comfort zone. I embraced something unpredictable and different.
I chose change.
Yes, today I remembered that even though it’s safe and cozy sometimes to live inside the lines, sometimes the things that make us feel secure are actually the things that hold us back from living life to its fullest.
So, to those of you out there coping like me — by choosing order, predictability, and ordinary — today might be a good day to stray just a bit outside the lines.
I can’t promise that you won’t regret it but I can promise that it’s an important exercise.
Hey you out there, the woman holding back who she really is, stop.
It’s ok to step into your light.
It’s ok to show up and be yourself.
It’s ok to finally figure out who your real people are.
It’s ok to want more, ask for more, need more.
It’s ok to be the person you really are.
It’s ok to ask for help.
It’s ok to break a little, feel lost, and struggle with the next steps.
It’s ok to make changes in your life.
It’s ok to be vulnerable.
It’s ok to acknowledge that life is sometimes really freaking hard.
It’s ok to be 100% you.
It’s ok to be proud of yourself.
It’s ok to be happy.
It’s ok to be ok.
I lost it this morning.
The weight of the past 6 months caught up with me.
My favorite time of the year — the reset provided by fall and back to school — finally made it to my house, albeit 3 weeks later than usual.
It’s my annual chance to reorganize my life, my routines, my systems, and my brain. New clothes for the boys for back to school, expanded hours for my clients, new classes for me to teach at the college level, and evenings spent on a sports field watching my boys play their favorite game usually fill my life this time of year.
Of course, none of that happened this year.
But today did mark the start of the in-person portion of the school year for my boys — the first time my oldest would step foot inside the high school as a student, not a visitor, and the same for my youngest at the middle school. It was kind of a big deal.
But, I lost it.
I slept through my first alarm and spent the rest of the morning playing catch up, racing through our morning to do list with one eye on the clock because they couldn’t be late — not on their first day.
Then the negative thoughts started.
I felt the weight and guilt of having to turn yet another handful of interested clients away because I cannot increase my hours this fall due to at-home schooling 3 days/week.
The state of disarray that is my house with backpacks, school supplies, masks, half-finished projects, dog toys, and a weird blend of clean and dirty clothes was all I could see everywhere I turned.
The bickering on social media flashed before my eyes as I absentmindedly scrolled through my feed while waiting for my tea to steep. Negativity and stress was everywhere this morning.
When I went to wake up my now middle schooler for his first day of school, I found the grumpy, moody, developmentally appropriate but patience-testing version of him before me.
I lost it.
Everything boiled over.
The doubts about whether this hybrid model is the right choice for him, whether this school was the right choice for him, whether this town was the right choice for him, it all rushed to the surface and I yelled.
I lost it.
I imposed an early bedtime, said I would take away all electronics, took away his option to walk home from school today, and I cried.
Today was our big day as a family and I lost it.
I failed to see that everything I was feeling, he probably was also feeling.
Six long months without being in school. Six long months of hearing about this virus. Six long months without the routine and structure that had filled most of his 12 years on this planet.
He doesn’t want this. He wants the world back to the way it was. He wants to play football. He wants to go to school full time with ALL of his friends. He wants to ride the bus while sharing a seat with his friend. He wants to sit across from his friends at a lunch table.
I failed to recognize all of that this morning and instead focused on how he wanted to wear ratty sweatpants with a hole in the knee to school and had a negative, grumpy attitude.
We were sure to say I love you and hug goodbye after our meltdowns but there were no cheerful first day of school photos for him.
Because I lost it.
We all have mornings like I had today — mornings where everything feels rushed and wrong and the choices you make are just the wrong ones. The guilt from those wrong choices is heavy and thick and can stick with us long after the bad moments have passed.
The truth is, no amount of “hold onto hope,” “be patient,” “give it time,” or “find the bright spot” memes or stories can actually take the stress of reality away. Sometimes life is just hard and it all catches up to you, washing over you like a gigantic rogue wave. Sometimes you just have to feel your feelings. I guess this morning was one of those times for him and for me.
So, what do you do after you lose it? What do you do when you regret the choices you have made as a parent, a partner, a friend, a worker?
Sure, I could sit in this guilt and negativity all day but that will probably only set off a whole big chain of further negativity. Today I choose to reflect on it, learn from it, take ownership for my actions, and reset.
Tomorrow is another day and I will try my best to do better, to be better.
Also, maybe I will set a back up alarm.
Sometimes the silence is so loud, it is deafening.
Sometimes in life you expect to hear from certain people, the people that are closest to you.
You assume you will hear things like “I miss you” or “I love you” or “Way to go, I’m so proud of you!”You think that surely they will call you, message you, text you, email you, post on your social media.
But, sometimes, the people closest to you are nowhere to be found.
The silence left in the wake of their absence is so loud that it rings in your ears.
The silence is all you can hear.
Their missing presence is all you can see.
But in focusing on the silence, you miss out on all the things that ARE there.
Sometimes you need to step away from the noisy silence and open your ears to what else is around you.
Maybe it’s not the people you thought it would be, but I bet you will find people there for you — reaching out to you, acknowledging you, appreciating you, needing your presence.
Turn down the volume on the people who are silent so that you can turn up the volume on the people who are present.
Most importantly, turn up the volume on your own inner cheerleader. Be the person that applauds your successes, that encourages you to keep going, that makes you feel like you are enough.
Be the voice that drowns out the silence.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
I’m reminded of this quote I once saw on the side of a building in Cape Town every time my rose bushes start to bloom.
It’s an important perspective to consider, especially today when so many things feel as prickly and painful and frustrating as thorns.
All of those thorns are balanced and softened by the presence and existence of the beautiful blooms.
How can you find a way to reframe the thorns in your life right now?
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I start yet another day at my kitchen table, the place where I now can be found trying my hardest to balance the responsibilities of working from home with parenting two children and attempting to serve as their substitute teacher. Any given morning now finds me tackling clinical documentation and billing for my private therapy practice while helping my 14 year old muddle his way through assignments for 8 different subjects in a now completely digital learning environment while also debating the usefulness of responding to a journal prompt about an abandoned fort with my 5th grader.
Each day begins the same in this new Groundhog Day version of life and as I sit down at the kitchen table, I am keenly aware of the fact that I have less than 90 minutes to get at least some “school time” in for my kids before I completely ditch them and lock myself in my home office for 8 back to back psychotherapy sessions. Sure, I’ll pop out for the 10–15 minutes I have between sessions to refill my water glass, throw some food at my boys, put dogs out for a bathroom break, break up whatever dispute has started between the boys, and maybe even find time for a restroom break myself. Then it’s right back to work — headphones in, camera on, therapeutic space live and on the air.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I hold space for patient after patient who is working on the front lines of the COVID19 crisis. ICU nurses, doctors, and social workers all recounting horrible tales of what they are seeing day after day to me in our sessions. Suddenly my practice has become one filled with trauma work as I help my clients find hope, practice self care, and manage their intense fears of the virus.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I sit virtually with new moms who were already struggling with postpartum anxiety and depression and now have lost many of the lifelines we helped them to establish in our work together before the virus changed our world.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as my email and voicemail inboxes swell with former clients who are reaching out for support in light of what the virus has done to their lives.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I attempt to support patients who finally had achieved pregnancy after years of loss and failed IUD cycles and yet now have to attend doctor’s appointments alone and fear that if things get worse they may even have to deliver their babies without their partner present.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as patient after patient shares their fears about what will happen to them now that they have been laid off or furloughed or are no longer feasibly able to retire in a few months as their funds took too big of a hit.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as friends around me face grief, loss, and challenges completely unrelated to COVID19 — things like the sudden deaths of loved ones, health issues, and relationships coming to an end.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I begin to realize that I feel completely and wholly inadequate — utterly only mediocre in all aspects of my life now.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I wonder how I can possibly be the therapist my clients need when one of my ears is always listening to make sure my boys aren’t calling me to help them with something.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I question how I can be the parent my boys need when every day finds me shut up in my office with instructions for them to only bother me if there’s an emergency.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I worry about how I can be the wife my husband needs when he is continuing to manage a 24 hour/day medical service from home 2–3 days/week and then covering at least two 12–14 hour shifts each week. We are two ships passing in the night and when we finally do get to see each other we both are too emotionally spent to even acknowledge each other’s presence.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I try my best to reach out to my friends and family to offer them support and remind them that they are loved but I find my energy at the end of the day is almost completely nonexistent.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I lie awake in bed each night staring at the ceiling, wondering what will happen to us if one of us catches the virus or if my husband loses his job or if the weight of not being able to play sports and see their friends finally catches up with my boys.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I realize yet again that if I am struggling this much, imagine how much more painful life is right now for others.
“I’m one of the lucky ones and it is still ok to not feel ok right now,” I remind myself. Regardless of our individual circumstances, life right now is hard and is not at all like it used to be. Even if you, like me, are one of the lucky ones in all of this, it’s still ok to admit that our situation sucks right now. It’s ok to feel your feelings and wish that things were better for all of us, even for yourself. It’s ok to remind yourself that even though you may be lucky, you still can be hurting.
We are in yet another time of transition in our lives as winter begins to give way to spring. The sun is rising earlier and setting later. Those birds outside my bedroom window are getting chirpier each morning. I am feeling less guilty when my boys walk out of the house in shorts (in case you didn’t know - pants are apparently a torture device for boys over the age of 8). The headache-inducing sounds of basketball (shoes squeaking on courts, countless balls being dribbled simultaneously and multiple whistles being blown) are starting to be replaced by the early sights and sounds of another sport. Cleats are getting tried on, bats are being sized up with practice swings and athletic cups are starting to reappear on my dining room table. Yes, baseball season is near.
As I was listening to my sons tell me all about their impromptu practice session at the field the other day, critiquing each other’s stance, swing and follow through, I realized that life is a lot like getting up to bat in baseball.
Think about it.
Behind you are your friends. They are the people in the crowd who are there for you and want you to do your best. They know when you need to be cheered on and when you need them to be quiet. They get you.
Fans of the other team
Behind you may also be some people who are not your friends. They wouldn’t mind seeing you strike out because they are there to root for someone else.
People only there for the snacks
Then there are the people that are just acquaintances. They are the people behind you who are totally uninterested in what you are doing - they are taking selfies on their phones and carrying on about something totally unrelated to your at-bat. Even though they are neutral, you still might not want to make an error in front of them.
Then there are your role models. They are your coaches. You look to them for guidance and advice. They motivate and push you.
Let’s not forget about the authority figures in your life. Perhaps they are bosses or others who are quick to judge you. They are the Umps, ready to call you “out.”
But, as you make your way to the plate, you also feel the presence of your team. Your success is their success. Your failure will also be felt by them. Maybe they are cheering you on, chanting your name, reminding you that they believe in you.
Then there is the other team - waiting in the outfield, watching your every move. Willing you to strike out and send them a nice pop fly.
Does any of that seem a bit like how real life goes?
It does for me.
I can identify people in each of those roles: fans for my team, fans for the other team, neutral acquaintances, people quick to judge or point out my errors and also my team who has my back.
Once you are in the batter’s box, all that other stuff fades away as you face off with the pitcher.
What if you swing and miss?
What if the pitcher throws a crazy ball and you get hit?
What if you get hurt?
What if you completely strike out?
What if you let yourself down?
Worse yet, what if you let your team down?
I have seen countless batters step into that box throughout my years as a baseball mom. One single bad experience can set some kids into an incredible slump. Great hitters suddenly freeze, afraid to swing the bat. Some confident batters suddenly find themselves jumping out of the box because they have grown afraid of being hit by a ball again. Others lose their focus and can no longer seem to make contact with the ball.
I have spent many seasons cheering on my sons, hearing coaches remind them that baseball is in large part about confidence, focus and staying in the box.
Look around. What is it like in your batter’s box of life now?
As you start to transition out of winter and into spring, notice all of the children who are taking to the fields with their gloves, bats and balls. Let those images be a reminder to you to take some time to reflect on your life and what it is like in your batter’s box.
How can you regain your confidence, drown out the negative noise behind you, lean in, keep your eye on the ball and smash it out of the park?
For more blog articles on changing your perspective and taking care of yourself, visit the links below:
There are times in everyone's lives when the bad stuff hits.
Sometimes the bad stuff hits all at once. Sometimes the bad stuff hits gradually over time. Sometimes the hits are so bad that you don't feel like getting out of bed, leaving your house or answering your phone. Sometimes the bad stuff makes you turn inward. Sometimes it makes you implode on yourself. Sometimes it makes you explode on others. No matter how you react to the bad stuff, one thing is shared - the bad stuff exists for all of us at some point in our lives.
As I have been reflecting on our shared experiences with the bad stuff lately, I have been considering them within the context of this time of year. All around us, school years are coming to an end. Young adults everywhere are marking the end of their college and high school experiences in commencement and graduation exercises and even little children are participating in preschool graduation ceremonies. This is a time of reflection and goal setting.
With all of this around me, I can't help but think back 20 years ago to my own high school graduation. While I cannot recall the specifics of my commencement speech, I do recall the quote I referenced throughout the speech. As the class Valedictorian, I wanted to inspire my class to action and success. The tenets of the quote I referenced have been kicking around in the back of my head recently, begging to be let out. So, I am sharing the quote again; this time not to inspire people to individual greatness or to action but to normalize our shared experience of the bad stuff in life:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
For the 17 year old version of me, this quote was all about being your best, striving for greatness and setting up the best future possible for yourself, knowing that it would take fight, courage and, sometimes, even failure. But, today I look at this quote in a much different way. To me, it is a quote filled with questions:
- Are you stumbling these days?
- Are you reflecting on how you could have done things better?
- Is someone else pointing out your shortcomings?
- Are you failing?
- Are you finding yourself totally spent but spent for a worthy cause?
- Are you tired of the fight?
At some point in our lives, we all can answer at least one of these questions with a resounding "YES!"
For me, as I look at this quote all these years later, I see that it truly doesn't really matter whether you succeed or fail. What matters is that you are out there - you are in the arena. You are trying. You are doing. You are living. And, until we know failure, loss and sacrifice, we cannot truly appreciate the sweetness of success and all the beauty life has to offer us.
So, to the person in the arena, with the face marred by "dust and sweat and blood", look around. If you take a moment to pause your battle and take stock of where you are right now, you will see that you are not alone. There are lots of us in the same arena and while we all are fighting versions of our own battles, our own bad stuff, some of us are here to help fight each other's battles as well. This arena can be a scary, dangerous place but it isn't a vast empty space.
The arena isn't a space in which we all fight our own battles; instead, the arena is a place where we can gain strength from each other and from knowing that we are not alone. Reach out to those around you in your arena right now and let them help you fight your battles and your bad stuff. The real living in life, after all, takes place in that space between failure and success. It takes place in the arena.
Mental Health & Wellness
Now, more than ever, we all need a little support to help get us through the rough spots. With all the pressures of life, it can be a challenge to find time to not only take care of yourself but also to truly understand who you even are anymore.