On Becoming Real: One Woman’s (Not-So-Conventional) Journey To Motherhood

On Becoming Real: One Woman’s (Not-So-Conventional) Journey To Motherhood

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

When it comes to bliss, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula: we’re all looking to find our bliss in some way, shape or form. Enter Venice Beach based life coach and yoga teacher, Mary Beth LaRue. A sought-after yoga pro in the Venice area, Mary Beth is also the co-founder of Rock Your Bliss, a mash-up of life coaching, goal crushing, and yoga both on and off the mat. Rock Your Bliss’s mission is to inspire others to live their best lives through the power of yoga, coaching, and community. Along with her BFF Jacki Carr, Mary Beth helps others bring action to their intentions through personalized life design, asana, goal coaching, and brand creation that encompasses every aspect of your lifestyle and values. 

Something else incredible about Mary Beth? She’s chosen foster-to-adoption as her path to motherhood.

MB has been sharing her – and her husband’s – experience with foster adoption and their son, who she referrs to as “Baby A,” on her blog since her journey began last year. I am so touched by MB’s journey with Baby A. Sharing as openly as she does about all the mental, emotional, and logistical highs, lows, and everything in between…well, it’s so damn beautiful, and SO damn needed.

So many of us feel the pressure to make a choice about how we want our “family life” to unfold, and make a choice by a certain benchmark (whether it be age or life stage). And what’s more, no matter WHAT choice we choose, it seems as if everyone has an opinion about it.

It’s incredible and inspiring to see a perspective on how to build FAMILY that doesn’t involve the most stereotypical options. If only there were more people sharing their stories that fit outside the parameters of pregnancy, maybe women wouldn’t feel so pressured to make a either-or decision. There are so many ways to build a family and create a loving household, whether it involves one person or five, shared DNA or soul connections.

Whether you choose to have children or be child-free isn’t the point. Just like it isn’t about being married or single. Republican or Democrat. This or That. It’s all about sharing as many stories as we can so we can feel empowered making the life choices that we know are right for us. Because so many others are making choices that are right for THEM. Choices we might not have even known were possible. Isn’t that what life, and “rocking your bliss,” is all about? Sifting through, finding what resonates, and building upon that?

Mary Beth’s open spirit and raw courage are infectious. Her wisdom and words draw you in. And I am so honored to have her sharing the story of how her unconventional journey to motherhood began here today on WANT.

I was never sure if I was meant to be a mama.

Actually that’s an understatement. I felt immense doubt around motherhood.

I cried in a lot of hotel rooms when my best friend and I would travel for work.

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” I’d say, tears running down my face. “I don’t know if I want to.”

She’d hug me and say, “Then don’t.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my friends’ babies to the moon. I love my friends’ round bellies and ability to eat all the nachos. I even thought decorating a nursery would be fun. But the rest of it? I was unsure.

I’d close my eyes during vision meditations where I was supposed to see my life and I just couldn’t see “it.” Whatever it was. That was challenging when at least half the room experienced major waterworks talking about their perfect baby and my best friend pictured her three flannel clad children summiting a mountain.

That being said, after a few years of marriage, my big bearded honey of a husband (who was so meant to be a dad and had talked about it on our second date) and I started to “try.” We are in love but we are kind of lazy together too, so I was not exactly a “peeing on sticks” and “sex around the clock” kinda gal. I figure if it was supposed to happen, it would and I’d trust that the universe had my back on this one.

We tried. We kept trying. I bought some of those sticks. I peed on them. I took vitamins. Still nothing.

Okay universe, I know I said I was unsure, but now I’m kind of pissed.

Fast forward to this past spring. I’m in some stupid outfit that I think is “mom-like.” I’m in a stuffy doctor’s office with my husband and clutching his hand for dear life. It’s a fertility center and I don’t like anything about it. After many tests, the doctor told us that there was a chance we could get pregnant but it was pretty small. He immediately ushered us into an even smaller, even stuffier, room to show us pamphlets about IVF and other means of becoming pregnant.

He told us that we could begin these fertility treatments as soon as the next week. Not even five minutes later, a woman shows up with another folder of paperwork about how to pay for said IVF. I was overwhelmed and in tears. We hadn’t been trying that long. We hadn’t seen a naturopath. We left. Matt drove us to our favorite ice cream shop and we sat outside eating massive cones at 2 pm.

I looked at him and said, “Should we just say fuck it and move to Bali? Just the two of us?”

He looked at me and shrugged. Maybe, he said.

The further and further we got away from that office the more I realized that this was not how I wanted to grow my family. But something else had started to bloom in me. That I was actually meant to be a mother.

Matt and I were on a walk on a Saturday afternoon when I asked him, “What do you think about adoption?”

He looked at me with big eyes and said, “I think it’s beautiful.”

I smiled. “Yeah, me too. Really beautiful.”

I noticed the way adoption made me feel in my body. Vulnerable but open. Soft but sweet. Strong yet tender. It made me feel the way I do when I see my dad’s eyes crinkle up with laughter. The way I feel when I’m really connected to others – sometimes in yoga classes, sometimes at church when visiting my parents, sometimes in nature. I felt it in my bones and knew it to be true. For me. For us. For this little human out there. I could close my eyes and picture every curve of their sweet, little face. Picture the moment the car drove up and a social worker placed this baby in my arms.

I didn’t feel this way when I thought about the other ways of becoming a mom. To be completely and utterly honest, I didn’t even feel that way when I thought about myself as pregnant. It felt right, like soulmate-right, and it made sense to me why I couldn’t picture it before.

 

I was trying to picture what someone else’s version of motherhood and family looked like, and Photoshop my face on a dream.

 

Life happens like that. It’s so easy to feel when something is wrong, when something is not for us, not ours. And it’s also so easy to stay in that place of lack, of not ours, of feeling empty. That day in the doctor’s office was a gift as it opened up another path full of possibility and heart opening and transformation. Thank God we kept asking the questions, thank God I kept feeling the word “mama” in my body, thank God for a partner who was willing to ask the questions too. There was no trying anymore, no struggle or effort, everything that happened before brought us to the clearest moment. This, this, is how we were meant to be parents.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. We’ve met with a student of mine who is foster adoption lawyer. She had been coming to my classes for years, front row, front and center. Because life is like that and will not let you miss the important people that will change everything for you. We’ve talked to parents who have adopted privately. We’ve talked with parents who have foster adopted. We’ve met with a foster adoption agency. We’ve made a big, scary, beautiful decision: we are going to become parents through the foster system of Los Angeles.

Life will not let you miss the important people that will change everything for you. - @marybethlarue Click To Tweet

They tell you that in the foster-to-adopt world, there are no guarantees. They tell you this, and they tell you again, and then they have you talk to other foster parents who tell you: There are no guarantees. You open up your home and a little heartbeat comes inside, and there is no knowing if it will be forever. That being said, I’d be hard pressed to find anything that is absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed in life. I have found peace in this. Matt and I are strong, that our home can hold this level of uncertainty in the floors and in our hands, the whole point is to love and provide safety and what an honor to do so.

I handed a nurse my foster parent paperwork at a physical I needed to get certified. She looked at my paperwork, looked up and said, “I’m sorry.”

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Can you not get pregnant?” she asked.

This was the first of many insensitive comments I’ve heard and will continue to hear, I’m sure, but they pale in comparison to the amount of support we’ve received. And I looked that nurse square in the eyes and said, “I think you meant congratulations, not sorry. This is exactly what we want to do and exactly how we want to become parents.” I meant every single world.

That brings us to today. We’ve filled out mountains of paperwork. We’ve delved into our past and talked about our future. We’ve completed weeks of classes and met the most amazing future parents and social workers. We’ve learned about burn marks and trauma and what will be asked of us. We’ve baby-proofed our home. And in a few days or weeks we will receive a phone call and we will say “yes.”

We will be parents. To our forever baby? Maybe. But no matter what, we will love up this little angel with all we have.

Is it risky? For our hearts, for sure. But damn, if that isn't the point then what is? - @marybethlarue Click To Tweet

In our training with Extraordinary Families, a social worker explains that as an adult the loss should fall on us. These babies, these children have experienced enough trauma and pain in their short lives. We are adults and we have cobbled together tools and coping mechanisms. We have family. We have friends. We have a yoga practice.

Are we scared? Of course.

Is it risky? For our hearts, for sure.

But damn, if that isn’t the point, then what is?

I was born for this. We were. And I can’t wait to walk alongside you on this journey, my love.

 

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit



For more resources on foster adoption and to read more by Mary Beth on mindfulness, gratitude, being a mama, and more, visit her site here.


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A Brief List Of Things To Apologize For.

A Brief List Of Things To Apologize For.

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

You do not need to apologize for who you are.

You do not need to apologize for:
Your hair.
Your clothes.
Your makeup
Or none.
Your reserve

Or none.

You do not need to apologize for your ideas,
Or your dreams

Or the way you see potential when others refuse to look anywhere but the other way.

And oh! you don’t need to apologize for the way people treat you,
Or to the ones you could not save.

Their missteps are not yours to correct.

The Sorrys and “My-Bad”s, they exhaust and they diminish
They pilfer your treasures and rob you of reason.

Just like to Cry Wolf
Trains you into an anxious state,

To Cry Sorry
Is to always assume that dis-ease is your fault.

You do not need to be sorry for your Words
OR your Silence
And not even the Words your Silence so obviously implies.

The only thing,
ONLY
THING

You ever need to apologize for,

And the
ONLY
ONE

You need to apologize to,

Is not being yourself

To yourself

In a world that so wants you to be anonymous because it’s easier that way.

 

Breaking Out of Self-Doubt

Breaking Out of Self-Doubt

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

SELF-DOUBT IS A HEAD TRIP – doubting ourselves, doubting what we deserve and doubting what is real. When we feel a lack of control, when the outcome is uncertain, or even when we latch onto a vague remark, that’s when self-doubt rears its ugly head. It’s a fluttering in the chest and an unsettled stomach; it’s a pounding headache and a gust of wind sending us into a dust-filled spiral.

Self-doubt is a form of armor, I’ve deduced. When I start to doubt myself – my capabilities, my relationships, my character – I formulate questions or negative statements in my mind to protect myself from hurt or disappointment. Because if I’ve thought of it first, I am prepared. Disappointment won’t come as a surprise, I tell myself, because I have made the doubt a part of my truth.

I am sick of it.

~

I am sick of doubt, and how utterly exhausting the process is. I’ll feel the fluttering in my chest and start to devise little tests…tiny ways to see if what I am receiving is deserved, or if I’m actually properly suited for the task at hand.

I do it all the time. And I know I’m not alone in this.

It’s like essay writing in a high school English course: a thesis statement can’t just stand alone, so we create supporting evidence to prove our point. We fall in love too fast for our own liking, so we place our partner on a tightrope and look for signs that it’s “just not right.” We’re offered a new job or responsibility that’s a tad bit scary and outside our comfort zone, so we jump to the What-Ifs and Screw-Ups at the opposite end of success. If we’re looked at in *That Way* or talked to in *That Tone* or described as merely “Nice” instead of “Amazing,” the same unanswered question always arises: Am I good enough?

It’s so simple to say things like “Just get over it,” “Don’t worry, be happy!” or my personal (and least-effective) fave, “Haters gonna hate!”

But the truth is…I will never advocate to “just get over it,” because I know that feeling exists for a reason.

With doubt comes a drought of self-worth. But every drought is accompanied by a fantastical rain.

So why should it be any different when it comes to our souls?

As uncomfortable as it can be, we need to let doubt run its course – yet simultaneously and consciously work through it. By learning how to deal with those pangs of self-doubt, their duration and impact will naturally become less and less. Yes, we DO need to experience it all – but if we allow doubt to fill our minds with every possible outcome as a means of protection, we miss out on growth and experience. We shield ourselves from hurt, yes – but then what? The would-be thrill of joyful success is replaced by mere relief of a changeless plan.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to live my life simply “relieved” that there were no bumps in the road.

~

Doubt is a matrix in which lies the root of our purpose. We doubt what we’re best at and what makes us unique. 

And so when we start to doubt, it’s simply a sign we’re not grounded. We’re losing our footing in who we are.

Doubt is a matrix in which lies the root of our purpose. Click To Tweet

When you feel yourself jumping ahead and creating supporting examples for your thesis statement of “I Am Not Enough,” dissociate from the situation at hand. Feel the doubt and the instability, then act on the polar opposite: What makes you feel most grounded and at your best? Is it talking to (or texting with) friends or family? Watching movies? Singing to yourself, baking a pie, simply strolling and soaking in the eclectic architecture around you? Whatever it is, do it. Do it now, for at least ten minutes straight. And I promise you, by the end of those ten minutes you will feel that there is no one better to be than who you are in this very moment.

Is it a distraction? Kind of. A quick fix? Maybe. But sometimes we need something other than big-time soul questions, because sometimes those are questions we’re not in a headspace to answer.

I get asked questions all the time about how to shift your self talk “for good,” like there’s one definitive answer and a simple solution that works for all. But it’s way more complicated than that. Some of us respond better to asking deep, strategic questions right off the bat (see this list for my go-tos). Some of us need a physical reminder of our worth before the questions can even come. Doing something that makes you feel your MOST grounded and at your best – feelings that doubts tries its hardest to hijack – is the simplest way I know to make a positive, proactive shift in the moment to remind you of who you really are (and that person is pretty awesome). The big thoughts and soul questions come easier when we can look at our reactions through a proactive lens.

The big thoughts and soul questions come easier when we can look at our reactions through a proactive lens. Click To Tweet

I am slowly learning to shed my armor, and realizing that the only protection I need is a good sunscreen and a wide umbrella. I’m planting my feet and realizing that the more certain I am about what makes me feel good from the inside out, the less I allow doubt to deplete my self-worth. Because it’s been tapping into my reserves and sucking me dry for way too long.

My spirit is about to be awakened once again, and I can’t wait. Grab your umbrella and join me.



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Braving The Wilderness: 4 Big-Time Takeaways From The Most Important Book Of The Year

Braving The Wilderness: 4 Big-Time Takeaways From The Most Important Book Of The Year

Community Tips + Tools WANT Women

A couple weeks back, I got an email from the Community Manager at The Fullest, an online magazine I adore that’s dedicated to contemporary culture. It was short, sweet, and to the point: We’ve got a book club series we do in LA and NYC. Would you want to host one?

The answer was obviously an enthusiastic “YES.” (Possibly surrounded by every single celebratory emoji I could find on my keyboard.)

As the little kid who would get in trouble for staying up late to finish every single installment of The Boxcar Children and Babysitter’s Club, toted around all 1400 pages of Les Misérables in my eighth grade backpack, and would usually rather stay in with a trilogy than go out on the town, book clubs are MY JAM. Learning about different perspectives, stories, and revelations, then being able to discuss them with others, isn’t just satisfying to the inner binge reader in me: it calms a very specific social anxiety I sometimes get when I realize I’ve taken a conversation way past the surface-level and the others aren’t feeling it.

When I’m talking about a book I love, I’m unfiltered and all heart – and usually discussing it with people who are on the same page (no pun intended). Just like any worthwhile piece of art, discussing a good book brings out a part of me I sometimes hide in fear of not “fitting in” with those around me.

So when The Fullest told me I got to choose my own book to discuss, it was a no-brainer. If I was gonna go there, I wanted to really go there. I was going to choose the book ABOUT fitting in.

~

Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown (whom I oft refer to as HPB – High Priestess Brené) is hands down the most important read right now in our current cultural climate. In actuality, it isn’t only about fitting in – it’s about belonging. There’s a difference between the two, and the fact that so many of us are looking for the former and disregarding the latter is why I truly believe it’s the most important book of the year. Maybe the most important book of the decade. And maybe – no, certainly – the most important book for every single person to have in their hands right now. It could save relationships, save communities…and help us save ourselves.

Some questions the book brought up for me:

When do you feel the biggest sense of belonging? The weightiest pressure to fit in?
Where in life can you write yourself a permission slip to be yourself?
Do you trust others? But more importantly – do you trust yourself? Like, really, truly. Do you TRUST yourself? In what ways can you trust yourself more?
What truths are you telling yourself that might actually be of your own making?
Why, as an introvert, can big groups sometimes feel more comforting than one-on-one experiences?
Where does dehumanization exist, and how can you combat it?
Why are we all so lonley and doing so little about it???

Considering that what ended up being a two-hour book club discussion wasn’t nearly enough time to dig into every single powerful point (and that I’d planned for the discussion to last, oh, 45 minutes or so), starting to dive into all of them on here could result in a whole other book itself (Braving Braving The Wilderness?). So I’ve narrowed it down to some of my favorite points made, and some of the most universal of the universal truths Brené so beautifully lays in front of us to do with them as we will. And man oh man, I hope we do Good with them.

If you read ONE book this year, make it this one. Here are four of my top takeaways:

braving the wilderness brene brown

1. True belonging is the exact opposite of fitting in. One of the reasons this book gets awarded the Katie Horwitch Award (patent pending) for Most Important Book Of The Year is this world-rocking thesis statement. The book begins with a Maya Angelou quote that pissed Brené off:

You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

True belonging, Brené learns, is about belonging to YOURSELF first and foremost. True belonging is being fully yourself wherever you go, and being called to stand alone. True belonging “doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Fitting in, then, is the exact opposite. Fitting in is trying to mold yourself to fit a situation, a clique, a stereotype – whatever it is that will make you less like YOU and more like THEM. This simple yet ridiculously profound difference explains a lot. Mainly why so many of us feel so shitty even when we feel we’ve acclimated to whatever group we hoped to become a part of. It’s why so many of us are so lonely even when we’re far from alone. We belong to everyone…everyone else but ourselves.

I’ve been in the “self-improvement”/wellness/mind-body/whatever-you-want-to-call-it world for a while now. I’ve heard the phrase “Belong to yourself” before. That statement alone wasn’t revolutionary to me. But the dichotomy of belonging vs. fitting in WAS. And when I thought deeply about the phrasing and jumbled the words a bit, I noticed something I’d never thought of before.

I belong to me.

To me, I belong.

In my opinion, I belong.

True belonging is about full possession of yourself, sure. But it’s also about BELIEVING in your capacity to belong wherever you go.

True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

2. Don’t study the moment. Be in it. One of my favorite little snippets of storytelling in Braving The Wilderness comes when Brené is about to go on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. She’s walking down the street with her manager, Murdoch, the night before, and he calls her out on how “not-present” she just was at dinner with the Super Soul producer.

She says to him:

Brene: ‘I’m doing that thing I do when I’m afraid. I’m floating above my life, watching it and studying it, rather than living it.’

Murdoch: ‘I know. But you need to find a way to stop and bring yourself back here. This is a big deal. I don’t want you to miss it. Don’t study the moment. Be in it.’

That HIT me. Hard. How many times have we completely missed out on experiencing greatness – big deal, big-ass things – because we were too preoccupied dissecting the moment? How many times have we unknowingly lost love because we were so busy analyzing every little gesture, glance, and word to see if it matched up with our preconceived definitions? How many opportunities have we failed to seize because we were too busy trying to be what we oh-so-carefully deduced the opportunity demanded of us? How many Big Deals have we missed because we were too busy studying them and not enough time being IN them? It hurts my head to think about all the potential moments I’ve missed in the past because I was too busy dissecting them or too preocuppied with “Am I worthy? How do I make myself worthy?” Big-ass things are only big-ass things when we trust ourselves enough to live within them. Otherwise, they’re just a bunch of Somethings that once happened at Some Point.

Don't study the moment. Be in it. - #BravingTheWilderness by @brenebrown Click To Tweet


3. Silence leads to storytelling.
 Yup. Boom. I’m a pro at this. I’d just never heard it put SO succinctly.

I am an expert storyteller, and I bet you are, too. We tell ourselves stories to fill in the blanks – not because we’re all masochists, but because we’re trying to make sense of the broken pieces. Maybe you weren’t chosen to work on a project because your manager needs you to have availability for an even greater task that’s coming up a few months down the line – but without asking a simple question or two (spoiler, try “Why?” to start), your brain probably decides it’s because you’re ill-equipped or pissed someone off. Maybe your friend didn’t call or text you back because they’re going through a tough time and feel overwhelmed – but without checking in, you might assume it’s because you did something wrong. Maybe your date let out a long SIGH at the end of the night because they got a text from their manager on their day off – but without asking, I bet you assume it’s because they’re sick of spending time with you.

These are all just small examples, but small examples turn into big stories. And the big stories we weave for ourselves are made up of multiple threads of actual or perceived truth upon actual or perceived truth. Every story we tell informs the next action we take  – and sets the stage for how we’re going to react to the next thing that comes our way.

Our lives are our collection of stories. So what kind do you want to tell?

We tell ourselves stories to fill in the blanks - not because we're all masochists, but because we're trying to make sense of the broken pieces. Click To Tweet

4. Bullshit is in a whole other ballpark than Truth and Lies – which is why it feels so wrong. I always thought there were two options when it came to communication: telling the truth or telling lies. But it turns out, most of what I was referring to as Lying was actually something else. Bullshitting.

Brené describes truth and lies as opposing players in the same game. BS, however, completely disregards the game. She quotes Harry Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit and says, “It’s helpful to think of lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth.”

She goes on to say we use bullshit to talk about things we don’t understand. To be a part of a conversation based on what you guess “your people” think about it. And it’s what creates black-and-white ideaologies of You’re Either With Us Or Against Us.

Oof. LOL to how many pages I dogeared and underlined in this chapter.

I always tell my husband, Jeremy, that his biggest strength and biggest weakness is that he’s able to see all sides of any situation. For the LONGEST time, this frustrated the hell out of me. Just agree with me! I’d silently stew. Don’t you think that’s just HORRIBLE?? I’d ask, words loaded, out loud. I couldn’t get over that he just wouldn’t choose a point to be for or against.

I grew up around adults who jumped to conclusions fast and expressed opinions even faster – and I have what used to be painful memories of being “put in my place” and silenced when I tried to see all sides.

I know I’m not alone in that kind of upbringing. Because look at our country. Look at our world. We wouldn’t be this way if we weren’t, generation after generation, either overtly or passive-aggressively either silenced or forced to pick sides. We are living in Bullshit Nation.

The solution to this? Brené says we need to call out bullshit…with CIVILITY. “Speaking truth to BS” doesn’t mean pointing fingers or placing blame. It means disagreeing respectfully and getting curious about where opinions and information come from.

It's helpful to think of lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

While Jeremy’s see-all-sides and ask-all-questions approach can be frustrating when I just want him to show me he has an opinion that’s all his own, I know he’s right. Our opinions can be loaded. And there is no way we can evolve into the people we want to be – individually or collectively – if we give up on each other and don’t get curious about how those opinions came to be in the first place. There is no way we will ever find a sense of belonging if we keep choosing a culture of Fitting In.

I say it on the WANTcast all the time, and I’ll say it here again for the people in the back: I truly believe that curiosity could change the world. And with the help of Braving The Wilderness, it just might.

 


Thank you to The Fullest for asking me to be a part of your book club! To get involved with The Fullest, click here.

WANT Yourself:

Have you read Braving The Wilderness yet? What are your top takeaways from the book? If you haven’t read it yet, was there something in this post that piqued your interest? Should I host another discussion of Braving The Wilderness either in-person or on IG Live?????


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A Love Letter To The Inclusive Woman.

A Love Letter To The Inclusive Woman.

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women Work

The woman who walks through life with open arms. The one who laughs the loudest, focuses the feelings, who looks you in the eye like you’re the only one that matters.

You know her. She’s the steady rock on the shaky ground. She’s the shaky hand with the steady gaze. She’s the one who breaks first and shows you her wounds, then also shows you how to repair them – and then later when you’re hurting, you remember the one who showed you how to move through it all instead of around it.

She’s the inclusive woman.

Inclusive is infectious.

Inclusive is knowing loneliness and instead of putting up walls to protect yourself from hurt, plowing them down to make sure you feel WITH people, not AT them. That’s what walls always end up doing, anyway. Breaking the WITH, driving the AT. Handball courts. River dams. The red rubber ball bounces back even harder; the water smacks the sides and breaks up the otherwise steady current. Or worse, stops it altogether, so all you see is glassy nothingness. A mirage that folds over itself as if to say, Nothing to see here. Forget what’s under the surface, that flow never mattered anyway.

To be inclusive is to let go of the cynical crutches that are so easy to lean on when we’re scared or unsure. It’s to invite people in with a hug and a smile, to keep your wits about you but give everyone a chance. It’s to banish the “prove,” disarm the doubt, and raise that second eyebrow to meet the other and turn judgement into joy.

Raise that second eyebrow to meet the other and turn judgement into joy. Click To Tweet

The exclusive has standards to be met and hoops to jump through. The exclusive asks you to “earn” their time, their trust, their attention. The exclusive is the fabulous in-crowd and the fabricated Instagram captions; the stuff that makes you FOMO and fear that you’re just not welcome there. Somehow, though, you still feel you should try.

And yet underneath the exclusive facade of wild self confidence and sky-high standards is a person who just longs to be loved. They have forgotten that the way to get love is to give love, the way to belong is to invite in the world, and the way to be seen is to look inside yourself for validation. The exclusive creates cliques and mocks others and has checkboxes to be filled before giving the green light.

Living in the exclusive is no way to live. Because when you only let in some, you really let in none. When you censor yourself for most, you limit yourself for all. You’re looking to protect yourself and you’re looking to be safe, but in the process you’re telling yourself to always stay on the lookout for the enemy. Exclusive is where judgement breeds, where rifts are dug, and where even true love can turn sour.

And yet INCLUSIVE can sting, too. It can claw at your skin and slap you in the face. The more accepting you get, the more truth you see. The more truth you see, the more accepting you’re challenged to be. It’s like the universe or whatever is haunting and heckling you. Ya think you’re so altruistic huh? Ya think you’re sooooo empathetic? Well try THIS on for size, why dontcha?! (and yes, the universe sounds like a 1920s mobster in this scenario.)

Inclusive can feel like walking on fresh-polished marble wearing brand new socks, each mini-step feeling slipperier than the last. Fighting for control is useless and will keep you in one place. The only way to move forward is to make each step deliberate, strong, grounded, and sure.

Life opens up when you open up to it. Click To Tweet

But the tradeoff to resisting the fight and strengthening your step is that life opens up when you open up to it. And people open up when you open up to them. Not always, but most times. Not immediately, but eventually. And as they come around, they’ll bring others along with them. And so on, and so on. We say we’re sick and tired of seeing people display tropes of the human experience instead of experiencing the experience itself – but it’s got to start somewhere.

And so the only question really is, how bad do you want it? Enough to open? Enough to let go?

The way to banish the exclusive is to be the inclusive. The way to open what’s closed is to turn your own key. We’re all just looking to do our very best with this life we’ve been handed – and your “very best” only floods in when your dams have been blown open and washed away.

 


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A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

A Sense Of Place: On Belonging.

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My first big meltdown when I moved to New York City two years ago wasn’t upon touchdown or our first night in an empty apartment. It wasn’t because someone was rude to me, or I lost my way, or I missed a subway stop or four.

Nope. It was in the gym locker room.

I remember that first week so clearly: the champagne buzz I felt from the newness, the novelty of being able to get anything.you.want.at.all. delivered to your apartment instead of having to lug it home in bags that cut off circulation in your fingertips. The way you could be walking, skipping, singing, sobbing down the street and people accepted you like whatever you were doing was a part of the flow. The waking up early just because we were so excited to experience the morning. I remember so clearly. It was love at first footstep.

And then I lost it. I mean, I knew it was coming at some point – I definitely cried my second night, mostly out of sheer exhaustion – but I didn’t expect that my anticipated feelings of shock, overwhelm, and longing would show their sad faces in the women’s locker room on Greenwich Avenue after I made a corny joke to a stranger thrice my age and she genuinely giggled back.

My gym had been my safe haven in LA, and LA had been my safe haven in my life. Having grown up visiting the City That Never Sleeps on a regular basis but living in the City That Sleeps In Then Goes On A Hike my entire life, I was very familiar with New York but not enveloped in her. It wasn’t just my immediate neighborhood that I felt protected by in LA; it was EVERYTHING. The street signs, the off-ramps. The familiar faces and the predictable reactions. The sunrises, the sunsets, and the days the ocean-fog took over the whole sky so you couldn’t tell when one finished and one began. I knew LA from birth. She WAS me.

I tried my best to recognize this when I lived there, but just like so many things, there is always some little important bit of a-ha that happens when you no longer have that thing you loved. For me, that a-ha came in a locker room when I realized how alone and unfamiliar I felt within my surroundings. How, while I valued anonymity, I also valued (and took for granted) my ability to CHOOSE it.


Humans are pack animals; we’re tribal. We’re not meant to wander the hills alone until we find a mate and then go back off again to raise and let go of our kin. Our brains are hard-wired for connection, and even the most introverted of us need to feel a sense of togetherness to truly thrive. It’s been proven by sciency people who are book-smarter than I am: loneliness leads to depression and is a huge indicator of how long you will live.

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of Brené Brown lately (you should be, too!), especially the interviews and articles surrounding her newest book, Braving The Wilderness. The book is all about belonging, and (no, this isn’t a spoiler) how “fitting in” is actually the exact OPPOSITE of belonging.

When I moved here, I wasn’t looking to fit in – I wasn’t interested in molding myself to fit the shape of someone or something else – but I was struck by how shaken my sense of belonging had become. And moreover, how much I tied my sense of belonging to other people RECEIVING me.

That’s why the older woman laughing at my lame-o offhand comment got me so choked up. That’s why I started to panic as I became new eyes on centuries-old surroundings. I felt unfamiliar. I felt routine-less. And the smallest things like seeing the same parking lot attendant I only thank-you’d and have-a-nice-day’d and gym members I never even spoke to and just silently awkward-nodded to while we grabbed adjacent dumbbells were things I didn’t expect to crave. I thought I was autonomous in LA and above all that neediness, but boy did I have myself fooled. I was dependent on other people to validate my experience.

The last couple years have brought more change to me than I thought possible: two apartments, two neighborhoods, a new job, multiple events, brand new soul-friends, marriage. And as I contemplate where I go from here, as I head closer and closer toward my thirty-second year, which I have ALWAYS felt in my gut holds something major for me (micro- or macro- major, who knows at this point), I think about how my sense of belonging has changed too – or maybe how it hasn’t. I am on the precipice of something big, but for the first time in a while I’m hesitant to take a much-needed step to fall and build my wings on the way down.

Brené says that we belong everywhere when we belong to ourselves. So if I belong everywhere, then why is it that I’m so tied to THIS sense of place? Maybe it’s for the same reason people stay in relationships that are fine but not GREAT, or stay in jobs that earn enough to live but don’t add enough to LIFE. Because I “know” this sense of belonging is secure IF I just do all the right things, and check off all the to-do boxes, and it’s a very external and define-able belonging. Predictability and ease. Mother-effers.

Once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity - which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it - everything is magic. Click To Tweet

When I moved here, I felt placeless. I remember telling my friend Sarra that I felt freaked out by the amount of places I could go where I knew no one and no thing (Soak it in while you can, she said). I belonged to no one and no thing. I was trying to see where I fit, and tried on a lot for size. I don’t think I really knew how to belong to myself yet. That’s the cool thing about New York, though: it FORCES your identity out of you. The people who try to fight the force are the ones who have it hardest in life, but especially life in this city. But once you stop trying to fight your emerging identity – which is tough, because trying to fight it can sometimes FEEL like trying to find it – everything is magic.

I don’t think everyone is able to belong – or rather, find a sense of belonging – in NYC. You’ve got to be a little wild, a little crazy, and very comfortable getting uncomfortable, to even catch the first glimmers of it. That process and this city will kick your ass before you realize that your recovery is a part of your becoming. It will spook you, but your challenge is to never let it SCARE you. You’ve got to be next-level brave to become and belong – everywhere, but especially in this city that could care less whether you walk around anonymously and disconnected or full and enmeshed.

And now, I’ve found my way, and I’ve found my spaces. I have a “place.” Of course, I know that’s just a feeling and an illusion. And I wonder: is my newfound sense of place, coupled with my acute memory of what it’s like to NOT have one, keeping me in a new loop that doesn’t serve me? I think so; maybe. I’ve been here before, so I can recognize when I am here again.

The great thing, though, is that I know that I am my own and no one else’s, and that an external sense of place is fab but an internal one is fabber. If I know I’ll be okay no matter what, and I know I will be mine no matter what, then maybe, just maybe, I can start to take those steps that lead me to places I don’t know yet.


Two years ago I woke up for the first time as an NYC resident. I know it’s only been two years but I honestly can’t imagine waking up anywhere else.

Brené Brown says that true belonging only comes when you belong to yourself and yourself only, everywhere and nowhere.

Living here, I finally feel like I’ve found where I belong.

belonging sense of place katie horwitch

“I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘Well, I’m still in New York. Thank you, God.” ― Ed Koch


 

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