words on retirement

I’m starting with a disclaimer: this isn’t actually an essay on retirement, it’s more a metaphor for things like: where do I find my value, how do I spend my time…It’s also about the word No…one of my favorites.

I recently took an early retirement. And by early retirement, I mean, it’s temporary. And by temporary, I mean, I am unemployed by choice for an indefinite amount of time. Doesn’t the term early retirement add a semblance of maturity? You automatically assume it was well thought out, that I have all my finances in order, and if it weren’t 20 degrees out I would be the proud owner of a pimped out golf cart. Not all of that is true…but I am OK if you’re OK.

Some nine years ago between a stressful job and some serious outside emotional factors, I had a mini breakdown. You can stop picturing Britney Spears circa 2007 – it wasn’t that kind of breakdown. It was a perfect storm of emotional stress, which turned into physical stress, which exacerbated into workaholism (not a word, I know this). Because, when you feel out of control…you just hold on tighter, right? Makes total sense. To keep it brief – I had severe chronic fatigue. I would leave work twice a day to take a nap, I would go to bed no later than eight, and I couldn’t eat anything. My health was crashing quickly and it needed to be addressed. I went to see a nutritionist who, over an entire year, helped me turn things around. I continued to work full-time at this point, but with a supportive boss and office mate, I was successful in healing and not getting fired (even if it meant a 12 week liquid diet, very little socializing, and saying NO – like all the time, to everyone) . Once I was clear headed, all biological systems firing accurately, I started to assess life: who I was, how I handled stress and what that meant for my future. After a lot of analyzing, talking it over with Mick, I quit my job and went back to school. I did not know it then, but this was the first step on a very interesting, possibly indefinite, adventure. My two biggest lessons were: learning to say NO and setting boundaries.

There is so much power in the word, NO. It takes a lot of practice to use it and I am still learning how to do so gracefully. A wise woman once said (yea, you know it’s Brene’ Brown)choose discomfort over resentment. Choose the momentary discomfort of saying No to someone, than the long term resentment you will carry by saying Yes and not meaning it.  GLORY! YAAAAS! I’ve been saying no for a long time, but hearing it put in that context, that is exactly what I’m talking about! It takes courage to say No, but it is incredibly freeing. Growing up, when I would ask my mom for something – her first response was a question: are you prepared for both answers? It used to drive me nuts because I was never prepared for both! I wanted exactly what I wanted, how I wanted it, and had zero flexibility – which obviously guarantees a meltdown. But she was on to something! Her response has evolved into a different question. Instead of preparing to hear the word No, I have a barometer by which I choose discomfort over resentment: Does what I’m doing/being asked to do have eternal value? If it doesn’t, I say Nope. When I use the word eternal, I don’t mean it strictly in a spiritual sense, but as something tangible. Meaning – did working those 12 hours, meeting that deadline, or solving that staffing issue make me a better wife or friend? Is this TPS Report going to alter the course of my life? And better yet, is staying up all night worrying about it or taking it out on my family making life easier?

Other than getting giddy using the word NO, I also made myself a promise. I promised to never sacrifice relationships or my physical/emotional health for ANYTHING. This meant setting boundaries and being honest about what I could handle. It meant sharing aloud how I felt, instead of internalizing. I realized I was responsible for 80-90% of the pressure I felt. Stress was a tactic I used to avoid tough things in my own life, a cycle of proving myself…to myself, seeing life as a challenge instead of something to enjoy. Growing up I was surrounded by people who chose work over self; play and relaxation were foreign concepts. I had negative associations like, a career was 100% about success even to the detriment of a personal life. When I adjusted my thinking, added balance, joy, and self care – success became something different entirely. Success became: quality time, getting a 4.0 in college, laughing till I cried with the BEST people, doing things for myself like being creative, singing, pilates…etc. Also, being deliberate where I spent my time and with whom; turning down social events, was another huge thing. Life.Changing.

Boundaries

I am NOT saying everyone take an early retirement. Remember, this is a metaphor. Do not destroy your computer to Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster, please! I am just saying, our eternal success is far more important than any dollar amount or lifestyle! Actively choosing eternity over all else, only enriches our lives and the lives of those around us. Finding value in relationship, learning to say no and setting boundaries changed the course of my life and continues to do so. I will always walk away from the things that deter these achievements. Hopefully this will prevent some of you from making the same mistakes I did. If you don’t, please, above all else, avoid umbrellas and white vehicles in the midst of your breakdown.

Gratitude

Expressing gratitude is something I am learning and training myself to do. I often find it difficult because I get so caught up internalizing everything and lose myself in the analytics and process. I can write down ten things for which I’m grateful, but I am more excited about the list writing than its actual content. I am making a concerted effort to be more present in life, opening up to things that cause me discomfort like hugs and compliments and general touchy feely things. Saying it aloud makes me cringe a little. I can do this – and by this I mean – be a little less awkward and less controlled and embrace life for exactly what it is.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance…Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. -Brene Brown

Have you ever played that game where you stare at something for a really long time and it almost becomes unrecognizable? It could be a familiar face, a piece of art, or a word – it shape-shifts and the longer you stare, the more familiar you become with its beauty and flaws. If you stare at yourself (read: your past | your present) and allow it to shape-shift – become something different entirely – you may just see beauty. You may see how the flaws of your youth created unique and fantastic bits that freckle the landscape of who you are today. You may see how the difficult times prepared you for a larger mountain to climb later in life. You may recognize past relationships and their impact on your ability to love and be loved. I don’t think I knew true gratitude until I was comfortable with imperfection – not being OK – loving the mess that is me and being grateful for all of it…even the messiest bits.

So as this season of thanks continues through the new year, I want to encourage you to actively practice gratitude. It can be a journal or sharing them aloud with friends/family/partner. If this cynic (I’m talking about me guys) can get sentimental and a little sappy…anyone can do it.

I am grateful for relationship. I hit the friend jackpot – some dating back to 4th grade and others still in their introductory phase. I don’t know if your friends would fly cross country for a cocktail, spend 36 hours talking about life, take a night drive as a ritual, call you on the plane to say I love you one more time, hold your hand through the sad part in a movie, send you amazing things from thousands of miles away, or make up a dance just to see you laugh – mine do and I adore them. I want my legacy to be honesty, dance parties, and laughing, A LOT – these people, make me believe it’s possible. That may sound trite and weird but I’m 100% serious. What more is there to life than relationship; showing up, loving people for exactly who they are and walking through life together. Everything else just kind of happens when you’re letting love and grace light the way. Cliche’? Maybe, but it’s gold and I am incredibly rich with the greatest friends and will fight anyone who tries to tell me different.

I am grateful for a temporary retirement – one that allows me to rest, be present, be available to people I love in a way I am incapable when buried under stress.

I am grateful for adventure and a partner who is willing to face just about anything, trusting we can handle whatever’s next.

I am grateful for my brain and how it over analyzes everything – because of it’s annoying approach to life, I have learned so much about myself this last year – and look forward to more growth.

I am grateful for new friends when I least expected it.

I am grateful for family who continue to champion Mick and I on and speak truth into our lives in ways that change us and bring us back to a simpler way of living.

I am grateful for brokenness – it has brought me more challenges and joy than I ever anticipated – this next year is going to be incredible. I look forward to watching our life shape-shift further into authenticity and vulnerability.

second guessing

I recently created a Facebook page for this little corner of my world. It took A LOT for me to do that – because even though you would think everyone who knows me, knows about this blog, you would be wrong. There have been many times this last week, since creating this page, that I wanted to take it all down, hide it away, run the opposite direction. In the last week I have interacted with acquaintances and shared things that I never ever would have said aloud – because I took a socially abnormal risk – being vulnerable. I have participated in meaningful conversations, and really weird ones since laying it out there, and by weird I mean, I was greeted with dead silence and shifty eyes. Like when you sit in a chair and it squeaks but sounds like a fart and you say, “ha, sorry, this chair is so noisy…” everyone assumes you’re covering up a fart…and if you say nothing, everyone assumes you’re covering up a fart…lose, lose. Anyways, For a split second I questioned my efforts, my openness, I felt insecure and exposed….and then I remembered…why do I care, they can divert their shifty gaze. My truth is my truth no matter who you are, and, I am still Misie – which means – I lovingly do not care if you like the way I’m telling my story. ** If it makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why? I earnestly hope it will help someone; that someday, if you ever face a trauma so earth shattering, you will remember our story, and if you need someone, we are always here.

** I am sure there is a more graceful way to say this – I am a constant work in progress when it comes to grace.

Thank you to everyone who has liked, read, shared this page – It means a lot that you not only comprehend my ramblings, but follow along. If you know anyone who may benefit from reading our story, please feel free to share. We all have a story, this one is mine.

numbing

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Truth.

 

Hearing her say this, then reading it on paper – my mind was (and still is) blown. This describes so many years of my life, especially the last three. To see my life summed up, in thirty-one words, somehow made me feel normal – gave me a better understanding of myself – and the science behind it just makes sense to me. The last three years I existed in a constant state of numbing. I can barely give people hugs without wanting to crawl out of my skin – not because I think they have lice or smell bad or want to creepily smell my hair – but because hugging means you’ve missed someone – you’re happy to see them – you love them – you want to be close to them. Nope…sorry, I don’t want to feel ANY of those emotions, let alone all of them at once! I am safe in my Misie-sized bubble with a withering stare sending people at least five feet outside it. When I was in my twenties I had A LOT going on – 100% inside my head, locked away for no one to ever know – I maintained a state of numbness by working crazy hours, always being busy, over exercising, and disappearing into a life that required no commitment – at least not the stable kind.  [Disclaimer – because you know there’s always one or two – I loved my twenties in all their messiness; they shaped who I am today, significantly…but there was also a lot of pain and sadness that caused me to shut.it.down] I eventually became very ill and required some serious integrative intervention (liquid diets, therapy, new eating habits, sleep…the list goes on). Even with this help, these changes, my go to reaction to anything out of my control was to numb | is to numb.

When we lost Birdie I reached an entire other level of numbing – there is numbing for self preservation and then, there’s numbing for survival. My goal every single day was to survive – to wake up, get out of bed, eat something, have the guts to open the curtains and let light in. Laughter was a foreign sound; going to the store was the scariest thing because there were babies, toddlers, pregnant women there; friends were having babies left and right and it felt like the greatest insult. When you can see your dearest friends expanding their families and feel hate – this is the deepest darkest space for the soul. The thought of crying in front of people I loved, let alone some stranger in the check out line, instantly made me want to never ever leave the house (because crying is weakness apparently in my world). Numb. Numb. Numb. Shut it out, pretend it doesn’t exist. There was no joy, no gratitude, and no happiness. They are beginning to creep in every once in awhile, and this makes me appreciate time – how it allows us to soften, our eyes to widen, and lets light sneak past the darkness and seep through the cracks in our walls. I don’t believe time heals wounds, but I do believe, if we’re open to it, it will give us the space we need to process, to understand, to feel what needs to be felt before our wounds keep us locked in the house, never wanting a hug again.

words.

Do you ever feel like you wake up each and every day trying to catch where you’re supposed to be | where you thought you’d be; yet, as your head hits the pillow you feel the same weight of exhaustion and failure with which you awoke?

Do you ever feel like happiness is a concept, not an experience? You’re constantly clocking in and out of life but never embracing all its parts? You get so beat down with the day to day you settle for what was once thought temporary. You begin to convince yourself that your dreams, those magical gems that gave your soul fire, they’re just that, dreams, not tangible things.

Stick with me here – and no, this is not an infomercial for some emotional support group or self-help book that I read last month, or even a judgment of your current state. It’s more a free flowing thought process that has been tapping my shoulder, whispering – what the hell are you doing with your life…do you even know…do you even see yourself? I arrive to this blank page with zero answers, however, this deserves a conversation even if a conclusion is far from reach.

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This is what I know to be true based on my experience and my observation of many I know and love. Living a reactionary life is no life at all. If we are always reacting, we will never be in front of life, we will never dictate our futures; we will exist hopelessly. Be in charge, create your own path, take responsibility and ownership of your decisions. We all have ugliness and failures but, what if, just once, we viewed them as triumphs? Without them we would not grow, we would not evolve into better versions of ourselves. Obviously, we have to make that choice; choose to embrace the struggle, choose to walk up a mountain because, at the top, is a view we could never imagine. It’s a vast openness of possibility. 

I am IN THIS right now – I do not speak from a superior place, this is not a life hack. This is hard work, it is dedication, it is stepping out into the unknown. If you fail…ok. So what. Get up. Try Again. Take the risk. Do not apologize for being bold, being honest, or being an individual. I know I have a unique personality – I am not saying be like me or that fear is for suckers. I am afraid all of the time, but I do not let it define me, I will not let it dictate my future. I want authenticity, I want joy, I want a life well-lived, one I can look back on and think – holy crap – at all times, my cup overflowed, I was true to myself, I fought hard for what I have, and I am loved greatly.

So…I leave you with this – because let’s be honest, I’m just dissecting this and applying it to my life – because it’s brilliant:
“If you want to live an authentic, meaningful life, you need to master the art of disappointing and upsetting others, hurting feelings, and living with the reality that some people just won’t like you. It may not be easy, but it’s essential if you want your life to reflect your deepest desires, values, and needs.” | Cheryl Richardson

Image | quote found via Pinterest 

being known

Interrupting our house updates (because nothing is happening) for words on, being known.

We are slowly watching This is Us – and by slowly, I mean, it takes me a bit to recover before the next episode…and by a bit, I mean, weeks at a time. Believe it or not, I am sensitive; I tend to absorb whatever feeling is being portrayed which is obviously the desired effect of exceptional acting. I don’t mind feeling things – I do like to control how I receive it. If I can almost guarantee something will make me cry, make my soul ache with sadness – no thank you. So, why the heck did I start watching this show?! Well, if I’m being honest, I have a thing for the actor who plays Jack – aka Milo Ventimiglia circa 2002/2003 when he played the bad boy to Rory’s good girl on Gilmore Girls. I own this fact; that character will always have a spot in my cold heart. Then he went and played Rocky’s son in what turned out to be a cheesy addition to the Rocky series, but it was truly perfect casting. (if I have to hear “Hey Lil Marie” one more time….) Anyways, this is not about him….Right?!

This show is blowing minds everywhere – the acting, writing, storytelling – it’s top tier. If there were enough time in a day I would elaborate on how William instantly stole my heart and how I love Randall just as much – those two slay me. The character development on this show is absolutely incredible! This requires a separate series of gushing and not what brings us here today. No, what has me fangirling is the story and portrayal of family. My whole life I was surrounded by big, loud families. You would think a family like that would cause the introvert inside to cower, retreat to a tree and read a book. Surprisingly, these people were a force by which I was controlled. I loved loved being around the chaos, the banter, and being an audience member to their love and dysfunction.  When I was 17 I lived with one of my best friend’s family – it was a revolving door of kids, lacrosse sticks, instruments, debates, sarcasm, and laughter. A tornado of extroverts spinning around me as I sat quietly, taking it all in.

As I watch this show I can’t help but see all the reasons I love loud families – families that talk, laugh, play, and love being together. There is freedom facing a relationship without fear and the comfort in being known. This has been a theme for me this last year – I keep coming back to the idea – resting in it – craving the crap out of it. I am so very private – I trust few people with my heart, my true free self. It has very little to do with insecurity and more to do with me weighing their worthiness. I by no means think I am the most fantastic of people; that you would be SO honored to know me and love me and diiiiiine with me (said with an uptight British accent)…it’s more that I am flawed by introversion and self-preservation.  I have always been choosy as to who sees me…really sees me. I desire authentic relationships; I want to be with people who talk about things – like REALLY talk about things. I value my time, I value the time of others and find it difficult to project anything ingenuine.

Being known doesn’t just mean someone knew that at 16 you may have worn your great grandfather’s clothes; thought make-up was for suckers, and bought a pair of steel toed Doc Martins two sizes too big because you couldn’t part with them. I would say, whoever that weirdo is, they are lucky if they have friends. Being known is not only one of the greatest parts of any relationship but also the most difficult and most jarring. It takes an incredible amount of vulnerability – to trust you are embraced for whatever “ugliness” you bring to the table; to know love is the foundation even when anger and hurt make everything blurry.

I believe there is an emptiness we carry when no one knows us, Humans are meant for relationship. We are hardwired to be a community, to carry each other’s burdens, to rise up when we see others falling. We were created to love and show kindness. I can’t think of a better way to be love, to be kind, to be strong than to just be yourself – no matter what that looks like.

I cannot express the gratitude and freedom I feel when around those who truly know me. I find joy in their honesty, their grace, and I am so thankful they love me. These are the ones who push through my silence and my distance; they seek me out when I try to disappear. They will have week-long conversations with me strictly through giphs (yes, this is real life people!). These people hold me as dearly as I hold on to them and that’s something…truly something. To exist with people who have seen you at your worst and stick around even if in fact, that wasn’t your worst; the beauty in this – this state of being known – is one of such purity…there is joy, there is honesty, and there is light – so much damn light.

the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
-Emily Dickinson

happiest birthday lil bird

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