Stop Shrinking So They Can Shine

We are blessed to be living in a great time for the empowerment of women. The progress  and  opportunities are huge. The growth is significant. The focus on women supporting women, coming together, helping each other succeed is refreshing beyond anything I ever encountered  “growing up” in the corporate world. All that said, we still have a problem that is often only discussed behind closed doors, one on one, or in small groups. And that’s the heartbreak and betrayal that women have when another woman is mean, combative, unsupportive and truth is outright disrespectful towards another woman regarding her life choices. Even worse is  when those behaviors come at us, unexpectedly, from people we care about and trust.

I have watched  behaviors like this always , it starts young and continues into adulthood for so many. The difference in the last 3 years is I am watching with a whole new set of eyes, eyes that have been opened in a way they never were before. I am not proud of this, but in the past these behaviors fell into a certain bucket for me, a bucket of ”oh well, that’s just the way it is’ bucket.’ Not now, not anymore. The only real conversations I have been part of about how damaging this behavior can be has also been behind closed doors. I have heard countless stories from friends whom have been treated terribly by other women. Teased. Made fun of. Snarky, passive aggressive remarks. Some to their face. Some behind their back. Some on social media. Some straight out blunt, mean and rude comments. It comes from family members and friends. This behavior does not discriminate.  And it’s even acquaintances. It’s a bit mind-blowing if I am fully honest. Mind-blowing that others feel it’s their place to make their judgmental and not so nice comments for all to see. Yes, I have had it happen directed straight at me in all of the ways that I just described. In my own experience I justified it away. Not proud of that either. Initially I thought I am being  too sensitive or imagining things or overthinking a comment or a facial expression. I thought was that meant as a dig? Were they making a joke? Are they making fun of me? Newsflash. Yes, they were. And I woke up. No, I am not too sensitive and yes, my feelings and your feelings should be hurt. No, their behavior is not ok. And yes, you should walk away.

I know this topic will make some people uncomfortable and even mad. For the good of all women, I am taking my chances. This is a problem in the world of women everywhere. Working out of the home, working in the home, at home working at raising kids which doesn’t pay a dime, not having kids, having 8 kids, it doesn’t matter. It’s all women. And it’s time someone, in my circle of life that is, stand up and say I see you. I am onto you. And what you are doing is not ok. In the spirit of not being a fraud, here is why I am speaking up. This is why I can’t stay silent any longer. This week  I had a text from a friend about how a woman in her network was treating her. And then she said this, and I quote,

“Thanks for talking it out. I feel like you are so grounded when it comes to this and I still am such a work in progress.”

Ouch. I have been thinking of this all week. Because I am not those things. I am just like her. Just like everyone else. I am human, I have feelings that have been and continue to be hurt by this behavior and I don’t let it roll off my back as easily as might be perceived or as I would like to. And this, writing this, is part of that process. For me, for you, for my daughter and her generation that can do better. If we break the cycle and show them the way.

I don’t have all the answers on how to stop this. Awareness is a step. Accountability is needed. Easier said than done, I know. But here is one thing I know for sure, without one ounce of doubt.  Women that behave this way….It  is 100% about them. I know because I used to be a version of them, and when I was it was 100% about me and my own issues, my  insecurities, my jealousy. And now, as is the boomerang of life, I am now a victim of the same. While I didn’t make the hurtful comments on social media, and I didn’t openly criticize or judge others life choices, I did do it, inside of me and absolutely with a facial expression or two, or three that made my judgement and disapproval very clear.. Passively aggressively of course.  I judged when I didn’t understand.  I criticized things that made me uncomfortable. I focused on things about others that made me envious or jealous, because deep down I wanted what they had but didn’t even have the self awareness to know it or the self esteem and confidence to go after it!

When self awareness is hard to find, and self love is lacking, it is hard to take a step back and see how our behavior towards others is really a reflection of how we see and feel about ourselves. Others jealousy is a refection on them. Others criticism and judgement is a reflection on them. Others rude remarks, passive aggressive  behaviors or even their need to control you, slow down your growth or discourage your dreams, is all about them. Positively, some will come around. I certainly did. But there may be some that don’t and you can’t change that, no matter how hard you justify, hope or try. So I encourage you, no I plead with you, do not let these women stop you. Do not let their issues, that have nothing whatsoever to do with you, do not let them stop you from pursuing dreams and opportunities that can better your life. Do not let them stop you from the growth inside that is yearning to come out. Do not let them stop you from becoming the best version of you that you have always been meant to be. I guarantee  you these things.. You are not alone in this. There are more women on the side of encouraging, supporting and empowering you than there are on the dark side. Walk away from the ones that bring you down, instill self doubt and want  you to play small so that they look bigger, brighter and better. But mostly know that you’ve got this and  that you can and will come out better on the other side.

It takes Two to Tango

 

Today is March 6th. A random Wednesday. Late start for my kids at school today, I am not a fan of late start days as it throws off the entire morning.  It’s also a Full Moon today. But it”s also a date to remind me how dramatically my life has changed in the last 3 years. It’s the date my husband of 18 years told me he was not in love with me, had not been for ‘awhile’ and that he wanted a divorce. In the parking lot across the street from Walgreens. Yes, a parking lot. Still a bit surreal.  It’s the date that I fully believed 3 years ago was the absolute worst day of my life. And in that moment, it was. And like anyone in the throws of a heartbreak or life change that they didn’t ask for, didn’t see coming and didn’t want there is no way to see that in that moment of despair that life may just end up being better in the long run.

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago that  it hit me that ‘March 6th’ was coming. That dreadful anniversary date that will always be. Yet, it’s not. Not at all . When I remembered oh that’s coming up, it was a feeling of  how funny, I actually forgot about ‘that date.’ I simply was reminded because I read there was going to be a Full Moon on the 6th. And that’s what jogged my memory. It was surreal to know that I had almost forgotten the date had significance. That when I did remember the date I felt happy. I felt good. I didn’t feel a pit in my stomach. I literally  felt grateful, in a way that is so hard to describe. But gratitude and a sense of relief is the sentiment now, just 3 years later.

I will always say, and in fact just said to someone else last week when discussing general marital struggles, I am not a believer in divorce as an answer. Marriage is hard by the way. For everyone. If anyone tries to tell you theirs is not, they are lying. Sorry, but they are.  All that being said, I am beyond happy to be divorced. I realize this does not make sense, how can I not believe in divorce yet be happy to claim that title? Mostly, because in some cases it’s the only option left, but I believe there are many solutions beyond divorce but they are about the whole marriage. They are even about the dating phase, not just the marriage. It takes two to tango. In all situations. In all relationships. Period, end of story. It takes two to date. Two to decide to get married. Two to cause the breakdown of a marriage. One person is never solely to blame, ok unless of course it’s abuse, but I am adding that even though I hope we know that is a given. But in all relationships, it takes two people, doing their part to make a relationship respectful, trustworthy, enjoyable, passionate, kind, fun and healthy. It doesn’t matter how much we blame the other person, my husband and I spent years doing that, before and after the breakup, but it’s just not true. It takes 2.

With that being said, from my heart, I do not believe my ex husband is to blame for our divorce. That’s a big departure from year one and even year two. A happy and freeing departure I might add.  I will never condone the last few years of lying, cheating, gaslighting, etc. Accepting responsibility is not condoning. It is not ok, it is damaging to everyone involved, the one lying, the ones being lied to, even extended family and friends who become affected as things blow up, which they always do. But I have forgiven him for those behaviors. They were not the whole marriage. And holding on to hate and blame gets us nowhere and nowhere fast. But know this, I forgave him for me. In fact I have more than forgiven him and every day I express gratitude to him in my daily practice. I thank him for the many years we had together. I thank him for my amazing 4 children that God blessed us with. There is a reason God brought us together and without a doubt it was to give us these 4 kids that I am so blessed to call mine. And then I thank him for telling me on March 6, 2016 that he wanted a divorce. The pain of that day and the days, weeks and months that followed is not a pain I wish on anyone.  But that pain changed me. That pain propelled me into an absolute need and also hidden desire to get to know the real me. And she’s complicated no doubt. But there’s more to her than I think I ever knew and getting to know her has been quite a ride, one I am still joyfully on.

With all the good and the bad, I wouldn’t change the journey over the last 3 years. It is all part of the process. If you are reading this and you’re in the middle of severe hurting, it will be hard for you to hear me say you are going to be ok. I read blog after blog after blog back then. The ones I kept reading were the ones that told me your marriage will survive, you are meant to fix your marriage, God hates divorce and here is how you will fix it. I hated blogs like this one, the one I am writing to you all right now. Yet there was truth in them. Truth that you will survive, you will be ok, you will even thrive once this is all said and done. Have faith my friend. Find YOU in the midst of all the chaos. Mourn how YOU mourn. There is no right or wrong way. People will judge. People will think you should mourn like they do. People will exit your life that you thought would be around forever. But that’s just as it’s meant to be. God is clearing the path for your greatness. For your future. For what’s meant to be for YOU.

I hope you find eventual peace and gratitude in your painful journey. I hope you find forgiveness in your heart. I hope you get to know yourself and know that only you can make you happy. The journey ahead can be one of beauty and love. Cherish every good and bad moment for its shaping you into the woman you are meant to be. Be brave my friends.

 

The Gift that keeps on Giving

IMG_4980 “Avoid the Toxic Playground.” I read this today, in an email from someone I admire and follow.  There are many reasons I stopped to read this. And as I did, there was a lot that was relatable. Of top importance is that  I recognized myself in her words. My old self, and I do NOT mean my post divorce self,  I mean my old, much younger, trying to find my way in the world self. The thing about that younger self is I had absolutely no idea I was projecting my inner feelings onto others in my life. My un-easiness, my confusion in finding myself, my confusion in not knowing what I wanted out of life  and my own “dislike” of who I was becoming was coming out of me and onto others. Others that I cared about and considered some of my best friends in the world. My issues, issues with me, were pushed down and instead  I “let them loose” in the form of judging others, criticizing others and thinking I am sitting pretty here, I’ve got life all figured out. Hardly!

Over the holidays I was having lunch  with a couple of my oldest and dearest friends, one of whom has moved away so the holidays are the only time we get to squeeze this date in. It lasts for hours and is always so much fun to laugh, talk and catch up. This year the general topic of friendships came up and my friends went on to share some observations they have had about some things they have noticed from a distance, you know from the outside looking in. As the conversation progressed I had a full circle moment and looked at one of my friends and with a moment of tears in my eyes I said, what you are seeing and describing is exactly what I did to you, how I treated you “back then” and how I projected “me” and MY issues onto you. I had no idea back  in my 20’s that what I was “feeling” was envy and jealousy and uncertainty. And I was the one “doing the projecting.”

At this point in my life, I have been projected on and I have been the projector. I have been on the judging side and I have been the not always nice one. And conversely, I too have been judged and treated poorly. At the end of the day I have learned this. We are each responsible for our own happiness. It comes from within. If someone is judging me, talking badly about me, that’s about them., not me. If I am judging or saying hurtful things about someone then its time for me to look inward and fix whats broken, whats broken inside of me. When we are unhappy, when we have jealously and envy towards others, when we are hurting, and when we don’t “like” ourselves very much, we can’t help but leek it onto others. It seeps out, it carries over to those we care about, those we spend a lot of time with. We tell ourselves the problem is them, not ourself. We think changing our environment solves all of our problems. When we project, when we lash out at others, when we blame others we are stopping ourselves from looking in, getting to know ourselves mind, body and soul and we are doing ourselves a disservice in the long run. It’s self defense, its coping and it happens. To everyone. I  played that “blame game” for a big chunk of my life. Always someone else’s fault, right?  Until now. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I ‘woke up” and realized that no-one and I mean no-one is to blame for anything in my life but me. Not a spouse. Not an employer. Not a friend. Not a family member. Just me!  I have a brain, I GET to take credit for the good, the bad and the ugly and that my friends, is a gift. It’s a gift I plan to keep channeling, keep using and  I am working to turn it into the gift that keeps on giving!

I am happy to say that the friends from that lunch are friends I have had for close to 30  and 40  years, respectively. Our friendship made it from middle school and a cross country move, through our crazy city living  20’s, through marriage, lots of babies and one divorce  in our 30’s and 40’s and now in our 5th decade we are having some of the most real and heartfelt conversations we have ever had. What a testament to the cycle of friendship. Like in any relationship we love, we support, we have fun, we would do anything to make the other person happy and we want nothing but the absolute best for each other.  This is what true friendships, that stand the test of life, of change, of challenges and disappointments, are all about. In this self proclaimed period of growth I am in, I have been “forced” to go backwards and look at ALL phases of me. Not just the grown woman who got a divorce version, she doesn’t define me.  But also that young, getting life started version of me who helped shape who I am still becoming, the good, the bad and the ugly.  There’s a lot of digging to still be done, but at lunch in late December, the full circle moment of realizing  that I have recently had “a dose of my old twenty something medicine” came very clear. It gave me a sense of peace knowing that as women we are not alone in this growing phase of life. Grateful for my wake up call and life lesson. And grateful for life long friends who helped me to see the lesson and know that its absolutely 100% ok.

#bebrave

That Was Easy!

That was Easy. See how Easy that was? It’s Easy, you can do it. I say this. To my kids. To other people. To myself. In reality who am I to decide what’s “easy?” We ALL say this, in one way or another. Its a defense mechanism. It’s a way to encourage and motivate and say I believe in you, you need to believe in you too. It comes from a good place, a place of love, but also it’s an EASY answer, an EASY way out, when really the answer isn’t easy at all.  I happen to have that Big Red “Easy Button,” that thing they sell on Amazon that when you hit it it says  “that was easy!” I love this thing. My kids loved it when I first got it as a gift from a friend back when I was in that time I so affectionately call “in the thick of it.” I used it a lot back then for fun as a reminder that I could do hard things. So kind of the opposite of easy, right? But it worked, for me, to make progress on something then hit that button and be reminded that I can do hard things. But sometimes? Sometimes that hard thing was getting up, showering, and making some sort of attempt at working, “mom-ing,” and making it through a day anger and tear free. And you know what looking back? That was certainly not easy. To tell myself, “that was easy” is so far from the truth and nothing but that defense mechanism to keep us going. I have learned that easy doesn’t get us very far. It doesn’t stretch us. It doesn’t bring us all the life has to offer. It doesn’t bring us to the place we all really strive to be as human beings. And thats a place of living in love and in joy. Easy is a mask, a cover, a quick fix, a short term solve. Call it what you want, but its certainly not the answer to living as we were intended to live. Yes, each and every one of us.

As time has progressed, as it always does, my personal growth game is running strong. I say that with a bit of tongue in cheek of course. There are growth days, where I feel serious progress up this mountain I am climbing. Then there are days where I am pretty sure I have somehow slid back down, like a landslide that happened overnight. A stark reminder that, its not EASY. So it seems a little crazy to many, if not most, that I keep going. Believing. Pushing. Trying. Getting uncomfortable. There are days, the mornings after the “landslide,” that I ask myself the same thing. But then I stop. Because I know that Easy is not the answer. Easy doesn’t equal love, joy, personal happiness. I lived Easy.  I had Easy. I had what I was “supposed to have” to create that happy, joyful life. And guess what?  There was no living in love. There was no joy. And there certainly was no growth. I was someones wife, someones employee, someones mom, someones everything. What I wasn’t, was ME. The real, the raw, the authentic, the woman FIRST, the ME that I was born to be.

So growth it is. Hard is the new Easy. I can do hard things. So can my kids. So can you. Hard is climbing the mountain, even on the landslide days.Hard is digging deep in your mind, in your soul and asking the hard questions to and being willing to listento the answers. Hard means change. Hard means getting to know yourself. All of yourself. Mind. Body. Soul. Hard means doing things you never dreamed you would do in a million years. Hard means swallowing your pride. Hard means letting go of the stories we have created and writing a new story. Hard means doing things you don’t want to do, even when you don’t want to do them.  And sometimes, like today, it means popping out of bed at 5am on a Saturday and opening your laptop and writing, because you “woke up” with a vision, a dream(literally,) and the inspiration to sit down and just write. Look around. And then look inward. Take the time, no MAKE the time, to really look inward.  No-one, and I mean no-one ever said life was EASY…….and you know what ? I would have it no other way. Hard, really is the new Easy. IMG_4832

 

But really, I CAN and so can YOU

Can’t. A word I have learned to loath. Listen close for it. You will hear it all day, every day,  every where you go. Your kids, your spouse, a salesperson in a store, your friends and family, even yourself. I have been wondering lately how many times a day the phrase “I can’t” is used. And sadly, saying I can’t is a self fulfilling prophecy. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you  think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” One of my boys. “I can’t hit my 3 pointers anymore.” My daughter “I can’t memorize all of those lines for the play.” Adults, I can’t read there’s no time, I can’t workout, I can’t get up earlier, I can’t cook, I can’t go to bed on time, I can’t write,  I can’t sell, I can’t fix my marriage, I can’t deal with my boss, I can’t (insert anything) I have no time, I can’t find a good man/woman, the list goes on and on and on.

I am not innocent. I used to live in the world of “can’t.” As a matter of fact I stayed in a job that adversely affected all areas of my life because I believed I ‘can’t” leave, “I can’t”  get another job making the same money, with the same flexibility, that I can literally do in my sleep. I now shudder at the idea of how “comfortable and complacent” I was all because the deep rooted fear of making a change that I masked as “I can’t.” So instead I said “I can’t”  over and over and over again and I stayed. Miserable, unhappy and letting that job control my life, control my entire mindset. So much so that I never “left” so the Universe took my thoughts and my words and took the job away FOR ME so I would be forced to make a change for the better! Same with my marriage. Everything  was “we can’t.” I didn’t realize it at the time of course, because truth is NONE of us realize the negative place where we often reside, and its almost always unintentional! When we aren’t consciously aware of the negative, that there is a “problem” we don’t work to fix it. We don’t work to make a change. We often have zero self awareness that change is needed. We put our heads down, do what we “have” to do and trudge along like good little soldiers do.

Now, a little under 3 years later, I sit in this brand new year, grateful to the Universe for stepping in. What I know now is I helped to create this new plan, this new path, this path of look at all I CAN do. That I CAN be more, do more, have more!  Throughout my life I told myself all of these things and then some….. I can’t speak in front of a crowd, I can’t sell, I can’t dance, I can’t draw, I can’t bake, I can’t run fast, I can’t shoot (sounds like my son right now,) I can”t be open and vulnerable, I can’t lose weight, I can’t be a stay at home mom. One of the biggest beauties of the last almost 3 years is how much I have LEARNED. Some is listening to some amazing women speak and teach. Some is reading. Some is therapy. Yes, I FULLY believe in therapy, everyone should try it. When I slip up and say “I can’t” I catch myself, stop myself and redirect both  my thinking  and my words. Learning to believe that  I CAN do anything I choose to do, even though it’s not easy, has been such a blessing I NEVER saw coming. Easy gets you nowhere and nowhere fast. I promise you, take that to heart.

No, I haven’t mastered all of the things I said I ‘can’t’ do. And the best part is, I don’t have to master them! No one does. Perfect is overrated. The minute I gave up on perfect, is the minute I began down the path of happy. Believing in yourself? Believing you CAN? And trying? Getting out of comfort and complacency? Thats where the power is. That’s where the real growth comes from. Will I fail again? Sure will. Will you? Absolutely. You cannot fully succeed if you do not ever fail.  It’s time to TRY. To believe in yourself.  My passion is to help those that live in a world of  “can’t do.” I am surrounded by “can’t” daily. I hope you find that the learnings on the other side  of “can’t” is so much more rewarding.  I am grateful looking back. I am thankful for the hard lessons.  I no longer beat myself up and say what was I thinking! I am now grateful for that lifestyle as I know it was needed for me to evolve and grow to today and beyond and my hope is that you can too.

Happy New Year, here’s to an Amazing 2019!

 

Owning the Story

Who doesn’t love a good story? And who doesn’t look forward to a party, a work dinner or a holiday when you can’t wait to hear that funny storyteller tell some of their most funny and compelling stories? We all know those people right? The thing about stories is this. We all have one. But we aren’t all proud of our stories. And that often starts young, very very young. Sadly, many people believe their stories “are what they are.” It’s “just the way it is and nothings going to change.”  Many people don’t share their story. Not the details. Most common is to tell the surface story. The good stuff. The stuff we want people to see and know.

There are some that come out of that thought process. Those that for some reason realize that their story matters. That they are  even the actual author of their story and not the victim. In this stage they aren’t yet willing, and in many ways, emotionally able, to tell their story. It’s a phase of accepting their story and realizing they may not like parts of it but something inside is pushing them to bring it to the surface, to use their story for some sort of greater good. Shame, fear of judgement, fear of people leaving and plain and simple embarrassment is a part of the struggle. Positively growth is happening. Awareness and understanding are happening. I dare say even pride, pride in the good and bad chapters that make the story, the story of you. Owning the story is such a huge step.

Then theres this next step. It’s a next phase some get to. It’s a small number of people, yet they are so fierce and powerful you want to know them. You don’t always know when and how it happens. You don’t really realize when you get here. There isn’t always a defining moment. But one day you realize, I am rewriting my story.  Me, I am in charge. Not anyone else, just me. Your story becomes so much a part of who you are, so much a part of who you continuously strive to be, that you want your story to be heard. You want to share. You want to impact others so positively that they can be proud of their stories too. The good, the bad and the ugly. Isn’t that what makes a story so good? All the chapters? All the twists and turns? And when you are able to turn your shame, fears, embarrassments into a way of serving others, don’t you at that moment realize my story was all for the greater good? Not just your own greater good, but also for others.

We are all the authors of our stories. Our stories are constantly evolving. Changing. Having plot twists. Having good times and not so good times. And the beauty is this. We all get to guide the outcome by our thoughts, our words, our choices. By the people we surround ourselves with. By the types of relationships we cultivate. By growing into making choices that are right for us and not letting others control our choices. By saying no to things that don’t fill your bucket and by saying yes to things that do. By living in gratitude for all that we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t. By believing in the goodness of others, by learning to trust, learning to forgive and not believing that all people are bad and that all things work against us. And mostly, believing in ourselves.

We all know someone that is “stuck” in their story. Perhaps its even you. Stuck in a way of thinking that has you convinced it will never be different. It will never be better. That you will never have all that you dreamed of having. Constantly comparing to others and what they have that you don’t. And sadly this next statement couldn’t be more true….. believing you will never be pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough….you name it, the list can go on and on about the stories we write for ourselves with our thoughts and words. There is a world full of adults walking around that believe their stories from their early years define them. These beliefs are often carried on into adulthood and for many, that’s where the story ends.

But what if for just a minute we all decide to believe we are the author of our own stories? That we can change the plot? That we can rewrite the future chapters and learn from the ones before? What if we step out of our comfort zone and decide to change our stories? We can all decide to be an author, an author of our lives. Its not easy. It doesn’t happen over night. It’s not without pain, soul searching or even loss. It takes courage, courage that is hard to have.It takes being brave.  It takes confidence, confidence that may be fully lacking on the inside. And it takes belief. Belief in self even if you are absolutely convinced no-one else believes in you. Here’s the thing about stories. Every good story has twists. Every good story has triumph. Every good story has an ending that has people cheering. Decide to be the best author you can be and get going on the rest of your story!