I think we all want to live healthy, full, and meaningful lives. We all have dreams, goals, visions, ideas, and hopes for what we want to accomplish. There is a pathway to progress and the roadmap will look different for each person. But one thing remains the same. Our actions/behaviors help determine if we get there.
An olympian cannot simply will themselves to a gold medal. A doctor cannot simply hope for a good surgery. A person cannot simply close their eyes while driving and manifest themselves to a destination. A farmer cannot simply sow good thoughts into the ground and hope to produce a harvest. It takes work.
We form habits either intentionally or unintentionally. It is how the brain works. The brain learns what is rewarding and what is painful and adjusts accordingly. That is a very crude understanding of habits, but you get the picture.
Mental health professionals often give those who suffer from panic attacks tools to ground themselves back in reality. It could be as simple as counting ceiling tiles or taking ten deep breaths. After a major concussion in college, I suffered from intense panic attacks for about a year. These grounding techniques helped pull me back from overwhelming emotions and refocus me on what was happening in the present moment when I was in the middle of an attack. I have carried those tools with me ever since.
I was in a very dark season of my life when I started to apply this technique on a larger scale. I began to ask the question, “could healthy habits, patterns, and routines help me reach a more holistic rhythm of living?” I could see that happy, healthy, and successful people had routines. While I did not like routine, could these things help me in the way that grounding techniques helped me during my panic attacks? When I was in a major funk in my mind, body, and soul, could healthy rhythms help set a course for healing? For progress?
Of course I am not the only one to think about this. There are plenty of scientific studies that show the affects of good and bad habits on a persons overall health. AA is an entire program designed around similar concepts which help alcoholics live their lives free of addiction and get back on their feet again. But what I was seeing from self-proclaimed self-help gurus did not seem appealing. Everybody had quick tips to a healthy life. My journey was taking a lot longer.
You have probably heard it said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Turns out there’s not a whole lot of science behind that statement. Dr. Maxwell Maltz was the person credited to have said this but the crazy thing is, he didn’t actually say it. He said it took a MINIMUM of 21 days in order for an old mental image to dissipate and a new mental image to stick. A recent study shows it can take between 2 months to 8 months to establish a new habit. There’s a really awesome article about it here.
The first time I read this it blew me away because I had been experiencing the same thing. Some of the rhythms I was beginning to incorporate into my life were taking much longer than 21 days to establish. Sometimes, it was months before I would see it stick. But as long as I was committed to the process I saw overall progress.
In that same study, they showed that you did not have to be perfect in order for the habit to form. In other words, if you planned on going to the gym 5 days a week and you miss a day, it’s okay. The habit can still be formed as long as the commitment was solid.
It may be a crazy notion, but it is okay to tweak a lifestyle change to fit what works best for you. In 2019, I made the shift to a (mostly) plant based lifestyle. It was a personal choice that came out of a time of spiritual fasting. During that year, I also shifted to an intermittent fasting routine. That may sound like a lot, but I adjusted it so that I would be successful and enjoy it. I give myself 10% leniency a week in my “food budget” for times that I want to enjoy food outside my regular routine or I am somewhere that I don’t have access to those types of foods. I shoot for a 16:8 daily fasting routine, but I am not overall worried if its not EXACTLY that ratio.
These two shift have been life-changing for me. Even though I am not performing them perfectly as prescribed, I still find incredible benefits and joy in them. Why? Because I am committed to the overall purpose. I want to live a long, healthy, and energized life well into my grey-haired years. I don’t want to be stopped by my own body as I get older, within what is in my ability to control. And that is a powerful reason to commit to overall healthy lifestyle changes.
If we are not intentional about training our brain to engage in healthy rhythms, it will train itself. I got to a place in my life where I was tired of having no direction, no goals, no strategy, and no progress in the things that mattered to me. I had these big dreams deep down, but no idea how to start. So I never started and I hoped it would magically happen on its own. It seems silly to say out loud now, but I know from conversations with others that I am not the only one. We are often plagued by all the things we “should do” that we never start on the path for the things we are passionate to do.
I do not enjoy structure. I push against it as hard as I can. If you are anything like me, then you know how hard it is to commit to any lifestyle change. Even if I’m the one setting the course, a part of me wants to say, “don’t tell me what to do”. It’s what author Steven Pressfield in his book the War of Art calls Resistance. “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stand Resistance.” It’s that sly and vile force that hijacks our dreams and turns them into a pile of unfinished good intentions.
In order to create habits and rhythms that will actually make a difference in our lives, we must commit to the process. That means getting back up when you fall off the wagon. That means showing up day after day after day until the behavior becomes reflexive. That means throwing away excuses that have held you back for years. That means sitting with yourself long enough to discover what really matters to you. And perhaps that is the scariest part of the journey.
It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. It is a great slogan for coffee mugs but it is more powerful when you actually take it at face value. We live in a time in history when we can have what we want faster than ever. While there are many positives that come with forward progression, it leaves us addicted to instant gratification. If we cannot get our bikini body in a few months, we want out. But we are going to complain and speak poorly about ourselves the whole way.
There is an intricate balance of contentment and aspiration. We should be inspired to grow, change, explore, discover, and create. But once we have committed to the longer journey of establishing healthier habits, we must also be content with who we are at the present moment. We must honor who we are in the present while also pushing ourselves towards growth. We must accept the full journey of personal transformation. A caterpillar does not hate the fact that it is a caterpillar even though one day it will become a butterfly. Like my husband says, you’ve got to find beauty and value in where you are at now.
All of this to say, the journey to a more holistic, healthy, and fulfilled life comes in small steps that reinforce the greater picture. Progress over perfection. If we are focused on perfection, we often find that progress never happens. If we are focused on progress, the change often happens in a more successful and meaningful way.
In order to break out of a funk or make peace with the fact that structure can be our best ally, accepting that the journey may take a lot longer than we expect is pivotal. It is important to push yourself, I understand that. If you’ve got a deadline, you’ve got a deadline and there’s really nothing you can do about it. But if you decide to make a major lifestyle change, you have got to start on the micro level. Maybe you want to be a morning person so instead of setting your alarm for 4:00AM when you’re used to getting up at 7:00AM, consider moving your alarm clock up in 15 minute increments over the course of a few months. Give yourself a chance to win.
There was a study done where they observed children on playgrounds with and without a fence/boundary. The discovered that those children without a fenced-in playground explored less and stayed closer to the teacher. On the other hand, those children with a fenced-in playground explored to the farthest reaches of the boundaries. Creativity without any structure paralyses and holds us back from reaching out as far as we can. Structure, habits, and routines can be our greatest ally.
There are many lessons that could be pulled from these observations. What I glean from it is that there is safety in framework. There is a freedom that comes with setting up boundaries with ourselves and others. The structures and routines that scared me most can actually be my greatest weapon to breakthrough.
Now before you go planning out the ten lifestyle changes you have been dying to implement over the years, remember that they have to truly matter to you. The motivation behind the shift must be weighty enough to carry you through the times when you want to give up. You have to accept that it might take longer than you think to establish a new rhythm and commit to the process. And last, but certainly not least, you have to take it slow.
If you push against any kind of routine like I do, then you understand how hard it can be to implement a lifestyle change that is important to you. I am currently reading Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg in order to learn more about sustainable habits in our lives. A lot of the ideas that have been rumbling around in my head actually have scientific basis for what I am experiencing. I am still learning the language to describe my experience, but it has been eye opening to say the least.
Maybe you’re in a rough season and you’re desperate to find some footing in the midst of the chaos. Maybe you’ve just come out of a rough season but don’t know where to begin again. Maybe you’re tired of not following through on your plans and beating yourself up for it. I have a few questions I want you to consider. What would you life look like if you lived in the rhythms and habits you want to implement? What if a little bit of structure, done in kindness to yourself, was your ally? What if you could eliminate some stress and anxiety by having predictable patters that grounded you? What would it look like if you were living your ‘unlived life’?
I hope to dive deeper into the process of forming a habit, but there’s some awesome starter info here. I am not a guru and I cannot give you ‘x’ number of steps to the correct pathway to inner peace. But I can share my story with you and the things that have greatly impacted my life. I can tell you that it takes time and it takes a lot of commitment to be kind to yourself along the way. I have some tangible lessons I can pass along, but its a personal journey. I can tell you that its been a huge positive shift in my life. It has given me the ability to walk in hope and confidence. My greatest desire in sharing my story is that you’d find the same things.
There are moments that change our lives forever. In 2015, I was newly married and working in a church ministry. It was my first salaried job and I was full of zeal for the future. Less than a year later, we had been rejected and abandoned by that same community. My goal is never to lay their transgressions bare when sharing my story; it is between them and God. But as a result of this jagged fork in the journey, my life began to spiral into some of the darkest moments of my life. It took almost five years to fully recover from the devastation.
While I would not willingly want to experience anything like that ever again, these moments are vital in our lives in order to grow. This heavy blow left me with a loss of identity, motivation, and purpose. Through counseling, getting reconnected to healthy community, and establishing healthy rhythms, I am now a happier, healthier, and whole person. As I look back, I realize while some of these symptoms were from major trauma, some of these were unhealthy habits revealed under extreme pressure.
Creatives often express going through volatile seasons where the level their work, or lack thereof, does not match the level of their passion. In extreme cases, such as mine, passion goes extinct. There is a difference between a creative block and a total creative shutdown. What do we do when our trauma seems to snuff out our creative spark? Can we establish healthy rhythms that can withstand difficult seasons and still allow us to flourish? How do we begin to find practical ways to fan the flame of passion for our dreams? We must begin to see that our mind, body, and soul are all intertwined. When one suffers, they all suffer. We must begin to see that our creativity and passion are linked to the level of our wholeness.
This is the journey I have been on over the past five years. Only recently have I been able to put words to my experiences. There is no time table for grief; I am not suggesting you should be moving along faster than you are. I believe that had I developed some of these healthy rhythms and mindsets earlier on, I would have flourished in spite of my circumstances instead of being overshadowed by them. To describe my journey would take many books. This post is just an overview to help determine if this online space would be useful to you. I am going to lay out the symptoms of my experience, the root of loss of identity, the overarching moments that brought me through to freedom, and a major perspective shift that is helping me live in confidence.
Phase One: The Syphoned Spirit
Burnout. If you consider yourself a creative, then you are well aware of this nasty little guy. When I sat down to engage in my art form, the creative flow of ideas seemed to have been snuffed out. This was more than a creative block. My creative spirit felt as though it had been syphoned by some unknown force. After a grueling battle to muster up enough creative energy I would eventually give up, feeling utterly defeated. My scariest moment occurred when I realized I had no joy in the things that used to light up my soul. I didn’t have dreams anymore. I didn’t have any ideas. Scrolling through social media gave me knots in my stomach because everyone else seemed to be loaded with ideas and motivation while I soothed my aching heart with another Netflix binge. I felt truly dead inside: no passion, no creative spark, no motivation, no desire.
Phase Two: The Wonder Twins
But let’s not forget about the wonder twins Anxiety and Depression. These two seem to travel hand in hand and enable each other to do unspeakable damage on a persons mind, body, and soul. While they are different from each other, they often orbit around each other and take turns creating vicious internal turmoil. There were times I could barely get out of bed in the morning without an overwhelming feeling of dread and purposelessness. Then there were those special times when my mind was so wrought with fear that I could barely make it through the day without falling to pieces at the drop of a hat. When I was exhausted from a bout of anxiety, depression would quickly swoop in until the whole cycle started over and over again. I felt completely crushed by the weight of it all: overtired, mentally overworked, overcome by fear, overcome by life.
Phase Three: The Cycle of Shame
In those rare moments of energy bursts, I would throw myself into various projects just so I would feel like I was doing something productive. Since my primary artistic passions were on lockdown thanks to burnout, I shifted into other pursuits that had some artistic appeal. I tried my hand at photography, graphic design, virtual assistance, social media management, and more. Little did I know it was a bandaid on a wound that needed surgery. I was creative enough to get away with being pretty good at a number of different artistic pursuits but not passionate enough to keep the motivational flame glowing. I would throw in the towel just as quickly as I had begun. Before long I was beginning yet another project to alleviate the pain of embarrassment from the previous. This cycle continued for years as I ran away from the things that I was truly gifted for. I was working from a place of shame; shame from the loss of creativity, shame from struggling with anxiety and depression, shame from cycling through endless projects with no real purpose.
This may seem like a silly and simple start. It wasn’t until I fully engaged in the reality of where I was that things began to shift. I allowed myself to feel what I felt. I had gutted it out for years under the guise that I was “fine” when in reality I was far from it. We live in a society, especially in American, that praises the rugged individual who “has it all together”. We are making leaps and bounds in the department of mental health, but we still have some work to do. I continued to compare my trauma to others’ and deemed mine not worthy enough to be emotionally tainted by. It was painful to look in the mirror and admit I felt like a shell of a person. It was hard to say to myself and my loved ones that I really wasn’t doing well. But bringing all that ugliness to light, it lost much of its power. It was at that point I could actually begin the journey to healing. You cannot heal if you do believe there is a wound in need of healing. I accepted that I was not okay, but truly wanted to be.
There is a popular prayer that is quoted often that perfectly describes my internal shift at that moment.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Regardless of what you believe, the sentiment is universal. There are awful things that happen in the world and sometimes they happen to us. There are things that we cannot change. We do, however, have the opportunity to use those moments to our advantage. It does not negate the pain and difficulty of moving through those seasons, but it does not mean we have to be destroyed by it. This was the shift that had to take place in order for me to move forward. I could not change what happened. It was done. It had passed. I accepted that it hurt like Hell but was determined not to be buried by it. It was a fork in the road, not the end of it.
Phase One: Unbiased Listener
I was blessed to be raised with a high view of mental health care professionals. My mom wholeheartedly believed in counseling. As the Executive Director at a Hospice for many years, she always pushed to make free grief counseling available to those who had lost loved ones. It was not only open to those who had gone through Hospice care, but the community as well. As a result, I have never been afraid to seek out counseling when life gets to be overwhelming. If accepting and acknowledging where I was in my journey was the first step, then counseling was my next. It was here that I was given the language to describe my trauma and how it affected me. My counselor helped me work through the darkest parts of my hurt from a place of unbiased observation. Because he didn’t know the people who hurt me or was personally involved, he was able to identify the trigger points and major mental blocks that were keeping me from living in healing. His counsel was invaluable and perhaps the greatest moment of forward propulsion in healing.
Phase Two: Letting the Light In
While in this dark night of the soul, I slowly withdrew from the world and shut everyone out. I had been shaken to my core and I did not trust people anymore. I always kept my faith in God, but my faith in people was shattered. In many ways that was a good and bad thing. I continued to move into my own cave of despair until I had successfully isolated myself. Part of the journey into healing was learning to allow people into my life again. It was a long, hard process and I dragged my heels the whole way. It was a good two years before I began to get involved in our faith community as well as the community around us. I tried many times but always kept a large part of myself back. Once the wounds began to heal, my confidence grew and I was comfortable enough with myself to let others into the good and the bad. I had to learn to be vulnerable with myself and others again.
Phase Three: Rooted Rhythms
I was slowly moving in a forward direction, but I needed to establish patters that would create a framework from which I could live out these new realities. I had come a long way already but still struggled with my purpose and re-engaging with my passions. I still felt incredibly lost. I was a musician but could barely touch a keyboard without being reminded of the knife in my back. I desired to pursue my dreams but had no idea where to start. It all felt too hard.
Over time I began establishing some rhythms I could see myself continuing throughout my life. I shifted to a plant-based lifestyle. I began weight lifting. I joined a group of women that met weekly. I tried to make space for solitude. The key to all of these rhythms was starting small and giving myself space to grow into them. I just needed to establish some predictable patterns in order to get myself moving again. The more I did this, the more my creativity began to return. Eventually, I was jotting down my dreams. Dreams and ideas I had not had in years. Some were old and some were new, but they were all birthed from this place of establishing healthy rhythms.
I have a tendency to pendulum swing. When an area of my life is lacking, I often overcorrect in my zeal for finding balance. I learned this about myself over the course of this journey. I began paying more attention to the times I was tempted to overcorrect. I discovered I was living from a place of fear and desperation. I felt as though I had lost time in my season of grief and had to “get with it” to catch up to some unrealistic expectation I had set for myself. I was grasping at straws. I just needed to be more disciplined. I had found healing but had forgotten how to walk. If I forced myself into a long list of to-do’s, I could make this season worth it.
But that is not how life works. My motivation to be more disciplined and “put together” came from a fear of missing out. These were not sustainable rhythms. They were overcorrections to my inaction. I had gone through all this healing only to find my feet tied at the beginning of the race. Through a friends wisdom, I changed the language I was using. I may have needed discipline but that word brought very little grace with it in my mind. Instead, I decided I needed rhythm. As a musician, rhythm speaks to me much clearer than discipline. Rhythm is patterned and predictable, but it can change and flex along the way. Rhythm brings fulfillment while melding multiple musical aspects into balance. Rhythm can be as rigid or fluid as you want it and still produce an amazing piece of music. Rhythm felt like less of a to-do list and more like a flow of healthy habits/patterns.
Ultimately, I wanted to grow from a place of grace. I wanted to be holistically healthy in my mind, body, and soul but I didn’t want to beat myself into a bunch of “should do this” fads. I wanted to embrace hard work and lifelong personal training, but I did not want to submit to pop cultures rat race in order to achieve it. I quickly observed that when I was fully rested in my identity as a loved created being with a purpose, I actually saw progress in the vision I had for my life. It might have been a small thing like choosing a healthier food option. But I was honestly excited to work on those things. It wasn’t a “should do”. It became an “I want to”.
There is a difference between striving and striding. To stride is to walk with long, decisive steps in a specified direction or cross (an obstacle) with one long step. To strive is to make great efforts to achieve or obtain something or fight vigorously for. Striving can often come from a place of fear. I must do this. I should do that. There can be little grace in it. We look at where we are and where we “should be” and attempt to make up the difference through vigorous and stressful effort. Striding comes from a place of energy and excitement. There is graceful determination in the movement. It is facing obstacles without panic and walking confidently past them. I began to feel the difference when I was moving from grace; fully resting in my identity versus dragging myself along in fear of never being enough, having enough, or finding enough.
I have so many lessons I continue to learn on a daily basis. Sometimes it was as easy and changing the language so that my mind could grasp the direction more fully. Sometimes it was as difficult as being vulnerable with others or letting go of the pain that stalled me for so long. I hope by sharing this brief part of my testimony you find encouragement in your own journey. If you’ve ever gone through your own sort of trauma and feel overwhelmed by getting back up, then you can relate. As I continue to learn more and more about creating long-term, healthy, and sustainable rhythms, I hope to share those milestones with you. Perhaps you will pick up a few rhythms that really fit what your soul needs.
Here’s to the future of living from a place of rest and grace knowing fully who we are and living in the excitement of who we are becoming.
As you all know, plant-based is all the rage these days with fast food giants like Burger King sporting the new Impossible Burger. Historically the world has seen its fair share of diet and fitness fads come and go. There are some fads that turn out to be quite beneficial, even if their marketing focuses on profiting from peoples’ low self-esteem. When I hopped on the plant-based train, it was after rolling my eyes for quite some time at the whole thing. My journey started with a spiritual fast in which I ate a primarily vegan diet for a month. After the fast, I felt so amazing that I decided to stick to it. I have heard a lot of people consider taking this route as well, and figured I’d drop some quick tips for those who are considering taking the plunge!
So, what does it mean to be plant-based anyways? Being plant-based is pretty self-explanatory. Just like it sounds, it is eating only foods that come from plants. No animal products are consumed (or at least significantly avoided) on a full plant-based diet. It is very similar to being vegan, but true vegans also exclude all animal products from their entire life including makeup, clothing, and more! If you want the detailed rundown on the difference, there’s a great article about it here.
These tips are specifically geared towards people on a tight budget as well, so you can expand upon these as much or as little as needed. Here we go!
Start Slow! Unless you know that going cold turkey works well for you, take this as a process! Do not go raid your fridge and chuck everything out and replace it with new and approved plant-based items! Not only can that be incredibly expensive, it may derail you before you even begin. As you finish up certain items, start replacing them with plant based alternatives. If you run out of butter, opt for a plant based version the next time around. This one is my favorite! Once you finish off that gallon of milk, grab a plant-based alternative!
What is your end goal for transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle? Do you want to be 100% hardcore one day? Or would you like to get to substituting half of your food for rich plant-based alternatives? Pick a ratio and work your way up to it. I stick to a 90/10 ratio. That means that I eat 90% plant based and allow 10% for times when I want something that outside of those parameters. I would like to get to 100% plant-based, but that may take me a while and I am 100% okay with that! Any step you take toward eating a more plant filled diet is a good step. Maybe start off with a 20/80 ratio. What is one item you could live without for 2 weeks? Could you cut out milk? Eggs? Deli Meat? Pick one of those things and stick to it! See how you feel after a few weeks and begin upping your plant based ratio! This way you can work toward your over end goal in a healthy and sustainable way!
One of my biggest mistakes when I first went plant-based was trying to find all of these complex vegan substitutes and recipes. It was already difficult to make that transition, so trying to make it more complicated with recipes or food I wasn’t used to the taste of made it more difficult! Plant based is as simple as this: eat fruits, vegetables (especially those leafy greens!), legumes, and whole grains. Substitute milk for almond or oat milk. Change out your butter for a vegan, non-soy option or olive oil. If you are not a cook like me and need something to help your transition over with meat, try these! I love them and they are easy to make! I am not a huge fan of salads, but they are easy to make and incredibly budget friendly. You can add lots of fruits, veggies, and nuts to give it a full flavor! You will get overwhelmed if you start pinning recipes from Pinterest! Vegan/Plant-Based cooking takes a little bit of finesse, and there are a lot of ingredients you will not have in your pantry when you start out. Grab a bag of apples, carrots, hummus, peanut butter, and celery for easy on the go snacks. Remember, keep it simple at the beginning!
I always look for the vegan icon on foods to let me know its safe to consume! But if you’re like me and you’re on a budget, sometimes I grab items that don’t have milk or eggs in them, but may have been made in a facility around milk and eggs. A lot of breads, cereals, grains, and milk substitutes fall under this category. Sure, in a perfect world I’d like to get all my items organic, local, non GMO, vegan, ect. But when you’re on a budget, you do the best you can. Remember, ANY step towards a healthier lifestyle is a good step. Become a master at reading labels. Check for milk and eggs. But, while you’re at it, if you cannot pronounce the ingredient, it’s probably best to skip it.
Anybody will tell you that drinking more water is good for you. If you are making any kind of significant changes to your diet, its always good to drink more water. On top of that, don’t give up! If you make an oops and eat more than your ratio for that week, don’t sweat it! Just keep going! There have been weeks that I consumed way more dairy, eggs, or meat than I have committed to eating. Even though my body wasn’t very happy with me, I didn’t give up! I kept to my overall commitment for a living a better lifestyle and did better next time!
Hopefully this gives you a very easy overview of transitioning to a plant-based (or more of) diet! Feel free to reach out with more questions! I am not a nutritionist or have any medical background. I’m just a girl who loves food but wants to feel amazing by the food I choose to fuel me.
My parents divorced when I was ten years old. Perhaps some of the best lessons I have learned come from that great division between two people who were once bound by eternal vows. Both of my parents have been open about their shortcomings in marriage and shared with my brother and I how to avoid them in the future. Darryl and I are a coming up on our sixth wedding anniversary and I can honestly say those lessons have strengthened our marriage substantially. While I do not recommend divorce as a means to growth, it can be a wealth of knowledge for those who are willing to learn from it.
My mother is a strong, wise, capable, and independent woman. These are characteristics that she passed down to me throughout the years and I am forever grateful for. But she had some warnings for me as I began the path towards marriage. “It is easy for women who think like us to eventually take over and do everything our way. In marriage, this can be devastating to your husband and actually set him back. Be careful not to ‘just do it yourself’ all of the time. A truly good man will be secure in your independence as a wife, but that does not mean that you are completely independent of each other anymore. You are a team; you need to act like one.”
There are many more lessons that my mom passed down to me, but there was one in particular at the center point of health in our marriage. I made a decision before we got married not to reload the dishwasher. You may already be laughing because you have a sneaking suspicion where this is going. I have heard the “my husband loads the dishwasher wrong” conversation more times than I can count. Perhaps it isn’t the dishwasher. Maybe it’s the way they fold the towels, load the laundry, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or whatever other task they have responsibility of.
Darryl and I share the chores in the house, as I believe all households should. We divided these up before marriage so we would be prepared when rubber met the road. When it came down to cooking and doing the dishes, we equally loathed both tasks. So, we made a compromise. I would take responsibility of the cooking (sorry babe!) and Darryl would take responsibility of the dishes. Those first few times watching him load the dishwasher were painful. It is amazing that a woman who is relatively disorganized and far from a clean freak about freaked out over how her husband was loading up the dishes. THERE WAS SO MUCH MORE ROOM IN THERE DANG IT! But I made myself a promise. Do. Not. Reload. Don’t say anything. Don’t point it out. Don’t mention something in passing. No reverse psychology games. Nothing. Just let him do it the way he wants to do it.
At the end of the day, the dishes are still going to get washed. If he decides to hand wash the few dishes that he didn’t fit in there, who cares? In the time that it would take to explain the optimum capacity of the dishwasher and enlighten him on “the right way”, he would have been done and we would have been in a much happier mood. To this day, I have never reorganized the dishwasher. On one occasion we did have a discussion about the difference between just doing the dishes and cleaning kitchen, but other than that I have let him load as many (or few) dishes as he so pleases. I am just thankful that I have a husband who is actively involved in maintaining our home.
I know it sounds like a silly thing, but the lesson runs deeper than simply redoing something that someone else didn’t do our way. My rule of Don’t Reload The Dishwasher is really Don’t Waste Your Time on Something That Steals Joy in Your Relationship. Menial household chores can lead to major strife in any relationship. In some cases, there is legitimate reason to work through that disagreement. But if your spouse is willing to help, isn’t allowed to, then berated for not helping out more, how do you expect to foster a deeper relationship? Eventually resentment takes root and walls are built. At the core of every human lies a number of insecurities we battle on a daily basis. When we have to fix our spouses work to fit what we want, it often leaves that person retreating inward in confirmation of those insecurities.
By all means, if your spouse is about to drive off of a cliff tell them! But many times it is the smallest and unexpected things that trip us up in big ways. Is it truly the end of the world if the towels are folded slightly different than how you like them? Will all Hell break loose if the lawn isn’t mowed into perfectly straight lines? Will taking a different route in the grocery store end your life? These are common conversations I have heard among married people or those in long term relationships. Unfortunately, these habits also get passed down to children as well. I am not a mother but imagine the effect to be similar.
Though I have made this promise, I have certainly failed many times. I can remember a time very recently where Darryl and I were tiling a bathroom. I had experience, he didn’t. He watched through some YouTube videos and was giddy to give it a try. Almost immediately I was directing his every move and pointed out all the ways he was doing it wrong. Gently he looked at me and said, “Hon, I really want to learn how to do this. Can I just try to figure it out and follow along with these videos?” I was reminded very quickly about the commitment I had made and shut my dang mouth. The tile turned out beautifully.
This is an encouragement to all of us to focus on the things that matter most in our relationships. Are there areas that are stealing joy in your relationship? If folding the towels exactly how you want to is that important, is there another task you can release, even if it isn’t done exactly how you’d like it? Let me reiterate that these are not big ticket issues I am referring to. These are the small routine tasks that most humans have to keep up with. These are things that do not require your best energy. Is there a reason you are holding so tightly to a standard of how efficiently we load the dishwasher when there is someone capable of doing the task, just differently?
I am not a counselor but I would be willing to bet that letting go of a few of these things may bring some relief to you and your relationship. There are untold number of situations that I am not living in personally and therefore cannot directly speak to. But I think the overall lesson is a good lesson to bring with you wherever you go. Don’t waste your time on things that take away from the joy in your relationship. Or, as I like to call it, don’t reload the dishwasher.
Happy New Year everyone! You may be like many others who roll their eyes at ringing in the new year as people make hectic resolutions to improve their current situation. I, on the other hand, love the new year. Sure there will be many to make lofty goals and bail out within a month or two, but I still love it. Why? Thanks for asking!
Just because the new year has begun does not mean everything in the past year stays stuck in the past year. If I had debt, that sucker is coming with me much to my dismay! But there is, however, something magical about the past year dropping off the calendar. It feels like a fresh start, a new beginning, or a second (or 500th) chance. Newness seems to enliven the soul and give it a new perspective for the future. There’s something powerfully motivating about having a new page to write on. There are so many possibilities and excitement flowing about in the atmosphere of our creative minds. The limitations that we face feel a little less scary in the wake of a new start. That particular feeling is precious to me at the new year. Depending on the year that I’ve had, sometimes I need that boost of energy to knock me into fresh vision. Which brings me to my next favorite part about this time of year…
While this can be painful, the new year always reminds me of who I was and what I experienced. Sometimes that can stack up to be a very painful year, sometimes full of joy. It shows me how far I have come. That can be the burst of confidence I need or the kick in the pants to get my butt in gear. While we shouldn’t dwell in the past or live in fear of it, I truly believe the past gives us our lessons for the future. The past is like a rose; its beauty has been praised throughout history but it is not without its thorns. It is in need of pruning and care. This past year may come with a number of thorns, but there is always beauty in it. It is the passport that proves we were here, took up space, and were a part of this world. I can’t help but get a little nostalgic when I prepare for the new year. I’m not the same person I was last year. Neither are you. And sometimes that is worth celebrating.
Possibly one of my favorite parts about new years is that people tend to think the best about themselves. Even if they have no plan of action to sustain their resolutions, people have confidence in themselves that they can shift into a healthier place. In a world where so many people suffer from low self-esteem, I love watching people believe in themselves again, even if for a moment. It’s that time of year where there is a sense of renewed motivation and excitement for the future. People begin to dream again and set themselves to new adventures. You know what I feel this time of year? Hope. It feels like a whole lot of hope is in the air. Even if it is only for a moment, it truly is wonderful.
I eagerly hope that you harness the energy and newness of this beginning into your dreams, goals, and aspirations. I know I have a lot of vision for this year – decade really! – and I am ready to get moving on those adventures! I pray today is filled with hope for new things and resolve to hold onto the freshness of it all! Happy 2020! We’re coming for you!
Good Things Come To Those Who Work
It happened again the other day. I was sitting in bed, eating (non-dairy) chocolate chips, watching Golden Girls on DVD, and having an existential crisis. My mind was slowly slipping away into a pit of despair as I contemplated just how little I had accomplished in my life. As usual, I spent a fair bit of time moping about and wondering why life was blocking me from moving forward. It took about a millisecond to come up with a laundry list of reasons why I was unable to make any headway in my dreams/goals. It was then that my hubby began to talk me off of the ledge. He said, “You’ve been talking about being a writer and musician since we got married, yet in the five and a half years of being married you’ve never really done anything about that. Why do you try so hard to push against those dreams?”
I have heard “your dreams don’t work unless you do” enough times to make me physically ill. I gently nod my head with a yeah, yeah and move on to continue my dreary and dramatic moping. When Darryl asked me about my dreams, goals, and desires this mantra came to my mind. As he questioned where all my whimsical determination had gone, in typical fashion, I came up with an array of excuses why life had set me too far back. He gently continued to coax me to dig a little deeper. It was not long before I had run out of excuses and had to face the music. I was not moving forward because I was not working. He could see right through me.
They say that good things come to those who wait. Honestly, I think it could also be said that good things come to those who work. Work has become a cuss word to many of us. It does not matter what your background is, many of us struggle to embrace the idea of work as a good thing. We associate work with a dreaded 9-5 job where we are simply another cog in the machine. Of course this incorporates a type of work, but it is a job. A job is a place of employment. Work is action. Perhaps part of the problem is first finding purpose that is meaningful and therefore worthy of our best work. But even when some of us find that kind of work, there can be major mental blocks that stop us from ever putting in the effort. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s past hurt. Maybe it’s new limitations we have to learn to live with.
Or maybe you are like me and realize that you put just enough effort in to make it look like you are working, but not enough effort to create forward momentum. I am the master of working a lot and never getting anything done. I don’t want to be thought of as lazy so I do a lot of things. I also enjoy the path of least resistance and quickly jump from task to task to avoid conflict and/or hardship. But I had to face myself in the mirror and recognize that some of the reasons why I’m still stuck in a rut is because I expect 110% reward for 20% effort. And that my friends was a very ugly truth I had to face.
I never set out to be that person. I do work hard but I also work on peripheral tasks that take away from meaningful work. When I spend so much time on tasks that distract me its easy to feel like I am getting a lot accomplished. At the same time I’m only ever really moving laterally. Many of us have been there before. Let me set the scene. You want to have a profitable blog so you dreamcast, create the perfect vision board, find your perfect niche, and get your branding on point. Now all you need is the content. Suddenly, you’re struck with paralysis but decide you’ve got to start somewhere. This blog isn’t going to write itself.
You begin with the goal of writing one blog post. That is manageable and realistic. You get distracted when you get to your desk because your office space has clutter so you decide to quickly tidy up. As you are cleaning off your desk you end up with a pile of papers that need to be organized. Since you still have a fair bit of motivation you figure you’ll get those organized. Once you finish organizing those papers, you notice you have no folders or place to put your newly organized pile of papers. After looking around you settle on a shelf you can rearrange to make space for the papers. As you do that, those items need a new home and decide to take them to a shelf the living room. When you get to the living room, there are a few odds and ends lying on that shelf that need to be moved in order to re-home your displaced items. This continues on and on and before you know it, you’ve gathered laundry, done the dishes, swept the floor, begun organizing your pantry, cleaned out the car, organized your purse, taken the dog on a walk, ran to the store for folders, stopped at your favorite coffee shop (and stayed for a half an hour chat), run a few errands, stopped by a thrift store, grabbed a few groceries that were on sale, washed the dog, and made umpteen number of lists for various projects. Finally, you sit back down at your computer to write that blog and realize you are completely out of motivation and the day is gone.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I actually got this much done by accident. If you are in a similar boat as I am, you can definitely relate to this rat race. But I am trying to prove a point here. If writing that first blog post is the first step in your dreams/goals, then all those other tasks have derailed you. Another day has past and you’ve half-way and haphazardly checked off some to-do items but haven’t really gotten anywhere. You have focused your best energy on tasks that don’t require your best energy.
I am a huge victim of this. I waste the best of myself on tasks that do not actually require the best of myself. It was such a brutal realization to come to, but I have reached the end of my long list of excuses. A lot of life has happened and that definitely counts for something. Eventually life does move on with or without me. It does not wait for me to be fully prepared to jump back in. Eventually, I have to look at myself in the mirror and accept that the healing process is complete and I am allowing fear to stagnate me. As a millennial I hate being labeled as ‘entitled’ but there are definitely times I can feel myself leaning into that identity. I want life to be easy. Who doesn’t? I want to run at the first sign of resistance. But resistance creates pressure. Pressure creates power. And that power can be wielded to accomplish some really amazing things.
I am reclaiming the concept of work as a lifelong purpose rather than a dreary-some burden. I am learning to accept when resistance comes and leverage it for purpose. I am trying to promise the best of myself to the most meaningful work first. It will take time to reset that mindset, no doubt! But I want to give my best effort to the work that is most meaningful to me. If the journey truly is the destination then the end success isn’t the highest priority. The highest priority is waking up every day and giving your best energy to the work regardless of the outcome.
Disclaimer: This is an online journal of my personal musings. They are here as I wrestle through life as an encouragement to you. I am a Christ follower and my faith is very important to me. If we don’t share the same faith, political stances, background, or opinions, I believe you are of great value and hope you find a slice of encouragement just as much as someone who does. I disable comments to avoid trolls and my own ego, but reach out directly to me if you’d like to converse.