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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

To Family, Old Memories, and Making New Ones

To clarify, I mean new memories, not making new family members. Though more babies are born in September than any other month (note: that’s approximately nine months from now), so I guess ’tis the season. But nobody involved in this story is planning on that immediately, so we’ll stick with new memories.

First off, happy holidays, everyone! I hope you had/are having/will have a great one!  This post was inspired by our family Christmas yesterday.

There’s some family history here, so bear with me. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, got a bottle of Galliano liqueur from his boss during his first year of working as an accountant, when he was 22. He would have been in his 90s today, so we’re going back 70ish years. It remained unopened – why I’m not sure, but probably for the same reason people frame the first dollar they made in their business, instead of spend it. Approximately 39 years ago, as he was dying from ALS, he gave it to my mom. I was 10 months old at the time, so needless to say, I do not remember this or him. I have a great memory,  (I can remember back to when I was about 2 1/2), but not that great. So this story is all passed down via my mom.

The Galliano, still in its original box, has made – and surprisingly, survived intact – every move with my mom since then. Buffalo to California. California to Georgia. Another move in Georgia. Georgia to New Jersey. And finally, to the house in New Jersey where I grew up and my parents still live. She’s been saving it for a special occasion. In this time, her kids and stepkids (there are 5 siblings total) have all gotten married, and there are now eight grandchildren. So I feel like the clock has been ticking on the Galliano. A bit of a “if not now, when?”.

Yesterday, as myself and my husband, my brother, his wife, and their two kids sat in my parents’ kitchen, my mom declared, “Let’s open the Galliano tonight!”. Apparently, its time had come. Let me pause here to say that we actually had to google what exactly Galliano was, other than generally knowing it was a liqueur.  Also, at least three of us were nearly certain that the bottle would contain, as my brother called it, some of the best vinegar in existence. I mean, it’s in a glass bottle and, while it has sat in a box all of these years, is over 70 years old. The chances of it not being skunked were pretty slim, in our opinions. But this bottle had survived two owners and at least six houses, probably seven (I’m not sure if my grandfather received it while living in the house my mom grew up in, or the one before). We owed it the dignity of a fair chance.

So, we opened it. Low and behold, it was perfectly fine. I can’t really compare the taste to anything else I’ve had – it’s called an herbal liqueur, which I anticipated to taste, honestly, pretty rough even if not skunked. It conjured up images of liqueur made from parsley, oregano, and other questionable ingredients. For the record, it didn’t. At least not to me. The closest thing I could compare it to is limoncello, but it isn’t nearly as, well, lemony, and has a different finish. I’m about to make it sound disgusting, which it is not, but it almost has a finish akin to when you’ve just had a throat lozenge. Not the taste, but the airy, passageways cleared out, feeling.

As we toasted each other and family and Christmas, it felt like the passing of a torch somehow. A nod to the memories of the past, and a commitment to those of the future.  A lot has happened in those 70-odd years since my grandfather got that bottle, and the almost 40 years since he gave it to my mom. My grandma (my mom’s mom), who survived her husband by 30 years, passed away in 2008. She had nine grandchildren, and I believe three great grandchildren, two of which were only 3 or 4 years old at the time, and may not remember her. Were my grandparents still alive today, they’d have 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Their own three children have traveled the country and the world. They’ve made countless memories over the years, some together, and some with their own individual families. In these years, the remainder of my grandmother’s’ siblings have all passed away, and as my grandfather was the youngest of his siblings by something like 15 years, I’m guessing his have too, though we aren’t in contact with them so I can’t be sure.

The Galliano opening was, in a way, the end of an era. Of the nine of us grandchildren, only two have any memories of my grandfather, and even those are probably a bit hazy, though I can’t speak for them. We are now the ones getting bottles of wine or bourbon or other presents as a thank you. Who possibly have a gift still in its packaging years after the fact, that we haven’t yet brought ourselves to open and will one day pass down to generation that follows, still in tact. And if we are all lucky, we are the ones that, years from now, when the current children in our family are all grown and perhaps have children of their own, will sit around recounting stories and memories together one holiday and say, “Remember that Christmas when we finally opened the Galliano?”.

 

gallian

The Galliano, post sampling, on my parents’ kitchen counter. 

 

 

Nostalgia and Hope

To preface this, I have to explain a bit about my background, career wise. For the first five years of my adult working life, I worked in corporate fitness (I have a B.S. in Kinesiology). After getting my Masters in International Marketing, I started my own travel planning company, Chimera Travel, that I ran full time for eight years (shameless plug, you can visit my newly brought back to life travel blog here). But life happens, and with changes in technology and the economy and numerous other factors, I needed some extra help financially. So I took a part time position at a front desk, which has grown into an almost full time position, while still running my travel business. In the midst of all this, I became a significantly more active mental health and chronic illness advocate which is currently out of the goodness of my heart – i.e. I make zero money and sometimes spend money doing this. And believe me, I don’t do this for the (hypothetical) money but I can’t do full time, or even significantly part time, and still have a roof over my head and eat. So, I have my numerous jobs/would be jobs.

Yesterday, between my job job and yoga, I sat and wrote/blogged and had coffee at my favorite cafe. When I previously lived in Old City Philadelphia, I my apartment was literally around the corner from this cafe. I was there probably three times a week on average. I worked solely for myself at that time, and I’d meet friends there for coffee or breakfast, spend my days enjoying free refills and snacks while planning client trips, blogging, working on business marketing. I knew all of the staff, and many of the other frequent customers. I’d run into neighborhood friends there almost every time I went. It was like my Cheers, but with coffee (I also had my “Cheers” bar/restaurant, which was two doors down from my apartment, but that’s a different story).

So yesterday, I sat down at the cafe, ordered a coffee, and took out my notebook and computer to start working. I had some blogging and journaling planned. And I found myself almost in tears with nostalgia. I can’t really call them sad almost-tears, nor were they happy. They were nostalgic ones. I can’t explain it any other way.  I sat there with my coffee, hoping my face didn’t betray how I was feeling. And I began to understand that the way I remember feeling in those days was how I was meant to feel. I had felt a purpose. I felt motivated and inspired. I felt control over my life, at least pieces of it. No, I couldn’t control when a client’s flight was cancelled, or when someone had a last minute request on a day I’d planned to take as a wellness day. But there’s always going to be something like that, in any job. Or volunteer opportunity. Or life. And if it’s not your job or client or organization, it’ll be your child waking up sick on a day that you planned to be out and about and getting things done. Or your car breaking down when you absolutely had to get to an important meeting. Or something else.

 

coffee

From my favorite cafe. I love their mugs – and free refills! 

 

My point is, there’s always going to be something out of our control, as much as I dislike this (I need to work on my letting go). But those days in which I worked for myself, I had control over so many important factors: the company as a whole – the direction it went (or ideally went), the mission and vision, the goals, the values it all embodied. I had control of the marketing, both in print and online – not only the content, but what I chose to do/not. The target market. Not to mention that, client emergencies aside, I got to make the schedule. I chose when to start and end work. If I needed a personal or wellness or sick day, I took it. If I had to make it up later by working longer other days, I did. I made those decisions.  For someone with chronic illness, that’s particularly important. And possibly, most importantly, I felt like I was working toward something and for something. I had goals for my company, and for my life involving it.  I felt like a made a difference – not necessarily in the world at large, but to my clients. I felt important to my little piece of life. Because without me, the business wouldn’t run, and the clients wouldn’t get their travel planned by my company.

So I sat there remembering this feeling. Being reminded of what it felt like to really feel feel connected to my life’s work, like what I did 40+ hours a week mattered, not only to me, but to others too. I helped people experience the world. They explored new cultures and traditions. They had their first experience ziplining or swimming with dolphins or hiking a mountain they always hoped to hike.  They had exciting honeymoons and destination weddings. They had family reunion trips.  I had clients who came to me never having owned a passport and, after their first trip overseas, decided to take one every year.

And when I think about being able to help others, to Spread Hope to others, and to potentially be able to combine my love of helping people with my love of helping people travel (and naturally, traveling myself), I think about how amazing that would be.  To get back to that feeling of purpose, that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be. That ability to feel happiness at how I’m spending my days. To feel like I’m making a difference in my little corner of the world, both to others and to myself.  And thinking about it, while a bit sad at not being there, makes me hopeful. I begin gathering ideas, almost involuntarily (though certainly welcomed). I don’t try to, they just fly into my head. I get inspired and motivated.

Now if I could only stop the doubt from creeping in. The doubt that says that, once again, this won’t work well enough. That something – the economy, life, etc – will throw me off and I won’t be able to push through it to ultimately be successful. The doubt that says it’s too risky, that I’m being rash and careless. The doubt that says others will be disappointed me, will doubt me themselves.

And if I could only get some help. Not financially, but in the form of support. If I had friends that would be willing to help me create and run projects for Spread Hope. Or who would help me by participating – whether it’s hashtagging their instagram photos for a photo campaign, or volunteering with a community project I organize, or just sitting and helping me brainstorm ideas. And I know it’s a big ask. I know everyone’s time is so valuable. But we all need help sometimes, and I’m really terrible at asking for it. I’m strong and I want to be able to do it all on my own. And often I think it’s too forward to say, “Hey I want to do xyz will you help?”, despite the fact that if someone came to me and said something similar, I’d probably be super excited (assuming it wasn’t some sort of selling thing). Or I always think, “nobody will say yes. Or they’ll ‘like’ the status but not volunteer”, so what’s the point.

But I need to get over that fear. I need to reach out and ask for help. I may not get tons of help by doing so, but I certainly won’t if I don’t.  So I’m starting 2018 with some opportunities, and call outs, for help with Spread Hope Project… projects. Stay tuned!

And on this shortest day of the year, I hope it helps to remember that it literally only gets brighter from here – and I’ll do the same.

Happy Solstice, and Happy Holidays!

 

 

Self-Care Sunday

I’m going to be honest – I thought I published this post a week and a half ago. But… brain fog. So, this is about two weekends ago. My apologies. Anyway…

As someone who wants to spread hope and to help others, I often find I’m pushing myself. I’m pushing myself physically, but also emotionally and mentally. I’m constantly trying to figure out the next step, continually brainstorming and tossing ideas around in my head of what other programs and projects I could run, or how I could better spread my message. And I love this piece of myself. My imagination, my creative brain gets me through some super dark times. But it can also drain me. When I’m working extra hard on these things, focusing more than usual, I find myself physically and mentally tired. Add that to severe congestion and a cold that’s gone into my chest, which make it difficult to breathe, plus jet lag, anxiety, depression, and the usual exhaustion, and I needed some self-care.

So Sunday, I did just that. I spent the first part of the morning journaling and drinking  coffee. I had been excited about revamping my travel blog, so I worked on that, but casually. No expectations, just seeing where it took me. One might think of this as work, and technically it is, but I was excited about it, so felt more like a fun experiment than something I had to do. Then I relaxed and watched some football and saw my Buffalo Bills get an OT win in a foot of snow, which was pretty amazing.  I reheated some pizza (not the most healthy lunch option, but it didn’t require much effort, which helped conserved energy). I played a few games on my phone – I love word games, and they help keep me feeling sharp while actually enjoying what I’m doing. I ate a dinner (part of which involved more pizza … I clearly need to grocery shop) while intermittently blogging and watching more football on the couch. I did all of this in leggings and an oversized shirt that could possibly be mistaken for pajamas.

What didn’t I do? Answer work emails. Blow dry my hair. Put on makeup. Run any errands/go anywhere. Try to solve any major issues/questions/concerns in my life. Anything I didn’t want to.

I relaxed, I did things I enjoyed, I did minimal beauty regimen shenanigans (with the exception of showering, though half the reason for doing so was the hope the hot shower unstuffed my nose).

Sometimes, even the most hopeful of us need to replenish our stores.  That’s completely ok. We need to take care of ourselves in order to help others. And sometimes, taking a break from trying to figure everything out – whatever that everything entails – can actually be the the respite our mind needs to help us do just that.

snowy My