I AM

I AM.

I wasn’t sure what it meant when that statement popped into my head. Not “I am.” I AM. All in caps, even in my head. Bold, maybe, too.

I AM.

Thinking about all of the “I am” statements that come out of our mouths on a daily basis, I wonder how many of us are truly aware of these declarations. I nearly started this paragraph with “I am”. It’s not just about labels though, as I originally thought it was. It’s deeper than that.

Think about it: when I say “I am…” I’m declaring, affirming, labeling, calling into being, and accepting whatever it is that I follow it up with.

I am an introvert.

I am in a transition period.

I am a single mother.

All of these declarations carry meaning and depth to them beyond the original statement. And while all of those declarations may be true, as may be the labels, I can choose something else. YOU can choose something else. We don’t have to be caged by these declarations.

We also get to, if we so choose, to accept or reject the declarations given to us from others in the oh so common “you are” statements we so love to dole out unconsciously.

You are more fun when you’re drunk.

You are too intense.

You are brilliant.

I’ve been on the receiving end of all of the above statements. The two negative statements I accepted without question. The positive one I only accepted because I trusted the source, though it was still shocking to me. Isn’t interesting to notice how quickly we accept negative statements?

One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to think. I like to think. It’s fun for me. Except when it’s not. Except when declarations go unchecked and I’m blindly accepting everything my mind generates.

The mind loves a good story and it’ll create one when there’s an absence of information.

I AM. It’s a complete sentence. I don’t have to quantify it. I don’t have to create a story. I just AM.

It’s quite liberating.

Try it. Let me know what you think.

Things I’m Pondering Volume 2

I’ve been bouncing around a lot this month, mostly in my head, some out of it. What can I say, I really enjoy THINKING, which not to be confused with RUMINATING. Ruminating is bad, m’kay?

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m participating in a 10-month mentorship program. I’m getting immense value from my relationship with my mentor. In the last few weeks, the switch finally flipped and things are starting to snowball for me, which is amazing. I’m lighter, free-er, and oh so much more open. Like WIDE open. While I originally thought I’d be working on my business acumen, I’ve shifted to getting back in touch with my creativity and the ways in which that creativity strengthens me. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I’m wrapping up Week 13 of Bigness Project, a hypertrophy program written by Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler (who is one my favorite people I’ve never met…one day), and with only one week left I’m beyond proud of myself. I’m actually FINISHING! This has been about rewriting my story about being a quitter (I’m NOT) and really just seeing what my body can do. I cannot wait to show you the before and after pics because WOW. Suffice it to say my body LOVES training this way. I’ve fallen back in love with the gym and it’s a boatload of fun.

One of the byproducts of the changes in my body has been noticing how others see (with their eyes) me. This is often a double-edged sword for women. We’re told so many conflicting things about how we should view ourselves, how others are allowed to view us, we’ve experienced so much negative and positive around our appearances that sometimes we aren’t sure what to do. Here’s what I’ve decided for myself: your value isn’t in your appearance. But there is nothing wrong with valuing your appearance or wanting it to be valued by others. This came to me after not once, but twice, men opened the door for me just so they could watch me walk away. And I LIKED it. Note that this wasn’t done in a way that I felt threatening or sleazy. They were simply appreciative. I guess the bottom line is that I get to choose. I get to choose to feel empowered by being appreciated for my appearance, even though I’m so much more than that. After nearly 30 years of hiding, this is a MASSIVE shift for me.

Another thing I’m pondering is around where the line is between compassionate self-improvement and the self-hatred of obsessively striving for better. I don’t have any solid thoughts here yet, only that I’m reaping the benefits of compassionate self-improvement as I write this. As Brené Brown has written, at any given moment we are all doing the best we can. Compassionate self-improvement comes more from acknowledging that making changes is about feeling good whereas obsessive self-improvement is about perfection. It’s letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It comes at the expense of various things in our lives, such as our relationships. This line may or may not be indelible and its position will vary by person. All I can say with any certainty is that fighting myself has not yielded nearly the results that loving myself has.

They Like Me Better When I’m Drunk

Driving home from the gym and lost in thought, I came to a startling realization.

Years ago, my ex-husband made the very painful remark that people like me better when I’m drunk. Back then, this was just another reminder that I was too much and therefore unlovable.

As I was driving, though, it occurred to me that there is a positive to this. And I’m going to premise this with “this is not a glorification of alcohol”.

As we all know, alcohol is a great remover of inhibitions and, for most of us, a truth serum of sorts. What that looks like on me is unfiltered, raw, relaxed, and real.

I have spent most of my life hiding. There are briefs moments when I shine, those moments when my passion pours from my eyes and mouth or when I’m slightly inebriated.

I stop trying to hide and simply AM. I stop thinking so hard and simply AM. I stop trying to be proper, articulate, intelligent and just AM.

I stop trying and just AM, unapologetically, in all my glory, lit up like a Christmas tree.

The good/bad thing is that I don’t drink very often (it’s not in alignment with my health goals and it’s really superfluous). Addiction is something that occurs on both sides of my family so I’ve always been very aware of what, how much, and why I’m drinking. But for a brief period of time in my early adulthood, numbing was never in the why category. Neither was “because I’m more me when I’m a bit loopy”, but this is now my sad realization.

I’m reminded of that Maya Angelou quote “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Except that I don’t know what “better” is. I now have to figure out how I remove the crutch I didn’t know I had been using (a handful of times per year).

I write all this as if the person I am when I’m sober isn’t also me. It is also me, just the me that finds the shadows safer but constricting. It’s the me that struggles HARD, that fights everything. It’s just not the me I was before the world told me I had to be different. It’s not the me that is joy and free.

That’s also not to say inebriated me is the best version of me. It’s not. Which is why being drunk all the time isn’t something I’m willing to try or be. But it does provide a glimpse at what is possible should I choose to point myself in the direction of less hiding, more living.

Which, of course, is exactly what I’m going to do.

“Always” + “Never” = Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Words are things.

Very powerful things.

Last night my mentor wondered aloud if I realized how often I made “always” and “never” statements. It’s been pointed out to me before how often I do this, but I hadn’t (nearly used “never” there) stopped to actually notice.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many people have stopped me recently to point out how often I use those two words. It’s no wonder I feel stuck, I’m creating and perpetuating myths of my own design, whether that’s what I consciously want to do or not.

Now I’m left wondering how I can be more conscious of my word choices. I’m usually pretty conscious, especially when I write. But when I’m just talking, especially from the heart, rambling, unfiltered, the truth always reveals itself. “Always” and “never” sprinkle themselves like salt and pepper through my speech and it is immediately constricting.

When I decided that I was going to complete Bigness Project, a strength training program designed around hypertrophy, I was adamant this be the one I finished. I was saying things like “I NEVER complete these programs” and “I ALWAYS get bored halfway through and quit”. For about 5 weeks after I started I was STILL making these statements, even though that wasn’t the reality I wanted to create. Even though I knew better. Then it was pointed out to me and I was a bit gobsmacked. Am I really saying those things?!

Today I ask you to consider your words, to notice them and how they feel when you say them. There is no need to judge them as correct or incorrect, right or wrong. But consider them within the context of the reality you are trying to create. Do they serve your intended creation? If not, how can you choose differently?

What to do when your sense of self is shaken

Recently, something occurred in my life that made me question things as I’d never had to. It’s made me look at who I am, what I will tolerate, and how I communicate my needs and expectations.

It has also turned back on the ruminating machine in my mind, with awful psycho-somatic effects. The stomach is a second brain and reacts to our emotions (ever heard of stress-related irritable bowel syndrome?) and mine has been a wreck.

But I’m not here to write about what happened and the physical effects of emotional stress. I want to talk about how to move through it without minimizing OR wallowing.

Something I talk about with people close to me is how I use writing as a processing tool. It’s such a powerful tool that it’s been suggested to me that I teach this in a workshop setting. I wrote consistently up to, through, and in the aftermath of a divorce and I say with no shred of theatrics that it saved my sanity AND it kept me from getting ill because I wrote the emotions OUT of me instead of letting them sit in my body and fester.

Emotions are big, hairy Yetis. Or they can be if we let them. The reason writing works as a processing tool is that you can take an emotion and put it back in its place. Sometimes it’s as simple as labeling it: I am feeling ____. Other times, it’s helpful to really break things down, peeling back the layers until you get to root hurt. Still other times, it’s helpful to have a framework to work within such as that of poetry.

I use a couple different forms, from a Morning Pages brain dump (this comes from The Artist’s Way and is something that highly successful people like Tim Ferriss do), to direct approach type of writing (taking a thought and expanding it), to poetry. Yes, I write poetry. I’m even a published poet. I use poetry for the really hard stuff though because it forces me to channel whatever it is I’m feeling into something beautiful even if what I’m feeling is ugly.

Words are things. Writing is my way of using words, bending them, crafting them into something I can use. Instead of saying I’m angry, I can use words, syllables, and stanzas to convey the nuances of that anger and in turn, releasing said anger from my body.

There’s one more trick I have up my sleeve though: Stoicism.

Stoicism gets a bad rap as being the absence of emotion when it is anything but. In perhaps overly simple terms, Stoicism is the ability to recognize an emotion and choosing something different.

“You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you”. ~ Marcus Aurelius

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” ~ Victor Frankl

For me, writing and Stoicism go hand in hand. Writing works because I take a Stoic approach. I use it as my tool for choosing something different. I’m not saying it makes everything bad go away. Not at all. What it does do, though, is create space for healing, where my heart stays OPEN instead of closed, hurt, and wallowing in false beliefs.

Permission Granted

“Help me decide,” I said.

I don’t often ask for help. Very, VERY rarely do I outsource decision-making. I can’t actually remember the last time I asked someone to help me decide anything. These are not things I’m particularly proud of but are actually things I’m working on, so for me to ask for help deciding something is pretty monumental.

I’ve spent the past 3 months in complete overdrive. My decision to make a change in one area of my life has had a domino-like effect on the rest and not positively. You know the saying that goes sometimes things get worse before they get better? That’s the pickle I put myself in. And sure enough, pretty immediately my body started pumping out cortisol at the perceived threat.

Stress is the catalyst for my PCOS. The second my cortisol levels start to rise, I start to have symptoms again. The simplified explanation for this is:

Cortisol and Insulin are the two BIG hormones in the body. The production of both must be balanced and when one goes off kilter, so does the other. And these two master hormones have a cascading effect on all the other hormones in the body. This is so regardless of gender.

This is why people say stress kills. Ultimately, it does.

So when a very positive experience occurred last week, one that I believe will ultimately put me where I want to be, I started wondering if maybe I could slow down. Except that I could come up with a million and one reasons why I shouldn’t, even though my body was begging me to. I knew I was going to over-think this and make myself feel even worse. So I asked for help.

“I think you need a break,” he said. That was followed by a gentle plea to not make myself sick (interesting that this is something I hear often from people who love me: don’t make yourself sick, which is code for I love you, please slow down).

The decision made, I suddenly felt 50 lbs lighter. I might just be taking a break. I might have to start all over again in a month or so. But for now, I can breathe and allow my body to go back into homeostasis.

For now, I have time.

Things I’m Pondering

I’ve been MIA here of late and I apologize. My priorities are being pulled in multiple directions at the moment and stopping to write hasn’t been something I’ve been able to do.
While I usually come to you with fully formed ideas and solutions, today I’m going to share with you things I’m cogitating on.
I’ve recently subscribed to The Daily Stoic. A few days ago this quote landed in my inbox:
“He heard the warning of Marcus Aurelius; cease to be whirled about; and of Baudelaire: ‘Pleasure consumes us, work strengthens us. Let us choose.’”
It’s from Budd Schulberg’s novel about his time with F. Scott Fitzgerald. I keep coming back to it a couple times a day, turning it over and over in my mind. The rebel in me immediately said “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” but I KNOW that the point of the warning contained in that quote isn’t to abstain from pleasure, it’s to not be LED by it.
Time has been a serious pain point for me of late. Without going into too much detail, I’m in a spot where I need to stop doing some things so that I have time to do other things, except that I cannot stop doing said things because I don’t have what doing the things I want to do would bring me. Time has become something so elusive and precious. The reality is that it is THE only non-renewable resource we have. And when we don’t have enough of it, we suffer. One of the things I’ve finally realized though is that instead of reinforcing that I don’t have time, I’m reminding myself that I DO have time. I have enough time.
I have enough of everything I need. And so do you. We always do and always will.