The Broken Window

When I got home from vacation a few days ago, I noticed that something was wrong with my car window–the one on the driver’s side.

When I was arriving at the gym, I pushed the switch to roll the window down, and the window started acting cuckoo. It was suddenly off the track and leaning to one side and although I could still move it up and down, it wouldn’t close because it wasn’t lining up correctly on its track.

So naturally, I felt like this was a big deal, you know? I mean, I just returned from Florida, where it was warm, but it’s FREEZING in Indiana, and I thought to myself, “It’s too cold to drive around with a window that won’t close.”

With a feeling of urgency, I started to push the button more and more. “Forget the gym,” I said to myself, “this windowΒ mustΒ be fixed now.” I pushed the button up and down and began to try and physically pull the window off the track in an effort to slot it back in.

Now here’s the thing: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CARS. So I had no business thinking that I knew what I was doing. I just knew I didn’t want to drive the dang car with an open window in 40 degree temps.

Not surprisingly, my efforts were to no avail, and I ended up calling a mechanic. Upon examining the window, the first thing the mechanic told me was that it looked as if the window had simply slid off the track, which would have been an easy fix for him, butΒ in my efforts to fix the window myself, I had actually broken the window regulator part in the process,Β and that would now have to be replaced.

The part was ordered, and he then put the window back on the track in its rightful position, but left me with a strict directive:

“Do not push the button up and down. The window will stay in its correct place as long as you do not press it.”

“Ok,” I said, somehow knowing this would be hard for me. πŸ™„ I seem to be someone who is good at doing hard things, but not easy things.

He must have read the stressed look on my face, because he then continued,

“And if you forget and press it, please do not attempt to fix it again. Just let it be until the part comes in.”Β 

Ok,” I said. 😳

On the drive on the way home, I said to Aliana, “Maybe I should put duct tape over the switch, so I don’t forget to not use it.”

Aliana, who is 10, reassured me that this was not necessary.

“Just remember not to touch it,” she said. I did a little internal psyching myself up. I said outloud, “Don’t roll down the window, Emily. You can remember. Don’t do it!”

I then enjoyed a very luxurious 24 hours of driving around in my warm car. I was determined to not touch the window, as I was thoroughly appreciating the warmth, dryness, and privacy of my vehicle. However, that feeling of gratefulness began to wane, (as gratefulness often does, if we don’t hold it close to our hearts) and was replaced with a sense of complacency within a few hours.

And then, as I was entering a parking facility the next night, I realized I needed to grab a ticket. Without thinking, you guessed it…I rolled down the window.

The window immediately went off the track , of course, and one side of the glass was now poking up in the air.

“Ugh,” I said to myself. I was simultaneously surprised I had forgotten while also fully expecting that this would happen.

I spent the next day driving around with the window open in rain all day. Everywhere I went, I was cold, rainy, and wet. I contemplated getting a towel to dry off the car and cold, wet steering wheel. Somehow, part of my ego argued against it.

“It’s all your fault. You forgot what you were supposed to do, and now you must pay the price,” the voice in my head said.

The next morning my mechanic texted me to tell me there was a delay in the arrival of the part. I was going to face an additional 24 hours driving around in the cold.

I began to once again think about how my annoyance with the window situation was all my fault, and it was happening as a result of two mistakes I made in my thinking: I tried to fix something I knew nothing about by myself, instead of being still and waiting. And then, after knowing I needed to practice a simple, new way of thinking, I had once again slipped back to my old ways of thinking, thereby breaking it again.

I knew that pressing the switch would result in a very unfavorable outcome. And yet, I forgot what I knew and did it anyways.

This got me thinking: how many times do we do this? How many times do we have a new, very important goal at hand, and we get complacent about it and then slip back into old habits and mindsets?

And the equally important flip side of that question is this:

How many times do we spend beating ourselves up for our mistake, instead of having compassion for ourselves and just deciding to do better and move forward?

Did I help myself when I decided I deserved to be cold and wet and rainy the next day? I was essentially deciding that I deserved to be miserable. I could have gotten a towel to dry off and put on some gloves and made myself more comfortable.

But instead, I wanted to grumble and punish myself.

Side note: I think I may be the only weirdo on the face of the earth that contemplates life like this when a window breaks.

But if I am that weirdo, I might as well share these musings.

To recap:

  • When something goes wrong, and we are not sure what to do, many times it’s in our best interest to stop DOING and just get still. In the stillness, we have the ability to think rationally, instead of simply reacting and breaking windows and crap.
  • When we are trying to think in a new way–whether it’s embracing a new lifestyle, new way of thinking, or new reality–we should realize that we may have moments where we revert to old patterns of thinking, especially in times of urgency or complacency.
  • When we make an error out of complacency or urgency, or addictive patterns, we must acknowledge the error, while having compassion with ourselves, so that we can move forward. Other people may not have compassion for us, which is why it is so important that we give that gift to ourselves.

We are all worthy of compassion and self forgiveness. And we are all worthy of having new opportunities and new results. So as we go about our day, let’s also remember this additional truth:

It is only in our brokenness, that we can actually see more beauty in the world. So maybe broken windows aren’t that bad after all.

Let Them BE

About six years ago, I was sitting in my therapist’s office, discussing a new relationship. She made a statement to me that made NO sense to me at the time, and yet something inside of me believed it could be true, simply because of the fact that she was WAY smarter than me.

“The highest level we can achieve in our relationships, is when we have the ability to stand alone in the presence of another,” she said.

What in the whatity what? Like what in the actual heck are you TALKING ABOUT? I looked at her like as if she had grown two heads–this was one I wasn’t even going to ask her to explain. It was too…BIZARRE. And what fresh hell is this in re: to dating? You mean I have to stand alone even if I’m dating someone? I’d rather run away from someone than have to show up as I am and be alone in his presence. What is this crappy alternative universe she is speaking of and how can I make sure I NEVER GO THERE?

Those ⬆️ were my thoughts.

And yet..here is where I want to go with this today. Today is right now. 7:51 pm on February 19. I am thinking about this alternative universe my therapist mentioned, where people can stand alone in the presence of another, and I can still honestly say that it feels just plain WEIRD to me that this is even possible.

AND YET

… I now believe in different things: I believe in BEING STILL with the stupid negative feelings that come up. I am still sometimes afraid of pain or rejection or even intimacy, but I know I can tolerate them so I SIT with them and sometimes I EVEN SIT WITH THEM IN THE PRESENCE OF A FREAKING OTHER PERSON. Which is still not fun, but I CAN DO IT, which is the weirdest thing ever.

This is what it’s like: Here I am, living my life, joyfully, or sometimes not so joyfully, doing my thing. “Doing my thing” basically means BEING MYSELF. Showing up as me. And then, in the midst of me doing my thing, someone else tells me or shows me in his or her actions that he or she doesn’t like my thing-whether it’s the way I express myself or my belief system or even the way I look or show up to him or her.

And this hurts when they communicate this to me. Because that’s how I’m wired– I am wired to care about people and thereby I sometimes care a little too much about what they think.

But I can TOLERATE the discomfort of the disagreement. I can still stand as myself, being myself, allowing myself to be who I am.

And furthermore, I am allowing the other party involved to BE WHO THEY ARE.

And here is what I now KNOW to be true:

WE MUST LET PEOPLE BE WHO THEY ARE. LET. THEM. BE. WHO. THEY. ARE.

Let them BE who they are.

And know that you CAN still stand in their presence.

This is how this *could* look in various relationships:

Scenario 1: Pretend I’m married. My husband always forgets to turn off the coffee pot in the mornings and this drives me crazy. I keep telling him to do it and he keeps forgetting or maybe just plain doesn’t want to. Instead of continuing to get angry, I let him be who he is. I start turning off the damn coffee pot because it’s important TO ME.

Scenario 2: Pretend I have two kids who are angels. Then I suddenly give birth to a third who is literally hell on wheels. I say go left, he goes right. He is HARRRD to parent. But I continue to show up as I am in my parenting and exercise my beliefs and values in the way I teach him and treat him. He continues to show up as himself in his strong willed, yet sensitive nature. We butt heads, but we still ALLOW each other to be who they are WHILE still enforcing the boundaries and teachings that as parents we must enforce.

Scenario 3: Pretend I am dating a man who has a lot of qualities I like. And he has some other qualities, that, while are not deal breakers, are TRIGGERS for me. So that basically means that he’s a human being who is just minding his business and being himself, but then I text him something and he doesn’t respond to it, and I am triggered. It is at this moment that I have choices. I can text him in anger, asking for a response. I can text him with a humorous, playful tone, but still with the express intent of getting a response. (Which can actually be controlling since I am texting him as a way to diffuse my triggered emotion, instead of just owning that emotion MYSELF). Or, I can LET HIM BE who he is. And do nothing, unless I am sure I am responding from a place of love, instead of a place of being triggered.

You see, we ALL have our triggers, and we have to OWN them. Another wise person once told me, “What other people think of you has nothing to do with you,” and I thought that she had grown two heads too. But guess what?? She actually only has one head and she’s right. If someone doesn’t like how I show up in this world, that’s about THEM. If I don’t like another person, or if I feel “triggered” by them, that’s ALWAYS about me. It’s never about them. They are just doing their thing.

We have to allow the people in our difficult relationships to be who they are. And that may mean that we sometimes take a break from them, and that’s called self care. It’s also called “being still” until you are confident you are interacting in a spirit of love, instead of fear.

It’s a tricky thing. Because it involves being yourself 100 percent of the time and staying true to you, while simultaneously showing the utmost respect to a person who is 100 percent being who they are in this world.

If we could all do this… even just SOMETIMES. We maybe could teach others in our world what it’s like to respect humanity. What it’s like to be true to who you are, not betray your values, while also allowing someone to be who he or she is, and not taking his or her behavior personally.

This involves knowing ourselves. Knowing what rubs us the wrong way. And then digging deeper with that. What’s under that feeling? What thought or belief is behind your experience? Why do you feel that way?

While all the while, remembering that the highest form of relationship and love you can show to another person and to yourself is to be willing to stand alone and stay true to you, while still standing in their freaking presence. 😳

It’s so hard. Yet so easy. And I’m convinced it’s the best way. But you can disagree with me and still stand next to me and I will still love you.

(Picture in my house I look at every morning before I get in the shower. And I sometimes even pray, “Dear God, help me to love others just as they are. Just the way they show up, while still being true to me. πŸ™πŸ½)

Let’s Talk about Sex

At 6:45 am during my morning commute, I am awake, but not like, REALLY awake. You see, I’m a crockpot, not a microwave. I heat up sloooowly, getting warmer by the hour. Therefore, I was not prepared for the bomb of a conversation my child wanted to have with me this very morning at 6:45 am in the car.

“Do you know what the word ‘climax’ means–like, the climax in a story?” she suddenly asked me.

 “Yes,” I said, (insert thoughtful pause) “Are you studying that in school?”

“Yeah, and I was, like, looking it up on Merriam Webster’s Dictionary online for the definition. Well, the first two definitions were normal. Like they were talking about stories…”

I was starting to get anxious at that moment. I’m not even Catholic, but I wanted to say Hail Marys.  I prayed in my mind, “Please, please, do not let my child go there. I’m so not ready to talk about this topic before 7:00 am. Please make her stop!”

But my child did not stop talking. Her eight year old brain was, in fact, churning.

“But the third definition,” she said, “was like, talking about sex.”

“Oh my. Oh my goodness. Oh dear…Did you show your teacher?”

“No! I just wrote down the first definition and got out of there fast.”

“Okay, well… I can see why that would have been shocking. You just, um….” (holy crap, I’m totally struggling for words here), “you just sometimes have to be careful with the internet.”

That response did not appease her. 

“So, like…what IS sex? I mean I know it’s a private word, but what it is it?” she inquired. 

“I am not exactly prepared to have this conversation at 6:45 in the morning on the way to school. Can we talk about it later?” I asked, feeling like I needed time to plan out what I was going to say. 

“Okay,” she said. 

But then, some weird voice intruded in my head. It was the voice that told my fears to shut up. It’s like, my authentic voice–the one that actually doesn’t respond in fear, but approaches situations from a place of love. And I was like, “Seriously, voice? After you just avoided that conversation, now you want me to be courageous? You are SO stupid, voice!”

And that internal voice said this:  “Emily, there is no perfect time to have this conversation. It is a gift that she’s asking YOU, her mom, instead of someone else. GO there. Be grateful for this moment.  Answer the hard questions the best you can.”

Stupid voice. 

“Actually, Aliana, that’s a good question you asked, and we should talk about it now,” I suddenly said. 

“Okay?” she said, now starting to get confused by my change of heart. 

“So sex is something that a woman and man do that creates babies… or I mean, that can create babies,” I stuttered.

“So, I am sex?” she asked.

“NO! I didn’t explain that right… um, sex is like something a man and a woman who love each other can do together to make a baby,” I said, through my not fully awake brain. 

“Okay,” she said. “Oh, did I tell you about the trip my friend went on?”

And just like that, she changed the subject. And I kind of, like, thought about going back to the sex thing, but then I remembered that when we went to the child psychologist, she told me to follow my child’s lead in discussions of this nature, and just answer the questions they ask.

And that was it. Apparently I CAN have awkward and hard conversations at 6:45 am. And if I can, we all can. AND, I know I’m going to have to talk about this again with her, which literally makes me want to crawl out of my skin, but I think what this means is that I SIMPLY HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT YET what it is that I want her to know and understand about sex–what it means and what it doesn’t mean. What intimacy is, and what it isn’t. 

And maybe that’s because I’m still figuring this all out FOR MYSELF. Sex is a topic that people have VERY strong opinions about, and I’m even nervous as I’m sitting here typing this out to you. πŸ˜³πŸ™„πŸ˜³ When I was growing up, I found out through the grapevine that sex was when a penis went in a vagina, and OMG that was just so BIZARRE to wrap my brain around,  and THEN I was told just to “never do it until my wedding,” and wasn’t really told why. 

I am starting to see that I sort of learned things in reverse. Like, I got married and had a child, and THEN I learned about sex. And that’s all I’m going to perhaps say about it now, as the rest of my thoughts on that will be in my future memoir (hehehe), but WOW, you guys. Just wow. I actually got through that conversation!!  Like I tell my students, “We can do hard things.” ❀️ I can. You can. We can. 

The Ditzy Decision

On Monday night,  I made the ditzy decision to dismount from a trampoline onto a plastic, unstable kiddie slide, leading me to fall forward, land on my forearm, and dislocate my elbow.

But I’m not really here to talk about that in detail. That dangly, dislocated elbow was GROSS, like, GRODY GROSS NASTY TO THE MAX and I’m trying to get it out of my mind. (Thank heavens no one took a picture of it.) What I’m choosing to focus on, instead, is how this experience surprisingly ripped me open. I can honestly say that it was the first time in a long time where I felt raw, intense, physical and emotional pain.

And with pain, always comes awareness.

My emotions have been ALL over the place these last few days. I feel depressed by the realization that I’m not able to do Crossfit and yoga until I’m healed up.  Working out is part of my therapy. When I work out, my body releases endorphins that makes me want to be a better human. So I’m afraid of what I might feel in these few weeks without being able to connect with my body in the same way.

However, I want to also take a moment to be thankful to my body for not breaking. The doctors were SHOCKED that my bones didn’t break. The physical therapist I saw today told me that I “must have superhero bones.” And I’m also thankful that because of the strength I’ve developed through Crossfit and yoga, I’m able to maneuver my body in unexpected ways. For example, the paramedics were surprised that I could move my entire body, inch by inch, from one side of the mat to the other. This was by slowly lifting my glutes, legs, and shoulders off the mat. You guys, YOGA TAUGHT ME THAT. I need to take a moment to just be thankful for the hard work my body has done in preparation for healing me in this moment. I feel strong, and that physical strength has prepared me for what is about to come.

While in the hospital, though, I literally COULD NOT STOP CRYING. I felt so out of control. I was quite possibly THE most emotionally intense patient they had seen in years. πŸ™„ I spent the first two hours (prior to them popping my elbow back into place,) crying and wailing and moaning about how I was feeling. “I’m scared! What’s going to happen to my arm? Oh my God, I’m so sorry I can’t stop crying! OH. MY. GOD!” were some of the statements I was wailing through tears.

“Ma’am, do you have someone you can call to come and stay with you,” they asked me, as I’m sure they were totally over me.

But my stubborn self kept saying, “I don’t know,” because I didn’t want to call anybody. I didn’t want someone that actually knew me to see me like this. I wanted to do it alone, because I thought that was what a strong person would do, even though I wasn’t feeling strong at all. And none of these hospital people knew me or what my norm is like, so I was totally fine with THEM seeing crazy, wailing Emily.

Then the staff began to ask me why I was afraid. I finally responded, “I DON’T KNOW. But can you guys please stop repeating the same questions, and, like, consult together so I don’t have to keep talking and I can get back to wailing?”

They were SO over me.

My friend, Terra, by the grace of God, texted me at that very moment, “just to say hi” and I responded by calling her and telling her through my blubbery tears that I was in the hospital and that I broke my arm (the xrays hadn’t come back yet to reveal that it was a dislocation, and not a fracture or break).

My friend Terra was there in a flash. And wouldn’t you know… I began to calm down. I’m not saying I was totally calm, but I suddenly had someone next to me to listen to my cries and worries and rants and talk me through it. And you guys, that’s what we need. We all need to not be afraid to call a Terra–a person in your life who loves and cares about you and who shows up.

When they had Terra leave the room, right before they sedated me to pop my elbow back in, I called out to her: “Just tell me again that I’m not gonna die!

“Emily. I promise you that you won’t die,” she said calmly. Thank GOD for that woman.

We ended up laughing when we were stuck there later into the night about some of the characters in the hospital and what an adventure I’d had. This is pic from the part of the night where we laughed:


I am home now. I am calm. I am peaceful. And then the next moment I’m in turmoil. I’m raw. I want to jump out of my skin. My heart feels like it’s been split open.

That’s what pain and injury does. It forces you to stop, and start all over again in a new way. And all those tears I cried in the hospital were like my rebirth, I suppose, my renewal of sorts.
Crying is what makes us human. It’s an emotional release. We are not robots, we are emotional human beings who FEEL things.

And that’s what I’m going to continue to do–heart wide open, feel the feelings. That’s what yoga taught me. ❀️


Hey look! It’s my new and improved splint! πŸ™πŸ½πŸ’ͺ🏽

Why Life on Auto Pilot Just Doesn’t Work

Before I even begin to tell you why life on auto pilot doesn’t work, I have to tell you what I did to my eye today, because it is actually related to my topic. 


I poked myself in the eye HARD with a coffee stopper. What is a coffee stopper, you ask? It’s this green thing that comes with your hot Starbucks drinks. 

 

This happened this morning when I was teaching summer school and was about to administer a test. I was rushing around, making sure my students had everything they needed. I took the green coffee stopper thingy out of my Starbucks cup because I needed to drink coffee as I was rushing around. Because coffee makes me smarter and makes me do great things. You guys have no idea how many amazing things I can do with coffee.

But apparently multitasking isn’t one of them. I ran over to my desk looking for my test manual. You know, cause, that’s how my brain works. Let me grab my test manual–oh wait! There’s my purse on top of it. Oh wait! My fish oil vitamin is in my purse. Omg! I need to take it, because vitamins are important. 

Meanwhile, I’m still holding my coffee and the green stopper thingy in my other hand–the same hand with the fish oil vitamin. I quickly go to put the vitamin in my mouth, and simultaneously poke myself in the eye with the stopper. BECAUSE I HAD FORGOTTEN THE STOPPER WAS IN MY HAND. 

This is why I really needed to finish drinking that coffee. 

Or perhaps it’s deeper than the coffee. Because this is not the first time something like this has happened. 

A colleague of mine across the hallway has joked that I need my own reality show, because it would be entertaining to have cameras following me around, catching my hurried antics, which include driving my child all the way to school, only to realize she didn’t have shoes on when we arrived. This also includes numerous instances of leaving my purse and even kids’ electronics on top of my vehicle and then driving away. It also includes pouring laundry detergent into a person’s wash at the laundromat that I thought was my own, but was another person’s load already on the rinse cycle. 

Mistakes can happen, I know. But they have happened to me a lot because I have failed to SLOOOOOWWWWW DOWWWWN MY MIND in times of stress and rushing. 

When I let my body move on auto pilot, I attempt to multitask, move quickly, start forgetting stuff, then move more quickly and then start making mistakes. 

But here’s the good news. There are lots of smart scientists out there who have researched the brain, and they have found out that our brains are actually incredibly effective when we practice mindfulness and being present and STOP THE CRAZY RUSHING.

Writer Donna Labermeier says it best, 

“The truth is that our bodies and minds working at a breakneck pace is experienced on a frequency that is very low and slow. This means that we align ourselves with other things that are of a low vibration, like anger, fear, worry, and frustration. When we’re rushing around and not being mindful of our thoughts and actions, we are creating more of what we’re trying to avoid. This is when mistakes happen, decisions are poor, and nothing seems to go right.”

So when I’m rushing, I make poor decisions, like poking myself in the eye. 

Rushing is bad for the brain and the body. Mindfulness and slowing down thoughts  is good. (I’m telling myself this just as much as I’m telling you. I need to learn this lesson before I end up with more injuries caused by inanimate objects.) 

And since I haven’t done my recipe share in awhile, I’ll do that. I found this awesome recipe on the website NatashasKitchen.com. I have made it TWICE in one week. So good. 

Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb Roma tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 bunch) cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt or 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Place chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumber, sliced red onion, diced avocado, and chopped cilantro into a large salad bowl.

Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Toss gently to combine. Just before serving, toss with 1 tsp sea salt and β…› tsp black pepper.

My picture: 


I put goat cheese on mine just because. 

ONE. DUMB. CLASS.

This is the story of the day I began to believe I was not a writer.

I was 21 years old, and almost halfway through my junior year in college. I went to a small, private college with less than a thousand students. On this particular day, I walked across the student union, my footsteps echoing behind me. 

The thing I liked best about the union were the echoes of my feet shuffling and the reverberating voices of friends you could hear as you walked through. I have a memory of a day my mom and I walked through the union during winter break when no one was around, and we sang the hymn, “Trust and Obey,” acapella. She sang soprano and I sang alto. Our echoing song gave me chills. 

But, I digress. On this particular day that I formed my belief that I wasn’t a writer, there were no songs and no happy voices that I remember. All I remember was walking over to my mailbox in the union, turning the key, and anxiously pulling out the paper I had written for British Literature, Second Survey. 

This paper had a big, fat, ugly, red C written on it at the top. 

My heart began to race. This was my third C on a paper in this English class, AND I WAS AN ENGLISH MAJOR FOR GOD’S SAKE! I was an honor roll student–NOT a C student, and I couldn’t bear the thought of committing myself to a field where I was not excelling. I felt a mix of anxiety and anger, as I clutched the paper close to me. 

I decided to do what I always did in college when I was freaking out:  I RAN. 

I didn’t even know where the heck I was running to. I just carelessly sprinted across campus, becoming more winded by the second, as I breathed in the blustery air of Northern Indiana. 

As I reached the other end of campus, I looked up and saw Shoup House. 

Shoup House was not my campus house. But it was a house where a few of my friends lived. One of those friends was an English major. 

“Becca!” I shouted. “I’m going to see Becca,” as if my subconscious knew where I was headed all along.

I ran in, sped up the wooden stairway, where I was greeted at the top by Becca and two of my friends. They quickly noticed I was not there for just a friendly chat. I was there because I was having a moment

“Damn that son of a bitch!! 😑” I yelled, throwing my paper on the floor. 

The girls quickly realized the “son of a bitch” I was referring to was Professor Tom David. Professor David was young, cool, and some girls even thought he was hot. (Gag.) His muscles and boyish good looks appeared fake to me, just like his neatly coifed hair.  During my sophomore and junior years of college, Tom was unfortunately teaching a larger number of classes than normal for the English department, since two other professors were on sabbatical, as I remember. 

Every English class with Professor David was PAINFUL. My upper level English classes typically had anywhere from 15-20 students in them. Tom displayed an obvious favoritism for the outspoken hipster students in the class from day 1. He would start anecdotes with, “Last night I was at the Electric Brew, having coffee with Caitlin and Brad, and we got into this really interesting conversation about the use of imagery in William Carlos Williams’ poetry…” And I would be forced to listen to him name drop the names of the “cool kids” throughout a story that had NOTHING to do with William Carlos Williams.

I simply could not compete with the Caitlins and the Brads. They were badass,  cool, confident, highly-favored hipsters. They loved Tom, despite his preppy cardigans and argyle sweaters, and he loved them.

The non-hipsters in the class, me and my friend, Michelle, sat off to the side in class, furiously taking notes. Todd never called on us, and may have even forgotten we were there, until one of us had the courage to timidly raise our hand, with our voice shaking, heart palpitating, and finally saying, “Um, I think that T.S. Eliot’s use of the objective correlative in British literature is actually used by a lot of screenwriters nowadays,” and mid-sentence we would suddenly realize that Tom David DIDN’T EVEN GIVE A SHIT, and wasn’t listening to what we were saying. And so we would suddenly forget the very important, courageous thing we were trying to say, and end up stuttering as we looked around the room at people who refused to make eye contact. 

And then, eventually, we stopped speaking in his classes. Like totally. We became selective mutes, since we grew  tired of his disdain for us. 

We were also tired of feeling knocked down. Tired of feeling not enough. I was doing everything I could to write a good English paper, but I continued to receive Cs that were covered with negative, red slashes all over my paper. 

I felt like my identity as a writer was being stripped away. 

I had been working as the student manager/director of the writing center at my college. I was responsible for tutoring several students to write papers. I was helping them succeed. Yet, I couldn’t seem to catch a break myself. I felt like a fraud

And this feeling was enough to cause me  to withdraw from my English classes at college and drop my English major, even though I was one class away from completing it. ONE. DUMB. CLASS. With dumb Tom David. And I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. 

Not only that, I stopped writing completely. I didn’t write anything substantial for sixteen years. And for sixteen years I felt a certain degree of emptiness–an emptiness that haunts you when you aren’t fully doing what you were meant to do. 

You guys, 

that.

is.

scary. 

It’s scary because I let one person–one teacher–have that kind of effect on my life. And it shows how we, as teachers, play a major role in how our students view themselves.

Tom David (as far as I could assess in my 21 year old brain) thought I couldn’t do it–I couldn’t write a paper worthy of his intellectual time or a decent grade. He showed me through his body language that my comments in class were not worthy of even being acknowledged. 

And I believed him. Even though he was ONE PERSON. 

He was my teacher. And now that I’m a teacher myself, I try to remind myself of this experience as much as possible, because it keeps me focused on the task at hand: teaching my students to BELIEVE they can GROW academically in their abilities.

If I don’t believe that, how will they?

I have the opportunity to show my students that the most important part of learning is growth. I modify instruction and student work, while looking at students’ data over time. Each child is unique and has a specific set of challenges and abilities. As they grow and improve through hard work and practice, they gain self confidence. 
Oh my god, I think I need to say that again. 

As they grow and improve through hard work and practice, they gain self confidence. 

That, right there, ⬆️ was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I dropped my English major when it got difficult, because I didn’t know that I could improve anymore. 

Anyone will quit something he thinks he sucks at, if he doesn’t believe he can improve. Anyone–adult or child.

Now, I don’t blame Tom David for my decision to quit my English classes. I was the quitter. I was the one who gave up. I was so intimidated by him that I didn’t ask for help, nor did I get a tutor, because I was too proud. That was my choice, and I learned from it. 

And what I learned is actually invaluable–I learned that I have INCREDIBLE power as an educator to help my students develop beliefs about themselves–beliefs that can set them on a positive trajectory for life. And the first belief I want to instill is that it is through hard work–not just being smart, that one accomplishes the work that he or she was born to do. ❀️

Me (in the red) and a bunch of other non-English major college peeps, doing our non-English major thing.

Nobody Just Walks Out of Yoga

I tried to do yoga once a couple of years ago, but I left the class feeling like a loser.

“Try yoga,” people said to me. “It will make you less anxious,” they said. 

But it was, in fact, having the opposite effect. I couldn’t quiet my mind because I was so busy worrying about how dumb I looked as well as how frustrating these ridiculous contortions were that everyone else around me seemed to enjoy.  

I looked at the clock every five minutes.

Class started at 5:00. 

Me, to myself, in my head at 5:05, when I’m already feeling weird: “You’ve got this. If you literally hate this, you can leave. No one is holding a gun to your head.”

But here’s the thing: NOBODY JUST WALKS OUT OF YOGA. It’s, like, one of those unspoken rules. You don’t want to disrupt the energy in the room and whatnot. I don’t know why. I don’t speak yoga language. 

But yoga made me anxious, and I swore it off–completely off. “I am not going back there to deal with those weirdos,” I told anyone who would listen. I carried on like this, reciting the ridiculousness of yoga for TWO WHOLE YEARS. 

And then, something happened. 

Last December I was having some health issues. I went to see my doctor. She recommended that I destress and consider starting–you guessed it–the dreaded yoga.

Despite my negative memories of downward dogging and trying to contort myself into a crow pose, my doctor somehow convinced me (she must have hypnotized me without me knowing it), that it would be a good idea to try again. 

Yoga take two: Once again, I sucked at the  movements. But this time, GLORY BE-it was a new teacher. This teacher acted differently towards me. She watched me like a hawk and kept helping me. She was like, a real teacher. If something was challenging for me, she immediately showed me a modification or told me to just be still.

She also incorporated meditation into the practice and asked us to “set our intention” for the day. As we cycled through movements, she reminded us to keep our chest forward with an open heart. She also spoke about gratefulness and self compassion and spreading peace. When we were exhaling, she reminded us to exhale those “feelings which no longer serve you.”

Within a few minutes, I FINALLY realized WHY in the heck I was there. It wasn’t about learning these movements. It was about quieting the mind to be still in the present. Somehow, I had checked my ego at the door, and I was no longer trying to be perfect. I was just trying TO BE. 

Over the last few months of practicing yoga, I have begun to marvel at how my body can actually be a POWERFUL thing. I can spread love and light through movement and physical energy. There are times I feel warmth and peacefulness spreading through my body during the practice. I also have felt stronger and more balanced.

Now before you start telling me I sound like a new age dingbat, I need you to understand something. 

I need you to understand that yoga has, in many ways, SAVED me. It has saved me from poor decisions. It has saved me from acting impulsively upon painful emotions. It has saved me from giving energy to unhealthy relationships or urges. It has saved me from anxiety. It has saved me from using angry words. It has saved me from avoidance. It has saved me in so many ways that my eyes are welling up in tears just thinking about it.

In today’s yoga class, as I cycled through the flow of movements and heard my teacher say, “Breathe in love and breathe out light,” I thought of those who really need light in the world, and tears streamed from my cheeks. As she reminded us that we all “have cracks so that we can let the light in,” I thought about my own cracks and scars and how those, too, are beautiful things where light resides. And once again, I felt the tears.

When I can learn to be still–to feel, to pray, to meditate, and to use my body to spread love and light–THAT is where I have found the answers I need. As yoga teacher Eric Paskel says, “Yoga is not about tightening your ass. It’s about getting your head out of it.”

And so my mantra is this, guys: Be still. I am not perfect at it, but I’m getting better. It’s my intent, which is why I even bought a bracelet from MyIntent.org which looks like this: 

It’s my constant reminder when my mind is racing, that the only way through the fire is to walk in stillness right through it, even though the heat is scorching. 

Namaste, y’all. The light in me honors the light in you. πŸ™πŸ½

The Time I Picked Up a Waiter

Last October, my friends and I decided to go out for dinner at a delicious restaurant called Late Harvest Kitchen. 

The waiter caught my eye as he came over to our table. Like, in a good way that made me blush. 😳

We started chatting. 

“I feel like I know you,” he said. 

“I feel like I know you, too,” I said, trying to figure out if we were just feeding each other flirty lines, or if we did, in fact, actually know each other. 

We began to ask each other questions to determine if we had indeed met before. One of the questions I asked him was for his full name. Cause, you know, I’m super nosey like that. 

“John David O’Connell,” (name has been changed of course) he said. 

We talked a bit further, and then he walked away from the table. When he was gone, I asked my friend, Terra, “What did he say his name was again?”

“John David O’Connell,” she said. 

“Good job,” I said, thankful that my friends have minds like steel traps.  

I got out my phone to look him up on Facebook to see if we, indeed, do, know each other through mutual friends, you know?  As I’m pulling up his profile and I see that we don’t, John David suddenly appeared, hovering over my shoulder. 

“Aahh!!” I yelled, throwing my phone across the table at my friends. 

“Don’t worry,” John David said. “I didn’t see anything,” he said. “Anything, that is, except for you looking at my Facebook page.”

“Oh my God! I’m so embarrassed! 😱😰” I said, covering my face with my hands. I now was apologizing to my friends for hitting them with my phone, while simulataneously over-explaining my reasoning to John David for why I was looking him up on Facebook. 

Thankfully, my friends know me and understood that my phone throwing was a knee jerk reaction. Surprisingly though, John David seemed flattered that I was looking him up on FB. 

“You know, ” he said. “You should send me a friend request instead of just looking.”

And so I did. And we continued to talk. However, we discovered we were, in fact, not a match, and pleasantly parted ways. 

But there was a reason for that interaction. That interaction was a reminder to me that there is no one else in this world like me. Just like there is no one just like you. And we have to just keep on being ourselves and having compassion for ourselves, even when we do ridiculous things. John David, in fact, seemed to find my ridiculousness endearing for some reason. Maybe because he somehow knew I was being the unadulterated version of myself. 

However, the story doesn’t end there. Yesterday, I saw my dear friend from college, Patty, at brunch. We were talking about embarrassing moments or something like that, and I brought up this story. As I was retelling it, I got SO into it that I, without thinking, began to actually act out the story. When I got to the part about me throwing my cell phone across the table, I–you guessed it–threw my cell phone across the table. Only this time, instead of hitting my friend with it, it hit the lady at the table next to me, and was traveling at such a high velocity that it bounced off her and hit her husband across the table.

“I…am so…sorry,” I said to them. “I was, um, retelling a story and I guess I was acting it out as well.”

“Yeah,” the husband said, straight faced, “I know. I feel like I was just there.”

Luckily his wife found it to be funny. 

I am Emily. I am a quirky, moderately  loud, storytelling, nosey nerd. And that is my power. 

Good Enough

Do you know what it’s like to be a perfectionist? 

Sometimes perfectionists are not who you think they are. They may look like they have their sh** together OR they may look like very unproductive people; when in fact, they are just stuck.  This is one of the truest things I’ve ever written about that: 

https://hashtagsareforfootballfields.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/it-sucks-to-be-a-perfectionist/

You know why it sucks so bad? Because you just get this debilitating feeling like you can’t freaking do something right, so you just don’t do it.

For example, tonight I wanted to sit down and write this on my blog:

I suck. I suck. I suck. I suck. I suck. I stink. I suck at everything. I stink. I suck. I suck. I suck. I have so much to say, but can’t figure it out, so I suck. I suck. 

Because OMG that’s TOTALLY HOW I FEEL RIGHT NOW. 

I am working so hard at eating clean but I ate two servings today of junk food and now I suck. 

I am working so hard to be better at Crossfit and yoga, but I haven’t made it to the gym in a few days, so I suck. 

I am working so hard at being firmer and more consistent in my discipline with Aliana, but I let her stay up 30 minutes past her bedtime last night, so I suck.

I suck I suck I suck I suck.

That has been my mantra. Wow. Would you want to live inside my head now? Probably not. 

But here’s the thing. I’ve been struggling with this crap for years. And if there’s one thing I noticed, it’s this: the only constant is change. 

Right now I feel crappy and unproductive, but next week will be better. There will be good weeks and bad weeks. There will be times when I need to meditate, pray, and rest, and times that I need to hit the pavement like a badass and just churn out tasks like nobody’s business. There will be times I am so productive that nobody can match how efficient I am, and there will be other times that I will simply stumble around like a bumblebee with a low IQ. 

And that’s just how I’m wired. It’s the very nature of WHO I am. I am a dichotomy-productive, yet sputtering; hardworking, yet idle; classy, yet disheveled. 

And I know, as a wise friend once told me, “Emily… What if doing something ‘good enough,’ ACTUALLY REALLY IS GOOD ENOUGH?”

That’s ⬆️⬆️ the lesson right there. Sometimes doing something half assed–with the intent to love yourself or others–is actually okay. If I’m really not wanting to go for a run, but I go for a run and end up running kind of half assed, IT’S STILL GOOD THAT I WENT FOR A RUN. 

So tonight, I’m going to replace the “I suck” with “Good enough is good enough.” And please don’t mistake my message for saying that I’m against self discipline. Self discipline is very important to me and it’s the reason why I’m frequently re-evaluating my goals. What I’m against is self loathing–all because we had a bad day or week and didn’t do things as we wanted to. 

And I’m also going to keep watching this ten second video footage from the field trip I went on today with a bunch of second graders. Because I LOVE this one kid’s reaction to learning that he may see wild animals. We need to be like this kid–alive with curiosity and joy. ❀️

I Don’t Have a Model

I was talking to these hooligans, a.k.a, my parents on the phone a couple of nights ago.

   

My dad said, “I wish you would just call us more and respond quicker to our emails.”

This may seem like a guilt-trip statement, but it’s not. You see, my dad’s not really a guilt trippy type of person. He’s just honest and speaks from the heart. 

I felt a twinge of something–maybe guilt, sadness, inadequacy–when my dad said this. Because he’s right. I don’t respond efficiently enough. And these are people who deserve to hear from me. These are people who REALLY love me. 

So it got me thinking about a couple of different things. The first thing it got me thinking about is the fact that I still feel kinda overwhelmed by this single parenting thing at times. It’s consuming.  And the second thing it got me thinking about is that I am so overwhelmed by my “to do list” that I have unfortunately neglected those who are most important to me.

When you know someone will always be there, you sometimes forget how important that relationship is to you. And  I do NOT want to be like that. Because at the end of the day, there are a handful of individuals in my life who know me deeply and are committed to loving me. And while I have A LOT of responsibilities on my plate, I want to make it a practice to invest in those relationships. 

So that ⬆️ was the second thing I thought about. Now back to the first: 

Being a single parent is consuming. 

I DON’T HAVE A MODEL for this single parenting thing. My whole family consists of married couples. I have tried to not think about this too much, because it’s, quite frankly, an overwhelming thought, which can lead to negative self talk like, “What the heck are you doing? I mean, seriously, no wonder you have motherhood-induced ADHD- BECAUSE YOU are just on freaking auto pilot.”

And then this thought can turn into a meaner voice. It says, “Just who in the HECK do you think you are? People think you have your crap together and YOU DO NOT. You can’t even get your parents called back.”

What a mean thought. 

So I put the thought on the shelf. And I did what I do when I feel overwhelmed–I put my phone down, stopped doing chores or thinking about chores, and snuggled up to Aliana, to remind myself of why I do what I do. 

And after that, I just did the next thing, and reminded myself to practice self-compassion sometimes for when I fall short. Which is like, all the freaking time. 

And even though I didn’t grow up in a single parent household, I paused that night to think about the millions of single mamas and single daddies in this world who just somehow miraculously parent their children BY THEMSELVES. They may have their moments where they feel truly overwhelmed. Where they pause and think, “Geesh, it would be nice to have a partner to help me do the dishes. It would be nice to have someone stay at home with the little ones while I go for a quick walk and get some fresh air. It would be nice to have a partner around so that I didn’t have to experience my child’s emotional meltdown or temper tantrum ALONE.”

There are MILLIONS of single parents going through that. Right now. Every second. And they just put on the game face and are brave and keep going.

So I’m not alone in the struggle. My struggle is universal in some ways–by single parents and those who are not single parents. My struggle is simply this: I’ve got a lot of crap on my plate, and I’m doing the best I can. While I do the best I can, I’m going to work on being still so that I can love those who need my love. Being still means to cut out the “I’m so busy” crap, and making time to just BE. 

You can do it. I can do it. We can do it. We can do hard things.