Be your Best Friend: Advice to Myself

Today’s words of wisdom stem from a conversation with a dear friend and co-worker.  She is working hard on trying to improve herself and her situation so she asked me for my honest opinion on something.  She asked, “Will you give me 3 areas in my life you think I could improve on?”

The answers to this came way too easily.  You see, this girl is 10 years younger than me and is also a single mother.  We’ve been there for each other through a lot of stuff over the last couple of years.  She reminds me a lot of myself.  So I realized as I was typing these things, I wasn’t only speaking to her – I was speaking from my own experiences, what other wise people have taught me, and I was speaking to myself on the things I constantly need reminders of.

So today – here are 3 areas in life I think we could all improve on . . .

  1. Love yourself.  I know that we hear this a lot, but many of us have been taught that loving ourselves is selfish.  The issue is, we spend so much time trying to do for others, that we have nothing left to give.  We were given these bodies and these lives to TAKE CARE OF.  We have to meet our own basic needs if we want to reach our full potential and have the capability and energy to love others.

    So . . . GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.  You have overcome so much in your life!  SO MUCH.  Maybe you had a horrible childhood.  Or maybe you survived the severe mental illness of a family member.  Maybe you survived a horrific accident and had to learn to live your life all over again.  Maybe you survived an unhealthy marriage or learned to move on after a betrayal.  Maybe you’re a single parent who struggles to make ends meet.  Everyone has a story and everyone has a struggle, whether they admit it to others or not.  The important thing to remember is – YOU ARE STILL HERE. You haven’t given up yet!

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    SO STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF.  You are making it.  You are making progress.  And your hard work and perseverance WILL PAY OFF in the long run.

  2. Learn how to “teach others how to treat you.”  Meaning, if you continue to allow people to treat you badly, they will continue to do it.  Set clear boundaries on how you are okay with being treated and what you will absolutely not allow.  And then let people know when they are doing a good job or when they are not.  This applies for families, friends, co-workers, and yes, even bosses, managers, superiors, etc.  We all need to be able to set personal boundaries in our lives.

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  3. Pay attention to your body and your emotions.  Notice when you start to feel stressed and prepare for it.  Preparation includes scheduling guilt-free alone time to pray, meditate, sleep – whatever you need to get through it.  (Don’t think you have time to meditate or just spend quiet time alone?  Check out this article on Pattern Interrupts.)

    Start a journal.  Even if it is as simple as writing down what you eat and what your emotions were that day – it is a step to learning more about yourself and what you need to survive.

    Another tip, especially if you’re an emotional eater like I am, always have a favorite healthy snack nearby to devour in times of need.

    The more you learn about yourself – the easier it will be to notice things and make the best choices for YOU.

I also wanted to share one final thing (okay, so actually it’s FOUR) that has been a huge help in my own personal growth.  I’m still working on each of these in my own life – but the second agreement was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done.  I dealt with so much fear and shame in my own life, all because of what I was afraid others thought of me.  (And I was probably making wrong ASSUMPTIONS anyway.)

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Click on the picture to learn more about The Four Agreements book.

So, Congratulations to everyone who is doing their best every day and making steps (no matter how small) to better themselves.  YOU’VE GOT THIS!

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Feeling blue?

I’ve been dealing with the “blues” or being “out of sorts” – these are some good suggestions…

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It stinks to spend a day feeling blue even if it is nice to feel like I have an excuse to lay around in bed all day listening to audiobooks and binge watching shows on Netflix (and possibly eating a family size box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars).  So, in an effort to not be a total slug I have compiled a small list of remedies to “blue”…

  1. BREATHE (try to do this continuously as it is a BIG help)
  2. Watch your dog (or anyone’s dog as long as it is not an attack dog trained to rip out the throats of strangers who watch them).  Dogs do some hilarious (and sometimes disgusting) things during the course of any given day.
  3. Come up with as many random punch lines as you can – some jokes are funniest with just the punch line.
  4. Think about something other than yourself – there…

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Ripped Apart

“According to Greek mythology,
humans were originally created with four arms,
four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power,
Zeus split them into two separate parts,
condemning them to spend their lives
in search of their other halves.”
– Plato, The Symposium

We are coming up on the 4th anniversary of what my little family calls “Bravery Day”. The day where three children decided to stand up for our family and tell the truth no matter what the cost and I, as their mother, had to make a decision that would affect every part of our lives from that point forward.

I was raised in the church.  When I was younger, “Divorce” was the hot-button topic in churches.  There were always whispers and gossip about people who had affairs or got divorced and how they were going against God.  There are still people today, no matter the circumstance that triggered a couple getting divorced, that will treat a divorced person as if they are a lesser human being, someone who is tainted by sin and someone to be looked down upon.  This is one reason why it was very difficult for me to give up on my marriage of 10 years and the family we had created.  I felt like I was doing something wrong, even though I knew at that point, it was my only option.  Little did I know that divorce should be a last resort, not because of what people thought, but because of how it affects someone going through it.

Malachi 3:16 says that “God hates divorce.”  I now believe that is completely true. Not because it is something “Christians” should look down upon, but because it wrecks the people going through it and the God I believe in would not want anyone to hurt this badly. When people marry, the “two become one flesh” in the eyes of their God, their family and friends.  They live their lives together as one – and then when divorce happens – it rips that consecrated union back into two again.  Neither of the people involved get everything back the way it was when they entered into that union.  Nothing is ever the same.  It HURTS; physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially . . . it just plain SUCKS.  Four years later, some of the wounds caused by my divorce have not completely healed.  They may never heal completely.

The first couple of years after I made that big decision were filled with every emotion possible.  Never before (and I hope never again) have I felt so many warring emotions at one time.  I would go from desperately sad to so angry, I wanted to hurt someone.  I am not an angry person – but I became one during those transitional years.  There were nights that I honestly felt like my insides had been ripped apart, and my emotions were bleeding all over the floor and no amount of medicine, hugs, therapy, or rocky road ice cream could make the pain stop.  There were those friends and family members who wanted to help, but didn’t know how.  They would tell me we were better off, that I needed to pick myself up and move on, that things would be better now . . . but that isn’t what I wanted, or needed to hear.  I needed to mourn the loss of every single part of my life.  Nothing would ever be the same again.

Luckily, there were a few friends who didn’t know what to say, so they didn’t say anything.  They were just THERE.  They listened.  They got me tissues when I couldn’t stop crying, and fed me and my kids when I could barely get out of bed. They felt angry and sad and scared with me, but they didn’t try to tell me when it would get better or when I needed to “get over it”.  If it were not for those friends, I know that I wouldn’t be here today writing this post.

It is sad that I know so many people my age who have gone through something like this, or are going through it now.  I see friends or family members, and I recognize the look on their faces, the way that they walk, and the mixture of sadness and shame in their eyes.  If you are one of those people right now, I want to tell you something:

  • No matter what caused you to be in this situation – I am sorry you are going through it.  I know that it hurts, probably worse than you ever imagined it could.
  • Seek out those friends and family members that you know will love you no matter what and tell them you just need them to listen and to love you.
  • No one else needs to try and fix it – because no one can.
  • No one but you can determine how long it will take to heal.
  • No one but you can determine when or even if you’ll ever be ready to try again with someone new.
  • Take time to remember and learn from the experience.
  • Just keep putting one foot in front of the other; ask for help when you need it and hide under the covers and cry when you need it.
  • There may be times when you use food, wine, or other vices to attempt to drown your sorrows and that is okay.  Just don’t make it a habit because taking away the ache for a few hours will not heal the source of that pain any faster.
  • Gather your support system and don’t pay attention to those who think they know better than you.  You just get through it however you can.

“There is nothing that can take the pain away.
But eventually, you will find a way to live with it.
There will be nightmares.
And everyday when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about.
Until one day, it’s the second.”

And one day you look back, realize it is four years later and the sun is still coming up in the morning and setting at night and you’re finally able to appreciate the beauty of it again.

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The Neverending Story

“[Studies have] found that people working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers and authors, were 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder.
Writers were a staggering 121% more likely to suffer from the condition,
and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.”

– From “The dark side of creativity: Depression + anxiety x madness = genius?”
by William Lee Adams

From my own experience, I know that often times, depression and anxiety can go hand in hand with creativity. I have good friends and family members who are artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, actors, directors, and producers. I would say about 75% of them have struggled with some form of mental illness at one time or another.

When creative people are so stressed and busy that they do not take the time to utilize their gifts, it becomes difficult. The other issue is that many people see creative endeavors as “just a hobby”, so those who frequently make time to pursue their creativity are often told they are being selfish or wasting their time with something frivolous.

I had a conversation with a good friend a few days ago about that very thing. As a single parent, it is very difficult for me to find time to write. I am judged for the time I take to work on the small theatre company I co-own because it “takes away from” my time with my family that needs me. And it frustrates me because we are supposed to teach our children to live their dreams – but how can we model it if we are continually putting off our own?

batianreadingOur conversation reminded me of one of my favorite fantasy movies:  The Neverending Story. (If you haven’t seen this movie, please do me a favor and go watch it . . . RIGHT NOW. I am not going to take the time to explain the plot because it just wouldn’t be the same.) I am showing my age again by admitting that the first time I saw this movie was on LaserDisc when it came out around 1985. Once we had a VCR, my brother and I watched this movie over and over. It is still one of our favorites. And I think that it is a good metaphor for how creative people who also deal with depression and anxiety live.

When a creative person stops creating – it is like “the Nothing” takes over in Fantasia and you’re not brave enough to give the Empress a new name. Why? No one will understand what you said anyway.

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(I know he supposedly says “Moonchild”, but it sure doesn’t sound like that!)

Why keep fighting a losing battle? Because it’s too hard, because it’s pointless, because it’s overwhelming, because you have obligations, because your job sucks . . . or because you’re scared you might actually change things?

neverending-storyartaxswampsOnce you start going down that slippery slope, you find yourself in the swamps of sadness with Atreyu and his horse Artex. And those swamps of sadness are really hard to make it out of alone.

In the story, Atreyu was rescued by Falkor, the luck dragon. But who is going to rescue us?

There will never be a perfect time to pursue your passions. Ever. I believe we have to decide to pursue our passions wholeheartedly and make them a priority now. Maybe our creativity IS our luck dragon. And once we climb on and ride the wind . . . our story keeps going. It is never-ending.

And adventure awaits.

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One year later: Robin Williams

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It has been one year since we lost that bright light in so many of our lives, whether we knew him personally or just as one of his characters in a movie.  His loss is still felt, but his legacy lives on.  I wanted to share what I wrote about him last year (on my old blog) and would love to hear how Robin Williams touched your lives.

(Click the link below to read)

The Sky is Brighter because it Gained a New Star