it isn’t easy being green. with envy.

I’ve been dealing with some stuff.

That’s what I told a couple of my girlfriends in an email last week. Only I didn’t say “stuff”. I said something else. Something much more fitting to describe exactly what it is I’m going through.

Yesterday, I got an email from NaNoWriMo. When it hit my inbox it felt like a sack of pumpkins to the face. Oh yes. It’s October, which means that next month is November. National Novel Writing Month.  Has it really been a year since I touched my novel?

Let me give you a little bit of insight as to how my life looked a year ago:

I’d just gotten surgery to repair my ACL, an injury I sustained during an awesome dance class at an incredible studio. I was writing like it was my job (which, okay, it is my job but youknowwhatimean), my blog was getting roughly a bazillion hits a day (roughly), and I was taking on my biggest writing challenge ever — fashioning a novel (albeit a complete crap one) in a month. All the while, I was involved in four ministries, one of which I led, at my church.

I was doing it all, basically. I was the it-girl.

And then bam. On November 16th, I took a positive pregnancy test. A figurative slam on the brakes of life, if you will. A happy gear shift, for sure, but a gear shift none the less. I went from being completely focused on my life and my goals to turning down everything (including beer, dang it) that I wanted in order to put someone else — someone so precious and special — first.

I was thrown head-first into a season of rapid life-changes, both physically and otherwise. As I watched my body grow, I also watched important things in my life grow distant. It was almost as if I was taking up too much space to allow for anything else. A painfully obvious metaphor, of sorts. I stepped down. From a lot of things. I put writing on the back burner. I surrendered the ministries in which I volunteered (one of which I’d run for five years — that was pretty hard to let go). I removed myself from all of the “good” things in my life in order to make room for the “best” thing.

Make no mistake. When I saw his little face on July 19th at 1:34 AM, I could see why he was, indeed, the “best” thing. He was (and is) absolutely perfect. He is my whole world. 

That should be enough for me. It should. But guess what?

I’m human. I’m broken. So sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, like right now, for instance, it’s not.

This year looks  a lot different than last year. I’m not dancing. I’m not writing as much. I’m most certainly not writing another novel, or even editing the one I did write, and I’m watching as all the ministries in which I served move on without me. Moreover, they’re moving on with other people. People who, by my account, are better and more lovable than me. My brokenness begs me to cling to the public affirmation associated with being involved in and doing everything, and so now, since I don’t have any of that, I don’t feel as though I am worthy of love. It’s especially hard because the only person for whom I’m “doing” things, the only person from whom I can receive affirmation, can’t speak. Can’t audibly affirm me. (Unless you count coos and the occasional but oh-so lifesaving smiles.)

To make matters worse, I had to go back to work. And my milk supply consequently dropped. So now I sit in my cubicle, praying that the one thing I — and only I — can do doesn’t slip away, too, making me (in my mind) completely and utterly useless. It feels like this thing — breastfeeding my child — is the only thing keeping me from being obsolete and unloved. As each pumping session shrinks just a little smaller than the last, I begin to panic.

Enter: envy. Pure, immature, annoying, soul-crushing envy.

I find myself envious (and bitter, to boot) of everyone these days. Stay-at-home moms who can answer the demand of their nursing infants and, therefore, don’t have to worry about a diminishing milk supply. Published writers who, because they’re published, are better at it than I. Singers, because dear GOD don’t ask me to sing. Songwriters. Artists. Friends. Not friends. Redheads. Brunettes. Blondes.

The list is endless.

Chances are, if I know you, I’m probably envious of something you have that I don’t. Even though what I have — a beautiful and perfect baby boy — is something you can’t ever have. Sure, you can have a baby boy at some point. But he’ll never be my baby boy. He’ll never be the perfect little angel I wake up to every morning.

It’s the nature of the sin. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t God-honoring. It’s wrong and stupid and awful. And yet, here I sit, stewing in envy. The painful thorn in my side.

One of my favorite writers touched on this earlier this week when she lamented about the solitary nature of book-writing. The way she explained her feelings echoed mine. It’s as if I’m a duck floating atop a pond. Quiet and inconspicuously still above the surface, but furiously paddling my feet beneath, unseen and unappreciated by all.

Barf. Whatever.

Because this terrible ulcer in my heart wouldn’t stop festering, I had no choice but to open up about it to a couple friends. (In two completely unrelated lunch meetings, both over sushi, which I found to be adorably ironic.) I sat across the table from these two friends, friends I’ve known for years, friends who have seen me at my absolute worst, and I let them have it. I let them know that, yep, I’m still messed up. I compare myself to others and get really freaking jealous and it really sucks.

And they listened. And they challenged me to think differently. To be proactive and to make changes.

But change is hard and I hate it. 

This past weekend I took a short, 24-hour trip to my hometown to see my best friend’s little brother get married. It’s a four-hour drive, and since I had to take Dax with me, I had to drive at night. I hate driving at night, but Dax sleeps through the night now and also conks out during car rides so there was no way I was going to drive during the day if it meant my son would revert back to a nocturnal disposition.

My least favorite part of the drive, probably because of the low speed limit and lack of passing lanes, is driving east on highway 40 through the Ocala National Forest. As soon as I get on 40, I start counting the minutes until I can finally turn right onto 17 and get the hell off of 40.

But this time, it was different. I wanted to stay on 40 forever.

In the dead of night, the Ocala National Forest should have, by all accounts, been pitch black. My Camry and I should have been shrouded in complete darkness. But we weren’t.

The moon was full, and so it poured buckets of silvery moonlight across the land, transforming the forest completely. The trees were a mass of dark, almost-black-but-just-not hunter green against a slate sky and clouds disguised as clumps of charcoal. It was devastatingly beautiful — a type of beauty that could only be seen in the dark of night. As much as the sun could try during the day, that type of allure was only achievable with the overwhelming glow of the full moon. (I tried to take a picture of it with my iPhone but none of the photos did it justice. So hopefully my words will.)

It reminded me of me. And what I’m going through in this time. Though I am, indeed, walking through a “dark” period, a night which has gone on way too long with the hope of dawn too far off in the distance, there is hope. There is truth. There is light.

There is light in the truth my friends bring me through honest, raw, desperate conversation. There is the reality that, though I am broken and have weak moments, I am loved and valued, even if I am not publicly esteemed as such right now. And though I’m currently wrestling with this beast of a sin, I can beat it because I am a daughter of the Most High. A princess.

A broken princess. A messy princess. But a princess, none the less, bathed in the sweet, soft moonlight of grace.

secrets.

I love being a writer. I love writing this blog. I love to tell stories. I love expressing things about myself and others openly and honestly. Over the years, there have been many blessings that have come from my willingness to share my secrets with the world.

But there have been many negative repercussions from my openness as well.

Lately, I’ve been very in tune with some sacred echoes in my life.  The first echo I wrote about concerned the word “enough” and what that means for me and my journey. But even before that, and since then, I’ve also been really struggling with the idea of secrecy in my life.

Right on schedule with my internal struggles concerning this idea, Rachel Held Evans published a blog post about the sanctity of secrets in the public world. As soon as the title popped up on my Facebook feed, I knew it wasn’t coincidence; based on the title and summary alone, I figured that Evans’ blog post was specifically and divinely written for me. Clicking on it and reading it confirmed what I already assumed.

Here’s the excerpt in Evans’ post that really wrecked me:

As a girl who makes her living (and finds so much joy in) sharing her questions, ideas, insights, and experiences online and in books, the value that Jesus places on secrecy can be a bit disconcerting. All writers struggle with this, I think, but with our access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and You Tube, it’s easier than ever before to slip into the assumption that unless something is shared, it didn’t really happen, it didn’t really matter.

Lately I’ve been feeling that way — that if I don’t blog/tweet/Facebook/Instagram about my life, my life isn’t really happening. Just the other night, when I was suffering from yet another bout of insomnia, I snuggled up against my dead-to-the-world husband. In his sleep, he leaned down to kiss me on the forehead. It was so wonderful and perfect. But right after it happened I became wracked with conviction because the first thought in my mind was, I can’t wait to blog about this.

Throughout my pregnancy, I’ve been bombarded by so many people, some I know and some I don’t, about the decisions Dan and I have made about our birth, child-rearing, nurturing, etc. And, for the most part, I’ve been completely candid and open about everything. Even when people disagreed with me. But it turned out that I was so open that, as my pregnancy progressed, people began to assume that they’d be able to be at the hospital when I went into labor and, in some extreme cases, actually in the delivery room for my son’s birth.

Before, I was so excited about becoming a mother and I was so thankful to have so many people share that sentiment with me that I didn’t think much about it. But with the “real deal” swiftly approaching, I’ve been really feeling it on my heart to protect those precious moments with my son and my family. Which is why the only people that will be in the delivery room when I have my son will be me, my son’s father, the doctors, and the nurses. (If I could somehow convince the doctors and nurses to not be in the room, I would, but they’re kind of a package deal at the hospital.)

But it’s not just the birth that I feel the need to protect. It’s not even just my son. It’s so much more than that. It’s the meetings I have with friends. It’s the books I read and the scribbles in my journal. It’s any and all things I am otherwise all-too-eager to share with people, no matter their influence in my life.

Don’t get me wrong. It will take all kinds of restraint to not blog/tweet/Instagram every moment I have with my baby, especially the first six weeks when I’m on maternity leave and up to my face in burp cloths. And this is not to say that I won’t blog as frequently, or as openly, but the discipline of keeping my real life and my family life still mine and not the Internet’s is one that I believe any writer/blogger/social media user should try to implement.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Check out Rachel’s full article here.

guest post: on growth.

Growing is supposed to hurt. That’s why you get growing “pains” not growing “tickles.” I’ve done a lot of growing over the past couple of years (a lot of it, thankfully, has been documented right here on my blog) and, consequently, a lot of hurting as well. I’m certainly not anywhere near done with it yet, either, but that’s okay. It’s all for the glory, right?

My friend and mentor, Eric Case, asked me to share a little bit about my story of growth on his blog. It scared me a little bit because a lot of my story is quite messy, but I agreed to it because the writing is a raw, visual, concrete representation of just how far I’ve come.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Why are you doing this again?”

The words shot out of my mouth like ping pong balls and bounced against the windshield and hit me in the face. Despite the eating disorder treatment under my belt and its offering of some false sense of normalcy, I was still suffering from a disease much more deteriorating. Complete and utter self-hate.

I was sitting in my car, parked about a block from my house and my new husband, with hot tears running down my cheeks.

I’d run away from him again. This time, however, after telling him he would divorce me if he knew what was good for him. Not even a year into our marriage and I had slapped the “d” word across his face and left.

Check out the rest of the post here

Also, Eric is a very intelligent dude. For posts that will challenge you, make you think differently about the world around you, and probably help you realize that the music library on your iPod needs a face lift, read his blog here.

an ode to katniss everdeen.

Do you know what I’ll be doing this time tomorrow? I will be counting down the hours until I’m seated at the movie theater watching The Hunger Games at midnight.

ACK.

Now, I know I’m only the four billionth person to say this on the Internet, but this book series by Suzanne Collins is seriously incredible. It’s everything I wish I could write and more. It’s my favorite series right after Harry Potter and, if you know me at all, you know that’s a huge deal. (Gotta give mad props to Emily for convincing me to read it. Shout out.)

This blog post is not about why you should read the books. I really don’t have time to get into it. (But seriously though, you should. Trust me.) This post is to celebrate a book series whose main protagonist is a strong, fierce, and, dare I say, kick-ass female. In today’s society, we really needed someone like Katniss Everdeen to which our young girls (like Emily, for instance) could look up. Katniss doesn’t need a man to take care of her. She knows what’s important in life. She has a feminine side but that, by all means, does not define her.

The other day, Dan and I were in Wal-Mart (for those of you paying close attention, yes, this was the same Wal-Mart trip that was the catalyst to me breaking down in a bathtub later, but whatevs) and while he was evidently poring over the purchases of the lady in front of us, I was furiously flipping through each magazine on the rack with Jennifer Lawrence (the actress portraying Katniss) on the cover and trying to consume as much information on the film I could.

I found that each article had one thing in common: they all compared Katniss to Bella Swan from Twilight.

And I about threw up.

If there is any fictional character that Katniss is like, it is not Bella Swan. If you ask me, Bella Swan is the worst heroine to show up in fiction since, well, ever. I would never want someone like Emily to look to Bella as an example of what it means to be female. Bella is weak, codependent, seemingly in love with the idea of being abused, depressed, and crazy. Katniss is strong, sacrificial, logical, level-headed, and, by all accounts, a B.A.M.F.

At any rate, I’m not writing this to bash Twilight. I have a lot of friends whom I greatly respect that read these books for entertainment purposes. But I bet they’d all agree with me on the fact that Katniss and Bella have about as much in common as I have with a dolphin.

So, rather than compare Katniss to Bella (because seriously, apples and oranges doesn’t even begin to cover it) I’d like to highlight all the reasons that Katniss rules. Period. Not in comparison to anyone else.

TOP FIVE REASONS KATNISS EVERDEEN RULES:

1. she supports her family.

Katniss’s father died in a mine explosion when she was only twelve, leaving her mother so distraught and emotionally detached from the family that she could barely even get out of bed. This caused Katniss to step up and provide for her and her little sister. Rather than crying about it and watching her mother let her family starve to death, she took it upon herself to learn how to hunt, gather, and trade so that her family would survive.

2. she volunteers for her sister as tribute in the hunger games.

She literally puts her life on the line in order to save her sister.

3. she’s a perfect shot.

She could kill anyone by just the snap of a bow and arrow. I mean. Dang.

4. she stands up for what’s right.

Katniss knows that what the Capitol is doing to Panem is injustice at best, inhumane at worst, and refuses to stand for it. At only sixteen, she stands up to something way bigger than herself.

5. she doesn’t let romance get in the way of what’s important.

Yes, in the books, there are two guys vying for Katniss’s affection. While she does consider this, it doesn’t govern her every move. What’s important to her is survival and protecting her family. Romance is an after thought. (Which is impressive because, hello, Peeta and Gale are both dream boats, am I right?)

All that to say, I raise my glass to you, Suzanne Collins, for writing a character that I believe girls everywhere should look up to. As someone who is tired of women being portrayed as meek, inferior sex objects, it’s refreshing to see someone like Katniss come in and shake things up a bit.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

fake it till you make it — how to love your job even when you actually hate it.

Perfect post for a Monday, no?

In Jon Acuff‘s book Quitter, recently gifted to me by my sweet husband, he writes about the “I’m, But” generation. Those in this generation are called as such because they respond to the question, “What do you do?” with something along the lines of:

I’m a retail manager, but I want to be a youth pastor.”
I’m a childcare owner, but I want to be a professional musician.”
I’m a marketing coordinator, but I want to be a stay-at-home mom and author.” (Sound like someone you know? HINT: It’s me.) 

In this economy, we can’t afford to be picky. A lot of us are suffering through less-than-fulfilling day jobs with the hopes of someday breaking those chains and pursuing our dream jobs. Now, I know better than to blog about hating my job, lest I get fired. However, it’s completely true that I’m not currently pursuing my dream job (stay-at-home mom and author) at this juncture. Being the wife of a children’s pastor with a relatively meager salary, I don’t anticipate this changing anytime soon and that reality can be quite demoralizing at times.

So, if you’re in the same boat as me, here are some tips for you.

1. give yourself constant reminders about why you’re doing this.

At my current job, I have my desktop background set to a picture of my son’s ultrasound. I also have the physical copies on my desk and I make a point to thumb through them at least once a day. I do this to remind myself that I’m here in order to be able to afford to take care of him and give him all the things he needs (food, shelter, health insurance, a sane mother who isn’t drowning in guilt over not being employed.) Maybe for you it’s  your friends, and having this job gives you the money you need to spend time with them; put a picture of you and your friends on your desk. Maybe it’s your next career move, and your current job is just a stepping stone to get there; write out the job title you’re going for on a small piece of paper and tape it to your keyboard so you see it everyday.

2. pieces of flair!

Joanna from Office Space was required to wear pieces of flair and (naturally) hated it. But I’d encourage you to put some flair up around your work space. If your job makes you miserable, you can at least liven up your cubicle to soften the blow a little bit (if you’re allowed to decorate, that is. If you’re not, well, you work in hell and I sincerely apologize. Please skip ahead.)  Decorate your work space with things that make you smile. My cubicle, for instance, is adorned with such gems as a vase full of dried roses (once very much alive) from my husband, a piece of art I created with a bunch of bible verses about peace, pictures of my friends and husband, cards I’ve received from friends and coworkers, and even some stuffed animals.

3. take breaks.

If you can, take 15 minute breaks to get out of the office and go for a walk to clear your head. You’ll stretch your legs and burn some calories and get some endorphins going. And you know what endorphins do, right? That’s right! They make you happy!

4. see friends on your lunch break.

Even if you’re poor like me and can’t afford to go out to lunch, bring your lunch and eat it at work and then spend your lunch hour catching up with a friend. Before Ashley moved, she lived right around the corner from my work and I loved to meet up with her and Kylin at a nearby lake or fro-yo joint to spend an hour laughing with someone who makes me happy. Seeing friends during the day gives you a  little more pep in your step for the second half of your work day.

5. remember that nothing is permanent — not even this job — and that you’re not the only one who has ever felt this way.

I have to constantly remind myself that a) my current situation is not my forever situation and b) I’m not the first person in to utter the words, “I’m … but…” But these things are completely true. When my alarm went off this morning, I got out of bed and I thought to myself, This is not forever. And I felt just a little bit better.

I know that these tips aren’t exactly rocket science. However, they do require a certain level of intentionality that doesn’t necessarily come easily. As natural as it is for me to shut off my alarm in the morning and scream, No, I don’t wanna! I wanna stay at home, rub my baby in my belly, and write all day! That doesn’t help me get any closer to my goal. Furthermore, it doesn’t make my time at my day job any more enjoyable. Instead, following through with these five (relatively simple) steps helps me out just enough to make it through to 5pm when I’m free to actively pursue avenues that could lead me toward my dream job.

What about you? Are you part of the “I’m, But” generation, too?

on totally blowing it.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I absolutely love Jon Acuff’s writing. I look up to this dude for so many reasons. Not only is he a compelling storyteller but, through his first blog, Stuff Christians Like, he’s been able to raise the money to fund all kinds of humanitarian relief efforts, like building two (TWO!) kindergartens in Vietnam.

Today, he wrote an interesting post on his other blog about how when a blogger’s Internet persona appears perfect, readers will lose interest. It makes sense if you think about it — no one can relate to a perfect person because no perfect people exist. Even in my own life, I’ve had to stop reading blogs because the writers seemed to have flawless lives. I’d compare my behind the scenes footage to their highlight reel and feel too awful about myself to keep reading. (I am SO TEMPTED to mention one in particular that can’t POSSIBLY be real, but, WHAT WOULD JESUS DO, AMIRITE?!)

And so, after reading that post, I started thinking — is this me? Do I do this? Do I blog about all the great things and leave the crappy things in my life hidden?

Since I’m not an unbiased reader of my own blog (ha) I can’t really make that call. But! I can be intentional from here on out and post more honest, more raw, more real content. And, mind you, this isn’t just so I don’t lose readers. (Although  seriously, don’t leave me, my insecurity can’t handle it.) This is all about being real.

All that to say, I blow it. A lot. Recently, I blew it big time.

Source

After our bible study, we all like to hang out and shoot the breeze about life. Last time, Eric, Emily, and myself were all standing in a circle. I’m not sure what was said (I probably just stashed it away in my fail-odex so, don’t worry, I’ll find it later) but my reply to that word/phrase/question/whatever was a heartfelt and grunty, “DAMNIT.”

With 13-year-old Emily and her dad standing right there. RIGHT AFTER, YOU KNOW, STUDYING THE BIBLE TOGETHER. Awesomeeeeeeeeeeeallidoiswin.

I apologized to Eric and he responded in love and grace because he’s like, a PASTOR and junk. But I still beat myself up over that one for a day or so. (Let’s be serious — I’m still beating myself up over it.)

So. There you have it. I’m pretty awful sometimes. My mouth has always gotten me in trouble. And then, when I get in trouble, I punish myself for days on end. It’s so unfortunate.

Oh, and um, let’s not forget the oh-so-frequent-and-undoubtedly-unattractive nervous breakdowns I experience.

But hey! Then I look in my bad day file and life’s good again, dig?

The point of this hodgepodge, poorly constructed, intentionally-unedited-to-prove-a-point blog post is that IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT.

Say it with me, now, one more time with feeling!

IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT.

tuesday tip — be inspired.

Yesterday one of my coworkers came into my cubicle with some inspiration for me: a hard copy of her friend’s second novel. And when I say “hard copy” I don’t mean an impossibly thick print-out of a Microsoft Word document. I mean a legitimate book complete with binding, cover art, and an author bio on the back.

Say what? Someone I know knows someone who has published not one, but two novels? And they live here? What?!

All my favorite writers live elsewhere, publishing meaty, worthy works of art from distant, mythological places (like Pasco, Washington or Edinburgh, Scotland.) I don’t know of any famous authors from Tallahassee. Come to think of it, there don’t seem to be too many famous people from Tallahassee (save T-Pain and Buster Bluth, and you can bet all the money in your banana stand I drop those names as frequently as possible.)

At the time of this writing, I’m roughly 13,500 words into my NaNoWriMo novel. Granted, those words are (in my humble opinion) a big heap of rubbish. And while some days I rap away at my laptop like a writing fiend, there are other days — like yesterday — when I stare at the screen in disgust, sick of spending time with my haphazardly built-up characters with their lousy and seemingly pointless dialogue.

But someone from Tallahassee has done it. Someone from Tallahassee has suffered through composing their wonky first draft and editing it beyond recognition, to finally become published by an actual publisher. And they’ve done this not once, but twice.

Yesterday as my fingers sat motionless on my keyboard, the image of that book came into focus in my mind. Listen, self, if someone else did this, I thought, you can, too.

And so, I began to type. And type some more. (And check Facebook three times and Twitter twice and answer an email.) And type some more.

Before I knew it, it was 7PM (my “writing curfew,” which encourages me to stop writing so I make it home to see my husband at a decent hour each night) and I’d written 2,082 (marginally compelling) words. I’d been inspired by someone else to do something great.

Source

TODAY’S SELF-LOVE TIP: BE INSPIRED.

My coworker’s author friend is, no doubt, an inspiration. But the truth of the matter is that you don’t have to look far (published authors, famous musicians, political leaders) to find inspiration. I bet that, if you stopped and looked around, you’d find inspiration as close as your friends are. Take my inner circle, for example:

  • My friend Evan has lost nearly 100 pounds and has run several races (including a half-marathon and a triathlon) and is currently training for his first full marathon in February. And all of this didn’t start until the beginning of 2010.
  • After my mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the beginning of this year, she changed her life and has dropped enough weight to manage the disease without medication.
  • A family from our church uprooted their entire lives to live permanently in Guatemala and minister to those whom the church has “given up” on. Also, my friend Elizabeth has been down to Guatemala twice to help with this mission and is saving up to go a third time in the spring.
  • Along the same vein, my friend Leah, her husband, and their baby left their whole lives here in Florida to help start a church in Boston earlier this year.
  • My friend Andrea is raising seven-year-old twin girls on her own.
  • My friend Ashley said she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom with her own photography business and she’s doing it.
  • My friend Eric has played guitar with all kinds of famous people (like, he’s friends with The Fray, you guys) and yet he still finds time to pore into the lives of young artists in our community and be a stand-up husband and dad.

I could go on. My friends rule.

The point is, each one of these people is an inspiration to me in some way. Inspiration fuels my passions and my desires. Inspiration makes me feel alive. Inspiration makes me happy I’m me. Inspiration makes me love myself. Inspiration makes me feel as though I could do anything I put my mind to. Like, maybe, write a novel in 30 days.

I’ve been told that I’m an inspiration before. The God’s honest truth about that is that I couldn’t inspire anyone else without the inspiration I get from others. It’s a cyclical and beautiful phenomenon. And I feel like the same thing could be true for you, too.

Who inspires you? Who makes you feel like you could do amazing things? And, in turn, do you know who YOU inspire?

tuesday tip — accountability.

Last week I wrote about taking one thing at a time. I wrote about how important it is to slow down and breathe for a minute if you’re feeling overwhelmed. I also divulged about my minor (ha) mental breakdown over being too busy and stressed out this fall.

Sometimes, I really think I should heed my own words instead of just writing and publishing them.

At any rate, as if I didn’t have enough things going on in my life, I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an event orchestrated every November by the Office of Letters and Light, a creative writing non-profit agency, that encourages writers to hammer out a novel (50,000 words to be exact) in a mere 30 days. If you do the math (which I rarely do, since I’m a writer) that’s writing a minimum of 1,667 words a day starting today and ending November 30th. No editing, no deleting, just writing.

It actually works out quite nicely for me since my birthday is December 1st. This means that, if I finish this, I will give myself the first draft of an original novel on my 26th birthday. You’re welcome, future self!

While I officially committed to participating in NaNoWriMo 2011 last week, I’ve actually been contemplating it since NaNoWriMo 2010. I didn’t participate last year because, well, I don’t write fiction. As a matter of fact, the last fiction I wrote was probably some dumb poem in college and I undoubtedly burned it before anyone else could find and read it. But, a handful of people have told me over the last year that I should write a book. So, I thought, why not?

Apart from being so disgustingly busy and on the verge of burnout, you mean? Well, I don’t know, why not? Hey! No one asked you, inner monologue!

When I decided to go for it, my next step could have been one of two things:

  1. Not tell anyone about my 50,000 word goal in hopes that if I failed at it I wouldn’t be embarrassed.
  2. Tell all my friends (and blog readers) and ask them (you) to hold me accountable and pray for me during this inevitably stressful month.

Clearly, I’ve chosen the latter.

But not intentionally, mind you.

At first, I was going to go with option number 1. I didn’t want to tell anyone. Writing a novel in 30 days (ugh, typing it out makes me tremble with fear) is arguably the most terrifying and difficult thing I’ve ever attempted and, at this point in the game, failure seems pretty imminent. But, once I squeaked the news to my husband, he felt so proud of me (for what?! I haven’t done anything yet!) that he compulsively broadcasted the news to any and everyone he came across. What a guy, that husband. What. A. Guy.

And so. I’ve told people. And I’m telling you. And I’m asking for support, love, and prayer throughout this process. (Oh, um, and I’m getting a pool going to see how many days into the challenge that I’ll publicly break down mid-composition in indecipherable sobs. What’s your bet? My money’s on November 15th — exactly half way to either success or failure. Come on, big money!) And in case you’re wondering, I will still be blogging throughout November. I can feel my eyes drying up and the carpal tunnel starting to set in already! Yay!

Anyway.

TODAY’S SELF-LOVE TIP: BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

If you think writing a novel in 30 days is a lofty goal, remember that making a commitment to change your mindset and love yourself is a pretty solid aspiration as well. As much as I’d love to say that I’ve made this transformation on my own, I can’t because I’d be lying through my teeth. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without being open and honest with my close friends and family about the things I struggle with and asking them to support me in recovery.

Yes, accountability is scary. Oh lord, do I know it. It’s terrifying to be watched and guided. But it’s necessary for growth and change. Leaning on other people is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a sign of maturity and acceptance that we weren’t created to be strong enough on our own. We were created to allow the strengths of our peers step in when our weaknesses reign supreme.

And so, I challenge you to open up and ask to be held accountable. Ask someone you trust to call you out when you talk negatively about yourself or others. Ask someone to go jeans shopping with you and reinforce your mindset that the size number on the label doesn’t define your worth. When you let someone else carry a part of your burden, it becomes that much lighter.

Also, I ask you to hold me accountable in November. I’ve set out to do something and darn it I want to do it. But I know I can’t do it alone. Be there for me, friends?

tuesday tip: words

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
John Keating, Dead Poets Society

Few statements have been made that are truer than this for me. Words and ideas have constructed and reconstructed the paradigms on which I base my entire life. Words like “diet” and “thin” and ideas like “eating disorders” and “perfection” and “never good enough” were so powerful to me that they quite literally  changed my world. Over the span of the 10 years I had a destructive relationship with food, I wasn’t the only one affected. My friends’ and family’s lives had changed, too. We were all in this crappy world together, drowning in self-loathing and despair. Relationships were broken. Tears were shed. Fights were had. All because I was convinced that with this body in this world, I would never be good enough to be loved.

But the good news is that wasn’t the end of the story. As backwards and scary as these ideas made the world for me, I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want it to stay that way. I was determined to create a whole new existence for myself — one that was governed by love instead of hate and joy instead of sorrow and hope instead of failure. Without much direction or know-how, I turned to the only tool I could fathom utilizing in a battle against self-hate — the weapon that changed my world in the first place: words.

At first, knowing full well that the only ideas in my head were dangerous and unhealthy, I sought out other people’s words — the bible, books on inner beauty, self-love blogs. Then, I took those words and actually wrote them down in my journal with my own hand as if they were pouring out of my own consciousness. I won’t lie to you — at first, it felt really awkward. It felt wrong. It felt stupid, pointless, and borderline pathetic. But I persisted, knowing that the alternative wasn’t an option anymore.

After several (I’m talking several, people) months of this, I started following a different pattern. Instead of reading these encouraging words about my body and feeling uncomfortable and doubtful, I started to believe them. I even found myself thinking them while I was looking in the mirror without even trying. Instead of looking at my body as “fat” and “unlovable” and “disgusting,” I found myself referring to it as “lovely” and “curvy” and “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

So. All that to say…

TODAY’S SELF-LOVE TIP: SEEK OUT, SAY, THINK, AND WRITE DOWN ENCOURAGING WORDS.

If you’re feeling particularly down and don’t feel like exerting effort to look, let me give you some:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
– Psalm 139:13-15, 17-18

And for you non-believers out there:

You are bloody fantastic. Your existence makes life worthwhile.
– Me

But, as wonderful as other people’s words are, your words matter most in the act of changing your world for the better. Therefore…

An FBDC homework assignment of sorts.

You know how when you were in 7th grade and you spent hours trying to finish your freaking algebra homework and you thought to yourself, “WHEN AM I EVER GOING TO USE THIS WORTHLESS GARBAGE??” (No? Was that just me?) Well, rest assured, this homework assignment is actually beneficial to your life. Also, you get an “A” no matter what. Even if you turn it in late. (I hope my 7th grade algebra teacher reads this and takes a bloody hint.)

  1. I’d like you to find a pen (or pencil or crayon or whatever) and a sheet of paper. Not an email or a blog. An actual, physical, made-from-a-tree-and-will-biodegrade sheet of paper.
  2. Write a love letter to yourself. Write, “Dear [insert your name here],” at the top and write down as many wonderful things about yourself as you want. Your letter can be two lines long, or two hundred pages long. Whatever good things you can think about yourself, write them. Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar. Just write.
  3. Find an envelope and a stamp.
  4. Put that love letter in said envelope, seal it, and put said stamp on it. Beyonce would say, “IF YOU MAIL IT THEN YOU NEEDA PUTTA STAMP ON IT.”
  5. Address said envelope to yourself.
  6. Next time you’re out and about, drop it in a public mailbox.
  7. When it arrives in your mailbox, open it up and read it.
  8. Put that letter in a safe place. That way, whenever you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself and you feel your world spinning quickly back into darkness, you can re-read that letter, come back to the light, and remember that you are lovely.

After you’ve written your letters, here’s your extra credit assignment: email me excerpts from your letter so that I can read them. I’d love nothing more than to read your own words about how fabulous you are. I could sit here all day and talk about how wonderful I think each of you are, but what does it matter if you don’t believe it yourself?

Okay. I’m going to hit post. And then, I’m going to watch my inbox become flooded with your self-love.

You ready for your world to change?