The First Things to Go (Ironically)

Yesterday evening, I was sitting in the pews getting ready to lead worship with the worship band that I sing for. One of our pastors (who is such a down to earth, wonderful man) sits behind me and casually states, “Hey! Haven’t seen you in a couple weeks. Give me the update: what’s new?”

It was a completely unassuming question, but I felt so convicted by it.

It was true, our pastor had not seen us in a few weeks, which was odd because my husband and I are very musically active in our church (I previously held a musical leadership position at our congregation before stepping into my new career role 2 years back). But at this point in time, everything seemed to be so inconsistent:

  • Getting married-a wonderful blessing, but still completely uncharted territory affecting living together, learning each other’s rhythms and routines, and trying to run a household together
  • Adopting a rescue dog-which we’ve been having some behavioral challenges with. She’s such a loving and giving animal, but I’d lying if I said this hasn’t turned our lives upside down a bit
  • Navigating a new pace at work-coming from a season of “way TOO much” to trying to find which balance is right at this time
  • Financial whirlwinds-combining money, trying to come to a balanced place on budgeting now for 2, being from 2 different worlds financially, unforseen expenses and the like.
  • Finally being more at peace with my anxiety, but noticing that the changes in life have in small ways led it to rear it’s head in instances that I don’t feel it warrants
  • Running on very little sleep due to some of these changes-which is something I have learned that I merely cannot become lax on.

Why is it that the most essential things are the first things to go in times of overwhelm or inconsistency?

I’m talking even baseline functions-or at least that’s how it is for me. The first things that tend to suffer (or even completely go) in times of overwhelm or topsy-turvey-ness (???) for me are:

  • Eating patterns
  • Sleep or relaxation/self-care patterns
  • Intentional time with my Savior
  • Investing in loved ones

Which is almost comical to me, as these are the building blocks for all other needs in my life. But when I’m overwhelmed (and overwhelmed isn’t even the more accurate term right now, but off-kilter“), they are the first things to slip.

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It is at times like these that “getting back to the basics” is essential. And quite honestly, very empowering to invest in, because they fuel so many other elements of life.

I feel like I have recognized this and have tried to take some meaningful steps toward that in this season in small ways. For example, meal planning and making a list before going to the grocery store so I can make sure my body is nourished with what it needs vs. what might be most convenient or thrown together, as well as devoting Saturday to having eyeball to eyeball quality time with individuals that my husband and I truly value. But there are still basics that need more attention at this time-and part of this post was (selfishly!) for my own recognition in this. Maybe you can relate, however!

It’s important to be aware of what are the first things that tend to “slip” for us when we are in a season of overwhelm, and this might look differently depending on who you are. But without this recognition, how can we recognize that we are “off-kilter” and in need of re-focus? Even more importantly, how can we recognize what we need to fuel us through this season of inconsistency?

Maybe you’re looking for more input and guidance on how to refocus when you find yourself falling into this pattern, and I promise that will come at a later post. This is merely to raise the awareness that has been slipping from my gaze for the past couple weeks, and to own to myself the need to “get back to basics”.

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What tend to be the first things to “slip” in your life when life throws curveballs your way? I’d love to hear your experiences and share in that with you-as well as include some of these in a follow-up post that will hopefully provide some light on how to get back on track in the essentials. As always, we all struggle in this more than we might realize ;). But that means there’s community, support, and hopefulness.

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

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I Thought I Would Feel My “Most Beautiful” on My Wedding Day

Greetings, loving and supportive community! No wine or coffee in hand today, just Fresca (what is life coming to?).

It’s not secret that I have been married recently-tied the knot, hitched my wagon permanently to another, changed the Ms. to Mrs, all that jazz. What a wonderful blessing and challenge this has been all at the same time. While this might seem like I am going into a  “the joys of marriage”-based post, I actually have something less obvious I’d like to share on this.

Which leads me to my next point: Per one of my earlier posts (refresh your memory here) , we have established that my complete self-neglect and drive to be everything and everyone’s solution led to a large weight gain a few years back. One that became so obvious at such a breaking point for me in my life. Since then , I have been utilizing Weight Watchers for the past two and a half years to address this concern, and have had periods of both triumph and utter discouragement. It wouldn’t be a weight loss story without both of those aspects 😉

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Once I hit 83 pounds lost, (woohoo!) I thought to myself “Thank goodness! I’ve lost the weight, and while I still have more to go, I truly believe that I am going to feel my most beautiful on my wedding day!”.

However, the stress of wedding planning plus trying to earn credentialing in my career tailspun me back to old habits of putting everything before my new priorities: mainly, ME. I gained 25 pounds back in the course of 3 months and was completely and fervently angry at myself.

After all that work, after all that weight loss, the old thinking patterns and way of life could come back just like that. 

I don’t know if I merely got too comfortable, or if it is truly possible for certain seasons to bring out something that you felt like you had SQUASHED within yourself, but all I knew was I hadn’t been so disappointed in myself in quite some time.

I remember getting my second fitting done for my wedding gown, and there not being enough material to close the gown fully without some skin peeking out, and my seamstress asking me, “When did you pick this up?” My answer cut me to my core: “only one month ago.” AKA 10 pounds ago.

Thankfully, seamstresses are basically magicians with needles and threads and the gown was slightly altered in order to fit my new, slightly ragged, overly driven, slowly declining self.

I remember sitting down to dinner with my (then) fiance and finally being fully open with him about how much self-anger and disappointment I was experiencing at the time about this unexpected weight gain. “Of all the times for this to happen”, I tearfully choked out, “it’s happening near the day I thought I would feel my most beautiful”.

He encouraged me that holding on to the self-anger and self-disappointment was ultimately what was going to lead me to hold on to that physical weight.

Smart guy, that one. I definitely picked a smart one who knows me inside and out.

While I can see the difference in my body from our engagement photos to our wedding photos, I in no way felt any less beautiful when the day finally came to wed the man I cherish and adore. The union that Christ was blessing us with was the most beautiful thing in the room that day, and that was the way it was meant to be all along.

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So where am I now?

I’m still 20 pounds heavier than I was before “the slip” (hey, 20 is better than 25!), but what I am focusing on most is not necessarily the old habits that crept back in, but the self-anger that led me to hang onto the weight that was gained back. This was truly what led this to be a slip for me: I reinforced the gain with how I was thinking about myself at the time. How can someone who is at a loss with themselves and not seeing themselves worthy of care begin to invest in any aspect of their lives? This was the thinking pattern that I needed to wrestle with. This is the one I’m wrestling with each day afterward.

There are going to be days where this feels seamless, and days where this is going to feel near impossible. Like I mentioned before, for me, it is not entirely about diet and exercise. It is about the way in which I am seeing myself and what that means for how I prioritize my limits, my emotions, and my needs. 

For me, the feeling of “carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders” led to holding on to tangible weight as a result of this unsustainable mentality. I desire freedom from that. I believe I’ve been made for MORE than that.

One day at a time ❤

Stay tuned,

-AF

The Moment I Learned the Problem Wasn’t Diet and Exercise

Why hello there-You came back! I knew you would 😉

The rain has finally stopped (thank GOODNESS. Our dog literally has been having her witching hour nonstop during the storms), which means the sun is now able to trickle through the blinds and perform it’s familiar dance on the shadows on the wall. I of course have a heaping cup of coffee in my hands (you’ll begin to notice a theme here, folks) and am taking in the day one moment at a time (which is still difficult, might I add).

I figured it’s about time to make good on my promise from my first ever (EEEP) blog posting. I mentioned before that around 2 years ago, I was truly in a rough place. A running ragged, survival mode, putting myself on page 8 rough place. There was a great deal that contributed to this time in my life (external AND internal), and I feel that without knowing the details of this time as well as what I took away from it, you will not truly be able to authentically know me.

So here it goes. Please feel free to stop reading if your “warning, this gal just might be too out there for me” alarm starts going off in your mind (but I pray you stick with me 😉 ).

Around 2 years ago, I was in a place in my career that required me to accumulate a certain (LARGE) amount of supervised hours as well as take a state and national exam in order for me to become fully licensed and certified for my profession (which I might add, is an emotionally draining profession. Rewarding, but truly emotionally draining some days). Some of these hours were in fact unpaid hours, as full licensure is oftentimes needed to be reimbursed for this line of work. So what did this look like, you ask?

It’s hard for me to even admit this right now, but I became so obsessed with completing this process, “proving” myself, and being financially sufficient that at one point during this time, I was working a total of 4 jobs.

WHAT. No, your eyes did not deceive you. That is indeed the number 4.

I was running from one job location to the next like a hamster on a wheel. Going from working at one clinic, to zipping over to another clinic, to rushing to coordinate music for worship, to showing apartments in a leased community (which I had absolutely NO experience doing prior) for a bit of rent credit all while trying to maintain my roles as partner, friend, daughter, Christian, woman, and more. My drive for success and being perceived as capable was at an all-time high, driving my anxiety and self-consciousness through the ROOF. I was truly in survival mode.

One day I actually totaled up the number of hours I was spending at work each week. The number stared me in the face like the rudest awakening I had ever experienced. That number? It was 72.

Yowza.

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But how could I work any less?! What would others think of me if I wasn’t constantly busying myself, or if I (GOD FORBID) ever left early one day or took a day off?! How would I appear competent in the eyes of others if I wasn’t running myself into the ground? Would I appear as if I didn’t care? Plus, at this time, I wore “run down and ragged” as a badge of honor. And THIS truly became the problem. Who would I be without this busyness?

It made me feel capable. It made me feel strong.

Yet it made me feel lonely. It made me feel frail.

I never saw my friends. I rarely spoke to my family. My anxiety drove me to act out in anger and fear, hurting those I loved. I would go through the motions day in and day out, to wake up and do it all over again. Life became about one thing and one thing only: doing and being MORE. 

You may notice I’ve been making mention to a couple numbers so far this post. There is one number that I will leave unsaid, but this number had to do with my weight.

During this time, I was at the heaviest I had ever been in my life. A number that I still to this day shudder at every moment I think of it. A number that reflected damaged health, stolen moments, and the true picture of self-neglect.

At one point, my grandmother (who is the person I am absolutely closest to in my entire family) made a comment that stated

“You used to be so beautiful.”

She didn’t mean anything hurtful by it, but it truly crushed me. Crushed me in a way that I have never felt crushed before.

So naturally I figure, I can fix this with diet and exercise. This truly just must be a “weight problem”, right? If I adjust those 2 things, everything should level out and I should be healthy again, right?!

But one day it clicked (and I could write a wholllllleeeeee other post about this specific moment): this is not a diet and exercise problem. This is a lifestyle problem.

I was constantly (and in the most selfish, roundabout way), consistently putting myself last. And putting everything and everyone else first. For my own selfish gain of feeling capable.

Everything I was experiencing during this time in my life-weight gain, anxiety, self-consciousness, isolation, fear, excessive fatigue, feelings of inadequacy-was driven by my lack of investing in myself. It had nothing to do with what was happening outside of me, and everything to do with what was happening inside of me.

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Diet and exercise would not be enough. I had to change the way I looked at myself, my roles, and my lifestyle.

This realization is what finally kick-started the self-reflection process to figure out what the real problem at hand was. The problem was my lack of investing in ME.

I felt so broken. But I needed that feeling of brokenness to grasp the motivation to make some major changes. And I’m still going through those changes-some days I do well, some days I feel like I fail myself and all those around me. Maybe you can relate on some level.

This just scratches the surface. You will notice themes of health, anxiety, and self-compassion through raw authenticity coming through in these blog postings. And now you have a piece of the puzzle to know that these themes are themes I struggle with day in and day out. And maybe you do too.

You are not alone. We are made for MORE than this.

Follow me as we can learn to live this out.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF.

 

 

 

Every Journey Has a Beginning…

Welp. Here it goes. Playlist entitled “Acoustic Concentration” going and a glass of wine in hand (capitalizing a bit on some of that liquid courage, if you know what I mean), I’m finally sitting down to write. I’ve caught a bit of a writing bug that has been lying dormant for quite some time now. I don’t know, something’s been awakened where I feel like I have something to say. (Well, those of you that know me beg to differ, rightly stating that I tend to ALWAYS have something to say). Nonetheless, we will see where this takes me. And hopefully you’ll stick around with me for the ride. You like adventures, right?

Who am I? Fair question. Some days, I find myself asking myself the same question. Funny how that goes sometimes.

I, in my opinion, am many things. I’ll shoot a few at ya, and you can decide for yourself what you think.

First, I’ll give you the “elevator speech” version. You know what I’m saying, that college-ruled answer of the quickest synopsis of you. I’m a 27-year old female living in Milwaukee (Chicago born and raised, yikes) who has just gone through LOTS of adjustments in life. I’m talking major upheaval here, folks. Life as we know it has been completely turned upside down, and most days I am merely trying to find which way is up. I recently received full licensure and certification for my career (which was a total of a 4-year process), was recently married to my wonderful husband (shoutout!), we moved in together after the wedding and are in the midst of navigating this uncharted territory called marriage (ladies, living with a man is CULTURE SHOCK), and of course have recently rescued an oh-so-energetic boxer-lab mix who has so much love to share (who also apparently is not a fan of sleep). So the puppy-parent thing happened (aren’t you supposed to test the waters with a dog before you have a baby? At least that’s what my sources say!). But wait! There’s more 😉

I’m a daughter (not always the best one), and a friend (again, not always the best one). I’m also a wife (shoutout to the wonderful man who has hitched his wagon to mine!). I’m a musician by hobby and desire. It makes my soul awaken, and gives me a sense of purpose. I’m a listener by profession, and aiming to be by habit (it’s a work in progress, I’m not gonna lie). I’m a “go-getter” (some people have other words for this, but this is me putting it in a positive light. Why not!). I’m an expert worrier (oh yes. More on that later). I’m a control ADDICT, and addiction is truly what it relates to (yet a perfectionist in recovery!). I’m someone who has had a fair share of battles with weight and body image (honesty hour here). I’m an enjoyer of life (there is just so much here-sometimes I don’t stop and recognize it enough). I’m a frequent ingestor of caffeine (coffee, please, on the rocks.) And, I’m a sinner. But most importantly, I’m a girl who is seeking to allow Christ to fully captivate my heart and life. I’m a lover of Jesus.

Now here comes some vulnerability:

I think it’s important to state that about 2 years ago, I was absolutely MISERABLE. I’m talking run down into the ground, going 1,000 miles a minute, constantly trying to keep up with the over-arching demands of life, overly concerned with pleasing others, constantly saying “yes” when I really wanted to say “no”, placing everyone and everything else before myself-MISERABLE. I’m not even sure if people in my life truly knew just how miserable I was. I of course, being the independent female that I am, couldn’t dream of letting anyone see the broken pieces that were piling up inside of me. So I remained in this place (and honestly looking back, it probably started even sooner than 2 years ago) until I finally decided that enough was enough. This was not a way to live. This brutal time in my life came from a variety of sources (mainly self-created) and manifested into many consequences on my life-and I’m willing to lay it bare for you to see how and why it got to this point: and how each day is a battle away from the individual I used to be during that season of life. Maybe some of you can relate-we will see!

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That’s just a snipit. A little teaser, shall we say. I’m sure you will learn more along the way, maybe even some you DIDN’T need to know (um hello, TMI much?). Why am I doing this you ask? Haha, fair enough.

Like I said, I feel like I have something to say. However, because I feel like I always have something to say, I don’t always do enough reflecting as I ought to. I feel this is a very important element and practice of life, as it catalysts gratitude and positive growth (and I am all about that positive growth, you feel me?). They say (whoever “they” is) that you should always have a reason for doing something.

My reason? Because I want to encourage you that you are made for MORE.

Made for MORE than just being in “survival mode” due to the demands of this world. Made for MORE than constantly running yourself ragged in order to appear competent in the eyes of others. Made for MORE than being constantly depleted and not having enough energy to give to yourself and your loved ones.

As I lay the cards on the table, I’m hoping that my reflection and sharing of my journey may reach the hearts of you readers, and impact your walk of life as well-in any way that might mean for you. Whether it’s to say “I have never thought about it that way before” or “that’s just what I needed to hear”, or something even as simple (yet powerful) as “wow, me too”. And if its to say “Woah, this girl is off her ROCKER. Thank heavens I am not like her”, that’s fine too.

 

So what will you find here? You will find raw, honest truths. You will find hilarity in my mishaps of this journey we call life. You may also find some helpful insights into how you can embrace authenticity in your life and in your relationships-something that binds us together as a human race and connects us in ways that are seen and unseen.

Most importantly, you will find that you are likely not alone in your struggles. In your insecurities. In your fears. In your desires.

Let me walk this with you. And let’s be real. Together.

Stay tuned,

A.F.

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