Tag Archives: happiness

Permission

What’s the one thing we don’t give ourselves enough of?

Permission.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve, to hurt, to cry, to take the day off from things we need to – to take time for ourselves. So when we do try to unwind, this lack of “permission” to relax interferes with our ability to fully unwind.

Instead of unwinding, our minds race with what we should be doing or how we will get everything we need to get accomplished once we’re done unwinding.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve how WE need to grieve. It’s a process, an impossibly intimate and personal one at that. No grief is like the next. So instead, we “buck up” and move on, judged by those who think we haven’t done so quickly enough.

Then there are expectations, levels of impossible perfection. Yes, we should strive to be the best we can be at all times but you know what? Sometimes the best you can be is just that – the best YOU can be. Not the best she can be, or the best he can be, but the best YOU can be. It may not measure up to what you see in your head as the best you, but at the end of the day, as long as you’ve given it your all, that’s what matters.

The other thing we don’t do often enough is give ourselves permission to love ourselves or love those around us with wild abandon. We hold back a little piece of ourselves too often because we fear vulnerability. The act of blooming fully scares many of us because we have known pain and refuse to let ourselves get wounded again.

But here’s the thing about that – we don’t live if we hold ourselves back or if we let others change our sense of selves. Permission for truly being yourself is something only you can give. Realizing this is a huge leap forward toward healing any pain which may have frozen you in the past. As a popular Disney song commands us – let it go.

I’ve been growing into permission to be me. There have been days where I’ve been a wonderfully glorious blossom and others where I’ve been a wilted flower. But it’s okay because each day, I’ve been the best damn blossom and wilted flower I can be, which is what matters when the sun sets.

Then, in the evening sky, the moon rises. It waxes, it wanes, form changing with the twilight of every evening until it grows full then fades away completely.

My favourite is when the moon hangs low and grins down at us, like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat. Sometimes, I imagine there is a devious cat just behind the inky darkness, waiting to pounce on us.

Moments like these are what help me hold onto whimsy in the face of the craziness of daily living.

Focus on the little things.

Give yourself permission to be the best YOU that you can be.

Love with wild abandon. Laugh with your belly. Sing with joy.

Above all else, grin back at the Cheshire cat and never forget to hold onto the whimsical.

The Trouble with Beauty and Happiness

This post is the result of a few conversations I’ve participated in on Social Media over the past couple of days. The discussions centered on beauty, self-awareness, happiness, and one even focused on the gender battle of stereotypes and how body image is presented differently to men and women. These are my general thoughts on the matter. Feel free to dive in with any thoughts you may have as well. Just an FYI, if you’re new here, all new comments must be approved before publication.
People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing you are the beholder.
~Salma Hayek~
For most of us, we wake up in the morning, stumble to the bathroom, and take care of business before we even bother looking in the mirror. Once we do, however, we judge ourselves for what sleep has done to us. Did we get enough? Do we still have circles under our eyes? What’s that crusty stuff at the corner? Dry lips? Wrinkles? Some of us may have time to do something about it, others may have a scant moment to splash water on our faces before we are overrun with children who need our every waking second.
Our vision of ourselves fades throughout the day as we tend to life at hand. Eventually we know we should shower and maybe do something beyond a messy bun with our hair but we don’t have the time or the energy. Some may go overboard, like Decoy Mom.
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with a natural approach to appearances. Nor am I saying there is anything wrong with wanting to wear make up. Both are perfectly fine as long as you are doing it for yourself and not to please some impossible unattainable standard or to buck said unattainable standard.
Beauty is not some physical state of being. It is a mental state of being. Until we, both men and women, truly believe this and begin to live by it instead of allowing companies and others to define what is perfect, we will live in a state of “faux beauty.”
Beauty is, as Salma stated, in the eye of the beholder. It truly is freeing to realize that YOU are your own beholder. We are of course, our own worst critics. Instead of tearing yourself down about baby weight or big boobs or the size of your behind, see them as how you were meant to be formed.
We are works of art, all of us. Each of us are individual paintings, all perfect in our own ways, curves, no curves, long hair, short hair, red, blonde, brown, black hair, light skin, dark skin, brown skin… we are made the way we were meant to be made. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am full figured, have long brown hair, and while I do get frustrated with what my body can do, I have no one to blame for that beyond myself for not using it for what it was made to be used for – exercise and movement. Lazy. But you know what? I am still happy with my body because I know that it is capable of moving the way it was meant to. I just need to get my head in the right place, something I want to do for ME, not in order to become the next goddess to be worshiped. It is about being healthy not about reaching a number.
The trouble with beauty is that we allow others to define it and have allowed others to define it for far too long. Women are where life grows. Life flows from man into woman. We, all of us, are where we start. We should respect this and allow ourselves slack when it comes to judging the size of the package in which we reside.
Know what I find sexy in a partner? Intelligence, compassion, a sense of humour, a love of geeky things and sporty things. Our minds are the ones that fall in love, not our bodies. Of course physical attraction helps and it is a factor for me (and for most of us) but it is not at the top of my list. Physical beauty fades. Personality, however, is what’s under the surface and THAT’S what you’ll spend your life with….your partner’s personality. I think this is one of the reasons mental health is a struggle for people in love – because it changes your soul. If you keep communication up though, the two of you can work through anything – remembering, of course, that communication is a two way street.
“If I could just be beautiful, I would be happy….”
Beauty starts with acceptance of what we have been given. It starts on the inside, this acceptance. Helen Keller believed that “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
Helen Keller felt beauty with hear heart and soul, experienced beauty through touch, she did not see it or even hear it. She did not work to gratify her inner soul with an outer appearance, rather, she worked to achieve beauty through her works with others.
Today, take the Helen Keller approach to beauty and happiness. Choose a cause dear to your heart and do something to make a difference. Then do something else to make a difference tomorrow as well. And the next. Let your love, joy, and heart be the source of your beauty instead of a jar, a treadmill, or a scalpel. (The treadmill and scalpel, of course do not apply in cases of medical necessity – I want to make that absolutely clear. Surgery or exercise are perfectly acceptable when they are for healthy reasons.)
Go. Be beautiful. Let that light inside of you shine and allow others to see just how awesome and brightly your patina radiates. As you do so, remember these wise words: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (Eleanor Roosevelt).
Carry these words as well, by the great Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Do not, by any means, consent to allow others to define your beauty or your happiness for they are yours and yours alone to define and achieve.

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Finding Joy in the Dark

We recently moved. Believe me, I want to tell you why because it was hell, but I just am not ready to do so yet for a couple of reason. First, I’m still recovering, and second, we haven’t quite wrapped up the final details of the move with our former residence yet. Once we’re free, I really look forward to sharing everything. Because whoa.

One of the things that the last place we lived did to me, particularly over the past couple of months, was give me a case of near-agoraphobia. I hated going out because I never knew what I’d come home to and if I’d be able to make it from my car to our door without running into someone.

Now that we’re at the new place, we can go places. I can go places by myself. I still force myself to get off the couch and go, though, because the memories are so fresh and the fear is still bubbling just below the surface that if I go out….

But today I forced myself to get up and run errands. I needed to return a couple of things plus I needed to pick up a couple of things. So I got ready, gathered the returns and the receipts, and got in my car.

After I merged onto the interstate,  a car flew past me. One of the bumper stickers caught my eye.

It looked a lot like this:

dont postpone joy

The reaction was visceral. Tears welled, my heart raced (more than it already was thanks to minor anxiety), and I was MOVED. The car continued on its way and I realized that had I been even 2 seconds later, I would not have seen this perfectly apropos message.

And then I pulled into Sam’s Club for my first return.

I was greeted by this lovely sight:

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The owner came out before I got out of my car (the club wasn’t open for us non-business folk just yet). On my way in, I stopped and talked with her for a few minutes. I told her how I had just seen a car with a bumper sticker that said “Don’t Postpone Joy” and how shortly after that, I pulled in to see her van. She was very friendly and open to talking.

She said a lot of people smile at it. “Why not put it on the side of my van? It’s a free billboard!”

She delivers phone books, she said, and sometimes that can irritate people. But when they see the cheerful message, it kind of neutralizes her throwing the phone book in their driveway, etc.

Her inspiration?

Her son received a bracelet with the saying on it and she was quite taken with it. “Why NOT?!?” Her daughter also has a tattoo of the saying on her ankle. (Her son walked up whilst I was talking with her and made a point of telling me about his bracelet. They all seemed quite used to discussing the saying on the side of the van. SO grateful I had the opportunity to talk with all three of them.)

Live. Love. Laugh.

Spray painted on the side of a rickety old van parked in a handicapped spot.

If that’s not proof that there IS joy everywhere you turn…

Don’t postpone your joy.

Go out and live, love, and laugh.

That’s the message the universe sent me this morning.

What an amazing Monday.

Whatever Wednesday: Finding your sunbeam

"DJ on a cold morning" by marymactavish @flickr.com

That dog looks mighty happy, doesn’t he?

Up on the table, warming himself in a sunbeam, not caring what anyone thinks of him.

Have you ever found a sunbeam and stood in it?

The warmth floods your body, brings light to your heart and your soul, and sends a smile to your face.

We don’t do that enough.

Sure we’re supposed to take time to smell the roses and all that, but when was the last time you intentionally found and stood in a sunbeam?

I’ll wait while you mull that over.

I sit in a sunbeam every day the sun is available.

Do you?

You should.

Find your sunbeam.

(the original photo was sourced here)

Whatever Wednesday: Embracing Life

Life is capable of handing you some extremely sour lemons. They crop up when we least expect them to and carry the ability to completely ruin our day.

But life is also capable of throwing some really sweet fruit your way too. Like ripe juicy strawberries on a summer day. You know the kind… the ones that make you sigh and sink down into your chair when you take that first bite. You don’t even realize there’s juice rolling down your chin because you’re hopelessly lost in Strawberry Blissville.

I know it can seem like all life is tossing you is sour lemons. I’ve been there more than once. But I’ve also had those super sweet strawberries. Learn to enjoy them while they’re around regardless of the stains they may leave on your heart. There is no larger sour lemon than missing out on a handful of joy simply because you were too worried about the what if’s and the consequences.

Live life. Don’t judge it. Don’t wait for it. Don’t miss it, regret it, shun it, or critique it. Live. Embrace your joy. Embrace the pain. But live no matter what. We deserve nothing less.

We are ALL Mother Superiors

According to Wikipedia, a mother superior is an abbess or other nun in charge of a Christian religious order or congregation, a convent or house of women under vows.

She is not defined as a particular ethnicity.

She is not defined by her language.

She is not defined by her skin.

She is, however, defined by her beliefs.

She is defined by her practice of those beliefs.

A Mother Superior is in charge of a household.

She rules the roost. Expects things to run in a particular order. HER order.

HER order may be perfection.

It may be defined by acts.

It may be defined by compassion.

It may be defined by dedication.

It may be defined by achievement.

It may be defined by satisfaction.

It may be defined by mood.

But ultimately, it is HER decision to decide how to rule her roost.

Not the decision of any other Mother Superior. But HERS.

As Mothers, in a home, we are all our own MOTHER SUPERIORS. We rule the roost. We call the shots. We ensure our philosophies, ingrained within us by our own Mother Superiors and HER Mother Superior and her Mother Superior and her Mother Superior and so on, are also ingrained within our offspring. Or not.

In each of our own private Abbeys, we rule.

Our children gather together at schools, at churches, at public events, at parties, play dates, and museums.

Enter the beauty of Chaos.

Our children play together. They learn together. No matter what our practice or beliefs, they play and learn together.

Or not. They play together IF they are allowed to play.

They will grow up to rule their own roosts one day.

Do we want them to grow up to do this as judgmental cynical women?

Do we want to encourage them to judge every move they make by the achievements of others? Should we do this? Should they?

Why is it in our nature to compare ourselves to the Mom down the block? The overachieving Betty Crocker? The PTA Mom who works tireless nights? The ultimate attachment, co-sleeping, EC training, breastfeeding, home birth mom who has done everything perfectly compared to us? Are we ready to send our own daughters helplessly down that same road? Are we?

Do we want them to grow up thinking that they have failed at Motherhood simply because they are the wrong ethnicity, the wrong class, the wrong everything?

Do we want our daughters growing up to think they have failed at Motherhood because all they can manage to put on that day is the same pajamas they have had on for two days?

Or do we want them to realize that a LOT of moms are exactly like that? That life happens. And sometimes? Life is depressing. Sometimes life requires we work harder at it to be successful.

I am not ready to sell my daughters down Keeping Up with the Joneses Lane. Not ready to ship them off to Just Keep Smiling Circle or Snap Out of It Drive.

I’m ready to send them soaring down Robert Frost’s Road in a Yellow Wood – urging them to discover the path not taken and make all the difference in the world. I want them to be Free to be themselves, not the vision I have for them. I want them to amaze me. To blow me away with their own dreams, their own passions, their own realized wisdom and growth. I want them to be happy. Happy and Free.

I want them to know that some of the best things in life don’t require awesome grades. They don’t require the bank account of Donald Trump. I want my children to value life. To value family. To realize that the best things in life cannot be bought. For any price.

I tell my daughters on a consistent basis that they can be anything they want to be IF they work hard enough at it.

I also tell them I will always love them as long as they are working to the fulfill their potential. If they are slacking, yes, I will chide them. But not to the point of derision. Not to the point of sleepless nights. Not to the point of bordering on abuse.

I will love them when they get a B.

I will love them when they decide to skip college.

I will love them.

I will love them because they are my children.

I will love them and hug them and squeeze them forever, successful or not, I will love them with all my heart.

If that makes me a Slacker mom, then so be it.

My kids, I think, are okay with that.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: Allison from O My Family

I did not have a clue Wednesday morning who/what to choose for my Postpartum Voice of the week today.

Then Allison from O My Family tweeted an amazing post, “Proof that I am in a better place.”

And I knew.

In her post, Allison thoroughly enjoys cuddling with her son as he sleeps on her chest.

Sure, it sounds innocent and as normal as could be for any mother and child. But for a mom with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, the ability to enjoy a “normal” moment with our babies is often beyond our reach. It fell beyond my own reach for the longest time. Then one day, as I sat watching all three of my children play together peacefully, normal slammed into me.

I wish this moment for every woman struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. We fight so hard against the darkness which envelops us after we give birth. The sunshine is always so much sweeter once the fog has lifted.

As Allison so eloquently closes her post: “By the end I was in tears as the joy flowed over me and I was hit like a brick wall with the realization that this is who I am. This is me, this is my son, this is reality.

And it is so, so good.”

It IS good.

I wish you so many more moments like this in the months and years to come. You will certainly have earned them!

P.S. Allison, grab the graphic above and slap it up on your blog, linking back to this post. Brag about your status as the Postpartum Voice of the Week! You deserve it!