I took a really hard fall yesterday while running. I don't know what happened, but I do know all of a sudden I was airborne and sliding across the pavement in front of a bigger audience than I would have liked. After the fall, I quickly snatched up my phone and finished my last half mile before heading home. I didn't even look at the damage until I was done because I was too embarrassed, and honestly, I was kind of scared to see the extent of the damage.
I bet right now, you're thinking, "Oh, this is some corny post about how I got up and finished running after falling." Actually, it's the complete opposite. On Friday night, I worked a pretty busy shift at the restaurant. When I woke up Saturday morning, my body was spent. My legs felt like lead, I was a little dizzy, and I just didn't feel good. But, I'd skipped my run on Friday, so I grabbed my headphones and headed out. Within a tenth of a mile, my body was SCREAMING for me to stop. Every breath, every step took all the energy I had. Now, there are some days when I "don't want to run," but it's my brain telling me not to run. And, my brain needs to learn to do hard things sometimes, so it's imperative I keep running. Yesterday, my body said "stop." I didn't respect my body, and I ultimately paid the price.
There is a time to stop.
There is a time to say, "That's enough."
There is a time to respect the limitations of your body.
You are not weak for respecting that your tank is out of gas. I would have saved some significant bodily harm, and I would have saved a lot of my pride if I had just listened to my legs and lungs and walked back home. We live in a culture that says, "Push yourself until you break." You don't have to break; those results could be catastrophic. Your body carries you through tragedy, sickness, pandemics, depression, family vacations, child birth, and all the functions of day to day life. Respect her enough to listen when she asks for a break.
Keep fighting the good fight, friends.
In my jobs as a waitress and a success coach, I get to do a lot of really cool stuff. I get to help people when they're struggling, I get to learn about the lives of total strangers, I get to serve people food that makes them happy, and most of the time both of these jobs are extremely rewarding and pleasant. However, as someone who works with the general public, I know that I occasionally get to bear witness to some of the worst sides of people. Often times when we are victims of someone's outburst, our reactions are, "Gosh, it's not my fault. Why can't they see that?" And, that's absolutely true. Most of the time, I'm not at fault for the rant or frustration that is delivered upon me.
Today, I got a little perspective. Like many other days during this pandemic, today as been hard. I've never stopped functioning because, frankly, we really have no choice. But, I haven't enjoyed much of it. Most people who interacted with me today probably wouldn't have guessed that I'm having a pretty wicked day because, as I stated above, I know it's not anyone's fault that I'm frustrated. Then, the Nerds happened. I'd finally mustered up the energy to stand up and start getting ready for my second job tonight. Unbeknownst to me, Malcolm had climbed in my chair and knocked over an entire box of Nerds. I swear to you, I heard each and every one of them crash on the floor.
That was it.
I was done.
I went pretty close to ballistic. It wasn't Malcolm's fault (it was an honest accident). It wasn't even the Nerds that did it. It was every little thing that had been building up for the last couple days, and those Nerds were the catalyst for an intense emotional reaction. It was the rushing to preschool, the emails, the stress about money, the "I want more" after I already made lunch, the poopy diaper, the child yelling during a phone call, and the sound of the Nerds hitting the floor was the last breath of air blown into an already full balloon. The Nerds might have been the last breath of air, but it was all the air together that made the balloon pop.
I think all of our balloons are really full right now. I don't think that's an excuse to be mean to people. However, I also think it's important that we all remember that everyone's balloons are full. So, that incorrect sandwich that sent someone into a tizzy, that parking ticket that caused a full meltdown, that t-shirt laying on the floor that caused your spouse's tirade...the reactions might seem exceptionally intense and dramatic, but that's someone's balloon popping. And, we owe the someones existing in this pressure cooker of a world with us the chance to release some of that pressure. Next time someone's reaction feels excessive, I challenge you to take a deep breath, pause, and remember that their reaction is a product of much more than the situation you are a part of, and they likely don't enjoy that reaction any more than you do. We owe each other that amount of grace.
Stay well, friends!
I have to warn you: this one is a bit of a downer. We are 6 months into a pandemic. I am 6 months into working from home. Someone close to me called my social media posts "f***ing cry baby posts" over the weekend, and I've got to admit that has really hampered my ability to share anything lately. I hate that it made me feel this way, and I could lie and say things like that don't impact me because I am so self-confident. But, those things do impact me significantly. Despite endlessly telling myself that was one person's opinion given when angry, I find that voice in my head whisper, "There has to be more people who feel that way." So, I close my mouth - for better or for worse.
The information above really didn't have a ton to do with what I came here to say. I came here to say I've stopped checking the time. When the pandemic first started, I'd find myself counting down the minutes until daddy got home at 5 p.m. I'd think, "I just have to get through _______ then it'll be _________, and before we know it, daddy will be home." But recently, I've stopped checking the time. I've stopped checking the time because, like many other constructs that have been destroyed by the pandemic, I've realized the time doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because everything is the same, yet it is always completely different. I'm supposed to stop working at 5 pm. But, that doesn't mean I stop. I know I've spent the day caring for kids, and making food, and wiping butts, and taking walks, all while working, so I let my brain rationalize me checking my email and responding to emails 40 times after 5 pm because I think I owe some labor god my time. Here's the problem with working from home during a pandemic: neither job ever stops. Where do I go to relax when my kitchen table is my office and there is a kid watching TV on the couch and another one asleep in my bed? I can't possibly neglect my kids during the day, so I neglect my job. The neglect of my job gives me guilt, so I check emails at night to compensate. But while I'm doing that, I neglect my children, so my brain tells me I have to do better tomorrow. And, I ebb and flow between feeling like a great mom and a horrible employee and a horrible mom and a great employee day in and day out. The only thing the clock measures is the minutes and hours of guilt that add up each and every day. There is little to look forward to because it all looks the same. However, there is much to fear because, despite the redundancy, it's always different.
So, I've stopped checking the time. The time no longer matters because it's simply marking moments on a hamster wheel that will repeat again over. And over. And over. And over. Maybe, this is a "f***ing cry baby post," but I can tell you something from the depths of my soul: it is honest and true of how I feel today, so I won't be embarrassed, ashamed, or apologetic about it. I share these things because sometimes it gets people who don't understand to think. But, more importantly, I share these things so other parents who have stopped looking at the clock know their feelings don't exist in some personal vacuum - it's quite hard right now.
Keep fighting the good fight!
My friend recently shared and IG post with me. It said, "When you're working from home, you're either ignoring your kids or ignoring your work, and both suck." Today, I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit everything. I'm coming off a 3 day POTs flare, and my Outlook locked me out when I tried to log in. I was thinking about all the student outreach and meetings and preschool drop off and pick up and lunch and laundry and dishes and Early Alerts, and I just couldn't imagine I'd get through it all.
I logged in for my 10 am meeting with a student. I had Malcolm's favorite show on TV. I was going to put on a brave face and get things done. Then, Malcolm decided he wasn't having his show, and he wanted to climb on the chair with me. At this point, I'm a hostage. The student is already here, and they can see and hear what's going on. If I move him, he's going to scream. The meeting will be useless, and I will have wasted the student's time. So, I let him stay. He grabbed a highlighter, and he started drawing on my neck. Again, I had no choice but to grin and bear it because removing him would create chaos. The student, bless their soul, took it in stride, kept a straight face, and we were actually able to get a lot of their problems solved. It was a helpful meeting for the student, but more importantly, it reminded me that I can get it done. It won't look the way I want it to look. Sometimes it will be uncomfortable and embarrassing. But, what other choice do I have? This is a time like no other, and we are all struggling. Whether you've never stopped working in your job or your job has now merged with your every day life, you are crushing it.
But, even when you're crushing it, it's okay to take a step back. When you can't force your normal to look the way you want it to, change the way you expect your normal to work. My normal is no longer a quiet meeting with a student in my office. It is now modeling what it looks like to be a working human, and I have to believe that is as much of a benefit as it can be a distraction. It's our chance to show other humans what it is to be human - messy, and stressed, and confused, and unsure. We're all at the same place.
Keep fighting the good fight!
It looks like it's been a minute since I've been able to put words on "paper." I wonder why? Possibly a pandemic, 2 miscarriages, a round of debilitating anxiety? Who knows?
For anyone who doesn't follow me personally on Facebook, I am coming off my second miscarriage in 3 months. As a thinker, I'm often trying to figure out why things happen the way they do - even though that occasionally devalues the experience itself. Miscarriage? Who can find the reason behind that?
I have a question I keep taking back to whatever higher power I currently have faith in: "Why even make me pregnant in the first place?" It seems so unnecessary, so cruel, so brutal. So, my defense mechanism is returning to find a reason.
I think I needed a lesson in Control.
My anxiety is rooted in my desire for control. I don't want to fail. That means I lost control of a situation. I don't want to vomit. That means I lost control of my body. I don't want my child to throw a fit in public. That means I've lost control of my family.
It feels so irrational and logical simultaneously, and I have to believe I'm not alone. They tell me I can take folic acid and baby aspirin. But, we all know the truth. Those give the illusion of control. Bottom line: my body will do what it needs to do when I become pregnant again, and of course I'll take all the necessary precautions, but there is very little I can do to stop the inevitable.
I have to read that. I have to hear that. I have to internalize that. When you are striving for control, you're spinning your tires in quicksand. The illusion of control is present in all of our lives. We're constantly exercising, eating, driving, visiting, loving, etc. under the illusion that we have control.
Of course, we do things to help us maintain the control we can, and we should do these things: keeping our bodies and minds healthy, driving the speed limit, being faithful to our partners, but there is always an element out of our control.
I always thought if I accepted that things were out of my control, I would go into a frenzy. I thought only those who have failed resort to accepting a loss of control. I could not have been more wrong. I won't say these last 3 months have been the best 3 months of my life, but there is freedom in accepting your lack of control. In the midst of a pandemic, friends, we have no control. (NOTE: This is not meant to reflect a "go party and breathe on people without a mask." This is meant to reflect a "take a step back from your daily anxiety to accept that despite everything you do, there is always the element of the unknown".)
How am I, the control freak, moving past the fact that I have no control? I am accepting it. For the first time in my life, I'm embracing chaos with open arms. In that acceptance, there is freedom. It's not good luck. It's not bad luck. It's life, and the one common denominator of everyone reading this is life and the variability of it. May you take a deep breath, look into the big open sky, and say, "Bring it on."
Keep fighting the good fight!
The Kobe tragedy is still sticking with me even days later. It's not because I grew up watching that Lakers team. It's not because I was the Shaq to my point-guard's Kobe in middle school basketball. It's not because of Kobe's complicated persona. It's not because it's been plastered all over social media. It's sticking with me because of the universal truth it reveals about humanity: we are all one breath away from a tragedy.
Though a helicopter ride is out of most of our realms of perspective, the underlying purpose of their being on the helicopter transcends all walks of life. That helicopter ride is our commute to work. That helicopter ride is our "quick" trip to the store. That helicopter ride is our "be right there."
I can almost guarantee Kobe, Gigi, and the rest of the victims had plans for supper that night. It's those plans that shake me to my core because those are the ones we take for granted. It's gut-wrenching to think of who Gigi and Alyssa Altobelli could have become in their adult lives. But, for me, it's almost more agonizing to think about who they'd be today, just 4 days later. Would they be planning their next haircuts? Would they be dreading their mom's lasagna for the night? Would they be complaining about their English essay? It's "easy" to mourn a brilliant future that was cut too short because of tragedy. However, I'd imagine the survivors who are left picking up the pieces of a tragedy miss the day to day aspects the most - the singing together to favorite songs in the car, the helping with homework, the everybody sitting around the table for dinner, the "how was school today," even the little squabbles that eventually become inside jokes as children get bigger.
That helicopter ride, though grand to us, set in motion a new, more painful, normal for so many different people, and yet, it likely began in such a mundane way. There might have been a, "Hey, honey, can you grab some frozen peas for dinner tonight?" There might have been a quick rush out of the house without a kiss because they were running late. There might have been an, "I'll see you later tonight. Don't forget to pick up the dog from the groomer." Most tragedies begin the same way - unremarkable.
The Kobe tragedy is sticking with me because it reminds me that I, and my loved ones, were given a gift today and every minute we get after. Immediately after a tragedy like this, we all tend to take stock of our blessings, and we spend a period of time being extraordinarily grateful. Inevitably, though, I will again get irritated because no one can put their socks in the hamper. I'll get frustrated because we eat the same 5 dinners on rotation. I'll become overwhelmed rushing from work, to dance, to all the responsibilities of home. However, I think the Kobe tragedy is going to change one major way I look at my life. It is going to be a reminder that every, "I'll see you later," states a promise that none of us are sure we can keep. And every, "How was your day," is a gift I've been given with the people I love, and I'm going to make sure I'm mentally present every time I and the people I care about are around to answer it.
*Note: This post, though spurred by the death of Kobe Bryant, is not implying anything about the accusations against him. I have been working hard to process through some of what I have seen on social media, and this post reflects MY experiences in MY situation. I do not want to use someone's death as a platform for my feelings, and I certainly do not feel that it's my place to discuss what transpired in his life.*
How do we measure someone's legacy in life? How much are the "good" moments worth? How much are the "bad" moments worth? How many "good" things does someone have to do to wipe away the "bad" things they do? How do these ratios change when it's your own legacy you're speaking about?
Social media is a wild thing. Social media allows news to break in an instant. It allows you to follow your favorite celebrities. It allows you to share photos and experiences with family members across the country. It allows you to "investigate" potential dates before you meet them. It allows you to "research" what your best friend from high school is doing now. *Trigger* It also lets you see what your assaulter is up to these days. Mine, he's got a family. He has a beautiful daughter and a beautiful wife, and it appears, by all intents and purposes, that he is contributing positively to society.
For almost a decade, I harbored so much hatred in my heart. Why does he get to have a family? Why does he get to be successful? Why am I the one who had to change the course of my life because of the residual effects he had on me? Why does it appear that everything is going right for him when he planted so. much. pain. in my life? Those questions burned in my brain and heart for years. I wish I could tell you what changed. Maybe, it was having kids of my own. However, the pain doesn't burn as hot anymore, and it has allowed me to see the situation with some clarity I so desperately needed. I have to be honest; this might not sit well with some people. However, it's my truth, and I hope that telling it might reach someone who needs it:
I want my assaulter to be a good father and husband. I want him to positively impact the world. I want his daughter to adore him. I want his wife to be faithful. I want his career to be one that positively impacts the world. I want him to be fulfilled.
I want him to be happy.
Why do I want this? I wouldn't want my legacy to be based on decisions I made at the age of 18. I wouldn't want my legacy as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a professional to be permanently tarnished by a lack of judgment, though severe, that occurred before the complete development of my frontal lobe.
That doesn't mean I've forgotten about what he's done to me. That doesn't mean that "it's no big deal." Heck, that doesn't even mean that it still doesn't bring me to tears some time. My ability to let him have a new legacy doesn't necessarily speak to his success. Rather, it speaks to my hard work and determination to heal enough to give grace. So by letting him have a legacy that isn't defined by his actions as a young adult, I am actually letting myself begin a new legacy of my own that isn't defined by his actions. He is somebody's father. He is somebody's co-worker. He is somebody's husband. He is somebody's son. Acknowledging him for who he is now doesn't negate what he did. It doesn't mean that my life is worth less. It means that I am able to separate his actions from his person and his ability to contribute to the world. It means that I have a hope that people can change their actions. I have a hope that we can give grace in all our journeys. I have a hope that he will raise his daughter in a way that makes her feel loved and respected. And through that hope, I find true healing.
*Note: Again, this is MY experience. I am aware that there are simply bad people in the world, and I am, by no means, implying that you have to feel the way that I do to have fully achieved healing or forgiveness.*
I am an introvert. I've shared it before, but I like to remind people because I don't give off "introvert" vibes. Friendly reminder: Just because someone is an introvert, it does not mean that they can't be social. It simply means they recharge and generate their energy from inside themselves as opposed to generating their energy from social situations.
Interestingly enough, both of my jobs require me to work and engage with people all day. I don't dislike working with people; it's just imperative that I make sure I schedule small moments to myself throughout the day to avoid burnout. The other strategy I've used to help me get through the most social days is to let people inspire me. We are moving so quickly all day every day. We are always moving to the next appointment, finishing the next assignment, and hustling to and from all of our expectations. On the busiest of days, it can become really hard to see the beauty of life because of the pace at which it's moving.
I think the best way for me to describe what I mean is by providing an actual example. There is no better microcosm for life than a night as a server. I'll have 4 tables. One table needs refills, the next table needs their orders taken, one table asked for extra ranch, and the other needs a high chair. A server's shift looks just like those nights when I have to get dinner ready, get Evyn to dance, get everyone bathed, pack preschool lunch, and set out clothes for tomorrow all within a 4 hour window. I'm frazzled. I'm always frazzled, and I inevitably forget things and mess up. When I drop off the refills to the first table, they ask, "Is this your second job?" The easiest thing to do is shoot back a quick, "Yes," and move on to the next 5 tasks I need to do. And honestly, sometimes that's what happens. However, the best nights, even when they're busy, are the nights I have the awareness to know I have an opportunity to engage, and I reply, "This is. I'm a success coach at Rhodes State. I used to be a teacher." Most of the time, they then share with me what they do or an experience they had with Rhodes or educators. I've learned so much about people. People who worked 3 jobs themselves to get through nursing school. People who left abusive relationships to pursue a career and life for themselves. People who hated their teachers. People who used to wait tables themselves. **FUN FACT: This is also really awesome because people are much more forgiving when you forget things if you engage with them as a human** The coolest thing about these experiences is that I take a little bit of every person with me. It sounds corny, but I still remember women who have shared their stories of trauma with me, men who have shared stories about their own wives, and stories from people who were deep in the same grind I currently find myself in. In these small moments, you remember that you're a part of a bigger picture - that your struggles, while valid and difficult, are universal. The people around you are overcoming obstacles and hurdles, and they, like you, want to be successful and loved.
Like I said, I know this all sounds corny. However, as someone who can become so immersed in my own work and struggle that I miss the world happening around me, taking the time to stop and interact with my fellow humans has done wonders for my tendency to burn out. When you realize that people around you have done some pretty cool things, you have a little more faith in humanity. And, by default, you have a little more faith in yourself.
Keep fighting the good fight, friends!
This isn't a blog post about preferred pronouns. Though, that is an extremely important concept that you should familiarize yourself with and start practicing if you are not. Rather, this is about what I overhear on a daily basis. I hear just about everything. I don't necessarily eavesdrop, but my highly sensitive personality coupled with my handful of years teaching have caused me to be hyper-aware of what people are saying and doing on a daily basis. Last night, I was sitting at dance with the other moms waiting for their daughters to get done with their classes. I do this every Tuesday night, and even though I bring my book with me, with so many people around, it's inevitable that I overhear a conversation or two.
I hear the following sentence or variation of these sentences often: "We don't really like her" or "I don't understand her" or "She just doesn't get it." More often than not, I have no idea who this pronoun is referring to because, like I said, I'm not listening to the conversation. I just hear snippets of what they're saying. And, for the record, it's not just the dance building where I hear sentences like this. I hear them from students at work. I hear them in restaurants. Most of the time, it's "she" or "her," but I'm sure I've heard variations that include "he" and "him." And before I sound self-righteous, I'm sure sentences like this have come out of my mouth as well.
Last night, I got to thinking, "I wonder who she is?" Is she a teacher? Is she a friend? Is she a mother-in-law? I wonder what she would have to say if she heard the sentence come from the person saying it? I wonder if she'd be shocked or hurt or unfazed or confused? Then, I REALLY got to thinking, and I wondered, "How many times have I been the she that someone was talking about?" I make mistakes that I'm sure frustrate people, but I rarely do anything with malicious intent to make the lives of the people around me worse. When that thought crossed my mind, I realized something extremely important: most of the time we harbor anger, resentment, or confusion towards people who are simply living life in a way we can't completely understand, and those feelings towards their actions manifest in a way that makes us have ill feelings regarding the person doing them.
What does this mean practically? On a surface level, it's just a structural change in the sentence. Instead of saying, "I don't understand her," we can say, "I don't understand the actions." However, in order for you to see a benefit, you have to change the way you think, and you have to truly commit to looking at the actions instead of the person. Did a teacher reprimand your child in a way you disagree with? Momma bear, I feel you. If I thought there was an injustice done to my child, I would be ON FIRE. However, I've also been a teacher who has been having a bad day and let my emotions take over which caused an interaction with a student to escalate farther than it should have. And guess what? I'm still a decent human, and I would gladly apologize or listen to the other side. When we place our frustrations and anger solely on people and stop there, that anger is empty. She doesn't know you're angry in the dance waiting room. And she would probably gladly explain herself or try to fix the situation if she knew. When we place our frustrations and anger on actions first, analyze those actions, and try to understand those actions, we can move towards a healing that is beneficial to both parties involve. Sure, some people suck. And, if you analyze her actions and motives and she still seems off, then, by all means, feel disgust and hurt. However, empty negativity is contagious and often draws more from you and the person you're talking to than the person you're directing it towards.
I'm going to be honest; I don't talk about my faith often. Faith, to me, is a messy subject. Everyone has faith. You wouldn't have gotten up this morning if you didn't. Some people have faith in God. Some people have faith in themselves. Some people have faith in the universe. Some people have faith in nature. Some people have faith in other gods. You get the picture. But, the common denominator in all of this is "faith." Faith transcends life styles, beliefs, race, gender, class; however, the degree and definition may vary among us.
Psalms 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."
If you're not religious, please don't stop reading yet. I am an English person, so sometimes I think of the Bible in a non-conventional way. I look at it as a book. A book that, like other books, has themes. A book that needs to be explored and analyzed in a way that is not always literal. So, let's look at it like this: if you're religious, let's leave God as God. If you're not religious, let God represent whatever you have faith in.
Regardless of how you feel about "God" being in that sentence, I think the most important part of that verse is "Be still." What does that mean? Do I sit in my chair and stare at my computer and hope someone brings me lunch? (That wasn't that funny was it? Dad joke status.) What does it look like to "be still"? I'm going to be completely transparent and say that I haven't been good at being still. I haven't been still professionally. I want to be where I want to be right now. I haven't been still medically. I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S WRONG. I haven't been still as a mother. I want my son's actions to change immediately.
My best friend sent me some pages from a book she was reading about a woman who struggled with a chronic illness. After one exceptionally bad flare, she decided she wasn't going to worry anymore. She wasn't going to exhaust herself running from doctor to doctor only to hear the same frustrating phrases over and over. She decided to "be still." Her story resonated with me.
Yet, I'm rationally frantic in that I understand that there's a fine line between being still and being negligent. The story worked out for that woman. Eventually, after making peace with her health, she was able to find someone to help her. However, the realist in me thinks about the possibility that you could "be still" while something serious destroys your life.
To continue my Bible quoting, Ecclesiastes 3:7 says, "A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak." I know what you're thinking, "That's cute, Emily. But, you still haven't told me how to know when to be still." I think this verse from Ecclesiastes exposes some truth about timing. I think it's all about "listening." And, in order to listen, we have to be still anyways. Next time you're feeling frantic about a job or your health or your children, stop for a second. Don't open a browser on your phone to search for more jobs or a new doctor or parenting advice. Don't start yelling. Don't start crying. Don't call your mom. Just stop. Stop and listen. Listen to your fear and anxiety. If there is something you can truthfully do to fix it right now, do it. For example, if your child has a splinter, obviously, Google how to remove it safely and effectively and do it. However, if there are more moving parts than a small piece of wood in someone's hand, if there are parts that are out of your control, be still for a bit. Keep working in your current job. Keep consistently punishing and praising your children.
From a practical perspective, being still for a period of time will perform a factory reset. It will bring you back to who you were before you were frantic and anxious. Sometimes the noise is so loud that we can't hear the real problem. Have faith in the process, and be still for a bit.