Finding Hope And Holding On
Listen friends, I’m not someone who believes in “choosing happiness” or not allowing yourself to feel the crappy feelings.
Sometimes life is just plain painful.
Sometimes nothing seems to go your way.
Sometimes everything feels dark and gloomy.
And when those kinds of days happen, it’s completely normal and acceptable to feel all the feelings about it.
You might want to scream into your pillow…
or cry out of frustration…
or fire off some angry texts and emails and social media responses…
or crawl back into bed…
or even run away.
But, we have to look for the good parts.
Even if they are hard to find.
Even if there aren’t a lot of them.
I promise there are always some good parts. There is always some glimmer of hope to hold on to. Let those good parts be what defines your day, not the other things.
So, even if today was one of “those days” - those days where lots of stuff went wrong, maybe if you look hard enough you will find that it was also one of “those days” - those days where you can find some glimmers of hope.
And when you find the glimmers, even if all you can find is one teeny tiny strand of a glimmer, hold on tight to it and let it remind you that brighter days are ahead.
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I’m not sure how it happened but here I am about to celebrate my 43rd birthday. While I certainly haven’t figured out all of life’s secrets, I have learned my fair share of important lessons, leaving me feeling much more balanced, fulfilled, and hopeful today than I have ever felt as I approached any of my other birthdays.
So, in honor of my 43rd birthday, I give you 44 (1 for each year plus 1 for good luck) of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far:
In no particular order:
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How To Give Yourself A Break
Last week I overheard someone telling a friend that they have a “surprise day off tomorrow.” Apparently they requested the day off from work a while ago but can’t remember why. So, it’s just a surprise day for themselves.
A blank day in their daily planner.
It got me thinking about how we all could benefit from a surprise day off from whatever stressors and responsibilities are filling our days right now. So, why not make it happen?
I can already hear you starting to list a million reasons why not to make it happen but what about all the reasons to try to make it a reality?
Take some time and pick a day on the calendar that looks at least sort of open and schedule yourself off from whatever you are typically doing. Go ahead and label it “surprise day off.” Give yourself a blank page in your agenda that day. Don’t fill it with work or chores or caring for others. Leave it open for yourself.
Maybe you could go for a long drive alone.
Maybe you could have lunch with a friend.
Maybe you could sleep in.
Maybe you could do something that you find fun.
It doesn’t matter as long as it is something for you.
And if you can’t swing a whole day off, aim for a half-day or even an hour. Just schedule some time off — even if it takes 6 months to make it happen. Go make it happen. Ask for help from your support network if you need help with covering your responsibilities. Maybe you could even offer to cover for them on their own surprise day off!
I promise you that when that “surprise day off” comes around, you’ll be so glad you scheduled it for yourself.
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Last Night I Lost It...
Last night I lost it.
I was too tired because I didn’t sleep enough.
I was too hungry because I didn’t eat enough.
I was too sore after an injury because I didn’t rest enough.
I hadn’t done enough.
And so, I wasn’t enough.
I wasn’t patient enough.
I wasn’t understanding enough.
I wasn’t trusting enough.
I lost it.
Tears over nothing.
Tears over everything.
It may have seemed like it came from nowhere but it came from everywhere.
That’s what happens when we don’t give ourselves enough.
And the truth is, when we don’t give ourselves enough, we aren’t able to give anyone else enough.
Don’t forget to focus on doing enough for yourself.
Sometimes that might mean you need to focus on doing less for others.
Find the space between selfishness and selflessness and live there.
Give yourself enough so you can be enough.
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We all have those places in life.
Places we can transport ourselves back to in an instant because they are so deeply woven into the fabric of our souls.
We remember every detail about those places.
We remember the colors of every wall.
We remember the sound of the antique radio playing music every Saturday morning.
We remember hanging upside down off the chair in the corner and watching everyone’s feet on the ceiling.
We remember the crisp snap of peas and the roughness of corn husks as we prepped the Sunday dinner.
We remember how many steps it was from the living room to our bedroom.
We remember how that big tree in the front yard cast a long shadow every afternoon.
We remember the closets filled with fancy dress shoes and the bureaus filled with makeup.
We remember how every spring a family of groundhogs would take up residency under the porch.
We remember the peacefulness and stillness of the fresh air at night.
We remember everything about those places.
Because those places are a part of us.
Those places were our foundation.
We remember how it felt to feel loved in that place.
We remember how it felt to be seen, really seen whenever we were at our place.
We remember how it felt to know we were safe and cared for there.
We remember because that is where the happy moments of our childhood lived.
We remember, and with aching hearts, we miss it.
We’d give anything to walk in that front door again.
We’d do anything to sit around that kitchen table one more time.
We’d trade anything to go back in time and relive just one day in that place.
But our places don’t always stay the same.
Blue houses turn yellow.
Trees get replaced by open spaces.
Open spaces get filled in with new houses.
People leave us.
And those places that once belonged to us someday belong to other people.
But they are still OUR places - stored forever in our memories and in our hearts.
And no matter how hard this life gets, we can always close our eyes and imagine ourself back in that place.
It will always be our place.
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The Secret About Change
I’m going to let you in on a little secret about change.
Walking away from the things and people that drain your energy is one of the hardest things you can do.
Even if that person or thing leaves you bruised and broken over and over again, making the decision to leave it behind and step towards a life that is more authentically you, is terrifying.
Like leaves your palms sweaty, gives you a pit in your stomach, and sends your heart racing - terrifying.
You begin to worry about all the people that won’t understand.
You start a repetitive loop of all the “what if” scenarios.
You decide that it’s just not worth it - change would be too hard.
But, sweet reader, I promise you it IS worth it.
All of the pain and fear and hard work of walking away from the life you know and walking towards the life you deserve is worth it.
I hope that someday you find the courage to take the first step away from the hurt and turn your gaze to the horizon of possibility.
A beautiful horizon of possibility - that’s what exists for you once you decide to take your future and your happiness into your own hands and go after the things you want.
I promise you that there will be moments where you doubt your decision. There will be moments where you start to turn back towards the pain because the devil you know is greater than the devil you don’t know right?
Remember this - there’s only one way to find out.
You owe it to yourself in those moments to keep moving forward.
Keep moving towards your goals and away from the painful past.
Even when it’s hard. Even when it feels uncertain.
And someday, hopefully in the not too distant future, you will take a deep breath in for just a moment and catch a glimpse of the life you used to know, a glimpse of the shell of the person you used to be, and you will smile.
You will smile and notice that your heart is light, you are surrounded by true support, and you are on the right path - all because you believed you were worthy and took that first step towards change and possibility.
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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.