Oh, the Irony

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Irony sucks. But it’s useful and I get it.

In a literary sense, irony is most useful to the reader – that character voyeur. In dramatic irony, a character unknowingly monologues on about this and that, all the while sowing a contradictory fate that only the reader knows to be inevitable. Irony is used as a tool to sharpen a finer point on the story – to deepen tragedies and sweeten comedies.  In literature, the reader bears witness to – but is removed from – the stinging lessons irony imparts on the character. And so it goes in real life.

Here: Let me spare you the barbs and share my lessons with you, dear reader, so that you might also learn from them.

#Winning, right?

The spring of 2018 had me lecturing on and on about self-care. Boundaries and healthy relationships…exercise, meditation and eating well. I blogged about it. I posted about it. I spoke publicly about it. Hell, I thought I was practicing it like a boss.

My new business was thriving with a full client load, I networked with a tribe of strong women I could call on for support, and I was doing yoga at home and hiking regularly with my retriever, Jack. The newly acquired curves of my body were a welcome change to the overworked and undernourished frame I had carried for years, my daughter was finally overcoming her anxiety and headed to high school, and I was strengthening some once-broken family bonds. I considered myself learned and sage (yes, really): I had beaten poverty, survived abuse, battled depression, stayed married for 17 years, parented a teen, and finally found my professional groove.

About that…

The summer of 2018 had other plans for my well-being. The universe sharpened that tool called irony and reminded me (once again) that life’s lessons are never really over. We are lifelong learners, don’t you know: Always studying and never mastering. And while I’m not going to write about the specifics of my summer (remember boundaries?), know that I have been truly tested.

And I failed. By autumn, I found myself in desperate need of the wellness I had so recently cultivated for myself and shared with others. I was questioning my own worth, withdrawing from my network of friends and community activities, quitting exercise and meditation, and eating my feelings (hello, extra 20 pounds). I had grown – yet again – depressed. At this point in my life I thought I had permanently tamed my depressive tendencies. Lectured on them as if they would never return. I thought I could maintain good mental health with self-care Cliffsnotes, but this summer’s test had me back in remedial status.

Me:
*realizes the irony*

*cries, cringes*

*removes self-care blog from website*

*sighs*

*reposts self-care blog on website*

*puts on big-girl panties*

Failing, up? Okay, so I didn’t really fail. The universe doesn’t hand us failures, only lessons. I was humbled. Super duper depressed, but humbled. The irony is I talked about self-care with others as though I had conquered all the demons – as if I knew (at age 39!) what all the demons in my life were and would be for the foreseeable future. I somehow felt entitled to no more hardship, and that attitude left me vulnerable. I had just been bitch slapped by my own hubris. And it stung.

Hitting back

So, irony. Just as Romeo gave up on life when he thought his joy, Juliet, was gone from this world – I let my returning depression convince me I would never achieve and maintain my own joy. I temporarily let go of friends, opportunities and the community I love. Thankfully, this time, I got up faster than ever before. I prioritized obligations, referenced my proven wellness tactics, and decided I wasn’t giving up. And as I share my experience here, with you, I know it likely won’t be the last time I visit this storyline, but hopefully the arc will be much shorter next time.

Here’s what I learned this time around – take what you like:

  • We haven’t seen everything yet. Just because we’ve been through some shit, doesn’t mean there isn’t more to come. This isn’t a pessimistic attitude, it’s realistic. Know that while our past experiences have certainly made us stronger, they have not made us invincible. And there is no lifetime cap on hardships endured.
  • Know ourselves to grow ourselves. Do you know your own warning signs? I battle depression, so I know I’m in trouble when I start cancelling plans, eating garbage, binge-watching Netflix and letting my inner critic have free reign. But more importantly than knowing the warning signs, we have to be diligent in recognizing them and acting on correcting the root cause. Trust me, it’s not as easy as you would think: our minds have a clever way of convincing us that our “freeze” or “flight” responses are best, when really we should “fight”.
  • It’s not how often we fall, but how many times we get back up. And perhaps how quickly we get back up. Yes, we always need to take the necessary time to rebound from life’s game of whack-a-mole, but it’s unrealistic to think our professional and personal networks will afford us infinite grace. Fall, get back up, and keep going. And make sure to show appreciation for those who dust you off again and again.

If you are fighting depression, consider these resources:

  1. Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK
  2. Call your healthcare provider and ask for help finding a therapist in your area
  3. Headspace, meditation app
  4. Jen Gotch is Okay Sometimes, podcast
  5. Yoga with Adriene, YouTube channel for at-home yoga practice
  6. Woebot, AI bot to track your moods and recognize patterns

And finally –  keep going, lady! Lead on.

 

Photo credit:  Matt Reiter

Self-care in a (batshit) crazy world

batshit crazyDisclaimer: I don’t claim to be a self-care expert. In fact, I’m kind of the worst. But you wouldn’t take real-world advice from a grows-all-her-own-organic-food-always-looks-on-the-bright-side yogi, would you? That’s what I thought.

So, yeah. Batshit.
I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a political dumpster fire for me, and it’s still raging so far this year. Spoiler alert – I’m pretty liberal. I believe in radical concepts like equal pay, access to free or affordable birth control and family planning (regardless of your employer’s religious beliefs), and that women should be as equally represented as men in our bodies of government and corporate leadership. But maybe I’m just a feminazi, liberal wackadoodle (real words?).

Nah. I tend to think many women (and men!) also believe in those concepts and are equally tired of this kind of shit. And ya’ll, I was TIRED last year. The news cycle and inescapable bitch fests with my friends and colleagues had me totally stressed out.

because this

“THEY” had me down
The administration. The #metoo offenders. The mansplainers. The manspreaders. The manterrupters (okay….that one is kind of stupid). “THEY” seemed to be around every corner, pissing me off, disrupting my sleep, taking over cocktail hour conversations. Messing with my snack foods. Damn you Lady Doritos!

Oh, and this…

Shit ain't fair

Statistics like this got me really worked up. How is it that women represent the majority of the U.S. population, yet lack representation in ALL the seats of power? Didn’t our country burn ships in the Boston Harbor and bring on a mad revolution for stuff like this back when King George was “the man”?

Last year, I was like, where’s the matches because I’ma bout to start a blaze up in this mother. Like that waitress screamed in Maximum Overdrive, right before she got murdered by a machine that had came to life, “We made you! We. Made. You!!!”  Seriously. What the…?

Whew. So much craziness. Have you felt it too? It’s okay because we’ve all felt it. Collectively, women have been getting burned out. So you’ve just got to breath. Do it with me now. Deep breath in……….(mantra: let that shit go)…..and long exhale out. 

Going to be fine

It’s really going to be fine. Through the different phases of my life – young adult, motherhood, pissed off middle aged feminist – I, like many of us, let myself get worked up over things I cannot control and soon enough find myself depleted and in desperate need of self care.   

So that anxiety and burnout you’re experiencing? I hate to be the one to tell you, but it’s not all on “them”…its a little bit you, too. Situations of abuse and violence aside, you are in control of your own emotions and how well you take care of yourself. You can’t play the victim and blame others for how drained you are. If you’re working 24/7 and you feel like you’re always on the defense and sacrificing yourself for others and have no time for yourself – then it’s time you take responsibility for yourself and, what’s our mantra? –  “let that shit go”.

fudgeFuuuuuuuuudge. So you mean I have to adult? Yep. I know it’s tempting to blame external factors for your internal struggles., but you’ve got to learn how to find your balance between internal and external demands, create boundaries that protect your energy, and take care of yourself.

Here’s some self care truth:
#1 People will be assholes. Here’s hoping you aren’t one. Don’t let the assholes ruin your day or stop you from taking time for you. Create healthy boundaries that keep out the negativity. One trick I try is to imagine a plexiglass bubble around myself when I’m around toxic people, then visualize their energy/actions bouncing off that glass and away from me.  Remember the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” thing from elementary school? Well, it works in the adult world, too.

#2 That voice in your head is a bitch
Sometimes the negativity isn’t coming completely from the outside, but within. We all have a voice in our head that tells us we aren’t good enough. Well ladies, that voice is a bitch and you need to put her in her place. Everyone has a bitch-in-residence and everyone hates her. When she pipes up, acknowledge her for what she is, and then move on. Pay her no mind.

#3 You have to take real care of yourself.
And I don’t mean doing cute stuff that looks great on Instagram. Go to the doctor regularly. Get a therapist. Eat well. Try going a full day without saying anything negative about yourself, then keep it up. An your worst days, think about how you would care for a dear friend if she were you – then do those things for yourself.

How?

Here come the cliches. I know meditation and yoga aren’t for everyone, but I freaking love it. If you haven’t tried it, then do yourself a favor and schedule a yoga session or find a quiet comfortable place to just be still for 10 minutes and meditate. Finding quiet and balance and being grounded to the earth will do wonders for your body and your mind. 

Every now and then you need to unplug and leave crazy town. I personally like to physically remove myself from access to technology by going camping or hiking somewhere there is little to no reception. If you don’t like the outdoors, then schedule phone-free time regularly and spend a few hours away from all the screens. You really DO NOT need to know what Donald Trump’s last tweet was. Oh wait, he just started a nuclear war? Cool.

gotta have friendsFind your tribe. It’s important to have healthy, supportive relationships with other women who you can completely be yourself around. Not someone who’s good to be seen with, or who is great for your career, but someone who will hold you accountable for your shit and love you for it all anyway.

Most importantly, you have to love yourself. It took me a while to love myself and let go of unrealistic expectations that were developed in me at a young age out of family dysfunction. We all have baggage. As an adult, as a leader, as a woman in our messed up culture, you’ve got to deal with that shit and leave it behind or it will eat you up inside.

The Ultimate Truth:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” – Audra Lorde

I have personally struggled with depression as a result of childhood abuse, and every day that I live a happy and fulfilling life, despite my origins, is a day that I win. Living well is the best revenge.

So you do you and be where you need to be. If you are in a situation where you cannot adequately care for yourself in a way that allows you to thrive, then you need to make moves to get out of that situation and live better. Remember, you are worthy of living well and loving yourself and actively practicing real self-care.

You are the lady variety of human, a lady human, which is my favorite kind 🙂

you are enough

 

The Word’s Out

I recently interviewed with reporter Chloe Morrison of Nooga.com about launching ladyHUMANS, and it was the first time I wasn’t communicating someone else’s mission to the community.

I’ve written dozens of press releases, spoken at events and sat for countless media interviews on behalf of the organizations I worked for in the past – and I’ve always loved it. United Way… Partnership for Families, Children and Adults…Chattanooga Area Food Bank…CWLI…they’re all fantastic organizations and I have been fortunate to promote their work to the community. But it’s a completely different experience to communicate your own brand; especially as a new business owner.

When speaking as the founder, your message and how you deliver it is all your own. After all, if you’re in the very early stages of your business, you likely crafted it yourself. It represents your values, your business goals, and yes – even your politics. You own every word and every gesture, and there’s no one else you can hide behind if the message doesn’t land how you want it. This is why it’s important to measure your words carefully, building your brand slowly with integrity and well-chosen messages that reflect you and your company’s values and vision.

So, here’s to the future of this ladyHUMAN, and all those I hope to represent and support through my words and planning. It’s going to be a fun ride.