The Burden of Hope


sunLike many, I’ve had a tough time with this election, my worry and fear culminating in the late night text from my best and typically most unflappable friend that read simply: ” May God Help Us All.”

Images from the Hunger Games and the Senate scene in Star Wars (complete with Emperor Palpatine’s smirking glare) have been dancing through my brain all night at the voting results…possibly a result of all the mainlined sugar. I woke up this morning with a horrible feeling of dread and a post-election hangover.  I didn’t want to get out bed.

I’m slowly moving out of shock. I’m saddened and sickened at the thought that so much anger and hatred exists within our nation, and I’m deeply worried at its direction and what the outcome of this election really means. I hate the thought of trying to find the right words with which to talk about it to my children.  I hate the thought that perhaps I am being overly dramatic, but somehow this really rocked me at the level of the soul.

I also feel guilty: none of this is new, none of it should have this power to shock me, and yet it does.  As someone who has struggled her whole lifetime with depression and anxiety, I’ve purposely shielded myself from a lot of what is going on in the world as a way of self-preservation.

And honestly, I have been able to do that as a straight, college-educated, white, middle-class female. While I’m aware there is a glass ceiling objectively, I’m not smart enough or driven enough to have hit it too hard myself.   I have suffered neither racial nor religious persecution.  I have not been a victim of violence.  I can still turn off my TV and my social media outlets and keep much of the ugliness at bay much of the time.

Breaking that habit over the last two days, in allowing CNN and the media and my own fears to turn me into a terrified, fearful and depressed little girl is on me.  I allowed that hated, those horrible words, and accusations to penetrate.  I allowed in that anger.  I listened to those speeches. I own that: both the shame I felt for our country and for my own helpless indignation.  Yes,  the stomach-churning anxiety and the generalized sense that something is horribly, terribly wrong is still here. But, post-Xanax and a few pounds heavier, it’s also opened my eyes and I am forcing myself through.

I’m a Christian.  I’m a Catholic.  I’m a Mother.  I’m imperfect as all heck at all three, but I know for sure if I search my heart I know there is more than this.  Not only do I believe there is the world beyond this one, but also I believe there is a better world *within* this one. We have fallen.  I have fallen.  I need to give more, take action, and speak up.  I need to use my hands to help.  I can’t hide from this any longer and still expect things to be different.

At the end of the day, hope is a verb.  Hope is a step taken.  Hope feeds the hungry, clothes the naked and protects the vulnerable regardless of race or skin type.  Hope is being uncomfortable in the unknown,  fighting the fear and being faithful that there is a plan.  Hope is getting up in the morning and taking a step and doing something. I can do more. I cannot expect more of my leaders than I do of myself.  I cannot change our culture, only my part in it.  I will be more.  I will be grateful that no matter what I think of the choice we made as a country last night that we had a choice…and that we can make better ones.  

So, I’m throwing out the Halloween candy I binged on last night, closing the wine cabinet, and putting on my big girl pants.  It’s a New Day.  I choose Hope.

 

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Be it so angry


Ironically, I woke up angry today.  

Anger is natural.  Anger is the response we as tiny humans choose unthinkingly when we don’t get what we want, and at 44 I am embarrassed to say it is still often my first response. 

My poor little kid’s coughing and hacking in the night after finally having a day where he was mostly well after a 5 day streak of viral fevers had me instantly furious. 

WTH?  Can’t we get a break?  Can’t I get a break?  Why does everything happen at once?!!  


After two hours of positive reading,  praying, drinking tea and trying to get warm downstairs I’m letting it go.  I should have probably gotten on the treadmill but I am letting that go too.  Baby steps.

Yes, it’s been a rough two weeks here.  I’ve been sick with colds and stomach flu, we’ve suffered some minor injuries, we’ve been washing laundry non-stop, and we’re all pretty exhausted.  When life gets like that, and it seems you go from one trial to another, it can get rough. 

The truth is, this stuff – this stuff that happens: sickness, pain, struggle – isn’t going away. It’s a part of life. It sucks, but honestly it’s minor league.  But when we give into anger over it we lose every time: our energy, our focus, our joy, and our immune systems are compromised.  

And the last thing my little boy, my gift, my treasure needs from his mom is any negative energy.  Only positive energy heals.  Only love prevails.  I will be that love. I will be the mom he deserves.  

Thank you God, that it is a fever and cold, and not something worse.  Thank you God that the coughing is getting the garbage out of his system.  Thank you God that I can afford a house with heat and blankets and medicine to care for my child.  Thank you God that he is getting well.  Thank you God.  Thank you God.  Thank you God. 

Murphy’s Law is not Mine


I sit here in an ER, all by myself.  I checked in and realized my wallet is not with me: my husband graciously took pictures of my documentation and the kind folks at the ER let me in.

I am waiting to get my stitches from this morning redone.

They weren’t stitches I was expecting – I ended up getting a biopsy on my finger when I went to the dermatologist.  

So distracted was I by the biopsy and to some extent annoyed, that on the way home from the appointment that I didn’t notice that I was doing 70 in a 55 until I passed the cop.

The cop, of course stopped me.  He told me he’d got me with laser far exceeding the limit. I smiled sheepishly.  When he asked me where I was coming from I showed him my bandaid.

He took my License and insurance back to his squad while I tried to keep from panicking.  After what seemed a long time, the kind officer told me told me that he had no idea why he felt compelled  to do so, that he was letting me off with a warning.  I thanked him profusely and pushed onward. 

Tonight I dragged myself to the gym even though I didn’t want to go.  I made commitments I wanted to keep: I wanted to be a trooper.  I worked hard but tried to be smart about it – that said, I don’t know how but I busted my stitches wide open.  After failed attempts on the way home from the gym to McGuyver the wound  and leaving my husband home with the kids at 10:30 at night I left to go to ER.

There was a time I would be angry and impatient and yelling at something like this:  there was a time I would naturally conclude the world conspired against me.  

But today:

  1. I had a car to drive to the doctor,
  2. I had money to pay for the doctor,
  3. An officer showed me mercy when I did not deserve it,
  4. The ER let me in without ID or question,
  5. My husband ran around and took pictures of all my information and sent it to me without complaint,
  6. Someone is going to take care of this hand eventually, and
  7. Of everyone here I am in the least discomfort with plenty of entertainment.  My ouchie is more embarrassing than painful.  I’m not the helplessly watching mom with the violently ill little girl who is crying between bouts of vomit.
  8. The doctors didn’t laugh at me or my Rudolph band-aid.

Thank you, I am just fine.   God is taking care of me. Some nice nurse just brought me a warm blanket.   And I don’t mean to sound Hallmark-y but I’ll take the ER any day as long as my kiddos are safe and warm in the home I will eventually return to sometime in the next few hours.  I will have a comfortable bed to sleep in once I get there when for some the ER cots are luxury.

I will count my blessings today and call out my miracles when I see them…and be grateful that I DO see them, everywhere, not the least of which in my own perspective. 

 Thank you God.  Thank you God.   

“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”


helpYes, it was a bad television commercial for some kind of medical alert bracelet, but how many times have you found yourself getting caught up in one mistake and either a)letting it suck you dry and giving up entirely on whatever it was you were attempting or b)focusing so much on the mistake you just made that you make another because you’re so stuck mentally on a past error you can’t see what’s right in front of you?

I have lost weeks of my life and productivity and happiness and peace because I could not see past my own mistakes.  Whether I sacrificed my mood, my attention, or my own perception of myself,  I have made Mt. Everest out of problems that started out the size of mouse poop…that seriously ended up the size of two mountains and a mini-van because I didn’t deal with them in a healthy way.

(And don’t ask me how I know what the size of a mouse poop is. I just know.)

When you make a mistake, do you find yourself doing any of the following?

  1. Generalizing – “Well, I guess I’ll just add that to my long list of things I’ve screwed up” and then look back over your metal inventory of errors;
  2. Freezing – Getting so stuck in thinking through every dire and terrible thing that will surely come as a consequence of your mistake that you can do nothing else;
  3. Negative Self-Talk – I’m such an idiot, I’m a failure, and then of course calling your friends/associates not for help solving the problem but to talk negatively about yourself to them as a sort of self-punishment;
  4. Ruminating – where you literally can’t think straight or notice what is going on around you because your brain is so focused on what you had done wrong that you’re in a mental and emotional tailspin;
  5. Blaming – hoping like hell there is someone else you can pin the error on to take the heat off yourself in any way possible so you don’t have to own what you did;
  6. Hiding – Making great efforts to cover up your mistake  or praying simply that no one else notices and trying to convince yourself you hadn’t noticed either

Take it from someone who knows and has been there: if you’re looking for a way to waste your life, breath, and energy and potentially endanger your health, job, self-worth and friendships, then feel free to continue, but it’s not something I’d recommend.

Here’s the difficult thing: whatever it is – it’s done.  The only safe way to handle a mistake is to look it straight in the face, own it, take responsibility for it and whatever that entails.  You then try to find a solution for it, make reparations, and problem-solve as effectively and as completely as possible and move on, trying not to repeat the mistake.

Moving on, by the way, means *really* moving on.  Leave it in the sand.  Drop it.  Forgive yourself.  I once heard it said like this: your body doesn’t ask if you are worthy when it knows there has been damage done.  It just starts work on healing what’s there without judgement.   Do that for yourself.  Take the next best steps whatever those are, one at a time.

How many years of your life could we get back if we treated ourselves with the same objectivity when we messed up, and worked to fix our issues and mistakes without the judgment, shame, or mental mess that so often trips us up?  What if we treated others the same way?  Oh what a world we could create!

Get Back Up.  Brush Yourself Off.  Rub some dirt on it.  Life is a giant adventure and you’ve got better things ahead and no time to waste!   Get up and get at them today!

 

 

My Life-Changing Reads of 2015


2015 was an amazing year for me in many ways.  It was, as all years are, imperfect.  But the most life-changing and best parts of this last year all really stem from the changes in my mind and my perspective.  

To put it simply, my whole world has changed for the better, and it had nothing to do with external circumstance though I believe it is changing them too. 

Some of the credit for this goes to falling into some of the following books at some of the most-needed times.  They honestly just showed up when I needed to read them most!  

 If you are going through a tough time, maybe find the world to be more negative than positive, or maybe even just find yourself wanting desperately for your life to be better or even just to believe that it can, here are a few suggestions. 

Some of these I listened to as audio books so I could re-listen on my drive to work or while I was doing other things.  Others I read first and then downloaded audio.  I make it a point to keep listening. 

Keep in mind, I have had a strong history of skepticism, negativity, and a tendency to cringe at what seems hokey or overly optimistic. I suggest you adopt an attitude of suspension of belief. Just listen. Be open.  Take in what you can and leave the rest.  

  1. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.  Non-religious, easy read.   

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne  – A little cheesy via audio but worth it.

 

  1. The Power of I Am by Joel Osteen .  This was a stretch for me: I am particularly suspicious of good-looking, perfect-haired individuals.  But this one called to me.  It continues to do so and have started listening to the podcasts too. 

It is my goal in life to share anything that I find good and helpful for me: the world is filled with amazing people that don’t realize they are amazing.  The world is filled with broken spirits.  I am imperfect but healing.  I want to share that.  So if you find this useful, please feel free to pass it on.

May your 2016 be far more than anything you can possibly imagine and beyond.  I wish you healing, contentment and a renewed sense of who you are and what you have to give!

The Hard and Beautiful Truth of Christmas


The Holidays and Christmas time can be overwhelmingly difficult for many.  Filled with emotions good and bad, memories and ever increasing expectations, it is a lot to try and process on multiple levels.  Not everyone has the blessings of a … Continue reading

Choosing My Focus


I was blessed with dinner with my two best friends the other night. We’re not technically spring chickens but still pretty fabulous. 

Our parents however, well they are getting to that age where we start worrying about them, parts start falling off etc.  We learn what real worry and fear is.  We get scared.  We have bad dreams.

It’s easy to fall into that trap of almost continual panic and waiting for that shoe to drop.

I got to see my parents today.  I got to hug my mom.  I got to have dinner with my dad.  Yes, each is utterly crazy, and both are stubborn as hell but I love them both with all I have.

Just for today I’m going to choose to focus on the blessing of having my parents.  I am going to put my energies towards loving them.  I am pulling on the bonds that bind us.  I’m believing I can make up for a childhood of transgressions and focus on making them know how much I love and appreciate them.  I want them to know how proud I am and that I know how much they’ve given me.

The fears are empty, the anxieties are useless: instead I will focus on joy.

  

Back on the Wagon


It took slightly longer than getting to January 1 to get myself back on the health wagon and drag my butt to the gym. I did, in fact, have to trick myself by scheduling a swimming assessment for my children to force myself back into the building.

Humbly, I looked around at the swank gym, purposeful people moving about their healthy habits and sighed a little: the return walk of shame after you haven’t stepped into a gym in two months isn’t fun, moving a little slower, gym pants tighter, ass just a trifle jigglier.

To make it more fun I had to get into a bathing suit – but I survived.

Today I got on the treadmill and did a slow walk. As I sit here I am drinking my orange, apple, kale, romaine smoothie with dynamic greens thrown in for dinner contemplating what I am going to do differently this time.

This time I am going full balls-out faith. That sounds a little off but I am going with it: Just for today I am going to believe the universe wants me healthy and that my body is conspiring as we speak to excommunicate the 100 extra pounds I am carrying and no longer need to hide me. I am going to do the work and take the steps and believe my body wants this health as much as I do.

Most of all I am going to overcome this subconscious mind that has developed the belief system that I cannot do this. I am going to quash the judging inner voices that tell me I am not good enough and don’t deserve this.

I may be crawling toward my new body but crawl I will until I can run and sprint and fly so fast that out comes the beautiful, slim, powerful woman I am on the inside who no longer has time or energy for her gooey outer shell.

I am a butterfly and this cocoon no longer protects but suffocates and I want to fly free and soar right out of my Nikes.

I’m not just back on the wagon; I’m gonna kick that bitch over and use it for a launch pad.

Amen!

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Don’t Panic but Never Rest :)


Navigating the working world can be brutal. I have spent over 15 years of my professional life as a Recruiter helping people find jobs and companies find people, and one truth becomes more apparent every day. Whether you are in the C-Suite or just starting your career, it takes tremendous, continual effort and discipline to get anywhere worth going! Whether you are aware of it or not, your path and destinations both are moving, changeable things, heading off into an un-seeable future.

Does that sound dramatic? It can be! I interviewed a great person the other day who had spent 20 years in the same industry. He was smart, articulate – hadn’t had to interview for a job since graduating from college because his industry was niche, and one wherein you would go from company to company with those who knew you based on the reputation you had built. Almost overnight, with a change in legislation, his niche and his comfortable mid-level position disappeared.

Boom. Like that. Reality changed. Whole companies can vanish at the whim of economies. Industries break. People we trust to help our careers fail us, and occasionally we fail careers. Nothing is constant.

So we live in flux, and chances are we are feeling it every day whether or not we acknowledge it. We can make the decision to bury our heads in the sand and pretend to ourselves that nothing changes, we can have non-specific anxiety attacks about it and take no action. Or, we can decide to take a deep breath and learn to live in the uncomfortable…and fight change with change.

We have to constantly be reinventing – our skills, our minds, our outlook. You can’t depend on a job, or a company, or even a highly-marketable skill set to always get you where you want to be. Fantastic recruiters can help, hard work will get you far, but always keeping your mind moving and looking at what you need to learn next will serve you better. Here are some ideas on what that can look like:

  • Put 15 minutes on your calendar a week to spend on LinkedIN. See what other people are doing/writing in your industry, see whose jobs are changing, and just generally stick your head out and make yourself aware. Is your network up-to-date and can you expand it? Do you have a picture? Does your profile adequately reflect you? Are you following companies? Commit to yourself professionally.
  • Read…even it is listening to someone else read to you via Audible or podcast. Ignore your Netflix collection one night a week and open a book that is about self-improvement and growth that will get you thinking and focused in the business realm and on what you want to do with your life.
  • Ask for new challenges – and if you aren’t given any, create some. Sometimes, we rely on our companies a little too much when it comes to creating opportunities for growth. Figure out something you feel it would be good to learn and learn it, and don’t be afraid to fail miserably in doing so.
  • Meditate. This is something I’m trying. It’s not easy; but there is something about taking time to actually breathe and connect with yourself and with the world that can calm you, especially when change feels like it’s too much. When we stop running and start accepting, we cease to operate from mere reaction and fear. We can become.

Whatever it is, don’t stop. Keep moving. Keep growing. Keep expanding who you are so that no opportunity that comes your way seems too far out of your reach! Don’t let the illusion of comfort trick you into complacency. The more you extend yourself and the more you can offer the world, the better you feel no matter what your professional world throws at you! So be confident, enjoy what you are doing, but “Never Rest” – Rainer Marie Rilke

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  • Julie (Semrow) Sullivan is a Corporate Recruiter with 15+ years recruiting across multiple industries, but mostly in technology because she has strong geeky leanings and a weird sense of humor. She loves to write, loves helping others in their careers where she can, and sharing what she’s learned (usually the hard way). She’s trying out this speaking in third person thing for kicks. Feel free to write to her at jesullivan3@gmail.com.