Category Archives: You are loved

The Difference Between

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In the history of all days, today is one of the most beautiful.  The sky is clear & blue, it’s literally 72 degrees, and there’s a slight breeze.

Perfect.

I have a friend who is sad today.  I mean, life changing, devastatingly sad.  He is “between seasons”, as our friend Pastor Rob Bell would say.  Or, more specifically, he is exhausted from white knuckle hanging on to something that’s already gone.

I’ve been there, haven’t you?

As I pulled out of Mom’s driveway this morning headed back toward my house, I thought about the beauty of this day.  And I thought about all the days just like this that I was so entwined in wanting things to be different that I could not see what already is.

I get caught there sometimes, in the gap between what I have and what I want.

I legitimately thought for years that I would feel content and happy if I could just have the right job, the right house, the right friends, the right relationship, the right family.

There was a picture in my head and heart of this beautiful home, filled with happy people, and peace.

I changed cars, I changed jobs, I changed houses, I changed furniture, I changed my yard, I changed my kitchen, I changed my weight, I changed my education level.  I changed everything.  Still, not happy.  Not content.

In fact, things just kept getting worse.

What I didn’t know.  What I couldn’t have known, is that contentment can only grow in the pot of ME.  It can’t grow in a house, or a car, or a marriage, or a child, or a job, or an MBA.  It just can’t.

There are some completely confusing statements about contentment out there, too.  #1 on my list is:

“Learn to be content with what you have”

This statement, dear reader, is complete bullshit.

The idea is good – contentment doesn’t come from exterior things.  But the advice is no good.  What if the things in our life are awful?  Or (even more confusing) mediocre and barely, occasionally, meeting our basic needs? And, most certainly they are because if we haven’t yet done the work to heal what hurts, we have hired people and situations to hurt us in a way we know best.

Someone important left us?  We hire people and situations guaranteed to abandon us.

Someone important hit us?  We hire people and situations guaranteed to devalue us.

Someone important verbally/emotionally abused us? We hire people and situations guaranteed to continue the tradition.

The “why” of this is another post (note to self).

Anyway, we do these things.  And we are just not going to beat ourselves up about it.  What we ARE going to do is try to understand how to feel better.

One of the first things we must do for ourselves – our very first gift – is to begin to name our feelings.

I started this process 20 years ago and it was surprising to me that I really could not tell what it was I was feeling.  I just knew I felt bad.  My heart hurt.  My head hurt.  My body ached.  I felt tired all the time.

“Our emotions are our body telling us the truth” – Pastor Rob Bell, Seasons

I began to try to say how I felt out loud and found I had no words.  Like, literally no words.  I had never before said “I don’t like that”.  It was surprising to me to learn I didn’t know what I did and didn’t like!  How do I like my eggs?  What do I like on my pizza?  What is going ON with me?! I had no idea.  I just felt numb and icky.

So, whenever I felt icky, I would stand in front of the mirror and practice saying my feelings.  I was trying to name them.  It was like being color blind all my life and slowly gaining sight.  I would pause and get still, sometimes close my eyes, put my hand on my belly, and this is what would come:

I feel angry.

hmmm… my heart aches.  I must feel hurt.

Why do I feel hurt?  Because I feel disappointed.

Why do I feel disappointed?  Because things didn’t turn out the way I hoped they would.

OK! Listen, the first time I landed on “disappointed” it was like I could jump over the Empire State Building.  I had no idea that those finer emotions even existed in me!  I had rarely (if ever) acknowledged them or felt safe to express them.

Fast forward 20 years, and this helped me work on boundaries after my divorce. (Read:  Never, Ever Get Hurt Again. Ever.)

Study after study has confirmed that when we can NAME something, it loses it’s power over us.  We stop running.  We learn to sit with uncertainty and keep breathing in & out.  We get up and take a few steps, or maybe we just get up and stand.

Whatever it is, wherever we are, it’s just ok.

We learn to give ourselves grace and hold space for whatever it is we may be feeling. Sometimes it won’t be pretty.  It will often be something that brings a feeling of deep shame.  It’s ok.  Many, many, travelers have stood where you stand.  Keep going.

When you feel like the waters of your heart and mind are muddy, find a quiet space, put your hand on your belly, close your eyes, take some steadying breaths, and say “what am I feeling?”.

You’ll know when you hit truth.  You’ll feel it in your bones.

xo

Michele

Want the Truth? Clean Yo Fridge.

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Full fridges are a thing.  A glorious thing.  My mom always has a full fridge of food in various stages of fresh/cooked/leftovery goodness.  Need to feed the guy fixing your outside light? No problem.  Need to feed the pastor and his wife? Come on over.  Dinner for six in 90 minutes?  Delightful!

I subscribed to this level of fridge stocking until 2 years ago when I realized I just kept throwing away unopened food that I meant to cook. Or thought I might need.

A full fridge made me feel good.

This past weekend, I cleaned out my fridge and noticed we hadn’t eaten some leftovers AND the brand new package of fresh corn on the cob.  I started to Google “does corn go bad?” and then saw it had expired like 3 weeks ago.

Yeah…..

No.

It makes me feel like a good mommy to cook.  I put the groceries in my cart, I think of how delicious the recipe picture looked and how happy it’s going to make me to put that meal on the table for my babies.

Then, life happens.  Fostering happens.  Work happens.  School happens.  My exhaustion happens. And, the food grows hair.

As I was chunking stuff in the trash can this weekend, I literally had the thought “BUT IF I CLEAN THE FRIDGE WE WILL HAVE NO FOOD!”

And it occurred to me:

A full fridge of hairy food

is not a fridge full of good food. 

It’s a fridge full of rotten food.

As I stood there enjoying the cool air and wiping out the shelves, I thought about that illusion and how it plays out in life like that, too.

IF I CLEAN OUT MY RELATIONSHIPS, I WILL HAVE NO RELATIONSHIPS.

I WILL DIE ALONE BEING LICKED BY MY 57 CATS.

The truth is that if we clean out our relationships, we will not be alone.

We can know that with our heads, but it doesn’t feel that way in our hearts.

It feels jittery.  Panicky.  Like the earth has lost it’s gravity.

What if we are already alone?

Maybe the relationships we keep because we want our life to seem full are past their expiration date.

Maybe we just keep pushing them to the back and changing the baking soda container hoping no one will notice the smell.

Maybe we are keeping them around because they make our life feel full.

It’s possible.

If they are making our life feel full, then why do we feel like a duck paddling for all it’s worth trying to force the feeling that all is well?

Maybe our lives ARE full.  It’s just….

Maybe they are full of things that are structured around the jumbled up history of choices that led us here.

Maybe they are NOT structured around the part of us that is the most true.

Maybe that’s a good indicator as to whether or not we are walking in the light of our authentic self – our best self.  If our life fridge is full, but we feel that gnawing empty feeling, maybe what we’re holding on to is gently asking us that it’s time to let it go.

And make room for the good stuff 🙂

Onward….

Me

 

 

 

 

We Already Know

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Dear sister, we see you struggling to keep your chin above water.

We see you posting happy things on Facebook.

We see the frantic look in your eyes.  The jerkiness of your movements.  The extra alertness needed to keep all the plates spinning.

To keep all the illusions intact.

Especially the illusion of “happy”.

We can see you’re not happy.

We can see he’s not happy.

The question for you, dearest sister, is:

Why is it important to pretend?

What would happen if you stopped?

How would your life change, really?

If there is love to lose, it has already been lost.

If there is change to be faced, it has already happened.

We love you.

We see you.

We see this.

There is grace here.

The only one

and really, truly, the only one

who has not accepted

what has already happened

is you.

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Why He Didn’t Choose You

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Why He Didn’t Choose You
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Sometimes the most beauty is found in the unexpected.

 

Let’s get one thing straight.  You are wonderful. 

I bet you’re the perfect cook.  I bet you’re super sweet, funny, smart, educated, keep a nice home, and would make a perfect wife and mother.   You probably work out, too, and eat healthy.

I look at women like you with your pretty hair and pretty make up and think “wow”.  Like, 100% of the time.  Wow.

I’m friends with wonderful women like you.  I hear you share your heart.

And I know sometimes you wonder why some guys choose lesser women over you.

Lesser women like me.

To you, I look like a flamin’ hot mess.  My house is messy.  My truck is messy.  I eat too much fried chicken.  I’m on a kick where I only wash my hair every 2-3 days because I think it’s healthy.  It also takes my morning “get ready” time from 15 min to 10…and that includes a shower.

I run my own business and sometimes my opinions are strong and expressed in anecdotes that literally peel people’s eyebrows off their forehead.

I will tell a contractor exactly what needs to be done, and not flinch if we need to discuss how to remedy it if the job isn’t done how we agreed.

I have zero tolerance for drama.  Issues?  Problems?  Fine.  Bring ’em over and we’ll have coffee at the kitchen table and figure it out or just stare out the window together and watch wild turkeys.  Drama?  No.  Not from women, not from men, not from anybody.

My children and I live a spontaneous, free life.  We go when we want, where we want, and the world is our oyster.   They are smart.  They are curious.  They are brave.  My son usually has a runny nose and 40,000 things he wants to say.  My daughter’s hair is usually sticking up around her face and she talks like every sentence is going to win her an Oscar.

I’m too much.  I’m too curious.  Too passionate.  Too educated.  Too nerdy.  Too thick.  Too messy.  Too disorganized.  I’m too much of many things, and I know it.

But you know what?  I love my life.  I mean really love my life.  I’m thankful for a high school teacher who encouraged me to go to college.  I’m thankful I found the gumption to earn my MBA alongside changing jobs, getting married, and having my sweet baby girl.

I’m thankful for a mom who drug us kids all over the country in broke down RV’s, vans, and whatever else she and my aunt could get their hands on to haul us. We spent two months a year traveling with a US atlas, dozens of thermoses full of black coffee, and us kids playing MAD LIB and “I spy” in the back seats.  We saw anything we could think of and some things that just popped up along the way.   I never realized people were scared to travel until I was 36 and started traveling again after my divorce.  It definitely seems to be an oddity for a woman to travel alone or just with her children.  To me, following our curiosity is the most familiar way to live.  It’s home.

Men don’t choose a woman because she’s perfect.  They choose a woman because somewhere, on a down deep undeniable gut level, they can feel that a woman has chosen herself.

A man instinctively knows that when a woman has chosen to keep her well full, she will always be herself.  She will always be joyful.  She will always be peaceful.  She will always be energetic.  She will always be beautiful.  She will always be passionate.  She will always be kind, and funny, and generous.  She will always be authentic.  She will always have the capacity to find love for him.  

He knows that even when she has a low day, or is dealing with trouble, she will always come back to herself.  She will always come back to her love for him.

Men choose a women like this because he knows this is who she is and none of who she is relies on him to be perfect. 

In the few minutes I sat down to write this I have stopped a dozen times to referee a sleepover, make pancakes & bacon, change over laundry, go outside and water plants & look at pretty rocks with my 7 yr old son, and take a shower.  And, no, I did not wash my hair.  It’s in a bun with my stringy bangs bobby pinned back.  And it’s fine.  And I am well loved.

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Change, Freedom, and Rice.

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Change, Freedom, and Rice.

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“Before you can live a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently.

You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours.

When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others.

From this point you will finally be free.”   Shannon L. Alder

My friend, Ben, is a change management expert.  His whole job is to help companies roll out change, and then help teammates adjust to it.

It’s not where the paper goes now, or what time the meetings happen now, or where our desk is now that’s the hard part.  It’s the emotional side to change that kicks us right in the seat of our pants, if we’re lucky.  If we’re not, it hits us square in the chest.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s this horrible, free floating, nothing-is-what-I-thought-it-was feeling.

Ben says that any change greater than 10% will rock the foundation of an organization.  I don’t know how the 10% is calculated, but I do believe there’s a threshold.

Our grocery store changed recently.  They’re in the same parking lot, just a few doors down from where they were.  It’s bigger.  It’s nicer.  They have fresh sushi and STARBUCKS.  The day they opened, I think people drove from an hour away to walk through the aisles and drink the coffee.  I waited a few days for the parking lot to clear out, and walked through the crisp sliding glass doors into grocery Meca.  There were people there I’ve never seen before in my life.  I didn’t recognize one single person.

If felt like everything changed.

I didn’t know where to find anything, they carry different stuff now, and some of the stuff I normally buy isn’t available any more.  I was so upset I got a headache.  Over a GROCERY STORE.

Who knew my 10% would be whether or not they carry Uncle Ben’s Original Rice?! When the cashier asked me if I found everything ok, I said I couldn’t find the Uncle Ben’s Original Rice.  She so sweetly left her cash register line to help me look – but it simply was. not. there.  I got teary eyed.  There was a large lump in my throat. I may have said something about “people who actually cook and don’t microwave every meal are not going to be able to shop here.” I seriously went to the customer service counter and asked them to special order it for me.  In tears.

You guys, I turned into a crazy person over RICE.

Sometimes we can see change coming – I mean – I saw this grocery store being built for months.  I thought I would like it.  But then I didn’t.  Now, I do, because my mom gets me Uncle Ben’s Original Rice from the store she goes to. But that’s beside the point.

We think if we expect it, it will be ok. It will soften the blow somehow.  Does it?  Maybe.  Sudden change brings shock AND pain.  Expected change is some shock, then a season of expectation, and eventually ends in pain.

The question is NOT whether or not change will be uncomfortable.  It usually is.  The question is what is on the other SIDE of change.

Sometimes we feel like we know.  Sometimes we feel like the pain of change will be worth it in the end.  Sometimes, we just know we can’t go on like we are and we’ll just take whatever comes.  It’s gotta be better than where we are.

I’ve been through some change in the last few years.  Divorce, death of a parent, transitioning from employee to business owner,  learning how to live alone/run a business alone/sleep alone/vacation alone/parent alone.

None of it was easy.  Most of it I saw coming.  100% of it still had moments that hurt.

Here’s the thing, dear one.  When it’s time for a change, you just know.  You feel it in every cell of your body.

When it’s time go to, you just go.  When the storm hits – when you’re in the thick of it.  When you’re standing at the new grocery store in tears, when you’re holding your heart broken child crying over your divorce, when you realize there is no more time for your Dad to become the parent you wanted him to, when you’re having to start over from scratch because you finally admitted what you were doing all those years was too broken to mend, take a moment.  Take a deep breath.  Try to remember why you lifted your foot to take the first step.  Forge on.

Sometimes, the only way out is through. 

You are so, so loved.

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To Women Who’ve Been Abandoned

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To Women Who’ve Been Abandoned

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It’s taken me 38 years, a bunch of the wrong guys, two waffles, this Kelly Clarkson song, and a strong cup of coffee to talk about it.   I’d like to talk about my Dad leaving me.  And your Dad leaving you.

Sometimes Dads leave one big time or two and then we never see them again. Sometimes they hang around and leave us over, and over, and over again.   Emotionally, physically, one thing is for certain – they. just. leave.

Just saying it makes me feel nauseous.

However it happened, when the one guy who’s supposed to have our back and nurture our heart takes a good look at us and says “nah”, it feels like a huge, gaping hole in our chest. We spend a lifetime of “how the hell did I get in this mess again” moments and wonder what we did wrong.  Either way, we feel unloveable, and either way, when any good thing happens, we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here’s the thing: we keep replaying old wounds as many times as we need, trying to get the ending we want.

It took twenty years of relationships that hurt for me to grow enough, get mindful enough, and get enough counseling to realize I was just re-playing the relationship with my Dad.

I wanted that warm kind of love where the person is there for you no matter what. You can see it in their eyes.  You can hear it in their voice.  You can feel it in the words they choose to use when they talk with you.  They just… show up for you.

Even though I wanted that, I could never seem to find it. I analyzed the guys and criticized myself.  Maybe I should be thinner.  Sweeter.  Less opinionated. Work on my bitchy resting face (which was totally not even a thing 20 years ago BUT I HAD IT, YOU GUYS).  It’s so hard to be undiagnosed.

I wish, I wish, I wish I could find the most perfect way to say this that would pierce right through to the center of your heart. I want you to get it.  I want you to stop hurting.  I want you to see this.

It was not your fault.

The things he did, the things he said, the way he absolutely could not seem to get his shit together enough to be there for you in any consistent way….

It was not your fault.

In fact, it had nothing to do with you.   Like how the color of a plane will not make a person unafraid to fly.  The plane could be painted the most perfect, glittering color with the most perfect shading.  It could even have the most perfectly organized, safest flight plan to the most perfectly beautiful places on Earth.  Filled with the most perfect luxurious seats, tables, trays, beds, and staffed with the most amazing, charming, wonderful, people on Earth.  Every single person on the planet could be in agreement that this is the perfect plane to fly in. And it will still not make a person unafraid to fly.  They simply will not get on that plane.

And they will handle that decision in one of two ways: they will turn around and leave, or they will approach the door and step back over and over again unable to find the strength to stay or go.

It’s not the plane’s fault the person doesn’t want to fly.

It’s not your fault your Dad didn’t want to be a good parent.

It’s not your fault your Dad didn’t know how to find the strength to work through his own shit so he could be there for you.

It’s just not your fault.

And… PS…. you are not destined to be alone. You are destined to be loved.  And that journey, dear one, starts with the tallest mountain first: learning to love yourself.

You are so brave. And so, so loved.

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Never, Ever Get Hurt Again. Ever.

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In our last post in this series on expectations, we started a conversation about framework.

Framework is basically the rules and structure that we use to sort through the events of our life – both the little day-to-day stuff and the really big stuff.

Here’s the thing about us. At first glance, it seems like we would build this framework based on what’s happening now to help us deal with whatever is happening now.

Surprisingly, it’s different. We build framework based on what’s already happened so we can try to predict what’s going to happen next.

Let’s say you go through something really hard, like a relationship that doesn’t work out. It could be romantic love, a friendship, a work relationship, anything. What is the first thing we do when it’s clear there is a separation we can’t fix? We call our best friend, or hit the gym, or eat some fried chicken and ice cream. And, we analyze. Oh, do we analyze.

We ask ourselves questions like:   What happened? What did I do wrong? What did they do wrong? Why didn’t I see this coming sooner? How can I make sure this never happens again?

I mean… this is a burning desire in us. We are driven beyond belief to try to prevent this pain from ever happening again, aren’t we? We talk with our friends, family, a counselor, even complete strangers about our story until we can make sense of it.

We are hard wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

What is it that we are trying to do with all this information?

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First, we look for a blueprint that will fit our current belief system. We hunt diligently, feverishly for patterns, clues, nuances, and scraps of information that will outline for us what this framework – our new, improved protective structure is supposed to look like.

This is a very big deal. It’s the latest, most updated version of something that is going to keep you safe and shelter you from breathtakingly painful events. Your body’s own “fight or flight” system is activated and you must protect yourself. It’s a survival instinct.

Your clues and patterns may look like this:

  1. Something someone said, wanted, or withheld from you.
  2. Something you said, wanted, or withheld from someone else.
  3. Something that happened immediately before you felt blindsided.

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Once you have an idea of what this structure is supposed to look like, you must look for building material. This is super important because you’ve got to make sure that your protective structure is strong enough to withstand whatever has already been hurled at you, and (egads) what is still out there waiting to be flung at you when you least expect it.

Your building materials are you looking for things that will withstand a terrible force. They will likely look like this:

  1. Shutting down
  2. Sleeping a lot or hard to sleep
  3. Reluctance or refusal to make new friends
  4. Withdrawal from your current friends & family
  5. Increased time spent alone
  6. General mistrust of others

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Lastly, you need to pick up your tools and build this thing. Have you ever noticed how when you learn something new, it seems to crop up everywhere? It’s a psychological process called Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

This same thing is going to happen when you build your structure.  You are going to feel all this “aha” new discovery wonderfulness and renewed vigor.  “I’ll never be hurt again!” will be your glorious war cry.

And, at first, it works fabulously.  The more you build, the more you see and hear clues from the world around that you that this thing is really going to work!! It’s so genius.  Why didn’t you think of this before?  You joyously beat away at this structure until you arrive at the final, amazing moment after which you can dust off your hands and be done with pain forever. You need to hang the door on your structure.

You stare at it for a moment, and try to make sense of it. What is this all about? There’s no doorknob on the door. How am I going to get in & out? How are others going to get in & out? You stand outside your structure and look up at the tall, massive walls. Holy crap, there are no windows in this thing. WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? HOW AM I GOING TO GET IN AND OUT?

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Deep breath.  Here’s the thing about external, rigid framework.  Nothing gets in, nothing gets out.  What we don’t realize when we start building is that everything goes in and out the same door:  love, pain, joy, sorrow, belonging, fear… all of it. What’s happening outside in life shines through the windows – sunshine, storms, hail that breaks the glass, little baby birds that sit on the windowsill and chirp.. all of it.

Stop and cry, or your version of pounding a pillow, if you need to because this sucks. It really does and it’s ok to feel however awful it feels about seeing that. To me, it was disappointing, incredulous, infuriating, embarrassing, and exhausting to think I had to start all over.

How do you protect yourself then? I remember actually physically and emotionally feeling like one of those metal balls in a pinball machine. Punched and jabbed from every side. It was so awful, but I don’t feel like that any more and you can, too.

What we do, instinctively, is we learn from nature and the world around us that, in order for things to be safe, there needs to be a hardness on the outside to protect the soft insides. We see this in hard bricks that house our families and the people at work, hard metal cars to protect us, armour worn in battle, shoes on our feet, jeans that our tougher than our skin, bicycle helmets on our heads and kneepads on our knees. We see this everywhere. And it’s true everywhere, except with ourselves. You know – the inside of us – our hearts, our spirit, the essence of who we are.

Seriously? You want me to stop protecting my heart!? That’s the whole reason this mess happened in the first place.   

Except, it’s not. Have you ever met someone who was prickly like a porcupine? Tense, got offended easily, not able to communicate freely how they felt about something they liked or didn’t like? That is the mark of someone who is soft on the inside and hard on the outside. They have built that hard, exterior structure with no working door or windows and nothing.. I mean nothing is getting in or out. Their guard dogs, Anger, Emotional Unavailability, and Withdrawl are fed a steady diet of shame, fear, and self doubt and are absolutely fat with it. And there they sit in the middle of that bare structure with no warmth, no meaningful human contact, no healthy food or emotional support. We wouldn’t let someone treat a human being or animal that way – so why on earth would it be ok to treat ourself that way?

Our strength must come from inside, not outside. Picture some of the strongest heroes you’ve seen. They are very likely strong, courageous, kind, inspiring, honest, and wise.

Are these qualities that are going to grow and flourish on a bare floor in a dark room? Nope.

Our mind, body, and spirit needs fresh air, sunshine, and even storms.

So what’s the answer? How do we protect ourself from pain?

It begins with awareness. When I felt like a ping pong ball, desperate to get out of harm’s way, I began to follow my curiosity on Google. The first thing I Googled was “what is a healthy relationship?” and, in two years of research and study, it seems like the questions have never stopped for me. Through that first search, I started seeing the word “boundaries” and really had no grasp of what those were.

Boundaries, my friend, are internal framework. They say “Whatever happens around me and with other people is outside of myself, I can only control two things:

  1. How close I let people get to me
  2. How invested I let myself get in something

We will talk more about boundaries next time, and I also highly encourage you to Google it if you’re curious. It’s a life changer 🙂

Onward……

Up next:  Boundaries:  Get Happy & Stay That Way