Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Mindful Journey

"There is one small joy of today that will escape you if you are preoccupied with tomorrow."

I heard these words from Deb Sobeski a few years ago and they have stuck with me ever since.  This quote always comes back to me when I feel extremely overwhelmed and seem to be focused on how my life is NOT going well as opposed to how well my life actually is.  Like this post.  Yes, it's easy to get overwhelmed and you might think I'm just wallowing in sorrow and self-pity.  But that's not always the case. 

A few years ago, the upstate was taken with the story of Hannah Sobeski.  She was a local high school student with a rare form of cancer.  The amazing part about her story was how she was never down on life.  Through her journey and struggles, she continued to praise God, be a positive presence and influence.  Even as her life was drawing to a close, she was extremely selfless and positive.  Her mother spoke at various events about their journey and I was lucky enough to hear her uplifting words.  Though Hannah's life was cut short, the family lived in each moment they had with her.  Each moment you have is truly a gift.  Each breath you take is a blessing; one that someone else doesn't get.  To be preoccupied with the past or the future is to rob yourself of the glory in each moment.

Thinking back to Deb's words, I remembered what I learned at H3 about gratitude.  You can either cultivate positivity or negativity; not both.  The happiest and most successful people in life aren't that way because only good things happen to them.  They are that way because of their attitude toward what happens to them.  This brings to mind the saying "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react."  The mind is a powerful asset and I truly believe that you have the power to change your life if you can change your thoughts and reaction to your circumstance.  Back to what I wrote about timing, each circumstance is an opportunity to learn.  If you are preoccupied with the negative aspects of your circumstance or where you'd like to be instead, you will miss something vital.

My local library branch offers yoga for free every Monday night.  It has been a HOT minute since I've practiced, but I was eager to get out of the house and give it a shot.  I was not sold on yoga the first (or second) time I tried it -- but I am a believer now that it is good for the soul.  Practicing yoga is an excellent way to get in tune with your body and breath and I love to feel the power in my muscles as my body fights to hold and flow through poses.  Afterwards, I sought out some thought-provoking reading material and now I am armed and dangerous to be more mindful and change my thinking, outlook, and ultimately -- my life.
The Power by Rhonda Byrne
Blink -- The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Emotional Equations -- Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success by Chip Conley
Outliers -- The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
(not pictured) Life After College -- The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want by Jenny  Blake

Monday, June 25, 2012

"If you want to hear God laugh...

...tell him your plans."

Plans.  Expectations.  It's been said that these 2 things are our elusive attempts at control.  Control is subjective.  Do we ever really have it?  I believe in the cliches "Everything happens for a reason" and "What is meant to be will be."  But how does that agree with "taking control of the situation"?  While we can't just expect everything to fall into place while we look on, we aren't in total control of our fate, either.  I've been told that finding happiness in life requires maintaining a delicate balance between holding on and letting go; trying to understand that something greater than you is happening over which you have no control, but trying to make the best decisions in each situation with the knowledge you have.

Life doesn't always go according to our plan. But that doesn't mean it's not going along according to some bigger plan. We are right where we are supposed to be at any given time. It might not feel right & it definitely might not be where we want to be, but there are lessons to be learned & experiences to be undertaken. We have to step back, take it all in & make the best of it, knowing that everything will work out the way it should.

Over the past few months, I have talked a lot about my 2012 plan:  internship, graduate, get a job, move, get married, finally start my "adult life".  Well, I went from 60 to 0 in about 2.5 seconds.  How the heck did my life plan get derailed?  Fast forward a few months from when I made that plan for 2012 and here I am single, unemployed, and living at home.  Is this post from a few days ago making a little more sense now?

I have recently discovered that I am the type of person to whom you can talk until you're blue in the face.  I am stubborn and determined (possibly even deluded?) enough to not let it phase me.  If I have an idea in my mind (i.e. my 2012 plan), the words coming out of your mouth are falling on deaf ears.  I  am the type of person who must realize things for herself.  Yes, it makes things more difficult, and a lot of trouble could be saved if I'd just listen, but the outcomes are much more valuable to me because I realize them on my own.  A few months ago, someone shared this quote with me:

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
-Joseph Campbell.

So where is all this going?  My 2012 plan wasn't exactly logical.    But I want what I want when I want it, so I refused to face the music.  But the further we got into the year, I realized things weren't going exactly according to my timeline and that's one of the absolute WORST feelings:  Life is NOT moving forward how you want it and there is absolutely NOTHING you can do about it.  I can't even think of an emotion to describe what that feels like.  When you realize you are in no way, shape, or form in control.  When what is actually happening is so far from what you want and what you think you're ready for.

And that, dear friends, is where I let go.  I let go of my vision and my "plan" and chose to chart a new course.  I have always been a "less talk, more action" kind of girl, so when things started to veer from my set timeline, I chose to take action.  Whether that was the best thing to do at the time has yet to be determined...

If we get so wrapped up in what we think is supposed to happen, we miss a lot of what is actually happening.  I'm still not where I want to be, but for whatever reason, I'm where I need to be.  It isn't easy.  It's really hard.  And uncomfortable.  And I question just about everything.  I'm ready for things to stop feeling like they are falling apart and start feeling like they are falling into place.  I'm ready for things to make sense. 

In a few years time, we'll look back and everything will click. It may not make sense now, but this path is going to take me where I need to be and I'll be all the more wiser when I get there.  Until then, I must remember...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Art of Saying "No"

When is the last time you did something because you felt 'bad' for someone/about something?  Guilty?  Obligated?  Until recently, I had a lot on my plate, and my plate kept getting fuller (well I didn't plan on that pun, but yes, my plate got literally and figuratively fuller).  For someone as stubborn and set in their ways as I am, I was having a hard time saying "no".  To say my refusal skills needed some work would be an understatement.

The truth is, when you agree to do something out of guilt or fear of hurting someone, no one wins.  Sure, it might seem like you're pacifying someone and joy can come from that.  But ultimately, you're hurting yourself with unnecessary stress and by doing something half-assed (excuse my French) because you're not really into it, you're hurting the other party(ies) involved because they aren't receiving you 100%.  While everyone may receive some immediate gratification, you're deceiving yourself and everyone else, and in the long run, that just isn't fair.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

I use these stupid cliches all the time -- but they exist for a reason! Someone can push and push and push you, but you can't let yourself give in if you don't want.  Whatever it is someone is trying to convince you of doing, it can't be forced.  You have to stand your ground.  The instant gratification and the feeling that you have appeased someone is usually not worth the regret, guilt, and maybe even confusion later on.  So for the sake of all parties involved, learn to say no.  Willpower is a muscle and it, too, is subject to fatigue.  It needs to be exercised every now & then in order to stay in tiptop shape.

Some tips for strengthening your refusal skills (and how to avoid being the pushy one!):

  • Don't respond to a request immediately.  Take some time to process what is being asked of you before you give an answer.  
  • Make decisions with a clear head.  Don't make decisions when you're mad, sad, or not 100% sure of what you want to do.  ESPECIALLY avoid committing to something or getting involved in a tricky situation when any alcohol has been consumed!  
  • Don't be afraid to back out.  If you do find yourself in a situation you wish you weren't, don't feel like your life depends on it (unless, of course, someone's life is actually on the line).  Your decision doesn't have to be permanent.  (Disclaimer:  Don't start being the person that no one can count on because you're constantly backing out.  No one likes to be described as "wishy-washy." Try working more on the first & second tips before you get to this point).
  • Don't feel guilty!  When your wellbeing is at stake, don't let anyone try to convince you of something.  You are your own best advocate and you know what your limits are.  Sure, someone is going to be upset when you deny them and it isn't going to be easy.  But in the end, it'll be worth it.
  • Know why you are refusing.  Try to get to the root of your response.  You will be stronger in your decision if you know why the red flag was raised:  "I will regret going out tonight when I have a headache tomorrow and need to be productive" instead of simply "I don't want to."
  • Be respectful.  If someone doesn't respond or react in the way you want, respect their decision.  Sure, sometimes people (including me at any given time) need a little prodding if you feel that they can be swayed and they will be pleased with the outcome.  However, if "no" seems to be a common response or theme, let it go.  You're not going to force them & you're only putting more stress on them.  If they change their mind, they will come to you.
  • Don't take it personally.  The reason why someone refuses you is rarely simply because they just don't like you.  Try to be understanding to the fact that their reasoning is more complex.  Approach people and their responses with the notion that everyone is waging some sort of inner battle.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Post-H3 Life

I really wanted to give up blogging.  But the past 2 months at home have been very trying and under the gentle guidance of Lauren -- who has decided to join the blog world herself with an aptly-named blog ( -- I'm back.  I'm not sure what route I should take here -- general musings & observations or a bitter "reality-is-a-smack-in-the-face" rant.  I'll try for a mix.  Here we go...

Where am I?  How did I get here?  What am I doing?  What am I supposed to be doing?  Where am I going next?  Can I get there already?  What is my purpose?  Can I just give up on today & get back in bed?  Is this feeling normal?  When will it subside?  What is going to make me happy?

Who am I?

These are the questions I have been asking myself essentially every day since I have been home.  I only thought I was sitting in the hallway of life before...I am truly in the hallway now and I. Hate. It. I know  my life isn't in complete shambles & I am much better off than so many other people in the world, but I'm struggling, y'all.  My time back at home has been an emotional, psychological, and physical (stress apparently carries around 10 pounds just in case you need it.) roller coaster.  Remember this post?  Yeah, not much has changed.  In re-reading that blog, I'm realizing that these feelings are cyclical in nature and I'm reminded of a quote I keep seeing on Pinterest:  "If you're tired of starting over, then stop giving up."  So this is me breaking the cycle.

At the end of my internship, I had a vision:  Get home, relax, keep applying for jobs, get a lead on a job, pass my presentation and officially graduate, get hired, move to a new city, start a new fun life, live happily ever after.  Yeah, I gotta say it ain't workin' out so far.  I can exhaust all options and resources, have the perfect resume and cover letter, scour websites and job boards all day long, but at the end of each and every day, the reality is I'm not in control.  I spend days wondering what my purpose is and just what it is I'm supposed to be doing to pass the time.  Get a part-time job. Work out. Volunteer.  Well, OK, I'm trying.  I just hate being in transition. Let's face the facts: I'm not happy & my life is not where I hoped it'd be at this point.  Are there many worse feelings than being ready for something and wanting something so badly, but there's nothing you can do to speed up the process?  I know there are some serious lessons to be learned from this experience, but have I mentioned that I'm really ready for what's next?  I understand that a job, a move, and a new apartment isn't the ultimate formula for happiness, but it would at least give me a sense of direction.

I just need something to do with my hands.  Besides drink, eat, and sleep because that cycle is obviously not working out thus far.  Unfortunately, it's hard to make the right decisions most of the time.  Keeping a positive outlook is exhausting.  It's less work allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by emotions you don't understand and let negativity take over, and when that happens, it's even easier to let the snowball keep rolling until you're drinking to pass the time, eating to cover up your frustrations, and then sleeping the afternoon away.  If you asked me what I'd be doing when I finished grad school, this is not exactly what I had in mind.  It's just such a hard reality to face when I was so happy before I left my island bubble.  But it was just that -- a bubble.  An experience.  Life doesn't exist in a vacuum.  You've got to learn how to bob & weave and maintain sanity while dodging the curveballs (Yes, I am aware that I just made references to boxing, bullets, and baseball in the same sentence.).  

**At this point, you could be very well thinking that I am mentally unstable & need serious help -- and that's OK because you're entitled to your own opinion.

When you feel like you're at a low point in life, things can only go up.  "It's always darkest before the dawn" is not only a fact but a commonly-used phrase for a reason:  Sometimes things have to get really bad before you put your life in perspective, see how far you've come, and where you want to go.    Only when we realize that the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change will we actually make some alterations to our way of thinking and living.  And then things get really good.  Because you remember that "this, too, shall pass" and that you don't get different results by continuing to do things in the same unsuccessful manner.  At some point, you've got to "buck up," "sack up", or "put your big girl panties on" and start behaving like the person you want to be.  Eventually, you'll stop wanting to be that person & actually become that person.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

4 weddings & a funeral

Ok, not really. But the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of life events. And by few weeks, I kinda mean months.  This particular post has been in the works since 5/25/12, or so Blogger tells me.

First things first:

Masters, baby.
We did it!  I waited until the very last minute to prepare my practicum presentation (and by last minute, I mean I didn't start until the wee hours of the morning the night before my presentation and 30 minutes prior the my presentation I was printing off materials for my binder. #oops), passed my presentation with flying colors, and was hooded for all to see as a Master of Public Health.  The past 2 years were pretty brutal.  While I'm glad to see my school career come to an end, it's somewhat bittersweet that I will never again be a student.  Tear.

And just what did we do to celebrate this momentous occasion?  Hit up Myrtle Beach and act like we've never before been in public!  We were delirious enough and in such need of a break, that a trip to the "Dirty Myrtle" was the only logical solution.
When in Myrtle, act like a typical tourist.
It was such a fun trip and definitely the break we needed (and deserved!).  Fast forward a few days and add back the stress I successfully rid myself of at the beach, and you've got the whirlwind last-minute preparations for this girl's wedding:

Putting together programs...about an hour before the ceremony!

Kimber and I were freshman year roommates and I was so honored when she asked me to be her MOH.  Over the course of the few days before her wedding, we essentially lived in Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, and Michael's, and the stress probably took a few years of our lives (more likely mine -- somehow I was more worried and uptight about the details than the bride herself!).  Nonetheless, a wedding happened and it was beautiful.

AND THEN I got another much-needed break -- at home this time.  The wedding was the culminating event and afterwards, I was able to finally get home, get back to applying for jobs, and settle in with nothing substantial to do...which was both a blessing and a curse (more to come on that, don't worry).  More enjoyable photos below...and the next post is underway, stay tuned!


Proud parents -- no more tuition!

A comedic assortment of munchies while waiting for our suite to  be ready.

Group pic before our night out in Myrtle.

Token photo from the bachelorette party.  I think one is enough ;)
Beautiful bride!

The wedding programs we worked so hard on.

Time to party! DJ Kool Aid wasn't doin it for me, so I naturally took matters into my own hands!

The bride & I boogying down.