The Hard is What Makes it Great

Yes, I’m quoting Tom Hanks as Coach Jimmy Dugan in the classic film A League of Their Own. The entirety of the quote is thus:

“It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great.”

Now, Coach Jimmy was talking about baseball in this clip, but I think this sentiment can be applied to a lot of other things in life.  The movie itself is about half the Americans who were a part of what we now call the Greatest Generation.  The extraordinary women who held this country together during World War II.  Their husbands went away to fight, and these women put on their big girl britches and handled it. They worked in factories, some joined the armed forces themselves and yes, some played professional baseball.  We women are magnificent creatures: adaptive, nurturing, capable, with strength unexpected in common hours (to borrow from Thoreau).

Tonight – in the shower, of all places – I got to thinking more about this.  It stemmed from a conversation I had earlier today about respect, dignity, equality, and all the things going on in our country and our world today, and this quote is what came to mind.  Why?  Because I cannot think of a single hero, a single inspirational story, a single great achievement that happened without some pain or struggle or sacrifice.

When we talk about the greatest generation (my grandparents), we talk about their fearlessness.  Their work ethic, their grit.  Where do you think that came from? Put simply, they had hard lives.  Yes, they were happy and yes, they lived at quite an extraordinary time in America’s history, but they definitely carried much on their shoulders.  Many of them were mature as kids, holding jobs and carrying a workload at school that was greater than ours (much greater than that of our children). They didn’t have the technology we have or many of the creature comforts that have made us soft.  Seems to me there’s something to be said for adversity.  Friction. Failure.

Nowadays there are movements to stop bullying, which I believe in and am a part of.  There are movements to respect people’s feelings, and I also am fine with that.  Movements to keep people from saying things. Movements to keep people from being triggered.  I can’t help but wonder if we’re doing this all wrong.

Shrinking this down to include only my household, I think that in my efforts to provide my kids with a soft place to land, I may be inadvertently depriving them of their potential.  I think that I am part of a generation that may be working too hard to protect ourselves and each other from the very things that will make us – and them – great.  Perhaps our kids will live up exactly to the standards we set for them.  Perhaps that bar is getting lower and lower all the time.

Does that make sense?  Maybe not, but let’s follow the thread and unravel the sweater and see what’s left behind.  My dad said something to me today about his work environment being so different than it was even 15 years ago.  “What do you mean?”, I asked him.  “Well, nowadays, if you say something that even slightly comes off as harsh, you hurt someone’s feelings, they’ll just quit on ya.”  I am so surprised by this because Dad works in construction, which historically is a field chock-full of gruff guys who can take a bit of criticism.  What – if anything – does it say about society that a man can’t correct another man’s work for fear of hurting his feelings?  Are we at a point now that we cannot hear criticism or we do not wish to improve, or we shut down and quit a job each time a situation is uncomfortable? Is this what happens when every kid in a tournament receives a participation trophy? Is this what I create when I run to the school every time my kid gets picked on?

Further down the rabbit hole, I think about the stories I’ve read or heard about great women in history.  Strong women.  (Women in particular because that’s who I identify with.  Powerful, defiant, rebellious ones – well, for the same reason.)  Fiery. Fierce.  Independent. Defiant.  The world changers.  WHY were they so strong? HOW did they become so?  WHAT was so important to them that they were willing to risk their lives? WHY are we still talking about them today? Would we know their names at all if they hadn’t experienced some injustice that lit a fire within them to reshape their world?

Would ANY of these women have made history without first being told they couldn’t?

In a word… no.

I put it in perspective for myself and ask the same questions. Would I be me if I hadn’t been hurt before?  Would I feel so triumphant if I hadn’t had to figure out how to claw myself up from rock bottom?  Would I be so passionate if no one who spoke to me was ever allowed to hurt my feelings?  I think not.  Granted, a certain amount of fire is in my blood, and I was more or less “born this way”, but I don’t think I would be this version of me if I hadn’t had to go a few rounds in the ring.

I think that kids learn resilience from standing up. I remember some parts of my own childhood and the feeling of pride that swelled in me when I finally conquered something I had been working on for ages.  I don’t believe I would have felt that pride – or felt anything at all – if someone had done the hard work for me.   Now, I have this thought when I watch my own kids struggling.  Of course I want to run to them when they are frustrated about trying something for the twentieth time.  I want to reach down, swoop them up in my arms, complete the task for them and make it all better.  If I’m honest, though, that’s got nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.  I want to make ME feel better.  I want to soothe my OWN heartache.  I want to keep myself from hurting because when they are upset, of course I feel it.

I’ve resolved to hike up my boots and get the fuck over that.

You see, before they can stand, they have to be allowed to fall down.  We do them no favors by shielding them from ugly and uncomfortable parts of life.  In fact, we do them a great disservice.  We underestimate their capabilities when we don’t let them handle difficult tasks on their own.  They need to find their own voices, and then they need to figure out what they want to use those voices to say.  Without adversity, they cannot ever truly discover who they are and why they believe what they do.

Life is hard for all of us. It’s a struggle.  It is, and I know it is, and I am not making light of that or trying to minimize it in any way.  There are big hurdles for each of us, and each journey is different.  Divorce.  Death.  Sickness.  Pain.  Heartache.  I have been hurt a lot in my life, many times by people I love and trust.  That’s very hard to go through.  It’s hard to heal from.  Hard to talk about, and hard to forgive.  Hard to move forward, hard to grow, and hard not to get stuck in resentment or bitterness.  The hard, though, is part of the journey.  Without the trials, there couldn’t be triumph.  We cannot be victors if we are unwilling to step into the skirmish for fear of having our feelings hurt.

(I say this with love, as I am one of the MOST sensitive souls out here. I’m not advocating for rudeness, but I know that rude people exist. My kids will either crumble into dust at their first unpleasant conversation, or they will know how to handle it and feel secure in themselves.  I want them to be bold and confident and capable. That’s what I’m getting at with all this.)

I want my kids to know that life is good, that it’s full of love and light and good people and potential and promise.  There’s another side to that coin, though.  I also want them to know that life is grind and sweat and conflict and strife and it’s fucking hard.  I never want to see them hurt.  I do want to see them succeed – and I want to see fire in their eyes when they do.  I’d much rather have world-changers as kids than comfortable semi-adults who can’t handle confrontation.  It’s SUPPOSED to be hard.  After all, the hard is what makes it great.

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There’s no crying in construction
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Presume

I like the taste of cigarettes

The tingle of regret

In my mouth

Acting out

I like the smell of gasoline

Holding fire in my hands

Watching it dance

Conjuring

They don’t know who I am

Precious. Gentle.

No

I am depth and wisdom and passion

A warrior queen

How dare they approach me

With their sad eyes

And try

To

Hold me gently

Like some wounded bird?

I’m not fragile like a flower

Dainty. Pretty. Decoration.

I’m fragile like a bomb

Enticing. Explosive. Destruction.

Pow.

Not a delicate ship meant to sail

On calm waters

And never

Into the storm

I am mightier than the rest, and

I want the tempest

Roaring waves, thunder, chaos

I want to be wrecked

Smashed into bits. Pieces.

All hands on deck…

 

Rule

A court full of knights

Swear loyalty to me

Blinded by beauty,

Mindlessly

Bend the knee.

I don’t want that –

Don’t want them

I want him.

The dark warrior

Who carves my name

Into his skin

The dance begins

Let him in.

Passion carries my kingdom

Burning hot fire

Strength. Madness. Bliss. Desire.

Bring me the man

Who

Rips himself apart

to

Give me his heart

HE…

 

He is my champion.

City of Hearts

I’ve just returned from Paris, and I will never be the same.

That is the long and short of it.  If you stopped reading right here, you’d understand the general sentiment of this blog post.  I spent a week in a city I hadn’t seen in 27 long years, and in that week I found my heart and promptly lost it again.

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Arriving at the CDG Airport

The last time I was in Paris, I was 11 years old. It was my second trip to Europe, thanks to my generous grandparents, who splurged so the whole family could go on vacation together.  I don’t remember much about the trip, beyond the sandwiches on the trains and how much I enjoyed Orangina.

Experiencing this beautiful city at the age of 38 was like seeing it for the very first time.  It was cold and overcast much of the time, which I think added a bit of mystique to an already fascinating place.  I didn’t have a plan for sight-seeing, just a list of “must do’s” and a little bit of money in my pocket.  (Truth be told, I relied heavily on my credit cards for certain things, like Uber and Lyft when I didn’t want to take the Metro.)

I found Paris, as a friend predicted I would, much changed.  There were no painters perched along the bridges on the Seine, and I don’t know if that’s because they don’t go out in the Winter months, or because they don’t go out at all any more.  All of the gift shops in the heavy traffic areas carry the same merchandise.  There is a heavy Muslim presence there, which I found surprising, and I worry that the French way of life is being diluted.

Still, the good far outweighed the bad.  While I had heard that there were dangerous areas and “no-go zones” as well as Yellow Vest (Gillets Jaunes) protests going on, I didn’t see any of it.  I, along with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law, traipsed around at leisure and fortunately saw everything I wanted to in the week I was there.

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Notre Dame Cathedral – Stunning!

Paris as a city has a pulse. There are a LOT of people there, and it’s a lot like New York in that it’s always moving, always breathing.  People walk everywhere here, and they walk quickly.  I had to really hoof it to keep up.  It’s no wonder they’re all thin, even with all the bread consumption. They ride bikes and take the metro, and they all seemed like they had somewhere important to be.

The people are also – in my opinion – very beautiful. (And not rude at all!  So friendly.)  The women wear minimal makeup and they look put together.  The men were dressed in long coats and scarfs, and were so handsome.  I am convinced I saw an actual supermodel once or twice on the street. Gorgeous gods and goddesses floating down the sidewalk faster than I could power walk.

What else? The food! Oh, the food! Incroyable! Magnifique! We ate at a different place for every meal, which was super fun and felt like real soul expansion.  I tried dishes that I hadn’t heard of and had chocolate mousse for lunch at least twice. I used my very best French to converse with Parisians, and they indulged me as I giggled out the words.

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A la marche – At the market

I so enjoyed the adventure of it all.  Figuring out the metro and getting lost in neighborhoods, only to find the cutest little cafes and bakeries (patisseries), and share laughs with the locals.  I hesitate to share too much here for fear of giving away the magic.

Paris is a city that has had my heart for a long time, and it recaptured my heart and spirit this week.  How is it possible that such a short trip could be so transformative? I think I know –  Total immersion in another culture, if you’re open to it, is instantly life-changing.  Simply seeing a world outside of the one you know. Realizing the world is so big and you are just a small part of it, and that people are at once so amazingly different and so very similar, leads to some shifting in the soul.  I am changed.  I will never be who I was before I left, and I’m so grateful for that.  I am already planning a return trip, as well as trips to other countries.

Until then, I have these most amazing photos and memories to hold close to my heart.

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Can you feel the joy? Radiating happiness.

 

Don’t Be Beige

Don’t be beige.

I scribbled the words excitedly in my journal like a 15 year old writing about her new crush.  So profound.  Or was it?  I can never tell with these thoughts that occur to me in the shower, or while driving around town, or while I’m half-watching Law & Order: SVU and half-making an imaginary grocery list.  (Does anyone else do that? I’d imagine it’s a normal part of life as a mom/household manager/toddler wrangler.)

Anyway… beige.  The walls in our apartment are beige. I don’t mind it.  It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s fine.  Beige is a neutral – one of the blending colors.  It’s a color that allows all the other decor to be seen. Beige is a good background because it isn’t memorable or noticeable. It does not stand out.

Don’t be beige is my new motto.  So what exactly do I mean when I say, “don’t be beige”?

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I mean show yourself.  Reveal who you are.  Don’t be afraid to live your life at full volume because you think someone else won’t like your song. In order to live a fulfilled life, you need to in full glory and magnificence, without any care for what anyone else thinks.

I think that people are comfortable being beige. Beige isn’t scary. I get that.  They feel beige is safe. It’s polite. It doesn’t offend. I tried to be beige, I tried to please people, tried to blend, tried to step back so others could have the attention.  While blending in and being beige may make others comfortable, ultimately living life this way ends in disappointment and regret.

Two major things I noticed while I was consciously camouflaging myself:

  • There is no benefit to me. – I gained nothing from stepping back, dimming my own light or quieting my passion.  Literally nothing good comes from silencing my voice so that someone else can speak.  I get no life experience, meet no new people, and receive no praise because no one sees me.  And ironically trying to please others didn’t make them like me more ore less.
  • There is no benefit to others. – The people who shine do that because of who they are. Colorful, magnetic, fun, talented. My beige-ness didn’t accentuate them. It only hid me. Worse, being beige causes me to miss out on contributing to the world in a way that only I can.

When I realized I wasn’t being my authentic self, I made a choice to be more colorful. I spoke up when I felt passionate.  I accepted invitations to parties.  I wore the sexy dress without worrying what someone else might think. Creatively, I have so much to give, and expressing that through writing, podcasting, and other venues allows me to contribute something tangible to the world.  My kids see me being silly and it shows them that they can be silly too.  I follow my own rules and beat my own drum and in the same way, peers and friends hear me telling my story and they are emboldened to tell their own.  It’s a beautiful domino effect.

These days, I have renovated my soul. There is no beige. I am memorable. I stand out. I am not a neutral, because I have a voice and I’m not afraid to be seen, and my home – and my whole world – is so much more colorful.

Asking for Exposure

Hey Friends,

So as I’m sitting here at my desk (read: on my bed) this morning I’m thinking about the concept of marketing.  Direct marketing, grassroots, bad videos that go viral,  things like that.  The purpose of my search was to find out how I could best reach a wider audience with my book and podcast.  The answer, so far, is I don’t know.

I have an online profile coming out next week, and a blurb in a local magazine.  I asked for both of those.  Up to now, that’s been my strategy: If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  A part of me believes, though, that if the work is good the people will like it.

If you build it, they will come. right?  I don’t make a habit of arguing with classic movie talking cornfield logic.  So if my work is good enough, it will attract followers.

dreams
Did you guys hear that?

Still, I can’t help but wonder what might happen if I had just one BIG name. One influencer.  One celeb who read the book and loved it and wanted to pass it on. The work IS good.  And because it’s good I want it to reach many people – and hug them and validate them and save them – and so I’m impatient for it to go global.

So, my friends, I’m asking you – will you be my influencers?  Will you support my small endeavor so that it becomes a large endeavor and eventually a movement? Will you help me build it, so they will come and read and listen and grow? Write a post! Interview me! Link to the book, buy the book, share it on kindle.  Listen to the podcast, share it, tell others if you find value in it!  I’d be so grateful.

The book is on Amazon here

The Fear Itself podcast is here, with options to support and subscribe.

He Killed Himself

One semester away from his Masters Degree

But he couldn’t see

The light at the end of the dark tunnel

He fumbled

PTSD was too much, he was humbled

Split open

Overtaken

Outnumbered

By one.

He was a brother to her in every sense

But for a brief moment

He forgot himself and his family

Who he was

Depression held him, held the gun

Nowhere to run

Now it’s done

Despair won.

Rest In Peace, Nate.

If you know someone who is struggling please help them get help.

Hotline 800-273-8255

My book on Anxiety is here

Podcast on how to overcome anxiety and mental illness is here

I love you. Please don’t give up.

Press Play

Hey Guys and Dolls,

If you suffer from Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, or any mental illness, my podcast may be of value to you. Find it on iTunes, Google Play and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Click here to listen, subscribe and donate

Also, if you’re in that group of humans who continues to human every day and every night while fighting your fight, I salute you.

You motherfucking WARRIOR, you.

Love. xo

Radiant

Skipping around the corner

Of the old schoolhouse

My fingers traced the rugged brick

I saw you there and

My face burst into sunbeams.

You remember that day,

At the lake

I thought I’d missed you

You appeared and

My soul poured out of every crevice.

Once, in secret

You told me I am radiant when I smile

I didn’t tell you then

No one else has seen it like you have

My inner fire, my essence

Blinding light only you inspire.

 

Fear Itself

Thanks to everyone who has supported the book! If you haven’t already please get your copy here and keep my enterprise going!

In other AWESOME news, I have a new podcast! It’s called the Fear Itself podcast and it’s available on iTunes, Google Play and everywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Please have a listen and please subscribe and support! We are already reaching a good amount of people with the truth about healing anxiety!