I confess…

I couldn’t figure out what to write about today so I posed the question on Facebook to see if anyone had any ideas to inspire me.

Wait. That’s not entirely true. I had one idea but my pride told me not to go there. So naturally I listened.

But the idea that was given to me on Facebook was eerily connected to that pesky topic that’s been buzzing around my head all morning (that I really did not want to share with the public). But I guess I’ll take the risk.

So the idea was this: How does life speak to you? And are you listening? 

I woke up early Monday morning and planned to get some emailing and blogging done before work. When I tried to get on the internet however, I could not connect. Confused, I restarted the computer and tried again to no avail.

So I left for work and assumed that with the storm over the weekend maybe we were having connection issues (albeit delayed). That night Jake tried to get on and it still wasn’t working. He called Time Warner and was only able to get through to an automated system which didn’t help to get us connected. We were both confused and decided that he would call again in the morning to see what was up.

The next day, about mid-morning, I got a call from my hubby. He told me I was really lucky that he loved me. I didn’t understand what he was getting at so I replied yes, yes I am. He then asked if I had any idea what was wrong with the internet at home to which I said that I had no idea.

Turns out, I HAD NOT PAID THE BILL!

This still irks me in every part of my being. Granted, we did move and I assumed our automatic bill pay feature would move with us to the new address. Apparently not. But still, it’s not like me to just assume without double checking.

I am known as the organized, financially savvy one in the family. In fact, just last week at small group we went around the room and each couple said something they admired about one another. Jake said he loves how organized I am and how well I manage our finances.

So, what was my problem?!

I can be a bit ditzy at times but not like this. I am the girl with the excel spreadsheet detailing all of our bills, when they’re due and when I paid them on a monthly basis. I check our bank balance daily and think about money an abnormally frequent amount. This was so odd.

Going back to the original question though… it was a wake up call. As my mom used to tell me in high school, sometimes my head is in the clouds and I need things like this to ground me again.

With all of the potential changes and uncertainty in our lives right now, along with some more immediate personal decisions I am trying to make, my mind has been all over the place.

I believe that when a series of incidences like this occur they can be used to pull us out of whatever haze we are in and add a dose of clarity to our lives. The puzzle pieces of my life are painting a picture of a girl who’s overwhelmed. Not unhappy, not angry, not depressed… just frazzled. I don’t necessarily feel like it (not in the way I did last Saturday at least) but clearly I’m not quite as together as I usually am (or that I’d like to be). 

So, just like back in January when I went through a similar season (Slow Down and Listen), I am going to take some deep breaths, make a list, remember the 6 on, 1 off routine and re-focus.

Listen… what is life saying to you?

What are your core values?

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Our small group is currently going through an 8-week series where each week we discuss practical life application topics. Marriage and finances among other relevant topics will all be discussed in the coming weeks.

Currently, we are trying to determine our life vision and purpose. Knowing our core values is so important because if we don’t know what we stand for, we may be tempted to veer off in directions that ultimately leave us unfulfilled.

Our exercise yesterday was to write down two things:

1) What angers us.

2) What we love.

For example, if you get angry when people are not trustworthy, one of your core values is probably honesty and truth. If you are angered by flakiness, one of your core values is most likely responsibility.

Then consider what you love. Do you love not having to worry about paying the bills? You may value security. Do you put your family and friends above all else? You probably value relationships most.

I found this exercise incredibly enlightening and was able to narrow down my values to a few key areas:

1) Honesty/authenticity

2) Security

3) Relationships

Give it a try! What angers you most? What do you love? What core values do you stand for?

I am not fun

Let me preface this by saying: I am not in the same place I was yesterday. Yesterday there was some serious funk going on. Today, not so much. However, the fight my husband and I got in the other night (the one I mentioned yesterday where he was trying be funny and I was NOT taking was he was putting out there)… well, that did get me thinking.

I had a realization several months ago that I am not fun. I can have fun and I can do fun things. But I – myself as a whole – am not fun.

I learned this fact after a different fight with my husband where he accused me of being “no fun”. I can’t recall any of the details but I remember thinking, How can he say I’m not fun?

So I did what any other self-respecting female would do… Called a friend and vented. And more or less, she confirmed, I’m not fun.

What?? I am not fun? But my husband and I had Disneyland annual passes for two years! Isn’t that fun? We danced the cha cha slide at our wedding! But those are things we do, not who we are. (Besides, the fun quotient in both of those examples is questionable to say the least).

Back in the days when I still thought I was fun

I am one of those people who:

  • Views life through a glass-half-empty lens
  • Has the “gift of administration”
  • Is in bed by 10pm on week nights
  • Has to get home from vacation at least one day before going back to work so I can get things done around the house
  • Spends hours trying to decide if I want to buy that shirt or pair of shoes despite the fact that I love them… but can’t decide if I love them enough to actually buy them

I mean really… I’m a bore.

But the older I get, the more I realize, I am who I am. And as my friend said during that brutally honest conversation about how unfun I am, my husband knew this before he married me so he can’t complain about it now. I forgave her for the unfun part when she said that.

It’s true though. There are no surprises anymore. I am not fun, among a million other positive and negative qualities, all of which make me, me. And I am okay with it.

Part of my life journey has been about accepting myself for who I am. I used to want to be like everyone else. In fact, I went through a phase in Junior High where I spoke with a lisp (despite not actually having one) and tried to convince my parents and everyone else who crossed my path that I really did have a lisp. I would become fixated on these qualities I saw in other people that I just had to have for myself… as though they were a cute pair of sunglasses or an article of clothing.

Not anymore.

Yes, I vow to always remain open to growth (yesterday’s mantra) but at the same time, I will accept the qualities that define me, as me, stop just learning to live with them and instead actually embrace them.

What qualities make you, you?

 

 

More bittersweet musings…

I hate uncertainty. “Fear of the unknown” should be my middle name. Right now we’re in the midst of a hurricane that’s traveling up the coast of North Carolina straight up to New York. The city I live in has not been dramatically affected at all at this point and yet I am beyond curious as to whether it will be. What would a hurricane feel like? Will our house be damaged? Will our homeowner’s insurance cover anything or will they consider it an “act of God” and leave us to our own devices? So many questions…

It’s not just this though that has me feeling a bit melancholy today… it’s all of the unknown. For something that’s not even here yet, it sure feels heavy nonetheless. One of my friends often tells me how much she admires my calm in the midst of so much change and so many questions. If only she knew what was going on inside of me!

I like to have a plan and feel prepared. I made my husband fill up the bathtub today with water because according to our native North Carolinian friends, you can use the water from the tub to flush the toilet if all the power and everything goes out. Such a foreign concept to me. But like I said, it’s good to be prepared.

In terms of our future though, it’s not as easy as filing up the bathtub and making sure our candles and flashlights are easily accessible. There’s only so much we can do. And the rest is up to other people and circumstances and God. I don’t like giving up the power! I try and I try to keep it all for myself in fact but the truth is, it only ends up hurting me and the people I love.

I get stressed out easily and frustrated. Last night Jake was joking around and I would have nothing of it. I don’t like the person I can be sometimes… when I am uneasy and uncertain… to maintain a sense of control I lash out.

I’m trying to relax and enjoy the ride more. So what if there’s a hurricane. It’s a new adventure. (I don’t want to see people hurt of course or for people’s property to be damaged). But there are a lot of people out there who are not getting bent out of shape about it. So what if I don’t know where I am going to be living in a few years. The world is my oyster right?

Wait. Patience. Trust. Just as the fear and uncertainty of moving across country eventually dissipated and turned into an exciting adventure, so will the next chapter of our lives. And whether I accept that now or not, it will happen.

Remain open. That’s my mantra right now. Don’t worry about not having all the answers. The One who is trustworthy, loving, all-knowing and kind has it all figured it. He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Thank you God that life is sweet and not just bitter…

I’m reading a book right now that I have completely fallen in love with. It’s so well-written and describes beautifully what I have experienced so many times in the last five years (along with everyone else in the world)… it’s all about life and the deep joys and deep pains that so often engulf us and remind us of our fragile nature.

The book is Bittersweet. And it is exactly that. I have been traveling back through chapters of my own life as I read about the author’s journey. Doesn’t it seem like every time we experience a mountain high moment, we then find ourselves somersaulting back down the mountain shortly thereafter? And the truth is, although it doesn’t always feel like it, when we’re down in life’s pits, there are opportunities to come up for air (whether we choose to take them or not). How we handle the ebb and flow of life reveals so much about who we are. Our perspective matters more than anything else; who and what we choose to place our trust in.

The past few years have been a mix of wonderful celebrations and painful tragedy. My mother-in-law dying was one of the worst things I have ever experienced. The feelings of emptiness that accompany the death of someone you love seem unbearable at times. And to watch someone you love suffer the grief that inevitably comes with loss… it’s a helpless feeling. I have known four people who found out they have cancer and two other cancer sufferers to recently die after several years of struggling. It leaves me feeling physically sick every time I hear this kind of news. In addition to the illness in the world, the east coast is currently preparing for the possibility of being hit by a hurricane in the next few days. This preparation comes directly after a rare and highly unsettling east coast earthquake. Every single day there are reminders of our limited nature and with that, I am reminded of how grateful I must be for all the good stuff.

Jake and I recently attended his cousin’s wedding (which we got to late after a number of significant plane delays – we actually missed the ceremony and just made it to the reception). That said, the reception was absolutely beautiful and Jake and I had a wonderful talk after about our marriage and the kind of man and wife we want to be for each other. It was a bonding conversation and has really set us up to handle the stresses of starting a new school year with confidence and the kind of strength that only comes from God. Again, bittersweet… with great stress, we have also found great strength. The beauty of new birth has been a huge part of the past few years. Despite the sadness of the losses, I have felt privileged to be able to celebrate life with many close friends. And even our move across country which has brought relationship transition and the unfamiliarity of learning a new culture (trust me – California and North Carolina are worlds apart!), we have also begun to form a community and a life for ourselves here. We bought our first house and have had many travel adventures. We have grown more confident as a couple and look forward to our future as we think about starting a family one day.

As Shauna Neiquist so eloquently states in Bittersweet… “This collection is an ode to all things bittersweet, to life at the edges, a love letter to what change can do in us. This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful but exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. So this is the work I’m doing right now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

 

 

How to stop living in the past and get on with your life! Part 2

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I want to take a brief hiatus from the Leadership series to do Part 2 of last month’s post, “How to stop living in the past and get on with your life.” Have you ever been so full of thoughts and “ah has” that you felt like you were going to burst? (And I don’t mean to build this up because it’s a lot bigger in my own mind I think than it is in reality). Anywho… here’s what’s rolling around in my mind today:

Last night I saw “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s new movie. Normally I am not a huge Woody Allen fan… his movies are a bit too slow for my taste and I think a tad too “artsy.” (Let me put it this way – as far as I’m concerned, “Hangover 2” is this summer’s best movie. My taste is not too sophisticated). If you plan on seeing “Midnight in Paris” skip the italicized paragraph below because I’m about to get into plot details!!

Gil (played by Owen Wilson) and his fiancé, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) are visiting Paris with Inez’s parents. It’s pretty clear from the start that Inez and Gil aren’t exactly a match made in heaven. Inez is focused on living the good life while Gil is a bit more interested in honing his craft. Although he has made a good living as a writer in Hollywood, his real goal is to publish a novel. Much to Inez’s dismay this could mean giving up their luxurious lifestyle and struggling a bit. One of the many differences between Gil and Inez is that Inez is focused on the present whereas Gil is nostalgic for the past and completely fascinated by the lives of his heroes, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemmingway among others, as well as the whole social scene in 1920’s Paris. Gil has to really confront this “grass is greener on the other side” perception throughout the movie and grapple with the question, “Would life really be better if he was living in the past?”

Gil makes some incredibly astute observations throughout the movie. If this is an issue you struggle with I highly encourage you to check out the film.

Although I don’t dream of the past nearly as much as I used to, those feelings do crop up from time to time. Today was one of those days. I was walking across the Duke campus and the landscape was just beautiful and peaceful. There were a few students milling about but it was far less crowded than when school is in session. I saw a couple of families attempting to find their way around, both with what looked like college-aged daughters. It reminded me so much of my own college visits with my parents and how nervous, yet excited I felt.

For a moment, I wished I could go back. Rewind time 10 – well, more like 15 years now… sheesh! College was such a fun time with friends, learning, football games, sorority socials and newfound freedom!

But then it hit me! My memories of college are clouded by the maturity and contentment I have gained throughout my twenties and now into my early thirties. What I mean is, I am no longer that insecure, young teenager in search of something bigger and better in life, unsure of what I wanted or who I was… I have grown up a bit (Praise God)! Back when I was in college I had question upon question about life. I hadn’t yet met my awesome husband, hadn’t yet experienced the growing pains that seemed to characterize my twenties and yet shape me into who I am now. And the person I am today, allows me to look back on that time feeling more complete and content… because that is the person I am now. But that is not the person I was then.

I guess what It really goes back to are those rose-colored lenses we often find ourselves viewing life through. We view things of the past, as the people we are today and that changes things. Life seems rosier because I am … well, rosier. :)

This may contradict the theory that we look to the past because we are not content with the present. But I don’t think so. They both can be true and they both have been true in my life.

Sorry for the brief digression from the Leadership series. We’ll continue with that next time! Any thoughts on these ramblings? (Do they even make sense)?

Day 21 – Famous last words…

Some final thoughts for Gen Yers!

Having trouble figuring out what you really want out of life? And even more important sometimes, what you don’t want?

  • Here’s an exercise for you: Want-Don’t Want Exercise
  • This will only take you 15 minutes to complete!
  • Spend 5 minutes writing “What I want…”
  • Spend 5 minutes writing “What I don’t want…”
  • Spend 5 minutes writing “What I want…” again
  • Write whatever comes to mind. Do not hold back! If you want to discuss your list with someone after feel free to Contact Me or another Life Coach/Therapist

Not sure what career you’re interested in?

  • Ask a friend (or family member but remember, family perspectives tend to be more biased) what they can picture you doing for a career
  • Make a list of everything you are interested in
  • Make a list of the skills you have developed throughout your life
  • Write down your dominant personality traits. Check out these posts on personality to find out if you’re an introvert or an extrovert etc. E or I?Additional Info.E/I Follow Up.

Thinking about taking some major steps in your life but having trouble actually moving forward?

  • Check out this template, created by Jenny Blake: 10 Questions to Help You Stop Thinking and Start Doing.
  • Jenny Blake’s website is called Life After College and it is an awesome resource!!! I highly encourage you to check it out. She has a bunch of templates which will allow you to do some life coaching on yourself. She also has a fabulous blog on all kinds of relevant topics (work, relationships etc.) and has even published a book geared specifically  for 20-somethings! Take a look and enjoy her site!

Recommended books for 20-somethings:

Each of the above authors also have great websites I would highly encourage you to check out, in addition to Stratejoy which I have referenced before.

Hope this series has been helpful and that you 20-Somethings feel less alone in your struggles. They are totally normal and conquerable!

Contact me if you have any questions or comment below!

Day 20 – Dear 20-something Angela…

 

First of all, you are fabulous just as you are! Don’t try to change for anyone else. It’s not worth it. The people that are worth knowing will stick around and love you for you… not because you’re who they want you to be.

You have a lot to offer the world. You are passionate, loving, loyal and you have developed skills throughout the years that you will use, even if in a different way than you imagine. Don’t take any moment for granted. Be grateful for where God has you today. Don’t wish away your single years. Sure, you want to get married but don’t rush into anything. Wait for the right guy. As they say, “It’s better to be single your whole life than marry the wrong guy.” Don’t settle for anything less than the one who is perfect for you. (Not perfect! But perfect for you)!

Don’t let fears about money hold you back. Yes, money is important and debt can trap you. But remember to have fun too. Don’t be so stressed out that you skip out on opportunities to make memories you’ll cherish forever!

Realize that change is okay. Don’t be afraid to let go of things that aren’t healthy and move on with your life. Don’t settle for comfort and security and avoid taking risks that could lead to bigger and better things. Be open.

Say no if you’re overextended. Protect yourself so you can be more effective in all areas of your life. Be the best you can be with a few friends and in a few situations rather than trying to be superwoman in all situations. Choose carefully. You only have one life to live so make it the best life, not simply a good life.

Allow yourself to let go. Don’t fear losing control. Trust others. Let them in.

Love God above all else. Treat yourself kindly. Approach life with passion and purpose.

Have fun!

Love,

30-something Angela :)

What kind of advice would you give your old self?

Day 19 – “Cockpit Parenting”

I came across this article in my research about parent/adult child dynamics and found it interesting. It is a good way to continue yesterday’s conversation about our family relationships and specifically addresses how a particular style of parenting (known as “cockpit parenting”) shapes us. Written by Christine Hassler (who also authored 20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction and 20 Something Manifesto: Quarter-Lifers Speak Out About Who They Are, What They Want, and How to Get It), this is a great article for parents to read but will also provide understanding for the Gen Yers into the adult they’ve become and possible reasons why. Here is the article:

Cockpit Parents: How They’re Flying 20-Somethings into the Ground

There are some other great resources out there to learn more about why you relate to your family the way you do and how to improve those relationships.

For parents:

Parenting From the Inside Out

Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children

Raising Great Kids Workbook for Parents of School-Age Children

Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No

 

For Gen Yers (or anyone else with parents!):

Unlocking Your Family Patterns: Finding Freedom From a Hurtful Past

The Mom Factor: Dealing With the Mother You Have, Didn’t Have, or Still Contend With

Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families

An Adult Child’s Guide to What’s ‘Normal’

Day 18 – How to have an adult relationship with your parents

One of the hardest realities to face and deal with as a 20-something is the fact that family dynamics inevitably change. And although it’s actually quite healthy, it can be excruciatingly painful too.

When I was in my 20’s I faced the harsh fact that I was way too dependent on my parents. I struggled to make any decision for myself and when I did, just knowing that they may disagree ripped me apart inside. I’ll never forget when I started realizing that I wanted to leave my cushy job in the entertainment industry. My parents didn’t think I should and it took everything in me to try and convince them it was a good decision. I’ll never forget sitting at my computer one weekend and typing out a long letter trying to explain how I felt and going on and on about all the reasons that leaving would be a wise choice. I was never able to convince them and it really caused a rift in our relationship for a while.

What I now realize is that although I still, at age 32, love to make them proud (and especially love to make decisions they agree with), I still have to follow my own path. Not only is the world different than it was when they were my age, but I am also a totally different person with different goals, dreams and plans for the future. I will never be satisfied simply trying to please them 24/7. No one can be happy trying to live out someone else’s expectations!

There are so many ways we can deal with these kinds of disagreements and varying perspectives. We can totally cutoff our parents and move across the country (or world) vowing never to speak to them again! Or, we can remain close (physically and emotionally), consulting them as we take each step and ensuring that their agreement and support follow us wherever we go. Or a third option, and the hardest might I add, is to remain in close contact with our parents and yet continue to separate to the degree that we can confidently make our own choices in life. Like I said, this is much easier said than done.

We need to be able to recognize the value our parents add to our lives…

To begin with, you know the whole “with age comes wisdom” concept? Well, there’s some truth to that! Picture a big sheet of paper taped up to a wall. On the paper is a timeline drawn horizontally stretching from one end to the other. We all have the ability to see just a portion of the paper; up to our own age but not beyond that. Our parents have some years on us and therefore a broader perspective on life’s timeline. We can learn a lot from them.

They have a vested interest in our success and happiness. I don’t have children yet but I know many people who do. From what I can gather, the second you see your child you love them. They do nothing at first (besides, eat, sleep and poop). They have nothing to give or offer the world; it’s just take, take, take. And yet, they are deeply loved. Our parents have known and loved us since birth. Although they may disagree with us at times, they want to see us happy.

All that to say, as we change, our relationships evolve as well. We don’t have the same needs as we did when we were children. We have the capacity to give, share and contribute. If we can learn to adapt to these changes, we’ll develop a whole new kind of relationship with our parents… an adult relationship.

How do you adapt?

1) Speak your mind, from one adult to another. Don’t yell. Don’t stomp your feet (a personal favorite of mine as a kid). Don’t slam the door as you leave. Speak to your parents as you would any other adult in your life. Describe how you’re feeling and listen to their point-of-view.

2) Be patient. Your parents will always be our parents. They spent considerably more time giving you advice than not, so cut them some slack! They need to adjust too!

3) If you want to be treated like an adult, act like one! Don’t expect your parents to give you money or do your laundry for you. If they offer, that’s one thing; I think many parents enjoy helping their kids out. But don’t expect to be treated like an adult if you’re stilll acting like a teenager.

To read more about this new stage, check out USA Today article, “Adult Kids and Their Children: Handle With Care”. The author of the article interviews Jane Isay, who wrote the book Walking on Eggshells to help parents and adult children better understand each other. She offers some practical advice and explanations so that parents and adult children no longer feel so alone as they try to figure out what their relationship will look in this new stage.

** Quick Disclaimer: There are situations where it is actually healthier to separate from your family… at least for a period of time, if relational dynamics are having detrimental effects on your physical or emotional well-being. If you feel that might be the case for you, please contact me or another therapist/life coach to sort through what you’re experiencing.

Feel free to comment below!

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