Un-Masking

Honesty.

Vulnerability.

Authenticity.

We hear these words thrown around quite a bit. Maybe it’s just in my world, but I am guessing if you stop by these parts they are in your world as well. Maybe, like me, they are values you hold in high regard, values you seek to embody.

I don’t want to give you another post about how the world needs YOU, the authentic you. I don’t want to spend too much time reminding you (and me) that all your vulnerable places are beautiful, or that your vulnerability brings freedom, that it shakes the world up. I don’t want to go on for paragraphs about how the only way to be fully known and embraced by others and by God is for you to invite them in to embrace your true self, all the dirt and grit and flowers of it. (Okay, when I say I don’t want too, that is not true, I want to, I could go on for days really. But I am pretty sure you know all this already.)

What I want to do, is be honest with you about something I have seen in myself, maybe something within you too.

It almost seems like vulnerability is trendy right now doesn’t it?  We wear our flaws like badges of honor, present them on instagram with clever captions and a funny photo. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it. I would much rather live in a world where it is okay to be flawed, to be broken and human and share in that with others than a world that insists on shaming our imperfections and hiding. Also I don’t dare believe we have this vulnerability thing down, there is still a long way to go.

But I have noticed something… slimy, sneaky, ugly, in me as vulnerability becomes the cool thing. I guess you could call it a new mask, one with just the right amount of manipulation to make it stick real well. As I sit here trying to put a name to it, I can think of no better way to put it than to say that the very thing I seek to be has become a mask itself.

“Hello, I am Megan and I hide behind vulnerability and honesty.”

“But that’s a contradiction Meg, how can that possibly be?”

Well, have you ever found yourself being just vulnerable enough, just honest enough, just authentic enough. You know, just enough that the people around you are impressed by your “bravery” that they wouldn’t believe that there is any more to the story because “look at how raw that was?”

Like when I talk about how I struggle with body image. That is authentic and real, and it sure takes bravery to be honest about it. But often I will digress into all the ways the world imposes rigid beauty standards and all these other lofty things that are true, but I won’t tell you about the things that I think of myself when I am having a down day, I won’t reach out to you for help when I am at a particularly low moment. But you see, I was vulnerable enough back there that you wouldn’t think twice that there is more to the story, because I am “so vulnerable” that I would have told you on my own right?

That is only one of a million examples.

My thoughts on this might surprise you. Maybe it just surprises me because I am an all or nothing kind of gal. See, I don’t think the answer is to go wild with vulnerability, to share all your deepest darkest with the whole world. I think that the “vulnerable enough” place is not all bad. I think that “vulnerable enough” still shifts things, it still pushes the bigger picture in the right direction, you know? Also, I believe there is something to be said for sacredness and safety. The real point of all these ramblings is to encourage self awareness, to make me (and hopefully you too) recognize the places where you are choosing “just enough” when you should be going wild crazy all the way real. The world of social media or every person you have a conversation with may not be safe for all the depths of your honesty, but I am willing to bet there are a handful of people who are.

Don’t hold back on them.

Choose reckless vulnerability before them. Choose telling the personal, ugly, shameful, details of your hurts. Choose walking with them through the unfinished process, not just the hard moments you have wrapped up on your own. Choose bringing the dark places to light with them.

You know what else, chose to be that safe person. Free your closest to be in process. Let them make mess of your shoulder with sloppy wet tears. Let them rejoice over victories big and small.

Take that mask off friend, the air out there sure is sweet.

Being On Purpose

Maybe you have noticed things have been a little sparse around here. More Monday’s have passed without a post than I want to be honest with myself about (and I will just casually gloss over the fact that it is now Tuesday…) Oh and remember the good old days when I was posting workouts? That was a great five minutes wasn’t it?

Here we are at another week, and to be totally honest, I started writing feeling entirely uninspired. The idea of writing a post felt way more like an obligation than a joyful desire. I had a real urge to just say “screw it” again this week, to play the “oh well, how many people even notice” soundtrack in my head.

As the mind loop started, something in me decided to stop, slow down and ask myself a few things. Why am I feeling this way and what do I need to do about it?

You know what I realized? I have lost sight of the vision, have totally neglected the intention of this thing, and surprise surprise, chasing the wrong purpose has me tapped out.

I began this experiment with the purpose of exploring, processing, trying new things and sharing what lights my heart up. Somehow, over a short few months I have been treating this as though the goal was to be a “blogger” to find a niche and get myself in it. I have been treating it like the intention was to post for your approval, for your attention. I mean, sure, if there wasn’t any desire for this to help you somehow I wouldn’t be doing this thing publicly, but that intention to help and encourage got twisted into a desire for praise and “likes.”

This isn’t really about the blog though. It started there, but asking myself that why question made me realize just how critical setting (and sticking to) your intentions is.

News flash, life is freaking hard (she says with extreme sarcasm directed at herself). When we set out to do something, anything, there will be obstacles to overcome, decisions to make, and days when you just. don’t. wanna. In those moments, intentions guide you, they fill the gap.

When your purpose is clear, and that purpose is valuable to you, obstacles become much less daunting. Or, if you find those obstacles consistently being too much, perhaps that purpose is not valuable to you, then you know it’s time to think about making a change. Perhaps the whole endeavor should be scrapped, or like me, the obstacles feel overwhelming because the methods aren’t matching the purpose.

When your intentions are set, you can stand your options up against them, and make the choice for what lines up best. Should I stick to one specific niche on this blog? If my purpose is approval and blog-o-sphere success, absolutely. If my purpose is trying new things and sharing my passions, that doesn’t seem so important.

Clear intentions become the bootstraps you pull yourself up by on the “I don’t wanna” days. Like when I just would rather not work out, I remember the purpose is to be healthy in mind body and soul, so I can ask myself why. Why do you not wanna wittle baby girl? (Just kidding about the baby stuff, try to have compassion for yourself mmkay.) Am I just in a mood, or does my body need rest? If I am in a mood, skipping the lift sesh doesn’t meet my purpose, but if my body needs rest, you bet I am taking it because whole health is the point!

So I am going to ask you, what is your intention?

What is the intention in your friendship/dating relationship/marriage? Are you thinking about it in the middle of that argument? Are you fulfilling it?

What is your goal in your work? Is what you are doing and the way you go about it the best way?

What is the heart behind your side hustle? Does your effort ignite that flame?

What is the point of your faith/spirituality? Is your practice in alignment?

What are your health goals and why? Do you consider them when you chose a workout, or go grocery shopping?

I am going to get existential on you, brace yourself.
What is the intention of your life? Not the pieces that make up your life (like all the stuff up there), but the whole shebang? Do all those pieces align with that purpose?

You want in on my life purpose? I want to deeply love God and deeply love people. I want my life to be marked by authenticity, vulnerability, depth, and helpfulness.

So let’s bring it around shall we? I have been feeling self conscious about the all-over-the-place-ness of this blog, but the purpose is to explore and share what ignites passion in me, and you know what, that happens to be a whole bunch of all-over-the-place things. More importantly, in this season, doing the blog thing (when that purpose is squared up) is lined up with my life purpose. So, I will get myself back on track and keep on keeping on.

A note to my person, five years in

Five years.

If our marriage were a kid, that kid would be going to kindergarten this year, just starting school.

That feels about right.

Five years in, we have lived in more places and moved more boxes than I care to remember (but I will gratefully admit you took on many more boxes than me). We have traveled many miles, and have had some of our best conversations by the glow of the dashboard lights. We have explored new places and critiqued a good few coffee spots and eateries. We have celebrated birthdays and weddings and babies and end of the school years and a million small things in between.We have done a whole lot of life together. Gosh we were just babies five years ago. It really is a special blessing that we have gotten to grow up together, to find our place in the world side by side.

 

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We have discovered, explored, lost, and rediscovered passions and dreams. We have rejoiced on some mountaintops, wept in many valleys.

 

Yes, we have argued. Sometimes with voices too loud and with tears that left our eyes swollen and heads aching. Maybe that’s another thing we have done more times than I want to remember. Though if the last five years have taught me anything, those loud words and hot tears have some real power to grow our roots deep, to strengthen our love for each other, to teach us significant lessons, when we let them.

464908_455075161199133_452815303_oBut, all that we have seen, all that we have learned, all that we have grown, is just the beginning. There is just so much more to learn, so much room to grow, so much life to share. Sure five years is no small thing, but I have to be honest, I am giddy at the thought of what’s coming. So many adventures await us. Just like the last five, the next will certainly have some hardships. You know what though, I can’t think of anyone I would rather face them with. Even through the hardest moments, you are my person, my very best friend.  

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So here’s to the next five years and the rest of our lives, to more adventures, more dreams, and more growing. Bobby, you are the man of my dreams and the true love of my life, thanks for sticking it out with me.

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Photos curtesy of Rocksteady Images & Rooted & Crowned Photography

June Heart to Heart

Hello sweet friends. We are ten days into July and we haven’t caught up about June yet! My oh my the Fourth of July festivities really threw me for a loop, in the best way of course.

How was your June? Did you enjoy the start of summer? What have you been up to? Grab yourself a nice cold drink and lets chat.

The Highs

You can call me The Godmother
Hubby and I have upgraded from Aunt and Uncle to Godmother and Godfather! We are so honored. We took a weekend trip to Buffalo, and when we walked into my parents house we, obviously, beelined it for Kinsley who was decked out in this super sweet onesie, asking us to take on the job!

Ty’s Graduation
One of my besties finished up his degree at NYU. Seriously I could not be prouder of him and Mariah for all that they accomplished as a team. I am in awe of how they sacrifice for each other.

Working an emotionally tough job is not easy. Going to college and maintaining a killer GPA is not easy. Doing all of that with your best friend 300 miles away is damn near impossible. They are heroes.

We had an incredible time celebrating him and reuniting with old friends. Not to mention Mariah is a kick-butt party planner.

The Lows

Stranger danger
June is a freaking hard month for teachers and their families. Hubby was busy with school trips, dances, graduation, retirements and all the parties. It is great fun, but it keeps us pretty disconnected. Don’t worry though, we had a little getaway the beginning of July to reconnect.

Moving
We said goodbye to our place on Pine and high tailed it for Bergen County at the end of the month. Seriously moving is absolutely the worst activity. We spent the entire month packing up slowly and moving a car load of boxes just about every weekend. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for family and friends that help us so selflessly. I am excited and hopeful for this next season, but we have really loved Montclair, so it was hard to say goodbye.

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Side note to compound the sadness, we spent our last day celebrating Montclair by going to all of our favorite places (this of course was not sad, in fact it was wonderful). The number one place on our list was The Corner, our favorite breakfast/brunch spot on Walnut street. Imagine the sound of our hearts crushing when we realized they were closed for a week of vacation. Womp womp.

 

What I Read

Women, Food, and God – Geneen Roth
I was wanting so much more from this book. I had read Breaking Free From Emotional Eating, and learned so much that I had high hopes for Women, Food, and God. Unfortunately it was less informational and more story telling. Perhaps if I had expected that I would have enjoyed it more. If food psychology is interesting to you, I would skip this one and go for Breaking Free From Emotional Eating.

Wonder Women – Sam Maggs
This one on my summer reading list. I am going to be honest, I didn’t read cover to cover, but thumbed through the women who’s stories caught my eye. Maggs is witty and relatable in her story telling, which made for a fun read.

What I Watched

Master of None
So this was a little hit or miss for me. I adored that Aziz Ansari is unafraid of dealing with issues that are not discussed enough and with intellectual humor. But, there were a few ideas I just couldn’t get behind and some issues I wish he would have went further with. But all in all, worth a watch if your looking for a light hearted but still thought provoking.

What I Listened to

Invisibilia
This is a podcast I have loved for a while now, and this season did not disappoint. In general the ladies of Invisibilia deal with “the hidden forces that control human behavior” and this season was focused on how we perceive reality. Very interesting.

I also have not stopped listening to Chance. Your Welcome.

Some things I Loved

Packing plastic wrap. 
This is not a joke. If you are moving, this stuff will make the process so much easier. For. Real.

Chameleon Cold Brew
I am just about positive we would have killed each other moving without this sweet sweet medicine. Also, the vanilla. So. Good.

What I’m Looking Forward To

Summah, summah, summah time (which means all the trips to the beach, weekend getaways, and our 5 year anniversary!)

5 Tips for Conquering Negative Self Talk

Hello dear friends.

A few weeks ago we had a little chat about self talk and negativity. It was a good few weeks ago, so I wont blame you if you have to hop back to it for a refresher.

This week I want to get practical. It is one thing to recognize the danger of negative self talk, but what does that matter if we don’t do anything about it?`

1. Get grateful

Cultivating thankfulness gets us on the offensive against negativity. Looking for reasons to be grateful takes our attention and thought power away from the negativity and places it right on the positive. Research in positive psychology suggests that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” I don’t know about you, but when I am happier, I am a whole lot less negative, duh!

There are many ways to get grateful of course. Maybe you want to take the Ann Voskamp approach and find 1000 reasons, big or small as you go about your next few months, storing them up like little treasures. You could instagram, tweet, journal, facebook, or blog the things that make your heart sing with gratitude. Write a thank you note or send a text or email. Pray your thankfulness. My suggestion, try them all.

As for me, I have found it immeasurably helpful to start my day with a written practice of thankfulness. The act of writing slows me down, helps me to really dwell on it. Also, days when the negativity beast is there first thing in the morning, I have pages of little nudges toward all the good.

On the best days I light a nice candle and have a tasty beverage at my side (on most days its just a quick plop on the couch, because you know, bed) with my journal ready to write. Some days I can give it more than 5 minutes, other days thats all I have, either way, listing things I am thankful for in that moment sets my gaze on all the goodness around me.

P.S. The Five Minute Journal is a sweet little resources to get your hands on if you need some prompting.

2. Name your inner nag

[Warning, woo-woo up ahead, but I promise its worth it]

Often it seems to me like the hardest part of overcoming the negative talk is the fact that the inner voice of criticism feels engrained in me, like it is me. It is as though all those negative thoughts must be true because my mind is perceiving them and screaming them at me. But the thing is, the fuel for negative self talk and shame is your agreeing to it. And lets be honest, when the wheel of negativity starts turning, it can feel almost impossible to step off, and the more we let ourselves spin the more we are agreeing to.

So how do we get off you ask? Name that inner nag and have a little talking to. I call my inner bully Mean-meg (not the most creative I know, but I couldn’t pass up the alliteration) and when she starts getting in my head, I have a little talk. Here’s a chat that may or may not have played out only minutes ago:

“Wow Mean-meg, your really loud right now.”
“You are not smart enough to write this blog post Megan, these are still things you struggle with, you cant possibly think that you have any kind of authority to write about this”
“Mean-meg, what is making you so fired up about this, what are you trying to do here?”
“Well, I am afraid your going to be rejected, that your going to be embarrassed, and then you will feel bad.”
“Mhmm, well mean-meg, thanks for trying to protect me, but my experience is valid, and I am enough. Even if I am rejected by some, sharing my truth is empowering and the potential for growth outweighs the potential for harm.”

Giving your inner critic a name allows you to separate yourself, to get inquisitive about what he or she is saying to you without internalizing its words as truth.

Oo, this little conversation brings me to my next point;

3. Call it what it is

When you take a step back and get inquisitive with the inner voice of negativity, you can process and respond to it for what it is. In the little chat I had this morning(and every one I have with mean-meg), I Take some time to figure out what the motive is for all that nastiness. I have learned that its pretty rarely actually about being fat or stupid or whatever name, and is more often something totally different like fear or rejection. So, call it what it is, and speak the truth over it. Like mean Meg was trying to protect me, but the truth is, keeping me quiet is actually hurting much more.

Along these lines, it can be really helpful to spend some time journaling through your most consistent negative thoughts or narratives and processing what it is exactly your gaining from the negativity.

You read that right. What are you gaining from this negativity. When you can put your finger on that, you can speak truth over it and shut. it. down.

Heres an example, “you are a gigantic mass of wasted potential” (I am telling you guys, mean-meg is MEAN). What could I possibly gain from such a nasty thought? Well if I am honest, it gives me an excuse. I don’t have to try because I am just going to fail anyway, so I can just stay as I am and do nothing about it. But here is some truth now that I am aware of whats happening here; failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of the process. The truth is, the world is full of opportunities, and I am free to try whatever I want. The truth is, I am only wasted potential if I give up. The truth is, God has great plans for me, and He will complete what He begins.

Which reminds me;

4. Affirmations all day

Literally all. day. Write down the truths that counteract the negative thoughts, hang them on your mirror, repeat them in your mind. Memorize scripture and/or positive quotes. Dwell on the goodness of God, the world, yourself, and others. Let that become the new loop in your head.

Some of my favorites are

“God is good, and He has good things for me”

“I am a beautiful badass woman, capable and worthy of love success and friendship”

“I am Gods masterpiece, and He is using me to do mighty works”

Jeremiah 29:11

 

5. Treat yo self

Plain and simple, when you feel at peace and filled up, there is less space for negativity. Love yourself well, figure out what brings you joy and make space for it. Go for a walk, exercise, take a bath, play a sport, have coffee with a friend. Know what your self care needs are and do not negotiate on them.

Also, don’t underestimate the value of quietness and prayer in your self care practice. Stay connected to God, because He has nothing but good and beautiful things to say about you.

Flipping the Script

I have a feeling I am about to tell you something you have heard before.

I know I have heard it, read it, talked about it more times than I can count.

Somehow though, it hasn’t been until recently that I have actually started going after it, like really-truly-whole-hearted going after it. I guess something about the ump-teenth time finally sunk in.

So even if you’ve heard it all before, maybe this will be the final push for you too.

Lets chat about thoughts, your inner dialogue, self talk, whatever you call all the chatter in the wonderful mind of yours.

Take a second and ponder the thoughts that come up most often for you in a typical day. How about when I tell you to think about specific things like your personality, your value, things you are good at, things you are not so good at, your fears, your dreams.

If your anything like me, much of what wants to pop up is negative. It is very easy for me to think of things I am not good at, but harder to come up with things I feel confident in. When I consider the thoughts that come and go through out the day its often a litany of scolding to myself about silly things like spilling my coffee and thinking “story of my life.” Or when I consider my dreams it is way to easy to think “yeah but your not smart, fit, organized, you-name-it enough”

Off it goes, the black hole of negativity and shame all at the hands of my wild running thoughts.

Here is the thing though, the thing that I am finally doing something about, I have control over my thoughts, you do too. (I know, I know, but I did warn you earlier that you have heard this before). Here is the reality, when I live from a place of “every bad thing that happens is ‘just my luck'” I am creating that narrative. I am choosing to take pause at the negativity and claim it as the thing that defines me.

Lets pretend your thoughts are like water to a plant, and your garden is only filled with two things, positivity or negativity. Where you choose to invest that water is what will grow, simple as that.

Often though, we live like the choice is made for us. That negativity section of the garden somehow screams loudest for water, even tricks us into thinking that feeding it will magically change some of the negative plants into positive ones (oh you know what I mean, like all the times you (read “I” ) have thought, “if I just hate my body enough I will beat it into being ‘beautiful'” or “If I believe I am bad at something, I will be motivated to try harder”). I don’t know about you, but I have never watered a weed patch well enough to turn it into a flower garden, mostly because I have never had a garden, but you get the metaphor.

2 Corinthians 10 tells us to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” In case you didn’t know, there is not one time Jesus calls you dumb, stupid, or ugly. In fact God calls you his workmanship, says you are beautiful, and has chosen you to accomplish good works. So making those thoughts obedient means getting them in alignment with what God has already said about you.

Remember earlier when I said you create the negative narrative? Guess what that means, you can also create a positive one, and its all about that thought garden. Choose to tend positivity. When the negative thoughts scream for you, shut them down and go after positivity instead.

Seriously though, I know the temptation is there to write this off as woo-woo or whatever your dismissive descriptor of choice. Its easy to wallow in your circumstances and believe your powerless to them. It’s why I have heard this a thousand times and never did anything about it. But I am telling you, its worth trying. I mean, even if it seems woo-woo to you, what do you stand to lose by taking a couple weeks to try and change the script in your mind?

Nothing right? If you try, and it doesn’t work, your mind can go write back to fighting those weeds into flowers just like it has been. But what if you try and it works? Oh my, it could be amazing!

Start simply just taking notice of your thoughts at all. Become aware of moments and circumstances that are triggers for negativity, think about how you might be able to change that. If you believe in God, try to think about what He would say to you about that.

How about we start there and next week we can get more practical? If your already a pro at this, I would love to get your input on some tips and tricks.

Until then, I want you to know, you are a work of art, you are capable of greatness, you offer something so special to the world, who you are is wonderfully enough, and I am grateful for you.

 

 

Cultivating Thankfulness

Sometimes I wonder what marks me. I wonder what comes to mind when people think of me. Nanny? Loud talker? Fitness enthusiast? Christian? Blogger? Organization freak? (PSA: I am just going to stick to the positive thoughts that pop into my head or we could easily go down a dark dark hole).

Some things that mark us we can’t chose, I am a loud talker, thank you big Italian family. Some things we chose and wear proudly, and sometimes the endeavors we undertake mark us.

All of that is great, but I have been thinking that I want to go after another mark, & if I am honest, I would be really dang happy if it was the first thing that people thought about when they thought about me.

Thankfulness.

I desperately want to be a person so overflowing with gratitude that I am KNOWN for it.  Because as a follower of a God who fiercely and sacrificially loves me, I should be. Because a mark of living in that faith is overflowing thankfulness. Because I have so much to be thankful for, it should be easy.

But I am coming to terms with the bitter reality that it isn’t easy, that I have to choose it and fight hard for it. Because when I don’t fight for that mark, its so quickly washed away by cynicism, depression, the relentless American desire for more and better. And lets be real about another bitter reality, the marks that come upon me when I don’t fight, those ones hurt me, and begin to mark those around me, and they are not marks I wear with pride. You know them, bitterness, discontent, impatience, lacking in grace.

The sad reality is though, thankfulness isn’t really trendy is it? Being publicly thankful is sometimes considered braggy, and when I think about it, I have been in way too many conversations that were bonded around complaining rather than rejoicing.

But like I said, if the mark of thankfulness is one I want, I have to work for it, and maybe even pay for it by laying down my trendy card, by being the awkward one who chooses to see the bright side, by doing the hard work of taking my thoughts captive and choosing gratitude.

This isn’t about pretending the poopy bits don’t stink, you all know me well enough to know a mark I do not bare is “pretender.” It is about recognizing that even to spite the poop, there is always something to be thankful for.  Always and always. I don’t chose the poop, but I can chose to dwell in it, or to focus my attention on something that smells better, you know?

So today I am thankful for so many things. I don’t need to bore you with a list, but I am full of gratitude for a family that is and always has been there for me and Hubby. I am thankful for a Hubby who is so patient with me even when I stink of poo from dwelling a little too long in unthankfulness. I am thankful for sunshine and the ivy finally bloomed outside my living room window.

How about you?