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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TOGETHER

This is one that’s been on my mind for a few weeks.  I’ve learned over and over again that the best time to write is when the idea is fresh.  When the Muse speaks.  But I didn’t, and then I tried to go back and write down those phrases that were so effortlessly flowing in my head and they just wouldn’t come. 

So I sit here and try this again because the Muse told me it was time at 4:37am on a Saturday.  I know better than to argue.

I also know, from way too many experiences to mention, that the timing of everything in our lives is purposeful…so I am trusting that there was reason as to why I haven’t shared this until now.  Maybe time away from it allowed some dust to settle from the thoughts spinning in my head.  Maybe I needed to wait until this weekend beach getaway to literally get away from the noise and give my mind room to breathe.  Maybe I needed the time to build up the courage. 

We’re about to find out.

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GIRL TALK

Dear Strong Woman,

I have always struggled with female relationships.

Perhaps that seems odd considering my girl power attitude and the persistent female empowerment vibes I put out into the world, but it’s true.  I’ve had core groups of girlfriends and various stages in my life, but as I’ve transitioned from phase to phase, not all have transitioned with me.  The shift from each phase was mostly natural: changing school districts; transitioning to high school; going away to college; moving away from home…so perhaps it makes sense that friends have come and gone.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this, too.

But once you’ve parked, once you’ve established yourself somewhere, you can’t point to geographical differences as the reason why friendships in that space fizzled.  Now it’s something more. 

Something within.

SPAGHETTI

Most of us go through some sort of formal education until our early twenties or so, but I’ve found that the most valuable lessons I’ve learned happened in my mid to late twenties.  Those are the years when you take everything you’ve learned up until that point, throw it at the wall like spaghetti, and see what sticks. 

Without the crutch of school to fall on, suddenly it’s up to us to create our own identity.  To establish our place in this great big world.  We often get sucked into activities and behaviors we think we should take part in at this time in our lives.  So many of us associate finding our niche in the world with finding our people, causing us to do things our “people” do so that we too can feel accepted. Yes, as we enter adulthood…we resort back to tactics we lived by in high school.

Perhaps we find joy in this because being surrounded by others is all we know. 

It’s comfortable. 

It’s safe.

But how many of us find joy, and how many of us are just trying to keep our spots in the herd?

For the latter, there comes a point where many wake up one day, craving a little something more than what the world has to offer us.  Not being ones to accept the it-is-what-it-is mentality, the Strong Women of the world go out and create it.

EVOLUTION

That’s what I did. That’s what I had to do.

Lost in a sea of to-do lists full of tasks for others, I created a new one with me on the agenda.  The others still existed, still burned a hole in my notepad until tasks were either checked off or crossed through, but none of that happened without me taking care of myself first…which was a HUGE shift.

As I began to construct a life that fulfilled me, energized me, spoke to me…things changed.  I was happier, heathier, less dependent on others to fill my cup as I learned how to do that on my own.  I said yes to things I never dreamed of saying yes to, said no to things I never thought I’d be brave enough to say no to, and found myself.

Found writing.

Found purpose.

But while I liked who I was becoming, not everyone agreed with this change. 

To give you glimpse into some of the growing pains in my friendships during this transition, here is a Dear Strong Woman entry I wrote during the evolution process that I never shared publically, before the Dear Strong Woman blog was even a thing.

Dear Strong Woman,

I’m not feeling all that strong on this one, but here goes:

Here’s a real-life real-time scenario:

I’m currently getting ready to head out to a night in with some of my girlfriends. I love them all to pieces, but I’ve found that…well…I don’t get as much out of our time together as I’ve used to.

Yep, I said it.

This truth makes me feel uneasy.

And guilty.

But I’m working on that. (Growth is a constant process.)

Some of the thoughts in my head currently:

“When I opt for water instead of the wine, I’ll tell them it’s because I have a long run tomorrow.”

“When I’m ready to go, I’ll tell them it’s because I’ve got an early morning.”

Both of these things are TRUE, so why do I feel so…icky?

The whole truth? I’ve reached this point in my life where I get my fill of social situations pretty quick. After a short while, all I want is a cup of tea, a couple of pups, and stillness. I also, to be honest, don’t really like wine. #girlsnightfoul

So why do I feel like I’m letting them down…for being me? (Maybe because it’s the new me?)

At the heart of it, I know it’s because I am a different woman now.  I know that my soul craves something more.

And I can’t feel guilty for becoming the best version of myself. (Currently repeating this out loud.)

So I’ll wrap this up with what’s become my mantra as of late:

You will evolve.

Not everyone will.

Evolve anyway.

FAST FORWARD

Almost a year later, I continue to live by that manta.  I still have my girls, but they are a different mix: women I’ve met along this journey; women who are also in a transition from self-destruction to self-discovery.

We do things normal girl groups do, just…differently.  For example: We hang out at least once a week, but virtually.  Pretty cool when your vibe is able to attract your tribe across different states (countries, even!) and time zones. We also recommend our favorites, but our favorites are different, too.  This is not to say that my girls don’t recommend a great face mask or recipe here and there, but our forte…is books.

Damn, do we know our books.

We ask each other how we’re doing, call each other on the bullshit if we throw out an “I’m fine” response when we clearly aren’t, and can usually come up with a podcast or book recommendation for anything.  AN.Y.THING.

And THAT’S how I met my other girls.

Shauna, Jen, Glennon, Luvvie, Cara, Shonda.

My favorite authors.

My growth gurus.

My truth-tellers. 

These women were able to take everything I was thinking and express it more beautifully and wittingly than I thought possible.  These women were able to take everything I was feeling and strip it down to the root of why I felt that way.  These women shared their toughest lessons, their truest truths, their most heart-breaking moments, and their beautiful love stories.

And (some of) these women did this live in Philadelphia exactly three weeks ago.

TOGETHER

The moment I knew I had to go to this event was after I finished Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior, fan-girled the shiiiit out of her social media accounts, and discovered the event she co-created with (literary genius) Jennifer Rudolph Walsh that just so happened to be making its way through a nearby city a few months later. 

YES, PLEASE.

The moment I knew I was where I belonged was when I the program I was handed upon arriving was actually a workbook, pen included.

MY PEOPLE.

The moment I knew this event was created for me was when Jen Walsh opened the show by very casually saying, “I used to always think that a strong woman was someone who never asked anyone else for help.”

MY WORDS.

(And my jaw. On. The. Floor.)

The moment that sparked the a-ha! light bulb wake-up-call I didn’t even know I needed was right after intermission.

TRAGIC FLAW

After lots of laughter, tears, and all the usual things that happen during a good quality girl chat, there was a short intermission.  I took the time to free write for a bit, just trying to best capture all of the wisdom and fire flooding my brain.  More so, I took the time to just sit and take in the energy in the room.  The collective laughing, crying, amen-ing, and hell-yes-ing, that had taken place.

Connection.

These are my girls.

In an effort to regroup after intermission, Latham Thomas led us in a guided meditation.  She told us to create an intention. Something you need in this moment.  The first word that popped into my head was guidance.

I’ve been on the cusp of something for a while now.  Something that’s riiiiiight…there.  Something on the tip of my tongue.  I can only describe it to you in terms of energy, because when I am in the flow, it is a current that runs through me.

But running…where?  And…how?

The meditation continued.  We went from breathing and sitting to singing and standing.  She instructed us to put our left hands on our hearts and our right hands on the shoulder of the person to our right. Sitting alone, and with a few seats on either side of me, I waited for people to shuffle towards me.  My girls.  This is the kind of connection I need.

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No one moved toward me.

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And before even a twinge of disappointment settled in…I blocked it.  It’s okay that they aren’t strong enough to be vulnerable and take steps towards me. I don’t fault them.  We all have some growing to do.  Until then, I am strong enough to stand alone.

Still high off the energy, I was rattling off as best recap I could to my Strong Man on the way home.  But when I got to the part where I was describing the thoughts in my head during the meditation, I had a breakthrough.

I used to always think that a strong woman was someone who never asked anyone else for help.

Jen’s words.  My words.

Who am I to forgive them for not being strong enough to come to me?  If I needed that connection in that moment, why didn’t I reach out for it?

I couldn’t believe I was saying this.

Here’s the thing: I firmly believe that I should never have to ask a friend to show interest in me.  That I should never have to ask a partner to love me. To fight for me.  If these people can’t see that I am worth that, then perhaps they we never my people to begin with.  Because at the end of the day…

I don’t need anyone.

In true Strong Woman fashion, I can take care of myself.

The ones I hold near and dear to my heart are the ones who I want to be in it.  But…the minute they show me reason to believe they don’t want me in theirs, I subconsciously begin the write-off process.  The withdrawal.  The I’m-not-the-wrong-one-here-they-obviously-don’t-want-me-around-anyway front.  I tell myself I am okay with the fade because I don’t want to be with anyone who doesn’t want to be with me.  I know what I bring to the table, so trust me when I say that I’m not afraid to eat alone.

But as I sit here closing out this post a whole five days after starting it, reflecting on the experience I had at that event three weeks ago, and hell…even reflecting on the past three days…

I’ve realized my tragic flaw.

I want to live a happy life, and there are some people I’ve connected with along the way who take my happiness to that next level.

If I want that

I need them.

Who am I to forgive them for not being strong enough to come to me?”  

If I need them, I need to be brave enough to ask for what I need.

So I urge you, Strong Woman, to swallow your pride.

Even if you’re scared.

Even if you think it’s too late.

Ask for what you need.

HERE WE GO

Dear Strong Woman,

This time of year really makes me miss home.

I spent over two hours getting lost in conversation with my mum last night. It was one of those convos where you talk about everything. EVERYTHING. Not one I’ll soon forget.

It made me realize how much I miss her, and then with today being #gameday…well let’s just consider the knife twisted. Watching HER watch our boys fills me with so much love and laughter that I tend to forget anything is wrong with the world. Like hurricanes. Or goal-line interceptions in the 4th quarter.

I’m sitting here smiling at the memories. My grandma Cleo would outshine anyone with her fantasy team. Mum STILL thinks Tomlin can hear her calling the plays if she shouts just a little louder, or that the opposing running back will stop running when she yells “Zipper’s down!” (Or should I say ‘dahn’…)

Having grown up in a family where us females set the tone during football season is just one of the small examples of how these #strongwomen taught me how be one, too.

It’s been almost a year since I cut my cable and sold my TV, so I’ll be sitting on the porch listening to the radio broadcast. I’m sure Cleo will show up at some point in her winged-disguise to show me that I am never alone.

Whatever it is that binds you to your family, be intentionally present in those moments. Don’t take them for granted, as you’ll need to draw on those memories to keep you close when you are far away.

Game on, friends.

Here we go.✨

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.