I talk a lot about looking for the glimmers of hope in life.
But the truth is - sometimes it’s exhausting to look for the glimmers.
It’s hard to spot the glimmers when they are hidden behind the scary and dark parts of life.
It’s time consuming to search for the glimmers when it would be easier to just give up and maybe look for them tomorrow.
It’s a big investment of energy to look for the glimmers when there is a possibility that we might not find any.
I get it.
But let me tell you a little story about a bear.
Recently I was fortunate enough to take an Alaskan cruise with my family and although I looked forward to every part of the vacation, the part I was most looking forward to was our full day sail through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
There would be glaciers.
There would be seals.
There would be sea otters.
There might even be bears.
A park ranger joined our ship early that morning and confirmed that while there was lots of wildlife to see, we needed to “put in the work to find them.”
Instantly I thought of those silly glimmers of hope I’m always writing about on this page.
The ranger went on to give us some tips for spotting wildlife.
“You need to be patient.”
“You need to look around you.”
“You need to remember they will probably be smaller than you would expect because of how far away they may be.”
“But if you are committed, your efforts will pay off.”
And if that isn’t a metaphor for finding the glimmers of hope in life, I don’t know what is.
So, I went to work.
I donned my cozy leggings and a sweatshirt, wrapped myself in a comfy blanket, put on my winter hat, and fastened the binoculars around my neck.
Then I stood on my balcony and followed her tips.
I was patient.
I looked around me.
I was committed.
But I didn’t find any bears.
Seals danced and played just off the edge of our ship to the delighted squeals of me and all the other passengers perched on their own balconies.
And when dozens of sea otters floated by us, holding hands with each other, carrying their babies on their bellies, and splashing through the water, we all cheered and pointed and took lots of videos.
But still no bears.
I decided to take a break and go for a walk in search of refreshments and to see the glaciers from the bow of the ship - a spot open to passengers only on Glacier Bay day.
I enjoyed my peach Bellini with a float of Patron and marveled as I soaked in the natural beauty surrounding me.
Then I returned to my balcony and went to work again.
And there it was.
A little brown speck on the water’s edge.
I zoomed in closer with my binoculars and started to convince myself that it was just a rock.
Then the rock moved.
And a bear’s face came into focus.
“A bear!!!” I shouted.
“Where where?!” my husband and sons asked as they started to try to find it with their binoculars.
“You found a bear?” passengers from nearby balconies shouted over.
News of the bear spread quickly as people started sharing with each other. “Look! Some lady over there found a bear!”
Our whole port side of the ship spent those next few moments watching that silly bear just sitting on the edge of the water.
A passenger a few balconies down shouted up to me “thank you!!!”
I shouted back “thank YOU!” because I’m weird and awkward sometimes.
But the truth is, I was so thankful that my efforts had paid off and that I was able to share it with others.
After we headed out of Glacier Bay, we headed up to the pool deck and later to dinner. That bear was the topic of conversation everywhere we went.
“Did you see the bear today?”
“Some lady found a bear. Did you see it?”
And that’s the thing about the glimmers of hope.
When we find them not only do they brighten our own day but if we share them with others the lasting ripples of their impact go so much further.
So if you are in need of some glimmers of hope today, maybe right now is a good time to be patient, look around you, and be committed to being some lady that finds a bear.
And then when you find the glimmers - share them with others.
Because all of us are here - scanning the horizon for some sign of a glimmer of hope to brighten our day.
I know you already have a lot on your plate.
Your mind probably starts racing as soon as your eyes open each morning.
Your "To Do" list is probably growing more quickly than you can cross things off of it.
But, I have one more thing to add to your responsibilities right now - YOU.
It is your obligation to love and respect yourself. No one else is responsible for this - no one else can make up for it.
So, try to ask yourself one question before you hop (or, if you are like me, drag yourself) out of bed each morning.
Maybe ask it as you are stopped at a red light while driving.
Maybe ask it before you fall asleep each night:
"What am I doing to love and respect myself?"
Do more of whatever it is that makes you feel like you are caring for yourself in a good and healthy way.
Add it to your To Do list.
Make it and yourself a priority.
No one else can do that for you.
You need this.
Once upon a time I took up running.
I hated every second of it. It hurt my feet and my knees and if it was cold out, running made my asthma flare up.
But, I also loved every second of it. With every awkward and slow stride I could feel myself getting stronger, reaching goals I never thought possible.
Running forced me to learn how to breathe better. It forced me to learn how to pace myself. It forced me to sometimes let go of distractions and focus on a goal. It forced me to sometimes let go of goals and focus on distractions.
Despite how hard it was and how much I hated it, running changed me for the better.
For a lot of reasons, I no longer run.
But lately I feel like I’m running again. (Metaphorically speaking, of course, because that is my preferred language.)
As I race through each day, appointment after appointment, phone call after phone call, meeting after meeting, car shuttle after car shuttle, I feel like I’m huffing and puffing through another 5k race.
It sometimes feels like I can't catch my breath.
I can’t see any finish line in the distance.
Each step feels like such a challenge.
But, maybe this metaphorical running experience can also teach me something - just like my actual running experience did all those years ago.
Maybe this hectic sprint of today is a reminder to slow down, pace myself, and focus on my breathing.
Maybe this race is an opportunity to sometimes shift my focus from goals to distractions.
Maybe, just maybe, this stress of today is making me stronger and teaching me lessons about which someday I will be deeply grateful.
So, for now, I'll just take a few deep breaths and keep moving forward, trying to find some beauty along my run.
If you are running a similar race, maybe now is a good time to shift your focus as well.
This sticker literally fell into my lap today as I took my new phone case out of its packaging.
Do you know what I did when I saw it?
Right there all by myself.
Because the truth is, it’s the same message I’ve been sending myself all week.
as a mom,
as a sister,
as an aunt,
as a teacher,
as a therapist,
as a pet owner,
as a neighbor,
as gym goer,
as a friend,
as a writer,
as a wife,
Be better - at everything.
And something about seeing the message fall into my lap made me realize that none of us need that kind of energy right now.
Who are we to tell ourselves or anyone else to be better?
It’s ok to not be better.
Sometimes it’s ok to just be.
Be far from perfect.
Be simply surviving.
Be a mess.
Be “just” ok.
If there is anything we all need to “be better” at right now, it’s giving ourselves and each other a bit more grace and resisting the pressure from society to always try to be better.
Here’s to hoping you are embracing just being you right now.
It has been a rough couple of weeks over here. I won’t go into the details but let’s just say that I’ve been trying really hard to take my own advice. I've been telling myself things like:
“Hold on to hope.”
“Look for the glimmers of hope.”
“Don’t be your own biggest critic.”
And, it’s hard.
This morning when my alarm went off, I hit snooze about two dozen times. Then my inner chatter started and I really really REALLY wanted to just pull the covers up over my head and hide from the world for 4 more hours. Since it's school vacation week and my sessions start later on Wednesdays, no one was counting on me to be anywhere or do anything.
But then I remembered what I told someone the other day when they asked me "What do you do to take care of yourself?"
My answer is always the same these days when someone asks me that question. I take care of myself by going to the gym. I pop on my headphones, tune out the world, and focus on me and what my body can do that day.
So, I pulled myself out of bed and went to the gym.
Even though I wanted to hide from the world.
Even though I wanted to sabotage myself.
Even though I wanted to hibernate.
I went because I realized that even though no one else was counting on me, "I" was counting on me.
I am counting on myself to keep doing the things that I need to do to feel grounded.
It's so easy in the stormy phases of life to put our own needs on the back burner. It's so tempting to avoid the things that always make us feel more like ourselves.
So, if you are like me and are on the struggle bus right now and are thinking about avoiding the things that make you feel like you...
You still need to make yourself a priority.
You deserve to be a priority in your own life.
You can be there for others AND be there for yourself.
Today I cried at the gym.
Not because I fell and sprained my ankle trying to do pull ups. (No, that happened 18 months ago.)
Not because I hate the way I look in the mirror. (No, I’m trying to be kinder to myself.)
Not because someone corrected my form. (No, that happened last week.)
Today I cried because of a song.
Yes, a song.
We all have those songs, right?
The ones that can hit us in all the feels if the timing is right.
The ones that can flood us with memories as soon as we hear that first note.
The ones that make us feel completely alive with emotions with just a single verse.
And for a few miles as I climbed quick and steep hills on a treadmill, I let myself feel it all.
I didn’t push the hard feelings away - because if we do that too often the negative feelings build up and eventually seep out sideways.
Instead, I let the feelings wash over me like a wave of raw emotion.
And right there on the treadmill, I cried.
Tears mixed with sweat as I pushed up the incline higher and bumped up my pace.
Step and step.
Song after song.
Mile after mile.
I let myself lean in to all the heavy and hard feelings in my life.
Then as I brought the treadmill back to zero incline and slowed my pace, I pushed myself to find the glimmers of hope.
I forced myself to consider all that is good in my life and in the world right now.
I let myself lean in to the things that bring my life light and laughter, despite the times of darkness.
Suddenly my tears were no long tears of heaviness but tears of gratitude - for no matter how much darkness surrounds us, light always finds a way back in.
Monday morning I found my husband standing at our back door, silently gazing up at my favorite little tree.
"There's a mama bird" he whispered as he heard me approaching.
And he was right.
I peered out the door with him and there she was - all snuggled into the nest she built in our pretty tree, presumably waiting for her babies to hatch.
With 3 dogs and a fenced-in backyard, that back door gets a lot of use each day and every single time I open the door to let out a dog or two, the mama bird flies out of her nest and perches a few branches up. She watches our every move, making sure she and her babies are not in danger.
And every time I see her, I can't help but to be awed by the beauty of nature and the power of natural instincts.
That mama bird surely hasn't read any parenting books on how to protect her babies from wiggly dogs. She certainly hasn't watched any Youtube videos on how to build safe and secure nests. She definitely hasn't attended a class at a local hospital on how to properly hatch her eggs.
Yet, she just knows how to do it all.
And the truth is, in so many situations in life - we just know too.
But so often we allow our instincts to be drowned out by societal pressures and judgments, or overpowered by our own anxious thoughts.
So this week each time I see that mama bird, I force myself to be still for just a moment.
I take a few deep breaths.
In and out.
I bring myself back to the present.
And I force myself to listen to my own instincts and to trust my own judgment.
It's a simple addition to my days this week but so far it's been powerful.
Maybe today is a good day for you to try it too.
“If you wanted to break your father, you did.”
I stared at the text from my mother, yet another reminder that my father’s feelings matter more than anyone else’s feelings could ever matter.
Yet another attempt to control me with guilt and shame.
It didn’t matter that I had nothing to do with the thing she thought would “break” him.
It didn’t matter that it was his own actions that led to someone else calling him out on his behavior.
It didn’t matter that I wasn’t involved.
It didn't matter because for as long as I can remember, my feelings don’t matter.
My needs don’t matter.
My truth doesn’t matter.
They never did.
They never will--not to them.
Because when you are raised by a narcissist, the bad stuff is always your fault.
Even after finally finding the courage to close the door on a relationship with my father, he still gets to reach into my life via my mother and try to push those deeply rooted buttons of guilt that were planted there in my childhood.
But as I stared at the text message, I noticed my heart wasn’t racing like it used to when my mother would scold me for my father’s feelings being hurt.
My face wasn’t red with anxiety like it used to be in a situation like this.
At that moment, I realized her words no longer filled me with fear or rage.
Instead, I felt pity.
I felt pity for her that she never found the strength to walk away from his abuse, manipulation, and isolation.
I felt pity for her that she made a choice I can never imagine making as a mother--choosing my partner over my children.
I felt pity for her that she never could find the way toward a relationship with me, my sister, or her grandchildren.
But bigger than the pity is a feeling of hope.
I’m finding that every time I hold a boundary with my parents, every time I shine the light on their toxic and manipulative behavior, every time I use my voice to shatter the false illusion they so desperately try to build about the reality of living with them as parents, I feel my hope for the future swelling.
I have hope that my children will never experience the kind self-doubt I have experienced because they know my love is unconditional.
I have hope that my children will never have crippling anxiety stemming from their childhood and not knowing whether their parents are so drunk that they pass out in the middle of a sentence, tear a phone from a wall, or hurl insults at them.
I have hope that my children will find partners who don’t have to bear witness to the darkest places in life--the ones that happen when old traumas get triggered--because we are raising them in an open, loving, and safe home.
I have hope that my children will always know I love them, their partners, and their children with all of my heart.
I have hope that the chains of guilt, shame, and obedience that have tethered me to my parents for all these years will one day be completely broken, and I will be completely free.
Originally published in November 2021 by Her View From Home HERE
Guess what, friend?
Sometimes we wait too long for someone to give us permission when we need something.
Even though we feel it in our guts:
The need to change our minds.
The need to take a break.
The need to change direction.
The need to ask a question.
The need to acknowledge our feelings.
We wait for permission.
Wait for just one more day.
Wait for someone else to say something first.
Wait for someone to notice us.
Wait for things to get worse.
It feels like we are waiting on someone else but the truth is this - that person you are waiting on is actually you.
So, go ahead and give yourself permission.
Permission to cry.
Permission to rest.
Permission to play.
Permission to laugh.
Permission to be broken.
Permission to be imperfect.
Permission to give voice to your needs.
Permission to be who you want to be.
Permission to stop keeping yourself waiting.
Haven’t you waited long enough?
Be kind to yourself,
Lately, it feels like we’ve all been walking on a somewhat moderately paced treadmill and someone came along and tapped the speed up to turbo.
And just like that, we’re hurtling ahead at full speed — trying to outrun all of the pressures in life.
Running, running, running. A complete blur of ourselves. Cursing whoever it was that turned up the speed.
Gasping for air.
But if you force yourself to slow down and catch your breath, you might find that the person who tapped the speed up to turbo was actually you.
Yes, maybe you’re the one piling more stuff on your to-do list.
Maybe you’re the one setting ridiculous goals for yourself.
Maybe you’re the one saying yes when you should be saying no.
Maybe you’re the one placing the needs of others way before your own.
So, maybe right now is a good time to give yourself permission to slow down and take care of yourself a bit.
And, while you’re at it, maybe it’s a good time to practice some more kindness towards yourself.
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.