What I learned from 18 months in Direct Sales
I entered into Multilevel Marketing/Direct Sales/Social Selling with the suspicion and skepticism of a jumpy schizophrenic. Even after I started with my company I tried to find chinks in the armor, tried to catch them in the old bait and switch; I was looking for a “Gotcha!” moment that never came.
I never intended to be in direct sales. In fact, I viewed it as icky and inferior. As a freelance writer working from home, an introvert, and on the cusp of being an empty nester, I was worried about my isolated lifestyle. The blogs I researched and wrote for boutique-y retirement communities around the country told cautionary tales about the perils of isolation in seniors. While not yet a senior, I found myself precariously balanced on the edge of the slippery slope of unintended isolation. It was time to make a change.
And wouldn’t you know…this new company kept circling me in organic ways. I said “hell no.” I tried one of the products and was almost mad at myself for liking it. I met some of the women on the team and honestly? I wanted them to be weirdo slime-balls so it would be easy to walk away. That didn’t happen; they were like me.
If you find yourself noodling a side gig in direct sales (nearly half of all Americans have one), here are a few things I learned that might help you narrow the field; not all companies in this industry are created equally.
1. Choose Wisely!
• The reputation of an MLM company is like location when it comes to real estate: it’s supremely important.
• Has the company won awards or gotten recognition from third party sources?
• Are there lawsuits against the company, its products, or practices? It’s not uncommon for big businesses to ruffle the feathers of a few people, but if it looks like lawsuits abound, move on.
• Do some research on the products you’ll be selling. Are they safe? Well made? Look at trends in that industry: beauty, fashion, coaching, etc. Consumers vote with their dollars and you want to make it easy for them to vote for you!
• Look for a company or product that's in alignment with your lifestyle and only opt for something that sparks a passion in you.
2. How will you be selling?
• Is this a one and done sale or could it result in repeat business? Will you be selling something that people buy anyway, like toothpaste, or is it something new you need to introduce to a cold audience?
• Will you be selling a product or service? For some, selling an intangible can be difficult to describe and difficult for your customer to visualize.
• Will you have to carry inventory? In my opinion this should be a hard no. Avoid this…it puts unnecessary financial burden on you and is an outdated way to do business.
3. Act like you just bought a brick and mortar store
• Often investments to start a business in MLM companies are low making it easy to devalue and overlook the opportunity. If you become an independent consultant with a direct sales company your opportunity to succeed is no different than if you spent $50K on a franchise. Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. Treat your direct sales franchise like the valuable business it is.
4. Culture matters
• Does the company invest in its sales force with trainings, tech tools, support and mentorship or are you flying solo?
• Do you get a sense of abundance or scarcity when you talk with others in the company? Do others share generously about how to succeed or do they withhold help because they view you as their competition?
• What is the messaging that comes from the top down? Hint: look for an “all boats rise with the tide” vibe.
5. Be prepared to work really hard and experience a lot of rejection
• Do not take rejection personally!
• Consistency is key and the fortune is in the follow up.
Check out these stats:
48% of people never follow up after connecting with a potential customer
25% make a 2nd contact and stop
12% make only 3 contacts and stop
2% of sales are made on the 1st contact
3% of sales are made on the 2nd
5% are made on the 3rd
10% are made on the 4th
80% OF SALES ARE MADE ON THE 5TH-12TH CONTACT!
• This bears repeating: The fortune is in the follow up.
• Unless you are some kind of phenom (You aren't. Neither am I), count on at least 2 years to build your business. There are no shortcuts. The model is ridiculously simple: connect with new people every week and follow up with them.
6. Don’t shove your business down people’s throats.
• Direct sales has the ick-factor in part because of hard-core pushy a-holes…don’t be one of them.
• If you want repeat sales, build relationships. Customers like to buy from people they know, like, and trust.
Nearly 50% of millennials have a side gig, as do 39% of Gen Xers and 28% of Baby Boomers. Combine that with not just the increase in online shopping, but the way we online shop. It’s social in that we rely on reviews and recommendations that influence our purchasing decisions. This makes direct sales, or social retail, an attractive and viable way to earn extra spending money or grow savings accounts.
According to a report on cbs.com “The sharing economy has grown quite a bit over the years, and now there are many more convenient options that allow people to partake in these jobs whenever they have spare time, day or night."
When done right social retail sharing works. My experience is one of incredible personal growth; living outside my comfort zone has been terrifying, frustrating…and immensely rewarding. If you’ve been thinking about a side gig I encourage you to take the leap and join the half of our nation that's already said yes, after doing your research, of course! It can be a fulfilling, fun and social endeavor and it will definitely be hard work that will take you outside your comfort zone. But the payoffs in life, the good things, don't happen on the inside, do they?
What was your biggest takeaway from working in direct sales?
Abby Messner is an author, free-lance writer, and an Ambassador with EVER Skincare/S&D Family of Brands in Cincinnati, Ohio.
To the young man in the red dress
at Kenwood Theater in Cincinnati last night:
I noticed you at the candy counter as I left the theater. I noted your dress right away. And that you're a guy. Admittedly, I don’t understand why you were wearing a dress…but it’s really none of my business, is it? What is my business is how I treat people, and I can’t stop thinking that I let you down.
This morning I was thinking about you, so I prayed.
…that you are grounded in who you are and know that your individuality is a gift.
…that you have people in your life that love you and embrace you.
…that you not edit yourself because of unsolicited, outside noise.
…that you know you are enough, exactly as you are.
…that you understand that peoples’ misunderstanding of you is more about them than it is of you.
…that you know you are a child of God and every last detail about you is intentional.
To the two middle-aged, conservative looking women who were blatantly rude to you, I prayed for you this morning, too.
…that you remember the young man in the red dress is someone’s son, someone’s grandchild, and isn’t deserving of your public or private ridicule.
…that you stop and really think about your impact on the life of the young man you casually cut down in front of others.
…that you recognize your behavior was that of a bully, and going forward you practice kindness and compassion.
…that last night was a turning point in the way you see and treat people who are different than you.
I’m sorry I didn’t say anything last night.
I regret that.
I was focused on leaving. The lobby was loud and bustling, and the situation didn’t quite register until I reached my car. Did someone speak up on your behalf? I hope so. I wish it would have been me. Next time, it will.
Hang in there.
Remember that you count just as much as the next person, regardless what they wear or how they look. Stand tall in your different-ness; it takes courage to be unique and the world desperately needs people brave enough to be different. Just. Like. You.
an understanding lady that doesn’t exactly understand, but wants to do better and be better
I've been having so much fun working on my newest book project taking a closer look at people and their tattoos . Here's a sneak peek at one of my new tattoo'd friends!
Meet Mackenzie...a cool girl who happily marches, er, hikes to the beat of her own drum. She's a Greenpeace trained, obsessive enthusiast who loves the outdoors like nobody's business and lives a well-intentioned life. Mainly outside. If you live on Cincinnati's east side and own a pair of Chacos you got from RRT in Old Milford, she probably sold them to you. Pigtail braids with a hint of pink and a confidence that defies her 23 years, Mackenzie is saving to hike the Appalachian Trail next summer. Alone. Nine tattoos decorate her body: a whole chest piece of a mountain and river view, the word: amor, the Cincinnati skyline, the beginnings of a dixieland band ensemble, and what I found most interesting, a tattoo of the molecular structure of dimethyltryptamine. It's a simple molecule that our bodies release when we dream, AND it also happens to be present in every other living thing on earth. Dreaming trees? Interesting, huh? Like I said, girlfriend is in tune with nature. Go buy some outdoorsy stuff at RRT and see for yourself. Or if you want to live vicariously through this adventurous pioneer lady and be a part of her trek on the AT, throw a couple bucks her way at https://www.gofundme.com/katahdinorbust.
Determined to take my house back at the beginning of 2016, I wrote a letter to my daughters highlighting expectations about their contributions around the house and answers to their questions of "my friends don't have to do any chores, why do I?" My husband suggested I post the letter as a blog, because surely we aren't alone in our parenting fails/insecurities/worries. I'd love to know what others are doing to prepare their kids for life.
One thing I've noticed that my kids respond to is frank conversations about life. My life: past, present and future. Their lives: past present and future. They like to hear that I wasn't perfect as a teenager and that I've flunked a test before. They need to know that when they become adults, they will struggle, make mistakes and have fears...and that it's perfectly normal. Oftentimes we shield our kids by presenting this seamless utopia of adulthood when we should be letting them see how we mucked something up or stood tall (or didn't) in the face of adversity or that we worked through something that was really, really hard and it made us stronger.
I'm not saying tell your kids everything...no...that would be bad. But if our kids see the adults in their lives being vulnerable and transparent, won't that give them a better chance of being vulnerable and transparent too?
Before I digress any further and forget about the topic at hand...the letter.
Disclaimer: I do not fancy myself a parenting expert. At all. I'm more of a parenting student. Some days I skip class, while others I'm on the dean's list. Most days are somewhere in between.
Sydney and Avery,
I wanted to write this all down so I could get my point across completely and fully, and also so you would have the opportunity to process my words before we talk about them.
I have been very frustrated lately, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, about the effort and care you put into doing chores, taking care of your personal items, and our home. I also feel badly that Dad and I have done a poor job teaching you the skills you need to manage your use of technology. It’s quite possible that we didn’t clearly lie out our expectations, and that is on us, not you.
Going forward, our expectations should be very clear to you. If they aren’t, please ask questions to clarify.
When you are asked to do a chore, we expect that you will do it to the best of your ability. We want you to take pride in your work. I know you think it’s silly to take pride in vacuuming or wiping off the kitchen table, but it’s more than a clean floor or table to us. We ask you to give your best because nurturing this habit now will pay off in incredible ways throughout your life. How? By simply doing things properly and with care, you will earn the respect of your peers. I'm telling you, people will take notice. You'll be considered for privileges that others won’t. You'll know how to do things that will allow you independence. All because you took the time to do something right the first time around. It matters.
You are fortunate to have nice things. Take a moment and think about this. All of the clothes, trinkets and technology that have been entrusted to you are enormous blessings. We expect that you'll take care of what you've been blessed with. You wanted, and in some cases, begged, for some of these things, and when we see them crumpled in a heap on the floor it’s very disappointing. You send a message every time you toss your coat, backpack and/or socks (oh, the socks!) on the floor that you don't appreciate what you have. I want you to develop an awareness that you have more than most kids in the world. No, it doesn't always feel that way, but it's a true statement.
I want you to think about why it's easy to not take care of your belongings.
Did you think having X, Y or Z would change things somehow and make you feel like a better version of yourself? It's a trap and a lie that we tell ourselves and it never works out...in which case it makes sense to me why there are things on the floor. They weren't as satisfying as you thought they'd be. Be honest with yourself about your motives in wanting things. The longer you ignore those motives, the harder they are to face. Trust me, I know this firsthand.
The other message you send when you leave piles of your stuff throughout the house is that you don’t respect our home or the efforts that have been made to make it a nice home for our family.
Time, effort and planning have gone into creating an environment for you two to flourish and grow into who you were meant to be. We work hard (happily), to make this happen. We open our doors to your friends so you all have a safe place to be teenagers. You have done a wonderful job picking your friends, by the way, and we love when you are all here.
It's our expectation that you will use technology as a tool to further your education, to communicate appropriately with your friends, and as entertainment. We like watching funny things on YouTube, too. We totally get it. You may watch one hour of Netflix or non-homework related shows/videos, etc… per day. And not in your bedroom. I know this is unpopular, but this is one of those times when you have to trust that we have your best interest at heart. Think about your 80-year-old self, looking back on your life. Will she be bitter that she didn’t get to spend more time scrolling through other people’s experiences, or will she be satisfied with her own? We only get one shot at life, and to waste it is a shame. These are the things that everyone who spends time on technology needs to consider, not just you. So please spend some time considering it.
We also expect that all technology will be charged at night in the charging station in the family room, including weekends. At your ages, your sleep is so important, and we love you enough to accept that you'll be mad about this. If you can continue this habit of unplugging in college and beyond, you'll be amazed at how much freer you will feel than your peers, who are slaves to their technology. It might not seem like a gift, to have you relinquish control of your devices at night, but it is. We want you to enjoy your own company. Being alone with nothing to entertain you enables you to think your own original thoughts. It gives your mind the opportunity to wander. When was the last time you sat comfortably without a device, just waiting for someone or something?
I read an article recently that tracked a group of over achievers (like you two) who were expected to impact their chosen fields in big ways after they graduated from college. But they didn't. They ended up being good at their jobs, successful even, but they didn't make the splash they were predicted to make. Why? Because their free-thinking and creativity were never developed. They missed reaching their potential because they weren't intentional about flexing the part of their brain that goes dormant when mindless scrolling occurs. Important: this is not pressure to go cure cancer or end world hunger; it’s simply something that I want you to think about. Think about how you spend your time. Be proud of how you spend your time.
Dad and I don't expect you to be perfect. Ever.
We expect that you will try your hardest and give your best in every situation. And be kind. That’s it.
It’s our job to prepare you for life, and our vision is to launch you off into the world as independent thinkers, problem solvers, and capable young women who are kind and fun lovers of life. Fast forward to the day you go off to college or move into your first place. As you sit inside those four walls, what kind of young woman have you become? Write it down and let’s talk about what you need to do now to turn that into reality. It won't just happen...it will take work. Work that you are both capable of doing. I think you are worth it. Do you?
Love you so, so much,
I am incredibly honored to host guest blogger Cameron Byers! I reached out to her a few months ago after she posted an adorable message on our neighborhood email service looking for a new home for her family's pet guinea pig, and asked if she would write a blog for me. I told her the topic was her choice, but if she was up for it, I wanted to feature open and honest thoughts about being a teenager. Lucky for me, she was. In getting to know Cameron, I've learned that hers is a story of darkness, light, strength and inspiration. Did I mention she's 16? This girl is a fighter. She's driven. She's a role model and she doesn't even know it yet.
Mental disorders are real and they are isolating and shame inducing which perpetuates their tortuous cycles. I was plagued with anxiety for over a year, I have a sibling who has near debilitating anxiety/disorders and friends who battle depression. Guess what? Most of us don't make a habit of sharing our feelings, but we should! We gloss over our struggles because we don't want to make anyone uncomfortable with our realness or are afraid of being judged. We assume that everyone else has it all together. To have a teenager offer up such transparency and vulnerability is sheer bravery. I love that Cameron is ready to start the conversation and is ready to write the next chapter in her life. I, for one, plan on taking a page out of her book and hope you will, too.
Check out Cameron's photography website here...she does wonderful work!
There are some things not meant to be said, but to be written. I firmly believe that this writing is one of those things. And so here I sit, surrounded by darkness with the exception of the glare of my computer screen.
I'm writing this because it hurts my feelings when people say that “we all have a little OCD in us”. I’m writing this because people don’t seem to understand that ADHD is more than the punch line of a joke. I am writing this because depression is being glamorized and glossed over and made to be a trend by sites like Tumblr.
I was in 3rd grade when I was diagnosed with OCD. My parents knew that I had it because of stupid little things that I would do, like refuse to wear socks if they didn't look and feel a certain way, or check the stove constantly to make sure it wasn't on, or when I would only do things in 3s or 5s or 10s.
Even once I was diagnosed, nothing got better. I didn't feel any different. In fact, I think that I felt worse. Then I was diagnosed with ADHD. I had trouble paying attention to anything (I still do at times) and the doctors thought that they could give me medicine to help. And it did help, until 8th grade. I don't want to write about what triggered it, but things got really bad- to the point where I self harmed. I'm ashamed of it now, but at the time I thought that I was getting rid of all of the bad thoughts and feelings. I thought that it was symbolic or something. That I was releasing all of the negative energy running through me. I still have scars on my arms to this day from it and usually only wear long sleeves now because of it. I was in the 8th grade.
Once I realized that cutting wasn't enough, I tried to kill myself. The police came and escorted me in an ambulance to the hospital. I went to the Lindner Center, a very helpful and kind spirited place. However, they could not help me because I didn't think that I needed help.
I went home and almost immediately resumed self harm, and a year later tried to kill myself again. I took a bunch of pills, but once I started getting dizzy, I ran to my parents' room and they rushed me to the hospital. Once I was stable, they took me to another mental health facility. I re-heard the things that I had already been told at the Lindner Center, but I acted interested this time because I didn't want to have to come back. I wanted to go home as soon as possible.
When I went home, I resumed self harm. Nothing was getting better. My grades were at an all time low and even to this day have ruined my chances at getting into my dream school. I was blaming the world for everything that was happening to me and I really thought what I was doing was the right thing to do. I didn’t think it was wrong. “As long as I don’t kill myself…” I would say.
Besides, who was this hurting besides myself?
Actually, a lot of people. My parents were losing sleep and my siblings lived in constant fear that one day I wouldn’t be alive anymore.
Eventually I realized that no one else could help me if I didn’t want to be helped. I had to make that decision- did I want to get better? I thought, “Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I want to be happy again?” But something in me wasn’t ready to let go of all of my anger, fear, and sadness. Then, one day, I was just ready. I didn’t want to live in constant misery anymore, but I didn’t want to die either. I wanted to get better, and only then did I start to improve. I realized that only I could truly help myself. My journey to recovery was one that I had to take alone.
It was a long journey- and one that, even now, is not over. I felt trapped and thought that I was destined to live like I had been for the past 16 years, for the rest of my life. But then, after much self discovery, I realized that there is more to life than my town’s little bubble. I always felt caged in because I live in a small town where everyone knows everyones' business. For a while, I thought that it was like that everywhere- and that no matter where I went, I would never truly be free. I felt confined, like I was doomed to live in my town’s bubble forever. Then I realized that I could have a future outside the bubble- that it was not like this everywhere and that I could be successful and leave everything bad behind.
I realized that my looks do not define me, but the content of my character does. So I sought to improve who I was. I started volunteering, I rescued a dog, I took many jobs, I took up new hobbies. My grades sky rocketed. My mental and physical health improved immensely. And it was all thanks to me- to no one else. I had to want to change, and once I realized that I did, the rest came naturally.
I am now in one of the happiest places that I have been in my entire life. My future is looking brighter and I am so much more involved in my community. My grades are still not ideal, but they are getting there and thanks to that a lot of good colleges have taken an interest in me- schools far away from this cold weather!
Had I succeeded in either of my suicide attempts?
I would not be here.
I would not have rescued my beautiful dog.
I would not have realized how much I am loved.
I may not have found my passions.
I would not have seen how bright my future is going to be.
My intent is not to inform you about me, but to instead show you what self realization did for me. It can do it for you too. Don't give up hope, because when you hit rock bottom, you have nowhere else to go but up.
Live every day with purpose and soon you will find yourself doing it naturally, and after a while- who knows, maybe you might actually find out what your purpose really is. Mental disorders are real, they are abundant, and I am not the first (nor the last) to be in this position.
But we can fight this battle together; if we all love each other and treat one another with kindness and respect we can achieve happiness. Most importantly, we need to realize that there is more to us than our high school years. We need to realize that there is life after high school and outside of our towns, that soon we can do whatever we want with our lives. Please just wait it out, and don't do anything impulsive. Because, who knows? You could end up being president. An astronaut. A movie star. Anything you set your mind to- but you (and only you) can do it. You have to want it, you have to work for it. You are the love of someone’s life. You are someone’s daughter or son. You are someone’s role model. You are more than who you see in the mirror. You are powerful and you can be anything or anyone.
No one can define you but you.
Don’t let anyone tell you who you are.
Treat every day as a gift- because it is one.
Don't take your life because you're having a hard time now- remember, there is always a storm before a rainbow comes.
Cameron, on the other side of the camera, with her family dogs, and rescue, Molly.
To the young dad who took his little girl to the Ed Sheeran concert in Cincinnati last Thursday night…
I was with some friends tucked way in the back, behind where you were sitting on the lawn. As I settled in, I saw you and noticed you with your daughter and your black t-shirt, ripped jeans and pierced ears.
The music started and Ed pulled off a good show, but the show that you and your daughter put on was much more memorable to me.
The gentle way you sat there with your sweet little girl and experienced the music with her was heartwarming. She knew all the songs and I got to watch her sing and dance, all the while never losing contact with you, like you were home base. Clearly that’s what you are to her in more ways than one.
I noticed you held her up so she could see the jumbo screens. When you did, she looked you right in the eyes and sang to you. I could tell how much she loves you. You held her up for a long time; your arms must have been tired. But you held.
I noticed that you didn’t spend any time looking at your phone or drinking beer—which is what so many of your peers were doing that night. Instead you looked at your daughter and filled her up with a wonderful gift: Your presence and your undivided attention. You made that night all about her and she had so much fun.
Earlier when I said that I saw you, I really didn’t see you at all. I missed the opportunity the first time around. But you were kind enough to give me another chance, and as the night went on I definitely saw you. Your actions spoke volumes.
I could go on, but I wanted to just thank you for the show and for being a great dad to your adorable girl.
Ed rocked… but young guy who took his daughter to see Ed Sheeran, you were way better.
Listen to my radio interview about this blog post that aired on Cincinnati's Q102, 9.23.15.
TBT to a blog I wrote June of 2013. It took me two (LONG) years to get unstuck. Even with all the tools and knowledge and effort...I was a tough nut to crack. But I cracked and broke and honestly, I'm glad I did. I was like that fancy vase that only gets brought out on special occasions. The one that only sees the house when it's clean, the people when they are at their best and the food when it's company worthy. The vase had a skewed view of life and got wrapped in tissue and put away when the party was over. It wouldn't know what 'real' life was like because it never had the chance to be a part of it. I did that to myself. I protected myself not with tissue, but with a layer of distance from people because I was afraid they would see the imperfections and chips when they got too close. I told myself lies about other people's perfect lives and how mine could never stack up.
The blessing of being broken though, is that it's hard to hide. So I took a leap and bared my ugly scars. What I learned though, is that my scars aren't ugly. I know in my heart they are the most beautiful thing about me. And if I was uncertain, the outpouring of love and support I received after I debuted my scars set it in stone. Thank you kind people for lifting me up.
If you are stuck, take heart and stand tall. Please reach out to your people and share your struggles. Don't fear vulnerability. It puts you in community with others. Fear false strength that keeps you alone.
PS-Don't have people to call? Now you do...you can call me. :)
Stuck In My Story
Have you ever been in a rut? I've been in one for a while, but feel like I'm getting close to a transition. I'm on the cusp of moving in a new direction, putting a new spin on my life, but I keep falling back into a holding pattern.
So I go to that middle place for a while, then begin the climb again. Backslide, then climb. This holding pattern is no stranger to me and I'm learning, albeit slowly, about what makes it tick.
The holding pattern keeps things simple. 'Status Quo' would be its mantra. It has a negative attitude about change, and repeats 'What if?' constantly, like a toddler asks 'Why?'.
'What if I have to go back to work, I will miss out on so much at home.'
'What if we have to sell our house, won't neighbors judge?'
'What if we move to another state, will I be lonely and alone?'
'What if my writing projects aren't successful, will people think I'm a joke?'
The holding pattern can find a dozen reasons not to pursue something...it's too hard, you aren't smart enough, it will never work. It prevents me from failing and protects me from hurt. What I realized though, is that the holding pattern 'protects' me from success too. It holds me back from living a full life, from experiencing the highs along WITH the lows.
You guessed it, I am the holding pattern. Status quo? Yes please! Change? Yikes, no way! I seem to be my own worst enemy. I am living in this middle ground that isn't really living. I'm just sort of waiting, but for what, I don't know. I've been doing this for so long now, that it is all I know. I am stuck in my own story. Half of me is methodically working on getting unstuck, and the other half is feverishly putting on the brakes and holding on for dear life. I am at odds with myself. Fear is running my show.
I have spent years trying to figure out just who I am, and time after time have come up empty handed. I feel like a blank canvas that is being wasted. No masterpiece is being created. Instead, the space is being filled with scribbled out do-overs, well meaning to-do lists, missed opportunities and false images of what I think I SHOULD be. Precious time wasted...posturing and people pleasing, but not being me.
Time to stop the madness and put an end to my journey/quest/search to 'find' myself. A-hem, I'm right here by the way. I have the sole authority and responsibility toCREATE who I choose to be. This is purposeful stuff, nothing is floating out there somewhere waiting to be discovered. It is all right here, WITHIN me, waiting for me to tap in and start the show.
It is time to break free of my story and create a new one. I need to start answering the 'What if?' questions.
What if I have to go back to work? SO WHAT?
Seriously, millions of people do it everyday and live to tell about it. My world has become a tiny little bubble and breaking out of it would be good for me. Financial security is NOT overrated.
What if we have to sell our house? SO WHAT?
Downsizing is not a character flaw. I can make a home out of a cardboard box if I have to. I'm good at stuff like that. My family under one roof = HOME. Period.
What if my writing projects never take off? SO WHAT?
I have enjoyed every moment of these projects and experienced clarity and confidence in myself. Writing is cleansing for me...sort of like free therapy, and who would pass that up? Most importantly I need to remember who I am doing this for anyway. Oh yeah...ME.
So is being a failure better than living in the unknown? Uh, yeah. Trying is living, and the alternative is the holding pattern where nothing happens. I'm tired of waiting for my life to happen TO me, I'm ready to join the ranks of those that MAKE things happen. Of course I'm still afraid, it's just that now I'm ready. Ready for a challenge and change. Ready to embrace the unknown instead of obsessing about it yet avoiding it at the same time.
Remembering though, that Rome wasn't built in a day is key. This is a process of baby steps interspersed with some calculated leaps. There is a fabulous Theodore Roosevelt quote that resonated deep in my core. Before I share it, be it known that normally I am a sharer of quotes from inane things like bad movies, cheesy sitcoms ('We were on a break!') and pop songs, NOT quotes from past presidents. So you know this is going to be good. Prepare yourself.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, ...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Wow. Teddy and I could have been friends. This says it all...the ones that make the effort are worthy of credit, EVEN IF THEY FAIL. And guess what? They will. I will, you will, we all will. Success wouldn't exist if there was no failure. And I love that he references the middle place, it is strangely validating, mainly because I have spent so much time there. But I refuse to be that middle person anymore, I'm hungry for the victory but i'm also ready for the defeat too. Mainly, I want to be in that arena.
I want to kick the unknown in the you know what, knock it to the ground and march my way into my wondrous future...flaws, fails and all.
No more holding pattern, I'm ready to fly.
We are bombarded daily—hourly even—by images of our friends, family and neighbors’ happy vacations, accomplishments, perfect meals, perfect children and perfect lives. Glaringly absent is the daily grind and real-life struggles that I know people are experiencing, but not discussing.
Recently I have felt pulled to share my own issues but have been a big fat coward about TMI and judgment. Now that I can see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel of my own odyssey, I’m ready to share, with the hope that my experience will help another’s journey be just a little shorter.
In 2006 I had a miscarriage that set off a series of weird events that set the tone for the next nine years of my life. Exactly one month after the miscarriage, I found myself hospitalized for ventricular tachycardia—a heart arrhythmia that popped up from seemingly nowhere and rocked my world. Heart monitors, cardiologists and ER visits became my new normal. But I slapped a happy face on, as I do, and thought: I can handle this.
Then, a call from my OB revealed that there was suspicious tissue during the post-miscarriage DNC—could be a weird form of cancer. Say what? Six months of regular blood tests would show if that’s what it was. Passing anxiety. I can handle this. PS-no cancer.
Time passed with financial struggles, but life was good. However, I was not. I had allowed insecurity to take up permanent residence inside of me. I was too afraid that the real me wasn’t enough, so I was a version of myself that I thought would be acceptable to others. I found that I didn’t know who the hell I was anymore. Like a ship without a sail, I was a woman without any rudders. Directionless, I spent hours pondering my purpose. As demonstrated though, I’m a scaredy-cat, and a life with purpose is one that includes risks. Risks that I wasn’t brave enough to take. It made me sad that no one really knew the real me. But I put on a happy face. I had passing anxiety. I was getting by.
Hubby took a job out of state, started commuting during the workweek. He became distant at home as work pressures pushed him to his absolute limits. This meant that I did life alone with our two kids for a year or so. That I could handle. What was hard was the distance between hubs and me even when we were in the same room. I was lonely and sad. I was invisible and taken for granted. I wondered if it would be better to not be married to him anymore. Lingering anxiety, but I kept going. Happy faces are my specialty, after all.
Job blew up and hubby came back literally and figuratively. We were working on us. There was light.
Our annoying and beloved and stinky lab, Elvis, got sick on a Sunday and by Thursday I found myself alone at my vet, petting that dog who loved me, until he took his last breath. I was shattered by that loss and that’s when all the hairline cracks that had been quietly forming inside of me, broke from the pressure. I was broken.
And then, that’s when things got really bad. Migraines led to an MRI for hubs and a Sunday afternoon house call made by a very kind doctor taught us what a subependymoma was.
A brain tumor.
I was brave on the outside and hollow everywhere else. But like it does, life went on. Turns out, a subependymoma is the best kind of tumor to have. The kids named it Stanley, several months of follow up MRIs showed no growth, which means it doesn’t have to come out. Stanley looks to be a boring tumor and we fully expect him to stay that way.
But the dam had broken and there was no way to stop the flow. ANXIETY times infinity.
Then, I decided to write a devotional of sorts, for teens. I never set out to do it, it just sort of happened. I’m the unlikeliest of people to write a book like this, but it was something I knew I was supposed to do. I was nervous that the churchy people wouldn’t think I was churchy enough and that the non-churchy people would think I’d gone overboard. More ANXIETY.
And the cracks. They were wide open. I was wide open, but closed off at the same time.
I mistakenly thought that keeping all my lovely reality inside made me strong. Really, it just showed how stupid I was. It’s ironic because Glennon Melton is a hero of mine (read her book, Carry On Warrior, it will tear you up and put you back together in one sitting), and she openly shares her bad choices and wrong turns. I never once judged her…actually, her bravery made me love her more.
So I carried around this mental roadblock that wouldn’t let me be vulnerable, and I missed out on getting carried by those around me. My people would have been excellent at it too. I’m sorry now that I robbed them of the opportunity to hold me up.
My doc, after a year, convinced me to see a therapist, and to take something for my anxiety. I sat on that therapist’s couch and cried. And cried some more. I felt like I should be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and shake it off, but that wasn’t happening, so I agreed to take some anti-anxiety medication. After a week of walking around like a dazed junkie, I decided I’d rather feel the anxiety than feel drugged. My doc prescribed a low dose of something else and then the hallelujah chorus began singing and the world got lifted off my shoulders. I found myself after all those years. I am finally, freaking me.
Hubs asked me the other day how I felt and I said, “I’m so happy. I’m laughing at things.” I’m generally not a laugher. But maybe I am and I just haven’t for so damn long that I forgot I was.
So, today. Today is the day I share because I want everyone to know—it’s not weakness, but an act of sheer bravery to admit that your reality is hard. Asking someone for help is a badge of honor you give them. Let your people be there for you. I have a feeling they are up for it.
As for me, I’m taking some risks with my writing and making conscious efforts to put myself out there. It’s scary, but exhilarating too. Hubs is taking his twists and turns and is teaching transparency to business leaders. He’s using all the things that broke him down to build others up. It’s a beautiful thing.
So many of us assume we are the only ones who feel alone in the world and that everyone else has their stuff together, but really, most of us feel this way! Let’s be there and be real with one another. We all have things that make us crack. Those cracks make us into who we are supposed to be, and without them, the light wouldn’t shine through.
It’s the combination of vulnerability and getting back up when I’ve fallen that has taught me that I’m strong. If I never fell I’d always wonder if I could handle things. Now I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am someone who gets back up. Me. I do. I get back up. Because I have help.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am about the furthest thing from a doctor, but even I can recognize how undeniably miraculous it is that our bodies work the way they do. It simply can’t be an accident. It’s so purposeful with all the pumping and filtering and breathing that happens without us so much as thinking about it. A human autopilot. Seriously…how on earth do we work?
Like I said, I’m nowhere near qualified to answer that question, but since I have a body that is pumping and breathing, I will take a stab at ‘why’.
I think God made us so wonderfully, like the verse says, so that we are capable of being wonderful to one another. To revel in another’s good fortune, or to help pick up the pieces when life gets hard. He gave us the capacity to feel. Too often I find myself rushing through everything to actually feel anything, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m in really good company. You know who you are.
I completely take for granted that I will wake up breathing and pumping blood every morning. I think God’s okay with that. What I think He’d rather I not take for granted is my ability to love, to be loved and to give what I have to offer to humanity. I have more to offer on some days, but it’s tragic when I withhold, when I ignore the pull to do some good because it’s not convenient or it’s uncomfortable.
I’m sure you’ve had those odd feelings, when you feel like you’re supposed to talk to someone and get drawn into their reality for some unknown reason. Being somewhat of an introvert, I get conflicted when it happens because I know it will be awkward.
I recently met a woman in the parking lot of a nice outdoor mall as I was wrapping up a shopping excursion with my daughters. Deanna was her name and she approached me and right off the bad told me she wasn’t going to hurt me, but did I have any loose change? I wasn’t afraid because she looked like the African American version of my 69-year old mother.
My kids loaded in the car and I told Deanna I didn’t have any cash to give her, but asked what she needed. She needed diapers for her granddaughter, and she’d be thrilled with some meat to give the other three grandkids as their mother is in jail and Deanna is doing it all on her own and things are tight. Really tight.
The introvert in me wanted to get a fistful of change from my car, drive away and not think about THAT anymore. I signaled my kids that we would be going into Whole Foods (a ridiculously expensive place to buy anything, but it was my only option) and Deanna, my two confused daughters and I had a shopping experience together. It was the most proud I have ever been of my girls as they carried armfuls of diapers and oranges and other items Deanna thought her grandkids would enjoy. I think they knew somehow it was an important moment of giving for us, we who have a much looser viewpoint of tight times. And important because we showed Deanna she wasn’t invisible.
I left Deanna with a hug and suppressed tears as we made our way back to the car where our shopping bags full of wants, not needs sat waiting for us. Items that seemed much less important than they were an hour earlier.
So… that’s WHY I think God made us. To give of ourselves, whether it be time, money or talents, and to love as many people as much as humanly possible.
Lies We Tell Ourselves
This theme keeps coming up in my life. Or maybe it’s come up many times before and I wasn’t ready to hear it yet.
I heard it in leadership training last month. I read it in one of Anne Lamott’s books this spring. I heard it today after church from a friend describing a miracle to me. Yes, you read that right. A miracle.
A woman from my church was diagnosed with cancer and her doctors said it was 99% in her lymph nodes and said the words, “It would take a miracle for it not to be.” She was at church the week before, and after a moving service people were praying around her. She confessed that she felt like she deserved bad things because of her past…a huge LIE she was telling herself that was holding her back. The people there praying helped her understand that it’s not how it works. The woman was finally able to understand that her past sins were not working in a karmic way against her. The praying continued and my friend who was there said, “I saw her go limp and I knew she was healed, but I didn’t want to tell anyone because they would think I was crazy.” Yes. Yes they would.
Sure enough, the woman called my friend and said her results came back, her margins were clear and there was no cancer in her lymph nodes. A doctor defined miracle.
My friend was so happy (and not surprised) about the outcome, but she was just as thrilled that the woman was able to tear down some walls that she had built around herself—the lies—move forward, and grow.
I nodded, smiled and muttered one and two word sentences, because tears were attempting to pop out of my eyeballs and speaking would be the gateway to sobbing. So I swallowed the lump and pretended not to be on the verge of a break down.
I felt emotional for a number of reasons. The woman’s amazing diagnosis. Hearing about a miracle—because I so long to stand inside the inner circle on this whole faith thing, but I continually find myself on the outside looking in. Because I have an ever-unfurling scroll of lies accumulating that I continue to tell myself even as I’m attempting to cross them off the list, and because I long for my own walls to crack and crumble so that I can be who I was meant to be.
Which brings us back to lies. I think there’s something to this theme that is worth examining. We all have them, some screaming in their obviousness, and some we don’t even realize are lies because we’ve been mentally affirming them for so long.
Clearly it’s a process to stop the lying. Step one is to figure out what the lies are and then why the lies are. The first few will be easy to pinpoint and others may be less concrete, but still stubborn in the way they quietly undermine.
Step two is to replace the lie with a truth. Make a list with a lie column and a truth column. Go ahead, I’ll wait...
Okay. Now rip the list in half, separating the lies from the truth and throw those lies in the trash, burn them ceremoniously or write them on a rock and hurl them somewhere into the stratosphere. Gone, baby, gone. Tape that list of truths about yourself on your bathroom mirror and read them out loud to yourself every day until it stops feeling weird. Then you can start doing it every other day. I mean it.
I read a quote recently that said, “When your past calls, don’t answer. It has nothing new to say.” That stupid message has been on repeat for way too long. Let’s record a new message on the voicemail of our souls. One that allows light to seep through the cracks in the walls we have built up, and then let’s take those suckers down.
The truth is, you are. You can. You will.