Tuesday, December 23, 2014

These Are the Times

Considering the end of the year approaching, I wanted to write something extra this week. I wanted to write something that was so positive that everyone who read it would leave feeling fully encouraged. I wanted to write a post that readers could tell their friends, "You have to see this!" I wanted to write a great message in preparation for the new year. However, if I'm being honest, 2014 knocked the wind out of me. Sure, there have been wonderfully fabulous times. I visited beautiful cities with the beautiful people with whom I share my life. I have grown stronger. I told my story publicly without turning into an emotional wreck. I have laughed loudly, eaten well, loved hard, and been extremely grateful. Still, this year has been a force. As I stare at this blinking cursor, I wonder where I will find enough encouragement and sunshine to share while I am yet trying to catch my breath.

In a dream world, when a new year starts, all that plagued you in the past ends. You hit a magic reset button with the flip of the calendar. This is life, though, and there is no reset button. Difficulty and uncertainty will try to cuddle up next to you and make themselves at home. Circumstances and challenges don't care about your resolutions or promises to get it right this time. Life is not interested in making you comfortable. Life is instead always leading you—leading you to become more than you imagine, with greater purpose than you believe, and with more love than you feel you deserve. For that reason, these times of uncertainty aren't intended to rock your foundation so hard that you give up. These are the times that rebuild that foundation and help you discover the truth. These are the times when you step out of the comfort of where and who you've always been and step closer to where and who you are destined to become. These are the times you evolve.

Even with all that you have to be grateful for, maybe you feel like this year, or even the last few years, have knocked the wind out of you. Maybe you discovered that someone who said s/he would always support you had conditions on that support. Maybe someone you love became ill or passed away. Maybe your sense of security or safety was shaken by a job loss or traumatic event. In either circumstance(s), these are the times when you rebuild your foundation. These are the times when you discover and affirm your truth. These are the times when you step out of what was and up toward who you were destined to become. These are the times when you catch your breath and take that first step.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Power of Your Thoughts

Imagine having a friend who rarely has a kind word and constantly spews harsh criticism. Imagine every time you eat anything from a salad to a bowl of ice cream her saying, "You need to loose weight," or "You're so fat." Imagine how you would feel if when you saw someone you found attractive that friend telling you, "S/he couldn't possibly be interested in you. You'll be single forever." Imagine her telling you every morning, "You don't matter." Consider how you would feel about yourself hearing this friend say, "You're not good enough. Not for a better job. Not for a partner. Not for a life of meaning." How long would you allow her to be a part of your life? How long would it take before you kept your distance, stopped taking her calls, or simply told her to shut up?

This example seems extreme, but sadly, this kind of discouraging conversation is common. It may not reflect how any of your friends speak to you, but the sentiments are familiar because this is the same type of messaging that is allowed in your head. You wouldn't permit this kind of disregard from others, but what happens when the culprit of cruelty is you? Do you fully understand the magnitude of the damage you are doing to yourself? And if you do, are you ready to stop?

What you say to yourself is either working for you or against you. There is no middle ground. Your thoughts aren't without consequence or impact. Your thoughts have a direct influence because your future is scripted by your internal dialogue. You surround yourself with those who support your beliefs and those who do not support your beliefs are dismissed. You act in ways that confirm what you think. Essentially, what you tell yourself is how you live. You constantly seek confirmation on what you believe about yourself.

Your life is not over, too far gone, nor ruined. Stop telling yourself that! You are not worthless, broken, nor unlovable. Stop telling yourself that! Your desires are not silly, unattainable, nor impossible. Stop telling yourself that! You are afraid to believe the truth—that you have worth, that you are valuable, and that you deserve love—because you are afraid to hope. You have convinced yourself that it's better to not have expectations and be surprised than to have them and be disappointed. You have convinced yourself to live fearfully instead of fully. You have convinced yourself to avoid instead of accept.

If you want a different life, think differently. If you want to be better, think better thoughts. If you want to feel more fulfilled, focus your mind on fulfillment. Transformation is attainable when you are ready to acknowledge and manage your thoughts and what you believe about yourself.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Change the Script

Today I faced a situation that most find annoying and uncomfortable, yet for me, it had the potential to be emotional and traumatic. As I prepared for it I realized that I had two options—I could suffer through and beat myself up for it as I'd done in years past or I could change the script.

Life is filled with challenges and tests. We face realities associated with coincidences and fate. We live with the decisions of others and the consequences of our own choices. Whether we are coping with what has happened to us or through us, we are responsible for being healthy. We must make choices that will bring growth instead of sitting in solitude and unnecessarily suffering. We have to change the script.

Today I did something very difficult. I let go of my ego, pride, and stubborn will. I freed myself of this unhealthy, unrealistic, and counterproductive notion that somehow keeping my mouth shut meant I was stronger. I released the ridiculous belief that I deserved to take this situation on by myself. I decided I wanted normalcy more than I wanted what I always had. I changed the script.

Be bold enough, smart enough, and desire good health enough to make the switch from hoarding your hurt to actually helping yourself. If you are unsatisfied with how your life is playing out or the direction it is headed, change the script. If your life has been less than you imagined or you are on a roller coaster ride that you would rather get off of, change the script. If the words you tell yourself are discouraging rather than uplifting, change the script. Make sure that your narrative is true instead of comfortable, helpful instead of hurtful, and takes you where you desire to go instead of where you've always been. In order to change your life you may need to change the script.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Outside Influences

Details vary, but all of us have at least one long-term challenge that shapes our lives. Some battle chronic health issues, mental illness, depression, the effects of abuse, addiction, and/or a distorted sense of self. We have to accept our challenges and their impact before we can learn to cope and maneuver through the hurt and influence associated with them. Acceptance and coping can take years, but living past hurt can be even more complicated by outside influences.

How many times have you heard that time heals all wounds? People who love you say it. It's printed on posters and in memes. You may have even repeated it to yourself. That statement, and others like it, imply that simply crossing days off of a calendar can push you forward. Some struggles can't be abandoned. Some require more of you than walking away. Some require attention and tedious emotional work. Time passes and can lessen the sting, but without the emotional work, the passage of time will only serve as a mark of frustration and justification for impatience and self-loathing.

In addition to passively giving time the power that you possess, working through a complicated situation can be made more complex by others. It may be easy to walk away from those who don't play an important role in your life, but what happens when the ones causing you pain and frustration are relatives and friends? What do you do when your parent, sibling, cousin, or childhood friend refuses to accept what you need to heal or tramples over your boundaries?

You are responsible for not allowing the same people to hurt you in the same manner again and again. This can be difficult and demand skillful maneuvering. It may require repeated readjustments of expectations and more defined boundaries. Easy? Not at all. Necessary? Absolutely. Those who cannot respect your boundaries may need to be on the other side of those boundaries. You have enough to live through without carrying the weight of clichés and the expectations and desires of others on your back. Do the work to take care of you and the rest will take care of itself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


All of us have investments and we invest with the hope of receiving a benefit. We purchase homes, cars, clothing, jewelry, stocks, and bonds expecting that they will provide us with use or increased value over time. In addition to financial investments, we personally invest our time and energy into others. Unfortunately, most of those investments aren't purely intentional and many of us fail to realize that who we have been devoted to has brought more detriment than benefit.

Our relationships are one of our greatest investments. Who we choose to spend our most precious assets with—time, energy, trust, care, and love—contributes to our mental and emotional well-being. While we don't consider relationships to be transactional (i.e., I do for you, you do for me), those who occupy an intimate space in our lives should add value, not diminish nor deplete it.

Are those you are closest to and allow into your space benefitting you with support, consistency, safety, reassurance, respect, and love? Or do you constantly question their intentions, have to defend your choices, fight disappointment, and need to rebuild your sense of worth after you engage with them? Does your circle of support feel strong, reliable, and genuine or does it have weak spots, holes, and conditions? As you consider your answers also reflect on what your contributions have been to your investments. How and to whom have you devoted your time and energy? Are your choices based on authentic and mutual commitment and care or have you been persuaded by guilt and obligation?

Your mental stability matters. Your emotional state matters. Your feelings matter. Anything concerning you matters and is greatly influenced by the relationships you choose. Devote your time to those who share your mission for your life, support your heart, and positively contribute to your well-being. Financial investments are intended to build wealth. Your personal investments should build you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


In addition to some minor lifestyle adjustments, living with vitiligo has required a mental shift. For a brief time, I was using this visible skin condition to explain away some things and make excuses not to do others. If I was overlooked for anything from a job to a romantic interest it had to be the vitiligo. My inclination to be outgoing and friendly would be choked by fear of rejection due to the inconsistencies of my skin tone. The confidence it takes to interview for a job would be snuffed out by the mere thought of a potentially awkward look and even more awkward handshake as people try to determine whether or not what they see is contagious. Vitiligo became the thing that I tried to not only hide, but also hide behind. Fortunately for me, life had bigger plans.

Since being diagnosed in 2006, life has taken me on an incredible journey that included relocating from the West Coast to the Midwest, traveling around the world by sea, relocating again, and more traveling, both personally and professionally. Between the moves, interviews, vacations, and conferences, I was constantly meeting and interacting with people. I was so busy living, adjusting, and readjusting to life that I didn't worry or question what others thought. I needed to think bigger about my life and that meant experiencing life as bigger than what I could see.

I am in no way suggesting that if given the choice to have vitiligo that I would have willingly signed up for it, but living with it has demanded that I become a stronger version of myself. Life has required me to step out from behind the fear and stop hiding. I have developed true confidence which does not originate from external characteristics. Confidence, like strength, courage, peace, and self-love, comes from within and it took having a big, visible skin condition to show me how much bigger my life really was.

Life will require you to step up and be bigger. Life can take what you didn't plan for and show you that you contain more strength than you thought. While you may not have selected portions of your path for yourself, it all has the potential to stretch you. Life could present an illness, a loss, the opportunity to become a parent/guardian, a relocation, the responsibility of taking care of an aging parent, or relationship changes. Once you have given yourself time to feel, accept and adjust, trust that your new life will bring with it new strength, new perspective, and new purpose. Your life cannot expand and grow until you are willing to expand and grow. Once that happens, you will understand that your purpose is bigger and contains more than you can see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Roatan, Honduras
A few years ago I was planning to visit Cuba, an amazing country, rich in culture that even some of the most seasoned travelers haven't experienced due to the United States embargo. For months I envisioned what I would do in Cuba. I was so excited to compare current times with my memories of being there twelve years prior. Would I remember any landmarks? Would all the cars still look retro? Would I think the cuisine was just as delectable? Would I feel the heavy influence of the government in seemingly casual conversations?

As I got closer, word spread that my group would not be allowed to visit. Our plans changed from Cuba to Guatemala and then Guatemala changed to Honduras. My companions and I could have focused on the disappointment we felt, but we shifted our attention to where we were heading instead of where we weren't.

I knew very little about Honduras. I hadn't researched it because Honduras wasn't on my itinerary—it was not part of my plan. As I accepted that I would soon be in Central America, disappointment disintegrated. While not on my initial list, I started to see Honduras as more than a consolation prize. I began to appreciate it for being its own country with a new culture I had yet to experience. I made an adjustment. I chose to enjoy Honduras rather than mourn Cuba.

When life takes your plans and crumbles them right before your eyes, do you simply mourn the plan or do you adjust? You may have envisioned a life very different from where you are at this moment. Maybe you thought you would have a spouse, children, a better job, more money, and/or a home by now. Maybe you planned to relocate or travel more often or to further destinations. It's possible that when you look at your life it doesn't even resemble what you anticipated. In either case, you can mourn the plan or you can amend the plan. You can cuddle up to disappointment and shift even further from your plan or you can shift yourself and make adjustments to the plan.

Whether life doesn't deliver what you anticipated or you haven't delivered on the promises you made to yourself, it is important for you to exercise flexibility. Focus your attention on where you're heading instead of where you aren't. Make the most out of detours by making adjustments. Detours can bring the most memorable and fulfilling adventures and teach the most valuable lessons.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Choice

Most are inclined to offer opinions on everything. Without being prompted people blurt out their judgments on music, fashion, television shows, movies, current events, and even the way you live your life. Although annoying, it is typically harmless. However, there are occasions when opinions can be a hindrance. When people offer opinions on highly charged situations in which you are not confident or when people you love want you to do what is not in your best interest, it can be an exhausting, emotional battle. It's important to remember that the choice is always yours.

When it comes to your relationships, someone always has something to say about who should or shouldn't be there. This isn't meant to negate the value of the opinions of others. There are times when you need others to illuminate what you fail or refuse to recognize and see. However, decisions ultimately come down to your choice and you should always choose to live well.

When someone hurts you, you owe it to yourself to do the necessary work so that you don't harbor that hurt. Call it forgiveness, reconciling, or moving on, but no matter the term, do what's needed so that the effects of the hurt aren't compounded by your refusal to release. What is absolutely not required when you forgive, reconcile, or move on is for you to place yourself in the same circumstances or in the company of those who hurt you. Reconcile the incident and move forward, but healing does not constitute that you have to return to the relationship. There are some circumstances when the hurt is larger and has made more of an impact than the bond itself.

Someone else deciding to stay does not mean you have to stay. Someone pleading for you to return does not mean you have to return. Hearing promises does not mean you have to believe those promises. Feeling like you don't have the strength to refuse does not mean you cannot find the strength to refuse. You have options. You can move past the incident and reconcile the relationship or you can move past both the incident and the relationship. The choice is always yours.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life's Best

Since graduating from college I have lived in Maryland, Virginia, California, Indiana, and now I've returned to Michigan. My contact list is varied and over the years relationships have divided into categories of a solely historical context, some level of interaction, or an increasingly important relationship. Many times busyness and distance gets the blame when people drift apart, but I own the right and responsibility for prioritizing and ensuring that those who belong in my circle remain there.

As time passes, I am increasingly selective with how and with whom I spend it. A few years ago, though, guilt directed my behavior and led me into situations that were not only unwanted, but did not even feel right. Now I am guided by the pursuit of peace. My choices are not always understood or even appreciated, but it is more important to be honest than to gain approval. It is better to be healthy than pleasing. It is more beneficial to be at peace rather than nurse confusion. Has it been easy? Not always, but the alternative, taking time and attention away from those who have proven that they have my best interests at heart and support all of me, is not fair nor desired. My life is much more full, free, and pleasant since I've intentionally nurtured sustaining relationships instead of trying to force life into draining ones.

Your relationships are vital. They can usher in life's best. They can provide support, encouragement, belonging, consistency, affection, joy, laughter, safety, security, companionship, and love. Alternatively, unhealthy relationships can reduce life's best by bringing in anxiety, distress, uncertainty, stress, heartache, disappointment, jealousy, conflict, and hatred. History is not enough. A bloodline is not enough. The presumed absence of guilt is not enough. Good intentions are not enough. The fear of being alone is not enough. None of those are enough to prevent you from ushering in life's best by way of the people that you allow into your space.

Whether with relatives, friends, or friends who choose to be family, it is both your responsibility and privilege to distinguish which relationships bring you life and which ones diminish it. Once you make that determination, you owe it to yourself to feed healthy relationships and not permit the unhealthy ones to consume you. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Standing Firm

As infants we were trained to make noise. When we needed to eat, be changed, or be held we cried and someone came to meet those needs. As we grew older, we replaced crying with words and learned that in order to get something, we needed to say something. At times, speaking up and often is appropriate, but far too few of us have learned the power and influence that exists in simply standing firm.

For many years I felt far from being understood. It was a combination of me trying to live out imposed family obligations and me not clearly and thoroughly grasping the many ways that being abused as a child had influenced so much of my adult life. I carried being misunderstood like baggage even though understanding was what I desperately needed. I did not know how to get it because I focused too much of my energy and attention being frustrated and irritated that I had to ask to be understood. I could not get pass the fact that empathy wasn't automatically granted and this refusal to move forward hurt me, not anyone else.

It wasn't until I made the choice to move forward that I could seek out understanding in a way that was healthy and true to what I valued. I set up boundaries and stood firm on those boundaries. I no longer expected or sought understanding from anyone who required an explanation or had to be convinced. My need to be understood was met by those who wanted to understand. It didn't require persuasion. It didn't require a sentimental monologue detailing my hurt. It didn't require noise. It required me shifting my focus from external to internal. It required me being rational and honest. It required me standing firm on my boundaries.

Most of your needs are attached to direct involvement or cooperation from others. If they are not being met noise is not always the best recourse. Consider your options. What have you tried already? Who have you reached out to? How did you reach out? Having needs is normal. How you try to achieve them is the variable. At times, standing firm can move more than noise or force, but you have to be clear on what and who are worth your firm stance.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Will You Do?

I didn't write a post last week. It wasn't because I ran out of time. It wasn't because I ran out of words, either. I didn't write a post because the time I normally designated for writing was spent being triumphant instead of writing a triumphant message.

Last week I stood in front of a room full of strangers and told my story—my personal, painful, and complicated story. For someone who has typically been private this was a jump. It was a jump because my way of encouraging others had mostly been to write about it. It was a jump because telling the story removed a barrier that I'd hidden behind—and had taken comfort in hiding. It was a jump because I knew that once I did it, there was no turning or taking it back. Yet it was time for me to make that jump because I needed to stop relying on my words and let my actions be my message.

Far too often we try to make our words larger than life and act as if repetition or loudness is more convincing and honest than behavior. We post messages on social media reflecting what we want others to think about us. We tell people we are sorry and do the same things we've apologized for repeatedly. We say we want to improve and change our lives yet do nothing more brave, difficult, or demanding than we've done in years prior. We post, we tell, and we say and the only person we fool is ourselves.

Does your life reflect what you say? Does what you talk about most reveal the lifestyle you internally desire? Have you started believing that you will have the life you want solely because of your words? There comes a time when you have to make your actions your message. Elevation requires movement, not mere words.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." What will you do? You have purpose. You have something to give. Your message matters. It's time for you—and me—to let your actions become your message. Again, what will you do?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Your Purpose

The notion of purpose causes many of us distress and anxiety. We try to determine our purpose by collectively evaluating our natural abilities, interests, and those seemingly random events and connections that we classify as chance or fate. No matter how much we worry and will ourselves to come to a clear conclusion, our amateur analysis provides us with more questions than answers and can leave us frustrated and frozen with fear.

The short answer is that your purpose is to advance the life of others. How you do that is what you will have to discover so your question is not what is your purpose, but how you will reach it. You may be an educator, an artist, an inventor, a scientist, or a chef. You may be a community activist, a volunteer, or the first person in your family or neighborhood to graduate from college. You may raise your family in a loving home and be a positive role model to your children or other children in your life. You may provide food to those who are struggling, a home to children without one, or encouragement and support to those who feel broken. There is purpose in all of that.

Your purpose is found in the journey of discovering yourself. As you grow and gain life experiences, you develop the confidence to accept that you have purpose, the clarity to gravitate in the direction of what sustains you, and the strength to work—and it is work—that purpose out. You do not find fulfillment suddenly. Fulfillment of purpose does not announce itself in some magical moment with fireworks and blaring trumpets. You are fulfilled through the process of discovering who you are purposed to become; someone who fully lives and by example, promotes and encourages progression in others.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Change from Pain

Not every change from pain is detrimental
There was a time when I hoarded hurt. Depending on the day, I either convinced myself not to bother anyone with it or that I couldn't trust anyone with it. The truth was that I didn't feel strong enough to deal with it. I didn't feel strong enough to share, open up, trust, be vulnerable, nor approach the healing process. Eventually, the combination of the pain and self-inflicted isolation demanded more of me. I needed to stop hoarding hurt and start healing.

Hurt is a part of life that we all experience. The sources vary, but all hurt leads us to change. Some become hardened and refuse to feel or connect with others. Some become fragile and develop an inability to cope with day-to-day stress. Most of us land somewhere in the middle. We have a tough exterior and a soft center. We ignore how we feel until it becomes undeniable and we distract ourselves in the lives of others.

The hurt that you have experienced has changed you. It may have made you more cautious or intentional about the people you allow in your life. Maybe it has led you to be externally focused in giving to others or by feeding on the negativity of others. Maybe your hurt has led you to be brutally honest with everyone but self. Or maybe you avoid being truthful and free. It's possible that you aren't exactly sure how your hurt has changed you.

When you experienced neglect, disappointment, betrayal, a health challenge, loss, and/or trauma, it impacted your personality. It altered how you handled relationships. It shifted your outlook and perception. You may interpret that to mean a negative change or one that has made you somehow less of who you were prior. That does not have to be true.

Not every change resulting from pain has to be detrimental. Pain can lead you to be more considerate of others. Pain can encourage you to focus less time on superficial interactions so that you can engage in deeper, more meaningful relationships. Pain can lead you to living more honestly and freely. In order to move forward, pain demands more of you. Working through it will show you just how powerful, resilient, and strong you are. You may not always have control of the hurt that enters your life, but you can determine how that hurt will impact your life. The only thing more tragic than the pain that you have already endured would be to give your pain the power that was intended for you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grow Anyway

I have never been the type to gush over flowers, but in the last year I've developed a great appreciation for one of nature's most amazing gifts. I'm intrigued that something that began as a small seed can rise up to become so colorful and beautiful and alter an entire landscape. As long as it has proper soil, water, and sunshine, a flower stretches out of the dirt to give the earth seeds and pollen while providing aesthetic and olfactory benefits to all who experience it.

All of us should strive to stretch ourselves, but growth constitutes change and change can be difficult. At times, change is encouraged by those we love, but there are occasions when the changes needed in order to grow cause others confusion, discomfort, and even anger. Yet, it remains our responsibility to determine when the concern of others is valid or when what others want is merely in conflict with what we need.

Flowers don't ask for permission to grow. Flowers don't seek approval before displaying their vivid colors. Flowers don't remain under the surface until the other seeds nearby are ready to sprout up to fulfill their purpose. Flowers grow anyway.

Growth may lead you out of a relationship in which others want you to remain. Grow anyway. Growth may direct you to a new career when your current one is lucrative or is something that you are particularly good performing. Grow anyway. Growth could lead you to a new city or state that is out of the geographic comfort zone of family and friends. Grow anyway. Growth may push you toward a path that no one else has cleared. Grow anyway.

Not everyone will understand where life is directing you. Not everyone will like or approve of your choices. If you are certain that where you are being led is what will bring you the most fulfillment and bring you closer to your best self, you owe it to yourself and everyone who gets the benefit of experiencing you to grow anyway.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lens of Empathy

Countless times people have expressed their surprise upon hearing my story. Meant as a compliment, they say variations of, "I never would have known," or "I had no idea." I understand the sentiment behind those statements, but it does pose a question. How does the perception of the struggles of others influence how they are treated?

Television, big screen productions, and novels have filled our minds with images of how someone who has faced hardship should look and feel. We expect someone with a traumatic past to wear difficulty on her face, leave a string of violence in her path, battle addiction publicly, and/or cling to unhealthy relationships. When we meet someone who abuses herself with repeated bad choices, we comfort ourselves and explain the negativity away by concluding that she must have had a horrible history. We measure the level of past struggle by current self-inflicted hurt. Because of this flawed measurement system, when we encounter someone centered and positive we assume that her struggle has been light or that the sunshine is somehow dishonest. A more accurate conclusion is that not all who are living well have always had the best life has to offer.

How has your perception of struggle influenced how you treat others? On what factors have you based those perceptions? Are you more sympathetic to visible, known hardship? Everyone you encounter has been hurt. The father trying to set a positive example to his children, the cheerful woman working at your favorite clothing store, and the friend who is always making you laugh have all experienced heartache and are coping with it daily. You may not have witnessed the hurt, but that doesn't make it less real. Trade in the clouded and inconsistent lens of assumption for the more genuine lens of empathy. Reach out to those you love. Check in with your friends, even if you don't think they need it. They may surprise you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bad Day

Suzy Stocky and Myla Denise
Some see my encouraging posts and quotes and assume that I do such because I don't know struggle or because I'm not being honest. Both are far from the truth. It's nearly amusing to write this, but I've been accused of being too positive. I've been asked, "Don't you ever have a bad day?"

This has been a tough week. Like most, I was saddened by the loss of Robin Williams, an entertainment icon who brought joy and awe to so many for decades. I continue to watch the city of Ferguson, Missouri get rocked and divided by the shooting of an unarmed teenager by law enforcement. In the last seven days, I've grieved, remembered, and been anxious and outraged.

In addition to the tragedies that I share as a citizen of this country, this tough week became even more difficult personally as I received news that my dear friend passed away. Do I ever have a bad day? I am having one right now.

My friend, someone I shared many conversations, meals, celebrations, tragedy, and simply time with is no longer here. Initially, I found comfort in the memories and in knowing that during our last communication I told Suzy that I missed her. Eventually, though, my feelings changed and I was overcome by the finality of her absence. I can no longer call or text her. I can't take that trip we'd discussed. I will never get to hear her boisterous laugh again and all of that makes my heart hurt.

The positivity that I display and often write about is genuine, but it developed through hardship. It is because of times like these that I can trust that I will get through this newest challenge. Too positive? Not at all. I acknowledge the depth of my hurt. I recognize that the death of my friend brings up feelings related to the loss of my father. I know that when I feel broken and vulnerable it can trigger trauma and if I'm not careful, can result in much more than grief. I do have bad days, but I work through them because I can't afford not to. The risk is too great.

Difficulty and heartache are common experiences. Yours may differ from mine, but they are no less real or influential. You get to choose how to handle—or not handle—your hardships. I have considered several ways to cope over the last few days, not all of them good or healthy. Today I choose to write through my bad day. I hope you will choose wisely as you face yours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Emotional Toxins

Toxins are harmful. Ingesting them can require medical attention at best. At worst, they can lead to long-term illness or death. Knowing the dangers associated with toxins deters us from ingesting them, but we aren't as careful with the emotional toxins that we allow to seep into our lives.

There was a time when I willingly fluctuated between living peacefully and tiptoeing in turmoil. My assumption was that the peace would minimize the pain, but it was the pain that infiltrated the peace. It wasn't enough to only give up my peace in increments—only on holidays or special occasions. If I genuinely wanted to live in peace, I had to stop self-administering the emotional toxins completely. Living in peace required me to close the door on sources of anxiety and unease. It was not safe at any level or interval nor worth the risk to dabble in toxicity. In order to obtain peace of mind, I had to sever all ties with emotional toxins.

Nudging up to emotional toxins is gambling with your peace of your mind. Eventually, toxicity will demand a hefty payment of clarity, health, stability, positive relationships, balance, and ultimately, self-love. Consider the sources of anxiety and unease in your life. How much of it is a result of normal adult responsibility and life events vs. ill-advised decisions, habitual behavior, guilt, and fear of the unknown? Peace of mind is priceless, but it isn't free. Are you willing to give up the emotional toxins in your life in order to pursue it?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Permission to Heal

Perception influences how we face life's challenges. We understand the care and patience needed to cope with circumstances like loss, an injury, or an equal opportunity illness. These situations, and ones like them, are not attached to judgment so we give ourselves proper time and permission to heal. However, not all circumstances elicit the same reaction.

In 2011, my father died suddenly. I have given—and will continue to give—myself the space to acknowledge what I feel, talk about him, and do what is necessary to cope with his absence. I don't pretend or hide my hurt to make anyone, including myself, more comfortable because I don't see the need. There is no judgment attached to my grief. I haven't been so kind to myself in all situations, though, and as a result, I have complicated and extended my healing process.

I was sexually abused for seven years. The emotion tied to simply making that straightforward admission is exactly what made the road to recovery difficult and complex. Unlike grieving the loss of my father, shame and self-blame was connected to the abuse so I did everything I could to avoid facing its impact on my life. Instead of focusing energy and attention on pursuing peace and making emotionally healthy decisions, I tried to protect myself by ignoring its influence and I tried to protect others from my pain by hiding it. I muted my hurt and took on the unreasonable responsibility of making others comfortable with what I had to endure.

Maybe you have an issue that you've attached to shame, guilt, self-blame, or disappointment. Whether you are coping with the effects of child abuse, sexual assault, abandonment, neglect, domestic violence, infidelity, an eating disorder, an addiction, or a mental health issue, acknowledge your truth and work through the process of recovery. Release the judgment(s) attached to your circumstance. Detach from anyone or anything that hinders your healing. Let go of the notion that it's been long enough already. Free yourself from making others comfortable with what you had to endure. When you separate judgment from your circumstance, you can walk in your truth and give yourself permission to heal.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


At the start of the summer season, there is an increase in news reports on water safety. One of the most important notices is about the behavior of those who are drowning. Most assume that there will be screams and violent splashing, but those in distress while swimming barely make a sound or much movement. Unfortunately, people struggle silently while others watch, unaware of the desperation occurring below the surface.

We are constantly immersed in life. We make decisions today that will influence our future while simultaneously doing the emotional hard work of reconciling our past. We are surrounded by people who teach us difficult lessons, show us ourselves, and make us demonstrate love instead of simply say it. We try to make the life we face better than what we've left behind while remaining grateful and mindful of the present. It is a constant balancing act that tests our stamina, stretches our faith, and repeatedly proves and disproves what we have been taught and believe.

While it is easy and even understandable to be engrossed in your life, consider how you can show your loved ones that you support and truly see them. Don't wait for screaming or splashing from your spouse, parents, siblings, and friends to extend your hand and reach out. Signs of sadness may not match your expectations. Distress may not be as visible or cause as much of a commotion as you anticipate. Do not let someone you love feel as if s/he is drowning right in front of you simply because it doesn't appear as you imagine.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Say Yes by Doing

Sangren Hall at WMU
Last week I walked across the campus of Western Michigan University to observe a sociology class. It was a seemingly simple occasion, one that typically wouldn't mean much, but as I approached Sangren Hall I was convinced that my decision to sit in that class would alter my life. I even took a photo because I wanted to forever capture the seconds leading up to me saying yes.

Most of us can recall with great detail major moments that have shaped our lives—receiving an acceptance letter to the school of our dreams, graduation, a proposal, a wedding, our first international trip, the birth of a child, etc. These large moments are etched into our minds and often marked in photographs and in the memories of others. They are landmark occasions and should be treated as such. However, it is our day-to-day living that leads up to those milestone moments. What we say yes to today determines the course of our lives tomorrow.

Maybe you have considered returning to school. Say yes by doing the steps necessary to apply and attend. Maybe you would like to welcome love into your life. Say yes by doing more than working or watching Netflix on weekends. Maybe you are interested in securing a new job. Say yes by updating your resumé, making your cover letter sell your skills, and searching. Maybe you want to share your story to help others overcome the same challenges you have overcome. Say yes by making meaningful connections that will result in opportunities for you to do just that.

If you are talking about a new life, new surroundings, or new connections more than you are taking action, you have to ask if you truly want it as badly as you say. Change is a verb. It is an action word. Change does not come with complaining, fussing, nor mere wishing and willing. If you want to change your life you must say yes by doing.

How did observing a sociology class alter the course of my life? That story is still being written, but please know that I, too, am saying yes by doing. Stay tuned, friends.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Live Up

Hoi An, Vietnam
For more years than I care to admit, I handed the responsibility of my emotional health to others. I desperately wanted to believe that those who told me they loved me were looking out for my best interests. Sadly, my best interests clashed with what they wanted so the direction they were leading me contradicted where I needed to go. It wasn't until I grew strong enough and developed the confidence to trust my judgment that I took responsibility for my emotional health and began to live honestly.

I was one of those kids who hated to be yelled at and punishment was not my friend. I wanted to make the adults in my life happy and people-pleased to a fault. As I grew older, I was no longer at risk of getting into trouble, yet the self-sacrificing behavior continued. I realized it wasn't trouble that I had been avoiding all of those years, but disappointing others. In trying to live according to their expectations, I was holding myself back and failing to live up to the expectations I had for myself.

People tell me to settle down, have children, lower my guard, and relax my boundaries. They rationalize these directives using fear and guilt, but what they are really saying is, "Do what I did," or "Stop living your life in a way that I lacked the confidence to even consider." Instead of internalizing their fears and regrets, I've accepted that my life is not conventional because my heart's desires are not conventional. Instead of trying to fit into the notion of what others believe or want, I've learned to trust my instincts, live fully, and not apologize for it. Working through my fear of disappointing others and ultimately, losing their support has taught me two life-altering, freeing lessons:
  • it is much more detrimental to live a life that I find disappointing and
  • I will always have the support I need because those who honestly love me will always remain.
Not everyone will comprehend the course of your life. That does not necessarily mean that they wish to see you fail. Some are simply not capable of comprehending your future because it exists in a space that they cannot fathom. Your life choices are yours and you have to live with the consequences in a way that no one else will. Develop the strength and confidence to trust your judgment. When you live honestly, you usher in people who will support and love you honestly, and there is nothing fearful, nor disappointing in that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Live on Purpose

One of my favorite mantras is about purpose. I focus attention on purpose. It is a word that can be interpreted in a very basic sense—to give or or to love—or in an extremely dense one involving philosophies on existentialism. While we are all purposed for the progression of others, answers to questions like who, what, when, and how are as individual as our fingerprints.

It's fascinating to observe reactions when the topic of purpose comes up. Some get excited to talk about it. Some will simply listen, but some will change the subject, sneak out of the room, or even roll their eyes. Sadly, we have attached judgment to purpose and for that reason, when the word is mentioned, we feel threatened. We've taken on this assumption that in order for us to have purpose it has to be bigger, more meaningful, more influential, and more certain. Bigger and more than what? That's a moving target. Generally, bigger and more than the purpose of whoever we're speaking with, watching on television, or reading about in a magazine. That is not purpose. Purpose is not comparative nor competitive. Purpose simply is.

Maybe you're someone who has opted out of the purpose conversation. Maybe you aren't confident in your purpose and you've even been one to roll your eyes at the mere mention of the word. The magnificent part of purpose is that it is independently dependent. My purpose is not any bigger or smaller than yours. Your purpose is no more or less than mine. They are equal and build upon the collective purpose of progression.

Don't be afraid of purpose. Not the word, not anyone else's, and definitely not your own. If you have an inkling of what your purpose is, do not allow your fear of uncertainty to diminish what you do know. Your purpose will evolve over time, just as you evolve over time. You may be reading this and telling yourself, "I have no idea what my purpose is." Not knowing is not equal to not having. Embarking on the journey of finding out requires active and intentional listening without judgment or fear. In order to discover your purpose you must think on purpose and speak on purpose so that you may live on purpose.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vacation Days

Myla Denise in Miami, Florida
I am a firm believer in vacations. In addition to hand-picking climates, experiencing unique cuisines, discovering culture, and meeting new people, they also afford me with the time and space to breathe in beauty. Travel has become my church. It is where I find rejuvenation, peace, joy, and truth. Whether it is sitting on a beach feeling the breeze tickle my skin, witnessing the call to prayer halt an entire city, or hearing wildlife in a jungle where the only sky is a wave of lush green leaves, I find myself more in tune with who I truly am when I strip away what I have become.

On a recent vacation to Miami, Florida, one of my companions asked to get a picture taken during a downpour. Minutes later, I was out crossing Ocean Drive, getting soaked, in my bathing suit, and laughing about it. I would never be on a main thoroughfare in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the rain, in a bathing suit. The thought of it is ridiculous to me, but down in Miami, out of my routine and all that is associated with it, I didn't give it a second thought. I was open and free.

There is a reason why statements like, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," are so popular. We feel liberated on vacation because there is a perception of anonymity and because we are in a new place. Removed from our normal settings, all of the roles we play at home fall away. We feel free enough to simply be. We eat what we want, have more drinks than usual, stay up late, sleep longer, and do whatever it is that we feel we can't, shouldn't, or wouldn't even imagine doing at home. While it would not be wise for us to take on the eating, drinking, and sleeping habits we adopt on vacation, we can take some of the freedom, joy, and peace home with us instead of leaving them a plane ride away.

There is something wonderful and peaceful about getting away, but there is beauty in maintaining wonder and peace in your daily life. Discover ways to incorporate that more vivid or more relaxed version of yourself in your everyday. Appreciate the splendor unfolding where you are. You may not walk down the street in your hometown in your bathing suit, but maybe you can take a walk in the rain and let it remind you of the simplistic beauty and peace that exists each day instead of reserving the lifestyle you love only for vacation days.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Brave Enough to Believe

There is something very special about watching reruns of old television shows. I still laugh aloud when I see The Cosby Show, Livin' Single, and The Golden Girls. When those shows were popular there were things I didn't fully appreciate nor understand due to a lack of life experience, especially when it came to The Golden Girls. Besides them representing a time of collective purpose and consideration, with no hint of the ridiculousness that today's 'reality' tv offers, there's another reason I love these shows. Watching them reminds me of the power that is released when we believe.

I always smile whenever someone appears on reruns who has gone on to find success as a professional actor. As I watch The Cosby Show now I recognize people like Angela Bassett, Mario Van Peebles, Robin Givens, Stacey Dash, Adam Sandler, and countless others I didn't know by name back then. I imagine how excited they must have been to audition, receive a call back, walk on the set, tape the episode, and see it on television for the first time. I fast-forward to now, knowing how their lives evolved. Their bravery to believe in and chase their unconventional dream released the power for them to pursue more.

The life you envision does not have to be impossible. It may be a long shot. It probably requires commitment again, and again, and again. More than likely, you will have to make sacrifices and repeatedly surrender to your purpose. Difficult? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. Here's the reality, though. Living already comes with requirements. Even if you refuse or are too afraid to tap into the power of belief, in order to live you already have to commit and sacrifice. To maintain a job and earn a living you have to show up and sacrifice your time for a paycheck. In order to keep healthy relationships or raise a family you have to be there, present, and sacrifice 'my' for 'our.' If you must commit and sacrifice for what is necessary and who you love, you might as well commit and sacrifice for you.

You could be in the cameo stage of your life. You may be several steps or one big leap from whatever is considered your big break. You could be one connection, one performance, one job, one written piece, one kind word, one volunteer opportunity, one appearance from crossing into the threshold of fulfillment. Wouldn't you rather look back on the cameo phase of your life as where your beliefs were strengthened instead of where they deteriorated? Don't lose sight or give up. Follow the example of those young, eager actors you saw on television all those years ago. Be brave enough to believe and release the power that exists to pursue more.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Discover Your Power

Challenges are a part of life and come in different forms. Whether hardship is inherited, environmental, at the hands of someone else, or a reflection of our own choices, our responsibility is to grow through challenges instead of allowing challenges to stunt our growth.

In any challenge, we choose how to cope. We don't always exercise our choice intentionally, but the choice remains ours. We can either:
  • dismiss the negative impact of adversity,
  • allow our heartbreak to break us, or
  • do the work and discover our power.
Some hurt is so intense that the only feasible reaction is to halt. Losing a loved one, receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, or experiencing any other emotional trauma can send you into a mental freeze. Often, this is a part of the process. However, there is a massive difference between an immobile phase and an immobile life. As long as you dismiss or ignore how you've been affected by your hurt, you will continue to make decisions influenced by a past that you haven't reconciled.

In order to treat a medical diagnosis, the diagnosis has to be acknowledged to determine a course of action. Similarly, issues that have an emotional impact like neglect, betrayal, abuse, or abandonment must be acknowledged. Acknowledgement does not mean you make room for your hurt to sit at the table of your life so that you can feed it. Acknowledgement means that you recognize the source of your pain, not that you surrender to it.

Maybe you have acknowledged your pain, but you can't get out of that stage. Maybe your heartbreak is breaking you. It's possible that you clutch your history and keep your painful narrative in your face and in the faces of everyone who cares for you. If this is the case, your hurt has become the root of every choice you make and the one thing you want, change, is impossible because you make decisions with your hurt instead of working through it.

The key to not remaining stuck in your pain or the acknowledgement stage is to assess. Determining how hurt has impacted your life
  • through the decisions you make,
  • the people you allow into your life, 
  • and the messages you tell yourself 
leads you to the process of correction and progress. As you work through the assessment phase you practice making good choices and exercising wisdom. It is here that you use adversity to build up your strength instead of tear it down. By doing the work you discover your power and it exists in the same situation that has made you feel powerless.

Is it scary? Absolutely! Will it require a process that may not always feel great? Yes. Is that enough to keep you from doing it? Absolutely not. Consider the alternative. Would you rather make decisions through the lens of fear and avoidance or the lens of clarity and purpose? Would you rather live clutching pain or releasing it? You are absolutely worth the work it takes to reconcile your past and intentionally direct your future. If you are willing to do the work you will discover your power.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sound Advice

I have a small group of friends who are my sounding board. I go to this special group to vet ideas, vent, and preview my writings. I am strategic in reaching out because only a few people have invested the time to understand me and my history, goals, purpose, flaws, and fears, yet don't cater to my nuances or enable stagnation. Within my sounding board, I go to certain ones for certain areas. Even people who love me can offer opinions that may not necessarily be bad advice, but not best for me. No matter what the advice is or who delivers it, I am responsible for distinguishing between what I should simply hear and what I should heed.

I accepted years ago that my path was unique, even when compared to my friends who are brave trailblazers in their own ways. Although our paths have crossed, they are not identical. While we share similar traits, we are independent and have unique styles, interests, plans, and quirks. For those reasons, we not only go in different areas, but we approach love and life differently. My circle provides sound advice, but it is my responsibility to know that good, well-intentioned advice is not always the best advice.

It is perfectly normal and healthy to share your experiences and feelings, but it is not necessary for you to internalize every word of advice or sentiment that results from your sharing. What one person would do is not necessarily what you should do. What may stop or discourage someone else does not have to stop or discourage you. What someone else may not be brave enough to pursue may be exactly what you should pursue. The life that someone else would settle into does not mandate that you settle.

Life is always leading you toward your purpose. Your intuition is constantly directing you, ever so gently, in the right direction. There is no external source that can guide you better. After all, when external signs appear, it's only after you have ignored the internal inklings repeatedly. As you share you life with those in your circle, be mindful not to allow advice, no matter how good it may seem, to lead you astray.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


One of the most fascinating things about being an aunt is watching my nieces and nephew grow. I have held them as infants, giggled as they maneuvered their first steps, winced as they got cuts and scrapes from playing outdoors, and laughed with them as they developed more thoughtful senses of humor. At times I miss the days before they were too big and independent for me to scoop them up in my arms, but it brings me joy to witness their growth.

Every single thing that lives is destined for growth. What doesn't grow individually dies or collectively becomes extinct. Physical growth is easier for people to accept because they expect it. When a baby is born, the expectation is for her to develop into a toddler, then a child, then a teenager, and finally, an adult. The expectation is for her to grow taller, stronger, and more independent. What is the expectation, though, after? What happens to the expectation of growth in adults?

The measure of an adult is attached to responsibility. On the surface, growth is evidenced by building a family and a career with pay raises and title changes. Adulthood comes with countless lessons, but because we are no longer measuring height changes or advancing in school each year, after we start a family and a career, we unfortunately expect stagnation.

Being an adult is more than building externally. Structures cannot stand if all of the attention is placed on their exterior. The foundation must be solid. The interior must be strong enough to support the weight of the structure itself, but also the impact of age and the stress of external forces. For that reason, as adults, our most important area of growth is internal.

Maybe the conversations and activities that once entertained or sustained you are becoming mundane. Maybe you realized that those who support you only provide support on conditions. Maybe where you are professionally does not provide the same satisfaction or excitement that it did initially. Maybe your life plan, including the people in it, needs an adjustment or an overhaul. Your first responsibility, as an adult, is to pay attention. Listen to those internal bells and alarms that indicate a need for change. Next, be strong enough, responsible enough, and adult enough to accept and grow into who you are becoming from within.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Golden Rule

You've heard the adage 'treat others the way you want to be treated' countless times. It's the Golden Rule and typically, it is great advice. It is both a normal expectation and an admirable quality to base your consideration of others on how you want to be considered. What happens, though, when how you want to be treated is not equal to how you deserve to be treated?

Relationships are one of the most important aspects of life. In your connections you find support, understanding, healing, love, and essentially, a reflection of yourself. Those who love you make the choice to be a part of your life and include you in theirs. It's a commitment. Even when the love is there, though, if you take that love or the people giving it for granted and ignore their needs and become distant, doubt begins speaking louder than trust. Your loved ones will question if they are in the relationship, or feeling a level of openness and safety all by themselves.

How you feel about yourself impacts how you treat those you love. If you don't think you're deserving of honesty, support, and care then your behavior will reflect that and you will sabotage your relationships and what you need. Rather than lean into your support, because you don't trust it and don't believe you deserve it, you pull back. Without realizing it, you treat your loved ones in the way you think you should be treated and in this instance, it's less than what all of you deserve.

In order to fully understand the sentiment behind treating others the way you would like to be treated you have to also understand how you should be treated. You may know that you don't deserve to be abused, lied to, cheated on, betrayed, or ignored because those are extremes. Those are easy to identify and reject. There are more subtle behaviors that you also don't deserve. You don't deserve to open up to someone and have him/her retreat. You don't deserve to consistently prove yourself trustworthy because of the actions of another. You don't deserve to have to face difficulty alone. You don't deserve to want an embrace and not feel vulnerable enough to ask for or accept one. You don't deserve to feel like you are in a relationship of any kind by yourself and neither does anyone you love.

Emotions can be scary. Depending on others to be there when you need them can be terrifying. Yet imagine how it feels for your significant other, parents, children, siblings, or close friends to have to deal with the normal fears of trusting and letting go combined with your refusal to trust them and let go. When you fully understand, appreciate, value, and love you then, and only then, can you truly understand, appreciate, value and love others.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Loving After

Social media sites are filled with memes and quotes promoting that we only trust ourselves. The logic behind it is that if we don't trust others then we can't be hurt by others. While it's understandable to interpret hurt as a side effect of trust, it is not a wise lifestyle choice. Trusting only self can reduce the likelihood of being hurt by others, but it is a guarantee of a life that is greatly reduced.

We have all been hurt by someone we love yet we are still charged with loving after. Loving after hurt is difficult. Trusting after disappointment is a challenge. We fear those emotions and make it our business to ensure we don't feel them again. Walls come up. Boundaries are set. We do whatever we can to prevent replicating the same scenario. We convince ourselves that we were hurt because we trusted, because we opened up, and because we loved. We conclude that we can prevent future hurt by not trusting, not opening up, and not loving.

One major problem with disconnecting from others is related to how much we trust ourselves. When we are hurt by someone we trust we start the blame game and ultimately, point a finger back at ourselves. This determination not to trust others does not address the negative feelings we develop toward ourselves after having trusted and being betrayed. We tell ourselves lies and since we have sentenced ourselves to isolation, we don't have anyone to build us out of this self-defeatist, detrimental thought pattern. We repeat negative self talk, and the one person we depend on, the one we trust solely, self, cannot be trusted.

We were designed for connection. We rely on relationships for growth, support, and love. Without human connection we remain stagnant, feed ourselves untruths, and become distanced from our purpose. Loved ones bring our lives joy and pick us up when we falter. Loved ones push us when we would rather lie down and sulk. Loved ones remind us of ourselves, especially all of the wonderful qualities that we dismiss or fail to acknowledge. Loved ones help us sift through harmful self talk and rebuild what has been broken. The key is for us is to select the loved ones committed to making the journey of loving after hurt and disappointment one of support, encouragement, and yes, trust.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Lesson in a Question

Someone asked me a question that caught me off guard. Considering our conversation, the question was not out of line and my answering it wouldn't have revealed anything that can't be found in my writings, but still it gave me pause. Writing about my life and having people read it is one thing, but saying the words across a dinner table is much more intimate and vulnerability always has the potential to freeze me. In a brief second, I had to decide if I would respond, "I'd rather not say," or simply answer her question and move on.

Discretion is absolutely necessary. Not everyone needs to know everything and not everyone should have our trust. Plus, we have been gifted with a support system purposefully. There are some discussions that are best if only had with those closest to us. However, our decision to reserve our pain for ourselves does more to reserve us. That decision holds us in solitude, shame, and guilt. Ultimately, it holds us back. We cling to the side effects of our pain by ourselves because we're convinced that if others knew they would use it against us, treat us differently, or love us less. Essentially, we believe that if others knew the cause or extent of our pain then they would view us through the same judgmental and harsh lens we use to see ourselves.

The next time you are afraid to open up consider whether you are projecting your own judgments on others. Is your fear appropriately placed? Has that person said or done anything to warrant your fear? Is it the actions of another that has made you so sure that you can't trust? Do you imagine someone using your pain or your decision to trust against you? Is your fear preventing you from progressing and getting healthy?

I considered this woman's question, this woman who I have known for quite some time, but didn't know very well. This woman I had never shared anything remotely personal with prior. This woman who hadn't done anything to earn my suspicions or distrust. This woman who asked me a question that she could find the answer to by reading about me online, but preferred a face-to-face conversation. I looked at this woman with a slate that wasn't tarnished with my defensive imagination nor the hurtful actions of others and decided to answer her. I didn't regret it in the seconds following and I don't regret it now. My world didn't crumble. She didn't treat me differently. She didn't look at me through the judgmental and harsh lens I use for myself. She did nothing to confirm the horrible things I have told myself. She merely heard me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I am proud of my circle of support. It consists of strong, intelligent, fun, funny, clever, kind, and considerate people who make me nearly pity anyone who doesn't have the pleasure of knowing them. What I find fascinating about my circle is that while each has discovered success, all have taken very different paths. What binds us together, though, has nothing to do with how we earn our living, but how we live. In addition to being considerate of one another, each one of us has an internal need to strive and I not only support our individual need to strive, I admire it.

Whether it's based on natural ability, circumstances, or some combination of the two, everyone has aspirations. Not everyone listens to or works with that internal force to strive, but we all have it and must be mindful that the decisions we make repeatedly expose our commitments, not what we say and certainly not what we simply wish. What we strive for is revealed in our habitual behavior.

What do you strive to do or become? Before you answer, remember that strive is a verb. It is a word of action. Also, don't limit yourself to what you think is appropriate or acceptable. You could strive to become a business owner, an author, or a professional musician just as you can strive to be healthy, emotionally intelligent, and self-aware. Listen inwardly. What do you strive to do or become? How do your actions reflect that? If your actions don't align with your answer(s), start today. You were designed to strive and like those in my circle, where that takes you may be unique. It may differ from those in your circle, your family, or your profession. A rare vision doesn't equate to impossible, unimportant, nor pointless. It's simply rare. Ultimately, you should strive to be intentional about how you live and it is your intent and your action that will lead you toward the life you desire.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Do you know people who consistently think negatively? Of course it's windy because I just left the salon. Of course it's raining because I just washed my car. Of course there's a traffic jam because I'm in a hurry. Whenever something negative or inconvenient happens, they soothe themselves sayings like, "it's just my luck." They expect the worst and when it does, they use that as confirmation to continue believing in undesired outcomes.

The power of belief is undeniable. Children believe that a fairy leaves money in exchange for teeth, that a bunny delivers them candy-filled baskets, and that a man goes around the world in a single night in a sleigh powered by reindeer. Belief is so powerful because it shapes actions and perception. Children who believe in Santa Claus are often bribed to behave during the entire holiday season. Parents are quick to remind them of the upcoming holiday when children step out of line. Even a book and toy franchise (Elf on a Shelf) has capitalized on managing children's behavior. Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques are filled because of belief. Whether people attend because they believe it will enhance their lives—or they believe in the power of guilt associated with not attending—belief shapes behavior. Whether it's in a higher power, science, people, self, or some combination, beliefs shape actions, energy, and essentially, perceptions of the world.

What do you believe? Where did those beliefs originate? Do you believe in and expect negativity? Do you believe that people can't be trusted? Do you believe that you can't trust yourself? Do you believe that if you allow yourself to have hope you will only be let down? Do you believe in fear rather than faith?

Consider how you interpret inconveniences and set backs as well as how you view fortune and advancement. Your beliefs impact so many aspects of your life so why not believe in what will enhance your life? Why not believe in what will benefit you instead of discourage you? Whether your beliefs were inherited or learned it's time to evaluate and be intentional about what you permit and encourage yourself to believe.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Life of Consideration

It's not often that I have an immediate reaction—besides laughter—to much of anything. I typically need time to reflect before I respond. Not long ago, though, I received a message that elicited an immediate feeling. The impulsive, childish side of me wanted to snap back. I wanted my words to be so cunning that the receiver wouldn't even know just how cleverly cold they were until a day later. Essentially, I wanted to offend at a level even higher than the one I felt was intended for me.

Between work, community events, children's activities, family obligations, and household needs, we are in contact with others constantly. The majority of us risk delivering unkind words, even if we feel justified, without leaving our home. However, feeling justified does not equate to being the right thing to do. Being kind is the ultimate just act, especially when kindness is the last characteristic you want to exude.

Everyone you encounter, from a coworker, parking attendant, your child's teacher, a relative, to a cashier in a grocery store is carrying more than you know. They have sources of joy and sources of heartache. They have felt love and felt hate. They have had countless experiences prior to their interaction(s) with you and will have many more after you. Before you repay rudeness with more rudeness consider the value of that exchange. Your reaction to one negative encounter could fuel someone's belief that he is insignificant and that people are unkind. Your reaction, as minor as you may think it is, could confirm to someone that life is not worth living. Your reaction to a person's inability to cope with his/her circumstances may not reveal your true character, but it can lead you to getting increasingly comfortable living a life of reaction rather than consideration.

I could have spread the negativity. I could have engaged in behavior that did not coincide with my character. I could have wasted energy—and it certainly would have been a waste—coming up with a hurtful response to receive a temporary sense of shallow satisfaction. When I considered the repercussions—spreading negativity, acting outside of my character, and wasting energy—it was clear that the only appropriate and most important response was not to respond.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes aren't limited to those making the changes. Friends of mine have changed their eating habits over the years requiring me to be more cognizant. When hosting, I serve food that honors their wishes. While it's their decision, I am impacted by it because I care for them. It's easy to understand why I wouldn't serve bacon cheeseburgers to my vegetarian friends, even those whose mouths watered upon reading the words "bacon cheeseburger" are empathetic. Unfortunately, though, people are not as understanding and supportive with decisions pertaining to the pursuit of emotional health.

I've recently grown more protective of my time and personal space. Of course I didn't always live so carefully so when I began to make changes there were questions. Those who'd known me for years didn't understand. In their minds things were fine as they existed. Why change now? What was the reason? Who was I punishing? And they weren't looking for an explanation as much as they wanted to convince me to stop changing. As I became more intentional and honest, I unknowingly forced them to ask some hard questions and face truths also. My changes—made so that I could take better care of myself—were impacting their lives.

Not everyone will support your decisions to improve your life and that lack of support doesn't necessarily have anything to do with you. Some will want you to remain the same because it makes it easier for them to be complacent. Others will want you to stop seeking truth so that they don't have to acknowledge theirs. Some simply cannot understand your purpose and are therefore unable to understand the steps it takes for you to reach it. Your changes will impact the lives of those around you, but if you are certain of what you need to be whole and fulfilled don't negotiate, feel guilty, nor shrink away from it. Your responsibility to yourself and to those who love you is to pursue wholeness, fulfillment, and your purpose.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


There are circumstances where defense should be expected. Providing defense is normal and necessary to advance and win in higher education, sports, and a court room. Yet what's normal in those circumstances doesn't translate to a requirement elsewhere.

For reasons stemming from religious beliefs to social media protocol, we have been trained to defend everything and require others to provide a defense to us. We've bought into the idea so heavily that we assume those without a defense, those who lack a proper one—according to an arbitrary standard, or those who flat out refuse to provide a defense are out of line. After all, those who cannot or will not defend their choices are making choices that are invalid or wrong, right?

I have made many unconventional choices. I've lived on a ship for 100 days on two occasions. I've relocated several times and didn't always have a job lined up. I haven't pursued marriage or motherhood which to some makes me less feminine, less fulfilled, or simply, less than. However, my choices have brought much more to my life than I ever anticipated. As interesting, outlandish, and unusual as they may seem, my choices were right for me then and continue to sustain me now. I'd much rather spend my time and energy planning my next adventure than defending my adventure.

Those who require a well-versed, eloquent explanation will not hear your heart. Those who demand traditional, scripture-laden reasoning cannot feel your spirit. Those who need to be convinced of your relevance do not completely see you. This is your life. It is not a dissertation. It is not a game. It is not a trial. If you are confident in your choices, live in that confidence. Trust yourself and know that you are not required to justify, explain, nor defend. You have value. You have worth. Your life matters simply because you exist and there is no defense needed for that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Home Court

Over the weekend I attended the NCAA men's basketball Big Ten Tournament semifinals. From college basketball fanatics like me to March Madness rookies, the energy in Bankers Life Fieldhouse was equally felt. Cheering was expected, but in this intentionally neutral location, not affiliated with any collegiate team, the level of school spirit was exhilarating and inspiring.

Most of us will never know what it's like to step out on a basketball court and perform in front of thousands, but every single day all of us are challenged to live our best lives. At times, we will live in front of a home court—in situations and with people whom we are most at ease and comfortable. In those conditions we feel supported, prepared, and confident in our ability to perform well. In those circumstances, we can sense and hear the cheers of those who love us propelling us forward. What happens, though, when we are out of our comfort zone? What happens when we lose home court advantage?

As with sports, we can go through life performing where we're most comfortable. We can practice drills and plays that show off our skills. We can face opponents with which we're familiar. We can perform solely in arenas where we have home court advantage. However, if we want to develop, get stronger, and walk in our purpose, we have to become more. We have to push pass the skills we're already performing well, stretch ourselves further than familiarity, and walk in places beyond the comforts of our home court.

Life will force us to perform in situations that are not ideal nor desirable. We have to trust after being betrayed. We need to forgive even when holding a grudge feels safer. We must take a risk even while we're terrified. We are required to open up when we'd rather shut down. We have to exercise strength when we feel our weakest. The moments when we feel the most vulnerable, afraid, and insignificant offer the opportunity for us to discover our power, boldness, and relevance. It is in situations when we are separated from what's comfortable that we learn what's possible. It is only when we are removed from our familiar home court and are separated from our idea of normal that we can see with clarity and live with the intention of being exceptional.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Last Gift

After my father died my family was left with the emotionally trying and seemingly insensitive task of clearing out his house. Weeks after my last trip my uncle called to tell me that he located a bicycle. It made me smile because I couldn't imagine my dad riding a bike. I told my uncle that during one of my last conversations with my dad I mentioned wanting to get a bike. My uncle responded, "I think you have one. This is a woman's bike and it's brand new."

My dad's last gift was a bit too much for me to handle. I hesitated taking it with me and when I did, it reminded me of all that wouldn't be. That bike was stolen moments. He would never give it to me. He would never ask repeatedly if I'd ridden it yet. He would never ask if I liked it. I stalled as long as I could. I eventually took that bike, dragged it up to the third floor, and put it in a room. That bike, like my emotions, belonged behind a closed door, out of my way so I wouldn't have to see nor deal with it.

Life is difficult and uncomfortable and inconvenient. Circumstances and relationships change. Feelings get hurt. We face lack, betrayal, disappointment, distance, pain, illness, and death. While we get to choose how we deal with life's lessons and who will walk with us, in order to grow, we all have to open the door and face our truths.

I could keep that door closed, but I—nor anyone else who visited—would never fully enjoy where I live. I could be saddened by the idea of moments that never were or be encouraged by the many moments that we shared. I could look at that bike as a symbol of loss and sadness or as a representation of my father's thoughtfulness and love. I could think of that bike as the last gift my father would ever give me or I could think of how wonderful it is that I had a father who listened, gave from his heart, and thought of me more than I imagined. That bike may be the last gift he purchased, but it is not the last gift he gave.