This is one of my favorite times of year. The quiet lull between the joy and excitement of Christmas and the pending plans and work of a new year. I love new beginnings! I love planning and making goals and looking forward to new things. To being better.
This year has felt different though. I'm more realistic in my goal setting and my abilities. I'm less concerned with "January 1st" and more concerned with consistency. Maybe that's why I've spent more time these past few days reminiscing of how far I've come instead of how far I have to go. There are several steps I realize have brought me to where I am:
#1 Health Challenge
Although my whole life had been filled with slow growth, I attribute this particular journey's beginning to a health challenge I was invited to join with some friends years ago. There were daily tasks, physical, mental, spiritual, and a point system. We each paid to join and the money was used for prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. It was really simple. But I was terrified. I wasn't good at consistency. Or working out. Or not eating sugar. Or anything on the list really. But I wanted to be. So I tried.
I think I was 2nd to last after the 3 months of trying. BUT. I learned so much! I learned that I could say no. Which was really hard at times. I love me some chocolate ice cream.
I learned that I was in control of my life! And I learned to be accountable to myself for once. I always kept my word to others, but how quickly I realized I EASILY broke promises to myself. I learned to stop letting myself down. To follow through for me too.
#2 Book: The Magic Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Funny how popularity makes things seem cliche. But before it was on Netflix, this book changed my life! I love organization and order. Purging, cleaning, and organizing my physical life felt amazing. I loved her admonition to surround yourself with things that "spark joy." But the most important thing I learned from reading "The Magic Art of Tidying Up" was to let go. Gracefully and full of gratitude.
Even if it was something you never liked, like buying a shirt that never fit right and you just couldn't get rid of it because you spent money on it- you invested in it. I learned it is okay to let go, and be grateful. If not for the shirt itself, for the lesson it taught. Such as: I'm grateful I learned to buy a medium, or I'm grateful I learned what I don't like.
It felt like I finally was given permission to let go of unnecessary clutter in my life- and not just stuff. People. Relationships. Tasks. Habits. On and On. Thank you Marie Kondo!
#3 Book: Daring Greatly by Berne Brown
I truly believe Berne Brown is an angel sent by God to help save souls. I LOVE all of her books. But this one was my first read and It holds a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.
I learned SO FREAKING MUCH from this book. But the most poignant were understanding shame, and perfectionism. I was so FULL of shame. About pretty much everything. I even made a list at one point in an attempt to rid myself of it.
I always knew I was a perfectionist. But I thought it was a good thing, ever since I was a kid I prided myself on my "perfectionism." Berne taught me that perfectionism is toxic and harmful and VERY different from striving for excellence.
This book split me open and showed me all of my flaws. The self-awareness was vital to moving forward.
#4 Glennon Doyle.
The author herself. not even a specific book. Pretty much everything she writes speaks straight to my soul.
Glennon is unapologetically human. She splits her soul wide open for all of us to see. She is raw and honest and beautiful.
When I read her books for the first time (each in one night) I knew I had to be a writer. I had to write. And I had to be honest. No hiding. I wasn't sure how to get to that point where I could be so honest, where I could tell it all and let the chips fall where they may. I was terrified, the shame was still swirling. But I KNEW that was what I wanted for my life.
#5 Bullet Journal & Direction
This is where I started trying really really hard. I discovered these magical things called bullet journals where you can combine a planner, art and a bajillion lists of your choosing to help you stay organized in life. The ultimate goal of a bullet journal, as I understand it, is to get everything out of your head and onto paper so that your brain can rest and you feel a bit less of a hot mess all the time. I LOVE my bullet journal.
I also spent hours on a trip to Texas with my husband while he worked answering questions about myself to find direction. I'd spent too many years making regurgitated goals: work out every day, read scriptures every day, eat healthy, blah blah blah. I needed to understand what I REALLY wanted, who I REALLY was, and who I REALLY wanted to be.
Some of the questions were:
What roles do I play?
What are my strengths in each of these rolls?
What would I like to do better in each roll?
If you could do anything without worrying about money or fearing what others would think, what would you do?
What did you enjoy doing as a child?
What carreer paths did you consider taking but chose not to?
What have people told you you are good at?
What makes you happy?
What could you talk about for hours without realizing how much time has passed?
What do you desire most in life?
What do you find yourself focusing on during journaling, daydreaming, or meditation?
What sets your soul on fire?
What would you do with your life is success was gauranteed?
Who do you admire? Why?
What do the people you look up to have in common?
What does your perfect "day in the life of" look like? How would you spend your time?
What do you want to learn more about? What do you want to try?
What physical items do you surround yourself with?
What are the common issues you have with other people? What bothers you most?
Who are you behind closed doors?
What do the people you love have in common?
What habits do you have? What habits do you want to have?
What are your fears and anxieties?
What makes you sad? What hurts you?
What are the elements of your life?
This practice really helped me. And I refer to it often. I found common themes and understood myself and what I wanted so much more. It gave me more direction and allowed me to further let go of unnecessary things.
#6 I BROKE.
As much as I hate adding this to my list, breaking was necessary. I couldn't have moved on without shattering like I did. I had no clue I had depression. My whole life I just assumed this darkness inside me was...me. That it was my personality. Who I was. Even as a child.
Things finally piled up and I was so ANGRY all the time. I was trying so damn hard. I broke because trying didn't matter anymore. Moving forward was no longer an option. That list of shame, although in print now, was still dragging behind me weighing me down. Until I got rid of that, all the trying was just... perfectionism. And perfectionism feeds shame.
#7 THERAPY. MEDICATION. CONFIDANTS.
This part was the hardest. The shame list grew exponentially as I started going to therapy, received the label "high functioning severely depressed" and was encouraged to take drugs. I didn't want anyone to know I had depression. Or therapy appointments. And for a while I refused to take medication. I didn't view myself as someone with lots of stigmas and I would never judge another person for a diagnoses, the need for therapy, or medication- but I judged myself HARD.
I slowly told the people closest to me, and their love was my lifeline. They each had different views on medication though and I was desperately conflicted. At this point I was thinking about suicide and self- harm, a lot. I remember one journal entry where I described myself as a drowining person terrified that if anyone came to save me I would just pull them down with me. "I'd rather drown alone than hurt the ones I love." I wrote.
One particular friend encouraged me to try the medication and promised to be there with me through the whole journey. I was so worried about the burden I was to my husband (who would have let everything else go to take care of me) and her promise lifted that burden enough for me to try.
It took some trial and error and a whole lot of shaming myself for needing medication but the darkness subsided enough for me to start making progress with therapy.
Now I have a better understanding of medication and it's necessity. I have come to view the medication I need as a lifeboat sent by God. Who am I to refuse the answer to my own prayers simply because it wasn't what I was expecting?
#8 I STARTED A BLOG AND TOLD THE WORLD ABOUT MY DEPRESSION
Keeping my struggle a secret was exhausting and weighing me down. I wrote about it and put it out for the world to see. No more secrets. No more shame. Shame LOVES to hide. I had to shine a light on it in order to properly kill it off.
I hesitate to write about this part, because I still don't fully understand it. But this was the turning point for me. EMDR is a therapy method where bad memories are explored and changed. It is much more scientific than that, but I'm a writer not a scientist. I'll leave the research to you, if you are interested.
If you've ever watched the movie Inside Out, you may remember one of Riely's memories, where she had lost a hockey game and was alone in a tree but then her parents come, then her whole team and the memory isn't just sad, it's joy too. Joy and sadness were there together. The memory was changed. It was deeper.
This is what happened with me. I was really trying with therapy and getting everything out was good. We talked a lot about the Atonement and I struggled because I knew all the answers. I knew I needed to forgive myself, love myself, give my struggles to the Savior.... BUT HOW???? No one teaches you how.
My therapist, my husband, my friends, my family... they could all tell me how amazing I was. How worthy I was. But it didn't matter. as nice as it was to hear, I didn't really believe it. I knew I was loved. But I didn't love myself. I didn't know how to love myself.
My EMDR therapy session was when, through some powerful memory methods, I told myself I was worthy. I wasn't a failure. I was a good mother. When I finally started loving myself again.
For me, the results were almost immediate. The weight was lifted.
Healing and progress came after that day. Like I finally learned how to swim. I was no longer drowning, but shore was still a ways off.
Therapy became less unloading and more celebrating. I would tell my therapist what I had struggled with that week but also how I handled it. How I processed it, or asked for help, or let it go. We talked about techniques. About tools. With the weight gone, I felt like I could finally use all of the things I had learned.
I used the direction and self-awareness, the lesson of letting go, the marriage of taking control of my life and giving up control to my God. I used my passion for writing and open honesty to ward off the shame. I kept relying on my friends and family and allowed them to help me. I lowered my standard of perfection to a realistic striving for excellence. Which really just amounts to being human and loving. I started to become all the things I wanted to be.
I graduated from therapy a year ago. But it isn't over. I am constantly practicing. Constantly reminding myself to use the tools I have and acquire new ones. Practicing imperfection. Practicing loving myself. Practicing forgiveness. Practicing boundaries. Practice. Practice. Practice. Swim. Swim Swim.
I don't share my journey to give you a roadmap to follow. I share to remind myself of how far I've come and the tools I might need to dust off and use a little more this year. I also hope that sharing my journey inspires you to continue on your own.
I hope that this year we can set goals that bring us closer to ourselves. Goals that lead us away from perfect and toward excellent human beings: imperfect but loving human beings. That is and will always be my goal.
I hope that this year we find a little more peace than the last as we continue on our unique journeys.
Happy New Year Everyone!
I've felt... Downhearted lately.
Life is so busy, so full of appointments and tasks. Cleaning and cooking.
Which would be enough, but as we all know there's more.
The conflict from the election and COVID this year has been taking it's toll on me.
I've found myself wanting to hide from the world.
To withdraw into myself.
Feeling deeply tired.
I sat on my laundry room floor the other day, my heart bursting from all the hate and heartbreak in the world, just wishing I could do my laundry in peace.
I silently prayed to God telling him I have no desire to climb mountains, just to be able to tackle the mountain of laundry I sat beside. (Is it too much to ask?) And that all this turmoil was weighing me down.
I wanted rid of it.
In that moment I wanted desperately to not care.
But a softness whispered that I would never be content with not caring.
Caring is who I am.
Caring is who we should all be.
So I cried there on my laundry room floor.
And instead of praying to not care, I began praying for the world, for healing and love and understanding.
That aching moment passed. The laundry mountain was climbed, another now replaces it.
I'm not trying to say that the world is now a better place because I prayed for it.
But I am better.
My heart still hurts. I still care. Perhaps too much.
But I gained a new sliver of understanding.
Well, really it isn't new. It's one of those lessons that God is trying to beat into me and I keep letting it slip through my fingers slowly like sand. And then I scoop up a handful of the sand I've let fall thinking I've made a new discovery.
So here I am, holding this handful of sand. Examining it, hoping I can hold onto all of it this time.
I feel the lack of control keenly lately. I think we all do. It's scary. And we aren't used to it. We like to be in control. It gives us a sense of meaning, as if our efforts account for something. That if we do our part, we will get specific results.
But we don't always. And we try harder. Push harder. Hustle harder.
I'm reminded as I try to climb the little "laundry mountains" in my life, that we aren't meant to be in control. That we are like children learning to be in the water. Viciously thrashing and pumping our limbs in an attempt to stay afloat when all we really need to do is to straighten our backs and be still. To let the water hold us, instead of fighting against it.
Maybe, just maybe, God wants us to stop climbing long enough to sit at the bottom of the mountain with the hurt, to be still and feel it keenly.
Maybe God wants us to sit and care. To be still and mourn with those that mourn. To notice the burn spots on the mountain, the lost trees, the scarred ground.
Maybe God wants us to slow and see our blessings. To be still enough to notice eyelashes kissing little cheeks. The new growth pushing through the ash. The little flowers easily missed when we go too fast.
Maybe God wants us to be still enough to remember him. To remember HE is in control.
There will be days for climbing mountains. But we mustn't forget to be still.
We mustn't forget that we aren't in control. And that's ok.
I hope that I can remember this. This lesson I've scooped up again. I hope I can hold it tight this time and remember to be still. To straighten my back, breathe deeply, and let God hold me up.
My children come home from school and tell me about the kids in their classes. Sometimes they are appalled at their actions. Shocked at the things they say and the experiences they share. Confused by the way they treat others or the language they use.
Sometimes they tell me things that hurt my ears and my heart.
I don't want their friends telling them about their creepy uncle that's in jail because he likes to touch little girls. I don't want them to hear about the older sister that was murdered by her boyfriend. I don't want them to hear the bad words, or summaries of horror movies watched. I don't want them to be pressured into playing possessed doll or murder games at recess.
I don't want their ears and their hearts to hurt.
I could tell them to avoid those kids. To not be friends with them. To not talk to them. To turn away.
Sometimes I want to.
I want to protect those little ears and hearts, I want to protect their peace.
But I know that's not right.
I want my kids to be better than that. I want their peace to come from a deeper source than ignorance.
So we talk. We sit and discuss what they saw or heard.
We think of what appropriate actions are necessary, if any. We morn for the kids that have experienced horrors. That intimately know awful things happen. We talk about those awful things and answer the critical questions hearing about them creates.
We practice benefit of the doubt. We question the rumors. We practice grace. We think about how they may be treated at home, we imagine being in their shoes. We wonder if they are happy, if they are hungry, if they are loved. We talk about disorders and differences and acknowledge our own.
We pray for them. And then we make a plan.
We decide to be kind. We muster up our patience, or understanding, our love, and our courage.
I teach them that they don't have to play with people that make them uncomfortable. We set good boundaries and role play scenarios so we know how to stand up and protect ourselves, and others. We learn that we can walk away from situations or stories or games. We learn we can do this with love and kindness.
We choose to be good examples not by being BETTER THAN but by trying to be BETTER.
I have friends that say and do things that appall me. I have friends that share experiences that shock me. I get confused by some of my friends beliefs.
Sometimes I want to turn away. I want to protect my peace. Sometimes the things they say hurts my heart.
I don't want to hear my friends tell me that if I vote a certain way I am a garbage human, or selfish, or a liar. I don't want to hear my friends tell me I'm not a true Christian if... or that if I vote for so and so they are sickened by me. If I vote for candidate _____ I'm voting for human sacrifice or murder or rape etc. etc. etc.
I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT. I DON'T WANT MY HEART TO HURT. I want to turn away.
But I know that's not right.
So I listen. I give them the benefit of the doubt. I practice grace. I think of all the good they are, all the good they do. I ask the hard questions. I listen to their views and beliefs.
I pray for them. I muster up my patience, my understanding, my love. I decide to be kind.
I recognize they are doing what they feel is right. I imagine their lives, their experiences, I try to place myself in their shoes.
And 90% of the time I realize our goals and hopes are the same.
Even if our choice of path to get there is different.
I want a deeper peace than the peace ignorance brings.
So, to my Facebook friends that keep asking me to leave: I'm not going anywhere.
I won't always vote the same as you, but I will value your vote.
I won't always agree with you, but I will be kind.
I won't always like what you say, but I will listen.
I won't even always like you, but I will still be your friend.
And even if you call me a garbage human, even if you think I'm selfish, even if you put me in a political stereotype, I will be at peace.
I will have deeper peace not because I'm trying to be BETTER THAN YOU, but because I'm trying to be BETTER.
Namaste my Facebook friend.
Hi! I'm Amy
I am a Christian wife and mother, a writer, and a recovering perfectionist who is tired of chasing happiness in all the wrong ways. I am now on a journey to find a deeper state of being. Join me on My Peace Project and we'll learn how to survive the chaos together!