“I Just Felt Like Running”

For almost three months now, I’ve been training for my first half marathon.  It all started with a good running buddy, a new year’s goal, and a LOT of Christmas cookies to burn off.

My friend Megan and I love a good travel adventure, and when we began tossing ideas around to do a race together (she’s done three halves; this will be my first), we immediately thought that making it a “destination” race would only make it *that much* better.  Work hard, play hard. Win-win.  Plus it’s added training accountability when there are plane tickets and babysitters involved.  No backing out now!

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Megan and me after a 10-mile run around the lake – my first time hitting a double digit run! 

So, in two short weeks Megan and I will be flying out to Charleston, then driving to Savannah, for the “Publix Savannah Women’s Half and 5k.”  You can check out a shot of the course scenery here, it’s just so pretty.

Prior to this January, I had never run more than 5.6 miles (two laps around Green Lake’s inner loop, for those who know Seattle) and rarely ran more than four miles at a time.

I absolutely hated running until my mid-twenties, when I somehow began to sort of enjoy it…or even if I loathed the process at times, loved how I felt when I completed a run.

In recent years I’ve ebbed and flowed with how often I run, casually and somewhat regularly at best, and not at all during either of my pregnancies.

The last couple of years I’ve thought more seriously about training for a half marathon.  I knew the length would be a true challenge for me, but doable.  Enter a fun and motivating friend and a perfect race opportunity in a city I’ve wanted to visit — sign me up.

So sign up I did and over the last 11 weeks we’ve gradually increased our “long” runs, from 2.8 miles around Green Lake, to 6.2 around Lake Union, 9+ along Alki and, finally, just this past Monday, about 11.5 miles from Gas Works Park to Golden Gardens and back.

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It was cloudy and only raining a little on this part of our run, passing under the Aurora Bridge.

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Pausing to admire this gorgeous mermaid I made in 4th grade, installed in a tile work path at Golden Gardens. ; ) 

One might question my judgment to choose the months of January, February and March to train for a race.  In SEATTLE.  Lately our running forecast has basically looked like this most of the time:

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I have run in absolute soaking rain (once for almost two hours), in falling snow and over crunching ice, in freezing sub-thirty-degree temperatures, and on exactly one gloriously odd occasion while in the San Diego area for my son’s birthday, in this:

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Cue angels singing.

But more often, when I’ve finished a run, I’ve peeled off a sweatshirt that feels like it weighs about 20 pounds in water weight, like this:

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You really can’t tell HOW SOAKED I am there.

I am confident I would not have made it this far, through this many miles, in the CRAZIEST weather, without the motivation of my faithful and fun friend and running partner.  So thank you, Megan!!

Keeping with the work hard/play hard mantra, we decided to do our post-11 mile stretching at a bar, in a booth, over beer and happy hour food.  Inspired by Big Little Lies.  🙂  I’m sure we smelled AMAZING.

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Oh, and we cross train with yoga, stroller walks, and our 1-year-old sons’ “Little Gym” classes.  Sorry people, those are all the tips I have.

Oh, and Girl Scout cookies. You deserve ALL the Girl Scout cookies.

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Here’s to many more stories shared on long runs, celebratory beers, setting goals and seeing them through.  Crossing that finish line in Savannah will feel oh so sweet.

And it’s only fitting that much of Forrest Gump was filmed in the South Carolina/Georgia area where we’ll be.  What better setting than that of a movie about a man who set off to see the country because he “just felt like running?”

YOLO.  That’s reason enough for me.

Back to School

 

 

I can do this.  I need to do this.  I am excited to do this.

It was advertised as an evening class, once a week for six weeks from mid-July to mid-August.  An essay-writing course offered through Hugo House, a nonprofit resource for writers offering beginning- to advanced-level writing classes, workshops and other events here in Seattle.  I first became familiar with Hugo House when I was an editorial intern at Seattle magazine, and this year, I finally decided to become a member and take my first class there.

I hadn’t stepped foot in a conventional classroom since my senior year at the University of Washington in 2005.  At that point in my life I was ready to be done with school — the heavy book bags, the homework always hanging over my head, the stressful nights and early mornings at various U-District Starbucks spent cramming for tests and pounding out essays left to the last minute.

Contrary to my classes of dozens if not hundreds of people at UW, this class at Hugo House was an intimate size of 10 students plus one very encouraging, laid-back instructor all huddled around one large makeshift table, the combined total of four smaller tables pushed together .  Each Monday evening (minus one on vacation) for six weeks I battled west-east traffic to First Hill, took my seat in this small, spare, non-air conditioned room, and was immersed into wonderful, stimulating conversations with a truly great group of people whose life experiences almost couldn’t be more diverse.

That diversity of lifestyles and experiences is what I found most refreshing about this classroom environment.  People wrote and shared about animals in Africa, battling illness, the art and science of ballet, sexuality, relationships, being single, and learning to embrace their ever-changing identify.  It was eye-opening to realize how narrowly immersed I’ve become in the world of parents-of-young-kids in recent years.  So much of my life, social circle, volunteer outlets, the language I speak, activities I attend, vacations I’m drawn to, articles I read,  etc… revolve around babies and young kids.  Understandable, but narrow nonetheless.  Neurons were firing like fireworks as my brain was immersed in these stories of things so unlike anything  I come across in my everyday life.

Throughout the course each of us – male and female, ranging from our 20s to our 50s, world travelers and native Seattleites – wrote about our own life experiences and read about each others’.  Several of  us, myself included, wrote about very private, intimate topics that we felt more comfortable sharing among a group of encouraging strangers, than within our own inner circles of folks who know us all too well.  It was liberating to put things on the page that are seldom said out loud, and I know others had a similar experience.

I also was once again reminded how much I need accountability to keep up with my writing, lest it get buried forever under piles of laundry, dishes and Hot Wheels.  Not only did my classmates read my writing, but they put it under a microscope and dissected every part for what worked, and what needs work.  It was an honor to receive such thoughtful feedback on such a personal part of my life, and to delve into such profound stories from theirs.

I can’t wait to sign up for another quarter of classes.  It felt good to be back in school.

Things I Wish I Wanted To Do

Things I Wish I Wanted To Do

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”

– Paulo Coelho

My book club recently read and dissected The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Over water and lime wedges (turns out that while I’m no longer pregnant, everyone else is), it became clear this writer’s year-long experiment culminated in a “love it or hate it” book for our little critics’ circle and beyond – as all pop culture hits seem to do to some degree.  What do they say – there’s no such thing as bad press?

While this book was a slow, underwhelming start for me, suddenly around April (the book and the topics and resolutions it entails are divided into months), it was as if a switch flipped and I was ravenously hooked on this Manhattan lawyer/writer/mom/wife’s musing on hundreds of minor tweaks we can make to our daily routines (no Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage required) to partake in a more fully-examined existence, boost our quality of life, and thus that of those around us.  Things like buying the nice $4.00 pen instead of the crappy 25-cent pen that just feels cheap and always runs out of ink.  Changing the lightbulb yourself instead of nagging your husband to do it.  Listening contentedly to others and resisting the urge to jump in with a competing story of your own.  Accepting a limitation (or more positively, my God-given uniqueness) such as the fact that a certain hairstyle – try as I might – Will. Never. Look. Good. On. Me.

I could go on and on about the author’s simple yet pointed insights on things from learning to laugh at yourself and lighten up with your kids, to the liberation that comes from “tackling a nagging task,” be it a cluttered hall closet or a toxic relationship.  I was obviously in the “love it” camp.

But the section of the book that provided the biggest “aha moment” for me was about how to distinguish between things I truly want to do, and things I wish I wanted to do.

The phrase “I wish I wanted to do that” resonated with me so clearly.  How often do we trick not just others – but ourselves – into believing this forcefully painted picture of our supposed hobbies, inclinations, status, interests and overall identity?  Maybe you love the idea of buying everything organic but you hate the sticker shock you experience in the check-out line.  Or perhaps you think you want to take a big family vacation every summer, but spending a week with your in-laws/great-aunt/cousins/stepchildren actually induces widespread panic attacks.  You wish you wanted to do these things, but when it comes down to it, you just don’t.

True introverts may feel like they wish they wanted to get dolled up and mingle over cocktails and loud music on a Friday night, but what they really want to do is stay home with a book and pajamas, power off their phone and read until their quiet little heart’s content.  Can I get an Amen from all the introverts?

As this book goes on to point out, “…relinquishing my fantasies of what I wished I found fun allowed me more room to do the things that I did find fun.”

Being so struck by this notion of real vs. illusory desires, I couldn’t help but make my own list.  Without much thought and totally off the cuff, this is what I came up with:

Things I Wish I Wanted to Do:

*Work out more

*Not eat cookies for breakfast

*Play complex family board games (my in-laws are way into games and it’s freeing to admit I could spend the rest of my life mastering Scrabble)

*Chaotic playdates combining two or more of the following: toddlers, junk food, bouncy house, water parks or long car rides

*Camp (as in, outdoors, devoid of proper toilets, with the possibility of bear attacks)

*Go to a grad school (I must face the fact that a few proud extra letters after my name does not a happy homework-haver make)

*Have a third baby (our second is six months old and we’ve hired an overnight nanny and professional sleep coach in recent weeks – this talk is tabled for now.).

*Spend time on my hair (all roads lead to dry shampoo)

*Seek out cool indie music (Top 40 ‘til I die)

*Read classic literature (see grad school reference above)

*Embrace early mornings (maybe this will be The Happiness Project: Age 60)

As I immediately scribbled into my journal upon completion of this hasty (yet pretty darn honest) list:

Wow – there’s such a freedom to just admitting – if only to myself – “I don’t actually want to do any of these things!”

What would you not do, if you knew you could not fail?

Maybe it’s worth cancelling some unwanted plans and sticking around to find out.  Gretchen Rubin would definitely give you a gold star for that.

 

(*featured image by Anne Taintor*)

Hibernation

FullSizeRender(3)I’m going to share something personal with you. Which is ironic because it has to do with my not wanting to share personal things.

The photo above is part of a journal entry I wrote on New Year’s Eve. I like to carve out time on the last day of the year, to reflect on the previous 12 months – things I feel good about, and things I want to improve upon – and lay out a plan of attack (aka resolutions) for the new year. This year those hopes and goals largely revolved around a theme of practicing quality over quantity – in things ranging from my relationships to time spent online and in social settings. We’ll see how that all fleshes out, but I promise my intentions are good.

I’ve been using this blog as a personal writing and reflection platform for a little over two years now. Though I may only post once or twice a month, I think about writing all the time. For those who don’t know me as well as others, I am painstakingly aware of my conscience, agonize over things like, “Did I say that right?” or “Did she understand where I was coming from?” am an obsessively thorough proof-reader and perfectionist editor. And I struggle with guilt over really wanting to write when the urge strikes, while also really wanting to be a devoted, undistracted mother who doesn’t get enveloped in a heated essay-writing spree while her son watches reruns of Sesame Street.

This last year, I wrote some stuff that really put my heart, insecurities, flaws and personal beliefs out on the line. I think that’s hard for anyone to do, but I always tell myself that some things are just important, even if they’re not fun, easy or comfortable. The reason I know that wearing my heart on my sleeve is important, is because I know how important it is when others do that for me. The truth is, I know I am my own worst critic, and it’s been a while since I’ve written something I was really totally pleased with. And then sometimes, when I feel like I actually really poured my heart, brain and time into something important and said what I wanted to say – **vulnerability alert** – I’m disappointed because it gets two likes on Facebook and I feel totally unvalidated, OR what I wrote is apparently important enough to be controversial and I get super stressed out if I sense conflict or disapproval.

Deep exhale…

Here’s what I actually set out to write: I’ve learned that in the month of December, I get busy, busy, busy! And festive, festive, festive! It’s Christmas and everything is so put together and pretty and peaceful (OK so not really 100% of the time, but I keep telling myself that it is to keep the Christmas spirit meter up) and I just want to soak it in and pack my calendar with red and green frosted social engagements and I think to myself, “What am I ever going to do when Christmas lights are down and we’re just stuck with drab, gray, uneventful January?” It always sounds so depressing!

And THEN – all I want to do is go into hibernation mode. Meaning – I basically just want to disconnect my phone and computer, pull out my best apron, be a June Cleaver mom and wife, and bake apple pies all day while no one bothers me or picks my brain.

This year as I seeped deeper and deeper into the holidays, I was all busy and social and Mrs. Party Planner and Ugly Christmas Sweater on the outside – and I’m not knocking that stuff; it was festive and great and important in its own right and I’ll probably be just as excited to do it all again next year- but on the INSIDE, I felt like I was burrowing deeper and deeper into an introverted, “don’t look at me,” “don’t analyze me” hole. I realized that this year I had made myself and my real, fragile emotions available possibly more than ever, through essays I published, through sharing personal struggles with people I barely knew, through hot button issues I weighed in on over Facebook, and even in smaller scale personal conversations.

By the end of the year I found myself feeling a little proud and brave, but A LOT over-exposed, drained from “putting myself out there” and kind of just wanting to hibernate. I felt sort of emotionally spent. And I still kind of do.

I had extreme visions of ending my blog after two years (my husband says he won’t let me), closing my Facebook account (but that’s such a dramatic thing to do, and I’ve already done that before – it didn’t fix life), and fleeing to Amish country where they don’t have the burden of electricity (OK I made up that last part, I probably couldn’t handle the early mornings, and actually really like electricity).

I’ve spent the last few weeks being less connected to social media than I have been in years, without quitting cold turkey. I’ve genuinely tried to be more unplugged, less reactive and more intentional with how I set out to spend my time each day. I’ve tried to step back and do a cost-benefit analysis of being emotionally naked.

I happened to briefly log on to Facebook tonight, which has been a refreshing rarity for me in recent weeks, and two of the first things that caught my eye were posts from fellow blogger friends (Abby and Emily, I’m calling you out – I loved reading both of your posts and they made me drag my butt out of bed and get my laptop out to write this).

So in reality I have felt like I have had writer’s block THE ENTIRE time I’ve been writing this, but here’s to being imperfect and posting it any way.

The truth is, I don’t want to stop writing. I know I would regret it. Maybe it can be hard, and maybe it can be draining, and definitely it is hard to balance with everything else as someone who struggles to be disciplined with her time.  Maybe I’ll write more privately and less publicly this year.  I don’t know yet what the right decision is for me.  But I’m making this public so you know my intentions to figure it out.

But I have to believe that it’s worth it. That it’s worth slogging through the writer’s block and the half-finished stories and the endless rough drafts, for the unbeatable feeling of FINALLY writing something that makes you lean back, look at your monitor with sheer amazement and say, “That’s it.”

A really great baseball player still only gets on base a third of the time. And a world-renowned surgeon may only cure a fraction of the patients she treats. Why should it be any different for writing? The only way to get better is to write. And you can’t hit a homerun by hibernating.

“Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

The “D” Word

The “D” Word

Sometimes I feel depressed.

Readership of this blog is now divided into exactly two categories: people who understand exactly what I just said, and people who don’t (lucky you).

Like today, and about every third day for the last few weeks, I have just felt “blah,” and sluggishly tired, unmotivated and illogically unexcitable. When I’m feeling like this, I use fewer exclamation marks and smiley faces in my texts, and wear my least favorite t-shirts while dragging around the house. So as not to alarm anyone – this, for me, is not extreme depression. It is mainly annoying, and tiring, and I’m sick of feeling like I shouldn’t talk about it. So I am. I think it’s one of the healthiest things I can do.

My funk/depression tends to come on when I have a ton in my life to be happy about and thankful for. And for no particular reason, though I am determined to keep guessing. Hormones, weather changes, and lack of vegetables are the frontrunners today.

Personally, I tend to use the phrase “in a funk” to describe these feelings that come unannounced and uninvited, often in the midst of an otherwise good week/year/month.  But I think that’s mainly because it just sounds safer, with the stigma attached to “depression” and all.   I went through a bad bout of these feelings about 9 months ago, which my therapist and I agreed was probably hormonal (I was weaning off of breastfeeding).

Today, while lying in bed at 4 in the afternoon with a blotchy dried out face, the 1100th episode of Grey’s Anatomy on pause, and Lena Dunham’s memoir (which IS kind of depressing…frontrunner #4?) – I had this thought:

“I try so hard to come across as so put together, and I have a hunch that a lot of people have that general impression of me, and of my life. But really, sometimes all I want is someone I can call and say, ‘I feel like shit right now.’” But just the thought of calling someone and saying that, followed by no logical explanation always sounds way too exhausting to my already exhausted self, so I never do. But maybe I should sometime. I would want people in my life to feel like I could handle – even welcome – that call from them.

I am aware that my last post here was about channeling Martha Stewart via baskets and striving for the perfectly organized home, which may make this depression diatribe seem a bit out of left field.

One thing I’ve learned about depression, is it’s REAL. It’s valid. It deserves respect, and understanding, and patience. You can have a great life – even be at a particularly great place and point in time IN your life – and it can just hit you, out of nowhere. Like a really unexpected foul ball that leaves a kid in the stands with a black eye.

So I’m choosing to write about it, in hopes that maybe I’ll open a little window for someone else to feel a little less ashamed or confused or shunned from appropriate public chatter, when they too are “in a funk.”

Here are 5 things that help me move past the numbing, heavy waves when they strike:

  1. A change of scenery. Some of the best advice I’ve received about how to get “unstuck” from a mood is this: If you’re lying down, get up. If you’re inside, go outside. If the curtains are drawn, open a window and let the sunlight in. It’s amazing how little changes of scenery can shake us up, in a good way. Seriously you guys, try it even if you don’t think it could possibly make a difference.
  2. Eat healthier food – I think eating like crap or realizing you’ve perhaps neglected an entire food group like vegetables, for days, can help turn things around. OR –
  3. Eat whatever the hell you want. Aaron recently brought me back a box of fudge from a work trip he was on. He was relieved that I liked the gift, and told me that one of his co-workers had mentioned maybe I would prefer a toy for Anderson, or something more wife-ly, other than…fudge. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Solidified butter and chocolate is a salve for the mildly depressed. Just don’t forget to have Brussels sprouts for dessert (yes, I really ate those things in that order. Red wine was the tie that bound).
  4. Ask someone to touch you. OK this sounds weird, especially if that someone is a stranger on the bus instead of your significant other (Revise accordingly based on your immediate surroundings). I read today that a good solid lingering hug has been proven to be a natural antidepressant. Snuggling, massage, having your partner play with your hair – it’s good, under-rated stuff. We should all do it more.
  5. Talk about it (or in my case, write about it). Many, many people feel some degree of situational and/or random depression. I already feel better simply stating the obvious and knowing, it too, will pass. I’m not writing this so that friends of mine will follow up with a private text asking if I’m OK. I am, and I will be, especially after more fudge.

I’m writing this because I’ve spent at least as much time feeling like this as I’ve spent feeling giddy about home organizational systems, and I simply thought my funk deserved an honorable mention as an uninvited, yet real and valid, part of my life – and perhaps it’s a part of yours, too.

Like that bazillionth Grey’s Anatomy episode said today, “The carousel never stops turning.” Tomorrow is another day, and I’m betting it’s a better one. We’re all in this together and we all have these hidden, unflattering parts of us that make up our moments, and our lives, whether we want them to or not. I continue to be surprised that the more I just take the leap and talk about or write about hard stuff – there is always an overwhelming majority of people who say, “I’ve been there, too.”

Higher Highs and Lower Lows

Dyrehavsbakken, Copenhagen

My husband and I got into a big fight two days after finally moving into our long-awaited “dream house.”

But to be honest, I would have been more surprised if we hadn’t.

Robin Williams’ laughter and smile were larger than life. They’re still painted in my memory and ringing in my ears.

But his pain was deeper than the ocean.

And parents, especially new parents, are thrust into the greatest joy, purest bliss and calmest peace of life with a precious new child…

So why do so many of them report suffering from the deepest sadness, most severe loneliness, and isolating ineptitude they’ve ever felt in their lives?*

The common thread in each of these scenarios is something that has taken me a long time to learn about life: with higher highs come lower lows.

With the house example, I’ve learned that even good stress is stress. The overwhelming work of packing your life into boxes and unpacking it piece by piece as you get to know and operate and secure each quirk and cranny of a foreign new place is unsettling, even if it’s also exciting. Add to that exhaustion, chaos and competing opinions about priorities and I’m willing to bet many a husband and wife have “gone at it” – in a way that’s far from the christening fantasy they envisioned.

Then there’s the raw, painful story of one of the world’s most beloved comedians suffering so severely he took his own life. I’m not a psychologist but I know many mental health professionals have said in the aftermath of this shocking death, that it’s often the people who smile the brightest on the surface, that are fighting the darkest demons inside. That smile is their armor; it’s certainly not their whole truth. High highs….low lows.

Finally we have the true roller coaster that is parenting. It can lift you, windswept, to breathtaking heights you never knew existed, and then drop you so fast it leaves you spinning and wanting to throw up.

So why does this happen and what can we do about it?

Well.

One more thing I’ve learned about life is there’s a hell of a lot we have very little control over. Like where our husband puts the coffee maker. Or the unbelievable number of times in a day our little one….fill-in-the-blank (Spits up! Wakes up! Cries! Makes me cry!).

What we do have control over, friends, are the expectations we set for ourselves, as parents and as people.

When we expect things to be picture perfect, easy and happy all the time – we’re setting ourselves up for a freefall into disappointment. How can anyone live up to that bar, set as high as a trapeze artist? I’m pretty sure the only thing new parents have in common with a trapeze artist is sometimes feeling like they live at the circus.

Expect yourself to be human. Expect yourself to do some things well. And forgive yourself when things don’t go as planned. Learn to be happy in your home with dishes in the sink, and a baby with spit-up on their onesie. You’ll wash them and change them eventually, but maybe right this second you really just need to pour yourself a cup of coffee or spend 5 minutes zoning out to E! News.

And that’s OK.

Hopefully once we learn to expect that life isn’t roller coaster highs all the time, the lows might even out as well, and we’ll begin to settle into something resembling – what do the trapeze artists call it?

Oh, yeah. Balance.

*PS –  I recognize and respect that sometimes these “lows,” when related to mental health are beyond our control and require the help of a trained professional, and/or treatment such as medication. If you are experiencing something you suspect could be a postpartum mood disorder, please know you are not alone, and you deserve to find the support you need. Here are a couple of resources available to you:

*Postpartum Support International of Washington:
http://www.ppmdsupport.com** has info on PPMD, list of recommended resources and Support Groups
*Peer Support Phone Line (a “warm-line” not a crisis “hotline” – support from women who have recovered from PPMD – if you leave a message, someone will call back within 24 hours). 1-888-404-PPMD

This essay was originally published on the PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) blog, Highs and Lows.

*photo credit

Why Not Me?

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“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
-Howard Thurman

What is your favorite feeling in the world?

Perhaps it’s the butterfly flutters of a fresh romance, those skipped heartbeats that come standard issue with a hopeful, sky’s-the-limit new love.

Or maybe it’s simple, quiet security. The comfort found in a safe home, knowing your needs are met, that your family is there for you and your life is just…stable.

Maybe you live for adrenaline-pumping thrills and have never felt more alive than when you’re risking your safety and giving your parents near heart attacks as you catapult out of a plane or volunteer in the Middle East.

Your favorite feeling could be wonder. It’s the reason people stop to watch sunsets, flock to the ocean, or lie under the stars. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that this life, and this world….are so much vaster than our own.

Freedom. Adventure. Devotion. Connection. Compassion. Pay attention to the feelings that make you come alive – they’re trying to tell you something.

I’ve known for years that MY favorite feeling – better than any drug or high or great romance or crazy adventure – is to feel truly, madly inspired.

I can single out a number of precise moments in my life that left me floored with this feeling. It has nothing to do with being practical or logical or having a plan – following your passion is about knowing that you can’t not respond to how something makes you feel.

Movies like The Blind Side and Precious have left me deeply moved, determined to walk through life with my eyes open to people who need help, compassion, encouragement, love… They haven’t led me to adopt a child or become a teacher, but my heart is more open to the endless ways each of us has the ability to help others, thanks to their stories.

There have been books I’ve read that have shaken and stirred me, that have engulfed me in their worlds so deeply I never wanted to emerge. These books make me want live a fuller, more aware life.

Now let’s talk about a feeling that we’re taught is bad, but can actually be good… to an extent.

I can’t remember what I was reading recently – it might have been The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown – but it spoke about jealousy not always being necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it can lead to bitterness and be destructive if allowed to fester, but the mere acknowledgement of our own envy, can actually be quite instructive in telling us something about ourselves and what we want (or want more of) in life.

I know what some of these moments have been for me.

There was a Christmas, maybe three or four years ago, where I distinctly recall standing in my parents’ kitchen, watching my sister-in-law tend to her daughter (my niece, and the first baby in my side of the family). It was a moment most would have observed as nothing more than mundane – walking to the kitchen sink with a baby on her hip or something like that. But I was so envious that she got to spend her days with this baby – that that was her life’s work. It wasn’t an “I hate you” jealousy at all (as toxic jealousy can become…) – it was an admirable, awestruck, “I hope that’s me someday” envy.

And today, after years of hoping and dreaming and planning – it is me! Imagine that! I would never change my decision to stay home full time with Anderson… maybe my division of time will morph over the years, but I will forever be imprinted by this season of staying home with him. That envy was telling me of a deep desire, and I didn’t ignore it – I’m living that desire today.

My latest subject of envy is the author Jojo Moyes, because I am still so freshly enamored by her profoundly moving book, Me Before You (I can’t even begin to do justice to a plot here – you simply have to experience it). Reading that book captured me in so many ways. As a reader (I devoured that book faster than I’ve gotten through a novel in recent memory. I felt like I was living in the same world – in the same home – as these characters). As a writer (I furiously scribbled pages of journal notes on insights gleamed from how Jojo Moyes structured this story and the writing tricks she employed that made it “work”). As a human (this story moved me to ponder love and life and death and so many possibilities in between…it was a reminder we only have one life…are we living safely in our comfort zone, or truly taking flight?).

So I envy her, because what I most want to do, outside of being a wife and a mother and a homemaker and a friend, is I want to write. It is what makes me feel most alive, and what makes me feel like I might have something to offer to the world, to myself, to my dreams.

I envy that this woman – this unbelievable story teller – gets to have a family, and also gets to make her living from writing books that change people’s lives and ways of thinking. I’m jealous that her husband brings her coffee and her laptop, and she begins to write, blurry-eyed, each morning from bed. Because it’s what she loves, she makes it a priority. And because her husband loves her, he does, too.

And now her book is selling millions of copies worldwide and being made into a movie.

As Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s father taught him to say, “Why not me?”

Why not Jojo Moyes? Why not Jodi Picoult? Why not me?

Within hours of finishing Me Before You, I wrote to Jojo Moyes. It went like this:

I’m sure you get thousands of emails and don’t expect a reply.. but I just finished Me Before You last night, and I don’t have the words to express how deeply it impacted me.  I basically cried in the fetal position and couldn’t talk to anyone after it ended.  I will treasure that story forever. (I think it has officially de-throned my previous favorite book of all time.)You are an amazingly gifted writer.  If I could ever write something that touched others the way your book touched me, my life would be complete. Keep doing what you’re doing – you are a gift.

And then she wrote me back. It went like this:

Dear Beth,

Thank you for your email and your kind words.

I am so glad you enjoyed Me Before You as much as you did and I hope if you read any of my other books, you enjoy those too.

With all best wishes,

Jojo Moyes

So that was cool. And a reminder that she’s just a person – a brilliant, busy, professional writer person – but still just a person who writes in pajamas and responds to emails. So why shouldn’t she respond to me? Why not me?

So I want to write more.

I can’t say I don’t feel the least bit self-conscious by proclaiming my desire to write. Honestly, it feels like a luxury to be able to have a lifestyle and a space and a schedule and a husband that allows for me (encourages me! He would even bring me coffee!) to do that. I get that, and I am really, truly grateful. I am not entitled, but I’m also not apologetic, because more people need to do these things when they get the chance. Agreed?

Because I believe that if you have the chance to go for your dreams, you should. And how can I raise my child to believe that, if I don’t first believe that about myself?

So I will write. It may take me a few months, or a few years, or (hopefully not) a few decades, but one day you just might see my name on a shelf in a store.

Because really, why not? Why not me? Why not you? What makes you feel so inspired, so alive, so driven, that you can’t stand to merely sit in the feeling of it and not do something about it?

Go after your favorite feeling. Turn it into your reality. Because no one else will do it for you, and what the world needs most is people who have come alive.