The Opponent in the Mirror

Recently I came across a quote in a stickerbook I was thumbing through and eventually bought at Michael’s craft store. I fell hard and fast for this beautiful gem.

“If you’re lucky enough to be different, never change.”

Oftentimes our society believes that being different can be a bad thing. More and more  I think that stigma is shifting in a refreshing way. Most of us wonder how we’re perceived by others. We know who WE are, but do THEY really know who we are? Do you sometimes feel misunderstood?

We all have something we’re good at, something we struggle with, strengths, weaknesses, etc. But let’s examine for a moment something very specific that makes you….you. What  characteristic do you possess that you think people don’t necessarily know about you, misperceive, or maybe misunderstand? What makes you different? I’ll share with you a big part of what makes me tick as a person and why, quite possibly, some people misunderstand me.

The definition of someone that is competitive is as follows: having or displaying a strong desire to be more successful than others. 

Many people fall into this category. I think the world of sports would be nothing were it not for this breed of competitive people. These competitors keep people watching with baited breath, rooting for victory, and proud of their impressive athleticism. The world of business also has healthy competition that can be fun to observe; Apple vs. Microsoft, McDonald’s vs Burger King (sans the healthy part here), and Coke vs Pepsi-to name a few.  Our planet of animals has some serious competition when it comes to mate selection; think of peacocks, and that hilarious dancing bird of paradise.  And last but not least, humans in courtship have the competition of other potential suitors. This causes a multitude of craziness to take place – just watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette for a drama filled crash course on this topic.

Now that you’ve conjured up these images, it’s probably hard to think that some of us humans just aren’t built with the competitive gene as it relates to others. I’m one of these people and I wholeheartedly accept that this can sometimes be misunderstood. It’s also quite boring for my competitive friends out there.

Here are four examples in case your perception of me is already off: 1.) If someone is running next to me in a 5k and the finish line is in site, I’m not inclined to speed up to beat them. 2.) I love to play Scrabble with my husband even though I only won once in 16 years. 3.) If I have a friend that’s gorgeous with a six pack and a perky butt, let’s toast to that rockin’ bod! When I’m motivated in the Spring, I’ll call her to be my accountability partner. Sidenote: I can’t get on the bandwagon with people that say , “ugh, don’t you just hate her?” Because …I don’t hate her. Why should I hate her just because she’s taking good care of herself and looks great? I’ve never understood that norm in society among women. Let’s be happy for other women! 4.) When I see how successful fellow writers or bloggers have grown to be, I’ll reach out and ask what worked best for them to see if there is something I can be improving upon. There’s no shame in learning from your mistakes. I say there’s shame in not learning from them!

The real deal is that I’m acutely focused on beating one opponent at all times – myself. This is how it’s always been. Is it weird? Maybe. But I’m not measuring myself against anyone else because no one’s life is the same, no one’s physical appearance is the same, and we are all uniquely ourselves. There’s no other way for me. So if you want to race me or compete with me- I’m not your gal. I once won a Halloween costume contest when I was 10 or 11 at a friend’s party and I was mortified. I didn’t want to be the winner because I thought people would automatically not like me! Blending in felt safer and I thought more girls would not be inclined to talk about me if I didn’t stand out. Now if that isn’t waving a carrot for someone to psycho-analyze me right now, I don’t know what is!

Looking back on that memory now, it makes sense why I’ve tried to hide some of my differences or dull my shine.  I realize now that I have a characteristic to be proud of. Being a cheerleader for others and not having the drive to compete with others is unique and I embrace it now.

My goals are for myself and no one else and I’m my toughest coach and my most critical judge. What may be an important milestone for me- may be laughable to you. That’s just what I’m getting at here. If you’re achieving what matters most to you, in my opinion, that’s all that should matter. Unless you’re on a sports team or some kind of competitive team- then you’re looking out for the team as a whole.

Recently, my son said to me after his basketball game, “I’m really proud of myself Mom. I know I played pretty good out there today.”

This was coming from a kid who just 2 months ago said he was quitting.  Turns out one of his teammates actually told him he “sucked” during practice. It took me 45 minutes of the “if you fail try, try again” spiel and anything else I could think of, to convince him to stick it out. To hear his pride this past weekend felt like a warm blanket draped around my heart. In the end, he pushed himself and didn’t measure himself against what anyone else on the team was doing.

A few months back when he had first attended a basketball clinic, the coach went around and asked each player who their favorite basketball team or player was. I could feel the stress rising in my chest wondering how he would answer this question since we don’t really watch basketball at our house.

But my son answered the question matter of factly, “I don’t watch basketball, I just like to play.” He didn’t show a morsel of embarassment. To him it was no big deal to be different than the rest of the boys in the group. Following his answer, two other little boys gave the same answer …and they did it confidently as well.

I swear to God we can really learn a thing or two from kids. Why do we feel like if we’re not like the rest of the group we’re weird? Why is being different bad? Case in point…IT’S NOT. We, ourselves, just make it that way. It’s pretend.

When I share an accomplishment with a friend, it’s because my inner butt kicker is pleased. It dawned on me recently that maybe when I’m sharing a personal accomplishment, people may view it as hyper competitive or braggy. I am quite the opposite, but if they are a newer friend and don’t know me well yet, may be this is how they’re perceiving me? Maybe I’m overanalyzing? See what I mean about the perception game? It can drive us crazy!

In closing, I’d like to say that maybe what makes you unique is something that can help people. Like that quote at the beginning, I feel lucky that it seems innate for me to cheer for other people and not feel insecure or threatened by their successes. With all the social-media-comparison- downward -spiral stories I’ve read, I’ll take this difference to be a good thing. My opponent- she’s in the mirror.  There’s nothing like kicking your own butt at something because it’s always going to be win win situation.

 

 

 

The Reviving Scent of Autumn

You know that smell. That crisp, earthy, smoky smell that hits you in the face when you open the door of your cozy, blanket-of-warmth home. While it brings the reminder that winter is coming, there is something about fall that also introduces a clear-headedness, a feeling of being alive, a sense of refreshment. Summer is my personal favorite, but there is something about fall that stirs up so much within me.  Just a hint of that pure earthy scent and I feel very much alert and ready for what’s to come.

The brisk air beckons to me, however, stuff on my phone or laptop typically prevails.  I’m called away from the outdoors to follow up on emails, write, clean out the closets, run errands, and do the things that I also want to be doing and enjoy. More often than not, my time ends up getting sucked up in front of a screen. It’s a dance of responsibility and outdoor time, hobbies and outdoor time, interaction with my children on/off screens and outdoor time, paying bills and that outdoor time, job searches and outdoor time, tackling the mess that is my closets and attic and outdoor time. My time management could use some improvement. I’m going to try out the 50 minute focus routine as mentioned in this thoughtful blog post by Bone & Silver.

Each day, my outdoor time involves a hike or walk of some kind. These walks feel and smell SO lovely. While short and sweet, they feel as needed as my fresh cup of coffee each morning. Why? Because they perk me right up and get the blood flowing. Some of my best writing ideas come after a mind-clearing walk amongst my green pals-aka- the trees.

Hiking during the fall is so pleasant that I am always suggesting it to the point where my sons now roll their eyes every time I say the word hike. Try as I might, the kids don’t always want to go hiking when I do. We also had a situation yesterday where in two separate instances during our hike we were met by very aggressive unleashed dogs. I had collaboratively 150 lbs of children climbing up me, terrified and shrieking. Honestly, I’ve never been more terrified of dogs in my life and I’m a huge dog lover. I was really unsure as to how to position myself so that I would take the brunt of the dog bites vs. the three kids I was holding. As we were walking back to the car, my sons and their friend were talking about being scared to go hiking now. This is a bummer for obvious reasons.

The good news is, most of the trails I go on are dog free, however, I took my four year old to one today and he would not get out of the car. After trying to bribe him with candy, extra dessert after dinner, and anything else I could think of, I finally got him out of the car by saying that I would chase him around the whole lake. There went my peaceful and transcendent mom and son connection time. But I NEEDED that hike and I felt that he needed some outdoor time too.  I was sure to show him a sign that read “No Dogs Allowed” on the way in, which helped as well.

I hope autumn lingers and winter stays at bay for a bit. These beautiful crisp days will continue to beckon and keep me and my family active. And now, my 50 minutes of screen time are just about up.

The Liebster Award – 2017

It’s really cool to find out you’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award. I found out about it serendipitously on a Friday just after I had walked in the door after a long week at work. I threw the door open, dramatically let my bags slide down my arms to the floor, squeezed the cherubs, and complained to my husband about my day. Plopping down to rifle through the mail on the kitchen table, I grabbed my phone instead and read that I had been nominated for this award.  My stress evaporated!

The Liebster Award is an internet award given to bloggers by other bloggers. Liebster is a German word meaning sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, and valued. The award is meant to be inspirational. It’s purpose is to motivate bloggers in achieving their goals and pushing forward with their writing. I’d like to express my gratitude to @halfchocolateblog for nominating this blog!

Part of being nominated means that I must answer the 5 questions asked by @halfchocolateblog. They are listed below.

1.) What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve loved to write ever since I was a skinny, dirty kneed, tom-boyish 8 year old. Any time I had the opportunity to take an elective class in high school or college, I always chose a writing course. While I can’t pinpoint something specific that inspired me, I think it has a gravitational pull on me because it taps into my creative side.  This is immensely fulfilling  and brings direct sunlight into my being. Anything involving some sort of thoughtful expression whether it be painting, crafting, writing, dancing, or decorating soothes my soul to the core.

2.) Which is your favorite post on your blog?

My favorite post so far on my personal blog is actually my first one called Go With Your Gut. It is about my inability to trust myself, which resulted in me allowing others to make important decisions for me; decisions that inevitably put me in danger. Read it here.

3.) Who is your favorite fictional character? Why is he/she your favorite?

Lyra Belacqua from the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Philip Pullman is an incredible fictional character. She endures many life-threatening adventures, the disillusionment of her parents, the loss of people she loved dearly, all while trying to cling to hope and keep moving along in life. It’s a fantasy story with magic, different worlds, time travel, witches, and talking animals. I absolutely love it and love Lyra.

4.) If a genie grants you three wishes, what would you wish for and why?

Well, first of all, this would be really great right about now. Genie, Genie, where for art thou?

Wish #1.) A cul de sac of about 20 houses on it where all of my favorite people in the world spend their summers. My “summer” house would also be on said cul de sac.

Wish #2.) World Peace. In a nutshell: no more hunger, no more terrorism, no more gun violence (or how about just no more guns period), no kidnapping, no sex slavery, no abuse, no tyrants, endless funding for research and resources to heal our global warming crisis, an end to all hate groups big and small, and the respectful treatment of animals-both domesticated and wild. Is that asking too much? That might count for like 10 wishes right there.

Wish #3.) Money to grow on flowers, bushes, and trees in my backyard. It would only grow on the flowers, bushes, and trees that I took care of though. This would be an incentive for me to really try to get better at becoming a green thumb because I stink at it. It just feels more fun to be rich when it’s earned right? That way I’d sort of still be earning it.

5.) What are the 5 things you can’t imagine your day without?

Morning hugs from my two sons, ridiculous off the wall texts from my husband, dancing in the kitchen just before we have dinner, and a cookie of some kind (don’t judge, yes I have a cookie like every day). That’s four positively awesome things I can’t imagine my day without, but I’m going to sneak one unfun thing in here because it’s real life. I stress every day about how I can make my professional life be as fulfilling as my personal life. I’d love for that stress to someday not be there.  I can’t imagine how wonderful it will feel one day when that’s gone. And it will be… someday!

And now here are the lovely and talented bloggers I would like to nominate for the Liebster Award.  Congrats and good luck to you!

1.) Sarah Shard – http://www.wearewit.com/blog/

2.) Jade Unal –https://www.thewondrousworldofyou.co.uk/blog

3.) Kara Headley-www.kjdinspirationcreations.com

4.) Cher Gilroy-https://blazingbutterfly.wordpress.com/

5.) Rahul Ashok-https://naturescapewithme.blogspot.fi/

6.) Kelly Peters –https://kellypetersphotography.co.uk

7.) Sanjoli Jain- https://sanjoli17.blogspot.in/2017/07/

8.) Andi Stevenson – http://intothecity.me/

9.) Mary G Suycano – http://www.gracefulmusings.xyz/

10.) Charlene Bullard – https://faithtoraisenate.com/

Please answer the following questions and tag me in your post so I can read your answers. Thank you and I look forward to reading what you have to say!

1.) If you were stranded on an island, if you could make 3 things magically appear, what would they be?

2.) What drives you to keep writing?

3.) Who is your favorite author and why?

4.) What is the one task in life you dislike the most and why?

5.) What 3 experiences have shocked you the most in your life thus far?

Happy writing everyone…enjoy!

 

On Writing

Some insight into why writing feels right…

Everyone’s story is different. For that reason, there is something so satisfying about indulging in a good biography.  Fiction and non-fiction narratives that tell stories of the character’s arc are forever fascinating for the human mind. We can learn from someone else’s experiences; empathizing, marveling, relating, or grieving while reading what they’ve suffered, lost, overcome, or endured. As someone who thoroughly enjoys hearing and reading about others’ lives whether it’s over a beer, a coffee, a blog, or pages of a book, I discovered there is much to be enjoyed when writing about life as well.

I’ve always kept a journal. My parents gave me my first one at the age of 7. You could say there’s enough material to write at least 3 books!  Whether or not they’d be interesting is debatable. But I did take some time over the last few days to read through them and wow…what a trip. The details are long forgotten. That’s why writing in a journal is key should you ever want to harken back to the days of your youth.  Let me tell you-it zaps  you right inside that very moment that would have otherwise been lost in the Bumbletown of your waning memory.

In my mid-twenties I took a memoir writing course and when the class ended my professor made me promise to someday write a book about my life.  She also mentioned that if it never came to fruition, to always keep writing.  Her advice has long hung out in my conscience. She also warned it was probably best to write a memoir prior to having children because time would be scarce. She had written her book with two small children and cautioned it was tough to do so. Well, I didn’t listen to her and damn was she right. At any rate,  my chance at writing did eventually show up, even if in an unexpected way.

In 2009, I started a Facebook group for working moms. I wanted to meet other moms to build relationships and coordinate play dates on the weekends. Fast forward to early 2016 when an editor of an online blogging publication www.suburbanmisfitmom.com posted an ad in my working moms group looking for writers. A few weeks later my first and very personal article was published on my inconsistent childhood read it here.

There was a crazy waterfall of emotions that occurred when my first article had been published. I was sitting in morning rush hour traffic when the “You’ve Been Published” notification came through. Just picture Diane Lane in that bus scene in the movie Unfaithful. That was me.

Instead of dipping my toe in, I dove head first and opened up in the only way I know how when I write. It was scary but exhilarating.

Following the high of being published came the mystery of how certain people interacted with me after reading about my personal not-so-sunny experiences. Surprisingly,  whether they are close to you, an acquaintance, or a complete stranger- each reaction is different and some are not even close to what you would expect. Sometimes it’s confusing and off-putting and other times it’s gratifying and motivating. Either way, writing felt right regardless of some of the mixed reactions.

As the reader, when reading autobiographical content, I try to keep in mind that this is the writer’s experience. This is their truth and their life.  On the other hand, as the writer, you have to remember that people will interpret things in a completely different way than you meant them to and they will also project their own stuff onto it whether you like it or not.  This projection will then lead them to act in confusing ways towards you. Lord knows I’ve spent many midnights in an anxiety ridden sweat fest over-analyzing this very thing. This is the part no one can prepare you for as the writer.  I certainly wasn’t prepared for it, and I contemplated not continuing writing for a beat or two because of it.

Thankfully, I ended up pushing the nerves of vulnerability aside. Why? Because I honestly feel writing is a necessary thing for me.   Also, who wouldn’t want a hobby that feels right, makes the brain feel like it’s being put to good use, and that has the ability to  help people?

This is one of the most fulfilling hobbies. I feel just as giddy when I write as I do when I take a dance class. For example, in my article about getting lost and happy , I discuss the immense gratification I get from dancing and putting my creative side to work.  This very same feeling transpires when I write. To have connected with these two passions and made them part of my weekly routine -this is living life.

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Writing is also therapeutic for me in many ways. It’s a connection to people and a way to show why I have an appreciation for my life that runs deep. The foundation for many of my writings is derived from an epiphany I had after becoming a mom. I came to the stark realization that I would and will do everything in my power to give my children a better experience. This means throwing out the script. ERASE AND REBOOT.  It also means I have to unlearn a lot. That’s not going to be easy. But writing about my unlearnings  will be interesting for me to say the least.

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There’s an appreciation transaction that occurs every day that I pull into my little white ranch with my beloved testosterone-filled family.  The reason that transaction even takes place is because of  the bumpy road I pedaled on to get there.   Most of the time, the stuff that really hurts us, is the stuff that allows us to grow into who we are.  I am choosing to use the cuts that may have a lingering sting as a source to better this life in the NOW. And so far, at least today, it’s a feel good story.