I Believe In You

I believe in you. Whoever you are. Whatever your dreams. I’m serious. I might not even know you personally. I might not know your plans or goals or dreams. But I believe in the human potential. In every human. It doesn’t mean they always live up to it (I can think of plenty of examples in which people took their potential and used it in really harmful ways, or squandered it all together). But the potential is there.

Why am I telling you, potentially a total stranger, that I believe in you? Because from time to time, we all need to hear it. We especially need to hear it if you, like me, have ever shared your dreams with someone or someones, and been told that you aren’t capable, you’re unrealistic, you don’t have the education or training or qualifications, that you’ll never make it happen.  Or put another way, that they didn’t believe in you. And if like me, you’ve ever struggled with self-confidence or self-esteem or self-worth or feeling like you’re not enough, if like me you’ve ever battled depression and anxiety that magnifies these feelings, you know that this can feel like someone physically tearing you apart. It can feel like they reached into your chest cavity, grabbed ahold of your heart, and ripped it out. Maybe for you it wasn’t that extreme. For me it is. Because to me, one of the most amazing things you can have in this world, in the darkest moments, the moments when you struggle so hard to believe things will work out, is hope. And telling you that you can’t accomplish your dreams can tear this hope, potentially the only thing keeping you going at times, to shreds.  And yes, when this happens to me, is it on me a bit that I rely so heavily on others’ opinions? Absolutely. I’m working on that daily. I’m putting huge effort towards self-love and appreciation, self-worth and self-esteem. But when you already feel like you’re not good enough, and others basically tell you you’re right, it’s pretty natural that it’ll affect you seriously, at least temporarily, perhaps longer.

Now naturally, there are going to be things we’re not qualified to do. I’m not qualified to perform surgery because I haven’t gone to medical school. So if I were to say, “I think I’m going to get a job as a surgeon”, the response of “you don’t have the education and qualification for that” is legit. But if I said, “I think I want to go to medical school because my dream has always been to become a surgeon” and someone replies “At you’re age? Come on, that’s so unrealistic. You’ll never make that happen!” that’s where the dream killing happens. And the thing is, they may be right. I am 39 years old. If my dream was to go to medical school, I’d probably be in my 50s when I finished (I’m eyeballing this, not calculating the actual years so excuse any innaccuracies), and it’s probably pretty tricky to get accepted to medical school at 39, then interneship, residency, get hired for the first time as a surgeon in ones 50s. But telling me right off the bat I’ll never be able to do it? It might be unlikely. It might be improbable. But I likely already know this, so shutting down my dreams  in one stroke and saying you don’t believe in me literally serves no purpose. there are ways to voice the struggles, to help someone be realistic, without telling them you can’t. For instance, “This could be really tricky. It could be tough to get into medical school at that age, and it’ll be a long road, but if you really want this, let’s talk about what the next steps could be.” Or maybe you help them “troubleshoot”: “Well, you’d need this qualification to get into school, so maybe start by taking pre-requesites somewhere local. Also, it’s going to cost a lot, so let’s talk about how you’re going to be able to support yourself while doing this.” There are numerous other ways to approach it. But flat out: you can’t make that happen is just a hurtful one. And if you’re anything like me, it’s probably one you’re already telling yourself. So what does someone telling you this actually accomplish, besides making you feel worse about yourself?

So I’m here to tell you I believe in you. I don’t care how silly or weird or out there your dream ism how unlikely it is or how much effort it’ll take, because if you really want it that badly, you’ll put in the effort. (Caveat: I can’t support you in something I think is illegal/unethical/immoral because that would be going against my core values, and we should never ask someone to compromise their core beliefs and values.  But I’m going to assume here you aren’t asking me to support you doing something immoral, so with that exception, I believe in you.) If your dream is to dress up in a chicken costume and dance around and make viral videos and get sponsors to make money, go for it. Hell, that sounds fun and I might even join you.  If your dream is to travel the world, to restart your career, to start your own business. If your dream is invent something new, to run away to the mountains and build a retreat, to go back to school and get a new degree/desertification/training. I believe in you. If your dream is to find a way quit your 9-5 so you can stay at home with your kids, I believe in you. If your dream is to write a book, I believe in you.

And if you ever need someone to bounce idea off, or someone just to listen, or someone just to remind you that someone believes in you, I’m here. Because there way too many people in this world that’ll tell us we can’t do something. So I’m here to tell you that you can. 

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Are You An Awesome Self-Sabotager Too?

Welcome to week three of the Spread Hope Project weekly themes. This week’s topic is one that I’m super excited to talk about: Self-Sabotage. Why, you might ask, am I super excited to talk about this topic? Because:

I am an awesome self-sabotager.

 

Self sabotage

(Grammar note: I realize the proper term may be “self-saboteur”, I like sabotager better). And by awesome, of course, I mean this is something I understand all too well, because, if I’m being totally honest (and why wouldn’t I be?) this is probably something that I do daily. In fact, it’s something many of us do regularly. Sometimes without even realizing it. The truth is, self-sabotage is way more common than you may think, and it often shows up in forms nobody expects – in fact, often, it shows up in forms that, on the surface, look quite positive and productive (more on this later).

Why do we self-sabotage? Well, we’re all unique people living unique lives, and so therefore I can’t speak for each and every one of us, but there’s one thread that tends to tie together a lot of self-sabotage efforts.  If you’ve been reading these weekly theme series, it’s one you might recognize from last week: fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of success (yep, this exists – if we’re successful, there’s pressure to continue to keep becoming more successful, and that’s freakin’ scary), fear of the unknown/uncertainty, imposter syndrome. I could go on and on. And underlying these fears may be feelings such as low self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth. This isn’t always the case, of course, but it’s not uncommon. If we’re struggling with our self-confidence, it’s a lot easier to convince us (and for us to convince ourselves) that not only are we going to fail, but that the results of failing are going to be awful. For those of us who live with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, these feelings can be magnified further. And when these are magnified, so too may be the fears, and that can lead to even stronger self-sabotage.

Now let me stop for a moment to clarify something: the word sabotage sounds pretty awful. And when it’s done intentionally, maliciously, towards someone else, it is. If you intentionally sabotage someone’s relationship or big day or something like this, obviously that’s not OK. But when it comes to self-sabotage, I believe that often, it isn’t a conscious decision, and it’s certainly not intentionally malicious. Rather, I think we frequently do this as a form of self-protection, a sort of preservation of self. When you are struggling with depression and experiencing extremely low self-worth, for example, rejection or failure could be especially devastating, furthering the depression and feelings of worthlessness. So our brain, without our conscious input, says “Hey, that doesn’t sound good at all, so I’m going to do what I have to in order to not get rejected”. And one of the ways in which we can not get rejected, is to prevent ourselves from going after something fully in the first place. Thus, self-sabotage.

That said, just because it’s not a conscious decision to start with doesn’t mean we can’t bring consciousness to it. Which is to say that when we learn to recognize our patterns of self-sabotage, we can potentially spot when our brain starts veering that direction, and hopefully learn some ways to intervene.

 

how do you self-sabotage

 

As I said, I’m awesome at self-sabotage. Which isn’t awesome, but it does mean I’m pretty familiar with it. And while there are so many ways to self-sabotage, there are some methods that, from my observation and experience, seem to be particularly common.   I’ll be delving into some of these more thoroughly later in the week, but wanted to give an overview here.

  • Procrastination. This might be number one. Raise your hand if you, too, find just one more really interesting article to read or Facebook post you must comment on before starting that task that makes you nervous/concerned/etc. I’ll be delving into this a lot more later.
  • The endless to do list/always being too busy. If day after day, week after week, you’ve built up your schedule or to-do list to the point that there’s no humanly possible way you’re going to get through it all, you might want to take a closer look. If you’re one of those people who wears “too busy” like a badge of honor, please don’t hate me just yet. I’ll explain further when I do a deeper dive into this topic later this week.
  • All or nothing thinking. For those of you who, like me, struggle with gray areas, all or nothing thinking (“it’s not worth it unless I get this exact, specific result”) is a super easy way for our brain to freeze us where we stand, thus sabotaging our efforts to move forward.
  • Setting goals with unreasonable time frames, requirements, or that require all “outside influence” (i.e. where you have very little to no control). It’s OK to be optimistic and go outside your comfort zone. In fact, I encourage it. But have some smaller in between goals to build on too. If my only plan for paying off debt is winning the Powerball, I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment (aka sabotaging my efforts).
  • Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We’ve heard this before in slightly different context, right? Now, this doesn’t mean giving up after the first failure or rejection. Persistence is key in reaching goals.  But every disappointment, or at least most, provide a learning opportunity. If you learn/ change/tweak nothing, you’ll probably get the same result. Think Charlie Brown kicking the football here.
  • Not being true to ourselves. Have you ever tried to dedicate yourself to job or project or program that goes against everything that is you? I’m not just talking about “my job isn’t my dream career”, but something that really, authentically doesn’t feel like you. It might work for a while, but eventually, you burn out. Furthermore, resentment and bitterness often set in. It’s incredibly difficult to feel successful and fulfilled when you’re bored, burnt out, resentful, and bitter. Knowingly setting ourselves on this course, therefore, sabotages our efforts.

There are more, certainly. These are the ones that I see most commonly. I personally have done all of these at times in my life, and some are still tough habits to kick. Over the next week, I’ll be digging deeper into each of the above, offering ways to recognize them, and tools and tricks for dealing with them.

 

October LinkUp Party: Resetting My Focus

As you may have read in my past blogs, Sheryl over at A Chronic Voice does these awesome blog linkup parties, writing prompts and all – especially helpful if you’ve been dealing with some minor writer’s block like I’ve been.  October’s prompts are:

 

oct linkup

Technically we have to only write on three of the five prompts, but I love each of them, and also, writing is a bit of an …. ahem… escape for me, so I’m going to do all five.

Budgeting:

I’m looking at budgeting literally here, because it’s a big stressor for me.  Let’s just say that earlier today, a financial wellness company sent me an (unsolicited) email entitled “Are you saving too much?” and I laughed out loud. It’s not that I’m a bad budgeter or big spender. It’s that you can’t get blood from a stone, as they say. Or in this case, you can’t get money from a bank account if it’s not in there in the first place. I’m in a bit of credit card debt – not the worst anyone’s been in, but I hate owing anyone anything, especially money, and it really stresses me out.  I’ve started taking a closer look at my bill and spending to see where I can cut things down slightly.

I’m also working on ways that I can begin to make more passive income, as well as paid patient advocate opportunities.  I’d love to make patient-advocacy my full time thing but…. bills.

 

Speeding:

I definitely have a bit of work to do in the “a little less talk, a lot more action” department. I am ideas person by nature. I’m great at the big picture, the brainstorming, coming up with the “Ooh maybe we could do this! And what about that?!” I’m a list-maker and a mind-mapper and every other ideas-related graphic one could create.  It’s the transition from idea to making it happen that trips me up. For instance, I finished writing a novel over a year ago. I still have made no efforts to get it published or even edited. Also: my dad is an editor, so I have literally zero excuses on the editing front. I did have the first chapter of it published online in Wordgathering, which my dad edits and publishes, so that was a big first step – even though it was my dad publishing it, putting it “out there” for general public consumption took a lot of courage on my end.  My goal for the “speeding” part of this is to stop getting stuck in the ideas phase, and to start moving into the action phase – not only with my novel, but with my advocacy as well.  The stagnancy definitely stems that internal voice that tells me it/I won’t ever be good enough, capable, successful. I just have to get better at telling that voice to sit down and be quiet more frequently.

 

Slowing:

My mind races a mile a minute. Anxiety, hypomania, and temporarily being off meds for these because we are family planning and my meds are contraindicated with pregnancy, all tend to wreck havoc on my brain. Things like yoga, meditation, going for a run, being out in nature help, but obviously, these aren’t always accessible and they don’t eliminate it all together. But in the past month, I started yoga teacher training, which means that I’m spending 2-3 weekends a month in yoga teacher “workshops”, for lack of a better word (i.e. we aren’t doing yoga all weekend, we’re studying it), plus taking at least two classes a week, per the teacher training requirements. I’ve spent a lot more time lately slowing down my breath and focusing on things outside of my day to day life, and it’s helping me refocus.  Of course yoga isn’t a cure for my anxiety or any mental illness, but the continual practice and study is helping to get me slow down my racing thoughts more.

 

Evaluating:

If it wasn’t apparent from the “slowing” section, I have a very evaluative brain. I can evaluate just about everything and anything. And I do. My latest struggle emotionally has been a bit of an identity crisis. I’m struggling with where I am (in life, not in Philadelphia), and who I am, and what it all means. I’ve also been turning over a lot of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve in my mind, and particularly, a lot of guilt over the past. To be honest, it almost feels like when I turned 39 last month, and my brain decided that I had reset and restart before the big 4-0, almost like some sort of emotional cleanse. It feels somewhere in between a break through and a break down, and I’m never quite sure which way it is going to go. It’s unsettling, but it also feels like I’m on the verge of something big, if that makes sense.

As I mentioned, I’ve been in-trenched in yoga teacher training, and I’ve also started to be more active in church. To clarify, by “more active”, I mean, I emerged from my 15 year hiatus, and began going to my husband’s church (different style/denomination), and actually paying attention. And interestingly, on Sundays as I go to church followed by yoga teacher training, the messages are eerily similar  – the idea of being part of something bigger, being connected to others, and not having to control it all.  Whether you’re religious or spiritual or not, the reminder of being connected to others in this world through… whatever it is you believe in, even if it’s simply being connected through humanity, and that I don’t have to control every minute of every day for things to turn out OK, is a bit of a comfort. This resonates with me as I’ve been feeling disconnected from everything and everyone, including myself, lately, trying to be so in control of everything.  So I’m trying to shift my focus more to working on connection, instead of working on control. This may sound counter-intuitive to the ‘more action’ statement above, but often, it’s this need for constant control that holds me back from going for things.

 

Escaping

I’d love to escape off to Europe somewhere this fall, but I’ve done that twice already this year, so it’s not really in the cards. So in terms of escaping, I’m actually working on a more personal escape – escaping my strongly held negative beliefs about myself, and some of the patterns of dismissing myself and self-sabotage that I get myself stuck in. Also, as mentioned above, I’m trying to escape some of that nonstop mental chatter, and focus on connecting – with myself at the core (not with the unhelpful stories I tell myself about who I am), with loved ones and friends, with the yogic/spiritual side of me, with nature, whatever serves me. I know this might not be the take on escaping that was intended, but for me, this is the focus right now. Unless I have the chance (read: spontaneous time off and money) to escape to Europe again soon. Then sign me up!

 

Thanks for reading! Make to check out the other participants’ October Linkup posts here!

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. 

 

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.

 

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.

 

How to Stay Hopeful and Realistic

Lately, I tend to have two moods: “I’m going to bring about world peace!” and “I can’t get out of bed.”  This isn’t overly surprising, given that I have a mood cycling disorder, which flips me from hypomania to depression sometimes numerous times a day (thank you, rapid cycling). This can make hope tricky at times. When I’m in a depressive cycle, it’s hard to find any hope at all. When I’m hypomanic, my brain runs a mile a minute, full of plans and ideas, and I whole-heartedly feel every one of them is possible. To be clear, they aren’t “unrealistic” per se – I’m not actually trying to bring about world peace single-handedly. They’re career goals, life goals. They’re dreams. They’re possible, but not easy (because what is?), not nearly as close as they feel in those moments. Still, I plan and plan and plan.

The problem comes in the execution of these plans. I start out all gung ho, all excited. I have my brainstorming pages and my sticky notes of ideas and my notebook full of thoughts about this new opportunity. And then, at the tiniest falter, I crash. One thing doesn’t go exactly as I planned in my “take on the world” state, and it brings me back to a harsh reality, at times even cycling me back into depression.

So how do we stay hopeful, but also keep ourselves a bit realistic, to try to avoid this crash? Now, a note: I’m not saying not to be optimistic. Optimism is great. But how can we be optimistic without setting ourselves up for massive disappointment? I don’t have all of the answers, but here are a few things I learned.

  1. Don’t discourage the initial rush of ideas, dreams, “I can do this!” feelings. Write your notes, brainstorm, whatever you need to do.
  2. Then leave it, at least for the night. Sleep on it, and look at it again in the morning. See how it looks. Adjust as needed. Continue to do this periodically throughout the process. If anything gives you pause, sleep on it before changing it.
  3. Pick out the pieces that seem the most do-able to start with. For instance, when I was starting Spread Hope Project, the first thing I did was start a specific Instagram account just for the project (shameless plug!). That was doable. I know Instagram, I already have other accounts (let’s ignore the fact that one of those is for my dog), and all I needed was my cell phone. It didn’t mean I had to get a ton of followers right away, I just had to start it. That was a completely doable first step, and it helped me keep my momentum going.
  4. Flesh out some details – which actions can you take now, which can you do soon, which require other pieces (i.e. funding, the success of the first steps, help from others, etc) in order to happen. Organize them, including making note of any help you’ll need in order to make certain pieces work.
  5. Know that everything won’t go exactly as you hoped. Have a backup plan, or several. Creating these helps you to be realistic about glitches that will inevitably occur, and also helps to keep you from feeling defeated if you need to change course a bit.
  6. When in doubt, be optimistic, but don’t bet the farm. Focus on the little successes that move you forward, instead of only seeing the end goal. It helps keep you working on the day to day tasks that will get you there, and setbacks will be less crushing.