SUCCESS // Ambition versus Competition

An open, melodramatic letter from myself to myself (re: success)

Dearest Self,  (Lol, too formal.)

Yo Yo Yo Self!  (Yikes, too informal.)

Hey, it’s me. (That’ll work.)

No use wasting time on any introductions or lengthy formal greetings since we already know each other pretty well… so, getting straight to the point:

There are going to be many times in the years to come when people praise you and tell you that you’re better than other people: for graduating, for getting a job, for going back to school, for dating that person you’re dating, for someday buying a house, for getting a promotion, for maybe getting married someday, for following your dreams, and for a bunch of little things in between.

There are also going to be times when people, sometimes even yourself, tell you that you’re worse than other people: for not using that degree like you should have, for not getting a better job, for not getting another degree, for not having a five-year plan, for not having settled down yet, for not having it all together, for following your dreams, and for a bunch of little things in between.

This happens because we live in a world that looks at success as climbing “the ladder.” You’ve heard of the ladder… you know, the very small, narrow, nearly infinitely tall one? The one that 7.4 billion other people are trying to climb up? Yes, that one.

And this happens because we’re taught that the way we get to the top of said ladder is by competing against our peers for one of the few places at the top and by being better than them.

This, in turn, leaves us in somewhat of a pickle if we’re being honest. It leaves us comfortable rooting for other people’s success, sure, (because there is a genuine part of us that’s happy for them after all), BUT only until they start to succeed as much as or God forbid more than us… at which point we’re taught that this person is now a threat to us and our success, and while we can smile and congratulate them to their face, it’s probably a wise idea to

A. Do something to discourage them from climbing any higher and/or sabotage their efforts in some other way

B. Do something to catapult yourself up a few rungs, so as to distance yourself enough that their success no longer poses an immediate threat to yours.

C. Frantically do both A & B simultaneously.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned the last few years is this: Options A, B, & C are all god awful, and the view of success as something available to only the few who make it to the top is really and truly a load of crap.

I’ve learned that all that this view of success does, at the end of the day, is get us caught up in perpetual cycles of jealousy (when other people are “better” than us) and pride (when we are “better” than other people). It makes us look enviously to the “more successful” person to our right and say things like, “Why can’t I be where she is?” and then makes us promptly look disgustedly to the “less successful” person to our left and say things like, “Well at least I’m not where he is.” SMH. This is no good. No good no good no good. And this will not do any longer.

➡️➡️➡️     ➡️➡️➡️

Here’s what I know now: one of the best things you can do as you continue throughout your life is to remember that real success isn’t making it to the top of some teeny tiny ladder. It’s actually a recognition that TRUE success is looking beyond yourself, to the people to your left and to your right, and not asking, “How can I be better than you?” but by grabbing their hands, pulling them close, and asking them the question, “What new thing can you and I create together for the Good of the World that we couldn’t create on our own?”

Success in its purest form is contributing to the rising of human consciousness for the sake of Love and all things Holy. Real success [dramatic pause] is Sacred.

And while there is totally a time and place to use competition as a catalyst to make yourself your best self, the importance of possessing ambition to be better than who you were yesterday far outweighs the importance of any competition to be better than who other people are today or might be tomorrow.

Other things to remember as you go forth:

1. Ultimately, one person’s individual success doesn’t collectively take away from the potential of another person’s success. (So chill tf out)

2. Success is not a limited commodity, because it cannot and should not look the same for everyone. As has been taught in many a motivational workshop, in this context, scarcity is an illusion. (So once again, chill tf out)

3. It’s silly for all of us to try to climb up a room-for-one ladder, when the world was built for ALL of us to elevate collectively. (So just don’t be silly… don’t do it)

Bottom line: if you ever EVER find yourself coming from and acting from a place of “I’m worse than” or “I’m better than” someone else, to put it bluntly, you’re missing the point, and it’s time to recalibrate.

That’s all for now….

Onward and upward (together),

Bibs

(Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash)

Why do we do the things that we do?

Hello reader friends 🙂 Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this month:

Why we do the things that we do? Namely, why do we do good things?

 More specifically:

Why are we nice to people?

Why do we work really hard at our jobs?

Why do we do favors for people we love?

Why do we (in general) do what we say we’ll do?

Is it because it’s the “right thing” to do?

Because we want to prove something?

Because we want something in return?

Or is it because we don’t need to prove anything,

and we don’t expect ANYTHING in return

but because we experience the overflowing grace that comes from believing and accepting that we ourselves are loved unconditionally…

and it’s from this place that we inevitably need to give back some of the love that we have because we just know that this love is a love that’s meant to be shared?

A lot of times – more times than I care to admit really – I’m driven to do good things because I’m trying to prove (to myself or others) that I’m good and/or because I’m expecting something good in return. I forget that there’s nothing I can do to earn my way to “good,” because we’re all equally valued in God’s eyes.

Here’s what I think: if we believe that we’re loved unconditionally, at our core, by our creator (and I mean REALLY believe it), then we could hypothetically quit our jobs, throw out any and all goals, sit on the couch, eat potato chips, watch TV, and do absolutely nothing good all the live long day, for the rest of our lives… And STILL be loved by God JUST as much he loves us right this very minute. We actually have the freedom to do that.

The ironic thing for me is as soon as I remind myself of this,  I’m suddenly driven more than ever to – you guessed it – do good things. Only I’m compelled to do them from a very different place now. Not because I’m trying to prove anything, or because I need anything, but because I actually have so much more good than I could ever need, and I don’t know what else to do but put it to use and try to give it back to God and his creation in some way. I’m compelled to do good because “my cup runneth over,” as they say.

A friend of mine recently shared a Rob bell quote with me… You guys probably had no idea I like Rob Bell I never mention him on here or every single day of life. Anyway, the quote went something like this:

“Everything you are striving and fighting for, you already have. So often we are working, sweating, clinging, grasping, striving to feel worthy enough and the fundamental good news, the gospel, is the announcement that you are loved exactly as you are. You don’t have to do anything.  You are already a daughter of the divine. ‘You are always with me and everything I have is yours.’”

So with news like that… the question is: what sort of place will we live from in the days ahead?

A place of fear or love?

Of seeking value or adding value?

Of conditional or unconditional love?

Of lack or overflow?

The choice is ours (so I hear).

Have a great weekend, friends 🙂

I love a good comeback.

All good stories end in a comeback. Alright alright, maybe not all. But a lot of good stories end in a comeback… some form of someone losing something (money, a game, a bet, health, life), and at the last second turning things around for an unexpected win.

Random examples: Michael Jordan. The Backstreet Boys. Beauty & the Beast. Ross and Rachel.

I often wonder why these types of stories are so intriguing to us. Sometimes I think it’s because it reminds us of the story of Jesus… the ultimate comeback story: a man who was despised and hated and abused and eventually killed, who lived out the biggest plot twist of all time by literally coming back… and saving the universe to top it all off. It really doesn’t get better (or more absurd) than that when it comes to a comeback story.

I’ve been thinking about comebacks in relation to my own life lately and I’ve come to realize something… the thing mainly being that I really do love them. So much so that I will actually go out of my own way to create my own comeback story, no matter how seemingly big or small.

Examples:

1. I will let my apartment get disgustingly messy, just so that I have the satisfaction of cleaning it up. We’re talking dishes piled high, clothes everywhere, soap scum in the shower… (EW BIBS TMI!) and then I’ll devote hours to scrubbing it clean, from ceiling to floor, so that it looks IMMACULATE by the time I’m done. Sometimes I’ll even take before & after pictures, I won’t even lie.

2. Sometimes I’ll go a month without working out, and then the next month I’ll work out almost every day, just so I can tell my friends, “You guys, you wouldn’t believe it. I was such a lazy ass last month; I didn’t work out at all. But look at me now! I’ve been working out every day for the past few weeks and I’m running a 5K next week and I think I might even have actual abs now! (Is that amazing or WHAT?!)” And I’ll do the same thing with food. I’ll eat sweets and candy and carbs galore one month, and then I’ll “eat clean” the next month and talk about the huge life-altering changes I’ve made.

3. Same thing with school work. I’ll wait and wait and wait to study, I’ll do poorly on my first few exams, I’ll let my grades drop, I’ll complain to my friends about how “I’m going to fail out of this class I just know it” and “there is just no coming back from this.” And then I’ll bust my butt the second half of the semester, ace the rest of my exams and pull off a good grade come summertime. “I should have failed….” I’ll say, “but I DIDN’T! I made my way from the bottom all the way to the top!” What a great story of triumph! [Please note sarcasm]

It may sound silly, but there is a noticeable pattern of this in my life… of slightly (or sometimes significantly) sabotaging an area of my life, JUST so that I can fix it. As much as I may not always admit it, I kind of like cleaning up a good mess. And I especially like cleaning it up when I’ve created it. Let’s face it, messes are always easier to clean up if you’ve made them yourself, because you know where things went before you moved them around. It’s satisfying.

It’s also incredibly stupid though. Because the energy I use to make messes and subsequently clean them up could be used to NOT create any messes to begin with, and just to continue improving things for the better from the start. Instead of going back two steps then forward two steps, and bragging about my “comeback” to the people around me, I could just go forward four steps, and use the same amount of energy.

Instead of letting the dishes pile up, I could just do them at the end of each day. And instead of not caring for my physical body one month and then whipping it into shape the next, I could just work out a few times each week. Instead of digging myself into an academic hole and then digging myself out at the end of each semester, I could just study a little bit each week.

What revolutionary concepts! Less glamorous and not as riveting, sure. But it allows for a lot more true progress and forward momentum in the end, right?

I’ve been thinking about it and I do think I’m drawn to comeback stories because they remind me of the Jesus story. I think there’s a difference that I need to be aware of though – a key difference between the Jesus comeback and the other more typical comeback stories I gravitate towards and create.

My comebacks involve me losing something (cleanliness, health, grades) and then “winning” them back at the very last second.

Jesus’ comeback involves him appearing to lose throughout his lifetime up until the very end, but in actuality, revealing at the last minute that he was actually winning the whole time.

Jesus never “lost” and then won. He was always winning… he just looked like he was losing based on the standards of the world he was living in.

I think real winning means stopping the game of trying to make yourself look like a winner, and actually being willing to look like a loser, for the sake of true victory.

And as a good friend recently reminded me, real winning also means looking to Christ as the ultimate victor and as our victor, giving him the credit, and recognizing that any comebacks that do manifest in our lives are made possible thanks to the power and the grace of His very existence. Submission to God’s love and opening our hands and hearts to receiving his desire to propel us forward is the key to unlocking future growth.

Not ego. Not pride. Not determination…

But dependance, gratitude, & surrender.

Alas, I’m making it a point to break up with my love of the comeback. At least the kind of comeback I’m used to. And I’m slowly falling in love with the Jesus comeback…the real comeback… with being okay with looking like I’m losing and taking on the appearance of not keeping up with the world’s standards, of not subscribing to what society dubs as “success,” all with the hope and trust that doing the hard and unglamorous and sometimes loser-ish things are actually compounding in victory overtime.

So cheers. To the losers who are actually winners who sometimes look like losers before revealing they’re winners…

Bibs

P.S. Have you ever created your own comeback?

3 Questions to Ask Yourself before you do Anything Stupid :)

 

I’m 24 today – yay! Here’s a blog post to celebrate.

Sometimes I do dumb things…

And then I’m like, “Hey look at that! I just went ahead and did that thing… which was really dumb… Why’d I do that? If only I had thought for half a second first!” 😀

So. I’m going to try to do less stupid things this-coming year, and I’m going to do it by asking myself these 3 questions before I act.

I hope these help you do less stupid things going forward, too! (Oh god… Not that I’m calling you stupid! Or think you do stupid things! In fact, you’ve probably never done anything stupid in your life! I love you! …Ugh…)

1. What are you Trying to Prove?

Sometimes I do things just to try and prove that I’m something… that I’m good enough, or that I’m pretty, or smart, or caring, or successful, or deserving 

Anyway, I’m going to do my best to not waste my energy on trying to prove things this year, because here’s the thing: if something is actually true, then I really don’t need to waste energy on proving it… it’s true, so it just is… truth doesn’t need to be defended like that. And the other thing: if it’s not true, then to try to “prove” it would be to essentially lie by putting up a false front. Last thing: trying to prove things usually just makes you look desperate to prove said thing… and consequently makes everyone around you doubt the validity of said thing.

So yeah. Less of that this year.

2. What are you Running Away From?

I am a procrastination QUEEN. I am so good at avoiding things it’s not even funny. I HATE dishes… that is, unless I have homework that I’m avoiding. Then I LOVE dishes!

I also hate going through unread emails I’ve fallen behind on… unless I have laundry to do… then I LOVE going through old emails.

You know what else I hate? Wasting time watching re-runs of shows I’ve seen a million times… unless my bathroom needs to be cleaned… then I LOVE watching reruns!

You get the point. It’s actually absurd how so much of what I do is to avoid doing something else. Asking this question will force me to determine what exactly I don’t want to do, and allow me to more quickly be a big girl and just DO IT, because sooner or later, let’s just face it, the toilet needs to be cleaned.

3. What would happen if You Didn’t do That?

As much as I don’t do things that I should do, I also spend quite a bit of time doing things that I shouldn’t do (or don’t need to do). And a lot of the times it’s just because I don’t take the time to evaluate why I’m doing something, and do it simply because, well it’s just what I do! Asking this question will help me evaluate if something I’m doing is worth my time, or if I should ditch it.

Case in point: I’m going to NY this weekend, and yesterday I spent a BUNCH of time trying to figure out the best possible way to get there:

Do I take the bus?

Do I take the train?

Do I leave my car at home?

Do I Uber to the bus station?

Do I park at the subway station?

But then I have to pay for parking…?

Do I ask to park at my friends place in Cambridge?

Do I buy my ticket home now?

Do I wait until later?

What if the tickets sell out?

Do I forget the trip and not go altogether?

…… AGHHHHH you get the point.

So I finally stopped for a second and asked myself: What would happen if I DIDN’T agonize over these options and just PICKED one, knowing that there isn’t one perfect way? The sane part of my brain was like, “UH, you’d be done with this whole thing a lot faster and could probably put that energy you’re wasting towards that homework sitting on your desk due tomorrow,” So I stopped what I was doing, made a decision on the trip, and dove into my homework. That little question put a stop to a whole lot of madness!

Side note: this question can also serve as a great reminder as to why I do continue to do certain things. For example: I workout. If I ask myself, “What would happen if I didn’t do that?” The answer would be, “Well, I’d probably get sick and die young,” So… YEAH, I think I’ll keep working out.

Anywho, hope these were helpful, and I hope all you New Englanders are staying safe out there 🙂

xoxo,

Bibs

 

 

10 (Really Deep) Conversation Starters for Anyone who Hates Small Talk

So, I have this problem when it comes to small talk – mainly that I tend to feel like I’m a floundering fish out of water every time I have to do it.

It’s funny because if I’m talking one-on-one with someone about strange, confusing, existential topics that I care about (strangers and friends alike) I am ALL ABOUT IT. That is my happy place. I’m into it. (My friends are all nodding their heads going, “Yup, sounds about right.”)

And even when it comes to speaking in front of other people; if I’m asked to talk about something that matters to me in front of a crowd, I’m also all about it.

BUT if there’s a situation where I’m expected to just casually chit chat about work or the weather with people I don’t know, or if there’s a situation where I’m (God forbid) required to…… MINGLE (I’m shuddering just thinking about it) that’s where we have an issue.

Now it’s not that I can’t do it, or that I absolutely hate it… I just… kind of hate it. No I’m kidding.

I’m exaggerating, but I would rather talk about the deep stuff.

Rest assured, I’m working on this. When I started my last job I didn’t set foot in the lunchroom for the first four months because I was so freaked out by all the small talk and mingling that I heard happening in there every day. (Lol true story). I share this knowing this is not something to brag about.

I also know that just because I’m a raging introvert (that undeniably has a little bit of social anxiety to work through), that doesn’t mean that small talk is bad or that I have an excuse to try and bypass it altogether.

Small talk is vital, in fact, because as great as deep conversations are, let’s be real here: not everyone likes being asked what they think will happen to them after they die before they’ve even been asked their first and last name.

So I’m working on it. Nevertheless, I do still love asking people hard questions, and over the past few months, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites (some from me, but most that I’ve borrowed from others).

So for anyone out there that’s about to embark on a long road trip with a close friend, or who likes to risk freaking strangers out by asking them obscure questions like I do, I hope you find these helpful:

1. What are you most excited about right now?

2. What question is really consuming you these days?

3. What do your inner voices/inner critics say to you?

4. What is the biggest mistake you’ve made, or way you’ve failed, that’s taught you the biggest lesson?

5. What do you like most about yourself?

6. What has been your greatest positive impact on the world so far?

7. What breaks your heart?

8. What do you want to be known for when you die?

9. Tell me one thing I don’t know about you, or the world.

10. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Thanks to Jonathan Fields, Liz Gilbert, John Maxwell, Lewis Howes, et al for (unknowingly) contributing to this list.

Happy Conversing!

E

 

3 Words for 2017 (that all happen to begin with C)

Curiosity

You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning, you blink, and then the next thing you know you’re in your pajamas, staring at yourself in the mirror as you brush your teeth getting ready for bed? And then you think, “What even happened today”? It’s like, we get so comfortable in our routines that we go on autopilot the minute we wake up and don’t turn it off the whole day. 

We manage to get ready for the day, drive ourselves to and from our jobs, do our thing at work, say our “Hi, how are you”s at the appropriate times, eat 2-3 meals a day, maybe go to the gym, and even brush our teeth before bed, but by the time we get ready to go to sleep, we can’t even really remember anything that stuck out from the day. 

I don’t like that. I don’t think that’s how life is supposed to be. Not all the time. Not every day at least. This year I have a challenge for myself. Feel free to join me if you wish. This year, I want to live from a place of curiosity, instead of obligation, and a place of intrigue instead of necessity. 

In the mundane tasks, instead of being bored out of my head and thinking, “Same thing. Different day,” I want to ask, “How can I make this thing or situation better, more efficient, more exciting? What is this thing teaching me about the way that I am?” 

And in the new or unexpected situations I find myself in, instead of thinking, “Dear god get me out of here. Get me back to my routine, where it’s boring and comfortable and safe,” I want to ask, “How can I bring value to this situation? What can I learn from this person? How can this propel me forward, into growth and increased understanding?” 

How cool is it that everything and everyone are opportunities to learn if we allow it? Rob Bell says that one of the biggest tragedies of life is clinging to the belief that tomorrow will be just like today. 

What if we cling to the belief that tomorrow will be different than today? What if we make it different? 

Concern

I am amazing at worrying. Seriously, one of my biggest talents. In Brooklyn, Liz Gilbert spoke about the root word of the word “worry” versus the word “concern,” and it was so interesting to me.

The root word of “worry” is “to wring,” as in, to wring one’s neck.

The root word of “concern” is “to sift,” as in, to sift through, “This is my problem… This is not my problem. I can do something about this… I can do nothing about this.”

In 2017, I want to live from a place of concern. Because let’s face it, it just doesn’t do me or anyone around me any good to wring my neck. If anything, all that wringing just inhibits any ability I might otherwise have to do something productive about whatever I’m worrying about. 

To sift through what situations I actually have a level of responsibility for and can change though… that would be helpful. Let’s do that.

Confidence

Lord knows I’ve talked a lot this year about how I’ve spent the larger part of my life lacking confidence, so let’s not talk about that again, shall we? But I do just want to say that I’m excited, because since 2016 was becoming aware of insecurities in myself, I’ve set 2017 up to be a year of actually DOING something about those things. You can’t improve a situation until you know there’s an opportunity for improvement, right? I feel like I’m on the path to improvement now.

I’m not 100% confident in myself, or overly confident (I hope), nor have I obliterated any and all insecurities from my life, but the place that I’m coming to is one of much greater confidence than I’ve ever been to before. 

And I think it’s a unique place of confidence I’m heading towards. I don’t want to be confident in everything (I want to be confident, not arrogant, you see). Really simply, I just want to be confident in what I know and what I don’t know. 

Maybe what I really want is just to be confident in the fact that I’m not always confident… I want to be confident that I will never again pretend to be confident in all things, which is what I thought I was supposed to do for so long.

Here’s what I want: 

I want no false confidence in things I don’t actually like about myself, no pretending to be an expert in things I’m not, no making it look like I’m solid on what I believe in when I’m not… just God honest confidence in what I do know and what I don’t. Ugh, that sounds like freedom to me. 

So these are the words I’m going to come back to this year, to help move me in the right direction. I hope some of you find them helpful, too.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to a year of greater curiosity, concern, and confidence in hopes of a life of greater Love and freedom for each of us.

If you like periodic emails with messages like this one, subscribe below! 

Thanks for reading,

E

To the Rule Breakers of the World:

As a kid, I remember how exciting it was the first time I talked bad about one of my friends behind her back, and realized that some people gave me more time of day when I did that. I knew I was supposed to show respect to everyone, so I kind of felt like a rebel, talking about someone behind her back, and getting fed the attention that I longed for as the awkward and insecure 5th grader that I was.

Growing up, I remember how oddly stirring it was to yell, scream, and get ridiculously angry at my sister for getting in my way every morning as we’d try to get ready together in the bathroom before school. There was a sense of prideful excitement that came from the hateful words I’d spew at her every day, simply as punishment for her asking to take up a little space in our home, too. I knew I was supposed to be kind to others, but it felt good to be mean – like an exerting of my power, a marking of my territory.

Throughout college, I remember the exhilaration that came from the sheer act of hating myself. I remember how satisfying it felt to reprimand myself for not being good enough according to my impossibly high and altogether distorted standards, by talking to myself cruelly, and routinely engaging in various forms of self-punishment. It was almost like some kind of dirty little secret: making it look like I had my stuff together on the outside (smiling, cheery, and on my way to success), but not telling anyone that my mode of transportation wasn’t one of love or respect for myself, but instead one of hatred and self-deprecation.

I believe in a God who is love, and a God who calls us to show respect, kindness, and love to ourselves and others as part of our purpose here on earth. While we no doubt have free will to do whatever we want, and while I am by and large NOT a fan of portraying God as a god of rules (He is so much better than that), in the interest of making this blog post work, you might consider these three things I just mentioned a few key “rules” that God would like his children to follow, for the purpose of the betterment of his world and his children.

So I’ve realized some things lately (which seems to be the reason for most of these blog posts, doesn’t it?).

Well first, I’ve realized that the thrill of breaking rules and the excitement of an adrenaline rush are things that are part of the human experience. I think it’s natural and not necessarily a bad thing that we crave them to an extent.

Second, I’ve realized that I have spent the larger part of my life claiming to believe in these rules, or beliefs, of respect, kindness, and love for all, but have found myself getting my fixes of adrenaline, excitement, and the thrill of rebellion largely from breaking these rules.

Another thing I’ve realized: I am not perfect (seriously, nowhere even close), but I have noticed that I don’t, or try not to, break these rules quite as often as I used to anymore… and yet, my human cravings for adrenaline fixes, the thrill of rebellion, and subsequent excitement are still being satisfied… which has led me to ask the question,

If I’m no longer breaking the rules of God (at least not as much), then whose rules am I breaking? 

I can be really fake sometimes. I blame it on American culture, but in reality, I have a natural tendency to be phony and try to act “normal,” and I just never did anything about it. Lately though, I’ve been trying to fight against this tendency. Not all the time – that would be overwhelming for both me and whomever I’m speaking with – but sometimes. Sometimes, I’ve been trying to be more real, and more me. Turns out the real me is VERY different than the fake me. She’s much more quirky and honest. She’s also much louder and more talkative. Interestingly enough, she’s also much more confident. And every time I am the real Elizabeth, it’s the weirdest thing; I feel like the biggest rebel.

It’s like, my whole life, the world has taught me that fitting in, even if it means talking bad about other people behind their backs to make myself look better, and punishing myself into looking and sounding like everyone else, is what’s best. And for the first time, I’m rebelling against the world by being kind of quirky and weird, but real and honest, and even awkward and sometimes insecure… but I’m letting other people see those sides of me in a way that my 5th grade self never did.

If I had to sum it up in a sentence, when I used to meet people, I’d say some variation of, “Hi, I’m Elizabeth; nice to meet you!” then smile politely. And now I’m kind of just like, “Hi I’m Elizabeth this is who I am I’m a little different and weird and honestly most of the time a hot mess but hey aren’t we all do you want to be friends if not no problem take me or leave me!”

The reactions I get are so much more fun and varied than when I just say hi and smile, which makes it all so much more exciting.

Another thing: maybe you’ve noticed, I’ve been sharing more lately on here. Not just words or posts in general, but the last year or so I’ve been sharing more about me, what I stand for and what I don’t, who I hope to be and who I wish I wasn’t… real things, fun things, confusing things, sometimes dark things.

And it’s funny; every time I click Publish on a blog post, or post the link on social media allowing other people to read it, my heart rate goes up a little, my palms get sweaty, and I get kind of nervous-excited… the same kind of nervous-excited I used to get when I would be a jerk to my sister, or punish myself in secret and pretend everything was fine.

To take a common metaphor too far, it’s kind of like all my life, I’ve had LOADS of dirty laundry that I hoarded all for myself and just let accumulate and fester. And now, due in large part to other people giving me permission, and ultimately me giving myself permission, and also just due to the fact that my laundry room is totally full, I’m airing all of my dirty crap out.

A couple things: one, turns out dirty laundry doesn’t smell nearly as bad when it’s out in the open and not tucked away in a tiny room in your home. And two, what’s even better is as soon as you’re like, “Hey guys, look at this dirty laundry I have!” other people tend to react with, “No way, I have that same exact dirty outfit! Look!” and air out their dirty laundry, too. And then it not only becomes much less stinky, but an opportunity is born to do laundry together, and clean things up as a community. And let’s be honest, chores are always way more fun when you’re doing them with other people.

All this is to say that as of late, I’ve been getting my “adrenaline fixes” from breaking rules, but I’ve been breaking the rules of the world that tell us to play it safe, fit in, stay the same, pretend everything’s fine, and act phony around other people. And it’s been working for me.

I spent the beginning of my life breaking the rules of the divine, which left me lying in bed at the end of each day, exhausted, but staring at the ceiling unable to sleep, with a pit in my stomach.

I’m finding that breaking the rules of the world leaves me lying in bed at the end of each day quite the opposite: exhausted, sure, but with my eyes closed and a sense of peace in my heart… not to mention much more fulfillment, joy, and true-ness within myself than I’ve ever felt before.

So I think I’m kind of done trying to break the rules of God. Love, respect, and kindness are all good things, and I want to expand those things, not diminish them.

I’d like to spend the rest of my life breaking the rules of the world instead. I think life will be much more beautiful and productive this way… and I think I’ll incidentally sleep much better, too.

If you’re interested in also pursuing a life of breaking rules that are meant to be broken, and/or if you’d like to watch me as I try to do this myself, I would love it if you’d subscribe below.

Thanks for reading!

To the rule breakers of the world,

Bibs

There’s A Place For You Here.

You know what’s fun? Doing something for yourself, just because you want to…. and then not apologizing for it.

Last weekend I went to Brooklyn, New York. I went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell talk about life and creativity and what it means to live a creative life for a day.

You know, Elizabeth Gilbert?… Eat Pray Love? Big Magic? Magic Lessons podcast? And you know Rob Bell… Love Wins? Everything is Spiritual? The Robcast?

All those shaking your heads “No,” go check them out. They might change your life.

So here’s why I didn’t go to the Rob & Liz event:

I didn’t go to this event because I had to.

I didn’t go for work. I didn’t go for school.

I didn’t go because I’m some sort of creativity guru that felt deeply called to go and hang out with my fellow creativity gurus.

And I definitely didn’t go because I happened to be in Brooklyn anyway, had some extra cash lying around, and because the whole thing just sounded convenient.

Nope… didn’t go for any of those reasons.

I went because it sounded fun, and because it was something I was curious about.

That’s it. I know. Crazy, right?!

Now to all of you impulsive people out there, this might not sound so crazy. But if you don’t already know me, it’s important you know that I have a history of being overly rational about deciding to do things. I’d tend to only do things if they really “made sense,” which usually meant I’d only do things that were free, almost free, or better yet, if I were paid to do them.

And if I did on the off chance indulge in my curiosity, and God forbid spend a little extra time, energy, and money in the process, there was a twisted sense of guilt for having wasted said time, energy, and money on myself and on something that wasn’t “essential.” I found myself seeking out opportunities that I not only wanted to do, but that could also conveniently pass as some kind of obligation, so I didn’t have to feel bad about using up such precious resources on just myself.

What I didn’t realize was that in saying “No” to all these things that sparked my interest (and that were not also an obligation), I incidentally was declaring to myself and to the world that I’m not worth the investment of going to something interesting.

Work is worth the investment, sure. Family is worth the investment. Friends are worth the investment, no doubt. If the investment was for them, or even for me and them, then I could go. But heavens, not just for me!

Some of you think I’m absurd, but some of you kind of know what I’m talking about.

So I’ve been following Rob and Liz for awhile now. I had heard about this creativity event online, and knew that it sounded irrational to go simply because I was curious about it.

And as you know, in the past, I would have shut down the idea like that [snaps fingers], just like I had with so many similar events before it… but for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, but am fairly certain have something to do with the sheer boredom and sometimes angst that comes from never checking in with yourself and asking it the simple question of “What does your soul desire?”… I said yes.

This time, I tried something new. This time, I didn’t shut the idea down. Instead, I followed it. I listened to the slight tug on my heart that told me to lean in, to learn more, and to see if I could find a way to make it happen, even though it sounded kind of crazy, but trusting it was for some kind of bigger purpose. I didn’t punish myself for daring to think I was worth such an investment, and I let myself dream for a second about what it would be like to indulge in that slight pull to go, and actually… well, go!

So I went. And as it turns out, cool things happen when you not just follow your curiosity, but follow it with an open heart.

I’ve talked before about how I have often particularly loud voices of negativity in my mind that speak lies to me sometimes. So naturally, as soon as I booked the bus ticket, made the AirBnB reservation, and bought the ticket to the actual event, those voices piped right on up, and did what they do best… they tried to mess with my head.

Their tactics are different depending on the situation. They’re very clever, these voices. Or at least they think they are, and they try to cater to the situation at hand. So in this case, these voices knew that, in addition to not feeling worth the investment of an event like this, I also have had a tendency of getting sick before big events in the past, and thus have needed to bail last minute. Whenever these voices would remind me of this, 9 times out of 10 I would (of course) wind up getting sick, just as the voices told me I would.

It took me awhile to catch on, but I recently had a thought:

How many times have I gotten sick before a big event (whether a concert, Thanksgiving, a birthday party, etc.) because I was actually just getting sick, as humans inevitably do sometimes? And how many times have I gotten sick because I just magnified and fed the negative voices in my mind that told me I was bound to get sick… and because getting sick at inopportune times is just what I do best… and because of course I’m going to get sick, otherwise what else am I going to do? Not get sick and just… go to the big event?! Well that would be ludicrous. Everyone knows I don’t belong there. I belong on my couch, watching FRIENDS reruns, disappointed that I missed another fun event. I’m the sick girl. The girl who gets sick. Sicky McSickster. (That’s enough, Elizabeth).

So anyway, when the voices in my head caught wind that I was (GASP) not only going to an event, but voluntarily going to an event, that seemed out of my reach due to finances, distance, and general impracticality, they got right to it.

About a week before the event, I sneezed once. (!!!!).

Oh my God. Am I getting sick? The voices found their “in.”

I‘m getting sick. I thought. Of course I’m getting sick. I’m going to have to miss the event, I’m going to lose my money because it’s too late to get a refund, I’m going to have to stay home and wallow, and I’m going to hate myself for having even thought that I could go in the first place. What was Ithinking?! Bonehead bonehead bonehead! [Slaps forehead repeatedly].

The thoughts continued for about 10 minutes before I found myself both unexpectedly and yet undoubtedly…… bored.

I used to panic when I heard the voices… and I tried to panic this time, too. I really did! That’s what I had always done in the past, after all. But for whatever reason, it just wasn’t doing anything for me this time. It was as if, in a new way, I saw through the voices for what they really were, and I understood the irrelevancy of them. They were merely a manifestation of my fear. Namely, my fear of new experiences and of an unknown future. The voices were trying to get me sick, because they were trying to keep me home, on the couch, where no new experiences could be found, and where I was surely safe from an unknown future.

I guess the combination of me realizing this and of me just finding myself straight up bored with the whole shtick led me to what I did next. What I did next was unlike anything I had done before… and yet it was astoundingly simple.

What I did was I stood up for myself.

Not in a self-righteous, “I’m super entitled” kind of way…  but just in a very normal, “I’m a human, just like everyone is a human” kind of way. And since I think humans deserve to go to events that feed their soul every once in awhile, for the benefit of themselves and consequently the greater good, then maybe that made me also deserving of attending such events.

So I worked to change the narrative in my head. I switched from I’m sick and I’ll never make it there, to, I’m healthy. I’m strong. I’m confident. And there’s a place for me there.

That last line took me most by surprise I think, because it seemed to not necessarily come from my normal, conscious brain like the other ones. It seemed to come from someplace deeper. From the Holy Spirit, even. And it was a bolder statement than the other ones, too… it was very unlike me, to dare to say that not only was I going to be there, but I should be there. That there was even a place for me there, a seat destined especially for me. Now some of you may argue that I took this a little too far here, but hey. It was working for me, and it seemed like a better idea than thinking my way into sickness, so I just went with it.

And interestingly enough, that last line was the line that popped up in my head the most in the days leading up to the event. Anytime a lingering thought of, “I’m getting sick,” would show up, immediately I would hear the Spirit respond, “There’s a place for you there.”

And eventually, the voices of fear couldn’t even finish their thoughts before they were interrupted by this new voice:

I’m getting sick. I just know I’m coming down with someth-There’s a place for you there.

But what if something else entirely unrelated comes up and forces me to have to-There’s a place for you there.

Oh my GOD what if I get pancreatitis right before the event and have to go to the hospit-THERE’S A PLACE. FOR YOU. THERE.

(Who was this newfound voice that actually cared about me? And was so confident that I was deserving of good things? I don’t know man, but I liked this voice.)

And even on the day of the event, I walked into the venue and as I gave the check-in lady my last name, me being the Debbie that I can be, I had one last fleeting thought of, What if they don’t have any record of my ticket purchase, and the event is sold out, and I came all this way for nothing?!

And again, that voice: There’s a place for you there.

The lady found my name no problem, and pointed me through the double doors to the event. [Switching to present tense for dramatic effect].

I walk in and it looks like a movie theater, so it takes me a few steps before I round the corner and see the seats that are taken and not taken.

I turn the corner and see that the front is pretty full, but there’s actually quite a few seats open in the middle and the back. PHEWF! So naturally I look up to the back of the room, and prepare to trek up the stairs and make my way to a seat in the corner. I knew I would probably be crying most of the day (after all, I do cry at the drop of a hat, and Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert have a way of making me cry even more than other people do). So I figured the back would be best. This way I can stay out of everyone’s way, I thought. I won’t make a scene, and won’t make anyone uncomfortable. Yeah. I’ll find a seat in the back. That’s best.

This is where it gets interesting. So before I make my way up the stairs, I decide to take my backpack off. And as I’m readjusting my belongings and getting ready to head up, a woman in the front row, dead center, with one seat empty to her right, pretty aggressively waves her hand and flags me down.

“UH, MISS?”

“Um.. me?” I look behind me.

“Yeah.” She points to the seat next to her. “There’s a place for you here.”

There’s a place for you here.

There’s a place for you here. There’s a place for you here.There’s a place for you here. So it was true after all.

I learned something that day: that sometimes, there is a place for you here. “Here” being anything from a normal event, to a big event, to even just a place for you here on earth: a place for you to be a human, to take up space, and to just BE who you are.

I learned that day that indeed, sometimes there’s a place for you here.

And sometimes? “Here” is someplace you and the people around you would least expect, and perhaps even a place that fear would like to see you avoid.

And sometimes? That place isn’t in the far back corner. Sometimes, that place is front and center. Not all the time, by any means, but sometimes. And sometimes, you don’t need to hide. Sometimes, you don’t even get to hide even if you want to, because sometimes, a lady with a loud voice tells you that there’s a place for you up front, and when a lady with a loud voice tells you there’s a place for you up front, you take your place up front.

Trust is what it comes down to. Trust that you deserve to be here as much as the next guy, not because of anything you’ve done or haven’t done, but because you’re a human, and humans are allowed to do fun things for themselves sometimes.

Now I recognize… it doesn’t always work like this… I realize that I actually could have gotten sick, in spite of the positive self talk, because getting sick sometimes is a thing if you’re human, but at least I allowed for the opportunity to NOT get sick. I didn’t stunt possibility by assuming the worst. I think that’s the key: allowing for the best, while vowing to surrender to the outcome, regardless of whether it’s the best or worst.

I’m also not going to go to the next event I go to and expect an anointed seat to be carved out for me in the very front of the room with my name on it. Nor am I going to buy a ticket to every single event I want to go to going forward, just because it sounds fun. That’s not my point. My point is that sometimes, it’s okay to go someplace with the expectation that you belong there, and deserve to be there (assuming of course, it’s not a place you were explicitly banned from showing up at). We’re all allowed to be here, and all have a place for us here. We don’t need to feel sorry for being where we are, and don’t need to assume we’re not allowed someplace because we’re not obligated to go.

This is the longest post I’ve ever written, but I want to add one more cool thing that happened last weekend. In the past, at events with people I don’t know, I’d walk into the event with my head down, and would avoid talking to anyone because I was scared… scared of what, I’m not exactly sure, but needless to say, I don’t typically seek out opportunities to talk to strangers. But this time, in the spirit of thinking positively and openly, I prayed on the bus ride to Brooklyn:

God, show me who you want me to meet at this event. Work out the details and allow our paths to cross if that should be a way you want to work through this event.

For the purpose of this story, here’s a seemingly random compilation of anecdotes about me:

I’m a Christian. I historically have gone to a catholic church, and I’m now going to a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch.

I’m fascinated by the exploration of life and love, I appreciate Gabby Bernstein’s insights on life when applied in a Christian context, and the only type of alcohol I drink is vodka.

The woman who I sat next to at the event was named Cindy. Cindy is a Christian. Cindy historically has gone to a catholic church, and is now going to NorthPoint Community Church, a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch pastored by Andy Stanley.

Cindy is fascinated by the exploration of life and love, she appreciates Gabby Bernstein’s insights on life when applied in a Christian context, and the only type of alcohol she drinks is vodka.

NOW TELL ME THAT’S NOT WEIRD.

We spent the day talking about our stories, and especially our families, and it turns out there are a lot of similarities there, too. Shout out to Cindy: I’m SO grateful for your willingness to listen and give insight that day, because I needed to hear it just as much, if not more than I needed to hear what Rob & Liz had to say. Thank you!

So this weekend was a Good weekend. It turns out interesting things transpire when there’s a genuine willingness to let new people, things, and ideas into your life. And I’m beginning to see that life is much more fun and much more FREE, when you invite something bigger than the manifestation of your fear into your life.

Sometimes something that starts out as a fun thing to do, God uses to lead you to discover all sorts of cool things about yourself and your place here in the process.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a champ! Thank you for reading. I haven’t even begun to talk about the actual content of this event, which was equally as fascinating as the victory of actually going to the event… but fear not. I’ll share that in a separate post.

Cheers! To all having a place here.

Indulging in Our Self-Created Pain

You know what scares me? The comfort in continuity… the fact that so much of what we do is because we’ve created a habit of doing it, or because it’s familiar to us.

Let me clarify… not everything about continuity scares me. In fact, a lot of the times it can be a good thing, because it means once we foster good habits it becomes pretty natural in most cases to keep them up after practicing them for a certain amount of time. It means we have the power to make things like taking care of ourselves and taking care of others a habit, and that’s a great thing. (Not that we should do it simply because it’s a habit, but you get my point).

I guess it’s the other side… the “bad” habits that scare me. It’s scary because it’s unnervingly easy to not even realize I’m doing something I shouldn’t, simply because after experiencing something enough on a consistent basis, it can’t help but become familiar, and somewhat comforting.

Something I think we have a tendency to do if we’re not careful (once again, saying “we” assuming/hoping I’m not alone in this…), is indulge in our self-created pain. We dwell on things that we know we should move past, or continue bad habits that we know God wants us to stop, because it’s comfortable. It almost feels good to disappoint ourselves and let ourselves down, because we know what it feels like.

We know the drill. We let ourselves down. We hate ourselves for it. We wallow in our own self-pity. We say we’re going to change, but are distracted by this or that thing and eventually forget about it enough as we become numbed and distracted by whatever busyness comes our way.

And we do the same thing day after day, month after month, year after year. And we know we’re not going to change, because we’re not really trying to change. We don’t have a real game plan on how to move forward, or if we do, it’s an unrealistic one, so when we don’t succeed in doing it, we let ourselves down once again with thoughts like, “See?! I knew I couldn’t do it,” and quickly revert back to our old ways. So we’ve already subconsciously planned to fail. We let the fear of the unknown get the best of us. It’s easier. It’s less work. It’s predictable. And there is a twisted element of comfort in that.

You know that song by Lady Antebellum that says, “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all”? It’s so cliche, but it’s true: we’d rather hang onto the past and do what we do best even if it’s not the best thing for us… all in hopes of avoiding “nothing at all” or God forbid, avoiding something better we haven’t allowed ourselves to discover yet.

Obviously this looks a little different for everyone. And it’s not necessarily some horribly awful life-shattering habit that I’m talking about.

Sometimes it’s the simple continuation of a thought pattern… one that keeps us in the past, reliving moments that made us feel wronged, rejected, or upset. That pattern keeps us from picking ourselves up and actually MOVING ON.

And sometimes, instead of a mental state, it’s a more outwardly obvious form of self destruction.

Regardless of the nature, bad habits can often be something little and seemingly insignificant. Sometimes it can simply be something we know that we don’t need to be doing, that’s taking up time we could be spending on doing something better… just something that’s significant enough to cause even a twinge of guilt and dissapointment within us… something that inevitably chips away at the trust we have for ourselves.

I think the solution lies in creating new (realistic) expectations for ourselves, and essentially rebuilding a relationship of trust with ourselves… being patient as we do it, but lovingly leading ourselves into new habits, until eventually the old habit seems like merely an illusion. It takes time, and for some of us, we need to start from the ground up, because we don’t trust ourselves at all anymore. And that’s okay! Healing and change takes time. The beauty is found in the journey to that change, and if you sit back and think about it, it’s incredible that we even have the ability to start over like that.

As it relates to how you treat yourself (and even how others treat you), it’s okay and I’d argue, necessary, that the person you are today, doesn’t stand for the things that you stood for yesterday. It’s time to stop expecting and indulging in pain and failure, and to break free from our self-created chains, and forgive ourselves for all the times we haven’t.

So often God sets us free from things we want to be set free from, and the only thing we need to do is allow ourselves to be free. So what are we waiting for? Let’s stop wallowing in our self-manifested puddle of self pity. Let’s get up, and experience the freedom that’s been ours all along.

Nobody Likes Dry Elbows

So the title has nothing to do with the actual content of this post… I just thought maybe it would catch some people’s attention. Plus, it’s true…… do you know anybody who likes dry elbows? #clickbait

Anyway, thought of the week:

We have to give up what we want before we get it. 

Not an earth-shattering concept I guess, but something I’m for sure learning in a new way. We need to really release the idea of getting [insert whatever you want] when we want it, in order to get it.

I’ll speak for myself here: I’m finding that when I really desire something in particular, I almost never get it… at least not in the time frame that I originally wanted it. It’s like I try to receive whatever I want by hoping for it, praying for it, and building up in my head how amazing it’ll be once I get it, and it’s as if God chuckles, shakes his head, and lovingly tells me that I don’t know what’s good for me.

I guess He’s right… a lot of times I have no idea what’s best for me. [A humbling reminder.] In fact, a lot of times I think back on things I used to want (and didn’t get) and am grateful as I realize now that had I gotten said things, my life almost definitely would have been much worse off, and not better as I initially thought.

So my new approach:

Tell God what I want at first glance, while acknowledging that it may not be the best thing for me. In other words, I’m not afraid to be open about what I want on instinct, and to pray for what I think would be good for me, but am careful now to realize (contrary to what many believe) that I myself am not God, and to instead do my best to surrender to accepting an alternative, and even perhaps the opposite of whatever I want myself, trusting that the real God knows best.

I’ve found since starting this approach, one of two things happens:

One, I get an alternative, or sometimes the opposite of what I initially wanted, and I feel oddly at peace with it. There’s a level of disappointment… not gonna lie, sometimes more significant than others depending on the situation, but there is overriding peace nonetheless. There’s something really helpful about picturing beforehand what it might be like to receive the opposite of what I wanted at first. Nine times out of ten I realize that receiving even the opposite of what I want wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I’m reminded that I’m lucky to have the problems that I do… Many would not even call them problems, and this quickly puts things into perspective.

Or two, I get what I wanted initially (usually after some waiting), and I’m pleasantly surprised and oftentimes incredibly overjoyed. It’s as if when I take a step back and give away the notion that I need whatever I want, God nods his head in approval and says, “Here. You’re ready for it now.”

Quick but important side note: you can’t beat the system. I’ve tried. You know you’re trying to beat the system when you try to convince God and yourself that you wouldn’t mind not getting what you want and you’d be just fine getting the opposite (all in hopes of actually getting what you want)… but then when you don’t get what you want, you’re distraught and angry and anything but peaceful… If this happens, don’t beat yourself up… but do take a step back and try (again) to let go of your desires… for real this time.

So I guess I’m (re-)realizing that God doesn’t necessarily give us what we want. He gives us what we need. And trusting that God knows best, I realize that I actually don’t want what I want. I want what I need. So if I want what I need and if God always gives us what we need, then in actuality, I’ll always get what I want in the end…. you follow?