Trust the process

We received notification yesterday that we have been cleared to close on our land and could do so as early as this Friday. In just another week or so, we will officially become landowners.
In one week, I will be officially launching my business.
Am I losing my mind? I’ve been asking that question as these two really big life changes are happening simultaneously. Is it crazy to take on the additional expense of owning property, and potentially the additional stress of selling our home and building a new one, at the same time that I’m working long hours to get my business up and running and cutting back at my 9 to 5? Maybe. The crazy part doesn’t really bother me all that much. I think life needs a little crazy. But is it reckless? That’s more so what keeps me up at night and brings on the anxiety.
The truth is, I don’t think it’s reckless but I worry that’s what others think.
My truth is, I’m just walking through open doors and seizing opportunity as it comes. It has been MONTHS since I initially thought about leaving my job and doing something new. Since the beginning of the year, really. It started out as a question, then it turned into a nagging, then it became relentless. After my trip to Santa Barbara in April, I came home still unsure what I wanted to do but absolutely positive it needed to happen before December. I met with a financial advisor, then an accountant, then a lawyer. I put in a lot of time and research and crunched a lot of numbers before finally deciding on starting my own practice in July. Reckless? Not even close.
As for the land, I’ve talked enough on here for you to know that building our own home wasn’t a spontaneous urge. It has been on our minds and in our hearts consistently for the past seven years. So, when houses started selling like wildfire, we asked the question: What would it take to find some land and build a house? We didn’t think we were quite ready but we figured we were in a place to research and gather information. So we met with builders and talked to real estate agents. We reached out to lenders and designers and architects (no, I’m not exaggerating–I have spoken to ALL of these people). We looked at land in Michigan and near my in-laws. In the end, we decided to stay where we are, in the school district we originally wanted for our girls, and look for a specific type of property in a very specific area of the county. Reckless? I don’t think so.
Trusting the process and walking through open doors. It’s one of the things I wrote on my goals list this morning but it could have been one of my gratitudes as well. I’m so thankful for these opportunities and I recognize how lucky I am to have them. Rachel Hollis often talks about her daily gratitude practice as a way to combat her anxiety. Gratitude and anxiety cannot live side-by-side, she says. I’m finding the same to be true. If I allowed myself to dwell on the enormity of these life changes, or the timing of them, or even what others might think of them, I would be consumed by anxiety and miss out on feeling thankful.
Sometimes life opens a bunch of doors at once and everything feels chaotic. Other times life closes a bunch of doors at once and everything feels chaotic. Trust the process. Be grateful always. And pay no attention to what anyone else may think. It’s your life, darling. They’re your dreams. Go get em.

Just dream

There’s something I want to say to you today and it’s this: It’s OK to just dream. Even if you’re not completely ready to act on it. Even if you know you’re not in the right financial position. Even if you’re completely consumed by your 9 to 5 or your babies or whatever else is commanding your full attention. Even if–still dream. Dream big and dream in detail.
I really do believe in the power of visualization. If you put as much detail as you can to your dream, if you allow yourself to believe that it can–and will–happen, you will consciously and/or subconsciously begin to frame your life, your actions, and your goals around it. Quite honestly, it’s hard for me to wrap my logic-loving brain around the idea. As a psychology major, it was drilled into our heads that correlation does not equal causation. As in, just because two things happen in succession doesn’t prove that one causes the other. I can’t tell you that visualizing your dreams will make them come true. But I can suggest that having a clear vision will make it easier to pursue your dreams and take steps towards making them happen.
It has been a dream of ours since we got married to build a home someday. My husband and I enjoy designing and creating, and we also like new stuff (the desire only grew stronger after living in a 50+ year old house where there’s always something in need of fixing or updating). A few months ago, I approached him with a proposal–let’s meet with builders to get an idea of how much it costs to build a home and all that goes into it. And let’s start looking at land to get a sense of what’s available. He was a little hesitant at first. So was I, actually. Neither of us knew if we were ready to leave our home and our neighborhood. And we doubted whether we could afford it. But, we figured, it’s just phase one. It’s information gathering. And being prepared and knowledgeable is always a good thing.
You want to write a book? Start researching how to get published or how to self-publish, find a literary agent you like, reach out to others who have written books and ask how they went about it. Start writing just for the sake of writing.
You want to run a marathon? Find out where the closest race is to you. Or, better yet, research a city you’d really like to visit and find out when their race is scheduled. Look into running plans and how long you’d need to train. Figure out if there’s a running club in your town. Get fitted for proper tennis shoes. Start tracking your steps.
You want to own your own home? Get recommendations on mortgage lenders and schedule a time to meet with someone. Get a sense of where you’ll need to be financially to get approved and what steps you can take to start preparing. Go to open houses, start a list of your must-haves and deal-breakers, research neighborhoods.
Start small. Start somewhere. But just start.
We still don’t know if building our dream home is feasible now or whether we’ll need to wait another year or two. But we started to dream, and then we started to research, and then we created a plan. So, create that Pinterest board (make it private if you’d like), sketch out a plan, get on Google, reach out to experts. Push that fear, that doubt, that logic to the side for a bit and allow yourself to just dream.

You are not your suffering

When I was 14 years old, and a freshman in high school, my favorite uncle was murdered. He wasn’t just my favorite uncle because he hid chips in my birthday cake or snuck into the backyard at my Halloween party to pound on the windows and scare us half to death (he didn’t earn his nickname “Uncle Rotten” for nothing). He was my favorite uncle because, at the time, my father was divorcing my step-mother in a very ugly end to their marriage and had just started to spiral into a deep depression that would, in just a few years, leave him almost completely debilitated and confined to his bed. My uncle filled that space for me. He wasn’t just like a father. He was a father. He was there to make me laugh and distract me from what was going on at home. He looked out for me and watched over me. He reminded me not to take life too seriously. His presence in my life meant the world.
He was also really, really cool. He bought and sold cars for a living–really cool old cars– drove a Harley and wore leather jackets (this was the early 90s, it was hip back then). The man who murdered him owed him a lot of money and didn’t want to pay it back. So he invited my uncle to his home, shot him a bunch of times in the basement, rolled him in a carpet and left him there. For two agonizing days, all we knew was that we couldn’t find him.
When I think back to that time, the memory I have is of me sitting on the floor of my bedroom, listening to music on my boom box (again, early 90s) which sat atop a short bookcase next to my bed. I remember having been told the news–that they finally found him and he had been killed–but I don’t remember crying. I just sat there for a long time. That’s pretty much how I went through the rest of my teenage years. Sitting on the floor of my life, ignoring the pain, and doing whatever it took to escape it.
I pursued a career in therapy because I personally understood the depths of pain that existed in the world and I wanted to play a role–however small–in healing some of it. The death of my uncle happened during a time when I was trying to find my way and figure out who I was. It also happened in the midst of a whole bunch of other chaos and confusion so, naturally, when I lost him, I lost myself. It took many years to find myself again.
I will never pretend or act like life isn’t hard. I know it is. Sometimes life serves you up a shit sandwich. Seriously. Ages 13-18 for me were a big ol’ shit sandwich (and many of the years before that if I’m being honest). I know what it’s like to grow up in the midst of pain and brokenness. I know what it means to experience loss. And I know how difficult that makes things sometimes.
But I also know that I am not defined by my past. I am not loss or trauma or hardship. I am not my suffering. I have been shaped by those things–of course I have. They have made me into who I am today, both the good and the bad. I am more compassionate and empathic because of them but also more anxious and sensitive to loss. But even that doesn’t dictate who I am. I just have to work around those sensitivities and be conscious of when they’re triggered.
So here’s what I want you to know this Monday morning:
You are not your tragedy, your struggles, or your pain.
Don’t let those things determine who you are or what you will become. Learn from them, feel from them, but don’t let them drive your life. And if you find that they are–if you realize that you’re allowing your past to sit in the driver’s seat–seek help. If it weren’t for the time I spent in therapy, I’m not sure I would have been able to leave my past where it belonged and move forward unburdened by it (thanks, Paige). Maybe your past includes trauma and loss, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe your past is full of disappointment or unfulfilled expectations. No matter what has happened, you are not defined by it. Take time to understand its effect and then move forward. Get up off that floor. You are worth a future unencumbered by the past. You are worth living the life you were meant to live.

Things I’m learning

This morning my alarm went off as usual (5:30ish) and, as usual, I hit snooze while I checked email, looked at the weather, and allowed myself some time to wake up. Eventually, I got out of bed and stumbled downstairs. Most days, I end up getting down here a little after 6:00am. But this morning, I looked at the clock on the stove and it read… 5:52am. It was the first time I made it downstairs before 6:00am. I was so proud of myself.
Here’s what I’ve been learning through all of this:
  1. It gets easier. Really, it does. I have wanted to wake up before my kids for MONTHS. Actually, it’s probably been about a year now. I first posted about my attempts back in September. That’s September 2017. My first few tries were really kind of pathetic–I think I made it out of bed 30 minutes before everyone else. But it still counted, and I kept trying. And guess what? The more I did it, the more I actually started to ENJOY it. And look forward to it. Me, the night owl, looking forward to rolling out of bed before the sun comes up. With anything, the more you do it, the more you make it a habit, the easier it becomes.
  2. The best way to wake up is to create a morning ritual. I look forward to waking up every morning because I know I get to make myself a cup of coffee, sit at the kitchen table, and journal. I journal the same thing–things I’m thankful for, and things I’m working towards. Gratitude and goals, every single morning. Then I usually write a blog post or work on my website but if I knew I had to get up and immediately get to work, I would be tempted to go back to bed. Having that ritual, something I do just for myself, has really helped.
  3. Positivity is everything. Do you know why people abandon their goals time after time? Because they lose motivation. And why do they lose motivation? Because they stop believing they can do it and they get lost in negative thinking. Nothing good can come from your negative, pessimistic outlook. What you put into the universe is what will be returned to you. And if you think that sounds like some spiritual guru mumbo jumbo, pay attention to how your thoughts affect your actions. The one thing I have worked hard at over the past month is keeping my thoughts positive. Even on the days I completely miss my alarm and get woken in a panic by my kids (happened on Monday). Instead of getting down on myself or wondering if I can do it, or if it’s even worth it to keep going, I tell myself that tomorrow is a new day. And I believe I can do it.
  4. Don’t be afraid to put your goals out there. Now that I’ve announced that I’m trying to wake up early, friends ask me about it. They ask how it’s going and how I’m doing. Sometimes I cringe when the question gets asked. But you know what? It keeps me accountable. I don’t want to say I abandoned my goal yet again. I want to have something positive to report. This is the case with anything. You want to go to the gym 3 times a week? Find a workout buddy. You want to quit drinking? Find a sponsor. We weren’t meant to do life without the support of others. Don’t be afraid to make your goals known–speak them aloud, share them with your community. Better yet, ask people to ask you about them.
  5. Never stop striving for better. I could be satisfied waking up at 6:00am. It gives me a solid 45-60 minutes on my own before the kids wake up. But it’s not quite enough time to get done what I want to get done. So, my goal is 5:30am. Eventually. I know I’ll get there if I keep working towards it. Goals are easiest to accomplish if you break them down into smaller chunks. Set an initial goal, meet it, then set another. Keep challenging yourself and never stop striving for better.
Seeing that clock this morning felt great. It feels good when you’re meeting your goals. But if I could add a 6th thing to this list it would be this: Don’t give up. I have been working towards an early morning wake up for a YEAR. At least. I’ve been thinking about it for many more. If your goals seem too difficult, or if you’re having trouble just getting started, pause for a moment and look at what’s getting in the way. You might have to tackle something else first (like, say, getting your baby to sleep through the night!). But don’t ever, ever give up. Your dreams are worth it, and you are too.

Dreams of the past, the present, and the future

Do you ever have those moments where you’re stopped in your tracks by a thought that maybe you took the wrong path in life? It happens to me every so often, and actually just happened a few days ago. I was getting ready for the day, thinking back on our trip to CA, remembering how much Ava loved being by the ocean and how she came alive at the beach, and I was suddenly struck by the thought, “What if we made a mistake settling down in the Midwest?” Should we have followed our dream a long time ago when we imagined moving to CA? Mind you, we are in the process of closing on a plot of land where we hope to build our forever home. So this thought was a little more than unsettling to me. And, of course, because my mind enjoys roller coasters, I spiraled down the loop of shoulds. Should we back out of our land? Should we sell our house and move to the coast? Should we become one of those families who live in a tiny home and use all our extra funds to travel the world? Silly little mind.
Dreaming is something I’m really good at. It’s one of the things I love about being an entrepreneur. In fact, I love that part of running a business–planning for the future, setting goals, and dreaming big–more than I love the actual work of the business (more on that in a future post). But it can get me into trouble too (see above).
I’ve had to work hard to train my brain–the left side of my brain–to kick into gear when the right side wants to flutter about in dreamland. As I was imagining packing up our lives and moving to the beach, thinking about how good my husband looks all tan and toned and my daughters with their sun-kissed blonde hair, my mind shifted to another memory. We had just landed in Chicago and were in the baggage claim picking up our luggage. A woman approached us with a lost Southwest drink ticket and offered it to us for our next trip (she must have seen the glazed look in our eyes after a full day of travel and knew exactly what we needed the next time around). We thanked her (and took the ticket, we’re no dummies). She then proceeded to engage the girls in a friendly conversation, asking them where they went, and commenting on their Minnie Mouse stuffed animals, clearly a token from their trip. Her inquiries were gracious and genuine and after she walked away, I leaned down to my oldest and said, “See, honey, that’s why we live here. People are so kind to one another here.”
As quickly as I remembered that memory, I remembered all the reasons why I moved to and stayed in the Midwest. I remembered why Cory and I decided, in that first year of our marriage, to plant roots in this part of the country, and why, after getting pregnant with Ava, we believed moving closer to his family was the right move for our new family. It wasn’t exactly the glamorous choice, moving to Indiana. And I would be a very rich lady right now if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me how I ended up here from CA. But this was our dream too, and I’m very grateful to be living it out.
That’s the thing about dreams–they can change. They’re amorphous in that way, able to be shaped and transformed by new circumstances.
In those moments when you’re ambushed by the should spiral, I think it’s helpful to ask yourself if the dream you’re being reminded of is an old dream, a dream you’re currently chasing, or the twinkling of a dream in the future. (If it’s a dream that was never yours in the first place but something you picked up from Instagram or Pinterest, have a little chuckle and toss it back.) If it’s an old dream, thank it for stopping by, be grateful for the memory, and remember all that occurred to get you where you are today. If it’s something you’d still love to pursue, but not right for right now, write it down, store it away in your heart, and promise to come back to it. It’s not right for right now, dear dream, but maybe someday. Life has a funny way of coming full circle, and I truly believe that it (Life, Destiny, the Divine) will fulfill the desires of our heart if we remain open to them. Even if those desires end up looking a little different in the end.

Families belong together

I used to consume news all day long. I would listen to NPR on the way to work, on the way home, and any time I was in the car. I would follow all the major news publications and read the latest articles. I’m an activist by nature so it’s in my personality to want to know what’s going on. I’m also Type A and like to be in control–somehow, even though I feel completely helpless when it comes to the injustices of the world, being able to learn and hear about what’s going on made it a little better.
Until I realized that consuming all that news, all that bad news, was making me angry. Not outwardly, necessarily. I still went about my day and functioned normally. But I was churning with exasperation and frustration on the inside. And it was starting to come out in little ways. Like snapping at my kids or my husband. Or having a more negative outlook at work. I didn’t want to be as affected by things that I had no control over, I wanted to be a good steward of all the blessings in front of me.
So, I took a little break. I started listening to podcasts in the car–uplifting podcasts. With speakers who made me feel awesome and inspired. I stopped clicking through to all the articles on Facebook. I cleaned up my newsfeeds so what I saw more often were posts about all the good going on in the world. And it worked, it really did. I didn’t feel so angry any more. I didn’t feel surrounded by so much negativity.
Until recently when news broke about children being separated from their parents at border crossings. Suddenly, it was all over every one of my apps, from almost everyone that I follow. Friends were speaking out about it. Favorite writers and creatives too. I couldn’t escape it. The same thing happened when children were drowning at sea trying to escape the Syrian war. For a long time I tried to shield myself from the news until one day the picture of a toddler washed up on a Greek shore pierced its way through my feed and demanded that I take notice. My heart broke in that instant. And I stopped being silent.
My heart broke again this morning when I woke to the news of an audio recording of children wailing for their parents in a detention center. I didn’t listen to it. I didn’t have to. I know what a wailing child sounds like. I can imagine what my own children would sound like if they were alone and terrified in a foreign country.
I don’t want to speak out about this. I don’t want to acknowledge this kind of horror exists in the world, let alone my own country. I’d rather go back to bed and pretend I live in a world of pump-you-up podcasts. But it’s my Hippocratic Oath as a therapist to demand this inhumane policy end. It doesn’t really matter how you feel about immigration. It really doesn’t. There is no justification for separating children from their families. NONE. The severity of trauma this is causing will affect these babies for the rest of their lives. And I’m not being hyperbolic about it.
If you haven’t heard about the ACEs study, I encourage you to look it up (click on the link for more information). It was a study undertaken by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention in the 90s but followed for long-term effects for many years. ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences–trauma occurring in childhood. Across the board, the study revealed that childhood trauma was related to health, social, and behavioral problems in adulthood. Problems including smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and obesity along with depression, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and a shortened life span. The more ACEs you have, the higher your risk. That shortened life span? That also includes suicide.
You really cannot underestimate the effect of trauma, especially for children. Nor can you underestimate their vulnerability and innocence. To rip them from their caregivers is cruel and heartless and there is no earthly, spiritual, or legal argument to defend it.
In times like these, I always ask what I can do to make a difference. I can speak out about it and spread the word. I can financially support organizations who are enacting and supporting real change (Together Rising is a great place to start). But I can also hold our government accountable and make my voice heard in that way too. A bill was recently introduced in Congress to stop the policy of separating children from their parents and keep families together (The Keep Families Together Act). Please read about it and insist your representatives vote in its favor. It’s a Democratic-introduced bill but was developed in consultation with child welfare experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is NOT a political issue, friends. Both sides can argue about immigration all day long. I get that it’s complicated and laden. This isn’t about that. This is about the well-being and welfare of children–the future of our world.
The bill is also supported by UNICEF, a nonpartisan humanitarian organization working hard to care for children around the world. They published a letter in support which you can read here. President & CEO, Caryl Stern, wrote the following, which is all we need to know on the matter:

“Children need to be defined by their age, not their borders. Regardless of immigration status, children are children first and need to be treated as such… Children bear no responsibility for the political differences in our world. Every child I’ve met, on both sides of our border, and around the globe, only wants to be safe and protected with hopes for a bright future.”

If you’d like more information on reaching out to your Senators and representatives, there is helpful information on the NAACP site including a number of scripts you can use: Keep Families Together Act.
In my gratitude practice this morning, I wrote about living in security and comfort and not having to worry about my children being exposed to poverty, war, or violence. Ava came downstairs as I was writing and I stared at her sweet little morning face full of life and joy and hopeful expectation for the day ahead. My children belong to me. They belong with me. No matter the circumstances. I’m speaking out against this because it’s my duty as a mental health professional, as a parent, as an American, and as a human being.
If you have children of your own, hug them a little tighter today. Be mindful of all you have to be grateful for, not the least your own security and comfort. And go listen to one of those encouraging podcasts. You deserve a little positivity and self-care. Especially in times like these.
***I’m editing this to clarify that I limited my information intake not because I wanted to be ignorant of what’s happening in the world but because I realized it was affecting me too much. I entered the mental health field because of my ability to connect with people in their suffering and be a caring, calming presence. But I also learned how to compartmentalize all the hard, dark stuff I witness so I can go home to my family at the end of the day and give them my whole, present self. When I’m not able to do that–when what I hear or witness starts crossing that line–I know that something needs to change. I need to take a break, recharge, and practice self-care. That’s what I have been doing these past couple of months. Until today when I couldn’t turn away any longer. When all that I hold dear and sacred in this life is at stake, I have no choice but to speak out.

Open doors

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to embrace letting things happen. Taking the chance on something and then letting go. It’s not that I necessarily believe that everything happens for a reason. I certainly believe that in everything there is a lesson to be learned but I have a hard time narrowing life down into such a (seemingly) trite statement. It’s more that I hold to the belief that there is enough opportunity–second, third, and fourth chances–out there to try again. It may not be immediate, and it might not look exactly the same, but I know there’s always more that life has to offer.
When we bought our first home, we weren’t the least bit prepared. We didn’t have our documents in order, there was no pre-approval letter–we had never even met with a lender. We thought it would be fun to start attending open houses, get a sense of what we liked and didn’t like, which neighborhoods appealed to us, and begin dreaming of what could be. It was only the second open house we attended when we walked into our home and knew, instinctually, that it was ours. But how could it be ours? We weren’t even ready to buy a home!
We went back to our apartment that evening and couldn’t get it out of our heads. That was our first home. We just knew it. So I did the only thing I knew to do–I wrote the sellers an email telling them how much we loved their home, how we knew it would be the perfect place to raise our family, and how, even though we didn’t have anything in order, we would meet with a mortgage lender right away. The sellers had already received a couple of offers and were anxious to sell as they were preparing to move to CA.
There were many, many close calls during those months waiting for our offer to be accepted, then for the house to be appraised, then inspections to go through, and finally for closing to complete. We were anxious but we also knew that all we could do was walk through one open door at a time. Even though we would have been disappointed to lose the house, we knew it wouldn’t be the last. It might not look the same, or be in the same neighborhood, but there would be more.
The final open door we walked through was the front door to our home after we signed the papers at closing. I still remember that day and how surreal it all felt. In the end, everything went our way–and we were so grateful–but we couldn’t have pushed it or made it go faster. We just had to take it one step at a time.
It has been a dream of ours since we got married to eventually build our own home. We loved the idea of designing everything from scratch and moving into a brand new house that was uniquely ours. We never had a timeframe for when it would, or could, happen. It was just something we thought about when we looked to the future.
This year, however, we started to wonder what that timeline might look like. With the real estate market the way it’s been, we began talking about selling our home, finding some land, and planning our build. Turns out, it’s expensive to build a home. And it’s also really hard to find property in the area we want to live. After meeting with builders and realtors and lenders we decided to focus our search on the land and go from there. We actually had our eye on a plot in the perfect location–just down the street from Ava’s preschool, close enough to restaurants and grocery stores but far enough to feel a part of the country. I can’t even count the number of times we drove by. I’m sure the neighbors started to feel a little nervous. We began dreaming of what it would be like to live there, to wake up to the sunrise over the fields, to greet the horses next door and raise our own chickens and goats (I know nothing about this but in my dream, I was the total chicken/goat expert).
Turns out, we kept running into closed doors. I was trying to learn as much as I could but I couldn’t find anyone to answer my questions and my head was spinning. We lost out on the land before we could even make an offer. Before we could even think to make an offer, actually, and none of the other lots that were available came close to that one.
Until this week. On Monday morning I opened an automated email that listed a piece of property in our ideal location, just 10 minutes down the road. When I looked through the pictures, my mouth dropped. It was even more perfect than the one before. I contacted our realtor, drove by that day, then took Cory by at night. The second we drove up, Cory declared, “We have to buy this.” When we walked the property the next day, we realized it had everything we wanted. Five acres, cleared and fenced, surrounded by fully grown oak trees and newly planted apple and pear trees, and even a cute little playset and chicken coop. I was halfway to becoming that chicken expert!
We put in an offer that day–along with another heartfelt letter–but found out on Wednesday that there were two others we had to compete with. We submitted our best counteroffer and then waited. It wasn’t enough to blow them away but it was all we could do. We knew it was exactly what we were looking for but we also knew it wouldn’t be our last chance to make our dream come true.
Late that night, we received a call from our realtor that our offer was accepted–thanks in large part to our letter. (Lesson learned: writing works!) We still have all the normal hoops to jump through–appraisal, surveys, closing–until it’s officially ours but we’ll take them as they come. One door at a time.