Is This The End? – An Elevate 2014 Farewell from Maureen

RunningMaureen

So I can state, for the record, that 2014 has been one of the best years of my life.

Of course, it’s easy to say that now, looking back to 2012-2013 and living through some of the crappier years I’ve experienced.  While learning how to run and launching back into the world of dating were two major year goals, I think I’ve left the heavy lifting until the end: embracing my true self and coming to a place of acceptance and happiness with my body.  

Instead, I ran my first long distance race, led a team of 20 people at WalkMS and raising over $5000, dated most of Arlington, VA, and found a funny and loving boyfriend.

Let’s face it; somehow training for a long distance race was easier than figuring out how to have self-esteem. What the fuck is with that?  

Looking at my 2014 Holiday Council goals and desired outcomes, I identified this issue as the biggest and most difficult challenge in front of me.  Figuring out how to accept and love the Maureen in the mirror would be the real test and require dealing with a lot of crazy emotions I may want to keep hidden.

In fact, my Elevate application includes this paragraph:

What do you think is holding you back from reaching your goals? 

I believe my tendency to tie my success with how I look and how I perceive other people’s opinion of me. There are days at work where I could receive positive feedback or navigate  difficult political red tape, but it will not mean anything to me because I look tired or feel ‘gross.’ I will spend an extra ten minutes in the morning staring in the mirror thinking negative thoughts. That’s ten minutes I could be at work finishing something, or ten minutes I could be running. Or simply being present in my life.

 

If I’m reading those words as Maureen the senior policy analyst, they seem so dumb and needless. Yet, if someone were to ask me right now to say the first few thoughts that come to mind when I think about my body, they are (and have always been): ugly, fat, broken, and/or undesirable. As I write this post, these feelings are so raw and tangible. During my marathon training run a few days ago, the negative self-talk was so bad that I could not celebrate that I completed 20 miles–the farthest I have ever run in my life. Instead of feeling accomplished, I feel miserable. Right now, I’m still really upset about a training run that didn’t count towards anything and really has no bearing on the rest of my life. In my head, my inner critic Fran is listing things that prevent my success:

 

  • If I didn’t have MS (which I didn’t choose),
  • If I were the same weight I was in 2011 (achieved through starving myself),
  • If I ran every day (nearly impossible factoring in a high impact job, increased MS-related fatigue, and wanting to maintain a social life), or
  • If I was thinner I would be more successful (whatever that means).

 

Where does this come from and how do I get it to stop?

 

For me, I didn’t know I was fat until the fifth grade. Until then, I was just a girl trying to figure out the scientific method and quadratic equations. Yet, in 1992, my legally blind grandmother kindly informed me that I was too round for my age.  I didn’t know what to do with that kind of information, but it left a mark. After her comments, I became hyper-sensitive to every sideways glance, heard every whispered insult, and spent most of my free time figuring out how to change every part of my being to be different. Over the years, I’ve bought pills, followed the fad diets, implemented two-a-day workouts, and purchased enough shaping garments, makeup, and creams to supply the Oscars for years. Factor in the MS diagnosis and its serious (yet more and more unlikely) ramifications with my skewed self-image, and BAM. You get a very driven and impatient lady, wanting to be everything and everywhere at the same time, looking perfect. I’ve wasted god knows how many hours being disappointed with myself, seeing every imperfection and disappointment.

 

Now, I’m down to the wire. Come December, I won’t have  the easy access to Molly and her oracle-like wisdom anymore, and the 2014 sisterhood is spread throughout the US and Canada, potentially never really talking to each other again.  I see the calendar pages turning and I feel this internal pressure to get everything accomplished and come out on the other side a changed/better Maureen. The assumption being that I needed a lot of fixing to begin with, and that I haven’t already changed quite a bit. There’s Fran again, telling me that I haven’t done enough.  She’s focused on one part of a complicated year plan, not allowing for the times when shit happens. As Molly mentions in one of her September posts, “Perfection is a trap.” It’s my trap, for sure.

I can hear Molly say “what happens if you free yourself from Fran?”  

What if I just stop giving a damn and just focus on what is going on right now? What if I give Fran another role in my crazy head? What would that be? What if I just stop lying to myself about what I should be and celebrate what I am? Then, I’m pretty sure that’s the freedom I need. I’ll have another 45 minutes to list five gratitudes instead of being stuck ripping myself apart in the mirror. I’ll have the head space to enjoy huge accomplishments like completing a marathon or being a bad ass at work.

Having those internal conversations, hearing Molly inside my head and asking the right questions of myself in the midst of a busy life, all of these things just may well be the ultimate success of my Elevate year.  I am coming out of a year of intense introspection stronger and ready to take on the next challenge ahead of me.  I suppose after this post, I’ve got my goal for this year’s Holiday Council figured out and my Elevate year has provided the tools to develop a successful way forward.

Maybe this year it will stick?

 

moe headshotWITH LOVE FROM

Maureen , soon-to-be marathon completer, 2014 Elevate Sister.

Maureen is a hopeless optimist, reformed tomboy, and has a strong and snarky voice of reason. She roots for the underdog, which comes in handy being a Notre Dame fan. When not discussing U.S. foreign policy, Maureen organizes fundraisers for her favorite charity, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, attempts to hold crow pose for more than two seconds, and is still trying to figure out who talked her into running a half marathon this spring. If not at work, yoga, or running, you can find Maureen watching shows about handsome vampires or discussing how cute sea otters are.

I Believe in Synchronicity

Synchronicity
I was just feeding my daughter Juliet in the semidarkness of her nursery, noticing her little knuckle dimples as she clutched my finger and her sweet rosebud mouth. I was breathing in her baby scent and watching her dark eyelashes close as she drifted to sleep, while I sat, rocking and thinking.

Rocking and thinking about how she’s going to have big beautiful dreams for her life. About how she’ll meet plenty of resistance because life is fucking messy sometimes. About how she’ll need guidance from me, but also a chance to fly on her own.

So many journeys ahead for this tiny girl of mine.

As she snuffled in her sleep, I started sending blessings into the future for her. I wished for her to persevere through hardship, to approach life with joy, for ease in her chosen path, and for love.

Lots and lots of love.

The kind of honest, authentic, I-can-be-my-most-undone-uncensored-self-and you-won’t-flinch love. Love in all forms, in all her relationships. Supportive, unwavering love.

As I was rocking and thinking, I realized my wishes for YOU are the same.

The support to dream your big dreams, guidance to navigate your journey, grit to do the work, joyful perspective to be present to the small gifts, ease to prioritize your true desires, and love.

Lots and lots of love.

Expansive, crazy-huge-but-gentle, let-me-witness-all-sides-of-you love.

That’s why I do my most important work within the yearlong container of the Elevate Mastermind.

I get to help make my wishes for you come true.

And I get to love up on you all year long.


I believe in Synchronicity.

Have you been waiting for this?

I’ve been waiting for you.

I created Elevate Mastermind because after being in business for 6 years, I have amazing clients and Tribe sisters who are ready for the next step.

You’re not in crisis anymore.

You have an amazing sense of who you are and a growing sense of what you want. You’re starting to get the phrase, “Just do the work.” You’re starting to question your own self-imposed limits. You’re itching for a chance adventure, to create, to dig in.

You understand that in order to truly shine, your inside attitudes and desires need to be in alignment with your outside actions.

(click to tweet)

What you lack is the like-minded company with whom you can be utterly honest.  You lack long-term high-level support with a mentor dedicated to your success.  And perhaps you lack a bit of motivation to keep doing the work, day after day, when the results aren’t immediately clear.

Those are the problems I’m solving by creating this group.

That is the kind of love I’m giving. 

Those are the dreams I’m supporting. 

This is not a business mastermind, concentrating on profit and online marketing (though we can totally jam on your biz if you like). This is not a church circle (though we do talk spirituality), book club (though we do read a lot of incredible books), networking conference (though you do make life long connections) or manifestation retreat (though we will create many miracles over the course of the year).

ELEVATE MASTERMIND is a group of women who understand the quest to find balance in ambition and acceptance, to find strength in our individuality and to find joy in the process.

It will be made up of women who come from all walks of life — some in business for themselves, some with high-level corporate jobs, some stay-at-home mamas, some going back to school, some partnered, some single, some pregnant — from Los Angeles to Calgary, Dallas to DC, Nebraska to New York City.

All are committed to dreaming, creating, and receiving the most incredible year ever.

You too? I’ve got 4 spots left for 2015.

Ready to make this dream a reality?

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Really looking forward to reading your application and testing my theory of synchronicity!

XOXO

 

Finding the Energy When You’re in No Mood: A Commuting Story That’s Not Really About Commuting

runnerLauren

I’m a car commuter, kind of but not exactly by choice. Mostly it’s not so bad, but occasionally the universe, traffic gods, and the approximately 8 billion other commuters on the road conspire to produce the Armageddon of drives. Inevitably this happens when the gas light has just come on and I also really need to pee.

 

A few weeks ago I was driving home, about 30 minutes into my typically 40-minute drive when traffic came to a dead stop. I pulled up Google maps and sure enough, that angry red line – not the one that’s just kind of red, the one that is really dark and menacing, the one that says you’d be better off abandoning your car and grabbing your switchblade because you’ve entered the Thunderdome – extended all the way from where I sat to my front door.

 

That day, my commute was an hour and a half. I arrived home exhausted, headachy, and in no mood to do anything except sit blankly in front of the television.

This story isn’t about commuting, though. You see, when I left the office I had big plans to go for a run. Let me just say that I hate exercising after work. It cuts into my free time, I have to shower twice, and I have the entire day to talk myself out of doing it. The only thing worse would be getting up at 5:00 am to run.

Let me also say that I do not particularly like running. Despite having run my first half marathon earlier this year, I still feel slow and out of breath every time I hit the treadmill. The mythical runner’s high has bypassed me completely. I do it because it’s free and it’s the most efficient way for me to work up a good sweat in a short amount of time. The only real benefit I’ve found (besides the obvious benefits of cardiovascular exercise) is that running doesn’t leave much brain space to think about things that are bothering me. I’m too busy focusing on staying conscious. And vertical.

I digress. On this day of the epic traffic jam, exercise didn’t stand a chance. Like I said – no mood. I skipped my run.

 

Cut to me later that evening. I was feeling anxious, panicky, and overly emotional for no reason I could identify. My chest felt tight and I knew I was on the verge of tears. The drive home had left me with this overwhelming sense that I was running out of time. Like, in my life. Yes, I conflated my hour-plus traffic jam with what is probably 60 more years of lifetime and thought, “My God, I’m wasting my entire life in the car and when will everything else get done??” It was an existential crisis-y sort of commute.

But guess what? This story isn’t about running either.

It’s about doing the things that are good for you even when – ESPECIALLY when – you are in no mood.

It’s about trusting the plan and the process, and staying the course even when obstacles appear in your path.

It’s about doing the thing that feels most loving and healing even when that thing feels like the last thing you want to do.

For me – that day in that situation – the most loving thing I could have done for myself would have been going for a run. Instead of giving in to my frustration and fatigue, I should have pulled on my stretchy big girl pants, laced up my shoes, and walked out the door. I only realized later (always two steps behind, I am) that if I had summoned the energy to sweat it out for 30 minutes, I could have distanced myself from the traffic clusterfuck, taken a deep breath or 100, and felt good about choosing something healthy and healing.

 

It may not be running for you – and it isn’t always for me. Sometimes the most loving thing really is pajamas and ice cream in front of the TV. But I’m learning to distinguish between ignoring my responsibilities because I truly need to step back and recharge versus ignoring them because I can’t be bothered.

So go on the run. Eat the spinach. Schedule that appointment. Check one task off your to-do list. Take one step in the direction of your dreams.

It’s the most loving thing you can do for yourself, and you might be surprised: that thing that you didn’t have the energy for just might give you energy.

 

LaurenHeadShotWITH LOVE FROM

Lauren, Gender Studies Buff, and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Lauren is a lifelong learner, a Broadway musical enthusiast, a chocoholic, and a recovering perfectionist. She is also a Women’s and Gender Studies buff and building community with like-minded ladies is her jam. She is thrilled to have the privilege of participating in Elevate 2014 and to cheer on this group of truly impressive individuals as they kick ass and take names. You’ll find her on Capitol Hill with her husband Sam and her spunky Cavalier Bess Truman.

Babies Don’t Come With Instructions

 

EranNoInstructions

By the time this post publishes, my little boy will be 18 months old.  18 months!!!

It’s like being stuck in a bizarre time warp.  On the one hand, I cannot imagine my life without him in it – it feels like he’s always been here.  On the other hand, I’m in total disbelief that it’s only been a year and a half, and we have all managed to actually survive with our sanity and all appendages intact.

When you leave the hospital with a newborn baby, no one hands you an instruction booklet on how to keep this little person alive.  Yes, the nurse sat us down with a checklist of basic, common-sense-type things that she needed to review with us before we left (don’t forget to bathe your baby, make sure you feed him, let him sleep, use a car seat, blah, blah, blah), but that was about it.

Which is odd because the last time we purchased a laptop computer, we left the store with more instructions that we knew what to do with.  And a giant, thick manual. And two extended warranties. And a 24-hour helpline. And a comprehensive return policy.

 

When we left the hospital with a TINY HUMAN BEING, we left with nothing but optimism, instincts and a shit-ton of love.

 

Sure, you can buy all the books (my stash included The Happiest Baby on the Block, The Wonder Weeks, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, Parenting from the Inside Out, And Baby Makes Three, The Vaccine Book – all of which I referred to continuously and religiously for months). You can belong to all the online parenting forums, and Google the shit out of every last burp, spit-up, cry and monster-nap-marathon.  You can ask every mom-friend you have, or call your own mother (or, heaven forbid, your mother-in-law).

But I’m here to tell you, from experience, this only made me feel completely insane, relatively useless and utterly confused.

And so, for those of you with new babies, or who are considering having babies, I’m about to bestow upon you, the greatest piece of advice I can possibly give you.  The only advice you will ever really need, and I wish someone had given it to me (actually – they probably did, I just didn’t listen….so LISTEN).

The reason that babies don’t come with an instruction manual is because….

wait for it……

Every. Baby. Is. Different. 

Furthermore, every toddler is different. Every child is different.  And – surprisingly – every person  (mama, parent, human being on this planet) is also different.

I had NO idea how many decisions I would need to make when it came to bringing this child into the world.  Should I have an epidural or go drug-free? Will I breastfeed or formula feed? If I introduce a bottle too early, will he get nipple confusion? Should I vaccinate?  Is it safe to sleep train my baby?  Will crying-it-out make him feel abandoned? What daycare should I choose? Or would it be better to be a stay-at-home mom? How much TV can he watch? What about time-outs?

 OH. MY. GOD.

Yeah, no one tells you about HUNDREDS of decisions you will have to make, and continue to have to make as this little person grows up.  But everyone will tell you what they did with their own kid, and why it’s the best thing to do, and how such-and-such a study backs it up, which leaves you feeling like if you don’t do exactly what said person did with their kid, then you are somehow obviously going to completely fuck up your own kid for the rest of his or her life. ($%&^%#!!!!)

IT’S NOT TRUE.

 

Let’s all say it together – Every kid is different. Every mama is different.

(Click To Tweet)

 

So, yeah, I had an epidural. I breast-fed and formula-fed. We introduced bottles on day two and never dealt with nipple confusion. We vaccinated. We sleep trained. We cried-it-out (both me and the baby – ha!). He went to daycare. He watches Sesame Street and Jimmy Fallon’s barbershop quartet videos.  And I have used time-outs for discipline.

And 18 months later, my kid is still alive and healthy and happy. Huh.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  Because my kid isn’t the same as your kid, or my sister’s kid, or your sister’s kid, or ANYONE’s kid.

That’s the thing – my Macbook computer is pretty much the same as every other Macbook computer of the same make and model.  I can count on that instruction manual to have all the answers because each laptop is basically identical.

Not so with a kid.

The joy of not being given an instruction manual with a newborn is that you get to write your own book.  You get to listen to your gut and your instincts.  You get to collect information and make educated decisions. Your child gets to be his- or herself, and you get to learn new things about them every single day.

 

That stuff can’t be found in a book. That stuff can only be found in the optimism, instincts and shit-ton of love that you left the hospital with. No manual required

 

Eran - Stratejoy picWITH LOVE FROM

Eran, Photographer, Risk-Taker, 2014 Elevate Sister

Upon taking a leap of faith and quitting her “grown-up” job in 2007, Eran has spent the last 7 years conquering fears, exploring options and checking off all the “to-do’s” on her life list.  A true Renaissance soul, Eran is not satisfied doing just any one thing. Photographer, singer, music-arranger, Sound of Music enthusiast, writer, micro-manager, traveller, French-speaker, dreamer, wine-drinker, risk-taker, and most recently, mama to a gorgeous and giggly little boy – these are just a few of the titles Eran wears on a regular basis. Eran can be found on Twitter @eranjayne.

 

There are No Magical Answers and 3 Questions Worth the Work

There are No Magical Answers and 3 Questions Worth the Work

I’m sorry to break it to you, love, but there are no magical answers.

You’re stuck because you keep waiting for the path to be illuminated from above. You’re stuck because you’re looking for the way forward to be labeled steps one through ten, for the breakthrough to be found in the very next book you read, for the certainty to be bestowed upon you by an expert.

I know how it feels — wanting someone wiser, with more experience, with the magical gift of future insight, to give you the answer.

Wanting someone to tell you exactly what to do when you are bogged down in your own negativity or helplessness or overwhelm.

Are they the one? Or is there someone better out there?

Is this the job should you apply for? Will you love it more than your current gig? 

Are you ready to have kids? Will it be too late if you put it off for a few more years?

What do you need to do to radically grow your business? Should you invest in PR or different branding or that expensive marketing course?

And beneath those concerns are the deeper questions… 

The questions for which you’re really craving assurance and advice.  The questions that matter the most to your well lived and fully loved life. The questions you should be cultivating because knowing the answers will help you make decisions about any of the inquiries above.

Let me repeat myself.

There are no magical answers.

But there are hard-fought trial-and-error answers. There are answers simply found when you get silent and receive. There are answers that come to you through an open heart, gentle curiosity, or a willingness to get comfortable with uncertainty.

Ready to dig in?  I’d start with these questions.  


Who are you if you give up your clenched fist of perfection?

(click to tweet this question)

That clenched fist keeps you locked in a sea of mediocrity — too afraid to fail, which in turn, makes you too afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Even if that very comfort zone causes tears every Monday morning or locked in a loveless marriage, it’s still your comfort zone.

You tell yourself that nothing is worth doing if you can’t do it perfectly, but that is a story built on lies.

And it’s the very story that is keeping you unhappy.

There are a gazillion things worth doing even if you’re not doing them perfectly.

In fact, many those things become more exquisite, more memorable, more real, when they are far, far from perfect.

Running in the rain. Writing your novel. Eating peaches on a summer day’s walk with your best friend. Burrowing your face in your lover’s shoulder. Collapsing into a snow bank with eyelashes coated in snowflakes.  Holding your newborn baby for the first time.

Dancing. Singing. Being naked. Trusting someone with your tender heart. Allowing someone to trust you with theirs.

Trying something new. Trying something so old, so forgotten, that it feels new again.

Wildly failing at something, but with the gut deep knowledge that you gave it your all.

Perfection is a trap. 

It keeps you from experiencing joy in the journey.


Who are if you admit you want something more?

(click to tweet this question)

What if you stopped sabotaging your own desires with wishy washy motivation and negligible follow through?  What if you stopped preparing yourself for the worst?

You jump so quickly to comfort yourself, to keep yourself protected by dreaming small, sure that it will hurt more if you swing big and miss.

But at least swinging and missing means you’re trying.

At least swinging and missing means you’re stretching your current view of your capabilities (which are fucking limitless by the way.)

Wanting more doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for what you have. It doesn’t mean you don’t love those who are close to you. It doesn’t mean you look down on others who are content with their current situation.

It just means you’re outgrowing the limits you’ve placed on your own life.

Playing small is a trap.

It keeps you from experiencing trust in your strength.


Who are you if you tell the truth?

(click to tweet this question)

The truth that is neither tidy nor kind. The kind of truth that is going to break someone’s heart or shatter the illusion of the perfect life or upend every accomplishment for which you’ve worked so damn hard.

What would happen if you told the truth that you’ve only trusted to your journal in vague terms and blanket statements, because even writing it down for yourself is nerve wracking?  Nerve wracking, and bitterly sad, and incredibly freeing all at the same time.

Living a life of unspoken truths will never fully be yours.

Speaking the truth and trusting that you can handle the aftermath is the only choice. As much as you want to ignore it, stuff it down, pretend that inconvenient truth isn’t there — the feeling of being out of alignment will never leave.

Untold truths will always lurk beneath the surface of otherwise lovely moments.

Lying to yourself is a trap.

It keeps you from experiencing the peace of integrity.


These big questions, these questions that ask you to define yourself can only be answered by you.

There are no magical answers and there are no greater experts on your life than you.

But the work you do in honor of your own joy, your own alignment, your own journey — it’s all worth it.

Thinking of you, sweet one.

I don’t have the answers, but I do have faith in you and your ability to find them.

XOXO

Molly-Sig211

For Now You’re Doing Exactly What You Should Be Doing

CarlyDoYou

Sometimes all we need is a reminder. A sign that we need to chill out and just keep going. Quit overanalyzing everything because what will happen, will happen. And it will be great.

I was sitting in my Thursday evening Summer class, lazily typing notes on my computer while the professor droned on, when a group iMessage from my Mom popped onto my screen.

 

She and my father had just redone their back deck and had been anxiously awaiting the delivery of their new fire pit. After three weeks of delays, it finally arrived and she sent a photo letting us know.

 

I felt that familiar pang of jealousy over the fact that I was sitting in a classroom on a beautiful Summer night while my mother sat on her new back deck enjoying a glass of wine and a dancing fire. Blah.

Just then, my Mom’s best friend chimed in with a joke about what a shame it was that the wine glass in the picture looked half empty, and look at what she’s doing this evening. What followed was a photo of a beautiful sunset on the beach of their South Carolina home. Double blah.

In an effort to one-up them (ha!) I chimed in that I was officially jealous of them and explained that I was sitting in a boring class listening to a classmate’s presentation about Egypt’s economy. He read every. Single. Word. On his presentation slides.

Just then, my Mom’s friend messaged me privately:
     Friend: “I am sooo sorry to hear of your dilemma. Completely understand

                 though. I’ve been there. Hang in…… Xoxo”

     Me: “Haha it’s not that bad in general. Just bad relative to what you guys are
            doing!”
     Friend: “I understand. Someday you’ll do the same, but for now you’re doing

                exactly what you should be doing!!”

Pause.
Oh my goodness.

Yes. I am.

I am doing exactly what I should be doing.

I’m 28 years old, working full-time and working towards two Master’s degrees in grad school on a part-time basis. I’m helping to empower young professional women in my city through our Levo League chapter. I’m trying my hardest to be the best daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, and pet-mama I can be. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.

Instead of getting jealous that I wasn’t enjoying my own glass of wine and fire pit, or my own beautiful sunset on the beach, I stashed those experiences on my “Life To-Do” list and made a promise to myself to be there at some point in my life.

But first, it’s time to enjoy the now. To bask in doing exactly what I should be doing.


CarlyHeadshotWITH LOVE FROM

Carly, Do-er, self-push-er, and Elevate 2014 Sister Carly is a do-er and activator who lives by the phrase, “Don’t you ever wonder how far you can push yourself?” She pushes herself daily by working towards her concurrent MA/MBA degree, leading the Pittsburgh Local Levo chapter and competing as a flourishing tenor drummer in a competition bagpipe band all while holding down a full time job. Her free time (haha!) is spent snuggling with her doggie-child, Nessie, connecting with others on Twitter (@carlyraepgh) and binge-watching HBO and Netflix with a glass (or bottle…) of wine..

Running a Business as a Work at Home Mama

Running a Business as a Work from Home Mother

I run a successful coaching practice from home. I have a two year old (Max) and a four month old (Juliet.) I have a nanny working 20-30 hours a week. I have a supportive awesome husband.

And I am totally wearing slippers and yoga pants right now.

Want to know how it all comes together?

Watch the video.

(and click to tweet!)

I created this video for Kate at Your Courageous Life for a book she is compiling about running a business and raising babies!

I did my best to honestly answer the questions she posed about guilt, time management, support and priorities in my own world.

As soon as she release the free book, I’ll link it up!

I wanted you to see the real deal, so I didn’t do anything differently for this video than I do in my daily routine — this is the wet hair, 2 minute make up (bb cream, mascara, and burts bees tinted chapstick) and still unpacked office that is typical of my work-at-home status. My nanny, Tawny, took the kids to the park so I could get through this without interruption (as she does often!) otherwise we might have had a surprise visit from a red-cheeked toddler with his helmet on needing a hug or a screeching hungry baby girl needing the boob.

Funny how vulnerable I feel doing video without the right lighting, make up, and full night of sleep.

But for you mamas out there, I didn’t want to pretend that things were any different then they are.

And right now, I still need to pack for our 3 week trip to Washington, coach an Elevate Mastermind Client, make dinner, figure out where my car tabs are, confirm reservations for a night at the spa with my sister and mom, and book flights to Asheville.

I’m prioritizing getting this less-than-glamourous video posted instead of worrying that you’re all going to judge me for being a bit disheveled.

Everyone’s version of “doing it all” is unique — I hope you enjoy this intimate glimpse into mine.

XOXO

Molly-Sig211

p.s. We are still experimenting with my hair color… I’m trying to return to my natural dark dirty blonde and I keep ending up a red head as the brunette lifts. If anyone has tips for me, please share!

The Truth About Finding Your Own Thing

RiseAndBe

When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up their answers are endearing. Fast forward and ask a twenty-something and it’s more like cue all the anxiety. At what point in life does the question of what you want to be start being followed by an uncomfortable “No seriously…” (never mind that what we do somehow became who we are).

Is it when you’re a fresh-faced 18 year-old off to conquer the world and your parents are a little overly excited about your future (AKA regaining their financial independence)? Is it during your first interview when you’re asked where you see yourself in 5 years? Or is it when someone innocently asks you as a way to cue up conversation? Either way, it’s pretty obvious that while “superhero” is cute at 5 years old, it’s unacceptable when you hit double digits.

I always had it in my mind that when I found my calling in life I would just know (Hint: It’s not after the so-called quarter life crisis, which I now believe just merges into the mid-life crisis, then maybe ends?…Anyone? Anyone?).

Being easily distracted by all the bright, shiny things, it was important for me to believe that if I kept looking I would finally find it. So when I was down on myself for feeling like I’d been chasing something that didn’t fit yet again, Molly asked me what I thought it felt like to “find your thing”. How did I think all these people I’ve identified as “doing their thing” feel about it?

I imagined it to be like finding “The One”.  That when found, these successful, happy, owning it entrepreneurs must feel connected and passionate, just bursting with creative awesomeness every day. That they’re living life turned “on”.

Obviously I’m very realistic with my idea of finding your thing.

The problem was drawing a comparison to every one else’s highlight reel and brainwashing myself into thinking there really is only one thing I’m meant to do with my life. Both fallacies set me up for failure.

 Because comparison is the thief of all joy, y’all (insert all the quotes).

But more importantly, who says we’re meant to be only one thing? The reality is that all of us have hundreds of skills, passions and definitions of who we are and what we want to do throughout our lives. It would be obscenely boring if there was truly only one perfectly defined checkbox of who we’re meant to be, a box that we are expected to discover sooner rather than later in life. This idea is just begging to welcome all kinds of dissatisfaction. And while a healthy does of dissatisfaction can be good, that’s only if it’s served with an equally healthy dose of self-love.

It’s important to acknowledge this unrest as the pursuit of evolution, not definition.

If you feel like you don’t know your next move, much less what you want to do with your life, rather than feeling dejected or giving up, use this as a reminder your path is meant to be evolving. Let go of the belief that you have to find “your thing” and instead embrace your “thing for right now”. Spend time discovering who you want to be and trust it will lead you to what you’re meant to do.

A great exercise Molly uses to open our hearts and minds to who we are is to free write without stopping, editing or judging for one minute. We write as if someone were to give an introduction to who we are. Next set the timer for another minute and rewrite the introduction, but this time not using any of the definitions included in the previous example. Then again. And again until you start to feel comfortable accepting your own limitless potential.

I love this exercise because I can feel myself start to shift and expand the mold I’ve subconsciously been using to restrict myself. It takes the pressure and stress from trying to pick this one great path and gives us permission to fully immerse ourselves in the path of right now. At the same time it allows us to acknowledge the many paths we may want to explore, permitting them to be opportunities we may tap into in the future, or even to use as guideposts that help our next thing emerge.

 So go ahead, this is your permission to grab a pen and paper and just be.

 

 

Mallory200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Mallory, soon-to-be-mama and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Mallory is a dreamer, a seeker of inspiration and curator of life’s beauty. A researcher by day, professional pinner by night, she’s often distracted by shiny things and has marked 2014 as the year to end her 90% completion streak starting with giving birth to Zee Shrimpress and launching the first addition to her multrepreneur portfolio – a luxury baby boutique – because who doesn’t love ridiculously cute, tiny things?  When not honing her mad visualization skills with Zee Hubs, she can be found celebrating a circular life in Los Angeles with Puffin Muffin (puppy) and Skittler (cat).

The Joy of Surprising Yourself – and Others – with Who You Really Are

Surprising

This past weekend, at almost 35 weeks pregnant, I drove to Vancouver for the SeaWheeze Half Marathon and walked 13.1 miles.

Was this planned? No.

Did I train for it? No.

What happened was I got up Thursday morning, decided to try and walk 5 miles, and when I did so successfully, I figured I might as well give the half marathon course a shot. Maybe I’d get 7 miles in and have a story to tell my son someday: “I didn’t walk the whole thing, buddy,” I’d say, showing him a picture of me at mile-marker 7, “but I did show up and I put forth my best effort. And that’s what’s most important.”

And yeah, I do believe that’s true. Just showing up can be—for me, at least—the hardest part. I signed up for this race back in January, before I even knew this little life would be accompanying every step I take. When I found out I was pregnant, I knew my plans of running were shot. Even the thought of walking it? Crazy talk.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been the cautious, look-before-you-leap, rule-following type.

Even as a child, I wanted things to be black and white and as painless as possible. The idea of walking a half marathon (at 8 months pregnant) is not something that jibes well with my personality…at all. First, you’re supposed to train to RUN a half marathon. Who wants to be the girl walking at the back? Not only that – is walking even ALLOWED?

I was worried I might get in trouble. (I kid you not; this is how my brain works.) Second, pregnant women (especially in the third trimester) are supposed to take it easy. What if I gave birth in the middle of Stanley Park? What if all this childbirthing prep with my team of midwives was for naught and my sweet little boy was welcomed into the world by an Australian medic on a bicycle who doesn’t know the first thing about labor? (Ok, that’s cheating, I didn’t imagine this person beforehand, she’s actually someone I met on the course…who told me to please not give birth along the sea wall of Stanley Park because she was not trained in midwifery.) And third, walking from the house to the car is enough to make my pelvic bones sigh in agony. Why would I put myself through the pain?

Well, the simple answer, I think, is because I woke up on Saturday morning believing I could walk a long distance and be safe. Believing I could breathe through the pain. Believing this was something I had to try, if only to prove to myself that I have the courage to try something I never before would have believed I could do.

The more complex answer has to do with the matter of childbirth. Um, hello – that’s happening in less than five weeks. This body has to give birth to a tiny human (with, we are assuming, a rather large head, given the size of his parents’ skulls, Lord help me). I’ve always known I wanted to have kids, but when it came to the subject of birthing said kids, I always chose the route of denial, the route of “yeah, well, I guess we’ll deal with that when the time comes…” Well, friends, the time is upon us. This kid is coming whether I’m ready or not.

And sadly, when it comes to pain, I’m kind of a wuss. I prefer the terms “low pain threshold” or “highly sensitive person,” but who are we kidding, I cry when I stub my toe and want my husband to kiss it (my husband, a physician trained in emergency medicine, does not, in fact, kiss my boo-boos, which is probably best for the both of us). Once, when I was three, I tripped on the sidewalk, skinned both my knees, scared the neighbors with my screams, and very earnestly asked my mother if I was, in fact, going to die. This is what we’re dealing with here.

So, anytime the topic of childbirth came up between my mom and me, the message was clear: there’s no shame in getting an epidural.

And thank goodness for my mom’s wisdom, because I still hold that statement to be true. There is no shame in any way a woman chooses to give birth to her child. Only she knows her body and her history, and I am not one to judge either way.

But here’s the thing: when I first got pregnant, I was pretty convinced on the day of labor I’d march into the hospital and demand the drugs: “Give them to me now and do with me what you will!” The sentiment was just get this dang thing out of me. But I have to tell you, over the past 8 months, something has changed within me. Spending time with this new little love and watching my body metamorphose into a living, breathing cocoon for his body to be knit together has been the most beautiful, empowering thing. (I know, I know – some of you are probably humming “pregnant women are smug” right about now, and I’m SORRY. I really am. You can skip this part if you like.)

The more I get to know this new body of mine and the more I read about birthing and breathing and the beautiful design of a woman’s body to bring new life into the world, the more confidence I have that I CAN DO THIS. No longer do I want to march in and throw my life and the baby’s life exclusively into the hands of a doctor. I want to be an active participant, working with my midwife and team of nurses to create the best environment we can to facilitate the birth of my son.

But friends, I will be the first to tell you that this does not necessarily mean I will give birth without drugs. Or that I won’t end up with a C-section. Or that I will be disappointed in myself if I do march in and demand the needle just as soon as the anesthesiologist can get his butt in gear, any more than I would have been on Saturday if I had walked 5 or 7 miles rather than 13. Medical interventions and the care of good doctors are not something to be ashamed of, nor is non-medicated birth an issue of courage over fear. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But for me, it’s an opportunity to try something I never thought I would, or could. And I think I want to take it.

My word this year was “Flourish,” and the main sentiment behind the choice was that I wanted to lean into being more of who I truly am, unafraid of surprising or disappointing others if I acted or spoke in ways they aren’t accustomed to. And while I have to chuckle at the reaction some family members have had in the wake of some of my decisions (mostly pride mixed with disbelief), what’s even more illuminating is the way I have continued to surprise myself.

As introspective as I am, I thought I knew myself pretty well (INFJ, Enneagram 4, harmony-seeking koala FTW!). But in the past few months I’ve heard myself saying “I might be a crazy person, but I think I might try to….” more times than I’ve ever said in my entire lifetime (even more times than during my semester abroad in Sydney, which included skydiving, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, camping in the outback, and kissing Midwestern boys, just so we are clear). For some reason I feel it’s necessary to add a disclaimer to all I’m attempting to accomplish as crazy in their scope, apologizing, almost, for taking the path less expected. And yet I am deeply, passionately committed to seeing what kinds of creative solutions I can come up with to accomplish all that is burning in my soul.

But maybe I’m not crazy.

Maybe I am more ambitious than I ever knew.

Maybe I just hadn’t tapped into the things that were most important to me.

And most beautiful?

Maybe I don’t need to apologize for who I am and who I am becoming: a baby-toting, grad-school attending mama with a book manuscript stirring within her.

(Click to Tweet)

I tend to believe that God created each one of us uniquely with the opportunity to grow more into who we are meant to be, if only we stop holding on so tightly to what or who we think we are supposed to be, or what the world wants from us. It’s so clear to me that this year has been one of awakening, of pushing boundaries, of opening doors, and of continually asking the question, “Well, why not?”

Because maybe, just maybe, sometimes just showing up with an open mind and open heart are all you need to finish that race.

 

WITH LOVE FROM

ECurlettElevate (1)

Erin, Adventurer, Storyteller, and Army Wife

Erin grew up in three different countries, leading her to embrace her role as a third culture kid: she loves airports, hates small talk, and feels more at home in a book than in any specific place. Lover of peppermint tea, alpine slides, Stephen King novels, hot yoga, Cadbury chocolate, and karaoke; devoted yet sometimes reluctant follower of Jesus; she lives with her husband, Tim, and their crazy ragamuffin cat, Opal, in a charming blue house in Tacoma, WA. Watch out: she’s bitey (the cat, not Erin).