Friday, September 27, 2013

Karma

I went to the post office during lunch yesterday (Which is typically an unpleasant experience) and karma happened. I was mailing several packages and had to run out to my car to grab an item I forgot. On my way out, I stopped for a few extra moments to hold the door for a woman headed into the post office, whose arms were full.

On my way back inside, she held the door open for me. "Karma," she said, with a wink.

It was a simple exchange: two strangers holding the door for one another. But she was right: that's how karma works. It's typically not so quickly personified, but it's an important lesson. I believe in karma. The Golden Rule. And everything those ideas encompass.

What I do to you will be done to me. And vice versa. (Oprah says what I've done to you has already been done to me. Chew on that wisdom for a hot minute.)

My mother has always explained it to me like this: everyone gets exactly what they deserve. In this world or the next--but sometimes we have to wait until the next for it to happen.

And there are plenty of interactions I can pinpoint in my life where I had to let go and understand it was a "karma will be delivered in the next world" scenario. Which is tough. Especially when you know there's some POS out there, being jerky to other people the same way they were super jerky to you. We don't easily forget those things.

I like to think of it this way: terrible people will spend their life doing terrible things, which will eventually catch up to them. At some point, they will do the terrible things to you. And it's not your job to deliver punishment or retribution. It's your job to learn the lesson and move on. Just like Oprah says, it's already been done. So, thank them for the experience. Take comfort in in your it's-already-been-done wisdom. And keep on being your bad ass self.

If nothing else, remember that karma works both ways. Being kind to your fellow humans will catch up to you eventually. In this world or the next.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dear Mother

Dear mother out in public with her children,

I've seen you glance in my direction. I'm the one down the aisle from you, walking unfettered through the store by myself. I'm not bogged down by children asking questions, begging me to buy something for them, while hanging from my arms or pulling at my spit-up stained shirt. And I've never had to mitigate a tantrum on the floor of a public space.

I'm not a mom.

I'm the one with the flat stomach and perky boobs--a body entirely untouched by pregnancy. The one with the hair I spent 20 minutes quietly curling in my bathroom and the outfit I chose just for this trip. It was the fifth one I tried on, that's how much time I had to get ready this morning.

You might have seen me offer you a sympathetic gaze when your child starts to scream. A smile meant to somehow communicate my admiration for what you're doing. It probably wasn't easy to coordinate the departure of several small humans, just to go to the store. Leaving the house was probably a wonderful break and a nightmarish experience, all rolled into one.

But, I'm not a mom. And I don't know what that's like.

I see the dark bags under your eyes, your body frazzled and stressed. You're tired. Worried. You are probably overwhelmed. Exhausted. You have a lot of things to be worried about. You have a lot of responsibility. And I'm sure that's frightening and beautiful and overwhelming all at once.

But I don't understand. And I promise I'll never insult you by pretending to know what it's like to be you.

I'm not a mom.

Oddly, our stories have the same beginning. You and I were both little girls, feeding our dolls with a bottle. Babysitting children for extra cash in high school. We dated men, studying them for indications they would make good fathers.

We met the one. Married him and dreamed of a life together. Perhaps we had the same talk: I think we're ready to start trying. Or, perhaps life took you by surprise and you never had a chance for that discussion--it just happened.

But I'm not a mom.

You wouldn't know this by looking at me, dear mother, but this is where our paths diverge. Your stick said PREGNANT and mine always included the word NOT. We probably both cried, and the doctor's visits that followed couldn't have varied more.

I searched for the answer to "Why isn't this working?" and never found an answer--while you searched for baby names. Good news came, bad news came. There was a lot of time spent in waiting rooms. We were filled with hope time and time again. Except you had a baby and I didn't. And I admire the hell out of you for going through childbirth.

We might even have the same scar across our bellies, reminders of what we've done and where we've been. Except yours brought a new life into this world and mine tried to breathe new life into a body that will never produce a child.

I'm not a mom. And for me, that's OK.

I wanted what you wanted, back then. To teach my children to say please and thank you, like my parents taught me. To see the sparkle of my husband's eyes on a tiny face that has my nose. To argue over names and change diapers and lose sleep rocking a tiny human to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.

I let that dream fade a few years ago. I chose a different path that sometimes makes me feel like I'll never be part of your club. But we both made our choices and it was the right one for me.

I'm not a mom. But what you need to know is this:

I admire you. What you're doing isn't easy, but it's important. You have a tremendous amount of responsibility. And whether you work outside the home or not, you have a tough job that must be riddled with guilt while also filled with selflessness. My glance in your direction, as your child is throwing a tantrum in the aisles of Target, is never one of judgement.

It's of admiration. And love. The world is a tough place for us---all of us. And I'll always believe there's no room for bitterness in the equation. So no, your children are not bothering me. I see your struggle. And I know you're doing the best you can with the minute amount of sanity you have left.

As for the women who do judge you for what you do (or don't do) as a mother, just remember that's their issue, not yours. Trust me on this one.

Yours truly,

The childless woman down the aisle

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Monday, September 16, 2013

...and the winner is

The winner of the Diamond Candles giveaway has been selected:

Amanda Sakovitz

Congratulations to Amanda (check your email!) and thank you to everyone who participated.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Proud Flesh

When I was young my answer to, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" was always the same: a horse trainer. Oh, how I wanted to be a horse trainer. Or to simply be surrounded by horses for a living. I had no experience in the area, but I wanted to train horses and that was that.

Clearly, my career path has changed dramatically since then. The thing I've always loved about horses is the air that surrounds them--it's peaceful and powerful in a way that's just a bit frightening. Overwhelming, even. And horses are pretty damn perceptive. If you're pissed off, horses can tell. And they react accordingly.

But something else about them has captivated me for years: when a horse becomes wounded, the scar tissue that covers the wound is referred to as "proud flesh."

As in, you should be proud of the fact that your body was tragically cut open and then figured out how to heal itself. Because let's be honest: that's a pretty amazing thing.

Which leads me to a question with no real answer: why are we embarrassed by our scars, visible and invisible?

There's just something so beautifully tragic about the way a scar forms. We experience painful trauma, we bleed and suffer. Then, in time, we heal. Our bodies and minds patch up what was left open, almost miraculously.

But we're never left the same. We're blemished. Marked with some worldly force we weren't quick enough to stop as it barreled toward us at a high rate of speed. We're permanently blemished by our experiences, as though the universe has decided to brand us as a reminder of what we've done and where we've been.

I have plenty of "fool's scars"--falling off of a slippery bar in college left a small divot in my right shin. A small pock mark on the left side of my neck signals the former home of a pre-cancerous mole, thanks to my time spent baking in countless tanning beds as a vain teenage girl. Then there's a hole that will never heal, located just above my belly button--back when my college freshman self decided a piercing would be 'edgy.'

Each scar regrettable in its own way, they serve as reminders of the days when I didn't know better. Breadcrumbs that lead through a former life fraught with poor choices and naivety.

Back when I just wanted to dance on bars and have a great tan for prom pictures while shoving some pink sparkly piece of metal in my belly button. They are part of my story and I've been given scars so I don't forget all the idiotic places I've been.

But most major scars, like the 6-inch one spanning across my lower stomach, aren't the result of childish behavior. They're the result of living. Of choices and burdens. And circumstances beyond our control. I chose major surgery in the hopes of healing a broken body and survived--but still broken. My scar healed long ago, but I still get to walk around with it, tucked neatly underneath my clothing like a concealed weapon tucked into my pants. It's a symbol. A tattoo. And it means something to me.

We don't all have external scars to match our internal scars, unfortunately*. But we all get internal scars--experiences that no one can see unless we choose to reveal them.

That's what is so captivating to me about a scar: it means something. It marks a moment in time, an experience that was so powerful and overwhelming that it literally left a mark on your body. It means you survived, really. It's beautiful and it's yours. No one else has one like it.

Embrace it. Wear it like a badge of honor. And stop dwelling on the idyllic time before it existed; you were much less interesting back then. Take it from the girl with the divot in her shin.

*Not a typo. Honestly, life is so much easier when you have a physical scar to match an internal one.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Diamond Candles: A Review (Plus, a Giveaway!)



I was recently contacted by the lovely people at Diamond Candles to review their unique product and host a giveaway for my readers.



Sounds like a win-win to me! I tend to lean more toward food-type scents when it comes to my home, so I chose the cinnamon roll candle. It was the perfect way to fool guests in my home into thinking I can bake! I love that the candle is made with soy, and was impressed by the throw of the scent. This candle filled my home with cinnamon and was strong without being overpowering.

Diamond Candles has a line of natural soy candles in a variety of scents that contain a ring worth $10, $100, $1,000 or $5,000. This makes for a fun "ring reveal" experience, as you wait for the candle to burn down and reveal the ring inside. Rings are very carefully wrapped in foil and plastic to ensure the wax from the candle doesn't touch the ring itself.



If you want to see more images of rings found in candles, check out Diamond Candles on Instagram.

As someone who is incredibly impatient, the waiting part felt a lot like torture--in the best way possible. I let the candle burn for a few hours before the foil pack surrounding the ring began to show itself, and then I quickly went in for the kill.



I blew out the candle and used my trusty tweezers to extract the ring, which was carefully wrapped in foil. Inside was a lovely ring with a purple stone. The band is not marked in any way, so it's probably in the $10 range.



I loved the experience and excitement of knowing there was a ring in my candle and once it was all said and done, I still have an amazing candle.

Now onto the good part: a chance for YOU to win a candle in the scent of your choice. Simply fill in the Rafflecopter form below to win! (Winner will be contacted via email; giveaway ends Sunday, September 15!)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thirty

Today is my 30th birthday. Honestly, staring down the barrel of my thirties isn't scary. It actually feels pretty amazing. It finally feels like I'm there: that sweet spot of happiness, accomplishment and comfort with myself and my life.

Or, as Olivia Wilde so accurately calls it, "The cut the bulls--- and go be awesome stage."

So let's cut the BS and get to the being awesome part:

Understand the difference between your happiness & what makes other people happy
This is a tough one. It's an easy concept and a difficult practice. I am a people pleaser. And in constantly trying to please others, I lost my voice. Speak up when you have an opinion. Say what you feel and understand that those who hate you for your truth don't deserve to be in your life.

Because it's your life. And you have to wake up every day and live it, so you might as well be happy with your choices. Stop trying to please other people so they'll like you and start doing what you want. Right now. Without shame.

Listen more. Talk less.
If you listen closely, people will tell (and also show) you who they are. And you'll be amazed by what you learn by listening and speaking only when you have something important to say. Talking is just noise. The more you talk, the less people listen.

Be picky.
Don't take the first offer. Don't settle because you think you can't do any better. And don't stay in a relationship because you feel guilty about breaking it off. When you raise your standards, the right people will rise to meet them.

Find your "thing."
Find something to be passionate about and do it, over and over again. Search until you find something that is uniquely yours that makes you giddy with happiness, even after the novelty wears off.

Running is my thing: it gets me out of bed well before the sun rises and keeps me pounding the pavement long after my legs have given up. It's therapeutic tough love. And it makes me deliriously happy.

Learn to say no--and mean it.
If you don't want to do something, don't. Saying yes is sacrificing a part of yourself, little by little. The world won't end with your "no." Seriously.

When you find the one, you'll know.
The right thing always feels like the right thing, no matter how you slice it: your wedding dress, your home, your partner, your profession. I was 23 when I got married. Too young? Perhaps. But there was never a doubt it my mind that my husband was the one--and time won't change that. Keep searching until it feels right. And don't hang on for too long when it doesn't.

Understand the power of words.
What you say and how you say it is more impactful than you realize. Choose your words carefully. Give compliments. Apologize. Tell someone when they've done something well. And be firm but calm when you're wronged--it gets you further than exploding with anger.

Don't let anyone steal your joy.
I used to work for a school district and one of the receptionists was a ray of sunshine, even though her job was dealing with unpleasant (and typically angry) people. Even when people were screaming at her, she smiled and let it roll off her back. I asked her once how she did it. What she told me felt like a light turned on in my head:

"I just smile and tell myself, 'You can't steal my joy. It's mine and you can't have it.'"

The truth is, miserable people can only be happy if you are miserable, too. You can usually spot them from a mile away; misery loves misery. And be wary of those who try to steal your joy.

LET GO.
Life is really about living and letting go, over and over again. Letting go of what could have been, what you believe should have been and all the opportunities you missed along the way. Of hatred and anger to those who have wronged you, also known as drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Let it all go and know that life rolls on, with or without your permission.

Embrace your faults.
The sooner you're honest with yourself (and others) about your shortcomings, the easier things will be. It's part defense mechanism, part truth: to know who I am I must also know my faults. And trust me, I have a lot of them.

Be a student of life.
You can only learn if you allow yourself to be taught by your life. Everything--and I do mean EVERYTHING--is a lesson. Even the really crappy senseless stuff that you don't understand. It's all meant to teach you something, make you stronger and ultimately, more resilient.

My greatest lesson will always be the one branded across my lower stomach in the form of a 6" scar. It's a reminder of what I can't have and a tattoo of what it took to learn my life's most meaningful lesson. You cannot control everything. Some things just aren't meant to be. And from your greatest pain comes your innermost peace. It was terrible and unpleasant, but it's part of my story.

Today, I'm happy. Like pinch-myself-every-morning happy. I walked through fire to get here, but I'm here. And I understand that all the pieces don't have to fit together perfectly in order to have a beautiful life.

Trust your gut.
That guy that seems creepy to you for no other reason than it makes your neck hair stand up when he looks at you? Trust that---it means something. Always listen to the part of yourself that says, "Hmm, that's weird." Because it probably is. And you don't have to have a reason to feel that way.

Be kind.
To others and to yourself. To the people who are the most unloveable. Forgive, even when they aren't sorry. Say please and thank you. Hold open the door, even when it feels inconvenient. Give something you have to someone who needs it more. And don't brag about any of it.

All work is hard work.
Even when you love your job, it's work. Tough work. But if it challenges you and makes you feel like you're doing what you were meant to do, stick with it. The rewards will only come when you put your heart into your work.

So here's to thirty. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go be awesome now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

It is what it is

I'm not patient. Or slow to anger. Or someone who thinks things through. I’m rash. And I move quickly. But mostly, I freak out about things very far in advance so that I can maximize my concern. I’m not unstable; I'm just very concerned about everything. Everything that could happen. Might happen. May or may not occur. Also see: things that I believe will blow up in my face.
 
I spend a lot of time worrying about a lot of things. And most of the time, those things aren't nearly as bad as I thought. Which results in a lot of wasted energy and a good deal of unnecessary stress. But the icing on this cake of worries is my concern about things I cannot control. Oh, how I wish I just had more control.

If my problematic personality traits were train tracks, my ability to worry would be a steam engine. It’s the vehicle behind everything I concern myself with—in my life and the lives of those around me. The hypotheticals, they slay me. And on occasion, cause me to fly off the tracks a bit. It’s a problem.

So much so, that I saw a therapist. And she told me that I was too worried about how worried I was about everything. She gave me printouts about topics like “over-thinking” and “dangerous self-talk” and then told me, with brutal honesty, I didn't need therapy. Bless her clinical heart.

What I've gleaned from my life experience is this: worrying about the things you cannot control is useless, pointless, and harmful. The same can certainly be said for the frustrations felt over things being unfair.

It is what it is.

It's your life, the one given to you for a very specific reason---and it's up to you to find out what that reason is. I remember watching an episode of Oprah a few years ago and she was speaking to a woman who had cancer and knew she was dying.

"Do you ever say, 'Why me?' " Oprah asked.

"Why not me?" she responded with a knowing smile. "Why not you? Why not any of us?"

It hit me like a ton of bricks: trauma doesn't discriminate. It comes for the young, the wealthy, the happy, and the beautiful just the same. It just happens. And when something terrible happens to us, our first reaction is to choose to feel we are martyrs.

The fact is, you aren't the first person to go through it (it being whatever ails you, brings you down, makes you feel like your world has exploded) and there are plenty of other people who have had the same experience and lived to see another day. Who have allowed time to heal them and found happiness.

I still feel like I'm the center of the universe sometimes--like I'm an island of one, residing alongside all of my problems. But take the time to share your life and you'll quickly find you aren't alone. In fact, you are never alone. There are many, many people who have been there. Some who have done that. And still others who will tell you it gets better as time passes.

Time is a thief, but also one of the best healers that exists in your life. Let it happen. Stop trying to fight it and just let it wash over you, like waves on a sandy beach. Time really does heal. Time truly does teach. And time will give you the chance to start fresh.

I'm a work in progress. Most days, I understand that I always will be. I'd venture to say, without knowing much about you, that you are too. Sharing my story, along with my heartbreak, has healed me more than anything else I've ever done.

I have much more to be thankful for than I do to be miserable about. I seek out the love in this world, and choose joy over bitterness (which would, honestly, be a much easier choice). And in doing so, I've managed to heal my heart.

 Take off your armor. Let down your guard. Be honest with yourself and everyone else. Allow your faults to show in a way that makes you feel vulnerable. What happens next just might surprise you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Being Disliked

I recently interacted with someone who obviously did not like me. I couldn’t smile enough. Tell enough jokes. Or, be as humble as I needed to be. It was abundantly clear I was simply disliked.

If you’ve ever been in the presence of someone who has an obvious distaste for you, it makes you feel vulnerable. It’s a bit disarming. Because your first instinct (at least in my case) is to try to convince that person otherwise. It just has a way of putting you on edge. Making you feel helpless. But you can’t change their dislike. You just have to live with it, as uncomfortable as it feels to sit with that knowledge. 

I thought a lot about this person. About why they probably don’t like me and why I really shouldn’t care. 

It’s not my job to make people like me. Because the world is full of people who have already made up their minds. People who let their own misery cloud their judgment. Who won’t (or don’t) like you because it’s about them, not about you.

Your job isn’t to change everyone else; it’s to be exactly who you are. Without apology. I’ve spent most of my life tirelessly trying to make everyone like me. It’s exhausting. In order to please the rest of the world, you give up part of yourself in the process. Sacrifice what you are in favor of who you think you should be and you’ll never really know exactly who you are. It’s easy to find yourself completely lost in the process.

But what I didn’t see back then was this: it takes guts to be you. It’s walking around naked all day, flaws and all. Exposing yourself to everyone and not caring what they have to say about you. This is a frightening proposition, being the person you are called to be—not the one the world wishes you to be.

This isn’t to say that I’m without flaws or that I’m right and everyone else is either wrong or ignorant. It’s about being authentic and understanding that the world is a broken place inhabited by broken people. We’re all broken, each in our own way. Most of us find ways to cover the cracks, but they’re still there. Being your perfectly broken self opens up a world you probably haven’t taken the time to see—one where we’re all a bit wounded and trying to compensate for our faults. We’ve all got a different way of filling the cracks in our foundation; it’s just that some of us are more skilled contractors than others.

The next time you realize someone dislikes you, be brave enough to let your cracks show. Years from now you won't be bothered that someone hates you; you'll be pissed you cared too much about their opinion.

“When you are truly genuine, there will invariably be people who do not accept you. And in that case, you must be your own badass self, without apology.” –Katie Goodman

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Forgotten Photo



A red fabric scrapbook sits underneath a bed, coated in a thick layer of dust. It was a gift from me to him years ago. The first few pages are full of photographs and mementos. The rest was left blank, intended to be filled with more of the same by now. But it's still blank. Still just a bit forgotten as life transpired over those years.

The story begins simply enough: two just-barely-adults who met by chance. Or destiny, if you're prone to believe in those sorts of things. It was a chance encounter; a stroke of dumb luck.

The nearly-empty scrapbook has been dusted off and pulled out a handful of times since it was filed away in the dust and clutter under that bed.

It's the photographs that whisk me back--the moments I had temporarily forgotten that still have such power over my heart.



It's this one I love the most. It wasn't long after we met in late 2002 that he left for a co-op in Arlington, Virginia. Back when he wanted to be an engineer, not a teacher. It would be easier if we dated other people, we agreed.

I remember the ribbed black turtleneck I wore. I had just gotten over mono. He was so concerned for me; carefully watching over me from a distance to be sure I was OK. A pattern that remains intact today.

More than anything, that photo reminds me the most powerful thing that exists in this world isn't our words.

It's what we don't say.

It was about the way he looked at me. The way he still looks at me.

Months later, after a few drinks, I would call him in tears and confess I didn't want to see other people. I only wanted to see him. And that, as they say, was that.

Love is such a funny thing because it's not just one thing; it's an intricately woven tapestry of many, many things that cannot be easily described with words. It just is.

This is why the concept of falling in love has always baffled me. You're in or you're out. The way I see it, there's no middle ground.

That night eleven years ago, wearing that turtleneck and that stupid flippy blond hairdo---I knew. I didn't know what I knew, but I could feel it.

No one had ever looked at me like that before. It was electric.

And still today, I can touch that photo and be whisked back to the start of something beautiful. A patient man with bright blue eyes who looked at me that way.

I'm not an easy person to love. I'm as needy as I am staunchly independent. As stubborn as I am sweet. As tough as I am soft. My tongue is very sharp, but my heart is very easily bruised.

Love is everything that anyone who has written about it says it is. But for me, it's moments in time. Captured as they happened. Carefully placed in a scrapbook.

Forgotten momentarily, underneath my bed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

He's 31



Today is my husband's 31st birthday.
And this gift giving occasion makes me realize that I’m a lot of things, but naturally thoughtful is not one of them.
Christmas was a bit of a disaster, you see. He bought himself a sandblasting cabinet a few weeks before Christmas. And I recalled a conversation about not exchanging gifts because of this purchase. As luck would have it, this discussion only took place inside my head. He gave me an amazing Christmas gift. And I didn’t get him anything.
The lesson here is this: despite someone telling you it’s alright you forgot about them, it still hurts when someone forgets about you. That over-used saying is true: it really is about the thought.
I’ve spent months feeling terrible about my lack of thoughtfulness. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be thoughtful. It’s about taking the time to do things that allow people to understand they have worth. That you see them. Realize the importance of their contribution in this world. And that you’re willing to take the time to show them.
Relationships work when you work at them, simply put. And it doesn’t take much time to understand that, for the people who know you love them, just knowing it isn’t enough. You have to tell them. And show them. And you have to do it over and over again.
I’m the lucky one is this partnership. I’m married to a man who is incredibly thoughtful. He listens to everything I say. He notices. And he’s much more generous (and at least ten times more patient) than I am. He doesn’t do it to make me look like a terrible person; he does it because that’s who he is.
And I’ve given him a series of well-planned and thoughtful gifts over the last month. I’ll give him the final gift today, on his birthday, which I did not forget.
Remembering his birthday was the least I could do.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm Proud of You


“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” –Kathrine Switzer

The marathon is an amazing thing.
It’s a testament to love, hard work, dedication, strength, and an amazing feat of human will.
People gather in the masses to encourage, uplift, and show love for their family and friends. But it’s the fact that they’re so willing to do the same for complete strangers that’s so beautiful.
A particularly tough stretch of the Columbus marathon taught me that lesson last fall.
Rounding the corner of mile 18, I felt a spectator watching me intently. As I passed, she reached out for me with a gentle hand.
“Emily,” she said, meeting my eyes squarely. “I’m proud of you.”
Shocked, I squeaked out a thank you and kept running. But her words never left me. Someone who didn’t know me was proud of me. She took the time to notice that I was doing something difficult and felt compelled to show me the same kindness she might have shown her own daughter.
When I heard what happened in Boston yesterday, I thought of that woman. The one who showed me kindness for no other reason than for the sake of kindness. I don’t know who she is. But I'll never forget her.
Yesterday, people at the finish line of the Boston Marathon responded to tragedy the way I expected them to—with love, kindness, and compassion.
I got up early this morning. Very early. I put on my shoes and headed outside in the dark. It was probably a dangerous idea on my part, but I did it anyway.
I ran alone, in the silence of the early morning. I listened to my breathing, felt my feet hit the pavement in rhythm. And I cried.
I cried because the world is a tough place for you and I. Those of us who feel and love and try to see the best in others. It’s easy to be discouraged, isn’t it? Easy to feel like no place is safe for us anymore.
But, it is. Try to find your peace in those stories of the helpers. Those who ran toward the danger, not away. Who were kind and protective of strangers who needed them.
And remember: no matter who you are or where you go, someone is proud of you.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Surviving. Again.



I've talked about survival before. Clearly I have some sort of fixation with concept. I did name this blog City Girl Can Survive, after all.

It still fascinates me, though. How do people manage, time and time again, to survive something terrible?

I keep going back to grief. It is commonly said that everyone grieves differently--I believe this is true. But I also have to believe that once grief fades away, survival is what sets in. And surviving? That is something we all do differently as well.

Some of us pour our hearts out. Some make light of their hardship. Others pour their energy into their work. Some keep it all inside. Some become angry. And unfortunately, some self-destruct.

There's no right way to survive--just like there's no right way to grieve. But this is the fascinating part: no one ever teaches you how to survive. No one sits you down as a small child and explains that life won't always be fair.

No, no one does that. At least no one I've ever met. Our parents arm us with what they believe are the skills we need to survive life. But they cannot anticipate what lies ahead--and they will never truly know.

And really? Neither do you. You cannot prepare for everything; which pretty much means you cannot prepare for anything.

I remind myself of this over and over again. Because if anyone is bad at taking my advice, it's me.

I'm terrible at taking my advice because life, if you haven't noticed, is a very fluid thing. It expands and contracts and spins in all sorts of directions almost constantly. And the moment you think you have your act together, you don't.

Because no one does--even the ones who seem like they do. And that's just as frustrating as it is comforting.

Some days, knowing that something terrible is part of a greater plan pisses me off. Other times, it's incredibly comforting. Either way, it's never the same feeling.

What I know for sure is this: you shouldn't just try to survive, you should try to live. Every day. With meaning. Substance. And a hunger to survive everything thrown your way.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The 10 Commandments of Fashion

The 10 Commandments of Fashion

In the world of fashion, trends can change in a heartbeat. To help you avoid fashion faux pas that will leave you at the bottom of the style food chain, here are the 10 commandments you should follow:

1.  Avoid ill-fitting underclothes

It can be easy to think about the fit of your clothes when buying tops or jeans, but what about what you wear underneath? Always buy the correct size underwear to give your body the best shaped silhouette.

2.  Go for clothes that fit.

Clothes that are too big or too-small look terrible. Be careful while shopping, and don’t be afraid to ask the assistant for help. Remember that clingy material tends to show up bulges or layers of fat, so avoid these if you have problem areas you’d like to hide.

3. Match the material

If it’s a slim look you want, stay away from heavy materials like tweed and wool. Instead, we suggest you go for crepe or linen, etc.

4.  Go for a look that suits you

Your clothes should reflect your own personal style so don’t try and mimic someone else.

5.  Contrast the shapes and sizes.

If you’re wearing a tight top, don’t wear a tight pair of trousers but go for a looser pair.

6.  Add splashes of colour

Don’t be afraid to experiment with colours. Adding a dash of bright red or blue to a plainer outfit of black or white is sure to impress.

7. Don’t follow, lead

Fashion is about setting trends; not following them. Embrace your own unique style in everything from
new ladies dresses to jeans and tops; you never know, you might become the next big thing.

8. Accessorise

Your shoes and your bag are the first things that people will notice about you. Often a great outfit is ruined because of tacky shoes or a shabby bag so invest in good brands that match.

9.  Dress appropriately for the occasion

Don’t wear jeans to a formal function and similarly, don’t wear something overtly revealing to an office party. Always consider what sort of clothing everyone else will wear and dress appropriately to give the right impression.

10. Be confident

How you look can affect how you feel but ultimately confidence comes from within. Be proud of your sense of style and wear all outfits with a carefree and confident attitude – nothing looks better.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Marriage, Work & Ben Affleck

During his Oscars acceptance speech on Sunday, Ben Affleck said something very profound to his wife. This caused many people to freak out:

"I want to thank you for working on marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with."

In a world where 50% of marriages don't work out (and even fewer in Hollywood) the world seemingly read way, way too far into what he said. He didn't imply his marriage was on the rocks. He wasn't saying his relationship was suffering.

He was telling the truth.

And I'm glad he said it in such a profound way. Marriage IS work. So is every other meaningful relationship in your life. And if you think it isn't, you are sadly mistaken.

I don't talk about my marriage in a serious or personal manner for a few reasons:

1. You probably don't care

2. It's none of your business

3. It's disrespectful to my relationship

But talking about marriage as a scenario that involves work is a universal idea that applies to each of us. That is, if we plan on being married for an extended period of time.

You see, we all dream (or at least think) about getting married. We plan a wedding (which is a ton of work and incredibly stressful) and then take a relaxing honeymoon. Then what?

Well, you start your life. Maybe you think about having kids. Perhaps you move a few times. Get a new job. Lose a job. Go through something terrible. That's the way life works, right? You deal with it as best you can.

But it's easy to move your relationship to the back burner when dealing with life in general. Because you're busy. You are stressed. You have obligation after obligation that pulls you in so many directions that working on your relationship feels like something that you don't have time to do.

It seemingly doesn't matter, but it matters more than anything else you'll ever do. Because you chose to be with that person through everything life throws your way. And you have to figure out how to do it together.

You won't always agree. You probably will not get along sometimes. You'll clash over opposing personality traits and different upbringings. You will say or do things you'll likely regret later.

You do thos things because you are a human being. Marriage is about getting along most of the time. But more importantly, it's about being willing to understand your faults. Thinking about feelings and words and actions and throwing them in a pot with every other thing you deal with in your life.

But more than anything, it's about taking the time. Every time.

So I salute you, Ben Affleck. You are a smart, smart man.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Uncomfortable.

Exercise is my coping mechanism. It keeps me sane. It makes me feel like I have control over something. But mostly, I like that it makes me feel strong. As a lanky twig of a person, this is a good thing.

I sometimes wonder why I subject myself to the torture of exercise. If you are doing it correctly, you are uncomfortable. You have to push through. You think almost constantly about quitting.

Being uncomfortable is a relative term, though. And really? Change is uncomfortable. In fact, change is always uncomfortable.

We are really only willing to subject ourselves to discomfort when it serves a greater good. When we feel like the payoff was worth the effort and torture. As for exercise, we suffer through the pain and agony because it stands to make us stronger.

We smile when our arms are sore the next day. We wince when sitting on the toilet is agonizing, but it somehow also manages to feel productive at the same time.

Life is pretty much the same thing: any change is uncomfortable. It might even be a bit painful. But it serves a greater good: it makes your life better. It improves you somehow.

Even on the days when you want to give up. Particularly during the moments when quitting feels easier than pushing through.

Unlike exercise, our muscles aren't sore--but we feel the ways in which change is working to make us uncomfortable.

When life gets uncomfortable, just remember: you are probably being changed.

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