I’m sometimes so stubborn I fail to realize there comes a time when I can just chill and enjoy instead of assuming life always has to be an uphill battle to be authentic.
When life feels easy, I get skeptical and nervously remind myself I must be missing something. Surely I don’t deserve this, I think to myself. Surely there’s something that’s going to rear its head and bite me.
I’m not afraid of life being hard. In fact, if it’s hard, I trust it. I’ve had to work hard my whole life, the same as you, I suspect. I’ve had relationship struggles, health and financial challenges; I’ve not reached career goals to put my family first—“adulting” culprits that have created a paranoid ninja in my brain that is on-call whenever I anticipate an unravelling or obstacle, which is often.
Note to self: Work on paranoid ninja in brain. This makes you an annoying person to try to get close to.
I had hip reconstructive surgery as a baby and toddler, spending time in a body cast 2 times and then another surgery as a teenager and a third body cast for 2 months and crutches for a year, eventually leading to a full hip replacement in my 30s.
That same stubborn, scrappy energy I’ve used to get back on my feet has stayed with me and has turned me into a woman who will make sure I can work as hard as necessary to survive anything and bring some unwanted, defensive sass with it along the way that makes it a challenge to enjoy or trust the present moment.
I’m not saying we need to blame our past for who we are, but I do believe our past experiences breathe personality, both good and bad, into who we are today. No sense in trying to deny it, right?
So the work has ensued, accompanied with a paranoid ninja in my brain, two steps ahead of me.
The raising kids and feeling mama-guilt for not being able to offer storybook perfection of happily-ever-after.
The juggling life with work with finding joy in the chaos.
The eventual realization that a mama who offers my kids an imperfect, authentic life is setting them up to be strong adults.
The work and struggles have been consistent, as is the case with life, but one thing I’ve noticed lately is when I face life with gritty authenticity—like really truly give voice to who I am with an unabashed honesty—the work doesn’t become so grueling. It becomes the vehicle that moves me forward, and even though the work still lives, it becomes a thing of joy because I’ve allowed myself to be me.
Does that make sense?
It’s like the uphill battle of life still exists (no getting around that), but now I have some great tunes to listen to while I trudge up the mountain, allowing myself to stop and enjoy the view and not worry what's on the other side.
I find the more I trust myself and embrace the unique person I am, the more I find confidence in my path and the easier the climb becomes. I spent a lot of time going down gray paths before, hoping I would morph into the person who would like that path.
But the true hard work in life—the time you put in to face the murky truths and live life deeply, no matter how challenging it feels—does pay off.
I know this.
You wake up one day and you breathe. Sometimes even the paranoid ninja breathes before going back on duty.
You realize your shoulders have relaxed. And you look around and see the life you’ve wanted come into focus around you in full color. You see that the intentional work you’ve put into it has literally manifested into something to match the gold you’ve had in your head not because life is easy, but because you are finally digging in to who you are and living that truth.
Stopping at the top of your mountain to take a deep breath and appreciate the work it took and giving yourself some kudos is totally allowed. If we're always looking ahead and planning our next accomplishment, we can easily overlook the ground we're on right now, which is full of grit and beauty on its own.
This moment of feeling like you can sit back and enjoy the work you’ve done doesn’t equal perfection, and it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for striving to grow more along the way.
You might have arrived, but the point of arrival is always changing if we’re doing it right.
You make peace with the glaring flaws in your personality, and challenge yourself to keep being better while also cutting yourself some slack.
No one comes swooping in on a unicorn to take away the struggles, but your brain switches to one of looking at all you’ve done instead of one that looks at all you have yet to do if you breathe long enough to allow it.
I wanted some changes in my life, and I've made them, not by sitting around hoping change would magically happen. It’s all because I sat in silence in my ratty Mazda a few years ago and heard my soul telling me I needed to muster up the courage to turn this ship around because the real me had fallen overboard.
And then I started inching towards the truth and believing in it, one heavy, tired, doubting step at a time.
Where I’ve arrived isn’t a paradise of glittery beaches where my work is done and I’m invincible—it’s a broken place of authentic reality where I truly thrive, and it’s the most beautiful, imperfect place I’ve ever seen.
I hope to see you here, too.