It Is What It Is

Did you know there’s a difference between emotions and feelings?

I was reading about it recently. I was also reading about the difference between pain and suffering. The distinction between emotions and feelings is from a secular book on leadership, and the difference between pain and suffering is from a Christian book on spiritual practices.

Interestingly, the two authors are saying similar things. In the first of each of these pairings—the emotions and the pain—these are a bodily experience, typically a reaction to some force acting upon us. They’re not in our control. But what we do with them—that’s in our control.

So when it comes to feeling and suffering—it’s up to us.

When we feel the emotion of sadness, we can own it, deal with it, and release it; or we can ruminate on it, spiraling downward in a vicious cycle.

When we feel pain—whether it’s physical or emotional, we can acknowledge it, learn what it wants to teach us, and move on. Or we can resist it, fight it, wallow and linger in it, turning it into suffering.

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“It is what it is.”

I’ve despised this throw-away expression for years now. It’s so cliche. It’s just this meaningless thing that people say. Or so I thought…

I’ve also been reading a book on parenting, because: four kids. The author says that when you feel yourself getting angry, anxious, or otherwise upset, one strategy you can use is to repeat this mantra to yourself: “this moment is as it should be.” This is a hard one for me, because in lots of moments, I don’t believe things are as they should be.

But I get it. She’s saying that as long as we’re resisting how things are, our negative emotions will continue to rage. And we’ll be in no position to help make things better.

This is how it is. It is what it is.

That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. But if we want to move forward, we need to stop resisting reality. Once we accept reality for what it is, then we can start changing things.

And that’s when things get really interesting…

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So yes, it is what it is. But what will it be? You get to influence that. You get to decide how you will respond to everything the universe sends your way. Will you choose to wallow, ruminate, and suffer? Or will you accept, deal, and move on?

A Letter To Fear

Lately I’ve been dreaming. I’ve been creating and wondering and listening and planning. And I’ve been rumbling with fear.

I’ve been learning from the great Elizabeth Gilbert about personifying, respecting, and appreciating our fear (in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear).

Fear has a purpose: to keep us safe. And without it, we would have been extinct a long time ago. But sometimes—most times—we don’t need to let fear sit in the driver’s seat. Unless we are literally running for our lives, fear doesn’t need to call the shots.

And yet–so often, it does.

So I’ve been listening to fear, hearing its specific concerns so that I can test them and determine how to respond.

Here are some truths I’ve been speaking to my fear that perhaps your fear needs to hear too.


I hear that you’re afraid I will be insignificant.

>>I have a contribution of infinite value that only I can make in the world. No one else will, so it’s my responsibility, gift, and joy to bring it.

I hear that you’re afraid I will be unworthy.

>>I am just as worthy of love and belonging as every other person ever created.

I hear that you’re afraid I will not be good enough.

>>When I give my best, it will always be good enough. Full stop.

I hear that you’re afraid of financial instability.

>>I have never been in want, and I’m not starting today.

I hear that you’re afraid I might find myself without a job.

>>With or without a “job,” I have infinite value and a calling to bring my gifts to the world.


May we honor and respect our fear, but never let it drive the car. As Elizabeth says, we don’t even let it touch the stereo.

May we choose action over stagnancy, and courage over fear.

If you were to have a conversation with your fear, what would it say to you? How would you respond? Spoiler alert: we respond to fear on the daily. Like, a lot. Let’s do it more consciously.

I’d love to hear what your conversation sounds like! Lmk in the comments.

If this was helpful to you, I’d love it if you’d share it! A quick click below on a social channel and 15 seconds of your time will mean the world to me as together we learn to take small steps of courage.

Your Happiness: It’s On You

“You’re responsible for your own happiness.” This mantra, though not new to me, hit me anew when Adriene said it recently during the Dedicate: 30-Days of Yoga series. It struck me that although I knew better, I had been trying to push the responsibility for my happiness somewhere else.

But the thing is, we’re all responsible for our own happiness. No one else is.

Not a job. Not a person. Not a house. Not a location. Not a food or drink or possession. Nothing else can carry that weight because ultimately, it’s up to us to choose happiness.

Dave said something about “choosing to be happy” a couple of years ago when I was struggling through a season of depression, and it stung. On top of how low I felt, I now had to swallow that it was my fault?

NO.

That’s not what he meant, and after a brief exercise in missing the point, I finally got it. It’s not about fault or blame. It’s about accepting responsibility for how and who you will be in the world.

We can’t always choose our circumstances or the things that happen to us, but we can always choose how we will respond.

We say that to our kids all the time, but I had been failing to take my own advice. Sigh.

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Side Note: Depression is real and some people benefit from therapy and medication. My intent is neither to diagnose nor dismiss. With or without therapy or medication, we can all benefit from taking responsibility for our own happiness in a healthy way. We can practice gratitude on the regular, recognize all that is within our control, and let go of what’s not.

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Find joy and happiness by cultivating gratitude for where you are, when you are, who you are, and how you are. This doesn’t mean you don’t have hopes and dreams that extend beyond your current time and space—of course you do! Just don’t put your happiness (or contentment, sense of accomplishment, success, etc.) out there in the future and wait for it to arrive. Don’t fall into the deadly trap that begins with “I’ll be happy when…”

I once heard of a person who did this. She was unhappy. Depressed, before that label was so pervasive. She said to herself and her fiancee, “I’m tired of living at home. I’ll be happy when we’re married and living together…” Then once they were married, “I can’t wait for the day when we grow our family. I’ll be happy when we have children.” And then with children, “I’m sick of this little apartment. I’ll be happy when we have a house, a home to call our own.”

It starts out with innocent dreams but turns toxic when happiness gets tangled up in dreams and can’t find its way back to the present. When all we can think about is how happy we’ll be in the future, we’re robbed of the happiness of the present moment.

And all of a sudden, we can’t be happy now. We’re so focused on an imagined happy future that we’re dissatisfied with our present.

Don’t put your happiness in another time or space—you’ll never get there.

Practice gratitude. Daily. For all manner of things, big and small.

Dream big dreams and pursue them with tenacity.

Choose happiness now (and trust that you’ll choose it in the future too).

And if, like me, you seem magnetically drawn to the “I’ll be happy when” trap, catch yourself early and double-down on the gratitude practice. Be present. Don’t make yourself wait to be happy. Choose it today.

The Hustle is Real. And Self-Imposed. Partially.

As a mother of four kids, there is a phrase that I hear regularly: “I don’t know how you do it!” I hear it all over the place, from the grocery store to the office to the school pick-up line to the airport.

I hear it from friends, co-workers, and strangers. From those who have fewer children than I do, they usually follow that up with “I mean it’s hard enough with my [one or two], I cannot imagine how you do it with four kids!”

My response to this varies by the day. Some days, I feel like I’m nailing this working-mom-of-four thing. My house is clean and tidy, I’m staying on top of my work, and everyone is still alive and well-fed.

Other days, not so much.

It’s hard to be pulled in so many directions—to have so many competing voices, so many lovely people wanting my attention, ears, and time. Not to mention managing a household this size…Do you know how much food, time, and energy a family of six requires? Do you know how much laundry, clutter, and dirty dishes are generated by six people? It’s a lot.

And while my family is great, everyone has a different threshold for dealing with all the things. Some aren’t bothered by the clutter or mess. Some don’t notice that laundry needs to be done until they’re out of socks. Some wouldn’t mind if the dishes went undone, or floors and bathrooms stayed dirty.

I’m sure I have the lowest threshold in terms of how much clutter and uncleanness I’m willing to live with, and the most stamina for working until it’s all clean and tidy again. But as you might imagine, that combination is a recipe for overwork and overwhelm. Because then I take on more and more (telling myself if I don’t do it, it won’t get done) and start singing my martyr song. Cue the resentment.

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I’ve known for a long time that I have super high expectations and hold myself to standards that might be less than realistic. But that’s just how I’m wired, I told myself. When work is piling up, deadlines are looming, and the floors are dirty–I just dig in and work harder and faster and longer until it’s all done.

Some people practice “letting go” but that’s never been my style. I’ve never been interested in easing up on my expectations to relieve some pressure because I like having a clean and tidy house, I like completing work projects on time, I like cooking dinner, I like doing the laundry. Even if I feel like I’m losing my mind sometimes to get it all done…

Yes it’s stressful to get there but the end justifies the means, right?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Recently a friend encouraged me to reflect on how I’m treating myself by having to have it all together all the time. He raised the question of how kind I’m being to myself. The real work, he said, will be to explore why I need to hit the mark so consistently. Is it out of a desire to be seen a certain way?

Ouch.

Too close. Too…possible.

I don’t want to believe it’s true.

And yet.

Is it possible that I’m not doing all the things for the right reasons? Is it possible that I take on too much because it makes me feel important or valuable or worthy?

Sigh. Inner work. Not as easy as housework 😉

Next time you see me or another friend who *you think* has it all together, ask them how they’re doing. Don’t let them get away with a quick, easy answer. Mention that it looks like they’ve got a lot on their plate, and ask how they’re really doing.

And if there’s an opening, maybe mention something you value about them that has nothing to do with what they produce, do, or accomplish. If they’re an overworked overachiever, it might just be the most helpful thing you can say to gently help them get their heart re-centered.

The hustle is real for many of us. But maybe it doesn’t have to be.

One Day They’ll Leave. And Have Sex

Last spring (when my oldest was in fifth grade) I learned that there is a pre-sixth grade vaccination schedule, and I thought—my kid is not going to be be happy about this. That concern was immediately replaced by another when I learned that among these vaccinations is the one for HPV.

Jaw. Drop.

Blink, blink.

“HPV, as in human papilloma virus?” I asked my friend.

Yep, age 11 is when they recommend it.

But,…but…HPV is an STD, right?

Yep.

But these are CHILDREN we’re talking about!


A quick google told me the CDC recommends it at this age so they’re protected well before they become sexually active.

Breathing: you may return to normal. Sort of.

Around the same time, this video made its way around social media exploring how sex education works in the Netherlands. There, kids are educated about sex, sexuality, bodies, and relationships beginning as early as four years old and continuing throughout their schooling.

They take a proactive approach, using kids’ own curiosity about their bodies to teach them how they work. They also encourage them to explore their values related to their own sexuality, and give them tools to speak up for themselves against peer pressure.

Just. Brilliant.


We started talking about sex with our oldest when she was 5 and super curious. She was… less than thrilled with our super candid, anatomically-correct responses. It was awkward for everyone, not gonna lie. But I’m glad we were open with her.


I am LIGHTYEARS away from being ready to think about any of my kids being sexually active.


While curiosity about bodies and sexuality and relationships is natural, experimentation is a choice. It’s just one among many options, actually.

In retrospect, I can see that it’s an option I chose for at least two reasons: affection and taboo. I didn’t grow up in an affectionate family, but I longed to give and receive physical affection. My friends and I would hold hands, link arms, and hug a dozen times a day, like many kids our age—totally normal and non-sexual.

The hush-hush, fast-forward-through-that-part-of-the-movie, taboo-nature of sex in my home culture sent my curiosity soaring. Once hormones figured more prominently, my need for physical affection joined forces with my curiosity around sexuality in risky ways. And the purity culture in which I was raised brought shame to the party, ushering in years of believing I was damaged goods.

Obviously, I don’t want this for my kids and I don’t think you do either. We want them to feel and believe and know their infinite worth. We want them to make choices that align with their values and who they were created to be.

I want my young kids to have all the physical affection they need from their family, so whatever they receive from friends or significant others is extra—not something they seek out to fill a void.

I want them to know there’s nothing they can do to make us or their creator ever stop loving them, or ever love them any less. Ever. The time we have with them as they’re growing up and making choices that affect who they’ll eventually become—it’s so short, relatively speaking. And it only takes a few moments to tell and show them how loved and valuable they are. As we do that day in and day out, we help to instill in them an ever-stronger sense of our love and their value—equipping them to make choices that align with who they are.


Because one day, they’re going to leave. Your kids and mine. They’ll go off to college, a shared apartment, a gap year backpacking in distant countries—whatever it is, one day they’re going to leave. We can’t afford to stay silent about their value and gamble on them figuring it out some other way. We can’t afford to withhold affection or kind words. We have to tell them and show them.

TODAY. And every day.

How do you talk with your kids about this? Leave a comment and share the wisdom and encouragement!