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240731542552026114_Yb4YysjJAhhh! Interview week!

It’s totally bittersweet for me, but I think this was my most favorite week of the whole season! It was so much fun to see the questions my fellow Season 7 rockstars came up with and I had a blast answering them.

You may learn a few things about me that you didn’t want to know and for that I don’t really apologize…I’m quirky and I’m told its a pretty lovable trait. ENJOY!

Where do you see your self (or hope to be) 6 months from now? A year from now? 

In 6 months, I’m hoping to have a new job as a wellness coach {preferably working from home}. I will have the Elevate retreat, BiSC and a trip to the NC beaches under my belt and be reveling in all the magical memories I’ve made in 2013. I’ll be feeling connected to my authentic self and be fine-tuning my life to reflect that.

In a year, I hope to be feeling settled in my new career, and fresh off of another successful Holiday Council. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be feeling ready for a year filled with peace and enjoyment following all the changes I’m making in 2013. I imagine that participating in Elevate this year will push me well beyond my comfort zone and into that sacred zone of authenticity I’m seeking. So anything I do in 2014 and beyond will just be that much more awesome because it’ll be coming from a place of authenticity and fierce self-love.

What’s the best book you read this year? 

Well since I’m completely addicted to erotica – I’d have to say that Bared to You and Reflected in You by Silvia Day were my favorites. But the Fifty Shades trilogy was a close second. Try as you might, you will not get me to admit how many times I’ve read each of these books, but it’s a shameful amount! {Maybe these should be listed for the guilty pleasure question too!}

Do you feel like blogging about your life made you look at it differently?

Absolutely! I think I benefitted immensely from having to actually articulate my thoughts. While I’m not as good at it as some of my fellow bloggers, I did manage to stumble upon some realizations that I would never have made if I hadn’t been writing for an audience. Knowing that people were reading and possibly identifying with my transition made me dig a little deeper than I might otherwise have done.

Which current living celebrity do you think you’d be best friends with in real life?

I mean, I’m pretty amazing so I think they would all love me. But I have a thing for adorable southern girls. I’m just so fascinated by them and completely enthralled. So I think a spunky southern girl like Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler or Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland would be my ideal celeb bestie.

Did anything happen during the season that surprised you? 

Several people that I know in real life contacted me mid-season to say they had been following my posts and really identified with them. I hadn’t expected that! At all.  If I’m being honest, I was surprised when you lovely internet friends commented or tweeted me because I half expected most people to not relate to my self-perceived problems. So surprises all around!

What quote best summarizes what you’ve learned during the season?

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” – Asha Tyson

What is your guilty pleasure? What is it that totally lights you up that you’re afraid to admit to? 

Well I’m not sure some of you can handle anymore guilty pleasure admissions from me…BUT since you asked – I have a thing for really juvenile romantic comedies. Movies like A Cinderella Story, Freaky Friday, What a Girl Wants, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants {1 & 2!}, 13 Going on 30, The Prince & Me, The Princess Diaries, Son in Law, Uptown Girls – all in my DVD library. I’m not sure whether this or my smut addiction should be more shameful. But you can bet I’m not losing any sleep trying to decide!

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since we started blogging for Stratejoy?

I’m happier. I’ve relaxed my expectations of myself a bit and tried like hell to lose the guilt. I’m enjoying what I have in the present and not pinning all of my happiness on some future date or accomplishment. It’s fabulously liberating!

How did you fit blogging into your life? – Did you have a routine? Did it add joy or stress? Did you think about it over the week or just sit down and write? Etc.

I have a really random writing process to begin with and I knew it would be a bit of a challenge going into this adventure. I found that some weeks I was really inspired to write and others I was letting all the shit in my head get in my way. All those voices that say I’m not a great writer, no one will identify, my problems aren’t big enough for anyone else to care – they can all overwhelm me and leave me with the worst writer’s block. Add in the health problems I had in the fall and the plague that my little one and I both had twice and you can see why some weeks were more of a challenge. Thankfully, the completely adorable and wonderful Katie is a loving blogger momma and she put up with my incessant tardiness. {Love you sweet Katie!}.

I’d say overall the experience added joy to my life though. While I did struggle at times, the need to write something that seemed worthy of sharing was a great motivator to look more closely at myself and inspired some awesome discoveries! I am forever grateful to Molly for allowing me to be a part of Season 7! For the small amount of stress it caused – it added 10 times that much joy. So I’m pretty sure that’s what winning looks like.

How did people you know react? – did you share it openly, were family and friends supportive, did you censor yourself, etc.

I’m the kind of person who worries what other people think about me and I wasn’t sure how anyone would react – so I didn’t tell everyone I know in real life. As the season progressed, I found myself sharing with more people than I originally did. I didn’t have a single person judge me negatively – everyone had a positive reaction. I was honestly amazed that so many people could relate to my issues – which seems ridiculous to write because the whole premise of Stratejoy is that we all have these things that we struggle with and it brings us together to love and support each other and then realize we are all NORMAL. Why I didn’t think this same premise applied to the people I know in real life seems a little silly now.

Did you dig as deep as you could and open up as much as you could?

The simple answer is no. There just isn’t enough space for me to share all the chaos in my head when I’m limited to 500-1000 words per week. But I shared openly and honestly about the transition I’m going through. I share even more about myself on my personal blog so feel free to visit if you just can’t get enough of me!

When you’re curled up on the couch reading with a mug of something warm, what’s the book and what’s in the mug?

I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee {though I’m strictly drinking decaf now} so I’m sure I’d have coffee in my mug. I’m either reading some of the smut I mentioned in a previous question or some story about a group of girls that travels and has fabulous experiences. Because apparently my life is fueled by coffee, sex and wanderlust! Win!

What’s on your bedside table?

A hair tie, one earring, an iphone dock, a picture of me and the little person when she was a baby and a water bottle. Clearly I need some lessons in styling!

What were you like in high school?  What parts of you have remained the same?

Hmmm…high school. This is a tough one. I feel like high school was a bit of a blur. I went to a really, really small school {like 40 people in my class small} and we were all obsessed with having long-term boyfriends. Mine was older so I spent the vast majority of my time from sophomore year on with people who had already graduated. I didn’t partake in all the fun high school things. I rode a Harley with my boyfriend and watched his band play gigs in bars and whatnot. I was waaay too cool for high school. Of course, looking back I can see I was just a lost girl looking for somewhere to belong.

I didn’t really share my innermost thoughts with my peers. I was nice and had plenty of friends – I was even voted Miss Senior and was on the prom court junior and senior years. But I was more concerned about graduating so I could get married and have babies. I’ll go ahead and insert all the lyrics of “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks here because THANK GOD those prayers were not answered! I’m not sure I can say that I’m anything like my high school self, but then I’m an old lady. 2013 marks 15 years since I graduated. Wowza, where has the time gone?!?!

Who are the top 5 people on your “list”?  (You know, the list…  Those 5 people you could sleep with if you magically met them and your partner would have to be okay with it, because damn! You just slept with Johnny Depp!) 

Oooh, such a naughty question! I love it. And maybe I’m just boy crazy, but I hardly think 5 covers it!  So…

Sam Seaborn – {West Wing-ers tell me you agree!} He’s pretty much my ideal man. Be still my heart!

Chace Crawford – I don’t even care that he smokes pot. He’s beautiful.

Channing Tatum – Hi, did you see Magic Mike? Gah!

Bradley Cooper – Back off ladies! I get him first!

Ian Somerhalder – Those eyes, that jaw, the smile, OH MY!

And honorable mentions for Patrick Dempsey, Josh Lucas and Gerard Butler. I mean, I’m not going to turn them down or anything.

If you could give yourself 5 months ago one piece of advice, what would it be? How about you 5 months from now?

Worry less. Don’t lose sleep or sanity about things you can’t change. And stop caring what other people think. Make yourself happy and let the rest go.

In the movie of your life, which actress/celeb would play you? 

If I get to choose, then I totally pick Blake Lively. I mean, could she BE any more gorgeous? And that hair. We’ll pretend like the slight resemblances we have {i.e. long blondish hair and blue eyes} make her the perfect choice. Great, it’s settled. Nice to have you on board!

There you have it. If you have a great answer to one of the questions, I totally want to hear it in the comments below!

Guilty pleasures or “list” candidates anyone???

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Image via: Pinterest!

 

p.s.  The 3rd Stratejoy Essay Contest is open for entries!  Ready to win the $500?  Be featured here at Stratejoy?  Yes!  The theme: “How has a transition revealed a more authentic you?”

p.p.s.  The next Book Club/Tribe Chat Fest is going to be about marriage and partners.  Juicy, juicy. We’re reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story and will be jamming about it on February 13.

I’ve always been a pretty private person. As I’ve matured and gained some confidence, I’ve become less of the shy introvert of my childhood.

Many people in my life would be surprised to learn that I still consider myself a private person. I will readily talk about myself in the company of others, sometimes to the point of over sharing.

But I’m selective about the things I share.

Many of my innermost thoughts have never been voiced. To anyone. 

I’ve held back because I’m terrified of failure and rejection. I don’t want to be viewed as different, or display my weaknesses to others. I don’t think anyone will relate to my issues. I don’t want to burden others with my problems.

At some point, I have to choose between continuing to let my fears rule my life, or taking a risk that other people will accept me and all my self-percieved flaws.

Since I’ve found myself at a major transition point in my life, I think now is as good a time as any to take that risk.

I have the opportunity to reinvent myself – to shed the layers of my thought process that haven’t been working for me and find what does work for me.

Maybe it’s the benefit {or burden} of maturity, maybe it’s my aging parents and my increased awareness of our mortality -whatever it is, I’m more concerned about living a life that I’m proud of than I’ve ever been.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I’ve spent all my precious time trying to make everyone else happy while neglecting myself. Surely I can find a better balance between the two.

I want to create a life that honors my authentic self. 

I’m so thankful to have found Molly and Stratejoy. Each time I visit the site, I find myself immersed in a culture of positivity, courage and unconditional support.

You wonderful women of the tribe are so brave – many of you working to overcome much larger obstacles than I am – yet you share your struggles freely and help to build each other up.

I am in awe of you. I’m honored to be able to share my journey with you.

I cannot put into words the relief I feel knowing that I’m not the only person to have felt this lost. Seeing that other women have faced these same fears head on and found a way to overcome them gives me hope that I can too.

Recently, I’ve worked my way through Fierce Love, and would highly recommend it to anyone who needs to kick their self-love into gear. I’ve learned amazing things about myself through the weekly challenges and felt so empowered by Molly’s genuine compassion and unfailing encouragement. {I heart you, Molly!}

I’m still struggling to regularly practice self-love because it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s really hard to overcome 32 years of bad habits and negative self-thinking – but I’m going to do it! I deserve to treat myself better than I’ve been doing pretty much my whole life.

I still don’t know what shape my dreams will take in my life, but that’s ok. I’ve taken a huge step by giving myself permission to discover what makes me thrive. I’m confident the manifestations will come in time.

Image via flickr

We talk about self-love quite a bit ‘round these parts. My last few months here at Stratejoy have been rife with trying out new rituals for being more present in my life, sitting in cafes working on the Fierce Love course, and commenting on my wonderful fellow bloggers’ posts telling them how absolutely IN AWE I AM of their newfound self-love.

If you had asked me earlier what I expected to get out of all this exploration, I probably would have said, “Confidence? Being a little nicer to myself? Uhh…some other stuff, maybe?”

What I never realized is how much a few months dedicated to self-love could really result in a huge bump in my other-people-love. Struggling to embrace my own flaws has made me so much more cognizant of all the negative projecting and [insert other psychology term here]ing that I’ve been doing with regard to everyone else.

Learning to be a little bit kinder to myself has made me see just how unkind I’ve been to others – not to their faces, necessarily, but in my own head. I have a tendency to assign motivations without knowing the full story and otherwise just think the worst.

I’m not even referring to silly situations, like silently judging the woman walking down the street for wearing some kind of hideous/tacky/revealing outfit (I still do this, but I’m trying reallllly hard to stop). But even when it comes to my own friends, I’ll think, “This person just wants attention,” or, “That person doesn’t care about anyone but herself.”

No one can look objectively into his or her own life and I’m certainly no exception, but I have a strong feeling that all the ugly motivations I’m attributing to others are manifestations of my own insecurities. Maybe I’m just jealous that someone is getting more attention than I am, or maybe someone wrote that Facebook post because they’re happy, not because they’re trying to boast and shove something in everyone else’s faces.

When Sarah wrote her post about radical acceptance, she mentioned how we’re often so much harsher with ourselves than we are with others.  And it’s completely true. I often beat myself up over the fact that I’m going on 7 months of being unemployed, despite the fact that I’m trying REALLY FUCKING HARD to get a job. But if I saw a friend down in the dumps over the same thing? I would be as reassuring as possible, reminding her that the job market sucks and it’s not a function of her inadequacy.

It’s so strange, then, that I can have so much compassion for my close friends in some circumstances, but lack that same compassion in others.

But this is all changing, slowly but surely.

The process of accepting my flaws hasn’t so much made me accept the flaws in others as it has made me realize that sometimes those flaws don’t even exist. Opening myself up to that vulnerability thing I keep talking about and embracing who I am, imperfections and all, has made me be more open towards others as well.

And you know what? People have surprised me. Not in a way that means they were acting out of character, but in a way that made me realize that the people I know and love have kind of always been even more awesome than I thought they were.

Like when I assumed one friend wouldn’t be receptive to listening to me vent about a problem I was having. But instead, she was not only supportive, but insanely helpful. And afterwards I wondered why I ever doubted her in the first place.

There have been countless examples like this over the last few months.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons over my time blogging for Stratejoy (which you’ll hear about in a few short weeks because our time here is almost over and NO PLEASE DO NOT MAKE IT END ACK CUE PANIC FREAKOUT SADNESS), but this has definitely been one of the best. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the interplay between self-love and love for others, seeing as, you know, we interact with others throughout most of our daily lives, but somehow it caught me off guard.

I always expected – or at least hoped – that I would come away from this time in my life with a new appreciation for the things that make me ME. You know, like the weird way I eat Lucky Charms or the fact that I sometimes like to listen to the Jock Jams Megamix while working out (remember that, 1995?). But I’ve also gained a new appreciation for others, because I’ve been able to see that if I withhold my judgments, especially the pre-judgments, people can be so much more amazing than I thought they were.

So from now on, I’m going to focus on looking at others as I want them to look at me – free of judgment, open to whatever awesomeness they have to offer the world.

The self-love has kind of turned into everyone-love. And I’m totally infatuated.

 

Photo credit: kk+

After being inspired by Arielle’s post on Beauty, I had a brain dump on paper.  This is a cleaned up version but it’s still a little all over.  Beauty is an expansive subject.  This is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Beauty is like this expensive gem that some 90 year old woman threw in the bottom of the big blue ocean never to be found again- like a smack in the face, MWAHA, no one else is beautiful because if I can’t have it at 90, you can’t ever have it!  Ok, a lot exaggerated.  But really, no matter how beautiful that gem was, if I had that, I would never wear it because it is clunky, people would look at me all the time, ask me where I got it, did I get it myself (then I must be rich), or that someone rich gave it to me (which will then turn into them trying to take my rich man away from me).  I just don’t see the attraction in it!

When I refer to something as beautiful, I’m looking at meaning.  I’m searching for pure raw emotion.  If I’m overlooking a peak in the Garden of the Gods at broad landscape, it takes my breath away.  Not because I find rolling meadows and electric poles against a blue sky that attractive but because it’s overwhelming.  In my head, that landscape juxtaposes life and all of its possibilities.  Here I am, small and looking out over what will be my life.

Beauty is not in clothes.  It is not in jewelry.  It is not in a made up face or manicured hand.

If I find something beautiful, it is because it made me feel something. 

The opening of Up is beautiful.  Not the characters, but their story.  The little failures and successes that made up their life.  Life is beautiful.  Enjoying life makes us beautiful!

When I see Dita Von Teese or Ruby Joule dance, I’m entranced.  They’re attractive women, sure, but “stripping” at the height of their intelligence using not only their bodies as expression but also their props and costumes to add to it.  They know what they want the audience to see and feel.  Note: I don’t swing this way but I know how to appreciate  and you should to- no, really, it’s so much more fun than living in constant jealousy!  These women make me feel empowered and that my body can be both a weapon and a gift.  It’s not because they are “beautiful” but because they know that it takes more than just a pretty face to put on a really good show.

“Beauty”, in the societal sense, can only get us so far.

“Beauty” also has an expiration date.

I don’t wear make-up but maybe a few days out of the year.  It’s partly because I don’t have the patience to learn techniques and it’s partly because I know I don’t need it.  I actually love my face the way it is, zillions of freckles smothering freckles.  Even the one creeper freckle on my very white and bare eyelid.

I don’t want to do yoga because it will help me age gracefully.  I want to do it because it makes me feel good right now.  The rest are just benefits.

I don’t want to be involved in the fat acceptance movement.  I am overweight, but it’s one thing to accept my weight as is, and it’s a whole other thing to not do anything about it.  I accept it, I accept others, but I do believe healthy is what we should be aiming at here. I’m going to climb that damn volcano!

And while I’m on the subject of fat, what the hell is it with plus size fashion?!  I know how to coordinate a colored camisole with a sweater.  You do not have to sew them together!  I’m fat, not stupid!  And another thing, fashion designer, putting your brand deliberately across your product does not make me personally look better so stop it.  If someone likes your design, they will ask me where I got it and I will happily tell them so they, too, can look awe-some.

When my beau looks at me, I don’t want him to see my clothes, or my make-up, or get sidetracked my shiny jewelry hanging from my ears.  I want him to see my blue eyes, my glowing, healthy skin.  I want him to see my intelligence, my talent, my passion for life.  I want him to see me.

Because I’m pretty wonderful.

Why would I want to hide that?

 

With my move coming up and currently being knee deep in packing materials, I’ve been slacking on my Fierce Love course. I love doing the work for the course, yet at the end of a long day of work and packing, all I want to do is lay in bed and watch HGTV. But, one of the biggest ideas of Fierce Love has been lodged in my brain lately, self-love.

My cousin posed a concern to me the other day…how will I handle living 3.5 hours away from her and my close friends when I need someone to go have coffee with and vent to. Or if Mr Paul Child and I have a fight, who will I be able to go have a glass of wine with and pour my heart out to? Where will I be able to go to unwind from work, needing to filter some balance into my life with yoga? Are there any wine bars there?

All valid points and things I’ve been considering. I mean, Yuma doesn’t even have a Victoria’s Secrets, let alone a Trader Joe’s or Apple store…there aren’t really any farmers markets, gourmet cheese shops, or wine bars. It’s kind of out in the middle of nowhere. It’s scary to think about, leaving life in a metropolitan area for small town existence. I know some of the wives of Mr Paul Child’s coworkers, but they aren’t really my nearest and dearest. What the hell am I going to do?

Normally, these question would have sent me into a tail-spin of panic. But for some reason, I’ve been calm about it. (I know, I was shocked too!) Where I normally would be running to my friends, lamenting my situation, I’ve been trying to be positive and look for what good things are going to come from this move. Accepting that, yes, things are changing, and trying to be “deliciously kind” to myself.

In my pondering of my move, and the self-love I need to make sure I stay mentally healthy, and keep making progress in my quest to really love myself and make some time for me, I’ve made a couple notes of how I want to keep progressing and giving to myself in my new surroundings.

1. Yoga – I’ve found two places to try yoga classes. The one looks like a defunct dance studio, where angry stage moms would scream at their daughters or sons, to plié better than the bun head next to them. Though it’s not the uber-modern chic studio I’m used to, there could be a totally amazing teacher and space for a work out.

2. Find some space for me in the house – I crave a place where I can go, to be alone, write, read, work. I haven’t fully figured out where this space will be, and have resigned myself to the fact that I may have to fashion a shabby chic box fort out of all my storage items in the guest room, but honey, I will do it if I have to, to get my me space.

3. San Diego – This will be my go to place. It’s two hours away, one of my close friends lives there, it has farmers markets, wine bars, restaurants, and Victoria’s Secrets (yes, undies!). Loading up on cheese, gourmet goodies, some chill time with my friend, and grabbing some new undies, I’ll return to Yuma happy and healthy.

4. Skype dates – I will be requiring all my friends to download Skype for in-person wine dates to talk, laugh, complain, and console. Wine a must, pants optional.

5. Running – It’s something I’ve always wanted to take up and with the lack of a plethora of hiking trails, I’ll need to replace those long hikes with something. I’ll be lacing up my Nike’s and hitting the streets to conquer a lifelong goal of becoming a legit runner.

6. My work – I feel like this is almost a cheat. Work shouldn’t be included in your self-love list, but it is for me. I get to create like I’ve never done before! I get the shell of a place and the freedom to bake, build, hire, create the place that I know will succeed. These kinds of opportunities don’t always come around and I’ve just been handed the golden goose of jobs.

7. Stratejoy and my Fierce Love – Thank God I have an online support system in place to keep me moving forward and encouraging me.

I don’t know how this whole moving to be with someone works. I’m new at it and frankly, scared silly. I like my me time, and when I’m home, getting to focus all my attention on whatever endeavor makes me happy. This whole moving in with someone, putting someone else on my priority list, is a bit strange. But I want to keep moving forward in my self-love process. I want to keep this great momentum I have in my self-happiness, rolling. I am seriously loving who I have become and what I’m after in life.

How do you get your self-love on in a new situation or space?

 

I’m the mother of a two-year-old.

How’d that happen?

I feel like just yesterday I was crying at breastfeeding support group and wondering when I’d ever sleep again.

Hmm…I’m still wondering about that sleep thing.

I always wanted to be a mother.  No should-I or shouldn’t-I feelings.  But what I wasn’t prepared for was how emotionally frazzled I’d feel.

I tried taking everyone else’s advice before I learned to listen to my heartLost and found myself and lost again and re-found my identity.

Parenting challenged everything I thought I knew about myself, my beliefs, how I saw my every day life.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s been the most rewarding and frightening job I’ve ever held.

So tomorrow I am the mother of a two-year-old.  An opinated, boots-wearing-in-80-degree-weather, applesauce loving, dancing enthusiast two-year-old with the fierest giggle I’ve ever heard.

The other day as I watched Kate put together a puzzle and name all the animal pieces complete with sound effects, I wondered, what have I learned this year?

Everything.  And absolutely nothing.

Kids are tricky like that.

Okay, I’ve wised up in a couple ways.  Here’s what I’ve learned about myself, parenting, and life over the past 12 months:

1.  Messes are so not a big deal.  I let Kate do all sorts of stuff in the name of fun.  I never thought I’d be that kind of mother.  Let my child paint with pudding?  Why yes, why not?  We rip up magazines, paint and douse her creations with glitter.  She refuses to wear bibs, and I don’t fight it.  Sometimes I have to change her outfit after every meal.  And I don’t care.  And sometimes I let it go and don’t care that we trapse around town with blueberry guts and ketchup smeared shirts.  She’s a kid.

2. Go with the resistance.  She wants to wear long johns and boots.  And it’s 80 degrees?  Fine.  She wants to wear purple shorts and a sparkly red shirt?  Cool.  She wants to eat applesauce for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Great.  I let her wear pajamas to the park, watch The Fresh Beat Band two times in a row so I can go to the bathroom alone and shove something to eat down my throat, and let her help me put the laundry away even though it takes me twice as long.  I save my efforts for things that matter to me: holding my hand in the parking lot, getting in her carseat, saying “please” and “thank you.”  The other stuff just isn’t worth it.

3. Every day is a new day.  When I worked camp, I passed on this piece of advice to my fellow counselors.  Don’t hold a grudge against any kid.  No matter what they did the day before.  Treat each day as a new day.  Give them another chance.  And another.  And another.  Treat every day with them as a clean slate.

4. Take each day hour to hour (or minute to minute).  I’m a total planner.  My idea of a good time is sitting down with my paper planner and Google calendar/tasks and organizing my days with no room for any variations.  Toddlers barrel right through those neatly organized plans with a fistful of cheezey puffs and furry.  It’s okay to make plans.  But leave room for error.  And even more room to allow for all those unexpected things that are just part of being a member of this world.

As the mom of a two-year-old, I’ve learned not to take myself so seriously.  It can be fun to do the unexpected, be silly, and eat apple sauce for dinner.  Why not?

I am pretty sure that karma has arrived at my door in the form of my mother’s knowing laugh. You know the one? Where your mom is like “ha ha ha! Been there, thought that, felt that, and I knew you’d arrive here someday! Welcome to the big leagues of life, sucker!” The past few weeks have been challenging, in the form of balance.

I’ve felt like I’ve lost momentum in many aspects of my life, which has made me stop, and ask myself how the hell do you balance everything in your life? All the pieces of the pie, how do you cut them evenly or proportionately, when each of these things is constantly in flux, changing their proportion of the pie? This is some crazy ass math and it’s constantly recalculating.

I have never been very good at balancing my life (or cutting reasonable sized slices of pie). I get into one job or hobby or relationship, and it’s a straight shot of tunnel vision (tequila would probably be better). I feel like if I don’t apply myself and focus my energy, that that new thing/person/project won’t go anywhere. However, I usually do this to the exclusion of other things in my life. I need BALANCE. I need to learn how to BALANCE.

Balance – A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design. Rachel is really lacking in this area!

The loss of momentum, lack of balance, and feel of chaos all the time, scares me. I feel like I’m treading water, and not flourishing like I should be. I’m spinning around and around, not completing things or pushing things forward because I’m so overwhelmed. I want to be a more balanced person, for myself, not just for others in my life.

Instead of looking at my pie and thinking how can I make sure this person has what they need from me, or that group I’m in has my full support, I realized I couldn’t look at each piece of pie, and attempt to give a 100% or asses their needs on an individual basis. You can’t just decide to balance life and poof, it’s done. I have to actively make changes in my habits. Making myself feel balanced, gives way to balance in all those aspects of my life. So, I sat down and made a list of things that I needed to change, to foster balance. Here is Rachel’s Super Amazeballs List of things I have been actively trying to tackle or embrace in my daily life, to create more balance.

Rachel’s Super Amazeballs List For Fostering Better Life Balance:

SELF-LOVE: This is a hard one. When life is totally out of wack, every moment spent giving care to myself feels like a waste. There is this strong feeling of guilt, like I should be doing things off my huge to-do list, not going to a movie alone or indulging in some reality tv. I have definitely been rocking my Fierce Love course. As I learned in Fierce Love, when you are on the plane and the oxygen masks drop, you put yours on first, then help others. You can’t help others if you are passed out, and you can’t help others if you are so unbalanced that you are burned out.  Fierce Love is totally changing my thought process for a healthier me.

STOP PROCRASTINATING: I am queen of the procrastinators! I put things off, with a “oh, I’ll do that later,” so many times a day, that my to-do list never shortens. This is the hardest for me, to in a moment of “I think I’ll do this later,” to stop myself and FORCE myself to finish something. I always feel better, and it’s seriously amazeballs to cross things off my list, keeping momentum flowing.

DON’T OVER-COMMIT: I want to please everyone. I have started to ask myself before I put on my people pleaser hat, “Can I comfortably do this? Do I have time to do this? What else is going on?” Which leads into my next one…

LEARN TO SAY NO: I suck at this, but I’ve started to channel my two-year-old self and rock the “NO!” phase, which has helped my sanity.

LOSE THE NEGATIVE: Negative, toxic, judgement…I can get caught up in these so fast, and it drives my hope and thoughts into the ground. I keep in the notes section on my iPhone, quotes or thoughts of inspiration. Every time I have a negative thought, I replace it with one of these positive ones.

YOU CAN’T CONTROL EVERYTHING: I can only put forth the best of my ability. The world doesn’t spin around me & my needs, and things are not always going to go my way. I have to adjust and allow my self to find some sort of BALANCE even in the uncontrollable moments. I can’t obsess about things out of my control.

EMBRACE MY MANTRA: “This is temporary!” I have this on a post-it on my desk and in my notebook. Every rough moment, every obstacle, every thing that I have to do and don’t want to do, I remember this. It makes the task or situation tolerable, because I know that it will end at some point, and hopefully there will be something good that is at the end of it.

ONE ITEM AT A TIME: My to-do list    . I am freaking out about step 20 before I’ve finished step 2. This is when I implement what can I do right now? What things on this list need to get done today? What can I reasonably accomplish today? Can I finish one item? Done. Can I finish another item? Do it. It is less overwhelming and then I get to cross something off my list instead of nothing.

BE PRESENT: I SUCK BIG ONES AT BEING PRESENT! I am the worst at this, and am usually twenty steps ahead trying to plan for things that are unknown. Planning for the unknown is fucking hard. I don’t recommend it. I miss incredible moments, planning for the unknown. Being present I get so much more out of small moments, and it’s a lot easier than trying to be prepared for everything (plus my purse is a lot lighter not carrying around my Girl Scout preparedness kit).

Now, go eat some pie, watch some bad reality tv, and feel some balance return to your life.

Radical acceptance has a best friend.  And that best friend is self compassion.

While I’m all about my newfound appreciation for radical acceptance, I’m still finding it doesn’t quite get me in the frame of mind I need to be in to accomplish my goals and feel good about myself.

This is how I think:

Ugh, Kate won’t stop fussing.

I’m getting annoyed.

It’s only 8:45 a.m.

Today is not going well.

I don’t like today.

Today makes me want to rip all my hair out and scream so loud the people in the next town hear me.

She’s still fussing.

I’m getting beyond frustrated.

Why isn’t today going right?

Wait, wasn’t yesterday kind of like this, too?

I think it was.

And now today seems worse that yesterday.

So every day is getting worse?

Yes!

Everyday is worse than the day before!

It’s because I’m the world’s most terrible and horrible mother.

That has to be why.

Not only that, but I’m a terrible person, too.

I never accomplish anything worthwhile.

Never.

That book I want to write?  That didn’t happen yesterday.  I should have written an entire book during Kate’s nap time.

But instead I went through Google Reader, cleaned up the chicken nugget debris off Kate’s high chair, and thought about replying to emails.

That proves it.  I never accomplish anything.

I am a worthless person.

And there you have it: The Sarah Dispair Cycle.

If I don’t accomplish a certain number of things I decided are worthwhile, then, therefore, I am worthless.  As one could imagine, my list of approved accomplishments are far and away more than any person could accomplish in one day.  Especially a person who cares for a toddler 12 hours a day.  And accomplishing anything with a toddler is akin to trying to operate a motor vehicle while blindfolded and one arm tied behind your back while Elmo’s World plays at peak volume.

So why am I so hard on myself’?

I think it’s because that’s all I know.

When I was a student, being hard on myself served me real well.  It made me motivated, encouraged me to do better and be better.  Set the curve.  Collect those As.  I told myself you can do better and I could because it was between me and my textbook.  That’s it.

Now, there’s miles and miles of life stuff between me and what I want to do.  There’s the toddler and the husband and the dog and the 1958 rambler.  It’s not just me.  Life’s much more complicated and messy.  My time is not my own.

But even though Logical Sarah knows this, that working within the confines of my current life stage doesn’t allow me to write a poignent memoir in a day, Emotional Sarah comes swooping in with the judgements.

Oh, how Emotional Sarah can beat herself up.  You didn’t use your time effectively today.  What’s that, you needed a mental health break after playing at the park for three hours?  Pshhh!  Please.  You don’t deserve a break.  Every minute you aren’t spending with Kate, you must devote to your writing/making something from Pinterest/all that email.  And if you don’t do it all?  Well, then you’d better be ready to accept a big fat zero for today!

That’s kind of rough, huh?

But that’s how I think!  And it’s so wearing.  It doesn’t make me want to do better.  It makes me want to hide in my bedroom under the covers and hope Emotional Sarah can’t find me.

When I told this to my mom, she asked me if I would say those things to a friend of mine.  Would I tell a good friend of mine that she wasn’t doing enough?  That she wasn’t worthwhile because she didn’t accomplish a major life goal in a day?

Absolutely not.  I’d tell my friend she’s doing the best she can.  That not everyday can be filled with major accomplishments.

And I do tell my friends just that.  Seeing as I am the Type-A type, I’ve got heaps of Type-A friends who are also judging themselves by their To Accomplish lists.  I tell them all the time: be gentle with yourself.

So maybe it’s about time I turn that self compassion inwards.

Maybe it’s time I work on some fierce love.

If being mean to myself hasn’t made me feel like a more accomplished woman, then maybe it’s not the answer.  But being kind and loving towards myself?  I think that could be just the ticket.

 

Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

October 24, 2007. My 24th birthday.

I was walking home from work when my cell phone rang. “Hi, I have a delivery for apartment 20. I’m downstairs in your building.”

A delivery? For me? HOORAY BIRTHDAY PRESENTS! I ran the remaining 2 blocks to my building, grabbed the massive, unwieldy package from the man’s arms, and hoofed it up my 5 flights of stairs.

I set the package down on the kitchen table. It was a huge basket from Edible Arrangements with tons of fruit shaped into flowers, resembling an actual bouquet. I hunted around for a card so I could figure out who sent this awesome present. I finally found it but I didn’t see any “From” field on it. I flipped it over – nothing on the other side either. I decided to just read the card and go from there.

My eyes scanned the words. And then again. And again. There were only 6 little words on this card but it took what seemed like hours to process what I was reading, for my brain to finally kick in. Yes, Arielle. It really does say what you think it says.

“Eat some fruit, you’re getting fat.”

That’s what the card said. The card on my BIRTHDAY PRESENT. I immediately knew which of my friends had sent it, and that this was his idea of a joke. I knew he didn’t mean to offend me, but, well, he had.

I ran to my room and cried into my pillow. At some point I cleaned myself up and went downtown to the birthday dinner I had planned with a few friends. I acted like nothing was wrong, too hurt to even think about retelling the story. I came home from dinner and continued crying until I fell asleep.

——

I still hate that story. I cringe thinking about how one of my closest friends thought he was making an innocent joke and instead ended up going for the jugular (we are no longer friends, though not because of this incident). It was like someone cut to the core of everything I’ve ever hated about myself and summed it up in the world’s most painful 6 word memoir.

I now live a few short blocks from an Edible Arrangements store in Brooklyn. I pass it on my way to the gym, and every time I see it I think of that birthday and how miserable that stupid fruit bouquet made me feel. I recently decided that in order to stop feeling hurt and rage every time I walked by, I needed to replace that terrible memory with a better one.

I went to the Edible Arrangements website to pick something out for myself. I wanted to buy the exact flower arrangement that I had received in 2007, but my friend had apparently shelled out way too much money in his quest to give me a hurtful birthday present, so I settled on something more affordable – a small box of truffles, tiny pieces of fruit that were half coated in chocolate.

Then came the hard part: writing the card. Lots of vengeful phrases came to mind, fighting words that I had never used against the friend who made me feel so awful.

Fuck you, asshole!

At least I’m not a miserable human being like you.

You’re probably going to die alone, douchebag.

For some reason this didn’t seem productive. I shouldn’t focus my energy on being bitter, I should focus on me, right? Suddenly, I knew what I had to do.

——

During week 1 of the Stratejoy Fierce Love course, there’s an assignment to write a love letter to yourself. After reading my love letter aloud to Molly, Katie and my fellow season 6 bloggers on a Google+ hangout a few weeks ago, Molly challenged me to read the letter every day for a few weeks.

Writing this card was the first real test of whether or not my attitude toward myself had changed since I started Fierce Love. Was I truly starting to love myself for who I was, or was I going to continue letting external negativity bring me down?

On April 24th, the day I turned 28 and a half, I walked into the Edible Arrangements store and picked up my truffles. I came home, ignored the fruit, and even though I had written it myself, went straight for the card. It contained a teeny excerpt from my love letter.

“You are amazing. You might still be waiting for a few of your doors to open, but I have no doubt that they will, eventually. You have so many wonderful, exciting things in store for you, and I can’t wait to be there with you, watching you kick ass. I love you. And don’t ever forget it.

-Arielle”

The best part about this whole thing is that I really believe it. I still have insecurities and still need to work on my confidence, but I truly believe that I’ll get there. Because I am amazing, and I am going to start kicking ass one day soon.

Now, walking past the Edible Arrangements store just makes me smile.

 

Photo credit: QuinnDombrowski

Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

Some days all I want to do is wrap myself in a Pendleton blanket with the rain pouring outside, drink a cup of Good Earth tea or Ibarra hot chocolate, and read a delicious novel with intriguing characters and a good plot line. I’ve been having one of those weeks where I’m suffocated by tears that won’t fall.  My head hurts, my stomach feels persistently disturbed and my fingers keep twitching as waves of anxiety roll through my body. Stress does this to me and combined with my PMS it’s a devastating combo. Fortunately I’m aware of it. Fortunately I can step back and say “well hell, it’s mostly just my hormones making me think irrationally and sending me to the brink of panic.” When I do, I feel a little better.

Sigh. I try my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh mantra “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile” and it helps just a little bit. Some days, I just don’t know where to start.

I have a very strong-willed Mexican grandmother whom I call Ima. She’s the oldest child in a family of  seven brothers. Seven brothers! Of all the advice I’ve ever heard given in graduation speeches, family members offering suggestions, and friends telling me what they’d do in my situation, some of the words that come frequently to mind come from her lips: “Camila, sometimes you just have to be selfish.”

Hearing these words for the first time, my immediate thought was that’s horrible, why would I want to be selfish? That’s not right. I was the kind of person who always put others first and always took other people’s opinions into great consideration, at times over my own. As the years progressed it all begin to make sense and in collage and even now, these are the words I return to:

Camila, sometimes you just have to be selfish.

I know I can’t please everyone. I know that I can’t always pull an energizer bunny and keep going and going and going if I don’t stop and take time to take care of myself. I can’t always help everyone with their problems in life if I’m not replenishing my own emotional pool. I can’t fully be there for anyone if I don’t fully love and care for myself.

Recently, I began the Stratejoy Fierce Love Course and it is phenomenal! It’s bringing me back to my Ima’s words reminding me that I need to press the pause button on life, especially when everything is overwhelming, and just take some “me” time.

Usually it begins with some deep breaths and a cup of tea. If there’s one small thing that can quickly alleviate any of my problems, it’s a nice cup of tea. It’s been my go to for a long time. Peppermint for lethargy, chamomile for stress, throat coat for a sore throat, mate or early grey when I wake up, and of course any other type of tea at any other time is lovely.

When I scoop out a little more time for myself I have time to create, to devote solely to beading earrings or designing a new necklace. Sometimes I decoupage tin cans to make bangles, or I open up my chest of scrap fabric and use the cloth to sew small animal sachets or headbands. Other times I open up a journal and write run on sentences or poetry. Other times I open up cookbooks and just stare at the pictures of scrumptious food imagining the recipes I can make.

These are the little things I do for myself, the pieces of time that I allow for myself to be introspective without worrying, to do what I love amidst the hours I’m at work and organizing the chaos of my life. These are the small “selfish” (and by selfish I mean loving) moments I take for myself. The moments I need that allow me to de-stress, love myself, and have the ability to keep moving forward.

{Photo Credit: my friend Kristin Syed Pufpaff}

Being a chef is the first time I truly felt like “I am really good at this.” It took me a while searching in different restaurants, with different styles of cuisine, and different levels of dining (casual dining v. high-end). I left a job at a casual dining place because I wanted to do more elaborate plating and production. I loved being able to experience it all.

But I found my footing in the causal realm. It’s great to go to a high-end restaurant and see the artistic presentation of their dishes, but I love and find my happiness in the simple, yet elegant plating of a perfectly made dessert that has incredible flavors paired together.

 

I got into a disagreement with the owner of the last restaurant I worked in. It was May, which is beautiful dining weather here in Arizona. There was a breeze floating through the open patio doors in the dining room, and I knew the perfect dessert special for that evening was homemade s’mores.

Homemade graham crackers, thick and buttery. Homemade marshmallows, fluffy and airy, then toasted so that the crunchy golden brown shell forms on the outside and the inside is pure white goo. Really good dark chocolate, melting. Yeah, you’re nodding your head right now, because it’s damn good!

The owner strolled through the kitchen, though we rarely saw him, and had me make him one. He leaned on the prep table and crinkled his nose, “no one will want to eat this with their hands. They won’t want to get messy. You need to figure out a way to make it so they can eat it with a fork and knife.”

I almost fell over. “NO,” I told him. “It’s nostalgia. It is the grown up version of box graham crackers, marshmallows from a plastic bag, and Hershey bars. Everyone ate them as a kid. People will get it.”

He continued to argue with me. This was a huge moment for me. Usually, I don’t outright argue with someone, especially a superior, but he was dead wrong. I knew these would sell like hotcakes.

Finally the executive chef stepped in to back me up. The owner shrugged his shoulders, and left the kitchen. That night, I got a text at 6:58 pm (dinner service starts at 5pm), they had already sold out all 30 orders before 7pm. The evening sous chef told me later that people were ordering them, and laughing as they ate them. Adults shoving these fat s’mores into their mouths, marshmallow and chocolate smeared on their faces. A few tables were so delighted, they would order another plate. Servers would appear at their sides when they finished with warm, damp cloth napkins to clean up with. The customers kept telling stories to the servers about the last time they ate s’mores as a kid. Mission accomplished.

My run-in with the owner is why I left my job. Stupid people with too much money and no restaurant experience, trying to tell me how to do what I am good at. This is why the biggest goal I have here is to keep my courage up, while starting my own pastry business. Someday to be a gorgeous bakery (long-term dream).

Right now, I feel like I’m teetering on this ledge of things starting to falling into place for me. I know that nothing will ever be perfect. I am letting go of trying to plan everything. I just have to keep my momentum going.

One of the reasons I wanted to be a blogger for Stratejoy was for the support and accountability. I need the support of our amazing tribe to help me feel safe to step up and be myself. I’m sick of psyching myself out,  and want to have our tribe keep encouraging me to take one more step, then one more, then another…With that in mind, here are my intentions or goals for the next 5 months:

  1. To get my online pastry business rolling. I am terrified. I have read oodles of stories about how people start businesses and they don’t work out. Or they get so popular, so fast that they can’t keep up and go out of business. I want this to work and I’m attempting to do it in the most cost effective way possible, so I can grow the business off of its profits. Some days, I sit at my desk and cry because I’m so terrified that this will never work, and that I will never be able to make a living doing what I love.
  2. To be a better food blogger/writer and not be concerned with what people will think of me. I think if I can bring a more honest approach to my blogging, it will be easier for me to write. I have the experience to write about food, and I need to not be worried that people are going to attack me. Plus, I hope I will be able to attract supportive, receptive readers.
  3. Get a food piece published in a magazine or newspaper. I’ve had one story published nationally, and I’m hoping to be able to put myself out there, sell myself, and get some more freelance work.
  4. I have found the guy, Mr. Paul Child, (more on him in a later post) now I have to figure out how we make it work and find a balance, living +3 hours apart. (ah! We are meeting each other’s parents in the next month! Wish us luck!)
  5. Do the Fierce Love course. I need some Fierce Love for myself, and I want to keep learning and growing. I feel like even seeing my first post published here on Stratejoy was a huge leap for me, to help me really start opening myself up. For me, Fierce Love will allow me to love myself more, which will in turn make me a better daughter, sister, girlfriend, aunt, friend, etc. If you are taking the course too, please tweet me or facebook me so we can cheer each other.

This is what I’ll be working on for the next 5 months. I’m positive that some good stuff will come out of it. Stay tuned, dolls!

 

 

Fireworks by SJ PhotographyI have a confession. A bit of an asterisk to my last post, if you will.

Remember how I said I quit my job recently? Well, even though I fought through my Analysis Paralysis and decided to make a real change to my work situation, I haven’t found it so easy to shake the tendency to obsess over what people may be thinking about my choices.

Putting aside the issue that it’s awfully Big Head of me to think that people are overly interested in the in and outs of my life (seriously, my logical brain knows that’s not the case), here’s how my inner Crazypants tends to see it: Me, in one corner, beginning to make choices that resonate with my heart and core values, facing off with “them” in the other corner– all those people who have ever expressed disapproval of my actions or whom I’ve felt project certain expectations onto me. I’ve held onto their words like bruises on my spirit.

The result? I have spent entirely too much time trying to hide myself and my story. Case in point: Until the opportunity to temporarily relocate to Ireland for my husband’s job came up, I did not tell anyone (other than my husband) that I had already quit my job. (Note: I’m not at all proud of this secret-keeping, and I’m a little nervous admitting this to you all.)

After all, I was the “by the books” girl who lived up to the labels of “responsible” and “studious” and “stable.” I’m not supposed to just up and quit my job without a plan, especially in this economy/at my age/with my future to think about (or whatever else people like to say to squash your dreams). So I acted like I didn’t. I became skilled at changing the subject whenever jobs came up in conversation, and only explained my situation once the next step, our Ireland trip, was established.  Not exactly the picture of authenticity, something I cherish as one of my eight core values (the others being creativity, compassion, connection, wellness, balance, intention, and learning, for those who are curious).

It’s not just the big stuff either. You know those statements Real Photographers and Real Graphic Designers make along the lines of, “Just because you have Adobe Creative Suite/a digital camera doesn’t mean you’re a graphic designer/photographer”? That kind of attitude makes incredibly hesitant to share my own work. If I do, I fill the air with caveats like, “I’m still learning” and “This is JUST a hobby,” no matter how much I’m enjoying the process. Shame, embarrassment and self-consciousness are emotions that I am all too familiar with. But during the past few years, these emotions have somehow seemed less scary than  vulnerability.

Well, there’s nothing like a public blogging gig to make a person face their issues with opening up to people!

If there’s one thing I want to work on during my time as a Stratejoy blogger aside from learning to live in alignment with my values, it’d be my confidence. I want to show up, as I am, unedited. To know the difference between holding my dreams close out of loving protection vs. out of self-consciousness. To chip away at my perfectionism. To be comfortable with the fact that there WILL be people who disagree with my choices, and it won’t mean anything more significant than they don’t agree with my choices.

I don’t want to be a person who compartmentalizes, allowing some to get to know this part of me and others to know that part. How exhausting. I don’t want to be a person who attempts to exert control over other people by assuming what their reactions are going to be. I’ve already begun to discover that people are generally much more open and supportive than I give them credit for. And those who aren’t? Maybe it’s okay for me to distance myself from them for a while as I grow my wings again.

I’ve got a whole arsenal of ideas to help me along the way. It’ll take a few doses of boundary pushing, intravenous injections of Fierce Love, the support of this amazing Stratejoy community, and a commitment to what I like to call The Confidence Project (I’m channeling a little Gretchen Rubin here). I’m already out of my comfort zone as I get settled into a brand new country for a few months, and I hope to continue challenging myself to do the things I’ve been putting off out of fear, like:

• Go public as a blogger with IRL family and acquaintances (in progress!)
• Become a runner and train for a race
• Strengthen my design and photography skills so that I can tend to my fledgling Etsy shop and/or do more freelancing
• Commit to the tattoo I’ve been thinking about for three years
• Get comfortable taking photos in public
• Reach out and connect with local creative bloggers/artistpreneurs
• Write my personal manifesto and live it
• And maybe even vlog (*shudder*)

I very intentionally chose Ignite as my word for 2012. After an tearful moment in the car listening to Katy Perry’s “Firework” on the radio (what did I tell you about emotional breakdowns in the car?!) I could think of no better word to sum up what I want to achieve, even if it seems incredibly big, bold, and scary. But I’m ready to set my life ablaze, and let the phoenix that rises from the ashes be of my own making.

{Image via SJ Photography}

 

Sandwich Heart“Be gentle with yourself.”

This was the last bit of advice that a friend gave me after a recent break up.

I barged into her room, covered in that gross mascara face you get when you cry too much.  I gave her the tween girl chapter book version of the events that had occurred, and explained just how furious I was that it didn’t work out.  It was supposed to be perfect, goddammit!

Then came the self-blame.  I should have done this; if only I did that differently; WHY AREN’T MY BOOBS BIGGER?!

Be gentle with myself?  Sorry, friend, I can’t right now – I’m way to busy being a bitch to myself.

When I got home, I tried to do those typical, post break up things.  I turned on Sex & the City, but, seriously, Carrie, who orgasms that quickly?  Get off of my television before I start yelling at you like you’re really here.  I tried to pull off a good old-fashioned chocolate binge, but my stomach was knotted up like a balloon animal and wouldn’t allow it.  I tried to just sit down and break out an intense “Leave-Britney-Alone” cry, but my tear ducts were all dried up.  At this point, I was too angry to be sad.  Fuck – I couldn’t even do a freakin’ break up right!

Hm.  This was starting to seem mighty self-destructive.  Maybe I would try this gentle thing out…

So, I decided to take a nap.  Naturally.  I argued with myself that better choices would include going for a run or writing a strongly worded letter to Sarah Jessica Parker.  A nap seemed… gentle.  I lay down, tapped into my inner yogi, and counted sheep until I fell asleep.

I woke up about twenty minutes later in one of those where- am-I moments.  When I figured it out, an embarrassingly long amount of time later, I felt fine.  In my sleepy stupor, I wasn’t angry anymore.  I didn’t hate fictional characters.  I wanted…a sandwich.

What a simple thing to want.  Oh, how quickly simple can get complicated.  The more I woke up, the more that inner critic who was mad at me for failing at love weighed in on my food choices.  “Peanut butter means calories, lady.”  “You didn’t work out today.”  “Let’s start a cellulite club!”

My goodness.  Calm down, self.  This situation is tricky enough without drowning in a pool of creamy self-deprecation.  Why is it so hard to be gentle with myself?

Granted, my post-break up mindset is a little more fragile than normal, but I felt it was a little over the top that I couldn’t make a sandwich without thinking I was the worst.

I’ve gotta tell you, kids, noticing this was quite the blessing.  I was being my own Regina George.  It finally clicked that I needed to do something to fix it, but it’s not like you can Google, “How To Make A Sandwich Without Guilt And Get Over An Ex Boyfriend And Love Yourself In The Process And Also Where Is The Closest Red Box?”

Fortunately, in an out-of-character act of perfect timing, I stumbled upon a Stratejoy Fierce Love promo article a few days later.  Unlike a lot of the “Get Your Life Together!” sites I had been searching around, Fierce Love was all about loving yourself the way you are.

Well, that’s impossible, I thought.  I’m not a millionaire and I have a weird neck.  It’s not going to work for me.

Did you notice that bitchy inner critic pop up again?  Yeah, I me too!  So, I rebelled against myself and opened the article.

It took about three sentences to get me hooked.  It wasn’t talking about ways to be perfect, or to organize your life, or to get ahead in your career (although I hear the Joy Equation does a wonderful job of exploring that).  It was all about self-love, and being “deliciously kind” to your self.  Don’t you love that phrase? Deliciously kind, or gentle.

It was the most fitting solution to get me back to that simplistic, after-nap state, were whatever I wanted was just whatever I wanted, and that was okay.

The article didn’t cure my broken heart; don’t get me wrong.  I feel like I’ve already covered that the only cure to a broken heart is a nap and a sandwich. Fierce Love stepped in at the perfect time to help rebuild myself, to get me back to a place of self-love and acceptance, and to create a foundation for all those wonderful goals I’ve yet to accomplish.

So, I’m boxing up doubts and selling them at a garage sale.  I’m breaking the lease I have in Apartment #NotGoodEnough, and I’m moving on up into the gated community of Fierce Love (it has a pool!).  The tenants inform me that it’s a much nicer neighborhood to live in than the ghettos of self-hate.  (Three cheers for that metaphor, right?!)

 

[Photo Credit: i.am.rebecca]

I Believe in the Transformational Power
of Adoring Ourselves.

And the gorgeous women who contributed to this guide do to!  As you probably know, I spent two weeks in February hosting a Fierce Love Blog Crawl to start a lively conversation across the internet about the meaning and practice of self-love. This is the aftermath of the experiment…

A 74 page guide with 26 inspiring essays written by 26 inspiring women exploring self-love in its many iterations, sharing personal stories, and empowering *YOU* to practice Fierce Self-Love in your own world.

DOWNLOAD the ABC’s of Self-Love Guide HERE

Why?

Fierce Love is the first step to an authentically joyful life.

Your journey to live life on your own terms demands a lot from you, dear one. You’ve got to be courageous. You need to stand up for your own desires in the face of others’ expectations. You must be dedicated to sharing your gifts and finding your voice in the world. Sometimes, you’ve got to cut your losses and move on, to leave outgrown friendships, demand more from your work, and realize you’re deserving of true love. You may need to recommit to your health, your dreams, your creativity, or your own happiness.

All of this? It starts with Fierce Love.

You are the voice, the heart, and the one who brings this conversation to life. Without *YOU* this guide languishes in the recesses of the internet, a lonely PDF experiment without life, without spark, without consideration.  Thank you for reading and using the wisdom within as juicy fuel to spark Fierce Love in your world, on your terms!

DOWNLOAD the ABC’s of Self-Love Guide HERE

Prefer to surf around the internet to read the essays?
You can do that to!

A is for Acceptance by Molly Mahar “Acceptance isn’t handing the reigns of your live over to fate, but relishing the present moment.

B is for Beauty by Rebecca Bass-Ching “I now revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of courage, generosity, gentleness, kindness, sacrificial love, compassion, vulnerability, motherhood and respect.”

C is for Celebration by Dani “Stand in front of the mirror and point out all the things you love about yourself. Instant self-love!”

D is for Determination by Ash Ambirge “Want success? Make more decisions, choose more often, gain more control, and then take responsibility over your success. Period.”

E is for Enough by Amy Kessel “The resistance to loving ourselves disappears when we know, really know, that we are enough.”

F is for Freedom by Jenny Blake “A fallacy of freedom is that we must not allow ourselves to be tied-down, lest we lock the cage on our ability to fly.”

G is for Growth by Justine Musk
“It’s how you grow through and out of it – the meaning you make of it – that can not only shape yourself and your creative work (and your life) — but inspire others.”

H is for Honoring by Randi Buckley
: “The deepest honor in the name of self-love shines light onto the whispers in the heart.”

I is for Integrity by Sarah Peck “Integrity is a consistency of action, over time, that builds in what you say, believe, and do.”

J is for Joy by Hannah Marcotti “Joy can live inside of you, at all times. It is your option.”

K is for Kindness by Erin Haslag “Celebrate you. Love you. Be kind to you.”

L is for Lucky by Susan Hyatt “You ARE the shiny. YOU are the honey. The sooner you align with that basic truth, the luckier you are going to get. Romantically and otherwise.”

M is for Moxie by Alexia Vernon  “The more we recognize and embrace our moxie, the more we shift into seeing fear as a reminder to listen to our inner voices.”

N is for Natural by Michelle Ward:  “Equally scared and excited? It means you’re guaranteed to learn, to grow, to take away – and that is always The Right Track.”

O is for Ownership by Tiffany Moore “Taking ownership of your life is the ultimate step in self-care.”

P is for Pleasure by Rachel Cole “With pleasure as my carrot I don’t need a stick. And neither do you.”

Q is for Questioning by Tara Sophia Mohr “It’s sometimes said that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our questions.”

R is for Release by Julie Daley “You are beautiful because the core of who you is beauty itself.”

S is for Strength by Pam Slim“We are all capable of so many things. We can endure challenge, tragedy and heartbreak and come out clearer, stronger and more loving on the other end. Trust yourself.”

T is for Truth by Amber Rae “With honesty, there is unlimited potential for growth.”

U is for Understanding by Andrea Owen “This is a place where no one is broken. We are human and messy.”

V is for Values by Tanya Geisler“See, as juicy as values are, they are so foundational to self-love that it’s almost impossible for me to uncollapse the two.”

W is for Worth by Tara Gentile “Your self-worth isn’t a number. Your earning potential doesn’t indicate your living potential.”

X is for X-Rated by Kelly Diels“Being an X-rated woman means deliberately choosing who you will please.”

Y is for Yes by Sarah Von Bargen “Yes to monthly pedicures with my BFF.  Even in the winter.  Even when my toes are inside boots all day long.”

Z is for Zen by Amanda Oaks “Zen is the gateway into showing you what it is to fiercely yet gently love yourself.”

Inspired? Electrified?  Ready to practice Fierce Love in your own world?

I can’t wait to witness the flames of your love.

It’s all about *YOU* and that’s a damn good thing.

XOXO

p.s.  Dig this Guide?  Find out more about the Fierce Love Course!

Molly Mahar is a life coach, speaker, writer, fierce love advocate and joy enthusiast. She is the founder of Stratejoy, this positive corner of the Internet that provides thousands of women the tools, strategies and camaraderie to lead authentically joyful lives.  Molly’s work is delivered through several live and digital group programs, focused on creating *YOUR* joyful world. She works one-on-one with clients who are ready for soul-level personal alignment and big transitions.

Molly also laughs loudly, swims naked, and wears a lot of costumes. And she’s expecting a tiny boy person on June 2, which will her give her loads of opportunity to practice fierce lovin’.

She’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook. Connect away!

*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*

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It’s the place where I feel most like myself, the place where I feel most at home. My apartment is filled with memories, like the day my sister and I were first handed the keys and stood in the living room taking pictures of each other, smiling as our dreams for the future swirled in the air around us. My apartment is filled with hopes of what I wish to be and reminders of what has been.

I’m washing the dishes after a homemade dinner of Puerto Rican beef, mashed sweet potatoes, and roasted broccoli. My thoughts flash to that night last March. The night I made a decision and choose to live life on my own terms.

I was living with my mom at the time and a difference in views had us in the worse disagreement of our 26 year relationship. Being two stubborn women unwilling to compromise, we were stuck in a volatile battle and it was making me sick. Literally. My stomach was in knots and I was petrified I had an ulcer from the stress. As I lay in bed crying myself to sleep, I decided to move out knowing it wasn’t the “smartest” decision. I had mounds of student loan debt, making it nearly impossible for me to pay my own rent, but I knew I had to do this, for my health, for my sanity, and for myself.

I know it hurt my mom’s feelings when I told her I was moving out, but I had to do it for myself. I had to live on my own terms, not hers. I couldn’t continue living in the captivity of our argument. When I moved out in April, I put myself first. I vowed that I deserved to be treated with respect. I was worth it. And I learned that sometimes that might mean I’m not nice.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you don’t always have to be nice, just be good. If you are working for what is Good, there may be moments when you have to be firm, you may have to step on some toes, and you might make someone mad. That’s okay.

Standing in my kitchen now, that moment seems so long ago. A smile forms on my face as I walk into my bedroom. The sun is shining through the window and casting a pale yellow glow on my desk. My writing nook is my favorite area of this apartment. I love how there is a candle in one corner of my desk and a vase filled with pink and white flowers in the other. I love that I can look to my left, out the window, and see the world, full of possibilities. I love the pictures, posters, and frames decorating the space on the wall.

This is a space I’ve never had before, but when I realized it was missing, no time was wasted in its creation. This is space I never knew I wanted, until I needed it. And that makes it sacred.

This writing nook is where I let myself be free, open, and feel the rawness. It’s where I connect with my sadness, where I dig deep and find my courage, and  my fingers type furiously as they try to keep up with the excitement sparkling through my thoughts. This is where I pour time
and energy into my writing and where I feel most grounded.

I turn around and notice my closet door is open. Twenty-seven pairs of shoes cover the floor. Gold ballet flats, brown leather boots, green flip flops, and black pumps. Each pair is for a special occasion, obviously, but my favorite pair? My pink and grey running shoes.

I have never been a runner, but in November I decided to run a half-marathon. The first few weeks of training were awful. I wanted to cry after every three mile run and I was convinced I could never run further. I thought I wasn’t cut out for it. I thought those people who ran marathons were aliens with aluminum lungs while I had normal human insides.

But I kept running. I had a goal and I wanted to follow through. Like I said, I’m stubborn.

Each week became a little easier and last Sunday I ran 10 miles!

Running is my new favorite hobby because, sure, it does awesome things for my body, but it also helps clear up some of the crazy thoughts I have. The idea that I’m not a runner? Squished. The idea that I can’t run more than three miles? Uh, yes I can. And believing that I have to stop when it’s hard, that I can’t push through the pain? Now I know that I can. I can run through the exhaustion and the pain and the endorphins that will inevitably charge through me
when I’m finished? So worth it.

I already have the perfect spot chosen on my wall to hang the medal from the half-marathon I’m running next month- nestled in the collage above my writing nook, next to the picture that reads “Tell Your Story”.

One of the reasons I love my apartment so much is because it’s the first place where I am intentionally living a life that is in line with my values. I found the courage to leave situations where I feel I being am treated with disrespect and now I am able to live that truth on a day-to- day basis. I have learned that being Good, is more important than being nice. And I am now able to connect with myself, setting aside time to focus on me, how I’m feeling, and what I need. This apartment is where I have learned to push through the hard times, to not give up, and relish in the high that comes from living life on your own terms.

 

 

 

Ashley, a counselor from Austin, TX, spent the past five months as a Season 5 Stratejoy blogger, digging deep and creating a life full of joy. 

After living abroad, then grad school in New York City, she found herself unemployed and living at home, staring her quarterlife crisis in the face.

With the help of Stratejoy, blogging at thatsuperawesomeblog.com, and training for a half-marathon, she has learned the value of being Good, doing what she loves, and living life on her own terms. You can follow her on twitter at @AshleyD

 

 

 

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*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*

After last week’s doozy of a post about money, I figure I might as well keep the trend of confessing my crazies going. Here’s the latest: I’m fiercely protective. Of myself. And I’m not sure I can help it.

I’ve referred to this strong sense of independence before. I’ve admitted to being afraid of those three big words (I need you). And, I’ve admitted that exploring vulnerability has been a big, life changing deal for me. That’s true. Taking on business partners? Vulnerable. Getting engaged five months ago? Vulnerable. Last week’s money post? Vulnerable. Having a money talk with Hunny that same week? Vulnerable.

I’m definitely working on it.

But as I do, I’m realizing that I don’t think if I’ll ever let myself be fully exposed. Like, if I equate it to being naked, I’ll forever be leaving my socks on or something. You know?

Because I’m thinking: there’s a fine line between being totally real and open and sharing your soul, and losing your soul altogether. At least, that’s what it feels like to me. I think I’m starting to push where that line IS, shifting it inch by inch. But for me, it’s probably always going to be there.

I’m absolutely terrified of losing myself in other people. I’m absolutely terrified of forgetting how to stand on my own. And I absolutely refuse to share my soul to the point where I can’t see where mine starts, and someone else’s begins.

I’m not just talking in the romantic sense, either. I’ve always felt the need to protect my soul from everyone. My family, my friends, my boss, my clients, and now my business partners, too. Not because I don’t trust people or love them. I do.

But regardless, I need to know that I’ll still have something left inside if the people and things I know were to go away. I need to feel enough strength of self that I could endure tragedy, loss, divorce, confusion, and simple day to day uncertainties and still have some sense of who I am.

To me, that means:

These are my ideals; they’re not absolutes. They’re things I work toward and perspectives I try to maintain. But they’re a work in progress and are most definitely fragile. Perhaps most importantly, they’re where I am right now. And where I might be for a while.

What do you think? Am I crazy? Young and naive? Too guarded? Unrealistic? Idealistic?

I’m curious to know how where I’m coming from compares to where you’re coming from. Go on, spill!

(P.S. Confession #3: Part of the reason I’ve been able to own up to this stuff and share it with you guys is Molly, and her gentle questioning, poking, encouraging, and coaching that I SO appreciate. I love to hate her tough questions; they lead me to realizations like the one I just shared. If you’re looking for some more insight into YOU, or a whole host of other benefits that working with her offers, you should apply for her first-ever scholarship. But hurry, applications are due Sunday.)

{Photo credit}