Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fight Like a Pro

I joined millions of others watching a professional boxing match earlier this month. When the bell sounded, neither fighter started pummeling each other until the other passed out. There is technique and there is order. What boxers know is that fighting is more than fancy footwork and landing punches. Fighting requires defense and time in the corner. If professional fighters know the importance of defense, rejuvenation, and encouragement during a boxing match, how much more important is it for us to defend ourselves and go to corners of support while we're in the middle of a fight?

Life is filled with experiences and circumstances that require us to fight. We have to fight for professional fulfillment, peace of mind, joy, and our relationships. Like professional fighters, we need to use effective tactics when engaging in a fight. When life presents opposition and challenges we are forced to stand up and prepare ourselves for a mental and emotional struggle. The bell could sound with a phone call delivering difficult news, a doctor visit, a relationship deteriorating, a job loss, financial strain, or an emotional trigger from a past trauma. In either case, it's beneficial for us to develop tactics and strategies to ensure successful outcomes.

Fighting is as much about defense as offense. We have to engage in specific behaviors in order to prevent our opponents—depression, low self-esteem, addictive behaviors, negative relationships, and self-destruction—from hitting us. We need to block negative comments, people who make us feel diminished, and emotional triggers.

There's a television series that I love, but because of the close connection to my personal history there are times when I would identify too closely with the characters or events. Suddenly, entertainment turned into emotional struggle. In order to prevent myself from being hit by an emotional trigger, I decided to stop tuning in. While I didn't have an emotional reaction every time I watched the show, it wasn't worth risking the chance that I would. I chose to defend myself from the possibility of being negatively impacted by selecting an alternative way to spend that hour each week.

In boxing, when the whistle blows signaling the end of a round both fighters go to their respective corners for some time with their coach. This brings up another important lesson; when faced with difficulty, we need to go to our support system. We need to have the wisdom to sit in the company of those who encourage us and refresh us. I found myself in need of a corner break very recently. I needed a serious time out. I was emotionally exhausted and felt like I'd taken hit after hit. The whistle had blown, but I stayed in the ring entirely too long by myself. I needed to sit under the care and concern of my support system. It was amazing how much better I felt after taking a time out and sitting in the corner with my sources of support.

We all have a fight. Yours could be depression, grief, a health challenge, financial concerns, relationship issues, or a trauma. Your fight will require certain tactics at specific times. The key is learning when to throw punches, when to take cover, and when to seek rejuvenation and encouragement. All are equally important and necessary. Follow the example of professional fighters and you can avoid feeling like life is repeatedly knocking you out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Get Healthy

I have increased my focus on emotional health. I've grown to be much more interested in stability and peace of mind than keeping up appearances and living for others. This transformation hasn’t been easy or simple. Change is difficult and complicated. Understanding and support from others can also be elusive, but I made a promise to myself to get healthy.

Much of my childhood has been rooted in family. I knew from an early age that family was to be revered, honored, and appreciated. I fully understood the value my family placed on our relationships with one another so when I realized that what I needed to do to become emotionally healthy involved separation it caused some anxiety. My emotions were already mixed, but knowing the value of family made the decision excruciating to consider and nearly impossible to execute.

It has been—and still is—a process. I didn't get it right the first, second, third, or fifteenth time I tried. I screwed up and sent mixed signals repeatedly. I asserted myself and then guilt led me back. I made alternate plans during family gatherings only to convince myself that I could 'take it' and eventually gave in. After many tense visits, friends building me back up, and days trying to encourage myself back to normal, I had to ask, “Why are you forcing yourself to ‘take it?’ How is this helping you become healthy? How can you expect to walk in freedom without giving yourself a chance to be free?"

It was hard to choose peace over pacifying others. I deemed it unfair for me to be the one to separate when my actions didn't cause the strife. However, taking responsibility for my quality of life demands that I make tough choices and that I choose wisely. I made up my mind to become healthy and when I even think of faltering or giving in I always remind myself of the choice I made so that my actions reflect my clear choice instead of a fleeing feeling.

Not everyone will understand or support your choices—get healthy anyway. It will be difficult at times—get healthy anyway. You will have to encourage yourself sometimes—get healthy anyway. No matter the circumstances, no matter what it takes, give yourself permission to be free and get healthy anyway.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Permanent Minded

There is always one area of our lives that is the least favorable for us to work on. We avoid it. We ignore it. We dread it. However, failure to work through that particular area is what prevents us from flourishing. If we would push ourselves out of the temporary, fearful, uncomfortable place, we could walk into a permanent, peaceful, healthy space.

In recent years there has been an area of my life that I avoided. I convinced myself that I could get by without working on it. My rationalizations were persuasive. It isn’t that important. I would never—no matter how hard I tried—reach a level of normalcy anyway. I deserve letting that one fall short because I have done so much work reconciling my childhood already.

The beautiful—and sometimes irritating—part of growing and being more authentic is that it eventually becomes impossible to brush off emotional deficiencies. Over time, we grow less satisfied letting areas in which we excel or have handled well compensate for areas we’ve hidden or neglected. Eventually, we can no longer ignore those gapping holes.

The more I grew, the more aware I became, and one day it was impossible for me to continue ignoring the gapping hole in my healing process. I freed myself to feel it and had the nerve to allow someone else to walk that journey with me. It was already scary, but it was increasingly unnerving because someone else was going there, too, and that's yet another source of difficulty—exercising trust and vulnerability. 

In the beginning, giving myself permission to be transparent didn’t seem to help. It actually seemed worse. Sadness crept up on me more often. I hadn’t felt that dependent or needy before opening up. I actually thought I’d regressed so I considered making changes to prevent the sad, dependent, and needy feelings from returning. I was certain I’d made a mistake and was actually mad at myself for thinking that I could discuss that area of my life and get better.

Even still, I couldn't forget how impossible it had become for me to overlook the holes in my emotional health. I forced myself to continue through that uncomfortable phase. What I realized was that I hadn't regressed. I hadn't made a mistake. I was being open about something I previously refused to acknowledge. Of course I had feelings! Working through those temporary feelings has given me permanent clarity. I've become aware and now understand that:
  1. I will no longer make excuses or apologies for my feelings. 
  2. I am no longer conditioned to suffer silently and alone.
  3. I am no longer convinced that it is acceptable for me to be anything less than whole. 
  4. I will no longer make a potentially permanent decision because on temporary feelings. 
Know that you are worth the work it takes to become whole. Recognize that how you feel at the start of a process is not a reflection of how you'll always feel. Push yourself out of the temporary, fearful, and uncomfortable places so that you can walk in a permanent, peaceful, and healthy space.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Every one of us has a story and while some have had their strength tested more than others, we all have felt heartache. What varies greatly is our reaction to heartache. Some hide, some pretend, some come out swinging, and others multiply their pain by using people and things to numb themselves.
I have been a runner. Over the years, I tried various avoidance tactics. I buried myself in church activities, hid behind my smile, used writing as an emotional moat, and ran to adventure instead of the mirror. These tactics distracted me for a while, but eventually it all failed brilliantly and folded in on me. Exhausted by all of the running with little progress, it was time for me to get real with myself.

I was certain of several things. I knew that regardless of the adjectives used to describe my experiences they happened and nothing would ever change that. I knew it would take all the strength I had to live with some of my memories. I knew that I could not afford to be easy or lax in pursuing peace because depression was relentless in its pursuit of me. I knew that I had to make a decision—I could choose not to fight and have a sad story that people could empathize with or I could have a great story that people would be encouraged by. No matter how low, alone, or desperate I felt, I knew that great was more powerful than sad and encouragement beat empathy every single time.

Knowing all of that, I refused to simply give in. The reality was I had to be more relentless in my fight than my fight was being with me. Yes, what I experienced was unfair, ridiculous, preventable, and a string of countless words that get a rise out of me. Yet, none of that mattered. How I would proceed was what mattered. What I would do moving forward was more important. Who would be a part of my support system mattered more than who hadn’t been. I needed to focus solely on making progress.

The source of your heart's largest hurt may have been unfair, ridiculous, or preventable. It may have come at the hand's of someone else's choice or your own. It may have happened last year or thirty years ago. No matter the circumstances, you cannot get stuck in the details. After acknowledging your pain you have to decide what role that pain will play in your life. You have to work through the hard, terrifying, and isolating parts. You have to be more relentless in your fight than your fight is being with you. Your happiness and peace of mind is worth the work because you are worth the work. Be relentless in your pursuit of a healthier you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Relationship Choices

I share a ridiculous amount of text messages with three people I met in junior high school. When I think about the years that have passed, the life events that have shaped us, and how much we've grown since we carelessly walked the halls of Dwight Rich Middle School, I am touched by the close relationships that we continue to share. As a silly, unaware, needy twelve-year-old, I had no idea that those I met in junior high school would impact my life so intimately so many years later.

There have been countless posts, tweets, and email forwards about people being in our lives for either a reason or a season. While I see some truth in that notion, relationships are not that simplistic. A more accurate conclusion is that we make choices and our choices impact the length, depth, and significance of our relationships.

A few relationships that I assumed would be lifelong have deteriorated and they did so because of a series of actions reflecting decisions we made. We actively participated in the relationship changing or ending. Someone decided not to extend him/herself. Someone decided not to make the investment. Someone decided not to forgive. Someone decided to wait until a later that never came to send that text message, make that phone call, or send that card. Someone decided that the passage of time or the memories created weren’t enough to carry the relationship into the next year. Someone decided that after subtracting the value of history, what was left wasn’t worth the effort it took to maintain the relationship.

What’s the difference between relationships that have deteriorated and those that have grown stronger over the years? Is it only a matter of growing in different directions? Is it simply because people are destined to be in one category or another? While I believe that my friendships are gifts from God, I also believe that my long-term relationships have lasted because we continually make choices. We choose to invest in each other and the emotional health of ourselves. We choose to extend ourselves and be vulnerable. We choose to tell people that they matter and that we care. We choose to send that text, pick up the phone, and send that card. We choose to make those in our lives feel appreciated, thought of, and loved, and we make those choices again and again.

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is the perfect time to not only think of those we are grateful for, but also to share our gratitude with them. I’m not referring to some blanket, generic, public post, either. Tell individuals that they are loved and appreciated. Take the time to share the warmth, goodness, and love you experience from the presence of others. Give thanks to those who make you feel the most thankful. Make the choice to actively maintain your supportive, positive, healthy, and loving relationships.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


About two years ago I developed a fascination with a particular sports car. Suddenly, a car I’d only seen a few times started appearing everywhere. I saw it in parking lots, on the highway, riding alongside me in the city, and even on my job. Depending on the day I thought it was either a conspiracy of cruelty or confirmation.

Perception is powerful. What we perceive creates our reality. That sports car was not released two years ago. There aren’t more of them on the road. I started seeing more of them because my eyes were trained to pay more attention to them. Prior to the Nissan Z being on my radar, I couldn’t even point one out. Now, I can nearly sense them from a mile away. Knowing that prompted me to ask, “What else am I not seeing because it is not on my radar?”

This week has been emotionally trying because of the one-year anniversary of my father’s death. Many thoughts and questions and memories passed through my mind. On the day of the anniversary, I was traveling and as I walked through the airport I realized that I was in the very same place where I’d last seen him. He dropped me off at the airport and I had every intention of having him pick me up four months later. Unfortunately, he died a month shy of my return.

As I walked through the airport just the other day, the realization hit me a bit hard. I sent a message to someone close to me saying, “I am at the same place I last saw my dad.” My heart felt heavy, but the response I got changed my perception. Her reply was a bit of a wake-up call. She asked, “Myla, don’t you get it? You are where you are for a reason!” Someone else had to change my perspective and point out the beauty that existed in that day. Instead of remaining sad and lonely, my attention shifted. I understood that where I was at that moment, the year to the day he died, was purposed. I was exactly where I was meant to be that day. It was entirely too big of a coincidence to be at the very airport of a city I didn’t live in then—nor do I live in now—on the day when I was missing him a bit more than usual.

My circumstances didn’t change. My longing for him didn’t decrease. All that changed was my perspective. Once I shifted my focal point, how I felt on the anniversary of my father’s death was bigger than grief, sadness, and longing. Once I changed my perspective, I saw the anniversary of his death as larger than my initial feelings. Sometimes all the change we need is to change our perception. Sometimes all we need to do is change our minds.

What is the Nissan Z or anniversary of your life? What holds your interest? Where do you focus your attention? We all have joy and pain. We all have laughed and cried. We all have love and heartache. Are you primarily focused on the heartaches? Or do you focus your energy on the love in your life? Just as with a car we may notice after it has caught our eye, beauty and love exists all around us. Circumstances can cloud your vision, but that doesn’t mean goodness isn’t and hasn’t always been there. Sometimes you simply need to open your eyes and pay more attention.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

In honor of Election Day I decided to share a post written on January 20, 2009. I hope that you will read my thoughts from nearly four years ago and remember how you felt that day. Remember the amazement, remember the cohesion, remember the pride. 

I also hope that you will think of your own path and consider your inaugural moment. Your successes are not the result of a few monumental occurrences, but a collection of calculated, purposeful, and intentional decisions, made day after day. When making your choices today, whether at the polls, on your job, or in your relationships, make decisions with progression in mind. Elect to move your life in a positive direction. Elect to grow intellectually, emotionally, and professionally. Elect to surround yourself with positive, supportive, loving people. Elect to focus on your purpose.

Like most I have been thinking about the significance of today’s events. I watched a man place his hand on a bible and take an oath, but even more important than that, I felt a shift in the way the world operates. I saw a country that has historically been divided come together and celebrate as one.

There are so many reasons why this election is important. There are so many explanations of why January 20, 2009 is one of the most momentous days in history, but I will forever remember today as the perfect example of what is possible. God gave a man with so many reasons not to succeed and elevated him to one of the highest positions in the world. He took a man who didn’t have a close relationship with his father and called him to lead a nation. He took a man who wasn’t raised with a silver spoon in his mouth and placed a powerful inclination of service on his heart. He took a man with an unpopular name, a name that had become increasingly misunderstood, and gave him a name only 43 others have had the distinction of being called. He took a man with seemingly every excuse to lose, every excuse to be unsuccessful, and possibly every reason not to be taken seriously and He chose him.

No matter who has not supported you, no matter what your past might suggest about your future, no matter what names you’ve been called, no matter where you are today—none of that has to be an indicator of where you are going. Sometimes what seems like the perfect storm for failure can be the perfect storm to encourage, uplift, and illustrate the power of destiny. It could only take a storm to bring our country together and make the world hope and believe in goodness again. That storm is named Barack Obama and he is the perfect example that anything is possible.

--January 20, 2009

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I am not afraid of much. I embrace change. I have lived in more states than some visit. I have kayaked during a deluge, zip lined over a rain forest, and hiked down a mountain after dark. There is something, however, that can make my heart race, cause me to break out into a sweat, and turn my stomach. The physiological response I get from the mere thought of it has influenced my relationships and halted my growth. I would rather jump out of an airplane or ride in a race car during the Indy 500 than be vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is frightening. Sharing your life and experiences makes you feel as if you’ve handed over an arsenal of how to hurt you in the worst way imaginable. The thought of being emotionally open with others releases a floodgate of tormenting questions. Will they use this information against me? Will they share it with someone? Will they minimize my hurt? Will this change their perception of me? Will they think my story is too sordid and painful and walk away? Will this change our relationship?

Experiencing anxiety at the thought of being vulnerable is normal. It is scary to allow someone into your intimate, emotional space. However, being vulnerable—in healthy circumstances—is beneficial and ultimately, necessary to your growth. Vulnerability can show you beauty and peace in their most sincere forms. It can strengthen relationships and provide a much-needed sense of community and support. In addition to forging a trust- and love-filled bond with others, being vulnerable leads you one step closer to freedom. The painful, emotional associations you've clutched are released. Hurts and fears no longer control your life and boss you around. Sharing your stories can give you the boost of power and confidence needed to move forward.

Vulnerability is not simple. It’s uncomfortable and scary. Yet, when you have loving people in your life who are committed to your well-being and truly value your relationship, it is far more advantageous to take that leap. Give yourself permission to release what has held you back. Invest in your relationships by trusting. Allow yourself to be wrapped in the support that you need, but have refused to accept. Step out of your own way, let go, and become one step closer to being completely free.

Even though I would still prefer jumping out of a plane or going 200 mph on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I made a promise to press through my temporary heart racing, outbreak of sweat, and turning stomach to invest in myself enough to be vulnerable. I made this promise because being healthy has become much more important to me than being comfortable. In order to live a life of freedom I have to do what is required to be free.