The title of my memoir, and tombstone, will one day read: “You were a lot nicer than everyone thought.”
I can’t tell you how many times someone tells me that after we become friends.
I’m not really offended by this anymore. It’s true, I suppose. I AM a nice person, quite a wonderful person actually, but there are definitely a few layers that you have to peel back to get to the real me.
And more often than not, it’s me that’s standing squarely in the way.
This lovely photo was taken last summer during a fun weekend for creative entrepreneurs. It was full of inspirational women, informative workshops and delicious food. One of the best parts was that I got to experience a DREAM destination: Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. THE Mindy Segal of Chicago’s Hot Chocolate fame made us dessert and shot the shit with us about creativity and making mistakes. Dream. Weekend.
And, side note, I’ve been obsessed with Camp Wandawega and it’s story and the incredible owners since I “discovered” it on Instagram or some featured Anthropologie or Crate and Barrel branding shoot, I’m not even sure where. I never even went to camp as a kid but something about this idyllic, back-to-basics place brought me such a sense of peace and calm. The place was heavenly and it’s where my dream for Renewing Mom Camp was born (and will one day come to fruition, damnit!). But that’s another post…
Anyway, while the event was near perfect, for whatever reason, actually experiencing it was quite different. Looking at this photo, I feel a bit of sadness about that otherwise wonderful weekend, because I didn’t really connect with the group as much as I had wanted.
As an introvert, I know that I need time alone to recharge. But this was something entirely different.
It had been a hot and sticky weekend of great workshops, inspiration and networking. At one point, during a break, the group was cooling off with a swim in the lake. Most of the women from camp, about thirty of us, gathered in the water and on the dock, talking, getting to know each other. Laughing. I didn’t join them.
Instead I sat in this chair. Paralyzed with fear and anxiety. About what, exactly, I couldn’t tell you. I pretended to work on my laptop and wrote in a journal to appear busy. I didn’t want anyone to know how I actually felt: lonely, like a little girl on the playground of a new school. I had no idea how to insert myself into a group that seemed to gel and spontaneously become “best friends.” I know that probably wasn’t true, but that’s the story I told myself. “Everyone had clicked and connected. Everyone by me.”
“Go down there!” I commanded myself. “If for no other reason than the fact that you are melting!”
But I sat glued to that chair. And I didn’t move. I hid my red, raw, teary eyes behind huge sunglasses. I sat and watched. Feeling alone and unremarkable, unworthy of knowing.
What. The. Fuck. Where did this awful, limiting, and totally untrue belief come from? And why? Where was the confident woman from just a few days, even hours earlier, that was so excited to be attending that incredible event? To experience the dream venue she had seen in magazines, inspired to shared her vision for a new business and to learn from other creatives?
I wish I could say that I got up from that chair and joined the group, ending the weekend with new friends, great connections and remarkable memories. Instead, I look at this photo sadly and really just want a do-over. Because I didn’t get up. I sat in that chair, literally and figuratively, for the rest of the weekend.
I try not to be a Monday-morning-quarterback and dwell too much about what I could have and should have done differently. But I try to learn from experiences. Because you don’t get any do-overs.
There’s no where to go but forward. Straight into it. And then through it.
I don’t know if it would have worked but I sure could have leaned into a little more, instead of hiding and waiting for the fear to pass. Because it never did. It never will.
What could I have done? I could have walked down to the water and sat on the dock with the group. I could have admitted to one of the women that I felt a tinge of overwhelm by everyone’s amazing business success. I could have asked more questions of the women sitting next to me to get to know them better.
On their own, none of those things seems that scary when I think about it like that. Yet they would have helped me face my fears head on and begin to move past them.
Facing fears doesn’t require cannonballing yourself into the lake. But you can sit a little closer to the water. Even dip your toe in a little bit.
Sometimes, probably more often than you might like to admit, you’re standing in your own way. So step aside, and get out of the way, so you can be on your way.
Getting Over “the Middle” Like a Pair of High-Waisted Jeans.
Clowns to the left of me. Joker’s to the right. Here I am. Stuck in the middle. With you?
Are you here with me? Feeling stuck? Halfway to the end. Halfway from the beginning. Too far to go back. Still so far to go. An overwhelmed mama.
We’re still about a month away from the middle of the year, but this year is starting to feel a little heavy for me. I’m not quite sure why. On paper, things are awesome. The weather has been amazing, I’ve discovered a new Cider Rose that has made my life, I’m taking a family vacation with my sister and her kids in July, I’ve even managed to plan a few date nights and some of them even include my husband. Things are good! Great, even. But, somehow, I’m in a funk.
Last December, I got really serious about preparing myself for how awesome this year was going to be. I set goals, made plans, created vision boards, and drafted lists. I got a planner and pens and stickers and washi tape. And then I got ANOTHER planner to help me keep the planner organized. I was ready.
And now, here we are, a looong way from December, and I sort of feel like I’m trudging uphill through knee-deep mud, carrying a backpack of good intentions and guilt. I’m checking the lists and planners a little less frequently. I’m hitting snooze a little more often. I’m feeling the chokehold grip of the daily grind getting a little tighter around my neck.
What the hell, June? I’ve been waiting for you for MONTHS. What gives?
The perfectionist in me is also really pissed. “If we had just listened to Perfect Renata and let her run this show, we wouldn’t be feeling this way.” she seethes. “I made a lot of plans six months ago, I’ll be damned if I give up on them now.”
Why is follow through so damn difficult? Where did my momentum go? What happened to those bright, shiny, incredibly inspiring goals? Why do they now feel like baggage?
The thing is, my goals don’t have to be something I have to accomplish in a one-year time frame. I don’t have to wait until December to determine whether or not I’ve been successful. If I break them down into smaller, short-term goals they become more attainable. And I feel less of the burn out because I’m not constantly running a marathon. Occasionally, as one of my favorite inspirational mentors, Lisa Druxman likes to say, it’s a sprint.
Druxman (who is incredible btw and if you haven’t read her book, get it immediately) has taught me that breaking down goals into smaller sub-goals leads to a greater likelihood that I’ll stick to and actually attain the bigger ones. The same thing goes for forming new habits.
I’ve been trying for years to consistently wake up at the same time. Three or four days per week, I have no difficulty (ok, more like difficulty that I can more easily overcome) getting up at 4:15 to do a 5am work out. But to do it every day? Or at 5am on days I’m not working out? I just cannot drag my a$$ out of bed for the life of me.
It takes 66 days to form a new habit. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? At least not on day 2. But what about day 20? Shoot, I might not make it to day 5! Per Druxman, if you can break the habit down into smaller increments, say a few days or one week at a time, it becomes far more likely that you will attain your desired result. And when you achieve that goal, you’re that much more motivated to continue.
Unlike me at 5am. See above.
Have you been looking back at the goals you set last January? Are you like me and feeling overwhelmed and like a giant loser because you’ve stalled in your progress? Don’t scrap the goals, embrace the middle. Here we are.
Now what can we do about it?
What can we accomplish today? THIS week? THIS month? How about in the next 2-3 months? Do it. Then do it again. And again.
This how I’m going to prevent mid-year burn out. This is how I’ll keep trying to motivate and focus on getting over that hill, through the middle. I don’t suck as a person. I’m not lazy or worthless.. I’m entirely capable of achieving the goals I set for myself in January. I’m human. And I just need to reset myself a little bit. To put one foot in front of the other. And keep taking steps.
I’m pulling out the vision board from last winter along with my list of goals and action plans. It’s time to shake of the cobwebs and dust a little bit. And start again. Yes, today. In the middle of the week. Because today is as good of a day as any to get through this middle.
Self care doesn’t have to be complex or expensive.
Four letter words are the best. Short, not-that-sweet, always to the point. But not all of my favorites are the salacious ones.
Two of my favorite four-letter words? Self-Care.
Unlike some of their naughtier counterparts, the meaning of these four-letter words isn’t always as understood. Does self-care mean taking a fancy barre class? Getting a weekly manicure or massage? A standing “date night” with your best friend? An extra five minutes in the shower? And for moms especially, what does self care look like?
Sure, those can be ways to take care of yourself, but self-care doesn’t always require a babysitter or extra money. It just requires planning, a little discipline and a desire to take care of yourself. Three things YOU absolutely possess and can implement today!
Now, don’t punch me, because you’ve actually heard all of these suggestions before. The thing is, you’re not doing any of them. Ergo you are overwhelmed, stressed, feeling burned out and disconnected from your life. Stop it. And start doing these things instead. Right now.
1. Fine-tune your evening routine to crush your morning one.
I really hate this one, but damn it if it doesn’t work. Every. Single. Time. The idea here is that every night, in some way, shape or form, get yourself ready for the next day. That will inevitably make your morning run 100 times better than a typical morning.
For me that means cleaning up my kitchen as much as possible before I go to bed: washing the dishes and running the dishwasher, clearing the countertops and kitchen table, and sometimes packing lunches packed or prepping breakfast (something like overnight oats).
Trust me, the last thing I want to do at 8pm after my kids go to bed is to stand in a room where I have been standing all damn day long. Every ounce of my being is screaming for me to RUN away from the dishes. “It can wait ‘til tomorrow,” the she-devil in my brain coos, luring me towards Netflix or mindless Instagram story scrolling. Every single night, I never ever EVER want to do this.
But, since I’m in charge of the morning routine at our house, setting it up the night before always makes my morning easier.
Can you think of a way that you can simplify your morning by doing something the night before?
2. Take care of yourself by getting sweaty.
Sex, yoga, meditation, running, taking the stairs at the office, whatever gets you huffing and puffing. Several times a day. Every day.
I know that I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. And while you might say, “oh but I work out,” I bet you could probably still benefit from a little more heavy breathing. Consider adding meditation to the mix. Or taking a bike ride with your kids. Are you having as much sex as you’d like? Be honest with yourself. (And then with your partner.)
You don’t have to spend your day sweaty, just get more in touch with your body. How it moves and feels. What it likes and dislikes. What it responds to and shies away from. Start to pay attention to what your body is telling you and how it responds to the actions you’re taking. Or not taking, for that matter.
Consider the state of your sex life. Is it in a good place? A satisfying place? Just because it isn’t doesn’t mean it has to remain there forever. But, as favorite person of mine always says, “hope is not a strategy.” You can’t HOPE for things to one day get better. You have to take action.
So listen to your body and then make some changes. You deserve it.
3. Be the first person in your house to wake up every day.
This tip also really sucks. I mean, getting up in the dark? What in the hell? (This self-care thing is super fun, right? No wonder no one is actually doing it.)
Getting your a$$ out of bed is by far the hardest part. Once you’re out of bed, it gets exponentially easier to be awake at what probably is an insane hour. When I wake up, I repeat to myself, “I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy…” to trick my body and brain into thinking that this early wake up stuff is something we actually want to be doing and not some bizarre circadian rhythm mixup.
Once you’re awake though, YOU get to choose what to do with your time. Journal, read a book, catch up on some work. Usually, I work out and then read or write with a cup of coffee. But, that doesn’t have to be what you do. The key is to find what will motivate you to get yourself out of that deliciously cozy bed. Maybe it’s meditating, maybe it’s catching up on folding that laundry you just couldn’t will yourself to do the day before, maybe you want to write in a journal or catch up on a show, THIS TIME IS ENTIRELY YOURS!
The trick here, and something I struggle with, is knowing when to stop with the morning me-time and switch into “midweek morning routine crazy mommy.” It’s almost like getting out of bed: “Don’t make me leeeeaaavve!” It’s a journey not a destination, right? I’m working on it. So get up before your people tomorrow. You’re going to be tired regardless, so you might as well do something for yourself.
Self-care doesn’t require you to leave your house or have to cost you a dime. It just requires a little discipline and maybe some planning. And all the coffee.