Why Do I Feel Like I’ve Lost Myself?

 

It’s no secret that moving has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life, possibly the hardest.  Through this experience I’ve almost felt like I lost myself. It’s really weird actually. I’ll look in the mirror and almost not recognize myself. Like most people, I had kind of mapped out my life in my head and had somewhat of an idea of what life would look like for me. That lifestyle that I had created in my head was who I was, it was part of my makeup and when I left that all behind I was completely broken. For the first few months I honestly went through the 4 stages of grief and not just once, but multiple times over again, never getting to that fifth stage of grief (acceptance). I remember just feeling absolute shock and denial when first moving to Mesa then after a while I was so angry. I was angry at Levi, angry at God, angry at everyone around me (especially the people that loved it here) and I just didn’t understand why I had to have the rug pulled from under my feet.  I had never felt such rage inside of me. Every day felt like an intense struggle within. I’ve never been an angry person so it was a very foreign feeling for me and I hated the way that I was acting. I started to bargain with God, I pleaded with him to figure out a way to send us back. I promised Him that if we could just go back to Utah that I would be better, I would give up anything to be back with my family and back where I’m comfortable. I even started bargaining with Levi. I would beg him to bargain with his bosses. I kept making up scenarios in my head where we could bargain our way back to our old life and every time those scenarios got shut down I felt so defeated. That defeat, of course, led me to days of depression.  Let me clarify that through out this process I did have good days and did have bad days. The first four stages of grief all seemed to be entangled together, continually cycling until I just felt like a crazy person. I just did not feel like myself anymore and I hated feeling this way.

Identifying the Cause of Suffering 

While on a trip back in Utah for Clair’s birthday, I was talking with a friend who recommended a podcast called Secular Buddhism, which focuses completely on Buddhist philosophies, not so much on the religious aspect of Buddhism. He mentioned how the podcast had really helped him to look at life differently, almost through a new set of lenses. I decided to check it out and found some of the most enlightening wisdom in listening. There is one particular philosophy that I want to focus on, which has truly helped me to finally fall into that last stage of grief, which is of course, acceptance. This philosophy is referred to as the nature of human suffering. Simply explained, this philosophy states that when we crave for life to be anything other than it is, we experience suffering. The host, Noah Rasheta, talked about how we often times create these expectations in our life, yet the only constant thing in our lives is change. Change can’t conform to those expectations in our lives; unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. So here we are creating these beliefs about how life is supposed to turn out and change comes along and ruins everything!! The only thing to blame for our unhappiness then, would have to be the thing that changed in our life right? What else would be causing our unhappiness and our anguish? The change came and it made my life different than expected, so it must be the fault of the change, right? Not so.

Here’s a quote from Noah that really turns this way of thinking around:

Square Pegs (2)

A light bulb literally shattered inside of my head when I heard this quote. Ok, not literally, metaphorically shattered inside my head.  It was a very enlightening and painful experience. It felt extremely liberating and horrifically dreadful all at the same time. Liberating because I could finally begin to shift my paradigm and dreadful because I couldn’t blame my circumstance anymore. It was like holding the formula for happiness in my hands but not knowing if I really wanted happiness after all. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone, but for those of you that have experienced a chronic dose of suffering, as much as you wish that feeling away, it’s also become a part of you and the thought of giving that up is a frightening one.

So here I am, listening to this podcast and realizing that it wasn’t the event of moving to Arizona that was causing my suffering, it was the way I was choosing to interpret and perceive moving to Arizona that was causing my suffering. Because I blamed my circumstance and interpreted moving to Arizona as something hard and bad, I felt that unless this circumstance ended or changed I would always be suffering. It was in the yearning for my suffering to end that the more acute my suffering became. So what am I really saying here? The more we wish our circumstance to change, the more suffering will occur.

Noah Rasheta (3)
So back to my light bulb shattering analogy, it was super painful to realize that in order to feel happiness again in my life, I needed to be ok with letting go of all the blaming and all of the excuses. That is a hard pill to swallow, and an even harder pill to digest. I wasn’t even sure if learning to live by this philosophy was even valid. Could I really learn to be happy living in my current situation, 118-degree weather and all?

Poison in My Bloodstream

Noah Rasheta explains that in order to shift our paradigm we have to understand, what the Buddhists call, the three poisons, which lead to suffering. The three poisons look something along these lines:

  1. Greed: The things that we want or crave in life, ‘if I could just have this…’ type of mindset.
  2. Anger/Aversion: The things we don’t want in life, ‘if I could just avoid this happening, life will be good,’ type of mindset.
  3. Ignorance: Being ignorant of the greedy and angry mindsets that keep us prisoner.

As I learned about these three poisons, I could identify several greedy and aversion-like thoughts already running through my head on a daily basis. Those thoughts were already becoming a huge part of my decision making.

‘If I could only live where it wasn’t so hot, then I would be happy.’

‘If I could just live in my own house…’

‘If I could lose 10 more pounds…’ 

‘If I could just work from home then I’d be happier…’

‘If I could just graduate from school, then I’d be able to feel more accomplished.’

‘If I could just avoid conversations like (blank) then I wouldn’t be so upset at church’

‘If I could just avoid getting a headache then I’d be happy.’

‘As long as I don’t end up in Arizona, I’ll be ok.’

‘If only I lived by family, I’d be happy all the time.’

Because these thoughts have been a part of my beliefs about what my life should look like, I have been living my life around them. As if they were some sorts of truth or standard to be lived against. Where did they even come from? Why can’t I just be happy with where I’m at right now? Why am I always trying to make up some excuse as to why I’m not happy?

How did I ever let this poison in without knowing it was poison? I felt like Vizzini drinking from a goblet laced with the tasteless, odorless Iocane Powder. It was inconceivable to me that my thoughts were actually poisoning my mind. (Hopefully someone is catching this reference…) And the thing about these thoughts is that I honestly thought that I was doing the right thing in trying to figure out what I was ‘missing’ in my life. I thought I was problem solving. I thought I was taking control over my life. I thought I was trying to make a plan to create happiness in my life, as if happiness is circumstantial.

I thought I was trying to make a plan to create happiness in my life, as if happiness is circumstantial.

These thoughts have been extremely limiting and extremely false because the truth is, all conditions are bound to change. In other words, I can’t control everything about my circumstance, despite how hard I might try. Change will come into my life and the more I try to idealize my life, the harder it will be to accept those ‘curve balls’ that are thrown to me.

Change is the only constant in our lives.  The way to find true happiness and to essentially end our suffering is to accept these conditions of change. When you find yourself able to accept change, in all its forms, it’s not like the suffering ends but that our fixation to end our suffering ends. The craving and fixation to change our current circumstance or create a different scenario ends. We are finally living in the moment, accepting of each moment, grateful for each experience. Instead of constantly dreading certain things that might come into our lives or wishing we could change things, acceptance and contentment will fill our hearts and minds.

I do wish to clarify that I do believe it’s ok to want to change things in our lives. However, the intention of our hearts with seeking change is key. What I am beginning to learn, and what this podcast has helped me to see, is that when I am seeking to change things to further my own happiness, it will most likely lead to suffering because at what end does that seeking come to? At what point will I feel ‘happy?’ Will that thirst ever be quenched? The cycle of greed and aversion will begin and those poisons will start to feed into my bloodstream, slowly killing my happiness.   If my intention for change was to make the world a better place, or to better my marriage, or to serve someone in need, I think then, a desire for change is appropriate and helpful, but again, make sure those intentions aren’t falling into the 3 poison categories.

Sarah the Square

Through coming to understand this philosophy I’ve, in turn, been able to answer my own question of ‘how did I come to lose myself?’ Well, I’ve lost myself because I’ve only known the idea of Sarah, not the real Sarah. I’ve spent so much time making decisions based on this idea instead of allowing myself to be. So sure, I’ve lost the idea of Sarah, and that’s been painful, but I haven’t lost Sarah because she’s never been found. I’m not sure if I’ve even met her. I think maybe, as a child, I had to have known her but I’ve forgotten that girl. I am not a lost cause; I am a cause that hasn’t been discovered yet. 

I hope I can get to a point where the idea of a ‘curve ball’ being thrown in my life doesn’t exist. I hope I can get to the point where I can abandon my ideas of how life should be and instead just let it be. Maybe the Beatles truly did understand these words of wisdom. Wow, that song suddenly has a much more deepened meaning for me. But seriously, my hope is that I can start to develop an awareness of how things truly are instead of how they should be, according to Sarah. I love how Noah describes his view of us as human beings in saying,

Square Pegs

Simply put, our idea of who we are, is not who we are. There is the idea of Sarah and then there is Sarah. My goal is to unlearn my beliefs about Sarah and to unlearn my beliefs about what Sarah’s life is supposed to look like. I think the first step to take in unlearning these beliefs will be to ask myself the ‘why’ behind everything I hold as truth. For example, and I shared this story in a past post, I used to believe that I could only be beautiful if I had blonde hair, not my strawberry hair. This belief took such great hold on me that I bleached my hair for 10 years. It wasn’t until I married Levi and he helped me to finally ask myself why I believed that, that I was able to unlearn that belief and make steps towards accepting my natural hair color. I know that there are so many beliefs just like the example I shared, lingering inside of me and silently crippling me. I think this process of unlearning will be a life long process, but along this process I know that I will experience liberation, freedom and happiness. Not only all of those things, but I will learn to be content in whatever circumstance life throws my way. I won’t be shocked or completely destroyed through change because I wasn’t expecting life to be anything other than the unexpected.

So, this blog post is sort of my opening statement to the beginning of a long journey. My hope is that as I begin to look at the way I see things, the way I see things will change and I’ll be able to be Sarah instead of constantly seeking to become this made up idea of who Sarah should be. When that day comes, it will be a beautiful, beautiful day indeed.

 

xo

Clair Olivia Turns One

Fav Cake Smash

Chin Pose

Clair Standing BalloonsTwo Teeth

Feeding DaddyMommy & MeHolding BalloonBirds Eye ViewHolding ClairUh Oh Floor

Nana

This past year has felt like a dream within a dream. When I try to think back to the early moments of Clair’s life those moments are in such a deep fog that it’s hard to see them for what they truly were. All I remember is what I felt, which was a mix of exhaustion, major anxiety, excitement and so much love and hope. I say this all of the time but Clair truly does live up to her name. She is our little moonbeam, our light contrasting the darkness, she fills the deepest and darkest corners of our hearts with so much happiness and warmth. She has brought an incredible amount of clarity into my life, or should I say “clairity” but really. How is it possible for a human so small to bring such a clearness to my life? There are so many things I have been able to understand about myself and so many things I have been able to understand about life because of her. What I have come to know as important, what I have come to know as truth, and what I have come to see as the right thing to do and believe, are all because of her presence in my life. The connection, the bond, the deep understanding and trust, all of these things that I thought I would never be able to feel, I feel them entirely with her.

If there is one thing that I would like to impart upon those that haven’t yet walked the path of motherhood, or who are on the path but feeling somewhat lost and confused about where you are heading, it is that self care will set you in the right direction. My sister-in-laws are some of the wisest women I have ever known and a few weeks ago I was talking with them about what they have learned in their experience as mothers. Both of them expressed the importance of making self care a priority every single day. I felt that what they shared with me was so wise and so helpful that I wanted to share it with my readers.

Self Care

So, what is self care? The way I see it is that you are consciously aware of specific needs that are directly linked to your happiness and wellbeing. These needs will be different depending on the person and these needs might take some time to figure out. However, once figured out, these needs might need to be expressed to a partner, spouse, or significant other so you can make a plan of action on how to accomplish these each day, week, month, however frequently you need, really.

One example of a self care that my sister-in-law Bergen shared, is her need to have one night out of the week where she can go wherever she wants, no questions asked. Her husband stays at home with the kids and allows her to have time to herself without interruption. Bergen told me how this night really allows her to reset, unwind and rest her body so that she can be a better wife, mother and overall person. Bergen also talked about how she has a monthly need of getting together with a small group of close friends. She feels rejuvenated and energized by this time with close friends and walks away feeling happier and more able to give of herself. That’s an important thing to realize you guys. We need to take time for self care or we won’t be able to GIVE anymore of ourselves. So a good measuring stick for how well you are doing at self care is to notice how giving you are feeling. If you notice that you are running super low on giving oil, it’s time for some SELF CARE.

Let’s move on to the task of learning what your personal self care needs are. So,  something important that goes along with this task is understanding what activities will actually result in self care and what activities will not. Understanding this difference is directly related to how well you truly understand yourself and your personality. For example, if you are introverted, like me, activities that involve large groups of people will probably not leave you feeling energized and rejuvenated. If you are like me, you’ll leave feeling exhausted.  What I really need every once in a while, so lets say monthly, is a get together will a small group of my close friends, just like Bergen. I will leave that time feeling super energized, inspired and animated. Another activity that isn’t linked to my self care is BINGE WATCHING Netflix. As much as I love my binge, I do not feel more giving afterwards, in fact, I often feel more annoyed and more selfish. That’s just me though, for some people binge watching Netflix might help them feel rejuvenated.So listen to your body as you experiment with different activities! If you leave feeling exhausted and stressed, that’s probably not an activity that you can put down on your self care list. If you leave feeling energized, rejuvenated and in the spirit of giving, that’s a definite YES activity.  Just know that it might take some time to figure yourself out. I haven’t quite figured myself out yet and I’m working hard to do so.

So let’s say you’ve figured out your happiness/wellbeing formula. Now what? I would say the most important thing  now, in the words of Nike, is to JUST DO IT. Make them a priority and express these needs to your spouse. The reason I keep mentioning expressing these needs to a spouse is because most married people with kids will have a hard time fitting these needs into their schedule WITHOUT talking and planning with their spouse. Communication is key you guys! Take it from me because as much as I wish he was, my husband is not a mind reader and most guys aren’t so you’ll have to take time to explain your needs to them. Make a plan together, or on your own if you’re single, and stick to that plan. The biggest thing that I can add to this is to not sacrifice these self care activities. They are just as or even more important than the rest of your work because without them, you might start to drown. I know lately I’ve been kind of a mess and as I’m writing this post I’m realizing that I haven’t been making time for self care. That will change starting tomorrow.

The last thing that I will say about self care is to not be afraid to try lots of new things. The greatest advice I heard from my sisters-in-law was to keep trying different things. Things, that you might not have ever considered your “thing,” might very well turn out to be the best self care activity. You might be trying running for a few weeks and realize that it’s not a self care activity and need to change it. That’s ok! Change them as much as you need to until you come to the perfect formula for you.

My personal formula is looking something like this:

  • Yoga each day
  • 30 mins of writing time each day-blogging, journal, brainstorm etc.
  • At least an hour each day that is my alone time-no baby, no husband. And this time is not after baby is asleep, this is after hubby comes home from work. Daylight hours.
  • Listen to a full album each day. (I’m a big music gal)
  • Personal reflection time each week. This is where I set goals, make plans and revisit my vision for myself. I usually take a couple hours each week where I realign my goals with my vision.
  • Date night with Levi (this one hasn’t been happening for a while since moving to AZ but i’m working on it)
  • Weekly FaceTime with a close friend (haven’t been consistent but trying to change that)
  • Monthly hangout with a new friend (ok, I haven’t been doing this but I WANT to start)
  • Watch a new movie each week (by myself or with Levi, doesn’t matter I just love movies)
  • Learn a new song on the guitar each week

This list isn’t close to being done, I just wanted to show you what my formula is looking like right now. As I’ve been taking time to figure out my self care needs, my self esteem and self love has been growing too. It’s been really cool to feel my confidence growing and my dreams widening. Positive energy isn’t my natural tendency, maybe it used to be but it hasn’t been for some time, but as I’ve been working on self care I’ve noticed more positive energy in my life. I just can’t express how important self care it and I invite you to try it!

I hope this post was helpful to most of you and that most, if not all of you, will work on your self care happiness formula. I’d love to hear from you the things that work for you!

Take care guys, literally.

 

Why Do We Demand “Real” Social Media Posts?

My voice has been silent for quite some time. Not because I haven’t had anything to say. On the contrary, I have have many, many things to say over the last couple of months. Too many things to say, honestly. It’s been too much to think about, to process, to understand and ultimately to write and  to express in words. I’ve been lost in thought, quite literally. Lost in the sense that I have no idea where to start expressing my thoughts or frankly why I feel the need to share my thoughts. But I do feel the need to share my thoughts. As part of this time of silence I have come to understand, more deeply, who I am as an individual and I believe that I am someone that has a voice and needs to open my mouth and share. So, here I am. I’m sharing. Take it or leave it for what it’s worth. The one thought that hasn’t been able to escape my mind is the thought that we need voices of truth to illuminate our paths. My hope is that my voice can be a voice of truth to help illuminate our paths as we navigate through all of the controversial and uncomfortable discussions of our time.

In light of the recent topic of “Lifestyle Porn,” which is a term that I just became familiar with due to a recent blog post being circulated, along with all of the other discussions going on regarding the negative influence of blogging and social media, I have had many thoughts on the subject and felt that sharing my opinion might help to bring perspective to the discussion. The biggest complaint that I hear being thrown around,regarding social media posts and blog posts, is that people aren’t “real” with their content or that the picture they are choosing to post isn’t “reality.” My reply to this complaint is two fold.

Firstly, so what?

So what if it isn’t “reality?” Why is that the standard for a social media post? Now, I do want to clarify that I’m not defending those fake bloggers or fake Instagram accounts. I am also not ragging on those who decide to use their social media accounts to showcase their “reality.”  My intent is to  only help us understand what we are truly asking for when we demand that everyone depicts “reality” in their posts.

From my perspective, I’ve been blogging since I was 15 years old, arguably before it was cool to blog. I guess you could say I’m a “hipster” in the blogging industry. Haha. Blogging was a creative outlet for me and I was literally surprised when people would comment or read my blog. My intent was purely creativity and an emotional outlet for me. My blog began as simply recording history-an online journal of sorts. Over the years it morphed into poetry and emotional expression of my experiences. Writing helped me to get through some of the hardest times of my young life. I soon began multiple blogs to explore different content such as music, religion, even hilarious dating experiences. When I left for my mission I didn’t realize how important it would be to back up all of my blog posts onto my computer and when I came home 18 months later, every single one of my blogs were deleted. Vanished into thin air. I tried everything to get them back, but they were completely gone and I was crushed. The reason I share this experience with you is to give you a background to how important blogging has been to me and how devastated I was to see my creative writing pieces completely destroyed. I was so upset that I waited over a year before writing again.

The reason I share that personal experience is to help you understand that although I have chosen to write about my real experiences and my real thoughts and feelings on my blog, not everyone feels the need to do so, but that doesn’t mean that their content isn’t important to them. Think about all of the fictional books that have been written, think about all of the fictional tv shows that we watch. Think about all of the advertisements we see, or the actors that we admire in fictional movies. None of those things or characters are “real” but they are still beautiful. They are still artistic. They are still creative and inspirational and worthwhile. If people decide to use Instagram as a creative outlet where they showcase their creativity, in whatever way that is, why should we demand that they are presenting “reality?” If an account doesn’t appeal to you, don’t follow it. If someone’s blog is just a bunch of “fake” or “set up” pictures and content, don’t read it. They are simply using their blog as advertising and they have every right to do so. I have chosen not to pursue using my blog as an advertisement but that doesn’t mean I look down at someone else because they do. It just feels like we are trying to start some sort of “dethrone the mommy bloggers” movement, which I don’t feel is what is truly needed.

The problem I have with the current discussion is that I don’t agree with grouping certain bloggers together into one stereotype and labeling them as “porn” for an entire demographic. That’s a little bit extreme. Porn is an entirely different thing. Let’s not pretend that they are even remotely close to the same thing.  I think what really needs to be said is that as women (I say women, but these principles apply to men as well) we need to become better as seeing through facades and appreciating the inspiration that is available to us. I think the root of the problem with “mormon women culture” isn’t the blogging, or the so called “lifestyle porn,”  but it is the women themselves. The root of the problem is that women can be envious and competitive and seeing other women that are, in their perception, more “successful” than them, can cause some pretty negative feelings of comparison. Maybe the problem is that women are allowing themselves to only be consumers instead of creators. Constantly consuming consuming consuming without looking outside of their consumption and trying to create something beautiful in their own lives. The solution isn’t shunning these bloggers as a whole, but learning how to balance your own feelings of envy and competition. If you can’t handle seeing pictures of another person’s “perfect” house, don’t look at them. I personally love seeing pictures of beautiful houses because of the simple fact that they are beautiful. Do I demand that my husband make more money so I can have a house like that? No. Do I all of the sudden have unrealistic expectations of what my life should be like? Nope. I’ve been able to get some really good ideas of how to decorate or organize my house in a way that feels more beautiful and artistic to me. Nothing wrong with that. In the end, the bloggers that are completely lying to their readers by depicting a facade as reality, will ultimately only hurt themselves or just lose followers.

Secondly, reality is fluid.

No, not the liquid fluid…I mean, reality isn’t stagnate. The problem that I have in demanding that social media posts are “real” or that they depict “reality” is that how do you define a “real” Instagram picture or a “real” blog post? Reality is ever present and ever changing. My reality right now is that it’s 1:28 pm in the afternoon, it’s 60 degrees outside and sunny. Your reality is probably different. For all my Utah peeps, you’re probably freezing into icicles right now. Yes sometimes my reality involves a crying baby, like it did 15 minutes ago, but my reality now involves a sweet napping baby and a clean house because I had the time to clean it. If I took a picture of my house right now it would look pretty darn good, but would people take one look at that and think “she’s not depicting real life, she’s just trying to look perfect.” The problem is that we are acting as if reality should always look messy, and always look chaotic and always look imperfect but I am here to argue that sometimes I really do have “perfect” moments. Few as they may be, I do have them and those are the moments that I, personally, find beautiful and artistic and worth capturing. They aren’t the only moments I capture or decide to post, but when I do capture, what I think is, a perfect moment, I found joy in being able to share that.

Maybe to you, a “perfect” moment involves capturing your crying baby and saying that you are cherishing that time with her. That’s beautiful! Maybe to someone else a “perfect” moment is posting a picture that they took hours to capture and prepare for.  That’s equally beautiful! How many of you wait until just before sunset to take the “perfect” picture of the horizon? I’ve done it many times and I do it because I found it fulfilling. In my opinion, perfection is worth working for and capturing and I think the whole idea behind Instagram is to provide a creative and beautiful feed to share with other people. I don’t know why people started holding onto the idea that social media was designed to show our “real” lives and our “real” lives only. Do we even show our “real” selves when we are out in public? I know that I don’t. Unlike the privacy of my home, I usually wear pants and I usually at least try to brush my hair. I never express to people how I am really feeling unless I know them pretty intimately and trust them. When a stranger asks me how I am doing I usually respond “good, how are you?” without really blinking. It’s not reality, but it’s still acceptable in public. So what is the difference with social media? What is the difference with blogging? Aren’t they just another way of presenting yourself in the public eye?

Our True Potential for Perfection

I believe that we are all beautiful, creative souls that are trapped in bodies that are imperfect and flawed. We live in a world that is chaotic, sometimes frightening and ugly at times. We find it easy to make wrong decisions because we are still trying to understand how to follow God and balance our desires. All of these things add to the idea that imperfection and chaos are perhaps the only reality, but I believe that underneath all of that, we do have the potential for perfection, beauty and inspirational creativity. I  believe that perfection can also be our reality, perhaps in small increments at a time, but still a reality.  I mean, isn’t that the whole entire point of our earth life? To become like God which, essentially, means to become perfect. I think that’s why the idea of perfection is so appealing. I think that is why I enjoy seeing beautiful scenery, pictures and videos. I honestly enjoy the Instagram accounts that I have chosen to follow because their posts are inspirational to me. I enjoy the bloggers that I follow because, although the pictures they post might be “set up,” I still think they are beautiful and walk away feeling more inspired.  I enjoy it because I know that deep down, we all have the potential to become “perfect.” Whatever that even means. I don’t know if we even truly understand the meaning of perfection just yet.

So here is my proposal, instead of judging and stereotyping, and creating a bunch of negative energy towards our fellow brothers and sisters, let’s celebrate the beautiful pictures that we see on Instagram. Let’s celebrate the blog posts that inspire and uplift us. Look for the good and follow the good. Allow people to use social media in the way that they choose to use it. Allow them to be creative in the way that they choose to be creative. Above all, remember that truth is universal, it is something that is plainly seen if desired. As you use social media and as you read articles, blogs, essays, etc, remember that truth will present itself to you as you seek it. Look for the truth and relish in that truth. I think we forget sometimes that we have a loving Heavenly Father that will open our minds to truth and inspire us to find those things that are lovely, praiseworthy, beautiful and good. Seek after those things and create good things of your own making! I truly believe that each person has their own potential for creativity and will feel more happy and inspired in their life if they choose to create. Maybe for some that means using social media or the internet as a means to that end but maybe for others it won’t involve them at all. Whatever your means, create and appreciate the creativity in others.

xoxo

5 Ways To Beat the “Motivation Blues”

Last month I experienced my first dose of PMS since pre-pregnancy life and it was insane, you guys. I literally thought I was going mad. I was completely fine and then randomly my hubby asked me what I wanted for dinner and I started spazzing out. I just had this uncontrollable rage inside of me about how few choices there were in the fridge and I wanted so desperately to laugh about how I felt, but I was just too angry to laugh. My husband wasn’t sure how to handle me, and when he isn’t sure what’s going on, he usually just bites his tongue & slips into his silent world. That only enraged me more. I wanted him to talk to me. I wanted him to ask me what’s wrong. I wanted him to console me. One minute I’m a raging bull and the next I’m a blubbering whale, bawling my eyes out. I was literally lying in bed crying and this was how the conversation was going…

Me: “I just need someone to talk to me…” (hysterical crying)

Levi: “I am talking to you honey, what do you want to talk about??”

Me: “UH! YOU JUST DONT GET IT. YOU SHOULD ALREADY KNOW WHAT TO TALK ABOUT. WHY DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU WHAT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT??” (continual sobbing)

Levi: “Honey I’m just really confused.. how can I help you? I’m sorry. I’m here for you.”

Me: “THIS IS THE WORST. I’M SO ALONE.” (hahahah, true story.)

Long story short, I was such a mess and I couldn’t figure out why I felt so much anxiety and anger and sadness and loneliness all at the same time. The lightbulb finally came on in my head…”Oh, PMS…you son of a witch.”

Needless to say, I’ve been in need of a huge mood booster. And it hasn’t just been the PMS, I just have not been “motivated,” whatever that means, since moving to AZ. I mean, if I could name one animal that describes me these days it would be a sloth. And that is saying a lot to admit that because I think sloths are the creepiest animals. They seriously look like weird little humans with wolverine-like claws, but it is sadly true. I have been a sloth these days and how fitting because there are sloths here in AZ. There is literally a Sloth Rescue Center in Flagstaff. Someone rescue me for pity sakes, but anyway.

I decided today that the lack of motivation had to stop. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with feeling sad and unmotivated. Feel what you need to feel, but there comes a time when you need to pick up your body and just LIVE and feel the happiness that God intends you to feel. I’ve been really missing that happiness and enlightenment and joy that I could have in my life. As I took a step back and recognized how I was using my time, I realized that if I just changed a few things during the day it could make a HUGE difference in how I felt mentally and emotionally about my life.

Now, I’m not saying that these 5 simple things are like a magic to-do list that will make all of your problems go away. It’s not the list that’s magic, its the principle behind the list that is magical. The principle is simply that as we ACT, we will feel fulfillment and happiness in our lives. These tasks are the way that I choose to act so that I am starting to feel motivation, inspiration and happiness in our lives. My goal with this list is to help you to get an idea of things that you can do every day so that you are choosing to ACT instead of being ACTED UPON. 

P O D C A S T S

Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom and haven’t had as much intellectual engagement with other human beings as I would like, podcasts are the next best intellectual engagement I have found, plus they are super convenient. Unlike human interaction, you can pause them and play them when you are ready to listen to them. If you aren’t feeling it, you can turn it off and try again later. I typically listen to them in the car or to help me get going on the cleaning checklist.  There is just something super inspiring about hearing another person’s story, their struggles, their inspirations, their goals. I have had so many thoughts come to mind of things I can do or change in my life while listening to podcasts. The amazing thing about podcasts is that there are so many different genres of podcasts-literally anything you are interested about, there will be a podcast about it. I stick to podcasts that are mostly centered around motherhood, entrepreneurship, happiness, lifestyle, home inspiration, ideas for a better life, motivation, humor. You get the gist. I read a blog post on The Alison Show that helped me to find some good places to start with podcasts that you can find here.

Light it Up, Babe

No, I’m not referring to what you are thinking, although I hear that does calm the nerves (haha). I am referring to CANDLES, actually! You guys, have you ever realized how lighting candles can change the entire ambiance of your house?? Therefore, changing your entire ambiance? It is the the greatest miracle. I’ve always been a huge candle sniffer. You know, a person who sniff’s all the candles at the store, that’s totally me. I justify spending way too much money on candles because I truly do believe in the effects they have on the home and individuals. Psychologically I feel like choosing what scent you choose to smell is controlling the controllable. It’s like saying to yourself, “I can’t control the circumstance that I am in, but I can control what I am smelling while in the circumstance.” Does that sound completely silly? For me, it just emotionally helps me to feel like I am in control over my life. Also, smells just tend to bring you places, ya know? It’s like every time I smell pumpkin I am immediately brought back to Fall, crunchy leaves, Thanksgiving, Halloween, hot cocoa, my mom’s chili etc.. Smells have a power to do that. When I am feeling down in the dumps, a good candle can usually do the trick. I also love have a wax warmer in my kitchen that I am obsessed with. My favorite wax has been coconut, it smells so heavenly. If you don’t believe me, try it. I guarantee lighting up a candle will rock your world and lift your spirits.

Make a Deliberate Playlist 

When it comes to listening to music, I think it is much to easy to listen to music that doesn’t uplift, inspire and enlighten. Not to say that is the purpose of listening to music, I’m guilty of listening to many breakup playlists in my day, but I do think there is something empowering about choosing the type of music and lyrics that we allow into your heart and mind for the day. Generally speaking, I think we are much too passive when it comes to listening to music and whether you choose to believe it or not, music does influence our thoughts, feelings and actions. As I have decided to make a deliberate playlist, meaning I am really listening to the lyrics and listening to how the music makes me feel, I have come to realize that music is an incredible tool for inspiration. I’m a huge music lover and making a good playlist is already a hobby for me so I found it really enjoyable to sit down and make a deliberate playlist, but I encourage you to try this at home. Sit down and really find those songs that uplift and inspire. I’m not saying that the same music that uplifts and inspires me is the same music that uplifts and inspires you. I’m also not saying that uplifting and inspiration music has to be upbeat and talking about sunshine.  All I am saying is-don’t let yourself be acted upon by the mainstream music industry. Do your homework! Research your favorite artists and find other artists that are similar. Figure out what artistic style is inspiring to you and figure out why it is inspiring to you. I promise you that there is Gold in them Hills (a great song to add to the playlist & pick the Chris Martin version) for the hardworking playlist makers. Novo Amor is an amazing artist to start with.

Eat Some Lucky Charms

I have always had a pretty big sweet tooth. Back in Junior High, I literally ate a Hersey’s Cookies & Cream bar with Pink Lemonade every single day for lunch. I would also eat an entire Ben & Jerry’s container of ice cream at every sleepover. I have an addiction to sugar, it’s bad. I do pretty good now that I’m an adult and need to be healthy or whatever, but I have found that when I am just having a rough time a good bowl of my favorite cereal does the trick. Our bodies are going through a lot as women & during our PMS hours,  a little TLC to our bodies gives the message that we still love them, even though what they are doing to us sucks. Now, regardless if you are having PMS or if it’s just a regular day, I absolutely love the principle behind choosing to eat a favorite food. For some reason food can sometimes become this restricting and binding thing for me where I limit myself to what foods I will eat or “should eat.” I will go to the grocery store and just buy the same things over and over again because that’s the routine and that’s what cheapest or whatever, but what if you decided to buy foods that were more expensive but SO good. What if you decided to make an amazing healthy meal that you loved even though the ingredients cost a boat-load of money? What if you just ate 3 bowls of ice cream because you loved that ice cream. I guess what I’m trying to get at, is to not let food control you. Don’t let eating become a restrictive thing. Just eat. Enjoy food! Cook, bake, explore new tastes and foods. I have found that as I try new recipes and buy new veggies & fruits that I’ve never cooked with, I feel free and inspired again. If that food is Lucky Charms for you, go and buy Lucky Charms. Eat it and enjoy it.

DECLUTTER 

I have found that when my body is out of whack, my house is completely in sync with my body. There are so many projects that have just been sitting & waiting for the “motivation” to kick in, but I’m here to declare that motivation seriously doesn’t exist. I am trying to kick the belief that I have to be motivated before I act because that belief is completely wrong. If we wait around to be motivated before we act, we are going to be stagnant our entire lives. Acting is what gives us motivation. Acting is what gives us fulfillment. Acting really is what gives us the most peace and contentment in our lives. When we choose to get up and act, there really is a power that comes into our lives and THAT is when the motivation, inspiration or whatever you want to call it, comes into our lives. So get up and clean your room! Put away that crap on your dresser. Throw away the junk in your closet that you never use. Donate those clothes that you’ve been holding on to because they are a Nordstrom brand but you secretly don’t even like them (I’m totally guilty of that). The more room you free up in your house, the more creative room you will have in your lives.

Take a Step Back & Evaluate 

Long story short, if you are feeling “unmotivated” in your life, I think it is wise to maybe step back and evaluate your beliefs. If you have the belief that you need to feel some sort of motivating feeling before acting, that belief is probably going to result in feeling a lack of motivation and thus a lack of acting which ultimately leads to unhappiness. Believe me, I would know. Happiness always come when we choose to act, even when we don’t feel like acting. And yes, I am the worst person to be giving this advice right now because I haven’t been the best at acting. I have been the best person at NOT acting and excusing myself for my behavior. I have let myself off the hook for not exercising because its “too hot” outside to exercise and I don’t have the money to buy a gym pass. I have excused myself from developing new relationships because I “don’t have a car” and “Clair’s schedule complicates things” etc… Not to say that these things aren’t true because YES it is too hot outside and YES Clair’s schedule does complicate things, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to act. That doesn’t mean that I have an excuse to mope around the house and to feel unhappy. Those things just mean that I need to work harder and be more creative in how to make things work.

I hope this post was helpful in some way. I know that I have needed to write these things just to give myself a little bit of a kick in the rear end to take a step in the right direction. Again, like I said at the beginning of this post, these 5 things are placed in my daily routine to give a sign to my body that I am going to act today, that I am not going to be acted upon, that I am going to be working towards the goals that I want, that I have control over myself and my happiness. I have found that as I include these things in my daily routine, I end up doing may productive & creative things throughout the day. It really is magic. So, my challenge to you is to come up with your list of 5 things you will do each day to signal to your body that you choose to act and choose to be in control. As always, I would love to hear your comments and ideas!

xoxo

 

3 Steps to Mental Clarity

I most recently posted on Instagram about how I have started a mental journey of cleansing. This cleansing process entails a few things that I would like to discuss today in hopes that I can inspire and motivate you to take the same journey. I believe this journey will be beneficial for anyone to begin, reason being that over the years, we all build up a bunch of beliefs that might have been helpful at one time in our life, but aren’t necessarily helpful in the present time. Or sometimes we develop beliefs that have never been helpful or supportive to us. A personal example of this idea would be my belief that I developed in High School, that being skinny equals being acceptable and beautiful. Because I had that core belief about beauty, I was never happy with my body unless I was bone thin. That belief also drove me to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. It wasn’t until years after graduating High School that I realized the truth of my problem. A healthy calorie intake every single day wouldn’t fix me, changing my belief about beauty would change me. The trick with all of this is learning how to become aware of our own beliefs so that we can ultimately change them, if needed.

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Becoming Aware of our Beliefs

Alright, so here comes, what I feel, is the hardest part of the journey. Learning to become in tune and aware of our beliefs. I think the first step in coming to an awareness is learning how to listen to our thoughts. Truly listen to what we are thinking and noticing when a certain thought leads us to feelings of negativity. Here is a great example of this process. I heard this example while listening to a Tiffany Han podcast while she interviewed a woman named Lacy Young. I have had the exact same belief in the past so I really related to what Lacy expressed and will share a summarized version as follows:

I have a lot of friends who work out at the gym, which is super great for them but I’m just not a gym person. In the past, I would see a picture of them working out at the gym and I would have the thought ‘I don’t go to the gym,’ which would then be followed by the thought, ‘I won’t ever have a fit body.’ I would then start feeling and thinking negative things about my body image.

Did you catch mine and Lacy’s underlying belief there? Essentially we believed, “I can only have a fit body if I have a gym pass,” which really isn’t true. I can have a fit body in a number of different ways. For whatever reason, I don’t like the gym and I shouldn’t have to feel bad about that. I can still be a happy person just because I don’t like the gym. I don’t need to feel bad about myself and believe that I’m a fat person. You guys, this process happens all of the time within the walls of our minds. An idea will come to our attention, either organically developed through an experience or through another person’s opinion, and in that moment we have the choice to let that idea become a belief or let that idea blow away. Sometimes we encounter a really persuasive person and all of the sudden we start to feel like we aren’t living our life right anymore, am I right? I mean, who’s ever been to Sephora and conversed with a makeup expert there? I always leave believing that my skin NEEDS these specific products and that without them I won’t have beautiful and healthy skin. The point is, we all have developed beliefs that aren’t serving us anymore and might be weighing us down from enjoying a life free of negativity.

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What I’m starting to learn is that we have to actively decide what we will and won’t allow inside of our little “belief” section of our minds. It’s just too darn easy to just consume whatever is being fed to us through our lit up screens without really being an active participant in that consuming. You feel me?

Another way to start to become aware of our beliefs is to observe the words that come out of our mouths. Really be aware of those words because our words are the puzzle pieces to our inner beliefs. A simple example might be, “That stupid idiot driver made me so mad today.” I know that I’ve been guilty of that sentence many a time in my lifetime. So what belief is linked with that sentence? I’m basically saying that my emotions are tied to outside influences that I can’t control. Wow, that’s going to be a disaster if I keep that belief up my entire life. I will be basing my emotional well-being on things that are completely out of my control. Not a good belief to have.

It will take patience and diligence in trying to figure out your inner beliefs, but it is worth the effort because the pay off equals freedom of unnecessary stress and burden. For me, I am looking forward to inner peace and the ability to only focus on thoughts that are relevant to my true desires. I know that I’ve spent too much time focusing on irrelevant matters that aren’t helping me to have joy and fulfillment in my life. Goodbye false & useless beliefs!

We Have Desires for a Reason

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Ok, so once you’ve started the process of weeding out false and irrelevant beliefs, it is now the time to focus on figuring out your TRUE desires. As I talked about in a recent post about my personality,  I am a major idealist and dreamer. I have all of these bottled up desires and hopes and I catch myself pushing them away because I feel like I shouldn’t have them or am incapable of achieving them. That is a FALSE belief, by the way. I truly believe, and I will hold on to this belief forever, that we have our desires for a reason. Our desires are what motivate us to work hard, educate ourselves, meet new people, stretch ourselves. I believe that our desires are the means by which God can help us accomplish greatness in our lives. They are the core of who they are, rooted deep inside our hearts, and when we don’t act according to our desires, it is almost as if we are betraying ourselves. Now, with that said, I don’t think all desires are good but I believe that we are capable of refining and molding all desires into something good and pure, the way that they were always meant to be.

For example, one might have a desire to be an independent business owner so as to provide for their family and to become financially free. This is a good desire. However, for whatever reason, that pure desire might turn to greed. A desire for money and influence might start masking the once true and original desire. Because of this potential, it is important to figure out your pure and honest desires. Those desire are there for a reason. It might look like those desires are impossible to achieve, but do not tell yourself that you are dumb for wanting it. For example, I have always had a desire to be a musician. When I was little, I would write songs on the piano and submit them in contests at my school. I would win little awards for it and I felt so accomplished and happy. Somewhere along the way I have let that desire be swept under the rug, so to speak, and feel like I could never become a musician because I’m not “good enough.” Because I believe I’m not good enough, I’m not pursuing it, and as a result I feel like I’m not fulfilling my potential and I feel unhappy at times.

So what I am saying is to figure out what your true desires are and trust them, believe in them. Don’t push them away. Don’t be frightened by them. They are there for a reason, and it’s important that we acknowledge them and embrace them.

Draw Your Desires to You

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The last thing I want to cover is learning how to draw your desires to you. This might sound a little mystical, but lets face it, I am a mystic (haha), and I truly believe that what you visualize and think about creates your reality.  Positive energy attracts positive energy. Negative energy attracts negative energy. I believe all of those things. In order for visualizing to really work, you have to believe that it will work and that you deserve these good things in your life. Something that I really liked from Lucy Young’s podcast was her saying,

“Don’t worry about the how, it will happen. Just focus on your intent & stay connected to how it feels to want it. It will happen. Trust that it will come.”

If you have always had a desire to take a trip to Europe, picture yourself there. Stay connected to that feeling and desire. It will happen eventually. The how will work itself out. People and things and opportunities will be drawn to you and your life will suddenly be working out for your good and benefit. Honestly I can say that this has been true in my life! I’ve been wanting to connect with different bloggers in my community and have had that desire for some time and it has been amazing to see people and opportunities start to come into my life. When I have chosen to focus and think about what I really want, things will happen. Try it in your own life! I’m not saying that it will happen in the way that you expect it to happen & I’m not saying you can just sit there and wait for it to happen. But I am saying that if you want something bad enough, it will come to you. I mean, what does Jesus teach us about faith? We can literally do and have anything when we ask in faith. I believe that when we are following true & honest desires (key words there), we are capable of having those true & honest desires through our faith.

This is such a freeing and enabling knowledge to have! How many times have I gone to church and learned about faith but failed to really exercise it in my life. I don’t think faith is ONLY to be used in spiritual matters, I think it can be used in ANYTHING in our lives. Why not? Why wouldn’t God want us to succeed and accomplish the desires in our heart? He does, and He will.

In a Nutshell…

Here’s the 3 takeaways from my long insight I have just disclosed:

  1. Figure out your beliefs.
  2. Figure out your true & honest desires.
  3. Draw it to you.

Challenge Time, if you are up for it: Re-write 2 aspects of your life, whether it be relationship, work, habits, hobbies, etc., and re-write them until they feel good and more aligned with your desires. Simply put, if your relationship with your spouse isn’t the way you desire it to be, well how would you want it to be? Visualize it and believe that it can become that way.

I hope that this post was helpful. I know that I am still learning and trying to figure out how to make these mental changes but I really do want to see improvement in my life. Please comment and keep me updated on your journey’s & how you’ve been able to overcome mental obstacles in your life. I would love to hear from your experiences! Thanks for reading, I know it was a lengthy one. 🙂

xoxo

Bringing Up Bebe, Part 1: The Sleep Miracle

While pregnant I learned of a book called “Bringing Up Bebe,” by Pamela Druckerman. My boss (at that time), had mentioned that his baby had been sleeping through the night basically since he was a few months old. That idea sounded very appealing since all I had heard previous to that was horror story after horror story of sleepless nights-those nights, lasting for years at a time. Not appealing. I asked my boss the secret to their magical baby and he said his wife read a book called “Bringing Up Bebe,” or what I now like to call the Baby Bible. The book isn’t your typical parenting book of instructions, this book is actually a novel. It’s a story about a woman that moves to France with her boyfriend, who then becomes her husband and eventually has a baby in the city of love. Because the parenting culture is wildly different than America, she decided to figure out the parental “philosophy,” you could say, that the French mothers follow. The thing that led her to start this journey was her fascination with the way that children, babies included, behaved in public. She never saw freak-outs at the restaurant, she never saw children talking back to their parents, and most of all, she always saw them eating everything that was placed in front of them-and not only that, but enjoying it. We are talking adult food here, which from what I’ve seen is very uncommon. I’ve mostly just seen super picky children eaters here. Anyway, the point is-Pameal Druckerman wanted to figure out the “french secrets” of raising a disciplined baby & child. There were so many amazing things I learned from this book, but today I am solely focusing on sleep tips and principles.

A lot of the principles in this book are similar to the principles found in Baby Wise, which I think more people are familiar with. Baby Wise basically sets up a foundation for learning how to keep your baby on a feeding schedule, which in turn, helps the baby sleep through the night. Both books teach an underlying principle that strict adherence to a schedule is what makes the biggest difference in helping babies sleep. One of my biggest goals as a new mommy was to help my baby to sleep. I really don’t do well without sleep (who does?) and I knew that in order for me to be a sane and happy mother I needed to help Clair establish a schedule. The following are a few principles that I took to heart from Bringing Up Bebe, aka my Baby Bible.

Nudge Babies into a  Feeding Schedule

The French have a cultural phenomenon where they all eat around the same time every single day. Usually those times are 8:00 -breakfast, 12:00-lunch, 4:00 snack (or as they say, “le gouter”), 8:00-dinner. When I first read this I could not wrap my brain around the idea of a world where there wasn’t a free-for-all snacking environment. I’ve always been a snacker. I come from a family of snackers. The idea of only have one snack a day? Impossible. Again, this is where we have to remember the principle here. So the important thing is that YOU as a mom have some sort of consistence schedule for eating. If your schedule is in place, your children will then have a schedule in place and will be synced with your eating times. More convenient for everyone.

Anyway, more of that for another day, the reason I am talking about eating is because when babies have a consistent feeding schedule, their sleeping schedule is more consistent too. The Baby Wise book talks about following the schedule of eat, wake, sleep. I personally have followed this pattern it has been amazing to see Clair follow that schedule all on her own. She is now at the point where she is eating, waking and sleeping all around the same times every single day. I love this because it helps my life to become a lot more predictable and manageable. Here is an example of my schedule for Clair (she’s almost 6 months old, so this schedule might have to be adjusted, depending on how old your baby is)

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6:30-7:00 am  wake & feed

7:00-8:00 awake time

8:00-9:30 down for nap

9:30-10:00 wake & feed

10:00-11:00 awake time

11:00-12:30 down for nap

12:30 wake & feed

12:30-2:00 awake time

2:00-3:30 down for nap

3:30 awake & feed

3:30-4:30 awake time

4:30-5:15 cat nap

5:15 awake & feed

5:15-7:30 awake time/bedtime routine

7:30 final feed and down for the night

It can be a bit hard to nudge your baby into this schedule, but my advise is to be patient and persistence! There are some days where the times might be off a bit, so I just roll with the punches. I try not to let the schedule control me or get stressed if she isn’t following exactly. As long as I am roughly following this, she really does do the rest of the work. It’s amazing! I really think babies thrive on schedules. Also-putting her down early has helped her to sleep all the way through the night. I’ve noticed that if I put her down later, she wakes up a lot more frequently.

The Pause

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Now, in an ideal world, Clair would stay asleep after we put her down at 7:30 and we wouldn’t have any interruptions with our couples time. Honestly, that rarely happens. She usually will cry a couple of times after we put her down. A principle that has helped me to get her to get back to sleep & self soothe is called “the pause.” In reading about this principle in Bringing Up Bebe, I learned that babies often cry when they are learning to connect their sleep cycles. The French do “the pause” every single time they hear their baby cry. They understand that babies are loud sleepers and sometimes will cry even though they aren’t awake. Basically “the pause” means that you pause (big surprise there) before rushing in to your baby. I usually pause for a minute or two, depending on the cry. Sometimes I know her cry is urgent and I rush in there to help her to burp or something. But most of the times she is fussing to get back to sleep. I have been trying to help Clair learn to self soothe so when she cries after we put her down to bed I will wait for at least a minute, go in and put her binky in, pat her back and slip out the door. If she continues to cry I wait another couple of minutes, go back in and put her binky in one last time, pat her on the back until she calms down and leave. She normally goes back to bed after this and will sleep through the night. A few things to remember with this is to try  not to pick up your baby unless you need to. When I go in to give her the binky I do it quietly, I keep the lights down low, I pat her and whisper I love her, but I do not pick her up. I think doing this helped her to learn that she needs to learn to soothe herself. Be patient with this principle!! Sometimes I just give in and pick her up. She’s just so darn adorable. Know that it will take a couple of days, maybe even a week for your baby to learn to self soothe, but it will happen eventually!! Be persistent and patient. We are now to the point where she will cry once or twice after putting her down, but she only cries for a few minutes and will go back to sleep.

Get Baby in the Mood to Sleep

Something that I felt was really important was setting a bedtime routine for Clair. The book teaches that a bedtime routine is important for babies because they will feel more secure in their separation from mommy and daddy. Bedtime routines help them to be calm and relaxed and ready for bed, instead of being randomly put to bed at different times of the night. The unexpected is probably unsettling for babies. My routine almost always looks like the following: bath with mom & dad-sorry not WITH us, just both of us present while she bathes. That would be a big tub (haha), lotion time & jammies, singing lullabies, reading a story, saying our prayers, cuddle with mom & dad, final feeding, put her down when she’s sleepy but not all the way asleep, tell her goodnight. For me, I felt it was important that we were both present during this routine because she doesn’t get to see her daddy as much during the day. By the time he gets home she only has 2 hours with him before bed. I let Levi do as much of the routine as he wants to, but I’m always there just so she feels completely loved and secure.

 

Sleeping Well is Better for the Baby & the Family

I believe that statement with all of my heart! Sleeping is so essential in babies learning and development (just like adults), and when they aren’t getting enough sleep it isn’t healthy for us or them. I know how easy it is to believe that mothers should sacrifice anything for their children and I do believe that to an extent, but I don’t believe that mothers have to sacrifice their mental and physical health when it isn’t benefiting the baby. Babies need their sleep too. I’ve noticed that Clair has been much happier and alert as she gets her sleep in at night. She eats better, she plays harder, and she takes her naps during the day. Everything is happier and brighter when she gets her sleep at night.

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A favorite quote from the book says, “Sleep contains an important symbolic lesson for babies: learning to sleep is part of learning to be part of the family. Babies eventually need to adapt to what others need, too.” I love that! There is so much more that babies learn when learning to sleep-they are learning that it isn’t all about them. Parents need time together to work on their relationship, and for Levi and I, that time is at night-after she’s asleep.

I know how hard it can be, and I’m not saying you have to do things the way that I’ve talked about, and maybe these principles won’t do the same for your baby. I just wanted to share them because of how much they have helped my baby girl. If you have any other questions about what worked for me, feel free to comment below.

xo

photography credit: Emmy Lowe & Copper Pearl  

5 Struggles All INFJ’s Understand

Recently I’ve been really interested in learning about my personality. I find it enlightening to figure out who I am and WHY I am the way that I am. I went a very long time throughout my life struggling to figure out who I was (like most people), so as I’ve been piecing together my true personality it has helped me to feel confident and freed from the bonds I might have placed on myself in the past. Somewhere along the lines I had painted a picture of who I thought I was, but really I wasn’t anything like that person and as a result I was left feeling insecure. I have found it completely beautiful that as I’ve discovered who I truly am, strengths and flaws combined, I have become more confident and alive than I have ever been before in my entire life. I think that clarity really brings with it a lot of joy, even if that clarity means wading through some deep and dark water.

This journey started while I was serving a mission for the LDS church in Portland, Oregon (the best place in the entire world, p.s.). When I left Utah to serve in Oregon for 18 months I thought I understood who I was and what I wanted in life, but once I got to Oregon I realized that I had NO IDEA who I really was. I remember I had only been out for a month and my trainer, Sister Jessica Pauga (the best human on earth), had me talking to strangers about my beliefs. There was one particular day where a woman was being a jerk to us and I just stood there with nothing to say to her. I had no idea how to stand up to her and really started questing who I really was. We went home after the encounter and I started crying because I realized that I didn’t have enough self respect and love for myself. Sister Pauga asked me a really simple question, which was, “Sister Benson (my maiden name), do you love yourself?” I just burst out in tears because I really didn’t love myself at that time. I thought about all of the mistakes I had made in my life, I thought about who I thought I was supposed to be and the imaginary life  I was supposed to be living up to and my self confidence was shot to the place where the sun don’t shine. I was a mess, I tell ya. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere with Sister P in my life. You know what she did after that? We started working on my self confidence. She would ask me questions about myself, my hobbies, likes, interests, opinions (something I had always struggled to figure out) beliefs, and lastly she would have me defend myself. It was a process, but those weeks that I was with Sister P led me to realize that I wanted to truly understand myself the way that Sister P understood herself.

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For the next 18 months I basically had what I like to call the “Weeding Out” phase of my life where I would list all of my opinions I had and trace them back to the source. What I came to understand is that a lot of my likes, dislikes, opinions, hobbies, etc came from other people. I didn’t truly know what SARAH liked. What kind of music does SARAH like, not what kind of music SHOULD SARAH like. I don’t know if this is making sense, but I basically realized that my life was a composition of a bunch of “should be’s” based on other people’s manipulations and opinions and influences. I wanted to just be the raw Sarah, the raw me. I didn’t want to be a jigsaw puzzle of other people, I wanted to be unique Sarah Benson (now Rasmussen, but obviously didn’t know that would be my fate at the time).

Fast forward to meeting Levi Rasmussen, only the best human being to be made and placed on this beautiful earth. While dating this perfect creature he helped me to understand who I truly was AND accept who I truly was. He loved me perfectly and I think that’s the exact environment I needed to really blossom and grow in my skin. What I came to understand is that I am what is called an INFJ personality type, or in other words, the “Advocate.”  I took the 16 personalities test (link here) which I have found to be the most accurate test I have ever taken. I have never felt so understood in my entire life! If you haven’t taken it, you MUST. However, just make sure you are 100% honest during the test to get the truest result. INJF stands for the following:

-Introverted

-Intuitive

-Feeling

-Judging

They also percentage out those four categories, for example I am 87% introverted but still have 13% extroverted tendencies.

 

5 THINGS ABOUT MY LIFE AS AN INFJ

  1. Major Idealist: Although there are some really great things about my personality, it also comes with some huge mental stumbling blocks. One of the biggest being that I am a major idealist. Now, idealism can be a good thing in the ways that I am constantly pushing myself for improvement, making goals and filled with hope for a better life. However the downside is that I have expectations that can be too high to fill, goals that are impossible to reach, and left feeling that I’m living an less than fulfilled life. Fall isn’t perfect unless I smell the fall leaves, take a drive in Provo Canyon, return to the place Levi proposed. Christmas isn’t perfect without my family, sleepover in the living room with my siblings, Christmas Eve pajamas, It’s A Wonderful Life on repeat. My mind is constantly looking around and seeing where I need to improve and what needs to be different in order for me to feel fulfilled and happy. But that’s really not the way to live life. I won’t have a Fall like that, I’m in AZ. I won’t have a winter like that, I’m in AZ. I won’t be with my family every Christmas, I’m married. I won’t get to travel whenever I want to, I’m a mother. I can’t take off to Portland and visit my mission, I’m on a budget. I don’t exercise everyday, I’m tired. My baby won’t sleep through the night some nights, she’s human. You see how my mind works? Ideally I should be anywhere but where I REALLY am right now, presently. It’s a major battle that I’m fighting every single day-to overcome my ideals and be satisfied with reality.
  2. Always Need to Have a Cause: When it comes to my pursuits in life, the groups I’m affiliated with, the career or non career life I choose to pursue. Literally everything in my life needs to have some sort of underlying cause. I really struggle with the mundane. I struggle working jobs where it is routine and pointless. I struggle being involved in things that don’t have a cause that I believe in. When I truly believe in something, I am extremely passionate about it and will fight for that cause to the end. I’ve had many many jobs since I was 15 years old and most of them I found very dissatisfying simply because they lacked cause. The way I see it, earning money isn’t cause enough for me to work. I just can’t do it. I get so burned out and I feel like my job is slowing killing me. I don’t care if I was earning top bucks, if it doesn’t have a cause-I’m out. My personality type has an extremely hard time picking a major in college due to this fact. And what do you know! I still am struggling with that aspect in my life. I am constantly questioning the cause behind college. I HATE generals. I don’t see the point of taking classes that I don’t care about. The good news is that when I do find my niche, that little sweet spot in life, I will flourish in that niche. I will be satisfied and completely happy. I want to be able to use my creativity and insight to help other people. I want every single aspect of my life, career included, to be beautiful.
  3. Emotionally Hypersensitive: So when I was a little girl I used to get these “bad feelings.” I would imagine that because I had this “bad feeling” we were going to have a fire that night, or a kidnapper was going to come into my room and take me away. Of course none of those things happened, but I would let my imagination go wild. This one particular night, September 10, 2001 I couldn’t go to bed because I had a horrible feeing. I remember running into my parents bedroom (a common event), tears streaming down my face, my limbs trembling, and I told my parents I had one of those “bad feelings.” I told them that something REALLY bad was going to happen. They let me sleep in their bed with them (another common event) and assured me everything was fine, as always. However the next morning when the towers fell I knew why I felt that way and my parents were shocked. Ever since that day whenever I get a “bad feeling” I always kind of freak out.Now, I’m not saying I’m psychic or anything like that, it honestly could have just been a coincidence. I haven’t been able to predict anything like that since that night, but what I will say is that I am very emotionally hypersensitive, as are most INFJ’s. The best way to describe it is that I “sense the energy around me,” or I can feel other peoples “vibes.” Not only that but I seem to take on other peoples energy  and burdens when I am around them. When I was a missionary in Portland it was really hard to meet so many people because everyone is hurting in someway and I literally felt like I was taking on each persons pain. It became really overwhelming sometimes. I just am really sensitive to how others are feeling and that feeling consumes me at times. Because of that,  I am obsessed with creating harmony in my relationships with loved ones. I just know when things are “off.” When I was a teenager I would sometimes get into little fights (lets just call them that-haha) with my mom and I literally couldn’t sleep until we worked things out. My mind wouldn’t rest until I made harmony with her. It was so strange. I’ve always been acutely aware of how other people are feeling and sometimes when something is “wrong” with them my imagination can take over and I literally think they are dying or something.
  4. Intuition is my Guide: I am the biggest believer in listening to your gut instinct! I ALWAYS make decisions based on my gut and what intuition is telling me. I was reading how it is very common for INFJ children to lean toward becoming little conspiracy theorists. This makes me laugh so hard because I am a total conspiracy theorist! I do not trust the world one bit. I have always questioned every “system” in my life. I never trusted the school system-I would always wonder why we had to take certain classes or follow certain rules. I just didn’t trust motives. Do not get me started about college. Intuition has always been the reason for doing things in my life. I have made some pretty big decisions simply based on the fact that it felt like the thing to do. Now that I am a mother I am super grateful for this attribute because I lean on my intuition 100% of the time. Most of the things that I do for Clair are things that might not make sense to other moms, but are things that I feel really good about.
  5. Accepting of Others, Hard on Myself: I have always been super open-minded and accepting of other people. In fact, I find them absolutely fascinating! I LOVE meeting people that are different from me. I have always felt love for other people, regardless of what choices they are making in their life. On the flip-side, I have the hardest time loving myself and accepting myself for who I am. I am a complete perfectionist and because of my extreme idealism I feel really bad about myself when I fail to reach those unattainable goals I set for myself. I just have this vision for what I’m supposed to look like and how I am supposed to be and when I’m not those things I am super super hard on myself.

Why the “Advocate?”

As an INFJ I do think it is super fitting to be referred to as an advocate simply because my greatest joys come from advocating for issues, people and things that I truly believe in. When I am passionate about something, I hold on to that passion and tirelessly work to have my voice heard. Although I am a very soft-spoken person, I can sometimes shock people with how blunt and bold I can be about my opinions and beliefs. As an advocate for people, I love the idea of charity work and rescuing people, however my REAL joy comes from helping people to get to the root of their issues so they need not be rescued at all. I think that’s why I loved being a missionary, even though it was really hard at times. I loved being able to help people to turn all of their struggles and pains to Jesus Christ, the true healer of their souls. I didn’t have to save them, they could be saved by the true Savior.

The last couple of years have been such an enlightening time for me as I’ve been learning more and more about my personality. I have been validated in ways I didn’t think were possible, which as left me feeling a lot more confident and happy. If you are struggling to feel validated and understood I recommend trying to figure out more about your personality. It has helped me to more fully understand my strengths as an individual, mother, wife, and citizen. I understand what sort of environments I need to be in to flourish. I’ve been able to set goals that are reachable and fulfilling. I also have come to recognize and accept the weaknesses that I am more vulnerable to, which has helped me pinpoint areas I need to  improve and what situations I need to avoid. I can honestly say that I’m starting to truly love myself for who I am simply because I am understanding myself.

Arizonians Don’t Fear Hell?

I heard a quote this week at church that had me laughing but also shaking at the knees at the same time. It goes something like this, “The people of Arizona don’t fear Hell because of the heat, yet they don’t need Heaven because of the winter season.” Going there for a couple of days had me truly believing the first part of that quote. It is hotter than, or maybe just as hot as Hell, I’m not sure which one.

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In my last post I talked about big changes headed our way and in case you missed the announcement, we are moving to Mesa, AZ. Levi was offered a job to teach seminary at Mountain View High School. Honestly this job offer came as a complete surprise. Levi is majoring in Advertising, and is graduating this month. Until this job offer he already had a full-time job at the LDS Missionary Training Center. We already had salary, benefits, routine, plans, a vision for what our life would look like. We honestly did not think our life plan would include teaching seminary away from both of our families. Levi decided to teach seminary as a part-time thing, mostly because he loved teaching so I never expected that it would become a full-time career but God, obviously, had other plans for us. We received the call literally less than a month ago. As the man offering the position spoke I felt skepticism filling my heart. There was just no way that we would drop our routine for a completely different lifestyle. The minute he said the words Mesa, AZ the skepticism started to fade away and fear  started to replace it. I knew that we were supposed to go there and that scared me more than anything. I can’t really explain how I knew it, but I knew it. We were leaving Utah. The reality of the situation we were in hit me like a ton of bricks and I felt that my life would be changed in so many ways.

The church sent us out there for a few days to find housing and although it wasn’t a vacation by any means, (trips with babies are not the easiest thing in the world) it was a time where we felt really good about AZ.  Things really lined up for us as well. We found a beautiful condo thanks to our beautiful friend Kimmy and we were able to eat at some pretty amazing restaurants. I’ve already been making Arizona friends. There are a lot of exciting and good things happening, I just can’t help but feel sad about what I’m leaving behind.

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I guess I just thought I knew what my life was going to look like and where we were going to be for at least the next five years. When going down to Arizona we met a few of the seminary teachers down there that said they too had similar experiences. They too never dreamed of doing seminary or living in Arizona but there they still were…15 years later. That scared me honestly. I guess just the thought that I could “end up” in Arizona. And honestly it doesn’t have anything to do with Arizona, it could be New York, Idaho, anywhere but Utah and I would feel the same way. It’s just that CHANGE is taking over my life and therefore I feel like I don’t have control over my life. It’s that for once my life looks completely uncertain.

Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of things that I am excited about. I think the move will be really good for our little family. It’ll be a time where we have to stick together and strengthen our relationship since we will only have each other.  I think the move will be good for me in the sense that I will have to reach out and make new friends. Be social again. (Heaven forbid haha) It will help us to truly let go of our families and become real adults. Most importantly, the move will be good for us because we know we are supposed to be there. For whatever reason, Arizona is calling to us, and I’m trying to be brave and strong.

For now, I’m not super brave or strong. In fact most days I sit on my couch watching Gilmore Girls and pretend that I too live in a small town where I never have to leave my family and friends. I haven’t even started packing. We are leaving next Tuesday and I haven’t even started to try to organize things. I’m in denial and I know it. Someone help me!! But in all seriousness, if anyone is from Arizona or lives in Arizona currently, lets connect. I’m needing all the Arizona love I can get right now.

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P.s. Look how big Clair is getting!

xoxo

 

Thoughts on Grace

Lately there have been a lot of changes going on in my life, motherhood being a big one. But there is something super big happening in less than month (stay posted for a HUGE announcement), which has had a rippling effect on a lot of other things in my life. My first reaction to this huge change was excitement, which then turned to anxiety, which is now complete doubt and almost anger. Because of all of these emotions I’ve started to almost question God’s hand in my life and wonder the reason for this big change in my life. I think it’s safe to say that a good chunk of humans come to believe that “everything happens for a reason,” and I’m definitely  one of those humans. However, I think we do need to acknowledge that if we believe things happen for a reason, then that must mean that someone, other than ourself, is responsible for that reason. That someone must somehow know things that we don’t understand and is therefore making things happen in our lives to perhaps improve them or to help us grow in certain ways. Now who would have this all knowing power and ability to make things change and happen in our lives? I can only think of one person.

Most of us always end up acknowledging God as the reason for the changes in our life. Although this can be a good thing when something really awesome is happening in our life, for example, meeting a future spouse, it can also become a bad thing when it turns to a blame game. An example of this would be a death in the family and suddenly turning on God and blaming him for taking away that family member. It’s like we either see God as our gift giver or our punisher. He must be responsible for everything since He knows and understands everything, right? Maybe. But last night I read something that helped me to look at the changes in my life in different light and perspective and hopefully it can help you too. 

In Doctrine & Covenants 93, John is testifying of Christ’s life, and Christ is speaking about his character and how we can become like him, which is becoming like God. There are two particular verses that struck a chord with me. They read:

12  And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace.

20  For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.

From these two verse we can a few things, firstly that  fulness comes grace for grace. From verse 20 I’m thinking that fulness means becoming like God, being perfect, overcoming all of our weaknesses etc. Secondly, Christ didn’t have a fulness at first, he too had to receive grace for grace. If Christ had to go through a process of receiving things grace for grace, than I’m guessing we must go through that process too.

The Meaning of Grace

So what does that phrase even mean then? Grace for grace. If that is the process that we are going through in our lives to becoming whole and full, I think it’s pretty important that we understand what grace means. In the Bible Dictionary grace is defined as a gift from God given through Jesus Christ. It is an enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. The grace of God helps us every day to do good works that we would otherwise be unable to do. Those specific words used were all pointing to a gift or opportunity that God gives us to be able to become a better person. So if we put everything together that we’ve learned so far we have learned that:

  1. God has a fulness.
  2. Christ also has a fulness through God and wants to offer us a fulness through Him.
  3. We gain a fulness by receiving grace for grace.
  4. Grace is a gift of enabling power so that we can change.
  5. God gives us gifts to provide opportunities for us to change and become more full.

Looking at everything in this way, I have started to see that every single change in my life should be looked as as a grace from God. And as we have learned above, grace cannot be a negative or bad thing since it is a gift from God right? So even things in my life that I thought were punishments from God need to be looked at differently because God doesn’t punish me, he gifts me.

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A Change in Perspective

Realizing this has helped me to start reflecting on my life to truly see the grace for grace that I have received thus far. Some of the things that I used to view as negative have somehow shifted to being seen as a grace. Like the time when I was 17 years old and was told that I had a heart defect that had been with me since I was born and I needed immediate open-heart surgery. I had always thought that was a scary and somewhat negative experience in my life. I probably wouldn’t have every seen it as a grace in my life.But looking at it now I see the grace in that experience. After the surgery I was completely dependent on other people to move me, shower me, feed me etc.. Through that dependence I came to understand just how loving and selfless the people around me were. My heart was changed seeing the compassion that others felt for me, and I can see now that I grew into a better person from that experience. I have compassion and empathy for anyone that is going through major health challenges. I understand pain in a way that other people might not understand.I am grateful for my life in a way that I wasn’t before. I realized that time goes quickly and life can end in a matter of seconds. I realized that life cannot be wasted and that the only things that truly matter in life are the relationships you have built with other people. All of these things that I have gained from the experience are truly a grace or gift from God.

Now, I’m not saying that everything bad in our life is secretly a gift from God. Honestly I believe that some things truly just happen to us because we live in a fallen and imperfect world. But what I am saying is that ANYTHING bad that happens to us can turn into a grace from God, if we let it. Again, some things that happen to us are direct gifts from God, but sometimes things happen to us that God didn’t give to us, but we can still allow Him to help turn the experience into a grace. For example, a few years back I had a cousin that I was really close to, take his own life. His death was a really hard time for me and my family. I felt so heartbroken and unable to heal from the gaping hole it left in our family. I do not believe that it was God that took him away from us, it was obviously his choice to take his own life.  But what I do believe is that God took that experience and turned it into a grace in my life. He took my broken heart and helped me to turn outward  to others that were suffering from loss in their life. I gained a stronger faith in God because I hoped more than anything that I would see my cousin again. I saw my relationships with my family as sacred and fragile and have tried to treat them with more urgency. Graces happened because of that experience.

Looking to the Savior’s life we see the same pattern. It wasn’t necessarily a grace that he was spit upon, blindfolded, slapped upon the face, scourged with a whip, even crucified. But his redemptive power made it a grace for not only himself, being resurrected and perfected, but for all mankind and that redemptive power can reach all of mankind.

It wasn’t a grace for Joseph Smith when he was dragged from his home by a mob, tarred and feathered, poisoned, beaten. It wasn’t a grace when we was taken from his family, thrown into Liberty jail. But the Saviors grace made that experience a grace and shaped his character. From that experience we gain some of the most precious scripture in modern revelation in sections 121-123 in the Doctrine and Covenants, which is therefore a grace for all of us.

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Changes to Come

I think another really important thing to remember about grace is that we almost always refer to something as a “grace” in our lives when we have been so desperate for help from God or our life situation has gotten super hard and we finally receive relief. The aspect of grace is important to remember because without those desperate times we wouldn’t recognize grace for what it truly is. The hard times in our lives are equally important, if not more important than the good times in our lives. Those hard times, those hard changes, force us to look to God for help. They force us to recognize that there are things happening that we cannot control and it is only through God that we can learn to see the good and change for the better because of them. Change or trial or whatever you want to call it, goes hand in hand with grace. Something that is hard is really just something that is out of our control and it is in those moments that we need grace from God, and it is through those moments that we receive grace from God

Maybe that’s what is meant when the Savior invites us to take up our cross and follow Him. Maybe that’s what is mean when He invites us to leave our nets and follow Him so he can make us something better. He will make us glorious beings. He will make us whole. He is grace.

Looking now to my current situation and the changes that I am facing, I am trying to see them as a grace from God. I am trying to embrace them humbly and gratefully. I will admit that I haven’t been doing the best job. I have felt anger and frustration at the things that I have to give up. I am feeling stressed and exhausted. I am second guessing everything and am not wanting to go through with the changes. But at the end of the day I know that this big change is a grace from God and will become a grace in my life. I know that the Savior is trying to help me grow and help me become a more glorious being. I know that even though this is going to be super hard, grace will help me through it, for this is the whole point and purpose of life. For didn’t the Savior say that it was life eternal to know God and to know Jesus Christ? (John 17:3) We cannot come to know them without going through our “grace for grace” experiences. This change in my life is a beautiful and wonderful grace in my life and I am striving to see it as such.

xox

Photography Credit: Rachel Benson

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Individualism & Motherhood

Can we just all agree that last week was a rough one? I don’t know what it was exactly, but it felt as if there was just something in the air, looming above us all. Ever since the rain this last weekend, it is almost as if things are clearing up and we are gearing up for a better week, baby girl has been much happier.

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I came to some realizations about myself last week and wanted to share. It has been super enlightening for my personal growth and I feel like it can benefit others in their own personal journey. Any mother that is going through the infamous postpartum battle” can attest that it is extremely difficult to bounce back to the woman before the baby. In fact, I argue that it is impossible to bounce back to that woman because that woman really doesn’t exist anymore. That can be a hard pill to swallow for some women, me included. Like I said earlier, motherhood came faster than I thought and after Clair was born I felt like I was grieving the death of Sarah while trying to rejoice in the birth of Clair. I can honestly say that before having a baby I was pretty okay with my body, along with who I was becoming as an individual. Both of those things changed after birth and suddenly I was embarrassed of both my body and my individualism. I truly believe there is something to becoming a mom that makes you feel like you are suddenly categorized into one lump and type of people. It’s almost as if people are saying to you:

You are no longer individual. You no longer have hopes, dreams and ambitions, you’re a mom for crying out loud! You have to sacrifice everything you once wanted for your child. Your child is your life. You shouldn’t be focusing on anything else. They need your undivided attention or they will grow up feeling neglected. 

You get the picture. But really all of this is false.

False. False. False.

As mothers, we are individuals. We shouldn’t be lumped together as one. We shouldn’t feel like our dreams, hopes and aspirations should be swept under the rug. In fact, I would argue that doing so actually hinders us as mothers. I just don’t believe it is healthy to throw away who we are and what we desire for our children. I think it’s more healthy and inspiring for children to grow up with a mother who is following her dreams, who is working hard for what she wants to accomplish in life, who is working hard to keep her individualism. Children will learn that they too are individuals and they too have hopes and dreams, and they too can work hard for what they want to accomplish in life. Of course sacrifice is required as a mother, that’s a no brainer, but I don’t think sacrifice of complete self is required. I think that is something that somehow we’ve grown to believe is heroic. Rather, I see juggling hobbies, education, careers, or whatever it may be, along with motherhood, is true heroism.

The Struggle is Real, People.

Now, with that said, I wish to address the issue of self and individualism in becoming a  mother. Something that I found after having Clair was that I wasn’t quite sure who I was anymore. I would look in the mirror and see that I was still me (besides some new bodily features), but I didn’t feel like me anymore. My perspective on life had changed, along with a lot of goals, motivations and opinions. Quite frankly, it scared me how much I had changed and I was (and still am) embarrassed  to let people see the real me. In fact, all of my life I have struggled to let people see the real me, and becoming a mother somehow heightened that struggle.  Maybe it is because I now feel like I have to defend my mothering decisions to others, or that I feel more observed and judged. Maybe it’s because of social media comparison. Regardless, the struggle is real in letting myself be content with who I really am. 

I think this struggle has been so hard because I started believing I was someone I wasn’t a long time ago. I remember when I was around 11 I started feeling insecure about my strawberry hair color. People would sometimes call me a ginger and I didn’t even know what that meant, but the way it was said made me feel labeled, and not in a good way. When I was old enough to bleach my hair I begged my mom to let me bleach all of the red streaks out of my hair. I remember looking in the mirror after bleaching my hair and had the distinct thought, “Hmm..I don’t like it. It isn’t me.” I immediately replaced that thought with, “I don’t want people to see the real me. They will make fun of me.”  From then on it was as if I believed I had to be somebody else to be pretty and accepted. I just wanted to avoid any comment on my hair at all costs. Silly, right? But this experience has had a ripple effect on me for the rest of my life thus far. Emotionally I feel like I have to hide the real me.

In C.S Lewis’ allegorical story The Great Divorce, there are a bunch of people that have essentially died, referred to as “Ghosts” being lead into heaven by “Spirits.” Spirits are previous Ghosts that have let go of all self-absorption to experience a fullness of love, joy and peace. There is one particular Ghost’s experience that shed a lot of light on this subject for me. This Ghost, a woman, who in her life on earth was consumed with her appearance and how she appeared to look to other people. She was terrified of being “outshone” by others and was constantly comparing her appearance to other people. When her Spirit guide attempts to help her into heaven she is embarrassed to go with the guide because she notices how bright the other spirits shine in comparison to her…

The Spirit then invites her to fix her mind on something other than herself, but that only makes it plainer to her that the Spirit cannot understand the embarrassment she feels. “But they’ll see me,” she protests. “What does it matter if they do?” the Spirit asks. “I’d rather die” is her response, not realizing that what she really needs to do is die, which is to say, to give up the fictional self she has always portrayed herself to be.

Bonds That Make Us Free, C. Terry Warner

If we look closer, C.S. Lewis’ story is not really about the afterlife at all, but is about the potential that each of us have to peace, happiness and joy in this life if we would simply give up our self absorption and just see ourselves and others as we truly are.

How does this relate to my struggle as a new mom? I am so terrified to let others see me as I really am, that I am giving up my chance at peace, happiness and joy in this life. I am sometimes so absorbed in trying to cover up who I really am, to paint this false image of my life so that others wont see my reality. I think all women, to some degree, do this. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t be doing this. It robbing our peace and happiness as women and as mothers. If having Clair has taught me one thing, it is that heaven is on earth. I see heaven in the way Clair smiles at me, in her bright beautiful blue eyes. I see it in the way Levi talks to Clair and cuddles her. I felt it in myself as I delivered Clair and held her in my arms for the first time.

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As we learn to let go of absorption, or self awareness and just be okay with being seen for who we really are, we will see and feel heaven in our lives. We will feel love for ourselves, which is something that I have struggled with my entire life. We will be ok with our dreams, aspiration, hobbies, career ambitions because there won’t be embarrassment or guilt. We won’t care what other people think of us, we won’t care about being judged. We won’t care how we appear to other mothers, or how we look on social media. We just be ourselves, and we will be okay with that.

We will be individuals.

I’m no where near perfect in loving myself and being ok with who I am. I struggle with feeling that I am beautiful in my postpartum body, just like every other mother. I struggle with letting go of facades and being myself and honestly this struggle will probably be an ongoing battle. But there are little victories that make the struggle worth it. Little victories like going one day without worrying about how I appear to look to other people,  sharing my opinions with family, signing up for fall semester classes because I want to finish school, going after my creative passions, etc. I’m not sure if we can fully overcome the struggle, but I’m telling you, those victories are sweet and they are worth it. They are truly heaven on earth.

xo

Photo Cred: Sarah  http://www.toadventureblog.com/