cheers to 2017 … and choosing joy.

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choosing joy on thanksgiving morning. mt. sanitas sunrise hike with a good friend and p.

Like most others, I’m thrilled to see 2016 disappear from the calendar and am ready to step into a new chapter. (Although I have no grand illusion about how 2017’s world is going to be perfect.)

Recently, I’ve had conversations where I was asked something along the lines of, “how do you stay so positive?” or “how do you not let that bother you?” or (my personal favorite) “why are you so nice?” (Wait, what?)

Well, I have fucked up a lot in life, so have built up a ton of resiliency, but truly, I think part of it is my nature. I’m pretty laid back, can’t hold a grudge and love making people happy, but more than anything … I choose joy.

But let’s be real: when life continuously shits on me, I lose it. I have moments where I completely break down. Mostly this happens alone, but often in front of my three-year old or sometimes one of my best friends. For as open as I am with my writing, I struggle showing emotion (both positive and negative) in front of most people.

A few weeks ago, I had a bad day. I’m talking about the kind of day where life kicks you in the gut – hard. At 6pm, I called my best friend (who I had already cried to multiple times that day) and said, “I know it’s a week night, but can you just come over?” Thirty minutes later, she showed up with chicken sandwiches, fries, two drinks that could be mixed with vodka, a bottle of red wine, mixed olives and her husband’s homemade fudge because she “wasn’t sure what I needed.” (She’s truly the best of the best and I am so grateful for her.)

In difficult moments, it is exhausting to be positive or choose joy. And sometimes I choose sadness or anger or bitterness or resentment. And that day was one of those times, because I’m human.

But often, I find the silver lining. There have been two things that have helped me to choose joy when life is one giant suck show: I was hurt more than I ever thought possible and … I ran out of fucks to give.

In the ashes of my most tumultuous relationship (When it ended for real, not the 53 times it “ended” before that.), I did a lot of soul searching. I read dumb self-help books, I listened to podcasts like “stop fucking up your life for dummies,” I spent a lot of time alone (especially in nature) and when I did spend time with others, I made sure they were the right people. (I set a lot of boundaries during this time.)

Eventually, I began to proactively make myself choose joy. I stopped caring quite a bit about not only certain things in life, but also about what others thought of me. I pulled myself out from under the “I’m such a terrible person; I’ve made so many mistakes; I don’t deserve to be happy or find love” blanket of lies I told myself.

I realized that often, the way people treat you is a reflection of them, not you. (Which holds true for myself and the shitty ways I’ve treated people in the past too.) I stopped putting so much merit on being “good enough” for others and simply focused on being the best human I could be. Even if that means dishes are often piled in the sink and sometimes I forget to pack my kid a lunch.

I put things in perspective: my life is pretty rad. And the bad things that happen to me are often stressful, unexpected, shitty bumps in the road. But even they are easily overcome. (Well, maybe not always “easily.”)

In the midst of this radical life/self-acceptance, I’ve stopped caring about a lot. The little things for sure (even though I am a “little things” person), but even some of the big things. Bad things absolutely, but even some of the good things.

I can hold on to how badly someone treated me, but what good is resentment? I could dwell on a mistake I made at work, but wouldn’t it be more effective for me to find a solution? I could get my hopes up about something exciting that happened, but I’ve learned to just take things as they come.

Don’t get me wrong: I have a huge heart and a whole ton of emotions; I feel a lot. Perhaps I love too easily, put my trust in others too quickly, am too nice to those who don’t treat me the same or basically just “float through life” with a too-laid back attitude. And sometimes, yes, I get hurt or screwed over, but to use my grandma’s favorite phrase: meh.

It’s taken some time to feel this way. About two years … coincidentally, the amount of time it’s been since I moved back to Colorado. (Cheers to fresh starts; they work.) But I can usually find the joy (and humor) in most anything these days.

When life pushes you down this year (no offense; it will), push back. Choose happiness, be yourself, dance in the kitchen, get lost in the woods, laugh with a kid, take a day off, go after big dreams and surround yourself with people who love you and care about you.

Ironically I just received a text from one of the best people in my life that reads “2017’ll be better for ya. I know it will.” … alright, it started with “happy new year muthafuuucka.”

Love you, Majewski.

So cheers to 2017. Being real. Proactively choosing joy. And unapologetically loving big.

An open letter to my daughter in the aftermath of this election

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we’re in this together, kid.

Dear baby bear,

Oh my sweet girl, you’ll never remember this night (because you’re three) but at some point, I pulled you in bed with me. I held your hand and kissed your cheek. Tears started falling from my eyes as sheer panic washed over me. I ran to the bathroom to throw up – because, well, anxiety – and came back to your tiny snores as I tried to wrap my mind around what just happened.

I am so sorry for the choices our country – and some of our friends and family – made tonight. I am so sorry this is the world you live in. You deserve so much more than this. I can’t change what’s happened tonight, but I can make some promises to you about what’s going to happen next.

I promise to always defend your right as a female. You are worthy. You are strong and capable. You deserve every right a man has; never believe differently. You have the power to break glass ceilings, my child.

I promise to support what you want to do with your body. Dying your hair blue? Fine. Terminating a pregnancy? Fine. Getting your tongue pierced when you’re 18? Fine. (Although, from my personal experience, not really worth it.)

I promise to be more patient with you. You’re about to meet a lot of barriers in your life. I won’t be one of them. We’re in this together, kid.

I promise to give you a voice so that if anyone dares trying sexually assaulting you (verbally or physically), you will have the courage and power to say “No” and report it. I will never, ever make you feel like it’s not a big deal or that it’s “normal” or to be expected because you’re a female. That’s bullshit.

I promise to always, always teach you about love, kindness and empathy. These values are so important and they matter more than people are giving them credit for these days. You have a big heart, full of love; don’t ever lose that.

I promise to work harder than ever to teach you that skin color, the way people pray, if they like boys or girls, or where they come from does NOT make a person “good” or “bad” … what makes someone good or bad is how they treat those who aren’t exactly like them.

I promise to instill self-worth and independence in you. You come from a long line of independent, strong women, sweet girl. Your great grandma left our tiny hometown after high school – alone – to go make her own paycheck in Chicago. Your grammy is one of the strongest, most stubborn people I’ve ever met in my life – and also the hardest working. They both fought for your rights – your right to vote, your right to an education, your right to equal pay. I, of course, have fucked up a lot in my life, but two things that have been consistent are my drive for a successful career and my independence. (I’ve also been told once or twice that perhaps I’m stubborn.) There’s this thing about an apple falling from a tree … I believe that’s pretty relevant here. This will serve you well; I promise.

I promise to surround you with a community of people who are caring and loving –people who value what we value. People who will be a pillar of support for you and help teach you things I can’t.

More than anything, I promise to never give up hope. I will work with unwavering faith to show you that this world is not scary, people are good and if we keep loving and working together, we have the ability to change it.

This country may be filled with elitism, bigotry, misogyny, racism and blatant, pure hate … but I promise our home will never be.

I love you,
momma

thirty-three and no where near where I thought I would be

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snow in breck before my birthday wasn’t so bad. maybe 33 won’t be so bad either.

Birthdays are not my favorite thing. As I was going through my old website, I came across three different posts about how much I despise the day. Truthfully, my feelings haven’t much changed in the last six years.

There are two main reasons why I avoid my birthday, but only one I’m willing to publicly acknowledge (hey, I have to keep some things to myself): I feel like a failure.

Instead of looking at the positive things I’ve accomplished – earning my Master’s Degree, solo parenting a small baby bear (who’s debatably thriving), progressing in a career I’m passionate about, moving across the country without much hesitation –  I focus on the negatives – not married (or even close), not a homeowner, racked up some solid student debt (thanks private school), not well-traveled, not as fill-in-the-blank as I used to be: pretty, skinny, organized, calm, etc.

I’m hard on myself; I can admit that. I hold myself to high – sometimes unattainable – standards; I know this. Unfortunately acknowledgement doesn’t always equate to changed feelings. So in spite of an understanding of my feelings, I still don’t like my birthday. I don’t like feeling like I’m not where I’m “supposed” to be. (Which begs the questions of what does “supposed” to mean? And who set these standards? And why do I feel the need to be a slave to them? Great questions. Save them for another day.)

All that being said, I did have an amazing birthday last week – the best birthday I’ve had in years actually. But there are those moments when doubt starts to creep into the darkness that still lives within me. I’m an insecure person – partially by nature, largely by what I’ve lived through. But I don’t want to be that person. And in the last couple years, I have seen I’m really not, nor do I have to be. Because, quite frankly, she sucks. She’s moody and grumpy; anxious and spazzy. She procrastinates, jumps to conclusions and is overdramatic. Her house is a mess and she can’t quite get a handle on life. (See, she totally sucks.)

So I said fuck it. I’m not being that person anymore. I’m not going to focus on the negatives and feed into my insecurities. This year, I’m going to focus on the good.

Fear not; I have a plan:

  1. Talk real talk. I have to find courage to tell people how I’m feeling. People need to know what I want from them and I need to do this without embarrassment or shame of being “needy” or too much of “a girl.” I am a grown ass woman and my feelings warrant respect and real love. Standing up for myself and being honest about my feelings is neither selfish nor needy; it’s what I deserve.
  1. Take care of myself. Remember in my last post, I said I needed to do a better job of getting my life back in balance? Yea, that hasn’t happened yet. Remember in that paragraph you just read a minute ago, I told you how much fun that insecure person is? Yea, she needs to go away. As a health coach, I can help anyone find their intrinsic motivation; it’s ironic that when it comes to myself, I struggle. I know I am guilty of putting others before me too often and being too giving in relationships. So I need to get back to taking care of myself. As the saying goes, you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you (or even before you can love anyone else).
  1. Live in the light moments. Once I had a yoga teacher who ended every class with “learn from the dark moments; live in the light moments.” How true that is. I have made my fair share of errors in life. Even ones that make me cringe a decade later, but I can’t live there. I can’t continuously beat myself up over my choices. I need to learn from them, of course, but I also need to focus on the good. I read a quote once that said “When thinking about life, remember this: no amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future.” Now that’s some real talk.
  1. Have faith in my journey. This is the hardest, by far. Life isn’t always how we imagine it would be. Mine isn’t. And it’s certainly is not “so much better than I imagined it would be!” (Which is what I feel people say when their life is going to shit and they’re in denial.) Don’t get me wrong – I love my life. But it’s hard as hell. I know I’m a strong, independent and resilient woman for going through the things I have and living the life I’ve chosen, but that doesn’t mean it’s all duckies and bunnies. Though I consider myself to be incredibly whole as a person; I still feel as if there are pieces missing in my life. I love love. (Not a shock to anyone who truly knows me, although still hard for me to admit.) I love having a partner in life. I don’t have those things. I’m still undecided on having more kids. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that. I crave stability, but still need freedom and adventure. (And I’m a firm believer you can have all those things.) I need to have faith that I’ll get to where I’m supposed to be and that what I’m doing has purpose. Easier said than done, but hey – you can’t make something happen if you aren’t willing to try.

One of my favorite songwriters wrote: “You’ve got to keep turning the page and moving on. I’ve learned [in] writing to be specific and true to yourself in the moment.”

Here’s to turning pages (enter: Bob Seger lyrics) and being the badass I know I am. Cheers to the best year yet: full of small hopes, crazy dreams and big love. Let’s do this 33.

recalibrating the scales

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It’s Libra season – my favorite season. Yes, because of my birthday and autumn and changing leaves and pumpkin pie, but largely because of balance.

I casually follow astrology – by casually, I mean I see some stereotypical Libra traits in myself, but I’m also not going to marry only a guy who falls into my astrological compatibility.

That aside, Libras represent balance. After all, we’re symbolized by scales. We’re diplomatic, fair and social; we like harmony, sharing and are gracious. (There are negative traits too, like being indecisive and avoiding confrontation. We also dislike conformity … and now all of the people closest to me are nodding their heads in agreement with this personality assessment.)

Anyway, the point is … it’s the season of balance.

A couple weeks ago, I was telling my mom how much I adore fall because I feel things slow down and reset for me. The chaos of summer fades and the regulation of autumn comes to the forefront.

Fall has always been a time for me to take a step back and reassess what I’m doing and – more often than not – find ways to get back on track.

Recently, I’ve had conversations regarding balance with no fewer than four of my friends. It seems like everyone is feeling the strains of adulthood, life, responsibilities and lack of balance. And I’m not an exception to this. I feel like I haven’t had a real routine in my life over the last few months.

There’s been no balance. The Libra in me struggles with this. A lot.

The fall equinox was on September 22. The equinox (both fall and spring) are the only two times a year when every place in the world experiences equal parts light and dark – each 12 hours. Everything is in perfect balance.

I attended a yoga class on the autumn equinox in Breckenridge that was focused on hip opening. For those who practice yoga, you know we carry our emotions in our hips. For those who know me, you know why my hips are always tight. (I’ll say it again … feelings, ick … BUT, I have been getting much better regarding talking about feelings lately.)

Hips and feelings aside, the entire practice was focused on balance. It made me think: when we are imbalanced in even one area (mainly work for me), it leads us to be imbalanced in all other areas (relationships, parenting, self-care, other responsibilities, etc.).

Passion and drive towards my career are never things I’ve been accused of lacking. And they’re traits I truly admire in others. But there can come a time when those traits are more detrimental than advantageous. And I believe we can manage the imbalance for quite some time; however, eventually we burn out.

If I am not mindful of the balance in my life, I can be a pretty terrible person. I’m impatient and grumpy, my anxiety is out of control, I hate my body and self-doubt begins creeping in around even the most innocuous things.

So during that yoga class, I began thinking of all of this. I thought about how I’m so imbalanced with work it’s affecting every facet of my being. It was in pigeon pose (where I was cursing feelings and using my ujjayi breath to steady myself), that I finally thought, “Ok, I give up. Enough.”

On my run back to my hotel, I immediately started reassessing things in my life. And after talking to friend, came up with some general guidelines for creating balance in life. (Notice I didn’t say “finding” balance … because sometimes it can’t be found. Sometimes we truly must work to create it.)

  1. Answer the hard question. What do you really want? To attend yoga twice a week? To truly enjoy your morning coffee? Spend more time playing with your kids? Cultivate a relationship? Volunteer? You have to know what you’re going after in life or life is going to go after you.
  1. Set boundaries. I know I work more than 40 hours a week and I am ok with that. But I noticed I was often on email or reading articles for work when I was with my daughter or out with friends. I immediately knew that needed to stop. Sure I still work outside the office, but I limit it to after P goes to sleep or when I’m not trying to spend quality time with people I care about.
  1. Look at barriers. I mean really look at them. Excuses are everywhere. Start asking questions and don’t stop until you’ve seriously nailed down the barrier. For example: I don’t have time to run. Why not? Because I don’t want to run with my kid and I work all day. Where can you make time to run without your kid? Well, I would either have to run before work, at lunch or after work … (now see #4)
  1. Get creative. With scheduling, with ideas, with friends … make the best of it. My barrier to running had to do with timing. So I got creative with my schedule a bit and now get in a short run a few times a week while getting to work around 8:30-9, which is when most people get in anyway. Typically, I got to work at 7:30, so yes, I lose that hour or so of uninterrupted work time, but I’ve found the benefit of getting even three mind-clearing miles in before my work day starts actually makes me more effective at my job.
  1. Prioritize. We are all busy. I can’t imagine there is anyone reading this going “I really wish I had more to do in life.” And we have a plethora of things constantly competing for our attention. So what comes out on top? What do you want to come out on top? (Re-read #1 if necessary.) We make time for things that are important to us. That has become incredibly clear to me over the last month or so. When someone makes time for you, embrace it. When you make time for someone else, own it. It’s simple, really.

We live in a world that expects us to be connected and “on” 24/7. It’s brutal, impossible and slowly killing us all. Autumn is a great time to reassess and reconnect with the things and people who inspire you. Seek out the things that bring you joy. You already know what they are; you have the answers. It just might take a little time to bring it back to your center and recreate your balance once more.

the fear of success and choosing right over easy

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I’m not going to lie – the overwhelming support and positive response I received after my first post warmed my soul and reaffirmed my decision to write again. (Thank you to everyone who commented, texted or emailed me kind words; I appreciate it beyond measure.)

And as soon as that faded, panic washed over me and I became apprehensive about delving into a second post. My thought process over the last week has gone something like this:

  • Now people expect you to produce something amazing each time.
  • You can’t do that.
  • The second one won’t be as good, the third will be even worse.
  • You’ll never be able to live up to people’s expectations.
  • Maybe you should just quit while you’re ahead.
  • One and done, simple. Easy.

(Keep in mind in my last blog I said I’ve worked through some of my insecurities.)

Once my anxiety came down to a manageable 3.5, I was able to look at the situation a bit more rationally. Conclusion: I may not have a book deal yet, but I am fairly witty and relatively insightful, so maybe I should keep this up.

As I was examining my feelings (feelings, ick … but that’s another post), I realized two common themes that have likely been present most of my life:

  1. The fear of success.
  2. Choosing the easy way vs. the right way.

Fear of success sounds ludicrous right? Who the hell fears success? Turns out, after doing some research, that answer is: a lot of us.

The fear of success can stem from multiple areas of life. One, it is a potential response to trauma. Another aspect is risk and getting our hopes up, which can often lead to disappointment. (And no one likes being disappointed.) Additionally, many of us have also been teased, verbally abused or lead to believe we’re not “good enough” at some point during our lives. Given this, we then feel we don’t deserve success. However, even those who were not traumatized or picked on often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition, change and even envy.

I feel there is one more thing that personally affects me with my fear of success: I loathe disappointing others.

In my mind, if I try and succeed, that will be the standard I’m held to forever more. But what if that one time was just a fluke? Beginners luck? It seems easier if I don’t try. That way, people can hold me to lower standards and I won’t disappoint anyone. It’s simple – the easy option. And in an effort to validate my feelings, I have to say: part of me believes that’s reasonable. Most people don’t enjoy letting down those they care about.

But that’s just fucking stupid.

There is a postcard I have always kept in whatever office I’ve worked in since 2010. Obtained from the Minnesota State Fair, in the Newspaper Museum (go ahead, judge away), it says: “The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.” – Alfred Adler

Take the damn chance.

Who am I disappointing by not being a successful writer? And who decides my success? Answers: me and me. As high school Shannon would have said, “sounds like a personal problem.”

This morning I sent a text to a friend that said “I know how to do things the easy way […] I’m more concerned about doing them the right way.”

Sadly, in some areas of my life, this is a fairly new concept. I think the desire to do things right opposed to easy is something that has come with the many changes in my life over the last few years. The easy way has always been my standard mode of operation. At work, it meant settling for jobs I was overqualified for. In relationships, it meant pushing people away, creating bullshit and turning to avoidance because – let’s face it – relationships are hard (and scary … and again, feelings, ick.). Within myself, it meant me failing to make time to do the things that make me a better person – run, yoga, read, write, etc. (I can admit, it is a delicate balancing act right now, but it is still possible.)

But there comes a time in everyone’s life when right must overpower easy. My assumption is most people get to this point well before the age of 32. But we all move at our own chosen speed.

So here I am. Still writing, because now I’m choosing the right way.

We must be less precautious; we must take chances. On opportunities, on people, but most importantly on ourselves. By taking chances, we create the opportunity to succeed. If we do not give ourselves this opportunity, it seems we’ll never truly be fulfilled. And that’s no way for any of us to live our lives.

So take the chance. What scares you the most? Do that; start there.

the first chapter (of the second book)

Photo by JaneCane Photography / www.janecanephotography.com

Photo by JaneCane Photography / http://www.janecanephotography.com

change
verb \ˈchānj
: to become different
: to make (someone or something) different
: to become something else

Change is a fairly simple word with an equally simple definition. It can be a verb or a noun. I prefer the verb version, as it reflects something that is happening, something I can control help direct. I don’t like the noun version; it’s too passive.

I haven’t written anything for my personal blog since November 5, 2012. You could say a few things have changed since then. First, the name has changed. (Although, rest assured, my spirit is still just as sunshiny as it was previously.) This was a decision I didn’t take lightly, as I’m an advocate for facing our past and building on a personal brand; however … there also comes a time where we just need to let that shit go. My choice to create a new site has less to do with feelings of rejection, shame, bitterness and sadness; it has everything to do with being present, focusing on my future and leaving the past where it belongs: behind.

This is not intended to be a harsh reflection of any relationships in my life – romantic or otherwise – I’m simply referencing the fact that I had hit rock bottom for the … umm … third (?) time. And that was enough. I do not need to live there, rehashing those feelings, replaying those memories and berating myself for my mistakes. No one needs to live there. Ever.

I have debated re-starting my blog for months, even years. People have asked me about it, told me to keep writing and pushed me to start again. For some reason, the time wasn’t right then, but it is now.

Life’s funny like that. In the height of new change, I’m finding comfort in writing. I want it; I miss it. That desire and drive have been lacking during the last few years where I – and my life – have changed so much.

I have a three year old. Remember how I said I didn’t like kids? Yea, that still hasn’t changed. Expect exasperated parenting stories dripping with sarcasm, defeat and tears. I suppose I’ll throw in some good ones too.

Called a quick little audible in life and moved across the country. I have missed Colorado so much; it’s good to be home.

Found a job I love … actually two, as I recently accepted a promotion. It’s rejuvenating to be working in a field where your expertise intersects with your passions. It’s exciting and I’ve missed that.

My relationships have experienced great change. Friends have come and gone, some falling away, others gaining strength. I am grateful to have my people in Colorado. Being 1100+ miles away from family and best friends has been nothing short of challenging. I still miss them daily and am so happy to have chosen family here.

Perhaps the most powerful of changes have occurred internally. Parenting has forced me to give up my notion of perfection. (I did fight tooth and nail to hold on to it; however, eventually reality prevailed.) I have always had a somewhat laid back style, (I believe my mom’s famous line to me was always “You can’t go through life with this ‘whatever’ attitude, Shannon!”) and I think that has served me greatly over the last nearly four years.

I have a much better grasp on the important things in life. At 32, I’ve finally gotten over some of my insecurities, started trusting myself, learned to accept a compliment and even began loving the chaos of my life. Truly loving it. And one of the greatest things about all this is: I’ve been single. I stopped looking for someone else to make me feel those things and started doing it myself. Isn’t that a radical concept?

Recently, I exchanged emails with someone who said, “life is just not what I had thought or hoped for…right now.” My life was not what I thought of hoped for – for quite some time. And I have no problems acknowledging that, but I worked hard – really fucking hard – and made it through that. Kudos to this person for realizing she’ll work through it too.

Change is hard; change is scary. Sometimes it’s not in our control at all. But within that entire unknown – between the hard and scary – you grow. And that’s quite lovely.