on Life, Love and What's Happening Now
Lean in and the “Net” Will Appear
Life is funny. I started out this blog intending to write about brave women throughout history. I’d been struggling to find a topic when I was asked to write a magazine article about a Savannah entrepreneur named Emily McCarthy. This local style maven who’d started her own business at a young age was now launching a fashion line. After the interview, I left feeling inspired by her “all-in” type of bravery.
So, as I sat down to research courageous women--those past and present who had changed the world, I got some news that changed mine.
First, let me back up and offer a little back story. During that interview with McCarthy, something weird kept popping into my mind. As we were talking, the same expression kept creeping in. It’s a saying I once thought was insane, yet suddenly wouldn’t leave my head.
“Jump and the net will appear.”
Now, I am not a brave person by nature. As far as risk-taking is concerned, I’m generally more of the “dip my toe into the water, but only after I’ve checked its depth, PH level and everyone says it’s OK” kind-of-girl.
The only exception I can think of is the day I told my husband I wanted to write for a living. Writing was something I’d always done for myself. It was something I felt deep in my bones but was inexplicably frightened to talk about. I had all the excuses: I didn’t want to blog (and put myself out there). I didn’t have a website. The kids were still little.
Deep down, I was afraid of failing. Speaking those words felt like a cannonball.
The very next day, I was pushing my shopping cart through Walmart when I came across this little porcelain pig. As silly as he was, something about him spoke to me on a gut level. That day, it felt like the possibility of being a writer was about as likely as pigs flying. Still, I took him home and put him in my kitchen so I could look at him every day.
In some crazy, cosmic way, that little winged pig became the permission I needed and my very first “net.” Soon after, I started work on a parody gift book that’d been swimming around in my head. I also started my blog and began freelancing. In a “lean-in” sort of way, I tore through books and took classes. Later, deciding to take any writing assignment that came my way.
So, there I was—thinking about courage and working on my own—when I got the amazing news:
I’m excited to announce that Rachel Beck of the Holloway Literary Agency will be representing me and my gift book!
Yup, little ole me now has a literary agent. I am still pinching myself.
In case you were wondering, the book is a funny “out of the box” look at marriage designed to be read at bridal showers. It’s got a crazy name (to be released later) and not everyone might get it. Some people might think it’s genius. Maybe it won’t find a publisher. Maybe it will sell a million copies. The only thing I know for sure is that I had to “jump” to get this far.
After I finally calmed down, I went back to working on this blog and realized something important—the brave women in it were actually all around me. It wasn’t a coincidence that every one of my mentors and teachers, and all the members of my writing group are female. (Each courageous in their own right.)
I was in my 40’s when I finally spoke those words. That’s a lot of years dreaming about something I could have been doing. I think the truest form of bravery is living a life that is recklessly, authentically, ferociously yours.
The writing still is a completely vulnerable and exhilarating practice for me. (Truth be told, I throw up in my mouth a little bit whenever I post a new blog.) But the more I write, the more I realize that fear is just an emotion like sadness or joy.
It's my hope that someone will read this and feel a little bit braver too. The nets are all around and it’s never too late. When you lean into your dreams, anything can happen.
Take it from me, pigs can fly and so can you.
The first step comes if only you believe.
*This post was originally published almost a year ago today. It was one of the first things I wrote after deciding to dip my toe back into the tumultuous waters of writing. To my utter shock, the amazing website, Noteworthy, picked it up.
As Hurricane Dorian inches closer, the message feels just as pertinent today. If you missed it the first time, I hope you will take a moment and read.
All is never as it seems.
I was reminded of this a few nights ago watching the coverage of Hurricane Florence. From the comfort of my couch, that giant beast barreling toward the East Coast seemed a million miles away. According to the computer models, my coastal hometown of Savannah hovered just outside the “cone of uncertainty.” I fell asleep confident that we had dodged the bullet.
The next morning, I woke to a very different scenario. Overnight, the storm had dipped south and westward. The data now put coastal Georgia just slightly into Florence’s cross-hairs.
I began to panic. We had no canned food. Where was the generator? This was not my first rodeo and experience has taught me the importance of preparation. My mind went into overload as it braced for a direct hit.
And it wasn’t just me. An hour later, the grocery story was a mad house. The expression “like attracts like” had never rung truer. Every stay-at-home mom in Georgia was running around in her yoga pants fighting for a grocery cart. There wasn’t a bottle of water anywhere.
When I finally calmed down later that day, I thought about something I’d read regarding thoughts and brain chemistry. The article acknowledged that the mind is like a “feedback loop” and that everyone’s “Thoughts lie. They lie a lot” (2017). The author stated that three simple words can improve not only well-being, but actual health. All we have to do is ask ourselves, “Is it true?” (Coleman, 2017).
That morning, my reaction was not rooted in anything factual. Even our local hyperbolic weatherman had acknowledged the slim possibility of any major part of the storm hitting the city.
Then I thought about Florence herself. Between yesterday and today, nothing had changed for her. She was still churning furiously down the same pre-destined route she had been the night before. Regardless of what any computer model projected or what any television personality said, she was going were she was always going. Her path hadn’t actually changed.
Only my perception of it had.
It is a lesson I think about often as I raise my kids in this critical and sometimes confusing world. I have three boys and as I watch them grow and find themselves, I tell them: Be yourself. Pictures can lie, people can lie. Listen to that little voice in your gut. It will help you find your way, your people.
This much, I know firsthand.
About 7 years ago, we moved to Savannah from another state. I’d just given birth to our third child and I remember feeling very vulnerable. We knew no one. I needed to help our family make a life. I needed to make friends. I needed people to like me.
What I recall about that time is that sometimes I didn’t like myself. Because we were new, I thought I needed to present this perfect image to the world. I remember acting and sometimes saying things that did not feel natural to me. Afterwards, I always felt itchy and out of sorts.
Then one day, I just got sick of it — sick of myself — sick of trying so hard. As soon as I let it all go, things got better. As I started to relax, I made friends. I found my people. Like attracted like.
I think the instinct to pretend is buried deep within our DNA. In the wild, some animals only defense mechanism is to “puff themselves up,” trying to appear as big and foreboding as possible to predators.
It is a natural part of the human condition to teeter between who we are and who we want to be, between the pictures we present on Facebook and the ones we play in our head, between living authentically and caving to our worst impulses.
We may get a little rain from Hurricane Florence today--and no, there were never any sharks. Still, it reminded me that life is always a hurricane barreling towards you.
The best anyone can do is try to live with grace inside that “cone of uncertainty.” For me, that means taking a breath before I react, checking the “loop” in my brain and reminding myself that thoughts can lie.
All is not as it seems.
Perhaps simply acknowledging that is the best preparation of all.
Coleman, Patrick. “How to Arm Little Kids Against Negative Thoughts.” Oct 20, 2017, (www.fatherly.com/parenting/little-kids-negative-thoughts-freaking-out-calm-down.).
This article was originally published in Noteworthy for Medium in September 2018.
Let's be real. Nobody likes the idea of turning 40. While I admit that oh-so-glorious day was a few years back for me, I've been thinking about aging lately.
When Charles Dickens wrote “It was the best of time. It was the worst of times,” I am pretty sure he was talking about people in their 30’s. While sometimes it still feels like the 90’s wasn’t that long ago, this “not quite old, but not quite young” decade of life has already revealed a few truths anyone can appreciate.
The first and my favorite is:
1: You Stop Caring What Other People Think.
Looking back at my 30's, it seems everyone was a ball of fire. Our kids are small, our careers are taking off and there is a nagging drive to do absolutely everything. On top of growing job responsibilities, every week is a marathon of kid activities, volunteer commitments and social obligations. I remember feeling drained mentally and physically. My mind was a running computer with 50 windows open at the same time.
We had just moved to a new state and those first years, I ran myself ragged. I remember feeling frantic if my three boys weren’t involved in absolutely every opportunity available, if my new house wasn’t magically filled with furniture, clean and perfectly decorated. What people thought of our family snowballed, taking up way more brain space than anything that frivolous deserved.
What’s worse, the more boxes I checked off each day, the less joy I got from them. The noise in my head (and all around me) made it impossible to know I wanted anything more than a glass of wine at the end of day.
For women—especially mothers—there is so much “function” in our dysfunction. The new normal is over-scheduled, bogged down and tightly wound. There are a million mixed messages telling us how to look, parent, and especially how to “have it all.” We rarely stop to think which parts we truly want.
But the gift of forty is self-reflection. Ages forces you to look in the mirror. For me, I had to stop caring and release all the minutia so I could figure out what I really wanted.
The writer Anne Lamott said, “everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy and scared, even the people who seem to have it most together…so try not to compare your insides to other people's outsides. It will only make you worse than you already are.”
Letting go is the holy grail of aging. At some point, it just becomes obvious then finally:
2. You Do What You REALLY Want to Do:
In your 40's, nothing is more precious than time. One day you wake and up and it seems there’s never enough. Whether it’s a new job, a break-up or playing guitar in a garage band, this is the “Now or Never” phase of life.
Maybe it’s because concepts like empty nest or retirement suddenly become tangible or because such a frenzied life is unsustainable, but introspection breeds change.
For me, I’ve always wanted to write. After bumping around the edges of it in a variety of advertising and teaching jobs, on my 40th birthday I verbalized it for the first time. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
Another gift of approaching midlife is passing on that permission to others. The moment I uttered those words—it just felt right. I am so lucky to be able to teach my kids to own who they are and to embrace what frightens them. It’s not always easy putting myself out there and I’m still getting used to it, (can you believe I have a website!?) but I’m going for it.
I wasted a lot of time spinning my wheels, and even that’s OK because there is wisdom in the rear view mirror. With time, it becomes apparent:
3. There Is Good Even In The Bad:
By now, life has kicked everybody in the teeth a few times. Someone we love has had cancer or passed away. Likely, there’s been more than one moment where you wondered how you would get up off the floor. I think aging takes away the rose-colored glasses of youth and replaces them with spectacles for a reason.
Maybe it was a necessary failure that led you a later success or a lesson you would have never learned otherwise, but maturity gives you space to see things.
It's funny because a few year ago, the idea of turning 40 made me ill. Now it feels one of those great things I never knew would happen. This stage of life lets you see that it’s all connected, that we are all storied and dented, and that even the hardest lessons have hidden gifts.
Without my past, I’m not sure I’d have much to write about.
I still miss sleeping through the night, but I think it’s an even trade. A few years from now, I hope to re-read this post and find that I’ve measured the time in stories and lessons instead of years. That the breadth of my dreams (and my writing) far outweighed the constraints of my silly ego.
I’m done wasting time worrying about who people think I am. I’m ready now to figure out who I can be.
So check back each month, because I’ll be here—unpacking life, offering motivation and maybe dissecting the latest scandal. The best is still ahead, and I hope you’ll join me for the ride.