…still learning

As an adult, there are some things I should have figured out by now and for some reason, these happen to be the lessons I keep repeating.  I thought I might share a few of those with you that have been ever-present for me this year.

Lesson #1: Wear sunscreen.

This one is pretty obvious.  I get that your skin is the only one you’ve got and I haven’t been very good to mine.  However, there’s a basic rule with the ownership of Irish skin that you put on sunscreen.  My people don’t tan… we burn, look like a lobster, peel and the process begins again.  (Srsly, a dime for every time I heard “you look really red.”)  I don’t know what makes me think I can “outsmart” that by avoiding the reapplication process.  Every.time.I.try.  Put it on your face, put it all over you and repeat.

Lesson #2: Don’t let money control you.

This one has kicked me in the teeth more times than I’d care to admit.  I wish I’d paid attention to the experiences I could have had with money vs the stuff I could accumulate.  This is priority number one for 2018.  If anyone invents an app that would make me have to solve an impossible math question before Amazon will let me hit “buy now”, please let me know.  I don’t want to work to pay my bills and have nothing left – I want to work to pay my bills and then do the things that are going to make memories.

Lesson #3: Don’t let someone else’s timeline be YOUR timeline.

I have seen this one not only in myself but a lot of the people around me.  It’s easy to get swept up thinking about what could/should/may have happened but that removes you from being fully present in your life as it happens.  All the energy I’ve spent comparing myself to others has really amounted to nothing more than wasted time.  It’s really been since my mid-thirties that I’ve started to embrace this feeling of going against the norm and really creating my own path.  I want to figure out what my story looks like.  Luckily, my parents have always been super supportive about all my ideas – no matter how crazy.  Remember that time I up-and-moved to Iowa, mom?

Lesson #4: Say “yes”.

After some personal setbacks and years of making excuses as to why not, I decided this year that I’d just say “yes”.  That means checking in with myself to make sure I’m not giving too much without taking some me time.  I am an introvert, after all.  I have found that I don’t usually regret saying “yes” to something after I’ve done it.  This is the best way to make friends and memories; maybe even overcome some fears in the process.  This has, by far, been the best thing I’ve done for myself.  Am I tired and fried at the end of the day?  For sure.  Do I want to sit in my pajamas with my pup and eat pizza?  You know it.  But I don’t want to string my days together having sat on the couch – I wanna liiiiive.

Lesson #5: Let people know you.

While I wasn’t necessarily raised to keep private things private, I do feel like I really struggled with letting people see the real me through college and after.  I molded myself to fit a situation instead of going in there, gangbusters, saying “this is who I am.”  I used to save private stuff for my family and friends and then project a certain image to the world.  In the last several years, that whole facade has fallen away and people truly are left with the real me.  I don’t have the energy to fake it anymore.  In the world we live in today, where real CONNECTION is scarce and mental health doesn’t get the attention it deserves, we need to stop pretending everything is okay and get a little more comfortable with being vulnerable.  It’s quite simple for me… what reason would be good enough for me to be anything but myself; for me to have any other opinion than the one I feel passionate about; to fight for anything less than what I believe in with my whole heart?

***

I heard it said about being a parent that the days are long and the years go by fast… that’s how I feel about my 30’s.  A minute ago I was turning 30 and now we’re looking down the barrel of 36.  That said, I can’t wait to keep peeling back layers and seeing who I really am and what I have to offer the world.  I can’t wait to keep choosing to make my life about what feels right to me – not what other people say is right.  I certainly hope this has been a little bit inspiring for you guys, and maybe helped some of you feel less alone.  I’m here – and I’m still learning.

 

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em·bod·i·ment

Hi friends!

I’ve been cooking up some bloggy-goodness for you all and was kind of coming up empty.  I started an optimistic spring post (maybe saved for later) but it just didn’t feel right.  I think I’ve mentioned before that the way I suss out blog ideas is by paying attention to what’s happening around me.  It sounds woo-woo but it’s kind of like, what is the universe telling me?  What messages am I hearing over and over that not only helps me grow but helps me connect with you all?  I feel like it’s important for me to have something of value to say and it’s clear that you guys connect more to the vulnerable stuff (vs. blogs about my dog – seriously guys, she’s amazing but that’s cool).

I was thinking I wanted to tell you some things I’ve learned over the last few months but it seems so much bigger than just the last few months.  I’m 35-years-old (cringe) and I’m literally just starting to feel who I am as an individual.  It feels so cliche to type that, you guys, cause there is no shortage of older = wiser sayings but that’s exactly what it feels like.  I have been working on giving myself permission to be me – not some best version of me that I want to present to the world.  I know, I know… that sounds so.obvious.Ryan. but consider this: there are the labels you put on yourself and there are the labels that are put on you by the world.  It’s so easy to become the world version instead of doing the work to be an individual.  I think once you’re labeled “funny” or “nice” or “responsible” it’s easy to fall on those words to define you.  For me, those labels revoked necessity for me to dig deeper.  The best thing ever said to me – and the key that fits the lock – was “Ryan, you have agency in this.”  And I do.  And you do.

All that had been swirling around and before I had a chance to get it here, I read (and reposted) something on Instagram on Sunday that totally struck me.

credit to instagram account @queens_over_bitches

I’ve ruined so many GOOD relationships by not being straight-forward.  I’ve let people come and go in my life without letting them know what they meant to me.  I’ve held my tongue telling someone what a unicorn-of-a-human-being they are so I don’t come off weird, or needy, or desperate.  Let me issue a global apology for that.  The reason I did that is I didn’t know who I was; I didn’t know what mattered to me, and I thought someone else would come along and tell me who to be and what mattered to me.  I waited for someone – anyone – to tell me.  In some twisted way, I think it was easier for me to live my life as the person other people needed me to be than it was for me to be the person I needed me to be.

It’s taken a LONG time to get to the point where I realize how important vulnerability and connection are to me; that they’re more than just words, but an essential element to living my best life.  This is not easy work but it’s absolutely worth it.

who are you?

“Who are you?”

What a simple question, right?  But when you take it apart and really consider it, it’s a pretty huge idea.

It seems like everything in my life right now is pointing me in the direction of digging in to that idea.  Quick aside in all seriousness: I love the phrase “digging in” so much that it might be on my headstone when I die.

I digress.

This idea grew from a conversation with my therapist, then took root when I stumbled on an Instagram post by Melissa Hartwig (the amazing, kick-ass woman behind the W30).  I found myself thinking: I want to know who I am and own who I am.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what it means for me to do that.  I have always owned the fact that I’m moment by moment, feelings fluid, ever-absorbing my environment, tough to pin down.  That’s not near enough of an answer for me, though.

As you know, it started with that same simple question, “who are you?” posed by my therapist.  Out of my mouth came the canned response, “I’m an auntie, a friend, a good listener, a fiercely loyal member of my family and I like to read.”  Those are all words I typically use to identify myself and she came right back by telling me that those words don’t say much about ME and who I actually am as a person.  That answer doesn’t reflect my values, my personality or what gets me out of bed in the morning.  Everyone is a daughter, auntie, uncle, mother, father, son, friend, sibling or a combination of those words.  Those are identifying words that we all fall back on and while there is likely a lot of pride attached to those words, it doesn’t really say who you are at your core.  I’m pretty sure at this point in my life I should know the answer to that question – but I don’t.  I have been so busy avoiding myself that I’ve been focused on helping those around me answer that question for themselves.

Melissa Hartwig wrapped it up in a nice little package called “self-love”, which is a concept that feels foreign to me.  She says everything in life can be taken away (preach, girl) except who we really are.  So why not OWN who we really are – not just those identifiers that are easy responses or the things about us that can be taken away in a moment?  We need to have our identity wrapped up in OURSELVES – not who we are to other people.  Do not allow outside factors to define who we are, she says, and I was completely feeling that.  I’ve often handed a partner the reins in determining who I am; my value; my identity.  I have been stuck waiting for life to happen TO me instead of me happening TO life.  I’m just now starting to grasp this concept.

After much thought and consideration, this is me, as I know me in this moment…

I am strong.  Every day I show up for my life and live it heart-forward.  Sometimes it really, really, really hurts but I’ve never been sorry for my scrapes and bruises because of the lessons I’ve learned in the process.

I am caring.  I have no off-switch in this regard.  I almost care too much.  I’m a very soft person – much too soft for this world – but I’m owning it.

I am dedicated, loyal and determined.  I was once told that I only work under pressure but I think a more correct statement reflecting who I am now is that I work hard despite pressure.  I have shown myself again and again that I can keep my eyes down and continue moving through something till there’s nowhere left to go.  Looking back on where I’ve been, I can see the little rest stops where I might have veered off and taken another path – or more likely should have – but I know that my loyalty is often in the driver’s seat, so we go on.

I am open-minded (and open-hearted).  It’s not too often that I take a hard line about anything.  I’m very malleable in that I listen to other perspectives and give them time to work in me.  Outside opinions often help me get to the heart of my feelings (like this blog post) so I always try to stay open for the wisdom to come.

I am always working to be a healthier version of myself.  This is both at face value and metaphorically.  I don’t strive for perfection I strive for healthy.  I don’t always get it right and sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing, turn around, and go back.  My ultimate goal is to be healthy from the inside out.

I am curious.  I have a SERIOUS thirst for knowledge of all the things.  I like to know the reason behind human motivations and it’s not unusual for my friends, family and really any acquaintance to be met with probing questions from me in an attempt to understand them better.  I speak in feelings and understand emotion.

***

It’s hard work, figuring out who I am and what I’m about.  This isn’t where the notion ends for me – I’ll keep digging and refining.  I would just encourage you, friends, to really think about who you are at your core… after you’ve gotten past all the easy responses, what are you left with?

hello. it’s me. (have i used that title already?)

As many of you who know me IRL have likely surmised, and to confirm those of you who know me virtually, things have not been great on this side of the screen.  It’s nothing to worry about, just stress levels in the consistently-higher-than-usual category.  Being a person is really HARD sometimes.  Plus, it doesn’t help that I’ve been binging some pretty depressing stuff lately – looking at you ’13 Reasons Why’ and ‘Big Little Lies’ – and have been reading a lot of non-fiction (mostly about this).  I’ve also been trying to practice some self-care and have been learning a lot of *new* things about myself.  We already know when I have nothing good to say and don’t want to talk about myself, I say nothing.  I’ve been lost in my own thoughts and as I have mentioned many times, these feelings lead me to shut down from pretty much everything.  I get “over myself” really quickly because I feel like I have all the tools to “fix” whatever might be broken inside of me.  Exhibit A: I spend so much time in my own mind – analyzing all the things.  Exhibit B: I don’t like drawing any attention to myself.  I become a less-effervescent person which then makes me feel bad so I hide out even more.  Talking about silly things when my life is basically consumed with serious always feels disingenuous to both you and me.  So if you’re still out there: I’m sorry.   Someday, maybe when I’m out of the woods I’m in, we can talk about it.

Until then, let me talk about some of the more non-serious happenings in a little internets roundup of things I’m really feeling right now.

  • I am currently feeling the Bulletproof way of life.  I’m curious about bio-hacking myself mostly because I do feel like good health starts at the cellular level.  There is a prevalence of stimuli in our world today and I like to buck the trend of our just-take-a-pill society.  Pretty soon I’m going to take the plunge and rock my own Bulletproof coffee.  First, I need to get through the book.
  • In a similar vein as the above, I got both myself and my gorgeous sister some of these Mala prayer beads.  It’s something physical to channel my intention to.  The Malas represent certain qualities based on the stone they are made with.  My sister’s is made of Volcanic Stone meant to channel strength and clarity; and mine is made of Labradorite and Malaysian jade meant to channel our spiritual counterparts.
  • Trying to be an adult and get on a budget.  Ugh.
  • Oh!  I became a Rodan + Fields consultant because I believe in the power of good skincare.  And I’m obsessed with skincare so that says a lot.  If you’re equally obsessed, we should chat.
  • You guys.  The Marco Polo app is amaze.  It helps me stay connected to my family without the hassle of having to hang on the phone with FaceTime.  It’s like if FT and texting (my favorite) had a baby, it would be Marco Polo.  The videos stay in a thread like texting so I can go back and watch videos of Avery on replay.
  • Lastly, podcasts.  Almost as much variety as television right now.  I devoured S-Town and man was it DARK but it made me feel things.  Also, I’m going through withdrawal from Accused, Undisclosed S1 & S2, Up & Vanished (now that it’s mostly “solved”)… but true crime is really something that keeps me engaged and able to listen and still get my work done.

Thanks for reading and be well, friends.

mornings.

Morning is definitely my time.  It’s the time of day I’m most creative and productive; my mind is the most open to receiving ideas and making plans.  My mom has forever gotten up before the sun and had her morning coffee, in the dark, and called it her quiet time.  It’s a chance to think all the thoughts that need thinking, to organize her day, to consider the days and tasks to come.  I love the idea of quiet time but the execution is where I falter.  It’s truly a shame that I love sleep too much to actually take advantage of it before heading in to start my actual job at 7:30 am.

Nevertheless, I start every day feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow.  Why GP?  To me, she is the pinnacle of all the things: mother, entrepreneur, brand, woman.  Some people choose Beyonce – who is also incredibly fierce – GP just aligns more with things I could actually accomplish (my dance moves are outdated and I’m not really the Queen of anything).  In the morning, I feel like there really is nothing I can’t do.  Write a cookbook?  Okay.  Three?  Sure.  Workout for two hours?  Easy.  Organize my home and life?  Done.  Start a successful business and brand?  Pssshhh…I got this.

I’m writing this blog because of the things that happen the rest of the day.  Throughout the reminder of the day I’m met with little obstacles meant to diminish my GP-ness.  These are things as simple as doughnuts in the next cube and as complex as laziness or lack of motivation.  Each obstacle I meet, I make the active decision to let it defeat me or not.  Though, until now, I didn’t really think of it in those terms because I didn’t really think of it at all.  Now it’s all I think about.

I’m going to try to work with the potential and promise I feel in the mornings because it seems a shame to waste it.  Even now, there are sticky notes all over my desk; lists I’ve made in my Moleskine (with sticky notes on those lists); there are blog ideas and lofty dreams being dreamed in my head; there are mental vacations being planned and dinner ideas floating around.  I think that’s how my creative side works: ideas will meander in my brain, waiting to be found and focused on. Waiting to be brought to fruition.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even start waking up earlier to make my lists over some coffee?

delight.

Back when it was still summer outside, Dave and I took a trip to the farmer’s market (as we often do). That particular day, amongst the veggie vendors and bread bakers, there was a man doing tricks for the crowd. He was juggling and sword swallowing in time to some rather cliché sounding French music. He was there, on a sweltering hot day, in his tattered black pants, tank top, tiny leather shoes and hair slicked back in a little pony, performing for passers-by. He drew quite the crowd. Watching him juggle was initially what stopped me but it wasn’t his act that transfixed me – it was the look on his face as he was performing. It was nothing short of pure, unfiltered joy in what he was doing. For that reason, we stood there watching him for fifteen minutes. I could have watched him all day.

Since then, I haven’t been able to shake the idea of that sort of raw, pure joy. Even now, I can’t recall a time in recent memory when I’ve experienced such visible joy – inwardly or outwardly. It seems like everything from my yoga practice to the books I’m reading lately have reflected this attitude. This week in one of my yoga classes, we dedicated our practice to gratefulness. The instructor read a quote that was something along the lines of “Gratefulness is seeing what’s there instead of noticing what’s not.” Through that, I’ve finally been able to shake loose a bit of a working idea; something to bring to you to talk about.

I want to talk about delight.

It seems like such a simple word, such a simple idea. For me, it’s puppies or Jeni’s ice cream or watching my niece discover the world. It’s traveling and exploring and feeling inspired and listening to Adele. “Feeling all the feels” is probably a good layman’s definition for the word itself. As I was considering it the last few weeks, I came to a much simpler conclusion. This life is something to find delight in. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we wake up every day, that we get to take part in this Divine plan, that we breathe in oxygen and convert it to the energy that powers our bodies moment to moment. Yet, it’s so easy to take our eyes off that simple miracle and get caught up in the mundane. I get up, go to work, come home, talk about my day, eat dinner, watch some TV then go to sleep to do it all again tomorrow. Surely there’s an opportunity in there to delight in something; to be thankful for one thing; to be grateful for a moment. But I keep missing it.

In all “life manuals” we’re instructed to find the thing that makes our hearts happy and do it. As though it’s the simplest thing in the world. And for some people it probably is. In my own head, it’s this Mt Olympus that seems to keep growing ahead of me that I dare not even start the climb. On CBS Sunday Morning this week they were airing a piece about The Piano Guys. Four dudes who, in their time away from their family, make music. Watching them reminded me of the guy doing tricks here in DSM; there was that same look of pure joy on their faces and it’s because they’re doing something they love. They have figured out what makes their hearts happy. I’m going to resist the urge to solve my own problem here and really just leave it open. I need to consider this idea of delight and take it with me. I invite you all to find it along with me.

my frienemy, purpose

You guys, I’m about to be really honest and it makes me super uncomfortable. The part of me that knows I want to write this post is the part of me that knows I should be honest in this space. I’ve been avoiding you all because this is the only thing I can think about but it feels so raw to share. So I’m going to just.do.it. Like ripping off a Band-Aid.

My whole life, I’ve wrestled with this voice inside of me. Sometimes it goes beyond just being a voice and is an actual feeeeeling; something that makes me want to act even though I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing yet. If I had to pinpoint the voice’s residence, I’d say it’s somewhere behind my breastbone (as that’s where I usually feel its urgency or disappointment or elation). This voice is what pushes me to continue moving in life; it keeps one foot in front of the other, and aims for bigger and better things. It was the calm that moved me to Des Moines, the nervousness in a job interview for a position I wanted more than anything, the peace that found me at home in my first apartment, the longing for Ohio/family after it’s been too long since I visited. In a nutshell: this voice feels like my purpose. I’ve always had a really complicated relationship with purpose. It’s like it knows this secret that I don’t yet know… that I have to choose the right path but it gives me no hints about what’s right.

I’m going through this season in my life where purpose is particularly relentless in trying to get my attention. I’ve tried, in the past, to squash it down but it always comes back. I was telling Dave about it this past weekend and he said the obvious “well, what if it’s part of your character”. After considering that, the truth is, it’s the part of my character that I prize because it makes me fearless and risky and calm and it’s the seat of my faith. What do I do when it doesn’t want to be quieted? How am I supposed to find direction with it clanging around inside me?

That’s where I am now. I’m trying to marry my gratefulness with this ever-reaching purpose. Trying to figure out what it means for me.

I don’t want to just blindly follow purpose for the sake of it but it suddenly feels as though purpose has betrayed me. I’m older now than I was when purpose started coming around and I’m not any closer to finding the meaning. I have never, ever known what I wanted to do when I “grow up”. Purpose isn’t helping me narrow it down at all.

I guess the point of this “rant” is really more to find out that I’m not alone and for other people who are constantly nagged by purpose to know that they’re not alone either. Most days it’s easy to see the trees for the forest and find happiness in the moments but purpose is powerful. I’m trying to harness and embrace it; to figure out how it can maintain a presence in my life but not crush me if I don’t concede to its demands. This is definitely bound to be a learning for me, so I’m going to leave us both with this poem by the great Walt Whitman (who is much more well-spoken than myself).

 

Happiness,

Not in Another Place

But in this Place…

Not for another Hour

But This Hour.

something to talk about.

Lately, it seems like the same post is showing up on all my favorite blogs.  The post about blogger burnout.

It’s the topic of the moment.  While I can’t exactly relate (as I’m an incredibly inconsistent blogger with dreams of actually having this problem), I can understand the general feeling of burnout.  My whole adult life I’ve reinvented my situation every two years.  It’s about the marker of time for me to change positions in the company, for moving, for that sneaking feeling of urgency to stir in my belly that something needs to change.  While I’m in this period of embracing my 30’s (myself) I’m trying to pull that part of me in and figure what I can do with it vs. letting it fill me with unease and continue on making me the nomadic person I’ve always been (thus starting all over).

I actually like where I am right now so that feeling is more or less channeling itself in the form of nesting and trying to hone my creativity.  When I say “hone my creativity” it kind of consists of spray painting 20 year old bedroom furniture, replacing the pulls (harder than it seems) and trying with all my might to conjure a blog post.  I have my cart hitched to a fella who loves *stuff* which goes against every bone in my minimalist loving body.  I don’t have any useful life hacks to provide, tips on spray painting furniture (okay maybe two), tips for decorating, etc.  The scariest thing I’m facing currently is trying to figure out what to make my family for Christmas this year.  And guys, those are all blog posts I’ve considered before realizing it would be three sentences long.

I believe in life there should always be a desire for growth, a learning and a refinement; something to spur you on in your journey.  My journey has always been about fulfilling my desire to *be* (all that I can be?).  You guys remember this post.  It’s a lot like that; there are dreams I have, things I want to make, things I want to contribute to my family and the world.  It’s a little exhausting at times trying to do all of that within the confines of every different set of circumstances and I am so.hard.on.myself.  That brings us to the burnout.  I’m in this grey area of time between my birthday and Christmas where I feel a combination of homesickness/productivity/excitement/boredom all at once.  It’s got me in a funk not easily cured by the usual suspects (food, writing, reading, running).  Frankly, I’m feeling a little lack of inspiration.

Doesn’t it seem so crazy that in this world of over-stimulation someone should find themselves in this situation? I think about that a lot. Anywhere I look I can surely find a modicum of inspiration (I spend a lot of time on the internets, guys) but I can’t seem to translate that into something that I want to say.  Maybe over-stimulation is actually a creativity killer?  I can’t seem to see that far in the future so I don’t know where I’m going with this space but I would hope that we’ll still be here; me sharing my stories with you.

Meantime, I hope you’re all well and I’ll be back soon.

32.

FullSizeRender

This week I celebrate my 32nd year.  Whew.

I realize I don’t have much of a right to complain about forehead lines, the need for botox, and suddenly being concerned about how much harder it is to lose weight now that I’m “in my 30’s”.

In typical birthday fashion, I spent a bit of time this weekend reflecting on my life; the past year’s accomplishments and not-so-accomplishments, my journey up to now and where things are headed as I move forward.  While my life really doesn’t look much like what I had *planned* I have to say I am really healthy with myself and really happy with how things have taken shape.

I heard from at least a handful of people that life in your 30s is really much more liberating than life in your 20s.  You spend less time figuring yourself out and more time embracing who you are.  So far, that’s true for me.  I’ve really learned what’s important to me and how to stand up for it.  I have waaaaaay more confidence than I thought could be possible and I’ve really learned (and embraced!) a new way of opening myself to people.

I’ve definitely come a long way from where I’ve been and I understand very well there will be unplanned twists and turns ahead for me.  I think—if anyone cares for my 32-years-wise “lessons”— the *secret* for managing this sometimes messy thing called life might be embracing those opportunities (aka risks) that find you.  Having guts (and a super hard work ethic—thanks parents!) has benefitted me so much more than I can adequately express.

Thank you friends and family for being a very important part of 32 years worth of lessons for me.  I’ll raise my glass and toast you all.

giving myself credit

I found this on the interwebs today. And let me just say: “Preach.”

The quote is what took my breath away. “Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.” — Steven Prefontaine

Right now, as you know, I’m a pretty far distance from where I started. That’s speaking both physically and metaphorically. Like the article talks about, I think I’ve spent a lot of time being focused on a particular destination. The odd thing is that I’ve found my life being swept up in the lovely in-betweens to the destinations—more as an adult than ever before.

People told me that when I turn 30, all the questioning of my 20’s would go away. I can tell you guys, that much is true. However, in place of it, I find myself questioning the bigger things like marriage and babies and homeownership. I believe it takes special people to get married, stay married and then put that union through the trials of homeownership and children. I have nothing but respect for the people that make those choices every day.

I feel so conflicted sometimes because part of me keeps thinking I should be more concerned with the destinations; my pesky adventurous spirit has always kept me from acting on those feelings. I’m saving those joys for a time that’s precious to me. Some destinations are meant to be savored and fully realized. I have to keep it top of mind that my journey isn’t meant to be like anyone else’s—it’s only meant to be mine.