might be a word with only four letters
but it feels so much heavier than that.
It carries a thousand weighted breaths and
teems with tears.
Can I begin to trust the universe
when I've been left before on the docks empty-handed,
standing agape at the magnitude of the waves?
Can I allow what I feel in the air around me---
salty and sweet, everything will be all right---
to be my truth?
Hope might only be a word with four letters,
but today it is my life raft;
I'll clutch to it until the sea swallows me whole.
What else is there to do?
Moments exist in life that serve no other purpose than to bring us back to reality: fights with your best friend where you clearly in the wrong; being rejected or embarrassed; a family member getting sick; a loved one dying.
God or whatever you want to call that Supreme Being above us is a big fan of humility—not in terms of humiliation, which is an entirely different animal, but reminding us that we are not perfect and we will falter.
But most importantly, we are reminded that we can get back up—that there are things greater than our struggles, anxieties, and misfortunes.
In times like this, when I've been knocked down and told to re-evaluate my situation, an overarching theme stands out.
Most of what you think is important doesn't actually matter.
Your job is important. But should you let the piles of undone work take over your family time or occupy your thoughts while outside of the office?
You may fret about your physical appearance. And yes, feeling good about you the way you look is worthwhile. But is it worth stressing over? Are those extra 10 pounds worth the self-abuse you heap on yourself?
You may worry about where you will be in 5, 10, or 20 years, but will that change the present?
Popularity, if you're doing enough with your life, what you eat, how you carry yourself, what your friends think of you, how much stuff you have, and how much money is in your bank account—the list of fascinations goes on and on.
But, friends, this is not the stuff that matters.
Sure, on a practical level, some of it is worth entertaining. (You need money to buy food, so keeping an eye on that bank about might not be a bad idea.)
But the point is, life isn't worth stressing about things that aren't serving you.
When you think about what makes your soul happy, is it really what you wore last week? Or if your friends laughed at your joke? Or if your boss likes you?
Your soul doesn't give a second thought to any of that stuff.
So where does humility play into this?
Humility reminds us of the importance of our life—as well as the experiences and people with which we fill it.
The love you give to your family and friends . . . this is what matters.
The relationships you foster and grow over time . . . this is what matters.
The generosity you bring to the world around you, taking care of anyone and everyone you can . . . this is what matters.
The way you nurture yourself, both body and spirit, so you can better give yourself to your passions . . . this is what matters.
So slow down: appreciate this moment, and remember that life is so fleeting and yet so full.
That is what matters.
I'm here to let you in on a little secret: this world doesn't want you to be yourself.
We live in a confusing, change-encouraging society. In the midst of chaos, surging emotions, tense political battles, and the like, it's far too easy to forget who we are—to lose our grounding on a shaky sea.
And in this hurricane, I'm sometimes left shivering and wondering: who the hell am I?
Maybe you're like me and sometimes forget the things that make you you--your goals, what you find funny, the silly bits that enjoys watching cat videos for hours on end, your idiosyncrasies, and so on.
Just calm down, take a breath, and use these seven tricks to try to reconnect with You:
Above all else, remember this: when you lose yourself and all feels hopeless, you will always be there. You might be hiding in the very crevices of your soul, but all of your hopes, desires, and dreams remain.
And there's nobody better than you, you authentic, wonderful thing.
While I'm working, I often pour myself a nice mug of tea—especially in the Fall, when I can indulge in delicious, warm flavors like cinnamon and licorice. (This one in particular is the best.)
Yesterday's editing involved a challenging client project that tested me both mentally and emotionally—and when I reached for my steaming hot tea specifically poured to calm me down, I noticed some writing on the tag, which said:
"You are unlimited."
Normally I agree with the little inspirational quips on the tea tags, but man, do I disagree with this.
Yes, you should believe in your potential. Yes, you should push yourself professionally, personally, and emotionally. But everything has its limits. Especially you.
I've written before about the importance of self-care; how can you take care of others when you aren't taking care of yourself?
Speaking from my experience, we try so hard to do everything: to have amazing careers, a flourishing side gig, beautiful homes, take care of picture-perfect families, and build watertight relationships with loved ones.
I'm going to say it: it's just too much.
On a weekly basis, I reach a breaking point and something has to give. Maybe the blog only gets one post that week instead of three. Maybe I let our house fall into a state of constant clutter for a while. Maybe Cosmo doesn't get an hour-long walk every day (sorry, buddy). And it's totally okay.
We can't think of ourselves as a constantly regenerating machine, ready to give to others endlessly. Your daily ability to keep going is finite—a tank that slowly loses its contents.
You can refill your tank by taking care of yourself; it's a simple concept, I know, but so many of us neglect it. Relax, read a book, eat some real food, exercise, or get some sleep. It's that easy.
Just for a moment, take a breath and remember that you need to take care of yourself and respect your limits. As productivity expert David Allen once said, "You can do anything, but not everything."
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend an entire weekend on the couch reading—not cleaning my messy house, not working on articles or editing, not feeling like I should do anything. And it's going to be beautiful.
Yesterday, I sat in the waiting room at my doctor's office—don't worry, guys, everything's okay, but my injured tendon and I are living proof that running is terrible for you and should be avoided at all costs—when I heard a little beep come from my phone.
Looking down, I noticed that I had an e-mail from a producer at the online magazine Thought Catalog (if you haven't visited their site before, please do. There is a plethora of wonderful content hidden in their pages). I grinned when I read that my submitted article had been accepted and was live on their site.
Immediately, I rushed to the website and experienced two conflicting, strong emotions: intense, ohmygodisthisreallyhappening excitement and an overwhelming, unwelcome fear.
What if their readers didn't like it? What if my own readers didn't like it? WHAT IF SOMEONE FOUND A TYPO? (Truth of Life: It doesn't matter that my official job title is Editor and I correct grammar for a living—I'm not perfect and, yes, sometimes there are typos in my pieces.) In my head, these were all practical and imminent scenarios.
And in my flurry of elation and anxiety, I had a thought.
Vulnerability is terrifying.
Submitting my article made me shake with nervousness. Seeing it live on the website did the same. After posting every blog entry, the same thoughts run through my head: Did I stay true to myself? Will my readers like it? Do I like it? What if nobody reads it?
We as living, breathing humans experience this every single day.
Putting yourself in a position for critique can be so difficult, no matter the situation. It's hard to stand on a pedestal and say, "Here I am, world, do what you will!"
But, guys, it's so worth it.
Without positive feedback from others, we would lose a source of many warm/fuzzy feelings: love, acceptance, appreciation. And without honest, constructive criticism, it sure would be difficult to make ourselves better people.
Opening yourself up is the only way to grasp what you're capable of. A flower that never blooms is stuck in the ground forever.
Learning to make yourself vulnerable, and especially embracing the potential benefits of that vulnerability, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Learn to love the chilling, soul-shaking quiver of knowing that you could mess up, that you could be wrong. And even better, learn to crave the incredible feeling of knowing that you've done well, that your hard work and presence are important.
So what do you say? Tell that person you love them. Submit the big, important project you've spent months working on with your head held high. Invite someone into your emotional space that's never been there before. Do that thing you love, opinions be damned.
Close your eyes, open your arms to the sky, and jump. I promise you won't regret it.
This week, I've been a raging ball of stress. There's too many things to get done at the office, so many ideas for the blog and website ping-ponging around in my brain, piles of clutter sitting around the house—it's enough to make a person head straight for the bar to indulge in the strongest margarita available.
As much as I love such margaritas—especially with a giant plate of nachos—I'm getting to the age where I need to respect my body in a healthier way.
Taking care of yourself comes down to so much more than eating your quota of fruits and veggies (although that's pretty important, too). To keep yourself in tip-top shape, you need to make sure your mental health gets a check-up every once in a while. Self-care is too important to neglect.
In case you needed some friendly reminders on how to take care of your one and only body, I've compiled a list of 12 ideas to consider below. Take each one with a grain of salt (preferably around that margarita glass) and see if it works for you!
Audra Lorde said it best—"I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival."
And isn't that the beautiful, absolute truth?
Take care of yourself and the universe will take care of you.
Here’s a dam on the river.
Here’s the place when I’ve hidden all my secrets,
and if you ask me nicely,
I just might let them all out,
They’ll flow like water over stones.
You see, there’s a fine line
between protecting yourself
and shuttering everything to the outside world--
it’s safe to say that I haven’t yet
perfected that art.
I’ve a past I want to forget, but
remember when it can keep me afloat.
Sometimes, I drown under the weight of it.
The limbs of even great swimmers grow tired.
I write poems about water and about trees
because sometimes I am the fish swimming upstream
and in other moments, I am the birch observing it all.
There are boulders on the shore watching me.
There are stones under this water,
weakened by the tide rushing over them.
A moment of honesty here, friends: I had no desire to write this blog post last night. I heard the call of my bed, so sweet and wonderful after a long day. I saw the housework piling up around me. I was buried under the weight of all the things I should have done instead of this.
And yet, I wrote it—with heavy eyelids and messy house, I walked to my keyboard once again.
I know in the long run, this is just a blog; it isn’t a matter of life and death if I don’t finish this post. But as much as I hope you’re all waiting for my next entry with bated breath, my perseverance isn’t for you.
It’s for me.
You see, one of the greatest Truths of Writing, and one I need to remind myself of often, is the importance of developing a consistent writing habit.
As my sage author on habits and happiness, Gretchen Rubin, once said:
“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
The regular act of writing, even just a few sentences, is so incredibly important for advancing the technical abilities and creative thinking of writers. It prevents your brain getting rusty. It challenges you to think of new topics and ways to craft stories.
I’ve found that in months where I consistently scribble down a few things every day, I have a much easier time of accomplishing my writing goals.
But besides the benefits of greasing those creative cogs and keeping you motivated, writing frequently is beneficial for my mental health and anxiety.
I know they’re just words. But if you fall into any of the following categories, I’m willing to bet that someone else’s written words have affected your life--
If you’re here, you know what I mean.
Writing is tremendously cathartic. When I have a rough day and need a stress reliever, I turn to my pen and paper. When I’m crushed under the enormity of the thoughts bouncing around my head, stringing words together helps calm down the buzzing. When I need to work out my life, writing is always there to give me a hug and say, “It’s okay. Let’s figure this out together.”
Writing is my crutch when I’ve sprained my soul and my cheerleader when I’m down.
What we as writers do may not be important to everyone, but it is to us. All I can do is shout into the void and hope that someone is listening.
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.