Potholes & Moving Forward

Awhile back, I took a day trip and went exploring with some friends. We visited northeastern Washington, toured a cave and even popped up to Canada for a bit. It was great to reconnect with this gorgeous state and its surroundings!! While my friend insisted that I write about how much money I save on food, drinks, etc. by being petite, I decided to go with a different route. Shout out to her creative ideas though! And, who knows, it has the potential for a future post. ūüôā

As you may have noticed, Exhale Gratitude took a brief hiatus. I wish I could say it was for something really cool but it wasn’t. Mostly just me attempting to find the correct combination for how to do this life thing best. The balance between work, writing and school. I’ll be honest, I was in a bit of a funk there. But, we are back! On that note, I’m still figuring out if Sunday works best for new post release dates and am thinking of switching back to Friday. For now, we’ll just strive for weekly and call it a day.

Driving with me can be an…..interesting experience. I promise to keep you safe but it will be a bit more exciting along the way. Exciting as in I have a tendency to hit nearly every pothole, rock, and whatever else we may encounter. It isn’t done on purpose and while I make an effort to avoid them at times, my driving aligns with my personality for the most part. (And no, that term is not reckless.) ūüôā

During the course of our trip (and many other times she drives with me), my friend, Saraa, commented on my lack of avoidance of obstacles within the road. She probably expects it now and can be reassured that no pothole will go unexplored. (Sorry Felix!!! <—–That’s my car.) I slow down and since I drive in Spokane quite often, I now know where most of the potholes are.

I am conscious of where I’m going but also so enthralled by the people I’m with and the situations surrounding me. In celebration of the fullness of this life, I am wanting to drink in each moment I can. This is very much how I live day-to-day, as well as how I set out at accomplishing goals. It might not always look clear and maybe it gets messy at times because of that. Yet, I always end up at my destination, with endless possibilities still before me. And the thing of it is, I don’t wish that I was any different. (I do need to be more careful perhaps in regards to avoiding the potholes situation. Poor Felix.) I charge forward. I keep going, despite the obstacles.

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Reminding myself of this is incredibly important to me, as I am going through some life-changing transitions at the moment. Where plans I originally had are needing to shift and I’m in the exciting, albeit frightening, phase of immense change. Felix and I are not completely broken but sometimes we hit bumps throughout our journey. And while I don’t know the first thing about cars, I know others who do. When the potholes of my life become too much and I need a little work, I reach out. In my faith and personal life, I admit when I am not operating at 100%, whether it’s because I have worn myself down, feel overwhelmed, or am returning to the same old patterns.

 

So yes, I took a longer than a month hiatus and on that note I’m going to be real honest, July sucked a lot. But then, I can’t help but think that this post is launching at precisely the right time. I’ve hit some potholes and man-oh-man do I feel stuck. At first it felt unfair and now, wading the quicksand of disappointment, I am only emerging stronger. The potholes, obstacles, and sucky parts of life will always be there. You can slow down and take them real carefully, but they are unavoidable. It’s gonna get bad and then it’s gonna get real good again. There isn’t some secret sauce so if that’s what you were looking for, no recipe here. People and perseverance are what make the bad parts better. Those potholes sure can sneak up on you so buckle in, bring your peeps, and prepare for the ride.

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The crew

Boundaries & Blooming

Once a week, I have lunch with a spunky and sassy 7th grader. We’ve been doing this for two years now. Back then, she used to whoop me at Connect Four or Hangman in the library. Now, she loves fake nails and the subject of boys most always pops into our conversations. The school she’s at is bursting at the seams with toughness and she has grown to fit her environment. The cafeteria, with its chaotic symphony of curse words and reprimanding teachers, makes me dizzy. This has been my toughest year as her mentor. I honestly don’t know how we made it to the end of the school year some days.

A couple of weeks ago, I¬†made the decision to end our mentoring session early. I 100% didn’t want to do this but her actions spoke loudly that day. I can see how much we both have shifted. Her, on the cusp of childhood ending and wandering into that space where we discover who we are as women. Me, wanting to let her know that absolutely anything she yearns for in this life is attainable. Both of us at a standstill in this space. I have come to adore all pieces of her because even in the moments of frustration, when the language is unbearable, I catch glimpses of her sweetness. I’ve learned she is not the sum of these actions but trying to stay afloat in the sea of changes she is constantly presented with has worn her out.

I didn’t want to walk away that day but I needed to. We had consistently approached the topic of respecting our time together and that day, all such discussions went out the window. I told her friend I needed to leave and explained why. I went to my car, with the tears flowing from the weight of my decision. Being a mentor (at least through this program) is a fine line some days. It is limited to contact only within the school and there are guidelines, understandably, for the safety of the students. I needed her to know how great she was but how do I convey that when everything else is trying to pull her down?

We create boundaries, not only out of need for ourselves, but to say we care. Drawing that line. Saying no more. They don’t seem like acts of love do they? They are when we show up again. When we know the lesson is needed. When we halt, take that person by the hand and say, “I want you to see all you are capable of. The brushstrokes you will one day leave behind on the masterpiece of life. But, it can’t be here. Not while you are unwilling to take care of yourself. We need to resolve that part first.” So, we build the fence and leave that opening. Healthy boundaries mean we recognize that person can come back when they’re ready. And you’ll be there waiting, ready to take those next steps.

I’m beginning my Masters’ program in the fall and will have to put off mentoring. I felt guilty about this at first but have finally been able to find some peace. I haven’t the slightest idea if she’ll remember me down the road. If the truth I spoke into her life will make a difference. She needs room to bloom though, that I can tell. I will keep hoping and praying she knows she is enough. That this big world can be pretty sucky (especially middle and high school) but it’s how many times you get back up that counts. I’d love for her to do great and wonderful things in this life. I also have to accept the fact that not everything blooms. Some struggle and pop out of the ground, suddenly, after years of nothing. Some might not at all and the ground will be tilled in order to begin again.

We can never discount the simple fact of showing up, each week, as a reminder that someone will be there.¬†Though difficult and heart-wrenching it may be, boundaries create space for love. When there is struggle and strife, when we are challenged to meet that person in uncertainty and where we may not feel comfortable, it’s not the time to quit. Make the line in the sand. Let them know you’re there. And when they’re ready, they just might take your hand. Ready to erase the line and welcome in something new. That which they might not have recognized before is now so clear. The simple and delightful notion that they are loved.

Brooklyn Accents & Choosing Joy

This week I had the chance to babysit two wonderful boys whom I had previously nannied for last year. How I became so lucky as to even become their nanny in the first place is beyond me. All I know is that these two young gentlemen make me so darn happy each time I see them.

Even though I have generally been around children in some caregiving capacity (through church, watching my littlest sister, etc.), there was something unique about being a nanny. Perhaps it was the amount of time we spent together and how I was able to watch changes take place as they navigated life. (And I am lucky enough to be in touch with them still!) How little shifts would occur from week to week, sometimes subtle and other times significant. No matter the case, the joy that has been brought to my heart by caring for them has me feeling all sorts of happy.

The conversations you have with a 5 year-old and 2 year-old (at the time I was their nanny) can tend to vary from wildly amusing to….”Is this actually happening right now?” I once had a 20 minute discussion with the oldest in regards to the eating habits of the loch ness monster. (And yes, I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned, although, also not sure what I was expecting.) I truly thank these boys for how much they’ve given me. I play more. Laugh more. And smile more. Because without any of the fun, life is going to be arduous and exhausting.

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Last week was no different than how our time together normally looks. There was the usual dinner time, play time outside, getting ready for bed and then clean up. But, there was also hide-and-seek. And learning the funky chicken dance in the kitchen. And let’s not forget my impression of the elves speaking to Santa with a Brooklyn accent, which left the children in fits of laughter. (These parents are really great for allowing my shenanigans.) ūüôā

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Photo Credit: symphony of love Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I am reminded of kindness when the oldest asks me to save whichever insect was lurking about the house (Spider? Fly? I can’t remember)¬†and take it outside. I see wonder when we build leprechaun traps. I find¬†that celebrating small victories isn’t so silly after all. And in the middle of it¬†all, I am still blown away by the pure and simple¬†fact that the everyday¬†moments hold the greatest secrets we will¬†learn¬†in this life. I loved caring for these two and I still do. I think it is absolutely wonderful that we have both been able to teach the other something.

I belt out “Dancing Queen” in my car and sometimes I dance at work. I love going on walks so I can take in the seasonal colors and scents. Laughing makes me happy. I try not to take myself too seriously and if a particular situation or act brings me joy, I fully intend on participating. This life is constantly playing a reel of joyful moments and we were made to partake. What a beautiful gift we were given! Walk in that joy, share it with others and find renewal in what those moments look like. Keep that little joyful candle burning so brightly that you light others just by being near them. In case you were wondering, I don’t have it all figured out. I certainly don’t have the answers¬†but I think I’ve found a couple of kids who do.

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Inversions & Saying No

I’ve finally come to see that being the yes girl is exhausting. In retrospect, it was a nice idea but no human being on this planet can 100% commit to everything all the time. This sounds like a life lesson I should have learned awhile ago right? Turns out my people pleasing and perfectionist tendencies can get the best of me now and again. (Cue 10+ years of work in the hospitality/service industry.) Learning to say no and being OK with that had not ever existed in my thoughts.

Post-breakup and the loss of my mom, I thought that reaching out might be good for me. So when I started down this path of volunteering a  couple of years ago, I started small.  Mentoring once a week, helping out at my church, etc. I was still so damaged but as I began to heal over time, I found myself wanting to become immersed deeper within my community. I was yearning to step outside of that which was familiar to me and in turn, my experiences began to change. I took on larger roles and extended time commitments. I found that a life of service and the people that come with that was right were I belonged.

As far as I was concerned, I had the perfect balance for awhile. Eventually I fell into another relationship, was working part-time as a server and all felt right. Good things don’t always last sometimes and each one of those previous components eventually ended. Break-up, job change(s) and instead of feeling harmonious, I felt overwhelmed. One week after my break-up, I ended up moving for my second job. Every small piece of the aftermath that landed on me felt heavy. I felt myself being pulled in 1,000 different directions as I piled on more and more commitments. My patience and kindness towards people I love was wearing thin. This was not the woman I knew myself to be. When you aren’t sure which way is up, it can help to flip the situation upside down. And where do I find that space? Yoga of course.

Way back in the day:

 

When I need to feel grounded (and just feel the ground!) and steady, yoga is my jam. In this time of reflection and serious personal growth, I suddenly realized¬†that when we say no to one situation, we end up eventually saying yes to another. I didn’t have to be the yes girl. I didn’t need to check all the boxes and be a super volunteer. I had commitments to fantastic organizations but when they asked more of me, I was not required to say yes. And the real kicker? I didn’t have to feel bad.¬†Occasionally in our shortcomings, we fail to see that that which we are already giving has incredible value. It can feel it is not enough and society has us programmed to lead a life of more, more, more. No thanks. If we are stretched too thin, it doesn’t matter how much you commit or what good you are doing because the burnout will damage not only yourself but potentially seep into those you are trying to help.

In yoga, when you do an inversion such as a headstand, you need a solid base. Your core should be strong in order to lift your legs by solely relying on that power within. When I first attempted headstands before learning the right way, I basically thought you just kicked your legs up while simultaneously sending¬†up some prayers, in the hopes it would work. Turns out that wasn’t correct. The more I taught myself about yoga and the more I committed to studio time, I learned that headstands done incorrectly over time have the potential to cause injury. Our bodies know when we are trying to over-commit and do more than we are prepared for. The lasting effects can be damaging.

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And now!

You can be super girl (or boy!) and find balance through the process. Don’t commit unless your base is strong and your core is firing on all cylinders. You are worth more to fewer people at 100% than you are to many while you’re burned out. Focus on that which is most important and put your energy there. Everything else will fall into place over time. Sometimes it helps if you look at it upside down.

Flowers & Filling Up

“You are spending so much time pouring into others. Make sure you take the time to fill yourself up too.”

That’s what my mentor said to me when we got together this week. She really is the10273912_10152199094073763_5981953878757103830_n sweetest soul. Always watching out for me, checking in on me and asking if there is anything she can do. A month after my break-up, I reached out to my church community. I needed a guide. Somebody who would look at me with zero judgement, remind me of my worth and speak positivity when all I saw in the mirror was the complete opposite.¬†If you think that is unnecessary then I’m sorry but you are wrong. You can’t do it alone. Not your struggles, not this life. We weren’t meant to. Say it with me: You NEED those people for this specific purpose.¬†We need to be lifted, not to feed our ego but rather,¬†to nourish our soul.¬†In the past couple of years, I have realized the difficulty and pain that comes with living far away from family. I love my life and the roots I have placed in Washington but I knew my habits and old self were trying to kick down the door of the woman who now stood in her place. And maybe, a stranger who becomes a friend can be that person. Unlike family, they¬†don’t know your garbage and baggage. You know nothing of them and what the burdens they carried. Both are entering this relationship with zero biases. They are simply saying, “Place your hand in mine. Take a walk with me. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture and work out the smaller details as we go.”

13086824_10153661362928763_3805220378019328500_oThat’s how I found my mentor. While I have been a mentor myself for two years and the idea of having somebody to take on that role in my own life¬†sounded just peachy, I had no idea of the imprint she’d place on my heart. The love and care she would speak into my life. This was exactly what I needed. In all the moments that I had been there, to listen, to just be and to have a hand when they needed someone to hold theirs, I was now reaching my own hand out, grasping for a brand new connection.

Her words stuck with me that day. I’ve often heard and have been hearing this reoccurring theme lately. If I don’t take the time to re-energize and recharge then how is what I pour into others of any value? It isn’t. Just like the flowers that soak up the springtime rains, we need our own nourishment to grow. We need rain in the form of rest. In the beauty of¬†nature. In the laughter with our friends. In the quiet moments of reading a good book. In dancing with a stranger in Mallorca. (Check!) In enjoying this very life that we are so blessed to live out each day. Did I really need to pencil those things in? Schedule time just to ensure that I’m actually….living?

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What an eye-opener friends. If we truly listen to what the world is telling us, we are often met with the people and situations we need in those moments. My mom was one of the hardest working women I know. She sacrificed each day so my sister and I were provided for. Only when her body was breaking down, when she knew there wasn’t much time left and there was one place she wanted to be more than anything, did she get to go. My parents picked up and moved to Alabama. Where she could sip coffee on her porch and take everything in during those Southern mornings. I walk with that reminder and I will never stop feeling enveloped in that love she gave me. I will always wish she could have enjoyed Alabama for longer than she was able¬†but the fact she was able to go at all is still a miracle.

Pushing the accelerator to the floor might feel like I’ll get there faster but I am going to be so wore out by the time I arrive. Let’s not even talk about my flowers, which will have zero chance of thriving in such a stressful state. The giving, serving, goal-achieving and box-checking look nice and¬†feel even better when that dopamine is released, telling our brain how great this is! And, that is awesome. Our brains and bodies are super smart that way. I want you to reach your goals. I implore you to live a life in service to others. But, don’t forget to water your flowers ok?

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Even flower dresses. Happy spring y’all!

Yoga Practice & Lessons in Grace

If you have glanced through my blog at all, you’ve probably noticed yoga plays a large part in my life. If not, well now ya know. I started attending a hot yoga studio¬†(And also can I get an amen for those of us who can’t dish out $1,200 a year to be able to attend unlimited monthly sessions? Props if you can but this girl is on a budget. One day perhaps but until then I’ll buy my class pass when I can afford it and attend twice a week.) here in Spokane back in December and I’ve found that when paired with my home practice, it all starts to click. In a home practice, we can only go so far when we don’t have somebody to guide us in our form when going through the poses. And the same with a home practice. If we are not disciplining ourselves and bringing those concepts we’ve learned to our mat at home, then we fail to grow.

Lately, I’ve seen the parallels between my yoga practice and personal life. As you may have read previously, my relationship of over a year ended¬†about two months ago. In the past, I would move towards unhealthy habits and decisions in order to deal with the pain. But now, I am finally able to see how far this rollercoaster of life has brought me. Every past heartbreak and pain. Every iota of hurt and self-doubt has pushed me to question, seek and discover that which has been inside me all along. I am worth more than I ever dreamed. I am stronger now than I’ve ever been.

But, the truth is, I did falter. I briefly yearned for and sought those whom have hurt me in the past. And then, a little voice inside of me said….”No.” The woman who triumphed in that period of darkness. Who lit the match on the house and almost walked away to watch it all burn, she was roaring. Because, she didn’t walk away when she wanted to the most. She fought and she thrashed and she gave it more than her all. Though the house had some damage, she was ready to rebuild. That is precisely what she did. Two years ago last month I lost my mom to cancer. At that very same time, I was badly burned by my first and most turbulent love. So yes, that woman inside me does not back down without a fight. Not without the struggle of reminding me of the goodness I deserve and how I am incredibly loved.

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My financial guru but even more so, friend

Similar to my yoga practice, I knew I was close to where I wanted to be but my form was not quite correct. I needed a push. I needed to ask for help. You know when you mess up and you really don’t want to tell anybody because the fear of disappointment feels so heavy? That was how I felt when I reached out to my friends. To my church. To the only people I knew could truly guide me in this time. But, I did it anyways. I walked in, head bowed, ready to battle for my heart, soul and self-worth. And the greatest gifts they gave me? When I was fully prepared to apologize and to bow my head in shame, the only feelings they offered up…..were those of love and grace.¬†Two of the most powerful, life-changing words in human existence, if you ask me.

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It wasn’t necessary for me to carry all of this alone, not when so many others were willing to jump in. Who were ready¬†to take some of the burden, to help me cut out the negativity and growth-hindering parts, and who were willing to love on me. Right now, I can see I have a rock solid foundation. I can look back and realize that stumbling doesn’t mean I have not grown, but rather that we sometimes need re-directing on our path. A little light or a friend to walk with us for awhile. Strength can lie in recognizing we are lost, asking for help, and taking corrective action to do better next time. Life is made up of small steps and occasionally, big leaps. It can happen all at once or day by day. Our growth is not measured by whether or not we falter but how we react after the fall. Will you stand back up, armor in hand, roaring and willing to battle for YOU?

I don’t know where you’re walking or how that looks. Where life has brought you or the obstacles that have been placed during your walk. What I can tell though is without a doubt the truth. It is true as of yesterday, today and tomorrow. You are worthy of two, beautiful gifts…..grace and love.

Happy Sunday friends. Make it a beautiful one.