You First

My mom recently moved out of the home she’s been in since I was just out of high school. In the process of the move, she gave me a bunch of my old things, including a box that held some of my older journals from high school. Might I just say, “wow”. Wow, did I worry a whole heck of a lot what other people thought of me, but then isn’t that the way of teenagers, particularly teenage girls? I can’t believe how much I allowed my vision of my self-worth to be wrapped up in who liked, or didn’t like me.

Learning to be okay with and like yourself is one of life’s hardest and greatest achievements. I didn’t quite figure out I wouldn’t be too attractive to others until I was attractive to myself until later. I think I was in my mid-twenties, ditching yet another failed relationship, stuck in a hotel room by myself on a business trip before I sat down and faced it all. I needed to like and accept myself first before I could expect anyone else to really like and accept me. I had to be fine alone before I could truly be in anyone else’s life, much less truly let anyone else fully inside my life.  Make sense? That was an intense week of self-reflection and self-revelation. It was painful at times – I had to clearly see and accept all my faults. I also had to clearly see and accept all my strengths, something I actually found much more difficult.

Back in high school, and even early college, I felt my value came through having someone want me, just me. I’m not talking about friends – I was lucky enough to have some really incredible friends who loved and accepted me more than I did myself. I’m still grateful to them for keeping me afloat. But as I read the words I’d written from freshman year through my high school graduation, I realized my days were preoccupied with whomever I had a crush on at the time. If he didn’t talk to me on a particular day, I must’ve looked bad or sounded stupid. If he didn’t acknowledge me, it was because I was an ugly, annoying little girl. If he didn’t smile at me, it was because I was wearing the wrong clothes. If I didn’t get asked to the prom, or homecoming, or the winter dance, I was worthless and a failure. I didn’t have a boyfriend until mid-way through my senior year of high school. Looking back, I can see that was mostly because of the way I viewed myself. Once I gained a little bit of confidence, things started to change. But if I’d spent less time obsessing about who liked me, or didn’t like me, whether I had a boyfriend or not, which group I was part of or not part of, and spent more time learning to like me for me, maybe I would have found a peace with myself much earlier in life.

Watching my older two navigate high school, I’m reminded why you couldn’t pay me enough to relive those four years (well, most of them anyways – it wasn’t all entirely awful). If I could go back and tell my sixteen-year-old self anything it would be to love, care for, and accept myself first. I’d tell myself not to send my “representative self” to school each day, but to just be me, and be good enough with who I really was to put that person out there every day. If I wasn’t good enough as myself, my representative certainly wouldn’t be good enough either as she was a shell, a front, a wall between me and the world around me.

I guess my point is this – love you, first. Once you learn to love you, others will find it easier to love you too.

If she could see what I see

Navigating the  path of raising a daughter is fraught with many perils. When the Princess was born, I was determined she would always know her worth, never suffer from self-esteem issues or lack of confidence. I’m learning no matter  how you raise your girl, no matter how often you tell her she’s loved, you’re proud of her, no matter how many A’s she earns, how many times she’s successful onstage, on the field, in the pool, in whatever contest, she’s still likely to suffer from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. PS – if you know the secret to overcoming this, please share.

I suffered severe shyness growing up. It was so painful, and resulted in so much daily anxiety over even the tiniest of things. I had no confidence, and zero self-esteem. Nada. Zero. Zip. I never liked what I saw in the mirror, never felt I was ever good enough or worthy. It took leaving for college far from home, and the opportunity to reinvent myself, be who I WANTED to be, to overcome most of that. It still resurfaces more than I’d like.

I wanted so much for my girl to never experience that. We put her in various sports, groups, and activities. I tell her – probably more than I should – how proud of her I am in all that she does and who she is. I wanted her to look in the mirror each day and be content with what she sees. I wanted her to know her value comes from within. But lately, things she says seem to show her confidence in herself isn’t there, her self-esteem is failing. She seems to feel she is less, scared, not-as-good-as, not good enough, not cute enough, not-as-smart-as. Fear and insecurity seem to be the winners lately. Does every teenager feel the same? Are some just better actors, hide it better?

I wish she could see what I see when I look at her – a beauty that flows from inside of her, her precious, infectious smile/laugh. I wish she could understand how proud we are of her hard work at school, in dance, in cheer; how we treasure the fact she deeply cares about her friends and makes sure everyone is treated fairly. I love her compassion, her physical and mental strength. I wish she understood that no matter how many times I see her dance, every time feels like the first, most-amazing time, and I am in awe. I wish she understood that just because math takes her longer doesn’t mean she isn’t good at it. I wish she knew that everything she does to help with her brothers and around the house is recognized and truly appreciated.

I wish she could see the witty, funny, adorable, beautiful, smart, hard-working, well-loved, well-liked, inspiring girl we see when she looks in the mirror.  She isn’t less. She is worthy. She is blessed and she is a blessing, not just to her family, but to everyone who cares about her.

This fierce, fearless girl is who I see…..My wish is she would see the same, all the time.

Trading Places

When Spouse and I first met, I was the outgoing and social one, he was the quiet, introverted one. My friends and family were worried in the beginning he was too quiet. I knew it just took him time to warm up to people and open up. I’ve noticed in the past four or five years, we seemed to have traded places. I would consider myself more of the shy, reserved, quiet person I was growing up. Now he’s the one always putting stuff on our social calendar. He’s the one wanting to go, and do, and be with. I’m super content with quiet nights at home – maybe because I don’t get them very often. But I find myself forcing myself to be social, the same I used to do when I was in middle school and high school. And I will reach maximum capacity at some point in any given outing/event/party.

I don’t know when things started changing. If I were being honest, I might have to say it was when we moved from Northern California to  Southern. I left everything behind – career, family, friends, church…all things familiar, comfortable, supportive, safe. I don’t regret our move one bit, other than I miss my family, miss my kids growing up close to their cousins. But our life here is way more than it would have been had we stayed where we were. I do think I lost all confidence after the move. Having to start over, find a new job/career, make all new friends, find my place in our new world…..that’s really hard on a person who is, behind it all, shy, insecure, unsure of herself.

So many of the old fears and insecurities have returned. I get anxious getting ready for a party where Spouse will be the only person I know well, while he will know almost everyone. I get anxiety walking into a social situation alone, even when I know everyone there.

I just find it odd that, over time, we’ve traded places. Has anything like that happened in your relationship?

Walk-Up Song

I love baseball – love watching it, going to games. One of my favorite parts of going to a baseball game is hearing what each home player’s walk-up song is. What’s a walk-up song? It’s the song each player from the home team has chosen to hear as he approaches home plate for his at-bat. It’s a song that pumps him up,  helps him get in the zone, and it’s personal to each player. I can tell who’s coming up to bat for my favorite team just by what walk-up song is playing.

My running playlist is full of my own personal walk-up songs….songs that help me run faster, stay focused, or just keep moving. There are the songs that help me through that last miserable mile of a long run, songs that help me bust it up a hill, songs that make me feel strong, songs that help me cool down. Some of them are angry and full of foul language. Some are inspiring, lifting me up when I think I can’t run one more step. Some of them are those songs that get your fist pumping, head bobbing, nothing-can-stop-me-now songs.

I use walk-up songs in day-to-day life as well. If I’m going into an event, class, or meeting by myself, I’ll play a song in the car before walking in to help boost me up, give me confidence. If I’m giving a speech, or talking to a group, telling  Big Man’s story, or going into an IEP meeting for Little Man, I’ll play a song I know will make me feel strong, confident, focused. The kids have songs they like to hear before games, competitions, presentations. We used to play “Eye of the Tiger” on our way to the soccer fields every Saturday way back when. They still laugh when they hear it now. Princess chose one of her walk-up songs for her contemporary solo last year.

Do you have a walk-up song? What is it?

What she’s learned

I was talking with a friend last week about the Princess’ dancing. I also had a conversation with the Princess about how she’s different than I was at her age. She’s doing more than just dance….she’s learning valuable life lessons, things some of us don’t understand until we’re halfway through life. That alone is worth all the hours in the studio.

She’s learned when you fall, you get back up and keep going. She’s had falls and slips in performances. She’s forgotten steps. She’s gone onstage either missing part of her costume, or with it on not entirely right.  But she keeps going as if nothing is wrong. She gets back up and keeps going. She catches up and just dances, with a smile on her face.  How many of us still need to learn that lesson? Life is going to kick you in the butt every once in awhile. You can get mired down in the dirt where you’ve fallen, or you can pull yourself back up and keep going. You can get lost in what you’re doing, completely lose your way. Look around, find your anchor, and get back on track. Things may not be perfect, but take it for what it is and keep moving.

She’s in 8th grade, and in spite of being at the studio five days a week, she has all A+’s and one A. She hates that one solitary A.  She’s working to bring it up. I kid you not. She’s great at managing her time, and advocating for herself. She’s great at prioritizing. I think I was in college before I worked that all out.

She’s learned sometimes someone else gets what you want. Instead of being jealous or vindictive, use it to push yourself to work harder. She’s learned to set goals, and then ask for help if needed to reach them. She’s learned how to mentor and serve as an example for younger dancers, as is part of her responsibility when you are in a company, performance, or competition ensemble.  Even though dance is fairly individual, you all still have to work together as a team to present the best performances/shows.

On top of all that, she’s learned to dance. She has grace, strength, and incredible posture. She has gained a confidence she may not have developed until much later in life were it not for dance.

Confidence Booster

I still consider myself new to this blogging thing – granted I’ve been at it for eight  years on a private site. It’s somewhat terrifying to put your life out there to the world. When I get comments and “likes”, it gives me the courage to continue. My posts are a way for family, friends, and teachers to see into our daily lives. It’s my outlet, and my therapy. It is hopefully the first baby step towards the lifelong dream of writing for real. 

 When a fellow blogger recognizes your work, much less points it out to others, it’s like receiving a surprise gift.  And it’s a confidence boost to continue on. So thank you, LillianC (http://lillian888.wordpress.com/), for nominating me for a Liebster Award! I truly appreciate it.

Step 1: List eleven facts about yourself

1.  Purple is my favorite color

2.  I’m learning more from my children than they’re learning from me.

3.  Writing a novel (gulp) is on the 5-year plan

4. So is going back to school to get my Master’s Degree in Literature and Writing

5.  I don’t eat fruit, except for Granny Smith apples

6.  I love sandwiches (turkey & salami with provolone is my favorite, especially if it’s from Togo’s)

7.  I love writing lists. I really love being able to check things off on my lists.

8.  I am, and always have been, an avid reader but it’s only been within the past few years I’ve allowed myself to put down a book I really didn’t like without finishing it.

9.  A  new, fresh notebook or journal makes me very happy

10.  Watching my babies sleep can still make me cry.

11.  The sunset in Lahaina (or just pictures of it) calms and centers me.

Step 2:  Answer the questions put to me by the person who nominated me.

1. What is your best holiday memory? Hands down, no competition my best holiday memory is bringing my micro-preemie home from the neonatal intensive care unit on Christmas Day, 93 long days after his birth.
2. Do you like to collect a particular something? Not intentionally. I do like watches, sunglasses, coffee mugs, wine glasses, and Dooney & Bourke purses. But I don’t set out to have a collection of anything.
3. What frightens you? Hmmm…..dying early and not being around for my kids, or them dying or getting kidnapped. After that, spiders.
4. Which bug do you like best? None…nada, zero, zip. I hate bugs. Oh wait…ladybugs are okay as long as I don’t have to touch them.
5. Who is the person who makes you laugh? My husband.
6. Where do you go when you need to get away from it all? A book store. Or the nail salon.
7. What is your guilty pleasure? Watching Sixteen Candles and/or Pride & Prejudice
8. Where would your dream holiday be? I’ve had one of my dream holidays recently (Italy trip). Beyond that, I would love to go to Ireland, Scotland, and England.
9. What is the one talent you wish you had? Decorating. My house is so blah but I have no idea how to make it better.
10. If you could meet three famous people, living or dead, who would you choose? Jane Austen, Abraham Lincoln, and Jimmy Fallon.

STEP THREE:  Nominate eleven other blogs who have less than 300 followers

http://runningtoherdreams.com/

http://threestairsteps.wordpress.com/

http://geetwo.wordpress.com/

http://thethingaboutjoan.wordpress.com/

http://autismmama76.wordpress.com/

Okay, apparently I need to delve more deeply into the blogging world.  Sigh….I have five blogs to nominate. 😉 And I will contact them with their notifications and questions on a fresh day.