Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Obligatory Year in Review Post- 2015

Recently, I went to a website that generates your best nine Instagram pictures of 2015 into a collage. Best is determined by the most likes. When I saw mine all I could do was smile and think, Yep. That’s about right. You see, whenever I skim my gallery or review any of my posts, they all have the same cohesive themes throughout: fitness, fun, and friends.

It’s pretty cool when you see your highlight reel. You get to see what matters most to you. It’s one thing to say connecting with others through movement is a strong value. It’s another thing to witness it in action throughout the year. It’s very affirming when you realize that your values and lifestyle are congruent and you truly are living the life you say you want.

My goal for 2016 is to experience fitness, fun, and friends in increasing measure. I want to continue building upon these values and fostering them in others. I hope that by this time next year I have even more group pictures with people laughing and moving and living joy-filled lives to the fullest. Here’s to 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Small encouragers

It’s hard to believe we are just one day from Christmas. Families all around will be awakened at ungodly hours by their little ones who are eager to tear into their presents before the sun comes up. For the record, that was never my scene because it wasn’t allowed. My siblings and I were never permitted to bum rush the Christmas tree. We learned to wait.

It might be hard to picture three kids patiently waiting until the adults got out of bed, but that was Christmas when I was growing up. The adults stirred when they felt like it. We ate a full family breakfast. We cleaned the kitchen. Sometimes it was 11 o’clock before we even went down to the den to open gifts. When Christmas fell on a Sunday, we went to church and Sunday school first, and then opened gifts when we got home. When it was finally time to open gifts, we each got our pile and went around in a circle taking turns opening them one at a time. That’s right. After waiting for hours, there was even more waiting. This might sound like some form of cruel and unusual punishment to some of you. I suppose it did seem unbearable when I was really young. But I quickly adapted to the family tradition and now it’s just how we do things. It’s hard to imagine any other way. I can tell you though that my family tradition taught me delayed gratification early. In life, you must wait to get many of the things you really want.

Because we often had to wait so long, several years in a row my mom allowed us to open one gift on Christmas Eve. And, of course, on Christmas morning we were allowed to open our stockings right away. In a way, opening the stockings was just as joyful as opening the rest of the gifts. It wasn’t about the stocking contents necessarily. Usually, we got things like lotion, clementines, pocket calendars, and mini snickers- your typical stocking stuffers. It was just the process of opening something that tide us over until the big stuff later.

I suppose that’s become the story of my life. Few things have I gotten outright. Usually there’s a wait involved, and a long wait at that. It’s a good thing I was thoroughly conditioned in my early years to wait patiently. It doesn’t always make it easier though. Sometimes the wait can be downright frustrating. That’s when I find refreshing in the small things- witnessing an answered prayer that no one but God knew I prayed; getting a parking space right in front of where I’m going; getting a surprise gift or token of appreciation from someone. Sure, these aren’t the life changing miracles or big ticket wishes of my heart. They are subtle reminders though, that I am deeply loved down to the detail. And if I am fortunate enough to get small encouragers like those along the way, the bigger stuff will come in just a matter of time.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Just do it

I recently realized that I’ve hit a plateau in my fitness regimen. In the first two years of my fitness journey, everything was so new. I was hitting personal records and knocking out goals right and left. It was easy to do when you go from completely nothing to venturing into a little of everything. Now that I’m wrapping up my third year of a fit lifestyle, I’m seeing how I’ve entered a maintenance phase. I’m still moving regularly, of course, and teaching classes, which is a good thing. I don’t know how much I’m challenging myself anymore though, and I think it’s time to step up my game.

I have to be honest. I think I stopped pushing myself because of fear. The idea of adding more repetitions or more weight made me nervous. There was a mental block to running farther than the distance of my longest race. I already felt a sense of mastery right where I was and didn’t know if I could or should push beyond. However, it’s been said, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” There’s nothing wrong with just maintaining for a period of time. There’s a lot to be said about just being consistent and keeping with the routine. You just have to know when it’s time to push again so aren’t lulled into complacency and get stuck where you are.
 

So, this week at the gym has been a push. I’ve added weight and added sets. I’ve had to take a break in between at times. I’ve had to grimace to get in the last few reps. I’ve had to mentally tell myself, “Just two more…just one more.” It hasn’t been all that fun for me necessarily. But I do feel a fire igniting once again. I feel energy and motivation propelling me forward. I feel a fight rising up in me as I start the climb once again and push myself to the limits. There’s really no deep strategy involved. Don’t over think it. If you want to go beyond where you’ve been, then like Nike says, just do it.
 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Squad Friends

Like I said in the beginning of the series, I've had a lot of recent transitions in my relationships. As someone who has always valued friendship, I've noticed I've been even more reflective on the connections in my life. As we wrap up Thanksgiving week, my heart is exceedingly thankful for my true friends- my squad friends.
 
You want to know what I love most about my squad? I love that they're consistent. We might not talk daily. But I know what I'll get from them each and every time we connect. They are present when I need them. They love, validate, and support me unconditionally. They aren't yes people who just tell me what I want to hear. They're truth tellers who will challenge me when needed. They just do it with such compassion and grace that I feel inspired to grow, rather than condemned to remain the same.
 
I also love my friends for genuinely liking me. Perhaps it seems a little conceited, but generally we like people who like us. I'm fortunate to have people who have taken time to understand me and how things affect me. So, when I have a crazy boss who's giving me a hard time, a crush who's sending mixed signals, or acquaintances whose opinions are starting to matter more than my own, my true friends come in and do damage control. They mirror my true self and affirm my value. They insist on my awesomeness and assert how their opinion carries more weight than those who don't really know or care to know me. And they're right. It does.
 
My squad friends know those in my life who matter to me. They're protective of me. They listen to me. They pray for me. They stand up for me. They show up and keep showing up for me. They never tire of me. They never make me feel like it's hard to love me. Because of that, my heart rests secure in them.
 
 
That's probably the best thing about finding your people. Your soul finds a home. You don't have to chase them down and beg them for love. You don't have the constant, nagging anxiety of whether you're too much or not enough. You are who you are and that person is enough. Love like that casts out any fears. When it does, something beautiful happens. You heal and grow and become even better. It only comes when you're genuinely accepted. It comes when you find your people, your tribe, your family, your squad friends.
 

Friday, November 27, 2015

When friends breakup

Have you ever gone through a painful process of breaking up with a friend? For unknown reasons, has a friend decided to suddenly put distance and stop all communication. If so, you know it often brings up the same emotional roller coaster and self-questioning that you might expect with a romantic breakup. In some ways it's worse though because friendship endings aren't acknowledged as much and certainly not validated like romantic endings. But, they are just as difficult.

I'm always intrigued when people reference an ex best friend. I always want to know what happened when two friends who were inseparable, now don't even talk anymore. Was there a betrayal? A falling out? Usually if there's a natural drifting apart there's not as much emotion around it. People chalk up their lessened communication to busyness or different priorities, but there's still fondness there. There's also the open door to reconnect if given the opportunity. This isn't the case with cutoffs. Abrupt endings leave at least one of the parties hurt and confused and wondering what happened.

Basically, what I'm learning about emotional cutoffs is that they are a way for people to deal with stress or anxiety in a relationship. Perhaps one person feels that the other is too demanding or emotionally needy. Rather than discuss it with them, they retreat. In other cases, sometimes a person is offended and cannot tolerate the distress of working through the conflict. Instead, they shutdown and push away. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the other person at all. A person can just be going through something and unwilling or unsure how to express their need for space and time. So, they disappear. Are you seeing a theme now? It's a very avoidant way of navigating relationships. It might feel less threatening for the initiator of a cutoff, but it's very damaging for the recipient. It really hurts to be on the receiving end of a breakup of any kind, especially when you don't know why the person was there one day and suddenly gone the next.

People discontinue relationships for all different kinds of reasons. Maybe you don't feel as connected to a person as they feel to you. You're just not that into them. Their personality grates on your nerves. You have different energy levels that just aren't a match. You just don't have the time or interest in maintaining that connection. Those are all valid reasons. You have a right to be selective about who connects to your life. You also have an obligation to treat people with honor and respect.

It's always best to be honest and authentic. Just say what you need to say and let the other person respond however they will. You aren't responsible for them. You are responsible to them. That means you are obligated to own your truth and clearly and directly communicate your needs. That reflects you. How other people respond reflects them. It's just not cool to suddenly pull a disappearing act in someone's life- certainly not after months or even years of time together. While you might think you're avoiding hurting their feelings by not having that difficult conversation, you're actually causing injury and confusion and there are much better ways to handle it.

If you're facing a friendship breakup or you're still mourning one from the past, please know you are not alone. It's easy to feel upset and stuck because you can't fix it. Ideally, anyone who leaves your life will offer you the gift of proper closure. More often than not though, you'll have to find it without them. I encourage anyone who's been hurt by a cutoff, to resist the urge to emotionally shutdown. As hard as it is, remain openhearted and forgiving. Be compassionate and open to reconciliation when it's appropriate. Be okay with it if it's not. Apologize if you need to make a repair and try to live peacefully with everyone. Just maintain your own dignity and self-respect in the process. This is a hard truth that I'm learning to accept- that you must love yourself enough to let people go if they are determined to walk away.



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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Seasonal friends

During my senior year of high school, I remember listening to the radio on the way to school. Sarah McLachlan’s “I will remember you” had just been dedicated to the graduates and when it ended the DJ came back on the air. He suddenly broke the sentimental tone by blurting out, “You’re never going to see any of these people again.” His co-hosts busted out laughing. I remember that bothering me a little. It was like these 30 something radio personalities knew a truth I wasn’t ready to accept. Maybe all the generic messages to “Stay sweet,” “KIT” (keep in touch) and be “BFF” (best friends forever) that we wrote in each other’s yearbooks were na├»ve promises at best. Could it be that not everyone was meant to be in my life forever?

Not long after that I was introduced to the concept of seasonal friendships. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the term, basically it means a friend who comes into your life at a certain time. You could mean a great deal to each other. Maybe you are mere acquaintances. Regardless, you learn from them, impart to them, or both. Once that period of time has expired, you generally part ways. It’s usually not done with malice. There’s just a natural close to the relationship and it’s generally understood.
 

I used to loathe this concept. I didn’t like the idea of throwing people away once they’ve served their usefulness. I realize now that’s not what it’s about at all. In a lot of ways, seasonal friends are just practical. Our lives are so busy and transient. There is no way to have the time or emotional energy to remain connected to everyone you ever knew. All you would be doing is relationship maintenance with little time for anything else. As well intentioned as you might be to “KIT” with everyone, it’s just not feasible. You have to make some choices. 
 
I’ve also learned seasonal friends also come into your life just when you need them. I remember two friends in particular that I worked with a few years ago. Just after my relationship ended and I felt abandoned, these friends stepped in and were great sources of support during a lonely, painful time. They were good friends and confidants during that holiday season away from my family. We have little contact now that we’re at different jobs in different states. But you know what? I still think about them with fondness. I’m sure if our paths crossed again we would pick up where we left off. But the more I mature, the more I’m able to embrace that even if we don’t, that’s okay too. Those friendships had a purpose and that purpose was fulfilled.

Hear me out. Seasonal friends aren’t second rate friends. They are treasures. They are just as valuable and meaningful as lifelong friends. It’s just that their wonderful presence in your life has an expiration date. So, by all means, continue to love them. Check in on them from time to time if you choose. Just recognize their role in your life story. Whether it’s a sentence, a page, or a chapter, accept their contribution with gratitude and be willing to turn the page when it’s time.
 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Make new friends and keep the old

Have you ever felt totally at home with someone? They get your jokes and think you’re funny. They’re also comfortable enough with you to say if you’re not. There’s no stress over trying to impress them. They know the family you grew up in and you know theirs. There’s a sense of familiarity because you have history together. These are the benefits of having old friends in your life.

Because of these reasons, many people choose to just keep the company of people they’ve always known. Maybe they aren’t very trusting or open to new connections and it’s easier to stick with the friends they’ve known awhile. It certainly cuts down on the getting-to-know-you process of learning a new friend’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. It also minimizes risk when you can just stick with who you think has proven their loyalty, rather than test it out with someone new. There is a downside to a “no new friends” attitude. It can limit your ability to grow.
 
Think about it this way. New people breathe a breath of fresh air in your life. They come with new energy, new experiences, and a clean slate view of who you are. They can awaken parts of you that you didn’t know were there. Whereas old friends may tend to see you as you used to be, new friends see you for who you are today and perhaps, who you’re becoming.

In my view, it’s not really an either/or sort of thing. It’s like that old song, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.” Value the friendships that have stood the test of time- the friends that have shown up in your life and keep showing up. Also, make room in your heart for new friends because you never know if perhaps, they’ll have staying power too. Next up, I’ll discuss seasonal friends.

 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Departing friends

What if love meant never having to say goodbye? Wouldn’t that be great? I wish there were true, but it's totally not. Love and life guarantee that you’ll have to say goodbye and do so repeatedly. It’s been well established that I hate change and loss of any kind. Yet, here I am, reflecting on my friendships once again as a dear friend prepares to relocate to Florida with her family.



In many ways, she’s been one of the most consistent friendships I’ve had since moving back to Virginia. Even though she’s been busy with marriage, motherhood, and ministry, she has remained in touch and intentionally been a regular part of my life. She was there right after an awful break up. I was there for her wedding. She was there for my first race. I was there just after she gave birth to her daughter. She was there to let me vent about work. I was there to encourage her through her PhD program. She was there for countless emotionally purges as she held the bucket and I did the same for her. It’s a rare gift to find someone you can be transparent with and not fear judgment. I found that quality in her and I’ll miss it greatly.

When I reflect on the last couple of months and how I’ve been intermittently sad, I know her departure is a big part of it. Obviously, we’ll remain good friends. People like that don’t come along every day, so I plan to maintain the connection. It will be different though and will require me to do the hardest thing for me- let go and trust.  Trust in what exactly? Trust that all who are meant to be in my life will be.

So, once again, it’s time for a series. This time it’s on…you guessed it. Friendships. I’ve written on friendships many times before. This time I will explore a bit more on the types of friendships we have, the purpose they serve, and how to appreciate the unique role they play. Next up, I’ll talk about old and new friends. I hope as I process who is in my life and why, that you'll be able to do the same.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

You’re busy. I’m busy. Pick up the phone.

Oh my gosh, I’ve been swamped. It’s been really hectic. I’m crazy busy. Things have been nuts. I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off. These are all excuses we offer people when we’ve been uncommunicative and I am 100% guilty. It’s almost become the norm to use busyness as an excuse to be completely self-absorbed and preoccupied. Again, I’m guilty. As completely overwhelmed as I felt today, I made it a point to push through and reach out to the people I care about.

Thirty minutes. Thirteen minutes. Fifty one minutes. Twenty two seconds. I looked back at my phone log today and those were the lengths of my conversations. These aren't people I talk to everyday necessarily. But when I do, it’s rich and meaningful. One friend I leaned on for support. One I congratulated on his new job. One I finally caught up with to chat about her transition to a new location. And the twenty two second conversation…that was with my mom. I missed her earlier call and called her on my drive home from work. She didn’t really have anything to say other than she was checking in. We said, “I love you,” and hung up. On average, we usually only talk about five to ten minutes every couple of days. But again, it’s significant to me and I’m grateful for the time.

Then there are the friends I connect with primarily through text. With several good friends, I just have an ongoing text thread and we check in on a daily or every few days basis. I can ask quick questions and we exchange information. I can ask deep philosophical questions about love and life, or just vent about the day. I can send funny messages or videos or words of encouragement. I can give and receive prayer requests and I know instantly that we have each other’s back. It’s a connection that might seem limited through that sort of medium, but it’s deep and it’s real.

My point is this. It doesn’t take much to reach out. Text messages take only a matter of seconds. Phone calls might only be a few minutes. Slowing down enough to look a co-worker in the eye and genuinely ask about their day only takes a few moments as well. But these are the small gestures that remind people they matter. It also helps you feel more connected and in tune with what really matters. Sure, stress is valid. There are busier periods of time than others. Some seasons require you to go off grid for a little while. Just re-emerge as quickly as you can, reach out to the world around you, and foster the connections you say you value. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. Pick up the phone.”

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Birthday Lessons from the Trees

For my birthday this year I wanted to do something a little different than the standard dinner with friends. I suggested several of us go to an outdoor adventure park with ropes courses and ziplining. I’m thankful to have so many friends that are game for an adventure. Even apart from the satisfaction of trying something new, we all walked away with important lessons. Here are a few of mine.

1.       It’s not all fun
While the overall park experience was fun, I can’t say that every moment was fun. There was one particular course where we had to skateboard on a zipline through the trees. You were harnessed in, of course, but that offered no real comfort when all you had to grab onto was the rope overhead. I didn’t love it. I wanted it to be over. That’s kind of how life is sometimes. Some experiences just have to be endured until you get to the next moment.

2.       It’s easier if you enjoy the ride
I’ve shared before how hard it is for me to let go in life. This is true in relationships and in seasons of time. Interestingly enough, what I noticed in the trees was that every obstacle that required holding on was much more difficult for me. I was desperately clinging and afraid to fall. I was much more anxious and it was a struggle to balance. It was just harder all around. But each time I could just zipline or let go and ride, it was the most fun I had. There’s surprising joy in just letting go and enjoying the ride.

3.       There’s always a trust fall
It seems that in every camp or wilderness experience, leadership or corporate retreat, there’s always a trust fall of some form or another. This park was no different. In fact, it was the grand finale of most of the courses. All you have to do is step off a platform of variable heights and land safely on the ground. “All you have to do,” right? It’s much easier said than done. Oh yeah, and there’s no safety exit. Stepping off is the only way down. So it is with life. When all your back up plans and emergency exits and maneuvers to self-protect are eliminated, all you can do is step forward and trust.

It’s fascinating how engaging the body in action can tap into things that wouldn’t otherwise be accessed through words. It’s one thing to talk abstractly about letting go and quite another to feel the sensation of it in my body. It makes it concrete and real. It shifts it from merely mental ascent to a genuine faith- faith that there’s purpose in the process and joy in the journey.
 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Musical Chairs

Not long ago I was chatting with a friend. She’s one of the few friends I can routinely lament to about the frustrations of single life. Even though she’s happily married with a one year old, she well remembers the struggle of walking through singleness in your 30s. She even described her single years in this way: “It was like marriage was a game of musical chairs and everyone else sat down in their 20s.” That beautifully captures the feeling, at least at times. It’s that awkward sense of embarrassment when you think everyone is looking at you and you feel left out.

I use singleness as an example often because it’s my experience. But really, that left out feeling applies to any number of life scenarios. The conversation caused me to consider how many arbitrary markers we have in life. It seems like a given that you go to college and maybe even graduate school. You get a full time job. You move out on your own. You own a car and eventually buy a home. You get married and have a few kids. But what happens if these things don’t fall in place so easily? What happens if you don’t make sufficient progress by societal deadlines? What if you enter the workforce first and finish school at 35 instead of 22? What if you marry for the first time at 40 instead of 25? Or what if something that’s considered a measure of successful adulthood just isn’t part of your life path at all? Then what?

Unfortunately, I think most of us internalize shame. We’re loaded down with expectations that are placed on us (or we place on ourselves) and we feel bad for not meeting them. If all my friends are done with school and I’m still working my way through…If I should be out on my own by now, but I’m still living at home…If I should be married by a certain age and I don’t even have prospects…If I should want kids but I’m not sure I do…If I want kids but struggle to conceive…If I should’ve lost my baby weight by now and I haven’t…If I should own a home by now, but I’m still renting...The unspoken answer to all these should questions is what’s wrong with me? I don’t think that’s really fair and I wonder if we can change the conversation.

The reality is that maybe there are certain paths that are typical for most…certain markers that the majority of us will meet. But if, by chance, someone goes in a different direction (assuming it’s not harmful), why not just honor it? Why not celebrate diversity rather than shame divergence? Why not show equal love to those that go a different way as well as those who follow the usual mold? Let’s stop placing value judgments on people’s lives. It’s not always about good or bad, right or wrong. Sometimes it’s just a matter of difference.

As much as I enjoy the game musical chairs, in a perfect world, no one would ever be excluded. There would always be a seat for everyone. But since that’s not life, my musical chairs revision would be that the seated ones offer applause to the one without and the one left standing would break out into their own unique dance while exiting stage left.

 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Bravely you

When I was younger I would pretend I was other people. I’d come home from school, go down into my den, and carryout entire play sessions re-enacting what I saw the cool kids doing throughout the school day. I desperately wanted to be someone else. As a shy kid with a gap in her teeth and hairy legs, you can understand why. If I’m completely honest, I still carry this tendency to pretend sometimes even today. It’s no longer a play session, obviously. Now it’s more like imagining what my confident ideal would look like. Would an external change help? Perhaps my style is too simple. Maybe I should take more time with my appearance. Honestly, not much changes from 13 to 30 with regards to wanting to be one of cool kids.

But here’s the thing: Each passing year allows me to learn something new and exciting about me. While I can acknowledge that tendency to want to change at times, I’m learning to accept myself just as I am. So, inspired by Mandy Hale’s list of “Things I’m No Longer Apologizing For,” here’s my short list.

1)      I don’t like shopping. When I absolutely have to shop, I know exactly what I want and get in and out within an hour. Anything else feels like a waste of time.

2)      I don’t like putting on make-up. I’m not opposed to wearing it. But if the application takes more than 10-15 minutes, forget it. At times even that’s too much.

3)      I don’t like high heels. My feet just aren’t designed for them. They hurt and fashion is not worth pain to me. Plus, hobbling around or tripping and falling would counter the sexy vibe I’d be going for anyway.

4)      I don’t get regular manicures. They’re lovely for sure. Unfortunately, I’m the girl who messes it up before even leaving the salon. I’m too active to worry about messing up my nails.

I realize my examples might seem superficial. But, I think we discover who we are by ruling out who we aren’t. By making this short list, I’ve confirmed I’m a low maintenance minimalist who sometimes has dry cuticles. Not only that, but I love to run and dance, neither of which are supported by rocking heels all the time. I’m casual. I’m earthy. I like to be outside. I prefer comfort and utility over fashion. I wear a natural look because I equate it to authenticity. I want to see and be seen and that comes from removing real and symbolic masks.

As I read back over my list of characteristics, I really like them. I would totally want to be friends with me. Why, then, is it so hard to be oneself? Why do we put ourselves through the frustration of comparing? My belief is that comparing and pretending come when you don’t know who you are. I think as you devote yourself to learning your unique identity, then you’ll get excited about all the little things that make you special. Then, and only then, can you go forth and be bravely you.
 
 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Awkward: Making Friends

There are some people in the world that never knew a stranger. Perhaps they are the same ones that rarely get embarrassed by anything. Then there are those of us, as stated in the beginning of the series that embarrass quite easily, especially socially. Perhaps we tend towards shyness and introversion. Maybe we are slower to warm. We love people and definitely long to connect. It’s just hard to figure out how to go from liking to friending, not just online, but in real life.

A friend once related her business and networking background to relationship formation. She said that in any given group of people you will only connect with about 10% of them and then will take the steps to follow up with even less. I definitely find that to be true. Everyone might be nice and all, but I generally only click with one or two. Those are tough odds when it comes to finding your new soul mate, bosom buddy, bestie. No wonder people often opt to just stick with friends they’ve known a while. The thing is that as life changes our relationships change. The genuine friendships endure, but there might be times when those friends aren’t as available. You have to be willing to branch out and allow new people to come in your life. How do you do that practically without seeming like a weirdo?

In recent years, I have gotten much more direct about saying to people, “Hey! I like you. I think you’re cool. Do you want to hang out some time?” I’m pretty sure I even asked someone, “Do you want to be friends?” Most people find that degree of honesty endearing. It’s kind of a refreshing throwback to sharing your toys or asking that kid on the playground if he/she wants to play. It’s freeing for the initiator too. It certainly beats the stress and anxiety of trying to decode intentions, interpret signals, and figure out if someone likes you.

It really comes down to this and I believe this truth will set you free. If you can grab hold of the fact that we all want to connect…whether people acknowledge it or not…whether they state it up front or not…then, you’ll realize what embarrassment is all about. In a way, it serves as an evolutionary mechanism. When we are connected in a loving, safe community, then we better our chances of survival. If we feel that connection is threatened due to stepping out of line, breaking a rule of social etiquette, or just making a fool of ourselves in general, it’s no wonder we get so scared. Our very livelihood depends on staying with the pack. But again, you have to remember that we all misstep at times. We trip for no reason, flub our words, tell bad jokes, say stupid things, offend, act weird, stiff, or creepy…in a word, we’re human. Being human means it gets awkward from time to time and that’s okay. When the stars align and you’re fortunate enough to find your people, they will accept you totally, awkward moments and all.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Awkward: Looking, Liking, and Lurking

The reality of our world today is that we live our lives online. Even the most conservative social media users still have an internet trail of some form or another. It’s almost an expectation that once you have someone’s first and last name you Google them to learn more. If it seems you’re likely to be connected in any way, then you usually connect on social media. The thing about social media is that it satisfies exhibitionist and voyeuristic needs. People like to share and over share. People also like to passively observe and people watch. Admittedly, if we’re honest we’ve been in both camps. So what do you do if you realize that you’re the creeper?

If you’re anything like me, then on a bored weekend night with nothing to do you surf. You frequent the same pages of people you follow. Perhaps it’s your hair crush and you follow for styling ideas. Maybe it’s that hot, fit friend who posts crazy workouts of the day. Maybe one day you'll be able to deadlift that much and do walking handstands. Maybe you follow someone you have feelings for and even though you notice and want to like everything they post within minutes of them posting it, you hold back to not seem...well...to not seem like you stalk their page 24/7. Meanwhile, you read each and every comment from their friends, visit their pages, and inadvertently gather personal information about their best friend’s partner’s cousin.

After an hour or so of mindlessly wandering from page to page, it dawns on you, can anyone see me? Is this one of those intrusive sites that obnoxiously informs the person who’s viewed their page, screenshot their posts, or how frequently they visit? If so, I need the earth to just open wide for me right now and swallow me whole because I’d be mortified. Can’t anyone lurk in blissful anonymity anymore?



If you’ve been there (and I think many of us have), then how do you handle it? I think it’s just important to remember that social media is made for engagement and ideally serves as an icebreaker for real life interaction. Therefore, don’t be afraid to interact with people. Don’t hesitate to like and comment on posts. Tell people how attractive their selfies are or how impressive their work out of the day is, or how you really appreciated the honesty of their caption. Jokingly but candidly share how much you admire them and have a big crush on them. If it’s delivered the right way, most people will be flattered. Authenticity has a powerful way of diffusing social awkwardness. Bottom line, don’t hide in the shadows and lurk. That’s weird and only fuels feelings of shame and isolation. Engage and relate. After all, isn’t that why you connected in the first place? Next, we will conclude the series with Awkward: Making Friends. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Awkward: Friend Requests

I avoided Facebook for the first ten years or so of its existence. I was wary of the idea of being connected to everyone I had ever known. I still am. Nevertheless, it’s been about a 1 ½ years since I’ve joined and I’m still navigating the awkward world of Facebook. There’s a lot of good to it. It’s great for networking and collaborating. But the other side is people who aren’t really close to you have a portal to your personal life. That seems to be especially true if you are visible or have any sort of professional or ministry platform. Then, even more people want to be connected to you. Therefore, here are some tips I was given that might help you to navigate the awkward world of friend requests.


Ignore
As uncomfortable as it might be, you are always free to ignore or not accept a request. My personal rule is that if I don’t immediately know who you are or if I have to click on your image and see who we have in common, chances are I don’t really know you. So, as much as I don’t want people to feel rejected, I also don’t want a bunch of people creeping on my page that aren’t really a part of my life.
Designate
Let’s say you are somewhat acquainted. What if you have 40 mutual friends and chances are you’ll bump into this person? Then, if it would create more awkwardness to ignore their friend request, it might be best to go ahead and accept them. But what you can do is create different lists. Create an acquaintance list, family list, business contacts list, friends list, close friends list, etc. If you take the time to put people in categories on social media just as you would in real life, then you can eliminate the uncomfortable feeling of your distant church member seeing vacation pictures, or your friend’s mom seeing your silly post about that bad date.
Delete
Another option is to periodically clear out your contacts. Do you ever go through your phone and delete contacts that you never use? Do the same with Facebook. If it’s been six months and you haven’t interacted with this person at all…if they don’t like your posts and you don’t comment on theirs…if there’s been no interaction since the initial acceptance…if you’ve never had an actual conversation with this person or if their posts upset you… if you believe perhaps you’ve been blocked or deleted or if they inactivate their account, then go ahead and delete them. It’s not necessarily personal. It’s not about being mad at them or not liking them. It’s just about managing the connections that come into your life in a healthy way. If you don’t have a goal of collecting thousands of “friends,” then be strategic about who you allow to attach you. Don’t you do that in real life?

Admittedly, all of this is easier said than done. It can be very uncomfortable to interact online. If you delete someone on one site, but they follow you on another, that can get weird. If you send a request and someone ignores it that can be awkward. If you didn’t anticipate seeing someone in person and then you do, then that might be uncomfortable once again. But hey, it is what it is. Being protective of your social and emotional life doesn’t make you mean. It makes you wise. However, there’s always another side to things. So next up, we’ll talk about when you’re the creeper in Awkward: Looking, Liking, and Lurking.
 
 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Awkward: Texting

It's been said, "Texting is the best way to miscommunicate how you feel, and misinterpret what other people mean." Be that as it may, texting for many is the primary and preferred method of communication. People text everyone from best friends to relatives to casual acquaintances. It's become the norm and with it has come potential awkwardness.

It's happened to all of us. You send a text and get no reply. It isn't urgent, of course, but you say something witty or even propose to hang out and it's nothing but crickets. You give it several hours. People are busy. Maybe it’s a network issue. Perhaps they have problems with their phone. It's certainly possible for people start to reply but then forget to press send. Right? But then 24 hours later, still no response. Did they not get your joke? Did you offend them? Should there have been an exclamation point instead of that period? Maybe you should’ve added an “LOL” or winking emoji to let them know you’re kidding. You get increasingly annoyed or anxious depending on what you wrote. Now, you have to decide your next move.

Generally, double texting or sending a text before someone responds to you is a social faux pas in this generation. It makes you seem desperate. You wonder if it’s okay to make an exception just in case they really didn’t get your text. You could be hurt for no reason. Isn’t it better to confirm that they’re a flake before writing them off completely? You also don’t want to seem over eager by doing too much. What is one to do?

It’s useful to realize that texting offers a glimpse into your feelings about the relationship. I know that when I text my family or my closest friends and they don’t respond, I typically don’t worry too much. I don’t over think the silence. I don’t assume the worst. I figure they’ll get back to me when they can. I might jokingly give them a hard time when we do connect, but it’s usually in good fun and I definitely don’t obsess about their non-response. But if I’m already a little anxious and insecure in the relationship, if it’s a newer friend or someone I want to impress, I’m much more in my head about the social interaction. I’m definitely more apt to read into what they say and what they don’t. But that’s not really fair. Doesn’t everyone deserve the benefit of a doubt? Can’t they be excused for being busy or absent minded or even a little self-focused sometimes? I say yes because we all are at times. So, just relax and breathe easy. Everything you need to know about that person will unfold in time and offline. Up next…Awkward: Friend Requests.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Awkward

Periodically I’ll get midday calls or texts from my friend who lives in L.A. In her typical storytelling fashion, she’ll set up an entire scenario where she’s crossing a busy intersection full of people and she’ll suddenly trip for no reason. She’ll add a sound effect to her stumble and highlight how everyone saw because it was at a stoplight. I always ask her, “So, your face didn’t get hot and you didn’t feel totally embarrassed?” She’ll just respond, “No, not at all. It’s just kind of like. Oops. Dang, I tripped,” and she keeps on moving. She feels virtually no embarrassment at all about this. She just shares it with me because it makes for a laugh-out-loud story. This is a far cry from me who feels my face flush when I trip alone in my apartment. It made me think about the idea of awkward and embarrassing moments in our social lives how to navigate them.



While I think there are many people out there in the world just like my friend who can laugh at themselves and not take things to heart, there are just as many of us who die a little on the inside anytime there’s the hint of humiliation. Perhaps we tend toward social anxiety. Maybe we just want to be liked more than the average person. Whatever the reasons, I find myself awkwardly stumbling through at times as I attempt to make new friends and deepen connections with acquaintances. Therefore, I thought it was time for a series on the embarrassing highs and lows of social interaction. My hope is that by the end maybe we can all learn to go easy on ourselves. If not, maybe at the very least, we can normalize how weird it is for most of us and learn some strategies for dealing when things get awkward. Stay tuned for the next installment of Awkward: Texting.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I didn't want to share

It dawned on me that I haven’t posted in two weeks. I drafted a couple of different ideas, but I just wasn’t feeling them. They either weren’t fully developed or I just didn’t think they were worthy of posting. They were safe topics. I have no problem discussing the life lessons from my random Monday road trip. I can weave all kinds of connections between counseling, fitness, and this walk called life. But please God, nothing that requires actual disclosure or vulnerability.

I started thinking about my blog silence and what was really going into it. Sure, at times, life gets busy or you simply hit creative blocks. But that wasn’t what was happening. The last two weeks have been emotionally challenging, so I hid. I didn’t want to share that as soon as I posted on the courage to go solo I fell into hopelessness, wondering if I would always be alone. I didn’t want to share that each time that question emerges I’m taken right back to the pain of my relationship loss. I didn’t want to share that even though it’s been over three years and I “should” be over it, it still makes me cry…weep…especially when love hasn’t come back into my life yet. I didn’t want to share the irony of married clients seeking my help because I’ve never been married and at times wonder if I ever will be. I didn’t want to share that when single clients come I can reflect their pain perfectly because it’s something I carry on a daily basis. I didn’t want to share all the many times I was tempted to make foolish decisions despite knowing better, all because I wasn’t sure doing things “the right way” was getting me anywhere.
No, all of that is far too personal. I didn’t want to share any of that. Instead, I kept silent. The proverbial pen stopped moving and I went inside myself waiting for cheerier inspiration to hit me. But then I thought what if all the writers that I’ve come to love did that. What if Elizabeth Gilbert and Mandy Hale and Brene’ Brown stopped writing and sharing when their lives got complicated or their heart was hurting? Where would I be if they hadn’t taken the bold steps to be transparent? If they hadn’t shared their process, I wouldn’t be able to normalize mine. So, that’s what I hope to give you in some small way. As I share parts of my story, I hope you can see yours and be encouraged that however it unfolds, you’re not alone.