There are Always Options

Friday, June 24, 2016

As anyone in my family will confirm with great exasperation, I am the World’s Most Indecisive Human Being, and it’s a title I wear with great pride (sadly, there’s no badge to go with it, but to be fair, if there were, I probably wouldn’t be able to decide whether I’d want it in silver or gold).  Whether I’m taking a half hour to peruse the menu at a restaurant, weighing the particular merits of seeing one film over another, or considering at length which outfit to don, I know there are always options.

…Usually too many of them.

The struggle is so real, people.

So when I heard this — that there are always options — trumpeted on Happier with Gretchen Rubin (a favorite podcast of mine) as a piece of advice, I thought, You don’t need to tell me that. 

…Except when you do, because I feel that there aren’t any options.

Sometimes there are things we have to do.  And sometimes the things we have to do are the matters in which we feel we don’t have a choice.  They’re the things that make us feel stuck.

But there is always a choice.  And there are always options.  

You might have something you have to do, but guess what? 

You still get to choose.

You still get to decide whether you approach a situation you feel you have no control over with a smile or a scowl.  With gratitude or grumbling.  With positivity or pessimism.  

And if you feel stuck in something you don’t actually have to do, there are options there, too.  

Maybe it’s not feasible to switch careers right now, for example. But if you feel dissatisfied in your current job, know that there are always other options of how to fill your time outside of work in ways that are more meaningful to you.

Or maybe you feel stuck in a group of toxic friends. There are endless options via apps like Meetup, community organizations to find involvement and fulfillment in, or classes for a skill you’re interested in pursuing, that can serve as vehicles for bringing different people into your life.

Or maybe you just feel trapped in an ordinary routine. There are options there, too. Get outside. Go for a field trip to an art museum or a park or a cafe in your hometown. Take yourself to the movies or to the theatre. Volunteer somewhere.

Choose to let your options empower rather than intimidate you.  And remember that being blessed enough to have options is actually an incredible gift. :)

A Letter From My Eight-Year-Old Self

Monday, June 13, 2016

“What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?” has become the topic of many a magazine article, YouTube video, and web post throughout the years, and for good reason.  In sharing our stories, we hope to show others that they don’t need to worry so much about the problems that seem so insurmountable at a given point in their lives, that they will live to put this all in perspective someday, and that there are certain things (i.e. relationships with family and friends) worth prioritizing.  Advice from successful people proves that said advice “works,” so to speak, so we should listen to it, right?  

But all too often we direct said advice toward ourselves, and it takes on a form of regret.  “I wish I’d known…” becomes the rueful chorus of those who wish they could change the past — their past.  And this isn’t productive.  

It would seem we need another source of advice to help us reevaluate the choices we’re making and to turn our focus to the future.

When my mom arrived in Colorado earlier this week to visit my sister and me, she came with a carload of Rubbermaid bins crammed with my childhood notebooks — notebooks filled with story ideas and first paragraphs of novels that never came to fruition, and the rambling thoughts of a second- and third-grader accounting for every last mundane detail of her day.  As I filtered through them to find those I’d actually stuck with long enough to fill out more than just a few pages of, I realized that the stories I wrote about and the events I chronicled were pretty consistent with what I still love most, but sometimes forget to honor in the midst of more adult responsibilities: writing, eating ice cream, reading, and hanging out with my family and friends, for example.  And that’s when I realized that maybe my younger self has better advice to offer me than I could offer her.

In the spirit of that epiphany, I wrote a letter as my eight-year-old self to my twenty-three old self.  It is, essentially, what I think my younger self would tell me if she had the chance, her guidelines for happy living:

Hi, Future Me!   

How are you?  I am good.  It’s been a fun day.  I went swimming this morning in Grandma and Grandpa’s pool, and then I had a grilled cheese for lunch.  It’s one of my favorite foods!  Do you still like to eat grilled cheese?  I also like pizza, ice cream, and chicken tenders.  Mommy and Daddy keep trying to get me to eat salad, but I think it’s gross.  Do you like salad?  I think I would only eat my vegetables if they tasted like chocolate!

Hey, remember that invention I made up for school that was a spray you could put on your food to make the gross-tasting stuff taste like chocolate?  Is that real in whatever time you’re living in now?  It was a pretty cool idea.  I like pretending and making stuff up, and I hope you still do, too.  It’s fun to be silly and creative!

I just read the first Harry Potter book.  That’s a pretty cool made-up world!  Do you still like to read?  What are you reading now?  Sometimes, when I hang out with my friends, we pretend we’re wizards like in Harry Potter, and it’s really fun.  Other times, we go to the park, play in the pool, or look into space through the telescope Marina’s dad just got (one time we zoomed in so close we could see the craters on the moon — so cool!).  What do you like to do with your friends?

I went to Hawaii for the first time with my family this summer, and I got to try a lot of new things like hula dancing, parasailing, and snorkeling!  It was so fun to leave California for a while to see and do some things I’ve never done before, and I learned a lot!  I hope you’re still trying new things, and that you still like to hang out with your family.

What did you grow up to be?  Right now, I really want to be a writer, so I hope that’s what you’re doing.  I just wrote a story about a girl who makes friends with a fairy.  One girl in my class said it was stupid, but I didn’t listen to her.  Sometimes people are mean, but your friends are always good at reminding you that you’re doing a great job, so you should listen to them instead.  And you should never stop doing something you like just because someone else doesn’t like it.  So I hope you became a writer.

Well, Mommy just called me downstairs to get ready to go to dinner, so I’m going to say bye now.  Have a great day!

Eight-Year-Old Sarah


Your turn!  What would your eight-year-old self write to remind you of your priorities?  Reply in the comments or fill out the contact form to the right and let me know! 

Colors, Not Stains

Monday, June 6, 2016

My sister’s dog had an infection last week that gave her diarrhea for three days.

Too much information? Probably. I have a point though, I promise.

The other day, while I was in the shower (of course), she proceeded to poop all over my bedroom when I was in no place to see or stop her.  I huffed, puffed, shouted, groaned, and stomped my way around the house as I wrangled disinfectant and tried to stamp the more stubborn stains out of the carpet, to no avail.

I should probably add at this point that I’m something of a germaphobe, and the prospect of walking over poop stains on my floor until we can get a professional to clean our carpets kind of makes my skin crawl.  

I said as much in a text message to my sister, who responded with, “Keep in mind that stains are just colors once you disinfect them.”

And that’s when I was hit with one of those truth-bomb moments of discovery:

Stains are just colors once you disinfect them.

What are some of the things you feel you’re stained with?  What are those incidents or mistakes from your past that stick around to haunt you, the negative stories you tell yourself about who you are and what you deserve that stink up your potential, the flaws you wish you could hide?

Take a minute to sit with those today.  As you consider the things that are staining you and blocking your way to happiness and to the fulfillment of your dreams, realize that they don’t have to define you.  Realize that you are more than the stories you tell yourself, that you are beautiful inside and out, and you are loved, oh so loved.  Realize that though the past may have lessons to teach you, they’re written in dry-erase marker (which may leave some residue but can easily be written over to learn something new).  When you can see the positives gleaned from hardships and are ready move on from them, or you’re able to turn your flaws into beauty marks, you’ve begun the process of disinfecting your soul.

And after that?   

Those “stains” become the things that give texture and dimension to your life, like the unbecoming carpet marks that simply show a house has been “lived in.”  

After that… stains are just colors.    

You Are Enough.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The first time I saw that movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, I remember thinking nothing could be cooler than suddenly becoming miniaturized.  I mean, sure I’d have to battle monstrous insects, but wasn’t there a part in the film where they tucked into a giant Oreo?  ‘Nuff said.

I suppose you could argue that, at barely five feet and two inches tall, I’m still relatively miniature.  Still no giant Oreo though.  

But the shrunkenness I feel and see so much of in adult life extends beyond physical appearance.  It’s what I experience in certain social situations, when I feel compelled to hide behind a particular persona for fear of being disliked, or making a negative first impression.  It’s in my fear of playing full out in case I’m judged or criticized harshly.  In these cases, I’m reduced to a distorted vestige of my authentic self, and the result is something that resembles, not an adorably shrunken person, but those grotesque shrunken heads Trader Sam tries to pawn off on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.  I’ll sell anything, no matter how unreal or ugly, to make a buck, so to speak — to feel accepted, to feel loved. 

In my efforts to overcome this compulsive need to be liked, to un-shrink myself, I have started to realize two things:

Not everyone is going to like me, and that’s okay. 

You know that Pinterest quote that goes, “You can’t please everyone.  You’re not a jar of Nutella”?  Well, the truth is that even Nutella has its haters.  I know, I know — seems ludicrous, but they exist.  Does that mean there’s something wrong with Nutella?  Not at all — it’s just a matter of preference.  Just because your particular brand of brilliance won’t be appreciated by everyone doesn’t mean you aren’t, in fact, brilliant.  Because you are.  And that leads me to my next point.

I am enough.

I’m sure you’re reading this post as part of your daily social and online media inundation, where it’s easy to lose your sense of self-worth among a tidal wave of images of people you wished you looked like or whose lives you wish you had.  So if there’s one message I hope reels you back in to the shore of rationality and self-compassion, it’s this:

You are enough.  More than enough.

Have you ever given someone a gift you so carefully picked out especially for them, only to find out later that they never used it?  That it was tucked unceremoniously into a back corner of the closet and completely forgotten, or exchanged for something different?  It’s really disappointing.

I imagine that’s how God feels when He sees us shrinking.  We are the light of the world, after all.  But so often we hide under the bushels of self-doubt and insecurity that make us unwilling to give those gifts handpicked especially for us.  God has knit every fiber of our individual beings with the utmost intention, design, and precision.  And we were dropped on this earth at this particular time in history to give it something that only we can.  Something inimitable.  Something irreplaceable. Each of us is the only one capable of offering our own unique blend of talents and gifts to the world (which you can discover in part with an exercise like this one), and so it is actually your responsibility to be you, fearlessly, because if you aren’t, nobody else will.  Nobody else can.

I know that gaining self-confidence is a journey.  And knowing these two truths might not make you fearless overnight.  That’s okay.  Today, just start with a baby step into your light and your truth. 

And shine on, you radiant human being.  You are enough.