The Bigger Picture

I was thinking about hope, as I of course tend to do often, and I realized that it’s been awhile since I really sat down and thought about the things in my life, right now, that make me hopeful. There are the everyday inspirations, of course – a beautiful sunset, a warm spring day, flowers in bloom, a positive conversation with a friend. And those things all keep me going in the day to day. They’re the pictures I post on Instagram in my #365DaysofHope campaign. They’re crucial for getting through the rough days, and I’m lucky to experience them. But I sometimes, ironically, forget to take stock of the bigger things that offer me hope. 

It’s not that I’m not grateful, or don’t appreciate these “big picture” pieces of life – I am, and I do. It’s that they sometimes get lost in the day to day. And I find that, when I sit down and list them out, when I truly focus on those hopes, it surprises me just how much is on that list. My brain can play so many tricks on me, making me depressed and anxious, bringing tears out of the blue, telling me I’m worthless and hopeless and incapable, that it becomes easy to spend my days just trying to get out of that, just to not feel so bad.  I often am so exhausted – mentally, emotionally, physically –  from that struggle, that I lack the energy to look beyond them. To look beyond “well today isn’t so bad” or “Ok I got through that” to “Wow, these other things offer so much hope.” And while it’s incredibly important to find hope in these moments of getting through, of not feeling so bad – because they often comprise much of our day and carry us through those rough times, I wanted to also voice those really positive, exciting, hopeful “bigger things”, for lack of a more eloquent phrase.

  • Family and loved ones. I am so incredibly lucky. I have a large family, a loving husband, and some best friends that have been by my side for forever, even when they’re not physically by my side.  I know that, even on my darkest day, I am surrounded by love. It may not always feel that way. I may feel terribly alone, because depression often makes us feel isolated. But I know, deep down, that I have so many people who love me. That offers me hope. (This includes my dog, Grace, who is the absolute epitome of hope personified… or dogsonified….)

 

IMG_1415

Gracie, the epitome of hope, finding pure joy in a discarded paper towel roll.

 

augelli fam

Yep, we’re those people. Our dog announced our engagement.

  • I have a new job that I enjoy, and I am learning more and more each day. It’s not a sector I’ve ever worked in before, and it gives me hope not only of my ability to grow and learn, but to expand my horizons. It’s not a path I’d previously considered, and I now feel that the opportunities for my future are broader.

 

  • If I haven’t mentioned it 1000 times, I’m going to GREECE! And then in June our whole immediate family (all 20 of us) are going to Spain. It’ll be my second time in Spain in 7 months. I’m so lucky to be able to see the world like this, and to spend quality time with my loved ones doing so. Travel always makes me feel hopeful. It helps me view the world on a larger scale, and it feels incredibly freeing. Often, I find that a literal change of scenery does me a world of good (no pun intended – Ok, maybe a little).  Not to mention that as a travel planner, blogger, and someone that wants to spread hope around the world, it makes me feel hopeful for ways that I can expand my work.

 

travel collage

Some of my many travels. Clockwise from top left: Amsterdam, Paris, Jordan (Petra), Olympic Rings in Barcelona, Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania. 

 

  • This Spread Hope Project. I have no idea where it might take me. But I see possibilities. It offers me a purpose, a way to help others, which is something I crave. I have  big dreams for it, and even if those adjust, or are ultimately not realized to their full extent (I’m a big scale dreamer), it shows me that I do have the ability to help people and make a difference, even if on the smallest scale for now. And I have met, and continue to meet, some amazing people on this journey.

 

  • The future. My husband and I want to own a farm one day. We want to grow fruits and vegetables. He wants goats and chickens for milk and eggs, and I want a Scottish Highland Cow because they’re adorable and I’ve always wanted one (you now see why I’m the dreamer and he’s the realist in our marriage).  He has generously said that we can have up to three dogs one day, which I feel is a fair compromise since he’s fine with the one we have and I want to rescue every dog ever on the planet. Big emphasis on one day for the dogs, maybe when Grace gets older and doesn’t take the strength of the World’s Strongest Man to walk her. Even though these goals will take a lot of time and energy and funds to accomplish, we have them. Having dreams like this, together, for the future makes me so hopeful.

 

Mcow

Being silly with Scottish Highland Cows at a B&B in the Catskills. (Note the HOPE shirt!).

 

MB cow

More silliness at the B&B. 

 

I found that, just writing these down, I began smiling. My mind starts to fill with ideas that give me further hope. Ideas for my travel business and blog. Ideas for Spread Hope Project. Excitement about our future farm (and cow! and dogs!), and all the things we could do with it. Yes, a lot of it is my mind wandering, as it does so… err….well? But they give me something to reach for. Some “one day”s. And when you have “one day”s, you have hope. Because it means that, even if it seems so far off, almost impossible perhaps, you still can see the possibility, or at least consider that there could be the possibility, of a brighter time. 

 

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Spread Hope This Spring

It doesn’t feel like it here today, but it’s finally SPRING! Which means the days are getting longer, and eventually, I’m sure, it’ll get warmer. Spring is nature’s hopeful season. Animals come out of hibernation, flowers bloom and trees bud, people seem to come out of virtual hibernation – out from behind heavy jackets and hats and scarves and the warmth of their houses – to enjoy the outdoors and interact with each other once again. So it seems the perfect time to focus on spreading hope – both to others, as well as to ourselves. Not sure how? Here are a few ideas:

  • Plant something – a flower, a vegetable plant, a tree (local organizations often hold tree-planting days).

 

plants2

 

  • Purchase something from a local farm/orchard/nursery/etc.Their livelihood often depends on seasonal business, and may be beholden to things outside of their control – like the weather – and each purchase can help offer hope of a season that allows them to support themselves/their families.

 

  • Smile at people you pass when walking outdoors. Not creepily, but a pleasant smile, wave, good morning, etc. Doesn’t have to be everyone, but just do it occasionally. I say outdoors because I notice this seems to feel less weird to people. We have no issue waving at the other lone morning jogger we pass, or the person walking the dog down the street. But most of us are significantly less likely to walk through the mall or grocery store randomly smiling or waving at people, and I get that 100 percent.

 

  • Donate goods or services. Go through your closet. Donate already read books to a local library, mobile library, or used book store. Bake for charity. Whatever it is you can offer.

 

  • Send a card or a note. Not an email or text or tweet. Write a “thinking of you card” to someone going through a tough time. Or a thank you note to someone who’s done something nice. Or a “just because” to a friend. This isn’t spring specific, but let’s face it – most of us are feeling more generous in spirit when it’s not 20 degrees and bomb-cycloning outside.

 

  • Let out your inner 1980s (or earlier) child. Remember when playing outside was the reward you got for a job well done/being well-behaved/etc? Put down the electronics, go outside – on your own, with friends and family, with your dog, whoever! – and do something fun/silly.  How does this offer hope? It takes us away from our daily routine, it takes our mind, even if momentarily, off of whatever it is that we’re struggling with, and it reminds us, and anyone else involved that we can find small moments of joy in life.

 

What are your favorite ways to spread hope, or stay hopeful, during the spring?

 

Pardon the Interruption

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. In addition to loving hope, I also love puns and cheesy word play. So, pardon the interruption in my blogging. It’s been a minute, as I’ve had a lot of exciting things going on. Namely, I got a new jobby job, which has been keeping me pretty busy. And my travel work has simultaneously ramped up (good things come to those who wait, right?), keeping me busy in my spare time.

But I haven’t forgotten about Spread Hope Project. Far from it. I still have my dream of spreading hope as far and wide as possible, and my more  feasible goal of one day turning SHP into a real, living and breathing organization (with more people breathing in it than just myself).  I’m working on giving my mission and vision for SHP a more solid description, because it’s tough to explain what you do with “I just want to help everyone and give them hope.”  The basic idea is, in addition to my photo taking and individual participation in, and organization of, events,  I want to partner with local and hyper-local organizations to help get the word about their work and events as well. A collaboration of sorts.  I want to serve as a resource, a liaison, between local organizations doing charitable work, and people who want to participate in those activities. Because I know first hand that it’s tough as a solo person or small organization with a big dream to compete with the “big guys” (or ladies) when it comes to marking, promotion, and resources. And while social media certainly makes it easier, the more people you have helping you out, the easier it becomes.

So there’s that.  As for myself and Spread Hope Project, here’s a few things that I’ll be personally participating in/doing:

  • I signed up for my 5th Out of Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention. This cause is very personal and incredibly important to me. I’ll be walking 16-18 miles, overnight, this coming June, in no other than my home city of Philadelphia! I have to raise $1000 to walk. So far I’ve raised $315. If anyone’s so inclined, donation link is here.  You can also help in ways that do not include monetary donation, so feel free to reach out to if you’re interested in that.

 

  • I *may* be walking the Get Your Rear in Gear Philadelphia walk for Colon Cancer.  Potentially more coming on that soon. Anyone else in the area planning to walk? Let me know!

 

  • I’m going to Greece in just over a month! I’m attending a conference in Athens, and then heading to Santorini and Crete. Greece has been on my travel bucket list for a long time.  Keep an eye out for copious Spread Hope in Greece photos in the next month or so.

 

  • My family is doing a full fam (20 of us) trip to Stiges, outside of Barcelona, this summer. Just booked the flights for that. I love Barcelona and Spain. It’ll be my second time in six months. I’m super lucky. Again, lots of Spread Hope in Spain pics on the way in the next few months.

 

  • #SpreadHopeAmbassadors program is still happening. If you’re interested, reach out to me! And don’t forget to hashtag those photos!

There’s probably more, but this is running long, so I’ll stop for now.  Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram, where we post each day as part of the #365DaysofHope Campaign!

Peace, love, and HOPE!

~My

Accountability, Fear, Anxiety, and Hope

Happy Sunday! I hope you’ve all had a good week. Before I continue, I have to give some gratitude:

THANK YOU to all who have signed up to be Spread Hope Ambassadors.

If you haven’t yet, but are interested, reach out!

Today, I want to write a bit about accountability. To ourselves. It wasn’t a 2018 goal of mine per se, but more of an evolution of my life goal. I’m pretty good at holding myself accountable to others. It’s rare that I tell someone I’m going to do something, and then intentionally don’t. Sure, life happens at times, or you forget here and there. But it’s a rare day that someone can’t count on me.

But the person I do often break promises to is myself. Not intentionally, of course. But fear and anxiety often get in the way. Or the fact that I don’t feel it’s making a difference. Or lack of self-confidence. Or hypomania 1000-things-in-my-brain-at-once creeps in. The number of times I want to do something and then manage to talk myself out of it by thinking “I’ll just be rejected. I won’t be good at that. It’ll cost too much (even when the cost isn’t all that high.” Or “I tried this instagram campaign/hashtag/blog series and nobody cared.”  Or “I want to organize this community project but nobody would come.”

And true, you have to be reasonable. I’m a very small (one-person), self-funded organization right now. I can’t spend $1000 on a community project that I don’t reasonably think anyone will come to.  Honestly, I probably couldn’t spend $1000 if I thought everyone would come.  But there’s logic, and then there’s fear and anxiety that you can spin to sound a whole lot like logic if you want it to. Because sure, I know people that could help me do something similar that wouldn’t cost $1000. Or I could find a local business to partner with. Or some other option, I’m sure.  And sometimes, even when there is logic behind a reason, you have to weigh the short term logic for the long term – i.e. someone going back to school might take time and funds now, but the benefits of getting this new degree/certification/training may be worth it long term, for any number of reasons.

And so I’m determined for this year to be the year I hold myself accountable to myself. Not in exchange for being accountable to others, but in addition. This is the year that I’m going to find a way to things, or at least do my utmost to try. And sometimes, it might not work out. I might have to throw in the towel and say, “I really wanted to hold this community event, but I’ve looked at it from every single angle and it just isn’t feasible.” But then I will also make myself look at other options: can I do something else instead? Can I plan ahead and do it next year? What do I need to make this, or something like this, happen – if not now, then within a certain time frame?

When I was young, there was a sign hanging in our gymnastics gym (bonus info: I was a highly competitive gymnast for 14 years) that said,“Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, either way you’re right.”  As a kid, I didn’t really get it. In fact, the “if you believe you can’t you’re right’ sounded kind of harsh. And as much as I honestly really dislike someone throwing an inspirational quote at me when I’m battling severe depression or anxiety, thinking it will fix it, occasionally, there are a few that I need to remind myself of. Because lately, I’ve noticed that my biggest roadblock is often myself. Not always, of course (I’m 5’0, I’ll probably never dunk a basketball), but often. Knowing that is both a little disconcerting, and also quite freeing. Because while it makes me feel significantly more accountable, it also gives me significantly more control. And I certainly have plenty of times when my brain is not 100% in my control – anxiety, depression, hypomania lie, often. But at least I know where to start. With myself. I have this ability. And that makes me pretty hopeful.

 

Help Us Help Others: Become a Spread Hope Project Ambassador

I promised, as part of my 2018 Goals, that I was going to ask for help. And so, here goes my first attempt.  I love Spread Hope Project, and I truly have some big dreams and exciting inspiration for it. But sometimes, it takes a village. Or at least more than one person. So I’m reaching out to ask for help, in a way (baby steps).

I’m looking for Spread Hope Project Ambassadors to help it grow. What is a Spread Hope Project Ambassador, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s someone who helps get the word out about Spread Hope Project.  Here’s all we ask:

  1. Follow us on Instagram and Like us on Facebook. Tweets are @mayanorthen, though not all tweets are about Spread Hope Project, so it’s not required to follow me there.
  2.  Post on social media just 4 times a month (you can certainly post more!) with the hashtag #SpreadHopeProject, and tag us accordingly.
  3. Share one blog or social media post from us a month. However, wherever you’d like. You can share a blog post on your Facebook, repost an Instagram post, Retweet anything with  #SpreadHopeProject. It’s up to you.

That’s it! Only rules about the posts you hashtag/tag are as follows:

  • It must have something to do with our mission. We’re very open to creativity, but it can’t just be a picture of your lunch with no explanation as to why it’s connected, and our hashtag.

 

  • We’re all about cross promotion, but please no straight up promotion of solely your non-related-to-the-mission business and just adding our hashtag at the end. We’d love to partner though, so please, let us know if you’re interested!

 

  • We’re about hope. So please, no negativity against others. No hate, no bigotry, no negativity about others’ lifestyles or religions or gender. and certainly not others’ about illnesses or disabilities, when you are using our hashtag/tagging us.

 

So, what do you as an ambassador get?

  • $5 off your first Spread Hope Project gear purchase
  • Exclusive deals on Spread Hope Project throughout the year.
  • Cross promotion of your blog/business/project in a way that we can connect with our mission. (If you have none of these, we’ll do so for a cause that you are passionate about, in a way that we can connect with our mission).
  • VIP previews of new projects and campaigns that we’ll be running, including any promotional deals from us or our partners.

Interested in being an ambassador? You can hit us up in the Comments, Social media, or on email.

New Discoveries

I stole this resolution from a friend of mine. Not this year, but from a couple of years ago. She decided to try to do one new thing every week, and I decided to join her in it. We’d each suddenly lost someone very close to us a few months before (and a couple of weeks apart), and we wanted to live more fully in their honor, because you never know when you may not have the opportunity to do so.

 

2018 Goal_Do One New Thing Every Week

 

The new experience could be going to a new restaurant or trying a new activity or wander through a new town or anything in between. Just something that we hadn’t experienced before.  It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine, to forget to venture out of your comfort zone, and there’s so much you could be missing. Even if you try something and say, “Nope, not for me,” at least you’ve given it a try. You’ve expanded your horizons a little further each time. You’ve lived a little more fully.  And you may just find your new favorite cafe or discover a great new town or find that you really enjoy doing xyz activity.

So in 2018, I vow to experience one new thing each week, and will be posting it on Instagram and my personal twitter account with the hashtag #52in2018 (I also stole this from her and adapted it for this year). And to clarify, the 52 is for weeks in a year, not my age. I don’t have nearly the wisdom of a 52 year old, at least not yet! 🙂

To the friend that started this two years ago, thank you. You’re a beautiful and inspiring soul.

Making New Connections

Goal Number 4: 

2018 Goal_Make One New Connection Every Day

Enter a caption

 

I’m an introvert, and a socially anxious one at that. It’s not that I have a difficult time talking with people. In fact, by virtue of my job/career I have to all the time. But I’m not a big small talker, as most introverts aren’t. I’ll exchange pleasantries because I have to, and because it’s the polite thing to do.  But I want real conversation. I want connection that means something. And I know there are others that feel the same way. Whether it’s because they’re introverted or socially anxious or feel that others don’t understand them because of an illness, or even just shy (I am not, but I can understand it). So whether it’s online or in person or a chance meeting, I want to make one new connection every day. It doesn’t even have to be someone I’ll regularly stay in contact with, or happen some grand moment. But it’s nice to connect with people, even if for a little bit. I want to offer that to others as much as I want to make it happen myself. Because as introverted as I am, it’s nice to feel like there are others, or at least someone else, who get you – even if just for a little while.

Everyday Inspiration

2018 Goal_Find Something Hopeful In

This is 2018 Goal number 3. Every day, I’m surrounded by people and life that inspires me. My friends’ hard work, big hearts, knowledge, perseverance. There stories that I hear of people overcoming major obstacles. There are children I know, who find the joy in even the tiniest thing. Who don’t worry about last month or next week, but are enjoying the moment. There’s my dog, who literally things every time she looks at myself or my husband is the best moment ever. Who is so excited for every meal, that’s the exact same kibble she’s gotten for the last 2.5 years, like it’s a giant steak that she may never get again. Running after a toy is the most fun thing in the world. Every time.

Often, I’m inspired by nature – the sun on a perfect cloudless day, making life just a little bit sweeter. The first signs of spring, the smell of rain, the vastness of an ocean or the peacefulness of the woods or a mountain. These calm me, help me think more clearly, make me feel hope even on the most difficult days.

I want to capture these moment. To take stock of them, revisit them when I need a little extra dose of inspiration, on those particularly rough days.

Today’s inspiration was simply a positive feeling. I woke up, worked out, meditated. I felt good. I told myself that today was the day to go after another of my 2018 goals: doing something every week that scares me. And I did it. It wasn’t anything major, simply an email that I really didn’t want to write because of where it could lead. But I knew I had to, and I did. It made me feel accomplished, despite being such a small task. So in a way, I suppose I was my own inspiration. Me, and the positive feeling that started off my day.

Facing My Fears

2018 Goal_ Do One Thing Every Week That Scares Me

This year, I’m going to try to face my fears. At least some of them. Maybe not quite the mountaineering kind illustrated above, but the smaller ones that are significantly more difficult to pinpoint. For instance, my overwhelming fear of making calls, especially to people I’m not close with/don’t know at all. Or my massive fear of failure and rejection at even the slightest thing – like, “Oh I’m afraid to cook this new meal because what if I do it badly and nobody likes it…” type of fears.  Despite knowing that whether or not someone likes the new dish I cooked doesn’t speak to who I am as a person, it sometimes feels like it does. Like it’s one more thing I’m not good at. So I need to get over that. Because there’s just as much chance they’ll like it… or at least some chance. And I’ll not know if I don’t give it a go. Plus, the more I avoid it, the more the fear builds. Often, the worst part is the anticipation, the what if. Rarely do little challenges like this turn out nearly as badly as I envision them.

So each week, I’m going to try to do one thing that scares me/makes me nervous or anxious, even if it’s minute. Because if you battle anxiety, you know that it doesn’t feel minute, even if you know logically that it isn’t going to make or break anything. Even if you know that by not doing it, you’re holding yourself back somehow.

This is the goal I am, as you’d expect, most anxious about. It’s forcing me out of my tiny comfort zone, which is exactly what it’s intended to do. But, naturally, that’s also what makes it a bit nerve wracking.

 

I Don’t Make Resolutions, But I Do Make Goals

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  I know myself too well for that, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure. Plus, most resolutions focus on one final end result, as opposed to behavior changes that could help you sustain this resolution. i.e. Say you want to lose 10 pounds. You could do this by crash/fad/unhealthy diet the last couple months of the year, or you can do this by positively making changes your eating/activity/other habits that will help you maintain the lower weight you hoped for.

So instead, I make goals. This year, I’m focusing on goals that will help me change specific habits, which I feel will help me get the most out of life, and enjoy life a little bit more, even on the toughest of days.  I’ll be posting each day on Instagram and Facebook each day as well.  I’ll try to explain them a little bit better here.

Goal 1

2018 Goal_ Ask for Help

Now, ask for help can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and often, even to the same person depending on the situation. And I’m not above asking for help when it’s something that I know I can’t do, or something someone else can do much more easily without much effort expended (i.e. reach something on a top shelf, since I’m 5’0 in shoes).

Where I’m often bad at asking for help is bigger projects or commitments, when I think people will just say no. Or won’t respond. Or that I’m putting them in a bad spot by asking because they don’t have the time/energy/etc but feel bad saying no. Take Spread Hope Project for instance. I’ll put out a general, “Hey follow me on… like me on… here’s my blog link”. Or I’ll do a generic, “Anyone interested on helping? Any local businesses want to be part of a project?”. But I’m really not good at asking people, or local companies, or anyone else, directly.  I haven’t once reached out to those I love directly, individually, and said, “It would mean the world to me if you could post a few pics with #spreadhopeproject tagged. Or if you would buy a shirt and post with it. I know it’s money, but there’s a sale for 40% off right now so it wouldn’t be too much.”

Even writing those words above, I feel like I’m putting people on the spot and it makes me squirm.  Which is ironic because when people ask me to help with something (unless it’s selling something directly/having some sort of selling party, for reasons of my own) I am almost always excited to do so. Especially if it’s for a good cause.  So why it bothers me so much, I don’t know. I can’t count the number of times someone I thought just didn’t care had never seen my posts about fundraising, or being in need of support or help, or something like that. Or they thought they reached out but didn’t, or meant to and forgot.

I’m going to start slowly, maybe posting specific requests, but not asking outright. At least that takes away the generic aspect, even if still a more mass/safe approach. But I’m going to attempt to be more comfortable with asking directly. Because you never know who’s searching for an opportunity like the one you’re offering, and neither of you even realize it.