HAPPINESS

Dear Strong Woman,

Happiness is the highest level of success.

I have been learning that there is a very fine line where doing things in the name of self-care can actually negate self-care. I’ve also been learning that, as much as I go through seasons with my own health journey, the self-care necessary around that changes, too.

I am in a season change.

The freedom that came with the structure of following a program was starting to feel…suffocating. I started procrastinating on workouts, only to only do half of it when I finally pushed play. I wasn’t feeling it. I hadn’t been for a while. Things felt…off. I needed…space.

This close to the end of a program and I can’t push it through to the end? I lead a group of women in practicing self-care daily and I can’t do it for myself?

False. I still am.

Self-care comes in many forms, and the forms of self-care we need changes as our needs change. My needs changed…and that‘s okay.

I gave myself grace and did what I needed to do to feel like myself again. Isn’t THAT the point of self-care anyway? To re-calibrate you? To help you be your best self? My form of self-care had become a to-do list that I did out of a sense of duty rather than desire. That’s one of those things people hate in relationships, right? When someone does something for you because they feel like they have to, not because they want to?

Funny, it feels the same way in the relationship you have with yourself.

My form of self-care was no longer feeling like self-care, so I had to adjust.

I’m still working out, but maybe not everyday.

I’m still eating right, but maybe not all day.

But I’m writing more. I’m reading books outside of the realm of self-help and business development. (The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is riveting, by the way.) I’m more present in the moment rather than worrying about checking off everything on my list.

I’m more relaxed.

I’m more…me.

You might think I’m lazy. You might think that this whole “be gentle with yourself…honor the space you’re in” stuff is just a pretty way to disguise my excuses. Hey, you might even be right!

But focusing on what is right or wrong doesn’t always translate to what makes you happy.

And I deserve happy.

Don’t you?

HARD THINGS

Dear Strong Woman,

About last night…

Not the first Saturday where I’ve woken up feeling the events of the night before.

Admittedly, I was experiencing a little anxiety due to some recent vet visits with my little boy. It’s all manageable, both medically and financially, but it’s still ONE MORE THING to add to the ever growing list. The overwhelm creeps in, and stress levels creep up.

At 9:00pm I was still spiraling in my head. Two years ago you would’ve found me at the bar, likely at an acceptable level of blurriness to suggest heading next door for some dancing. (Acceptable because there are some places you wouldn’t normally go to unless your standards were lowered a bit due to fuzzy senses.) Liquid courage helped me to dance the night away, and dancing the night away helped me to sweat out some of what got me there in the first place. Either way, I was happy because I had numbed the stress. I had pressed mute on my emotions. I surrounded myself in crowds of noise to drown out the thoughts in my head.

Last night was somewhat similar, I suppose. But rather than ignore how I was feeling, I let my feelings fuel me through a grueling workout made possible by real courage, not the liquid kind. When the worry crept back in I pushed harder. Lifted heavier. I let my emotions (and sweat) come over me, because I’ve learned that in order to free things you must feel them first. Life was hard then and it is hard now, but this time around I am grounded in a single truth:

WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

I still woke up with some pain, but instead of cursing Jameson I was cursing tricep kickbacks in plank position. (Holy Baby Jesus, Batman.) I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a workout hangover over an alcohol hangover any day.

So if you’re laying in bed feeling like death and wondering why you keep doing this to yourself…I’ll tell you:

The answer is you.

Not your circumstances, not your finances, not your shitty job or your bad relationship.

YOU.

I’ll close with this mic-drop from Rachel Hollis: “You are in charge of your own life, sister…and there’s not one thing in it that you’re not allowing to be there.”

What you allow will continue.

Let this moment be your transition point.

SWEAT

Dear Strong Woman,
I have found a special substance that, if you cover yourself with it consistently, will drastically change your body and, more importantly, your mood.

It’s a bit of an artisan blend…uniquely made in conjunction with the individual it is meant to serve.

Thought, fair warning…it may smell a little, and burn your eyes if you’re not careful.
So…do you want to know what it is?

HINT

I’m in a major state of self-reflection.  It amazes me how one decision can completely alter the course of your life.
So much of the time, we let life happen TO us.  We complain about things out of our control, letting them shake us to the core, suck the joy, and blind us from the many, many blessings surrounding us.

But there comes a point where we have to change the story and recognize that life happens FOR us, not to us.  That we have the power to focus on what we CAN control, and let our energies flow in a direction that is purposeful rather than pointless.

For me, the girl that walked the mile run in middle school and ate cookie dough for dinner on the regular, that control came from taking on a more healthy lifestyle.

To keep this brief, let me say that I’ve had a roller coaster, love-hate relationship with my health that is worthy of whiplash, made up of everything from binge eating and baggy sweatpants to low-carb dieting and very low-self esteem.
Barely staying afloat in an endless sea of to-do lists, there came a point where feeling out-of-control on a regular basis took me to a fork in the road: wish for a lighter load, or do the work to build a stronger back.
I decided to do the latter, and I decided to do it in the literal sense – with a lot of sweat.

IT CHANGES YOU

Duh, right? Of course fitness changes you.  It slims you down, it tones you up, and sculpts here, and it chisels there. That’s all true.

But, the real transformation is internal.  The real transformation is the one you can’t see.

As I sit here and reflect on who I was a year ago (left) and who I am now (right) – significantly lighter in mind as well as body – I am more thrilled with what I’ve gained rather than what I’ve lost.

More energy.
More happiness.
More mindfulness.
More determination.
More appreciation.
More perspective.
More confidence.
More calm.

And the list keeps growing.


WHY

Perhaps the reason why it took me so long to commit to this – to train the quit out of me – has to do with my previous limiting beliefs about diet and exercise. But what I always considered to be a form of punishment, was actually an important lesson in loving myself.

Not a diet, a way of life.
Not for him, them, or anyone else but ME.
Not for a day, but for every day.
Not to feel good in a dress, but to feel good in my own skin.
Not for a beach-ready photo, but for my mind.

Not for a competition, but for THE competition I have created for myself, by myself, to become a better version of myself.
Every.
Damn.
Day.

In a time when the glorification of being busy is the latest trend, just the act of choosing to put yourself first is a bit of a rebellious act.

But every time you do, you become stronger, more resilient, and a better you.  It isn’t the external results that keep you showing up, but the on-top-of-this-world feeling you get from making yourself proud.

Your life will only get better if you do, babe.

Work on yourself.

The rest will follow.

ABLAZE

Dear Strong Woman,

Have you ever had that moment where you’re driving alone in your car, and the song that suddenly comes on the radio feels like it was written for you?

Or maybe you find yourself at church, actually listening to the sermon your pastor is giving (for once), and find that it was exactly what you needed to hear?

What about when your sitting in a room with 30,000 other people, both exhausted an invigorated after three full days of intense training, listening to woman at the top of your organization getting praised for the positive change she has brought to the world, and feel a bizarre futuristic sense of deja vu?

“Who would’ve thought a girl from Western Pennsylvania could have done all of this.”

WAIT.  I’M a girl from Western Pennsylvania, too!

From Spark to Wild Fire

I felt it – that spark – way back when I decided it was time for me to put myself first and encourage others to do the same by becoming an advocate of self-love.  I knew it was going to be my saving grace, as I couldn’t ask others to do what I was unwilling to do for myself. The example I strived to set was the answer to the problem I avoided by constantly kneeling at the alter of my to-do list.

I just didn’t know that such a tiny spark would eventually spread like wildfire.

Self-love has played a major role in transforming me from rundown workaholic to wellness warrior, so much so that the act of saying no to the shit I hate has allowed me to say yes to the things that have always set fire within my soul.  (Hence, this blog.)  In a way, I am becoming who I was always meant to be.

However, the most profound discovery thus far on this grand adventure has not been my light, but what happens when one chooses to take their light and light the candles of others.

And then put 30,000 of them under one roof.

It’s Lit

There is something so beautiful about a person whose energy introduces them before their words do. Get enough people like that together and you’ll find the air around you buzzing.

Buzzing with hope. With opportunity. But most importantly, with intention.

And isn’t that how we should be living every day?  In fearless pursuit of what sets our souls on fire?

*click*

It was then, there…in the middle of the fire, that I decided.

There is no such thing as having enough time.  You have to MAKE time.  Life never slows down. You are never ready.  As is the case with everything, you’ll figure it out as you go, and even then you’ll never have it all figured out. (Here’s a secret: no one ever does.)

But if you find that place where you are just a little more excited than you are afraid, that’s your magic moment.

That’s when you go for it.  That’s when you go all in.

I’ll leave you with this:

When it feels scary to jump, that’s exactly when you jump. Otherwise you end up staying in the same place your entire life.

And I don’t know about you…

But that’s not something I can do.

“Be here a year from now.”

Message received. 

Now this girl from Western Pennsylvania has some work to do.

CHEERS

Dear Strong Woman,

On the surface, everything seems the same.  Underneath, it is all so different.

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.

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I casually found myself scarfing down three tacos and a chugging a giant glass of water around midnight this past Friday night.  (Yep, that happened.)

Your initial thought upon reading that may have been that I was taking preventive measures to keep a potential hangover at bay, but, in all actuality, I was eating a specific meal that is part of a regimented nutrition overhaul I’m doing as a way to reset and recharge over the summer.  (I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to this stuff.)

However, if it were a few years ago, your first thought miiiiight have been spot on.

From Nine to Wine ‘o’ Clock

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here.  I used to drink, but I would never say I was a drinker.  Our crew would head to the bar to kick off the weekend.

And for special occasions…

…out of boredom…

…and Thursdays…which some people consider the weekend.

(You’re chuckling, yes? Ok, good.)

In all seriousness, with the exception of a dark couple of weeks where I was struggling to cope with the news of my Grandma Cleo being ill, most memories of our escapades were the innocent happy hours that turned into happy nights.

But what older, wiser, lessinclinedtohopthefenceofapublicpoolandtakeadipinmybirthdaysuit me (wait WHAT?) has realized is that…going out was more about chasing dreams than it was chasing drinks.

Searching in All the Wrong Places

The catalyst for my rebel years (better late than never) was that I was fresh out of a decade of nothing but long-term relationships; relationships where I believed so much in my partner’s potential that I was giving them all of my energy without even realizing it. Rather than spend that energy on figuring out what the hell I wanted…I lost who I was.

(Seriously. This Steelers girl owned a Cowboys t-shirt at one point. TRAGIC.)

Now…I was smart enough to know that what once was lost wasn’t going to be found at the bottom of a bottle, but I craved real, genuine connection, and that liquid courage helped this shy girl throw some of her inhibitions to the wind.

As the years went on, the trial-and-error became exhausting. It was like a frustrating shopping experience where you are surrounded by beautiful things and yet nothing just seems to fit right…or you think it fits right until you take it home, try it out, and see it in a different light.  (Thank GOD I found a few staples in the process. #yaya)

Why Limit Happy to Just an Hour?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

In an effort to stay sane, I decided to stop searching and turn inward.  It was time to show myself the love I so desperately wanted to receive from others.

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THAT’S when the magic happened.

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I realized the reason nothing had worked was because I had never done the work on ME.  Practicing some intense self-love helped me to finesse the relationship I was going to be in for the rest of my life:

The one with myself.

It’s not that I don’t drink anymore; it’s that I don’t need to. Putting self-love into practice allowed me to find courage – REAL courage – because saying NO to that which does not serve you requires it…just not the liquid kind.  😉

So I remind you, Strong Woman, that happiness is an inside job.

Being someone who makes you happy comes before being with someone who makes you happy.

And THAT is when the true happy hour begins.

Cheers!