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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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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I Love My Sunday Morning Rides

This guy is a constant inspiration both for writing and chasing dreams. If a 40-something man who drives a truck 12 hours a day, 5 days a week can still survive riding his bike 50 miles on an extremely windy day – WHAT EXCUSE DO I HAVE NOT TO TRY?

Doug's Scribbles and Ramblings

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After having my butt planted in the seat of a semi for most of a twelve hour shift, five days a week, not to mention the forty five minute drive to and from work each day, I need lots of exercise! I find walking to be too boring, running isn’t even an option for me, but I love riding a bicycle so that’s what I do.

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I would ride every day if I could, but alas my schedule won’t allow me such pleasures. The best I can usually do is one ride a week, early on Sunday morning. I usually feel guilty about doing that with as much as I have to do on my two days off, but the feeling usually doesn’t last long once I hit the road. There’s something about watching that narrow tire in front of me roll smoothly over the asphalt as the chain sings…

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Walk On

As I mentioned in this post, these months leading up to my forties are a time for me to make intentional changes in my life.

Some friends and I started a “support group” on Facebook to remind each other to LOVE OURSELVES.   I’ve seen several friends in social media successfully completing “30-day challenges” to make healthy changes in their lives.  We thought the first challenge should involve loving ourselves and learning that we are worth working for.

Our first 30-day challenge is simple and yet very difficult for those of us who struggle with feelings of inadequacy.

  • First, try to make better food choices (no specifics, just be mindful of making “better” choices in what we feed our bodies.)
  • Second, find a way to be active every day (again, no specifics in how long or what kind, just be mindful that every day we should take some time and be active – or even take the stairs instead of the elevator).  Part of this mindfulness includes accountability to ourselves (and to others, if you’re comfortable with it.)  My “accountabilibuddy” and I both have a FitBit Flex and use the FitBit and MyFitnessPal Apps on our phones to keep track of our steps, our exercise, and our food intake.
  • Finally, do ONE THING each day to show yourself love.  Maybe that involves carving out time every day to meditate, to pray, to write, or to play an instrument.  Maybe it’s a bubble bath and a favorite novel.  And maybe it’s a walk by the lake at sunrise (or sunset) or yoga.  We should find something that makes us feel good about ourselves and actually do it.

Honestly, the last few days have been quite a struggle for me.  My kiddos are off to visit their father in a different state.  I know that I need to use this time to ‘get my crap in order’ so I can be an even better mom to them when they return.  So, why do I just want to sleep?  I will admit I haven’t done the best job in sticking to every part of the challenge every day.  But I can say that I am doing much better than before we started.  I have learned that I do better throughout the whole day if I start off giving myself a pep talk and getting excited about everything the day just might have in store.  If I don’t get up early enough and the morning is spent racing the clock to get to work on time – the rest of the day just seems to follow suit.  So – brilliant thought – I am choosing to LOVE MYSELF if I get up early enough to take the time to wake up and prepare for the day.  Many people use early mornings to meditate, do yoga, journal and CENTER THEMSELVES before starting the day.  I believe it is important.

Yesterday was one of those ‘running late’ days for me and I felt OFF-CENTER all day long.  First-40-years-me was still convinced that getting that extra 20 minutes of sleep (or even just staring numbly at my phone) was what I really wanted. New-Purpose-Mid-life-me needs to learn that sometimes what I need is actually what I want.  I want a better life.  I want to have a good day.  I want to be the person I’m meant to be.  So I NEED to get off my butt to accomplish those things.

While walking one day last week, I had an incredible sense of strength I haven’t felt in a very long time.  With each step I took, I felt a little stronger.  And it is that feeling, that mindset that I need to stick with.  I can do this.  I have the power to do this and change my life.  No one is going to do it for me.  It’s all me.  I just have to keep going.  If I fall down, I won’t stay there, I will get up and keep walking.  As long as I am doing SOMETHING every day to improve – I will keep moving forward.  It was a huge moment for me.  And it made me think of this song by one of my favorite country entertainers, Reba McEntire.  It is a great song to listen to when you feel like giving up.

Oh ain’t life wonderful
When everything is right
But sometimes wonderful
Can fall apart sometimes
When your troubles knock you down
Pick yourself up off the ground

And walk on, walk on
Nothing ever stays wrong that long
Walk on
Oh don’t, don’t just stand there in the storm
Walk toward the light till you find the sun
You’ll be better off in the long run
And walk on

Oh it’s a heartache when love comes to an end
But even though your heart breaks
You know it’s gonna mend
Keep the faith right through goodbye
Don’t you ever break your stride

And walk on, oh walk on
Nothing ever stays wrong that long
Walk on, walk on
Don’t just stand there in the storm
Walk toward the light till you find the sun
And you’ll be better off in the long run
Walk on

DON’T GIVE UP!

You are worth it.

I am worth it.

Love, 

Iz