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The Moon Really Could Not Be More Obvious About This

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The Moon Really Could Not Be More Obvious About This

message-from-the-moon-long.png
message from the moon

message from the moon

Sometimes you lay awake thinking about all of the things.

It’s 1am and your eyes snap open because your brain simply could not wait one more second to tell you:  WHAT ABOUT THESE (MOSTLY IMAGINARY) PROBLEMS??

Had you thought about THOSE THINGS?

You kick the sheets, trying to kick the thoughts.  No go.

Night follows night.  You are no stranger to the darkness.

But then one night you lay awake thinking about none of the things.  Ambivalence—the most insidious emotion—skewers its claws into your ribcage.

It’s too exhausting to care.  What’s the point?

At 3:26am that night, just as you are finally drifting off to sleep, your three-year-old will come into the room because—well it doesn’t really matter why she *says* she comes in every night.  The real reason is that she wants to know that she is not alone in this world and you really can’t blame her for that now, can you?

Or maybe there is another reason she comes in.

You watch, Soldier.  Watch what happens.

After you stroke your daughter's cheek and tuck her back into bed, you will turn, and through the crack in the side of the room-darkening blinds, you will see it:  the moon.

Its brilliance will cut through the night and illuminate your face and cause physical reactions within you.

You’ll gasp, step backwards, and drop down onto the side of the bed with awe.

When was the last time something has cut through the darkness like this?

The white on black, the crisp points of the crescent moon…it’s hard to get that type of clarity in camera.

It’s hard to get that type of clarity in life.

Awe.

There.  There in your moon-trance, you will hear it.  You will finally hear what the moon has been trying to tell you all along.

It’s been trying to tell you this since the very first night that you landed here, but you haven’t had much time for things like moons, have you?

Moon doesn’t mind.

Moon says you were not ready to know then.

You are ready to know now.

Moon is beaming, “I know you think it is the dead of night right now, but that is only in your perception!”

Keep listening, Soldier.  Moon’s message is not only metaphorical but very very literal.

It’s both.

Moon says, “I know it appears to you that the sun has stopped shining but Sun has NEVER stopped shining—NOT EVEN ONCE!!

‘In fact,” Moon is telling you, “Sun is shining RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!  You do not see the sun from where you are standing so LOOK.  I will show her to you!”

And then moon pushes the light of the sun from all the way around the other side of the earth directly to hit your face.

Moon is telling you the light is still accessible, even in the darkest of nights.

“Hold on just a little longer,” says Moon, “and you will not have to try so hard to see the light.  In time you will be SWIMMING in it!  That time is JUST AROUND THE CORNER.  LOOK!”

When you receive this message, oh you-who-is-waking-up, you hug it in tight.  Tuck it into your belly and wrap your knees and clavicles around it and hold onto it for dear life.

Because that’s what’s going to pull you out of this.

Six months ago, I noticed the moon.

That’s when it hit me:  You will not get out of the darkness by laying on your back psycho-analyzing the darkness.  You will get out of the darkness by catching more and more light.

You will not get out by asking, “how did I get here?”  You will get out by asking, “What works?”

Light leads to more light.  Did a little light of mine in footy pajamas not take me by the hand to show me the moon?

So I started looking for more moons:  little slivers of light poking through dark moments.

One moon keeps leading to another.

Look around, Soldier.  Where do you see moons?

YOUR “moon” may not be THE moon, per se.  Maybe the thing that will remind you of your aliveness will be the high that comes after a long walk in the biting cold.  Or the soft nose of a horse.  Or the laugh of your niece.  Or the courage of a seedling reaching towards the sun from a cup on your windowsill.

Whatever your “moon” is, WHEN YOU SEE A SLIVER OF LIGHT, YOU NOTICE IT.  YOU HEAR ME, SOLDIER?

You pay attention to that thing that makes you feel good and alive.

That “moon” will take you to more light.

Which will take you to more light.

And one day soon—I am so sure of this—sooner than you can even imagine—you will belly-crawl onto that brighter shore, exhausted and gasping for air, and you will turn onto your back and sputter towards the sky, “By God, that night nearly killed me.”

But it will not kill you, dear Soldier.

Not if you let yourself be led by the light of the moons.

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What Not to Say to Struggling Loved Ones during the Holidays

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What Not to Say to Struggling Loved Ones during the Holidays

Bethany O
Bethany O

One perk of being from a large family and having no control over my tear ducts is that I am the lucky recipient of a lot of advice.

I also have a lot of data for studying how people respond to my pain.

On one remarkable occasion of untimely tear ducts, my eyelids started leaking just when 30ish family members gathered around two 50th birthday cakes to sing a little diddy to two special birthday girls.

This day was noteworthy because it broke a personal record.  In the 30-minutes following the final serenade of “Happy Birthday to you,” concerned loved ones offered me all of the following:

  • sympathy,
  • God,
  • hugs of varying severities,
  • inspiring quotations,
  • music,
  • a massage,
  • PERSPECTIVE,
  • advice of varying desperations,
  • pharmaceuticals,
  • compliments,
  • space,
  • CAKE
  • laughter,
  • sundry other such offerings.

When people see you struggling, they tend to tell you you need the thing that THEY need when they are struggling.

Which is super helpful, in the highly unlikely event that it’s true.

[Let me be clear that I am NOT requesting that you people stop with the above generous offerings!  Because--COME ON!!!  OFFERINGS!]

Here come some observations that I think could serve the world:

  • By my rough estimates, one million percent of the time, advice-givers have BEAUTIFUL and KIND and LOVING intentions.
  • For sure we’d be hard-pressed to think of a richer blessing in life than a suffocatingly generous family!  [POUNDSIGNTHANKFUL]
  • SOMETIMES well-meaning advice-givers are unintentionally inflammatory.

(Not in MY family, of course!  MY family only says RIGHT THINGS!  I have mainly heard this from other individuals, is all!  Mere conjecture is what this is!)

But now I’m thinking.

Today is Thanksgiving, which as we all know is the day families gather around dead birds to feast and inadvertently hurt each others’ feelings.

I’m thinking of Bridget Jones, who dreaded the holidays because people would always pity-ask her if she had found a boyfriend yet.

And I’m thinking of some friends who are going through some really hard times right now:  divorce, miscarriage, sickness, mourning, job-loss.  I’m concerned they might avoid family on Thanksgiving—the very thing their hearts need for healing—because they dread the pity-parties and the suffocation by advice-givers.

Which is why I want to offer some advice to all the unsolicited advice-givers of the world.

[And for dessert:  IRONY!]

Here are some examples of well-intentioned comments that may or may not be inflammatory:

“I see you struggling and sometimes I feel sad too.”

[NICE!!  100 points for vulnerability.  Thanks for being human, you.]

"...sometimes I feel sad too and I understand what you're going through."

[WRONG.  No you don't know her pain.]

“I have felt sad too and I fixed it so you just need to do what I did to feel better.” 

[Minus two hundred points for creating a Victim/Hero superiority dynamic.  Also:  Yellow card on the invalidation.]

“I see you are sad and you just need to focus on the positive.” 

[Minus ten million points for invalidating like it’s your job.]

“I see you are sad and I AM SO CONCERNED.”

[Minus all the points.  Who is this about?  I’m exhausted just reading your sentence.]

Again:  I see your intentions and I know they are so, so good!  It's the delivery we're tweaking!

The above examples landed on this page all willy-nilly-like, but the reason I came on here today was to tell you about my uncle Jim.

That day at the double-50th birthday fest, I snuck away to another room for a breather, what with all the good advice I was getting.

My uncle came in.

“Hey,” he said, open-heartedly.  (You know an open heart when you see one, friends!)

‘I never know what to say,” he said.  “Your aunts are so much better with advice than I am.  But I want you to know that I care.  Would you mind if I just sit quietly with you?”

AND THEN HE WON THE CONCERNED FAMILY MEMBER OLYMPICS.

Listen.  I’m sure you have a lot of helpful suggestions for your loved one.  But your advice is bandaids on arterial spray if you skip the part about loving them AS THEY ARE.

When we see a person’s pain and instinctively try to change it, we inadvertently create the illusion of conditional love.

We are saying, “I love you, and I need you to change so that I will feel more comfortable.”

Our good intention shifts from being about THEM to being about US.

But as Oriah Mountain Dreamer says, "I want to know if you can sit with pain—mine or your own—without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I can think of no more admirable show of character than this.

I can think of no better gift you could give your loved one this holiday than this message:

“I see you.  I can sit with your pain without moving to change you.  Because I love you just the way you are.” 

Which is why today I will sit with the well-meaning advice givers, and I will not try to change their approach.

Because I love them just the way they are.

Especially when they are offering massages.

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9 Comments

Oh, Fear: You Little Punk. (Also: New Music Video.)

Oh fear you little punk

Oh fear you little punk

Oh, Fear.  You little punk.  You have snuck up on me again.

You disguise yourself as overwhelm and perfectionism and I'm-too-busy-ness, but I'm not buying it anymore.

You, fear, have been apprehended.

Again.

It's been said that there are only two emotions in life, and all the others stem from these:  fear and love.

Steve Carrell - I want people to be afraid of how much they love me - FB dimensions

Steve Carrell - I want people to be afraid of how much they love me - FB dimensions

But I might wager that even fear stems back to love.  If you could strip the smelly onion layers off of that prickly pear called Fear, it too would reveal a core of Love.

We crave love from the depths of us.  And we're afraid we're unworthy of love.

We're afraid we're not "enough."

THAT is what breeds all the negative emotions, if you're asking me.

I've learned that whenever a project sits on my "haven't-had-time-to-get-to-this" list for long enough, I need to ask myself what I'm afraid of.

Because it's fear and nothing else that keeps our creative projects from seeing the light of day.  Any parent or creative person can tell you how scary it is to allow our babies into the world.

At the beginning of this year, I hired (the super talented) Jarret Blinkhorn of JB Horn Films to create a video for my website.

Jarret is not only super talented but also super speedy:  the video has been ready for viewing for several months.

I simply have not been ready to be viewed.

I thought the reason I hadn't publicized it yet was because this site needed major updates.  And I have clients to tend to!  And a FAMILY!  And OTHER THINGS!

But those excuses were just Fear, dancing around in Halloween masks.

That little punk.

The real freaking irony here is that I SPEAK in the VIDEO about the tendency to fear that we are not "enough."

When we SPEAK INTELLIGENTLY about things, it is supposed to mean that we are IMMUNE from them!  I have stabbed my victory flag though the heart of Fear!  He is KAPUT for me!   Hence why I have called him out in my VIDEO!  I am a verified expert!  DONE with Fear, I am!  DONE!

So WHY am I procrastinating?

[Drums fingers against cheek like the Grinch pondering Christmas.]

Oh, Fear.  That little punk.

It's scary to the bahjeezus degree to put yourself out there.  Even an expert would tell you that.

But I, for one, refuse to let a silly little thing like fear stand between me and my plans.

When we turn our backs on fear, we see that all that's left is love.

So today I stand before you once again as I (lovingly) tell my fears to F*ck Off.

I present to you:  the new Bethany O Photography music video*.

I'm afraid of how much I love it.

*And by "music video," I mean that it is a video.  And it has music in it.    If embedded video isn't working, click here to see it on youtube.

***

Do you have any creative projects that have been sitting on the "to-do" list for a long time?

Join me in telling Fear to F*ck Off!  

Tell me one TINY step you could take towards moving that project along today!

***

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I Can See Clearly Now; the Pain Is Gone. - My Messy Beautiful

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I Can See Clearly Now; the Pain Is Gone. - My Messy Beautiful

Bethany_O_for_Glennon_Melton's_Messy_Beautiful_Warriors_Project-592.jpg

Bethany_O_for_Glennon_Melton's_Messy_Beautiful_Warriors_Project-592.jpg

Our gym has mirrors in front of the cardio equipment and I like that.

Narcissist?  Doubtful.  If I have narcissistic qualities, they're probably more the "blogger" flavor than the "mirror" variety.

I like those mirrors at the gym because they remind me of my strength.

Sometimes I forget my own strength, you see.

But it wasn't strength I noticed in those mirrors last summer.  Last summer, I saw tears streaming down my cheeks while I ran.  My knees kicked high and my arms swung strong but what I saw in that mirror was that I was too sad to give a damn that I was crying on the cardio trainer.

Or maybe I thought I was actually a bit bad-ass, what with all that sprinting through tears and all.

Either way:  tears.

When Katy Perry yelled into my ear buds that, "this is the part of me that you're never gonna ever take away from me," I lost her in translation.

I was in the midst of a doozie of a battle with depression and I thought Katy meant that THAT was the part of me that you're never gonna ever take away from me.  That no matter how many tools I employed to keep my head above water in the sea of sadness, I would always be fighting the undertow.

What an awfully depressing thing to sing about, non?

But I just wasn't seeing things clearly.

I am remembering a moment of clarity that took place last fall.  I was not at the gym, I was…elsewhere…and someone really got my goat, which obviously led me to wordlessly ask her with my eyes and face only, "what the hell is YOUR problem?"

This, of course, was what caused my AH-HA moment, because it was neither the first nor the fourth time that morning that I had to use my face to ask someone that very question.

Could I really have encountered so many goat-getters in one morning?  Did EVERYONE wake up that day and put "Get Bethany's Goat" at the top of their to-do list?  Or was I GIVING the goats, per se?

Didn't yo momma teach you never to give goats, B???

Prepare yourself, Kind Reader, for now I shall push this goat-getting expression far beyond its intended threshold for the pushing.

It will be beautiful.

I had to catch a goat when I was 15.  The real kind.  I was babysitting on a farm and they said to make sure the goat didn't get out and wouldn't you know it but that goat got OUT. So I chased that kid (of the goat, not the child variety) around that farm, dove a few times to catch him, and when I finally grabbed his collar THAT was when the goat-catching process got DIFFICULT.

Goats do not like it when you grab their collars, you see.  They'll drag ya in the herbiest of jerkiest ways that they can think to drag ya.  They'll buck up and they'll jump up and they'll do their goat-iest to not be GOTTEN.

And so it is from real-life field work that I can tell you it is no easy task to "get" a goat.  In fact, I'd wager that if you were going to get someone's goat (of the literal, not the idiom variety), the goat owner would need to actually GIVE you her goat.  On a leash.  Inside a fence.  Surrounded by a moat.  By deeding you her land.

For that is the only-est way that a goat can be gotten.

Ya follow?  If someone "gets your goat," that's your work, not theirs.  

Or maybe it's their work too, but since you can only do the work of one, stick to yours.

So please consider my relevant field experience before the next time you go casually throwing around the "that person really got my goat" expression.

[So EN VOGUE you are with your expressions, you!  So FUNKY, so RAD!]

Listen.  Sometimes I grow weary of writing about DEPRESSION and STRUGGLES up in here.  I write about these things with the intention of helping anybody who feels scary-alone in their struggles, as I did for so very long, and also because NOT writing about these things feels a lot like I'd be HIDING (ashamed of) them again.

I REFUSE to stand any longer for the shaming of depression.

F*CK THAT.

But the word "self-sabotage" has been lobbed at me a couple times recently, and I am a smidge concerned that if I keep writing stories of sadnesses (which is actually EASIER than celebrating our victories, innit?) I may begin to IDENTIFY more with the messy part of me than with the part of me that really shines.

I may begin to cling to it.

So I'm navigating that.  I'm tweaking it.

BUT.  AND.  Every time I've done a swan-dive into the deep end of the sea of sadness, I've learned something.  MANY THINGS, really.  These things carry a heavy price-tag (payable only in grit, sweat, time and tears), so today I'm recording just one more of the bigger take-aways from The Great Swan Dive of 2013 before I go writing about The Great Strides Forward of 2014.

Here it is:

When we are not in our healthiest place mentally (whether due to clinical depression or to the occasional human condition of simply being "off"), we don't see things clearly.

The catch is:  we don't KNOW we're not seeing things clearly for the simple reason that WE ARE NOT SEEING THINGS CLEARLY.

SOit is imperative that we take it upon ourselves to watch for clues that our lens is dirty.

Here is one clue.  When we're not on our A-Game, we're more sensitive, more easily insulted, more quick to give goats.  

In my humble opinion, the concept of a "bad day" is [usually] less a statement about the day itself than it is about the person who is having it.

When we ask, "what the hell is HER problem?" we really should be asking, "what the love is MY problem?  What am I neglecting?"  

Likely answers:  Sleep and/or exercise and/or gratitude and/or vegetables and/or meditation and/or other self-love goodnesses of all varieties and whatnots and whathaveyous.

All of those activities clean our lenses.

[PSST!  When I say "we" here, really what I mean is, "I."  But really-est, I do actually mean "we."]

Stay with me, you.

When we/I/WE are slam-dunking the above whatnots and whathaveyous, we have very few goats for the taking.  The person who done-and-got-my-goat last fall could have made that same comment to me today, and because today I am in a great place [please--knock on ALL THE WOODS], my face would have only shown her love and concern.  And light.

My lens is clean.

When we give it time, our messy always has a way of showing us our beautiful.

Today, I went to the gym--the same messy, beautiful warrior I have always been--and I listened to that same Katy Perry song.

Today, I locked my black pupils on my own in the mirror as I sprinted hard and triumphantly, and today I saw my truth more accurately.

Today I saw that I am diligent--INSISTENT, even--about putting one foot in front of the other--not only on the cardio machine, but IN LIFE.

Today I saw that even on days when it feels too painful to get out of bed--when I'd rather lay prostrate, clawing at the earth because the world is moving so very SWIFTLY and the air is so very THIN for the BREATHING...even on those days, I get up.  I MOVE.  I do what needs to be done.

I sprint through tears.

This TENACITY?  This INDESTRUCTIBLE, ORIGINAL, FIERCE, KIND and LUMINOUS spirit?  THIS is the part of me that you're never gonna ever take away from me.

And when I say "me" here, I really-est mean "us."

Don't get it twisted.

*** 

Bethany O Momastery Messy Beautiful Warriors Project.png

Bethany O Momastery Messy Beautiful Warriors Project.png

Hello, sweet friends.

I wrote this in case your own lens is cloudy today.  I hope it helps.

Remember that post that went viral a few years ago called "Don't Carpe Diem?"  Glennon Melton wrote that.

I could not possibly say enough nice things about Glennon Melton, which is why I was tickled pink when I received the invitation to participate in her latest project.

This essay and I are part of Glennon's Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project - to learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

And to learn about Glennon's New York Times Bestselling Memoir, "Carry On, Warrior:  the Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life" (just released in paperback), CLICK HERE!

I am not making this up when I say that "Carry On, Warrior" is my favorite go-to gift for ALL Mommas:  Brand New Mommas and Less-New Mommas too.  I keep a stack of these on hand because Lawd knows I do not ever think to buy gifts until the last minute.

Glennon's team has given me a copy of her beloved book to give to one of my beloved readers.  Because they are thoughtful and kind like that.  

To enter the raffle for the book (YOU WANT THIS BOOK, YOU DO), simply leave a comment below this post.  

All comments count as raffle entries.  If you're feeling short on words today, just write, "LOVE THIS!"  

That will do nicely.  :)

With so much love and light, Bethany

***

Bethany_O_for_Glennon_Melton's_Messy_Beautiful_Warriors_Project-591.jpg

Bethany_O_for_Glennon_Melton's_Messy_Beautiful_Warriors_Project-591.jpg

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7 Comments

This Might Answer a Few Questions About Me

bethanyo.com_0220.jpg
bethanyo.com_0220.jpg

For wordy-and-therefore-unlisted reasons, blogging is important to me.  For business and other reasons, so is my Facebook presence.

But I've been rather quiet around the interwebs, haven't I?

"What's up with all the crickets?" you might ask, if referring to silence as "crickets" is what you do.

I'm noticing that I tend to go radio-silent on the internets for one of too reasons.  Either:

A)  I simply *can't* blog because I am overwhelmed by our busy lifestyle and things that are important to me are being dropped while I'm desperately trying to "JUGGLE ALL THE BALLS!!", or

B)  I *choose* not to blog because I am enjoying our busy lifestyle, we are in the *flow,* and I'm letting balls fall so that I can focus on other balls that are even more important to me.

The difference between "dropping" and "letting go" is gargantuan, is it not?  

I'll answer that for you:  It IS.  I say so as one who is a master of the former and a student of the latter.

I'm happy to report that the most recent Silence de Radio up in here has been due to Reason Number 'B.'  I feel I owe you this explanation after writing "Got to Get Down to Get up" a few weeks ago, in case you're worried that I'm still flailing for air in the deep-end.

All is great here.  I have fully breeched.  We have made big, overdue, wonderful and necessary changes around here.  And the changes are good.

After returning from a long weekend in Topanga Canyon with my Love (see photo, above), I wanted to check in here to send some love to you (yes I mean YOU, lovely reader and spreader of light who shows up to read these words!), but I don't have much prepared as far as thoughts go today.

But wait:  I do!

A few weeks ago, Ursula Wayne of The Poppy Preppy Revolution interviewed me for her own blog.  I love Ursula's questions and can't help but wonder whether some of my other readers may be wondering the same things.

So I'm sharing my answer to her first question here and am also listing her other questions.  If you want to read more of my responses, click through to her blog!

I hope your Day of Labor was not laborious at all.  Sending you light and love and appreciation, as always.

xox, B

***

Here's my answer to her first question...

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20130802-_DSC7112.jpg

1. Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? What did you study?   How did you find yourself?

I'll skim though the boring-ish details (Rhode Island-raised, Boston College, Communications major became pharmaceutical sales rep, yadda, yadda) to get to the meat and potatoes of your question.

Here's what I see as a relevant part of my background:  For as long as I can remember, I have been "overachieving" on the outside while struggling to find happiness on the inside.  That sounds deep for a half of a second until you realize it's the M.O. of every single over-achiever in the history of ever.

How did I find my calling?  Great question.  Through listening to my body when I was doing the things that weren't true to me, I suppose.

In pharmaceutical sales, it felt like a piece of my soul was dying.  Incredible job perks and respect from people who applauded my "accomplishments" were the golden handcuffs that kept me there.

But the longer I ignored my gut, the more I had physical symptoms:  I kept peanut butter in my car because on most days, that was all my stomach could tolerate.  And I felt dirty.  Not because the job itself was inherently "dirty" (one of my very favorite people in the darn world is a pharma rep) but because it was not the job that allowed MY soul to thrive.

I left pharmaceuticals to start a document management business, which was one of the scariest and bravest things I've ever done and seemed like the right direction until I realized I was always hoping people wouldn't ask me about it.

I'm no career advisor, but that might be a good sign you're in the wrong career, right?

At the time I came to that realization, my son was an infant and I had always "known" that being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) was my "primary life goal" and that it would be "all I would need" to feel fulfilled.  We were in a position where we could make it work, so I went that direction.

I must interrupt this story to say that it's HARD to change directions, Ursula.  It is one one of the scariest of all Scary-Assed Routes.  And it's embarrassing:  will people take me seriously anymore?  Will 

I

 take me seriously?

But if we ignore our intuition or try to pretend that something is right for us when in fact it is only right for someone else, the physical consequences get worse.  It's dangerous to our health, to our relationships and to our only chance at living our life's PURPOSE, ignoring our intuition is.

Recently, I got whacked upside the head with intuition again.  My "Joyology" and Photography work began as a side-project…a small business that could serve as an outlet for me as a SAHM.  As the business responsibilities have grown, I have not been honest with myself about how hard--no, impossible--it is to run a business AND stay at home with the kids.

I especially haven't been honest with myself about WANTING to work outside the home, because I was petrified that would mean bad things about me as a mom, which is another post for another day.

But by trying to do both, I have been doing neither the way I want to do them.  And so began my downward spiral into a recent month-long depression.

Like I said, intuition will do what it must in order to be heard.  For brevity's sake, I'll skip through the details of that spiral, but I will say that 

the great thing about hitting a low is that it gives you a place to plant your feet

.  It forces you to reevaluate.  It forces you to be honest with yourself.

So now I'm in the process of creating the structure so that I can work during the day and be present for my family in the evenings.  I am shifting again, and for the first time, I am making the shift ENTIRELY on what my intuition is telling me is right for me and my family, not based on what I think society or the people around me would say I "should" be doing.

It feels so, SO good.

I guess you could say that I've been able to find my "calling" because I've found myself.  I have been working with a therapist (for 16 years loosely, 4 years intensely) and I know now that you won't get anywhere in therapy unless you will talk about the things you don't want to talk about.  To find yourself, you need self-love.  To find self-love, you must first find self-acceptance.  To find self-acceptance, you must be willing to shine light on the things that you wish were not a part of yourself.

I guess you could say that I found myself through being willing to honestly assess and make changes.  And that I continue to find myself!  :)

***

Here are Ursula's other Questions.  

If you're interested, click through to the Poppy Preppy Revolution to read more from this interview!

2. Your photos and your approach to photography is so soulful.  Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?

3. How did you find your niche?

4. Who has influenced you on your road thus far?

5. Your pictures are so happy. What makes you happy? How elicit such genuinely happy smiles from your clients?

6.  Who do you consider to be your peers? What blogs/sites do you read on a regular basis?

7. Your honesty is so refreshing. Have you always been so straightforward?

8. What makes you laugh?

9. What does the online inspirational community need more of?

10. What's the best advice you could give for someone just starting out to find their "peeps"? (Not the candy.)

***

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16 Comments

Got to Get down to Get up: Things I Don't Want You to Know

Breaching is my favorite part of diving. As a kid in my family's pool, I loved the diving board but rarely chose the surface-skimming technique of speed swimmers.

Shallow dives are just so damn boring: that's all.

Instead, I'd catapult myself to the highest possible altitude, jackknife my body to touch my toes, flick my pointed legs skyward so I could enter the water at a 90 degree angle, and bee-line through eight feet of water to the pool's bottom.

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9 Comments

How to Make an Ass of Yourself in One Easy Step

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www.bethanyo.com-1.jpg

In addition to being the only person I've ever known to use the word "whence" in spoken conversation, my ninth grade english teacher also wins the superlative for Person In Life Most Likely to Tell Me What Happens when You Assume.

[In case you are one of the lucky ones who has never heard this play on words, the answer is:  "You make an 'ass' out of '-u' and '-me.']

I've never much liked that expression, mostly because it is typically said rather asstasticly.  Irony makes me cough.

Nevertheless, apparently this saying is something I should be keeping in mind from time to time always.  Like when I email someone and they don't respond so I assume they have a problem with me.  Or when, hypothetically, I call a producer at Harpo studios to ask whether I am correct in deducing that I have been cut from Oprah's Life Class and I don't hear back so I ASSUME that I my conclusions are correct.

HYPOTHETICALLY, I might make an ass of myself if I were to do THAT, for instance.

My friends:  you can believe people when they tell you that these interwebs are capable of spreading information far and wide.  Because somehow or other, my post titled "Things I Learned about Embarrassment by Being Cut From Oprah's Lifeclass" found its way all the way to Chicago, of all places.  And the good people at Harpo studios were kind enough to call me after they read that post to inform me that in the end, I HAD, in fact, been on Oprah's Lifeclass.  They also very kindly explained the source of my confusion.

I tell you what.  It's a good thing I recently analyzed my thoughts on embarrassment because I am finding myself experiencing new heights of this emotion.

[Sigh.]

[Le sigh again.]

[Lamaze.]

Ah, well!  I have resolved myself to grow from all uncomfortable situations, and this I shall do again!

I am writing today's post because I realize I made a mistake and I want to apologize for unintentionally misrepresenting the facts.  My heart sinks knowing that I may have inadvertently painted someone I admire (Oprah, and her team) in a negative light, when my intentions were only positive and growth-minded.  

Oh, LIFE!!  Thank you for your cockameemee ways of helping me to grow!

Now the question is:  what do I take from this?  How do I use this situation to make myself wiser in the future?

Do I use this as proof that it is dangerous for me to stick my neck out there, and that in the future I should play things safe so as to not risk more public embarrassment?

That's the tempting response, but it's also the cowardly one.  It's the voice of Resistance.

If I were to allow this embarrassing mistake to fuel my self-doubt, thereby smothering my optimism, my courage, or my eagerness to grow, then a piece of my soul would die.

I would not be letting myself shine.

A better response is to see this as proof that despite how f-ing hard I try otherwise, I am GOING to make mistakes.  AND THANK GOODNESS FOR IT, because this is the quickest way for me to grow.

If we handle them right, mistakes are the fast lane towards becoming our best selves.  

Lesson numero dos here is the awareness that I jump to negative conclusions WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING IT.  There was no doubt in my mind that we had been cut from that Oprah episode; you can bet your booty that, otherwise, I never would have written that post.

If I'm not AWARE of when I'm making assumptions, how often am I basing my emotions on negative speculation?  How much good energy is going up in smoke due to PHANTOM problems??

My guess would be:  a LOT of it.  OFTEN.

I think what went wrong here was that I allowed my desire for growth to outpace my optimism.  I was a bit overzealous about making lemonade from lemons when in fact I did not have lemons at all.

Next time I think I am about to receive a shipment of lemons, I should consider that maybe the fruit truck is actually on its way to deliver APPLES!  And then, wouldn't I feel like a fool when I set up my lemonade stand and the truck delivers APPLES!

I disagree with my english teacher:  making assumptions isn't the problem.  Making NEGATIVE assumptions:  that's the problem.  Jack Canfield had it right when he told us to become inverse paranoids, assuming at every turn that the world is plotting to serve, enrich, and empower us.

A widespread inverse paranoid movement sure would relieve our world of some serious asstasticness.

So perhaps Oprah WILL eventually dub me "the AH-HA Maven" after all.

My wager?

Highly likely.

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9 Comments

Things I Learned about Embarrassment by Getting Cut from Oprah's Lifeclass

Bethany Owen Oprah's Lifeclass.jpg
Bethany Owen Oprah's Lifeclass.jpg

***

Edited to Add:  Please note that this post is not entirely accurate.  In the end, we actually WERE on Oprah's Lifeclass:  you can read more about that in the post titled "How to Make an Ass of Yourself in One Easy Step."  

I apologize for my inaccuracy.  

I've elected to keep this post on my blog anyway because I've received many emails from lovely readers telling me this is inspiring them.  

In light of the ADDITIONAL embarrassment I felt when I found out that we ultimately WERE on the show, I stand by everything I wrote about that emotion in this post, and I hope this continues to inspire.

***

Let's cut right to the chase, shall we?  Last Thursday, just hours before Oprah's groundbreaking interview with Lance Armstrong aired, Harpo producers cut an interview featuring my husband and me from Oprah's Lifeclass show with Dr Gary Chapman.

As a result, Ms Winfrey "missed her one big chance to make it big."

That's my dad's opinion, anyway.  His text telling me so helped me pull my head out from under the covers of my Chicago hotel room.

Because it's important to be humble when you are about to be discovered by Oprah, I didn't tell many people that we had been interviewed for a testimonial segment of Oprah's Lifeclass episode with Dr Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages.

Keeping mum was also a tactical face-saving technique, in the unlikely event that my sexy-assed "AH-HA"-inducing intellectual wit didn't shine through on camera.  If I came across as a bumbling idiot, I could just yawn and claim the interview meant nothing to me.

But I think I have Truth-Telling Tourette's Syndrome (a term which, incidentally, is completely fabricated) because I'm about to tell you exactly how excited I was for this opportunity, even though said excitement has the potential to now be very embarrassing, considering how things actually transpired.

Upon receiving the initial phone call from Harpo about this opportunity, my first thought was, logically, "O to the M to the F to the G.  This manifestation sh*t really DOES work."

You see, I had recently set the intention that I want to use my personal challenges (and triumphs) to help others by 1) destigmatizing mental health counseling and 2) sharing the tools that have helped me surmount anxiety and depression.  Then HARPO called to ask if I wanted to go on OPRAH to discuss my relationship CHALLENGES and how I've OVERCOME them.

Kay.  Clearly I have extra-special manifestation powers because most people have to wait a long time for opportunities such as this.

Since the universe was making it so clear that it wanted me to share my message on this global stage, my predictable conclusion was that, while laughing with our shoes off post-filming, Oprah would dub me "The AH-HA Maven," after which I would explode in popularity, exponentially increasing my contribution to humanity.  Our children would grow up in a healthier world and my cup of Importance would overflow indefinitely.

This is a lot for one person to process so quickly.  How would I maintain my private life amongst all the fame?

Shockingly, though, my prediction wasn't precisely accurate.  After Husband and I rearranged our schedules and invested our pennies to fly to Chicago for the taping, we waited six hours at Harpo Studios to NOT be told that we had been cut from the show; we devised that conclusion based on our own observations.

Aint no business like show business, babies.

As I type this in retrospect, there's evidence to suggest that maybe there were some delusions of grandeur at play here.  Maybe I misinterpreted the universe's (and…ummm…Harpo's) reasons for inviting us to be involved in the show.

But am I embarrassed that my hopes were so high?

I'm glad you asked.  You know why this is an important question?  Because most people blame practicality as the reason they don't pursue their dreams, when really it's the fear of potential embarrassment that holds them back.  

So if I can unbuckle embarrassment and effectively render it incapable of affecting you for the rest of your days, maybe you will be more likely to brazenly pursue your own goals, yes?

Ask and ye shall receive, Love-Bugs.

Last night, Brian Johnson (I can't say enough good things about his en*theos Academy for Optimal Living) reminded me of Heidi Grant Halvorson's wisdom that there's an important distinction between a "Be Good" mindset, where you are trying to PROVE yourself, and a "Get Better" mindset, where you are trying to IMPROVE yourself.

That insight provided the spotlight for my AH-HA moment regarding how to dismember embarrassment:

Before I share this new understanding with you, can we first agree on a definition for embarrassment?  We feel embarrassed when we perceive that others are judging us negatively, correct?

Agreed.

For instance.  If I were embarrassed to share that I thought I was about to become Oprah's BFF, my discomfort would stem from the fear that others might conclude that I'm conceited or deluded or both, right?  Or, worse:  they could use my NOT making the cut as evidence that I am incapable of achieving my unconventional dreams, couldn't they?

But is my intention to PROVE myself, or is it to IMPROVE myself?

My goal is to IMPROVE myself, obviously!  (Except for those times when I blog to PROVE that I'm IMPROVING, but shut your pretty traps about that, Young Whippersnappers!)

Do you see the gloriousness of the PROVE vs IMPROVE mindsets now, friends?  The IMPROVE mindset makes it IMPOSSIBLE to experience embarrassment while pursuing one's dreams because a genuine desire to improve oneself--combined with morals and will-power--inoculates you from judgement.  

Who judges an eager student for making a mistake?

No one with any courage of their own, that's who.

[Yoo hoo!  It's also worth mentioning that we only fear judgment when we judge ourselves.  But when we align with our highest selves--our truths--even the most self-critical among us (my hand is raised) know in our hearts that we have nothing to prove.]

Arguably, if judgement is the cause of embarrassment, and nobody with a warm pulse would judge someone who is earnestly trying to improve, then the only justifiable cause for embarrassment regarding one's dreams is the act of NOT pursuing them. 

I'll be sure to mention this the next time I'm on Oprah.

***

Despite (or maybe because of) how things turned out, I'm very grateful for this experience.  I learned so much, and it was special to experience Oprah from a distance of 15 feet:  she radiates love and approachability.  I think she'll do just fine without having us on the Gary Chapman episode.

***

If there were no potential for embarrassment, would you find a way to pursue your dreams?

I love to hear from you!

***

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Doubters Gonna Doubt. Dreamers Gotta Dream. (My Response to Someone Who Doubted Me)

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www.bethanylee.com-2-6.jpg

Dear Readers:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled "I Have A Dream," but I didn't publish it because I pish-poshed my far-reaching goals, giving self-doubt a temporary win.

(My inner dialogue went something like this:  "Who amI to make such big changes in the world?  And how embarrassing would it be to put myself out there like this and then FAIL PUBLICLY??")

But this weekend, somebody laughed at my dreams.  When my proud husband shared my exciting news about being on Mastin Kipp's blog (The Daily Love) last Friday, this person exhaled patronizingly through her nose.  So you're an "inspirational blogger," she said, all snarky-like and with condescending amusement.

AS IF I aught to plant my feet on the ground and do something more "realistic"!

[Time Out:  Am I aware that I am a sensitive person?  Absolutely.  Are my hurt feelings in this situation a reflection of my own self-doubt?  Probably.  Points acknowledged.  Moving on.]

As much as I've worked to overcome my egoic pridefulness, I do not wish to overcome it completely.  There are times when the ego is not only a strong character trait but is also fundamentally essential for the improvement of our world.

The instant one corner of that person's mouth lifted--as if her smirk was fundamentally UNCONTAINABLE, I knew I would be publishing my "I Have a Dream" post.  I looked that person in the eye, smiled politely, and resolved to show her exactly what I CAN do.

Nobody--but NOBODY--laughs at my dreams but me.

That's the beauty of the doubters, dear readers:  they show us how much we believe in ourselves.  They show us the urgency of our forward movement.

We send the doubters light and love and empathize with them, since we know that their doubt in us is only a reflection of how much they doubt themselves.  We have been in that dismal place of crippling fear.  And--similar to how we feel when we leave the DMV--we know we never want to go back to that place again.

It's also our job, Dreamers, to do our damnedest to prove the Doubters wrong.  They may never "see the light" that the future can be brighter than today (if only we vow to make it so.)  But if we DO go valiantly in the direction of our dreams, then at least our actions will give descendants of the doubters hope that they, too, can change the world.

You've probably heard it said that "from s/he to whom much has been given, much is expected."

I've always thought of that saying in terms of material wealth.  But now I think it's even more important in regards to intangible things.  I think that saying applies beautifully to the possession of HOPE.

Many people have been led to believe that positive change is hopeless.  They think the "good ole' days" are forever gone and that society, our country, and our planet are plundering head-first to an even more dismal future.

But some of us do have hope that our actions--OURS, PERSONALLY and collectively--can make a positive difference in this world.

We all have doubts.  Even the most successful people in history have doubted themselves, and doubted themselves often.

But if, in addition to our doubts, we ALSO feel drawn towards our HOPE, then it is our right--no, our DUTY--to pursue those unrealistic dreams because from s/he to whom HOPE has been given, much is expected.

The person who doubted me this weekend was right:  my dreams ARE unrealistic.  I would be doing the world a disservice if I returned to my "realistic" goals.

[Hint:  if you're feeling depressed by the daily grind, that may be a sign that you need to make your goals a little more UNrealistic.  Also, if you perceive your sensitivity as a "weakness" (that's a rut I was stuck in for 31 years), I'd wager a bet that most of the people who have elicited positive change in our world have been motivated to do so BECAUSE they were so damn sensitive.]

The very fact that my dreams are "unrealistic" is exactly why I'm going to be so giddy when I am doing the back float through a proverbial swimming pool of accomplished unrealistic dreams.

So, my next post will be my "I Have a Dream" post.  Until then, please brainstorm and share your "unrealistic" hopes.  I really want to hear about them.

ONWARDS, DREAMERS!

With light and love for the Doubters, the Dreamers, and the Candlestick-Makers, Bethany

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www.bethanylee.com-1-40.jpg

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8 Comments

Right on Time to Break the Cycle.

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www.bethanylee.com-1-32.jpg

At any random moment, my 16-month-old daughter is liable to throw her head back, laugh heartily at the sky, and run forward blindly with arms back and chest out until she collapses to the ground in a fit of laughter.

It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed.  And it happens (seemingly) unprovoked.

I've been thinking a lot about "Lettin' It Shine" lately, chewing on what I think that phrase actually means.  (Hint:  I DON'T think its application is limited to our positive, "shiny" emotions.)

One thing that is very clear to me from watching my kids is that "Lettin' It Shine" is not something we need to LEARN.  It's something we are BORN knowing.  It's something that we (tragically) UN-LEARN over time.

To put it more confusingly, in order to truly Let It Shine, we need to un-learn our un-learning.  [That's all!]

But how is it that we stop shining in the first place?  And WHY??

***[Cut to scene 2.]***

We're five minutes late for preschool already and I don't even have the kids in the car yet.  I'm carrying my son's bagel with cream cheese and jelly between my teeth while holding my toddler to my hip with one arm, dodging her attempts to grab the bagel by continuously flicking my head to the side, carrying two overflowing bags and two water bottles with the other arm, and attempting to open the car door.

My back is twitching again.

I stayed up later than I should have again last night, so I am (predictably) groggy this morning.  I'm not on my A-game.

I drop the two bags and water bottles on the ground, open the car door, put the bagel on the seat, and while I'm trying to wrestle my daughter into her car seat, I turn to see that my son is sauntering around our front yard with a long stick held to his nose, pretending to be an elephant.  I remind him (for the UMPteenth time) that we are late:   leave the stick here for later and get-in-the-CAR.

I wrestle a little more with wrestler-baby then glance at my son again.

"MmmmmMMMMMMMMMMPH!!!" he trumpets.  His head is hanging low, his weight sauntering from side to side, his feet plodding slowly…exactly like an elephant.

"LISTEN TO ME," I say.  I am firm and my voice is low and slow:  my best intimindating mom voice.  "I am taking that stick and you are getting in the car right now."

I grab the stick.

"BUT I WANT TO PUT IT IN THE CLOSET," he yells.  ["Garage," he means.  He's been keeping that stick in there every night since the hurricane.  It's thin, crooked in several places so as to take up maximum garage space (or, maybe, to make it look more like an elephant trunk), and it's at least ten feet long.]

"WE ARE LATE!" I say.  "THE STICK IS SAFE HERE IN THE DRIVEWAY.  WE CAN LEAVE IT HERE AND PLAY WITH IT WHEN YOU GET HOME.  NOW GET-IN-THE-CAR," I say.  (Not quite as low and slow that time.)

Now he is crying.  It's not the manipulative, I'm-trying-to-get-my-way cry.  It's his genuinely heart-broken and heart-breaking I-am-concerned-about-my-elephant-trunk cry.

And all of a sudden all of my recent reflections about why we humans forget how to "Let It Shine" smack me in the face--as if I just stepped on a rake.  WHAT AM I DOING?

I purse my lips into an "O" and blow:  a physical release of my disappointment in myself.  CAN'T I SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING?

My son is teaching me how beautiful that long and twisted dead stick is, and all I am thinking about is how much room it has been occupying in my recently-cleaned garage.

He is coaching me on how to enjoy the small things and I am hurrying him up so that we can--WHAT?--get to NURSERY SCHOOL??  Where they don't give a damn if you are late?  Where they sing and color and teach you to ENJOY THE SMALL THINGS??

My son is showing me how to let it shine and not only am I not taking the lesson in it, I am squashing HIS light.

Don't get me wrong:  I think kids need discipline and I think they need to learn to respect their parents.  If I make a rule, I need to follow through and teach my children to obey.

But why make the rule in this case?  How did we get here?  Do I not know that my son will take his splendid time noticing beauty on his way through the garage EVERY morning?

Why do I not plan time for that into our day?  Why must he adjust to MY pace, instead of me coming down to HIS pace more often?  Why do I not get myself to bed earlier at night so that I can have the PATIENCE to recognize what is and is not important in the morning?

This is how it happens, isn't it?  This is how we UN-LEARN how to shine.  Our parents are our teachers and if our parents do not take care of themselves and let themselves shine then when we grow to mirror them, we shine less, too.

It's time that we un-learn the un-learning, catchers of light.  It's time that we break the cycle by rocking our basic happiness fundamentals so that we can model--for our children, for ourselves, and for our peers--what it means to glow with an inner light.

This week, I'm committing to a 10:45pm lights-out time.  Every night.  No excuses.  I'm planning time into our morning for a toddler's pace (you should too, regardless of whether you have a toddler) and if we ARE "late" for something whose start-time doesn't matter, I'm going to relax and be laissez-faire about it.

Next time I think I am "late" for an appointment, I aught to pay attention because I might ACTUALLY be RIGHT ON TIME for the elephant parade.

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Sh*t Just Got Real:  Today is My Favorite Day

22 Comments

Sh*t Just Got Real: Today is My Favorite Day

www.bethanylee.com-1-25.jpg
www.bethanylee.com-1-25.jpg

Last week I told you that my favorite post of all time has not been sitting well with me.

While I LOVE the "Raindrops on Roses" post for its emphasis on appreciating the little things, and while I especially love the analogy where I describe playing in the rain as "an experience which is, like the rain, at once grounding and heavenly," what bothers me is that I think the "Today is my favorite day" quote is intended as a healthy perspective during a PROVERBIAL rainstorm.

Not necessarily during an ACTUAL rainstorm.

No matter; I shall give it another whack, Jack.

Today is My Favorite Day:  the New and Improved "Sh*t Just Got Real" Version.

(A true story of an everyday parenting "rainstorm" that took place last week.)

It's 6:30 pm and my patience is growing thin.

It's witching hour a la casa de Light-lovers and Mommy is counting the minutes until her beloved wee ones go nuh-nights.  T minus 2 hours.

Today is my favorite day.

I do not know what my 15-month-old wants.  She started yelling at me at 3AM and has BEEN yelling at me all the ever-loving day.  I pride myself on baby-whispering and yet today, I cannot soothe her.  Could it really still be a teething thing?  Maybe she is just head-strong, like her Momma.  Maybe she feels like an adult trapped in a baby's body, the way her Momma used to feel.  Regardless, I do not know how to satisfy her.  I feel like I am failing her.

Today is my favorite day.

I need these children to eat.  If they do not eat, they will not sleep, and I have a teleconference at 9pm.  They cannot be screaming during my conference call.  Why are they so hard to feed?  Do they not experience hunger, these children?

They nibble on scrambled eggs, peaches, toast, cheese, blue berries, watermelon, and three varieties of crackers while I choke on the words of the younger me: "MY children will eat vegetables whether they like it or not," said I.  WHAT DID YOU KNOW, YOUNGER ME??  NOTHING.  YOU DID NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT CHILDREN, YOUNGER ME WHO SAID THAT.

The parenting books do not agree on much, but they DO all draw a line in the sand when it comes to being a short-order chef for your kids.  "Do not do that," they say.  I am short-ordering the sh*t out of tonight's dinner and telling myself this makes me a bad and selfish mom.

Today is my favorite day.

One pain-staking hour of short-ordering and two-bite-meal-samplings later, I conclude that their bellies MUST have enough food to sustain them through the night--or at LEAST through my conference call.  I sigh relief and start cleaning the dinner mess while glancing at the clock: one hour remaining and three hours worth of tasks to complete.  I am no mathematician, but I know that equation doesn't work.

The muscles around my spine start twitching, which is always my flashing warning light that if I do not seek stress-relief quickly, my internal fuses shall blow.

Today is my favorite day.

I take some deep breaths while I clean the buffet of food from beneath my children's seats.  In my haste, I neglect to notice that my 15-month-old daughter is trying to make herself throw up, which is what she does when she wants my attention.

Today is my favorite day.

I catch her a minute too late, and as I plea with her to stop, I get splashed in the face with her projectile vomit.  She retches and retches and retches.  Where is this food even coming from?  She did not eat this much food.  She retches everything she has eaten over the last three days, at least.  She throws up so many times that my son starts dry-heaving.  I tell him to go into the other room so that she doesn't throw up on him.

My daughter laughs; she has my attention now.

Today is my favorite day.

T minus 45 minutes.  I still have work to complete, the kids are not ready for bed, and now there is a thick blanket of vomit covering our dinner mess.  I scoop up my daughter, strip her to her diaper, and press her vomit-ridden body to mine.  I love this strong-willed baby.

I breathe.

Today is my favorite day.

I run--literally--RUN to the basement to get a towel for her and as I descend the stairs I wish my husband were home.  While I'm lost in thought wondering whether he got his new tires tightened like the mechanic instructed, I forget that I have already armed our security system tonight.

Today is my favorite day.

One step into our messy-assed basement, happy-vomit-baby and I trip the motion detectors and an ear-shattering noise that is intended to piss off intruders and all humans and animals within a conservative three-mile radius echoes from every wall of our house.

Today is my favorite day.

I whip around and SPRINT back upstairs.  My son is screaming bloody murder.  When I had told him to go in the other room, he had climbed to the tip-top of the couch, and his head was directly next to the siren when it sounded.

My heart rips in half knowing that I caused his fear.

Today is my favorite day.

My daughter cries whenever she sees my son cry, so both children are now screaming.  In my desperation, I try to turn on the TV to calm them with Sesame Street while I take care of the police but the batteries on the remote have died and WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO BUTTONS ON TV SETS?  WHERE DID THEY GO????

The alarm company calls and, through the childrens' screams, they cannot hear me say that everything is okay.

My cellphone drops the call.

Today is my favorite day.

My phone beeps and I look to see if it's the alarm company but it's three texts from random family members--all somewhat-urgently requesting information.  One text is from a beloved family member who is letting me know she is on her way to come get something from me that I had promised her but have not yet prepared for her.

Today is my favorite day.

My back twitches.  I look at the clock, the dinner mess, the vomit, my phone, my work pile, my kids.  "FMP ['f*ck my plans']," I say; my task deadline was self-imposed anyway.

I breathe.

Today is my favorite day.

With a giant surrendering breath, I crumble to the floor and nestle my screaming kids into my vomit-ridden body.  One child curls into a ball between my criss-crossed legs, like a kangaroo in my "pouch," he says, and dries his tears on my pants.  My other baby lovingly slaps my face as she licks my cheek and lovingly coohs, "aaaaaaaahhhh," which I have come to know as her way of saying "I love you."

Today is my favorite day.

I am right where I need to be.  My children are comforted by my love, so all is right with the world.  I made the right decision by forgoing the other things that "needed" attention.  I have brought my heart to the right place.

I think this means I am a good mommy even though I am a short-order chef.

Today is my favorite day.

I inhale their love and am instantly transcended to a higher, calmer place.  I am grateful.  Grateful for my babies.  Grateful for my husband's job, even though it means he is away from us tonight.  I'm grateful to have a variety of food to offer my kids, even though they don't eat any of it.  I'm grateful to our alarm company and local police officers for making me feel safe.  I'm grateful for my flexible work schedule, and for my close relationships with my extended family members who are always willing to lend a hand if only I ask.

Today is my favorite day.

I'm especially grateful to be in a place in life where I don't give a damn about the fact that I am covered in puke as long as my kids are happy.

I wipe a happy tear from my eye.  Tonight has been, like the rain, at once grounding and heavenly.

Today.  OH, today.

TODAY is my favorite day.

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Let It Shine.  (OR:  "The Post in which I Tell my Fears to F--- Off.")

49 Comments

Let It Shine. (OR: "The Post in which I Tell my Fears to F--- Off.")

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www.bethanylee.com-1-2.jpg

Marianne Williamson has lost her marbles.

Or at least that's what I thought when I read her famous "Powerful Beyond Measure" quote for the first time (in 2001.)

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

I cocked my head like a confused dog.  So…what you are trying to say is that my deepest fear is that I am powerful?  "Powerful beyond measure," in fact?

Sorry, Sweet-hot.  You are forgetting the answers.

I have a lot of fears, you see.  A wicked lot of them.  In fact, I try to give myself a false semblance of control over said fears by obsessively compulsively doing entirely illogical things like inhaling when hearing good news and exhaling when hearing bad news (so as to welcome the good and protect myself from the bad; obvi.)

Accordingly, I am no stranger to my fears.  I have made my list, I've checked it thrice, and--let me tell you one thing--the fear of being powerful beyond measure?  It's not on here.  Access to Scary Club O' Fears:  DENIED.

But that was a whole 11 years ago.  When I heard the Powerful Beyond Measure quote at a leadership retreat in 2001, I had myself so convinced of a subconsciously fabricated story that I actually THOUGHT I HAD THINGS FIGURED OUT!

We might call that time my "Pinnacle of Delusionment."

During said Pinnacle of Unenlightenment, I was maintaining a 3.96 GPA at Boston College (delusion #1:  "I am lovable because I am smart"), exercising two hours a day (delusion #2:  I am beautiful because I am in shape), and volunteering 12 hours a week (delusion #3:  I am a good person because I do nice things).  I was participating in a host of extracurricular activities [you fill in the delusions now; I'm tired of that exercise.]  I was partying late and lots because that's what college kids are "supposed to" do, I was exploring the art of flirtation to lure men into my net and was relishing the power that came with denying them what they wanted (playah, please:  I am sexy but I am not easy.)

Generally, I was basing my entire self-worth off of other peoples' checkboxes, because--hell--I was good at checkbox-checking.

And I like being good at things.

Plus, I was happy.  I mean, wasn't I?  Well, sure--I spent a lot of time crying behind closed doors, which should have been one of many easy-assed clues that something was wrong, but I can write off crying to PMS at least three out of every four weeks in a month.  Plus, maybe I secretly (and I am just realizing this right this minute)--maybe I subconsciously actually LIKED that I cried a lot.  I mean--doesn't that fit the profile of Overachieving Collegiate Female--a role that I unconsciously hand-picked and clung to in order to mask my lower feelings of inadequacy and unlovability?  I mean, if you're an Overachieving Collegiate Female and you're not crying a lot, then--let's just stop whacking around the bush here--you're probably not much of an overachiever, now, are you?  Get out there and champion another cause, girl.  Stress yourself out 'til you crumble.  THEN--and only then--can you check the overachiever box, Sweet Thang.

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www.bethanylee.com-1-5.jpg

It wasn't until the blessed tides of childbirth came crashing into my shores in 2009 that it became undeniably clear that my castle of "I've got things figured out" was built upon pillars of sand (pillars of sand, pillars of sand.)  At some point during my postpartum maelstrom, it occurred to me:  "Holy hell.  I am no longer just a student of life.  Now I am also a teacher."

Did I have the mettle to deserve that medal?  There is no application process to becoming a biological parent (oh, Injustice, you really are an evil bitch), so, since no one else was determining whether I was fit to mother, I was forced to ask myself the difficult questions.

Could I be a good role model for this precious child?  I'm not talking about modeling the easy things.  I know I can teach him not to litter, to pay his taxes, and (so long as I buckle down some serious self-discipline) there's probably also some hope that I can teach him to share and not to swear.

But can I model self-confidence?  Can I stand in my own skin--fully conscious of a plethora of flaws and also conscious that I'm not even conscious of ALL of my flaws--can I stand in that authenticity and shout with the ferocity of a freedom warrior, "I LOVE ME!!!!!" without feeling undeserving, boastful or inauthentic? 

The answer to those questions was also a resounding "no," which was excellent news for my therapist.  Let's just say I've seen a lot of her since then.

Fast forward three more years.  I've done (and am still doing) the work.  I've cried, I've sweated, I've shaken.  I've lied to myself.  I've yelled, I've laughed, I've sobbed.  I've cut through those lies.  I've researched theories, tried new techniques.  I've done well with some, I've done poorly with others.  I've punched, I've bled, I've fallen.  I've gotten back up.  I've pushed people away, I've kept my guard up, I've knocked those same walls down.  I've read, I've workshopped, I've reflected.  I've prayed, I've meditated, I've begged.  I've listened.  I've paid attention.  I've identified my fears.  And slowly--slowly and magnificently surely--I am learning what it feels like to truly love myself.

I like it here.

I like it a lot.

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www.bethanylee.com-1-6.jpg

What do I have to say to Ms. Williamson now?  For starters, this:  YES!!!  OMG--YES--MARIANNE!!!!  YES, YES--FROM THE ROOFTOPS--YES!!!!!  Our deepest fear IS that we are powerful beyond measure!!!!!

All along, I thought I was an overachiever when really I wasn't achieving at all.  Afraid of failure, criticism, isolation, and inadvertently insulting those who are smothering their own lights, I was distracting myself from the things I was meant to be by vigorously pursuing the things that I thought put me in the best light with others.  I pursued the things that felt the safest.

I, the "overachiever," was actually doing everything within my power to KEEP myself from achieving.

I distracted myself from my inner wisdom because pursuing the things that we were born to pursue?  That shit is scary.  The stakes are high and success is contingent upon a willingness to be vulnerable.

Me?  I do a lot of things, folks, but I do not do vulnerable.

If I DO go there--if I DO honor that voice of my heart and my soul and truly let myself shine, then I'm going to have to shed all of the "tools" that I have developed to "protect" myself for so long.  My "tools" of perfectionism, independence, and nose-to-the-grindstone productivity distractions are comfortable to me.  For all intents and purposes, they've been rather useful, too.  Without them, I am a swordsman without a sword.

I could really get hurt, folks.

But if I DON'T honor my inner voice?  Well, now.  That's even scarier.  If I DON'T strip out those old behaviors and let myself feel vulnerable, then I will be trapped in my bad habits for the rest of my life.  I will never be able to say honestly that I think I am improving.  And I will never be able to model--for my son and also now for my daughter--what it looks like to be a strong, comfortable-in-my-own-skin, self-loving person.

The fear of THAT?  The fear of that throws kerosene on the fire inside my soul.  It's why I'm writing today.

So, here I am.  Me.  Bona fide, certified.  My intention with this blog is to courageously show you my authentic self so as to continue my own personal growth and also to educate, entertain, and inspire others to live their most authentic lives and achieve their highest potentials, too.

In this post and with future posts, I would like to work towards eliminating the secrecy surrounding depression.  It's difficult enough to experience the sadness; we need not bundle secrecy and shame on top of it.

So let's stop hiding our struggles from each other; mmmmmmkay?

HERE'S WHY:  as soon as we hide ANY PART of ourselves from the world, we are in direct and imminent danger of believing that we--the ESSENCES of who we are as individuals--are unlovable.   Fearing that drawing attention to ourselves will allow others to see and confirm our unlovability, we avoid standing out from the crowd for ANY reason--good OR bad--so we hide the GOOD parts of ourselves from the world, too.

We stop shining.

THAT, my friends, is precisely what the world does NOT need.

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www.bethanylee.com-1-7.jpg

I now see that what I once perceived as my biggest weakness (a tendency towards depression) is actually my biggest strength.  It has led me to a level of self-awareness (via extensive self-analysis) that I would never have endured without the fear of darkness nipping at my heels.  My personal challenges make me more compassionate and understanding towards others.

And they sure as hell make me appreciative of all of the goodness surrounding me.

Dare I say it?  These parts of me that I always believed made me unlovable, unattractive, bad and unworthy?  These are the very same parts of me that CONTRIBUTE to how lovable, attractive, good and worthy I am.  They MAKE me beautiful.

If my writing, my optimism, or my willingness to let myself shine can help ONE other person get to where I am standing right now (on the other side of darkness, though admittedly always actively evading its prowl), then every criticism or judgment I may incur on this vulnerable journey will have been worth it.

As Marianne Williamson says, "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

I believe that.  I believe that, regardless of whether you are aware of it, whether you are nourishing it, whether you are pretending to honor it but are really ignoring it, or whether you are distracting yourself from it--no matter what--you have a light inside of you.

I believe your light is powerful.  Powerful beyond measure, in fact.

Do you believe that?

If you are cocking your head like a confused dog right now, (as I did, originally), do not pressure yourself to absorb all of this at once.

Today I just want to plant a seed in your head.

[If we were having this discussion/monologue in person, I would be shaking you by the shoulders right now--desperately--as if you are asleep but I am afraid you are dead.  Hear the urgency in my voice:]

What if you ARE powerful beyond measure?  What if every fear standing between you and your optimal life was planted there by YOU--subconsciously but intentionally--to prevent yourself from being all that you can be?  Is it possible that you are AFRAID to let yourself shine?  

[Hint:  answer = "yes."]

Consider it, friend.  Because I have not lost my marbles.

And neither has Marianne Williamson.

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www.bethanylee.com-1-26

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Thanks for reading, friends!

I'm gonna be honest.  It was very scary for me to publish this.

I'm posting it anyway because I really hope it speaks to at least one person.

If this post moved you at all, or if you think someone else might benefit from it, I would be very grateful if you share it (Facebook, email, Twitter--however!) so that my chances of reaching the people who aught to read it are increased.

Many thanks!!!!!

Love and light,

B

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