Selfies

I used to hate, I mean, HATE pictures of myself. Every photo was an opportunity for me to see all the unsightly parts of me. To critique myself. To dislike myself. To remind myself of how much work I needed to do to look acceptable or be “pretty”. I could spot the smallest hint of cellulite or a double chin. My gray hairs were so obvious to me. When I looked frumpy or my butt looked too big. Whatever it was, it was all I saw.

And I didn’t need a photo to see how unattractive I was. I felt it all the time. It defined me. Every person I met, I compared myself to. Skinnier legs, more muscular arms, prettier hair, nicer skin, better put together, more fashionable, stylish, you name it. It was the foundation of my life. How did I measure up to someone else’s outsides?

I never did…..

I never felt sufficient. Ever.

A few years ago, when God began shifting my heart to align with His, I started to see glimpses of my worth. I got a tattoo on my side, the Hebrew word for sufficient, meaning if He is enough, then I am enough. I thought I was beginning to really learn to like myself but I was just finding new ways to mask my disdain. I could lift a lot of weights and post a cool video of that. I could make intentionally silly posts to hide the fact that I was uncomfortable with myself. I could edit and filter things to only present my “best” self.

Or…. I could just be myself and share only who I truly am, and be more than ok with it. I could truly love myself and see all the beauty within me and not focus on my flaws. But that seemed like an impossible feat…..

For a while I would try to shift my thoughts. Whenever I judged myself, I would say nice things in my head to combat the negative. There’s this guy, Gottman, and he did a study about relationships. Apparently, for every 1 negative statement, you need 5 positive ones to balance out. This is true for all relationships, even the one with yourself. If I looked in the mirror and said I was ugly, I would immediately force myself to say something kind. And if I found myself judging others, I would muster up a compliment and hand it out as fast as I could (and it had to be genuine). I would remind myself of how I ran a half marathon or how I loved deeply or served others well. I tried to find ways to convince myself that I was attractive and “good”. As much kind words I said to fight my mean self, it was never enough. I couldn’t convince myself to see anything differently.

My husband is a photographer and I have always forbid him from taking pictures of me. Professional cameras would capture my hideous appearance with even greater detail. I had no interest in seeing all of my skin and body with such great design. That decision always made me feel sad inside but my sorrow was not stronger than my dislike for myself. I don’t know if it’s me approaching my 40’s or the heart shift with my ankle break or just God revealing things to me, but something recently has changed. Maybe you just stop caring so much about this sort of thing at some point. Probably some people never cared much about comparison. Not only do I like the way I look, but I don’t even have to convince myself to approve of my appearance. Somehow, I actually see myself and see the beauty in me. My belly, which often times is fuller than flat, reminds me that I grew a human and it makes me smile. Sometimes it even makes me laugh because it’s so stinking adorable. And my legs, which are softer because of my ankle break, don’t gross me out even with some stretch marks and cellulite. I can’t even explain why it doesn’t matter, but it just doesn’t. My hair is in need of some fixing, my grays are showing through horribly and the fuchsia color has faded to show dry, blonde-ish ends but that’s ok! I genuinely still like myself AND see a deeper elegance than all those things.

I used to think I needed to present myself as perfectly as possible to be ok. In order to be alluring and like myself, I needed to strive for model type, high level athlete, unattainable fashionista, perfection, well groomed, organized super human. Now, I see true beauty in the authentic, sometimes messy, not always put together but always working hard and loving version of me. The one who puts people before things, who accepts and loves others as they are, who encourages and supports friends in their darkest moments and cheers on strangers in the day to day.

I will probably never be someone who constantly is obsessed with myself, posts selfies all the time or even checks the mirror a bunch. I don’t think I’m in any way giving up on caring about my appearance or going to quit working out to improve my physical health. It just doesn’t mean as much to my value anymore and that feels really good. Seeing myself for the first time, as a fascinating and lovely being, is so strange yet freeing.

I can’t believe I wasted so much of my life focused on something so insignificant. Imagine what I could’ve been doing with my time if I hadn’t been so preoccupied. I hope to inspire others to see their true beauty and value

because it’s there…

Undeniable

It’s 4pm in Moab, Utah and I’ve already hiked almost 9 miles up to a huge arch in the middle of no where, through a sand trail that traversed a stream multiple times. Wait, let’s re-read that sentence…

Didn’t I break my ankle just four months ago? I know, I know, I keep talking about it but seriously, how did I do this crazy slanted slick rock hike? How did I navigate sand and algae covered rocks? And with NO PAIN? No swelling?

We can go over the first part of that sentence also and be in awe… I’m in Moab, adventuring with my husband. A month ago this was not our reality but now we have plans to travel every month for the rest of the year and maybe even longer. Oh, and let’s clarify, we aren’t paying for our trip, it’s all work related and my husband is actually being compensated for these amazing adventures.

Here’s what’s even more crazy: three years ago we wrote this down as a dream we wanted to see fulfilled. My husband aspired to be a full time photographer, traveling the country and working enough to support our family. I aspired to be working less and traveling with him, helping in whatever way possible and having time to write more. And if we travel back in time to when I was 18, I said all I wanted to do as an adult was travel around the country even though I had no idea what that would look like.

The path to get here was full of two broken ankles, a lot of moving around, some really emotional and tough situations and unending trust and faith. We spent a lot of time praying, making decisions that felt guided by our God, attempting to discern our path through the mess. We had so many opportunities to give up but I am so glad we kept going.

This trip is covered in blessing and prophecy. It’s clearly meant to be, undeniably a gift from God. Even up to our departure, we acted out of faith and received confirmation. Ten days ago the bulging discs in my back flared up. I could barely walk. I couldn’t work. I was miserable. I saw a chiropractor, got my back dry needled, was put on steroids and muscle relaxers. I attempted everything I could to heal. I thought for a moment maybe I was going to have to cancel going and send my husband out alone. But I also knew I was supposed to go and so I trusted that somehow, my back would feel better…. and it did. Almost 24 hours in the car, which would normally ruin any a human, was exactly the process my back required to be restored. That makes no sense……

So here I am, living seriously my best life, with my body functioning and feeling amazing against all odds. And while this season is oh so good, I will remain faithful, hopeful and positive whenever this peak becomes a valley knowing that if it’s not good, it’s not God and it’s just not the end yet. I hope those who are also enjoying moments of dreams becoming reality take a second to feel ultimate gratitude for the journey that they took to get there. And for those facing struggles and working hard to stay positive, I pray for the perseverance to keep your head up and the belief in the goodness that surely will come.

Steroids and ownership

My grandparents are from Italy and Venezuela (maybe Argentina but I’m pretty sure Venezuela). My brother is very dark skinned and although I’m kinda olive toned, I’ve NEVER had an issue with sunburns or not tanning nicely. I rarely lather on sunscreen, I never wear sun hats and I have yet to experience sun poisoning.

On Wednesday, the high was mid 70’s and the sun was out but mixed with clouds. I invited two friends over for some poolside hangs and was so elated to just relax and have some downtime and enjoy the vitamin D therapy. We sat around for maybe an hour before we were warm enough to embrace the barely tolerable, ice cold pool water. Once in the pool, after our squealing and whining subsided, we chatted for another 30 minutes or so. Our afternoon of fun was over, we had things to do and adult life to return to.

I noticed a severe burn line form my bathing suit and sent a text to my friends stating, “don’t worry, it will turn to tan by tomorrow.” Confident in my statement because I had never seen a burn on me that didn’t turn to tan and I was sure my 90 minute sun exposure wasn’t enough to kill me.

The next day, my burn was still evident, no brown tones had set in, my shoulders were tender and my chin felt burnt. I’m not talking about hot, but actually burnt. I felt perplexed but continued to believe (with slightly less confidence) in the tan tones coming shortly. I began applying home remedies of lavender and oils and lotions and creams in an attempt to coerce my skin into tanning. At minimum, I was hoping to alleviate the redness and bumps that were beginning to form.

Enter Saturday night…. I woke up to itching skin, bumps all over my chest, neck, face. I wanted to rip my skin off. I was placing ice packs on myself. My face had a similarity to an orange peel and my chest was on fire. I couldn’t sleep (which is somewhat a regular occurrence these days) and began scouring the internet for sunburn rash websites.

I found myself wondering what had happened? My skin had never been so unpredictable. Was I now so sensitive to the sun that I couldn’t adventure without sunscreen? I mean, maybe I’m dumb for even thinking that but when you experience minimal to no issues for 38 years, it’s definitely confusing to suddenly have your body react in a totally opposing manner.

I ended up being put on steroids to reduce the inflammation and rash and had to spend Memorial Day hiding out from the terrors of UVA/UVB rays. I’m bathing in aloe and drinking water obsessively. I’m itchy and red and irritated but most of all, I’m aggravated with myself. Why did I care so much about wanting a tan? Why did I ignore everything and person that suggests sunscreen is important?

All of this got me thinking back to my ankle and how I knew my right ankle was weaker before I broke it. I had right knee surgery 11 years ago and have had trouble activating my glute on the right side for a little while now. My right leg has been my less stable, weaker side ever since my surgery in 2007. I have known this and seen it as a problem anytime I do single leg exercises. I started seeing a therapist for my right knee maybe six months before I broke my ankle. I was doing my therapy exercises but pretty lazily, not with a huge level of commitment.

After breaking my ankle, I HAVE TO FIX MY RIGHT LEG ISSUES. If I don’t activate my butt and track my knee/quad correctly, my ankle hurts where my plate is. Maybe this is too technical talk but the point is, I could’ve been proactive and possibly fixed this issue a long time ago and maybe, just maybe, avoided an ankle breaking. So why didn’t I? Why was I not fully committed to proactive care of myself? Why did I not take it seriously? I see this all too often with my clients also, they come in with an ache or pain and we discuss a protocol for fixing the issue yet the true motivation for change usually doesn’t come until they’re desperate and non functional.

I have found myself full of gratitude for these forced behavior changes even though they come with some extreme discomfort. I’d prefer to learn from these experiences and become better at taking care of myself BEFORE I’m broken and itching and on medication or in the hospital. Yes, it would be nice if I could just magically be healed or if I could function better without any effort but the line says, “get up, pick up your mat and walk!” There’s an active part involved in our healing. I am to partner with my God whether that be in prayer and faith or in tangible behaviors like putting on sunscreen and doing physical therapy exercises. Whatever it is, whatever it looks like, I play a part, or it’s better if I participate.

So tonight, I am grateful for my sunburned rash and itching skin and my butt that doesn’t fire well because they are going to be my motivation and reminder anytime I want to be lazy or irresponsible. And any other thing I want to accomplish in my life, will be better because I will know that I ALWAYS have a choice to make smart decisions and I am never truly a victim to circumstances. I challenge anyone reading this to trace backwards something in their life and find the areas that could be improved and just maybe, see how life is trying to discipline you to be the best version of yourself. And then be grateful for those broken bones and failed attempts because they are way more of an asset than liability. ❤️

Oh, and here’s just a magical picture of my dog playing in the snow.

Sunday

Yesterday was Sunday.

It also was Mother’s Day.

I am a mom. I’ve been one for 18 years now.

The thing about yesterday, Mother’s Day, is that I usually find myself particularly disappointed and dejected inside. It’s the same with Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and even Sweetest Day (which is honestly not a real holiday). I have some crazy expectation in my mind, breakfast in bed, flowers, romance, surprises, things you see in a movie. I see people’s lives on social media and it makes me believe that those days mean more because they include niceties. I have spent a lot of years believing that without those things, I wasn’t as important, maybe I wasn’t a worthy mom or person, maybe I wasn’t living up to the role of wife, friend, girlfriend, mother etc.

I also know a lot of people who find those days to be just as challenging; friends who can’t have children, whose mothers have passed away, who don’t have a significant other or who have been betrayed by their lover. These holidays, the cards, the decorations, the date night activities, the excitement, really can be nothing more than a build up to sadness and feeling alone or undeserving.

Now I’m not saying these holidays are junk OR that honoring others is a negative trait. I love celebrating people. I cry over cards at the grocery store and envision the emotion and sentiment being shared with a person I care for. I get excited for Christmas tree decorating and cut out cookies and I certainly enjoy a beautiful dinner and romance.

But when my whole day, my whole existence, my emotions are so tied to these grandiose displays of affection, I am setting myself up for hurt. Sometimes I think that no amount of gifts or attention would satisfy the day I can create in my mind. Who can compare to Ryan Gosling in the Notebook? That’s just not real life, at least not all the time (in fact probably not most of the time).

Relationships are tough. Pleasing someone else, considering someone else, selflessness, that’s really difficult. It’s not in our nature to think about others before ourselves. I’m not great at it and I’ve been intentionally working on it for at least five years.

Let me take a quick detour to clarify a few things: my husband is AMAZING. He’s patient and kind and loving and has the biggest heart. He’s talented and I am impressed by him and his artistic abilities every day. He is creative beyond what I can comprehend and is a perfectionist when it comes to his craft. He would die for me in a heartbeat. He cares about making me happy and he works hard to speak my love language. My son is also an unbelievable human. He is empathetic and generous and loves me with all his heart. When he sings, something stirs inside my core. Excitement pours out of his body when he anticipates something and he gives really great hugs. He’s genuine and respectful and makes this world a better place just by existing.

Now that I cleared that up, let’s get back to Mother’s Day….. nothing special happened. No card from anyone, no flowers, no surprises and IT WAS OK! In fact, it was totally fine. It was just Sunday after all. I didn’t feel sad. I actually told myself, “you’re a really amazing mom and this day doesn’t make you more of a mom”. In years past, I’ve cried, a lot. I’ve felt unimportant and angry. I’ve wanted something (I don’t even know what) to validate me. I compared my day to Instagram stories and Facebook posts and felt almost ashamed of the normalcy that ensued on all those Sundays in May.

Just because my husband and son aren’t great at proactive gift giving and surprises, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate me. They show me how much they value me in so many other ways throughout the year. It almost becomes unfair to forget all of those moments and base everything on those 24 hours labeled as a holiday for moms, or lovers or Jesus (Christmas is definitely not about me or gifts so let’s get that off the table right now).

In general, the thought process of high expectations in every situation, becomes dangerous. People will always let us down. Things won’t always be 100% perfect and just how we choose for them to be. Life isn’t a movie or a post online. But this year, my feelings were totally disconnected from that thinking and I was able to celebrate myself. I applauded myself, did things I enjoyed and never felt one twinge of resentment or discontentment. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of more amazing days with less focus on what someone is doing to celebrate me and more connection with how I can be my own best cheerleader.

Maybe everyone should break an ankle

I don’t even know if this is profound. Just some ramblings maybe. I had felt like these past three years had been a season directed towards something. I wasn’t sure what that something was. I’m still unsure what it is. I suppose we are constantly moving in a forward direction with some sort of objective but also not really knowing. Moment by moment, with every interaction, our plans can shift, our path can change. Sometimes we achieve our “end goal” only to realize that was a stop along the way. We desire more, we dream bigger, there’s never really a destination.

I kept believing that these past three years, where my husband and I continued to live a life of less and less, meant we would end up living like gypsies, in a tiny home, traveling the world. Maybe we would be long term campers, adventuring with only a tent and truck for our “home”. Was my future going to include mission trips and a minimal life in some third world country? Could we be moving to a tiny apartment in New York to pursue other business avenues? All these thoughts raced through my mind constantly. I’ve spent the past three years interpreting our situation and aligning it with different ideas I thought would be fun or make sense.

Here’s what I found: I was totally wrong. We just signed a lease on an apartment. We are not jet setting to Haiti. We turned down the New York offer. While we will always adventure, travel and camp, there’s no Airstream in our future (yet). All of these years of letting go, giving up, selling things, minimizing had accomplished two conscious things and I’m sure bunches of unconscious things that we will discover in the years to come.

The first thing that’s happened is I have become a less controlling, more laid back human. I don’t feel so emotionally attached to things or processes. My anxiety doesn’t increase thinking about things breaking or being ruined. The couch cushions don’t need to be perfect. My husband is allowed to load the dishwasher however he wants. The groceries can be put in the fridge in a hodge podge, disorganized way. My medical bill for $42k didn’t even freak me out. I have thus far, totally detached from my idea of what is valuable, what’s worth stressing over and what I should cherish.

The second, and even cooler thing to happen is that my husband and I have to furnish our new apartment. We have nothing but beds and clothes and our camping gear. We have to buy a couch, nightstands, kitchen items, trash cans and bathroom items. We have to decorate and coordinate things. We get to pick out a whole house full of items. All the things we sold or donated we need to replace. But this time, we get to do it together.

My husband and I didn’t live together before we were married and when we did say our vows, he moved into my house. It was totally furnished and everything was mine. We lived there for three years before we moved in with his grandma and then into our house sitting situation. I’m six years, we had never had a home together that was ours. We had never shopped for our things. Neither of us realized we had missed out on such a fun and intimate part of being married. We didn’t know the joy of picking out plates and dishes. We hadn’t shared in establishing our home and life together. It had always been my stuff or his stuff.

I think it’s interesting how we just transitioned into a life that made sense and didn’t see the lack in our decision. We never got to feel excited about sitting together on a couch that we handpicked. We didn’t know the happiness that came from discussing vacuum options. The investment that happens when you share in decisions. Its more than just buying things, it’s creating a foundation for a home to live in, to host people in, to feel proud of, to feel wrapped up and cozy in unity.

And all of this began when he broke his ankle three years ago…..

The power in words

Speak life. It’s a common phrase. There are tons of writers and speakers who discuss this topic. The whole “Law of Attraction” and other theories and books related. There are studies that show plants thriving when talked to daily. In biblical terms, there are an overwhelming amount of verses that reference the power in our words. Speaking life into others and conversely, speaking death over people.

Some people would say the whole subject is a joke. Admitting that there is strength in words but not maybe truly believing in how much depth. Some may say it’s all coincidence or serendipity. Christians believe it’s all part of being faithful to God and His goodness for their life. For most of my life, I had no stance on the topic. I never even gave it any thought.

My cognition became my words and my words became my truth. I believed I was a failure and so I often lacked the ability to succeed. I did not see goodness in my life so I manifested a lot of disappointment. My brain would repeat my liabilities and I would perform in a subpar manner. I would defeat myself before I even attempted things. I would quit in my heart and then my body would follow through with giving up.

A couple of years ago, I started to really evaluate my brain and mouth and heart. I dug into the connection between the three, how I could influence myself and in turn my life by just believing in goodness. If I approached every situation with a positive attitude, my outcomes would surely be better than the alternative. If I see the worth in myself and others, I would always be hopeful and extend grace. And even when things don’t go as planned, I could still smile because no situation is all bad.

When I broke my ankle a little under six weeks ago, I made sure to begin speaking my healing over my body. In the emergency room, the night I broke it, my son called me distraught. He kept saying he was sorry and sounding sad and scared. I told him, “it’s ok, it’s going to be ok.” My husband looked at me and said, “we need to turn in one of our cars, we can’t afford them both” and I told him, “we will be fine, we will not make fearful decisions.” These statements are not because I am something special or a better human than others. I’ve just seen my God show up and I’ve seen the power in being faithful and full of hope.

When friends texted me about my surgery and my down time, I made sure to say I believed I would be miraculously healed. I specifically said I believed I would be healed faster than anyone from this injury. I constantly spoke all the positive things that I saw in this time of rest and recovery. I did not allow myself to become trapped in the fear and sadness. I know nothing productive is birthed from that space.

Yes, I felt and thought fearful and sad things at times. I am human and cannot control emotions or thoughts. But I refused to operate from that perspective. So here I am, five weeks and five days post surgery. I have two plates and nine screws in my ankle. I have scoured the internet for blogs and groups related to this type of impairment. I have asked people with similar injuries. I have looked up plenty of websites about bone healing and recovery times. I am not saying I am the fastest healing person to exist. How could I definitively know that? What I am saying is that I am being restored in a miraculous manner. I have range of motion and function that I cannot find in another who went through what I’ve gone through. I have not been emotional broken from this. My family has not been bankrupt by this. We will walk away from this more steadfast, more courageous and full of peace.

I am not bored

Today marks four weeks since my ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) to repair the three breaks in my ankle. I am one week out of my cast and three weeks away from the possibility of driving again.

The other day my husband asked me if I was going crazy yet. This question, along with many other inquiries about my “suffering” have become pretty common. Everyone assumes that this season of physical brokenness, no working and depending on others is enough to drive a person mad. To be honest, I would’ve assumed the same thing prior to this experience. If you told me I would be out of work, unable to lift weights, have to rely on people to leave my house and ask for help with simple tasks, I would have freaked out. The thought of that used to make me feel helpless and scared. I too felt sorry for someone going through something like this.

When my son was born, I was essentially a single mom. While his dad was around physically (sometimes), he was very absent emotionally and financially. I lived in a state with no family and almost no friends. I learned very quickly that I was going to need to be self sufficient for myself and for my son. I became the dad and mom, the provider, the cuddler and the disciplinarian. I worked as many jobs as I had to while also attending college. I loved feeling like I was taking care of business, that I was handling things, that I was in charge, that I had everything under control. I decided that I could not trust anyone to take care of me. If I wanted something done, I needed to do it. Delegating tasks only added to my frustration as I would go after others and redo whatever it was I had requested they do. Basically I was an island with a “no trespassing” sign up and my son was the only visitor allowed to stop by.

Six years ago, I married the love of my life. A man I trust. A man I believe will never truly let me down. Obviously he disappoints me when he says he will do chores around the house and forgets but I am talking about the real deep stuff. I know he will be faithful to me, I see his care for me, his heart for me and my son. I’ve seen him cry over my tears. I’ve heard him pray for me. I’ve seen him invest time and energy into our family. Yet somehow, I still kept a slight wall up. I still believed that I was separate from him in many ways. I still found myself trying to be the sole caregiver. Trying to take over everything. Trying to be the strong alpha and also the soft omega.

Growing up, I had many reasons to harden my heart. I felt a lifetime of betrayals before I even became an adult. Because of my lack of belief in others, I grew into an adult who made decisions that only solidified my thought process. I found myself in relationships with self-centered people who lied to me. I was a selfish and deceitful person so this shouldn’t have been shocking. I felt like the world was indifferent to my suffering. I felt undeserving of care and grace.

So back to the original question, “am I going stir crazy yet?” and the answer is an abounding no. I am not bored. I am not even close to frustrated. I don’t even understand how I was functioning before. My schedule was overflowing with things before I broke my ankle. A typical day included an hour of Crossfit, two hours of roller derby practice, five or six hours of massage, some house cleaning and chores, maybe some errands and grocery shopping and sometimes (not every day), a shower.

In the past four week, I have spent hours writing, resting, spending time with my husband and family and friends. And not time doing activities but time spent talking, truly engaging, growing closer to the people I care about. I have had countless moments of true helplessness where I humbled myself and allowed others to care for me. I have found peace with the calm. I am not counting down the moments til I can fill my schedule back up. I am embracing this time of healing. This season of physical brokenness that revealed an internal fracturing of my spirit. I am watching my bones and body heal as I sense my heart also going along on this restoration journey.

I think it’s easy to focus our eyes on the end goal. To anticipate the moment when our suffering is over and we can resume our existence. But life didn’t stop when I broke my ankle. Vitality doesn’t stop in the suffering. Life is always happening and I don’t want to miss a single moment. I’m more alive now than I’ve ever been.