“Don’t feel pressured to make firm plans for the person you think you are now and will be years hence. They will box you in. You will wake up decades from now wondering how you are living a life decided on by who you believed you truly were when you were 21 years old. Instead, keep living life for the as-yet unknown person you will keep on morphing into; keep the possibilities open.”
I read this little nugget of wisdom in an article that popped in my inbox from LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-breaking-free-yourself-michael-puett?trk=eml-b2_content_ecosystem_digest-hero-14-null&midToken=AQH4GcXhGvSdHw&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=1XGEoVENy1ang1.
When I feel overwhelmed at work or I’m entering situations/conversations I know I’m ill-equipped for, I take a step back and remind myself to stay curious. I learned this as I was pounding the pavement in dental sales for Henry Schein, Inc. I didn’t know my catalog. I didn’t know what mattered to dentists. I knew my products typically sold at a higher price than my competitors. When I started to approach my days and my customers with curiosity I began listening more. I was paying attention to things that really mattered and not my own agenda. I was a better person for it and my sales numbers grew. Whenever I interview for a new job, I stay curious. When I encounter a difficult resident, I stay curious. When something doesn’t feel right with my life, I stay curious. When you approach ANYTHING with an open mind and with the expectation that you’re going to learn something, you can’t lose.
Staying curious grounds me and allows me the freedom to not get caught up in my own head. It connects me to all living things and has afforded me the opportunity to learn on a daily basis.
I’m always “on”! 24/7, I’m go, go, go! Recently my coworkers were assigning drinks to people’s personalities because of Beyoncé’s new single, “Lemonade”. You know what was assigned to me? Red Bull. Apparently my busy and high energy personality isn’t just in my head. It’s good to operate on all 10 cylinders in certain situations but, I’m starting to realize the importance of hitting the pause button from time to time–no matter how uncomfortable.
I have hundreds of reason why I don’t slow down. It’s unnerving even thinking about sitting with myself in silence, let alone with anyone else. It isn’t something I’ve done for years (maybe like 6, but who’s counting). I first realized that my pause button was missing when I entered the wonderful world of dating for the very first time in years. I’m good at the online dating nonsense because it’s just like sales. Essentially you put up a storefront with your profile, spark interest, and then sell the goods. Easy! And I’m guessing that most people are able to handle everything after that point as well. Me? Well, I guess I’m a little different. It’s odd because I didn’t realize how horrible I was at actually connecting with people until I started to connect with someone recently. It’s not like the saying, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” It’s more like you don’t know what you had until you lose it and then start to get it again. Or… You don’t know what you got until it’s gone and then you get it back one day. Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve slowed down and truly tried to connect with another person. I forgot it was even a thing. I forgot how rewarding it can be. I forgot how necessary it is to my life and to being a human.
I almost don’t want to push on with this entry because I’m hurt by what I just typed. It’s almost like my life stopped years ago. I began to be okay with not feeling. I was okay with empty relationships. I demanded little from myself and from those around me. And as much as I’d like to point fingers to people or situations, I am fully in charge of what I let into my life. While I don’t assume responsibility in how people ultimately treated me, I do assume responsibility for allowing it. I wasn’t connecting and I felt that the whole time. But yet I allowed it. I took myself off the hook and allowed life to roll on while I took the backseat approach. *drops mic
So, now that I’m dating again I find myself having to deliver on the goods in my storefront. I have to slow down, hit the pause button, and truly connect. To experience shared enthusiasm, slow and deliberate touches, genuine conversation, a heightened sense of curiosity, locked glances, and warm smiles is something I haven’t had in such a long time. “Red Bull” dated “Starbuck’s Espresso” and then “Monster Energy Drink” back to back. There were no pause buttons. There were distractions (lots of distractions) and nice words without action. (This is so hard to comb through.)
It feels great to have someone to lock horns with in the most peaceful way. It’s forcing me to be human. It’s forcing me to look inward and draw out the girl I know I am. I feel alive again. I feel like I’m trying again. I’m growing as a person again. It’s bringing back really awesome memories of how I used to be. It just feels really really good. So despite how uncomfortable it is, I feel extremely grateful that I’m being pushed into that corner. I’ll never go back.
Sometimes my life knows what I need before I do. Does anyone else experience this?
The idea of breathing (ha, that just sounds funny because everyone breathes all the time) came to me when I started yoga. I decided to take a stab at getting healthy and being more active. That led to me trying yoga. I was going to be that hot chick… that trendy hot chick with a rocking body. No idea what really prompted me to try it but it completely saved me. So like I started this weekly yoga thing and the first class kicked my ass. I sucked at yoga. I was incredibly uncomfortable and a few times I had to excuse myself from the torture and take a break. I’m surprised an ambulance wasn’t put on stand-by that night. I was a complete liability to myself, those around me and the studio. Okay, okay… I’m exaggerating. It was ugly though and harder than I ever could have imagined.
But I did it. I totally got through the class. Being on a health kick and trying to push myself, I kept at it. I went back every Monday night. I still go every Monday night and I’m looking to potentially add a second night of torture to my week now. But yoga became more to me as I began to face some challenges. I went through some relationship issues with an on-again-off-again guy that shook me to the core. It forced me to sit with years of lies, self-doubt, negative self-talk, and all that good stuff. There were lots of tears and I immediately shoved myself back into therapy with the best therapist on the planet (I truly believe this).
My Monday nights at yoga left me feeling accomplished. I continued to improve and really dug deep to push myself. At the end of yoga, there’s always this quiet time to lay and reflect-there is a technical term for this but I have no idea what it’s called. During this time I would give myself the best pep talks. Like, “Look at you, Britta. You’re doing it.” It felt so good! It felt so right! This helped me gain confidence and a new perspective. Instead of chasing after feelings and trying to make something work, I began building what I wanted. I began constructing the Britta I knew was always there. I dusted her off and proved that her spirit and drive are constants (and very much alive).
What does breathing and gratitude have to do with all of this? Yoga forces you to really focus on the breath. If you can control your breath, you can control anything. Remarkable! This isn’t exactly new to me but it hit me in a new way. As I find myself being overwhelmed and anxious, I turn to my breath and really stay in the moment. As I hold a particularly hard pose in yoga, I turn to my breath and push through. Nothing is constant. There’s nothing that I can’t move through with a clear and focused mind. Just breathe. Also, my yoga instructor always reminds the class that the poses don’t start until you’re uncomfortable. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Remarkable! It’s what was going on with me and it was a road map to pull my butt out of where it was. I began to live again.
I threw in gratitude because I’m still keeping my gratitude journal. Despite what I’m going through or how busy I am, I still dedicate a portion of my day to express gratitude. It helps keep things in perspective. I’ve built a few amazing practices into my life because they make me better. Stress and anxiety aren’t necessities. They don’t prepare me or force me to get more done. Taking focused steps will and that takes breathing and appreciating everything around me.
I did something today that I haven’t done since sometime in the late 90’s (ugh, am I really that old). I went to church. No, I wasn’t invited to a wedding and no, no one died. I just went to church like so many do on Sundays. My amazing mom-mom is very involved with the church and she has mentioned on several occasions that she brags about her family to her friends there but she never gets to show us off. In realizing that I need to get more time in with her because: #1 she’s just an incredible soul and #2 neither of us are getting any younger–I decided to offer up one of my Sunday mornings to prove to her fellow church goers that she does, indeed, have a family.
My mom-mom’s face lit up when I met her in the parking lot. I was up at 7:55am and made sure my makeup was done because I knew I’d be shaking a ton of hands. I couldn’t have been prouder of my mom-mom. She’s a total social butterfly. It’s like I dare you to meet her and not think she’s adorable. She has a certain charm about her that lights up a room. She’s funny and she has this ability to slow down life and just be thankful. It’s remarkable. As we moved through the church to our pew I was met by so many “good mornings” and smiles. More importantly, I was met by so many people who had glowing things to say about my mom-mom. I know how awesome she is, but it was nice to hear she’s touching the lives of so many around her. I felt both honored to be with her and challenged to start living more like she lives.
I don’t believe in an interventionist god (thanks for the song lyrics, Nick Cave) but I believe in love. I don’t pray. I don’t go to church. But I do believe we’re all connected. I believe that all humans should be dedicated to that connection. If we occupy ourselves with cultivating love, understanding, and a deeper appreciation for beauty than we don’t need to believe that some old dude in the sky will answer our prayers. We won’t need to believe that heaven and hell exist. We won’t need to live a life to prove our worthiness for the best possible afterlife. Right? Just like my mom-mom is doing… connect with those around you and leave them better for it. It seems simple. I believe it is and I want to be just like her when I grow up.
Will I go back to church? I’ll go back to hang out with her for sure. She’s a cool chick and these memories will always be with me. But aside from that, I think I’d like to go back. (Yes, I just admitted that I’d like to go to church.) I don’t know about the whole worship thing. It’s foreign to me. The saints and the holy trinity and such are a little far fetched. But the congregation coming together to be one and to celebrate life is truly inspiring. I’ve suffered an extreme lack of connection over the years and this might be a great way for me to climb back into the arena.
Sundays are typically rough for me. I don’t feel that way today though. I truly feel grateful for everything that has been and is in my life. I feel fortunate to have friends and family. I’m also fortunate to be able to feel connected and to know the benefits of striving to connect.
So there’s this super awesome way I’m able to transport myself back to times when I felt infinitely more hopeful and connected. I have this cool trick allows me to feel past feelings, experience the joys and sorrows of yesteryears, and flat out just emote. Okay, okay, okay, it’s not rocket science. I just listen to music. As I grow older I have less and less time to dedicate to music but music used to be a huge part of my life. I wish it still was… and I’m happy I still have time to change that. Anyway, I’m spinning Amnesiac by Radiohead as I type and it brings me right back to my dorm room senior year. It’s a perfect place for me to travel back to because I had all the possibilities in the palm of my hand. I loved who I was. I was a poet, a student, a lover, and a kick-ass party girl! Ha! Total perfection, right? I’m hoping to be that girl again when I retire.
My last blog was a bit heavy and rightfully so. I’m tackling mountains these days and I’m winning for now. I have about 80 lbs to lose and a pretty damaging habit to kick. I look back at happy times in my life… those times when I felt connected to life… but I also look forward hoping those feelings will surface again. I have it in me. I know it’s there because things don’t leave. I have always been and will always be everything I’ll ever need to be. I have everything inside of me that I’ll ever need. My decisions just need to work on uncovering instead of covering my past parts. Easier said than done (as is the case with typing out most of these realizations).
I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal and my goal is to write 3 things I’m grateful for when I wake up and 3 things I’m grateful for when I go to bed. It’s been a great practice so far but I feel like I need to get more out of it. I started by writing just a simple sentence. But that’s not doing a damn thing because I find different ways of saying the same stuff day after day. So I’m forcing myself to expand on the thought for like 1 or 2 more sentences. So far, so good but I still think I’m missing the mark. I need to dig deeper because I’m not getting emotional enough during the process. I want to feel these words and feel these connections.
Being addicted to alcohol is like throwing white paint all over the Mona Lisa. It erases creativity and beauty. It covers the artist and suppresses any hope of growth. I didn’t realize this for the longest time. But I was essentially making myself numb, completely numb from feeling both good and bad… happy and sad. There was nothing. I didn’t want to feel the bad so I chose to feel nothing at all as a precaution. Ha! I thought I had out-maneuvered life… but really, I just found a way to mute ALL life inside of me. With this slowly becoming a thing of my past, I can already feel my creative juices flowing and I’m pumped. That sense of connection will be restored, I’m 100% certain of that! And maybe I’ll make new memories now with music that I’ll want to revisit 20 years from now. #goals
As a kid I remember trying to influence the world with my mind. I was convinced that if I focused hard enough and if my will was strong enough I could make red lights turn green, or see an inanimate object move. My powers were real and they were limitless. I also had a crazy notion that you would know who your true love was because they would breathe at the same rate as you–which led to me being out of breath quite a few times as I tried to force myself to breathe at the same rate as a few boys. It’s like the world is yours until you learn otherwise. And that’s quite sad. I miss feeling that connected, that in control of my surroundings.
Where does this come from? As kids, we have less responsibilities and maybe more freedom to see the world in that light? I think that has something to do with it. I know I’ve definitely experienced more disappointment, more setbacks, more complications, and more examples of things not working out for the best and perhaps I’ve let that cloud my optimism. That’s very possible.
There’s another piece of the puzzle here that I’m fortunate enough to have stumbled upon about 6 years ago. Having someone in your life that sees the world as you do–this pliable, vibrant, reactive universe–is key in maintaining and growing that vision. Growing up I was a little different, the black sheep if you will. Often I would hear things like, “why can’t you just be happy with what you have,” and ” the world doesn’t revolve around you.” That’s not the right messaging and it certainly doesn’t open me up to feel more and expect more. But our parents all do the best that they can, right? And I’m a firm believer that we choose our parents before birth for a reason so there must be a significant reason why I was paired with my mom and dad. It’s easy for me to place blame. I’m sad and miserable and disconnected because they want me that way. Wah wah wah wah… but I need to be better than that.
Where is this all leading…
A little over 6 years ago I met my soulmate. He’s my epipsyche. How did I know? Simple. My flexible, pliable, connected world came back to me with more vividness, boldness, color, and possibilities than I had ever known before. He shares my vision and encourages it with every word he speaks. Not everyone finds this. I am extremely grateful to have someone who gives me hope, is always patient, and truly loves me (both the good and the bad). My world changes completely when he is near me. I see things through a clearer focus. Colors are more vibrant. It’s like I’m tapped into the universe and limitations cease to exist.
I’m still a slave to the 9-5. I still have bills to pay. I still have the troubles of being a single parent. I still have all of this. But at least there are moments of pure magic in my life again. He and I recently decided to get back together–timing is a bitch! I couldn’t be happier.
It doesn’t happen often but I guess it happens often enough for me to keep doing it. My journal reads just like my 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th (you get the point) grade journals. The same themes and issues pop up and really it’s where my thoughts on boys and the daily grind of life go to die. But I keep at it, trudge through, because every now and then I have wonderful insights… this happened just this past Saturday night.
I was enjoying a fabulous single-mom night in and I took to the page and scribbled a ton of ink down. I was borderline manic. I penned the line, “I am not perfect,” and was like an epiphany. Simple, right? I don’t think anyone believes they are perfect. I certainly don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still judge and hold myself to the standards of perfection. I think that’s part of the guilt I wrote about recently and the standards we hold ourselves to as humans. I don’t spend a lot of time admitting to my downfalls though and it’s not the most comfortable thing to lay down on paper–I can assure you that.
But that one line hit me like a ton of bricks. I am not perfect. In that one line I found myself holding myself in a place of tenderness. I don’t do that very often. I saw myself as a work in progress. From there I could forgive and move past a few things. I didn’t have all the answers and it was okay because I’m not perfect. I wanted to run to the mirror and tell the girl in it that she was more than okay, that she was good. I chickened out of the mirror part but I need to do that. Saying things to yourself in the mirror is frightening but so f’n worth it.
That one sentence saved me in ways. I combed through the past year. It was a really tough year. I walked away from a relationship that hurt me. Sure, I told myself not to blame myself but I held some blame. I was lied to, betrayed to in major ways, and found myself living a life of pure worry and anxiety. I’m not perfect though and either is my journey. It’s been that way for a long time but I’m okay. So the revised sentence because, I’m not perfect and that’s okay. My journey will never be perfect. I was able to then look back at my life and celebrate my successes. And giving myself some breathing room will allow me the space to cultivate more successes. I can taste it.
I can’t control everything. Now that I don’t have the worry of my past relationship I need a new way of building. That got me thinking. I’ve spent a few years reacting and making decisions because I needed to make them. I lost focus while on the defense. That’s not what life should feel like, right? So, it’s time to climb back into my imperfect skin and get down to Britta Business! Let’s look at life through the Britta lens and make decisions from there. I won’t be perfect. Life will send me obstacles. I will be hurt again. I might fail. But if I’m always perfectly Britta, I’ll be a better person because of those trials.
With fall comes Homecoming, right? Fitting.