"Hi. How are you doing?"
"Fine." Your word oozes through a toothy grin as your feet intently continue running the marathon that is your day.
But are you?
Because the rate at which I am supposed to be performing does not match what I am putting out there. My commitments leave my hands shaking as my best laid plans laugh in my face like a toddler kicking over a mug of hot cocoa his sister carelessly left on the floor. (No judging.) Every single day at least once my lungs scream for air, and even though I am gasping, they are greedy and unsatisfied.
And the nights. Oh the nights! My weary body gratefully lowers itself into my sheltering bed. I sigh with relief. Exhausted, my body relaxes instantly, but my perky mind whirs - making that 'to do' list for tomorrow, mulling over my actions before I even make them. In one moment, it cries to me that sleep is something I don't have time for. In the next, it demands that I fall asleep right away because a tired self isn't her best self.
Put simply: I am drowning.
And let me tell you: this damsel HATES being in distress.
I cling to my life preservers - those people who you can call and apologize profusely for - well - needing them. The lovely coworker who sees the gloss of disappointment coating your eyes when you ask for something you should have arranged long ago. The friend who sees your face dipping under the surface and stands in front of your chair in an awkward but oh-so-needed embrace until you are once again light enough to float. The near stranger who scoops up your problem and solves it with ease, handing back to you a gift. Life preservers.
As I think of them, I realize that this is the time I finally started to see my relationships as they truly are. I see the deep trust I have come to place in those life preservers - not to save my life all of the time but to be there when I need them. Most importantly, to be there and not look down on me for needing them. Because admitting you need people is difficult!
So here's to life preservers! I hope in your time of need that I keep you afloat.
Creative Commons Image provided by "The Jamoker" of Flickr. Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Life_preserver.jpg
I'm a big fan of being true to yourself.
You like chocolate ice cream with coconut chips? You go, girl.
You want to wear a bikini? More power to you.
You need to cut loose on the dance floor to "Fishin' in the Dark" and electric slide your heart out? Have at it!
Of course, this doesn't necessarily apply to everything. There are things about myself that I don't like and that I need to change to be a better human. A few days ago, some things slapped me in the face. Time to change, they said.
And I basically yawned, "Okay. I'll get to it later."
Then, the daughter broke down in tears today because her first day of middle school is this week. Elementary school was less than kind to her, and she has a mom with high expectations who wants her to be a strong woman. So how do I help her go from victim to victor?
I sat there and thought of 6th grade Mandy. What I wish I had told her. What would have made a difference at that age? I leaned into my sobbing child, grabbed her hands tightly, leveled my eyes with hers, and fiercely proclaimed, "Take the power back."
She was startled.
"See this?" I brushed a tear from her eyes. "This is power. You've given them power over you. In 7 years, you're going to graduate and these things won't matter at all. I know it feels like it is the whole world right now. Believe me, it's not."
She's heard this before. But we keep at it. We keep digging down deep. We talk about confidence. We talk about handling people the way we wish we would and how hard it is! We talk about our weaknesses and how attitude affects all of it. She asks how to make herself into a confident person. So I tell her what works for me: Fake it until you make it.
For me, confidence is a lot of self talk. I am my biggest enemy. I say things to myself in my head that are so brutal - I would never say them to my worst enemy but I berate myself without the slightest hesitation. How have I changed that in the past? Positive self talk. Even if I didn't mean it. Replacing my inner voice with something kinder. It's so easy for me to do for others but so hard to do for myself.
Slowly, I began to believe the positive things about myself. "And you will too." I told her. "You're going to have to work, but tell yourself that you're getting it. It takes time and, if you keep trying, it will happen."
She agrees to try, and her tears have long since dried.
The advice I am giving her is exactly what I need to do myself - again.
Maybe you do too. Maybe you're downtrodden about forgetting a commitment. Perhaps you don't fit into those clothes you fit into a few months ago. It could be something as little as letting a coworker have power over you - power they don't deserve. Take it back - all of it!
Tell yourself that it's okay to forget something once in awhile, but you're going to try to be better about writing it down.
Remind yourself that you are beautiful and lovable and worthwhile no matter what the tag on your pants happens to read. If you want to, commit to drinking more water or adopting other healthy habits again.
Remember the hot tears rolling down your cheeks but make them a promise that you're taking the power back and you're going to forgive the person who tried to steal it in the first place.
Because you're pretty fabulous just as you are.
Even if you have to fake it 'til you make it.
(What did Daughter decide to do? We researched colleges and contacted them for brochures and Admissions packets. She's working on a plan to fulfill admissions requirements and try a variety of things in middle school to find what she loves and is good at. Today she's looking 8 years ahead to the adult she wants to be.)
Mandy Peterson is the author of "Before I Shatter". She is also a mother, wife, librarian, book reviewer, and self-proclaimed chocolate connoisseur.