Monday, August 15, 2016

A Letter to My Siblings: What to Do When Nothing Will Ever Be the Same

My sister and brother-in-law and husband's sister and brother-in-law are all sending kids off to college this month. This is a letter aimed at trying—even in the smallest sense—to help lessen the emotional weight they're all carrying. 

Dearest Parents of New College Students,

I know your hearts are tender right now. Though I've never had to send a child off to school, I know the feeling that comes with seismic life shifts. That ache that sits with you as you wonder how you're going to sleep at night amidst all the memories and worries. I felt it when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend. I felt it when I got laid off from my first job out of college. And again when one of the key players in my close-knit group of friends moved back to Texas. I felt it when I moved to a completely new city 3 years ago and knew almost no one.

It's heavy and suffocating.

But the crazy thing is—that same feeling that Nothing Will Ever Be the Same—also showed up when I traveled to Europe for the very first time. And when I accepted my favorite job at Yahoo. And when I said my wedding vows.

Do you remember other times you've felt it too?

If I were to guess, I'd say you felt the weighty pang when those beautiful girls you're sending to college were first born.

And all this goes to show that nothing—good, bad, painful, joyful, familiar, uncomfortable—is ever the same. Everything is always changing, all the time. Even when the people we love stay right under the same roof with us.

Relationship evolve. New faces come in and out of our lives. Jobs shift. Personalities mature. Always, nothing is ever the same.

The truth is, you've been doing this change dance forever. You're an expert at it. You just might not realize it. 

And the coolest thing is that the lack of sameness opens up a great big wide space for new things to enter. Who can you be and what can you do with that new open space? How will you fill it? What things have you been putting off for 4 years—or 18 years—that you might now have an opportunity to try? And furthermore, how might this massive shift lead to an even more incredible relationship with your kids as they grow into the fully formed adult humans they were always meant to be? What wondrous new ways are they going to add to your life that you can't even fathom right now?

This is all part of the process. On some level, this is what you always hoped for them—that they would do well in school and get into good colleges and embark on adventures that would lead them down paths of success and fulfillment. You've done such an amazing job. Congratulations to you.

Oh, but the hurt.

Yep, I haven't forgotten about that.

If it isn't enough to know that this change is all for the good of your kids—and you—then I have to ask you to treat yourself like a metamorphosizing caterpillar.

See, when a caterpillar is going to become a butterfly, it doesn't really realize what's happening. Instinct tells it a change is coming, so it tucks itself into a safe, cozy cocoon to protect against the impact of the transformation. Now, not everyone knows this, but caterpillars actually liquify inside their cocoons. I know, gross. Their cells literally begin recoding and reimagining themselves into something completely new. And while their little bodies eventually dream and scheme into winged creatures, the battle isn't over yet—they then have to struggle and struggle to break free from the cocoons. It's not until they can pull themselves out by their little butterfly bootstraps that they're able to be carefree and fly off into the sunset.

Parents, you are the caterpillars right now.

You've spun your pods and your getting ready to reimagine yourselves into something new. But right now, while the sadness is so intense, just curl up on the couch and cocoon yourself in while everything goes to liquid. Get comfy. Treat yourself with compassion. Maybe eat some ice cream and cuddle with the dog or cat.

And soon enough, you'll be feeling so strong you'll want to wrestle out of your cocoon and go test out those fancy new wings. It wouldn't surprise me if flying nearby are those beautiful Monarchs you sent off to college.

And 4 years from now, (which will go by faster than you think) it wouldn't surprise me one bit if your lovely little insects land on your doorsteps again to stay awhile.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Letter to My Nieces Who Are Starting College....and Anyone Else Who's Navigating a Big Change

Dearest Change Embarkers,

I've been thinking about you a lot lately. I can remember what it was like when I left for college as a transfer student and no one warned me about all the things I would feel. Oh, the feelings. So very, very many of them.

I remember thinking I hadn't ever cried so much in my life as I did those first six months of living away from home. There was so much uncertainty—would things ever feel comfortable again? would friends ever feel as close as the ones I'd grown up with? was my boyfriend being faithful? did the people at home miss me as much as I missed them?

The worry and the sadness and the stress that come with big changes are kind of a given. But even when you know they're coming, they can flatten you like an avalanche. It's hard to be prepared. 

And this is the thing that no one tells you: Feeling all those hard feelings—the growing pains that stretch the limits of what you've ever had to endure in the past—it means you're LIVING.

When the hurt feels deeper than maybe it ever has before—that means you're having a deeper human experience.

All that crying and worrying and wondering? It's a gift.

You're being given the gift of depth and breadth. The gift of a life that is more intense than some other people will ever experience. You're being given the chance to explore the spectrum of your own emotions.

And I promise that with those low lows will come high highs.

So if I could send you on your way with one little nugget of knowledge, it would be that.

That the sadness you're inevitably going to feel is an amazing opportunity in disguise. A chance to push the boundaries of yourself and your emotions.

So if you can, be a little grateful for it.

I guarantee that down the line, when you're looking back on this time, you'll view it with fondness and nostalgia. Not only because you'll have made it through—but because you were fortunate to have experienced it at all.

Love you lots and am sending all my good vibes with you as you set out on your journey.

Go live your great, big life. It's going to be amazing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Are You Making It Harder Than It Is?

If we all let ourselves think that running was easy, would we do it more often?

"Marriage is hard."

It wasn't the first time I'd heard that line. Many a husband, wife—and even singleton—had declared it in my presence. But when I heard it a few weeks ago, my coaching siren immediately sounded.


Is it true that marriage can be a challenge? Absolutely. When you're in locked in wed, you have to live with the person day in and day out, through your moods and theirs, making compromises to maintain peace.

But letting your focus rest on a thought about anything being hard can make it feel even more difficult.  

A couple of years ago when we moved to our current house, my husband was still working in Los Angeles, and was only able to commute up on weekends. During the week, I was all alone in a slightly dilapidated house, missing my friends and my love, writing marketing materials for tech companies by day, taking care of chronically sick pets by night. Very quickly, my mental mantra became "Living here is SO HARD." I had a litany of evidence to support my frustrated story, so it played on repeat in my head.

The crappy side effect of this way of thinking was that as soon as my brain started telling me something was hard, my body felt exhausted. The thought drained my energy and made me want to crumple to the floor and be spoon-fed chicken soup until I could be convinced life was easy again.

Thinking something is hard makes it feel even harder. Even heavier.

Finally one day, I sat down and forced myself to turn my story around

"Living here is easy."

I wrote it in my journal and drafted a list of dozens of reasons why it was true—maybe even truer than the crappy story about how living in my new home was hard.

Guess what? I started to feel a little better. Though my outward circumstances hadn't changed at all, the change to my inner mental state made life feel less heavy.

I shared this example with the spouse who had commented on marriage being hard, and I think something clicked.

Marriage, moving, writing marketing copy—they can all be difficult.

But can they can also be easy.

It's all a matter of where we choose to stack our decks of evidence. And the truth is, unless you're willing to do something potentially drastic to change your "hard" situation, it doesn't serve you in any way to dwell in a place of distress.

Going from feeling crappy to happy can start with a simple one-word shift in your mental playlist. Goodbye, hard. Hello, easy.

So tell me—what feels like the biggest struggle for you right now? And why is it equally true that the thing you perceive as arduous could be effortless?