Wishes I Have For My Friends Who Are (And Who Will Be) Mothers

Today I feel like a happy email sitting patiently in the drafts folder. Like a I feel like a small boat on a laughing sea.

 Photo by  Sebastien Hamel  on  Unsplash

I don’t have children, and jury’s still out on whether I want to have them or not. Some days I feel a tiny spark of desire to be a mother, but most days I’m perfectly happy being a support of the mothers around me without joining their ranks. I feel happy for others who have families, and I feel happy for myself with my two bunnies and small apartment, city-dwelling life.

I’ve been carefully observing the mothers in my life—the new ones, the old ones, the ones on TV and in movies, the ones on Instagram—and I always have a handful of wishes that I want to send them.

You are in charge.

As boss-mama, you are in charge of what you name your children, what they eat, when you cut their hair, when you give them “the talk” (about Santa, of course), where they go to school, how much technology they have in their lives, etc. What I’m trying to say is you are in charge of all of it.

Even if it’s your own parents who are disagreeing with your parenting decisions, I wish you all the strength in the world to stand your ground against that resistance and do what is best for your family. I’m assuming that once a child comes into the picture, it’s not as difficult to set boundaries and say “no”, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Feed them carrots, feed them candy, all I wish for you is the strength to be unapologetic about your decisions.

You are still a whole person.

Again, I’ve never been a parent so I don't know what it feels like. But I hope that you don’t lose sight of your amazing self—mother is just one of your many sparkling facets, my sweet gem. You are passionate about things beyond the diapers, and I hope you always know it. When you’re knee deep in spit-up and don’t have a moment to indulge in some self care, I hope you still remember who you are.

I always think about Elizabeth Gilbert’s commentary on mothers as martyrs (mothers who give up everything in their life, including their aspirations, in order to raise children). I think it was in a podcast episode of Big Magic, but she talks about creative martyrdom in an excellent blog post here if you want to read more. She reminds listeners that “martyrs will raise martyrs,” and I think that’s such a wonderful way of thinking about it.

If I have children, I hope I can raise them to be strong and uncompromising when following their dreams, so according to this logic I must be the same. Celebrate your whole self, so that your beautiful children can celebrate themselves too.

Make the small things count.

When it comes to self care, I know that children can throw a wrench in the Instagram-perfect vision of sleeping in, drinking an artisanal latte, painting your toenails and reading some pretty magazine. So I hope you can squeeze tiny moments of self-appreciation into your day in new and interesting ways.

Get the fanciest soap you can find for your 2-minute shower. Diffuse essential oils while you change diapers. Get nice coffee beans or coffee creamer, or add a special coffee mug to your cart during your next Target run. Maybe two, in case little Billy breaks the first one.

It’s okay to ask for help.

Don’t feel like you must subscribe to the supermom mindset, because it’s not possible. And it’s not healthy—doing all the things, all the time is going to lead to a heckuva burnout.

I wish I could send you a few moments of my own time so that you could take a shower or drink just one sip of coffee without interruption. If you find yourself feeling depressed, I wish you all the strength in the world to seek people who support you and love you and don’t disregard your feelings.

I sometimes think about what my own experience might be postpartum, and I fear the depression that so often goes along with it. I’m saying this now: I will probably need help, and I know how hard it can be to ask for it. Add in the toxic idea that you should be SO happy as a new mom, and I can’t imagine the strength it takes to get the help you need.

If you need help, call me. If you need someone who will believe you and support you 100%, I will be that person.

Teach your kids cool stuff.

Whether you have a boy or girl, I hope you teach them to be a balm to this hurting world. Teach them to stand up for people who are being bullied because they’re different—to speak up for and with women, people of color, people with different sexual orientations and gender identifications.

Teach your children to be respectful when respect is deserved, and to expect respect when they’re deserving. Teach them to be open and curious and to ask questions about the world around them. Give them confidence and offer them your heart as a safe place to confide in. Teach them to be themselves, unique and unashamed, and to always understand their intrinsic value as a human.

And just as importantly, gently teach yourselves these same things. Take this time to see the world again as a child and welcome the daily lessons with open arms. Be a student once more alongside your babe, and see what dusty knowledge you have that could use a little polishing. The world is a different place today than it was even a handful of years ago, and I think we all need a little re-education sometimes. I know I need it.

Mostly, I hope you see yourself, continuously, as a goddess. No matter how you birthed (or didn’t physically birth) your child, you are a magnificent guardian for a human who will be coming into themselves under your guidance. I hope you know that you are magic, whether you accomplish everything on your to-do list or not.

You are magnificent, no matter what your hair looks like or what your house looks like or what anyone, ever says to you or about you. You rock, mama.

 

Let's Talk About Sex(ual Harassment): Just Because You Don't See It Doesn't Mean It's Not Happening

Today I feel like I’ve finally reached the top of a sand dune and can curl myself up into a ball and roll down for a little while before I have to climb the next one. I feel like my skin is a momentary oasis instead of a battlefield. I feel as indignant as a late summer sun.

 Photo by  Cristian Newman  on  Unsplash

Disappointed, but not surprised.

That’s how I felt this week when I found out my husband’s former boss was accused of sexual harassment. With all the stories coming out about Harvey Weinstein, more women in media felt safe to address their experiences, and I celebrate them for their courage and mourn for their trauma at the same time.

Several women have come forward about this man, and the DM’s and emails they share are nauseating. He doesn’t even try to hide what he wants, and he diffuses each and every sexually inappropriate comment with an “lol”.

I can see that it’s been on my husband’s mind, and I'm sad that it had to happen to his friends for him to truly realize the tragic nature of it all. I think it's a surprise for so many men.

Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

So many women feel like they have to put up with unwanted sexual advances or comments because their job, their livelihood, is at stake. In this particular case, women had gone to HR and nothing was done about it. They then had to decide whether to leave or stay on their own accord.

It happened to some employees girlfriends - and they were threatened with the loss of their partner’s jobs over it.

Women are expected to bend to fit the needs of men in power, because truly - who has more to lose? A man who is going to continue to profit and succeed despite his disgusting comments, or a woman who is just getting on her feet financially and professionally? (And not to mention that women have to work way harder to get the same career opportunities as men).

To The Men Of The Internet:

Ask a woman that you know (if you know any) if she’s ever been made to feel unsafe because of her gender identity. Then get really, really quiet and fucking listen. Because maybe you’ll hear echoes of things that you’ve done or said, and maybe you can learn a few things about how different our experience is than yours.

Maybe you're like, golden, and you don't feel like you have to change anything. In that case, listen more closely. Don't just shrug off these issues because you think you're the exception.

If you don’t have a woman in your life, you can listen to me.

I consider myself fortunate to not have had such extreme interactions, although this week has brought up some memories that I had genuinely forgotten. These are my stories, and I’m sure you or the women in your life have some version of these stories that they’ve worked to forget as well:

I remember being a preteen walking to and from the neighborhood pool, and on more than one occasion being followed slowly by men in cars. They would circle the block and come around again, to the point where my friends and I would run the rest of the way home.

I remember being on the beach during spring break and college-age men inviting me (18 years old) and my cousin (15 years old) to party with them. I said no, and they tried to coerce us into hanging out with them. We finally just walked on, to their frustration, and when they called our attention back to them, one of them had his naked butt hanging out of his swim trunks.

Cool, you showed us.

That same cousin and I were jet skiing a year earlier while visiting my grandparent’s lake and we kept doing donuts until we fell off the jet ski. Because that’s what you do in Indiana. A couple young men jet skied over and leapt into the water to “save” us. I don’t remember the details, but they definitely got creepy enough around my cousin for me to yell “DUDE SHE’S 14.” They jetted away so fast that they left their true intentions lingering in the waves around us.

I was in an office situation in college where a male colleague of mine would come into my office, lock the door behind him, and sit and chat with me. He would try on my sweaters, ask me inappropriate questions, make himself at home. I remember trying to play it cool but I was still shaking, not sure if I was going to have to make a run for it or yell for help at any moment. It went on for a long time because I knew that I still had to work with this person, until I finally spoke to the (male) leader of the group about it. I was grateful when the locking-me-in-my-office moments stopped, but I still faced questions like “why have we never dated?”

During a Mad Men-themed day at the office, I had a male colleague look at my 60’s-inspired workwear and tell me “I feel like I should have you take notes for me or something.” Oh, what a laugh we had. It’s small, but it was a very clear expression of dominance that makes me cringe to this day.

Still not convinced?

One of my dearest friends would get called into a male colleagues office, where he’d show her pictures of young women he claimed he’d had sex with. As it got worse (and more personal), she felt cornered: tell HR about him and be a “tattle tale” or let it continue and just wait until she had enough experience to move to another company. I continue to admire her courage for choosing to tell HR. Ultimately, that man was terminated. But guess what? She felt guilty.

WOMEN SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FEEL GUILTY FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF THEIR PREDATORS.

Women who tell the world about their experiences are not “bitching and moaning” about things they should just get over. They do not have thin skin, and it's not that they "can't take a joke". They are not intentionally trying to ruin a “promising” man’s life. They are protecting their own lives.

If you have never seen a sexual harassment video (which were all produced in the 90's, I'm sure of it), or somehow the rules don't make sense to you, let me help.

Here’s a quick guide on how to not sexually harass someone:

  • Can it be construed, at all, as creepy? Are you about to say something just because the person you are speaking to is a woman? Don't. Say. It.

  • Do not make a comment about someone’s physical appearance that you wouldn’t make to your sibling. You probably would not tell your sister about how you like to stare at her butt, unless you are Jaime Lannister. Even if you are Jaime Lannister, please do not do that.

  • Do not say anything on the internet that you would not say to that person’s face. Better yet, imagine that your mom is in the room (or the DM's) and is hearing what you say. Make your mom proud.

  • Do not talk about your penis to women who are not an existing consenting sexual partner, or unless she is a doctor and you are at an appointment to discuss said penis.

Some men believe that women should be grateful for the objectification. It. Is. Not. A. Privilege. Or. A. Compliment. To. Be. Objectified.

I am sad and tired for women. Every new piece of legislation seems actively against us, and willfully ignorant of our needs. Every piece of news that comes out is unsurprising, and I’m sad that it’s taken someone directly in our lives for me and my husband to have in-depth conversations about it. I’ve been more open with him this week about what it means to be a woman than I ever have been - and I am sad it’s taken this disgusting series of events to bring it up.

Ladies, tell your partner about your experiences. Tell your children - sons and daughters - and teach them how to treat each other. Ask them in no unclear terms to listen to this important message. And maybe we can work our way towards a less shitty future.

It’s also not lost on me that my experience this week echoes those experiences of people of color in this country - that no one listens until it happens to someone they know and love. Or no one listens or pays attention until the victim is white. Or the perpetrator was "promising" or "a totally normal guy".

My heart breaks for people that I haven’t truly been able to understand because of my white privilege. And I will say to you what I have told my husband to say to his female colleagues:

I am listening. I support you. I believe you. I am sorry. I will try harder.

So much love and strength to you all tonight.


On Being A Faucet Of Compassion When There Seems To Be Nothing Else But Drains

Today I feel like an old rubber band that’s been stretched too many times. I feel like there’s not strong enough windshield wipers in the world to hurl off the shit that’s been flung up onto the window. I feel like a jar of acidic pennies that was shaken angrily but now lies silent and queasy. Eff.

 Photo by  Luis Tosta  on  Unsplash

Photo by Luis Tosta on Unsplash

Yesterday was a strange type of shutdown for me - I lost a few hours to the fetal position. And that was before I learned about Vegas. I was so caught up in my own chaos that I couldn't check the news.

I think in addition to the direct political action we should all be taking now, the world needs a whole lot of compassion and kindness right now. It’s been sucked out of our bones and replaced by a trembling fear that breaks us down. We’re tired.

Today I want to reflect on compassion (and it's roots in self-compassion), because if we can undertake the long journey towards being kind and patient with ourselves, we can be kind and patient with others. It won’t fix everything, it won’t bring any of the victims back into this world, but it’ll make the tiniest bit of difference in our day-to-day lives that we all need right now.

You never know who’s struggling. Giving a little grace to someone could very well be the difference in their day, which could have ripple effects into their whole life.

I struggle even writing about self-compassion when so many others need our help. I desperately wish for a world where we know that can help ourselves and help others at the same time - self awareness & love can only help our outward lives and the lives of those around us.

What I’m trying to say is this: no tragedy should be about you. But tragedies like this should cause you to shut down momentarily, to reevaluate the energy you’re putting out in this world, to reevaluate yourself as a human - are you a good one? Could you be better?

Tragedies like this should find you asking yourself if you’re living your life the fullest, and should find you asking if you’re living your life in a way that truly, positively affects those around you.

Don’t be a drain, we have enough of those already. Be a plug. Or better yet? Be a fucking faucet.


So here are my dumb ways to spread a little more compassion.

Instead of commuting with that blank look on your face where your lips poof out and your eyes go dull, find a good song on the radio. Play it loud and allow it to make you smile. Be a happy driver, even when the person behind you is a complete poop - smile at them while you sing “I’ve got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is givin a HIGH FIVE.”

Positive affirmations are so cliché and maybe you don't believe they'll work for you ,but worst case scenario you take a few minutes of your day to say something lovely about yourself. How can that hurt? Remind yourself that you are a kind person, and that you deserve kindness from yourself. If you struggle speaking to yourself with kindness, find a kind friend who will do it for you. Learn from them - and tell them something kind, too.

Clip your nails and shave your legs and tell yourself it’s because you love your body. Making a big deal out of those things that can be daily stressors actually makes them feel like you’re getting away with something. Sneak a little toothbrushing sesh in because you're in love with the feeling of fresh teeth - not because you worry about how to lie to your dentist for the millionth time about your oral hygiene routine.

Get your partner or roommate or coffee shop table neighbor a glass of water. If they’re working away, they’ve probably forgotten that they need water. It’ll be nice because they’ll be way less grumpy from dehydration later and you won’t have to deal with it - it’s a win-win.

Text your friend your favorite emoji and nothing else. They’ll know what it means, or maybe they won’t. Either way, they’ll get all warm and fuzzy knowing you chose them. 🗿

Tip your barista or your skating waitress extra big.

Tell someone something embarrassing about yourself - be human, be vulnerable. I finally shared how much my neck hair has been ruining everything, and guess what? My friend has bonus hair that she has to deal with too, and it became way more funny than sad. I actually laughed about the very neck hair that has caused me years of agony.

After telling someone about your neck hair, tell them how much you love them. It’s so weird the first time you tell a friend that you love them but I promise - everyone benefits. Has anyone else experienced this? Just me?

Learn something new, especially if it’s about a different culture or different piece of history that you’re unfamiliar with. Read something that makes you uncomfortable. Face facts, listen quietly to stories, especially if you’re whiter than a Twinkie like me. Sit your ego down in its little corner and make room at the table for voices that are different than yours.

Stay out of the comments section - don’t read comments under news stories or tweets that respond to kindness with hatred. It’s toxic, and there’s no Brita filter in the world that could take all of the poison out of social media before we consume it.

And get out into the world. I’m dragging my feet on this one because it’s a tough one. It takes effort and time to help others, but I know for sure that I could reallocate some of my weekly Instagram hours to serving up food at a soup kitchen or tutoring kids that need a little extra love.

But please, I beg of you, don’t let tragedies keep you bitter. Don’t let them prevent you from living, and from loving the only life we know for certain that we'll get.

Love freely, love deeply.


If I Could Tell You Something That I Know You Would Always Remember

Today I feel so full that I couldn’t carry myself across a room without spilling over. I feel as confident as a springtime that knows there are no blizzards left in its sky. I am in love with all of the Phil Collins and George Michael songs I heard on the radio today. I am buzzing.

 Photo by  Diana Măceşanu  on  Unsplash

Hey, girl. I’m talking to you

The strong, lovely woman that just finished another mini marathon today, the kickass broad who is starting to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the insanely capable mother-to-be, the current mother who is beautiful and stunning and smart (I want both of you ladies to be my other mothers, but I'll accept that you're beacons of light and strength raising the next generation).

Yes, you. (Specifically you four). And also to any woman who has ever doubted herself, who has ever been doubted, who has ever for a single second believed that she is weaker than she should be. I have a message for the voice that second guesses, that doubts, that negates, that breaks you down:

Fuck you. Fuck you so bad.

I want to tell you all the things I would tell you if I knew that you would always hear them. If I could reach my fingers through the barbed wire that surrounds your harshest mind, and make it soft forever, this is what I would say to you:

I wish you all the love in the world, and I wish it from yourself.

I wish I could fill up your well of self-grace and make it some mumbo-jumbo version of the eternal fountain of youth. I hardly believe blindly, and if you were the true piece of junk that your nastiest inner voice tells you then I wouldn’t be here believing in you today.

I need you to know that I have forgotten your worst mistakes, and have continued to celebrate your greatest victories. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t been proud of you, that I haven’t felt priveleged to be in your corner.

Those long phone calls and late night chats have only left me with a feeling of love. Not of judgment, not of critique. I look back on all the tears we’ve shed together as some of the most important times of my life, and moments that I’ll treasure forever.

I wish I could tell you how much I admire you.

How you’ve continued despite adversity, despite challenges, despite the shitty mental hurdles that have begged you to fail. But you have arrived - here, in this moment - safely and so full of amazing intuition and wisdom. And I thank every molecule of the cosmos that you have.

I wish I could tell you that your hair has never been greasy.

I really, really wish I could tell you that your “greasy” hair has never left an oily stain in my memory. What has stuck in my mind, and what I’ll tell my grandchildren about, is your contagious smile, your impeccable style, your honest self. Your weirdness and the strange drunk nights we somehow stumbled through together.

I wish I could tell you, and that you’d believe me forever, when I say you are a capable and deserving woman with so much to offer. You are insightful and organized and, ugh, if I can say it without sounding so currently cliché, you are a badass bitch in the best way.

I have watched you, all of you, trudge through the past decade of adulthood. If I were to zoom out and look at the trajectory, your progress would be off the charts - you see the tiny ups and downs of every minute of every day, but I see the big picture: you are not who you were ten years ago.

I wish I could tell you how truly I believe that if I were to introduce current you to ten-years-ago-you, that the younger version of you would be in awe. And if I told baby you that she was looking at her future self? Forget about it. She would be shocked and amazed and so excited for herself. She’d feel like the shit. (Not like shit - like THE shit).

You are brave.

You’ve taken chances, faced bottom-of-the-barrel situations, dealt with so much resistance from your family and friends. Sometimes I have been the one to resist you (and I was wrong - hah! You proved me wrong, and I love it and I regret ever doubting you for a single moment and I owe you a million coffees to make up for it).

You have grown more than you’d ever believe mentally and emotionally. I’ve watched you untangle yourself from unhealthy relationships, endure the most difficult family stuff and jobs and classes of your life, and I’ve seen you do it all with a rainbow streaming out of your butt. I hate to hear you are struggling, or that you are sad or that you feel like you’re not making enough progress...

Bitch, please.

You are more yourself than I’ve ever known. You are more in tune with your body, with your mind, with your work/life balance than I’ve ever seen you be. Your experience has given you the amazing capacity for creative problem solving that you would never have had if it had not been for those difficult days, months, years.

I wish I could tell you I would take away those sad valleys in your life if I could - but only if I could preserve the lessons that they’ve embedded in your bones. You would not be the strong, smart, capable-ass woman that you are today without them.

I wish I could tell you how much my ego wants to take credit for all of it and say how proud I am of you for your work like you are some sort of weird child of mine. I struggle with saying that I’m proud of you because that indicates a sort of ownership that I cannot claim without sounding like a psychopath.

It has all been you.

I would have never stuck around if you weren’t kind, interesting, funny, intelligent. There is no one-sided relationship - I love you because you are worthy of love. Girl trust me - if I got through most of my twenties and still decided you were worth my time, then I guarantee you’re golden.

I wish I could tell you that I only look for apologies when you’ve done something truly terrible, like killed my pet fish on purpose or pooped in my favorite shoes. Even then, if you are genuine and you at least sound like you won’t do it again in the near future, I will forgive and half-forget. Other than that, you don’t need to apologize for taking your space when you need it. Whether that means taking some time away from talking to me constantly, or it means you need to take up an hour of conversational real estate to talk about what you’re going through - you can take the space, unapologetically.

I see you, and I want you to claim the space when you need it. It’s honestly better for all of us, because guess what? Sometimes this girl needs space too, and you’ve always been gracious enough to give it to me.

I wish I could tell you that you’re winning as a human being, and that you’d believe it. But, I do know this: on my own darkest days, it’s nearly impossible for me to believe anything, no matter who says it. I get so far into my own mind that I don’t even want to hear happy things about how capable I am and how not-greasy my hair has always been.

I wish that you could bookmark this post, print it out, tattoo it backwards on your face so that you could read it in the mirror every morning. Anything to make you realize, always, that you, even on your darkest days, are a light that holds steady in my heart. I wish I could jokingly but seriously but jokingly (but really, seriously) take your hand in mine and just say GIRL YOU ARE THE GIRLEST.

You are strong. You are capable. You are beautiful. You are enough.

I love you.


Why You Already Have All The Support You'll Ever Need

Today I feel like a surprise cake in my second favorite flavor. I checked in on my heart, and found it feeling quite diagonal. I feel like I can dig it.

 Photo by  Scott Trento  on  Unsplash

Photo by Scott Trento on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I found myself laying there in silence before an evening yoga class, surrounded by two blocks and a strap.

A smile started to spread onto my face as I realized: I had all the support I would ever need.

My back firmly rooted on my mat, blocks for when my I couldn’t reach the floor, and a strap to help guide me into deeper poses without hurting myself. I was completely and inarguably supported.

So today I’d like to explore support - how to support yourself, how to support others, how to ask for support.

Humans come with built-in support systems.

First of all, know that you carry the ultimate support with you every minute of every day: your breath. It’s the single common thread through our entire human experience, from the moment we emerge, shiny and screaming into the world, and to the moment our final page turns, our breath is first and last.

If you are alone, if you feel alone, if no one in the entire world supports you, you still have your breath. It will not let you down. Even if you aren’t paying any attention to it - it’s still there, hanging out, supporting your heartbeat.

From there, it’s essential to build routines and spaces in your life that allow you to feel supported. Maybe it’s a daily yoga practice, a writing habit, a moment of drinking tea or coffee in quiet, a daily chat with someone you love, painting your nails or doing your makeup, or reading a mesmerizing book. What is it that makes you feel like yourself? What is it that makes you feel capable or powerful or grounded or even just a little softer?

Create these things for yourself, because no one else is going to create them for you. In grade school and high school, we had assigned periods to study history, science, literature - we had designated times for exercise, for eating, for playing music. The support was built in (and it was required), but once we move from school into the real world there are no longer teachers who are telling us to read or write or play.

And if you need the reminder - yes, you have permission to give yourself space. It will heal you and allow you to grow in new and exciting ways.

Find your tribe and ask for what you need

Once you’ve established your own inner support network and begun to connect to your breath, you can expand if you want to. When I realized that I had everything I needed to support myself, I also realized that any support beyond my breath and those blocks was a bonus.

My husband’s support of my thirty day writing challenge (and his participation in the thirty day yoga challenge!) is completely optional - he doesn’t have to support it, and I don’t require his support to complete it. Obviously, it makes it entirely more possible and enjoyable, and I can’t express how grateful I am for his encouragement.

But what I’m trying to say is that external support is bonus. If you have it, celebrate it. Roll around in it like a dog rolls around in goose poop.

I have family and friends all across the country that have spent their breath supporting me and encouraging me, and it’s the most valuable thing they could give me. I have a community here in Los Angeles that grows stronger every day, and someday I hope to fully express to them what they’ve done for me with their love and their kindness.

If you feel like you want more external support, asking for it isn’t as easy as saying “I need your support.” Honor yourself and what you need and get really, really vulnerable and tell your nearest and dearest exactly what you need from them. Do you need space or time for writing? Do you need a text once a week or so reminding you to be kind to yourself? Do you need surprise coffees or check-ins to make sure you’re drinking enough water?

Asking for exactly what you want is a beautiful way to solidify your community too - it will deepen your understanding of who belongs in your tribe, and it will open up space for them to ask for exactly what they need. It’s a win-win.

Don’t ask for support in a long winded social media post - unless you truly, deeply feel like it emboldens and fortifies your soul when you see a comment that says “Hugs and prayers XO,” skip it. For me personally, I found that posts like that just met my ego’s whiny needs but didn’t fulfill me. Like Dorito’s - my taste buds love the experience, but I never feel good or fulfilled once I’ve finished eating them.

How to support your loved ones by donating your breath to them

And the frosting on the support cake isn’t necessary, but it is if you’re hoping to not go it alone. If you, like most of us, want at least a small ride-or-die tribe, you have to share your breath with others.

Yes, the one thing you truly have - the one support beam in your life that is truly steady - you have to give it away. When your best friend calls you and needs more support than her body can muster for herself, you breathe with her as you remind herself of her strength and capability. You spend hundreds of breaths staying up late into the night to listen to your partner’s hopes and dreams, lending a voice now and again for reassurance, but mostly just breathing through it all, being there for the ones you love the most.

So many of my dearest friends have donated their breath to me in my times of greatest need. Their breath comes on the wing of a joke, or silently alongside a listening ear, or red-hot with anger on my behalf. Their breath is filled with pride, sorrow, joy, consolation. They’ve truly, and literally, given portions of their life to me and I’ll say it again - it’s the most valuable, expensive gift they can give.

And I’m happy to give my breath in return, not because I have to but because I want to and I love to do it.

Next time you feel alone

Seek solid ground. I live on the second floor and often find it easier to feel supported when I’m on ground level at the yoga studio. If you don’t have a studio, find a shaded spot at the park to lay or sit down in. Go to a quiet library and sit and meditate in a chair that makes you feel secure. You can grab a book and pretend to read if you don’t want to creep people out, or you can creep people out and that’s fine too.

Put your feet in the dirt, in the grass, in the sand. And breathe.

Many people will choose not to support you, and some will choose to work against you. They’ll resist your forward movement, they’ll hate it, they’ll beg you to stop. They’ll list out all of the risks and try to break down your other support beams.

But just know this: they are spending their breath, the breath that is meant to support and give life, on doing the opposite. If they don’t support you, it’s them who loses - not you. I even think there’s a certain amount of compassion and grace we can send these people who may be hurting or feeling unsupported themselves.

But try, as much as you can, to no longer spend breath on people who say you’re wasting your own breath with your passion project, or career, or whatever it is you're leaning in to.

And again, anchor yourself. Breathe in. You are supported, you are whole.

Think of those around you who are sharing their breath with you and send them a few breaths of gratitude - breaths made in gratitude are never wasted.

Share your breath with your tribe, and they’ll reward you tenfold.

You are supported.


I Care What You Think (and That's Not Good)

I'm a people-pleaser. If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that the fear of disappointing someone is the most common excuse I have for not doing something.

What will they say? How will they feel? I even sometimes have the gall to think that my doing or not doing something will have a negative impact on their entire life.

It's easy to laugh now and say "get over it, Torres," but it's been a real issue in the past several years.

I blame school.

Okay, so for as much as I totally love school (and wish I was joining the hoardes of back-to-schoolers this month), I do think there was one major drawback.

I liked learning, but I loved getting good grades. I loved being well-behaved and getting those little gold stars on my tests. I could memorize, recite and regurgitate information like the best of them, and I was rewarded with praise and attention because of it.

Seth Godin has an amazing example of this in his book Linchpin, using the game Candyland as the scapegoat:

Author Steven Johnson hates the board game Candyland and all board games like it. I hate them even more than he does.

‘I realize that games of pure chance have a long history, but that doesn’t make them any less moronic,’ he writes. Here’s how Candyland is played: You pick a card and do what it says. Repeat.

This is early training in agenda following. Indoctrination in obedience. We teach kids that the best way to win is to mindlessly pick cards, follow instructions, and wait for it all to turn out okay.

Sheesh. What a disaster.
— Seth Godin, Linchpin

Obviously, I'm glad that I was surrounded by positive people, but being encouraged to follow the rules and do what people asked of me is now deeply ingrained in my behavior. There are blog posts I won't write, stories I won't share, and opportunities I won't take because I'm too afraid of letting someone down.

You know, like coming home with a C on a report card. THE HORROR.

It's time to care what I think

I read a novel where the main character says that after 25 years old, you can no longer blame your parents (or in my case, childhood) for aspects of life that aren't going well. I love that idea.

So at 26, I think it's fair enough to force myself into putting my own feelings over those of others when it comes to making life decisions. This blog is, in a sense, an effort to do just that. I was writing about minimalism for so long that I worried I would upset long-time readers by veering away from that label.

Guess what? I still struggle with that worry every day. But I haven't let it stop me from posting regularly, and I feel pretty effing good about that.

...and what about when people are just confused?

I studied Creative Writing in college, and when I told certain family and friends, I got this answer: "oh great, so you'll be an English teacher!"

When I inevitably told them I wasn't looking to teach, it was a confusing concept. Certainly I didn't want to do something "abnormal" like...being a writer.

If I had let their confusion box me into a more straightforward profession, I wouldn't be writing to you today from my dining table in Los Angeles. And I'm still just as confused as they were when they found out I didn't want to be a teacher.

I often think, what the heck am I even doing?

So I've been reflecting on something today. The people that are genuinely there for you in your life will show up and support you, and someday they may even understand your choices. But that's not the point. The point is that at the end of your life it is you, and only you, that needs to feel good about the path you've followed.

And it's confusing, and it's terrifying. But shouldn't it be?

Stay the course on your own path despite what others think, not because they will understand in time, but because you will understand in time.

How to Improve Your Self-Introduction

What do you do for a living?

This question always makes my mind erupt into madness. My tongue gets twisted and I stammer something like “I am a data management coordinator, it’s freelance. I work from home. I do spreadsheets.”

It's a little embarrassing and it definitely doesn't leave a strong impression. So, I took some time this week to write down my ideal response to this question, because writing things down helps me become more confident about them.

These days, I’m a little better about telling people the other thing I do: I am a blogger and freelance writer. It’s not technically a lie, it’s just ignoring the implied “for money” at the end of the question “what do you do?”

It's a work in progress (as everything always is), but I wanted to share the writing practice that I've been using to help me craft a better self-introduction.

Writing your own introduction

First, determine why you need practice doing this. It helps to keep this in mind when you’re writing everything down. Is it because of a career shift, or because you want a shift in perception around you?

Or do you want to become more confident in telling people exactly what you do without downplaying it? I find that a lot of Midwest transplants out here in Los Angeles have trouble owning the good work they are doing because they’re nervous about bragging.

Outline the most common questions

Next, list the questions you're faced with most often. Maybe you’re line of work or social network means that you get different questions, but these are some of the most basic ones:

  • What do you do?
  • Where are you from?
  • What brings you here?

Be prepared to elaborate further on those, especially about what you do.

Free write until your heart’s content

Then, write out how you would like to introduce yourself in an ideal situation. Think of how you can introduce yourself now, and how you might like to introduce yourself within the next six months, just to keep things fresh and actionable.

Don’t lie, but do push the limits of your comfort zone. If you’re tempted to just say something like “marketing,” explore the idea of including more description. Tell the world that you’re a manager, or that you work at a tech company, or that you’re into media outreach or social engagement.

Develop a rough elevator pitch

If you want to take it a step further, go through what you just wrote and pick out your favorite words. I like to list those on a separate page and then string them together to create a shorter explanation of what I do.

Bonus: you can use this on social profiles like LinkedIn and Twitter if you get it just right.

Make it happen

This exercise is intended specifically to help you implement these changes in your social interactions. It will take more than a page of notes to change the shape of your professional identity, so consider doing this at least once a month.

Put a reminder on your phone to check in with yourself, and allow yourself to grow into the introduction you're crafting for yourself.

Lead yourself with your beliefs and your words, and the rest will follow.

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
— Mahatma Gandhi

How a Deaf Rabbit Changed My Life

Niels was the sickly-looking rabbit at the pet store in the mall. He didn't turn around to see us at all—he just stared into the corner of the cage while the world bustled about around him.

So naturally, I chose this little lop-eared fluffball. I spent the first month of his life nursing him back to health since he was in such bad shape from the pet store (this may have been when he lost his hearing).

I also spent the first month researching proper rabbit care. I realized that rabbits are a lot more work than I thought they were, but since Niels was so sweet, I didn't mind.

He snuggled beside my feet while I wrote papers, jumped up onto my bed when I was hungover and knocked over mini-trashcans to get to the old yogurt cups and orange peels inside.

That first year, I learned so much about how to care for a creature other than myself. On my worst days, Niels's little twitching nose and chubby cheeks were restorative. He showed me how to find joy in the small things when it was hardest to find joy anywhere.

And Rory makes two

A year later, I moved into a larger space and was able to finally get Niels the buddy he deserved. I intended to adopt a sweet girl named Milly, but when I laid eyes on "her" in her horrible cage, I knew two things: "she" was a he, and that I had to get him out of those conditions.

So I ended up with a spunky, boisterous boy and named him Rorschach. He startled easily and was terrified of the vacuum cleaner. That was when I noticed Niels's quirks: he never startled, and he loved to sit in front of the vacuum as it was running.

He was completely deaf.

As the months and years passed, the two bunnies became inseparable. Niels followed Rory everywhere, constantly grooming him and giving him all the affection that Rory so selfishly desired.

Again, I got to see the unrelenting joy that Niels felt with his partner. They played and explored each new apartment together, and served, again, as a light on my darkest days.

The broken years

When I moved into an apartment with wood floors, things started to change. I noticed that Rory had no trouble running around at his usual speed, but Niels began to slow down. Even though he still followed Rory with all the enthusiasm he could muster, his back legs were giving him trouble.

After a couple of vet appointments and a devastating X-ray, we found out that his back was broken at the base of his neck. Our options were surgery or bedrest. Surgery was expensive and uncertain, so bedrest it was.

I can't explain how terrible I felt.

This was all in the few days before I moved (by myself) to a city where I didn't know anyone. So I carefully padded Niels into a small carrier and drove slowly, not even thinking about the new job or the new apartment. Just that Niels would be okay.

The next three months were the hardest. Niels was confined to a small carrier as his condition worsened, and eventually couldn't move even if he tried. My days consisted of waking early, changing Neils's bed pad and cleaning and drying him. I rushed home after work to do the same thing twice more before bed.

I didn't have internet in my apartment, so I watched the same DVD of The Office over and over again with Niels by my side. I fed him anything he would stomach - carrots were his very favorite. Every week I broke down, thinking that it was time to put him down. Every week I couldn't do it.

We still had good times. Rory hopped in for a visit and to give Niels kisses every once in a while, and loved to steal carrots from the little bed. I moved him from room to room as I prepared for the day, cleaned and cooked, just so that he could feel like he was part of things.

I have a strange fondness for those days of having a single purpose: to get home and care for that tiny rabbit.

The recovery

One morning, while Niels's bed was in its usual spot in the dining room, I came out of the bathroom to find he wasn't there.

He had hopped out of his bed (remember, he was almost completely paralyzed for several weeks). I found him sitting next to the bookshelf, and when I tried to get him back in his carrier he hopped away again. Almost as if he'd never been hurt.

He went uphill from there. He began jumping up on furniture again (much to my horror), and he finally explored the apartment on his own. Soon my boyfriend (now husband) joined us and a few of my friends moved into the city as well. I even let my guard down and started making friends at work.

It was a time of healing for both of us.

The bridal shower

In that time, I got engaged. I loved to imagine the bunnies being ring bearers on our big day (I knew it would never happen, but a girl can dream, right?)

On the day of my bridal shower a year after Niels's recovery, I got a call from my fiance. The second I heard his voice, I knew it was all over. Niels was gone.

 Rory went on a diet shortly after this photo. He stole a few too many carrots (which are a "sometimes" food).

Rory went on a diet shortly after this photo. He stole a few too many carrots (which are a "sometimes" food).

I kept my tears at bay until I was driving back to my apartment the next day. I wept for my little man, and replayed everything over in my mind. Maybe if I had never moved into that apartment...maybe if I had fed him more green vegetables...

Niels passed away in the night with Rory, his best friend in the entire world, by his side. We buried him on April Fool's day.

It seemed fitting, although I'm still not sure why.

What I learned from that 4-pound pet

Niels was my first pet as an adult. I adopted him in a time when I was struggling with depression more than I ever had before, and with all his health problems, he needed me just as much as I needed him. We connected in a way I hadn't connected with any other living being.

I learned the sadness of commercially sold pets (adopt don't shop from here on out), and I learned the absolute joy of being a rabbit caretaker. I discovered the financial and emotional burden of pet ownership, and I realized that it's all worth it.

I've now been a rabbit owner for seven years, and I've become more patient and kind than I ever thought I could be because of them. I've become attuned to the smallest things—the miniature binkies, the smacking of their lips when they eat bananas, their facial expressions when they're feeling particularly silly.

I feel safe whenever they feel safe, and I feel honored when they let me pet their little bellies or hold their paws between my fingertips.

What I wouldn't give to hold Niels's tiny face in my hands again, or to see him and Rory snuggling one more time, or to see how much he would love our new rabbit Bonnie.

But thanks to him, I know more about who I am and where I'm going. I know how to give more love than I thought I ever could. And I am grateful for that.