The Lessons of Pain and Failure

Failure is scary, friend, but it doesn’t have to be. For through failure and pain, there is always a lesson.

Worry, anxiety, and fear are emotions caused by either a real or a perceived threat to our well-being — often something outside of our control.

Being out of control, I think, is the at the root of many of our hang-ups and contributes greatly to our overall sense of failure.

We create these well thought out plans for ourselves, often determined by what we perceive we are supposed to do, and when things do not go as we’ve predetermined we can often feel that there is something wrong with us, that we’ve failed by some degree, or that we are a failure.

At the age of 25 I felt old to be unwed and with no prospects on the horizon. I had measured myself against the people around me. I had watched as, one by one, my peers got married. I was the last one standing. Alone.

Which was very reminiscent of waiting after school for my mom to pick me up. I’d, inevitably, be outside in the rain (it is Washington)  — at first the wait would be pleasant, as I’d be playing with other friends who were also waiting on rides —  however, real fear would set in as the friend group gradually diminished to just me. Waiting for my ride. Alone.

There I was, 25 waiting for my man. All alone. To remember this now seems like such a ridiculous notion. I was raised to be strong, independent, and not need anyone to make me happy. It baffles me to think that I got caught up in this desire to be wed and felt any less about myself because I wasn’t.

I did eventually meet someone that I married. I thought I’d done everything perfectly. It was a shock when, after being married for two years, I arrived home from a business trip to find that he had packed his things and left. He wanted a divorce. He’d fallen in love with with my best friend. My carefully laid plans were in tatters, and I was completely out of control of the proceedings in my own life.

My initial feeling was a sense of utter failure, and I wondered how I was going to tell the people that mattered to me. How was I going to tell my friends and my family what a failure I was a marriage? How was I going to go to work and pretend that everything was normal? I couldn’t help but feel that there must be something inexplicably wrong with me for me to be left in the way that I was.

This was one of my first adult lessons in pain and failure.

There have been many others from that point to now, but this was the first time I felt my soul ripped to shreds. Where I doubted myself and my self worth, and I seriously questioned my desire to go on and my ability to get through the intense rejection and disillusionment that I’d suffered.

With the pain, I was advised to slow down and feel it. Let myself experience it in order to be able to let it go. What I learned from pain is that for it to be worthwhile, it has to serve a purpose. Pain can force us to reevaluate our values and priorities, and help to discover strength and wisdom we’d not known we possessed.

“Allow sadness to visit. allow sadness a temporary tour, allow sadness to come by and give you a few lessons, but never allow sadness to stay. once you’ve felt everything it’s had to say, and once it’s taught you everything you need to know, leave the door open for happiness.”

iambrillyant

Failure, while a bad word for so many, is really just one step along the journey. No success is gained without first failing. Through failure comes lessons. Failure can be the redirection needed to realign with the path we are supposed to be on. Failure, along with pain, teaches lessons meant to be learned. For failure to serve its purpose, we must lean into it to improve, grow, and become the best version of ourselves.

Life is a constant journey of self discovery and growth. For this journey to be complete, unfortunately, it cannot be without pain and failure.

Additionally, friend, we can survive any pain and heartbreak, even the darkest of moments when we feel we’re standing alone.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤

Socially Awkward

Friend, I am going to confess something to you.

You see, I’ve not always been the suave goddess you now see before you.

I’m awkward, and not just a little bit, but full on embarrass myself on the daily, awkward.

I remember when I was young, how embarrassed I was by this fact. Perhaps, however, it would be best to provide a frame of reference for you as to just how odd I can be.

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with social awkwardness, mostly because there is no middle ground in my thought process. I either do exactly what I am thinking or feeling, or I dwell and overthink to such an extent that I spend copious amounts of time in the bathroom due to self-induced stress caused by over-rumination.

As a preteen I used to pray for a boyfriend. I really hope this isn’t unusual. Perhaps you did this as well, friend? There have to be other ladies out there that spent their evenings fervently gripping their pillows as they asked god to; “Please, please, please send me a boyfriend so that I can finally be kissed!”

So far this all sounds very Judy Blume, doesn’t it?

Since my prayers went unanswered, I decided to take things into my own hands. I developed crushes. Many of them. I scrawled their names in my notebooks and fantasized about hand holding, shared private jokes and wearing his letterman jacket. I may have had my best friend drive by one crush’s house multiple times a day, just on the off chance that we would catch a glimpse of him.

My best moment, however, didn’t happen until I was standing in line at the Dairy Queen one hot summer evening with a couple of girlfriends and in walked…. Boys…

They casually begin a conversation and one — insert surprised gasp here — begins to flirt with me. We exchange our introductions and I remember something that I heard once. I didn’t think about it, I just said it.

“Did you know,” I said, “that if you say someone’s name 10 times you’ll remember it? Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt.”

His mouth slightly opens in shock as he slowly responds, “Okay. I have to go now.” He backs away, keeping wary eyes on me. I saw real fear reflected there.

As he leaves the Dairy Queen, one of my friend’s grips my arm, “What were you thinking!?”

I wasn’t thinking. Not really.

Whatever that special ability some girls have to be mysterious and elusive as they engage in conversation with men, I don’t have that. Instead I say men’s names 10 times, laugh too loud, and — probably — ask all the wrong questions.

You see. I just really like people. I want to get to know them, and I really want them to know and like me. Goofy, silly, smart, irrelevant me. Not someone that played at games in an attempt to woo, but me.

As a teenager I thought that in order for me to be validated I had to have a boyfriend, which is really absurd. I know now, friend, what is really important is that I have to like all the parts of me, and someday there may be someone else who is lucky enough to enjoy them too.

Because, friend, I’m a gift, something really special, and for me to even think about liking a man in return, instead of running away when I repeat his name 10 times, he will laugh with me and do it too.

Miranda, Miranda, Miranda, Miranda, Miranda, Miranda, Miranda, Miranda, Miranda, Miranda.

“See, now you won’t forget my name,” I’ll say.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤

To Matter

You asked me today if you mattered,

and, to be perfectly honest,

I wanted to punch you in your damn face.

You asked me if you made a difference,

and I felt my body begin to shake.

For, of all the things you’ve done,

There is one thing that you have clearly won.

And that is my deepest, heartfelt respect and thanks.

You may wonder why, or when.

Maybe it was that one time

that you made me laugh through my tears.

Or when you called to assuage my fears.

So, I wonder, how is it you can look me in the face

and ask me of your place?

It’s here, though maybe it might seem small.

I hold you here, and think of you

in the midst of a rotten ass day.

So, you come to me with these stupid, silly questions

Thinking the world too big and vast for you to conquer

And, to be perfectly honest,

Maybe it is. Maybe it is.

Unless, unless, you see my heart as your world,

If so, then know, that is where you’ll live –

Like a giant encased in glass,

Because of all you give.

To Be Courageous

Our scars can lead us to live lives of regret.

Friend, it would be anyone’s wish to live a life minus regrets. To reach the end of the day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime… and be able to look back and have no thoughts of what you wish you would have done or said differently.

I wish that I could say that I’ve lived a life without regrets, but I can’t.

There are times when I wish that I would have walked away, times when I wish I would have stood up, and other times when I wish that I would have taken a risk and been courageous.

These are the thoughts that make me realize just how much bravery is required to live our lives, especially to live them fully, because life can be scary, and hard, and damaging.

Living leaves us with scars. The external and the internal.

The external ones that you can cover with clothing and makeup, and the internal ones that you cover with smiles and insincerity.

Insincerity because these internal scars, the ones that damage our hearts and minds, contribute to us behaving in ways that cause us to live a life that isn’t fully true to who we are at our essence.

Once we experience loss, rejection, criticism, or discouragement we begin to second guess ourselves, and live a life with self-doubt.

Sometimes even believing that we deserve less.

Friend, I have lived in fear because of the scars on my heart and mind.

There are times when I have felt inadequate, not good enough, and lacking in some way, and this has resulted – at times – in me not reacting as I should have or as I wish I had.

A boyfriend poured beer over my head after a disagreement. I excused this behavior and took the blame. I should have walked away.

I stayed.

The time I witnessed a friend being talked down to and I said nothing. I should have stood up.

I sat.

The times my heart felt something; hurt, love, confusion… I should have spoken up.

I remained quiet.

I didn’t take a risk.

I didn’t live courageously.

Life has risks, and they are not the ones that dare you to jump out of an airplane.

The risks come in loving someone, even though the other person could leave. The risk comes in starting a conversation with a stranger, even though you could be rejected… and in a thousand other, seemingly small, ways.

Courage happens when, despite your fears and scars, you live your life as you wish to, in a way that looking back you won’t have regrets.

You walk away. You stand up. You speak up.

You do all the scary things that life sends you way, both the big and the small.

This, friend, is to live courageously.

Silenced No More

Speak what you want into existence.

Establish and maintain your boundaries with vigilance.

It is no ones responsibility but our own to declare what it is we want, and to maintain those boundaries. It is our job, our most important one, to take care of ourselves.

Friend, it’s hard to share with you that at times I’ve felt voiceless. When I envision how I want to be perceived in your eyes, this is the very last thing that I picture. Yet it’s true. I’ve been in situations where I have questioned my right or ability to speak up for myself and I have neglected to draw much needed boundaries.

It’s important to speak about the significance of using your voice and speaking your truth because – unfortunately – there are times we do not trust our intuition and inner dialogue. We silence ourselves for fear of consequences.

I’ve done this much more than I’d like to admit in my interactions with men, in particular. There have been strangers whom have entered into my personal space or have spoken an inappropriate comment. There have also been love interests whom have initiated intimacy when I have not been ready, or my boundaries of acceptability have been pushed and challenged.

I’ve been made uncomfortable and have remained quiet.

I’ve not used my voice.

Friend, how is a man – or anyone for that matter – going to respect me or my boundaries if I do not speak them into existence?

We need to speak. We need to speak without fear of repercussions or consequences – for the consequences of not speaking are far worse. Not speaking costs us our sense of self worth and doesn’t allow us to lead our lives as we genuinely wish to.

And, if our words are not adhered to we need to scream and shout.

It doesn’t matter if your discomfort is caused by something as seemingly benign as someone entering into your personal space, such as, an unwanted hug or a brush of the hand – or if that discomfort is the result of much more things obvious infringements, such as, inappropriate words, advances, or images.

It is my responsibility to vocalize when a boundary has been crossed, and it is the other person’s responsibility to respect the limits that I have established.

I will say this again and again, anyone who would choose not listen to my voice is not worthy of my time, my effort, or my energy.

Period.

Friend, I have had my personal boundaries tested and destroyed. I’ve let this happen, and it’s occurred by force. These are wounds I have to carry with me as I navigate life, and it is my responsibility to learn and grow from these harsh lessons.

There is no trepidation in this journey moving forward, for I have you. I have your strength, support, and encouragement to bolster me forward.

Also, I know that I won’t lose my voice again. I won’t let it stay within the confines of my mind. I will speak all the necessary words into existence.

Please promise me that you’ll do the same.

Our voices deserve to be spoken. Our voices deserve to be heard. Our voices deserve to be respected.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ♥

Voicing Consent

Friend, I am going to talk to you about something that is hard. I want to shirk from this, but know that the hard things need to be discussed.

It seems as though most women in our lifetimes have had someone touch us in an uninvited way. We’ve been put into uncomfortable situations, but felt we didn’t have a way to put a voice to this discomfort.

Or maybe we’ve been in a position that began as one we wanted, but progressed to a point where we didn’t know how to push the breaks and – as a result – we ended up going farther intimately then we wanted to. Farther then we had planned.

Maybe we felt it was easier to continue, then to say stop. Perhaps we were afraid to cause a scene, to have someone potentially lose interest in us, or to be made to feel that we had led someone on.

We’ve forgotten, perhaps, that we have a voice, that we have a right to draw the boundaries which we feel comfortable with.

Or maybe our consent was taken away from us, and we didn’t have a choice or an option to say no.

I’ve been a victim of both.

At a very young age I was asked to ‘play a game’ with the son of my babysitter. The ‘game’ involved me going into the bathroom and pushing my shorts and panties down around my ankles. He told me to bend over the toilet while he came behind me.

During the ‘game’ his sister opened the door and asked what we were doing. In childhood innocence I turned to her and said, “We’re playing a game. Do you want to play, too?

I tell you this, friend, so you know that whatever you’ve encountered, suffered, or been a victim of – you have never been alone. I tell you this with a heavy heart, partly because this experience is difficult to recount, but additionally because it’s difficult to wrap my head around the idea of others knowing about this part of me.

However, if working with teens has taught me one thing – it’s the power of sharing our stories, finding common ground, building support, and then being able to heal. This not only aids in my healing, but yours too. Our shared histories, our shared voices, enable us to find a unity that within we can find empowerment.

Giving voice to my story allows me to recapture the power that I lost in that bathroom so long ago.

Friend, in this situation my power was taken away. I wasn’t given the option to voice consent, or to scream no.

There were other times where I found myself with a partner going along with sexual advances that I was either not comfortable with, or didn’t want to engage in at all.

In addition, there have been instances when someone has said something to me, or touched me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, and I stayed quiet.

Why, friend? Why did I do this?

Because of the reasons I stated previously. I was afraid to cause a scene. I didn’t feel comfortable stopping. It just seemed easier to go along with what was happening. There were also times I was afraid of losing the interest of the person that I was with.

I’d forgotten that I have rights and it is my responsibility to assert those rights. No one else is responsible for taking care of me, nor should someone else’s well-being ever come at the expense of my own.

With this is mind, friend, I encourage you – no – I IMPLORE, BEG, and PLEAD with you to use your voice. Listen to yourself, trust what you hear, and then act in accordance with what is best for you.

There is no one who is worth your time, effort, or energy who will ignore your wishes and boundaries. There is no one who is worth your worry or concern who will make you feel guilty or ashamed for the lines you have established for yourself.

If they do?

THEN THEY ARE NOT FOR YOU!

It’s as simple and as hard as that, friend.

Yes, there may be situations out of our control that we carry from our pasts, that will always be embedded in our hearts and minds, but there is comfort in knowing that we don’t carry those burdens alone. We carry them together. We empower, support, and love each other.

For the rest, we need to find a sense of true responsibility to ourselves – to protect, care and love ourselves in such a way that using our voices is never something we question or doubt.

We will just do it.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ♥

Let’s Play

Friend, at some point in time we are taught to care what others think of us.

Do you remember your silly childhood antics? The way you would play without care or constraint?

I do.

I have fond memories of rollerskating up and down my driveway with the lyrics of Milli Vanilli’s ‘Blame it on the Rain’ blasting in the background, lip syncing to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” while making up elaborate dance moves that I still remember to this day, and singing into a broom handle along with “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood.

There was also playing tag on the playground and pretending that I was 007, imagining any stick was a wand that I used to cast spells, creating a ridiculous pantomime with my best friend at the park, and getting so consumed by playing capture the flag that I invested in full camouflage and face paint.

My music tastes were somewhat suspect, but the fun wasn’t. It was pure and unadulterated.

So many of my most pleasant memories are ones sprinkled with this kind of absolute uncaring. The moments where I felt free to act and do as I pleased without the worry or sense of judgment.

At some point we start to weigh our choices and actions based upon how we will be viewed, perceived, and judged. We let the opinions of others dictate to us what we feel is an appropriate course of action… pushing our own inner voice aside.

I have allowed the opinions of others to direct my path.

There was a time when, with pride, I shared a piece of writing I had completed with a partner – hungry for his affirmation and encouragement.

He offered neither.

He was mortified by my honesty, openness, and willingness to share my experiences with others through my words. He wondered how and why I would do such a thing, as it was his belief that these things should remain private.

I felt shame and doubt and hid my words away. I let his opinions change alter my course.

Here’s the thing.

I recognize that we are all living a uniquely human experience, and while our lives can differ dramatically from one person to the next, there are certain things that are universal.

These are the things I wanted to write about, to let you know – friend – that you are not alone. That I am here with you. I understand your journey, for I am walking beside you.

How is it that as we become adults we start caring so much more about the opinions of others, letting it cause doubts in who we are and what we’re capable of?

I stopped writing as a result, but this wasn’t the only fatality.

We’ve stopped jumping in mud puddles, laughing in the rain, and singing at the tops of our lungs. There are no more dance parties, scaring ourselves with ghost stories, knee-wrestling, creating cheesy music videos, or staying up with our best friends for 24-hours just to talk and share our secrets.

Friend, let’s do these things. Let’s reclaim this part of our childhood, the part that acts freely without caring who is watching.

Let’s play.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ♥

Happiness Suckers

The futile attempt to bring happiness to those determined to be a grumpy Gus.

End result: Happiness Sucker

Friend, I want to encourage you to choose to surround yourself with people who make you feel good, because they are genuine, caring, smart, awesome, fabulous, dedicated, and inspiring people. Knowing what it is like to be around people like that, will help you to avoid wasting time with the happiness suckers.

We’ve all known the happiness suckers, and even had them occupy spaces of importance within our lives. I once dated a man for a year that I would label as the epitome of a happiness sucker. Nothing in his life seemed to make him happy. His personal mantra was, “If only I had this ______, I’d be happy.” Needless to say, he’d get that — whatever that was — but his happiness would be short lived and he’d be right back to where he started.

Additionally, there is a great danger in relying on external things to provide happiness; things such as a job promotion, a bigger house, a trip, a shopping spree, a rush of adrenaline… etc… all of these things will provide a temporary fleeting high. When this high expires, and it will, the result will lead to chasing that next ‘fix’.

Gradually I felt my own happiness affected by his habitual grumpiness; his need to chase things, status, accomplishments, accompanied by his inability to find happiness internally. He became my own personal happiness sucker.

We all struggle at times with feelings of discontent, anxiety and the like. There are moments when we are not at our best, when sadness overruns us. There is nothing wrong with letting ourselves feel negative emotions and to then navigate through them. However, it is completely different when it becomes a normalcy. When we let ourselves be sucked into and stuck in the mire of self destruction and self loathing.

There are those people that almost seem to enjoy constant complaining and misery. These are people whom I have no more energy for. I cannot make it my primary purpose in life to attempt to figure out what fancy mathematical equation of my actions will result in a smile.

Someone else’s unhappiness is not up to me. I refuse to take responsibility for that which belongs to another. Our happiness is solely our obligation and under our personal charge, friend. We choose the way that we look at the world. We cannot forcibly, or with any amount of coercion or convincing, change the way others choose to observe or experience the world around them.

I know, I’ve tried.

When you take this on, those people become your own personal happiness sucker. The more you funnel your energies into someone that is determined to be a grumpy Gus, the more you put your own wants and desires on hold in the attempt to force someone else to be happy. The more you do this, the more you find your own happiness gradually siphoned away.

This is the result of a happiness sucker.

They’re out there. You’ve been warned.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤


Layaway

Friend… Recently I have found myself wondering about the idea of the layaway plan. Do they even still have layaway in stores? Layaway, in case you don’t know, is a purchasing method in which a consumer places a deposit on an item to “lay it away” for later pick-up when they come back and pay the balance. Layaway also allows the customer to make smaller payments on the product until the purchase is paid in full.

Typically this concept applies to goods in a store. However, it can also apply to our relationships and what we allow ourselves to accept.

Allow me to explain.

We can allow ourselves to be put on layaway every time we accept the smaller payments, or the crumbs, with the hope that eventually there will be some sort of pay off for our patience, love, kindness and understanding.

The deposits are made with empty promises; words and small gestures of affection. Just enough breadcrumbs to keep us on the hook as we wait for the full balance to be paid, the purchase made, and to be really included, accepted, chosen, and loved.

Friend, do not allow yourself to be placed on the back burner. To be pushed on the side, neglected, disregarded and made to feel as if you’re disposable. Okay with accepting crumbs.

I understand, in some sense it’s easy. It’s comfortable. When we find ourselves in relationships of this nature, we know exactly what to expect with this person, in this situation. We are willing to accept the small dosages of love and affection because at least we’re receiving something, hoping for more, and afraid to leave and have nothing.

Perhaps we have even made excuses for why the people in our lives treat us thus; their stress, hurt, pain, timing, schedule…

blah, blah blah.

Really, these are just excuses for why we believe we deserve this treatment – and – guess what – you don’t.

You don’t deserve to be placed on hold, accepting small deposits of attention, acceptance and love. I understand how frightening it is to recognize that that is, in fact, what you’re accepting – what it is you’re allowing.

Friend, I’ve been there.

So, as I sit here on the shelf next to you, wondering how we got here. I recognize that we are here because this is where we’ve placed ourselves. Waiting on others to make the purchase was an easier decision then putting ourselves out there and risking rejection.

It’s time to brush off and step off the shelf.

We’re no one’s layaway plan.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ♥

Two Things

So often, friend, we find ourselves as women doing one of two things.

We elevate.

We look at the woman next to us and wish that we looked like her, or that we had the things that she does, or we desire to live the life she’s leading. We look at this woman and feel ourselves diminished in her, perceived, radiance.

We place her on a pedestal, doing a disservice to her and to ourselves. We fail to see her as she really is, a complete person that while – yes – has amazing qualities and characteristics, is also flawed. Perfectly imperfect.

By placing other women on pedestals we place the expectation onto her that she has to always be and seem perfect.

How exhausting this must be? When – in reality – she just wants you to see her for who she is. To love and choose her anyways. We miss the opportunity to really know and see the women we place on pedestals.

In addition, we also feel ourselves shrink.

When one person is on the pedestal, the other must be at her feet.

Friend, you should bow to no one.

The second thing women do?

We tear down.

We look at the woman next to us and think of all the ways in which we are better. Whether we’re taller, thinner, more educated, better employed, or better behaved. We look at this woman and feel ourselves magnified in her, perceived, deficits.

We tear her down, doing a disservice to her and to ourselves. We fail to see her as she really is, a complete person that while – yes – has inadequacies and flaws, additionally has wondrous qualities and characteristics. Imperfectly Perfect.

By diminishing other women and tearing them down, we stifle and constrict. We prevent these women from growing into who she was meant to be, and squash her under foot of our judgments.

How sad this must be for her when – in reality – she just wants you to see her for who she is. To love and choose her anyways. We miss the opportunity to really know and see the women we tear down.

In addition, we shrink ourselves with this unfair behavior.

When one person attempts to place themselves on a pedestal, they really just reveal their own inner spitefulness.

Friend, you should tear no woman down. You are no judge and jury to determine the worthiness of another.

Instead, let us support and believe in one another. Let’s look for the good, but accept the bad. Let us appreciate the fact that we are ALL multidimensional perfectly imperfect, imperfectly perfect people.

Friend, stop elevating and refuse to tear down.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤