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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“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

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

If you liked this article, Please Share and Comment! Also feel free to Follow Me and check out some of my other articles on LinkedIn!

  • 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.

The path of life is sometimes soggy… Walk it anyway.


My brain can be my worst enemy, and has a tendency to go to the dark side (in a less than comic Star Wars sense) and fills itself negative thoughts faster than I can deal with them.  I feel emotions strongly, and I am a bit of an empath to boot which means I tend to suck in the emotions of others on top of my own.  While I will refrain from labels, it is a struggle to be fighting your own head all of the time while trying to be a career girl, a wife, a mother and a friend.  I’ve done everything I can think of through the years to try to deal with it, medically and otherwise, but recently one of my best coping mechanisms has become walking.

While part of my motivation is health – losing weight is a giant struggle.  I can eat well, but it take me as long to lose 5 pounds as others can lose 20.  My body does not give up its comfy coat readily, and I hypothesize (because the doctors look at me and shrug) this may be because my brain, in dark places, spends a lot of time in panic/anxiety mode.   Maybe nature is trying to protect me from the dangers my brain tells it to expect – or hibernate until it all goes away – I don’t know.  But what I have decided is that if I am going to be built like a short, boxy bear, I am going to be a healthy one with strong muscles and an ability to walk for miles without rest…and one who is at more peace with herself and her place in life.

This morning I was restless.  I was trying to work and I was getting things done but my brain wasn’t cooperating.  I decided to check out a nature trail close by for a quick walk…only to find the entrance flooded.

While I stood looking at it – I decided to hell with it and went right through.  And yes, my feet are soggy.  And I walked over 2 miles through grasses and wildflowers listening to the squish squish on the gravel.  I felt insanely proud that I didn’t let it stop me.

Life is hard.  Life is messy, and sometimes soggy.  But we are tough, and we own towels, and nothing should ever stop us from doing something that will ultimately make us better and bring us peace.  God gave us legs and put us in a world with puddles and rain for a reason, and that link with nature should we embrace it, is a powerful antidote to all the stuff that doesn’t really matter – even if it makes your Nikes smell like swamp it is really the smell of victory.

flooded

The Ghost of Seasons Past


Standing around with two of my best girlfriends at my daughter’s 4th birthday party, I found some validation, enlightenment, and perspective (as much as one might muster amid a horde of tiny, rushing, screaming humans).

Continue reading

The Parental Juggling Act


 

Parenthood: More than just juggling hearts and flowers!

When you have two working parents, and two children, there are many different things you have to try to balance. It’s not easy. It’s exhausting. It frequently requires a tag-team effort.

Yes, there are the meals that go uncooked, the house that goes uncleaned, and mass chaos but on top of that there are other considerations:

  • Determining which of us is less likely to face career retribution from staying home or leaving early to take care of kids;
  • Figuring out which one of us is actually more tired and frustrated (competitive self-pity);
  • Delegation of triage procedures for toy-related injuries;
  • Which series on the DVR to delete because we’ve never managed to catch up;
  • Which children’s program is the least annoying;
  • Setting a date and time to actually have a conversation not involving scheduling, kids, or finances…
    and the actually managing to do it;
  • Locating and/or remembering what presents were hidden where and who they were for in the first place;
  • Figuring out who gets to eat the treats we deny our children for health reasons (aka taking one for the team)!

Can you relate to any of this?  Parenthood:  a wonderful journey requiring frequent comedy breaks and a massive sense of humor!

 

True Confessions: I want to be like my Mom.


I hear all the time how women don’t want to become like their mothers. I feel sorry for them.

Don’t get me wrong: my mama isn’t the cuddly, Hallmark type. She can cut you down into shreds with words if you get on her bad side, she can talk you into doing things you would never in a million years otherwise consider, and I would pit her against Mike Tyson any day: the power of her stare would make the guy quiver and shrink into the fetal position in a heartbeat.

  • She once tackled me, sat on my stomach and put gum in my hair when she caught me chewing it with my braces on.
  • She abandoned me post-surgery in the food court of a shopping mall because I couldn’t keep up. (Notably, I had had my wisdom teeth removed and couldn’t eat either.)
  • She cancelled Christmas one year on us because we were such naughty kids.

In essence, my mommy is one tough b*tch. She is the badass of motherhood. And I want to (mostly) be just like her when I grow up.

My mama can out-cook, out-clean, and out-organize just about anyone that I know. She will give the clothes off her back to someone in a pinch. She has raised most of her grandchildren for free. She is an artist, a poet, and an accountant, and had she had the opportunity to go to college, she would have pulled straight “A’s” out of pure determination.

BKS would put any executive to shame with her ability to understand the bigger picture of a situation. She will go a week without sleep preparing for a party and making it perfect; she is relentless in her diligence to everything. She never forgets (although she may occasionally get confused) and she is always prepared.

She is the strongest woman I know, and can simultaneously be trusted with your deepest secret and depended on to help wherever she can. She is ridiculously self-less. She has bailed me out of my own messes so many times I cannot even count, and she loves the heck out of me even if I make absolutely no sense to her.

And believe me, I make little to no sense to her. It’s not that I’m so complex, it’s that she thinks I am completely ass-backwards in most respects. She’s probably right.

  • She told me not to move to the City – I did so anyway.
  • She told me I was a fool to go on vacation on my own to the Pacific Northwest, renting a car and staying in hostels up the Pacific Coast.
  • She yelled at me when I called her from the side of Multnomah Falls, telling me not to use the cell phone because I could be lynched or fall.
  • She has told me on numerous occasions that I have far too much fun and that I should work harder. She’s probably right.

Truthfully, my mother’s not entirely sure how I’ve survived this long. I’m not entirely sure how I’ve survived this long either – except by the Grace of God and the help of friends and family.

Anyway – even if I don’t make sense to her – my mom has pushed me to do something with my writing for about 25 years now. I think she knows that inside, that’s what I really want to do, if I can only figure out how to do it. I haven’t managed it yet, but I am trying: if I had half her moxie and drive, I am pretty sure I’d have managed a book or six by now.

I love her dearly, respect her more than anyone, and hope someday to do as I am told like a good girl and to make her proud.

So, Momma, it’s not a book, and I doubt you’ll ever read it – but this Blog’s for you.