Busy is boring

Living

So here’s the thing. I’ll let weeks go by without writing, without creating anything because I don’t have time. I mean it’s the mantra of the age, right? We don’t have time. We’re very busy. I really hate that word, by the way, “busy.” It’s a life sucker and yet we put it on a pedestal and venerate it like a god.


“How are you today?”
“I’m sooooo busy!”
“Oh well great! That’s good! Me too!”

And then we scurry along whatever path we were on and we don’t actually know a damn thing about the other person’s actual state of being, or, likely, our own.

Busy.

And I get it. Believe me, I get it. We juggle five schedules like a 3-ring circus around these parts trying to get grown kids through school, and off to internships and into adulthood while juggling our own jobs and side hustles and trying to be something besides a work robot eighty hours a week. I get it. I’m right there in it with you.

But I’m not happy about it. In fact, you could describe my attitude about this phase of life as “extreme discontent.” I don’t want to fall in bed exhausted every day after work only to wake up and repeat the same pattern.

Always rushing.
Never creating.
Most days much like the last.

Gross.

I’ve never been very good at settling. This doesn’t mean that I am never content. I actually have a pretty low contentment threshold: books, wine, cheese, husband, and a place to shut out the world for a bit on the daily. Those are my basic requirements. I can be content.

What I can’t be is stagnant.

I think I went stagnant for a little while in February. The good news is, I’ve spent far longer than a few weeks bogged down in busyness and complacency. Far longer. This has been a short detour.

So, I’ve made a little pact with myself. I can’t change what this season is. We’ll continue to run around figuring out who needs to be where, when and for how long and which car goes with which person to accomplish this for a while longer. This is where we are.

But I don’t have to accept that the period for that sentence comes after the word busy. In fact, I don’t even have to accept that busy is the main focus of that sentence.

When someone asks how I am, I may just answer, “I’m inspired to create beauty.” Or “I’m excited by my work.” Or “I’m doing nothing for a little while later, how about you?”

Busy is boring. Everyone’s doing it. And I think we’ve established that I am not one to join a bandwagon.

Take this morning. My time didn’t work out as I planned it last night. Things took longer. I feel a little crunched. I am not sure what’s for lunch or dinner (*shakes fist at Whole30*). But I’m not too busy to be just a little creative, not perfect, not artistic and awe-inspiring, but generative. I can create a little beauty and a little hope for the world.

And so I have, flawed and imperfect, and probably a little silly – but something from nothing all the same. What a gift, indeed.

Perfection is as boring as busyness. I’m over my obsession with both. Here’s to finding creative ways to create space for more than just busy. Here’s to waking up on a new day in a new month and realizing there’s space enough to sit and simply be. Here’s to stopping and starting…and starting again and again and again, and not becoming stagnant.


Tilting the framework: learning to embrace a change in perspective.

Learning, Living

I’ve been following the same morning routine since January. Having a plan when I get up helps me focus and move into the day smoothly, before the coffee kicks in and really wakes my brain up. I know the majority of people have been working their entire adult life, but as usual, I am not most people. I’m still acclimating to not having the entire stretch of the morning, waking until lunch, to shape however I want.

But this morning I am shaking it up. I’ve used darkness and cold to put-off my reentry into running, but no more. I have such a love/hate relationship with running. For me, it’s hard work. I’m not long and lean. I embody a lot of body to put into and keep in motion. Hips are fine for walking and dancing, but they sure don’t lie when I run. Then there’s the 1/4 dead lung thing which I’ve had so long I don’t know how much it really affects my breathing, I just know I like to blame it when I’m struggling to both breathe and be conscious at the same time.

I’ve been looking forward to this morning almost as much as I’ve been dreading it. Routine is easy, but change alters your entire perspective and shakes you out of complacency. It turns your framework. Even when it’s difficult to breathe.

Last month I read a book which made me start thinking about Buddhism again. I’ve long been fascinated by the philosophy which seems more about flow and less about struggle. So I decided why not? Why not study an ancient philosophy which seems to bring peace by embracing suffering? I’m discovering the thought and lifestyle patterns I’ve been traveling for the last five years or more are already moving me down this path without being intentional about it. Why not continue the journey and see where it leads?

The me who leans into routine and familiarity says this is a ridiculous idea, but the me who knows what it feels like when running transforms into flying, when the breath flows and the legs are powerful and gravity eases its grip, that me knows that tilting my framework is worth both the effort and the upheaval. Routine may bring me pleasure but pushing myself into bursts of challenge and discomfort deepens my capacity for joy and adventure.

It’s important to me to have a plan and a focus every day, but it’s even more important to have those things written down in order to return to them after my life wanders down an alternate path or to cross them off the list and discard them altogether. I didn’t plan to be a runner, or to return to work full-time or to consider agnosticism or Buddhism philosophies to embody in the world. But here we are in the soft dark of a February morning, standing on the edge of my tilted framework, waiting for the coffee to kick in.

Chasing Rabbits

Happiness Project Experience, Learning, Living

This morning when I took Mo for his morning walk, we saw our first bunny of spring. Now, I know some of you are just coming out of the polar vortex and reading words like “spring” seem thoughtless and taunting, and for those of you who feel that way, I have two words: Georgia Summer. We all have our own nightmares to deal with. Anyway, this morning in the not-quite-light of dawn, Mo flushed a bunny and lost his damn mind.

He bayed and barked. He lunged and grumbled. He chuffed and snorted. He would have given anything for me to release the leash at that moment so he could chase a little bunny, who by that time was so far gone she was barely a memory. So I just stood there and held his harness and reminded him of our purpose: Poop, Mo. We came out here for poop, not bunnies.

If you follow my Instagram, you saw some thoughts last night about toxic productivity. Not everyone is like me in this regard, but I have this weird one-up-manship with myself where if I have one productive day, it’s obvious that the next day, I could be even more productive. I mean, being productive feels good so it stands to reason that being more productive will feel MORE good (Dear Grammar police, “more good” is me using creative license. I know about good, better, best). And it does, for a while.

But eventually, I can’t do any more. I can’t be more efficient. I can’t pack it any tighter. Or even worse, a day will come where nothing goes as planned, as life does, and all those unchecked items on my list drive me right over the edge into despair.

It’s a sickness, I know.

Last week I felt ragged around the edges. I understood the danger signs of pushing too hard and expecting too much out of myself. I recognized that packed-too-tightly feeling like I might explode out of my own skin. Fortunately, I’ve crashed and burned enough times that began to mindfully retreat from the edge of insanity.

For February, I instituted a weekly play day every Sunday. I filled the first one with rest and relaxation and creativity and a long walk by a stream I didn’t know existed. At least twenty times I started to do something “productive” and made myself put it down and walk away. I was a lot like Mo and the bunny. I chuffed and huffed and strained at the leash, certain I could catch my elusive quarry, but finally allowing a quiet voice to redirect my focus to the relaxation at hand.

I’ve never been great at the concept of slow and steady. Most things come easily to me. Once I begin, I tend to move quickly and decisively through the process, regardless of whether a slower pace would be the wiser course. But the fact is time, energy, even possibilities are finite resources every day. I cannot do, live, experience or accomplish all the things which fill my mind. I must choose and accept that it is enough. I can’t keep chasing every rabbit I see, but will never catch.

This time I was able to stop myself before the crash and burn. Perhaps eventually, I’ll gain enough wisdom that I won’t even be singed around the edges when my leash pulls me up short. Mo, however, is never going to lose his desire to finally catch a delicious rabbit.

January Habits

Happiness Project Experience, Living
Photo of my desk this very morning. My creative process isn't tidy and requires coffee.

Can we talk about the fact that it’s nearly February? It doesn’t seem possible that the first month of the year is almost behind us. Personally, I feel like I climbed a mountain of hard things right at the beginning and that I should be able to coast the rest of the way through the year. Alas, that’s probably not going to happen.

This January is different from many which have come before because it’s the 29th day, and I am still plugging away at the habits I started on day one. Before you walk away in disgust, I want you to know how easily I started/ I picked four things to track: Pause, Move, Journal, Routine.

January’s theme for the Happiness Project Experience is “Self-Knowledge” and my four habits anchor on what I know of myself. Making time to pause and reflect daily (in my case, this includes meditation, daily gratitude practice, and habit tracking) is an activity right in my wheelhouse. If anything, I can be in my head too much. This habit gives me permission and focus without letting my internal narrative have control of my mood and sabotage my intentions.

Move is the habit which challenges me this month. I often make my habits very ambitiously which inevitably brings a crash and burn. I do have a big ambitious goal of running ten miles by the end of 2019. But it’s January, and the only thing I had to do this month was to move. Most mornings I did a 7-minute HIIT routine or yoga. Somedays I did more – and occasionally a lot more. Every day, I moved because something is infinitely better than nothing. Next month I want to actually start some running if the lengthening days will cooperate. It’s difficult to run on rural roads in the dark.

Journal is the cog around which everything this month and probably in the months to come hinges. By journaling, I mean keeping my bullet journal. This month my bujo tracked my habits, planned dinner and mapped out my daily and weekly intentions. It’s also where I did my gratitude practice at the end of the day. Basically, spending five minutes in my journal, reviewing what happened and looking ahead to the next day meets a large portion of my pause habit. By making my habits entwined, I was much more likely to complete them all.

Routine is the scaffold which upheld my other habits. This month I focused on a morning routine. I built time into the morning routine for exercise (Move) and meditation (pause). I look ahead to dinner and tackle a daily chore or two (Journal). I didn’t set an intention for writing for this month, but I did make it part of my routine most mornings which led to considerably more than when I am just winging it. I consider this a bonus habit which I hope to build on in the months to come. February I will work on building a nighttime routine hopefully is just as rewarding.

There are other things I am tracking with my 19 for 2019, but I haven’t had time to sit and monitor that progress yet (pause) and may not until this weekend. Perhaps they will be part of a second month’s end blog post in case these things interest you.

I do want to share how very satisfying it is to look over my habit tracking for the month and see how well or how sporadically I engaged my intentions. My habits don’t move mountains but they have significantly impacted my happiness level this month which ripples out into every area of my life. I’m so pleased with the investment I made in myself with this project and am hopeful that each month will bring more growth and change instead of each month simply drifting into the next as has happened in years past.

For February, the focus will be on energy. I haven’t yet set all my intentions as I want to finish this month fully and well before I leap to the next one.

A little help, please?

Healing, Living

I wasn’t my best self last night. I came home from a very busy work day to burned rice and an overflowing sink and trashcan. I was tired and hungry and for some reason cold. all. damn. day. It was not a recipe for success.

After I frammed and slammed around the kitchen for a while, putting dishes away, washing dishes, putting dishes away -we don’t have a dishwasher and sometimes that makes me hate everything- taking out the trash, I made cornbread and fried apples to go along with my rewarmed chili and burned rice because I wasn’t about to allow being pissed off keep me from the ultimate comfort food meal. Anyway, after all that, I served up my dinner, left everything on the counter, texted my kids to coax them from their bedrooms, and took my dinner into my room.

And closed the door.

And turned on Netflix.

And channeled my own mother.

And texted swear words to my husband.

As you do.

My narrative was filled with should: Those are grown women. They should see what needs doing. They should do something about it. They should know I am going to come home dragging. They should should should should should.

Gross, right? I mean GROSS.

Do you know that when Craig and I first married, sometimes dishes would sit in the sink for an entire week until the apartment stank? It’s true. I’m not proud of it. We were two grown adults who couldn’t be bothered to even wash up after dinner. So I’m not going to sit here and pretend I don’t understand about mess apathy. I do. Back then, I was happy to leave that mess because I didn’t have a mom in the house to fram and slam around making me feel bad for not meeting up to expectations.

Should is a heavy burden to lay on someone, especially when those someones share our DNA or our bed. The fact is, as a grown, fully functioning adult, there are three words that could have diffused my temper tantrum fairly quickly. What are those words?

I need help.

I need help with the trash, with the house, with these tasks that never end because we just keep living here day after day. I need help living this life, as much as it pains me to say it sometimes.

We all need a little help.

And maybe we’re right. Maybe someone should notice or act or handle or whatever. But more often than not, our default setting is to handle our own priorities. We can be quite blind to things which don’t make that list. I am as guilty as anyone. Whether or not someone should do something, by our estimation, when they don’t, it’s our job to communicate what we need. Framming and slamming may be momentarily satisfying, but it still left me alone in the kitchen doing all the things I was pissed off about having to do. I didn’t prove anything except that I can slam the cabinet doors really hard and repeatedly, oh and isolating my family.

I could have asked for help.

And maybe then they would have frammed and flounced about, but maybe not. Maybe I would still have retreated to my bedroom for introvert dinner, but maybe not. Maybe I would still have texted swear words to my husband.

But at least I wouldn’t have should all over everyone in an unmet unexpressed expectations ambush like a martyr guerilla. Gross.

This whole being a decent human in a crazy world, having it all together, getting things done, not eating your offspring gig comes with an impossible list of things we should be doing. We absolutely can not do it alone.

We need a little help. We’ll probably have to ask for it.

It’s the very best way to receive what we need.

On Divorce and Graduation

Learning, Living

Sometimes when Craig and I talk about leaving the church, we liken it to a divorce. They kept the reputation, most of our friends, the house, and carried on like nothing happened. We were completely upended, moved houses, avoided (still avoid) seeing certain folks in public, bought new-to-us cars, and figured out what to do with Sunday mornings. There was a decent alimony package for a while, at least.

Recently, I listened to a podcast which posited the idea of considering endings more as graduations than divorces. I like this idea a lot. There’s much less residual bitterness.

When we graduate, whether from high school or college, it’s very much an ending like the one we walked through in 2018. Graduates change residences and take new jobs wherein they learn an entirely new way of living and thinking. Many relationships fade away and new ones are built. Sometimes there are even celebratory mimosas.

But even though many of the details are the same for graduation and divorce, the emotional load feels entirely different. This is interesting to me. As I’ve turned the idea over in my mind, I wonder if the reason is because divorce is something which happens to a person while graduation is something we actively work to achieve. Does it really all boil down to who controls the narrative?

(I know it’s so much more complex than this, as most things are, but stick with me for ideas about owning our narrative anyway)

In the last two years that we were part of a congregation, almost nothing felt like it was in my control. Punishment and censure happened unpredictably. Emotional abuse and gaslighting left us questioning our experiences and our sanity. When critical decisions were made regarding my actions and motives, I wasn’t allowed to be present to defend or refute allegations or accusations, but I was expected to humbly accept judgment as it was meted out. The narrative felt entirely out of my control.

But graduations feel entirely different. Graduations are our stories to tell. The work we do, the goals we achieve, these are our choices to make. What we will study and how we will present what we’ve learned rests on us. Questions, examination and curiosity are welcome and encouraged. We decide the path of our practices and our lives. We control the narrative.

It’s easier for me to keep playing the victim. To say, ‘this happened to me, this was taken from me, these things are lost to me.’ Being the victim is very passive and excuses me from any responsibility for what happens next.

But that’s not the story I want to tell.

The truth is, I anticipated leaving church, even when I had little hope it would happen. I worked very hard to acquire my own expression of faith and personality. I earned my understanding of the Universe because I dared to ask hard questions and explore the answers. I knew these actions would be considered subversive and dangerous to those who seek to control the narrative, and I did them anyway. I knew the eventual cost (though I did not anticipate the cruelty of the method) when I started. I knew I was working towards a graduation.

Last year I spent a lot of time pulling free of the victim narrative. It isn’t easy to unwrite fundamental brainwashing and relearn self-compassion, but it’s the only way to reclaim my sanity and sense of self. The church divorced me, but it’s ok. I’m ok. I’ve graduated to a better understanding of myself and regained control of my life’s narrative. There are things and people and entire systems of belief I had to release along the way. It’s the way of life: we evolve and change and not everyone and everything evolves with us. It’s more painful to try and force conformity than it is to say goodbye and move on. This lesson is one I am still learning to embrace.

There are things and people I miss, but not as much as I enjoy anticipating what happens next. More growing, more changing, more graduations to come for as long as I have a story to tell.

How to start every day

Learning, Living

I’m a fan of Seth Godin. He’s a little odd but enormously brilliant. He thinks big thoughts and consistently shares what he’s thinking. It’s not just about his day, but about culture, community, marketing, communication, and personal well-being.

He shares every day and has for a very long time.

One of my goals this month was to write something worth posting twice a week. So far, I’ve managed to hit the goal but I’ve struggled with creating space to do it. Uninterrupted time is at a premium in my life right now. There simply isn’t much of it. Last night I was alone in the house for twenty glorious minutes. I can’t remember the last time that happened. It’s difficult to find the time or creativity to produce “content worth publishing”

I’m also reading a book called Atomic Habits (so practical, no really, if you are interested in habit formation it’s filled with great tools and tips) which talks about skill formation. Apparently – perhaps you know this already and I’m the last person to really get it – it isn’t producing a perfect product/result time after time that really hones our skills, it’s simply consistently practicing. The more we practice and produce, the better we get at it. Garbage product can be as beneficial as perfect product while we are still in the practicing stage.

My inner perfectionist screams and wails at this idea; she’s quite upset that I didn’t throw it out as bullshit to begin with.

Running ten miles is another one of my goals this year. It seems a lot when I look at it as TEN MILES – the finished product. So far, I haven’t run at all. But what I have done is get up every morning and do something. Whether it’s a 4-minute kettlebell workout or a 7-minute HIIT or 10 minutes of yoga, or a 20-minute walk (usually only on weekends *shakes a fist at the dark*), I just have to do something. I know when it comes time to run, I will think of reasons to skip out. I know me. It isn’t the running that’s the problem, it’s the getting out the door. So instead, I’m working on the habit that every day I have to move in some way for at least five minutes. Once the habit of starting is deeply ingrained, the habit of running will slowly follow.

Now, I’m contemplating how to implement this concept for all areas of my life. Rather than focusing so hard on the end result, I’m considering: what could be the most important first step that I can do easily and repeatedly which will allow me to build on them later?

The other day I wrote about accidentally skipping meditation, so I adjusted my parameters. There are some longer guided meditations I want to do, but for now, 5 minutes before I even leave the bed is the plan. Every day. I have to leave the bed to start the day, but I can’t leave the bed until I meditate. If I can find the space and isolation for a longer sit later, I will. 5-minutes. Everyday. First thing. Easy. I can build on that.

So why not with writing? How does that translate? To begin with, I have some things to unlearn. Most of these messages are that “all successful writers do ______” or “in order to gain the attention you desire you must _________.” Basically, I’ve got to release a lot of bullshit and just get down to business. What’s the right way to write? Make words happen. Some words. Any words. Every day. Great words and garbage words and words I can build on.

I need to stop looking over my shoulder or wondering if what I’m writing/creating/forming/learning today is better than what I wrote/created/formed/learned yesterday. It may not be. But eventually the more we do anything, the result will trend towards improvement if we’re really putting our heart into it. Eventually, I will run ten miles; I will sit and focus for twenty minutes; I will read two hundred books. But I won’t start there.

I just have to start somewhere more often than I don’t start at all. I can do that. We can all do that.

Day by Day

Happiness Project Experience, Learning, Living

Someone asked me the other day about the Happiness Project. I talked about it for a few minutes, about why I paid to join a coaching system and what I hope to accomplish. Then there was a follow-up question: So how many “resolutions” do you have this year?

I don’t know. I’m taking it day by day and month by month.

In years past, I’ve launched all my initiatives at the same time. Do all the things, every day! Do them without missing a day! If you skip a day you’ve ruined everything! Friends, perfectionism ain’t no joke. She’s a terrible life coach.

In my divorce from the rules and regulations of religion, I’ve developed softer lines and fuzzier edges (not just from stress eating and Sunday morning mimosas). My inner voice is softer. I’m no longer thinking in all or nothing terms. I believe not in transformation but in evolution.

This year will bring changes, some of which I will plan, but many of which I will not.

These changes will not all happen at once, but they will happen.

I will hold space to welcome the unknown and the unexpected.

For January, I have four foundational habits I am forming:

  • Pause morning and evening – these are moments of planning, meditation, and evaluation. Sometimes I journal, but if I’m tired or in a hurry, simply a moment or two will recenter and redirect me on the path I intended for the day, or create space for a new intention. Yep, I’ll change a whole plan mid-day if unforeseen events require it, and call it a win when I adapt rather than resist.
  • Keep a bullet journal – I’ve planned and failed at this more often than I care to admit. But my pausing habit facilitates my bujo habit. I’m experiencing more success by pairing the habits and more happiness by tracking, recording and remembering things by keeping them all in one place. And it’s pretty yellow, which makes me smile each time I pick it up.
  • Plan Dinner – This habit pairs with my bujo. I don’t know about you, but when I know what’s for dinner on a daily basis, we eat better and shop better. Also, it cuts down on cranky late afternoon texts with my Hunky demanding a dinner plan. We are both more inclined to cook rather than eating cereal when we know what is prepped and available. Eventually I want to plan out a couple weeks or even a month at a time, but for now, I plan dinner down one side of my bujo page and the groceries required on the other. In a month or so, this will make grocery lists so much easier and that will also make me happier.
  • Move – I do have some physical goals this year that will involve more specific and intense habits, but those habits aren’t for this month which is already pretty full. Instead, I just need to get my ass out of bed, off the couch and away from the desk chair. I follow a 7-minute HIIT many mornings or a 4-minute kettlebell routine. I step out for a 4 o’clock walk, take the stairs, park farther away, walk if it’s under 5 minutes, whatever comes to mind to make motion part of my daily experience, I do it, and I don’t think too hard about it. Good enough is good enough, right now.

Day by day these four small things are making me happier and making my life flow more smoothly. Doing them regularly may take an extra 30 – 40 minutes, but generally save me well more than that amount each day. They are investments in myself, my family and my time. They make me happier which is what the Happiness Project is all about.

For the months to come, I have some general ideas and a rough sketch of what goals will fit where, but I’m taking it day by day and month by month. Change will come whether I want it or not, the question is, will I have the tools to shape those changes or will I simply let them roll me along with them? I’m choosing my tools this year, but prepared to enjoy the rolling along for a short time, if and when it comes.

What changes are you making this year? What tools are you using?

This is the Work

Happiness Project Experience, Learning, Living

On Monday of this week, we held job interviews for a couple of positions we had open at my workplace. Truth be told, I really, really love being part of a team that gives people jobs. It’s amazing. However, the day of the interviews can be long and tiring. It’s an enormous amount of social energy for me (hello, introvert) and our interview process has several steps which require set-up and recording scores and printing rubrics and just lots of little details.

And all the while, the work of the library flows around me so my train of thought is often interrupted and side tracked, which isn’t an ideal mental situation for me.

I love helping people get a job, but the process can be exhausting. Isn’t it funny how so many worthwhile things are like that, and so we avoid them? Or maybe you don’t, but I do.

Anyway, we had a bit of a mid-day break between interviews where I grabbed lunch and dropped one of my people at their job and tried to spend a little time with the dogs who aren’t loving the 5 people at school and work most days schedule after Christmas break. When I returned to the building, I began setting up for the final interview of the day, and I thought to myself, I haven’t gotten any work done today. And then my entire mental momentum came to a screeching stop.

All I had done all day was work, and work well, and work hard. I do a good job, sure I have loads still to learn but I am good at what I do. Still, I literally told myself: you haven’t done any work today because you haven’t really done anything visibly productive or which was in your wheelhouse routine. I considered this terrible message I was selling myself and I realized:

This is the work. Enjoy the process.

How often do we do this? How often are we involved in something which is large and complex with many moving pieces, which requires a great deal of energy and time and which carries some pretty serious weight but because the visible product is small or perhaps even non-existent, we think to ourselves, I have to get back to the work, the real work. We are selling ourselves a great big load of bullshit, and most of us are buying it most of the time.

I stayed home for almost twenty years to raise my ladies, and there were many days where I fell into bed exhausted and thought to myself, I didn’t get a single thing done today because I missed the point that this is the work – not the to-do list or the product, but being fully present for the most important thing at the time.

The work is not the product; the work is the process.

I’ve embarked on a pretty big project this year, Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project Experience. The point is not only to explore things which increase my happiness but to actively engage in those things and measure the result. I expect to have as many failures as successes. I expect to sometimes expend a great deal of effort with very little product other than my own personal satisfaction. I know there will be days when I think to myself, I haven’t gotten any work done today.

And hopefully when that happens I will remember that crystalline moment standing at my desk with the whole library buzzing around me and remember:

This is the work. Be present for the process.
This is the work. Don’t miss it rushing to cross off the list.
This is the work.


How do we become ourselves?

Healing, Living

I’ve never been a very fast writer, which is why when life gets busy – which is often- I stop writing. I want everything I put out for public consumption to be lyrical and lovely and technically perfect. There’s nothing wrong with wanting anything I create in the world to be a good product, except when my standards are so high that they hinder me from doing anything in the first place.

I occasionally say I am a writer, but I’m not consistent in the practice. I also occasionally say I’m a runner but I haven’t run since the fall. There’s a distinct separation between what I say I am and what I embody. I don’t think this separation is a deliberate form of disinformation; I’m not trying to make myself look better. I think it’s more a form of self-deception – projecting who I want to be on who I really am today.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot along with my word for the year: embody. It’s one thing to say I am something, it’s another thing to embody it. One is a form of self-deception and one is a way of becoming.

Look, even when I am running, I’m not winning any prizes. I’m slow and awkward and usually very red in the face, but if my feet are moving, I am a runner. There are no other qualifications. In fact, one of my favorite things about the running community is how fervently they promote the message: if you are moving, you’re a runner.

But I’m funnier about writing. Perhaps its because I love books so much. People who create those chapters and stories, those people are writers. Me? I’m just me, occasionally playing with words.

Which begs the question: at what point am I writer? Is it when I get published? I’ve been published. Is it when I make it big? Make a career of it? Go on tour? If these are my criteria then I’m also not a runner because I’ve never won a single medal (nor do I expect to) and I will never make a career of it. Why am ok with calling myself a runner (when I run), but not a writer?

It’s an interesting question isn’t it?

At what point do we give ourselves permission to be the person we want to be whether or not the world recognizes it? My husband left professional ministry nine months ago but he still calls himself a pastor because he embodies the traits which make a person pastoral: he loves people and cares for their well-being and they know it. It doesn’t require any form of public recognition or permission for him to be this thing.

I’m definitely one who gets tripped up in if/then thinking. If this thing happens, then I will be ________ (happy, a writer, able to lose weight, good enough, insert your own if/then statement here.) We seek outer validation to apply an inner identity rather than simply becoming that person because she’s the person we envision for ourselves. We make ourselves crazy trying to become someone we already are.

So I’m making myself a promise this week to write more and doubt less. To believe that it’s enough to put words on paper (or on screen as the case may be) whether or not they are perfect or poetic or worthy of national acclaim. A writer writes and I can believe in myself enough to do exactly that thing without needing perfection or outer validation.

It’s a new year – who do you say you are in it? Are you waiting for some form of validation before you embody that person? Do you need permission to become the person you always believed you could be? Don’t be afraid to take that first step and keep taking them one at a time. The Universe is waiting, and She applauds you.