RAINBOW

Dear Strong Woman,

When our plans are interrupted, His are not.

I crossed something off my bucket list in the spirit of celebration. As a reward for having the courage to walk away from my job for the last time yesterday, I created my own Meetup group and hosted my first event today! 

Six RSVP’ed to join me, but only one came. I got in my head for a minute, making a list of all the things I’d done wrong that clearly deterred the others… AS ONE DOES, RIGHT? And then I reminded myself to focus on the facts (rather than the stories I was fabricating), and to focus on the person who WAS present.  Doing so resulted in rich conversation, and perhaps the beginning of a new friendship.

I shared the experience with a friend after the event, to which he quoted Matthew 18:20. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It reminded me that nothing happens by accident, and that, once again, there is a plan at work that I am not privy to.

Sometimes we get so locked-in to the outcome we’ve envisioned that we end up missing what’s right in front of us. Had I been unwilling to detach from my black-and-white sketch of this morning, I would have missed the rainbow sitting next to me today.

Growing only happens if you’re willing to let go of all the shoulds and focus on what is, darling. Release your grip and open your eyes to the miracles happening around you.

NOTE TO SELF

I did a thing.

In an effort to raise my vibration around writing, I decided to surround myself with some like-minded souls who are also working on creating art with their words.  Thanks to Meetup, I found myself braving D.C. traffic this past Tuesday night after work to sit on a couch with strangers, in a stranger’s home, hoping to bring new energy to my craft.  

It was beautiful.

We did a handful of writing exercises that resulted in a momentum and flow I haven’t felt in a while.  One of those exercises was to write a letter to yourself from a future version of yourself.  Below is word-for-word what came out of the tip of my pen – which of course naturally started with my usual salutation – unedited and perfectly raw.  My favorite part? As I wrote the final two words, our host and timekeeper for this exercise said those same two words out loud.

It’s those little idiosyncrasies when the Universe is nodding at me, confirming that I am right where I need to be.

Sharing this in honor of the magic that comes from strangers uniting to create something beautiful.  I hope that magic finds it’s way to you, or better yet, that you go out and create it for yourself.

As my future self will tell you, act as if it has already been done.

Thank you for being here.

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Dear Strong Woman,

Everything you can dream you can create.

Just know that it has already been decided.  Just know that yes, that small voice telling you to keep going is right…and it’s not your mother.

It’s you.

Your voice matters.  Your story matters. Not just because it is yours, but because it is simultaneously ours.

We belong to each other, and our stories, collectively, are what make for a beautiful light in a sometimes dark world.

So don’t you stop shining.
Don’t you stop writing.
Don’t you stop letting you voice be heard.

GET LOUD. Do you hear me? Turn up the volume and share what is true.  Because what is true for you may very well be true for others.

How will you ever know if you remain small and silent?

You were made for more.
You were placed in this world that is missing something because it is your job to create it.

For you.
For me.
For us.

Be our lighthouse. Blind out the dark with your brightness.  Be the light-worker you are called to be.

Setting yourself free will set others free in the process.

IT’S ALL CONNECTED.
IT ALL MATTERS.

And quite frankly…

          it’s time.

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MOMENTUM

Dear Strong Woman,

Keep your foot on the gas.

We are at the apex of 2018.  My Strong Man and I have been reflecting on the past six months, and it truly is amazing what you can create in your life once you decide it’s happening.  It’s been a bit brutal and gritty, and while I sit here having actually put on weight, I am lighter. Lighter in spirit. In stress. That cloud nine thing people talk about?  Yes. THAT.

But we’re just getting started.

That’s the tricky thing with momentum – it craves movement.  I’m feeling pretty and proud about some recent accomplishments, and yet there is danger in thinking I can take it easy now.  

You’ve done it.  You finally hit your weight loss goal, so you think you’ve earned the right to ease up on the discipline, only to find yourself struggling to button those skinny jeans that fit you like a glove just a week before.  You make a promise to yourself to read for 15 minutes a day, and it goes great for a week or so, until that one time you tell yourself you’ll do it later, and later becomes six months. Or if you’re like me, you write consistently for weeks, finally write something worthy of sharing on the blog, and then don’t come back to it until four days later. (Ahem…current situation.  Also, true story…all of those examples are me.)

You guys – don’t fall into that trap.

If you’ve hit a goal, or even a milestone towards that goal, take it as a sign that you are on the right track and keep going.  The amount of energy needed to restart the train is exponentially greater than that necessary to keep it moving. Don’t stop and ask yourself if you feel like doing it – because we all know that answer – and do it anyway. Do it long enough, and it’s no longer about the little things you’re doing to make it so…

It’s about who you’ve become.

Energy is everything.  Thoughts become things.  Emotion amplifies those things. Action brings those things to life.  So in the name of action, here are a few actionable things you can do to help you continue (or even jumpstart) your momentum towards your 2018 goals.

  1. Keep your goals at stretch distance.  You’ve heard of S.M.A.R.T goals, right?  I can get behind them, almost. The A stands for Attainable, and I truly think it’s a cop out.  If something is attainable, do you really have to work that hard to get it? Nah. Set your goals just outside of reach.  Nothing great happens from comfort zones, and if you really want some significant change, you have to be comfortable with getting uncomfortable. Why do you think so many give up on their weight loss New Year’s resolutions by the end of January? Set a goal that is just out of reach so that you have to keep growing to keep going.  Hint: If it scares you, you’re on the right track.
  2. Track everything.  Data doesn’t lie.  We can’t be surprised at the number on the scale if we document the number of breadsticks we ate at The Olive Garden last night. True story…?  We’ve started tracking our spending. No, it’s not some new age thing, but it’s also not something everyone does. After ten days, we realized we’d spent $40 alone on ice cream.  Seeing that was both shocking and sobering, and it had an impact. Do you think we think twice about indulging in that delicious goodness now? Not just from a health standpoint, but from a financial one?  You bet.
  3. Expect imperfection.  Just accept it now – you will not be perfect.  There will be days that won’t go as planned. You’ll miss a deadline, or something will take you twice as long as you thought, or you’ll come down with a nasty cold in the middle of summer.  In other words, life happens. But that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. If your plan was to go from A to Z this year, and your currently only at F, that’s still better than being back at A, right?  Baby steps are still steps, babe. Slow progress is better than no progress at all.
  4. Protect your energy.  Surround yourself with people who are going to motivate you and inspire you.  This may mean eradicating your media intake. It may also mean spending less time with people who drain your energy.  It could even mean having some tough conversations, and fighting through some unchartered waters. If you find yourself wondering if you can afford to cut some things out of your life, I encourage you to instead ask… When it comes to your dreams, can you afford not to?  I’ll share a quote with you from one of my favorite growth gurus (Cara Alwill Leyba) that has been my mantra for a few years now: You will evolve. Not everyone will. Evolve Anyway.”That’s the thing about new beginnings…they sometimes require other things to end.

In closing, know that you only fail if you stop trying.  Furthermore, if you do all of the above and then some and still don’t get to where you want to be by 11:59pm on December 31st, it’s okay. Dreams don’t have expiration dates.  

Keep going.

VALLEY GIRL

Dear Strong Woman,

It’s been two weeks since I spent a breathtaking weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.  It was one of those trips that you didn’t realize was so needed until you were there.  Where you felt yourself exhale – truly exhale – for the first time in weeks.  Truthfully, maybe months.

So why has it taken me so long to finish this post about it? I remember chatting with a few of my girls while there, trying to find the words to describe the peace this place gave me.  It naturally inspired me.  All I wanted to do was write.  And yet, two weeks later, I still hadn’t found the exact words.

Until Thursday night.

So thank you, G, for hitting rock bottom, going to the grocery store after a five-day no-shower streak, explaining to the cashier that you may be cursed, and for hearing that angel tell you just how fortunate you were if that were true. This is for you, that truth-teller, and the rest of the light-workers ready to roll up their sleeves and dive in.

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ESCAPE

I sit in my happy place as I type this.  My porch.  This space was the reason I chose this apartment.  I had been living across the hall for about six months when I noticed to door left ajar on our way back in from a dog walk.  I peeked in and noticed it was completely empty so I took a look around.  Clearly, I had lucked out with the better apartment.  For one, it was bigger.  Being an old Victorian House and on the front of the building, my dining room was a part of the turret, charmingly round. One wall of my living room was also a giant window seat with beautiful built-ins for all of the books…I planned to read…one day.

I made comparisons as I snooped. Our bathrooms and bedrooms were about the same size, just with the reverse layout.  But the living room was noticeably smaller, the “dining room” was really just a nook in the corner of the living room, and the kitchen was the size of small half bath.  Maybe. I have yet to see a smaller kitchen anymore.

But off that tiny kitchen was a door that led to the biggest asset this apartment had to offer.  A porch.  A covered porch.  A covered porch with a green view.  In the city.  Sure, you could see the backs of houses, but all of the trees surrounding and separating made this feel like an oasis. An escape.

I said it out loud to the pups:  “We’re moving.”

It’s been three-and-a-half years since then, and this porch has been a much needed escape from some heavy, heavy stress.  I swear my students got better grades on their assignments when I did my grading out here.  I’ve worked out, eaten meals, even taken naps out here.  More importantly, it’s been my means of recalibration.  My place of peace and quiet within the tiny concrete jungle of Wilmington.

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Until this northern girl went south.

THE MOUNTAINS

We arrived in Blue Ridge for a family wedding…barely.  Flying in the day of always has it’s risks, and we made sure to test that.  The morning of our flight I woke up 45 minutes after I had planned to be on the road, bypassed a much needed shower, and sped down I-95 like Lightning McQueen.  Have you ever been running to your gate and heard your name being paged on the intercom at the same time?  Damn.

We landed in Atlanta and began our drive up north to the mountains.  We hit traffic, and my mind was suddenly full of calculations and compromises.  How quick can I shower?  What steps do I need to skip? Can I forego shaving my legs and just consider myself a true mountain maiden? When we arrived, it was a quick hello to my second family followed by a mad dash to the bathroom to try to hide the fact that I had been sweating since I woke up that morning.  By the grace of God I was wedding ready in 30 minutes, but my heart was still racing from the race I had been running for hours.  I felt on edge and antsy.

Until I saw this.

God is good, and in this instance, he was surely showing off in an attempt to shut down my overworked mind.  Suddenly, the roller coaster ride that had been the last month of my life… STOPPED.  I was in pure awe of the beauty, the quiet (despite a house full of wedding guests!), and the relief I felt when I finally exhaled.  It was a relief similar to when I see the ocean for the first time in a while.  I could literally feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders, replaced by His hands as if to say I am here.

When you experience a moment so breathtakingly beautiful as that, you don’t want it to end.  Throughout the course of the rest of the weekend, my time was divided between much needed rest and hopeful research.  How much does a house here cost?  Where could I work?  What are the schools like?  Is there a music scene my Strong Man could break into?  Question after question after question.

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THE VALLEY

And then I thought about my kids.

(Perhaps you hear teachers refer to them as students, but where I work, we are family and they are our children.)

I thought about the ways in which they have stretched my mind, my heart, and (let’s be real here) my patience.  I thought about the injustices and dangers they face daily, the love and structure they so desperately crave, and the woman they have forced me to become.

I thought about their futures, I thought about mine, and realized what was the truest story written on my heart:

I am meant for the valley.

The mountains entice you with their beauty and ability to shut out the noise by being so far removed from the problems below.  Escaping the racket is necessary at times to hear your own thoughts, but those moments are meant to refresh you, not retain you from your mission.

The valley…is where the fruit grows.  Where the river runs. It may be the bottom, but the bottom is where we are open to the most crucial potential for change.  It’s where the rebuilding takes place, and where the most fortified foundations are built.

Perhaps in time, when I reach my resting season, I can make camp in the mountains…but the most beautiful view comes only after the hardest of climbs.

So for now…

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I am a valley girl.