We are notorious for changing our outfit five times before leaving the house for a dinner party.
Its just gotta feel right. You’ve gotta nail the right vibe.
But also? We role play a BUNCH of scenarios in our heads, while wearing each outfit.
“Oh, this old thing? You’re too kind.”
But this?! THIS?! Is something else entirely.
It’s been 30 minutes, and my 4-year old daughter is STILL getting dressed. She’s going through a phase right now. And it is testing my patience. To. The. Max.
There is a pile of clothes on the floor. And nothing is quite right.
She hates strings. Tags. Seams that don’t align. Pants that are too tight. Sleeves that are too short. Socks that are “too socky” (wtf does that mean?!). And shoes that are too pinchy.
She would be 100% happy if she could walk around completely naked. But I’m pretty sure that would raise some eyebrows.
“Good god, Clara! You’re so picky! Just throw something on and be done with it already!”
I can’t hold back my frustration any longer.
But then I stop. And realize. Huh. Wait a minute. I’m telling her a story.
A story that she’s a picky girl.
And just like any other story I tell her……Little Red Riding Hood…..Cinderella……she’s internalizing that shit. Big time.
What we think, we become
I start to think about the stories in my own head. The things people have told me over the years.
She’s good at ballet.
She’s a horrible baker.
And I wonder. How much of it is innately true? And how much of it have I simply believed to be true?
Ah yes. The stories in our own heads.
What we think, we become.
And it is worth pausing, to ask ourselves….what do we think about who we are? And where did those stories come from
We are all a collection of stories
Like a collage….or a patchwork quilt…..we a pieced together, with stories. Stories from our grade-2 teacher….our first boyfriend…..our mother…..our favourite grocery store clerk.
We see ourselves through others eyes.
And although those stories can often lift us up, and give us confidence…..they can also weigh us down, and hold us back.
And THAT is worth digging into.
Because it is our own happiness that is at stake.
The stories that hold us back
For me, it’s the simple stuff. Like the story……“I’m not a runner.”
Or “I suck at playing the piano.”
I’ve challenged both of those stories over the past few weeks. And on both fronts, I’ve actually surprised myself.
But it’s the centre of the tootsie-roll pop you really wanna get to.
It’s the soul-defining stories. The stories that are so deeply buried, you start hitting liquid hot magma as you uncover them.
These are the nasty little stories that are most likely holding you back from true happiness.
And as I’ve been journeying down this deep dark cave of wonders (cue the Aladdin theme music!), I’ve noticed two types of stories that hold me back.
I need to be who they say I should be
Oh sweet Jesus. We all just want to be liked, don’t we?
It is our worst nightmare to be the outcast. The uncool one. The one who gets eye rolls behind closed doors.
And truthfully, some of those deep-seeded stories about who we are, come from society at large. Have you played the board game, Life, lately?! It is a mandatory hard stop to get married. Don’t worry. When I played with my kids the other day, I let them choose whether they got married or not. And I was pleasantly surprised when they each chose to get married….to a member of the same sex. “Girls rule!” Clara said.
I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of pressure I felt to uphold the identity of “wife,” even though it went against my own happiness. Hell, I was more nervous to talk to my sisters, than I was my own husband, about the divorce. Almost. I was that scared about what they were gonna think about me.
So often, we sacrifice our own happiness, just to “fit in.”
But maybe being the wild flower provides even more happiness.
This theory? Currently in testing mode.
I need to be who I said I was
Did you ever have a buddy-ol-pal who said to you….. “fine then. I’m not your best friend anymore.”
Sure. You get all offended. You sulk about it.
But then you find a new best friend. Or maybe your friend comes crawling back once she sees you have cookies in your lunch bag.
Either way. Life goes on.
And truth be told, that friend can absolutely change her mind. She has every right to.
All too often, we are sticklers about holding people prisoner to their identities.
And one of the darkest stories I’ve been holding onto, is the story that I am a liar.
I told my husband, “until death do you we part.”
I told him, I would love him forever.
And I changed my mind.
That one’s been plaguing me (completely under the surface) for a while now. There’s massive guilt around not being who I said I was going to be.
And in this time of healing and self-love, I’m coming to accept that…..it’s ok to change your mind about who you are.
Your happiness is dependent upon your ability to let go of the obligation to be who you said you were. Because maybe, just maybe, the label doesn’t fit anymore.
Be picky about what stories you hold close to your heart
Our minds are more powerful than we give them credit for. They hold our past, our present, and our imagined future, all at once. And like a library, they are full of stories.
Be picky about what stories you hold close to your heart. As picky as a 4-year old girl. Because some of those stories? They are holding you back from true happiness.
The crisp morning air fills my lungs. It is fresh. And cool. And the people in my neighbourhood are just starting to wake up.
This pandemic has rocked us all, leaving no stone unturned.
The sense of unease is palpable.
And even the sun seems to hesitate in peaking out from behind the clouds.
And then….off in the distance…..I see it.
The perfect ice puddle.
I quicken my pace, as if someone else may just get there before me.
My heavy rain boots crack the ice with a satisfying crunch. I sink through, right to the sidewalk. Water, breaking free. Feet, dancing in the shattered ice-cubes.
It reveals so much. And when applied to something fragile…..a thin layer of ice…..it exposes the fractures that exist within.
I think about the stress I’m under…..the stress we’re all under….and I see the incredible test of courage that we are all being asked to face.
I see my own weaknesses, threatening to cause my entire being to buckle under the pressure.
And in those moments…..when it feels like I am about to crack…..I remind myself that I have struggled and endured before. I am strong. I am resilient. I am rock solid.
Now, I am definitely not a gardener. And if you’re ever looking for someone to kill a cactus, I’m your girl.
But if there’s one thing I know about plants, it’s that they are incredible organisms (pause….re-read that correctly) at adapting to stress.
Plants will actually acclimate to stress by changing their leaf size, developing antifreeze, or even outright adapting their cells to compensate for dry soil.
Not only that….many gardeners actually swear by deliberately stressing out their plants! Want a hotter pepper? Try letting it wilt before watering.
In the plant world, stress isn’t necessarily harmful. Drought….flood….pests….cold snaps….these events that disrupt homeostasis, are actually a catalyst for change. And in the right doses, plants can turn discomfort into growth…..and long-term stability.
The next generation? Even hardier. And a much greater likelihood of survival.
Does that not totally apply to what we are facing, right in this very moment?
This stress. This discomfort. It can be a catalyst for change.
I truly believe that we will all be able to look back at this time, this experience, this season….and say, wow. Look at how we adapted. How we responded. How we came together as human beings, despite the physical distance.
This will absolutely act as a point of reference for all of us, going forward. Something we can point to. Proof of our resiliency, and our ability to endure something hard.
And not only that….we are setting the example for our children. We are showing them how to weather the storm. And guess what? They will be stronger because of it. They will learn how to get creative in the face of impossible circumstances. They will learn how to stay positive in the midst of chaos. They will learn how to stay connected despite distance. They will learn how to experience gratitude for the smallest of things….things that were once, perhaps, taken for granted.
But only if we are willing to be courageous. Only if we are willing to see this stress as an opportunity. And only if we are willing be the example.
Our children are watching, and learning how to adapt….because we are adapting.
And so I ask you. How are you reacting to this disruption in homeostasis? And how are you using it as a catalyst for change?
For me, it is about grounding myself in the present moment. Working hard to stay focused on the blessings of today….because, well…..tomorrow is not a given.
It is about witnessing my own mind, and learning how to take a step back from my anxiety in a healthy way. It’s about avoiding the temptation to numb the pain. And rather, learning about what truly calms my heart (laughter, human connection, writing).
It is about learning how to be someone who celebrates change, and does not shy away from new and different.
And most of all, it is changing my mindset around "running the hard mile."
You know what I mean.
Every time you get out there, and go for a run, there’s a hard mile. The mile when you start to question how long this thing is gonna be. The mile when you start making excuses. And telling yourself stories. And blaming Ariana Grande for killing your vibe (just kidding….Arianna would never do that).
It is that mile that defines who you are, and how you do life. It is that mile that tells you whether you are someone who stops at the first sign of discomfort…..or whether you are are someone who can push past the negative chatter in your head, and run the shit out of that mile anyways!
I have made lemonade out of lemons before. And this is no different.
With every sunrise that we are blessed enough to experience, we are being given SUCH a gift. The gift to run this hard mile….hell, sprint this hard mile…..and to give it everything we've got. So that....with any luck…..we come out of this on the other side, with newfound resiliency.
Yes, what we are all being forced to do is the equivalent of stripping naked, and strutting down Main Street. It’s highly uncomfortable. It is.
But if I may quote Shakira circa 2001, “underneath your clothes, there’s an endless story.”
We all have latent potential. Endless stories that are dying to unfold. And this….THIS…..is the opportunity of a lifetime to change, to adapt, and to become stronger than ever.
Have you ever wanted something SO bad....and then failed to get it?
Have you ever given everything you had.....and it still wasn't enough?
Failure is a bitter pill to swallow. And the heartbreak of a lost dream is one of the toughest things we will ever have to endure.
Whether it's a devastating break-up, a lost job, a last-place finish, a weight-loss plateau, a no-go chin-up, or a closed liquor mart on a Saturday night (ok....maybe not the last one)....the feeling of shattered hope? Excruciating.
Take Perdita Felicien. World-champion hurdler who was favoured to win gold at the 2004 Olympics.
Flare gun goes off. Race begins. And on the very first hurdle, she trips and falls.
After years of gruelling training. Day in and day out. It was all over in the blink of an eye. And never again did she compete on the world stage.
But guys, nothing is ever coincidental.
And although there is a time and place for facing pain head on (and trust me....I've been the girl, hunched over her steering wheel, bawling her eyes out while listening to Say Something), when your tear-stained cheeks have dried momentarily, it is the perfect opportunity to ask the question: what am I meant to learn in this situation?
For Perdita, the answer is clear.
"I'm at peace with it. Because I know what I'm capable of. And a shiny piece of hardware isn't the only symbol of being a world-class athlete."
And I 100% agree.
For me, the pain of failure has taught me that I am an all-in, never-hold-back, uninhibited go-getter. I am passionate and unbridled and audacious to the core. And if living and loving that profoundly and that deeply, means that I fall harder than those who do not, I am willing to feel that pain.
I am a fighter. A fighter for my grandest, most beautiful, most outlandish dreams. And in the face of "no," I am being given the detour to get there. Even if I can't see where that path leads right now.
Because I would much rather reach for technicolor than live in the grey. As exciting as 50 shades of it may seem.
There is a lesson inside of our failures. And as odd as it sounds, the lesson is that there is even a lesson at all.
Life may have to knock you over the head with that lesson again and again......but eventually, it will settle in your soul.
Life happens for us, not to us. And I'd like to make the claim that failure happens for us, not to us, as well.
We never truly know what we're capable of until we push through discomfort.
And what could be more uncomfortable, than failure?
And so, I encourage you to take a look at the challenges you are facing. The roadblocks. The failures. And ask yourself, what are you are meant to learn here?
Then grab yourself a beer. That you got from the LC. During open hours. Which you now have tattooed on your forearm.
Just yesterday, I was driving to the gym with my windows rolled down, and the music cranked (as it always is when I drive alone). I had my “All Me” playlist on, which includes the likes of Pink, Alicia Keys, Kesha, Lizzo and Cardi B. And yes, you’re exactly right. I was belting it out.
Sure, there was the odd red-light situation in which the car next door had a bit of a chuckle. But guys, what I’ve learned over the years, is that people are obsessed with themselves. They’re in their own heads. Deep in the trenches of their own worries and fears and reflections.
And all that time we spend, marinating in anxiety about what other people think about us? It’s a waste. of. time!
Which is exactly why I think “Baby on Board” signs are absolute bullshit. You really think other people are suddenly going to change the way they drive, just because you happen to have precious cargo? No way!
They’re late for work. Pushin’ the yellows. Dodging around your “Baby Shark” infested vehicle. Your adorable infant? The last thing on their minds.
The web we weave, the thoughts we think……they define who we are. And if we choose to linger in "the-world-is-against-me," "I’m-not-good-enough," "woe-is-me" kind of thinking? We’ll only ever believe those thoughts. And hold ourselves back.
Molly Bloom, the notorious ring leader of the world’s most exclusive high-stakes underground poker game, once said that she engages in meditation as a way to make herself “dangerous.” And dangerous in the best kind of way.
Because it is the person who can control their thoughts, and become a witness to the negative self-talk, paralyzing doubt, and harsh self-criticism…..that conquers the world!
None of us can prevent our gut reactions and emotional responses altogether, but if we can learn to manage the spiralling thoughts of negativity that stem from a place of lack, we will be unstoppable.
And this, guys, is the #1 reason why I workout. As much as it is a test of physical endurance and strength, it is a test of mental endurance and strength. And it is the perfect opportunity to hone my positive mindset.
Every single time I start to let those “I can’t do this” thoughts creep in, I counteract them with a badass “fuck that….yes I can.” I counteract them with action, and I prove myself wrong. I witness the doubt, and I carry on anyways.
Which is a mindset that, with practice, has trickled into my everyday life.
I am running my own fitness event (no one will come, I might fail). "Fuck that....yes I can."
I am getting my own apartment (I'll never be able to support myself). "Fuck that...yes I can."
I am becoming a spin instructor (I won't be good at it, I'll never land the audition). "Fuck that...yes I can."
I am publishing a book (people will hate it, no one will read it). "Fuck that....yes I can."
It’s about observing the fears, the anxieties, the worries, and concerns over what other people will think, and instead of letting them completely own me......mentally crumpling them up, like a piece of paper, and tossing them aside, when I know they aren’t serving me.
How do you sell yourself short? How do you let fear and anxiety rule the day? How do you doubt yourself?
Where can you flip the switch, crumple the paper, and tell yourself, "fuck that......yes I can!"?
Start practicing the power of deliberate positive thinking. Get yourself pumped up with Lizzo's "Good as Hell." And aim to become the most dangerous person in the room: a mother-fucking mindset ninja.