why's a girl like you alone

Why’s a girl like you alone?” he slurred, weaving his hands through mine, pushing a curl of my hair behind my ear. Every neurotransmitter in my body filled with preparatory breath for one, big, harmonious, panicked song.

Please. Stop.

“You’re beautiful and smart and funny.” The skin on my neck tightened–tiny cracks spreading like wild rivers across my trapped knuckles. I forced my lips to curl and my eyes to sparkle, while I thought about slamming his weathered face into the coffee table.

“There are hundreds of men who wish they had someone like you,” he ambled. “I wish I had someone with a heart like you.” He touched my knee and my hip and my face, feeling proud and accomplished with his prey pinned beneath his canines.

“I wish I could have you.”

My stomach churned, wrapping my stomach around my might, tangling my strength with my muted voice. I felt the gears inside me rattle and shake,thudding against my bones, vibrating the muscles in my head, humming unpleasantly behind my ears. I closed my eyes, gritting my teeth behind my expected smile and finally, they slipped, spinning wildly, nothing to grab onto. Like me–no purpose, no partner, just constant motion.

Every predatory memory I’d suppressed rushed over the barriers I’d built to protect myself years ago. The scary stories I told myself weren’t real, like slumber party folklore, filled a library in my mind with the blink of an eye.

Bloody Mary.

Please show me the Reaper.

Bloody Mary.

I’m too tired for another.

Ms. Worth, I believe you.

Take the pain away.

learning to speak the language of food

Days that felt like weeks ticked off the calendar. My kitchen sink sat barren except for one lone white plate stained with egg yolk from the last meal I had — four, maybe five, days before. Every moment after that egg felt like a daze.

This happens to me now. My appetite slips away, day by day, until the thought of eating makes my stomach churn. I feel the acid in my belly swirling in a noxious, barren environment. I feed myself nothing but black coffee and chilled vodka.

My appetite for food begins to feel no different from my appetite for joy. My body aches in grief, consumed by darkness, lurking in the corners behind my tired smiles and assurances of being just fine. Slowly, I slip from feeling blue with a stomach for dry toast to questioning the will to take my next breath, struggling to hold myself up, drained from a week without ever thinking of reaching for a fork.

After culinary school, a bakery, and years of building my confidence in the kitchen, I’d declared food my ultimate love language — the way in which I cultivate relationships, show affection, and wholeheartedly bare my soul. Making food was an act of endearment, a profoundly intimate exchange where I say, “Here’s my heart, take it,” and know that everything is just as it should be.

Whether watching vodka dance around the ice in my gilded, vintage highball glass or feeling the steam fog my eyes as I bend over my beloved cast-iron pot bubbling with shepherd’s pie, the kitchen is where magic happens. Hearts come together, bellies and hands warm, fingers wrap around porcelain bowls.Our lips creep higher as we smile toothy grins stippled with playful dimples. Tables burst with dishes, spoons, and spatulas crisscrossed precariously around half-empty wine bottles. Lidded pots are tipped onto trivets as hands reach forward and back, forward and back.

Flushed faces, full hearts, tight pants.

For a moment, we are unfazed by the stinging bites of our reality, just as we are unfazed by the tower of soiled dishes just behind the dining room wall. We are entirely encompassed by the ignorant safety of the table — happy, comfortable, unafraid, armed with four prongs, shielded from the monsters for one more meal.

Whether blissful or heart-wrenching, food has punctuated each year of my life. It’s been a constant touchstone for my humanity, reaching deep into the thick of my mind, tickling my belly and flushing my cheeks: warm cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, Dad’s chicken and dumplings in the bitter cold, Bloody Marys every Sunday, my first Thanksgiving alone.

It has brought me to jovial tears of delight. It has collapsed me to my knees.

a woman's workplace: has anything changed?

Uncomfortably grasping for words across the table from men twice my age with titles far more astute than my own, I’ve become intimate with the dark underbelly of a woman’s workplace. The greats teach us to explore relationships, make connections and take risks in pursuit of betterment.

Yet they forget to mention the part where our bodies become as trivial at the contents of the supply closet, and our worth becomes entangled in unwanted flirtations, imbalances of power and unspoken manipulations suffered at the hands of our trusted advisors within the institutions we’re obligated to trust. There is no coursework on the consuming guilt that fogs your mind with berating questions of, “Why did I let that happen?”, “How did I get here?”, “What did I do to bring this upon myself?”

Nobody prepares you for the discomfort, yet when we speak of our trouble, no one, women especially, is surprised.


In the fall of 2017, the chests of women across the country tightened as they clutched their iPhones, bombarded by the heartaches of our peers, dredging up the pain from our pasts and opening our eyes to the reality of womanhood in our America.

Weinstein and Spacey and Lauer.

Abhorrent stories of harassment, rape, gaslighting, manipulation and misconduct raced down our Twitter feeds in a tragic choir of #MeToo.

We raised our fists and rallied, picket signs bedazzled in pussy puns thrust to the sky. We squeezed our sisters closer and watched the faces of mothers and daughters and colleagues and friends illuminate in red-hot rage. The media roared the names of perpetrators, while the public followed suit.

Batali and Cosby and Kavanaugh.

We stood in solidarity with the victims, on our feet, in our graphic tees, on our Instagram; cloaking our bodies in an armor of feminist fury and hiding the soul-crushing pain. Each victim releasing her story, owning her torment, was met with an uproar of grandiose applause. Her courageous outcry like a squeegee, wiping the grime from our eyes; showing us, clearly, the abusers in our own lives.

Family and clergy and colleagues.

Over a year later, we’ve cheered for progress and mourned the setbacks, gripping tightly to our rage. Despite an overwhelming awareness that we are, undeniably, still together in the ring–thrashing and recovering, one day at a time, I feel compelled to ask:

In an era where women have fought to peel back the eyelids of our male counterparts, has anything changed?


“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Donald Trump said in the 2005 Access Hollywood tape heard round the world. Amid the hate storm in response our president retorted confidently, explaining his behavior away as locker room banter — normal, acceptable conversation had in jest among men.

Boys will be boys, the people chirp.

Eyes roll and heads shake while the crowd collectively looks the other way.

An inconceivable reality of our world has been built on a society consciously turning away from revolting behavior and mechanical manipulations of power and toward a nonsense belief that male genitalia comes as a package deal with the objectification of women and lousy locker room etiquette.

Men of status and wealth, in and outside of Hollywood, have been lifted onto a platform above morality, praised for their professional accolades, and washed entirely of the choices made in their personal lives. Women, made to fear the wrath of men of status, have kept tight-lipped about the secret exchanges that violently threaten their safety, comfort, and peace of mind.

The cultures of Miramax and Weinstein Company, production and distribution companies co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, were curated around his serially heinous behavior. In interviews with Ronan Farrow for the October 2017 New York Times exposé, Weinstein’s staff uncovered secret practices among assistants and associates built to perpetuate his behavior and create false safety for his victims. A female executive explained how assistants were asked to join Weinstein’s meetings with women he was keen on, often held in the evenings in hotel rooms, and later dismissed so he could be alone. Another employee was asked to log these meetings between Weinstein and the women with a standardized filing used among his staff: F.O.H. Or “Friend of Harvey.”

Despite this behavior, known clearly among the halls of his peers, Weinstein’s power triumphed. Known to intimidate and publicly threaten the credibility of women who rejected his advances, Weinstein often used media and professional connections to spread gossip, removing women from projects and jeopardizing, sometimes slaughtering, their careers.

“Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes,” you hear Weinstein warn Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in the taped conversationcollected in a New York Police Department’s 2015 sting operation. Weinstein’s alpha-Hollywood reputation for poignant scripts, award-winning films, and grandiose charitability, also includes a decades-long list of transgressions kept behind tight lips. His victims account forced sex, groping and assault.

Invited to discuss their careers, these women would find Weinstein unclothed, masturbating, demanding oral sex, massage–just five minutes. Sadly, this trap between a woman’s job and her sexuality is a tight, uncomfortable space felt far beyond the walls of Hollywood hotels and deeply ingrained in the undocumented world of the professional female.

Across the country, women sit silently in boardrooms, listening to the buzz of the boys, strategically choosing each word for fear of deep-voiced declarations of over-emotional, cute, or worse yet, nothing at all. We waffle over the depth of our neckline and the rise of our hemline, searching for the balance of beautiful enough to be invited to the table and too feminine to be heard. We smile at our abusers as they tell the jokes, creep their hands up our thigh, back us into a corner because it’s what we’ve been taught to do.

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

“We try to make sense of nonsense, and we swallow the furious feelings. We try to put them into some hidden place in our minds, but they don’t go away, “ Tracee Ellis Ross said in her 2018 TED talk.

Throughout history, our bodies have worn the burden of a secret pain. Abused women bonding to abused women, exchanging knowing stares and an empathetic helplessness in the face of our shared pain. Our hearts skipping the same beat, our chests twinging the same pain, our shoulders sinking from the same superfluous shame. Questions of why and how and what’s next push us into darkness, convoluting our vision until we believe the mistake was ours.

Ross continued, “That fury sits deep inside as we practice our smiles…because apparently, women aren’t supposed to get angry.”

But now we are.


A man leaned on his elbow on the bar and watched me pull my sweatshirt over my head. I felt his eyes burning into me, my shoulders turned away from his uncomfortable stares and toward the safety of my friend in the stool beside me. Weeks before I sat next to a man, at the very same bar, engaging in a professional conversation about work and goals and the town we both wished to make a lasting impression on. I felt his eyes burning into me too, as he leaned closer and closer, reaching to touch my shoulders between stories.

I rushed away from the first man, grabbing my jacket and drink, bulging eyes communicating clearly to my friend without words.

What a fucking creep.

The other I sat with, frozen to my seat, paralyzed by an uncertain fear. What choice does a young woman make, tucked into a bar, trapped between the unwanted, sexual pursuit of a peer and the potential for undeniable career gains?


According to a Pew Research Center study, American women hold only about 10% of top executive positions (defined as chief executive officers, chief financial officers and the next three highest paid executives). The 2016–17 data was collected from federal securities filings by all companies in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500. This research, while highlighting corporate facts, comes with little shock value to women working in a man’s world in any job sector. The data shows that 5.1% of chief executives of S&P 1500 companies were women, while experience has shown us all that the desks of businesses, small and large, are predominantly occupied by white men.

The problem is clear: we need more empowered, educated, inspired women to claim the roles now filled by men. The solution is simple: empower, educate and inspire women with mentorships, resources and tools to launch their careers on a trajectory leading toward claiming executive level positions, cultivating prosperous businesses and achieving professional success at an equal pace to our male counterparts. However, as claims of witch hunts buzz through our office halls and men, opting to remain spooked versus empathetic, throw their hands in the air a la Vice President Pence, the reality is grim.

Bloomberg calls it The Pence Effect. Men, in response to #MeToo fires, systematically backing away from all workplace interactions with women as a means to remain untouched by the flames.

Perhaps Pence’s personal rule to not attend meals alone with any woman other than his wife has inspired the practice of the corporate masses. Bloomberg gathered stories from 30 senior executives, many whose stories carried a common thread: fear of perception.

Anonymous interviews exposed the walking-on-eggshells fears of these executives, uneasy about the gossip and liabilities that come with occupying the same space as females, particularly the youthful and attractive. Men have entirely removed professional dinners, closed-door meetings, travel and even elevator conversation from their work culture, creating a subculture that holds their thumbs over women with their minds not much different from how their peers have done similarly with their bodies.

Despite the battle cries of women scorned, the boys club lives on–possibly stronger than before. Manipulated by the power-imbalances of the workplace, held hostage by our fear, undulating between the unwanted gazes and cowardly stonewalling made worse by our youth, perceived beauty and worse yet, our voices.


We live in a world where women are keenly aware of their objectification and where men consciously chose retreat over reform. Our positions perpetuate the gross imbalance of our wages, opportunities and the safe pursuit of professional progress.

Across the country, the lips of rightfully pissed-off women collectively scream for revolution, yet our voices grow weaker with each pained bellow to our male allies. Each hidden sob, heaved into the shoulders of the trusted ones, crushing our spirit, leaving us questioning our will to fight on. The abusers, the pigs and the monsters, siphoning our ferocity — disregarding our rage.

“Grab ’em by the pussy,” President Trump told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush.

“You can do anything.”




love letters

Dear Ex-Husband,  

When there’s a chill in the air, the way it felt in the end, in our perfect, corner-lot home, I wear your flannel shirt. You joked that I shrunk your laundry on purpose because I wanted to make what was yours my own. I was never good at housewife things.

When you asked me to marry you I thought, this is the beginning.

I wanted to dance to Van Morrison just because it was a Tuesday, because the snow floating onto the deck chairs looked so beautiful and the fire felt so nice. I’d hold my glass of wine in one hand, turn up the volume with the other and sway in front of the speakers. The dog’s eyebrows shifted back and forth as he watched from the couch; me watching you stand across the room, letting me dance alone, the artwork rattling against the walls. It annoyed you that I craved to simply be in the moment, untethered to expectations, peacefully content and enough for ourselves–enough for each other–safe from the pressure and the pain and the cruelty outside the cracked glass panel of our front door.

I wanted to sell all of our things and go somewhere new. I wanted to experience the world with you by my side. Let’s get in the car and see where we end up; throw our phones in the glove box and sleep under the stars.

 When you told me to divorce you I thought, this is the end.

The American Psychological Association says 50% of Western marriages end in divorce. It was September when our love story, like half of our lovelorn peers, turned into a antiseptic, bold-faced statistic on a crystal white page. We stood awkwardly–heartbroken and tear-stained–unsure if it was acceptable to still hold onto each other while the walls we built crumbled around us. I never truly felt the presence of your heart until the day I decided to eradicate mine.

I don’t know why I am writing to you now. Maybe because the leaves are changing again. Because I feel the tip of my nose go numb when I stand on my front porch and stare at the moon. You never wanted to stop and stare at anything. I know you fell in love again, but did you finally find a way to fall in love with the sky?  

Maybe if I put my heart on the page one more time, your flannel shirt wrapped around my waist, tears of rage creeping behind burning eyes, I won’t feel you creep into my mind; the way you’d sneak behind me at the cutting board making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. If I tell you how you broke me; how when I squint tight I can still faintly see your cold stare past my shoulders, while I begged you to look me in the eye. As if a year later, a wine-sodden Dear John letter could wash it all away.

 

Dear You,

 I regret to inform you that we are through.

I look fondly back on our nine years together, and with sorrow on our one year apart. I am writing to say, formally, we no longer have any business occupying the spaces of one another’s hearts.

Please remove my image from your memory promptly, and allow me to do the same.

I wish you the best.

 

Sincerely,  

Me

  

Remember how we sat around the table with my dad and sister, telling them we’d decided to go our separate ways. We smiled over stiff cocktails, cracking jokes like nothing would ever change. We said we’d remain friends; we’d divvy our things amicably, share the same lawyer, exist with separate lives peacefully, lovingly committed to our respect for the other and what we once had. Funny what difference a year can make.

I started smoking again. Last time I quit because of you, Ex-Husband; flicking my last butt onto the asphalt, watching it dance in the road like our small-town firework shows; your coat over my back with your body just behind.

Remember when we leaned against the falling-over deck rail and swapped stories, chuckling over our shared fondness for Marlboro Smooths. Encompassed by smoke and beer breath we tumbled ass over teakettle into each other’s broken hearts. We had a special way of helping each other toward the things that felt like magic while they filled our insides with tar.

I bleach my hair blonde now; like when I was tow-headed and bright eyed; before I knew the power of love outside the strong arms of my dad. We’d set our snacks aside to dance on the living room rug with the Disney princesses singing behind us. I’d twirl until my skirt floated around my waist and I felt my belly tickle my throat. You always said you didn’t like blondes.

I write all the time now; as if my heart rupturing obliterated the overgrown weeds I’d so long let flourish, leaving behind a marked trail to my true, clear voice. I’ve spent a year peeling  back my mask, finally feeling the full beauty and sting of the sun and the wind and the rain. What a year it’s been, huh.

Maybe I’m writing to you to say thank you.

Thank you for not being like the one before you.

Thank you for keeping me safe.

For loving me the best way you knew how.  

Thank you for holding me upright on my twenty-first birthday.

For taking the trash out when it heaped over the can.

For building the fire as I sat cocooned on the couch, the dog nestled between my thighs.

Thank you for not letting my wine glass get empty.

For heaping seconds on my plate and telling me I was beautiful as I felt my pants squeeze tight.

Thank you for giving up on me.

For deeming me too much, too little, too everything.

For finding the love I couldn’t give in your simple, perfect-on-paper, so beautiful belle.

 Love will never be enough, you told me; your brow furrowed and your heart tucked deep in your saferoom, protected from the world’s hazards, too obstructed to love.

But you were wrong.

I laugh from my belly now, Ex-Husband. And I cry from my soul.

I dance to Van Morrison in my underwear and stand, mouth agape, awestruck, in love with the night sky. Sometimes my wine glass gets empty, and I feel my heart twinge when I swaddle myself in your flannel; because some things are just too good to say goodbye.

 But I kiss like I mean it and write until my eyes cross. I tuck my phone in the glovebox and book last-minute flights just because. When you decided it was the end, it was actually the beginning–the place where I rose from our ashes, Ex Husband; where love, for myself, was enough.

 Thanks for the lessons. Thanks for the love.

 

Fondly & No Longer,

Yours

 

rites of passage: the dresser

Once a week I haul my dirty clothes to the laundromat a few blocks down the road in a routine I’ve unexpectedly grown to appreciate. I wheel my things from one machine to the next, carefully packing them back into their basket, only to be stuffed away carelessly when I return home.

When I fold my laundry my mind races–head down, foot-tapping, headphones drowning out the buzz of a dozen dryers. My hands stay busy and my brain has all the room to roam. I often wonder if the other patrons around me are navigating the intimate corners of their minds as well. It looks like we’re awkwardly folding our underwear in a shared space, but we’re in the thick of it together–working to solve life’s mysteries one roll of quarters at a time.

We dig deep into our stories, minds and hearts ripping wide open, with each turn and fold.  

Months before I slid up and down the hallway–my mismatched socks, his flannel shirt, plastic basket on my side. I tucked our belongings away; his nestled next to mine­. Our wedding photos shook and the silk poppies of my bouquet quivered as the oak drawers of our old chest of clothes slammed shut. Dresser drawers burst with stacks of weathered band t-shirts, while my heart burst for him.

We decided to get divorced on a work-night. I collapsed on the kitchen table and he turned away, wrangling his weeps behind tired eyes. I woke up to the sound of the dresser’s handles thumping as his calloused, oil-stained hands let it go. For seven years I’d heard the squeak and thud of those drawers before his pick-up rumbled down the driveway. I’d pretend to sleep while he kissed my forehead and tucked in my feet.

 I love you, Bear, he’d say.

I love you, I’d whisper as I rolled to steal his pillow and smiled.

We slept as a pair–two bodies together, two hearts ripped apart–for the last time that night. Before the sun came up, the metal handles chirped their familiar tune; he left for work and I emptied my drawers.

My new apartment felt hollow–a two-bedroom, one-bath I begrudgingly worked to furnish day-by-day. The movers threw my new mattress and box springs across the bedframe, propped lonely between four stark-white walls. I stretched my sheets over the corners, unwrapped my new blankets and leaned my pillows at the headboard one-by-one.

Two for me.

Two more for no one.

I consciously built a disposable world around me. I lived quietly, surrounded by simple things I could peacefully turn the lights down on and never look back. I kept my clothes stacked in bins in the closet and a mirror leaned against the wall. I’d sweep the dust-bunnies away and sit cross-legged on the hardwood, hair-brushes and makeup cluttered at my sides.

For an entire year I needed a dresser, and for an entire year, something inside me resisted. Somewhere beneath my grief, I held a simple bank of drawers in a wildly symbolic, unfavorable light. I’d walk through furniture stores and flea markets–inspecting, testing, measuring–only to find myself once again perched at the end of the bed, wide-eyes glued to the blank wall where the damned dresser belonged.

I’d dig through my mind for reasoning. It’s too big, too dark, too lavish, too broken, I’d tell myself, knowing my resistance sat much deeper than the polished wood surface I leaned my weight on.

I’d learned divorce feels like a war. Memories from the beautiful and images of ugly swirl around you as you hold your head between your knees and beg the Universe to make it end.  

I love you. I hate you.

I loved you. I’ll never stop hating you. 

You cling desperately to whatever feels steady, filled by an unshakeable fear that if you dare to let go, you'll surely float into space. You see a never-ending stream of destruction and brawl with the certainty that it’ll never change. You trudge through the wind and the rain, day after day, fighting for your new life one battle at a time.

Get out of bed.

Wash your hair.

Change your name.

Sell the rings.

Forget how he smiled at you.

Remember your pain.

You sit silently among the carnage, fighting to convince yourself you’re not going to die–not tonight. You make enemies with the furniture, desperate to release your tormented rage.

I sat with my pain and road the waves of heartache–for him, for me, for the tiny, flickering flame in the distance I prayed meant I’d feel love again. I had good days and dark days, manic days and sad days, and it was still the dresser that brought me to my knees. I was suffocated by an inexplicable weakness to tuck my new life into drawers.

Months passed, and I loaded my new-to-me dresser in the back of the truck with a friend, still unconvinced it had a place in my piecemeal home. We lugged it up the stairs and pushed it into the empty wall. I loaded my things into the drawers watching my reflection move methodically in the matching mirror. My wool socks and sweatpants mocked me, cradled in their new home.  

This is where we belong now.

It was weighty– a substantial mass of energy standing sturdy like a boldface period at the end of my tragic, romantic tale. I looked at it across from my bed, the space beside me empty, with jaded eyes. My things sat comfortably unobstructed by another. T-shirts and sweaters once harassed by diesel-soaked Levi’s lay blissfully in their lavender-scented abode.

I twisted my lip under my teeth and imagined smashing the drawers, setting the dresser ablaze in a fit of heart-broken madness. I’d watch my things light like kindling and blow all the feelings away. The neighbors would hold back their children, fearfully observing my silhouette fan the raging flames. I held my fingers in my ears as my ivory-painted drawers looked straight through me–past my pain and my pretending–and breathed softly.

It’s time to stop running now, they said.

Their brass handles clinked quietly against the drawer face as I opened them to tuck my clean clothes inside. My sweatshirt pocket sagged with quarters for next week’s laundry, and my heart did the same. For a year I’d been at odds with my world, wearing the bloodshed from my battles, hoping quietly, with hidden desperation, that I’d at last found the end.

I watched the petite, carved legs rest delicately on my bedroom floor, confidently supporting the weight of my baggage. Before, in cluttered suitcases and boxes, I’d declared myself a gypsy–unrestrained and unscathed. My clothes and I could be lost–together–without a home. Displaced and braced for our next stirring–a vagabond soul and her disheveled basket of things.

Now, everything had changed. Roots crept beneath my dresser, deep through the hardwood into the foundation, past my resistances–through my armor for fighting the darkness felt in an empty home.

I lay still in my bed, feeling the sun from the window and hearing the distant trucks humming by. My tired eyes fluttered open as I peeked over my blankets toward my bank of drawers. I reached for the other pillow–cool from a night in the moonlight–and tried to eke out a smile.

This is where we belong now.

The handles sat silently; drawers undisturbed. They burst with tired garments, worn and ill-fitting on my post-divorce frame. Teeming with fear, and also with freedom, I reached toward the ­­­­­­­­drawer pulls and started my new day.

the empowered woman

My historic railroad home sat nestled between a nearly-abandoned lot of waist-high weeds, storage crates and an automotive shop. The porch sat almost below the crumbling viaduct, connecting downtown to the west side of town. When the bridge came down, it took only a few short days. One morning I walked below it, past the broken Budweisers, toward my office and the next I found myself standing wide-eyed against the chain-link, staring blankly at the piles of rebar towering above me like curled ribbons.

Somewhere in the stacks of concrete was a tagged traffic sign I’d established an intimate routine with. Its words had greeted me with a comfortable cynicism each day since I hauled my belongings into my new, post-divorce nest; wiping clear my story of what once was in pursuit of everything new. I’d nod as I shuffled my feet home from days of too much work, too little food, just enough vodka to dull the pain. Do Not Enter Love, the sign read. It’s dangerous there, babe, it reminded me.

The town celebrated the shiny, new bridge–four sturdy lanes of traffic winding through newly landscaped terrain, rich with opportunity for development. Walkers and cyclists buzzed back and forth under the lights, gawking at the new perspective of the distant mountains. I sat on my porch, struck by the clear view of what was once obstructed, clutching my heart for that sign.

Love and I had a complex history. I’d always known it was there, bubbling below my chest, rich with gifts left ungiven, but I also knew how dark and cruel and ugly it could be as it threw me against the drywall, declaring my worth between my legs, manipulating, mistreating, and calling me by name as it stabbed me in the belly. For a lifetime, my performance in love for others was clumsy; in love from others; cataclysmic; in love for myself, laughable.

I’d lived as a self-proclaimed whipping post–born undeserving of grace, ease, or abundance. I was thrashed by the blows of others, but above all, a victim of my own hand. Love, inward and outward, was a ploy for power, best dimmed and withheld.

My career was my security–the only place that felt safe. I’d failed as a wife, but I could soar as a professional. I attached every ounce of my worth to my job roles and strategically built the identity I believed was the antidote to my broken heart. Each time the magnet of my nametag snapped onto my jacket, the curtains were drawn. I smiled and laughed, stroking the egos of my peers. I prepared for meetings with purpose and precision–in my mind and in my skirt length. I sat across tables from the troops of middle-aged men–arrogant in their starched slacks–and I performed. They were impressed by my mind, but that’s not why they kept my seat at the table. I sat at the table anyway.

The train whooshed below us and I sought comfort between his arms. Between them I felt safe– blocked from the sting of reality. I felt a heart pulse against mine and let it beat for the part of me that lost its own rhythm. At the time I thought this was the solution. He gave me the warmth I didn’t have. He held me up so the world couldn’t see my struggle to stand. But I was a temporary fix for his own broken heart–a vodka-soaked bandage to take the edge off the dark, winter months. His feelings for me were as real as mine for him, but I knew I wasn’t enough to extinguish the inevitable ahead. I clung to him anyway.

I chased beautiful things with desperation in my eyes. Our love language was material, and each curated corner of my world was a little girl’s plea to gather love. These flowers on my desk have always meant work is great. These matching curtains have always meant I’m doing fine on my own. These leather boots have always meant I’m happy now, mom. She was as broken as I was and knew it wouldn’t ever be different. I cried for her love anyway.

Whole chapters of my life were manufactured in the shadows of self-loathing. For 28 years I’d tapped my hand on my cheek, provoking the world to swing at me the way I deserved. And then, as if the clock struck twelve, the sparkly, smiley, and small existence I’d pretended to carry to keep my keepers happy, shattered. For the first time, in the heaps of my own catastrophe, exhausted from the care-taking and the pretending, a tiny voice in me whispered, How can I love myself now? My body, exhausted from holding it all inside, collapsed into the pain and the release. I stood stripped of everything I’d built around myself–naked, afraid, and ready.

I’d spent a year with my reflection methodically picking at the blemishes in my life until they grew into craters, void of anything familiar, exposing the real and the raw beneath the tight mask I’d so proudly worn for decades. My world, once comfortable, safe, stable, wasn’t enough anymore. My marriage, mortgage, and security were collateral damage. I let the houseplants die and the neighbors talk as I ripped apart my desirable existence with a teary-eyed grin. Then the work began.

I dreamed of the beautiful, adventurous, and meaningful. I wanted love that made my breath steady, experience that made my heart zing, work that changed the world–a world that felt safe, by my terms. I wanted to feel empowered.

I looked to society’s curation of the empowered female. Instagram tells us we are bold, in our words, in our style. Celebrities tell us we speak up, confidently, unapologetic. We speak our truth, declare our worth, support our sisters, take up space. We gather for conferences, luncheons, and summits. We eagerly read and write with fervor. We wear our stories on our chest and preach the sermon of strength. We rush city halls, demand equality, place our perpetrators in the cuffs they deserve. We love ourselves with an unshakeable love–steadfast and strong.

The empowered woman is confident.
The empowered woman is able.
The empowered woman stands at the top of the mountain, arms open to the sky, grateful for the life she’s built herself–wind in her hair, smile on her face.

I built my new life piece by piece, grasping tightly to the image of the woman I could be. Letting go of expectations allowed me to create a simple sanctuary in my oddball, downtown rental. My belongings became tools for functioning, not symbols of my happiness. I lost myself in racks of vintage, filling my closet with pieces from decades past, imaging the story of the woman before me–a process I’d adored since childhood but abandoned years ago. I ate my meals in bars and cafes, laughing loudly when I wanted, somberly ruminating when I needed. My scarlet letter marked me a failed housewife and I pinned it to my secondhand sweater without shame.

I said yes to everything. Last-minute road trips, middle-of-the-day hikes, Christmas in the desert, drinks with friends, conversations with strangers. I spoke the truth without hesitation. When I felt love, I spoke it. When I felt pain, I spoke it. When I felt anger, I spoke it.

Women told me they thought I was strong. You’re so brave, they’d say with stars in their eyes, as if I was the image of their modern-day heroine. I questioned if this is what brave feels like. I don’t feel brave, I’d tell them, but maybe I am.

I parroted society’s plan for the daring, born-again woman with precision, but my smile was weak, and my heart was hollow. I’d cracked the door open to a new world, and it wasn’t until things fell even further into the unexpected that I flung it off the hinges.

I bobbed through the San Juan Islands listening to the raindrops bounce off my hood. The locals stayed inside the ferry, hands wrapped around their coffee, while I stared a thousand-mile stare. The wind and rain whipped my hair across my face and gave me permission to be broken. I didn’t have to pretend to be okay here.

The opportunity arose for me to submerge myself in a treatment program–a soul-filling sanctuary of love and beauty and peace. I ate three meals a day for the first time in years. My pants squeezed into my waist and I didn’t care. My smile stretched further across my cheeks each day as the weight on my shoulders crumbled down my back, freeing me from the chains I’d cast around myself. I painted rainbows on my toenails and walked barefoot in the grass.

Here, on a funny little farm, miles away from my reality, I crossed swords with myself. I combed through the unwritten rules I’d lived by, called my inner-critics by name and redefined what it meant to be me.

I screamed to my abusers, You broke me.
I cried to my deserters, You betrayed me.
I raged to the Universe, You destroyed me.

Pushing my hand into my chest, rooting my toes into the ground, I loved myself with the love I deserved but never felt. I held my hand as I forgave myself for being cruel and forgave the world for making me that way. My sobs washed away my armor, my cynicism swept away in the wind. It was different now.

I returned to my real world, confident in my worth and eager for change, but my newfound empowerment felt lonely. It didn’t look like before. It didn’t look like the others. My eyes were open wide to every facet, and it seemed as if everything was on the line to be tossed upside-down. My grief grew, shadowing my hot, summer days, and I felt a steady pressure of rage pulse behind my eyes. I’d plunged into the muck of my own healing, yet my world looked vastly different from society’s image of the healed.

I roamed through crowded streets and sat in buzzing bars, on the surface the same being I was before. Below it, I was unfamiliar–my emotional scaffolding, strengthened but diverging.

Strangers grabbed my shoulders, winking as they slid into the stool beside me, stopping me as I worked, pushing their bodies into mine.

I didn’t feel ugly or dumb or small anymore. My confidence brought me peace in my physicality– something I’d never felt before–and that same confidence invited my harassment. Accepting myself lifted a weight off my chest that allowed me to hold my head proud and my gaze steady. I was finally released from my own biting provocations and immediately whiplashed into the faces of tormenting strangers. Confidence was a gift I’d given myself that, unbeknown to me, came with a dark side.

I sat across the familiar conference tables and thought about the suits in front of me and their six- figure salaries. They swapped golf stories and puffed their chests like brutish creatures behind the zoo glass. I’d avoided the simple math to discern my hourly rate, because I knew what it’d show me. Between stories they scribbled notes as I spoke. In ninety minutes I volunteered my ideas to cushion their status–their benefits, their legacy–and I ninety minutes I didn’t make enough to cover the lukewarm coffee that sat between us. My value was at the top of my mind now, and my awareness magnified the facts I’d shrugged off before.

My world and the people in it stung my skin. Like a new baby, I was tender to it all. I’d ripped the layers off one-by-one, tossing the hardened protection I’d built aside and exposing my everything to the elements. The hurt I felt from my relationships, my failures, my decades of suppressed desires for something different was amplified–no longer deflected by my masks or met with a welcoming embrace by my self-imposed identity as the Universe’s sacrificial lamb. I had clarity now, and it was clear that it was time for change.

Gone were the days of indulging the narrative that I am un-loveable, undeserving, unfit for the big, bold, and beautiful. I knew I deserved different now, and it was me who had to roll up my sleeves. I trudged below society’s portrait of empowerment–the peaceful woman on her mountain. She smiled for the scenery around her and I set mine on fire.

My eyes were open to my worthiness and I felt the discomfort of the blows I’d once welcomed with open arms. The actions I previously coveted now brought me to my knees. I found myself trapped in the canyon between the past-life I’d built to beat me and the new-life I’d found the courage to rebuild. I’d blown the cover off of culture’s image of the strong and I knew with unwavering certainty that the empowered woman does not actually stand blissfully with the sun on her chest.

I was the empowered woman now, and the pain was consuming.

The world roared clearly to me now.

Empowerment is not peace.
Empowerment is not joy.
Empowerment is not victorious arms thrust toward the sky, marking the end of the climb.

Empowerment is, in the face of your wrenching grief, feeling your heart thrash below your skin, purposefully shattering your world into a million tiny pieces so you can learn how to put it back together again. It is ignoring the magnetic pull to abandon yourself in your greatest time of need and sitting quietly with your pain. It is turning your face toward the heat and pushing through the flames, giving yourself permission to feel it all

The empowered woman goes to war with her world every day.
The empowered woman is scarred.
The empowered woman is tired.
The empowered woman does not pose proudly, pleased on the peaks above us.

The empowered woman walks through a valley–winding and unpredictable. Through the sun and the shadows, she keeps moving through her grief, away from the familiar and toward what she deserves. Her eyes look ahead–not behind, not around. Her mind is afraid, her body is steady, her hand is on her heart. The empowered woman sits with herself, loving fiercely through it all.

The empowered woman lets love in. The empowered woman lets love out.

The jackhammers buzzed through my bones as I walked past the bridge’s rubble on my way back home. Do Not Enter Love, my sign cried quietly from a distance, crumpled and discarded in a bed of now-obsolete trash. It’s dangerous there, babe.

The sun, once blocked by thick barriers of concrete, beat on my shoulders as I shuffled past. I walked toward an entirely new reality–eyes open, soul unbarred. I felt tired and lonely and afraid, but I smiled, hand on my heart, and I entered anyway.

words

words

Writing, for me, is best defined as an exercise in self-condemnation and eventual release.

When I sit across from my computer to extract what wears on my existence it feels like tugging on a knotted rope anchored deep, deep in my soul. The tiny fibers cling to my insides, holding on with all they have to their familiar environment until they can’t fight the force from my hand–the hand they expect to nurture, not torture, them. The knots push up against my belly. I grit my teeth, choke back tears and pull. I fight the desire to let go. My mind wanders, seeking refuge in distraction. I want to slam my computer shut. My face gets hot. I feel my heart clunk in my chest.

ghosts

Here’s the thing about seeing ghosts—haunts from a time so unlike the present.

It doesn’t matter how real they are—if they really buzzed past leaving you unexpectedly grasping for breath or if they’re gone. They’re there, scarred on your heart, capable of stopping you where you stand, as real as flesh and blood could ever be.

I sat on the front porch and wished you away, watching the raccoons skirt across the railroad tracks through my haze of smoke and choked back tears.

I had thought I’d finally caught my breath. But I’d forgotten that you have a special way of taking that away. 

 ...

say yes and do it anyway

When your heart feels compelled to jump on a plane to visit your best friend in the desert and it doesn’t make much sense when you look at your wallet or your calendar, you should say yes and do it anyway.

When the wide-eyed four-year-old asks you to crawl into the cave to explore by his side even though the thought of the lurking spiders and snakes and skin-crawling darkness makes you want to cry, you should say yes and do it anyway.

When the person who makes you breathe the deepest and sleep the hardest and smile the widest asks you to come over, but it’s complicated and it hurts and you’re scared of how messy it feels, you should say yes and do it anyway.

When you’re presented an opportunity to uproot, disappear, disconnect and have a life-altering experience, but the thought of leaving and the prospect of  the life-alteration ahead of you keeps you wide-eyed at night, you should say yes and do it anyway.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. 
If you are anxious you are living in the future. 
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

[This is widely attributed to Lao Tzu, though widely argued as a bologna attribution. I don’t know who really said it, but I like it.]

I have spent a lifetime fighting the present for reasons I couldn’t explain until recently. I now realize it was fear that held me back from my own life’s moments–fear of those moments being too much for my heart to handle. If it becomes too hard, sitting with the pain feels like it will last an eternity. Surely the heartache will destroy me. If it becomes too good, I know it is only fleeting. It’s temporary. I can’t give in to it, because the crash is fast approaching. The other shoe will drop.

Don’t let in the pain. Don’t let in the joy.

This uncomfortable avoidance of the present moment thrives in haunting memories of my past–the stories I’ve written about how it all plays out, how it all crumbles as quick as it’s built. The anxieties for the future keep my mind spinning. What’s next? What should I be prepared to handle? How does this path ahead of me twist and turn and how can I outsmart it? How can I stay safe? What excuses can I make to avoid risk?

When we cling to the illusion of being cool, the roadblocks to being present are abundant. The pain and the joy and the tears and smiles and the moments that make you clench your heart or steady the butterflies in your gut–they’re all welcome in the present. They’re what makes the present so powerful, truly. And babe, those things don’t make you look cool, they make you look human.

One of the greatest gifts I was ever given was the fast and furious fireball that blew up my life. It came screaming into my seemingly pulled-together world, knocked me on my ass and removed any possible illusion that I was cool. I was painfully human.

It was in the moments–explaining to my eye doctor that “yes, my last name is different”, running into familiar faces with my dirty bras in hand, humbly asking for help over and over and over again–that I became so damn uncool that I could become present­–peacefully, not gracefully, present.

I could stand in the moments of hurt and loneliness and say, “This feels like garbage.”

And I could stand in the moments of joy and say, “This feels so damn good.”

I no longer had the energy to pretend like I had it figured out. My past had betrayed me and the future was a giant question mark. As I flipped my entire existence on its head, all the excess fell away and all I could be was there–standing naked, in the one spot my feet were planted at that given time, feeling whatever was swirling around me.

I found myself routinely standing in the moment, feeling it all, watching my fears for the future and my hurt from the past swirl past me, and doing the thing, whatever it was, that I needed to do without any shame. Calling my dad, taking the afternoon off from work, booking the vacation, sharing my heart, reading the book, going to coffee, writing the real story. I became present, in part because I had to in order to survive. The tiny fire that I still possessed would have surely died had I made any other move than dropping my armor and starting again.

However, I also became present, because I could. Because I can show up and be here–right here–every day. When it hurts. When it feels too good to be true. When the stories of the past creep in and breathe down my neck. When my fear for what the future looks like grabs hold of my mind. I can sweat and fight and cry and yell and laugh and love because it’s real, it’s present, it’s human, it’s mine.

I don’t wish the fast and furious life-crushing fireball on anyone, but with my whole heart, I wish for widespread, peaceful, uncool presence in this one and only life we have to live.

When your heart feels crushed from saying goodbye and the tears creep up and you want to fight it because you’re strong and you’re fine and you don’t want to let it out because you fear it won’t stop, you should say yes and do it anyway.

When you sit across from a friend and you feel compelled to tell them just how important they are to you but you worry you’ll sound cheesy and they’ll think you’re a weirdo, you should say yes and do it anyway.

When you reflect on what you’ve accomplished and how much you’ve pushed through in the last few hours, days, weeks, or months, but you don’t want to get cocky and you know someone out there has fought their way through so much more, you should say yes and do it anyway, over and over again.

You deserve every ounce of a good that comes from being present in life’s joys, and even more, you deserve every ounce of strength and growth that comes from being present in life’s trials and heartaches.

and maybe now it's gone

The hot water rushed over my head while I fought to steady to my breath and find peace in the quiet moment–alone, uninhibited, totally allowed to turn everything off while the stranger sat in my hotel room.

As we walked into the room he glanced at my books sitting on the bed. He told me he didn’t like the ending of one, and I told him to keep it to himself. I don’t want to talk about fucking books with you, I thought. I don’t want to talk about anything of substance with you.

Even in my 2 AM haze I couldn’t turn off my brain. I knew I could sleep with him, but I didn’t desire to–not the way a body craves closeness, even the shallow kind, with another body. Yet, I wanted to sleep with him, just to show that I could. I wanted to have a night that meant nothing with no one in a different city, far, far away from my reality. I wanted to prove that my heart was stone and my body was mine and I could do whatever I damn well pleased. I wanted to say: See, you aren’t hurting me. You didn’t crush me. Not only am I okay, I am desirable. Look at what I can fucking do.

The shower brought it all back. The hot water and I had a history–burning my skin until I couldn’t stand, crying until I ran out of breath. When the moments crept up  and I thought about my husband and the girlfriend he found in the town he worked in while I waited at home, my body turned to ice. The only way I found to cope was to stand in the shower–multiple times a day, every day, until I killed my heart with heat.

Turns out it’s a common reaction to betrayal and infidelity–to seek comfort in hot water. I wasn’t alone in my habit, but I was in my marriage.

Years later, there I was in the wet, familiar heat, forcing my heartache down the hotel shower drain, fighting the pain from a different romance and the romance of the past and the one before that, and my fragile heart and the stupid things it lets me do.

We spent the night in places filled with beautiful women–women dancing on bars, swinging from the ceiling, laughing with friends in their skin-tight dresses and sky-high heels. The guys claimed “their team” for the redheads and the blondes and the tattooed girls–whoever their preferred genus of woman happened to be–and I sat back and watched. He pulled me aside as he smoked his cigarette and said, the beautiful girls I go for never have anything good to say.

And I thought:

No shit.

The girls like me, without the perfect body and the beautiful dress and the sex appeal from across this miserable fucking bar–we have plenty to say. 

We have brains that dive deep beyond the shallow conversation you’ll find here. We have hearts that give and give and give. People like you desire it all, but you’re too goddamn afraid of the thoughts in your head and the aching in your heart to look past the shape of my dress and the shape of hers.

I just smiled and shrugged as if I didn’t have a solution to his dilemma.

The next morning I felt the soul-crushing weight of the night before. My frustrations swarmed my brain and I pulled at my hair, so sick of feeling heartsick.

I didn’t sleep with him. I didn’t want to, because my heart was tied up elsewhere. Even with the vodka and the hot water and as we laughed in the elevator and I reminded myself of all the freedom I had, I didn’t want to.

I let him out of my room before the sun came up the next morning. My dull headache was a quiet hum compared to the screaming pain that buzzed through my body as the reality of my situation crashed through me. I realized in that moment, sharing my space with a stranger, that despite what I’d been telling myself, my safely-kept heart had been ripped open, after years of tucked away from the hurt, once again.

I looked back on the months before, the moments where I fought so hard to maintain control in order to prevent this. I tried so hard to build a cushion around me to stop the hurt, but instead, I cracked wide open, allowing the real me spilled out too quick for me to catch it. I fell deep into an attachment that was dangerous. I allowed myself to relish in the gift of vulnerably connecting, but as the reality caught up, it felt an awful lot like it did to watch the beautiful girls swing from the ceiling in their lacey bodysuits in my jeans and messy bun.  

I didn’t give a shit about the man in my room hours earlier. I cared about the one weeks before. The one who left me alone, again, unsure of what had happened between the two of us, and what, if anything, would ever happen again.

The reality of the situation crashed over me. It was over. All the good from the whirlwind months before–the deep conversations, the soul-baring confessions, the real, not for the cameras, smiles, the heart fluttering, rollercoaster stomach, skin touching skin, breath synched with mine, perfectly broken, unexpected, beautiful thing–was done. It was over.

The familiar script showed itself.

I’m not enough.

I’m not pretty enough.

I’m not smart enough.

I’m not good enough.

I’m not loving enough.

I’m not enough to be cared for.

I’m not enough to be respected.

I’m not enough to not betray.

I’m not enough to not beat down.

I’m not enough to deserve happiness.

I’m not enough to be understood.

I’m not enough to get what I give.

I’m not enough to love.

I choked back on my tears and fought the pain with anger.

I got mad at myself.

Why did I let myself do this? I knew better. Why couldn’t I just let myself stay safely alone?

I got mad at him.

Why did he do this to me? Why did he open the doors to a room that he planned to set on fire?

When my marriage ended my husband looked at me. “You over romanticize everything, Jess,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll ever find a life as good as you want.”

I watched the fog lift over the city from the edge of my hotel bed.

This statement from what felt like a lifetime before today rolled around in my head–the way it routinely had since I walked out of my perfect, 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with my giant diamond ring tossed in my glove compartment.

Maybe I’ll never get the life that’s as good as what I want.

Or maybe I will.

Maybe I did.

And maybe now it’s gone.

my therapy story

The first time I found myself in therapy I was very young. From what I understand, I was having night terrors and my anxiety was present enough that my parents sought out help. She had me call her Dr. Ruth or Rose or Laura–I don’t really remember. What I do remember is being excused from grade school for “a doctor’s appointment”, an old woman, an uncomfortable couch and the vending machine outside her office she’d walk me to each visit to pick out a snack.

One day she must have declared me cured because the visits stopped. The impact of it all was clearly minimal based on my vague recollection of anything that happened between those four walls. At some point I snagged my chocolate bar for the last time and didn’t think about her for nearly a decade.

Years later, the court-mandated counseling for my parents’ custody battle. I now know that the same court sealed my sister’s and my fate to what many believe to be an arrangement that needs to be eliminated from the textbooks entirely due to the trauma it inflicts on children.

We swapped houses every other day–Dad’s on Monday, Mom’s on Tuesday, Dad’s on Wednesday, and so on. Christmas was half with Mom and half with Dad. Our birthdays were mornings with Mom and evenings with Dad. Prom night: pick us up at Dad’s, but we have to drive to Mom’s before dinner. Everything, right down the middle.

We carried our favorite things in our school bags so we could have them in whichever house we were in that night. We drove back and forth to retrieve forgotten homework, favorite jeans, the CDs to play until the wee hours of the night while we felt like we were dying from the stress of it all. I don’t remember ever feeling like the doctor actually cared what was happening inside of me–the catastrophic pain and suffering as I hauled my shit and my baby sister around, pretending like it was so great that I had two of everything. Fortunately for everyone, once the divorce was finalized, the counseling could stop. We all went back to pretending things were swell without the added pressure of a weekly appointment.

About five years later, shortly after I graduated high school, I felt overwhelmed by everything I’d stuffed away and looked to Student Health for help. I met with a variety of counselors, never really finding anyone I felt like I could connect with, but what I did find was what I believed was finally the answer to my lifetime of struggling to balance the chaos of my own brain: pharmaceuticals.

I was diagnosed with major depression and minor anxiety. The nurse practitioner wrote the prescription, I took the pills, they wouldn’t work, I’d come back, she’d up the dose over and over and over again. I got tired of waiting for the pills to solve my problems, so I switched doctors. She said doctor number one was mistaken; I had major anxiety and minor depression. She wrote the prescription, I took the pills, they wouldn’t work, she’d up the dose over and over again until I found myself a year and a half down the rabbit hole with zero recollection of the life I’d lived in the last 18 months. To this day I do not know what I did, who I was, how I operated or where the time went during this season. Something, somewhere in the fog, convinced me to bail, so I threw the pills in the trash, picked myself up by the bootstraps and became a walking demonstration of “fake it till you make it.”

To an outsider it would appear that I kept it together for the next ten years without the help of doctors or drugs. But to me it was clear that I was hanging on by a thread. The difference in the storyline now was money. I was an adult with adult responsibilities. I had to find it in me to admit that I desired help and then also justify the cost. In a life with a new home, student loans, and a small business, this washed out just the way you’d expect. I’d talk myself to the edge and promptly back off it every. single. time.

When I look back, I could pin point hundreds of moments where I was screaming for help. I didn’t feel heard in the world around me and no matter how hard I fought myself, I could never find the answers. I’d bang my head against the wall, pick fights, drown out my hurt with whatever I could find.

I felt like a failure as an adult. Somewhere down the line I picked up the idea that grown-ups don’t feel. They grow out of their tears. This season of uncomfortably feeling so much was temporary and juvenile.

[spoiler: I was super freaking wrong.]

And then I started reading books about self-improvement.

And then a friend told me she’d been going to therapy. And I thought about it for nearly a year.

And then I got divorced.

And then I was stuck in an airport terminal. Rachel shared a prompt in the Facebook group to tackle something for ourselves–to let go of the doubt and just do the damn thing we felt called to do in that moment. I googled the recommended therapist and I sent an email to request an appointment before I had any time to change my mind.

This time it changed my life. This hour on the couch was the hour I had searched for 20 years to find. All those years I couldn’t understand why my brain was working against me, and it took minutes in the right room with the right counselor to realize:

Hey dummy, your brain will try and work against you, yes, but you have the power to work with it too.

I was the naysayer for most my life.

The money is better spent somewhere else.

They can’t help me.

It will just be about the drugs.

I won’t be able to find a good fit for me.

I don’t have the time.

It’s easier to not dive into that mess.

It will all be okay if I just keep chugging.

I was so wrong.

I can now look back and say, you probably can’t be sent to therapy and find value in it. It’s not like a friend buying you a pass to their favorite yoga class. Some piece of you must be ready to do the work and say the things that need to be said or you’re wasting your time. It can’t be assigned to you. If your spouse, your family, your lawyers push you into the room, the results, likely, won’t be fruitful. You have to stand on your own two feet and walk in the door. It’ll feel like you’ve got concrete strapped to your boots on the way to the elevator, but there’s relief up there, friend. I promise.

If you feel compelled to talk to someone, you should do it.

If you have the tiniest pull toward therapy, you should try it.

If you’ve been telling yourself that you don’t deserve it, you don’t have the money, or the time will be a waste, you need to stop.

the cool girl

"No woman on earth doesn’t give a fuck. No woman is that cool–she’s just hidden her fire. Likely, its burning her up."
- Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior


To be cool is the dream. We wear the shoes, get the haircut, laugh at the jokes, keep our wandering thoughts tied tight and smiles weak and absentminded. God forbid our voices venture too far beyond the rhetoric of the casual, calm, and the beautiful. The moment we dip our toes outside the crowd we become vulnerable–alone, unsure, stripped down–so we stick with the crew and stay small.

It doesn’t feel right, but it feels easier than the alternative. To step outside and to sit with ourselves long enough to discover what our individual voice sounds like is terrifying. It’s work to dig in to our heads and hearts in order to find what we desire to be; it’s easy to wear the costume and slide into the masses.

Until it isn’t anymore.


I was never cool by any stretch of the imagination. You wouldn’t find me thriving in the halls of high school. I wasn’t the star of the frat parties or the wife with the best casseroles. What I knew I could be, though, was cooled off–the closest I’d ever get to cool.

My feelings weren’t going to help me win any superlatives, so the only answer was to shut them down. I took my ideas, thoughts, questions, sensitivities, passions, and desires and cut them with cold until I became lukewarm–not icy, but by all means, not fired up.

The indifferent environment I built around myself was comfortable enough that anyone who sauntered into my world would not be off put by the harshness of being  frosty or the intensity of being too impassioned. They’d be welcomed graciously by the tepid and uncomplicated face of a simple woman who appeared to be at peace.

My reactions to life’s punches became monotonous and habitual.

It’s no big deal.

I’m not worried about it.

Shit happens.

I’m doing fine.

I don’t care.

It’s cool.

On the outside I didn’t react to the world beyond what was necessary. I ignored the fire in my gut in the moments when I knew I was mistreated, because a cool girl doesn’t speak up. A cool girl doesn’t stand up at the conference table and point to the man who speaks down to her because she’s young and female. A cool girl doesn’t tell her partner that she deserves to be loyally supported, heard, and respected. A cool girl doesn’t raise her voice or fill a room with her ideas or speak her truth­. She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t hurt. She needs no help, has all the answers, and she smiles casually, while remaining perfectly kempt for the masses to see just how together she is.

I wore the mask every day, until I couldn’t anymore.


Historically, finding myself on the precipice of real, vulnerable, human behavior leaves me consumed by fear. I wring my sweaty hands and feel the feelings creep up the back of my throat. I dig my fingers into the back of my skull as I coax the cool girl out from behind my mess of thoughts. I need her to fight the fire in my belly and grab hold of my tongue. I need her to take control. She’s the spokeswoman for my head and heart and she’s cool. She’s the real deal

The problem is when I sit alone with myself and my ideas and thoughts and desires, and I feel the heat creep in, I see her for who she really is. She takes inventory the things inside of me and picks only the traits that look best on paper, crumpling and tossing the rest to the side. She feeds me reminders of how the world works and why we keep our cynicism close at hand–like a loaded shotgun under our pillow just in case something creeps in at night. She straps my heart into shackles and lets it beat just enough that it keeps my cheeks rosy for the cameras, but not enough to feel pain, or worse yet, love.

After years of living, linked arm in arm with her, I found myself once again standing at the edge. I watched the world that I carefully curated behind us–speckled with the appropriate cool-girl milestones, the short peaks and shallow valleys that a lukewarm life creates–and I decided to dismiss her. I didn’t reach for someone to grab my hand and show me how it should look to jump. I didn’t pause to question what they’d say when they gathered and mumbled whatever they thought they should mumble when you watch a grown woman leap off the edge of a comfortable cliff and let the wind ignite the fire she held tight in her chest for a lifetime.

I ripped off the mask and leapt, and I’ve been free-falling since. Some days my mask floats nearby and I claw at the sky, longing to feel the safety of hiding behind it as I let my spokeswoman fight my battles. On others I see it in the distance, recognizing its indefinite existence, knowing the distance between us is necessary for me to find the peace that we once coolly pretended we already had together. 

Without the mask or my spokeswoman nearby, I  feel it all with an intensity that knocks me off my feet over and over again. The decades I stuffed away released as if they were spring loaded deep in my gut since the beginning. They became tighter inside me with time and pain and my bullshit make believe, until the springs couldn’t compress any further and my body couldn’t hold it and my heart was ready to either stop beating altogether or break free from the chains and the lies and the attempts at doing, being, feeling so fucking cool.

When I find myself reaching for the mask, which I do, often,–feeling hurt from the past, feeling uncertainty for the future, resisting joy and love and happiness for fear that pain is on the other side–I always come back to one question.

Just what is it that I am actually afraid of happening?

In any moment that I call on my spokeswoman because I’m certain whatever is happening inside of me is too much, I am absolutely petrified by my fear that once the pain starts, it will never stop.  

What I realize now is when I hold it tight to my chest, not only do I feel it, it also can’t escape. It has no place to go except inside of me. My fear of the feelings inspires me to clutch it closer, as if hiding it from the world will also hide it from me, and it burns me up until there’s nothing left to burn.

Despite my attempts at inspiring it away, casually leaned up against the wall in my cool-girl leather jacket and Ray Bans, the pain exists regardless of where it’s harbored.

Inside or outside.

When we are pulled together or falling apart.

When we sit at the popular table or stand alone.

With the trendy haircut or bed head.

It doesn’t fall for our bullshit and sees right past our cool costume.

And here’s the kicker:

When we drop the games, throw our mask into the wind wear our  vulnerability on our sleeves, the healing  can finally start.  

sweet girl, let it out

You’re smiling, yes. Your house is beautiful, your hair is shiny, but you’re floundering. You’re holding onto the  fire–clutching it to your chest so the world can’t spot the smoke–watching it burn your flesh away.


Dear strong, beautiful, pulled-together sister,

Looks like things are going well.

I saw your posts on Instagram. Your house looks beautiful.

Your kids are so smart!

Sounds like work is keeping you busy.

How are things going with that new guy?

Can we talk about what you’re using to make your hair so shiny?

No.

I see right through that half-assed grin you’ve got plastered on your face.

You’re falling apart. You’re trudging through.

 I’m just going through some shit.

It’s been a long week.

I haven’t been sleeping well.

The baby is teething.

The boyfriend is pissing me off.

Work is dragging me down.

That time of the month, you know!

No.

You are in it. You can’t touch the bottom and you lost sight of the top.

You’re smiling, yes. Your house is beautiful, your hair is shiny, but you’re floundering. You’re holding onto the fire–clutching it to your chest so the world can’t spot the smoke–watching it burn your flesh away.

You quickly turn the conversation around.

How was your vacation?

How’s your dad?

What’s next for work?

Are you hanging in there?

No. 

We don’t need to talk about me. And, really, we don’t need to about you.

But I need you to talk about you.

I know it’s easiest to hold what’s haunting you close and push everything else away, but I’m asking you to reconsider.

Sweet girl, let it out.

Open up the gates and let it pour.

Shout it from the rooftop.

Scream it into your pillow.

Wear out the pages of your journal.

Call your best friend.

Nuzzle into the nook of your partner.

Breath the heavy breaths.

Cry.

Sweat.

Clench your fists.

Yell until your throat is raw.

Say the words that sit on the tip of your tongue that you hold back with ropes and chains every damn day.

Of course, you’re scared. Of course, it hurts. Of course, it’s uncomfortable. It’s not pretty to sit in the mud with your pain–and it isn’t supposed to be.

Find your person, your place, your notebook–whatever it is you need– and pull the curtains on this bullshit show. Tell the truth. Get ugly. Drop your artillery, strip yourself naked.

Whatever it is you do, just please–let it out.

and then the universe sent me a unicorn

If I had a solid relationship with any kind of higher power I would without a doubt chalk this date up to divine intervention. Someone, something out there sent me help. They watched me wallowing, clutching my heart, bargaining with myself to take my next breath and they did me a solid.


It was a Monday. I was tired of feeling sorry for myself.

In what could have been a fit of desperation, or possibly a moment of complete clarity, I reactivated my Tinder account and began the dance between the shame and eagerness that comes from mindlessly swiping past potential suitors on your iPhone.

I spent the weekend before falling apart. Not in a little, “she’s going through some stuff” kind of way, but more of a “holy shit, homegirl needs an intervention” way. I did it all. Binge watched the Netflix shows that crush my heart. Cried until I couldn’t breathe. Texted my ex. Allowed every good memory I had to play over and over in my mind as I told myself I’d never feel joy again.

Monday afternoon I found myself sitting at the dining table, frozen burrito + Instagram in hand, feeling punch drunk from my self-deprecating bender­. I opened the app that my people—the young, single, completely fricken confused—love to hate. And that’s the moment I am certain the universe sent me a unicorn.

After a day of digital banter, I found myself sitting across the table in a crowded bar from someone so out of my league I still can’t figure the whole thing out. Insanely good-looking. Incredibly easy to talk to. Our lifestyle choices aligned, making it almost effortless to remain true to myself—an aspect of the dating world that comes with its own basket [read: warehouse] of struggles for me.

If I had a solid relationship with any kind of higher power I would without a doubt chalk this date up to divine intervention. Someone, something out there sent me help. They watched me wallowing, clutching my heart, bargaining with myself to take my next breath and they did me a solid. The big man upstairs sent his people out with a laundry list of things I needed a man to say and made this thing happen.

“Make sure your guy slips into the conversation that he doesn’t want kids. I know it’s just a first date, but she will awkwardly walk on eggshells in anxious anticipating of the moment she has to say she doesn’t want them either.”

“We need good manners, but still a little rough around the edges. Accidental f-bombs will make our girl go nuts.”

“It’s a stretch, but if you’ve got someone who can say ‘I’m not a car guy,’ we’ll sign the papers today!”

And did I mention the insanely good-looking part?

The realist in me (and likely my therapist) says that I knew I was ready to put myself out there. I sat in the mud with my pain for the weekend, and as I washed away the dirt and grime the next morning, I found a cleaner, slightly stronger, little bit more ballsy part of myself that was ready to strut its stuff.

I’ve spent a lifetime keeping the real me under lock and key, protected from being criticized or judged, but also trapped, unable to fully feel the good–safely floating, dodging the pain that comes with living life, avoiding the extreme joy that makes us vulnerable to the ugly crash back down to earth.

But, plot twist, it turns out emotions aren’t the enemy.

Traditionally, the weekend of rolling around in my heartache never would have happened. I would have jumped into a work project, sought out someone else’s problems to help navigate, drank box wine and cleaned out my closet, done just about anything to not feel what it was I was feeling—but I didn’t.

I sat with it and it sucked. It sucked a lot.

But then it stopped.

I found myself standing on the feet that couldn’t hold me up just hours before. I saw something beyond the hurt. I accepted a freaking Tinder date.

Will I get sucked back down again?

Yes.

Will I thrash in the waves like a pathetic, puffy-eyed rag doll again?

Certainly.

And for a moment, when I was certain I had given up the fight to survive, I felt my body pop above the current and my lungs fill with air.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in preparation for my next love story. This isn’t a story I anticipate going anywhere, really. Let’s not forget that mythical creatures are make-believe. They exist in storybooks—not in the (equally as entertaining, but not nearly as sparkly) life of a 28-year-old, financially challenged, emotionally crippled divorcee living and loving in the wild, Wyoming west.

The story doesn’t need to go beyond here though.

Whether I had a little help from the universe or I made a breakthrough in the way I navigate the path between my head and heart, I felt joy, not pain. I smiled until my cheeks hurt. I felt a little more human and a lot less broken. I gave the “angry, sad + lonely” Spotify playlist a well-deserved break. I had dinner, not once, but twice, with a goddamn unicorn.

the magic of girls

The feeling of support that can only come from a woman who’s been there, felt the pain and found the way out—that’s magic. And you, with your flaws, your insecurities, your fears and whatever memories you carry with you from the past—you deserve the magic.


I clearly remember sitting, curled up on the leather sofa in my childhood home as my mom said over and over again, “girls can just be so cruel.” Our disgust for our own gender bonded us together the way Steel Magnolias or BOGO sales do for other mother-daughter couplings.

I was a painfully shy kid and never quite blossomed socially. I kept my handful of girlfriends close and avoided any large gatherings, paralyzed by the fear of being seen as the awkward, dork I really am. I kept my head down and my mouth closed, silently watching as my teenage peers bobbed through life, seemingly blissful, wrapped up in their American Eagle polos and Abercrombie perfume.

College wasn’t any different. The story was the same—a little more sex, drugs, and booze and a slow creep into husbands, mortgages, and kids. I became a wife, a business owner, a real-life, professional adult and nothing changed. I’d hide behind my glass of cheap Merlot at networking events, smile and nod, as I wallowed in my own insecurities.

These women don’t want to connect with me.

Look at her hair. Why the hell would a woman who knows how to blow out her hair like that talk to me?

Oh listen to her laugh. She’s so full of shit.

Don’t tell them anything. They’ll use it against you.

Women can just be so cruel.

I stuck with the boys, rolling my eyes through every baby shower, matrimonial celebration, and girls night—clinging to the belief that Coors in the garage was easier [read: safer­] on my heart than pink wine on the patio.

To be fair, women can be cruel though.

When I was 6 years old my cousin forced me into letting her stick gum in my hair just to see what would happen.  I cried as my mom coated my blonde curls in peanut butter, knowing I was bullied into this bubble-gum pink mess.

A girl who claimed to be a best friend in junior high took to AOL Instant Messenger with my classmates to tell me how pathetic they thought it was for me to miss a day of school after finding out my parents were getting divorced. Oh suck it up. It’s not that bad. She later cultivated a rumor that my friend Ashley and I were a romantic couple. We laugh about it often now, but in the moment it felt like the world was crashing around us. It was a teenage nightmare.

When I began attending bridal shows to market my bakery, a woman old enough to be my mother took to barraging me. She left false reviews, spread rumors and attacked my then-husband in his place of work, making false claims, lying, and being nasty all in the name of “protecting” her adult daughter who was a competitor of mine in our small town.

Girls can be so cruel, and women can be even more cruel.  And they’re the ones who should know better.

The real crime here is that I lived 28 years with that phrase from the leather couch, meant to be an empathetic embrace between mother and daughter, repeating in my head.

I don’t know how to talk like them.

I don’t know how to dress like them.

I don’t belong in a room with them.

I can’t get close to them. They’ll hurt me.

I can’t let them in. They’ll use it as ammunition.

Unexpectedly and very fortunately, there is a bright-side to this story.

In the fall, Rachel, Sara and I came together with a vision to support women. The details were fuzzy, but we knew we wanted women to feel loved, lifted up, and on-freaking-fire about the lives they have ahead of them. We were all deep in our own lives, going through our own junk, dealing with changes, growth, and heartache, but we knew we needed to create something.

I felt the familiar twinge from my youth, nudging me to close-up and keep them at a distance, but deep, beyond all the hurt and fear, I deeply desired what we had and what we were building.

Enkindle is the bright-side—the unexpected, but so embraced opportunity to see the women around me for who they are, and to love the crap out of them for the work they’ve done, the tribulations they’ve overcome, the mistakes they’ve made, and the dreams that keep them up at night.

Ironically, Rachel and I knew each other for years from working in the wedding industry together, but we were never close. It wasn’t until we showed each other our scars that we discovered just how valuable we could be in each other’s lives. Funny how we spend so much of our lives fighting to stay protected, but the real stuff begins when we throw off our armor and get in the mud. She introduced me to Sara, who became my business partner and a sister on the front-lines of living these real, authentic, lives before I ever met her in person.

I began living a life surrounded by girls. I didn’t have the trendy polos or generic perfumes like the cool girls in high school, but I had real, raw connection, and like the Grinch on Christmas, my heart grew three sizes. I’m sure of it.


My message to any girl who’s ever felt like she doesn’t belong is this:

Girls can be so cruel, but babe, girls can be incredible.

The gifts we have the power give one another can be so damn beautiful.

The feeling of support that can only come from a woman who’s been there, felt the pain and found the way out—that’s magic. And you, with your flaws, your insecurities, your fears and whatever memories you carry with you from the past—you deserve the magic.

Let them in and love them hard. It’s worth it. 

spoken shame + dirty laundry

Brené calls the shame triggers we harbor deep in our being our shame gremlins. They whisper in our ear, “you’re not good enough,” and giggle under their breath as they watch us shrink. They hold us back from speaking up, opening our hearts, and telling our story. They are as debilitating as they are ugly, and we all have them­­, adopted from our upbringing and escorted into our own adulthood.


When we speak shame, we cut it off at the knees, Brené Brown says.

Our palms sweat, hearts race, stomach drops, and we feel flooded with emotion. From here, maybe we run away, keeping our secrets to ourselves, we appease, attempting to mold into whatever we think the world is looking for, or we fight back, lashing out, putting up our armor in an attempt to protect our hearts.

Last Saturday I found myself sitting in my local laundromat—a place that has developed incredible symbolism for the state of my heart and mind as of late. My apartment doesn’t have accessible laundry facilities, so I drag my basket of dirty clothes to the land of coin-operated machines a few blocks from my house on a weekly basis.

When I fold my laundry I think a lot, likely because my hands are busy and my brain has all the room to roam. I often wonder if the others around me are navigating the intimate corners of their minds like me. It looks like we are awkwardly folding our underwear in a shared space, but really we are in the thick of it, working to solve life’s mysteries one roll of quarters at a time.

Brené calls the shame triggers we harbor deep in our being our shame gremlins. They whisper in our ear, “you’re not good enough,” and giggle under their breath as they watch us shrink. They hold us back from speaking up, opening our hearts, and telling our story. They are as debilitating as they are ugly, and we all have them­­, adopted from our upbringing and escorted into our own adulthood.

As I sat in the laundromat, head down, foot-tapping, headphones drowning out the buzz of a dozen dryers, two familiar faces walked in the door. A few moments passed and I felt them standing over me. My palms sweaty, my heart racing, my stomach in my worn out Chuck Taylors.

They were colleagues from my ex-husband’s former employer—the employer that fired him months ago, which sent us out of town, which ultimately led to the routine carting of my laundry to a public place, too poor for a house with a washing machine, divorced. They handed me a roll of quarters as a part of the company’s “Random Acts of Kindness” marketing campaign. I didn’t want to take the quarters. I wanted to slide under the chair and scream. My gremlins came together in harmonious laughter, watching me shrink and shrink and shrink.

The shame-resilient have characteristics that allow them to recover from shame, stopping it before it spirals out of control, Brené teaches.

·      They can recognize their gremlins when they show up.

·      They can reality-check the messages that are feeding these triggers.

·      They reach out for support to tell their story.

·      They speak their shame.

Shame exists in our lives, regardless of how hard we fight it. It’s our responsibility to become familiar with it. If we desire to live wholeheartedly, we must know when to recognize when shame’s at the table, because, without a doubt, it will find its way there on occasion.

As the laundromat customers doted over the kind-gesture from the men with the quarters, the floodgates were opening. I thought about leaving the quarters on the table. “I don’t want their fucking money,” I steamed. I thought about abandoning my clothes, jumping in the car and going until I didn’t feel anymore.

When we speak shame, we cut it off at the knees, Brené says.

I grabbed my phone and texted my best-friend:

Doing my laundry in the laundromat makes me feel like I’m trash. It makes me feel like I can’t support myself. It makes me feel weak.  I’m 28 years old, living in a rental house, with a roommate. Being seen with a pocket full of quarters, surrounded by my own dirty clothes, makes me feel shame.

When he was fired from his job, I was so angry. We worked so hard in our careers to be the best, probably because we were better at being the best for work than for each other. Knowing that they know he was let go makes me feel shame.

I couldn’t keep my own marriage together. I don’t know how to love, and I don’t know how to be loved. I’m alone and I am heartbroken. Being seen without him, with a new name, back in this town makes me feel shame.

I went back to my pile of clean clothes. I folded the bathrobe we stole from the hotel he proposed to me at, I thought about the work I’d put into my career over the years, building something from nothing, I thought about the night I had before, smiling like a boy-crazy teenager in the company of a new man. I looked at the wide grins on the faces of my laundry-comrades, armed with rolls of shiny, new laundry-change, and I took a breath.

I cut it off at the knees. 

a plea to cut yourself some slack

We can't even begin to live a life with purpose, filled with work and hobbies that fill us up, loving the best we can and nurturing ourselves the way we deserve if we don't recognize when the thing we need the most is a break.


This weekend I found myself curled in a ball with a high fever and body aches totally unable to even begin to pretend that I was tackling much more than brushing my teeth. I knew it was coming too. I'd run myself ragged for the last 6 months, gambling with my body over and over again. To make things worse, I haven't been so hot in the emotional department lately. I've exhausted myself playing tug-of-war with my heart and my brain, and I'm just tired. 

This morning I am fighting through the flu-hell, buzzed from DayQuil and coffee, and I want to have something incredibly inspiring to tell you. I want to tell you that my fever nightmares showed me the path to happiness and I can now present the keys to life in 5 simple steps in the post below, but I can't. I am as tired today as I was yesterday. I am as heartbroken today as I was yesterday. 

What I do know is this: If you know you need to cut yourself some slack, please do it. 

If you are wearing down from life, physically or emotionally, please just pause. Take a breath. Go outside. Call a friend. Take a nap. 

We get so caught up in the hustle. We glorify being busy and fill our schedules to the brim with work, passion projects, self-improvement tasks, and chores. We push forward every day proclaiming our strength and power. We are women who can do it all, hear us roar. 

But can we really roar if we don't stop to catch our breath? Today, I argue strongly, no, we can't. We can't even begin to live a life with purpose, filled with work and hobbies that fill us up, loving the best we can and nurturing ourselves the way we deserve if we don't recognize when the thing we need the most is a break.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on how you can cut yourself some slack this week. Join me in picking one (or ten) and not letting guilt creep its way in. You not only deserve this, you need this. 

  • Cut one thing out of your calendar for the week. Reschedule an appointment, take a rain check on a social outing. There's always time to do it again. 
  • Get the coffee with the stuff you like. Just don't count the calories today, OK?
  • Watch Netflix on your lunch break instead of running errands. The post office will be there tomorrow.
  • Rock the messy bun. Use the dry shampoo. It's not the end of the world.
  • Skip spin class and go for drinks with your girlfriends. Talk about what's really on your mind.
  • Close your email. Call your parents.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode and go for a walk. Listen to your favorite music or podcasts. Don't you dare check your email. 
  • Cut some corners on dinner tonight. You don't have to do the Martha Stewart thing evvvvvery day. 
  • Take a mental health day. You know when you need it. Just take it.
  • Send the call to voicemail. You can handle it another time.
  • Plan a schedule-free weekend. No plans, no chores, no pants, whatever.

And the thing that might be the hardest, but also the most important...

  • Let yourself feel whatever it is you need to feel right now. Stuffing it away doesn't do anyone any favors, especially you. 

maneuvering your mind for follow through

We consciously know we want to improve our relationships, take on a new endeavor, experience something awesome, find love, read 100 books, go to therapy, lose 30 pounds, feel the rush of skydiving—but then we hit the roadblocks. 


This time of year the process of goal setting takes on a fun, exciting veil. We get jacked up about wiping the slate clean, starting fresh, and reinventing ourselves as we declare "new year, new me!" over and over again. But the truth is, goal setting is complex and confusing. It takes hard work, soul-searching, and time spent asking and answering hard questions.

Jen Sincero talks about how the subconscious and conscious mind work in opposition as we live our lives in You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (an incredible book, which happens to be the first-ever Enkindle Book Club book in the Facebook group!). She explains that our subconscious mind runs the show based on information we've gathered since childhood and learned from people around us as we established our beliefs about how the world works. These beliefs become the guidelines for how we live our lives, and conveniently, we are typically totally unaware of their existence. 

These could be beliefs like: 

Money is evil. 

Love leads to heartbreak.

Sex is a sin.

Self-care is selfish

Regardless of what they look like, we all have them, and they are self-limiting, especially when it comes time to set goals. When we put pen to paper and establish what we want to change, how we want to grow, or expand our knowledge, we typically are coming from a very conscious place. We consciously know we want to improve our relationships, take on a new endeavor, experience something awesome, find love, read 100 books, go to therapy, lose 30 pounds, feel the rush of skydiving—but then we hit the roadblocks. 

Our subconscious mind throws everything we believe we know about how the world works in our faces and we fall off the wagon, make decisions that don't align with our goals, and go back to what we are used to, which just so happens to be the opposite of what we are trying to do. Sincero compares this to trying to drive the car with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. 

So what's next? 

First, plug into that conscious mind and write those freaking goals down. This isn't a time for excuses, it's a time for dreams. Think freely and make a mess. 

Next, gather the facts. Have you tried to do this before?  Where did you fall off? 

Now, you have to dig in. Look at the places in your life that you desire to change. Really step back and look at what stories you've told yourself in this arena. Maybe you desire to connect to yourself with a routine yoga practice, but constantly find yourself going back to the idea that spending time and money on yourself is bad, selfish, a waste. These ideas certainly didn't come from the place where you set that goal. 

One of my goals for the year is to practice being vulnerable, asking for help, and owning my story.  This greatly challenges my normal behavior, which is to stuff those feelings down, pretend it's all good and basically just wait until I implode—a product of my subconscious belief that successful grownups don't have feelings.  

Our minds are bonkers, you guys. In order to make the changes we desire for our best life, we have to recognize that. 

This brings me to what I feel is the most important practice in goal setting. You have to become aware. The only way to work around the subconscious mind is to become intimate with it. You must understand why it is putting you through this fresh hell before you can maneuver your way around it. You will most definitely meet roadblocks, but if you are aware that you are just stumbling your way through your mind and remain committed to your goal, you're going to get there. 

I'll leave you with a portion of solid-gold quote from Sincero that I will likely Sharpie on my bedroom wall, I love it so much. 

"You are perfect. To think anything less is as pointless as a river thinking that it's got too many curves or that it moves too slowly or that its rapids are too rapid. Says who? You're on a journey with no defined beginning, middle, or end. There are no wrong twists and turns. There is just being. And your job is to be as you as you can be."

Here's to the curves and rapids in 2018, friends. Let's dig in. 

15 ways to fight the frazzled feeling and reset

You’re frazzled, anxious, and feeling far from “boss” territory. We’ve all been there, struggling to do the work, feeling snappy and sassy, and generally failing at whatever the task at hand may be.

Here are 15 quick ways to tackle that uninspired, exhausted, no-good feeling and reset your brain for a day of more butt kicking and less hair pulling.

  1. Just shut your stinking computer and walk away for a minute.
  2. Grab your kids, your dog, or your favorite podcast and go for a walk.
  3. Tackle a mindless project. Laundry, dishes, weeding the garden. It doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t require too much brain power.
  4.  Adjust your surroundings. If you’re working from home, go grab a table at your favorite coffee shop. If you’re in the office, snuggle up on the couch at home.
  5. Find the playlist that gets you going. This is one of ours.
  6. Treat yourself to something special. Maybe it’s a pedicure, a cupcake, an extra bit of chocolate milk in your coffee this morning. It doesn’t matter as long as it feels like a treat.
  7. Plan something to look forward to. Schedule drinks with your girlfriends or book a flight somewhere dreamy, and circle that date on your calendar to keep you chugging along.
  8. Put on that outfit that makes you feel good. Wear it 3 days in a row if you have to. We won’t tell anyone.
  9. Make something with your hands. Getting creative in even the simplest of projects can be therapeutic for your soul and help get the wheels turning in your mind.
  10. Dig deep into the internet for the things that make you laugh out loud. Babies with drawn on eyebrows, cute dogs doing funny stuff, teacup pigs in boots. Take it all in.
  11. Call your bestie. She always knows what to say.
  12. Write (or talk) it out. Whether you prefer to journal with pen and paper or let it all out on a voice memo to yourself, give whatever big or small thoughts may be rolling around in that head of yours some space in the world.
  13. Start a routine. Whether you get up early to do yoga or sneak into the chocolate chips after your kids are asleep, get something on your schedule to look forward to each and every day.
  14. Get some air. Step outside, even if just to enjoy your coffee on the porch or to watch your dog do that leap-through-the-snow funny business. Fresh air has a special way of working magic.
  15. Call it quits for the day. Sometimes a day is too far gone. Don’t dig your heels in just to suffer over work you’ll probably end up redoing tomorrow. Take the mental health day and don’t you dare feel guilty about it. 

How do you like to flip your day around? Share with us in the comments!

what my 2 days on tinder did for me

Finding the guts to do this thing that scared me, and to be seen as me—not the broken half from a pair—was incredibly uplifting.


arlier this year my husband and I separated.

We all—my now ex-husband, my friends, my family, and I—immediately began the Tinder jokes once the news of our split was out. Here we were, two millennials, single and totally disjointed from the dating world as it looks today. It was hard not to poke at our inevitable futures.

After weeks of joking and a little physical force from my sister, I finally downloaded the app to see what my prospects looked like. Then this happened.

I had to swipe left on my ex-husband.

(This is also what I’d like to title my future BuzzFeed story on the incident because I think it could be a real winner for all of us.)

What the frick. So, after literally yelling at my phone and a whole 3½ minutes of being on Tinder, I deactivated my account and deleted the app.

Then I went to Vegas for a client’s conference. It felt like the one and only time that I could ever give this newfangled dating technology a fair shot without the risk of ex-husband trauma. So, I reactivated my account and dove in.

I feel at this point of the story I should offer up some important points.

  • I was TERRIFIED of anyone even so much as finding out that I was single, let alone publicly announcing my desire to make a connection with someone on an app. I actually thought I was going to die when I made my profile live. (Spoiler: I didn’t.)
  • I was not actually looking for someone to date in Las Vegas. That would be ridiculous, and while I am a ridiculous person, that would be a bit much even for me. I also wasn’t looking for someone to sleep with, but the feminist in me believes that even if I was, that’s my prerogative, folks.  What I was looking for was the answer to a burning question, "What can Tinder do for me?"

So, back to me in Vegas scrolling profiles of 25–35-year-old men while drinking $14 vodka sodas in a bar by myself. (Jealous, yet?)

It was here that I discovered the unexpected. Once I got into it, I walked away from my experiment with what I feel like were some solid, positive, life-enhancing takeaways.

Here’s what my 2 days on Tinder did for me:

It boosted my confidence in a time where I was feeling pretty freaking low.

Getting divorced makes you feel like the biggest failure on the planet. You lose your sense of worth in every facet of life.

In the months during and after our separation, I felt my voice get smaller and smaller at home, among friends and family, and the worst for me, at work. I felt like I couldn’t tell my clients about my situation because surely they’d think, “this girl can’t manage her relationship, how can we trust her to support our business?”

I felt like everyone immediately lost sight of me as me, and only saw a broken woman, shrinking from stress. I felt like their heads swarmed with questions about what was going on and every ounce of available room in their brains was filled with shit I didn’t want to talk about or think about each and every time they saw me.

Finding the guts to do this thing that scared me, and to be seen as me—not the broken half from a pair—was incredibly uplifting.

It made me think about who I want to be as a person.

It feels silly to say, but Tinder helped me rediscover my own identity. It made me realize that whether I’m just sticking myself out there on an app for people to judge based on my looks or I’m negotiating with a potential new partner for work—I still have an identity that is mine and only mine.

I bring my own unique story, passions, quirks, warts, and all to the table, and some sorry sucker out there will dig that, some future client will relate to that. My people are out there in the world and I am not alone.

With this, I also realized if I feel compelled to say that I live a life filled with travel and food and exploration, I better keep living life that way. I only have this one life to live and I think every human should live the life their Tinder profile says they live.

It made me feel desirable.

This one’s simple. Most every woman on the planet spends their time thinking about what they’d like to change about their bodies and not thinking about the fact that someone is into them just the way they are.

Even if it’s just some frat dude at a bachelor party looking to get some in Vegas, getting matched with me, I don’t care. It made me feel like, “Okay. The nunnery does not have to be the next stop, Jess.”

And I legitimately, deeply, so badly needed that.

It made me smile when I really needed to freaking smile.

Not to sound like a drugstore coffee mug, but smiling is such a great gift in life.

Turning a shit situation around can be as simple as finding a video that makes you chuckle, a cookie that tastes like absolute heaven, or a beautiful hunk of a man who swiped right on you who you’re certain is entirely out of your league.

To the men of Las Vegas, thank you, thank you, a million times thank you.

And last but not least...

It made me feel like everything was going to be alright.

I didn’t know that I was going to be alright.

I didn’t know that I was going to figure out the financial stuff and learn to kill the spiders and find a way to remember to get my oil changed and ever feel beautiful or loved or whole again. I just didn’t have an ounce of confidence that this thing that was happening to me wasn’t going to kill me and my spirit forever.

Now, thanks to Tinder, I know.


Moral of the story: If you're getting back in the game, feeling low and maybe a little curious about what the wonderful (and weird) world of online dating has to offer you, you should go for it. Even if all you take from it is a couple of smiles and a renewed sense of hope for your singlehood.